If you’ve started working to add DNA evidence to your family history research, you may need a way to track your progress. I developed the Airtable base template titled “Track Your Ancestral Research” in September 2022 and recently added fields and bases to track DNA information. You can access the template with added DNA fields and tables on Airtable Universe. When you click the link, you’ll be able to explore the base and make a copy for yourself. I left examples that you can delete once you understand how it works.
For details on tracking documentary ancestral research, see my blog post, Tracking Research Projects in Airtable.
Why Track DNA Information
Let’s face it, adding DNA to our research is complicated. We may have multiple test-takers on multiple DNA testing websites. Perhaps you’ve done several projects involving DNA and made good progress but don’t have a way to show what you’ve accomplished for each ancestor in your pedigree. By adding some crucial DNA information to your Airtable base, you can see at a glance where you need additional test-takers to increase coverage or provide Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA information. You’ll be able to track individuals who have allowed you to use their DNA results to further the research and keep their contact information in one place. Last but not least, having a place to record progress can motivate you to tackle DNA tasks.
Tables in the Tracking Your Ancestral Research Base
In Airtable, you create tables within the base. My original base had three tables: Ancestral Research, Research Status, and Projects. Here is a review of each table.
- The Ancestral Research Table holds the name of each direct-line ancestor, basic information, research status, notes on future research, and links to various research items and helps.
- The Research Status Table is based on Yvette Hoitink’s “Six Levels of Ancestral Profiles – Level-up Challenge” in January of 2021. She identifies six levels of research, and I used her levels as the basis for the research status table. I tweaked the record checklist to reflect U.S. research, as Yvette’s list is based on Dutch records. This is a static table, meaning I use it for reference only and don’t add to it.
- The Project Table is linked to the “projects” field in the Ancestral Research Table. I can add as many projects that I’ve completed on an ancestor as needed. Each project has it’s own row where I can describe it and add links to the research log and report.
Adding DNA Information to the Ancestral Research Table
I wanted to track basic DNA information for each ancestor, so added the following new fields.
- DNA Research Status – This is similar to the research status field and allows you to decide what level of DNA research you have reached for each ancestor. We’ll discuss the various levels later in this article.
- atDNA Test-takers – This linked field allows you to add as many test-takers as you have for each ancestor. Anyone who has shared their Ancestry DNA results with you or has granted access to their results can be added to this field. When you add them once, they will also be added to the DNA Test-Takers table, where you can add contact information, log-ins, etc.
- atDNA Coverage – We need to have maximum coverage of an ancestor’s DNA for the best results of our research. With the new Coverage Estimator tool at DNA Painter, we can easily calculate how much of an ancestor’s DNA is covered by our test-takers. If our coverage is low – say only 5% – we’ll see that we need to add test-takers to our projects.
- Y-DNA Test-takers – This linked field allows you to add those test-takers who provide DNA for that ancestor’s Y-DNA inheritance line. This field is also linked to the DNA Test-Takers table, where you can add contact information, log-ins, etc.
- mtDNA Test-takers – This linked field allows you to add those test-takers who provide DNA for that ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA inheritance line. This field is also linked to the DNA Test-Takers table, where you can add contact information, log-ins, etc.
- DNA Notes – This field allows you to make any notes for the DNA testing that you need to do to add autosomal coverage or Y-DNA or mtDNA test-takers.
For example, in the screenshot below, I’ve given my grandparents level four which means I’ve met the previous levels of identifying genetic networks, analyzing the DNA, and diagramming the best matches. To meet level four, I’ve also mapped some segments from my first cousins on my DNA Painter Chromosome Map.
The screenshot above also shows my autosomal DNA test-takers listed (not their real names) and the amount of coverage I have at each testing website. Most of my test-takers are at Ancestry, but Mary Smith and I are also at Family Tree DNA. It’s gratifying that with myself and two first cousins, we cover almost 58% of my grandparent’s DNA at Ancestry. Because we can’t determine which grandparent provided the DNA, we estimate coverage the same for both.
57.813% at Ancestry
43.75% at FTDNA
12.5% at 23andMe
12.5% at MyHeritage
Learn more about autosomal DNA coverage and how to do your own calculations in this article: Autosomal DNA Coverage Calculator. After reading the article, I highly recommend trying out the Coverage Estimator tool at DNA Painter, which makes it easy and fun! See Jonny Perl’s article “How to Use the New DNA Coverage Tool” for easy directions.
For the Y-DNA and mtDNA fields, I am reminded that I have a Y-DNA and a mitochondrial DNA test-taker for my grandfather’s lines, but need a Y-DNA candidate for my grandmother’s paternal line. Using Ancestry’s Thrulines, I identified a possible Y-DNA candidate and noted him in the DNA notes section.
The DNA Research Status Table
Nicole and I collaborated in defining each level for DNA research status and attached a Genealogy Standard to each level based on the new standards for genetic genealogy published in 2019 1. Each level has a name, a description & list of methodologies, a list of suggested DNA tools, and associated genealogy standards. Here are the levels and descriptions.
0: Unknown Genetic Ancestor
No DNA matches have yet been identified with this common ancestor
1: Potential Genetic Ancestor
- Identified some DNA matches descending from the ancestor or ancestral couple
- Viewed a hypothesis in Thrulines or MyHeritage Theory of Family Relativity
2: Selected relevant test-takers and best matches
- Identified a basic genetic network of matches descending from this ancestor
- Identified additional test-takers
- Increase atDNA coverage to over 15%
- Consider X-DNA, Y-DNA, and mitochondrial test-takers
- Verified or rejected Thrulines or Theory of Family Relativity
- Selected best matches from each independent child line (closest generationally and sharing the most DNA) and added to the research log
- Diagrammed the best matches for the genetic network from all testing companies for the available test-takers
- Added notes on the best matches with their line to the MRCA on the company website or your research log
3: Analyzed DNA matches
- Used the Shared cM Project to correlate the relationship with the amount of shared DNA
- Performed pedigree analysis for matches who share an inflated amount of DNA with a test-taker
- Checked for more than one common ancestor with the best matches
- Verified lines of best matches with documentary evidence
- Updated family tree with DNA matches
- Added the best matches from the diagram to the family tree with the verified line of descent.
- Used Ancestry tree tags to show the DNA connections and matches
4: Analyzed DNA segments
- Identified some triangulated segments
- Mapped some chromosomes
5: Met Genealogical Proof Standard
- Reasonably exhaustive research
- Source citations
- Analysis and correlation of evidence
- Resolution of conflicts
- Written conclusion
6: Published Results
- Shared written conclusion with verifiable data
The screenshot below shows the levels and the associated description and methodologies, DNA tools, and Genealogy Standards. The cells for description and methodologies and DNA tools will need to be expanded to see all the text. The tools section is not all-inclusive but suggests basic tools used in DNA. Any of the data can be personalized to include additional tools you use regularly.
DNA Test-takers Table
For each test-taker added to the Ancestral Research table linked fields, a new record (row) will be created. You’ll be able to see which test-takers provide DNA for which ancestors. You’ll also be able to add information about the testing company, logins, GEDmatch kit#’s, contact information, notes, and permissions.
In the screenshot below, you see the name of each test-taker, the ancestor whose autosomal DNA they inherited, and the ancestors their Y-DNA or mitochondrial lines follow. The field “testing company” lets you select where your test-taker’s DNA has been tested or uploaded. You can see at a glance where you could ask a test-taker to test or upload to another company.
If you’ve been searching for a way to organize your DNA in research projects, maybe my Airtable base will give you some ideas. Do you have another way you organize projects or ideas for other fields/tables? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!