Responsibly Using “ThruLines(tm)” at AncestryDNA

To begin with, remember that the only DNA matches that appear in “ThruLines(tm)” at AncestryDNA are those who have trees attached to their results. Their tree may be hidden but they will still show and, in some cases, the names in their genealogical connection may be displayed on your “ThruLines(tm)” results page. One current advantage of using “ThruLines(tm)” as it is currently structured is that it allows you to see how you connect with individuals whose trees are hidden but are connected to their results.

Remember–you and someone else get “ThruLines(tm)” page together for an “ancestor” if you share DNA and if you have a shared name in your tree. There is no guarantee that you connect in the way AncestryDNA is suggesting via “ThruLines(tm).” It is possible that you and the match really connect through an ancestral line that is currently blank in the linked online tree for you or your match.

As mentioned in an earlier post, “ThruLines(tm)” puts information from other trees in gray when displaying it on your results tree for that set of shared matches.

There’s not a lot to responsibly using the “ThruLines(tm)” at AncestryDNA. The rules are fairly simple:

  • Do not add names to your tree just because “ThruLines(tm)” says it is a potential ancestor. Do actual research.
  • If you and your shared matches all descend from Susan and one of your matches thinks Susan’s father is Bubba, that does not mean you descend from Bubba. I don’t care if “ThruLines(tm)” suggests he is your ancestor or not. I do not care if they put Bubba at the top of the page or not.
  • Do not add names to your tree just because “ThruLines(tm)” says it is a potential ancestor. Look at original records.
  • Remember that you could be related to a person more than one way.
  • Do not add names to your tree just because “ThruLines(tm)” says it is a potential ancestor. See if it makes sense.
  • Standard genealogy methodology still applies. DNA is but one research tool. Don’t let it be your only one.
  • Do not add names to your tree just because “ThruLines(tm)” says it is a potential ancestor. Double check their work.
  • DNA will not catch all errors. If there are two grandsons of Edward Tinsley named James Tinsley, you’ll be  DNA match for them. It won’t tell you that you have the wrong father for James.
  • Do not add names to your tree just because “ThruLines(tm)” says it is a potential ancestor. Don’t.

Personally I’m using this tool to streamline a little filtering of my matches for further research. It’s a tool that makes it a little faster to do things I’ve been doing by hand already. It’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And that’s about it.


21 thoughts on “Responsibly Using “ThruLines(tm)” at AncestryDNA

    • I’m inclined to agree. Helping to sort the matches is one thing. When it “thinks” and suggests new ancestors is another matter entirely.

    • Agreed. None of the new suggested ancestors are true. It seems to be aimed at making me so annoyed with the false trees of others that I will help them fix them.

    • Agreed. This suggested my daughter is my ex-husbands current wife’s. Not sure how it came up with conclusion. She is mine 🙂

  1. This could be a mess, or it could be a really good thing. For those of us who know research, this could open up some new possibilities to look into. Especially if it’s going to show us the possible connection on private trees! That’s always been a complaint of so many genealogists. And while I understand the myriad of reasons for having a private tree, perhaps this MIGHT be a good compromise in only showing us one small part of that tree without revealing all of the secrets a person might not want to be known? I don’t want everyone to jump down my throat about the potential pitfalls, I’m honestly just thinking aloud right now. Perhaps I’ll change my mind later.

  2. Gads, this has the potential for a real cluster. I have already given up adding anything from other family trees (really when they show the wife & husband born after the 3 sons with the same name or have 12 wedding dates for the same couple) It can be a useful tool but we all know people will just blindly add to their trees as they do info now

  3. Cynthia Hartman says:

    I looked at ThruLines for the first time last night … really don’t see much benefit! I had a person show up as a potential father for my 3x-great-grandfather when my tree already shows his father and grandfather. When there is conflicting information how does ThruLines determine what they think is correct? In this case why doesn’t my information show? This potential father is someone I had already ruled out as the father. What we need is a way to mark or remove the inaccurate information because contacting the tree’s owner is also not productive. The 25 “matches” are accurate ….it’s the potential father that needs to go. This is just one example, there are many more mystery people on my ThruLines. Not sure how much time and energy I’ll put into using this tool. What I really want is a way to have notes about my matches show up on the Match Results page without having to click open the match!

  4. Trina M Young says:

    I think it should be re-named “ClueLines”. One must use this as if they are only clues. Then do the research to get the results. However, we know that many will not do that and so the continuation of false trees will continue. It is for this reason I don’t put much info on my online tree other than names. People have to use their brains to make the connection but if they contact me, I will give as much as I have.

    • Ellen Davies says:

      Yes, Trina! That’s a great name for this newish scheme. I guess it’s like the leaf hints on steroids. Their commercials all make it look so easy. Just click, click, click and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve found your family.
      I do appreciate all the great tools they have. But, you still have to invest the time to learn how to use them properly.

