DNA: Tips and Strategies

DNA Tips

Remember that DNA is an “essential” part of genealogical research.

While you are waiting
  • Tests generally take 6-8 weeks to process.  Devote your time to greatly expanding your tree.  You will need to get back 5-6 generations to find common ancestors. 
  • Read everything you can to expand your knowledge of DNA. Read the instructions or help articles.  Use the help functions.  Find blogs, books, magazine articles, etc. by googling or looking in the DNA Bibliography on ferndalegenies.blogspot.com on the left sidebar.
Processing your matches
  • Make your tree public rather than private to encourage people to explore matches with you.  There are reasons to make it private but it limits the contacts you make.
  • Have only one tree at Ancestry since only one can be attached to your DNA results.  Some people have a tree for their mother’s side and a tree for their father’s side and these trees can only be attached one at a time.  That may help separate your matches into maternal and paternal.
  • Reach out to your matches.  Make a sample contact message and save as a template.  If you have more than one kit, identify who they match.
  • Keep track of correspondence from the beginning.  That is, at least who you send messages to, the date, and the results
  • Focus on your strongest matches.  Don’t get distracted by distant matches.  Answer everyone who writes to you but use your template so you don’t waste time with weaker matches.
  • Continue to build your tree, including siblings of ancestors and their children.  Your match may not know your ancestor.         
  • People don’t respond or have a really small tree.  First look at their profile on the testing service for hints about who they are.  Sometimes you can google their username or email to learn more about them.
  • Remember…There is no guarantee that trees are correct. Just because a lot of people agree doesn’t make it right; maybe they just copied each other.  Trees are just a clue.
  • Spreadsheets you design yourself to organize information you want.
Long-term Strategies  
  • Genealogists say “fish in all three ponds”.  That is, test everywhere so you can be matched to more people.  One strategy for this is to take the autosomal test at Ancestry for $99, then transfer the raw DNA data to Family Tree DNA for $19.  23andme added for adoptions.  They really need to fish in all the ponds.
  • Transfer your raw DNA date to other sites.  You cannot transfer data into Ancestry or 23andme.  Simple rule for transferring raw DNA data: FTDNA and MyHeritage accept data transferred in; Ancestry and 23andme don’t.
  • Strategically test relatives in older generations. They have the largest segments of ancestral DNA. Siblings don’t get all the same DNA.  Strategically pick relatives to serve a particular purpose.  Examples: Test people on your maternal and paternal sides to separate your own matching DNA into sides of your family.  Test a distant relative to narrow matches down to a specific line.  If you are going to do this, do it now before older relatives become infirm.   Oldest DNA is the strongest connection to the past.  Testing your children will not help you find your ancestors.
  •  Keep track of how to use the various websites.  When you come back in 6 months, you will have forgotten what seemed obvious the first time.

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