Wednesday, October 26, 2016 Releases We’re Related App has released a new smartphone app: “We’re Related.” The app appears squarely aimed at capitalizing on social media to spread interest in genealogy in general and Ancestry in particular. Ancestry has tried to do this before. Somehow, sharing census documents hasn’t proven to be a big draw. But they’ve always understood that people are jazzed to find they are related to some big celebrity. Enter: We’re Related.

We're Related by Ancestry title screen

The We’re Related app will tell you what celebrities you are related to and show if and how you are related to your friends. You don’t need an Ancestry account or tree to sign up. But you will need a Facebook account. This is a social media app, after all. Someone has said (s)he was able to sign in with just an Ancestry account. Either that option has since been eliminated, or (s)he didn’t realize the phone was already signed into Facebook. Mine was already logged in, all I had to do was tap “Continue as Anthony.” Before doing so, however, you can tap “Edit This” and withhold some of your Facebook profile from Ancestry: friends, email address, relationships, or birthdate.

We're Related - Facebook login error  We're Related - Facebook Login  We're Related - Facebook permissions 

After logging in you can enable notifications of new relatives.

We're Related - Notification Query

I don’t think it asked me to log into my Ancestry account. Perhaps it was able to piggy-back on my Ancestry app login. Regardless, I could continue with that account or switch to another. The app then invited me to select one or more trees containing relatives. I chose one in which I appear. Despite my having identified myself in that tree, the app double checked my identity.

We're Related - Ancestry Login  We're Related - Choose a Tree  We're Related - Identify Yourself

At this point Ancestry had enough information to search for relatives. There has been conjecture on how Ancestry does this. The app indicates it searches its 70 million public member trees.

We're Related - Finding Relatives

However, swinging from tree to tree like some kind of digital Tarzan trying to find connections between you and people hidden in the jungle would be slow and expensive. Surely they have combined all their member trees into a single shadow tree. Long time Ancestry followers know about One World Tree which they created by combining user trees. You may have seen Ancestry Shaky Leaf hints which Ancestry combined from multiple trees. They obviously have the ability to combine multiple trees.

After a short time Ancestry showed my first relative:

Is the Ancestry Insider a distant relative of Miley Cyrus?

That was a shock. Obviously the app gives erroneous results. I scrolled down and my next result was more believable:

Is the Ancestry Insider a distant relative of Bill Gates?

I can’t wait to call my ol’ cousin Bill! I’m showing up unannounced for Thanksgiving and I’ve added him to my Christmas card list. And after he passes on, I’ll be contesting the will because my omission will totally be an oversight.

Maybe I’ll invite him to use the app too. In the upper-right corner of the screen you can tap and “Invite” all your Facebook friends to download the app. If each person were to convince five other persons to get the app within 24 hours, then in no more than two weeks there would be 30 billion app users.

In the upper-left you can tap to select categories of famous relatives. I’m guessing Ancestry is still loading more of these or I would have gotten hits in more categories. The categories are: all, favorites, actors, business people, artists, writers, criminals, educators, entertainers, explorers, historical figures, journalists, crime fighters, Medal of Honor recipients, military figures, musicians, rich people, politicians, religious figures, royalty, scientists, reformers, sports figures, presidents and wives, and supreme court justices.

Beneath each relative are three icons: a pedigree, a heart, and the standard share icon. Tap the pedigree icon to see your common relative. In the case of Bill Gates, our common ancestor is, according to his picture, a rock. Tap the generational number to see the chain of descent. At the bottom of the chain are thumbs up and down to allow you to indicate if the path looks correct.

The Ancestry Insider's and Bill Gate's common ancestor  Bill Gates line of descent from his common ancestor with the Ancestry Insider  Bill Gates's immediate ancestry

I’ve seen reviews by a couple of popular bloggers who have immediately discovered erroneous lines. Randy Seaver discovered the pedigrees of some well-researched living and deceased famous people are wrong. (See “Fact-Checking My WJB Clinton Relationship - WRONG!”). Judy Russell wrote in “No, Actually, We’re Not Related” that Ancestry found several ancestors who were wrong or dubious. Errors can be introduced when a machine combines trees. More likely, the errors existed in the member trees before combining. After years of encouraging users to willy-nilly add dubious shaky leaves to their trees, Ancestry now reaps the results. But for marketing purposes, growing trees has made new users happy and finding famous relatives is going to make We’re Related users happy too. For Ancestry, it’s win-win.

