The previous incarnation of Ancestry Thrulines was DNA Circles which I thought was an excellent way to present the nebulous DNA connections that “might” bind people together, but an unfortunate way to present known connections.
ThruLines is, to me, an amazing way to show known DNA connections outside of a family tree. It is concise and straight forward with an easy to navigate tree interface. Here, for example, are my Elmore relatives on ancestry related to Halsey Orton Elmore in the default presentation:
The presentation is simple, centered on me and my closest cousin. The navigation is pretty easy, if I want to look at more distant side connections to the same person, I can click to expand their sections.
ThruLines gives you a map to your genetic relatives under known relatives and can give you a sense of the connections that have been bolstered by DNA and those connections that haven’t yet.
You can clearly see that at least 4 of my Elmore cousins branch off under James Walsworth Elmore, but I have no genetic connections at Ancestry that branch to the side for his father James Elmore. That could be because James’ only other living child would be Charlotte (Elmore) Palmer and her descendants (if any) or it could be that most people’s family trees don’t go back to the 1700s on all branches.
5th great grandparents is largely recognized as a soft limit in genetic genealogy. Not that you can’t have DNA segments that go back farther, but that it becomes much harder to isolate the source of those segments by triangulation and that they can become small enough that the opportunity for a random match gets higher. It goes along with the 7cM soft limit. You can have good matches below 7cM, but it is harder to tell them from the bad matches at that size.
In any case, you can see that I’ve picked up many more matches for my 3rd great grandfather Halsey Orton Elmore than for his father and grandfather and those relationships and connections are nicely mapped out in ThruLines.
Suspects and Prospects
Starting with suspects. Although Revolutionary War Hero Mark Finks is the preferred Finks to be linked to, I have long suspected that we are descended from his brother Andrew Finks who was married to Mary Fielding. Most of this is based on the proximity of my John Finks to Fielding Finks in Virginia. They are listed near each other in the census and I suspected that they were brothers and that Fielding was carrying the name of their mother. At some point in the past I also found an interview with a descendant of Fielding that made that connection rather than the direct connection to Mark, although I can’t reproduce it here (so much is just a memory now).
Suffice it to say I thought it was a good enough bet to include it and it would appear that Ancestry ThruLines has a little hope for me there.
It’s a slim margin with a 7cM match and I haven’t triangulated it myself by asking them to upload to gedmatch.com for a segment comparison with my dad and other Finks relatives. Still there it is, offering the possibility of future matches that add some weight to my suspects.
One of the more interesting features of ThruLines (as with the previous DNA circles) is the suggested potential ancestors. It comes with caveats of course, but the system takes family trees of matches and others and suggests a common possible ancestor in your tree as potential prospects.
I’ll use my Campbell family which has been confusing for me from the start and I’ve been contacted and corrected about enough times that I don’t recall what is what, only that I probably have the wrong information.
ThruLines has my 3rd great grandfather Duncan Campbell, the only one I felt safe including in my genetic tree connected to a John Campbell and several genetic cousin connections for me to evaluate. When you evaluate a connection you are presented with trees from genetic relatives and other public trees that carry this information.
So some of it is linked to my genetic relatives, but a lot of information is contained in other family trees. This is an opportunity to research preferably starting with trees that have some records associated with the person.
If I go back and click on one of my matches, I’m presented with more opportunities to evaluate their ancestors.
It can lead you to believe that all these connections were made in their family trees but if I click on the matching person themselves and look at their actual family tree I see that they actually stop with Jennie Irene Campbell (their great grandmother). The rest of their tree, connecting them to John Campbell, has been implied from the trees of others and then presented to me as a prospect.
And that is the mindset I have to try to maintain. Potential ancestors are prospects. What Ancestry has done is not wrong. It is exactly what I have always done. Look at trees for genetic matches. Search for patterns and fill out probable trees for them to see if I can get back far enough to reach someone in my tree and/or connect them to people in other genetic relatives trees. Ancestry has done quite a bit of the work for me in figuring out a probable connection.
I still need to take them at their word and evaluate the records. I need to look at the trees that have evidence and use the minimum tools Ancestry provides to see if these genetic matches match my known family members on that side.
It’s up to me to realize that Ancestry doesn’t have all the information. My tree is stunted in places, my dad never sent in his kit and my mom hasn’t been tested. They may not have a clear picture of which cousin matches could be used to attempt to disprove a connection. They may or may not be triangulating segments, so I have no way of knowing if they are tracking the same inherited segment between any two matches.
It’s a tool for prospecting, for speculation, reflection, research and for easily organizing the knowns in a visual display. It is still one of my favorite additions to their toolset, even though I think there is a high potential to mislead people.