Organize DNA matches with this innovative approach. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your DNA results, you are not alone. Learning to organize your DNA matches in an effective way will not only keep your head from spinning, but will help you hone in on possible matches that will break down brick walls. Here’s the scoop from Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard.
I can tell whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher by the state of the silverware drawer. If either of the boys have done it (ages 13 and 11,) the forks are haphazardly in a jumble, the spoon stack has overflowed into the knife section, and the measuring spoons are nowhere to be found. If, on the other hand, it was my daughter (age 8,) everything is perfectly in order. Not only are all the forks where they belong, but the small forks and the large forks have been separated into their own piles and the measuring spoons are nestled neatly in size order.
Organize Your Imaginary DNA Drawer
Regardless of the state of your own silverware drawer, it is clear that most of us need some sort of direction to effective organize DNA matches. It entails more than just lining them up into nice categories like Mom’s side vs. Dad’s side, or known connections vs. unknown connections. To organize DNA matches, you really need to make a plan for their use. Good organization for your test results can help you reveal or refine your genealogical goals and help determine your next steps.
Step 1: Download your raw data. The very first step is to download your raw data from your testing company and store it somewhere on your own computer. See these instructions on my website if you need help.
Step 2: Identify and organize DNA matches. Now, we can get to the match list. One common situation for those of you who have several generations of ancestors in the United States, is that you may have ancestors that seem to have produced a lot of descendants. These descendants may have caught the DNA testing vision and this can be like your overflowing spoon stack! All these matches may be obscuring some valuable matches. Identifying and putting those known matches in their proper context can help you identify the valuable matches that may lead to clues about the descendant lines of your known ancestral couple.
In my Organizing Your DNA Matches quick sheet, I outline a process for identifying and drawing out the genetic and genealogical relationships of these known connections. Then, it is easier to verify your genetic connection is aligned with your genealogy paper trail and spot areas that might need more research.
This same idea of plotting the relationships of your matches to each other can also be employed as you are looking to break down brick walls in your family tree, or even in cases of adoption. The key to identifying unknowns is determining the relationships of your matches to each other.
Step 3: See the relationship between genetics, surnames, and locations. Another helpful tool is a trick I learned from our very own Lisa Louise Cooke–that is Google Earth. Have you ever tried to use Google Earth to help you in your genetic genealogy? Remember, the common ancestor between you and your match has three things that connect you to them: their genetics, surnames, and locations. We know the genetics is working because they show up on your match list. But often times you cannot see a shared surname among your matches. By plotting their locations in the free Google Earth, kind of like separating the big forks from the little forks, you might be able to recognize a shared location that would identify which line you should investigate for a shared connection.
So, what are you waiting for? Line up those spoons and separate the big forks from the little forks! Your organizing efforts may just reveal a family of measuring spoons, all lined up and waiting to be added to your family history.
More on Working with DNA Matches
Each Friday we share a list of selected new genealogy records online. Watch for records in which your ancestors might appear–and get inspired by the kinds of records that may be out there waiting for you to discover. This week: Australian cemetery records, British military officer deaths, various U.S. passenger lists and North Carolina marriage records.
AUSTRALIAN CEMETERY RECORDS. Two million indexed records have been added to the free Australia, Queensland Cemetery Records, 1802–1990 dataset at FamilySearch.org. According to the site, “The records include an index which combines several other indexes, cemetery transcriptions, burial and other records from cemeteries in Queensland….Cemetery records are especially helpful for identifying ancestors who were not recorded in other records, such as children who died young or women. They may also give clues to finding more information. In Australia, the first cemetery is reported to have been in Sydney in 1788.”
BRITISH MILITARY OFFICER DEATHS. FindMyPast’s new dataset, Royal Artillery Officer Deaths 1850-2011, lists the details of over 17,000 commissioned officers who were killed or died during the campaigns in Kosovo, Bosnia, Borneo and Iraq as well as the First and Second World Wars. It is estimated that since the regiment’s formation in May 1716, over 2.5 million men and women have served with the regiment. Each record includes a transcript of details found in the original records.
US PASSENGER LISTS. Browsable images were added to several existing US immigration records. Click here (and then scroll down) to view a table that has links directly to these datasets:
- For San Diego, CA:Airplane Passenger and Crew Lists, 1929–1954 and an apparently segregated Chinese Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905–1923;
- San Francisco, CA Passenger Lists, 1893–1953;
- Key West, FL Passenger Lists, 1898-1945;
- Minnesota Passenger Lists, 1910-1923;
- New York City, NY Passenger and Crew Lists Soundex (meaning an index based on how a name sounds), 1887-1921; (this is actually a new image collection)
- North Dakota Manifests of Immigrant Arrivals, 1910-1952 (this is also new).
NORTH CAROLINA (US) COUNTY MARRIAGES, 1741-2011. This new dataset on Ancestry “includes images of marriage bonds, licenses, certificates, and registers from 87 different counties.” According to an Ancestry blog post, some marriages have multiple records in this collection, like a bond and an indexed marriage record. This record set may be particularly useful for those tracing African-American marriages, as they “reference the joining of couples living as man and wife dating back to 1820, and possibly earlier…. Sometimes they also include the names of their former owners.” There’s a free, similar-looking dataset at FamilySearch, but the dates aren’t as extensive (it covers 1762-1979).
Tip: When searching within record sets like these, read the record collection description! Sometimes you are just seeing a partial collection that is being updated on an ongoing basis. Some years or locales may be missing from an otherwise complete record set.
When you have questions that aren’t answered in the record collection description online, Google them! Use keywords like the type of record (“marriage records”) and the missing locale (“Burdett County”) to see whether other sites can lead you to these records or confirm that they don’t exist. Learn more about advanced Google searching for genealogy in the fully-updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke.