Saturday, April 18, 2020

Stuck at Home, Bored

If you are noticing the confining aspect of those clever turns of phrase such as "shelter in place," perhaps you, too, are feeling rather stuck at home. Just remember: in that, you have plenty of company; apparently, those inconvenient computer hackers are also stuck at home and bored. Be sure to use this extra time on your hands to update your systems, keep your virus scans current, and—my weakness—don't miss your computer backups. An unusual online scare last night reminded me, once again, that at least for our virtual connections to the rest of the world, it's important to make sure all systems are current—or it really will feel like we are stuck far from the rest of the world.

All is not dour negativity while home, of course. Was it quick thinking on the part of Ancestry to release their newest set of genea-toys to coincide with the current version of the quarantine blues? I'm not sure I'll ever know the answer to that, but I'm putting that extra time to good use this weekend, tagging each of my DNA matches at Ancestry with their new system linking matches to individuals already in that family tree.

We've already heard rumors, thanks to reader Kat, that maybe something new like that was coming our way. Remember? I looked for clues at the Ancestry Lab on their website, though I could find no mention of any new beta tests. Though Kitty Cooper had mentioned the possibility on her blog a while back, scouring her posts showed no further clues about what the new development might be. And then, suddenly, our Irish friend Dara mentioned one day that she had just found the new feature! It was live in Ireland, at least, by a few hours before I could rush to open my own account.

Since then, I've been reaping the benefits of keeping a "bushy" family tree. Having added all those collateral lines for all the siblings of each of my ancestors—and then tracing all their descendants down to the present time—it was quite easy to click on the new icon and connect my DNA matches to their correct spot in my tree. In fact, I completed the process for over twenty cousins just that first evening.

Don't think I couldn't have completed more than that in one sitting. The encouraging thing was that I could find the right place to connect matches as far away as fifth cousins, in some cases, but the drawback I encountered was that I had made an unfortunate decision when I first started my subscription at Ancestry.

You see, Ancestry does not limit a subscriber to building just one tree. I'm not sure the sky's the limit, but you get the idea. Coming out of the pre-Internet era of genealogical research when I had gotten so many complaints from sharing my GEDcom with distant cousins—"can you just send me my side of your tree?"—I started life at Ancestry with the decision to build not one tree but four, one for each of my daughter's grandparents.

Now that we're in the DNA phase, I'm regretting that decision. To maximize the use of DNA in combination with family trees, a subscriber needs to link the DNA kit to a specific individual on the tree. Now that we can link all our matches to our tree as well, I can do just fine when the tree used is my mother's tree. But for all these helpful new matches materializing from my father's side of the family, I can't connect them to his tree. The only way I can link them is to add all my dad's side to my mom's tree.

Ugh. Think of all the work to get that completed.

On the other hand, considering all the time on our hands, now that we're stuck at home...maybe that's not such a bad prospect, after all.


Above: The little icon newly added at AncestryDNA which, with a simple process to connect a subscriber's DNA matches to the correct location on the subscriber's own family tree, helps to visualize just where each match belongs in your pedigree chart.

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