Genetic Genealogy Tools

Symbolic illustration of several people being checked wirh a magnifying glass to find one particular ancestor

Genetic genealogy tools help you extract more genealogy information from your raw DNA data. 

Each testing company includes a set of tools that you can use from within your online account. In addition, there are many additional tools offered by third parties.

Here is a summary of my favorite genetic genealogy tools at each testing company, followed by some favorite third-party tools.

Family Tree DNA

Family Finder is the autosomal DNA test at FTDNA. My favorite genetic genealogy tools included with this test:

Chromosome Browser. This lets you see where you and a match share the same DNA segment on the same chromosome pair.

Family Matching System. Get known relatives into Family Finder by direct testing or a free upload from certain other tests. Then import your family tree or build a small one on site that includes tested relatives. As you link more relatives, it will automatically sort more of your other matches into paternal or maternal sides.

Chromosome Painting. This provides a colorful visualization of which portions of your chromosomes are from which ethnic regions in your myOrigins report. A Detailed Segments view gives start and end points etc. and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet file.

Big Y Block Tree is my favorite genetic genealogy tool for Y-DNA testing at FTDNA. For males who have done a Big Y test, it is a vertical-block diagram of the Y-DNA Haplotree showing the relationships between you and other Big Y testers. 

AncestryDNA

ThruLines. While your genetic match list is based only on DNA, this AncestryDNA tool looks at the linked family trees of you and your matches and illustrates how you might be connected to a given DNA match through a common ancestor.

This is not proof, and many online trees are not accurate. But such clues are worth checking.

23andMe

Family Tree. As you get new DNA matches, 23andMe will attempt to build a family tree around you. The tree will have unnamed nodes that connect you to the match based on how much DNA you share.

You have the option to fill in names for the nodes and correct linkages.

MyHeritage DNA

AutoClusters. One of the most popular genetic genealogy processes is clustering. This sorts your DNA matches into groups that most likely all descend from a common ancestor. You can do this manually or--much more easily--through a site called Genetic Affairs. 

MyHeritage DNA is the only test that licenses this genetic genealogy tool to use directly in your account.

Theory of Family Relativity. This tool is similar in concept to ThruLines at AncestryDNA. It uses family trees plus genealogical records to show one or more possible paths to the common ancestors responsible for a DNA match.

As with ThruLines, this is not proof. But you're getting important clues that may be correct much of the time.

Other Genetic Genealogy Tools

The following genetic genealogy tools are available from third-party companies outside the testing company sites. They use information or raw data from your DNA tests to provide additional insights into your family history.

GEDmatch.com. GEDmatch is the grandaddy of third-party DNA tools. You can upload your raw DNA data and uncover matches with people who did a different test. You can also upload a GEDCOM file of your family tree and automatically compare it to those of others.

The site has many free tools for analyzing your data and some additional tools that require a subscription. See the GEDmatch Education page to learn more. There is also a GEDmatch User Group on Facebook.

Geneanet. This French-based database lets you upload DNA files from the major testing companies and offers a free chromosome browser, haplogroups, and shared cousin matching. Geneanet is a good place for Americans to find European cousins.

The Shared cM Project. Since 2015, Blaine Bettinger has been asking people to report how much DNA they shared with known relatives. His table in now based on tens of thousands of reports and has been massaged with statistical techniques to remove nonsensical outliers.

The people at DNA Painter have combined this data with other research to create a handy interactive tool. Enter the number of centiMorgans or the percentage of DNA you share with someone.

This tool will show you the possible relationships that could account for that amount of shared DNA and their relative probabilities of each being the true answer.

DNA Painter. In addition to hosting the above tool, DNA Painter has a chromosome mapping tool. You can use it to illustrate which chromosome segments passed down from individual ancestors.

You can also create an elegant, searchable page for your direct ancestors and enhance it with custom visualizations such as religion, country of birth and age of death.

Another great tool on DNA Painter is What are the Odds? (WATO). WATO is designed to help you figure out where someone, called the target, might fit into a known family tree by using the amount of DNA they share with people in that tree.

There is a DNA Painter User Group on Facebook. For a concise summary of what DNA Painter can do read this article by Debbie Kennett.

Genetic Affairs. This company developed a family of clustering tools such as AutoCluster. That tool organizes your matches into shared match clusters that likely represent branches of your family.

This analysis can work on data from 23andme and Family Tree DNA. MyHeritage has licensed the technology for direct use from within your account.

AutoTree compares trees at Family Tree DNA to find most recent common ancestors and reconstructs a tree.

AutoKinship automatically predicts family trees based on how your relatives match you and each other on 23andMe. It also works as a standalone tool if you manually fill in the shared DNA information for your matches.

Go to the Genetic Affairs website to see all the tools and the Genetic Affairs User Group to get help.

Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool

Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT) is an app that utilizes autosomal DNA to aid in the research of family trees. The tool, previously known as Genome Mate and Genome Mate Pro, was developed by Becky Walker. Note that the tool does not accept data from AncestryDNA.

Charting Companion. Long known for creating beautiful family tree charts from family tree programs, this product now includes three genetic genealogy tools:

DNA Matrix combines Descendant chart and DNA tests to validate your genealogy research. Shows relationships and shared DNA in a clear and compact overview. Will flag any relationships that contradict the DNA tests.

DNA Simulation finds possible places for orphans or adoptees in a family tree. Does in minutes what takes weeks to do manually. Presents a series of family tree diagrams that show where the adoptee could fit in his/her biological family.

DNA Matches organizes your distant "third-cousin" matches to show the most promising persons to contact. Make the best use of your time.

DNAGedcom. This is a set of genetic genealogy tools that gathers, processes, and analyzes data from DNA match information far more easily and efficiently that could be done manually.

There are many different tools at DNAGedcom, each designed for a specific task.

To use these tools, you need a subscription. That lets you install the application to a Windows or Mac computer. They also have an active User Group on Facebook.

The Leeds Method. Developed my Dana Leeds, this is a color clustering method for matches that result from autosomal DNA tests. It helps you visualize how your close cousins are related to you and each other.

mitoYDNA. There are and have been other companies besides Family Tree DNA doing mitochondrial and Y-DNA testing. This volunteer-run non-profit called mitoYDNA lets anyone upload such data for comparison with others. They also have a User Group on Facebook.

YFull. YFull is primarily a Y chromosome sequence interpretation service. This is an expert tool for those who have done advanced Y-DNA tests such as Big Y. It also has reports for full mitochondrial sequence data. Join the YFull User Group for help.

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