Find AncestryDNA Matches with Common Ancestors

A Segment-ology TIDBIT

Disclaimer 1 – This is a search methodology, and may not zero in on your Ancestor  100% of the time.

Disclaimer 2 – This process works down to the lowest cM and any generation. There is NO guarantee that the DNA segments are linked to any Common Ancestor found, or that the Common Ancestors found are accurate. This is just a clue.

This process uses AncestryDNA’s search function to find DNA Matches with Trees that have your specified surname/location in them. From my perspective this is a pretty powerful search technique. The results are a list of your DNA Matches (so you share some DNA with each one); and each Match has a Tree large enough to have the surname and birth place combination you specify in them. I’ve found a high percentage of these results to be my Ancestors. We must still verify both our path and the Match’s patch back to the CA. And, if we want to use the DNA segment, we must still verify that that segment is from that CA.


  1. At AncestryDNA, click on DNA (in the upper tool bar) and DNA Matches (from the drop down menu) – the result is the entire list of your DNA Matches.
  2. Click on Search (on the right side; just above your Match list) – this brings up 3 search boxes.
  3. Type a Surname in the “Surname in Matches’ trees” box; AND type a location in the “Birth location in Matches’ trees” box. Ex: CHEATHAM and Henrico County, Virginia, USA [This is one of my 7xGreat grandparents – I should get mostly 8C Matches with this search]. Use the “Include similar surnames” check box per your judgment. It’s best to use the Ancestry standards for the location, which will usually come up as a suggestion as you type.
  4. Click on the green Search button – the resulting list will be your DNA Matches who meet the criteria.
  5. Click on any Match to get their page (compared to you). You can investigate your target surname from the Shared Surnames list OR by clicking on their Linked (or Unlinked) Tree and search for that Surname.

Like all search processes, the key is finding the right combination of search terms. Clearly searching on JONES in Virginia, USA would not be helpful. My best suggestion is to search on a County, State combination.

I started with a list of my 7xGreat grandparents with their birth places. Most of these surname/birthplace combinations give me a very useful list, which often includes Matches with closer CAs (same surname and county). I can easily skip over all the ones I’ve already found and “Stared”, “Dotted”, and “Noted” – but many are new to me (ThruLines does not include any Matches beyond 6C). Also, many of the Matches with these CAs will share small DNA Segments – but they may be true genealogy cousins anyway.

If you get into a “grove” with this process, try using surnames from married daughters of your Ancestor (with the appropriate birth location). You’ll find even more Matches who had not taken their Tree back far enough…

This process ties into Triangulated Groups and/or (manual) Clustering, in that it finds more CAs to add to your Notes. You can then click on Shared Matches to see if this information would influence a Cluster or TG. By “influence” I mean that it could reinforce existing information seen in the Shared Matches, it could add evidence to extend an existing CA or Ancestral line, or it could contradict existing information resulting in a review of that TG or Cluster.

Also, if you are trying to “Dot” some of your 6-7cM Matches, this process will focus on some key Matches. When your Match list (for a surname/location) comes up, just scroll down and work up from the bottom until you’re into the 8cM Matches…

More Common Ancestors are good! They help validate the genealogy and add clues for Triangulated Groups and/or Clusters.


[AV] Segment-ology: Find AncestryDNA Matches with Common Ancestors TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20200808

13 thoughts on “Find AncestryDNA Matches with Common Ancestors

  1. Although the primary intent and general usage seems to be searching for a “Surname in matches’ trees” AND a “Birth location in matches’ trees,” has anyone achieved success by leaving the Surname field blank and searching for “small” Birth location like a specific parish in England? For example, I am interested in identifying any matches for Thomas Streeter who born in East Grinstead, Sussex, England in 1754.


      • Thank you for the rapid reply!

        Despite chatting with a customer care agent at Ancestry, I am not yet convinced that searching by only a “Birth in location matches’ trees” yields results for only direct ancestors of the DNA provider (as opposed to anyone in the same tree). I am also unsure that results are limited to the specific location entered.

        Nevertheless, the relatively short lists of location-only results obtained are intriguing and only time will tell if I am actually making any progress or fooling myself!


      • Perry, I’m a “process” kinda guy – set up a process that works and let it work for you. And I’ve sometimes fooled myself with that (the process had a flaw) – so I try to quality check from time to time.

        I usually see only ancestral surnames (although a search of a Match’s Tree can bring up others in their Tree with that surname. Same with locations – and sometimes the location and surname are not linked – so the search is like an “OR” function. However, it works pretty well, and it’s a big time saver for me. After all the search only comes up for Matches with Trees (and Trees that match the search criteria, somehow) – this culls out a lot of Matches with no/puny Trees. Jim


  2. Pingback: Search on a Surname | segment-ology

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  4. Hi Jim and Others:

    I have successfully used this specific strategy for the ~ last 6 months. It is especially great for “smaller segments” and the hints it generates. Tree validity is super important so be sure to “check deeply.”

    I just wish ancestry were not going through their “purge process” for matching 6 cM – 8 cM segments! Taking away a very valuable asset!!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Fred,
      I, too, have been using this for a while for closer Matches, but thought with the impending deletion of 6-7cM Matches I should get busy on that task and also post the process for others. Jim


  5. Thank you Jim for your posts. I always enjoy reading your advice and hints.
    I had done something similar but not too that extent thank you for your suggestion.


      • I am back working on early 1700s: roughly 5C to 7C matches. While some children of these CAs came to Australia, many went to USA and often descendants have not moved the tree back quite that far. But if I know they are there, I can add to my tree the siblings at various levels to help ThruLines make the connections.
        And Timber is a royal pain. It often trims my 3C to 4C matches to cousins who like me came to Australia, down to 6-7cM which will disappear.
        While maintaining endogamous links elsewhere to much further back.
        But fortunately I had already been using the technique you describe above very successfully and can recommend it. It has saved quite a few useful matches.


  6. I’m using something similar to “dot” my 6 and 7cM ones. You can limit your list to just 6 and 7 cM by using the “shared DNA” tab and not have to scroll through all the bigger ones to get to the bottom.


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