The Leeds Method

This is the first in a series of two articles. This article explains the Leeds Method and how I created a Leeds Spreadsheet in preparation for utilizing the results in DNAPainter. I stumbled around a bit, but I think I’ve found a nice happy medium and you can benefit from my false starts by not having to stumble around in the dark yourself. Of course, I’m telling you about the pitfalls I discovered.

The second article details the methodology I utilized to paint these matches, because they aren’t quite the same as “normal” matching segments with identified ancestors.

Welcome to the Leeds Method

Dana Leeds developed a novel way to utilize a spreadsheet for grouping your matches from second through fourth cousins and to assign them to “grandparent” quadrants with no additional or previous information. That’s right, this method generates groupings that can be considered good hints without any other information at all.

Needless to say, this is great for adoptees and those searching for a parent.

It’s also quite interesting for genetic genealogists as well. One of the best aspects is that it’s very easy to do and very visual. Translation – no math. No subtraction.

Caveat – it’s also not completely accurate 100% of the time, especially when you are dealing with more distant matches, intermarriage and/or endogamy. But there are ways to work around these issues, so read on!

You can click to enlarge any image.

I’ll be referring to this graphic throughout this article. It shows the first several people on my Ancestry match list, beginning with second cousins, using pseudonyms. I chose to use Ancestry initially because they don’t provide chromosome browsers or triangulation tools, so we need as much help there as we can get.

I’ve shown the surnames of my 4 grandparents in the header columns with an assigned color, plus a “Weird group” (grey) that doesn’t seem to map to any of the 4. People in that group are much more distant in my match list, so they aren’t shown here.

I list the known “Most Common Recent Ancestor,” when identified, along with the color code that so I can easily see who’s who.

All those blanks in the MCRA column – those are mostly people without trees. Just think how useful this would be if everyone who could provide a tree did!

What Does the Leeds Method Tell You?

The Leeds Method divides your matches into four colored quadrants representing each grandparent unless your genealogical lines are heavily intermarried. If you have lots of people who fall into both of two (or more) colors, that probably indicates intermarriage or a heavily endogamous population.

In order to create this chart, you work with your closest matches that are 2nd cousins or more distant, but no more distant than 4th cousins. For endogamous people, by the time you’re working in 4th cousins, you’ll have too much overlap, meaning people who fall into multiple columns, so you’ll want to work with primarily 2nd and 3rd cousins. The good news is that endogamous people tend to have lots of matches, so you should still have plenty to work with!


In this article, I’m using Dana’s method, with a few modifications.

By way of a very, very brief summary:

  • On a spreadsheet, you list all of your matches through at least third cousins
  • Then check each match to see who you match in common with them
  • Color code the results, in columns
  • Each person what you match in common with your closest cousin, Sleepy, is marked as yellow. Dopey and I both match Bashful and Jasmine in common and are colored Red. Doc and I both match Happy and Belle and are colored blue, and so forth.
  • The result is that each color represents a grandparent

To understand exactly what I’m doing, read Dana’s articles, then continue with this article.

DNA Color Clustering: The Leeds Method for Easily Visualizing Matches  
DNA Color Clustering: Identifying “In Common” Surnames 
DNA Color Clustering: Does it Work with 4th Cousins? By the way, yes it does, most of the time.
DNA Color Clustering: Dealing with 3 Types of Overlap

Why Use “The Leeds Method”?

In my case, I wanted to experiment. I wanted to see if this method works reliably and what could be done with the information if you already know a significant amount about your genealogy. And if you don’t.

The Leeds Method is a wonderful way to group people into 4 “grandparent” groups in order to search for in-common surnames. I love being able to perform this proof of concept “blind,” then knowing my genealogy and family connections well enough to be able to ascertain whether it did or didn’t work accurately.

If you can associate a match with a single grandparent, that really means you’ve pushed that match back to the great-grandparent couple.

That’s a lot of information without any genealogical knowledge in advance.

How Low Can You Go?

I have more than 1000 fourth cousins at Ancestry. This makes the task of performing the Leeds Method manually burdensome at that level. It means I would have had to type all 1000+ fourth cousins into a spreadsheet. I’m patient, but not that patient, at least not without a lot of return for the investment. I have to ask myself, exactly what would I DO with that information once they were grouped?

Would 4th cousin groupings provide me with additional information that second and third cousin groupings wouldn’t? I don’t think so, but you can be the judge.

