Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries Feature Revisit and Update

Well as most of you who read this blog know recently I blasted the Ancestry DNA tool release of the "New Ancestor Discoveries" feature on this blog (see previous post). After taking some time to sort through the debris field of this new tool and getting a few more of these matches on two of my DNA testers pages I can now say that there "may" still be "some" hope for this new tool after all. Honestly one good set of matches out of 15 still doesn't give me a real warm and fuzzy feeling.

While I am still not a fan of this network centric DNA tool concept (read into this that I want a chromosome browser tool), out of all the mess that was the opening week for this new "tool," including what I consider the promotion of this new feature that bordered on false advertising, I have actually used it to bust wide open a very long standing ancestral female brick wall line. So while the initial promotion still gets a failing grade, the new tool gets a qualified "C-."

As it turns out and now Ancestry has admitted in some of their material these "New Ancestor Discoveries" are not necessarily "new ancestors" in your chart after all.

From one of their question mark menu's:

Possible New Ancestors & Relatives
Once you've taken your AncestryDNA test and received your results, keep an eye out for "New Ancestor Discoveries" on your results page. To find these new potential ancestors and relatives, we compare your DNA to that of other AncestryDNA members who have already built their family trees. And, New Ancestor Discoveries can happen all the time as more people use AncestryDNA. Clicking on the photo of your potential new ancestor or relative will lead you on the path to discovering amazing new details of your family story as you determine how they may fit into your family tree.
My fellow genetic genealogy blogger Roberta over at DNAeXplained has had a similar experience and her results are noted at this link: http://dna-explained.com/2015/04/07/testing-ancestrys-amazing-new-ancestor-dna-claim/
So let's back up and look at what I got from my father's DNA testing page and this "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches tool.
Initially, there were only two of these "new ancestor discoveries" presented (which is what I based my initial criticism on -- Berryman Isom Jones and his wife Licenia Watkins. I crawled, dug around the net, banged my head against the wall, searched, analyzed, researched, banged my head against the wall again, and no matter how I cut it neither a crowbar or dynamite was going to fit this couple any where as ancestors in my tree. There was already at that possible generation indicated for these potential ancestors to much proven via existing DNA testing and a great supporting paper trail for these folks to even remotely fit.
A couple of days later, after much criticism Ancestry dropped their little bomb shell on their blog written by the man who did the introductory video to this new feature Mr. Kenny Freestone. I call this the dirty little truth revealed -- "these may not be ancestors" at all. Duh, hey Kenny, ya think?
You can read his post at http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/09/new-ancestor-discoveries-clues-not-proof-to-your-past/, but let me pick a couple of the more notable passages.
"Last week we announced an exciting new AncestryDNA feature called “New Ancestor Discoveries.” The response to this feature launch has been very interesting to watch—we’ve received lots of feedback breathless with praise because we “proved” a relationship, and some feedback that dismisses the feature because it does not “prove” relationships. As we consider feedback from both of these extreme positions, it seems appropriate to explain more clearly what this feature is and is not."
Well it least I did not say "it does not “prove” relationships." I said it doesn't prove ancestors as you claimed in your promotional material including the video introducing this feature.
Still quoting from Mr. Freestone's blog post (italics/bold text are my doing).
What is a New Ancestor Discovery?
  • What it is: A New Ancestor Discovery is a suggestion that points you to a potential new ancestor or relative—someone that may not be in your family tree previously. This beta launch is our first step toward an entirely new way to make discoveries, and a way to expand how we do family history.
  • What it isn’t: This is not proof, or a guarantee, of a new ancestor. They’re called New Ancestor Discoveries, and many may be your actual ancestors. Some will be other relatives that fit somewhere on your family tree, and some will be people that you may not be directly related to.
  • It’s a starting point to further research. We’ll show you a New Ancestor Discovery if you share significant amounts of DNA with multiple members of a DNA Circle—which means you might also be related to the ancestor that the DNA Circle is built around. These hints can be a great starting point for your research and help you connect to other family members you didn’t know you had.
You know I wish you would have said that from the very beginning Mr. Freestone. It would have saved me and many others hours of research trying to figure out how to get those people in our family trees. So promotion of this new tool still gets an "F."
Now for the silver lining in all this. My father's DNA page has since picked up three more of these "new ancestor discoveries" people. The original couple and one of my dad's new ones still has not panned out to date.
But one couple did! Up front I will tell you that if I had not done some paper trail research on my one known ancestor (John Hurt) several years ago in the South Carolina state archives, this match might have gone unnoticed as well. No records available at Ancestry helped me uncover this until now missing wife of John Hurt, my 4th great grandmother. The initial research done in South Carolina made all the difference in the world. So with this DNA circle match and the paper research, it all ultimately let me knock down a long standing female ancestral brick wall.

