DNA Beginnings: Matching at Ancestry and What It Means

That is the fourth within the collection of “DNA Beginnings” articles. Earlier articles you would possibly get pleasure from embody:

Why Is Matching Necessary?

For genealogists, DNA matching to different folks is the important thing to verifying your ancestors, starting together with your mother and father and persevering with up your tree. You may also meet new cousins who could have data, together with photographs, that you simply don’t.

Every of the 4 main distributors has advantages that the others don’t have. As we assessment matches at every vendor, we’ll talk about the plusses and minuses of every one and the way to use their distinctive options to profit your family tree quest.

Let’s begin with Ancestry.


The best complete variety of folks have examined their DNA with Ancestry, though I’m not sure that holds true for testers outdoors the US.

Because of this you might be more likely to discover at the least some shut matches at Ancestry. Each vendor has folks of their database that no different vendor has although. I like to recommend testing on the 4 main distributors, together with FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe.

At Ancestry, The place Are My Matches?

You’ll discover the listing of people that match you below the “DNA”, then “DNA Matches” tabs at Ancestry.

Ancestry packs a variety of data into your match pages. Let’s check out what which means to you as a genealogist and how one can make it give you the results you want.

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I’ll be discussing every one among these areas, under, so refer again. Let’s begin with the fundamental web page association.

  • Options on the prime apply to managing and dealing with all your matches
  • Options below every match apply to that match solely.

Fairly easy.

I’ll start on the prime and assessment every merchandise, however first, let’s speak about testing your mother and father.

Check Your Dad and mom

First, you probably have both or each mother and father accessible to check, by all means, check each mother and father and never simply at Ancestry. That is sage recommendation for all distributors.

Remember that if one or each of your mother and father should not your organic mother and father, DNA testing will reveal that reality.

When your dad or mum checks, matches that Ancestry can robotically attribute to that dad or mum’s aspect of your loved ones based mostly on matching you and your dad or mum, each, are famous as such.

Whereas that is helpful, particularly since maternally and paternally assigned matches are your closest matches, Ancestry solely robotically assigns about as many matches as fall into your shut matches class. Someplace between half and 1% of your complete matches. I type of deflated like a balloon once I made that discovery. 

It’s nonetheless positively price testing your mother and father, although, as a result of it is possible for you to to view your matches to see in the event that they match you and a dad or mum each. Even when Ancestry doesn’t assign them maternally or paternally, you’ll be able to definitely derive clues from who you match in widespread – and you’ll assign matches your self.

We are going to speak about precisely how to do that in a bit!

Now, again to the operate bar.

The Operate Bar

The operate bar beneath the advert selling parental testing is your driver’s seat.

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You’ll discover quite a lot of filters and features like looking and sorting your matches. In different phrases, these are the actions you’ll be able to take. Let’s begin with the filters, on the left.

  • Unviewed – The “Unviewed” filter widget shows solely matches you haven’t but considered. Unviewed matches are annotated with a blue dot. As a result of your matches are displayed in highest to lowest order, you’ll see your closest unviewed match first. I exploit this filter rather a lot as a result of it means I don’t need to scroll by way of the matches I’ve already considered and analyzed.

I’ve a “one preliminary contact” coverage. Once I initially view a match, I step by way of all of the features I can make the most of to establish how that individual is (probably) associated to me and I make notes.

The remainder of these filters and features are essential steps in that evaluation course of.

Please discover that you would be able to mix filters.

I’ve clicked each the “Unviewed” and the “Widespread Ancestors” filters, that means BOTH of those filters are concurrently functioning. For those who simply need one filter, you’ll want to “Reset Filters” earlier than clicking a second filter button.

  • Widespread Ancestors – That notorious little inexperienced leaf. On this case, when viewing DNA matches, that inexperienced leaf is essential as a result of it signifies that Ancestry has discovered a (potential) widespread ancestor between you and your match.

Clicking on the little inexperienced leaf exhibits you the latest widespread ancestor(s) that Ancestry believes you share with that match based mostly on:

  1. The truth that your DNA does match
  2. And that you’ve got widespread ancestors both in your tree
  3. Or ancestors that may be linked to each of you thru different folks’s timber

Discover Ancestry’s cautious wording about these potential ancestors. Megan “could possibly be” my 5th cousin as soon as eliminated. “May very well be.” Ancestry isn’t utilizing weasel phrases right here, however making an attempt to convey the truth that folks’s family tree, Megan’s, mine or different peoples’ may be mistaken.

