Genealogical research is a hobby that I enjoy immensely. There is
so much to do and so many relatives to find. Some of those relatives are out in
the open and easy to find. Others are hiding and a bit more difficult to find.
But they are all important and are a part of family. There just isn’t enough
time to find all of them. Then you throw in another tool, genetic genealogy or
genealogical DNA testing, to use with traditional genealogical research with a goal
of answering genealogical questions, and the work goes on and on and on.
Genetic genealogy is tool for family historians and is time consuming,
continually changing, and is a great tool to use if you have difficult family
lines you are researching; and you have hit the ultimate brick wall. The work will never end! With just genetic
genealogy one could stay busy for a very long time. However, I keep plugging
along one relative at a time using the tools available such as Ancestry DNA
Circles and NADs. Ancestry DNA offers subscribers DNA Circles and New Ancestry
Discoveries or NADs. Each is laborious, and to add more work to that, the
shared matches are added. Each member of the circle shares DNA with at least
one other member in the circle, and each member in that circle have the same
ancestor in their family tree. Ancestry does provide the centimorgans for DNA
matches; however, it would be great if Ancestry provided members with a
chromosome browser. I have several members from the Coon and related families
who have DNA tested. I would love to look at our DNA segment on a chromosome
browser to see if we match on the same chromosome and DNA segment; however,
that option isn’t available on Ancestry.
There is the possibility that you have members of a circle with
whom you share DNA through another ancestor couple. Shared matches can be used
for that, but again that is a laborious job. It takes a bit of reading to
understand DNA Circles, NADs, and using the shared matches to triangulate. New
Ancestry Discoveries are research tasks that is done one cousin at a time.
Research continues until I find a common ancestor couple. Some NADs can be
challenging, but is worth the time put into identifying a common ancestor
My sister tested with Ancestry DNA, and I manage her DNA account.
She has fifteen NADs. Why she has more NADs than I have is a question I have
yet to find an answer. She has thirty Ancestry Circles and I have twenty-eight.
She has fifteen NADs and I have six. She has eight hundred and one fourth
cousins or closer matches and I have one thousand and seventy-one. I have one
hundred shard ancestor hints and she has one hundred forty-one. My sister has
matches in her DNA results list that I don't have and she shares DNA with them;
and vice versa – I have DNA matches she doesn't have in her test results.
A NAD is created when Ancestry finds that you share significant
amounts of DNA with several members of a DNA Circle; and this means that you
may be related to the ancestor for which the DNA Circle is created. Remember, a
DNA Circle is a member of a group who have well documented family relationships
to a common ancestor in their Ancestry family trees; and the members in the
group share DNA with at least one (that is the key-at least one) other member
in the DNA Circle. I have found with my DNA Circles I usually share DNA with
more than one member unless it is a very small circle. I have a DNA Circle that
has four members and all four are DNA matches. There is another circle
with four members and two out of four are DNA matches.
I can research the NAD and find a new relative and connect that
person to a common ancestor couple. I have six New Ancestry Discoveries and
looked through each and didn’t recognize any familiar names. The fifteen NADs on
my sister’s account are more promising than my six. I found two new relatives,
Stephen Alford Edwards and Mary Ann Emma Bates, from her NADs.
As I looked through my sister’s NADs to see if there were familiar
names, I recognized Edwards and Bates surnames. I looked through the
members who were a DNA match to see if anything was promising. The first DNA
match was a descendant of Stephen Alford Edwards. Now I was getting
excited because there were two clues here that helped me to know which family
line this member belonged and our common ancestor. Those two clues were the
given name Alford and surname Edwards. Alford, the name of a third great
grandfather, Alfred Edwards, on my paternal line.
This NAD was a keeper and further research to verify him gave me a
collateral relative to add to my family tree. For the era that I was
researching there were census records for 1880 through 1940; a marriage record;
and Findagrave death and burial information.
My plan of action in identifying these ancestors in the NADs was
to first look at the names; then look at the members who are DNA matches going
through each until a common ancestor was known, and the locations.
