Sneak Preview: Introducing the FamilyTreeDNA Group Time Tree

Drum roll please!!!

This is a sneak peek of a new tool being rolled out by FamilyTreeDNA in a VERY EARLY BETA soft launch.

Right now, the only way to view the Group Time Tree is by using the link to my group project, below, then, search for a different project name. I’ll show you, but first, let’s talk about this VERY COOL new tool for Big Y group project results.

The Group Time Tree is a feature that group project administrators and project members have wanted for a VERY long time!

At FamilyTreeDNA, the words “group” and “project” are both used to describe Group Projects which are projects run by volunteer administrators. FamilyTreeDNA customers can join any number of projects to collaborate with other testers who have a common interest.

Four basic types of public group projects exist:

  • Surname Group Projects
  • Haplogroup Group Project
  • Geographic Group Projects which can include other types of special interests
  • Mitochondrial Lineage Group Projects

What Does the Regular Discover Time Tree Do?

The Discover tool that was recently introduced (here) provides a Time Tree view of any specific haplogroup (but no surnames or ancestors) in relation to:

  • Big Y testers (not SNP-only testers and not STR results because they can’t be used for time-to-most-recent-common-ancestor (TMRCA) calculations)
  • Ancient Connections
  • Notable Connections

Using the regular Discover Haplogroup took, here’s an example of the haplogroups of the Estes (and other) men, beginning with the R-BY154784 lineage near the bottom. Time is at the top. The only way you know they are Estes men is because I told you. The Discover tool is haplogroup specific, not surname specific.

What Does the New Group Time Tree Do?

The brand-new Group Time Tree is an extension of the Discover technology, but focused within projects and includes both surnames and earliest known ancestors for people who have opted-in to have their results display in public group projects. This tool only works for group projects that have the public display enabled, and includes only data that the administrator has included. Not all administrators have enabled the display of the “Paternal Ancestor” field, for example.

Now, you can see Big Y group project members:

  • All mapped together on a genetic time tree, or
  • By project subgroups defined by the project administrator

I want to provide a friendly reminder that this is a BETA tool and will be fully rolled out in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, it’s fun to have a sneak preview!!!

Estes DNA Group Project

Before going further, here are some screen shots of the Estes DNA Group Project for comparison.

I’ve created multiple color-coded groups within the project based on the genealogy and Y-DNA matches of the participants. The teal groups all descend from the Estes line from Kent, England, and match each other. Since not every man with an Estes surname descends from this line, there are also other color-identified groups.

Additionally, in the Estes project, I do not restrict members to males with the Estes surname, so there are several non-Estes men who have joined. Their Y-DNA shows in the project so I have placed them in an “Autosomal – Not Y DNA” group because they are Estes-related autosomally, not through the direct Y-DNA surname line.

I’ve grouped other clusters of Estes-surname males who do not descend from the Kent line into other color-coded groups, which turned out to be extremely beneficial for the new Group Time Tree.

Let’s see how the Estes Project works with the new Group Time Tree.

The Estes Group Time Tree

Here’s the link to the Estes Group Time Tree. I’ll be using the Estes data for this article, then show you how to view other group projects of your choosing from this link. So please read these instructions.

The Group Time Tree shows a genetic family tree of direct paternal lineages on a time scale. It shows how Big Y tested members of Group Projects are related to each other and when their shared ancestors are estimated to have lived.

Click on any image to enlarge

This is the first display I see.

Looking around, I notice the menu.

Select either “All search results” or the group or groups you want to view.

If you compare the groups above on the menu to the project screen shots, you’ll notice that the colors along the left side equate to the colors of the project subgroupings. We have Eastridge, meaning those who are not genetically Estes, then “Estes Autosomal, Not Y DNA,” then a group of teal project groupings who descend from the Estes Kent line.

I clicked on “Select All Search Results” which displayed everyone in the project from all haplogroups. This resulted in the Estes men being scrunched on the right-hand side, below, due to the long timeframe involved, which is not useful.

What is VERY useful is the Paternal Ancestor column which is the earliest known ancestor (EKA) for each tester’s line. Hopefully, this will encourage everyone to enter their EKA and location. You can find instructions, here.

Ok, let’s “De-select all” and just focus on specific groups.

Much better. I can see a much more relevant timeline for the men in the line being researched. The Estes men are no longer scrunched up along the right side because the left-to-right time is much shorter – 1500ish vs 100,000ish years.

The colored dot on the location flag indicates which colored group these men have been assigned to by the project administrator.

It’s very easy to see if two groups (or two men) descend from the same paternal line.

Next, I added the Eastridge group back into the display as an experiment.

The common ancestor between the single Eastridge Big Y tester and the Estes men is back in the Stone Age, about 35,000 BCE.

