DNA Data Organization, Tools and Who’s on First?


Someone wrote to me with the following question/commentary about autosomal DNA and data organization on my blog. Her request is below:

“My overwhelming need is organization and I suspect others are in the same boat. I have only a rudimentary knowledge of spreadsheets which makes directions on setting them up for triangulation intimidating. What I am asking of you is that you do a blog about third party utilities which could be useful, perhaps doing a comparison of those available, i.e. ADSA, Genome Mate etc. I was also wondering if you could set up a hierarchy of which should come first and so on.”

I took this question to the ISOGG Facebook list, as I don’t use GenomeMate and was looking for input from people who do.  I also have known how to use Excel virtually “forever” so I have never looked at newbie resources for Excel either.

My Comment on FB:  I am hoping that someone has already done this, or at least compiled a list with some commentary, as I don’t use all of the tools extensively. For example, I use spreadsheets, not GenomeMate – although that implies nothing negative about GenomeMate.  Anyway, does anyone have any pointers for this gal? Does anyone know if there has been an “intro to excel for genetic genealogy” done? Thanks.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the conversation on the ISOGG Facebook list.  I have distilled the commentary to what I perceived to be the most relevant responses, below:

Genome Mate

I would highly recommend that she skip the spreadsheet phase and go straight to Genome Mate, since she’s not really experienced with either. (Nothing against spreadsheets – I love ’em – but GM will give her more bang for the learning curve buck. Also, those using spreadsheets all do them differently, so it’s harder to draw on a community for help.) The GM user group here on FB is extremely friendly, and IIRC the quick-start guide for the new and improved GM is either now out or imminent.

GenomeMate vs GenomeMate Pro, the new version.  There was very positive commentary about the Pro version.

There is a GenomeMate Pro FB group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/816785941743656/

There is a GenomeMate User Group FB group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1487955884768702/

Blog article about using GenomeMate


Some reports of problems with GenomeMate on the Apple platform, others say it works fine, especially the new Pro version.  Commentary says that if you’re just starting on GenomeMate now, begin with the newer Pro version.

There will be a quick-start guide for Mac users of Genome Mate Pro soon. There is currently one for the PC.

Dan Stone writes a blog that has featured using Genome Mate; and Jim Sipe has written a how-to-guide for it. I’m helping to beta test Genome Mate Pro; and I love it! It organizes your matches by each position on your chromosomes; points out overlapping segments and possible triangulations; allows you to segment map your most recent common ancestors, etc. I gave up spreadsheets for Genome Mate and am thrilled–it essentially “automates” what I used to do in organizing matches across the Big 3 and Gedmatch.



This is a list and most people are probably already aware of these tools, but take a look just in case.

Roberta’s comment:  I use many of the available tools, but am particularly fond of the tools at http://www.dnagedcom.com, http://www.gedmatch.com and the tools on Kitty Cooper’s blog.  These are for the most part created for all levels of genetic genealogy users.  Some of the other tools are for more advanced users.  Most all of these tools are designed to be used in addition to a spreadsheet or some form of organization – which is where this conversation has focused. None of them, with the possible exception of ADSA (Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer available at http://www.dnagedcom.com), could replace an organizational spreadsheet or GenomeMate, although ADSA does not work with 23andMe data.


A couple of people referred to some training videos for Excel including “Twenty with Tessa, Tips and Suggestions for Spreadsheets” which is focused on using spreadsheets with one name studies and genetic genealogy, but the principles are the same.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll_cfhOZTl0&feature=youtu.be

In addition, one person mentioned that they joined www.lynda.com and took the basic Excel class which she found very useful.

Kitty Cooper has instructions on her blog for how to make a matches spreadsheet.  The good news is that you can download your matches into a spreadsheet format from either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA, but you do need to understand something about the basics of sorting and how to stay out of spreadsheet trouble.

www.DNAadoption.com has some good courses their DNA for beginners covers using spreadsheets, not just for adoptees!

Roberta’s Summary

I heartily agree that the www.dnaadoption.com tools and classes are not just for adoptees.

DNAAdoption reportedly does not utilize GenomeMate for their purposes because GenomeMate focuses on the direct line trees, while in order to put families together for adoptees, who don’t know their direct line tree, they must use the combination of other people’s trees to determine where they fit in which line.  So GenomeMate does not work well for adoptees who are searching.

This discussion about GenomeMate Pro has almost convinced me to give it a shot.  I must admit, much of what is done manually in a spreadsheet could certainly be automated.  The issue holding me back before, aside from the fact that I already have so much done in my spreadsheet, was that the original version of GenomeMate required Silverlite be installed.  The new version does not.

Here’s a link to the GenomeMate page if you want to take a look.  I may take a test spin.  I think reading the user guide would go a long way in helping me decide if this tool might be for me.

Let me know if you install this product and how you like it.




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13 thoughts on “DNA Data Organization, Tools and Who’s on First?

