AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind

I, like I’m sure many users of AncestryDNA, today received an email saying that they found me a new ancestor. Oh boy! That sounded promising. Or exciting. Could they really do that?

Yes, they could if they knew which segments on which chromosomes are inherited from which ancestor, and if they matched that from my matches to my DNA data. And, technically, their database could be big enough to figure that out if they did some really good triangulation. If it were possible to know via DNA things that can only be found through genealogical research, then yes, they could do that.

But, I was doubtful.

The email looks like this.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.34.02 PM

Okay, cool. So Obadiah Pierce (1774-1836) is my “new ancestor.” I clicked on “Show Me,” and got this.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.36.24 PM

The four “DNA Circles” on the bottom already existed. I have no idea who Peter Hamblin and Susan Tye are, which I suppose is the essence of their being “new ancestors.” But where is Obadiah Pierce? Maybe he was just an example for the sake of confusion.

I clicked on Peter Hamblin.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.40.35 PM

But, wait! Are you asking me or telling me that Peter Hamblin is my ancestor (or my relative)?

Susan Tye’s was similar.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.43.12 PM

Clicking on “LEARN ABOUT Susan Tye” (or Peter Hamblin) actually brought me to kind of a neat overview of this person’s life (however wrong it may be). But you gotta hand it to Ancestry – they do make things pretty.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.48.53 PM

Notice it says at the top that this information was compiled from 237 family trees. I wonder if those are public trees only or public and private trees?

Anyway, you can see here that Peter Hamblin was her spouse, which explains why both of these “new ancestors” appeared at once.

So here’s the thing.

There is no place in my pedigree where these people would fit. Obadiah Pierce would have a better chance of fitting! Either I have documented proven ancestors who already take up the time period, or mine are younger than Peter Hamblin and Susan Tye (thus, in theory they could descend from them), but they were immigrants. I don’t have to even do additional research to tell you that these people are not my ancestors. I mean, I can file them in the back of my mind (or just let Ancestry do that), but I’m not going to start down a wild goose chase to find how I’m potentially descended from these people.

So, like I said, AncestryDNA may say it has found me a “new ancestor” using just my DNA (from the email, above: “AncestryDNA has a new feature that allows you to discover new ancestors—just through your DNA”), but it lies.

One, then they use the possibly awful incorrect horrendous undocumented trees of the people I match to make one of their circles (so it’s not “just through” my DNA).

And two, the technology does not exist to do what it is they say they are trying to do. (And to be quite honest, if or when it does exist, I do not expect it will be Ancestry that develops it.)

Ancestry does not have the ability to take the DNA from however many people they think should be in the Susan Tye circle, for example, and say that this is where the “Susan Tye pieces” are, and then look at my DNA and say, “Oh, you are descended from Susan Tye because you match these 3 people who are also descended from Susan Tye because all of you have Susan Tye DNA pieces!” None of the companies can do that – it is only through combined paper and genetic genealogical research that this can be done.

Quit wasting my time, Ancestry. Just give me tools, or at least the ability to download my matches and where we match (chromosomes and positions) into a damned CSV file (you know, like FTDNA and 23andMe do?). Here are the columns to use, in this order: Name, Match Name/User ID, Chromosome, Start Position, End Position, cM, SNPs. Do it for 1cM and above. Thank you.

I don’t care if this is Beta. That is not a good excuse for putting out a stupid feature that any half-serious genetic genealogist would know is just plain wrong.

The only thing that will give them grace in my eyes is if it turns out that they just accidentally matched me up with the wrong ancestors (e.g., their algorithm loop started with a 2 instead of a 1 or something). Because I’m still wondering about Obadiah Pierce (1774-1836). But I’m not going down that path yet either.

Oh, boy. I pity the people who will take these seriously.


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93 Responses to AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind

  1. Joyce says:

    This ancestry tool (you share DNA with people from this common ancestor) was what enabled me to find my adopted husband’s father. BUT key to that was he had a 2nd cousin match that helped. It only helps with either a well developed tree or a match that has a decent tree. You cannot fault ancestry for undeveloped trees…you just have not found the trees that will help you…but they obviously exist or ancestry could not have generated the email.


    • Joyce says:

      PS since I followed the lines, back to Canada, hubby has 270 DNA matches confirmed by DNA and trees. It does work IF you can find decent trees to work with. BTW I had to dig up some obits for kids not on Census, due to mother dying young and kids being “farmed out”…so you still need to do some of your own work. With DNA matches that have very little tree info, I do my own mirror tree. That is what I did in above case until I was sure.

      It may not help everyone, but it can help. Beware of NPE’s that you may not know about. A paper trail is only so much help. If a wife married and died when 1st or 2nd child was born (fairly common in early times) -the wife you see on various pages, Census records etc may not be the mother of the child you are looking at.

      I have even run across kids in that situation who did not know who their birth mother was. In early times, many kids were kept in the dark, even as it related to them being adopted.

      Paper trails are useful, no doubt…but when “glitches”come up, look at the other possibilities which are not always easy to find.


    • Mike says:

      You cannot access trees unless you pay for it. Many trees are private and managed by someone. They never answer inquiries.


  2. Debra Lee Halverson says:

    Do I think Ancestry matches by family trees, and information that is in their system absolutely. I come from a family of 5 siblings 2 of my siblings passed away at a young age. These test were given to my sister and my Mother for Christmas. We were all in my Mothers family tree, but my sister did not match cousins on my Fathers side. (my father has also passed away) I thought well there is a explanation for this. I ask my Mom to put my cousins in the family tree. the next niece did match to them but had only matched as if they were half cousins and should have been full 1st cousins. So my sister decided she must have a different Dad. (she was the 2nd born) But also decided that the 5th born must also have a different father because his daughter only matched as if half cousin also to my sisters kids. I’m thinking this is crazy my sister looks like my Dad with out a doubt and me and my brother look a like. A few strange things came up, my Mom was really good friends with a family when we were young, when she opened her test there was a little square with the father (who has also passed) and 4 of his kids. My Mom thought why is that there we are not related and deleted it out of her test results. Next we heard that my brothers daughter who had taken the test long after this was put in my Moms test results was related to the Mans Son. So they think this persons father is my brothers Dad (the one that showed up On my Moms test results and who put him there in the first place?. My sister went down a list until she found some one who could be her Dad living with in a Mile of where we lived when she was born. Crazy I know, but she found a new Father. After much research I had found that the Father of my cousins that did not match my sister had put in his kids family tree that my deceased Sister and brother were half sister and brother long before any tests were taken. So what would a algorithm do with that information? It would do the only thing that makes sense to it, make every body half related which is exactly what it did.


    • Wow! Our families sure can get jumbled up, can’t they? It sounds you had to do quite a bit of effort to do to sort it out. Good work.


      • Debra Lee Halverson says:

        I did have to do a lot of work and research! One of the first things that came to mind was when I read that Ancestry did two million tests in four months. My thought was…. Is this even possible? unless they have one huge lab with enough equipment and employees. Even at that it takes 24 hours to process a DNA sample, even if they were doing hundreds at a time. My career has been in labs of a different type, but still a process is a process in any lab so I definitely question this.


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