A Comparison of Tools to Download Ancestry Matches

Are you wondering how to download your matches and shared matches from Ancestry? This article compares and contrasts differing tools to download Ancestry matches.

[Update 16 June 2020: Ancestry has stopped third party tools from downloading matches. The tools described here will continue to work with other DNA sites where specified.]

Running Your Own Download To Excel Spreadsheets

Although Ancestry has stopped third party tools that connect to their website, you can easily copy your matches with a little bit of manual work. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

We have a step-by-step tutorial on how to download your Ancestry matches to Excel. This includes a spreadsheet template that formats your matches with their tree size and other details.

The method doesn’t include shared matches, but you get a lot of info for a little effort.

DNA Match Manager from Heirloom Software (Free)

This application is free, fast, easy to use, and it works. In February 2020 I downloaded 2,800 matches in just under three minutes. The more matches you want, the longer it will take.

The major downside is that the data you get is very limited. You will likely decide immediately if it will suit your needs by looking at this list:

Match NameCMSegmentsAdmin NameGender

There is no information about trees, and no download of shared matches (also known as ICW). That’s why its faster than other methods.

On the upside, it also downloads match information from the other major DNA test sites (I haven’t tried those.)

Pedigree Thief Chrome Extension (Free)

Pedigree Thief is no longer functional with Ancestry. It was built to export genealogy data into tools such as Genome Mate Pro and Gedcom, but it used to also export your matches and shared matches to files.

Lengthy Downloads

Like the DNA Match Manager, a download of basic match information takes minutes. The basic data includes: match name, admin name, cMs, segments, gender and match ID.

But its the shared match download that both gives you the shared match list and fills in the rest of the info such as tree data. The documentation says it can do about 480 matches per hour for the full download. I achieved a speed of about 420 matches per hour once I made sure I had shut down other activity on my computer.

The extension gives you the option of setting a cM threshold to limit your download, although the upper limit seems to be 20 cM. It’s safe to say that if you want a high volume download, it will take some days to process.

Raw Unvarnished Data

When you choose the option of downloading shared matches, the full data includes match details, linked tree information and ethnicity. This is what’s in the match file:

match nameCMsegmentsadmin name
tree size tree url* alt tree surnames*
hint gender notes ethnicity

Tree sizes are given for both linked and unlinked public trees, but the tree url only appears for linked trees – as of course the list of ancestry surnames. (I can’t figure out what “alt tree” field represents, from either the data or the instructions).

Pedigree Thief shared matches

This is what the shared match file looks like:
Yes, it has two columns – the match ID and the shared match ID.

Every match in the match file has its unique ID, which is the reference for these fields in the shared match file. This is great for loading into other tools, but not helpful if you want to browse your shared matches in a readable spreadsheet format. You can either use technical skills to combine these two files in some way, or read on for more options.

DNAGedcom Client from DNAGedcom (Paid Subscription, No Trial)

DNAGedcom logo

This desktop application requires a paid subscription to download your matches. You can pay $5 for the lowest pricing (Silver), and you get a lot of bang for your buck. (We are not an affiliate for this product).

The application also downloads from other major DNA test sites, but this round-up focuses on Ancestry.

The software is far less user-friendly than Heirloom’s offering, but it offers far more functionality

It downloads your DNA match details, tree information, ethnicity, and lists of shared matches (ICW). Here’s the core data list:

match nameCMsegmentsconfidenceadmin name
match urlcreate datetree sizetree urlnotes
viewedstarredimage urlprofile url

You can optionally get ethnic regions and ethnic trace regions.

Unfortunately there are three fields in the core match data that are currently blank (please drop a comment if this changes): “last login”, “member since”, and “private tree”. The loss of the public/private tree indicator is a major blow. Hopefully it’ll be back working in the future.

The “ancestor” file is another optional download, which gives you an extract of tree entries for the direct ancestors in linked trees of your matches.

The other optional download is the ICW file, which is a list of shared matches for each of your matches (at the CM range you’ve chosen). ICW stands for “In Common With”, which is the same as a “shared match”.

Lengthy Downloads

The unavoidable cost of all this great data is that the download times are significant for a high number of matches. We’re talking hours, and some people report days for a massive download.

There’s another downside from lengthy download times: the software is more likely to hit a sporadic Ancestry “glitch”, and you may have to stop and restart the application. Thankfully, it’s clever enough to restart from its last successful match. Perseverance should get you to the finish line.

Raw Unvarnished Data

What you get with a successful download is raw data in comma-delimited files. So you’ll probably want to load the files into spreadsheets, and do some further manipulation to get a user-friendly format.

The next two options we mention may appear when you search for tools to download Ancestry matches. Neither work at time of writing.

Ancestry Match Downloader Chrome Extension (Free, not working as of February 2020)

This chrome extension is not currently working. See here for details.

Drop us a comment if the situation changes.

AncestryDNA Helper Chrome Extension (Discontinued)

This chrome extension is still available in the Chrome store at time of writing, but it is no longer working. The developer has stated it is no longer being supported. Read here for the background.

Looking for a full guide to building your Ancestry tree?

Check out our e-book on building your family tree with Ancestry.com. It’s available on Amazon now! Content includes:

  • Setting up your DNA-linked tree
  • Using your tree to find connections with DNA matches
  • Best practices for entering names, dates, and locations
  • Strategies for getting the most benefit from Hints
  • Tips for using powerful Search features

If you would like to watch some short video tutorials that walk through using Ancestry features step-by-step, browse through the DataMiningDNA YouTube channel.

Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

16 thoughts on “A Comparison of Tools to Download Ancestry Matches”

  1. Have you looked at the app DNA2Tree using IPad/IPhone? It sounds like it does the same things and creates a graph/builds a tree from your MCRA.

      • I just tried it, and it does work (as of today). It is limited in what it can do, especially with respect to exporting data. However, it is nice to be able to get a good cluster diagram from Ancestry with it (even if you can only take a screenshot of it, not export it as a spreadsheet).

  2. The Shared Clustering application is free.

    Download speeds vary based on the number of shared matches, If you don’t download shared matches, downloading just the match info for 2800 matches should take seconds rather than minutes.

    Main download page and top of documentation: https://github.com/jonathanbrecher/sharedclustering/wiki

    Instructions for exporting just the data on matches (no shared match or cluster info): https://github.com/jonathanbrecher/sharedclustering/wiki/Export-tab

  3. Excellent to hear another company out there providing DNA services. I read the article and will be fixing the private / public tree. With as much as DNA companies change things, that slipped through our radar. I know we have the data in our database, so should be a matter of fixing the output. The last login and member since USED to be more easily available, but since was moved. We left the columns there for historical purposes. We CAN get to that data, but haven’t heard anyone particularly interested in it, so we haven’t yet.

    DNAGedcom is working on “clean up” routines that will massage the data a bit more. I’d love to see an example output so I can recommend you to our user group.

    • I think Blaine Bettinger did some analysis on how active on ancestry his matches were, based on “last login” and “member since”. But the problem with “last login” is that it doesn’t really represent people’s usage, as they can stay continually logged in and never look at their results again. So I’m not surprised that people aren’t interested, I wasn’t either.

      Great to hear the public/private tree field will be fixed. I really appreciate you dropping in to comment.

    • Are you referring to the application mentioned in Jonathan Brecher’s comment? I hadn’t seen the app, so I look forward to trying it out.

    • Thank you for posting, I will certainly give it a spin. I’ve got two other applications to take a look at, and I want to give proper attention to each one. So I think I’ll try Genetic Affairs next week, I look forward to it.


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