Credit for this discovery goes to my cousin and co-host, Donya Williams. This latest addition to Ancestry’s DNA tools was so subtle that I missed it. At the time of writing this article, this little tool remains unnamed. In the interest of referring to it by a specific name, I refer to it as the Ancestry DNA Match Add Tool (DMA Tool, for short).
So…what is this tool, exactly?
I’m guessing it’s a triangulation tool in place of a Chromosome Browser. If you’re unfamiliar with what chromosome browsers are, and how you can use them in your genetic genealogical research, this article will walk you through it: (https://www.legacytree.com/blog/chromosome-browsers-genealogy#:~:text=Chromosome%20browsers%20are%20tools%20that,a%20set%20of%20genetic%20matches.&text=Using%20a%20chromosome%20browser%2C%20you,locations%20of%20specific%20shared%20segments. In the meantime, I would like to say that it would be awesome if Ancestry did a licensing deal with Gedmatch and the developers who have created tools for Gedmatch for its DNA triangulation tool
When we boil it right down, this tool allows you to add living DNA matches to your family tree. It is far from a straightforward process. For starters, it requires researching a DNA match’s line to add a DNA match to your tree. I’ll get to that in a bit. Once you add a DNA match to an Ancestry family tree, you can then add a DNA match to their entry in a tree using DMAT. In theory, this sends DNA matching information to Ancestry for triangulation purposes and DNA lineage information. I say “in theory” only because I have yet to see any official statement from Ancestry about how it uses the information this tool is providing the service.
I will step you through a real-world working example from my research practice.
I have thousands of DNA matches on Ancestry. Given the sheer volume of children my ancestors were having – and the number of children their descendants had – the large number of DNA matches I have isn’t surprising. I wasn’t going to add all of my matches to my tree. I don’t know enough about how this tool works to spend the necessary months to tackle such a monumental task. Instead, I opted to add matches where Ancestry identified common ancestors. This was a much smaller group of people with which to work. I repeated the same process for the eight DNA kits I manage. However, as a starting point, I focused on my list of common ancestry matches. I am going to use Becky as an example.
I have two common ancestor matches with Becky via my paternal grandmother’s paternal line. Becky was simply an awesome discovery. Her research work was superb, and it was incredibly easy to verify her line of descent from both sets of common ancestors. Trust me; it’s rare to come across a family tree as well-documented as hers.
Once I had verified her documentation, I used her line of descent as a guide as I added her new line into my family tree. The paper trail disappeared with the birth of her parents. That’s simply because her parents are still alive and fall within the 72-year record protection period. Vital records can be sealed from public view between 72 to 100 years. The timeframe depends on which state you live in. It is worth remembering that if you are a direct descendant facing this set of circumstances, you can request access to vital records that have been sealed. However, this will require a fee to obtain a digital copy of the document, and you will have to provide proof that you are a direct descendant. Again, this is to protect the privacy and vital data for people who are alive.
I was able to circumvent the 72-year record withholding issue when it came to Becky’s parents. Her grandparents had obituaries that I accessed on Newspapers.com. I was also able to discover vital details for her grandparents’ children: their names, where they were living at the time each parent died, married names for daughters, and, in some instances, grandchildren’s names.
Additional family obituaries, engagement announcements, marriage announcements, and birth notices – all found in newspapers – eventually provided me with the names of Becky’s parents. This information enabled me to place Becky in my family tree.
I was ready to add Becky’s DNA match to her place in my tree using the DMA tool:
In the image above, once you click on the DMA Tool icon, a search box will open. Type n the name of your DNA match. Once you confirm this is correct, the icon changes color and appears like this:
Once I added Becky, I slowly worked my way through as many DNA matches with identified common ancestors as I could. Some trees were simply too messed up to be able to work with them. Typically, these lacked any documentation. Or individuals with the same name who lived in the same county and were born around the same time were confused for one another or merged into being one person. I didn’t have the time, or inclination, to figure out where the errors had occurred. I merely walked away and cycled onto the next match, hoping that their family trees would be well-documented. In the end, I managed to place around 68% of my DNA matches with identified common ancestors into my tree. That was actually a higher success percentage than I was expecting if I am honest.
Which give a list of DNA matches with identified common ancestors that looks like the series of images below (click on each image to see a larger image):
I repeated the same process for each DNA test I administer for my father, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunt, and some cousins. This phase of the project was a far easier prospect. For starters, they match the same people I match. These individuals were already added to my family tree when I was working through them via my list of DNA matches with an identified common ancestor. Although, every once in awhile, they would match an additional person who didn’t appear in my identified common ancestor matches.
My aunt and father were slightly different. A generation ahead of me, they have matches at an older generational level. My DNA matches tend to end with people I share 6x great-grandparents with. Sometimes, if the universe is aligned just so and the planets are in harmony, I will have a rarer DNA match at a correctly identified 7x great-grandparent level.
My father and my aunt are matching people who descend from my 7x – 8x great-grandparent level. Again, if the universe is being generous, my father or aunt will have an identified common ancestor match at my 9x great-grandparent level. In other words, their DNA reaches back anywhere from 2 to 3 generations beyond the people Ancestry has identified as matches to me. This is one reason why it’s important to DNA test the older generations in your family. However, this will require additional research for the DNA matches they have that you don’t.
Once I completed adding the DNA matches for the DNA kits I administer on Ancestry, I turned my attention to DNA matches in my ThruLines. Most of these were already done when I added matches from my test and the tests I administer. Again, I ignored ThruLines for the purported individual family lines that were so wrong that they could not be untangled and fixed. However, there was a group of ThruLines that were almost correct. They weren’t correct, but close enough to be correct for me to quickly and easily figure out where the other person’s family tree took a wrong direction. You will find an example of this below. You will find an example of this below.
I know the Holloway family of Old Ninety-Six, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia like the back of my hand. In this instance, we’re looking at a Holloway family group in Edgefield, South Carolina.
My cousin and DNA match, Miss G, was correct about her line of descent until she hit Mary Holloway. Mary was a common name within this family. There is simply a bevy of Marys all born around the same time, all living near to one another – and all part of the same overall gargantuan family. Miss G confused one Mary Holloway for one of her cousins. I knew who Jessie Mae Martin’s mother, Mary Holloway, was. It was easy to add the correct line of descendancy to my tree. In truth, Mary Holloway and Jessie Martin were already in my tree, as were all of Jessie’s children. A handful of obituaries enabled me to add Miss G – and then add her DNA profile to her entry on my tree using the DMA Tool.
This project took around 8 weeks to finish. Remember, this work was done on a fraction of my DNA matches. It is time-consuming, to say the least. I finished this project around 6 weeks ago. I wanted to give it some time to see what would happen before I wrote about it. I’d love to say I made a staggering number of new discoveries. I did not. So far, 4 or 5 bad ThruLines were cleaned up – with blatantly wrong lines disappearing. And AncestryDNA identified a possible mother for one of my enslaved ancestors in Edgefield, South Carolina. That’s it. It’s better than nothing.
Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to recommend taking the necessary time to replicate what I have done using this tool. Nor can I suggest not do it. The deciding factor will need to be what you need to gain from using this tool. At present, until Ancestry makes an announcement or video about its DMA Tool, I can’t entirely say what it will or won’t do. If I find out anything more, or have additional results, I will share them.