DNA Q&A: GEDmatch

By Diahan Southard

Q: Do I need GEDmatch?

A: There are traditionally three reasons people use GEDmatch: to find new matches, to use the tools, and to see segment data.

In the early days of autosomal DNA testing we had only three companies in play: AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe. If you wanted to compare your results with someone who had tested at a different company, of just see if you had matches in a different company, you had to actually test at that company. Back when prices were $200 or $300 per test, that could get really pricey really fast. But then GEDmatch entered the scene in 2010 and offered us a FREE way to see matches who had tested at other companies. As long as you didn’t mind the rigmarole of downloading your data from one company, and uploading it into GEDmatch, it provided the perfect solution to our problem.

However, now that testing prices have plummeted, to even as low as $49 per test, testing at multiple companies is not necessarily out of budget. For those who still don’t want to shell out the extra cash, you can transfer into Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and Living DNA and have full access to your match list for free! This means if you test at AncestryDNA or 23andMe, then transfer to the three just mentioned, you can be in 4 of the 5 genetic genealogy databases for just under $100.

But even if you aren’t in all of the companies, will you find new matches at GEDmatch? It is unlikely. If someone was genetic genealogist enough to transfer to GEDmatch, it is very likely that they also transferred to either FTDNA, MyHeritage or LivingDNA as well, right? So you can just find them at those companies without using GEDmatch.

But what about the tools?

GEDmatch does have a couple tools you won’t find in your testing company. A powerful tool for those seeking unknown parents (or others just out of curiosity) is the Are My Parents Related tool. GEDmatch also provides lots of different views of your ethnicity based on different algorithms. You can also discover what color your eyes are likely to be (in case you don’t have a mirror).

The biggest tool genetic genealogists feel they need from GEDmatch is the segment data that AncestryDNA is not providing. Aside from the fact that you don’t actually need segment data to determine a relationship, in order to get it you have to also convince all of your DNA cousins at Ancestry to transfer to GEDmatch as well.

So, while GEDmatch used to be a great place to meet and greet new cousins, much like the drive-in, its day has passed. Currently GEDmatch has a very different purpose: to help solve violent crimes. Regardless of your position on this topic, it is very important that we reeducate everyone in the community about the new purpose of GEDmatch, just to be clear about what new users are signing up for.

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