Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take your genealogical research to the next level with DNA testing. You spit in the tube, shipped off your sample, and after 4-8 weeks of waiting, you have scientific proof of your genetic ties to Austria-Hungary. You’ve also received a report with the full names of  hundreds of relatives.  Finally, you can fill in those holes in your family tree and magically break down some of the “brick walls” of untraceable ancestors!

If only it was that easy…

Maybe you’re lucky, and your match list is full of 2nd and 3rd cousins who use their real names and attach family trees to their profiles, but just as likely, you’ll be staring at a list of random username or initials in place of actual names. The image below shows an example of how vague a person’s Ancestry DNA matches might be. In this image, these three people turned out to be an aunt, a first cousin, and a half-first cousin — but figuring that out can be tricky.

*Usernames and other identifying data have been altered using an image editing program.

In addition to those confusing matches, you may be looking at a heritage report that says something vague like “Broadly European.” And if you’re researching ancestors from places like Austria, Hungary, Croatia, or Poland, you’re aware of the extra level of difficulty involved in obtaining records from across the ocean — especially in places where borders and place names kept changing over time.

When I first started digging into my DNA, It took some time to learn how to use this amazing new technology.  I also felt a bit lost trying to create a family tree with records in a foreign language. Sifting through numerous online sources, I began saving links to the sites that were especially useful and started developing step-by-step processes to find elusive information.

Fast forward a few years. After helping dozens of people solve their family mysteries, I’ve streamlined my processes and learned plenty of tips and tricks.  In this series of guides, I’ll be sharing my methods by using examples taken directly from my research. I hope some of my findings can help you on your own genetic genealogical journey.

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