ANCESTRY.com THRULINES – my experience March 2019

At the start of my genealogical project almost ten years ago I believed Ancestry.com was the best place one could go to do pedigree building. I could spend weeks relaying site problems which have caused problems for this researcher.  The worst up to this month was Ancestry.com’s erroneous metadata for a particular record collection caused me and any one else who dared to add a record from that collection to any person in their pedigree work to have not one line from a person but four, two males and two females.  WHY?  Because Ancestry.com for a Johnston County and Wake County marriage record collection for some ridiculous reason made the bride and groom individually male and female or one record.  Let me be clear, the bride was both male and female. The groom was both male and female.   I wound up with an extra 3000+ people in my work who didn’t belong there.  It didn’t just populate extra people for a particular people.  It populated new people from that person THROUGH their line.  It was a horror.   Back then there was no merge feature on their site and the only way to resolve the mess per their tech support was to buy their Family Tree Maker software, download your gedcom (the digital pedigree file) and go person by person deleting or merging all of what I called ghosts.  It took me nine months to resolve. You may still see some Ancestry trees with ghost people!

The second worst to this month was a sync problem at Christmas time which removed all photos from my Ancestry.com tree and replaced them with a placard(the placard has recently disappeared and all profile images are not defaulting to the blue or pink silhouette images). When I reached tech support they advised me to sync again and the problem would be resolved. NOPE, when I synced the second time I lost all of the photos on my Family Tree Maker tree.  So I had only placards showing an image had gone missing.  To this day I have not had the time to again upload all of the photos I had routinely uploaded to Ancestry.com as I worked.  Many photos went up in smoke that week!  It was such a disappointment.  I don’t upload images like I used to after suffering such a loss.

This month though – Ancestry has charted into new waters when it comes to their latest problem I am navigating. And this one is by far the most odd and disturbing!

Gone are the days of reaching Ancestry.com quickly when there is a problem. Gone are the days when you can actually reach someone with tech support skills who can help you resolve a problem.  Now the phone number provided on their support page rings and rings and then a message saying the “wireless customer is not available” and the call is disconnected.  Sending an email to their support staff does not even generate a receipt showing anyone on their side received it and honestly over the entire time I have been an Ancestry.com member I have NEVER received any communication from Ancestry.com after sending an email to their support team.  And when I do call there is no record of the email is found on by Ancestry much less who got it or is responsible for replying or doing anything.  The newer chat feature only shows up after hours in a bubble that says “chat is offline”.

I believe Ancestry.com has crossed over to a place where I need some true guidance and help from men and women who understand site building.  My work has for almost a decade been focusing on genetic genealogy and how to confirm or clarify pedigree work. This month Ancestry.com rolled out something called THRU LINES.  The buzz about this new feature left the impression Ancestry had designed a DNA tool – FINALLY – that would help genealogists and family historians with their work.

It is supposed to be a bridge for folks to use their DNA matches and the trees (aka pedigrees) associated with your matches to confirm relationships and offer suggestions based on others work for one’s actual work. The starting point is supposed to be your work.  In theory it follows basic research protocols. It is a shortcut for folks to isolate working hypotheses.  HOWEVER, for me, it is something extremely different.  The starting point for my kit’s maternal grandpa is wrong.  And I did not enter the wrong information.  Ancestry.com did something behind the magic curtain!  THIS IS a terrific example of how Ancestry.com is reaching a new low when it comes to PRIMROSE PEDIGREE work in my opinion.  The site has created fiction and then built on it offering me suggestions at each generation node afterwards for “possible ancestors”who in fact have no biological or DNA basis.  SO why include this new tool within their DNA tab?

I have uploaded a series of screenshots to show their latest touted DNA tool in real time for this researcher!

Here is the DNA profile page for my Ancestry.com kit – Ancestry calls it the Kit SUMMARY PAGE.  First you have the DNA story (i could write a book on that one alone but now is not the time).  Next is the DNA MATCHES. And on the far right is the latest tool called THRULINES.  Many folks were irritated Ancestry.com has decided to push this new tool and abandon their prior tool called DNA Circles.  I remain steadfast that the best NEXT step for someone after they have their Ancestry.com results is to move them to FTDNA if they can.

