Comparison of ICW AutoCluster and AutoSegment AutoCluster

I’ve been wanting to do a comparison between the In Common With (ICW) clusters and AutoSegment clusters ever since AutoSegment came out. So today I finally did that!  The ICW clusters are the ones that have been available either on the site, such as MyHeritage or GEDmatch, or can be accessed from your account on Genetic Affairs. The Auto Segment clusters are relatively new and use the csv files that you download from the different testing sites. In previous blog posts, I already discussed the AutoSegment and hybrid AutoSegment tools.


I started with 23anMe mainly because I’ve worked most with that data, since my cousin Patricia Harris Anthony (Trish)1 tested there.  First I downloaded aggregate data from 23andMe so I’d have the latest list of matches.  Then I ran Genetic Affairs ICW cluster from 600 cM to 30 cM, with a minimum shared 15 cM and cluster size of 2.  Trish is listed as sharing 402 cM with me, and I definitely wanted to include her.  I also ran Genetic Affairs AutoSegment cluster with the exact same parameters range and the new ‘aggregate data’ I’d just downloaded from 23andMe.

I mainly used Excel for my companion along with DNA Painter.  DNA Painter is my main DNA match data storage location.  I paint both known and unknown matches mainly looking at triangulated matches to group the data.  Of course I was using 23andMe to check on matches that I’d not painted into DNA Painter.  I started by opening the Excel files from both the ICW and the AutoSegment runs.  In the ICW Excel file I copied columns A-E which included the match name (column B), the total cM (column C) and the cluster number (column E) and placed the copy into a new Excel file in columns A-E.   Looking at ICW cluster 1 there were 5 matches listed with Trish as the first match.  So I searched for Trish in AutoSegment file and copied the cluster that she was in there into columns H through K. 

Figure 1. 23andMe ICW AutoClusters 1 and 2 and AutoSegment cluster 1.

The ICW cluster 1 has Trish matched to several other people then in the AutoSegment cluster 1.  Trish and I match on 19 DNA segments so that’s not too surprising.  But notice Sam, Mark and Keith Smith are shown in cluster 2 of the ICW. Keith is father of Mark and brother of Sam. So I’ll move them from the AutoSegment cluster down and look for Laura, Sue, Bill and Micky in the AutoSegment clusters. They were in cluster 2 of the AutoSegments.  I’ll add them to the Excel file.

Figure 2. 23andMe ICW AutoClusters 1 and 2 and AutoSegment clusters 1 and 2.

Looking at the ICW cluster I can see that most of these should triangulate with Trish. The helix symbol on the square shows this triangulation. Both the ICW and the AutoSegment clusters are shown in figure 3.

Figure 3. 23andMe ICW clusters 1 and 2 on the left and AutoSegment cluster on the right.

Below the AutoSegment cluster is a table of chromosome segment statistics. By clicking on the live link for cluster 1 I can see the list of matches in cluster 1 and which segments clusters or segments are underlying this AutoSegment cluster. Figure 4 shows the list for AutoSegment cluster 1. AutoSegment cluster 1, the orange cluster, shows Trish, Mark, Sam and Keith. The chromosome segments that are directly linked to this cluster 1 are listed in the chart. Mark and Keith match me on chr 1 and they and Sam also match Trish and me on chr 17. Also in this chart are the segment clusters that are indirectly linked to the the green cluster 1. These are from the green cluster 2 that are connected to Trish with the grey cells. They show Sue, Laura and Bill who triangulate with Trish and me on chr X.

Figure 4. Segment cluster details for AutoSegment cluster 1.

The ICW AutoCluster 1 and AutoSegment cluster 2 match up. I noticed in AutoSegment cluster 2 that Micky was not listed. Looking at my shared matches to Trish in 23andMe I see that Micky’s match says ‘share to see’.  Without messaging Micky and asking her to share her DNA with me, I can’t see exactly where she matches Trish and me.  Also looking at the details for AutoSegment cluster 2, I see that Laura, Sue and Bill match Trish and me on chr X. I could add Laura, Sue, and Bill to the 23andMe ‘Advanced DNA Comparison’ with Trish and she how they match, but since I’ve already painted them in DNA Painter, it’s just easier for me to look there. Figure 5 shows my DNA Painter paternal chr X.

