Please use your DNA and
your known ancestry to
help your long-lost cousins to find you and to find your and their
I have given a number of talks on this topic, one of which you can
watch on YouTube.
DNA testing is not a substitute for genealogical research; rather the
two approaches help to corroborate each other. Not so long ago,
genealogical co-operation was based on the sharing of
pedigree information with no genetic information; in a short number of
years, many attempts at genealogical co-operation have become based on
the sharing of genetic information via various websites with
no pedigree information. Announcing that "I have completed a DNA test"
without giving your audience the precise details that will allow them
to quickly and easily compare their DNA to yours is not very helpful.
Both genealogical and genetic information are of far
more use to potential relatives and other researchers when they are
together. Please consider the following advice before you start
bombarding your DNA matches with incomplete or irrelevant information.
And if your close DNA matches volunteer only incomplete or irrelevant
information, do not hesitate to ask them relevant questions and to
recommend that they also read this page.
From the point of view of any of your DNA matches, the most helpful way
to share whatever you
already know about the ancestors from whom you inherited your DNA is in
the form of a pedigree
i.e. a chart with yourself at the left, your parents to your right,
your grandparents to their right, your greatgrandparents to their
right, and so on, giving each ancestor's name and places of birth,
marriage and death. There is a wide variety of genealogical software
which will help you to organise the relevant information.You can follow
these links to see
examples from Ancestral
Quest, AncestryDNA, ancestry.com,
These are just screengrabs of my own pedigree chart. In general,
mousing-over or clicking-on the names in the
live versions of these charts displays additional date and place
These sample charts include examples from three websites that are
widely used for re-uniting long-lost
cousins whose DNA and/or pedigree charts have been compared and found
to match: namely
GEDmatch.com, FamilyTreeDNA.com and AncestryDNA.com. For best results,
you must fish for your long-lost cousins in all three of these pools.
If you are already an AncestryDNA customer, then you don't have to spit
or swab or pay again to get into all three pools.
You can pay FamilyTreeDNA.com and/or AncestryDNA to extract the
relevant data from a DNA sample. These companies turn your spit or swab
into a simple data file, hidden
away on the relevant website, that can be used on other more powerful
DNA comparison websites.
You may even be lucky enough to find a
generous relative who knows
that your DNA potentially contains the answer to a family history
puzzle and is willing to pay for the analysis.
Whichever company you employ to create the data file, you and others
can use GEDmatch.com and FamilyTreeDNA.com free of charge to
analyse your data. In addition to the free tools, both of these
websites provide further analysis
tools for a small fee.
Once the data file is available online, then these great
tools can (and should) be used to extract the maximum useful
information from the raw
data. If you don't have the time, patience, interest and/or technical
necessary to do all the follow-up analysis, then you should at least be
able to find a known relative or a DNA match or some other kind soul
who will talk you through the process or even do everything for you.
Don't be afraid to ask for help.
If you have gone to the trouble of submitting DNA to one company, then
you owe it to your relatives to help them to figure out how they are
related to customers of the other labs by copying your results to
GEDmatch. A match who shares the same DNA segment with you and with one
of your known relatives must be related to both of you through
your known common ancestors. Conversely, a match who shares a
segment with your known relative but not with you must be related to
the known relative through his or her other parent (the parent not
related to you).
While this information may not be of direct interest to you, it may be
a vital clue to the other two parties to the comparison. GEDmatch is
the only website which allows this type of comparison between any three
GEDmatch.com and FamilyTreeDNA.com immediately give you an e-mail
address for your DNA matches. AncestryDNA gives you two or three
buttons to use
to contact your matches via an internal messaging system so that you
can request their e-mail addresses:
a green SEND MESSAGE button;
if necessary, a green INVITE [USERNAME] TO ADD A FAMILY
TREE button (both on the AncestryDNA Match
Details page); and
a brown CONTACT [USERNAME] button (on the "Your Ancestry
There has been some debate as to which of these buttons is most likely
to catch your match's attention.
initially use Ancestry's internal system to exchange e-mail addresses.
Note that Ancestry requires you to have a current paid subscription or
short free trial (in
addition to the charge for processing your DNA) in order for you to use
the internal messaging system. If you don't wish to pay a subscription,
save your free trial period until after your DNA results arrive. You
should exchange e-mail addresses with as
many of your close DNA matches as practical while you are a subscriber
or in your free trial period. Then
keep all your DNA-related correspondence together in your e-mail
archives where it will be easily searchable in future. There is
facility to search AncestryDNA messages, even at the most basic level,
such as to check if you have previously sent a message to a DNA match.
