Organizing your DNA matches helps you make sense of them. From someone who organizes DNA results for a living, here’s the fastest, easiest way to organize them, whether you’ve tested at AncestryDNA, 23andMe or another company.
When I was a kid I collected books. I spent hours categorizing and alphabetizing them. My favorite was The Berenstein Bears and the Messy Room. The final page, showing Brother and Sister Bear’s closet full of neatly labeled and stacked boxes, was literally a dream for me. I love organization. So naturally, I want a way to organize my vast new collection of DNA cousins.
Quick tip for organizing your DNA matches
The very best and very easiest thing you can do that will lead to fewer repeated searches and thus a more productive session with your genetic genealogy test results, is to simply use the notes field provided by each testing company. The notes field at Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage are accessible right from the main match page, while at AncestryDNA and 23andMe you have to first click on your match to edit your notes. Here’s where to find the note field from within a match page at AncestryDNA:
At AncestryDNA, once you’ve created a note within a match, you can view it from the main match page.
What should you write in these notes? Your known or suspected connecting ancestor. At the very least, say which side of the family they are on, if known. Record the date you contacted them, and if they responded. (23andMe makes this easy by showing you all of your correspondence with that person right there on the page. At Ancestry you can click on the link in the upper right corner of the match page to see your previous messages.)
The AncestryDNA dot system
In the image above showing where to add a note, did you notice that “Add to group” option? This is a more advanced way of labeling your DNA matches in groups of people who are all related to each other, or genetic networks. Here’s how to do that:
Chatting with your DNA matches
There is no question that corresponding with your matches is a huge part of this genetic genealogy process. While many may not respond for a variety of reasons, many do, and you need to keep track of that correspondence. One idea is to move your correspondence as soon as possible away from the constraints of the testing company’s email service. Create a separate email address just for your DNA correspondence and direct all of your matches to talk to you there. Use the folders and tags within your email program to help you quickly find a desired correspondence.
I would also encourage you to copy the key points of correspondence into a Word document. I know oftentimes I get an email with a lot of information, but there are only a few points I want to focus on. Instead of needing to read through a long email each time I am looking for information about a particular ancestor, I can just turn to my Word document and find just the information I need, often saving time and frustration.
Whatever your system, just stick to it and you will feel less overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping track of your thousands of cousins.
We’re here to help!
Like many things, getting started with organizing and contacting your DNA matches is easier said than done. That’s why we’re here, we have the resources and support you need for every step of your DNA discovery journey. We’ve put together all of our best tips for contacting matches into one free guide. Grab your copy and start connecting with your DNA matches!