A Surname Project studies the different Y-Chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) lineages associated with a surname or group of surnames. It may be narrowly focused on one particularly spelling variant in a specific location. It may also include all known variants of a surname in any time or place.

Because surnames often follow a Y-DNA lineage for many generations it is typical for surname project participants to be men with that surname. Of course, women (and men who are interested in their ancestry beyond their direct paternal line) may have an appropriate representative of the line they are interested in testing.