Posted by Ancestry Team on June 2, 2016 in AncestryDNA

In 2015, we introduced New Ancestor Discoveries which connects AncestryDNA users with potential new ancestors or relatives— someone that may not be in your family tree previously. A New Ancestor Discovery appears if you share significant amounts of DNA with multiple members of an AncestryDNA Circle—which means you might also be related to the ancestor that the DNA Circle is built around. These hints can be a great starting point for your research and help you connect to other family members you didn’t know you had.

New Ancestor Discoveries

In order to determine New Ancestor Discoveries, we created an algorithm with criteria that connects people to DNA Circles based on their DNA matches. This algorithm was created last year when we launched New Ancestor Discoveries and with the rapid growth of the DNA database, we are finding it needs to be updated.

As DNA Circles get larger and more DNA matches are delivered, more people are connecting into the DNA Circles, which results in more New Ancestor Discoveries, but with a decrease in accuracy. So, we are updating the criteria to make it more conservative and increase the accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries. This means you’ll need more connections into a DNA Circle to get a New Ancestor Discovery.  

These updates will result in a significant decrease in the number New Ancestor Discoveries, but with an increase in accuracy. Some populations may experience larger decreases. We will continue to monitor and adjust this as necessary to ensure these provide meaningful discoveries for our members.

This update to the algorithm is currently happening and you can see changes over the coming days. Previously, you needed to match at least 2 members of a known DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. Now, users must match at least 3 members of a small (15 members or less) DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For larger DNA Circles (16+ members), users must match 20% of that Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For example, if there is a DNA Circle of 10 people, you will need to match at least 3 people to get a New Ancestor Discovery. If there is a DNA Circle of 30 people, you will now need  to match 6 people instead of 2. 

Learn more about the science behind New Ancestor Discoveries from Director of Product, AncestryDNA, Kenny Freestone,

Read more on how New Ancestor Discoveries can help you unlock family tree clues using your genetic information here and how to use New Ancestor Discoveries in your research here.

See more helpful AncestryDNA videos on our YouTube channel here.

46 Comments

  1. Jojo

    Ancestry’s DNA service is lacking because you are a closed system, not open to DNA data sourced from other providers.

    Your biggest competitor is going to roll out a new DNA matching serivce that will allow import of data from all major DNA providers.

  2. I love Ancestry. Thanks for making all this changes. I rather have a few good ones than 100 bad ones. It makes my life easier.

  3. Barbara

    I used to have no New Ancestor Discoveries, then last week, suddenly I had 24. This week, that dropped to 3 on my own test. Considering that I know all my ancestors back 5-6 generations and more for some, so are no missing holes in the time frame of the New Ancestor Discoveries (early 1800s). So, in my case, they are not very useful. From some of the other tests I manage, they might be useful – in theory. So far, none that I have checked have any relevance to those I’m looking for. I appreciate the innovation. However, I would much more appreciate a chromosome browser or a way to download the chromosome data for comparison. That is a basic component to DNA research.

  4. While I think increasing the lower limit from 2 to 3 matches is going to be more useful on the whole, there will be cases where important leads will be loss.

    In my case, two of my kits (siblings) had a NAD for an individual which provided me to a lead to work on a brickwall the siblings have. Both siblings only matched two individuals in the small DNA Circle for their long-dead ancestor.

    One problem with which many customers clearly have struggled is the term “ancestor”. That term can apply to more than just the direct line pedigree entrant.

    The siblings of our direct pedigree entrants are often excellent research gateways to our ancestors. So for me, getting NADs for distant great aunts and uncles, or the in-laws of my cousins, provide clues to research families.

    Unfortunately, looking at how much online whining there has been over NADs, it appears to me that many customers have misunderstood the purpose of NADs. NADs should be research hints, not an instant pedigree creator.

  5. Bill

    My NADs have been found to be of the form ” of cousin x removed”. So they’re not ancestors, and they’re not blood-related. This is of value…how?

