I’ve been working on DNA matches at AncestryDNA in an attempt to make discoveries and validate connections on the family of my Irish immigrant ancestors, Samuel and Anne (Murphy) Neill. The natives of Ireland are believed to have been from different parts of Ireland who married in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1864. Samuel had one brother, Joseph, who immigrated with him, but that brother (who had several children) has no living descendants. I’ve been fortunate that my AncestryDNA results caused me to confirm another brother (Alexander) of Samuel and Joseph who remained in Ireland. The Neill brothers were children of a John Neill who lived in and around NewtownLimavady in Northern Ireland.
My hope is to locate DNA connections who are probably from the family of Anne (Murphy) Neill. So far that has not happened. Now that I’ve located descendants of John Neill who are not descendants of Samuel, I’m hoping to use those shared matches (and unshared matches) to ferret out some matches who may be related to me via Anne (Murphy) Neill.
My plan of attack was to compare the DNA matches I share with other descendants of Samuel Neill with the shared matches I share with other descendants of Samuel’s brother, Alexander. This method of comparison is not perfect and is not fullproof. Matches that I share with Samuel and Anne’s descendants and with Alexander’s descendants are very likely descendants of their father John. Matches that I share with Samuel and Anne’s descendants that I do not share with Alexander’s descendants are potentially connected via DNA to Anne (Murphy) Neill.
Potentially is the key word.
At the risk of oversimplifying there could be “Neill DNA” from John Neill (and his wife) that got passed down through Samuel to me (and other and some of Samuel’s descendants) that did not get passed down to Alexander’s descendants. So those matches that I share with other of Samuel and Anne’s descendants but don’t share with Alexander’s descendants could be Neill descendants. They don’t have to be connected via DNA to Anne (Murphy) Neill.
And in my case, there’s another problem. Samuel’s son Charlie Neill is my great-grandfather. He married Fannie Rampley. Two of Charlie’s siblings also married into the Rampley family (one of Charlie’s sisters married Fannie’s brother and another sister of Charlie’s married Fannie’s first cousin). So if I’m working with shared matches of one of those descendants, the shared matches we have that are not shared with Alexander Neill’s descendants could also be connected via the Rampley family.
And when I do all this sorting and hypothesizing, I don’t forget the most important task of all:
Writing down my process–what shared matches I used and how I sorted those matches. Tracking my process is essential.