Understanding Y-DNA Results – Haplogroups

In my last post I explained how markers in the Y-chromosome, known as STRs, are tested to give a sort of genetic signature that can be matched to other test results. Over the generations subtle changes (mutations) take place. The number of differences between the results for two men gives a clue to how closely they are related and how far back their common ancestor is. This is the type of Y-DNA test most used for family history purposes.

You will normally have a common ancestor with your matches within the past 500 years. The fewer the differences, the more recent your common ancestor.

However Y-DNA can also be used to trace connections from thousands of years ago and to assign you to what is called a haplogroup.

What is a Y-DNA Haplogroup?

All humans are thought to be descended from an ancestor known informally as Y-chromosomal Adam. He is estimated to have lived about 236,000 years ago in Africa. Humans gradually spread across the world and, as they did so, there were mutations in their Y-DNA. Some of these mutations were of a different type to the STRs. They were much rarer and they seem to be connected to large population movements across the world.

These special mutations are called SNPs (This stands for single-nucleotide polymorphisms – but luckily they are always referred to as SNPs.). A Y-DNA haplogroup is a group of people who share the same SNPs, meaning they are descended from the same common ancestor on their paternal line. The SNPs can be used to construct branches of a human family tree, identified by specific SNP mutations which allow us to trace back migrations of large groups of our ancestors.

Haplogroups are identified by a name consisting of letters and numbers. The major haplogroups are represented by a letter from A to T. As further mutations occur down the line, the haplogroup gets divided into sub-groups, called sub-clades. The sub-clades are identified by adding further letters and numbers to the main letter. Every sub-clade is defined by a specific SNP that is unique to that haplogroup.

These acronyms can be confusing but basically STRs are mainly relevant in the past 500 years, while SNPs go back many thousands of years.

Each haplogroup has a place on a tree that shows the relationships of male lineages (haplogroups) throughout the world. You can see a simplified Haplogroup tree below and the image at the top of the post shows how the haplogroups are connected with the spread of humans across the world thousands of years ago. As more and more sub-clades are identified the tree divides into more and more branches.

Y-Chromosome Haplotree

How Do You Find Your Haplogroup?

Those who have done a Y-DNA37 test will have their haplogroup predicted as part of their results. Further testing can identify the exact sub-clade you belong to … or it may identify a previously unknown group. To find out exactly which sub-clade of which haplogroup you belong to requires advanced Y-DNA testing of a few hundred single point mutations that have occurred over the past 50,000 years,

You can see the predicted haplogroups in the project in the Classic or Colorized Chart.

If you have taken a Y-DNA test, your predicted haplogroup will be in your results and you can see further information, such as where you are on the haplotree, by selecting Haplotree and SNPs in the Y-DNA section of your FamilyTreeDNA account.

Tickle / Tickell Haplogroups

There are two main predicted haplogroups in the project to date. They are R-M269 and I-P37. 

R-M269 is a sub-clade of the haplogroup known as R1b. This is the most common haplogroup in western Europe, with over half the population having either R-M269 or a sub-clade of it. It is thought to have originated about 15,000 years ago. Seven project members are in this haplogroup to date. They all have ancestors from England.

I-P37, also known as I2a1, is a less common haplogroup than R-M269. It is found mainly in the Balkans and southeast Europe. It is thought to have originated about 21,100 years ago. Two project members of German descent have this as their predicted haplogroup.

In addition, one project member has taken the more advanced BigY test, which looks as SNPs as well as STRs, so he has a confirmed haplogroup of R-FT45527.

R-FT45527 is a sub-clade of R-M269, the predicted haplogroup shown for the English Tickles. This project member does not match any others at Y-DNA37 and so is unlikely to share a common male ancestor within 500 years.

At some point in the future I hope some project members may be interested enough to have more advanced tests, and some of the General Fund can be used to help pay for these. If you would like to donate to the General Fund, please visit the DNA project homepage at familytreedna.com/groups/tickle and click on the Donate button.

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