I do feel compelled to mention that this information can’t necessarily be extrapolated for all Eastridge men, because there are a few men with Eastridge surnames that are actually genetically Estes men. Someplace along the line, the name got changed. This is the perfect example of why every man needs to test their Y-DNA.

You can remove the menu by clicking on Subgroups.

You make the menu re-appear by clicking on Subgroups again.

I LOVE – LOVE – LOVE that I can see the ancestors and the clusters and I didn’t have to do this grouping myself. These men could have been in one big group in the project and the software would have created the clusters for me.

For example, there has been debate for decades about whether or not Moses Estes of South Carolina was descended from Abraham Estes, the immigrant, and if so, through which son.

Based on the Big Y-700 test (the Big Y-500 did not reveal this) and clustering, we know assuredly that Moses Estes of SC:

  • Descended from the Kent line
  • Descended from Abraham who has mutation R-BY490
  • Did NOT descend from Abraham’s son Moses whose descendants have mutation R-ZS3700

I’ve been keeping this project spreadsheet for years now. It’s wonderful to be able to see a genetic tree visualization. The Big Y men are blocked in red.

I’m hopeful that the balance of the men who have NOT yet taken the Big Y-700 will upgrade now because there’s so much more to learn. This is especially true for men who reach a brick wall prior to Abraham. The Big Y-700 test, perhaps combined with STRs, will place them in a lineage.

I’m sure that we would discover new haplogroups among Abraham’s descendants if they would all upgrade. There are more men who have not tested at the Big Y level than those that have.

Display Options

Under display options, you can add Ancient or Notable connections, remove confidence bars, and adjust the tree height.

Discoveries for Administrators

As a project administrator, one thing I discovered is that I might want to regroup within some of my projects to take full advantage of the color coding on the Group Time Tree. If you are a project administrator, you may want to ponder the same.

I also discovered that when I clicked on Country Map, I did not have Project Statistics enabled.

If you make project configuration changes, this report will only be updated weekly, so it’s not immediate.

The country map shows the distribution of all the countries within the project, not specific groups within projects

You can view Country Maps in either map or table format, but remember that if the project is a surname project and includes autosomal testers, the map view will not be representative of the surname itself. This view shows all groups.

Viewing Another Group Project

To view a different group project, simply enter that project name in the search box. For now, this is how you’ll be able to view group projects until this tool is fully rolled out.

I entered the surname “Speak” and was presented with these options.

Obviously, the surname Speak or a variation is found in these projects. Just click to view.

Your Turn

If you have not yet taken or upgraded to the Big Y-700 test, now’s the time. Order or upgrade, here.

If you have already taken the Big Y-700 test, or want to view a project, click on this link, and search for your project of choice.

Have fun!!!

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24 thoughts on “Sneak Preview: Introducing the FamilyTreeDNA Group Time Tree

  1. This is awesome. It is inspiring to see what you do as FTDNA project admin. I was asked last year to help admin the Little surname project at FTDNA, and I’ve struggled to get up to speed (I’m stronger with autosomal analysis than Y-DNA). Is there a user group or other virtual hangout for FTDNA admins to ask questions and trade tips and techniques to supplement the online FAQs? Thanks again!

  2. Agree with “I LOVE – LOVE – LOVE” .. ALL of this! Already have screen grabbed the haplogroups for my Y Project. Now, we (ok, me) just need you to tell us how you’ve integrated the autosomal members in your FTDNA Group. .. or post a blog link?

  3. Where do I find the BETA “Search another Group Project” box? I do have the equivalent BETA search box “Search another haplogroup”.

    So, I am logged in to my GAP where I change which project I wish to view. Please, step by step, where do I go from there?

    • I did it that way because I wanted people to read the instructions first. Otherwise people would be asking questions I already answered.

  4. Does FTDNA tend to neglect the mtDNA part of its business? This Y Group Time Tree could just as easily been ported to the mtDNA side, which I think might yield more interesting info than I found in the blokey bits of my tree.
    Cheers

    • I do believe that’s in the plans. They are doing one thing at a time. More people have Y DNA tested. Often people are discouraged from mtDNA testing so hopefully a similar tool would encourage more testing.

  5. Great article!

    While using the Group Time Tree, I notice it shows dash curves in light blue color, instead of solid curve lines also in light blue color. Is there a reason for the line to be in dash instead of solid? Does it mean anything?

    Thanks!

    • I’ve got the same question from one of my project members. I can’t find anything on FTDNA forums about this either.

      • Here’s the answer from the R&D team. Dashed lines mean there are haplogroups between that are omitted for brevity. A solid line means those are a father/son haplogroup, meaning directly adjacent.

  6. I have a number of surnames I am interested in. But they are for ancestors and not my Y test. Getting someone to do a dna y test would work for one or two ancestors but not the others. Can someone join these Y surname projects when it is not their surname ? It might be confusing to have me as a member because it is not my y test but it is an ancestor that I am interested in finding out more. What are the rules for someone like me.

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