Ok, so color me dense, but I’m trying to figure out exactly HOW one would go about making an ancestor out of one of Ancestry’s New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs).
Bear with me while I work through this, and maybe you will have some ideas, because frankly, I can’t figure it out. I’ve had absolutely no luck with this.
If there was a chromosome browser, and given that I’m mapping my DNA segments to ancestral families, I would be able to see where these folks fall – and identify a family group by where they match. But since Ancestry has no chromosome browser, I’m in the dark about how to turn an NAD into an ancestor.
Like probably everyone else, my NADs have varied over time. Some have come and gone, and come, and gone. I have been pretty vocal about the relative uselessness of NADs, but with the recent new more refined NAD algorithm, I thought, perhaps, just perhaps, I might find something resembling a hint that I can use.
Keep in mind that yes, I am a 35 year plus genealogist, so my tree is already fairly robust. That’s one way I know for sure many of the NADs couldn’t possibly BE ancestors, because all of the slots in that timeframe are already full and proven. At one point, someone asked me how I knew, so I wrote about how I had proven each generation in my tree, by paper. Many have been subsequently proven genetically as well utilizing triangulation.
After Ancestry’s recent revision, I’m graced with four NADs. Three are entirely new, and one remained from before the update.
So let’s take a look at these NADs, but first, let’s look at Ancestry’s revised NAD creation criteria.
Ancestry’s New NAD Criteria
Ancestry’s new criteria for NADs is:
Previously, you needed to match at least 2 members of a known DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. Now, users must match at least 3 members of a small (15 members or less) DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For larger DNA Circles (16+ members), users must match 20% of that Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For example, if there is a DNA Circle of 10 people, you will need to match at least 3 people to get a New Ancestor Discovery. And if there is a DNA Circle of 30 people you will now need to match 6 people instead of 2.
Now, let’s look at each NAD and see what we can determine.
NAD 1 – Robert Shiflet
Unfortunately, one of my NADs is still Robert Shiflet. The reason I have so many matches in common with him is because his wife is the sister of my ancestor, and several descendants have tested. I wrote about this here.
In the case of the Robert Shiflet Circle, I match 4 of 6, so clearly he is NAD material, even though he is absolutely positively NOT my ancestor.
NADs 2 and 3 – William Sullivan and Hariet Nickels
Let’s move on to William Sullivan and Hariet Nickels, which, according to a compilation of 355 Ancestry trees, were married to each other. (I’m sorry, but that ‘compilation of 355 trees’ makes me shudder.)
This couple is from South Carolina and Georgia, locations where I don’t have any ancestors, but their offspring made their way to Tennessee, where I do have ancestors, but no dead ends in that timeframe.
The William Sullivan DNA Circle includes 14 people other than me, and I match 5 of those individuals.
There are three Ancestry tools to utilize for each person in the Circle:
- Pedigree and Surnames (matching trees)
- Shared Surnames
- Shared Matches
Each of these tools are available by clicking on the link to the matching individual in the Circle.
I checked each of these three tools for all of the matches, and in one case, I found a common family surname. By looking at that link, I know that we do indeed share a common ancestor in the Dodson line.
A second person seems to also be related to the Dodson family through one of the wives lines, Durham.
A third person descends from the same Dodson line as the first person. He obviously does not have his Dodson line far enough back in time, but having worked with this family for decades, rest assured, it’s the same line. Thomas Dodson born in 1681 in my line is the grandfather of “Second Fork” Thomas in my matches line and the common ancestor of both lines.
I utilized all three tools and could find no discernable link to the other two individuals that I match in the tree.
You can also look at the trees for the people in the Circle whose DNA you don’t match, but who match someone else in the Circle. This didn’t produce anything relevant either.
My strongest match in the NAD Circle is to the individual who also descends from the Dodson line. I checked shared matches with him first, hoping that he and I would both match someone with a leaf tree link in my match list, but unfortunately, there were no matches to anyone with a leaf tree link to me, which would have, of course, told me immediately at least the identity of one common ancestor. Three of 5 matches have no tree and a fourth has just a minimal tree, so there is no help here at all.
Unfortunately, the best I can do with these two married NADs is to say that the only commonality I can find with some of the group is a link to the same Dodson/Durham family.
NAD 4 – Henry Garrett
Nad 4 is to Henry Garrett who was married to Nancy Farris, according to Ancestry and 179 compiled trees.
