What’s in Your Toolbox? — MedBetterDNA

Source: MedBetterDNA extension
Tool Type: Extension for the Chrome internet browser
Purpose: Enhances notes and filtering at AncestryDNA
Company Compatibility: AncestryDNA
Operating System(s): Any OS with Chrome

MedBetterDNA is an “extension” for the Chrome internet browser that works on your AncestryDNA match list. An extension is like a layer over a webpage that adds functionality to the original site. The best ones are completely transparent; aside from the new features, you won’t even notice they’re there. In fact, I often forget that MedBetterDNA is installed until I use a different browser; then, I wonder what’s wrong. It’s that good!


MedBetterDNA adds two great features to AncestryDNA.

First, it makes the text of your “notes” visible in your main match list. The screenshot below shows four of my AncestryDNA matches with and without MedBetterDNA. Without the extension, a small icon tells me that I’ve added notes to those matches’ profiles, but I have to click on each icon individually to read the information. With MedBetterDNA, I can see all of the notes for all of my matches right in the list. It’s so easy to scan quickly through the page to see ancestral names, locations, or other features of interest.

Second, MedBetterDNA adds custom filtering to your match page. Here’s the same list as above, filtered to only show matches with the hashtag “#maternal” in the notes. My paternal cousins Anna, Caroline, and Edward have been filtered out, and my maternal cousins have risen to the top of the list. You can also filter based on whether the match has been starred, whether they have a tree, and the confidence level.

Unfortunately, MedBetterDNA only works at AncestryDNA, not at the other testing sites.


How do you get MedBetterDNA? First, you must be using the Chrome internet browser. MedBetterDNA won’t work Firefox or Internet Explorer or any other browser. Just Chrome. Then again, extensions like this one are a good reason to switch to Chrome, if you haven’t already.

To install MedBetterDNA, open your Chrome internet browser and click this link to go to the Chrome Web Store. You’ll see the specs on MedBetterDNA (notice the near-perfect 5-star rating!), and a blue button to “Add to Chrome”. Click that button.

You’ll see a pop-up alerting you that the extension can change what you see at AncestryDNA. That’s what we want it to do! Click “Add Extension”.

You’ll get a notification that MedBetterDNA has been added.

MedBetterDNA Notes

Now head on over to AncestryDNA, specifically your list of matches. You won’t notice anything different at first. Here’s the entry for my 2nd cousin Rob. The “note” icon beside his name means that I’ve previously viewed my match to him and entered information into the notes field. To see the note right now, I have to click the icon.

Let’s fix that. In Chrome, go to your match list at AncestryDNA, and right-click anywhere on the page. You’ll get a pop-up that lists, among other things, MedBetterDNA. Hover your cursor over MedBetterDNA to get a second pop-up, then click “always show Notes”.

The page should reload automatically, and you’ll see something new. Here’s what Rob looks like now:

My note for him is visible! In fact, my notes for all of my matches are now visible, without the need to click on the note icons. So simple, yet so very helpful!

MedBetterDNA Filters

The MedBetterDNA submenu has a series of filters that are pretty self-explanatory.

You can show or hide matches based on features already built-in to AncestryDNA, such as whether you’ve “starred” them, the confidence level of the match, or whether they have trees.

The real gem, though, is harder to see. Recall that my note for Cousin Rob had hashtags: “#maternal #hebert, #messaged 2/27/18”. MedBetterDNA can filter based on those hashtags. But first, I have to configure them.

The number of possible hashtags is limited only by your imagination, but you will need to tell MedBetterDNA which ones to use. It can filter on up to 8 ‘show only’ and 8 ‘remove all’ criteria at a time.

If you try to filter without first designating the hashtags to use, MedBetterDNA will tell you that your eight filter slots are “unused”.

To fix that, right-click again to get to the MedBetterDNA submenu. This time, select either “Customize hashtag Notes filters” or “Configure options”. (They do the same thing.)

A new tab will open in your browser, and towards the middle, you’ll see a set of eight fields for “Show only entries with these hashtags in Notes” and below that eight fields for “Remove all entries with these hashtags in Notes”. You can enter any hashtags you like into those 16 fields. They should be one word (no spaces). You can use the same hashtags for the ‘show only’ and ‘remove all’ filters, or you can use different ones. You’ll have to experiment to see what works best for you.

