I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.
Thrulines and Other New Tools on Ancestry.com
Ancestry rolled out some new tools to help people find their ancestors. The biggest part of it is called ThruLines, but there are other ever-so-helpful changes. Learn about how color-coded dots, common ancestors, and new ways to sort your DNA matches can help you find those elusive long-lost family members to add to your family tree.
Recently, I gave a talk on this topic to my local genealogy club. Three times the normal number turned out for the meeting. DNA is a hot topic. No matter if you are just getting started or have been researching for years, the changes at Ancestry mean that all of us need to learn new ways to navigate on the site.
ThruLines is in beta for now, so adjustments will come as they fine-tune it. I'll be using it daily and watching for changes to update you here.
Have fun using these new tools for tracking down those elusive ancestors and for connecting with distant cousins who may have the clues you need to expand your family tree.
Have You Tried the New Features (ThruLines, Tags, and Dots) Yet?
Getting Started With ThruLines
In March 2019, there was a big reveal of changes at Ancestry. It's called ThruLines. Since it is BETA, not everyone has it yet. I received an email telling me of it. At first, I wasn’t finding it on my Ancestry home page.
Where to Find It On Ancestry
One trick is to double-click on the DNA tab at the top of your page. That brings it in for me. A single click on that tab just brings up the standard screen with DNA Matches and DNA Circles.
Note that it asks “Still want to use DNA Circles?” I’m ignoring that for now as I’m not ready to let that go. Just click on EXPLORE THRULINES.
Turn on the New Tools and Start Putting Them to Work
1) Click on EXTRAS at the top of your screen.
2) Turn on tags and the improved DNA matches in the Ancestry Lab.
You Can Now Color Code Your DNA Matches
In the past, to color-code your DNA matches you needed to get a Chrome extension. Now, Ancestry has added the popular tool right on the site.
Read More From Wehavekids
Assigning Surnames to the Colored Dots
Set up the custom groups with your surnames. At this point, you only have 24 colors to use. I'd suggest making the 8 boldest colors your 8 great-grandparents. Then for each of those, there are 2 lighter shades of the same color. Add surnames for the next generation back.
Now Put the Dots on Your DNA Matches
For matches that I’d already investigated, it was a simple matter to add the colored dot. From your main DNA page, click on ALL MATCHES. You can search by clicking on a dot. It brings everyone that you’ve color-coded.
Note that the ones in my example all say, Common Ancestor. They are close matches.
To create a custom group, click on CUSTOM GROUP to name your group of matches. There's a spot to "Assign a Color" to the group. You'll find 24 different colors. (Some of the colors are very close to the same shade which is not ideal.)
Updated Notes Feature
This Ancestry update also makes the notes section in the DNA visible without having to click on it. To get that feature before, you had to use the MedBetter app.
Using Tree Tags
They have a good selection of tags ready to use, but you can make unique ones (click on the Create Custom Tag). The custom ones I’ve made so far are for “Kansas pioneer” and “German” for ancestors in the Old Country. There’s a tag for military but I might create a custom one for Civil War for the ones I’d like to track in that era.
The tree tags show up on each profile after you SAVE them. Don't forget to do that after you select tags for an individual.
What to Do With Your Suggested Relatives
- Open your tree in a different tab so you can switch back and forth from ThruLines and your tree.
- Check to see if the names are ones you've already discovered and added to your tree.
- If a name is new to you, do your usual checking to verify that it's a good match for your family line.
- Click on the new cousin. You'll see the usual DNA match screen. Click on COMPARE at the top of that page to see the ThruLines features for this match.
- If the line is correct, then make a note for the new cousin uncovered by the ThruLine. Click on the dot with their name or initials to add the note. My notes usually look like this, "3rd cousin 1x removed. Descended from great-grandfather James Vining."
- Then add your colored dot in the DNA match view. Hopefully, in the future, the notes and dots will be more accessible in the ThruLines view. That would save switching back and forth to different views.
Collecting Information from the Common Ancestor Feature of ThruLines
In your DNA matches, take these steps:
- Click on Common Ancestor (under the Add a Filter tab) to bring up a list.
- Choose a name and click on their name.
- When it shows the common ancestor, click on View Relationship.
- Look at the names that connect your DNA match to a common ancestor. I click on each one to see if it is already in my tree. If so, then I go to the next name.
- If a name is not on your tree, check for hints to verify with census records, marriage records, etc. before adding the person to your tree.
- Once you are comfortable that all the links between you and this new cousin are correct, put a note on their DNA profile telling how they are connected to you (example: 3rd cousin 2x removed. traces back to Hugh Martin).
The Best Way to Learn ThruLines
Start by clicking on all the links and see for yourself the capabilities.
A Word of Caution
Don't rush into putting everyone you see on ThruLines onto your tree. The DNA match does relate to you, but the common ancestor is speculation. Verify, verify, verify. Think of the common ancestor a super-hint.
Tips from Experienced Researchers for ThruLines
Nancy J-D - I add my ThruLines to my private unsearchable research tree and that gives me time to evaluate it and check for supporting documents. I have had a lot that were right, a few that I question, but so far none that were flat out wrong.
Char B. - While they have not helped to find an unknown ancestor, they have helped to find how people on our DNA match lists are related to us. Many do not have trees that go back far enough to show the shared ancestors that I have already in our tree. Are they always accurate? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Like looking at any tree, you have to find the sources that back up the claimed facts. I use the Common Ancestors process. I find it easier than the ThruLines, because there is less clutter on the page and you can focus on one likely connection at a time.
New Features in ThruLines - May 2019
Just logged in to see there are some new features added to the DNA matches with Thrulines.
- Filter and sort your matches
- Updated relationship likelihood chart
- Custom groups
- Mother's side and father's side labels
- Updated compare features
- Hide a match (Some researchers don't want to be bothered with matches that have no tree or other types of matches. This gives them the capability of hiding those from view.)
- Last logged in (This is helpful. If you send messages, if someone hasn't been online with Ancestry in months or even a year, you are probably wasting your time contacting them.)
© 2019 Virginia Allain
Tell Me About Your Experiences Using the New Tools on Ancestry
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2019:
I'm very much in favor of people embracing all the cultures that merged to make them the unique person they are. For me, that's mostly Scots, Irish, English, and German. I remember reading lots of classic English children's books as a child, long before I knew that was 66% of my ethnicity. The first time I heard Celtic music, I thought "this is what music is supposed to sound like." That was in my college years and still, I had no idea what my DNA would show. The nationalities really are such a small part of the benefit of testing your DNA. I'm so excited about finding the names of 6th cousins and our shared great-great-great grandparents.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 30, 2019:
So interesting and maybe a bad time to hit this hub, Virginia for lately I have become so full of questions on all this that I don't believe there are any answers to, unless you may have them.
I know my grandfather was at least half Indian and it has become fairly clear you have to have little of anything in you to claim that nationality so I am now Native American. Really. Much better to be than white, huh?
As I think about these things I just wonder what exactly is white? Is there a true white? Is it a nationality? Isn't white a mixture of many other things? Many nationalities put together. Sure, maybe a mutt but still...