Ancestry’s ThruLines Are a Hot Mess Right Now – But Here Are Some Great Alternatives

Right now, ThruLines at Ancestry is one hot mess.

Aside from the inherent frustration, especially over a holiday weekend when many people had planned to work on their genealogy, I’d like to say, “don’t panic.”

I don’t have any inside information about what’s going on at Ancestry, and I’ve attempted to make contact through their support page with no luck. They make talking to a person exceedingly difficult; plus, it’s a holiday weekend, and they are probably inundated.

Regardless, I have an idea of what is happening. Ancestry has been in the midst of recalculating “things,” perhaps in relation to their other changes, which I’ll write about separately in a few days.

In any event, Ancestry SURELY MUST KNOW there’s a significant problem because I imagine thousands of their customers are screaming right about now. Adding another voice won’t be helpful.


  • You may not have ThruLines at all.
  • If you do have ThruLines, don’t trust the information, or more to the point, don’t trust that it’s in any way complete.

I have two tests at Ancestry, both connected to different trees so that my matches and Thrulines are calculated separately for each test.

Test One

My first Ancestry test is connected to my primary tree. I’ve been amassing Thrulines cousins ever since the feature was released. I have hundreds of cousin matches descended from some of my more prolific ancestors.

Additionally, my sister’s grandchildren have tested, as have other close relatives who have connected their tests to their trees.

Today, those people are still showing on my match list, but are NOT showing as matches in ThruLines. None of them. Most of my ThruLines ancestors are showing zero matches, and the rest are only showing very few. Ancestors who had hundreds before now have 2, for example.

Here’s an example with my cousin, Erik.

My grandfather, William George Estes, shown in Erik’s tree, above, is his great-grandfather. Erik is my half first cousin, once removed, and we share 417 cM over 16 segments.

Yet, looking at my ThruLine for William George Estes, neither he nor my other cousins are shown as matches. Same for William George’s parents, and so forth.

ThruLines is VERY ill right now.

Test Two

My second DNA test at Ancestry is even worse. There are no ThruLines calculated, even though my DNA is tree-attached, and I had ThruLines previously.

I see this message now, and I can’t even begin to tell you how irritating this is – in part because it suggests the problem is my fault. It’s clearly not. My tree hasn’t changed one bit. I’m not alone, either. I’ve seen other people posting this same message.

And yes, if you’re thinking that there is absolutely no excuse for this – you’re right.

However, outrage isn’t good for us and won’t help – so let’s all do something else fun and productive instead.

Productive Genealogy Plans

Here are some productive suggestions.

At MyHeritage:

At FamilyTreeDNA:

  • Build your haplogroup pedigree chart by locating people through different companies descended from each ancestor in your tree through the appropriate line of descent, and see if they have or will take a Y-DNA or mtDNA test.
  • Tests are on sale right now, and there’s no subscription required at FamilyTreeDNA for anything.
  • Check Y-DNA and mtDNA tests to see if there are new matches and if you share a common ancestor.

At 23andMe:

  • Check for new matches and triangulation.
  • Check to see if 23andMe has added any of your new matches to your genetic tree.

Remember, the parental sides are typically accurate, but the exact placement may not be, and 23andMe deals poorly with half-relationships. It’s certainly still worth checking though, because 23andMe does a lot of heavy lifting for you.


For me, the most productive thing to do this weekend would be to copy the segment information from new matches with whom I can identify common ancestors at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe – the vendors who provide segment data – and paint those segments to DNAPainter.

Not only does DNAPainter allow me to consolidate my match data in one place, DNAPainter provides the ability for me to confirm ancestors through triangulation, and to assign unknown matches to ancestors as well.

As you can see, I’ve successfully assigned about 90% of my segments to an ancestor, meaning I’ve confirmed descent from that ancestor based on my autosomal matches’ descent from that same ancestor – preferably through another child. Will new matches propel me to 91%? I hope so.

What percentage can you or have you been able to assign?

If you need help getting started, or ideas, I’ve written about DNAPainter several times and provided a compiled resource library of those articles, here.

Have fun!!!