In different phrases, Ancestry has discovered a possible hyperlink between me and Megan, nevertheless it is probably not legitimate. These connections use timber to counsel widespread ancestors and a few timber should not dependable. It’s as much as me (and also you) to substantiate that urged ancestral path.

Clicking on “View Relationship” takes me to the Ancestry software referred to as ThruLines which exhibits me how Megan and I could also be associated.

I’ve Stephen Miller in my tree, however not his son John J. Miller as indicated by the hashed bins.

I can click on on the Consider button to see what kind of proof and which timber Ancestry used to assign John J. Miller because the son of Stephen Miller. In different phrases, I can accumulate my very own proof to validate, confirm, or refute the connection to Daniel Miller for me and Megan.

I wrote about ThruLines here and here.

  • Messaged – The “Messaged” filter button exhibits matches I’ve despatched messages to by way of Ancestry’s messaging characteristic.

You possibly can monitor your messages within the little envelope button by your identify at higher proper.

  • Notes – The “Notes” filter exhibits your matches and the notes you’ve made about that match. I exploit notes extensively so I don’t replow the identical subject.

In my case, I took a second check at Ancestry a number of years in the past once they launched a brand new chip to check to the outcomes of my authentic check. I famous that that is my V2 check on this instance.

Usually my notes are genealogy-related, particularly in instances the place I’ve found a couple of set of widespread ancestors by way of a number of strains. I file hints right here, reminiscent of which of my closest family this individual additionally matches. I additionally file our widespread ancestor once I establish who that’s and even who it is perhaps.

You possibly can create a be aware by clicking on the match, then on “Add Observe” close to the highest.

  • Bushes – The “Bushes” filter gives the flexibility to view matches who’ve solely particular tree statuses.

Maybe you solely need to view solely folks with public, linked timber. Why are public, linked timber essential?

Public timber may be seen and searched by your matches. Personal timber can’t be seen by matches.

A public, linked tree implies that your match has linked their DNA check to their very own profile card in a public tree. The linking course of tells Ancestry who “they’re” of their tree and permits Ancestry to start looking from that individual up their tree to see if they’ll establish widespread ancestors with their matches. In different phrases, linking permits Ancestry’s instruments to give you the results you want and permits different folks to view your place in your tree so that may see the way you would possibly share ancestors.

Some folks don’t perceive the linking course of, so I usually check out unlinked timber too, particularly if the individual solely has one tree.

Make sure your DNA check is linked to your tree by clicking on the little down arrow by your consumer identify within the higher right-hand nook of the display screen, then, click on on “Your Profile,” then click on on the settings gear beneath your identify.

Then click on on DNA:

You’ll see the checks that you simply personal, so click on on the little proper arrow (>) to work with a selected check.

Lastly, you’ll see the identify on the check, the profile it’s linked to, and the identify of the tree.

Not correct or what you need? You possibly can change it!

Okay, again to working with filters. Subsequent, Shared DNA.

  • “Shared DNA” permits you to view solely particular relationships of matches.

I exploit this tab largely to see what number of matches I’ve.

  • The “Teams” filter categorizes matches by the coloured dot teams you identify. Matches may be assigned to single or a number of teams.

The excellent news is that you’ve got 24 coloured dot buttons that symbolize teams to work with. The unhealthy information is that you’ve got solely 24 that you would be able to assign.

Typically, I assign coloured dots, and subsequently matches, to some, not a person. In some instances, particularly with two marriages, I’ve assigned match buttons to a single ancestor. After all, that implies that one couple makes use of 2 coloured buttons☹

After you’ve created your teams, you’ll be able to assign a match to a gaggle, or a number of teams, by clicking in your match.

“Add to group” is situated proper beside “Add be aware,” so I do each on the similar time for every match.

I’ve one group referred to as “Ancestor Recognized” which is reserved for all ancestors who don’t have coloured group dots assigned. I can inform which ancestor by studying the notes I’ve entered.

To view each match in a selected group, click on on that group, then “apply” on the backside.

The matches displayed will solely be the 17 matches that I’ve assigned to the blue dot group – all descended from Antoine Lore (and his spouse).

Nonetheless, who I match in widespread with these 17 folks can lead me to extra folks descended from Antoine, his spouse, or their ancestors.

