Combining the DNA Power of 23andMe with the Tree Building Power of Ancestry

Do you have your DNA results on 23andMe and would like to use Ancestry’s tree-building capabilities to make connections and discoveries? If so, this article will provide ideas of how to work with the matches to get the best results for your DNA analysis. 23andMe provides haplogroups and X-DNA matches for autosomal testing which can help in identifying whether a DNA match is on the maternal or the paternal line. Fran Shockley, the Family Story Sleuth offers her organizational method in this guest post. Enjoy!

By Fran Shockley

I just finished listening to The Research Like a Pro Podcast Episode 139: Adding DNA Matches to your Ancestry Tree. I thought you might like to see how I organize my matches.

I primarily work with adoptees, so more often than not I am starting at ground zero. This means that I may have no more than DNA matches and the vital information of my client. While this scenario is challenging, it is not impossible. For this demonstration, I have created a fictional family with a client named Christian Johnson. None of the information is that of a real, living person.

Create an Ancestry Tree

First, you’ll need to create a new tree in Ancestry for the client and mark it as private and unsearchable, always important when working with adoptee research.

– Add two tags to the client’s profile. The first is the stock relationship tag, “Adopted Out of This Family,” to signify that this is the biological family. The second is a custom tag, “Client.” You will add whatever tags make sense to you.

– Since the parents are unknown, use the Haplogroups of the client as the names of the parents. This will be helpful later when putting the puzzle pieces together.

– If the Haplogroup is unknown, such as for a female with no father or brother tested, use “Biological Father” as the name until he is identified.

Profile for the adoptee, Christian Johnson with tags added and haplogroups use as names and profile pictures for unknown parents.

Next, open the “Notes” section of the profile page and add the following information:

– Maternal Haplogroup

– Paternal Haplogroup

–  DNA Cousin Matches

If from more than one company, note the company

Notes for the adoptee, Christian Johnson: haplogroups, close relatives on 23andMe

Adding Haplogroups as Profile Pictures

Take a screenshot of the Haplogroups from the Notes section and use it as the profile picture for the client, keeping this information readily visible.


Next, take a screenshot of the Haplogroups from the client’s 23andMe profile page and use that as the profile picture for the parents on the Ancestry tree.

Haplogroup screenshots used as profile photos for the client and his parents.

23andMe Predictive Tree

23andMe has a predictive tree that is created via a proprietary algorithm. It highlights the primary test taker and places the closest matches on the tree in the most appropriate position. The predictive tree is a wonderful tool because it does a lot of the work of sorting DNA matches automatically. 23andMe assigned Jessica Wallace as a first cousin to Christian Johnson – a good place to start.

23andMe predictive tree; the client is represented by the large yellow circle CJ and a close match, JW, shown in the medium orange circle to the left of CJ

Start with the closest DNA match on the 23andMe tree (Jessica Wallace in the above screenshot) and add that person as a “floating branch” to the Ancestry Tree.

Jessica Wallace added as a floating branch to the Ancestry tree

Adding a Floating Branch to an Ancestry Tree

There are two ways to do this:

– Add them as any relative to an existing person, then go to “Edit Family Relationships” and delete untrue relationships.

-Navigate to the “Search” tab at the top of the Ancestry screen. Find the person in the Ancestry database using “Search,” then add them as a new person.

While any DNA match can be added in this manner, bear in mind that the smaller the number of centimorgans shared, the more difficult it becomes to find the most recent common ancestor (MRCA).

Next, tag the match with two custom tags. The first states from which DNA program the match originates. The second identifies the associated match. I use this because I often have more than one adoptee in a family.

Again, open the “Notes” section and add the following information:

Predicted relationship
To Whom Related
Percent of DNA shared
Whether sharing on X
Maternal Haplogroup
Paternal Haplogroup

Take a screenshot of this, add it to the gallery, and use it as the profile picture. This gives you pertinent DNA information at a glance.

In the notes section, also add other information from 23andMe that may have been offered (such as family surnames and common cousin matches).

Notice the tags of “23andMe DNA Match” and “Christian Johnson” as well as the screenshot from the notes section used as the profile picture.

Using Haplogroups to Make Connections

Again, screenshot the Haplogroups from the match’s profile page on 23andMe and use them on the Ancestry tree in the appropriate parental spaces as profile pictures. This really highlights relationships and allows you to follow genetic lines. Save the screenshots of the Haplogroups in a file so that you don’t have to clip them over and over.

Maternal Haplogroup screenshot from 23andMe used as the profile image for the mother of Jessica Wallace. Because Jessica is female, she will not have a paternal haplogroup identified as part of her autosomal DNA results. She can use that of a brother or father if known.


Continue adding cousin matches either as floating branches or as confirmed relatives using traditional genealogical methods. The screenshot below is a very simplified version of discoveries you could make. In this example, Jessica and Tyler are 1st cousins, related through their mothers, and with the Haplogroup, H1.

Remember that Christian Johnson, the adoptee client, is also their first cousin. They all share on the X chromosome and all share the same maternal Haplogroup. It stands to reason that there is another sister (or sisters), one of which is Christian’s mother. In this case, there is one other sister, Nina, who died at the age of 16 on the same day that Christian was born. The probability that Nina is Christian’s mother is very high, based on DNA and traditional genealogical evidence. We can now add Christian to this tree by merging his “unknown” mother with Nina Jones.

In this example, the relationships are overly simplified. Real cases are rarely this straightforward. Identifying the MRCA will likely be more complex and time-consuming. Be persistent. Start with the closest match and create a floating branch. Use the tags and build a tree for each match. Continue on in this manner, connecting the branches whenever you identify a common ancestor.

Having the genetic line spelled out on the screen makes it easier to visualize potential relationships. Having customized tags allows you to keep track of your matches and makes filtering easier. Eventually, with patience, perseverance, and reasonably exhaustive research, the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Happy hunting!

Source: Family Locket

Posted On: April 8, 2021 at 07:44PM