To optimize your DNA tests, each tester needs to take advantage of the features offered by each vendor.
In order to do that, we need to perform the following tasks.
- Upload or create a tree (except at 23andMe who does not support trees)
- Connect our own test to our own profile card on our tree
- Connect other tests we manage to their (or our) tree, depending on the vendor
- Connect matches who are known relatives to their profiles on our tree
Each vendor handles these situations differently, so we’ll look at each one of the vendors with step-by-step instructions for handling those situations. We all want to get the most out of the tests we’ve taken!
Plant a Tree
If you have not created or uploaded a tree at each one of the vendors (except 23andMe who does not support genealogy trees), please do so. However, 23andMe does provide for links to your tree elsewhere, so we will review that function.
I manage my “master tree” on my own computer, but I also maintain trees at both Ancestry and MyHeritage where I attach documents and research found at that vendor. I also update my ancestors at WikiTree to be sure other researchers benefit from new discoveries.
I have not uploaded my full tree from my computer anyplace because I have many private notes that are not appropriate for disclosure, not to mention speculative and unproven relationships. I created a pared-down tree at one time to upload to both Ancestry and MyHeritage, and build those trees out from there.
I’m often asked about replacing your tree at the various vendors with an updated tree. If you do that, be aware that you will lose your DNA connections and document links. I do NOT recommend that. I simply maintain multiple trees. I wrote about this in the article, “Genealogy Tree Replacement – Should I or Shouldn’t I?” If you are considering that option, PLEASE read that article first.
RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, and Legacy Family Tree Software all provide a syncing option with various vendors and FamilySearch, although not every vendor allows access to each of those software companies. I probably should experiment with the syncing option, but given a family member’s terrible experience some years back, I’ve been unwilling to do that. My biggest fear is that I will corrupt the file and not notice it until it’s far too late to revert to a backup.
When you upload or create a tree, make sure deceased and living people are marked as such, and you’ve opted to share your tree. If you don’t, you accidentally have a private tree. Worse yet, you might not realize it. I wrote about that in Quick Tip: Trees, Death Dates and Unintentionally Private Ancestors.
Now, let’s take a look at each vendor.
23andMe does not support traditional genealogy trees, but they do provide a location for you to link your tree at another vendor or source.
Under your name at the right side, you’ll see “View Your Profile” under the dropdown.
I’ve not been able to find a generic Ancestry tree link that will allow non-Ancestry subscribers to view my tree, but it’s easy to do at MyHeritage. Simply open your tree at MyHeritage and just copy the link at the top. Don’t worry, people won’t see anyone living.
If you want to use “one world” types of trees, you can also link to other trees such as FamilySearch or WikiTree, but just remember that you don’t control that content.
You don’t need to connect yourself to your tree at 23andMe, because there is no genealogy tree. However, 23andMe constructs a “genetic tree” for you using your closest matches, based on how you match other people, and how they match each other.
You can view your tree under “Family and Friends,” then “Family Tree.”
I added my ancestors’ names so it’s easy to keep straight. You can do that by simply clicking on the colored circle representing the ancestor, starting with your parents.
If you know that one of your matching relatives is not in exactly the correct tree location, you can click on their circle, and then click on Edit to make modifications.
You may want to add a relative that you can identify but who isn’t connected on the tree that 23andMe constructed.
Looking on the far-right side of the tree, in the lower corner, you’ll see “Add a Relative.” Click there and follow the instructions.
At Ancestry, you need to link your test to “you” in a tree. Your test can only be linked to one person in one tree at a time. You can change this, but you will lose any ThruLines you currently have. They will be regenerated based on the new tree you connect your test to, but based on the tree and other factors, they may not be the same. My recommendation is if you’re going to disconnect yourself and reconnect yourself elsewhere, record everything first.
Alternatively, you can take a second DNA test and simply link that second test to another tree. IMHO, that’s a better alternative. You can leave one in place as your research tree and use the second test to experiment with.
To link your test to your tree, select the “DNA” tab. At far right, you’ll see “Settings.”
You need to tell Ancestry who you are in your tree. Click on “Settings,” then scroll to “Tree Link.”
You can also link other tests you directly manage to their placards in your tree as well.
These links allow Ancestry to form ThruLines using both DNA matches and common ancestors in trees for 7 generations.
On your DNA Match page, Ancestry will ask you if you recognize a match.
If you click on “Yes,” you’ll be asked which side the match is on.
Then you’ll be given a long list of possible relationships in most-likely to least-likely order. Literally, Erik is the last option offered.
Select and confirm.
FamilyTreeDNA offers a unique family matching feature that sorts your matches into maternal and paternal sides.
In order to take advantage of this, you will need a tree. You can upload a GEDCOM file, although the upload at FamilyTreeDNA does not seem to do well with very large files.
I wrote about this in the article Download Your Ancestry Tree and Upload it Elsewhere for Added Benefit.
If you upload a tree, you’ll be asked to select the person in the tree that is “you,” meaning the person who tested their DNA.
You’ll want to link known matches to your tree to enable Family Matching, aka bucketing, so that FamilyTreeDNA can divide and assign your matches maternally and paternally.
If you are building your tree at FamilyTreeDNA from scratch, simply click to begin and complete the information on the placards to add your information, then your parents, building out from there. You’ll want to add the ancestral lines to connect with your closest matches on your match list.
Family matching, or bucketing, is enabled by linking known matches to their proper place on your tree. FamilyTreeDNA then evaluates each match, determining if they match a common segment with you and someone you’ve linked. If that match does share a segment with both of you, meaning they triangulate, then that person is assigned either maternally, paternally, or both. I wrote about Triangulation in Action at FamilyTreeDNA, here.
The best people to link are your parents and grandparents, of course, but that’s not always an option. You’ll want to link as many matches as you can.
To link people, either click on the Family Tree tab at the top of the page, or on the “Link on Family Tree” under Relationship Range for individual matches.
Simply click on “Link Matches,” then drag and drop your match to their placard.
Here’s an example of linking parents.
Once someone is linked, the green dot will appear signifying that they are linked, and which type of test. Green is a Family Finder autosomal test, blue means they’ve taken a Y DNA test, and pink is a mitochondrial DNA test.
If your parents aren’t available to test, link every upstream relative that you can identify. By this, I mean that your children and full siblings will match you on both sides, so aren’t helpful for parental-side assignment.
People who have DNA tests from both parents can expect around 80% of their matches to be assigned maternally, paternally, or both.
If you have relatives who have tested at other vendors, you can ask them to upload to FamilyTreeDNA for free matching.
At MyHeritage, you will connect yourself and any relatives whose tests you manage to your tree.
Under “DNA,” select “Manage DNA kits.”
At the right, you’ll click on the three dots, also known as a hamburger menu (who knew.)
Select Assign (if this is a new test or a transfer) or Re-assign a kit.
Be sure to do this for every kit you manage. I made that mistake and wrote about how I discovered and fixed the problem, here. Kit assignment enables Theories of Family Relativity and other super-helpful features.
I wrote about several things you can do to optimize your chances of receiving Theories of Family Relativity, here.
Fish in All the Ponds
I have provided step-by-step download/upload instructors for all vendors, here. It’s important to fish in all available ponds by making sure you have DNA tests at all four vendors. Then, upload or create trees and complete this bit of housekeeping to increase your chances of catching fish!
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