I Get By With a Little Help From My Cousins . . . Or, Why am I asking my DNA matches to upload to gedmatch.com?
Despite the proliferation of DNA testing in the U.S., most testers don’t do more with their results than read their ethnicity estimate and go on with their life, IMHO. Those who are genuinely interested in building their family trees might look at their matches’ trees (if they have them) and perhaps initiate contact to corroborate. Then there are the diehards, like myself, who take it a step further and ask their DNA matches to download their raw data from ancestry.com and upload it to a 3rd party website with a chromosome browser. And, sadly, that’s where I lose most of them.
You want me to do what?
Even some of those who are adventurous enough to give it a whirl may balk at ancestry.com’s warning before downloading and write to me to clarify my request. Before you can download your data, you must check “I understand that after my DNA data is downloaded, the downloaded copy will not be protected by AncestryDNA’s security measures. When I download my raw DNA data, I assume all risk of storing, securing, and protecting my downloaded data.” I have likened this to a car dealership telling you that while your new car is parked on their lot, it is protected by their security measures, but when you drive it home, they can not protect it anymore. I think all of us understand the implications of this “loss of protection” but realize our car is not doing us any good sitting on the lot.
Unfortunately, that's how I feel about many matches at ancestry.com: it's nice to know they're there, but they're not doing me a lot of good at this point. That's why I'm asking you to move that data to a site that does have the necessary tools for analysis. Genetic genealogy is a burgeoning emerging field with a lot of moving parts. Advanced tools at gedmatch.com allow me to see exactly which segments you match with my subject and triangulate those with other matching segments in the effort to determine the MRCA (most recent common ancestor). This is the first step in continuing to build this branch of the family tree, perhaps beyond what can be established with the paper trail. In many cases, even if you have no family tree, when I can see that your segment(s) overlap other matches with known shared ancestors, I can predict which families you might share with my client. That really blows people's minds when I can send a "cold call" email to someone with NO identifying information attached to their kit and say, "Based on our overlapping segments, I'm wondering if you come from the Reeds of Clearfield, PA, in the mid 1800s?" Those are the matches I hear back from immediately. The closer you come to information that is readily identifiable to them, especially in your subject heading, the more likely they are to engage with you.
Most of the matches I write do not understand how any of this works or care, for that matter. And that's ok. This doesn't happen to be their obsession like it is mine. Since I may only have 1 shot at capturing their attention and making my case to upload to gedmatch.com, I've tried to simplify my message. This is what I include in my message:
THOUSANDS HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY THIS STORY AS THEY LIKED, SHARED, AND RETWEETED IT ACROSS ALL SOCIAL MEDIA EAGERLY ANTICIPATING NEWS OF WHAT LUCKY PERSON WAS ABOUT TO HAVE 150 YEARS OF FAMILY HISTORY GOLD DROPPED INTO HIS LAP.
Here is the original post:
Although I received messages from many family history fans who were eager to claim these vintage photographs and documents, I wanted to find the recipient with the closest ties to this collection which had been saved for a century and a half!
After examining the letters, report cards, and other documents, I determined that this collection centered on Marion Marshall who was born in 1891 in Allen, Texas. I began researching her family tree and discovered that the 1868 marriage certificate along with other pages torn from a family Bible had belonged to her grandparents, Frances Marion Marshall (1847-1891) and Laura Witt (1849-1899). There were also newspaper clippings and photos of her great-grandparents, Sgt. Hogan Witt (1824-1906) and Louiza Rattan (1826-1880).
I then utilized descendancy research to build the tree forward in time to find the closest living relative to receive this windfall. I was so pleased to discover that a grandson whom she and her husband raised was living right here in Dallas. After a few attempts to contact him and assure him that this was not a hoax and I was not trying to sell him anything, he and his daughter came to see what all the fuss was about.
They were astonished to learn that an anonymous benefactor had discovered these items in an old abandoned barn decades ago and knowing they were too valuable to discard, but not having any idea what to do with them, they had followed his family through 4 moves from house to house. Finally, one day this spring, he remembered me from doing previous genealogy research for his family and commissioned me to find the rightful heir and give it to them.
An avid family historian himself, he was overjoyed to receive never-before-seen items from his family, especially a tintype photo of his grandmother from the turn of the century. Although he had grown up in her home, he had never seen a photograph of her as a girl.
So, what is the moral of the story? Don't EVER throw away anyone's family history. It WILL matter to someone, some day. I often encourage clients to donate their family history research and collections to their local historical society or library when it seems that no one in their own family will want it. How much better for a generous, kind person to pay a professional genealogist to put it in the right hands? This story touched me so much, I can't wait for someone to do this again. I love playing Santa Claus!