It's the day you've been waiting for!
You've paid the fee, provided a sample, sent it back, waited ever so impatiently and today your test results have arrived. Now what? Probably the first thing is you are going to familiarize yourself with what you are made of and where you came from.
Let's see what you're made of
Your ethnicity pie chart. The top three countries of origin are normally listed. You can click on the chart and it will expand to tell you the trace regions of where you came from. Some of these may surprise you but realistically, they shouldn't. We are made from our DNA and I would be willing to bet, we know ourselves better than we think we do. In my case, I remember telling my classmates in middle school I was from Norway. My adoptive parents were German and Irish, so Norway was a bit of a stretch as far as they were concerned. Turns out, I am 54% Scandinavian (mostly Swedish) but along the Norwegian border as far as most of my DNA matches show. My fascination with the Norsemen came from my DNA. While adoptees grow up away from their first family, they never escape their DNA and what they are made of.
And where your people came from
If you click on the trace regions of the country list, the area will be displayed on the map. One thing Ancestry DNA is not going to tell you (but FTDNA will) is your Haplogroup which is great for seeing the migrations of certain populations over centuries. The breakdown of ethnicity and the map will give you a lot more information than you had yesterday before your test results came in.
The faces of your family
To the right of your ethnicity chart are two rows of faces and cameos. These are your newest matches. Every week you will get new matches. When you click on the button under the faces you will see all your matches in the order of how close they are related to you. Your closest matches will be first, and will get more distant in relation as you progress through your pages. One of my new DNA cousin matches told me this evening he just got his results last week and has 37 pages of matches and what was my recommendation. Start at the closest matches one page at a time. You can waste a lot of time looking for surnames which won't help you if you are adopted or missing the name of a biological parent. Those 4th cousin matches (and you're going to have a majority of them) are probably 5 generations back so you're going to be looking back to your 3rd great grandparents time frame or say 150 years. So stick with your first 5 pages of matches. If you are lucky enough to have some matches that are 1st or 2nd cousins, you are off to a fabulous start. More than likely though, most of your matches are going to fall into the 4th-6th cousin range and more distanct.
Unless you already have a family tree built out, you are more than likely not going to have any DNA Circles. What these do is to link you with other family groups that possibly share the same MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor). This tool uses DNA and family tree information to process the liklihood that you are related to that group of descendants of the ancestor. If you have any, there will be the person's name and years of birth and death. More than likely, they will be many generations back in time.
Your goal with all this newfound information
Your plan should be to use the new match information that you get every week and make contact with your matches to determine how you are related. Many times your matches will not respond or they will not be forthcoming with information. These people, for whatever reason, have no idea of the urgency for adoptees in finding this information. You will also come across other adoptees that are related to you and you will find a special kinship with these people because you know firsthand how difficult their journey has been. Rarely will you find close matches quickly. This process is by no means fast, but it does produce results over time. Armed with these tools, you can find results and answers to how you fit into the family trees of others.
Chromosomes, centiMorgans, and SNP's, Oh My!
If you like processing data and want to get your hands dirty analyzing and mapping your DNA, you need the tools provided by FTDNA and also gedmatch.com. These programs help you disect your DNA, namely the centiMorgans that make up each of your 23 pairs of Chromosomes. By analyzing individual strings of centiMorgans, you can identify which of your matches share the same segments of DNA that was passed from one common ancestor. You will also need to be able to use a spreadsheet or other data processing program to manipulate the data to achieve the results you are seeking.
Still have questions and a headache?
If you would like a review of your results and a recommendation on how to proceed or some individual assistance or training on how to process your information, you can find some packages of services that are offered on this website. Click the Services button in the main menu.