Calling All Clays: For Your Y-DNA

The majority of people in the United States with surname Clay descend from one of three early immigrants: John Clay(e) (c. 1595 England – c. 1655 Virginia), Jonas Clay (c. 1617 England? – c. 1663 Maine) and Richard Clay (c.1713 Maine – c. 1801 Maine).

The Problem: Today there are over 12,000 Clays in the UK (most numerous in Manchester), over 18,000 in the United States (most numerous in Texas) and over 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada). Yet no living Clay outside the UK can trace their pedigree back through any of the big three early Clays to a living Clay with pedigree on the UK side of the Atlantic. Thus, the big-3 are brick walls for thousands of living Clays in the Americas who would like to find distance cousins in the UK. DNA testing for atDNA (the most common test) will not provide solutions to ancestry back more than 4 or 5 generations. DNA testing for mtDNA (maternal line) may become useful in the future, but it’s still much harder to evaluate than yDNA (paternal line)

The Solution: Modern technology and yDNA analysis is rapidly providing the keys to breakthrough the big-3.

yDNA Defined: The DNA y sex chromosome is only passed from male fathers to male children. Because it rarely changes (mutates) between father and son it can be used to trace a male line back hundreds of generations! And, as more and more tester who are related through yDNA join a surname project (like the Clay project at FamilyTreeDNA), the closer to the big-3 brick wall relationships can be confirmed.

yDNA Pedigree

How You Can Help: The more living descendants of the big three (and their ancestors) that test their yDNA and join the surname Clay project on FamilyTreeeDNA the closer we get to solving the problem. If you are a male Clay or know another living Clay please do or have them do the following:

  1. Join the Clay Family Society here
  2. Order your yDNA test and create your FamilyTreeDNA account here (we may be able to help)
  3. Join the FamilyTreeDNA Clay project here

OR… email our DNA administrator at with questions.