One of the families I wanted to work on with a new set of AncestryDNA results has the last name of Smith. While the trees of submitters can contain errors, they can also contain clues and suggestions. Only being able to search by surnames is a serious limitation, particularly when the last name is common.  It does not help that in my case the family’s most specific location of origin is Virginia.

I realize that one needs to augment DNA research with paper research. But there are times when there simply are not as many records as we would like or those records are not detailed. The specific Smith family I’m researching left Virginia for Illinois in the 1840s with parents who died in the 1850s and left one child who died as a pauper around 1906. These are not the types of people who leave detailed records.

Families of this type are often the reason why many of us perform DNA tests. Some of us do it to find birth parents or adopted grandparents, etc. Some of us do it to find people of lower socio-economic background who were dropped off by UFOs in the mid-19th century. We need more effective search tools of our results.

It’s not just Smiths and it is not just common names. It is even a problem with other names as well. Half of my ancestral matches have significant ancestry from Ostfriesland, Germany. Habben may not be the most common name in the United States, but it’s a fairly common Ostfriesen name. Searching for it in my matches is problematic as well.

And Jones and Brown? That’s another problem.

Sometimes it feels like AncestryDNA gives whatever they want and they hope we will just be happy.






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