If we could create our dream DNA genealogy app, what features would it have?

+9 votes

Dear fellow WikiTree'ers,

This is a question for those that have experience with DNA tests and for those that don't have (I'm interested to hear what holds you back).

We're all aware of the flaws, missing tools and features that the DTC's and even services like GedMatch and DNAGedcom have.

If you could write up your wish list for what kind of features you would like to see from your dream DNA genealogy web tool, what would be on that list?

To start of ideas, let me throw in some (feel free to add your own and comment on mine and others):

- automated triangulation against every new DNA kit uploaded
- Managing of triangulated groups (TG's). Now we have to do this all manual in Excel
- Visual exclusion of parts of your family tree per TG so that you narrow down the MRCA
- Easy identification of proximity of the TG's ancestors (all known ones) based on easily curated locations
- a closed group discussion forum per TG with all messages being archived, searchable and the possibility to pin important messages to the top (including a rating system so that the most important ones are easily found by rating)
- Automatic notification via email on new content/clues/matches with instant or daily/weekly summary (can be set by user)
- Email is mandatory (as we all hate it when a match isn't responding at all or there is no way to contact them) and there should even be a secondary email for a person that is inheriting all saved/achieved results when the main person unfortunately dies
- overview of all call-to-action upon login (new match, new TG, new Gedcom uploaded in one TG, new messages in various groups). It's basically like a ToDo list where items stay "unread" for later visits, can be moved up or down in importance

in The Tree House by Andreas West G2G6 Mach 5 (57.2k points)

Yes to all of the above!  I would love to see an all in one hybrid WikiTree site combined with GenomeMate, and GedMatch. Imagine if you could connect everyones GenomeMate information to their WikiTree's, combining that with automated triangulation, and searching capabilities.... WOW!

5 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer

Andreas, all of your ideas are ones I would like to see.  I think the one that would be the biggest timesaver is the automated triangulation.  It takes a very long time to do a 1 to 1 comparison between each and every kit that appears to ovelap a segment...

You mention that you have to manage triangulated groups in Excel.  That's not the case if you use (as I do) GenomeMate.  It's free and a huge help.  One problem I see coming (for me) in using it is the size limitation.  I keep getting warning messages that I'm exceeding the recommended memory.  So I back up a LOT!!  wink  Without GenomeMate, I probably wouldn't even attempt what I'm doing...

Besides notification of shared surnames (which you can look at in GenomeMate), I'd like to see the locations of the families.  Many of these matches are 'brick walls', but if we see a common county/state, that gives us a clue...

As far as the visual exclusion of parts of your family tree, GenomeMate again does this.  If you know the match is up the maternal line, you mark it as such.  GenomeMate then only shows you your ancestors up that line.  You can take it to the next level also, i.e. you can mark a match to be M, MGF, MGM, P, PGF, PGM and it will exclude all the other families in your gedcom...

by Darlene Athey-Hill G2G6 Pilot (414k points)
selected by Sarah Weller
Thank you for the tip about GENOME Mate
Thanks Darlene, I'm using Genome Mate for quite some time and I love it too. Before that I was using Excel and that's what I was refering too.

Thanks for your useful feedback.

One last question (a bit OT) but what is the size limitation that you're hitting in Genome Mate? I'm afraid I might not be far awaw too.
I'm at 220mb.  It doesn't seem like much (to me), so I'm surprised at the size limitations.  I separated each individual into their own database.  I've got both Gedmatch & FTDNA matches in there.  I'm thinking of putting the Gedmatch ones in one database & FTDNA in another. It'd be a lot of work and I'd have to re-enter all of my match information, but I'm not sure there's another alternative unless they change the program to allow for larger databases.
Ok Darlene, than I have still a lot to go. Have you spoken to Becky about it? You are a member of the Genome Mate Facebook group, right?


Andreas, I am a member of the Facebook group.  No, I haven't mentioned it to Becky (or the FB group).  I figured it was just a general issue with the program. But obviously my file just gets bigger every day as I triangulate groups & make notes in each person's file...

+4 votes
Thanks for asking Andreas,

Be able to link from WikiTree and see a graphic of your TGs.  Link the TG's in the app to their shared ancestry in WikiTree.

Have the app also show shared segments on X chromosome.
by Peter Roberts G2G6 Pilot (543k points)
Peter, not sure if I fully understand. You want:

a) a feature where the identified common ancestor (CA) and also the MRCA (which might be the same but usually would be downstream of the CA) is linked to their profiles at WikiTree?

b) a feature where from a WikiTree profile there would be a link back to the triangulated group of cousins?

You would want both feature A and feature B, correct?

We talked about the "ideal" way for a TG/cousin group to collect their information and keep discussions within the group before. Free Space profiles might be the closest thing that WT has but it's still not the ideal for all the features I think it needs.
Hello  Andreas,

Yes, both A and B.

