Ancestry’s Better Mousetrap – DNA Circles

This is it…the big day.

Ancestry’s better mousetrap is called DNA Circles and it launched today.

DNA Circles is a result of three things.

  1. Phased data
  2. Improved genetic Matching
  3. Pairing DNA matches with submitted trees

Yesterday I wrote about my matches in the old version.  So, let’s take a look at the new version, available now.

All three of the autosomal DNA genetic genealogy testing companies have the same issue and that’s how to provide us with quality matches, eliminate false IBS matches while preserving real ones, and making the consumer experience both productive and easy to use. All three of the companies approach this challenge in different ways.

23andMe has an arbitrary cutoff on the number of matches you can have, at 1000, unless you’re in contact with your matches and then you are allowed more. Family Tree DNA has both a cumulative match threshold of about 20cM and then an individual segment threshold of about 7.7cM.  The word “about” appears in that last sentence because the matching algorithm contains some situational variables.  Until today, Ancestry really didn’t have a good tool to eliminate low confidence, spurious or IBS (identical by state) matches.

At 23andMe, I have just over 1000 matches, which is to be expected based on their 1000 cutoff. At Family Tree DNA, I have about 1875 matches and at Ancestry, until today, I had over 13,000 matches.  Clearly, Ancestry needed to refine their matching process, and they have.

Ancestry has implemented population based phasing to help reduce false positive matches. Blaine Bettinger wrote an excellent article about how Ancestry is accomplishing this task, why it works, and how, in his article, Finding Genetic Cousins – Separating Fact From Fiction.

As I described in my article, DNA Day with Ancestry, Ancestry has discovered that we all have what they describe as pileup areas where many people from the same population will match.  This means that those matches, while they do come from specific ancestors, aren’t actually genealogical in the way we might think.

genome pileups

Here’s an example of my own genome and my pileup areas, as provided by Ancestry.

You can see that in one region I have almost 800 matches – and clearly that’s not from one ancestor, especially given that most of my match numbers are under 200, and most are significantly under 200.

genome pileups2

Here’s my same chart AFTER they ran the phasing algorithm on my matches and removed those pileup areas. Please note that the scale is different.  Now my highest number of matches is about 25.

Are some of those phased regions probably valid matches? Sure.  Are some of them occurring in people whom I match in other regions too?  Of course.  And those people will remain as matches, where people I only match on pileup regions will be removed.  In other words, any match to me in a pileup region won’t be considered a match, regardless of how many other places we match.

Ancestry did not provide us with a list of regions by chromosome that were removed in the experiment above. I wish they had, because I have a couple of chromosomal areas that I’ve been finding confusing because I have multiple matches with proven connections to specific different families from the same parental line that match me on the same segments.  Let me say that again, another way.  On Mom’s side, two different families match me on the same chromosomal segment region.

Now, unless those separate families are interrelated, that is impossible.  Those families being interrelated certainly isn’t impossible, but given one line is French (Acadian) pre-1600 and one is Swiss Brethren from the mid-1600s, an interrelationship between these families had to have occurred before 1600 which is more than 12 generations ago – and probably many more generations before that, given their strong religious leanings and lack of geographic proximity.

So, I’m presuming here that these confusing segments are an example of pileups and that explains why the multiple family lines match to the same segments.

Ancestry’s Updated Product

So how has this new technology changed your Ancestry results?

  • New Home Page
  • Updated Match List
  • DNA Circles
  • Updated Help Page and White Papers


Your home page now has a new category, DNA Circles.

But first, before we look at the circles, let’s look the matches.


Yesterday, I reported on my matches and how they were distributed. I had 262 pages of matches, or about 13,100.  Today, I have 67 pages, or about 3,350 matches.  My matches were reduced by about 75%.

Yesterday Today Shakey Leaves Yesterday Shakey Leaves Today
Total Matches 13,100 3,350
2nd Cousins 1 – 99% confidence 0 – shifted to third cousin 0 0
3rd Cousins 10 8 – shifted to fourth cousins 2 1 (shifted to 4th cousin)
4th Cousins 243 161 10 14
Distant Cousins 12,846 3,181 36 18

Of the fourth cousin shakey leaf people, three that were distant cousins are now shifted up into the fourth cousin range, my third cousin is shifted down to fourth cousin range, and one prior fourth cousin shakey leaf match is gone entirely.

