Use Ancestry ThruLines To Place DNA Matches on Your Tree

Diahan Southard

Share with a friend: 

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

Ancestry’s 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.

Watch this quick video introduction to ThruLines—and then read over the summary below.



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:

Apr 2019 Homepage.PNG

ThruLines are organized by common (or potential common) ancestors between you and your matches, based on your tree data:

ThruLines Dad 3rd Greats.PNG

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

ThruLines Thomas A Hazelwood.PNG

As shown in the numbered areas above:

  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 who 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).

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).

Verol Ingerson Thru Lines Diahan.PNG

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

To ensure your tree data is correct, you’ll need to do traditional genealogy using records. An Ancestry subscription can help with that by giving you access to their thousands of records. You can explore all of this and more with a free two-week trial to learn if an Ancestry subscription is right for you.


More AncestryDNA Tips

Thrulines is just one of many great genetic genealogy tools you can use to track down more information about your family history. Learn about the other features Ancestry offers and how you can make the most of them with our AncestryDNA Tour. The AncestryDNA Tour includes over 90 minutes of video instruction divided into 16 different segments, and comes with a printable, interactive workbook, so you can apply what you learn to your very own tree. With the Tour, you’ll be an AncestryDNA pro in no time!

Tell me more about the AncestryDNA Tour!

Get More DNA Inspiration

Our free monthly newsletter delivers more great articles right to you.

<a href="" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


  1. Wabash Sphinx

    Your introduction above says, "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." And further on, "That’s worth restating: these trees are not DNA based."

    I’ve wondered how ThruLines worked, but I’m not sure the above is exactly true. As I have worked thru my matches on Ancestry, a steadily increasing number have had ThruLines links. Many of these have very small or no genealogical information from the user. I’m especially interested in identifying ancestors at the limit of autologous DNA reliability, and ThruLines seems to be providing useful connections at that point. I make no claims to a deep understanding of how this works, but it appears to me that Ancestry must find specific matches that they identify with specific family lines. If they come up with, let’s say, two individuals whose MRCA is their 3rd great grandfather, then they get the ancestor’s name from a tree. I use "unknown [surname] for my 3rd GG, and it comes back that way on ThruLines. But finding that MRCA is based on a genetic match, I would think, and not on just matching trees.

  2. Elizabeth

    Hello Diahan and above poster,

    I have finally got the hang of how ThruLines work, THANK YOU DIAHAN! They are fun and helpful, with a big however! All, all, all, every line back to 5th and 6th great grandparents of my family have lived in the same areas of the Atlantic coastal South. My parents were 3rd cousins but that I really the iceberg tip of my genealogy miasma. My sister started researching years ago and I just started working on Our Family Genealogy Wisteria Bush in October 2021, now it is 9 April 2022. I had NO IDEA what I was in for! I am at the very beginning of identifying who is really who as I have loads of endogamy issues. My husband and I are 6th cousins, ugh. No webbed digits or tails thank goodness.

    Matches are real, but for me, thrulines is a seductive siren on the rocks. I must do the primary genealogy for every person because thrulines are based on real matches and those folks’ oftentimes faulty trees that get repeated and repeated on Ancestry, Colonial Dames, DAR & SAR databases in many other quality treatises.

    One more time…THank you Thankyou Diahan. And can’t wait for the May 2022 endogamy course…see you there!

  3. Elizabeth Smith

    PS, “and in many other quality treatises” meant to say. Those DAR and SAR applications on Ancestry can be real rotters!

  4. Joy

    I have to opposite situation. What do you do when Truelines doesn’t work for your line. The trees people have posted have it wrong. I know because of Y 700 DNA.

    The correct line is Edmund Lewis of Lynn, Massachusetts. Only one match has it correct. So now I have to remove dots that go to the wrong line. The person who has the correct line doesn’t know how .we connect.:(

    • Diahan Southard

      Yes, this is one of the limitations of ThruLines. The information from Thrulines is not always accurate which is why we recommend double checking any information yourself!

  5. Elizabeth Ann Thomas

    On another note, a person can have things documented BUT, if a lie is told of who the real birth father is, for example, written on the birth record which is a primary record, then dna matches might be pointing to the the correct matches.
    I followed clues from my birth record for many years only to find it was not him. Then I looked for 30 years for the man who I was told it was. I finally find him without dna. But ran a Dna to verify to find he was 0%. Even he thought he had a daughter out there somewhere from my mother. But luckily I have found the true biological father with no known name, place or anything. But I had a 2 cousin match, who turned out to be adopted. Fortunately she had an angel find her birth family and I got some surnames to work with. One being the surname Williams (oh no!) I ended up finding the right person and was able to verify through a half sibling. So, happy ending and close finally after 39 years of search. Dna solved it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend