When I started researching the Newell family of “The Dock”, Bareneed, Newfoundland there were no DNA test; subsequently, when DNA tests started to be used in genealogical research there was a feeling that DNA would solve all the mysteries but like most new technologies it simply deepened them.
Background on my Family
This paragraph presents a brief recap of what I know about the origins of my family; more complete information on my family history can be found under “The Dock” Tab on this Web Site. My earliest fully documented ancestor is my ggg-grandfather Philip Newell (AKA Noel, Nule) who was married in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland in 1784. I have an original copy (dated 1820) of Philip’s grant to his land in ‘The Dock’ , Bareneed, Newfoundland that references his having cleared the land in the 1780s. There are also other references to Philip in other government and church records dating from this period. There is also some indirect evidence (from Philip’s marriage record) that his father’s names was James. Philip is my earliest fully documented ancestor; however, there were Newells and Noels in Newfoundland as early as the 17th century. There is no direct evidence regarding Philip’s origins but there are family stories that suggest that our family may have come from the Channel Islands (the Noels of Harbour Grace also have the same story). However, there are other stories in our family suggesting England and even Wales. Many families from the Conception Bay area of Newfoundland trace their roots back to southwest England, the Channel Islands , Cornwall and Ireland.
Background on DNA Test
I have tested my DNA with National Geographic DNA , Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA and YSEQ, and these test have answered some questions but opened up many new questions. Before I start discussing my results I need to provide some background information on DNA test. There are currently three types of DNA that are generally used for genealogical research.
The first type is Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which is found outside the nucleus of the cell. This type of DNA is found in the human egg but not in sperm so it is passed down almost unchanged from a mother to her children, allowing you to trace your maternal ancestry. Males have their mothers mtDNA but do not pass it on to their children. National Geographic identified my mtDNA haplogroup (more on haplogroups under Y-DNA) as U5B2A1B which is associated with NW Europe (UK, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia). Since the focus of this Web Site is on the Newell family, I won’t dwell on the results from my mitochondrial DNA test, which relate to my mothers side, but there is one interesting story regarding a distant relative; Cheddar Man, a Mesolithic individual from prehistoric Britain dating to 9,150 years before the present, was determined to have belonged to Haplogroup U5 the parent group of my mt-DNA sub-group.
The other type of DNA used in genealogy is contained in the cell nucleus and is packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes. For DNA based genealogical research this nucleic DNA is divided into autosomal and Y-DNA depending on which chromosomes it is packaged in. The first 22 chromosome pairs are the autosomal chromosomes. In these, each member of the pair has the same structure: however, in the 23rd pair (the sex chromosomes) the structure differs depending on your sex. If you are female you have a pair of X chromosomes; however, if you are male you have a X and a Y. The Y is smaller than the X so the two members of the pair differ. Whether you are male or female is determined by your fathers sperm which can contain either X or Y. If a sperm containing a X fertilizes the egg then you become female (XX) but if a sperm containing a Y fertilizes the egg then you become male (XY). DNA from the Y member of the 23rd pair of chromosomes in males is the other type of nucleic DNA commonly used in genealogical research. This Y-DNA only comes from your father and was passed down from his father like the family name in European cultures. Females do not have Y DNA so they cannot do this test. When genealogist first started using DNA they initially focused on Y-DNA since it was ideal for tracking the European family names (male ancestors). However, recent developments in the analysis of autosomal DNA and the development of large autosomal DNA databases by organizations like Ancestry DNA have resulted in autosomal DNA becoming the most common type of DNA used for genealogical research. Y-DNA and mt-DNA are still used especially for tracking longer term (> 6 generations) family roots. There is a in-depth review of my Y-DNA results in a separate section on Tracking the deep roots of my early Newell ancestors.
The Autosomal DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes (chromosomes 1-22) contain most of the DNA which determine how we look and function (the main exception is which sex we are, which is determined by the 23rd pair). In humans and most other complex organisms, one copy of each autosomal chromosome is inherited from the female parent and the other from the male parent. This explains why children inherit some of their traits from their mother and others from their father. Basically you randomly get half of your autosomal DNA from each parent who got half from each of theirs so you got approximately 1/4 of your DNA from each grandparent and 1/8 from each great grandparent. Test of autosomal DNA gives us a measure of the DNA we inherited from all of our ancestors but since it gets diluted in each generation it is less useful in identifying matching ancestors beyond 6 or 7 generations since the amount of DNA from each grandparent is so small (see Table).
