ThruLines™ Introduced by Ancestry: TrueLines or TrueLies?

Last week was an exciting week for many genealogists who attended the RootsTech conference or, like me, who followed the live stream from home. My interest was focused on DNA related news. Ancestry added MyTreeTags™, New & Improved DNA Matches, and ThruLines™ to their site. The most talked about is ThruLines™ which is available to customers without an Ancestry subscription for a limited time.

I found a few things about ThruLines™ which were helpful but there was something which upset me so much that I stopped checking. I took a few days to calm down before I gave feedback to Ancestry on their new ThruLines™ tool. First the good and the bad, then my feedback.

TrueLines or TrueLies?

There are several reasons for my snarky title. I may know and you may know that ThruLines™ is not the same as true lines or true lies. But do all users, especially those who are very new to family history research, realize this new feature is like the Ancestry Hints and Shared Ancestors Hints? It isn’t a fast and easy fix. We still need to do research.

The Positive

ThruLines™ has helped me to find two cousins descended from my great-grandmother Laura Belle INGRAM’s half-sister Ocie Ola INGRAM. Ocie has been ignored by many in their trees. The marriage of her mother to my great-great-grandfather Irvin Lewis INGRAM took place in 1888 and no 1900 census listing has been found to show the family group. As far as we know, they had only this one daughter. The marriage ended in divorce in 1904. I have tried to follow Ocie’s children and grandchildren but I would probably not have found these DNA cousins without looking through thousands of matches. ThruLines™ pulled them right up and with the correct connection even though the matches did not have public trees back to the INGRAM common ancestor.

I’m now seeing 63 of my 64 maternal 5th great-grandparents in the ThruLines™. The missing ancestor, Gerard MALAMBRE, was found in other trees with a different surname spelling. It wasn’t a surprise to find all maternal ancestors except this one listed. Not many people who have worked on these lines have their trees on Ancestry. I have very few maternal matches, mostly 5c and 6C, from clusters of descendants of a few immigrant families in America.

The Negative

Ancestry’s New & Improved DNA Matches and ThruLines™ are ignoring my 2nd great-grandparents William A. W. DEMPSEY and Sarah Ann WOOD as the parents of my great-grandfather William Henderson DEMPSEY. In the case of this family line, ThruLines™ resembles quick & dirty tree work which shouldn’t be public or searchable unless it has been proven.

Don’t get me wrong. They haven’t changed my tree. People who are new to genealogy research and those who do not know how to use this tool will take this seriously. They will accept these errors without bothering to verify.

Screenshot of Common Ancestors of a match on AncestryDNA. According to Ancestry family trees, these are common ancestors.

The white boxes are actual entries in my tree while the dashed boxes are from information they have knitted in from other trees. The third cousin match has a private tree which likely includes William A. W. DEMPSEY as he is showing up on the match’s side. Why, if we both have this name in our trees, does the common ancestor show up as a Private person three generations further back? Why not William A. W. DEMPSEY?

ThruLines™ shows Emmanuel DEMPSEY of Logan County, West Virginia, as the father of my great-grandfather William Henderson DEMPSEY and this is reflected in the Common Ancestor match above.

I was hoping this new feature would help with my great-grandfather’s father William A. W. DEMPSEY’s brick wall. I was able to get the error above fixed. A person with a large tree likely accepted a Potential Father and Potential Mother and attached the wrong parents to my great-grandfather. The owner is not a direct descendant. The tree is so large I could not figure out how or if he is related.

I placed a comment on the tree with the wrong father for William Henderson DEMPSEY. The tree owner was quick to thank me for the help. He unlinked him and added the correct parents. There are still a few issues which I have further commented on. The owner appears to be willing to work on fixing his tree.

In ThruLines™ Emanuel DEMPSEY, his parents James DEMPSEY and Dorcas HAGER, his grandparents John DEMPSEY and Rachel SOLOMON, as well as the HAGER and VANNATER grandparents, have disappeared as potential ancestors. On a positive note, I was surprised to see this happen overnight.

