You can build family trees on Ancestry.com without also taking a DNA test with AncestryDNA. But you get massive benefits for your family research when you link your DNA to your Ancestry tree. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to attach DNA results to an Ancestry tree, and the benefits you get from doing so.
What Are Linked and Unlinked Trees on Ancestry.com?
What Is A Linked Tree on Ancestry?
A linked tree on Ancestry is a family tree that is connected to one or more DNA test results. You can only link your DNA test to one tree at a time. But you can switch it from tree to tree.
What Is An Unlinked Tree on Ancestry?
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:
- Click the DNA Settings link on the DNA page.
- Click on the “Change” link in the “Tree Link” section to open the link page.
- Select a family tree from the drop-down list.
- Confirm or choose who you are in the tree.
An Illustrated Guide to Attaching Your DNA Kit To An Ancestry Tree
Do you like pictures to guide you through the process? Here we go:
Open 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.
Use the Change link in the “Tree Link” section
The tree link section is below the general test details section.
If your DNA test is not associated with any family tree, then the section will look like this:
If your DNA test is currently linked to a tree, then the section shows you the name of the tree. You also see which person in the tree is connected to the test.
In either case, click on the “Change” link to open the link page.
Select A Family Tree From The Drop-Down List
The link page provides a drop-down list of all your family trees in Ancestry.com. If you are an editor or contributer to another member’s family tree, you will also see that tree listed here.
Once you’ve chosen a tree, you need to define who you are in the tree.
Confirm Or Choose 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, the changes take immediate effect.
You are returned to the DNA page to see a message indicating success.
A Video Guide To Linking Your DNA Results To An Ancestry Tree
If you prefer to watch a video walkthrough of the steps I described above, here you go:
How Do You Unlink Your Ancestry DNA Results?
Usually you want to switch your DNA test from one tree to another, as we’ve shown you above. But what if you want to unlink your DNA test without relinking it to another tree? The way to do so isn’t obvious at first glance.
To unlink your Ancestry DNA test completely, open the DNA Settings and go to the “Tree Link” section. Click the delete button beside the display of the current link.
What Are The Benefits Of A Linked Tree On Ancestry.com?
Why do you need a linked Ancestry tree? A linked tree gives you several benefits and automated features:
- Common Surnames and Locations
- Communication with DNA Matches
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.
Common Surnames and Locations
Ancestry examines the linked trees of your and your DNA matches to highlight common surnames in your direct lines.
Ancestry can also use linked trees to show you common locations between the trees of you and your DNA matches.
Communication with DNA Matches
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, many of your DNA matches will not have a linked tree. In 2020, I did statistical analysis across my DNA matches. Only 44% had a linked public tree.
You can read more analysis in this article on the importance of having a linked searchable Ancestry tree. The percentage has been fairly consistent over the last few years. in 2018, my statistics showed 40% of matches with a linked tree.
Some of my matches may be solely interested in ethnicity. But I think that many may simply not be aware of the benefits a linked tree brings to researching and building your family tree. Don’t make that mistake!
Can You Link To A Tree Owned By Another Account?
You cannot link your DNA results to a family tree owned by another member. You have two choices when you don’t own the tree:
- send an invite to the member to manage or collaborate on your DNA test, or
- become an editor on the member’s tree.
Sending An Invite To Manage or Collaborate
You can invite the tree owner to manage or collaborate with you on your DNA results.
This is 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.
Receiving An Invite To Be A Tree Editor
The alternative option is that you become an editor of the tree in the other account. T
his 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.
How Do You Link A DNA Match To Your Ancestry Tree?
Ancestry introduced a new feature in 2020 which allows you to link your DNA matches to entries in your family tree. This short video is a walkthrough of linking a DNA match to my Ancestry tree.
To link a DNA match to your Ancestry tree, open the Match page and click the link icon. Enter a name in the list box, and select a person from your tree.
You can only link DNA matches to the tree that is linked to your own DNA.
DNA matches who are linked to entries in your tree are displayed with the link icon beside them.
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. It may throw up good insights.
However, there are risks in presenting any logic-based system with a false premise. Since the introduction of ThruLines, Ancestry genealogists have advised against using mirror trees.
So 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.
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