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The O'Hourihane, Hor(ri)gan
Han(d)rahan, and Horan DNA Projects


Questions & Answers about this DNA Project

__________ Questions About DNA & Genetics __________

1. What is DNA? DNA is Deoxyribonucleic Acid. It is the molecular material making up our chromosomes in the nuclei of our body cells.

2. What is DNA testing? Scientists examine human DNA for different reasons. Crime labs, for example, may look at DNA at an entirely different way than a medical doctor trying to advise a patient which in turn is different from the way a genealogist might look at data.

For our purposes, we are looking at DNA only for genetic ancestral research. Surnames and Y-DNA characteristically go together because fathers have historically passed on surnames to their children AND Y chromosomes ONLY to their sons. For the son, the Y chromosome and the surname are a package deal. The Y-DNA test looks only at those locations on the Y chromosome that might help carve out family groupings.

3. What laboratory is handling the DNA testing for this project? Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), the same company that sponsors the DNA testing aspect of the television program “Who Do You Think You Are?”

4. How is DNA collected for testing? DNA can be collected from any human tissue. It has even been collected by drilling into the bones and teeth of ancient skeletons! But for our testing, the process is two quick and painless cheek swabs.

5. Does DNA testing reveal my private medical problems?!? There are DNA tests that do test for the tendency to develop certain conditions or for inherited health conditions. The Y-DNA and autosomal DNA genetic tests do not test for such health conditions, though there may be some correlation between specific haplogroups/subclades and certain health conditions.

6. What lab is doing the DNA testing for this project? Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), the same company that sponsors the DNA testing aspect of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

7. How does the Y-DNA test work? The X sex chromosomes in a female and the autosomal chromosomes of either gender recombine to create one chromosome to pass to a child. The Y chromosome does not generally recombine the way the others do.

There is DNA in the non-combining part of the Y chromosome that almost never changes so is considered very stable. This DNA is used to identify the branches of the human family tree, going back many tens of thousands of years. In order to confirm your human family tree branch, you would have to get a special test, which is not the main purpose of the O’Hourihane project. However, when you do your Y-DNA test for this project, FTDNA will attempt to predict your family tree branch.

The Y chromosome also has a region considered “junk.” On this junk are DNA locations that are interesting to genetics researchers. Two testers who have identical or nearly identical matching junk DNA may share relatively recent common ancestry. These DNA pieces are scientifically studied to determine how often they change (mutate). Some mutate very quickly (every few generations) and some mutate quite slowly (maybe once or twice in a thousand years). Taking into account different mutation rates for different pieces, the testing lab estimates how many generations back you and another tester shared a common ancestor. Your Y-DNA test looks at this DNA in particular.

8. How does the autosomal DNA test work?

We carry 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and the 23rd pair consists of the sex chromosomes. Autosomal chromosomes and the X sex chromosomes in a female undergo recombination (a reshuffling of sorts).

A girl inherits an X from each parent; a boy inherits an X from his mother and a Y from his father. A woman's two X chromosomes recombine before she passes on an X to an offspring, so they behave like autosomes. A man does not recombine his only X chromosome before passing that on to an offspring. Nor does his Y chromosome experience recombination. The Y-DNA from the Y chromosome undergoes very little change over generations, which makes the Y-DNA test so successful.

The autosomal chromosomes works differently. For each chromosome between 1 and 22, a child has inherited a pair of chromosomes from his parents. Each parent recombines their own chromosomes to come up with one to pass to a child, so their child ends up with a pair.

The autosomal DNA test exploits the possibility of large chunks of autosomal DNA surviving recombination that get passed on to successive generations. Relatively recent relatives share these large chunks of autosomal DNA and that is what the Family Tree DNA's Family Finder and other A-DNA tests look for.

With an autosomal DNA test, your chance of matching a second cousin who has also tested is better than 99%, a third cousin who has also tested better than 90% and a fourth cousin better than 50%.

Note also that each parent contributing recombined chromosomes had parents who recombined their chromosomes, and so on further back. Therefore those autosomal DNA chunks will get diluted over successive generations, and that is why it is really good to test older generations if possible, to minimize the dilution.