However, the numbers aren’t the entire story. I compared my list of shakey leaf people from yesterday to today, and I discovered that some were missing, but I also have 6 new shakey leaf matches in the distant cousin category that I didn’t have yesterday.

And one of those shakey leaf matches, if it is correct – meaning that if the DNA does point to the genealogy – would shatter a very long-standing brick wall.

Now, before I share this with you, I want to be very, VERY clear – just because we share DNA and a common genealogy line does NOT MEAN that we are genetically connected via this genealogy path. However, having said that, it’s a very good hint and a wonderful place to start.

In my case, Elijah Vannoy was born in1784 to one of 4 Vannoy men in Wilkes County, NC. The question is, which one?  Based on census, tax, Bible and other records, I’ve positively eliminated one candidate and probably eliminated a second.  But that leaves two and possibly a third.  I decided a long time ago that this quandry would and could only be solved via a DNA connection to the wife’s line of the men involved.

  • Nathaniel Vannoy married Elizabeth Ray (Rey) – Eliminated as Elijah’s possible father via Nathaniel’s Bible record
  • Andrew Vannoy married Susannah Sheppard (I am related to Susannah’s father through a different family line.)
  • Francis Vannoy married Millicent Henderson
  • Daniel Vannoy married Sarah Hickerson.  Her parents were Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

Based on tax lists that include males of specific ages, my “best choice” is Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson. That’s who I have in my tree at Ancestry, even though I strongly debated entering that couple since it was so tentative.  Am I EVER glad that I did.

Here’s my new match.


I can tell you, when I saw this, it took my breath away!  Lordy, lordy, I’ve caught a mouse.  But now what do I do with it???

Now, for the frustrating-makes-me-screaming-insane part – I have NO WAY TO VERIFY THIS without a chromosome browser. So, what am I going to do?  I’m going to contact this person, and pray, PRAY, that they reply to me.  I’ll be glad to pay for them to transfer to Family Tree DNA where I have a chromosome browser to work with and can prove that this individual indeed does match other descendants of Elijah Vannoy and not just me.

If this is just true….

But wait, maybe there is more evidence at Ancestry. Let’s look at their new DNA Circles.

DNA Circles

DNA Circles is a composite tool that links people who are genetically connected with people who have the same ancestors in their trees, and puts them together in a circle.

In other words, all of these people genetically match at least one other person in the circle, but they don’t all match each other. The only matches you can see are people that match you.  The common link, is, of course, that in addition to genetically matching someone in the circle, they all share a common ancestor in their tree.  Now, yes, it does go without saying that if everyone has the same wrong ancestor – the circle will show that ancestor. Conversely, if you are the only one with the right ancestor’s name, and everyone else has the wrong name, then you won’t be shown in that circle.

Now, for the caveats.

You must be an Ancestry subscriber to see Circles.

If you have a private tree, Ancestry is respecting your request to remain private and you will not be included in Circles.  If you make your tree public, you may or may not have circles.  Not everyone does.  Ancestry updates their data base every 3-4 hours, so if you make your tree public, it won’t take effect immediately.

Of course, if you have no tree, there is no way to include you in any circles.  Ancestry is looking back 7 generations for circles, so if you’re entering a tree, enter at least 7 generations.

Having said that, both private trees and no tree matches are still included in match lists, if they pass the new matching criteria, but they won’t be included in the new Circles feature.

So, let’s take a look. Please note that the new Circles feature is in Beta.

Here are my 12 DNA Circles.  I was actually surprised that there weren’t more.  However, one person in our blogger group had no circles.  How disappointing.


Sadly, the Hickerson ancestor I was hoping to see is not identified as a circle. Maybe someday.

Let’s look at my smallest circle, Jacob Lentz.


Ancestry refers to this as an emerging circle. I match one individual genetically, but not the second individual, which I would presume (how I hate that word) means that H.C. and pawruby match each other genetically.  How I would love to see the three of us in a chromosome browser.

I can click on “View Details” to see how they both connect to Jacob.


