How to Use AncestryDNA Shared Matches

How to Use AncestryDNA Shared Matches

Learn how to make the most of AncestryDNA's matches with these tips. This article contains a Genealogy How-To Video demonstrating the new look of AncestryDNA's website. 

Genealogists love finding cousins and more than ever, we seek them out through DNA testing. At times, knowing how you’re related—who gave you the common DNA segments—can be frustrating. If you’ve taken an AncestryDNA test, the site’s Shared Matches tool can help you home in on who made you cousins.

Shared Matches was unveiled in August 2015 to show you other matches you share with a specific match. For example, say your dad’s brother’s son—your first cousin—is among your DNA matches. Click his name on your match list, then the Shared Matches tab. You can see everyone else who matches the two of you. Because you know your cousin is from your paternal side of the family, you can start looking there for a relationship with those Shared Matches.

1. Log into your AncestryDNA account and click View All DNA Matches on your home page. (In these screenshots, we’ve obscured members’ identifying details.)
2. Select a person on your results list and click View Match. Here, you can use tabs to switch among three different views: the family tree this match has linked to his DNA profile (if any; you also might see a link to select a public tree the person has posted or a prompt to ask the person to view your tree) along with a list of surnames; shared matches; and a map of locations mentioned in the person’s tree. 
3. Click the Shared Matches tab to see other matches you and the person you’re viewing have in common. View each shared match’s family tree, if there’s one attached one to his or her profile, looking for common ancestors, surnames and places.
It’s possible that when you click a person’s Shared Matches tab, you’ll see a message that you two have no shared matches. It simply means that no other cousins who share DNA with both you and this match have tested—yet. Check back frequently for new matches.

Note that just because you and another person have a Shared Match doesn’t mean that all three of you have the same segment of DNA—that is to say, you all don’t necessarily have the same ancestor. Say you’re person A and you match person B. You and B have a Shared Match, person C. You match person B because your dad is first cousins with B’s mom, and you match person C because your mom is second cousins with C’s dad. But person B might match person C because B’s dad is cousin to C’s mom. In this case, you share a DNA segment with B and a

different DNA segment with C, and B and C share yet a third DNA segment.
Look at your best matches and compare the lists of Shared Matches with each one. If you share a match with person B who isn’t on person A’s list, A and B are probably on different sides of your family.
4. Using Shared Matches along with the Hints filter can also help you determine how you’re related to a match. Return to your main matches list and click the Hints filter at the top, bringing up only matches whose linked trees include an ancestor who’s the same as an ancestor in your tree. Then view each match’s results page, which shows who the shared ancestor is, and click the Shared Matches tab to view other people you have in common. This strategy makes determining which side of your family, and which potential ancestor you descend from, much easier. 
5. If you have a large number of shared matches with one person, filtering and searching can make them easier to evaluate. Use the Hints, New and Starred buttons at the top of a person’s Shared Matches list to view just those with matching ancestors, new Shared Matches and/or those you’ve starred. Click the Search Matches button to search the Shared Matches’ trees for specific surnames or birth locations. This helps you find surname and location patterns even if a common ancestor isn’t immediately available.

From the January/February 2016 Family Tree Magazine 

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  1. Hi. Thank you for writing this article because working with shared matches often feels like working complicated math problems 🙂 Here’s something for you to research, however. You wrote “It’s possible that when you click a person’s Shared Matches tab, you’ll see a message that you two have no shared matches. It simply means that no other cousins who share DNA with both you and this match have tested—yet. Check back frequently for new matches.” As it turns out (and it’s possible that I am confused), I called Ancestry about something odd that happens in “shared matches.”

    I noticed that would click on some match A, 5th to 8th moderate cousin, and then I’d click shared matches. I would see only one person, match B, 4th cousin. So, I’d click shared matches with match B, and I’d get the message, “You have no shared matches with match B.” But wait! Didn’t Ancestry just tell me that match A and I have Match B in common? And yet it’s also telling me that I have no one in common with match B, not even match A.

    The Ancestry customer service person told me that’s because match B is a 4th cousin and match A is a 5th-8th cousin moderate match. At some point Ancestry has a cut off, and it will not show you matches beyond some point in the 5th cousin level. When you click shared matches for a 5th cousin match, the match may reveal a 4th cousin or earlier but often if you do the reverse, click shared matches for a lone 4th cousin, it’s possible the algorithm won’t reveal a 5th cousin match even though a 5th cousin match is among your matches.