How I Got My MISSING AncestryDNA Circles Back

My AncestryDNA Circles went missing in mid-January. By mid-February, I was no longer being patient waiting for them to return. I sent a message to Ancestry through their Facebook page and received this in reply:

Thanks for reaching out, Cathy. Unfortunately we are experiencing a delay in Shared Ancestor Hints and DNA Circles populating currently. It is taking several weeks for hints and circles to calculate, but we are working on fixing that so it happens much faster. We are very sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime! While we are working on a fix, please let us know if anything changes on your end or you come across any other issues!

Why did my AncestryDNA Circles go missing?

I know it takes a while for Shared Ancestor Hints and DNA Circles to appear when you link a tree to your AncestryDNA test. There are many different reasons why they don’t show up or why they disappear. In my case, I knew they should be there and they simply weren’t. Personally, I thought a delay in Shared Ancestor Hints and DNA Circles populating was caused by users who changed their trees too often. How much data can Ancestry handle?

I’ve had two different trees attached to the test I manage since June 2016. The first was for only direct ancestors. The second was my full tree and I had linked it in November 2017 in hopes of hearing from more matches.
Between Christmas and the New Year while doing location comparisons I noticed an anomaly.  People born in Luxembourg were showing up in Utah and a Maryland born person was in Bermuda. My Susanna FEILEN, born in Germany, was showing up in Louisiana. This sent up a red flag as I don’t have any ancestors born in Utah, Lousiana, or Bermuda.

This is how Susanna FEILEN’s birth location is in my tree on Ancestry.

The places were entered correctly in my tree however on the DNA page they were not the place they should be.

This is how Susanna’s birthplace was seen in my tree on the AncestryDNA page.

This meant matches were seeing incorrect information in my tree. How could matches take me seriously when there was such a mess showing in the tree linked to the DNA test I manage? Half of our ancestors were born in Europe and many of these were showing up as born in the USA. I suspect (in my opinion) Ancestry was using some kind of location identifier which converted places when the tree was linked to the DNA test.

Hoping it was only a glitch on the AncestryDNA site, I waited a few weeks for it to fix itself. That didn’t happen and in mid-January, I decided to go back to the original tree with only direct ancestors. This fixed the location problem.

While my Shared Ancestors Hints remained the same, my DNA Circles, previously between 28-30, disappeared. I knew by linking a new tree I would reset Shared Ancestor Hints and DNA Circles. It would take a few days for things to get back to normal. I waited and waited.

A month after I linked the tree I still did not have DNA Circles. That’s when I reached out to Ancestry the first time and was told about the delay.

Three weeks later the DNA Circles were still missing and I wrote several more messages to Ancestry. Shared Ancestor Hints were still growing and the missing Circles were taking far too long, in my opinion, to populate. I suspected my tree was just stuck in some kind of never-never-land and asked if perhaps by linking it again the problem might be solved.

We’re very sorry for the delay Cathy. We do not advise to unlink and relink your tree since this will remove any shared ancestor hints and it may take time to populate them again (if they are following all the requirements).

At this point, I was not a happy Ancestry client. I knew other people were complaining and I let Ancestry know my dissatisfaction. I was given a free month’s subscription to be taken when I wish. This is appreciated but I would much rather have my Circles back.

Our developers are aware of issues with the DNA circles and are working to get them out of beta. Until such time, there will be irregularities with their behavior. We apologize for this and ask for your patience and understanding.

What I did to get my missing DNA Circles back

Earlier this month I went through each of my Shared Ancestor Hints and added the information to the Notes available for matches. I added SAH and the information about the relationship and the ancestor. I also included an emoji leaf 🍃. At the same time, I also added emojis for paternal 🤵 and maternal 👰 matches.

My patience had run out. I was preparing to do what Ancestry said I should not do.

I finished adding notes to all of the 412 matches with Shared Ancestry Hints on Thursday evening. Then I went into Settings and clicked on the X to unlink the tree. I waited 3 seconds and linked the same tree again.

Over the weekend I did not have time to check on AncestryDNA. On Monday morning I found 23 DNA Circles!

My re-linking the same tree triggered the change I was hoping for. My DNA Circles are back after nearly three months and my Shared Ancestor Hints did not disappear. Nine new ones came in over the weekend when they normally just trickle in one at a time.

Please take note that Ancestry does not recommend unlinking and linking your tree again. I took the chance and it worked. Perhaps Ancestry got the problem fixed at the same time I risked losing my Shared Ancestor Hints in favor of the DNA Circles.

Now I am going to go in and tag all of the matches who are in the Circles and make a note of the people who are in the Circles but don’t share DNA with the test I manage. Just in case they disappear again.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

23 thoughts on “How I Got My MISSING AncestryDNA Circles Back”

  1. I have no circles and only two shared hints. I have found AncestryDNA pretty much useless. I doubt very much that linking and relinking the tree (direct ancestors only) will help, and I don’t want to link my full tree because there are too many people there who are only related by marriage and/or very remotely. Maybe I should have you call Ancestry on my behalf. Or maybe, which is more likely, I just don’t have any real matches on Ancestry.


