You’ve analyzed your DNA, compared it with family history information and records, and worked diligently to gather information about your family—What’s next?
The final step in the Research Like a Pro with DNA process is to write your conclusions and correlate the information in a report. This report may be written to yourself, family members, or clients. It’s a summary of the information about your DNA matches, common ancestors, and verification of biological connections to your relatives. DNA plus genealogical records give the ultimate confirmation that your ancestors’ identities are verified and that they are biologically connected to you.
Some people write the report as they research. This involves having two windows open on your computer screen as you research. This way, you can describe your findings while you are discovering them. You can also have your research log open and write your findings in the “Notes” section.
In her blog post, Research Like a Pro Part 6: Write it Up, Diana Elder wrote the following:
“Why write up your results?
After you’ve gone through all of the steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard, doing thorough research, citing your sources, analyzing and correlating the information and resolving conflicts, you arrive at step 5 which reads:
“Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion eliminates the possibility that the conclusion is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence. It also shows or explains how the evidence leads to the conclusion.” ¹
As you’re researching you are constantly thinking and analyzing your findings. You create hypotheses and correlate the evidence, whether you know it or not. The simple act of looking at a census and thinking, “great grandpa’s parents are listed as born in Virginia. I need to look there for records” is analysis. If you don’t record your thoughts and ideas, when you come back to researching this family, you’ll waste time going through your findings again.”
Writing the report can help you make additional connections and links to records, stories, and family members. As you look at DNA results and genealogical records, you are analyzing the information and deciding if you should include it in your conclusions or not. You will learn as you write and find ways to explain concepts to your reader. Writing will help clarify connections in your mind as you describe your research to your reader(s).
A report can be formal or informal. When you are writing, think about who will be reading the report—what will the reader want to learn about their family? Here is a suggestion of items to include in a formal research report.
Items to Include in a Formal Research Report
-This is the research objective that helped you focus on a definitive answerable question and guided your research.
-Combine your DNA research question with key identifying information such as birth, marriage, death, and location.
What did you know before you started the project?
-Known family relationships to DNA matches
-Family Group sheets
-Migration or location information and the impact it had on your research subject
-Known ethnicity from the family, if it may be important for this project
-Include the amount of time, DNA databases available, travel limitations, and the type of DNA available for use in this project.
-List the DNA companies that have results pertaining to this project.
-DNA itself does not give family history information. DNA information must be used in conjunction with genealogical records for it to mean anything.
Body of Report:
Write the details of the research findings, including explanations of DNA, and records that were searched
-Include the names of DNA matches with family trees attached to their account that helped you answer the research objective.
-List the amount of DNA the DNA matches share with you.
-Write about the genealogical records that established the relationship connections between the people in your search.
-Explain how the DNA matches, relationships, and records identified helped answer the research question.
Use charts or tables to display information
-Use Lucidchart, Draw.io, or other charting software to illustrate your DNA matches and ancestral and family relationships.
-Remember that you must ask permission of the DNA matches to share their information. If permission is not expressly granted, you must privatize the names of living people and/or DNA match pseudonyms if you are publishing or posting the information online.
Explain the meaning of the DNA connections
-Include a brief summary of how the type of DNA you are using in your project is inherited (Autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-DNA).
-Explain the meaning and limitations of Ethnicity results.
-Include information about the possible relationships that are expected when specified amounts of DNA are shared with a DNA match.
-A copy of the Shared Centimorgan Project chart could be included.
-Explain which DNA matches shared common ancestors that helped lead to the conclusion.
-Include the locations that were involved in your research.
-Citations include the location of the information that you used in your research. They are essential because they can lead an independent researcher to find the same information you did. Citations give credibility to your work and show that you didn’t take a creative license and write a great fiction story.
-Find more information about DNA citations in my blog post, DNA Source Citations, and Diana Elder’s blog post Using DNA Source Citations in a Research Report.
-If the report will be published, all of the DNA matches included must give permission for their names or DNA match pseudonyms to be used. If no permission is given, the names must be privatized.
-The parents of ___________ were identified.
-Genetic connections to 3rd great grandparents were verified.
-The identity of a previously unknown ancestor has been established.
Further Research Suggestions
-Transfer raw DNA from Ancestry and 23andMe to other DNA testing companies such as Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, LivingDNA, and GEDmatch.com.
-Use DNA to verify other family lines.
-Find additional documentary evidence.
-If a previously unknown misattributed parentage was identified, research this line using DNA and genealogical records.
-Search other record collections online or in repositories.
The conclusions you made after the in-depth research and analysis will be helpful to you and your readers. The first report you write may be challenging because you are developing a way to write your findings and explain the DNA evidence you have analyzed. After writing the first report, the next report will be easier because you have already discovered a way to explain how DNA evidence and the genealogical records were used together to come to a conclusion.
It’s exciting that you have reached this step in your research process! Writing a report or summary of your findings will give you great satisfaction and help you to share your research with others. You can use the report to explain the resolution of a family mystery or to teach about the verified genetic connection between you or another DNA test taker, and their ancestors.
Remember that DNA analysis plus traditional genealogical research equals a more extensive and more complete family tree. A significant benefit of using DNA in genealogical research is that it helps you to identify and connect with your distant cousins who may know more about particular ancestors or lines of the family than you do. The information you learn from those cousins could be just what you need to move beyond a genealogical brick wall. After you discover more about your family history through research, writing DNA research reports brings you to the ultimate finish!
Best wishes as you continue to use DNA in your family history research!
Other articles in the Research Like a Pro with DNA series:
Step 1 Take a DNA Test: Which DNA Test Should I Take? and DNA-Recommended Testing Strategy
Step 2 Assess: Understanding and Using Your DNA Results – 4 Simple Steps
Step 3 Organize: Seeing the Big Picture: 3 Ways to Chart Your DNA Matches
Step 4 Research Objective: What Do You Want to Know? 3 Steps to Focus Your DNA Research
Step 5 Analyze your Sources: DNA Sources, Information, and Evidence: Sorting it All Out
Step 6 Locality Research: Where in the World Has My DNA Traveled? DNA and Locality Research
Step 7 Research Planning: Genealogy Research Planning with DNA
Methodology and Tools to use as you plan your research:
– Charts for Understanding DNA Inheritance
– Clustering or Creating Genetic Networks
– Pedigree Triangulation
– Chromosome Browsers
– Segment Triangulation
– Chromosome Mapping
– DNA Gedcom
Step 8 Source Citations: DNA Source Citations
Step 9 Research Logs: DNA Research Logs: how to Keep Track of Genetic Genealogy Searches
Step 10 Report Writing: DNA Research Reports – the Ultimate Finish – You Are Here
Step 11 What’s Next? Continue Your Research & Writing, Productivity, and Education
Really great article!
Thank you, Henri! Research reports not only help summarize what we have learned in our study of our DNA matches and genealogical records, but they also help us have a great sense of accomplishment and closure.