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37 thoughts on “Ancestry’s ThruLines Are a Hot Mess Right Now – But Here Are Some Great Alternatives

  1. Something similar: I have been finding Ancestry’s matching erratic of late. Often enough, when I triangulate Ancestry segments on Gedmatch, the individuals do not show up as shared matches on Ancestry itself. I can share, for example, the same segment with a mother, her son, and her brother, (as verified on Gedmatch), yet the son and the brother do not show up as shared matches.

  2. About three years ago I ordered Ancestry DNA. Within a couple of weeks I learned that lots of information I just purchased was about to disappear.

    I spent a full week to backup “stuff”. But the most important was that I backed up about 95% of my thrulines. I exported each to a PDF which could be searched. I am so glad I did.

    About 2-3 months ago, I took the plunge again and retested at Ancestry.

    I was very surprised to find that I had fewer Thrulines and many full cousins were now “half cousins”. While my observations are anecdotal, I surmised that as the “false” trees have ever-populated, more and more thrulines showed half relationships or disappeared. Again, I have not studied this. But I do check my new Thrulines against old and this is my conclusion based on limited comparisons.

    This weekend I received a message that maternal and paternal grouping on Ancestry would either disappear or become available at an extra fee? At the moment I am adding a “maternal or paternal line” group marker to all my matches down to 19 cM. I’ve finished my maternal line. I am down to about 24 cm on my paternal line. So 3-4 years after my first attempt at Ancestry DNA, I am spending a day trying to save paternal and maternal markers Deja vue.

    Assuming the message I received earlier is basically accurate, could the ThruLines also be in the process of moving to an extra fee?? I have no idea. This is just a very wild guess, but it could explain what you are seeing.

    PS my day marking “maternal” and “paternal” was not wasted. I have “Poteets” in my family lines. This Surname has more name variations by a factor of 10-20 over other Surname variations.

    As I marked M – P , I noticed matches with possible Poteet variants I’ve never seen before, like Pattat, and Pattas. A reminder, that it is good to just look at the names of our matches ( even if there are thousand and thousands ). This can’t be done often but I should probably divide the task up and review matches piecemeal over 2-4 year periods.

    • My Thrulines are suddenly correct–because all they are currently showing are lineages that I’ve worked out myself! On the other hand, it’s very strange that the maternal/paternal groups still exist in my account, yet on each individual profile, the designations have consistently been marked as “Unassigned” (even where I’ve made an assignment myself). I don’t see why the sorting would disappear, but I dread the thought of extra fees.

  3. Including the thru lines situation some of my ancestors have dropped off completely. Tried it the next day, and others dropped off and some ancestors suddenly had hundreds! so… I checked for their new Common Surnames and found myself LITERALLY ROTFL!!! Turner – sure, my Grandfather’s line,
    nothing on my grandmothers line of Taylor all of a sudden
    Anderson – I have a family of maybe 3 on Anderson pretty far back
    Deulev And I cant find a thing for any of the rest of them!!
    Duley ?
    Smith ?
    Ascher ?
    Attwell ?
    Atwell ?
    Back ??????
    Baker ?
    AND – for my Jewish Paternal side, OMG !!!!!

    I gave up and looked at my tree on line with Ancestry, and it is a hot mess.
    I have decided that leaving it alone for awhile is best. Oddly, they didn’t send out any messages on this event, so that makes me nervous. but they did extend the sale of their test kits over this holiday…

    THANK YOU, as always, for filling us in – We’d rather hear news from you and not have to call them, as I’ve often waited 45 mins on hold. (sigh).

    • Yes, I should have said that. I recommend doing absolutely nothing right now. The situation could be made worse.

    • I reported the problem with common surnames months ago but nothing has changed. When they first came out with this feature I was able to find several clusters of ancesters that I hadn’t been aware of before (although not sure exactly how connected to me yet). Now the first name or 2 are possibly correct, but then like yours it seems to revert to alphabetical order of all the names in your match’s trees. Totally worthless the way it is now. Surely they are aware of this – and should’ve fixed it by now of removed it.

