Using AncestryDNA Notes

A Segment-ology TIDBIT

In a previous post, I outlined a Format for AncestryDNA Notes. I have found using the Notes feature at AncestryDNA and some standard format (like the one I outlined) together, provide a very valuable tool. Here are several reasons:

  1. This summarizes what you know and learn about each Match. I now have over 46,000 Matches at AncestryDNA, so I’ve decided to focus on all the Matches with Hints, all the Matches which are 4C (4th cousin) or closer, any who have uploaded to GEDmatch, and selected other Matches I find doing a specific surname searches. At this writing (9/9/17) I have 713 Shared Ancestry Hints and 1,860 4C or closer Matches. This relatively smaller group helps me focus on the lower hanging fruit, keep track of them, and summarize the info for each Match of interest to me. The Notes field shows up as a small, handy, “page” icon adjacent to the Match’s name in various lists at AncestryDNA.
  2. When using the AncestryDNA Helper in Chrome, you can get a download of all Matches – 46,000 in my case. This download includes what I’ve entered into the Notes field. I have now modified my Notes format to include the Ahnentafel number and side where known (including all Hints at least). So instead of 6C1R: BUTCHER/BUSH in my blog post example; I now use 176P/6C1R; BUTCHER/BUSH. This tells me the Common Ancestor is on my Paternal side – and the Ahnentafel number often comes in handy. So I can now sort my download by the Notes field, and all the Matches with Ahnentafel 176 are grouped together. In this example, 176 is at the 6C level, and per Figure 3 of this post, they should be grouped in roughly 4 different TGs [see 7th column: avg segs/anc for one side]. This just gives you a rough idea of what to expect in a chromosome map.
  3. But probably the most exciting aspect of Notes is their availability in Shared Matches. Only 4C or closer will show up as a Shared Match – however, the “4C or closer” designation is applied fairly loosely and may in fact be given to a 5C or 6C or more. Not all of my Hints are in this category, but many are. In any case, whenever I’m looking at a new Match, I check the Shared Match list – and look for those with the “page” icon. Line [4] of my format includes info on the Shared Matches – so I copy lines [1] and [2] from the opened Note of a Shared Match and paste it into Line [4] of the new Match. It sounds much more complex than it really is. I’m just copying key (top line) info from Shared Match Notes into the Notes for new Matches. When I find two (or more) Shared Matches with the same Common Ancestor, rather than copying that info a second time into the new Note, I just put a 2x (or 3x, etc) in front of the existing version. I’m finding that sometimes I have 4, 5, 6 or more Shared Matches with the same ancestry. This is pretty powerful stuff! This is strong evidence that this new Match has that ancestry, too. Not a guarantee, but certainly the first place to look. More and more, this is becoming helpful, even predictive. And it’s helping me and my Match. A big focus for folks with small, no, or Private Trees. When I can correctly predict that a certain Ancestor is probably in a Private Tree, I have a somewhat higher response rate.

There is some amount of work to filling out the Notes on all these Matches. But if I didn’t type it in the Notes box, I’d be writing it long hand on paper or in a notebook, and probably repeating this effort each time that Match came up. The method I’m describing provides a standardized process that goes pretty fast – particularly with practice;>j

I “Star” each Match with a Common Ancestor (most Hints), AND the Matches I can link to FTDNA or 23andMe or GEDmatch accounts – which include segment info and a TG identification. The Starred Matches (of 4C or closer) are also highlighted in the Shared Match lists, and easy to spot. I just made my 1,000th Starred Match. Oh, happy dance!! I have the Notes filled in for all 713 Match Hints. And the stars are proving to be very helpful beacons as I plow through the rest of my 1,860 4C or closer Matches. The groupings are becoming more obvious – and many of them are now showing up with Shared Matches with the same TG identifications. This is another incentive to offer AncestryDNA Matches to upload to GEDmatch. Of course, I also promise to do the DNA analysis and report back to any Match who uploads to GEDmatch (or FTDNA). This is starting to really pay off.

Bottom line: utilize the Notes boxes at AncestryDNA!


[22P] Segment-ology: Using AncestryDNA Notes TIDBITS by Jim Bartlett 20170909

15 thoughts on “Using AncestryDNA Notes

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  6. Jim, thank you for the helpful hints.

