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The Townsend Surname DNA Project


TOWNSENDS  from around the world (with any variant spelling of the surname) are welcomed in this Y chromosome DNA testing project launched by the Townsend Society of America in 2002 when DNA testing became a cost effective tool to use in genealogical research.



The objectives of the Townsend Surname DNA Project are to:

  • Identify Townsends by family group and sub-groups and determine Earliest Known Ancestors
  • Prove or disprove theories regarding ancestry and Townsend family connections
  • Resolve brick walls in Townsend research
  • Validate existing research
  • Determine areas for further research
  • Link Townsends in the US, England, Australia, South Africa and other countries  


Targeted Townsends  

The target group includes all Townsends/Townshends (and any other variant surname spellings) around the world. Although most participants were orignally among the Society’s 500 plus members many today are not – and membership in the Society is not required (although encouraged) to participate.

Townsends from the US, England, Canada, Australia, Chile,  South Africa, and Nicaragua are already participating in the project and persons from New Zealand, and any other country are actively sought.

Over 25 Townsend family groups, many with their beginnings only identified in various parts of the US, some with overseas members and links back to England have emerged as results of DNA testing and traditional research.  A couple of family groups are only outside the US.  A number of Townsends have turned out to "genetically" another surname; while a number of person of other surnames are "genetic' Townsends.  And there are many cases where research and "sorting out" is on going.


The Process and Results 

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son unchanged, except for mutations that occur randomly.  Testing the Y chromosome will provide test participants with a genetic "fingerprint" consisting of 37, 67 or 111 markers.  By comparing these markers to others with Townsend and other surnames, one can determine if they are related. 

As the database of the test results continues to build (currently over 260) the findings are yielding further understanding of the Y chromosome makeup of a number of Townsend family groups, allowing the project to draw conclusions about common ancestors and descendancy lines.

Steps are taken to protect the privacy and anonymity of persons tested, if they wish; but as the purpose of genealogy is to make family connection, having an accessible database and facilitating contacts is of prime importance. The Y chromosome test data shown in the test results section of this website shows an "indentificaion # "and information on the earliest known ancestor (when available). When there is more information on a group it can be reached by clicking on the underlined family group name. When there is more information on an individual, that information can be reached by clicking on the underlined Y in the WEB column.  As of September 1, 2014 these click through connections are only available in the Old Style Results. And one may also contact the Townsend Society at for additional information.


Available Tests

The TOWNSEND Surname Project currently recommends the 37 marker test at a minimum, but choice of test is up to each participant.  To join the project and receive group rates go directly to  and type in Townsend on the home page to learn more, join the project and order a test kit.  The rates are not shown here as from time to time there is special "sale" pricing.

Y-DNA37 - 37 Marker Test: tests the Y chromosome for genetic matches between males. Results are placed in FTDNA's Y-DNA database and when 2 people show identical or near identical results, they will inform both parties if both have signed the FTDNA Release Form. A perfect match of 37 markers means that the two individuals matching shared a common ancestor in recent times. The customer receives a Certificate & a Report generally describing Y-DNA sequencing and the meaning of probability between matches. 

Y-DNA67 - 67 Marker Test:  a perfect match of 67 markers means a very tight connection: a common ancestor in very recent times.

Y-DNA111 - 111 Marker Test: the highest resolution Y-DNA test in the world.  

It is always possible to upgrade to have more markers tested after an initial test.  And there is a growing number of additional tests available to confirm additional items and help understand deep ancestry. 


MtDNA (the mother, mother mother line) and Autosomal DNA (for all ancestral lines and cousins) tests are available for those that might also wish to order these tests at group rates.  A variety of other special tests are also available from FTDNA and it is best to read around the FTDNA website at for current offerings and costs.


Financial contributions are welcome and necessary to help fund this effort. While most participants can and do pay for their own tests, some persons need some financial assistance in order to participate.  Tax deductible contributions (the Townsend Society of America is classified by the IRS as a US 501 C 3 charitable organization) may be sent to the Society at 25 West Main St.,  Oyster Bay, New York 11771.


Some Questions and Answers  

  1. How much does Y chromosome marker analysis cost?  Go to and choose Townsend on the home page and go to the Townsend project for current costs.
  2. How is the DNA sample obtained? DNA can be obtained from any cell, but one of the easiest samples is obtained by swabbing the inside of the cheek with a sterile swab.
  3. Why do we analyze the Y chromosome? The Y chromosome is the only chromosome passed unchanged from father to son, and therefore indicates the paternal line of descent which typcially is also the surname line. All males in a patriarchal line have the same Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is not present in females.
  4. What is analyzed? We look at specific parts of the Y chromosome to obtain a “signature.” Two or more males whose Y chromosome signatures match come from the same paternal line of descent. Those whose signatures do not match are from different lines.
  5. Exactly what does a Y chromosome match demonstrate? A Y chromosome match shows that two males have a common male ancestor. This ancestor could be their father, or it could be a male from a thousand years ago.
  6. Can we analyze female descent? Yes, but not in the same way. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from the mother but, unlike the Y chromosome, it is passed to both male and female children. Mitochondrial DNA from either sex can be analyzed to see if two people have a common female ancestor. The present project does not analyze Mitochondrial DNA. 
  7. If no Y chromosome match is found, what does that show? It demonstrates to a very high degree of probability that the two males analyzed do not share a male ancestor. Although this is true for the two individuals tested, it may not be true for the family groups of the individuals who were tested, because there are a number of sources of “non-paternal events.”
  8. Does a Y chromosome match prove this relationship? Although no evidence is ever absolutely certain, the confidence level for such a match is very high. Typically, there is less than one chance in a million or more that the demonstrated relationship is in error.  
  9. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if an individual’s Y chromosome does not match when it is expected to? Yes, and for this reason a release form is included with each test kit authorizing the inclusion of test results in data bases along with an email address for the participant.
  10. Do Y chromosome analyses sometimes match, but not at every point? Yes. Over a period of many years, a small number of mutations can be counted on to appear randomly, so there may be one or more points where the Y chromosome analysis does not match exactly.
  11. Is this surname DNA study something new?  No, a number of surname groups have similar projects underway.  Many of these have websites with results, project progress and substantial information.
  12. Where can I learn more about DNA testing and about family groups? Go to  and to for more information.


Feel free to contact the Townsend Surname Project administrator at  

Last update: November, 2014




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