ftDNA Family Finder ~ The Results Are In! Now What?

Family Tree DNA (ftDNA), my first love, my favorite. But everyone knows I have tested with many companies, love them all, and so what is all the fuss I make about everyone testing with or uploading to (if possible) DNA results with ftDNA?  It is the bells and whistles (DNA for genealogy tools), and they also test for matching y-DNA (paternal line) and mt-DNA (maternal line) and this means we almost have it all – well a lot of it at one company, Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA has magnificent instructions for all of this, countless other bloggers also have shared instructions so why me?

I am making the instructions as simple, and as stage one beginning, as I can. And I am making screen captures so you don’t need my instructions hardly at all and you can see step by step. There are several other tools also but this will make you an expert in the DNA 101.

When you sign in, you open to the DASHBOARD page.


I first tested mt-DNA as seen in the Order History list on the left, July 11, 2005 and the last upgrade of analyzing my H haplogroup April 3, 2014 – completed on the anniversary of my mother’s passing.

While you have been/are waiting for results you want to take care of business and set up information about your ancestors, if known, including any family tree. You will want to see also the blog I have on privacy and settings for sharing, but you must make sure your settings are turned onto “share with matches” or you won’t see anything when the results come in. On the privacy and sharing page(s) you will see the share-tree settings (and why on earth they call anything public, I still do not know, because the databases are not public). At least make sure you will be sharing with “MY MATCHES” on on the settings for your tree. And on each setting, be sure to click save. In the profile information there is info about earliest known ancestor, so be sure to fill in that and anything else you want to share.

You will also want to add a tree and ancestral surnames so the DNA for genealogy tools can be realized. 

I suggest not adding a tree with all the names you have collected; this only muddles the results when you include all the in-laws and extended family, and ancestors too far back in time to produce meaningful autosomal matches. Add all the known family who could be biologically related. The Family Finder is autosomal DNA, and this DNA test reads a limited number of generations magnificently.  TMI (too much information) is to be avoided in setting up your page for DNA for genealogy.

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The results are in and you see on your dashboard page several categories to click under the FAMILY FINDER section. Matches, Chromosome Browser, Linked Relationships, myOrigins, ancestralOrigins. (The Wellness Report has to be added – they should move that button from that section)

2 blog ff 002a

These are matches. Beside each matching person is their name and information about their earliest ancestors if you click on their name  — that is, if they filled out all the information. Little icons will show you if they took other tests and if they have a tree. On the far right, also blocked out for privacy, are the ancestral surnames a person might have provided. If the two of you share any surnames the computer will highlight those matching surnames in bold print. On your main matches page you can search for specific surnames. See the two checks at the top right for slots to enter names – SEARCH NAME or SEARCH ANCESTRAL SURNAMES. Entering a name in the top slot will give you ONLY testers for whom that is their first, middle or last name. If you  search in the bottom slot, then you will find everyone who has that name among all their ancestors, including themselves. So if you are searching for a common name like Johnson, the top slot will filter out a lot of people you don’t really care about.

The matches list has many pieces of added information. The match date always tells you when each of your matches first turned up, and you can see when new matches appeared. Another feature offers a guess at what the relationship with each match might be — father son, aunt niece, 1st cousin etc.

Next the all-important actual numbers of shared centiMorgans of shared genes (think of it as a measure like ounces, or pounds). The next slot gives you the longest (solid/single/linked) block of shared genes. I will share below, hopefully, links to great charts that show how many centiMorgans two people should share for each relationship distance. (YES, this varies – and we will get to that. People could be related two ways among many other issues – wait – later) The amount of shared genes is well understood and so can be calculated by you and me and all by seeing the combination of how many shared genes, and what is the biggest group of connected genes total. Here is one of my lists of actual results amounts – but below I hope to link to a magnificent chart that is handsome and pretty.

1 centimorgans shared cousins

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There are several categories of information we can learn, accessing the various ways to sort your matches – see the check above and you can go through each section to learn what each tool shows.