Currently, I’m using filters for my maternal and paternal sides, my four grandparent surnames, and a couple of other criteria.

I used the same filters for the ‘remove all’ list. Before I leave this page, I need to scroll to the bottom and click SAVE.

To use the filters, go back to your AncestryDNA match list and reload the page. Select a few matches and add some hashtags to experiment with. Remember to put the number or pound sign (#) immediately before the filter word, e.g., #maternal.

Now, go back to your match list, right-click, select “show only with Notes hashtag”, and pick one of the hashtags you defined.

You should now only see the matches on that page for whom you’ve added the #maternal hashtag to the notes. Alternately, I could have also opted to ‘remove all’ #paternal matches. If I wanted more precision, I could ‘show only’ #maternal but remove those with the #hebert hashtag to focus on a different line.

Cajun aside: Hébert is one of the most common surnames in south-central Louisiana, and one of the most commonly mispronounced outside of the region. If you’re hearing HEE-burt in your head, please stop that nonsense right this minute. It’s AYE-bear. Now you know!

Play around with the filters to get a feel for what they can do.

Some suggestions:

  • Add #maternal or #paternal to every match you can place. If you’re adopted and don’t know which side they’re on, you can use #sideA and #sideB until you get more information.
  • Use the ‘remove all’ filter for both #maternal and #paternal at the same time to quickly find matches who haven’t been tagged yet.
  • For matches with Shared Ancestor Hints, tag them based on side (#maternal or #paternal) and the surname(s) of the shared ancestors.
  • For key cousins, use AncestryDNA‘s “Shared Matches” feature to quickly pull up relatives on that line for tagging.
  • Use emojis at the beginning of the notes field for quick visual insights into which line the match is on. For example, you can use four colors of hearts (?????) to represent your four grandparent lines. (Hat tip to Crista Cowan for this idea, and to Randy Whited for reminding me about it!)


The main limitation of MedBetterDNA is that it only works on one page of 50 matches at a time. If you filter out 20 matches on your first page at AncestryDNA, MedBetterDNA does not pull another 20 matches from page 2 to fill in the page. (That’s a requested feature, so perhaps it will be added to a later version of the extension.)

When you’re done filtering, remember to turn off the filters. If you don’t, matches may be hidden from view without you realizing it. To quickly see which filters are being applied, right-click to select “Customize hashtag Notes filters” or “Configure options”. Active filters will have a blue check-box next to them.

Posts in the Series (so far):

11 thoughts on “What’s in Your Toolbox? — MedBetterDNA”

  1. I use a different color icon for each of my grandparents and put it in the notes first thing (I didn’t know about the hashtags until recently). I can tell at a glance which line my matches belong to based on the color of the icon. But even more fun, when I get an unknown match and I click on shared matches, I’m usually met with a bunch of the same colored icons, so they are probably related to me through the corresponding grandparent.

    1. Someone in a Facebook group reminded me of that trick, so I just added it to the “Suggestions” section. Thanks! It’s a great trick.

  2. I have more than one person that I work on in ancestryDNA. When I switch to another person, do I have to erase the hashtags and start over. I see the original ones are still listed when I switch to another person.

    1. Depends on the hashtags. For example, #maternal, #paternal, #messaged, etc., will apply to everyone, but if you are using specific surnames, you will need to adjust them depending on whose kit you’re viewing.

  3. Great article! I’ve been using MedBetterDNA for a while and love it. Having the notes available without a click thru is an essential timesaver. I am not a big fan of emojis or icons so have always used #pat or #mat for paternal or maternal with basic sorts and for my own kits, I use #PGF #PGM #MGF #MGM for the 4 grandparents on my first line first item of the notes. This just works better for me and I never have to check a legend to be sure what a particular icon means. Too, others who look at my notes will know what I meant and that’s important to me.

  4. I loved the idea of this and had started to use it, but it caused problems for me on Ancestry.
    My DNA connections stopped showing up. The only way I got them back was to delete this Chrome extension.
    Did anyone else experience this? I really liked these features, but they lasted less than a day. Sigh.

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