Big-Y Group TimeTree

Big News about Big-YDNA.

FamilyTree DNA has a cool new genealogy tool in the works for its Big-Y participants. It’s a great new visual aide that allows Family Groups like those in the Guthrie DNA Project to see how their Direct Paternal Lines connect and branch out across a multi-millennial timeline. Ever wonder how long ago your common ancestors lived? This tool lets you see it. You do have to have a Big Y-700 test, however, or at least have people in your group to examine.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 3 Main DNA Tests:

Autosomal DNA (atDNA) Tests:
Both men and women have autosomal DNA. You inherit a unique 50/50 mix from each parent. It’s the most common kind of test available at Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe, and FTDNA. You compare your DNA to everyone in the database where you test, and receive matches that reflect shared DNA. The trick is trying to figure out the origins of that shared DNA. Does it come from your maternal or paternal side of the family? Which of the many shared surnames is actually your common ancestor? We compare what we already know about many Guthrie lineages to determine whether there are obvious answers or if more detective work is needed.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Tests:
Both men and women have mitochondrial DNA. We inherit this directly from our mother. She inherited hers from her mother, and so on in a direct line back to our earliest direct maternal ancestor. Since the Guthrie surname has been handed from one generation to the next in patronymic fashion, we have to trace the male line rather than the female line in order to successfully connect our Guthrie lineages.

Y-DNA Tests:
Only men have Y-Chromosomes, which is where the “Y” in the Y-DNA originates. This is inherited directly from father to son, and because family names like Guthrie are also passed on to the next generation, we can trace our family lines by finding matching Y-DNA. This test provides conclusive evidence that any two men with the same genetic profile share a direct line paternal ancestor. That could be a common father, or a common 10x-great-grandfather.

Y-DNA tests are offered in fewer places. They are more expensive than Autosomal DNA tests, and you have to test the right person. At the Guthrie DNA Project, we need Y-DNA from Guthrie men. Individuals or groups can choose to sponsor Y-DNA tests if necessary. Qualifying cases may seek sponsorship from the project’s Group Funds.

Big-Y tests take a deep dive into paternal line origins. This is not the test for people just starting out, but now that the nifty new comparison tools are coming it may be time for some of you to take the next step.

Basic Y-DNA testing is what allows us to match you to a Guthrie Family Group.

A Y-DNA result at the Y-37 marker level is usually adequate to determine if you match the genetic profile of one of our established Guthrie Family Groups. A match confirms you share a common paternal ancestor.

A Y-DNA test at the Y-111 marker level gives us a closer look at any tiny differences in your Y-DNA compared to the other men in the group. These differences (genetic mutations, but not the kind to ‘Marvel’ over) can reveal signs of shared family markers inherited in specific branches of the family. Our largest group, Guthrie Family Group 2A, is a great example of branching in action, with unique markers revealing how some lineages are more closely related within the group as a whole.

Big-Y testing is offered at Family TreeDNA. Also known as the Big Y-700, it goes a step further to look at your prehistoric as well as historic family timeline. All of these tests work best when more people participate. One person in a group with a Big-Y test will get you a string of numbers. Two people will confirm that grouped lineages still match. One person representing each major branch will potentially reveal when and where those branches connect or diverge.

The current version of the TreeTime chart allows a comparison of results to your Haplogroup (prehistoric human group), but did not allow for a comparison at the project family group level. The Big-Y Group TimeTree allows you to see the results as compared to your own Family Group including the tested kit’s Earliest Identified Ancestors.

Each Guthrie Family Group is genetically unique within a modern genealogical time frame, but the majority of our lineages do share common prehistoric or early historic ancestry.

Here’s a Screen Shot of the TimeTree in Action when we Compare multiple Family Groups. Looks like the most recent Common Paternal Ancestor of Guthrie Family Groups 1A, 2A, 3A, and 5 lived about 3000BC. But here’s something the chart reveals… Groups 2A and 5 share a more recent common ancestor than they do with the others about 200 years later. As expected, the groups don’t have any direct paternal ancestors in common in recent times

Looking at the Guthrie Family Group level when there are enough results to explore, there is something more meaningful to learn.

Let’s take a look at the current results for Guthrie Family Group 3A.

Here, we have 4 men with Big-Y tests who match the genetic profile for GFG3A. Three of them are considered to be descendants of Francis Guthrie Sr, a man probably born around the late 1690s-1710 period. We also figured that their most recent common ancestor for William Guthrie’s descendant would be further back in Scotland. This tool gives us a realistic timeline.

This can benefit everyone in the long run as more of you choose to Upgrade your Current Kits to include Big-Y Testing. Remember that for the Guthrie DNA Project only Guthrie men (or those biologically matched) are eligible, but if you’re a man participating with another surname project the same would apply to that project.

If you’ve got lots of “other” surname matches, the Big-Y could be a help to you by showing you which of those people you are more recently related. If you suspect an adoption or genetic event in past generations, it may direct you to the more likely surname.

Upgrading a Y-DNA test that has only a few results probably won’t get more of them. You may have a gene pool that isn’t highly represented within the database. Talk to me for other recommendations.

Consider the Big-Y / Y-700 Upgrade
. The more participation your group gets, the more likely we are to learn something new.

Read more and see additional examples reported by Roberta Estes’ at DNA Explained-Genetic Genealogy. You should follow her blog anyway!

To Order a Y-DNA, Big Y-700, or to Upgrade an Existing Y-DNA Test, head over to FamilyTreeDNA. Price of Upgrades varies depending on your current testing level. Don’t forget to watch for their frequent sales events. If you’re planning to upgrade, log in to your FTDNA account first. Look for the red “Add-Ons and Upgrades” button in the upper right corner of the screen. Select Upgrade to see the Y-700 upgrade.


  1. Ann,

    Thank you for this vital information and all that you do on this project. I am wondering whether GFG7 is considered a Small Group? And, if so what other options would you suggest for me as part of the Arie Artincie Cherrington Guthrie group member?

    I am searching for a male Guthrie ‘cousin’ in our tribe to invite to take the DNA test.

    Look forward to hearing from you and thank you again,

    Judy E. Brady



    • Judy – For the purposes of this discussion “group size” relates to the number of participants with a Y-DNA test rather than everyone participating in the group.

      There are currently 8 men in GFG7 participating in Y-DNA testing. That’s a smaller group. None of those men have a Big Y-700 test at the moment. Two are at the Y111 level, 3 at Y67, and 3 at Y37.

      Very few “other” surname matches for this group. Most groups have a few random “other” people, but there are no signs (at this point) that the group is the result of a genetic event involving another surname. We have a couple of main American branches, and our branch in Australia.

      Finding qualified YDNA candidates can definitely be a challenge. One way is to dig into family trees that have GFG7 relations. If it looks like they might have Guthrie connections, send them a message. Preferably start with something more subtle than, “Hi, I want your DNA.” 😉

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