Use WikiTree to identify potential DNA matches—genetic cousins. This variation on targeted testing can help you explore whether you’re related to a specific ancestor.
In the opening scene of the animated movie Aladdin, a traveling salesman is trying to sell us a “combination hookah and coffee maker.” “It also makes julienne fries!” he claims before breaking it (as he’s trying to demonstrate its durability).
I feel like we are always looking for tools that multi-task the job of turning our DNA cousins into ancestral discoveries. Some of the best tools in this department have been developed by our testing companies. You might hear me call these “cheating tools” (giving them cart blanche in our relationships is dangerous). But still, they are very helpful.
One of the most powerful questions we can ask our DNA is, “Am I related to Ancestor Z?” If that ancestor is your 3X great grandparent or closer, autosomal DNA testing can help us answer that question.
To test our theory, we absolutely have to have other documented descendants of Z. (This is one application of what we call targeted DNA testing.) Having a quick and easy way to find others who have tested who are descendants of Z is critical. So far, the only DNA testing company that makes it relatively easy to see that kind of information is AncestryDNA’s ThruLines. Once you link your own tree to your DNA, you can click on any ancestors (who are included in ThruLines) and see others who have a) had their DNA tested, and b) have ancestor Z in their tree.
Ah, but do you see the potential problem here? What if you DON’T see any DNA matches who descend from Ancestor Z? Does that mean you aren’t related to Z? Or does it just mean that no one else has tested who has this ancestor in their tree? Without more information, it is impossible to tell which is the case.
WikiTree for DNA Matching
Enter WikiTree. Wikitree is a genealogy website that is committed to “grow an accurate single family tree that connects us all and is freely available to us all.” There are lots of great features on WikiTree. Of course, here, we will focus on the DNA features.
First of all, upload your GEDcom (family tree) file. Next, indicate which individuals on your family tree have taken a Y DNA, mtDNA, or autosomal DNA test. Indicate the testing company and username. This helps others find you as a DNA match wherever you’ve tested—just like you’re about to do with them.
The system will then use what it has been told about DNA inheritance, and use that to populate some fun features on the site.
The feature that is most exciting is under My WikiTree > DNA Confirmation. As per the description on the page, the ACA or Ancestor Confirmation Aid “reveals other descendants of your ancestors whose DNA tests could be used to scientifically confirm relationships in your family tree.”
Essentially, this is the multi-tool we need to help us find descendants of our ancestors who can test (if they haven’t already) to help us verify (or refute) our connection to a particular ancestor.
This tool is unique because it will allow us to see everyone on WikiTree who is a descendant of Z, not just those who happen to share DNA with us on one particular testing site (like you see in ThruLines). Importantly, if you see 10 descendants of your presumed 3X great grandparent who have taken a DNA test at the same company where you’ve tested, and you do NOT see them on your match list….Well, let’s just say your connection to that ancestor looks less likely.
It is important to keep two things in mind:
- You won’t share DNA with all of your cousins. In fact, you will only share DNA with about half of your 4th cousins. But if a significant number of 4th cousins have tested and you do not match any of them, that should give you pause.
- Just because you share DNA with 10 descendants of Ancestor Z, this does not mean that you have to be his descendant. There are always other explanations for shared DNA. The DNA is meant to be a hint to help you see where you can look in the paper research to verify your connection.
This is just one of the many multi-tool functions of Wikitree. It is definitely worth creating a free account and having a look around.
Grow Your Own DNA Family Tree
Ready to learn to use DNA to fill in blank spots on your family tree? Like that unknown ancestor? Take a look at our free guide, “4 Next Steps for Your DNA”.