Quick Tip: Color Code Your Matches—Fast!

One of the best things about AncestryDNA is the ability to color-code your DNA match list.

There are 24 colors, plenty to code matches on multiple branches of your tree and still have some left over for other purposes, like geographic location, cultural characteristics, or anything you like.  I previously described my own pedigree system, which you are welcome to use or modify.

The custom color-codes are even filterable! For example, you can assign your maternal and paternal relatives to respective groups, then apply a filter to view only the matches that are relevant when you’re working on one side of your tree.

The easiest way to color-code your matches into groups is to view a known relative in your match list (click beside their name), then look at their shared matches with you.  These are the people who share DNA with both you and the known relative.

You can then add each of those shared matches to the appropriate group.  For example, you would add everyone who matches you and your paternal first cousin to your “paternal” group, and matches shared with a maternal 2nd cousin can be added to your grandparent’s group.

AncestryDNA recently introduced a major upgrade that lets you add multiple matches to a group at once rather than one-by-one.  It’s easy.  First, click the plus or pencil icon by their name and select “Add to group”.

That will cause two things to happen.  A control panel will slide in from the side listing the custom groups, and check boxes will appear beside the matches on the screen.  Simply select the group (or groups) you want to add and the matches you want them added to, and seal the deal by clicking the “Add to groups” button.

In the example above, the tester matches their mother’s mother, so all of the shared matches are added to both the “Maternal” and the “Maternal grandmother” groups.



It almost seems petty to begrudge this new feature for stopping short of perfect, but here we are:  it still requires a lot of clicking.  Fortunately, there’s an app for that!  Or at least an extension for the Chrome internet browser.

With the Click All Checkboxes extension installed, you can scroll down to load the entire shared match list, click “Add to group” for a match of interest, then click on the extension in your browser’s toolbar. That will bring up a very plain-but-useful button:

When you click that button, the “checked” status of all check boxes on the screen will switch.  That is, if the box was previously unticked, it will be checked, and if it was ticked, it will be unchecked.  You will have to re-check the box for the match of interest, because the extension will untick it.  You must also tweak the groups you want to assign to these matches, because the extension will swap their status.

Once you’ve selected the correct color groups and scrolled through the shared match list to make sure everything’s correct, click the Add to groups button in Ancestry’s slide-in panel and you’re all set.

It’s a huge timesaver!



There are other extensions that will check/uncheck boxes on a web page.  This one worked best for me.  If you have had luck with others—for Chrome or any other browser—please let us know in the comments.

26 thoughts on “Quick Tip: Color Code Your Matches—Fast!”

  1. Great tip on checking all check boxes! I’m hoping Ancestry will add a check all box at the top. Other than not being able to select all check boxes at once, my only quibble is that they cut off the usernames when the control panel comes up. It’s an issue sometimes when I only want to select certain ones. It would be okay if you could hover over it and seem the name, but right now you can’t.

    1. I hope they add a “select all” too. I’ve noticed over the years that they often add features that are popularized by extensions or third-party tools. Color-coding started as an extension!

  2. I could use 20 more colors or designs. There are so many ways I can group my matches to help me figure out what patterns are useful

  3. Until the latest change to the AncestryDNA match page, I had not followed a colouring system as I could easily see the groups. With the latest changes, I’ve also moved to a colouring system so that I can more easily pick the maternal and paternal lines. I use a P and M descriptive before the family name of the ancestor. I recommended to people that they group to their 16 2xGGP using P1 to P8 and M1 to M8 and then all the related groups appear together in the drop down of the groups. So, we start with P1/8 and M1/8 and move out from there. One of our other members has added to this by using two additional groups – one where the MRCA is your 3xGGP and the other where the MRCA is your 4xGGP or beyond. I use an underscore in front of other than paternal and maternal groups, so they appear at the top of the group list. This is all working a treat for us!

    1. Thanks for sharing those tips! You can also put an exclamation mark before the group name (e.g., !Maternal) to force it to sort at the top of the list.

    2. Great tip on the P and M.
      I have all Germanic names on one side and all English on the other, so don’t need it for me and forget that others might.
      Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I find it easier to do manually. By the time you have unchecked all the groupings that you don’t want applied to the people on screen you could have marked them manually a dozen times over.

    1. I suppose it depends on how narrowly focused your groups are. A lot of people do a first sort of maternal/paternal, or their four grandparents, which can have thousands of matches in each group. With more narrowly focused groups of just a few matches, doing them individually is probably faster.

  5. Everyone will be unique in their clustering. They may start by creating four groups for each grandparent or maybe even have their level of clustering to the eight great-grandparent level. I had to rework my clusters rather than delete them and start from scratch. This is due to the 6cm and 7cm purge. I don’t know if they’d get lost if there is no Note or color dot associated with them. I also have the unfortunate case (or perhaps fortunate due to the limited 24 colors) of having very few maternal matches and since my mom has passed I can’t get her to test to try and strengthen it a bit more. Two of my four maternal great grandparents have no 1st cousin lines descending to present day. Therefore I have no 3rd cousins on two of the four lines. This limits me to using only three colors on my maternal side (Mom, Maternal-Paternal & Maternal-Maternal). I use Notes if I can identify matches at the 4th cousin level and since there are few matches, I don’t need to separate these by another color. So I’m saving 21 for diving and dividing my paternal side at the 3xGGP level. I use the star for questionable matches to go back to at a later time. I do manage multiple family kits (dad, sister, M- 1st cousin, P-M 1c1r, M-P-M 3c and some other distant family on the paternal side), so if there are no shared matches below the 20cm threshold I toggle between kits to see who matches the person. If one does match my sister and M1c, I’ll color it for Mom only as I wouldn’t know which side it is unless I get a 2C to manage. 🙂

    1. They may start by creating four groups for each grandparent or maybe even have their level of clustering to the eight great-grandparent level. I had to rework my clusters rather than delete them and start from scratch. This is due to the 6cm and 7cm purge. I don’t know if they’d get lost if there is no Note or color dot associated with them. Could you please explain the purge issue?

  6. When I click on Groups, am I supposed to see iMaternal and iPaternal as choices already there? I don’t see them. What am I doing wrong?

    1. There aren’t any “built in” groups. You can create any that you want. I add exclamation points, e.g., !Maternal and !Paternal, so that they sort at the top of the list.

  7. Be careful with “Click all Boxes.” I obviously did something wrong and it gave all my matches all of my 18 groups (18 dots). Although there is a “reset” and “Apply” button under Groups’ tab on AncestryDNA, they are shaded out and can’t be used. I called Ancestry 3 times and got the same answer from all three customer service agents. The only option they offered was to eliminate one by one, which is an enormous headache.

    1. The extension can be tricky, because it also checks the boxes associated with the groups themselves. As I note in the blog “You must also tweak the groups you want to assign to these matches, because the extension will swap their status.”

      Ancestry does have an option to “remove from group”, so you can do a bulk remove using the extension.

  8. I group mine by 16 2nd great grandparents, plus one special name (which I only discovered accidentally, due to my college professor having that name, and being a distant cousin.) I also have one color assigned to a group I call “Wrong MRCA.” We ARE related thru DNA, we just don’t have the MRCAs they think we do. My task with this group is to find the correct MRCAs.

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