|Common Ancestor||Number of each||Relationship||Common DNA|
|gg- gandparents||16||3rd cousin||6.3%|
Here is what Ancestry DNA says about matching 4th cousins:
Our analysis of your DNA predicts that the person you match with is probably your fourth cousin. The exact relationship however could vary. It could be a third cousin once removed, or perhaps a fifth or sixth cousin. For relationships this distant from you, there is greater statistical variation in our prediction. It’s most likely to be a fourth cousin type of relationship (which are separated by ten degrees or ten people), but the relationship could range from six to twelve degrees of separation. It’s interesting to note that (at this degree of separation) we are accurately able to predict only about 71% of the possible relatives that are out there—in other words there is a 29% chance that our DNA analysis can NOT recognize an actual relative of yours. One way to be more certain that the DNA testing captures as many relatives as possible is to have multiple members of your immediate family tested.
The actual percent and location of DNA inherited from each parent can vary and so there are other methods (e.g. centiMorgans) that can be used to measure DNA connections (see: https://isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_statistics).
My Autosomal DNA Results
I recently tested my autosomal DNA with Ancestry DNA. The Ancestry site allows you to search their database for DNA matches with other people who have tested their autosomal DNA with them. The closest matches with Newell in their tree were two 3rd cousins who are descendants of Nathaniel Newell of ‘The Dock’ (my 2X great uncle). I did not find any first cousins which is not surprising since, to the best of my knowledge, none did the test. I have seven second cousin matches, most of which link to my maternal side; however, one was descended from my grandfather Albert Newell but this person did not post a tree and therefore did not appear in the name search. The search revealed 80+ 3rd cousin matches but only a quarter of these (including the two Newell matches) posted any significant family history (searchable names). My mother’s Snelgrove ancestors (her mother was Jessie Snelgrove from Bears’s Cove, Harbour Grace) represented the majority of the matches and had the had the most complete family trees. The higher proportion of matches from this family is partially due to the size of the family but most significantly can be trace back to the efforts of one person, Ethel Knight of Milwaukee, USA, who visited Newfoundland in the 1960s and did research on the Snelgrove family tree. I was a kid but can remember her visiting my Aunts (see following from St. John’s Daily News, Aug 28, 1963).
What this demonstrate is that the potential for finding DNA matches from any set of ancestors will depend not only on reproductive success (number of surviving children) but also on a history of genealogical research in that family.
One of the advantages of DNA is that it provides the possibility of identifying links to early Newells (not in my tree) or Newells from outside ‘The Dock’. In this regard 4th and 5th cousin matches are the most interesting since these are cases where I share a 3X or 4X grandparent with the match. On the Newell side my 3X great grandparents are Philip and Amy who are my earliest documented Newell ancestors. However, once we move into the area of 4th cousin matches the issues become more complicated. Everyone has 32 3X grandparents and in most cases only one of these was born with the family name (DNA). Calculating the number of descendants from each of the 16 sets of 3X grandparents is not a simple process but with a few assumptions (e.g. 3 surviving children per couple) it is is possible to estimate that after 6 generations my 16 pairs of 3X grandparents could potentially have 1000 descendants per couple (total of 16,000). It is, therefore, not surprising that Ancestry identified almost 1000 4th and 5th cousin DNA matches with me; however, the vast majority of these will not carry the Newell DNA. To assist with sorting matches I have prepared the following Table to show my ancestors by family name for each generation.
|Given Name and Relationship|
|Family Name||Parent||Grand||G Grand||GG Grand||GGG Grand|
|Paternal Ancestors||Snow ?||Frances||?|
|Dawe / Daw||Frances||?|
|Bushey or Bussey||Mary Ann||?|
|Cumby / Crummey||Harriett||?||?|
|Known vs Total||2 of 2||4 of 4||8 of 8||12 of 16||17 of 32|
For example, the Table shows that my parents are John Newell and Gladys Norman and their parents, my grand parents, were Albert Newell and Clara Andrews on the paternal side and Thomas Norman and Jessie Snelgrove on the maternal side. The row at the bottom shows the number of direct ancestors in each generation versus the number of these where I know their family name.
I know the family names of all my great grandparents but only 12 of my 16 2X grandparents and 17 of my 32 3X grandparents. The largest gap relates to the ancestors of my great grandparents Abraham Norman and his wife Harriett. What this means is that potentially I might only know the family name of the common ancestors for half of my 4th cousins. In addition, the relationship between myself and someone with matching DNA may be more distant than my ancestor suggests. For example, I found a number of 4th cousin matches for people with the Andrews, Wells and Dawe in their trees (my grandmother was Clara Andrews from Port de Grave , my great grandmother was Caroline Wells from Salmon Cove and my 2X grandmother was Frances Dawe / Daw of Port-de-Grave). The fact that these were 4th cousin matches and not 1st, 2nd or 3rd cousin matches indicates that the common ancestor for these matches was one or more generations earlier (e.g. someone descended from a uncle or aunt of one of these people).