One of the greatest advantages of GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA is that
they enable one to keep all of one's DNA-related correspondence in one
searchable e-mail archive, rather than scattering it around Ancestry,
Facebook and other inferior messaging websites. By all means,
for and even befriend your DNA matches on Facebook, but keep all your
correspondence together in your e-mail archives.
Like most websites, the DNA websites are much easier to use from a
computer with a keyboard and large screen than from a smaller mobile
touchscreen device. I have had several reports of people giving up in
despair on touchscreen devices and reverting to a normal computer
(Microsoft or Macintosh or Linux).
There are two other websites which might also have been discussed on this
namely MyHeritage.com and 23andMe.com.
MyHeritage.com's initial DNA matching algorithm had serious flaws and
could not be recommended. By late 2017, however, these flaws appear to
have been rectified and its market share began to grow rapidly.
However, 23andMe.com can not currently be recommended to
genealogists for several reasons:
it essentially withdrew from the market by showing many, if
not all, of its
customers the message "We are continuing to modify some aspects of DNA
Relatives in preparation for the transition to the new 23andMe
October 2015 until at least May 2017;
it withdrew further from the market in August 2017 by
to a GSA chip which is not compatible with the current
it appears to have stopped hosting any type
of family trees for its DNA customers.
There seems no point in providing
further details of 23andMe on this page. For those who wish to create
a link between their DNA results at 23andMe.com and a family tree on an
external website, see Kitty Cooper's blog post.
I have become increasingly frustrated since I became involved in
genetic genealogy back in 2013 by hearing frequently about people who
are in just one of the
online DNA databases and have no online
pedigree charts. Without this critical information, it is impossible to
place anyone precisely in my family tree or to identify which DNA
segments they may have inherited from which ancestors. I have put
together this page in an attempt to gather all the relevant
instructions and advice in a single place and to make it easy for
others to get maximum benefit from their DNA purchase.
The two companies with the largest customer bases are AncestryDNA
and FamilyTreeDNA (where the
entry-level product is called Family Finder).
The DNA company to which you pay your money and send your sample has a
number of priorities, in this order:
separating you from your money;
assigning ethnicity labels to percentages of your DNA; and
sending you elsewhere for help in finding cousins and
This page is designed to help you to find those cousins and ancestors.
There will always be some customers of the DNA companies who do not
comprehend others' need and desire to go through the subsequent steps
in the process, but the
breakthroughs made by co-operation between those who do comprehend will
more than compensate for the frustrations of trying to explain things
to those who do not.
Once you have submitted your sample and received your results, there
are some other steps which you yourself must take in order to maximise
chances that your long-lost cousins can find you, so that you and they
can then combine your information about your long-forgotten ancestors
use that combined information to learn more about those ancestors in
archives and through the DNA databases.
2: Sharing your DNA results
There is a trade-off between increasing your chances of finding
long-lost cousins and ancestors (and being found by long-lost cousins)
and maintaining the privacy of your DNA results. If you keep your DNA
results or known family tree private, then nobody will be able to find
you and you will not
be able to find any DNA matches. If you want to be found, then you must
let your potential cousins see your DNA results and your known family
Some customers of the DNA companies appear to wish to maintain a
certain degree of privacy and anonymity. Others find it paradoxical
those trying to identify their anonymous ancestors can be so concerned
about anonymising their own identity.
Most people inherit DNA with
their birth surname, so you should as a minimum identify yourself by
your birth surname with an initial or a title, e.g., P Waldron or Mr
Waldron or Miss Durkan.
Your first name, married
surname or marital status reveal nothing about your DNA, so you may
keep these private if you wish. If you use a pseudonym in place of a real surname, then you will
greatly reduce the chances that your matches will bother to look at your family
tree, contact you or share the information about your ancestry that
they have and that you do not have.
If you are a married woman (or for any other reason use a
surname other than one of those from which you could have inherited
then you will probably want to use your maiden surname for various
reasons, such as
to attract the
attention of potentially closely related DNA matches with your surname in their
to avoid attracting the attention of probably very distantly related DNA
matches who have the
surname of your husband/stepfather/adoptive father/etc. in their family
to provide automated hints to your closer Family Finder
at FamilyTreeDNA.com who both have you in their match lists and have
your maiden surname in their pedigree.
