Ancestry to Remove DNA Matches Soon – Preservation Strategies with Detailed Instructions

Yesterday, Ancestry announced that they are going to remove smaller matches from their customer’s DNA match list around the first of August. I was not on this conference call myself. However, it’s a small community and others have reported consistent information.

I’m going to report what was said, then lay out a strategy for you to preserve your most useful smaller matches.

Update 7-18-2020: I have received clarification on several questions. I’m putting the updated information here:

Only segments below 8 will be deleted. However, Ancestry “rounds up,” so a segment between 7.5 and 7.99999(repeating) will be rounded up to 8. The only way to assure that you save all of the segments between 7.5 and 8 that you wish to preserve is to add all 8cM segments to groups or make notes, as described in the instructions. I’m referring to these segments as 6-8 cM segments.

ONLY segments to be salvaged will be ones in groups, with notes or matches whom you have messaged. Ancestry has confirmed that matches without these things, meaning matches in ThruLines or that you have placed in your tree will NOT BE PRESERVED unless they are grouped, have notes or you’ve messaged. 

The determining factor is total cM, not smallest cM. So total cM between 6 and 7.9999, which rounds up to 8 will be removed. Multiple 6 cM segments where the total is 12 will be fine, for example. Again, it’s the total cMs, so no math needed.

Also, in August, Ancestry is adding decimal points to the amount of cMs. After that occurs, you won’t need to save 8 cM matches to salvage 7 cM matches that have been rounded up. Focus on 6 and 7 cM first.  

7-26-2020 Update – Ancestry has posted that they have delayed the purge until the beginning of September, allowing another month to save 6-8 cM matches. They also confirmed that starred matches (in the groups) will also be saved. 

A Little Background

For a bit of history, this isn’t the first time that Ancestry has removed a large number of matches. In fact, they’ve done it twice previously, first with the introduction of their Timber algorithm resulting in a loss of over 50% of matches, an event nicknamed “Autosomalgeddon.” The screaming could be heard round the world.

In May of 2016, Ancestry revised their algorithm again which resulted in losses.

Then, as now, Ancestry told customers the matches that they lost would be mostly “false matches,” but in many cases, these matches proved to be accurate but from endogamous populations. For example, I lost most of my Acadian matches because Ancestry determined that they were simply a “pile-up region.” Those matches have proven to be valid and triangulate elsewhere.

In any case, there’s no point in crying over spilled milk.

However, the glass is about to be tipped over again so let’s figure out how to make the best of this situation and preserve as much as we can.

Why Now?

Recently, Ancestry announced that they have sold a total of 18 million DNA tests. That’s good news for testers, at least on the surface.

Ancestry overtaxed.png

If you’re a regular Ancestry user, you might have noticed that their response recently has been slow and buggy with regular timeouts. I see this notice regularly.

Last month, Ancestry’s lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to every third party tool (that I know of) that their DNA customers can utilize in order to perform activities such as clusters, downloading a match list and downloading a list of direct line ancestors for your matches into a spreadsheet so that you can search for common surnames that might NOT already be in your tree. That, by the way, combined with triangulation, is the key to breaking down brick walls and pointing the way to previously unidentified ancestors – but I digress.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of both Genetic Affairs and DNAgedcom, both of whom provided tools to enhance and manage the huge list of matches at Ancestry – turning those individual matches into something infinitely more useful.

Ancestry 92K

No one can reasonably evaluate 92,000 matches or make use of most of them.

Ancestry match categories.png

You can see how many matches fall into each group. Unfortunately, by selecting the custom range, the list of matches is displayed, but the number of matches in that range is not displayed.

The answer is NOT to remove those smaller matches unilaterally, which is the approach that Ancestry is taking, but to utilize better tools to identify valid matches.

These third-party tools signed on to our account, with our permission, on our behalf, and utilized the power of computers to process data that would take us days, if it was possible at all with the huge number of matches that each person has now. This is, after all, the purpose of computers – right?!?

While I was certainly unhappy with the letters threatening the people who provide us with tools to utilize our own results – I was hopeful that it meant that Ancestry was going to provide something similar internally.

Now, retrospectively, I think that Ancestry is trying to find a way to manage their 18 million testers and their matches without adding infrastructure resources. They want to reduce the processing load and when the cease-and-desist letters didn’t have the desired effect on their servers, they looked for other methodologies.

Clearly, providing users with fewer matches means less to manage in a database which equates to freeing up resources.

Ancestry’s commentary is reportedly that this purge will remove “most false matches.” Of course, it will also remove all accurate matches at that level too – and yes, you can in many cases tell the difference.

False Matches

According to LostCousins and others who were on the call, Ancestry indicates that they will remove most if not all matches less than 8 cM. Today, the matching threshold after Timber and Ancestry’s academic (not parental or family) phasing algorithm is 6 cM. Their current algorithms are intended to remove most false matches.

An 8 cM match can be any of the following relationships, according to Ancestry:

Ancestry 8 cm percent

However, as genetic genealogists, we know that with unphased data, 7cM matches are equally as likely to be false matches, identical by chance, as they are to be genuine matches.

There are certainly better ways to assure valid matching other than a mass deletion, such as:

  • Clusters (like Genetic Affairs, DNAgedcom and others,) genetic networks that indicate that people in clusters are related to each other. These are like shared ancestors on steroids.
  • Phased Data (like FamilyTreeDNA’s Phased Family Matching) that phases your matches with known family members, assigning the match either maternally or paternally.
  • Triangulation (like at MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and via third-party tools that received the cease-and-desist letters.)

As Ancestry did in 2016, they apparently will NOT delete matches that you’ve been using, as defined by when:

  • You’ve added a match to a colored dot or star match group.
  • You’ve entered a note for the match which of course indicates that you’re working with them.
  • You’ve sent a message to the match.

I would hope that any matches you’ve placed in your tree would be spared as well, but that criteria is not mentioned on any list I’ve seen. (Update – they are NOT spared and will be deleted.)

I’ve also seen nothing indicating that if you share a match with your parent, which is the definition of parental phasing, that those small matches will be spared either. However, “Shared Matches with Mother” or father is in the group list, so maybe. You could easily add a group for that to be sure everyone is in a group that might be at risk. (Update – shared matches with parents will be deleted.)