Sincerely, Peter
+6 votes
This is a great thread!!!
by Leigh Murrin G2G6 Mach 5 (56.3k points)
Thanks Leigh, do you like any other the features the most or find it the most important one? If you personally could select your own top 3 (in that order), which features would you put at:



+3 votes
Hi Andreas, (writing from a phone so please excuse what will get auto-incorrected.) Hmmmm...what holds me back? I guess the answer is that I don't yet perceive enough benefit to overcome potential risk exposure. Yes, it would be nice to satisfy my curiosity about some things. It would also be nice to "meet" other distant family members online. But the thought of the insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms using a portion of all that money they have floating around to buy the DNA testing labs is a legitimate possibility. All the scenarios in which big pharma and big insurance have access to that kind of raw information about individual people as well as aggregates turn out badly for the end user (you & me). Even with the "safety" of legislation, I think these industries have enough money to figure out how to go around the laws & buy the legislatures which might be motivated to stop them from running their own tests of on our genetic material & then using it to target those they think will cause them policy payouts or other profit errosions.
by Michele Camera G2G6 Mach 1 (10.3k points)
Exactly! This is the same reason that prevents me from participating in DNA projects. Every system can be hacked, who knows, maybe the big insurance agencies got this bulk of DNA information already somewhere...

Sometimes I wonder, whether there's this bigger picture to DNA-genealogy - what if someone said "How can we possibly collect all the people's private DNA information without causing suspicion? Let's try it under the pretext of discovering family bonds, we live in such an anonymous world today, everybody loves family, Beside, humans have a deeply curious nature..." And we all know, curiosity killed the cat.
Michele and Sarah,

let me address your concerns (though I was actually asking for a different thing).

- almost all countries have a data privacy act

- even in countries like Malaysia where I worked the CEO of a company would go to jail if the company would violate the data privacy act

- insurances are among the richest companies in the world, using data that they aren't allowed to use would be resulting in a huge PR desaster and can kill their business as they're relying so much on confidentiality


Now let me address some of your concerns how important your DNA information is. Consider these two examples:

a) a person whose DNA shows no significant predisposition towards any mayor illness is coming to a doctor. That person is obese, is diagnosed to have diabetes 2 by the doctor and also to have too high blood pressure. The bad cholesteral is too high too, clogging up the arteries. The doctor prescribes a couple of medicines. This information is going back to the insurance company and indicates that this person is a high risk candidate with a much shorter life expectancy

b) a person whose DNA shows no significant predisposition towards any mayor illness is living at the wrong area of Los Angeles, in the middle of some gang territory. That person is consuming alcohol, drugs and sells drugs as well. That person is being shot and brought to a hospital where the gun wound is taken care of. Again the insurance knows about drug and alcohol addiction, as well as the gun wound (from the medical report). It also knows the address of that person and can combine the zip code with some public available data about crime rates, income levels, unemployment rate etc.

So in both cases the genes didn't tell any predisposition towards any major illness, which is the only thing that genes do (it's never a guarantee to get that illness, usually it's a combination of several genes anyway). The medical reports and prescriptions that the insurance company gets are providing a much better indicator of future health risk and life expectancy (plus public available data).

It's been written that illnesses like different forms of cancer, obesity etc are all to a large majority (about 2/3) coming from external lifestyle factors) and only to a much lesser proportion coming from a genetic predisposition.


You shouldn't be concerned at all about your DNA information. It's secure stored, the insurance has way more useful & significant data about you already and it's protected by data privacy acts to not being allowed to be used outside of what you gave your consent for.

Besides the fact that most DTC's are testing genes or more precisely SNP's (these are the mutations or copying errors of genes) only for known ancestral areas, with the exception of 23andme who started focusing on health reports first and moved into ancestral reports only since a year.
+2 votes
What holds me back from embracing DNA is the constant hacking of personal information by hackers from China and ISIS. Imagine if someone like Hitler had access to our DNA. And it might not be on wikitree, but these companies that get our DNA samples - who knows what they will so with them or who they will sell them to?

Thanks, but NO Thanks!
by Sharon Centanne G2G6 Pilot (154k points)

Sharon, the phobia you express about genealogical DNA tests are based on myths. Unfortunately these myths are inflamed & exaggerated by certain bad actors within the community.

Hackers from ISIS or China, or North Korea, or any group on this planet cannot use the data from genealogical DNA tests to do any harm to an individual. Maybe in 100 years that will change, but today's science has not reached the point where that could happen. This can be confirmed by any reputable geneticist.

As far as your reference to Hitler goes, please see this article about Godwin's Law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law.

Keeping your guard up and asking tough questions about this new field of genetic genealogy is good! But keep it within reason, and ask those questions of the right people . . . may be a good idea to exclude anyone in a black suit . . . especially if they ask you to look at the tip of a penlight . . .