It is very important to reveal the gender
of the person who provided the DNA sample, as valuable additional
inferences can potentially be drawn once it is known whether two X
chromosomes (female) or one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (male)
are potentially available for comparison. While women are encouraged to
recruit their male relatives to provide Y-DNA, they must NOT attach a
female name or a female photograph or a female's pedigree to a male DNA
sample, as this causes
untold confusion and
worse. In particular, wrong conclusions can be drawn from X-DNA
comparisons if the wrong gender is assumed for one of those
compared. If a female name is associated with a male DNA sample,
matches will have no idea whether it is the name of the subject's
mother, daughter, sister, more distant relative, or non-relative.
Under absolutely no circumstances should you confuse your matches by
giving a DNA kit the name of a real person (of either gender) other
than the person whose
DNA it represents.
Further confusion is often caused by using different names and
different e-mail addresses in different DNA databases. Please try to be
as consistent as possible. In one case, it took me 300 days to
recognise that kits using different pseudonyms at AncestryDNA and
GEDmatch were from the same person. Delegating management of your DNA
kit on a
particular website to somebody else is better than not being there at
all, but if you are prepared to accept e-mails from one website, then
should be prepared to accept e-mails from all.
If you want to change the alias that you have used for a GEDmatch kit,
just select "EDIT or DELETE your DNA resource profiles." on the
GEDmatch main menu; click the SELECT button for the kit; click the EDIT
button; change the Alias; and click the Save_Changes button.
You should allow those who are willing and able to help you to find
your cousins and ancestors to see and to analyse both your DNA match
lists and your pedigree
chart, which you (or someone acting on your behalf) will have to record in a format known as a GEDCOM file.
These may be people
with knowledge of your own extended family or people with a more
advanced knowledge of genetic genealogy in general. You can allow
people to see your results in various ways at GEDmatch.com, AncestryDNA
If you want your relatives to
find you using your DNA, then you have to put the DNA where they will
find it, which is at GEDmatch.com, the first place that all serious
genetic genealogists will look.
The basic one-to-many report at GEDmatch.com will show you your 2000
closest matches (with more remote cousins dropping off the bottom of
the match list as closer cousins appear), whereas the commercial DNA
companies have fixed thresholds for determining your matches (so that
your match lists there grow and grow over time). But GEDmatch.com has
many other more useful reports than the basic one-to-many.
If you have sent a DNA sample to one of the commercial DNA
companies, then you must copy the raw data generated by the commercial
company to GEDmatch.com in order to obtain the full value of your
purchase, both for yourself and for your relatives who are in the DNA
databases. You must also upload a GEDCOM file to GEDmatch.com and link
each of the DNA kits that you upload to the relevant individuals in the
You will be issued with a GEDmatch kit number when you upload your DNA
file; it might have been better if GEDmatch insisted on both the DNA
file and the GEDCOM file being uploaded together before issuing kit
numbers, although that would pose a problem for adoptees.
Once you have your own kit number, you can run a one-to-one comparison
from the main menu with the kit number of anyone that you think might
be related to you. For example, my own kit number is T205074.
One huge advantage of GEDmatch.com is that it accepts uploads
from all the commercial DNA companies and so also
to fish for possible relatives in the potential combined pool
of interested, patient and technically competent customers of all the
competing DNA companies. On the other hand, it seems that some
customers of the commercial firms are lacking the
interest, the patience and the technical competence or just the
confidence to copy their data
to GEDmatch.com. If you are one of these people, then you belong to the
audience for whom I have written this page. I hope that it will inspire
your interest, give you confidence in GEDmatch and in your own ability
to use it, and provide you with simple instructions for the once-off
procedures required to start using GEDmatch. If you like to follow
hard-copy instructions, just print off this page before you start.
If you have not already created a GEDmatch.com account, you will
need to create one before you can upload your data.
You can upload data for more than one person under the same e-mail
To get started, type GEDmatch.com in your browser address bar, then
find "Not Registered? Click HERE"
and follow instructions.
In general, you can delegate the technical aspects of managing your DNA
data to anyone whom you trust with the password for your DNA kit.
In the case of AncestryDNA, you have the alternative of making someone
else a Manager of your DNA kit (see below).
The Manager will be able to download your raw data.
