Map DNA Matches: Shared Ancestral Locations

Diahan Southard

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Mapping out shared ancestral locations between your family tree and your DNA matches’ tree can help you zero in on the branch of the family you have in common.

“Location, Location, LOCATION!” Sounds like something you might hear from your realtor or investment advisor. However, it is also a productive chant for genetic genealogists. An age-old problem for genealogists has been the fickle surname. It can be changed, it can be misspelled, or it can morph over time into versions that are hardly recognizable as being the same as the original. Factor in blatant lying or other intentional cover-ups, as well as the 5% non-paternity rate, and surnames begin to look like a downright unreliable way of tracking our ancestors.

Location, on the other hand, is hard to fake. While you can fabricate where you came from or where you are going, when a document says that your ancestor was in a location when a document was created, that fact becomes very difficult to refute. Of course, if their body was in that location, that means their DNA was there too. So when you see an ancestor on your DNA match’s genealogy chart that is in the same or nearby location to your own ancestors, even if they don’t share the same surname, that line becomes a primary research interest.

Map ancestral locations of DNA matches

MyHeritage DNA recently joined Ancestry DNA in providing ways for us to track the ancestors of our DNA matches by location. For the tool to work at either company, you must have your public family tree attached to your DNA account (and you have to have people in it!). Then the company will look through your tree, and the tree of your match, and identify the common locations. Both companies also allow you to see all of the non-matching ancestral locations. Ancestry displays the non-matching locations of your match in orange, you in green, and the matching locations in green. MyHeritage shows the shared locations in pink, and the non-shared in grey for you and dark grey for your match.

To access this tool at AncestryDNA, click on any match that has a pedigree chart. Below the match information you will see three grey tabs. Click on Map and Locations. At MyHeritage, you will see noted on the right side of your match box if you have any location matches with a particular match.

Both companies also provide various lists of shared and non-shared locations to give you a different way to evaluate locations.

MyHeritage also lets you filter your matches by their country of birth. This is a unique feature that lets you focus on an attribute of your match that may be reflective of a particular heritage (ie German or French) that you are hoping to research. Plus, it is fun to see how international (or not!) your match list is.

If you haven’t yet, put these tools to good use as you try to work out how you are related to those individuals on your match list. Who knows, your next big discovery could be already waiting for you!

Let us guide your DNA learning

Filtering matches by location is just one of the features that Ancestry and MyHeritage offer. Learn about the other features available at these DNA testing sites and how you can make the most of them with our Quick Reference Guides. These inexpensive guides in DNA testing is a great tool to guide you along your genetic genealogy journey. 

Take me to those Quick Guides!

Originally published on November 2018 on

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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.


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