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Cool new tools for DNA analysis

As the massive RootsTech conference gets underway in Salt Lake City this morning, Ancestry went public with major advances in its DNA product to make it easier to see, sort and analyze DNA matches — plus a bonus change to add more detail on family trees.

And most, if not all, users are going to end up falling down rabbit holes of new research possibilities as a result.

First, the simple changes that are going to make things much easier for DNA testers at Ancestry — the way DNA matches are presented is changing so we’ll have a lot more control over what matches we see and how we organize them. It’ll be easier to see maternal and paternal matches, to see whether a match has any tree at all including an unlinked tree, and to filter matches by how closely they’re related or whether we’ve looked at this match or whether we have a note attached to this match. It’s easier using the new presentation to switch between accounts if we administer a test for a family member.

new match list

Here, for example, it’s easy to see that these cousins have small trees or — in one case — an unlinked tree, and to see the notes added to those matches.

Even better — by far — is the ability to create custom groups and add a color-coded dot to matches we place into those groups. It’ll be possible here, for example, to group everyone descended from a common set of great grandparents and both see that group easily (because of the color-coded dots) and to view only the people in that group (because of the new sorting features).

So clicking on the link for a match for Add/edit groups, the choices we’re presented with are to name a custom group and choose a color:

custom group

And adding that to — for example — a sibling then gives us a result that looks like this when we hover the mouse over the colored dot:

new match group

Note the filter boxes at the top. There we can choose between sorting by group with these options:

filter group

And/or sorting by adding a filter such as one of these:


And if that’s not enough, the best of all as far as The Legal Genealogist can see is the addition of ThruLines to see possible lines we share with our DNA matches — to confirm our own theories about who our ancestors were and to see what new theories may be presented because of a combination of DNA data and the Ancestry family trees.

In my own research, we’ve been stymied by a second great grandfather with a common name — Mathew Johnson — and only Virginia as a possible place of origin. Not even a county to start looking in. No idea of where to get started. Except for what ThruLines now suggests (click to see a larger version):

Johnson Thrulines

A potential parent for Mathew Johnson… with lots of DNA matches to that parent to look into.

Definitely cool.

And for tree research, another cool advance: MyTreeTags to add custom tags to family trees to note, for example, that research hasn’t been validated or where you left off in working on a particular entry — and these will be searchable as well. There are pre-defined tags to use and the ability to create custom tags as well.

Now… a couple of warnings.

First, all of these features are in beta. That means there are still going to be rough edges. Don’t get excited if things change — they should change and hopefully for the better as more and more people give feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

Second, for ThruLines, it’ll only be free for a while and you won’t get it at all unless: (1) your AncestryDNA results are linked to a public or private searchable family tree; (2) you have DNA matches who have also linked their results to a public or private indexed family tree; and (3) your linked family tree is well built out. It should be 3-4 generations deep. And even then it won’t always work — my own test has all of those features and no ThruLines (a glitch since my sister, linked to the same tree, has lots of ThruLines to examine).

Third, you have to opt in to the beta for the DNA matching system and the MyTreeTags by going to ThruLines is now an open beta for anybody whose test meets the criteria above.

New tools — and for most of us lots of chances to head off on new research paths.

And RootsTech has just gotten started… Can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Ancestry advances at RootsTech,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 27 Feb 2019).

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