Ancestry Displays City/State Where You Live on Map to Your DNA Matches

A new Ancestry feature, in beta mode, has been rolled out to many, if not most, users. Truthfully, I was quite surprised to discover that Ancestry is displaying the location where I currently live to my DNA matches through fourth cousins.

I never intentionally gave permission for this, meaning I never expected the location where I live to be utilized in this fashion. I’ve been an Ancestry subscriber for many years, and while I may have entered my location information originally, I certainly would never have done that today. We live in a different “privacy breach,” “identity theft” and otherwise unpleasant world than we did a few years ago.

The potential ramifications of this mapping tool are mind-boggling – both negative and positive, depending on your perspective.

For people searching for unknown parents or not terribly distant ancestors, the location information is awesome. Ancestry clearly knows this, which is why your matches to 4th cousins are shown. They are your genealogically most useful matches.

For those more concerned with privacy, this feature could open the door to a number of dangerous or at least unpleasant situations – from dangerously crazy people to family stalkers to unknown children/parent situations resulting in someone landing unexpectedly on your doorstep. I may not want to meet a previously unknown sibling, especially not at my house. And certainly not without some amount of preparation first – including a criminal background check. And yes, I’ve been there and done that, in case you were wondering.

Seeing where I live on a map, displayed to my genetic matches brought me face to face with the realization of how careful we need to be with what we choose, even inadvertently, to share. It’s also important to review your past selections to be sure they are still what you want.

So, here’s how to use the tool and how to change your location if you wish to do so.

Ancestry Matches Map

On your matches tab, beside the blue Search Matches button, click on Matches Map.

Next, you’ll see the map with what appears to only be your matches through 4th cousins, although I can’t verify that exactly. I know 4th cousin matches are included and I didn’t see any more distant.

You can see your own pin, in red.

You can click on any of these pins to view the city and state where that person lives based on the information they provided in their profile.

Here’s how to change your location.

Changing Your Location

To change the location, click on your pin on the map.

You’ll see this popup.

I tried to simply remove the information, but I was not allowed to save. A location is required in this tab, but if you go directly to your Profile, accessible from your user ID on your main page, you can remove the location entirely and save.

Before I discovered that selecting my profile directly allowed me to remove my location entirely, I entered the location where I’d love to live. I now live in Bergen, Norway:)

If you’re not comfortable with the city being displayed, but the state is fine, then you can make that modification as well. If you no longer live where you were born, your birth location might be more useful genealogically.

However, even though the new location is displayed to you on the map when you change to a new location, it is NOT CHANGED on the Ancestry map site at the same time. I signed out, signed in again, and the map pin is still displaying my previous location, even though my profile now reflects the new location. It took a few hours for the change to take effect.

Safety and Privacy Considerations

I would strongly prefer that Ancestry provide an opt-in option for people to have their location displayed to their matches, or for that matter, to anyone – especially since a location is required on the map tab when you attempt to make a change. This would avoid the surprise factor of seeing your location revealed on a map. I’m fine with ancestral locations, but not with where I currently live.

As a genealogist, I can certainly see how this feature would be useful. If you’re fine with having the city/state where you live revealed to your matches and other Ancestry users who view your profile, then this is a great tool and you don’t need to change anything.

Do be aware that your location information combined with your name and a search tool like Intellus or BeenVerified can/will reveal your address, phone, e-mail, family members names and more.

Now is a good time to review your profile. Consider what you are willing to reveal and make any changes accordingly.

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92 thoughts on “Ancestry Displays City/State Where You Live on Map to Your DNA Matches

  1. Excellent point. I was contacted recently by a new DNA match requesting to connect. In vetting him I learned he had legal documents before the Florida grand jury and was convicted of bank fraud. In this age of online security efforts, Ancestry and other sites really need a “block” feature. And now he has my hometown?!

  2. The “new” Ancestry tools don’t seem useful. The “Compare” tab doesn’t seem to add anything new. Too bad they didn’t put their resources into the one tool that would open up the floodgates as far as solving family tree mysteries go, a chromosome browser!

  3. Thank you for the very timely information. It’s all fun and games…until someone gets hurt. Ancestry should be obligated to provide this opt out but, in the mean time, I followed your sage advice !!

