Relatives at RootsTech – How to Use & Connect with DNA

Relatives at RootsTech is back and I’m so very glad to see it.

Let me show you how to use this wonderful tool, including tips for how to get even more out of the experience.

It’s important to start now to accumulate your cousins, because there’s a display limit of 300 in each category, so you’ll want to begin recording your findings so that as more people sign up and are added to your list, you don’t “lose” the earlier relatives.

Let’s start with my link. Click here.

You’ll be prompted to sign in to your FamilySearch account, or create one. If you don’t have an account, create one now.

Right now, the number of participants is doubling every few days.

Let’s take a look at how Relatives at RootsTech works and how it can benefit you.


At first glance, the surname tool doesn’t look terribly exciting, but there’s a hidden gem, especially for newer genealogists.

I entered my surname and one other, knowing there is probably no common locations other than the US. Kvochick is very rare and unique.

The results show two interesting things. First, the genesis of the surname, and second, the total number of people in the FamilySearch tree in both of the common locations for both surnames.

Be sure to try variant spellings too.

After you sign in, you’ll be asked to update your profile which is how you join in on the fun. If you signed up for Relatives at RootsTech last year, that doesn’t count for this year. You need to opt-in for this year’s festivities.

RootsTech Relatives

After you sign in, you’ll see how many of your relatives have joined.

Of the 60,461 total who have joined, according to the FamilySearch tree, I’m related to about 15% of them. That sure gives new perspective to how many people we’re related to. And just think if those brick walls didn’t exist. We’d be related to just about everyone. Far enough back, we’re all related, literally.

Your Relatives at RootsTech are displayed in three ways.

By location, ancestor or family line.

Relatives by Location

Your first view will be by all locations (including people who did not select a location,) but displayed in closest to most distant relationship order. For me, that’s the most interesting part.

These people, my closest relatives, are the people most likely to have critical pieces of information that I don’t have or know about. Like family stories, or photos, for example.

I know one of these people, but not the rest. I’m dying to know who they are and how we are related.

For me, the map itself isn’t terribly useful, but it would be if some members of your family were from distinct locations.

Not everyone opts in to have their location displayed. The “173” in the center is the people who generically selected United States.

Relatives by Family Line

The Family Line display shows you the number of people by parent or grandparent. Unfortunately, you can only view 300 of your matches in each line, which is disappointing.

However, there’s a better way to view your relatives.

Relatives by Ancestor

For me, the best way to view relatives is by ancestor. This also circumvents the 300 limit to some extent, unless you have more than 300 relatives for any one ancestor.

I have two relatives who also descend from Curtis Benjamin Lore. It’s Jen and Jill again, my closest relatives.

I’m quite interested in these people, because Curtis is my great-grandfather and he was a very interesting man. I know Jen and Jill are interested in genealogy too, or they would not have signed up for RootsTech Relatives, this year, in the past few days. This is not a stale list.

I’ll be messaging them as soon as I’m finished with this article!!!

Please note that FamilySearch does not label half-relationships accurately.

Jen and Jill are my HALF second cousins twice removed, which will affect the expected amount of shared DNA. Their ancestors, Edith and Maude were half-sisters through their father, not full sisters. One of the reasons I’m so interested in communicating with Jen and Jill is because I’m not at all sure that those half-sisters knew each other existed.

Maintaining Contact

For each relative found, you can view your relationship, message them, or add them to your contact list. Be aware – your contact list “saves” this person, but it does not tell you how you’re related. That’s where either a Word document, with screen shots of how you’re related, or a spreadsheet where you can detail that information is important.

If you have messaged people in the past, those messages are still in your message box in the upper right-hand corner.

I generally provide my email address when I message relatives.

Displaying the Relationship

If you click on the “Relationship” button, you’ll see how FamilySearch believes you’re related to each match.

My relationship with an Acadian cousin, beginning with our common ancestor, is shown above. Grab a screen shot so you can remember. I drop them into a spreadsheet or Word document.

These matches are based on FamilySearch’s one world type of tree. I don’t have to tell you to be cautious because, like any tree, there are erroneous connections. This connection, at least on my side (left hand,) seems to be accurate. I don’t have Jeanne Chebrat’s second marriage to Jehan Piorier in my file, so I’ll need to check that out. Many times FamilySearch, WikiTree, Ancestry, or MyHeritage has connected documents or sources. In this case, here’s the WikiTree entry for Jeanne.

