by Phillip G. Goff, GGFA DNA Project Manager

In the days before YDNA was available to sort out the various Gough/Goff families, well-meaning family historians made leaps of faith in family tree connections. Where there was a brick wall, the isolated family was then attached to another Goff/Gough family that offered a path to an earlier lineage.

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These well-intended, but errant, family tree mashups continue to the present day, nearly 20 years after the widespread availability of YDNA testing. Today, YDNA haplogroups can be determined by YDNA-specific tests, as well as from autosomal DNA tests, such as 23andme and AncestryDNA.

The GGFA website has a wealth of proven information on YDNA haplogroups. Go to Archives & Research menu then select DNA Surname Study. Here you will find the known YDNA haplogroup of all 30+ genetically distinct families. If the first letter of a haplogroup (e.g., I vs. R) do not match, it is biologically impossible to the families to share a paternal lineage in the time since the adoption of hereditary surnames ca. 1300 AD. Please do your part to incorporate YDNA haplogroup knowledge into your tree and prune any very distant, pre-surname connections, from your pedigree.

For more information, please check our DNA Surname Study pages or email me at Each new participant helps to fill in the history of the Goff/Gough families.

Phillip Goff is the co-author, along with Roy L. Lockhart, of The Four Goff Brothers of Western Virginia. Since 2004, he has run the Goff/Gough Surname DNA Study, which today has about 400 participants.

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