Winslow Y-DNA Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is all this I hear about DNA testing?
A. DNA testing is being used by genealogist to assist in confirming relationships. There are basically two types of DNA tests available for genealogical testing: the Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) test and the mitochondrial (mtDNA) test.  Everyone has mtDNA but only females pass it on to their children making it good for testing the female line (mother to daughter to daughter to daughter etc.). However, the Winslow Family Y-DNA project is interested in tracing the Winslow surname at this time. The Y-chromosome genes are usually passed unchanged from father to son. The Y-DNA test allows us to determine if male Winslows are related and if they are the approximate date of their common relative. For more information on DNA and Y-chromosome testing see DNA Information.

Q. My ancestors are all long dead.  How do I get their DNA? A. Males carry the Y-DNA of their surname ancestors, so we test them as representatives of their ancestors. DNA tests are taken from the living male Winslows and compared among other Winslow participants in the project. A single Y-DNA test is not that useful, but can be very revealing when compared to known or suspected cousins.  In many cases, Y-DNA matches among individuals indicate a common male ancestor who may have lived  hundreds of years ago, with the  “cousins” being completely unknown to one another.

 Q. How can DNA testing help my genealogy research?
A. For purposes of surname genealogy studies, DNA refers to the 23rd chromosome pair.  Females have two x chromosomes, while males have one x and one y chromosome.  The y chromosome is passed from father to son and is usually identical from father to son.  Occasionally, there is a mutation.  Over 1000s of years, these mutations have resulted in distinctive DNA profiles or fingerprints for different families.  These differences are the focus of DNA testing in genealogy, often called Y-DNA. The DNA fingerprint can be used to confirm or disprove relationships making is very important in helping to fill in a record gap or break through an obstinate wall.

 DNA testing can confirm that two test participants share a common ancestor.  When combined with traditional genealogy, DNA results can aid in reconstructing genealogies and can confirm or refute specific relationships, including descent from specific ancestors, with a high degree of confidence. The most useful comparisons are between men who have closely matching Y-DNA patterns and who have also established paper trails (genealogies).

Q. Why is the project using Y-DNA testing? 
A. The Y chromosome is unique in that it is passed almost always unchanged from father to son, and therefore it can be used to indicate the paternal line. The males in a paternal line have very similar Y-DNA results and allow us to track ancestry based on a DNA fingerprint for a specific branch of the family surname. The Y-chromosome is not present in females and is unique among all the other chromosomes that it is never combined with a female counterpart. For more information on DNA and Y-chromosome testing see DNA Information.

Q. If I have a DNA test will it tell me who my ancestors are? What will I find out from the test?
A. No, DNA testing does NOT give you information on who your specific ancestors are. The test results WILL provide you with a DNA pattern or fingerprint that can be matched to other participants who share a common ancestor, and give you a probability of the number of generations to The Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA).

Q. Why should I get tested?
A. You should get tested if it will aid in defining the DNA profile of your surname ancestors.  When your DNA profile is combined with another descendant of a common ancestor, it can define the DNA profile of that earlier ancestor.  When combined with your brother’s result, your test will define the common ancestor (your father).  When combined with a 5th cousin’s DNA, your result will define the result of your gggg-grandfather. 

For a man who has already had a close relative tested, there may be little value in his additional testing unless there are specific questions to be answered.

Of particular concern are the sole surviving male representatives of the Winslow line.  Once they are gone, their family cannot be directly represented.  These men are particularly important to our family study and should be strongly considered for testing.  Many families already have stories of DNA testing a family member who has since died, or of not getting a test on a family member before they passed on.

Q. How useful will DNA testing be for me?
A. The answer will vary for each individual.  For a man with a distinctive DNA profile who matches into the Winslow family profiles already established, the result can be quite useful, as it can confirm his family and leave only the question of which members are his actual direct ancestors.  For the man whose result matches multiple Winslow branches, the result can be ambiguous.  For the man who fails to match any other participant, the result can be quite frustrating.  Over time, as additional participants are added, we can hope that results for the latter two become as useful as they are for the first case.

Q. Will this test tell me about medical conditions?
A. No.  (The DNA evaluated in this test is often called “junk DNA’ because of its lack of medical information.)

Q. Will it tell me if I'm illegitimate?
A. Not unless your father is also tested.  (There are other DNA tests that consider different markers that are more useful for legitimacy testing.)

Q. Can insurance companies use my findings against me?
A. There is nothing in your DNA result that is of interest to an insurance company.    Y-DNA testing is extraordinarily specific to just the markers of interest to genealogists.  These markers exist in so-called “non-coding” regions of the Y-chromosome.  (The DNA evaluated in this test is often called “junk DNA” because of its lack of medical information.)  The Y-chromosome contains very little genetic data, and those regions of the Y-chromosome are not tested in any case

Q. What about police investigations?
A. You are not uniquely identified by this DNA testing. Your result cannot be correlated to DNA samples used in police work.