Another familiar name that I recognized as I looked through the
NADs was Mary Ann Emma Bates (1836-1902). I had seen the surname Bates before
when researching. Bates is not a direct line ancestor’s surname, but I had seen
the surname come up while researching collaterals. I looked at the location and
it was Big Fork, Polk County, Arkansas. My Edwards families lived in that area.
Further research revealed that Mary Ann Emma Bates was the mother of Stephen
Alford Edwards. So, she was the wife (a FAN) of a second great uncle (a
DNA Circles and New Ancestry Discoveries are hints that are
relevant to your research since members are related to you in some way. Since I
never know if circles and NADs will be there indefinitely, I do a screen
shot of the circles and NADs and save for future research. They will disappear,
but they may eventually reappear.
You may be a direct descendant of a NAD, you may be related
through a marriage, or through a collateral line. You may be related to the
ancestor of the DNA circle through more than one line. They are relatives
waiting to be discovered.
Ancestry Discoveries are potential new ancestors or relatives that are not in my Ancestry family tree. These are folks that I need to research to see how they connect to the people in my family tree. As of this morning I have six of those potential new relatives. My sister has tested with Ancestry DNA and she allows me to manage her DNA test results. She has fifteen New Ancestry Discoveries. I have gone through her NADs and recognized names in some of them. The ones that I recognized I researched them and found a common ancestor couple. When I look at the names in the six NADs on my account there are no familiar names, and as I look through the information for these NADs there is still nothing familiar.
How do these NADs show up on the DNA homepage? Almost without exception the NADs are somehow connected to my maternal Coon family line. These NADs are collaterals. The ones that don’t have familiar names, I just leave those for the time. I will snip a picture of them and save it for future reference.
New Ancestor Discoveries come from members of a DNA Circle with whom you share a lot of DNA. You share DNA with the descendants of a particular ancestor. New Ancestor Discoveries is a feature where Ancestry uses historical records, Ancestry family trees, and Ancestry DNA results to give you a potential new ancestor or relative. I will remind you, this is one important reason why family historians need to not only research the direct line ancestors, but the direct line ancestors’ siblings, children, grandchildren, etc. Research the family unit – parents and children, and parents’ siblings. Then the work begins. You must research the NAD to determine if there is a link to a common ancestor couple.
One of the six New Ancestry Discoveries on my account had twenty members and five DNA matches. I went through each member match, and didn’t recognize any names. This NAD has the DNA evidence that links them to me in the circle. The five members have shared DNA matches of 7.4 cM, 6.6 cM, 7.0 cM, 9.3 cM and 7.3 cM. This is not saying the members who did not share DNA aren’t related to me, they possibly are related; however, due to recombination of the DNA, they didn’t receive any DNA from that particular ancestor couple. These aren’t large enough segments of DNA for me to take the time to research these members. That will be another project for a rainy day when I don’t have anything else to do. As far now I will let those remain as NADs.
New Ancestry Discoveries are another hint that I use to find collaterals. If my DNA matches the DNA members of the New Ancestry Discovery then, there a seventy percent chance that I will either be a descendant of the NAD or relative. Also, two of the NADs on my sister's account that I have done the research on was related through marriage. That was an interesting one to research. Two separate NADs and they were the sons-in-law of two descendants of a maternal third great grandfather. I have also found that I am related to others in the DNA Circle through more than one ancestor couple.
New Ancestor Discoveries are there for you. You can use them or you can ignore them. It is left up to you what you would like to do with them.
I have been working on my Ancestry DNA for a few days and my DNA Circles went from twelve to twenty-four then twenty-eight within a week.While I was working on the Circles and going each to see who was in them, one disappeared. So the DNA Circles come and go. Then come and go. Just when I think I have this figured out, something is changed and leaves me scratching my head. I looked at my thirty Ancestry DNA Circles and there were names on there that I didn’t recognize. So, I was intrigued. Who are these folks?
After close examination, I discovered they are collaterals. Some of the Circles that showed up wer
e Isaac Lloyd Quin husband of first cousin three times removed, William J. McDavid, father-in-law of third great uncle, Martha Brister, mother-in-law of third great uncle, Benjamin Franklin Goodwin, husband of third great-aunt, Emiline Goodwin second cousin three times removed and Andrew Jackson Wideman third great uncle.
