Skip to Content


Project Home Page 


Surname DNA testing is the newest tool available to genealogists!


  • Surname tests allow genealogists to verify their father's father's father's (etc.) paternal ancestry.
  • Surname DNA information can be very powerful when combined with traditional paper trails.

The following surnames are currently included in this project:

Bradshaw, Bratcher, Bradsher

The Bradshaw DNA Project is open to all Bradshaw families, including spelling variations.

Project Background, Concepts, & Objectives


This project was formed in order to explore the relationships of the various Bradshaw families with origins in western Europe, primarily England. The name is often spelled Bratcher (and sometimes Bradsher) in American colonial records, although certainly some Bratcher and Bradsher families may not have been Bradshaw originally. Since this project is based on a particular surname, it uses the y-chromosome DNA test ("y-DNA") to determine direct paternal lineage.

There are two important metrics of y-DNA that are useful for genealogy: haplogroup and haplotype. Haplogroups show how all humanity is related from an ancient perspective, while haplotypes are useful from a more recent (historical) standpoint to establish relationships within a particular family or closely related groups of families. Haplogroups are based on a mutation known as a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, or SNP, (a substitution at a base pair that occurs very infrequently) and are represented by a tree structure, while haplotypes are shown as the number of "repeats" (a numerical value known as a Short Tandem Repeat, or STR) at specific y-DNA markers (often in groups of 12, 25, 37, 67, or 111 if using the FamilyTreeDNA ("FTDNA") testing service).

How closely related any two individuals are can be determined by comparing their y-DNA haplogroups and haplotypes. To be considered related during a historical timeframe (in the last couple of millenia), two individuals must be of the same haplogroup. When FamilyTreeDNA initially analyzes a y-DNA sample, it will test for haplotype markers. Based on known patterns within the haplotype, FTDNA will often assign a predicted haplogroup, shown in red in the results table (e.g., R1b1a2). The haplogroup designation can be refined to a more specific value by ordering a Deep Clade test, which will authorize FTDNA to test for the presence or absence of specific SNPs. With this haplogroup nomenclature, additional letters are added as the haplogroup is further refined. The detailed haplogroup designations R1b1a2a1a1a4 and R1b1a2a1a1b5a (shown in green to indicate that they are confirmed, not predicted) are refinements of R1b1a2, but their lines probably diverged at least a couple of thousand years ago, long before surnames (like Bradshaw) became common in western Europe (approximately 14th century or so). Assuming that the haplogroups are identical (or at least a predicted haplogroup starts with the same letters), the haplotypes can then be compared to determine the likelihood of two males having a recent common direct paternal ancestor.

The haplotype comparison is known as the genetic distance, which measures the degree of difference in haplotype markers between two samples. A difference in the number at a particular marker (known as a Short Tandem Repeat, or STR) is a mutuation (insertion or deletion of a repeat) that must have occurred in a specific individual. All direct male descendants of that individual will carry that same mutation in that haplotype marker (until it changes again). A minimum of 37 or 67 markers is recommended for genealogical purposes. A match at 12 markers is not very significant unless the surname is similar and the ancestors are known to have lived in proximity to one another. A genetic difference of 2 or less at 37 markers for two individuals of the same surname is a strong indication that they may have a most recent common ancestor (direct paternal line) within a few hundred years (within the timeframe of European settlement of America). A close match at 67 markers is an even stronger indication of a genetic relationship.

The frequency of change of the various haplotype markers differs from marker to marker. For example, slower changing markers are indicated by the marker name (DYS designation) shown in black (e.g., DYS393 in the leftmost column); markers with the marker name in red (e.g., DYS439) are more apt to change quickly. Direct male descendants of the same 17th-century colonial American immigrant ancestor may differ at several of the "red" markers, but at very few of the "black" markers.

To view the y-DNA test results and haplogroup/haplotype comparisons for current members of the Bradshaw DNA Project, select the y-Results link at the top of this page. Where known, the earliest known Bradshaw ancestor of each member is shown, with families grouped together. The Patriarchs page provides more details on each member's descent from the earliest ancestor, including where they fit within the tree of descendants. Clusters of closely related individuals (a most recent common ancestor within the past 500 years or so) are shown together with highlighting around the ID and Name cells, with no blank rows in-between. Your research should focus on those individuals within the your cluster to find where your ancestral lines merge. If someone is not in your cluster, don't waste your time trying to establish a connection with their Bradshaw ancestor; genetically, that possibility has been eliminated. Don't be too discouraged if you are in a row by yourself. Encourage other Bradshaws whose ancestors lived in the same vicinity as yours to join the project to see if your y-DNA is a close match to theirs, and then you may open up that brick wall in your research.

For example, the Bradshaw/Bratcher/Bradsher surnames are fairly common in colonial Virginia and states that were settled from Virginia like North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. This DNA project shows clearly that these were not all the same family originally. By using the DNA findings along with research into the primary historical records (deeds, wills, vital records, military pensions, Bibles, censuses, tax lists, etc.), it is now much more likely that these families will get sorted out and categorized according to the correct relationships. One cluster, that of John Bradshaw of Henrico County, Virginia, is the subject of a web site at

The distribution of these surnames at the time of the 1840 USA census shows a strong expansion from colonial Virginia, as well as New York. (Source:

If you are fortunate enough to have someone from Europe included in your cluster, then you may have a good possibility of determining the vicinity from which your immigrant ancestor originated. In England, the Bradshaw surname (as of the 1891 census) was most common in Lancashire and Yorkshire in northern England. Likewise, Lanarkshire in Scotland had the highest concentration of Bradshaws in 1841.

Important Links

To order a y-DNA test to join this project, select the Order Test link at the top of this page.

Another way to support this project (especially for those of us not fortunate enough to carry the Bradshaw y-chromosome) is to contribute towards the Group General Fund to help offset the cost of tests for project members. Be sure to click on the letter "B" and specify the Bradshaw group. You may contribute anonymously or by name, and you can specify that your contribution of funds be used for a particular family or branch.

Group admins

Project Administrators