Examining my NADs.

Yours truly.  Picture by uncle Frank Dennis.

In her blog A Family Tapestry Jacqui Stevens asks the question: “Who are all these people?” about the names thrown up by Ancestry’s combined DNA and tree matching facility. These are known as New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs). Jacqui explained that she was trying to make the links work, but, like me, was more often than not thwarted by absence of connecting individuals in contributors public family trees.

My DNA matches identified by Ancestry include 45 4th cousins or closer. The first two have, respectively, no tree and so small a tree that finding connections is impossible. The third has over 5,000 names and 6 common surnames, but none of these connects to my tree, even though there are 7 generations.

So what are the probabilities? Well, I am neither rocket scientist, nor mathematician, but it seems to me that the people who have pursued their family history to the 6th or 8th generation, and correctly, and who have published them on Ancestry (does anyone know how many?) as a proportion of the general population is infinitessimal. For example, the overwhelming majority of people in my family tree, Andrew’s Kindred, are from five counties in the English Midlands; combined population about 8,600,000 in 2011. In my tree there are 3,176; not even one tenth of one percent, and that is without those who have died in the last 450 years! The probability, therefore, of my finding someone with common ancestors is vanishingly small.

Under the New Ancestor Discoveries beta system I have so far been alerted to just one NAD. This is Nancy Ann Coatney 1833-1868 and, confidence is 71%. Firstly, there is no Coatney in my Andrew’s Kindred. Second, the “Journey” map is confined mainly to the American mid-west, with events between 1833 and 1900. Third, the only common surname is Toon, and it looks like a wild goose chase.

However, a search of Ancestry public trees eventually throws up Henry Toon, born 1620 at Osgathorpe, Leicestershire, and all the way back to 1500, but the sources are all Ancestry Family Trees, which means veracity cannot be checked. It appears there must be a link to my 4th great grandmother, Mary Toon (1754-) and her father John, born about 1729 at Whitwick, Leicestershire. The relevant records are not available online, except via FamilySearch Genealogies, but the various bits of tree are not convincing. A wild goose-chase, indeed!

It is quite remarkable, then, that Ancestry has thrown up two concrete DNA matches, each demonstrated by lineal ancestry showing the routes to the common ancestor, one to my 4th great grandparents Thomas Hogg and Catherine Goacher, the other to 5th great grandmother Sarah Whitehead. In each case the DNA analysis confidence level is “moderate”, about 35% and 25%, respectively.

There is a third DNA match to Surfpaddler where I managed to fill the gap, by a zigzag route, to my 5th great grandfather Henry Dennis (1718-1793).

What have I learned from this? Actually, very little. Yes, if I purchase parish records for some villages in Leicestershire I might prove the link to Toon at Osgathorpe, which would add more ancestry from the edge of the Danelaw, but the names have no clear link to Danish, and it appears there were no Dennis baptisms in Osgathorpe.

Before I had DNA information, I discovered in an email exchange, that another descendant of my third great grandfather (William Dennis, 1754-) also had RBF, as did his children. This helped me to towards the view that “we are all Vikings”, as, I am told, Dad’s uncle Jack used to say.

That said, for my father to have had such genes, his parents must both have carried them, and it seems that at least one line of my ancestors must also have shared RBF genes. According to the information about genetic backgounds on Ancestry and other sources, such as Scotland’s DNA, it appears that this line goes all the way back to the genetic mutations for blue eyes about 6,000 – 10,000 years ago and for red hair about 30,000 or 70,000 years ago, depending on which of two ancient women I inherit from. In that regard, it appears that I have some relationships to Queen Boudica, who hit back at the Romans, Richard Lionheart, and Tudor monarchs Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but they are lost in the mists of time.

Moral: wait for Ancestry to come up with concrete connections.

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