Organizing DNA Research | Tools We Love

Melanie Mohler

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Organizing DNA research (not just your match list!) is crucial to successful genetic genealogy. Here are some different tools one of our students uses to keep track of DNA research progress.

At Your DNA Guide, we know you can DO the DNA, but how do you organize it all? With all of the DNA matches and relations, there is a lot to keep track of. But it can be done! Emily, one of our DNA Skills Workshop participants, offers some tips and tools which she’s used to better organize her DNA research.


Emily first started by creating a template in Lucidchart to help determine her generation of connection to her DNA matches. This was her starting point for researching her mystery match’s ancestors. As you can see from Emily’s chart, Lucidchart offers an easy way to chart out your family trees and visualize your possible relationships. 


GoodNotes is a note-taking app that’s only available for Apple products. You can organize your notes into different folders and notebooks. You can also search through your handwritten notes, which makes it easy to find certain people or relations that you’re looking for. These notes can also be synced to your iPhone, so you can easily take your notes on the go.

Emily started a DNA Matches research log using GoodNotes, which you can see below. Along with notes, she has also uploaded the various workbooks from the Skills course as PDFs into the app. From there she can duplicate any Research Log within the workbook and fill them out based on which DNA Question she’s actively working on. Blank pages for notes can also be inserted into the PDF. 


iPad and Apple Pencil

If you have an iPad, an Apple Pencil can come in handy for taking notes. Apple Pencil is a stylus that you can use to draw and write with on your iPad. It makes using an iPad much more like taking notes in a notebook, rather than having to type them out with a keyboard. 

Emily uses her Apple Pencil to take notes in GoodNotes on her research as she works on her DNA matches. You can see in the photo above that Emily hand wrote her notes using her Apple Pencil. And she likes that there are multiple ink colors that she can use for different meanings in her notes. For example, she might use blue for a question or a task, black for notes, and red for a next step or an answer. 


Maybe you prefer organizing your research on paper rather than on a digital device. One way to do that could be to use an agenda (like this one or this one) which you can use to write down your to-dos for research. But you can also keep a digital journal to track your progress. A five-year journal encourages you to write short entries for each day, so it’s not as overwhelming, and you can see your progress throughout the five years.

Whether you’re doing the DNA with the Your DNA Guide– the Book and Your DNA Guide-the Workbook, or you’re participating in one of our Your DNA Guide courses, organizing the trees of your matches and your notes is a key to success. The discussion boards within our courses offer an amazing resource to learn from our coaches and other participants. (We learned about Emily’s note taking and organization tips from the discussion board in the DNA Skills workshop, and she gave us permission to share them here.) 

Learn more about Lucidchart

Check out the DNA Skills Workshop

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