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.


Organizing little by little

calendarsnippetHere’s one thing I know: Getting or keeping your family history research organized doesn’t happen without a little effort. (Of course, that’s true of organizing most aspects of our lives!) There never seems to be enough time to do genealogy research, let alone time to organize it.

But if you snatch little pockets of time to catch up on your organizing, you can make great strides. For example, 15 minutes spent on filing unfiled genealogy documents (either electronic or paper) is time well spent. It allows you to familiarize yourself with your documents and the holes you have in your research. It makes you feel more in control. You can get rid of any duplicates you come across. And, of course, it helps you find what you need when you’re looking for something, because documents are where they’re supposed to be.

One thing that can help is keeping an organizing task list so you can jump right into it when you carve out some time for it. My new genealogy to-do list helps me know what to work on when I have some time for research. But I think it’s a good idea to spend some time at least once a week organizing the research. Toward that end, I think that in addition to having a genealogy to-do list for each branch of my family, I’ll make one for organizing tasks. That’ll make it easier for me to just do something. (I’ll be posting a Genealogy To-Do List printable very soon so you can use my form, if you’d like.)

So here’s my challenge for you today: Think about how often you want to do family history research. And then think about when you might work on organizing your research. In this last month of the year, maybe you can carve out a little time for organizing. Doing it little by little, you’ll make progress. If you wait for a free weekend when you feel like organizing, you may never get it done.

Like many people, I have a very busy December coming up. But I’ve found that I get more done when I’m really busy. So for this December, I’m going to commit to spending at least a half hour a week organizing my genealogy research. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up two hours over the course of the month (actually, two and a half, since December started on a Monday this year). And one can get a lot done in two focused hours. To set myself up for success, I’ve scheduled five half-hour sessions on my calendar.

I’ll try to keep track of what I accomplish in that time and at the end of the month, I’ll post my progress here. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by all I can get done in those little, focused pockets of time.


What do you want to read about?

Almost a year ago, I did a poll of Organize Your Family History readers to find out what types of articles are most useful to you. 101 people responded, which was fantastic.

Since then, readership has grown and I thought it might be time to check back with you. I’m interested in knowing what types of articles you would find interesting to read here. The poll is identical, but please do respond even if you responded a year ago.

Thank you so much! I am so grateful for the input I get from readers of this blog. You’ve helped me immeasurably and I want to write posts that help you in return.