Strategies for Using Ancestry Thrulines in DNA Research
Have you noticed Ancestry DNA’s Thrulines and perhaps clicked around exploring this new feature? How can it help you in breaking down brick walls? Are there limitations to it’s use? We’ll take a look at these questions and more in this article. If you haven’t yet discovered Thrulines, some exciting clues might be waiting for you.
What is Ancestry DNA ThruLines?
First, what is ThruLines and how does it work? A big clue is directly on the home page: “ThruLines uses Ancestry trees to suggest how Diana Elder may be related to their DNA matches through common ancestors.” Important words here are “suggest” and “may.” When I click on “Explore ThruLines” the website shows my suggested ancestors based on my Ancestry tree as well as that of other researchers. I have a fairly robust family tree on Ancestry and have verified many of my family lines with paper trails. DNA matches can confirm those lines and Thrulines makes it easy.
Verifying Family Lines with Thrulines
I recommend starting with your closest ancestor, then moving back to learn more about how Thrulines works. I started with my father and you can see in the screenshot below that the only match I have is my daughter, Nicole. Where is my son who has also tested on Ancestry? Turns out he does not have a tree connected to his DNA test. He has several unlinked trees associated with his results, but since I manage his kit those come from my list of trees and only one of them would be correct.
Without a linked tree, Ancestry doesn’t include him in Thrulines; although on my match list he is clearly labeled as my son and has inherited about 25% of his DNA from my father. Moving back another generation, I noticed the same thing with my grandparents. I have several first cousins on my maternal side matching me, but only seven have trees, so they are the only seven who show up on Thrulines.
As you move back on each family line, you’ll see additional matches as second and then third cousins are added to the mix. Keep in mind that only those with trees attached to their DNA results will be shown.
As you view each ancestor, be on the lookout for the green “Evaluate” tag. This is Thrulines way of telling you it’s not sure about the connection. For example, in the screenshot below, Dora C Shults and Dora C B are the same person, but because the surname is different, another possible daughter of William H. Shults was created. Clicking on the evaluate gave me more information and viewing the surnames, it was clear that this was a mother and daughter. As with any other type of source, a family tree must be evaluated and we must make the connections.
Clues from Thrulines
If you’ve been researching your family tree for some time, you’ll likely start seeing familiar names. These can be great clues that your research is on the right track.
For example, I researched the sisters of my great grandfather, William Huston Shults, several years ago. He was the only boy in the family so I was happy to see that the descendancy work I had done was looking correct. The screenshot below shows William Huston Shults’ sister, Rose Alice Shults. She married a Davis, but with that common of a surname, I didn’t have a lot of luck tracing her children past the 1920 census. I now have two DNA matches I can contact to learn more about the family.
If you’ve had some questions about your research, Thrulines can help you connect to your DNA cousins who could fill you in on their branch of the family tree.
Limitations of Thrulines
As you move further back in your family tree, there is more room for error, especially if you have a hole in your tree. I’ve been researching my 3rd great grandmother, Cynthia Dillard Royston, for years and my paper trail points to her probable father being George W. Dillard. However, I haven’t yet added him to my tree.
With this hole in my tree, Thrulines added a Hopson Milner as my potential ancestor. Clicking on the green “Evaluate” tag, I see that there are four Ancestry member trees that have a “Cynthia Milner Royston” married to Thomas Beverly Royston. How reliable are these trees? Only one has sources listed – two censuses which are correct for Cynthia Royston in the household of Thomas Beverly Royston. Another source is from the American Genealogical-Biographical Index and it names a Cynthia Milner, born 1810 in Georgia. Someone assumed that this Cynthia was the same Cynthia married to Thomas Beverly Royston, added that to their tree, which was then copied.
My extensive research includes death certificates from three of Cynthia’s children – each giving her maiden name as “Dillard.” This direct evidence correlates with a lot of indirect evidence connecting Cynthia to George W. Dillard. My next step? Send a kind message to the owners of the incorrect trees and share my research. I can also add George W. Dillard to my tree and start verifying any DNA matches that might appear in Thrulines.
My takeaway? Ancestry DNA Thrulines is a powerful tool to aid us in verifying our family lines, help us connect to cousins, and to give us clues for further research. We must be responsible, however, for the analysis of the trees and the relationships.
Best of luck in your genealogical research!