DNA Tidbit #2: FamilyTreeDNA’s Compare Origins Map

When I started this series, my goaI was to find tidbits that might not be well known – features that people might not realize are available. We can all use all the help/hints we can get, right?!.

FamilyTreeDNA’s myOrigins “Compare Origins” map fits that bill perfectly. The functionality changed recently, probably with the introduction of myOrigins 3, and I had no idea.

It’s a pretty well-hidden feature, so I bet lots of other people don’t know either.

Hat tip to one of my readers who DID notice and suggested this tidbit.

You’ll need to have taken the Family Finder autosomal test at Family Tree DNA or transferred an autosomal DNA file from another vendor. If you haven’t tested or transferred, and you’ve tested elsewhere, you can transfer for free, here. You’ll need to unlock the advanced features for $29 which is a significant savings compared to a new test.

DNA Tidbit Challenge: Sign on to your account at Family Tree DNA and click on the myOrigins tab in the Autosomal DNA section.

The first thing you’ll see is the estimate of your population origins. What you may not notice is that there’s a second tab, “Compare Origins,” shown below.

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When you click on the Compare Origins tab, you’ll still see the map, but you’ll also see a list of your matches who have opted-in to sharing their origins.

To opt-in, go to your Account Settings, in the dropdown by your name, and click on Privacy and Sharing. Scroll down to “Origins Sharing” and move the button to on.

If you have not opted in, I believe you’ll see a question at this point asking if you wish to do so. If you don’t opt-in, you can’t compare.

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If you’re looking for someone with a specific population ancestry, especially at the continental level, this comparison feature may be particularly useful. For me, that would be Native American, although Donald doesn’t share that population with me. If you do find someone with that same population, that doesn’t mean that’s HOW you match the person, just another hint.

The comparison is a cool feature, but not where we’re focusing in this tidbit article.

Map Pins

Notice this map pin button?

If you click on that pin, a popup screen will open where you’ll be able to select the paternal ancestor markers or the maternal ancestor markers for your matches.

To be very clear, these pins are their direct patrilineal and direct matrilineal lines, only, meaning your Y DNA if you’re a male and your mitochondrial DNA if you are either male or female and have taken the mitochondrial DNA test.

Of course, your match will only have a pin if they’ve taken that test AND completed the Matches Map geographical information on their own page. If you haven’t done that, please do so your pins will be visible to your matches here and for Y and mitochondrial DNA Matches Maps.

Your Matches’ Y and mtDNA Lineages

How can you use this information?

You may not be related to these people through their patrilineal or matrilineal lines. But then again, you may not know how you are related, and location may still be relevant because, let’s face it, our ancestors married their neighbors.

There are two different ways to utilize this map. From the map and from your matches.

Working from the Map

My mother’s grandfather immigrated from the Netherlands. There’s a good chance that the people I match with Dutch roots, especially recent Dutch roots, may be related to that line.

On the map, I clicked on a blue (paternal) pin and the paternal ancestor information for that tester is displayed.

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Surnames and locations are both important, especially in countries where surnames weren’t standardized or were/are patronymic.

You can view your match’s profile for additional information or compare your origins.

If you click on “Pin Marker,” you can then go back to the map pin screen and elect to show only pinned markers. Pinned markers are temporary and not saved beyond your current session.

Working from the Match

Each match that has a pin available will be indicated with a pin beside their name.

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If you click on that pin, it will display the pin on the map. If no other pins are displayed, it will be the only pin showing.

If you do have all of the pins displayed and you mouse over the pin for that match, it blackens the pin on the map so you can see which pin represents the most distant patrilineal (blue) or matrilineal (red) ancestor for that particular match.

Search for Surnames

When I discovered the search facility in conjunction with the map, I was like a kid in a candy shop.

I entered “Miller,” my great-grandmother’s surname, in the search box.

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I have 10 Miller matches on the first page. The Miller line I want to look for is on my mother’s side. You can see based on the little red and blue people icons which of the matches are assigned to either (or both – purple) parental sides based on triangulation between me and identified, linked cousins in my tree.

Of the Miller individuals on my mother’s side, 4 are males. Of those, 2 have pins. Of those 2 men, one man’s pin is in the US, but the other cousin’s pin is located exactly where my Johann Michael Mueller line originated AND that’s also who my match has listed as his direct patrilineal ancestor.

Now, I’ve confirmed unquestionably that we share at least this one common ancestor. Of course, I can’t yet tell if our autosomal DNA match is through this ancestor, but I know where to start looking.

Now it’s time to see if:

  • He also matches my mother.
  • He matches the other 3 Miller males on Y DNA.
  • We share other autosomal matches in common that might shed light on our common ancestor.
  • If the matches we share shed light on how those other matches are related to both of us.

Compare Origins Summary

This little-known tool is a great way of discovering if any of your paternal surname lines have Y DNA tested and if they match you autosomally.

If you’ve followed my articles for long, you know that I “collect” the haplogroups of my ancestors. There’s a great deal of ancestral gold to be mined there.

Using Compare Origins, it’s easy to search for the surnames of your ancestors.

As an experiment, I entered the surnames of my 16 great-great-grandparents and found relevant Y DNA matches for 13. Of course, in my case, I had recruited a few of these cousins, but not all by any stretch of the imagination.

For mitochondrial DNA, the red pins, I know that my mitochondrial line originated in Germany, so I’ll be looking for matches in close proximity to my matrilineal ancestral village, then utilize advanced matching to see if we are mitochondrial matches as well.

In countries like Germany and the Netherlands where I have relatively recent ancestry, I’ll be using the “by map” method to view the individuals on the map so that I can inspect that match more closely to see if they also match my mother and maternal cousins.

