Genetic Affairs Reconstructs Trees from Genetic Clusters – Even Without Your Tree or Common Ancestors

Since Genetic Affairs launched in 2018, they’ve added a LOT of new functionality. I initially wrote about their clustering functionality here.

Genetic Affairs AutoClustering, SuperClusters and brand-new AutoTree tree reconstruction are to-die-for features for traditional genealogists. For adoptees or people seeking unknown parentage, they are the best thing since sliced bread, automating tasks previously peformed manually over labor-filled hours, days and months.

Why Genetic Affairs?

Genetic Affairs works with matches from three vendors; Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder test and 23andMe.

MyHeritage has integrated a version of Genetic Affairs directly into their product offering on the MyHeritage website so every MyHeritage DNA customer receives clustering functionality, free, through MyHeritage, but not tree reconstruction.

GedMatch has also implemented an autocluster version for Tier 1 users, but GedMatch’s version only works at GedMatch, of course, and does not include the new tree reconstruction feature.

This article pertains to the functionality of the features available directly through Genetic Affairs, including:

  • Clustering your matches visually to identify ancestral lines of people that match you and each other
  • Reports by cluster including common surnames and locations
  • Analysis of trees within each cluster to identify common ancestors
  • Partially reconstructs trees with your known ancestors for each cluster
  • Partially reconstructs trees between your matches even if you don’t have a tree or don’t share the common ancestor

Genetic Affairs provides visualization for linked DNA matches along with critically important clues to help you figure out just how you are related to these people, and these clusters of interrelated people. The Genetic Affairs user manual can be found here.


Each time you run Genetic Affairs is called an analysis. Each analysis scans your kit at the selected vendor(s) for all current matches. A few minutes later, you receive a zip file via e-mail with two or three files depending on your selections at Genetic Affairs and the tree availabilty of the vendor:

  • Autocluster file including the visual clusters plus additional information
  • Excel spreadsheet of cluster members and relevant information such as common ancestors and common locations
  • Tree file containing reconstructed trees (23andMe does not support trees, so no trees are available for 23andMe clusters)

Let’s look at each feature. Grab a cup of coffee and head for the computer.

Selecting Analysis Options

I encourage you to experiment. Selecting a wider range of cM (centimorgans) results in a larger file, but may also mean that the analysis times out.

For this report, I’m utilizing my matches at FamilyTreeDNA and selected a cM range of 50 minimum and 250 maximum. I wanted a minimum cluster size of 2 people, meaning 2 in addition to me. This resulted in 249 total matches that met that criteria and 20 people who met the cM criteria but did not have another person with whom to cluster.

I tried a second analysis using 20 cM – 300 cM resulting in a much larger file with 499 people in the cluster group. Currently, 499 is the maximum that will be processed.

Genetic Affairs profiles.png

On the Genetic Affairs Profiles page, I can view all of the profiles I manage. Users can schedule updates where Genetic Affairs automatically scans for matches and produces reports.

Genetic Affairs my profiles

Click to enlarge

By clicking on the Autoscan button, you can schedule automated recurring scans with e-mail notification.

Genetic Affairs autoscan

Click to enlarge

You can scan daily, weekly, monthly or never – whatever interval you select.

You can select both the minimum level of DNA match and the minimum cM. The lowest you can select is 9cM.

You can view any e-mails that have been sent to you by Genetic Affairs. The green envelope means that there’s something in your e-mail box. This answers the question about whether the report was completed and sent. If the report has been sent, but is not in your e-mail, check your spam filter.

Starting the Scan

Back on the Genetic Affairs profiles page, you can initiate an autocluster by clicking on the AutoCluster button where you’ll see the options based on which vendor you’ve selected.

Genetic Affairs autocluster.png

For example, at Ancestry, you can include only people in a particular group or only starred matches.

Genetic Affairs Ancestry autocluster

Click to enlarge

23andMe includes surname enrichment and triangulated groups options.

Genetic Affairs 23andme autocluster.png

FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry both include the “AutoTree – identify common ancestors from trees” option. It’s very important that you click this box if you select the “Default AutoCluster” option – or you won’t get the reconstructed trees.

Genetic Affairs default autocluster.png

Of course, you can always run the analysis again.

Genetic Affairs autotree.png

If you click on the “AutoTree AutoCluster” function, the AutoTree box is already checked for you.