The tree above is from my DNA match. The tree below is from the other member of the circle who I don’t match genetically, but who presumably matches H.C.


Jacob Lentz’s wife is Frederica Moselman or Musselman. The spelling of the name varies in documents.  I was curious as to why there is no circle for Frederica, so I looked to see if perhaps her name is absent from the trees.  As it turns out, two trees show her as Moselman and one as Musselman, so the disparate spelling has defeated the creation of her circle.  During the discussions with Ancestry about this product, I specifically asked about situations like this and they indicated that they have soundex and other matching tools and they felt that this would not be a problem.  Obviously, in this case, and others, those tools didn’t work.

If you want to learn more about how DNA Circles works, and you are a member of a DNA Circle, click on the “Learn More” button at the bottom of the DNA Circles information box.


Learn more takes you to this page where you can read about how the circles are created, grouped and the white paper which describes the technology behind the circles.


My larger Nancy Mann circle shows that I have 12 members in this circle, of which I match 4 by DNA and the rest have a DNA connection with other member(s) of the group. We all have a common ancestor in our trees – Nancy Mann.

To clear up any misconceptions here, ancestry has very specifically stated that they are NOT using trees to do DNA matches, but only after DNA matching is completed, they are searching for common ancestors in trees of matches.


Of the Nancy Mann circle members, I match 4 people utilizing DNA. Three of those show on my match list, but one, C.M. doesn’t show on my match list today nor on my old list.  This is a strong match, so I find this confusing.

One of my non-DNA tree matches used to be a DNA match, but isn’t anymore. This would be one example of where a legitimate match was removed by the new matching routines, but I can still see that there is a circle connection to a common ancestor.  While Circles don’t confirm a genetic connection, they are another tool that is certainly suggestive that the DNA connections between these individuals lead to a common ancestor.

Nancy Mann’s husband was Henry Bolton. She was his second wife, so there will be people who connect to Henry, via his first wife, but not to Nancy Mann.  What this means is that everyone in Nancy’s circle should also be in Henry’s circle, but some people in Henry’s circle won’t be in Nancy’s circle.

When looking at why someone in my Nancy Mann circle wasn’t in my Henry Bolton circle, I noticed that Williamlowe94 does list Henry Bolton, but has spelled his name “Henry Bolton (Boulton)” and apparently the parenthesis name was considered a non-match. C. M. has spelled Henry’s name Boulton, so that’s why C.M. is in the Nancy Mann group, but not the Henry Bolton group.

Another circle, Joseph Preston Bolton, was Henry Bolton’s son. There are 4 members of that circle, one of which I match via DNA.  There is one new member of this group that is not in the Henry Bolton group, and who is not on my DNA match list.  I wondered why they aren’t on Henry’s list, so I looked at their pedigree chart and their chart stops at Joseph Preston Bolton.  This would seem to be a good opportunity for Ancestry to utilize the power of their software to see if she actually DOES fit into the Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann circles and suggest to her that in fact, she does.  For her, this might indeed tear down a brick wall.  Most people aren’t looking for confirmation of what they have, they are looking for that next step – that elusive ancestor who isn’t identified.

That is why we do DNA, and genealogy.

The John Campbell tree only has 3 members and both of the other Circle members are a DNA match to me. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are a DNA match to each other.  All 3 of us show John’s wife to be exactly the same person, spelled exactly the same way Jane “Jenny” Dobkins, but there is no circle for her.  I wonder if somehow the quotes interfered with the circle creation.  Given that all 3 of us form a circle for John, we should also form that exact same circle for Jane.

Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy hold another odd match. One charlenecarlson0126 shows to be both a DNA match and a tree match, but she does not appear on my DNA match list, nor does her tree include any Claxton or Clarkson at all.  This has to be a bug of some sort, but it seems odd that it would pass both criteria, DNA matching and the tree.


Match above, tree below.


What I was actually searching for is why Fairwick’s father, James Lee Clarkson/Clarkston/Claxton is not listed as a circle. My suspicion is that the name is not spelled consistently.  Of the 5 Circle members, one is spelled, Claxton, 2 Clarkson and 2 Clarkston.  This looks like another miss that could be a hit.

