Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Setting up for great DNA matches

If we hope to find more DNA matches, we have to first get our DNA accounts set up properly, create some online family trees, and then advertise like crazy.

Since I was in the process of finding my paternal surname line, I first ordered a Y-DNA test from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Then I had to properly set up my FTDNA account. Here are the important steps.


First, log into www.familytreedna.com (or ftdna.com -- they both work) with your kit number and password. Next, click on your name in the upper-right of the screen to bring up the drop-down menu.

Family Tree DNA account settings

Whether you click My Profile, Privacy Settings, or Account Settings, you will see the following tabs. You will want to click on each one of them.

On the Contact Information tab, make sure that your email address is correct so that people on your list of matches can contact you. Make sure that your mailing address is current in case Family Tree DNA needs to send you another kit (this Thompson kit is now on its second DNA sample because I have run so many tests).

On the Account Settings tab there is a section called My Story. Here is where I post links to my online family trees and any other information I think is important. You may want to add a profile photo because people are more likely to contact someone with a photo.

On the Genealogy tab you will want to pay special attention to all three links: the Family Tree, Earliest Known Ancestors, and the Surnames link.

On the Family Tree link, change the default settings, and at least set Deceased People Born 100+ Years Ago to "Public."

In the Earliest Known Ancestors there is a section for Direct Paternal and Direct Maternal. These are for Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). In the Direct Paternal section you enter the name of your most distant known ancestor on your father's side (your father's father's father's father . . .). This is the name that will appear on all Y-DNA projects. Enter a name, date, and place.  Here's an example: "Electious Thompson, b. 1750 Maryland."  In the Direct Maternal you enter your mother's mother's mother . . .). This name will appear on all mitochondrial DNA projects.

The Surnames section is for autosomal DNA (the Family Finder test). Here you will edit surname information that will be created once you add your family tree.

Next, click the Beneficiary Information, and enter the contact information for someone who can take over your account when, at some time in the future, you are no longer able to do it. Remember, we are setting up for the long term!

Last, click Privacy and Sharing. This one is critical. Change almost all of the default privacy settings.  For example, change "Who can view my DNA results in group projects?" to "Anyone." Otherwise you will join a project but nobody will be able to see your results. Our results are only useful when we compare them to others.

Family Tree DNA Privacy and Sharing


Now, let's look at the importance of adding a family tree. This is critical for autosomal DNA (FTDNA's Family Finder test) because you will be trying to find matches on all of your ancestral lines. 

Family Trees are very important for Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA too. Below is a portion of the Thompson surname project at Family Tree DNA. Notice that on the DNA Results page of Y-DNA surname projects all I can see is the name of the most distant known ancestor.  It appears in the Paternal Ancestor Name column. The name that appears is the information that each man entered into the Earliest Known Ancestors setting above. I can see the ancestor's name, but I can't see how each man is related to his ancestor.

Family Tree DNA surname project

However, I can see a family tree for each of my matches, if they have added one to their account. I need to log into my Family Tree DNA account and go to myFTDNA>Y-DNA>Matches to see my list of Y-DNA matches.

Here is my list of Y-DNA matches:

Family Tree DNA Y-DNA matches

Notice that many of these people have a blue icon under their name that looks like this:

This means that these people have added a family tree. If I click that icon I can see their tree. Family trees are absolutely essential to DNA testing, so you will want to create one immediately and keep it updated as you make new discoveries.


Log into your Family Tree DNA account. On the left side of your screen click on myFTDNA, then Family Tree.

You will be taken to this screen where you can build your online family tree:

You will start with yourself and then add your parents, grandparents, etc. Add as much birth and death information as you can. You can also add descendants of all of your ancestors--the more, the better! You will be using this tree for all of your DNA tests including Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA.

Adding each ancestor one-by-one is fine if this is your first tree, but what if you already have a family tree? You certainly don't want to start over from scratch!

If you have a family tree in a genealogical software program or in an online database, in most cases you can export your tree and upload it to other software programs or websites. You will be using something called a GEDCOM file which stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunications.


Since a large number of people have family trees at Ancestry.com I will show you how export your Ancestry family tree and load it to Family Tree DNA.

Log into your Ancestry.com account. Click on the Trees tab, then select the tree you want to export. I named one of my trees "DNA tree," and that is the one I will export.

Next, click on the name of your tree, then click Tree Settings in the drop-down menu.

Once you're on the Tree Settings page look at the right side of the screen, and scroll down until you see the "Manage your tree" section. Click Export Tree.

exporting ancestry.com family tree

This will start the process of downloading a GEDCOM file for you.

Once the processing has finished you will see this ink:

Click Download Your GEDCOM File. This file will be downloaded to your default download folder (usually the "Downloads" folder on your computer). The file name will be the name of your tree followed by .ged.


Now, again, log into your Family Tree DNA account. On the left side of your screen click on myFTDNA, then Family Tree. On the next screen click Upload GEDCOM, and select the file you downloaded.  Mine was called "DNA Tree.ged"

You're ready to go!


In 2005 I only had one Y-DNA match, so I needed to find other men to test, too. I wanted to find descendants of my ancestor, Electious Thompson, and determine what his Y-DNA results would have looked like. I needed to find descendants from different lines to compare. I also wanted to advertise my Thompson DNA results to leave a permanent record and to encourage other people to test.

Although genealogists may have family trees on multiple websites, a large number of them will have a tree at Ancestry.com. So on my tree at Ancestry.com I traced descendants of Electious Thompson. I then took screen shots of my paternal DNA results and posted the image to every direct-line male ancestor.  Here's an example:

The most important thing is to MAKE YOUR TREE PUBLIC! A private family tree is useless for DNA testing. You want other people to see your documented ancestry and your DNA results. You want them to contact you! I have had many people contact me about my tree. When they do, I look to see if they are a good DNA testing candidate and ask if they'd be willing to do a DNA test. I also go looking for people, not just on my Thompson line but on all family lines. For example, if I want to find more about my mother's father's family through Y-DNA testing I have to look for a male cousin who is in the direct male line. I trace up each family line, then back down to find a male descendant still carrying the surname of interest. I search public family trees for my ancestor's name, then see how the owner of the tree is related to my ancestor. I contact these people, establish a relationship, then ask if they'd be willing to take a DNA test so that we can extend our family line. This has worked many, many times. I now have Y-DNA for several of my ancestral surnames.

I recruited a few descendants of Electious Thompson to take a Y-DNA test. Other people showed up as matches by testing on their own. They have not all joined the Thompson DNA project, but most have.


After establishing family trees, posting my DNA in multiple places, and recruiting others to take a Y-DNA test, here are the people related to me in the Thompson DNA project:

All of these people are related, and all except one were stuck in the 1700s. But Kit 101921 stated that he was descended from Robert Thompson, born about 1640. Of course, I could only see Robert's name, not any details about him or his descendants. I knew I was somehow related to Robert Thompson because we have matching Y-DNA, but I didn't know how we were related. So I contacted the owner of Kit 101921. Did he have a family tree? Yes, he did. And his tree solved my mystery. Who was the father of Electious Thompson, and how did DNA prove it?  You're going to find out, and it's incredible! See Breaking through brick walls with Y-DNA.

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