Look Who’s Finally Taken the Autosomal DNA Test

It’s been several years since I wrote Look Who’s Using DNA for Genealogy Research. Thanks to my youngest brother I’ve been able to work with his results at AncestryDNA since the end of May 2016.

His test results have confirmed most of our known paternal lines back to the 4th and 5th great-grandparents. However, to date, I haven’t been able to open the door in My Most Frustrating Brick Wall, William A. W. DEMPSEY, our 2nd great-grandfather. My brother has matches with descendants of six of his seven children. We need their help to find the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY.

I’ve Finally Had my DNA Tested

First of all, I want to thank my brother for sending me an AncestryDNA test.

I received it on August 21. I did the test, activated it, and sent it off the following day. I was a bit worried it had gotten lost until the notification arrived that the sample was received on September 10. Apparently, the time between mailing off and their acknowledging receipt can take up to five weeks. The sample was processed and DNA extracted on the 17th and analyzed on the 21st. The results were in the following day. This part took less time than I anticipated.

My DNA Results are Ready

I saw my results before being notified as I was doing my daily check of my brother’s most recent (above 20 cMs) matches. Often there are no new matches or only 4th cousins very close to the 20 cMs cutoff. This time he had a new match with 2,410 cMs across 68 segments!

I switched over to my profile to see if my match list was available. At the top of the list in the full sibling category was my brother. No surprise there. The matches that followed were the same two first cousins and dozen second cousin he also has as matches.

Setting Everything up for DNA Analysis

Since I’ve been working with my brother’s results for nearly three and a half years, I was ready to use all the tools necessary to gather and analyze my matches. The initial set up went as follows.

Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering tool

First, I ran a complete download of the matches (6 cMs and greater) on AncestryDNA using Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering tool. This can take up to several hours.

Gedmatch, FTDNA, and MyHeritage

While I was waiting for the Shared Clustering tool to gather the matches, I downloaded the raw DNA file from Ancestry for upload to Gedmatch, FTDNA, and MyHeritage. It would be a few days before these three sites processed the data and my profiles there would be ready to work with. As soon as the kit was tokenized on Gedmatch, I ran a one-to-one comparison to see which segments my brother and I share.

Colin Thomson’s Pedigree Thief

I used the Chrome extension Pedigree Thief to download all matches 20 cMs and greater (4th cousin or closer) on AncestryDNA. The more distant 5th to 8th cousins will be gathered later. The Pedigree Thief generates a CSV file that I can download and use with the next tool.

Becky Mason Walker’s Genome Mate Pro

I’d already started to set up my profile in Genome Mate Pro (GMP), an app to help manage the data collected from the different platforms for autosomal DNA research. My GEDCOM had been uploaded and linked to my profile and the next step was to add the Match Keys. This involved adding the key values associated with my profile in the files from the various sources (AncestryDNA, Gedmatch, FTDNA, and MyHeritage). The AncestryDNA and Gedmatch keys were immediately available while I had to wait for FTDNA and MyHeritage to process the uploads before I could enter the keys from these sites.

The CSV file generated by the Pedigree Thief on AncestryDNA after gathering the matches was imported into GMP. A second CSV file of the shared matches of matches (gathering these takes several hours) was also added to GMP.

When FTDNA was completed, I downloaded the CSV file of matches and imported it into GMP. After paying $19 to unlock the AncestryDNA upload to FTDNA was I able to download the chromosome data file and import it into GMP.

MyHeritage will send a CSV file for matches and another for chromosome data per email when requested. Both of these files were uploaded to GMP.

When the Gedmatch kit completed processing I was able to copy/paste the One-To-Many DNA Comparison Results into GMP (list of top 3,000 matches). One-to-one Autosomal Comparison for the highest matches was generated one by one and copy/pasted into GMP. The rest of the matches’ chromosome data will wait until I pay for Tier 1 membership.

I didn’t use the Tier 1 utilities for my brother’s test as all data was imported before the switch to Genesis and then back to the new Gedmatch version. As new matches have been few I was able to import them individually. Gathering the chromosome data using one-to-one autosomal comparison of my test against nearly 3,000 matches would be too time-consuming.

