A Targeted Process at AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA does not provide segment info. This is a problem for Segmentologists who want to Triangulate – like me. Triangulation has worked well in grouping my many thousands of segments into specific groups representing specific ancestral lines. These Triangulated Groups (TGs) now cover 94% of my 45 chromosomes, and identify specific maternal and paternal segments of DNA from my ancestors. Over 75% of my 45 chromosomes have some identified Common Ancestor(s) beyond my parents. Are they all correct? Of course not. But many are linked to first, second, third and fourth cousins, which are walking back the Common Ancestors of those segments. These are reinforcing and validating more distant Common Ancestors shared by fifth through ninth cousins.

I have over 400 Hints at AncestryDNA, and very few of them can be linked to GEDmatch kits. It’s frustrating to know so many Triangulated Groups on one hand; and so many Common Ancestors at AncestryDNA on the other hand; and not be able to merge this information. Knowing the segment data for each of the AncestryDNA Hints would significantly expand my chromosome map. Grrrrrrr:-(

So I’ve tried a new process at AncestryDNA, and am having some amount of success with it – I thought I’d share it in this blog.

I selected a surname – HIGGINBOTHAM – on my mother’s side. This surname is in my Tree 6, 7, 8 and 9 generations back. The patriarch (9 generations back) is thought to be John HIGGINBOTHAM, but there is some controversy about his given name. However, there is general agreement on several of his children, and I have several AncestryDNA Hints at the 6C, 7C and 8C levels going back on this HIGGINBOTHAM line.

So I searched on this surname at my AncestryDNA Results page and got over 100 Matches. I looked at each one and selected 46 which were Hints or had strong Colonial Virginia ties to Amherst Co, VA (where my HIGGINBOTHAMs were for 3 generations) or to nearby counties.

Note that at 9 generations back we have 256 ancestors on our mother’s side. My chromosome mapping currently shows just over 200 TGs on my mother’s side. So I should reasonably expect about one, maybe two or three, of my TGs to be from my HIGGINBOTHAM line. Maybe there are a few Matches at the 6C level which actually then branch off on the HIGGINBOTHAM’s wife’s ancestry.

I was surprised at the number of HIGGINBOTHAM cousins I had – particularly since I was pretty sure they shouldn’t be spread out over many different TGs. And, on the other hand, I don’t believe that many cousins should all pile up on the same ancestor – unless, of course, some of them were related to each other more closely (some Matches were from the same Admin), or they only descended from two or three of the Patriarch’s children at each TG.

I needed to find out the actual segment data each match shared with me….

So I drafted a standard message:

You and I have a DNA match at AncestryDNA, and have a common HIGGINBOTHAM line. I have 46 such Matches at AncestryDNA! I am mapping my DNA (linking Ancestors to specific DNA segments), and would very much like to determine the segment for each of these lines. Most of us are 8th cousins, and I did not expect to get HIGGINBOTHAM DNA from more than one or two different segments. To sort this out, I am requesting that you upload your raw DNA file to www.GEDmatch.com .It’s a free site – easy to register – with complete instructions on their home page. My GEDmatch ID is Mxxxxxx. You will get many more Matches at GEDmatch, with emails. No medical or health info. Please let me know your GEDmatch kit number if you upload at GEDmatch.

I will provide you feedback on what I find, including other cousins who share the same segments. This will help all of us.

FYI, I’m having success with atDNA and would be happy to help you. See my How to Succeed list at: http://boards.rootsweb.com/topics.dnaresearch.autosomal/301/mb.ashx It has some good links at the end. My  DNA blog is at www.segmentology.org – written for genealogists in plain language.

Hope to hear from you. Jim Bartlett jim4bartletts@verizon.net

end of message

Note – do not send such a standard message to 46 Matches at one sitting. Ancestry looks for “spam-like” messages, and will block your messaging ability (you have to phone in and talk them out of it, to get reinstated). I sent 5 or 6 a night for a week or so.

Well… this worked out much better than previous attempts to randomly beg Matches to upload to GEDmatch. I now have 23 GEDmatch kit numbers out of this group. And several others are still working on it. The results have been in several categories:

  1. At GEDmatch I can also compare with my deceased father’s kit uploaded from FTDNA. It turns out several of my HIGGINBOTHAM cousins share a DNA segment with both me and my father. So although we may well be genealogy cousins on HIGGINBOTHAM, the shared DNA that formed our match at AncestryDNA is from my father’s side – not from a HIGGINBOTHAM line.
  2. Several TGs are getting most of the shared segments. TG [04P36] has six Matches on two children of the Patriarch (some of them are 5C or 6C to each other from one child of the Patriarch). TG [10I36] has 3 Matches; and TG [04B36] has two Matches. [NB my TG naming system starts with the Chr (04 and 10); the letter roughly represents the 10Mbp block where the segment starts; and 3-6 are Ahnentafel for my mother’s father’s side – where my HIGGINBOTHAM ancestry is]
  3. The rest of the Matches are spread out over different TGs – most of these TGs include Matches with other Common Ancestors. So it is entirely possible, indeed probable, that most of these TGs will come from different Common Ancestors. As time allows, I will investigate the several surnames from each of these TGs to see if there is consensus among the Matches.