It was reported that Ancestry specifically stated that a match showing up in your ThruLines does NOT preserve them in your match list. (Have received confirmation that this is accurate.)

Why Preserve Matches?

You must surely be asking yourself why you need to go to the trouble to preserve these matches – especially if Ancestry seems to think otherwise. Keep in mind that once they are gone, you have no option to work with them, ever.

There are five primary reasons for preserving at least your best matches that are in jeopardy.

  1. Confirming Ancestors – You can confirm your descent from an ancestor you believe to be yours. Without triangulated segment information, which is not available at Ancestry, the best way to do this is by looking at whether you match the DNA of people who descend from multiple children from that same ancestor. If you only match people descended from one child, the same child as you, it’s certainly possible that you have all mis-identified the same person erroneously in your tree.
  2. Sharing Information – photos, etc. You never know who is going to have what gem of information. In the past two weeks, I’ve been blessed by a photo of a third-great-grandfather and a letter from his wife to her daughter. On another line, a photo of a watch case and on a Dutch line, a box with a photo of my ancestor’s sibling surfaced. Reach out to see what kind of information your matches might have. Yes, you may have to wade thought a lot of duds, but you just never know where that nugget will be found. They are out there.
  3. Potential Ancestor Suggestions – Seasoned genealogists may not need potential ancestor suggestions provided by Ancestry, but new researchers certainly do. Old-timers have already done a lot of the digging – but you never know when something useful will turn up. For every brick wall that falls, there are two new opportunities.
  4. Y and Mitochondrial DNA Candidates – Y and mitochondrial DNA holds information not otherwise available. I wrote a short description of the different kinds of DNA, here. I utilize ThruLines and searches to locate candidates for Y and mtDNA testing for all of my genealogy lines, asking if the person would consider those tests at FamilyTreeDNA. Ancestry doesn’t offer that type of testing. Generally, I offer a DNA testing scholarship. I figure a Y or mitochondrial DNA test is the same price as a reference book (or two) and the resulting information can only be obtained from people descended from those ancestors on a specific path. In other words, that type of DNA is much, MUCH rarer than reference books. As a quick review, Y DNA follows the direct paternal (surname) line in males only, and mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both sexes of children from their mother, but only females pass it on. You inherited your mtDNA directly from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother on up the direct matrilineal line.
  5. DNA Transfers – Other vendors, meaning both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage offer unique and much more robust tools that utilize DNA segment information. You can transfer to either company and receive matching for free, paying only to unlock advanced features. GEDmatch, a third party tool doesn’t provide testing, but does provide additional analysis tools as well. Depending on where the majority of your family has tested or “gathered,” you can ask or encourage your Ancestry matches to transfer so that you can confirm that you share triangulated segments. You may be able to provide them with information about their genealogy that they don’t otherwise have access to at Ancestry. I wrote step-by-step transfer instructions, here, for each vendor.

Of course, if you no longer have the matches to work with – these benefits won’t be available to you. This is exactly why it’s critical to identify the most crucial smaller matches and preserve them now. Once Ancestry has removed them, they are gone forever unless they transfer to one of the other vendors.

Ok, so how can we identify and preserve the most important of these matches?

Preservation Strategies

This mass extinction event is supposed to occur about the first of August. When this happened in 2016, we were never given a date and time – just a general date range and one day it just happened.

Here are my recommendations for how to preserve matches that stand the best chance of being relevant, even if they are between 6 and 8 cM.

Please note that I recommend all of these approaches, not just one. Each one will catch people that the others don’t – which will preserve the most likely matches to be useful for you.

First, under DNA Matches, create a “holding group” so you can use that group to preserve matches.

Ancestry groups.png

You’ll use a group as a way to prevent the deletion of the match.

Ok, let’s get started.

Auto-Clusters and Third-Party Results

If you ever ran third party cluster tools on your Ancestry data (before the cease-and-desist orders), refer to those clusters now, looking for the size of the matches, focusing on any 8 cM or lower for the longest segment. It’s probably not happenstance that you match all those people and they also match each other.

I believe DNAgedcom is still functioning, so you may be able to obtain cluster information there. If you need assistance, check in with the DNAGedcom User Group on Facebook, here.

If you don’t have time to analyze each match now to determine which actual group the match belongs in, create one group at Ancestry that is simply a “Preservation Group” so that you can assign the person to the group in order that they won’t be deleted. Remember, the only matches in jeopardy are the ones from 6 to 8 cM inclusive.

ThruLines

Ancestry thrulines

ThruLines is the best tool that Ancestry provides in terms of doing the DNA-plus-tree-matching work for you. ThruLines searches for people whose DNA you match and who also have a common ancestor in your tree. Or at least someone who Ancestry thinks may be a common ancestor. It’s up to you to verify.

On your ThruLines page, click on any Ancestor appearing on that page. The fact that an ancestor appears on ThruLines means that there is at least you and one other person whose DNA matches and you share that common ancestor.

I’m going to click on Lazarus Estes, my great-grandfather, because I have several matches through him.

Ancestry list

By clicking on the List option, at the red arrow above, you will see the various matches by their line – meaning which child of Lazarus Estes.

Ancestry 9 cm

Unfortunately, Ancestry does NOT tell us the individual segment sizes. They tell us the total segment match (after removing anything they think is too matchy) and the total number of segments. You only need to be concerned about segments between 6 and 7.99 cM in size, but currently Ancestry rounds up so segments above 7.5 will show as 8 on your list. You will need to save those as well, or you will lose at least half of your 8 cM matches.

Moving down to the match in the red box, that person matches on 9 cM, so while they are not officially in jeopardy, I’m taking this opportunity to make sure they are assigned to the Lazarus Estes group. Ancestry didn’t say that they won’t delete any matches over 8 cM, so I’m being careful.

Ancestry profile

To access the area where you can add this person to a group and make a note, click on their profile picture.

Ancestry note

You’ll see your photo, plus theirs and the links to add this match to a group, or to add a note.

Ancestry predicted this match to be 5th-8th cousins, but they are my second cousin twice removed.

Ancestry group assign

Shared Matches

Shared Matches is not a preservation method, because Ancestry does NOT show any shared matches below 20 cM, unfortunately.

Ancestry shared match list

Common Ancestors

Ancestry common ancestors

Common Ancestors equates to ThruLines. Click on the Common Ancestors link to view all of your matches with whom a common ancestor can be identified in one list.

