“Are unassigned DNA test kits interchangeable? Does Diahan Southard do one-on-one DNA consultations for genealogy?” A listener asks, and we have the answers.
Simona recently wrote in with compliments and two questions for Diahan Southard. Here’s the Q&A, on more resources from Diahan AND whether DNA test kits from Family Tree DNA are interchangeable if they haven’t been use:
Q: “No one, I mean NO one makes DNA easier and more interesting than…your DNA expert Diahan does! I am curious as to what Diahan charges for phone or email consults regarding who to test for what.”
A: Yes, I agree, Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide and the resident Genealogy Gems genetics expert, is amazing! Diahan answers a lot of those initial question about who to test for what in her handy Getting Started: Genetics for the Genealogist Quick Guide (click to view/purchase). It’s very affordable and can give you inexpensive answers without needing to pay for one-on-one consultation.
That said, Diahan does offer DNA consultation services. She also teaches a series of how-to videos that’s, again, much more affordable than a consultation (and much more affordable than taking the wrong test or staring at your results afterward with NO idea what to do with them next). Like Simona says, Diahan demystifies DNA like no else does, and these video tutorials are no exception.
Genealogy Gems listeners get a discount on her video series. A year’s access to is regularly $39.95, but Gems listeners can click on a special link to get it for just $24.95. Click here to learn more.
Q: “I have 5 FamilyTree DNA kits on the counter. Are they all the same kits in the raw? I intended them for a Mtdna test, a Y test and 3 autosomal tests for various family folk. Can I switch tests and persons at this stage?”
A: Diahan says: “Yes, the Family Tree DNA kits she has can be used for any test, provided you correlate everything with the customer service team at FTDNA and get all the kit numbers changed to the appropriate tests.
Diahan Southard is definitely a valuable “GEM” here at Genealogy Gems. Whether you’re just starting to learn about DNA testing for genealogy research, or you’re trying to get the most out of your results, click here to read tons of free DNA how-tos and advice from Diahan. And thanks for sharing this post with your friends and genealogy buddies!This is so, so important as I know of too many women who have mistakenly used their husband’s YDNA kit number and had their sample run, which won’t produce any results. But FTDNA still ran the test, which means you still pay for it. So be EXTRA careful to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row.”
While attending the NGS conference in beautiful St. Charles recently–during a rare calm moment at the Genealogy Gems booth–I slipped over to the Family Tree DNA booth to talk to Taylor Trusty, the FTDNA product manager. There’s been a question on my mind about Family Tree DNA privacy since my last post about them: why are we seeing “private trees” when we use the new global GEDCOM search?
He explained that one of the main reasons is due to the fact that FTDNA has a game plan, and they want to make sure that their privacy settings are going to be able to accommodate these upcoming integrations. So, they have erred on the conservative side. Because the consent form that you signed when you were tested indicated that you would be showing your information to your “matches,” FTDNA is hesitant to show your information to your non-matches, like what happens in the global search. So your name will not show up attached to your pedigree chart in the global search (even to your matches!) unless you change your privacy settings.
If you want to change this, click your name in the upper right corner, then click Account Settings, Click on the Genealogy tab and change “Deceased people born in the last 100 years” to Public. Taylor is promising that an email will go out at the end of June encouraging everyone to do just this.
For more help using FTDNA, check out my quick guide, Understanding Family Tree DNA, available on its own or as part of my DNA super bundle (click on the image to the left to read about the bundle). This inexpensive laminated guide will help you save time and frustration while helping you get the most out of your investment in DNA for genealogy.
As always, if you’re ready for a personal consultation with me, you can reach me through my website, YourDNAGuide.com. I help people decide what testing is right for their family history questions–and I help them make the most of their results.
Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) has some of my very favorite genetic tools to help you make connections with your DNA matches when you can’t immediately find a genealogical connection, but it’s no secret that their genealogy tools leave much to be desired. However, their latest genealogy tool has promise: if certain conditions are met, you will be able to see whether any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test!
For quite some time now FTDNA has allowed you to enter your genealogical surnames and locations into your account and list your earliest known paternal and maternal line ancestors. The latter is displayed for your YDNA and mtDNA matches to see and the former for your autosomal DNA matches to see. As a bonus, if one of your autosomal matches shares an inputted surname, FTDNA will bold that surname (or location) for you in the “Ancestral Surnames” column of your match page.
A few months ago they upgraded their pedigree tool for uploading a GEDCOM into your account. This GEDCOM does not in any way interact with your DNA match list or results; it is just provided as a resource to your matches. The pedigree tool itself is clumsy at best, but at least it is searchable and can give you a head start when looking for matches. It would be really nice if FTDNA could scrape all the surnames and locations from your GEDCOM and use that to populate your Ancestral Surnames field, but it does not.