The next images are what I see when I open the link “EXPLORE THRULINES”.  I have overlayed a correction for each generation which is wrong. Ancestry.com does not have any way to confirm or deny or correct any parent at any generation node.  There should be a button to open a window and link to the right person in one’s pedigree work!

 

When I first began my genetic genealogy work I submitted two kits. One to Ancestry.com and one to FTDNA.com.  I have had zero problems with the FTDNA.com account or site since that first kit was submitted and that was almost a decade ago!  FTDNA does offer a tool to help folks confirm relationships.  It is done through their Family Tree feature – their pedigree builder feature which is actually linked to DNA kits and the connections made are based on DNA matches, not pedigree work. 

For Ancestry.com I have endured problem after problem.  This latest stunt of Ancestry.com though is so extraordinarily wrong, it literally has sent me down PRIMROSE PEDIGREE WORK INVOLUNTARILY!  And there seems to be no way to resolve it from my computer. I removed Tom Shackelford from the pedigree attached to the kit. Common sense told me if I eliminated the person then ThruLines would have to recalculate.  NOPE.  Tells me that THRULINES is not interactive!  Yet another problem with it.  But for me, I just want it to show the real biological family!

I have done Ancestry’s survey, available only once to me. I have tried to call them for over a week now and never can get anyone to answer the phone number profited via their Support pages.

What is maddening to me is the number of Ancestry.com Family Finder matches starting with an aunt along our FURMAN line which should alert Ancestry of their mistake.  Adding salt to the injury some of the Ancestry kits were done by relatives whom I asked to do DNA kits and they mistakenly used Ancestry.com instead of FTDNA!  How I wish folks would move their raw data from Ancestry.com and use their Family Finder test only as a supplement, if at all!

As it is, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage and 23andme spend a great deal of money advertising their DNA products.  You rarely see advertisements for FamilyTreeDNA.com because they don’t have to advertise!  Anyone who is genuinely doing their genetic genealogical work will find their way to FTDNA.com!  Over 97 percent of professional genealogists use the site.

I am at the mercy of Ancestry.com this time and while I remained steadfast the site/company potentially was the best pedigree builder site and therefore had the potential for THRU LINES to be a blessing for all researchers, reality has nipped any confidence I had.

Here is a screenshot of the pedigree chart attached to my Ancestry.com DNA kit.  NOTE who the maternal Grandfather is: STANLEY RAY FURMAN.  I checked the relationship for Stanley Ray Furman, his daughter, her mother, and Mr Shackelford. The relationships are correct. It is only THRULINES where there is a mistake.  But if there is such a blatant mistake with so much overwhelming evidence why on earth should I have any confidence in ThruLines at any other generation?  Are others experiencing the same sort of mistakes?

 

IT IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE A PEDIGREE CHART with EACH KIT you submit, regardless of the lab/company.  Genetic genealogy work does NOT stand alone.

It works in concert with the classic genealogy, the pedigree building each of us does independently.  Ancestry.com was THE BEST SITE when I began (admittedly there were fewer choices back then than today).  One could work backwards attaching raw records to support one’s work.  And at the same time connect to folks who also were working from a different angle to a shared generational node in your work.  The potential to locate family heirloom stories, photos, etc was and remain one of the best reasons to use Ancestry.com!   When you submit a DNA kit that kit is for a particular person in your pedigree so the pedigree chart attached originally with Ancestry HAD to start with that person, period. So I pulled down my entire ged.com from Ancestry to Family Tree Maker. Used the software to isolate the tester and then created a gedcom (pedigree chart) for him.  I then uploaded the gedcom to Ancestry.com and attached it to the KIT.

A gedcom is a term used to denote a pedigree in an unique digital file format that can only be opened using software or via a site that understands and reads that type of file (.ged) Each and every file we create on our computers is assigned a specific extension to tell us what type of file it is.  You may be more familiar with extensions like .jpeg or .tiff – these tell us the file is an image – a picture of something.  You may also be familiar with .pdf – an extension created by ADOBE.  There once was a time when one had to use only ADOBE software to open such files. Now Microsoft OFFICE will also open them.  When it comes to genealogy files – there are a few different formats but .ged is the standard now.

For many family historians your work is on paper.   DNA testing allows us to confirm our classic work.

