Family Tree DNA Introduces Phased Family Finder Matches

Family Tree DNA has released a first of its kind tool that sorts your matches into parental buckets by utilizing tests performed on parents and close relatives.

Phased FF2

On your matches page, if your parents or other close relatives have tested, and their tests are linked on your tree, your matches will be grouped into maternal or paternal buckets, or both, utilizing a proprietary matching and phasing algorithm.  You can see the appropriate bucket icon beside the match photo, as well as new tabs at the top to allow you to view your paternal, maternal or matches to both parents.

If your parents haven’t tested, or aren’t linked, your maternal, paternal and both tabs at the top of your page will reflect “0” and they won’t be relevant to you.  However, if your parents or other close relatives have tested, your tab, after processing, will show the number of individuals that fall into maternal, paternal or both match buckets.  Close relatives, at this point, are defined as parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and first cousins.

This is not just a sorting of matches, based on names of who matches you and a parent, like the “In Common With” tool, but true parental phasing. Each person deposited into a maternal or paternal bucket as a match must match you and your parent or otherwise designated individual in a prescribed way including:

  • On the same segment
  • At a specific threshold

The Phasing Threshold is Higher

The threshold to be indicated as a maternal or paternal match is higher than the normal matching threshold – so some people who do match you and a parent won’t be assigned to a bucket.

Why?

Acting conservatively, Family Tree DNA wants to be positive that this person really does fall into that bucket. You’ll notice that the example individual has 3 people that match both parents. At a lower threshold, there were a lot more dual matches when the product was in testing. At higher threshold levels, people tend to distinctly fall into one bucket or the other in non-endogamous populations. It was actually surprising how many people do legitimately match both parents.

So, to be clear, there are two thresholds in play here:

You will notice that some people who do match both you and a parent do not have a maternal or paternal indicator. That does NOT mean they don’t match you and a parent, but it does mean that the match was at a lower level, or not on the same segment, so Family Tree DNA feels that they can’t positively be assigned to a bucket. That doesn’t mean you should disregard them, but you probably should utilize the stronger matches first and scrutinize non-assigned matches closely by downloading your Chromosome Browser results.

Roughly 10-15 percent of your matches tend to be identical by either chance or population, and that percentage is higher in endogamous groups.  The dual thresholds are meant to minimize those ambiguous matches, yet leave them on your match list for you to analyze.  This is the best approach that provides an intuitive easy visual for those who want that type of approach, but allowing thorough analysis for those who prefer that methodology.  Personally, I like using them together.  The buckets are an easy way to quickly see which side your strongest matches are assigned to.  Given the dual threshold approach, the fact that a match is assigned to a bucket immediately indicates the strength of the match – so it’s a quick and easy gauge.

ICW is Improved

Additionally, you can now utilize the ICW (In Common With) tool, which has moved to the top of the match list, by clicking on the check on the left of the match and then clicking on either “In Common With” or “Not In Common With” to see who else matches, or doesn’t.

You may be very surprised to see that your “in common with” list for a match from your father’s side also includes people from your mother’s side. This is, of course, a red flag as to the validity of that particular paternal ICW match – and it’s so easy to spot now with the parental icons.

Please note that if you utilize the ICW tool when you are on your “All” tab, you will see all ICW matches, but if you are on the paternal, maternal or both tab, and utilize the ICW tool, you will ONLY see people that are ICW on that side of your tree.

So, for example, John Doe, a paternal cousin, matches me and my father and has the blue paternal icon assigned. On my “All” tab, utilizing he ICW tool, I see that John Doe and I have two matches in common. One of those matches is from my father’s side and one from my mothers. It’s easy to see looking at the blue and red icons. Now, if I go to my “Paternal” tab and then perform the ICW comparison with John Doe, ONLY the ICW match from the paternal side will show. You need to be cognizant of where you are on the tabs in terms of what the ICW tool matches mean.

Eligibility

In order for an individual to be eligible for maternal or paternal matching, they must have linked themselves to their parent or other close relative on their tree, not only in terms of name, but in terms of having DNA tested. In other words, the individual on your tree has to be linked to a tested individual in the system.

The Family Tree DNA Learning Center shows how to do this here. Please read this information in the Matches Section before linking people to learn about link hints.

Phased FF link hint

In some cases, if names are different, you won’t have a link hint. For example, my mother is in my tree with her maiden name, but she tested under her married name, so I didn’t have a link hint.  Link hints only work when Family Tree DNA can recognize the same names.  When I linked the two, meaning my mother’s kit to her name in my tree, the software changed her name to the name on her test kit.  So, I’ll be changing the name on her test kit to her maiden name:)

Phased FF4

By going to your tree and clicking on DNA matches in the upper left hand corner, you will see a list of your matches and you can select an individual and drag them to the same person in your tree. In this case, I’ve already done that with my mother, so the link is blue and I see the “already in your tree” message, but if that person wasn’t linked, the link wouldn’t show and I would see a “click and drag to your tree” message instead.

Phased FF3

Not Just Parents

In my case, my mother has tested, but my father is long deceased, so there is no testing for him. If I have uncles or even 1st cousins, I can link them to the paternal side of my tree and if matches match both me and my paternal family member utilizing the phasing criteria, they will be displayed as paternal matches.

Summary

This is a great new tool and the first of its kind in the industry that is actually performing parental phasing as well as utilizing other family members to replace missing parents.

Family Tree DNA has been preparing for this release for some time behind the scenes with the recently revamped tree user interface and the matching update released a month or so ago. This is very exciting, especially for people who want to see at a glance without having to download a chromosome browser spreadsheet who is maternal and paternal.

Additionally, the new software allows us to link people tested to our tree. In my case, I had an ancestor only tree, so I’ve been busy expanding my paternal side of the tree to accommodate all of those cousins I’ve recruited to test because I want those easy-to-see paternal buckets and I can’t test my father.

Family Tree DNA isn’t done either, so do expand your tree and link all of the people of KNOWN heritage, meaning known cousins, who have tested, to take full advantage of this new phasing feature and in preparation for future developments yet to come!

Woohoo!!!  Good job Family Tree DNA!

117 thoughts on “Family Tree DNA Introduces Phased Family Finder Matches

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