This process would probably be too overwhelming for common surnames like JONES, SMITH, JOHNSON, etc. And your own surname might not be very helpful in determining a few TGs – your father’s or mother’s surname could be sprinkled all over your chromosomes – so it would be harder to form groups. Since we probably have the majority of our Matches in the sixth to eighth cousin range, I’m thinking that would be a good place to select surnames.

The main point here is that by using a more personal message, I’m getting more cooperation from my AncestryDNA Matches. By selecting a surname, and doing some homework to make sure we have the same Patriarch, the message is targeted. By promising to provide feedback to each Match who uploads to GEDmatch, I’m helping my Matches. The Matches don’t have to understand Triangulation or Segmentology – all they need to do is upload to GEDmatch. It seems to be working…

This process also works for testing educated guesses on new Surnames. It takes advantage of the more than 23,000 Matches I now have at AncestryDNA. I can search for a particular SURNAME and see if it pops up. Out of 23,000 Matches, each of my Ancestral surnames should be shared by some of my AncestryDNA Matches.

For example, I’ve looked for years for the maiden name of the wife of my ancestor Thomas BARTLETT c1705-1783 of Richmond Co, VA. At one point he owned a piece of land between two EIDSON brothers, so I thought perhaps his wife’s maiden name was EIDSON (and I’ve collected a lot of EIDSON records in Richmond Co, VA trying to find the connection – to no avail). So I searched my AncestryDNA Results for the Surname: EIDSON. I only got one EIDSON hit, and that clearly was not a link to Richmond Co, VA in the early 1700s. This means to me that that surname is probably unlikely as my ancestor. I’ll try some other surnames from my FAN list for Thomas BARTLETT. And in a year or two, when I have twice as many Matches at AncestryDNA, I may try EIDSON again. And revisit some of the other surnames…

For me, this targeted approach is turning out to be a good way to get uploads to GEDmatch and to find Triangulated Groups with several Matches who share the same ancestry with me.


15G Segment-ology: A Targeted Process at AncestryDNA by Jim Bartlett 20161020

18 thoughts on “A Targeted Process at AncestryDNA

  1. As for targeting the matches to send messages to, as well as to further the limited resources within Ancestry, I create Shared Match Matrices in a spreadsheet. This helps me target specific lines of descent. It’s a technique best used along with the raw data from Ancestry that’s downloaded by the DNAGedcom Client or directly querying it’s database.

    A bit of advanced spreadsheet knowledge is required but anyone can do it. I made a first draft video as well as a tutorial in pdf for anyone that wants to have a go at it.
    Written tutorial is at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1s_CBMR_Ew3TmhxMk5xUmc1d3M
    and the video (long & not very polished!) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-fb5m1YmV0


    • Jim Davis, I have approved your post to this blog. Your technique is very complex and advanced, but someone may want to use it. My hat is off to you for documenting the full process so well. As I posted, I also use Shared Matches for clues, but in Chromosome Mapping, I need to have the segment data to be sure. And even then there is a lot of work involved beyond about 3rd or 4th cousins.


