I’m covering four things in this article today:
- Genetic currency and why it matters
- Reasons for Ancestry’s purge
- Ancestry’s updated plans
- What’s next?
Why is Focusing on Ancestry Critical Right Now?
It’s much easier to save something that exists than to create something new in the software world.
Think of your car. It’s a lot easier for a car company to keep the same model year to year than to create a new model with the inherent design, engineering, and associated costs.
Yes, other DNA vendors could and should improve too, but right now, only Ancestry is taking something valuable away from genealogists. Regardless of what we want other companies, or Ancestry, to develop, providing feedback regarding Ancestry’s impending purge of our 6-8 cM matches is critical now, before the deletion occurs and is irreversible.
Some genealogists either don’t care or don’t specifically want to preserve smaller matches. That’s fine and they can simply ignore their smaller matches. Smaller matches DON’T HURT ANYONE. If you don’t like them, just ignore them.
Why would anyone be vehemently opposed to something that is agreed to be useful and valuable about 50% of the time? It has been widely accepted for years that 7 cM matches are valid about half of the time. Science tells us the same thing.
Philip Gammon, a statistician, worked with sets of phased data to produce output indicating the rates of valid and invalid matches, meaning when the child matches someone and so does the parent. His numbers indicate that 6 and 7 cM matches were valid 66% and 58% of the time, respectively.
I worked with parent/child trios whose tests I control to determine the accuracy of matches phased to parents.
Working with parentally phased data, meaning when both parents have tested, a match matches either the mother or father in addition to the tester, the results indicated that matches between 6 and 6.99 cM were valid 30% of the time. Matches between 7 and 7.99 cm were valid 46% of the time. These percentages are smaller than Philips, but these groups are nonendogamous and Philip’s work included endogamous trios.
Parental phasing is the first step in confirming that a match is valid, regardless of the size. The smaller the size of the match, the more additional information is needed. We’re genealogists, we can do that!
I created this combined quick reference chart from an analysis article I wrote based on the results of multiple resources and various testing companies. Note that we begin to see no matching at 3rd cousins, so we would also see 3rd cousins who match between 6-8 cM and those matches will be removed with the purge.
Clearly, smaller matches aren’t valid all of the time, but they certainly aren’t invalid all of the time either. Like any other record we use, they need to be critically evaluated.
Why would anyone care that other people want to use these tools for research?
If you type the name John Smith into a census search – you’re obviously looking for one specific John Smith. There are thousands. No one is advocating deleting the entire census collection because researchers are going to have to utilize some analytical skills to determine which specific John Smith is the ancestor for which they are searching.
Frankly, it’s no one’s business other than the researcher themselves, BUT, the researcher MUST HAVE THE RECORDS AVAILABLE to them in order to perform the analysis.
That’s the difference. Ancestry is deleting the DNA information between 6 and 8 cM leading to our ancestors and if they don’t reevaluate their decision now, once the data is gone, so is our opportunity to use it – forever.
Don’t burn the house down because it needs to be cleaned.
Ancestry’s White Paper
Ancestry published a new matching white paper describing what they are doing, and why.
Here’s the link directly, or you can access it at the top of your DNA Matches page.
This excerpt from page 13 is critical in understanding the motivation behind this purge.
Individuals on the initial July 13th call with Ancestry reported that as many as 2/3rds of people’s matches will be removed during the purge.
Since that time, my blog commenters and people who have emailed me directly are telling me that they will lose “more than 50%” of their matches. The numbers vary, but one person said it was well over 70% for her.
Unless you’ve previously used one of the download tools that have now been discontinued due to the cease-and-desist orders issued by Ancestry, to the best of my knowledge, you have no way of determining in advance how many of your matches fall in the 6-8 cM category and how many you will lose.
I’ve recorded how many total matches I have, but until the purge occurs, there’s no way to know how many of those I’ll lose. In other words, there’s no way for me to quantify my loss or complaint in advance.
Technology Costs Money
In technology terms, let me explain what this means to Ancestry.
Companies have to pay for data storage costs and processing one way or another.
The first way is by purchasing their own hardware, storage and processing equipment, which means as more people test, and more data needs to be stored and processed (matching), the company needs to spend more money for additional equipment.
If the firm doesn’t use their own hardware and the services are cloud-based, they still pay for storage by the amount of space and processing by the minute.
Your DNA kit was a one time purchase, mean a one-time revenue source for Ancestry, but the processor load of matching and storing match lists goes on forever. The only additional revenue source for your DNA, for Ancestry, if is you opted in for medical research or if you purchased a subscription that you would not have otherwise purchased.
It might also be worth noting here that Ancestry laid off 6% of its workforce, 100 people, in February, following in the footsteps of 23andMe, reported here, and that was before the economic downturn that all companies are experiencing now due to the ramifications of Covid.
I’m not surprised that Ancestry continues to seek cost-cutting measures and I am not criticizing them for doing so. I simply hope they will find methods where the burden isn’t directly born by their DNA customers.
The Definition of Small Segment Keeps Increasing
Initially, AncestryDNA included 5 cM matches. Those disappeared in 2016 when Timber arrived. At that point, Ancestry reported that academic (not parental) phasing plus Timber made matches more reliable, so 6 cM matches were supposed to be more reliable at Ancestry than unphased 6 cM or larger matches elsewhere. No one complained about 6 and 7 cM segment matches at that time or discarded them out-of-hand as unreliable, although people who work in this field have always cautioned testers to accumulate layers of evidence in their search.
Many researchers never get to those lower matches because they have many matches at higher levels. Matches are easy to ignore if you’re not interested.
Currently, matches in the 6 and 7 cM range are now being referred to as “small segments,” stated by some that they should never be used because they might be identical by chance and not identical by descent. The term “small segments” used to be reserved for segments below the matching threshold of the testing vendors which used to be 5 cM at Ancestry. The definition of “small segment” has crept up now to include 6 and 7 cM matches. Will it continue to creep upwards as it becomes advantageous? When will 8, 9, 10 cM matches, go away?
One of the justifications for ignoring or deleting smaller segments is that they are “far back in time,” but Ancestry’s documentation about 6 cM matches shows that 21% of the time, a 6 cM match is some flavor of 2nd, 3rd or 4th cousin. That’s hardly far back in time.
Unknown, Previously Unidentified Ancestors
The need to identify ancestors who are unknown, meaning not just unknown to you – but truly not identified through prior research by anyone eventually affects all genealogists.
Researchers often encounter this situation when they have females with no surnames or when they are researching ancestors with no records at all.
My closet brick walls begin in the 6th generation, all females, born in the 1760s and died in the 1800s. Their descendants in my generation would be 5th cousins to me. That’s where my search for truly unknown ancestors begins.
Other people experience brick walls much closer to them in time.
The Good News – People Are Looking
There’s actually a silver lining to Ancestry’s announced purge – people are looking and evaluating these smaller matches now that the matches are in jeopardy of being removed.
Maybe Ancestry’s threat to remove these matches was a genius marketing ploy to encourage us to use them (wink, wink.) Let’s hope so and Ancestry retains those matches and continues to provide their customers with matches at this level.
Numerous people have stated that they are finding patterns in multiple matches, especially if they manage multiple kits for various family members. Because of the 20 cM shared match threshold limit at Ancestry, testers may not see other family members on their shared match list, but looking at their other family members’ actual match list – those smaller matches are sometimes there. Researchers are finding matches between 6-8 cM that match multiple family members. Finding those matches is the beginning of analysis.
