Introducing “DNA Match Labeling” – A Sorting Mechanism for AncestryDNA Matches!

Many DNA test takers have a wealth of genetic relatives! For example, I have more than 50,000 different genetic cousins across all the genealogy DNA testing companies. Although many regions of the world do not yet have 1,000’s of genetic cousins in their match lists, they will in the future as DNA testing grows increasingly popular and the testing companies target other countries.

Unfortunately, the testing companies have not provided users with the tools necessary to organize these matches. Indeed, clustering and organization of genetic cousins is a huge component of the future of DNA evidence. Clustering of our matches allows us to identify information that is not visible or apparent when the matches are unorganized.

This is where the DNA Match Labeling extension for Chrome comes in! I worked with a programmer to build this extension.

A browser extension is a small piece of software that resides on your computer and adds functionality to YOUR browser. No one else will see the results of this browser. This software does not affect your information at Ancestry, as that information is stored on Ancestry’s servers. What this tool does do is affect how you see your AncestryDNA data, by adding a small dot to every match that can be filled in with one of 8 different colors. Here’s an example of three matches each labeled with one of the eight colors:

Installation of DNA Match Labeling

The extension can be found at the Chrome Web Store (click the link or search for “DNA Match Labeling” in the store). Click on “Add to Chrome,” give it the necessary permissions, and it will be added to your Chrome browser.


Once installed, you’ll see a new table at the top of each kit you admin at AncestryDNA. Each kit you admin in your Ancestry account will have its own unique table! Here’s my table.

Each of your matches will have an empty white dot next to their name on both your list of matches and on each individual match page:

If the match is one that you haven’t yet reviewed, you’ll see the DNA Match Labeling empty dot below the usual blue “new match” dot as in this image:

You’re now ready to fill in the dots with color!

Using DNA Match Labeling

The first step in using this extension is to decide what the colors will represent. In this particular application, I’m using only the first four colors and I’m assigning them to each of my four grandparents:

Now, when I assign a red dot to a match, I am indicating to myself that the match is related to me through my paternal grandfather Roy Bettinger. Similarly, if I assign a yellow dot to a match, I am indicating to myself that the match is related to me through my maternal grandmother Jane Garcia.

To assign a color, click the dot next to a match’s name. The color dot selector will pop up:

Click one of the colors, and that color will permanently (but reversibly!) fill in the dot. In this example, I selected the green dot for this match:

This coloring will appear for this match both on my main match page and in the individual match page for J.R.:

I can also change the color, including back to empty white, on either the main match page or in the individual match.

One of the best benefits of the DNA Match Labeling tool is as a very clear visual indicator when using the AncestryDNA Shared Matches tool. In this example, I’m checking for matches with Haruto, and I see that all of the closest shared matches have been labeled with the green color! I can instantly formulate a hypothesis that this match is related through the ancestor I’ve assigned to the green color! I’ve proven nothing, but it is an excellent hypothesis that I can now test with additional evidence.

How are you using the tool? What discoveries have you made?

Limitations of DNA Match Labeling

The tool does NOT allow for sorting or searching using these colors. Additionally, if you label “John Doe 123” with a red dot in YOUR kit, that labeling will not carry over to the same “John Doe 123” in another kit.

You also cannot add more than one color dot to a match. Typically this is a close relative related on multiple lines, in which case you typically know who they are. For cases of more distant pedigree collapse or endogamy, there may be creative ways to address this, such as assigning a color to a certain cluster or group of ancestors. The use of the tool is limited only by your imagination!

Additionally, my apologies to those with color vision or small dot vision challenges. If I were redoing this from scratch I would use colored shapes with eight different shapes each being a different color. Unfortunately, the time & cost investment made so far has made that currently infeasible.

These all might be something for a future update (although no changes are planned currently).

55 Responses

  1. Carol A. Preece 17 September 2018 / 8:38 am

    Long awaited. Thanks, Blaine.

