Sometimes people ask me: can Y-DNA testing help my genealogy? (Only men have the Y chromosome, but if you’re female and can test a brother or male paternal cousin, that will work.) If you are looking for an ancestor within the last 300-400 years on your direct paternal line (your father’s father’s father, etc.), this topic is for you.
The test is offered by FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA). First, you’ll want a basic intro to Y-DNA. If you want to know what a haplogroup is, or the difference between a SNP and a STR, the ISOGG wiki on Y-DNA is always a great place to start. You’ll find an overview of Y-DNA and links to many helpful articles.
Here I am going to focus on what I think is the single most valuable aspect of your Y-DNA results for brick walls or questions in a genealogical time frame. And that is:
Y-DNA testing offers at least two benefits to genealogists that autosomal DNA does not. We all know the limitation: only men have Y-DNA and it only applies to the direct paternal line, i.e. the father’s father’s father, etc. And we know the main benefit of Y-DNA: it is passed down without recombining, which means we may match distant cousins where the common ancestor is 8 or more generations back—farther in the past than automsomal DNA can generally be relied upon. We don’t hear as much about the second benefit of Y-DNA testing, but it was key for my Hammond conundrum.
We all have them, don’t we? Brick walls. And sometimes, we may have even formed a theory about the mystery parents… but finding evidence (to support it or to disprove it) is the challenge. One of my tantalizing brick walls is my GRIFFITH family. Do we connect with published Griffith family genealogies? Many online trees say yes, but I don’t know.
The most distant Griffith ancestor I’ve confirmed with documentary evidence is WALTER GRIFFITH, who was probably born between 1775 and 1786, based on his age (26-44) in the 1820 Ohio census 1 and supposing he was at least 21 when he married in Ohio in 1807 2. Unfortunately, he died in 18273, before census enumerators began asking where you were born. In the 1880 census, his few surviving children indicated that their father was born in Virginia—but they were young when he died, and may have known only that he came to Ohio from Virginia, not where he was born 4.
Many online family trees suggest that Walter was the son of Hezekiah Griffith and Catherine Warfield, of Maryland. (*)
Who were the parents of Benjamin Gorsuch, who died in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 1851?
I’m still looking for documentary evidence to identify them. But maybe DNA evidence will uncover some new leads too!