24 March 2020

Using Ancestry's ThruLines to Find DNA Matches

This visual clue makes it easy to see your connection to a DNA match.

It had been a while since I looked at Ancestry.com's ThruLines™ tool. This can be a great way to quickly understand your connection to a DNA match.

I noticed a few of my ancestors tagged with the word UPDATED. This means there's a new DNA match linked to those ancestors. I clicked one of my updated 2nd great grandparents. There I saw a basic family tree chart showing a direct line from my 2nd great grandparent down to me. It highlighted my dad as a DNA match.

The "updated" tag on your ancestor is a quick way to find your newest DNA matches with a known connection.
The "updated" tag on your ancestor is a quick way to find your newest DNA matches with a known connection.

A second branch of this chart began with my great grandmother's brother—my 2nd great uncle. I knew exactly who he was. He was my grandfather's Uncle Antonio who lived in Newton, Massachusetts. Grandpa lived and worked near him for a short while. Because of this brief stay in Newton, I did a lot of research into Antonio's family in Massachusetts. When Uncle Antonio's daughter died in 2014, I learned the names of her children.

One of those children is my 2nd cousin once removed. We're around the same age. Now her daughter has taken a DNA test. It's that daughter—my 3rd cousin—whom I've discovered today thanks to ThruLines.

Seeing my ThruLines laid out so simply made it easy to see exactly who this DNA match is.
Seeing my ThruLines laid out so simply made it easy to see exactly who this DNA match is.

I'd looked at all my UPDATED ancestors in ThruLines. Next I began hovering my mouse over my earlier ancestors, looking for a high number of DNA matches. The highest number was 8 DNA matches tied to a pair of my 4th great grandparents.

There are 5 DNA matches stemming from my 3rd great grandfather Giuseppantonio. I know them all. There are 2 DNA matches stemming from his brother Pasquale. He's my 4th great uncle. These 2 matches are my 5th cousins. I've already examined their details.

Another brother of my 3rd great grandfather was my 4th great uncle Giambattista. That's an interesting Italian name that means John the Baptist. Stemming from Giambattista is a DNA match I hadn't seen before.

I can tell from ThruLines that this new match is the daughter of my 3rd cousin twice removed. That makes her my 4th cousin once removed.

When I looked at her family tree, I saw 2 very familiar names on her father's side. But she's related to me on her mother's side.

I knew her father's parents because 2 years ago I photographed their graves in Italy. Seeing their names together, I remembered the unusual grave markers immediately. It was my husband who spotted them, leaning against a brick wall. He pointed them out because the wife was an Iamarino, like me.

Angela Iamarino and Innocenzo Gentile died in my grandfather's hometown in 1977. The most likely reason for the leaning grave markers is that their remains were now into a family crypt. (You don't keep your final resting place forever in Italy.)

We photographed a ton of grave markers that day. When I got home I tried to identify each person to see where they fit in my family tree. Angela Iamarino was my 3rd cousin once removed.

I looked at my new DNA match's family tree. I learned that Angela and Innocenzo from the cemetery had a son who married my 2nd cousin 3 times removed. I placed Angela and Innocenzo's son into my family tree and married him to my cousin. Then I gave them their daughter—my DNA match.

My relationship to her father's side of the family was a surprise. She and I are double 4th cousins once removed. I used Family Tree Maker's Relationship Tool for help. My match is related to both my grandfather and my grandmother. My grandparents were 3rd cousins which leads to lots of double cousins.

Imagine if every DNA-tester added a basic tree with 3 or 4 generations of their direct ancestors. We could solve so many mysteries!

I wrote to this DNA match. I don't think she knows about the grave markers in our ancestral hometown.

If you have a DNA test with no tree or a private tree, you're wasting everyone's time. Worried about privacy? Add your direct ancestors only. The websites hide living people's names. It's your 2nd and 3rd great grandparents who are the most valuable. They will nab you the most relatives, insights, and discoveries.


  1. DiAnn Thank you again for concise practical tips about the Ancestry.com ThruLines tool. What also caught my eye here was information on the Italian burial practices. I cannot figure out where most of my ancestors were buried (on their property? in a cemetery?) or what the common funeral ritual was in the town. Was the death posted in the town square and the deceased displayed in the home and then quickly buried? Would love to see more info on this.

    1. Ro, I'll see what published info I can find, but in general, Italians are buried in their local cemetery in a space owned by the family. After a number of years, their bones are exhumed. Sometimes they're put in a small box placed in a space with one or more family members. In my ancestral hometowns' cemeteries, some families have a bunch of relatives crammed into a crypt. I guess if the family can't afford this, you wind up with a room full of bones, like in my maternal grandfather's town.

  2. Thank-you so much! While we are confined by the CoronaVirus... I have a membership to the Legacy Tree Webinairs site. Not sure this will work but this Webinair with Digital Library Sources was jam packed with useful info. Mike Mansfield is the presenter (if the link doesn't work). Anyone connected to your tree is a very lucky person!


  3. One thing to consider ... they may have no tree because they don't know! Adoptees like friends I have get tested all the time in the hopes of finding their respective birth families. Mama's new half brother didn't know who his birth father was. He couldn't make a tree because he simply didn't know.

    1. So true. I've worked with a couple of people who contacted me because my tree has all their matches' last names. Both wound up being my distant cousins.