  2. Hi all,
    Contact messages are extremely important and I think they have been covered well here. GEDmatch was also well-covered. I wish to divert to Jim’s other very valuable point, surname studies.
    I should first explain that I am relatively new to both genealogy and DNA research to support it. Having broken through the secrecy of my adoption only just a few years ago when I actually tried, I quickly have adapted to known tools and even invented some.
    My first disappointment was that although my pre-adoption name would have been Byron, my extensive Y testing did not match other Byrons descending from one Henri Biron and his wife who should have been my 3ggps. There are very good paper records showing my blood 2nd great gf as Olivier Byron, the last ‘born’ child on the family. All other tested Birons/Byrons are J1c3 ( J-P58 ) and I am an R-L21-L96. Henri and his wife must have taken in Olivier and raised him as their own. Autosomal research also backs up that neither were Olivier’s parent. So who were they and how can I find them?
    Neither ACDNA, FTDNA, National Genographic nor GEDmatch have yet provided an answer. FTDNA’s Big Y test produced two possibilities, exact matches, but neither traceable ( yet ) to Quebec. The Kentucky Chief Red Bird seems unlikely….and the NZ immigrant from somewhere in England has difficulties to trace as well. The end. Not quite.
    Jim is using a surname test on similar ways that I have been using what I call the Surname Density test. Here is my point. Within ACDNA you can search amongst your autosomal *matches* for individual surnames contained in your matches’ trees. Any of us can look at our deeper grandparents’ surnames and expect to get a higher density of matches, searching with that surname *because* those surnames are already in your tree. It is also highly likely that some of those matches you have already identified with a known relationship in your trees appears on that surname search list with that surname as the AC-selected match ( might not actually be real however since you cannot see the data ). So how is this helpful?
    Other than trying to connect relationships to matches with incomplete trees this Density test can be used as a statistical tool to tighten one’s search for the unknown beyond those brick walls. Yes this is tedious and requires a lot of guesswork and accounting for the increase of the numbers of your ACDNA with common surnames, ie. Smith, Jones, Williams…. I look at a number of their trees and look for names that have *not* been found in my tree. Perhaps the name Roberts ( found in 411 matches when I search the name ), or Wright ( 551 ) are surnames of Olivier’s tree. Take the proven Gagnon, my 3rd ggm has 150 ACDNA matches to that surname under this test….and her husband Houle 45 surname matches.
    With Byron or Biron there are exactly no matches in the search that are not using the incorrect Olivier parentage. Yes they all match me through Olivier.
    Just to add perspective, my Surname Density test has Smith at nearly 2000, Williams and Jones at about 1000.
    The name Roberts does appear elsewhere in my Y-DNA test results but distantly, as in not an exact match which probably means an earlier branch of the family descendancy.
    And so to wrap this up, this is a way to break through what used to be unbreakable brick walls. You just do sleuthing and use mental statistics as a tool to reduce your search to a manageable number.
    Hope this helps,


  3. I’ve also done this mass GEDmatch request on Ancestry. I have invited my top 1000 on Ancestry (30 in-mails per day are no problem), and my top 300 twice. Personalized to an extent. As of now about 115 are on. Some were on already, unbeknownst to me, and I can now link the two. I have a master spreadsheet for segments, and an Ancestry spreadsheet for Shared Matches. For the latter, I downloaded the DNAGedcom tool to help find SMs further down on the list. I sort these SM groups into clusters, and borrowing a page from the Segmentology playbook – I use the TG name from my master spreadsheet for the cluster if I have GEDmatch crossover data. I’m making slow but steady progress.

    I love Melinda’s idea about showing your kit # on Ancestry. I’m going to do that.

    Jim – How small do you go in your master TG spreadsheet – 8cM? Also, you say 45 chromosomes. Are you researching TGs on the X? Any luck? I’ve been ignoring mine, but I’d look if there was any hope.


  4. I’ve been doing this as well. I try to put as many selling points in my message as possible, while keeping the message as short as possible, such as 1) it’s a free site, 2) you get great analysis tools, 3) you get your top 2,000 matches, which expands your matches to include those who tested at other companies besides AncestryDNA, 4) you can use GEDmatch results in tandem with Genome Mate, another free program, to organize your results in a visually understandable way, 5) you’ll really understand DNA genealogy a lot better after using GEDmatch, etc.

    I transferred my raw data DNA file from Ancestry to FTDNA too. So, another thing I do is whenever I communicate with any of my matches at AncestryDNA or FTDNA, for any reason, I always invite them to GEDmatch as well. I’ve had pretty good luck with this, although there are some people I really would love to see at GEDmatch who have totally ignored my messages. 😦

    And, there is another very simple, but helpful trick I wish everyone would do at AncestryDNA. On my member profile page, there is a data field where you enter your location. This information then displays on every DNA match page, right under your name. I entered my location AND my GEDmatch number in this field. So, on every match I have, the other person will see this:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma – GEDmatch Axxxxxx

    I have found sometimes that some people put their GEDmatch kit number on their member profile in the space where it says “About You”. That’s great. But, when you’re looking at a match, you have to go over to the person’s member profile page to see whether they have that on their profile. I don’t always think to do that. I want my matches to know I’m at GEDmatch when they look at our match and putting my kit number in the same place as my location does the trick.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ellie,

    The original marriage bond for the marriage of Nathan Bartlett and Rebecca Lee refers to Rebecca as the daughter of Abby Lee. The marriage of Martha “Patsy” Bartlett and Thomas Lee 1807 Green Co., KY didn’t have, or need, any consent for Thomas Lee. Patsy must have died before 1818, as Thomas Lee, brother of Rebecca (Lee) Bartlett, remarried to Annis “Annie” Lee, no relation, in 1818.

