Yes, Ancestry is Glitchy Right Now – Here’s What TO and NOT TO DO

Public Service Announcement – Ancestry has been a bit glitchy for a few days/weeks and remains so. All vendors have issues from time to time, and it seems to be Ancestry’s turn right now. I wasn’t affected at first, but these tree-based problems seem to randomly come and go. So even if you’re not affected right now, you may be soon.

Here are tips on dealing with the reported issues, and perhaps more important, what NOT to do. Trying to fix things may just cause more problems.

What’s going on?

What’s Up With Ancestry?

A few days ago I signed on to Ancestry to discover that all of my tree branches beyond the first page displayed were “gone.” At that point in time, if I clicked on the right arrow, either no ancestors appeared, just those blank boxes to add parents, or in one case, one ancestor appeared with no parents.

This was uniform for all of my tree branches.

Needless to say, it struck panic into my genealogist’s heart. The saving grace is that indeed, no one but me has edit access to my tree – so I know positively that no one but me could delete anything.

Furthermore, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that I had not deleted or broken the links of all of those ancestral lines. I don’t do “sleepwalk-genealogy” and if I did, I’d be much more likely to add someone😊

To try to quell the panic a bit, I used the Tree Search feature in the upper right-hand corner of the Tree page and yes, those “missing” ancestors were still in my tree file. They just weren’t showing correctly.

Technology Background

I spent years in technology and I learned two things:

  • Don’t panic and jump to conclusions
  • Sometimes things fix themselves, at least from the user’s perspective

After a couple of easy noninvasive steps, I decided to LEAVE THINGS ALONE and see what happened.

1-2-3 Things to Do

Here’s the 1-2-3 of things to do, in order.

  1. Sign out and back in.
  2. Try a different browser. If you are using a mobile app, use the computer and vice versa.
  3. Go away and check again later or tomorrow.

What Worked?

In this case, number three worked. The next day, everything was back to normal again with no residual damage.


Had that not been the case, I would have started searching on social media for common issues and I would have called Ancestry’s support – no matter how much I don’t like doing that.

But there’s one thing I would NOT have done.


DO NOT start to repair things. If you start trying to reconnect people, when the underlying problem is actually resolved by Ancestry, Heaven only knows what a mess you’ll have with people double connected.

Twins and Duplicates

Another issue reported is that people are being duplicated in trees, including the tree owner/home person who finds that they have a twin with the same information.

Again, DO NOT start deleting and correcting.

What You CAN Do

Verify that indeed, only people you trust have edit access to your tree.

Under the name of the appropriate tree at upper left, select Tree Settings.

For another person to be able to either contribute to or edit your tree, you must specifically invite them to do so. Guests can only view your tree.

While Ancestry says that all invitees are editors, that’s not the case, as shown below when I clicked to invite someone.

As you can see, the default is “Guest,” but always verify after someone accepts your invitation.


Patience is difficult, but if you’re experiencing tree problems at Ancestry, just do something else for a few hours or a couple days.

Here are four great genetic genealogy activities you can do elsewhere that are productive.

  1. Download a copy of your DNA file from Ancestry and upload to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, or GedMatch to find additional matches. Instructions can be found here.
  2. At FamilyTreeDNA, upload your file and get matches for free. Check Family Finder, Y or mitochondrial DNA matches, or order a Big Y test or upgrade. The Father’s Day sale just started and you can sign on or order, here.
  3. At MyHeritage, if you don’t have a DNA test, upload free and get matches here. Check your DNA matches using their new Genetic Groups filter. I provided instructions, here. While you’re viewing your DNA matches, be sure to check for SmartMatches, record matches and other hints. If you’re not a records subscriber, you can subscribe with a 14-day free trial here.
  4. At 23andMe, testers are limited to 2000 matches unless you purchase an annual subscription – then you’re limited to about 5000 matches. However, 23and Me does not roll matches off your list that you’ve connected to, invited to connect, made a note about or messaged. (At least they never have and mine remain.) Go to the last page of your DNA Relatives list, which are your smallest segment matches, and start working backward to be sure you’ve initiated some type of communication that will prevent them from rolling off your match list.

These tasks aren’t just busywork. You have no idea what kind of a gold nugget you may discover.

You’ll have accomplished several things, enlarged your horizons and maybe, just maybe, by the time you’re done your tree at Ancestry will have righted itself again.

What fun things did you discover?



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20 thoughts on “Yes, Ancestry is Glitchy Right Now – Here’s What TO and NOT TO DO

  1. Thanks, Roberta. Your alert was timely and reassuring! In fact, today there were glitches. In my case, trying to attach a record from a hint, it said someone was not in my tree. I could not go further with that record. I jotted down the details on a piece of paper, went back to my tree, and was RELIEVED the person was indeed there. Yes, PATIENCE is in order!

    Thanks for helping us all stay sane.

    Since I’m writing you, I’ll digress. I signed up for your talk May 24 on My Heritage Clusters, then had something come up that kept me from viewing/attending. Can you post a link to that talk.

    Carol Snow (distant cousin which we discovered some time ago)

  2. I have not been able to send messages to my matches for about two months. I have called about this and been told that I will be notified when the problems is solved.I have yet to receive a notifications.

  3. I thought 23andme changed the limit from 2000 to 1500. That is from the comments I read from other users about their limit.

  4. The glitch problem I had and what I read many others were having is not being able to search by location among your DNA matches. I surely hope that is a glitch!

  5. Aaaargh…that would be scary! I’m paranoid about my Ancestry trees, so I’ve synced the important ones over to Family Tree Maker, and regularly update them. It’s not expensive and will take media files too.

  6. Thanks for the information about the potential problems, and the information about tree settings. I also appreciate the advice about having patience, rather than jumping in to try to correct problems. I haven’t seen a problem with my Ancestry trees but if I do I will not freak out!

  7. For peace of mind, it is a good idea to periodically download the ged file(s) for your tree(s). When these weird things happen, you’ll have a recent copy saved, just in case…

  8. Thanks Roberta. I haven’t noticed that problem but the Ancestry website may be busy due to a new feature being rolled out. On my dna relatives page I now have the option to choose how a person is related to me. A box on the right-hand side of the page asks ‘Do you recognize this relative?’ and what relationship are they. I was able to fill in from a drop-down list, or choose ‘Don’t know’ I spent some time designating my known cousins, 2nd, 3rd, 3C1R etc.
    Note: you can change the status if you get it wrong first time.
    It’s a nice feature, but I don’t remember a notification about it. My father doesn’t have the option yet on his login so maybe they’re rolling it out in surname order?
    Kind regards, Dee

  9. Great article! Another thing folks can keep in mind if they do reach out to Ancestry via phone or chat, is that the Ancestry reps can only tell you if a glitch is occurring, and possibly offer a work around. They can’t fix your tree for you or comp you for time lost during a glitch, so please don’t shoot the messenger!

  10. Thanks for your articles. I have a different problem on DNA and Ancestry. How the level of connection is decided. eg reading of 14cM/1 segments does the level of relationship come from the actual test or from Ancestry scanning other trees to see possible links. If a thru lines is based on an error re a shared ancestor (confirmed by census info) who do we let know.

    • The relationship estimate is based on DNA alone. ThruLines are based on a DNA match plus trees.

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