Organizing Matches with the Leeds Method

Leeds Method of DNA Match Organization

The Leeds Method is a simple and colorful way to organize your DNA matches using color coded clusters.


We here at Your DNA Guide love new ideas, especially ones that have to do with color! We are excited about Dana Leeds’ big colorful idea to organize matches. We have just provided our version of her idea here. (See link below to her idea.)

Spreadsheet showing DNA matches

The goal of the Leeds method is to help you quickly identify groups of people in your match list who are likely to share a common ancestor with each other. Grouping your matches often makes it easier to identify a common ancestor.

To use the Leeds Method, create a list of your 2nd and 3rd cousin matches. In general, these are those in your match list that share less than 400 cM of DNA but more than 90 cM. Create this list in a spreadsheet program like Excel or Numbers (for you Mac users out there!). The data used in the images here is real (the names have been changed, though).

Spread sheet of DNA matches with first match filled in

Pick a color and fill in the space next to the first match on your list.

DNA matches list with those sharing DNA colored in with the same color.

Using the Shared Matches tool, find the other matches in your match list that share DNA with that first one. Fill in the cell next to their names with the same color as the first one.

Spreadsheet of DNA matches with a second color assigned to a DNA match

Find the next person on your match list that wasn’t colored with the first color. Assign that match a different color and fill the cell in the second column with the new color.

DNA match spreadsheet with two color clusters filled in.

Using the Shared Matches tool again, fill the cell in the second column by those matches that share DNA with this second match.

DNA Match List with third color cluster added

Look down your match list and find the first person that doesn’t have either of the cells colored by it. Pick a third color and fill in the cell in the third column by that match.

DNA Match List with three cluster groups

Use the Shared Matches tool to find the other DNA matches in your list that share DNA with that match. Color the cells in the third column for those that share DNA with this match.

DNA match list with four groups assigned a color.

Look for any matches that don’t belong to the three groups you have already colored in. Assign them a new color. (Is this sounding familiar?)

DNA match list with four groups colored in.

Using the shared matches tool again, look for any matches that share DNA with this match and fill in the color in the fourth column.

Keep repeating this pattern until all of the matches in your list have at least one color assigned to them.

Keep in mind that some of your DNA matches may share DNA with more than one color group. This is ok: just color multiple cells with the corresponding colors. This is called overlap.

These colorful groups now show you the different genetic networks. Theoretically, each of the four colors should correspond to one of your four grandparents.

PLEASE please head over to Dana Leeds’ website to see her full color clustering method for DNA matches!

Do you want more information on how to use this tool? Check out our Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNA quick reference guide for all the details.