In Japan, at the Tanabata or Star Festival, attendees write their wishes on tanzaku, or small ribbon-like colorful pieces of paper and hang them on the tanzaku bamboo tree. For a very long time, Y DNA project administrators pestered Bennett Greenspan at Family Tree DNA to add more STR markers, useful in determining relationships between and within family lines.
We’ve been getting our wishes granted at breakneck speed in this past year, with the addition of the Big Y-500 (that’s 500 free STR markers) in April 2018. Now, our wishes have been granted again as Family Tree DNA expands the Big Y to 700 included STR markers.
Family Tree DNA just announced the Big Y-700 which replaces the Big Y-500.
The Big Y test itself provides a scan of the majority of the Y chromosome, providing results to testers including:
- All SNPs found, both ancestral (original value) and derived (mutated state)
- New mutations never discovered before known as Private Variants. It’s exciting to be a part of scientific discovery AND these are useful genealogically as well. I wrote about using the Estes Big Y results here.
- Reports for named SNPs and private variants, both
- Matching for SNPs
- SNP tree placement
- The new Block Tree
- First 500, now 700 STR values included for free. You can read about how these markers work, here.
- Matching to other testers for both SNPs and STRs above 111 (STRs below 111 are handled separately). I wrote about how the new matching above 111 markers works here. You can read about the difference between STRs and SNPs here.
According to this announcement, testers whose Big Y-500 results are now pending will automatically receive the new Big Y-700 instead of the Big Y-500 that they ordered. Family Tree DNA added another 200 STR markers. No need to do anything on your part.
This is great news for everyone who ordered on or after November 1, 2018 or anyone who has not yet received Big Y results. For the first time in history, no one will bemoan delayed results!
Family Tree DNA provided the following schedule of when Big Y-700 results can be expected – some very soon!
|Order Placed||Results Expected By|
|Before November 1, 2018||February 8, 2019|
|November 2018||February 20, 2019|
|December 1, 2018 to present||March 6, 2019|
It looks like another benefit of the new genetic testing technology will be quicker delivery dates now and into the future. Family Tree DNA hopes to reduce their delivery time on the Big Y-700 after the current backlog is released to 2-4 weeks.
How Did They Squeeze Another 200 Markers Out?
New chemistry used in processing the Big Y-700 test results in more uniform coverage of the Y chromosome and includes a much broader target region. This combination does three things:
- Allows quality reads of regions previously unavailable
- Provides more consistent results
- Provides better coverage, meaning fewer no-reads
- Allows for more STRs to be accessed and reliably read, hence the Big Y-500 is replaced by the Big Y-700
The Big Y-700 prices, according to the Family Tree DNA e-mail to group administrators:
Since the new Big Y-700 test provides an additional 200 markers above and beyond the Big Y-500, many people will want to know if upgrades are available. The answer is yes, they will be but not just yet and the upgrade price has not been announced. Expect an e-mail with this information around mid-March if you have already taken a Big Y or Big Y-500 test.
Because the new chemistry is needed to obtain the Big Y-700 results, this isn’t just reprocessing the existing data. Therefore, a new test actually has to be run in the lab on the sample to facilitate the Big Y-700 upgrade from the Big Y-500.
Obviously, if not enough of the original sample remains, this could be a problematic situation. I would suggest thinking conservatively about upgrading a Big Y-500 test where the tester can’t provide a new sample for testing. Every situation will be different.
Will My Big Y-500 Markers Change?
If you upgrade to the Big Y-700, your STR markers values above 111 may change due to the improved quality of the technology involved.
This means three things:
- You may not match people you did before, or vice versa, on some markers
- You may have results for markers you did not have results for before
- Your matches to people who have also taken the Big Y-700 test will likely be more accurate than to people who took a Big Y-500 test. Apples to apples, so to speak.
What If My Results Change and I Want to Keep the Old Results?
You won’t be able to mix and match at will between the results of the Big Y-500 and Big Y-700 tests. No merging or combining results of the two tests allowed!
I asked about the situation where a tester has results for a specific marker in the Big Y-500, but that location is a no-call using the new Big Y-700 technology. Family Tree DNA replied that they did not anticipate this being an issue. I hope they are right.
I also asked about the situation where a marker value changes to NOT match men who have taken the Big Y-500 of the same surname. Would the person who took the Big Y-700 be able to “revert” to the older value (in other words, merge values for the two tests) for that conflicting marker? The answer is no, that the Big Y-700 technology is superior and more accurate. Remember that matching, meaning who is on your match list, is actually determined by the first 111 STR markers, not the additional STR markers provided by the Big Y-500 or Big Y-700, so markers above 111 will not affect who you do and don’t see on your match list.
The long-term answer is of course to upgrade the other men to Big Y-700 as well. In cases where that isn’t possible, project administrators and family members comparing these results for ancestral line marker mutations will simply have to make a note of any discrepancy.
If you do upgrade once the Big Y-700 upgrade becomes available, I would recommend printing or otherwise storing a copy of your Big Y-500 results for reference.
New Match Comparison Tools Planned
While the Big Y-500 (and soon 700) results are compared on an individual tester’s results page, there is currently no tool to allow administrators to compare groups of men, which is often how surname project grouping is achieved. This also means that results above 111 markers aren’t available on the pubic project pages.
While you may not have noticed if you’re just looking at your own results, project administrators need grouping tools in order to discern line marker mutations for specific lineages. The usefulness of Y DNA testing is, after all, in the comparison of the results to other men and forming clusters of men who match into genetic families. Every family group who is participating in Y DNA testing wants to discover markers that delineate between various male lines descending from a specific progenitor.
Let me give you a quick example. In my Campbell line, we’re still trying to discover the identity of the father of Charles Campbell, born about 1750. We know that he’s from the Campbell Clan line (Duke of Argyll) of Scotland based on his descendants’ Y DNA tests, but we can’t figure out which Campbell male he descends from (probably in Virginia) before he moved to Hawkins County, Tennessee about 1780. Hopefully, these new Y DNA STR markers may provide enough granularity, if a sufficient number of men upgrade, to help us track our line back in time. We need markers that are found only in Charles’s descendants and his father’s other descendants, whoever they might be, to connect us with the correct lineage. Hey, I’m a desperate genealogist – I’ll take every hint I can find! Fingers crossed.
Family Tree DNA indicates that new grouping tools for project administrators, and I presume that means project displays as well, are coming soon. I realize that scrolling to the right forever to see beyond 111 markers would be a pain, but I can’t think of a better way to facilitate comparisons of many men. If you have an idea, give me a shout. If you’d like to see a surname project example, here’s a link to the Estes project.
I look forward to the new FREE and included Big Y markers and upcoming tools. Thanks again Family Tree DNA!
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