After experimenting, I’d recommend creating a spreadsheet listing all of your 2nd and 3rd cousins, along with about 300 or so of your closest 4th cousin matches. Said another way, my results started getting somewhat unpredictable at about 40-45 cMs, although that might not hold true for others. (No, you can’t tell the longest matching segment length at Ancestry, but I could occasionally verify at the other vendors, especially when people from Ancestry have transferred.)

Therefore, I only proceeded through third cousins and about 300 of the Ancestry top 4th cousin matches.

I didn’t just utilize this methodology with Ancestry, but with Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe as well. I didn’t use GedMatch because those matches would probably have tested at one of the primary 4 vendors and I really didn’t want to deal with duplicate kits any more than I already had to. Furthermore, GedMatch is undergoing a transition to their Genesis platform and matching within the Genesis framework has yet to be perfected for kits other than those from these vendors.

Let’s talk about working with matches from each vendor.


At Ancestry, make a list of all of your second and third cousin matches, plus as many 4th cousins as you want to work with.

To begin viewing your common matches, select your first second cousin on the list and click on the green View Match. (Note that I am using my own second kit at Ancestry, RobertaV2Estes, not a cousin’s kit in these examples. The methodology is the same, so don’t fret about that.)

Then, click on Shared Matches.

Referring to your spreadsheet, assign a color to this match group and color the spreadsheet squares for this match group. Looking at my spreadsheet, my first group would be the yellow Estes group, so I color the squares for each person that I match in common with this particular cousin. On my spreadsheet, those cousins have all been assigned pseudonyms, of course.

Your shared match list will be listed in highest match order which should be approximately the same order they are listed on your spreadsheet. I use two monitors so I can display the spreadsheet on one and the Ancestry match list on the other.

Lon is shared in common with the gold person I’m comparing against (Roberta V2 Estes), and me, so his box would be colored gold on the spreadsheet. Lon’s pseudonym is Sneezy and the person beneath him on this list, not shown, would be Ariel.

Ancestry only shows in-common matches to the 4th cousin level, so you really couldn’t reach deeper if you wanted. Furthermore, I can’t see any advantage to working beyond the 4th cousin’s level, maximum. Your best matches are going to be the largest ones that reveal the most information and have the most matches, therefore allowing you to group the most people by color.

Unfortunately, Ancestry provides the total cMs and the number of segments, but not the largest matching segment.

One benefit of this methodology is that it’s fairly easy to group those pesky private matches like the last one on the master spreadsheet, Cersei, shown in red. You’ll at least know which grandparent group they match. Based on your identified ancestors of matches in the color group, you may be able to tell much more about that private match.

For example, one of my private matches is a match to someone who I share great-great-grandparents with AND they also match with two people further on up that tree on the maternal side of that couple, shown above, in red. I may never know which ancestor I share with that private match specifically, but I have a pretty darned good idea now in spite of that ugly little lock. The more identified matches, the better and more accurate this technique.

Is the Leeds Method foolproof? No.

Is this a great tool? Yes, absolutely.

Family Tree DNA

Thankfully, Family Tree DNA provides more information about my matches than Ancestry, including segment information combined with a chromosome browser and Family Matching. I often refer to Family Matching as parental bucketing, shown on your match list with the maternal and paternal tabs, because Family Tree DNA separates your matches into parental “sides” based on common segments with others on your maternal and paternal branches of your tree when you link your matches’ results.

At Family Tree DNA, sign on and then click on Matches under Family Finder.

When viewing your matches, you’ll see blue or red people icons any that are assigned to either your maternal, paternal side, or both (purple) on your match list. If you click on the tabs at the top,  you’ll see JUST the maternal, paternal or both lists.

This combination of tools allows you to confirm (and often triangulate) the match for several people. If those matches are bucketed, meaning assigned to the same parental side, and they match on the same segment, they are triangulated for all intents and purposes if the segment is above 20 cM. All of the matches I worked with for the Leeds Method were well above 20 cM, so you don’t really need to worry about false or identical by chance matches at that level.

Family Tree DNA matches are initially displayed by the total number of “Shared cM.” Click on “Longest Block” to sort in that manner. I considered people through 30 cM and above as equivalent to the Ancestry 3rd cousin category. Some of the matching became inconsistent below that threshold.

List all of your second and third cousins on the spreadsheet, along with however many 4th cousins you want to work with.

Then, select your closest second cousin by checking the box to the left of that individual, then click on “In Common With” above the display. This shows you your matches in common with this person.

On the resulting common match list, sort your matches in Longest block order, then mark the matches on your spreadsheet in the correct colored columns.

