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.
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!)
A while back I received an email from Tim. He writes:
“I’m getting back into genealogy in a meaningful way now that my dissertation is done and I realized that I don’t know what to do with all the ‘stuff’ I’ve taken photos of, picked up at yard sales, etc., that could be of genealogical value to someone but not me. I’ve got yearbooks, pictures of the genealogy information inside family bibles, etc. I used to be able to scan and submit to Mocavo for the world to use but that’s gone. With the Rootsweb mailing lists shutting down, do you have recommendations for where I can submit these things so they benefit others?”
As a matter of I do have a few recommendations for you!
These days a free blog is your own genealogy bulletin board with much greater reach than Rootsweb had. It’s a great way to get the word out about items that you have that you would like to reunite with their families.
Blogger.com (Google’s free blogging platform) is a good choice.
In addition to a photo, include as much text as you can that describes the item.
Tag the items with surnames, record types, and locations.
Encourage people to email you or leave a comment to get in touch.
Interview with Carly Kidd-Osborn
If you have an item that you picked up along your genealogical travels that belongs to someone else’s family history, the Shrubs to Trees – A Pay-It-Forward Genealogy Facebook Group can help. Caryl Kidd-Osborn is the Administrator, and in this episode she explains how the group has helped return over 1500 items to families and how you can enlist their help.
From Caryl: “We are almost 2 years old and in that time we have returned over 1500 “lost” memorabilia items to living family. We’ve given back photos, bronze baby shoes, sheet music that was written by someone’s family member, a marriage license and even someone’s cremains. We aren’t a very big group but we have some wonderful folks who just jump right in with researching the items. It’s a private group since we are dealing with living people. It’s very much a collaboration. Our members are genealogists who, like me, just can’t leave an antique store without taking someone else’s family home with them!”
Here are just a few examples of the precious items that the group has managed to return to grateful families:
Reunited: Little Renee’s baby shoes
Reunited: A photo of Frances Payne. “Our cutest return,” says Caryl.
Reunited: Andrew Johney and Maggie Bosley marriage license. This was found at a dump.
Sarah Fooks Tutherly – photo went to the Historical Society in Laurel, DE. The Fooks family was a prominent family in that town, she was a DAR member.
Reunited: The Vandermaas family. The parents had died before the children were of that age so this is a composite of the whole family.
GEM: Top 10 Strategies for Finding School Records for Genealogy
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Awhile back, Barbara from Courtenay, British Columbia, sent me an excellent question about using Google Earth for Canadian genealogy. Then she sent me an excellent answer before I had a chance to answer it myself! Here’s what they were:
Question: “I live in Canada and a lot of the Google Earth articles involving land plats can’t be applied in Canada. The prairie provinces do have a similar land survey system, with townships, ranges and meridians. I found a website where these can be converted to coordinates that Google Earth will recognize. However, this particular website would like to be paid for providing this information (legallandconverter.com). Do you know of any way these numbers can be converted without paying?”
Answer: “I have some good news! My very smart son found a free website, prairielocator.com, which will give you the coordinates of Section, Township, Range and Meridian for the Canadian prairie provinces. It doesn’t cover quarter sections, but that’s okay if you know which one your ancestor was on. Please pass this along to your Canadian fans or Americans who have Canadian ancestors (there are many, I know).”
Thank you, Barbara–and a special shout-out to your son for finding that resource to help genealogists use Google Earth for Canada research! Here’s my two-cent’s worth: I just peeked at PrairieLocator.com and I see the site also has an app for the iPhone: Prairie Locator Mobile – for iPhone,
It may not help with genealogy, but Google Maps just got a lot more fun!
Yep, it’s PAC-Maps, and with this latest update you can find where NOT to go! Google has added imagery of “dangerous virtual beings, starting with Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde. When navigating fruit-filled streets, determine at a glance which turns to pass to evade ghosts and get where you’re going safely. When you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can simply gobble up a few pac-dots or a cherry and keep on nommin’.”
I’m a little embarrassed to say how many hours I spent playing PAC-MAN in high school. Back then we had to hunch over a machine located next to the bathrooms at the local pizza parlor. Now you can take a break from your brick walls and walka walka walka around the world from the comfort of your desk. With PAC-Maps you can navigate select locations using the left, right, up or down arrows on your keyboard. Below is a screen shot from the desktop version:
Actually, PAC-MAN isn’t new to Googlers. Back on May 21, 2010 (yep, it’s official, I’m a Google geek) Google’s home page featured a desktop version that you can still play here.