Monday, May 8, 2017

Easy Peasy Spreadsheets

There was a time when the thought of using a spreadsheet sent chills along my spine. I took a college course in Excel and struggled. And to be honest, the professor knew less than I did about how to use this fabulous tool. He simply came in and said, "When you complete your assignment, you can leave.”

I couldn’t find the right buttons to push; the terms and names of things left me staring at the computer screen in confusion. Some of the symbols are in Greek. (I don’t read Greek.) There I'd be, still be on step one and everyone else had left the room. The professor was required to stay as long as I was there. I think maybe someone was afraid I would walk off with a computer. Have you ever heard an irritated sigh? 

Note: I have been told you can download and use OpenSource in place of Excel. 

Even with Excel you are going to have some visual alterations over what you see on a “live” Gedmatch page. (At least I do. If you know a trick; let me know.)

Spreadsheets are essential for doing triangulation and segmentations studies. If the fear of using them is holding you back, please, don’t let it.

I consider Jim Bartlett,* my mentor. When he suggested that I would benefit from using them, I swallowed hard and proceeded to Youtube and looked up “Excel basics.” I watched several short videos until I found one I could understand. (There is one; the voice isn’t in clearly understandable English (for me, an Okie with a twang). The guy has voice recognition software that has captioned what he is saying. I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my cheeks. The words in the captions aren’t right. Kind of like when you have mess ups on a Smartphone). Then again, if you watch it a couple of times, he explains spreadsheets quite well.)

These are expanded and illustrated instructions that I sent to those participating in a Brady Segment and Triangulation Project** when I sent them some spreadsheets:

Don’t worry about how to work with spreadsheets at this point. Look them over. Click on page names in the little tabs at the bottom of the workbook and look at what they show. Just understand:
  • Cells are all the little rectangles
  • Rows are numbered and go horizontally across the page.
  • Columns are identified by alphabet letters and go vertically down the page.
The highlighted cell in the picture below is in row 1 column A. 

If you want to copy and paste a whole page of something into a spread sheet, click Ctrl+A, copy, open a new spreadsheet and click that little box with the triangle at the junction of 1 and A (it will highlight the whole page) right click paste and the screen will fill with whatever you copied. 

This is the process you go through when you download data from Gedmatch Tier 1 tools. I would suggest using each tool and downloading the on separate pages

Got that? You’re good to go. (Youtube search spreadsheet basics if you don’t “get it”.)

If you think you have messed something up, click the little swoopy arrow that means “undo” in the upper left corner of the spreadsheet. Everything will go back to how it was to before you messed up. (Sometimes I really mess up and have to hit the swoopy arrow several times.)

To change the width of your column:
(this from Catherine Hughes,genetic genealogist and software trainer who is a member of FB group Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques)

  1. Position your mouse between the letters at the top of the relevant columns so the double-headed arrow appears.
  2. Double-click and Excel (and most other spreadsheet packages) will automatically adjust the width of the column to the left so all the data within the column is displayed.

To insert columns:

1     Select the column heading to the right of where you want the new column to appear. For example, if you want to insert a column between columns D and E, select column E. ...
  1.   Right click your mouse and select insert column  
  2.   The new column will appear to the left of the selected column.
  3.   Or, Select the column heading to the right of where you want the new column,     
  4.   Click the Insert command on the Home tab.

The pages in a spreadsheet are called sheets. To give them a name double click on the

 Basically, that's got you covered. When you want to get fancy; watch some Youtube videos.

Oh, and click save. Always click save!

P.S. If you lose your spreadsheet (I really did--- I had it on my desktop and stuck in in an obscure folder by mistake) if you click the little search ball in the very lower left of your screen to get to search; type .xls in the search bar and you can find it.  Thank you, son!

*Jim Bartlett has the awesome blog: Segment-ology. Click here to read. Start with his very first post.

**For those of you with the Brady surname in your tree, if you want to participate in The Brady Segment Analysis and Triangulation Study contact me via my WikiTree Shoff-7. profile here. Click on the little email link next to my name that says send a private message. 

Though Brady Project focuses on pioneer immigrants Hugh and Hannah (McCormick) Brady who arrived in the colonies in 1730’s, this project is open to all Bradys. You never know how you will find a cousin!


  1. Learn the Control commands: hold the Control key down while typing the following letters:
    C = Copy - it copies whatever is highlighted (from one cell to a whole page; or a row or a column; or whatever you highlight) and saves it (to the "clipboard")
    V = Paste - it pastes whatever is in the clipboard to where ever you have the curser
    Experiment with Cntr-C and Cntr-V on a copy of some spreadsheet to get the hang of it.
    A = All the page - it highlights the page
    S = Save - this saves your work (updates the file you had saved) Do Cntr-S often!!!
    Z = Undo - another way to undo a mistake; can be used multiple time. If you goof, and a big section of your spreadsheet gets garbled - do this: put both hands in you lap; take a deep breath; think clearly; carefully, slowly, press Cntr-Z; see what happens; repeat as necessary - slowly and carefully.
    F = Find - type anything in the box and click find
    B = Bold - bolds whatever is highlighted.

    Try these on a "scrap" spreadsheet to get the hang of each one.

    1. Bless you Jim. You make things even easier. I am sure I will wear out my Ctrl+Z as I continue to learn.

  2. I taught a course in Excel to chemistry students for many years and the web site is still available. It is for an older version of Excel, but most things haven't changed much. Some people may find it useful.

    1. Thank you. Wish you had been my professor.