Let me explain that a different way. I’m looking at my shared matches with person A. I see no shared matches below 20 cM because that’s Ancestry’s shared match display limit.
However, person A’s sibling, person B, also matches me below 20 cM, but I can’t see that shared match with person A because my shared match with person B is below 20 cM. However, checking my match list for person B’s name shows that they are a match to me. However, there is no way to know that I match person B in common with person A.
Then, checking another family member, like an aunt, for example, I see that person A and person B both match her as well, probably also on segments below 20 cM so she can’t see them on her shared match list either, nor can I see either of those matches, person A or person B on my shared match list with my aunt.
Reaching out to matches below 20 cM and asking if they have other family members you can check, by name, to see if they are on your match list is important. Many people don’t realize shared matches below 20 cM aren’t shown at Ancestry.
I know that, but sometimes I tend to forget that when viewing shared matches and have to remind myself.
Are You a Researcher Who Could Benefit from Smaller Segment Matches?
What types of researchers are finding interesting matches that they are pursuing and finding promising leads or beneficial connections? Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of several of these. Here’s what people have reported recently.
- People with Irish ancestry before the 1920 records fire.
- African Americans hoping to identify their ancestors and connect with descendants
- People tracking matches to locations, such as specific villages in Europe.
- People tracking US colonial records where their brick walls occur.
- People seeking unknown ancestors in locations where records have burned.
- Native American researchers seeking connections before the adoption of European surnames, often in the late 1800s.
- Acadian matches from before the 1755 “Grand Derangement” when the Acadians were forcibly evicted from Nova Scotia
- New Mexico and Southwest US connections to early Spanish families
- Hawaiian researchers’ connections to Native Hawaiians
The keyword here is “pursuing.”
No single match should be taken as proof of anything, certainly not at this level. Cumulative evidence is another matter.
DNA evidence is just like every other type of evidence. We research and build upon what we find. Sometimes we discard what we’ve found when we find it to be invalid. We learn how to evaluate the evidence we discover. DNA isn’t any different. But we must have that evidence before we can evaluate it.
I wrote about that in Ancestors: What Constitutes Proof?
What you’re trying to accomplish with DNA testing will determine whether or not smaller segments are important to you. One size does not fit all – pardon the pun. Your goals may also change over time. Mine certainly have as I moved from confirming existing line to attempting to break down brick walls that no one has the answer to today.
Researchers have different goals for DNA testing in conjunction with genealogy. Working with smaller segments isn’t for everyone.
Many people who only want to confirm known ancestors and have no idea why or how smaller segment matches might be valuable to themselves, now or eventually, or to others. Adoptees looking for their biological parents don’t need or want those small segment matches In general, smaller matches, unless they have a tree posted with a shared ancestor, require more work and are typically used by more experienced genealogists.
Let’s take a look at the various categories of research, which might explain why someone you’re talking to might have a different opinion about matches between 6-8 cM, or might be ambivalent.
|Research Type or Interest||Applicable DNA Research/Comments|
|Ethnicity and populations||Ethnicity and population reports are available at all 4 major vendors, plus sometimes additional tools. People who test for ethnicity may not be interested in traditional genealogy or DNA matching.|
|Adoption or unknown parent searches or other close relative searches (grandparents, etc.)||People searching for close family members focus on close matches beginning with their highest matches, then tree matching, not generally more distant matches. I wrote about that here.|
|Confirming known ancestors already in your tree||Confirmation occurs by matching to (and triangulating with) multiple other testers who share common identified ancestors. Tools like Theories of Family Relativity (MyHeritage) and ThruLines (Ancestry, but no triangulation) automate this process as does Phased Family Matching (FTDNA), in addition to some third party tools.|
|Discovering previously unknown ancestors that someone else has already researched||DNA matching and advanced tools such as ThruLines (Ancestry) and Theories of Family Relativity (MyHeritage), but these tools require that someone already has identified these ancestors and placed them in their tree.|
|Discovering unidentified and previously unknown ancestors, meaning those where records don’t exist, are not previously researched/documented and are not already in someone’s tree.||Every generation back in time increases the number of brick walls that genealogists hit. A researcher born in 1980 is likely to be 4th cousins to someone born from a common ancestor in 1850. Some 3rd and 4th cousins won’t DNA match at all, some will match on larger segments and some will only match on smaller segments (6-8 cM). The number of people who match and the segment size (generally) decreases in every generation as the DNA is divided.|
If you’re thinking to yourself that you have ancestors that are entirely brick-walled – then you’re a candidate to utilize matches between 6-8 cM. Remember, roughly half of those matches are valid, and yes, there are evidentiary tools and methods of evaluation.
If you’re not back to brick-walled ancestors in your research yet today, eventually you will progress beyond available paper records and will find yourself in need of DNA. If the only DNA that you carry from those ancestors are segments between 6 and 8 cM, and they’re gone – you’re entirely out of luck. Just like when the Irish Records office burned in Dublin in 1922.
Doesn’t that picture just hurt your heart, understanding the magnitude of the history that is burning?
DNA is the Currency of Our Ancestors
I’ve been searching for how to describe the situation people with brick walls, no surnames, and no written history face.
Think of your ancestors’ DNA as genetic currency.
You have large bills that represent what you received from your parents. As you move further back in time, those bills become 20s, then 10s and 5s. Finally $1 bills. Then, change.
The problem is that some people know which bill, meaning what ancestor that change came from, because they can track it directly backward in time, bill to bill, and ancestor to ancestor. Their change is all stacked in nice neat ancestor piles because they have the records to connect them to other descendants that know that ancestor is theirs too.
Other people who don’t have the benefit of that knowledge just have a bag of change all mixed together. They don’t’ know where those coins came from, and the coins, or smaller DNA segments, themselves, MUST point the way to the identification of their ancestors.
While their pile of change is messy, there are tools for researchers to sort through the coins and organize – identifying which coins came from which ancestors. Tools like shared matches, clustering, and more.
If you take their coins away, researches who have hit brick walls, which we all eventually do, have no genetic currency to work with.
Franklin Smith, an African American genealogist at the Clayton Library in Houston shares his experiences on Dana Leeds’ blog, here.
Ancestry Delayed the Purge for a Month
Ancestry’s decision to purge matches of 6-8 cM is critically important for brick-walled genealogists because, in part, of the sheer magnitude of their database.
Let’s say, for example, that we need to find a minimum of 10 people descending from this same couple through different children before we’re comfortable that this connection is valid.
If we can find 10 people at Ancestry, in a smaller database, we may only be able to find a few – certainly not nearly 10. If that database doesn’t provide matches to 6 cM either or has an arbitrary match cutoff, we may not be able to see those matches elsewhere either. Furthermore, not everyone tests elsewhere or transfers their DNA file. That’s exactly why it’s so critical to keep the Ancestry matches.
The combination of the 6-8 cM segment matches, more likely to be accurate because of phasing and Timber, and the large number of testers at Ancestry provides us with an increased opportunity to be successful.
Ancestry has not communicated with me directly, but I was provided with this posting from the Ancestry Facebook page wherein the “author” with the Ancestry logo by their name states that they are delaying the purge for a month, until the beginning of September. That’s good news, but clearly not enough news.
Please note that Ancestry:
- Has delayed the purge until “late August”
- Has clarified that starred matches (in the groups) are saved
- Is beginning, soon, to show decimals so you don’t have to save all 8 cM matches in order to be sure you save all 7 cM matches due to Ancestry’s rounding up.
