Family Tree DNA hosts a large number of DNA project groups for the benefit of its customers. Included are thousands of different surname projects, geographic projects, haplogroup-specific projects, lineage projects and private family projects.
If you have tested your DNA at Family Tree DNA - either Family Finder (autosomal), Y-DNA or mtDNA - you can join a project.
All projects are free and administered by volunteers.
The list of FTDNA's public projects is accessible from the Projects tab at the top left of most pages of their website:
Some projects have specific requirements for participants (eg. Y-DNA tests, specific surnames or places of origin) and others welcome anyone with a broad association to their topic of interest or any test type.
How to join projects
If you are logged into your FTDNA account, hover on the Project tab at the top of the page, and click on Join Projects from the drop-down list of options. A list of suggested or potentially relevant projects will be displayed, which may include surname variations, haplogroups or geographical areas. Sometimes this tool lists projects that have participants with the same surname, even if not really relevant.
Follow the links to view information about any projects of interest. Email the project administrator if you'd like to find out more about a particular project or your suitability.
Join relevant projects by clicking on the JOIN button and following any instructions. Some projects require approval by the administrator, but others allow automatic approval.
Surnames are sorted alphabetically by the first letter of the surname, eg. select 'B' for Brown, 'M' for Mitchell, 'S' for Smith, etc.
Look up some of your family surnames now to see if projects already exist for them. If you find one, see if any participants' earliest known ancestors originate near where yours come from. If so, encourage a male relative of that surname to test their Y-DNA too, to see if they match the same surname line.
Note that you don't join surname projects for all your ancestral surnames: surname projects are specifically for males who bear that surname and have tested their Y-DNA. The purpose is to compare Y-STR marker results in an attempt to sort men of the same surname into groups and clarify their earliest known origins - so if it is not your name, it will not be of much use to you. Males might also be eligible to join a specific surname project if they believe it should be their name by blood (eg. adoptees), or where most of their Y-DNA matches bear that surname. Females can Y-DNA test a male relative of their surname and join him to the relevant project. If unsure, email the project administrator to enquire.
- Common surnames are likely to already have active projects. If your surname doesn't yet have its own project, you can apply to start a new project (see below).
- Surname projects normally require a male of a particular surname to do a Y-DNA test so that his Y-STR marker results and most distant known direct paternal ancestor can be compared to other males in the project. Testers are then grouped into discreet haplogroups, haplotypes, family or regional sub-groups based on their Y-STR marker values. The project administrator will perform the grouping functions.
- Once you find a surname of interest in the list, click through to the project website to read about the project goals, background and other information.
- Some projects offer free Y-DNA tests for particular surnames (eligibility criteria apply).
- Joining a project before ordering a Y-DNA test usually reduces the price by US$20.
- If there isn't a project for your surname and you are keen to order a test immediately and take advantage of a project discount, look for a relevant geographical project to join (eg. Australian Citizens, New Zealand Genetic Families) to order your Y-DNA test at group prices, and then join a surname project later.
- To view Y-DNA or mtDNA results of public projects, click the Y-DNA Results or mtDNA Results links from either the classic project view...
or the newer myGroups project view...
- One example of a surname project is the PHILLIPS DNA Project. See the colorized chart of Y-DNA results for the PHILLIPS surname. Each row contains the Y-DNA marker results for one kit.
Observe the distinct family groups, and how the coloured STR values highlight individual testers' differences from the modal values in each group (purple-blue shades for lower values; pink-red shades for higher values), and how runs of the same values might help identify branches of mutation history trees:
- Another interesting Y-DNA project is the Father, Sons, Brothers DNA Project, which collects father-son, brother-brother and nephew-uncle haplotype comparisons to help estimate father-to-son Y-STR mutation rates for FTDNA markers.
Other project types
Surnames are the most numerous of projects, but other project types include:
- Y-DNA geographical projects (eg. Ireland Y-DNA)
- mtDNA geographical projects (eg. Ireland mtDNA)
- Haplogroup projects (eg. R1b, or H)
- Lineage projects
- Dual geographical projects (Y-DNA & mtDNA)
- Multi geographical projects (Y-DNA, mtDNA and Family Finder)
- Private family or group projects to help individuals manage large numbers of tests
Dual/multi geographical projects are very popular, especially those that accept participants who've taken any type of DNA test (including Family Finder).
Browse through the ever-growing list of dual geographical projects. Note that some of the projects are very new (low membership), so join them to give them support and get them growing.
Below are just some examples to demonstrate the variety of projects available:
Australian & New Zealand DNA Projects
British Isles by County, British Home Children, Bedfordshire, Channel Islands, Devonshire, East Anglia, Families in British India, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Lancashire, Northumberland, Orkney, Oxfordshire, Scottish, Scots-Irish, Wessex England, Welsh Patronymics, Yorkshire (check the FTDNA projects list for more).
Once you join a FTDNA project:
- Your Y-DNA and mtDNA results (if relevant) are added to the group results. Some groups also add member pedigrees or ancestral details to the information tabs. To ensure that your results are displayed in the public project, carefully check the settings in your kit's Privacy & Sharing tab, as the default settings may be restricting your participation, visibility and success in the projects.
- Take advantage of the Activity Feed to ask questions, share family history information and collaborate with other project members.
- Review the various tabs for more information, files, links, photos and other resources.
- Click on the Members link in the project banner to view other members' trees, shared surnames and contact details (ensure your profile is visible to other group members by checking your settings in the Privacy & Sharing tab).
- Use the Advanced Matching tool to see if any other project members are in your own DNA matches (Family Finder, Y-DNA, mtDNA).
Experiment with all the Advanced Matching tool variations relevant to your testing levels. Many people are surprised to find they share matches with other group members, as they are often further down in your match lists.
- Project administrators will add helpful links and information to the group resources, monitor group activity, respond to questions, group DNA results, and offer advice and assistance to group members on test selection and account management if required. Project administrators may also send out bulk emails to group members.
Searching for projects
- If you can't find your surname alphabetically in the lists, try the search box, as the name you are looking for may be listed as a spelling variation under another name.
- The search box doesn't normally work for non-surname projects, such as geographical projects. To find those, if you don't already know the project names, you will need to scroll through the lists of Geographical or Dual Geographical projects to see what is available.
- Some projects (eg. haplogroups) will only be displayed if you have taken a relevant test, are logged into your FTDNA account, and click on the Join Projects link from the menu.
- If you know a project exists but can't find it, a Google search is usually an effective way of finding it ('keyword DNA project').
Can't find a suitable project?
If your surname or geographical region doesn't yet have its own project, you can apply to start a new project from the project application link, which is found at the bottom of FTDNA's projects webpage.
Projects are free and are all administered by volunteers. Make sure you read the Group Administrator Guidelines for FTDNA Projects to ensure you understand your responsibilities as a project administrator. Also watch FTDNA's GAP Webinars and see the DNA Project Administration Portal at ISOGG's Wiki.
Once you have joined a project, keep any eye on your notifications icon at the top right in your FTDNA account.
A red circle indicates notifications, including new matches and/or activity in your project groups.
Hover on the globe icon to display your notifications:
Email notifications in relation to project group activity feeds have not yet been implemented, so you will need to login to check your FTDNA account regularly. Once email notifications start functioning, the project groups will be considerably more effective and responsive. Join a project now and be ready!