Ancestor Birthdays Mean Presents for YOU!

I’ve been wanting to celebrate my ancestors’ birthdays for some time now, and I’ve finally figured out exactly how to accomplish this goal in a really fun way.

Being reminded once a year about their birthday and the anniversary of their death reminds me to work on their genealogy, and in particular, genetic genealogy. With more people testing every single day, meaning different people at every vendor, we need to check often with specific ancestors in mind. You never know who’s going to be the person who puts the chink in that brick wall.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a spreadsheet to track what I know about each ancestor. This makes it easy to schedule those dates in my calendar, with a reminder of course, and then to check my spreadsheet to see what information might have been previously missing that might be able to be found today.

It’s like a birthday present for them, but now for me. I am, after all, their heir, along with the rest of their descendants of course! If I’m lucky, I inherited part of their DNA, and if not, their DNA is still relevant to me.

Checking the List

Here’s my spreadsheet checklist for each ancestor:

  • Birth date
  • Birth place
  • Death date
  • Death place
  • Spouse
  • Y DNA haplogroup (if male)
  • Mitochondrial DNA haplogroup
  • Autosomal confirmed
  • Ancestry Circle

New information becomes digitized every year making new information available.

Additionally, some items may change. For example, if a base haplogroup was previous known, a deeper haplogroup might be available a year later if someone has taken a more detailed test or the haplogroup name might have been updated. Yes, that happens too.

I originally had a triangulation column on the spreadsheet too, but I pretty quickly discovered that column was subject to lots of questions about interpretation. Is the actual ancestor triangulated, or the line? I decided that “autosomal confirmed” would suffice to cover whatever I decide constitutes confirmation and a comment column could hold the description. For example, my grandparents are autosomal confirmed because I match (and triangulate) with cousins who are descended from ancestors upstream of my grandparents. If my grandparent wasn’t my grandparent, I wouldn’t be related to those people either. In particular, first cousins.

I also added an “Article Link” column to paste the link to that ancestor’s 52 Ancestors article so I can quickly check or maybe even provide this spreadsheet to a family member.

Here’s an example of what the first several entries of my Ancestor Birthday Spreadsheet look like.

Ancestor Birthday Presents for You

In order to remind myself to check on my ancestors’ status, on their birth and death days, I schedule reminders in my phone calendar. Every morning when I wake, I’m greeted by my ancestor – well – at least this much of them.

  • First, I check at Family Tree DNA for new matches, haplogroups and the presence of my family lines in surname projects.
  • Then it’s off to Ancestry to see if I have any new green leaf DNA or record hints, to add or update the circle for this particular ancestor, and to see if any of my matches would be a candidate for either Y or mitochondrial DNA testing, assuming they reply to messages and agree to test at Family Tree DNA. I keep a separate spreadsheet of each person that I’ve identified as a match with an identified ancestor. I know it’s extra work, but that spreadsheet is invaluable for determining if the ancestor is autosomal proven and if the match is a candidate for Y or mtDNA testing.
  • Then I get another cup of coffee and check at MyHeritage for new record matches for that ancestor, along with new DNA SmartMatches.
  • GedMatch and 23andMe aren’t as easy to check for matches specific to ancestors, but I still check both places to see if I can find matches that I can identify as descending from that ancestor.
  • While I’m at it, sometimes I run over to FamilySearch to see if there’s anything new over there, although they don’t deal with DNA. They do, however, have many traditional genealogical records. I may add another column to track if I’m waiting for something specific to be digitized – like court minutes, for example. FamilySearch has been on a digitization binge!
  • As I go along, I add any new discovery to my genealogy software and my Ancestor Birthday Spreadsheet as well.
  • Last, I paint new segment information from Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, GedMatch or 23andMe at DNAPainter. My three articles about how I use DNAPainter are here, here and here.

I just love ancestor birthdays.

Any day that I get to find something new is a wonderful day indeed – fleshing out the lives, history and DNA of my ancestors. With this many places to look, there’s seldom a day that goes by that I don’t discover at least something in my ancestor scavenger hunt!

Ancestor birthday presents for me😊



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19 thoughts on “Ancestor Birthdays Mean Presents for YOU!

  1. Roberta

    Thanks again for a great idea.

