Should I Upgrade My Y DNA Test?

I’m often asked about the benefits of upgrading Y DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, and if people should order an upgrade.

The answer to this, like just about everything else DNA is “it depends.”

Yes – Upgrade!

The answer IS YES if:

  • You have tested less than 37 markers. You really need 37 or 67 markers minimally today for genealogy.
  • You want to obtain all of the information possible about your ancestral lineage and where it came from. (That’s me!)
  • You want to participate in family as well as scientific research by upgrading to the Big Y. Why the Big Y? I wrote about that here.
  • You want the most refined haplogroup possible in order to see who you match the most closely that might not be a match on the STR (12-111) panels. This is particularly useful in terms of looking for clan overlap and relatedness further back in time in Scotland, for example.
  • You have lots of matches at your current level and you wish to eliminate the ones that aren’t relevant.
  • You have (your own) surname matches at levels higher than you’ve tested and you want to further determine which matches are closer genealogically.
  • You have no matches at your current level. Sometimes you pick up matches at higher levels because they allow more mutations and your mutations (or their mutations) may simply fall in the lower panels.
  • You want to leave a legacy for future genealogists by providing as much information as possible. This is especially important if you are the last of your line, or males with surname from your family line are in short supply.

No – Maybe Not Now

The answer IS NO if none of the above applies and:

  • You’ve already tested to 37 markers, don’t have matches at lower levels, and you don’t care.
  • You’ve tested to 37 markers, don’t have matches and have to choose between a Y upgrade and a different kind of test, like autosomal or mitochondrial that you haven’t yet taken. You’ll probably learn more by testing an untapped resource.
  • You’ve tested to 37 markers and have to choose between a Y upgrade and a new test for a relative that will provide information about one of your paternal ancestral lines that hasn’t been tested. Hint, look at the surname project in question to be sure your lines aren’t already present.

Surname Project Search

You can search for the surname and projects on the main Family Tree DNA page by scrolling down until you see the surname search box.

Of course, if your ancestor is represented in a public surname project, and you have someone available to test, it’s always a good idea to test that person…well…because you never know if there was an adoption or some hanky panky – or your genealogy is wrong. Better to find out now that to go on blissfully doing genealogy on the wrong line.

Summer Sale is in Full Swing

The great news is that the Family Tree DNA Summer Sale is in full swing, and unlike last year’s sale, upgrades ARE included.

Plus, as an added bonus, when you upgrade to the Big Y-500 test, the markers between where you’ve already tested and the Big Y-500 are included in the price. So if you’ve tested to 37 markers and order the Big Y 500, you receive:

  • 67 marker upgrade
  • 111 marker upgrade
  • Big Y test
  • Additional markers to total 500 above the 111 marker panel – that’s 389 extra markers for free with the Big Y

In essence, this upgrade is 4 tests bundled into one and it’s on sale for less than the Big Y itself used to cost on sale, a year ago, at about $500. This has never been a better value than it is now.

Upgrade prices are shown above and you can order by clicking here and signing on to your account. Then, just click on the blue upgrade button by your Y DNA results.

Need to order a new test, not an upgrade? Great! Click here.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

17 thoughts on “Should I Upgrade My Y DNA Test?

  1. Hi Roberta, I have to say I am pretty disillusioned with this Y-DNA testing. I tested my kit and two others a couple of years ago. One with my surname, one with my mother’s maiden surname (from one of my 1st cousins on that side, and one with another surname. I came up with no matches on my surname at 67 markers, with the closest being 3 GDs and some surname I never heard of.
    No Stevenson at all. Even out to 7 GD. Ok so adoption, or other event.

    The maternal surname cousin was better, matched some 2nd cousins we were paper trail sure of at 1 GD. I recently tested a known 2nd cousin (common grandfather) and found he was 1 GD off of my 1st cousin, and the matched the other second cousins exactly at 111.

    I then increased my 1st cousin test to 111, and found that NOW he was 2 GD away from the 2nd cousin I just tested!!! So he (my line) apparently has TWO mutations in 3 generations! Was I not 100% certain of my 2nd cousin line ( essentially grew up together), then I wouldn’t know What to think. What I do think is that mutations apparently can occur much faster than one is given to expect by the theory.
    What I thought would be a great tool turned out to be not so much. Just Sayin’

    • You do have good information here. Don’t assume adoption. Look to see if someone else who claims that line has tested. On the other side, you now know that you are going to appear more distant to the common ancestor because of the multiple mutations. Mutations don’t happen on a schedule, so that’s actually great info. Be sure to join the appropriate surname projects so that you can benefit from that as well, and others can find you and see that your line has been tested. Be sure to enter your most distant known ancestor. People may want to contact you. It’s not just about the matches now, but an investment in “fishing” for the future too. I’ve had amazing breakthroughs years later.

  2. Roberta: So, what if you have tested to YDNA 111 and have no matches but have several at Y12 some at a GD of 0 and a couple at GD1. Four have the surname Stone (different e-mail addresses so doubtful if same line), one called Thornton who disappears after Y12.

