Yesterday one of my favorite genealogy bloggers, Roberta Estes (www.dna-explained.com), wrote a post about Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries. If you have had your DNA tested by Ancestry, you may have noticed that you have had a lot of new NAD's recently. Last week I had 26; as of this morning, I have 11. Roberta and other bloggers have been informed by Ancestry that their new way of determining matches had led to an increase in the number of New Ancestor Discoveries, so they have refined their way of determining NAD's, leading to the decrease in number.
I have been intending for a while to talk about my New Ancestor Discoveries and see if any of Ancestry's ancestor suggestions could help me fill gaps in my tree. I'm glad now that I waited--so I don't have to talk about 26 "ancestors," but only 11! You may have noticed the quotation marks around the word ancestors. Even though Ancestry calls them by that name, I have noticed and so has Roberta, that they could just as easily be relatives from collateral lines.
For example, two of my earliest NAD's were Sarah Wheat and her husband William Jackson. Sarah, daughter of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat, was a sister to my direct line ancestor, Susanna Wheat Ming. Once I had added Sarah and William to my tree, Ancestry made them DNA Circles. Now, maybe because of Ancestry's new way to calculate DNA matches, they have disappeared from my DNA Circles as well--which is fine with me, since they are not my direct line ancestors.
So, have any of the 11 remaining NAD's been helpful in finding new ancestors? Two of the 11 are Hannah Elizabeth Embry and her husband Christopher Columbus Snodgrass. In my last post, "DNA Circle: Delilah Embry," I talked about how I have found a connection to the Embry family of Butler County KY and Jackson County TN. Delilah Embry is more than likely my 4th great-grandmother and is definitely connected to Hannah Embry--I'm just not sure how. Getting Hannah as a New Ancestor Discovery was a clue that I was on the right track, although I still don't know exactly how she fits in my tree. As she is not a direct line ancestor, her husband, Christopher Columbus Snodgrass, is just a relative by marriage.
Two more NAD's are Elizabeth Tully and her husband, Benjamin F. Burden. I match 16 of 40 members of the Elizabeth Tully DNA Circle. I think I know why she is showing up as a New Ancestor, even though, again, I don't believe she belongs in my tree. Looking at the trees of the 16 members of her DNA Circle, I can see that we have a lot of common relatives with the surname Embry or Pharris. Here's what I think is happening. I have DNA matches with each of these 16 Ancestry members, but our connection is not Elizabeth Tully or Benjamin F. Burden. The connection in each case is some common ancestor who is an Embry or a Pharris. Again, it's a clue that suggests I have a connection with the Embry and Pharris families, but not, I'm pretty sure, with Tully or Burden ancestors. It's just a coincidence that these 16 Embry or Pharris descendants also have Elizabeth Tully as an ancestor.
George Washington Oller and his wife Emily Pamela Gillham are two more suggested "ancestors." I match the same 3 members in George's and Emily's DNA Circles in amounts from 8 to 18 cM's. I don't see any common ancestors. I recognize a couple of surnames that seem to have a vague connection to some of my Kentucky people. George lived in Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma; Emily in Arkansas and Oklahoma--but not in any of the counties where I have ancestors. A mystery for now.
William Aden Tillett and his wife Francis Irene Fullbright lived in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Hughes County, Oklahoma. My mother's family was from Hughes Co., and it's not a big or highly populated place. However, I don't see any names that connect me with William and Francis. This one would bear some further research.
Peter Terrell Fite was married to Elizabeth Matthews, and they are two more of my suggested ancestors. I have four matches in each of their DNA Circles. Of the four matches, one has a common ancestor of mine, Samuel Wheat, and another has a common unrelated ancestor, Robert Patrick. This may be another one that is just coincidence.
The last NAD is Benjamin "Norris" Finley/Fenley. I match 8 of 14 members of his DNA Circle, one of them with 35 cM's. He lived in Alabama and Texas, but not in areas where my known ancestors lived. A couple of common surnames crop up in the trees of members of his DNA Circle, but I can't make a connection to them. There is just enough here to make me think that this one needs more research.
Are the New Ancestor Discoveries helpful? Not really, not yet, for me. I know Ancestry's point of view about DNA matching. Instead of just providing the matching segment information like other testing companies, they think that they are doing the work for us with DNA Circles and New Ancestor Discoveries. However, as you can see above, it's not that easy. It's just hard work, no matter how you go about it. Anybody that thinks that testing his or her DNA will answer all the questions is in for a surprise.