Using DNA with genealogy can be both a powerful and an intimidating prospect. When I first did my testing, I looked at my results and felt very overwhelmed. You get this list of tens of thousands of matches and it’s hard to fathom how to even approach organizing them or if you even want to bother. I thought it might be helpful for others if I shared some of the things I found useful in my journey into genetic genealogy.
I did my testing on ancestry. Ancestry has the biggest database of people who have taken the DNA test. Ancestry also has some serious limitations to their DNA side of the site. The estimated relationships on ancestry are very vague compared to other sites. They also lack a chromosome browser using instead what can be misleading “shared matches” only.
Despite the limitations of ancestry’s DNA tools, there is a lot of great information that can be pulled from ancestry. To get the most out of the matches on ancestry without going through each tree all at once I use a Leed’s Spreadsheet. I create a list of all matches down to about 50 cm’s. For simplicity, I start at the first match that is below 500cm’s. I start with the first match and color all the shared matches with that match the same color. I then move onto the next match that I didn’t assign to the first group, choose a new color, and mark all the shared matches creating a second group. I go on to the next match not in groups 1 or 2 and create group 3. I continue until I have created groups of all my matches. This will usually sort the matches out into several family lines.
Smaller groups are much easier to compare to see who the shared family lines are between the various matches.
Here is a helpful and more in-depth guide to using the Leeds Method.
It didn’t take me long to get frustrated with the limitations of ancestry’s DNA site. I started looking for more ways to get the most out of my information. Enter DNA Painter.
DNA Painter is a site with most of the features free. DNA painter has several tools that are amazing for helping process DNA data. I’ll start with the “What are the Odds?” tool. This tool allows you to take matches from ancestry and input the shared cm’s creating a basic tree for how you think a match connects. This allows you to test a hypothesis and tell you if you are on the right track. It is very useful for ruling out wrong relationships and narrowing down possible connections.
Another tool on DNA painter is the “Shared CM Tool.” This tool can take vague relationships of ancestry and refine them into more detailed explanations. It provides an odds breakdown of each of the possible relationships. This can be useful for trying to determine where to put shared matches on the “What are the Odds?” tree.
The last tool that I find useful on DNA Painter is useless with ancestry due to the lack of a chromosome browser but there is a work around to obtain your chromosome information if you do testing on ancestry. This last tool is the ability to create a genetic profile. Using a site that gives you the shared chromosomes of DNA matches DNA painter gives you the ability to “paint” your matches. This tool is powerful for grouping up matches based on actual shared genetics.
To obtain chromosome information using ancestry test results I recommend downloading your raw DNA data from ancestry and uploading it to Gedmatch Genesis.
This site is free but there is a pay option for some of the more technical tools.
This blog by the DNA Geek will help you transfer your data from ancestry to Gedmatch Genesis.