The Ackley Surname Project has had two new Big Y tests of Ackley men complete recently, and I wanted to report on the results. Before we discuss their specific results though, I would like to take some time to explain the project in some detail to give readers an understanding of the goals and benefits of becoming a member of the project and participating in Y-DNA testing.
Goals and Strategy
The overarching goal of the Ackley Surname Project is to provide data in the form of test results and interpretations of those results that can help project members with their genealogy. The testing strategy should support these project goals. One way we can do this is to help “unattached” project members discover their connection if there is one. We also want to use tests appropriate for defining branches (SNP tests vs. STR tests), and test individuals who can help define family branches. The testing framework should be designed to keep overall testing costs to a minimum. I will give some concrete examples of these ideas below.
Basic Testing Approach
We use two different types of Y-DNA testing in the project: STR testing to determine family membership and SNP testing to place people on branches in the Y-haplotree. Based on a haplotype analysis I did a while back (see here for a full explanation of this analysis), Y-37 should be sufficient for new members to determine family membership. Y-37 testers who are over the FTDNA threshold but “close” can upgrade to Y-67 and check DYS617. For existing members who are looking for more information on their branch, the Big Y test would give the most information, but cost may be a factor. Another approach could be to do a custom SNP panel based on other project Big Y results.
What is STR Testing?
Family Tree DNA offers three levels of STR testing: Y-37, Y-67, and Y-111. According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG): “A short tandem repeat (STR) in DNA occurs when a pattern of two or more nucleotides are repeated and the repeated sequences are directly adjacent to each other.”  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH): “A nucleotide is one of the structural components, or building blocks, of DNA and RNA. A nucleotide consists of a base (one of four chemicals: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C)) plus a molecule of sugar and one of phosphoric acid.”  STR testing counts the number of repeats on specific segments of Y DNA (called markers), which are designated by the letters “DYS” followed by a number. The marker values for two men are compared, and if the number of non-matching markers falls below established thresholds, there is a high likelihood the two men are related. We have used Y-37 STR testing in the Ackley Surname Project to determine group membership; i.e., to check if a tester is a descendant of Nicholas Ackley or not.
What is SNP Testing?
SNP testing identifies Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. From Family Search: “A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP is pronounced snip) is a DNA sequence variation occurring when a single nucleotide - adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), or guanine (G) in the genome (or other shared sequence) differs between members of a species or paired chromosomes in an individual.”  For example, the substitution of a C for a G in the nucleotide sequence AACGAT, producing the sequence AACCAT, is a SNP. The Big Y test examines over 700,000 locations on the Y chromosome looking for SNPs. SNPs found are compared to a known, named list of over 260,000 SNPs (named variants in FTDNA terminology), and the individual is placed in the tree at the lowest (most recent) named variant for which he has tested positive.
How Does This Work in Practice?
Big Y and Variants
The "Rule of Three"
This block tree is showing my branch as R-FGC52286, and indicates that I have one match, which would be the other member of our project. Note that R-FGC52286 is under R-FGC52285, which is under R-BY10450, which was my original branch until more people began testing and getting the variants named. At this point, we have completed the last part of the "Rule of Three", which is to test a more distantly related individual (4th cousin or greater) to confirm the main branch.
Current Project Statistics (as of 25 Feb 2023)
- 24 Ackley men have taken Y-DNA tests
- 19 known or suspected descendants of Nicholas Ackley
- 3 descendants of Johan Henrich Eckler
- 1 New Zealander whose father and known ancestors were born in England
- 1 Englishman whose father and known ancestors were born in England
- 13 Big Y tests
- 12 complete
- 1 in process
- 11 STR tests
- 6 Y-37
- 3 Y-67
- 2 Y-111 (All Big Y tests also have Y-111 results)