With each vendor, you may need to make new columns until you can work with enough matches to figure out which column is which color – then you can transfer them over. If you’re lucky enough to already know the family association of your closest cousins, then you already know which colored column they belong to.

All of my matches that fell into the Leeds groups were previously bucketed to maternal or paternal, so consistency between the two confirms both methodologies. Between 20 and 28 cM, three of my bucketed matches at Family Tree DNA fell into another group using the Leeds method, which is why I drew the line at 30cM.

For genealogists who already know a lot about their tree, this methodology in essence divides the maternal and paternal buckets into half. FTDNA already assigns matches maternally or paternally with Family Matching if you have any information about how your matches fit into your tree and can link any matching testers to either side of your tree at the 3rd cousin level or closer.

If you don’t know anything about your heritage, or don’t have any way to link to other family members who have tested, you’ll start from scratch with the Leeds Method. If you can link family members, Family Tree DNA already does half of the heavy lifting for you which allows you to confirm the Leeds methodology.


At MyHeritage, sign in, click on DNA and sort by “largest segment,” shown at right, above. I didn’t utilize matches below 40 cM due to consistency issues. I wonder if imputation affects smaller matches more than larger matches.

You’ll see your closest matches at the top of the page. Scroll down and make a list on your spreadsheet of your second and third cousins. Return to your closest DNA match that is a second cousin and click on the purple “Review DNA Match” which will display your closest in-common matches with that person, but not necessarily in segment size order.

Scroll down to view the various matches and record on the spreadsheet in their proper column by coloring that space.

The great aspect of MyHeritage is that triangulation is built in, and you can easily see which matches triangulate, providing another layer of confirmation, assuming you know the relationship of at least some of your matches.

The message for me personally at MyHeritage is that I need to ask known cousins who are matches elsewhere to upload to MyHeritage because I can use those as a measuring stick to group matches, given that I know the cousin’s genealogy hands-down.

The great thing about MyHeritage is that they are focused on Europe, and I’m seeing European matches that aren’t anyplace else.


At 23andMe, sign in and click on DNA Relatives under the Ancestry tab.

You’ll see your list of DNA matches. Record 2nd and third cousins on your spreadsheet, as before.

To see who you share in common with a match, click on the person’s name and color your matches on the spreadsheet in the proper column.

Unfortunately, the Leeds Method simply didn’t work well for me with my 23andMe data, or at least the results are highly suspect and I have no way of confirming accuracy.

Most of my matches fell into in the Estes category, with the Boltons overlapping almost entirely, and none in the Lore or Ferverda columns. There is one small group that I can’t identify. Without trees or surnames, genealogically, my hands are pretty much tied. I can’t really explain why this worked so poorly at 23andMe. Your experience may be different.

The lack of trees is a significant detriment at 23andMe because other than a very few matches whose genealogy I know, there’s no way to correlate or confirm accuracy. My cousins who tested at 23andMe years ago and whose tests I paid for lost interest and never signed in to re-authorize matching. Many of those tests are on the missing Ferverda side, but their usefulness is now forever lost to me.

23andMe frustrates me terribly. Their lack of commitment to and investment in the genealogical community makes working with their results much more difficult than it needs to be. I’ve pretty much given up on using 23andMe for anything except adoption searches for very close matches as a last resort, and ethnicity.

The good news is that with so many people testing elsewhere, there’s a lot of good data just waiting!

What are the Benefits?

The perception of “benefit” is probably directly connected to your goal for DNA testing and genetic genealogy.

  • For adoptees or people seeking unknown parentage or unknown grandparents, the Leeds Method is a fantastic tool, paving the way to search for common surnames within the 4 groups as opposed to one big pool.
  • For people who have been working with their genealogy for a long time, maybe not as much, but hints may lurk and you won’t know unless you do the discovery work. If you’re a long-time genealogist, you’re used to this, so it’s just a new way of digging through records – and you can do it at home!
  • For people who have tested at Family Tree DNA, the family grouping by maternal and paternal based on people linked to your tree is more accurate and groups people further down your match list because it’s actually based on triangulated matching segments. However, the Leeds Method expands on that and adds granularity by breaking those two groups into four.
  • For people who want to paint their chromosomes using DNAPainter, the Leeds Method is the first step of a wonderful opportunity if you have tested at either Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage or 23andMe.

Unfortunately, Ancestry doesn’t provide segment information, so you can’t chromosome paint from Ancestry directly, BUT, you can upload to either Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage or GedMatch and paint Ancestry matches from there. At GedMatch, their kit numbers begin with A.

What Did I Do Differently than Dana?

