SNP (pronounced snip) Packs are tests that include specific SNPs designed to help refine your haplogroup to a more specific paternal lineage. This can be useful for both deep anthropological human migrations as well as discovering family and clan connections.
What are SNPs
Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are small changes in the Y chromosome at a single location in your DNA. These changes, called mutations, can help to define direct paternal lineages from deep ancestry up to historical times. Each lineage is called a haplogroup.
Each time a SNP occurs, it is passed on to male descendants. As more SNPs accumulate, the genetic tree of mankind branches out to many new branches, also called subclades. One way to think of this is that a “parent SNP” gives rise to many descendants, who in turn become parents to their own branches.
What is a haplogroup?
A haplogroup is a lineage of direct paternal ancestry that designates where your specific paternal ancestors came from, and the migratory route they took stretching all the way back to Africa. There are dozens of migratory routes across the globe, and each one has hundreds of subgroups within them.
What are SNP Packs?
When you take a Y-STR test (such as the Y-37 or Y-111), FamilyTreeDNA is able to predict your haplogroup. People who have a particular set of STR markers will almost always fall within a particular haplogroup. This haplogroup prediction will be very general, and include an ancient branch that has dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of subclades.
SNPs themselves define haplogroups, and their subclades. SNP Packs include the SNPs that define the main subclades of a given parent SNP. It is designed to follow a particular branch. This can take your haplogroup from a predicted group that is tens of thousands of years old to a subclade that is thousands of years closer to the present day. Other SNP packs designed for specific subclades can refine these even further.
How can a SNP Pack be valuable for your genealogy research?
Some haplogroups are very common in certain populations, while others are more rare. For example, many Europeans today share the same ancestral parent SNPs from tens of thousands of years ago, but have since diverged into many subclades. In clan systems found throughout northern Europe, adopted members of a clan take on the surname of the clan, but bring their own unique haplogroup to it. This means that they enter the clan with a similar set of ancient SNPs, but with their own unique set of more recent SNPs.
Another example is occupational surnames, such as Smith or Mason, that were adopted to reflect an ancestor's occupation. Because there were many smiths in numerous villages, many people with the surname Smith do not share the same ancestors.
In cases like these, SNP packs and SNP tests, in general, can help to determine different branches within a clan, or a surname shared by different individuals for any reason.
Who should order a SNP Pack?
If you are interested in deep anthropological questions regarding the migration route or geographical locations of your paternal branch, a SNP pack can help refine this data. If you have a very common surname or want to separate which branch of a group of people you belong to, a SNP pack can help you do this. This is particularly true for societies that practice patronymics or occupational surnames.
How do I know which SNP Pack to order?
The SNP pack you need will depend on what your haplogroup prediction is, and what your research goals are. Because there are so many SNP packs available, we strongly recommend joining a Haplogroup or surname project. These free-to-join projects are run by volunteer administrators who can help you decide which SNP pack may be best for you. Many of the SNP packs were actually designed by Group Administrators, so they are the true experts in the field. They can help you decide if you need a more general SNP pack for deep ancestry or if you are able to skip ahead to a more refined pack.
How many SNP packs are available?
For some haplogroups, there are many SNP packs that can refine subclades further and further, while other haplogroups have only a few. Depending on a branch, you may find you need several packs to reach your goal. In these cases, we recommend a Big Y-700 test.
What is the difference between SNP Packs and Big Y-700?
SNP packs test a specific set of known SNPs designed to further a specific branch. The SNPs are not updated over time, but guarantee results for the SNPs they cover.
The Big Y-700 test is an exploratory test that examines a SNP-rich region of the Y chromosome. It covers this region with a 70x read and reports any SNPs it finds that match a minimum confidence rate. This means that it does not guarantee a particular SNP, but picks up thousands of known and previously undiscovered SNPs. This means it can advance the tree overall with new branches, and usually give a more refined haplogroup than SNP packs.