BigY500 – Test of Choice

There have been a number of significant DNA developments over the last 12 months and the new Family Tree DNA BigY500 test is at the heart of them.

  1. Firstly the test itself became available early in the year, and the results of all previous BigY tests were upgraded to match.
  2. Unlike previously, the test can be ordered as an initial test, rather than as an upgrade to an earlier STR test.
  3. The test examines about 12 million Y-chromosome base pairs looking for SNPs that are unique to you, as well as your most recent shared SNP amongst 70,000 known SNPs on the FTDNA Y-DNA haplotree. It also produces STR results for 500 markers encompassing the results of all previous STR tests.
  4. The FTDNA Y-DNA public haplotree is itself a significant development. The Big Tree at is another example of a public tree that maps the relationships between thousands of SNPs. As more BigY500 tests are completed these trees will grow. My own efforts with the Cheshire and Lancashire Group haplotrees can also be seen as extensions of these trees.
  5. Knowing both unique SNPs and extensive STR results will provide valuable information to help narrow down the dates of common ancestors.
  6. During the last week of the recent Xmas sale BigY500 could be had for $450. When I compare that with the £400 I paid in 2006 for my first DNA test (a 400 base mitochondrial test) I realise it is becoming manageable for many people.

A BigY500 test is likely to be all the Y-chromosome DNA testing you will ever need for genealogical purposes. I have previously said that if money is no object you should take the BigY test. However I think it is now time to say that:

  BigY500 is the test of choice for the Warburton DNA Project at least during the regular FTDNA sales. If you are planning a test it should be your first consideration. I plan to update my various DNA documents to reflect this approach. I have already made some changes to the DNA Project page.

The original Y37 STR test is still valuable for finding Warburton matches, and can be subsequently upgraded if necessary. In fact it also reached new low cost levels ($90) in the recent sales, leaving me to question another strategy I have tried in the last 12 months of using cheaper tests from The downside of the cheaper tests is that the results are not available within FTDNA for matching. I have to do it manually. The price differential is now becoming too small for this to be sensible.

A BigY500 result shines on many others depending on how closely related they are to the tester. Therefore the most important consideration in deciding to take the BigY500 test is: are you already in the glow of an existing result? It might be difficult to enhance a bright glow, but illuminating to enhance a dull glow. As a rule of thumb, if you are in the same Warburton clan as the tester, and are sure there is no intervening non paternal event, then the glow is bright, but if you have simply matched in a previous test, the glow is less bright.

At this time the only BigY500 results are from the Cheshire and Lancashire Groups, though one is slightly detached. A result related to a probable non paternal event is expected shortly.

Otherwise, if you are associated with one of the other Warburton results, or have no known association to a result, then the test of choice is BigY500. Indeed we should be aiming to upgrade all the other Warburton results to BigY500 as quickly as possible, remembering we don’t need to test the original tester (I have lost contact with some of them), just a male Warburton who is related to them.

If you are going to end up doing a BigY500 eventually it will be cheaper in the long run to do it straight off. However if you then find yourself in the Cheshire or Lancashire Group you may feel the value from the test is reduced, though the BigY500 result will be valuable for dating common ancestors, and for refining your section of the Y-DNA haplotree. So there are some alternative strategies that might be considered.

  1. If you have no previous test results, and only want to know if you are in the Cheshire or Lancashire groups you could get a quick yes/no answer by testing 2 SNPs, FGC17097 which  is linked to the Cheshire Group, and A11378 which is linked to the Lancashire Group. These can be tested at for $18 each.
  2. The Y37 test will answer the above question, but will also tell you if you match any other previous Warburton result or not.
  3. If you are in the Cheshire or Lancashire Groups, or match any other BigY500 result you can test the most recent known SNPs to locate common ancestors in the Y-DNA haplotree.
  4. If you have previous STR results and matches which give clues as to your position in the Y-DNA haplotree there are packs of SNPs which can be tested to refine your position on the Y-DNA haplotree. A combination of such tests should ultimately get to your most recent shared SNP but I am not sure this will  ultimately be that much cheaper than BigY500, though the tests, and hence costs could be spread over time.


To exploit upcoming sale opportunities it is important to plan in advance. By identifying where tests are most needed, and who is willing to test,  it would be possible to organise funding in advance. Several people would benefit from the results of a test and might contribute to the cost. Or once opportunities to advance the Y-DNA Haplotree are described it may be possible to attract funding from the wider Warburton community via the project’s General Fund.

So if you are willing to help in advancing our knowledge of your slice of the Warburton world now is the time to start planning, and I would love to hear from you.


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