This is a step-by-step walkthrough on how to upload your DNA to GEDmatch. Before we get to the tutorial, we’ll look at the background of GEDmatch, and what benefits you can get from using the site. We also discuss some privacy and security aspects you should be aware of.
If you just want the tutorial, jump straight down with this link.
What is GEDmatch?
GEDmatch is a DNA analysis website that accepts uploads of raw DNA results from the major consumer DNA testing companies, including
- Living DNA
The site was purchased in 2019 by Verogen, a genomics company based in San Diego. The acquisition included the database of customer-submitted DNA results.
What Do You Get When You Upload Your DNA to GEDmatch?
GEDmatch has a free and paid set of features. I’ll touch briefly on the free features that I most enjoy. There are many other free features on the site, including admixture (ethnicity) tools.
More DNA Relatives
GEDmatch gives you a list of your DNA relatives in their database. So if you tested only with Ancestry, then you will get DNA matches coming from 23andMe or MyHeritage or the other eligible sites.
As GEDmatch customers can also upload family trees in the form of GEDCOM files, this can enhance your own tree research.
GEDmatch lets you see the shared matches of your shared DNA matches – regardless of whether these second-degree matches share DNA with you. That can be really useful for your genealogy research.
In fact, GEDmatch lets you pull up anybody’s DNA kit and see all their shared matches. Of course, the reverse is also true i.e. other GEDmatch users can run reports on your DNA kit. Does that sound somewhat alarming? Read our section on privacy and security before you submit your DNA.
This is a big draw for Ancestry and LivingDNA customers, as neither site provides a chromosome browser.
23andMe gives you your percentage of Neanderthal DNA. But GEDmatch lets you compare your DNA with a collection of ancient DNA samples found across the world.
Is It Safe To Upload DNA To GEDmatch?
GEDmatch hit the news in 2018 when the DNA database was used by the FBI to help catch the Golden State Killer. Since then, several aspects of privacy and security have been debated within the genealogical community.
GEDmatch and Law Enforcement
Verogen bought GEDmatch after its initial high-profile involvement with law enforcement agencies. But Verogen itself has a focus on using genetics for forensic investigation into criminal cases. GEDmatch continues to be used actively by law enforcement agencies as part of their investigations.
Some people do not want their DNA kits to be accessed by law enforcement investigators. GEDmatch allows you to opt out of this access when you’re signing up – and indeed, at any time afterward. However, the company is still obliged to comply with legal proceedings. As are the other DNA companies, of course.
But some companies are keener to be involved in forensic matters than others. Ancestry’s default position is to deny law enforcement requests unless there is a court order. In contrast, GEDmatch openly co-operates.
My personal conclusion is this: If I didn’t want your DNA ever to be accessed for law enforcement – I would never submit my DNA to any of these sites. You need to make up your own mind on this.
GEDmatch and Security Issues
GEDmatch suffered a major security breach in 2020. Hackers actually flipped the law-enforcement settings for a while. People who had opted-out were switched to opt-in status. The company took down the website for some days, and have fixed the security vulnerability.
I’ve written a detailed article about this GEDmatch security breach.
GEDmatch And Your Email Address
Most of the big DNA testing companies have an internal messaging system through which you make contact with your DNA relatives. You do not have direct access to the emails of your matches – unless they choose to give you the details.
GEDmatch is different. Your list of DNA relatives includes their email addresses. This is a massive benefit in many ways. You don’t have to deal with a cumbersome contact system that doesn’t always seem to work. But you may not want your main email address to be shown to all and sundry.
By default, GEDmatch displays the email you provide when you register for a free account. You can change that at any time after registration. I remember changing mine very sharp-ish when I realized how it was displayed. To be fair, I hadn’t paid enough attention to the sign-up instructions!
Optional: Set Up A Dedicated Email Before Registration
Many people use a dedicated email for GEDmatch. I can see that through my matches with emails like “[email protected]“.
If you prefer a higher level of privacy, then set up a generic email with one of the free account providers. And use that to register with GEDmatch. All communication via this email will be company notifications or messages from other GEDmatch users.
A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Upload DNA to GEDmatch
If you prefer a video walkthrough, I go through the process in this short video.
If you prefer an illustrated guide, read through the rest of this section.
Step 1: Go to the GEDmatch Website
Here is the link to the GEDmatch website. Yes, it looks like it was made by a teenager in 1990. There’s plenty of bells and whistles on the GEDmatch site, just not with the display.
Step 2: Register with an Optional Alias
If you don’t provide the optional alias, your DNA matches will see the First & Last Name you enter here.
You do need to provide a genuine email address, as the registration requires confirmation by email. Once you’ve clicked on the link that arrives into your inbox, you’ll be taken to a page congratulating you on a successful registration. Click the login link here to get back to the login page.
Step 3: Log in for the First Time
You have three options here. You can either accept the terms of service, reject them, or decide to mull this weighty matter over. Rejection will delete your data. Contemplation must be done outside the GEDmatch site, as you won’t be allowed in unless and until you accept the terms and conditions.
Step 4: Open The “Upload DNA” Page
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be on the GEDmatch home page. This is a really busy page, full of links and jargon. Don’t get overwhelmed, straight out of the gate.