  • Search – The “Search” operate at far proper permits you to search your matches in a number of methods, however not by crucial side of family tree.

  1. You possibly can search by the match’s identify; first, final or Ancestry consumer identify.
  2. You possibly can search by surname in your matches’ timber. I positive hope you don’t have Jones.
  3. You possibly can search by start location in matches’ timber.
  4. You CANNOT search by ancestor. Say what???


Come on Ancestry…don’t make this deliberately tough.

  • “Kind” permits you to type your match listing both by relationship (the default) or by date. I’d commerce this for search by ancestor in a New York Minute.

We’re completed with the filters and features for managing your complete listing, so let’s see what we will do with every particular person match.

Match Data

We’ve already realized rather a lot about our matches simply by utilizing totally different filters, however there’s much more accessible.

You’ll have to click on on numerous areas of the match to view particular or extra data.

Click on on the expected relationship, like Fifth-Eighth cousin, to view how carefully Ancestry,  thinks you might be associated based mostly on the quantity of DNA you share. For those who click on on the connection, Ancestry shows the varied relationship prospects and the way possible each is.

Seems like there’s a little bit of a disconnect, as a result of whereas Ancestry predicts this relationship with 17 shared cM of DNA at Fifth-Eighth cousin, their chart exhibits that variations of third or 4th cousin are extra possible. This can be a nice instance of why you must at all times click on on the expected relationship and examine for your self.

Conversely, when you’re associated to a match by way of a number of strains, or by way of one set of ancestors greater than as soon as, Ancestry could predict that you’re associated extra carefully than you truly are – as a result of you could carry extra of that ancestor’s DNA. Ancestry, nor another vendor, has any manner of understanding why you carry that quantity of ancestral DNA.

Ancestry additionally exhibits you a bit extra details about how a lot DNA you share, and what number of segments. Sadly, Ancestry doesn’t present a chromosome browser, so there isn’t any extra you are able to do, at Ancestry, with this data – though you’ll be able to definitely switch your DNA to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, or GedMatch (a third-party software) who all present chromosome browsers.

Ancestry exhibits you the variety of cMs, or centiMorgans of DNA you share. Take into consideration a centiMorgan as a length measure, for sensible functions. Every vendor has their very own matching threshold and an identical piece of DNA with one other individual should be bigger than that bar. Ancestry’s minimal cM threshold is 8 cM, the best of all of the distributors.

Because of this any match decrease than 8 cM just isn’t thought of a match at Ancestry, however that very same individual would possibly seem in your match listing at one other vendor whose match threshold is decrease.

Ancestry additionally removes a few of your matching DNA earlier than contemplating matches. In areas the place your DNA is “too matchy,” Ancestry removes some segments as a result of they really feel that DNA could also be “older” and never genealogically related.

There’s quite a lot of debate about this observe, and powerful emotions abound. Some folks really feel that is justified as a result of it helps scale back the big variety of matches, particularly for individuals who descend from extremely endogamous populations.

Different individuals who have one endogamous line amongst many others discover that many or most of their matches from that inhabitants have been eliminated by Ancestry once they did one among their two purges. That’s what occurred to my Acadian and lots of of my African American matches.

Regardless, Ancestry tells you for every match in the event that they eliminated DNA segments utilizing their Timber algorithm, and if that’s the case, what number of.

Clearly, when viewing this match, 1 cM of eliminated DNA isn’t going to make a lot if any distinction until that 1cM was the distinction between being a match and never matching. You possibly can read Ancestry’s paper about how their matching works beneath the hood, right here.

There are solely two actual variations that DNA removing makes at Ancestry:

  • Whether or not you match or not, that means you’re both over or below that 8 cM bar.
  • Shared matches below 20 cM gained’t present, so you probably have 22 cM of shared DNA with somebody and Ancestry removes 3, you gained’t present as a shared match to folks you match in widespread. And other people you match in widespread, if they’ve lower than 20 cM shared DNA gained’t present to you both.

Since Ancestry doesn’t present their clients with superior instruments to check segments of DNA with their matches, apart from the 2 circumstances above, the removing of some DNA doesn’t actually matter.

That is perhaps greater than you wished to know! Nonetheless, when you discover some matches complicated, particularly if you realize two individuals are each matching you and one another, however they don’t present as a shared match, this simply is perhaps why. We’ll speak about shared matches in a minute.

Do Your Acknowledge Your Matches?

