What is a genetic network? Here’s how genetic networks apply to your DNA matches and how they can topple your genealogy brick walls by finding your missing ancestors and solving family history mysteries!
Why do people (especially science people) use big words to describe simple concepts?
I do not have an answer to this bigger question, but I can tell you that a genetic network is just a group of people who share DNA. And it’s essential to your genetic genealogy research.
I want you to start thinking about your DNA match list in terms of these genetic groups. An essential characteristic of these groups is that in order to be included, you have to have a membership. Your membership is the shared DNA you have with at least one other person in that group.
How to create a genetic network
So how do we find these groups?
Let’s start with a simple exercise. Think about your two sets of biological grandparents: one from mom and one from dad. So as long as these grandparents aren’t related to each other, we could split your match list into TWO genetic networks: one representing each of the two grandparent couples.
Likewise, we could divide your match list into FOUR groups, one for each of your four great grandparent couples. Do you see where I am going with this?
Using the Shared Matches tool to create genetic networks
OK, so now that you are thinking in terms of these groups, you may be wondering how it is that you form these groups. While it can get complicated, it starts very simply: with the Shared Matches tool, a tool that comes with your AncestryDNA test results. The Shared Matches tool acts like a filter on your DNA match list. It shows you only individuals who share DNA with you and one other match.
Here’s a good example: If you use the Shared Matches tool on your first cousin Trent, who is related on your mom’s side, then all the matches on the list will be related to you on your mom’s side. And viola! Just like that you have TWO genetic networks. One made of people sharing with Trent (your mom’s side), and one of people not sharing with Trent (your dad’s side).
To divide this list into four networks (one for each of your four great grandparent couples) is a bit more complicated, but operates on the same principle. I teach step-by-step instructions for this in Your DNA Guide—the Book, the ultimate do-it-yourself DNA manual. But the short of it is, you need second cousins who descend from each of your four great grandparent couples to help you break up your match list into these four groups. Once you learn how to divide your genetic networks, you can just keep dividing them up in each generation, multiplying them as you go.
Creating genetic networks in this way paves the way for you to use specific DNA matches to help you identify an unknown ancestor or ancestral couple! Or even to answer questions such as, “Was my 2x great grandfather the biological parent of my great grandmother, or was he an adoptive/step father? If he wasn’t the birth father, who was?” Again, Your DNA Guide—the Book offers step-by-step guidance. And it does so in everyday, plain English—not overblown science terms that will have you crossing your eyes and deciding to explore Netflix instead of your family history.
You CAN do the DNA! And we are here to help.
We have lots of resources to share with you as you learn to “do the DNA” yourself. Get started with our short and sweet Quick Guide “Finding an Ancestor Using Your DNA”. This four-page guide walks you through your DNA results, starting with building your own genetic network. What are you waiting for? Get your copy today!