We are so lucky to have genealogists with a passion for developing tools; they create them to help manage their own data—and then they share those tools with the rest of us, for free! One of the latest is the new tool DNA Match Manager, from Lillian and David Mann at Heirloom Software!
I must confess, I’ve only just discovered this utility and have had little time to experiment with it right now. So this blog post is just an initial reaction. Spoiler alert–it’s positive!
DNA Match Manager lets you download all your matches from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyFinder from FamilyTreeDNA, and/or GEDmatch. (MyHeritageDNA is on their list of enhancements to consider.) You download the software to your own desktop or laptop (Windows or Mac) and run the program from there.
We can choose to download multiple sets of matches at once. For example, I could download my AncestryDNA matches and also those of all four of my siblings, and choose to deselect kits I have access to from more distant relatives. We can even download from multiple companies all at the same time.
For my first trial, I chose to download only my own matches from AncestryDNA. The default limit is matches over 10 cM; actually I approve of that. I generally don’t work with smaller matches, with just a few exceptions. Since DNA Match Manager creates a .csv file, I can manually add those exceptions if I want.
It took less than 5 minutes to download all my matches. Of course, it doesn’t include matches’ trees. It captures match name (and kit manager’s name if different, in a separate column), the size of the match, number of segments, predicted relationship, and indicators to tell me if I have starred that match or added notes.
The website makes it easy to offer feedback. My first request was that they enhance the process to provide the notes content and not just an indicator.
The output file has a LOT of columns, specific to each company’s data. The initial results didn’t sort by size of match, but that was easy enough to do. I saved my .csv file as a table in Excel, so that I could sort and filter more easily. My resulting spreadsheet was 622 kB.
Next, I tried downloading two Ancestry kits and one 23andMe kit in the same transaction. That worked too! (Those of you who manage multiple kits with the same login at 23andMe know you have to switch profiles in the upper right corner to navigate from one to another. It’s the same here–but you have to be quick to switch it before you’re automatically taken to the next screen.)
For the 23andMe data, I was able to see that the .csv file from DNA Match Manager has rows for individual chromosome data, and also has helpful columns for surnames and locations provided by the testers. The indicator for Full-IBD is useful when comparing sibling data. Full-IBD means I match my sibling on that same segment of both my paternal copy AND maternal copy of that chromosome (as opposed to matching on only one or the other or neither). Having the start and end points for those Full-IBD segments could be helpful with Visual Phasing (VP). (VP is an advanced technique that helps identify chromosome crossover points between 3 or more siblings, with the goal of identifying which grandparent each segment came from.)
For this trial of two AncestryDNA kits and one 23andMe, here is how I sorted my output in Excel.
The output file name includes a date/timestamp. When you run it a subsequent time, a new output file will be created. Of course, we can combine spreadsheets later if we want.
WHY use this tool?
If you are someone who already manages your match data in a spreadsheet, this offers a solution that is less time-consuming and has less risk of errors due to manual entry. You can add new columns to keep track of contact info or shared matches or confirmed Most Recent Common Ancestors…. It’s up to you! The more comfortable you are with spreadsheets, the more you’ll be able to do with it. Here are two examples:
- My friend Diane has tested herself and her mom, but her dad has passed away. She could manipulate the data in the spreadsheet to produce a file containing only her paternal matches.
- Have you discovered the Leeds method for using color coding to hypothesize how you’re related to your closest matches? Check out Dana Leeds’ blog post here. She uses Excel; just for the 50 or fewer highest matches perhaps, but it’s efficient to download them with DNA match manager to build your starting template.
This is a new tool, likely initially conceived to meet the needs of the developers’ family, and now made available to all of us. I am confident that Heirloom Software has many enhancements planned, and they appear very open to communicating with their users. I reached out to them twice so far, and both times received cordial, reasonable, helpful answers within 24 hours. (Or course, the more people give the tool a try and offer feedback, the more likely they are to need to expand that response time window. But for now, I have been very impressed.)
I look forward to playing with it and exploring how it will make my genetic genealogy efforts easier and more successful!
Ann Raymont © Sept 2018