I’ve been doing a lot of work with Ancestry’s ThruLines. ThruLines takes a look at your DNA matches and their trees. It then looks at information in ALL of the Ancestry trees and attempts to map a path from the DNA match to a “common ancestor” in both trees.

How nice to have this all worked out for you!! But is it really? Is this helping us with our research, or is it multiplying incorrect information?

My 3x great-grandparents are Andrew Scott and Elizabeth Wade. Every tree I have ever seen for Elizabeth Wade has her parents as Joseph Wade and Henrietta Nelson.

When I put together my public tree that would be connected to my DNA results, I decided that I only wanted to add direct ancestors if I had a decent confidence level in the information. So in my private tree, I have Joseph Wade and Henrietta Nelson, but they are not in my public tree. In my private tree, I have 3 pre-1850 census records and 4 Land Grant records – all in the right part of Kentucky. But for Henrietta Nelson – zero. Of course, in this time period, it is difficult to find records for women, so maybe this is a lost cause.

So I decided to take a deeper look at other people’s trees. What do they have that shows that these people were ever a couple?

Looking at ThruLines, it tell me “ThruLines uses Ancestry trees to suggest that (kit name) may be related to 157 DNA matches through Henriette “Ritter” Nelson Callicut.” Wow! 157 DNA matches? That has GOT to make it true, doesn’t it? But I wanted to see what sources all these people have that I don’t have. In ThruLines, there is a dotted line around Henriette because she is not in my public tree. There is also a button that says “Evaluate”. When you click on the green button, you can see the different trees that have Henriette in them.

When I click that button, I can see that there are 27 trees that are linked to DNA matches who ThruLines has connected to Henriette. I believe all of these trees actually have Henriette in their tree. Then there are 13 additional trees that have Henriette, but these trees don’t have a DNA connection. If each of the DNA connected trees have 1 DNA match associated with them – or let’s even say 2 DNA matches, that would be 54 DNA matches. So where do the other 100 or so DNA matches come from? It’s Ancestry searching through the trees of my DNA matches and all other trees – including the 13 none DNA related trees – to find common surnames that MIGHT lead to a common Ancestor. That’s a lot of hypothesizing!

When I look at the list of trees that are revealed after clicking “evaluate”, each one in the list also tells how many records are attached to the common ancestor – in this case, Henriette. And every single tree says the same thing…

ZERO records! EVERY SINGLE ONE! That means that these 40 trees are all taking the name Henriette Nelson Callicut on faith – probably because they are seeing it in so many other trees.

I’m sure that this name comes from some older research and that someone had a reason for adding it to their tree. Maybe a family bible, or a tree that was written down generations ago from someone who actually knew Joseph and Henrietta. But is that the standard we are all taking for our family research now? That someone, somewhere, must have known that this was true?

So now, how many people will add Henrietta to their tree because of what they are seeing in ThruLines? That will increase the number of trees that I see when I click on “evaluate” which will seem to add weight to those trees being true. And maybe they are….but can this ever be proven?

If there ever comes a time when someone does find some relevant information that points to a different wife for Joseph Wade, will that name even appear as a potential name in ThruLines? If 40 trees say Henrietta and 1 tree says something else – even if it has records attached – will that tree even show up? I don’t know.

Looks like I have lots of research ahead!