  4. Thank you SO MUCH for this information! Hadn’t been in the DNA part of Ancestry for quite a while. ASTONISHING! And you are so right – the ramifications are both very positive or could be very negative. I’ll have to think about whether or not I want to change anything.   Thank again!!          Bitsy Taggart Fitzsimmons  

  5. Great article. I have now looked at “my” map, and my initial reaction was “Fascinating – I can see where all my hitherto unknown cousins are”. But on clicking all the icons (not that many) all are stated as 4th cousins. Does this mean that Ancestry have used only 4th cousins in the plotting, or does the map think I don’t any closer matches? But in the list of matches, there are certainly some closer matches, some of which I have verified, and they are not on the map.

    But on the privacy front, I am surprised and still a bit ambivalent. My pin, when the map is fully zoomed in, lies suspiciously close not just to my town (which I have listed in my profile, admittedly) but also my street!! Where did that come from? Perhaps I’m being a bit paranoid here, and it just so happens that the pin lands on the centre of the town, and I’m actually near the centre!

  6. OMG thank you Roberta! I am SO not OK with that. WOW.
    Ancestry has a Facebook page and a customer service line/email so let’s let them know how we feel.
    And I also noticed they now have intrusive “upgrade your membership ads” randomly when you’re clicking on trees WITHIN the US…they are trying to trick you that to see that person you need to upgrade, but if you click off the add and try again you get the page.
    They are going to lose a lot of customers with this shenanigans. There are other fish in the pool these days.

  7. Thanks for this, Roberta – I’ve updated my profile in the light of your post. I live in the UK, in the county of Kent to be more specific – the bottom right-hand corner closest to France.

    However, this is no use to any family historians as I have no roots here (it’s a lovely place, though!) All my ancestors come from other parts of the country. I’ve therefore amended my profile to say simply “England” (which should be useful to people from other countries) and have expanded my “research interests” list to give more details for where my ancestors actually came from.

    Hopefully this is a good middle way between protecting my privacy and encouraging anyone who might have shared ancestry.

  8. Roberta,
    Unfortunately, Ancestry had already made it easy to find us through their search engine. I was searching our family name last month, and was stunned when results included records for myself and my husband, who is also living! I viewed records with addresses through 2002 along with MY TRUE BIRTHDATE and my middle name and maiden name (marriage cert).
    One did not even have to click on the records to view my birthdate. Ancestry conveniently provided it with the list of search results. It’s clear to guess what city I’m presently in from the list of past addresses they provide for me.

    I did the same search for friends and relatives, with similar results. With one’s maiden name, it’s a breeze to connect the dots and view a “mother’s maiden name,” the answer to a common security question. (We should provide a fake name for that question.)

    Their excuse is that this was harvested from public sources. I realize that one can pay for a good search and find someone’s birthdate, former names, and former addresses. I find it troubling that Ancestry makes it so easy.

    DB

    • FamilySearch.org has long had this kind of record search available. The records can include not only past residence locations but also alternative residences – e.g., if you are on any mortgage anywhere. I even found myself listed for my childrens’ school locations because I was on their loan applications. I’ve found unlisted phone numbers there. A wonderful resource for the user and a terrible one for the targeted individual.

  9. Roberta, thank you for this privacy awareness. Wholeheartedly agree! I have actually seen 3 people with their addressed posted on their profile.

  10. Many of us manage kits for others who live elsewhere. In these cases, the location given would be very incorrect. Also, it appears that the very limited number of matches shown on the map are more distant and do not reveal outright immediate previously unknown family members or close cousins. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to determine where your matches live and other details about their lives without Ancestry’s tool. I do agree it should be an opt-in though. Provide helpful feedback to Ancestry. This is still in BETA testing.

  11. I can’t imagine what use our address would be. People move constantly. I see no need to have it posted at ancestry. The person I might need could be somewhere else by now. Contact information is all I ask. And since ancestry is afraid we might have a conversation that doesn’t include ancestry, everything has to go through the web site until you make contact and share private email addresses. Ancestry is afraid to share email address but not afraid to share my living address. Something’s wrong with that idea.

  12. I like the new map feature. Distant cousins I would never have noticed before get a closer look because of where they live. I didn’t know I have 4th cousins in Scotland and Australia. Sure I could have clicked through to see their location info on their profile, but I normally don’t have time to sort through every distant DNA match. The map feature adds another way to quickly find interesting matches.