Genetic Affairs autotree autocluster.png

Rule Based AutoCluster

The “Rule based AutoCluster” is a dream-come-true for people seeking unknown parents or ancestors in a relatively recent timeframe.

Genetic Affairs Rule Based Autocluster.png

The “Rule based AutoCluster” provides you with options that allow you to do three things:

  • NOT – Exclude your matches with someone else. For example, your mother has tested. You can use the NOT rule to exclude anyone you might match through your mother’s side, providing you with clusters from your father’s side.
  • AND – Combine your results with someone else’s. If you have identified a half-sibling, you can view only clusters of only people who match you AND your half sibling.
  • OR – Combined rules. You can request a cluster of everyone in clusters with person A but not in a cluster with person B. In this case, if you match a number of half siblings, you can include all of their matches, except people who match them through their “other” parent, if that parent has tested.

Genetic Affairs has provided some graphics and examples here, but you may have to be a member of the site to access this page because the options are customized for you. So I’ll include the non-customized information, below. You can click these to open in a separate window and enlarge.

Genetic Affairs rule based 1.pngGenetic Affairs rule based 2.png

The “Rule based AutoCluster” explanations provided by Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs rule based 3.png

Read the details of how these tools work. They are powerful, so don’t assume you understand without reading carefully.

Now let’s cluster!

Clustering Your Matches

Genetic Affairs autocluster order.png

At Genetic Affairs, if you initiate clustering by clicking on the AutoCluster button, you’ll need to put a checkmark in the AutoTree function box. If you began by clicking the AutoTree button, the box is automatically checked for you.

A few minutes later, you’ll receive an email with a zipped file. Save this file to someplace on your computer where you can find it, and open the zipped file by clicking.

Genetic Affairs zip file.png

You’ll see the files, above.

Click on the chrome AutoCluster HTML file which will display in your browser.

The first thing you will see is your visual autocluster. It’s so much fun to watch your matches “fly” into place!

Each of the people in this cluster are somehow related to the other people in the custer who have cells of the same color. The people with grey cells are included in two clusters – meaning the one to the right and the one above, both.

Genetic Affairs cluster.png

The names of the matches are listed to the left and above the display.

The legend is to the right.

Genetic Affairs cluster legend.png

I have a total of 41 clusters.

Scrolling down the page, each cluster has additional information, and each column is searchable or selectable, including comments I’ve entered at the vendor.

Genetic Affairs autocluster info

Click to enlarge

Just by looking at these first 3 matches, I know immediately which side of the family and which ancestors are involved with this cluster. I can look at my notes, to the right, which indicate whether I’ve identified our common ancestor. I paint identified matches at DNAPainter which I’ve entered into the notes field at the vendor.

If I’m signed in to my account at the vendor, I can click on my match’s tree link, above, and take a look. Keep in mind that these people can be related to you, and each other, through multiple ancestors.

Genetic Affairs autocluster members.png

You can hover over any person in the grid, above, to view additional information. For each person whose square is grey, indicating membership in (at least) two clusters, you can hover over the grey square and view the members of both clusters. In this case, I’m hovered over the grey square of Brooke and E.H and the black box shows me who is in both people’s clusters.

Note that while a match could be related to you through several ancestors, and hence be in more than 2 clusters, because of the grid nature of clustering, a match can only be displayed in a maximum of 2 different clusters.

Looking at the auto-generated table below, I see the common surnames in cluster 1. Keep in mind that many of these people maybe related to each other through a spouse that you aren’t. Your ancestor’s brother’s children, for example, are also related to each other through your ancestor’s brother’s wife.

Genetic Affairs surnames.png

I know that Vannoy is the common line, but Upton isn’t my ancestor – at least not that I know of. However, a surname with 20 people in a cluster needs to be investigated and evaluated. Do I have any missing wives in this line? Here’s a really great place to start digging.

In this case, it turns out that one of my ancestor’s children married an Upton, and several of his descendants have tested.

Let’s see what other tools we have.

The Ancestor Spreadsheet

Opening the spreadsheet file, I see several rows and columns.

Genetic Affairs common ancestor

Click to enlarge

The common ancestor between the people in the rows is listed at left. The green cells are from my tree.

Two example ancestors are shown above, Mary McDowell and William Harrell, who just happen to have been married to each other.

Scrolling on down, I see rows without green cells.