The theory that I had about the circles being made up
of direct line ancestors was just disproved with these new circles.
While I went back through my family tree to see who
the people in my DNA circles are, I noticed they are in-laws of a child of a
common ancestor or a common ancestor’s child. Isaac Lloyd Quinn is the husband
of Emiline Goodwin. Emiline Goodwin is the daughter of Elizabeth Ann Coon, a
second great grand aunt. The common ancestor is Jacob Coon a maternal third
There are eight members in the Isaac Lloyd Quinn
Circle and all eight are a DNA match; three accounts are managed by the same
person. Two of the DNA matches are 12. 4 centimorgans across two DNA segments
and 12. 1 across two DNA segments. On this DNA match we share 60 centimorgans
of DNA across 5 DNA segments. That is a good DNA match. One of the DNA matches is
6. 3 across 1 DNA segment. Usually on Family Tree DNA I don’t bother with any
matches below ten. Simply because I have too many close matches to work with and
there isn’t enough time for others.
The William J. McDavid Circle has twenty-four members and fifteen DNA
matches. William J. McDavid is the husband of Martha Brister. They are the
parents of Susan Penelope McDavid wife of James Jasper Coon a second great
grand uncle. Benjamin Franklin Goodwin is the husband of Elizabeth “Betsy” Coon.
Elizabeth is the daughter of Jacob Coon third great grandfather. I might add
these are maternal relatives. Andrew Jackson Wideman is the son of a paternal third great grandfather Henry Wideman.
The chart on the right of the circle has other matches in it that aren't shown. I have corresponded with some of the cousins in the circle and we shared information.
There are two kinds of matches in DNA Circles – DNA matches
and tree matches. I been researching family for fifteen years, both direct
lines and collaterals. I do share DNA with the Coon relatives and the Andrew
Jackson Wideman a paternal second great uncle. Ancestry takes the DNA matching
technology and find cousins among their Ancestry DNA members. This is another
reason to have a well-researched documented family tree. The family tree needs
to be connected to the Ancestry DNA test results with you as the home person. Ancestry
looks for an ancestor shared across a group of DNA related people. Then if they
find a group DNA related people they form a circle. You need a public family
tree linked to your DNA results.
I have two DNA Circles that have four members in each and is emerging. One of the circles is Ann Wideman,a perternal second great grandmother. The other one is Edward Zachariah Thomas Coon DNA Circles, a maternal great grandfather. One of the members is myself and one other member is my sister. A DNA Circles requires three or more people. There needs to be at least three separate family units. My sister and I would be one family unit, therefore, we need two more separate family units to form a circle. Then, these three separate family units need to have the same common ancestor on their public trees to make a circle. The circle for EZT Coon great grandfather meets the requirement for a circle. This image shows the relationships for the person for whom the circle was formed. There is also a list of the matches in the circle. The people with DNA is shown and the members of the circle that doesn't match others in the circle with DNA is shown.
One of the matches and I in this Ann Wideman Circle share 27.2 centimorgans of shared DNA across 3 DNA segments. Her great grand aunt is the sister to my great grandmother. The other DNA match and I share 18.8 centimorgans shared across 1 DNA segment. My sister and I share a large segment of DNA 2,471 centimorgans across 54 DNA segments.
DNA Circles cover
seven generations including yourself. DNA Circles will change, and come and go.
They are fun to work with and discover collaterals that you didn’t know before
exploring them in the circles. It is vital that you research them and document
what you find. If they fit in your family tree, then place them in the family
they belong. I have collaborated with new found cousins. I now have family stories and photos that I wouldn’t
have had I not done contacted them.
Today I went to Ancestry’s DNA Circles that were
created for the Isham Meadows fifth great grandfather. There were twenty-four
members and ten matches. I am confident that Isham Meadows (Sr.) is a fifth
great grandfather and he is the son of Daniel Meadows. Why? Because I have done
the research on the Meadows family line. The Meadows line has been researched
extensively, sourced, and verified with a male Meadows second cousin, and other
Meadows cousins. My sister has DNA tested with Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA
and due to the random nature of genetic inheritance she has Meadows matches in
her match list that don’t show up in mine.
