AncestryDNA ThruLines

This week is RootsTech.  It is the season for major announcements from genealogy companies.  Ancestry just announced three new features:

  • ThruLines, a list of ancestors and potential ancestors, and how people who share DNA with you connect to them
  • MyTreeTags, tags that can be added to individuals in your Ancestry Tree
  • updated DNA Matches, a new layout for the DNA match page, where matched may now be given group labels

Ancestry’s announcement at RootsTech can be seen on YouTube here: RootsTech 2019 Address from Ancestry CEO Maho Georgiadis.

Are these features game changers?  Not quite.  But they can help organize research and may lead to new discoveries.  ThruLines is the most interesting new addition.

ThruLines Intro

To have ThruLines you need DNA results linked to a tree that is either public or private but searchable, your tree needs to have at least 3-4 generations of the linked person’s ancestors, and some DNA matches should also be linked to trees.

ThruLines is accessed from the main DNA page, where DNA Circles used to be:


ThruLines Page

The ThruLines page has a list of ancestors and potential ancestors.  First parents are listed, then grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on down to fifth great-grandparents.  The tool stops after fifth great-grandparents.  Here are two lines of my results, scrolled down to the second great-grandparent level:


Click on a person to see how you connect to other DNA matches through them.

No Other Descendants Result

You may click on an ancestor and find no other descendants.  The top of the page will say, “ThruLines suggests that you may not be related to any DNA matches through <name>.”  It is indeed possible that no other testers descend from this person, but just remember the tool’s limitations.  There are many testers with no trees, unlinked trees, and private, unsearchable trees.  Also, if a cousin has different information about an ancestor like different dates or different name spelling, the algorithms may not calculate that they are the same person.  Those results won’t be here, either.

If you have a mistake in your tree and don’t actually descend from this person, you should have a no other descendants result.  This isn’t always the case, though.  You may be related to some of the person’s actual descendants on a different family branch, or you and the match may both be incorrect that you descend from this person, and instead both descend from a second person.  It can be tricky.

Other Descendants Result

Here is an example of an ancestor where there are other descendants.


Here is my Ancestor Abraham Beckmann.  I match six of his descendants through his son Jacob Beckmann and two descendants of his son David Beckman (or at least matches link to trees who link to him as an ancestor).

I am most interested in the branches of the other children of the ancestor, not my branch.  When analyzing how good the DNA evidence is for Abraham to be my ancestor, I should have first analyzed the links in my tree up to Jacob.  Once Jacob is solid, I can look at Abraham.  The case for Abraham to be my ancestor is supported by DNA links between my branch and David’s branch.

I click the arrow next to the “2 DNA Matches” below David to see his descendants.  There are two matches, at 80 cM and 13 cM.


The people who are already in my tree are in white boxes.  The people who aren’t in my tree are in dotted boxes.  In this case, information from dotted boxes comes from multiple trees.  The 13 cM match has a small tree, going back only to his parents.  Information from a third tree added the generation between my tree and his.  This saves me time and effort identifying this connection.

The 80 cM connection is strong, but perhaps too strong. If I click on “80 cM , 4 segments” a probability chart comes up.  These are different from the stats at DNAPainter, so be aware.


I go back and click on his circle to see his DNA match information.  When I look at his tree, I see that we are double cousins.  I am also double cousins with the 13 cM match.

The matches are still evidence that I am descended from Abraham, but the evidence is weak.  Ideally more testers from other sibling branches would also test (or just need to link trees).  I would also be curious to see the matching data between all the Jacob descendant and David descendant pairs.  That must be gathered separately, not through this tool.

Potential Ancestors

This is an example of a potential ancestor.


A potential ancestor is an ancestor, from one or more Ancestry trees that are connected to your DNA matches, that you do not have in your tree.  Their box is dotted because they aren’t in your tree.  Be careful with these.

In some cases the algorithm makes a mistake and that person is in actually in your tree, just with different dates or a spelling variation.

Look at the page for that potential ancestor.  How are they related to you?  Are multiple children supported by DNA matches?  Often they are not.  If they are only supported by your branch, this is not DNA evidence.  Treat it like an ordinary tree hint.  It may be a clue, because other trees can have correct information, but look at the documentary evidence closely.

How close are the matches?  Are they only 6 cM, 8 cM?  Could the matches be related on a different family branch?

After considering these questions and weighing the evidence carefully, maybe this really is an ancestor.  Be thorough in your research and reasoning before placing them in your tree.

Private Potential Ancestors

Some potential ancestors will be labeled “Private”:


Click on the person to get to their ThruLines page, then click on the box labeled Private there.  It will give the name and any birth information for the person.  It will also give a link to contact the tree owner.


ThruLines is a new feature at Ancestry DNA that will help you determine which of your matches are descended from which of your ancestors.  It can add information from multiple trees to make connections, a helpful new feature.  It can help you gather DNA evidence to prove a person in your tree was truly your ancestor.

It also has a potential to help you discover new ancestors.  Weigh the evidence before accepting any new information, but this could help you make breakthroughs.

Feature Critique

First, a comment about privacy.  The old Ancestry DNA page would not reveal the names of living ancestors in Shared Ancestor Hints, showing just “Private.”  Now with ThruLines I can see the names of living ancestors of other branches if they are in my tree.  (The same is true with Common Ancestors in the new DNA page view.)  Ancestry will reveal the parent-child connection if I know information about their parent even if the match himself is not in my tree.

Also, individuals with searchable private trees are no longer private, and I can see in detail how they connect to me.  (Again, this is the same with Common Ancestors in the new DNA page view.)  This is a major change, and should be discussed by the community.

I would like to see whether a Potential Ancestor has multiple child branches before clicking on them.  Ideally I would require Potential Ancestors to have multiple child branches.  Otherwise so many novices might think the tool is telling them the DNA proves these are your ancestors, when it isn’t.

I would like to be able to see an indicator if an ancestor has zero other DNA match descendants on the main ThruLines page.

I would like to keep the Filter on “Potential Ancestors” as I navigate around them, not have it reset every time.

I would like to be able to resize the icons for ThruLines ancestors smaller.  I would like to be able to put them in list form, and/or pedigree chart form.

Other Resources

Other good sources of information about ThruLines:



Posted in DNA

5 thoughts on “AncestryDNA ThruLines”

  1. Very interesting;thanks for the review. I’m curious about what you’re finding with your matches who have private trees. Maybe the difference is whether the trees are private and searchable, or private and unsearchable? For example, I have a known 3rd cousin who tested and who has a private tree linked to his DNA results. He doesn’t show up in Thru Lines at all. Other DNA matches with private trees DO show up in Thru Lines, but all the generations between Ancestry’s estimate of our common ancestor and the DNA match show up as Private, and can see no more than I did before this feature rolled out. Am I missing something? (That said, if matches are more exposed now, I agree with you that it’s an issue.)


  2. I will take a closer look at my private tree matches. What you’re saying aligns with what folks on genetic genealogy forums are saying, so I must be misunderstanding something. That aside, thanks for the informative blog post!


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