    No matches at Y25 but one of the matches at Y12 appears again at Y37 but this one has only tested to Y37? There are two Y12 matches that have tested to Y111 but they are a GD1 and don’t appear at any of the higher level results.

    This is where James, my son, is at the moment – J-M172. BY500 isn’t an option but I am curious as to where I should go now if the funds become available. I am only interested in the recent ancestors – not pre-history.

    • If the 12s don’t appear at higher levels, then they are probably simply a matter of convergence. “Real” matches from a genealogical timeframe will match at higher levels. The Y 37 one may bear more scrutiny. Have they taken the FF test? do you match them there? Is it the same surname you are looking for? Might they be willing to upgrade if you do?

      • Thank you for your prompt reply, Roberta. One has taken FF but none of the other four have. However, my project (FTDNA England GB EIJ group) administrator has been able to see more through GAP than I can and he is now helping.

        I have written e-mails to all four Y12 matches to ask them to join the England GB project with one confirming he has joined as a result of my e-mail.

        So, thank you for your help. By the way, my son, James Turton has an Andew Dale Estes as a 3rd cousin in his FF results!

        Regards & best wishes, Denise

  3. I have tested at Y-67 level. At Y-25 level i have matches, but the closest ones are all 3-off, making them useless. At Y- 37 level i have a known paternal 3rd Cousin for whom i bought the test; he and i match perfectly at Y-37 level as expected. I have no other matches whatsever at Y-37 level. At Y-67 level i have no matches at all: i did not ask my 3rd Cousin to test at the higher level, as we have already proven both to be in the direct Jung male surname line at the 37 level. I can not see what further Y testing could possible do for me. I have done both the Au and Mt DNA tests, and have bought Au tests for half-brothers, nephews, nieces, cousins and others. It has all been very fruitful and rewarding. Further Y testing, however, seems pointless for my own genealogical and genetic research, as i have no contact with any other males in my direct Y-surname line except for myself and the 3rd Cousin, who has already tested. Thanks for the very interesting and picturesque description of your first trip to Europe: i grew up in Europe and still live here, and remember well the toilet paper! Most of us still have no air-conditioning, by the way. Enfin, i too am descended from Stephen Hopkins!.

    • Hello cousin! You are one of the people who wouldn’t stand to benefit much from further Y testing unless you want to know about the deeper ancestry of that line. I do and do a Big Y on one person from each line when they are on sale. Not everyone does:)

  4. Hi I have done the 111 on my brother and to be honest it has not help I feel that I have waste money

    • What was your goal and why do you feel that the test didn’t help? Did you confirm your family line? Do you match to no one? There’s an important message in both of those results, alone.

    • Thank you for your response. I feel much the same about the Y111 I paid for for my father’s DNA as he hasn’t a match at all. My son’s Y111 shows no matches at that level but he has several matches at Y12 and one at Y37. The only course left for me is to e-mail them to see if I can get any response from them. The main problems with not getting any matches at Y111 or any signs of help, are probably due to the people you need to get you further in your research not having tested. It is a “long-game” which will take time for others to test. I have been doing this for over 6 years now and this is the first sign of anything happening. Good luck with your resarch.


  6. I first tested at 37 markers looking for Fortune surname matches. We’ve been trying to find matches before 1847 – both paternal and cousins. Instead I matched 48 men in the Ravensworth Walden surname group. At 67 markers I match 28 men in this Walden group. To date I don’t match any of the living men as cousins and haven’t found any Walden cousin matches through my dad’s paternal line – although I do have matches through my dad’s paternal grandmothers ancestry. I’ve confirmed over two dozen cousin matches within my Fortune family DNA cluster. I have found no Fortune cousins clusters outside my group. Although we have dozens of distant matches to people who descend from Fortunes from my state(Virginia) in the 1700s I have yet to prove a connection. My hope is to find a Fortune male that gets ydna (that branched out earlier in my star) tested and matches me. I’m also on the Fortune surname project. My research has determined that a Fortune family I’ve researched many times has 3-4 ydna lines (one Native American, two different r-m269s and rumors of another that hasn’t published). I’m trying to get my male fortune cousins to ydna test.

    My brother and I are in the process of isolating family branches by DNA and generating a list of people that can only be on my dad’s paternal line.

    So I strongly recommend you test at 37 if not 67 markers to start. Research is critical to help you to focus on ancestors or matches of interest.

    Good luck to you all. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

  7. Hello — My goal is to identify the father of my paternal grandfather. Mr. X is a complete mystery, so we have no name and no other information except that the mother was an unmarried eighteen-year-old living in northern Ohio. I bought a Y-DNA67 test six years ago. The best results so far have been four matches at the 37 level, all with a genetic distance of 4, and all with different surnames. Any thoughts on upgrades?

    • You could pick up a few more at 67 or 111, but it’s not likely. I would look to autosomal and maybe one of those names will make sense.

Leave a Reply to Roberta EstesCancel reply