Using Ancestry’s New Match Grouping Dots aka “MyMatchDots”

I’d like to say that yesterday’s article titled “Using Ancestry’s Tree Tags” was a little test to see if you were paying attention, but it wasn’t.

I conflated two different new features, and today, I’d like to straighten that out.

First, a shout out to Paula Williams for catching this. Thank you.

What Happened?

Flat out – I messed up. Mea culpa.

Ancestry introduced several new beta features at the same time. Cumulatively, it’s a big change. The functionality is interconnected AND they don’t all work reliably or consistently, so it’s more than a little confusing, or at least it obviously was for me. There is also no “i” information button describing the new features or providing instructions. However, I did find information on MyTreeTags in Ancestry Support here and grouping of matches using colored dots here.

Grouping matches using colored dots also doesn’t have a “name” like MyTreeTags, so it was easy to conflate with the tags. I wish they had named the grouping dots something like “MyMatchDots” to clearly differentiate the function from MyTreeTags, especially since they were released at the same time. Therefore, I’m referring to them at “MyMatchDots” because that’s a lot easier than “grouping matches using colored dots.”

I wasn’t just flying blind. I did watch the training video and thought I understood, but clearly I didn’t have all the moving pieces and parts straight. Maybe you don’t either, and this will help.

There is no graceful recovery here, except to apologize and fix the issue by publishing the correct information.

The good news is that I described the functionality of the colored dots for grouping matches (MyMatchDots) accurately.

The bad news is that I called it by the wrong name in the title and I referred to the colored grouping dots as “tags.” Seemed like a perfectly fitting name to me. Somehow, now I need to bleach that out of my mind. MyMatchDots, MyMatchDots, MyMatchDots…

The error, or course, HAD to be obvious AND in the title – a publishing sin that’s simply non-recoverable. Just like the tool you drop will roll to dead center under the table, bed or the vehicle where you can’t possible reach it. In case anyone had any doubt, Murphy lives!

So, from time to time, those of us who publish just get to suck it up and issue a correction. Today it’s my turn. Thank you for your tolerance and understanding.

One positive aspect – I’ve included additional information about MyMatchDots as well, based on questions and comments from the earlier article.

Groups (MyMatchDots) and MyTreeTags – the Difference

There are now two methods of grouping at Ancestry.

Groups (MyMatchDots) – Colored grouping dots that I described in the original article and am republishing below. I have deleted the earlier article with the incorrect title. The instructions for how to use match grouping dots in that article were and are accurate, but I’ve updated here.

MyMatchDots and MyTreeTags are different in that grouping dots (MyMatchDots) allow you to select up to 24 colored dots to append to and tag YOUR DNA MATCHES on your match list.

MyTreeTags – Tree tags allow you to tag people IN YOUR TREE, living or deceased, with predefined or custom tags.

Here’s a quick screenshot of examples of MyTreeTags as part of a new beta Workspace. In the next few days, I’ll publish an article with examples of how to activate and use MyTreeTags and more about the beta Workspace.

MyTreeTags beta workspace

What follows is the re-publication of yesterday’s instructions for defining and using the colored grouping dots, plus, how to sort and filter using the colored groupings (MyMatchDots.)

Using Ancestry’s New Color Grouping Dots (MyMatchDots)

One of Ancestry’s new beta features is their grouping feature using colored dots that’s I’m referring to as MyMatchDots – my name, not theirs. To enable, you need to click on “Extras” on the top black menu bar, then “Ancestry Lab” on the dropdown, then enable both MyTreeTags and New and Improved DNA Matches.

Ancestry lab.png

No, I don’t know what happens if you only enable one of the features, or turn them off and on. These features seem to be pretty tightly coupled. Feel free to experiment, but I haven’t.

Your DNA Matches

Everyone utilizes matching differently, for different purposes. Your goal should be to devise a grouping methodology that will support the way you are using DNA matching.

I’m showing you how I’m utilizing the colored dots for grouping my matches, and why, but your preferred method and mine may not be at all the same.

Next, click on DNA Matches.

Ancestry matches with tags.png

This shows my closest 2nd cousin matches. You’ll notice that many don’t have trees, or have unlinked trees, but since these are second cousin matches, it was relatively easy for me to figure out quickly which lines they descend from based on who I match in common with them. You can see my comments just below “Add/edit groups” and the little colored dots.

The little colored dots (MyMatchDots) are the group identifiers that I’ve added to each match.