If you do not appoint a manager, then only
someone with the passwords for both your AncestryDNA account and
whatever e-mail address you use for your
AncestryDNA account can get at your raw data file. Most people will be
far more reluctant to give someone else access to their e-mail than to
their DNA data, so you will probably want to either (a) appoint a
Manager, or (b) download the
raw data file yourself; or (c) sit beside the person helping you to
download it; or (d) set up a new e-mail address that you don't use for
anything other than AncestryDNA; or (e) forward the relevant e-mail to
whoever is helping you.
If there is more than one DNA kit linked to your
ancestry.com account, choose the relevant one from the VIEW ANOTHER
TEST dropdown menu near the top right corner.
(If you are lucky enough to have more than about a dozen
kits linked to your account
and if your surname is well down the alphabet, like Waldron, then you
will have two scroll bars to choose from in order to select your kit;
which one to use will depend on which browser you are using!)
Select the SETTINGS button beside the VIEW ANOTHER
Select the DOWNLOAD RAW DNA DATA button towards the middle
of the right-hand column.
Re-enter your ancestry.com password, tick the box to
confirm that you understand what you are doing, and CONFIRM.
Wait for an e-mail to arrive to the e-mail address
associated with your ancestry.com account.
button in the e-mail. (This link will expire
after 7 days or the first use. To download your data after the
expiration, you will need to initiate the process again on the website.)
When prompted, save
the .zip file somewhere on your device that you can find it; on many
will be your "Downloads" folder. You do not have to open or unzip it
(Macintosh users should disable auto unzip in the Safari web browser).
nothing in either the suggested file name (dna-data-yyyy-mm-dd.zip,
where dd, mm and yyyy represent the day, month and year of the
download) or the file contents to identify whose DNA it represents.
Since you may end up saving similar files for different individuals, I
recommend that you change the suggested file name to a file name
including the name of the DNA subject. This will not affect subsequent
uploads to GEDmatch.com or FamilyTreeDNA.com.
Remember the location where you have saved the file for the
Having downloaded the
file, you must now upload it to GEDmatch.com (and also to
FamilyTreeDNA.com; see below).
Before you can upload your .zip file to GEDmatch you must
Assuming that you have registered at GEDmatch, type
GEDmatch.com in your browser address bar.
Enter your Email Address and Password, <Tab>,
Once you have logged in to your GEDmatch.com account,
you'll see this "File
Upload" panel on the home page (which can also be referred to as the
GEDmatch.com main menu):
Do NOT open or un-zip raw
DNA data files before uploading.
In a new tab, open the "Generic Upload
link in the left-hand
subcolumn of the blue right-hand column of the main menu.
You'll need to upload the
raw data which
you have saved on your computer from whichever commercial DNA website
you have used.
When you follow the link, you will see this form:
You may want to open the "Click HERE for detailed
automatically opens in a new tab, but I have copied most of those
At the bottom of the page use the Browse button to choose,
then the Upload button to upload your saved zipped DNA file.
It's IMPORTANT that you wait
for all chromosomes to load, it will tell you when it's finished (this
is faster than it used to be, but may take 5-10 minutes).
Your GEDmatch kit number will
displayed. Give this kit number to anyone that you think may be related
When the data has been uploaded, you
(or at least within a minute or so) be able to run one-to-one
comparisons and use some
features of the site.
processing, which usually takes anything
from a few hours to a few days, must complete before
you can run one-to-many comparisons and use some of the other tools
comparing you to everyone in the data
Now be patient while
your data is being processed at GEDmatch.com.
You must download exactly one of these six files -
the Build 36 Raw Data Concatenated
(GZIP, CSV) file at the bottom right.
When prompted, save
the .zip file somewhere on your device that you can find
it; on many devices this will be your "Downloads" folder. You do not
have to open
or unzip it
(Macintosh users should disable
auto unzip in the Safari web browser).
the data exactly as it is downloaded from FTDNA.
Accept the prompt to name the file
"I" denotes your initial, "Surname" denotes your surname and "yyyymmdd"
denotes the date on which the download took place).
Remember the location where you have saved the file
for the next step, which is exactly the same as that for
AncestryDNA customers described
in detail above.
Note that the raw data files usually don't show up for about a
(and sometimes several days) after the match list. So you may
see an error
message when you try to download for a newly processed sample.
Sometimes the error message reads:
Houston, we have a problem!
There was an error while attempting to load the page
The remote server returned an error: (404) Not
More recently, the error message has read as follows (with no
button to click!):
"The remote server returned an error: (404) Not
Found. Please click this button to report the error:"
If this happens, just wait 24 hours and then try again, or at
least be as patient
as you can.
