How to find those elusive African DNA matches on Ancestry

Zoom in Gambia

Ethnicity summary of my most likely Gambian DNA match on

Gambia Match


A couple of months ago i found my very first mainland West African DNA cousin on Judging from his name and ethnicity preview he is a Mandinga from Gambia. I was exhilarated!  I had never been able to find a mainland West African match before. Even when i took my first DNA test with 23andme already in 2010! In other words I had to wait seven years for it! Inspite that i haven’t had any meaningful contact yet this genetic connection is still very valuable to me. As I am of Cape Verdean descent this finding seems very appropriate and in line with my primary Upper Guinean roots (see Top 20 Ethnic Roots for Cape Verdeans).

Many people seeking to trace back their African ancestors are very eager to be connected to a specific place and person within Africa. They hope to achieve this by finding a DNA match from the continent. But just like me they are having a hard time to do so. In the beginning this was mostly because only very few Africans were included in the customer databases of companies such as 23andme or Fortunately this has been changing lately because a quickly growing number of Africans or rather African migrants and their children are taking a DNA test. This increases the likelyhood of receiving African DNA matches. However many people still find it difficult and/or tedious to sort out their DNA matches. In this blog post i will therefore describe a method which enables a systematic, comprehensive and time saving detection of your “100% African” DNA matches on

If you continue reading you will find:

  • Some considerations on how to interpret your African DNA matches
  • A step by step tutorial on how to sort out your African DNA matches


Notes of Caution

It is probably no exaggeration to say that for many Afro-Diasporans getting connected with an African DNA cousin represents nothing less than a dream come true. It is considered a highly prized outcome. As a genealogical research reward in itself but often also on an emotional or even spiritual level. Understandably this sometimes leads to wishful thinking and tunnel vision whereby DNA results are not critically assessed. Without wanting to rain on anybody’s parade i will list some considerations which might be helpful to improve the interpretation of receiving African DNA matches. Naturally this section is not meant to be exhaustive.

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. The first thing to take into consideration is establishing whether your African match is indeed genuine or “identical by descent” (IBD) and not just a socalled false positive or random “identical by state” (IBS) match. Getting your parents tested or any other relatives of older generations will increase your ability to be more certain about any given reported DNA match. Also the size of the shared DNA segment will be indicative. It is well advised to carefully read the Predicted Relationship Info given by and especially the confidence score they will assign to your African DNA match.
  • Don’t be misled by the myth of “single tribe origin”! This is a line of thought which seems to be psychologically comforting for many people. It is however not based on historical reality. Practically all Afro-Diasporans will have dozens if not hundreds of relocated African-born ancestors. Depending on your background these ancestors would have been born mostly in the 1700’s but in some cases also in the early 1800’s, 1600’s or even 1500’s. Statistically speaking it is nearly impossible for all those people to have been from just 1 or even just a handful of ethnic groups. Instead, on average an Afro-Diasporan will have various ethnic origins from several places in between Senegal and Mozambique. The particular mix and proportions will vary per individual but not so the fact that a Diasporan’s DNA is basically a melting pot of many different ethnic lineages. It will never reflect just one single ancestral “tribe”. Still your best bet to confirm one particular ethnic lineage (out of many others) is by finding an African DNA cousin with verifiable background.
  • The MRCA (most recent common ancestor) shared between you and your African DNA cousin will not per se be of the same ethnic background as your African DNA match. Without any 100% complete and accurate paper trail in place (or oral traditions to the same effect) you should not be surprised that your African match might also be ethnically mixed further down the line. If not recently than perhaps several generations ago and even beyond family recollection. The extent of inter-ethnic unions taking place within Africa itself is often ignored. There are almost always several possible ancestral scenario’s to consider when you get “matched” with someone. None of them to be ruled out in advance. Careful interpretation is therefore essential.
  • Due to dilution of shared DNA segments across the generations there might be a higher likelyhood of African MRCA’s from the early 1800’s and late 1700’s among your DNA matches. While there might be a built-in bias against African ancestry which is to be traced back to the early 1700’s, 1600’s or even 1500’s. Afterall due to Ancestry’s matching threshold DNA matches with smaller shared segments will not be shown. I am actually in favour of such a conservative approach as i believe that it’s best to avoid IBS matches and the false hope they may evoke. It is of course always a blessing to connect with any family line certified in a robust manner. But for those Afro-Diasporans who happen to have relatively more distant African roots this circumstance might very well lead to a distorted overview of their African heritage. Especially when the regional origins of their African ancestors born in the 1700’s/1800’s were markedly different from their African ancestors born in the 1500’s/1600’s.
  • Certain African countries will tend to be overrepresented in Ancestry’s customer database. Notably English speaking countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. While Portuguese or French speaking countries such as Angola and Benin are underrepresented for the most part. This is mostly due to these countries’ migrant presence in the US/UK (see this graph for biggest groups in USA in 2015). Although by now i actually have personally seen African Ancestry profiles from almost all countries on the continent. So overall the coverage in Ancestry’s customer database is still already quite impressive. But just not so proportionally speaking. This situation creates more chances of being matched with for example your Nigerian lineage but doesn’t potentially invalidate that you might still also have Beninese or Angolan ancestry in addition.
  • Eventhough the wait might seem to take forever Big Data will eventually also be available for African DNA. Whether provided by paying customers of African migrant descent or through academic sampling within Africa itself. Because of upcoming scientific advances your outlook on your African origins might very well be modified five years from now. Instead of receiving just one single African DNA match (if you’re lucky) you will then be guaranteed to get many pages containing perhaps hundreds of African DNA matches! Comparable to the situation of people of European descent right now. This could actually create initial confusion as you are bound to get DNA matches from a myriad of African countries. From personal observation on 23andme’s former CoA (Countries of Ancestry) tool Europeans typically received DNA matches from allover their continent (to their great surprise). For the most part not due to any genuine links within a genealogical timeframe but rather due to IBS and very ancient shared origins from thousands of years ago. Hopefully promising new features such as the Genetic Communities will be further developed to aid in solidly analyzing any of the arising patterns.
  • Look at the bigger picture!  Admixture analysis (based on your autosomal DNA) is often misunderstood or even mocked. Unjustly so as i have found AncestryDNA’s Ethnicity Estimates to be very insightful as long as you know how to correctly interpret them and are aware of inherent limitations.  My assessment is based on the many AncestryDNA results of native Africans i have seen. Which were usually in alignment (broadly) with their verifiable background (see this overview). Also my survey of Afro-Diaspora results was largely a confirmation of historically documented African origins for each nationality.
  • Your ethnicity results will always be relevant to put things in perspective. If only to be able to (roughly) distinguish between major sources of ancestral origins versus minor lineage. Finding one single African DNA match can of course be very valuable but it will still represent only one isolated connection with Africa out of potentially hundreds others. Individual DNA matches – no matter how insightful – will not be able to fill in all the missing pieces of your entire ancestry. Therefore don’t put all your eggs in just one basket. If you want your research to be all encompassing you will want to rely on the complementarity of admixture analysis and DNA matches. The truth has many angles. Explore them all!