My John Hill circle is actually quite interesting. There are only 3 people and I match one via DNA.  I’ve been working with my non-DNA match on this genealogy line.  It’s nice to see him in the Circle, even though our DNA doesn’t match directly.

The John Hill group, again, begs the question of why there is no wife’s group. She was Catherine Mitchell and all 3 of us list her as such.

In Summary

Ancestry has certainly improved their methodology and utilized their new tools to add the DNA Circles feature.

Certainly, we had too many matches to deal with before and now we have a much more reasonable number. Ancestry’s shakey leaf remains one of the best tools they have ever implemented and their user interface remains clean, crisp and easy to use.  There are a few bugs, but this is a beta version and with feedback, I’m sure they will resolve those in short order.

In order to get a handle on what was really occurring, I created a spreadsheet of my pre-Circles shakey-leaf matches as compared with my matches in the new Circles version. The individuals in bold are the ones that appear in both versions, the pre and post Circles.  Non-bolded were in one or the other versions, but not both.  In some cases, like with the first 4 matches in this group, I wonder why they don’t form a James Lee Claxton group.  Me plus two more would be enough for an emerging group, and we have that for sure.

Shakey Leaf Matches and Ancestor Previous Current Circle Members
Rodneybranch1 – James Lee Claxton and Sarah “Sary” Cook distant gone
urbadntx – James Lee Claxton and Sary Cook absent distant
Ctkatherine – Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy 4 4 Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy
Dbreeding63 – Fairwix Claxton and Agnes Muncy 4 4 Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy
charlenecarlson0126 Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy
Petwin73 – John Hill and Catherine Mitchell distant gone John Hill
Greatpyr616 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant distant Nancy Mann, Henry Bolton
Marsha Bolton – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant gone Nancy Mann
Ctlynch01 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant gone
C.L.M. – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant distant
Tjfhorn1 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann distant gone
johnryder42 – Nancy Mann absent distant Nancy Mann, Henry Bolton
Dblrich – Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille distant distant
Rkoelpin – Francois Lafaille distant gone
William Lowe94 – Joseph Preston Bolton distant distant Nancy Mann, Joseph Bolton
E.J.H. – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson distant gone
Rheainhatton – Francis Vannoy and Catherine Anderson distant gone
Viero111777 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson distant gone
Maggiejames113 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson distant gone
J.M. – John Vanoy distant gone
annelynnward1 – Jothan Brown absent distant
RWECIII – Jotham Brown distant gone
Raymond Brown – Jotham Brown distant distant
Tgbils917 – Jotham Brown distant gone
Skyrider3277 – Jotham Brown distant gone
Browndavid239 – Jotham Brown distant distant
R.G. – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore distant gone
Chuck2810 – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore distant distant
Lodikid – Andrew McKee distant distant
C.A.W. – Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich distant distant
Ostate4454 – John Campbell and Jane “Jenny” Dobkins distant distant John Campbell
melby01 – John Campbell and Jane Dobkins absent distant John Campbell
A.F.B. – Nicholas Speaks and Sarah Faires distant gone
nellf_1 – Nicholas Speaks and Sarah Faires absent distant Nicholas Speaks, Sarah Faires
Razzanozoo1 – Lois McNiel distant gone
EHVannoy – Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley 3 3 Joel Vannoy, Phoebe Crumley
D.V. – Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley 3 4 Joel Vannoy, Phoebe Crumley
Spklegirl- Francois LaFaille 4 gone
H.C. – Jacob Lentz and Frederica Moselman 4 distant Jacob Lentz
Alyssa- Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy 4 4 Joel Vannoy, Phoebe Crumley
J.L.B. – Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich 3 4
drjcox51 – Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle absent distant
M.S. – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Christine414 – private tree distant gone Not in circles
DDicksson – private tree (Jane Dobkins and John Campbell) distant distant Not in circles
FruitofVine – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Lisa36ang – private tree distant distant Not in circles
J.M.F. – private tree distant gone Not in circles
1_perry22 – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Jcarolynbh – private tree distant gone Not in circles
Nanbowjack – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
L.W. – private tree (John R. Estes) 4 4 Not in circles
P.B. – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
1_cmarse – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
MDgenealogy20 – private tree 4 4 Not in circles
Susanharmon – private tree 4 4 Not in circles

Obviously, several people are in multiple circles.  There are a total of 15 DNA matches distributed between 12 circles.  That leaves 3,335 matches that aren’t helping me or correlated in any way.  While I do like the circles, I’m disappointed that so few of my matches sync up with pedigree charts.  It looks like there would be a lot more if Ancestry would review the matching routine, and perhaps more yet if they would reach beyond 7 generations.  But first steps first.