Instead of adding a 5th column with the first person (Sam) who was not grouped into the first 4 groups, I looked for the closest matches that I shared with Sam who were indeed in the first 4 color groups. I added Sam to that existing color group along with my shared matches with Sam that weren’t already grouped into that color so long as it was relatively consistent. If it looked too messy, meaning I found people in multiple match groups, I left it blank or set that match aside. This didn’t happen until I was working at the 4th cousin level or between 30 and 40 cM, depending on the vendor.

Please note that just because you find people that you match in common with someone does NOT MEAN that you all share a common ancestor, or the same ancestor. It’s a hint, a tip to be followed.

There were a couple of groups that I couldn’t cluster with other groups, and one match that clustered in three of the four grandparent groups. I set that one aside as an outlier. I will attempt to contact them. They don’t have a tree.

I grouped every person through third cousin matches. I started out manually adding the 4th cousins for each match, but soon gave up on that due to the sheer magnitude. I did group my closest 4th cousins, or until they began to be inaccurate or messy, meaning matching in multiple groups. Second and third cousin matching was very consistent.


  • Don’t use siblings or anyone closer than the second cousin level. First cousins share two grandparents. You only want to use matches that can be assigned to ONLY ONE GRANDPARENT.
  • In the spreadsheet cell, mark the person you used as a “match to.” In other words, which people did you use to populate that color group. You can see that I used two different people in the Estes category. I used more in the other categories too, but they are further down in my list.
  • At Family Tree DNA, you can utilize the X chromosome. Understand that if you are a male, you will not have any X matches with your paternal grandfather. I would not recommend using X matches for the Leeds Method, especially since they are not uniformly available at all vendors and form a specific unique inheritance pattern that is not the same as the other autosomes.
  • Ancestry, MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA allow you to make notes on each match. As I group these, and as I paint them with DNAPainter I made a note on each match that allows me to identify which group they are assigned to, or if they match multiple groups.
  • Look at each match to be sure they are consistent. If they aren’t, either mark them as inconclusive or omit them entirely in the painting process. I write notes on each one if there is something odd, or if I don’t paint them.

What Did I Learn?

Almost all of my (endogamous by definition) Acadian matches are more distant, which means the segments are smaller. I expected to find more in the painted group, because I have SO MANY Acadian matches, but given that my closest Acadian ancestor was my great-great-grandfather, those segments are now small enough that those matches don’t appear in the candidate group of matches for the Leeds Method. My Acadian heritage occurs in my green Lore line, and there are surprisingly few matches in that grouping large or strong enough to show up in my clustered matches. In part, that’s probably because my other set of great-great-grandparents in that line arrived in 1852 from Germany and there are very few people in the US descended from them.

I found 4th cousin matches I would have otherwise never noticed because they don’t have a tree attached. At Ancestry, I only pay attention to closer matches, Shared Ancestor Hints and people with trees. We have so many matches today that I tend to ignore the rest.

Based on the person’s surname and the color group into which they fall, it’s often possible to assign them to a probable ancestral group based on the most distant ancestors of the people they match within the color group. In some cases, the surname is another piece of evidence and may provide a Y DNA lead.

For example, one of my matches user name is XXXFervida. They do match in the Ferverda grandparent group, and Fervida is how one specific line of the family spelled the surname. Of course, I could have determined that without grouping, but you can never presume a specific connection based solely on surname, especially with a more common name. For all I know, Fervida could be a married name.

By far the majority of my matches don’t have trees or have very small trees. That “no-tree” percentage is steadily increasing at Ancestry, probably due to their advertising push for ethnicity testing. At Family Tree DNA where trees are infinitely more useful, the percentage of people WITH trees is actually rising. By and large, Family Tree DNA users tend to be the more serious genealogists.

MyHeritage launched their product more recently with DNA plus trees from the beginning, although many of the new transfers don’t have trees or have private trees. Their customers seem to be genealogically savvy and many live in Europe where MyHeritage DNA testing is focused.

23andMe is unquestionably the least useful for the Leeds Method because of their lack of support for trees, among other issues, but you may still find some gems there.

Keeping Current

Now that I invested in all of this work, how will I keep the spreadsheet current, or will I at all?

At Ancestry, I plan to periodically map all of my SAH (Shared Ancestor Hints) green leaf matches as well as all new second and third cousin matches, trees or not.

In essence, for those with DNA matches and trees with a common ancestor, Ancestry already provides Circles, so they are doing the grouping for those people. Where this falls short, of course, is matches without trees and without a common identified ancestor.