Adjacent to the pedigree icon is a heart. Use it to indicate a relative is a favorite. Adjacent to it is the standard sharing icon, allowing you to share your new found famous relative via email, texting, and whatever social media apps you have installed.

After scrolling through all my results, Ancestry dedicated an entire screen to convince me to invite all my friends. One of the goals of social marketing is, after all, to “go viral.” Inviting a circle of friends also allows you to see if and how you are related.

One of many Ancestry We're Related viral marketing opportunities

There are four icons along the bottom of the screen. The first, “Insights,” is the page on which I’ve been viewing all my relatives. The second is “Tree.” Here I can edit or extend my Ancestry Member Tree. Ancestry can’t do its magic until my tree goes back far enough to connect to the shadow tree. I can also invite relatives to get the app and edit my Ancestry Member Tree. I imagine if a user doesn’t have an Ancestry tree, We’re Related prompts them through creation of one.

We're Related - Tree Display

The third icon is “Nearby.” According to the app:

We’re Related Nearby lets you find relatives who are literally close to you. We use your location to check if there are others using this feature within 500 yards of you. If so, we’ll tell you if you’re related. If you don’t want to know, go to “settings” and turn off your location.

We're Related - Nearby Users

The remaining icon accesses sharing and settings. To maximize their viral possibilities, Ancestry allows sharing via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, texting, and more.

We're Related - More Options

If you don’t mind helping Ancestry’s marketing efforts, and if you don’t mind sharing personal details from your Facebook profile, and if you want a little gratification at the expense of accuracy, Ancestry’s We’re Related app is a fun bit of entertainment. Download it at


  1. I can see the ancestry trees now! Groan. Mine will remain private unsearchable. My DNA is removed from the ancestry site although I'm sure they kept a copy for themselves. USED to be a really good research site. Now it's a mediocre entertainment site.

  2. I knew there were reasons I'm not a Facebook user, now I begin to wonder why I'm using Ancestry! Will a private Ancestry Tree be "protected"? Somehow I imagine one's rights were signed away on subscription.

  3. More crap from Ancestry, as if we weren't already struggling with their "shaky leaf" reputation already.

  4. How fun! Your tutorial helped. First up was Hillary Rodham Clinton! Looks legit on my line, but I don't know about hers.
    Bill Gates too! Also looks pretty good.
    Eminem, Demi Lovato and Marilyn Monroe! For real I'm also related to Annie Oakley and Ulysses S. Grant, but they didn't show up. Must be just current famous people? Thanks for posting about it. I didn't know. Just for fun!

  5. I think this is meant for fun, not for serious researchers. I have a bunch of celebrities, and I don't really care about them, but I will dig into Bill Clinton's genealogy to see if his information is correct. I'm pretty sure mine is. Ancestry suggests adding to your tree to get more hits, and says "guessing is okay." Guessing is NOT okay if you want to trust the results. But if you want to create a tool to get more people interested in genealogy, this is a good idea. Most of us serious researchers know not to trust what's posted by other people anyway. ALWAYS do your own research, and don't add anything to your tree that is not correct, regardless of this app and what it provides.

  6. I'm excited to find out that I MUST be related to the Ancestry Insider even though his picture has not popped up yet... as it says I too am related to Miley and Bill Gates.

  7. I made the mistake of tapping on my second cousin - not realizing it was asking who I was. Now my picture appears in her spot, and it keeps finding relatives for her - also including Miley cyrus Marilyn Monroe and Demi Lovato. Seems everyone is related to them. I can't figure out how to get back to the initial screen to change who I am.

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  9. Is there anyway to find out who is responsible for this app? Almost everyone of my "matches" is incorrect. They have both my line and the famous person's line wrong. Surely, there is enough information out there about the genealogies of these celebrities that they could at least get their trees right.

  10. You're right. I have been eyeballing the lines on my side, but I do not have my time priorities set to verify the celebrity lines. And I wont ever. I suppose that if I created a phony tree that linked phony people to a ton of celebrities, and made that tree public, there would be a bunch of wrong links. Again, I found this to be fun - maybe a bit of a distraction, but I wouldn't place any bets on the info!

  11. I'm trying to get this set up on my husband's phone, I get an error when logging into Ancestry: Error Conflict
    He has the Ancestry app on his phone and it opens without issue.
    We are using Facebook to login to the app.

    I've tried uninstalling, reinstalling (turning off phone in between) and get the error every time. Any hints?

