Family Tree DNA’s New Chromosome Browser

Family Tree DNA has released their new, updated chromosome browser with a completely new look and feel. It’s quite different from the previous version, so let’s take a test drive.

The first thing you notice is a new link on your personal page in the Family Finder section.

You can access the chromosome browser in one of two ways.

  • Matches button
  • Clicking on the Chromosome Browser button

Either way, you eventually get to the same place.

Matches

By viewing your matches, you can now select a total of 7 people, increased from 5 previously, to compare to you in the chromosome browser.

After selecting the people you want to view in the chromosome browser, click on the Chromosome Brower button above your matches, just like before.

Note that on your Matches page, the other tools, such as In Common With (ICW), Not In Common With (NICW), Search by name, Search by ancestral surname, the list of ancestral surnames for each match and other information is exactly where it has always been located. Nothing else changed on the Match page except your ability to select 7 people instead of just 5.

The Chromosome Browser

The new chromosome browser tool looks different. A lot different. It’s also much more intuitive.

If you make match selections on your match page and click the chromosome browser button, you see the following page reflecting your choices. The link no longer immediately compares the individuals in the chromosome browser.

Your match list is shown to the right of the selected individuals, shown at left.

This is also the page where you land if you click the Chromosome Browser button on your dashboard.

From Your Dashboard

If you don’t click on your Matches button first, and click directly on the Chromosome Browser button, this is what you’ll see.

Your matches are shown at right, and when you select them, they will appear on the list at left.

Select as many as 7. You’ll see them appear to the left as you make your selections.

Features

To aid in your selection, you can utilize the filter above the matches to view only specific levels of matches.

The “name search,” at upper right, searches for an individual match with that first or last name.

However, if you enter the full name, it finds that individual person, so if you know you want to compare Uncle Rex Doe’s kit, you just search for his name as Rex, Doe or Rex Doe.

This page does NOT search the ancestral surnames. If you want to do that, you need to work from the matches page which does search for people with that ancestral surname in their Ancestral Surname List.

I’m very glad to see this new search feature for matches at the browser level. It makes searching for a particular match a LOT easier.

Notice that not all of the match information is available on this page. X matching, match date, linked relationships and ancestral surnames are only available on the Matches page.

The icons for contacting matches, notes and the tree are also only available on the Matches page.

However, a new field is available here, the number of shared segments. This number includes segments to the 1cM level so long as they are 500 SNPs or larger. For most (nonresearch) purposes, I generally use segments of 7cM or larger, although I do sometimes want to see smaller segments.

At right, the In Common With and Not In Common With functions are available by clicking on the three dots:

In Common With and Not In Common With

The In Common With (ICW) and Not In Common With (NICW) features have been greatly improved.

By selecting an individual, such as William Sterling Estes in this example, then clicking the In Common With (ICW) link, I see all of the people I match in common with William Sterling Estes. Furthermore, the system now automatically puts William Sterling Estes into my match list. By making additional selections from that ICW list and adding them to the list, I can then easily compare my DNA, that of William Sterling Estes and the people that we both match to determine if we have common matching chromosome segments.

The Not In Common With feature works exactly the same way.

Compare

To view the new chromosome browser, click on the orange compare button at the bottom of the list. It’s so large you can’t miss it!

Chromosome Browser Format

The new chromosome browser itself looks a LOT different. To begin with, the color and design of the chromosomes themselves has changed. There is now space for 7 people in the comparison on each chromosome, plus you as the “background” person that those 7 are being compared to.

Chromosomes 1-5 with 7 matches being compared to me are shown below. At the top of the page, the colors of the segments are coded by the colors at the top of the profile placards of the matches I selected.

You can view information about any individual by clicking on their profile button.

By clicking on the Update Selected Matches button, at right above the chromosomes, you can change the individuals being compared.

Now, let’s take a look at how to interpret these matches.

Reading the Results

As before, the centromere is notated by the little white “waists” in each chromosome, and the light grey represents regions not tested, so you won’t see matches there.

Please note that you can click any image to enlarge.

Notice Charlene, the navy blue person match on my chromosome 1.

