Ancestry Refines New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs)

Have you noticed a change in the number of your New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs) at Ancestry lately?

New NADs

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.

circle henry bolton matches2

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.

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!!!

36 thoughts on “Ancestry Refines New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs)

  1. Great timing! I was about to post on the Yahoo group that I was suddenly missing ALL my NADs. Now I know why.

  2. Last week, my NADs went from 6 to 27!! Oy! Other than some of them living in the same town as many of my paternal ancestors, I could not connect them to my tree. Then again, the surname of 3 x Great Grandma Mitchell is unknown, so there is the possibility that some of the NADs are her family . . . or not. 🙂

    • My tree remains private due to the speculative nature of matches to my mom, who was a foundling. However, sometimes I “run nekkid” by making it public to see what hints Ancestry gives me. When I do that, most of my NADs become Circles. When I go back private, they go back to being NADs. Now they have gone away altogether. I look at each person in the NAD circle or Circle circle and every one has been a DNA match to my mom, even if one Ancestry has recently removed from the list (they will show up as recently removed or something like that). So then I put them on my tree up to the common ancestor on the circle, and use a special icon to show they are DNA related but wrong tree. Eventually there will be a pattern I can use.

      • Robin, I think by doing that your not letting the algorithms work , I have NO privvy but I do run computers and servers and doing that (on and off) is going to do more damage than anything — get a seperate free email, most have it (Gmail, Yahoo) in your same account if your worried, and block anyone you do not want to see it — all available in “Settings” — then set it to public if your trying to get matches and set it to private your defeating your purpose !! No sense looking for matches and being set to private — they contradict each other !

      • Hi Peter

        The reason I have a private tree is that I have put in a lot of unconnected people, many from trees of people I have not contacted. If I end up needing to contact them, they might take umbrage that I have “stolen” their research efforts. Apparently this has happened quite a bit with adoptees and others searching for bio families.

        An example: I have recently acquired about 500 pounds of research material from an elderly relative who has promised for decades to share. Now, instead of wanting to share, he has told another family member to destroy everything “and let them do their own damn research like I did.” He tended to shut out people he felt were “stealing” his research as well.


  3. Went from 161 NAD’s down to 37. Circles went from 54 to 51. Too bad there isn’t a way to block off NADs, like “ignoring” hints.

  4. The adopted individual I am assisting went from 1 DNA circle to over 20 DNA circles. Now she is at 6. At first glance some of the matches didn’t make much sense. Due to a busy schedule I didn’t spend much time working on this – thankfully!

  5. How odd. Initially I had 12, recently it jumped to 25 and today, only 5…

    Anyone else experiencing the sudden drop in their ‘New Ancestors Discoveries’?

    Thanks, Manja Harris

    On Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 10:28 AM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > robertajestes posted: “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 inc” >

  6. Glad they changed the criteria. NADs have been pretty much worthless up until now. Hope it improves because I can see potential.

  7. Yep, mine have been jumping around. Today, I have 9 NADs, and still none of them make sense. But should I ever have the patience to spend the time to uncover the “accuracy” of them, maybe I’ll be able to find something. At glance, though, I do not see how any of them can be ancestors, given their timeframes. I can’t help but find humor in Ancestry’s statement that more people connecting “results in more New Ancestor Discoveries, but with a decrease in accuracy.” There was accuracy?

    Today, my excitement is with Ancestry’s addition of the birth, marriage, and death certificates from Indiana. THIS is something to cheer about!

  8. I’m adopted, have never put up any sort of tree, and they hit me with a couple of NADs. The people presented to me as possible relatives were a couple from New England from about 150 years ago. 100% of the trees that I build for matches from that long ago have exclusively French Canadian ancestry, which is logical, as I was born in Quebec City.

    This is just proof that AncestryDNA is all about gimmicks to get simple minds hooked on hooey, rather than giving us the proper tool of a chromosome browser to enable us to find genuine relatives.

  9. D.R. Hunter: see my response. There is something there in mine. I had to dig for it. And it’s not clear what “it” is but there is too much smoke not to find fire.

  10. I briefly had a bunch of Bad NADs – over 20 – never bothered to count but now I have just three. The three don’t look any more accurate than the bunch. Total fairy dust and marketer-speak. Just give me the damn chromosome browser. Let me SEE which Clough line I am descended from. Or which Potter line… Or which Frasiers… (Three of my brick-wall grandmothers) I don’t care about finding somebody’s husband’s father’s aunt.

    And no I am not going to waste time figuring out why Ancestry chose these three very unlikely people. I have more interesting things to do than track down non-relatives. I am not being fooled into believing that there is “science” behind all this. Look behind the curtain Dorothy.

