Sunday, May 4, 2014

AncestryDNA Research Tip - The Leaf and the Private Tree

If you are an AncestryDNA autosomal tester then I bet the graphic above looks familiar. Yes, you want to review that leaf match but the match's tree is private. Right now I hear your frustration level rising.

It is one of the most frustrating aspects of researching your AncestryDNA autosomal results -- you have a leaf indicating a MRCA (most recent common ancestor) match, but the tree is private and you won't be able to even see the MRCA results. Then you send Ancestrymail to your match and hear nada. Now you are really frustrated.

So what can you do besides questioning the heritage of your DNA match (don't go there Al Swint)? ;-)

While this won't work in every instance, you may find that the tree may be hidden in almost plain sight.

Click on the graphic above to expand the view

So let's take a look at my match header above as viewed from my dad's DNA page. See my name up there at the top. If you click on it that will take you to my Ancestry profile. If you view that page you will see a list of all the public trees I have attached to my account.

In what I can only describe as a "weird computer thing" (that is a cool computer geek term), even though the tree linked to the DNA test is private, some of those trees are in fact public on the match profile page. I have found that about 25% of the private tree matches I have looked at have a public tree link on the profile page.

Case in point, in the example I have posted below, I was doing a search for the family surname Witt and I got a match with a DNA cousin with a private tree. When I opened her profile page up I found this.

Click on the graphic above to expand the view

If you look below the graphics there is a header that says "Ancestry Public Member Trees" and a link to the Ruhlands family tree. Now I can exam her tree and see if we have a MRCA match.

As I indicated above, this technique doesn't work every time, but something is better than nothing.

Bottom line, slow down, take your time and examine each AncestryDNA match closely. Looking at your match's profile page for clues is just a good genealogy research technique.

If there is a tree attached you should not only check out the list of surnames you have in common, closely looking at locations and dates (think cluster genealogy), but look down the entire list of your match's ancestor surnames and see if any other surnames look familiar. There may be some smoke in this list that could lead to fire.

Well over half my fruitful MRCA matches did not have a leaf, but I recognized a surname or two from the match's surname list and was able to connect us that way. Again, you should be thinking cluster genealogy! If it works on the paper side of genealogy research, it will also work on the DNA side of things.

Also you need to orient your thinking in terms that each of your DNA matches is a genealogical record. If you got a new paper record for your ancestor (i.e., census, vital, etc) would you not take your time and look at each element of that record and mine it for genealogical information you can use in your research?

You should doing same thing with each of your DNA matches. You are looking at a genealogy record that has no equal. You need to dig inside the information that your DNA match has on their page, in their tree and in their Ancestry member profile. Just because there is no leaf doesn't mean you cast that match aside. Think cluster genealogy just like you do on the paper side an dig into those results.

There is fire there because you both are a DNA match. Now you have to take the time and make it part of your genealogy research to go look for that fire!