Earlier today, the “Learn More” link at the top of the DNA matches page has been updated with the following information, which confirms the Facebook posting.
I am hopeful that Ancestry is still evaluating its overall decision and instead of a mass purge, will provide more effective tools for their customers to utilize.
I can think of several, but the first approach would be that if a match does not phase with parents, assuming both have tested, it should be removed, regardless of the size.
Providing genealogists with analysis tools, similar to the now-banned third-party tools, would be a wonderful addition. Just un-banning those tools is really all we need.
Allow genealogists to flag some matches for deletion which we have determined are not valid would be beneficial. Similar to “ignoring” incorrect records hints.
Provide Feedback to Ancestry
Ancestry provided roughly a month’s grace period to allow users frantically struggling to save their relevant 6-8 cM matches some relief. I provided preservation strategies and instructions for how to prevent matches from being deleted, here.
This temporary reprieve doesn’t address 6-8 cM matches that exist today and aren’t saved, nor future 6-8 cM matches.
Please continue to provide polite feedback to Ancestry.
Feedback channels include the following:
- Email Ancestry support at email@example.com.
- You can initiate an online “chat” here.
- Call ancestry support at 1-899-958-9124 although people have been reporting obtaining offshore call-centers and problems understanding representatives. You also may need to ask for a supervisor.
- Ancestry corporate headquarters phone number on the website is listed as 801-705-7000.
- You can’t post directly on Ancestry’s Facebook page, but you can comment on posts and you can message them.
- Ancestry’s Twitter feed is here.
Someone pointed out that the chromosome browser petitions initiated a few years ago went exactly no place, but like I mentioned previously, it’s a lot easier to keep something that exists than it is to build something new. I’m still hopeful that our voices will make a difference this time!
If you’d like to sign petitions, at least three have been created:
I’ve had requests to review what methods and tools available at each testing vendor to assist genealogists who need to search for unknown, undiscovered, previously unresearched ancestors. That’s a great idea!
After Ancestry completes whatever they decide to do and things settle down a bit, I will write a series of articles about how to utilize the various tools offered by each vendor that can be utilized by brick-walled researchers – along with suggestions for improvements every vendor can make to improve our chances of success.
Eventually, all genealogists will move beyond ethnicity or confirming documented ancestors into the realm of the unknown where we need every piece of genetic currency that we can find – along with advanced analysis tools to help us sort the wheat from the chaff and assign names of ancestors to those DNA segments.
The best thing Ancestry can do for us, right now, is to NOT delete those matches. The best thing you can do is to share your opinion with Ancestry.
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
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Genealogy Products and Services
- MyHeritage FREE Tree Builder – genealogy software for your computer
- MyHeritage Subscription with Free Trial
- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – genealogy and DNA classes, subscription-based, some free
- Legacy Family Tree Software – genealogy software for your computer
- Charting Companion – Charts and Reports to use with your genealogy software or FamilySearch
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – professional genealogy research
Where did they post that? I raised a ruckus and had people follow me on this cause, but the response I got was this back: Hello Von-Cha. Many thanks for taking a moment out of your day to raise your concerns with us. We never like to hear when our members experience is anything short of wonderful but we appreciate the opportunity to address the matters you raised.
It is so important to us that anyone can make meaningful discoveries through Ancestry and we always want to ensure our members have as many tools and resources available to them when conducting their research as possible. We also want to take this opportunity to let you know that Ancestry is committed to all of our customers and to advise that we spend countless hours annually in the aim of evaluating and discovering how we can innovate our products and features to help you in your journey.
We do however wish to stress that third party DNA matching services are not affiliated with Ancestry, and some of these companies violate Ancestry’s Terms and Community Rules. By encouraging Ancestry customers to provide their Ancestry login credentials to them, this allows access to Ancestry’s site to download information, which violates Ancestry’s terms. It’s also incredibly important to note that due to privacy concerns and our commitment to protecting our members data, Ancestry does not allow for the downloading of genetic match data because it includes information on other members.
We know family history research can be difficult for some of our members, and we strive to ensure we can provide as many tools as possible and innovate to allow for an easier and more successful discovery process. We can assure you and all of our members that the updates to AncestryDNA matches will improve the accuracy of your research through filtering out false data that can potentially lead to incorrect conclusions.
Our goal is to help people discover their family history and we have a variety of records and resources available for all our members, especially when there may already be less information available in someone’s family history. We understand that it could be a potentially disappointing, upsetting or frustrating experience to lose potential matches but we can assure you, and all our members, that we are committed to doing our part, by improving on our existing tools to allow for more accuracy in your research, and making our business, products and marketing more inclusive. The updates will not come in to effect until late August, which we hope will provide some time to save any existing matches that you might wish to continue to collaborate with either by adding them to a group, messaging them or noting them.
Even with this in mind, we are grateful for your feedback and we’d be happy to pass your thoughts on to the relevant departments for you. Thank you again for getting in touch with us so we could provide this insight and ensure your suggestions are forwarded on for your convenience. We hope you have a wonderful day and we wish you the very best and every success in your continued research.
***They didn’t even get my name right…***
How valid are small matches for endogamous populations like Ashkenazi Jews? It’s extremely hard finding records that date beyond my grandparents’ generation because surnames and borders changed so much.
Probably significantly less valid. You’d need more evidence.
This is being done at the same time they are issuing over 1B in junk bonds and paying the owners 900M as a return on their investment.
I finally finished reviewing my several hundred 6 – 8 cM matches that Ancestry alleges a “common ancestor”. I not only recognize many of the links as perfectly valid, after review of the public family trees associated with the match, but found several that have enabled me to break through brick walls. One was where Ancestry shows a “potential ancestor” in ThruLines with 14 matches through 8 different children. More than half of those matches have less than 8 cMs. I’m now researching the paper trails to validate the ancestry, and have so far been successful in finding them. This was a major brick wall for me, and it would not have been possible without evaluating the 6 -8 cM matches Ancestry wishes to remove.
Those bloggers who hate these small matches are doing a great disservice to the genealogical community by opposing your praise-worthy efforts to seek their continued inclusion in Ancestry’s cousin matches. Maybe they were able to find their birth family through large matches, but as an adoptee myself, I NEED those 6 – 8 cM to find my own heritage.
Thank you for your continued passionate advocacy !
I do not disagree with your thoughts on this matter. I don’t know how much it affects me because I have a hard enough time dealing with the 130 cM matches! And with Jewish ancestry, it feels like there are a lot more bogus matches (kids match more than parents) even with high cM.
Anyway, I would like clarification. Is Ancestry actually DELETING anything? Everyone still has their DNA in the system. Just because I match someone less than 8cM doesn’t mean they are deleting either of our profiles. Given that, aren’t they just reducing the size of a generated database by changing how the matches are generated? And if that is true, couldn’t they just change the software back in the future? I guess I feel like they are making things difficult for some people, but they aren’t really eliminating data. AM I wrong?
Also, when I first got 23andMe I felt like they showed me about 1000 matches. Now I think it is more like 1500 (I see 1627). That doesn’t seem like nearly as many people as I see on Ancestry. Aren’t they artificially restricting the match list too?
They apparently store matches in a table, which makes sense. Their justification is data storage, so yes, they are apparently deleting them. That’s the only way to free up space.
