How can I make the most of my participation?

Thank you for your time taking the following steps. They are designed to help both you in your research and me in managing a growing project. If this is the first time you have participated in a DNA project, it may feel a little overwhelming at first, but you will get the hang of it. There is a lot of help available. Links will open in a new page so you can easily return to this list.

1) Please sign the Release that comes with your kit allowing FTDNA to check your markers against their entire database, not just against others within our surname project. This is important so when a new person tests who matches you, you will learn of the match even if they have not yet joined our project. You will know after you return your kit if you haven't signed the Release if there is a link in your left-hand menu that says "Sign Release Form."

2) Please visit this website's homepage and choose your preferred methods to receive general surname study updates (Twitter, Facebook, RSS and/or Yahoo! Group). You will also, independently, get periodic updates specifically for those who are participating in the DNA project.

3) Please adjust the user settings at your FTDNA personal page. FTDNA will provide you a link to your personal page at This page will include interpretive tools and preference settings that enhance and customize your experience. Among your options, I strongly encourage you to take the following steps:

  • Under "My Project Groups" click Join Projects to belong to others that relate to your surname. (Other projects our participants have joined include: British Isles, I1, Ireland Heritage, Irish Families, Viking Project, Ely Carroll, and R1b and Subclades. There are many more.)
  • Under "My Account" click Contact Information. Keep this current and be sure to send me any new email address as well. That way you'll continue to get administrative updates from me. Also, consider adding a “next in line” e-mail address for a family member who would continue getting e-mails from FTDNA if something happens and you can't. Note that this person will also get e-mails while you are still able to receive them. Preferably this would be a family member, hopefully with an interest in your family history.
  • Under "My Account" click User Preferences. Be sure you select "I want my matches to be set against the entire database." You can miss learning of matches if this is not set appropriately. Then, below this, *very important*, select to show matches at all marker levels, starting at 12. Even though those in the very common R1b haplogroup will be notified of meaningless 12-marker matches, if someone with your surname joins the database who's only tested 12 markers, you will only be notified of it if you opt to show matches at the 12-marker level!
  • Under "My Maps" click Plot Ancestral Locations. Enter your earliest known direct paternal ancestor (EKA) here, by name and date. Then enter the location if you know it, as specifically as possible; e.g. Finnan, Kilkenny, Ireland, or Boston, Massachusetts, United States. If all you have is a country, enter that.
  • Under "Y-DNA" click Haplotree. This is where you get information about your haplogroup. If there are additional markers you can order that will further refine your haplotype, you can find that out by clicking here. If so, before ordering, first see if any of your matches have already done so. Your result would likely be the same as theirs. The exception is with matches to different surnames in R1b. Then, finding out whether you share the same haplogroup subclade will help determine whether that match is a coincidence or real.
  • Under "Y-DNA" click Matches, then click Click Here to Upload to This external FTDNA database (separate from their internal database - the largest) pools results from testers at all the genealogy DNA testing companies, so you can look for additional matches there. Note, however, that not all participants at all companies upload their data here. Be sure to upload your family tree file here if you can (more about uploading family tree files next). You can enter additional notes about your family in the comments section. If you later order additional markers, don't forget to come back and upload those.
  • Under "Tools" click GEDCOM - Family Tree. Here you can upload your gedcom to the FTDNA database. A gedcom file contains family data exported from family tree software. This will enable your matches to quickly refer to your lineage from their FTDNA personal page for comparison (by clicking the icon to the right of a match under Y-DNA > Matches). Likewise, if your matches have uploaded a gedcom you will have access to their family tree information under Y-DNA > Matches. During the upload you will have the option of hiding details for living people for privacy. And there is good news for those who are not using any family tree software! You can go to yGED and create one simply and for free. Once you have saved it, come back to your personal page and you can upload from your computer. Then upload it to YSearch (see previous).  (A family tree file is also useful for recording pertinent medical information for future descendents.)

4) Please contact me with your family history, if you haven't already, in some text format, either a text description and/or a lineage in something like an outline form. I will copy/paste this to your own page at this website under "Matching Subgroups." This will help others researching your lineage to find your information online and connect with you. Please go to the project page I create for you within your subgroup and click "Subscribe by Email" to be notified of any comments left there by internet visitors. These pages are highly optimized to appear in Google search results.

5) Consider joining Family Tree DNA's Facebook page. Once in a while they will offer sales on some of their tests. They may only last 24 hours, so you will want to get updates from their Facebook page. Because of my own busy schedule, if I learn of one of the sales too late I may not have an opportunity to pass that information along to the group. So it is best for you to follow their Facebook page yourself if you may be interested in additional tests.

6) Consider joining one or more other genetic genealogy mailing lists.

Copyright Martha H. Bowes 2007-Present