My AncestryDNA Ancestors Who Are NOT my Ancestors

AncestryDNA does a matching process that checks the gedcoms (family tree pedigrees) of your DNA matches to see if there are any names on those trees that match each other.  When matching names are found, AncestryDNA says, “Hey, we found out you are descended from so-and-so.”  The problem is, that so far, they have not revealed any ancestors for my mother or father with this matching process.  They have revealed a cousin connection with most of the supposed Ancestors.  You see, on up the family tree of the match there usually is a name that might match one of my ancestors.    The possibilities of unveiling an unknown ancestor and breaking down a brick wall are there, but it’s vague and unpredictable.

When AncestryDNA began this new matching process—which is really a ploy to get more particpants to pay for tests, but AncestryDNA needs to pay its bills too—my father was a match with a man named Samuel Bemis Merrill and Elizabeth G. Runyon.  Now, my father’s DNA does not match his Norton cousins, so we know that there is a mystery man out there on dad’s family tree.  There is no hint of who that mystery man might be.  So, these supposed ancestors get me excited that maybe Ancestry has located a name of a family that might be related on this mystery line.  Alas, all they have done is reaffirm   some matches are distant cousins.  In the case of the Merrills, AncestryDNA also listed their daughter, Elthura, and her husband Rueben Collett as ancestors.  So, I checked into the ancestry.

The attached family trees showed the parents of Samuel Bemis Merrill and Elizabeth Runyon.  Their births were in New Jersey.  On dad’s DNA test, any matches with New Jersey as an ancestor’s birthplace almost always links that match to his known ancestors, the Stouts of Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  (For Mom, New Jersey indicates a connection to the Rapalje family.) The pedigrees on the matches’ profile pages did not link to any Stouts, but other online family trees show that Elizabeth G. Runyon’s paternal grandfather’s mother was a Stout from Hunterdon County, NJ.

Recapping this research: No connection to the Colletts or Merrills, but definitely related to the Runyon through her grandmother Sarah Stout—this match is going to be in the 8th cousin or more distant range, but not my ancestor.

It’s great that Ancestry can link dad to a match and with a little bit of searching, I can find that common ancestor, or at least the common family.  It’s deceptive that they call these people “ancestors.”  They are just cousins—and the site does say that the people might only be related in the fine print.  I would word this differently!

So, if you are using AncestryDNA, beware these new ancestors they have found for you.  And if you are not sure about your ancestors, I can help you figure that out!


2 thoughts on “My AncestryDNA Ancestors Who Are NOT my Ancestors

  1. Let me say that I understand your point completely, but offer a small quibble. If you are a match to someone, say a Runyon, who is a descended from a Stout in the Richard and Penelope Stout line, and you are also from the Richard and Penelope line, you have a common ancestor with the person descended from the Runyons. It might be Richard and Penelope, or one of their children.

    Ancestry is trying to make it seem like genealogy and genetics are going to make this easy, and it’s not. You still need real work! Please understand I do understand what you are saying, and have spent time chasing genetic connections that take me back (eventually) to an already well documented ancestor. But maybe eventually it will clear up one or two mysteries.


    • Correct, Kate, there is a common ancestor on up the family tree–probably with all these “New Ancestors,” but Ancestry stated in very large font, “We found New Ancestors for you” and they were not ancestors, just distant cousins. Initially I was mad that Ancestry would make such a statement that was outright wrong. After doing some research on these supposed New Ancestors, I was able to make connections with a group of people with a common family name, and a brick wall at the same place where I am. So, in a way, Ancestry just proved that–we all have a brick wall! Still, it was good to make the connections with this group and, through DNA, we expect to have a breakthrough.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.
      Dann Norton


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