A Russian-American’s insider view of the Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Test

My curiosity into DNA genealogy testing started four and a half years ago. I took the Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA, with hope that I could make some major breakthroughs.

So far, I haven’t made any major breakthroughs but it will take some more time. I have more hope that Family Tree DNA will get me at least one major breakthrough because it is the only company out of the three major testing companies that sends its DNA tests to Russia and Ukraine,  in addition to all former areas of the Russian Empire and USSR.

Family Tree DNA claims matches from the Family Finder Test are relatives connected no farther than 5 or 6 generations.

What type of information is provided on matches?

Customers get the following information on their matches: name, e-mail address (a few choose not to post their e-mail address), family tree (several don’t post their trees, ironically), match date, relationship range, shared centiMorgans (specks of DNA shared between matches), and ancestral surnames (those in bold are in common or sound similar between matches).

How does Family Tree DNA predict chances of being related?

Matches are listed as parent/child; uncle/aunt/nephew/niece; grandparent/grandchild; 1st to 2nd cousin, 2nd to 4th cousin; 3rd to 5th cousin; 4th cousin- remote cousin; and 5th cousin- remote cousin.

How often do you get matches?

I get a few matches either once or twice a month for my test. My mother gets more matches each month. My father’s cousin (niece of my grandmother) gets noticeably more matches. My mother has 65 matches since November 2013. I have 64 matches from the past three years. My cousin has 316 matches for the past two years. Both of my parents’ families came in the early 1950s to the USA.

How many of your matches have ancestors from Russia or Ukraine?

A high portion of my matches have ancestors from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Finland. Several of my matches live in Russia. The same goes for my mother and cousin.

How close are your matches?

I have 1 match for a 2nd to 4th cousin, 2 matches for 3rd to 5th cousins, 4 4th cousins- remote cousins and the rest are 5th cousins- remote cousins. For my mother, she has 1 match for a 3rd to 5th cousin, 5 matches for 4th cousins- remote cousins and the rest are 5th cousins- remote cousins. My cousin has 2 matches for 2nd to 4th cousins,  13 matches for 3rd to 5th cousins, 53 matches  for 4th cousins- remote cousins and the rest are 5th cousins- remote cousins.

I have three matches with common German surnames but I have not been able to connect our families. Only one of those matches has ancestors from the same area. Another three matches from the same family have ancestors near Russian Poland but we haven’t found common surnames yet. My cousin has a common Russian surname match for a 4th cousin from her maternal grandmother but my cousin doesn’t have enough information from her late mother to connect her family with her match.

I do not have any matches in common with my cousin but maybe sometime soon we will get common matches.

How friendly are matches in giving information?

All but one of my matches have answered my e-mail messages for more information.

What tools does Family Tree DNA offer in searching, sorting, filtering and noting matches?

Customers can check whether they have common matches with each person listed as a match. Also, matches can be sorted by type of DNA tests taken, various relationship ranges, X-chromosome matches, common surnames, known relationship, shared chromosome, longest chromosome, Y-DNA haplogroup, MtDNA haplogroup and date matched. Matches can be searched by name and family surnames. Notes also can be placed on each match.

Family Tree DNA has two main tools: chromosome browser and matrix. Chromosome browser checks where matches place on the 22 and X chromosomes to see which matches have the same common ancestor. Matrix confirms which matches are common matches with each other.

Does Family Tree DNA have forums to help figure out the DNA test and its results?

Yes. These forums are open to the public and are very helpful in understanding the various tests Family Tree DNA offers and figuring out how to find connections with matches.

Upcoming posts: A look at 23andme’s DNA test and recommendations on picking the best DNA testing company for your family


2 thoughts on “A Russian-American’s insider view of the Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Test

  1. Janis McCahill

    My uncle’s results Family Tree DNA (he is my late Father’s identical twin – my uncle is now deceased)
    Results: R1a1 SRY10831.2+ L122+, M417-, L168-, M198-, L566+, L457+
    Family Finder location results show 45.91% Europe (Russian, Finnish) 54.10% Western Europe (Orcadian, French) (09.04% margin of error)
    Genealogical research on my uncle’s father is Polish/Russian (same villages Bokinichi / Dubnovichi currently located in Belarus) back to late 1700s and an earlier connection to the family in another village in the same area back to 1500s and his mother Polish/Russian in the late 1800s but family most likely originally from somewhere else as Stojan doesn’t seem Polish or Russian

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