Ancestry Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files

In this Upload-Download Series, we’ll cover each major vendor:

  • How to download raw data files from the vendor
  • How to upload raw data files to the vendor, if possible
  • Other mainstream vendors where you can upload this vendor’s files

Uploading to Ancestry

This part is easy with Ancestry, because Ancestry doesn’t accept any other vendor’s files. There is no ability to upload TO Ancestry. You have to test with Ancestry if you want results from Ancestry.

Downloading from Ancestry

In order to transfer your autosomal DNA file to another testing vendor, or GedMatch, for either matching or ethnicity, you’ll need to first download the file from Ancestry.

Step 1

Sign in to your account at Ancestry and click on the DNA Results Summary link.

Step 2

Click on the Settings gear, at the far upper right hand corner of the summary page, just beneath your Ancestry user ID.

Step 3

Click on the link for “Download Raw DNA Data.”

Step 4

Enter your password and click on “I Understand,” after reading of course.

At that point, the confirm button turns orange – click there.

Step 5

Ancestry will send an e-mail to the e-mail address where you are registered with Ancestry. Check your inbox for that e-mail.

Waiting…waiting.

Still waiting…

If the e-mail doesn’t arrive shortly, check your spam folder. If you’ve changed e-mail addresses, check to be sure your new one is registered with Ancestry. That’s on the same Settings page. If all else fails, request the e-mail again.

Step 6

Ahhh, it’s finally here.

Click on the green “Confirm Data Download” and do not close the window.

Step 7

Next, click on the green “Download DNA Raw Data.”

You’ll see the following confirmation screen.

Step 8

At the bottom of the page, above, if you’re on a PC, you’ll see the typical file download box that asks you if you want to open or save. Save the file as a name you can find later when you want to upload to another site.

The file name will be “dna-data-2018-07-31” where the date is the date you downloaded the file. I would suggest adding the word Ancestry to the front when you save the file on your system.

Most vendors want an unopened zip file, so if you want to open your file, first copy it to another name. Otherwise, you’ll have to download again.

That’s it, you’re done!

Ancestry File Transfers to Other Vendors

Ancestry testing falls into two different categories. V1 tests taken before May of 2016 and V2 tests taken after May 2016. Tests processed during May 2016 could be either version.

The difference between V1 and V2 files is that Ancestry changed the chips they use to test and different DNA positions are tested, resulting in a file of a different format.

If you don’t remember when you tested, make a copy of your Ancestry file using a different name, like, “Opened Ancestry file 7-31-2018.” Then just click to open the zip file.

The first four rows of the file will say something like this:

#AncestryDNA raw data download
#This file was generated by AncestryDNA at: 08/11/2017 07:23:49 UTC
#Data was collected using AncestryDNA array version: V1.0
#Data is formatted using AncestryDNA converter version: V1.0

This is a version 1 (V1) file.

A version 2 file will say V2.0.

Your upload results to other vendors’ sites will vary in terms of both matching and ethnicity accuracy based on your Ancestry version number, as follows:

From below to >>>>>>>>>>> Family Tree DNA Accepts ** MyHeritage Accepts*** 23andMe Accepts* GedMatch Accepts ****
Ancestry before May 2016 (V1) Yes, fully compatible Yes, fully compatible No Yes
Ancestry after May 2016 (V2) Yes, partly compatible Yes, fully compatible No Yes

*Note that 23andMe earlier in 2018 allowed a one-time transfer from Ancestry, but people who transferred results did not receive matches from 23andMe.

**Note that the transfer to Family Tree DNA and matching is free, but advanced tools including the chromosome browser and ethnicity require a $19 unlock fee. That fee is less expensive than retesting, but V2 customers should consider retesting to obtain fully compatible matching and ethnicity results. V2 tests typically receive only the closest 20-25% of matches they would receive if they tested directly at Family Tree DNA.

***MyHeritage utilizes a technique known as imputation to achieve compatibility between different vendors files. The transfer and tools are free, but without a subscription you can’t fully utilize all of the MyHeritage benefits available.

****I’m not sure exactly how GedMatch compensates for the V1 versus V2 differences, but they can handle both data file types. Most people don’t take both tests, but I was conducting an experiment and have uploaded both V1 and V2 tests.

A quick survey of GedMatch matches to my Ancestry V1 and Ancestry V2 kits shows that of my first 249 (125 V2, 124 V1) matches, I have 3 V1 tests that don’t have a corresponding match to a person on the V2 kit, and 5 V2 kits that don’t have a corresponding V1 kit match. That’s roughly a 6% nonmatch rate between Ancestry V1 and V2 kits. I would presume that as the genealogical and genetic distance increases with more distant matches, so would the percentage of non-matches because the segment size is smaller with more distant matches, so there is less matching DNA to have the opportunity to match in the first place.

Testing and Transfer Strategy

My recommendation, if you test at Ancestry, is to transfer your V1 results to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch.

An Ancestry V1 test is entirely compatible at Family Tree DNA, but with a V2 test, because the testing platform that Ancestry uses is only about 20-25% compatible with the Family Tree DNA test, you’ll only receive your closest 20-25% matches. Family Tree DNA can’t match on those smaller segments if you don’t test on a compatible platform, so please do.

If you have Ancestry V2 results, transfer to MyHeritage and GedMatch but retest at Family Tree DNA. The cost difference at Family Tree DNA between the $19 unlock and a new Family Finder test is $60, for a total of $79 when the tests aren’t on sale. When they are on sale, it’s less. Right now, the tests are only $59.

You never know which match is going to break down that brick wall, and it would be a shame to miss it because you transferred rather than retested.

Matching and ethnicity is free with a transfer to MyHeritage, but you won’t receive the full potential benefit of SmartMatching without a subscription, as free trees are limited to 250 people and genealogical records aren’t included without a subscription. My subscription has been well worth the $.

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

All About Family Tree DNA: Webinar at Family Tree University

I’ve been teaching through Family Tree University for some time now, and I love the opportunity to reach more people through both live webinars and recorded classes.

Family Tree University offers a wide variety of courses, not just about genetic genealogy. You can read about how those course work here.

One of the things I like is that you can watch or “attend” anytime, and the courses are downloadable. Their live webinars are also available after they take place for members and people that couldn’t make it in person. After all, it’s always 3AM someplace and genealogists DO have to sleep sometime!

My live presentation of All About Family Tree DNA is scheduled for August 15 at 6 PM Central Standard Time and will be held using GoToWebinar. I’ll be taking questions online after the presentation. If you can’t attend, the recorded version will be available within 2 business days, and generally very quickly.

The price is $49.99 and you can enroll here.

What’s in the Webinar?

Family Tree DNA is the only genealogy testing company offering Y-DNA and mtDNA testing and matching in addition to autosomal. Y DNA tests the direct paternal (surname) line for males and mitochondrial DNA tests the direct matrilineal line for everyone. You can read more about how these tests work in the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

This webinar will familiarize attendees with the variety of test options at Family Tree DNA so you can create an informed testing strategy. You’ll also learn the tools Family Tree DNA offers for understanding and applying your DNA results to your genealogy research, from their matching tools to their surname studies.

