I Get By With a Little Help From My Cousins . . . Or, Why am I asking my DNA matches to upload to gedmatch.com?
Despite the proliferation of DNA testing in the U.S., most testers don’t do more with their results than read their ethnicity estimate and go on with their life, IMHO. Those who are genuinely interested in building their family trees might look at their matches’ trees (if they have them) and perhaps initiate contact to corroborate. Then there are the diehards, like myself, who take it a step further and ask their DNA matches to download their raw data from ancestry.com and upload it to a 3rd party website with a chromosome browser. And, sadly, that’s where I lose most of them.
You want me to do what?
Even some of those who are adventurous enough to give it a whirl may balk at ancestry.com’s warning before downloading and write to me to clarify my request. Before you can download your data, you must check “I understand that after my DNA data is downloaded, the downloaded copy will not be protected by AncestryDNA’s security measures. When I download my raw DNA data, I assume all risk of storing, securing, and protecting my downloaded data.” I have likened this to a car dealership telling you that while your new car is parked on their lot, it is protected by their security measures, but when you drive it home, they can not protect it anymore. I think all of us understand the implications of this “loss of protection” but realize our car is not doing us any good sitting on the lot.
Unfortunately, that's how I feel about many matches at ancestry.com: it's nice to know they're there, but they're not doing me a lot of good at this point. That's why I'm asking you to move that data to a site that does have the necessary tools for analysis. Genetic genealogy is a burgeoning emerging field with a lot of moving parts. Advanced tools at gedmatch.com allow me to see exactly which segments you match with my subject and triangulate those with other matching segments in the effort to determine the MRCA (most recent common ancestor). This is the first step in continuing to build this branch of the family tree, perhaps beyond what can be established with the paper trail. In many cases, even if you have no family tree, when I can see that your segment(s) overlap other matches with known shared ancestors, I can predict which families you might share with my client. That really blows people's minds when I can send a "cold call" email to someone with NO identifying information attached to their kit and say, "Based on our overlapping segments, I'm wondering if you come from the Reeds of Clearfield, PA, in the mid 1800s?" Those are the matches I hear back from immediately. The closer you come to information that is readily identifiable to them, especially in your subject heading, the more likely they are to engage with you.
Most of the matches I write do not understand how any of this works or care, for that matter. And that's ok. This doesn't happen to be their obsession like it is mine. Since I may only have 1 shot at capturing their attention and making my case to upload to gedmatch.com, I've tried to simplify my message. This is what I include in my message: