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A really useful tool for AncestryDNA

No, it really isn’t Sunday — even in the midst of the FGS cruise preparations, The Legal Genealogist isn’t that confused.

It’s just that there’s a development at AncestryDNA that ought not to wait until Sunday, when DNA is usually the topic for discussion.

ICWBecause there’s a really useful new tool provided by AncestryDNA for its users. One of the first really useful tools we’ve been given.

It’s an in-common-with tool called Shared Matches, and it became available for the first time yesterday.

Up until now, the only real matching information we’ve had about our DNA cousins who’ve tested at AncestryDNA has been (a) whether or not someone was a match at all and (b) if that match had a family tree on Ancestry, whether anyone in our family tree matched someone in the match’s family tree.

Now, with this new tool, however, you can look at anyone in your match list — whether that person has a family tree online at Ancestry or not — and see who else has taken an AncestryDNA test who matches both you and the match you’re looking at.

And, if you’re lucky enough to have a living parent (or parents), it will sort your matches into those who are shared with (in common with) your mother or your father.

Being able to sort matches into groups and target your research accordingly is a critical part of effectively using DNA evidence. Knowing that, for example, there are three other people (who don’t have trees online) who are solid genetic matches to both you and a first cousin can help you enormously in focusing your research on the line you share with that cousin. It’s a very different connection when you contact a match and say “would you happen to be descended from the Elijah Gentry family of Mississippi?” rather than “would you mind putting a tree online so we can see where, perhaps, we might have common ancestors?”

Now don’t go overboard in getting excited. This isn’t any kind of a panacea. AncestryDNA warns specifically that “It’s important to remember that you, your match, and your shared match won’t necessarily have the same common ancestor.” It’s entirely possible — even though I match person A and person B and person A matches me and person B — that I match person A on his and my mother’s side and we both match person B on our fathers’ sides.

But it’s a good solid start, and the first of its kind from AncestryDNA which, up until now, has been playing its cards close to its matching-tree vest.

For a more detailed explanation of the new tool, check out the blog post “See Your DNA Matches in a Whole New Way” by Anna Swayne.1 And there’s a video explanation: “AncestryDNA Matching Tools.”2

Again, this isn’t perfect. It’s not a chromosome browser. It’s limited to only the highest of your matches, not all your AncestryDNA matches. But it’s a really solid — and useful — tool for focusing your research using your AncestryDNA matches.

Try it out.


  1. Anna Swayne, “See Your DNA Matches in a Whole New Way,” Ancestry blog, posted 26 Aug 2015 ( : accessed 26 Aug 2015).
  2. AncestryDNA Matching Tools,” AncestryDNA YouTube channel ( : accessed 26 Aug 2015).
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