Is anyone else making breakthroughs using Ancestry's new Thrulines?

+23 votes
1.4k views
I was wondering if anyone else is making new discoveries using Ancestry's new Thrulines feature.

In brief, I have found many new ancestors using Thrulines, and in fact have broken down 4 of the 6 major brick walls in my family -- this after doing 40 years of research!

Of these 4 brick walls, 3 were situations where I suspected the target family, but did not know the line of descent. In the 4th case, an entirely new, unexpected but seemingly correct ancestor as appeared as my 5th great grandfather, In this case, no researcher of the family had ever considered this person as a possible ancestor. Yet the paper trail is convincing, and makes perfect sense.

Typical matches through Thrulines might be:

10 matches through 3 children of an ancestor

30 matches through 5 children of an ancestor, and even

180 matches through 12 children of an ancestor.

I have read some of the comments about Thrulines here, and am surprised how negative some of it is, I do understand that it is possible to get a false lead (for example, an aunt appearing as a direct ancestor, or a disproven ancestor who is on 100 trees showing up as your 5th great grandfather). But I am finding the opposite experience -- confirmation of earlier research, plausible new ancestors, and literal breakthoughs were decades of brick walls have suddenly opened up.

Thoughts?
in The Tree House by Stephen Freeman G2G2 (2.5k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
I found some major errors in them so I have given up with them for now. Concentrating on the great DNA tools over at MyHeritage now.
Ditto, Lance.
Some great leads and some frankly highly dubious connections. I was very excited at first, but it's turned out to be like all other Ancestry leads - loads of verification required and some don't stack the up.

No massive brick walls broken, but earlier extensions of one of my lines which I'd previously discounted now appears it may have some substance.

The handiest connection was a child for a cousin I'd never found before. Turned out she'd been misrecorded in 1841 and mistrancribed in 1851.
I have also given up. They might be useful if we could remove the known bad ones.
Exactly. I found in my brick wall, ancestors that I had attached many years ago as speculation. After I proved it was not them, I removed them from my tree. Unfortunately a lot of others had copied them over. I got all of my relatives to remove them, but then people who just point and click to very distant cousins also copied them. Now they are showing up as my ancestors and I cannot get rid of them. Sure, I am related to some of their uncles and aunts, but that is through proven connections in different lines.

I think thrulines are too little too late.

I do like the ability that I have now to mark my ancestors as speculative, currently researching or proven. But like I said, My Heritage and the ability to triangulate, find others that share the same ethnic heritage, being able to identify those segments responsible for that heritage, and find those kinds of research paths is invaluable and only available over there. For now it is free so I am taking full advantage of it.
I do find Thrulines helpful, but, like any tool, it must be used with caution.  In my case, I have been able to confirm suspicions I already had about my "brick wall" Morrison cousins. Thrulines suggestions are "potential" ancestors. I find it easy to toss the unsupported lines and investigate those that are more likely candidates.

Even WikiTree is rife with errors and users who make mistakes and are unwilling or unable to clean up errors. It is up to us to discern and support likely ancestry with facts. Thrulines is another tool that I find helpful.
Kie, you are so right. We have to support things with evidence. Some of the trees that are used to support the ThruLines for my ancestors have started adding the proposed ancestors as fact thus compounding the problems.
I think Thru Lines have some potential, now that Ancestry has cleaned  up some of the worst of it's initial errors.  (I had to call and ask them to please correct a really serious error they had made in mine.)  For me, they have done nothing to help with my most serious brick wall, and don't expect they will, as none of his many descendants, researching for years, has even a clue.

What I have found useful is that the Thru Lines have pulled in some very small, distant matches for a brick wall further back in time.  About half of these provide some support for existing speculation. (The other half are quite obviously wrong.) It is still going to take some very hard research in a poorly documented place and time to try to establish the paper trail, however, so until then, they remain just speculation (and not on my tree).  Otherwise, the Thru Lines mostly just regurgitate what I already know.

Like many others who have already commented, I really much prefer the approach that My Heritage has taken with their very open transparency and extended set of tools for analysis.
Stephen, I have to agree with you regarding Thrulines.  It is a wonderful tool.  I haven't have my brick walls torn down, but after using it, I found more data for my tree.  I have a lot more cousins.  The more you fill in your tree, the more you find in the Thrulines.  I upload my updated tree more often than I used to and that is how you find more cousins.  Just think, if everyone uploaded their family tree or built a tree on Ancestry we would know who all of our cousins and ancestors are.  So far, I have only had one false line on Thrulines and that is because of someone with the same name as my ancestor.  Which is a reminder to everyone, to doublecheck the line shown to your line.  Don't just add it because it is there.
I am happy you are making breakthroughs. All ThruLines has proven to me is, I have a solid papertrail. It has also proven that Ancestry needs to do more work! I have 6 potential ancestors Ancestry says I need to put in my tree...Problem is. they are already in my tree with a solid paper trail and Ancestry has made the match to a tree with NO papertrail. These potential ancestors are linked to my 1st cousin...who is in my tree. Go figure that one out.

23 Answers

+19 votes
No, I'm not getting further back with Thrulines. The paper trails are just not there to match the suggestions I've been given.
by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (362k points)
My biggest complaint matches yours, Nelda.
Yep. This is a good reminder that DNA discoveries are often only as good as the traditional research that buttresses them.
+13 votes
I haven't been quite that lucky, but I've gotten some benefit from it.  Right now I'm using Thrulines in conjunction with a CLM cluster analysis (from DNAGedcom.com, but any of the new clustering tools would probably work).  My goal is to break some brick walls at the ~4G grandparent level.  I did a cluster analysis of Ancestry data down to 20 cM (their limit for shared matches), which gave me an excel file of about 2400 matches.  I'm now using Thrulines of known ancestors to quickly assign common ancestors to matches within clusters, which then lets me roughly assign ancestors to clusters.  I can then focus my research on the matches in the unassigned clusters, on the assumption that they probably belong to one of my brick walls with no Thrulines.  I'm not done yet (it's a slog getting through all the Thrulines), but have already targeted a couple of clusters for further investigation.  So I definitely agree that it's a useful tool if you keep in mind its limitations.
by Lisa Hazard G2G6 Pilot (180k points)
(To clarify, I'm only using Thrulines that agree with my established genealogy, not their ancestor suggestions based on other people's trees... not as much luck with that aspect so far because of the variably quality of the user trees.)
I keep checking to see if any of my brick walls show up with a good potential lead. There are a couple in my French Canadian side that might be worth trying to follow but all the ones on my Dad's side go to a couple of people who are either disproven but are there because people want a Mayflower connection or are pure speculation that I've looked at but can find no corroboration.
+15 votes
I can understand where the thrulines could be of help. The problem is that so many Ancestry trees are not correct, not supported by sources or DNA. I do check on them once in a while to see if anything new pops up but as of now, I have not been helped. In fact, I have contacted several tree owners to point out that a particular ancestor is not correct and have given them the correct information. I have had some positive replies from that but usually no reply at all.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (720k points)
Also missing in mine, too, Ginny... the paper trials don’t support the supposed ancestors.
+11 votes
More than 9 out of 10 of the suggestions for me have been disproven lines. The remainder are multiple generations of undocumented people. Some of those make multiple candidates for the same ancestor slot. Might be a hint in there somewhere so someday I'll need to work on them.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (425k points)
My problem with ThruLines is that it depends so heavily on majority opinion - which, as we all know, can often be wrong. Well-researched trees are brushed aside and ignored, if "eleventy-seven trees show X as child of Y and Z" -  when Y and Z are demonstrably NOT the parents.

People who aren't related through the line shown will take it as gospel that they are, and people who are actually related through a sibling or other relative of the purported parents will look no further.

Should so much weight be given to copycat trees without a single source?  And if there are sources, couldn't Ancestry suggest that the customer consider whether or not those sources are relevant to the suggested parent-child relationship?

