Deep Analysis Tools for Genetic Genealogy

These are third party tools for in depth analysis of your raw DNA data. Be sure that you have a solid understanding of everything in the Intro videos before using these tools. Not interested in deep analysis? That’s ok. smiley

If you are not interested in doing the deep analysis yourself, please consider uploading your raw data to then sharing your Gedmatch ID through places like your family reunion Facebook pages. Someone in your family is likely to be interested in doing the deep analysis and your DNA data might be THE one that solves a family genealogical mystery.


GENEALOGY TOOLS (FREE, but consider donating if you find the tool useful)

The starting point for deep analysis is uploading your raw Ancestry DNA data to Register with a free account and follow their instructions on how to download your DNA data from and then upload to Gedmatch. Within a few days you will find that you have a whole slew of new matches with people who tested with the other major testing companies!

Ancestry DNA’s hints on how we connect to our DNA cousins are wonderful, but they only tell us a suggested level of match (2nd cousin, 4th to 6th cousin, etc.). A chromosome browser is required to tell you exactly what segment of what chromosome you actually match on. is a free website with a chromosome browser and some other comparison tools and tools for looking at ancestral origins (what countries did my ancestors come from?). Why use a chromosome browser? To figure out exactly how we connect and to find new cousins using DNA! This cartoon explains it pretty well. (FREE, but consider donating if you find the tool useful)

The tools and documents at DNAgedcom were developed primarily for the use of Adoptees looking for birth family but are not limited to that purpose. Their tools enable lining up of DNA data to find the overlapping DNA segments that match each other. People in these groupings are likely to have a common ancestor. The dedicated researcher can then extract actual familial relationships by finding the overlap in family trees of people who have significant regions of matching DNA. To learn more about DNAgedcom tools and about using DNA to figure out family relationships in general visit

A few times a year DNAgedcom offers a class on how to do DNA analysis to find familial relationships. Class size is limited and the suggested donation to take the class is $30.


Genome Mate (FREE, but consider donating if you find the tool useful)

Genome Mate is in my humble opinion amazeballs. What is Genome Mate? It is a database program specifically designed for genetic genealogy that lets you pull all of your genealogical DNA data and associated information together in one place. Besides data storage it has many features to aid in identifying common ancestors. One of the coolest features is the ability to map what part of your chromosomes were inherited from what ancestors.

Genome Mate guide: Solving Genealogy Puzzles Using DNA



Promethease ($5)

Promethease builds a personal DNA report from your DNA file based on known genetic associations of traits and susceptability to disease from the medical and scientific literature cited in SNPedia. If you have a specific gene (identified in these tests using snps – single nucleotide polymorphisms) associated with odds of getting some disease, in nearly all cases it doesn’t necesarily mean that you will get that disease. It just means that you have greater odds of developing the disease than someone who does not have that gene.

Obtain a Promethease Report. 

How to read a Promethease report.



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DNA Testing Companies

Why test? Using DNA testing for genealogy you can identify countless new cousins, who often have a wealth of family information and precious documents and photos that you never even dreamed existed. Why do they have “your” family documents and photos? Because it’s their family too!

Ancestry DNA

  • Autosomal tests – (Men AND Women) (shows all lines) Regular price $99, often on sale for $79, seen as low as $49 (rare). Free shipping codes like FREESHIPDNA are common. Google “Ancestry DNA coupon code” to search for coupon codes to try. Sometimes you get lucky.  The advantage to testing with is that if you have an extensive tree on Ancestry and your DNA match has an extensive tree, Ancestry finds where your trees line up and shows you your common ancestors automatically. Even when you don’t have enough for a fully automated match, you can often dig through other people’s trees and find your common ancestors.
  • You can build a tree and you can see your DNA matches with a free account. You don’t have to have a monthly Ancestry subscription. But, with a free account you can’t see other people’s trees or the documents and records. Those are only available with the monthly paid subscription.

Family Tree DNA

  • Autosomal tests – (Men AND Women) (shows all lines) Regular price $99, sometimes on sale for $79. The best thing about testing with FTDNA is that they have built in tools that let you look at exactly how you match (chromosome browser tools). Chromosome browser tools show you how big your matching DNA segments are and where they are on the chromosomes. If you figure out a common ancestor, then you know that that bit of DNA came down to you both through that ancestor. A disadvantage is that the family trees on FTDNA are difficult to navigate and contain much less information than Ancestry trees. An advantage is that there is no monthly fee for anything. Once you test, you have access.
  • Upload your Ancestry DNA autosomal test results to FTDNA (Men AND Women) Regular price $69, sometimes on sale for $49. Upload your Ancestry DNA results to FTDNA to find matches with folks who have only tested there and to use their chromosome browser tools.
  • yDNA tests – (Men ONLY) (shows direct paternal line) Regular price yDNA37 $169, sometimes on sale for $129. This 37 marker test is the smallest yDNA test offered by FTDNA now because this is the smallest test that will give meaningful genealogical information. There are also tests with more markers that will narrow down your results: yDNA67, yDNA11 and a test called the Big Y (crazy expensive). Once you do the yDNA37 you can upgrade later to yDNA67 or yDNA111. It costs more than if you just did the larger test to begin with, but it lets you spread out the cost. And always look for sales.
  • mtDNA tests – (Men AND Women) (shows direct maternal line) Regular price for full sequence mtDNA $199, sometimes on sale for $169.

