Using ThruLines on Ancestry.com

Updated on May 18, 2019
Virginia Allain profile image

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.

What Can ThruLines Do For You?

Source

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 means 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.

You Might Find Your Fifth Great-Grandparents and Break Through a Brick Wall

Some are just "potential" but these provide valuable hints with Ancestry's new ThruLines.
Some are just "potential" but these provide valuable hints with Ancestry's new ThruLines. | Source

Here's a Quick Glimpse of What ThruLines Can Do

Have You Tried the New Features (ThruLines, Tags, and Dots) Yet?

Vote in the Poll

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My Great Grandparents on ThruLines

I already know quite a bit about my great-grandparents from my mother's research and my own. Now, Thrulines lets me connect with first, second, third cousins who I might not have met before or could not figure out how we were connected.
I already know quite a bit about my great-grandparents from my mother's research and my own. Now, Thrulines lets me connect with first, second, third cousins who I might not have met before or could not figure out how we were connected. | Source

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.

Your DNA Main Page for ThruLines

In the center, click on DNA Matches or go to the right-hand panel for seeing the ThruLines with your direct ancestors. You'll want to work both areas for the best results.
In the center, click on DNA Matches or go to the right-hand panel for seeing the ThruLines with your direct ancestors. You'll want to work both areas for the best results. | Source

Before Thrulines, There Were DNA Circles

I'm not letting go of my circles until the dust settles on ThruLines.
I'm not letting go of my circles until the dust settles on ThruLines. | Source

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.

Be Sure to Activate the Tree Tags And Other Features

You need these new tools to get the maximum benefit from your DNA matches.
You need these new tools to get the maximum benefit from your DNA matches. | Source

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.

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.

How the Color Codes Look in Use

Each color represents a family line.
Each color represents a family line. | Source

You Can 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.

Reminder: Make Sure Your DNA Is Linked to a Tree

I recommend that you set the privacy so you will see your DNA matches and be listed as a match for them.  It’s helpful to use your real name and more people will contact you. For that same reason, I have a photo on my profile. THE MOST IMPORTANT THIN
I recommend that you set the privacy so you will see your DNA matches and be listed as a match for them. It’s helpful to use your real name and more people will contact you. For that same reason, I have a photo on my profile. THE MOST IMPORTANT THIN | Source

New Ways to Sort Your DNA Matches

Sort by Common Ancestors, Matches You Haven't Viewed, Messaged, Notes, Private Linked Trees, Public Linked Trees, Unlinked Trees. Sorting by the color codes is in the first tab, All Matches.
Sort by Common Ancestors, Matches You Haven't Viewed, Messaged, Notes, Private Linked Trees, Public Linked Trees, Unlinked Trees. Sorting by the color codes is in the first tab, All Matches. | Source

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.

Note the Tags on This Profile

Source

The Barefoot Genealogist Explains Tree Tags

Can't Get Thrulines on Your Ancestry Account?

Here are hints given in the Ancestry user group on troubleshooting if you aren't finding Thrulines on your DNA results.
Here are hints given in the Ancestry user group on troubleshooting if you aren't finding Thrulines on your DNA results. | Source

Steps for Using ThruLines

From your DNA main page, choose ThruLines on the right. Click on EXPLORE THRULINES.
From your DNA main page, choose ThruLines on the right. Click on EXPLORE THRULINES. | Source
Choose one of the ancestors by clicking on their picture or name.
Choose one of the ancestors by clicking on their picture or name. | Source
Here's what you will see. I've crossed out some of the names for privacy reasons.
Here's what you will see. I've crossed out some of the names for privacy reasons. | Source

Video on Using ThruLines

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.

Example of the ThruLines

Click on your DNA match (the circle with their face or initials) to see more details.
Click on your DNA match (the circle with their face or initials) to see more details. | Source

Checking Out the DNA Match

Click on the arrows to see the line from them to your common ancestor. The other names are DNA matches that both of you connect to.
Click on the arrows to see the line from them to your common ancestor. The other names are DNA matches that both of you connect to. | Source

Collecting Information from the Common Ancestor Feature of ThruLines

In your DNA matches, take these steps:

  1. Click on Common Ancestor (under the Add a Filter tab) to bring up a list
  2. Choose a name and click on their name.
  3. When it shows the common ancestor, click on View Relationship
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

is to start clicking on all the links and see for yourself the capabilities.

A User Reviews ThruLines on YouTube

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 who 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.)

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Virginia Allain

    Tell Me About Your Experiences Using the New Tools on Ancestry

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      • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Allain 

        4 months ago from Central Florida

        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 profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        4 months ago from The Beautiful South

        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...

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