Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FTDNA Results–A bit Disappointing

About six weeks ago I posted my experience transferring my DNA test from 23andMe to Family Tree DNA.  I bought the Family Finder transfer for $89, about half the price of the full test.  As I understood the process, I could double my databases by first purchasing a test from 23andMe for $99 and then uploading to FTDNA.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I learned after I purchased it that it was going to be a long wait.  I also eventually learned that what I bought was not what I thought I bought.

Since I have never gotten any email from FTDNA about my test results I decided to check on the status. Today I logged into my FTDNA account and found that my test results were posted 2 days ago. Great!!  Don’t know why I didn’t get an email, but there you have it.  Right off the bat I found someone who looks like a relative from my maternal grandmother’s side (St Lucia).  I’ve sent them an email to see if they are related.  Unfortunately there were no other close matches.  Oh well, the science is still new and that may ultimately change.


As I looked around the site I made another, unexpected and somewhat unwelcome discovery.  While the $99 23andMe test covered yDNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA, the FTDNA test only does the autosomal.  I would have to upgrade to get the others.  Those tests could run to $399 for a full test.  Way more than the testing at 23andMe.


Now I’m sure it is my own fault since I’m sure I got what I paid for, but it really isn’t easy to tell from the website what the tests cover.  Being new to DNA testing, I had naively assumed that I would get all 3 tests just like I did at 23andMe.  Sadly, it was not true.  Here is the description from the FTDNA site for the test I ordered:



It’s my own fault for not understanding DNA testing enough to be able to understand the differences among the host of tests that they supply and understanding what is meant by their names “Family Finder” and “Relative Finder”. I guess I would have been happier if it said anywhere that this was an autosomal only test.  I didn’t know that “Relative Finder” = “Autosomal”.  Wouldn’t you think that my great grandfather (yDNA) or grandmother (mtDNA) were relatives?  I did.


So, while I’m not saying FTDNA did anything wrong, and they certainly appear to have given me the results of the test I ordered, and I did find a possible relative, I am somewhat disappointed.  I may have ordered the test anyway.  I just would have preferred to have known before the fact. It would appear that I can order additional tests from my already uploaded genome for my yDNA ($19-$58), I don’t imagine I’ll do it until I understand DNA testing a little better.  I don’t want another surprise.


So, if you are planning to go the 23andme –> FTDNA route like I did, just understand that the testing that you will get from DTDNA is not the same as that from 23andMe.  No Haplogroups, No maternal/paternal breakdown, just potential matches. 


And not many matches at that.  Of course, I didn’t get even one from 23andMe.  I don’t think many island people have had their DNA tested.  We need to work on that.


Somebody said something about a free site?  Maybe that’s where I need to go next.


  1. David, you seem to be the first "island son" to jump into the uncharted waters of DNA testing. But if you read Lynne Hinkey's hilarious new book, "Marina Melee", you will find out what every Virgin Islander already knows: everybody is related to everybody, and everybody knows everybody's business!

  2. Sophie, Yes, I seem to be finding that. When I run across someone doing their island research, I go on a mission to find out how we're related. Usually we are.

    As you mention, very few Virgin Islanders have done any DNA testing. When I search the lists by location, I don't find any who cite the islands as their heritage. Maybe over time that will change.

    1. That may not happen if you consider some of the sociological reasons behind North America's quest for DNA testing: a) Social Isolation-America has become a much more isolated society, with many people feeling the need to connect to something larger than themselves, namely long-lost relatives of an extended "tribe". By its very nature, Caribbean culture is far more open and inclusive, resulting in much less social isolation for the individual; b) Geographical Dispersion-Americans have been leaving their home town in droves for economic opportunities elsewhere, something that hasn't happened in the Caribbean since the the Panama Canal, which results in extended families living thousands of miles apart and not knowing each other; and c) Opening up of Adoption Records means adopted children want to discover their biological relatives. Adoption in the Caribbean was never a major issue as there was much less stigma associated with single parenthood, so less orphans were given up for adoption. An interesting study would be how children of "outside families" are accepted in society as a whole and if they are closely connected to their half-siblings or shunned.

  3. I had my testing done at all three major companies and FTDNA has very good testing. You may know by now if you've done further research, but your facts are incorrect. 23andMe doesn't do mtDNA or Y-DNA testing. All three companies have their pros and cons, but FTDNA provides very good tests. I think you were disappointed because you don't understand what the different tests are and what results they provide.

  4. Great post, thank you for sharing your experience. I sent in my test kit and am awaiting results from ftdna.

    You can upload your results to for free... it is a wonderful genealogy site. They never charge a dime for anything and everyone works together on one world tree.

    Have a super day!

    - Keith Hathaway (wikitree profile Hathaway-1200)