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.

You may also wish to read the following DNA related posts:

© 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.

51 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 2 people

      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. How far back does your tree go? Are you or anyone in the last 2-3 generations someone that has recently come to the US? As an example my mother from Brazil has 52 4th cousins or closer, my distant cousin, his mother was new to the US, he has 300, and I have more than I can count, so it depends heavily on if your ancestors are US based. If you need some help, id help for free, but if interested I also do genetic genealogy on the side. DNA Painter, and uploading to other sites can very helpful, if you have specific goals.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Bevan, for the suggestions you have for Amy. For your information, her ancestors come from an endogamous population. Due to this she has pedigree collapse which makes it difficult to work with the predicted fourth cousin matches who are actually far more distantly related.


  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.

      Liked by 1 person

  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 2 people

  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.


  6. UUUGGGHH now I’ve lost my 14 beta circles that never lead to anyone but I still want them. I’ve tried all these suggestions and now have 21 DNA Circles for folks I’ve known about since the 1980s. Crimekneee. I just found my long lost paternal grandfather’s dna line and poof the 14 betas vanished. UNHAPPY Ancestry member.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura, do you mean your New Ancestor Discoveries (NAD) or your actual DNA Circles? The NADs sometimes come and go. Like the Circles it can be caused by someone making their tree private. Did you get screenshots of them or note the names of the ancestor anywhere?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These were 14 actual DNA circles, but Beta. They had real genetic links, like Jesse Dempsey, but no paper trail to link so far. No screen shots, sorry to write. At first I had 23 betas then it whittle down to 14. Most were connected to the Butt line. OK I’m mad as wet hen. These guys had been around since I received the test results. I hope they reappear.


      2. These circles were below. I paid a professional genealogist in Amherst County to work our Jesse. These were legitimate but needed professional help. She didn’t have any luck either btw. Now the ones to the right tripled over night. But they are all already in my tree. Nothing new as a matter of fact must connections don’t even have trees. Just Po’ed at myself. Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks. I do have a good story. My paternal grandfather has always been a mystery and from PA, to NY and NJ. We have several documents (marriage lic. and so on) and 3-4 pictures. But nothing else. Well, with the Ancestry DNA I have located six 2nd cousins and more the six 3rd cousins. A door opened when my beta door closed!!!! It is all good, Laura

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I took a New England Genealogical & Historical Society class in March about finding your Irish roots. Seems that many of our early Irish immigrants only came to MD, VA and SC. Thats gave name hope for Jesse Dempsey and Tandy Dempsey. I’ll have to settle down and go after them.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. These folks were not in my trees like the 21 DNA Circles. They were possibilities — no work on them. Wouldn’t even call them New Discoveries since all needed primary work.


  7. I have multiple accounts on Ancestry because of multiple DNA samples from family members. That means I have multiple gedcoms to maintain. My main account is linked to Rootsmagic 7 so has constant changes but it needs no updating. The other accounts have static trees and need periodic updating. The only way that I’ve found to do this is by uploading a new tree and deleting the old which forces a new DNA circle to be calculated. It takes 3-5 days typically for this to happen. It seems like it’s possible to link a tree from another account but my experience has been that the circles only show up if there’s a local tree and not a linked tree. Anybody know for sure if this is true? Or did I just have a mistake in the setting when I tried it? I don’t like seeing the circles go up and down for extended periods just because I have to update the gedcoms.

    I’ve been maintaining a full tree with branches down to any DNA matches. I wanted to identify exactly how the matches occurred and the thought was that this would also help with the DNA circle creation. is my primary researching tool now. Most other services which I upload to have a basic direct ancestors only (skeleton tree).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t work on trees on Ancestry. I use Ancestral Quest 15 and have only uploaded two GEDCOMs (a skeleton and a full tree) to Ancestry to be attached to the test I’ve managed for two years. Unfortunately, at the time I linked the full tree, things got weird on Ancestry and I had to switch back to the skeleton tree.
      Since I’ve gotten my Circles back I haven’t had time to go through each one to confirm the connections. However, a few days ago I checked the one for my James INGRAM as it has 57 members and only 8 DNA matches! The Circle is made up of non-DNA matches who descend from a different James INGRAM.
      The Circles are interesting when they are for the correct ancestor. They cannot replace a chromosome browser to find common ancestors.
      I appreciate your stopping by, Michael.


  8. I am infuriated by my disappearing DNA Circles. I recently tested my son and brother. Both are linked to my tree. My brother’s results were available first. Within 24 hours of the test results becoming available, I had a half dozen new DNA circles. I carefully checked through the trees and matches and they were legit but I failed to take screen caps of all of them. After another day or two all my new DNA circles disappeared.

    A couple of weeks later my son’s results were posted and this time I was ready for them! Bam, a bunch of new DNA circles appeared and this time I took screen caps of all the new circles. The same thing happened again. After a couple of days the new circles disappeared. I thought maybe it was people removing ancestors from their trees or making them private as the FAQs say. This wasn’t the case. I still have the people available as shared matches in public trees meeting all the criteria for DNA circles.

    So far the circles are still gone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alison, so sorry to hear your circles are still gone. I now it is frustrating. Have you tried unlinking the tree and linking again? Hopefully once Ancestry has finished moving to new servers they will be able to take care of all these “little” annoying problems people are having. Thank you for reading my post and commenting.


      1. I finally got the courage to try unlinking my DNA results. Actually, I unlinked my brother’s DNA results for a couple of days. When I re-connected his results the same thing happened with the DNA circles. The additional ones appeared and disappeared again. While they were there, I was able to figure out why it’s happening. My brother’s results were being considered as the third descendant needed to make up the circle. In other words his results weren’t being considered as part of the our family group. As soon as the application recognized and connected my brother to my family group, the requisite third descendant for the DNA Circle no longer existed.

        I’m still frustrated albeit slightly less so because there’s an understandable logic causing the problem.


    1. Virginia, if you “hacked them off” in your Ancestry family it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on your Circles unless you unlinked one tree and linked another one.
      I have matches with private or no trees showing on their match page as being in a Circle. It could be they only recently changed something and Ancestry can’t keep up.
      I don’t use Ancestry to build my tree. I uploaded the Gedcom from my software. Like you, I’m worried they might disappear again. So I have not uploaded a newer version of my tree. In any case, I have only ancestors attached and can easily add a person and his/her line, if I should find the key to a door in one of my brick walls.
      In the nearly three years I’ve managed the DNA test, matches have confirmed the lines I know and I haven’t had to prune my tree. Thank you for stopping by.


    1. Catherine, not being a Mac user I don’t know if this works for you or not. The emojis are in the notes and the notes are open for all matches when using the MedBetterDNA extension on Chrome. You can find the extension in the Chrome Web Store. Hope this works for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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