06 March 2013

AncestryDNA Site Tools

The DNA site is still in the BETA phase. If you think of something that can be improved or a feature that you'd like added be sure to use the feedback button on your DNA page. Hopefully they'll add features that many people have asked for. A surname search, a username search, the ability to find common matches with another user, and the ability to find matches that match each other are just a few suggestions I've made.

Top right: Feedback button
Bottom left: Full Results button

Here's a look at the features as they are today...


Of course the pie chart is the most obvious part of the results. Under the chart you'll see a "Full Results" button. On the full results page there are tabs for each ethnicity where you'll find out information about each ethnicity in your results including: Modern Day Location, About Your Region, Migrations into this region, and Migrations from this region. To the right of that is a list of your closest matches with that ethnicity in their results.

If you have more than four regions in your results the page is esthetically unappealing but the function is there.
In the "About Your Region" section you may find some helpful information but you will need to get past pointless filler statements like, "This is where Shakespeare wrote his plays and poems. It's home to the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood." In what way is that is helpful?


The 10-generation tree is probably the first thing you'll look at on your match's profile. If the tree is public you'll see the tree and on the left side of the page will be a list of surnames from their direct line. If you share surnames there will be a a separate list of those above the surname list.

This does not mean you are related through those surnames. This is not a "You are Related Here" sign but rather a "You May Want to Look Here First" sign. The common surnames are hints. If you click on a surname in that box you'll see, side by side, lists of people with that surname from your tree and your match's tree. The lists will only include people in the direct lines.
You should also look through the complete surname list below the box. The matches in the "shared surnames" box are exact matches only. While your great-great-grandmother might have been a Smith one of her brothers may have decided to use Smyth.


The shaky leaf shows on the map.

The further back you go in time the less likely it is your family moved around a lot. Many families stayed in one place for decades. Because of that you may be able to find family connections if you find a relative of your match living in the same place at the same time as one of your ancestors.
In the case above the match has a shaky leaf hint. That shows on the map. Even if there wasn't a shaky leaf hint there would still be other hints. I could look at the "shared birth locations" on the left or the green markers on the map to try and find some common ground. Literally.
Just like the surname box you can click on a location in the "shared birth locations" box and see a list of people with that birth location from both trees.


Surnames, maps and hints are only viewable by opening up the profile page. Notes on the other hand can be viewed on the results page by hovering over the note icon. The note will show only after you've written a note.
I can only tell you how I use notes. You may find other uses. When I've determined where the link is I put that in a note along with my relationship to the match. For those I haven't figured out I write a list of surnames in the note. Surnames that match those in my tree and surnames that I've seen on the trees of other matches. Then I can view the notes and open, in a new window, only those matches with a certain surname so I can compare their trees.
I haven't used the map feature yet, except to see how it functions. I will probably add any location details that I think are important to the notes as well.

Top arrow: Send message button
Bottom arrow: Add a note here


Use the "send message" button on the match profile and a link to your match profile will be included in the message so the person you're messaging won't need to sift through their matches to find you. This link will not appear if you message them from their main Ancestry.com profile or from their tree.

After the jump, the various sorting options for your matches.

ⓑⓐⓡⓚⓘⓝⓖ  ⓤⓟ  ⓣⓗⓔ  ⓦⓡⓞⓝⓖ  ⓣⓡⓔⓔ


First match: No blue dot indicates it has been viewed. Gold star indicates "favorite."
Second match: The blue dot means it has not been viewed.
Third match: Notice the icon that looks like a piece of paper. This match has a note.
Fourth match: Viewed but no gold star. 

When viewing the match list there are two possible icons on the left, a gold star and a blue dot. On the match's profile there are three: a gold star, a blue dot, and a trash can.
Gold Star:  You can use the star to designate matches you've confirmed, matches you've sent messages to or whatever you think will be helpful to you. Just click it to make it gold. This is the only icon that can be changed without opening the profile page.
Blue Dot:  The blue dot will change to gray once you've viewed a match. You can change it back to blue by clicking on it while on a match's profile page.
Trash Can:  If you know you're not going to contact a match you may want to put their profile in the trash. This is not like your email trash. It will not be emptied after 30 days. You have the option to take items out of the trash at any time. [I called and asked to make sure before using that feature myself.] You may want to weed out those matches with private trees, no trees, or less than 10, 20 or 30 people on their tree to make your list more manageable. You can always go through the trash in a week or a month to see if anyone has made their tree public, added a tree or added to their tree.
Before using the trash can be sure to read about the available filters.


