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FAQ #1 What DNA Project Should I Join?

Robert B. Noles

    You would not believe how often DNA Project Administrators receive this question.   It seems evident to those of us who work with this information every day, but it’s obviously not clear to everyone.   So, this FAQ is for those of you who need to know about DNA Projects, but who are afraid to ask the question (by the way, there are no dumb questions - just ask anyway).

    Here, I am referring to the DNA Projects at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA.com).   Ancestry.com also has some DNA surname projects, but they tend to be more like study groups, and aren't very helpful.

    At Family Tree DNA, there are three kinds of projects; 1) Surname Projects, 2) Haplogroup Projects and 3) Geographic or Regional Projects.  Let’s look briefly at all three.

    First of all you should know that you can order your genetic genealogy test via Family Tree DNA directly from their Web site (http://www.ftdna.com/) at retail prices, without joining a project.  Joining a project means a couple of things.  First of all, some of the tests, particularly for Y-DNA, are available at a lower cost when you join a project at the time you order your initial test.  Secondly, when you join a project, you are making your order and the test results available to the project's administrator.  The FTDNA DNA Project Administrator (strictly a volunteer available at no cost to you) can help you understand your test results and in many cases assist you with your genealogical research.  The P.A. is a genetic genealogist who specializes in the subject of the project; e.g. Wiregrass Georgia, Lumbee Indian Tribe, and many specific Wiregrass Georgia Surnames.

     In most cases you will want to join at least one Surname Project (perhaps more), one Regional Project (perhaps more) and one Haplogroup Project (and perhaps more).  There is no additional cost for joining any of the FTDNA projects.   You only pay for the actual test.

*Surname Projects -  These projects focus on the Y-DNA and/or atDNA (Family Finder) test results and the respective genealogies for direct male lines for specific surnames (usually world-wide).

 *Haplogroup Projects -  Your Y-DNA and mtDNA test results place you on a specific branch of the human tree; i.e., a branch that occurred thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of years ago.  These branches identify your origins, such as Native American, Western European, East Asian, Sub Saharan African and many, many sub branches within these broad categories.  There are separate Haplogroup designations for male and female lines.

 *Geographic or Regional Projects -  These projects focus on the Y-DNA, mtDNA and atDNA (Family Finder) test results and the genealogies for a region such as Wiregrass Georgia (which includes southeastern Georgia and the northern tier of Florida counties) or for a group of people such as former Lumbee Tribe members and their descendants.  These projects cover all of the surnames, and genealogies in the region.  This type of project is valauable for common surnames like Smith and Jones and many others when your line was primarily from the specific region of the project.  For example, if your Smith line was/is from Wiregrass Georgia, the Wiregrass Georgia Project Administrator is much more likely to know more about your Smith line than a World Wide or even a U.S. Smith Project Administrator.  The Regional Project is also very important for the cases where the surname for your male line changed sometime in the past due to an adoption, name change, or where the mother's surname was used for her children.  The Y-DNA follows the direct male line regardless of the surname used, and the mtDNA follows your direct female line, where the surname typically changes every generation.

    If you are still unsure about the best genetic genealogy projects for your situation, contact Rob Noles (rbnoles@bellsouth.net).

Links of interest:

Huxford Genealogical Society DNA Project:


Wiregrass Georgia DNA Project:


Here is another link for ordering a test for the Lumbee Tribe DNA Project:


     There is a great interest among Wiregrass Georgia genealogists concerning the possibility of proving that they have a Native American Indian ancestor.  My experience after more than a decade of testing thousands of people from southeast Georgia and northern Florida is that most of the descendants of the Wiregrass Georgia Pioneers have at least one Indian ancestor.  Some of the Pioneers themselves were Indians or were the descendants of Indians.  While not all of the Indians who migrated to southeast Georgia in the late 1700s and early 1800s were Lumbees, the Lumbee Project is available to anyone who believes they have an Indian ancestor from southeastern or coastal North Carolina or South Carolina.

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