Sunday, June 9, 2024

Guest Post: Where Did My AncestryDNA "Common Ancestors" Matches Go?

This is a guest post by my friend and SDGS colleague, Marshall Clow:


During the week of May 23rd, 2024, I (like many other people) was switched over to the new web interface that Ancestry has for their DNA matches.

Sadly, it has not gone well for me. I manage 5 DNA tests, and every week, I generate a list of all the matches that have the "Common Ancestors" tag for each of these kits. Then I compare the matches to the previous week's matches - to find new matches, and see where Ancestry's matching facilities are looking. 

 The old interface made this kind of awkward, but doable. You scrolled and scrolled until you got to the end of the list (or you got a "We're sorry, our backend servers are overloaded. Please try again later" message). Then you printed off the list, and compared it to the previous list. 

 The new interface is "paged", which means that it shows you the matches 20 (or 50) at a time. This makes generating a list both easier and harder. It's faster, but you have to generate a list for each group of 50, and then combine them. OK, I did that. 

 But there are **a lot** of matches missing. On the first test I tried, there were 80 matches that were no longer listed. That's a lot. Every week, there's some movement in the Common Ancestor list. Some matches get the tag added, some get it removed. But 20% is (almost) unheard of. 

Then I looked more closely. Here's a screenshot showing (a portion of) the 5th page in my CA list. Note that the amount of shared DNA in the tests listed is 14, 14, 13, 11, 11, and 11 cM. That's suspicious, because last week I had many matches in the 12-13 cm range.

 So I added another condition to my display. In addition to the "Common Ancestors," I said, "Show me the matches that contain between 11 and 13.9 cM of shared DNA:"

... And a lot more matches showed up:

*  The third match in the first list is the same match as the top match in the second list. They are both marked with arrows. 

*  The fourth match in the first list is not even visible in the second list. He's on the list, but you have to scroll down to see him. 

So when I said "Show me all of my DNA matches with Common Ancestors," Ancestry showed me about 80% of them. 

 The old interface was unreliable, but consistent. When it failed, it failed in a very obvious way - it gave you an error message. 

 The new interface is unreliable and inconsistent. It gives you different results at different times, with no indication that anything had gone wrong. 

 On Sunday, May 26th, I contacted Ancestry via their support chat. The tech there listened to my tale; looked at my screen shots, and said "you have to call the support line" (and start over), and then disconnected. So I did that, and the (new) support tech listened to my tale of woe, and replicated the behavior, said "It's not a problem with your device," and said "I'm going to send you a link to report feedback to Ancestry," and sent me an email with a very generic "Report Feedback" link. 

So I sent in a description that grew into this blog post. I have questions: 

 * How do I get Ancestry to show me ALL of my DNA matches with "Common Ancestors"? 

* The tech I chatted with online (metaphorically) shrugged her shoulders and told me that this was a Beta feature (as in, you should not be surprised that it doesn't work perfectly). If so, how do I turn it off (for a while, until it's not beta). Nether the tech on the chat nor the one I spoke to on the phone thought that could be done. 

* How do I know that other searches in my DNA matches are giving me correct results?

 Later: I tried the same exercise using the "20 at a time" setting instead of "50 at a time." Ancestry showed me 8 pages, and then there were no more. (Page 8 of 8). So looking at them that way, I have 160 CA matches, where I used to have 400+. Tried again looking 50 at a time, and I had 300+ CA matches. This is pretty badly broken. 

 On Friday, May 31st, I called Ancestry again. The tech there (Petegay) took my information, replicated the problem (again), and noted that I had called on Sunday, and asked why I had not submitted feedback as requested. I told her that I had. I asked for a case number, and she gave me one, and told me that I would see a notification on my Ancestry home page when the problem was resolved. She asked me to give them "some time" for "the back-end team" to resolve the problem.  I told her that that was what I had done, since I was calling on Friday after reporting the problem on Sunday - I didn't call on Tuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday...). 

 I called back on Thursday, June 6th, and told my tale again. I gave them my case number, and demonstrated the problem (again). The tech (Nicki) following along got different (wrong) answers when trying to replicate the problem, and told me that she had no information about when the problem would be fixed.


Note:  The Blogger editor won't let me enlarge the images above.  I cannot color text in Blogger when I try to colorize black on white text.  

My thanks to Marshall for showing us what the new "improved"AncestryDNA Match list is showing at present for some users.  I do not have this new "feature" yet.  I hope it is fixed by the time I have the new "feature."

Have any other users of the "improved DNA Match list" feature experienced a similar problem?  Please let us know in comments. 


Disclosure: I pay for an All-Access subscription from In past years.  provided a complimentary All Access subscription, material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City.

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1 comment:

Doris Kenney said...

I wasn't thrilled with the new shared matches either. I was using them for the first time in a while last night, and found them frustratingly useless. I didn't really change the default settings. But I immediately noticed the number of matches was significantly lower than I had seen in the past. Thank you for the post, at least I know I'm not going crazy.