Ancestry DNA Newfoundland


This section is the first of three that review my results from autosomal DNA test conducted by Ancestry DNA. Ancestry DNA test autosomal DNA (see introduction to this DNA section for background information on this test) which can be used to identify people with DNA matching yours (common parental and or maternal ancestors) back to your 3 X great grandparents and sometimes for several generations beyond that. The Ancestry site also allows you to search their database for DNA matches with other people who have tested their autosomal DNA with them.

This first section explores my Ancestry DNA matches from Newfoundland. These matches link to people who I am connected to through common links to my 3X great grandfather Philip Newell / Noel who was settled in The Dock, Bareneed, Newfoundland by the 1780s. I have no definitive information on Philips origins before 1780; however, I do have extensive information on Philip and his descendants which is presented in the “The Dock .” Tab in of this Web Site.

Since the Ancestry test uses autosomal DNA these matches not only include my Newell ancestors but all my paternal and maternal ancestors. Since to the best of my knowledge all my paternal and maternal ancestors were settled in Newfoundland by 1800 most of these DNA matches have deep Newfoundland roots (out to 4th cousins). However, since many of my ancestors moved to Canada (Newfoundland only joined Canada in 1949) and the US in the 1800s many of these matches are currently living outside Newfoundland. My my Ancestry family tree for the “Newell Family of Bareneed” list many of the families that I am connected to.

However, since my focus is on the Newell family my researched focused on individuals that are direct descendants of Philip Newell / Noel. When I got my test results the closest matches with Newell connections were a first cousin once removed and several 3rd cousins who are descendants of  siblings of my 2X great grandfather John Newell (b.1793) from ‘The Dock’.  I did not find any Newell first cousins which is not surprising since, to the best of my knowledge, none did the test (subsequently there was a 1st cousin once removed who is the son of a Newell 1st cousin).  I have seven second cousin matches, most of which link to my maternal side, but none with known Newell connections. A second cousin would share a common great grandfather. My Newell great grandfather, John Newell Jr. (b 1828 d 1908) and his wife Caroline Wells had two sons and five daughters. My grandfather Albert was his youngest son, the eldest son died before he had children, one daughter died childless and the remaining daughters moved to New England. Recently (2019) my sister did the test and got similar results.

The Ancestry search found  80+  3rd cousin matches but only a quarter of these posted any significant family history (searchable names). The 3rd cousin matches included several who trace their roots back to my 2X great grandfather John Newell (their ancestors were siblings of my great grandfather John Jr.).

My mother’s Snelgrove ancestors (her mother was Jessie Snelgrove from Bears’s Cove, Harbour Grace) represented the majority of the 3rd cousin 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 an interest of genealogical research in that family (building trees and doing test).

One of the advantages of DNA is that it provides the possibility of identifying links to early Newell relatives not currently in my tree. 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 Newell [AKA Noel] and his wife Amy Batten who are my earliest documented Newell ancestors. Interestingly, the Ancestry test may have provided  evidence for a theory first presented to me by Harold Newell  in 1971; he 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 since 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). A 3rd cousin match can occur in this case since when siblings marry siblings their children on both sides are “double cousins” and their DNA more closely resemble siblings than 1st cousins (see )

Once we move into the area of 4th and 5th cousin matches the issues associated with identifying connections 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 11664 descendants . 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 have the Newell name or DNA.  To assist with sorting matches I have prepared a shared Spreadsheet (to view right click link and select open in new Tab) to show my ancestors by family name for each generation. For example, the Spreadsheet shows that my parents are John Newell and Gladys Norman and their parents, my grandparents, are 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.

The remainder of this document focuses on using my Ancestry DNA results to research my distant Newell ancestors

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).

