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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Family Tree DNA New Privacy Settings

As you may or may not have noticed, Family Tree DNA recently implemented more options in the privacy and sharing section of everyone’s personal DNA page.  That’s both the good news and the bad news.

Recent queries from group participants as to why their results were not showing in projects after they joined sent me on a quest to find out why.  The answer is that the new privacy and security settings at Family Tree DNA now default to a setting on new kit purchases that causes new participants results to not show in projects.  Another symptom is that as a project administrator, you’ll be able to see the participants results in your project, but you won’t be able to see their results in other projects they have joined when trying to help them with something like understanding haplogroup project grouping assignments.

In today’s more litigious society, giving people these types of options is not only a good thing, it’s necessary.  Now the bad news.  In the past, when you joined a project, your DNA results were automatically being shared on the project page, if the project had a public page.  That was the point of joining a project and is what everyone has come to expect.

privacy and sharing not sharing

Please note that people who were already clients when these new options were added, so who had already joined projects and were sharing, were not set to the default of not sharing, and were set to the value of sharing.  So if you were previously in a project and your results were being displayed, they still are.  This only affects new kit purchases.  Based on a kit I purchased on March 31, 2015, this new feature was implemented sometime after the middle of February and before the end of March, but I don’t know exactly when.

As more and more people purchase these kits with the default option set to not sharing, more and more administrators are finding themselves being asked why results are not showing up in projects…and asking themselves this same question.  The answer is, of course, that the defaults are now set for not sharing – but no one knows that.  The participants are not ASKED this question and they have no idea THAT this is happening, that there is a problem…or that they need to DO anything to rectify the situation.

Furthermore, most administrators aren’t aware of this either.  What this means, is that kits purchased since this change was made are NOT SHARING, but no one is aware of that until they stumble over it by accident.

Therefore, as interested parties and project administrators, we need to inform our participants of this default selection and that it needs to be changed.  Please feel free to share this article to accomplish this goal.

I very much hope that Family Tree DNA will implement a stepped process with options and educational “balloon boxes” so that both new participants and people whose results are now set to “not share” will be able to make selection choices when they set their account up or when they join projects.  Testers need to understand what they are being asked to select, why, and how their selections will affect their results and experience, both today and into the future.  Defaulting to not sharing is counter-productive and I fear that new testers will inadvertently be eliminated from project matching and grouping when that wasn’t their intention at all.

So, let’s take a look at the newest Family Tree DNA privacy and sharing options and how they affect participants, projects and project administrators.

Privacy and Sharing

You reach the privacy and sharing options by clicking on the “Manage Personal Information” link in the “Your Account” box to the left of your personal page at Family Tree DNA.

privacy and sharing

By clicking on the orange link, you’ll see the following Account Settings.

privacy and sharing profile

While you’re here, you may want to update your profile information.

On all selections, don’t forget to click on SAVE, or it won’t.

privacy and sharing save

Now, let’s move on to the privacy and sharing tab, to the far right of the options on the tab at the top.  Privacy and sharing options are divided into three sections.

privacy and sharing tab2

The selections greyed out on the right are the current default settings when you purchase a new kit.  There are no instructions or step-through dialogue boxes to help participants understand how these selections will affect who can see their results, and how that will affect their experience with DNA testing.

Needless to say, the power of DNA testing is sharing ancestral and genealogical information.  Otherwise, there is truly no reason to test.  Family Tree DNA has recently implemented changes which allow participants to select various levels of sharing.

Unfortunately, the default settings are in essence “off” for project sharing, once someone joins a project, which creates a great deal of confusion for participants and project administrators alike.

Participants presume their results are being shared, just the like results of the people they match.  Project administrators have no idea that the participants results aren’t being displayed in the projects, and when they discover that little tidbit, they have no idea why the results aren’t being displayed – because they always were before.

The Privacy and Sharing options are divided into three sections, My Profile, My DNA Results and Account Access

Let’s look at these one section at a time.

My Profile

Who can view my Most Distant Ancestor?

Default Setting:  Only You

This means that no one you match can see your most distant ancestor.