The remainder of this document focuses on using my Ancestry DNA results to research my Newell ancestors; however, I have prepared several other documents that focus on other aspects of my DNA research (see screenshot of Web Page sub directories below).
These reports focus on:
using my Y-DNA results to research the deep (pre 1600) roots of my Newell Ancestors;
my non Newell paternal ancestors (e.g. Andrews, Porter, Batten);
my maternal ancestors ( e.g. Norman and Snelgrove)
and my research into William Freeman and his connections to my family.
When I searched my Ancestry DNA matches for people with the Newell name in their tree I found 128 4th and 5th cousin matches (this number will change over time) including several that have links to ‘The Dock’ and others with links to other communities in Newfoundland. The earliest match to a Newell from ‘The Dock’ was a 4th cousin match who is descended from James son of Philip. There were several matches to people with Newell ancestors from Clarke’s Beach, situated near ‘The Dock’, and this is not unexpected since some Newells from ‘The Dock’ moved there. There were also several links to people from Burnt Head situated on the opposite side of Bay-de-Grave from ‘The Dock’. There include a link to an Ann Newell (b. 1819) who married a Morgan at Burnt Head, but no indication that she was a Newell from Burnt Head (she could have been a Newell from ‘The Dock’). There were several links to Newell/Noel/Noall from Brigus / Georgetown including:
- several that trace back to Stephen Noall of Brigus born c. 1826;
- several that trace back to Patience Noel of Brigus, born c1804;
- several that trace back, though different family lines, to James Henry Noall of Brigus born 1836;
- several that trace back to late 19th century Roman Catholic Newells/Noels (see note below) from Turks Gut/Mary’s Vale/ Conception Harbour (all near Georgetown) and
- a possible but not confirmed link to Agnes Noel (b 1866) of Brigus, daughter of John Noal b 1837.
The published trees for many of the above link back to John Noel of Brigus born 1790s or his father; however, these links to John Noel may simply reflect assumptions based on the fact that he was the earliest documented Noel/Newell in Brigus. Comparing my DNA links to two of my 3rd cousins descended from brothers of my great grandfather suggest that the links to Stephen Noel likely do not come from a connection to the Newells from the Dock. My DNA links to Stephen likely come from my other Newfoundland ancestors (e.g. Norman, Wells, Daw, etc.) that have links to Brigus. The missing ancestors for Abraham Norman (see earlier discussion) may play an important role here since I suspect that they were from Brigus and may have included Brigus families such as Antle, Bartlett and Noel that intermarried with the Normans of Brigus. On the other had the DNA data suggest that James Henry Noall/Newell of Brigus is likely related to the Newells of the Dock. This James Henry is likely connected to the Roman Catholic Newells from Turks Gut/Mary’s Vale/ Conception Harbour / Georgetown. These Roman Catholic Newells from Conception Harbour fit with comments my father made regarding a distant member of the family that converted (perhaps through marriage) and moved to the Mary’s Vale/ Conception Harbour area.
There were several links to Newells from Pouch Cove but nothing definitive enough to prove a connection between the Newells of Pouch Cove and ‘The Dock’. Interestingly, the links to Pouch Cove are at the 4th cousin level (only one at 5th who was clearly further removed) suggesting the link might be through a child of Philip (or another non Newell ggg grandparent) and not from an earlier link. It is also interesting that I get links to Thornes of Pouch Cove (see below). There were also a number of 4th and 5th cousin links to Newells from St. John’s (not Pouch Cove) including a Margaret Newell (c.1790-1888) who married Richard Stanley Cross. Margaret was the daughter of Nicholas Newell and Frances Mugford who have been linked to the Pouch Cove Newells . Based on the matches and her date of birth I initially suspected that Margaret might be a a daughter of Philip; however, after further research on the ancestors of the matches I now suspect that the DNA connection is through their Crummey ancestors of Western Bay who are likely the same family as my Comby / Cumby ancestors.
The largest set of 4th and 5th cousin Newell matches are with individuals with links to the Newells of Trinity. The bulk of these matches were at the 5th cousin level (more on 5th cousin matches in a subsequent section) and the 4th cousin matches might reflect cases with multiple DNA connections (Trinity Newell plus another ).