AncestryDNA has a firm policy of NOT providing its customers with the
types of DNA analysis tools available at GEDmatch.com.
However, Ancestry has offered three very different options to share:
share a family tree;
share ethnicity estimates; and
share DNA match lists.
The last-mentioned is the most useful and was once the
best hidden. Follow these steps to share your match list:
Make sure that you are logged in to the relevant account
Clicking on this button in the e-mail asks you to confirm your
details before allowing you access to the match list.
You should click only once on the button; clicking again asks you again
to confirm your Ancestry login details, but then diverts to
You Are Not Authorized to Access This Page".
This is a bug in the Ancestry set-up.
The button above is not a real invitation and will also take you to
https://www.ancestry.com/dna/403 if you click on it.
Once you have accepted an invitation to view someone else's match list,
you will see a dropdown menu headed "VIEW ANOTHER TEST" on your AncestryDNA
and the full name of the person who invited you to view his or her
match list will appear on that menu.
If you have employed
extract the data from your DNA, then you must copy the data to
FamilyTreeDNA.com via the free Autosomal Transfer.
This merely involves uploading the same file that you should have
already uploaded to GEDmatch.com. You can pay a small fee (USD19 as of 18 May 2017) to unlock
all the analysis tools.
A small number of AncestryDNA raw data files are in a non-standard
format which is rejected by the FamilyTreeDNA uploader (although
perfectly acceptable to GEDmatch). There is a free online tool which will
convert the non-standard AncestryDNA files into the standard format.
(Technical aside: Ancestry and FTDNA now use different sets of
SNPs. The overlap is only around half the size of the FTDNA
set. It is naturally much harder to find long runs of
half-identical locations in a much smaller set of SNPs. The
consequence is that Ancestry transfers with the different set of SNPs
on average seem to have only around 10% of the number of matches of
native FTDNA kits, but these include all the closest matches. Ancestry
originally used the same set of SNPs as FTDNA, so early AncestryDNA
customers will have essentially the same matches to their autosomal
transfer as if they submitted a DNA sample directly to FTDNA.)
The easiest way to share results at FamilyTreeDNA.com is by joining an
existing project (such as the Clare Roots project
which I administer for those with roots in County Clare, Ireland) or by
setting up a new project. The procedure is the same whether you have
sent a DNA sample to FamilyTreeDNA.com or merely transferred your data
file from AncestryDNA.
Project administrators and co-administrators can view and advise on the
results of all project members; they cannot change the primary e-mail
address or download the raw data file.
If you have ancestors from County Clare, then you can join the Clare
Roots project by logging in to your FamilyTreeDNA kit and going here, where you have to click a
JOIN button to the right of the ruin in the banner photograph.
If you want to see how many of your Family Finder matches are in any
project that you have joined, then just go to the Advanced Matches page and tick the
Family Finder checkbox and select the project in the "Show Matches For"
You should search for relevant surname projects. The easiest way to
find projects is to use Google and search for, e.g., Waldron FTDNA
Some surname projects welcome anyone with the surname in their
ancestry; others are confined to men with the surname who have bought
If you are working, on your own or with others, on several DNA samples,
then you can apply to set up a private project to facilitate access,
and can make your collaborators administrators or co-administrators of
There is a simple five-step application process (which
actually consists of only four steps!).
I recommend that you prepare your application offline and copy and
paste into the online form when you are ready - this will save time if
you later want to set up another project for a different family group
or if for any reason you need to resubmit your application.
3: Sharing your pedigree chart
The usefulness of DNA results in identifying previously unknown ancestors is vastly increased when they are
directly connected to a pedigree chart showing the already known direct
ancestors of the DNA subject, even if this goes no further back than
parents, grandparents or greatgrandparents..
Your pedigree chart must be uploaded, by yourself or by a more
experienced genealogist (if you are lucky enough to have one helping
you), to every website on which your DNA results appear.
In fact, this is an essential part of the process, except for adoptees
who start out not knowing anything about their birth parents.
One can see in 30 seconds by comparing two online pedigree charts
something that could otherwise takes several days of exchange of
e-mails to find.
If you wish, yourself and any of your ancestors who are still living
can be marked as "Private" in your pedigree chart. Even if only one
generation of deceased ancestors is included, that will usually be
enough to enable the more experienced genealogists amongst your matches
to trace additional generations of your ancestry and work out how they
are related to you. In fact, sharing information on a limited number of
ancestors with your DNA matches is a great way of getting a more
complete and detailed family tree compiled, completely free of charge,
by someone else!