  2. Jamie Cox 17 September 2018 / 8:43 am

    You are so right: Ancestry DNA gives us a massive amount of data to look at and kindergarten-level tools for dealing with it.

    Maybe tools like yours will help encourage Ancestry to offer this type of thing natively — *with* sorting and searching. The heck with colors and shapes. I think this needs to be a user defined text field like “Smith”, “Jones”, “unknown maternal”, etc. And, yes, it ought to carry over between tests on the same account.

    Even if Ancestry were to support searching on the contents of the existing comment field, this would help me a lot.

    • Sharon Dankwardt 17 September 2018 / 9:55 am

      Check out MedBetterDNA extension. It shows the notes field for each match on the list, though again not carry over between tests. I wish it did that as well.

  3. Sharon Dankwardt 17 September 2018 / 9:52 am

    Great tool! I need more than eight labels though 🙂

  4. Freda 17 September 2018 / 9:58 am

    What a brilliant tool, I’ve been waiting for something like this.

  5. Kristy O. 17 September 2018 / 10:25 am

    BRAVO!!!! A job well done and so helpful! Thank you!

  6. Patricia R Reed 17 September 2018 / 10:26 am

    In MedBetter DNA filters, I currently use eight colored emoji hearts preceded by hashtags. I can change the color of hearts to match the dots in this extension, and use that extension for sorting. It isn’t as clean as having a sorting process within the DNA Match Labeling extension, but it will do. Would you consider adding sorting as a future enhancement?

    • Blaine T Bettinger 17 September 2018 / 12:32 pm

      I would love to add sorting. It will be a substantial investment, but it would be very handy.

  7. Thomas Dreyer 17 September 2018 / 10:29 am

    Brilliant! and this does not affect the Ancestry blue new matches button because you used a different color, right?

    • Blaine T Bettinger 17 September 2018 / 12:32 pm

      Hi Thomas! It does not affect the Ancestry blue new matches button.

  8. Robert Kelly Dazet 17 September 2018 / 11:08 am

    Thank you Blaine! It works great.
    I had a face-to-face meeting with Ancestry employees a couple weeks ago in Lehi, to give input, and some type of color coding for the different branches of one’s tree is one think I suggested.

    I also let them know, their DNA tools for working with our cousin matches are overall sub-parr compared with the competition, i.e. MyHeritage DNA who includes chromosome browser, triangulation, 5th-8th to 5th-8th cousin matching, and more.

    • JWLawson_OK 26 September 2018 / 6:03 pm

      An entire new post could be devoted to enhancements we would all love to see at each of the different testing companies. The potential is enormous. I would much rather see a chromosome browser at than the Spotify partnered tie in.

  9. Deborah outland 17 September 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Blaine, this is a great tool! I haven’t downloaded it yet because I saw somewhere that it’s only available on windows machines. My windows computer is my y primary workhorse for dna, but I also use an iPad Pro for some purposes. Will the dots show up on the iPad if I. Work with them on my PC? And could I also. Install the app and work with it on the the iPad?

    Finally, (assuming the app is only for the PC)if I. Install the app on my PC only, will it affect dna result display on the iPad?

    • Blaine T Bettinger 17 September 2018 / 12:31 pm

      Hi Deborah! No, it will not work on your iPad, unfortunately.

      • Deborah outland 17 September 2018 / 4:38 pm

        Thank you Blaine. I ‘m ok with yhat asas long as it won’t affect my use of it on the the pc. I’ll be installing Nguyen it shortly!

  10. Marty Acks 17 September 2018 / 6:25 pm

    Nice addition. Thanks. Now I can start mapping my DNA spreadsheet to AncestryDNA. This will be useful as I analyze more DNA results as I will have to jump back to spreadsheet less frequently to get my bearings.