The Ancestry test may also have provided evidence for a theory first presented to me by Harold Newell in 1971. Harold noted that on the same day when Philip Noel (Newell) married Amy Batton at St. Pauls’ Church, Harbour Grace, Nfld. in November 1784 a William Button (Batton) married a Mary Noel. Harold suggested that it was a case of siblings marrying siblings in double marriage ; however, there was no hard evidence for this (see my discussion of ‘The Early Newells‘ under ‘The Dock’ Tab on this site). The Ancestry DNA test may have found evidence for this. I had a 3rd or 4th cousin match (Confidence: Extremely High) with a person that traces back to a Isaac Batten of ‘The Dock’ born c 1869 (see my research into non Newell Ancestors).
There were several several 4th/5th cousin matches that related to families not in my tree but who could be candidates for missing gg or ggg grandparents. These include several local families like French (links to Batten) and Mugford (poss Newell, Batten & French links). One name that was unexpected was Thorne which had several distant DNA matches to the Thorns of Torbay and New Harbour, Trinity Bay. Both of these families trace roots back to John Thorne, an agent for Trinity merchant Benjamin Lester. Thorne was established in New Harbour, Trinity Bay by the 1770s. There is some Newell family history that suggests a connection to the Newells of Trinity but not those of Bonavista. The Thorns of Harbour Grace were merchants that had strong connections with several families in ‘The Dock’ including building the schooner Thorne in Bareneed c 1818. In addition, my family had business connections to the Nuttall family (of Harbour Grace and Brigus) who were related to the Thornes (see Merchant Connections).
One totally unexpected connection was an apparent link to John Neville who was married at St. John’s (RC church) in 1805. A 3rd cousin (related to Nathaniel Newell of the Dock) also found this link which suggest it predates our common gg grandfather (John son of Philip).
St John’s ROMAN CATHOLIC BASILICA PARISH MARRIAGES
|30-Oct||1805||St. John’s||NEVIL, John||Parish of Dunbrody, Co. Wexford||CORBIT, Anne||St. John’s||William &
John Nevil (later Neville) was from Co. Wexford, Ireland. The early Nevilles of Wexford were a Norman family that is frequently referenced as Newell in early (per 1700) English documents (I have researched the Irish Newells and plan to do a section on them in future). However, the DNA connection might also be through his wife Anne Corbit who may be related to the Corban (Corbett/Corbit/Corbet/Corbin) family of ‘The Dock’ (Bartholomew Corban was settled there in the 1770s); I also get several 5th cousin DNA matches to this family.
One set of non Newell connections that is especially interesting are a number of 3rd, 4th to 5th cousin matches to Noels from Harbour Grace. Peter Noel, who has done considerable research on the Noels of Harbour Grace, has speculated about a connection between the two families. Peter and I did Y-DNA test (more on this in Y-DNA report) that suggest a possible distant connection that would likely be well beyond the 5th cousin level (I am not sure if he did the Ancestry autosomal test but I think he did a similar test with Family tree). After further research, I suspect that my autosomal DNA links to Noels may come through my mother’s ancestors who were Snelgroves and Cakes from the Harbour Grace area who intermarried with several Noels from this area or from the ancestors of my grandmother Clara Andrews.
Other names with possible Y-DNA connection (see Y-DNA Section) that produce a significant number 5th+ cousin level (possible distant link) are Clark/Clarke and Cheek. These names are not in my tree so this could reflect a distant link or just genetic noise (see next paragraph). The Y-DNA Clark connection links back to Dorset/Devon where many of my ancestors have their roots. The Cheek Y-DNA connection links back to the early colonial period in the Southeast USA.
One factor that confuses autosomal results for people with roots in Conception Bay North is that there were a limited number of families that settled in this area during the 18th century and not a lot of subsequent in-migration. As a result many people with deep roots in the Dock will share some DNA ( around the 5th cousin level) with almost everyone else. This occurs since any person will have 32 ggg-grandparents and this is close to the number of family names in the Dock (and neighboring communities) during the 18th century so the probability of any two two people with deep roots in the Dock sharing some DNA is high.
