Best Practices: Ancestry Profiles, pt. 1

There are some things I’ve been seeing for years, and others I’ve been seeing more and more lately, that make me crazy while working on Ancestry. All of them are due to a lack of knowledge or courtesy on the part of amateur researchers, and all of them can be solved with a little applied effort.

Increasingly, Ancestry members are contacting one another and relying on one another to work together and to find ties and relationships not only using conventional, documentary genealogy work but also using DNA results. Without adequate identifying information, more seasoned or purposeful researchers have a difficult time deciding who to contact and whether the effort of reaching out to a particular Ancestry member is worthwhile.

Starting with your profile, you can let people know who you are, what you’re looking for, the kind of help you can provide others, and, indeed, whether you’re alive or dead.

Your Profile

When you join Ancestry, you are asked to create a profile. Here is mine:

1 ancestry profile

Here’s your checklist for making a profile that provides enough information for you to be helpful to others in their research.

  1. Name – use your own name as your username. Women, use your maiden name. If you don’t want to use your exact name, use one that includes your last name somehow. The point is that your username should identify you to others who are searching. I have been able to find numerous cousins, both with and without DNA, because they used family names as usernames. If you’re not willing to give out that kind of information, you should ask yourself whether you want to use Ancestry at all.
  2. Location – I made mine very specific because I live in a town that my ancestors founded, I am a member of the local Historical Society, and I am willing to do local documentary research and take photos for others. If you don’t want to be that specific, leave it at your state, or even your country. But regardless, put SOMETHING in the location.
  3. Photograph – I CAN’T stress this enough. Flowers and puppies and kitties are just cray-cray adorbs for Facebook and Instagram, but this is a data-driven research site. USE A REGULAR,  WELL-LIT, CURRENT PICTURE OF YOUR OWN FACE. Researchers want to see what YOU look like. A picture of your boat or your favorite horse doesn’t tell anybody anything, and an ill-lit photo of you and your family doesn’t tell anybody anything relevant, either. Use this same photograph elsewhere. I generally use the same profile photo for Facebook and Ancestry – in fact, someone in a Facebook research group saw my photo in the group and on Ancestry and recognized me. She put me together with a cousin, simply because she saw and recognized the image.
  4. Information section – use this to let people know what is important to you about your research. If you have completed Ancestry DNA and added the raw data to, post that kit number, as I did. This allows researchers to test their DNA against yours on GEDmatch and gain better information before they contact you.

This is the first and most important section of the profile. I’ll be back with more in a future post.

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