Why would I want to use GEDmatch? For the DNA newbie
What is GEDmatch?
GEDmatch is a free online service allowing people to upload their raw DNA data to explore their genetic genealogy. The newest version of the service is called Genesis, or GEDmatch Genesis, but it is simply an update of the older platform which is phasing out. The new Genesis platform allows users to perform their own DNA test searches and allows them to find DNA matches with a number of different tools. Once you opt-in to their platform, your DNA sample is shared with other users, who can explore your chromosome for matches. Likewise, you can easily explore other people’s DNA sequences and SNPs, find matches to your autosomal DNA, and even break down your maternal and paternal data into separate files.
Although GEDmatch doesn’t have the most user-friendly site, it allows you much more freedom than most companies. Users direct the creation of their own DNA results and can change a number of variables to find family members. Likewise, law enforcement has used GEDmatch to solve a number of cold cases and violent crimes. For instance, the Golden State Killer was identified using GEDmatch databases. The FBI and other agencies now regularly use GEDmatch to develop suspects based on the DNA databases it stores. Adoptees who have not had luck through 23andMe or AncestryDNA can also use the platform to search for family members.
How do I get started with GEDmatch?
Getting started with GEDmatch is simple. Go to the GEDmatch.com homepage to register and upload your raw DNA. Uploading is easy, and should only take a few minutes. GEDmatch takes samples from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, FTDNA, LivingDNA, and other companies. Once your raw data is uploaded, you can use a number of tools provided by the company to conduct your own genealogy research, track down common ancestors, or even find living people based on shared DNA segments. You don’t even have to be a genealogist!
What is a kit number?
After you upload your raw DNA data for DNA analysis, the company will assign you a kit number. Your kit number is a unique identifier tied directly to your DNA sample. The GEDmatch kit number will allow you to share your DNA sample with friends, allow them to find you on GEDmatch, and likewise for you to compare with others’ DNA by searching their kit numbers. Kit numbers have a standardized format, which also allows you to see where certain sources of data come from (ie. which DNA company you tested with). This is useful if you are trying to track down relatives, as you will get the best results if you submit a DNA sample from the same “source” because the exact same locations in your genome will be tested. This will give you the most accurate results.
What else can I do with GEDmatch?
GEDmatch offers a plethora of tools to analyze previously taken DNA kits. For instance, the Tier 1 programs, which are accessed through a $10/month donation, offer the ability to reconstruct a deceased person’s DNA through a combination of living family members. This is a useful tool for trying to develop a family tree based on genetic information. Other tools include the ability to see matches based on centimorgans (cM), which is a unit of genetic length, and you can compare your total cM to other users. The test results can give you a match list, or allow you to compare your chromosomes directly to another user’s DNA file.
The company also allows users to upload a GEDCOM file, which is a family tree file. If you are using companies like Ancestry.com to produce a family tree, you have the ability to download this GEDCOM file, then upload and use it within GEDmatch. Using the file, GEDmatch will search through the family tree to see if it has any users with similar family trees, and can give you their kit numbers for you to do more research on your family history.
With a GEDmatch account, you can determine the number of generations between you and a relative, view the chromosome browser to learn more about your genes, find other members you have DNA in common with, and more with a GEDmatch kit number.
The Bottom Line
GEDmatch is an extremely powerful tool for amateur and professional genealogists alike. This genealogy website is free to use, and you can upgrade to Tier 1 for access to several incredible analysis tools that you will not find on other websites. However, users beware: GEDmatch is extraordinarily complicated. The sites below offer great information on using GEDmatch, and genealogy testing in general. You should definitely check them out before getting started!