The Genetic Communities Challenge

A little over 6 months ago, AncestryDNA introduced their new Genetic Communities feature. Genetic Communities are groups of people who have taken the DNA test and who descend from the same historical population. They’re bigger than just your group of DNA matches but more narrowly focused than ethnicity estimates. You can read my original review of the Genetic Communities here and learn more about the science behind them here.

At the time, I was certain that Genetic Communities—with their historical overviews, maps, lists of relevant ancestors, and filtering—would encourage more new DNA testers to link trees to their results.

Representative Genetic Community for Acadians. This screenshot shows their history and migration paths in 1775–1880 and lists some of my ancestors from that time.


To test my idea, I posed a challenge to the genetic genealogy world: tell me how many of your top 100 matches at AncestryDNA had trees linked to their DNA tests in April and again 6 months later.  I offered a free DNA test to one lucky contributor of data. Well, 6 months later is now! Many of you submitted “before” statistics back in April as comments to my earlier blog post. Consider this your reminder to go back to that post to add your “after” numbers in the comments.

The easiest way to tally how many of your top 100 matches do not have trees is to load the first page of your matches and use the search feature of your internet browser to find the text string “No family tree”. On the Chrome browser, the search field will pop up at the top-right of your window when you click control-f (on a PC) or command-f (on a Mac). Type in the words “No family tree”, and you should see grey numbers telling you how many times that text was found on the page. In the example below, the grey text says 1/17, because the browser found 17 such occurrences and is highlighting the first one (#1 of 17). Because each page of matches has 50 people, that means 17 of my top 50 matches do not have trees.

Write that number (the denominator) down. Now, go to the second page of your matches, put your cursor into the search field and hit return to repeat the search. Write down the second tally and add it to the first one.


In my case, I had 17 matches without trees on the first page and 30 on the second, for a total of 47 in my top 100 matches, or 47%. Back in April, 43% of my matches did not have trees, so that doesn’t bode well for my hypothesis. However, we can’t solid draw conclusions from a single datapoint. That’s why I posed the challenge in the first place: to get community involvement and more individual data points.

If you contributed data back in April and want to enter the drawing for a free AncestryDNA test, please go back to that earlier post, find your original comment with your “before” numbers, and enter the new ones as a reply to your original comment. I will draw a name from a hat on November 1 and notify the winner by email. With their consent, I will announce the name in the post where I summarize the before and after statistics.

Thanks! And good luck!

12 thoughts on “The Genetic Communities Challenge”

  1. Now: 52/100 do NOT have linked trees.

    J Strickland says:
    March 27, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Before: 42/100 do NOT have linked trees.

  2. I had not subscribed to you 6 months ago. I feel like Ancestry’s TV commercials are working too well and there are loads of testers who have no interest in creating a small pedigree tree to accompany their DNA.

    I am not happy about “no family tree”. My current totals are 40/100. I have tested a few family members in the last 4 months so at least I have the comfort of providing that info.

    I help people get their kits, open accounts and build a pedigree for them.

  3. Hello Leah

    I wasn’t subscribed to your blog 6 months ago but this is a very interesting exercise. Mine tallies 47% as well. 23 on p1 and 24 on p2. It is very frustrating.

    I have an NPE g/gf I’m trying to solve, I now have nearly 40 matches who all link in. Only about 4 trees to start with on Ancestry, now after searching Facebook and old family histories sourced from libraries I’ve managed to fond almost half of them but its taken months of effort. Not to mention only 3 of them are at GEDmatch, but don’t get me started on that!


  4. Since I wasn’t here 6 months ago, we won’t go there. But 80%+ of my new matches don’t have a family tree. Same is true of mom and dad. Daddy’s first page– 4 … FOUR out of the first 50 have a tree ….

  5. Before: 51% with no family tree; another 5% with trees of 10 or less people. 8% private. I had 14 tests.
    Today: 53% with no family tree and 5% private. Didn’t count 10 or less this time. I have 18 tests now.

    1. My comment from before:
      Barbara Taylor says:
      March 27, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      I manage 14 trees. I counted up the No Trees on the first 2 pages of each test and they average overall 51%. Lowest on one test was 32% and highest test was 81%. Most were in the range of 45% – 55%

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.