I haven’t read thru the entire article yet, so perhaps you already addressed this but, when Ancestry advertises and encourages people to take their test don’t they tell you that by doing so you will find “family” through the matches you have to your DNA? Is there anywhere that they state that Ancestry will arbitrarily decide at what point (level) you are not given the totality of your DNA matches? Wouldn’t this be considered fraudulent advertising at a minimum? Shouldn’t the “customer” decide what is or what is not a valid match using the entire results of the DNA processing? Based on your warnings, I started scrolling through my lower level matches and found one at 20cM with a more uncommon surname that was the same as a very high level match (b.1969) to my father (b.1916-Bio parents unknown) on 23&me. I contacted the individual and connected with the administrator of this kit who let me know that my recent match WAS the son of my father’s match (as well as a 9cM match to the administrator’s father). Now, my contention is, that many new test results are those of the current younger generation and definitely provide validation of a family line regardless of how low the connection. With this info, a “family line pattern” can be developed and IS useful to we who are paying for this service!!
All vendors make their own decisions as to match levels. I initially found one if my connections through a son too. Turns out his mother had also tested but I couldn’t see her in the shared match list because she was less than 20 cM as was he. So yes, the next generation will at least potentially share less.
Thank you for another great post on this issue.
I’ve also found these small matches useful on my colonial US brick wall ancestors and for NJ research where many records were burned.
In fact, while saving my tiny matches from the upcoming purge, I stumbled across (3) matches from different points in the same collateral line to one of my colonial brick wall ancestors. I have opened very few of the matches I’m saving, but these jumped out at me. It’s enough to suggest further research in a particular area of NY and to investigate the possibility of a prior marriage into that collateral family line further back. This is in a family who named all their boys William, Samuel, James and Joseph for successive generations, making it mind-numbing to try to distinguish which records belong to whom. I’m thrilled to be able to open a new line of inquiry. I don’t know if I would have ever found this bread crumb without Ancestry’s tiny matches.
Thank you, Roberta. 🙂
So I’ll never really know if f I’m related to Davy Crockett or Captain Morgan.
I don’t know about Morgan, but John Crockett, who settled on Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay with his eight sons in 1686, left many descendants, including most of the 600 people who live there. 🙂
Roberta, thank you so much for providing the facts regarding the mass purge. I will be contacting the Better Business Bureau again regarding this matter as I did when ancestry was converting from the “new” message system to the “new new” message system with no written comment or promise regarding our ability to save the Folders. I had over 30 Folders. One for each chromosome. One for each plantation as I hunt for enslavers and enslaved etc..Since I believe as a commenter preciously stated “is it legal to take away product you promised and provided”. I will also tweet, share and post your Blog where I can. I believe the email your provided for ancestry in a previous Blog might be incorrect. My email to them came back to me. The email ancestry provided over a chat is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you. I will update the email in a bit.
My email bounced back from email@example.com
I ended up using the feedback form on their Contact Us web page.
I have provided this feedback to Ancestry as an example of what will be lost:
I manage a genetic genealogy project to identify an ancestor born in England the early 1700s. Because of the genetic distance of the cousins involved, this project relies on DNA segments below 10.
In fact, my most significant finding to date relied on a 7 cM match that I then validated using tools on other sites.
But if I hadn’t been able to identify that 7 cM match on Ancestry in the first place (which will be the situation for future discoveries if you remove them) this discovery and the family information it led to would have remained a mystery.
Working on distant ancestors necessarily means working with small segments. It was only through that 7 cM match that I discovered a hugely significant triangulation group as reported here:
Ironically I was going to write to you about this as an Ancestry success story!
How many distant cousins will it be impossible for me and so many others to identify — when the time is right — if our potential to discover them evaporates in 4 weeks?
Please do not delete them. I will pay a bit extra to retain them if you want. Thanks for your consideration.
Well, props to Ancestry for making it clear in their quick reply that they paid attention to the 7 cM example I provided: “We understand how important these matches must be to you if you were able to use a distant match for confirming an ancestor born in the 1700s. Your feedback has been forwarded to the appropriate department for consideration.”
I tried to comment, but ancestry has now closed the link Roberta posted for commenting.
Great post! One thing that never seems to be said is that Timber is substantially shortening our segments. I have a match on Ancestry that says it’s 7 cM. Back when GEDmatch used an A in the kit name for a match from Ancestry, this match uploaded his Ancestry data there. GEDmatch has a 12 cM segment. We’ve emailed; I’ve found others that triangulate with him, and he has family from County Roscommon, Ireland with surname Shannon. My 2nd great grandmother was Hanora Shannon who lived in Roscommon, Ireland. She would have been born around 1820. I can’t even find a baptismal record for her son born about 1840. So forget finding any records for her.
Yesterday when I was looking at matches to my 2nd cousin on MyHeritage I found a match of 26.4 cM. I recognized the name from Ancestry and looked the match up there. Ancestry says we share 13 cM. Timber has reduced her segment match to me by 50%.
So my contention is that those 6 and 7 cM matches they are talking about are in actuality at least 10 cM. I personally have not found a segment over 9 cM that is false – this is based on looking at my husband and his 3 sisters visual phased data and known cousin matches to them. I think the whole this is data storage, as you mentioned, and trying to make their system run faster and more reliable. Most of the time I have to run Ancestry in a private browser window if I want to search member list, see a profile of a match or see messages. Otherwise I get one of the error messages.
Yes, some close relations have less than 8cm and we should be able to determine for ourselves though other evidence if a match is a reasonable one to make.
I have one match, with only 7cm who is related to my great grandmothers sister, and has lots of stories to tell me about my great-great grandmother that had been passed down to her from her grandmother to lived to advanced years. She is very sweet and a treasure trove of information about the family. Everyone from that line has about 1% Congo out of mostly European, so even if there is a mysterious 1/2 relation in there somewhere, I am pretty confident we are a true DNA match through that great-grandmother.
In other cases, I have searched names and found folks connected to names in the oldest parts of my tree in CT, MA, and NY and it simply boosts my confidence in how that line has been reported in records and that they are indeed mine. Some matches are before the ThruLines generation cut off. I have created my own ThruLines groups for people I match prior to the mid 1700’s – an older common ancestor category. It is not proof, but simply one more piece of evidence.
In addition, ancestry has generated well over 150 ThruLines matches for me that are less than 8cm, that I will lose and this does not even include what will soon be discovered as “rounded up” losses. I have already grouped those and have started putting them on my tree notes and in trees so I can find them again, since soon ThruLines may no longer report how we are related and some have incomplete trees.
I have my work cut out for me. Since I have over 120,000 matches on ancestry, I decided to save only those with public linked trees and that share family names (but I have not discovered all the names yet-sad). I have simply been entering in family names in the search box with the selected categories, unviewed and cm range 6-7, starting with the more obscure names, but last night I made it up to Henderson, Nelson, Harrison, Campbell and Simpson. I do not even know if I should attempt Smith and Jones as I am at nearly 7,000 in my “hold category.” Since Smith is from the early 1800’s I put Schmidt instead as some were going by that spelling.
My other concern is that even though I have saved them in a hold group, will ancestry stop listing the shared names at the bottom? I put them in a large hold category as you suggested, since I am out of most group colors but some older names, that I have matches to, would be hidden back in trees beyond what is visible at a glance, but at least if I run across this tree in family tree searches I would know if we are related or not, and that is helpful. I doubt I have time to put a shared family name next to all 7,000.
If ancestry is worried they simply can’t handle everything as the “backend services are becoming overloaded” error message is becoming more frequent, maybe they should only show matches with “linked” trees for matches under 7cm and require people to link their trees if they want to see these older matches.