Search for the Ancestors of Philip Newell (using matches to distant cousins)
|Region||Location||5th Cousins||5th Cousins||5th Cousins||5th Cousins||Totals|
|Other Nfld||Pouch Cove||1||1|
|Sum All NL||19||0||37||5||61|
|Sum New England||19||27||0||63|
|South England||Isle of Wight||1||12|
|North England & Scotland||Yorkshire||1||1||17|
|Sum All UK & Ireland||10||11||3||15|
Many of the Neville distant DNA matches are from St. John’s and appear to be connected to 4th cousin matches to John Neville, birth c.1776, Wexford, Ireland who married Anne Colbert at St John’s, Newfoundland in 1805. As I indicated earlier this DNA connection may be through his wife. It should also be noted that Philip Corbett (AKA Corbin) of Bareneed was part owner of the schooner Thorne which was built in Bareneed (see my web page on Merchant Connections). However, one other link to a Thomas Neville of North River (near the Dock) raises the possibility of a connection with the North River Nevilles.
|DNA Link to Cousins|
|Port Rexton||Trinity Bay||1||4|
|Norman’s Cove||Trinity Bay||4||4|
|Old Perlican||Trinity Bay||15||14|
|New Perlican||Trinity Bay||1||15||7|
|New Harbour||Trinity Bay||1||19||7|
|Heart’s Content||Trinity Bay||24||11|
|Grate’s Cove||Trinity Bay||21||7|
|Saint Jones Within||Trinity Bay||3||2|
Country of Origin
The one other feature provided by the Ancestry DNA autosomal test is determining the geographic origin of your ancestors; however, while this feature is frequently cited in their advertisements it needs to be put into context. This type of estimate is possible since in pre-industrial societies people generally married within their cultural/ethnic/geographic groups. Due to the mixing of DNA with each generation certain autosomal genetic markers spread through the population so for example people from Germany have different markers than those from Italy.
The DNA testing companies use statistical analysis of Markers (SNP) in the DNA to relate these to geography (see:
to determine your origin. The more genetically different the people from different regions are the easier it is to pinpoint origins. The following diagram and map shows how people from different European countries differ using one of these methods:
The DNA clusters (on left) are associated with different countries (see codes on right).
When a DNA testing company says you are 50% German and 50 % Italian it means that those are the proportion of these specific markers in your autosomal DNA. This could reflect that one of your grandparents had roots in Germany and the other in Italy. One important point to remember is that there are a limited number markers used to identify country of origin and these markers may not be passed on in the same proportions to different children. In the example above another child of this couple might test as 70^% German and 30 % Italian which would indicate that this child inherited more German markers (see the following site for a real life example:
My original (see newer results in update below) Ancestry DNA autosomal test identified me as 41% Scandinavian, 31% Celtic (Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and 15% British (Anglo Saxon). My Newell relatives should note that the autosomal results include DNA from my mothers side (e.g. Norman and Snelgrove families) plus my fathers mother’s family (Andrews etc.) and all other earlier non Newell ancestors so their country of origin autosomal results will differ from these since their non Newell ancestors will differ from mine.
Several years ago I did the National Geographic autosomal DNA test which used a slightly different methodology to identify the geographic origins of my ancestors. This test identified my closest matching region as Denmark which agrees with the Ancestry results since Denmark is part of the Ancestry DNA Scandinavian region. However, National Geographic identified my second matching region as Germany (National Geographic only gives two regions). This second region is different from the Ancestry results which indicated Celtic (31%) and UK Anglo Saxion (15%); however, this difference can be explained by differences in methodology.
Some countries have relatively unique DNA signatures (e.g. Poland and Italy); while others overlap. DNA signatures for the UK, the Netherlands and Northern Germany are relatively similar. The UK and Ireland have some genetic components that are unique and some that are shared with their Northwest European neighbors. This pattern of DNA for the UK reflects the different groups of people (Ancient Britons, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Viking, Norman French, etc) that make up the population of the UK (See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/14/britons-still-live-in-anglo-saxon-tribal-kingdoms-oxford-univers/ ). DNA from northwest Europe (Germany, Denmark and Belgium) can account for over 40% of the DNA in parts of the UK. Ireland has a slightly less varied DNA profile with a larger Celtic component, a Scandinavian component from the Vikings and later (post 1500) DNA from the UK.
It should also be noted that the Ancestry region for Britain includes Normandy, Belgium, the Netherlands and the NW Rhine in Germany (see Map below) and these areas overlap with the National Geographic German region.
Therefore, the differences between the two test likely reflect the differences in methodology for selecting regions.
Within the Great Britain region Ancestry identified a focus on the south coast of Britain. This is not surprising since many of my ancestors trace their roots back to Dorset, Devon and the Channel Islands. Ancestry also identified links between my ancestors and New England and Nova Scotia and states that Nova Scotia & Massachusetts are “specific places in this region where your family might have lived“. This latter remark is especially interesting given the earlier analysis of my 5th cousin Newell and Knowles matches.