Genome Mate Pro is now set up with matches from four platforms. I will continue to update on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis depending on the site.

Back at AncestryDNA

Although AncestryDNA does not offer a chromosome browser, the new features they have implemented this year help sort through matches.

This is the system I’ve chosen for my profile. The maternal side of my tree is for the most part from Luxembourg. For my brother, I’ve found about 240 matches (of a total of 64,000) who are from the maternal side. The closest confirmed match is a 4C1R. Most of these maternal matches are descendants of Luxembourg emigrants in the USA. I’ve elected to use the star for sorting them on his profile as well as mine. All paternal matches will be grouped by colors.

I may be overthinking this but a similar system worked well for my brother’s matches. Ancestry does not offer enough groups (in my opinion) for this to work for everyone. Having mostly paternal matches allows me to disregard half of my tree. As can be seen in the pedigree chart the brick wall I mentioned earlier is in my father’s direct paternal line.

I’ve labeled a group for my 2nd great-grandparents as 4PGF Dempsey-Wood as they are four generations from me and on my paternal grandfather’s side. As I have only 7 sets of 3rd great-grandparents, I created groups for each of them indicating the generation, grandparent side, and number to keep them in order per the pedigree chart, i.e. 3 sets on the paternal grandfather and 4 sets on the paternal grandmother’s side. Then I created groups for 6 sets of 4th great-grandparents on my paternal grandfather’s side and 8 sets of 4th great-grandparents on my paternal grandmother’s side.

This left me with two free groups. One is a catch-all for matches that have not been figured out and is labeled !Needs to be worked out.

My goal is to have all 4th cousins or closer matches grouped so that when I view shared matches of a match I can more quickly evaluate where the connection may be. The groups beginning with 5 will become redundant and I can then use them for more distant generations.

Shared Clustering Report

The Shared Clustering tool gathered all matches 6 cMs or greater on AncestryDNA with at least three shared matches and generated a clustering report. I have a little over 56,000 matches on Ancestry. The Shared Clustering tool clustered 12,800 of these into 88 clusters.

As this download was done BEFORE I started to work with the matches the notes are blank, i.e. MRCA or other information is missing. Most of the clusters have known matches seen previously on my brother’s match list and his clusters. But there are several clusters of matches not seen on his test. This was my first sign of having inherited DNA from my father that my brother didn’t.

Each time the Shared Clustering tool is used to generate a cluster list the cluster numbers change. Therefore it’s important to keep notes on Ancestry which will help to determine the most distant common ancestor of a cluster.

One of my highest unknown matches is in Cluster 81 with 61 cMs across 2 segments. I’ve been working through all of the highest matches in this cluster adding their Ahnentafels to GMP with the help of the Pedigree Thief and color-coding them in the ![C81] temp 77 group – the last free group. When I figure out where in my tree this cluster is coming from I can change the color-code to the correct ancestral group and free up the group.

Time for a Call to Action

Now that I’ve set everything up, I can begin to work through my matches and find cousins who may help me open the doors in my brick walls. Are you seeing my name on your match list? I won’t be sending out messages for a while but will reply to any I receive!

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

36 thoughts on “Look Who’s Finally Taken the Autosomal DNA Test”

  1. Cathy, I checked Cheryl’s DNA matches, and didn’t see you there as a match. I was just curious to see if you had a match. I hope you uncover the parents of Wm. A.W. Dempsey. Good luck! Brian

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Facinating and complicated. I have had an Ancestry DNA test and am just starting to find relartives. Thanks for your sharing. I know I can learn a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I was surprised that you’re just now taking a DNA test (why so long?), but really had to pick my jaw up off the floor after following you through your methodical process of uploads, transfers, downloaded CSV files, etc. You’re a genetic genealogy machine. Fantastic! Good luck with sussing out all of your matches.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL, Michael. I had enough practice with my brother’s test. I had to have my brother send me the test as I couldn’t order it from Ancestry due to my living in Luxembourg. I really should have done it a lot sooner. I’m seeing lots of matches my brother doesn’t have. It still takes a lot of time to work through with all the tools and files I’ve downloaded but they make it easier. Thanks, Michael.