A lot of people go to ancestry just to get their ancestry composition and never make a tree or simply make an unlinked one with only immediate family. I get nothing when I run into an unlinked tree as a match unless I contact them and I rarely get a response from an unlinked tree. Or those of us who want 6 or 7 cm matches visible can pay a premium, I am OK with that rather than losing them.
It will be a lifelong pursuit and hobby, but I actually love the fact, that I will never get to an end of the discoveries.
I “assume” this is largely an issue with traffic and volume on ancestry…and not as much about really making more reliable matches. If they were for reliability, they would be adding Y and MtDNA not limiting the matches.
WOW…definitely loved this article. Thanks for writing more on this subject. I know you took a lot of flack on the article prior to this situation of loss of the small amounts of DNA, but ever since you wrote about it I wanted to let you know that I made a discovery of a 4th Cousin through the small amounts of DNA and this 4th Cousin is of African American descendant. The match matches at 75 cm and if I did not have the small amounts of DNA I possibly may never have found her. She definitely shares same surname of my Maternal Grandfather who is a Brown. So I am pretty excited about this because definitely defines my history in a way that I was not positive if existed but obviously it does.
Another aspect is I have found many crossovers between my Paternal Grandmother, Paternal Biological Grandfather and Maternal lines as well. So definitely Endogamy does exist in this aspect. I definitely can see the enriched history of my family lines and the possibilities of where this may all lead to.
I have signed on one of the petitions that you posted, the African American one specifically because I do know there is not alot of records kept back in the past…most definitely and being a History Buff it is always been my concern about preserving the past no matter how good, bad or ugly it can be.
Yes again thank you for adding additional information in order to save more matches at that small amounts. I definitely will have a lot of work ahead of me but it will be worth the effort and definitely preserve my Family History. Again awesome article and thank you for your inspiration and insight into this particular subject. 😊
“Many people don’t realize shared matches below 20 cM aren’t shown at Ancestry.” I had absolutely NO idea regarding this statement. I’ve been working diligently trying to save my matches because of what I’ve read in your emails. I couldn’t figure out why, one after another, I was opening my matches who had no “shared matches”. Thank you for your newsletters. They are so valuable.
One could argue that it would be anti-racist to preserve this data, recognizing that past racist practices means that those with ancestors who were enslaved or were Native American have reduced options for finding and documenting the stories and history of their ancestors. I hope Ancestry does the right thing by preserving this data.
This may have been mentioned before but didn’t see it. Anyway, I have found that while Ancestry won’t list shared matches under 20cM, if you open a match under 20cM and then click on “shared matches” you will see all shared matches over 20 that you have with that low DNA match. I have found a number of connections this way. But it is very time consuming. Wish the number of shared matches showed up on their profile – so you didn’t have to go into each record in order to find out if there are any.
Yes, you always see shared matches over 20 cM. But in many cases you will match others below 20 cM and you can’t see them.
But it would be great if it would show “2 shared matches” or “0 shared matches” so you wouldn’t have to waste the time of checking them.
Except – I also manage my uncle’s test and have found hundreds of cases where we both match a third party’s test but we don’t appear in each other’s Shared Matches. For example, he shares 67cm / 5 segments with JG (4c) and I share 19.559 / 3, My uncle appears in my shared matches list for JG but I don’t appear in his. Struggling to see the logic of this,
You are under 20 which is the Ancestry threshold.
If your Lord line is Acadian, we probably share ancestors.
Sorry – last name is ex’s.
disappointed that matches will be lost and tried to ‘save’ my mom’s ‘distant cousin’ matches (she has 147 4th cousin or closer matches) BUT has 4272 ‘distant cousin’ matches at the 8cM level!
In my opinion what Ancestry (and all other DNA matching sites) need to do to save storage is to have an option for people who are actually active and those that are not – if you just want to know ‘where you came from’ dont save the information.
More than half of mom’s (147) ‘close’ matches dont have a tree. 6 have responded to messages that they are not interested in genealogy, 11 have not logged in in more than a year — better reporting tools would really be nice!
Roberta, ancestry is touting that their new system will show you longer segments, and equating this to the greater validity of your matches. But isn’t it true that there is a higher probability of long segments being passed down by the father? This would mean that the small segments being deleted are more likely to be from female ancestors – yet another obstacle in a group that is already difficult to research because of lack of surnames and records.
It already shows longer segments.
I’ve written about this. Let me check when I go inside. I’m on my walk in the garden now.
I’m sure if you found a lot of weeds in the garden, you wouldn’t just tear up the whole garden, flowers and all ? You’d just find the flowers you enjoyed. Right ?
Some people see a glass of water half empty, while we see it half full. If you’re dying of thirst, that half glass can be mighty refreshing.
So what if half of these 6-8 cMs are not valid as IBC ? Half are, and those “flowers” are there to discover and enjoy. 🙂
Thanks for your persistence on this topic, Roberta. I didn’t test with Ancestry but many of my distant Irish matches did. So I’m very conscious of the value of smaller matches (and also the caution needed in using them). I admire your refusal to let this issue die quietly – thank you again 🤩
I have so many small matches that I can’t see any practical way to go through them and group them and so save them. But I can see the logic for Ancestry, as you outline it, that we pay a one-time fee and they have to provide an all-time service. It will only work as a business model while they are expanding rapidly, and now their rate of new customers is slowing. It would serve no-one’s purpose if they went broke.
So couldn’t one option be for Ancestry to charge a small annual fee for those who want to preserve these matches? Depending on how small the fee was, it might be attractive to most of us.
I would be interested in that if it included a chromosome browser. Otherwise p No. I already paid a fee for my test with the stipulation I would get matches. Think of the men who had Ydna tests done at Ancestry and when Ancestry decided it was to expensive and cumbersome to deal with Y dna they dumped it all. How about they figure out a way to cull out the millions of tests that were taken or ethnicity estimates only and that have no interest in genealogy.
If you have some Sephardic Jewish ancestry, you often can see how it really spread out several centuries ago. If your family stayed in Europe, yet you match people in Latin America, for example, Cuba or Mexico (with no other relevant ancestry to explain the connection), then you are usually working with those smaller DNA puzzle pieces, trying to understand distant but important family history.
That’s true for me. I’m Ashkenazi with some Sephardic ancestry on my maternal line. I have distant matches with people from Mexico and Cuba.
If I go to Ancestry and type in a common Hispanic name randomly, such as Hernandez I get matches just above or under 8 cM like this…
AG, who is ONE of my Hispanic match with Hernandez on the family tree:
Indigenous Puerto Rico 9%
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 6%
European Jewish 3%
Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu Peoples 3%
Indigenous Americas—Mexico 2%
Indigenous Haiti & Dominican Republic 1%
Ireland & Scotland 1%
Northern Africa 1%
Come on, the guy has to have had a Converso in his background.
Some of the dots to connect this history are going to disappear. We share 7 cM.
I also get distant Hispanic and French Acadian matches.
Roberta, it’s really even worse than what you’re saying. As you’ve been reporting, Ancestry has announced its intention to eliminate matches *under* 8 cM. Of course, some people have been confused by this, because they don’t necessarily realize how many of the matches reported as being 8 cM will still be affected.
That’s because Ancestry no longer bothers with reporting small matches to the nearest tenths. Back when they did, you would know when a match was really only 7.7 cM — making it subject to elimination. At the very least Ancestry should first have gone back to reporting matches of this size to tenths, and not to the nearest whole number.