  11. Bryan 17 September 2018 / 11:18 pm

    If only Ancestry would provide a simple chromosome browser…

  12. Chris W from Sydney, Australia 18 September 2018 / 1:53 am

    Thanks Blaine this will be very useful. One question…. Should the labelling show up if you set it up on one computer and then access it though another? I’ve labelled on my MacBook Pro. When I’ve logged into my iMac, the extension shows up in AncestryDNA but not the labels I’ve named or their assignment to my matches. Am I missing something? Eager to get going on solving some puzzles!

    • Chris W 18 September 2018 / 2:03 am

      Should have read FB group! Just say your comments earlier today about not syncing between computers! Still a great addition….. Thanks

      • Lisa 11 October 2018 / 1:41 am

        Chris W – which FB group! I’m new to these groups. But even if I knew I have seen it somewhere, FB makes a lot of discussions go into Never-Never land after I’ve read them. I’m in the “Ancestry” group, although I don’t think it was a closed group.

        • Mary 12 November 2018 / 12:57 am

          Lisa, I’m guessing it’s Blaine’s Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques FB group, though I imagine you’ve figured that out by now. 🙂

  13. Cathy Cline 18 September 2018 / 8:48 am

    Very helpful! Thank you so much for all your hard work!

  14. Cjen 20 September 2018 / 10:55 pm

    Thank you for reading my mind and putting my thoughts into action. Looks like I’ve got sorting to do.

  15. Julie Power 21 September 2018 / 2:24 am

    This will help me enormously. Thankyou so much x

  16. Mary 26 September 2018 / 10:37 am

    I’d like to know what categories people found to be helpful using the color dot system. Grandparents with four color – or Great grandparents with eight colors – what would be the pros and cons of using 4 gp vs. 8 ggp? Also, will this color dot system be downloaded with the free Chrome DNA Matching Tool? Then possibly they could be sorted?

  17. Kathie Heller 28 September 2018 / 8:01 pm

    Hi Blaine. I downloaded the chrome browser and obtained the DNA labeling app. But when I logged in to AncesteyDNA, the special table, dots, etc. did not appear. What step am I missing? Thanks.

  18. Marralene Mennis Oullette 5 October 2018 / 12:41 pm

    Blaine, I have the DNA Helper extention. And decided to just type in the name of the color in the note section, and can get a sort that way!
    Hope that helps!
    Love the color coding extension

  19. Joanne Barnard 5 October 2018 / 2:09 pm

    This looks like a wonderful tool and I was so excited to give it a try. I got the extension
    And named my 8 colors but that seemed to make all the names on all my DNA matches mysteriously disappear to be replaced with “name unavailable”. I tried turning off and rebooting my computer but still no names. What have I done wrong and how can I get my names back so I can play with this great new tool?

  20. Barry Spinner 9 October 2018 / 9:30 am

    Will this nice tool work simultaneously with MedBetterDNA, which others described here?

  21. Patricia Henderson 17 October 2018 / 10:28 am

    I have tried several times to download the DNA Match Labeling. Each time I click the “Add To Chrome” button, it changes to “checking” and then my computer freezes even though it does say that my computer is compatible. Does it make a difference if I’m using as opposed to I had seen in another post that it only worked on the American site.

    • Blaine Bettinger 17 October 2018 / 9:44 pm

      It functions on Perhaps try logging out of Google/Chrome and back in, and/or clearing cookies. It’s been downloaded more than 4,000 times, so it appears to be fully functional. Good luck!

  22. Lonnie Riley 26 October 2018 / 8:22 am

    Blaine, you Rock!!

  23. Stephen Moore 28 October 2018 / 10:27 am


    Great tool!

    I’m unclear on a point, however. It would be even more useful to me if the labeling and color coding were to carry over when I’m on a different computer. I use a laptop sometime and my iMac other times. Both Chrome browsers are logged into the same google account and they both synch… but for some reason, this labeling and color coding does not carry over to the other computer. So frankly, I’m just not clear how this info is stored and why it does not carry over to 2nd computer.