  4. You are so right. I just checked my 1st cousin. My bit have our line back to our common grandparents, but Ancestry doesn’t even try to display ThruLines. It was working OK for me before 10 AM CDT this morning.

  5. The other funky thing that has been happening the last few weeks is that days go by (sometimes a whole week) with no dna matches and then I’ll get 10-15 dna matches all at once. Then nothing for days and days. Do you know if dna matches showing up only once a week is something new? If it will continue like this then at least they should let us know when the batch will be released so I don’t keep checking for new dna matches.

  6. Oh – I use ThruLines almost every day, and it has been working fine, it depends on who you ask. Because the Thrulines algorithm maps common ancestors between people who have matching DNA its results are heavily dependent on people having trees that are at least somewhat accurate. Unfortunately, in Ancestry a large number of family trees have virtually no coherent research behind them, and this is what messes up TLs. The system itself is pretty good, at least I have not found any other one that is close. Your examples are basically DNA match triangulations, which are great but TLs is different concept for people who do not have DNA knowledge.

    • Mine were fine until a day or so ago too, while other people were reporting this phenomenon. Ancestry may be rolling something out gradually with unanticipated issues. The scope of the difference is the clue that something is very wrong.

      • ThruLines were basically offline for a couple of days, and Ancestry is extremely poor at communicating issues but to use the “outage” as proof that TL is not working is not fair. Because TLs are algorithmically mapping DNA matches to 3rd Party trees, TLs are basically a hint factory. Doing the mapping “by hand” as you propose in the article will certainly bring a better result but you are basically comparing hinting to researching which is not the intent of TLs

  7. Thanks, Roberta! Now I know I’m not going crazy with those who showed up before, but have not disappeared from thrulines. How will we know that Ancestry knows this is occurring, and how can we help prod them to fix it? It’s so frustrating!

  8. ThruLines was working for me last night (I even connected a couple new bonafide matches to the family tree). I checked today after reading your blog post, and all seems to be working… so far. I’ll bet you’re right about some sort of gradual roll-out of a new feature. Will keep an eye out!

  9. Yes, they certainly are a hot mess today!! I manage 30 family tests and all except one are connected to my large and well-researched family tree. A good number of them have issues today. Some say they are not connected to a family tree at all, even though on the same page they have the name of the tree they are connected to. One cousin I worked on today who had done a DNA test was newly added to my tree. Ancestry is still trying to show that person descended from someone who is connected to the wrong person on some other people’s trees. ThruLines used to recalculate correctly when I added someone to my tree as I did today. After seeing the mess, I’m not going to touch them any more until it settles down. I do know they are rolling out the new DNA paid subscription that affects Maternal/Paternal automatic splits and that may have caused other things to break. Or they are rolling out something else we don’t know about, which often happens. Thank you very much for adding some sanity in a crazy world today 🙂

  10. Thanks so much for alerting us!
    Hopefully, you might be able to alert us when it is again safe to ‘go back in ther water’!

  11. Thanks for the heads up, Roberta. I haven’t looked at my mom’s Ancestry Thru Lines for some time so I took a glance after reading this post. From what I’m seeing of her newest unviewed Thru Lines some of them are okay.
    Many are not — because the relationship to the so-called common ancestor on the match’s side has no bearing at all to the info in their linked tree. If the match’s tree has Jane Doe 1926-2006 as their mom in their tree, the Thru Lines gives me something like Jane Blow 1935 – 1995. Yuck!

  12. About a week ago, my Ancestry thrulines showed that I was my mother. I spent 1 1/2 hours on the phone with them, but they just weren’t sure how to fix it. They had me link to a different tree and said don’t open it for 3 days, but I haven’t gone back to check if anything is fixed.

  13. Last night, I was working on the TL for a particular 4gg couple, and for the most part, it was ok, but when I added cousins in the 4th to 5th cousin range, refreshing the the TL screen, did not recognize the people I added to my tree, even though they were an exact match to the TL. I kept checking until I went to bed, and they never were changed. Luckily, the changes were only one isolated group , so maybe the damage won’t be too bad if I have to fix it! Of course, if there is anything to fix!

