Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to Compare Unrelated People on AncestryDNA

You may be familiar with AncestryDNA's DNA Circles, which allow you to compare to your kit to matches who share a common ancestor, including people who only match your other matches and don't match you directly.  This is helpful for understanding how people in a DNA circle all relate to each other.  But did you know this same tool will let you compare your kit to any kit in the AncestryDNA database?

You'll need two things in order to do this.

1) A New Ancestor Discovery Circle
2) The URL of another Ancestry user's dna results. (I'll explain this more later)

This method works be replacing a portion of the URL to a New Ancestor Discovery Circle with the ID of another user.  The URL, or Universal Resource Locator, is the web address for the page that you see up top in your browser's address bar.  For this example, I'm going to use my father's DNA profile, and compare it to my mothers.

First, go to your dna homepage, http://dna.ancestry.com.  If you have any New Ancestor Discoveries, you should see a section that looks like this:



If you don't see this "New Ancestor Discoveries" section on your results, it means AncestryDNA has yet to connect you to any possible DNA circles.  As you can see in this screenshot, the tool is still in beta release.  So check back in the future and hopefully you'll see some New Ancestor Discoveries added to your profile.

If you do have New Ancestor Discoveries, click on one of them.  Next, click on the grey "See Your Connection" button on the right of the window that popped up.  This will take you to the DNA Circle page and display visualization that may look a bit like an octopus.  Something like this:





On the right side is a list of "Potential Descendants"  Click on any of these.  In the example above it is listing groups of matches. Clicking on those groups shows me the individual members.  Click on one of the individual members and you'll be taken to the  DNA Match screen for that person.  At the top of the web browser you should see a URL in the address bar that looks something like this:


Click on the URL and copy the entire thing.  Now paste it into a text editor like Word or Notepad so we can do some editing to the URL.

The URL looks rather complex, but is actually just three things: Your ID, your match's ID, and the DNA Circle's ID.  Here's how it breaks down:

http://dna.ancestry.com/tests/4FB37A2B-6E83-4E98-A061-11873CC426C6/match/A2741760-9E9C-446C-AF5A-CB18C73EC75B/0Z95L0BM?cadHeadName=Circle%20Name&filterBy=ALL&sortBy=RELATIONSHIP&page=1

Blue = Your Test ID
Green = Your Match's Test ID
Red = New Ancestor DNA Circle ID
The rest of the URL after the Red portion is optional and will not affect the result.

This URL tells AncestryDNA to compare the Blue test ID to the Green test ID because they are both in the Red DNA circle.  However, AncestryDNA only checks if the Blue test ID (your ID) is in the DNA Circle.   You can substitute any test ID into the spot identified in Green and you'll be able to compare them to your profile.  Leave the rest of the URL as it is.

Try it out!  Follow the steps above to get the URL to a match from one of your New Ancestor Discovery Circles.  Then, replace the ID in the second (Green) spot with the one of the IDs above, or any other person.  Now paste the URL back into your browser and hit enter.  You'll then see a comparison of that persons DNA profile to yours and be able to explore any shared matches you might have.  If you tried it with one of the above test IDs, you'd see your profile compared to either my father Roger Frank or my mother Mary Frank.  To my relief, my mom and dad didn't share any DNA or shared matches:

 
So what's the point of being able to compare yourself to people who don't match you?  Well, it can be surprisingly useful.  It essentially allows you to build your own custom DNA circles.  For example, I manage my mother's test as well as that of her 2nd cousin.  They share an immigrant Irish ancestor with the horribly common surname Sullivan.  Despite being 2nd cousins, they have no shared matches between them.  However, when I use this technique to compare some of the 2nd cousin's matches to my mom's test ID, I am finding some shared matches listed.  I am using this method to narrow down my search to a few specific villages in Ireland.

The AncestryDNA Helper Chrome plugin by Jeff Snively is a great help for getting test IDs, as it saves these IDs to its database automatically every time you open a result.  So if you use the plugin while browsing one person's match list, you can then log into another person's results and copy and paste IDs from the database of the other person's matches and see if they have any shared matches with the second person.

Another scenario where I've used this technique is when I'm corresponding with someone regarding genealogy and they mention they have an AncestryDNA test on file.  The search function on the AncestryDNA match list leaves a lot to be desired, and can frequently miss people when doing a surname search.  It is also not really a viable option to flip through several hundred pages of matches to find if that person is a distant match.  So instead I ask the person to send me their URL and paste the Test ID into a New Ancestor Discovery match URL.  Then I can see if we match DNA or share matches in common.

One of my long time genealogy pen pals was a likely 5th cousin via an immigrant German family.  We knew we shared the same surname in the same town, and hoped DNA would prove the connection.  However, her test did not match mine.  But at that genetic distance, it is quite possible to have zero shared DNA despite being related via a shared tree.  So I had her send me her URL and I compared her Test ID to my mom's Test ID.  I found she did indeed share some known matches, and one of those was a match I had positively identified as being a 5th cousin via that same family.  

