LESSON 10: More with atDNA Matches

For the genealogist matching atDNA is really what it’s all about. ANCESTRY is the only company that does not allow you to see where you match segments. FTDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage all show matching segments and have a chromosome Browser. Living DNA is planning to have this ability in the future. Although ANCESTRY lacks the ability to see matching segments, where ANCESTRY really shines is in its tree matching ability and its extensive database of easy to view family trees. MyHeritage is a close second. Again MyHeritage come to the DNA field as genealogy companies which provides an obvious advantage to genetic genealogists. We shall look at each separately.


ANCESTRY was in the genealogy business before they got into DNA and it shows. They have the largest DNA database and the best seamless integration for Family Trees and DNA. Once you get your matches this is what a Match page looks like.

My Top ANCESTRY DNA matches

Looking across the top are buttons: Unviewed: Allows you to screen for only matches you have not previously viewed. Common Ancestors : Are those with a common Ancestor hint. More on that shortly; Messaged: to screen messages: Notes: where you enter notes as is visible on the right side in gray for each match I have entered a note; Shared DNA allows you to filter by amount of shared DNA; and finally Groups: where you can add a color coded dot that you define.

Ancestry Groups defined by a colored dot

The really cool thing is how Ancestry suggests a matching Ancestor

Ancestry Common Ancestor Hint

You can see I have a suggested 2nd-3rd Cousin who turns out to be a second cousin. We share a set of great grandparents. I have starred my match with her plus she has two colored dots one for HENAGER & one for FRANKLIN. You can choose to assign dots anyway you like. I have chosen to do it by FAMILY. Also note the green check mark next to a blue Family Tree icon. This appears if you attach the match to your tree. If you click on the match it will bring up this.

Ancestry Match with Common Ancestor Hint

So on the far left is the Common Ancestor’s hint and the common ancestors are highlighted in green Boxes with a leaf. All shared SURNAMES are highlighted in green. Without a Chromosome browser there is a possibility that the shared DNA is NOT where the hint is suggesting it is. Clicking on Shared Matches can help solidify the assumption Ancestry has made or suggest the DNA is coming from somewhere else in your tree. If you click on the View Relationship you will get a proposed relationship line of descent.

Ancestry “Proposed” Line of Descent

Note the suggested line of descent has green EVALUATE buttons that can be clicked on for more information. Furthermore you can click on the ThruLines at the top with the Blue group of people icon and that will bring up ThruLines.

Ancestry ThruLines

This shows my 3rd Great grandfather Solomon HENAGER and 7 of his eleven children for whom i have DNA matches. I have 64 matches through his son Solomon Addison HENAGER and only 3 through his daughter Jane A HENAGER. Clicking on the right pointing arrows will bring up a list of matches. Clicking on the Down arrows will show line of descent. Again there are green EVALUATE buttons and you can also view as a list. ANCESTRY graphics are clear and easy to use. There are many ways to look at your matches and it is easy to toggle between the different views. Aside from the glaring lack of a chromosome browser and matching segments ANCESTRY really shines in ease of use and presentation.

Before we leave ANCESTRY make sure to have a look at the Map view for close matches.

Ancestry Map View for Close Matches

You can choose to filter this view by All, 2nd, 3rd or 4th cousins. In this screenshot I have zeroed in on some 4th cousins in Sweden that I can further investigate. You can click on any greet point for more information on your match.


23andME is primarily a DNA company with an emphasis on the medical aspects of DNA. I personally find the Shared matches interface at 23andME not as helpful as that at ANCESTRY. Although please note that I have the largest number of family members I have tested at 23andME. Where I find the match list not so great the ability to compare matches DNA is terrific. More on that shortly.

23andME Match List

23andME’s interface does not give as much information up front as ANCESTRY. You can filter on the left side which is helpful. You can also take a look at the Family Tree where some of your matches that have posted family trees will have been connected to your tree. I have not spent much time correcting this or adding information but it is an improvement over previous iterations at 23andME.

23andME Matching Trees

What is nice about this tree is you can correct relationships and move people around fairly easily. 23andME also has a map view.

23andME Map View

Like ANCESTRY, 23andME’s Map view may give you relevant matches which is particularly helpful when looking overseas. In this case I have a match in Germany in an area with know ancestors.

Now to one of the best parts of 23andME its Chromosome Browser. You can access this via the Family and Friends Tab and its called Advanced DNA Comparison. Below you see 3 of my cousins. The first is a 1st cousin 1R and the other two are 2nd cousins and they all share the same set of great grandparents with me although they are Chad’s grandparents. 23andme’s graphics here are excellent. On the same page if you scroll down the actual segment data is provided.

