Sometimes, it's more important to stop working towards goals and take some time to clean up the mess left in the wake of research progress. Even though the looming "purge" deadline for customers of Ancestry DNA to decide whether they want to save their puny six and seven centiMorgan DNA matches has been postponed until early September, I spent a serious chunk of time reviewing what the damages might be if I relinquished my chance to preserve any of those "poison candy" matches.
I have a hard time sticking with the party line on those small matches. I've made some of my DNA match discoveries in reverse—finding a known distant cousin among my DNA matches who already has had an assured spot in my family tree. Because of the distant relationship—I have documentation showing these people are fourth cousins or beyond—I wouldn't normally expect to see them sharing any DNA with me, but there they are in my readout at Ancestry.
Then, too, I see how important such distant matches can be—if used with extreme caution and with much supporting documentation as well—in fleshing out the empty distant branches on my pedigree chart. Perhaps I already spent too much time heeding all the swirling controversy and hesitating over taking any action.
Yesterday, however, I needed to get busy. Yes, I went through the matches of those for whom I manage DNA accounts. I used a few tactics to preserve specific matches, if only by adding notes or tagging with colored dots for specific surnames. Once I had a system down, I finished up the lists and then moved on to do some "house cleaning" on the rest of the matches. I worked next on matches from eight to twenty centiMorgans which also had "common ancestor" hints.
The goal was to work as quickly as possible to do the rudimentary cleaning that can put the rest of all those thousands of matches in some logical order. Normally, when confirming DNA matches' place in my trees, I trudge along at an alarmingly slow speed. I want to insure that I have all the right documentation to connect the right DNA match to the right spot in my tree. Tasks like this, though, are a quick way to sift through the possibilities and order things into buckets for future consideration.
While the result is that everyone down to the very smallest match now is organized by divisions of great-grandparents' surnames (or even further, in the case of some colonial families on both my mother's line and my husband's maternal line), I know I will need to go back and continue the more cumbersome tasks I've been doing all along. But having this cursory sketch of which matches belong to which surname, I can now tell at a glance such important details as whether there are any other Falvey or Kelly matches I can lean on while struggling over my research project with those families sharing the same County Kerry origin.
Cleaning may seem like the regretfully necessary chore which interrupts all forward motion, but in the case of research as in most other endeavors, it is nice to be able to reach for the tools we need and know they are still exactly where we last put them.