1) "Filter by" drop down includes:
Starred - all matches you've marked with a gold star
Not viewed - all matches that have a blue dot
Has a Hint - all matches that have a shaky leaf hint
2) Relationship range options:
1st cousins (99% confidence)
2nd cousins (99% confidence)
3rd cousins (98% confidence)
4th cousins (96% confidence)
Distant cousins (moderate confidence)
Distant cousins (low confidence)
Distant cousins (very low confidence)
Moving the relationship slider will show every match from the closest relationship up to the relationship you choose. You can use this to limit your view to more confident matches.
3) Sort by:
Relationship - Closest relationship matches shown first.
Date - Top of the list will be most recent matches.
These filters can be used in combination. For example, you can choose "not viewed" in the first dropdown, 3rd cousins on the relationship slider and then click date. The next time you check your results the settings will still be where you left them so if you're not seeing what you expected check your filter settings.
Use the "has a hint" filter and double check those hints. Just last week I had a shaky leaf on a match that only had a name in common. Birth dates? Different. Birth places? Different. Same country but a different city and state. Computers are not perfect. Going through your other matches you also may find exact matches that the computer, for whatever reason, did not pick up.


Two last points that can't be emphasized enough. First, the matching system only works if you attach the results to the profile of the person who took the test. See Monday's post to see an example of someone who has not done that. Second, if you have a clickophile tree with 20+ generations and you aren't finding matches it's most likely because you copied trees from people who copied trees from people who just made stuff up so you don't know your real ancestors. Your matches could be correct but you'll never know until you do the work.

UPDATE 21 Mar 2013: Raw data is now available! To find out how to download it click here or here.

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RELATED POST: No Tree and Private Tree DNA Results


  1. Just got my tests results back and this is a much needed cheat sheet. Do you mind if I print this article and file it for all my questions about my results? Excellent article..many thanks!

    1. Please do and email it to family and friends who've taken the test :)

  2. I'd like for them to tighten up their ethnic profile matching. Both of my parents have taken the test, plus my older sister and myself. My sister and I both have higher percentages of certain ethnic groups in our profiles, than are possible if my parents' are correct. I can't be 58% Scandinavian if my mom has 0%. Luckily, I think the 8% is actually North African, which she does has 6% of, plus 2% uncertain. Many of her side's ancestors were Canary Islanders, and the indigenous peoples of the islands are most genetically like the Berbers. Many theorize the Berbers (often having blonde children and light-eyes) were originally from northern Europe.

    Speaking of Scandinavian, I also can't wait for them to be able to differentiate Normans from Scots from Irish groups that have Scandinavian influence. I'd like to know where our people were from more recently, as they say they will be able to tell us. I don't know how long they expect that to take, though. They switched me originally from having 12% Middle Eastern to having 12% Eastern European not so long into the beta period. I hope they're actively working to improve matching the ethnicities instead of just adding small user-interface improvements. I feel like I only have half the story.

    And has anyone else noticed that you can match people with 0% of your ethnic profle? I matched a 4th cousin I already know, and she presumed that meant our shared ancestor was Central European. I told her she may have been, but I show 0% C.E. Likewise, my older sister got 0% Southern European or North African, but she matches the same cousins I do, who share the Southern European/North African lines. They must examine different spans of DNA when identifying ethnicities vs. relationships, but Ancestry seems to at least hint the two may be tied on the pages where they describe the regions and show your matches who share the regions.

    I know it can be possible for the two to be related, since my mom, my sister, and I *all* match my mom's 2nd cousin (on a Southern European/North African line) as a 2nd cousin, but the 2nd cousin's son, who got about 6% of his Dad's S.E./N.A. DNA, is predicted to be our 5th-8th cousin. So odd since my sister got 0% of that DNA and still matches the 2nd cousin. I think how that all works should be clarified, since clearly we can match people who may appear to have no common origins. How can we use the ethnicities to help us unravel the knot if it's not the only factor?

    Thanks for letting me vent a little, and thanks for the primer! My mom will find this really handy. :)

    1. Jenny,
      I also have an ethnicity that doesn't show up in either of my parents' though it's a MUCH smaller percentage. I need to do some reading before I post about my DNA results again (this time including both my parents) so I can comment on that. In the meantime you might find this thread on the Ancestry message boards interesting ;-)
      Thanks for reading my blog!

  3. Jenny, In my opinion the ethnicities, won't help unravel anything because they determined by comparison to ethnic populations and statistical analysis.The ethnic determinations do not figure in to the 'cousin' matches.