Use Ancestry ThruLines To Place DNA Matches on Your Tree

AncestryDNA’s new ThruLines tool helps you visualize possible family tree relationships with your DNA matches.

 
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Ancestry’s new ThruLines tool is its latest brainchild for helping you place your DNA matches in the right place on your tree. ThruLines won’t solve all your match mysteries, but it’s a HUGE step forward. Mostly because it helps you visualize how everything—your genetic tree and your genealogical tree—comes together.

Collect known cousins from your DNA match list

Before ThruLines came along, Ancestry could help you find other tested descendants of your ancestors if you both had public trees with your common ancestors listed. The site would point them out using their classic leaf hints. But if there weren’t obvious tree connections between you, it was pretty much up to you to fill the gaps on your tree between you and your match.

Ancestry’s ThruLines tool aims to help you fill in those gaps by searching other Ancestry public or private-but-searchable trees for genealogy connections between your tree and the one posted by your DNA match. Then ThruLines draws trees to illustrate possible genealogical paths that connect you. You can explore your ThruLines suggestions from your DNA home page, as shown below:

 
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ThruLines are organized by common (or potential common) ancestors that have been identified between you and your matches:

 
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Click on an ancestor’s name to explore ThruLine tree reconstructions showing your DNA matches as fellow descendants:

 
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  1. Several matches may appear in your reconstructed tree, depending on how many matches have tested in a particular branch of your family. (In this case, the ThruLines can show me 15 matches through Thomas Hazelwood.)

  2. Ancestors that are present in your tree appear in solid boxes.

  3. Dropdown menus let you view the matches that descend through each branch of the family.

  4. Potential common ancestors (suggested by tree connections) appear in dotted-line boxes.

Using Ancestry ThruLines

To participate in ThruLines, AncestryDNA customers need to link their DNA results to a public or private searchable family tree, and your matches need to do the same. Preferably, your trees will have at least 3-4 generations. Make sure you’ve added whatever details you can about dates, places and family relationships, not just for direct ancestors but for those siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who may become those “missing links” in your ThruLines experience.

What I love about ThruLines is the powerful visualization you get for better understanding your overall tree. When you start working on any particular family line, check to see whether ThruLines shows you any DNA matches who share that descent. This is also a great way to see who has tested before your big family reunion (or, on the contrary, which branch doesn’t seem to have any DNA matches yet). (Speaking of family reunions, here are more tips on talking about DNA at your next family reunion.)

Remember that the tree reconstruction you see is only as good as the tree data. That’s worth restating: these trees are not DNA based. They are based only on the genealogical data in trees! You need to verify the tree data yourself. Here is a good example, where ThruLines is suggesting that my mom is a descendant of her adopted father, based solely on her DNA match with me (her daughter).

 
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Ultimately, you need to check your genetic versus genealogical relationship.

One great way to ensure Ancestry keeps improving this tool is to fill in the pop-up feedback box that appears when you start using ThruLines. The tool is still in beta, meaning it’s actively being tested. Let them know what your experience is like, for better and for worse. The company is listening closely!

For your DNA match mysteries that ThruLines doesn’t solve, here are more tips on understanding and identifying your DNA matches yourself.