  6. Bill

    Ah nice, this blog doesn’t like special characters. My previous post should have read “of the form (spouse) of (3rd-5th) cousin (1-2)x removed”.

  7. Debbi

    Although I appreciate the link to other DNA relatives, I cannot for the life of me find the elusive relative we are all related to because they are not in my tree and their trees have no ancestors showing up the same as mine. It is a frustrating exercise and a waste of my time. I have not a clue where this DNA connection is in my tree if those shown connections are not names currently in my tree. Where to start with this bit of information? I usually give up and go on my merry way.

    • Jessica Murray

      Debbi, We offer free introductory to advanced-level AncestryDNA videos on Ancestry Academy which may help you address that elusive ancestor. Visit our Academy courses here: https://www.ancestry.com/academy/courses/topic (Note: Ancestry Academy requires a separate login so you may need to create a new account).

  8. Rth

    It’s always nice to have new features & for those features to be improved as you see the need. With that said, and coming from a 20+ year career in software development, ancestry.com is releasing the product/feature too soon. It’s obvious that your testing is subpar & needs improved. I know that 6 of my NAD’s should be there. I went from 4 to 6 to 8 then 26 & now down to 2. In 3 months time, there shouldn’t be fluctuation like that if the product was correctly improved upon & tested. I just sent my mother’s test in on 5/31/2016. That’s the only thing keeping me with you for now. I’m tired of needing to reload & reload & all these changes that are updated frequently (to me that means some changes aren’t thoroughly tested or designed). I’ve already started moving my family tree elsewhere & am deciding where my primary genealogy site will be. I pay too much money for this. I know the NAD isn’t correct as it is right now. I had by far higher matches in the previous ones than I do with what you left.

  9. Peggy Deras

    No matter what “improvements” you make in your algorithms; as long as you refuse to share the details of the matches; you continue to be just the best place to park a tree or create private research trees. I get my autosomal DNA details from 23andMe; FTDNA and GEDmatch, and that’s where I concentrate my research efforts. Despite continuous criticism from DNA researching genealogists, ever since you introduced AncestryDNA, you continue with your “simplified” offering for the masses. Oh well.

  10. joyce

    Personally I find DNA circles pretty useless.

    We are now seeing more and more DNA results that have no trees associated with them.

    That ONLY helps the people who submit DNA without submitting a tree.

    THEY are using OUR tree info to make progress in their trees but not sharing info so WE can make progress on ours.

    I think this is really selfish of those folks-I have SO many matches now without trees–we don’t have a way to file away those results so they don’t clog up our matches–

    We also don’t have a way to file away matches we have looked at so we can get to the others–I find myself looking at the same matches over and over.

    PLEASE give us a system where we can put matches we have looked at in a separate file allowing us to actually GET to the others.

    I come from lines that are from the earliest settlers of US.

    My hubby is adopted and although I know a lot about his mothers lines I want to find his fathers lines.

    All these DNA matches from the 1600’s don’t help (the DNA effects of endogamy kick in and makes these people look more closely relaetd than they are–so we NEED a way to file those somewhere where we can still access them if we want but they do not clutter up our results.)

    I know ancestry is in the business of making money but there are SO many DNA matches who don’t have trees, I would like to file them someplace–but still be able to check now and then to see if they have trees yet.

    I KNOW all these folks cannot possibly be adopted—many are folks who are using OUR trees to further their information without giving back to the ancestry community.

    JMHO I think the worst thing you ever did was allow people to do DNA without submitting a tree BUT there really is no way to tell who is adopted and looking for answers and who just wants information from folks with public trees without sharing their info.

    I REALLY wish you would work on a filing system for us so we can put these types of matches in a file so we can view them periodically.