Take a look at your myOrigins “Compare Origins” matches and map and let me know what you find.



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19 thoughts on “DNA Tidbit #2: FamilyTreeDNA’s Compare Origins Map

  1. Fascinating! Thank you, Roberta … this has re-stimulated interest in a few of my more distant matches, which I had let drift 😊

  2. I often have to read your posts at least twice. They are dense with information. For the past hour I’ve been playing with this feature myself. Sadly I cannot really glean much. Except for the most common names on my known tree, some lines going back several generations, I get NOTHING… just for a few Schmidts and Schulzs (super common names; my parents were born in Germany). All those little pins are scattered all over the place. In fact >50% of my pins are outside of my designated ethnic region, yet I am estimated to be 100% Central European by FTDNA. (For several reasons, I also believe I have Scandinavian, Eastern European and Jewish ancestry. I’ve tested everywhere and look more to actual matches, moreso than ethnicity estimates based on various population samples.) — I also wonder who is missing… due to less testing in France, Italy, Eastern Europe. If someone has more diverse ethnicity, I’d guess even more regions are lacking, among FTDNA’s customer base.

  3. Just keep in mind that MyOrigins 3.0 is sometimes significantly wrong in its estimates. For example, comparing myself to my father I see that he has 0% Central European to my 54% — when most of my Central European ancestry is from my father, not my mother.

    Besides, my mother couldn’t have given me more than 50% Central European even if she herself were 100% — so where’s the extra 4% coming from? To make matters worse, my father has 0% Ireland to my 21%. We could try giving that to my mother, too, along with my 54% Central Europe. So that makes 75% inheritance from my mother so far.

    We can look at this from the other direction, too. My father has to have given me 50% of his DNA (since we’re only looking at autosomal DNA here). Since he supposedly has 95% England, Wales, and Scotland — why don’t I have at least 45%? (Plus a total of 5% of other stuff he has.) According to FTDNA, I only have 4% England, Wales, and Scotland … and my mother was actually more British than my father!

    Oh, then there’s my 15% Iberian. How much did I get from my father? 0%. So I guess that’s from my mother, too. That means that I’m now up to 90% inheritance from my mother! I’m practically her clone, at least autosomally speaking. 😉

    I also have 3% Malta to my father’s 0%, but maybe he can make up for it with his 4% Italian to my 0%. Plus we both have <1% Ashkenazi Jewish, says MyOrigins (and just about nobody else.)

    I'm actually pretty sad about MyOrigins 3.0. On the one hand, it's much closer to my paper trail than FTDNA's previous estimate. On the other hand, I uploaded 23andMe files for my father, all five of my full siblings, my daughter, her mother, and her mother's brother. Unfortunately, while *my* results look better, there isn't a lot of consistency among my family members.

    For my money 23andMe still has the most reasonable estimates … but maybe that's because I'm in the group that may never be updated, since my testing was on the v3 and v4 chips. To me, that's probably a good thing — since most companies I've done business with seem to be getting worse the harder they try.

  4. I had noticed the Shared Origins feature earlier, but didn’t know about the pins. Wow, I have matches from all over the world, especially Northern Europe. (My immediate ancestors were Jewish.) The pins are really cool!

    Unfortunately, several of my relatives haven’t opted to share their origins. Can you explain how to enable the permissions for shared origins? (I can’t see the shared origins for one of my sisters because she set her privacy settings to immediate family only.)

  5. Hi Roberta,

    I just discovered, after having been subscribed to your blog for several years, that we are cousins! While on Gedmatch today, I compared our samples and it reports that we are: Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 5.2. We match at Chr 5 B37 Start Pos’n 82,012,854 B37 End Pos’n 96,043,420 Centimorgans (cM) SNPs 11.3.

    As I know you have painted most of your DNA and I cannot tell how we are related, if you know would you share?

    The connection may be through the Dodsons.

    By the way, I made sure to update my origins map at Familytree. Thanks for all tips.

  6. DNA Tidbit #2: FamilyTree DNA’s Compare Origins Map
    Roberta You are certainly right many of us certainly didn’t know to stretch this feature beyond the obvious. I have run into something that’s puzzling to me using it .My 1st cousins and myself when compared have some differences of Orgins Ireland strong for one cousin Scotland very strong for me weak or non existent for him, so I scratched that off as because we have different mothers (our fathers were brothers).
    BUT when I test the two brothers against each other the one older has no Scotch origins but his younger brother close to my age has a very similar look to mine? Any thoughts would be appreciated..

  7. Roberta, This is a very helpful article full of great information. Thank you for the clarity. I’m managing DNA testing for my spouse who was adopted and has little info about his ancestry so we’re running the FF, origins, MtDNA and Full -Y DNA tests.

    On the Origins maps, we are seeing distant relatives (4th to distant cousins) associating to both, blue pins and red pins. These are relatives in US and in northern and western Europe. Does this indicate they related to my spouse on both sides, his maternal and his paternal line?

    Also, if we see a pin colored half blue – half red and more than one ‘relative’ named in the info box on that pin, each listed to a blue pin or a red pin within the same box, are they related to my spouse on both his paternal and his maternal side?

    If this information indicates relatedness of the mother and father, we’d welcome any comments you might offer based on what you’ve learned in your geneological studies. We realize this can be sensitive but history is full of examples or practices of close relations.

  8. I’ve read your post several times, but I still can’t see how the pins are useful. Most of the pins are not going to be related to because they represent the maternal and paternal origins of the people you match with, not the direct line to the person that you match DNA with, so the pin doesn’t indicate that your ancestry matches with the location of each pin at all.

    • In some cases, you’re right, but for many people, this is the only way you can see mapped locations for even two of your matches lines. I look at locations which may be a clue.

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