Figure 5. Trish, Laura, Sue and Bill painted on my paternal chromosome X.

They all match Trish on the X chromosome. Trish and I share paternal great grandparents, Thomas Byrnes and Bridget Fenton. These were my Dad’s maternal grandparents. This X could come from Thomas’ mother Hanora Shannon, from Bridget’s mother Johanna O’Brien, or from Bridget’s father’s mother Bridget Lillis. 

Next I will look at ICW AutoCluster 2 which compares to AutoSegment cluster 1. From the segment cluster details in figure 4, I can see that Mark and Keith match me on chr 1 as well as matching Trish and me along with Sam on chr 17. The ICW cluster tells me they all triangulate with Trish and me, and AutoSegment tells me they all share the same segment. After looking at the AutoSegment cluster 1 details I can see that the chr we all share is chr 17. Here I used the ‘Advanced DNA Comparison’ on 23andMe, shown in figure 6. Sam also matches me on chr 1 with 10 cM. I had used 15 cM as the minimum shared amount between matches when I ran the two clusters, which explains why he did not show up as a match on chr 1 in the AutoSegment cluster 1 details.

Figure 6. 23andMe Advanced DNA Comparison of Trish, Keith, Mark and Sam.

I was very excited to notice these matches on chr 1.  Trish and I are trying to figure out where in County Roscommon our great grandfather Thomas Byrnes was born.  I have other triangulated DNA matches on chr 1 at this location whose ancestors lived in the eastern part of County Galway near the County Roscommon border, and one of those ancestors married a Byrnes.  The chr 1 segment is likely a Byrnes segment that I’ve inherited.  I’ll message Keith, since 23andMe says he was on the site last week, and see what he knows of his ancestors in Ireland. 

Next I moved to ICW cluster 3 which has my 2C Frank Barry.  We share paternal great grandparents Edward Barry and Pauline Fröhlich.  These were my Dad’s paternal grandparents.  Going through the same process as before I found Frank in AutoSegment cluster 3 but the rest of the matches in ICW cluster 3 were in AutoSegment cluster 9 along with two new AutoSegment matches Doug and Peggy.  I found Doug and Peggy in the ICW cluster 8. 

Figure 7. Excel file with 23andMe ICW cluster 3 and corresponding AutoSegment clusters added.

I can see that Mary and Larry triangulate with Frank in the ICW cluster 3 because of the helix symbols.

Figure 8. 23andMe ICW clusters 1 – 3.

I’d looked at Mary and Larry before on 23andMe. Mary is Larry’s mother, and they triangulate with Frank and me on chr 3. Not only that but Mary’s grandmother was from Baden-Württemberg, and my great grandmother, Pauline Fröhlich was from Baden-Württemberg!  Likely that segment of DNA that we share came from my great grandmother Pauline.  

Looking at AutoSegment cluster 9 Doug and Peggy are listed on that same segment as Mary and Larry, see figure 9. Penny is Doug’s daughter.  When I ran 23andMe ‘Advanced DNA Comparison’ using Frank with Doug and Peggy there was no match.  AutoSegment is looking at all matches that fall in the same location on the chr.  It is not differentiating between maternal and paternal.  Here is a good example since Mary and Larry triangulated with Frank and me, they are therefore paternal.  Whereas Doug and Peggy did not match Frank at all, but they do triangulate with me, so they must be on my maternal side, since Frank and I only share paternal great grandparents.  

Figure 9. Excel file showing 23andMe ICW clusters 1 – 3 and corresponding AutoSegment clusters.