    Over the last few years, I have encountered an “information eruption” with respect to my simple family history project that I started many years ago as a Cub Scout. Your blog has guided much of that expansion which has contributed to many long, long sleep deprived nights (not a complaint).

    I have started numerous “organization systems” which I sometimes discover and wonder why I didn’t continue a particular one rather than replacing it with a “better one”. It is somewhat akin to an archealogical dig when I go deep into the memory of my computer.

    Thanks for what appears to be an excellent approach to an “ancestor rotation scheme” which will systematically refresh each part of my family tree much like my share cropping grandfather’s scheme for rotating his crops made him a successful farmer, raising 9 kids on land that his parents had lost to the bank after his dad got sick.

    Tom R McKee


  2. I’m amazed how often I see my birthday show up in ancestor’s information. Not so much in my direct line, but in my cousins…Sometimes it in birth and sometimes in death. I’m not sure of is this is because I’m aware of that date and it happens to everyone. But it is interesting…

  3. Great idea. Thank you so much. It is hard to keep up with the new information out there, especially in DNA matches. This will definitely help.

  4. Is there a quick way to check for SmartMatches at MyHeritage? I haven’t figured out how to pull up a SmartMatch list.

  5. I like this. At one time i had some kind o genie program that listed birthdays and made calenders for me. I don’t know but it made me feel “family”. Whatever it was it burnt in the wildfire. I am not sure how to set up my own spreadsheet but i do have excell and use it all the time. DNA Painter is such a boon!
    Thanks for sharing with us

  6. Hi Roberta–Thanks again for all genealogical studies ! Wonder if you have discovered another member in our new Haplogroup R-ZS 3700 for Moses descendants you recently established with
    your cousin’s and my son John Y-500 tests. We were gratified to contribute to the ongoing search
    for new info ! (Finally responding after a month of digestive health problem !) Love, Bev

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had health issues but glad that you’re recovering. You can look at John’s matches to see if he has any new ones. Not a lot of new Estes men test and no non-Estes men have it. We did reevaluate the Estes line with the lab and the Estes men do have it. If you’ll notice his Big Y results, you’ll see that. So glad for your interest.

  7. I was just pointed towards your blog and am super exited to check out all the information you provide. I am a novice at this at best and have a lot to learn!

  8. Just discovered why I could not reply …. you were in my Spam box …I save most of what you send me into my archives …might even learn something …. anyhow Roberta thought I would tell you how indepth my birthdays/deaths are… NOT. Each morning I do my blood pressure and pulse. The latter occurs between 40 and 55 as I have a rather low pulse compared to others. Confuses the Specialists and Doctors. Anyhow each morning I look at the date and know instantly who was born or died in my family. For instance I have Austin POWER born on the 12 March 1818 in Plymouth, England; Nora Kathleen GARNETT (nee POWER) died on the 12 March 1900 in Toxteth Park, Lancashire England, My father, Ainsleigh Leslie POWER, died on the 12 March 1982 in Melbourne Australia. And our eldest grandson, Ashley Craig POWER, was born on the 12 March 1985 in Ararat Victoria Australia. My wife and others say it is strange the way my family have the same dates. Other dates are 30 January, 9 February, 22 February, 7 July, and 28 August. Most probably missed one there eh. Anyhow using this as a thought I have found a Mathew POWER born in 25 February 1868 in Kilmakevoge, Kilkenny, Ireland to Patrick POWER and Alice CLEARY. Well past Mathew POWER (1780-81) of Waterford Ireland, but this Mathew may be a continuation of my family if I am lucky …. if I ever find out more than what I already know. I have Mathew’s Mariner Ticket of the 9 April 1836 in Scotland onboard the ship, Diligent Farmer, he is said to be 55 years of age and from Waterford. Unfortunately it was before the descriptions so no idea what he looked like, except his sons, Austin, and my branch, Thomas, were also Master Mariners, and have a description of them. Anyhow Roberta, thought I would make mention of how I do my memory of my ancestors eh.



  9. Wonderful idea to ‘re-check’ . . . something i think we tend to forget to do . . . and FamilySearch, where most of my ancestors are on the big tree (of ‘all mankind’), have been sending me notifications, all of a sudden, of the birthdays of ancestors . . .

  10. Great idea! When I have checked back with a branch of the family that I haven’t seen for a while, I am often amazed at what is now available. This is a great way to keep cycling through to make sure no branch is completely abandoned.

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