Options:  Share my Most Distant Ancestor with other people in projects that I’ve joined.

Creating an exception.

It appears that you can select to share within all projects (that you’ve joined), but elect to omit some projects, or you can select to not share with all projects, but to elect to share with only select projects.

privacy and sharing most distant ancestor

Note that I manage several kits with the same surname.  The default for both existing and new accounts is “only you”.  I checked and the most distant ancestor does show in both projects and matching when the “only you” selection is selected.  I suspect this is a bug, but currently, it’s how this option is functioning.  If this options starts functioning as it appears that it is supposed to, all of a sudden, your most distant ancestor information may disappear.  If so, this is why and this option needs to be changed to “share with other people in projects.”

Of course, this entire question presumes you’ve entered your most distant ancestor information.

Please enter your most distant ancestor for both your male paternal (father’s surname) line and your matrilineal (mother’s mother’s mother’s) line on the Genealogy Tab, under Most Distant Ancestors, shown below.

privacy and sharing most distant ancestor setup

If you don’t enter this information, your “Most Distant Ancestor” won’t be listed in projects, example below, so if other people from this line are looking to see if their line has tested, that information won’t be available to them.

privacy and sharing project

Furthermore, if your information isn’t there, it can’t and won’t be displayed to your matches.  You certainly want that information from your matches, so be sure to provide it for your matches to see as well.  In the example below, the first person did not complete this information, but the second person did.  As it turns out, they both descend from the same ancestor, but the person matching them can’t tell, because one person doesn’t have their Most Distant Ancestor listed.

privacy and sharing match

Who can see me in project member lists?

Default:  Project Administrators

Options:

privacy and sharing project member list

This selection works in tandem with how the project administrators of various projects you may have joined choose to implement the project display.  In other words, if the project isn’t public, then the “anyone” option is meaningless, because the public won’t be able to see the project at all.

hap q front page

Fortunately, most projects are publicly displayed.

The next question about this option is what, exactly, and where is a project member list?

When you visit any project, you will see a front page.  On that page, you will see several options relating to that project.  In the Kvochick project, there are 5 members.  If you click on the 5 members, that should display the list of the names of project members.

kvochick dna page

The default setting is only for project administrators to see the names.  In this case, your name would not appear in this list if clicked on by anyone other than the project administrator.

The second option would be for project members only, and the third option would be for the general public.

Please note that as of the writing of this article, I tested several projects and none had clickable numbers, so this option does not appear to be implemented at this time.

My DNA Results

Who can view my ethnic breakdown in myOrigins?

Default:  Project Administrators

Options:

privacy and sharing myorigins

Your two options are to share with your matches, or not share with your matches.  Do not share is the default.

Here is an example of people who are sharing ethnic results in myOrigins.  If you are not sharing, your name would not appear on this list for your matches on the bottom left.

privacy and sharing myorigins example

Lastly, the only ethnicity that is shared with your matches is an ethnicity they have as well.  In this case, the participant only has European ethnicity, so that is the only portion of his matches ethnicity that is shown to him.

Who can view my DNA results in group projects?

This new option is the one causing havoc with administrators and projects.

Default:  Make my mtDNA and Y-DNA private.  It will only be shown to people in my project.

Options:  Make my mtDNA and Y-DNA public.

privacy and sharing group projects

I strongly, strongly suggest that you make this selection public.  Let me give you an example of why.

Let’s say I’m a female, and I want to know if my paternal line has tested.  I would check the appropriate surname project.

In this case, let’s say I’m looking to see if any descendants of John Harrold (Herrell, Harrell, Harrald) who died in 1825 in Wilkes County, NC have tested.

When people share their results, you will be able to find out if your line has tested.

You can see in the example below that my Harrold line is group 7 in the Harrell project, so I now know my line has tested, and I can see my haplogroup designation and Y markers for John’s line.

privacy and sharing Harrell

If none of these John Harrold descendants had elected to share, then I would never be able to find this information.  If you’re looking for any of your ancestral surnames, you won’t be able to find those lines either – if the people who test don’t share.  If people who are looking to test don’t see their ancestral line, they will think there is no one to compare to, and they may be discouraged from testing.  This is certainly not what we want.

