Two New Ancestry DNA Features
AncestryDNA has added a pair of new features meant to help customers find other customers with mutual ancestors in their trees. The first part of the new feature is the addition of a little leaf next to the number of folks in your matches trees, right where the locked icon is on locked trees. This is a great feature but unfortunately, not everyone is getting to see them – yet. According to KWheaton — a prolific poster at 23andMe — when she talked to them on Monday they said that the system reboots on Thursdays and that everyone should see them at that time. Yours Truly can see them now on both Firefox and Chrome. If you can’t see them after Thursday, I would strongly suggest disabling the new security feature on your Adobe Flash software. It’s known to be buggy and doesn’t play nice with some software — such as Dragon Naturally Speaking — and some browsers including Firefox.
One aspect of the new leaf feature that is a blessing and may also be a curse, is that the algorithm checks locked trees too. I have half a dozen locked trees with leaves indicating hidden matches. I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and start messaging those matches to ask for access. Here’s hoping the response rates will be better than at 23andMe (and FTDNA where I’ve almost stopped trying to contact my matches.)
There’s a problem with the new Hint system though. The algorithm that locates the hints doesn’t catch every one of them. If this doesn’t get fixed, it could become a huge problem because not everyone will notice that there are untagged trees with hints floating around. Admittedly, in this hustle and bustle life, most of us don’t have time to check every person in a tree, especially if — like me — you have a variety of trees that you need to check.
New Filter Setting — Has a Hint
The second new feature that goes with the little leaf hints is the new drop down selection on the filter by. As you can see in the first shot, along with “All”, “Starred” and “Not viewed”, users now have the option to filter by “Has a Hint.” This is great if all the profiles that have hints get populated! What a time saver. Even now, when it’s half-working, it’s very useful because you can see at least some of your matched trees at a glance. And that’s almost like magic! One of the best parts of the new hint algorithm is that it displays both parties in a couple that are the mutual ancestors between two trees. But one has to ask, is the leaf hint not appearing unless both people match? I hope not because a lot of people have second families. I hate to see all those folks not be able to find each other — and potentially breaking down brick walls — because Great granddad got remarried after gram-ma died in childbirth. See Below for an example of a double match hint — that had a leaf by it.
More Improvements Needed
Ancestry DNA still needs to make more improvements to the function. The ability to search your matches by username would be great. Also needed is the ability to filter by a particular surname so that if you typed “Smith” into the box, all the profiles with Smiths listed would be brought up. Considering Ancestry DNA’s matching algorithm only goes back 7 generations and many of us end up being 9th cousins to our more distant matches.
Don’t Stop Manually Searching!
Additionally, there will always be a need for manual searching through your matches for the simple reason that those who don’t have a tree listed, often have several trees and haven’t associated one tree with the DNA results. That’s fine by me although they take a little longer to look at they sometimes are easier to follow if folks have broken their trees down by parents or by famous ancestor etc. So they should add a “No Family Tree” filter option to let us explore those trees a bit easier.
A Final Warning
If, like me, you attach different trees at different times, your hints may not update very fast. They still work by manually clicking through and checking for a name in common, but I’ve seen ‘empty’ hints out there after switching trees 2 or even 3 days ago. If this feature only updates on Thursdays, it’s going to take way too long to generate the leaves so that this feature is useful for adoptees.