For a surname project with people whose ancestry is concentrated in a particular geographic region, marriages may have been largely constrained to that area and the genetic material restricted to some degree. So there is the chance that you may autosomally match somebody in a way other than through the surname of interest, or you may match multiple ways. The Y-DNA test is better for genealogical purposes.

As of September 2014, the project no longer accepts autosomal DNA testers.

8. Is Y-DNA testing the same as paternity testing? NO it is not. However, Y-DNA testing may reveal what is called a non-paternity event (NPE) somewhere in the paternal line. This may be discovered when two brothers or first cousins who are the sons of brothers test and their test results don’t match. Adoptions, name changes, illegitimate births with hidden paternity, or infidelity are such events. Everyone has these NPEs at some point in their family history and there is a chance a Y-DNA test could reveal such an episode. This is a risk you should consider before testing.

9. What is a marker? A marker is a location on the Y chromosome that is genetically interesting. A number of markers along the Y chromosome have been identified as useful for ancestral testing. The more markers tested, the better the information we get from the test.

10. How many markers can I test? It depends on the laboratory doing the test. At FTDNA, there are tests available for 12, 25, 37, 67, and 111 markers.

12 and 25 marker tests do not tell us much from a family history viewpoint, but they at least get you started on your testing. 37 markers is the minimum needed for ancestral research. If you have a lot of matches, the 67 and 111 marker tests will filter your matches and help identify those who most likely share more recent common ancestry with you.

If you first test for fewer markers, you can test more markers at a later time.

11. What does Y-DNA data look like? Y-DNA is typically presented in a table showing the names of markers and their values.

This is how Y-DNA data is presented in a FTDNA account.

12. What do these numbers mean?!? Each marker that you see in your results can only take a certain range of values. Each possible value for that marker is called an allele.

A DNA laboratory finds your matches by comparing your alleles with others in their database. If two testers share an identical or extremely close allele pattern they may share meaningful recent ancestry.

The laboratory uses the differences between your alleles and those of another tester who matches you to estimate how many generations back your most recent common ancestor lived.

13. What is a haplogroup? A haplogroup is the scientific term for a branch of the family tree of man, which split off from the main trunk many tens of thousands of years ago. R1b is a hugely important haplogroup of Europe, of the British Isles, and of Ireland.

14. What is a subclade? Subclades are branches off a main trunk. They may also be called haplogroups. The distinction between haplogroup and subclade gets blurred.

15. What is a haplotype? A haplotype is a set of alleles that define a large group. As far as I know, there are currently five haplotypes considered distinct to Ireland: Type 1 (northwest); Type 2 (South Irish); Type 3 (Dalcassian); Type 4 (Continental); and the Irish Sea, or Leinster haplotype. There are many other R1b haplotypes, and even other haplogroups, with representation in Ireland.

You and your matches will belong to the same haplotype. By extension, you and your recent genetic cousins will also belong to the same subclade and haplogroup.

16. What is a modal haplotype? A modal is a value that occurs most frequently in a set of values. If you roll a pair of dice 6 times, and you end up with the values 4, 4, 5, 3, 4, 2 - then 4 is the modal value for that set of rolls.

Each tester in a haplotype group is like another roll of the dice. A modal haplotype is determined, marker by marker, over a group of testers, as the most frequently occurring allele for each marker.

17. What is a STR? An STR is the abbreviation for Short Tandem Repeat marker. This is the aforementioned "junk" DNA. Your Y-DNA test is a Y-STR test.

18. What is a SNP? SNP (“snip”) is an abbreviation for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. It is the aforementioned very stable DNA.

Normally when you order a Y-STR test, FTDNA makes a prediction about your haplogroup. However you would need a SNP test to actually confirm it. If you have very close matches at 67 and 111 markers and one of your matches has a confirmed haplogroup, you can probably assume that is also your haplogroup.

A terminal SNP is the SNP that defines a known end point (a thinner branch or twig) in the giant family tree of man.

__________ Questions About Doing a DNA test __________

1. Why was FTDNA the lab chosen for this DNA Project? FTDNA, founded in 1999, has been doing genetic testing longer than any other commercial genetic testing lab. It has the largest database of testers from around the world. It actively encourages and supports research projects and their administrators and provides the tools to do. In addition, there are no subscription fees to see your matches.

