How to Get Around Those “No Family Tree” Cousins on AncestryDNA

How to Get Around Those “No Family Tree” Cousins on AncestryDNA

by Kerry Scott on 3 January 2014

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No family tree? No problem.

If you’ve done DNA testing on, you’ve probably already discovered that many of your cousins don’t have a public, viewable tree. Since Ancestry has no chromosome browser, no “in common with” feature, and no other analysis tools, you’re pretty much out of luck if you can’t find a tree. You can contact the cousin via private messaging and see if they’ll respond, but that doesn’t always work (in fact, it’s worked exactly once for me).

Now, I get why people choose not to have public trees. I don’t have a public tree either, and I don’t plan to put one up in the foreseeable future. I’ve been poking around, though, and I’ve discovered that many of my matches listed as “no family tree” actually DO have public trees. In some cases, they have a bunch of them. They’re just not connected to their DNA results.

Here’s how to find out whether your AncestryDNA cousin has a tree:

  1. Make a note of the username of your match. That’s the name listed right above “Possible range: 4th to 6th cousins” or whatever.
  2. At the top of your Ancestry screen, there’s a menu bar. Put your mouse on “Collaborate,” then choose “Member Directory” from the dropdown menu.
  3. You’ll see the Search the Ancestry Member Directory Screen. It defaults to the “Research Interests” tab, but click on “Basic Information” instead. Then type in the username and click “Search.”
  4. On the search results page, you’ll see your cousin listed. Click the link to see that cousin’s profile. You might not see much of value…but often, you’ll find public trees, message board posts, recently added content (including photos), and all kinds of other information. If there are public trees, you can check them to see if you have any connections.

I always like to do as much legwork as I can before I actually contact a new cousin. Often I can figure out a possible connection even before we’ve been in touch. That cuts way down on the back-and-forth emails that say silly things like, “Do you have any Smiths?” The less this whole process resembles a game of Go Fish, the better.

Photo by Thomas Tolkien

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Debi Austen January 3, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Such perfect timing! I just hit the “submit” button on ancestry this morning signing up for my DNA kit. I’ll follow this advice when I try to match to the millions and gazillion cousins I’m sure to find. :-)


Kerry Scott January 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Oooooooo! So excited for you!


Bernita Allen January 4, 2014 at 5:54 am

Kerry, this is really good information. I just sent messages to two possible cousins (4th) with no tree. I’m definitely going to follow your steps. Thank you.


Israel P. January 4, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Last sentence is a superb.


Greta Koehl January 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm

The public trees of Ancestry matches who have not connected a tree to their DNA results should also show up if you hit the “Review Match” button – you will see a menu under “Select a tree to preview.” There is also a “Send a message” button if you want to contact the member. As for people who have only private trees, I generally choose to contact only those members who are a close match or who have the shaky leaf. One of my Ancestry trees is private; my solution was to create a separate pedigree tree with the basic information (names, dates, and places) on my direct ancestors, and this is the tree that I have connected to my DNA results.


Jana Last January 10, 2014 at 11:45 am


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

Have a wonderful weekend!


Kerry Scott January 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Thanks Jana!!


Schalene January 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I believe it’s even easier then that. From your matches list, click the user name of match with no family tree. You are now on a page with more information about the person and Send Message and Contact button; don’t click those. Click on the user name again to view their profile page. You are directed to the part of the profile page that includes a list of their public trees, if they have one or more PUBLIC trees.

Two clicks, no searching, you’re there!



Kerry Scott January 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm

That’s awesome—thanks for the tip!!


Dan February 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the hint. The Ancestry DNA is fascinating. Only I don’t see why you are against public trees. You state that you don’t have one and have no plans to put one up. Why? Do you feel it is an invasion of privacy? What would happen if everyone felt that way? I have a large public tree, and when I’m using Ancestry DNA I often run across matches that have private trees. I contact them, but never receive a response. I feel that it is a little unfair and selfish to think you can take advantage of others’ public trees but can keep your own private.


Kerry Scott February 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm

This is a great question, and I plan to address it in my next blog post.


Kerry Scott February 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

(The next blog post after from the fluff post I just put up, that is.)


Bambi Woods March 20, 2014 at 8:03 am

Kerry, I read your posts frequently and always find your opinions interesting, humorous, and sometimes educational. I can’t say that I always agree however and this issue with public/private trees is one of those occasions. Personally, if I have contact from someone with a private tree I feel absolutely zero motivation to respond to them in any way. There are lots of ‘undersirable’/'skeletons in my tree, all living people are hidden (of course those are easily determined with a little searching as well). My tree has been up for 20 years publicly with not one single bad incident. Only truly wonderful things have happened as a result. So no, private trees I find very little to say positive about. No supporting ‘oh I understand’ here.


Julie March 29, 2014 at 12:08 am

I’m a new reader, just found your site a few days ago (from a place I already can’t remember. I have a horrible short term memory.) and I’m so glad I saw this post about how to find no tree family members from dna matches. My AncestryDNA test is set to arrive on Monday, so even though I’m still about 2 months away from getting the results I’ve already started looking for how to get the best out of my results. Anyway, from what you described in your post, is it safe to say that to actually connect with the results/matches you get, you need a paid membership?


Kerry Scott March 29, 2014 at 5:22 am

Yes, to get the most of this, you’ll need a paid subscription.


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