Ancestry common ancestors list

These matches will be presented in the largest to smallest match order, not by ancestor like ThruLines. This makes it easier to just keep scrolling and scrolling to the bottom of the match list where your most distant match that can be identified with a confirmed or potential common ancestor is listed.

If you managed to assign all of the matches to groups from your Thrulines, your smallest “common ancestor” matches should all be assigned to groups. Larger matches aren’t in jeopardy.

I have several pages of people who are in jeopardy. Am I ever glad that I checked.

Ancestry 6 cm

Use the Shared DNA filter as well to select only shared DNA matches of 6-8 cM in order to save these more rapidly.

It’s hard to believe that Ancestry is actually going to take these matches away from me, even though we share DNA, other matches and common ancestors.

Searching

Ancestry search

Searching for surnames or unique locations among your matches will provide you with additional hints as to possible relationships. Your connection may be to someone who doesn’t connect via a common ancestor, or the spelling might be slightly different. Matching a surname does not mean that’s how your DNA matches, but it’s a hint and can be especially powerful when combined with locations.

Ancestry multiple

You can combine search terms too. In this case, I combined my unusual Dutch surname of Ferwerda and the location of Leeuwarden and found two people. I confirmed one right away shares my line. I’m working on the second.

Ancestry search results

Both of these matches would have been lost, yet I share both DNA, confirmed ancestors and shared matches with at least one of these people.

Summary

It’s time to get busy. You probably have more matches than you think and you don’t have a lot of time between now and the end of July.

_______________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

204 thoughts on “Ancestry to Remove DNA Matches Soon – Preservation Strategies with Detailed Instructions

  1. I’m brand new to searching. Mine is cracking the walls of birth unknown parents. I haven’t had time to go thru all my matches. What can I do as a beginner to preserve the matches that may disappear?
    I have connected with 2, second to third cousins, and haven’t had time to go into details with either yet.
    Appreciate it!

    • If you are looking for birth parents, smell matches won’t help. You will need to work with your largest matches. Have you contacted DNAadoption? They will help you.

    • I did this for myself and for my brother. Mine started entirely from two 2nd cousins on one side and the rest 3rd cousins. His was a bit easier with several first cousins. Here is the very short version of how to start:
      0. You do need the subscription to be able to see family trees and census records. It is essential.
      1. Take the very closest match you have. Then click on the Shared Matches for that person. It shows you all the matches that you are BOTH related to. So that should be all from one parents side.
      2. Mark all those shared matches with a group color, red or something.
      3. Look at the family trees in that first group of matches that seem to have a bunch of people – usually at least a couple hundred people is needed to start with, so just ignore small family trees for now. Also ignore HUGE family trees with more than say one or two thousand names, they will be too big to be helpful by looking.
      4. Start paying attention to names, when you see a name a bunch of times in a bunch of trees, start thinking that it is likely to be one of the four names of your grandparents. Keep in mind that women sometimes disappear because of married names. Use maiden names when you kow them.
      5. Pick a shared match (the closer the better) that seems to have a really well defined family and start making your own copy of their family tree. Add in their other shared matches with you.
      6. Look for obituaries for some of the people in the family names that you see a lot. Those can be really useful for records after 1940 when you cant see the census. Obituaries often list all the children, living and dead, and where they live (its scary). Also make good use of FindAGrave for the people in your tree.
      7. Once you get burned out on this group, see if you can figure out another group of close shared matches who don’t seem to be related to the first group. It is likely they may be from the other parent. Start working on them.
      9. Use tools outside ancestry. Get DNA done at multiple vendors, you will get different matches and sometimes same matches with new info.
      Use GEDMatch, WikiTree, and FamilySearch.org to comlement your search.

      The first bit is the hardest. but the longer you spend looking at your matches you will start to see these names and be certain they are yours, I promise. Mine was “Mahaffey” I kept seeing it over and over again, It drove me nuts. And finally FINALLY i found the link, my fathers mother was the last key and everything fell into place.

  2. Ok, here is the stupid question of the day. I am not that familiar with any of the DNA. I did my father’s Ydna test with an obsolete company (Relative Genetics) I think in 2004. When I joined a surname DNA project I was told it might be a good idea to submit his results to this Piqua Shawnee Project, because her brother matched with my father and she had joined it. This group connects to Piqua Shawnee Chief Bluejacket, though I had no idea that would come up. Long story shorter, that company submitted my results to World Families who in turn submitted to FTdna. I then uploaded my results to Ancestry. So, that being said, I then did the Autosomal also through Ftdna, on my own dna. Since I submitted mine in 2017 I have not really had much time to understand much of or use it much. I am now retired and have time, and with this information you are saying is there a way for me to save all of my results and work from that? I first downloaded my results to Excel spreadsheet for lack of understanding the best way to learn all of this. My question I suppose is, Stupid, can I save my results the same way/and does any of the issue with Ancestry have affect on FTdna?

    Thanks for help there.
    Linda

  3. Thanks for the heads-up! I just finished reviewing matches for my father-in-law and myself. My father-in-law died last year. Need to get husband’s DNA & submit to 2 places. Fortunately, my mother-in-law and I sent DNA to both Ancestry and 23 & Me.

  4. Thanks for putting together detailed strategies so quickly. I thought you’d be interested in some actual numbers as to the impact of this change – an average of 56% loss of total matches, based on 24 kits that I’ve assisted this year.
    I’ve put a detailed breakdown in my article, which also discusses using your strategies and which ones suit me best.
    https://www.dataminingdna.com/impact-of-ancestry-removing-your-dna-matches-in-2020/

  5. Thanks for this. The removal of 6cm-8cm matches makes me incredibly angry. I *PAID* for this information. I continue to pay for this information. Sure many of them are false. many of them have zero family tree info, so there is no chance I’m clicking on them to try to solve it on my own. But the ones that have enough tree info to get suggested common ancestors and show up in thru lines, have not ever seemed to be false matches to me so far (even when they had some bad info in their trees), and most of those have given me new information. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said this is about numbers of customers and not about “false results” at all. I read their White paper where they try to bludgeon us with math and algorithms and reasons. Fortunately I studied math and algorithms and genetics. In Graduate school. And what I saw in the white paper was a bunch of “here’s how genetics works” basics interspersed with the REAL reason – they don’t want to pay for the computing power and the data storage. They are the victims of their own success and now they don’t want to provide the service even though we all paid for it. Here is the evidence in the White Paper:

    (subtitle) “…matches across a massive, expanding
    genetic database…”
    (Keep in mind that more data available should make matching *better*, not worse! What they are really saying is that more data means more storage and processing power they don’t want to pay for)

    “The cutoff of 8 cM was chosen after considering several factors. The first factor is data storage.”
    (This sums it up, really, right here. The false matches were a red herring from the beginning.)

