Generation of Connection with Your DNA Matches

Diahan Southard

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Your generation of connection is key to learning how you’re related to your DNA matches. It’s where you’ll find your most recent common ancestor(s) (MRCA). You and your match may have two DIFFERENT generations of connection. Don’t worry, we’ve got an easy explanation!

Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.What is the generation of connection?

Your generation of connection with your DNA matches is the place where your family trees intersect. It’s where you’ll find the identity of your shared most recent common ancestor (MRCA). For example, second cousins share great grandparents. The great grandparent generation is their generation of connection.

Relationships to DNA matches aren’t always so straightforward, though, because a lot of us aren’t on the same generational line. Take a look at the chart below.

Generation of connection Sunny (4).png

Shown here are descendants of Alex and Ana, via their children Bella and Boris. The generation of connection for all of them is the generational level at which all the lines converge. For Dora, her generation of connection to the others is at the great grandparent level. (This is also the case for Derek, Donna and Dane.)

But look over at Fifi, in the bottom right corner, who was born two generations after Dora. Fifi’s generation of connection to Dora is the 3x great grandparent level—two generations further distant. She’s a removed cousin, meaning that she’s not on the same generational level.

This is important because when you see Fifi as your DNA match, and her family tree only goes back to her great grandparents, you won’t see your generation of connection, which is two more generations back on her side.

The point is that you can recognize that the reason you don’t see a connection between your trees is that Fifi is removed from you. You need to push her genealogy back further to find your generation of connection in her family tree. In this case, you’d have a clue if Cristo’s surname is the same as Alex’s, as a male-line descendant—you could start with Cristo’s parents and grandparents—and then you’d discover your generation of connection.

Finding YOUR generation of connection

Your DNA Guide—the Book has charts to help you identify the generation of connection for various DNA matches, depending on whether you think they are on an older, younger, or the same generational line as you. (There are tricks for figuring this out, which I also explain in Your DNA Guide—the Book.)

Determining your generation of connection can lead you to your common ancestors—and the place on your trees where you and your DNA match connect. If you have a mystery ancestor on this generation, and your DNA match’s tree reveals their names, you may have just solved your genealogy brick wall.

Your turn!

It’s your turn to do the DNA. Check out our free download to learn what your next steps to take with your DNA test.

Download Free Guide: 4 Next Steps with Your DNA

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<a href="" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


  1. Kathy Noble

    I sounds so easy!
    But when you have the tree of one of your “unknown ancestor couples”, how do you work out where the connection is, when you aren’t in that tree?
    Do you make another tree of your own family with your unknown ancestor and place it beside the other tree and line them up together to match as best you can the dates of birth of each generation?
    But then how do you know which one of that generation (or earlier) is either the direct father, or grandfather or g-g-grandfather of your unknown ancestor?
    And especially if you can’t find a marriage as it’s too far back between your 2 “unknown ancestor couples”?
    Or if one is an illegitimate child?
    Thanks for any help with this one!

    • Danielle Francis

      Hi Kathy, this process does get more complicated when you are trying to identify your generation of connection with a mystery match. The trick is to “reverse engineer” the process using shared cM and your birth years to estimate the most likely relationships. From there you will often have to do genealogy to build out your matches’ trees to see if you can find familiar surnames and/or locations. We recommend building genetic networks ( so you can gather more information about people who are related to you through a similar line. Here’s another article that explains more about the process: Our book also goes in depth with a step-by-step walk through of how to find the generation of connection under different circumstances (

  2. Ed Evans

    Where did I get the Cherokee DNA ?

  3. Robin M

    Is “your generation of connection” the same thing as MRCA (most recent common ancestor)?


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