Have you noticed a change in the number of your New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs) at Ancestry lately?
Twice in the past month or so, there has been a pretty dramatic shift. When Ancestry implemented their new matching code, about May 3rd, my NADs increased significantly, from about 8 to 21 or 22. None of these seemed to be relevant. The two NADs that I could figure out were either a result of my ancestor’s sister being the wife of the NAD, or individuals that I match on other lines that just happened to also be descended from another common ancestor, who had nothing to do with me.
Let’s talk for a minute about how NADs are created.
When you match someone genetically, and you also share a common ancestor in your tree, a Circle is formed of all of the people who match other people who also share that same ancestor.
This example of my Henry Bolton Circle shows the people in the Circle that I match with the strong tan lines. Each of these people match others in the circle as well. The people I don’t match are greyed out. In this case, there are 14 total individuals who match someone else genetically who also has Henry Bolton in their tree. I match 5 of those individuals.
- Genetic match + Tree match = Circle (within Ancestry’s parameters)
Now, let’s say that a new person who does NOT have Henry Bolton in their tree matches some number of the people in the Henry Bolton Circle. If the new person matches enough people, Henry Bolton will be assigned to them as a NAD. Keep in mind that if two of Henry’s children married someone from the same family line – the new person could be matching because of those secondary family lines, and not because of Henry. Because they all match genetically, and the matches share Henry in their tree which includes them into the Henry Bolton Circle, Henry Bolton is assigned to the new person as a NAD.
So in essence if you match multiple people in a Circle, and the Circle ancestor is not in your tree, you will have that “ancestor” assigned as a NAD.
- Genetic match with multiple people in Circle but no tree match = NAD (within Ancestry’s parameters, which just changed)
With the number of new testers and the recent code change, many people saw their number of NADs double or triple recently.
Thankfully, Ancestry has refined their code to be “tighter” relative to NADs.
Ancestry provided information to the bloggers group yesterday about how they have refined their code in the past few days following feedback from the user community.
In order to determine New Ancestor Discoveries, we created an algorithm with criteria that connects people to DNA Circles based on their DNA matches. This algorithm was created last year when we launched New Ancestor Discoveries and with the rapid growth of the DNA database, we are finding it needs to be updated. As DNA Circles get larger and more DNA matches are delivered, more people are connecting into the DNA Circles, which results in more New Ancestor Discoveries, but with a decrease in accuracy. So, we are updating the criteria to make it more conservative and increase the accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries. So, you’ll need more connections into a DNA Circle to get a New Ancestor Discovery. These updates will result in a significant decrease in the number New Ancestor Discoveries, but with an increase in accuracy. Some populations may experience larger decreases. We will continue to monitor and adjust this as necessary to ensure these provide meaningful discoveries for our members.
You will likely see your NADs be reduced as a result. Mine went from 22 to 4 yesterday.
The good news is with the tighter requirements, those 4 NADs are more likely to be relevant to me…well…except for Robert Shiflet who is the husband of my ancestor’s sister.
Even though this bad NAD is frustrating, I do know how and why the Robert Shiflet NAD has occurred – and it’s a great example. It’s a matter of names, both first names and surnames. Robert Shiflet’s wife was Sarah Clarkson, or Claxton. How one spells that surname has been questionable for more than 150 years. One of the Claxton/Clarkson men’s widows had to apply twice for his military pension application because the name was “sometimes spelled Clarkson.”
In one tree, the person shows Robert Shiflet’s wife’s name as Sarha Clarkson Shiflet (yes Sarha, not Sarah), with Shiflet as her last name. Another tree shows her as Sallie Clarkson, her nickname. Another as Sarah “Sallie” Clarkson. Another as Sarah A. Claxton. Furthermore, in several trees, there are no parents shown for Sarah, Sallie or Sarha, so while Ancestry clearly shows the DNA matching, it’s impossible for them to connect the dots between Sarah and my tree without accurate, consistent and complete information. Ancestry can’t help what is, or isn’t, in people’s trees. I wrote about how to optimize your tree to obtain the best matches in this article.
The good news is that now the NADs shown on our account should be easier to figure out, because our connection to that group of people will be stronger than in the past. Just remember that those people are not necessarily ancestors, despite the name “New Ancestor Discoveries,” but you are connected to individuals in that group in one way or another – and possibly through multiple or different ancestors or relationships.
For example, I’m not related to Robert Shiflet by blood, but I am related to his children genetically through his wife, the sister of my ancestor. Convoluted? Yes, but there is a genealogy hint in there someplace and now you stand a better chance of finding it!!!