The All About Family Tree DNA webinar is for you if:

  • you want to integrate different types of DNA testing into your genealogy research
  • you want to know what tools Family Tree DNA offers for working with your test results
  • you’re thinking about doing a mtDNA or y-DNA test, either for you or someone in your family

I’ll be stepping through all of the Y, mitochondrial and autosomal products, tools and how to use them for genealogy.

The timing of this webinar is great, because Family Tree DNA is in the middle of their summer sale. If you want to purchase a test or an upgrade, there’s no better time. You can view the prices and combo bundles here.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Family Tree DNA Group Project Privacy Levels

Recently, Family Tree DNA sent two emails about the new Group Project privacy settings and policies that are now in effect. The first email was to project members, and the second was to administrators.

I’m combining information from both in this article, along with step-by-step instructions for what you need to do, whether you’re a project member or a project administrator.

Before GDPR came into force in May 2018, group project administrators had more latitude to help project members by viewing all fields and being able to change some that weren’t deemed critical to privacy. For example, administrators could add the member’s most distant ancestor, help them with a tree or enter the mapped location of their direct maternal or paternal ancestor. Administrators could not change personal things like name, e-mail, contact information or passwords.

With the arrival of GDPR, Family Tree DNA implemented changes in order to achieve compliance which had the unfortunate effect of restricting administrators’ ability drastically. With the pressure of the GDPR deadline past, Family Tree DNA has rethought some of the restrictions and made welcome modifications.

Who is Affected and What Changed?

Anyone who has tested at Family Tree DNA and is a member of any project is affected, even if you may not realize that you are.

Before we go any further, let’s discuss the privacy settings which fall into basically three categories:

  • very low
  • medium (normal)
  • high

In the chart below, we see the names assigned to the levels as of the GDPR rollout, and now. The names have changed.

The May 2018 names were problematic because some project members became confused, thinking that Project Only was giving full access for this project. Additionally, Full access wasn’t full, but did allow some modifications. Therefore, in an effort to minimize confusion, Family Tree DNA has now renamed the access levels. The () are my descriptions.

The GDPR Transition

In May, the pre-GDPR privacy settings for project members were programmatically converted to the new settings, the result being that many project members were converted over with new settings that were much more restrictive than they were previously. I am still hopeful that this issue will be addressed, because the expectation of individuals who joined projects in the 19 years before GDPR was that the administrators had access to work with their results – and always would have. Many of those individuals have been project members for years and have now passed away, eliminating any possibility of the project administrator obtaining even limited (partial view only) access from the member.

For example, with Minimal access, administrators can’t see either members results or trees. With Limited Access, project administrators can’t see the member’s personal profile or privacy selections, but at least can view their tree and results.

Furthermore, anyone who joined a project after May 25th was joined at the minimal level, requiring the new member to change their settings to Limited, providing the administrators a reasonable level of access. Most people didn’t realize that, and therefore the majority of people who have recently joined projects remain at the minimal level.

New Joins No Longer Default to Minimal

When joining a project, new members are currently given the option of assigning an administrator a level – meaning the minimum privacy level is no longer assigned as a default. This is a HUGE improvement.

Due to the transition as well as the “join” policy between May and August leaving many people with Miminum settings, project administrators may want to contact individuals who currently have the Minimum level and ask them to change their settings.

Moving Forward

What matters currently is that you, or kits you manage, may now be at the MOST restrictive level which was originally called “Project Only” after conversion, but has now been renamed as “Minimal Required.”

From my perspective, if a group member does not want the administrators working with their results, they shouldn’t join the project. The purpose and focus of projects is collaboration.

New Settings and Permissions

The chart below, now shown to people when they join projects, summarizes the various abilities that administrators have under Minimal, Limited and Advanced.

With the most restrictive “Minimal Required” setting, administrators cannot see critical items such as a member’s tree or who they match. Minimal Required is extremely restrictive, which means that administrators can’t group the individual within the project appropriately.

With the original GDPR privacy rollout, many people were automatically converted to what is now “Minimal Required” and are unaware that their privacy selection has been downgraded.

Access Now Granted To Individual Administrators

Another change is that members now grant each individual project administrator a specific and different level of access unique to that administrator.

This change is quite beneficial, because you may want to grant one project administrator Advanced access which allows them to change some fields, while granting the rest Limited.

New Administrators

In this latest update, you can now grant all future project administrators an access level too, creating a legacy for future project administrators to have access to your results at the level you select.

After GDPR, new project administrators were only granted “minimal” access to every project member, meaning that in essence, new administrators were entirely hamstrung if every project member didn’t individually change their access for that administrator.

Needless to say, project members who joined projects before GDPR did not expect this would ever happen. Many have died or become disinterested and that meant that their results would forever be unavailable to new administrators.

Granting at least minimal access to future administrators assures that your DNA within a project will never be dead.

Another change last week was that new administrators are now granted Limited access, unless you specifically select either Minimal or Advanced access for new administrators.

Advanced Versus True Full Access

Advanced access is not the same as full access.

If you want an individual, project administrator or otherwise, to truly have full access to your account, you need to personally give them your kit number and password, realizing that allows them to function entirely “as you.” I have done this, because when I die, I want my DNA legacy to live vibrantly into the future.

Beneficiary

Speaking of legacy, please take this opportunity to complete your beneficiary form so that Family Tree DNA knows who to allow access to your account after your death.

Access Levels

Bottom line – you need to check BOTH your “Privacy and Sharing” setting along with “Project Preferences” for each project that you belong to because your settings may be much more restrictive than you think they are.

Privacy and Sharing

The Privacy and Sharing tab allows your results to be shown in the public project.

You MUST OPT IN to project sharing, or your results won’t be included in the public project display.

Most people don’t realize that the default is to NOT SHOW in a project, believing that if they join a project, their results will automatically be anonymously displayed in the public portion of the project. You must opt-in, so be sure that little box at the right side of the Group Project Profile is checked.

Project Preferences

The Project Preferences tab is where you grant project administrator rights.

Let’s look at the various group project preference privacy levels; Minimal, Limited and Advanced, and what they provide.

Level: Minimal Required

From the Family Tree DNA Learning Center:

Minimal Required is the most limited access level. This access level permits the Group Administrator or co-administrator to access project administration tools that allow him or her to view certain results in relation to how you match other project members; however, this access level does not allow the administrator to visit your myFTDNA pages.

