Gedmatch Generations

One of the tools on Gedmatch that is very useful but which causes some confusion is the column headed “Gen”, which means “Generations”. The number in this column means the estimated number of generations back to the common ancestor shared by you and your match. Whilst we easily understand that 2 generations back to a common ancestor means we are cousins, 3 generations back means we are second cousins and so on, but what confuses many people is how can you have in-between numbers like 2.6, 3.9, 4.1?

This number is to be understood as a guestimate or guideline that shows roughly how far back you might start looking for your common ancestor. To quote genealogist Kerry Scott, the generation estimates are “not etched in stone – they are etched in sand at best!” This is due to the random way that DNA is inherited between each generation – it is very common, once you get beyond a couple of generations, for a segment of DNA to remain intact and be passed down over several generations without changing. This means that the number of generations given with your match might also be exactly the same as that shown with your match’s parent or grandparent!

Another problem comes when you might be three generations back to a common ancestor and your match is from a closer generation and they are only two generations back to the same common ancestor. How do you work that out?!

So I had a look at the known connections I have with my genetic cousins who’ve uploaded to Gedmatch and this is the range of how Gedmatch calculated the generation distance to the most recent common ancestors and then I give the actual relationships. As you can see, the further distant the common ancestor, the more varied are the possible relationships.

Gen 1
Well, that’s easy – it’s always going to be a parent-child relationship

Gen 1.2
Oddly, this is always a sibling relationship

Gen 1.4
Half-sibling
Uncle ~ niece

Gen 1.5
Uncle ~ niece
This makes sense: the common ancestors for my uncle are his parents, which is 1 generation, but for me, his niece, it is my grandparents, 2 generations. Therefore, the Gedmatch Generation is calculated as being between 1 and 2 = 1.5

Gen 1.6
Uncle/aunt ~ niece/nephew

Gen 1.9
1C (first cousins), whose common ancestors are their grandparents, which is 2 generations

Gen 2.2
1C (first cousins)
1C1R (first cousins once removed)

Gen 2.3
1C1R (first cousins once removed)

Gen 2.5
1C1R (first cousins once removed)
Again, this makes sense: my cousin is a generation older than me, his grandparents, which is 2 generations, are my great-grandparents, which is 3 generations. Therefore, the Gedmatch Generation is calculated as being between 2 and 3 = 2.5

Gen 2.6
1C1R (first cousins once removed)
2C (second cousins)

Gen 2.9
2C (second cousins)

Gen 3.0
2C (second cousins)
This is the ideal scenario, with the common shared ancestors for me and my match both being 3 generations back.

Gen 3.3
2C1R (second cousins once removed)

Gen 3.5
2C1R (second cousins once removed)
Again, this makes sense: my second cousin is a generation older than me, her G-grandparents, which is 3 generations, are my GG-grandparents, which is 4 generations.Therefore, the Gedmatch Generation is calculated as being between 3 and 4 = 3.5
3C (third cousins)
2C2R (second cousins twice removed)
Here we have a case of our common ancestors being my G-grandparents, 3 generations, but these ancestors are my matches GGG-grandparents, 5 generations: a difference of two generations between me and my match

Gen 3.6
2C1R (second cousins once removed)
3C (third cousins)

Gen 3.7
2C1R (second cousins once removed)
3C (third cousins)
3C1R (third cousins once removed)

Gen 3.8
2C2R (second cousins twice removed)
3C (third cousins)

Gen 3.9
3C1R (third cousins once removed)

Gen 4.0
3C (third cousins)
This is the ideal scenario, with the common shared ancestors for me and my match both being 4 generations back.

Gen 4.1
2C1R (second cousins once removed)
2C2R (second cousins twice removed)
2C3R (second cousins three times removed)
This is quite an unusual because our shared common ancestors are my GGGG-grandparents, 6 generations back, but my match’s shared common ancestors are only his G-grandparents. That’s a difference of three generations, even though my match is just 10 years older than me! This is because I am descended from the eldest child of our common ancestor, but my match is descended from the youngest child, who was 25 years younger; and likewise my ancestors were the eldest of young parents, but my cousin’s parents and grandparents had children late in life, which resulted in this apparent shift of three generations even though me and my match are in the same present-day generation! Yes, just think about it for a moment 😀
3C1R (third cousins once removed)

Gen 4.2
2C1R (second cousins once removed)

Gen 4.3
3C (third cousins)

Gen 4.4
2C2R (second cousins twice removed)
3C (third cousins)
3C1R (third cousins once removed)
3C2R (third cousins twice removed)
4C (fourth cousins)
4C1R (fourth cousins once removed)

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16 Responses to Gedmatch Generations

  1. Chris says:

    Thankyou for explaining that. Makes sense now.

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  2. cassmob says:

    Thanks! This a great help.

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    • gengenaus says:

      Thanks Pauline – I’m happy if it’s helpful for you. By the way, I really like your blog and enjoyed listening to your interview on Genies Down Under podcast last year 🙂

      Like

  3. Diane says:

    Thank you Cate. It makes such sense now.

    Like

    • gengenaus says:

      You’re welcome, Kerryn. By the way, I like your website about your Irish ancestors – I have a great interest in Irish Australian history – my focus is on South Australia 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pamela Lydford says:

    Ithink I understand. Pamela

    Like

  5. Lauren says:

    Thanks. Think I will print this out for reference.

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  6. Courtney McAllister says:

    Thank you for this information. Can you provide information on how the descendants of half siblings (sister and brother) would show? The potential descendants are both males and their Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 2.5. After discovering this DNA connection, I am trying to determine the specific connection and from a chronological standpoint, it would make sense if one of the connection’s Mother and the other’s Father were half siblings. Is there a way to determine if this theory is correct? Or would I need to go an additional generation back in the case of half sibling descendants with a 2.5? Thanks in advance for your assistance!

    Largest segment = 72.6 cM
    Total of segments > 7 cM = 443.3 cM
    18 matching segments
    Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 2.5

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  7. donegalroots says:

    Thanks Cate That was very helpful. I would think that when there is endogamy or multiple relationships to several grandparents involved this can throw off these estimates. For example, I have a known 4th cousin with whom I share 124 cM with the longest segment being 40 cM. Gedmatch estimates the relationship to be 3.4, which would be 2C1R. This cousin has 3 ancestors in common with me. He comes from a small Catholic community in rural Ontario, Canada, where there was a lot of cousin marriages, back in the 1800s.

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  8. Lynda says:

    Just made a chart with this info for future reference.

    Like

  9. Sharon Rowe says:

    Thank you, thank you!

    Like

  10. Ali says:

    Hi

    I would be very grateful if you could tell me what a half aunt/half niece would be. I measure mica 1.9 but don’t know if my match is a 1sr cousin or half niece. My father is either her uncle or her grandfather. Many many thanks if you could help me. Ali

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  11. Leigh says:

    Hi, I’m so lost. Gen has me at 1.6 with a person that is my mother’s first cousin .yet that person shares a paternal uncle with me. It was said her father was also my father. I tested with alledged father’s brothers son and got 1.6 too. We’ll known gen.said it’s like a have twin father’s but they wasnt. It just gets messier. The family doesn’t want me to be their fathers daughter. Tested with same persons full brother and he was higher in cms etc with me then the sisters. I’m female. Smh. Blessings. So confused and lost in this

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