I bought a FTDNA test. Now what?

Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in bringing your family’s story to the next level!  Whether you bought a Family Finder, mtDNA or YDNA test, there are a few things you will want to do to get off on the right foot.

Once you have made your purchase, you’ll receive an email with a kit number and password.  The kit number will be your ‘username’ each time you log into your account.  You can of course change your password to anything you like.  To do so, go to your main, or Welcome page and find the ‘Change Password’ entry on the left hand side.

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Next, go to the ‘Manage Personal Information’ entry. It is directly above ‘Change’ Password’.

From the Manage Personal Information page, there are a number of choices you can make to increase your chances of being contacted by matches, and responded to when you make contact.  First, add a profile picture.  It will make your account stand out among the faceless sea of 4th cousins.  Also, it’ll make it harder for ’em to ignore you!  You may also want to write about your research goals in the ‘About Me’ box, or mention immediate family that has also tested.

At the top of the Manage Personal Information page, you will see 5 tabs.

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Until you get your bearings, it is good idea to leave all the settings at their default position. Still, you have a bit of work to do.

Account Settings: Genealogy

From the genealogy tab, you can choose your privacy settings.  This is also where you will enter the names and locations of your most distant ancestors.  Be sure to add their year of birth/death and locations.  From here, you can also list your family surnames.  This will help you connect with matches.  If they see a surname or location that is familiar to them, they are more likely to contact you and you are more likely to determine how your trees connect.  Everyone, without exception should fill in this basic information.

Account Settings: Match and Email Settings

There is one setting you should not touch:  Family Finder Matches & Email Notifications.  If you change any of the defaults, it will not only turn off email notifications at that level. It will turn off matching at that level.  You will no longer see those matches and they will no longer see you.

Welcome Page: Family Tree

FTDNA has recently changed the family tree interface, and truth be told it is not great.  They have already made improvements and let us hope they continue in that vein. Meanwhile, it is still a good idea to upload your tree.  Although it is cumbersome to navigate, the new version does have one very important feature, and that is the search box in the upper right corner.  If you see a match with a surname or location you recognize, you can click on their tree and enter either of those terms into the search box. They can do the same with your tree.  Et viola, a connection is made!

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To upload a family tree you must have a file that ends in ‘ged’. All major family tree programs will export a file in this format. Once your file is prepared, go to your Welcome Page and click ‘Family Tree’.

Select ‘Upload a Gedcom’ and choose your file.  Alternately, you may build your tree from scratch directly at FTDNA.


Now that you have covered the basics to help matches find you, there is one more thing that you can do to help you find them and more importantly figure out how you relate.  FTDNA has a large number of projects, from groups for specific surnames , to groups which study mtDNA or YDNA haplogroups to groups that study families from a particular region, such as the Iowa DNA Project.   For YDNA testers, it is vitally important to join your project if you are hoping to learn more about your haplogroup or your terminal snps.  Your project leader will be able to provide more information on your place in the phylotree and to offer advice on additional testing if you are interested.  To browse the available projects, go to the top of your Welcome page and choose the entry My Projects.  Joining is free and you can join as many as you think could be helpful.

MtDNA Tests

There is one setting that is important for people that have tested FMS or their Full Mitochondrial Sequence.  Those testers have gone beyond the basic level and have values known as, ‘Coding Region Mutations’.  Go to your Manage Personal Information Page, then your Account Settings Tab and choose Results Display Settings.  You will be directed to ‘Click Here’.  Choose ‘Who can view my mtDNA Coding Region mutations?’ and make sure ‘Project Administrators’ is selected.  After you have learned your mtDNA haplogroup, it will be very important that your group’s administrator can see your coding region mutations in order to know where you fit within your haplogroup.  Once that is determined, you will be able to learn more about your deep maternal ancestry and make the most of your test results.

Where is my Test?

If you have ordered a kit and it hasn’t reached you within two weeks, call FTDNA and have them send you a new one at no charge.  I order my kits from Ireland and they usually arrive from Texas within a week.  FTDNA can be reached here and at 713-868-1438.  For more information on how to get the best sample collection see here.

The Wait for Results

Featured imageThere is a good chance it will take about month from the time you order your kit before it is ‘batched’ or received by the lab and testing begins.  If all goes to plan, from that point, it will be another 3-4 weeks for your Family Finder test to be processed, and generally at least 8 weeks for mtDNA and yDNA testing to complete.  In the meantime, take the opportunity to work on your family tree, especially extending your collateral lines as that is where you will intersect with the majority of your matches.  Also, take advantage of the Forums and Learning Center at FTDNA and download their free ebook, which is available from your welcome page.