The following table lists the Group Administration Pages and the corresponding group member information viewable by administrators assigned the Minimal Required level:

Minimal Required
Group Administration Report Page* Viewable Information
Profile Information
(viewable by Group Administrators, co-administrators, and other project members in multiple locations)
  • Name
  • Email
Maternal and Paternal Ancestry
  • Maternal and Paternal
    Country of Origin
    (from release form only)
  • Most distant ancestor and location
  • Family tree (if public)
Order Summary
  • Y-STR
  • Big Y-500
  • mtDNA
  • Deep Clade
  • Family Finder
  • Geno 2.0
Pending and Received Lab Results
  • Pending lab results
  • Completed lab results
Received and Unreceived Kits
  • Kit status
FF Illumina OmniExpress Matrix
  • Matrix of in-project members and who they match
FF Illumina OmniExpress Results
  • Comparison and download of in-project matches and their chromosome information
mtDNA Results Classic
  • Haplogroup
  • HVR1/2 mutations
  • Coding region mutations
    (only if authorized)
Y-DNA Genetic Distance
  • Subgroup
Y-DNA TiP Report
  • Genetic distance to other project members
Y-DNA Results
  • Haplogroup
  • STR marker values
Y-DNA Results Classic
  • Haplogroup
  • STR marker values
Y-DNA Results Colorized
  • Haplogroup
  • STR marker values
Y-DNA SNP
  • SNPs
Member Subgrouping
  • SNPs
Activity Feed
  • Postings

*These pages are only accessible by Group Administrators and co-administrators unless otherwise noted.

Level: Limited and Advanced

Limited is the recommended access level. This level of access permits the Group Administrator or co-administrator to visit and view certain information on your myFTDNA pages in order to assist with kit management and to better facilitate project research. Additionally, this access level includes all of the permissions granted with the Minimal Required level.

For more information on the permissions granted with this level, see the below Limited and Advanced Access table.

Advanced access permits the Group Administrator or co-administrator to visit, view, and modify certain information on your myFTDNA pages in order to assist with kit management and better facilitate project research. Additionally, this access level includes all of the permissions granted with the Limited access level.

The Advanced access level is designed to allow an individual administrator to fully manage a project member’s kit and function on their behalf. This includes ordering products and modifying information with the exceptions of the primary email address and project preferences for other Group Projects.

The following table lists your myFTDNA pages and the corresponding limitations and permissions granted to the administrator with the Limited and Advanced access levels.

Note: In addition to the personal information mentioned below, administrators for Group Projects of which you are a member and whom you have assigned Limited or Advanced access and administrators to whom your matches have granted Limited or Advanced access, will be able to view your profile, match information (e.g., Common Matches, Genetic Distances, and Shared Segments) and some Genetic Information (e.g., genetic markers and ethnicity information).

Limited and Advanced
Group Member myFTDNA Page Limited (Recommended)
(read only)
Advanced
(modify capability)
myFamilyTree Yes Yes
Complete Order History Yes Yes
Personal Surveys No Yes
Products and Upgrades
(Ability to purchase tests or upgrades
for group member)
No Yes
Family Finder
Family Finder Raw Data Download No Yes
Family Finder Matches Yes Yes
Download Family Finder Matches Yes Yes
Family Finder Linked Relationship Yes Yes
Family Finder Chromosome Browser Yes Yes
Download Family Finder Chromosome Browser Yes Yes
Family Finder myOrigins Yes Yes
Family Finder Shared Origins Yes Yes
Family Finder ancientOrigins Yes Yes
Family Finder Matrix Yes Yes
Population Finder Survey No Yes
Family Finder Advanced Matches Yes Yes
mtDNA
mtDNA Download Matches Yes Yes
mtDNA View Matches Yes Yes
mtDNA Ancestral Origins Yes Yes
mtDNA Matches Maps Yes Yes
mtDNA Migration Maps Yes Yes
mtDNA Haplogroup Origins Yes Yes
mtDNA Print Certificates No Yes
mtDNA Download FASTA No Yes
mtDNA View Results Yes Yes
mtDNA Advanced Matches Yes Yes
Y-DNA and Big Y-500
Y-DNA Download Matches Yes Yes
Y-DNA View Matches Yes Yes
Y-DNA Ancestral Origins Yes Yes
Y-DNA Haplotree & SNPs Yes Yes
Y-DNA SNPs Download Yes Yes
Y-DNA Matches Maps Yes Yes
Y-DNA Migration Maps Yes Yes
Y-DNA SNP Map Yes Yes
Y-DNA Haplogroup Origins Yes Yes
Y-DNA Print Certificates No Yes
Y-DNA Download Y-STR Results Yes Yes
Y-DNA View Y-STR Results Yes Yes
Y-DNA Advanced Yes Yes
Big Y-500 Results Yes Yes
Big Y-500 Matches Yes Yes
Big Y-500 BAM File Download No Yes
Big Y-500 Download VCF No Yes
Y-DNA Advanced Matches Yes Yes
Other Results
All Factoids Results No Yes
X-STR Yes Yes
Individual Y-STR Yes Yes
Individual Autosomal Markers Yes Yes
Applications
Partner Applications No Yes
Vitagene Wellness No No
Account Settings
Contact Information No Yes (except primary email)
Change Password No Yes (must know the current password to change it)
Beneficiary Information No Yes
Earliest Known Ancestors Yes Yes
Surnames Yes Yes
Privacy & Sharing Yes Yes
Project Preferences Yes Yes*
Notification Preferences Yes Yes
Projects
Join a Project Yes Yes

* An administrator granted Advanced access has the ability to modify permissions for administrators in other projects who have Limited or Minimal Required access; however, they cannot grant Advanced access to or remove Advanced access from any other administrator or co-administrator. Additionally, administrators granted Advanced access by a member can, on the member’s behalf, leave other projects with the exception of those having administrators who also have Advanced access.

Checking Your Settings – Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

Sign on to your account at Family Tree DNA and select the orange “Manage Personal Information,” right under your Profile photo, or the location reserved for the photo.

Then click on the Project Preferences tab:

Click on the Edit function which shows you the current level for each administrator in a specific project, allowing you to select a new level, and then allowing you to pre-select a new level for all new future administrators of this project.

I strongly recommend that you pre-select (at least) the Limited Access level.

Then, click on Accept which shows you a summary of your new selections.

Click “Confirm” and you’re all set.

You’ll need to repeat this step to check administrator rights for all projects that you have joined.

Step 2

Next, click on the privacy and sharing tab to opt in to Project Sharing. You only have to do this one time, but if you don’t – your results will NOT BE INCLUDED in any public projects.

Why is that important?

Public project displays encourage people to participate in DNA testing and join projects, especially Y and mitochondrial. If they see several lines tested, they are much more likely to purchase a test to see if they match a line they think might be theirs. Projects serve as advertising which helps all genealogists.

So please, opt in!

Project Administrators

If you’re a Family Tree DNA project administrator, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Review your Member Information List for members who have the minimal setting AND those who are not publicly sharing their DNA results.

In my Estes project of 327 individuals, 32 converted with Minimal access, including my immediate family members whose kits I manage. I don’t know if this 10% number holds true across all projects, but that’s a nontrivial number of people whose results you can’t access, and who you can’t help.

