I am going to start a long process of showing how to solve ancestry with Y-DNA. Unfortunately, you don't have a lot of choices with Y-DNA like you do with autosomal DNA. There is only one company that does Y-DNA testing and also has a large matching database. It is Family Tree DNA.
The Y-chromosome is only carried by men; that's what makes them males. So only men can do Y-DNA testing. What can women do? Test your father, brother, male cousin, etc. The Y-chromosome is passed from father to son, so it is a fantastic test to use for finding the origins of your birth surname. This test will help you find your father's father's father's father . . . which is the top line of a horizontal pedigree chart or the left line of a vertical pedigree chart.
Y-DNA testing has radically changed in the past couple of years because you can now use two different tests to trace your paternal line: an STR (Short Tandem Repeat) test, and an SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) test. For many years, only STR testing was useful for genealogy, and SNP testing was for deep ancestry. But that changed at Family Tree DNA when they introduced the BigY test a few years ago. The BigY is a SNP discovery test which means that it finds new SNPs in your Y-Chromosome. So now SNP testing has moved into the genealogical time frame.
Ultimately, you will want to do two different tests to solve your paternal ancestry, an STR test and an SNP test. You will order the STR test first. To get the best price on your STR test, go to familytreedna.com (or ftdna.com) and join a project before ordering your test. Family Tree DNA gives a discount on the first test to project members.
You will order the Y-37, Y-67, or Y-111 test. Each of these tests a certain number of locations on the Y-chromosome, so the Y-37 tests 37 different locations, the Y-67 tests 67 locations, etc. The Y-111 is, by far, the best test because obviously more testing is better than less. But because Family Tree DNA will store your DNA you can start with the Y-37 or Y-67 and upgrade later.
I will show how all of these tests work in subsequent blogs. Hang on! It's going to get amazing. We will start with trying to solve a mystery and then show each step in the progression. So next see Finding the Father of Electious Thompson.