Family Tree DNA has sales on virtually all their products through December 31, 2016. Whether you're a member or not, now's the time to get on board. Through this period, their autosomal product, Family Finder, is only $59, probably the best price ever offered through any vendor. If you've ever thought of doing it, now is the time.
Autosomes are those chromosomes numbered 1 through 22. The X and Y chromosomes are not among them. This is not the test to take if you want to learn more about you surname (paternal) lineage, but it is the test to take if you want to know more about your general ethnic makeup. More than that, it's especially useful in finding cousins along any of your ancestral lines. This test will not nail a descent, but it can provide yet more data from which educated conclusions can be drawn.
I'm aware of three occasions in which The CF01 group of the Cooley DNA project has had some measure of success, including one member who successfully identified natural father in part through autosomes. Y-DNA has sufficiently proven that Perrin C Cooley was a descendant of John Cooley of Stokes County, North Carolina, but we've yet to learn the specific descent. However, autosomal testing (Family Finder) has shown that Perrin's descendant and a descendant of John Cooley's grandson (another John) are cousins of about the 4th degree. That's not enough information with which to to arrive at a definite conclusion, but more such data could one day allow us to arrive at the Sherlock Holmesian truth that once we have "eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Well, perhaps not.
A third case involves a non-Cooley whose father had been adopted. His Y chromosome is an exact match to the Stokes County Cooleys. That doesn't tell us a lot, but he does have an autosomal match to a descendant of Perrin Cooley, Sr., one the the elder John Cooley's several sons. That picture also remains to be fully assembled, but we know we're heading in the right direction.
FTDNA is also offering a sale on the Big Y, a test that looks at 20 million positions on the Y chromosome. In the past, they've offered up to $100 off, but this one is $50. Still it's a substantial savings over the usual cost of $575. I continue to recommend that we have at least one person per Cooley group test. To date, four groups have tested.
The Christmas season might also be a good time to enlist a relative. For autosomes, parents, siblings, and any cousin can help untangle and sort through millions of pieces of the puzzle. For example, since I have full and half siblings, I can determine which alleles (genetic values) belonged to my mother. These can then be matched against maternal cousins, etc. At only $59, you can enlist two!
Have you not wanted to spend a lot of money to have your brother or uncle take a Y chromosome test? You're in luck. A 37-marker Y-DNA test is usually $169, but it now only $139 to the end of the year. This is the test to start your surname studies with. But if you really want to go on the cheap, the 12-marker test is still available for only $59. These are too few markers with which to make a definitive statement, but at least as far as the Cooley project goes, it is likely enough to place the tester into the correct Cooley clan. Once the toe is in the door, further testing can be later done from the same sample.