See, I’ve found something interesting already.

Search for People

On the toolbar, if you click on the right arrow, you’ll notice there’s one more option – Search.

If you think one your cousins might be attending, either virtually or in person, you can search by surname. I entered Estes out of curiosity.

This is quite interesting, because some other poor soul is also named Roberta Estes. You KNOW I’ll be messaging her. I’m pretty sure I know who this is, because we’ve been getting mixed up for years. Unless, of course there are actually three of us interested in genealogy.

However, where this Search option really shines is if you’re looking for males who descend from a particular line as candidates for Y-DNA testing.


I suggest doing this name search for each surname in your tree.

The Share Button is Critically Important

Sharing is the key to encouraging people to participate.

This button on the main page is how I generated the link for you to use to see if we’re related.

There’s a “Share” button in several locations. However, you’ll want to be sure you know exactly what you’re sharing. In some cases, it will be the surname comparison information or other information that you’re viewing. 

However, on the bottom of your Relatives pages, Share will generate a message link to/through several programs or apps so people can sign in to see if they are related to you.

You can also just copy the link and send it to someone in a text message or otherwise.

If you generate a message to share, you’ll see what will be posted, so you’ll know for sure exactly what you’re sharing. I wanted to post the link for my friends on Facebook to see if we are related, and that’s exactly what was generated.

If you follow the link to see if we are related, be sure to tell me, or anyone else whose link you follow.

Next, Connect with DNA

Relatives for RootsTech is a wonderful segway into DNA testing.

Remember, with the 300-relative limit, different searches will produce different results including people that won’t be included due to the 300 limit in other searches. Be creative and search in multiple ways. Add your relatives to your spreadsheet or Word document, then record whether they’ve DNA tested, at which vendor(s) and if you match there.

There are various ways to utilize Relatives at RootsTech for DNA.

  • Y-DNA candidates for the direct paternal line for males – The Search by surname can provide you with Y-DNA testing candidates. They may already have tested their Y-DNA with FamilyTreeDNA or their autosomal DNA with at least one vendor, so just message them and ask. Tell them which databases you’re in. Viewing Relatives by Ancestor can be very useful for this same purpose, especially if you have multiple unrelated lines with the same surname.
  • Mitochondrial DNA – the Relatives by Ancestor tool is very useful for locating mitochondrial DNA testing candidates, especially since you can easily see how they are descended from your common ancestor. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from women through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female. Any of your cousins, of either sex, are candidates so long as they descend from your target ancestor through all females.
  • DNA Pedigree Chart – If you’re building your own DNA Pedigree Chart with the Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA of each ancestral line, consider offering a DNA testing scholarship to people who carry those lines that are missing in your DNA Pedigree Chart.
  • Testing Candidates – Anyone is a good candidate for autosomal testing. No second cousin or closer has ever not matched. Ask your cousins if they have tested and tell them which DNA databases you are in. Furthermore, suggest that they upload their DNA to FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage for free to utilize their tools and find matches that aren’t in the other databases. GEDmatch isn’t a testing company, but is another free database where you may find people who tested at Ancestry. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not provide segment information for matching or painting, so hopefully you’ll be able to find your Ancestry matches elsewhere.
  • Databases – Be sure you’re in all of the databases (Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch) so you can be found and you can find your relatives.
  • DNAPainter – If you’re painting your segments at DNAPainter, you can paint your matching segments from 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or GEDmatch. Ancestry is the only vendor that does not provide matching segment information for their customers.
  • DNA Search – If your cousin has used their actual name when registering at FamilySearch, sort by ancestor, then search your DNA matches at the various vendors for that cousin’s name. The beauty of Relatives at RootsTech is that the relationship is already sorted by ancestor, so that piece of the puzzle has already been assembled for you, which is exactly the opposite of most DNA matches. Of course, this does not preclude errors or connections through multiple ancestors.

Limited Time – March 31 is the End

If I had a FamilySearch genie and could get one wish, it would be that they would leave Relatives for RootsTech up and available until the next RootsTech. I need time to work on these relationships.

However, that’s not the case, and Relatives for RootsTech ends on March 31st.

Therefore, it’s important to begin building your spreadsheet, or however you’re going to record your relatives, NOW. Check your list often so none of those precious matches will roll off of your list and become unavailable. Access to the complete relative match list, meaning no 300 limit would be my second wish from the FamilySearch genie.