By clicking on the “Add/edit groups” to the right of the colored dots, you can view the legend, meaning the groups you’ve defined. This is what you’ll see every time you want to group someone.

Ancestry tags.png

Notice that the first person, which is my own V2 (version 2) kit, is showing with a green dot, meaning I’ve identified the common ancestor. I could select any number of dots that I’ve defined, or I could define more dots by creating a custom group.

Ancestry custom groups.png

You have 24 colors to select from. I know that sounds like a lot, but you’ll need to do some planning.

MyMatchDots Grouping Strategy

I thought about creating a maternal and paternal match group, but that seemed like a waste of colored dots, so for now, I haven’t. The only way I have to identify maternal and paternal at Ancestry, because neither parent is available to test there, is via known ancestors – and that information is immediately evident to me by the comment indicating the common ancestor.

I tried to think about how I would use the colored dots for sorting.

I decided on the stop light analogy. A green dot for “identified ancestor,” yellow for either “probably identified” or darker yellow for “speculative,” and red for “I’m working on this but it’s tough.” In other words, red means not yet identified. No colored dot means I haven’t worked on that match.

I made both “messaged” and “private” both darker red dots, because often those are used together when I have a show stopper. I want to revisit matches in both of those categories, so I’ll want to be able to sort for them to see if:

  • trees have become public
  • more helpful shared matches exist
  • messages have been answered and I didn’t notice

What’s Missing?

Did you notice what’s missing? That little green leaf on your match list indicating that this person is a DNA match AND has a shared ancestor.

Ancestry common ancestors dropdown.png

While Ancestry just recently re-indexed the trees, the Shared Ancestor Hint “Common Ancestors” leaf is still missing on the matches page where it used to be displayed. I’m hopeful that it will be back as an icon on the match list.

Worse yet, when you click on the “Common Ancestors” filter to display only common ancestors, this error message appears.

Ancestry common matches.png

I do have common ancestor matches – 704 of them to be exact.

Let’s hope that this is a temporary glitch that will be fixed soon.

For me, being able to see the green leaf on my full match list is extremely important because I want to be able to quickly discern which of those matches have shared ancestors.

Fortunately, I made a note for each shared ancestor previously identified, so I sorted for “Notes” in order to group appropriately.

Ancestry notes.png

However, if you haven’t already made those notes, then sorting for notes isn’t useful.

If your account displays Common Ancestors when you select that option, skip to the “Ideas for Using MyMatchDot Groups” section of this article.

If your account does NOT display Common Ancestors, read the Work-Around section, next.


Utilizing my “regular” kit, which does NOT have ThruLines because I have two kits attached to “me” on the same tree, I can group by color (as you’ve seen), but Common Ancestors green leaf function is broken.

Utilizing my second kit V2 kit, which DOES have ThruLines, I can click on “704 Shared Ancestor Hints” from my main DNA Summary page or select the “Common Ancestors” dropdown.

Ancestry shared ancestor links.png

This works.

Ancestry common ancestor leaf.png

I understand that you can “force” common ancestors sorting to work on kits without ThruLines by toggling the Beta option for Advanced Matching to off, but after all the work I just did grouping all 704 of my shared matches, I’m not willing to risk losing all of those dots to test this workaround. The Beta “off” or “on” is for the entire account, not for each individual kit on the account.

What I will do, shortly, is to create a “twin” in my tree and connect my kit that doesn’t have ThruLines to that twin so both kits aren’t attached to “me.” That may or may not solve the problem.

If you do NOT have ThruLines yet, and you want to retain any existing New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), you must do so before you make a change that enables ThruLines, because NADs are gone on my account that HAS ThruLines, but they exist on the account without ThruLines. NADs have not been updated in many months, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to retain the existing information. I wrote about how to archive both your Circles and NAD information in this article. My account with ThruLines did retain the Circles. You can toggle back and forth from having ThruLines to not having Thrulines to view your NADs, but eventually, I’m sure they will disappear.

Sorting MyMatchDots

Now that you have matches grouped by color, how do you sort for those clusters? On your matches page, the dropdown for “All matches” shows the groups as well as reports how many people are in each group.

Ancestry groups sort

Ideas for MyMatchDot Groups 

I’ve shared my MyMatchDot grouping strategy, but I’ve kind of stumbled around playing with what works and what doesn’t. I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything.

One person mentioned to me that they are using dots to identify Leeds clusters. I wrote about the Leeds Method in this article which includes links to several articles by Dana Leeds who developed the methodology. She has also written this update. I may group based on Leeds clusters as well as the group dots I’ve already defined.