IF YOUR CLASSIC WORK IS NOT SUBMITTED and ATTACHED TO YOUR KIT, then your kit is not able to communicate correctly with matches.  Your kit won’t be able to be found when one searches.  Your kit will not be able to take advantage or use any of the onsite tools possible.

Keep in mind, the tools at FTDNA are actually designed to keep your work moving in the right direction because their tools all follow basic research protocols.  And they are designed on a first party to first party platform so it is easy to cite and review and work.  When it comes to Ancestry.com (and apparently MyHeritage too with their new tool called Familiar Relativity) the bridge tool each has tried is THEORETICAL and in the case of Ancestry.com there are insufficient checks and balances in place for their THRULINE product.

I have for over six years BEGGED ANCESTRY to improve their pedigree builder features so that they could be the world’s leader and able to create features which would aid one’s genetic genealogy work.  But instead of improving a few years ago they redesigned their site and actually removed four key features which allowed their site to follow basic research protocols!  They did zero when it came to pedigree building and identifying or relaying DNA information. Clearly Ancestry went in the opposite direction. Their site became more unstable after the redo too. From my chair, it was a multitude of disappointments.

When I first submitted my DNA kit I submitted this pedigree chart. It was a straight line pedigree chart meaning it did not include any siblings or additional spouse at any generation node. It was a straight line from child to each parent.  As I worked to DNA map each node I labeled the parent node with an icon I uploaded to Ancestry.  How I wished Ancestry would build fields into each person’s profile page that would allow a researcher to confirm their DNA work.  I created three icons – a check mark meaning the node had been established and confirmed (this requires Ymarker work), a double helix meaning there were only autosomal DNA matches outside the surname for this person ( no boy from the direct line for that geographic location was included in matches, and a helix question mark (there was an autosomal kit for a boy who does come through the line and could establish the surname/line but so far only autosomal matches are there.  The autosomal DNA match could be referencing the mother’s side.  That node could be more confirmed by the boy submitting a ymarker test via FTDNA and moving his Ancestry.com autosomal DNA raw data to FTDNA so one can examine/explore Xmatch filter and centimorgan assigments/addresses per chromosome).

I made suggestions to Ancestry.com for years and when the site was redesigned and made worse I decided to no longer even try to keep that original pedigree up-to-date.  It was just wasting my time.

Right now we have a hodgepodge of icons being used on Ancestry.com.  Many of them claiming a line is established and confirmed via DNA work when the claims fall outside the range of the DNA test used, do not include actually establishing or confirming any line but only some sort of DNA hint that two people are related and share some dna. Using Ancestry.com’s autosomal only test one CANNOT  establish or confirm ANY of their lines. The HAPLOGROUP assignment one can pull from an Ancestry.com Family Finder test (not on their site or via any tool they offer but by moving their raw data elsewhere) does NOT provide actually Ymarker information and it is the marker information, not the anthropological HAPLOGROUP information that is needed!

When I began my work, Ancestry.com also had some Ymarker tests results on their site.   I don’t know if they actually sold the tests at any time.  I have read that the tests were the work product of the Sorenson lab effort and was gifted or sold to Ancestry. And it was this exchange which led to Ancestry getting into the genetic side of genealogy work today.  I read where they purchases several paternity lab databases.  So my hope when they halted all Ymarker efforts on their site they were going to develop a partnership with FamilyTreeDNA.com. It makes so much sense to me!!  It was my hope Ancestry would focus on pedigree builder tools/features/fields to help us insert the DNA information. We can right now add a census record or a photo or a story but when it comes to DNA triangulation or specific establishment or confirmation of a particular surname/clan we are left to our own schemes.

Since I learned early on that FTDNA is far superior when it comes to genetic genealogical testing and it was the only lab to order Ymarker tests I tried early on to transfer the Ymarker results to Ancestry. It was kind of crazy. Ancestry would accept Ymarker information but not autosomal raw data. FamilyTreeDNA accepted anything from a different lab, with a few exceptions. You could only upload one Ymarker test per TREE, then they changed it to PER ACCOUNT.  So actually having your lines properly anchored was impossible through Ancestry only because of their policies and practices.  And their choices hurt the progress of the work in my opinion.

Was Ancestry focused on providing the best genealogical site and information or was it simply a money making venture? For me, as an independent researcher who does this work full time at her own expense, maximizing efforts is not a luxury it is a necessity.