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There re important tools to help sort your matches and there are the tools for matching IN COMMON and matching NOT IN COMMON. These tools let you see when two of your matches are or are not related to each other, and that can help you figure out which side of the family some matches are on.  From the list of your matches, see the tiny box to the left of their name and tick the box.  Then select IN COMMON WITH or NOT IN COMMON WITH in the boxes at the top alongside the box for CHROMOSOME BROWSER (That one will let you see people who match in the same place on the same chromosome).

y blog 2nd1x in common

These results are me IN COMMON WITH a maternal 2nd cousin, once removed. Having multiple 2nd cousins from each line to test (or relatives nearer in relationship than 2nd cousin) can separate and identify almost every one of your matches (depending).  No more guessing how you are related to many matches – at least identifying family lines.

You see also on these pages with matches, many of the people have a tiny icon in either red or blue. The people are identified in a male and female shape – dusty blue and mauve pink – but to their right the tiny icons. My child has a purple icon – he has both my paternal and maternal lines, and we see some bright red and some bright blue. This is accomplished by near relatives testing. Using your ftDNA FAMILY TREE you can LINK these people to you on the tree. Then the relatives the two of you share IN COMMON will always automatically show on the match as part of their identification with either the red or blue or purple icon. More on this in the 202 blog on Family Finder matches.

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On your Family Tree DNA tree, when other near family members have tested, the computer system will be able to link you and them and this will flag your matches as to how you are related to matches IN COMMON.

What if you did not test with Family Tree DNA? Some results from some other testing companies are compatible and can be uploaded to the site. Here is the link to upload from MyHeritage (I think yes) 23andme (maybe not depending on when) AncestryDNA (yes I think so but there have been glitches?)


But you really really want to consider adding the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test to your DNA for Genealogy testing. Here is our project to join. You are buying directly from them – this is not buying anything from me.


Another exciting thing about testing with or uploading to ftDNA is that this is where the males test their y-DNA for surname projects to identify family lines. Some of them also take the Family Finder test, so you can learn more  than just autosomal matching. For instance in your FF matches you may be a Mr Smith and you search your matches and you find a cousin Mr Smith. Let’s say you can prove he is related to you via traditional genealogy; if he has tested his y-DNA then you can learn about your y-DNA haplogroup from his results.

The y-DNA extends back hundreds of years to thousands of years  and you can not only learn genealogy;  you can also  learn the anthropology of your haplogroup.  Just learning your basic haplogroup can begin your journey to following its migration through time. Of course there will always be another test to add to learn more – but choose wisely and if you feel a need or desire to add on then you can always add on later during special sales.

Matching is magnificent and let’s ring some bells and blow some whistles.

y blog 2nd1x in common on chromo browser

Your Chromosome Browser (above) will show where on your chromosomes that you match someone else; you can compare up to five people at a time. This helps you see how scattered and sometimes random the matching bits are among the cousins across the chromosomes. All of these people are related IN COMMON with me and with each other. They are all mostly 2nd cousin, 2nd cousin 1x and 1st cousin 1x.  I share again also the chart (below) where the yellow dots show how with each generation we inherit less DNA and that DNA becomes randomly scattered.

cherie fan chart dna best names

au-DNA or at-DNA is shared randomly. By using known near relatives to compare yourself and others to one another you can identify matches and prove ancestral families.

Here is a blank fan chart to share. I made mine with only seven generations.

1 Copy of Copy of Copy of chart copy

A wee bit easier to read for the seniors with just 7 generations and prints a little bit larger on standard copy paper.

This is just the beginning this is just day one – follow on through the next steps…

For cMs charts and explanations galore!


Another Bell and Whistle is the X-gene matching (blog coming soon – with new charts).

Are you a male who has tested only autosomal and wishes to add the y-DNA with all the bells and whistlers for that? Here’s a guide:


2 thoughts on “ftDNA Family Finder ~ The Results Are In! Now What?

  1. Pingback: Black Friday – Bright Smile – 39$ Family Finder Tests from ftDNA | Cherie Lynn's Herstory

  2. Pingback: coronavirus ~ A shorter list of helps and a 1-page list of links for resources | Cherie Lynn's Herstory

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