    I find myself looking at the same natches over and over…

    PLEASE consider getting a filing system together so we can easily file the matches we have looked at and a separate file for people without trees—people who don’t have trees do not help ME at all–in fact they don’t help anyone…except the people who have submitted DNA but don’t include any ancestral info–

  11. Jonna hunsucker

    Look i found a whole book of pucs and newspaper clippings don t know who they are but i think there might be important to someone .my number is 904 566 7953

  12. Michelle L Smart

    A chromosome viewer is the only way to verify these “New Ancestor Discoveries” are correct.

  13. Eliz

    These should be called NCDs: New Cousin Discoveries. Mine went from 2 to 24 back to 2 and I can’t figure out how I’m related to these 19th century men who lived in Tennesee/Alabama and North Carolina, where I don’t have direct ancestors. (I do have one collateral line who was in N.C.) I don’t plan to do extensive sideways research to include all my 4th and 5th cousins in my family tree.

    Would love to see a chromosome browser!

  14. I have a pretty extensively documented tree with a high confidence back to about 1800 (and then the confidence drops). Unfortunately the NADs have not led to any fruitful leads.
    I look forward to when you offer a chromosome browser. 🙂

  15. Sher

    Everyone seems to disallow the fact that our ancestors may have had illegitimate children that were raised by families not related to them. This is something unspoken in families from before the 20th century. Those children would grow to adulthood, marry, and still carry the DNA of their birth parents. We would, most likely, never find a connection without having knowledge of these adoptions or the fact that many adoptions did not take place. The child would just assume the name of the family with whom they lived.

  16. CH

    Sher: So true. One of my great-grandfathers had a first marriage with 3 children that no one else in the family knew about. One child died at about age 17, another “probably” died very young, and the third, a girl was traced by following her mother’s sister’s family. The girl took the surname of her uncle. DNA would leave me stumped! Real research was the answer to the “missing” girl.

  17. Greg

    Stop with the “Chromosome Browser” nonsense already..lol nerds. Thats just a marketing ploy

  18. I don’t understand your mathematical process but after the new changes I have now lost all shaky leaf matches to one whole side of my dads family, as well as the circles that he and my sister belonged to. How did this new upgrade change already confirmed DNA matches???????? I can understand losing the circles but not the DNA matches.
    If you want to try implementing new testing create a separate area to work out the bugs before implementing it and messing up all my years of work. I have spent a lot of money on test and subscriptions. When I call for help I am told to place my complaints here and if enough people are having the same problem then something will be done. Well, I am reading all these comments and no one else seems to have lost a whole family line of DNA matches with this upgrade except me.

  19. Robert

    The DNA feature of ancestry.com has been helpful in some areas such as finding a direction one may go in. But it lacks in linking with the general search feature in the Ancestry.com home page.

    What would be beneficial for those who are looking to make their tree as accurate as possible… is in the general search section… placing an icon next to a name or tree if that member has taken the DNA test through ancestry.com. For instance…if I do a search for a particular name…and through the list of family trees that have that person in their tree…it would help isolate, prove, or disprove people listed in my tree as being true ancestors. AE: I have in my tree Avery’s from Connecticut. But through DNA match searches don’t have any hints linking to the Avery’s in my tree. This could be because not all ancestry members have submitted for the DNA test…or…could be who I have in my tree to be incorrect.

    By showing members in doing a general search by name, date, etc., in the “Public Member Trees” section of doing a general name search if Ancestry would list next to those findings if that member is also a DNA subscribed member, it would help in determining the ancestors in their trees SHOULD be a DNA match from my tree. If that person or tree does not appear as a DNA match to me…then the likelihood of who I or the other person has listed is incorrect if we have the same person but we don’t match through AncestryDNA results.

    Also…providing members with the haplogroup they date back to would be beneficial and I think by law must be presented if requested.

    But in all, I have found AncestryDNA very helpful in providing clues that might never have been found and… discovered through AncestryDNA a half sister I never knew I had.

    What some have to consider is in trying to improve in other areas…some areas of function may be less operative or helpful than the original.