Got any feedback on this method? Let me know in the comments below.  I welcome any improvements to make the process easier for people to use.



24 comments:

  1. The Chrome plugin saves the IDs to its database ... where? How do you find them to use?

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    1. To get the database, go to your AncestryDNA homepage and click the "Download Matches" button (you may have to refresh the page a few times to get it to appear). This will save a .csv file to your computer. Open it up, and the second column is the IDs of all your matches.

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  2. There is a problem for me. I can't view the NADs because I am not a paying member.
    I'm not sure it would help, either, mainly because of what I seek. I've already used the trial period. :(

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    1. I found a work around for non-paying members. If you click on the NAD you'll get the pop up with two options, one is a green button to "Learn About" the ancestor, and one to See their Connection in Grey. Right click the green "Learn About" button and select copy link address. Now paste that somewhere and find the part of the URL where it says "cadId=" followed by an eight digit alpha numeric string. That is the NAD DNA circle ID. Copy that ID code and put it in for the Red ID in the URL in this article. The URL trick will then work for you, at least to view the shared matches of profiles. Viewing trees of matches requires a subscription.

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    2. I believe you have to be a paying member to get to the page that has the url you are manipulating.

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    3. I have tested it on multiple non-paying accounts and it works. Follow the instructions in my comment above to get the code for the NAD Circle. Don't left click on the green "Learn About" button. Right click it and copy the URL. Then you can use the URL in my article as your template and just paste in the ID for your test, your NAD circle, and the one you want to compare to.

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    4. Now, THAT is super. It may actually give me a clue that I didn't have before.

      The only tree that the person has is 2 names, and they're untraceable.

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    5. My comment disappeared. I clicked the NAD circle. Then I clicked "Learn about." STILL got taken to the subscription page.

      I don't see how I can be doing something wrong while following the only 2 steps! :)

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    6. The second part works fine, but this part "If you do have New Ancestor Discoveries, click on one of them. Next, click on the grey "See Your Connection" button on the right of the window that popped up. This will take you to the DNA Circle page and display visualization that may look a bit like an octopus." doesn't work for free accounts. Without that there is no url to manipulate afaik.

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    7. Do the second part to get your NAD Circle ID. Your test ID is also in that same URL (its in pretty much every URL) Then just use the color coded URL in my post as your template. Paste your Test ID in where the blue one is, paste your NAD Circle ID in where the red one is. The green one can be anyone's test ID.

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  3. That works, thanks! Hopefully that is where The Old Man was getting hung up too. Really enjoying your blog and appreciate your speedy responses. Off to play now :)

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  4. I refreshed my AncestryDNA homepage several times and a "download matches" button never appeared. I have a paid account on Ancestry. What am I doing wrong?

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    Replies
    1. Download the AncestryDNA helper chrome extension for that feature.

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  5. Steven - I tried this as you instructed -- the first time using my Dad's DNA and then ran it against my mother's DNA - and then I ran my dad's against YOUR father's DNA - and each time - what came up on the screen was a screen that showed a pedigree chart with shared Surnames -- you know the screen -- it says "Direct ancestor surnames that appear in both R.F.'s tree and Robert Donald Jones's tree" ---- SOOOOOO - I am doing this wrong -- or does my father share DNA with my mother and YOUR father!! LOL Help!!! I'm scared to test it with your mom's DNA!!

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    1. Sounds like it is working correctly. The point is to let you compare trees and shared matches even if they are not related. It will bring up that screen that compares the trees, but if you'll look carefully you'll notice there's not info on the amount of shared DNA. The section below the profile name and icon with the Predicted Relationship will be missing if they share no DNA. Additionally, if you can click on the shared matches tab to see if they share any matches. If they are unrelated, they will most likely not share any matches there.

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  6. gotcha - thanks - there is SO much that Ancestry could do to make using the DNA much more helpful than it is -- I've made suggestion after suggestion. The best thing would be to include some type of DNA marker -- like the leaf marker -- and tag people who may come up in our HINTS when working the main body of Ancestry -- I know if I knew that this HINT was also connected to a DNA MATCH -- it would make look at it a lot closer.

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  7. Steven- when following the instuctions, I am getting an error from Ancestry- feature unavailable- while the retrieving match details just spins and spins. I must be doing something wrong?

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    1. That just sounds like the message you get when ancestry's server is having issues. Try it again later and see if it works.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. I don't think this method works anymore--I tried it in the summer and it worked perfectly, but today when I tried it I got the error message:

    "Sorry, this match doesn't exist.
    The match you're looking for no longer exists. As AncestryDNA makes advancements in identifying relationships, we'll periodically update your DNA matches. This means that you may not have a DNA match with someone because our latest tools didn't detect enough evidence to make you a match.
    Note: If you feel you've reached this page in error, please check the URL and try again.
    VIEW DNA MATCHES"

    It looks like Ancestry current system won't let me compare two people to see if we have matches in common unless we're officially listed as DNA matches.

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    Replies
    1. I am now getting the same result as well. Too bad.

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    ReplyDelete