Hurry: Relatives at RootsTech Ends March 25 – Search for Y & Mitochondrial DNA Cousins While You Can

Relatives for RootsTech is still available through March 25th, even though RootsTech, the event, is over for this year. (Obviously, the video sessions are still available.)

Relatives at RootsTech provides participants with the opportunity to see cousins, organized in different ways, including by ancestor, with a path for both of you drawn back to your common ancestors.

Be sure to fully utilize the Relatives at RootsTech connections to easily find cousins who descend appropriately to be testing candidates for Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA for your ancestors. I’ve included step-by-step instructions in this article along with a few hints I’ve discovered.

Just navigate to RootsTech, here, and scroll down to the relatives at RootsTech button.

Click that button, then on “view relatives” and voila, here you are.

FamilySearch has made this easy by displaying your relatives by ancestor, at least for several generations back in time. You can see how many of your cousins descend from any particular ancestor.

While my closest ancestors are showing few cousins, more distant ancestors further down my relatives list, (and further back in my tree,) have hundreds.

It’s Easy Peasy

Eventually, every single line brick walls. Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are the ONLY types of DNA you can use that doesn’t divide in every generation and remains as reliable 10 or more generations ago as today. Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are laser lights shining back through time. We need them for every single ancestral line to push beyond that brick wall, whenever and wherever we hit it.

I’ve spent time in the past few days fishing for cousins and messaging people who are good candidates to represent lines that I don’t have represented in my DNA pedigree chart.

In my own desktop software, I enter my ancestor’s haplogroup as a middle name. The * means I’ve written a 52 Ancestors series article about this person. (I don’t do this in public trees, just my own.)

I can see at a glance which ancestors don’t have haplogroups, which means I need to find cousins who descend appropriately to have inherited either the Y DNA or the mitochondrial DNA of that ancestor.

The blue boxes above represent the Y DNA inheritance path, and the red, mitochondrial inheritance. You can read more about Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance paths, here.

Neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA are admixed with the DNA of the other parent, so it’s a rich source of information that never divides during meiosis. This gives us the ability to see far back in time without dilution.


I created a small spreadsheet so I wouldn’t lose track of whose DNA I’m looking for and the message I sent to various cousins.

By focusing only on ancestral lines I specifically need, I’ve eliminated a lot of busy work. Initially, I was going to record every cousin, but there are too many for me to be able to complete that task. Now I’m focused on:

  • Lines where I have very few matches. These may represent closer cousins I haven’t yet met, or people in the Netherlands who are now participating. I found a new Dutch cousin. Hopefully they will reply to my message.
  • Y DNA lines
  • Mitochondrial DNA lines

Timesaving Hint

When searching in this manner, find your most distant ancestor on the relatives list in that line. For example, I only have two cousins on my Lazarus Estes list, but as I look at ancestors on up that Estes line, I have several more by the time you get to Moses Estes, 4 generations earlier. My two cousins who descend from Lazarus will ALSO be on the Moses Estes list – as will all the rest of my cousins who descend from Estes males between Lazarus Estes and Moses Estes.

Moving to the earliest ancestors in a line immediately saves you a heap of time because you don’t need to view your cousins in the closer generations.


Finding appropriate cousins for Y DNA is easy. They will generally carry the surname of the ancestor in question. If I’m searching for a descendant of Andrew McKee (c1766-1814), I’ll just look for McKee surname cousins on my list.

To see how your cousin descends from your common ancestor click on Relationship. A nice dual path is shown to your common ancestors.

I found a female, so I messaged her and ask if she has a father or brother or uncle who would be willing to test to represent the McKee Y DNA line.

In my message, I briefly explain how beneficial this would be for everyone in that line and might well help break down those upstream brick walls. Who were Andrew’s parents?

I don’t know now, but I’d surely know more after a Y DNA test. So would she!

In this next example, my cousin is male, and the last male shown descending from Andrew is Robert Clayton McKee. I “presume” my cousin descends through two upstream males, but sometimes that’s not the case. Either of those two greyed out people could be females. I’m always “gentle” in these messages and say that “It appears that you descend from Andrew through all males. FamilySearch conceals the identity of your closest generations for privacy.”

I ask my cousin to confirm how they descend and ask if they have tested or are interested in DNA testing. I also provide my email address and offer a testing scholarship.

Mitochondrial DNA

Locating mitochondrial DNA testing candidates takes slightly more effort, but can be VERY productive.

Let’s say I’m searching for a mitochondrial DNA candidate for Andrew McKee’s wife.

Notice, I said “wife” and did not mention her name. All we really know, from a deed signature releasing her dower right, is that her first name is Elizabeth. The reason I would be seeking her mitochondrial DNA is to figure out who her parents were.

At FamilySearch, Elizabeth has been assigned a full name, including surname, but there are no sources that provide her surname.


My first inclination is to disregard this record because there is no evidence that Barnes is Elizabeth’s surname, at least not that I’ve ever seen. If any reader has actual evidence, please do share.

However, in this case, we are searching for anyone descended from the wife of Andrew McKee, REGARDLESS OF HER NAME. Her name, in this context and for this purpose does not matter.

In other words, if we can find a candidate for Andrew’s wife’s mitochondrial DNA, we may then be able to determine if indeed she does match someone in the Barnes family line.

