Ancestry’s Shared Matches Tool

Ever since Ancestry released it’s Shared Matches feature, I have fallen down several rabbit holes.

I’ve been consumed with exploring both paternal and maternal leads.

Previously, I had been using Gedmatch and contacting cousins for possible triangulation projects. It was slow going, response rate was pretty good, but so many didn’t have Gedcoms attached to their kit profiles and getting an invite to trees was laborious.

Prior to the ICW release, the reputation for testing through Ancestry for genetic genealogy has been poor — criticisms about a lack of a chromosome browser for analyzing matches, etc.
However, because FTDNA allows for a $39 import to their database, it’s most cost effective for those interested in fishing in bigger ponds to test at Ancestry first, upload to FTDNA (to save $50) and be in two databases at once… with the goal being to connect to FTDNA because there is a reputation that users are more genetic genealogy friendly.
Interestingly, my experience to date has differed from the common belief that Ancestry is practically useless for those serious about genetic genealogy. Because the emphasis is on trees at Ancestry, I’m able to more quickly determine Common Ancestors with my matches there than at FTDNA and 23andMe.
And even though the Mirror Tree technique has been terribly throttled by caching issues and bugs at Ancestry, I am still building speculative trees and have been able to keep working on several triangulation projects there.

Another bonus, Ancestry seems to be much faster than the other two companies at processing kits. I tested in July at FTDNA, and didn’t get my results for nearly 3 months. Being impatient, I tested at Ancestry and things were processed in less than 6 weeks. So, I was able to start working with matches at Ancestry much faster. Sure, I gave up a $50 discount at FTDNA by testing there first. However, the matches at Ancestry were invaluable in busting through the paternal black hole in my tree. Utilizing Mirror Trees, I was able to discover paternal matches and then close family within weeks. Of course, every case is different and results will vary for others.

Even without detailed segment analysis through Ancestry, I’ve been able to identify important migration patterns for my surnames of interest simply by using the location search feature in conjunction with surnames queried against matches.

Analyzing paper trail clues and trees not connected to DNA kits, I knew that it was possible that certain branches existed in neighboring states to my primary branch of interest. Within our branch of the Rhodes surname, we long suspected that we came out of Maryland in the late 1700s and spread across the US through Tennessee, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina. For example,  by searching “Rhodes” “Kentucky”, I am able to see distant cousin matches in those areas, and by closely examining their trees, we can make informed guesses as to our shared ancestors above our regional patriarchs.

 In this way, I was able to identify prominent families and origins in Maryland — thereby, adding a bit more evidence to support that long held suspicion. I am also utilizing Ancestry to find cousins from these neighboring branches, and soliciting them to upload to Gedmatch. These queries to persons with kits at Ancestry are better informed and response to upload to Gedmatch has been good.

There’s still much more to be researched, and segment analysis is going to be a big part of that. However, with Ancestry’s ICW clues, we now know that our future-forward Maryland research is not in vain and a worthwhile continued focus.