For more detailed discussion follow these links:



Up till recently it was extremely difficult to find African DNA matches as there were simply very few native Africans available to get matched with in Ancestry’s customer database. It is a true blessing that this is rapidly changing as more and more Africans are starting to get DNA tested themselves. This presents a unique opportunity to learn more about your African roots (at least along a few selected family lines) and connect with your African DNA cousins.

For some people the following tutorial might be redundant as they were already aware of advanced filtering on Excel or because they have devised other effective ways to detect African DNA matches. This blog post is however aimed at people who are currently missing out on African DNA matches because they simply don’t know where to start. Or because they feel over-awed about scanning through all their DNA matches or unsure on what exactly to pay attention to.

So how does it work and what do you need? 

  1. Either install the  AncestryDNA Helper extension on your Chrome browser
  2. Or as an alternative use the DNAGedcom Client instead
  3. some basic Excel skills (for first-timers: google is your friend!)
  4. follow this step by step tutorial

And basically you are all set! Of course no guarantees given that this will automatically result in finding African DNA matches 😉 This method is merely meant to ensure African matches do not remain undetected. However many people will find that Ancestry’s customer database is still lacking in Africans to be matched with. Don’t despair! Just regularly check your DNA matches according to this filtering method and eventually your efforts will be rewarded.

Just as a p.s. the screenshots used for this tutorial are obviously a reflection of my personal system settings. The display might be slightly different depending on your own settings. For privacy reasons i have cut out the names of my matches.

UPDATE 14-7-2017:

This method for detecting African matches revolves around scanning and then filtering all of your DNA matches. When i first published this blogpost i was only aware of AncestryDNA Helper as a suitable tool for scanning Ancestry’s DNA matches. However in the meanwhile it has been brought to my attention by a helpful commenter that the DNAGedcom Client is a very efficient tool for scanning DNA matches on Ancestry. For many if not most people this tool will probably be much faster and overall less bothersome than AncestryDNA Helper.

For me personally AncestryDNA Helper has always worked fine. I must have scanned dozens of profiles by now. Just to give a general idea a profile with 100 pages of 50 matches each takes me about 5 hours or so. A profile with 50 pages of matches will be scanned completely in less than 3 hours. However from several other people i have received the feedback that AncestryDNA Helper is sometimes not working like it should. Taking far too long to complete the scanning, if at all (even after running it for a couple of days!).  Of course the scanning speed is correlated with your own internet speed as well as the device you’re using and perhaps also compatibility with other software installed. But I personally have never had to scan for more than 1 day. So i would say  that’s definitely a sign something’s off. And in that case you will probably find DNAGedcom a much more workable alternative.

From my personal experience with DNAGedcom i can indeed confirm the scanning is much faster. And furthermore it runs very smoothly in the background without interfering with your possibly other PC/laptop activities. It should be pointed out though that AncestryDNA Helper is a free service while DNAGedcom requires a monthly subscription fee of $5,-. This monthly subscription can however be canceled immediately so you might choose to pay it only once. In any case I would advise everyone to do your own research to find out if this tool might be appropriate. These sites might be useful to decide:

The steps of my tutorial essentially remain the same however there are some minor display changes when using DNAGedcom instead of AncestryDNA Helper. I have therefore included some additional screenshots which can be seen by following below link:

Additional instructions/screenshots when using DNAGedcom instead of AncestryDNA Helper



Do a fully automated scan of your DNA matches by using AncestryDNA Helper.

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Stap 1


  • Log in to
  • Go to your DNA Results Summary page
  • Press the green SCAN button which should appear on the right side of the page if you have properly installed AncestryDNA Helper.
  • Try refreshing the page if the extra AncestryDNA Helper buttons do not show up at once.
  • Downloading the DNA matches will take a while. Depending on the number of pages and your internet speed it could take more than an hour or even several hours! The benefit is of course that the whole process is fully automated and you yourself can research something else in the meanwhile 😉
  • To ensure a smoothly running scan you might want to adjust the powersaving sleep settings for your PC or laptop.
  • For any troubleshooting consult the AncestryDNA Helper Instructions


Download the file of your DNA matches when the scan is completed.

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The original file will be in CSV format. You will need to save the file in Excel (Workbook) format to proceed with the next steps.