I like Ancestry DNA Circles. They may be beneficial in
using them; however, you still must have the genealogical paperwork to prove
your ancestors. DNA and genealogical research go together. DNA is another tool for genealogists to use
with our genealogical research. You need to know who your ancestors are and
their history; you need a well researched and documented family tree.
DNA Circles aren’t proof. You need documents for proof
that the ancestor for which the circle is created is your ancestor. DNA doesn’t
lie, therefore when you have an Ancestry member that is a match, you look at
the centimorgans, then you know you are related, but how? I am more confident
when a match and I share a large segment of DNA. Ancestry shows the segments in
cM only, but doesn’t provide a chromosome browser as Family Tree and 23andMe
The more people who match you in the DNA Circle, the
chances are greater there is a connection to that ancestor. One of the large
circles that I have is thirty-five members and fifteen DNA matches. This circle
is for paternal ancestor Elizabeth Howard, a third great grandmother; and the
confidence level counting myself, is eleven – strong; two – good; two – some; and
one – weak; The weak member’s shared DNA is 9.5 across 2 segments. So, my
confidence in this match is low. Then, I look at one of the matches in the
circle that is strong. We share 10.9 cM of DNA that has a surname that is a maternal
third great grandmother. Possibly this is my maternal ancestor which is third
great grandmother Martha McCullough, rather than a paternal ancestor. The name
and location match the maternal ancestor.
I have more confidence in a circle when there are
several DNA matches with me and other members in the Circle than I do in a
Circle with three or four members in a circle. Circles come and go, and there
are several reasons for that. But as of today, I have twenty-five circles. The
most members that I have in any one circle is forty members. Several of my paternal
Edwards and related families tested with Ancestry DNA; my maternal Coon and
related families also tested with Ancestry DNA; and several of the paternal
line Meadows families have tested with Ancestry. Those DNA Circles have several
members in them. I have confidence in the large circles because I have done the
genealogical research and I have contacted members of those families. Some of
those same people have tested with all three companies.
I have two circles with four members in them. There
are three DNA matches and the circle membership confidence level is emerging. Emerging
level means there is some DNA evidence of a relationship but the DNA Circle is too
small, in this case four members, to determine how strong that evidence is. As
the circle grows my connection level will most likely change.
How does Ancestry create the circles for our
ancestors? A DNA Circle is a group of Ancestry members who all have the same ancestor
in their family trees. Each member shares DNA with at least one member in the
circle. Circles require at least two people to DNA match and a third person
that matches at least one of the other two members. The circles are created
from my DNA and my family tree. My DNA is shared with every member in the
Ancestry DNA database. Based on the amount of DNA I share with another member,
when Ancestry finds there is enough shared DNA between us, then they consider we
share a common ancestor. Our relationship is based on the amount of DNA we
Once Ancestry DNA finds a DNA match they search my
family tree and my DNA matches’ family trees looking for ancestors who are the
same person. The criteria Ancestry looks for are facts like name, birth date,
birthplace, parents, and spouse of the ancestor. Ancestry goes back about nine
generations. Ancestry then calculates a shared ancestor hint confidence score.
To calculate the score, they look at the DNA. Is this DNA that you share from a
recent shared ancestor? They base the confidence in the DNA match and if both
me and my match inherited DNA from a recent shared ancestor. And is the shared
ancestor with the same birth date, birthplace, parents, and spouse in my tree.
If this is the case, Ancestry is confident the ancestor is the same for both of
In this case Ancestry, has placed the two of us with a
common ancestor; however, we possibly could share another ancestor on another
line and we may be related but we don’t share DNA. This is the place where you
collaborate and connect with DNA Circle cousins. You can better understand the
relationship by sharing information. However, verify the information you
acquire from your new-found cousin. The consistency and accuracy of the family
trees on Ancestry have varying levels. They are built by the Ancestry DNA members.
The more reliable the family tree the more reliable DNA Circles and connection
levels will be.
We all want the correct ancestors in our family trees.