I really wish that ThruLines would note the existence of trees - even two or three - that link X to a different set of parents. Heck, it might even help people hone their research skills. Imagine that!
I have the same opinion.  Most of my ThruLine suggestions reflect incorrect assignments that "went viral" at some point. Sometimes the error can be traced to a mistake made decades ago, but more often they have been fueled by people cutting, splicing, and pasting lineages together without using primary sourcing (Ancestry:  I'm looking at you).  ThruLines usually make this whole problem worse because, if anybody uses them to build their tree, even MORE weight is given to a false lineage.  It's a feed-forward disaster.
+3 votes
I like the thrulines, they are confirming what I have. My brick walls are too far back on my father's lines for thrulines to help and I don't have enough tree on my mother's side. They are showing lots of cousins on my father's lines. They carry the cousin lines a bit further.  I am in the process of making my father's line genetically defined. There are a lot of vital statistics in the areas that many of my ancestors were.
by Sue Hall G2G6 Pilot (147k points)
+11 votes
If I'm honest, I feel like I am more helping others to make breakthroughs in their Thrulines than making many breakthroughs in mine. To be frank, only a small percentage of DNA testers provide robust traditional research to help make connections. And Ancestry could do much to help by providing a chromosome browser, but they won't.
by Ryan Ross G2G6 Mach 2 (28.6k points)
+7 votes
I have been using it for building out collateral lines for a surname study that starts at around 1795. For that it works well. For that line there is ancestor suggestion for which there is no evidence, so not useful for brick walls. I had not really looked to deep for other brick walls yet.

I have many "potential" grandparents that are already in my tree. I do not know why they say potential. I have checked a few potential grandparents that are not in my tree. There are no sources one the one I have come across yet.

Good success finding cousins. No success yet on brick wall ancestors
by Marty Acks G2G6 Pilot (119k points)
This mirrors my experience. It is very useful for sorting out cousins. No movement on brick walls, but this may get better as more cousins get tested.
Some of my cousins show up in the 5cm or less range with ThruLines. There is another recent G2G thread citing an article by Bettinger about those small matches being like poison M&Ms as a third will not be real DNA matches. He also indicates even if you have a tree to get there, the match may not be a DNA one. Nonetheless, I follow traditional genealogy then to see of I consider them part of my tree and and treat the small DNA match for what it is, possibly not a real DNA match at all, but perhaps just clue that did lead me to distant cousins.
Hi, are you sure about that? To my knowledge, Ancestry does not show 5cm matches. The minimum they show is 6cm.

I think the small cm matches really refer to matches of 5,6 or 7cm. Anything 8cm or above is usually Identical by descent -- a genealogical match.
+10 votes
Not really. These Thrulines seem to be based upon Ancestry Trees more than autosomal-DNA. I did have a lead to one family member. Although the suggestion didn't make sense because of location, it was a clue that I might find a common ancestor perhaps a generation back. Then, suddenly that suggested connection disappeared only to have a completely ridiculous (but famous), ancestor suggested. Basically Ancestry garbage in, Ancestry garbage out. I have found many more potential ancestors by careful DNA analysis than by any idiotic Ancestry suggestions.
by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
edited by Bill Vincent
+10 votes
An important caveat here:  Several of my ThruLines come about because DNA matches have copied my Ancestry tree.  The reported ThruLine is not independent corroboration at all!

People are welcome to copy whatever they want, but it limits the utility of ThruLines.
by David Brodeur G2G6 (6.2k points)
+3 votes
Yes is the short .  

Of course there are some false leads, but for the most part this has been a big help.  Obviously it depends on how good and how extensive your own family tree is.  

I believe it is a big asset and well worth the use.  Unfortunately, Ancestry doesn't provide useful DNA tools like MyHeritage.  The combination of good DNA tools (chromosome mapping and cluster analysis) with ThruLines would be very powerful.
by Dana Fowlkes G2G Rookie (290 points)
+4 votes
Because my family is solid Maine from Massachusetts, I am related to the same people through many lines. What is USEFUL are DNA cousins related to me who are NOT related to any of my other DNA matches. One such example is William Romer who came to Maine from possibly New York. I am related to two persons who are not related to me or any of my DNA cousins in any other way--and those persons are descendants of a woman named Raymer, daughter of Conrad Romer/Raymer. There are no records of William Romer, but this is a huge clue. Conrad Romer/Raymer lived in Bennington, Vermont and Rensaleer New York.