      • Exactly. Tools are tools and not all are created equally or do they serve the same purpose. A hammer is not a screwdriver.

  5. Ellen Davies says:

    About a month ago they had a Beta (testing) of this ThruLines ™, but was not called that. Unfortunately, I could not give it a good review. They had taken information from about a dozen family trees and “mushed it together”. All the family trees had a man that had the same name as my ancestor. But, there were different birth dates, death dates and they lived in different counties of the same state. I informed them they are going to have people new to their system, probably new to genealogy, who will dump in anything into their own tree, perpetuating wrong information, or just wrong for their person. I would like to find my real ancestors, not just any ancestor that kind of fits. Sadly, I think we are going to have a lot of incorrect stuff on a lot of trees.

  6. It is genius! I have been working with it for the last two days and I gotta say, it is pretty awesome. It is leads!! Anything you do, you have to verify. Yes, there will be some people who could make a mess but most people who have big enough trees where they will see ThruLines, have already been working hard on good connections. I only have around 12,000 people in my tree but it is enough to make some serious use of my dna connections. I just don’t understand all the negativity on something that makes leads in a more logical manner. Verify, verify, verify!

    • I generally like it–for the same reasons you do. As you mentioned and as I tried to make clear, verification is necessary. Just because it suggests a connection does not mean that the suggestion is correct and that it does not need verification. It’s pulled in matches that I hadn’t gotten to working on yet and makes filtering through the matches that have tree names the same easier.

      It’s a tool…and better than the circles.

  7. I wish I knew why people think bad or outright false trees was a new thing. I started this hobby right when the digital experience was beginning back in the 90’s and was receiving copies of trees on CDs that were obviously taken from pen and paper originals.

    It took me a few years before I clued in on just how incorrect some of those trees made back in the middle of the 20th century were. Its not like everybody’s magic Mayflower or Indian Princess ancestors were something new that came along with the internet.

    • You are right that they are not new. Books from before that time are full of them as well–many of which get reprinted in the online trees.

      Some who’ve not been researching that long don’t see that we’ve been dealing with errors being reproduced forever.

      If the ThruLine suggestions are used as clues, that is half the battle.

  8. I had an interesting twist. My father was adopted. He did find who he believed was his biological mother and they both agreed that they were mother and son. ThruLines did confirm the connection through the rest of the positive links. She had mentioned a name as to who she said was the father. I never entered the information because there was no other source. ThruLines identified the individual as my grandfather. They were minors at the time my father was born. Both of them, their spouses, and my father are deceased. It has opened up a potential new chapter to my biological ancestry.

  9. I’m a bit confused (or maybe just a bit dumb).

    Ancestry’s Thrulines is giving me this message for both my mother and father

    “ThruLines suggests that you may not be related to any DNA matches through xxxxxx

    As I’m not adopted this seems weird.

    Can anyone help me out here?

    Thanks 🙂

      • I’ve got the same message from my father, his father and his mother; and from my mother, her father and her mother; yet I am connected to great grandparents on both my mother and father’s sides.
        this is very confusing, could someone explain what this means

  10. Darisha Sims says:

    You state, “Do not add names to your tree just because “ThruLines(tm)” says it is a potential ancestor. Look at original records.” What about Black descendants of White ancestors? The records are not going to say Slaveowner X is the father of Slave Y. ThruLines is about the only way you’re going to find that connection. You can’t just go by the slave worked at that plantation. Is there another method you can suggest in that situation?

    Also, I’ve noticed that some names show up in ThruLines as merely a potential ancestor and some don’t. Can I trust the ones that don’t have the word, “potential”?

    • mjnrootdig says:

      The parent-child relationships in ThruLines are only as accurate as the trees from which they come–some are more accurate than others. Are there trees that show the children of slaveowners or is ThruLines projecting that relationship solely based upon DNA? If that’s the case, given the probable number of generations between the testee and the birth of the child of a slaveowner, it’s hard to say based on only one test exactly whether it was a certain slaveowner who was the father or whether it was his uncle, brother, cousin, etc. You’ll have to look at the other shared matches you have with those specific individuals. I have a test where the mother of the testee was born in 1913 as the result of a “short-term” relationship. I have that person’s tree as complete as I can make it and ThruLines has given me no suggestions about the purported father/family of origin. However, looking at the shared matches with this individual, I was able to reasonably determine who the parents of the “short-term” relationship man was–I may never be able to determine who the man was (there are several brothers who are candidates).

      ThruLines is an automated matching process based partially on user-submitted trees. I wouldn’t put any names in my tree as a specific ancestor simply because ThruLines suggested it.

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