You’ll need to do the following:

  • Educate your members about why you need either Limited or Full Access as well as why they want to consider allowing their results to be publicly displayed.
  • If as an administrator, you’ve elected to prevent your project from publicly displaying, please consider making your project public. Family Tree DNA does not display the results of any individual in a project who does not opt-in to having their results shown publicly – so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Using the administrator’s Bulk Email function, send a project e-mail with instructions for how to check and select new Project Preference administrator settings as well as where to find the Project Sharing opt-in. (Feel free to link to this article.)
  • Follow-up by sending individual e-mails to members who don’t change their settings.
  • If you have a number of people in your project who are not grouped, you can group people with “Minimal” access into one group, and send a group e-mail to only them. I think that would be easier than e-mailing everyone individually, but as a project administrator, I’m committed to doing whatever needs to be done to preserve the integrity of my projects.

Getting Help

  • If you run into problems and need help, you can call Family Tree DNA at 713-868-1438 M-F 9-5 CST and select the customer support option or initiate a support request by clicking on help at the very bottom of every page.
  • If you’re a project administrator and run into problems, don’t forget that Family Tree DNA has a Group Support Department to help administrators. You can call the same number and select the option for groups or e-mail groups@ftdna.com.

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Why Different Haplogroup Results?

“Why do vendors give me different haplogroups?”

This questions often comes up when people test with different vendors and receive different haplogroup results for both Y and mitochondrial DNA.

If you need a quick refresher on who carries which types of DNA, read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

You’re the same person, right, so why would you receive different answers from different testing companies, and which answer is actually right?

The answer is pretty straightforward, conceptually – having to do with how vendors test and interpret your DNA.

Different companies test different pieces of your DNA, depending on:

  • The type of chip the company is using for testing
  • The way they have programmed the chip
  • The version of the reference “tree” they are using to assign haplogroups
  • The level they have decided to report

Therefore, their haplogroups reported may vary, and some may be more exact than others. Occasionally, a vendor outside the major testers is simply wrong.

Not All Tests are Created Equal

All haplogroups carry interesting information and can be at least somewhat genealogically useful. For example, haplogroups alone can tell you if your direct line DNA (paternal or matrilineal) is probably European, Asian, African or Native American. Note the word probably. This too may be subject to interpretation.

A basic haplogroup can rule out a genealogical match through a specific branch, but can’t confirm a genealogical match. You need to compare specific DNA locations not provided with haplogroup testing alone for genealogical matching. Plus you’ll need to add genealogical records where possible.

Let’s look at two examples.

Mitochondrial DNA

Your mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother’s direct line, on up you tree until you run out of mothers.  So, you, your mother, her mother, her mother…etc.

The red circles show the mitochondrial lineage in the pedigree chart, below.

If your mitochondrial haplogroup is H1a, for example, then your base haplogroup is “H”, the first branch is “1” and the next smaller branch is “a.”

Therefore, if you don’t match at H, your base haplogroup, you aren’t a possible match on that genealogical line. In other words, if you are H1a, or H plus anything, you can’t match on the direct matrilineal line of someone who is J1a, or J plus anything. H and J are different base haplogroups who haven’t shared a common ancestor in tens of thousands of years.

You can, however, potentially be related on any other line – just not on this specific line.

If your haplogroup does match, even exactly, that doesn’t mean you are related in a genealogically relevant timeframe. It means you share an ancestor, but that common ancestor may be back hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of years.

The further downstream, the younger the branches.  “H” is the oldest, then “1,” then “a” is the youngest.

Some companies might just test the locations for H, some for H1 and some for H1a.  Of course, there are even more haplogroups, like H1a2a. New, more refined haplogroups are discovered with each new version of the mitochondrial reference tree.

The only company that tests your haplogroup all the way to the end, meaning the most refined test possible to give you your complete haplogroup and all mutations, is Family Tree DNA with their mtFull Sequence test.

A quick comparison of my mitochondrial DNA at the following three vendors shows the following:

23andMe Living DNA Family Tree DNA Full Seqence
J1c2 J1c J1c2f

With Family Tree DNA’s full sequence test, you’ll receive your full haplogroup along with matching to other people who have taken mitochondrial DNA tests. They are the only vendor to offer Y and mitochondrial matching, because they are the only vendor that tests at that level.

Y DNA

Y DNA operates on the same principle. Specific locations called SNPs are tested by companies like 23andMe and Living DNA to provide customers with a branch level haplogroup. You don’t receive matching with these types of tests.

Just like with mitochondrial DNA, a basic branch level test can eliminate a match on the direct paternal (surname) branch but can’t confirm the genealogical match.

If your haplogroup branch is E-M2 and someone else’s is R-M269, you can’t share a common paternal ancestor because your base haplogroups don’t match, meaning E and R.

You can share an ancestor on any other line, just not on the direct Y line.

The blue squares show the Y DNA lineage on the pedigree chart below.

Family Tree DNA predicts your haplogroup for free if you take the 37, 67 or 111 marker Y-DNA STR test, but if you take the Big Y-500, your Y chromosome is completely tested and your haplogroup defined to the most refined level possible (often called your terminal SNP) – including mutations that may exist in only very few people. You also receive matching to other testers (with any Y test) which can be very genealogically relevant, plus bonus Y STR markers with the Y-500.

OK, But Why Do Different Companies Give Me Different Haplogroup Results?

Great question.

For this example, let’s say your haplogroup is H1a2a.

Let’s say that Company 1 uses a chip that they’ve programmed to test to the H1a level of haplogroup H1a2a.

Let’s say that Company 2 uses a chip that they’ve programmed to test to the H1 level of haplogroup H1a2a.

Let’s say that you take the full sequence test with Family Tree DNA and they fully test all 15,659 locations of your mitochondria and determine that you are H1a2a.

Company 1 will report your mitochondrial haplogroup as H1a, Company 2 as H1 and Family Tree DNA as H1a2a.

With mitochondrial DNA, you can at least see some consist pathway in naming practices, meaning H, H1, H1a, etc., so you can tell that you’re on the same branch.

With Y DNA, the only consistent part is the base haplogroup.

With Y DNA, let’s say that Company 1 programs their chip to test for specific SNP  locations, and they return a Y DNA haplogroup of R-L21.

Company 2 programs their chip to test for fewer or different locations and they return a Y DNA haplogroup of R-M269.

You purchase a Big Y-500 test at Family Tree DNA, and they return your haplogroup as R-CTS3386.

All three haplogroups can be correct, as far as they go. It’s just that they don’t test the same distance down the Y chromosome tree.

R-M269, R-L21 and R-CTS3386 are all increasingly smaller branches on the Y haplotree.

Furthermore, for both Y and mitochondrial DNA, there is always a remote possibility that a critical location won’t be able to be read in your DNA sample that might affect your haplogroup.

Obtaining Your Haplogroup

I strongly encourage people to test with and upload to only well-known major companies or organizations. Some companies provide haplogroup information that is simply wrong.

Companies that I am comfortable with relative to haplogroups include:

Neither MyHeritage nor Ancestry provide Y or mitochondrial haplogroups.

