Sunday, July 30, 2017



First of all, I want to say that I’ve missed writing my blog posts.  Since we returned from our vacation in June I have been completely focused on DNA results.  I am trying to assist our daughter-in-law with finding her biological family.  I have been trying to learn how to use each of the DNA sites and all the resources they offer.  And, how to interpret results.  This is no small task.

I originally wrote about this subject last November.  But, I’ve changed my method since then.  Always a work in progress, as you know.  Here’s the earlier post:

Now that I am the administrator for other family member’s tests, and I am dealing with multiple sites, it’s necessary to be sure I have a good tracking method.

So, you contact someone who is a match on FtDNA, Ancestry or GedMatch. If your lucky enough that the connection responds, what then? 
  • How do you keep track of the initial contact?
  • How do you record their response?
  • How do you keep track of which side of the family they may be connected to?
Those are the questions many people have asked.  Everyone has their own method.  Some may go old school and print everything and keep it in a binder.  Some might use a spreadsheet or a Word document.  Others might just keep a special folder in their email account.  Maybe a combination of all that?


I have been using Evernote for several years.  I find it very useful for all areas of my life.  But, especially for genealogy.  Why?
  • Because you can create up to 250 Notebooks
  • Because you can create as many notes as you want to
  • BUT, especially because you can tag each of those notes with specific tags (you can use up to 100,000 tags in your Evernote account)
  • Because I can sort by date created, title or date updated
  • Because you can add text, images, and links to websites
  • Because you can annotate your notes with arrows and boxes
  • Because you can add highlights, tables, check boxes or audio
You get the idea.  There’s a LOT you can do.  AND, it syncs from your desktop to any other device on which you’ve downloaded the app.

Back to my original topic.  How I have been keeping track of DNA correspondence.
I have a notebook titled “DNA Correspondence.”  For tags I use “DNA matches” and whatever surnames are connected, if I have that information, and/or places.

Here’s what I record in a note in Evernote.  I use copy and paste.
I have redacted personal information for this match.

I begin with the date of the correspondence, who I contacted and how we match.

5/30/2017 Email from Audie
I contacted her from a match on GedMatch
Comparing Kit A918842 (*DGouldHall) and M897041 (Audie Hartson)
Largest segment = 28.3 cM
Total of segments > 7 cM = 67.8 cM
4 matching segments

Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 3.9
We match on segments 3, 11, 12 and 14

Next I take a screenshot or copy and paste the graph of the chromosome match or matches.

Audie screenshot 1
Audie screenshot 2

I then copy and paste our correspondence in date order.

I sent out my first contact email (I have a standard email that I send, which I modify as needed) and she responded.

NOTE:  Every DNA class or seminar I have attended has stressed that those first contact emails be friendly, short and to the point.
Here is my initial contact email.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:12 AM, Diane Hall wrote:
Hi Audie,
My name is Diane Gould Hall. You have come up as a match to both my brother and
myself on GedMatch.

We have been searching for nearly 15 yrs. to try and find out who the parents of
our 2nd great grandfather might be. I am an experienced genealogist and have
hired 3 professionals, who have never found a link to his parents.
I figured DNA was the best bet.

So, according to GedMatch you are matching us at 63 cm (my brother) and 67 cm
(me) and about 4 generations.
This means that we probably have 2nd great grandparents in common.

Would you be interested in exchanging information with me? I have a tree on
Ancestry. Do you? I will gladly share my research with you.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.
Best regards,
Diane Gould Hall

I received a response back the following day.  I was on vacation at the time, but was checking my email while we were gone.  

Here is what I wrote back to her.  She had mentioned that she was going to be on vacation.

May 24 2017 20:18:13
Hi Audie,
  Thanks for getting back to me.  I know you are still on vacation.  I was gone when your email came in and I'm home now.
  Well, you nailed it when you listed the names and now I know how we are connected.  It's through the Surdam name.  Here's how it goes:
Edith Eliza Thorp (1843-1915) married George Beech Surdam - they are my 2nd great grandaunt and uncle
Their daughter, Ida F. Surdam married Augustine A. Lighthouse, just like you stated.  The only child I had thus far for Ida & Augustine was Grace B. Lighthouse born about 1889.  I probably haven't done a lot on this link yet.
However, I have LOTS of info on the Thorp line and pretty good info on all the children of George B. Surdam and Edith Eliza Thorp.
  I am very happy to share any of my information with you.  This is very exciting.  It's the first time I've contacted a possible DNA match and have actually received information back that I can connect to.  I'm also a rookie at all this and hoping to continue to learn more.  This should help both of us.
Look forward to hearing back from you.

She responded back to me with the following email.

From: Audie Hartson []
Sent: 5/30/2017 4:24:19 PM
Subject: Re:  GEDMatch  - we are connected, but how?

Hi Diane,
I am not good at figuring out GedMatch, or 23andMe-ancestry as yet.  I do have
some information on my Mother's side going back to my grandfather's and
grandmother's parents.  My Dad's side I have very little information.

My Grandmother's name is Audria Glenn Gerkin (Riggs).  Her parents were Alfred
Gerkin and Lizzie Whittington married Nov. 3, 1878
My Grandfather's name is Ollie Marshall Riggs.  His parents were Henry Harvey
Riggs (born 12-8-1849) and Mary Catherine Stechman (Born 4-29-1855).

My Father is James Earl Lund.  His parents are Otto Gerhard Lund and Lillian
Lighthouse (Lund).  I believe Lillian's parents were August Lighthouse and Ida
Surdam.  I also have the names of George Surdam and Edith Thorp who may be her
parents.  Otto Gerhard Lund's parents are Ole Gerhardt Lund and Jermine
Thompson.    That is about it.

I do have information on the Riggs dating back to 1632
If you have any of those names on your side, I would be very interested.  

I do not have a tree on ancestry.  I went through 23andme for DNA.
I am going on a trip this Friday for 3 weeks, so if you write back I will not be
able to answer you until the end of June.  It is so exciting hearing from
relatives that you did not know you have.

Best of luck..  If you need more on the Riggs side, I can help.  If you have
information on any of the names above, I would be very interested.  I hope we can
find the link.


There has been no further correspondence between us.  Knowing she would be gone for 3 weeks, I left her alone.  Since then, I’ve been sidetracked on other DNA items.  What this is reminding me, is that I need to send another email.

So far, this method is working well for me in regards to keeping track of correspondence.  There may be a time in the not to distant future where I will add a spreadsheet to my toolbox to also keep track of correspondence.  Perhaps just names, email addresses, how we connect and the dates back & forth.  Then I can come into my Evernote account and see the correspondence.

I would love to hear how all of you are keeping track of this incredible, but sometimes overwhelming tool, called DNA.  Please share with me in a comment or on your own blog, with a link to the post.


Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017   Diane Gould Hall