  • When you have Excel 2016 you will automatically receive a message to do so (shown below).
  • Otherwise you will need to rightclick the CSV file in the folder where you have stored it. And then choose “open with Excel” and next save as Excel file.
  • For any troubleshooting just google: convert CSV into Excel

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Apply “Text to Columns” to your DNA matches data

  • Open the Excel file
  • Go to Tab “Data”
  • Select the entire column A
  • Click on “Text to Columns”

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Stap 4


  • The “Text to Columns” procedure takes three steps
  • Choose “delimited” as filetype
  • Click next and then choose “Comma” as delimiter
  • Again click next and set the Data format to “general”
  • After clicking finish it should look like the screenshot below
  • If for some reason the data is not divided into individual columns – from A (testid) to X (matchurl) – repeat the “Text to Columns” procedure and try choosing different options

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Make sure that the scan has indeed been fully complete

  • Open the Excel file of your DNA matches
  • Scroll down to the last row
  • Check if all rows are filled in with data from columns A to X
  • Especially check if column T (ethnicregions) is filled from top to bottom
  • If you notice many consecutive blanks in column T it probably means your scan was interrupted somehow (although it could also be that a few of your DNA matches have opted out of displaying their ethnicity regions in their profile settings)
  • Return to step 1 and choose either RESUME SCAN or RETRY SKIPPED MATCHES

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Change the display of your DNA matches data. This will be done by only leaving in the most relevant columns. The other columns will be hidden from view. Because you are not deleting these columns you can always decide to unhide them at a later stage when required.

  • Select all columns you like to be hidden from view
  • Right-click and select “hide”

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Stap 6a


  • The purpose of this step is to keep things manageable and obtain a less data crowded overview.
  • It will be up to your own preference and research purposes to decide which columns you like to keep in and which ones to leave out.
  • I personally have found it convenient to only display column D (admin) and  columns T to X (ethnicregions; ethnictraceregions; centimorgans; segments; matchurl).
  • I also changed the column width when needed. The end result looks like this (column D/admin is blank because of privacy reasons):

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Initially your matches appear to be sorted on the amount of shared DNA as measured in centimorgans in column V. It is however advisable to sort your DNA matches according to Ethnic Regions (column T). This is very helpful for your first manual browse through of your DNA matches. It will enable you to zoom in on DNA matches with a particular regional profile. Because they are sorted on primary region they are already grouped together.

For example as i am of Cape Verdean descent it makes it very easy to single out my most likely Cape Verdean DNA matches (i literally have hundreds of them!). Due to their distinctive profiles Cape Verdeans will almost always have “Senegal” mentioned as biggest region in their African breakdown. For other parts of the Afro-Diaspora it is however more complex. Because their African breakdowns tend to be far more diverse and not consistent at all when it comes to the primary region. But let’s say you yourself happen to have a prominent “Africa Southeastern Bantu” or “Mali” score then it might be a rewarding avenue of research to get in contact with your DNA matches who likewise have these not so commonly appearing regions in first place.

In fact this sorting on ethnic region can potentially also be useful to research any of your non-African lineage, such as Asian, Native American or European. Do keep in mind though that there are always several ways you could be connected to people of mixed background. For example just because you happen to have a DNA match who is primarily Asian doesn’t per se mean you both have an Asian ancestor in common. It could also be the other way around and your MRCA actually is connected with the minor non-Asian origins of your DNA match. Plausibility rather than wishful thinking will be the best guideline as always.

  • Go to Tab “Data”
  • Select the entire worksheet. Either by pressing Ctrl+A or by clicking the select all button in the upper left corner
  • Click on Filter, which should result in each column getting its own filtering menu
  • Click on the filter button for column T (ethnicregions)
  • Choose “Sort A to Z” or if you prefer the other way around “Sort Z to A”

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Stap 7



Apply advanced filter criteria in order to leave in only “100% African” profiles among your DNA matches. These advanced filter criteria are defined in such a way that only DNA matches with exclusively African AncestryDNA regions will remain in your overview. I will describe these criteria further below. This is probably going to be the most important step to see if you have any native African DNA cousins. However this advanced filtering method can actually also be used to zoom into DNA matches who are “100% Asian”, “100% Native American” etc. This is all to be done at your own discretion.

Below instructions are based on my trial & error experience. I have learnt the hard way that you really need to be very precise if you want to make these advanced filter criteria work. So be patient and don’t despair if it doesn’t work at once. Then again depending on your system settings/Excel version it might very well be that there are several roads leading to Rome 😉

  • Enter the advanced filter criteria into your Excel sheet
    • Copy the advanced filter criteria which i have already prepared from this google spreadsheet. They can be found under the heading “Strictly “100% African” filter (A8:Z9).
    • You can also devise these criteria yourself (use this tutorial)
    • Or just copy them manually from the screenshots below
  • Go to Tab “Data” in your own Excel sheet
  • Make sure to enter the criteria horizontally and not vertically
  • Also there should be atleast one blank column inbetween the criteria and the last column of your DNA matches data (atleast this is the only way how it worked for me)
  • If your last column is X (matchurl) then for example rightclick on cell AA1 and paste the copied criteria from my googlesheet. (A8:Z9). When needed you can also do one row at the time (AA1:AZ2)

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Stap 8b

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  • Apply the advanced filter criteria on your DNA matches data
  • Click on Advanced filter
  • Define the range of your DNA matches data (“list range”)
  • If the filter buttons from Step 7 are still in place and you first click on any given cell within the range this will be done automatically
  • Make sure that all of your matches are included in the range by checking the last row number which should equal the total amount of your matches (minus 1, in my case 3066)
  • Define the range of your advanced filter criteria (“criteria range”)
  • The easiest way to do this is to
    • first click on the upperleft cell (in my case AA1)
    • scroll all the way right
    • keep the SHIFT key pressed
    • and then click on the bottomright cell (in my case AZ2)
  • For the finishing touch just click on Enter or OK and voilá only your “100% African” DNA matches will be left over (if you have any). In my case my most likely Gambian DNA cousin shows up as the only profile among my 3066 matches who is exclusively African (genetically speaking).
  • Obviously “100% African” DNA profiles could also very well belong to a Afro-Diasporan rather than be a native African. In STEP 10 i will list some tips on how to make the distinction. But just like for this step there’s no guarantees that this will enable you to single out each and every native African profile. In the next step i will first discuss the matter of native African DNA cousins who aren’t “100% African”.