4th and 5th Cousin DNA matches

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 confirmed matches to Newells from ‘The Dock’ were several 4th cousin matches who are 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 also 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 and early 20th 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. There is the possibility that my DNA links to Newells from Brigus come from my other Newfoundland ancestors (e.g. Norman, Wells, Daw, etc.) that have links to Brigus. The missing ancestors for my great grandfather Abraham Norman may play an important role here since I suspect that they were from Brigus. The Normans were among the earliest settlers in Brigus and intermarried with other Brigus families such as Antle, Bartlett and Noel. Comparing my Brigus DNA links to results for two of my 3rd cousins, descended from brothers of my great grandfather, suggest that we have several of these Brigus matches in common especially for links tracing back to James Henry Noall/Newell of Brigus.

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’. Peter Noel has a section on the Newells of Pouch Cove on his Noel Web Site and he has suggested a possible connection between this family and the Dock Newells. 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 common ancestor who was living in the late 1700s.  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 may be through my Comby / Cumby ancestors of Western Bay who are likely the same family as her Crummey relatives.

The largest set of 4th and 5th cousin Newell matches are with individuals with links to the Newells of Trinity, Newfoundland. 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).

There were several  several 4th/5th cousin matches that related to families not in my tree but who could be candidates for missing  2X or 3X 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. 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 shares this DNA link which suggest it predates our common 2X great grandfather (John son of Philip).


St. John’sNEVIL,
Dunbrody, Co. WexfordCORBIT, Anne

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) documents (I have researched the Irish Newells and plan to do a section on them in future).  However, this 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 (to the best of my knowledge he did not do the Ancestry autosomal DNA test but I think he did a similar test with Family tree). After further research, I suspect that some of 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 17th and 18th centuries 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 3X 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. This amplification of DNA connections is an example of the Endogamy effect. My paper on Conception Bay South investigates some of these connections.

Search for the Ancestors of my 3X Great Grandfather, Philip Newell / Noel (using matches to distant cousins)

The biggest mystery in my family tree is identifying where the ancestors of my 3X great grandfather Philp Newell /Noel came from. The only information we have is that his father’s name might have been James.  Any DNA matches at the 4th cousin level would have Philip or one of his children (if they are removed from me) as the common Ancestor. The search for Philip’s origins must; therefore, focus on what Ancestry DNA referees to as “Distant Cousins” (5th or greater cousins).  As indicated earlier these matches are near the limit of DNA testing. This does not mean that the people who match me at the  5th cousin level are not  related but that I may have many 5th cousins that will not show up on the test. Similarly, there might be a 5th cousin relative who is a match to me but  one of my more recent Newell  cousins might not have this person as a match.  Another challenge is that there is no certainty that Philip’s  family name was Newell.  We know that Philip was frequently referred to as Philip Noel or Philip Nuel and that the names Newell, Newall, Newill, Noel, Nowell, Newhall, Knowle, Knoll, Knowles,  Knowlton, Nevil and Neville were frequently confused in early documents.  Given this, we must investigate all of these as possible family names for Distant Cousins.   The good news is that, unlike Y-DNA matches (see later discussion), I had a large population of autosomal 5th + cousin matches with at least one of these names in their tree. Having a match with one of these names does not necessarily establish a link through that name but does make this person a candidate for one of my Newell ancestors. Another issue to be aware of is that establishing a match involves matching DNA  (generally reliable) and finding a name in a persons published family tree. The reliability of the info in most family trees starts to drop off after 6 or 7 generations; so while it is relatively certain that I match that persons DNA it is much less certain that that person has one of these names (especially if it is not the paternal family name).   My methodology was to sort my list of Distant DNA matches for each of the candidate names which gives a list of people matching my DNA with this name in their tree. I then excluded matches that had made their tree private, unless I obtained info from them, and individuals with very limited data in their tree (e.g. just a name but no location & or dates). In cases where there were multiple matches with same tree (same admin) I only used the first reference. Of the names I searched, only four produced significant numbers of matches; these were: Newell, Knowles, Noel and Neville. Others like Nowell, Newall, Nevil and Knoll had limited number of matches and frequently included another name so are likely a different spelling of one of the more common names. (e.g.  Nowell>Noel; Newall>Newell; Nevil>Neville; Knoll> Knowles)

I have prepared a shared Spreadsheet that compares the number of matches by location for the four main names (to view right click link and select open in new Tab).  The Spreadsheet shows that Newell had the most distant cousin matches that met the criteria outlined above and Neville the lowest; however, this is somewhat misleading. Some names had significantly more matches from Newfoundland than others. This is significant since a 5th cousin match from Newfoundland might not represent a 5th  cousin but a 4th cousin once or twice removed; in addition, it might represent a link to one of my non Newell ancestors from Newfoundland (many predate the Newells in Newfoundland). In this case we might be detecting descendants of Philip or perhaps other Newfoundland descendants of Philip’s parents (James and Ann?) or other non Newell ancestors.