  14. About DNA Painter – Ancestor Painting. You asked how much we have been able to paint. I am astounded at your 90%. I have no idea what number I can reach but my goal is about 75%.

    I’ve been meaning to thank you for your blog entries and presentations on making a Ancestor Segment Painting on DNAPainter. In the past, I had done bits and pieces of this as I researched a particular line and looked at cluster results. About 2 months ago, I watched your presentation where you suggest starting with MyHeritage Theories and work from there. I did that and have been slowly adding additional segments from other sources. I am now up to 52%,

    While this does not sound impressive, I think I will be able to increase it with time. I have NO CLOSE RELATIVES who were alive to test or the few living ones who would consent to test. Over 5 years, I have been lucky that 2nd cousins have tested on all 4 grandparent lines. And I have a few more 2nd Cousins once removed. Even luckier is a few testers that were the extremes of my ancestor being the oldest child of a family and the “elderly” tester being descended from the youngest child in the family. This is a nice way to skip a generation. I do have many 3rd cousins that also help to fill in the segments.

    One day I may make a chart showing the distribution of testers by line and genetic distance. (When I run out of things to do – Ha ).

  15. Roberta, you mentioned that you have two dna kits, each one attached to a different tree. This intrigues me because my main tree is getting huge. Are you separating your paternal and maternal family lines into two different trees?

    • No. I’m not. I want my primary kit attached to my production tree. The second kit is linked to a much smaller tree so I can compare matches and monitor ThruLines hints when I haven’t provided the ancestor. It’s just for comparison for my blog, basically.

  16. My ThruLines(TM) went berserk about a week ago. The worst was a suggested connection chain involving someone who had died at the age of one so could not have been the ggmother of my match. I don’t have time for that kind of rubbish that any useful tree matching program should spot.
    (The information was right there in their proposed chain of connection!)
    I noticed at the upper right a feedback icon and used it.
    I don’t currently have a subscription and I intimated that while ThruLines are rubbish I won’t be taking one out.
    (One possibility is that some bright spark thought that subscribers would need to spend longer searching to try to verify a proposed link and so subscriptions would continue for longer and rise overall. If so, they need to hear opposite views.)

  17. Roberta, I pursueded 7 of my maternal 1st cousins to test at Ancestry (since I am an only child) and to make me a collaborator on their match lists. The goal was to verify distant parts of our various shared maternal family lines on my comprehensive tree. I have extensively color dotted mine and all of their major matches using a similar color coding scheme so that new matches can be easily categorized. Regarding Thrulines, the major weirdness that I am seeing is that my cousins are showing many more matches despite their scant trees in comparison with my detailed tree. in other words, in this case, having a detailed tree linked to your DNA kit seems to result in fewer thru-lines compared to the results from my cousins scimpier trees. This confuses me.

  18. OK – I wondered what was going on. Thrulines kept showing me matches to my Dad’s cousin – rather than to me. It was really weird. I tried restarting Ancestry, then restarting my computer. No change. Hope they fix it soon.

  19. I am beyond disappointed in ThruLines. 75% of my relatives appear as “half” when my tree definitely is not showing more than one wife or husband – no second families whatsoever.

    I called Ancestry and explained my predicament and he said he saw the problem and would fix it – he fixed it by removing ALL the others%#$#&@%#. Only my great, great, great grandmother remained as a child to g,g,g,g, grandfather..

    I personally do not recommend using ThruLines as all errors submitted by other people are what us causing the problem.

  20. I know that ThruLines is unreliable, but just thinking out loud, I wonder if the location of the data that completes the request (regarding ThruLines) resides all on one server, and how the set algorithms handle the request if one of those locations is down for a period of time.
    I also would be interested in, how many other “trees” have Erik’s info, but have assigned his line to the “wrong” people.

    I noticed, long ago, that while searching “people”, I experience different results (I’m talking basic resources), even though the information input was identical. So I started testing/checking, and I found that I would receive different results, depending on the system I used, the location of the system, and the level of the account being used, and if the target person was in my tree, in my list, or a stand alone search.

