A Segment-ology TIDBIT
Subtitle: Filter Your AncestryDNA Match List
Bottom Line Up Front: Filter your AncestryDNA Match list by cMs when your objective is a distant Ancestor. Also use Side and Surname filters to further reduce your Match list for review.
Most of us use the Shared cM Project to look up the Shared cMs of a DNA Match to see the possibilities of our relationship. We’ve learned that 3,500cM means a parent/child relationship; 2600 cM is a sibling; 1750cM is a small group of close relatives; 880cM is often a 1st cousin (1C), or other close relatives. And we understand that as the shared cMs get smaller, the range of possible relationships expands.
But we can use the Shared cM Project in the opposite way – what is the probable shared cM for a given relationship? We see narrower ranges for close relationships, and fairly wide ranges for more distant relationships. However, even though the range may be relatively wide for distant relationships, the average cM does shift down as the relationship gets more distant. For example, a 3C relationship would not have more than 234cM; a 7C would not share more than 57cM (and the average for a 7C is 14cM).
Suppose we are focused on a particular Ancestor in our Tree. Our Target could be a brick-wall Ancestor; or a potential NPE (Not the Parent Expected) Ancestor; or a suspicious Ancestor; a known Ancestor for whom we’d like to find a new cousin who has some in-depth knowledge of that family; etc. We can use the Shared cM Project to narrow down our search! This works for close relationships as well as distant ones – my focus here is on the distant ones, but the process is what is important.
A good site to use the Shared cM Project is at DNAPainter: https://dnapainter.com/tools/sharedcmv4 – this site provides a number of interactive tools along with the basic Shared cM chart. For example, a 5C relationship (back to a 4xG grandparent – we have 64 of them) would average 25cM – and 50% of them would be in the under-20cM range. In this case we might want to start with the 50% in the over-20cM range. But for a 6C relationship (for 128 of our Ancestors) the average is 18cM and 70% of the Matches will be in the under 20cM range. Each of us gets to pick our own objectives and projects to pursue. If yours is like many of mine and beyond the 5C range, working within a range of cMs may be helpful.
Here’s how. At AncestryDNA, open up your list of Matches, and look at the row of “Filtered by:” tabs – we can use many of these in combination.
For this example I’m going to use the Shared DNA tab to select a range of cMs, AND the Groups tab to select my Maternal side.
In the project I’m working on, I’ve already looked at the Matches down to 16cM. By selecting a range for the next search, I also speed up the time for AncestryDNA to produce my filtered list of DNA Matches. In this case I’ll be looking at 11cM to 15cM. Remember to Click on Apply!
I’ll also filter my list by using the Groups tab to restrict the list to only Maternal-side DNA Matches:
In this case, I’ve chosen the Maternal side (remember to click on Apply). This will filter out a lot of Matches that don’t really apply to my Target Ancestor [I can later select the “Unassigned” Group to check those, too.] Note that you can ALSO select several categories under Custom groups – such as New Matches (especially helpful if you want to revisit this project at a later date to check on new Matches), and/or any of your “dotted” Match categories (not much help in my current project because I’ve already visited – and dotted – all of those Matches I could determine, and I’m looking for new ones now in the under-20cM range.) In some projects, this “dotted” filter may be valuable.
And there is one more filter I often use. For my current project, I am looking for my DNA Matches who have a BROWN Ancestor. So, I click on the “Search” tab, which brings down a row of options. I type BROWN into the “Surname in matches’ trees” search box:
You can decide to check the “Include similar surnames” box, or not. For this project, I got plenty of results with just BROWN, and, if I wanted to, I could go back and try BROWNE or BRAUN, etc. I’ve had mixed results with the “Birth location in matches’ trees” filter box – sometimes the result is either the surname or the location, and I’d be wanting both. I did have very good results on a project with HIGGINBOTHAM surname and Amherst County, Virginia location. You might need to try some combinations to see which works the best for your project. Remember to click on the blue, highlighted Search box to include this filter.
This process of filtering is a powerful way to shorten your list of DNA Matches, tailoring them to your project goals. The addition of a cM range has helped me focus on more distant Ancestors and to speed up the AncestryDNA listing algorithm.
BOTTOM LINE: When you are searching for DNA Matches, think about the best way to combine the filters (including a cM range) and search parameters at AncestryDNA.
[22BT] Segment-ology: Using the Shared cM Project in Reverse TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20230601