Y DNA Kits & Surnames

One of our mitoYDNA users asked us the following question.
"I uploaded my brother's YDNA kit to your site but none of the matches shared a surname."
Read how our team members answered her question.

It could be one of 5 reasons:
  1. No one from your surname has tested at FTDNA. Or they only tested at 25-markers (or less).
  2. An unusual last name that few/none have tested.
  3. There was a surname change in your family in the past. Look for variations in spelling.  Some countries don't use patrilineal naming.  Surname analysis indicates that 1/3 of men will have NO matches [R. Spencer - 2019 FTDNA Admin Conf.]
  4. N.P.E.
  5. You didn't meet the FTDNA threshold to have the match listed.  For someone to match, they have to meet the criteria for Genetic Distance in the following table:
# Markers Tested Maximum # Mutations Allowed 
111 10 

Often, the common ancestor with a Y-DNA match predates the adoption of surnames.  Remember that a lot of cultures traditionally used patronymic naming systems until quite recently, with names like O'Brien or Larson or MacGregor that changed every generation depending on the name of one's father.  So if Lars Olson had a son Anders, the son's full name would be Anders Larson, not Anders Olson.  Now let's say Lars Olsen was the most recent common direct paternal ancestor of your brother and some of his top Y-DNA matches.  It's to be expected that you will observe surnames in the direct male descendant lines such as Hanson, Larson, Olson, Knutson, etc., and even names like Soderholm or Vetteland when a descendant branch adopted a surname related to a farm or other location where they lived.

Breaking from the Scandinavian example, in other parts of the world where surnames were recently adopted, often surnames were selected to distinguish individuals by their occupation (like Miller or Smith or Weaver).  So, if we look at the descendants of a particular Robin Johnson in England, who lived not so long ago, but before modern surnames were adopted, his male lines might have surnames like Robinson, Johnson, Miller and Washington, reflecting a variety of frozen patronymics, occupations and place names. 

You could have an event in your family tree where a person was adopted/was the result of an event where both parents in the family are not biological - NPE or non-paternal event.

Fixed surnames were not adopted in some rural areas of Wales until the early 1800's.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_surnames#History
In Scotland fixed surnames were not adopted in the Gaelic-speaking Highlands until the 
1700's.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_surnames#Patronymics.  Polish Jews did not have fixed surnames until the late 1700's and many Russian Jews did not have fixed surnames until the early 1800's.