Next Sunday (April 25th) is DNA Day


No, DNA Day was not created just for genealogists, but it is an exciting time for us. We have come a long way. I've written in the past about my initial test back in 2009...it was with 23andme and I did it for health reasons not for genealogy. I then got a list of my "cousins" and thought, who are these people? Although I attended lots of conference sessions on DNA (walking out of most of them with my eyes glazed over) it wasn't until 2014 that things finally began to click. It was a webinar by Blaine Bettinger when the light bulb finally went off for me. If you're still confused, I understand. After a query a few weeks ago, I've been added to a mailing list for Johnstons. The list is focused on Y-DNA and I have not been able to identify any male Johnston in my line to test. I have to admit that my eyes still glaze over when the discussion turns to Big-Y and STRs. But I now feel relatively competent in a discussion of autosomal DNA (atDNA).


I frequently get questions about where to test. It's an easy question if you are considering a Y-DNA or mtDNA test...it's FamilyTree DNA. They are the only ones to offer the test. It becomes a bit more murky if you are looking for an atDNA test. What you want is matches (preferably to someone who has the answer to your brick wall.)😀 But what if you test a FamilyTree DNA and your cousin (with the answer) tested at MyHeritage? No match. So you need to think about your strategy for testing.


Ancestry has the largest database of testers, about 18 million so is that the best place to test? MyHeritage has a large number of testers in Europe so if your ancestry is there, is that your choice? And if you have British ancestry, LivingDNA has a large number of specific communities identified in the UK (and is the testing partner for Findmypast). If your interest is in health then perhaps it's 23andme.


You can test at multiple companies, but that could get expensive. You can, in some cases move your DNA results to other companies. First, you can transfer your results from Ancestry and 23andme to other companies, but neither accepts transfers in. Therefore, you might start with one of these companies. Since Ancestry has the largest database (the biggest pool to play in) you might want to start there. Once you get your results, you first want to download them and save a copy on your computer (don't try to open the file, just save it). Having done that, you can transfer your results to MyHeritage, FamilyTree DNA or LivingDNA. Each company will have instructions on how to do this and in some cases only certain versions and be moved. (Some have a small fee to unlock their features.) Now your pool just got expanded so if your cousin tested at MyHeritage and you tested at Ancestry you can still connect. And, there's always GEDMatch, which is free and allows you to upload your DNA from other testing companies and compare to anyone who has also uploaded their results.


The next thing you need to do is create a family tree at each of the sites where your DNA now resides. This tells your match that you're serious about making a connection. The individual who doesn't have a tree or one with just a couple of names was likely trying to decide whether they should wear a kilt or lederhosen! If you try to connect they probably won't respond because they don't know anything about their family. You might be able to get them interested, but be prepared to do their genealogy. Your tree should include the basic information, name, birth date and place, death date and place, you don't need to include every record you've ever found. I created a Gedcom for both my husband and me from my master genealogical database, including the basic facts. Go wide! Include spouses, siblings and their families. The names that appear on your match list (and that you don't recognize) probably came from a female relative whose name changed when she married.


The key to identifying your matches is by using the shared matches capability on the DNA company's website...they all have one. To do that you need to know at least a few of the people on your match list. Below is a five minute video from one of my lectures that demonstrates how to use shared matches on Ancestry.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about as we come up to DNA day. Check out my Promotions page as many of the companies are running specials this week on their DNA kits. If you are planning to visit relatives this summer (assuming you're vaccinated) you might want to stock up on kits to take with you. I'm still hoping to be able to take the research group to Ireland in October and I always take kits with me!


Happy Hunting, Stay Safe and Get Vaccinated!

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