But that isn’t the only problem. Presumably, this purging will apply *after* Timber. That means that a match might well be above 8.0 cM *without* Timber, but because of Timber’s “adjustment” is may end up as less.
To give a specific example, I have a match that Ancestry reports as a probable 5th-8th cousin sharing 7.7 cM across one segment with me. In reality, this person is my 3rd cousin once removed. Further, her reported sharing with me at 23andMe is 51 cM across four segments. Unfortunately, two of the four segments — including one of 28.14 cM — are located on the X chromosome. Ancestry *tests* for SNPs on the X chromosome, they just don’t bother to use it.
A brother of this particular match has also tested at 23andMe. My sharing with the brother is 98 cM across 7 segments. This illustrates how large the difference can be between the amount of DNA that two siblings share with the same person! (I also share 71 cM with a 1st cousin of these two, who like them is also a 3rd cousin once removed to me).
Both the siblings and their 1st cousin share some X chromosome DNA with me, which again is not counted at Ancestry. But the bottom line is that we can’t really have *any* confidence in the truth amount of sharing, not only because of the exclusion of the X chromosome (which MyHeritage also does), but because of the use of Timber — which I am convinced eliminates as much real matching as it does “excess” matching.
I agree Gary.
Roberta I sent an email to Ancestry using your link. I received a message from Ancestry that that was not a good address. They gave me another one. It won’t even go through. then i used one provided above. Came back:
Thu, Jul 30 at 9:49 PM
Thank you for your interest in contacting Ancestry. Unfortunately, you have reached a non-working email address. Please visit our Ancestry Support site at the following link, where you will find helpful articles and information as well as our updated contact information for further support.
This is an automated email, please do not respond.
Thank you, Roberta, for linking the petitions!
One thing they could do is besides just the matches they are already preserving (notes, messages, groups, starred), is they could also preserve
1) 6-8 cM matches which have ThruLine ancestors; and
2) 6-8 cM matches who have shared matches of over 20 cM.
This would probably still eliminate over 75% of the small matches while preserving most of the matches that would be interesting to genealogical researchers. (I checked a small random sample of my 6 cM matches and at least 90% had no shared matches or Thruline connection).
Also they should continue to *add new* matches under 8 cM which also fall into one of those categories. It would only require recalculating matches when someone with a DNA test updates their tree (as part of the ThruLine recalculation that occurs every day), or when a new DNA test is processed (to see if any of their >20 cM matches have any shared matches under 8 cM), something I’m sure Ancestry’s servers could already handle.
It would also be nice to be able to click on anyone’s profile that has a DNA test and see how much of their DNA matches yours, even if it is as little as 4 or 5 cM, or to see if you have any shared DNA matches, even if you don’t match them directly at all. This could help confirm hypothetical genealogical connections found through browsing their trees.
Remember that the reason you’re probably not seeing shared matches us because Ancestry doesn’t show shared matches below 20 cM.
I have found several Shared Matches at 6 cMs. I have one 6cMs match with 3 segments. Honest!
I have saved 400 of my 6cMs matches all of which I have found a tree match by using the Search feature in the trees of my matches to go upstream, back in time.
Oh, I fully understand that I am not seeing shared matches under 20 cM. But what I am saying is there *is* 20 cM shared matches, i.e., that if I match someone with 6 cM, and they and I BOTH match someone else over 20 cM, it is highly likely that the 6 cM match is not a false (identical-by-chance) match. (Of course a chromsome browser would definitely confirm this, but it doesn’t seem like Ancestry has any motivation to create one.) Ancestry should not be deleting high-likelihood positives such as these. Nor should it be deleting matches with have ThruLine connections, as such a connection also highly suggests the match is not identical-by-chance, Getting rid of these valuable matches is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
I have been reviewing my 6-7 centimorgan matches as quickly as I can and leaving notes if they have any shared matches or a tree with any clues. Last night I found a wonderful match I would have hated to lose. I knew the person’s name the minute I saw it but would not have thought we were related. The match was the niece of a neighbor in Virginia 30 years ago. Through our neighbor we met the parents of my match who became great friends. They lived in Hilton Head where we retired. They were older and moved north a few years ago to be near their daughter. The father passed away a few years ago. We had joked that we were probably related because both our families originally came from Dover, NH. Her father would have been a closer match. Her mother is still living and will learn the news today. I had worked with my neighbor on their tree years ago. Now I will research a few more generations back to see if I can connect us. 5th to 8th cousins. I hope your efforts will convince Ancestry to delay the purge at least to the end of the year so I have time to review all my distant matches and my sisters since we have many different distant matches as evidenced on ThruLines.
Hi Roberta and Others:
Here is the latest from ancestry re their DNA purge.
“Distant DNA matches must share 8.0 cM or higher (beginning late August)
Our updated matching algorithm will increase the likelihood you’re actually related to very distant matches. As a result, you’ll no longer see matches or be matched to people who share 7.9 cM or less DNA with you unless you’ve messaged them and/or included them in a note, or added them to a group (including your starred group). This means you will have fewer DNA matches and ThruLines™. Based on customer feedback, we are delaying this change until late August so you have time to review and determine if you want to save any very distant matches by sending them a message and/or including them in a note or group.”
No surprise to me that this decision is more about storage and the issues it creates for THEM rather than doing this so for OUR benefit for greater accuracy. Nice spin,though. Isn’t that a form of lying?
If they want us to have more “accurate” matches, they could always purge to 10 cM or 15 cM or why not 20 cM. The matches would be waaaay more accurate.
It’s a disappointment, to be sure.
I’m still upset they got rid the the shared matches back to 6th and 7th great-grandparents. Remember those? I starred a bunch of them, but not the same.
Providing a service is what keeps customers or brings them back. Ancestry has the trees – but when you upset your customer base, you provide an opportunity for someone new to slip in. An opportunity for someone to provide revolutionary new tools – say like trees created from DNA matches. It’s coming.
In the meantime I starred the matches I’ve already have.
The DNA won’t be lost forever. We still have our DNA.
Thank you for the excellent article.
I would like to provide an empirical example where even “invalid” DNA matches can be useful for genealogical research with ThruLines. One of my ancestral pairs has 155 ThruLines matches with nearest common ancestors as my 4x great-grandparents. There are 40 matches in the 6-8 cM range, and of these, 39 (98%) have multiple shared matches (20 cM cut off) with other members of the same group. The one outlier could be due to a non parental event. Presumably, about half of these 40 matches are technically invalid, but most would still be potentially useful because we share the same common ancestors according to our trees.
Or, if you had a chromosome browser, they could triangulate with other family members. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know at Ancestry and deleting them hurts your chances of ever knowing. And guarantees you’ll miss future hints.
Fixing problems by deletion is a common MO for Ancestry.com for many years
AncestryDNA YDNA and mtDNA database/matching issues – DELETED AND FIXED
Sorenson Database – DELETED AND FIXED
YDNA and mtDNA sample storage – DESTROYED AND FIXED
MyFamily groups – DELETED AND FIXED
AncestryDNA forum management issues – DELETED AND FIXED
Rootsweb Notes maintenance issues – DELETED AND FIXED
AncestryDNA DNA Circles – DELETED AND FIXED
AncestryDNA 6-8 cM storage issues – to be DELETED AND FIXED
It would be nice if they actually fixed the issues rather than deleting.
