Can Females Trace Their Paternal Line?

You may hear about DNA in the news or in conversations. But what is DNA, really?

Learning about your roots might trigger an incredible curiosity for your family’s history. And, while the breakdown of your biogeographical ancestry might have answered most of your questions, many more may arise.

Whether you want to learn more details about your blood line, where and when it originated, or its migration and evolution patterns, you can know more about your blood line with a simple upgrade of your ancestry DNA test, in the form of a “haplogroup report.”

A haplogroup represents a group of people who share a common ancestor. A haplogroup report will help you discover many amazing facts about your maternal or paternal blood lines.

There are two types of haplogroups:

  • mtDNA Haplogroup: Both men and women have mtDNA, or mitochondrial DNA, in their bodies, but it is only passed down by mothers to their daughters, in a direct female line of descent. That’s why it allows you to discover your mother’s line, whether you are a man or a woman.
  • Y-DNA Haplogroup: Human Y chromosome is male-specific. It passes its variations on from father to son only, in a direct male line of descent. As a result, only men can follow their paternal lineage.

Unfortunately, that means that woman can’t follow their paternal lineage on their own. But, they CAN learn about their paternal blood line through a man directly related to their paternal grandfather.

Take a look at “YOU,” the woman at the bottom left of the above image. Her mt-DNA is the same as “MOM” and “GRANDMA,” as well as “UNCLE” and “BROTHER” (in green in Figure 1). They are part of the same mt-DNA haplogroup, because they have one common ancestor: “GRANDMA.” If any of these people takes a mt-DNA haplogroup test, they’ll have the same results. Thus, only one of them needs to be tested in order for all of them to learn about their maternal line.

Now, because “YOU” doesn’t have any Y-DNA in her body (remember that it’s only passed down by the Y chromosome, absent in women), she can’t learn about her Y-DNA line on her own. If you go back to the same picture, you will see that “BROTHER” inherited his Y-DNA from “DAD” (in yellow in Figure 1-3). If “YOU” and “BROTHER” are full siblings (we will accept this theory for demonstration purposes), “YOU” can learn about her paternal lineage through “BROTHER” or “DAD.”

Figure 2: Paternal Lineage

If these men weren’t available, “YOU” could find out about her father’s blood line by testing any men in the yellow group (Figure 3), as they are part of the same haplogroup and share the same common ancestor: “GRANDPA”. Any of them could be tested so “YOU” can learn about her ancestors.

What does it mean for you?

You inherited half of your mother’s DNA, half of your father’s. Because you’re a woman, you didn’t inherit your father’s Y chromosome (females sex chromosomes are XX, males are XY). Thus, you don’t have a direct access to your paternal lineage. You can still get information on your family’s history (father’s side), as long as you ask the right person for help. You will need to reach out to a biological relative sharing your paternal line.

Unfortunately, if you were adopted, that might be difficult, if not impossible. However, you will still be able to discover your maternal blood line (mtDNA haplogroup report), as well as your regions of origins (Biogeographical Ancestry Report).

If you do have one living relative with whom you share a common male ancestor, ask him to take the test for you. His results will inform you on your Y-DNA line and all the events it went through (origins, evolution, migrations).

The tree below illustrates who shares your paternal lineage (in yellow):

Figure 3: Family Tree showing the Y-DNA lineage

As you can see, your paternal lineage is widely spread within your family, from your nephews (through your brother) and your cousin’s son (through your uncle), to your grandfather. Families have many branches. You will find your Y-DNA line by following one that is directly connected to your father. The distance between your father and that other male relative isn’t important, as long as they have the same male ancestor.

As an example (Figure 4), your cousin’s son is your paternal relative through your paternal grandfather (in green). Your nephews are part of your paternal line because they are direct descendants of your father (in orange).

Figure 4: Direct Paternal Lineage

Follow the branches of your genealogical tree and you’ll find out your family’s history.

What’s next?

Once you found a paternal male relative, you’ll have to order a Y-DNA haplogroup test for him. He will go through the same process as you went through. If you were satisfied with the company you chose for you test, just stay with them. But you can also choose a different company, as this will be a completely new test. We’d recommend you try CRI Genetics as they have the most accurate DNA testing system on the market today. And you could even request both your DNAs to be tested for paternity, so you are 100% certain of your paternal lineage (CRI Paternity, a branch of CRI Genetics, will test for paternity without requiring a new swab).

Every family has its history and you are about to discover yours.