    “… identify identical DNA sequences between all pairs of individuals in the customer database. This is challenging because it involves comparing a very large number of sequences …..representing hundreds of trillions of pairs of individuals to check for matching segments. An additional complication is that the database is not static—it is continuously growing …”

    “…technical advances …have been achieved by developing algorithms that can scale to the massive amount of genetic data from our AncestryDNA customers.”
    (Only if by “technical advances” you mean eliminating 2-3 entire generations of data we provide to customers)

    So in summary, I think it is completely apparent that the real and only reason is the size of their database and the cost of all these computations. We all need to complain vociferously about this change. We PAID for this information.

    • I’ve learned valuable information about possible distant ancestors in the low-level matches. In fact, my husband’s nephew showed up as an 8cM match on Ancestry.

      • Excellent point. Those with good-sized trees that have gone back as far as possible need those 6-8 cM matches to break through the brick walls that show up before 1850 Census when wives and children first appear. It’s right at that point when these more distant cousins may point the way, That is, if they have decent trees themselves. There’s SO much garbage in many trees.

  6. The update notice is confusing. For example, one of my endogamous matches is 3 cM total dna above on GEDmatch. Obviously they already do get rid of tiny segments? Good thing they will show the longest segment, but they are saying the total cM will be the same WHILE the number of segments may change. How is that? If endogamous matches may have small segments they must break them up into smaller ones to keep the same shared dna? Or rather make them larger for some matches which would logically decrease the total number of segments. In comparison, MyHeritage adjusted the total shared dna in their 2018 update for most people. Seems like Ancestry are not too happy with their Timber algorithm after all. Maybe matching is not their forte.

  7. When I read Roberta’s article, I decided to be proactive and pulled up my dna matches to check on them. I had already marked quite a few, but since I have over 112,000 matches (!) it’s a never ending struggle. As I was sorting through them (and yes, when Ancestry gave me a Thru match name I was unfamiliar with I put the person in a catch all group named Mugglethorp or such to sort out later) an unusual name that was familiar to me.

    I looked more carefully and realized I had just happened across people in my home town. The owner of the tree and I appeared to share 8cm of dna. As I looked through her well researched tree, I discovered she and I were about to break through some brick walls here and it was because of the clue that 8 cm of dna.

    Thank you Roberta for a very nice article and timely heads up. I now have the delightful job of writing my new cousin (and old friend) to let her know we have both solved some problems.

    • I discovered I’m cousins with my friend’s wife. I matched their son and our common ancestor became immediately obvious.

  8. My small matches are what bring joy
    to my research. I have been a researcher for over 50 years, I already know all the high matches. But it is the crumbs that lead to discovery.A machine doing the work for you is nice to a certain point, but what is the fun in that. I still feel violated from the first purge, which had great losses for me. The second purge was another insult, and now this? I believe those lost in the first purge were the most accurate of any. Enough said!

  9. Thanks for the great article. The bottom line is that Ancestry.com doesn’t want to spend any money to maintain their databases and removing millions of matches is their way around it. For months now I have been getting errors messages that “our backend servers are overtaxed,” so I guess those will improve, but at what cost to our DNA research! I see little benefit to me in the changes which they tout as “changes that will improve the accuracy and quality of your DNA matches.” But it does make for a good cover story for Ancestry.com as they continue to try and provide less to their customers. Grandma always said “beware when someone pats you on the back cause he may have a knife in his hand.” Ancestry.com’s cease-and-desist letters are just an attempt to keep a stranglehold on their customers.

    Roberta – what is the best way to voice our disapproval with Ancestry.com’s tactics? Is there a phone number to call that would work best? Or is there an email address where they register complaints? Would posting to a message board work best?

    • I would post to their Facebook page if you can. They don’t provide email but you could reach out to support. I have no idea if that would be helpful at all.

  10. Is there a way that we can either print or save all of this information. I cannot possibly remember all of this while I am working with my DNA and tree. Sharon

    • I just saw the print & save icon so answered my own question. Thanks for all the information. I better get busy not much time left to get this done before Ancestry starts deleting information.
      Sharon

  11. I’m confused by your posting. Ancestry has indicated matches under 8cM will no longer appear. A part of your post implied that matches where the longest segment is 8 or less won’t be protected either.

    Have I missed something in Ancestry’s statement?

    • We don’t know what the longest segment is. I divided to try to figure it out. Ancestry replied that it’s 8cM total so no math needed.

      • But then why use the ThruLines example of dividing the total cm of a match, 167cM, by 10 segments, and conclude “if the math result is 8 or lower, you need to do something to preserve the match”? Since 167cm is way higher than the new minimum of 8cM, why worry?

      • But in your ThruLines example of a match with 167cM across 10 segments, you indicated that 167/10 is 16.7, “so the match will not be lost. If the math result is 8 or lower, you need to do something to preserve the match”.

        Since 167cM is far above the new threshold of 8cM, why would the match be at risk? There is no indication of this risk from those on the phone call with Ancestry, or in Ancestry’s White Paper on the subject.

  12. Short segments and Half Relationships. I’ve wondered previously if shorter segments were needed to detect half relationships. I wonder if anyone has researched this. After many bleary hours, working on preserving with dots and now screen shots of relationships for these dots, I seem to notice a higher number of half relationships than I would usually see in a list of matches.

    humm, something to think about.

    I am also trying to preserve as many relationships for these small segments as I can. I am paranoid that “saving matches” does not necessarily mean saving thrulines for the matches.

