I've been working with my AncestryDNA results for a couple of years now with great success. Here are six steps you can use to find success with your AncestryDNA matches as well.
1. Make sure your test is attached to a tree.
AncestryDNA reveals cousin matches whether you have a family tree attached or not. However, in order to understand more about those cousin matches and encourage them to work with you to uncover your common ancestors, you need to have a public tree on Ancestry.com and that tree needs to be attached to your AncestryDNA test. Check to make sure your test is attached to the correct person in your family tree by clicking on the SETTINGS button on "Your DNA Home Page."
Are you looking for biological family members' Create a tree with a "Biological Father" and "Biological Mother" listed as such so that others know that you are looking for biological family and not just that you don't have a family tree online.
2. Use the Hint feature to see those cousins with whom you have an identified shared ancestor.
Once your tree is attached to your AncestryDNA test, Ancestry.com goes to work trying to identify common ancestors in your tree and the trees of your matches. Use the Hints filter to discover where a shared ancestor has been identified in your trees. Review your tree and theirs to ensure that the research is solid. If you notice any discrepancies, contact your new-found cousin and invite them to work together to figure it out.
3. Make notes so you can review later.
When viewing a match page, use the Notes feature to make note of actual relationships, common ancestors or suspected connections. Once you save these notes, you can view them from the Member Matches page without having to click through to each individual match's page. After I make a note I then click on the star so I can quickly filter to a list of matches I've reviewed and made notations about.
4. Search by surname and look for patterns.
Once you've identified a match or two with the same common ancestor, spend a little time researching that family. Have you identified all of their children' Who did their daughters and granddaughters marry' Now, use the Surname Search to identify your AncestryDNA matches who have those same surnames in their family trees.
5. Check back regularly and sort by date to see newest matches.
Every time someone else takes the AncestryDNA test, we compare their DNA to yours to see if you are related. If they are, we add them to your list of cousin matches. (I have 196 new matches in just the last seven days.) As each of these new people build out their family trees, the possibilities of shared ancestor hints showing up increases. Check back regularly and sort your list by date to see the new matches at the top of the list. Be sure to go back to the Hints filter regularly to see what new hints have turned up as well.
6. Collaborate! Collaborate! Collaborate!
On the profile page for every one of your matches you will find a big green "Send Message" button. Use this to communicate with your matches. Introduce yourself. Ask questions about their research. Offer to share what you know. Establish a relationship. Once those lines of communication are open, you can begin working together to share additional information about your matches, looking for overlapping matches, surnames and locations that will help you triangulate connections on your family trees.