Working with DNA matches

I did my spitting in the tube way back in 2013. At that time ‘23 and me’ was my choice for my DNA testing company. I had read all of Bryan Sykes books. Starting with “The Seven Daughters of Eve” And was inspired to take my genealogy to the next level. At that time I had been doing Family History for 27 years and had reached the point where I was looking for means of addressing my ‘brick walls’. After five years there are so many more companies jumping into the DNA pool. The most prominent ones include, 23 and Me, Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage, and National Geographic. AncestryDNA touts they have tested a total 9 million. while 23 and Me in has tested 5 million with My Heritage and Family Tree DNA following in the numbers.¹ It is Big Business!

What do these numbers mean for the genealogist that is trying to solve brick walls through genetic DNA.

As more individuals test the chances of solving family questions increases.

Questions to ask:

  • Where in the world will I find the answers to my questions?
  • Are large numbers testing in that region?
  • How many of those 15 million + individuals that took a DNA test did so for reasons other then genealogy discoveries?

What percentage just did it to find out if they really were of a certain ethnic group like Native American, Italian, or say Irish.  That means a percentage of your matches may not have any information such as trees, family names and or family locations attached, or when attempting to contact them for more information they never respond or their response is less then helpful.

The large companies are diligently working to grow their numbers. You see their ads everywhere, especially around the holidays. This is good for business and may increase their numbers to improve their algorithms. But without just a few hints from those signing up, of how they may be related to you (family names and/or locations), just being identified as ‘third to fifth cousin’ does next to nothing to help you solve those questions in your family tree.

My Plan

  • Identify matches that are related to my maternal 2x great grandfather
  • identify their ancestors.
  • Identify location in 1846 and prior.
  • Identify the connection.

Genetically I have three male cousins, a brother, plus two sisters. Those are my closest, oldest known living relatives. Not much there for solving my ‘brick walls’.

All my cousins are on my mothers side of the family, luckily that is where my questions are. One cousin on my mothers line tested for us with Family Tree DNA, that was a yDNA test. My brother also did a yDNA test with Family Tree DNA for us.

Now one of my sisters has tested at Ancestry DNA as well as 23 and me. And another cousin  ( also a cousin to the first cousin) has been tested with My Heritage for us.

  • We recently had the yDNA kits upgraded to include autosomal.
  • I uploaded results from different testing companies to gedmatch.
  • I download from 23 and me to an Excel spreadsheet the data for my matches.
  • I downloaded from gedmatch to another Excel spreadsheet the data for the matches. Some matches were repeats.

So now the tedious task of identifying the family line to attach my matches to.

I’m a very visual person, I like using colors to identify family lines.


  • Blue for paternal line
  • Red for maternal line
  • On my spread sheets I added a column for family line.

  • Identify all known matches and then enter the family name in the newly created column.
  • Determine colors and highlight for all lines represented to date on you spreadsheet using the color code.  (I only color code the first column.)

  • Enter on DNA Painter  the known matches, using your color choices.

23 and me and gedmatch allow you to do comparisons of one to many and many to many. Now this may help you identify a few more lines. If you match subject A on chromosome 12  a large segment from say point c to l and subject B matches both you and  subject A within that same segment somewhere between c to l, does this mean that I can now add them to that line, maybe, but let’s do a little more due diligence.

Do they have a tree on gedmatch?

if they do not you may still be able to find a tree online.

On gedmatch the kit number for your matches indicate the source testing company.

M = 23 and me original (new kits have to be uploaded to gedmatches genius series.)

T = Family Tree DNA

A=Ancestry DNA

H = My Heritage

If you have a subscription to either Ancestry or My Heritage you may be able find their tree on line. If you also tested on the same site you will have access to their tree if it is  public. If not one of the clues may be the name they associate their data to. Often we use the same name or email handle across all formats.

Find their tree and or a list of names on their tree.

  • Look for names that also appear in your tree.
  • If they are a 3x to 5x cousin check location for their 2x to 4x great grandparents if determinable.
  • Contact them to determine and establish relationship.


  • Just because they have a Ferguson in their line and you have one on your maternal side also, does not mean they are one of your Ferguson’s. They could actually be genetically related to you on your paternal line. Do not be quick to jump to conclusions. Look to see who else they match that you match.
  • When you have two matches that also match each other, check further they may not relate to each other on the same line. Similar to above but their relationship is just coincidental.
  • Again do your due diligence.

Progress on my objective?

 Objective in Identify the maternal yDNA line, in order to determine who genetically our 2nd great grandfather was.

  • All the matches I have identified to date are mostly on my Paternal line.
  • Those on my maternal line to date are on my mothers mothers line.
  • I have tried contacting by email 2  third cousins on my family tree from the maternal y line. No response.
  • No success in Identifying any second cousin relationships on this line.
  • Yay! Found and solved one brick wall on my Paternal line.

I could use a few suggestions from you on how I might proceed.