  13. I am so sorry to hear all of this. I have tested with both FTDNA & Ancestry but have found Ancestry to be the most helpful due to combining the family trees. I also paid to have some relatives to test for us which was on the expensive side for us. I also manage some of those accounts which would mean trying to save their matches as well as my own = likely an extra huge job. Supposing many save many – maybe it will still have Ancestry numbers too high. I find it expensive to have a subscription but was finding it to be useful in my favourite hobby of genealogy. Also I had always thought it must bring in enough money from so many that Ancestry would be using it to update in every way & to better it all the time. I’ve recommended this to many friends. I am extremely sorry & disappointed to learn it is all becoming the reverse for this company.

  14. Update 7-18-2020: I have received clarification on several questions. I have updated the article as well.

    Only segments below 8 total cM will be deleted. However, Ancestry “rounds up,” so a segment between 7.5 and 7.99999(repeating) will be rounded up to 8. The only way to assure that you save all of the segments between 7.5 and 8 that you wish to preserve is to add all 8cM segments to groups or make notes, as described in the instructions. I’m referring to these segments as 6-8 cM segments.

    ONLY segments to be salvaged will be ones in groups, with notes or matches whom you have messaged. Ancestry has confirmed that matches without these things, meaning matches in ThruLines or that you have placed in your tree will NOT BE PRESERVED unless they are grouped, have notes or you’ve messaged. 

    The determining factor is total cM, not smallest cM. So total cM between 6 and 7.9999, which rounds up to 8 will be removed. Multiple 6 cM segments where the total is 12 will be fine, for example. Again, it’s the total cMs, so no math needed. 

    • Roberta, I just want to clarify your clarification: “ONLY segments to be salvaged will be ones in groups, with notes or matches whom you have messaged.” The way you stated this here, it sounds like being in a group is not enough – matches must be in a group AND also have a note or be someone you have messaged. The next sentence makes it sound like they will be preserved if there is a note OR a note OR a message.
      Thanks!

  15. A heads up on an observation I made as I reviewed shared matches of 1-2 cousins… The smallest shared match displayed is 20cM — SO this will protect matches with multiple segments calculating to 8cM or less — but YIKES – no low matches..

    Roberta, thank you so much for all the instructions on saving low matches!

    I have worked thru all the suggestions now. I worked about 10-12 hours to complete all the tasks as an fyi.

    I am gonna take another step now and review “leftover” 6-8cM matches — will pull up shared matches to see if I can identify at least a grandparent segment to add to a group. Unfortunately, there may not be shared matches due to the 20cM apparent cutoff. If this is the case, and there is a tree for the match, I may create a “leftover” group.

    Will also use thru lines and search starting with 5th GGP for surnames and create groups for them as that is likely where 6-8cM matches may pop out..

  16. I think that people need to understand that they have made a one time payment for their DNA tests. They don’t continue to pay for them as one of your commenters asserted. Our Ancestry subscriptions cover the normal online research that we do regardless of whether we also have linked DNA tests.
    The one time payment covered processing at whatever level of participants existed at the time of the test, but Ancestry needs to continue processing our tests and providing enhanced results lists as well as enhancements to the website. I can understand that they are finding this financially challenging as the pool of tests increases. Short of increasing the cost of new tests this seems to be their solution to the problem. An Ancestry rep said as much at a conference I attended last year. I suppose that this is the inevitable consequence of a business model that provides ongoing services for a one time fee. One alternative would be a DNA subscription over and above our Ancestry subscription, but given that the vast majority of people who take DNA tests show no interest in pursuing them beyond the superficial Ethnicity estimate they probably would struggle to find sufficient takers – and then do they cull small matches for or with non-subscribers?
    I am disappointed with this change, but I do understand what is driving it.

    One question though. Are you absolutely sure they are only going to purge matches who are 6-8cM in total? Their White Paper seems to be clearly stating that they discount 6-8cM segments as they compile the total for each match. This would mean that some multi-segment matches currently over 20cM could drop off the shared matches lists. Could whoever clarified this for you have misunderstood the mechanics?

    • Ancestry has additional forms of revenue from our DNA tests. Many people subscribe and they sell the DNA of people who opt in for research. 23andMe limits the number of matches, but neither MyHeritage nor FTDNA have ever done anything like this. MyHeritage also sells subscriptions, but FTDNA does not.

  17. Just when I bit the bullet and renewed for 6 months, both US and World membership. Sigh, I couldn’t sleep since 3:33 AM today so I got up and have been working on this. I found one thing that was most disturbing while doing this and having to use Ancestry.com’s email system: at the bottom of the Messages page, it states: Download Message Folders. Wow, it says they have a new message layout, you think at first, until you read YOUR FOLDERS WILL BE AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD AND SAVE UNTIL AUGUST 31, 2020. I don’t know about any of you folks, but this is where I try to contact with close cousins and mutual brick walls. I cannot lose this information, Yikes! I’m hoping no one minds this info alert coming your way. I really do like the ThruLines feature. They are the key to some of my furthest away matches (like the ones they want to take out, LOL)….

  18. I was going to renew my subscription but I don’t understand what is going on I am in my 80s and just started working on the family so I could leave my family some history guess that was a dream
    I will not renew i am going to send to my nephew at the Calgary newspaper so he can let all all newspapers in Canada
    Know
    Lffields@kent.net

    • You have to make your own decision, but you can still work on your family history. Don’t let Ancestry’s bad behavior ruin your dream. You can subscribe to MyHeritage too.

  19. FYI, the shared matches tab never shows any of the shared matches below 20 cM, and there many. If you look at the shared matches of a match of someone that is less than a 20 cM match, you will see a list of all that person’s shared matches (again only the ones that are 20cM or more). I wish Ancestry would fix this.I have spent literally hundreds of hours, clicking on my matches one by one to discover and log which other matches they share and to determine which group I should put them in. So in conclusion, using Shared Matches is not useful for discovering which matches to save.

    • I have many of these low matches that have substantial trees. I really hate the idea that these will be lost. On my birth fathers maternal side is huge, some of the ancestors have 14+children and some of them in turn have had 14 as well. I can see many a sleepless nights……

    • I am currently going through matches 7cM<x<20cM and using and downloading each shared match page. Third party tools were pretty useless at doing this. Out of respect for Ancestry's servers I am doing one page every 6 seconds. I'll do that for six hours for each of the tests I manage. Then turn my attention to 7cm<x<8cM matches – most probably just downloading a list of them. Unlike other posters, I can often figure out parentage for people who don't have trees based on name.

