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How to use your DNA Results in Irish Research

Well, based on the number of people who read my blogs over the past two weeks, I'm going to assume you're all experts in DNA! For those that aren't expert yet (and that includes me) here are two suggestions on how you can take your results and use them to identify matches in Ireland (or descendants of your Irish families)?

Last week I discussed moving your results to all of the various website to play in the big pool, rather than just the pool of your testing company. One of the places to move your results (and the results of those family members you manage with their permission) is to GEDmatch. Over the past year and a half, there has been lots of discussion of GEDmatch since their site was the first one to be identified as assisting law enforcement with the identification of the Golden State Killer. No matter how you feel about this, you should know that at the present time, everyone in the GEDmatch database is opted OUT of law enforcement matching unless you specifically opt in. The other company involved with law enforcement matching is FamilyTree DNA and in their case you need to specifically opt out. In both cases you have a choice. There are lots of places where you can read in more detail about law enforcement use of DNA, but I want to mention it, because both of these companies are important when using some of the Irish matching sites.

FamilyTree DNA has a large presence in Ireland as they were one of the earliest companies to offer testing there. If you've done atDNA testing somewhere other than FamilyTree DNA you can move your results to their site. FamilyTree DNA offers lots of different projects, for surnames, geographic areas and specific Y-DNA and mtDNA projects (you have to test at FamilyTree DNA for both of these tests). Open your results and begin by selecting "My Projects" then "Join a Project."

You can then search or browse the lists to see what might be the best project(s) for you.

Once you've joined a project, from your dashboard, select "Advanced Matches" then click on FamilyFinder. From the drop down menu select which project you want to match and click Run Report.

Even though some of the projects specify Y-DNA, many projects will take atDNA results as well. My husband's mother was a Daly, but since his surname is Moughty, a Y-DNA test doesn't work for him on the Daly line. I have tested 2 Daly male cousins who carry the surname, but my husband and his maternal aunt are also in the project.

Not a lot of close matches (except for his aunt) but you never know when a new tester might be the one you're waiting for! You can join as many projects as are appropriate. In each case with Advanced Matches you are only being compared to other individuals who have also joined the project. The first benefit is that the people who have done this are interested...they're trying to find you, too. Second, even if you don't have a close match, it might isolate the geography to assist in your research.

If you are going to use any of these resources, I'd like to encourage you to make sure you have at least a basic tree uploaded or can refer people to your online tree. The example below is NOT helpful! All our research is based on time and place, so PLEASE add not only names of deceased individuals, but also dates and places (even estimates if you don't have the exact information).

Back to GEDmatch. There are multiple reasons why you want to have your results here. First, like FamilyTree DNA, people who placed their information here are interested in finding you. Second, it has a chromosome browser, so if you've tested at Ancestry (which doesn't have this feature) you can use DNAPainter (more on that in the future). And third, you can utilize the Matchbox feature through Facebook Groups. For your Irish research, number 3 is the big winner!

Are you a member of the IrishDNA Registry on Facebook? That's where I first started. There is a tool called Matchmaker which is used on Facebook to match your DNA results from GEDmatch to others in the Facebook Group. The Irish DNA Registry is the largest, and covers all of Ireland. There are, however, separate Facebook DNA pages for counties and even surnames. This tool is not only used in Ireland, but in many locations around the world. Here is a list of the current Matchmaker Groups.

My husband's Daly family came from County Mayo, which has both a Genealogy Facebook page and a Mayo DNA page. Don't confuse not attempt to post general information on the DNA's only for Matchmaker. The instructions for each of the sites are very specific (and not always the same). Before you do anything read all of the instructions. If you have questions, direct them to the Group Administrator.

The first thing you need to do is request membership in the group. Because of privacy concerns these are closed groups. It's simply a matter of filling out a request and answering a couple of questions. What is your GEDmatch number? (You can't join until you have transferred your DNA results to GEDmatch.) Where were your ancestors in that particular county? What surnames are you searching? The Administrator will check your answers and you'll receive a notification that your request has been approved.

Next you open the Matchmaker tool (which is a Google Docs Spreadsheet and make a copy. Go to your GEDmatch account and run the "One to Many DNA Comparison" not the Beta. Select and copy the entire page, and return to the Matchmaker tool and paste. The instructions are there in the spreadsheet. Give it some time. It will paste in the results and then match them with other on that site and give you a list of your matches (if you continue to see the instruction overlay your spreadsheet, it's not finished yet...keep waiting).

The above image is what the spreadsheet looks like. After you select your entire GEDmatch spreadsheet (including text and titles) you come back here and paste. You don't select any cell just paste. The spreadsheet knows what to do! Even if you have hundreds of matches when it's finished you'll only have a list of the matches with other people in that Matchmaker set. You can do this for multiple sites but each time start from the don't reuse the spreadsheet from another site.

The final step is a Facebook post. Give your GEDmatch number, the surnames in that area, the locations and then tag all of the individuals by Facebook name. The last step is very important. Unless you tag the individuals they will not know they have a match. I don't go out to all of the sites on a regular basis. I only check when I receive a tag.

Here are some other suggestions. Don't bother tagging individuals with less than 10 cM. As you can see above, even someone with a 15 cM match is almost 5 generations removed. It's pretty hard to get back 5 generations on many Irish lines. You'll get a flurry of activity initially, then it will fall off. Re-run your matches every so often as new people are being added all the time. Keep track of your responses and only post new matches. This is also a time to point out how important it is to research all your collateral lines. That will give you the possibility of recognizing a name.

So that's two additional ways to use your DNA results that focus specifically on your Irish ancestors. If you haven't already done so, I hope you have a chance to try them out. Leave a comment on your experience.

Happy Hunting!

There is lots going on! Stock up on your DNA kits. Ancestry and MyHeritage summer promotions end tonight. FamilyTree DNA has one more week.

You can check my DNA Links and Resources page here.

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Unknown member
Oct 05, 2019

That's a really difficult time frame. I'd look for local histories which may not name your ancestors, but will tell you something about what was happening in that time. Also check out resources like William Roulston's Researching Scots-Irish (click on Links and Resources, Scots-Irish)


Glad to finally contact someone in the north of Ireland. I've worked my Genealogy back to my 7th great grandfather Joseph Rogers in 1666 in Londonderry, Derry and have much of us here in the tree in the US, Aside from that, I don't know where to go to learn about Rogers there.


Unknown member
Aug 28, 2019

Donna, glad to hear it's working for you. I'm still hoping for a match in Donegal that helps me identify my ancestor. They were in northern Leitrim, but I discovered them buried in the Ballyshannon (Kilbarron) COI graveyard.


Donna, thank you for this week's blog. It was very helpful and I appreciate the information. I have uploaded my Ancestry DNA results to MyHeritage, GEDmatch, MyLiving DNA, and FamilyTreeDNA. I've joined the Facebook Irish DNA Registry, and County Donegal DNA Matchfinder. I belong to two German DNA Matchfinder groups along with one for Ontario, Canada and one for Southern Italy. The Co. Donegal matches are helping me narrow down an area my 2nd great grandmother was most likely from. People in all of the Facebook groups do share information, which I appreciate.


Unknown member
Aug 27, 2019

It looks like this week's blog got a bump! Any comments?

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