Wednesday, October 12, 2022

D N A Dots


Sometimes, we have more data than we realized at the start. In sorting through the information on my DNA test at MyHeritage, I've discovered I have seventy nine options that may lead me to discoveries about my paternal grandmother's Polish heritage. While I sift through those DNA matches, though, I need to get up to speed on using MyHeritage's tools. After all, it was one of those tools at MyHeritage which led me to a research breakthrough on another branch of my Polish ancestry. Best to not ignore those tools at hand.

About a year ago, MyHeritage introduced the capability of labeling DNA matches based on an open-ended colored dot labeling system. I knew that system was there, waiting for me to explore its potentials. But since I'm primarily an user, I hadn't yet gotten up to speed on that MyHeritage update. Until, that is, my ancestor hunt pointed me in a direction for which AncestryDNA didn't have answers: international DNA data from others with Polish heritage.

I'm now in the process of reviewing those seventy nine potential Polish cousins, but the first question is: who belongs to which side of my paternal family? After all, both my paternal grandparents emigrated from Poland.

As I work my way through this pile of data, it would be a good idea to make notes as I go. Sortable, searchable markers would be optimal. And the colored dot scheme, introduced at MyHeritage about a year ago, is the perfect tool for this purpose. I'll label as I go.

MyHeritage has provided several tutorials to guide researchers through this dotting process—everything from a blog post to a long-form entry in their Help Center to a video demonstration by Daniel Horowitz. The process for using the labels and making corresponding notes is straightforward. The catch is: how to assign which color to which ancestor? And...couples? Or individual ancestors?

Leah Larkin, The DNA Geek, always has a nifty analogy to use in her posts, though it may come as no surprise that here, she used the comparison to those old-fashioned candy dots...but trust me, once you see her post, you'll probably never get that image out of your mind as you work through your DNA candy. 

This post explores Leah's thinking on how she labeled the thirty potential choices, noting right away that once created, those colored-dot labels are displayed and sorted alphabetically. She gives tips on how to handle decisions on naming those potential thirty label options. Morale of this story: plan ahead. Learn all you can about this system before going ahead and using it. Willy-nilly can be fixed, of course, but why start off on the wrong foot?

Another DNA blogger, Kitty Cooper, recommends to users that they follow the same color choices made on their AncestryDNA account when setting up the color coding scheme at MyHeritage. I am not sure that would be the best choice for me, though. (See Willy-nilly, above.)

Always thinking far ahead, Roberta Estes realized what seems like the perfect color coding scheme to maximize the color dot options at MyHeritage. I've never been one to assign color to one couple, although I realize many genetic genealogy giants advise such. My concern has always been that my tree is full of half-relationships. In Roberta Estes' post, though, she reasons: 

If an ancestor was married more than once and you share DNA with someone who descends from that ancestor and a different spouse, that match is automatically pushed back to the earlier generation.

Food for thought.

No matter which method I use—or you choose to use—one positive about the MyHeritage system is that you can always rewind, go back to the beginning and switch to another coloring system. Flexibility may be just the key to eliminating the fear and paralysis of not stepping out and just starting to do the work necessary. There is always room for a do-over.

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