You wouldn’t believe how often I receive this question. It seems evident to those of us who work with this information, but it’s obviously not to others. So this blog is for those who ask, and also for project administrators who want to make sure their projects are useful and friendly and reaching the people they want to reach.
This is referring to the projects at Family Tree DNA. Ancestry also has surname projects, but they tend to be more like study groups because you don’t have to DNA test to join them.
At Family Tree DNA, there are three kinds of projects; surname projects, haplogroup projects and geographic projects. Let’s look at all 3.
Most males will want to join a surname project. Since the Y chromosome follows the surname, unless we’re looking at cases of adoption (documented or otherwise), you’ll want to join the surname project most similar to your surname.
To find the surname project best suited for you, simply go to www.familytreedna.com and enter your surname into the surname search box.
Project administrators – be sure that all variants of the surname are listed in your project profile.
Ladies, surname projects are much less useful to you directly, since surnames changed with every generation. In my own personal case, I “keep” people who have tested for particular surnames in that project, but that’s so I can find them easily. For example, I have two women who tested to prove who their ancestor was, that she was the wife of one William Crumley, and so they are in the Crumley project. However, that is as much for my convenience as anything. There are 5 surnames between their generation and the Crumley connection, so any of those surnames would be as appropriate as any other. Generally, women should focus more on the other project types. Some Y-DNA project administrators don’t accept mitochondrial results into the project.
Be sure to look through the mtDNA Lineage projects on the project search page. They are similar to surname projects for males. Don’t know how to find the lineage projects, keep reading to discover how to find different kinds of projects.
I encourage everyone to join appropriate haplogroup projects. There may be more than one for you.
Often there is a primary haplogroup project, for example, haplogroup H, then subprojects. You can find these projects by going to the Projects tab at the top of your personal page and click on the “join” option.
You will see the following selections.
If you’re looking for mitochondrial haplogroup H, scroll down to the mitochondrial haplogroup section and click on H. You will then see the following options.
In this case, I would suggest joining both the haplogroup H main project and the subproject appropriate for you. If you are haplogroup H1, then join that project as well. So in this case, you would join two haplogroup projects.
What is the benefit of joining a haplogroup project?
First, you can help science along its way. This is one way you can be a citizen scientist, contributing to the greater good. Haplogroup projects group people so we can discover new haplogroup subgroups and learn about migration patterns, which brings me to the second reason, which isn’t so altruistic.
You can learn about where your ancestors lived and settled before the advent of surnames. Do you want to know where they lived 1000, 2000 or 5000 years ago? Well, by looking at the haplogroup maps, you can see where they and their descendants settled.
Many haplogroup administrators group participants within the haplogroup project by either haplogroup subgroups, common mutation patters (which lead to new haplogroup subgroups) or other criteria. Here’s an example of a subgroup from the haplogroup H1 project. If you don’t know where your ancestors were from in Europe, wouldn’t a map like this showing where others with similar DNA patterns lived be useful?
If you’re not sure about which projects apply to you then click on the project link and read what the administrator has to say about the project. Still not sure? Most of the time the administrator’s name and e-mail is shown.
Project administrators, be sure that your project description in the project profile and on your project public website background page is current and useful. If you’re receiving the same question over and over, put the answer where people can see it. Be sure your name and e-mail are listed so that people can contact you with questions. Please, enable mapping. It’s free and it a wonderful resource for your participants. If any of these things are causing you problems, the helpdesk at Family Tree DNA is a god-send for project administrators and you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Named “geographic projects”, these really fall into the “all other” category, meaning those that aren’t surname projects and aren’t haplogroup projects.
I think these are the most interesting and most fun. They group people by specific interests. Sometimes that means geography, like the Cumberland Gap Project, sometimes ethnicity, like the Native American projects, and sometimes something else that someone wants to study. They are also the most difficult to name appropriately so that people can find them, especially if they don’t know to look for them.
There are two ways to find these kinds of projects. Go to the project tab on your personal page and click on join.
You will then see a listing of projects, a search box, and the index to projects.
Many people think that the projects shown are recommendations by Family Tree DNA and they join all of the projects. This is NOT what this is. This is a list of projects where the administrator has entered your surname, the one on your account, as a surname of interest to that project. To see why, click on the project links. These projects may or may not be appropriate for your situation.
However, there may be other projects that are of interest to you. You can begin by putting key words into the search box. For example, putting the word “Indian” in the search box returned the following list of projects.
There are several projects shown, but I happen to know there are several more that aren’t. Let’s say you’re interested in the Shawnee. Try that word in the search box. Still didn’t find anything, then resort to browsing?
Look through the various Y-line, mtdna and dual (Y+mtDNA) projects to see what is listed. You may be surprised at what you find that is interesting to you. While looking for your Shawnee, you may also discover the Cumberland Gap project, the North Carolina Native project and others that might be relevant. So take some time and look at what is available to you.
Hey look, I found the Shawnee project under PiquaShawnee in the P section of the Dual (Y+mtDNA) geographic projects. I surely am glad I was browsing, because I would never have thought to look for that project name or to look under P!!
Project administrators, you want your project to be able to be found by those who need to find it. If you have a Native American project, for example, you might add the names of tribes, the word “Indian” and the words “native” and “American” and “Native American” in the surname list on the project profile page. Why? Because those are things people might enter in that search box to find a relevant project. In the above example, list the word “Shawnee” as well.
Once a project is named, the name can’t be changed, so think about how the project can most easily be found by a novice and name it appropriately.