Big Y News and Stats + Sale

I must admit – this past January when FamilyTreeDNA announced the Big Y-700, an upgrade from the Big Y-500 product, I was skeptical. I wondered how much benefit testers would really see – but I was game to purchase a couple upgrades – and I did. Then, when the results came back, I purchased more!

I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer skeptical. I’m a believer.

The Big Y-700 has produced amazing results – and now FamilyTreeDNA has decoupled the price of the BAM file in addition to announcing substantial sale prices for their Thanksgiving Sale.

I’m going to discuss sale pricing for products other than the Big Y in a separate article because I’d like to focus on the progress that has been made on the phylogenetic tree (and in my own family history) as a result of the Big Y-700 this year.

Big Y Pricing Structure Change

FamilyTreeDNA recently anounced some product structure changes.

The Big Y-700 price has been permanently dropped by $100 by decoupling the BAM file download from the price of the test itself. This accomplishes multiple things:

  • The majority of testers don’t want or need the BAM file, so the price of the test has been dropped by $100 permanently in order to be able to price the Big Y-700 more attractively to encourage more testers. That’s good for all of us!!!
  • For people who ordered the Big Y-700 since November 1, 2019 (when the sale prices began) who do want the BAM file, they can purchase the BAM file separately through the “Add Ons and Upgrades” page, via the “Upgrades” tab for $100 after their test results are returned. There will also be a link on the Big Y-700 results page. The total net price for those testers is exactly the same, but it represents a $100 permanent price drop for everyone else.
  • This BAM file decoupling reduces the initial cost of the Big Y-700 test itself, and everyone still has the option of purchasing the BAM file later, which will make the Big Y-700 test more affordable. Additionally, it allows the tester who wants the BAM file to divide the purchase into two pieces, which will help as well.
  • The current sale price for the Big Y-700 for the tester who has taken NO PREVIOUS Y DNA testing is now just $399, formerly $649. That’s an amazing price drop, about 40%, in the 9 months since the Big Y-700 was introduced!
  • Upgrade pricing is available too, further down in this article.
  • If you order an upgrade from any earlier Big Y to the Big Y-700, you receive an upgraded BAM file because you already paid for the BAM file when you ordered your initial Big Y test.
  • The VCF file is still available for download at no additional cost with any Big Y test.
  • There is no change in the BAM file availability for current customers. Everyone who ordered before November 1, 2019 will be able to download their BAM file as always.

The above changes are permanent, except for the sale price.

2019 has been a Banner Year

I know how successful the Big Y-700 has been for kits and projects that I manage, but how successful has it been overall, in a scientific sense?

I asked FamilyTreeDNA for some stats about the number of SNPs discovered and the number of branches added to the Y phylotree.

Drum roll please…

Branches Added This Year Total Tree Branches Variants Added to Tree This Year Total Variants Added to Tree
2018 6,259 17,958 60,468 132.634
2019 4,394 22.352 32,193 164,827

The tests completed in 2019 are only representative for 10 months, through October, and not the entire year.

Haplotree Branches

Not every SNP discovered results in a new branch being added to the haplotree, but many do. This chart shows the number of actual branches added in 2018 and 2019 to date.

Big Y 700 haplotree branches.png

These stats, provided by FamilyTreeDNA, show the totals in the bottom row, which is a cumulative branch number total, not a monthly total. At the end of October 2019, the total number of individual branches were 22,352.

Big Y 700 haplotree branches small.png

This chart, above, shows some of the smaller haplogroups.

Big Y 700 haplotree branches large.png

This chart shows the larger haplogroups, including massive haplogroup R.

Haplotree Variants

The number of variants listed below is the number of SNPs that have been discovered, named and placed on the tree. You’ll notice that these numbers are a lot larger than the number of branches, above. That’s because roughly 168,000 of these are equivalent SNPs, meaning they don’t further branch the tree – at least not yet. These 168K variants are the candidates to be new branches as more people test and the tree can be further split.

Big Y 700 variants.png

These numbers also don’t include Private Variants, meaning SNPs that have not yet been named.

If you see Private Variants listed in your Big Y results, when enough people have tested positive for the same variant, and it makes sense, the variants will be given a SNP name and placed on the tree.

Big Y 700 variants small.png

The smaller haplogroups variants again, above, followed by the larger, below.

Big Y 700 variants large.png

Upgrades from the Big Y, or Big Y-500 to Big Y-700

Based on what I see in projects, roughly one third of the Big Y and Big Y-500 tests have upgraded to the Big Y-700.

For my Estes line, I wondered how much value the Big Y-700 upgrade would convey, if any, but I’m extremely glad I upgraded several kits. As a result of the Big Y-700, we’ve further divided the sons of Abraham, born in 1747. This granularity wasn’t accomplished by STR testing and wasn’t accomplished by the Big Y or Big Y-500 testing alone – although all of these together are building blocks. I’m ECSTATIC since it’s my own ancestral line that has the new lineage defining SNP.

Big Y 700 Estes.png

Every Estes man descended from Robert born in 1555 has R-BY482.

The sons of the immigrant, Abraham, through his father, Silvester, all have BY490, but the descendants of Silvester’s brother, Robert, do not.

Moses, son of Abraham has ZS3700, but the rest of Abraham’s sons don’t.

Then, someplace in the line of kit 831469, between Moses born in 1711 and the present-day tester, we find a new SNP, BY154784.

Big Y 700 Estes block tree.png

Looking at the block tree, we see the various SNPs that are entirely Estes, except for one gentleman who does not carry the Estes surname. I wrote about the Block Tree, here.

Without Big Y testing, none of these SNPs would have been found, meaning we could never have split these lines genealogically.

Every kit I’ve reviewed carries SNPs that the Big Y-700 has been able to discern that weren’t discovered previously.