Ancestry gives a manner so that you can assign relationships.

For those who click on on “Be taught extra,” you’ll view the match web page that exhibits their tree, widespread ancestors with you, if recognized, and extra.

For those who click on “Sure,” you’ll be prompted for the way you match.

Ancestry will ask if you realize the particular relationship based mostly on the possibilities of that relationship being correct.

After you verify, that particular person shall be assigned to that parental aspect of your loved ones, or each, based mostly in your choice.

Shared Matches

Shared matches are a manner of viewing who you and one among your matches each match.

In different phrases, when you acknowledge different folks you each match, that’s a HUGE clue as to the way you and your match are associated. Nonetheless, it’s not an absolute, since you may match two folks by way of fully totally different strains, they usually may match one another by way of one other line not associated to you. Nonetheless, shared matching does present hints, particularly in case your match matches a number of family you’ll be able to establish who descend from the identical ancestor or ancestral couple.

This match solely has initials and a personal unlinked tree. Meaning they aren’t linked to the correct place of their tree, and their tree is personal so I can’t view it to judge for hints.

How can I presumably work out how we’re associated?

Click on on the match.

Clicking on Shared Matches exhibits me the people who T. F. and I each match.

Discover that T. F. and I match my 5 prime matches on my mom’s aspect. Clearly, T. F. and I share widespread ancestors on my mom’s aspect.

Moreover, based mostly on my notes and the quantity of DNA we share, our widespread ancestor might be my great-grandparents.

This match was straightforward to unravel, however not all are. Lets’s have a look at a unique shared match listing.

On this instance, all 4 folks have unlinked timber. The smallest shared match is 20 cM –  as a result of Ancestry doesn’t present smaller shared matches under 20 cM. After all, there are most likely a variety of smaller shared matches, however I can’t see them. In essence, this limits viewing your shared matches to the 4th-6th cousin vary or nearer.

Simply bear in mind that you simply’re not seeing all your shared matches, so don’t assume you might be.


By reviewing every match at Ancestry utilizing a methodical step-by-step method, there’s quite a lot of data to be gleaned.

Let’s summarize briefly:

  • Your matches listed first in your match listing are your closest, and more likely to be essentially the most helpful to you when it comes to figuring out maternal and paternal sides of your loved ones for different matches.
  • Check both or each mother and father if doable
  • Hyperlink your self and the DNA kits you handle to their correct place in your tree in order that Ancestry can offer you parental sides to your matches in case your mother and father have examined. Ancestry makes use of linked timber for ThruLines tii.
  • Manually assign “sides” to matches in case your mother and father aren’t accessible to check.
  • Use the filters or combos. Don’t neglect to reset.
  • Click on on “Widespread Ancestors” to view potential widespread ancestors – matches exhibiting these inexperienced leaves. That is Ancestry’s energy.
  • From Widespread Ancestors, examine ThruLines to view matches linked to a typical ancestor.
  • Don’t neglect unlinked timber.
  • Assign dot colours to ancestral {couples} or a manner that is smart to you.
  • Assign matches by coloured dot group.
  • Make notes that can allow you to keep in mind particulars concerning the match and what you’ve got and haven’t completed with or realized about that match.
  • Search by location or surname or a mixture of each.
  • Assign relationships, when recognized. At the very least assign maternally or paternally, or each if the match is expounded by way of either side of your loved ones. Trace – your full siblings, their kids, and your kids are associated to either side – your mom’s and father’s sides, each.
  • Click on in your match’s profile to view extra data, together with widespread ancestors and their tree. Scroll right down to view widespread surnames, places and ancestors from each folks (you and your match) present in these places.
  • View shared matches to see who else you and your match are each associated to. Your shared matches could effectively maintain the important thing to the way you and an unknown match are associated. Don’t neglect that Ancestry solely shows shared matches of 20 cM or bigger.
  • For those who’d prefer to make the most of a chromosome browser for added insights and to substantiate particular widespread ancestors by shared segments of DNA, obtain a duplicate of your uncooked DNA knowledge file and add, free, to each FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, here. They each present chromosome browsers and superior instruments.

You will discover step-by-step instructions for downloading from Ancestry and uploading elsewhere, here.

Be part of Me for Extra!

I’ll be publishing related articles about working with matches at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe quickly.

For those who haven’t examined in any respect of those distributors and wish to, simply click on on these hyperlinks for extra data or to order checks:

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