Q. Will the testing company sell my results to anyone else?
A. No.  Each testing company makes a written commitment to you respecting your privacy. 

Q. Exactly what does a Y-DNA match mean? 
A. A Y-DNA match indicates that two males have a common male ancestor. This ancestor could be their father, or it could be a male from a thousand years ago. The quantity of DNA markers that match gives us an indication of how long ago the common relative lived. For more information on DNA and Y-chromosome testing see DNA Information.

Q. Does a Y-DNA match prove a relationship exists? 
A. Although no evidence is ever absolutely certain, the confidence level for a match can be very high. For example, on a 26-marker Y-DNA test where all markers match there is less than one chance in a million or more that the relationship is in error. For more information on Y-DNA testing see DNA Information.

Q. What DNA results are being analyzed, what are you looking for?
A. We look at specific Y-DNA markers to obtain a “fingerprint”. Two or more males whose Y-DNA fingerprints match come from the same paternal line of descent. Those whose fingerprints that are significantly different are from different lines. For more information on DNA and Y-chromosome testing see DNA Information.

Q. Why does the Winslow Family Y-DNA Project use the 26 and 43 marker test?
A. Our project is trying to determine the various branches of the Winslow family. Since we are trying to define the branches and determine with some accuracy when the common relative lived, more markers are needed. More markers help us narrow in on which generations The Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA) is likely.  If you exactly match someone using 12 markers you almost certainly share a common ancestor.  However, the number of generations back to the common ancestor is very difficult to tell.  With results from additional markers the range of generations when the common ancestor occurred can be reduced significantly.

Q. Does very marker have to match to be related to another person? 
A. No.  Usually over a period of many years, a small number of mutations can be occur, so there may be one or more markers where the Y-DNA analysis does not match exactly. For more information on Y-DNA testing see DNA Information.

Q. How many matches are needed to show a relationship? 
A. It depends on two variables. First, is the total number of markers tested affects the number that matches to be related. For more information marker analysis see Results Defined. Second, the number of generations that exist between the participants being compared and the common ancestor also affects the number of matches required to be related. The more generations that exists the more mutations can be expected in the marker values.

Q. My maiden name is Winslow but I am female and have no brothers and my father has passed on now.  The only living males with the surname Winslow in my family is a distantly related cousin. Is there anything I can do?
A. Your male cousin probably has the same Y-DNA as your father and his male ancestors with surname Winslow.  If they are the natural children of your Winslow ancestors testing your cousin is the same as testing your late father.  That is because the Y chromosome passes unchanged from father to son apart from infrequent random mutations.  So if your father and your cousin have any known common ancestor, even back to your 4th great grandfather or beyond, the DNA sample should be the same as testing your father; give or take a mutation or two.

Q. My line split off from the Winslow family two hundred years ago.  My ggg-grandmother was a Winslow. I do research on my Winslow ancestors but have no close Winslow relatives. Can DNA testing help me?
A. If you know or can find male surname descendents of your gggg grandfather Winslow, you can in effect “test” him by testing his descendents.  That is because the Y-DNA is passed on with almost no change from father to son.  If you test a couple of your male Winslow cousins and they match, you can say with high confidence that their Y-DNA is very close to the Y-DNA of your gggg grandfather.  Then you can compare his sample to other samples in the study and possibly learn much new information about his line for your research.

Q. Why are you excluding women? We are the children of our Winslow ancestors as much as the men.
A.  We cannot test females using the Y-DNA test because they do not carry the Y chromosome, only males do.  The technology does not exist to trace Winslow surname ancestors through their female descendents, at least not yet.  The reason requires going into a bit too much explanation of basic genetics, but essentially we get a blend of genes from our fathers and mothers for everything except the Y chromosome, which passes mostly unchanged from father to son.  Most other genes combine, thus making every individual unique with a unique genetic signature. But that does not mean that daughters are not just as related to their fathers as sons.  In fact everyone has genes from all their ancestors, half from each parent, a quarter from each grandparent, an eighth from each great grandparent and so forth back forever. Every gene in our DNA existed in some ancestor 10,000 years ago apart from a few mutations possibly.  By using Y-DNA analysis women can learn much valuable information about their Winslow ancestors, the same as male descendents.  There are tests of mtDNA that trace female lineages, but they are not useful for single surname studies.