The more clues that you give a DNA match who is a good genealogical
researcher, the more likely you are to entice the match into
researching your ancestors on your behalf. The match may have
personal knowledge, research skills and/or access to online or offline
resources which you do not have, so may make discoveries that you could
never have made on your own.
On the other hand, the more clues that you give a DNA match who is a
bad genealogical researcher and who has confused your ancestor with a
namesake, the more difficult it will become to disentangle the facts
from the fiction and to separate the two namesakes. Striking
the appropriate balance is not easy, but I like to withhold at least
one small fact or hypothesis or to throw in one question to which I am
fairly sure I already know the answer, in the hope that the other party
will be able to provide independent confirmation of the family history.
Your initial pedigree chart can be replaced with an updated version
from time to
time as new information about your ancestors is discovered.
In fact, if everybody shared what they knew by sharing pedigree charts,
then there would be no need for e-mail queries. The only need for
e-mail contact would be to alert people to actual breakthroughs in
Conversely, sending e-mail to a DNA match with no obvious relationship
who has no knowledge of his or her ancestry or who is unable or
unwilling to share his or her knowledge is unlikely to elicit any
useful additional information.
In other words, the main reason to initiate e-mail correspondence
should be to volunteer new information, not to request information.
Unless your DNA matches can see the gaps in your full clear pedigree
chart, they will not realise what information you are missing, and will
not think of volunteering that information.
With millions of people in the DNA databases and many people managing
kits for multiple family members, this philosophy is the only way to
keep the volume of DNA-related e-mails to manageable proportions.
Some people share lists of unlinked ancestral surnames on DNA websites,
and this is even encouraged by FamilyTreeDNA.com,
but a surname list alone is not enough. For a start, a surname list
does not reveal from which ancestral surnames you inherited your X-DNA,
Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA. A pedigree chart makes this immediately
Rather than waste your time entering your
surnames manually, you should record your pedigree chart in a format
known as GEDCOM
using standard genealogy software and upload the GEDCOM file,
which the FTDNA surname list will be automatically populated.
In order to share your pedigree chart, you must record your ancestors
using genealogical software. There are many software options to choose
from. The most important feature to check for is whether your chosen
software can export a selected subset of individuals (such as all your
allows you to export a GEDCOM without the details of living
individuals. This is one of the reasons that I use the paid version of Ancestral
Quest, but there are many alternatives.
genealogy software may be more primitive and have:
a free version with no facility to export GEDCOM files and
a paid version with such a facility (e.g. tribalpages.com);
a facility to export the entire database to a GEDCOM file,
facility to select just a subset of individuals for inclusion (e.g. ancestry.com);
a facility to export to a GEDCOM file, but no facility to
distinguish between the details included for living and deceased
While I strongly recommend using
standalone desktop genealogy software to create your GEDCOM file, this
can also be done using the AncestryDNA website or various similar websites.
However, if you choose to maintain the master copy of your family tree
on a website, then you will have to download your GEDCOM file, both
as a backup in case the "cloud" where
the website is stored evaporates with all your hard work; and
in order to upload it to other DNA websites.
If you do not have the basic genealogical knowledge, computer hardware
and technical skills required to create a GEDCOM file, then the
in your family may be able and willing to help.
Your own favourite genealogy software should allow you to
create a GEDCOM file containing whichever individuals you wish from
your family tree.
You may include whichever individuals you wish in
the file, but I recommend that you create a single GEDCOM file,
including only all of those individuals whose DNA
kits you manage and all of the direct ancestors of each of
them, and including just the basic, but essential, names, dates and
places for these
individuals. Other individuals and other details of your direct
ancestors are initially irrelevant to your DNA matches and
including them only increases the file size, confuses your matches,
slows processing and display, and risks offending living individuals
who may not wish to be included due to concerns about privacy. (Many
financial institutions and other bodies work on the assumption that
genealogical information about an individual that an experienced
genealogist can locate in seconds is known only to that individual; one
should of course avoid doing business with such institutions.)
If you wish to choose a subset of your database and your software does
not permit this, then you can always install better software, such as Ancestral
Quest, which I use, or probably RootsMagic
or Family Tree Builder or any of the
numerous other programs listed on Wikipedia.