The chart below shows the various vendor offerings, including Y and mitochondrial DNA matching.

Company Offerings Matching
Family Tree DNA – Y DNA Y haplogroup is estimated with STR test. Haplogroup provided to most refined level possible with Big Y-500 test. Individual SNP tests also available. Yes
Family Tree DNA – mitochondrial At least base haplogroup provided with mtPlus test, plus more if possible, but full haplogroup plus additional mutations provided with mtFull Sequence test. Yes
Genographic Project More than base haplogroup for both Y and mitochondrial, but not full haplogroup on either. No
23andMe More than base haplogroup for both Y and mitochondrial, but not full haplogroup on either. No
Living DNA More than base haplogroup for both Y and mitochondrial, but not full haplogroup on either. No

Want More Detail?

If you’d like to read a more detailed answer about how haplogroups are determined, take a look at the article, Haplogroup Comparisons Between Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Dateline: Father’s Day – The Unexpected Gift

On Father’s Day, NBC’s Dateline aired a full segment about what happened to one family as a result of DNA testing. And it’s not at all what they expected.

A woman tested her DNA, but the family she found was not the family she was looking for.

“I knew everybody, right???”

“She’s just been waiting for us all these years….”

“A moment 50 years in the making…”

“It was a gaping hole…”

Put another way, by Bennett Greenspan, CEO, Family Tree DNA, “History may get righted.”

“DNA is like a history book written into your cells and only now in the beginning of the 21st century are we learning how to read the book.” – Bennett Greenspan

“It was the middle of the night.  He told her he found me.  I can hear her crying…”

“He couldn’t hardly talk…”

“We watched pain turn into joy.”

Poverty and prejudice is evil. In all of its incantations.

Two families about to become one.

There is absolutely no way on this earth that you can get through this dry-eyed, so just get the box of Kleenex now and click the link to watch the segment.

https://www.nbc.com/dateline/video/fathers-day/3745516

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Concepts: Anonymized Versus Pseudonymized Data and Your Genetic Privacy

Until recently, when people (often relatives) expressed concerns about DNA testing, genetic genealogy buffs would explain that the tester could remain anonymous, and that their test could be registered under another name; ours, for example.

This means, of course, that since our relative is testing for OUR genealogy addiction, er…hobby, that we would take care of those pesky inquiries and everything else. Not only would they not be bothered, but their identity would never be known to anyone other than us.

Let’s dissect that statement, because in some cases, it’s still partially true – but in other cases, anonymity in DNA testing is no longer possible.

You certainly CAN put your name on someone else’s kit and manage their account for them. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, depending on the testing vendor you select.

If the DNA testing is either Y or mitochondrial DNA, it’s extremely UNLIKELY, if not impossible, that their Y or mitochondrial DNA is going to uniquely identify them as an individual.

Y and mitochondrial DNA is extremely useful in identifying someone as having descended from an ancestor, or not, but it (probably) won’t identify the tester’s identity to any matching person – at least not without additional information.

If you need a brush-up on the different kinds of DNA and how they can be used for genealogy, please read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

Y and mitochondrial DNA can be used to rule in or rule out specific descendant relationships. In other words, you can unquestionably tell for sure that you are NOT related through a specific line. Conversely, you can sometimes confirm that you are most likely related to someone you match through the direct Y (patrilineal) line for males, and matrilineal mitochondrial line for both males and females. That match could be very distant in time, meaning many generations – even hundreds or thousands of years ago.

However, autosomal DNA, which tests a subset of all of your DNA for the genealogical goal of matching to cousins and confirming ancestors is another matter entirely. Some of the information you discern from autosomal testing includes how closely you match, which effectively predicts a range of relationships to your match.

These matches are much more recent in time and do not reach back into the distant past. The more closely you are related, the more DNA you share, which means that your DNA is identifying your location in the family tree, regardless of the name you put on the test itself.

Now, let’s look at the difference between anonymization and pseudonymization.

It may seem trivial, but it isn’t.

Anonymization vs Pseudonymization

Recently, as a result of the European Union GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation,) we’ve heard a lot about privacy and pseudonymization, which is not the same as anonymized data.

Anonymized data must be entirely stripped of any identifiable information, making it impossible to derive insights on a discreet individual, even by the person or entity who performed the anonymization. In other words, anonymization cannot be reversed under any circumstances.

Given that the purpose of genetic genealogy conflicts with the concept of anonymization, the term pseudonymization is more properly applied to the situation where someone masks or replaces the name of the tester with the goal of hiding the identity of the person who is actually taking the test.

Pseudonymization under GDPR (Article 4(5)) is defined as “the processing of personal data in such a way that the data can no longer be attributed to a specific data subject without the use of ‘additional information.’”

In reality, pseudonymization is what has been occurring all along, because the tester could always be re-identified by you.

However, and this important, neither anonymization or pseudonymization can be guaranteed to disguise your identity anymore.

Anonymous Isn’t Anonymous Anymore

The situation with autosomal DNA and the expectation of anonymity has changed rather gradually over the past few years, but with tidal wave force recently with the coming-of-age of two related techniques:

  • The increasingly routine identification of biological parents
  • The Buckskin Girl and Golden State Killer cases in which a victim and suspect were identified in April 2018, respectively, by the same methodology used to identify biological parents

Therefore, with autosomal DNA results, meaning the raw data results file ONLY, neither total anonymity or any expectation of pseudonymization is reasonable or possible.

Why?

The reason is very simple.

The size of the data bases of the combined mainstream vendors has reached the point where it’s unusual, at least for US testers, to not have a reasonably close match with a relative that you did not personally test – meaning third cousin or closer. Using a variety of tools, including in-common-with matches and trees, it’s possible to discern or narrow down candidates to be either a biological parent, a crime victim or a suspect.

In essence, the only real difference between genetic genealogy searching, parent searches and victim/suspect searches is motivation. The underlying technique is exactly the same with only a few details that differ based on the goal.

You can read about the process used to identify the Golden State Killer here, and just a few days later, a second case, the Cook/Van Cuylenborg double homicide cold case in Snohomish County, Washington was solved utilizing the following family tree of the suspect whose DNA was utilized and matched the blue and pink cousins.

Provided by the Snohomish County Sheriff

A genealogist discovering those same matches, of course, would be focused on the common ancestors, not contemporary people or generations.

To identify present day individuals, meaning parents, victims or suspects, the researcher identifies the common ancestor and works their way forward in time. The genealogist, on the other hands, is focused on working backwards in time.

All three types of processes, genealogical, parent identification and law enforcement depend on identifying cousins that lead us to common ancestors.

At that point, the only question is whether we continue working backwards (genealogically) or begin working forwards in time from the common ancestors for either parent identification or law enforcement.

Given that the suspect’s or victim’s name or identifying information is not known, their DNA alone, in combination with the DNA of their matches can identify them uniquely (unless they are an identical twin,) or closely enough that targeted testing or non-genetic information will confirm the identification.