The great news is that you can assign any number of colored dots, through 24, for groups associated with any individual match.

Someone else mentioned that they were initially grouping based on Genetic Affairs clusters, but matches can change clusters, especially if the thresholds change, so that might not be such a good idea.

In the next article, we’ll talk about how to activate and use MyTreeTags.

26 thoughts on “Using Ancestry’s New Match Grouping Dots aka “MyMatchDots”

  1. I’m glad you sorted it out. I caught the mistake. But, I didn’t want to be “that guy” and say something was wrong. So, I improvised and went along with what you meant. Looking forward to the next article about the MyTreeTags because I have a lot to say about it. As you know, I’m a Wikitreer and basically I’ve turned my tree into a small Wikitree with the tags sitting in for projects.

    More on that next time. =D

    Since the blog was deleted, I’ll just repeat what I said. I use the dots to represent couples up to my 3x great-grandparents. I did the same for both parents. It organizes the matches into clusters a la Dana Leed’s chart or even the DNA circles. The closer the relative is to me or my parents, the more groups that person is in.

    Pretty cool and handy tool.

    Bring on the tags! Glad it was sorted out. We all make mistakes. I even marked myself as deceased on Wikitree by accident. I got better. =)

    • You are always welcome to point out errors. Just be nice. 😁(I know you are.) The only thing I object to is hateful people.

    • Just to clarify – are you saying that you use one of 16 colors to identify which couple from you 3x great grandparents someone is descended from? Do you arrange the colors in an order for this? This sounds clever and a nice visual way to identify the gaps.

  2. Color dots are useful for those who have good color vision. They are useless for those (8%+-) who have limited or no color vision.

  3. Roberta, thank you for once again driving us more deeply into the resources of (this time, the Ancestry) online family history resources. I for one appreciate the deep dive, and I expect bumps on the learning curve. As a former soccer coach, I know that developing good play requires results on both sides of the whistle. You play on the technical edge with unmatched generosity and competency, and I will continue to follow everything you write. I had already assigned 40 “MyMatchDots” (based roughly on 2G branches), and appreciated learning of other approaches here.

  4. Now I have a headache. I have looked at the Thrulines but have not used the Dots yet. I am not sure I want to, at least not yet. I am keeping the e-mail with this Blog for future reference because, as I am now confused, I am certain the confusion will be much greater without this information. I do miss the green Leafs because I understood that without thinking.

    • I used the colored dots for surname grouping. I also used pink and blue for maternal and paternal. I’m helping a man find his biological paternal grandparents, his father was born in 1900. After coding all his closer maternal matches, and yes, I was able to match some using common matches, what I had leftover are MOST LIKELY the paternal matches we are looking for. Now I can focus on these matches by easily searching just that group. When Ancestry adds chromosome browsing, Ha Ha, I’ll be ready to start adding people to my DNA Painting. Some of the matches have 8 colored dots and that might come in handy in the future.

  5. You are not alone. Many posts on the AncestryDNA Matching FB site show that confusion is common. So it’s great that you have posted to sort it out.
    (I’m finding that many of the confused are using shortened forms like text speak to communicate. So maybe it’s harder to understand on small mobile devices.)

  6. And here I thought you had found a new way to use the colored dots! I am adopted and still searching, so the dots have been great to identify family groups. You can also assign more than one dot to a match. I have a close unidentified match, John Doe, with lots of ICW matches so I use the bright red to tag all John’s shared matches, plus another color designating their family groups.
    There are some bugs in the program but when Ancestry gets those ironed out we we believe it will be a great help.

  7. I’m grateful to you for explaining these new features on Ancestry. If “you” get it wrong at first, we can count on you to straighten it out. It would behoove Ancestry to beta test new features with people outside of the company who have no clue (if they’re not already doing that). I believe Ancestry should use your idea of calling colored groupings MyMatchDots. Of course, they should credit you for that, at the very least. Love your blog.

  8. You’re right, I wasn’t paying attention. I just figured, “another useless gimmick that doesn’t help me as an adopted person, because I don’t know my family tree.” When they give us a chromosome browser, expect me to be delighted,

    • You could use it to group using the Leeds method. That would divide your matches into 4 main groups, indicating grandparents. Then look for common people in those trees. Just a thought.

  9. My experience has been that I can enable and use MyTreeTags without enabling New & Improved DNA Matches or vice versa or, of course, enable and use both.