    • I like it too. I feel like people are freaking out a little too much. I thought a lot of people as myself, tested with the site to find and get to finally meet our family? There are already several search tools one can use to find someone and their address along with family members.

    • I found that on Gedmatch based on their email address. My sister has a 4th cousin match with an Australian email address & I have a 4th cousing with a UK email address.

  13. I never put in anything for my location on my profile and guess that’s why I don’t show up on the map. It asks ‘Add Your Location?’ and be assured I will not do that at all. I have been working with matches at Ancestry but I am so disgusted by the information seen in trees (or lack of confirmed data) that I end up completely researching a match from scratch to find the common connection. This junk of adding the shared DNA and the compare clip is a joke. I get much more from matches in common but without the chromosome browser none of it means a tinker’s ….. Spend most of my time working with the matches at FTDNA or GEDMatch.

  14. Thank you! This is disturbing. With all of the concerns about Identity Theft and the actual cases of problems that have come about as the result of personal information being accessible on the internet, I find it hard to understand why Ancestry would possibly contribute to Identity Theft but displaying locations. OTOH, searches can be made on names and receive this information. I checked that Beta and was glad to see that my name and location do not seem to be on that map – yet. I and many others though can, no doubt, be located without too much trouble if we have public trees at Ancestry or at any other location genealogical or otherwise.

    • Even without Ancestry’s blabbing, there are still more than enough risks for identity theft, such as the Equifax breach, and the occasional hacking of websites that have the money to spend on competent IT departments. The only real protection is a credit freeze, which is what I did after Equifax. It is inconvenient if you’re constantly applying for new credit cards to get a bonus of points/miles for doing so, but my days of that are done. And, I’m going to keep my car until the wheels fall off, now that I’m retired, my wheels might fall off first!

  15. Roberta,
    Thanks for writing this article very insightful and I will definitely do this and change my location.

  16. Thanks Roberts. Fortunately, Ancestry doesn’t know where I live and I plan to keep it that way. I am retired living in Mexico which has nothing to do with genealogy and would only serve to confuse.

    There is a little ‘provide feedback’ button in the lower right hand corner so I will let them know my concerns.

    And PLEASE a chromosome browser.

  17. Thank you so much for pointing this out! I am originally from Canada so I changed my location to there. That might help some people a little bit more than if I removed my location altogether.

  18. I am so thankful that my pin was plopped down in the middle of the U.S. because that’s apparently what I entered when I joined Ancestry. Your article scared the bejeebers out of me (in a productive way) until I found my pin was located nowhere close to where I really live. Phew!!

  19. This arrived today. I don’t think about the risk of my location being known but Roberta has a habit of scaring me. I just went straight to my profile and changed my location to just WA.

    ________________________________

  20. Thank you. I agree.  I don’t feel that should be a part of Ancestry.  To put the location of deceased ancestors is one thing and helpful, but not a current location of living people.  Just because they are a DNA match doesn’t make it okay.

  21. In all respect, this information as always been visible on the profile page of any user that has added location information to their profile. Now that it is place graphically it is a problem? Hilarious!!!

    • That information may have been there long before DNA testing. Long before identity theft. Long before people were discovering previously unknown close relatives. You may think it’s hilarious, but if it’s your child that opens the door you might not think it’s so hilarious then.

      • Very good point about the privacy, Roberta. I definitely think Ancestry should make this an opt-in feature. But as I read all the comments on this post, I’m also thinking about how, on certain FB genetic genealogy/DNA groups, and even different genealogy classes offline, we are given hints about how to suss out relatives, particularly those who have minimal trees or who don’t respond to messages: google that Ancestry profile name, check on Facebook, beenverified, intelius, etc. for these cousins. Surely those DNA cousins would be creeped out, too, if they knew some of the searches that are suggested?