My Faires line, also sometimes spelled Farris, was from Washington County, VA, as was Henry Garrett’s wife, Nancy Farris, according to Ancestry.
So, my first thought is that we connect through the Faires/Farris family line, and that may be true. But I’m glad I didn’t stop there.
In the Henry Garrett Circle, there are a total of 8 individuals plus me. Of those, two of the groups of family members connect to me through the Andrew McKee Circle where we are all members. The third individual that I match had the Faires/Farris connection also matches my McKee cousins.
I was confused, until I looked at the common surnames with the third person, and look what I found:
Yep, a McKee ancestor who also lived in the same location. I don’t know how Mary McKee connects, but it’s likely that she does, given his matches to me and all of my McKee cousins. It just so happens that some of my McKee cousins also descend from Henry Garrett.
Since all three of my matches in the Henry Garrett Circle also have McKees in their trees, two of those proven to my line, and the third from the same location – I’m guessing here that my Henry Garrett NAD is really a McKee connection, perhaps with some Faires/Farris thrown in for good measure.
So, in summary, none of the NADs are my actual ancestors, but are connected in some other way.
|Name of NAD||Common Line|
|NAD1||Robert Shiflet||His wife is my ancestor’s sister.|
|NAD2||William Sullivan||Married to NAD 3, three of 5 matches have common Dodson line.|
|NAD3||Hariet Nickels||Married to NAD 2, three of 5 matches have common Dodson line.|
|NAD4||Henry Garrett||3 matches of which 2 are two family groups of individuals who are in my Andrew McKee Circle. The third match also had a McKee ancestor in the same location. Henry Garrett also married a Farris who may be related to the Faires family from the same location and who are my ancestors as well.|
So I’m still back to the same question I started with. How would I actually work any of these back to prove they are an actual ancestor? So far, none of the NADs are ancestors, and these all seem to be connected via a spur of some sort, or “spuradically.” I know, bad pun.
Let’s look at my actual Circles of proven ancestors to see which ones of those would qualify to be NADs, if I didn’t have them listed in my tree as ancestors.
Circles – Proven Ancestors
I created a Circle Chart to see which of my confirmed ancestor Circles qualify to become NADs.
Of my 21 DNA Circles, only one has 16 or more members if you count family groups as 1 and not the family group members individually. Two have more than 16 if you count individuals in family groups separately. Family groups consist of people that are closely related, such as siblings. In the chart below, I have counted groups as “1.”
Generations Ago means counting me as generation 1, how far back in time does this ancestor occur in my tree.
My Matches – Total Circle shows the number of matches I have to circle members, and the size of the circle, counting family groups as only 1. In the first example of Jane Dobkins, there are two total in the group, and I match 1 which is a family group, not an individual.
NAD Qualifications shows whether this Circle should qualify to be a NAD if I didn’t have this ancestor is my tree.
NAD Created shows whether a NAD was actually created for this Circle when I replaced my current tree with a very small tree that only included my parents and grandparents.
|Circle Name||Generations Ago||My Matches -Total Circle||NAD Qualifications||NAD Created|
|Jane “Jenny’ Dobkins||6||1 group of 2 matches total||No||No|
|Daniel Miller||6||3 of 5 total||Yes||No|
|Elizabeth Ulrich||6||2 of 5 total||No||No|
|Jacob Lentz||5||2 of 5 total||No||No|
|Fredericka Moselman||5||2 of 5 total||No||No|
|Fairwick Claxton||5||2 groups of 3 total||No||No|
|Agnes Muncy||5||1 group of 2 total||No||No|
|Andrew McKee||6||3 of 4 total, of those 3, 2 are groups||Yes||No|
|William Harrell||5||1 group of 2 total||No||No|
|Mary McDowell||5||1 group of 2 total||No||No|
|David Miller||5||1 group of 2 total||No||No|
|Rachel Levina Hill||4||3 of 3 total, one of which is a family group||Yes||No|
|Jotham Brown||6||1 group of 6 total||No||No|
|John Hill||6||1 of 2 total||No||No|
|John R. Estes||5||2 groups of 3 total||No||No|
|Nancy Ann Moore||5||2 groups of 2 total||No||No|
|Henry Bolton||5||3 of 11 total||Yes||No|
|Nancy Mann||5||6 of 17||Yes||Yes|
|Joseph Preston Bolton||4||3 of 7||Yes||No|
|Joel Vannoy||4||4 of 4||Yes||No|
|Phebe Crumley||4||4 of 4||Yes||No|
These Circles are all confirmed to be my ancestors. It’s unclear how Ancestry would “count” individuals in family groups relative to creating NADs. In the chart above, I counted a family group as “1” because that’s how it’s shown, but I suspect that even through Ancestry groups the family group together, they are counting the group members separately. The reason I think this is that some circles only have two members total, plus me. I don’t match both other individuals, but in every case, I do match the family group, which consists of at least three people.
