In recent discussions with a few of my genetic genealogy students, I discovered that many need some help with understanding how to use spreadsheets. So I went looking and found a series of excellent youtube videos that even taught me a few things. Here is the first one in the series.
He uses OpenOffice Calc which is free and happens to be the spreadsheet that I use.
The basic idea of a spreadsheet is to make a list of things that you want to keep track of, with the information about each of them listed next to them in columns. As you use it, you may decide to insert more columns, the things you are tracking for each, or more rows, the items you are interested in. You can also delete any of these and best of all, sort them.
Personally I reformat the start and stop points to have commas so I can read the numbers more easily and make the centimorgans column (genetic distance) default to two decimal places so that they line up well. I also change the font to Arial.
Impressed by Jim Bartlett’s prose on various message boards and mailing lists, I asked him to do a guest blog post on using spreadsheets with autosomal DNA results, here it is – Kitty
Using autosomal DNA testing can be a challenge – but it doesn’t have to be. It can be intimidating – but by taking it a step at a time, you can break it down into bite-sized pieces that are much easier. When you decide to use autosomal DNA (atDNA), and to get the most out of it, I recommend three broad areas of focus right from the start:
Learn all you can about DNA testing for genealogy and particularly about autosomal DNA (atDNA). The ISOGG wiki is a good place to find good articles, tools, blogs (to keep you up to date), etc. Join email lists and read and ask questions. This is definitely a “continuing education” hobby. We are on a frontier with genetic genealogy – and we are pushing the boundaries every day!
Create as robust a Tree as you can – stretch as much as you can to 12 generations, or more. This is the net you need to catch cousins and find your Common Ancestors. This is very important – if you don’t have the ancestors in your Tree, you cannot expect to find a Common Ancestor with a Match.
Set up a process for your autosomal DNA project. To determine Common Ancestors you have to share ancestry info with your DNA Matches – you’ll be sending (and receiving) a lot of emails and messages. You’ll want to keep track of what you do; to find info on your Matches; to remember the Common Ancestors you determine; new names, new emails, new links to Trees, etc., etc. You may want to use a spiral notebook as a Diary or Journal of your notes. Some people keep a notecard for each Match, or a folder. I now have over 3,000 matches at FTDNA and 23andMe, so I need something that can handle that many (and more) Matches. Many of us use a spreadsheet – read more to see how to set up one.