Family Finder Test

Family Finder Test
By Nancy Rivers

In April 2010, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) introduced a new DNA test – the Family Finder test. I was contacted by FTDNA and invited to be one of their “pre-launch” testers for this new product. I went ahead and did it as it held some exciting possibilities.

The Family Finder test is different from the mtDNA test which only looks at the lineage through the mother’s mother – the matrilineal line. It’s also different from the traditional Y-DNA test which can only be done by men and trace’s the patrilineal line. The family finder test uses the 22 autosomal chromosomes to look for relatives from the “middle branches” of your family tree. In other words, it will find relatives of your mother’s father’s family and your father’s mother’s family. It does not just look at the matrilineal and patrilineal lines. The Family Finder test claims they can find with a high degree of confidence, cousins up to the 5th cousin level. This effectively can trace the lineage back up to your great-great-grandparents. However, it could potentially connect cousins together who have common ancestors much farther back.

As an example, even though I was one of the first people to do this test through FTDNA and it is a relatively new test, I have had several matches already. One of those matches, FTDNA determined could be a cousin at the “4th cousin to distant cousin” level and did not show up in my “close and immediate” matches category. In other words, they thought we were cousins, but couldn’t be sure due to the number of generations removed from the common ancestor. This gentleman contacted me anyway. He asked if I would like to investigate with him how we were related. I agreed and we exchanged our GEDCOM files. I found a neat little program called GENMatcher which would compare every person in 2 different GEDCOM files and return a list of probable matches. This program produced a listing of 18 common ancestors between myself and this gentleman – 9 married couples. After examining these common ancestors through both of our GEDCOM files, I discovered that the closest he and I were related was at the 9th Cousin level, although we have many common ancestors. He and I never would have connected without this test.

According to the FTDNA website, the chances of finding 2nd cousins or closer is 99%, 3rd cousins 90%, 4th cousins is 50% and 5th cousins are about 10%. Anything beyond that is a “remote” chance – typically less than 2%. Probably the reason why this gentleman and I matched is because we had so many different ancestors in common – they all were not in one line. Some matched through my father’s side of the family, but many matched through my mother’s side of the family.

This test is still in its infancy. But, I would encourage others to have this test done. You never know how you might be related to someone else!