For Ancestry matches, I would be better served, I think, to utilize Ancestry matches at GedMatch instead of at Ancestry, because GedMatch provides segment information which means the matches can be confirmed and triangulated, and can be painted.

For matches outside of Ancestry, in particular at Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage I will keep the spreadsheet current at least until I manage to paint my entire set of chromosomes. That will probably be a very long time!

I may not bother with 23andMe directly, given that I have almost no ability to confirm accuracy. I will utilize 23andMe matches at GedMatch. People who transfer to GedMatch tend to be interested in genealogy.

What Else Can I Do?

At Ancestry, I can use Blaine’s new “DNA Match Labeling” tool that facilitates adding 8 colored tags to sort matches at Ancestry. Think of it as organizing your closet of matches. I could tag each of these matches to their grandparent side which would make them easy to quickly identify by this “Leeds Tag.”

My Goals

I have two primary goals:

  • Associating segments of my DNA with specific ancestors
  • Breaking down genealogical brick walls

I want to map my DNA segments to specific ancestors. I am already doing this using Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage where common ancestors are indicated in trees and by surnames. I can map these additional Leeds leads (pardon the pun) to grandparents utilizing this methodology.

To the extent I can identify paternal and maternal matches at 23andMe, I can do the same thing. I don’t have either parents’ DNA there, and few known relatives, so separating matches into maternal and paternal is more difficult. It’s not impossible but it means I can associate fewer matches with “sides” of my genealogy.

For associating segments with specific ancestors and painting my chromosomes, DNAPainter is my favorite tool.

In my next article, we’ll see how to use our Leeds Method results successfully with DNAPainter and how to interpret the results.



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56 thoughts on “The Leeds Method

  1. hi

    Of the companies mentioned, I have only had reliable confirmed matching results with MyHeritage matches as long as its high or medium in confidence. So far only a handful of non family “strangers”.
    I do have accounts with Ftdna BigY, Ancestry, 23andme v3, Nat geno and DnaLand


  2. If you use the chrome Extension Ancestry DNA Helper you can download all the matches at Ancestry and cut & Paste into Excel

  3. a lot of my matches at 23andMe have also tested at Ancestry too, so I am able to figure out how they match me. my dad and i both have quite a few decent close matches there. we didn’t at first, but in the last 2-3 yrs, they have picked up. i use the Leeds Method and the Color Dot method too for my matches. both are very valuable and helpful for grouping.

  4. Your detailed explanation really illuminates the process and encourages me to give it a try. I agree, 4th cousins are generally too distant to be bothered with…but there are promising 2d/3d cousin match possibilities that I can better understand with the Leeds method and your hints. TY!

  5. Thank you for this overview of how well the color code method she created worked for you for the various testing sites. I like this method and it is good to know how useful it can be.

  6. With Ancestry, we already have matches grouped together under DNA Circles. For example: My ancestor, James Maynard b. 1750 died 1852 has 286 members in the circle. We should be able to incorporate this data into the Leeds method.

  7. I’d be interested to hear if anyone outside of the US/Canada gets any meaningful results from the Leeds method. It’s not that I don’t think the method could work but people outside of the US just don’t have enough close matches to work with. My Mum’s ancestry is entirely from within the British Isles and I manage her AncestryDNA test results. She has just one 2nd-cousin and two 3rd-cousins in her match list. Two of these matches are on her mother’s maternal side and the other, despite sharing 168 cM across 12 segments, has no shared matches. Also no tree, so this person could fit into any one of the other 3 grandparent groups.

    Roberta – I had to laugh when you wrote about creating a spreadsheet listing “about 300 or so of your closest 4th cousin matches”. Mum currently has 270 4th cousins or closer. From comments on DNA user groups here in Australia that seems pretty typical. Naturally, the majority of these are single segment matches just above the 20 cM threshold. However, I decided to give the Leeds method a try. I have applied the method to 200 of her closest matches but instead of falling nicely into 4 groups they are currently in 34 ‘groups’, many of them containing just one or two people.

    I’m just amazed at how different the experience of DNA testing is for people outside of the US.

    • I can tell by looking at the matches which are my Mom’s lines that immigrated more recently. I’m not surprised by your isolated groups. That’s the point at which I stopped, when things began to get “goofy.”

