When you buy a DNA test kit from one of the major testing companies, you are also purchasing a copy of your own autosomal genetic code. The companies may not widely advertise it, but you can download this code, called your “raw data”, as a text file and save it to your computer. You can also upload this file to a number of free and low-cost sites for further analysis and comparison. Family Tree DNA has region and surname-specific projects you can join and GEDMatch allows you to compare your data to people who’ve tested at many other sites.
Tutorials for downloading raw data can be found here:
Uploading Data to Family Tree DNA and Joining a Project
If you tested at Ancestry, 23andme, or MyHeritage, you can upload your data to Family Tree DNA to view and connect with a new pool of matches for free. For $19, you can unlock their optional chromosome browser and dig a little deeper*. Family Tree DNA is the home of many other regional and surname-specific projects.
*Some test versions’ data will not transfer. A complete list can be found here.
Once you’ve downloaded your raw data and saved the file to your computer, create a new account with free autosomal transfer and you’ll be assigned a kit number. It’s necessary to have a kit number and DNA data attached to your profile to join a project on Family Tree DNA. You may also choose to join a Y-DNA (paternal-line) or mTDNA (maternal-line) project if you have purchased either of those tests from FTDNA directly.
To join one of the nearly 10,000 available projects, go to this page and enter one of your ancestral surnames into the search box, or scroll down to access alphabetical listings of the the Y-DNA and MtDNA projects. Again, you must obtain a kit number before joining the project.
If you can’t find your surname(s), you can try a partial lookup by clicking the drop-down box and changing the search criteria from “Equals” to “Contains.” If you are an adoptee and you have found several close matches all with the same surname, try searching by that name.
You may be lucky enough to find a project run by genealogists who are familiar with the origins (and emigration patterns) of that particular surname. If you are an adoptee and don’t see any recurring surnames in your DNA match lists, search with the word “adoption,” and it should lead you to the Global Adoptee Genealogy Project page, where you may receive further assistance.
Because FTDNA’s search feature is limited to keywords in the project’s surname field, you may have better luck by doing basic Google search for “FTDNA Project ______ ” with a country or region in place of the blank.
Uploading Data to GEDMatch
GEDMatch is a free service with a broad range of tools for finding new matches and analyzing your DNA. Users simply upload their raw data and can connect with people who’ve tested at other companies. There are many online tutorials for getting started with GEDMatch. Below are a few.
Although GEDMatch and the bulk of its utilities are free, they do offer a few premium services for a small fee. In my experience, it is not necessary to use the premium services, but for $10 (the current price for one month, no long-term commitment), the Matching Segment Search, Relationship Tree Projection, and Triangulation Groups tools can be very useful.