Sometimes there were legitimate privacy and legal concerns, but other companies have tried to address the issue, whereas Ancestry just DELETES or in the extreme case of the DNA samples, DESTROYS.
I wonder if the actual samples were destroyed.
from Ken Chahine
“In the end we made the difficult decision to destroy the samples and are committed to trying to find solutions to these roadblocks for future products ”
You reported this also in your Oct 2 2014 blog.
Its so sad…Ancestry has 18 million samples now, and they could not find a way to keep the relatively small (but important) number of Y and mtDNA samples.
I suppose there is a slight chance that they never followed through and the samples are in storage somewhere but that would be very surprising.
Thank you. There was discussion about the Sorensen purchase and their samples too. Of course, now with Ancestry having some many testers, the Sorenson group is minuscule by comparison.
So, would it be better to save the 8cM matches too, just in case of Ancestry rounding up the 7cM matches? As stated above, “Ancestry has clarified that starred matches (in the groups) are saved”, A reply I got from AncestryDNA stated that matches less than 8cM will not be removed if they are grouped in a custom group, they stated they did not need to be “Starred”.
They don’t need to be started if they are grouped.
See my comment of today. Check your account and you may see a vast number of 7.9 cM matches that you need to deal with (by grouping, starring or messaging) if you do not want to lose them.
Roberta the 50% figure only refers to the false match rate. If you factor in Tim Janzens work on long lived segments then the percentage that a 7cM segment is in last 6 generations is closer to 5%. Its very possible that the segment comes from a more distant ancestor perhaps 10 or 11 generations ago. Definitely a complex area.
40 years ago I had the last 5 generations by conventional means.
And the 6th from work 20 years ago.
The attraction of DNA genealogy for me is to validate this work and to move further back. Most of my current activity is at 7 and 8 generations back. But if those DNA matches don’t exist, I don’t need an Ancestry subscription to look at the records to work out the people and relationships involved. So I cancelled my subscription, telling them why.
Their funding model won’t work unless they get new testers and people taking out subscriptions. The former are declining and the latter will be deterred by the reduction of things to find.
This cost-cutting move seems short sighted.
And ultimately, self-harming.
Wonderful article! I have over 125,000 matches. My daughter, however, only has 72,000. A huge difference! I have managed to code most of my matches so they will be saved. I fully believe the lower matches are going to be what breaks down my Hurst brick wall in Tennessee!
Thank you for your passion and for providing great articles for the rest of us!
Thanks to your posts I have starred and noted my 6-8cm matches in two lines. I have been able to move my research back a full generation in each line because of these low cm matches and ThruLines showing potential siblings I knew nothing about. There may be more but time appears to be running out. I have called, emailed and chatted my disapointment. Thanks for making us aware.
They have delayed the purge until late August, so you still have time.
Having dealt with Ancestry in several capacities over the years, I can sum up their past and current actions the same: “Ancestry giveth and Ancestry taketh away.”
I thought I already appreciated you a lot, for all your ‘dna-explaining’, helpful tips, and in-depth approach to the complex venture of trying to move past ‘brick wall’ ancestors . . . But now I love you even more for what you are doing !
I tested at Ancestry some years ago and have continued to subscribe precisely for this purpose. Ancestry’s unethical reneging and taking away those matches hits me like a “brick wall” — generationally right where I’m trying to find my unknown ancestors — in the ancestor range where 6-8 cM would not be surprising (and has indeed already helped me significantly). I’m working primarily on proving or finding unknown 4th-6th great-grandparents. Colonial America. I need these matches (as well as seeing Shared Matches <20 cM)!
I now can't thank you enough for your efforts, your in depth analyses and explanations of the many reasons why this is so important. Especially after reading some blogs, of others whom I had previously respected, and being a bit stunned to read them as supporting this purge at the least, and at the worst nearly ridiculing anyone who thinks there is any value in using these matches… It was very discouraging and tempted me to just give up on finding our ancestors beyond several generations… Ancestry appears to think that going beyond your 3rd or 4th great-grandparents is SO VERY distant and not worth supporting.
But I could see great value in these matches, used in groupings, and felt I was having success. So, I applaud you for confirming their value (with stellar 'explaining' and reasoning), and for standing up for all of us, with your advanced knowledge and talent for precise and forward-thinking reasoning. And, for bringing intelligence, and hope, to the matter.
It's mind-boggling to me that a genealogical company which promises to support furthering your ancestral research with DNA would even consider a move such as this. Seems thoughtless and callous.
Please, Ancestry, I hope they will NOT remove these matches and will continue to provide them. These are not unreasonably small as they keep implying, and used judiciously are potential rare gems of data and hints, which may fill the voids where none other are found.
For so many people, in various different circumstances, for now and future generations.
Thank you, Roberta, for what you're doing. Really.
I think removing the small matches reduces the great value of tests by older participants. I offer the following example.
My first cousin once removed is 105. Her grandparents were born before 1840. Each couple represents half of her DNA. She has great grandparents born before George Washington was president. Each of those couples represents 25% of her DNA. This is like a time machine for ancestry.
She has lots of meaningful matches at 6 – 10 cM. Her longer segments match small segments of many participants who are looking for 3rd, 4th or 5th great grandparents.
She has fifth great grandparents born in the 1650s, 4th great grandparents born around 1700! I am one more generation down the line but I and my 2nd cousins share many of these matches. The segments are small but meaningful and provide a way for those born more recently to explore distant ancestry.
My dead ends are all in the 1700s and earlier. Matches of more than 10 cM usually just add to my knowledge of distant cousins and let me share information with them. The small matches are where I can carefully research and learn new things. Many are not of use but some are the key clues.
Roberta, thanks so much for being one of the few voices of reason in this whole mess. One of my 6 cM matches, along with 3 other relatively small half 4th Cousin matches, has helped to assure me of the identity of my Greatgreatgrandmother’s mother who remarried. I have searched unsuccessfully for 40 years for documentation of her name as her parents’s child. These matches are invaluable to me, and small matches like this should not be deleted.
I doubt that Ancestry would even consider this easy-to-implement option, but they could allow those of us who want to preserve our small matches to opt in to preserving them, while others who don’t value them could do nothing and they’d disappear. The result would be the same without our having to spend whole days trying to get them into groups. I have been doing this now for four days and haven’t yet reached the bottom of the 8 cM list, with 6-7 cMs and all of our son’s still facing me. I have arthritis in my hands, and I don’t know how much longer I can hold out.
About those ‘tiny’ matches.
I have a few dozen matches in the 6-8 cM range that trace to a family that could be on the other side of the brick wall. However, I have no paper trail linking my mdka to them. And my cousins don’t match them (but my brother does). Hmmm….
And the 20 cM threshold. My 3C1R only matches me at 17cM at ancestry. He uploaded to Gedmatch and got a ydna test. Beyond a doubt, we share the same 3G grandfather. Cool thing at Gedmatch is that he matches some of my other cousins *alot* more than he matches me. Which is cool, because he matches those other cousins on segments I don’t share with them. Which helps me identify matches to those cousins on segments I don’t have. Cool. But I already some of my cousins are my cousins and was looking for dna collaboration to find more cousins to break through the brick wall.
Its some of my little matches that have helped prove a connection to a family no one considered (except my dad’s aunt, who said along the family traced to them). My dad’s aunt is on the other side of the grave. And my dad. And all her research – from a time everything was done via paper – cannot be found. But if she did it by paper before , I can repeat what she did right?
