I find that I am increasingly spending time advising people on which geographical projects to join at Family Tree DNA. I always recommend that people should test within a surname project wherever possible as you are most likely to have a match with someone with the same surname. (For a basic introduction to DNA testing please read my article here.) However, there are many surnames for which no projects have yet been established. The prospect of setting up a surname project might well be a daunting task for some people. If you are hoping to get an elderly relative to take a test on your behalf you will want to ensure that his or her DNA is stored before it is too late, and there will not necessarily be time to wait until a suitable DNA project has been established. A useful alternative in such situations is to test with a geographical project. In this way you can benefit from the discounted project pricing and the free 25-year archival storage provided by Family Tree DNA. Some geographical projects focus on both Y chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Others focus specifically either on Y-DNA or mtDNA. Geographical projects can be a particularly useful repository for mtDNA results as you are most likely to have a meaningful match with someone from the same location. Family Tree DNA have an alphabetical list of geographical projects on their website, but it is a time-consuming task sorting through the list to see if there is a project for a particular area of interest. I have therefore compiled this list of geographical projects relating to the British Isles for the benefit of UK researchers. Once you have tested with Family Tree DNA you can join as many other relevant projects as you wish. There are some overlapping projects and it will usually be possible to join both projects. I have excluded from the list some projects which no longer appear to be active. If you know of any projects which are missing from the list please get in touch and I will be happy to include them. All the projects at Family Tree DNA are run by volunteer administrators who decide on the criteria for joining their projects. Some projects have very specific requirements, whereas others are very broad.
English DNA Projects
There are currently very few English geographical projects, and a number of the projects in this list, including my own new Devon project, have only been set up in the last few years. There will no doubt be many new projects established in the months and years to come as more people from the UK get their DNA tested. If anyone is interested in running an English county project and would like some idea of the work involved please get in touch. I would be particularly interested in hearing from anyone who might be interested in setting up a Somerset project as I have a number of people who have expressed an interest in joining such a project. The following is a list of all known active projects for English counties and regions:
Birmingham and West Midlands mtDNA Project
Project members must have a paper trail back to Birmingham or those areas close by in the West Midlands (Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire). Only those people who have taken a high-resolution mtDNA test (HVRI and HVR2) are eligible to join.
Colchester Camilla Project
The Colchester Camilla Project was set up in February 2011. It is a geographical project for everyone with a direct paternal or maternal ancestral line originating in or around the town of Colchester in Essex. The project is aiming to show a genetic link with the DNA taken from human remains of people who lived in or around Colchester during the Romano-British period (43AD to 410AD). Further information on the archaeological findings in Colchester can be found here.
Cornwall Y-DNA Project
A new Y-DNA project established in July 2011. The project is restricted to those who have a good paper trail to Cornwall on their paternal line.
Cornwall mtDNA Project
This project is for anyone with an ancestor on the direct maternal line who lived in Cornwall.
Devon Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
My new Devon DNA Project was only established in March 2009 but has already attracted over 130 participants. The project is open to everyone with a direct paternal or maternal ancestral line from Devon, and participants must have a documented paper trail to Devon. The project specifically excludes deep-rooted lines from America where the only connection with Devon is in the 1500s or 1600s, as these pedigrees are prone to error and are very difficult to verify. There is also the possibility of a non-paternal event leading to the introduction of non-Devon DNA.
East Anglia Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
The East Anglia DNA Project is for anyone whose paternal or maternal line can be traced to East Anglia. For the purposes of the project East Anglia is defined by its historical boundaries, which include the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, plus northern Essex and southeast Lincolnshire. Although the bulk of the participants have been tested at Family Tree DNA the project is hosted on an external website and is therefore able to accommodate results from other testing companies.
Hampshire Y-DNA Project
The Hampshire project is open to anyone with a direct paternal line from Hampshire.
Manx Y-DNA Project
A new DNA project launched in August 2010 by Guild of One-Name Studies member John Creer.
Nidderdale Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
A new Y-DNA and mtDNA geographical project launched in 2011 by Guild of One-Name Studies member Nigel Brooks. The project is open to everyone with a direct paternal or maternal ancestral line originating in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the county of North Yorkshire.
Northumberland Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
This project is open to "all with any association with the county of Northumberland".
Oxfordshire Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
The Oxfordshire DNA project is a dual DNA project which is collecting Y-DNA and mtDNA results for people with a direct paternal or maternal ancestral line from Oxfordshire. Participants must have a documented paper trail to Oxfordshire prior to 1900.
