General Goals

Among the purposes of this genetic study was not simply to identify modern cousins but also to learn more about us as a clan. What portion of our ancestry was Viking? What portion of our ancestry was Gael? Was descended from Colla? Was paternally descended from Conn or Neill? Were there answers to the historical questions posed above in the genetic data?

The writing of history involves the use of incomplete scraps of data to tell a coherent story. In that way it is not so different from the interpretation of genealogical information. Indeed, Celtic culture saw no distinction between the two roles. The seanachie was both the keeper of history and the keeper of genealogies. What portion of the stories and available information can be reinterpreted in light of newly available genetic information? In fact we already have an answer to these questions, and it is “quite a lot”. And each and every new participant has a chance to help us learn more,

The Testing Process

The Clan Donald DNA Project only analyzes tests of the Y chromosome. We do not use tests such as those from 23andme,,, or FamilytreeDNA's Family Finder tests.

At present, you can get a 37, 67, or 111-marker Y-DNA test from Family Tree DNA. We recommend at least the 37-marker test to start. The 111-marker test would be best; however, cost may be a factor, and there is currently little utility in going beyond 67 markers, which is the test we recommend. Buying one test plus an upgrade is more expensive than buying all markers at once.  Upgrades can easily be done from your personal page at Family Tree DNA and does not require another DNA sample from you – they will use the sample you originally submitted. There is also the "BigY700" test at Family Tree DNA. This is essentially the "ultimate" Y chromosome test. We do recommend it, but it is very expensive, and may not really help every person, so unless you are feeling rich we do not recommend it as the first test. If you already have results from the original BigY, or BigY500, we do not recommend upgrading to the BigY700 unless you are already on one of our BigY charts and differ by fewer than two markers from the closest other person.

Signing up for the testing is simple.

Simply go to the Family Tree DNA website and select a Y Chromosome test,  37 or more markers. Then go to the next page and fill out the form and you will have a kit mailed to you. Collecting the DNA sample is painless – you take a scraping from the inside of your mouth. You send the kit and about six weeks later you will learn the results. Once you establish an account with them you will find a place to join "projects". Join Donald USA (MacDonald). You can find this by searching for "McDonald" or "MacDonald". When your results arrive, email your FTDNA kit number to our DNA site webmaster in order to receive the "Clan Donald Code" that identifies you on our web site. You must also go to your FTDNA home page, and click on Account Settings on the pop-up menu that appears when you mouseover your name at upper right. Click on  "Privacy and Sharing". Set Opt in to Matching to On (turns blue).  Set Y-DNA matching to All Levels. Finally under Group Project Administrator Access, click on the pencil for Donald USA (yes, they expect you to understand heiroglyphics). Set the Access choice for me, James McDonald, to at least Limited. If you have a BigY it is convenient if you set it to Advanced, as otherwise I have to have you do some complicated actions in email to get the data to me.


We can also accept Y chromosome test results from other testing companies. Just email your results to the webmaster. Current tests from 23andme and do contain some minor Y chromosome information that, if present, <em> may </em> be of help. This can only be determined by consultation with the webmaster.

About the National Geographic's new "Genographic 2 Project" at the company called Helix. Current results from this test sometimes include a Y chromosome marker called FGC11898_YP328. If you test "AA" for it you are a descendant of Somerled or one of his close ancestors, perhaps his grandfather. If you test "AA" for the marker CLD33 you are are a descendant of the first Chief of Clanranald. Contact the webmaster for more info.

In addition, various project members have participated in SNP testing to attempt to determine whether there are deep mutations within the large R1b group to establish deep divisions within the data. Once you have tested with FTDNA and find you are R1b or R1a you may contact us to determine which SNP tests would be useful.


A note to our EU and UK participants: The EU has promulgated regulations which they claim to apply even to persons in the USA. Such as the administrators of this project.
We have no ability to completely fulfill these. We note the following: the only information that is stored on our server computers is what is available on our web pages. If you leave our project at FTDNA this will disappear in the next update cycle. The only identifying information, other than what is on our public web site that we store on private (not web accessible) computers, is your full name, earliest ancestor, kit number, and the list of SNPs that appears at the bottom of your FTDNA SNP page (if you join through FTDNA); unless you send it, or a pointer to it, in an email to us. None of this can be removed from our permanent backups.  If you send data to us, such as Family Finder files or BigY data, you agree that we can keep backups of it permanently. We can remove results processed from it from our public areas. We can see such items as appear on your FTDNA page available to GAP administrators (e.g. snail mail address) , so long as you remain a project participant at FTDNA,  but we never copy it at all. If, starting now, you are not comfortable with this, do not join our project at FTDNA. None of this is a change to our longstanding policy.

Contact Information

DNA Project Originator

Mark MacDonald


Webmaster and Data Manager

J. Douglas McDonald


Please put the words "Clan Donald DNA" in the Subject.

U. S. Mail:

J. D. McDonald
1105 Baytowne Dr. #23
Champaign IL 61822