FtDNA Family Trees – My Opinion

A family tree is a big big entity and finding a match requires all the detail available.
A family tree is a big big entity and finding a match requires all the detail available in both trees.

A few weeks ago, FtDNA changed their gedcom upload process to simple family trees.  There was uproar!  Actually, all these weeks later it hasn’t quite died down.

I like them.  The gedcoms were useful, but the family tree works well for me too.  The new system has its kinks – setting the primary person in an uploaded gedcom is near impossible, for instance.  Individuals without death dates show as ‘private’ because they are presumed living unless they have a specific ‘deceased’ tag.  It takes more space on the screen and that’s never a good thing, but the benefits far outweigh the difficulties to me.

They can be updated online, which is excellent.  If I discover a new ancestor I can go in and add just that person.  If I discover a precise date where a had ‘circa year’, I can do that.  If everyone used these trees I would find it much easier to identify my matches.

The search facility took me a while.  If I first went to a tree I could search for a surname and find it.  Later, after looking around, I would search and not find it.  Now I realise that only the ancestry tree of the selected individual is searched.  So if I load Joe Smith’s tree and search for his maternal grandmother Anne Maple, I’ll find her.  If I load Joe’s paternal grandfather John Smith and then search for Anne Maple, I won’t – because she is not an ancestor of John Smith.

The same goes for place names.  I do like this facility.  It can definitely help in a tree where I match no names. For instance, I have a hot spot on one chromosome segment centred in Chardstock, Dorset which I have identified by the location search.  No names match, but our families were all married and baptised at the same church in the 18th century.  It ought to work for the US as well, but so few people have added precise locations to their trees so I can’t get closer than ‘NC’ or ‘GA’ or ‘VA’.

I gather the system is not working so well for project managers and hopefully this will be resolved soon.

I was very concerned to read forum posts by people saying they hated the trees so much that they have removed their gedcoms.  Why?  What is the purpose of DNA testing at FtDNA if not to solve family tree puzzles?  We work with whatever details or tools we have until better ones are around.  A lot of those people seem to have trees at Ancestry and maybe forget that we don’t all have subscriptions.  A tree at Ancestry is not accessible to me.  I have a free registration but this does not allow me to access trees or records – not even ‘public’ trees.  So hearing that people have removed their details from the one place I can view them is a little distressing.  I quite understand that tracking down a very distant match is not a priority for many testers, but I do like the opportunity to pursue it myself.  I’ll then email that distant cousin when I have worked it out.

In the meantime, I have updated both my tree and my son’s tree and I work with the trees I can access. Thank you to all who tested on FtDNA and have added details into their tree, even if they hate it.  If you match me, I will try to repay you by finding our connection.

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