        • I don’t know how the commenter is doing it, but you can filter to show matches at every level. Check the match filters.

        • One trick is to generate a list of weblinks, one for each match, by inserting Javascript into the Console. The code I found produced a lovely table of results. I then load each resulting page into my browser to capture the Shared Match details and/or surnames listed. Used sparingly has proved incredibly useful. Then plugging matches into Excel and using iterative matching to find hidden clusters. Ploughing a lonely but productive furrow here!

  20. Bummer. Really big bummer. There is a family (brick wall) I’ve done a lot of research on and by using thrulines I’ve a potential family cluster (very distant). The paper trail isn’t there, but the clusters of distant matches linked to this one family seems to be significant. I match them and my brother matches them and they are not on my mother’s side of the family. And their segment sizes are in the 7ish range. Luckily, I’ve put them in groups and have recorded notes in ancestry to show to whom they trace. Really bummer.

    18 million dna tests? How many markers per test? 400k or 700k, depending on the testing chip? They probably batch process their matching. The big problem isn’t disk storage. The big problem is storing all this in memory. That is probably what they have discovered. Ok. It could be storage. If they maintain a match list (like a map) per tester/user, that would use up some space over time. But still, we’re talking about 18 million, not 100s of millions.

    I think someone there has made a decision to improve performance by reducing capability of the system.

    On the bright side, One of my cousins got his ydna test results from FTDNA. Not only do we match (as expected), but we’ve confirmed the two brothers two whom we trace had the same father.

    It’s too bad Ancestry purged their ydna database years ago. All the more reason to download and record your matches before they “improve performance”.

  21. With the server space saved by dumping small matches, there will be room to extend our Shared Matches limit down from 20cM to 15cM. That would really help people.
    Can we start a campaign for that?
    (They accidentally extended it all the way down to 6cM for 24 hours a year or so ago, and I found wonderful connections that no other method, ThruLines included, has discovered since.) Hey, MyHeritage does it. How come US capability lags behind theirs?

  22. I have a 1,000 DNA matches. My son Doug Thompson did his DNA with the kit that I gave him but hasn’t had access to a computer since March as the library has been closed and don’t know when it will open again. His computer broke down. He lives many miles from us in another province. He was supposed to contact you to make me a manager. He doesn’t know the family tree and has not contacted any people. What can be done about this. We were trying to find out relatives on the male side of the family. Can I get any mail that has been sent to him and can you make me the manager of his DNA results in order to contact them?
    If you delete our letters how will we hear from them or send letters to them?

  23. Pingback: Plea to Ancestry – Rethink Match Purge Due to Deleterious Effect on African American Genealogists | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  24. May they need to drop the name ‘Ancestry’ and use ‘Kincestry’ instead if they are only going to show us dna connections/relatives most of us already know or can EASILY find for the most part????

    • Is it possible to edit the text of the petition? It fails to address the disproportionate impact on African American researchers, which is a key reason to request Ancestry not make this mass deletion of segment matches.

  25. It’s very disappointing so many professional genetic genealogy bloggers/authors (not Roberta) are so focused on whether these segments are false and “it’s a good thing overall”. Why not challenge Ancestry to find less destructive ways to solve their problems instead of helping sell this “update”, which is entirely self-serving to Ancestry.

    No one is using these segments RANDOMLY. They are not poison (and a terrible analogy during a pandemic). No one is dying from investigating a “false” match.

    The small matches are useful for determining the identity of a current day DNA kit tester and then completing their tree to a certain historical time period without regard to the MCRA of the segment. It is debatable whether just scanning trees in general would produce the same useful sorting output gained from using the pool of small segment kits that have trees or shared matches.

    This technique has been useful in efficiently finding DNA connections to descendants of immigrants from a small village (with exceptionally detailed records, so all the surnames from the village are known), who all came to the US between 1880-1910 and immigrated to a few common places. Scanning the family trees for Americanized surnames, and looking for shared matches, has yielding great results and the goal was not proving the validity of the segment or finding a specific MCRA.

  26. Hi Roberta. I have put a lot of effort into getting my AncestryDNA matches onto my tree AND clicking that button that links their DNA results to my tree. Of course that is easiest for the largest matches, but I have also taken the approach of starting at the bottom of the Thrulines (maternal side 5th great grandparents) where the numbers of matches are smaller and the findings potentially interesting. My rare mtDNA haplogroup may not die out in my family after all!! You said:

    “ONLY segments to be salvaged will be ones in groups, with notes or matches whom you have messaged. Ancestry has confirmed that matches without these things, meaning matches in ThruLines or that you have placed in your tree will NOT BE PRESERVED unless they are grouped, have notes or you’ve messaged. ”

    So I have gotten some small segment (less than 8cM) matches on my tree. I have messaged most but not all of the people I have added to my tree in this way.

    You don’t mention whether my approach of getting my matches into my trees, and linking them to their DNA match results, will preserve matches.

    I hadn’t done much with groups or notes or red dots etc–and had lately slacked off messaging matches because so few reply–but it looks like I need to make time to preserve my small segments.

    Linda Horton

    • No, linking then in your tree does NOT preserve them. Only grouping, a note or messaging preserves the matches. Personally I’m both grouping and making a note, just to be safe.

  27. I ran the filter to list those with 6 cm to 8 cm and have hundreds of results. Is it possible to add multiple people to a group so that I can “save” them? Or is it still a one at a time process?

      • Do you know if anyone has confirmed that we don’t have to open them, but just drop into a group?

        That is precisely what I’m doing, but I don’t want to find them gone because I didn’t open the match.

          • Whew! Thank you. 🙂

            I’ve opened only about 10 of those I’m saving, and 3 of them have provided clues on where to look for further records. All are on the same brick wall line! Incredibly, this project has been fruitful already.

  28. I think I may have discovered something helpful – I’d appreciate your thoughts about this.

    I had started with all the 6-8 cM matches in the match list with filters for 1) Common Ancestors AND 2) Shared DNA. I just did one cM level at a time, just to break down the task into more manageable clumps. I put everyone in a group I created, “6-8 cM”, plus a note with surname hashtags and common ancestors.

    Now, in going through the lists in Thrulines, I find that every 6-8 cM match already has been put into a group with a note, which is what I did in the filtered match list. Apparently this has carried over from the filtered match list. (This makes sense, but you can’t count on things making sense.) 

