I'm trying to find a match for DNA that is narrowed down to go through my dad's line and another person's paternal line. I'm thinking if I could compare our fathers' pedigree surnames it might reveal good candidates.

For a given person on Ancestry.com or in Family Tree Maker 3, how can I get an alphabetical list of all the surnames in the pedigree of that person?

  • 2
    I think you are approaching this problem the wrong way by trying to automate the process. Surnames should not be the primary criteria for a match. If you both have Smith ancestors, that doesn't necessarily mean they are good candidates for your common ancestry. You need to carefully examine the pedigree for your father and the other person's father and try to determine where the common descent occurred, based on the strength of the match. As autosomal match will only probably be found within the last five or six generations, so if there is obvious common ancestry it should become apparent.
    – Harry V.
    Jun 29, 2015 at 7:30
  • The last match I figured out was 9 generations back, which is one of 512 ancestors, so having a surname match would help narrow my attention to candidates more likely to be a real match.
    – WilliamKF
    Jun 29, 2015 at 15:54
  • 1
    I've rolled back the edit and changed the title of the question to lessen the emphasis on how to use the software or website (a support question) and put the focus back on solving the problem of where the DNA match is. Feel free to edit your question to add other information as needed, but please mask the names and identifying information of living individuals in any screenshots you post (as Judy G. Russell does in her post legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/01/25/9381 ).
    – Jan Murphy
    Jun 29, 2015 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


If you haven't looked at it already, I recommend becoming familiar with the wiki at ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy). Their page of Autosomal DNA Tools includes:

AncestryDNA Helper A Google Chrome extension provided by Jeff Snavely which allows you to extract and download a spreadsheet of your matches.

Shannon Christmas' blog Through the Trees walks the user through the process in the post Using AncestryDNA: Steps for Success. Follow steps 1-5 to review the matches for repeating names. (Disclaimer: this post is from 13 December 2013, so the screenshots from AncestryDNA may not be valid any longer. I do not have access to AncestryDNA so I can't double-check this. Please leave a comment on this answer if this method doesn't work any longer.)

After going through this process, the real work of comparing matches needs to be done on a site like GEDMatch where you have access to a chromosome browser. Christmas warns:

AncestryDNA has yet to install a chromosome browser or provide matching DNA segment data. Without those crucial product features, no AncestryDNA customer can definitively determine how they are genetically related to their matches. AncestryDNA offers “Shared Ancestor Hints” that display a common ancestor who appears in both trees and may have contributed the DNA one shares with one’s match, but as CeCe Moore of Your Genetic Genealogist illustrated with multiple examples, customers cannot “simply be told that a certain common ancestor is responsible for a DNA match and be expected to take AncestryDNA’s word for it.” Our analysis requires genetic data and tools to analyze that data.

Once you have access to a chromosome browser, you'll be able to employ other techniques, such as the one CeCe Moore demonstrates in her post Chromosome Mapping aka Ancestor Mapping.

Horizontal Pedigree Charts

An alternative to sorting your match spreadsheets alphabetically by surname is demonstrated in Analytic Genealogy's post Genetic genealogy needs horizontal pedigree charts. The horizontal pedigree groups the information like this:

horizontal pedigree chart

Many analysts use spreadsheets which keep groups of surnames together, the same way you would see them in a pedigree chart. In this template, the author saves space by compressing the entries for the first three generations (entering the names sideways), leaving more screen space open to view and compare the earlier generations. Follow the link to the blog post -- and look through the comments to find the most recent link to a downloadable template for the spreadsheet shown there.

The author says:

It is set up to print on 11 x 17 at a copy shop. It is also expandable -- you can copy the table into a new worksheet and then each person in the last column becomes the base person of their own table, assigning them the ahnentafel number next to their name.

This extensibility would allow you to go 9 generations back, or more. As you can see from the screenshots in these blog posts, many genealogists make use of color-coding to mark out individual lines or groups of parents/grandparents.

For an explanation of Ahnentafel numbering, see Wikipedia: Ahnentafel.

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