I might not have been going about it the wrong way, but I needed to change my approach. Even if I did not change my approach, I needed to realize that there were other approaches.

Part of my reason for doing the autosomal DNA test at Ancestry was to find potential matches to my Irish ancestors. I realize my Irish connection is my strict paternal line (at least to my great-grandfather), but my Irish immigrants are not that far back (my great-great-grandparents Samuel and Annie (Murphy) Neill who married in 1864 are my immigrant Irishmen) and I didn’t want to limit myself to others who were also strict male-line Neill descendants. After all I have Irish family who descend from my great-great-grandmother’s family as well and an autosomal test would potentially find matches to her family also.

There are other descendants of Samuel and Annie (Murphy) Neill in AncestryDNA. There are at least ten of us. Most of them have communicated with me enough so that I know how how they are related.  The others I have deduced from our shared connections, their name or username, and what information (sometimes limited) they have in their tree. My hope was to find a shared match with one of these other Samuel and Annie descendants who was actually a more distant relative–distant enough that the connection had to be with one of Samuel and Annie’s Irish forebears but through a different line of descent than Samuel or Annie.

That was the hope. That was the plan.

There was one problem.

Three of Samuel and Annie’s children married into the same family–the Rampley family. Son Charles married Fannie Rampley (my great-grandparents), daughter Sarah married James Rampley, and daughter Mary married Louis Rampley. Fannie and Louis were siblings and James was their first cousin. Because of this, my shared matches with other descendants of Sarah (Neill) Rampley and Mary (Neill) Rampley included other members of the larger extended Rampley family. Distant matches that I shared with Sarah and Mary’s descendants didn’t have to be long-long Irish relatives. In fact most of them were other descendants of earlier generations of the Rampley family and families into which the Rampleys had married.

And those Rampley, et al. families, having often been some what large and having been in the United States for some time, had a lot of descendants. Many of those descendants have tested in AncestryDNA. And while that’s great for working on those families, it means I have to sort them out when I’m looking at other parts of my family tree.

So in my attempt to find descendants in my DNA matches of earlier members of my Irish families, I focused on shared DNA matches with individuals who were descendants of Samuel and Annie (Murphy) Neill, but who were from children other than Charles, Sarah, and Mary. That cut down the number of possibilities, but there were a few. We will call them the non-CSM Neill descendants.

The problem is that my shared DNA matches with non-CSM descendants were only other descendants of Samuel and Annie. We had no shared matches at all to whom I was more distantly related. None. It was as if we were our own little pool of descendants in the AncestryDNA database with no other kin to be found.

So much for that. 

Then I decided to search the trees of my DNA matches for a tree that had a place of birth of NewtownLimavady, Ireland. That’s where Samuel (and his brother Joseph) indicated they were from when they immigrated to Canada in 1864.

And there was hit. One of the trees of my matches had an ancestor with a place of birth of Limavady. And that person (we’ll call her Nellie) had a Neill (McNeill) in her tree.

I had seen Nellie’s tree before when I first viewed my matches almost a year ago. She was a probable 4th-6th cousin. Nellie’s tree then had no Irish locations more specific than Ireland and while she did have Neills/McNeills in her tree, our shared DNA matches included none of my own Neill family. Given the common nature of the Neill/O’Neill/McNeill name in Irish pedigrees, I didn’t even think too much about our sharing it–especially when I looked at the rest of her tree. Her tree also had a number of 19th century German immigrants and some “blanks” ending in Indiana in the 1830s. I have a few of my own 19th century German immigrants whose extended family is not well known–we could have easily have genetically connected there. The relationship could just as easily have been on one of her Indiana families which could have easily connected to one of mine. Nothing about the tree or the match stood out as special and at the time I was trying to “pick the low-hanging fruit” in terms of figuring out my matches. Nellie got put in the “can’t figure it out–not certain” pile and I went on. The only thing I knew was that she was a paternal relative.

What I could have done at the time (but didn’t) was to have looked at the matches Nellie and I shared to see if their trees shared any families or locations.  Any shared connections they had with each other would have suggested how we were connected, but further work would have to have been done. As I was sorting out the easy matches at that point, I did not do that. That analysis is also requisite on the submitters having trees attached to their DNA test results.

We’ll continue our discussion of Nellie in an upcoming post–including the predicted relationship from the DNA, the probable relationship from her tree and how consistent those relationships really are. We will also see why she probably doesn’t match any of my other Neill relatives. A few reminders from where we are thus far:

  • Go back and search again for locations in your matches. Even if the number of matches has not really changed, they may have updated their trees.
  • Take notes when “rough sorting” your matches. You will not remember why you thought someone connected in a certain fashion when you go back and look at that match in a few weeks or months.
  • Be aware of multiple relationships in your tree. Also keep in mind that there may be multiple relationships with individuals that you are not aware about.

Join me for my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.






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