GEDmatch Genesis review – The best tool for genetic genealogy?

Rating based on our GEDmatch Genesis review

Introduction

GEDmatch (GED match) was founded by Curtis Rogers and John Olson in 2010 to help collate information for amateur and professional genealogists. In 2018, GEDmatch helped law enforcement to catch the Golden State Killer. In 2019, it was bought by Verogen, a forensic genomics company launched by Illumina. The GEDmatch site is geared towards finding related individuals: the main DNA tool searches for relatives among the 1.3 million users. The genetic genealogy site lets its users upload DNA results from disparate sites as well as family tree information. Read more in our GEDmatch Genesis review!

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How to get started with GEDmatch Genesis

Let’s begin our GEDmatch Genesis review, by taking a look at how to get started. Sign up is simple. It is important to note that, although the user can use a pseudonym, the user’s name and email will be displayed for any other user to see. There are instances where the user attempted to anonymize themselves through a pseudonym, but their emails are FirstnameLastname@company.com.

A user can upload raw DNA files from a variety of DNA databases including 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), Living DNA, and Genes for Good. After you have downloaded your raw DNA data from your DNA testing company, you can upload it to GEDmatch Genesis. Every genetic data upload is given a unique kit identifier that is used throughout the system. Users can also upload family tree information in GEDCOM file format which is used in genealogy databases.

Ancestry test results are available in minutes but the main family finding tool takes several days to run.

How to use GEDmatch

GEDmatch admixture review

Before we go into our GEDmatch Genesis review, let’s take a brief look at the GEDmatch admixture analysis. The reports are very basic and not straightforward to use. The tools appear designed for an already expert user. There is almost no internal information about each tool.

GEDmatch does provide tools for querying DNA ancestry. The admixture model, which reports a user’s ancestry mixture, lets users “select project,” or dataset to use to compare origins, but doesn’t provide an explanation for what each dataset is. 

Further digging reveals some “projects” are population-specific and will only work if someone has 100% ancestry from a particular location.

This is "chromosome painting" from the MDLP project. From GEDmatch Genesis review.
Example ancestry reports shown in a chromosome browser.
Ancestry composition generated by GEDmatch. From GEDmatch Genesis review.
Ancestry composition generated by GEDmatch.

GEDmatch Genesis review

The core feature of GEDmatch is the one-to-many “GEDMatch Genesis System”. This tool searches the GEDmatch database to see which parts of the user’s DNA matches samples in the GEDmatch database. GEDMatch Genesis is also presented in a no-frills way but does come with a link to a YouTube video explaining its use. 

This is what GEDMatch Genesis one-to-many results look like:

GEDmatch Genesis matching system. From GEDmatch Genesis review.
GEDmatch Genesis matching system.

The first column is the kit number, which uniquely identifies the DNA upload and permits any user to repeat any analysis using that kit number instead of their own data. The second column is whatever alias the user chooses to use for that kit and the third is the user’s email. The user might not be the person the DNA is from.

Next is the “Largest Segment” match in centiMorgans (cM), a measurement of DNA length that factors in how often certain parts are separated when they’re passed down. This is followed by “Total cM” which gives a sum of all segments of matches between two individuals. 

A “Generations” column in the GEDmatch Genesis results gives an estimate for the number of generations apart two individuals are. 1 represents a parent-child or twin relationship, 1.2 is sibling, 1.4 is half-sibling, uncle, or grandparent. 2 would be a cousin as the last common ancestor was 2 generations ago, 2.6 would be a first cousin once removed, 3 would be the second cousin with the last common ancestor 3 generations ago. The prediction breaks down over 4.

The “Overlap” column describes how many SNPs were actually compared. Red highlights low numbers of SNPs, indicating that the comparison might not be accurate because the two kits differ greatly in which genetic sites were tested.

Next is the “Date compared” which can help the user find new matches. If the kit was freshly run all dates will be the same; new matches will show up with the date the newly matching kit was run. Finally is the company the matches kit is from. 

The ability to pull information from different DNA testing kits is one of the original benefits of GEDMatch Genesis. If a user wants to search for their family, they do not have to buy both Ancestry and 23andMe kits. The user can search through all uploaded DNA profiling data regardless of the autosomal DNA testing service they used.

GEDMatch Genesis also has a tool to see if your parents are related. This uses a similar idea to the one-to-many tool where relatedness is established by looking for stretches of DNA that match between two people.

Given that everyone has two copies of every chromosome in their genome, one from mom and one from dad, it’s possible to look for relatedness between these two copies. This lets the user test if their parents shared a recent common ancestor.

For the majority of users, this type of family history exploration is not very informative. For the minority of users, it might not actually be the information they wanted. Finding out your parents are related is not an actionable health item and might lead to some awkward questions about a user’s ancestry.

Review of GEDmatch Genesis costs

GEDmatch is primarily a free DNA upload site and a set of free DNA analysis tools. Most of the features of GEDmatch, including those described above, are free. 

For $10 a month you can have access to “Tier 1” features. Tier 1 users have an increased number of results in the one-to-many tool — going from 3,000 matched DNA kits to 100,000. Users also are able to see which segments match in the one-to-many tool and which kits matched on the same segment. 

An example from Kitty Cooper’s blog showing the segment matches. From GEDmatch Genesis review.
An example from Kitty Cooper’s blog showing the segment matches.

An experimental tool also lets users reconstruct a family tree from these results. There is also a tool that attempts to reconstruct the genome of an ancestor from the genetic data of the descendants.

GEDmatch Genesis in the News

GEDmatch Genesis hit the news after it was used to identify the Golden State Killer, a serial killer and a rapist who was active in California from 1974-1986. He was identified when a DNA sample he left at a crime scene was run through GEDmatch’s “one-to-many” tool. Ten to twenty kits identified as third to fourth cousins were found in the genetic database. 

