Getting Started Research Tips

Joining a Surname Study: Where to Find Them and What You Can Get Out of Them

Have you heard of surname studies? These most basic of genealogical study groups can actually yield a lot of good information, especially in the age of DNA. Here’s where to find them & how to use them.

Listen and Subscribe: YouTube | iTunes | Google | Spotify

Surname studies are some of the most basic of genealogical study groups. They have been around for at least a century, and maybe more. The purpose of a surname study group is to get people together who have the same surname (or have direct ancestors with the same surname) and allow them to share genealogical information on their families. The aim is for people involved in the study to gain more insights into their own family trees and connect with genetic cousins or long-lost relatives through the information that is shared. You can find out a lot about your ancestors of a particular surname through a surname study.

In the age of DNA, there is so much more to be discovered from surname studies than in the past. In the past, only written records and oral histories could be shared, and sometimes the information was not correct, with no way to prove it one way or the other. With DNA, people can clearly find out if the are genetically related to other members or not. This is why most surname study groups are DNA-based in the modern age. It is the only sure way of proving a genetic relationship. Once the relationship is confirmed, then oral histories and written records can be shared to determine a common ancestor. Surname study groups today may use Y-DNA only (so only direct male-line members of the surname can submit DNA to be tested), while others use autosomal DNA, so anyone with relatives with that surname can participate with their own DNA and not a male relative’s.

You can find surname study groups by doing Google searches online. Just type in the surname with “genealogical study group” or “surname study group” in quotation marks to find one or more surname study groups of your own surname. You can also look into surname study groups in the various DNA testing companies. Whichever company you use to get your DNA tested, check to see if they have a surname study group going on for the surname you want to study. When you find a surname study group you want to join, send a message to the group’s coordinator and request membership, being sure to give the reasons why you want to join and what your connection is to this surname/

If you can’t find a surname study group for the surname you are interested in, consider starting one of your own. You can start one within your DNA testing company’s platform if the company hosts surname study groups. You can also start one by building your own website and going on social media and/or genealogical websites to recruit members. You may have to offer to pay for the DNA tests of the first few members to get things going, or get members of your immediate family to join so you have members right away. Groups with members are more attractive to others and so more likely to get members. Keep everyone’s information organized, set up a DNA matching feature, and allow communication between members, with your moderation.

Soon, you will be helping others learn more about this surname while learning more about it and your relatives who bore it yourself. Whether you join one or start one, being a member of a surname study group, especially one for a surname you lack the appropriate records to trace, is very rewarding.



Will founded Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been assisting researchers for over 25 years to reunite them with their ancestors.