The problem today is that people who purchase tests don’t know they aren’t sharing – they assume they are.  Before these new privacy options became available, by default, if you joined a project, you WERE sharing.  Now, new participants aren’t sharing – even though they joined the project – unless they change their options.

Furthermore, if you are a project member, let’s say of the Harrell project, and one of the administrators is trying to help you understand your results in a haplogroup project, the Harrell administrator can’t see your results in the haplogroup project either – so we can’t help you.

PLEASE, PLEASE MAKE THE PROJECT RESULTS PUBLIC UNLESS YOU HAVE A COMPELLING REASON NOT TO DO SO. 

To not share this information defeats the entire purpose of DNA testing.

The most information that any project at Family Tree DNA can reveal is the kit number, surname (only) of tester, paternal (or maternal) most distant ancestor name, country of origin, haplogroup and the DNA markers (Y 12-111 and mtDNA HVR1 and HVR2 only) for which the individual has tested.  Below, a sample project is shown with the maximum amount of information categories shown (except I’ve truncated the markers shown to the right for space reasons.)

privacy and sharing most shown

To review the project setting, by default, only project members who are signed into their account and looking at the project can view your data.  Anyone who is not a project member and not signed into their account cannot see your data in the project

If you select public, anyone looking at the public project page can see your results, like the example above – assuming that the project itself is public.  This is only valid for Y and mtDNA HVR1 and HVR2 data, as mitochondrial DNA coding region and autosomal DNA results are never displayed publicly.

Who can view my mtDNA Coding Region mutations?

Default:  Only you.

Options:

Privacy and sharing mtDNA coding

If you have tested at the mitochondrial full sequence level, you will have tested the full HVR1, HVR2 and coding regions.  While the HVR1 and HVR2 regions are not currently known to reveal medical conditions, the coding region has the potential to carry some medical information.  Therefore, your coding region is NEVER displayed publicly, in a project.  Displaying the coding region is not an option.  If you elect to share your coding region mutations privately, that is up to you.

However, in order for mitochondrial DNA project administrators to correctly group you in mitochondrial DNA projects, they must be able to see your coding region results to know where your mutations fall.

Therefore, you can authorize project administrators to view the coding region results, by project.  In the example above, the individual is only a member of one project.  In order to authorize the Estes project administrator to view the coding region, click the box and then Save.

Account Access

How much access to Project Administrators have to my account?

Default:  Limited

Options:

privacy and sharing project admin access

What do the various authorization levels allow?  Here’s the list.

privacy and sharing admin access

If you have given an administrator full access to your account, which means you have given them your kit number and password, they have full access to everything and that supercedes these options.

Who has full access to my account?

Default:  Only You

Options:  Give the administrator your kit number and password.

privacy and sharing admin full access

Obviously, if you have privately e-mailed your kit number and password to an admin or anyone, Family Tree DNA has no way of knowing or tracking that.

Genealogy Tab

You will find a few more options that affect how your Family Tree is displayed on the Genealogy tab.

privacy and sharing genealogy tab

If you have uploaded a GEDCOM file or completed a family tree online at Family Tree DNA, who can be seen in your tree, and by whom, is controlled by this setting.

Having an entirely private tree is the same as having no tree and is not useful to anyone, so I really have no idea why someone would do this.

Of course, you can always see which of your matches has a tree available and can click on the pedigree icon to view your matches tree, if they authorize matches to view their tree.  On the example below of a Y DNA matching page, the first two participants do have a family tree, as indicated by the little blue pedigree icon, and the third individual does not.

privacy and sharing pedigree

I encourage everyone to either upload your GEDCOM file or create a family tree online at Family Tree DNA.  You can do either by clicking on the Family Tree Link on your myFTDNA menu at the top left of your personal page.

privacy and sharing upload gedcom

Including a family tree makes finding a common ancestor so much easier.  Genetic genealogy is all about sharing and collaboration – and finding those ancestors!

Public Search

Family Tree DNA recently implemented a public search function that allows public searches of online trees and GEDCOMS.

