Saturday, September 2, 2023

Quick Tips and
Record-Breaking Moments


Unless couch potatoes have become the new athletes, you wouldn't expect genealogy to become the domain of record-breaking accomplishments. And yet, that's what happened this weekend for this (very unathletic) family history buff.

It all started with an email from announcing the arrival of a specific DNA match to my account. It was a fairly close relative—at an estimated second to third cousin, at least that is a close match in my experience. Of course, this brand new match notice came with a warning that the only other item to offer was an unlinked family tree. But hey, I'm game to explore. After all, one look at "shared matches" could provide all the information I need.

As it turned out, though the match hadn't yet been assigned to either side of my family—"unassigned" rather than listed on either the paternal or maternal side of my tree—the "shared matches" tab on my match's entry page told me everything I needed to know. That was a good thing, considering the unlinked family tree she offered contained only five people, three of whom were listed as "private"—in other words, living relatives. The two named ancestors were her paternal grandparents—assuming, that is, that the home person actually was my DNA match.

The shared matches list, however, contained almost twenty other DNA relatives. Some were quite closely related to me—including eight who shared at least one hundred centiMorgans with me, and several others whom I had already identified in my tree. Most helpful was the fact that the two closest in-common matches were children of my paternal half-siblings, an immense clue pointing me in the right direction.

Because I've long made it a habit to include collateral lines in my family tree, it already included the name of this DNA match's paternal grandparents, even though they weren't part of my own family line. Of course, that meant I also had this match's maternal side, the one which connected her to my own family.

In all, it probably took me a matter of minutes to find where this DNA match belonged in my own tree, mark her as a DNA match, and confirm the relationship on the site. From the minute I saw the email to the point of looking at the match's limited information and checking with my own tree and confirming the match took far less than an hour—and that included adding some documentation, as well.

I thought it was a nice touch to see that Ancestry is now alerting subscribers when they receive a new, close DNA match. Along with the notice, the email included a green button front and center, labeled "Explore your match." Couldn't have been any more obvious. 

Besides that, the email contained a list of quick tips labeled "How do you start a conversation with a new match?" The third point resonated with me, considering my current research project: just ask if the match has any favorite stories or photos to share about the mutual ancestor. I'm finding collaboration on my newly-discovered Dennis Tully is opening up worlds of understanding.

To wrap up, the Ancestry email offered a quick overview of other tips in a video featuring the ubiquitous Crista Cowan in her "Genealogy in a Minute" series.

As far as my "record-breaking" DNA matching prowess, I can safely say it was thanks to spending years linking collateral lines to my family tree. Once the bigger picture was added, it is now quite easy to get one's bearings in a matter of moments, given Ancestry's search capabilities applied to my own tree. And a succinct email reminder from Ancestry didn't hurt, either.


  1. When I started my research about 10 years ago, I did my research on the library computer and printed all my documents to construct my tree. I did build out my tree with collateral family. When I got my own ancestry account, it was so much fun recognizing these people and putting them where I knew they belonged. And growing up in a small town where my families have been for generations, I can recognize obituary information and make even more connections! I can't wait to hear what this brings to your story.

  2. Congratulations! It's always fun to get closer matches.


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