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How does FTDNA determine surnames?

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  • How does FTDNA determine surnames?

    Sorry if this has been discussed before. When I look at FamilyFinder Matches, I see that many matches have a list of surnames, but do not show a family tree. I'm wondering how FTDNA determines surnames for people who don't post a family tree? Does that mean that the surnames were actually entered by the person who owns that kit, or is there some other algorithm that FTDNA uses to produce the surname list? Or do those people have a hidden family tree that contains those surnames?

  • #2
    from dashboard "managing personal information"
    ....genealogy tab
    ........surnames

    These are entered one by one and, in the best cases, also include locations. Thank you to all the thoughtful people who include locations !!! It is really helpful.

    But if you upload a gedcom file it wipes out this carefully edited surname list and replaces it with a lot of - just stuff. Most people don't bother to then go in and hand edit.

    This is why a number of us don't upload gedcom files here.

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    • #3
      Yes, you can enter surnames manually. You can add place data, if you like. You can find the place to add them under My Profile > Genealogy > Surnames.

      Some people prefer this to trees for a number of reasons.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Woody1 View Post
        Sorry if this has been discussed before. When I look at FamilyFinder Matches, I see that many matches have a list of surnames, but do not show a family tree. I'm wondering how FTDNA determines surnames for people who don't post a family tree? Does that mean that the surnames were actually entered by the person who owns that kit, or is there some other algorithm that FTDNA uses to produce the surname list? Or do those people have a hidden family tree that contains those surnames?
        I'm confused by this commentary. I don't think FTDNA can or ever could determine surnames. Nor do I think there are any "hidden" family trees here.

        IMO, the problem is that of those who are here but have never entered anything at all. Approximately half of those here have entered nothing.

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        • #5
          Lump Methodology

          If the names and variants are close they get "lumped" together, or at least this is what I have gathered over the years from my research on FTDNA sites ;-)

          Hey, FTDNA had to start somewhere. With all of the surnames out there no company can afford to identify each and every single surname before starting a genealogy business online. As it is the Surname Forums appear to be an acknowledgement of our more specific surname-identification needs. I have just submitted a request to start a "Johnstons of Annandale" forum. We are tired of being lumped in with over 3,000 others who are not connected to us even remotely.

          Good hunting,

          Cliff.
          Last edited by Cliff43J; 5th December 2017, 11:18 AM. Reason: Additional information

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          • #6
            I have just PMed you Cliff as we have Johnstons in our tree.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MoberlyDrake View Post
              Yes, you can enter surnames manually. You can add place data, if you like. You can find the place to add them under My Profile > Genealogy > Surnames.

              Some people prefer this to trees for a number of reasons.
              People may have good reasons for not including a tree, but I would much prefer a well-documented tree to a list of surnames. A list of surnames without a tree makes it pretty hard to get anything useful from a match. I would not choose not to publish my tree just to get a better list of surnames.

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              • #8
                For the first kit I managed here it was the list of surnames AND location that found the first match. The relative's kit was being managed by a relative who isn't related to me. I recognised the name of the village where my gtgt-grandmother was born, and I knew three of her siblings married into the Taylor family. Taylor on its own wouldn't have caught my eye as easily.

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                • #9
                  Locations

                  While it can be helpful that locations have been added in the surname list (especially when no tree has been uploaded), it can also be a detriment. Among my surnames are KENT and ENGLAND. ftDNA finds a match to KENT for anyone who lists a location of "Kentucky", and of course I match anyone who lists a location of "England". This makes identifying matches on those surnames quite tedious.

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                  • #10
                    Surnames

                    I found my surname list from MyHeritage. If you have a family tree loaded there when you review your DNA match with someone else who has a family tree loaded, it shows you the surnames for each of you.

                    the other thing I try and do if I find a good match is try and get that person to upload their gedcom file to Gedmatch.com
                    They have a tool to look at both files and show you the common matches.

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                    • #11
                      I don't have a tree. I removed mine when FTDNA made it possible for other people to link their trees without permission. Copying is bad enough!

                      But I would also prefer for people to get in touch with me so we could discuss our genealogy and matching DNA segment!!! How can we help one another and make any progress in either genealogy or DNA triangulation if there is no discussion!!!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bob Hesse View Post
                        While it can be helpful that locations have been added in the surname list (especially when no tree has been uploaded), it can also be a detriment. Among my surnames are KENT and ENGLAND. ftDNA finds a match to KENT for anyone who lists a location of "Kentucky", and of course I match anyone who lists a location of "England". This makes identifying matches on those surnames quite tedious.
                        But it is pretty easy to do here, in that one click reveals the entire list of surnames/locations. I always check each person's list because some ethnicities have many spelling variations for surnames, and the filter will miss them.

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                        • #13
                          I just don't find the surnames list all that useful. For instance, I usually find that I have to dig deep into a family tree to find a connection. Even knowing a surname doesn't tell me much about how we're connected. Many times, I've spent a lot of time working out the family tree for a match who didn't post one. Often, I'm able to work out the pedigree for that person, but it takes a lot of work. If I'm able to work out their tree with very little information, they would be able to do it easily.

                          Sometimes, I will contact a match to get more information. Even then, unless they provide access to a tree, I spend a lot of time working out their connection.

                          I don't understand why people don't want to publish their tree, unless they're not interested in exchanging information or they just don't have the time or ability to put together a tree. At the very least, if they provide a tree with a couple of generations, I can work out the connection more easily. I'm sure that some people get useful information from other people's trees, but don't want to post theirs. That's their right, if they want to do that, but it's not very helpful.

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                          • #14
                            I got behind when I moved and never have caught up, but I used to contact every single match I got here. It's become rather useless as the response rate is near zero these days.

                            But I've hardly ever found any connection with any match, whether I write, view trees or surname lists, or construct a tree for the match, which I sometimes do.

                            Ancestry is a little better, at least when it comes to close matches. But 7 years of working DNA hasn't broken down a single brick wall, and I'm beginning to think it's totally useless except for adoptees looking for parents. It seems to work with very close generations, but finding 3rd great-grandparents appears to be impossible.

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                            • #15
                              MoberleyDrake - I have matches that I could help find their gtgt-grandparents and beyond if only they'd read their messages and reply to messages! I've e-mailed people and said "I know who your gtgtgt-grandmother was - we're descended from her as well" (and we're a DNA match). I've had no reply.

                              Or there are the frustrating ones (at another site with a large database) with HUGE private trees which get bigger by the day who are very possessive of their information. If they weren't in the top ten matches and if they lived halfway across the world I might not be so keen to work out the connection, but they live in the same country which has a population of only 4 million residents and are also estimated as a 4th to 6th cousin to a "cousin" who (unfortunately in this instance) is descended from 3 of my gt-grandparents, so it makes it harder to narrow down the connection. I've invited her asa guest to a very cropped tree - ONLY the direct line and no siblings etc because I know she'll copy it ALL on to her huge tree and she won't invite me to see any of it.

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