    So how would this apply to ThruLines? hmmm…million dollar answer, right? lol
    My opinion: ThruLines uses user input, so additions, corrections, deletions, not even talking about, just wrong information, to anyone’s tree, would/could alter results, that could take a lot of recalculations. Considering the size of A’s database, the locations of their servers, and the ability of the people monitoring the equipment, upgrades to the system from tech’s that really don’t know how it works in real life, I am surprised ThruLines got to the point to be released.

    It appears that individual modules do not have access, or does not communicate with each other, which would explain why each area is a prompt to link your tree. (Just like when you go to a doctor’s office, and you have to fill out 10 pages with your name and info) For example:
    My tree is not linked to my DNA. I have a match, “PA” who has 5 people in her tree, and she is not linked to her tree. Our shared DNA is 461 cM. I know this person, and I know how we are related, and who our MCRA is.
    PA is placed in my tree, but I am not in her tree; our MRCA is not even in her tree, nor did PA input any reliable information to the 2 people that has a name.
    Looking at PA’s match page, there are three areas that request that you link your tree:
    1. Common Ancestors
    You haven’t linked a family tree to your DNA results. If you do, you may discover ancestors you have in common with your matches.
    2. PAXXXX31 has an unlinked public tree.
    You can view any of PAXXXX31’s unlinked public family trees, but PAXXXX31 may not appear in any of them. Invite PAXXXX31 to link a tree to their DNA results. Comparing trees is one way to find out how you might be related.
    3. Surnames
    Link your tree to your DNA results to find out if your ancestors share any of the same surnames as PAXXXX31’s ancestors.

    If all of the modules have access to all of the data, then why so many prompts?

    #1 Common Ancestors: Should say, “Names in common from your tree” because, Shared Matches show us the “in common” matches without linking trees. PA’s father’s name is in both of our trees.

    #2 PAXXXX31 has an unlinked public tree: from my tree (not linked), the system already knows that PA is 1st cousin1x removed, on my father’s side. In addition, On PA DNA match page, I have assigned her that “position” as well.
    #3 Surnames: Link your tree to your DNA results to find out if your ancestors share any of the same surnames as PAXXXX31’s ancestors. This is the same as #1.

    What would happen if PA, or I had completely wrong info in our tree? How would the system determine who is correct, or if either one of us is correct? How is that altered if we throw 5 more people, their DNA, and their trees into the mix?

    Could this be link as to why Roberta’s legit DNA match’s are NOT showing as matches in ThruLines.? Again, million dollar question, needs a million dollar answer! lol

  21. Thru lines is there, but it is offering me a lot of matches that are wrong, at least from what I have concluded from my research. It adds siblings from a different set of parents, or it duplicates people that are already in my tree as if it doesn’t recognize them. Sometimes it duplicates my own line as an additional sibling. At first I thought it was based on incorrect family trees, and sometimes it is, but I never had this many errors until the last couple of weeks.

    • I used to find ThruLines pretty accurate, but I agree: it is producing a lot of obvious errors at the moment. For example no one has two daughters both called Ann who grow up to marriageable age. Sometimes the surnames of the ‘children’ bear no resemblance to the supposed parents. I do hope they sort it out quickly.

  22. Now I have the DNA match of the names who are from both parents. My parents were born in two different worlds, now I have 3 unknown double matches. What the heck

      • Until a few days ago I had 5 “both” matches. Two of them my siblings, the others, under 35 cM total. I thought this remarkably small. My entire family is Southern Colonial, with all of them in the same small area for between 150-200 years. Now though, the count has increased to 157, still other than my subs, none are above the same size. I’m aware of at least one cousin that is on both sides on paper, and no doubt there are many more out there. Roughly a third of my matches are still unassigned, and other than new matches, the very large remainder is going to turn out in the both group. The thing I question most, though, is why I have roughly a third of my matches in that unassigned group. Reading their published criteria for their algorithm, I’m not overly confide that there are no higher cM matches that also match both parents. But then, Ancestry’a apparent philosophy is that the details don’t matter, just the money.

  23. Thrulines has my sister as my great great grandfather and still will not fix it after 5 telephones calls and a case number.

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