Some circles contain only DNA matches.  Others have more non-DNA matches (to me) but have a pedigree match to everyone in the DNA Circle. That’s really what these are, DNA circles that happen to have a common ancestor in their family tree.

Does a circle confirm that the connection to that ancestor is via DNA? Nope.  Does it confirm that your DNA connection to your match is from that ancestor?  Nope.  You still need a chromosome browser to do that – but this certainly helps.  It’s a step in the right direction.  It gives us another tool.  And, in some cases, like my Elijah Vannoy, changing the suspected parents periodically from one possibility to the other might be viewed as a new method of fishing.  So might changing the surname spelling.

And regarding that chromosome browser from Ancestry, well, all I can say is don’t hold your breath…

Truthfully, I’ll tell you exactly when we’ll get a chromosome browser.

Tim Sullivan, Ancestry’s CEO, is a genealogist, just like the rest of us. The day he has to transfer his autosomal file to a competitor to use their chromosome browser to confirm an ancestral match…well…I’m betting that’s the day a chromosome browser will become a priority for Ancestry.

So Tim, my friend, I wish for you a lot of new circles – including one just like my Hickerson match – one that you have been desperately seeking for say, about 30 years. Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas gift?  But, you see, I know that having a hint but not knowing, i.e., no proof, is going to just about kill you.  It will break your genealogist’s heart.  It will make you beat-your-head-against-the-wall insane.  Screaming yellow zonkers nuts.  I don’t want that to happen to you, or anyone else, for that matter.

So, while you’re waiting for Ancestry’s chromosome browser to be developed, here’s the link to Family Tree DNA so you can confirm your genetic ancestral match…assuming of course that you can also convince the other people to download their results from Ancestry to Family Tree DNA as well:)

In Anticipation of Ancestry’s Better Mousetrap

Knowing that Ancestry’s leaner, meaner, better mousetrap is forthcoming shortly, I decided to take a final look at the old mousetrap at Ancestry and collect some information so that I can reliably compare said old mousetrap with the new and improved version.

On November 17, 2014, I had 262 pages of matches, at 50 matches per page, for approximately 13,100 matches. Clearly, I’m never going to contact all of those, or even most of those.

My matches break down as follows:

  • 1 second cousin who doesn’t reply to messages. Their tree is visible, but I don’t see a common ancestor.
  • 10 third cousins, of whom 2 are known cousins prior to DNA testing. Three others have no family tree. Other than my known cousins, I can only find one genealogy connection, thanks to a shakey leaf.
  • 243 fourth cousins
  • 12,846 distant cousins, few of which have any connecting genealogy information to me

Let’s take a look at how this breaks down.



My third cousin match (that I didn’t previously know) has a shakey leaf that shows the following common ancestors. You might notice that even though we are predicted as third cousins with a range of 3rd to 4th and a confidence rating of 98%, we are actually 5th cousins.  That’s the nature of random DNA recombination in each generation.


That cousin and I match through Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich.

Actually, that’s not true – but it’s so easy to say and infer. In truth, we don’t know HOW we match, but we do have a DNA match and we do have a shared genealogy paper-trail ancestor in Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich.  So, we MAY have a genetic match through these ancestors – or it might be through another line – known or unknown.  But there is no way to tell for sure – at least not today at Ancestry.

Case in point…just very recently, when dealing with this exact same Miller line, I discovered that I did match one of my cousins at Family Tree DNA on the Miller line, but that we also have a second unknown genetic link on the X chromosome that could not have come from that Miller couple.

The problem with the matches at Ancestry is that they are suggestive and not in any way conclusive. Why?  Because there is no chromosome browser or other tool to show that these people match on the same chromosomes.  That would be step 1.  A tool to see that those two people match another descendant on the same segment would be step two in truly identifying and confirming a common genetic ancestor.  But neither of these steps exist at Ancestry today.  Many people either don’t know or don’t understand that, or flat out don’t care – because they are meeting paper trail cousins.

