Tools of the Trade

As I may have mentioned before, genealogy research is a big hobby of mine.

This week, I discovered a couple tools to help in my research.  Both of these tools are on AncestryDNA, and they’ve been there for a while, but I hadn’t paid any attention to them.

I was recently contacted by new-to-me cousin Hollie.  Using Matches Map Beta, she discovered that we live only 30 miles apart.  Matches Map takes the actual location from your DNA matches’ profiles and plots them on a world map.  When you zoom in and click on one of the markers, you see the user name and their actual location and a link to the DNA Match.   This can be a bit unnerving for some as it very easily gives users access to where you live.   If that is a concern, you can change your profile location to something more generic, such as United States.   The upside is that you can find cousins close to home that might be able to help with your research.  In this case, it was relatively easy to connect the pieces of the puzzle and connect Hollie’s tree with mine, but it might have taken a while before I worked my way down my list of  DNA matches to get to her DNA results if she had not used Matches Map and contacted me.

World Map
Zoomed In Map

The second tool I learned to use while using the Matches Map and I find it much more useful.  This was the Shared Matches tab in AncestryDNA.  There are a lot of people that don’t have any trees connected to their DNA, or have limited family information within their tree.  There are several reasons for this: privacy concerns, lack of information, maybe lack of interest(although if you pop $60-$100 for a test, you would think there would be some motivation to get the most out of it).  I see these probable cousin matches and wonder who they are and how they are connected.

Shared Matches helps narrow down the possibilities.  There are two ways to use this tool.  In my list of 4th-6th cousin matches, I find C.P. who has two unlinked trees listed.  Both of these trees have limited information and no surnames to work with.  Clicking on the Shared Matches tab, I see my daughter at the top of the Shared Matches list.  Curiously, my son does not show up, but that is the nature of DNA.  Scrolling down the list of Shared Matches, I find a couple paternal first cousins, which halves the potential connections by eliminating my maternal cousins, and a 2nd cousin twice removed on my paternal grandmother’s side, cutting likely connections in half yet again.  Now, if I want to pursue to connection to C.P. in more detail, I have a much smaller list to work through to see what, if any, family connection there is between us.

Another way to use Shared Matches is to select a close cousin from your matches list, 1st or 2nd cousins work best, then click on the Shared Matches tab.  This will bring up a list of possible cousins to whom you are both related, again reducing the search parameters to the same side of the family as the cousin you used to see Shared Matches.

Note that you, your DNA Match, and your Shared Matches, won’t necessarily all share the same Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). That will take more research, but now you have cut your work in half or better.  Also, the Shared Match only shows 4th cousins or closer.  This is both good and not so good.  The reliability of DNA matches further back than 4th cousins isn’t as high as closer cousins, but it would be nice to have the option of reaching further back.

Check out this site for more information on Matches Map, and here for more information on Shared Matches, although just clicking on the gray  ? following the “Shared Matches with…” line gets pretty good information on this tool.

Dan Stoe

Junction City, Oregon

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