The latest addition to FTDNA’s mediocre genealogy offerings is the ability to search all of the uploaded pedigree information in the FTDNA database. The best part about this feature is that it is not limited to searching just your DNA matches. This means you can see if any descendant of one of your ancestors has taken a DNA test! This is great news!
Of course, you see the immediate problem: if the cousin of interest hasn’t uploaded a GEDCOM, you still won’t be able to find them. And, of course, the usefulness of the information is completely dependent on other people’s genealogical sleuthing skills. But still, this can be a useful tool.
I tried using this tool to find out if there were other descendants of my ancestors Julia Pond and Austin Tilton who had tested. I have one DNA match who descends from this couple and I am fairly certain this is our connection. I wanted to see if there were others out there who were also descendants of this couple. I started with just a search for “Julia Pond” and got 37 results. I then used the advanced search feature to add her birth year “1821” and “Ohio.”
There were two matches. My family tree, and another belonging to Katie. It was frustrating that I couldn’t see right away if Katie was also a DNA match. But in the Advanced search I can ask to see only DNA matches, and repeat the search. Katie disappeared. By doing this I learned that Katie is descendant of Julia and Austin, but she and I don’t share enough DNA to be considered related. This makes sense, since descendants of this couple would be my 4th cousins at best, and I know that I will only genetically match about half of my fourth cousins. I can now contact my DNA match that lists Julia and Austin on his pedigree and ask him if Katie shows up on his match list. Perhaps they share some DNA that I do not.
Speaking of that DNA match of mine: why wasn’t he listed in my search results for Julia Pond? Well, it turns out that in his pedigree she is listed as born in 1821 from OH, and my search said Ohio. Ah. The search function is not catching those kinds of differences. So be careful.
When implemented properly, this tool can help you collect all of the descendants of a particular ancestor so you can learn more about what DNA you inherited from whom, and further your genealogical efforts.
Are you ready to get started? If you’re new to genetic genealogy, the first thing to do is acknowledge you may face some unexpected discoveries. If you’re not willing to chance some surprises on your family tree, don’t pursue it yet. Next, evaluate FTDNA (or other DNA companies) for yourself. If you decide to get started, your first step should be to upload your own GEDCOM, and make it public. Don’t feel like you have to put everything you know in this GEDCOM, just what you are certain of and feel confident sharing. To make it public, go into your Account Settings, and agree to share your Basic Profile.
After this Family Tree DNA review, if you’re ready to explore what DNA can do for YOUR genealogy, why not explore how I can help you do it? My quick guides on genetic genealogy include a guide specifically for those who test at Family Tree DNA.
You can also hire me for an individual consultation to make sure you’re doing the right DNA tests with the right relatives to answer your burning genealogy questions. (Testing the wrong people or DNA type can be a very expensive mistake!)
Savvy shopping can save you money and time. So what does savvy DNA shopping look like? Genetic genealogy tests–yDNA, autosomal and mDNA–do require a financial investment. They aren’t cheap. But they can save you hours of traditional research and give you results that no paper trail may provide.
Three main companies are currently selling autosomal DNA tests (that’s the test that is not limited to a direct maternal or a direct paternal line, and that can help you find genetic cousins with connections back as far as six or seven generations). Those three companies, 23andMe.com, DNA Ancestry and Family Tree DNA are all competing for you genetic genealogy dollar. All offer a good service, and it can be difficult to decide who to give your $99 to.
When your success or failure in finding matches depends entirely on who else has also been tested, it would be nice to have a crystal ball to tell you which testing company has the most participants who are useful to your research. FTDNA has no crystal ball, but they now are offering a reasonable substitute: FREE access to their database for anyone who has test results from 23andMe (if you received results before November of 2013) and AncestryDNA. Yes, I said FREE!
There are conditions. You can see your first 20 matches (but they can’t see you), and try out some of the tools that FTDNA has to help you identify how you are related to others. To have full access to the tools and results, you can pay $38, or just recruit four of your family members or friends to transfer, and then your transfer is FREE.
So, if you have been tested by Ancestry or 23andMe, run, don’t walk, to transfer your Y-DNA results to Family Tree DNA and take a look inside their version of the crystal ball. If you haven’t “done DNA” yet, currently the best option is to be tested with AncestryDNA and then transfer to FTDNA.” (watch for holiday sales, which would probably drop the price to $79). This gives you access to TWO databases of potential relatives for around $110–if you are a savvy shopper!
Final DNA shopping tip: be an educated consumer! Check out these quick guides I wrote to help genealogists find and use the DNA products that will help their research. Purchase each guide individually or pick up all 4 for the best deal!
Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.