Finding evidence that you’re a descendant of a particular ancestor is one of the powerful applications of DNA testing. AncestryDNA has created a groundbreaking new way to make those kinds of powerful discoveries. We call it DNA Circles™ and it’s currently available in BETA for AncestryDNA customers.
DNA Circles re-imagines what matching can do. It goes beyond finding a common ancestor with your DNA matches and can link you to additional AncestryDNA members with the same common ancestor thus creating a Circle of people who are all related.
Once a DNA Circle is created, a new kind of discovery will appear on your DNA results page. Here is an example.
Each circle is based on a common ancestor. As you click through to the Circle for an ancestor, if you have an Ancestry membership, you can see all the members in the Circle, how they are related to your ancestor, and who else they have in their family tree. This is where DNA Circles really shine. Being able to see a collection of your DNA matches centered around a common ancestor all at once gives you a new tool to do more with your new-found cousins. It makes it easier to exchange photos, stories, and other new information to add to what you all know about your ancestor. In short, it makes collaborating with your new extended family easier than ever.
Here is an example of a DNA Circle with William Grey as the common ancestor. It includes nine members who all have William Grey in their family tree and have also taken a DNA test.
DNA Circles can potentially uncover new relatives that DNA matching alone would not have found. Because you inherit only fractions of DNA from your distant ancestors (read more about genetic inheritance), you may have inherited different parts of your ancestors’ DNA than many of your cousins. By finding the interconnected people, it’s very possible that there will be people in your DNA Circle with whom you are not a direct genetic match with, but who do match others in the group and share the same ancestor in their family tree. It’s like meeting a friend of a friend—or in this case a cousin of a cousin. The more people who take the test, the bigger your group can get.
Exploring the links to each of the other members in the Circle will provide you with a side-by-side comparison of the connection you have and give you another look into the research.
Take some time to dive into this new feature and explore all the new things you can learn. Revisit your DNA Circles often because as the database grows you can get a DNA Circle at any time.
So, How Does it Work?
DNA Circles starts with well-proven DNA matching technology to find your distant cousins among other AncestryDNA members. Then we look at all of the matches together to find people that are interconnected.
This is where the power of having an Ancestry tree connected to DNA comes into play. Using family trees, we look for an ancestor shared across this group of DNA-related people. When AncestryDNA finds one, a DNA Circle is created.
The good news is that we’ve trained the computer to do the hard stuff like DNA matching, tree comparisons, and triangulation for you. You then get to focus on taking this discovery and building on it to make a few more of your own. You can learn more about DNA circles and read the white paper by clicking on the help link on your DNA homepage. To access the help link, select one of your DNA Circles and click the question mark in the top right hand side.
What If You Don’t Have a DNA Circle, Yet?
Not every AncestryDNA member will have a DNA Circle. Here are some important details about how DNA Circles are created that can help explain why you might not have one.
- Have a “public” family tree linked to your DNA results. If you don’t have a family tree, it’s free to start one. If you have a tree, make sure it’s linked to your DNA results, set to be shared publicly, and goes back to the most distant ancestor you know. You can use research tools on Ancestry to help. I would strongly encourage linking your DNA results to a tree, even if that tree has limited information. DNA can be the tool to unlock your family discoveries and having even a small tree will help get you on the path without delay. (Standard privacy rules still apply for DNA Circles.)
- A DNA Circle requires three or more people. To form a DNA Circle we need at least three separate family units. (Units consist of first cousin and closer.) Three or more people who are second cousins or more distantly related need to be tested and have the same common ancestor in their public tree to make a Circle. Mom, Uncle Joe, and you will not make up a DNA Circle, but having additional extended family members can increase your DNA Circle connection strength or potentially extend your reach, since they might have inherited the DNA to link you to another Circle.
- Reach out to second cousins or more distant family members. Having more people in your family tested will increase the likelihood that you will be in or create a Circle, and will make the Circle more powerful in terms of its potential reach.
- DNA Circles go back seven generations (six generations back, plus you). If you have matches that could be in a Circle but share a common ancestor past seven generations, they will not show up in a Circle. They will still show up as matches to you in your regular list, but the cut off for Circles is seven generations. Early analysis showed that more distant relationships were less reliable and may form DNA Circles around inaccurate data. Since DNA Circles is in beta, we are being a little more conservative to have more confidence in the results. This is something we will continue to analyze and may change over time.
- You must be an active subscriber (any level) to view DNA Circles. Having a membership is not a guarantee that you will have DNA Circles, but if you do have DNA Circles, an Ancestry membership will allow you to view them.
DNA Circles Will Continue to Grow
DNA Circles is in beta, so please give us feedback on your experience. And don’t worry if you don’t have a circle yet; not everyone will have one immediately. But as the database grows and as you expand your tree, you will have more chances to get a DNA Circles.
Watch the following video on AncestryDNA Circles and Matching with expert genealogist, Crista Cowan.