  11. Correction: Actually, William B. Anderson should have appeared at the center of the NAD, and not Martha, since my tree went back far enough to identify the actual MRCA. Liz In a message dated 6/2/2016 8:26:55 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

    Roberta, I would take exception with Ancestry’s claim (repeated here) that: “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.” I have a circle (one of eight) where I DO NOT have a common ancestor in my tree. Although I have the person who is the center of the circle in my tree, they are clearly NOT my ancestor. In fact, because most people have not filled their tree out far enough, they have not yet identified the cause of our match (which is the WIFE of the man at the center of this particular circle). I am being tagged as a descendent of Elzaphen Pollard who married Martha Anderson, when in fact, Martha Anderson is a daughter of my Ancestor (our MRCA), William B. Anderson. Martha SHOULD HAVE appeared as a NAD to those descendants of Elzaphen Pollard, and not that Elzaphen Pollard should have appeared as a DNA circle to me. William B. Anderson should be at the center of our Match, and not Elzaphen Pollard. I have found that others have experienced the same thing. Since the center of the match is clearly evident in at least one tree (mine that I know of) Ancestry’s algorithms seem off a bit since this could have clearly been corrected in programming, I think. On another note, the new NADs are driving me crazy since Ancestry has hidden the ability for us to see the “Shared Matches” of almost everyone in the NADs. What is the point of even seeing the NAD if I cannot identify WHY we might share DNA (and no, it is never the person named). I used to be able to check who the others in the NAD shared DNA with and at least narrow it down to a LIKELY family line that is causing the match. In a few cases, I could actually look at the trees of those who shared DNA in the NAD (in the old NADs) and see why we matched. Again, Ancestry was missing it even though the answer was right in front of them because of those who had filled their tree out further. I wish we understood more of exactly how they make the circles and NADs because it seems like they are missing a critical point on overlaying/matching the trees. Somehow, the algorithms are not seeing what would be obvious (I think) to a human looking at the trees. Liz

    • An aha moment. Just as I have long suspected, the “scientists” at Ancestry don’t understand genetic genealogy. They are clueless.

      “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.”
      NOT TRUE!!! If I inherited 10 cMs on Chromosome 3 from Ancestor ABC and you inherited 11 cMs on Chromosome 8 from the same Ancestor, we don’t form any circle. Our common ancestor on our tree is totally irrelevant to our shared genes which probably matches Ancestor DFG.

      No wonder Circles and NADs are such a joke.

  12. Thank you for pointing out that these are hints and may not be ancestors. I had one that may have helped me break through a brick wall. Not an ancestor but a sister. Now working on proving it with a paper trail. Melissa

  13. One of the big, BIG issues with Circles is that it is dependent on accurate family trees. When people routinely copy information onto their trees from others, they oftentimes perpetuate erroneous information and sources. I’ve discovered one alleged ancestor who, upon diligent research, was discovered to be a brother or cousin. Yet, over two hundred people have copied this erroneous connection onto their trees. It’s far enough back in time so that the sources were very limited and the names identical with others in the family, which was very common; one sees the same names handed down from one generation to another, naming sons after brothers, etc. So instead of doing difficult research, most simply copy another “Ancestry tree” as the source and leave it at that. So when 200 people put John Doe as their ancestor when the true ancestor is a brother, still related genetically, one is left with a misleading “Circle”.

  14. I have never had a NAD since I don’t have a subscription to Ancestry. My sister has a subscription and for the longest time she only had 2 NADs. She phoned me excited that the NADs had jumped to 10! The first two we were pretty sure we’re accurate even though we didn’t have that person in our tree nor the surname. I found matches who had those NADs in their trees as well as she. I am on Family Tree DNA, so I found direct descendants on that that site due to matches as well. And one of the matches transferred to Gedmatch and we match there too. I found some direct descendants of the couple searching them on Find A Grave as well. Funny thing is before I read this article, I found that I DNA match one of the people on Find A Grave on Gedmatch too! She may have not noticed it because it is a distant match. Those two NADs were just removed due to the changes at Ancestry.

    The 8 other most recent NADs were reduced to 4. My sister only had the 8 for about a month, and in that time we were able to do some research. What is bizarre is that of the remaining NADs is that the father and wife are still listed but the sons have been removed. ???? The NADS removed or at least two of them were two sons and their wives for a total of 4. At least one more was somehow related to the sons, but I don’t remember how now. With the father and sons, again with Gedmatch I discovered that I DNA match with a man who is doing the research on that family. So clearly we are related somehow.

    The changes at Ancestry are sometimes mind boggling and defies logic. I most of the time feel as if they are too heavy handed with the chopping. And this seems to be a case where they are listening too much of the complaints. If the NADs were numbering 50 or 100 I could understand. A sister or husband of a distant ancestor can be some very useful info if you have no info on the distant ancestor. Particularly for African Americans because of that wicked institution of slavery.

  15. Thanks for posting the explanation. That said, I have NAD’s (21 of them down from 54) nearly all of whom I actually have been able to identify, and not one of those is an “ancestor”. They are either collateral relatives, or in several cases the NAD’s are related to a brother-in-law or sister-in-law, their siblings or parents, and not kin to me in any sense of the word. Kin of my kin, so to speak. I’ve been doing research for some 25 years and not one iota of the information from the NAD’s has been helpful to me in anyway. Most of the trees related to the NAD’s are rather frightful. Ancestry’s constant changes in their data only reinforces what I have longed believed – they really don’t have a clue.

  16. My legitimate “new ancestry discoveries” all disappeared and I’m inundate with irrelevant matches… about 20 😦

  17. give them time to work the kinks out — despite common myths,computer programming on this scale is hard (I would not want to be throwing that switch)….On the other hand, as paying customers they should have more respect and give notice, have problem solving lines, take feedback, ect.

  18. Pingback: Trying to Make Ancestors Out of NADs | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  19. I never had a NAD or a Circle until the recent Ancestry revision, when suddenly 4 NADs appeared. Unfortunately I didn’t investigate them quick enough and they all disappeared within a week! Now I’m just left wondering!

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