Long story short:

Hints shared with your AncestryDNA matches are only as good as the data that both of you have in your trees. 

This has been bothering me quite a bit and I decided I finally ought to just write something about it. I think it’s important enough that I may have the person with access share this to the otherwise inactive East Carolina Roots Facebook page.

Just because AncestryDNA is showing that you have a “Hint” of a match with someone else in their tree doesn’t mean that verifies your descent from that supposed shared ancestor. Here’s why: Hints shared with your AncestryDNA matches are only as good as the data that both of you have in your trees. 

If you’re getting a HINT in your DNA matches, but you have the wrong person in your tree and the other person has the wrong person in their tree, then all you’re likely to both consider the wrong person as your “verified” ancestor! (Also, just because in the Hints on the regular part of Ancestry someone has a DNA Verified marker next to their ancestor doesn’t mean that ancestor is verified for you!)

There are some woefully inaccurate trees on Ancestry.com. I’ve written here about one couple in particular that TONS of people claim descent from, but they are the wrong people! Because Ancestry is seeing that a lot of people are claiming them as ancestors, and because they’ve linked “supporting documentation” like Census records and whatnot, Ancestry’s algorithm sees that as a “verified” ancestor, even though the information is wrong.

When enough people claim descent from the same person and when all of those people have DNA tests done that shows they are related, all of a sudden, Ancestry starts looking at that as a potential “DNA Circle.” Yes, you’re all related. Yes, you all have a shared ancestor, but what if they shared ancestor you all think you have is the wrong one?

I suspect this is less of a problem with families that maybe don’t have big, vibrant communities of active descendants on AncestryDNA, but when you get into some families that have long been a source of confusion and with many similar names living contemporaneously, your chances are greater of having an issue like this.

GASKINS and MILLS families of Pitt County…. I’m looking at you.

Ok, that is all. If you want to discuss this, feel free to do so in the comments below or over on the new East Carolina Roots Forum.