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Apply less stringent advanced filter criteria to also include native Africans who are not “100% African”. Afterall many native Africans are “mixed” according to AncestryDNA’s format because they also have additional regions appearing such as Middle East, Asia, Europe or even the Pacific. These native (atleast for more than thousand years or so) Africans would be North & East Africans, the Malagasy from Madagascar, and also the Fula and related people from across Sahellian West Africa. This complicates finding adequate advanced filter criteria because naturally you wouldn’t want to miss out on any possible DNA matches from these areas. Even when especially North & East African matches will for the most part be quite unusual and uncommon for Trans Atlantic Afro-Diasporans.

In my googlesheet i have included additional sets of advanced filter criteria which might function as a workaround. Naturally this less stringent filtering method does also increase the number of DNA matches who are actually Afro-Diasporan. In the next step i will discuss some tips on how to make the distinction. But first:

  • Undo the filter from the previous step by simply clicking on Filter.
  • Make sure that all your (sorted) DNA matches have reappeared again
  • Enter the less stringent advanced filter criteria into your Excel sheet.
    • Copy the advanced filter criteria which i have already prepared from this google spreadsheet. They can be found under the heading “More inclusive African filter” (A14:O15).
    • Actually in my googlesheet i have also defined a third set of criteria which should ensure that only matches without any European regions are left over: to be used at your own discretion.
    • You might also want to tweak around with these criteria yourself (use this tutorial). Please leave a comment if you think you have found any improvements!
    • Or just copy them manually from the first screenshot below
  • Follow all the remaining instructions from STEP 8

In my case no additional native African matches are appearing when applying this filter. I have however also used these less stringent criteria on several other profiles i have access to. And for some of these people i did manage to find additional native African matches (in particular Fula but also Kenyans). The second screenshot is showing the DNA matches of a woman who is half African American and half Senegalese Fula. You will notice many of them even have European trace regions (low confidence) aside from Middle East scores. I would consider this to be merely a consequence of genetic overlap between North Africa/West Asia and Southern Europe. And not any robust indication of genuine minor European lineage. Column D with the most likely background details was filled in by myself.

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Stap 9a

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Stap 9b



Determine if your filtered DNA matches are native African or Afro-Diasporan. Of course getting in contact with your DNA match will provide the best answers. Otherwise basically you will want to go by every possible clue available. Obviously this list is not meant to be exhaustive and the results will also reflect your own research skills 😉

  • Check if your match has a public family tree and look for the birth places. This information will not always be conclusive though due to adoption, migration etc. Also from my experience this information is regrettably not filled in by the greater majority of native Africans on Ancestry (as well as Afro-Diasporans actually).
  • Pay attention to the profile name. If it seems “African” google for it, even if it’s just a nickname! You might also want to search for the name on or on Facebook. Often you will be able to zoom into most likely nationality or even ethnic group. Although many African names are in fact widespread across several countries. Also be careful because sometimes Afro-Diasporans adopt African names (due to conversion to Islam, marriage or as an Afro-pride statement).
  • Check the profile details of your DNA match (by clicking on his or her name). Usually the member profile is left blank but sometimes spoken languages, research interests etc. are mentioned, which could provide a useful hint.
  • Click on “shared matches” to see if you and your match have any mutual DNA matches. This will usually not be the case for native Africans. While especially for people of your own nationality the likelyhood will naturally be much greater.
  • Analyze the ethnic regions mentioned for your “100% African” matches. Native Africans tested on AncestryDNA will usually also show several regions in their breakdowns. However most of the time results of native Africans can easily be distinguished for having a much narrower regional scope on average than Afro-Diasporans, even if the latter happen to be “100% African”! The regions reported for native Africans will almost always be:
    • geographically adjacent
    • generally fewer in number
    • and often with only one single predominant region
  • Even if your “100% African” DNA match turns out to be an Afro-Diasporan it might still be very helpful to contact them as they might yet somehow clarify parts of your African lineage. Otherwise it will simply be interesting to find out how you both are related.

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AA-HT-JAM - 100


Finishing Remarks

I have applied this advanced filtering method not only for myself but also already for over a dozen other people who have shared their DNA matches with me. I am therefore quite confident that this method works! Up till recently i actually used a much less thorough method based on simply browsing through my list of matches on Ancestry’s website and paying close attention especially to the profile names which appeared to be African. And then checking if the preview of their ethnicity estmates would indeed be “100% African”. That’s how i discovered my most likely Gambian DNA cousin. Another method i used was performing a search on birth location by typing in various African country names.

Eventhough these latter methods do also deliver results i have found that there are added benefits to this filtering method:

  • It is more systematic and comprehensive. Because of the automated scan performed by AncestryDNA Helper and the automated filtering performed by Excel. In principle it should show you all “100% African” DNA matches (if you have them). Including those profiles without African names or family tree! Which from my experience is actually the case for a majority of native Africans on In other words if you are merely browsing through your matches based on name or birth location you are potentially missing out on native African DNA matches!
  • Furthermore it is timesaving. I have heard some people open the profiles of each and every match in their list to check the preview ethnicity estimates for “100% African” DNA matches. Again this can also be effective. However it is also tedious and especially if you have over a 100 pages of DNA matches it can take up a LOT of your time! Naturally such a manual proces will also be prone to inadvertently overlooking native African DNA matches.