Police worked with genealogists to narrow down to two possible suspects. Joseph James DeAngelo was confirmed to be the killer by comparing the crime scene sample to DNA DeAngelo left on his car door and in his trash.

This wasn’t the first, or last, time that a GEDmatch test was used to solve a cold case. The DNA Doe Project is a forensic genealogy nonprofit that utilizes GEDmatch to identify bodies and notify families. On the corporate side, Parabon Nanolabs works with American law enforcement to identify perpetrators and solve crimes. 

GEDmatch Genesis Privacy

Next in our GEDmatch Genesis review, is the next coverage the project has received. Privacy has become a concern for GEDmatch users. GEDmatch provides three privacy options, “Private”, “Public + opt-in”, “Public + opt-out”. Private data is not compared to other people’s DNA kits. This means no one else will find you, but you also can’t find anyone else. 

“Public + opt-in” allows for the one-to-many search and consents to law enforcement searches. “Public + opt-out” allows the user to find relatives and be found, but does not consent to law enforcement searches. GEDmatch claims that raw DNA data is not accessible to any third party.

However, GEDmatch has complied with subpoenas and warrants to share raw data, personal information and genealogy data with law enforcement even for people who have opted out or selected the “private” option. This has led to the withdrawal of a recommendation for GEDmatch by Legal Genealogist founder Judy G. Russell, a Certified Genealogist and former Law Professor.

GEDmatch Genesis Reviews

DNA testing choice ranks GEDmatch Genesis 19th out of 54 for Ancestry DNA Testing.

GenSoftReviews provides 7 GEDmatch Genesis reviews for 3.22 out of 5 stars. Negative reviews complain that it is not user friendly and hard to understand while positive reviews highlight its utility for “motivated genealogists”. 

After originally calling it “A DNA geek’s dream site” in 2012, the Legal Genealogist withdrew her recommendation of GEDmatch Genesis due to privacy concerns. 

Pros and Cons

Let’s summarize the GEDmatch Genesis review with by taking a look at Pros and Cons.

ProsCons
Free if you have your own DNA dataOffers limited analysis beyond relative finding
GEDMatch Genesis allows for search and comparison with any public kitNot user friendly: all explanations of tools are external
You may help police arrest a family memberYou may help police arrest a family member

Nebula Genomics

We finish our GEDmatch Genesis review with a comparison to Nebula Genomics and other DNA testing companies. Nebula Genomics distinguishes itself from GEDmatch and other genetic testing companies through its focus on privacy, expanding the horizon of DNA information, and providing understandable reporting.

Privacy Focused

At Nebula Genomics, privacy is as important as helping you learn about your health, personality, and ancestry. Nebula is building the first privacy-focused personal genomics service. 

Nebula eliminates personal genomics companies as middlemen between data owners (i.e. customers) and data buyers (i.e. third parties) so that you can be compensated if you choose to share your data. 

Nebula does not turn over data to law enforcement services and will not do so voluntarily. In fact, we are building protocols that will make it for us impossible to decrypt and share your data without your consent. Although this is part of GEDmatch’s business model, it runs contrary to Nebula’s privacy-first ethos.

Nebula Expand

You can upload the raw DNA files to Nebula Genomics just as you would to GEDmatch to discover more about your genome with the Nebula Genomics expanded report. The typical microarray-based DNA genotyping test can be expanded on using statistical models, otherwise known as imputation, to figure out what was between the tested pieces of DNA. 

This report gives you access to hundreds of traits and curated research studies through the Nebula Research Library, keeping you up-to-date with the most cutting-edge research and what it means to you and your DNA. This unlocks information that GEDmatch would never be able to find.

Nebula Genomics 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing 

Nebula empowers customers to have the option to go beyond the typical microarray-based DNA tests offered by other companies to unlock more information about themselves. With the new 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing service, 100% of your DNA is read. In other words, you will get 10,000 times more data than with AncestryDNA or 23andMe, which only reads 0.01% of your genome! 

Nebula Makes Science Accessible

Nebula actually wants people to be able to learn about their health, personality, and ancestry. Turning over results is not enough: Nebula is committed to explaining the cutting edge science simply and accurately. This encompasses both providing clear explanations as well as making it easy to discover what studies are available. Having the information isn’t enough if it isn’t accessible.



GEDmatch23andMeAncestryDNANebula Genomics
DNA Testing MethodUser upload only, no testingMicroarray-based genotypingMicroarray-based genotypingWhole Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)
Able to upload raw DNA dataYes (23andme, FTDNA, AncestryDNA, most others)NoNoYes (23andMe and Ancestry)
Data accessNoYes (23andMe format file)Yes (Ancestry format file)Yes (FASTQ, BAM, and VCF files)
Informative and educational explanationsNoYes YesYes
Simplified Report Finding ToolsNoYesYesYes
Law enforcement data turnoverRoutinely under opt in, under warrant otherwiseOnly under warrant and with oversightOnly under warrant and will challenge Building tools to give users full control of their data even if there is a warrant. 
Cost$0-$10/month$99, $199, or $499$99 or $149$0 – $299

GEDmatch vs 23andMe vs AncestryDNA vs Nebula Genomics

If you are interested in free ancestry analysis, you should also check out MyHeritage, DNA Land, Living DNA, and DNA Painter. If you have whole genome sequencing data, also take a look at YFull. Did you like our GEDmatch Genesis review? Reviews for other DNA testing and analysis companies can be found here. Or check out our guide to DNA upload sites!

Also, check out our GEDmatch tutorial to learn how to use this powerful tool!

Take also a look at this blog post that gives an overview of other DNA upload sites.

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