Research Tip

This research tip of the week is in regards to DNA testing results on

Ancestry is constantly improving their site to make it more user friendly. Recently, they have rolled out several big changes. The new health division of the site is live. Thru lines have officially replaced the old DNA circles and new tools are available to make both traditional records based genealogy research and DNA research easier to organize and streamline.

Working without a chromosome viewer

With all these improvements Ancestry still lags behind the other sites with the powerful chromosome viewing tools. They still have the largest database of results by leagues which makes working around the lacking chromosome viewer a necessary evil.

Thankfully, with the sites new sorting options that is a breeze. I have a quick method for breaking down all those thousands of matches into manageable groups. Once you have smaller groups it becomes much easier to recognize the family lines in those groups and identify the most recent common ancestor (MRCA).

Genealogy Terms Defined: MRCA = Most Recent Common Ancestor

If you have had a parent test, the site will sort the matches out for you. For most people they won’t be so lucky and it will be a manual process.

Creating manageable groups

Start with the first match and view shared matches. It doesn’t matter if they have a tree, it doesn’t matter if you have no clue how they connect to you. Create your first group, and give it a name. You can edit the name later so don’t worry about being too specific. This first match is the first person who gets the new group tag you just created. Go down the list of shared matches and assign all the matches this group tag.

Pro tip: Start with just the higher matches if the group is too massive. I will stop assigning new matches to the tag if I notice I have a ton of matches that all match a single segment at a low threshold (ex. 20cM’s).

Once you get the first group created and filled with matches, go back to the screen of all DNA matches. Select the highest match not assigned to the first group and start the process all over again to create a second group.

Continue down the list, create a third group, fourth group, and so on.

As you get to new matches you will start to find overlap between new groups and groups you already created. Add the new tag to matches that fit. The result will be that matches with higher shared centiMorgans will typically wind up with several group tags. This is because closer relatives will share more than one shared genetic contributor.

Analyze on a smaller scale

Once the matches are sorted into manageable groups it is easier to filter them down and analyze the groups to determine a shared ancestor based on actual shared DNA.

Through the process of identifying MRCA’s in the groups it typically reveals genetic lines quickly.

Do you have any tricks you use for easy sorting of DNA matches on Ancestry to work around the lack of a chromosome browser?

  6 comments for “Research Tip

  1. October 29, 2019 at 5:13 am

    This is so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 29, 2019 at 6:56 am

      I am endlessly fascinated with DNA right now. It can be so confusing at first but it’s like a fun puzzle once you get the hang of it.


  2. Amy
    October 29, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Interesting approach, but unfortunately it won’t work for me as it appears almost every match shares so many other matches with me that the groups would overlap immediately and substantially. The curse of endogamy….

    By the way, I often get warnings about your site being “dangerous” when I click on the link in the email notification. Any idea why?

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 29, 2019 at 10:48 am

      I have a ton of ancestors from isolated communities in Appalachia. Endogamy definitely presents an extra challenge. A chromosome browser is a must have for those situations but you can still make some sense of them with this basic technique to identify the family lines.

      I have NO idea why it is coming up with a warning but thank you for pointing it out. I’ll have to do some investigating. It’s a wordpress hosted blog so it shouldn’t have any security issues. Hmm…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        October 29, 2019 at 12:01 pm

        Thanks for checking that out. And if I have the patience, I will see where your tip leads me!

        Liked by 1 person

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