Many view Ancestry.com’s “New Ancestor Discoveries” as so much bunk. I’m one of them, or was one. Ancestry has presented me with 22 Discoveries that aren’t in my tree. Trouble is, my tree is full for 6+ generations. Granted, there could be some non-paternal events hiding in there somewhere. But 22 out of 31? Not a single one of the 22 shares a surname with anyone in my pedigree! Like I say; I have my doubts about New Ancestor Discoveries.
While I don’t think I am his descendant, I do happen to know we’re related. I’ve always known I’m a 2nd cousin of the mother of Joseph Smith, prophet and founder of the Church. That makes Joseph F. Smith my 4th cousin (5-times removed).
This chart was produced by BYU’s Relative Finder.
I started to entertain the notion that Ancestry’s New Ancestor Discoveries was confusing cousins with ancestors. Then it hit me: read the fine print. Sure enough, the fine print reads, “These are potential new ancestors or relatives who are not already in your family tree.” (Emphasis added.)
Ancestry has found 18 Joseph F. Smith descendants (or tightly related family groups of descendants) who share enough DNA that Ancestry has called them a DNA Circle. As a cousin, I share significant amounts of DNA with 3 of the 18. But that doesn’t make me a descendant. I have a feeling the same thing applies to my other 21 “Ancestors.”
Ancestry knows they have a problem.
“As DNA Circles get larger and more DNA matches are delivered, more people are connecting into the DNA Circles, which results in more New Ancestor Discoveries, but with a decrease in accuracy,” Ancestry said in a statement. “We are updating the criteria to make it more conservative and increase the accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries.” The changes are said to “significantly decrease” the number of Discoveries while increasing the accuracy. Before, you had to match just two members of a DNA circle to be considered a “Descendant.” Now, you must match at least three. And for circles with more than 15 members, you must match 20% of them.
For more information, see “AncestryDNA: Improving Accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries” on the Ancestry Blog.