  1. I tried to use the old Genome mate and got exactly nowhere with it. Regardless of which method I chose to load my data at the end there was nothing loaded. I suspect this might have been a file size problem as I am Ashkenazi.

    I just downloaded the Pro beta version and have a zip file saved on my computer but when I try to open it Windows tries to use Notepad. Should I have specified a particular program to open it with? I used the button on the home page to delete the old version but I’m not entirely sure if it removed all the associated pieces or just the program file. Might that cause a problem with installing the new version. HELP!

  2. I’ve used Genome Mate for quite some time and am now using the Pro version. I have databases for myself and also for a few people I’m helping. Each database can have multiple profiles. In addition to my brother and myself I’ve tested a maternal aunt and two maternal first cousins (each from a different aunt) and we are all in one database. I can quickly pull up a match and see which of us they share matching segments with. I can merge the data for a match that has tested multiple places and/or uploaded to GEDmatch into one record. And when I’m ready to import new data I just use the functions within Genome Mate Pro and it manages it without duplicating the records already in my file. I’m just skimming the surface here, but I’m definitely a huge fan.

  3. Back in my salad days, the highest praise you could give a person was to call them a damn jewel. Roberta, you are a damn jewel. You have provided me/us with exactly the information that we need. I will give Genome Mate a spin and perhaps try to pick up spreadsheet skills as I have the time. Thank you so very much.

  4. I’ve used GenomeMate for a while now and I love it. So easy to use without having to manually compare matches at 23andMe. I just update the aggregate monthly for me and my parents. I can see where most matches are coming from (at least by a generation or two). It still requires a lot of traditional genealogy because segments are not identified yet. Maybe one day they will be. We are on the cutting edge, which means there are still lots of puzzles to be solved! I need to get the Pro version. I think it has a group upload for all matching segments at GEDmatch.com as well. That would be good. I probably need to read up on it and get the most out of it.

  5. Roberta, could you please tell us why the requirement to install Silverlite with the original version of Genome Mate was a deal-breaker for you?

    Thanks very much,

    • It seems that everything I have to install an add on for anything, including Chrome plugins, it messes up by browser and other things on my system – so I just don’t do it anymore.

  6. I have used the Silverlite version of Genome Mate for well over a year, and am at this moment converting over to Genome Mate Pro. My biggest problem with the old Genome Mate was the almost constant and lengthy data saves which caused even the smallest of changes to require up to minutes of agaonized waiting for the save to conclude.

    In general, the flexibility presented to the user is unmatched. I have used spreadsheets since the first itertion became available for my TRS-80 Model 1! Spreadsheets are wonderful, but can not replaced a specially written tool, any more than a crescent wrench can adequately remove a specialize mechanics tool.

    I disagree that Genome Mate Pro is not useful for adoptions. On the contrary, I have an adopted grandmother and a half brother whose real parents remain unknown. I have been researching this data for decades. Until now I have never been able to pull together in one place clues pertaining to possible other descendents from those same family trees. Based on others from my line who have tested, I am now isolating autosomal DNA segments that apply to ancestors of these relatives, and my research future look a great deal brighter because of it.

    Since Genome Mate itself is free, as are the various outstanding guides and videos available to new users, it really puzzles me why there is any reluctance to at least check it out. Genome Mate Pro offers its users the ability to merge in all of the specialized work available from GedMatch, DNAgedcom, FTDNA and others. It is truly outstanding in that regard.

    Genome Mate Pro is exactly that – PROFESSIONAL. If one desires to solve genealogy puzzles, that answers to which have eluded us for years, one should not expect to suddenly wave a magic wand over a new program and receive answers. One must spend the time to learn and understand both the nuances of autosomal DNA itself, and then how these specialize tools can be used to determine relationship.

    To that end, the enormous amount of help and assistance freely shared on the Genome Mate Pro Facebook Users Group deserves the highest praise. Without the help of these more experienced users, I would still be scratching my head.

    I hope these comments are useful to your readers.

  7. I started using Genome Mate about 8 months ago. Couldn’t manage without it now. I am in the process of switching to Genome Mate Pro. I’ve used Excel for years but have never used spreadsheets for DNA analysis. I don’t think you can beat Genome Mate.

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  9. Hi — I was looking for a way to download GEDCOMs of my autosomal matches from places like FamilyTreeDNA and Gedmatch, because that allows me to merge them into a single file in various tools and look for “duplicates” aka common ancestors.

    I couldn’t find anything, so I wrote a browser extension to do it for me. I figured I’d share it, since I think it might be helpful to others. Basically, you use it to download a GEDCOM for one of your matches from FTDNA or Gedmatch, then load the GEDCOM into your tool(s) of choice (e.g. Family Tree Maker or DNAGedcom.com, etc.).

    You can find it at https://github.com/gtorkelson/gedcom-solvent .

    I hope this helps!

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