    Kentucky Marriages, 1802-1850 about Annie Thomas Lee Lee Spouse 1: Lee, Annie (Annis Lee, dtr of Edmond Lee) Spouse 2: Lee, Thomas [Son of Charles Lee and Abigail (Crafford) Lee-Crawford-Lee (Yes, that’s correct.)] Marriage Date: 18 Mar 1818 Marriage Location: Kentucky Hardin County ****************************

    Uzal “Usual” LaFollette on the Rebecca Lee marriage to Nathan Bartlett is a son-in-law for Abigail, having married her daughter Nancy Lee.

    Kentucky Marriages, 1802-1850 about Nancy Uzel Lee Lefollet Spouse 1: Lee, Nancy Spouse 2: Lefollet, Uzel Marriage Date: 28 Jul 1797 Marriage Location: Kentucky Nelson County (NOTE: Nancy Lee is dtr of Charles and Abigail Lee) *********************************************

    To go back to Thomas Lee and Patsy Bartlett it appears that they had 2 sons, Charles Lee and Joshua Bartlett Lee, who went to TX. Later descendants were named Joshua Lee, Jasper Bartlett Lee and Joshua Bartlett Lee Jr. Without having personally verified that Joshua Bartlett was the father of Patsy Bartlett, others who are descendants have stated a belief that Joshua was Patsy’s father.

    Steve W.


  6. Hello James

    Thank you for your new post, I cc Steve Whitlock a very long researcher on our Lee’s I am a descendant of

    William and Dorothy Taylor Lee

    William Lee 1704-1764 m Mary Thornton

    Richard Lee 1730/31-1791 m Margaret Reno—(Reno DNA Proven) by Eleanor L Prieskorn (me)

    Richard Lee 1776-1840 m Sela/Celia Settles

    Lewis Reno/Runo Lee (Reno DNA proven)

    Celia Ellen Lee Archer m Lyman Wyatt Archer

    Lydia Ellen Archer m Joseph Davis

    Dorothy Marie Davis m Gilbert Owen Bryant

    Son Gerald N Bryant—Y-DNA 37 Marker–FTDNA # 130809 Autosomal Gedmatch # T332413

    Daughter—Eleanor L Bryant Prieskorn FTDNA- Kit # 506552—Autosomal Gedmatch # T121168

    Now I am giving you this information for I think I am connected to you through the brother of my 4th gr grandfather Richard Lee and Margaret Reno Lee; his brother Charles Lee and Abagail Crafford/Crawford’s

    Daughter Rebecca Lee married Nathan Bartlett 10 Oct, 1803 Hardin Co, KY.

    Then Thomas Lee married Patsy Bartlett bond 14 Nov 1807 Green Co, KY (consent by mother, Abigale Lee)

    Bond Arnal(Usal?) Lafollett.

    Then Willis Morgan Lee (brother to my G G Grandfather Lewis R Lee) married Mary Elizabeth Bartlett daughter of Nathan & Rebecca Lee Bartlett on the 23 Jan, 1832 Rowan Co, Indiana.

    Also a DNA match to William & Dorothy Taylor Lee—

    Robert Eugene Lee 1933-2015 son of Alfred Lee 1882-1947—grandson of Lewis R lee- also a DNA match to William & Dorothy Taylor Lee.

    I would love to have any information you are willing to share with me on the Bartlett family’s that are connected to us, have we missed any other Bartlett/Lee connections?

    Thank you very much for your time and God Bless.

    Eleanor L Bryant Prieskorn


    (Ancestry user name eprieskorn)


    In God I Trust


  7. I have a several Bartletts back in Massachusetts in the 1600s. Thought I had some Higginbothams in Union, SC and Arkansas but I must have been thinking of one of my many prospecting trees. My gedmatch number is F008817. I would not rely on the associated gedcom. I have found a lot of mistakes over the past couple months that I made in older parts of the tree before I became more systematic about what data to put in what fields. Feel free to browse. Had a couple Bartlett matches in Family Finder at about 5th cousin distance..


    • Steve – oops – I should have already approved this – it slipped by. No match at GEDmatch. I am the Admin of the BARTLETT Surname Y-DNA project and, so far, we’ve determined 23 different lines from Colonial America, with just a very few links to England. Our own surnames are but a very small percentage of our ancestry and percentage of our DNA Matches, in general. So the “systematic” way is to tackle all surnames in each generation equally. I’ve tested at all 3 companies and uploaded to GEDmatch and DNALand – those are good places to communicate on genealogy questions.


  8. I make a couple other points in my Ancestry recruitment letters for Gedmatch.
    – Access to advanced tools similar to those offered at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA not offered by Ancestry
    – Ability to make connections with people who tested at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA
    I spell those out because if you are the average Ancestry customer you have never heard of Gedmatch and are not aware of the value it offers.


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