    What I would like to see is AncestryDNA become better at is providing the genetic links information they have so the members can be allowed to research via different avenues other than just through what Ancestry.com has on file.

    Cross referencing is so important in ancestry/dna research that it should be a standard the members be allowed to have their results available to them to use as they deem fit since the members have paid and submitted their personal genetic information.

  20. Hasani Carter

    They took away my new Ancestor discoveries (NAD). Some were to known ancestors! WTF?!?!

  21. Hasani Carter

    My Mom and both Aunts had the same New ancestor Discovery. Now that’s gone. There were also ancestors that came up in the NAD, of known relatives. Now even those ancestors are gone. They were legitimately our ancestors

  22. Laura Smith

    I truly belive this update s broken, I lost all of my Grandmother Mothers side and My husband lost almost all of his match 95% gone. and when you know the match is there . I hope this get fixed soon.

  23. Robert

    It appears many people have lost information they once had listed. This cannot be a good thing considering if the results in the beginning are now found to NOT be in other members trees that once were listed as being genetically connected. That means there was either a flaw in the beginning or a flaw established in the new process. Either way…science or proof based on science on actual and factual recordings should be presented and documented above that based on theory. Don’t know what’s happening but…it appears there are NOT people employed by Ancestry.com who follow the rules of proving and are NOT qualified to be quantifying their results to a paying public. Whether that be the science of DNA or the programmers building the site…so far reading these comments have lessoned my trust in how Anserty.com is running their business.

  24. Pat

    I agree with many of the comments above. Yes, we need a chromosome browser. Yes, we need to be able to email matches directly. Yes, we need to have a filing system so that we can group matches by familial lines. In your recalculation. I lost two of my known family circles, and had many NADs added who can’t possibly be related to me. Please listen to your customers who depend on you. You are making enough money from us to respond to the many repetitive requests for services that you simply are not providing.

  25. Judy

    I agree with most of the comment re our DNA matches. Last Oct i received a one and only NAD. I was thrilled but could not find a connection no matter how hard I tried. So I decided to build their tree from scratch hoping to find something to point me in the right direction. However after six months I have spent hours and hours doing this. Then just last week the NAD disappears from sight, never to be seen again. Now I have another NAD which is just as baffling, so after many hours again, I think I will just leave it alone until someone contacts me. Such a waste of time and money for nothing.

  26. Terrie

    “So, we are updating the criteria to make it more conservative and increase the accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries. This means you’ll need more connections into a DNA Circle to get a New Ancestor Discovery.”

    Conservative I guess…..means NONE….hummm……most NADS match my my Dads top 6 people on his list since results came back in Oct 2015. Those people on his list have NEVER changed!

    It goes on to say:

    ” Previously, you needed to match at least 2 members of a known DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. Now, users must match at least 3 members of a small (15 members or less) DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For larger DNA Circles (16+ members), users must match 20% of that Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For example, if there is a DNA Circle of 10 people, you will need to match at least 3 people to get a New Ancestor Discovery. If there is a DNA Circle of 30 people, you will now need to match 6 people instead of 2.”

    On the 20 matches my Dad had, most circles seemed to be correct in matching my Dad’s DNA results. Now I wonder if the 280 pages of matches are worth looking at past a certain point. Was much easier to look at the NAD circles to view other match connections.

  27. Lynn David

    I’m happy to hear you’re making the algorithm more conservative. I logged onto my AncestryDNA page a couple of weeks ago and this thing came up saying ‘you may be related to’ some ancestor from the mid-late 19th century in South Carolina because I had a match with two people. I looked up the matches with these two people and they were trivial, medium or below. I didn’t expect anything because I absolutely know I don’t have an ethnic English ancestry through South Carolina. I know all of my ethnic ancestry and it all lies in France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland & Poland. Ancestry still wants to class my as 45% ethnic ‘British Isles’ though. I figure that is the mix of my northwest German (Saxon) and Belgian ancestry which occurred in America making me look like I am British. But then again, I think that is why I am getting certain matches whose ancestry has nothing to do with continental Europe and is centered in England. And I have to keep explaining to these people that I’m not in any way British even though Ancestry says I am ethnically of the ‘British Isles.’ I wish you would change the name of that ethnic grouping. Northwestern Europe or something like that.

