Shared Ancestor Hints on Ancestry DNA are a great way to find out how you are related to your DNA matches, and can even help you continue to build your family tree. In this article, I will help you understand what these hints mean and how you can use them to help you in your search.
What Does a Shared Ancestor Hint Look Like?
If you have Shared Ancestor Hints on your Ancestry DNA account, you will see them on the DNA Insights page when you first log in. Directly under the box where you see the faces of your DNA matches, you will see the number of SAH (Shared Ancestor Hints) that you have, your starred matches, and the number of 4th cousins or closer that match you. This is what it will look like if you have SAH showing up for you:
How Do I Get a Shared Ancestor Hint?
In order to get a SAH, you will have to build a family tree on Ancestry, and connect it to your DNA. If you are able to build back 3-5 generations on at least a few of your lines, you should have a few SAHs show up within a few days. Whether or not you have SAHs depends on how many of your DNA relatives have done a DNA test with Ancestry, and whether or not they have built family trees. It depends a lot on chance!
If you don’t have any (or many) SAHs show up initially, don’t worry. Work on building your tree as best you can. Meanwhile, more of your close-distant relatives continue to do DNA tests and build trees, and they may eventually show up as SAHs for you. Additionally, you can contact your closer matches to ask them nicely f they are interested in/need help with building their trees. You can also link them to this article about how to attach their tree to their DNA.
(Note: Any changes that you make to your tree or to your DNA settings may take a few days to reflect in your Shared Ancestor Hints.)
What does it Mean if I Have a Shared Ancestor Hint?
If you have SAHs on your account, that’s great! For each match that you share a SAH with, this means that you:
- Share DNA with this person (you share DNA with all of your matches, naturally)
- Both of you have your DNA attached to your family tree
- You both have at least one person added to your trees that appears to be the same person.
Ancestry uses their software to automatically compare both of your family trees to each other. It uses information that you add to your tree, such as name, date of birth, dates of death, and the children of your ancestors in order to determine that the ancestor in both of your trees is the same person. You can share one ancestor, a pair of ancestors, or even more than one pair of ancestors with the same person.
If I don’t have a subscription, will my Shared Ancestor Hints still work?
It’s not necessary to have a subscription to continue to view your DNA results, including your DNA match list and ethnicity results (you even continue to get updates to your ethnicity results!) You will also be able to see whether you have Shared Ancestors Hints, how many you have, and which DNA matches share them with you.
Since Ancestry requires a subscription to view other member’s family trees, including those of your DNA matches, you will need a subscription in order to view the Shared Ancestor Hint (i.e. the comparison Ancestry gives you the shows how you are related).
If you do have a subscription, this is what it will look like if you click on a DNA match that has a Shared Ancestor Hint with you (names hidden to protect privacy):
What if My Tree is Private? Will my Shared Ancestor Hints Still Work?
You will be able to see any SAH even if your tree is private. Your DNA matches will see a little leaf icon next to your name on their DNA match list, and they will know that they share a SAH with you, but they will not be able to see which ancestor you share in common.
Your DNA matches can contact you to ask about which ancestor you share in common. You also likely encounter people who have private trees and SAHs with you, and you are absolutely welcome to contact them to inquire about your relationship, as well. Some people are more likely to respond than others, don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back.
(Note: It’s not really a big deal that they are able to see that you share an ancestor, since it’s pretty logical that you share ancestors with ALL of your DNA matches! I wouldn’t worry about the privacy aspect of SAHs and private trees.)
Are Shared Ancestor Hints Always Accurate?
This is a tricky topic. I would say that they are accurate most of the time. You are definitely related somehow to all but the most distant of your Ancestry DNA matches. The software can give you a false SAH, however, if you have the wrong person in your tree, or if your DNA match has the wrong person in their tree. It’s an easy mistake to make. A paper trail is a good thing to have to make sure that your tree is accurate.
How Can a Shared Ancestor Hint Help Me?
There are a few ways that SAHs can help you with your family tree research:
- If you have several SAHs with the same ancestor, it helps you verify that you are actually descended from that person (or couple)
- Having more information about their other descendants can help you trace that line back further
- You can contact those other descendants and see if they have photographs, documents, or to just get in touch
- For those who are adopted or searching for a biological parent, a SAH can be a good way to narrow down family lines.
Shared Ancestor Hints are one of the neatest aspects of Ancestry DNA, and one of the biggest benefits of testing there. I hope that this article helped you figure out how they might be able to assist you in your family research goals. If you have any questions or comments about anything that I mentioned here, I would love it if you left a comment.
Thanks for stopping by!