Saturday, April 23, 2016

Setting Up a DNA Cousin Match Database: A Success Story

DNA testing for genealogy is one of the best investments I've ever made into my research. The more I invest into my understanding of the subject, the greater returns I receive from it. And at no point was that ever more apparent than when I connected with a distant cousin several months ago.

Photo of Charles Miller Doyle and Birdie Price
from the collection of Irene Doyle Ashley,
 ca. 1920-1950; Scanned by Dwight Edwards,
Alameda California, 2016.
I initially reached out to this cousin more than a year ago, at a point when I was just beginning to figure out what I was doing with DNA analysis. I'd written dozens of such emails, and finally clued into something important. Reaching out to a DNA cousin match is good. Offering to help them determine the connection you share is better. But being able to share a real theory about where you think that connection is--this is the best approach, the essential component to every email we write to DNA cousin matches.

Had I not mentioned to this cousin that I was a Doyle descendant, and through looking around at shared matches I suspected he was too, he might never have written me back. He might have never taken the time to answer the vague form email I'd gotten into the habit of sending. And that would be truly tragic, because without this connection I never would have seen the pictures he shared with me of my 2x great grandparents.

Even though I made this connection on AncestryDNA, the real potential of this connection is untapped at, where I can analyze the DNA segments in greater detail. But inviting him to use GEDmatch and performing the analysis of our DNA segments were only the beginning. Having a way to compare our match to hundreds of other matches, in detail, across various other testing websites is the necessary next step.

By setting up a DNA database, harnessing the powerhouse of DNA testing for genetic genealogy becomes a reality. And in my newest tutorial, I explain how to set up such a database in spreadsheet software you already use. Whether you use Microsoft Excel or Access, Google Sheets, or any other type of spreadsheet software, many of these tips I share will help you to get started with your DNA cousin match analysis.

In many respects, setting up a centralized database of DNA matches isn't a question of starting over. It's learning how to be more organized int he efforts you're already making, in order to obtain the results you want, and solve the mysteries you're trying to unravel through DNA.

[ UPDATE: Be sure to check out our free Excel template for setting up your own DNA database, based on this presentation! ]