How to get the most out of your DNA results

by Paddy Waldron

Last updated: 27 July 2019



This page is always being revised to account for changes implemented by the DNA comparison websites; please let me know of any changes not reflected here.

Please use your DNA and your verified known ancestry to help your long-lost cousins to find you and to find your and their long-forgotten ancestors!

I have given a number of talks on this topic, one of which you can watch on YouTube.

I manage a large number of DNA samples on behalf of relatives and friends with whom I am collaborating on family history research, some of whom are not internet users or not as interested in their ancestry as I am. This generates an unmanageably large number of e-mails and other online and offline messages to me, many of them from beginners and containing incomplete or irrelevant information. This prompted me to put together the following advice to which I can refer my correspondents and which I hope will help them to get the most out of their DNA results.

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 and their verified known ancestry to yours is not very helpful.

Both genealogical and genetic information are of far more use to potential relatives and to other researchers when they are presented 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 chart, 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 dates and places of birth, marriage and death, as far back as you have been able to verify these details. 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,, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch. These are just screengrabs of my own pedigree chart. In general, mousing-over or clicking-on the names in the live online versions of these charts displays additional date and place information.

These sample charts include examples from four 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,, and For best results, you must fish for your long-lost cousins in all four 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 four pools.

You can pay and/or 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 free DNA comparison websites.

You may even be lucky enough to find a generous relative who knows that your own 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, and free of charge to analyse your data. In addition to the free tools, each of these websites provides 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 skills 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 DNA 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 kits. and immediately give you an e-mail address for your DNA matches.

If you need to contact one of your GEDmatch matches, then the kit manager of the other kit can use your e-mail address to check your DNA matches and pedigree chart. When contacting matches, you must not use a different e-mail address to the one with which you registered. As a courtesy to the other kit manager, particularly if he or she is one of the many genetic genealogists who manage multiple kits, you must include in your e-mail the kit numbers of the two kits which you have compared.

If you need to contact a match at one of the other DNA websites, then you must include equivalent identifying information, including an e-mail address to facilitate future communication.

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. The details changed as part of a redesign of the website, available in BETA mode from late February 2019 to June:2019 and scheduled to replace the previous version on 1 July 2019:
There has been some debate as to which of these buttons is most likely to catch your match's attention.

You must initially use the relevant internal system to exchange e-mail addresses with matches at AncestryDNA and MyHeritage. Note that these sites may require you to have a current paid subscription in order for you to use their internal messaging systems, in particular to contact non-matches. This ongoing subscription is in addition to the upfront charge for processing your DNA sample. You may be able avail of a short free trial subscription. 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 you can keep all your DNA-related correspondence together in your e-mail archives where it will be easily searchable in future. There is no working 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, WhatsApp and other inferior messaging websites and apps. By all means, look for and even befriend your DNA matches on Facebook (where some people even reveal more of their family tree than they do on the DNA websites), but keep all your DNA-related 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 other websites which might also have been discussed on this page, in particular

However, can not currently be recommended to genealogists for several reasons:
There seemed no point in providing further details of 23andMe on this page until 18 December 2018, when GEDmatch switched over to a new matching algorithm that can handle data from the GSA chip. I may add information on 23andMe at some future date. For those who wish to create a link between their DNA results at and a family tree on an external website, see Kitty Cooper's blog post.

Likewise,'s initial DNA matching algorithm had serious flaws and could not be recommended until late 2017, when these flaws appear to have been rectified and its market share began to grow rapidly.

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.


Step 1: Submitting your DNA sample

If you have not yet been persuaded to submit a DNA sample to one of the DNA companies, then please read why I think you should do so.

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:
  1. separating you from your money;
  2. assigning ethnicity labels to percentages of your DNA (measured in some unspecified units); and
  3. sending you elsewhere for help in finding cousins and ancestors.
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 the chances that your long-lost cousins can find you, so that you and they can then combine your information about your long-forgotten ancestors and use that combined information to learn more about those ancestors in the archives and through the DNA databases.

Step 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 tree.

Some customers of the DNA companies appear to wish to maintain a certain degree of privacy and anonymity. Others find it paradoxical that 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, adopted 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 DNA), then you will probably want to use your maiden surname for various reasons, such as
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 being 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), alive or dead, 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 you 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 the pencil icon beside the kit on the main menu to "EDIT kit Profile or DELETE kit"; type the "New Alias" in the indicated box; and click the Change 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, AncestryDNA and/or

Paranoia about privacy may be an inherited trait.  This would imply that if you are paranoid about privacy, then your ancestors probably also were.  So they have probably hidden as successfully from their descendants as you would like to hide from your DNA matches and others.  In other words, those who are paranoid about privacy are wasting their time trying to thwart their ancestors' desire for privacy and trying to learn more about their family history.  They are certainly wasting others' time if they submit their DNA to DNA comparison websites while trying to hide their birth surname, identity and/or pedigree chart.  Those of us who want to use DNA comparison to advance our knowledge of our ancestors can carry on in the hope that our time will not be wasted by people who are hypocritical about privacy.

