Dear Ancestry, My Feedback on the Step Relationship Bug in ThruLines

This is the first of two posts on Ancestry‘s ThruLines™ regarding an issue I have had with the new feature.

Access to ThruLines Beta is available to customers without an Ancestry subscription for a limited time.

Unfortunately, hundreds of user trees on Ancestry cannot be taken into account when building ThruLines™. The Legal Genealogist went ballistic last Saturday and wrote How do we know? It’s an excellent post with an example of a user tree which cannot be taken seriously. Judy G. Russell recognized the errors in the tree but can a computer program do the same? I think not.

This is not meant to provoke negative comments concerning Ancestry and the features offered by them. This is about giving feedback concerning a known problem in hopes of getting positive results.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Dear Ancestry,

I have given feedback several times before [concerning the reason I am not satisfied with ThruLines] and will try to be more detailed as there is a bug in the system which has not been fixed.

I realize, at this time, ThruLines™ is a free tool on AncestryDNA. However, your long-time customers’ experience in family history research should be taken into account. We can work together to get this fixed.

The problem is a known bug in the system as other users have complained about it on social media. Some users who gave feedback say their ThruLines™ were “fixed” within days. I do not believe Ancestry has taken the step to go into one user’s ThruLines™ to fix this bug. I strongly believe it was a coincidence the users’ ThruLines™ were corrected after feedback. It is more likely another user’s tree, which was being used to build the connection between the ancestor and the match, had been corrected and this resolved the issue.

This is the issue I have with ThruLines™’ “step bug”

I am seeing a step-parent as the parent in the ThruLines™. The information is correct in my tree. No other tree is being used to create this ThruLines™ ancestor. Along with this step-parent, I am seeing all of her ancestors, unrelated to my line, as my ancestors in ThruLines™. Not as POTENTIAL ancestors with a dotted borders – they are being shown as ANCESTORS.

  1. The ancestor who is showing up incorrectly in ThruLines™ is:
Screenshot courtesy of Ancestry. I included the link to this image in my feedback.
  1. The pedigree of the incorrect person in my tree:
Screenshot courtesy of Ancestry. I included the link to this image in my feedback.

I’ve added images to her ancestors showing they are NOT the ancestors of the home person and/or test person. [This is so that I can quickly recognize them on ThruLines™.]

  1. This is her husband, my 2nd great-grandfather, in my tree. His information is correct and includes his two wives and their respective children:
Screenshot courtesy of Ancestry. I included the link to this image in my feedback.
  1. This is the pedigree of his first wife, my 2nd great-grandmother, who along with all of her ancestors are NOT showing up in my ThruLines™. There are many DNA matches for people who descend from her PETERS, LIVELY, PROFFITT, and COCKRAM lines, on the match list, but they are being ignored by ThruLines™.
Screenshot courtesy of Ancestry. I included the link to this image in my feedback.

I want to stress that ONLY entries in my tree are being used for this (incorrect) ThruLines™ ancestor. No other user tree is being used to make this connection between the half-cousin matches whose relationship is incorrectly calculated to full cousins.

I understand the idea of ThruLines™ and believe it could be a powerful tool. One problem will always be the hundreds of trees which are incorrect due to sloppy research, i.e. accepting hints without looking at dates, places, names, etc.

However, in this case, the tree being used is correct and ThruLines™ is overriding my information and picking the wrong person in the tree. I have no experience in programming. I can only tell you where I am seeing the bug. I’m fully aware of the fact that detecting the source of the bug may be more difficult.

Thank you for your time. In hopes of a quick resolution to this problem,

Best wishes,

I wrote the above last Sunday but didn’t want to post it on my blog without giving Ancestry had a bit more time to fix the issue.  This was the first time I included links to the specific areas where the “bug” was detected. Will this kind of feedback help resolve the issue I have with Ancestry‘s ThruLines™?

Don’t miss part two tomorrow.

© 2019, 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.

11 thoughts on “Dear Ancestry, My Feedback on the Step Relationship Bug in ThruLines”

  1. Cathy, We must always hold these companies accountable, and you have clearly shown Ancestry where the problem lies. Hopefully, what you have brought to their attention will bring answers. I look forward to the next post. Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Brian. I want this tool to work correctly. My biggest fear is that people will be given the wrong line and will add it to their tree. I kept checking my Walter Farmer Roop in trees across Ancestry hoping to not find him as the son of Nancy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cathy, I have had similar instances with certain German Berk County, PA family trees that have ancestors of mine in them. It makes it very difficult to separate them out, and make any advancement in your research. Keep on truckin’!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. At this time the tree I have linked to the DNA is private but searchable. Once the ThruLines are working correctly I will link a public ancestors only tree to the DNA as I expect (hope) more people will be interested in getting in touch.


  2. Perhaps you will actually hear from someone at Ancestry who sees your blog post. Hope the issue gets resolved.


  3. Great letter, Cathy. Keep us posted on whether you hear anything. My problems with Thrulines all stem from the faulty trees they use to create the chain of connections. If someone has incorrectly put one of my distant ancestors in their tree, I get a “potential ancestor” from that error even when the descendant match shares almost no DNA with me. (Remember that for Ashkenazi Jews, small amounts mean very little because of endogamy.)

    On the other hand, I found several people as matches who WERE on my tree whom I had not found previously on Ancestry, giving me new ways to connect with them by messages, etc. So there’s been some value to the new tools. But overall—it’s more misleading than helpful, and if I were now a newbie, I would be terribly misled by what comes up.


    1. Exactly, Amy. I am also very worried the newbies will accept it as truth and add the incorrect lines. Idem, bringing in even more erroneous tree into the system and ThruLines. I have also found matches in ThruLines which would have been hard to find as they did not have enough information in their trees OR their trees were private. Now since I have my full tree linked and have done descendant work down to 1930-1940 TL is showing the connection. All I need to do is verify the last one or two generations. Continuation coming today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do not have my whole tree linked since there are so many in-laws and distant cousins and their in-laws. I just linked my direct ancestors. Otherwise, I’d be overwhelmed!

        Off to read your update (we were on the road the last two days!).

        Liked by 1 person

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