TOWNSENDS from around the world (with any spelling of the surname) are welcomed in this Y chromosome DNA testing project launched by the Townsend Society of America in 2002 when DNA testing became a cost effective new tool to use in genealogical research.
The objectives of the Townsend Surname DNA Project are to:
- Identify Townsends by family group and sub-group
- Prove or disprove theories regarding ancestry
- Resolve brick walls in Townsend research
- Validate existing research
- Determine areas for further research
- Link Townsends in the US, England, Australia, South Africa and other countries
The target group includes all Townsends/Townshends (and any other related surname spellings) around the world. Although many participants are among the Society’s 500 plus members others are not – and membership in the Society is not required (although encouraged) to participate.
Townsends from the US, England, Canada, Australia, and Chile are already participating in the project and persons from New Zealand, and South Africa are actively sought.
Townsend family groups, with their beginnings in various parts of the US, some with overseas members and links back to England have emerged based on traditional research and DNA testing.
The Y chromosome is passed from father to son unchanged, except for mutations that occur randomly. Testing the Y chromosome will provide test participants with a genetic "fingerprint" consisting of 25, 37, 67 or more markers. By comparing this "fingerprint" to others with the Townsend and other surnames, one can determine if they are related.
As the database of the test results continues to grow (currently over 250) the findings are yielding further understanding of the Y chromosome makeup of a number of Townsend family groups, allowing the project to draw conclusions about common ancestors and descendancy lines.
Steps are taken to protect the privacy and anonymity of persons tested, if they wish; but as the purpose of genealogy is to make family connections, having an accessible database and facilitating contacts is of prime importance. The Y chromosome test data shown in the test results section of this website shows an identifier and information on the earliest known ancestor (when available). When there is more information on a group it can be reached by clicking on the underlined family group name. When there is more information on an individual and his ancestors, the information can be reached by clicking on the underlined Y in the WEB column.
The TOWNSEND Surname Project currently recommends the 37 marker test at a minimum, but choice of test is up to each participant. To join the project and receive group rates go directly to www.FamilyTreeDNA.com and type in Townsend on the home page to learn more, join the project and order a test kit. The rates are not shown here as they have been dropping and from time to time there is special sale pricing.
Y-DNA37 - 37 Marker Test: tests the Y chromosome for genetic matches between males. Results are placed in FTDNA's Y-DNA database and when 2 people show identical or near identical results, they will inform both parties if both have signed the FTDNA Release Form. A perfect match of 37 markers means that the two individuals matching shared a common ancestor in recent times.The customer receives a Certificate & a Report generally describing Y-DNA sequencing and the meaning of probability between matches.
Y-DNA67 - 67 Marker Test: same as above but a higher resolution Y-DNA test. A perfect match of 67 markers means a very tight connection: a common ancestor in very recent times.
Y-DNA111 - 111 Marker Test: highest resolution test, useful for identifying the closest relatives such as first cousins who share a surname.
It is always possible to upgrade to have more markers tested after an initial test. And there are a growing number of additional tests available to confirm additional items and help understand deep ancestry.
MtDNA tests that track the female line from mother to her mother and on back are available for those that might also wish to order these tests at group rates. FTDNA now offers Family Finder, a test that can help identify "cousins" several generations back for both male and female ancestors. A variety of other special tests are also available from FTDNA and it is best to read around the FTDNA website at FTDNA.com for current offerings and costs.
Financial contributions are welcome and necessary to help fund this effort. While most participants can and do pay for their own tests, some persons need some financial assistance in order to participate. Tax deductible contributions (the Townsend Society of America is classified by the IRS as a US 501 C 3 charitable organization) may be sent to the Society at 21 West Main St., Oyster Bay, New York 11771.
Here are Some Questions and Answers. See bottom of page for links to more information.
- How is the DNA sample obtained? By swabbing the inside of the cheek with a sterile cotton swab that is part of the test kit mailed to you by FTDNA.
- Why do we analyze the Y chromosome? The Y chromosome is the only chromosome passed unchanged from father to son, and therefore indicates the paternal line of descent. All males in a patriarchal line have the same Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is not present in females.
- What is analyzed? We look at specific parts of the Y chromosome to obtain a “signature.” Two or more males whose Y chromosome signatures match come from the same paternal line of descent. Those whose signatures do not match are from different lines.
- Exactly what does a Y chromosome match demonstrate? A Y chromosome match shows that two males have a common male ancestor. This ancestor could be their father, or it could be a male from a thousand years ago.
- Can we analyze female descent? Yes, but not in the same way. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from the mother but, unlike the Y chromosome, it is passed to both male and female children. Mitochondrial DNA from either sex can be analyzed to see if two people have a common female ancestor. This Townsend project is offering Mitochondrial DNA testing and the mtDNA results are posted in this website.
- If no Y chromosome match is found, what does that show? It demonstrates to a very high degree of probability that the two males analyzed do not share a male ancestor. Although this is true for the two individuals tested, it may not be true for the family groups of the individuals who were tested, because there are a number of sources of “non-paternal events.”
- Does a Y chromosome match prove this relationship? Although no evidence is ever absolutely certain, the confidence level for such a match is very high. Typically, there is less than one chance in a million or more that the demonstrated relationship is in error.
- Couldn’t it be embarrassing if an individual’s Y chromosome does not match when it is expected to? Yes, and for this reason a release form is included with each test kit authorizing the inclusion of test results in data bases along with an email address for the participant.
- Do Y chromosome analyses sometimes match, but not at every point? Yes. Over a period of many years, a small number of mutations can be counted on to appear, so there may be one or more points where the Y chromosome analysis does not match exactly.
Where can I learn more about DNA testing and about family groups? Go to
Feel free to contact the Townsend Surname Project administrator at President@TownsendSociety.org
Last update: June 2015