Wednesday, July 15, 2020

AncestryDNA Changes Coming Soon - What I'm Doing - Updated

I participated in an Ancestry "On the Record" conference call on Tuesday, and significant news about changes on AncestryDNA matches was discussed.  

1)  Several other bloggers have summarized the changes well, see:

*  Debbie Kennett:

*  Diahan Southard:

*  Ellen Thompson-Jennings:

*  Roberta Estes:

*  Margaret O'Brien:

*  AncestryDNA White Paper:

2)  My summary of the conference call relative to AncestryDNA includes:

*  AncestryDNA passed the 18 million DNA tests mark.  

*  They are changing how they analyze segment lengths.  This will provide a more accurate report on number of segments and length of segments.

*  They will report the length of the largest segment.  This is essential for endogamous relationships.  

*  DNA Match analysis will be re-calibrated to remove many false matches.

*  The minimum total shared cM will be increased from 6 cM to 8 cM.  This may remove up to two thirds of the false matches.

*  Users can save matches with 6-7 cM by adding a Note, adding to a group (colored dots), or messaging the DNA match.

*  On-site messaging will appear later this week. A white paper will be published soon (see list above).

*  The changes will take effect in early August.

3)  What can we do, as customers and users of the AncestryDNA Match information?  I am going to:

*  Add Notes to the 6-7 cM DNA Matches that are listed with Common Ancestors.

*  Add Notes to any match with Seaver, Carringer, Auble or Vaux as a match surname, or a match that has the surname in their tree.

4)  Here is my DNA Match summary today in the "Shared DNA" filter:

I have 68,073 total matches, of which 1,492 are "Close matches" with 20 cM or more.  The other 66,581 are "Distant matches" with 20 cM or less down to 6 cM.  I can get a list of my current Matches that have 6 or 7 cM by using the "Custom centimorgan range" and clicking the green "Apply."

Unfortunately, that gives me a list of tens of thousands of matches to wade through with Ancestry's $%^#@ page design (you get matches in a list, then when you get to the bottom of the list, you get more matches on the list - it's endless at the bottom of the screen).  This is impossible to count!   [Previously, you received 50 matches on a page which didn't tax my computer memory or my time - I could find the bottom of the list by editing the page URL.]

Here is a screen shot at the top of my 6-7 cM list -
I estimate that there are over 15,000 persons on this list!

To only see the list of matches with a Common Ancestor, click on the "Common Ancestor" filter at the top of the DNA Match list, and you can see only the 6-7 cM matches who have a "Common Ancestor" designation (and therefore a ThruLine):

There are 88 entries on this list (I counted them), and they are each, potentially, my cousin.  But, in every case, it is an Ancestry Member Tree algorithm that makes that connection.

I went through my list of 6-7 cM matches with a Common Ancestor, and have only a few without a Note.  I added my typical Note for this one (anonymizing the person's name in 9 places and the photo):

The note I added (by clicking "Add Note" above "Ethnicity") in the text box to the right is:

"6C - no RM - 7 cM in 1 segment - private tree (90 people), ThruLine, common ancestors are 5th great-grandparents Jonathan White and Abigail Wing."
This DNA match is probably my 6th cousin, sharing 7 cM in 1 segment.  I have not entered this match's line into RootsMagic yet ("no RM").  

Fortunately, I have spent several years adding Notes to my "Common Ancestors" all the way down to 6 cM, but I have missed a few of them over time.  I will add Notes to those I've missed.

5)  Why concentrate on only "Common Ancestors" to save?  Because Ancestry says two thirds of the tens of thousands of my 6-7 cM matches are probably false positives.  Most of them have no tree, private trees, or really small trees (say, less than 100 entries), don't care, or don't answer messages.  We are talking up to 6th cousins (5th great-grandparents) here for ThruLines, and most of my DNA matches have no clue who their 2nd great-grandparents are.  I will never look at most of these matches because it is impossible to figure out how they are related to me.  I have plenty of matches with more than 20 cM who are certainly related to me - the DNA says so - somehow, that I haven't figured out how they are related to me.

At least the DNA Matches with 6-7 cM with ThruLines, with Common Ancestors identified, but unproven, back to 5th great-grandparents, have a tree, and there are links in their tree, my tree, or the Ancestry Big Tree that found a Common Ancestor.  There is something to work with!

However, we don't know if the tree connection is related to the DNA segment(s) in the analysis.  AncestryDNA doesn't help us here - they don't provide a chromosome browser, unlike the other genetic genealogy sites.

Last updated:  20 July 2020.


Disclosure:  I have a complimentary all-access subscription from, for which I am thankful. has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years, plus a free AncestryDNA autosomal test.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at


Lynn said...

Thank you for the update. I have less than 1,000 DNA matches on Ancestry and this will delete some ... but I am excited to see how this might help me. They haven't updated since August 2019, so I'm hopeful this is helpful.

Diane Gould Hall said...

That’s exactly how I’ve proceeded with this new announcement. I went into mine and my brother's DNA, brought up the 6-7 cMs and then clicked on Common Ancestor. At least that way I can go and take a look at these and see if they are real or not. I’m not upset about losing the low matches. I’m more concerned about losing all the messages in the many folders I’ve set up in Messaging. I still don’t see the option to download them. But, I digress 😳😜

Bill said...

Thanks for this Update Randy. I've got some work to do by August for the half-dozen family members that I manage.

I was interested in your point "I have not entered this match's line into RootsMagic yet ("no RM")."

When you take the time to confirm the Common Ancestor hint by adding these lines to your tree, do you follow a "quick and dirty" approach, adding enough records at each generation for confirmation or do you do a more complete record addition at each generation?

I've been leaning toward the quick and dirty, with a few census or other official records at each generation to make the connections from parent to child and then on to the next generation. Also sometimes consult Ancestry trees with significant numbers of records.


okielois said...

I went to Ancestry today. Among other things I clicked on my messages and I found this Notice:
"Your 1 folder and messages from our previous system will be available to download and save until August 31, 2020."
It looks like Ancestry is also going to delete our messages.

Randy Seaver said...

Lois, it sounds like they will delete your one set of old messages from their previous system. I will check my own messages - I had some but never a lot on the old system. I usually asked folks to email me so we could converse in email, which is saved by Google.

Randy Seaver said...


I run through several traps when I add the DNA match line to RootsMagic. First, I check to see what their line is and if it makes sense. Second, I add the line from the common ancestor to the match to RootsMagic, using null names (like ".,.") if I have to for unknown names. Then I TreeShare to Ancestry the new profiles, and let Ancestry find Hi nts for me. I then review the Hints and add names, dates, places and sources to the profiles. I can get birth, marriage, death and burial information for about 75% of the profiles, even names for most of the null persons. That isn't how you're supposed to do it, but it works for me and is time efficient. Living people are the most difficult but can be identified and some data entered.

So it is quick and semi-dirty - I could do more research and add siblings/spouses/descendants at each generation, but that is more effort, and will be done eventually as more DNA matches come along. By doing this, many of my common ancestor lines on AncestryDNA are based on my own research rather than the Ancestry Big Tree which is sometimes really messed up.

Margaret from DataMiningDNA said...

You may be interested in a breakdown I calculated across 24 kits of how many matches are going to be lost. None of these kits are related. One of them is my own. The average loss of total matches is 56%.
There is variation across the kits of course, and I've put more details into the article here:

Dan Howell said...

Regarding messages, an ancestry rep confirmed to me that the messages will not be deleted, only the folders. So your messages will still be there, just not organized into folders like you had them. However, it's not a bad idea to download your message folders anyway, to backup the messages as well as the organization.