On the main Ancestry DNA page, this Circle is shown with 5 members, which counts the family group members individually.
I decided to do an experiment and I linked my DNA results to a much smaller tree consisting of me, my parents and grandparents, to see how many of my Circles would actually become NADs. This is where a lot of newbies begin, so let’s see what the newbie experience would be, relative to NADs and which NADs really could be turned into ancestors with enough research.
Reverting to a Newbie
By connecting a very abbreviated tree, I have put myself in the same position as a new person who just knows their grandparents names – or that of an adoptee, except adoptees don’t even have that much information. They are truly flying blind.
Let’s see what the newbie experience is like. After giving Ancestry enough time to cycle through the process, about three days, just to be sure, my Circles disappeared, of course, which I fully expected and is appropriate because there is no one in my tree beyond two generations. Because there is no common ancestor in a tree, Circles can’t form, but NADs can form, and should, from some of those Circles.
So what happened?
The same 4 NADs remained, which is exactly what should have happened of course. I expected that too.
However, what I very clearly didn’t expect was for only one new NAD to appear, out of my 21 total Circles and 8 Circles that clearly met the NAD qualifications. Only one Circle became a NAD – Nancy Mann.
I fully expected at least A FEW of my previous Circles to become NADs. Eight Circles appeared to be qualified based on Ancestry’s stated NAD criteria, but only one actually turned into a NAD. Even the 100% group, Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley, where all 4 people in the Circle matched each other for some reason didn’t become NADs.
Of the 5 NADs granted by Ancestry, we know that the original 4 are incorrect, and we know that the one NAD created from Circles that I had with my robust tree is accurate. This is what a newbie would see.
How would a newbie ever go about telling the difference, except by beginning to work the genealogy backwards in time from their grandparents. And in this case, they will only be able to “hit” one of 5 NADs, because only one is an actual ancestor – 4 are false positives, red herrings or maybe hints, but only hints if you have a robust ancestry to figure out WHERE that hint resides – an advantage a newbie wouldn’t have. And frankly, none of those hints were one bit helpful.
Given this situation, where 4 of 5 NADs are wrong, are NADs useful at all or are they exciting distractions leading people down dead-end paths? I feel particularly bad for adoptees who have no information to utilize to try to build backwards to connect with their NADs.
In the case of an adoptee, they can’t build backwards from any known family, so they would have to contact a group like www.dnaadoption.com and utilize special methodologies developed by the adoption groups that match groups of people with common ancestors in their trees.
During one of our conference calls, one of the Ancestry folks talked about how excited adoptees are to see a list of NADs. For many, that would be their first clue as to their family history or genealogy, and their first connect to their family, ever. I’m sure it would seem like a gift from above. Of course, adoptees wouldn’t have any Circles, because they are hunting for their ancestors and they don’t yet have trees.
I couldn’t help but wonder when the Ancestry representative made that comment how many of those NADs are accurate – and if that adoptee is embracing people as ancestors who are somehow connected to them, but not their actual ancestors.
Not being an adoptee, I know how hard it is to saw branches off of your family tree when you’ve proven your own work to be incorrect, or the work of another in whom you had confidence (or if you’re a newbie, that tree you copied) and I’d hate to be the one to have to take that NAD (or 4/5ths of their NADs) away from an adoptee, because it’s not really an ancestor.
The sad part is that while I have enough information to determine that 4 of 5 NADs are incorrect – the newbie or adoptee doesn’t. They just have to go on faith.
It’s common knowledge that Ancestry does not give us a chromosome browser. I routinely use segments to prove a common ancestor, or at least an ancestral line.
In one case, we had oral history that Marcus Younger’s wife was a Hart. Sure enough part of the Younger group matched individuals from the Hart family dead center in the middle of a Hart triangulated segment.
Here’s an example of what this kind of triangulation looks like.