It’s very easy to skim your matches ancestral line. If you see any blue in their lineage, indicating a male in your cousin’s line, that’s an immediate “no,” so you can just proceed to the next cousin in your list.

Mitochondrial DNA is only passed from women to their children. Men don’t pass it on, so a male in that line is a blocker. Andrew McKee Jones, in this example, inherited his mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but his children inherited the mitochondrial DNA of their mother.

Fortunately, FamilySearch also identifies daughter or son when names are ambiguous.


I always offer a DNA testing scholarship at FamilyTreeDNA for the appropriate Y DNA or mitochondrial test. FamilyTreeDNA also offers their autosomal Family Finder test, of course, and I often include that test in the scholarship.

Other vendors do not offer Y and mitochondrial DNA testing. However, if your cousins have already tested autosomally at Ancestry, 23andMe, or MyHeritage, they can upload their DNA files to FamilyTreeDNA for free after you order their scholarship test. Step-by-step upload instructions can be found, here.

I always check to see if Y DNA and mtDNA testers’ matches are also autosomal matches. That too can provide valuable clues.

March 25th

Don’t wait. The Relatives at RootsTech tool is only available until March 25th. It will take you some time to review the lists, but it’s fun because it’s like mining for buried ancestral gold nuggets. Except it’s not just a game. There is real genealogical gold hiding there, just itching to be discovered.

If you message someone, or click on the contact button, they will be added to your list which remains available after March 25th.

Do you have ancestors whose Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA you need? Your gold-nugget cousin may be waiting for you!


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18 thoughts on “Hurry: Relatives at RootsTech Ends March 25 – Search for Y & Mitochondrial DNA Cousins While You Can

  1. Easy Peasey? Not so much. I don’t even see the “view relatives” button on the RootsTech page. It just tells me that they didn’t find any close relatives. I don’t have my entire tree on FamilySearch, but I do have my and my wife’s direct ancestors back to at least our great grandparents. Am I unlucky or have I done something wrong?

    • Also, it’s possible that your great-grandparents don’t connect into the big tree. If that’s the case, then you may not have any close relatives. Check your tree.

      • Yes, I was signed in. I guess my ancestors do not fit into the big tree. In other words, I am unlucky.

        • My guess is that you need to connect your great-grandparents to the tree. If you look at them on your tree, see if there are suggested merges. That’s what happens when you upload your tree. You merger your great-grandparent with that same person on the main tree and then you’re connected. You’ll need to do that with all 4 of your great-grandparents. Then you’ll get hints. If your great-grandparents really aren’t already on the tree, then you’ll need to add generations back until you find someone who is on the tree already. My grandparents were already there, so all I needed to do was connect them.

  2. Re: the “testing scholarship”. Do you have a special arrangement with FTDNA or how do you pay for it w/o involving the person who is testing for you? How do you handle the order, acct. setup and profile choices? Who then controls and/or has access to such an acct? I have a cousin I contacted after he did the family finder test & now more than a year later I would like to ask him to do a Y test that would give me the haplogroup of my maternal great grandfather. (I would pay of course) How do I present this to him & how to handle him ordering as they already have his sample, but I would pay the $$.
    Thanks in advance for any advice to help me accomplish this goal.

    • In my case, I ask for their address. I ask if they will join a project I manage so I can see the results. If they have already taken a test, and it’s an upgrade, I either arrange with FTDNA to pay or send them the money. My preference is to work directly with FTDNA. If they are a project member, FTDNA can send me a payment link. I send their support and the tester an email together so everyone sees it. It’s easiest with a new kit which is just sent to them.

      • To make sure I’m understanding right, FTDNA can create a payment link to upgrade another tester’s kit only when that kit has already joined a project, any project? Or do you mean that sponsoring another’s upgrade is only an option if both my kit and their kit belong to the same project? I’m wondering how many steps an HVR2 match would have to go through if I offered to sponsor them up to mtFull.

        • You can donate to a project and the admin can apply that payment to a specific kit that is in their project. Of course this involves 3 people. I suggest you call FTDNA support and talk to them.

  3. List of 136 names but unfortunately 135 were wrong due to an error in my supposed ancestry. The correct one was my sister

  4. Roberta, What application did you use to get the images of the relationship charts? I have been trying various ones (i.e., Snipping Tool, Snagit, etc.), but have not found one that works.

    • I use Snaggit. I wonder why that isn’t working for you. I used to use the MS clipping tool but the resolution isn’t good enough.

  5. I am really bummed because when I did the relative search I came up with zero! My tree somehow I have two trees in there one with both birth parents and their ancestors and one with just my mother and her ancestors. I do not have my 1/2 sibling or any of our cousins in my family search tree. I talked with two people at family search and the end result was then I got no information from them and they told me to contact roots tech tech-support and I’m waiting to hear from somebody but by the time I do this cool option will be over. I would’ve thought that if somebody had a tree that matched one of my ancestors say my great great grandfather that they would have showed up. I can’t believe that I have no relatives. I have a friend who has 60,000 relatives that showed up on route stack! What is going on and why me?

    • Obviously, there is an issue. There may be people who need to be merged. For example, when I uploaded my tree, I had to merge my grandfather with the same person on their big tree. I don’t know your situation, so I can’t tell. But look at your ancestors on your tree and see if they are suggesting merges and the merge seems to be the right person. That could be the problem. I don’t know.

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