Choosing Your Next Test / General Fund


1.  General

2.  ySTR upgrades

3.  ySNP tests, single and Pack

4.  Geno2 tests

5.  NGS tests, incl. BigY

6.  Autosomal tests, incl. Family Finder

7.  Mitochondrial tests

8.  Other DNA tests

9.  General Fund

This section identifies the various DNA test that can be taken after the initial ySTR test and offers recommendations on their suitability, depending on the individual tester's circumstances.  Which test, if any, is most appropriate depends on:

1.  General comments on further testing

2.  ySTR upgrades

FTDNA offer the following STR upgrades:

Despite indications to the contrary FTDNA no longer offer upgrades to 25 or 67 markers, nor do they offer single STR marker tests.  However YSeq, another reputable testing company, still offer single marker STR tests, e.g. DYS617 for $9.95 plus shipping fee, but of course they need their own saliva sample.

For testers who do not have 37 markers I recommend upgrading to 37 markers.

For testers who have 37 markers I have only rarely recommended upgrades to 111 markers, because I do not regard them as value for money until our Study shows they can be of more use.  This is particularly true when no other member of your branch or sub-group has yet tested for the upgrade being contemplated.  My lack of enthusiasm for upgrading to 111 markers is for two reasons: (1), because for testers whose 37 STR tests results show them to be Border Irwins then the BigY700 test offers much better value for money, and (2) if a tester has no "Matches" at 37 markers it is unlikely (though not impossible) that any Matches will be found at 111 markers. 

That said:

3.  ySNP tests

As an initial test I still recommend the 37 marker STR test, as this is usually sufficient to identify which branch a tester is descended from and for FTDNA to give a "predicted haplogroup" (see below).  Higher resolution ySTR tests are still popular with some, but ySNP tests (see below and Supplementary Paper 5), have the following advantages over STR tests:

Over the years FTDNA have offered various SNP tests, but now only offer BigY700 tests, having discontinued their single SNP tests, SNP Pack tests, "Deep Clade" and "Walk the Y" SNP tests.   However YSeq, another reputable company, still single offer single SNP tests for $17.50 and SNP Panel tests, typically at $99 or $109, all plus shipping, 

4. Geno2 tests

National Genographic's powerful Geno2 test will identify "known" SNPs, e.g. down to L555, and results can be transferred to FTDNA's database, but at $199.95.  I do not recommend this test.

5.  Next Generation Sequence ("NGS") tests (for more details see Supplementary Paper 5)

These powerful tests identify all the SNPs inherited by the tester, including Private SNPs (those unique to the tester at the time of testing), place these SNPs on the haplotree of mankind, estimate a date for each non-Private SNP, and identify other matching NGS testers. 

5.1 FTDNA's BigY-700 test is the most popular, and I now recommend it for all members of our Study who can afford it.  It now costs $449, but $339 if you already have tested to 37 markers, $279 if you have tested to 67 markers, and $239 if you have tested to 111 markers.  Prices are lower during sales.  To order go to your personal FTDNA account page < "Upgrade" < "Advanced Tests - Buy now", and then under "Test Type" select < BigY < Learn more < Order now.  The complex raw BAM data is also available for an additional fee.  

When FTDNA publish the results of each BigY test by a members of our Borders branch I use FTDNA's pages "Y-STR Results" (even though these add little of practical value), "Haplotree & SNPs", "Block Tree", "Private Variant Results" and "Discover Haplogroup Reports" to update our Main Report spreadsheet and our  L555 Genetoic Family Tree spreadsheet, placing the tester in the L555 haplotree, dating his genetic ancestors, and identifying his closest BigY relatives and his Private SNPs.  FTDNA's halpotree is now massive and much more reliable than it was before 2018 and with the sophistication of our L555 haplotree I now find unnecessary the many other features FTDNA now offer.   

I used to only recommend BigY700 tests for members of our Borders branch, but the test is increasingly relevant to members of other branches as a simple haplotree can be constructed after at least two BigY test results become available within each branch.

5.2 FGC's Elite tests. These have a greater coverage than BigY but are more expensive and for the present at least do not appear to add further insight to our Borders branch. 

These NGS recommendations are liable to change in light of developments.

6.  Autosomal tests

These tests, suitable for both males and females, can identify cousinship up to about 4th cousins, through both paternal and maternal ancestry - provided of course the cousin has also taken a similar test with the same testing company.  But apart from identifying, on a probabilistic basis, the degree of cousinship, the test does not identify any of the intervening relatives.

FTDNA do their Family Finder autosomal test at $79 Results cannot be posted on-line for confidentiality reasons.  I recommend Family Finder to those so interested if they live in USA; the coverage of this test outside USA is still poor and so unless two suspected cousins both test.  For those who live outside USA the liklihood of finding cousins is lower.  To date about 20% of this Study's members have ordered this test.  Members who take a Family Finder test should also join the Irvine Clan Autosomal Project  - see  This project is administered by Rev. Peter B Irvine.

23andMe do a similar test for $149 plus shipping; they have a larger database, but again mainly US focussed.

The Family Finder and 23andMe tests now also predict the relevant mid-level SNP. 

7.   Mitochondrial ("mt") DNA tests 

FTDNA offer this test for $79.  It only relates to maternal ancestry – your mother’s mother’ mother's mother .....   To date less than 15% of the Study’s members have taken this test.  The results of these tests are of no significance to other members of our Study.  I do not recommend this test.

8.   Other DNA tests

FTDNA and other companies offer other DNA tests but I do not recommend any of them.  

9.   General Fund   

The ‘Clan Irwin Surname DNA Study General Fund’ has been established in conjunction with FTDNA to help facilitate a number of contingencies:

Many donations are made anonymously, and their application left to the discretion of the Study Administrator who is aware of potential tests which would advance the Goals of our Study.  Donors may instead elect for their donation to be recorded in their name, or in memory of a family member.  They may also state the purpose (within our Goals) for which they wish the donation to be used. 

The Fund is held by FTDNA.  Donations may be made by credit card, PayPal or cheque.  To make a donation please contact the Study Administrator or see

 All contributions will be acknowledged, and very much appreciated.