This is how chr 3 on my DNA Painter profile looks now, see figure 10.  Larry and Mary triangulated with Frank and me so they must be paternal.  Doug and Peggy did not match Frank at all, but match me so they are likely maternal. It is possible that there’s not enough overlap between Frank and Doug and Peggy.  But there should be a good bit of overlap between Larry and Doug.  I compared Larry and Doug in 23andMe’s ‘Advanced DNA Comparison’ and they do not share any DNA.  That confirms that Doug and Peggy are on my maternal side.

Figure 10. My DNA Painter profile chr 3.

I continued with the 23andMe data in this fashion.  The majority of the matches in the AutoSegment clusters matched with the ICW ones and triangulated with me.  So there weren’t any huge surprises here.


Next I looked at the MyHeritage ICW and AutoSegment clusters.  Again I downloaded the latest match and shared matches files from MyHeritage.  The ICW cluster used 400-25 cM with a 10 cM minimum between matches and minimum of 3 per cluster, so I ran the AutoSegment cluster using those same parameters.  There were several ICW clusters from MyHeritage where the matches in them did not appear in AutoSegment clusters, unlike the case with 23andMe where only a few matches in a cluster did not appear.  There was also a lot more mixing of clusters than I saw in 23andMe.

In ICW cluster 4 Trish matches 5 people.  Three of them are in cluster 2 of the AutoSegment and do triangulate with Trish on chr 15.  Bob Burns is not shown on the AutoSegment cluster. He matches Trish on several segments and matches me on chr 1 and 5.  The surname Byrnes has had many spelling variations over the years and Bob and Trish and I do match on the Byrnes side of my family.  ICW cluster 5 matches with many of the people who were in AutoSegment cluster 1.  Henry matches Trish and me on our 2nd great grandmother, Johanna O’Brien side, as his mother’s maiden name was O’Brien.  Henry triangulates with Trish and me on chr 7 as do Guy, Dawn and Alex.  Jake triangulates with Trish and me on chr 8, but he is also a cousin of Henry.  These are summarized in figure 11.

Figure 11. Excel file showing MyH ICW and AutoSegment clusters with matches to Trish and me.

As I’m doing these comparisons I’m going down the list of the ICW AutoClusters and then finding the corresponding AutoSegment clusters, if there are any. Continuing down the MyH ICW list cluster 16, shown in figure 12, became very interesting.  

Figure 12. MyH ICW cluster 16 and AutoSegment cluster 9.

Looking at the details for AutoSegment cluster 9, shown in figure 13, I see that Clara, Matt and Otto match me on chr 3. I had painted Matt on chr 3 as unknown.  I’d not painted Clara or Otto before. 

Figure 13. MyHeritage Segment Cluster 9 details.

Checking the shared matches with Matt on MyHeritage I found both Clara and Otto triangulated with him.  Both Matt and Clara live in France, and Otto lives in Germany.  I added them to the unknown group with Matt on my DNA Painter profile, as shown in figure 14 .  

Figure 14. My DNA Painter profile chr 3 after adding Matt’s triangulated group.

Looking further down Matt’s shared match list on MyHeritage I found that he triangulated with Terri Grant.  Her name was very familiar and I was sure I’d painted her and others with that same surname. I found that I’d painted her as a triangulated match to Frank Barry, since they had matched on GEDmatch 1 to 1.  Frank Barry is not on MyHeritage, so I’m unable to compare him directly with Matt.  But since Terri is on both GEDmatch and MyH and she triangulates with both Frank and Matt, now I know that Matt and those that triangulate with him must be paternal.  On DNA Painter I can merge Matt’s unknown group into the paternal group with Larry and Mary.

Figure 15. My DNA Painter profile chr 3 after discovering that Matt’s group was paternal.

Not only did I discover two new matches to paint, Clara and Otto, but I was able to merge Matt’s unknown group into a paternal one.  This is the paternal segment that I likely inherited from my great grandmother Pauline, who was born in Baden-Württemberg.  

