GEDmatch Has a Makeover! But It’s Purely Cosmetic

This post has been updated.

Today, GEDmatch has a new look at https://app.gedmatch.com.

It’s a long-overdue upgrade for a site that has always been a bit overwhelming and user unfriendly.  This is a glimpse of the old GEDmatch:  a wall of text with very little explanation.

The first time I used it, I cursed out loud!  I may have cried.  One-to-many what?!?  Which admixture do I use?  People who match both of what?!?  None of it made any sense to me as a newbie.

The new site is certainly a lot more aesthetically appealing.

But the fundamentals?  They’re exactly the same.  In fact, they may be even more confusing.  Here’s the One-to-Many tool (called “DNA matches” or “DNA relatives” anywhere else) in the new GEDmatch.

There is no explanation of offset, limit, cM size, tag groups, or overlap cutoff.  The Tips popup doesn’t explain any of it.  The simpler version of the tool, called One-to-Many DNA Comparison Result on the old website—is gone.

There is presumably a how-to video, but the link doesn’t work.  And there appear to be no resources for people who prefer written explanations.

If you were new to GEDmatch, you’d still be cursing.

What’s more, the new site is very slow.  (UPDATE:  It’s much faster on a tablet than on a computer.)  The old format produced a list of 50 matches almost instantaneously for the first kit I tried; the new one took more than a minute to generate the same list.

 

What’s Missing

Segment Start–End Positions:  This issue has since been corrected.  My original observations are in italics below.

Some features are also missing.  Many genetic genealogists enjoy tracing their DNA segments to specific ancestors, a process called chromosome mapping.  To do that, you need to know the precise start and stop points of each segment that you share with a DNA relative.

Here’s the same two people compared in the old (top) and new (bottom) versions of GEDmatch.  The data on the bottom cannot be used for chromosome mapping.  (Hat tip to Jonny Perl of DNA Painter for pointing out this issue.)

Gedcoms:  An astute reader pointed out another issue, this time with gedcoms.  (Recall that a gedcom is a file containing family tree information.)  In the old version of GEDmatch (below left), a gedcom link takes you to the record for an individual person, with links to view the pedigree or descendants.  Those links are gone in the revamped version of GEDmatch (below right).  As a result, in the new version, the only way to view a match’s ancestral tree is person by person.

Speed:  The new site is incredibly slow for computer users.  I timed how long the

Hopefully, these are temporary oversights that will be fixed soon.

 

GEDmatch and Law Enforcement

The two key changes that GEDmatch should have made—for ethical and potentially legal reasons—they didn’t.

Recall that GEDmatch is a repository of data files that were generated by other companies.  As such, each DNA kit in their database has to be uploaded from somewhere else.  And the upload form is not transparent.

For new uploads, the default privacy setting is to be exposed to law enforcement kits.  But GEDmatch doesn’t tell you that.  They know that most people don’t change the default settings, especially if they don’t understand what they’re doing.  And they want people to be exposed to police investigations.

What’s more, GEDmatch recently changed their own definition of “law enforcement”, again without being transparent with their users.  They no longer consider the identification of human remains to be police related, even if the case will ultimately lead to criminal charges.  Those so-called Doe kits can now “see” all public kits, even those that have opted out of law-enforcement matching.  To my knowledge, GEDmatch has never told their users explicitly about this change.

Even worse, GEDmatch prominently features a 2-year-old video about the opt system at GEDmatch that was filmed before the surreptitious alterations to the Terms of Service.

These two lapses may have implications for GEDmatch down the line.  Both houses of the Maryland General Assembly have passed legislation governing “forensic genetic genealogy searches”, and the governor is expected to sign it any day.  The bill limits law enforcement to genealogy databases where users have acknowledged and consented to that purpose.  Defaulting people in with no explanation is neither acknowledgement nor consent.

But GEDmatch knows that.  As does Verogen, the forensics company that now owns GEDmatch.

Let’s face it: GEDmatch belongs to law enforcement now, not genealogists.

 

Updates to This Post

  • 5 May 2021 — This post has been updated for clarity and to note the omissions from the One-to-One and gedcom features.  If you find any other issues with the new site, please feel free to comment.
  • 6 May 2021 — The segment start-stop points have been restored.

31 thoughts on “GEDmatch Has a Makeover! But It’s Purely Cosmetic”

  1. I don’t particularly like the new look. Yes, it is fresh. But, I’m one that doesn’t do well with change. I like what I am used to. Change is confusing to me at this point in my life. I have to spend too much time trying to relearn how to navigate forever-changing sites. It is often the primary reason why I stop using a website.

    While GEDMatch has its problems, it is a site that I will stick with, regardless of what they do. It is the one site that is worth it to me. If it weren’t for GEDMatch, I would likely still be searching for my biological father’s identity.

    1. I do unknown parentage searches all day, every day. GEDmatch is one site I can almost always do without. I’m glad it was helpful to you, though!

      1. Which site helps you the most with your unknown parentage searches?

        Have you had any luck on unknown 3rd great-grandparent searches? That is where my 40 years long brickwall is right now and none of the sites are helping me to break it down.

        1. To find a birth parent, I recommend testing at both AncestryDNA and 23andMe. If cost is a factor, test at Ancestry first and work your matches there while you save up for 23andMe. From Ancestry, you can transfer into the smaller databases if you need to.