Reading left to right, we have:

  • At the beginning of the chromosome, dark grey tested region with no match
  • Beginning with the red box, navy blue match region
  • Light grey untested region, crossing centromere and continuing until small navy blue region
  • The entire small tested region is navy blue, indicating a match
  • Small light grey untested region
  • Dark grey tested region that does not match
  • Navy blue region that does match to the end of the red box
  • Dark grey tested region that does not match to the end of the chromosome

We would read this as 2 matching segments, not 3, with the first large navy segment and the tiny middle navy segment forming one contiguous segment across the centromere and untested regions. The third navy part of that chromosome is a separate matching segment, because it’s separated from the first two by a darker grey area that is tested but does not match.

By positioning your cursor over the colored portions of the chromosome, and waiting for a second or so, the information about that specific segment will appear.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any graphic.

Downloading Just These Matching Segments

Clicking on Download Segments, the blue link at right just above chromosome 1 downloads just the information in a csv file for the people currently being compared in the browser. It does not download all of your matches. That feature is elsewhere.

Options

The default minimum centiMorgans display view is still 5, and you can select 1, 5, 7 or 10. All matches displayed are 500 SNPs or larger.

Detailed Segment Data

Another new feature is the Detailed Segment Data tab. Click to view.

In essence, this is the same information as the csv download file, except you don’t have to download the file and you don’t have to know anything about Excel. However, you can’t sort this data by chromosome like you can in a spreadsheet.

You can select which DNA match you wish to view, one by one.

I hope that Family Tree DNA will add the feature of being able to sort each column.

Downloading All Matches

For those interested in downloading all matches, not just the matches displayed, you can perform that function at the bottom of your matches page:

Or at the bottom of the initial Chromosome Browser selection page, but BEFORE you click on compare.

Quick Reference Feature Navigation Chart

I’m always grateful for new features and updates, but sometimes new features feel a bit like someone rearranged the furniture in the room while you were sleeping. I’ve created a quick reference chart to show you what’s available where and to help you navigate.

Summary

I like the updated chromosome browser as well as the new In Common With feature. The new browser facilitates 7 comparisons at once and is a LOT more user friend with new ease-of-use features. The new ICW page eliminates several steps and confusion that exists when trying to use the function from the Matches page.

I’m hoping that this update is a new skin in preparation for more nifty new features, such as triangulation. Hint, hint, Family Tree DNA. Christmas is coming😊

_____________________________________________________________________

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39 thoughts on “Family Tree DNA’s New Chromosome Browser

  1. Thank you Roberta. My favorite new feature is having the person selected for ICW at the top of the list in the Chromosome Browser. That and being able to compare 7 people at a time is a bonus.

  2. Thank you for the detailed and understandable explanation of the new FF chromosome browser. Your instructions on other features from other vendors and tools is very much appreciated.

  3. Triangulation would be a wonderful feature for FTDNA to add to Family Finder. Would be an awesome Christmas gift! Currently it takes a ling time to find a triangulation by using the chromosome browser. Downloading all your matches with chromosome and segment data helps but still takes more time and work than having a triangulation feature built in to Family Finder matching. Thanks for sending the HINT!

  4. Roberta,
    It is amazing how you always keep us up to date with the new technology and changes in those sites we often use. Thanks so much!

  5. Cant believe how BIG a difference it has made . When i uploaded several kits from Ancestry to MH it just opened up every hidden door that Ancestry wont go to in the shared relationships. Its literally solved a few long term multi year adoptions in a matter of a few days , i would regard it as the BEST tool in any of the majors out there at the moment for ease of use and accuracy , and after flogging it silly for a few weeks now would actually say its better then Gedmatch for its simple precision and easy use,i seriously LOVE it.

  6. It is actualky easier to find my matches now on the chromosome browser page than on the match page. It allows us to switch to 50 matches per page and pages are easier to change. Great. Thaks to FTDNA for making these changes on Family Finder!

  7. I agree Roberta with true triangulation. Bring back the “Triangulator” Tool please or similar equivalent. I have asked FTDNA twice for the return of this feature but no reply for ages! No doubt there can be a opt in or opt out to overcome privacy concerns. It doesn’t seem to be an issue with MyHeritage btw.