      • Thanks Roberta and Philip Gammon 🙂 I’ve never quite “got” Dana’s clustering – I was puzzled why people would want to cluster matches by grandparents. Now I understand. Like Philip, I’m from downunder (NZ in my case) with British Isles heritage … but I haven’t tested with Ancestry. At FTDNA, I have 5 matches with the largest shared segment equal to or over 30cM: three are in the 2C-3C range and one is probably 4C or more distant (we haven’t been able to establish the common ancestor in Ireland). Gedmatch isn’t much better. Again, thanks for the enlightenment … and another great post, Roberta 🙂

        • Even though my dad’s ancestry is all southern colonial, my mom’s was mostly recent immigrants, and I have only 14 matches at ancestry that are 2nd-3rd cousins. Only 4 DNA circles–with 4 members each. Sigh.

          What I found most interesting here, though, was that the vast majority of matches at both ancestry DNA and FTDNA are on my dad’s maternal side. For the matches I’ve color coded so far, I have 36 categorized to my dad’s father, 159 to his mother, 3 to my mother’s father and 28 to her mother’s mother (the one area she has some colonial US ancestry). What the heck?! A few were in two categories, but most were pretty clear.

    • My (Australian) experience is similar to Philip’s and Fern’s. Using FTDNA data and a 30 cM cut-off, my mother has only 8 matches who are 3rd cousin or closer :
      – 3 are clearly in a single “bucket”, but 2 of these are known cousins for whom I arranged testing. The third is an ongoing mystery, we’ve been trying for a while now to work out the connection on that line.
      – 3 match on “sticky” segments – there are dozens (if not hundreds) of people who match on the same segment below the 30 cM limit.
      – 2 don’t match anyone else at this level – although one matches two known 4th cousins and has a surname in common and has already been bucketed on that basis.
      I tried dropping the limit to 20 cM, but I just pick up more people who’ve already been bucketed based on ICW matches, and more “sticky” segment matches. It’s an interesting experiment, but in my case it doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know.

  8. you can record notes at 23andme. click on the match and then in the upper right corner you will see two little icons, one is for messages and the other is for notes

  9. at 23andme, you click on a match, then scroll down to see the shared match list, you will see yes if you triangulate with the match and the shared match. You can click on yes to see the chromosome browser. you can compare 5 people in the chromosome browser, it will show the graphic browser and the segment information below. So you can see if there are overlapping segments. However if you want to definitely know if they triangulate you would need to go back to the individual matches and look a the shared match list.

  10. when there are no trees then I look to see if they have listed surnames. famiytreedna and 23andme list surnames if the match wishes to do so. I use those surnames to look for trees. I find that there are be trees at ancestry for those dna matches. For 23andme you can see how the matches relate to each other in the shared match list. Ancestry does not tell you this. Sometimes when a family starts testing on a website they will test others. On 23andme you can tell if the person is a parent or sibling. Ancestry does not give you that information. There have been articles on how to mine your match information at ancestry. Too bad no one has done that for 23andme.

  11. Roberta, have you heard of or had any experience with Genome Mate Pro? I would be interested in your thoughts on the app if you have. I need a KISS app… or as simple as possible. Genetics for Dummies was even way over my head. Thanks you.

  12. I’m confused about ‘shared matches’ and how they relate. I understand triangulation – my known paternal 2nd cousin Fred and I match Mark on the same segment on the same chromosome, so somewhere further back we share a MRCA. But what is the relationship where Fred matches Sally on one chromosome and I match her on a different one? So Sally is a shared cousin, but how?

    At first I thought of Jerry whose aunt married my uncle. We share a first cousin, But Jerry and I don’t share any DNA. That can’t be the right answer. After looking at one of my other known cousins, Mike, (on MyHeritage) and all his shared matches I’m beginning to think that the only way to have the kind of shared cousin that Sally is would be if Fred and Sally are cousins on Fred’s mother’s side of the family, since Fred and I are cousins on his father’s side, and both of these could still be on my paternal side.

    My Mom’s family all came from Germany – some as recent as my Mom’s father, but part of her family goes back to at least 1600 in Marburg. Three of my Dad’s grandparents came from Ireland. The MRCA between my 2C1R, Mike, and me are my great grandparents who came from Dortmund, Germany. Their children were my grandfather and Mike’s great grandmother. Mike and I have no triangulated matches and 9 shared matches. Seven of those 9 matches have ethnicity of 80-100% Irish or English. I know ethnicity is an estimate, but even if there’s an error of 10-15% on those numbers they are too high to say it’s not Irish or English. A couple of those matches even live in Ireland. Only a couple have any ‘North and West Europe’. Turns out Mike’s 2nd great grandmother on his grandfather’s side was from Ireland. The MRCA between Mike and me is on his grandmother’s side. So in this case it’s a matter of being on the other side of the family. The shared matches are on my Dad’s side, even though Mike is on my Mom’s side. And these same shared matches are on Mike’s grandfather’s side, and I’m on his grandmother’s side. Is this the only way for the shared matches that don’t triangulate? So in the case with Mike coloring in the shared matches as the same color as his in my Excel file is actually backwards. This is why I’m confused. I hope this is clear. I can send more info if you’d like. Thank you for your help!