Genetic Affairs ancestors

Click to enlarge

These people share a common ancestor in their trees, an ancestor that isn’t in my tree. Presumably this is an ancestor I don’t share with them – or one I haven’t identified.

For example, “Bev” and “van” share William Grubb. “Vicki” and “Mark” share Martha Helen Smith. I don’t share either of these ancestors, but Martha Smith married Alvis Winster Bolton, the son of my ancestor – so I know why Martha Helen Smith appears as a common person in the trees of my matches, but not me.

Further down in the same cluster, I notice that one match shares multiple lines in our trees. Therefore, our DNA match could be on either line, or some segments from one line and some from the other.

Scrolling to the bottom of each cluster’s sheet, common locations are provided.

Genetic Affairs locations

Click to enlarge

While the designation of “Tennessee” isn’t terribly exciting, scrolling further down provides a list by county, and that IS exciting, especially if you’re chasing a brick wall. Sometimes a group of ancestors in a location where you’re seeking a female’s family is very suggestive especially when combined with ancestral names and surnames.

Let’s move on to the third group of files, Trees.

The Tree File

Click on the tree file and you’ll see the following.

Genetic Affairs tree file.png

Reconstructed Trees

For each cluster where trees can be reconstructed, you’ll see two files for cluster 1:

  • Ancestors 1
  • Tree 1

Opening the file labeled Ancestors 1, I see the following information for the first ancestor, meaning a common ancestor between the two people listed below that ancestor. You can click to enlarge these images.

Genetic Affairs ancestors by cluster.png

Opening the corresponding Tree 1 file, I see that Genetic Affairs has reconstructed the tree between me and the other testers as best it can based on the provided trees.

Genetic Affairs reconstructed trees.png

Looking at the tree for cluster 3, below, I see this line in cluster 1, above, has been extended because Sarah, the pink match and me all share a common ancestor, Elizabeth Shepherd.

Genetic Affairs reconstructed tree 2.png

Looking at another cluster, below, while I don’t share an ancestor in a tree, three people that I match at a relatively high level do.

Genetic Affairs reconstructed tree no common ancestor.png

As you can see, their common ancestor is Anne Adelaide Chiasson. This is my Acadian line, so our common ancestor or ancestors must be someplace on up that tree, or the result of an undocumented adoption, or a missing ancestor in our trees.

Constructing the trees of your matches to each other, even when you don’t have a common ancestor in your tree, is the best feature of all.

Clustering plus tree reconstruction, especially in combination with the other clues, is the key to breaking through those unyielding  brick walls.

Super AutoClusters

Just as I was getting ready to publish this article, Genetic Affairs released a new feature called Super AutoCluster.

I absolutely love this, because it combines your clusters from multiple vendors – today Ancestry, who does not provide segment information, along with Family Tree DNA, who  provides invaluable segment information.

This combination can be extremely powerful.

To begin a Super AutoCluster, click on that option under an AncestryDNA kit that also has a kit at Family Tree DNA. Both kits need to have a profile at Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs supercluster.png

Next, you’ll see the screen confirming the kits to use. The combined autocluster tool is limited to a total of 500 matches, or 250 at each account. However, that’s more than enough to make some great progress.

Press “Perform Analysis.”

Drum roll please…

Voila, your combined cluster.

Genetic Affairs supercluster cluster

Click to enlarge

In this example, you can see the large peach and purple Ancestry clusters. The green red, brown and pink smaller clusters are Family Tree DNA clusters. The Family Tree DNA clusters have tiny little Fs in their cells. If you click the above graphic to enlarge, you can see the Fs.

However, the grey cells that intersect the two clusters, meaning an Ancestry and a Family Tree DNA cluster, are found in both of those clusters, connecting the clusters for you logically.

If you look closely at the cells labeled here with “common names,” you’ll see “N” in the cells indicating a common names for you to check out within that cluster.

The “Common Ancestors” box shows the people who connect to both clusters.

There are also a number of people that span the green and red Family Tree DNA clusters too.

Genetic Affairs then proceeds to combine the clustered DNA matches and trees for you from both vendors.

Genetic Affairs supercluster tree

Click to enlarge

In addition to the cluster graph and spreadsheet information that now includes combined information, you’ll see a much larger clustered tree.

And again, the best part is that even if you don’t know how you connect to people through trees, their tree and ancestors will be connected, even if you’re absent. You’ll be present in the genetic cluster itself, so you can work the combined tree cluster to see where you might fit in that branch of the family. Because trust me, you do fit – somehow, someplace.