23andME’s Chromosome Browser

You might ask why you might want segment data? We will cover that in another lesson but trust me if you really get serious about Genetic Genealogy this is something you want and the biggest drawback at Ancestry because they do not provide it. Unlike FTDNA who includes all your matches in your list in their chromosome browser, 23andMe restricts their tool to those who have accepted a share request. (You must invite matches to share genomes at 23andMe and they must accept in order to see where you match.) This is a distinct disadvantage with 23andMe. An advantage of 23andMe is anyone you are sharing with can  be compared with any three others with whom you share. At FTDNA you are always in the primary position with you being compared with several individuals. The ability to compare your matches with each other at 23andMe allows greater refinement of your chromosome mapping.


I like Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) ‘s match list. It’s simple but like ANCESTRY packs a lot of information in a small space. It is not as helpful as ANCESTRY for tagging and organizing but it has a lot to offer. First if you have tested Parents you can sort by Paternal or Maternal. You have a place to message (Envelope icon ) write notes (pencil icon) or view their family tree (family tree icon) under your matches name. I love that they let you know if this is an X match.

FTDNA Match page

The Chromosome Browser, in common with and Not In Common with tools are easy to use. And there is a place to search for names or surnames. By clicking on the Advanced Search in blue you have further filtering opportunities. Clicking on the Family Tree icon will bring up a tree for those in blue. The trees are not integrated with the DNA but are helpful. There is no matches Map like at ANCESTRY or 23andME.

FTDNA’s Chromosome Browser allows you to compare 7 people at a time! At Ancestry you are always in the primary position which is not as helpful as 23andme.

FTDNA Chromosome Browser

Here I have compared myself with 3 close cousins. Two are brother and sister and we all share some of the same segments like on Chromosome 6 and different segments like on Chromosome 10. There is a slight overlap with my 2nd-4th cousin on Chromosome 11. This may indicate a shared ancestor, but only if the match is on the same side. Detailed segment data is available for download by clicking on the tab.


MYHERITAGE like ANCETSRY was in the genealogy business before they got into DNA and it shows. Lots of information on the My Heritage Matches splash page. I especially like My Heritage’s filters. More on that below.


If you look closely my match Nina has a atom symbol which gives a “Theory of Relativity.” These are equivalent to an ANCESTRY Common ancestor hint.

MY HERITAGE Theory of Relativity

In this example there were 4 “Theories of Relativity” listed. This is one of them. In this case I know this to be incorrect because I know that Eliza Jane Roach was John Lewis HENAGER’s step mother not his mother. This match is actually via Eliza Jane ROACH’s husband Solomon Addison HENAGER. That’s why whether “Theories of Relativity” or ANCESTRY’s Common Ancestor Hint these are hints and they maybe incorrect.

In the following example I have used the sort function to sort my matches in Sweden. You can also sort by ethnicity. This is a feature that only MyHeritage has.

MY HERITAGE Sort Function

When you click on a match you get tons of information similar to ANCESTRY including Matches in common, Shared ancestral Surnames, Shared Ancestral Places, and Shared Ethnicity. You are given an image of where you share segments. To compare more than one individual you click on the Tools Tab and then on Chromosome Browser. AutoClusters are a very powerful tool that creates a matrx of your Shared matches and points to where you might be related.


This is an example of me and 3 others using MYHERITAGE Chromosome Browser. You can compare yourself to up to 7 others (8 total) at one time. The highest number currently of any company. Not only that please note where even though it looks like I might share a Triangulated segment on Chromosome 6 these have to be on different sides (mom’s and Dad’s) because it clearly states there are “no triangulated segments.”

MyHERITAGE Chromosome Browser

If you select AUTO CLUSTERS. The program will generate an AUTO CLUSTER and email it to you when it is ready. In the email will be information on how to use. A link to the graphic and a file with a list of matches organized by cluster.


In the Auto cluster there is a list of matches on the Vertical and Horizontal axis and you can see who matches who. This is an excellent tool for organizing your matches.


LIVING DNA is the new kid on the block. Here is their matching page. It gives the rudimentary information. There is currently a tab for “Tree Builder” but as of this writing (9-2020) it is not operable.


Clicking on a DNA match brings up this screen:


At the bottom is a list of matches in common. There are tabs for Shared Map and Shared DNA but as you can see these are not yet operable. It remains to be seen how helpful matches will be at Living DNA.



Genetic Genealogy and the Single Segment by Steve Mount

Cousin Statistics ISOGG

The atDNA Gamble by Judy G. Russell

The Common Mismatch by Judy G Russell

Why Don’t I match My First Cousin? by Roberta Estes

Why Autosomal DNA test Results Are Significantly Different for Ashkenazi Jews By Jeffrey Mark Paull et al

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