This week, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) announced their change from the Big Y product to the Big Y-500 product. While the use of over 380 new STRs may or may not prove to be of any use to serious genealogists (Sometimes more is just more and not better.), it is good to see FTDNA moving forward on product improvements. Below is the text that was shared with administrators on the Group Admin Pages (GAP).
The Big Y-500 is now available. In addition to everything the Big Y featured, the Big Y-500 includes testing of up to 450 STRs.
Important: Customers who had the Big Y product have been automatically switched to the Big Y-500.
Moving forward, customers who purchase a Big Y-500 will also have to purchase or upgrade to the Y-DNA111 test. However, customers do not have to have a Y-STR test already before purchasing the Big Y-500 since it contains the Y-111. Big Y without STRs will no longer be available.
This means that you get whatever STRs were included with the Big Y. It does not mean that you have been upgraded from say a Y67 with Big Y to a Y111 with Big Y.
However, in the future FTDNA will require everyone STR tested at a level below Y111 to upgrade to Y111 when they order Big Y. Why? It is because they can. As I have told many of my project members, there is absolutely no need for a Y111 when you don't have matches at Y12, Y37, or Y67. Big Y can be useful in such cases but not more STRs.
On the dashboard, in the Big Y-500 section, a Y-STR Results button has been added in addition to the Results and Matches buttons. The Y-STR Results button will direct the user to the Y-DNA – Standard Y-STR Values page. Big Y-500 will not include matching beyond Y-111.
If you have Big Y tested, you can see your new STR results by signing into your Family Tree DNA account and scrolling down to the Y-STR Results button in the Big Y section.
Big Y-500 Page
The Big Y-500 – Results page functions exactly as the Big Y – Results page. The only change to the page is the replacement of Big Y with Big Y-500.
Y-DNA – Standard Y-STR Values Page
Current customers who had the Big Y now have the Big Y-500. Their Panel 6 (112-561) STR results are now displayed on the Y-DNA – Standard Y-STR Values page.
Panel 6 STRs – (112-561)
For the Panel 6 STRs, customers may not have results for all 450 STRs. When a customer has a “no call” result for an STR, a “–” is displayed on the Panel for that STR.
Note that we guarantee results for at least 389 of the Panel 6 450 STRs. In the unlikely event that a customer has results for fewer than 389 of the Panel 6 STRs, we will have to do a rerun on the test.
These new STRs come from Big Y testing. Big Y testing coverage is variable from one test to the next. It is expected that many STRs will be too low coverage from Big Y testing to report reliable results.
The CSV download will display all panels/STR locations regardless of whether the user has tested for all of the STRs. A “-” will be displayed for all STRs that are not tested.
There is a link to download the comma separated variable (CSV) file with Y-STR results at the bottom of the Y-STR Results page. This file can be opened in Excel and other spreadsheet programs.
Please note – STR Results may be different than other companies score.
At FamilyTreeDNA, we typically count only perfect repeats so some of the Big Y-500 Panel 6 Y-STR allele values will consistently differ from that of other companies. The difference will be offset by only a few values above or below the results of other companies.
“Perfect repeats” is an FTDNA-ism. As we know, Y-STRs are made up of repeated bits of DNA code. Thus, an STR could be four repeats of GATA, GATAGATAGATAGATA. These are full repeats. In rare cases, part of a repeat is deleted. Thus, someone might have GATAGATGATAGATAGATA. Some companies might round this up to five repeats or report the GAT that is missing the A as a partial repeat (micro-allele). FTDNA will not report micro-alleles for the Panel 6 Y-STRs, and that their policy is to round down for all such partial repeats. Thus, they would report an allele value of four in such a case.
What does all of this mean in practical terms for genealogists? Right now, it looks like the Big changes are that FTDNA is selling Big Y + Y111 to those who have Y-DNA tested with them before and people are going to be forced to buy a Y-STR upgrade with their Big Ys. I feel skeptical and jaded as I write this, but it is what it is. I plan to do analysis soon on one of the Y-DNA Q-M242 project's clusters to evaluate the effectiveness of more Y-STRs in general.