If you want your relatives to find you using your DNA, then you have to put your DNA data where they will find it, which is at, the first place that all serious genetic genealogists will look.

The basic one-to-many report at will show you your 3000 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 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 (or someone acting on your behalf) must copy the raw data generated by the commercial company to in order to obtain the full value of your purchase, both for yourself and for your relatives who are in the DNA databases. You (or someone acting on your behalf) must also upload a GEDCOM file to and link each of the DNA kits that you upload to the relevant individuals in the GEDCOM file.

You will be issued with a GEDmatch kit number when your DNA file has been uploaded; 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 LR012759C1.

One huge advantage of is that it accepts uploads from all the commercial DNA companies and so also allows one 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 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 doubts as to the massive benefits of copying your data to GEDmatch, then you may want to read Kitty Cooper's thoughts on the subject.

If you have not already created a account, then you will need to create one before you can upload your data (or before the person uploading on your behalf can transfer your DNA data and pedigree chart to your e-mail address). To get started, type in your browser address bar, then find "Not Registered? Click HERE" (or just click this link) and follow instructions. GEDmatch users can upload data for more than one person under the same e-mail address, and can transfer DNA kits and GEDCOM files to the e-mail addresses of other registered users.

AncestryDNA Customers

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 is used 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, but there are various ways around this:
AncestryDNA provides instructions for Downloading Raw DNA Data. I will repeat the details here also. Having downloaded the file, you must now upload it to (and also to and to; see below). Now be patient while your data is being processed at

The next step for AncestryDNA customers is to upload to

The next step for customers is to add your kit to relevant new or existing projects.

FamilyTreeDNA Customers

If you are an FTDNA customer, then your Build 37 Concatenated Raw Data (GZIP, CSV) must first be downloaded either by yourself or by an FTDNA Group Project Administrator to whom you have given advanced access and authorisation to upload to GEDmatch. Whoever downloads the data must have the file handy on the relevant device before going near

To Download DNA Data Files from FTDNA, log in to your FTDNA account in another browser window or tab. Then click here to go to the Family Tree DNA Download Your Data page.

You will see this:


Note that the raw data files usually don't show up for about a day (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:

uh oh...

Houston, we have a problem!

There was an error while attempting to load the page
you requested.

The remote server returned an error: (404) Not Found.

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.

MyHeritage Customers

On the Manage DNA kits page, click on the three dots at the right of the row for the relevant kit and select "Download kit" from the menu which appears.

Nested pop-up windows with further information appear.  Click the Continue button.

Tick the box saying "I confirm that downloading the DNA data will create a copy that is not protected by MyHeritage DNA's security and privacy settings. I accept all responsibility and risk associated with storing the DNA data once I have downloaded it." The downloaded copy of your data is actually far more private and less risky that the copy on the MyHeritage server.

The follow the instructions sent by e-mail.

[I do not have any MyHeritage data linked to my e-mail address, so cannot provide further details here.]


AncestryDNA has a firm policy of NOT providing its customers with the types of DNA analysis tools available at
However, Ancestry has offered three very different options to share:
  1. share a family tree;
  2. share ethnicity estimates; and
  3. 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:

If you appoint a Manager, then he or she will be able to (help you to) download your raw data.

An invitation to view someone's AncestryDNA match list takes the form of an e-mail with a
Review Invitation

Clicking on this button in the e-mail asks you to confirm your AncestryDNA login 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
which says
"403 Error
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 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 summary page
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 AncestryDNA to extract the data from your DNA, then you must copy the data to via the free Autosomal Transfer. This merely involves uploading the same file that you should have already uploaded to 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 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 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 unless you give them Advanced.access here

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" dropdown.

You should search for relevant surname projects. The easiest way to find projects is to use Google and search for, e.g., Waldron FTDNA project.
Some surname projects welcome anyone with the surname in their ancestry; others are confined to men with the surname who have bought Y-DNA products.

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 the project.
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. very sensibly used to explicitly ask new users to upload a pedigree chart before uploading DNA data. Adoptees could upload a single-person pedigree chart. However, this policy appears to have changed.

You can still go to the Import GEDCOM - MyHeritage page and follow the instructions to upload your GEDCOM file.

After uploading your GEDCOM file, you will see this message:
Your GEDCOM file was successfully uploaded and is currently being processed.<br>You will receive an email to ... once processing is complete.