    • I’m really sorry, but I can’t follow this without a pedigree chart. It’s more in line with a quick consult than a simple blog question. If you’re interested, I’d be glad to do a consult.

      • I figured out what’s going on with Mike and me. Writing it all down to try and explain it to you really helped! Mike’s paternal 2nd great grandmother was from Tipperary, Ireland. His paternal great grandmother, who is my grandfather’s sister, was from Dortmund, Germany. Now I know where the Irish in his family originated, and the Irish shared matches make sense!
        Then what I did starting with 23andMe Leeds I’d made was to look at the shared matches and how much did they match cousin Fred. Of the 60 shared matches between Fred and me, 40 triangulated. Of the remaining 20 only 3 of them matched Fred with 7 cM or greater. The reminding 17 were so small that I’d not have painted them if I were doing Fred’s profile. I changed the color in the Leeds diagram on them to a lighter shade, and will basically not worry about trying to figure them out. Now I’m going to do that same kind of thing for my FTDNA and MyHeritage Leeds diagrams. Thank you!

  13. I have not finished your article or all of the article by Dana Leeds, but found it interesting. I have looked at a variation. I have not tried going to the 4th cousin level yet with gGPs. However, I found that if you start at the distant matches first and fill in their shared matches, then it is easier to see the grouping. I reached this conclusion by starting out with a top match and then concluding that I had accidentally merged folks from several GPs. By starting at the lower level, it is easier to find the matches and have then grouped in several columns. As you go to higher matches, they start showing up in multiple columns, saying you are related by a closer connection than a GP. As mentioned, cousin marriages and such can play havoc with the method, but it provides some neat grouping capabilities. Thanks for the post.

  14. Roberta, yet again, you’ve taught me something new. You’re the best!
    Question, do you put your matches from different vendors all in the same spreadsheet?
    If so, how do you differentiate between them, if at all?
    And what if the same match has tested at more than one vendor?
    Do you list the match more than once in the spreadsheet?
    If not, which vendor do you choose, and why?

      • So, to clarify… by “common person” you’re referring to the “match to” person?
        And you do not label anyone with the vendor they came from.
        And when you come across the “match to” person in another vendor, you do not make another separate spreadsheet row but simply add his matches from the other vendor further down in the spreadsheet and identify that match in the appropriate colored column from the first vendor.
        Sorry for being picky, but I’m just trying to understand the exact “nuts & bolts” of it. 😉

        • No, I mean finding a person that you know how they are related in both lists. It may or may not be the match person. I originally made a separate list for each vendor, but when I figured out which column goes with which column for two vendors, then I combined the lists. I have column not showing in the example, column 1, with the vendor name. So, for example, if I know that Sneezy is related through my Estes ancestor, and I find that Sneezy has transferred to another vendor, the same group of people that Sneezy matches there with is likely be the mustard colored group. By the same token, if I discover that Happy is also at that vendor, then the group that Happy falls into is likely the blue group. The more overlapping people you can confirm that way, the better. However, for adoptees, they may not be able to identify the groups at different vendors unless they recognize a couple of people’s names. Otherwise, they may have to wait until they know more to group all of the vendors into the proper “same color” groups. I was not able to successfully do this at 23andMe, but was at the other vendors.

    • I do. I have a column labled source: Ancestry, 23&me, GedMatch, and FTdna.

      Unfortunately GedMatch and FTdna are less than totally useful. Tried MyHeritage, and it won’t take the kit

  15. Roberta … Thanks for your blog RE the Leeds chart method. I’m working right now on a Leeds chart (using her MyHeritage matches) for my adopted cousin. I am noticed that if I sort only by largest segment and create an Excel list of only those matches, I am missing quite a few matches who share even more total cMs than those do. Why do you recommend sorting by largest segment? Thanks!

      • Roberta … sorry to be a little thick-headed about this. I’m still having trouble understanding your advice to sort matches and enter them on my Excel sheet in order of the largest cM segment. Why not sort by total cM segments, which would seem to represent the relative strength of a match? If I sort by largest segment, my match list won’t begin with my strongest match, nor will it consistently descend with subsequently weaker matches, correct? In addition, if I inadvertently don’t list/consider enough matches sorted by largest segment, I may miss including some of the stronger/strongest ones. ??? Thanks! 😊

        • Generally, your largest segment match is your best match. Often the smaller cMs together inflate the number. However, try it. I would think that the list probably would be about the same.