The Thru Lines were further helpful with Bennett ancestry. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to find the ancestry of my third great grandfather Bennett. While I still have not identified his father, the thru lines indicate who his grandfather was.
by S Mercer G2G6 Mach 1 (15.5k points)
+4 votes
Everyone I've come up with on DNA Circles (I haven't gotten Thrulines to work yet-I actually confused the two when I initially posted this answer) is descended from a known ancestor of mine-I haven't found any new ancestors, but have found some new fairly close cousins.  The problem I've noticed is that one of the lines is mistaken in that my cousins and I are both shown as descendants of a particular couple when in fact they are descended from the husband and his first wife, not his second.  Like everything else DNA-related, it can be a powerful tool (within reason).  I'm going to see if I can test Thrulines now.
by K. Anonymous G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by K. Anonymous
Now I can comment properly-this feature has some very tantalizing possibilities and I actually have a lead on a brick wall or two.  I'm crossing my fingers that this gets refined further.
+3 votes
I agree with the comments about junk info from bad Ancestry trees creating a lot of noise, but I have found the ThruLines feature to be a great help in providing corroborating evidence of speculative links, e.g., to the parents of a maternal ancestor where I thought I had the right birth family but was not sure -- when the ThruLines connections generate a dozen or more matches to people tracing their ancestry to brothers in the same family and there are no other apparent links in the family trees, that's pretty good evidence that you're on the right track.  You do have to double check their research but this has been a very useful clue for me.
by Scott McClain G2G6 Mach 1 (16.6k points)
+7 votes
Once there were two Nancy's, '03, '06 who did I fancy?

Mistakes were made over the years, left me frustrated almost in tears.

Finding a source that led to one, Census, birth, death, I had some.

Then came ThruLines, "They do what?", you say.

Find matches from my tree using DNA?

Descendants of '06 showed up as a match, Nancy J. Higgins, it's you I'll attach.

With this I've found ancestors abound, full steam ahead, I pray they'll be sound.
by D Theberge G2G2 (2.5k points)
edited by D Theberge
Love your poetry in motion
Thanks.
+4 votes
I have had great success with the Thru Lines.  Yes, there have been one or two that were flagrantly wrong but for the most part, they have been helpful even when not totally accurate.  There is no expectation that the line is vetter rather merely a hint but hints can be highly useful and I have been able to find new cousins and new ancestors.
by Thom Anderson G2G6 Mach 5 (55.4k points)
+4 votes
ThruLines have not helped me as I would have thought, but I can see how it may help others.
by Austin Pagels G2G6 (7.2k points)
+3 votes
My biggest issue with thrulines has been something like you have a new match! You are related to your own grandmother through your own grandmother! Isn't that fantastic!!!
by Boris Charlton G2G5 (5.8k points)
+7 votes
I've found the thrulines are great when I do all the work and something matches. But when it doesn't line up--it typically turns out to be an error that a lot of people just copied without using corresponding DNA analysis. So, I don't believe it unless I have a DNA trail, and even then I don't consider it verified unless that paper trail makes sense.
by Shanna Leeland G2G6 Mach 5 (57.1k points)
+1 vote
I have not had any great breakthroughs yet but have found quite a few matches that confirm some of my 'educated' guesses regarding some important connections.
by Daniel Bly G2G6 Mach 5 (59.7k points)
+3 votes
Not much help. Because ThruLines are mainly based upon FamilyTrees, I have attempted to add various suspected ancestors in an attempt to utilize ThruLines. In most cases this has been a colossal failure. In one instance only has my guess of an ancestor been validated by Shared Common Matches and by supplemental DNA comparisons outside of Ancestry (on Gedmatch and FTDNA.)

Most of the time I find myself correcting the erroneous and misleading ThruLines proposed for some of my cousins. Ancestry continually confuses people with similar names and dates causing others to create misleading family trees. In some instances, these cousins have refused to believe that ThruLines can be wrong. It's hard to blame them when 100 people have copied the same wrong information from wrong Ancestry Trees, without any collaborating sources of course.
by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (143k points)

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