I’m very disappointed I’m not seeing my 2nd great-grandparents William A. W. DEMPSEY and Sarah Ann WOOD as ancestors. There are hundreds of matches who descend from Sarah’s parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents (WOOD, McGRAW, HONAKER, HONEGGER, WISEMAN, and DAVIS) and they are not being found with the ThruLines™ tool. Matches I need to sift out of the rest to be able to find fourth cousins who descend from William’s unknown parents or more distant cousins who descend from his parents’ ancestors.

Screenshot of my public tree on Ancestry. These are ancestors who were in Circles.

This is not the only 2nd great-grandparent who is missing. My Gordon Washington ROOP was married twice and there are DNA matches coming from both wives. However, ThruLines™ is only recognizing his second wife, the step-mother of my great-grandfather Walter Farmer ROOP. This means I have the wrong potential 3rd, 4th, and 5th great-grandparents. Once again this is a branch of the family which has hundreds of matches, descendants of PETERS, LIVELY, CASH, PROFFITT, ROBERTSON, and COCKRAM. The branch and all other matches are missing. Yes, they are still there but difficult to ferret out.

Screenshot of my public tree on Ancestry. These are ancestors who were in Circles.

What I Am Doing to Make this a Good Experience

This could be a good feature when used correctly. When we find cousins who are DNA matches and fit into our tree we cannot accept the connection without following the records to prove the relationship. I’m worried about the people who accept shaky leaves, potential parents, and now a line back to a potential common ancestor using 2, 3, or 4 trees. I don’t want to throw away the good with the bad. I’ll take a close look at each ancestor and the matches they are supposedly coming from.

I’ve had a public tree with only ancestors linked to the DNA test I manage. I don’t have any other public tree on Ancestry. In the past days, I’ve added known and proven matches to fix some ancestors on the ThruLines.

It’s strange that the lines with the most descendants are not showing up correctly. I’m hoping this might turn out to be more positive – with people cleaning up their trees so that the correct connections get noticed.

My Feedback to Ancestry

  •  I’m finding ThruLines useful in that it pulls up distant matches which would not have been found due to the thousands of matches which are impossible to sift through.
  •  I would not say that it adds value to my Ancestry experience. It only reminds me of the many errors in trees. Mine is not perfect and the reason I  attached a public tree to DNA with only ancestors. In hopes this will help improve ThruLines, I have started to add the siblings of ancestors with DNA connections and the descendants who are DNA matches.
  • Since the public tree I’m using is based on well-researched work on my part, I hope it is being managed appropriately by Ancestry and not being used to suggest false potential ancestors as I am seeing up to 4 different trees are being used to show a line down from a potential to a match.
  • I DO NOT want a quick and easy way to add an ancestor or a match to my tree or anyone else’s tree. I believe people should take time to analyze and then add to the tree. Any trees with quick & dirty work should be made private and unsearchable.
  • I strongly disagree that having a common ancestor with a match is proof that the DNA is coming from this ancestor. The only way this can be proven is by using a chromosome browser for comparing with other matches with the common ancestor.
  • Although I am not overall happy with ThruLines at this early time, I strongly agree that we should check back often as more people take the test.

Final Thoughts

New & Improved DNA Matches gives us the ability to sort matches using colored groups. MyTreeTagsTM should help eliminate the need for strange ancestor names and keep our research and connections to new matches more organized. The lists of matches who descend from common ancestors seen in ThruLines™ will help both our research and proving of ancestors.

Will all the hoopla about these recent additions to the Ancestry experience distract us from the lack of a chromosome browser? Perhaps for a while but I’m still referring matches to my Dear Cousin post.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

#Genealogyselfie Day!

#GenealogySelfie Day is a day for social folks who love genealogy to snap a picture of themselves and share it on Facebook and/or Twitter with the hashtag #GenealogySelfie. 

Here I am, sitting in my office (living room couch) where I will be keeping track of the goings on at RootsTech this week.

genealogyselfieConferenceKeeper & Geneabloggers proclaim February 1 as #GenealogySelfie Dayread the press release here!

Opening Doors in Brick Walls is also now on Pinterest!

© 2016 Cathy Meder-Dempsey