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Either I don't understand or a better tool is needed.

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  • Either I don't understand or a better tool is needed.

    Either I don't understand how to use FTDNA's Family Finder tools or they need to develop some better tools. Looking at my wife's Family Finder, there are about 30 matches for 2nd-4th cousins (no one any closer). Those that have the greatest shared centimorgans (about 5 people) are from one family who also have a family tree that overlaps my wife's. So, we know exactly how they are related. So far, so good. The other 25 are a complete mystery. No trees or no overlap on the pedigrees, no surnames in common. Nothing.

    Not only that. It's anyone's guess who's related to whom in this mess. All I can do is to randomly look at people in the Chromosome Browser. There's not any way to sort them by, say, which chromosomes they match on. Furthermore, the Chromosome Browser does not seem to prioritize matches by closeness of match or anything else. There's just 245 individuals arranged alphabetically. If there is any tool to group matches by similarity, I missed it.

    Am I off base with this observation? Is there something I missed?

  • #2
    some things that might help sort matches

    It is really helpful to test as many of your closest and oldest maternal and paternal relatives if you can. Use these family members to phase your matches. Parents and grandparents are best however if they are not available, recruit half-siblings and closest cousins on different branches. Build a tree and link their profiles to your tree. I was able to see all sorts of useful patterns when I linked just two other people, a parent on one side and a half-sibling on the other, to my tree. The software will put red maternal logos and blue paternal logos on many of your matches and automatically create separate maternal and paternal columns for these phased matches on your match list.

    Before you use chromosome browser, use the other tools at the upper left hand corner of your screen to create useful subsets from your match list. For example, click on one of those 2nd cousins that fits on a known part of your tree, then select in common with. This will create a much smaller subset of matches for that branch of your family. Then start using the chromosome browser. You can check off up to five individuals at at time before you select chromosome browser.

    Finally, upload your DNA to GEDmatch, where there are more tools to use, some of which are free. You can create and save lists of matches and run comparisons on larger groups.

    I know how frustrating it can be when you don't have any close matches to work with. The best matches I had on Ancestry, FTDNA and GEDmatch were in the neighborhood of 4th cousin. I had to recruit some family members. DNA kits make nice birthday and holiday gifts!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Epiphyte View Post
      It is really helpful to test as many of your closest and oldest maternal and paternal relatives if you can. .....
      Several of my wife's cousins have done the Ancestry DNA test. (In fact, she followed their lead. We just copied her raw data to FTDNA.) I've contacted them asking them to copy their data to FTDNA but with no success. It seems most people just want to know what their ethnic admixture is and have little appreciation for any further uses for the data. So, yes, but it's like pulling teeth.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by DRNewcomb View Post
        Several of my wife's cousins have done the Ancestry DNA test. (In fact, she followed their lead. We just copied her raw data to FTDNA.) I've contacted them asking them to copy their data to FTDNA but with no success. It seems most people just want to know what their ethnic admixture is and have little appreciation for any further uses for the data. So, yes, but it's like pulling teeth.
        Yeah, a lot of people aren't seemingly interested in what autosomal DNA testing is actually useful for... and that is determining genetic relationships, many folks seem to be interested in ethnicity estimates only.

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        • #5
          You really need other relatives to test to "phase" your matches. Epiphyte gave good advice about using them, and about narrowing down the list to use the Chromosome Browser. You can also use the "Filter Matches" drop menu to choose from one of a dozen categories to filter your matches, not just accept the default alphabetical list.

          It is true that many matches do not provide enough information, and/or don't reply. You need to take the initiative and try to engage them by contacting them, and seeing if you can elicit any more information. Make sure your own research goes back as far as you can, so you can recognize surnames and locations in common. Your point that "it's anyone's guess who is related to whom in this mess" is true, but the tools can only help you so far. Genetic genealogy itself is a tool you need to use along with traditional genealogy.

          As far as ordering by chromosome, the way to accomplish that is to scroll to the bottom of the match list page and download a .csv file of all of your matches, then use the spreadsheet to put them in order by chromosome. But, for chromosome segments to be useful, you will need to identify specific segments in common with known maternal or paternal relatives who have done DNA tests.

          FTDNA has a page in the Learning Center for "Family Finder – Chromosome Browser Page." That page, while describing most of the features, is also out of date: it refers to a "Chromosome Browser Tutorial" link on the Chromosome Browser page; this link does not exist anymore, and there is no tutorial available.

          Roberta Estes wrote about "Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA" on her blog (tool #5 in that post is about the Chromosome Browser).

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          • #6
            I'll echo Epiphyte and KATM - you can only start making sense of matches by having known cousins and other close relatives on the same database. A well developed tree is also essential, if the matches are 2C-4C.

            Have you thought of offering to upload your wife's cousins' data to FTDNA for them? They may not want to be bothered with doing it themselves, but willing to have someone else do it for them. Or upload your wife's data to Gedmatch and ask them (or offer) to do the same - point out that Gedmatch is free, and has additional ethnicity calculators

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