Recently I had a descendant of Asa and Eliza Jane contact me. She had come across my blog and was happy to share Ramsey family information. That new found cousin sent me this picture of Maggie Lucinda Ramsey a great aunt of mine of whom I have never met.
Family history research is about sharing with others; and it isn't a hobby that we do in isolation. There is no fun family history if we don't share what we have with others. There may a family member who can't subscribe to Ancestry, or isn't able for whatever reason research online. Family history is so much more fun when we share what we have with other family members. These are not just my ancestors and family, they are others families too.
Everyone has something to share. It may be a family Bible, a family tree chart with ancestors information filled out on it, photos, a recipe from a family member, a journal, a document, a family story, or a treasure found in a grandparents attic. We all benefit in many ways by coming together with others and sharing our resources.
We all benefit when we reach out to others who are researching the family lines that we are researching. This blog is a tool that I set up to use to reach cousins and connect with them, and to share family information.
You can read about Maggie Lucinda Ramsey in the blog post here.
Ancestry DNA shows that I have 166 shared ancestor hints, 164 starred matches, and 1,062 fourth cousins or closer. How does a member decide what they are going to work on first when viewing the DNA matches? As with any project, you begin by looking at the list and then prioritize in order of importance. I start out by looking at the shared ancestor hints. I am not saying that I ignore the other fourth cousins or closer matches. Those are important too. There are close matches in that list also even though some do not have family trees. But, I begin by looking at the shared ancestor hints list. The starred matches are personal favorites. I did that myself by clicking on the star beside a match. That match is then added a match to favorites. Those are matches that I have worked with.
What are shared ancestor hints? Ancestry DNA searches for pieces of DNA that are identical between two individuals – myself and another member. The “Shared” part of shared ancestor hints tell you that you have a match that shares enough DNA with you to be a IBD (Identical by Descent) ancestor. The “Ancestor” part of ancestor hints tell you that you and this DNA match each have a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) on your trees that is possibly your DNA MRCA.
We are interested in DNA that is identical between two people because we both inherited the same piece of DNA from a common ancestor – recent common ancestor. This DNA that is IBD (Identical by Descent.) Another reason two people’s DNA may be identical is that of IBS (Identical by State) because the DNA is identical for a reason other than having a recent shared common ancestor.
Since the Shared Ancestor Hints are first in my list I begin with those matches. The Ancestry DNA match and the family tree match suggests that we possibly have a DNA match or a cousin match. We share enough DNA that we are related and we have a common ancestor in our family trees. Ancestry DNA does tree matching, so basically that part of the work is done for me by showing me which people match my DNA. However, there is plenty of work left for me to do when looking at the hints. And I will add, those hints are just that, “shared ancestor hints.” I must work to prove which family line the match is on and our common ancestor. If you don’t have a family tree on Ancestry, then you are missing out on the benefits of testing with Ancestry DNA. You won’t have the shared ancestor hints since Ancestry has nothing to compare.
I begin by looking through the shared ancestor hints and to see if anything looks familiar, and if it does then I go through the family tree. The first shared member in my list is an immediate family member. I know my sister tested with Ancestry DNA so I move to the next member in the list. This one is a predicted third cousin and has a confidence level of extremely high so it is worth considering. When I am confident in the information for this particular family and common ancestor then I look at the next member in my shared ancestor hints list. This is the process I use; however, you may have a different process; and that is what works for you. An important thing to remember is that when you discover that a person shares a common ancestral line with you, that person might also share another family line as well. This is an ongoing work in progress.
Shared ancestor hints are there as a tool for members who have DNA tested with Ancestry. If you have done genealogical research for your family lines, and you are confident it is reliable, accurate, and there is no conflicting information in your family tree, then the shared ancestor hints are the “icing on the cake” for you, as are any of your close matches where you have found a MRCA.
Ancestry is a website that I use daily in researching family. It is worth the expense, and I work to learn to use the tools provided by Ancestry. I also use the free website FamilySearch.org, but not as often as Ancestry. Genealogical research and DNA testing is a continual learning process, and I am willing to spend the time to learn. To get the most from Ancestry DNA testing learning about the shared ancestor hints and the other tools available is important in researching family lines. I want to have the correct family in my tree, and that should be the goal of each family historian.