Tracing Ancestry DNA Matches by Ancestor: Exploring ThruLines for Genealogical Connections

Have you heard that AncestryDNA allows users to organize their matches by the ancestor they share? This feature, called “ThruLines,” makes this possible and you can learn how to utilize it by reading this article.

As many are well aware, your Ancestry DNA results’ DNA match list is perhaps its most crucial information. By discovering how many DNA matches there are between yourself and you, solving family mysteries, creating your family tree, connecting with new family members or discovering unknown ancestors becomes possible.

However, it can often be challenging to connect the dots between our DNA matches and what we know about our family tree. Perhaps only knowing our ancestry going back a few generations makes it challenging to locate common ancestors between second, third, or distant cousins.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an automated way of telling us how closely related we are with many of our DNA matches? Ancestry offers just such a feature.

What does DNA Matches by Ancestor mean on Ancestry?
Ancestry allows you to view your DNA matches grouped “By Ancestor”, which essentially shows all your relatives descended from one common ancestor together in diagram format, though you have the option of viewing them as lists if desired.

This method provides an alternate means to accessing Ancestry ThruLines, or DNA matches grouped by ancestors who may or may not already be included in your family tree.

To see your DNA matches grouped according to a shared ancestor, select one ancestor you’re particularly drawn to and you will see their descendants arranged visually on a diagram.

If your DNA matches are descended from other children of your shared ancestor (i.e. a collateral line), they will appear with their lineage displayed as well as a drop-down arrow that shows their descendancy tree and estimated relationship information for that individual DNA match. If more than one relative can be found along one path, an expand button is provided with which to expand this list further.

Your DNA matches may include those descended from ancestors and extended family who may not yet be part of your family tree.

How Can I Locate Ancestry DNA Matches Grouped By Ancestor
Your AncestryDNA matches can be organized by ancestor on your main DNA match list. Simply navigate to each group descended from each ancestor by selecting “By Ancestor” under matches grouped “By Parent”.

The red arrow points to your Ancestry ThruLines “By Ancestor” tab.

This image depicts my DNA matches organized by grandparent, for one of my grandparents.
As an example, I scrolled through the 5th great-grandparent section in my grandparent’s ThruLines and discovered some names I hadn’t yet investigated: Comfort Round, Silent Brown, John Butler and Mary Brown are listed, with 17 DNA matches possibly descended from Silent Brown.

As previously discussed in this article, Ancestry allows you to see DNA matches grouped by ancestor for individuals not currently included in your family tree. They’re known as potential ancestors – people who could potentially become ancestors to someone who’s already present and become your ancestors themselves.

These potential ancestors are indicated with dotted lines on your list of ancestors (ThruLines), while ancestors already in your tree will have solid lines around their names.

Silent Brown does not appear in my family tree, so she has been shown with a dashed line around her name in my diagram. Additionally, none of her children appear here either and thus all their names feature with dashed rectangles surrounding their names in my diagram.

By studying the diagram, I can visually confirm that I have DNA matches from five of her children.

As we learn through DNA matches or ThruLines, it’s wise to independently evaluate any information obtained. These ThruLines may not always be 100% accurate; nonetheless they’re often reliable so taking the time to explore is well-worth your while.

Idealy, I should spend some time verifying this potential ancestor’s connection to my known ancestor and adding them, their children, and descending lines from DNA matches into my family tree – an act known as building a wide family tree which will facilitate future DNA match research.

What if there are no DNA matches or an error page when viewing By Ancestor Match list?
If there are no DNA matches listed on your By Ancestors tab page or an error message telling you to try back later, don’t be alarmed; chances are, this is likely because you do not have a public family tree associated with your Ancestry DNA results or simply wish for one with more privacy and unsearchability.

Resolving this is easy enough: All it takes to start building your family tree on Ancestry and access ThruLines is knowing the names of your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

If you already have a tree, make sure it is public and searchable so the software can search it to search for DNA matches. Otherwise, private trees won’t allow the software to detect connections.

Why are some DNA matches not showing up on my Ancestry By Ancestor or ThruLines list?
Due to various reasons, many of your Ancestry DNA matches won’t appear under your Ancestry matches grouped by ancestor list. This may happen for various reasons and could take several forms:

The primary factor is often lack of information for Ancestry to use to calculate ThruLines; many DNA test recipients either do not link their family tree with their test results, or lack one altogether. Without family tree information available for Ancestry to utilize for making its calculations of ThruLines calculations.

Some other common factors which prevent matches from being shown on ThruLines include having very small family trees (i.e. only parents listed), or private non-searchable trees linked to results. In order for By Ancestor Grouping to assign DNA matches to an ancestor group, software must be able to estimate who could possibly be their common ancestor.

Sometimes DNA matches don’t show up in ThruLines or groups by specific ancestor when their family tree contains non-biological ancestors for various reasons. There may be many factors why someone might include non-biological relatives in their pedigree tree.

Additional Ways to Group DNA Matches on Ancestry
There are other methods available for you when organizing DNA matches on Ancestry. Grouping your matches provides a useful way of conducting your research into how they’re related.

Ancestry will automatically group DNA matches By Parent.

Alternately, you could manually assign your DNA matches into color-coded groups using Ancestry’s Filter and Sort feature. My post about Filtering and Sorting Your Ancestry Match List gives basic instructions for setting up custom groups.

We hope that this post has provided you with enough knowledge to use Ancestry DNA Matches By Ancestor feature (i.e. ThruLines). This feature is an effective way of seeing how matches fit into your family tree while also offering visual cues that may provide insights.

If you have any queries or would like to share any specific issues about understanding By Ancestor groups, I welcome them in the comment thread below.

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