The Fennimore Family of Somerset and Morris Counties New Jersey A DNA Project -Organization and Privacy

Good organization is essential in any genealogical research, but it is critical in a genetic genealogy project. Just because two people have shared DNA doesn’t mean that you have proof that you are both descended from a particular ancestor. An accurate paper trail must accompany the matches to aid proper identification. For example, in Ancestry, I received a potential parent “box.” One of my known DNA relatives has added parents to our common ancestor, my “brick wall” ancestor.  The tool has notified me of this action. My connected relative matched another person and accepted this couple from their public tree. I was not a match to this third person, but that doesn’t matter, we could still be descendants of the same couple. I did view the source family tree and found potential flaws, so I am not going to click on that suggestion. There is no way to determine if this match is really Fennimore with limited information. This hint presents a conflict, the same as you would encounter in traditional genealogy. Perhaps the match is valid but a generation is missing in the family tree. Either way, it should be reviewed more thoroughly with a proof statement. Being able to track this data is essential.

I’ve chosen to create my Project Management tracking in Excel, but use what works best for you. I like a particular spreadsheet software because I use it daily for my “day job,” and I can pivot and parse data quickly with it. Also, I can add fields easily. I hope to use a third-party tool for analyzing the details, but for now, I need to track my matches across different testing companies and contact the individuals who share DNA. I’ve tested in multiple companies, and I am sure that I am not the only one. I want to track the tests they have taken, whether there is a paper trail, and, most importantly, whether they are willing to participate in the project.

Two crucial subjects to consider are privacy and permission. If I intend to write up my findings (which I do), then I need the approval of the test takers I will use in my proof statement. If a kit is in the “public domain,” it can be used for analysis, but our professional standards require permission to publish. But we will get into that in a later post. Privacy is paramount; I will mask the identity of the test takers. Even though the data is “public,” it is too easy to link kits, and living people to not take this extra step.

For today I am beginning with the shared matches in Ancestry DNA  between a descendant of William H. Fennimore (me) and the descendant of a brother with the most paper documentation.  One of my children is a match, that kit will not be included in the analysis since it is a subset of mine. We have 14 shared matches. I chose Ancestry because I feel more people will have started there, and I have communicated with a few of the other users over the years. The downside is that I don’t know precisely where we match. If I want to identify the potential chromosomes and segments, I will need to convince them to take their DNA to a third party program. Some of the testers have already done this, so I will work on locating them in our various companies and start building my project plan.

My initial project tracking database has the following fields:

Project ID Unique Identifier protecting the identity of participants, and linking multiple test to a single individual
Ancestor Gen 2 Ancestor (William and Mary’s children)
Ancestry ID  
Ancestry ID manager  
Gedmatch ID  
23 and Me ID  
MY heritiage ID  
Match Date  
Paper Trail?  
Initial Message date of initial request
Second Message date of second request
Final Message date of final request
Response Date response received
Participate Yes, No, Undecided
Permission Form rcd Permission/disclosure form received
Preferred Communication method  

I want to obscure the identity of the participants in any “sharing,” going forward, plus I need to link kits, so I don’t contact the same person multiple times, or consider them a separate person. I also want to ensure that I have adequate coverage across the children of William and Mary Fennimore. The matches must come from different lines, not just mine. Finally, I want to make sure I have adequate permission, that they have consented (or not), and to map them via traditional research. Looking at many of my matches, I can tell quite a few have not logged on in over a year. I’m sure the response rates will be low. I will be messaging a total of three times, and then move on.

I’m hopeful we will get enough participants willing to play along.

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