All of this is not to say this advanced filtering method will be flawless 😉

  • Not all native Africans are going to be “100% African” genetically speaking. And Afro-Diasporans can of course also be “100% African”. I already dealed with this matter in STEP 9 & 10. However it could also be that one of your DNA matches happens to have one parent who is native African and one parent who is from somewhere else. These DNA matches could also provide you with valuable clues as long as you can ascertain that your MRCA is indeed along the native African parent’s side.
  • Some of your 100% African matches might actually not be 100% African at all! Due to an incomplete summary of their ethnicity estimate which in most cases actually will include some non-African admixture as well.  These would be people who opted out of the socalled full “Ethnicity Profile Display”. This would appear to be a default setting and applied to most of your DNA matches. But in some cases it might happen that someone chooses to uncheck this box and then “your DNA matches will only see the portion of your ethnicity estimate that they share in common with you“. (see DNA settings on
  • Even if this method will provide you with the contact details of your African DNA matches, don’t be surprised if the response rate will generally speaking not be very high. This is a general complaint on and actually due to several reasons and not per se a sign of disinterest. Instead of being judgmental or disappointed just lower your expectation level and be thankful for every reply message that you do receive from your newly found cousins!
  • Registering with GED-Match will enable you to “fish in a bigger pond”. As the database of this free of charge website will include DNA tested Africans from other companies as well (such as 23andme and FTDNA). You can upload your raw data from by following these instructions:
  • Best of luck in your ancestral quest!


Please Leave a Comment!

I wrote this tutorial because i was not able to find one aimed specifically at Afro-Diasporans.  And i strongly feel this kind of information can potentially be very beneficial for people seeking to connect with their African DNA cousins.  To be honest it was my first time writing a tutorial and therefore i found it quite challenging. If you have read this blog post all the way down to this section i would really appreciate any kind of feedback! Anyone who knows how to improve on this tutorial or has any additional tips/methods please share and let me and the readers of this blog know so we can all mutually learn!  Also if you have any questions feel free to ask them (do keep in mind that i am no IT genius so i won’t be able to answer all of your technically related questions 😉 ). Did this filtering method result in any new African DNA matches for you that you weren’t aware of before? If so how many? I am really excited about this method so i would love to hear how it works out for other people!


23 gedachten over “How to find those elusive African DNA matches on Ancestry

    • Thanks a lot for your feedback, much appreciated! I have changed the access settings for the googlesheet, it should work now. Please tell me if it is still not giving you access.

      Step 8 is the most crucial step, i got stuck here myself also at first haha. Please let me know where exactly you can’t proceed. Is it when applying the advanced filter criteria and defining the range?

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this method will produce new African matches for you!

      Liked by 1 persoon

  1. Okay, to make it easily for me, I just filtered by “text” -> “begins with” (e.g., “Mali,” “Senegal,” “Nigeria,” or “Ivory” etc. This still produced the desired results. The search criteria returned all matches with the top ranked targeted regional cluster. Although it doesn’t filter out the admixtures, I can get an overall view of my matches that have “Mali” or “Senegal” ranked first in the primary regional cluster. I was still able to easily spot my 100% African genome matches. THANKS FOR SHARING!

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • You’re very welcome! I find that sorting your matches on ethnic regions (STEP 7) is very helpful indeed and furthermore it can also be used for other research purposes.

      How many native African matches on are you currently aware of and what is their background?


      • Thanks for giving me access to your DNA matches! I applied both advanced filters and some really fascinating findings appeared. This is very helpful as I intend to do a follow-up blog analyzing the DNA matches for people across the Diaspora. I verified the background of each of your filtered matches according to STEP 10, but only the ones with a * can be confirmed through their family tree or family name.

        FILTER 1 – STRICTLY “100% AFRICAN”
        Total number: 10x (out of 5,426)
        Native Africans (most likely): 2x
        GHANA*: 1x

        MADAGASCAR (possibly): 2x

        Contrasting these native African matches with your entire ancestral breakdown seems useful. Your African breakdown is consisting mostly of a predominant socalled “Benin/Togo” score of 40% as well as 25% “Cameroon/Congo”. Yet it appears you have no DNA cousins sofar from these places. While your Ghanaian match most likely corresponds with your “Ivory Coast/Ghana” score of 7% and your Nigerian match is possibly/perhaps derived from your Nigeria score of barely 1%! Even when the labeling of the AncestryDNA regions should of course not be taken too literally and especially Nigerians are often described by additional regions, incl. Benin/Togo and Cameroon/Congo. Still i suppose this outcome would be suggesting that a greater part of your African ancestry is not yet reflected in your DNA matches.

        What i found even more surprising were your two possibly Madagascar matches (one of them seems pretty certain going by the name the other less so). Given that you show no traces of either Asian or Polynesian DNA. Also your “Southeastern Bantu” is rather minimal at 1%. Then again you could also be related to them by way of shared “Cameroon/Congo” DNA, which is spread out across southern Africa to a greater extent than indicated by

        Furthermore just browsing through your entire list of matches i spotted two persons who are most likely of half Ethiopian and half African American descent. I suppose the most plausible way you are related to them would be through their AA parent. Intriguingly i also came across a profile with a seemingly Nigerian/Igbo name. The ethnicity preview also looks in line with a Nigerian background except for one European traceregion (Great Britain). Of course it might be possible for a few Nigerians to have some distant European ancestry reflecting their individual familyhistories. This goes to show one of the limitations of the “strictly 100% African” filter.

        I also found it very interesting to see some of your cross-Diaspora matches from the West Indies and Latin America. Going by their Portuguese names and ethnicity breakdown i think it’s very likely you also have two Cape Verdean as well as two possibly Brazilian matches. However one of these possibly Brazilian matches could in fact also be a socalled mestiço (mixed) Angolan! This is the ethnicity breakdown, you will notice an absence of any Native American and a predominance of Central African/Bantu origins:

        Main regions: Cameroon/Congo, Africa Southeastern Bantu, Nigeria
        Traceregions: Iberian Peninsula, Mali, Ivory Coast/Ghana, Italy/Greece, Africa North, Ireland, Senegal


  2. Congratulations on your new find Felipe!

    Out of curiosity, what was the length of your shared segment?

