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It's A DNA Match Game!

Orange Logo for TV game show "The Match Game"

When doing DNA testing we know the point is all about the matches that result, right? Then begins the research to find out how exactly this new cousin fits in to what is your known family tree. What is the best way to play this DNA Match Game?

For quite some time I have been using the "dot system" recommended by so many DNA experts. In Ancestry and MyHeritage you can color code who belongs with which known relative with a colored dot. Diahan Southard (Your DNA Guide) and others recommend that you use a different colored dot for each ancestral married couple in your tree. These are some of the couples in my paternal line and their respective dot colors:

Ancestry colored dots chart

This helps you narrow down which branch of the tree that the new match might be related to, as you can then sort all the matches by which married couple they belong to according to your dot. Everyone in your match list that you can't identify with a matching ancestor will go into a "Leftover" or "Unidentified" category with its own separate colored dot.

I attended the latest free seminar hosted by Your DNA Guide last Thursday by Zoom, and Diahan emphasized over and over (and over) again the importance of checking your new DNA matches in Ancestry and/or MyHeritage with the people that have SHARED matches with your tree in their family tree.

Colorful DNA Helix illustration

You will doubtless have matches with people that do not have any tree online at all. But guess what? They may just have shared matches with you that will help you learn who they are related to or who their ancestors are. You MUST check the SHARED MATCHES of those treeless people BEFORE you code them with your Leftover or Unidentified DNA match colored dot. I have had a couple come up with direct ancestors in common!

Genealogy detective cartoon Sherlock Holmes hat and magnifying glass

When you have your new matches sorted, put on your detective hat and go look for further clues on the internet for those treeless Leftovers. Check the other family tree sites for the family name or their user name. Google the tester's email address to see if they have posted genealogy inquiries anywhere else, like at WikiTree, for example. If there is a full name listed for the tester, search for their name (in quotes), and you might get lucky and find a family obit or wedding announcement that will shed light on how this person might be related to you.

How are you doing? What are you doing to break down your brick walls? Please share your latest ideas or findings!

Gratefully yours,

Leslie Ryan for a free quote and tree evaluation!

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No copyright infringement is intended.

"The Match Game" is a TV Game show that began running in the US in 1962 and has run off and on with updates through this century, wherein contestants try to match fill in the blank question answers with a panel of celebrities. Reruns appear daily here in the US on the Game Show Network on cable TV providers.


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