Considering the paternal lines I am working and the many families who connect them hail from the most burned county IN THE COUNTRY,  DNA is a blessing!   We have had FOUR courthouse fires, both wars march across our land multiple times, and we live in a region where storms have pounded us since our arrival.  The region for the maternal side includes the poorest counties in the state. I NEED companies to be responsible and not cause harm. I don’t believe I am asking too much.

It would have been a terrific help if Ancestry had paid attention to me (and others) almost a decade ago and worked to develop a way for us to DNA map our pedigree.  I know it is possible.  I wish I had the understanding of computer programming to do it!  I know there is someone out there who does!!

I am not in this work to get rich. I am in this to advance the work and help folks hurdle brickwalls, confirm classic genealogy work, and learn more about their lines and get as many as possible across the Atlantic and connected to their earlier Ancestral lines there.  The Ymarker test’s reach is 25/26 generations but it only works if we have the participation and cooperation to get it done!  When it comes to autosomal testing, it would help so much if folks who track back to colonial lines would use FTDNA.com first.  That way the DNA would wind up in one database which does not have something like TIMBER that literally pulls matches away or limits the total amount of matches one is allowed per kit.

I know what is possible.  And I have maintained a membership with Ancestry that allows me to make the hop across the great pond for almost ten years now!  For almost a decade the work has been hampered and I worry daily now that our best candidates DNA samples won’t make it to the lab and we will lose an opportunity forever.  Time is important for anyone working on their family history today. And the tools we have should work!

This brings me back to Ancestry’s latest and greatest per some who spoke at RootsTech this year THRULINES.  This SHOULD be the tool to help us DNA map our pedigree.   To DNA map or at the very least, to find autosomal DNA matches per parent at each generational node and then be able to reach out to that person so that node can be properly established and confirmed should be the focus right now. There is an urgency because our best candidates are leaving this world and our research window is closing. We need to make the most of the time we have and push so everyone understands what is at stake!

Establishing and confirming any parent’s surname/clan CANNOT be done via Ancestry.com alone. It requires Ymarker and possibly mTDNA testing. Autosomal DNA testing has the shortest reach where information goes.  Maybe that is why the test is the least expensive?

Ancestry.com has the ability right now to provide tools that help us filter using autosomal dna but instead they have brought us THRULINES –

HOW or WHY did their algorithm glitch and literally mistake a man who married a lady with three kids as the biological parent?

  1. the pedigree submitted
  2. the DNA submitted
  3. Ancestry’s autosomal matching clearly identifies

shows this is not correct!

This makes me question if THRULINES has anything to do with DNA at all, other than to limit suggestions to only folks who have also submitted a DNA kit. Doesn’t matter what the DNA is saying.

I have the ability to filter matches using a particular kit which belongs to a lady who is an aunt. Technically, she is the half sister of mother of the tester and the only DNA line the two women share is from the same father they share, STANLEY RAY FURMAN.   I am of the opinion these blended families – no matter where they appear in your pedigree are terrific help!  Their kits help you filter and isolate a particular parent in a particular generation node.

Here are the IN COMMON MATCHES per Ancestry.com with our aunt (who per Ancestry’s relationship calculator is labeled a 2nd cousin!)

NOTE the stars represent known pedigree connections and matches I have confirmed in my work and whose pedigree work has been included in the newer pedigree I submitted and linked to my kit.  The first pedigree chart I submitted was a straight line pedigree chart which did not include children at each generation node. There is NO pedigree on Ancestry which lists Tom Shackelford as a parent, period, to anyone!

 

Instead what I see and what Ancestry has set in motion for me is the absolute omission of FURMAN in THRULines.

I am in a primrose pedigree prison designed by Ancestry.com and so far there is no solution or even acknowledgement by Ancestry that they are examining the particulars and trying to resolve.

Since I only ordered my Ancestry.com DNA kit after acquiring a membership I have no idea what happens to folks who order a kit based on a commercial and are not members at the time.  I believe one of the main reasons many DNA matches do not have trees attached may have something to do this scenario.  Would love to hear from anyone who has ordered an Ancestry.com DNA kit first.

I will update this post if and when there is anything to add.  For instance, if I ever am able to get Ancestry to answer their phone, get a reply from Ancestry.com, or see where there is any improvement or correction to the mistake they created.