The description given for John Lynch was my first good clue on where to look in my tree to see where he might fit.

"John Lynch was born on January 24, 1780, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was married in March 1806 in his hometown. He died on March 5, 1863, in Gainesville, Texas, having lived a long life of 83 years."

Given the range of relationship that the others in DNA circle had to him, I only had one line that runs through Spartanburg SC. I knew that we had to be dealing with a family associated with my John Hurt, a paternal 4th great grandfather. As it turns out these people above weren't ancestors, but in fact this Jhn Lynch was a 4th great grand uncle and his wife.

Once I opened up one of the trees to a match in the circle and I saw who John Lynch's mother was, alarm bells started to ring. I had seen that name before in the research I had done in South Carolina. That name was Margaret McCarter. As it turns out based on DNA testing and the paper trail she is my 5th great grandmother and her second husband - John Lynch is my 5th great grandfather.

Here is some of the info provided by the paper trail.

Taken from SPARTANBURG COUNTY/DISTRICT SOUTH CAROLINA DEED ABSTRACTS BOOKS A - T 1785 - 1827 ( 1752 - 1827) by Albert Bruce Pruitt.
BOOK K p. 344 Jun. 26, 1806

Margaret MCCARTER (Spartanburgh) to son-in-law John HURT (same); for love and affection give a Negro girl Nutty (or Mutty). Witness Alexander MCCARTER, Mary MCCARTER, and James VERNON. Signed Margaret MCCARTER's mark. Wit. oath Jun. 27, 1806 James VERNON, Alexander MCCARTER, and Mary MCCARTER to Isham FOSTER. Rec. Jul. 7, 1806

BOOK L p. 290 - 292 May 6, 1808
John HURT (Spartanburgh) to James VERNON (same); for $100 sold 50 ac on N fork of branch of Tygar R; border: S - Alexander MCCARTER, E - James VERNON, and N - line mentioned below; part of 160 ac grant to John ORR but presently owned by John HURT; except land between "head of pond" and a line to N fork of Tygar R. Witness William PERRIN, Andrew VERNON, and Moses RICHARDSON. Signed John HURT. Wit. oath May 7, 1808 William PERRIN to Isham FOSTER. Rec. Jun. 24, 1808 Dower renounced Ester HURT to Isham FOSTER May 7, 1808.

BOOK L p. 309 Jan. 12, 1808
Margaret MCCARTER (Spartanburgh) to Mary MCCARTER (Greenville Dist.); for $1 sold a Negro girl Fanny Witness William PERRIN and John HURT. Signed Margaret MCCARTER's mark. Wit. oath Jul. 4, 1808 John HURT to Danl WILBANKS. Rec. Aug. 8, 1808

BOOK N p. 98 - 99 Nov. 28, 1811
John HURT (Spartanburgh) to Andrew B. FLEMING (same); for $10 sold 140 ac on N side of S branch of N Tygar R; part of grant to John ORR; border: W - Alxr. MCCARTER, E & N - J JORDAN, and S - J VERNON. Witness Joseph HURT, Henry HUTCHESON, and James VERNON. Signed John HURT. Wit. oath Mar. 15, 1814 Henry HUTCHESON to John CHAPMAN. Rec. Apr. 6, 1812. Dower renounced Nov. 28, 1811 Ester HURT to Michl MILLER. BOOK N p. 157 - 159 Oct. 22, 1811
Once all the pieces were put into place, this pretty much was a slam dunk. So when you look at these "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches on your Ancestry DNA test page, do not look at them as ancestors only, but broaden that a bit to aunts/uncles or even close cousins. Pay attention to the others in the circle and see how they are related and that may help you place them on your family tree.

Bottom line, thank you Ancestry for helping me bust through a major brick wall. Now help me figure out who the other 13 "New Ancestor Discoveries" matches are!