Sucked into the DNA Trail

Here I am again, after another absence. This one was partially on purpose. Sometimes you just need a mental break from genealogy. It’s not a bad thing. Over the years, I’ve learned it helps me to focus better if I just walk away from it for a week or two. The rest of my break, I have been working on learning about DNA. Oh, man has that been a journey! I’m obviously still learning and probably will never fully understand.

During Amazon Prime Day this year, I purchased three 23andMe DNA tests. I had previously tested myself and my Dad on Ancestry. I thought since I had never used 23andMe before, I might want to go ahead and re-test my Dad to see the differences between the companies. In addition to testing my Dad, I also tested my mother and her brother.

Information Overload

The biggest thing I’ve gotten from DNA test results is information overload! Learning from my fellow genealogists, I know that the cure for information overload is learning and organization. The overload comes from not understanding what you are looking at. That means I have to learn more and I have to find a better way for my brain to process it. Okay, that’s definitely something I can do!

My Dad’s Ancestry DNA matches

The image above is the Excel spreadsheet that I made to wrangle my DNA matches. This is after I watched about 10 DNA webinars, and some of them I watched twice. The main problem I have found from a research standpoint with Ancestry DNA matches is you have to go into each tree and click on multiple things to see all the information. From a research perspective, that’s a lot of wasted clicks and time.

Before carpel tunnel sets in, I wanted to have a way of pinpointing a focus subject without having to click 3,987 times. The following are my headers and the reason.

The Explanations

  • Username: Ancestry uses its own messaging system for DNA matches, so I made sure to put down the username of all my matches. In the case of someone who has a manager of their DNA test, I put Username (managed by Username).
  • Predicted Relationship: This is the relationship that Ancestry thinks I share with the person. I have 473 4th Cousin or closer matches and my Dad has 223. That’s a lot. Not only is that a lot but there are hundreds of pages of more distant matches. I chose to stick to the 4th cousin and closer matches except for the case of Shared Ancestor Hints. If I had a distant cousin match but we also shared an ancestor hint, I added them to my spreadsheet.
  • Shared Hint, Common Ancestor: This is my favorite column. This one shows me who is already showing as having an ancestor match with me. Before I actually started tracking these matches, I didn’t realize I had so many on my Dad’s side. I always assumed most of my matches came from my mother’s well-documented side.
  • Public or Private Tree?: This one speaks for itself. I’m able to tell at a glance if the tree is public and might hold a lot of clues, or if I’m going to need some caffeine and my thinking cap. Probably some patience too.
  • Unlinked Tree: This is one of those hidden, but wonderful clues into those Private trees everyone is so upset about. Sometimes, if you are lucky, someone has an unlinked family tree on their account. In Ancestry, you have to go in and link test results to a tree. People don’t always do that and they certainly aren’t required to. However, sometimes they might have a tree already online and just haven’t linked their results to it. Of course, you can never be sure unless you ask them if those results go with that tree, but it’s better than no information at all.
  • Shared cM: This is the section I know the least about. This number is how Ancestry determines that Predicted Relationship. Mostly what I know is the higher centi-morgans you share, the closer your relationship. There are tons of tools and charts out there that break this down much better than me!
  • Confidence Level: Ancestry gives every match a confidence level. It was pretty interesting to compare my results with my Dad’s. Some of those High results were Extremely High for him or even the other way around.
  • Shared Matches: A simple yes or no. There aren’t many no answers but now I’m able to see them with 1 click of my mouse.
  • Contacted: This column is for if I’ve contacted the person yet or not.
  • Matched with Kathleen or Dad?: The column says something different for each tab. On my test, it’s an easy way for me to see what is most likely a paternal match. On my Dad’s test, it was an easy way for me to filter out the yes answers and delete the no answers after copying the tab. It saved me from re-typing 83 matches.

What about Notes? What about those 23andMe results?

Well, I’d like to tell you all about it but I can’t! The Notes section will take a little bit more space to explain and this entry is already really long. As for 23andMe, GEDMatch and other DNA results, I’m still figuring out how to organize them. This is a work in progress, but you can be sure I’ll keep my family and friends updated!

6 thoughts on “Sucked into the DNA Trail

    • Kathleen Moore says:

      Oh my goodness! 8 would probably make me cry. Though I guess I am up to 5 with these 3 new 23andMe tests. Not to mention uploading the raw data to other sites! It’s definitely not easy, but it’s so fascinating. I didn’t see so many patterns until I made my spreadsheets.

  1. Nancy says:

    With so many DNA testing choices, I am unclear on which one to start with. I will probably only do one so I want to get the most accurate results that go back the furthest in a family tree. Which one would you suggest?

    • Kathleen Moore says:

      Hi Nancy! Thanks for stopping by!

      I am by no means an expert, I can only speak from my own personal experience. With that said, I actually prefer Ancestry’s format for finding family members. They are the website most set up from a genealogy point of view. Other sites let you use trees too, but I am most comfortable working with Ancestry. I don’t have a MyHeritage subscription though, so that might have made a difference.

      I have 2 tests currently at Ancestry and 3 done at 23andMe. All those tests RAW DNA data were downloaded and uploaded to There I am able to see a lot of results too, but that does require communicating with the members by email without any idea of their pedigree. I decided to keep a pedigree file for each test I administer. That way I can send it with my emails to get the ball rolling a little faster.

      The autosomal tests themselves are really only accurate to about 4th cousins. I have been finding some decent matches to 5th cousin or more but I have been focusing on the closer matches. From what I’ve learned from webinars, there is only a small chance that you actually share DNA with 5th cousins that the autosomal test will pick up. There are almost 500 matches to my test on Ancestry that qualify as 4th cousin or closer right now so it will keep me busy awhile. Then I will be able to see how many of those distant cousin matches actually have connections.

      From my perspective, I don’t see a lot of communicating on 23andMe about family trees. They seems to be a more information gathering site. I uploaded my data to MyHeritage and I am getting some different matches but not the amount I am getting on Ancestry. I’ll probably write more about this in the future when I have been actively working on my DNA matches. My main focus right now has been my Do-Over so I have the documentation ready and organized to send to my matches.

      The hard part with this DNA game right now, is not knowing where our distant cousins have chosen to test!

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