  8. Being able to select seven matches is better than the previous limit of five, and that’s an improvement of the tool. FTDNA deserves commendation for providing that. But the new look seems to be mostly one of giving the chromosome browser a face lift, or that of designing new “window dressing” for it.

  9. Thank you for this tour of the new chromosome browser. Have you noticed that sometime last year their “new since” filter stopped automatically filling in the last sign in date? I was really disappointed. I manage many accounts and couldn’t possibly remember when i’ve Last signed into their accounts.

    I would love to be able to search matches (in general & on the chromosome browser) by entering a haplotype.

    Also, do you think Ancestry will ever realize how valuable adding a chromosome browser would be?

      • (Ahem.) Ancestry will if there is enough profit in doing it. After the other competitors remain behind, they might leap ahead of the pack. The GG market is like a race. The emergence of GG had a historical beginning and a place in time, but there is no end in sight to the ongoing game being played, as long as there are fans or paying subscribers who are willing to support it financially: The providers of it might appear to fall behind or catch up with one another in this marketplace – but in any event, they all continue to win as long as they offer something slightly different and as long as they can stay in business. I’m not saying this is bad or wrong. Without competition there would never be any improvement. Since we are their customer base for their services we sometimes benefit from this too, but often to a lesser degree.

        “New and improved” always will hype any product or service. “New”, yes. But “Improved”, maybe.

      • I have a friend whose paternal great-great grandfather’s ancestry i’m trying to determine. He hasn’t taken a y-DNA test but his dna markers point to J2a1b M67/S51. I’d like to find his matches who share that haplotype.

        Also, his paternal great-nephew shares certain chromosomal segments with his and they have shared matches in common, but I can’t tell which matches come from the great-great grandmother’s side and which from the great-great grandmother’s.

        Intimately i’d like to determine who he was (Charles Widdiss? William Widdiss?) and where he cane from (where in Scotland or Ireland). He ended up on St. Croix, Danish West Indies in the 1850’s & 1860’s.

  10. THANKS A ton for posting Roberta! Nice to see some new features, still holding out for the ability to triangulate in the system.

    My experience…pages are slow to load this morning. At one point I gave up using the new chr browser just trying to compare one person to my kit and after 5 minutes, still a spinning circle and no data. Later got it to come up but still a tad sluggish. Also noted that the relationship prediction in the match list does not come up correctly (or the same) in the chromosome browser list. All my first cousins are listed as half siblings/grandparents, the first cousin option doesn’t even show up in the list although it is the first thing listed on the match list page. Weird flakey thing to see.

  11. I guess whether it’s an improvement depends on how and why one uses the chromosome browser. For my purposes, the new version is MUCH LESS user friendly. The worst thing is that it is no longer possible to view all the chromosomes at once (without scrolling). It requires an extra click to view the browser once a match is selected, and the pop-up information on rollover is in tiny, tiny type, barely readable. For me, the prominent list of matches to choose from is useless, because I only ever select matches by clicking on chromosome browser in the match list or searching on a name. And there is not enough contrast between the gray background and the colors used for the segments. All of this is slowing me WAY DOWN in regular updating my spreadsheet of matches (to me and my three brothers). I am definitely going to miss being able to take a screenshot showing matches on all chromosomes at once — something I’ve done a lot. As I said in my FTDNA forum post, FTDNA is trying to make its chromosome browser all things to all people, something at which it can never succeed. Adding the capability to view just two more matches at once was never going to satisfy the users who want to view 20 matches at once (as if they could actually comprehend anything from that), so why ruin the look of the browser for a change that was not going to satisfy those users? And couldn’t some of the actual improvements, such as adding a 7+ cM view and integrating ICW, have been accomplished without ruining the look of the browser?

    • I take it back — the 7+ cM view is not useful, because it has to be re-set every time, and is not remembered.

      • Susan,
        I remember having written a response to you in this particular thread in support of your comments. But it seems that my post which was received as being under consideration for approval has disappeared, or has been disallowed. It was in agreement with your comments that were critical or less than entirely positive about FTDNA. Neither of us said anything terrible. My comments were merely that of joking, and a mildly affirming a critique.

        Roberta might want to address this issue and state her policy about what is allowed in discussion here. Sudden disappearances of posts that are less than positive about any topic should be of concern to those who participate in any forum or blog, as well they should be those who administrate any website or blog.

