How To Keep Your Matches Organized

Last week, my blog was about whether your cousins added up and the Leeds Method. You can catch up on that blog HERE.

This week, I want to talk about keeping your matches organized. I’m not going to say I’m an expert, but I did want to tell you about how I go about keeping my matches organized.

I look after my kits and many of my family’s kits, so staying organized is essential. This especially becomes important if you’ve also tested yourself and the others at other companies.

Dots & Other Organizational Tools

If your DNA test was done at Ancestry or MyHeritage, you can access dots and tools.

At MyHeritage, there are 30 colored dots that you can use to organize your matches.

At Ancestry, you have access to 26 colored dots and DNA tags as well.

I suggest that as you discover how you connect, you can give that match a dot. You choose what that dot means to you. A dot can represent a couple, so I might use Beaton/Kottmann to represent someone who connects to that couple. Or I can use the dots for each surname, so one color for Beaton and one for Kottmann. This could mean that I know they connect through the Kottmann’s but are not related on the Beaton side, so that’s at least one generation further back in the tree.

If I know which couple that might be, I could have another dot to represent them. Sometimes, you want to do that so you don’t use up those dots so quickly. I know that 26 and 30 dots seem like a lot, but you can quickly go through them.

You can use dots to represent a mystery, such as the Beaton/Batten Mystery or a place. It’s really up to you. Don’t think these dots are cast in stone because you may want to change or delete them altogether and start over. I’ve done that a few times.

Tags at Ancestry are also helpful because you can follow the path from DNA match to DNA connection and then to DNA common ancestor. I wish Ancestry would change their tag colors and have them appear more visibly in the tree view. Above, you can see I use tags, and I also use the suffix field to ender the amount of DNA I share with that person. This shows the segments but I don’t enter that anymore. The amount of DNA is sufficient.

Correspondence Log

One of the things I’m pretty diligent about is my correspondence log. When you admin on other family members’ kits, and you’ve tested yourself and others at other sites, it’s imperative to keep a log. I say this because when you send out a message, it can take a long time before you get a reply. (If you get a reply).

I keep a simple spreadsheet, but you could use a notebook (paper or online). You can download my DNA tracker at my online store, Shop the Hound (it’s free.. if it shows a cost, then toggle the currency button on the upper left corner, which should fix it).

Basically, I keep track of who’s test I’m looking at and the match’s name. Which company the test was done at? How much DNA do they share? Who made contact: me or them? The date the inquiry was made, what was said, and other information.

I’ve committed to logging this info before I push that send button. That way, when a person contacts me 2 years later (and that’s happened), I know whose test we’re talking about and what company the test was taken at.

My Tree and My DNA Tree

My last tip is to add your DNA match to a tree. In some cases, you might think, “How can I do that? I don’t even know how we connect”. I get it. So, I proposed two trees: your genealogy tree and your DNA tree.

The genealogy tree is where you keep all your information and genealogy records. So, anyone you come across that you share the “right amount” of DNA with (see does your cousin add up in last week’s blog) and you know where they should go in the tree, then you add them to that tree.

If you’re like me and have a mystery in your family, then you create a DNA tree. I actually have two mysteries: one on my dad’s side and one on my mom’s. So, I have a DNA tree for Dad and Mom. Dad’s tree is called the “in common with Dad tree,” and Mom’s is the “Beaton/Batten Mystery tree.” Both these trees are private and unsearchable, so people can’t find them and copy them because, after all, they are works in progress.

Let’s use the Beaton/Batten Mystery tree as an example. This tree has over 5,000 people in it. In the beginning, sometimes I didn’t know how that person connected to anyone, so I’d add them to the tree as “disconnected or floating branches”. I wrote about that HERE.

Not all DNA matches have trees, but if they do, and I’m talking, even if it’s just one name and date or a name and a place, I can use that information and build their tree for them. After a while, you start to see connections back many generations.

When you get all those generations back, this may be the generation where you connect. You can get an idea by the amount of DNA you share with those cousins and by looking at the Shared cM project at DNA Painter. You can also tell by looking at each of the people in the couple. Do you connect to each side separately? If you don’t see that, then perhaps that side hasn’t tested (that happens, but keep looking; it might be there, but it is a small match). If you can’t find a connection to both sides, go one generation further back on the side you can identify. Do you connect to each of the surnames from those parents? If you do, then that’s your starting point.

Now, you need to work that couples’ genealogy to identify all their children. As you look at each child, look at that wife or husband. Do you have a DNA connection to that surname? If you do, then you’re on the right track. Now look at the children of that couple and who they marry and keep moving forward in time.

Eventually, the hope is that you can bring all the generations together. Be on the lookout for second marriages because those cousin matches will share less DNA with you. That’s OK; those half-connections often help you.

I believe I’ve discovered who my great-grandfather’s parents were by doing these things. I have a little more work to do to confirm his sister. Who I believe is a half-sister, not a full-sister.

This week, I’m spending time in Kingston to see if I can find a paper document to prove my theory, but I may never be able to do that. I just may have to follow the DNA.

Once you have a theory, you can use WATO’s at DNA Painter to confirm your theory. Once I get back from my genealogy and family trip, I’ll show you how WATO proved my theory. Stay tuned

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