Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Look at my Family Finder ftDNA Results

Back in April, FamilyTreeDNA had a big sale to celebrate DNA Day so I took advantage of it and ordered me a Family Finder autosomal DNA kit. The Family Finder test looks at your autosomal DNA that is inherited from both your Mother and your Father. You can use this to determine who your 1st through 5th cousins are and start building up your genealogical database or verify kinships. I'm very excited to be a part of this scientific technology. You can learn more about ftDNA's FamilyFinder kit on their home page

I ordered my kit on April 15th and I sent it off before I left for NGS in Charleston on May 10th. This is what I did when I received notice that my Family Finder DNA results were in on 6/13/2011:

I logged into my personal ftDNA page with the kit no. and password I was given by ftDNA when I placed my order.

I navigated to the Family Finder test results on the left hand side of the page. I clicked to view “Matches.”

The list of matches that came up defaulted to the “Close and Immediate” relationship setting. This setting displays a list of your matches who have been “suggested” by ftDNA as either 4th cousins or below.  For my results, I have only 3rd and 4th cousins listed and there are 4 pages of results. I can change this setting to "Show All Matches" for example, just by clicking on the drop down box and selecting it from the list. (Hint: If you want to know exactly how many matches there are with the “Close and Immediate” relationship, click on Chromosome Browser and it will tell you). 

Total number of matches (6/13/2011) – 113
Total number of matches time of this post – 117
Total number of “Close and Immediate” suggested (3rd & 4th cousins) matches – 36
Total number of “4th to Distant” cousin matches – 29
Total number of “5th to Distant” cousin matches – 52

The first thing I did was start scrolling through the surnames listed beside each of my matches. The surnames that are in bold (far right) are names that we supposedly have in common (or variation thereof). My very first match is a good example to use (his name has been whited out for privacy purposes). 

My Surnames: (this list is abbreviated for this example)                                                                                  

Cheek, Davis, Fox, Godwin, HillJohnson, Maynard, O'Neal, PetersPulleyRascoRobertsSmith, Steed, Thomas, WestWilliams

My Match’s Surnames:

ChaudoinDickerson, Edmunds, Johnson, Justice, Justus, Overstreet, Parrish, Penn, Pool, Roach, Sivley, Smith, Snoddy, Williams

It was a little hard to swallow how some of these names might be “variations” of each other. I am still trying to figure out the similarity of “Roach” and “Rasco.” And Snoddy has me stumped.

I have a funny story to tell about the Snoddy name. When I got my results, I called my grandmother and rattled off some of these names to her and she told me that my Great-Grandmother had a crush on a one of the Snoddy boys growing up in Dierks, Arkansas! She was often told as a child that had her mother married this Snoddy boys, then her last name would have been Snoddy instead of Binns!!! Can you imagine “Barbara Snoddy?”

One of my matches has the surname of Bracco in bold indicating a common surname. Here are all of my Surnames that begin with a “B”:
I guess it’s supposed to match to Brooks?

Other Observations:
If you have King in your list of Surnames as I do, then anyone who has United Kingdom listed as a country will light up. They will also light up if King is part of their surname, as in Pilkington.

I was surprised by how many people do NOT have any surnames listed AT ALL. 59 out of a total of 118 matches do not have any surnames listed at all. That’s exactly 50%. Come on people, what’s the point?

Surname Occurrences
 - These are the number of matches that shared my most common surnames:
Smith – 9
Johnson – 8
Williams – 6
Davis – 6

Some people have GEDCOMS posted as well. You can tell if they have a GEDCOM by the little pedigree symbol beside their name. This is a nice feature to have in that you can look through their tree and see a name that looks familiar that you might also have in common but might not have loaded in your surname list. I added a surname that one of my matches and I had in common but it has not yet been changed to “bold type;” so I don’t know how long it takes for ftDNA to update these lists. It’s also fun to comb through these pedigrees while you are waiting to hear back from a match you may have emailed. Unfortunately it does not list the children and siblings like your genealogy software at home would. And most of the kinship determination is through cousins, so these pedigrees can’t take you much farther than a name, approximate date, and place.

This is all I looked at the first few days after I received my data. My initial thoughts were summed up into this one thought:

Hmm…this might not be as fun as I thought it would be. Everyone and their brother is gonna have a Smith, Davis, Johnson, Williams, Thomas, and Moore in their family somewhere. When do I get to the good stuff?

How about you? Have you taken the plunge? Any initial thoughts to share?
Feel free to comment below. Next time I will talk about the data and the chromosome browser.


  1. Hi Ginger, I agree. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be. So far everyone I've matched with either shares multiple surnames with me (so how do you know which is the match?) or no surnames at all.

    I go back and forth. I'll work on my matches for a little while to try to identify the connection, then I get burned out and step away for a few weeks (or months).

    Good luck!

  2. I don't put a lot of time in looking at surnames aside from a quick glance. And I usually check the "Exact Spelling for Matches" box up in the filter area. I do a better job browsing the surnames listed just looking for matches than their "soundex" does finding matches.

    Rather than use the surnames listed, I browse their gedcom if they have one. Failing that, I send them an email including my surnames, locations and a link to my family tree. I've found that most of my matches are happy to email back and forth looking for connections. Some have been obvious, others difficult, many are so far impossible. Most of my matches are 6th cousins or further back.

    Some recommendations for contacting matches: limit yourself to a few emails a day. When I first got started I emailed all of my "close" matches at once and got overwhelmed when most of them responded. Also, when I email someone, I add a note next to their name to indicate that I did so. Otherwise I forget who I've contacted and have to go searching through emails.

    And like Tonia said, sometimes you just need to take a break

  3. Thank you Tonia and Valerie for your suggestions. I am already swamped by email as it is, so I have been taking it easy with contacting my matches. I think the first couple of weeks I emailed 2 people and then 2 people emailed me on their own.

    I am also working with several people in my Y-DNA surname project that I manage who are taking the Family Finder test and even though they don't show up as matches to me, I am finding several people in common between us. So that keeps me busy too.

    I'm just kind of dipping my toes into all the various options we have to play with. I DO like the Gedcoms too...

  4. Hi Ginger, my question is How many matches you had before the test of family finder? I just match one person 12/12 and other 23/25 and I have my gedcom for the last 200 years, so I think is unuseful for me. How can I change my mind?

    1. Hi Anonymous, my grandfather took the Y-DNA test and to date we have 12 matches that are same surname. And hundreds more of a different surname. You might want to try the family finder test if you did not have any Y-DNA matches or try uploading your Y-DNA results to to get more matches. Hope this helps!