How to Join a Project at FamilyTreeDNA – And Why You Want To

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about how to join projects lately, and I think I know why.

Right now, FamilyTreeDNA is having a pre-holiday sale. All tests are on sale – the Family Finder autosomal test for $59, here, and the mitochondrial full sequence DNA test for your matrilineal line for $139, here. However, of particular significance is that the Y DNA tests are heavily discounted which is what’s driving the questions about joining projects.

The Y-37 is $79 and the Big Y-700, the most refined Y-DNA test, is only $379, here.

Why the Y DNA Test?

Y DNA tests facilitate men matching other men on their direct paternal line, which is generally the surname line. In other words, Estes men can be expected to match other Estes men, and so forth, unless an adoption or unknown parentage is involved. In that case, the man can expect to match his biological surname line.

The even better news is that the Big Y-700 test is refined to the level that WITHIN surname lines, testers can often differentiate and are able to tell where a specific mutation occurred in their genealogy.

You can see matches with either the 37 or 111 marker Y DNA test, but this level of detail is ONLY available with the Big Y-700 test.

A picture is worth 1000 words.

Here’s the view of the Estes portion of the Y DNA Block Tree, viewed from the account of one of my male Estes cousins who took the Big Y-700 test.

  • You can see that if a male takes the Big Y-700 test and receives the haplogroup of R-BY154784, we know he’s in the line of John born 1732, son of Moses Estes. This can be especially important for the man in the project with a Wilbur surname. It connects him with his Estes paternal lineage. For other Estes men, it tells them which son of Moses was their paternal ancestor.
  • If a man tests and receives R-ZS3700, upstream of R-BY154784, then we know he’s in the line of Moses Estes born 1711, son of Abraham, the Virginia immigrant.
  • If a tester receives haplogroup R-BY490, we know he descends from the Silvester Estes line, but NOT from the Moses line, or he would be R-ZS3700.
  • If a tester receives R-BY482 but not R-BY490, we know he is from the line of Robert Estes born in 1555, in Kent, but not in the American Estes line who all carry R-BY490 or more granular downstream haplogroups.

This is why people are ordering the Big Y-700 tests and want to join projects.

How do you know if a surname project exists for your surname of interest?

Does a Surname Project Exist for Me?

To see if a surname project exists for your surname of interest, click here, then scroll a little way down until you see the surname search box.

I typed Vannoy, my great-grandmother’s birth surname, and the following projects are shown.

Click any image to enlarge

You can see that the administrators for three projects have included Vannoy in their project names-of-interest, which is why the projects appear on the Vannoy search list.

Hurray! There is a Vannoy surname project with 66 members.

Ok, excuse me while I cheat for a minute. How many of these 66 people do I match on my Family Finder test?

Using the Advanced Matches tool on my main page, selecting Family Finder and the Vannoy project, I match 11 of those 66 people in the Vannoy project. How fun is that!?!

Ok, done cheating and back to the surname search results.

In the FamilyTreeDNA database, a total of 22 people have the surname of Vannoy, spelled exactly this way. Of the 11 people I match in the project, 7 have a surname of Vannoy or a derivative.

So, yes, there is a Vannoy project AND there are people with the Vannoy surname who have tested – and – as it turns out, I match several of the project members.

If you haven’t yet tested at FamilyTreeDNA, you can click here to check to see if there are surname projects of interest to you and to order a test.

If you’ve already tested or transferred your results, how do you join a project at FamilyTreeDNA?

How Do Customers Join Projects at FamilyTreeDNA?

Joining projects is easy and very beneficial. You can collaborate with other testers and you can use the Advanced Tools to see who else in the project you match as well.

Joining Projects

Family Tree DNA provides three types of projects for their customers to join. All 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 primary kinds of DNA projects:

  • Surname projects – like Estes
  • Haplogroup projects – like R-L21 for my cousin’s Y DNA or J-mtDNA for my own mitochondrial DNA haplogroup. Both Y and mitochondrial DNA projects exist for haplogroups and subgroups.
  • Geographic projects – really anything else that isn’t a surname or a haplogroup, like Cumberland Gap, American Indian or Scottish DNA

Sign on to your account. Begin by clicking on Group Projects at the top of your personal page.

You can join an unlimited number of projects, but you want to make sure projects you join are relevant to your genealogy, your research and/or your haplogroup.

If you click on “Join a Project,” you’ll see a number of projects where the volunteer administrators have listed your surname as a surname of interest to that project.

First, of course, you must have tested at or transferred your (autosomal) 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-only project because you have not tested your Y chromosome. (Women don’t have a Y chromosome.)

Some surname projects are for males only who have tested their Y DNA and carry that surname or are related on the direct paternal line. Like the Wilbur gentleman in the Estes Y-DNA Block Tree example. This is why surname projects are often called Y DNA projects.

Surname projects fall into three categories, based on the goals of the project:

  • Y DNA, meaning only males with that surname can join.
  • People who have a mitochondrial connection to the surname can join as well.
  • Anyone who is descended from any ancestor with that surname can join.

In the Estes surname project, I welcome anyone with an Estes ancestor.

The Project List

When you click on “Join a Project,” you’ll see the list of projects that are “Recommended Projects.” This means that the administrator has added your surname as one of interest. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should join all those projects, but that you might want to evaluate each project for appropriateness.

