Understand Your Results and Matches - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Results and Matches

When should I expect my results back?
Figure on about 8 weeks from the time you order your kit and you will be prepared for the wait.  You can track the progress of your test through the lab by going to your Personal Page at FTDNA and clicking on "Pending Lab Results".  For more information on using your Personal Page at FTDNA, click here. 
What are "markers"?
DNA testing for Genetic Genealogy focuses on a specific part of the y-chromosome on the DNA strand. There are particular places that the lab looks at (similar to addresses on a street) where patterns repeat over and over. The lab counts the number of times the pattern repeats, and that is your count for that marker. By comparing these counts (the number you see for each address on your test results), you can see how closely you match others who have been tested.

What determines a "match"?
In the simplest case, analyzing results can be a review of the number at each marker to confirm a perfect match (say 37/37). However, in most cases, there will some matches and some mismatches. Results are evaluated by counting the number of exact matches and the number of mismatches. (If the mismatches are one number apart, they are considered a “one step” mutation. If they are two numbers away, they are considered a “two step” mutation, etc. Typically, a two step mutation is counted as two mismatches. In these cases, contact the testing firm for guidance.)
Most researchers want to know if they are "related" to another person or family. Guidelines to help you understand your results when comparing them to other results
How do I compare my results to other people?
Once your results are available, you'll be able to go into your personal kit page at FTDNA and do a search for yDNA matches. You'll always see all of the other results in your surname - and at that time, you'll be able to select a preference that allows you to compare against all others of all surnames who opt in to the FTDNA internal comparison. FTDNA will send you automated messages when you have a match (either with only your surname project members or to their internal "opted-in" database) - depending on your selection. More information about matches at FTDNA
When your results are back, we'll post them on your surname project's Results page. More information about your matches on the project's website.

You'll also be able to upload your results to Ysearch (FTDNA's public database - open to all) and see who you match there.
In addition, you can compare your mtDNA results at Mitosearch.
What is Y-Search?
Y-Search is the largest worldwide public Y-DNA database with the most extensive number of markers. It allows people who have tested with the different companies to make their results available for comparison. Click here to go to Y-Search.

How do I upload my results to Y-Search from FTDNA?
Go into your personal page at FTDNA and click on "Y-DNA matches", then look in the middle of the page - at the bottom of the box called "Additional possibilities for searching matches". There is a link to "Click here to upload to Ysearch.org
What is a "lineage"?
Results included in a "Lineage" share a recent common ancestor since the advent of surnames (circa 1100 AD)
o On the Surname Project Results Page, Lineages are grouped and share a color.
o The result in the Lineage row shows the projected markers for the Lineage's common ancestor (Lineage
o Each man should match the Lineage result at least 23/25 to be considered a satisfactory match
o Each place where a man does not match the Lineage haplotype is shown in a contrasting color
o Where the ancestral marker cannot be projected, a question mark is shown instead
o Results shown in a general grouping do not share a common ancestor if they are shown in a different color.
o A 12 marker match may be shown as "Possible" for the lineage, but will not be declared part of the Lineage until he has upgraded to 25 or more markers. 
What is the Earliest Known Ancestor (EKA)?
As the name suggests, this is the person who is the farthest back of your family tree that you have been able to trace through a paper trail. When your results are returned at Family Tree DNA, you will be given your own personal page. Click on "User Preferences". Scroll to the bottom of the page for the section marked "Displaying the Most Distant Known Ancestor" . There you can fill in your earliest known ancestors. (Be sure to provide date and location info to go with your Ancestor's name)  When we know the EKA of a participant, we use that name in displaying test results on the "Results" page.
What is a line leader?
A Line Leader is responsible for all of the research and information on his family. Ideally, this is all of the descendants of an immigrant, but reality will tell you what the family span actually is. As you and others start matching (and not), you will break into genetic groups working together to understand the full story of your family. Hopefully, this will extend to families whose paper trails connect into the Home Country, which will give you a fresh research focus. You'll be the lead in deciding how to include newly found cousins and will work to resolve the inevitable conflicts that rise. The better you are in making everyone feel valued and included, and in sharing the work, the stronger your research group will be.
back to top

Can I correlate my mtDNA results to others in my maternal line?
There really isn't a way to correlate mtDNA to a line, as every woman who marries into a surname family carries a different mtDNA. You will learn your haplogroup, which tell you which 'branch of woman' you descend from on your mother's side. In addition, you will be told of the mutations that are present. These allow you to locate those with whom you share a maternal heritage. However, this is too far in the past to be able to link paper trails. A number of folks have started mtDNA projects to increase the learning, and there is a lot of hope for the potential.
More information about mtDNA
mtDNA Haplogroup Projects

Can I remove my test results from the database at some later time?
Yes. Just like an email list, if you decide that you want your data deleted from the database, you may email FTDNA, they will look up your ID number, and ask that it be deleted from the Database.