    At Ancestry, the new matches keep rolling in. I was out of the country for 3 weeks, and had 1000 new matches when I returned.


  7. I also liberally use the Notes not only at Ancestry but also at FTDNA. When any of this information in imported or used with say the DNAGedcom Client, for use on DNAGedcom-dot-com or importing into GenomeMate Pro, those notes come along. Why do the research more than once? 🙂


    • Clark, I agree. I want to record my notes somewhere, for later reference – why not in the Notes fields, where they are included in downloads, and easily sorted and/or searched. The Note boxes are a good tool, and setting up a standard format, increases their usefulness. -Jim


  8. Oh Jim, if only we all had your DNA – it’s staggering the number of matches you have! I have only 50 – 4C or closer!! I utilise the notes field and stars in a similar way to you. I also utilise Genome mate pro and the notes field populates there in the MRCA notes, so having a standard is very useful when looking at surrounding matches on a chromosome – of course only where I’ve been able to marry up GEDmatch or other testing companies with the ancestry profile. I add the note of the shared ancestor, or if it isn’t known the TG group name and likely line (based on other cousin matches or phasing etc). Even though we don’t have chromosome data from ancestry matches I still load it into GMP as all the extra data you get is very useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I tried to post this as a comment, but it does not seem to show up.  Perhaps it is too long.

    Jim Your post got me thinking about comparing my Ancestry, FTDNA and 23 and Me matches to my Gedmatch matches. The default listing of matches on Gedmatch are listed according to the highest cM matches. This gives a mix of testing companies appearing in the left hand column. I noticed that this column had a sort on it too and so I sorted it according to A-Z matches. Surprisingly, I got a list of matches of only A kits or Ancestry kits and there were no M or T or Z kits showing in the 2000 matches. I checked the lowest A kit match and it does not appear on general list with all the kits matched from the various companies. In other words this sort brought in kits that would not have otherwise appeared on my general all kit list.

    I then tried a little experiment. I used CTRL A to highlight the entire spreadsheet and then CTRL C to copy the entire Ancestry list of matching kits and opened my Open Office Calc and pasted it into the spreadsheet. It took some time to complete, but much to my surprise it transferred to the spreadsheet. I then eliminated the cells with the text information and had a spreadsheet of all my Ancestry matches in one place. They were sorted from lowest kit number to highest kit number, but I resorted them to highest cM to lowest cM matches.

    I then went back to Gedmatch and sorted them in the opposite direction, getting the Z kits first then the T kits and M kits with a few A kits showing up on the bottom of the 2000 matches list. I was then able to select the Z (Generic upload) T (FTDA), M (23andMe), H (My Heritage), H (My Heritage) and G (Nat. Geo) kits and save each as separate spreadsheets.

    All columns transfer intact and the L and A columns and any others can be deleted, leaving the kit numbers, total cM, longest block, email addresses and names to work with.

    Also interesting is that after doing this procedure and creating separate spreadsheets, I had a total of 3,837 matches, whereas in the original Gedmatch list there were the usual 2000 matches. For sure a lot of these are lower matches and could be viewed using the Tier 1 utility, but I think this is a good way to organize Gedmatch matches according to testing company and utilizing for the work that you presented in this blog. I tried this with match list generated in the Tier 1 and it seems to work there as well.

    Perhaps everyone else knows this but me, but I think it will be very useful for sifting through the many matches.



  10. I was typing the notes in too. I found out I could copy and paste most of the information from the hint match. Like this: 145 centimorgans shared across 10 DNA segments Latchlin Logustine Pettypool DNA Circle, William Bennett, 2nd Great-Grandfather, Lila Lilly Brown, 2nd Great-Grandmother
    I copy the common ancestor or couple information in one swipe and paste it. I take out the spaces and add commas. I also copy and past the centimorgan and segment counts. Then I can mouse over the information without opening the match again if I want.


    • Sandra, A good plan. And I agree that mousing over the “page” icon in your Shared Matches list sure saves a lot of time. As more and more Note boxes get populated with notes – particularly Common Ancestors or segment data from GEDmatch – the better it gets. Ancestry has the most good Trees, so I want to milk the most out of that facet of AncestryDNA. I only wish they also provided more segment data (even a Chromosome and Start Location would be great).


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