Got DNA Results? What You Should Do First

There are a few reasons why people take a DNA test that I can think of, and you can probably think of more

  1. Ethnicity – I think this is the most popular reason. People want to know where their ancestors came from. Some people who DNA test don’t even realize that they will be given a match list of cousins. Their ethnicity is all they care about. They don’t know their genealogy, and they have no interest in being a genealogist.
  2. Find Your Family – many adoptees or people with unknown parentage use DNA testing to find their family.
  3. Confirm Your Tree – If you’re a genealogist, then you want to do a DNA test to confirm your genealogy research. Otherwise, you may be researching someone else’s tree. Also, if you have a robust tree and it’s accurate, then you can help others understand how they fit in.
  4. Family Mystery – in my case, I have two mysteries; my Beaton Batten Mystery (my great-grandfather was adopted) and my unknown paternal great-grandfather.
  5. Find New Cousins – finding new cousins is a great way to collaborate and learn about the branches that you don’t know about and whom you can share photos with.
  6. Health – 23andMe was the first company to provide health information, but now all of the DNA companies offer health information. (Read about my 23andMe experience HERE.)

I know there are many of you that follow that have done a DNA test way back when so this is likely not new info to you, but for those that haven’t done this or are new to their DNA results. Here are my top tips.

We use DNA for our genealogy, but when we are looking at our results, we have to

Do Your Cousins Add Up?

When you look at your match list, you may see people that you know. Or perhaps your cousin said they did a DNA test, so it’s no surprise that they are there. But before you move on to other people in your match list, humor me.

Take a look at the amount of DNA you share with that cousin and see if it adds up. Do you share the amount you should share with a first cousin? According to the Shared cM Project, which you can find at DNA Painter. A first cousin should share between 396 – 1397cM, with an average being 866. I had a friend who couldn’t figure out why she didn’t share matches with her cousins. Until she realized they were only her half-cousins and they didn’t share the same grandfather.

Checking the math for all your relationships is important. This is also important if someone that should be in your test results isn’t there. You will always share DNA with a 2nd cousin or closer relationship.

This is something that people don’t think of prior to taking a DNA test. You might find out something you didn’t know, and you didn’t want to know. If this happens to you, then I encourage you to speak to someone that can help you cope with this news. Be it a medical professional, someone from your church, or a trusted friend.

Leeds Method

This is a way to easily group your matches into the four groups (hopefully) that represent your grandparents. This is also called “Clustering”. Not as couples but as individual surname groups. If you haven’t done this, you might be thinking, why would I do that? I know who my grandparents are. But I think even if you think you know this will be confirmation for you so, what have you got to lose other than the few minutes it takes to do it.

First, you will look at the matches that fall between 400 and 90cM of shared DNA with you. We do this because that’s the amount of DNA you share with a second cousin. So someone you relate to prior to your grandparent’s generation.

Make a list of those matches. I like to put their name and the amount of DNA we share. Excel works best, and you can just copy and paste the names into the sheet. This gives you a hyperlink to your results.

It might look something like this. This is my actual list with just a name change for my matches. My list isn’t long because I just don’t have a ton of matches.

My genealogy is primarily from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany, so that’s why I don’t have as many matches. This is a good reason to transfer your DNA to other testing companies, such as MyHeritage, where you will often have more matches from Eastern European countries. Or to Family Tree DNA and Living DNA (more England matches).

If you have US genealogy and your family has lived in the US for hundreds of years, then you’ll have a much longer list than I do.

The next thing I’ll do is give that first match, “Bugs,” the color blue (the color doesn’t matter; I just like blue), and then look at the other matches that I have in common with them.

Now we can see that I have in common with Bugs…. East, Porky, Elmer, Wylie… etc.

The next step is to give that first match, Peter, that doesn’t have a color their own color, and then do the same. See who we have in common and give them a color.

In this case, I don’t share any other matches with Peter.

So we continue now when the next match with no color Daffy and give him green and see if there are any in common matches. Again there are no matches in common, so we continue and give Homer the color red, and we have Fred in common as a DNA match.

So now I have four groups that should represent my four grandparent surnames.

You may not have the four columns but don’t panic. That could be because you have a line that hasn’t been tested. Perhaps that line has recent immigrants, so those second cousins and third cousins in your tree may be living in countries that don’t DNA tests as much as we do here.

Sometimes you’ll have more groups and more overlap. This can be because you have a situation where cousins married cousins, and you have pedigree collapse. There are some good blogs that speak to this, such as; Dana Leeds, Family History Fanatics, and DNA-Explained by Roberta Estes.

Next week’s blog will be about how to keep track of those DNA matches and stay organized.

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