ThruLines Finds Your Common Ancestors

A Segment-ology TIDBIT

ThruLines Finds Your Common Ancestors

AncestryDNA’s new feature, ThruLines, replaces the Circles* – sort of. TLs are in, Circles are out. Like Circles did before, ThruLines does the genealogy work for you and finds your Common Ancestor(s) with a Match. Currently it does this out to your 5xGreat grandparents (at the 6th cousin level). Circles were formed out the 7xG grandparents (the 8th cousin level). Let’s hope AncestryDNA will extend ThruLines out that far too. In any case ThruLines shows your line and your Match’s line back to the Common Ancestor. (more on this important feature in another post).

You have two important tasks to make ThruLines as effective as possible:

  1. Build your Tree out to as many 5xG grandparents as you can. (While you’re at it, extend your Tree to 7xG grandparents, where you can, in the hopes that AncestryDNA will use them in the future.)
  2. Use only the basic standard names for ancestors, dates and places. Enter John JONES, not John, the Immigrant, JONES or Capt John JONES or Reverend John JONES – just John JONES. A computer will be comparing your names to the names entered by others. Your best bet for a match is when you both use the same names. TIP: if you want to note nicknames, use: aka Sally rather than: “Sally” – I’ve heard the quotes often throws the computer off. TIP: I’ve also heard that surnames in CAPS is often better. The same standardization is true for dates – the best is 4 Jul 1776 format, which is a good standard for genealogy. Don’t use “after 1775, but sometime maybe before 1777” – the computer has a hard time with that and sometimes doesn’t make a match. If you say Virginia and your Match says Colonial Virginia or British Colony, the computer may or may not connect the dots.

To get ThruLines to do the work for you, build out your Tree and use standard nomenclature.

* Edited to correct an error: replaced “Shared Ancestry Hints” and “SAH” with “Circles”

[22AG] Segment-ology: ThruLines Finds Your Common Ancestors TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20190729, Edit 20190730


15 thoughts on “ThruLines Finds Your Common Ancestors

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  3. I like the idea of trying aka Sally instead of “Sally” and think they should help. Also, I understand that anything you put in the suffix field does not affect the match so you could put Reverend or any notes there.


    • Thanks, Dana
      For all new nicknames I’m using the aka, and I’m changing the old ones as I find them. I also agree about the usefulness of the suffix field. I’m a process kinda guy (you get the process right, and I really helps you) – so I’m trying to think out the best use of the suffix field. I’m adding in children and grandchildren and some great grandchildren (I like to message the Match that his/her grandparent is in my Tree to make it easy for them to see the Ancestry that they may be missing). As I’m doing this, I’ve added to the suffix field mt129 (for my BrickWall wife of Ahnentafel 128) in all the descendants who carry that mt. It highllights those ancestors as I get close to a living Match. Same for Y-DNA. This gives me another thing to beg for – an mtDNA test for the few-and-far-between Matches who carry that mt or Y. I’ve “collected” haplogroups of Ancestors, so I can add those in too, and be able to inform a Match about it. ANYTHING to get the conversation started….



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  5. I’m surprised about your comment “heard that surnames in CAPS is often better.” What was the source of that? Google and other search algorithms ignore caps and I would suspect that Ancestry does as well.


    • Bill, This comment was from a researcher who stated that after CAPS were introduced, more ThruLines Matches were reported. However, I agree with you that most search algorithms would ignore CAPS. Jim


    • wsblue, I’m sorry. This is the default font from WordPress, and I’ve used the same font since day-1 (I think). If others also see a problem with the text font in the blog posts, please let me know. Jim


  6. Jim, I’ve been very impressed with ThruLines since it started (not perfect but very useful). Today, I was blown away. Ancestry had recognized an erroneous entry whereby a matching tree had a man recorded as both son and father. They removed that generation before showing it in the ThruLines connection. Wow!


  7. I’m really concerned with ThruLines not being based on DNA and only on trees. In two cases, the ancestor in the trees was the same person but neither person is a DNA match to me or my siblings on or gedmatch. Also, both connections were documented to be wrong.


    • Jeanette,
      You are correct that ThruLines is based on Trees. Like all Ancestry Hints, they must be evaluated and not blindly accepted. All the Matches should be your DNA Matches – I can click on each (and every) one and their Profile comes up showing their match to me and their Tree (if they have one). Yes, some connections will be wrong – I focus on the ones I think are right.


      • You do not always have to be a dna match, but someone you match with needs to be a dna match. I have connections that I know are correct, but my mom and my sister and my cousin match and I do not. I think it is the Swedish, as I do not have any, and they have lots.


      • Carolyn,

        Each ThruLines is between you and one of your DNA Matches. When you look at the Match’s page, on the left side is a Common Ancestor box – click on that to bring up a diagram of how you and your DNA match both descend from the same Common Ancestor. In my experience 95% of the paths from the Common Ancestor, down to me and down to my Match, are correct – i.e. about 5% have an error (your results may vary). Sometimes part of the path down to me and/or my Match is “filled in” from other, 3rd party, Trees – and the folks who own those Tree are often not DNA Matches. But the person at the bottom of the diagram – the ThruLines Match – is always a DNA Match to you. Now, if you are looking at someone else’s account, the ThruLines Match would be a DNA to then (not necessarily you). I have personally checked each one of my 1,800+ ThruLines Matches, and noted the amount of DNA we shared. This is different from the experience we had with DNA Circles (where some folks in the Circles did not have to be a DNA match). Jim


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