What’s in Your Toolbox?

The genetic genealogy community is both blessed and cursed with a wealth of third-party tools. Blessed because each one enhances our research beyond what we can do at the testing companies; cursed by so many choices that we are liable to stall from indecision (the Baskin-Robbins problem).

These tools come in the form of websites, stand-alone software, extensions for the Chrome internet browser, and MicroSoft Excel add-ons. Some, like McGuire Charts and the Leeds Method, are techniques more than tools. Some are free, others not. A few only work on PC computers and not Macs. They have varying uses and may or may not work with all DNA databases.

Here are some of the better known ones, with brief descriptions. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, just to give you an idea of what’s out there.

  • GEDmatch offers relative matching, a chromosome browser, the Are Your Parents Related? tool, and other features.
  • DNAPainter has three popular tools: the Shared cM Project, the Chromosome Painter, and What are the Odds?
  • RootsFinder nicely integrates tree-building software with DNA match data.
  • The DNAGedcom Client scans match data from the four main testing companies into files that you can use for other purposes.
  • Genome Mate Pro is a one-stop shop for segment data from all of the databases.
  • Genetic Affairs will email you updates on new matches and compile an “AutoCluster” of related people.
  • Extensions for the Chrome internet browser, including MedBetterDNA, DNA Match Labeling, and AncestryDNA Helper, add functionality to the AncestryDNA website.
  • McGuire Charts and the Leeds Method are techniques rather than tools; they help you depict and organize your DNA matches, respectively.
  • LucidChart is a great way to sketch out descendant trees.

This is the introductory post to a series about third-party tools for DNA-based genealogy research. Each installment will loosely track how I switch from one tool to the next in my own work.

The goals are two-fold:

  • to teach you, the reader, how and when to use these features
  • and to spur developers to consider ways to integrate individual tools into a more seamless workflow.

Of course, suggestions for how you use these and other tools are always welcome in the comments!

Posts in the Series (so far):

12 thoughts on “What’s in Your Toolbox?”

  1. Thanks for this list – now I have a few more things to waste more time on!
    I will look forward to more detailed information about some of the individual tools.

  2. Just thinking about this today–how to “coordinate” all these tools/techniques. Thanks Leah! Looking foward to your posts.

  3. I have a tool that I would love for you to look at. It attempts to determine where a DNA test taker might fit into a family tree, and is useful primarily for people who don’t know their ancestry (like adoptees). It takes as input a family tree (as a gedcom) with annotations for the DNA matches. It is expected that the tree contains interconnections between matches, and the tool and produces as output places in the tree where the tester might fit, based on the amount of shared Cms.

    It has been run more than a 1000 times, and has helped some people figure out their DNA puzzles.

    You can find it at https://www.dnamatchanalyzer.com

  4. I created several DNA probability trees on DNAPainter to nail down my adopted grandmother’s parents based on my and my bio father’s DNA matches. Is there someone, an expert, who would be willing to look at my trees and provide an opinion?

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