Why Many People Don’t Have STR Matches on FTDNA – It’s not you, It’s them

There seems to be a pattern of policies implemented by FTDNA that shortchange thousands of customers of the STR and Big Y matches they have paid a premium for.

In both cases FTDNA has imposed a cutoff. If you have no matches sharing a particular number of STRs (1/12, 2/25, 4/37, 7/67, 11/111) you will be shown no matches - even though you may have matches lurking just beyond the cutoff who are your closest relatives. Both parties - having no matches - are usually very interested to make contact. I have witnessed this as a haplogroup administrator, having through my own analysis connected distant relatives that FTDNA chose to hide.

Similarly, and an even greater disservice, considering the price paid, Big Y testers cannot contact their next closest relatives even when they otherwise have zero Big Y matches.

This issue inflicts frustration whenever researchers discover on the FTDNA Haplotree that some unknown branching point near their relatives has been discovered - yet find they are unable to contact the men to confirm aspects of their genealogy. Recently here.

FTDNA cannot claim that people are not interested in distant matches when they otherwise have zero matches nor that this problem is too hard to solve. If they cannot solve this problem which I solved in a several hours of coding, they have no place being a market leader in genetic genealogy.

Unfortunately, it seems like testers with no matches are collateral damage from FTDNA's strategic goal of keeping as many samples hidden in their data silo as possible.

If relatives and researchers cannot contact a match, he is very likely to remain hidden within the FTDNA data silo. He is just a statistic inside FTDNA's database that helped it grow by one relative to the YFull tree, which is the analysis option accessible by FTDNA's competitors.

Another recent FTDNA policy change that directly reveals this is the $99 fee imposed on downloading the BAM. It doesn't actually cost $99 to make a BAM file available for download. All other testing companies make this available for free.

Is this a problem affecting everyone?


If you are a FTDNA customer with STR or Big Y matches within the cutoff, you have not been shortchanged.

It would be good to have statistics on a regional level, which could help inform people of the risk of their obtaining zero matches from FTDNA.

People could learn beforehand that they have a 50-50 chance of having 37 marker or 67 marker matches for example.

These posts are the opinion of Hunter Provyn, a haplogroup researcher in J-M241 and J-M102.

2 thoughts on “Why Many People Don’t Have STR Matches on FTDNA – It’s not you, It’s them”

  1. Thank you for this article Hunter! I was looking for information why do I see 1 match on BIG-Y SNP results (MRCA 700 CE), but no one on STR’s from 67 to 111 😳 Just two matches on 12 STR’s

    1. You are welcome Marta, I appreciate your continued interest using my website and analytical tools such as HRAS.

      FTDNA does not define a person as a match irrespective of the type of DNA product matches you are viewing.

      Instead FTDNA uses a separate algorithm to determine whether or not to show a “match” based on their Big Y result OR based on genetic distance at each number of STRs, whatever you happen to be viewing.

      By chance you can have matches appear at Big Y or certain STR levels and not at others.

      Usually people have more matches at 12 STRs and less as you go up but sometimes a match at a higher level of STRs will not be a match at a lower level of STRs. This happens when, by chance, the bulk of the variation in the STRs between the two men took place within the smaller subset of STRs.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Check out my tutorials by the way. Many are focused on STR analysis and theory like this.



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