Genetic Affairs uses a “credit” payment system. Your first 200 credits are free so you can learn. These may last you for weeks or months, depending on how often you run the clusters. If you manage multiple kits, you’ll use credits more quickly, but it’s worth every last dollar. Genetic Affairs is very inexpensive. I manage multiple accounts and I spend around $5 per month. You can read about Genetic Affairs’ payment plans and see sample calculations here.

My recommendation is simply to dive in and use your free credits. By the way, I’m gifting myself with a “credit purchase” for Christmas😊

Genetic Affairs is a wonderful genealogy gift idea for serious genealogists, adoptees or people seeking unknown parents or ancestors in recent generations.

Have You Tested or Transferred With All 4 Vendors?

If you haven’t yet tested at or transferred to each of the main 4 vendors, clustering, reconstructed trees and SuperClusters is yet another reason to do so. Additionally, every close relative’s DNA holds hints that yours doesn’t, so be sure to test them too.

You can purchase kits, below, or read about how to transfer your DNA to vendors who accept uploads – FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch, all for free, here.




I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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35 thoughts on “Genetic Affairs Reconstructs Trees from Genetic Clusters – Even Without Your Tree or Common Ancestors

    • You can try your email or your user name. Be sure your password is correct. You can also try later. The site could be overwhelmed and Ancestry has been glitchy lately.

    • Hi Heather, in some cases the default browser prefills wrong credentials in the login fields. Could you perhaps use another browser to enter the credentials?

  1. This looks extremely complicated. Using it would probably be difficult enough, but interpreting the results would take a manual all of its own. Maybe somebody will write a “Dummies” book about it.

  2. Roberta,
    I cannot thank you enough for this excellent article. I will be reading and re reading until I can understand it all. I’ve been running clusters in GA for a while now and trying very hard to understand it all.
    I do have a question though. How do I determine what levels to choose for the high and low cm numbers? Specifically if I’m trying to break down a brick wall for a maternal great grandfather (who are his parents)? And another brick wall for my paternal 2nd gg (who are his parents)? Plenty of family have tested, so I thought these walls would have fallen by now.

    • You may need to experiment. Be sure that the cM level selected includes people that you want in the cluster. I would do one high, then one lower to get all the people available in a cluster.

  3. It’s been a while since I’ve used Genetic Affairs clustering — thank you so much for the update on the tool. Can’t wait to see the results for the clusters on my mom’s matches! Thank you, Roberta, for taking the time to provide us all the screen shots in this post — it was actually pretty straightforward to get FTDNA’s token between your post and the Genetic Affairs documentation.

  4. Thanks Roberta. I finally managed to get a token. I wasn’t following the instructions correctly yesterday

  5. This sounds very interesting but intimidating. I think I will need to set aside an entire day to work with it. Thank you for addressing the family tree ‘problem’ on Family Tree DNA. I began to wonder why trees which used to be public were now set to ‘private’. Also, the ability to search surnames in other people’s family trees isn’t working (this is a very important feature to me). I chatted with Family Tree yesterday and they say it will probably be two weeks before the bugs are fixed.

  6. Any idea how useful Genetic Affairs might be when working with multiple kits from an endogamous population (New Mexico)? I love the idea of all these clustering programs but the results aren’t so straight forward when endogamy is a factor.

    • Try it. 200 credits are free. I would think the clusters will be larger, but there will likely still be clusters and common people in trees.

  7. This is an excellent post, Roberta. After reading it, I had to test the AutoCluster AutoTree feature, but I ran into a problem with FTDNA data. The email said that “A total of 0 trees (0 linked, 0 unlinked, 0 public trees) have been identified for 0 DNA matches. From these trees, a total number of 0 tree persons has been retrieved. No tree was provided for the tested person.” Apparently because FTDNA is making changes to the users trees, there are problems, so I would caution people to perhaps wait until these issues clear before attempting to use FTDNA. I did manage to get results with AncestryDNA.

    • I think it might have been an issue with your token? Perhaps something went wrong copy/pasting the token into the field? Because I can’t imagine that no trees were identified, unless only a small number of matches was retrieved. In that case, perhaps no valid (or private) trees are available.

      • I think that you may be right, but when I tried to test it again, I got the following error when I clicked on Cmd Opt J.