To preserve the ability to communicate with your relatives, message them now or at least add them to your contact list – WITH A NOTE IN YOUR SPREADSHEET AS TO HOW YOU’RE RELATED. Otherwise, that information will not be available after March 31st.

You’ll want to use the same spreadsheet from year to year, as some of the relatives signing up this year probably did last year too.

Ready, Set, Relatives at RootsTech

Have fun. Be sure to let me know if we’re related and how!!!


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45 thoughts on “Relatives at RootsTech – How to Use & Connect with DNA

  1. Thanks for the head’s up. I had signed up but hadn’t checked for relatives yet. It says we are 12th cousins. Of course it has extended my tree three generations beyond where I had it, so I’ll need to do some research to confirm. John Savage and Mary Allington are our common ancestors (according to Family Search). I tried to find a way to message you at Roots Tech but as you pointed out there are two Roberta Estes.

  2. Roberta,

    Good news! We are related! We are 10th cousins once removed, that is through our shared Richardson line. I have even more “good” news! I have found that I have 9650 other relatives through this “Relatives at RootsTech” process. I also have some “bad” news. That is, I only found ONE relative through the family line that I am actively researching. ONE!

  3. This is great for looking at my relatives, but I’d also like to look at my husband’s relatives. Do I have to change my settings to (temporarily) make him the root person on my tree, or is there a better way?

    BTW, we’re 9C1R… assuming no one made a mistake in the tree that far back. 🙂

  4. Yes, Roberta, you and I are 10th cousins! Through the marriage of John Blandford (1611-1687) and Dorothea Marfield Wright (1609-1703), down to the Boones in my tree. And the marriage of Dorothea Marfield Wright down to you in your tree. What a coincidence!

  5. Hi, Roberta, it happens that we are 8th cousins twice removed, according to FS. But,(and it’s a very big but) since my 4GGF, Samuel Brown Farris (b 1788) and my 3GGF, Samuel Jefferson Farris (b 1830) are well documented, his proposed father, Nimrod Farris (b 1833) is miraculously younger than my 3GGF. There is (according to research from others) a Nimrod (b 1771) that is POSSIBLY my 5GGF, but even that is suspect. I’ve seen other anomalies before, although at least one of them (a duplication of profiles) was repaired during last year’s Roots Tech. There’s another this year, and this year’s doesn’t look much like a duplication-more a mash-up of more than one person.

    Out of curiosity, I looked at the WikiTree Relationship finder. It isn’t surprising that we aren’t related through the Farris family, since I have never connected my 4GGF to Nimrod because I can’t prove it, but we are 9C1R through the Coleman family. In fact we are also related there several ways, the closest being Robert Coleman (d 1699). That’s on my maternal grandmother. More distantly we are related on my maternal grandfather’s line through Joyce (Tiptoft) Sutton (abt.1430-abt.1461)-19C1R. When I checked the last of our 259 common ancestors, I found someone from the 0900’s in Norway. Vikings? Best of all, this is from a third grandparent-my Paternal GM! What a hoot!

  6. According to FS, we are 11th cousins, once removed with Robert Welles L5XG-K5M and Alice Hunt LTZS=BZ3 as our common ancestors back in England. I am surprised that there is not a closer connection since some of our ancestors were in the same area of east Tennessee.

  7. One half 11th cousin once removed through (supposedly) Sir John King
    1560 – 4 January 1636 / L5G8-GZQ. Pretty sure that we’re related multiple ways tho, on my mother’s side. Thanks, Roberta – have sent your blog to my local society and Roots-L.

  8. Hi Roberta, according to Rootstech Relatives we are 8th cousins Once Removed through Conrad Wolfflin (1645-1712) and Veronica Irion (1654 -?).
    We met at the MyHeritage Conference in Amsterdam and then again at Rootstech 2020. I will not be at Rootstech this year but hope all goes well and you stay safe.

  9. Pingback: 5 Things to Do With Relatives At RootsTech (While You Still Can) - Heart of the Family™

  10. We are 9th cousins through Richard Robbins and Rebecca Welles. I have a few generations of research to get back to them.

  11. Greatly appreciate your heads up about this Relatives — found a lot of new relations last year via this feature and then found some missing DNA links to them. We are 10th cousins via Juriaen Andrieszen & Jannetje Jans Bout b about 1610! Working to learn more about this Dutch line which connects to my NJ Pattersons.