  28. Lenwell

    My NADs increased rapidly a week or so ago; then took a significant dive to maybe 5 people and now, completely gone. A bit weird.

  29. Laura Kimberley

    How come all my DNA connections are strictly all on my Paternal side and zero for my Maternal side, who has a lot more history and documentation since the 1st settlers to America? Somethings not right here.

  30. Hasani Carter

    “These updates will result in a significant decrease in the number New Ancestor Discoveries, but with an increase in accuracy. Some populations may experience larger decreases.”

    Which “populations” exactly?

    I’m starting to believe that Ancestry is exercising population control. First, raise the cM threshold to 6cM (up from 5cM), so many African Americans lose many of the African matches, in their DNA cousins matches list. Now with this. To say that I am concerned…is an understatement. By shafting “certain populations”, may I ask which populations you’re trying to protect?

  31. Geneva

    4 of my NADs were in my direct line! When I finally found my biological paternal line, those 4 NADs became ancestor circles! I am an adoptee and those NADs helped me!

  32. AR

    Please-Do not list DNA results that are not matched to a tree. Some of these people have been in my list for months without attaching to a tree. I have 9 DNA sets in here and review new finds weekly to keep the list manageable, however thanks to your new system I now have 50 plus pages to review on each of the 9 persons setting me back months since each one has to be reviewed for relevance. This is totally disrespectful of my time and money especially when the ancestors you are now listing as possibly related I cannot find even a remote connection to no matter how hard I try. I don’t even know what connections I have lost because of this.

  33. Lance Lane

    Has anyone had any funny things happen to their circles on Ancestry? I have known matches go from “Strong” to “Emerging/Good” over the past few weeks and people appear “strong” that are part of distant matching. I can’t join support either. I have people in my tree that are now “emerging” instead of strong. Sort of disappointed.

  34. Cece

    I just had my daughter’s DNA tested. I am very surprised that she doesn’t have one circle and I have 24. How can she not have any circles?

    • Jessica Murray

      Cece, Does your daughter have her family tree built out on Ancestry? AncestryDNA Circles are determined by DNA matching information + family tree data so if she has no tree information, this may be why she has no Circles visible. Learn more about AncestryDNA Circles, watch Crista Cowan’s video here: https://youtu.be/GSnGzLCgmw0 – Enjoy!

  35. Griz Adams

    It’s a pretty simple task. Create an Advanced button on the DNA matches page. Put all the regular tools like a chromosone browser there. Allow folks to do one to many or one to one comparisons using the raw data. That way, folks that just want the easy path are taken care of. Those of us that want to really dig into this won’t have to leave ancestry to do it.

  36. AlyK

    All of my known cousins have been downgraded a generation incorrectly, which tells me I’m likely missing some important matches that may be distant, but viable. I’ve recently sent tests to members who may be very distant relatives and are trying to determine if I’m following the correct line of another match, but now, they’re less likely to show up. Makes research much more difficult!

  37. julie

    All of my circles and circles of other family members I manage are gone. They were all good matches and people that we expected to match. What happened?

  38. Frankana66

    While you have “share matches” in DNA, it would be good for Ancestry to go one step further and enable members to compare two or more Shared family trees to identify names of common ancestors. It is next to impossible to manually search two trees side by side to see the common names. Once you get shared matches, you should be able to compare the shared trees to find the “ancestor names in common”. FYI. It would be a big help!

  39. Tommi Lashbrook

    Over the course of this past week, my DNA circles have started disappearing … Again. Now, I’m down to one. This is frustrating to me because I know that I am really related to some that have disappeared. Why does this keep happening?

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