Thanks John for that answer. I couldn't formulate it as well as you. I might want to add that hackers steal information, not physical DNA that is frozen somewhere in a vault. The information that the DTC's have extracted is on a microscopic small part of our DNA, out of the 3 billion that we each have.


Sharon, if you're concerned about someone stealing your DNA and using it to replicate yourself (like John pointed out we won't see that happen within our life expectation) then please be careful as with every hair that drops from you, every cup you put your lips on etc you will leave your total 3 billion DNA info on.

Dr. Tim Janzen, a MD, has pointed out in the DNA genealogy mailing list that none of the info extracted can be used in any harmful way.

Sharon, please do embrace DNA genealogy with open arms as it's the perfect companion to traditional genealogy. Actually the only way currently to verify your year long paper work. Who doesn't want a proven family tree?
I have a comment for both subjects in this thread. Paranoia propaganda out of the way first.

The Big Bad companies don't want your individual information. No one can really steal your DNA identity, and what good would it do anyone anyway? The collection of information comes from groups of people who live in cities and states,and countries even. The point is to find the common "probability" of certain health issues ahead of time, and sell that report to the Pharmaceutical companies and Insurance guys so that they know what drugs to beef up for the future etc. There is nothing in the United States that is done out of fun fluff. There are a number of articles written from legitimate Journalists about the FDA problems encountered mainly with 23andme about this situation. Drug dealers don't care about YOU as an individual, they care about how to make money off the the people who take their drugs as a whole. The prediction factor is brilliant, and kudos to whoever had this money making light bulb switch on in their brain.

Personally, I don't care what they get out of it, because I am getting what I want out of the deal as well, an answer to who my family REALLY is. The BEST part of it all? I get the same information that the BIG BAD's get, only it is more personal. When I get the data print-out, I get my OWN predictions, not the county where I live's predictions as a whole. Pharma pays for percentages, YOU pay Promethese (sp?)  to do the same thing for you. So really, there should be no complaints and hiding inside our houses watching out the windows like someone who misused the "witch's brew" that BIG BAD sold to them, waiting for some genocide to happen to all test takers of DNA for ancestral purposes, or somebody to steal the heritage information or invent some strange claim to some obscure relative of yours who had money in 1653, but nobody who is related now can even afford rent in a single bedroom apartment in Delaware or somewhere, to come to your house and mess with your insurance. Give me a break. If you want to talk about how insurance is going to mess with this nation, I'm sure there a jillion and one websites all about social security that are free to join. THEY have everything about you that ever happened to you, ever, if you have a SSN and wrote it down somewhere, so DNA testing companies are hardly to be feared. I never gave Ancestry my SSN- so, WHEW!

As far as I know, these big company's test results are not even held up in a court of law for paternity validation, because they were not administered by a qualified physician. (Unless you arrange for this ahead of time). All your personal information is online on this site, and any other genealogy website you put your family on, anyway, paid or free. Then, If you REALLY want to get paranoid, your DNA can be INVENTED by reverse triangulation! Just find all the people related to you that have taken DNA tests, and put it all together into your own modge-podge version of the person that suspicious pharma company wants you to be, so they can deny you health care.

This same subject comes up over and over and over, and it is extremely exhausting. Take the test or don't. If you are afraid of bio-theft, then don't take it. Simple.

And as for the the initial question at hand, If there was a search field similar to the one on AncestryDNA, but with a million other fields, just like when doing a regular record search. I have every single person under the sun who has the same sur names in their trees, and so on and so on, and how many Johnsons and Cox, and Bates, and Adams, and Carvers, and Kennedy's need to be in every single tree ever? So,  the sur name search option is almost useless without a first name field, or a married to, or a DOB for the person you are searching.

How about a Chrome search option? Like search for Chrome 12 within these boundaries- then add your numbers you want. THAT would be handy-dandy! Also, a rule against user names and married names. ONLY the name given at birth, along with another field for the name of your spouse. Really, you look at your matches, and you wonder- WHO ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE????? Or get all excited like me, when I come across my one obscure name, but then it turns out that the person who holds that name isn't even a match to me, it's some lady's ex-husband. *not applicable to adoptees who don't know, and should have their own field for just that purpose.

Name at birth, married name, adopted name. Or just, the paper-trail name.

I just wanted to give my 2 cents. I am not a genealogist, and I only got my DNA results in April of this year, so I have had to learn a lot at a rapid pace if I wanted to get anything out of what was handed to me without any explanation.  I am just learning this site, and try to visit and work on my tree for at least 10 minutes a day to 5 hours a week- and spent today's time ranting instead of trying to fix the duplicate grandfather I made yesterday. Sorry. No one else is trying to claim him via DNA or imaginary lineage yet either, so I feel ok about this choice. There are a bunch of busy "corrector bees" on this site, I'm sure the thank you will be headed in your direction shortly. :)

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