Using the ‘DNA match’ tree tag

Ever since Ancestry rolled out their new Tree Tag feature, I’ve become a fan. I have two or three favorite tags. Some I use in my public tree (which other people can see). Other tags I use only in my private work tree. This month, I’ll describe one I use in the latter: ‘DNA match’.


There is no single right way to use these Tree Tags, but this way works well for me. I have a private, unsearchable work tree, similar to the Quick ‘n Dirty trees that some genealogists use to trace the lineages of their DNA matches. In my private work tree, I may add a DNA match if the following conditions are met:

  • I am able to identify at least one or two of the match’s ancestors, preferably his/her father or grandparents.
  • I am still struggling to find our common ancestor
  • The mystery cousin’s shared matches suggest that our common ancestor will be on a line I am actively working on.

How do I add someone to my tree when I don’t know how we’re related? First, I add them as a sibling to myself. If their AncestryDNA ID is a first name/last name, I enter those. If they use something more cryptic, I put that in first name field for now. If/when I eventually discover who they are (either by researching them or communicating with them), I update that to carry their real name, but I’ll put the name that appears in my match list as their middle name. Note: I also add DNA Matches who aren’t on Ancestry at all—perhaps they match me or a close relative on 23andMe or MyHeritage. They may even be a Y-DNA match. When this match isn’t an Ancestry match, I’ll put that information in the suffix field (instead of Jr or MD) of the profile’s name.  For example, First and Middle Name = Delmar; Last Name = D; Suffix  = MHDNA.

Next, I select the profile I’ve just added.  I go to the upper right hand corner of the page, click on Edit, and select Edit Relationships from the drop-down list. (See the arrow on image 1). Then click the X next to each parent. That ‘unhooks’ this cousin from my immediate family, but he or she is still in my work tree, an island for now.

Image 1.

blog July 2019 image 1

Now, I use the Tree Tags. They are very intuitive to use. Click the Tag icon (see the circle in Image 1); the Workspace opens up. Under DNA Tags, I select the DNA Match tag.

I also add a Custom Fact to this new cousin’s profile. Images 2 and 3 show some examples.

Image 2.

blog July 2019 image 2

Image 3.

blog July 2019 image 3

You’ll notice I may put relevant information about our DNA match size in the fact description. Perhaps I’ll add information about their tree or another, more complete tree of a relative.

As I have time, I will try to build out the tree for my match. Even if he/she has an online tree, it may be unsourced; it may be incomplete; it may be wrong. And perhaps later, my DNA cousin will mark their tree private or unsearchable. So I work on developing their pedigree in my work tree. But in the meantime, having the URL to their version can be handy.

My private, unsearchable tree has all my known direct ancestors and many of their siblings and their descendants. Ideally, I hope that one day I’ll be able to connect the DNA Match’s lineage into my own pedigree.

What value does the “DNA Match” tree tag provide for me? At some point after I’ve added  a particular mystery cousin and started his/her tree, I may be perusing my match list and decide I want to examine or embellish that tree. I can quickly go to my private work tree, and click on the Tree Search option. A panel comes up at the right, inviting me to type in a name or filter my search. I like to select Filters, then DNA, then ‘DNA match’ from the drop-down, then “done”. Then I can scroll through the results. (I currently have 3 pages of DNA matches identified; 8 genetic cousins per page. I put all these mystery matches in the same work tree.) Again, this will bring up the AncestryDNA matches I have tagged and also DNA matches who tested at other companies, who I may have input into my work tree.

Most of the time, I’m hoping that a DNA match will ultimately reveal a new surname or location or individual that I can then research more. Eventually I hope to find documents to support (or refute) a hypothesis of an ancestor’s parents. But sometimes, those new documents I ferret out just aren’t conclusive, and I may want to include the DNA matches themselves as part of the evidence to support a hypothesis. And in that case, I need to be able to prove each generation of the relevant DNA match back to the common ancestor. (*) Using the ‘DNA Match’ tag and building the not-so-Quick-’n-Dirty tree of my matches as described above helps me manage that effort.

(*) See standard #52 in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd edition (Nashville, TN” Ancestry, 2019), 30, Standard 52, “Analyzing DNA Test Results.” Among other variables, it calls for “accuracy, completeness, and depth of each pedigree included in the analysis.”

© July 2019 Ann Raymont, CG®

2 thoughts on “Using the ‘DNA match’ tree tag

  1. Pingback: Getting strangers to reply | DNAsleuth

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