    It’s a lot easier and quicker to put matches in groups/add notes in the match list than via Thrulines.

    What I am not clear about is this: does a match have both be in a group AND have a note to be preserved, or is just being in a group enough? It’s a lot more feasible to save all my 6-8 cM matches who do not have a common ancestor if all I have to do is put them in my 6-8 cM group.

    • Yes, just a group will do. Any if the three. A group, a note or a message. I don’t trust the message aspect.

  29. Thanks for the added info! Quick question. If I have added a note and/or group to a test below the 8cm threshold and that test presently has a Thruline identified, it seems pretty clear that the test will remain in my Match list. But from what you may know will the Thruline continue to be displayed as well?

      • Sure hope that turns out to be the case as I’ve not been able to get to many of them yet and would hate for the Thruline to ‘disappear’ before I’ve had a chance to evaluate. There have been some good ‘finds’ for me even that far removed. Appreciate the help/info!

  30. I have matches that are identified as Common Matches. Will they be removed because of Ancestry actions?

    • Common matches are only shown if they are 20 cM or over. So you don’t see those matches, even if they are in common. So the common matches you can see won’t be removed.

      • Sorry to tag onto this comment, but I cannot get the website to let me comment any other way.

        I am trying to download from Ancestry per your suggestions and keep getting the ‘backend overtaxed’ notice. So thought I would go to my message folders and download those since Ancestry said they are going away on Aug 31. Well, they lied- the folders are completely gone at 4:14pm EDT on 7/22. There are quite a lot of messages but I have been a member for a very long time, so don’t know if they just got rid of the folders but maintained the messages or if these are just messages that were not in folders.

        This is infuriating.

        • Your messages NOT in folders have been relocated to the new system, but none should be lost.
          Folders should still be there, as per text I have towards the mid-left of screen (viewed on laptop):

          Download Message Folders
          Your messages are now located in our new message center and can be viewed by recipient.
          Your 7 folders and messages from our previous system will be available to download and save until 31 August 2020.

    • Hi Tony,

      Did you mean ‘Common Ancestor’ or ‘Shared Matches? My understanding is that a DNA match [‘below’ 8 cM] shown in your DNA Matches list and flagged as a ‘Common Ancestor’ will removed unless you follow Roberta’s strategy to save them from deletion. wrt ‘Shared Matches’ it depends and Roberta speaks to this in her post where she evaluates her Share Matches with her cousin, Michael… hth

      • Any match below 8 cM including those rounded up to 8 cM will be removed if they are not grouped, have a note or have been messaged.

  31. Please read – this change disenfranchises further the descendants of enslaved people.

    I continue to be extremely angry about this change. I’m having to add people to my family tree in a hurry in order to preserve links with the distant cousins that I can link. I’m still trying to identify some of my ancestors using these links. Just today I found another hidden, but HUGE problem with what Ancestry is doing. I found a 5th great g-parent common ancestor with a 7cm match, and began adding them to my tree. It took about an hour, because I was confounded by the parentage by one of the children ancestry was linking. After looking at a bunch of census and other family trees, I suddenly found that this entire line of cousins from 1870 and onward appears in the census, and is BLACK (I am white). I had already seen the slave schedules for 1850 and 1860 for this family, it was depressingly huge.
    Once I added these proposed links to my tree, Thrulines came up with multiple distant cousins in that same line from different children. While I am horrified at what my ancestors did, I was absolutely delighted to make this link and potentially help someone find their enslaved ancestor and their family history. We have already disenfranchised the African American community in devastating ways in this county. By cutting off this entire line of distant relatives rather arbitrarily, Ancestry is making it even harder for descendants of enslaved people to find their families again. In another generation, these DNA links will be too diluted to find again. We need to strenuously be objecting to this change, and I don’t want to see any more so-called “genealogists” explaining again how these distant cousin links don’t really matter just because some will be wrong or can’t be proven. They very much do matter.

    • All you describe is so important. I can understand that serving all this information all the time is a challenge for ancestry. However, there ARE other solutions to just deleting it. For example, Ancestry could provide archived data which people access by making a reservation to make it active for a month. Most people won’t even use their archives, so the server load would drop. People have suggested other ways to do both – keep access and reduce server load. I am sure there are even better ideas.

      Ancestry needs to step up and fulfill their “Black Lives Matter” propaganda message.

  32. From Roberta’s post…

    ‘Now, retrospectively, I think that Ancestry is trying to find a way to manage their 18 million testers and their matches without adding infrastructure resources. They want to reduce the processing load and when the cease-and-desist letters didn’t have the desired effect on their servers, they looked for other methodologies.

    Clearly, providing users with fewer matches means less to manage in a database which equates to freeing up resources.’

    Wonder if the day will come when Ancestry offers a ‘Below 8 cM’ option to their subscription where for ‘just few extra $$$’, they will give you back your matches and associated Thrulines. Maybe they’ll even kick-in Thrulines beyond the current 5th Great Grandparents. They wouldn’t be that devious would they??? ie a Pay to Play strategy? You need to pay for our extra ‘storage’ and ‘processing’… hmmm …

    Wish they could find a middle ground and drop the ‘low’ cM matches without a Thruline and continue to process and display this category going forward [giving you the potentially valuable matches and at the same time reducing infrastructure requirements]. If they are truly wanting to free up space why not go after all the test kits with no associated tree.. Might motivate folks to add trees to their tests. Just sayin

    • Mark,

      This is what I think they are doing as well. I think they want to find an easy way to manage the matches and this seemed like a good idea.

      As much as I love the Thru Lines, I’m still disappointed that they removed the matches that went back to 6th and 7th great-grandparents. I’ve wondered if they dropped the number of generations back because it was harder to manage with their algorithms. You run into multiple matching possibilities.

      I’ve asked them to bring back the matches to the 7th great-grandparents to no avail.

      I’m with you. Perhaps they could have an additional option with cM below 8 cM. I also would like them to have a separate option which takes matches back to 6th, 7th, possibly even 8th grandparents.

      I believe for many of us, interested in look for more distant ancestors, this would be very helpful. They could put a warning/disclaimer that the distant matches have lower confidence than the matches with higher cM.

  33. Hi Roberta:

    Ref your edited post: Are you quite sure that the “purge date” has been mover out to end August/beginning of September? I have asked Ancestry CS but no confirming answer just yet.