  2. Great Job on “What do I do next”? The way you explained what to do with your experience can help someone when they are overwhelmed and fine tune to their needs. This was GREAT Cathy ! I’ll be your cousin in heart!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! I’m impressed. You have a clearly defined method for sorting and working through all those matches. I hope the Dempsey brick wall cracks open soon.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Gerard. Very few presentations are available for free. Saturday there will be two presentations on the free livestream on DNA. A virtual pass $$ is needed to view all others.


  4. As Jeanne said, I am exhausted just reading this! OMG. I can’t understand most of those tools—clustering, genome mate pro, all are just WAY beyond my ability to learn or use. Fortunately I’ve already determined that DNA is pretty useless for me given endogamy so I don’t feel I am missing much. Good luck!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a bit late getting around to replying to your comment, Amy. My society’s annual genealogy and history event was last weekend and I’m getting caught up on everything I set aside.
      I know in your case with the endogamy it’s futile to spend the time on the DNA. But still, I hope you keep checking just in case you get a surprise match. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do check periodically, but have not even tried to use all those fancy new tools. I once tried DNA Painter and got totally confused and overwhelmed! Too many matches…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. With my brother’s test I was a bit spoiled as nearly all matches are paternal. This means I didn’t have to think about there being two possibilities on who the DNA was coming from. With my test in the equation, I have to consider if a match I share with him is maternal or paternal. Now I see where many get confused and overwhelmed.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Since our mother and all of her ancestors are from Luxembourg there are few matches on Ancestry who are related to her. Ancestry is still mostly used by Americans. The only maternal matches I’m finding are more distant than 4th cousins and descendants of immigrants from Luxembourg.
        Most unknown paternal matches can be sorted out as they are shared matches with my paternal first through fourth cousins.
        Jonathan Brecher clustered my brother’s DNA matches for me last fall and only about a half dozen clusters were generated for maternal matches.
        On MyHeritage there appear to be more maternal matches. I can tell them (usually) from the fact that they have few shared matches and even fewer who triangulate.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Got it! That all makes sense. And by the way—you were right! I found the answer to the identity of May’s parents today when I received her death certificate. Stay tuned!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a similar situation with my 2nd ggmother. What I am trying is using Thrulines to find everyone Ancestry thinks is related to her and then use Pedigree Thief to collect all relatives I have in common with each of them, I then do the same with her in-laws and I have two lists of matches. Everyone that is on the first list and not on the second should have a common ancestor to me on the other side of the brick wall. This seems to work as none of them is related to me in any known way. I have not yet broken through but feel I am much closer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Everyone Ancestry thinks is related to her” is what you have to beware of, John. In my ThruLines, the known and confirmed matches are showing up with the correct ancestors as I have a private but searchable tree attached to the DNA which includes them and their lines. The problem with using ThruLines is all of the non-researched trees they use to build the line to a common ancestor. I’m seeing potential ancestors who cannot be correct. For example, a couple who lived and died in Virginia with a son born in Georgia (!) being seen as a half-brother to my 2nd great-grandfather. Sure there must be a common ancestor, just not the one they are suggesting. Once I’ve figure it out (or not) I’ll get in touch with the DNA match to see if she has or will upload to one of the sites with a chromosome browser so that I can confirm the segment. Since I’m mapping known segments I can confirm or refute the match is on a particular line. I appreciate your sharing your method with me. Good luck with your 2nd ggmother’s brick wall!


  6. What is your Ancestry “user name” so I can check to see if we are a DNA match? I already know we are distantly related but it might not be close enough to have actual common DNA. I was at Genealogy workshop this weekend and learned only up to 2nd cousins definately have DNA in common. 3rd and farther might have DNA in common but not always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We share ancestors Agnes Elizabeth Meder (1762-1844) and Jacques Brochman (1757-1831) . My Ancestry user name is “kcmerchant” and I have small skeleton public tree attached to my DNA and larger private tree.

      Liked by 1 person

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