Family Tree DNA Updates Family Finder and Adds Triangulation

Update – Please note that this feature has now been renamed to “In Common With” to more accurately reflect it’s function.

So yesterday morning, I went to town, and when I came back, Family Tree DNA had rolled out their new Family Finder look and feel.  What a nice gift to find!  As with anything new, it looks a bit different, but all of the old functionality is there, plus some new things.  It took me a few minutes to explore the new functionality, but the new interface is pretty straightforward.  A lot of the options become apparent if you fly over and hover.

I was going to write about how to navigate the new software, but Rebekah Canada has done a wonderful job of that already, and judging from how quickly these were published, probably stayed up all night writing them.  I don’t believe in recreating the wheel unnecessarily, so enjoy these tutorials.

Family Finder Matches Get a New Look (Part 1)

Part 2

Part 3

Debbie Parker Wayne has also written about the new interface as well.

These great articles will step you through the how to.

What I want to talk about is the new functionality that has been added and how it can be really, REALLY useful.

triang 1

Here is my “landing page” of matches.  I’ve selected “show all matches” instead of just the default “close and immediate” and I’ve enabled “show advanced.”  You can see that option above the first match on the far left hand side of the page.

triang 2

Enabling “show advanced” is important to the new functionality because it shows the two functions I’m going to discuss – the new Triangulate function and the Chromosome Browser.  The Chromosome Browser has been a function since day 1, but now you can use it in conjunction with the brand new Triangulate feature.  Thank you Family Tree DNA.  Woo Hoo.

This new Advanced bar also shows the tests taken by your matches as well and the haplogroup results.  This may or may not be useful to you, but there are times I’ve really needed this information, so I’m glad to see it available.

I want to triangulate with my cousin, Buster, whose account I manage.  Click on triangulate, and you see this next screen.  I want to know who I match in common with Buster.

triang 3

And here is a partial list of who both Buster and I match.

triang 4

The Chromosome Browser can compare the chromosome matches of 5 kits at a time. To compare these, click on “Compare in Chromosome Brower” in the advanced bar for each person you want to compare, and when you’ve clicked on 1-5 people, click on the dark blue compare arrow.

triang 5

You are not automatically compared with the person you’re triangulating with.  In the example below, I clicked on 4 people and then added Buster from the Chromosome Browser page.

triang 6

The chromosome browser displays the matching segments of DNA.  In this case, I’ve left the display at the 5cM default.  We are fairly closely related cousins, except for Warren.  As you can see, on chromosome 15, there is a huge segment that everyone except Warren shares.  We know this is “Vannoy” DNA, because of the genealogy involved.

triang 6-2

Dropping the cM to 1 shows additional matching bits and pieces.

triang 7

Why is this so important?  Because I can clearly and immediately see possibilities.

For example, by comparing selectively, I can figure out which of these segments come from which lines in the Vannoy Tree.  If I’m lucky enough to find someone who descends from the Anderson/Andriessen line for example, who married into the Vannoy line upstream several generations, anyone who matches that person, and me, on those segments is showing Anderson/Andriessen DNA.  As you can see, this can be a powerful DNA detective tool.

In fact, this new tool may just have given me what I need to solve a long-standing mystery.

My ancestor Elijah Vannoy was born in Wilkes Co., NC in 1786 to one of four men, all brothers.  The question is, which one?  We’ve eliminated one by virtue of a Bible record, and a second, we think, but that still leaves either two or three candidates.  The good news is that we know the surnames of the wives of the 4 candidate fathers.

I clicked on Triangulate again, but this time with my cousin, Harold Vannoy.  Among the matches are people with the ancestral surname Hickerson.  Hmmm…..that’s one of the surnames of the wives of the Vannoy candidate fathers.

If I search for Hickerson in my matches by putting Hickerson in the “Ancestral surnames” box and select “show all matches,” there are even more.  If I’m lucky, these people will have uploaded their pedigree charts (the pedigree chart icon) so I can see their lineage.

triang 8

Oh my, I’m hyperventilating.  If my Vannoy descended cousins check their matches too, they may match people I don’t with that surname.  Then they can triangulate with all of those people too.  Why, we might have the answer by the end of the day!  If you’ll excuse me…..I need to run…..important business to attend to….

43 thoughts on “Family Tree DNA Updates Family Finder and Adds Triangulation

  1. LOL You are soo funny!! Good luck! I’m glad to finally see these tools from 23andMe over at if we’d just get some new matches–none on any of my accounts there since Feb of this year! 🙁 Thx for another great write up Roberta!

  2. Oh what a great article… I am hyperventilating for a different reason,,, I have many of these same last names – yet don’t match Roberta. Maybe I’ll find a link somewhere !

  3. Roberta, I found this somewhat confusing because you seem to suggest that the Triangulate feature is “new,” but as far as I can tell, it does what the old “In Common With” did, just has a new name. Am I missing something?


  4. I might be missing something big here, but I feel that there’s an important limitation with FTDNA’s chromosome browser. I can see that I match A and B on a given segment, but I can’t tell if A and B match each other on that same segment.

