One thing which my new cousin asked in one of her emails was whether I had uploaded my autosomal DNA results to Gedmatch. I hadn’t, so I googled it to see what was involved.
As luck would have it, I picked a time when it wasn’t accepting new kits, but after a few days it was back and I registered. I found myself in a ‘Log In Profile’ screen which I now know contains everything I need to use Gedmatch. I found the section called ‘File Uploads’ and followed the instructions. The trickiest bit (not really tricky) was downloading my raw data from FtDNA. The option ‘Download Raw Data’ was on my matches page, but in there I had to choose between Build 36 and Build 37. Gedmatch, however, very clearly told me to use Build 36 so I downloaded both the Build 36 Autosomal and the Build 36 X . Then I uploaded one after the other. It took at least fifteen minutes before the upload completed, a few times I was concerned that it had hung. But it hadn’t! Soon enough, the upload was finished. I sat there on that screen for a while waiting for a button to appear to proceed, but it seems you just ‘x’ out of it, or use the back button to return to the previous screen.
Then was a waiting game as the uploaded data needed to be tokenized which took several days. Finally it was done and I could run a ‘one to many’ matches compare, keeping the default to 7cM.
This is still fun. I do it every few days now to see if anyone new has turned up. New people have their kit number in green so once I had run it a few times I can easily see if there is someone else. I really like Gedmatch for a few reasons. One, everyone there has gone out of their way to upload their data and actively seek contact, so I feel much more comfortable about emailing them. Two, it isn’t just people who have tested at FtDNA. For an Australian this doesn’t mean as much since Ancestry won’t test Australians anyway and 23andMe are very expensive to use from overseas. However, there are some cousins for me at both and there are also some smaller companies around the world whose customers just might upload their data.
I also find their presentation very easy to understand. I’m fond of lists stripped of bells and whistles. Just plain text without unnecessary line spacing, a sea of letters which I can speed-scan for relevant details. I found it quite intuitive. \
The first column is a list of kit IDs and you can tell by the first letter which company they tested at. While your uploaded kit is new, every kit ID is highlighted bright green. As the weeks pass the green fades until after a month they are all white. The second column (type) I have never used. The third column is ‘L’ for list and by clicking this you get a list of that person’s matches in a new window. This can be useful for seeing how close an in-common match is to that match of yours.
The fourth column is a selection check box, the fifth is gender, the sixth and seventh are the Mt and Y Haplogroup, if provided.
One of the first things I did was search this column for others of my mt Haplogroup and came up with no exacts, one H2a2a and one H2a2. This is from a list showing 1,500 matches of whom about a quarter have MT tested. I was just curious.
The next column, ‘Details’ has an A which is a link. This does a one-to-one compare with that kit to show which chromosomes the match is in. This is fun. I generally select the option to show graphics because I like to see what might be hidden – where we absolutely don’t match, where we nearly match, whether there are a thousand little fragmented matches which might add to the total match length but not be relevant. However, the non-graphical version gives the salient details.
The total cM shared and largest block are next and this is where it gets useful. The match screen is sorted so that the biggest match is at the top – that is, the closest predicted relation.
In my gedmatch list was my adoptee cousin from South Carolina who shares the Prince Edward Island matches, the three matches direct from Prince Edward Island, my adoptee cousin from New York, and the 3rd-5th cousin who felt our match was too tenuous to pursue. I also recognised many other names from my ftDNA cousin list, ones without gedcoms who I had assumed were not really family tree people. I was a little surprised to see them here.
Then comes the column where Gedmatch predicts your genetic distance. Here, I notice, it differs from FtDNA.
My closest cousin, John, has not uploaded to Gedmatch at all. Nor has my second closest, Jennifer. The two adoptee cousins show as my next closest matches on FtDNA but here they are in positions 4 and 10. Cecilia with the PEI link is fourth. Jacqueline from New York is tenth.
The big surprise for me here was that in pride of place, the number one closest position was the man who felt we were too great a distance to follow up. Let’s call him Bill. Like the others, this is not his real name. With a genetic distance of 4.4, he was my nearest relation. Just out of interest, I clicked the ‘L’ to see what his list looked like. He had heaps and heaps of genetic distance 1’s, 2’s and 3’s. I was so far down his list it just wasn’t funny. I had to scroll down to find myself! I showed at the same genetic distance, but he had so many at a closer distance that 4.4 meant nothing to him. I now understood why he sent that email.
I then looked at some other people and it was exactly the same for them. Even my two adoptee cousins had heaps of closer matches! It was a bit flattening. I was back to feeling like an alien.
I should mention, the same happens to me on family tree sites too. Hardly anyone smart matches with my family names. Even though a lot of Australians are into genealogy, not so many will put their details out into the world. I went back to looking through my closest relations, this time looking at the ones from other companies, the new ones.
Second on my list was someone with the same contact email as Bill’s so I would guess his sibling. The genetic distance was equal. Third was a new name – I’ll call her Sarah. She was equal genetic distance to Bill and his brother and we shared 31 cM with a longest block of 12.2 cM. Running the one-to-one compare showed that we matched on three different chromosomes with blocks of over 9 cM. Clicking on her list, I found that I was her nearest relation – in her number one spot. This boosted my spirits so I sent her an email. I also sent an email to the lady in Prince Edward Island to tell her I was now on Gedmatch. I felt like an old hand.