Why would someone search like this?  To see if people from their genealogocal lines have tested.  In other words, people wondering if they should test.  Allowing your tree to be seen publicly is in essence, cousin bait – of course you want them to test – the more the merrier and the better chance you have of breaking down those brick walls.

privacy and sharing search box

Below is an example of how your tree privacy selection, made under the Genealogy Tab above, impacts what can be seen by a public search.

privacy and sharing search

As an example, I did a public search for my ancestor, Jotham Brown.  Sure enough, there are several people at Family Tree DNA who have good ole Jotham in their trees.  That’s great – because it means I have a chance of matching some of them using the Family Finder test.

In the results above, you can see the three options for how trees are listed:

  • Entirely private such that you need to test and will only see the tree if you match
  • Public tree noted by the name of the owner
  • Tree included but noted as private member – which just means the name of the tree owner is not displayed

You can see the actual trees of both the public and private trees that are shown with clickable links.  You cannot see the tree of the private family tree with no link.

Clicking on the trees shows you the following example, depending on the tree display options you’ve selected.  The tree below has selected to mask living people and people deceased within a hundred years.

privacy and sharing tree2

Both trees labeled with a source and private member trees are shown, but with the privacy screening you’ve selected.  The only difference I’ve been able to find between those two options is that the source tree name is given for the public trees, and is not for the private member trees.  However, there is no contact information for the public trees (or any trees), so this is not a way to contact other genealogists.  You can only contact them if you have a match through DNA testing.

The third option is that completely private trees are only shown to matches.  These are noted as a private family tree and the searcher is instructed to purchase a Family Finder test to see if they match.  That is, after all, the goal!!!

privacy and sharing search2

Hopefully this search function will encourage more people to test.  After all, other people who descend from their ancestor are in the data base!

Summary

Privacy settings have changed and we have to figure out the best way to work with the new features.

Let’s make sure our new participants understand their settings and what needs to be changed in order to have their results displayed in the manner they desire.

As always, the way to obtain the best genetic genealogy experience is by sharing.  That’s what collaborative research and crowd-sourcing is all about.  Everyone shares individually and the power of the group is what gives genetic genealogy its awesome results.

So, the 4 key elements for successful sharing are to:

  • Set your project sharing status to public, not private.
  • Enter your most distant ancestor information
  • Share your most distant ancestor information with matches and projects
  • Upload your GEDCOM file or create a family tree at Family Tree DNA

Project Administrators – Disabling E-Mail Notifications

The good news is that in the past couple of weeks, thousands of kits have been processed and Family Finder and other results are being returned to participants.  Copies of these notifications are also being sent to project administrators who manage the projects that these people have joined.

Sometimes that’s great – and sometimes not so much – especially when you’re receiving literally thousands of notifications.

I administer or co-administer a variety of types of projects, from surname to haplogroup to geographic and regional projects – and no offense – but I really don’t want to see everybody’s everything – only what’s relevant to the project at hand.

For example, haplogroup project admins generally don’t want to see Family Finder matches of people within their projects.

The good news is that admins can stop what they don’t want, and continue to receive what they do.

Here’s how to do that if you’re a project administrator.

At Family Tree DNA, under your GAP account, select the project you want to modify (at top right) and then click on the “My Account” tab on the top toolbar, then “My Settings” and you will then be presented with a long list of notification settings on the left.

Now, just unclick the ones you don’t want to receive.  It’s that easy.

IMPORTANT – When finished – click on “Save Settings” at the top left of the page – or it won’t!

GAP Notification Selection

Mitochondrial DNA Projects – Full Sequence Authorization Changes

For people who administer DNA projects that include mitochondrial DNA results – and those who participate – a change in the location of settings at Family Tree DNA will necessitate updating instructions to participants to enable sharing of their full sequence results with project administrators. If the administrators can’t view the results, they can’t group participants appropriately.

This change only pertains to allowing administrators to view the results, and does not allow displaying of full sequence results.  In other words, Family Tree DNA didn’t add or take anything away – they just moved the furniture – in this case, into another room.  However, it’s a little difficult to find without a map – so that’s what I’m giving you.

