A Segment-ology TIDBIT
Genetic Genealogists will get the most out of our atDNA tests when we contact our Matches!
We have a lot of issues and hurdles with atDNA:
– Many of our Matches have no Trees, very small Trees, and/or incorrect Trees.
– Many of our Matches are unresponsive – for a wide variety of reasons.
– Many of our Matches will have Common Ancestors with us beyond our genealogy horizon.
– Some of our Matches will have multiple Common Ancestors with us, and it’s difficult to sort out which one, if any, is the genetic Common Ancestor.
– Some of our Matches with shared segments smaller than 15cM will be false – they are not a true genetic relative. It’s often hard to tell which such shared segments are true and which are false.
BUT – many of our Matches are what I call intermediate cousins in the 4th to 6th cousin range. By that I mean cousins with a good chance of having a Common Ancestor (CA) in our Tree, or right on the fringes, and within reach of available records/research. These are cousins who can help us assign a side in a Triangulated Group (TG); or determine a more distant CA to a TG (move the “knothole”). These are cousins who can get us closer to resolving brick walls. They are out there….
At the beginning of 2018 there are probably about 10,000,000 people who have taken an autosomal DNA Test at 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, My Heritage, LivingDNA, etc. It appears our Match lists are STILL about doubling every year – twice the Matches; twice the 3rd cousins; twice the number of segments in each Triangulate Group; twice the chance for a close Match; twice the number of intermediate cousins; twice the chance for a breakthrough Match – every year.
We have a lot of things which are out of our control (see above). But there is one thing which is very much within the control of every genetic genealogist – contacting Matches. It appears our natural tendency is to look at their Trees, look at their ICW list or Shared Matches, analyze Matrix info, and even Triangulate their shared segments – anything and everything we can do, except contact them. As an example – I have had my brother’s DNA at FTDNA and 23andMe for 5 years, and I’ve received less than two dozen emails or messages from his Matches. And I have two sons, a maternal uncle and several close cousins who have tested with the same pitiful result – virtually no contact. On the other hand, I have sent out several thousands of emails and messages to Matches. And I’ve worked out CAs with over 600 Matches (NB: I don’t claim all are genetic CAs – that is to be determined – but they are all important clues). Yes, many of these CAs I found by looking at my Matches’ Trees, but many were found by my Matches after I contacted them. Some I found by extending a Match’s Tree, but I always try to get an agreement from the Match. Some of my Matches, once I contacted them, turned out to be have a treasure trove of information about my more distant (lesser researched) Ancestors. Many Matches have additional information, not in their Trees. Communicating with Matches has great potential.
And while I’m on this topic, when a Match contacts you, be sure to respond! …in the most positive, helpful, way you can (or have time for). Your Matches are your cousins – treat them like you would any relative at a family reunion… Try not to be dismissive, or to treat them like a salesperson – they are kin, hoping to work on some of your genealogy, too.
Each person has their own objectives in genetic genealogy. And we all usually have a limited time for this hobby. So my advice here is to start with closest Matches and work down. Or work with Matches on a particular line, or within a TG of interest to you. The point is to develop a plan to contact some of your Matches. Although most may not respond, work with the ones who do.
One process that may help is standardized text. If you find yourself writing essentially the same email or message several times, save a copy to a Word (or text) document. Then you can copy and paste it to the next Match. Over time, I try to improve my standard texts – use BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) to get their attention quickly; be as brief as you can; offer to help; promise feedback; provide your email and or link to your tree.
Make a resolution to contact your Matches! You’ll be glad you did.
[22Q] Segment-ology: Make a Resolution to Contact Your Matches TIDBITS by Jim Bartlett 20180107