    My experience has been that after I enabled New & Improved DNA Matches and color-dotted my groups of ancestors as I wished, I disabled New & Improved DNA Matches and when I re-enabled New & Improved DNA Matches, my color-dotted groups came back–they were not erased. I did the enable/disable/enable process about two weeks ago and just tried it again. I get the same result. The first time I waited a day or two to re-enable; this time it was just minutes only taking time to see that my match list was back to the old version. (Like you, I’m not trying it with MyTreeTags because I have spent a great deal of time putting those to work!)

    Also, if I enable New & Improved DNA Matches, I still show I have 218 “Shared Ancestor Hints” on my DNA home page. If I click on the link, I’m shown “No matches match the selected filter” — the filter being “Common Ancestors” in New & Improved DNA Matches. If I disable New & Improved DNA Matches, I still show I have 218 “Shared Ancestor Hints” on my DNA home page. If I click on the link, I’m shown my matches filtered by the green leaf hints. Re-enabling New & Improved DNA Matches, gives me the same results as first stated. There are no common ancestors matches shown.

    My experience has been that the one person who had New Ancestor Discoveries still has them with ThruLines which is not what your experience is.

  10. What is the reason that AncestryDNA doesn’t include information on which chromosomes and which segments you match on? These new features add value but I just wondering about the chromosome part…

    • They never have and I doubt they ever will. I suspect it’s because they don’t need to do that to sell as many kits as they have, and they don’t want to incur the support load to add that feature.

  11. I see SOME of my Common Ancestors. But I am missing most.
    I had 1497 Common Ancestors about two weeks ago. Now I only show 140. And a big drop from 56 to 15 cM, which is how I noticed a few days ago.

    I have 457 Shared Ancestors on the Classic view.

    Not made much use of Tags yet. I did use one for my many American Revolution ancestors.

    For colored dots, I am going with the 16 great great gp (although I only have 13 functional at the present).

    I wish the dots were brighter and of better contrast.

  12. The new features on Ancestry are interesting and have the potential to be helpful. But throwing them all out there at the same time is confusing, and the word that keeps coming to my mind as I try to sort through them is “cumbersome”. I’ve wondered why they are so set against giving us chromosome browser. It seems that if they really wanted to help us fill in the blanks in our family trees, that would be the first thing to do. These other features are okay, but I’d trade them all for a chromosome browser.

  13. Roberta,

    Ancestry have released a lit of impressive new functionality in a short period of time. It’s great that I can niwceasily segregate my matches based on common ancestors. One thing that is missing, however, is that if personal n X is a match with 160cm of shared DNA across 8 segments, it doesn’t tell me which chromosomes those 8 segments are. So there is no way to take this data and integrate it with gedmatch data, for example.

  14. Roberta, I do love seeing you in my email, as I learn so much! I have a situation where my father was adopted in the 1930’s, and I was able to open the file a few yrs ago. He is gone many yrs now. I do have dna connections to his maternal side. One my mothers side Grandpa comes from Poland and I am working on it. With this, I use dots to organize maternal and paternal lines. I have a set of people without obvious connections, and thier own color. Working on those. When I was applying colors, I started with three for catagories. I did realize after the 15th person that they all seemed to fall into the first color I used. It was the only one offered, though I had three colors. I went back, and found I had to be VERY careful. Once I used the yellow for the paternal line several times,it was consistently there for me to click on. DItto on the other two.
    What I am dealing with right now is relatively small with matches, and my tree is nearly 9k relatives, with both grandchildren’s lines.

  15. I’ve found the match dots in conjunction with group names to be very beneficial. I’ve gone and put unverified distant matches (found in thrulines) into groups so I can track them. It’s a nice way to group people that you suspect might be related via a brick wall so keep the names handy and look for connections. Of course hoping and proving are two different things. But at least it’s easier to keep track of dna relatives which might be connected to my most difficulty ancestry research.

    I have a slightly off topic question.

    I was doing some research at ancestry and found this document:
    ‘Early Virginia Families Along the James River: Their Deep and Tangled Branches. Volume II‘.

    I found a person with a surname(brick wall research) I care about living on a property that was sold or transferred. Does anyone know if the people that are listed as living in the land were: 1) free residents 2) indentured servants or 3) slaves?

    I’ve looked and can’t figure it out.
    It’s one of those resources that lists land deeds and who got the land with names and such. Almost like a who’s who of Charles City County Virginia from 1700-1710. It might cover more years but I was only interested in someone I found in 1702.

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