2. How is my DNA collected? FTDNA sends you a cheek swab kit. You take two cheek swabs and enclose them in the return envelope.

3. Is my privacy compromised? No. In your FTDNA account, you can modify your profile and privacy settings. In this DNA project, your data is tagged with your kit number, not your name.

It is a project requirement for you to share your genealogical data with others. Data published on this website omits your name and uses your kit number.

4. How do I release my data for research? FTNDA sends you a consent form with the kit which you sign and send back with the kit. By signing this form you say that you are allowing yourself to be tested. Then, by monitoring the privacy settings in your profile, you can choose to let project administrators see your data in any projects you join. In that way you release your data for research. Your project administrator will know who you are, but that information is kept confidential. In this DNA Project, I do ask that you share information about your earliest known project-related ancestor, and provide a minimal family tree to be shared with others. You decide how far to extend this family tree. It should not include you or any living parents or grandparents.

5. How do I send back the kit? Drop the envelope in the mail. However, if you are mailing from outside the United States, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a delivery confirmation or tracer from your local postal service to prevent the package from getting lost.

6. What if I have already tested at another company? If you wish to join this DNA Project, you must purchase a Y test at FTDNA. The lab can no longer accept Y data transfers from other labs that will give you matches. If you wish to join the autosomal DNA project, you can purchase the Autosomal DNA Transfer product from FTDNA.

7. How much do these DNA tests cost?

Check FTDNA for current prices. If you order through our project link (see the top of the page), there is a slight discount.

FTDNA offers sales in the summer and at the end of the year. Family Finder, the autosomal DNA test, is now permanently reduced to $99 USD.

MarkersUSD $ (1)USD $ (2)Euro €UK £
12$ 49$ 49€ 38£ 32
25----$124€ 96£ 81
37 (3)$169$149€115£ 97
67$268$238€183£155
111$359$339€261£221
S & H (4) $ 6$ 6€ 4.60£ 3.90

FTDNA prices are in US dollars. The above Euro and UK prices are approximations on May 11, 2013. Prices are converted from project link prices (2).

Family Tree DNA periodically holds new test sales and upgrade sales. Email the administrator prior to purchasing any test or upgrade for the project or join the mailing list to receive any testing-related announcements from me.

__________ Questions about the project __________

1. What scientific qualifications does the administrator have to run this project? The administrator is not a genetics scientist. However, relatively few Y-DNA projects are actually run by genetics scientists with advanced degrees. Most projects are managed by interested lay persons.

The administrator has been a software engineer for over 30 years and has additional education in mathematics, linguistics, and animal behavior.

2. How is the project managed fiscally? Project participants typically pay for their own tests. Decisions to assist with funding for potentially interested Y-DNA participants are made on a case-by-case basis.

The project itself is neither a for-profit corporation nor a non-profit organization. It is simply a group of participants with an interest in genetic testing for their ancestry.

Money donated to the DNA project goes into the General Fund and is managed by FTDNA. The administrator does make decisions about spending these funds for DNA test kits, and cannot possibly handle donations any other way.

Our current balance in the fund, as of Sepember 23, 2014, is US $277.

Project administration is a 100% volunteer effort. The administrator is not an employee of Family Tree DNA or any testing laboratory and does not receive any compensation or earn commissions from the sale of DNA test kits from any test laboratories or otherwise financially profit in any way from administration of the project.

3. What will my Y-DNA look like in the project? This is how Y-DNA data might appear on this website.

4. How is my personal information kept confidential? Confidentiality is maintained in two ways.

Here on the project website, only test kit numbers are used, not participant names. All data is tagged by kit number.

In your FTDNA account, you control your Profile information and your privacy settings. (You will need to allow the project administrators of any projects you join to see your data.)


This email is ONLY for DNA project related questions.
Susan J. Barretta, Project Administrator (or message hourihanedna on ancestry.com.)
Colm Ó hAnnracháin, Co-Administrator (in training)

DNA Project

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Last updated: Tuesday, 23-Sep-2014 17:06:15 MDT