Posted by Ancestry Team on August 3, 2015 in Ask Ancestry Anne

Question: As I look at possible cousins, I see “Confidence…moderate, good” etc… What exactly is the difference? Are these matches created by DNA or similarities in family names, profiles?


Answer: When we compare your DNA to the DNA of one of your matches, we calculate a confidence score for you based on the amount and location of the DNA that you share. This score lets you know how much DNA evidence there is for you and your match actually being related. A high confidence score means that we are pretty sure that the DNA you share with your match is identical because it was inherited from a recent common ancestor.

It’s important to note that the confidence score is related only to your match and not to the relationship range we’ve assigned. In other words, the confidence score should not be interpreted as our confidence that you are specifically 4th cousins, for example. Instead, it lets you know how confident you can be that you and your DNA match are related through a recent common ancestor.

On your DNA page you will see a question mark icon that will take you to our Help screen:


There are two articles that might help you understand confidence better if you would like more information:


I would also recommend checking out Ancestry Academy. Anna Swayne has created a DNA 101: An Insider’s Scoop on AncestryDNA Testing course that you might find helpful.

Happy searching!

Ancestry Anne



  1. Barbara

    Why oh why won’t Ancestry tell us WHERE the DNA matches are? If you are not willing to give us a chromosome browser as we have asked for thousands of times, why can’t you let us download the details of where on which chromosome the matches are for those who do match us? Now, we have to use other sites to try to use the information that you are hiding from us. Ancestry could sell a lot more DNA tests if it wasn’t for this one major drawback.

  2. Jeri

    I feel like I can only look at any DNA matches that pop up the same way I look at the shaking leaves, dread! I doubt 1 out of 10 trees on ancestry are even close to being realistic. Do I believe I match the people? Yes, I guess because it’s in the testing but that’s about it. Why are people so slack about doing their own research? Any research for that matter other than copying off other’s trees that are also not correct. I cringe every time I go to someone’s tree and see their sources are members trees! I’ve caught myself lately spending at least as much time sending emails to people to help show them the mistakes on their trees, to help them (beg them) to correct the mistakes as I spend doing my own research. Also the circles addition Ancestry has created is not much help either because I can only guess you are collecting this information from a combination of trees that aren’t right in the first place! I know you are trying to help but it’s a waste of time. But I do like the DNA as a tool. I agree with the first comment, please make a chromosome browser so those of us who are serious about our searching can have our details about our test and make our own determinations about the results along with trying to sift through the mess the people are making of the trees they are posting. Please, forgive me if I am stepping on toes here, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings or anger anyone. I would just like to see people do a better job of correct researching.

  3. Debbie

    I like being able to label a DNA match with a star, but it would be better to have a graded system (maybe different colors) so I could indicate a direct match vs a possible match or something inbetween . Another suggestion with DNA matches, to have the ability to indicate and see at a glance where the connection is without having to re-open the match and go through the matching surnames. Thanks!

  4. Chris

    I’m very new to Ancestry and still fumbling my way round. However, I’ve already managed to figure out enough to be able to say that I do agree with Jeri. Some of the research that people have done appears to be so way off I’m beginning to wonder how much of the data I can really trust, which is disappointing.
    The other thing I’m struggling with is the number of people who keep putting up family crests. I know pretty much every name has a crest, but it doesn’t mean we’re all members of the nobility! In the case of my family tree, the idea is just laughable but it seems, in one or two cases, there might just be a little bit of trying to fit the research to a fond hope. I do hope I’m wrong.

  5. John Turner

    Anne, Why not more SC info? Very scarce. When I sent in mine and wife’s DNA I thought we would see markers relating us to individuals. What we got was very minimal at best. Why?

  6. Sarah

    Chris, I would never trust ANYONE’s family tree or (non-primary-sourced) data. It’s just what they’re working with and does not constitute a valid source in and of itself. It can be helpful if they have primary sources backing up a “fact” that you don’t have in your tree, but we should not use each other’s trees as any kind of proof of anything. In my tree, I sometimes temporarily put in a name or date that seems to be accurate from other (non-primary) sources, or birth date guesstimates based on the date of birth of a child, simply to make running a general search on that person a little more fine-tuned. Otherwise, my tree is a constant work in progress FOR ME and if anyone uses my tree data as “truth” then the onus is on them to prove it out. People here get very angry with other users for having bad data in their trees, but that’s their problem – it’s like copying off someone else’s test in school – they may be right and they may not be so take it all with a grain of salt. And yes, ignore the family crests until you have your own proven. I ignore most of the data other people have and use this site primarily as a place to corral my own work (right, wrong, or assumed) and as a repository of helpful primary-source data.

  7. Laurence Boyd

    I understand the the how the relationship tree works, so please explain how the DNA results could identify two potential 2nd cousins that have robust family trees (1000+ entries) yet they do not contain ANY common ancestors.

  8. Viva Barney

    I so agree with Jeri. A warning should be issued with each new member to avoid copying information from other members trees. I have spent much time trying to undo mistakes I made when I first started.

  9. Alexander

    Jeri, I totally agree with you. For one line, my main source has been a book authored by someone who has spent time looking at Catholic records stored in Europe and in Utah. Whenever I get a leaf, I try to verify it with someone who actually has knowledge about that person or check what info I have.

  10. I’d like to propose an Ask Ancestry Anne and/or DNA topic. I am trying to help a relative who was adopted identify who her birth parents were. The information reported by the birth mother on the pre-adoption birth certificate doesn’t entirely match living people, so I’m really left with DNA tests. But how would a half-sibling appear in a DNA test? As a 1st cousin? As a sibling? Would love a little help on this.

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