Quick Tip – Working With Match Notifications from Family Tree DNA

Have you ever wondered WHY you received yet another match notification e-mail from Family Tree DNA?  Do you have trouble finding the new match they are referring to?

When you receive a match notification from Family Tree DNA that you have new matches, it’s exciting, ESPECIALLY if you have a high resolution match.

However, sometimes match notifications can be confusing, so here are 4 quick tips for you to get the most out of those match notifications.

Of course, the first thing you want to do is to click on the blue “VIEW MY MATCHES” link to see who’s new in the genetic neighborhood.

However, you may not see a new match when you first view your page. Here are some reasons why and the resolution is super easy.

Tip 1 – Your Match May Show at Different Levels

Both mitochondrial and Y DNA matching occurs at different levels depending on two things:

  • The level that you have tested
  • The level at which the match occurred

This means that in the case of the notification above, I’m only going to find my match at the HVR1 or entry level results of my mitochondrial DNA.

However, when you click to sign in to your account through the e-mail message link, you AUTOMATICALLY see your highest level tested first.

This match is for my HVR1 level, but the first match screen I see upon signing in is full sequence results, so I won’t see my new match at this level.

Many people don’t think about the fact that they’re looking at their highest testing level, and the match may be at a lower testing level.

If your match matches you at the highest level, they are likely, but not guaranteed to match you at the lower levels too.

Whether you do or don’t match at lower levels depends on where the various mutations fall in the tested portion of your genome.

In other words, you could match at the full mitochondrial sequence level, but NOT at the HVR1 or HVR2 levels – and vice versa of course.

This is true for both mitochondrial and Y DNA which both test at various levels.

Tip 2 – Select Dropdowns to See Other Levels

You’ll notice the dropdown box, below.

Be sure to view your matches at the level that the e-mail indicates.  In my case, I need to switch to the HVR1 level.

Look, there’s my new match!  I can tell that the first person only tested at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, and not at the full sequence level, so there is no possibility that I’ll match them at that level.

That is, unless they upgrade.

I’m going to contact my match and ask about their earliest known ancestor.  They didn’t provide that information, nor do they have a tree, so I’m going to suggest both.  If we find some commonality at that level, maybe they’ll become inspired to upgrade to the full mitochondrial level test and we can see if we continue to match there as well.

Men’s Y DNA results have different drop down match level options of course, but in essence the concept of matching at different levels is the same.

Tip 3 – Match Thresholds

Both Y and mitochondrial DNA have different matching criteria at various testing levels.

The mitochondrial DNA match threshold is shown below:

This explains why a match might show at a higher testing level, but not at a lower level. If you have one mutation and the mismatching piece of DNA occurs in the HVR1 mitochondrial region where one mismatch means you won’t be considered a match, you’ll match at the full sequence level but not at either the HVR1 or HVR2 levels.

Mismatches are shown as genetic distance on your matches page. In other words a genetic distance of 1 means you mismatch at 1 location at that testing level.  You can read about genetic distance here.

Y DNA match thresholds are shown in the table below:

For Y DNA, if your one mutation occurs in the first 12 markers, you won’t be shown as a match at that level (unless you are both in a common DNA project,) but you will be shown at higher match levels as a match.

Tip 4 – Changing Match Notifications

What, you don’t want so many match notifications?

You do have the ability to disable match notifications at any level, but be aware that DISABLING MATCH NOTIFICATIONS ALSO DISABLES MATCHING at that level. Therefore, I don’t recommend disabling match notifications beyond the HVR1 or 12 marker tests, and I personally don’t have any disabled. I do not want to miss that fateful match under any circumstances!

To change your notifications, click on the orange “Manage Personal Information” link below your profile picture on your personal page.

Then, click on “Match and E-Mail Settings” where you’ll see the following:

If you make changes, be sure to click the orange “Save” button, or it won’t.


When you receive a new match notification from Family Tree DNA, don’t forget to check each level for matching. Sorting by match date will show you which matches are the most recent.

Look for common ancestors, surnames (Y DNA) and locations.  Reach out to your matches and most of all, enjoy!



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18 thoughts on “Quick Tip – Working With Match Notifications from Family Tree DNA

  1. Please do not send me any more emails

    On Jan 26, 2018 3:32 PM, “DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy” wrote:

    > Roberta Estes posted: “Have you ever wondered WHY you received yet another > match notification e-mail from Family Tree DNA? Do you have trouble > finding the new match they are referring to? When you receive a match > notification from Family Tree DNA that you have new matches, ” >

    • Well as I have only had a Family Finder test but the family males have had Y so I get those as well and daily I hit on the latest match dates at the top of where it lists closest matches and look at the new people who come up on our matches lists to check them and do an in common with and chromosome strip match if I want to go further. I don’t know if this will help anyone else but it works for me.

  2. Roberta, thanks for the posting. I saw a recent informal survey in a genetic genealogy FB page indicating that Y67 (and sometimes Y111) testers tend to share very little atDNA with GD 1 (and sometimes GD 0) matches. What use is there then for matching people with GD 10 for Y111 or GD 7 for Y67? This is way beyond genealogical time.

    • Not necessarily. I have seen men with the same surname with that many mutations who descend from a common ancestor. Furthermore, perhaps you’re interested in where your family line was further back in time, before the advent of surnames. The matches map at the higher levels with more mutations are quite interesting in that vein.

  3. This was very helpful. My mtDNA Full Sequence had 12 matches with a “0” and 5 with a “1”. that is a good start. On the map are the green markers good??
    My cousin did a y-DNA but only did the 12. I was shocked that he had over 50 with a “0”. Is that right???

  4. I enjoy receiving these types of notifications. Recently, two people with the same FMS mtDNA as I have showed up in my HVR1 list only? Is this because they have 4 or more different mutations than I have? Thanks, Karen Smith

  5. Question — what do I do when FamilyTree DNA shows no British Isles ancestors and Ancestry shows about 70% British?

  6. Is it possible to publish your article in our Lincoln County Genealogical Society’s newsletter?

    We’re a small society with less than 100 members located on the Oregon coast.

    Thank you,

    Muriel King

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

  7. Roberta, You did not mention the option for yDNA results comparisons of selecting only the matches that are the same surname or start with the first letter of the surname.
    Example “Last Name Starts With: I”

    Works for my relatives using the 12 marker option. Was able to connect all “Genetic Distance zero and one” matches found to me using my Ingalls data collection. All with a common ancestor. Only 16 matches total. My surname and the many spellings that start with the letter “I” only amount to a small percentage of the population.

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