If meeting paper trail cousins is your goal – then you can do a bang up job of that at Ancestry!  In fact, I could meet 13,100 new cousins today. Just don’t assume that because you match them on DNA and on paper that the paper trail IS the genetic trail, because it might well not be.  Never assume.

When looking at my Miller match’s tree, I notice that they have not only the incorrect, or at least unsubstantiated Rochette surname for Daniel’s mother, but they have also added another surname…out of thin air apparently – Maugens. Groan.  Another incorrect tree – and this single ancestor is incorrect in two distinct ways.


I checked to see what sources they noted, and they gave the “Family Data Collection of Individual Records” as a source for every record. I’m sorry, but someone else’s hearsay isn’t a record source.  However, I’ll leave source records to the experts and move on with genetic genealogy.  However, word to the wise…. with Ancestry’s new and better mousetrap, accurate trees become exponentially more important.

Yes, I have seen a beta version mousetrap preview.

Today, I have 243 fourth cousins, 10 of which have shakey leaf hints, meaning that we do show a common paper-trail ancestor:

  1. Spklegirl- Francois LaFaille (also show Brown as a shared surname)
  2. Dbreeding63 – Fairwix Claxton and Agnes Muncy
  3. H.C. – Jacob Lentz and Frederica Moselman
  4. Alyssa- Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy – no response to messages (last logged in May 12, 2014 – not a good sign)
  5. Nanbowjack – private tree
  6. L.W. – private tree
  7. P.B. – private tree
  8. 1_cmarse – private tree
  9. MDgenealogy20 – private tree
  10. Susanharmon – private tree

Six of my 10 fourth cousin shakey leaf people have private trees, more than half.

Of the entire group of 254 matches of 2nd – 4th cousins, 44 have private trees.

Of those 254, another 52 don’t have trees uploaded. This is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.  It’s easy to create an abbreviated tree, if nothing else, if you don’t want to upload your full tree from your genealogy software.  That gives Ancestry’s software something to work with – a way to look for pedigree matches.  No tree, no shakey leaf hints.  Include at least 7 generations, if you have them.

So, of those 254 matches, I know that I’ll positively lose 96 due to private trees and no trees. Truthfully, I’m absolutely fine with that.  Those matches are of absolutely no use to me.  My efforts to communicate with Ancestry matches have been relatively unsuccessful, to the point that I’ve wondered if there is a glitch with my mail and their system – until a cousin sent me a test message to see if it was working.  So, I’m glad to be rid of unproductive no tree matches that simply clutter up the works.  I don’t want to see private tree teasers that I want and can’t have.

It will be interesting to see how many of my shakey leaves, if any, I’ll lose. Maybe I’ll acquire some new ones!!!  I can always hope.

Shakey Leaves


Speaking of shakey leaves, by utilizing the shakey leaf hint filter ability, I can see only my shakey leaf hint matches, eliminating the rest. This is what I normally do, right after I see if I have any new close matches.

In my distant cousin matches, I have 36 additional shakey leaves, as follows, arranged by ancestor matches:

Ctkatherine – Fairwick Claxton and Agnes Muncy

Rodneybranch1 – James Lee Claxton and Sarah “Sary” Cook

Petwin73 – John Hill and Catherine Mitchell

Greatpyr616 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
Marsha Bolton – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
Ctlynch01 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
C.L.M. – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann
Tjfhorn1 – Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann

Dblrich – Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille

Rkoelpin – Francois Lafaille

William Lowe94 – Joseph Preston Bolton (share 8 surnames plus Combs – Herrell family is the same)

E.J.H. – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson
Rheainhatton – Francis Vannoy and Catherine Anderson
Viero111777 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson
Maggiejames113 – John Francis Vannoy and Susannah Anderson

J.M. – John Vanoy

RWECIII – Jotham Brown
Raymond Brown – Jotham Brown
Tgbils917 – Jotham Brown
Skyrider3277 – Jotham Brown
Browndavid239 – Jotham Brown

