Use AncestryDNA’s ThruLines tool to help you visualize your possible ancestral lines and explore your relationships to your DNA matches. Here are some tips for using this powerful tool in 2022.
AncestryDNA testers have many powerful tools available to help identify their DNA matches and extend their family trees. One of these tools is ThruLines®. Many people don’t fully understand how to use ThruLines, so here are some tips and strategies to help you use ThruLines more effectively and successfully. You can read more about how to place DNA Matches on your tree using Ancestry ThruLines.
AncestryDNA ThruLines Tips
To use ThruLines, testers first need to link their DNA results to an Ancestry family tree (either a public tree or a private searchable tree). Unlinked trees or private unsearchable trees cannot use ThruLines.
This tool is generating a potential tree to show relationships between your matches, but it’s NOT based on DNA–it is only based on trees. So this leads to two important tips:
- ThruLines is a great jump start to your research, but make sure to evaluate the ancestor shown at each generation. People’s trees can be wrong.
- ThruLines cannot distinguish a genealogical relationship from a genetic one. This means that for each match, in addition to verifying the tree connections shown, you’ll want to compare the proposed genealogical relationship to the amount of DNA you share with your match, to be sure they’re consistent. (Having an amount of shared DNA consistent with the proposed genealogical relationship doesn’t prove the relationship, but it’s an important piece of evidence to weigh.)
How I Explore My ThruLines
From the DNA Results Summary Page, choose Explore ThruLines. (Or choose ThruLines from the DNA tab at the top of the window.)
All you need to do is choose an ancestor to begin! I’ll choose my third-great-grandfather, Jacob B Offenbacher (1800‒1871). When I hover over the tile, there are 11 DNA matches (including me) connected between 8 and 3,466 cM. ThruLines gives me an opportunity to evaluate each of the relationship paths.
When you first open ThruLines, look around. Notice how many other menus exist to click on. If you click on the carats, the tool expands what you can see for other generations, hypothesized relationships, and DNA matches.
Sign up for an AncestryDNA Tour to get a complete, video-guided tour of ThruLines and so many other aspects of your DNA test results!
Analyzing my ThruLines
Three of the ten DNA matches are shown: GH (12 cM), JM (20 cM), and RM (9 cM). To view the other matches, I click on the carats for 2 DNA Matches under Thomas and 5 DNA Matches under John (the latter are more closely related to me through my second-great-grandfather).
My third-great-grandfather, Jacob B, has five children listed in ThruLines—Jacob, Thomas, John, Martha, and Siram. Those are his five children who appear in the trees of self-identified descendants who have also tested at AncestryDNA. According to my research, there are six other children of Jacob B not listed here: Edna, Elizabeth, Clarissa, Cyrus, Mary, and Henrietta.
Sometimes it helps the analysis to make a spreadsheet or list of these matches and proposed relationships, as I do here when evaluating my relationship with GH and each ancestor listed. (Note the spelling variants of Offenbacker/Offenbacher.)
You can use your list to evaluate each ancestor—taking notes, looking for birth and death dates to make sure a generation wasn’t missed, and see how well-sourced the trees are that provided the information. Start with the most distant ancestor highlighted in green (these ones are clickable to evaluate the connection). When you click on a match to evaluate, you can see any potentially relevant records, trees linked to DNA matches, and Ancestry public and private/searchable member trees.
Expanding the descendants of Thomas, I can see two DNA matches whose trees state that they descend from that ancestral line.
I continue adding columns to my chart to show how these newly revealed DNA matches, SD and DG, purportedly fit in my family tree.
I continue adding to the chart until I have reviewed each of the 10 DNA matches initially noted and determined whether the tree connections are solid and our genetic connection is consistent with it.
What can I do next? Two important next steps:
- I can look for other siblings who do not appear in each generational level in ThruLines. In this case, I already knew that six of Jacob B children don’t appear in ThruLines. If I didn’t–or if I wanted to look for any additional unknown children–I can do this while I’m exploring other people’s trees. Any descendants I find (such as Ancestry tree owners who haven’t yet tested) might be good leads for targeted DNA testing, depending on my research question.
- Before moving to another ThruLine, I look under the ThruLine for Jacob B’s wife to determine whether his wife’s ThruLine shows any additional DNA matches who are not linked to Jacob B. It’s possible she had children with another man. These DNA matches could prove extremely useful when exploring her ancestry, as these matches don’t share Jacob’s DNA. (For more on this, read up on the “Ask the Wife” strategy in Your DNA Guide–the Book by Diahan Southard).
Connect with Your DNA Matches
Trying to figure out how you’re connected to your DNA matches? Ask them! Not finding it easy to reach out? Not getting response? Improve your rapport with your DNA matches with our free guide to contacting your DNA matches.