Sunday, July 9, 2023

Keeping Stuff Sorted


A family historian's life is doomed to rub up against the incessant challenge to keep things organized. Notwithstanding my latest Fibber McGee confessions, there are yet other areas demanding that stringent upkeep. One of them is sorting through my DNA matches.

True, this month's ancestor featured in my Twelve Most Wanted to-do list has been the main impetus behind adding 144 new names to my father-in-law's side of the family tree in the past two weeks. Johanna Flanagan Lee might be a mystery to me right now, but her descendants no longer are. They've been added to a tree which now stands at 32,944 documented names.

All that has been thanks to a long-standing goal to connect new DNA matches with their profile page on my digitized family tree at Since I've been working on my father-in-law's tree this month, my DNA proxy for this purpose is my almost wholeheartedly willing husband, who kindly consented to be my DNA guinea pig nine years ago at a genealogy conference. With 1,261 matches at fourth cousin level or closer at AncestryDNA and hundreds more at MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA, and Living DNA, he's provided me several opportunities to puzzle over my father-in-law's nearly lost Irish heritage.

What I've been working on recently is taking the "unassigned" matches from among the newest test results at AncestryDNA and determining on which side of the family they belong, based on shared matches. Several of those matches in limbo are clearly part of his maternal line, so I am labeling them to expedite future searches. But some turn out to be on the paternal side, helpful this month due to my quest to discover Johanna Flanagan Lee's history.

Although my research focus this past quarter has not been on my own line, because of my ongoing goal of building out all family trees to include collateral and descendant lines, I've been doing similar work on my own family's line, predominantly on my mother's colonial-based tree. Thus, no surprise to see I had also added 117 names to that tree in the past two weeks, as well. That tree, now standing at 33,737, represents continuation of work on the research goals I had started back in the first three months of this year. Sometimes, a researcher's work never seems to get completely done.

Organizing the readouts for DNA matches on both sides of the family over the years has certainly helped place new matches where they belong on the family trees. Now that I see how many "unassigned" matches on my husband's test results can so easily be reassigned, based on personal knowledge of that family tree, I may as well make that a regular sweep through both sides of the family. For every detail confirmed among those matches, it becomes so much easier to move forward and connect the latest test results to the right branch of the tree.

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