Exploring Your DNA Results Further
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This is a guest post by Linda Barnickel. Although I had my DNA tested with Ancestry over a year ago, I only recently discovered the wealth of information accessible through two unobtrusive links to be found on each individual match page.

Predicted Relationships

Choose one of your individual matches and go to that page. Click on What does this mean'? next to the Possible range' of relationship. DNA Post1   A pop-up window will appear with more information. DNA Post2   This box provides me with information about how and why AncestryDNA believes that I have a 3rd cousin relationship with this particular individual, including an estimated accuracy of this prediction (98%). Scrolling down ? and this is where the real value of this pop-up window becomes clear ? it details exactly what a 3rd cousin type of relationship looks like between me and my match. It helps me know where on our pedigree we should look for our lines to merge through a common ancestor. DNA Post3   But it doesn't stop there! DNA Post4   In fact, it goes on to explain to me eight different possible variations on how my match and I might be related, and provides a similar graphic chart (like the 2nd cousins, 2x removed chart above), to help me trace and envision that relationship. I've summarized all eight possibilities by listing the predicted relationship, and the common ancestor, below:
  • 3rd cousins = great-great-grandparent
  • 2nd cousins (2x removed) = 3x great-grandparent
  • 3rd cousins (1x removed) = great-great-grandparent
  • 2nd cousins (3x removed) = great-grandparent
  • 1st cousins (1x removed) = 3x great-grandparent
  • 4th cousins = 3x great-grandparent
  • 3rd cousins (2x removed) == 4x great-grandparent
  • 2nd cousins (4x removed) = great-grandparent
By looking at all of these possible variations, I can group the results as follows:
  • 2 possibilities where my match and I could link as close as our great-grandparent
  • 2 possibilities where we could link at our great-great-grandparent
  • 3 possibilities where we could link at our great-great-great-grandparent
  • 1 possibility where we could link as far back as our great-great-great-great-grandparent
This tells me that there are four different generations in play, where we might match. It also tells me that the most-distant linkage of a 4x great-grandparent, is also the least likely, since this relationship is only 1 out of 8 possible variants. There is a stronger likelihood of linking within the great- or great-great ranges, since half of the possible results fall within these two ranges. The information provided by the Predicted Relationship What Does This Mean'? button can aid my search for a shared common ancestor in so many ways. This route to more information should not be overlooked!

Confidence Level

The second subtle link on my individual match page is the small info button, located at the end of the line indicating the Confidence of the predicted match. DNA Post5   Click on this info button, and you'll get a small pop-up which will tell you how much of your DNA you share with your match.   DNA Post6 The higher the number of centimorgans, and the greater the number of segments, the closer you and your match are related. Again, clicking on the What does this mean' link provided in the black pop-up box takes you to a more detailed explanation, using the fictional match of Bruce Bule' as an illustration. DNA Post7   Keep reading in this box, and you'll encounter this very helpful chart, explaining the terms AncestryDNA uses to define the Confidence in their prediction of relationship. DNA Post8   This is followed by another very helpful chart, which gives further information about the predicted degree of relationship based upon the number of shared centimorgans. DNA Post9 The initial small black pop-up box told me that my match JW and I shared 165 centimorgans and predicted we were third cousins. Looking at this chart, I can see that 165 centimorgans does indeed fall squarely within the predicted range of a 3rd cousin relationship.


Throughout both the Predicted Match and the Confidence Level screens, Ancestry also provides additional helpful links throughout, and more information than what can be summarized and illustrated here. Be sure to investigate the Predicted Match and Confidence Level links for your own matches; it may give you the additional guidance you need to discern your relationship and common ancestor with some of your new-found cousins!   Linda Barnickel is a professional archivist and freelance writer. She is the author of the award-winning book, Milliken's Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory  and has written on numerous historical, genealogical, and archives-related subjects. Learn more about her work at www.lindabarnickel.com.