1. Choose a testing company
Here in the UK there are various testing companies that offer a DNA testing service. Each has its different reporting styles and tools.
The 5 main testing companies are:
There are of course, pro’s and limitations associated with each testing company. Ancestry and 23andMe allow you to transfer the results of your DNA test to another company, free of charge. The results data file will report in different ways and enable you to maximise the reporting capabilities using different online tools.
Once you’ve chosen, either based on the largest database (Ancestry/23andMe), and costs, complete the test and post back using the method in the DNA kit. Then wait to be notified by the testing company that your DNA has been processed. This may take a few weeks.
2. Look at the results
Use the tools at the DNA testing company to look at your matches. Look at the relationships, for example: a 3rd cousin (3C) will share one set of your 2x great grandparents. The unit of measurement for DNA is a centimorgan or cM.
A great tool is the Shared cM Tool to understand the relationships based on the amount of shared cM. Sounds complicated, but really it is just a measuring tool and very useful in looking at the possible relationships to your DNA matches.
Check out the tool here www.dnapainter.com
3. Reviewing the results – cousin matching
Looking at cousin matching, helps to identify shared matches. It is a good starting point especially if you don’t have a 1st cousin (1C), sibling, parents or grandparents DNA results.
Children of a 2x great grandparent for example, that wasn’t your direct ancestor (brothers or sisters of your direct ancestor), can potentially share a 3C (3rd cousin) relationship.
Each DNA testing company have their own useful tools. AncestryDNA have what they call ThruLines where the predicted relationship, if the DNA match has a tree on Ancestry, is shown. Coloured dots can be used to mark out the match, use a blue dot for anything on your paternal great grandfathers line, for example. Assign that coloured dot to anyone who matches you, your DNA match on that particular line, and any of your shared matches to easily identify which line of your tree you are looking at. ThruLines uses Ancestry trees to suggest how your DNA matches may be related, through common ancestor matches.
Another useful tool is a simple spreadsheet. Mark your pages by ancestor line, a paternal grandfather, a maternal great grandmother etc. Then every time you come across a match, you can enter them into your spreadsheet and cross match the shared cM, relationship and which line of the tree they match you on.
4. Research – build out your tree
Focus on common locations, surnames, anything that is familiar. These are all genealogical clues to your matches. Build out your tree and your own genealogy, but also if something looks like a good match, 3C for example, then it is a good idea to build out their tree too. Nothing matches good traditional genealogical research!
This way you can find a connection, what you have in common, a 2x great grandparent.
It is helpful to do your own descendant research from the ancestors you already know about. It could be that you already have this DNA match, say a 3C on your tree, and you can use the DNA results as confirmation of this relationship.
Outsourcing your DNA matching is a possibility if you are struggling to make sense of DNA analysis. If you are interested in taking a DNA test and you are unsure what to do next, please get in contact with me, or visit my Services pages above.
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