  12. I love this app not just because of the famous people but it has given me leads to more of my ancestors. I like to prove everything and while doing that I'm finding lots more information about my family. The only problem is I had about 25 famous people show up on my phone and before I could get everything written down it all disappeared. 3 of them have come back along with a new one, anyone one else have this problem?

  13. This App seems to focus only on my mother's maternal family. It is not picking any relations up on the rest of my tree. Anyone know how to fix this?

    1. I am having the exact same situation. Only my mother's maternal side. It's making me crazy.

  14. This App seems to focus only on my mother's maternal family. It is not picking any relations up on the rest of my tree. Anyone know how to fix this?

  15. Evidently I am related to numerous Presidents, a Political activist, a chef/Author,two celebrities.

    I can only guess that they did an algorythem search of FB posts abd discovered I am a decidedly political activist and patriotically inclined.

    My coworker us rather distraught with her results which is rather heavy with celebrities that do not appeal to her and our current President who she feels has been a massive disappointment.

    Fortunately while we can not choose our relatives we can choose to embrace or ignore in blissful ignorance the results of We're Related if we choose to.

  16. Is there a way to switch the "home person" in the app? I would like to see my husband's matches, but he does not use facebook.

  17. If someone can assist me or point me in the right direction please. I download the app when I go to open the app I get this message - The Facebook ID you are using is being used for another, We're Related account - I select OK and nothing happens so I am not sure what I have done or how I can access the app there are no other options :(

  18. I'm having trouble using the app. I get an error message saying my FaceBook account is associated with another user. I have the app on my Android phone and my iPad. What could be the problem. I removed the app on both devices three time and downloaded again. I would appreciated some feedback on what could possibly be the problem. ThanksQ

    1. I'm having the same issue. Did you find a solution?


  19. My first 'match' was Bill Clinton - I'm Southern and at first glance from my side it looks reasonable - but my favorite part was that it is through my most conservative of relatives! Made my day. Think I'll post it just to rile 'em up - they are most easily riled anyhow. A fun entertaining link, although gosh I was hoping it would say Charlemagne.... ;o)

  20. I just downloaded the app and so far cannot get any further than the "Who Are You" page. I checked my name but nothing else has happened.


  21. We’re Related is a total waste of time. Garbage in, garbage out. I have removed it from my smartphone.

  22. Actually, I have found one 4th cousin (pretty famous actress and her acting family) to be accurate. I confirmed her tree and mine. It was easy since it was only 4th cousin. I haven't tried any further back than this one. I verified the paper trail and found it to be correct.

  23. It appears that everyone is related to Obama, Clinton, Miley and Bill Gates. Interesting. I have been using Ancestry for several years now to trace my tree back to my known immigrant ancestry who immigrated here in 1641. There are so many early connections in my family tree ever prior to Revolutionary War that includes George Washington, Benjamin Tallmadge, Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold, John Hancock, Abraham Clark (a signer and statesman from NJ) along with an extensive list through time that includes Gen. Robert E Lee and other statesmen and women. BUT, these don't appear to be noticed on my tree or maybe they go too far back. What I do get off Miley, Emenem, Bill Gates, musicians, actors and an occasional notable like Abraham Lincoln. It is obvious to me that this program does not actually search my entire site but I'd intended as a novelty in order to get Ancestry on as many devices as possible.

    1. Totally agree. I'm related to about 16 presidents, which I found by comparing what was already in my tree and documented to presidents' wikitree entries. We're Related found none of them, but found 2 others -- Lincoln, by extending my tree through a dubious link that I can see in no one else's tree on, and Washington, through the same dubious link and then through Francis Cooke's grandfather!! #1 -- don't they realize that Francis Cooke is famous? #2 Wikipedia's entry for Francis Cooke says that no one knows who his father is, and lists 2 possibilities put forth by historians, both of whom differ from the We're Related connection. SUCH HOGWASH!!! Whatever algorithm they are using is really not trying to match what's already in your tree or do an honest comparison. This is a data mining ap for them to use with their marketing.

  24. My connections are also on my mom's maternal side as others have noted. My Davis line that Ancestry assumed, I have an extensive tree on Ancestry (nearly 7k people) interesting that it was correct in one of the links and incorrect in another. I know a number of famous folks I'm related to and none of them appeared. Several people posted here that there were 25 hits. I have 5 and they don't change. I won't slam this AP, heck, it's fun. I hope that the more people use it, the more accurate it gets. And if it gets others interested in genealogy, well, that's great! I hate it when people do the DNA and never post a tree. If this spurs some to share, that's better for all.


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