When we turn our hearts to our ancestors, something changes inside of us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves~Russell M. Nelson

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday's Tip~Gettin' By With Help From Our Friends-Emily Hackett-Fiske!

Today's Tuesday Tip comes from Emily Hackett-Fiske, owner of and blogger at A Link to Your Past.

­­Tips for Navigating AncestryDNA results

Many times our excitement (think kid in a candy store) takes over when thinking about the possibilities of combing genetic and traditional research, but we often need to take a step back and not miss the obvious.  I am writing these tips to help not just the genetic genealogist, but for anyone and everyone who takes a DNA test.  Though the tips in this blog post are using AncestryDNA results for examples, these tips can be applied to the other DNA testing companies as well.

       1.    Family Tree – Link It!

Everyone should have a “basic” family tree linked to his or her DNA results at a minimum.  There is nothing more frustrating than seeing “No family tree” as seen in the image below.  If you have tested and have not included a family tree, I am speaking to you!  Everyone takes DNA test for different reasons, but why not take advantage of the features available.  Now there are a few instances, such as adoptees, who may not have a “paper” family tree to link.  

You do not need a subscription with Ancestry to link a family tree to your results.  The option for nonsubscribers is to create a free, public family tree, and link to your results under the AncestryDNA settings.  Worried about privacy?  There is the option to make people “living” for the first couple of generations even when they are deceased.  A more advanced researcher most likely will determine the connection even with the simplest clues, while a more beginner researcher user may begin to recognize surnames or locations. 

If you are a subscriber, there is the option to make your family tree private (lock symbol as seen below for my linked family tree).  You could also create a “genetic” family tree to link, where you are providing much less information than your “paper” family tree.  Once again, there may be enough clues for the advanced researcher to identify the connection and the beginning stages for the beginner researcher. 

This was the case with the first of the 3rd cousin level matches shown below.  Based on the public family tree linked to the match’s results, I was able to correlate a spouse’s surname and make the connection.  This was significant for the match as he knew nothing about his grandmother’s family, and it confirmed most likely the half-sibling relationship between my great-grandmother and his grandmother.  We need to be building and linking these family trees for everyone to have a better experience with genetic genealogy.

2.  Shared Ancestor Hint  - Check it!

Recently, a DNA match on AncestryDNA.com contacted me because she was interested in our Shared Ancestor Hint, but was unable to see the connection due to my private tree setting. Prior to returning a message, I reviewed the hint and the username information.  How did I connect to someone from Australia and why was my gut telling me something seemed off with the hint?  

Thank goodness for private tree setting!  This prevented wrong information from being distributed to a public family tree.  Stopped one shaky leaf hint replication error!  As you can see above in the image, Ancestry provided a “hint” to our DNA connection.  Does your gut tell you anything is wrong? 

According to this hint, Susannah Ware was the mother to Joseph Casborn/Casborne and Joseph Parker.  There is always the possibility she was married twice.  However in this case, Casborn is not a common surname in Rhode Island during the time period, and I had spent time researching this family, eventually making my way back to England.  My balloon of excitement was deflated very quickly when I realized the error! 

The first image below is Joseph Casborn, who is the son of Susannah WARE, however, take a good look at the second image below.  Joseph Parker is not the son of Susannah Ware, but of Susan WARDE.  Always check Ancestry’s Shared Ancestor Hint for accuracy!  

    3.  Last Logged In Date – Review It!

The “Last logged in” date can be somewhat telling about how interested someone might be about connecting with DNA matches.  The image below shows when various matches have logged into their accounts to view their DNA results/matches.  There are matches that log in every day, while some haven’t logged in to accounts for over a year.  I know it is hard to believe someone not wanting to log in every day, but it can be overwhelming when you are uncertain about what to do with these DNA results. 

         4.  Family Units – Build It!

Many times various members of a family will test, however, each person administrates their own DNA results instead of one person administrating the family. It is beneficial to determine the family units from shared matches and clues left by the users.  Once the family unit has been determined, find the person of the group that has been logging in the most (going back to Tip No. 3) and contact that person. 

Recently, I came across two situations, where the family members all tested separately.  In one case, the family member with the closest match to my client had passed away only months earlier, which I would have not known without contacting the other family member that logged in the most.  In the other case, the family member with the closest match to my client was older and not computer savvy, which I only determined by contacting the family member that logged in the most. 

        5.   GedMatch.com – Upload Today!

If you have not uploaded your DNA results to GedMatch, PLEASE consider doing it.  There are many blog post on what Gedmatch is, how to upload and the features.  It is hard to believe that not everyone is running out and testing at all four companies, but they aren’t.  Gedmatch is a great (FREE) website, where anyone from the “big three” testing companies can upload the DNA results and compare with others who have tested at other companies.  There are also some great tools as well! 

Emily Hazel Hackett-Fiske is owner of A Link To Your Past, a genealogical research company specializing in unknown parentage and DNA.  Emily also provides services in Vermont and New Hampshire genealogical research.    Genealogical research has been her passion in life since she can remember.  It is the thrill of the chase and discovery for those complex genealogical problems that keeps Emily’s passion burning.  It is her desire to share and support others in their journey in discovering their family, both past and present, where genetic and paper family trees meet.

Wow! Emily! Thanks so much for the great DNA tips!
They will help me and many others as we try to connect with family.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on Emily's tips and how using DNA has helped you in your family history research.
Thanks so much for stopping by!

Helping you climb your family tree,


  1. Replies
    1. Emily did a great job on these! Thanks so much for taking the time to let her know you enjoyed them!