        And now I am wondering – will this commentary I am now writing also disappear without a trace?

        • I have not removed any posts from this thread, at least not that I recall, BUT, I do reserve the right to not post through anything that I feel is inflammatory, hurtful, insulting or otherwise objectionable. Over the past several days, there have been many of those on several topics. I would remind everyone, not you in particular, to be cognizant of how communications may be perceived by the receiver. The reason there is a requirement for all posts to be approved is so that as the blog owner, I can review for content and tone. In addition, I don’t allow incorrect information to post either, because I don’t like to specifically call someone out for posting erroneous information. Again, not specific to this instance, but in general.

  12. In case FTDNA is monitoring this page, I waant to add a hint for a new improved family tree interface in Family Finder. I hate using their trees whether to edit my tree or to view trees of matches. It could be a million times more user friendly!

  13. I wish the matches In Common With were limited to people who match at the same DNA locations that I and the ICW person match. Then I would know these people likely share the same ancestry as me and my ICW person.

  14. Question – What does each DNA tested line (such as line #10) represent in terms of genealogy research? I notice piles-ups on certain lines for certain surnames, or related groups. I cannot seem to find anything on this that I can understand, but maybe I simply have not found this information?

      • Are you referring to each chromosome #? The DNA you inherit from various ancestors will be located on specific chromosomes. If you descended from Abe Lincoln for example, that DNA might be found on chromosomes 2 & 10, and your matches who also descend from him might also share those areas of DNA. (They might also have Lincoln DNA on another chromosome).

        • I understand about chromosome groupings with related people, and chromosome numbers That was not what I was asking. I want to know what each line, not the individual numbers on the line, represents in understandable wording that is not extremely technical. Do certain ethnic groups puddle more on certain lines, such as Native Americans? Or, are the lines displayed as a results of a way to show more technical chromosome patterns? What do these lines themselves represent?

          This might be a dumb question, but I cannot find an explanation. This question relates to the chromosome browser in general,

          • Thank you for the link to some sort of explanation. I do not use 23 and Me to test, and for reasons of my own I will not use GED Match, at least for now. I am not lacking in matches, and have almost too many to handle now, including several family members test kits. I do not particularly care which ethnic group is represented in tests. It is mere curiosity. I am trying to make sense of the test results I have, with less than perfect explanations.

  15. Each of the 23 lines represent chromosomes that come in pairs, but displayed at FT DNA as one line, less the untested regions. I had hoped this was the explanation. So it is possible some puddling on certain lines might show ethnicity… or might not. The testing companies have a hard time showing results on a difficult subject. I think I like the new browser, and I am looking forward to more innovations. Roberta’s explanations are wonderful.

    • You have a chromosome from both your mother and father, so think of that as two sides of the street with the same addresses. At the same location, you will get people matching you from both sides. At Family Tree DNA, if you’re only comparing people from your Dad’s side, then you know that if they stack up, or puddle, in the same locations, then they come from the same family line (assuming it’s not a tiny segment which could be a match by chance.) If you can’t tell which people are from your Mom’s side vs your Dad’s side, then you’ll get a combination of both in the browser. That’s why it’s important to have both genetics (matching) and genealogy, so you can sort them apart.

  16. In the prior chromosome browser when you double-clicked on a selected match in the chromosome browser view, details about the match would show in a pop-up window including the total centiMorgans and number of segments shared which was not rounded up/down like it is in the DNA matches page.

    With the new chromosome browser the total cM and segments no longer appears in that pop-up window way. I can not locate a way to view that not rounded up/down number on the web pages. The only way now to see it is by downloading your matches.

    I miss the convenience of seeing the not rounded up/down number without having to download it first and open it in a spread sheet. Unless you know where FTDNA moved that view of the total centiMorgans and number of segments shared that is not rounded up/down?

  17. You mentioned more intuitive and then said “It does not download all of your matches. That feature is elsewhere.” You went on to explain how to do it, but it is not intuitive. At first I thought they had removed it so thank you for explaining where to find it. That is a bit relief. I would have just been happy with simply increasing the number to 7 and not trying to make the display look like that of another vendor. I guess it will take a bit of getting used to, like a lot of changes they pull. Bill

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