Saturday, January 26, 2013

AncestryDNA Beginning to Come of Age?’s autosomal DNA product is starting to come of age. Until last night I had not been impressed with what I had been able to find through it. I did make one find that was genealogically very significant for me. However, that find was rather tedious and cumbersome. Ancestry's DNA product did play an important part in that discovery by pointing me to a potential cousin. But it was still an old fashioned, grind-it-out process of going through the pedigree tree of suggested match to find a name that looked familiar.  

It also led me down a path that I have been experiencing all to much when I was directed to view another pedigree tree on my newly discovered branch:

This should be only a temporary delay in gaining access. However, in this case I have yet to see the desired tree three months later. This is in spite of several invitations from the owner of that tree and a call to customer service. Kim in customer service told me she found a mistake in the email address in my Ancestry profile. Even after that was identified, I am still not getting an invitation to that tree.There are three trees to which the owners recently have been trying to invite me. Only one of them finally has succeeded when she asked the invitation be sent to a private email address that is not associated with my Ancestry account. You can see why I was underwhelmed by Ancestry's new offering.

Then last night I decided to review my matches using the filter "Not viewed". I only chose to investigate matches who had linked their DNA results with a pedigree chart with a significant number of individuals included. I was soon in for a pleasant surprise. First there was a little spinning icon and then very briefly "Evaluating family tree information" appeared on the screen. I really didn't pay much attention until a box appeared that I had never seen. At the top appeared the familiar little green leaf and the words "Shared Ancestor Hint". The hint was that I shared my 4th great-grandfather Francis Lakey with my DNA match: 

It appears that the hint and that my suggested 4th cousin appears to be actually a 5th cousin-once removed! Wow, that was easy.

I was ready to do that again and a few minutes later lightning did strike twice. In this instance my suggested 4th cousin appears to be a 3rd cousin-once removed.

I tried many other suggested matches linked to extensive pedigree charts but found no obvious matches.

Then I returned to the match I had previously found late last year and now the "Shared Ancestor Hint appeared. In this case the hint was technically correct but it showed the limits of this computer matching software. The DNA results predicted my match was a 4th cousin. The pedigree evaluation software matched us as 5th cousins. The DNA was correct in this case. The pedigree evaluation did not match "Debora LANHAM b. abt 1815 Kentucky" with "Deborah LANHAM ABT 1785 Virginia". This does not look like a technological failure to me. It looks like "pilot error" in the pedigree chart information to me. To mix my metaphors this is a small case of "garbage in garbage out."  

So to summarize we have three predicted 4th cousins who appear actually to be:
a 5th cousin-once removed;
a 3rd cousin-once removed; and 
a 4th cousin.  

Ancestry still has much to learn about customer service. FTDNA and 23andMe notify me when I have new matches or when I receive an internal message from another customer. Ancestry waits for me to login and look for messages or new matches. Ancestry needs to be more proactive in supporting the communications process between customers..

PS:  Just as I was wrapping up this post, I noticed that there is another way to filter DNA matches "Has A Hint". I now have five more matches to investigate and they are predicted to be 5th or more distant cousins.

More later.


  1. Dave,

    I see above that you've had success accessing an Ancestry tree using a "private email address that is not associated with my Ancestry account". If you'll send me that email address, I'll invite you again and maybe we'll have better luck.

    My Ancestry DNA results are starting to come thru but I haven't encountered you yet. I'm going to try some of the viewing methods you mentioned in this post.


  2. Beverly,
    Thank you for your persistence! Your invitation this morning has finally allowed me to view you extensive and well documented tree. I guess we can all learn that there is often an "official" way and a way that works and they are not always the same. Your invitation to a personal email not associated with Ancestry worked immediately after many failed attempts to invite me through Ancestry's internal messaging system.