23 and Me

  • Autosomal tests – (Men AND Women) (shows all lines) Regular price $99. 23 and Me was originally designed to give genetic health information and has been used mostly by people who want health information. Currently they are jumping through some regulatory hoops with the FDA and can’t offer the health information to new customers till that regulatory stuff is done. They have always offered some genealogy tools too, and right now that is all that they can offer, but the vast majority of their customer base was interested in health information only and not genealogy. The result is that few of the people on 23 and Me will respond if you email asking about how you might figure out a common ancestor.

So, which test should you choose? Start with the autosomal test at Ancestry DNA. For DNA newbies it is the easiest place to start. DNA testing only works well though if you put some work into putting up a tree. If you’re not able or don’t have the time or inclination to enter your family tree, then let a trusted family member who does have a large tree already administer your test. They can then share their tree linked to your DNA results with you. Ancestry doesn’t have chromosome browser tools, but they do let you download your raw data which you can then upload to (free) or to FTDNA (not free) and use the chromosome browser tools there.

Watch for sales. Most of these kits go on sale 2 or 3 times per year.

Ancestry DNA and 23 and Me both use the “spit tests”. The DNA is extracted from cheek cells that are in your spit. Family Tree DNA uses a “swab test” and the sample is collected by swabbing the inside of your cheek. The swab test is usually easier for older folks or folks who have dry mouth due to medication.


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Intro to Genetic Genealogy

These animations from The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (no relation!) are a really gentle place to get started. Watch them all and you’ll have a much better understanding of how DNA testing can help find cousins and build family trees.

Intro to Genetic (Molecular) Genealogy

Four types of DNA

Autosomal DNA

x-chromosome DNA

y-chromosome DNA

Mitochondrial DNA

Interested in learning more? This series of lessons is more in depth.

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Similarity of Siblings

I knew without looking at our DNA that my brother and I were different. He was a blue eyed blond and I was a brown eyed redhead. He is inspired by history and politics while hard core science is what makes me tick. And deeper than all of that, we see the world differently. Still, I had to look.

I inherited 50% of my DNA from each parent, as did my brother. But, the 50% that each of us inherited was not the same. Since I had DNA testing results from at least one parent, I was able to use a utility called phasing at to separate maternal and paternal DNA in both my file and my brother’s file. Then, again in GEDmatch, using those phased files, I did a one to one comparison of the DNA that my brother got from each of our parents to the DNA that I got from each of our parents. I copy-pasted the results into an Excel spreadsheet and then made a spiffy chart. See the chart below!

What I find particularly interesting is that my brother and I have nothing in common on chromosome 23 (the sex chromosomes). Of course we each got a different contribution from our father. My brother got a Y, and I got a presumably un-recombined X. But, I would expect at least some small amount of overlap in the X-chromosome that we each got from our mother and there is not. Either we each got a different whole un-recombined X from our mother, or recombinations happened in a way that yielded entirely unique X-chromosomes for both of us. What are the odds? (I’m sure that someone has calculated this!)

Added Note: It is so unlikely that my brother and I  have zero match on the X-chromosome that we got from our mother that further exploration is necessary. Ann Turner suggested on the DNA-Newbie list that the reason may be in how the software tools handle the sex chromosomes, which is slightly different than how it handles the autosomes. I’ll update the the post after a check, check double-check.

**Ann Turner was correct. The sex chromosomes do not appear to be included in the phased files. It is still possible to compare the phased sex chromosomes, but it will require a slightly different approach that what I was able to use for the autosomes. I’ll redo the comparison of chromosome pair 23 and upload an updated chart and outline of how it was done soon. The discussions of nonstandard inheritance patterns that my error set in motion have been very thought provoking though.



July 17, 2013 · 2:02 am

Sorenson’s DNA Animations

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy website has a beautiful set of animations that explain the different types of DNA, how they are passed down, and how they are used to augment traditional paper trail genealogy. Happy Watching!

Sorenson Introduction to Molecular Genealogy

Sorenson Four types of DNA

Sorenson Autosomal DNA

Sorenson X-Chromosome DNA

Sorenson Y-Chromosome DNA

Sorenson Mitochondrial DNA

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DNA is (not) Magic

Advertising makes genealogical DNA testing sound downright magical. Excited adoptees find their birth parents. Happy folks young and old find new cousins and ancestral connections. In the advertising it all happens magically and instantly and without effort. Oh, if only that were true!! The reality is that finding DNA cousins and then finding how your family trees connect usually takes equal parts of luck and hard work.

The Luck: 1) Have people who are related to you been tested? 2) Did they inherit some of the same bits of DNA from your common ancestors as you did? (More on how that works in a later post.) If both of these answers are yes, then you have won the genetic cousin lottery and have DNA matches. Now what?

The Hard Work: 1) Start with what you and your relatives know and build a family tree. Extend it using census records, birth and death records, obituaries, cemetery records, etc. Include siblings of your direct ancestors and their children where you can. 2) Contact your genetic cousins and look for common family names and places in your family histories.

Lots More Luck: Adoptees  start with limited information and depend on the luck of finding close genetic matches who are willing to share knowledge of their common family.

Pay Dirt: You and a genetic cousin identify a common ancestor!! You share photos and records and family stories! Your family trees and the richness of your lives grow.

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I am planning a series of short posts written in lay terms to walk folks through the basics of genealogical DNA testing.

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