GEDmatch Review – Best And Worst Features

GEDmatch is a website that accepts DNA results from the major testing companies. This gives users access to more DNA relatives who tested with other companies.

The GEDmatch website also has a diverse collection of tools to analyze your DNA results in different ways. Some of the features are similar to Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage, and other sites. But GEDmatch also has some unique tools that you won’t find elsewhere.

If you’re looking for tutorials, check out our guide on how to use GEDmatch.

Read on for a review of the best features on the website. We also cover features that don’t work well or are better on alternative sites.

Pricing Plan

Nearly half the tools on GEDmatch are available with free membership.

And these are the tools you will use most often. They include your list of DNA relatives and your shared matches.

Free versus paid membership

Below is a summary of what’s available at the free level and the paid level. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize what some of the features mean. I’ll explain in more detail later in this review.

FREE TIERWHAT IT DOESPAID TIERWHAT IT DOES
One To Many (Basic)DNA relatives list (Top 3000)One To Many (Full)Unlimited DNA relatives
Match 1 Or Both KitsShared matchesOne To One (Q Version)More accurate
One To OneOne-To-One chromosome browserSegment SearchFor triangulation
Archaic DNA MatchesCollections of ancient specimensTriangulationMore triangulation tools
Admixture CalculatorsAncient ethnicity calculatorsMultiple Kit AnalysisChromosome browsers
Ancestor ProjectsCommunity collaboration groupsLazarusRecreate an ancestor
3-D Chromosome BrowserCompare 3-10 kits in a 3D displayEvil TwinDNA not inherited from parent
Are Your Parents Related?Checks for endogamySuperkitMore accurate kits
Match ClustersPossibly have same ancestor
Find Common AncestorsAnalysis of match trees
Find Surname MatchesAnalysis of match trees

Paid tier

The paid tier on GEDmatch costs $10 per month. You can pay for a single month and never use the paid tier again.

I really like the fact that the payment isn’t on an auto-renewal basis. You don’t have to cancel your payment plan. Instead, you choose to make another payment to get another month’s paid access.

Is the paid tier worth it?

The paid tier gives you access to a second set of tools and features. Some will be useful, and others may be of no benefit to you. This largely depends on your DNA matches.

For example, the “Lazarus” tool is of no use to me because I don’t have close family who have DNA tested. I don’t have the option of testing my parents, so the “Evil Twin” tool also won’t work for me.

As I’m not an American of European descent, I have less 2nd-4th cousins than many GEDmatch users. The “Clusters” tool gives me no results, and the “Find Common Ancestors” tool isn’t great either.

Users who get the most benefit from these GEDmatch tools will have:

  • Hundreds of DNA matches at 20 cM and above (Clusters)
  • DNA kits for one or both parents (Phasing, Lazarus, Evil Twin)

Suppose you don’t fall into either category. Does this mean you shouldn’t bother trying the paid tier?

Well, there’s one paid tier tool that I rate as being a massive benefit to every user: Segment Search.

My highest-rated paid tier tool

Let’s say you run the free One-To-One tool on a match and find that you share DNA on one segment on the 6th chromosome pair.

The paid Segment Search tool will show you all your other matches that share the same piece of DNA.

segment search showing five matches sharing dna on 6th chromosome pair

You don’t get this power on Ancestry.com or 23andMe. You can now start using a technique known as triangulation. The goal is to identify a group of matches who all descend from the same ancestor.

This is intermediate-level usage, but I’ve got a step-by-step tutorial on using triangulation on GEDmatch.

How I Rate The Free Tools On GEDmatch

I have membership with Ancestry.com, 23andMe, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA. And that’s not the full list!

You’ve probably tested with one of these four sites, and you’re wondering if it’s worth uploading your results to GEDmatch for the free tools.

My best advice is to tell you how often I use each of the free GEDmatch features, and which tool requires a bit of effort to figure out how it works.

Here is a summary table of how I use these tools, and the level of expertise I think is needed to get good use of them.

GEDmatch Tool NameHow Often I Use This ToolEase Of Use
One To ManyI use this weeklyBeginner
Match 1 Or Both KitsI use this weeklyBeginner
One To OneI use this twice a monthIntermediate
Archaic DNA MatchesSpent a day reviewing results for funBeginner
Admixture CalculatorsSpent a month reviewing resultsIntermediate
Ancestor ProjectsI dip into this once a quarterBeginner
3-D Chromosome BrowserSome love this display, I don’t!Intermediate
Are Your Parents RelatedUsed onceBeginner

Beginner Level: One-To-Many Tool & Shared Matches

The One To Many Tool gives you your list of DNA relatives in the GEDmatch database. Like the other websites, it’s ordered in descending of centimorgans i.e. how close or distant the relationship is to you.

The free tier cuts out at 3,000 matches, while the paid tier is unlimited.

I check the list on a weekly basis for interesting new DNA matches. GEDmatch has a coloring system that highlights the recently uploaded kits.

Why are these tools beginner level?

I rate the One-To-Many and Shared Match features as beginner tools. This is because you will probably have used the same features on the website where you did your DNA test.

So, you already understand the concepts. The GEDmatch display is on similar lines as the other websites.

Drawbacks

One drawback of the free tier is that you can’t change the sort order to the date the kit was added. The paid tier lets you sort and search on different columns.

Another drawback is that the display is cluttered with columns that provide obscure information. That means plenty of scrolling – use the biggest monitor that you have available!

Advantages over other sites

The whopping advantage that GEDmatch offers is that the tools are not exclusive to your own DNA kit.

When you look at your DNA relatives list on Ancestry or 23andMe, you’re only seeing your relatives.

