Tag Archive | 23andme spreadsheet

Finding Distant Relatives with Autosomal DNA Testing

Maybe you tested your DNA to prove or disprove a genealogical theory. Or maybe you tested to check on your health risks or carrier status. But now you see all these possible 3rd to 5th cousins in your family finder or relative finder lists and you wonder if you are related and if you can find that relationship. Perhaps you contacted a few and had almost no responses.

DNARelativesSampleSYes you are probably related, but without both of you having a good paper trail you would be most lucky to actually find that relationship. It is likely to be further back than suggested if your ancestors were at all endogamous. Just living in the same location for a few hundred years can lead to much inadvertent intermarrying and more common DNA than degree of relationship would expect. So autosomal DNA testing is no genealogical shortcut. Some of the people you contacted already know this, so if they saw no common surnames or places on your profile they may have lost interest.

So be prepared before contacting those likely 3rd to 5th cousins.

  1. Have an easily readable pedigree chart in both PDF and online format (GEDmatch can do the latter, more on GEDmatch later)
  2. Another good tool is a list of about 12 generations of ancestors by place name. Much easier for a possible relative to scan.
  3. Do some reading on the basics. A nice short article on autosomal DNA is this one on about.com and it has some more links.
  4. Try to talk some close relatives into testing so you have more data to work with
  5. Last but not least, make a decision on how much time you want to devote to this project … warning it can be addictive

If you want to do the minimum, then scan the localities and surnames of these possible cousins and contact the ones with surnames or place names in common with you. Indicate in your message that this is the reason for contact. Include the URL for your pedigree or family site and offer to send the PDF files. Include your email address if you are using the 23andme messaging system. The more directed the contact, the more likely you will hear back. I recently went through and cancelled some of my early invitations and send new improved ones on the lines above and got four new shares.

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Making a spreadsheet of autosomal DNA matches

It is very interesting to look at the overlapping DNA segments of one’s matches in order to figure out where they may have come from and how they might be related. It also helps with tracking these relationships and comparing the results from different sources. Personally I know when someone matches my 2nd cousin Dick that the relationship is on dad’s father’s line.  My next task will be to start diagramming the possible relationships based on who matches whom among all our new distant cousins.*

To find the DNA segments where you match another person at 23andme that you are sharing with you put your cursor on “My Results” in the very top menu bar and then click on “Ancestry Tools” at the bottom of the second column of selections to get the page that lists Family Inheritence: Advanced. Within this function you select the person to compare to on the left and all those to do it with on the right. So typically I take a new person and compare them to me, my brother and my Dad; then various cousins. You need to select the table version to get the numbers shown in the spreadsheet below.

Here is how I track overlapping segments. I make one spreadsheet for each person I am looking at, sorted by chromosome, segment start, segment end and length.  I use the same columns as the 23andme table view of my genome shares but add one column at the beginning marked with a P or M (paternal or maternal side match) whenever I know it. Then I add a column for the most recent common ancestor (MRCA), one for known relationship (when found), and another one for notes where I put comments like “same match with Kitty, no match to Dick, matches Jane elsewhere).

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