Ravenstonedale DNA Project
A DNA project for people with any of the surnames found in the parish of Ravenstonedale in Westmorland. Participants must have a documented paper trail to an ancestor who lived in Ravenstonedale before 1800. The project accepts Y-DNA, mtDNA and Family Finder results.
Saddleworth Surnames DNA Project
A new Y-DNA project established in December 2013 which is investigating the surnames of Saddleworth in Yorkshire. Updates are posted on the project's Saddleworth History Blog.
Irish DNA Projects
The Ireland Heritage Project is the largest country-specific project in the world with almost 5,000 Y-DNA participants and over 1000 mtDNA participants as of March 2013. The project has its own website with background information on the project and tips and resources for researching in Ireland. The Y-DNA and mtDNA projects have separate project pages at Family Tree DNA:
Ireland Heritage Y-DNA Project
Ireland Heritage mtDNA Project
These projects welcome respectively those with paternal or maternal lines of Irish origin regardless of whether or not the county of origin is known.
Munster Irish Y-DNA Project
This is a research project focusing on the historical families of Munster present in pre-Norman times, studying the ancestral haplotypes prevalent in the province.
Ulster Heritage Y-DNA Project
The Ulster Y-DNA Project aims to "further the study of Ulster surnames, families, clans, and tribal affiliations of the people of Ulster and their descendants throughout the Diaspora". The project is open to anyone with Ulster ancestry which includes "Ulster families of Native Irish, Hebridean Gael, Ulster Scot and English Settlers, Norman, Welsh, Frisian, Manx, etc., origins".
Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project
The Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project is open to all men and women who have Ulster ancestry.
There are in addition a number of projects devoted to the various Irish clans. A listing can be found on the Clans of Ireland website.
Scottish DNA Projects
Scottish DNA Project
The Scottish DNA Project (formerly the Scottish clans projects) was established in October 2001. It was one of the very early geographical projects, and is now the largest geographical with over 5,500 members as of March 2013. The project is now administered by the Genealogical Studies team at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. The Scottish DNA blog provides news and updates from the project.
Border Reivers Y-DNA Project
This project has been set up to test the Y-DNA profiles of members of the families found along the Anglo-Scottish Border who are collectively known as the Border Reivers. A full list of surnames associated with the Border Reivers clans can be found on the Electric Scotland website. The project is also open to descendants of 'transplants' to Ulster, the United States, Canada, Australia, and around the world.
Isles of the Hebrides Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
This project is open to those people whose ancestors in either the direct paternal or maternal line resided on one of the Isles of the Hebrides.
Orkney Y-DNA and mtDNA project
The project has not defined the entry criteria, and appears to be open to everyone with ancestry form Orkney.
Shetland Islands Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
The Shetland DNA Project is "only open to those who can show with genealogical records that their ancestor in either the direct paternal or maternal line resided in Shetland in the 1800s or earlier". In addition the ancestor's name should appear in the Shetland families database. A patronymic naming system was common in the Shetlands among Norse families until the 1800s and DNA testing will help researchers to make genetic connections further back in time.
Individual Scottish clan projects
There are numerous individual Scottish clan projects, many of which will include a variety of different surnames. The Clan Donald DNA Project is now "the largest family-based genetic genealogy project in the world" and was the first project to acquire 1,000 members. A listing of Scottish clan projects can be found on the Scotland DNA Project website.
Welsh DNA Projects
Wales Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
The Wales DNA Project is attempting to collect the DNA haplotypes of as many persons as possible who can trace their Y chromosome and/or mtDNA lines to Wales. Project members are required to submit an ancestral chart.
The British Isles Y-DNA and mtDNA Project
If there is no surname project for your surname and none of the geographical projects listed above meets your requirements another alternative is to test with the British Isles DNA Project. This is the largest geographical DNA project in the world with 4,552 project members at the time of writing. The project is very broad in its scope. It "is open to persons whose family history or surname indicates a paternal or maternal lineage originating in the British Isles, or who have a family tradition pointing back to the British Isles". Participants can therefore join even if they have not identified an ancestor who lived in the British Isles.
Other geographical projects
There are many other geographical projects for other countries and regions, and it is not possible to provide details here. There is however a very useful listing of DNA projects with 50 or more members on the World Families Network website where most of the large geographical projects can be found. DNA Ancestry is the only other testing company which hosts geographical projects. Their website does not have a public listing of geographical projects. The majority of Ancestry projects are however very small and are mostly duplicates of existing projects at Family Tree DNA. If anyone knows of any other geographical projects for the British Isles do let me know and I will add them to my list.
This page was last updated on 11th March 2013.
© 2009-2013 Debbie Kennett