    1. I have no idea as to percentage of Jewish people using AncestryDNA. I have heard that most use 23andMe.
      In my case, the circles and shared hints have always been growing. There was no way everyone had made their trees private or any of the other reasons for a circle to disappear or not to come back.
      I’m sorry to say Ancestry was of little help to me on this problem.
      Thanks, Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. From what I’ve read, FTDNA has the most Ashkenazi Jewish test takers though MyHeritage and GEDmatch have many also. What I don’t like about Ancestry is the refusal to supply a chromosome browser so you can see where you match and how large the segments are. Every other site provides that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Without a chromosome browser Ancestry lets their users believe the matches are coming from a common surname in trees which may or may not be well researched. Having the same ancestor as someone else does not mean the shared DNA comes from the ancestor. Many people think this is the case and have no idea how helpful the browser is in determining where the match is coming from. I have one match who is related on paper 13 times at the 6C (a few are once and twice removed) thru three sets of ancestors. BUT the shared matches point to a completely different line. This is definitely a good example of why we need a chromosome browser.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. So what does Ancestry have to gain by denying one to its users? Most people end up uploading their data to GEDmatch and the other sites anyway so all they are doing is alienating their subscribers.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t you just take a screen shot of each DNA circle as it appears? I’m talking about the screen that lists the user names that you are linked with in a circular diagram. Then if they disappear, you’ve still got the names.
    Also, I’m feeling dense. I think the idea of using emojis for maternal and paternal lines is brilliant–tells you at a glance which half of your tree they belong to. And a note about who the common ancestor is–I do that, too. But why the leaf? When the circles disappear, to the leafs disappear with them? And if you note who the matches are related to (in common with you), doesn’t that already indicate that they have a tree and your link is confirmed on that tree?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The second part of your comment first: I use several Chrome extensions to sort through matches. AncestryDNA Helper puts a search box at the top of your matches list which allows you to search your notes (there is much more to the extension). Consistently using the same terms or emojis in the notes helps to find matches using this search. I also use MedBetterDNA which keeps all the notes open. When I view Shared Matches, I can see at a glance all matches who have a shared ancestor in their tree (the leaf).
      Ancestry warned me not to unlink my tree as all my Shared Ancestor Hints might disappear, i.e. all the leaves. With the emoji in the notes, I see who had a MRCA in their tree.
      I do not believe the problems Ancestry is having with their DNA page have been solved for everyone. There is still the issue of the surname search not working. Others are also complaining of not having Hints and/or Circles. I got my Circles back but Ancestry can’t move out of Beta until all the bugs have been fixed.
      As for the Circles, I plan to do the same, taking screenshots to save the list and each match. I knew which matches were in which Circles. My reason for wanting them back was to see the matches to the Circles who DO NOT share DNA with my test. This gives me access to a cousin who shares a MRCA but does not share DNA.
      Thank you, Vera.


  3. I’ve linked and unlinked my tree several times. It usually takes awhile to get the DNA Circles back, but I think it’s only been a matter of days. I’m not sure of the effect of having people other than direct ancestors. I know the shared surnames for each match will only show names of direct ancestors, so I just don’t know if adding all the other folks into the mix would change things. I’ll have to experiment. Regarding correct listing of places, I continually find kooky places on the map under each person’s “Life Story”. I rarely look at this page for that reason. Almost all of mine are in the U.S., but for some odd reason, they’ll stick a place marker in another state or in Europe. I don’t know if this is related to the “place” problem you were having, but it seems like it might be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think it matters if the tree is only for ancestors or includes all persons we have researched. The only public tree I have on Ancestry is the one linked to the DNA. I was hoping that matches would be more responsive or would initiate contact if they saw my full tree.
      The incorrect locations you are seeing in Life Story are similar to those on the Map Locations for DNA. If people do not know about this bug they don’t question the location and may overlook a good ancestor match. Thank you, Kitty, for the comment.


  4. Ancestry Life Stories is a farce, plain and simple. After preaching constantly about good sourcing, they put together these mythical life stories based on unsourced trees, and inexperienced people believe what they say and put it in their trees, perpetuating the farce. I’m furious about that one! (Technologically, my problem is that frequenty I cannot access the DNA page at all until I try 2 or 3 times. they seem to be constantly fiddling with it, and breaking things as they fix other things.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is helpful for me to keep in mind. My public tree is used solely for linking to my DNA kits, so users can see the pedigree (and hopefully be more responsive) and it’s about time for me to update the tree. I usually delete the tree and duplicate my primary (private) tree. Here’s hoping everything is in good working order afterwards.

    While I haven’t encountered this issue with DNA Circles, I’m starting to notice an uptick in other glitches reminiscent of a few years ago before the site underwent back-end rehab, particularly with the messaging system not functioning properly. Then today the “create a new tree” link wasn’t working. I’m hoping it’s not a sign of worsening service…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t use Ancestry to build trees. I upload a GEDCOM (stripping notes and sources) from my genealogy software. Keeping my fingers crossed yours is in good working order afterwards.

      They have been having so many issues with the site and, like you, I hope it will get better and not worse. Thanks for commenting, Michael.


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