Sometimes, people newly testing discover that a parent, sibling or half sibling genetic match is just waiting for them and absolutely no analysis is necessary. You can read about the discovery of the identity of my brother’s biological family here and here.

Therefore, we cannot represent to Uncle Henry, especially when discussing autosomal DNA testing, that he can test and remain anonymous. He can’t. If there is a family secret, known or unknown to Uncle Henry, it’s likely to be exposed utilizing autosomal DNA and may be exposed utilizing either Y or mitochondrial DNA testing.

For the genealogist, this may cause Pavlovian drooling, but Uncle Henry may not be nearly so enthralled.

In Summary

Genealogical methods developed to identify currently living individuals has obsoleted the concept of genetic anonymity. You can see in the pedigree chart example below how the same match, in yellow, can lead to solving any of the three different scenarios we’ve discussed.

Click to enlarge any graphic

If the tester is Uncle Henry, you might discover that his parents weren’t his parents. You also might discover who his real parents were, when your intention was only to confirm your common great-grandparents. So much for that idea.

A match between Henry and a second cousin, in our example above, can also identify someone involved in a law enforcement situation – although today those very few and far between. Testing for law enforcement purposes is prohibited according to the terms and conditions of all 4 major testing vendors; Ancestry, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage.

Currently law enforcement kits to identify either victims or suspects can be uploaded at GedMatch but only for violent crimes identified as either homicide or sexual assault, per their terms and conditions.

Furthermore, both 23andMe and Ancestry who previously reserved the right to anonymize your genetic information and sell or otherwise utilize that information in aggregated format no longer can do so under the new GDPR legislation without your specific consent. GDPR, while a huge pain in the behind for other reasons has returned the control of the consumer’s DNA to the consumer in these cases.

The loss of anonymity is the inevitable result of this industry maturing. That’s good news for genetic genealogy. It means we now have lots of matches – sometimes more than we can keep up with!

Because of those matches, we know that if we test our DNA, or that of a family member, our DNA plus the common DNA shared with many of our relatives is enough to identify us, or them. That’s not news to genealogists, but it might be to Uncle Henry, so don’t tell him that he can be anonymous anymore.

You can pseudonymize accounts to some extent by masking Uncle Henry’s name or using your name. Managing accounts for the same reasons of convenience that you always did is just fine! We just need to explain the current privacy situation to Uncle Henry when asking permission to test or to upload his raw data file to GedMatch (or anyplace else,) because ultimately, Uncle Henry’s DNA leads to Uncle Henry, no matter whose name is on the account.

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Project Groupings and How to Get the Most Out of Projects at Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA is the only DNA testing company that offers and supports projects – a structure that allows participants to join groups of common interest with the goal of providing information about their ancestors. Family Tree DNA provides a project structure and even a special administrator support group and hotline at Family Tree DNA to assist project administrators with the over 8000 projects that exist today.

Projects do more than just help the members – they have the potential to help others who descend from these same lines. Not to mention that they are a wonderful recuiting tool.

You can see what projects might be available for a surname of interest at this link by typing the surname or topic (like Indian) into the “Search your Surname” box:

For the past several years, World Families Network has hosted some Family Tree DNA projects utilizing a different format, as well as orphan projects, meaning those with no administrator.

With the recent World Families Network announcement that they are retiring as of May 23th and will no longer be hosting projects, several people have been inspired to adopt orphan projects, literally preserving what exists at World Families Network already in place for that project. That’s great news, but what’s next and how does a project administrator manage a project?

Or maybe you’re on the other side of the fence and you’d like to understand why projects are grouped so differently and how to use, or group, them effectively.

This article is written for surname project administrators, but is a learning tool for anyone interested in surnames. Isn’t that all genealogists?

Projects Are Your Surname Billboard

Project pages are your project’s front door, the marketing department, and a great way to put your best foot forward to recruit new members.

I’ve provided some resources for administrators at the end of this article, but before you start the nitty-gritty of how to group project members, I’d like to provide a few thoughts, observations and recommendations for grouping specific types of projects.

No need to roll through the same mud puddles I’ve already stomped in just to discover that they’re cold, wet and dirty.

Project Types

I administer or co-administer a number of projects at Family Tree DNA, such as:

  • Regional projects, such as the Cumberland Gap Y and mitochondrial DNA
  • Family or special interest projects, such as the American Indian project and the Acadian AmerIndian Ancestry project.
  • Haplogroup projects
  • Surname projects
  • Autosomal projects

How projects are grouped varies by the type of project, combined with the project’s specific goal. Not every project falls neatly into one of these categories, but most do.

Let’s take a look at the differences.

Regional Projects

Regional projects often reflect an interest in a particular region of the world. This includes projects based on geographic regions, like the Cumberland Gap projects, or sometimes countries like the French Heritage Project.

Regional projects sometimes show both Y and mitochondrial DNA results, although this is sometimes problematic. Unless the administrator checks to be sure both the Y and mitochondrial lineages belong in that specific project for every member who joins, the member’s results will be shown in both categories if they have taken both tests. For example, a man’s direct paternal line might be from the Cumberland Gap region, but his mother, or mitochondrial line might be from Italy. Clearly both lines don’t belong in this project.

The administrator can individually disable one display or the other (Y or mt) for each project participant – but that requires that the participant communicate with the administrator and frankly, it’s a huge pain. Been there, tried that, didn’t work.

For that very reason, several years ago, I split the Cumberland Gap project into two projects, one being for Y DNA results and one for mitochondrial results. That way, I can simply disable the entire mitochondrial page display for the Cumberland Gap Y DNA project, and disable the Y page display for the Cumberland Gap Mitochondrial DNA project. No need to do something with each person who joins. The member joins the appropriate project for their heritage – Y or mitochondrial DNA, or maybe both.

Deciding how to group a regional project can be challenging. The French Heritage project groups their Y DNA members and mitochondrial by surname and ancestor.

Please click to expand any image.

In this case, the administrator of the French Heritage project has chosen NOT to include the surname column, but instead created a subgroup banner with the surname included – so the surname column was not necessary unless a member is ungrouped.

The Cumberland Gap literally at the intersection of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, was a waystation on the westward migration and the projects were originally intended to help reassemble families whose ancestors migrated through the mountain ranges to new frontiers. Some stayed and settled, but many left behind a family member of two and then moved on. Truthfully, I’m not sure that this project hasn’t outlived its original purpose with the advances in DNA testing since it was established about 15 years ago.

The Cumberland Gap Mitochondrial project results are “ungrouped,” because based on how Family Tree DNA groups Mitochondrial results, similar results and haplogroups appear together – so mitochondrial projects are in essence self-grouping in most instances.

For mitochondrial DNA, the current surname is largely irrelevant because women’s surnames tend to change with every generation, unlike patrilineal surnames which are relevant to Y DNA results.

The administrators also maintain a separate Yahoo group to exchange genealogical, regional and cultural information.

If you are administering a Y haplogroup only project, disable the mitochondrial page display, and vice versa.

