This is the author's final draft of the paper published as Trends in Genetics, 2009, 25 (8), pp. 351-360. The final version is available from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168952509001334. Doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2009.06.003Heritable surnames are highly diverse cultural markers of coancestry in human populations. A patrilineal surname is inherited in the same way as the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome and there should, therefore, be a correlation between the two. Studies of Y haplotypes within surnames, mostly of the British Isles, reveal high levels of coancestry among surname cohorts and the influence of confounding factors, including multiple founders for names, non-paternities and genetic drift. Combining molecular genetics and surname analysis illuminates population structure and history, has potential applications in forensic studies and, in the form of ‘genetic genealogy’, is an area of rapidly growing interest for the public
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