Over the next year I am going to be spending as much of my time as possible compiling my family tree. Having received my DNA results in February, I’ve decided to start blogging monthly about where my journey is taking me.
Since my first blog, I’ve actually joined Ancestry. You don’t have to be a member to order your DNA. I elected for the wider access that includes Germany and the US – both of which I believe will connect me to unknown rellies.
I half-heartedly started the process of joining Ancestry a few times. That was because I knew it was going to be a demanding hobby once I started. I don’t know if the two are connected, but discounted membership offers did start presenting themselves to me over the coming weeks and I eventually got a year’s membership for £90. That’s £1.70 a week – not bad for something that keeps me quiet for a good 30+ hours a week, given the chance.
Then came the task of entering my family tree itself. Working with Ancestry’s software takes a little getting used to (so allow time for it initially) and I made some mistakes but it is generally human-friendly. When you set up your tree, you can elect to have a completely private tree or you can go public with it. Many set up their trees under a username and no-one would know who you actually are in real life. That’s a personal choice. I’ve been quite honest about who I am (she says writing this blog under my writing pen-name!) and I’m public with my family tree but I’ve kept off anyone living. In fact I think Ancestry does that themselves.
It has been heart-warming posting up portrait photographs of ancestors, some gone over 150 years, and watching little family groups appear with growing associated data to remind us they were here on this planet once-upon-a-day.
The benefit of putting your tree up is several-fold. Firstly little green leaves start to appear at the top right of the ancestors called ‘hints’. The system has done its own quick research and found links to the trees of those who also carry your ancestor and to public documents such as census, military records etc.
This speeds up the growth of your tree because it brings in that information to be assessed. It’s possible to review dates, siblings, spouses, children and sometimes photographs or documents and to incorporate that information into your tree. Some have to be ignored or shelved to a later time if you aren’t sure.
Don’t underestimate the enormity of these little green hints. They quickly accumulate into 100s. But it doesn’t matter. It just means there is always something you could be working on and you can choose which line of exploration to follow.
The fun starts… Your profile has DNA and now it has names. From all those potential cousin matches (I started with 34; it’s grown to 38 cousins 4th-8th level) the system can match with your tree names as well. So if under the DNA section I search for the name ‘Jones’, the system will filter through all of those 38 cousins who share my DNA. It isn’t always obvious and can be incomplete – for instance my Jones are Midlands based but many of my potential matches might be in America; so there’s more work to be done there.
But I did notice on my DNA summary page Ancestry had taken it upon itself to show me there was a direct hit for 3 complete occurrences. Ancestry extracted these automatically to show me. It did it because I’d put my tree on so it is worth that effort, yet many don’t do it – which puzzles me.
Ancestry makes it easy to contact fellow members so long as they are checking in regularly and up for contact, contact is a real possibility!
On Monday I had my first ‘phone conversation with a new relative. That was an exciting moment. Our joint ancestors were a couple who lived for most of the 1800s. We talked about the now and the then. Amazingly and by sheer chance, we’ve found an unusual surname that we also have in common which he hasn’t posted up yet, so now we are looking to see if we are related down that line as well. We hope to meet up.
When I read (or write) a book, in my resting moments I wonder what the characters are doing. It’s the same with genealogy. I never met most of them but what I do know buzzes around my head even when I’m not looking at photos and facts about them. Don’t tell anyone but I sometimes talk to them too.
I am messaging some other matches and potential matches but those little green leaves will keep me busy for a long time yet.
I’m excited that more and more people are getting the genealogy bug. It is addictive. But the plus of that is that my tree will keep growing and my family should keep on growing too. Who knows where the next few weeks lead me.
I suspect DNA is a BIG growth area! Cheers!