  16. Roberta, Have you ever thought about writing a ‘Genealogy DNA for Dummies’? I love your blog and try to follow what you are explaining but my knowledge is So beneath yours it’s nearly impossible. I know how to apply a bandaid while you are doing brain surgery!😀 Thanks
    Your ‘cousin’,
    Donna Hernandez

    • I have though about that, but others have written books. I tried to make inroads with the Dummys people some years back unsuccessfully. Which is why I started my blog. On the Help tab, there is a list of resources including books:) We all started at the beginning, so keep swimming.

  17. Not finding much success with the Leeds method on Ancestry, even though I have plenty of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins as an Ashkenazi Jew. The high background endogamy really throws it off I believe. My chart looks almost like a diagonal rainbow for three dozen columns – it is far too sparse – out of my 50 2nd and 3rd cousins on Ancestry, there are only 4 clusters of 5-6 members, the rest are all either one-offs or in pairs/triples, and almost no overlap among any clusters. Even when I extend to my top few hundred 4th cousins the situation really doesn’t get better.

    • I wouldn’t expect it to work with 4th cousin for Jewish people That endogamy! Do you know of any common ancestors, or is all of your endogamy further back in time in the same population?

      • I think the challenge is there is both endogamy further back, inflating all relation estimates, and later endogamy that creates lots of weak overlap between all clusters once you expand to the 4th cousin level.

      • Same problem here. I am trying to figure out which relatives come from my grandfather (who is half-Jewish) and which come from my grandmother (who is Jewish). My main hope is to be able to trace my family further back since traditional genealogical trees have not worked. My knowledge about my family only goes back to great-grandparents and a few great-great-grandparents (sometimes only first name) on that side.

        I have one giant lump for two grandparents. There is no possibility of sorting it out that I can see. I tried running it through GeneticAffairs with a lot of help to autocluster it. Nothing. A lump.

        I have no first cousins. I have a few known 2nd cousins, but only from one grandparent. So I can only match 3rd cousins. And every single relative who is Jewish matches that 2nd cousin.

        I have tried this with FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Genesis GEDMatch, and 23andMe now. I’ll try Ancestry as a last resort. But I am not hopeful. Two great-grandparents are just missing, and I can’t sort out my dad’s paternal grandmother from my dad’s mother’s parents.

        With both traditional family tree genealogical work/interviews AND DNA testing failing to provide me much insight into half of my family, I have no idea what to do.

        My other side is easy, and I have their lines going back hundreds of years. Even my non-Jewish Russian/German grandparent, I occasionally find a match from.

        What would be the next step you would take? I’m new to this but studying carefully and have been at it for a while.

        • MyHeritage has worked with the Genetic Affairs developer and their version, run through their website, is much better for Jewish clusters. Give that a try.

  18. Assuming you have used the Leeds method on your Ancestry matches with no information about segment matching—If you take this one step further and determine that everyone in a color group matches everyone else in that group, what are the chances of the individuals in that group having a common ancestor? Or is it just too unpredictable?

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  23. I had to laugh at your comment about endogamy making 4th counins waaaay too problematic to use. I did mine Just For Fun … roughly 20% of my matches match all 4 lines. Another 20% matches only 1 line, and 60% match 3 (really only 2) lines. 7 of my 8 great-grandparents are kin to somebody on the other side … and both grandfathers are 2C1R.

    I’m helping an adopted friend try and find parents. 23 makes me want to throw things and scream. I don’t know what drunk monkey they have calculating relationships, but it is to laugh. So far as I can tell, the *only* good thing is they tell you “relationships” between shared matches.

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  25. 23 and me does generate a tree of sorts. (I’m helping a friend find Birth Parents) It was probably created by the same drunk monkey that identifies relationships! Lolol. What 23 *DOES* do … when you’re looking at your shared matches list, it tells you that you are first cousins, and that shared match is 5th cousins with Dolly! And that is so very useful. No cM amounts are shown … just a crazy relationship. I was actually able to get quite a bit of work done with that tree before they tested with Ancestry.

    The interesting thing is the relationship of their tree to the actual tree. Half of the tree is (I believe) maternal grandfather. The other half is (I believe) primarily maternal grandmother … with a tiny branch of Dad’s family.

    Leeds was the first thing that I did, and it was so handy!!

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