Every. Single. One.

Now, even someone who hasn’t tested Y DNA before can get the whole enchilada – meaning 700+ STRs, testing for all previously discovered SNPs, and new branch defining SNPs, like my Estes men – for $399.

If a new Estes tester takes this test, without knowing anything about his genealogy, I can tell him a great deal about where to look for his lineage in the Estes tree.

Reduced Prices

FamilyTreeDNA has made purchasing the Big Y-700 outright, or upgrading, EXTREMELY attractive.

Test Price
Big Y-700 purchase with no previous Y DNA test


Y-12 upgrade to Big Y-700 $359
Y-25 upgrade to Big Y-700 $349
Y-37 upgrade to Big Y-700 $319
Y-67 upgrade to Big Y-700 $259
Y-111 upgrade to Big Y-700 $229
Big Y or Big Y-500 upgrade to Big Y-700 $189

Note that the upgrades include all of the STR markers as yet untested. For example, the 12-marker to Big Y-700 includes all of the STRs between 25 and 111, in addition to the Big Y-700 itself. The Big Y-700 includes:

  • All of the already discovered SNPs, called Named Variants, extending your haplogroup all the way to the leaf at the end of your branch
  • Personal and previously undiscovered SNPs called Private Variants
  • All of the untested STR markers inclusive through 111 markers
  • A minimum of a total of 700 STR markers, including markers above 111 that are only available through Big Y-700 testing

With the refinements in the Big Y test over the past few years, and months, the Big Y is increasingly important to genealogy – equally or more so than traditional STR testing. In part, because SNPs are not prone to back mutations, and are therefore more stable than STR markers. Taken together, STRs and SNPs are extremely informative, helping to break down ancestral brick walls for people whose genealogy may not reach far back in time – and even those who do.

If you are a male and have not Y DNA tested, there’s never been a better opportunity. If you are a female, find a male on a brick wall line and sponsor a scholarship.

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20 thoughts on “Big Y News and Stats + Sale

  1. I am trying to understand the value of upgrading the Y from 67 markers to the Y-700, or even the Y-500, when my brother has only one match at 37 markers. We upgraded to 67, and still match at 67 markers, but with a genetic distance of 4. We did the Y DNA test in 2004, and we got the 37 marker match with the same surname in 2012. Nothing more since then.

    I understand that testing to 500, or 700 markers may be of help to the scientific community, but would it be helpful to me? And if it would, what would I learn?


    • That’s a great question. You may match people of the same or different surnames further back in time. That means you may get an idea of where your ancestor was from – based on either their matches or the other people on the block tree, even if they don’t match, but you can see the locations. In my family, we had a persistent rumor that the Estes line was descended from the d’Este family from Italy. Looking up the phylotree, it’s evident that there is no connection. Even if I had no other testers, this test would help me in that way. Plus, you never know when you will obtain matches. Bottom line – you don’t know what you don’t know and if you don’t have a fishing pole, you’ll never catch a fish. 🙂

  2. This is so interesting! I am able to understand so much about DNA testing from your posts. I look forward to your evaluation about our Big Y question when you have time. Thank you for all you do for genetic genealogy.

  3. My father’s last known BigY ancestor moved by a millennium this year and his subclades went through a major reorganisation. BigY-700 is really putting much needed order into subclades hierarchy.

  4. So I take it the permanent non-sale price of Big Y for a never tested person is $549, $100 down from $649.

    That’s still a lot.

    The competition is out there from Dante Labs and others. Hopefully the price will drop further.

  5. Hi Bobbi,

    I’m a little confused. I read your comment about Moses son of Abraham is the only son of his who has the ZS3600 subgroup.

    My top match at y-500 level has this subgroup but when I look at my block it does not…
    As you know I am trying to prove my line branches off Abraham’s son John.
    My confusion is…if my block indicates I don’t have the ZS3600 subgroup then I assume I am of a different son but if this is true then why is my top match showing that ZS3600 subgroup? Top match is a GD2.

  6. It’s worth noting that there is no guarantee that you will get a match with the Big Y test.

    I was surprised and disappointed to get:
    zero matches with Big-Y
    zero matches with Y 111 markers
    one match with genetic distance 7 with Y 67 markers
    one match with genetic distance 3 with Y 37 markers

    This is very different from my personal experience with autosomal DNA testing, where numerous brick walls were scaled or dismantled. For me, so far, Y testing has been a very expensive disappointment. I am cautiously optimistic that this could change as more people get tested.

    • They are very different tests for different purposes. However, all it takes is 1 match, if it’s the right one.

    • You may have more matches than is indicated in your account. Although they maybe a little bit further back. Make sure you have joined a y-haplogroup project and ask the administrator to run their genetic distance tool for STR markers and have them check your Big-Y results.

  7. Thanks Roberta. I just up graded from Y500 to Y700.
    Another couple of us Taylor males may end up doing the same.
    Thanks for the tip.
    As always,
    Best wished & Happy thoughts.

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  9. How successful were you in retesting your kits without providing a new sample? Or did you have the men provide samples again?

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  12. Hi Roberta,

    When I first submitted my DNA, you told me you were surprised that I had no matches.
    I have since retested with a new DNA sample, but still had few matches.
    I am trying to figure out who was the father of my ancestor, Isham Vannoy. He and his wife, a Mary McGinnis/McGinnis, moved to Missouri. Isham signed up for the Civil War, but died of pneumonia before he saw much action. Do you know which Vannoy he is the son of?

    • I don’t have him in my database, but I’m not an expert on everything Vannoy. I don’t think there is one anymore. I would suggest making sure you are in each autosomal database and use all of the their tools fully. Additionally, do you have a male Vannoy from your line that could test. That might be very important.

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