Genealogy Collaboration: the Nitty-Gritty
Collaboration is magic! Your own work, experience and inspiration combined with others who share an interest, create more than seems possible. See The Magic of Collaboration (and Wikitree) for more about that. But how to begin?
First, collaborate with relatives
- Pick up the phone!
- Set up an interview
- Write a letter
- Send images, information and questions, through the mail or email, or shared documents such as Google Drive
- Ask them to share images and questions too
- Invite them to your Ancestry or MyHeritage tree
- Share a timeline for your family
Next, collaborate with DNA matches
- Start with the closest and largest matches, and put them into your tree
- Use the site tools to figure out who they are (shared matches, dots)
- Use the site messaging system; give them your email and some information
DNA matches are family too, and the more you collaborate with them, the more you can reconnect what has been lost.
Ancestry has a way to collaborate with DNA cousins which is often overlooked. Click Account Settings and then DNA Settings, and scroll to Sharing Preferences. Here you can add another person as a viewer or collaborator, or set someone else to manage your kit.
- Viewer - view the test results.
- Collaborator - view test results, add notes, and favorite match.
- Manager - view and modify test details and message users.
Collaborate in online groups
While reading online posts of others can be very useful, the magic happens when you post questions and tough problems. Not only will you get help, but often you will find cool connections too! There are loads of groups in Groups.io, Google Groups, Facebook and other places.
Collaborate in your own Ancestry tree!
|Click to add tag, note or comment|
Once clicked, a new menu opens, where you can add tree tags, private notes, and public comments.
Another collaboration feature in your tree is more direct. Called Member Connect, it works for every deceased person, and is found in the bottom of the header to the profile on the right.
Click the member connection link and get a list of those who have added records to their tree for, in this case, my dad. Here is the top of the list for his granddaughter, my niece:
|(Name of connection not shown)|
Click the connection name, see the person in their tree, and/or message them. True, not all of them answer, but they will not answer if you don't reach out! And I think we all know to run a Google search, and look on Facebook for them. Remember that not all of them are interested in your person; some are instead interested in one of their children, their parents, or spouse. That does not mean you can't help one another! You never know who has the stories, photos, family Bible or other records you don't.
Collaborate in "world trees"
FamilySearch Family Tree, Geni, and Wikitree
If you have never used FamilySearch Family Tree, this is a good place to start: Overview.
Add your self, your parents, and their parents until you connect to the world tree. Since their hinting has vastly improved, and they add millions of new records every month, it is worth the time you put into it. It takes awhile to learn how to take advantage of the Source Linker, but it is so powerful. And the better sourced each profile is, the more sure you can be that your work is correct. Fill in the "reason statements" to remind yourself and collaborators why the relationships and record links are correct.
The tree was designed for collaboration. When you see that someone has contributed to a profile on which you are working, or watching, click on their name. You can message them on the FSFT system, or email them. You can also see how you are related! Just click View Relationship.
Many non-genealogists and Europeans use Geni, so it is always a good place to search, at least. You can link your DNA to your Geni tree if you have tested or uploaded to Family Tree DNA. See How do I link Family Tree DNA test results to my profile?
My favorite is Wikitree, because of the emphasis on accuracy, completeness and sourcing. The volunteers are amazingly helpful. Again, begin with yourself and work slowly and accurately. You will be happy you did! See Help:How to Start Climbing Our Tree. You will find it hard to stop.
Family Tree DNA
|Ted Cowan's FamilyTreeDNA Projects|
Remember, Y DNA in particular is a team sport! Unless you want to just wait, to have success you need to recruit your "team." See the Lee Martinez videos for much more about this.
23andMe has never catered primarily to genealogists, but the site does have messaging, and if asked, most people will allow DNA comparison. I've had the best luck by simply clicking the match name in my match list and then Connect -- and send. I used to write a note, but just sending gets more connections!
|Click Connect and send!|
Sort your match list by "newest" and just click, click, click while you are watching TV. Once connected, you can compare with other suspected matches, and then drop them a note telling them how you think you are related. Of course some do not reply, but some do!
|My father Ted Cowan's match to me and my sister on MyHeritage|
I find this display of the match information useful and easy-to-understand.
Find collaborators: Lost Cousins
What are your favorite ways to collaborate?
I would love to hear more ideas in the comments. Collaboration is magic!
* Although FTDNA trees aren't collaborative, if you link your matches to your tree, your match sorting will improve, so take the time to do that.