World Families Network didn’t host regional, special interest or haplogroup projects, so these projects aren’t as likely to be orphaned as surname projects.

Special Interest Projects

Special interest projects are focused specifically on one type or group of people. Grouping varies widely depending on the project type. I co-administer both the American Indian project and the Acadian Amerindian Ancestry projects, and they are grouped differently.

The American Indian project is grouped according to haplogroup, since specific haplogroups are known to be Native; subsets of C and Q for Y DNA and subsets of A, B, C, D, X and possibly M for mitochondrial DNA.

Note that we show the surname and the “Paternal Ancestor Name” columns, both, because the surname and the paternal ancestor’s name may not be the same for a variety of reasons.

The Acadian AmerIndian Ancestry project includes both Y and mitochondrial DNA of our Acadian ancestors. Acadians were a mixture of French, a few English soldiers, and Mi’kmaq Indians. The Acadian AmerIndian Y DNA project is grouped both by haplogroup and by surname.

Some surnames, such as Doucet, have both a Native lineage (C-P39) and a European lineage (R-M269), so their separate lineages are shown grouped with their respective haplogroups.

If members were grouped primarily by surname, then both lineages would have been shown adjacent to each other under the Doucet surname.

There is no one right way to group projects.

In this project, as well as others, I sometimes wish we had implemented the “apply to join” methodology, because I suspect that some people (in the ungrouped section) have joined in error.

Some ungrouped people have joined because their lineage is Acadian, but not their direct Y or mitochondrial lines.

The administrators chose to embrace the open join policy, even though it’s more difficult and time-consuming to administer, because we want to be inclusive and help everyone with either Acadian or AmerIndian ancestors from France, Eastern Canada and the Acadian diaspora regions connect with their ancestors. Acadians were admixed in Canada for 150 years, then dispersed to the winds in 1755 when they were forcibly evicted from Nova Scotia, so we find their roughly 2 million descendants in many parts of the world today.

Haplogroup Projects

By comparison, haplogroup projects are easier to group, because their focus is clear. Haplogroup projects, be they Y or mitochondrial are focused on that haplogroup and it’s sub-haplogroups.

The Haplogroup C-P39 project is a relatively small Native American project, so it’s grouped by surname and matching group within that haplogroup.

Another popular way to group larger haplogroup projects is by haplogroup subgroups for both Y and mitochondrial DNA. The popular R-L21 and Subclades project where my Estes men are members, but I don’t administer, is grouped in this manner.

One of the great features of all projects at Family Tree DNA is mapping. Based on how the administrator subdivides the project, if they enable project mapping (please do), you can select groups to display to view subgroup clusters.

I just love this feature. You know there’s a story behind this grouping that is relevant to the men who carry this haplogroup.

The A2 mtDNA Haplogroup project is grouped by subgroup. Some administrators go further and group by specific mutations within subgroup as well, hoping they will someday form a new subclade.

Maps provide so much information. In this case, the map of the A2 group, with no A2+ (downstream) subgroups shows a dispersal throughout the Americas, plus one person in Denmark.

Wait, what?

Denmark?

Of course, Denmark immediately raises a plethora of questions including whether the Denmark person has taken the full sequence test or has perhaps misidentified their ancestor’s original location.

Some people don’t understand that the matrilineal line is your direct mother’s mother’s mother’s line on up until you run out of direct line mothers. They hear or understand maternal instead and select their most distant MATERNAL ancestor which may be anyone from their mother’s side of the tree – and someone entirely different than their direct line MATRILINEAL ancestor.

Surname Projects

Surname projects play a different role than the projects mentioned above. Specifically, surname projects not only attract males with that surname who are candidates to test, they also attract anyone who has that surname in their genealogy who is looking to see if someone from their line has tested – because they can’t.

All of us have a lot more surnames that aren’t our direct paternal surname, which only males can test via Y DNA.

In the graphic above, the surname lineage is blue, the mitochondrial is red, and the colorless boxes represent all of our other lines.

Therefore, most people are looking at a surname project to find lineages they can’t directly test for. Surname projects need to make it easy to find and locate lineages based on ancestors and location.

I don’t know how many surname projects exist, as opposed to other project types, but I’d say surname projects outnumber the other types of projects significantly – meaning there is a huge potential to find your surnames and ancestors in those projects.

I love surname projects, because even if you are a female or a male that doesn’t carry that surname today, you can still benefit from the tests of people with that surname.

In the Estes project, which was formed for Y DNA, we also welcome autosomal joiners as long as they have Estes lineage someplace in their tree.

In the project, I group Estes men by lineage from the immigrant Estes ancestor.

In order to do this, I utilized the descendants of Abraham Estes to recreate his haplotype, and I compare everyone to those values, which represent the values that Abraham himself carried.

The good news is that by looking at the matches of each person in the project, you know who does and does not match each other. Family Tree DNA tells you that. They do the hard lifting and you arrange the furniture.

I didn’t know quite what to do with people whose genealogy and surname go back to Abraham Estes, or one of his cousins who all descend from the Deal, England line – but their Y DNA unquestionably doesn’t.

I created a “New Estes Line – Genetically Speaking” category. We can’t say that these people “aren’t Estes” because their mother may have been an Estes and gave her male child her surname, just not her Y DNA (which she doesn’t have,) of course. That was contributed by the father. So the surname is Estes, but the Y DNA doesn’t match any of the Estes descendants of the Deal line. However, these people may match Estes descendants autosomally.

There is also an “Estes Ungrouped” group, because even though their Y DNA is clearly Estes, I can’t connect these men back to a specific line yet either through paper or DNA.

Assigning a member to the “Estes Ungrouped” group is different than leaving them in the default “ungrouped” catchall group provided by Family Tree DNA which is located at the bottom of the page. The default ungrouped group is where everyone lives until the administrator assigns them to a group.

Autosomal Joiners

There’s been recent discussion about why administrators would want to allow people to join Y DNA surname projects who’ve tested autosomally and descend from the surname line, but aren’t males who carry the surname.

I am very much IN FAVOR of allowing autosomal joiners. Some other administrators, not so much. Someone recently said that they don’t understand why anyone who is not a male with the same surname as the project would want to join – what benefit there could possibly be. As a female Estes, I can explain exactly why, in one simple graphic. OK, 3 graphics.

On your personal account myFTDNA tab, there’s an Advanced Setting under “Tools and Apps.” Click there.

Then select the Family Finder test, then “yes” to “Show only people I match in all selected tests,” then select the project. The project selected (Estes in this example) must be one you have joined – that’s why it’s important to allow people from that lineage that don’t carry the Y chromosome to join.

Want to guess how many people I match, meaning Estes males AND all other Estes descendants who have joined the project? Click on the orange “Run Report” to see.

The answer is 23 people, although I’ve truncated the graphic. Some are cousins that I tested, but a dozen aren’t AND there are a few that I’ve never heard of before. Hello cousins! Does anyone have the family Bible or know where it is???

