What if I don't fit into any known group?
I get this question a lot. I get it from those who haven't yet sent in their test kit, or haven't yet gotten their results. I also get it from those who have received their results and they have no matches for their surname.
If you look at our results table, you'll see a significant number of people in the “Ungrouped” section. Most, but not all of these people don't match anybody else. A few match one or two others but they don't know who their common ancestor is, so at least for now, we have them in Ungrouped. As mentioned in another article, if a group are actively working on figuring out where they connect, I might create a separate group for them to make it easier to coordinate their efforts.
To make this article simpler to read, I'm going to get one point out of the way at the start: All the rules of conventional genealogy research apply. Just because we have a “new tool”, DNA testing, in our tool kit, the basic rules haven't changed. You need to carefully examine all available information before drawing conclusions about the parents of the person you are working on. Only when you are confident that you've identified the right parents should you move on to the next generation. But you knew that, and never jumped to conclusions, right!
So, the first action when you find you don't match anybody else is to continue with your conventional research, possibly going back to the beginning, yourself, and checking each generation before forming your research plan.
Other Surnames: The y-DNA match section of your FamilyTreeDNA page gives you the option of displaying matches for only those within our Project or showing all matches. Usually you start with just our project members because they have already indicated that their surname is one of the several that we cover. In general, matches are only significant if they are for the same surname, allowing for spelling variations and surname adjustment along the way. This is because with so many of us with ancestors in the same general area back eight or more generations ago, it is quite possible for people with no common ancestor for more than 16 generations to match.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a look at that display. Try it out and see if any of the surnames match those in your family history. Do you see several matches with the same surname that is related to your family? For example, do you see the surname of a wife of one of your paternal ancestors? This could indicate an adoption, which was not uncommon throughout history. Do you see a surname of a neighbor of one of your ancestors? Again, your ancestor might have brought in a member of that family when their parents died. Disease and the hazards of colonial life, and the westward migration wiped out many families leaving one or more children in the hands of neighbors or fellow travelers.
If you are truely alone, that is, you really don't match anybody with your surname, or similar surname, and don't see any matches with other surnames that relate, your task continues to be to keep working on your most distant ancestor searching for clues to his origin. Although you will see many grouped under a common ancestor, the two largest groups, the George Hadley and Simon Hadley groups, are both stuck at these ancestors. The George Hadley group is stuck in the early 1600's in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The Simon Hadley group is stuck with their ancestor in Ireland. Both have some unproven theories about the next generation back, but neither has found good evidence. So if you are sitting in the Ungrouped section, your situation isn't all that different from the Grouped people. The only difference is where and when you are stuck. All of us need to work systematically from where we are to push further back into our past.