Organizing your DNA Matches

William Westfall
J. E. Dougherty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you see a relationship?

In school they said that writing down what you are trying to learn will help imprint the information on your brain. That is often what I am doing when I write my blog. Currently I am trying to organize my family DNA Matches. Sorting out all these DNA matches is very tedious work. My list of matches has become unwieldy. Here are my screen shots of each of the websites. (Click on the images to enlarge.) I have blocked out the names of my matches and other identification info.

ada 23 and Me = 1173 matches

mm Ancestry = 820 4th cousins or closer

Doc# 1 –Family Tree DNA =604 on Family Finder and only 28 on the y67

ada My Heritage = 12,400

ada gedmatch  = 3000

Like me some of these matches have their DNA on more then one site. I would say that the total matches are probably closer to 5000 different individuals. Still, way too many. As with any project I’ve taken on, I try not to get overwhelmed by the tasks, but focus on the process, and take it one step at a time.

My objective with my DNA results are two fold.

Objectives:

  1. Determine who William Lyle Dougherty was.
  2. Complete the Dougherty/Putnam tree back to include all 4x great grandparents (64 family names).

The first objective may be the most difficult, so along the way I hope to solve who a few of the unknown 64 ancestors where.

On our Paternal line, the Putnam side of the tree, we were only missing one couple of the 3x great grandparents. Madeleine, my sister, has been doing a marvelous job on that line.

  • Our 3x great grandmother Julia Marsh had been a stumbling block for years until I was contacted by one of my DNA matches on gedmatch, In looking through my DNA matches list of ancestors the only names that  were familiar were Marsh and Crissey. That was all that had been listed on Julia’s death certificate, “Father: Marsh”- “Mother: Crissey”. No first names. Julia’s birth place had been listed as being in several different states in various records so without a first name it was near impossible to determine who her parents were. but with the help of this DNA match we were able to finally give first names to Julia’s mother (Hannah Crissey or Cressey) and father (Augustus Marsh) and complete that side of our tree for our 32 which lead us to sources that showed Augustus Marsh’s parents as Samuel Marsh and Abigail Briggs and we now have leads on Hannah’s parents.

On Our Maternal Line, the Dougherty side, which I mostly work on, I have not been so lucky. I have 4 holes in the 3x great grandparents.

  • Joseph Ferguson’s mother is unknown and while his father is supposed to be a David Ferguson MD of Dublin Ireland I have not proven that yet.
  • Also Joseph Fergusons first wife was a Mary Agnes Hall. Her mother was supposedly an “Ester Hall” and her father was listed on her death certificate as Lambert. Those two have not been found, nor the reason Mary Agnes went by Hall instead of Lambert….? Many questions there that might be solved by DNA.
  • Then there is my William L. Dougherty, my mothers fathers line. It stops with Wiliiam who is my 2x great grandfather.

Process

Determine how you are going to keep track.

Determine how best for you to keep track of each of those matches. Spreadsheets can be down loaded from most of these sites. Some sites allows you to add notes to your individual matches. Some researchers use Evernote, others may prefer pad and pencil. Me, I love spreadsheets.

Look at the Closest Matches

You probably know those first few matches. Maybe you even bought the DNA Kit for them.

  • Indicate actual relationship (ie. Sister)
  • Note most recent common ancestor (ie. Booth/Robinson) I also color code for quick reference.
  • Record shared cMs (centimorgans) across segments (ie. 2886 cMs across 42 segments)

Determine relationship

On the next closest match that is a total stranger (ie. ‘match A’) look to determine their relationship to you. This is where the real detective work comes into play.

  • How may centimorgans (cMs) do you match? (Click on image to enlarge to estimate relationship.)
  • What is their surname? Sometimes the surname is the obvious connection. But you still need to verify the relationship. Even when the surname is not common like Smith or Jones we still need to verify the relationship.
  • Do they have a tree or an ancestor list? As done with discovering the match that tied in with Julia Marsh. Look for names that appear in both trees.
  • No tree? Look for trees elsewhere. If they are on Ancestry maybe the tree has not been connected to their DNA  or is private. If you are on gedmatch.com, check if they have a gedcom file.
  • Look for the next closest match to both you and ‘match A’ using the DNA website for triangulation (FamilyTreeDna.com), shared common matches, or clusters (MyHeritage.com). These tools may give you leads to others that do have trees or ancestry lists that will help identify your relationships.
  • Contact the person who is listed as manager of the DNA match.
Message to DNA match

There are lots of suggestions out there on how to get responses to your email to a DNA match. The reason your matches do not have a presence on their DNA website maybe because

  • They are not looking for the same kind of information from their DNA test that you are looking for.
  • Life has gotten in their way.
  • They do not have any information.
  • etc.

Be mindful of all these reasons when you trying to contact them.

Utilizing clusters, triangulation, and/or shared matches you may need to build a dummy tree. The Genealogy Girl has a blog on how to use Ancestry.com to do that. She calls it a Master Match Tree. You most likely can also do it on MyHeritage.com or even on a poster board. I used Ancestry.com, they will give you potential hints as you build out the tree that you can consider.

I’m thinking that if your eyes haven’t glazed over you are probably ready for a break. I know that after 3 hours of searching for common ancestors I’m ready to call it quits.