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Brown DNA Study Overview


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Description and Overview of the Brown/Browne/Braun DNA Study 

The Brown/Browne/Braun DNA Study is a volunteer genealogical activity, whose main aim is to use DNA analysis for tracing the histories of various Brown families, including those with variants of the Brown surname like Browne, Broun, Braun, Brun, Browning and Brownlee. The project is coordinated by non-paid, amateur genealogists. About 95% of the lab work for our tests has been done under a contract with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) of Houston, Texas.

The Brown project is now more than eleven years old and is still growing. Rufus B. "Byron" Brown was our Founder, and he served as Project Administrator until late 2002. Randall Colston took up the post of Co-Administrator and Webmaster in 2002. Jim Brown became Co-Administrator in late 2002, upon Byron's retirement. Randall stepped down in 2008, and Jim then became the Administrator.

The project now has results for more than 900 tested members, who belong to some 390+ unrelated, biologically separate Brown/Browne/Braun family lines. A number of participants have reported significant breakthroughs in their own genealogical research, thanks to the project. What's more, we've had good success not only with DNA matching, but even with people who have used genealogical info at our website to connect with other Brown lines in cases where their own Brown families have not yet had DNA tests. 

We're confident that successes like these will grow in number as "the word gets out" concerning the power of DNA analysis for genealogical research. 

Our study and all other DNA surname projects are based on Y-chromosome DNA, which is possessed only by males. It is passed from fathers to sons virtually unchanged over hundreds of years. Therefore, direct participants in DNA surname studies necessarily must be males.

In other words, direct participants in our project, that is, the men who are actually tested, must either (1) carry the Brown surname or a "Brown like" surname; or at least (2) be thought to descend in an unbroken male-to-male line from a Brown-surnamed male ancestor.

Please note however that if you are not yourself a test candidate, you're still welcome to sponsor Brown-surnamed male relatives as test participants, to join our project's mailing list, and to help us recruit new candidates for testing. In this regard, we hope you can pass this message along to others who might be interested -- or even persuade one of your Brown-surnamed male relatives to submit a DNA sample for our project. 

So if you have a Brown-surnamed brother, father, cousin, nephew, or uncle who has at least a slight interest in genealogy, maybe you can help enlist them in our research! In fact, many female Browns and non-Brown cousins have already become project members by sponsoring their Brown-surnamed male relatives.

DNA samples for the study are furnished by means of a gentle "swab" inside the mouth. The test is less trouble than brushing your teeth and is completely painless. It does not involve drawing blood or other intrusive methods, and it is done at home with a small kit mailed directly to participants.  The cost is modest, starting at $54.00 for the basic test (12 markers), while the recommended test for new participants (37 markers) is $154.00.

Results may be kept anonymous if a participant wishes, although virtually all participants have opted to list their full, real names alongside their results in an open database.

No project member receives any money from the study. The only fees involved are the charges paid to FTDNA for test kits and lab work, and FTDNA gives project members a significant discount from the list prices.


Questions and Answers:

Who can be tested in the Brown Project?

You must be a male who descends (or who is thought to descend) from a Brown-surnamed male ancestor in an unbroken male-to-male line.  This qualification means that in most cases you will carry the "Brown" surname or a variant like "Braun." But please be assured that adoptees and other "biological Browns" are just as welcome. This limitation to Brown males is necessary because the Y-Chromosome DNA test is the only known way to track a surname that passes down from father to son. The result comes about not only because women don't carry the Y chromosome, but also because the Y chromosome is passed from father to son with very little change over hundreds -- even thousands -- of years.

Who does the Actual Testing?

Family Tree DNA, a firm in Houston TX, has been the contractor for about 95% of our tests. They make all arrangements for actual lab work, most of which is done in-house at Houston, with other tests done at the University of Arizona. We do accept test results from other labs and other firms, but we strongly advise testing via FTDNA, due not only to their unparalleled variety of tests and their excellent customer service, but also because they have by far the largest customer database in the genealogy-DNA business. The large size of this database greatly increases the probability that you'll find matches if you test via FTDNA rather than via the other outfits.

(We aren't aware that other firms have released info on the sizes of their customer databases. But FTDNA now has a database of more than 300,000 tests of the sort used by the Brown DNA Study.)

Another reason for testing via FTDNA is this:

Even though some of the competing labs are entirely reliable in a scientific sense, they all test slightly different "menus" of DNA markers, meaning that it's difficult for our project to compare and incorporate some of their results. On the other hand, when you test via FTDNA, your results will quickly and easily compared, marker by marker, not only with the 900+ men in the Brown DNA Study, but also with the hundreds of thousands of men in the FTDNA customer database who aren't members of the Brown project.

The following link will take you to the FTDNA home page:

This site has detailed information on the uses of DNA for genealogy. In particular, you will find the title "Tutorial" on the right side of the page, below the search blocks. This link will lead you to explanations of the testing process, test kit contents and instructions, charts, and a host of other information. This FTDNA information link it is an outstanding resource, and we recommend it to you. Please note, however, that if you want to be part of the Brown DNA Study, you should NOT order your kit directly from FTDNA. We say this because you won't get our special discount prices unless you order through the project.

The Brown project has a few members who have tested via other labs. So if you've tested somewhere other than FTDNA, please contact us for instructions on joining. Just email

What does it cost to be tested?

Currently the lowest cost "basic test" for project members is the 12-Marker Y-chromosome test at $54.00. But we strongly recommend that most participants order the 37-marker test, which costs $154.00. Please be sure to keep in mind that these prices are discounted for the Brown DNA Study.  The kit must be ordered through a project like ours to get the discount. Individuals who order directly from FTDNA will pay higher prices. Also, kits sent outside the USA will incur an additional mailing charge of USD 2.00.

What is in the test Kit?

FTDNA will send a kit with contains two swabs, two vials containing a DNA preservative, instructions, and a release form to be signed.  The following link has a picture of the kit contents and instructions:

How do I Order a Test Kit?

First, please remember that all test participants must be males who descend (or are thought to descend) from a Brown-surnamed male ancestor via an unbroken male-to-male line.

Second, just send an email with the information described below to:


Information Needed for an Order:

To implement an order, we need the male test participant's full name including middle name, shipping address, billing address (if different from shipping shipping address) and a contact E-mail address. A contact phone number is optional.

We'd also appreciate a bit of your basic genealogical information in the male-to-male line, most importantly the birth and death residences/dates of your earliest known Brown male ancestor. But if you don't have some of this information, please just send what you can. And you may send information on additional generations if you wish.


What if I have already tested with a company other than FTDNA? May I still join the project?

You may join to us if you've ALREADY tested with some lab or company other than our regular contractor, Family Tree DNA. Among our 900+ members, about two dozen men fall into that category. But if you haven't yet had a DNA test, we recommend most strongly that you test only with FTDNA, simply in order to have results fully compatible with the overwhelming majority of Brown-surnamed men who have taken genealogical DNA tests.

Whom should I contact about the Brown DNA Study?

Volunteer Administrator:  Jim Brown

(James Armistead Brown, Jr.) .
Contact Jim to order a test kit; or to ask questions about the Brown/Browne/Braun DNA Study in particular, or about "DNA genealogy" in general.  



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