    Thanks again for your continued interest, your blog means a lot to an increasing many


    • Thanks a lot for your comment Ben, i truly appreciate it!

      The shared segment is 7,3 cM, with a confidence score of “Moderate”. Estimated likelyhood of it being IBD is said to be in between 15%-50%. Also perhaps tellingly none of my Cape Verdean DNA cousins are shown as shared matches. So eventhough i am still very much thrilled about this finding i do realize it may not be as clearcut as it may seem at first.

      Just to apply some of the considerations i discuss in this blog on myself :

      – There definitely seems to be a possibility this match will turn out to be IBS or perhaps also IBP (Identical by Population). In the latter case i could still be genetically connected to my match but just in a much wider timeframe.

      – Judging from historical demography the greater part of my (mainland) African ancestors lived in the 1500’s or 1600’s before they ended up in Cape Verde. Of course i might have a few mainland ancestors as wel from the 1700’s, maybe even 1 from the early 1800’s but they would most likely make up a small share as most Cape Verdeans had been free from slavery atleast since the census of 1731 when the enslaved portion of the population was a minority of 17%. I suspect most African segments in the Cape Verdean genepool are therefore too diluted and fragmented (due to recombination) for IBD matching.

      – I have been assuming my match is from Gambia and a Mandinga based on his name. However the mentioning of “Nigeria” as one of his main regions does already suggest he might be ethnically mixed. Possibly some distant Hausa lineage? Even if this only turns out to be a misreading on Ancestry’s part the fact remains that the Mandinga of Gambia are known to have absorbed many other ethnic groups within their ranks ever since they migrated from Mali. In particular the Banhun (a.k.a. Bainuk) and the Jola (a.k.a. Diola) who had been residing in Senegambia prior to the arrival of the Mandinga. Both of these ethnic groups were also heavily present in Cape Verde during the slave trade era so my MRCA with my Gambian match could very well also have been either Jola or Banhun instead of a Mandinga.

      – Another historical possibility is that the direction of geneflow is actually the other way around! With my possibly Gambian match having distant Cape Verdean lineage rather than me having a distant Gambian ancestor. The Gambia river used to be a very important trading area for Caper Verdean merchants in the 1500’s and many actually settled here. Culturally speaking they formed distinctive socalled Luso-African communities up till the late 1700’s. After that time no historical reports are known and they are assumed to have just assimilated and merged within the general population.Nonetheless genetically their traces might yet still exist!

      – Although i know already of a few persons from Guinea Bissau who have tested with still their customer database will be biased against Cape Verdeans receiving matches from that country. While the number of DNA tested Gambians and Senegalese also isn’t that large i suppose given their greater migrant presence in the US/UK the odds might be greater to receive matches from those countries.

      – My African breakdown as reported by AncestryDNA is a predominant combination of “Senegal” and “Mali” (together about 2/3 of my African DNA). This is in line with other Cape Verdean profiles and historical evidence pointing towards Upper Guinea being the overwhelming source of African ancestry for Cape Verdeans. In this way it’s not at all surprising that i received a match from Gambia. Arguably the Mandinga may even have been among the most numerous and definitly the most culturally influential among the many groups which are known to have been present in Cape Verde. Still based on historical plausibility i am pretty much convinced that within my African DNA are included many more ethnic contributions from allover Upper Guinea, from Senegal to Sierra Leone, And quite likely also beyond to a minor degree (Angola and/or Mozambique?)


  3. Sadly, I can’t get past the scanning part. For some odd reason it doesn’t load all of the information. I rescan and sadly, there is still chunks of data missing. I am going to be brave enough to try one more time…lol.

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • Thanks for the feedback! Scanning the matches can be troublesome sometimes. I completed the full scan of your matches and also filtered them according to my tutorial. Out of 4,749 DNA matches 9 profiles are “100% African”. At least genetically speaking. Unfortunately i don’t think anyone of them appears to be a native African. Only 1 profile might be half Nigerian and half African American judging from the name and familytree. the others are either African American or West Indian.

      Interestingly i did however find 4 profiles who are most likely Cape Verdean! Now you might actually also be related to them via an European MRCA but it could also be linked to your 10% “Senegal”! If you should ever find a DNA match from Senegal or neighbouring countries i would be very interested to hear about it!


  4. Im kinda in the same situation a Ameera,Its taking me weeks to scan and not all of the data is scanning. Plus i had 102 pages of matches to go through that has now moved up to 105, I feel like im in a never ending chase. I don’t think i’ll be able to get this done, the only way would be to go through it manually.So far Ive only been able to find about 2 Pure blooded africans all nigerian.I found other Africans but they were not pure blood but also looking like they have a recent Nigerian relative that mixed with and afro american. People have been contacting me that have gotten matches with me(non pure bloods), but we cannot find any link and i just end up giving up.One Woman i ended up matching on ancestry,Then i matched her on Ged-match also.Not only that her mother took the test and came up as match also on Ancestry and Gedmatch to me. But non of our families share ONE last name or relative in our family tree. And her’s is very large.She doesn’t even live anywhere near me and her family history most of it is far away from mine.She’s also insanely mixed as far as lineages. Im a bit dissapointed, it makes me wonder how accurate these match ups are.Also a generous of my close matches have alot of Madagascar combos in their Dna (I.E Polynesia,Melanesia,Asia South or some form of asia all at once)But i don’t have an ounce detected of any of them on ancestry, just some slight noise in Asia central and west asia. But all my Asia ranges are ZERO.Also the “Search by birth locations” Seems to be unreliable, because i type in african countries and get people that said they were born in Alabama, but ancestry says they were born in ghana, or ethiopia,or angola. Come to find out they just have it in their lineages,they wernt actually directly from their. Is it even normal to have this many matches and growing? cause im abit discouraged right now. Ive decided to give 23andme a try to see what they come with and get 2 estimates. from my experience most people get simular results between ancestry and 23 and me.with only a max of 3% difference.

