Had my DNA tested: now what?

DNA test. Now what?Last spring I blogged that I wanted to do a genealogy DNA test but was overwhelmed by the options. In July, I reminded myself that done is better than perfect and I took advantage of a sale that Ancestry DNA was having and sent for an autosomal DNA kit.

I got the results back in August, and was tickled to see my ethnicity breakdown. I’ve never felt a kinship with any particular nationality, but I was very interested to see that my primary ethnicity is Ireland (38%). That didn’t come as much of a surprise since the first immigrant ancestor I’ve confirmed so far in my research was from Ireland. After Ireland, the breakdown is West Europe (23%), followed by  Great Britain (11%), Scandinavia (9%) and Finland/Northwest Russia (7%). Before this, when asked my ethnicity I would have guessed Great Britain.

I saw a few DNA matches on Ancestry DNA, but beyond reaching out to one match, I haven’t done much with it. Recently, I decided to upload my Ancestry DNA results to Family Tree DNA. For a small fee, my matches were displayed. They presented me with some 900 matches, ranging from 1st to 3rd cousin all the way to remote cousin. I just reached out to the closest match.

At this point, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering “now what?” I was contacted by a cousin and asked to join a surname project, which I did. I uploaded my GEDCOM to Family Tree DNA. But I’m not sure what, if anything, I should do next. When I start to read about genetic genealogy, something in my brain rebels. (I’m more of a social science than a hard science person.)

My inclination is to sit tight and wait for people to contact me. But I’d love to hear any suggestions from you about more active ways to benefit from my DNA test. Thanks in advance!

The best organizing system

The best organizing system is the one you useWhen it comes to organizing systems, there aren’t many absolutes. But there’s one thing I know for sure: The best organizing system is the one that works for you.

An organizing system that seems great in concept isn’t great unless you use it. And an organizing system that to the outside world might appear flawed is an excellent system if you use it to your satisfaction.

Here are some signs that your genealogy organizing system isn’t doing its job:

  • You can’t find the information you seek without a lot of effort
  • You find yourself thinking, “It’s around here somewhere.”
  • Your workspace is cluttered
  • You have an overwhelming backlog
  • You feel resistance to organizing your research

If you hear yourself saying, “My organizing system would be great, if only I would use it,” take that as a clue that your organizing system isn’t great, for you. You might need to tweak your system. Or you might even need a complete overhaul.

For example, you might switch from binders to folders, if you find yourself with a perpetual pile of papers or if you have papers stuck into the binders without being hole punched or put into sheet protectors. (I’m a folder, not a binder, person.) Personally over the last couple of years I’ve made a shift away from printing and filing everything to saving documents on my hard drive. That’s a big shift, but it’s working for me.

Here are some of the characteristics I look for in a great organizing system:

  • It’s easy to implement
  • It’s intuitive
  • It’s as complex as it needs to be and not a bit more
  • It’s used

If you find yourself resisting the organizing aspect of your genealogy research, perhaps you could consider how you might make your system better for you. Remember, there’s no perfect way to organize.

 

My 2015 genealogy goals

In my last blog post I wrote that I don’t usually create genealogy goals and that this year would be different. I’m starting to really question my memory, because a search on my blog revealed the genealogy goals I set for 2013 and 2014. So I guess I what I really mean is that I need to set genealogy goals and keep them top of mind.

A year ago I created a quarterly research scheme for 2014 that actually worked quite well for me. (I described and evaluated it in this post.) I decided that I would divide the year into quarters and focus on one line of my family (that is, the ancestors of one grandparent) per quarter. At that time I outlined all the things that I would endeavor to do in that quarter. The list was lengthy and I think I knew at the time I was writing it that I’d never get it all done.

I’ve learned that when I create unrealistic goals I tend to ignore them. So I decided that for 2015 I need to structure my genealogy goals in such a way that I set myself up for success.

I created a list not dissimilar to last year’s, but instead of expecting myself to do everything on the list, I am striving to do four of the eight things on the list for each family line.  I’m sticking with the quarterly plan, but I’ll be jumping for joy if I accomplish four of the things per quarter. And I imagine the four things I do accomplish will vary by the family line.

Most of the items on my list are things within my control, which I think is important because so much of genealogy research feels outside my control. For example, one of the goals is to spend an average of two hours a week researching. The goal isn’t to solve a particular mystery or achieve a milestone, which I may or may not be able to do, but rather to put in the effort. (I did include one milestone among the goals, because it will feel so good to achieve it.)

The menu of eight items vary in level of effort, so if I have a quarter where I’m not able to spend as much time as I’d like researching, I can probably still get a few Xs. (For example, I’m sure I can find photos on my hard drive and add them to Reunion or add ten pins to my genealogy map.)

So here’s the little table I made in Pages on my Mac.

2015gengoalsscreenshot

I’m sure there’s plenty of room for improvement here, but I’m feeling good that these goals are achievable and something that I can keep top of mind. I’m going to print out the table and pin it to my bulletin board so I know I won’t forget them this year!

What does success look like in 2015?

Setting genealogy goalsI’m an unabashed goal-oriented person. I don’t always achieve all my goals, but I love having something to strive for.

I’m realizing, though, that I don’t really have goals for my genealogy research. I think if I had them, I’d feel better about my progress. So before the end of this year, I intend to put together a short list of genealogy goals for 2015. I think it will help motivate me to do research when I don’t feel like I have time. And it should also keep me focused in my research.

What will my genealogy goals look like? I don’t know just yet. But the things I’m going to consider are:

  • Building my family tree up (into new generations) versus building it out (adding more collateral lines)
  • Visiting more cemeteries and/or research libraries
  • Attending conferences
  • Reaching out to cousins
  • Getting and keeping everything organized (that’s a work in progress, of course!)

While achieving goals is important to me, I believe in rewarding myself for progress, rather than results. Along those lines, I think would also be wise for me to set a goal for the amount of effort I put in. So I think I’ll include something like, “Spend at least 30 minutes twice a week” on genealogy. That could be doing research or organizing my research. Thirty minutes twice a week doesn’t sound like much, but it amounts to 52 hours over the course of a year, and 52 hours is significant!

On or before January 2, I’ll post my short list of goals here. What about you? Do you set annual goals for your genealogy research? If not, do you think you might start?