The DNA of West Cork People
Mark Grace is a genetic genealogist and family historian at Ballynoe House, Ardfield, Co. Cork
As one of your New Year resolutions, you may have decided to get back into family history. One of the reasons you may not have been so involved of late (except where life in general gets in the way) is that you were not making much progress. You can help yourself in finding DNA connections and like-minded researchers with a few simple steps. There are my ‘Top Ten Genealogical Hits’ for promoting your profile in 2023.
1. If you got a DNA test kit for Christmas, don’t forget to send it back.
2. If you are on Ancestry or 23andMe (or tested elsewhere) download your zipped DNA file and copy it for free to secure databases on MyHeritage, GEDmatch, LivingDNA and FamilyTreeDNA. GEDmatch is key to sharing since it is the only database that takes uploads for every testing company, of which there are now over 30.
3. Add your GEDmatch number to your Ancestry and MyHeritage profiles. Check your membership profiles are up-to-date with some key basic information such as your place of origin, age range, and willingness to collaborate. Consider including your email address and use the ‘links’ icon in your profile (Ancestry) to share other sites where you may have relevant information (perhaps a Wiki tree or personal webpage with genealogical histories).
4. Try to push out your family tree to four or five generations (all your 2x greats), supported by data sources such as BMD (Birth, Marriage, Death) and census records. Ensure all have some basic data such as birth and death years (even if approximate) as well as the general place of the birth/death, where known. A county or country will do. Don’t leave them blank as ‘names only’ get lost in context, especially when dealing with Irish names. Avoid the temptation of copying others unless you are sure their research is correct. I appreciate some may not know the father of a child, but if you have DNA tested then it is helpful if you don’t leave the person blank but put in “NPE” (Not the Parent Expected). This helps differentiate between a tree that is work in progress from one that is highlighting an area where DNA matching may help.
5. If your DNA data is on MyHeritage, download a new autocluster file for your matches. You’ll be surprised how much it changes. Add a three-monthly reminder to your electronic calendar and don’t forget to add comments for all the top matches in your most important clusters to help you find shared ancestry the next time you download the file. These might only be a shared segment, common geography, or perhaps noting some family surnames in common.
6. If on Ancestry and DNA tested, make sure you have assigned Parent one and Parent two to the correct parent. This is becoming increasingly important for those of us researching West Cork ancestry, as it is becoming much clearer in a complex research area which connections are purely maternal, purely paternal, or a mixture of both due to the frequent intermarriage of local families.
7. On Ancestry, check you have properly activated ThruLines and assigned your DNA test to yourself. Also, make sure you are set as the ‘home person’ for your tree. Any other set-up for your family can confuse both researchers and the automatic algorithms.
8. Check your messages and respond to them on all the platforms you use. Remember, if you are no longer paying for a subscription and you have DNA tested, you can still log-in and check your matches and messages. Say you will respond to messages in your profile so that researchers can prioritise contacting you over the majority who never respond.
9. If you are open to collaboration, serious about research, and on any testing website, if you have no private reason, drop your membership pseudonym/alias and change it to your real name. It helps make connections more than you think.
10. If you have tested with MyHeritage, check all your DNA settings to allow your match details to be displayed on their chromosome browser.
It doesn’t take a lot to make research considerably easier for everyone. I wish you a successful research year in 2023. By the time you read this, the first results from the Christmas DNA test kits will be arriving. It always provides new surprises and hopefully some answers to mysteries we all have in our ancestry.
Comments, questions, and issues that can be answered as part of future articles can be emailed to DNAmatchingprojects@gmail.com or follow my West Cork DNA projects on Facebook blog “My Irish Genealogy & DNA.”