What is a haplogroup?
A group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a SNP mutation. A SNP test confirms a haplogroup. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations, Example: R1b1. Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups have different haplogroup designations. Haplogroups pertain to your deep ancestral origins dating back thousands of years.
More information about Haplogroups
What does a "haplogroup match" mean?
Haplogroups (Haplo) is a grouping by deep ancestry (think 1000s and 10,000s of years). Men with the same Haplogroup do share a common ancestor - but he lived a long time ago. Haplogroup matches give you an idea of where men with your dna result report as their origins.

Haplogroups are distinct separations. I is totally different than R. An R1b is very different that an R1a, but an R1b, R1b1 and R1b1c are just different levels of reporting detail and do go together. I and either I1a or I1b can go together but I1a and I1b cannot.

Why are haplogroups shown in different colors on the results page?
If the participant was SNP tested, his haplogroup will show in green. If he has not been SNP tested, FTDNA will make an estimate of his haplogroup based on his exact match to someone who has been SNP tested. In this case, the haplogroup will show in red, indicating that it is an estimate. 
At WorldFamilies, we use black when the estimate didn't come from FTDNA.
Will my results be automatically compared to other surnames?
Once your kit is returned, you have access to your personal page at FTDNA, giving you access to some info. However, you do not have access to most parts of the FTDNA structure until your results are in. Joining additional projects and comparisons outside the project are not automatic.

Once your results are returned, you have much more access and options. You will be able to adjust your preferences, determining whether you compare to results outside of the project. You can also list your earliest known paternal ancestor (relates to your yDNA test) and your earliest known maternal ancestor (relates to your mtDNA test - if you have one) At this time, you may join additional projects, such as a second surname project, a geographic project, a y-haplogroup project, and if applicable - a mtDNA haplogroup project. (these are all in addition to your original surname project). You can also upload your results to Ysearch and upload a gedcom.
How do I present my results on the internet?
Surname projects at WorldFamilies.net have a Results page as part of the project's website. The results are shown there, identified by a kit number and the earliest known ancestor (if known), with results that match grouped by color, and eventually separated into lineages.
Family Tree DNA has a free-access page for their projects. Project Administrators can choose to use the FTDNA public website for their project, either alone or in conjunction with a project website at WorldFamilies.net.  Both are free. 
I have sponsored several tests from my family lines and put my name on all of them, since the person tested did not want to be involved.  How can I know which one I’m being contacted about when I have a match on one of the tests?
You may want to use the surname of the man for whom you sponsored the test as your middle name on that test, as a way of identifying each test.