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • Thanks for the feedback Vanessa! I have been hearing this from several people now that the scanning of the matches is causing problems. I have finished scanning your 105 pages of matches and it took me a while but still no more than about 4 hours i think (i will get to my findings later on). The only time i had to really take almost a day out for scanning was for a person who had over 400 pages of matches (=20,000!) So i’m really curious why for some people it would take several days and still the scan is not completed even. I suppose it might have to do with internetspeed when i do a speedtest i get: DOWNLOAD 15.03 Mbps // UPLOAD 30.17 Mbps. What is your internetspeed?

      But perhaps it’s also caused by an additional factor. According to AncestryDNA Helper :

      The speed of a scan is highly dependent on the number of matches you have, the speed of your computer, the speed of your Internet connection and the activity going on with the website at the time. The faster your computer and Internet speeds, the faster your scan will be.

      Once the extension starts scanning, it will open a new tab in the Chrome browser for each match, so you will see flashing or find it difficult to use the browser or anything else on the computer for other things. It is best to leave it running for however long it takes. This feature was implemented due to earlier versions that were blocked by memory issues in Chrome. While scanning, the AncestryDNA web pages might error out or hang occasionally. The extension makes every attempt to auto-refresh and these time-outs are far less frequent then they used to be.

      If the scan fails to automatically refresh and appears to be stuck for several minutes, you will need to press the F5 key or click the Reload button to get it started again. You can Cancel and restart the scan at any time with no loss of data. If you get the Chrome “Aw, Snap” screen, click Reload, then go to your DNA home page and click the Resume Scan button.


    • Hi Vanessa, I completed the full scan of your matches and also filtered them according to my tutorial. Out of 5,236 DNA matches only 3 profiles are “100% African”. At least genetically speaking. This would explain why you have found it so hard to find any African matches!

      I have a strong feeling this is correlated with your family US state origins. I found it very interesting to see that Ancestry gave you 3 genetic communities, two of them exactly corresponding with what you shared with me earlier: North Carolina & Maryland! The third one “Deep South” is most likely due to ancestral connections created by Domestic Slave Trade originating in the Upper South. In other words the people in this GC will (most likely) be connected to you not because of a MRCA from the Deep South but rather a MRCA from NC/MD who was relocated. Either way the fact that your family hails from the Upper South and also the fact that you seem to have very few 100% African DNA matches would suggest your family presence in the US is relatively speaking very longstanding and to be traced back atleast to the mid 1700’s if not (on some lines) to the late 1600’s!

      From the three 100% African matches, one would be Nigerian judging from name and ethnicity breakdown. The shared segment size is quite impressive (16,4cM)! The second match might be from Ghana (Ewe) and is perhaps to be linked with your primary “Benin/Togo”score! However i have no certainty about this. It might turn out he is actually from somewhere in the Americas. The third 100% African match could possibly be from Guyana (based on some googling) however also otherwise this match is most likely either West Indian or AA and not native African.

      Applying my more inclusive filter i found two additional profiles which might belong to Africans! One of them seems very likely to be a Cape Verdean, and the second one could be a person of Fula descent (but probably only partially so judging from his regional breakdown). So this might possibly link into your 5% Senegal but of course also other ancestral options could be valid. Either way this finding might shed more light on your Upper Guinean origins.


    • To hark back at some of the issues you mentioned:

      – Finding out how you are exactly related to any of your DNA matches is usually going to be difficult indeed. Even with family trees in place and discounting the possibility of false positives or IBS matches. For useful tips on African American genealogy i would recommend checking out this great overview of blogs:
      *African-American Genealogy Blogs, DNA Blogs, and Genealogy Podcasts

      And also this blogpost could be inspirational:
      *African-American Genealogy: Unearthing Your Family’s Past, From the Present to the Civil War

      – Any Madagascar connection you might have is likely to be very diluted as most Madagascar captives arrived in the early 1700’s. Due to socalled genetic “wash out” it could be that the Southeast Asian DNA trace amounts are no longer detectable for yourself but still are for some of your DNA cousins. Also of course it could be that you inherited African DNA from a Madagascar MRCA! Which could be either “Southeastern Bantu but also Cameroon/Congo”!
      See also:
      * Southeast Africa (maps, charts etc)

      – The “search by birth locations” approach is indeed not always very productive. That’s why i devised this tutorial instead for finding native African matches. From from my experience most Africans who get DNA tested do not fill in any public family tree so you will not be able to find them by searching on birth location. Furthermore of course the reliability or rather quality of the information contained in any given family tree is dependent on the person who created the family tree.

      – Lately the customer database of Ancestry has been increasing very rapidly and that’s why also the number of your DNA matches is growing. Not all of these matches are going to be helpful but like i said in this blog post the more people (incl. Africans) get tested the higher the odds of eventually finding insightful connections!


  5. Fonte Felipe, thanks for your great contribution! I’m sure it will help many people.

    Something important I have to share, I think should help many of the people who’ve had trouble with the scanning using AncestryDNA Helper.

    A much, much easier way to download files of your Ancestry matches is to use the DNAGedcom Client program. DNAgedcom is another site like Gedmatch that’s volunteer-run. The DNAgedcom Client program will download all of your matches from any of the three main companies, Ancestry, 23andMe, or FTDNA. It’s very easy to set up, and it rarely gets hung up in scanning, as AncestryDNA Helper does.