FamilyTree DNA

When I first thought of looking at my FTDNA data with ICW AutoCluster and AutoSegment I thought that using the two clustering techniques together might help with matches, since FTDNA doesn’t have a triangulation function.  But after working with my clusters I can’t say that it did.  Both cousin Trish and Frank are also on FTDNA.  Unlike with 23andMe or MyHeritage each of their cluster of ICW matches and their AutoSegment cluster matched at FTDNA, and I’d already painted them all. 

I went down the list of ICW clusters and did find several interesting things. ICW AutoCluster 35 had 4 matches listed.  Three of these were found in AutoSegment cluster 16.  There were an additional three matches in AutoSegment cluster 16.  I found Edith and Amy in ICW cluster 7. This reminds me of 23andMe ICW cluster 3 and 8 shown in figure 9, and is probably a hint that Edith and Amy are on the opposite side of my family of the group in ICW cluster 35.  See figure 16.

Figure 16. ICW AutoCluster 35 and 7, and AutoSegment cluster 16.

I looked at chr 12 on my DNA Painter profile and found that I had painted these matches as two different groups but both of them as unknown, as shown in figure 17.  All of these matches are on the same location as AutoSegment has said. John wasn’t in the AutoSegment cluster and maybe there wasn’t enough overlap to his segment for him to be included, but he shows up on chr 12 with the others.   Next, I looked at the matches in the FTDNA matrix which is shown in figure 18.

Figure 17. Chromosome 12 on my DNA Painter profile.
Figure 18. FTDNA matrix showing the 7 matches.

From the matrix I can see that Edith and Amy would be on one side of my family and the other 5 would be on the other side.  Unfortunately, I don’t know which set is on which side of my family.  Of these seven matches only Beth has a tree and that only contains 2 people. Using the name of the only deceased person in the tree I searched Ancestry’s public trees and found several trees that contained him.  I looked through a couple of those trees and found the surname Burns in both of them.  That surname is on my Dad’s mother’s side of the family.  The common great grandfather that Trish and I share was Thomas Byrnes.  So, it’s possible that the group of 5 in the matrix are on my paternal side, and the group of 2 would then be maternal.  At this point I don’t have enough evidence to be certain of that, and I will just make a note on my DNA Painter profile by their groups.  Perhaps I should email some of the matches in these groups, and see if we can figure out the connection. 


The ICW AutoCluster gives a listing of your shared matches.  In general, these would all be on one side of your family.  I actually have a couple cases in my family where that is not true, but it does seem to be rare.  So to begin with the hypothesis would be that all the ICW matches in a specific cluster are on one side of your family.  The AutoSegment cluster is telling you all the matches in it are on the same chromosome.  It does not tell you which ones are paternal and which ones are maternal, and the AutoSegment cluster can very well be a mixture of these. 

Each of the sites has different features and need to be treated a bit differently, so I will summarize them individually.  On 23andMe an ICW cluster will have the helix symbols in the squares if the matches triangulate.  That makes looking at the AutoSegment cluster very easy because knowing certain segments triangulate identifies them as being on the same side of your family.  On MyHeritage, there was more mixing of clusters when I made the comparison between ICW and AutoSegment. It was necessary to check the chromosome browser on MyH to make sure that matches triangulated since looking at either of the clusters did not provide enough information to determine that.  This step had not been necessary on 23andMe because of the triangulation symbols in the ICW cluster.  FTDNA also required checking matches on their website.  For FTDNA looking at matches in the matrix was needed to determine if AutoSegment matches were on the same side of the family or not.  The AutoSegment clusters from GEDmatch have already included the GEDmatch triangulated data, so they will all be on the same side of the family.

Putting the two types of clusters together uses the ICW, that indicates one side of your family, to then group the segments that belong on that side of your family. If there are others in the auto segment group they would likely belong to the other side of your family.  The next step is to check the matches on the testing site to see if there is more information, such as a tree or surnames that will help with your assessment and possibly confirm it.

  1. Patricia Ann Harris Anthony, Trish, has given me permission to use her real name. All the other names used in this post are fictitious.
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