Family Tree DNA provides three types of projects for people to join. Projects are free to join and are run by volunteer project administrators, people who have a specific interest in the topic at hand and are generally quite glad to be of assistance. Projects are great ways to find people you match and others interested in a common topic.
There are three kinds of DNA projects:
- Surname projects – like Estes
- Haplogroup Projects – like R1b, M269 or J1c2f, for both Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and subgroups
- Geographic projects – really anything else that isn’t a surname or a haplogroup, like Cumberland Gap or Cherokee or Scottish DNA
You can join unlimited multiple projects, but you want to make sure projects you join are relevant to your genealogy, your research and/or your haplogroup.
Joining projects is easy.
First, of course, you must have tested at or transferred your results to Family Tree DNA and you must have taken the type of test relevant to the project at hand.
For example, if you have taken the Family Finder Autosomal test and not taken any other tests, you can’t join a Y DNA project because you have not tested your Y chromosome. Ladies, sorry, you can’t join Y DNA projects either because you don’t have a Y chromosome.
If you haven’t yet tested, then you can join a project and get a discount on your test at the same time. If you already have results at Family Tree DNA, skip to the next section, “Joining Up.”
Discounts When Ordering Through Projects
You can order tests through projects at a discount if you’ve never tested before. To do that, just click on this link, then type your surname of interest into the search field by the green text box.
Hint – if you’re an adoptee, just type adoptee and you’ll see the adoptee project. If you type a surname, you’ll see surname related projects.
Click on the project you’re interested in joining to see discounted project based pricing, example shown below.
Not sure what to order? You can read about the different kinds of DNA testing and how they apply to various ancestors on your tree in this “basic” DNA article.
If you’re already a customer at Family Tree DNA, it’s easy to join projects. First, sign on to your account.
You’ll see your home page that looks something like this at the top.
In the upper left hand tool bar you’ll see the projects tab, with 3 drop down selections, shown below.
“Learn About Projects” is basic information which you should, of course, read.
The “Manage My Projects” selection shows you which projects you are a member of and provides you with a convenient click list to visit any of your projects.
But before you can manage projects, you have to join some first.
Click on “Join Projects.”
The first thing you will see is a list, based on your surname, of projects where the administrators have entered your surname as a surname of interest to their projects. This may or may not be useful to you. If your surname is the surname of your spouse – not useful at all. In my case, however, Estes is my maiden name so these projects might be useful to me.
Let’s take a quick look.
- The Cumberland Gap mtDNA project isn’t relevant, because my Estes line is my paternal line and my mitochondrial DNA is my matrilineal line – so no cigar on this one.
- The Cumberland Gap Y DNA project isn’t relevant for me, because I’m a female and don’t have a Y chromosome, although my family is from the Cumberland Gap area. Hmmm…I need to find a related Estes male to test so he can join that project.
- The Estes surname project. I have it on good authority that I can join this project whether or not I’m related via the Y, mitochondrial or autosomal connection. Hint – I founded this project and yes, we welcome anyone who is Estes descended.
- Estis Jewish Ukraine – Nope doesn’t pertain to me and neither do the surnames Jester or Maestas, although clearly Estes could be derivative spellings of those surnames.
- The I-L161 project is a Y DNA haplogroup project, so I’m not sure why a surname would be listed here, but this does not apply to me as I have no Y chromosome.
- The administrators of the North Carolina Early project have obviously found the Estes surname in early records, but my line came through Virginia and Tennessee, so this doesn’t pertain to me either.
So, I can join one of these projects. Please, please take the time to read the project descriptions to see if the projects listed are a good fit for your family and for the stated project goals.
Some people think that this list is Family Tree DNA recommending certain projects, or suggesting that they join these projects. It isn’t. The only way these projects appear is for the administrator to list your surname as one that their project is interested in – and it’s likely not universal meaning not relevant to everyone who carries the surname. For example, Early North Carolina is confined to a specific geography and timeframe.
Obviously, there are probably other projects of interest that can’t be sensed by your surname.
At the bottom of the project list, there is a search field, followed by a list of projects that are divided into types.
First, type into the search box the surname (or word) you are trying to find. Let’s use Ferverda for example.
Yes, there is one project with 3 members for Ferverda. You can click on the project name to see additional information. In fact, please do read the entire project description, because that’s the only way you’ll know if you qualify to join and the project is a good fit. For example, what is the word Ferverda, or worse yet, Ireland? Is it a surname or a place? If it’s the place, can you join only if you are proven to descend from Ireland or can you join if might have Irish heritage? Mitochondrial or Y DNA, or both? What about autosomal DNA? Read the project description to find out.
Once you’ve determined that this project is for you, click the orange join button to join. Don’t worry, you can unjoin easily if you make a mistake. Some projects have a “request to join” feature to be sure the pairing is a good fit.
Can’t find your surname? Try an alternate spelling or scroll down and see if you can find a different kind of project that fits the bill. (Hint – you can double click on this image to make it larger.)
For example, let’s see what’s available under the letter B under Y-DNA Geographical projects:
Hmm, I can’t join those because they are Y DNA projects, so lets look under mtDNA Haplogroup projects. I’m haplogroup J.
Look, here’s the perfect project for me!
Now all I have to do is click on the project link and then on the orange Join button to become a member.
Privacy Settings and Sharing
You will want to be sure your privacy settings are set such that your results will show in the projects you choose to join. I wrote about that here with specific instructions, so be sure to check, especially if you tested in 2015 or later, because the default is set to not publicly sharing. This means if you don’t change your settings, your results will not be visible on the public project page. An example of my haplogroup J project results on the public project page is shown below.
The great thing about projects is that they ultimately benefit everyone through sharing, but sharing is the key word.
For example, this map of where the J1c2f ancestors are found in Europe and Asia, generated within the haplogroup J project, would not be available if people didn’t:
- Join projects
- Share publicly
- Enter the location of their most distant ancestor for that line
These maps allow us to take a look at the migration and settlement story behind this haplogroup. There are there hints based cumulatively on where our most distant ancestors are found. We’ll never unravel the ancestral story without these hints and these hints are the results of shared information. So, please share. You’ll benefit from others sharing and others will benefit from you sharing. Sort of a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours scenario.
Have fun and find some great projects to join. You never know where your DNA will take you or the discoveries you’ll make! What is your DNA waiting to tell you?
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