    It produces a very nice CSV file with all the columns already there, so you won’t need to convert text to columns. Not only does it give you the Matches file with all their ethnic ancestry estimates, but also, two other wonderful files. The Trees or Ancestors file lists EVERY ancestor of ALL your matches who have a public tree, including the dates and places of their birth and death. If you are lucky enough to have African matches who have trees, you should be able to spot them with this file, which has many uses. Finally, it creates the ICW file, which lists all of the Shared Matches among all of your matches. Very interesting information!

    All of your filtering could get started much more quickly by starting with the DNAgedcom Client. I use sorting instead of filtering, myself, and find that it works just as well.

    Also, I constantly use color-coding, so the interesting ethnic ancestry will jump out at me. This is done through Conditional Formatting. You choose “Highlight Cells Rules,” and then select “Text that Contains”. Choose a word or phrase that you want to spot easily, like “Bantu,” and choose a Custom cell color of your liking. This is extremely helpful! You can choose to apply a rule to only the columns you want, and multiple rules can apply to those columns, one for each word or phrase of interest.

    Please be aware, though, that the DNAGedcom Client changes the names of the ethnic ancestry categories to make them more abbreviated and easy to sort. It’s still easy to tell which are which.

    I’m very interested in Malagasy ancestry. I’m not sure that I have any (that would be great, but I have to be realistic), but a number of my friends, clients, and their matches, whose origins are primarily European, are showing strong signs of trace Malagasy ancestry. They have various combinations of SE Bantu and South-Central Hunter-Gatherers, with Melanesian, Polynesian, South and East Asian, etc. These are mainly folks with deep roots in early colonial Virginia.

    I wish everyone much joy and success in this exciting endeavor!

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • Hello Bonnie, thanks so much for your wonderful suggestions! This is exactly the kind of constructive feedback i was hoping for! Many people have indeed been complaining that the scanning process through AncestryDNA Helper has been troublesome. I had heard about DNAGedcom before but never tried it out myself. I have done so now in the meanwhile and it went exactly as you said!

      The set-up was straightforward and easy. I have 75 pages of matches and a full scan took me just under 60 minutes!!! Also scanning for family tree details and shared matches took me under 1 hour! I have since then proceeded with scanning several other profiles i have access to,and again no hick-ups, just smooth and fast scanning. So this definitely seems like a good alternative for AncestryDNA Helper! As an extra bonus i understand you can also use this tool for downloading your matches on 23andme although i haven’t tried this out yet. You will have to be willing to pay a small subscriber’s fee ($5) for this tool unlike AncestryDNA Helper which is for free. But in my opinion it’s totally worth it!

      I have already received positive feedback & recommendations from other people who are currently using DNAGedcom. Naturally everyone has to decide for themselves whether they like to try this. Performance might vary for some people. I would advise everyone to do their own research therefore to find out if this tool might be appropriate.

      Just speaking for myself i think it’s a very helpful tool and I will make some needed adjustments in my tutorial. Again many thanks Bonnie, truly appreciate this!

      p.s. You might be interested to know that i intend to publish a new blog post featuring the DNA matches of about a dozen Africans across the continent who tested on Ancestry. I will provide a summary and some comparative analysis of their DNA matches. Among the Africans featured will also be a person from Madagascar who has no less than 63 pages of matches! Many of them also being European Americans! I actually have been coming across European American matches for all African profiles i have analyzed sofar, most of them with some minor African ancestry, showing up as mere Trace regions. But intriguingly also several of these matches were “100% “European”genetically speaking, atleast according to Ancestry’s estimates.


  6. Additional screenshots/instructions when using instead of AncestryDNA Helper.

    My scanning and filtering tutorial essentially remains the same. However there are some minor differences in the outputfiles obtained after scanning by either AncestyDNA Helper or Most importantly the labeling of the ethnic regions has been altered by Which makes it necessary to apply different advanced filter criteria. These can be found through this link.

    I will provide some extra screenshots and comment when needed for steps 1, 7 and 8. For all the other steps please refer to my original blog post above.

    STEP 1 (scanning your matches)

    Do a fully automated scan of your DNA matches by using DNAGedcom



    *Install the DNAGedcom Client by following these instructions
    *Log in with your Ancestry username & password
    *Click “Gather Matches” for scanning and downloading your DNA matches
    *For any troubleshooting consult the DNAGedcom homepage or Facebook group

    Once all the data has been downloaded, go to the folder you set under “Options”. The files will be named something like m_ProfileName.csv. From my own experience both the set-up and the scanning is very easy and efficient. The outputfile is in CSV format but might not require a “Text to Columns” procedure when the columns are already appearing separately. If this should however not be the case please follow step 4 as described above.

    STEP 7 (sorting your DNA matches according to ethnic region)

    This step remains the same except that the labeling of the ethnic regions has been altered, especially those for the European regions (Great Britain=AngloSaxon; Ireland=Celtic; Scandinavia=EuropeN, Finland/Northwest Russia=UralVolga; Iberian Peninsula=EuropeIb; Italy/Greece=EuropeS etc.)



    STEP 8 (filtering your matches to single out African matches)

    Because of the different ethnic region labeling on DNAGedcom it will be necessary to apply advanced filter criteria which have been adjusted. These can be found through this link. Otherwise please follow all the instructions already given in the original text for Step 8.














  7. Can I use Google Sheets instead of Excel for the processing? If not, will one of the free Excel substitutes work (Libre Office, for example)? Thanks!


    • Hi Michael, I do not think Google Sheets has a filtering functionality so it will not be suitable. As for the other Excel substitutes i have not used them myself. Please let me know if they turn out to be helpful!


      • Thanks much for the reply! I appreciate it. I don’t own Excel, however I found that one can subscribe to the Office suite for $6.99 a month. So I’m off and running to work with your method. I’m excited. 😊


      • You’re very welcome! I’m hoping you’ll find some African DNA matches. If you should get stuck at any of the steps i will gladly assist.


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