Apart from Ancestral Quest, I have not checked which of these products
allows the export of a GEDCOM file including just one or more selected
and all of their known direct ancestors. The free version of
Ancestral Quest both
imports and exports
GEDCOM files. You can continue to use your existing software for data
entry, but use the new software merely to import your full GEDCOM,
select the relevant individuals and details, and export the desired
subset of your information.
Once you have a GEDCOM file, it must be linked to your DNA results (and
the DNA results of other relatives which you manage) at
Your DNA results will not attract the attention of those who may be in
a position to help you if they are not connected to what you already
know about your ancestors.
It is not practical for me to include and maintain here full up-to-date
instructions on how to
create the required GEDCOM file from all of the myriad of genealogy
software packages and websites on the market. Here are some
Quest Version 14.00.32
On the File menu, select Export.
From the "Export for import into" dropdown menu, select "Other".
If you wish, untick all the "Include" checkboxes except "Names on
In the "Selected Individuals" pane, select the Partial button (Alt-P)
and the Select button (Alt-S).
Find the DNA subject.
In the "Selections by Relationship" pane, choose Ancestors on the
dropdown menu and the Select button (Alt-S). Set "Descendant
generations" to zero and make sure the "Include spouses" and "Include
all parents" boxes are not ticked.
Select OK, OK and Export
Save the file and note carefully where you are saving it so that you
will be able to find it again when you want to upload it elsewhere.
Go to the Family
Find and select the "Manage tree" link for the relevant tree.
Find and select the green "Download your
link towards the bottom of the right-hand column.
Save the file and note carefully where you are saving it so that you
will be able to find it again when you want to upload it elsewhere.
Familysearch.org apparently does not allow you to save your
work directly in GEDCOM format.
Instead, you must import from the website into your compatible desktop
genealogy software and then export from there to GEDCOM.
Choose one of the Family Tree Management programs.
Again, I use Ancestral Quest Version 14.00.32 as an example.
First, go to the Tools menu and select Preferences, FamilySearch,
Enable FamilySearch features.
Close and restart Ancestral Quest.
Then go to the new FamilySearch menu and select Import Family Lines,
Sign In, Import (i.e. Download My Ancestors, or choose whatever
individuals you want to import).
[This takes a while, so go and do something else until it completes.]
Now follow the standard
instructions above for Ancestral Quest.
Some people find it disconcerting that others publish nonsense online
masquerading as family trees. Some websites hosting family trees
facilitate the dissemination of such nonsense by failing to implement
basic error checking, such as ensuring that a child is born after its
parents. Some websites even encourage the copying of such nonsense by
some customers from others by a system of "hints", so that the nonsense
quickly goes viral. Those whose family trees and photographs are copied
into such online nonsense can be reluctant to leave their information
online. Just because some people misuse or abuse a good service is no
reason for others to refuse to use it properly. Those with qualms about
publishing all their genealogical research online should be reassured
by the principle that only basic information on the direct ancestors of
DNA subjects is required for very effective use of the DNA comparison
Once you have made a GEDCOM file including the desired individuals, you
must use the
Fast Beta version
link at the top right of the GEDmatch main menu to upload the
There is no need to upload multiple GEDCOM files if you manage
multiple DNA kits for related individuals. This will just confuse and
delay people who match any of your kits. Instead, just include all of
your DNA subjects and their direct ancestors in a single GEDCOM file
and create the relevant links between the single GEDCOM file and your
multiple DNA kits.
Anyone who has your ancestors in a genealogy database can
the first step of creating the GEDCOM file for you, and can then use
to manage other GEDCOM resource details" at the bottom of the left-hand
column of the GEDmatch main menu to transfer the GEDCOM file to your
Then you must link each of the DNA kits associated with your
e-mail address to the relevant people in
the GEDCOM file. The DNA kit and the GEDCOM file can not be linked
unless both are associated with the same e-mail address.
To link the DNA to the relevant pedigree, first select the relevant
GEDCOM file number (e.g. 7989365) under "Your GEDCOM Resources" at the
bottom left of your GEDmatch home page.
This will bring you to the current "point person" (or "home person") in
the GEDCOM file.
If the person whose DNA kit you wish to link to the GEDCOM is related,
or connected by marriage, to the point person, then just navigate
through the tree to the relevant individual and when you get to the
relevant individual "enter this
person's GEDmatch DNA kit number" in the box as
If you manage kits for friends or any unrelated person, then the person
whose DNA kit you wish to link to the GEDCOM may not be related or
connected by marriage to
the point person, in which case you will have to use the SEARCH link at
the top right of the "Individual Detail Display from GEDCOM"
page to find the DNA subject.
