Using the Ancestry DNA Match Note Feature

Basic RGB

In Using Ancestry Stars to Organize DNA Matches,  I shared how the Ancestry Star feature can be used to distinguish the DNA matches whose Ancestry is known.  This Ancestry star feature is even more useful when it is paired with Ancestry’s note feature.

What is the Ancestry Note Feature?

AncestryDNA has the option to add a note to any DNA Match.   This  feature can be found by clicking on the user ID (name) of a DNA Match or the green ‘View Match’ button. This will open up a new page where you can further explore details of the DNA match.  Below the Predicted relationship and the DNA Circle connection(s), there is an Add note link. Next to the link is an icon that looks like a mini page of paper with text on it.  When the Add  note link is selected, a text box appears in which comments up to 500 characters can be written.  Anything typed in a note can only be seen by you.

This is an example of a DNA Match that does not have a note attached to it.
An example of a DNA Match that does NOT have a note attached to it.
This is an example of A DNA Match with a note added to it.
An example of A DNA Match WITH a note added to it.

How to Use the Note Feature

There are many uses for adding a note to a DNA Match, but I am going to share  the best use that I have found for the Ancestry Note feature.  I use this feature to briefly explain how a DNA match is related to me.  It is a simple method where the closest ancestor(s)shared with the DNA Match is added to the note.   Sometimes I add a bit more information, like “we are related through the Florida Loos line via Johannes, brother to my immigrating Matthias Loos”.

This note can then be used as a quick reference if I forget  how I relate to one of my Starred DNA matches. If you do not know what I mean by starred DNA Match, I recommend reading this blog post.  Having these notes can be especially helpful when you are sifting through  hundreds (or thousands) of DNA matches.

A beneficial attribute of adding a note to a DNA Match is that you do not need to click on the ‘view match’ button to see what you typed in the note. The note can be viewed from the main DNA match page. If  a note is added to a DNA Match, then the note icon will be displayed next to the matches name in the DNA Match list.  The note becomes visible when the icon is clicked.

Example of the note icon. The relationship of these 3 DNA matches are known thus they have been starred and have notes attached to it. THe third match's note has been clicked on to reveal the relationship.
The relationship of these three DNA matches are known thus they have been Starred and have notes attached to them. The third match’s note has been clicked on to reveal the relationship.

If you find this genetic genealogy tip helpful or want to share how you use the Ancestry note feature, please leave a comment.

Genealogy and Diversity

I have had two work projects where I have been able to combine by hobby (and passion) of genealogy with my career (and love) of Meteorology.  One project was a year ago where I used genealogy investigation skills and resources to identify fatalities or survivors of historical Pacific NW tornadoes. The second project was very recently, when I was asked to answer a few questions on how genealogy relates to diversity on video.  My friend (a fellow employee with the National Weather Service), Brooke Bingaman edited this lovely video of me and a fellow Meteorologist/genealogist, Ken Waters. Ken is a genealogy blogger too.

What do you think genealogy can teach us about diversity? Please provide your ideas in the comments.

Using Ancestry Stars to Distinguish DNA Matches

My recent Mirror Tree obsession has made me realize that having a consistent method of organizing Ancestry DNA matches is key for finding the most elusive ancestors.  Are you overwhelmed by the hundreds of ‘4th cousin or closer’ Ancestry DNA matches, and not sure what to do with them?   Have you been struggling with how to identify which of your Ancestry DNA cousin matches make good Mirror Tree candidates? Using the Ancestry stars to distinguish your DNA Matches may help you maneuver around these common DNA challenges. Continue reading Using Ancestry Stars to Distinguish DNA Matches

Mirror Trees Really Do Work

I gave compelling evidence in The Biological Father of my Foundling Ancestor that William Norsworthy Gordon is my great grandfather.  A living direct descendant of  William N. Gordon agreed to take a DNA test, and the results have arrived. The descendant is a granddaughter of William Norsworthy, and if my theory is correct, her father would be my grandfather’s half-brother.  Her DNA matched 306 centiMorgans (cM) and 22 segments with my mother. According to Blaine Bettinger’s shared cM relationship chart (see below), this DNA match fits in the 1st to 2nd cousin range. This is the range that I expected, and proves that I really have found my biological great- grandfather, and that  mirror trees really do work. Continue reading Mirror Trees Really Do Work

I Have Created a Mirror Tree, Now What?

MirrorTree Part 2

The real work with mirror trees is not in creating them, but what you do with them once they are created. If you have created a mirror tree, and do not know how to use it to discover those hard-to-find family members, then you are at the right blog. Continue reading I Have Created a Mirror Tree, Now What?

How to build a Mirror Tree

Mirror Tree Blog Post1

After exploring mirror trees with the main roadblock of my family tree (my foundling grandfather), I now have a better understanding  of what a mirror tree is, and how useful it can be  for revealing ancestors that left incomplete paper trails. Mirror trees offer a method for organizing genetic DNA matches to help those with unknown ancestors (adoptees, orphans and foundlings) identify biological ancestors.

Here are  five steps to create a mirror tree:

Continue reading How to build a Mirror Tree

The biological father of my foundling ancestor?

I think I have found the biological father of my grandfather, Dwight Willard, who was abandoned as a newborn at a charitable orphanage organization in San Francisco in 1920. The man I believe to be my Great Grandfather is William Norsworthy Gordon, son of Robert Edward Gordon and Emma Norsworthy.  He was born in Texas which is where all of his siblings and ancestors remained, but uncanny circumstances brought him to California when he was a young boy. Continue reading The biological father of my foundling ancestor?

Are we related?

Family Search just released a new website, that allows you to see if people in your surrounding area are related to you.  I used it this past week at RootsTech, the world’s largest genealogy conference, and saw that there were distant cousins of mine in the same room as me, or  across the street, or down the hall.  It was really fun to see my family tree in action.  Not only can you see cousins in the area, but it will show you how you are related.

Continue reading Are we related?




“Roots” by Heidi Renee Mason

Deeply embedded

Inside the earth,

Twisting, turning

In every direction;

The source,

The beginning,

The origin of all;

Firmly established,

Gripping tightly,


Securing our existence;

A network of viability,

Our roots


The genesis of life.

Clues into Frank McCourtney’s Mysterious Past

Resting spot for Frank L McCourtney at Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Photo taken March 2016.
Resting spot for Frank L McCourtney at Rose City Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Photo taken March 2016.

Frank L McCourtney is one of the most mysterious ancestors that I have researched in a long time. His name came up at a dinner conversation last Christmas, when my Uncle in Law commented that he knew very little about his grandfather, Frank. My uncle had done his own genealogical research into his grandfather, but could not find who his parents were.  Further conversations with other family members about Frank McCourtney made him even more intriguing.  This man did not speak of his past much, at least with his grandchildren, and the varying stories that they had of his youth inspired me to want to find factual sources to get the story straight. Continue reading Clues into Frank McCourtney’s Mysterious Past