    • Blaine Bettinger 28 October 2018 / 8:14 pm

      Hi Stephen,

      I’ve inquired with the programmer about transportability, but it is currently beyond my budget.

      • David G. Tieman 3 February 2019 / 7:08 pm

        Is it possible that you could provide information about the location of the extension’s data files on my computer. I can’t find them, but, if I could, I might be able to back them up or transfer them to a 2nd computer. That wouldn’t be as good as storing them in my Cloud and accessing from multiple computers, but it would be a start.

  24. Ginny 1 November 2018 / 7:55 pm

    Blaine, do you also plan on an extension for Firefox?

    • Star 14 January 2019 / 2:50 pm

      I too would prefer an extension in Firefox. I just don’t use Chrome at all.

  25. Carmel 15 November 2018 / 1:19 am

    Woohoo! Thank you for this great tool, Blaine.

  26. Elizabeth A Goral 21 November 2018 / 8:26 pm

    I have tried to use this on my Samsung tablet, but it does not seem to work on tablets. It works on my laptop but I tend to use my tablet more. Is it designed to work on tablets?

  27. Jane Bonny 29 November 2018 / 2:41 pm

    In addition to not transferring to other devices, it also does work when going to a match in any way than the list of matches. For instance, if the match was found via the “compare” function. Still, way better than what Ancestry has provided.

  28. Elaine Powell 7 December 2018 / 11:54 pm

    Love the DNA Match Labeling! What are those blue/gray colored squares right above the “possible range” section above each name on the Shared Matches illustration of Haruto Watanabe? They range from 5 to 12 colored squares.

    • Blaine Bettinger 8 December 2018 / 9:28 am

      Hi Elaine – that’s just pixelation from where I blurred the names.

  29. brandy 30 December 2018 / 10:54 pm

    YOU….ARE….GENIUS!!! Thank you

  30. P. Fields 4 January 2019 / 12:10 am

    Will this feature only work with Chrome? Since this change my DNA list and relationships/CM’s, etc. is no longer showing.

  31. Kathy Parrish 24 February 2019 / 8:39 am

    I have had the mark dissappear on some of my matches and I have to redo it. Am I doing something wrong?

  32. Denis H Dutrisac 25 February 2019 / 11:26 am

    Will it work on a Mac ?

  33. Sharon 4 May 2019 / 10:35 am

    Hi, love the tool, but I just got a new PC. Is there a way to transfer all the labels and family groups over to the new computer? I installed the extension again, but it doesn’t carry over the data I entered. Thanks!!

    • Sharon 4 May 2019 / 10:53 am

      Actually just found the location it stores this info in, and I just copied it to the new PC.

      I just renamed the following folders on my new PC to something else, then copied the following folders from my old PC to my new one. The 2nd folder might not be needed, but I did both anyway. You may also need to set Windows to show hidden files and folders in order to see the appdata folder.

      C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Local Extension Settings\kgkhfloclmjcbgilbdhjkmmaohlemfci

      C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Extensions\kgkhfloclmjcbgilbdhjkmmaohlemfci

  34. Alan 2 November 2019 / 9:54 pm

    How is this different to the Ancestry colour coded groups feature?

    Thanks for all your great work and education!

  35. Kath Condos 24 June 2020 / 3:31 am

    When I got my DNA results last year, about October, Ancestry had a colour coded system already. Is this the same thing?

  36. Henry Bowie 1 July 2020 / 1:33 pm

    This is very interesting for every person article. But to make sure in the cleaning of your DNA, it is better to be in a clean environment. So professional companies like will be in a great need to complete the mentioned task. So the house will be clean and the other process are here to follow.

  37. Noritz 22 December 2021 / 8:03 pm

    Thank you very much, Blaine! It’s fantastic. I also informed that their DNA tools for dealing with our cousin matches are often inferior to those offered by the competitors, such as MyHeritage DNA, which offers chromosomal browser, triangulation, 5th-8th to 5th-8th cousin matching, and other features.

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