Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday's Tip-Gettin' by With Help from Our Friends~Anna Hopkins-Arnold

In this edition of Tuesday's Tips, we hear from Anna Hopkins-Arnold  of Rootfinder Genealogy Research who shares her tips for
DNA Testing-Picking Matches that Matter

When we test autosomal DNA, we get a list of our DNA matches. Our DNA matches are usually cousins, mostly distant cousins, who share some DNA with us. If we can understand how we are related to our DNA cousin matches, we may be able to use what they know about their family tree to learn more about our own family tree.

There are usually a lot of matches, but quite a few of them are pretty distant cousins and many of the closer matches don't have a family tree attached to their DNA results (or the tree is private). All of our matches may potentially have useful information to share with us. However, with limited time, how do we decide how to spend our DNA research time? Which matches to contact first? Whether to ask a match about their family tree? Or ask permission to view a private tree? Here is a simple plan to select some of your most useful matches and process them first.

Then using what you learn, you can move forward from there.

Which Matches Matter Most?

First, Attach a DNA Family Tree to Your DNA Results

Make your own DNA family tree, with just your ancestors and their descendants with whom you share DNA. Please see “What To Include and What to Leave Out of Your DNA Family Tree” (hyperlink: https://www.rootfindersgr.com/2018/01/your-dna-family-tree/ )


Attaching your DNA Results to the person who tested in your Family Tree will unlock tools that can make it much easier to work with your DNA Results. You can attach a family tree to your DNA results at any of the four genealogy focused DNA Testing Companies and at third party DNA websites.

Action Items:

1. Export a DNA Family Tree selecting ancestors and their descendants only to select people who share your DNA.

2. Attach your DNA results to the tester's profile in your DNA Family Tree.

Second, Check your Closest Matches

While different DNA testing companies and third party sites all offer various ways to sort your matches, they all begin by sorting them with your closest matches (those with the most shared DNA) at the top. That makes sense. You are more likely to get useful information from closer matches.

Why? You are more likely to recognize the surnames of closer matches. Also, if you and your match both attached a family tree to your DNA results, then the closer that common ancestor is to you, the more likely they are to be included in both you and your DNA match's family trees.

Action Item: Make a list of your closest 10 matches (or 20 if only a few of them have family trees attached)

Third, look for matches have a family tree with between 20 and 400 people.

Every one of the four genealogy DNA testing companies allows you to attach a family tree. Not everyone does.

Why Look for Family Trees?

If you have attached a family tree and your matches attach a family tree, then:

1. Automatic algorithms may find a matching ancestor (especially at Ancestry and My Heritage), Ancestry DNA calls them “Ancestor Hints” and My Heritage calls them “DNA Smart Matches”. Both mean that you share both DNA and a common ancestor in your family tree.

2. You can view their family tree yourself and look for shared surnames and locations to find people who seem likely to be connected to your family tree.

Why focus on trees with 400 – 1,000 people?

Unless the DNA match is a very close cousin, you will have more luck finding common ancestors with trees in this range. When the tree has too few people, it is less likely to show your common ancestor. When the tree is too large, there may be too many shared surnames to narrow down to likely candidates.

Action Item(s):

1. If the tree is for a close match, look at smaller family trees to see if you recognize surnames or locations. If you don't recognize them, set those matches aside for later.

2. If you are looking at matches that are 3rd cousin or more distant, select matches with a tree in this range and make a list of the closest 10 (or 20) matches with trees in this range.

Reviewing Your Matches:

Go down both lists # 2 and # 3 above, searching for people on both lists. These are the “Matches that Matter” where you will start.

For each of them Look at your matches and try to identify either:

· a common ancestor,

· a shared surname (or several possible shared surnames)

· which line of the family this match is on (maternal/paternal, or which of the DNA tester's four grandparents)

· record what you found in the notes on the matches profile (and in your own lists)

As you record your notes, you are building a set of matches associated with different lineages and trying to “collect all four” of the DNA tester's grandparents.

If you go through your list and cannot “collect all four” then you can expand your selection criteria and look for more trees to check looking for the missing lineages. Some lineages will provide you lots of matches, some only a few, and others may provide none (yet).

These are the “Matches that Matter” and you can use these matches along with the Shared Matches feature to classify the other matches on your lists by lineage and possible surname. For more info see “Collect All Four and Sort Your Matches” (hyperlink: https://www.rootfindersgr.com/2018/01/collect-four-sort-dna-matches/ )

© A Hopkins-Arnold 2018 - all rights reserved - used by permission

Anna Hopkins-Arnold, PhD (biology) is a professional genealogist with Rootfinders Genealogy Research specializing in using DNA to solve brick wall research problems by combining DNA testing with traditional document-based research. Researching her own family since 1994 and for clients since 2011, she has located records in 42 US states and 11 foreign countries. She lives in Colorado where she has traces descendants of American pioneers, Native American Indians, and immigrants from England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain.

Thanks for you DNA tips, Anna!

Have you made any DNA discoveries? Share them in the comments below!

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Helping you climb your family tree,

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