I wish ancestry would allow a one time download of matches.
I’m someone what on the fence on the deletion of small segments. I wish they wouldn’t. It has helped me a little. Its helped others a lot.
I wish they wouldn’t delete it.
I know it doesn’t help with future matches, but have you seen the automated small match marker script offered by Roger Froysaa on the “AncestryDNA Matching” FB group? There is also a how-to video connected that explained how to do to. (More than more downloading Firefox here so the video is easier to understand.)
It is amazing!!! Just set it up, and let it run in the background while you do other things on Chrome.
I had done some marking of matches, but never would have completed in time.
This sounds like maybe what I need; I am barely making a dent in my smaller matches after many hours over several days. It appears you have to join Facebook which I don’t want to do. Where can I find access to this tool (or one similar) elsewhere? I think I really need it as I need to preserve small matches for the research I’m doing. Thanks for any help…!
I don’t use Facebook. Is there another way to find the auto-script?
Thanks so much!
Perhaps Linda could send it to you or put you in touch with the author.
Working through my wife’s small matches, Roberta, and you showed up – can’t wait to try to figure it out.
Question: will shared match info for the 6-8cMs that I’ve saved to a group be “frozen” or continue to be updated along with all my other matches? For example, right now John Doe (6cM) doesn’t show any shared matches with me. What if next winter, Jane Doe gets a dna kit for Christmas and shares 100cMs with me. She also shares dna with John Doe. Will Ancestry show Jane as a shared match when I click on John’s record? Or will it only show shared matches with John as of late august? I’m assuming that if i save his record to a group, then any new shared matches will continue to be posted. But just wanted to know if anyone knows this for sure.
I don’t know.
Roberta, it appears that Ancestry has implemented its decision to provide information about matches in the 7.5 to 7.9 range that were previously rounded to 8. I had been working on my 7cM matches then we had a computer outage here. When I logged back on, lo and behold at the top of my matches in the 7 cM to 7cM range were HUNDREDS of 7.9 cM matches that we all now must deal with as they are at risk of deletion by Ancestry! I am glad the company decided to provide this information but, golly gee, I thought I was nearing the end of my 7.0 cM to 7.0 cM matches and it seems I am only just beginning!
thanks again for your informative posts on this and other issues!
Linda Horton in Maryland
You’re not alone in having thought that “8 cM” as used by Ancestry meant that the match was safe. But I took them literally in their use of “greater than 8” and “less than 8”, and I’m glad I did. (Technically, that leaves out “8” itself, since a number is neither greater than nor less than itself.)
I was actually irritated with Ancestry that they initially failed to anticipate the confusion that their decision to round numbers to the nearest whole number — instead of reporting to the nearest tenth, as they used to do — might cause. But at least now they’ve figured it out!
I’m glad they’ve done so, but it’s a bit late for me in that I already went through all of my 8 cM matches that I thought worthy of saving, and took the necessary steps. As in your case, there were *hundreds*.
Oh, well. At least it will be helpful for any new matches between 7.5 and 8.9 cM. I’ll know which ones are actually 8.0 cM or more, and are therefore already safe.
I might never have known about Ancestry’s purge if I didn’t receive emails about your blog posts. I can go long periods of time when I don’t check my DNA matches at Ancestry. As far as I know, their posting about the purge is only in the DNA section. I haven’t received an email from them concerning this change.
Thank you so much Roberta for keeping me (and others) in the loop about this matter and for offering suggestions about actions we can take.
Here’s the link to get the actual script.
Looks complicated, but you only have to adjust the first two lines. The video will tell you how to do that.
Here’s the link to the instruction video.
It is REALLY worthwhile to use Firefox so that the video instructions look like what you’re going to do 🙂
While I think of it, Roberta, a friend of mine believes that her grandmother was Roma, another small group. I have searched the internet without success to find out whether the Roma, like the Ashkenazi, Basques, Acadians, and other endogamous groups have characteristic DNA signatures in any of the three basic tests. Would you know whether they do or whether their DNA is simply blended into the more general European mix? Or where I might find information for my friend? As always, many thanks.
I would expect Roma to have connections with India.
Thanks Roberta, as always!
For those a little confused or lost in saving so many, you can search by a family surname in a tree or location (I am doing my most annoying mysteries) and specify 6 cM-8cM on the “shared dna” tab and go through saving those that show they have a common ancestor for starters. I also am trying to save those that have a tree because if they don’t, they probably aren’t as interested in sharing with me. I am doing those with trees over 300 people first then will go lower if I have time.
I have some relatives that I know are related because of letters, photographs and property. For someone reason the dna is really weak and one known relative doesn’t even look related, but I know it is valid on the small cM ones I found of that family. I hate to lose those cousins.
I have two elderly relatives who have no idea what to do so I am hurriedly saving their smaller matches as well.
One other thing I wanted to do was save my closest several hundred matches in a pdf list because they indicated later that the matches may show fewer segments than they do now. I already know that a lot of my matches show fewer total cM and segments on ancestry than either FTDNA or Heritage. I wanted to preserve the total cM amount and segments shown now before that change for comparison. When I did it on a Google Chrome browser, somehow ancestry controlled it and I couldn’t save all of the info on the page like my notes and the total cM and segments. It was already titled with their name and registry mark when I tried to save it. I had to go to my Safari browser and save it to “Books” to actually save all of the info on the page.
Thanks, Roberta. Ancestry hasn’t already deleted some have they? I just looked at my matches and I don’t have any under 20 cm. Is that strange or is it normal for some people not to have lower matches?
Here are my numbers in support of NOT removing any of our matches:
4,531 cousin matches between 6-8cMs – Thank you ThruLines
313 total cousins placed/linked on my Tree – Thank you ThruLines
41 cousins between 6-8cMs placed/linked on my Tree – Thank you ThruLines
64 cousins between 9-19cMs placed/linked on my Tree – Thank you ThruLines
108 cousins between 20-50cMs placed/linked on my Tree – Thank you ThruLines
I am still trying to group ALL matches with Common Ancestor to get a total number.
Truly amazing how they do it!
Given that Ancestry has provided a few conditions under which these matches of 6.0-7.9 cM can be preserved, I don’t see why they didn’t choose to *automatically* preserve matches which show up in ThruLines, or which show up using the “Common Ancestors” filter in your match list.
Instead, they make us go through these and other small matches *manually* if we want to preserve them. I have hundreds, even without considering any that *don’t* show “Common Ancestors”.
At least they’ve managed to figure out that matches which were actually less than 8 cM but at least 7.5 cM could be considered as “safe” by customers even when they weren’t. Now they show these matches — as they used to — to the tenths place, rather than rounding them to the next integer.
That they failed to do this initially meant that I had to slog through at least dozens of small matches shown as “8 cM”, since I couldn’t tell which were rounded up from 7.5 cM and which were rounded down from 8.4 cM. And as far as I know, they haven’t apologized for this inconvenience, and I doubt they ever will — if they even think about it.
They don’t want people to save those matches because they take up space. So they intentionally don’t make it easy because most people won’t
Yeah, I get that. I suspect they also would never have cleared up the vulnerability of 7.5-7.9 cM matches either — except that someone (or a lot of someones) called them on it.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sorry to say that my own dealings with customer service don’t give me any reason to believe otherwise.
I think it’s the bone they threw us.
I can’t get the script to work..well, I am afraid to go any further on my MacBook . I open the developer in Chrome and then….help.. who can I Venmo to do it for me?