Genealogical DNA tests have become popular in recent years, which means companies who provide this service have expanded their capabilities to fit their consumers’ wants and needs. This makes it so that you can now find your haplogroups, and it’s easy to do. Below, I’ll explain what a haplogroup is and explain how to find your haplogroup.
Finding your haplogroup
If you already know what a haplogroup is and want to know how to find one, I recommend using either 23andMe or LivingDNA (Ancestry and MyHeritage do not report this data). However, if you want to go deeper and get the most specific haplogroup possible, then FamilyTreeDNA would be the way to go (assuming you have the budget). Big Y is not realistic for most people right now at its current price.
If you test with FamilyTreeDNA, you’ll need the Big Y test for your Y haplogroup and the Full Sequence test for your mtDNA haplogroup. Note that the 37 and 111 marker tests from FamilyTreeDNA use a different testing method which can only estimate your haplogroup.
What is a haplogroup?
A haplogroup is a large group of individuals who have the same ancient origins and share the same common ancestor. That common ancestor would have lived many thousands of years ago. So not particularly useful for genealogy. Since our DNA come from our ancestors, anyone within your specific haplogroup is related to you even if the relationship goes back ten thousand years.
Tracing your haplogroup back to a specific area is helpful because it will narrow down your family history so that you can focus your searches on a particular site. This is especially helpful for adoptees who have no prior knowledge of their direct maternal or paternal lines.
We each have two haplogroups – one from our direct paternal line (the Y haplogroup) and one from our direct maternal line (the mtDNA haplogroup). Because women do not get the Y chromosome from their father, they cannot discover their Y haplogroup with their own DNA. They will need a male relative on their direct paternal line to take the test for them. It could be their father, grandfather, brother, cousin, or anyone else on the paternal line.
Mapping your haplogroups
Haplogroups have the ability to trace your ancestry back tens of thousands of years. They help us visualize the path of our ancient ancestors from Africa to their ultimate destination. So, identifying your haplogroup will help pinpoint where your ancestors came from. My paternal haplogroup is R-A260 which is specific to Ireland and Northern Ireland according to this heatmapping tool.
I can also see the migration route from Africa to Ireland using this SNP Tracker tool.
Mapping your haplogroup can also help if you’re trying to identify if you have any Native American ancestors. For example, the Q-M242 Y haplogroup is common among Native Americans.
The naming conventions can be a little confusing when it comes to haplogroups especially because they’ve changed over the years. They consist of letters and numbers. The first letter stands for the primary group, and the other letters and numbers show the recent changes within the DNA.
For example, we’ll use the paternal haplogroup R which is very broad. Within this group, there are many subgroups (known as subclades). Within these subgroups, there are even more subdivisions that you will use to narrow everything down.
If you find that one of your haplogroups is the E1b1a1, then you have South African ancestors. However, if you are a part of the E1b1b1b1a, then this points to northwest Africa.
The maternal haplogroups have a similar system, but it’s essential you understand that if your maternal and paternal groups have the same number, they’re still different. For example, the mtDNA J1 and YDNA J1 are different groups.
A great reason to learn what haplogroups you belong to is so that you can pitch in with other researchers who are also tracing the same genetic lines as you. It benefits you because you can then save time on researching. After all, you then have access to the records that they created.
YDNA haplogroup projects
One of the best things about YDNA tests is the projects at FamilyTreeDNA. There are YDNA haplogroup projects that exist; these are called a surname group or surname projects. If you can find a surname project that connects with your DNA, then this will help to provide you with an excellent research basis.
Sometimes, you may find that your DNA connects you with a surname that you didn’t expect. It’s not uncommon for people to change their names over time, especially if they were moving to a new country.
mtDNA haplogroup projects
Since surnames aren’t typically carried on through the mother’s side of the family, mtDNA surname projects don’t exist. However, some projects help you track down your earliest ancestors. This will help connect you to other descendants from that particular ancestor and trace the family’s maternal side as far back as possible.
Take your time
Everything may feel hard to understand at first, but you’ll understand it more when you begin working with haplogroups and mapping yours out. Knowing your haplogroup does more than just connect you to the past; it connects you with your family history that dates back from over 10,000 years until now.
Therefore, you can find others who share the same genes and hobbies as you do. While it doesn’t help with your genealogy, it’s a great way to learn about your ancestors and may help to put a few things into perspective for you. Not to mention, it’s a great way to test your hypotheses.