How to link DNA results to an Ancestry tree

What is a linked and unlinked tree on Ancestry.com?

You can build family trees on Ancestry.com without also taking a DNA test with AncestryDNA. But if you’ve taken the DNA test, you can link the DNA results with one of your family trees. You can only link your test to one tree at a time, although you can switch it from tree to tree. Any tree that is not associated with a DNA test is known as an unlinked tree.

How do you link DNA results to an Ancestry tree?

To link your DNA results to an Ancestry tree, open the DNA Settings page. The link is at the top right of the DNA Results page. If you have already linked to a tree, the Tree section will show the name of the tree and the person to whom your results are linked. Click on the “Change” link to open the link page, which provides a drop-down list of all your family trees in Ancestry.com. Once you’ve chosen a tree, you need to define who you are in the tree. If the selected tree has a Home Person, then Ancestry will suggest that you select this entry. You can reject the suggestion and enter the name of any other person in the tree. Once you’ve chosen the person, you can click the “Link DNA Results” button to make the changes take effect.

Where is the DNA Settings page?

The link to the DNA Settings page is shown as a cog icon at the top right of your DNA results.

What are the benefits of a linked tree on Ancestry.com?

Why do you need a linked Ancestry tree? Ancestry has built some powerful automated features that are driven by your linked tree. The latest is Thrulines, which compares your linked tree to the linked trees of your DNA matches and tries to determine your shared ancestors. If you don’t have a linked tree, you simply don’t get access to this feature.

Another benefit is in potential communication with your DNA matches. If you have an unlinked tree, it’s difficult for others to know if this is your own genetic family tree or if you’re doing research for your spouse or your friends. Personally, I’m far less likely to review unlinked trees, due to the possibility of wasting valuable research time on a tree that does not represent my DNA match. That means I’m less likely to spot connections and reach out to the match through Ancestry’s messaging system.

Why does it seem like lots of my DNA matches don’t have linked trees?

Unfortunately, uour perception is not wrong. I have statistics from 2020 in my in-depth article on the essential set-up of an Ancestry tree. Only 44% of my DNA matches had a linked public tree. This has been a fairly consistent percentage over the last few years. Some of my matches may be solely interested in ethnicity, but I think that many may not be aware of the benefits a linked tree brings to researching and building your family tree.

Can you link to a tree owned by another account?

If you don’t own the tree to which you wish to link, you have two choices.

You can invite the tree owner to manage or collaborate with you on your DNA test. This is also done on the DNA Settings page, a little further down from the Tree Link information. The section is called “Sharing Preferences”.

When you click on “Add a Person”, you choose the status being offered. You must choose Collaborator or Manager here to link up to a tree.

This page sends the invite as an Ancestry message. I’ve had various issues over the years of not receiving email notifications of messages, so be sure to tell your invitee to log into Ancestry and check their messages in the Ancestry system. Once they accept, they can link your DNA test to their tree.

The alternative option is that you become an editor of the tree in the other account. This requires the tree owner to send you an invitation with editor status. Once accepted, their tree will show up in the list of trees described in the instructions above on how to link a tree.

Mirror trees: what happens if I link my DNA test to someone else in a tree?

You may have heard of mirror trees as a strategy to game the Ancestry systems. It’s been used in particular to help adoptees discover their genetic heritage. Basically, you build a tree for a close DNA match, perhaps copying as much as you can from their public tree. You then link your DNA to the person in the tree that represents the match.

The hope is that Ancestry’s hint systems present you with ancestors you hadn’t discovered. There are risks in presenting any logic-based system with a false premise. But it may throw up good insights. If you’re thinking about trying the technique, be sure to search for recent articles or social media posts on the topic. Ancestry’s features keep changing, so you want to get some recent examples of how to proceed.

Looking for an e-book on building your Ancestry tree?

Book Cover

Check out our e-book on building your family tree with Ancestry.com. It’s available on Amazon now!

Chapters packed with practical strategies and techniques for using Ancestry features to build out your tree.

  • Setting up your DNA-linked tree
  • Using your tree to find connections with DNA matches
  • Best practices for entering names, dates, and locations
  • Strategies for getting the most benefit from Hints
  • Tips for using powerful Search features
  • Sending messages that get replies

Prefer a video walkthrough on how to link DNA results to an Ancestry tree?

Here you go:

Interested in getting in-depth articles on using Ancestry?

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