On the right-hand side of the page in about the middle section, there is a link called “Generic Uploads”. That’s what you want!
The link will pop up a page that offers instructions on downloading your DNA from different DNA sites. If you’d like a tutorial for Ancestry, we’ve got a video walkthrough of downloading your raw DNA from Ancestry.com.
Step 5: Fill In Your Kit Details
The next web page asks you to fill in quite a lot of details that you may not be familiar with. Your mitochondrial haplogroup? Your Y haplogroup? Huh? Don’t worry, you won’t have this information if you tested with Ancestry or some other sites. You can leave these fields blank.
Do provide the name of your Testing company. This is really useful when you’re working with shared matches. You could be particularly interested in a DNA relative whose company where you didn’t test. But if you share matches whose testing company is the same as your own? You may be able to glean good information from their family trees on the source site.
Step 6: Fill in your Consent Details
The bottom section of this screen is important. It defines what you are opting into. This is where you can choose to opt out of the law enforcement program.
You can also opt in and out of research projects.
Step 7: Upload and Wait
When you’ve finished filling out the form, the upload button is at the bottom of the screen. This is where the website shows its age. It needs you to wait for several minutes while the progression bar runs to completion. Don’t close down the page, or you might interrupt the upload process.
A more modern piece of software wouldn’t need so much co-operation from the customer!
Keep Your GEDmatch Kit Number Handy
I’m surprised that Verogen hasn’t given the website a design overhaul since their purchase. One minor irritant for me is having to enter my Kit Number multiple times when accessing the many features.
What is your GEDmatch Kit Number?
Every DNA file that you upload to GEDmatch is assigned a unique identifier. This is known as your Kit Number. You’ll see yours displayed on the left-hand side of the home page when you log in.
This is mine.
But I also keep my kit number in a little text file on my laptop. Why? Because when you access the many different features of GEDmatch, you usually have to enter the kit number on a page where it’s not displayed.
An older version of GEDmatch used to “remember” the ID. I wish that trick would come back.
How To Get Started On GEDmatch
I suppose the question for newcomers is…where the heck do you start? There are so many links on the home page, it’s not very clear what you should do.
One-To-Many: your GEDmatch DNA match lists
Well, the first thing you probably did on your main DNA site was to look at your list of matches. GEDmatch calls these “One-To-Many” results.
You’ll find two reports under the list of DNA applications on the right-hand side of the Home page. They are the first two links.
I suggest you start with the older “One-To-Many DNA Comparison Result”. It’s a simpler report that won’t overwhelm you with information. You’ll have to enter that Kit number here.
Then open the newer “One-To-Many” report, which is labeled as beta. If you compare the reports side by side, you’ll see the newer report has more information on immediate display. In particular, you’ll get access to family tree information here – if the DNA relative has provided this.
I’m showing you a truncated version of my beta display. I want to highlight the GED/WikiTree column, as you may not be familiar with these terms. My third match has uploaded a family tree in the form of a GEDCOM file. When you click on the blue “GED” link, you’ll get a pedigree display with names of dates of deceased ancestors in this person’s tree.
So, where to from here? Pick a DNA relative, and take a look at shared matches through a one-to-one comparison.
You’ll find the One-To-One reports beneath the “One-To-Many” links in the DNA applications menu.
You will most likely be picking the “Autosomal” version, as opposed to X-DNA. If you’re coming from Ancestry, you definitely want the autosomal link.
The “One-To-One” form asks you to enter two Kit Numbers. You’ll probably be starting with your own kit as one of the pair. But it doesn’t have to be.
Where do you get the Kit Numbers? As I mentioned before, I keep my own in a handy text file. But you’ll also find it on the home page. You will grab (i.e. copy) the Kit Number from the Kit column in the One-To-Many reports.
And The Rest?
There are plenty more features to explore on GEDmatch. But hopefully, we’ve given you enough to get started.
Uploading Your Family Tree With A GEDCOM File
Have you got a public family tree on Ancestry, MyHeritage, or FamilyTreeDNA? You can transfer a copy to GEDmatch.
This article is a complete guide to downloading your Ancestry tree to a GEDCOM file.
How To Upload Your GEDCOM file to GEDmatch?
You’ll find the links on the right-hand side of the Home page, under the “Family Trees” section.
As you should expect, the details of living people are privatized.
How to Remove Your DNA From GEDmatch
Have you decided you want to delete your DNA from the GEDmatch site? You can do this at any time.
Find your Kit Number on the Home Page. It’s under “Your DNA Resources”.
The little pencil icon opens the Kit Profile Management page. The Kit Removal tab allows you to delete your DNA data from the GEDmatch website.
Enter your password, and hit the Delete button.
What Does GEDmatch Stand For?
The “GED” in GEDmatch is a shortened term for GEnealogical Data.
This is adapted from the common term for a universal file format for family trees: the Genealogical Data Communication file format. In other words, the GEDCOM format.
How Do You Pronounce GEDmatch?
If you watch our videos, you’ll probably hear me use a hard G. I’d only seen the term in written form for several years.
More recently, I’ve learned that the founder intended a soft G i.e. it sounds like jedcom.
I’m trying to get used to that! You may well hear me pronounce it both ways in the same sentence!
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