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. renegadesouth says:

    I am so glad that I visited your blog, and this post in particular. I have been so disgusted with Ancestry DNA and the “matches” they have found for me. Almost none of them make sense at all–out of my many, many surnames (some quite unusual), Ancestry will assign me a cousin based on the shared name of something like “Davis”, or “Evans”. Not only are these names common, they appear so far back in my family tree as to be almost meaningless in terms of kinship. I have no expertise in DNA analysis, but I perceived from this that most of the matches are indeed paper matches rather than biologically determined. Seems like I could make most of them myself simply by studying people’s trees!

    Vikki Bynum


    • The only advantage I see to AncestryDNA is that their DNA database is so large, and since I have been working with genetic genealogy for about a year and a half, there is potential there – but only potential. They leave us wanting for tools, and make me growl. Thank you for reading and following!


  2. jimwalls9 says:

    I just noticed that my DNA information was no longer on my Ancestry page. I called and they told me that the old information was removed and that I had to buy a new test. My complaint is that I originally bought the test back in 2008 at about $120 as I recall. Then a few years later they got me to upgrade to the “new” 42 marker info from the original test and that was another $50 +/-.
    So now I’m left with the decision to buy the new test at $110 (including shipping) or just switch to FTM or some other research site. What do you folks think (recommend) ?


  3. Bill says:

    A few thoughts on Ancestry. As for the “implied” relatives, I have not much to say except that the people who appear in my New Ancestor Discoveries DNA circles also all appear in my known ancestor DNA circles, but not in my tree. Are they related to me? Possibly, which is all Ancestry is saying, I suppose.

    As for the usefulness of Ancestry’s autosomal test in general, for my purposes it has turned out to be the most useful tool that I used in finding my previously unknown biological father. I first tried as a simple tree-making tool to build out my family tree, and then I decided to try the DNA test just as a lark. I found the surprising result that I had no matches that included my last name. At first, I put this down to the likely possibility that no one genetically close to me had been tested. Then I started thinking about a few things that my recently deceased mother had hinted at during my youth (I’m now in my 50’s). Although my results returned no one with my last name, I did have second cousin matches who did not appear at all in my tree and in whose trees I did not recognize anyone. I decided that it was quite possible my biological father (whom I had never met) was not, in fact, my father. I tracked down a supposed half-sister I had never met via an online obituary for the man I thought was my father, and she told me that she had always been aware of my existence and that “our” father admitted that he was my father, at least biologically. She agreed to take the autosomal DNA test and the results showed we were not related and none of her results appeared in my list of matches. That’s when I contacted the unknown second cousin through Ancestry’s message service, and she began to help me uncover the truth. After about four months of digging through trees and using the DNA matches (along with help from other Ancestry members), I found out who my father was, and it turns out that I had actually met him once when I was about 12 years old. I am in contact with previously unknown half-brothers and a half-sister, one of whom took a test that verified our close relationship (the results say “close family – first cousin,” the same results I got when I tested my known half-brother with whom I share our mother). Unfortunately, my bio father passed away five years ago, but his sisters and my half-siblings are still around.

    As I became obsessed with finding my father, I decided during the search to do three things: (1) upload my Ancestry results to Family Tree DNA; (2) take the Family Tree Y-DNA test; and (3) upload the results of my Ancestry DNA results to I had particularly high hopes for the FTDNA Y-DNA test, as it tests only for male DNA, which would hopefully show who my father was, but it turned out to be the least useful of all my new tools because no one closely related has been tested (so far). The GEDmatch data, although it did not lead me to my father, was intriguing, as it provided all of the chromosome-matching tools (and more) that people clamor for (the basic matching info which matches you against tested kits from all three major DNA testing services is free, and for a $5 donation I had access to all of the chromosome and other advanced tools). But it was Ancestry’s large and (in crucial instances) helpful database of people and the invaluable collaboration I got from other Ancestry members in key situations that turned out to be the most useful for me.

    So, in my unusual circumstances,’s autosomal DNA test was the most helpful of all my tools. However, it would definitely be better if Ancestry provided the tools that GEDmatch provides for (almost) free, as that would make all the better. I have no idea why they refuse to do so. In the meantime, I suggest that people who need the capability to do chromosome matching upload their test kit results to GEDmatch, as they provide a terrific set of tools.

    Sorry for the long post, but I am still excited about having found my bio father, aunts, and half-siblings and wanted to share the news with anyone who is doing a similar search for an unknown mother of father and let them know it is possible to find success. I know that I was tremendously lucky in having matches to my DNA test who had public trees and who turned out to be very helpful (it is very disappointing to find private trees and people who don’t respond to requests–whey do they even do the test?). If it hadn’t been for the help of my previously unknown second cousin and one other Ancestry member, I may not have been successful in my search.


