Sunday, March 24, 2013

Updated Family Finder DNA Results

Last Month I talked about the changes that Family Tree DNA was making to their popular Family Finder test. They have been converting their Family Finder test results from Build 36 to the NCIB industry-standard Human Genomic Build 37 – the latest version of the autosomal DNA reference data set being used - for the past two months in order to refine their matching algorithms and provide better matches to their customers.  Many customers saw the following message from Family Tree DNA on their homepage this month:

You may notice that some of the matches you had previously are no longer listed. In almost every case, those matches are in the distant and speculative range. Some may be legitimately related, but many were likely “noise”—small coincidental matching segments that create the illusion of matching. The more distant the relationship, the less likely a match can be predicted with confidence. We are aware that you may have spent a significant amount of time researching those matches, but Family Finder was specifically designed to find matches within the past 5-6 generations.
As the field continues to advance, we're obligated to continually apply the latest scientific advances not only to current and future tests, but to those that have already been performed. Sometimes this will involve changes to your results. Because this particular field is still evolving, it is likely that future adjustments will be made to refine your results.
Fortunately, I wasn’t one of the few who completely lost their matches, but I know some people who were.  Before the upgrade, I had 341 matches. At the time I wrote my last blog post on the 25th of February outlining these changes, I had dropped down to 298 matches. Today I have 304 matches, however 57 of them are new.

How can I tell that they are NEW, you ask?

Prior to the change to the new build, I had assigned a known relationship to every single one of my matches. This is necessary to do in order to look at your In Common With (ICW) matches.  The ICW feature consists of a list of matches that you have in common with at least one other match. So if I am a match with my mother and I want to know who of my matches is also a match to my mother, or In Common With her, then I can use the ICW feature in the drop down box of my Family Finder matches page, select my mother, and then get this list and export it to a file.

At this time, you have to have a known relationship assigned to each person in order to get an ICW list for them. This is the little orange button beside each match’s name that says “Assign.” You do not have to assign a specific relationship, especially if you do not know what it is. I assign “distant cousin” to everyone. And they do not have to “confirm” or accept it for it to work. Family Tree DNA has promised to eliminate this requirement in the future, however we are not sure yet when this will happen.

Once I have assigned “distant relationship” to all of my matches, I can either pull up each match, all 300+ of them one by one in the drop down box and then download their list of ICWs to excel or I can use a nifty tool created by Rob Warthen that is accessible on

To use this tool, all you have to do is register once, then enter your ftDNA kit ID and password (or 23AndMe) and select to download your data. Three files will be downloaded:
  1. Your raw chromosome data – this is similar to your chromosome browser data except you don’t have to go through the painstaking task of selecting 5 matches at a time to download, then compiling 40 or 50+ csv files into one excel spreadsheet – this tool does all of this for you automatically
  2. Your In Common With file – again, saves you the time by automating the task of selecting your matches one by one in the drop down box and downloading their ICW matches – these are all compiled into one spreadsheet
  3. Your list of matches – this is the same file you would download from the list of matches which includes their name, email address and surnames

The download can take up to thirty minutes to download, so let it rip. Also, it only works if you have every single one of your matches assigned as a distant cousin or some known relationship.

So going through my list of matches again, anyone who has an orange “Assign” button beside their name I have labeled as a new match. In last month’s post I also mentioned that Family Tree DNA was allowing people from other companies such as 23AndMe to transfer their test results to the ftDNA database (which is one of the reasons they had to upgrade to the latest genomic build). So some of these new matches might be 23AndMe matches.

I am excited to be back on track with my matches and to finally be able to work with 23AndMe matches. I am also hopeful that the new algorithms will results in better quality matches. Genetic genealogy is a time consuming “hobby.” Any and all tools that can help to streamline the process of building connections are welcome.

To Cite This Post:
Ginger R. Smith, "Updated Family Finder DNA Results" Genealogy By Ginger, 24 March 2013, ( : accessed [date])