Sifting the Murphys from the Neills

I’ve written about the Neills and Murphys before, but we will revisit them in the context of my DNA results and analysis. Very early in my research, I knew that my Irish immigrant Samuel Neill had one brother, Joseph. Born in the 1830s, the men settled in St. Albans Township, Hancock County, Illinois. Joseph and his wife had several children, but had no grandchildren. Samuel and his wife, Annie Murphy, left a number of descendants. Tracing Samuel and Annie’s Irish origins was one of the reasons I had a DNA test performed.

Several known descendants of Samuel and Annie tested on AncestryDNA. That was helpful in analyzing my results. That analysis is complicated because three of Samuel and Annie’s children (including their son who is my direct ancestor) married grandchildren of the same couple, James and Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley. This couple died in Walker Township (adjacent to St. Albans where the Neills lived) in the 1880s. The Rampley connection is close enough that it impacts the shared matches I share with many Neill descendants. Fortunately a handful of the other descendants of the Neills who have tested are not Rampley descendants.

Consequently, I’m focusing on analyzing shared DNA matches I have with those known descendants of Samuel and Annie Neill who are not Rampley descendants. Some of these shared matches have trees–most do not. Most of the trees are extremely short. One tree was detailed enough that it allowed me to document (combined with digital records and DNA results) an additional sibling for Samuel and Joseph: Alexander. He stayed in Ireland (remaining in the NewtownLimavady are) and died in Ireland, but had descendants who immigrated to the United States around the turn of the twentieth century.

When I discovered Alexander (who also died in the early 20th century), I worked on documenting as many of his descendants as I could. I even stopped looking at my DNA results while I did this. Locating Alexander’s descendants as completely as possible would help me to analyze those “Neill matches” who had short trees and were not communicative. I suspected that some of them were descendants of Alexander, based upon the large number of grandchildren he had. It took time, but when I returned to the shared matches after working on Alexander’s descendants, I was able to put some of those “short-treed” matches in the “descendant of Alexander Neill” category.

Samuel is my great-great-grandfather. That helps me to measure the potential relationship with shared DNA matches.

As I was able to put matches in the “known descendant of Alexander Neill” category, I was able to look at the matches I shared with those individuals and see if they were on my list of shared matches with known descendants of Samuel and Annie (Murphy) Neill.  I could then focus on

shared matches with Samuel and Annie who were not matches with “known descendants of Samuel’s brother Alexander.”

Those individuals–particularly the ones whose shared DNA suggested our connection was probably more distant than shared second great-grandparents–are potentially connected to me through Annie Murphy. There’s no guarantee that these DNA matches to Samuel/Annie Neill’s descendants who are not matches to his brother’s descendants are Annie’s biological matches and not Neill descendants.

  • it could be that they simply didn’t get the same DNA “chunk” that Alexander’s other descendants got
  • it could be that the segment of Annie DNA I have is so small that it’s not significant

But those people are a start.



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