        Uncaught ReferenceError: jQuery is not defined
        jquery-3.3.1.min.js:2 [Deprecation] Synchronous XMLHttpRequest on the main thread is deprecated because of its detrimental effects to the end user’s experience. For more help, check
        send @ jquery-3.3.1.min.js:2
        /polyfills.374bfc42a953c0cfca48.js:1 Uncaught ReferenceError: $ is not defined
        at gfResetView (:94:5)
        at t.invokeTask (/polyfills.374bfc42a953c0cfca48.js:1)
        at e.runTask (/polyfills.374bfc42a953c0cfca48.js:1)
        at e.invokeTask (/polyfills.374bfc42a953c0cfca48.js:1)
        at o.useG.invoke (/polyfills.374bfc42a953c0cfca48.js:1)
        at n.args. (/polyfills.374bfc42a953c0cfca48.js:1)

  8. Roberta,

    Can’t wait to try this tonight. I have a pair of 3G grandparents that both are brick walls. At ancestry, I have 50+ dna matches that trace to them (proven with sourcing with dna supporting). Collectively I see another 80ish dna matches(who I can’t connect via sources) that match some of the sibling lines inside the 50+ It’s always the same people who match 2 or 3 of the sibling lines that trace to Mr and Mrs McBrickwall. So, the 50+ And the 80ish matches collectively, I suspect they form a much bigger cluster.

    I want see if genetic affairs shows them as a cluster or splits them into smaller clusters. If my 50+ confirmed matches that trace to Mr and Mrs Brickwall are indeed part of a much bigger cluster, I might be able to focus my research.

    I’ve tagged these two clusters at Ancestry, McBrickwall cluster and “a few brickwall matches” respectively. Will genetic affairs let me just run analysis against these tagged groups?

    On a side note – has anyone else noticed the transcription errors at ancestry? In the census records I’ve seen “Fortune” indexed as “Tortrim” and “Tartane” a few times(these are extreme examples). I’ve expanded my searches to include common transcription errors and I am having some success.

    – John

    • Yes, you can select just tagged groups. I like your methodology. You met find other people in that group so I’d run first without the tag designation.

  9. This is wonderful! It should prove useful to many of us. I’ll have to use my computer that has Chrome to do this – guess I’ll have to blow the dust off and get it warmed up. Many thanks!

  10. How long after death can a swab be retrieved from the dead person? Also, are there genetic genealogists that are available to research family mysteries (Parabon only does criminal work).

  11. Roberta, Thanks for the referral and great information. I have been experimenting with the cluster (Tier 1) at GEDmatch and my head is spinning less. Is this format and process similar to GEDmatch? I am not sure that my brain can do two clustering formats that are not similar in nature. I am also struggling with the GEDmatch clustering as my dad’s family are Mennonites and one cluster is just a huge hunk of yellow. (400 years of intermarriage). thanks Bill

  12. Roberta, thanks, I will give it a try when I have time to focus on a new company.
    I gifted myself both of Blaine Bettinger’s newer books and am doing better on triangulations. I have a question about triangulations. I paid for a 3rd cousin to
    do his DNA for Family Tree, Y and autosomal. The Y hasn’t paid off in dividends yet, but
    maybe in time. (Simpson line from County Tyrone) I recently used his and my autosomal DNA to see who matched both of us. The good news is that there was
    a bunch of folks and there were a significant number who matched us both on
    chromosome 14. (has to be part of our Simspon/McFadden/Picken/Morrison line)
    There were 4 that matched exactly at between 65million and 88million and change.
    My question is, which of the other ones that fall within these numbers are relevant?
    Some start at the same number and some stop at the same number. Is anyone
    whose DNA falls within these numbers related to the both of us in the same manner? One of the reasons that I ask that is because a woman who I know via Ancestry is a cousin via the Mennonite group but her paternal side is British and Scottish and she share a lots of DNA within these numbers. I am assuming that she and I are related in more ways
    than Mennonite. Is that a correct assumption? thanks Bill

    • That’s a complex question that I can’t answer in a blog comment. There are a lot of factors to consider. Sorry.

  13. Pingback: 2019: The Year and Decade of Change | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  14. I received a message from Genetic Affairs a month ago, stating they could no longer process Ancestry DNA due to a cease and desist letter they received from Ancestry. Just thought I’d pass that along.

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