Using Ancestry DNA to build trees for adoptees, missing parents, brick walls from DNA alone, “process standard records”


I am happy it was helpful. This year I finally gave up DNA genealogy. I built or helped build full pedigrees for many people, about 160 DNA tests. Of those more than 100 adoptions, missing parents, missing fathers, “tree does not match DNA”. But I just got worn out. It is not hard to fill in a complete tree from DNA alone, just tedious and painstaking. There are lots of people helping with that now. What I found sad was so many people take DNA and do not have a tree. More than half of the people who take DNA test have no tree, or not linked. I think that is why I just gave up. Tens of millions of people with no tree, and no tools for that scale of problem with Ancestry not really trying to do it for people, and let them check.

23andMe has some interesting tools for building trees without records. But they do not seem to reach critical mass. And the number of records needed is huge. All the people I helped on 23andMe, I would give them an Ancestry DNA test and encourage them to work there, at least they would have records if their DNA matches their tree. 10,000+ hours building trees. I just wore out. I tried to get MyHeritage to automate their tree building from DNA. They were not that interested, just selling. FamilySearch never seemed to learn to have an open system. I remember all the issues and solutions, just not my problem any more, it it ever was. There are lots of groups on Facebook who help with DNA and trees.

Sorry, I am pretty tired. Best wishes.



If you use the hints in Ancestry. Put in your core people with good data, it will search for records. Process the standard record hints first, then the “famiy tree hints” later.

When you “process standard hints” match every person in the record to the people in your tree. Linking the people in the record automatically starts a “shared record hint” search in Ancestry. Concentrate on the federal census. They have 1950 now. Make sure to have ALL people from the family not just cherry pick your favorite relatives. Do not ignore ones you might dislike. Just treat everyone equally and diligently.

I could build a compete five generation tree with all the standard records in a 12 hour day. All the children, all the marriages, all the standard records.

I also went out of my way to “process family tree hints” which is a little different since some trees are messy or wrong. But “include ALL the trees” is worth striving for, and again link the people in the other trees to the corresponding people in your tree. That starts a hint process in Ancestry. If your person is linked to their person, Ancestry will give you record hints for any record the other person(s) had.

If you add ONE standard record for a person, Ancestry finds all people who had that same record and person and gives you record and other hints they found. It is fast, efficient and generally on target. You can mostly trust the record hints if you start with good complete data for your core people and build from there.

I made many hundreds of 90 minute training videos to show people how to do that. But I do not have an active account on Ancestry now, and I have a massive headache right now. But I am saying that “processing all the people in a standard record” is one of the most efficient ways to construct reliable complete trees on Ancestry.

In your DNA results, you can link the person in the DNA to the corresponding person in the tree, then go back and forth. Unfortunately only one tree, and most families have large networks of interlocking and incomplete trees. I recommended that families and their DNA matches make larger trees for everyone and all the DNA tests. For deep brick walls that is necessary to avoid duplicating work. Especially as each person usually is not expert or uses Ancestry enough to get good at it. The whole situation (most people have no training and Ancestry does not train) benefits Ancestry because millions of people spend their time duplicating work that others have already done.

It is worth doing, but it is not ideal. I wanted to combine all DNA genealogy data and groups on the Internet Another project I designed and worked on for decades and cannot finish.

Best wishes,

Richard Collins, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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