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, at least not for me.
  • 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. However, my male Estes cousins can join.
  • The Estes surname project welcomes anyone descended from an Estes by any spelling.
  • Estis Jewish Ukraine – Nope doesn’t pertain to me or my Estes line.
  • The I-L161 (Isles) project is a Y DNA haplogroup project, so does not apply to me as I have no Y chromosome.
  • The Jester project listed Estes as a variant spelling.
  • I would need to read about the rest of the projects.

Note that only the first 10 project are shown in the list and there may be more.

Searching

Obviously, there are probably other projects of interest that can’t be sensed by your surname.

For example, I’d like to know about the Bolton project – my grandmother’s surname, so I entered Bolton in the search box.

Click the project name to read more about each project.

Once you’ve determined that a 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.

Browse

Can’t find your surname or want to see what else is available? Try an alternate name spelling or scroll down to the Browse Group Projects section.

There are so many great possibilities.

Projects fall into multiple browse categories:

  • Surname
  • Y DNA Geographical
  • MtDNA Geographical
  • Dual (Y DNA and mtDNA Geographical)
  • MtDNA Lineage
  • Y-DNA Haplogroup
  • MtDNA Haplogroup

There’s so much of interest.

If I know a topic name, I can search here to see if an administrator has entered that as a keyword.

I searched for Acadian and found 6 options to evaluate.

Now all I have to do is click on the project link and then on the orange Join button to become a member.

Check Your Sharing Option

One quick housekeeping item as a project member is to check to be sure that your results can be shared on the project page, if that’s what you want.

At the top of your page, under “Manage Group Projects,” click on “Project Preferences.”

You can view the administrators of each project and manage permissions for each administrator individually.

Scroll down just a bit more and you’ll see the group project profile.

If you’d like for your DNA results to be included in the public project page results, be sure sharing is set to “on.” Your name is never shown publicly, except to your matches on your match page. In projects, only a surname and earliest known ancestor is shown. Here’s the Vannoy Y DNA page as an example.

Sharing in genealogy benefits everyone and encourages other people to test.

What About You?

Have you joined the projects that would be a good fit for you? Check out your surnames and topics of interest, here.

You can always transfer your autosomal DNA from other vendors and join projects today with no waiting.

If you transfer an autosomal kit from another vendor (instructions here,) you can order a Y DNA or mitochondrial upgrade and FamilyTreeDNA will send you a swab kit. That way all of your test results can be utilized together for added benefit.

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7 thoughts on “How to Join a Project at FamilyTreeDNA – And Why You Want To

  1. I don’t necessarily want to find otber familial male matches, but …. I know there is a huge surname project for the Baker line. We can vet to 17747 east, but is that Richard actually the son of Andrew?
    So I have a male relative willing to test

    I think all we need is a haplotype, but I’m not certain. Is the haplotype produced by 23&me sufficient? It is way cheaper! Or do I really need to spring for the 37 marker test?

    Of course, I could have daddy test to see if we can get the Kilgore line back to Scotland. Hmmmmm. Wonder if anybody has done that.

    Susan

    • A haplotype is the actual result itself.
      STR markers are a type of haplotype.
      SNPs are a type of haplotype.
      23andMe provides a very limited haplogroup, but no STR markers.
      The 37 and 111 test project STR results and matching and include an estimated haplogroup.
      The only way you get 700 plus STR markers, plus a full haplogroup is with the Big Y-700 test.
      So the answer is if you want the full haplogroup, which 23andMe can’t give, plus both STR and haplogroup SNP matching, then no, 23andMe is not sufficient. It depends on what you want. and your goal.

  2. If my brother has no matches at the Y111 test. has no one with the surname (gg grandfather from “somewhere in Germany” and our surname is Symns in 1842 tax in Brazos County, Texas. now Symns is spelled differently in all documents so i have the least chance to find the family as: “no village and certainly dont know the name used in Germany).
    not sure i explained it but also after feeling i lost money on doing Y111, dont want waste that amount of money.

    Thanks

    Philis Symns Knox

    • That test is still fishing for you. DNA testing is an investment. Have you checked to see if there are other men by that or similar surnames in the database?

  3. Hi Roberta, another interesting post, thank-you.

    Do you know of anywhere I can pay to have Big Y results analysed?
    I have read your Y info but am still struggling 🙁

    I paid for my Dad’s BigY test and it’s a nightmare trying to make sense of it, there are so many tabs and pages to look at. There is a Y dna tab, and a Big Y tab, each with other pages within.
    In the Y dna tab he has no exact matches (that I can tell) but has the same 2 guys matching on 25, 37, 67, 111 (genetic distance of 9) then over 4000 guys on the 12 marker tab. How meaningful is any of this?
    In the Big Y tab there are “currently no matches” with the block tree page showing 2 countries in his branch, but no matches.
    My dear Dad has passed away now, and I know true matches may show up in future, but it’s disappointing that the last couple of years have seen no progress in his Y results.

    Dee

    • I used to do this, but can’t right now for the next several months. Tied up on other projects. I recommend Legacy Tree Genealogists or Diahan Southard.

      • Thanks, I will ask them. Even if someone can look and confirm that no interesting results are in there, or if I’m missing something
        Dee 😉

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