Q. There is only one living male person surname Winslow in my family. Is there any point of him joining the study if he doesn’t have two or three family members who are Winslow surname males?
A. Yes, there is potential value for you to join the project.  The reason for testing two or three distantly related cousins is that this “validates” the family at least back to the known common ancestor. A single test could provide incorrect data for the family if there is an unknown adoption or a false paternity somewhere back in the past.  If only one male exists in a family branch and he takes the test and it matches others in the study, you will have learned that your branch of the Winslow family is related to theirs, with little doubt.  If it does not match and you cannot find any cousin to test to validate the result, at least your results will be available in the database a future match is secured.

Q. I was adopted by a Winslow family as a child. Is there any benefit to do a DNA test?
A. That depends on whether you are trying to trace your "biological" family or your Winslow family. If you're trying to trace your "biological" family you would have your own DNA sample tested. If you already know the surname of your "biological" family, it would probably be best to try to find a DNA project for that name since your results would more likely match someone in that group than the Winslow project.

If you're interested in tracing your Winslow family roots you would need a DNA sample from your Winslow father or other male Winslow family member.

Q. My male Winslow cousins don’t care a thing about family history.  They won’t pay for this. 
A. There is no rule that says the person ordering and paying for the test must be the person being tested.  If your cousins will consent to doing this simple, painless test, you can order the kits on line and then send them to your cousins. Some of the other family reconstruction projects have multiple researchers in the same family line that have split the cost of testing male cousins who have no interest in our hobby.

Q. I already know my Winslow family descends from Kenelm.  What are we going to learn from doing this that is new?
A. You may discover many Winslow families that are your cousins that you did not know about before.  They may have new information and family histories that will be useful to you and you will know they are your relatives with little or no doubt.  A couple of families named Winslow side by side in the census could be brothers, or could be coincidence.  But DNA is proof. 

Q. All it takes is one break a long time ago and you won’t be able to match up a whole branch of the Winslow family. You will never be able to put all the branches together.
A.  That is very likely true, but the purpose of this is to help different Winslow families link up to further their genealogical research. Even if long ago a Mr. Winslow adopted a boy whose natural father was Mr. Brown, all his male descendents will still be with a common ancestor, which may prove useful. Also, if someday a Brown has a test done, we may find that match as well!

Q. How is the DNA sample obtained? 
A. A painless swabbing of the inside of the cheek with a sterile cotton swab is used for our laboratory samples.

Q. How do I participate?
A. Details on participation are provided on this site at DNA Testing. Basically, you can order the test kit directly from the lab and they will provide you the kit in a few days. The Project Administrator will send you additional information and request that you provide pedigree information so an accurate analysis can be performed on your results. As soon as the results is obtained from the lab, your results will be posted on the website and any additional analysis on your specific results will be provided.

Q. How will my DNA information be used?
A. DNA test results are of little use on there own. Their value is how they compare to other test results and who they match. We use participant numbers to protect your privacy when displaying results on our website. Results of current participants can be seen on our Results page.

Q. How will my DNA information be protected?
A. Only the participant providing a DNA sample and the Project Administrator will know what his results are (unless they decide they would like to share that information - see next question). All samples and identifying information will be received by the Administrator and will be assigned an identifying number. This ID number will be the only identifying information anyone else sees, so no one other than the coordinator will know who participates in the study or which result is from which person. The portion of the DNA tested gives a distinctive "signature" for a lineage rather than for an individual, so there is no risk of this data being of any use to anyone for personal identity.

Q. I noticed my DNA markers match those of several other participants. Is there anyway I can contact them?
A. If the participant chooses not to identify himself, you can contact the Project Administrator who will forward your request on to the participant. 

Q. Couldn’t it be embarrassing if an individual’s Y-DNAdoes not match when it should?
A. Yes, and for this reason no participant's results will ever be revealed except by a code. Names of participants will not be published or released unless the participant gives his permission to do so.

Q. My test results do not match any others, does that mean I'm not a Winslow?
A. There is always a possibility that you could get disappointing test results. Samples that vary by three or more markers from the main group may do so for a number of reasons. One possibility is that they represent distinct lines either older or younger than the currently observed most frequent line. Another is that there has been a “non-paternal event” at an unknown past time. There are several possible types of non-paternal event in addition to a pregnancy gained outside of a marriage. For example, a child may be adopted and given the Winslow name; a man may take the Winslow name when he marries a Winslow daughter; a Winslow man may marry a pregnant woman whose husband has died; a couple where the wife is the Winslow may choose to give their children the Winslow name for various reasons; clerical error in recording administrative data may assign a Winslow name to the wrong person, and so on. 

It should be stressed that adoptions were quite common in every age (ie. parents died by disease or war and a relative took in the children and raised them with their name; or young daughters had a child out of wedlock and the parents raised it as their own). 


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