You will then have to wait some time for this e-mail to tell you that it has been processed.

If others have previously invited you to view their family tree(s) at, then you must take care to ensure that your own pedigree chart and DNA data do not get associated with any of their names.

Once your GEDCOM file has been processed, you can go to the Upload DNA for Your Free Matches and Ethnicity Estimate - MyHeritage page and just follow the instructions.

Your year of birth is requested and used in the calculation of estimated relationships to your DNA matches.

MyHeritage uses the "Build 37 Raw Data Concatenated" file from FamilyTreeDNA.
Tick the mandatory box(es) and select the "Upload DNA data file(s)" button and select the DNA file. (You do not have to accept the optional Consent Agreement.)
Wait a day or two for processing to complete and then look at your match list.

After a brief wait for your raw data file to upload, you will see a message like one of these:
DNA uploaded successfully
DNA kit AN-FFFFFF was uploaded successfully and assigned to you.
We will begin processing this kit immediately and results will be available in 5-7 days. We will email you as soon as the results are ready.


DNA uploaded successfully
DNA kit FFFFFF was uploaded successfully and assigned to you.
The file you have uploaded is in a format that we do not currently support. We are working to add support for this file type soon and will notify you by email once your results are ready.
Now click the purple Done button.

Time will tell what "soon" means in the second message.

Make sure that the person in the left hand column is the person whose DNA data you wish to upload and select the blue "Upload DNA data" link.

It does not appear possible to change the link between the DNA data file and the pedigree chart without uploading the DNA file again.

What happens if one wants to upload a revised GEDCOM file?

Viewing one's match list and contacting matches is free, but as of 21 June 2019, MyHeritage was demanding a USD29 fee from new customers for access to the pedigree charts of matches and other essential features.

Step 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 confirming relationships.

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, 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 obvious.

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, from 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 direct ancestors).

Good genealogy software allows you to tick a box to indicate whether an individual is living or deceased, even if you do not know the date or place of death. It then allows you to export a GEDCOM without the details of living individuals.

Other genealogy software may have a built-in algorithm to guess whether individuals are living or deceased, but some of these algorithms are very poor.

I use the paid version of Ancestral Quest, which uses one of these built-in algorithms, but there are many alternatives.

Bad genealogy software may be more primitive and have:
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
If you do not have the basic genealogical knowledge, computer hardware and technical skills required to create a GEDCOM file, then the genealogist 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.)

Most of the websites which display GEDCOM files use algorithms which attempt to identify potentially living individuals, whose names are then displayed as "HIDDEN" or "Private" or "LIVING" or some such term in place of their real names. Hence, your GEDCOM file will be of little use to your DNA matches unless it goes back to at least one generation of deceased ancestors and includes details of their deaths. The algorithms to identify living individuals often do not look beyond the facts associated with the individual himself or herself, so that ancestors with no death details but with children born hundreds of years ago are deemed to be living by some of these algorithms.

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 Reunion 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 individuals 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,, AND AncestryDNA as relevant.
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.

When you upload your pedigree chart to and/or AncestryDNA, it will be effectively resold to their paying subscribers who are deemed to be amongst your matches, but you will receive no royalties. If you are prepared to donate your pedigree chart to these commercial organisations, then you should also be prepared to make it freely available directly to your matches using

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 examples:
Ancestral 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 Living".
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 Trees page.
Find and select the "Manage tree" link for the relevant tree.
Find and select the green "Export tree" link towards the bottom of the right-hand column.
Wait until it becomes a green "Download your GEDCOM file" link and select that
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. 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 websites.

Once you have made a GEDCOM file including the desired individuals, you must use the
genealogy Upload
Fast Beta version

link at the top right of the GEDmatch main menu to upload the file.

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 carryout the first step of creating the GEDCOM file for you, and can then use "Click HERE 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 e-mail address.

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 instructed.

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:

If one of your DNA kits has become associated with the wrong person in your GEDCOM file (e.g. a long dead ancestor who became the point person in the GEDCOM file), then you can "Click HERE 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.

I recommend that you use this form to upload your GEDCOM file, but you may also choose to enter your information manually on the AncestryDNA website. 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:
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 recommended.
Once your pedigree is available on the Ancestry website, whether by GEDCOM upload or manual entry, you must link it to your DNA:
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 (and GEDmatch) 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.

Each individual in your FTDNA database has a living/deceased flag which you can change manually after uploading a GEDCOM file. This is very useful, although tedious, when the FTDNA algorithm cannot figure out that a distant ancestor must be dead.

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 places 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. very sensibly asks you to upload your pedigree chart before you upload your DNA data. See above.

What next?

If you want to get more deeply involved in genetic genealogy, you might like to read A Beginner's Adventures in Genetic Genealogy.