Sharing DNA results at Ancestry is very useful when you want to see how much your relative shares with other relatives. All that this sharing allows you is the ability to see their match list, their ThruLines, and their ethnicity results, not their raw DNA nor the ability to download it.
Being able to see a cousin’s ethnicity may help figure out which side of the family that Finnish DNA is from or whatever puzzling ancestry you are interested in. Seeing their match list can be extremely useful for solving a mystery or just for the fun process of collecting family data.
For years I have been referring my cousins to an old blog post kindly written by genetic genealogist Angie Bush which explained how to initiate a share. However by now the screen shots are long out of date, so here is a new step by step for this process created by sharing my results with my brother.
1. Go to your DNA home page by clicking on Your DNA Results Summary in the drop down menu under DNA in the top menu (see my pink arrow)
2. Click on Settings at the top right of the page (another pink arrow)
The great new features just keep coming for Ancestry‘s DNA product. Now we can click new people into our tree from a DNA match with an Ancestor hint. This can be done from the page where it shows the pathway for each of you to the common ancestor, explained in detail on the next page of this post. Hopefully you will all be careful about this, checking sources and so forth …
One thing I love about Ancestry‘s common ancestor feature is that it always uses my tree first before extrapolating from other trees and records. Yes that’s right, it uses records!
When I look at a DNA match with a common ancestor I always note the relationship in the notepad and then color code by great grandparent line. This means that when I look through my DNA matches with common ancestors, the ones not yet categorized are easy to see since they have nothing added in the right hand column, for example Susan in the diagram above.
The other approach would be to filter by “Matches you haven’t viewed” and visually scan for common ancestors since you cannot combine those filters. Personally I have too many distant cousins that I have not looked at yet, but I often use the group filter of “Close matches – 4th cousin or closer” and combine it with the sort by date. People who have just gotten their test results are more likely to be on the site and thus may respond to your message.
The problem with the latter approach is that some matches you have already viewed may have recently added some tree information and Ancestry has found a common ancestor that was not there before. Therefore it is best to add notes and/or color codes and periodically check the list of people with common ancestors for new finds.
The other day I saw a very fanciful looking match with distant cousin “A” to my VE line from Hordaland. Her ancestry was almost entirely Norwegian with a bit of Swedish so that fit. Curious about an ancestor called just “J” in her line I had to investigate.
The other day I walked two different second cousins through using the new Ancestry DNA features to work with their match lists. I showed them how to figure out which line matches are related on and how to use colored dots to mark known relatives by surname group. I promised them I would write it up but promptly left on vacation. So here it is, a bit late…
On the DNA matches page, Ancestry gives you a list of people you share DNA with, ordered by the most to the least amounts and grouped by expected cousinship. These are your relatives, often previously unknown to you, but be aware that the relationships listed are just guesstimates based on the centimorgan (cM) totals. Someone listed as a second cousin may be another relationship, like first cousin once removed, that has similar amounts of shared DNA. You can click on the little “i” in the black circle after the cM and segment numbers for a list of more possible relationships as well as an indication of how probable they are. Alternately you can look up the cM total in the online calculator at https://dnapainter.com/tools/sharedcmv4 based on Blaine Bettinger’s shared cM project.
Ancestry‘s new DNA match display is nice and compact. Look at the examples above and below. On the left is the person’s picture, if provided, and their name or initials. Next is the relationship guesstimate with the actual shared cM and number of segments plus the previously mentioned little “i” in a solid black circle. The next column shows if the person has a tree; if it is green with the number of people it is linked to their DNA, else it is gray with a lock icon if it is private. The words unlinked tree appear if there is no tree linked to that person. When Ancestry finds a common ancestor that is listed under the green linked or gray private tree.
A realy nice new feature is that final column. For each match, Ancestry shows the first sentence or so that you put in the notepad for that match, plus whether it is starred (also known as a “favorite”), and best of all, one or more color coded dots if it has been assigned to any groups.
Ancestry.com announced a great new tool at Rootstech called ThruLines. It finds connections to your DNA matches by looking through other people’s trees for you. This replaces DNA circles by displaying the descendants of your ancestors in a more understandable format. Even if you have a private tree, you will get these ThruLines as long as your tree is set to searchable. Here is what the new DNA overview page looks like:
ThruLines is fabulous but a little buggy. I was constantly getting page not found apparently due to a cookie problem and was wondering if I would ever finish this post! A trick suggested in Blaine’s DNA tools group on FaceBook solved this for me. I now open the ThruLines page as a private or incognito page by using the right click menu in Firefox or Chrome.
Right mouse clicking on ViewDNA matches brings up a menu where you can request a private window
The ThruLines page shows images of each of your ancestors with whom you share DNA matches, ordered by most recent first. Since I have tested my brother and many first, second, and third cousins, there were no surprises in the first four lines (16 ancestors) but once I got back to my great great grandparents I found a number of new cousins that I had not found before on my Norwegian side: descendants of my Wold great grandparents and my Halling 3rd grandparents.
One of the nice things is that Ancestry can see past the private parts of trees to find the connections. It shows you living people as boxes marked private but can still connect them back to the common ancestors. It also indicates whose tree the information came from, which is helpful when you know there is an error since you can click on the tree name to see it and contact that person to request that they fix it.
I found a whole slew of new Halling cousins decended from my great grandmother’s sister Nikolena
I was about to complain that I would prefer to see these ThruLines theories start from my DNA matches rather than my ancestors when I discovered that if I joined the Beta test of the new matches page they do exactly that, among many other wonderful new features.
I really like a number of the features that have come out recently at Ancestry. My favorite is that the total amount of DNA shared with each DNA relative is now shown on the match list page in centimorgans (cMs). This means that you no longer have to click through to the match page to find that number. Those total cMs are needed in order to look up the possible relationships at the DNApainter calculator. You want to check there because the cousin designations at Ancestry are just groupings based on the amount of DNA and many relationships share very similar cM numbers.
Look at the current top of my 2nd cousin list. These are all children of my first cousins except C.S. who is the grandson of a first cousin. (spot quiz – what is my relationship to each of them? Answer at the end of this article). In each case it shows not only the possible relationship but also the actual cMs and the number of segments.
The other recent feature that I truly appreciate is that Ancestry.com indicates whether there is a family tree linked to the DNA, a tree that is not linked, or no tree at all next to the View Match button. In the past there would only be a tree listed when it was linked to the DNA, so you had to go to the match page to see if there was a family tree that was just not connected to the DNA. A word of warning about unlinked trees, they may not be for the tested person. One of my real second cousins did his DNA test through a friend’s account so he is not in their tree at all!
Did you notice that little blue compare icon under the green View Match button? Click on that to get a comparison of the ethnicity of two tests. It always fascinated me to see the amount of difference between two full siblings. Here I am compared with my brother (click it for a larger version).
A word of warning. A friend complained that his sister only had a tiny amount of XYZ heritage while he had a good 33%. I pointed out that her ethnicity had not been updated to the new version. Once that was done, she had a bit more XYZ than him!
Another benefit of this comparison is the much larger versions of the profile pictures which are on top of the ethnic breakdowns on that page. Space considerations got me to cut them off in my image above. However it is quite nice to get a better idea of what your match looks like than you get from the tiny picture on the match page.
Now for a discussion of the new traits feature …