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Creating an Online DNA Tree

If you have done a DNA test, it is critical that you have a public online tree. I’m sure you have been frustrated to find a possible connection only to discover they have no tree online for you to review or if they do have a tree, everyone is listed as "private." Chances are, even a message won’t get them to respond. These are the people that probably wanted to know if they should wear a kilt or lederhosen! But you are different…you are a genealogist and I’m willing to bet you DO want to make a connection to your matches. Here's a great blog by Diahan Southard (Your DNA Guide) on what's important when constructing a DNA Tree.

Perhaps, like me, your Ancestry tree is private and you don’t want to make all of that information public. But you need a public tree to make connections. What you can do, is create a DNA tree (using Diahan's recommendations above). Hopefully you have a genealogy software program on your computer (read last week’s blog), but even if you don’t, you can create a GEDCOM from your online tree. Here’s how to do it (on Ancestry).

  1. Go to your Ancestry Family Tree

  2. In the Upper left, click on the tree name and select Tree Setting

  3. Scroll down to Download your GEDCOM

  4. Find the file on your hard drive (in my case it was in my Downloads folder) BUT DON’T OPEN IT.

(Note: At Findmypast click on , then select the tree you wish to download and click on the download icon. At MyHeritage, select Manage Trees from the Family Tree menu, then Export to GEDCOM.)

A GEDCOM is just a text file. The software reading it, knows what to do with it. If you open it and then save it, you may corrupt the file. This file will contain all of your data, i.e., names, dates, events, etc., linked into your tree, but it won’t contain any images. As I mentioned last week, you should have a copy of this saved with your back up files. Now, what can you do wit

The GEDCOM format was originally created to allow you to move your genealogical data from one software package to another. So, if your only tree is online, now is a great time to pick a genealogical software package to keep this information as your Master Database. The software you choose, will depend on your needs, the platform you use (Mac or PC), and your comfort level. I suggest you talk with your genealogical buddies to get ideas. If your Genealogical Society has a user group for various software packages, this is a place to’s nice to have someone to go to for questions. RootsMagic has a free Essentials Package which you can download and use to store your tree. If in the future you decide you want additional features, you can upgrade to the paid version.

The ability to download your online tree is great if all you want to do is move your data to a software package for back up or storage (remember that GEDCOM moves only text, not images or other file will need to download those separately). There is no ability, however, to select what you want to download…it downloads your entire tree. I have a Master Tree in my Reunion software that begins with my three daughters…that way both sides of the family are in the same file (my Ancestry tree is the same). However, when I want to upload a DNA Tree, I don’t need all of the information, such as census records, military, notes, etc., all I want is the individual’s name, date and place of birth and date and place of death. Places are extremely important so don't forget to include them. I also add baptism and burial as optional fields just in case I don’t have a specific birth or death date. That’s enough information to help a match determine their relationship to me. But because I maintain one database, I also need to separate my husband’s line from mine. By having my Master File in a genealogical software package I can determine what information I want in my GEDCOM. I begin with his parents, and ask the software to mark all ancestors of that couple back 5 generations (autosomal DNA won't help you back farther than that), their spouses and parents, and descendants to one generation.

Next, I export that marked set to a GEDCOM. I ask for Privacy Filtering which will show all living people simply as LIVING. I have set the software to consider those born within the past 100 years without a death date, as Living. I named the file BJM DNA Database.

I’m now ready to upload that GEDCOM to my various DNA sites. Beginning at Ancestry, I first went to my Trees and deleted the old database. Since my Master database is on my computer, I update the DNA trees every so often if I’ve made major changes. Then I select Create and Manage Trees, click on Upload a GEDCOM file and select my saved GEDCOM file from my computer. The upload typically takes just a few minutes.

The next step is to go to Settings in your DNA results and link the new tree. Here’s a hint…when linking to your Ancestry DNA profile it will ask you to select the tree (from your list if you have multiple trees) and your position in the tree. My husband is “Living” and I couldn’t get past this step until I went in and changed him from Living to Brian Moughty in the Tree. I could then select him from the drop down list and link the Tree.

I did one last thing. Since this is just for DNA matches, I don't want to receive notifications of hints (those go into my Private Ancestry Tree). Using the Site Preferences I turn off the hints notification on my DNA trees.

Although I've focused here on Ancestry, the process is not very different on Findmypast or MyHeritage.

I hope this helps you to understand the importance of having a public DNA tree if you have tested. If you have tested multiple people and you know how they are related to you, you can likely upload the same GEDCOM, and simply identify the individual in that tree.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

If you are a member of your local genealogical society, would you submit information about the upcoming Ireland Research Trips for your newsletter. Thanks.

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