          A 3GGP is very challenging. At that point, you’re working primarily with 4th cousin matches, and you won’t even share measurable DNA with about half of your true fourth cousins.

  2. I gave up on it rather quickly because of the lack of user-friendly items. I couldn’t figure out what to do to achieve anything useful.

  3. The GEDCOM trees have disappeared. One gets to see one person at a time – not the whole tree. Maybe I’m missing something but I’ve searched and can’t find a whole tree. Clicking one person at a time is useless. I doubt I’ll renew my Tier 1. The site is pretty pathetic and I may take all my trees off and just forget about GEDmatch. It was nice while it lasted. There’s some kind of request form at the bottom of the page that seems to be just as useless as the rest of the new site.

    1. Oh, you’re right! I’ll add that to the post. Thank you! In the regular version, there’s a link to see the pedigree, but it’s not there in the makeover.

  4. I don’t see a new interface, just the same as usual. Do you think they realized there are problems and reverted back in the meantime?

  5. I (along with a friend) found my birth father’s identity after 8 months of searching and got confirmation of our findings just over a year later. I tested with Ancestry, MyHeritage, and 23andMe and transferred DNA data to FTDNA, GEDMatch, and LivingDNA.

    I’m beginning to think that I just need to give up on ever finding the parents of that 2nd great-grandmother. Even her own daughters couldn’t agree on her maiden name. Even a Leeds chart hasn’t brought them out of hiding. Oh well, some things just aren’t meant to be, I guess.

    1. I never give up, but there are definitely genealogy problems I put on the back burner until new matches or new tools come along.

  6. Hopefully responsive matches will come along soon to help break this wall for me.

    Best wishes for continued success with your searches. 🙂

    1. Same to you! For what it’s worth, I have a tentative lead on the parents of my 4th great grandmother. The matches are very distant, though.

  7. Thanks! I hope this lead pans out for you. Sometimes the distant matches have better trees than the close ones and are more responsive. I hope that proves to be the case for you.

  8. My first big breakthrough was years ago at GEDmatch, but I could not do that now.
    I started out with 5 solid generations, so was looking from there out.
    I need those start and end locations.
    And my second big breakthrough needed a decent tree, which they had at the time.
    I can do other things there, but only if they stop firing that shotgun at their own feet.
    I can never understand a product that removes its Unique Selling Point and expects to thrive. My experience of many such occurrences in a totally different consumer industry is that they either return that USP – or all too often, they fade out of existence.
    With that change I would have no reason to spend money there.
    And I would need to advise others likewise.

    1. GEDmatch’s Unique Selling Point now is for the cops. They’re charging hundreds per upload, plus they’re trying to use the database as a sales pitch Verogen’s equipment.

  9. Clicking on my kit number in the Your DNA Resources section puts me in a blank window, but the One to Many Limited Version (under Free Tools) is instantaneous in my hands . The issue I have (with the latter) is that the output ends up in a box that has to be scrolled from side to side, and you have to scroll to the bottom in order to do that, so looking at the right edge of the table is cumbersome. You can click and drag to go from side to side, but it’s not elegant.

    1. Are you on a computer or a tablet/phone? One-to-many loaded very quickly on my phone, but the new site is practically unusable on my computer.

      1. I’ve tried it with Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Edge on a PC running Windows10. The behavior is the same no matter what browser is used. The link on the kit ID gives a virtually blank page, the link to the free One to Many page (and pasting in the ID) works great.

  10. So? If I have deleted my kits from gedmatch are they still able to be examined by law enforcement?
    Did they really delete them from their database or did they just delete me from seeing them anymore.
    Thanks,
    Steve

    1. I can’t say. The kits should be deleted entirely, but there was an incident in January in which kits that had been deleted by the user were found to be in the database again.

  11. GEDmatch has made several changes this past year that have made it more difficult to compare the new results with earlier results for Download All segments visualization options for Tier-1 One-to-Many. I know they are addressing the issue of making the segment data more concise, which I agree with. However, what is no longer available in the downloads, are the values for the Kit-Owner Profile. I find the following fields helpful for my DNA Cluster Research:

    1. Age (days) – I sort and use this to recognize new incremental additions since my last snapshot
    2. Haplogroups for XX-23 and XY-23
    3. Total cM and largest segment (I use to recognize strong segment cluster matches)
    4. Kit-Owner DNA Testing Site that was uploaded RAW data to GEDmatch
    5. GEDCOMS uploaded to GEDmatch
    6. Relationship generation
    GEDmatch has also changed the Kit-Owner ID format. Older kits used a Prefix that indicated which test company originated the data (eg H123456 for MyHeritage.) The newer updates now use a randomly generated two letter prefix and a six-digit numeric code (AB123456.)

    Some of these items are shown on the selection segment match selection screen. It is not practical to capture using Copy and Paste when I have thousands of segments in the results. The values for Total cM and largest segment are now listed as zero! GEDmatch also made a subtle change by adding a leading space to every text field in the download, which is not obvious when first viewing the results.
    I personally like GEDmatch tools for Tier-1. The new more modern interface is nice but does not really address making the site more user friendly.
    I have enjoyed getting your blob updates and watched some of your sessions on RootsTech 2021. The recent changes are certainly more complex than just a “cosmetic” update.

    Donald A. Wallace
    Founder and Directory of Technology
    Evergreen Genealogy (EvergreenGenealogy.org)
    Chesterfield, MO 63005

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