GEDmatch lets you pick any DNA kit in their database and view the match list.

How is that useful? I’ll give you an example. I had an interesting match with a family tree, but I had no idea whether to look at her paternal branches or her maternal line. Let’s call her Susan.

Well,  her mother’s kit was also on GEDmatch. I didn’t know this by looking at my own list. But when I looked at Susan’s list, her top DNA match was a female at about 3,700 cM. This could have been Susan’s daughter but a few clues in the user names told me it was her mother.

So, I immediately knew which half of Susan’s family tree was my focus for review.

Shared Match Tool

The One-To-Many and the Shared Matches feature go hand-in-hand for me. So, I use both tools on a weekly basis.

This is how I use Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage. I look at an interesting match, and then I pull up our list of shared matches.

GEDmatch has an advantage when you’re looking at two kits this way. It also shows you which matches that the other kit does not have in common with you.

How is this useful? Well, it’s the same benefit as I mentioned in my example of looking at the full match list for the kit.

To follow with that example, I would see Susan’s mother in the second display that shows me which of her matches don’t match with me.

Two Free GEDmatch Tools That Are Great For Beginners

These two free tools on GEDmatch are great for beginners who are starting to learn about centimorgans and segments:

  • Archaic DNA Matches
  • Ancestor Projects

Archaic DNA matches

The Archaic project is a collection of DNA samples that were discovered at various archaeological digs across the world. These include Neanderthal specimens, early Hunter-Gatherers, and ancient African samples.

We have a tutorial on how to compare your kit to Neanderthal and Archaic DNA Matches on GEDmatch. This is a fun exercise that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Ancestor projects

Ancestor projects are groups of GEDmatch users who want to collaborate on specific research interests.

The projects are very varied. They range from people of Canadian heritage to users who share a specific Irish surname. We have a guide to using the GEDmatch ancestor projects.

Are The Free Chromosome Browsers Worth The Effort?

There are two different chromosome browsers available with the free membership. If you’re coming from Ancestry, you may not have used a browser before.

These tools don’t just tell you how many centimorgans you share. They show you the positions right down at the chromosome level. It’s well worth taking a bit of time and practice to understand the browser displays.

The One-To-One Tool is a great place to start. It’s easier to understand the display when there are just two kits involved.

The other free chromosome browser is the 3D version which lets you compare DNA across multiple kits.

Personally, I find the 3D display a little confusing. I much prefer the 2D versions available at the paid level.

3d chromosome browser display

Are The Paid Tools Worth The Cost And Effort?

Ten dollars gives you a month of access to a diverse set of specialist projects.

Most of the paid tools require a bit of effort to learn how to use them. I’ve already mentioned that I consider the Segment Search tool to be worth the cost alone.

But what about the other projects? Here’s my pick of the best paid features:

  • Better One-To-Many tool
  • More 2D chromosome browsers
  • Superkits

The extra filtering and search facilities on the One To Many match tool will make your day-to-day or weekly research easier.

The extra 2D chromosome browsers give you more choice for visualization style. Personally, I prefer the one based on Kitty Cooper’s spreadsheet-style browser.

If you’ve DNA tested with multiple companies, then you can get slightly better accuracy with a super kit. You just need to pay once to use this feature. You still have your superkit when you drop down to free membership.

Ethnicity Features On GEDmatch Are Very Different

Most of the DNA testing companies provide an ethnicity breakdown that attempts to estimate your ethnic heritage within the last few hundred years.

It’s important to understand that GEDmatch ethnicity features attempt to provide estimates going back thousands of years.

If you’re trying to use ethnicity features to guide research of your family tree, then GEDmatch isn’t a good choice.

However, if you’re interested in how ancient migrations are represented in your DNA, then you’ll love exploring the many different admixture calculators.

How Does GEDmatch Compare With Other Sites For DNA Matches?

We estimate that GEDmatch has over 1.4 million DNA kits, just behind FamilyTreeDNA.

The GEDmatch DNA database is considerably smaller than Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage. (You can find a full review of DNA database sizes here).

However, Ancestry and 23andMe don’t allow uploads from other sites.

MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA are like GEDmatch in that they allow uploads.

But the big advantage of GEDmatch is that the website shows you where your DNA match comes from. So, you’ll know if the kit was transferred from Ancestry or 23andMe, etc.

If the kit owner keeps the same name, you can often recognize them on other sites. This becomes very handy when they have a good family tree

How Does GEDmatch Compare With Other Sites For Family Trees?

GEDmatch has the poorest family tree features of the major DNA sites.

You can upload your family tree to GEDmatch, but you can’t edit it on the website. The family tree display is in a spidery text format that isn’t easy to read.

This is probably part of the reason why many of your DNA matches do not have family trees on GEDmatch.

However, people who take the trouble of transferring their DNA to GEDmatch may be very interested in their genealogy hobby. They are likely to have family trees elsewhere.

It’s worth contacting DNA matches to ask if they have a public tree on sites like Ancestry or MyHeritage.

Continuing Improvements To The GEDmatch Website

The GEDmatch website was originally set up by two hobbyists as a personal project. As the years went by, it was beginning to look very dated!

When the website was purchased by new owners Verogen, many hoped to see changes to make the display more user-friendly.

In 2021, the website was given a facelift. The biggest changes are to the Home page, making the site a little easier to navigate.

However, the spreadsheet-style displays are still not as user-friendly as other modern websites. For example, you can’t hide or drag columns to focus on the most useful information.

I advise that you work with GEDmatch on the biggest monitor you can get your hands on! The experience will be a lot better.

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