In the fast paced world of genetic genealogy, everyone is talking about one third-party tool: GEDmatch. Think of GEDmatch as a matchmaking service for all your possible cousin connections, comparing your DNA results against a database of thousands of other users who’ve tested with a variety of services. It’s an extremely helpful tool, giving you access to vast amounts of data you might not otherwise have seen.
One word of caution: Because this site is run by volunteers and supported by donations, patience is a necessity. It may take several days for your data to upload and be processed. If you use the platform during peak hours, the wait for analysis may be longer than if you use it during off hours. While there’s no fee to use the site, there is a suggested donation of $10 per month—a steal for the incredible data GEDmatch gives you access to. Use the following steps to enter your data in GEDmatch and start finding cousins.
1. Registering for GEDmatch is and easy and free.
On the home page, click the Not Registered? link and fill out the form. If you’re concerned about privacy, you’ll have the option to also enter an alias that will be displayed publicly instead of your name. But you must first include your real name for verification purposes by the site’s administrators.
When you register, you’ll receive a verification email from the site to prove you’re a real person. Follow the instructions in the email to access your profile. Some users have had trouble receiving the verification email; if this happens to you, try a different web browser, computer and/or email address.
2. You can upload “raw” DNA data from the three major US-based genetic genealogy testing companies: Family Tree DNA, 23andme and AncestryDNA.
Your raw data are the test results you download from your testing company, which to you and me look like gobbledygook. Thankfully, the computer program understands the data and can interpret the file into usable information.
Start by clicking on the link for your testing company under the File Uploads section of the website. Each upload link will take you to that company’s GEDmatch page, where you’ll find detailed instructions on where to retrieve your raw data and how to upload it to GEDmatch. It’s very important to follow the directions exactly: If you don’t, your data may not upload properly and you’ll have to start the process over.
When you upload your raw data to GEDmatch, you’ll be asked several questions about your sample. If you administer DNA testing kits for other family members, you can upload their results here, too. Create a new alias for each individual kit you upload to your account to help you keep them all straight.
3. When filling out the data upload form, be sure to click the Yes button to give GEDmatch permission to make your data available in the site’s public database.
Without this button selected, you won’t be able to analyze your DNA against other matches in the database. If you forget to do this, you can edit your settings later under the Your DNA Resources section.
4. Once you’ve uploaded your data and waited for it to process, it’s time to view your matches.
Under the heading Analyze Your Data, you’ll discover tools for finding matches in the GEDmatch public database. The list of tools may look daunting, but the process is straightforward. You’ll need your kit number and the numbers for kits with which you want to do comparisons.
The One-to-Many DNA Comparison tool allows you to look for matches in the GEDmatch database. You can choose to show autosomal or X chromosome results. You’ll receive a spreadsheet of matches from the public database covering all three companies. From these results, you can use kit numbers to do further analysis using the One-to-One DNA Comparison and the X One-to-One DNA Comparison tools.
As you gain confidence with the website and gather matching kit numbers you can do even more advanced analyses including phasing, admixtures and 3D chromosome browsing. GEDmatch has tutorials explaining all of these terms.
5. As a new GEDmatch user, you’ll want to check out the Learn More section on the main page, which gives you access to the forums.
Use this platform to get answers to your questions or connect with other GEDmatch users. Dozens of topic threads are available to help you learn as much as you can.
Members also run ancestor projects you can join and follow on the forums. These projects put you into closer contact with others researching the same place, surname or ancestor. Even if you don’t have a connection to the subject being discussed, the information can be enlightening. You can learn a lot about analysis and DNA projects by reading what others have done. The GEDmatch wiki and DNA for Dummies link are also helpful for those starting out in DNA research.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Family Tree Magazine.