Clearly, I could match some of these people through other lines, BUT, now I know where to start looking. Using the advanced tools like Paternal Phasing (bucketing), the In Common With (ICW) tool and the Matrix, available to everyone, will quickly tell me how I match these people. You can read about how to utilize these tools here.

Project administrators have an even more powerful matrix tool at their disposal.

This is exactly why I’ve elected to welcome autosomal testers into my Y DNA surname projects. The power of DNA is not just in a single set of results, but in collaboration and combined tools.

Autosomal Projects

Autosomal projects, typically referred to as “private family projects” do exist, but you can’t see them when you search by surname because they don’t show up in searches, according to the Family Tree DNA policy.

I hope this policy changes in the near future, allowing the option of searching for autosomal-only projects. Admittedly, autosomal projects are challenging without any results to “show” in a display.

Therefore, in an autosomal project today, in order to group people, you must allow either the Y or mtDNA to “show” because members can’t be grouped otherwise, and even then, they must be grouped on two independent pages – Y and mitochondrial.

The current project structure does not support creating an autosomal group, perhaps by ancestor, and allowing project members’ ancestor from the Estes line to show, for example, given that it’s not the direct Y or mitochondrial DNA line.

For that reason, autosomal projects are private, but I would like for the administrator to be able to select public or private for autosomal projects and to have a separate autosomal tab in the administrator’s toolbox where all members can be grouped according to autosomal lines, independent of and in addition to Y or mitochondrial DNA if relevant.

This would also allow the creation of “ancestor projects,” meaning everyone descended from Robert Eastye (that becomes Eastes and Estes) born 1555 in Deal or Ringwould, Kent, England. Thinking ahead, we could then proceed to recreate his autosomal DNA from project members, just like we recreated Abraham Estes’s Y STR haplotype.

Here’s an example of how autosomal results could be grouped, without showing any additional results information, in projects. I’ll be submitting this as a request to Family Tree DNA!

This autosomal grouping challenge is present as well for Y DNA surname projects that allow autosomal joiners.

Some Grouping Don’ts, With a Dash of Humor

One of the things I do roughly yearly is to peruse the public projects to see if any of my ancestral lines are represented or their haplogroup has been expanded. I recently finished this activity once again, so, here are a few of the frustrations I encountered that are entirely avoidable.

  • Please Don’t Make Projects Private

There is nothing more discouraging than seeing this:

Projects are a wonderful way to recruit new members and if the project is private, you’ve disabled your best recruiting tool.

I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about this project, and that’s no joke. The first thing this project administrator did was to hang a big “Go Away” sign out for me to see. Ok, I’m going! No need to ask twice!

Individuals select for their results to “show” or “not show” publicly in projects. You don’t have to do this for them. Really.

So please, be inclusive and roll out the red carpet!

  • Please Don’t Group Surname Projects by Haplogroup Only

Please don’t group surname projects by haplogroup, at least not if you have any other choice. Let’s call this the last choice or desperation grouping methodology.

Remember, the most common reason people are looking at the project is to be able to find their ancestors, or ancestral group, which may be predicated on location. No one, but no one, already knows the surname haplogroup or they wouldn’t be searching for their ancestors in this way.

Family Tree DNA automatically groups by marker/color within subgroup, but if you’re trying to see if your ancestor or line is represented in a project, it’s almost impossible to find using the “group by haplogroup” methodology – especially with small subgroups. Y haplogroups can vary in their naming, depending on how deeply people have tested. For example, haplogroup R has thousands of branches. Some administrators group at the highest haplogroup level, and some group by the smallest branch level, which separate groups of men in the same family line – because not everyone has tested to the same level.

Of course, if you really don’t know how these men connect, or don’t have any idea about who descends from which ancestor, haplogrouping at the base haplogroup level (like R or J) may be the best you can do. Family Tree DNA will attempt to automatically group within your haplogroup subgroups.

If this is the case, you might want to attempt to recruit a genealogist with some specialty in this surname as a co-administrator. Hey, maybe someone from within that surname project!

  • Please Don’t Group by Number of Markers Tested

OMG, please no. Just no.

Grouping by number of markers tested makes it impossible to find line marker mutations that should be grouped together. For example, the men with a value of 13 at marker DYS439, above, should be displayed together because that is likely a line marker mutation – signifying descent from a specific descendant line of Charles Dodson in the red rows. However, since participant results are grouped by the number of markers tested, these men are displayed in different groups.

To figure out which ancestral line that value of 13 descends from, you need a subscription to the Physic Friends Network.

  • Please, PLEASE, Don’t Show Only Surnames and not “Paternal Ancestor Name”

How on earth would I ever know if my Luttrell or Littrell line is represented here. And why would an administrator choose to NOT INCLUDE the Paternal Ancestor Column?

This one makes me just want to pull my hair out. Yes, seriously! Going bald.

  • Please, Name the Line

Give the lineage a name or description, not just “Lineage 1.” It helps researchers determine if THAT John Jones is THEIR John Jones and it helps a lot to know who John Jones married, and when, if you know.

For example, for Lineage 1, put as much information as you can discover, or at least enough to unquestionably identify the line. For example, “John Doe born 1612 Sussex, England died 1683 Tukesbury, MA m Jane Smith.”

This helps identify specific lines. This is not Wheel of Fortune for ancestors. Don’t make me guess, because I may guess incorrectly – and there is no need for that when the information is (could be, might be, please let it be) readily available.

Another hint is to use color effectively. Perhaps lines that have different known progenitors but still match genetically having the same surname, meaning the earliest common ancestor has not yet been identified, could be the same color.

Think this through ahead of time and come up with a naming and color scheme that works well for your project circumstances and goals.

Sometimes after you’ve worked with a project for some time, you realize that perhaps things could be organized better. Been there, done that – no t-shirt. Just re-do it.

  • Or Worse Yet…

No surname AND no ancestor AND the lines aren’t named. Yes, really. This project might as well be called “why bother” or “shoot me now.”

You can’t even tell which surname this project might be, let alone identify an ancestral line.

You know that old saying about serving as a bad example? Well, this is it!

  • A Good Example

And because I don’t want to leave on a negative note – a really good example of a surname project.

You can tell that this administrator has spent a significant amount of time working on this project – and also encouraging members to enter their most distant ancestor information which is extremely useful.

Now this project looks inviting and welcoming. And no, in case you were wondering, I do not administer this project, but since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m going to review my own surname projects with this one in mind.

Great job Hill project administrator(s).

Resources

Maurice Gleeson has produced two wonderful YouTube videos about project administration and in particular, member grouping.

How to Group your Project Members using MPRs (by the way, an MPR is a “marker of potential relatedness,” according to Maurice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9JcvbFcgUI

How Y-DNA can help your One Name Study

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOx971zy6LI&t=3s

In addition, Family Tree DNA just updated the Quick Start Guide for administrators which walks you through setting up a project. https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/project-administration/quick-start-guide/.

Now, enjoy Maurice’s videos and create the most friendly welcome mat possible.

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