    • Shoot! I thought they were saying it DOES have that ability?! If not, you are right–that is the biggest plus with CAN do that without having to email someone you match and ask them to check it for you and hope they understand how to do that and will be able to provide you with the answer your need. I could’ve sworn someone said that was in there–if not, then they are still light years behind the tools at 23. 🙁

      • Theoretically, you should be able to do this my triangulating with the various people and seeing if the other people are on the list for each person – but I’ve tried this this morning and there seems to be a bug. I’m working with FTDNA on this so hold tight. It probably won’t be today, but it’s on the radar.

      • I’ve found that doesn’t always work…especially if I’m looking to confirm the match on a specific segment/chr…I’ve seen several on 23 where the match is there, but to a totally different location which may or may not indicate the same thing a definite match on the same seg/chr would.

    • It means that you don’t match any of the same people that they do. This implies that you don’t have any common cousins, yet. This means there is no one else to work with a pedigree to figure out who your common ancestor might be, if your pedigree and theirs aren’t matching.

  5. When she says “I have to say that I love this” it sounds like her kids are being held hostage.

    But where is the old “Suggested Relationship” column????

  6. Am I the only person who thinks that in addition to being able to filter by Name and Ancestral Surnames, we should also be able to filter by Surname Project? (I have made this suggestion to FTDNA.)

  7. I learned to hit “compare in browser” to the person before I hit “triangulate”. When you do that it puts them into the list to compare in browser and is easy and you don’t have to search them out when when the browser opens with the other 4 in it.

    • I don’t know, but since the default for the chromosome browser is 5, I’d suspect that it’s 5 here as well. I could be wrong. It would be a good question to submit to ftdna.

      • That is my guess as well, as a lot of “minor” matches are not coming up in the triangulations …. With good paper trails for the most of my close cousins, for me, those “minor matches” are the ones I need to break those confounded brick walls …. I will flow your suggestions …..Thank you ….

  8. I would like to see a much clearer explanation of how the triangulation tool works. There are two options, “In common with”, and “Not in common with”. What does each one tell us? Let’s suppose the two kits involved are my own kit (“Me”) and “A”. I ask to “Triangulate” with “A”. For “In common with”, it’s my impression that the listed matches are those who are on the list of matches for Me and also for A — but there is no guarantee that any of the segments shown for these matches are actually identical for both Me and A. Is that correct so far? Now what happens if I choose the option “Not in common with”?

    What I want out of a triangulation tool is to locate segments that are identical in two or more of my matches. Alternatively, I may also want to locate cases where A matches me for a particular segment from my father (as deduced from our pedigrees), while B (who didn’t post a pedigree) matches me on the same segment, but his segment does not match A, and therefore my match with B at that location is through my mother’s ancestry. Can the triangulation tool as presently implemented do that, and if so, how?

    • You’re got “in common with.” Also, see the reply I just made to Lisa regarding the matches between your matches. The only good use I can see for “not in common with” is when comparing with my mother. The matches “not in common with” her would be the ones from my father’s side. Kind of backwards phasing.

  9. Is there some way to begin recording for myself what surnames I think given segments of DNA belong to? I’ve been trying not to be interested in all this autosomal stuff ’cause I can’t keep up with all my other projects, and you’re making it hard lol 😉 How do people keep track of everything? I’ll need my own personal chromosome browser to record info on the segments? Thanks in advance.

  10. I am wondering if you have been able to get any more information on the Triangulation and the phasing. I am having trouble even getting the right information in the triangulation feature. I have several kits that all match at a certain section of Chromosome 2, and I can see everyone matching if I login to each kit individually, so I am confident this is not a phasing issue. However, when I choose any two individuals, and ask to Triangulate, I do not get any results. Is this still a “bug” at FTDNA?

  11. I had commented about having problems with the new “triangulate” – in that I knew that some people DID have others in common, but they were no longer showing up with the new feature. Also, has anyone tried to print a page with the new graphics – it prints out all jumbled up – and I don’t think there is any way to print a person’s surname interests now. 🙁

  12. Population finder results for the Family finder matches that was available when they just released the changes has now been removed. Was it too controversial? I think it should be an option to opt in/out of showing it.

    • Yes, there were complaints about that being shown. Some people did not want to have to explain their results to others or have them displayed. I don’t know if they are planning an opt/in opt/out, but it would probably have to be set to opt out and probably few would take the time to opt in.

  13. Hi Roberta. I’m new to DNA testing. I took the Family Finder test and got more than 600 matches – no close matches. They are all rather distant cousins. I am trying to sort through these people to find the matches on my father’s side. I never knew my father so I am hoping the matches may lead to good information. When I put matches in the chromosome browser, should I then look for matches who are touching or very close to one another on the chromosomes? Is that how you determine which folks come from the same side of the family (i.e., mother vs. father’s side)? Lynne

    • Do you have anyone from your mother’s side of the family who has or could test? That would be a huge help to you because it would allow you to then see who matches the both of you and that would be the best way of beginning to sort these into groups.

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