    • Congratulations on your finds! That is wonderful. You are right to be excited.


    • MKD says:

      I think you bring up a lot of great points in regards to your experience. I’ve been seriously considering purchasing the DNA kit and am curious to see if anything unexpected turns up. I can’t imagine that in ALL my documented generations, there hasn’t been one case of an unknown affair or illegitimate child. All it takes is just one, to throw off generations of documented ancestors. Just because we feel confident that our documentation proves our genealogy, doesn’t mean things are always as they appear! 🙂 Maybe Ancestry is doing a better job than people think! 🙂


      • MKD, thanks for commenting. I still have nothing good to say about the New Ancestry Discoveries from my own experience. Maybe someday, one will make sense. Honestly, there is one that makes sense if the genealogy is right, but I’m pretety sure all of the trees have as their source the same book. The other dozen or so make no sense.

        Ancestry has added some features since this article that I like, especially the Shared Matches feature. However, I believe the last I heard, it ony matches if the relationships are 4th cousin or closer.

        If you test, I recommend AncestryDNA first, then download your results and upload them into FamilyTreeDNA and GEDMATCH. You can find out more about those sites from Roberta Estes’ blog DNAExplained, Judy Russell’s blog The Legal Genealogist, and other places on the web.


      • toni says:

        I agree. And the people at GEDMatch and FTDNA will answer your emails. Many have trees that you can look at.


      • toni says:

        Another thought I hadn’t considered. Well, I sort of have because I have some ancestors with a very colorful past. However, they did not hide it! Maybe we need two trees. The blood one and the family one. I was not adopted and my DNA is connecting me with cousins all the time. I know there was some hanky pankey in 1650, it doesn’t change my family. I would label them Family Tree and Ancestor Tree.


  4. Pingback: The Best and Worst of 2015 – Genetic Genealogy Year in Review | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  5. pianogirl says:

    I wish Ancestry had a chromosome browser. It does not do as well on that front as FTDNA. However, it does MUCH better on the genealogy side than the others. A DNA match does me no good if I can’t figure out where our connection could be because there is no family tree documented.
    I think you need to use your head when examining potential matches. i have found that their ranges for cousins are exactly in line with my documented family tree. I also downloaded to Gedmatch and FTDNA so it is helpful not to just use one place. Ancestry definitely by far has the better user interface. I have found it helpful to cross-check with all of them though.


  6. Pingback: AncestryDNA is at it Again – Missing Shared Matches | Diggin' Up Graves

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  9. I truly enjoy reading on this internet site , it has fantastic content . “He who sees the truth, let him proclaim it, without asking who is for it or who is against it.” by Henry George.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Scott Offord says:

    Somewhat related….

    On this website, users can enter the date on which their DNA kit was activated, the date that the kit arrived at the lab, the date the lab began processing their kit, and the date the lab was done processing their DNA sample.

    To enter your own DNA processing times for AncestryDNA, you must first create an account here. If you already created an account, log in to add or update your dates.

    Providing your dates here on this website will help you and others who are getting their DNA tested to get a better understanding of current or average wait times.

    In addition to the date fields that already existed, today we added three new columns to the website that show the actual number of day it took:

    – Arrival to Processing Begins
    – Processing Begins to Done
    – Arrival to Done

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Nancy Susan Barwick says:

    I am waiting for my Ancestry DNA results. My brother had three done at FTDNA and there are only a few out of over 3,000 that I can find how the contributor relates back to my lines. I am hoping Ancestry results can be another tool to use with the others. I started using Ancestry when it was new and after a year or so dropped it because of all the horrible mistakes in the Trees. I was spending more time sending emails showing errors than researching some days. Memorable one was a bunch of trees had ME as the WIFE of my 5th great grandfather. I am old, but not that old. Those trees have to be approached with caution.


    • That’s hilarious.

      I stopped worrying about correcting others’ trees long ago. Even my favorite ancestral line is all messed up for others because of incorrect research and/or stories. People take others’ research as fact without verification. Genealogy is a neverending adventure.

      There are still issues with AncestryDNA. I have chosen to ignore the crazy things and do what I can with the good features. Several tools have been added since I wrote this article. In particular is the Shared Matches tool. Although it is not as good as tools that you will find on GEDMATCH or Family Tree DNA, it does have its benefits.

      Thank you for sharing, Nancy.


  12. Jerri Griffith says:

    It’s rather ironic that I found your blog post, as it seems my daughter, through her grandfather, is related to you. Your username caught my eye when it first came up on her matches list and I wondered when I saw it today in my google results (for a generic search about ancestry turn around times). Then I followed the link and RENFRO! It’s a small…Internet.


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