    Many people have suggested some kind of tiered service by which matched down to 6 cM would be preserved. My wife and I completely agree. In my email to ancestry (directed to their “upper management” I said the following:

    “If ancestry were our Company here is what we would implement:

    * Only purge kit matches between 6 cM – 8 cM whose kit owners or the persons tested have not logged on in the last 12 months or greater AND whose kits do not have a tree associated with the kit.

    * Consider offering a “subscription service” through which DNA kits were maintained down to 6 cM even if the kits fall into the criteria listed above.

    * A different level of service could be offered with matching DNA results available (this would be at the chr and matching segment start/stop position level) — this is the BIG one for most of ancestry’s serious genetic genealogists.

    Some combination of the above solutions should allow ancestry.com to free-up a significant amount of storage disk space and DB/CPU resources and still keep most serious users happy as well as to develop one or more new revenue streams.”

    I did receive an answer from them but it was very “canned” mentioning their improved algorithm, etc., etc.

    Fred Claussen

      • Delay on purge. The ancestry notice that appears on some DNA pages has changed. The FAQs give new dates for stages of the coming changes. The purge has been delayed until the latter part of August by customer request. My wording, not theirs.

        • I spoke to a supervisor on Monday or Tuesday this week after learning from postings on FB that members were being told by the Customer Solutions (Tier 1 folks) that the removal process scheduled date had NOT changed. (Typical, in my experience that the people answering the phones trying to help us, don’t get told or don’t read memoes, resulting in misinformation being provided to us by the front line workers.

          She confirmed that the projected scheduled date change was moving forward as we learned a week or so ago via this blog. I asked her if she was allowed to shotgun that message to the Tier 1 staff. While talking, she apparently emailed me the tentative schedule, which is now available to read on via the “Banner” on the AncestryDNA site. I shared the text of that email via PDF file, with her permission to four groups on Facebook (AncestryDNA Matching, Ancestry Glitches, Ancestry…something or other…and Venting, and to. Ancestry Friends.

  34. Ancestry used to report cM in decimals and, at that time, I placed the shared DNA numbers into Notes for many of my matches. They appear to be in order, so I can tell approximately where the range is for my matches 7.5-8.1. That is helping me not to spend time saving the ones 8.1-8.5. I called Ancestry support three days ago and was told (apparently inaccurately) that they would used the rounded up number, meaning that 7.5-7.9999 would appear as 8.0 and thus not be removed.

    So, I wonder what our “saved” DNA Matches will see on their end? I mean, if I add a Note or save to a Group, the DNA match will not go away for ME. But if I contact that match later and say we have a DNA Match, when they look they will not find me because they did not Note/Group me as well?

  35. There was some major change in Ancestry ownership or management some 3-5 years ago. The (new?) management is buying up everything in sight (read as: money hungry). They bought Find-A-Grave and Newspapers.com. And when you buy a paid subscription to Newspapers.com they don’t bother telling you that obituaries (coincidentally!) require a more expensive subscription (I dropped mine immediately). They started making other changes to Ancestry which are convenient & cost saving to them, and problematic to us users. They recently changed the Ancestry mailing system – they are deleting all our saved messages. They had previously dropped the software to save your tree on your own computer. It’s no longer a product for the user. It’s all about the almighty $$$$. We genealogists are nobody anymore, just supporters of some big Ancestry machine. Too sad.

  36. Hey Roberta,
    Well they have already started to make the changes. Earlier today I was able to see my matches at the 6.0 level but now the only matches I am able to see is 6.9 or greater. Unfortunately I was unable to get through many of my match list so I lost a bunch. I’m currently working the methods you’ve outlined here to save all the other ones. They really didn’t give us enough time to work with our matches. It’s truly sad what they have done.

    • I used Chrome to save all mine off-line. First I group all the 6cM, then the 7 cm and lastly the 8 cM. All were grouped separately. It took a couple hours to scroll through the 6 cM. It’s just a pain because you have to go through the whole list to be able to save Then you have to save the group locally to your computer and it takes a while, depending how many matches you have in a group. Files are very large. Don’t try on a tablet or smartphone. If you get to a point and the server becomes busy, you have to go through the list all over again. Working late at night seems to work best. I seemed to be getting the ” Our backend services are overtaxed at the moment and we are unable to retrieve all your matches. We apologize for the inconvenience, please try again later” message a lot lately.

      • Yea, you’d think that message alone would be testimony as to how many people value those matches.

      • Yes I was actually on pretty late last night and was getting the message. I have a long way to go because I have so many matches. I appreciate the tip this decimal situation is a nightmare because you can’t search them that way.

    • None of mine have been removed. I still have the same 105,000 plus that I had when this started. It seems all they have done is add the decimals, although, it doesn’t seem that you can sort with the decimals.

      • I believe it was just system issues for me last night because now I’m able to see the lower 6’s. I have noticed though that some matches I already placed in a group last night some were not in the group today. So I’m having to go back in order to ensure that they are in a group.

  37. I manage 4 DNA Ancestry kits, all from paternal family. If I go thru shared matches on one of the kits and tag with “6-8”, will these matches be preserved for ALL kits after the September purge? (this equal to preserving the “6-8” matches for the kit manager)
    Or do I need to do the “6-8” tagging for each kit?

  38. Well, it turns out I do have matches under 20cm, but after scrolling down for two hours, Ancestry told me it could not show all my matches at this time. When I went back there I was at the beginning of the list again. I don’t want to spend another two hours scrolling down to find 6-8cms. Before I made to 17cms before they quit on me. Any suggestions?

    • Yes, there’s a script that someone has posted in the comments. It’s not bug-free, but it’s better than constant scrolling.

    • I haven’t been able to get the script to work, but if you set the “shared DNA” to 6cM, it will not take so long to load. Work up from the bottom. Then set it for 7cM and do them.

  39. Am I understanding that as the recalculations are made, the number of matches that fall below the threshold at the beginning of the month will go up by the end of the month? Meaning matches that seemed safe will drop into one of the lower sections and be purged because the algorithms have determined they are less of a match than originally thought.
    I also have a bad feeling this may be an ask forgiveness moment for Ancestry. “Oops! When we made the updated it didn’t save the groups and there is nothing we can do. So sorry.”

Leave a Reply