The Noel 5th cousin matches stand out with the highest proportion of earliest ancestors being from Newfoundland. Further, most of these listed Carbonear or Harbour Grace as the earliest known ancestral home and many identified Clement Noel as their ancestor. Peter Noel (see ) and others have done extensive research on the family tree for the Noels of Harbour Grace which may biases the data towards this name.  This large number of distant DNA matches might be considered as supporting the theory that the Newells of ‘The Dock’ were really Harbour Grace Noels; however, the problem is that my mothers ancestors (Snelgrove, Cake, Herald and Smith) were all from the same area as the Noels and many intermarried with the Noels (evidence from 2nd, 3rd & 4th cousin matches). Further, selective searches on many Noel 5th cousin matches show shared matches with these non Noel individuals in my tree. Likewise my matches to Noels of Grates Cove and Brigus (Noels here AKA Newell) can be explained by other connections. My Y-DNA (see My Y-DNA section of Web Site) suggest a possible distant (not in range of the Ancestry test) connection to the Noels of Harbour Grace (Peter Noel); however, my DNA link to the distant Ancestry matches may not come from my direct paternal ancestor.  

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.   The Newell matches to Newfoundland have peaks associated with Brigus, St. John’s and Trinity. The Brigus connection to Newell and Noel may come from my mothers family. Her father was a Norman from Bay Roberts but his family roots were likely in Brigus. I get lots of matches to early Brigus families like Antles, Bartletts and Noel.  The St. John’s connections may come from a sibling, child or grandchild of Philip who moved to St. John’s or from another connection like Neville or Thorne. The Trinity connection is the most interesting since my father  suggested that there might be a family connection to the Newells of Trinity, Nfld. but not to those of Bonavista.  If you trace back the links they all connect to children of Jonah Newell  1728 – 1799 and his  wife Hannah Mears  1736 – 1788 of Trinity (I get a number of distant DNA matches to people with the Mears name).  My DNA matches also include a significant number of matches to other family names associated with Trinity and the Newell family including: Thorne,  OldfordFifieldAbbott, Jones  and Newhook.   The issue with these matches to Jonah Newell is that, despite in-depth research on the Newells of Trinity, it is difficult to make a connection. Jonah had a son James who died young and there is no evidence he is the link. My father indicated that we had some connection to the Newhooks of Trinity Bay and the DNA show a connection to Charles and Catherine Newhook from New Harbour, Trinity Bay.  Catherine was a daughter of Jonah so this is just another connection back to Jonah. The Newhooks were famous shipbuilders in Trinity Bay and the DNA connection back to John Thorne of Trinity may be connected in some way since, as indicated earlier, a schooner Thorne was built at Bareneed c 1818.   My DNA connections, regardless of family name, include people connected with many towns in Trinity Bay (see shared Spreadsheet). These connections are strongest at the 4th and 5th cousin level suggesting a links with one or more of my 3X grandparents or possibly earlier. It should be noted that many of the communities listed were originally settled by people from Trinity.  

  Some of my DNA connections  to  Grate’s Cove and Old Perlican may have come from my mothers side (Snelgrove, her grandfather’s family) via a direct or indirect (through Benson or Smith) link to the ancestors of Daniel Noel/Newell of Grate’s Cove.  This link or the links to the Newells of Trinity might also explain some of the early DNA links to Newells of St. John’s.  

This is the end of Part I of my research on my Ancestry DNA which has explored my links to the Newells of Newfoundland; however, I have prepared several other documents that focus on other aspects of my DNA research (see below):