These particular segments are triangulated to the Hart family and triangulated to the Younger family as well, meaning that all of these people match each other on this segment, as well as me, so this is as much confirmation of Marcus Younger’s wife being a Hart as we will ever receive, short of a Bible turning up on E-Bay. The county records where this family lived no longer exist, so we were left with family rumors and later, DNA.
I keep waiting for a Hart NAD to appear. That’s one I could really embrace. However, it’s quite far back in time, 8 generations. Would a Circle or a NAD even be formed?
NADs are formed when you match multiple people in Circles who have a confirmed common ancestor. A Circle has to exist before NADs can be formed. How are Circles formed?
NAD and Circle Formation
First of all, you have to have enough people matching each other to create a Circle or a NAD. That means it’s unlikely that you’re going to have Circles in the closest few generations – because there just aren’t enough descendants of your grandparents, or maybe even your great-grandparents to create a Circle, which is required before the creation of a NAD happens. My closest Circles are my great-great-grandparents, the 4rd generation counting me as generation 1. I do have leaf matches to the 9th generation, but only Circles to the 6th generation.
Second, leaf matching and Circles don’t go beyond 9 generations, so if the common ancestor is beyond that in your tree, you won’t get a matching leaf, a Circle won’t be created, and neither will a NAD. That’s really unfortunate, because I think a lot of us really do carry family DNA that is recognizable from that long ago. We see it routinely elsewhere.
Third, Ancestry creates what they call confidence scores and Circles are created based on confidence scores. They don’t tell us exactly how these confidence scores are created, but in their white paper, they do tell us that more distant matches have lower confidence scores which is also confirmed by looking at the last page of my “leaf” match list. It appears that Ancestry does not display matches below the moderate confidence level.
Based on my Circles shown in the Circle Chart, the new person is only going to receive Circles or NADs for generations 4, 5 and 6.
I have matches through generation 9, and in some cases, 10-12 “leaf” matches in generations 7-9, but no Circle has been formed, which causes me to wonder if anyone has Circles between generations 7 and 9?
Being Alone and Right Means No Circle
This past week, I discovered that my ancestor whose name has been believed for years to be Fredericka Moselman was Fredericka Ruhle. Actually, her baptized name was Hanna Fridrika Ruhle. I now have her baptismal record, and her marriage record to Jacob Lentz, both confirming her surname. I corrected her surname on Ancestry to Ruhle, and boom, I’m gone from the Circle. And Fredericka has not shown up as a NAD.
So, now I’m left with a quandary. The only way to see who else is in the Fredericka Moselman circle is to change her name back to the erroneous surname. Or, in this case, to look at her husband’s Circle which is identical to hers. However, if I correct his name too, I’ll be thrown out of that Circle as well. If a former Circle doesn’t appear as a NAD, I have no way of viewing Circles that aren’t connected to me.
Back to the Question
I think we’ve come full circle (pardon the pun), and I still have my original question. How does one go from seeing a NAD to proving that NAD is an ancestor? We can’t do it with DNA at Ancestry because we don’t have a chromosome browser.
If you have identified a NAD as a direct ancestor, or even used a NAD that was not an ancestor to find your way to a new ancestor, please tell me how.
And I hope, I really hope, it wasn’t just by copying someone else’s tree – because if it is – you’ve very likely just copied the cumulative errors of many – especially if they copied someone else’s tree, who copied someone else’s tree, etc. Tree copying is the equivalent of a genealogical social disease.
Did you simply use the NAD as a hint and pursue traditional genealogy to prove the connection? Was the ancestor the person actually listed as the NAD, or a different person? Do you have proof in the form of documentation? And by proof, I mean proof that the documentation is actually for this particular person.
I only mention this because I’ve seen so many conflated trees where someone took any documentation by the same name and added it to their tree as proof. Let me give you an example. A man who lived in North Carolina and from the census, was born in Virginia, was not naturalized in the state of New York, a location where he never lived. Obviously a man born in Virginia had no need to be naturalized. Same name does not mean same person. Just saying.
If you turned a NAD into an ancestor, did you track from the NAD forward in time to you, or from one of your lines backward in time to the NAD? If so, how did you know which line to track backwards? Did your match or matches from the NAD circle download their DNA to either Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch where you could utilize chromosome matching?
If you’ve had success turning NADs into ancestors, please let me know and explain how in the comments.