  12. When you posted this did you ever think that you would get the response that you have? It seems like everyone is your cousin! I just hope that most of this lines are correct. After a few generations of the Richardsons, I couldn’t vouch for it correctness.

  13. Family Search says we are 8th cousins 3x removed through Francois Girouard and Jeanne Aucoin. I haven’t researched my French Canadian ancestry very thoroughly, so I have no idea about the accuracy on my side beyond my great-grandfather, Cleophas Blais.

    This will be my first time virtually attending RootsTech and I’m pretty excited!

  14. This will be the third year I have saved the Relationship View for relatives at Rootstech. I’ve found it very helpful for working on my family tree, and helping to identify DNA cousins.

    I work on an iMac and the tools I use are.
    1 – I use the screen grab to capture the rectangle with the Relationship Chart. This saves a PNG graphic file.
    2 – I use an inexpensive app called “Textify” to OCR this graphic file. I select the top line of the OCR translation and use that in the “Save As” so that the file name is the cousin’s name. NOTE when I do “Save As” I select the option to place the text into the graphic file over the original text. This save creates a PDF that is searchable.
    3 – I sort these files into family lines – SO much easier now.
    4 – I use an iMac PDF search program called “PDF Search” (Copyright © 2016 MOZKAN. ) to all the folders at once for a Surname. This program is very fast.

    I am sure there are other ways to accomplish this, but maybe someone would like the TIP.

  15. I thought I would find a connection but it says we do not. Francis Vannoy.
    Francis Vannoy
    BIRTH 3 AUG 1746 • Potts Creek, Rowan, North Carolina, USA

    DEATH 26 JUL 1822 • Barbourville, Knox, Kentucky, USA

    5th great-grandfather
    This line is listed on family search. I just followed it. Perhaps I did something wrong.

  16. FamilySearch suggests we are 8th cousins, with common ancestor:

    John Rice Jr. (LCT1-H62)
    Birth: 29 September 1675
    Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay, British Colonial America
    Death: 28 July 1733
    Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay, British Colonial America

    You appear as a descendant of his first wife, Elizabeth Clapp 1682-1705 (LZ63-JXR), while I appear as a descendant of his second wife, Sarah Frost 1681-1717 (LZK2-996).

    Among the sources associated with John Jr.’s great-grandfather Edmund Rice 1594-1663 (LZ9S-3KP) is a reference to his appearance in the list of freemen in Massachusetts Bay Colony as of 13 May 1640.

    • Unfortunately, they have my Joseph Rice connected to the wrong parent, so I’m not descended from the Edmund Rice line at all.

  17. Family Search says were are 11th cousins through the Nicholas Clapp-Elizabeth Yonge ancestral couple. However, when following that relationship, I see we are actually adoptive cousins through my paternal grandmother, Viola Ann Johnson (KNZL-51L). Her adoptive mother was Mariah White Gunn (MCMG-5T3). Thanks for the link. John Lowe

  18. Oh, wow, Roberta, thank you for providing that link! We are 9th cousins, once removed. That’s very distant, but I a still proud to be a distant cousin. I didn’t recognize the common ancestor, Thomas Wood, but about 4 generations down I found names I recognize, Viets and Cochran.

  19. Roberta, Relative Finder has us as 9th cousins once removed. The common ancestors are: Darby Field and Agnes List.

    I’m probably related to the surname Field, but I’m missing documentation. I know the ancestors on my list are accurate through Nahum Warren. I have documentation and DNA to collaborate the ancestors through Nahum Warren. Unfortunately, I can not find documentation to tell me who Nahum’s parents are. DNA suggests his parents were Elizabeth Field and Francis Warren.

    I find Nahum Warren to be my most intriguing ancestor. The National Archives sent me quite a folder of documents relating to his Naval History. I really scored when I received these documents. They were sent to me free of charge!

    I’m very hopeful I’ll eventually find a document listing who his parents and/or siblings were.


    • I don’t have those ancestors in my tree, so it’s likely that there are unproven generations on my side at some point, or something is incorrect.

  20. I think there are some problems with this tool. It shows we are related (10th cousins 3x removed) through Antoine Chebrat (1600-1662). I am descended from his daughter Marie Jeanne Chabrat (1560-1656). Pretty hard to have a daughter born 40 years before you. And her daughter Etiennette Poirier (1570-1661) born when her mother was 10 years old.

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