A couple of weeks ago, the folks at Ancestry.com decided to change the way they presented our dna results to us. They cut my dna matches from 6000 to 2500, and cut some of my favorite matches, some I had “proved” with historical research! I’ve been meaning to ask if they will be adding more as they move forward, I assume they will, just like they did before. They have also given us circles of relatives now. I have eight circles!
From Ancestry we learn:
“Finding evidence that you’re a descendant of a particular ancestor is one of the powerful applications of DNA testing. AncestryDNA allows you to leverage all the information gleaned from your matches to show genetic evidence for the ancestors in your family tree. Some people advocate manually comparing segments of shared DNA to allow two or more people to infer whether DNA has been passed down by a common ancestor. Instead, AncestryDNA has created DNA Circles to leverage a massive collection of family trees and the DNA of thousands of AncestryDNA members. DNA Circles can provide you with more evidence to accomplish what chromosome browsers can do, but more effectively.
How do DNA Circles work?
A chromosome browser may help you start to find evidence about whether you and another person are descendants of a particular ancestor; however, it might not give you all the evidence you need. Because of its limitations, it’s almost impossible for you to find enough matching segments with other users to have confidence that you have a common ancestor. To solve this problem, we created DNA Circles, where we collect evidence across millions of trees and DNA from all AncestryDNA members. Because of this power of numbers, the evidence that you really did inherit DNA from the same ancestor as everyone else in the circle can increase. DNA Circles also have some added benefits.
We use DNA matches and indirect connections
We create DNA Circles around a particular ancestor, rather than around matching segments of DNA. This is what allows us to achieve the power of numbers.
Each DNA Circle has people who all have an ancestor in their trees and who share DNA anywhere in the genome with someone else in the circle. If one of your DNA matches shares DNA with other people who seem to be descendants of an ancestor, the evidence that they are descendants of the ancestor increases—and so does yours.”
Back towards the beginning of this genealogical journey, I reported that while I knew that my great-grandfather, Walter Thomas Houchins, was married to Evaline/Evelyn Langhorne, and I knew that his mother was Nancy J. Houchins, a single mother shown in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses of Patrick County, Virginia. I could not determine his paternity. He listed a father on his marriage certificate as you can see in this blog post I wrote about him earlier. We have proved him wrong. A father is listed on his death certificate, again wrong.
When all data was collected and given to a professional genealogist, she said she couldn’t be 100 % sure, but she suspected Walter Houchin’s father might be William W. Stoops who lived on the farm next to hers, who also worked for the postal service as she did, and where we find my grandfather living when he is 16!
As it turns out, Nancy J. Houchins married William W. Stoops in 1880, when my great-grandfather Walter was 26 years old! William W. Stoops mother had died in 1850, before the Civil War in which William fought. His father died in 1878, then he married in 1880, did that have anything to do with their not marrying? Nancy’s mother was still living in 1880 but her father had died twenty years earlier! There were many variables that might have affected their choices.
I continued to search for clues always, as I’ve worked on my genealogy all this time, then lo and behold….here comes DNA circles, and I have a Cheely Family Circle! I had never even heard of the name Cheely! But surely enough, ancestry says my dna matches that of Cuthbert Cheely from two other sources and three family trees! They say, Cuthbert Cheely is my 4th great grandfather, that his daughter Elizabeth Cheely is my third great grandmother, and that William W. Stoops is her son and my 2nd great grandfather, the father of Walter Houchins! I was incredulous! Could it be that easy? Had ancestry just broken through a brick wall for me? Wow! But I am/was skeptical. So I investigated.
It said I matched one person who’s name was given as HesterBros14K. This was our shared ancestral line: (quoted from ancestry)
William W. Stoops
Katherine Steptoe Houchins
Margaret Steptoe Kerse
Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser
Charles Tilman (Cheely) Pullen
Mattie Corine Pullen
James Eleaney Cheely
Burl Rex Cheely
I went hunting for the trees from my two matches. Neither tree had any Stoops in them, what?!
So I entered Stoops in my dna surname matches search engine, and I got a match! I had done this before, with no matches found! But now I had a match, one S. A. Stoops! His Stoops matched the Stoops who lived next door to my grandfather, Walter Houchins, so he was definitely a match. The next thing I did was check my brother’s ydna matches on FTDNA, and yes, he matched one Stoops also. Unfortunately, I could not trace that Stoops at all. It was another brick wall, but certainly a viable hint!
With ancestry.com producing a dna circle linking my dna to William W. Stoops, the Houchins, and Elizabeth Cheely, William’s mother, I don’t see how we can deny that William W. Stoops is indeed the father of Walter Houchins, our great-grandfather. Considering that my brother’s ydna also matches a Stoops, any Stoops lends weight to the match by surname and dna. I feel about 92% confident that William W. Stoops, a Cival War veteran, is our 2nd great-grandfather making Elizabeth Cheely his mother our third great-grandmother. If they feel reciprocal, it will be very nice to add new cousins from the Stoops and Cheely families!