R.G. – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore
Chuck2810 – John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore (multiple ancestral line in this tree)

Lodikid – Andrew McKee

C.A.W. – Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich

Ostate4454 – John Campbell and Jane “Jenny” Dobkins (wrong parents for John)

A.F.B. – Nicholas Speaks and Sarah Faires

Razzanozoo1 – Lois McNiel

M.S. – private tree
Christine414 – private tree
DDicksson – private tree
FruitofVine – private tree
Lisa36ang – private tree
J.M.F. – private tree
1_perry22 – private tree
Jcarolynbh – private tree

DNA Testing Goals

I realized this week when I received an e-mail from someone requesting assistance that goals and expectations surrounding DNA testing vary widely in the genetic genealogy community. This person said, “I thought when I took a DNA test that all of my brick walls would just melt away.”

Clearly, that’s not the case.

I think with the increasing popularity of DNA testing that a wider range of people take the tests, and often without really understanding DNA testing, the various kinds of tests, or what DNA results can or might do for them.

DNA testing is a toolkit, and which tool, under what circumstances, is best for the job varies based on your goals. It’s like picking the right sized socket wrench.


Let me be very specific about my personal goals.

I want to learn everything I can about my ancestors. I am not interested in inferring a genetic match when said match can be proven.

1. I want to know the haplogroup of every single ancestor in my tree – both male and female. Why? Because Y and mitochondrial DNA testing is the only direct line information I can obtain on those ancestors, and it stretches back far beyond any prayer of written records or surnames. It tells me their ethnicity and often, where they came from – sometimes in general terms and sometimes in much more specific terms.

2. I want to map my ancestor’s DNA on my chromosomes. In other words, I want to know that my DNA on chromosome 1, section 1-10,000 came from the Ferverda line on my mother’s side and from John Y. Estes and Rutha Dodson on my father’s side. This opens the door to do things like Ancestor Reconstruction as well as to identify where those other 12,846 people without shakey leaves fall on my tree, based on WHERE they match me.

While I am interested in meeting my cousins, especially cousins who are actively researching our common ancestral line, I’m not interested in meeting endless cousins who are just copy/pasting data from tree to tree. Rhetorically speaking, what the heck would I do with 13,000 new cousins.  I can barely remember the names of the ones I have!

For me, the end goal is not meeting cousins, specifically, although I do enjoy many of the cousins I meet through genealogy. Some of my very closest friends are my genealogy cousins.  But this isn’t a genealogy singles bar and I’m not interested in doing DNA speed dating, so to speak.

3. My goal is to discover every shred I can about my ancestors and to break down brick walls utilizing DNA.  See number 2, above.

To match my cousins whom I already know is great confirmation that I’m really a family member, but it does little more except provide the foundation for chromosome mapping utilizing chromosome browser tools. I need tools to find those missing wives lines, and to add to the tree – maybe to discover who someone’s parents actually were.  Those are the kinds of genetic genealogy dreams I have.  That’s my idea of a better mousetrap.

Ancestry’s New Mousetrap

During our meeting in October and follow-up conference call, Ancestry indicated that their new processing methods would result in many fewer matches, but much higher quality matches, based on their new phasing routines and new features. I welcome both of those improvements.

I wrote about the Ancestry visit here.  Judy Russell wrote about it here, and Blaine Bettinger wrote about it as well.  Anna Swayne, who leads the effort in genetic genealogy education at Ancestry wrote about the upcoming DNA release and referenced information provided by Ken Chahine, the AncestryDNA general manager.  So, now that you know what to expect, it will be interesting to see the real McCoy…er…I mean the new and better mousetrap.

The close and shakey leaf matches I’ve discussed above are the only ones I really care much about – because they are the only ones that are actually useful to me under the current circumstances. I would love to find a way to make the balance of my 12,846 matches useful.  That would be an exceptional mousetrap.

It will be interesting to see how many of these shakey leaf matches I lose, what, as a consumer and Ancestry subscriber I will gain, and how the new mousetrap will help genealogists break down brick walls.

In the end, that’s really the measure of usefulness of any genetic genealogy mousetrap.

