GEDmatch is a DNA analysis software tool with the goal of helping consumers explore their genetic genealogy using their raw DNA data obtained from other DNA testing companies (like 23andMe or Ancestry.com). GEDmatch does not provide DNA test kits to their users. Instead, users can upload their DNA and use GEDmatch’s free open-source software to find their relatives and perform genealogy research.
While GEDmatch started as a non-profit company in 2011, it was acquired by the company Verogen, a forensic genomics company, in December of 2019. GEDmatch Founder, Curtis Rogers, said that the move was a result of the company’s major growth and that Verogen is “committed to preserving GEDmatch as a consumer genealogy site” and that he will remain involved in all aspects of the business.
GEDmatch provides free tools along with more advanced paid tools that allow users to gain insights about their heritage and relatives. However, the tools can seem complicated for users who are not familiar with exploring their genetic data. It is often used as a secondary tool for individuals who are interested in analyzing their DNA files themselves.
In order to access the software, you have to register as a user with your email address. After signing in, you will see a menu on the GEDmatch homepage with a link to upload your DNA file.
It can take a few hours for your DNA file to finish processing. You will know that the process is complete once your file shows a Kit ID number. After your file has been uploaded, you may start looking into your heritage, as this is almost immediately available. However, it can take up to two days for you to be able to use your kit to find relative matches within the GEDmatch database using the “One-to-Many Comparison Result” feature.
After your DNA completely processes, there are two main tools that you can use to explore your DNA on GEDmatch.
First, you can use the “One-to-Many Comparison Result” tool on GEDmatch to see a list of DNA kits that your genes have matched with in the database. Your matches will be listed from the closest to the most distant. There will be a “Gen” column that indicates how close of a match the kit is (1 being a parent, 2 being a first cousin, etc.). However, GEDmatch cautions that users should not take Gen estimates to be exact, as DNA is passed down on a random basis.
The second main tool to use in GEDmatch is the “One-to-One Autosomal DNA Comparison” tool. This tool allows you to perform a closer comparison between your own DNA kit and someone else’s. Once you identify someone who shares a significant amount of DNA data with you, you can start further exploring the details of your DNA relationship with them.
GEDmatch is a DNA analysis tool that can provide in-depth information about what your DNA says about your genealogy. It is great for finding relatives and identifying people with who you may share ancestors. However, the tools on GEDmatch are not intuitive and they seem to be intended for more advanced users or for individuals who do not mind exploring and researching on their own.
Additionally, users looking to learn more about their health through their DNA will not find much value in using GEDmatch, as the tools focus primarily on matching your DNA to other DNA in the GEDmatch database. For other online tools that can help you discover what your DNA says about your health, see the Alternatives to GEDmatch section below.
When you initially upload your DNA to GEDmatch, the default setting is for your DNA file to be visible to any other user on the site. You may choose to hide your data from other users on the site, but you must specifically change your privacy settings. You also have the option of displaying an alias to other users on the site, instead of your real name.
The privacy options include allowing your DNA to be visible as a match to any kit on the site, visible to any kit that has not been identified as being uploaded by a law enforcement officer, or you may choose to not have your kit shown as a match for any kits in the database. However, it is unclear exactly how GEDmatch is able to determine if a kit was uploaded by a law enforcement officer, other than the fact that there is a qualifying question that asks you to identify yourself as a law enforcement officer (if applicable) when uploading a DNA file.
In fact, a number of law enforcement agencies have used GEDmatch to catch criminals. Perhaps the most famous instance of this was when law enforcement used GEDmatch to identify the Golden State Killer.
GEDmatch Privacy Concerns
After Verogen acquired GEDmatch, a new set of privacy concerns are being raised about how the new company might allow law enforcement officers to use the DNA data in GEDmatch in unexpected ways. While Verogen CEO Brett Williams has promised to make the database more secure, he has also indicated that he sees GEDmatch as a crime-fighting tool.
In July 2020, GEDmatch confirmed a data breach after they introduced an opt-in to allow DNA to be included in police searches. Several users reported that their settings changed without their permission, making their genetic information available to law enforcement.
GEDmatch is available for free with an option to pay for more advanced tools. The two main tools described above are available on the free account, along with several other useful tools for exploring your DNA and ancestry.
For a price of $10/month, you can join the Tier 1 subscription level to gain access to a number of other tools. For example, you can use the phasing tool if you have your parent’s DNA files, which will attempt to separate your maternal and paternal autosomal DNA. These more complex genealogy research tools available on the Tier 1 subscription allow you to investigate your DNA at a much more advanced level.
GEDmatch is a good tool to use if you are interested in learning more about your ancestry and potentially finding relatives that you didn’t know about. There are 1.3 million users on GEDmatch and they have a very expansive database of DNA files which you can use for comparison.
If you are interested in analyzing your DNA file yourself, GEDmatch does allow you to manipulate your file to manipulate your raw DNA file. However, some users find this too complex and have a difficult time getting actionable information from their DNA file.
With the acquisition of the company by Verogen, users should also stay abreast of any changing privacy policies and be aware that their data has the potential to be found by law enforcement officers, especially when using the default privacy settings on GEDmatch that allow your DNA file to be visible to other users on the site.