AncestryDNA Updates Coming: What To Do Next

Diahan Southard

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AncestryDNA has exciting updates coming for your DNA matches experience. Here’s what’s happening and what to do now to prepare for it.

AncestryDNA Shared Matches Updates Coming Soon IO (2).pngAncestryDNA’s tools that help you understand your relationships to your DNA matches are among their most important—and they’re about to get an overhaul. The company is updating their matching algorithm.

Changes are expected to take full effect in August 2020, which gives you a little time to prepare for them.

Here’s what you need to know and what you can do:

  1. The number of shared DNA segments will be more accurate.

It seems like DNA matching should be straightforward. Either two people share the same piece of DNA, or they don’t. But matching is actually much more complicated. One thing that AncestryDNA was doing differently than other companies was the way they were counting shared segments. Without getting too technical with you, Ancestry was just coming up with much higher numbers of shared pieces of DNA. The coming update corrects that.

2. We get to see the size of the biggest piece of shared DNA.

The way AncestryDNA was previously counting segments meant that they couldn’t report to us some much needed information: the size of the biggest piece of shared DNA.

But now they will be able to.

This is HUGE. Knowing the size of the longest shared DNA segment is essential for understanding endogamous relationships and very helpful in lots of other situations.

3. AncestryDNA is shaving off some of our DNA match list.

Ancestry will no longer show you matches who share fewer than 8 cM with you. The current threshold is 6 cM. According to their research, this revision will remove 2/3 of your “false matches,” or matches who don’t actually share a recent common ancestor with you.

The screenshot below, a dropdown menu under the Shared DNA filter, shows the current AncestryDNA thresholds for your distant matches. This is where you’ll see that change reflected.

AncestryDNA match distant matches shared cM 6 8.jpg

There are three situations in which your distant matches who share 6cM-7cM of DNA will remain visible to you.

  1. You have added this match to a group.
  2. You have written a note for this match.
  3. You have messaged this match.

Otherwise, these matches will disappear.

Now I don’t recommend working with matches who have shared DNA below 15 cM. But if you want to hang onto those matches sharing 6 or 7 cMs with you, it would be wise to take one of the above three steps in order to ensure you can still see them after the update.

Here’s a quick tutorial on adding your match to a group using the Ancestry “dot” system:

Get serious about identifying your DNA matches—and using your DNA matches to find missing ancestors.

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<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. Mary Ellen Cervantes

    Do we have a rough time estimate when these changes will take affect? I am scrambling to color code and put into a group as many 6 Cm and 7 CM cousins that I can. But there are so many that it will take me a long time.

  2. Marcia

    Already lots half my DNA matches and it isn’t AUGUST!

  3. Barbara Howell

    Where do you find this Ancestry’s "dot system". I couldn’t find where or how to apply the dots to my ancestors anywhere. Is it only for those who pay extra?

    • Drew Smith

      It’s for anyone who has tested with AncestryDNA. When you are looking at your list of matches, you’ll see the dot system under Groups at the top right.

  4. john beaver

    so, once again we are having features that help us find how we are related to our matches remove. last year the lists of birthplace locations for peeps in our matches linked trees went away, as well as the list of all shared names ( I know they are still there but in TILE form and require a 2nd clic to see all) and zero support for unlinked trees ! how hard and how much server space could it take up to run the unlinked peeps through the shared names algorythims after all we all pay $300. 00<>
    although it’s not specifically mentioned in the update facts, I hope they will be showing our common green leafed Matches below 8cM ( I have 135) just for a check, I looked at just one of my family groups and found 10 matches below 8cM that I had identified a common ancestor but anc. had not. those 10 mwould not ever be shown again after Aug. update!
    How about the 8cm threshold, I find that 6-7 cM matches often are matched from the colonial period here in north america,Right, who cares about your relatives from that time period ( sarcastic ) Maybe they should rename the whole operation RELATIVES .com because the older ones I call ancestors.
    To wrap it up, the new additions ( Thrulines, groups,enhanced algorithms for segments, common ancestors hints ect.) are fantastic and work really well but why do tools need to be removed while adding new ones?

    A suggestion: how about having a simple/advanced toggle if they are afraid of intimidating people with too much info. I would rather pay more for more service than pay the same for LESS.

    • Diahan Southard

      John, yes, it is frustrating to have features you like removed. I feel the same about Costco. Just when I decide to love something they stop carrying it.
      We have often talked about having a simple/advanced toggle in the AncestryDNA results page. But development on something like that would not be cheap, and would service a very small portion of their users, so I can see why it hasn’t been implemented.

  5. Cheryl

    In theory, removing false matches should be a positive, right? BUT, as an African American trying to trace ancestry that cannot be documented in historical records, I have found some important finds in those 6-7cM matches. If false negatives can be removed, fine, but I’m guessing that entire removal of that 6-7cM range is probably more about the Ancestry’s cost to analyze and store that volume of info. I mostly fear that this (combined with removing slave censuses from automatic hints, and the last revision to countries of origin that lumped so many previously-recognized African countries together) is another in a negligent pattern of disregard for the needs of African-American customers.

  6. Fran D

    August when? 2019 – 2020 – 21 – 22? It would be great if comments could be dated.

    • Danielle Francis

      Good catch! I updated the article so the year is in there (The updates described in the article were scheduled for Aug 2020). I’ll look into seeing if we can get dates on the comments.


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