  22. this is what i have on my profile: Please upload your DNA file to GedMatch, My Heritage, or FTDNA(Family Finder) to get more matches from the other sites.
    GedMatch: https://www.gedmatch.com/select.php My Heritage: https://www.myheritage.com/login?destination_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.myheritage.com%2Findex.php%3Fnext%3D
    FTDNA: https://www.familytreedna.com/
    Video Tutorial on how to download your raw data file: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zAKxZ8L8NE
    Video Tutorials on how to upload to GedMatch, FTDNA, and My Heritage:
    GedMatch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4vHF_DMtB8
    FTDNA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqV1R4gIUl8
    My Heritage: https://faq.myheritage.com/DNA/Upload-DNA-data/951693061/How-can-I-upload-a-DNA-file-to-MyHeritage.htm
    Video Tutorials on how to use GedMatch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXf_nyw1fOM (there is also a Q&A at the bottom of the video that has extra information) Hope to see you on those sites! (I prefer to try to encourage matches to upload to the other sites so i can see actual chromosome information 🙂 )

      • I remember seeing a blog about putting the message in the location area, but i went and added a few more things lol. the links should help matches understand the steps if they decide to download/upload their data. It makes it easier on me too, since i won’t have to explain how to do it every time i message someone to ask if they will upload. all i’ll have to do is direct them to my profile page.

    • Yes, it is Roberta ….thanks for the URLs, Utubes Amanda. I see some good stuff there too; Marilyn for you and anyone on Ancestry …that I do not belong to … here is my GEDMatch (2) T141317 & Z486216. Ended up with two from thinking there might be differences after doing another Test at FTDNA. My Y-DNA is I1a3a1* haplogroup with a terminal SNP of BY34489, whilst my MtDNA is U5b2b2*. 🙂

      • you’re welcome. it makes it easier on me so i don’t have to explain how to do everything with every message i send to matches. everything is all there for them. plus, i can just direct them to my profile page too.

  23. This change is providing a heads up for something that was already happening. The map with a location only shows to some of your matches. But EVERYONE on Ancestry, even if they only do the trial membership or use Ancestry at their library, can see the.location you have on your public profile. This has always been the case. The privacy issue is the information you choose to provide on your favorite profile.

    The matches map has no practical value for me. Maybe it is a fun way to find a match from near your own location, a match from a state where ancestors lived, or a match from another country, but it is a great time waster. Use the link to the survey on the matches map page and at the end you can comment that we want a chromosome browser not useless toys!

    I think.they came up with the matches map to try to compete with MyHeritageDNA but they already lost that competition! At MH you can do a list of countries showing the number of matches for that country and then get a list of matches for individual countries. Just a couple of clicks and you see them all. Also you can search matches by country.

    MyHeritageDNA is new but started out ahead of AncestryDNA from DAY ONE.

    Ancestry, we want a Chromosome Browser. There is no such thing as genetic genealogy without a chromosome browser. Ancestry needs to get in the game. This is about DNA matches on specific chromosomes and segments not about where matches live.

      • I found out recently that real estate websites are violating our privacy, and posting owners and past owners and names o f family members who have resided there or currently reside there even though the property has not been put up for sale in over a decade or more. Google your address! You will also see all the neighbors information. Another reason not to have your city or state on your Ancestry profile.

  24. Wow, thanks for the heads up on this. I’m a domestic violence survivor and I don’t want my ex and his family to find out where we live! Jeez!

  25. Apparently only I am on the map. The person whose DNA results I manage did not seem to be on the map connected to his tree. Is that correct? Only the primary person is on the map and others that are managed are not?

  26. Thank you, Roberta- your blog always provides great info!

    Hope everyone will leave feedback. One of the questions is “Viewing my own location on a map makes me feel my information is being managed appropriately.” “Strongly disagree” is not a strong enough answer IMHO.

  27. I realize that the big data companies think they can splash our information all over the place for their own gain – without our permission, that does not mean it is right or legal. I believe this is not a necessary or safe move on Ancestry’s part. I had long ago decided if I ever was going to DNA test it would not be with Ancestry. I certainly would not allow this kind of thing and have sent Ancestry a message about it. The only people who will watch out for our information is ourselves. There is too much potential for abuse of privacy with the information companies collect then don’t protect. Shame on them.

  28. I manage my daughter in laws account. There is a map of other cousins and its blank. Also the compare DNA that shows photo’s its also blank even thought her photo is on the account. Then there are no instructions on how to set this up. AARRGG!

  29. That’s OK Roberta; put the kettle on and set my coffee up …. half teaspoon of raw sugar, and a heaped teaspoon of coffee, with the milk third of the way up the teaspoon.

