Getting Started with AncestryDNA: Tree Setup and Tools Available
Back to Blog

You have taken the AncestryDNA test, your results are online, and now you want to do something with them' We can help. The first thing we recommend is that you link your DNA results to your family to a tree AncestryDNA will reveal cousin matches whether you have attached your test results to a tree or not. However, in order to understand more about those cousin matches and encourage them to work with you to uncover your common ancestors, it's important to have a tree on Ancestry with your AncestryDNA results attached to it. Check to make sure your test is attached to the correct person in your family tree by clicking on the Settings button on your DNA homepage. For step-by-step instructions on how to do that, click here. Have multiple trees' I strongly encourage you to have a tree that starts with you. If you have two trees, one that starts with Dad and one with Mom, you will have to choose which tree you want to link to. When you do that, you miss out on the opportunities for connections on the other side of the family. Considering merging the trees and creating one that starts with you. To get step-by-step instruction on how to do this, click here.  (Note that you'll need Family Tree Maker or another software program to do this.) You can always build a basic tree from scratch that starts at you, then add your direct-line ancestors (your biological parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to get started). Have a private tree' Consider making it public. If you aren't comfortable with that, an alternative would be to create a version of your tree that includes names and birth places, but leaves out information you aren't confident about. If you don't want to include pictures, that's not an issue. Call this your DNA tree and link your DNA results to it. That way, if I am one of your DNA matches, I can see some information and know where to start the conversation about how we could potentially be related. If you don't have a tree linked to your test, or it's private, your cousin matches won't know where to start and we've found people will often skip those matches. Adoption in the family' Put that in your tree. Include any info you have and note that it is an adoption. Next Steps Now that your results are linked to a tree, we will do the searching for you to discover:

  • DNA Circles
  • Shared Ancestor Hints
  • Shared Surnames and Birth Locations
DNA CirclesTM circle and known ancestor   DNA Circles re-imagines what DNA matching can do. Circles goes beyond finding a common ancestor with your DNA matches to link you to additional AncestryDNA members with the same common ancestor, thus creating a circle' of people who are all related. Each DNA Circle is based on a shared ancestor. Built around each shared ancestor is a network of people who (1) share this same common ancestor and (2) share DNA with multiple people in the Circle. This tool makes it easier to share information and do more with your new-found cousins. Plus, having a DNA Circle for a common ancestor gives you more confidence that you and others share DNA because you inherited it from this ancestor. Dive deeper into your DNA Circles with this guide.       Shared Ancestor Hintssearch by hint filter Use the Hint feature to see cousins with whom you have an identified shared ancestor. This is a powerful tool for finding a connection. Review your tree and theirs to ensure that the research is solid. I have found these hints extremely helpful for sharing family pictures and stories.   Shared Surnames and Birth Locations   When the shared ancestor between you and your matches isn't super obvious, or perhaps you don't have the ancestor in your tree, what can you do' Use the search by surname or locations functions and look for patterns. Once you've identified a match or two with the same common ancestor, spend a little time researching that family. Use the location filter when a possible surname has changed.

search by surname

Remember that all these tools are only available within the AncestryDNA experience if you have linked your DNA results to a family tree. Link your tree and get started today. Good Luck!