I have no matches at all, even at 12 markers.  What do I do?
Even though it is disappointing to have no matches, there are some things you can do:
  • Upgrade the test.  There is a potential for matches at 25 or 37 markers - which are not being identified because the difference(s) lie in the first panel.  If you are expecting to find the matches in other surnames, then you should definitely upgrade to at least 37 markers.  If you want to do it in two steps, the cost is the same as doing it in one.  You just wait twice as long.  Once you have matches, you may even need to upgrade to 67 markers - but there is little advantage to an upgrade to 67 markers until you do have matches.
  • Once you have at least 37 markers, post your results at www.ysearch.org
  • Test your most distant known cousin (Confirms your most recent common ancestor, reassures you of your results, or identifies a "Surname Discontinuity")
  • Test a known descendant of a family you think you should match or a descendant of a family living in the area where yours lived who was closely associated with your family (possible unrecorded adoption).
  • If these fail, you may want to work on another ancestral line while you wait for someone to match your result.
I only have a match at 12 markers.  What should I do?
  • A 12/12 match - even with the same surname - can be a random match. If a solid paper trail connects you to the 12/12 match, you can be reasonably certain of shared ancestry, but without the connecting paper trail - you can only be sure by upgrading - usually to at least 37 markers
  • The 12 marker test is best for identifying the "deep" ancestry of your participant.  It has done that by reporting his haplogroup - which is the ancestry of 10,000s of years ago.  Matches to your 12 marker results will typically have a significant number of random matches that are meaningless.  This makes it very difficult to identify which of your 12 marker matches actually indicates a shared recent common ancestor.
  • That said, if you are comparing your representative directly at 12 markers with another man who has a paper trail that connects the two men together (probably within your surname) and a 12/12 match, you may reasonably conclude that the two men do share a common ancestor - as you expected.
  • However, 12 markers is a very low resolution test.  The yDNA is passed from father to son, essentially unchanged - except for small mutations which occur at random.  While there is a probability that your result is identical to your paternal ancestors from long ago - there is also a significant possibility that one or more mutations have occurred through the generations. 
  • When comparing to a person with whom you have no paper trail connection (who may also have accumulated mutations) - you are not able to determine whether a match (or near match) is genealogically meaningful (indicates recent common ancestry) or not.
I have a match with someone of a different surname. What does this mean?
  • Unrecorded adoptions, affairs, unrecorded name changes, ... low mutation rates (meaning the common ancestor was further back in time)  are some of the reasons you might share genetic ancestry with someone of a different surname.
  • You and the others who you match should be examining paper trails to see if there are any intersection points.  Sometimes, folks can find those and discover a likely story of how they are related.  Many times, they can't.  You can be 37/37 with someone and still not share a common ancestor for 400 years (though that is rare.)   You also should be identifying which of these matches has the furthest paper trail and examine the theory that you all descend from that family - or maybe an older one, with yet a different surname.
  • There are some who say that you should test at 67 markers when you are trying to confirm matches across surnames.  Generally, more is better.  We consider 37 an absolute minimum for this comparison and 67 even better.
  • When you have a very close match across surnames - these are things you can do:
    • Contact the men you are matching and ask them to share paper trail info - and to examine their paper trails for your surname showing up as maiden name, middle name or given name in their direct paternal line.  (Do the4 same for their surname in your known paternal line)
    • Contact the administrator of the surname project of the men you match and let him know of your specific interest, along with enough info for him to validate your match for himself.  He may have useful insights that will help you.
    • Consider an upgrade to 67 markers to assure of the closeness of the match.
    • Suggest that the matching men join your surname project so that comparisons and communications are easier by having all of the affected men in the same project.  And - join their surname project.
What is the difference between R1b, R1b1, and R1b1b2?
  • The distinctions for R1b, R1b1, and R1b1b2 are simply degrees of precision, based on detailed testing of some individuals and then matching yDNA results to those who were actually haplogroup (SNP) tested.  Because of the number of tests, men who are actually close matches may get varying precision of haplogroup estimates.  If all reference testing had been to the same precision and the programming was operating perfectly, these men would all get the same haplogroup estimate.  it to at least one of the individuals as R1b1b2.
  • R1b1b2h* is a more precise branch of the haplogroup tree than R1b1b2h, which is more precise than R1b1b2, which is more precise than R1b1, which is more precise than R1b.   The precision comes from specialized testing to confirm/deny the existence of identifying mutations which identify branching points.  As all of the men in a genetic group (a Lineage ) will be on the same branch, we are able to define the Haplogroup for a Lineage as the haplogroup for the most precise SNP testing that has been done for a member of the Lineage.   However, each individual receives a haplogroup estimate based on his own specific markers and these are generally less precise. 
  • As long as two men's haplogroup estimates don't diverge, they can be consistent with being in the same family even though they aren't reported identically.  (As an example, we can have R1b1, R1b1b2h and R1b1b2h reported for various men in a Lineage.  Each of these is more or less precise than the others - but with no conflicting element)   However, we couldn't have an R1b1b1 and an R1b1b2 in the same genetic family - as those are two separate branches, as are R1b and R1a.
What is a “false match”?
Often a match at 12 or 25 markers is then tested at higher levels.  When the two men don't show up as a match at a higher level, this is an example of the false match.  You should always use the highest comparison level available to you - and "ignore" the lower level comparisons.
What is an “Apparent Ancestral Profile”?
  • Please keep in mind that the "Apparent Ancestral Profile" and the "Apparent Haplogroup Profile" are two different things.
  • By looking at the men who match and form a Lineage,  we can estimate what the marker values for their common ancestor would have to be. This is the Apparent Ancester Profile. We put those marker numbers for the Apparent Ancestral Profile in a row row above the results for the members of the Lineage.  We assume that his descendants would have had the same mutations that he had. 
  • Sometimes a lineage includes men who have a different value at a certain marker, and if so, we use the value that appears most often in the Lineage.  If there is no value that represents the majority of the lineage members, we put a question mark at that DYS for the Apparent Ancestral Profile.
What is the “Apparent Haplogroup Profile”?
  • The Apparent Haplogroup Profile is the common marker values for men who have that Haplogroup.  If we could go all the way back to the very first fellow who had that Haplogroup (thousands of years ago) we assume that he would have had the marker values that are shown for his Haplogroup on this page:  http://www.worldfamilies.net/geo/haplogroups/results  Of course, we can't be sure of that, but based on the thousands of tests that genetic genealogists have done, they have been able to come up with an "apparent" haplogroup profile.
  • The Apparent Haplogroup Profile is shown across the top of the group of men grouped under the heading "Haplogroup * - Not Yet Assigned to a Lineage", since these men have no matches in the project, as yet, and thus have no Apparent Ancestral Profile.
  • We use this profile only as a basis of comparison for all results in the Haplogroup.
How do I use my mtDNA matches for genealogical research?
  • Upload your maternal GEDCOM, if you have one, so that others can see your maternal pedigree.
  • Upgrade to FGS (Full Genetic Sequence) to limit your matches to a handful, or to at least the HVR2 test to refine the matches somewhat.