Whatever a participant’s options were set to previously, they haven’t changed – just the location of those options has changed.  So if a participant has already authorized sharing (viewing) with project administrators, they don’t need to do anything.  This change only pertains to those who need to authorize administrator viewing.

Here are instructions to enable full sequence viewing utilizing the new page layout.

On your personal page, click on the Manage Personal Information link. This hasn’t changed.

full sequence1 v2

The setting to enable full sequence viewing by project used to be under Account Settings, then Match and E-Mail Settings, but now the option is located on the “Privacy and Sharing” tab, all the way to the right.

full sequence2

Look under “My DNA Results” at the question, “Who can view my mtDNA Coding Region mutations?” To the right will be either the words “Only You” or “Some Project Administrators” or “Project Administrators,” based on y our current settings.  Click on whatever words are there – in the example below, click on “some project administrators.”

full sequence3

By clicking on those words, you will display the list of projects that you have joined and you can then enable the project administrators to see your full sequence results.

full sequence4 v2

Check the box of the appropriate project(s) to enable the project administrators to view the full sequence results. Then, remember to click on the orange SAVE button to save, or it won’t.

If project administrators have included instructions on their project pages for participants to enable full sequence viewing, those instructions will need to be updated immediately. Feel free to utilize these instructions.

GAP Messages or How to Look Like an Idiot Without Really Trying

Well, there’s nothing like embarrassing yourself, and publicly at that.  This past weekend, I sent a bulk message as a Family Tree DNA group project administrator (GAP) and it was a mess when it arrived.  Let’s look at what happened and how you can avoid having this happen to you.  Or conversely, if you receive one that looks like this – you’ll know it’s not that your volunteer administrator is an idiot, and you can send them this link.

I use MS Word – every day – and I’m pretty proficient with it.

I don’t use the GAP bulk message tool very often to communicate with my projects.  Some projects are just too big (think Cumberland Gap) and I’ve told all of them to subscribe to my blog to get up-to-date general information.  Therefore, when I send a GAP bulk message to project members, it’s about the project specifically, generally a surname project.  I do this about once a year kind of as a round-up for everyone.

But this year, my message came out as an embarrassing mess.

I typed it in Word with minimal formatting – nothing special.  Then I just copy/pasted it into the bulk mail tool.  It looked good, and I was done.  I pressed send and it was on its way to project members.  However, how it looked when it arrived was not what it looked like when I pressed send, and was embarrassing, to say the least.

Here’s just the first couple sentences.  I can’t bear to look at any more.  The red I’ve added so you don’t have to suffer through reading it.

Hello EstesProject Members and Happy New Year,

Once a year Itake an overall look at our project, do any cleanup I need to do, group orregroup people if they had taken additional tests, and do general maintenance.

You can seethe updated grouping at this link, and if you see anything that you think isincorrect, or amiss, please let me know.

Note the words that are all run together.  As administrators, we give advice and ask people to do things like upgrade their tests.  We need to be credible, and in this case, the tool we have makes us look anything but.  We don’t have to shoot ourselves in the foot – it’s already taken care of for us.

However, I discovered that, hidden away, is a fix.  The problem is that you have to KNOW to utilize it and how many people would know that?  I clearly didn’t.

Here’s what the body of the bulk e-mail tool looks like.  Your message goes below the toolbar.GAP bulk screen

On the toolbar, there is a little W button.  Turns out it’s the magic “Word Behave” button.Gap Word toolbar

Here it is even closer.GAP Word Toolbar closeup

When you’re ready to paste from a Word document, instead of doing “paste,” click on this little W button and follow the instructions to then press Ctl+V.  That tells the GAP tools that this is a Word document and apparently, not to “fix anything.”

And just so you know, this isn’t the only place this little gotcha is lurking.  This same editor tool is utilized in the Public Website page and in the Welcome E-mail as well, so if you’re going to copy/paste from Word, utilize the magic “Word Behave” button instead of using copy/paste.  Can’t remember what you did?  Maybe it’s time to go and check to see what your page looks like and what your automated welcome message looks like when it arrives.