Note these quirks of the navigation system:
in order to search for people whose surnames begin
with O' (or contain any special character), you will have to
put a backslash (\) before the apostrophe (') or other special
character in the surname search box, e.g. O\'Brien
it is not possible to navigate in the tree from a father to
a child whose mother's name is missing, so you may still have to use
the search box to get from the point person to the DNA subject if there
is a missing mother's name between them in your GEDCOM
if your search produces a long list of matches, then you
can use the Ctrl-F search facility in your browser to quickly find your
own GEDCOM file number or your own e-mail address in the search output
If one of your DNA kits has become associated with the wrong
GEDCOM file (e.g. a long dead ancestor who became the point
person in the GEDCOM file), then you can "Click
to unlink this DNA kit from this individual's GEDCOM entry"
on the page for the wrong person.
If you wish to change the point person in the GEDCOM file, go
to the individual
detail page of the new point person in the online tree and click the
"Point Person" button at the bottom of the page.
Even AncestryDNA itself gives you this advice every time you look at a
DNA match until you link your pedigree chart to your DNA results:
To get the most out of your DNA results, link
them to your family tree.
Your DNA results and your family tree belong together. Each
one alone is terrific, but combined, they give you so much more.
Explore and compare your genetic ethnicity to your family
See a map pinpointing birth locations of both your
Discover how you may be related to member DNA matches.
Get family tree Ancestry Hints for ancestors you share in
common with your DNA matches.
I recommend that you use this form to upload your GEDCOM
file, but you may also choose to enter your information manually on the
You must choose whether to "Allow others to see my tree as a public
member tree". Even if you choose to untick this box, your AncestryDNA
matches will be able to see your tree.
If you have chosen to enter your information manually on the
AncestryDNA website, then you will need to download your GEDCOM file
for use on the other DNA websites, as follows:
make sure that you are logged in to the relevant account
follow the "Manage tree" link for the relevant tree
Select the green "EXPORT TREE" button in the right-hand
Wait for the green "DOWNLOAD YOUR GEDCOM FILE" button to
appear in its place, and select that
Save the file and remember where you saved it
The Ancestry GEDCOM export procedure does NOT allow you to select which
individuals to include in the GEDCOM file, which is one of the reasons
that editing your family tree on the Ancestry website is not
Once your pedigree is available on the Ancestry website, whether by
GEDCOM upload or manual entry, you must link it to your DNA:
Make sure that you are logged in to the relevant account
If there is more than one DNA kit linked to your
ancestry.com account, choose the relevant one from the VIEW ANOTHER
TEST dropdown menu near the top right corner.
If there is no tree currently linked to the DNA kit, you
can choose the LINK TO TREE link at the top centre.
Otherwise, select the SETTINGS button near the
top right corner; find the Family Tree Linking section in the main
column; and select the grey LINK TO TREE button.
Select the relevant tree from the "Link to a
family tree" dropdown.
"Enter name" of the DNA subject as it appears in the family
tree and select from the suggestions which appear.
Select the green LINK TO DNA button.
One would expect that any photograph of the individual linked to the
entry in the family tree would now also be linked to the DNA kit, but
this does not automatically happen. If appears that if the DNA kit
appears to matches as "managed by", then it is impossible to associate
a profile photograph with the DNA kit. I have certainly not figured out
how to do this. If you know how, please tell me.
Make sure that you are logged in to the relevant account, go here and click the Upload GEDCOM
button near the top right of the screen.
FamilyTreeDNA may deem your distant ancestors to be still living if
your GEDCOM file does not include their dates of death. You must use
the Family Tree Privacy Settings page
to ensure that your matches (or the public) can see the individuals in
your GEDCOM file deemed to be "Deceased people born 100+ years ago" and
"Deceased people born in the last 100 years". If you are satisfied that
you have adequately controlled the amount of information about "Living
people" included when you created your GEDCOM file, then you can also
show that information to your matches or to the public.
FTDNA customers may be blissfully unaware that large parts of the
family tree that they have uploaded have been privatised because of
missing death dates or over-restrictive privacy settings. If you find
that one of your matches has a family tree sprinkled with distant
ancestors named "Private", then you may wish to direct him or her to
the above advice.