    Now you can see why I do not belong to Ancestry.com ….although there is a suggestion they have some good things crop up recently. I had an Australian cousin and my number one son do their Y-DNA test through http://www.smgf.org back in 2005 and then after that Mr Sorensen died and Ancestry bought it out. Not long after that they told everyone to move their results over to Ancestry and they would look after it. Not much longer after that they told everyone to come and get their results as they were closing it down, which they did. I still have my son’s … same as mine. But no idea whether George took his. I did have it on my old computer but the local Computer Shop fried that when he was supposed to be putting me on the internet using a dongle and sim card. Lost everything that time. Including many many pictures and Family Tree sagas. Hope my old brain is up to remembering it all eh. Of course if I was an American instead of a Kiwi I would be joined up there right along side at Ancestry because everything is there .. Censuses etc. Even so I know an American lady who has been hunting her Polly POWERS ever since we opened shop on the POWER et al Y-DNA Project. Born in about 1802-05 ….she did tell me some years ago, and most probably is in one of the letters she sent me too, and Polly went off and married a McGEE …yes she did give me his name too in Loosa…… what ever! The problem she found in hunting Polly (Molly?) was that she was born in Tennessee and that Tennessee was always changing it’s boundaries. Still ….. I am sure that she has found many other things from Ancestry, albeit the fact is she lives there in America. I have got a lot of information from Rootsweb (yes, I know that is Ancestry) mainly because the Mailing Lists have people from all over the World and usually on the steps of the country you are looking for your ancestor. I even have photos of Plot 911 and Plot 51 in Toxteth Park … in Liverpool England area. The 911 makes sense I guess as our ancestor was a Viking who became a Norman in 911AD. 🙂

  30. Thanks for this information, Roberta. I’m usually not overly concerned about privacy. I work in library and know that none of us have any real privacy. Just to be safe, though, I changed location to only show the state. I also only display my username and not my real name until a “cousin” contacts me.

  31. Thank you Roberta for this very important information. I changed my location to the state in which I was born and the map changed instantly. I am surprised that Ancestry would reveal this information and suspect that this matches map will disappear in the future when Ancestry realizes folks are not happy with it.

    Oddly, though I see lots of 4th cousins, my nephew and 2nd cousins do not appear on the map at all. Strange.

  32. For what I can see, it is only people who have provided their location in their Ancestry profile. So I have a lot of matches that don’t show up on my map.

  33. Thank you for the heads up Roberta. The internet has become a new location for criminals to ply their trade and most of them have absolutely no morals. They are out to steal as much as they can without getting caught. It is certainly a shame that something that was created to help people share information has turned into a stalking ground for all sorts of criminals but we should all face the reality of it. I have had small amounts of money stolen from me in the past, but when there is a possibility of having a grandchild kidnapped because of your information leading the criminals to their prey would be something that would cause pain so immense their would be no recovering from it. Caution is a much easier situation to live with.

  34. As you and others have pointed out, a few of Ancestry’s databases are even more problematic in regards to location information. Their U.S. Phone and Address Directories go through 2002, and provide exact addresses. Many people have not moved residence since then. I have used this database extensively in my search for cousins, but I have no untoward intent in my search. Of course, for those that do, there are many sources, as you also point out, that are available to the public to find where people live currently and their contact information. That personal privacy continues to be under attack from many directions is extremely worrisome. We may need to consider some of the efforts countries in Europe have taken to counter this trend.

  35. It all has to do with the almighty dollar…

    Which, unfortunately, Ancestry.com chases…

    And values MUCH more than any benefit…

    It’s users might happen to gain genealogically…

    From their website.

    When it comes to you vs their profits…

    They say, “Hit the road, Jack!”

    “No chromosome browser for you!”

    “But we will use you info to OUR advantage!”

  36. I think Ancestry’s new feature is of minimal usefulness, but a cute marketing tool. Mine are all evenly distributed around the USA, with one outside the US, probably because he works there (not because his family was from there). I only have about 40, which to me says we are all concerned about privacy. Thanks for this article!

    • Your DNA isn’t shown. Your location is shown to a close relative, 4C or closer if your location is listed in your profile. The instructions for doing that are in the article. You can also contact the match who is showing on your map.

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