One Match, Two Ancestors – Never Assume

Woman with HeadacheA few days ago, I received a note from someone who descends from my Miller line. Specifically, from our common ancestor, Philip Jacob Miller (1726-1799) and his wife, Magdalena (1727-1808).

Many records give Magdalena’s surname as Rochette, but I have found not one shred of evidence as to that or any other surname, nor can I find where the information about the Rochette surname originated.  So call me stubborn, but until there is some sort of proof, I’m not using it.  I will say one thing though.  Philip Jacob Miller was Brethren, as were his parents, and it’s very likely that his wife was also from the Brethren community – and there was no Rochette in the Brethren community or even in the same county.  And yes, I’ve personally checked the records.

Philip Jacob Miller and wife Magdalena had two sons, David, who my newly found cousin descends from, born in 1757, and Daniel, who I descend from, born in 1755. My cousin and I had “met” on 23and Me a year or so ago, but since she was not at Family Tree DNA, she could not join the Miller-Brethren surname project and I couldn’t compare her results to those of other known Miller descendants.  The Miller-Brethren DNA project focuses on the Miller families who were members of the Brethren (or similar) religions – and yes – there was more than one genetic Miller family – even in the same county and congregation.  They even moved cross-country together, yet they were not all from the same Miller ancestral line.  Y DNA busted that assumption years ago, but it was not at all what we expected to find!

When I received a note from my cousin that she had taken advantage of Family Tree DNA’s (almost) free transfer opportunity, I was thrilled, because we could then compare her to the rest of the clan.

In the Miller-Brethren project, we have three other cousins, all of whom descend from Daniel Miller in one way or another, that my cousin matches. Her best match is to my mother with 82 shared centimorgans and next, with me at 64.

You can see the comparison on the chromosome browser, below, at the default thresholds. Green is my mother, orange is me and blue is cousin Herbie who descends from another son of Daniel Miller.  You can see that there is a very large chunk of DNA on chromosome 14 where we all match.  A fourth cousin, shown in pink, also descended from Daniel, does not carry this segment of DNA on chromosome 14.

miller match

Dropping the threshold to 1cM produced more matching segments, but still no pink on chromosome 14, so clearly our pink cousin did not receive any Miller DNA on chromosome 14. However, we can attribute a huge chunk of chromosome 14 to Philip Jacob Miller and wife, Magdalena.  This segment is quite large, a total of 48cM and 12,894 SNPs.

miller match2

A second very interesting match is on the X chromosome. It’s fairly large too, a total of 11.84cM broken into three segments.  You can see that both mother and I match my cousin on the same X segments – obviously from Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena.  Right?  Wrong.  Wrong.  Very wrong.

If you’re scratching your head about now, you’re not alone.  Keep reading…

Do you ever just get a sense that something isn’t right? A second sense that you need to check again?  Well, in genetic genealogy, never assume.  After I thought for just a second, I decided to grab my X chromosome map, because something just didn’t seem right.  So glad I did, because Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena are NOT on the X inheritance path of my mother (and therefore not me either) so the X match CANNOT come from them.

miller match3

Using Charting Companion software, I can easily see, in pink and blue, who my mother’s X chromosome comes from in her lineage.  You can also see that Philip Jacob Miller isn’t on the X path, and neither are his descendants for two downstream generations – not until David Miller’s wife, Catharine Schaeffer, brings her X to the game.  So, the X match cannot be through this Miller line.

So, where did it come from?

In addition to this chart, I also sent an X chromosome pedigree chart to my cousin. She looked it over, and made a discovery.

Moving to my grandmother’s X chart, because the print is too small to read if I add another generation on my mother’s chart, you can now see Maria Magdalena Weber.

miller match4

Maria Magdalena Weber was born in 1724 in Mutterstadt, Germany to Johann Martin Weber and Maria Magdalena Schunck.

As it turns out, my cousin has another ancestor Eva Maria Weber, born in 1709, someplace in the Phalz portion of Germany, first found in Oley, PA. Now, it turns out, that Oley, PA is also where some of my other ancestors lived.  The DeTurks, Hochs and Deharcourts married into the Schaeffer family who migrated to Montgomery County, Ohio and married into the Miller family.  And yes, for those who are wondering, the Schaeffer line IS in my X path and yes, there are brick walls there that need to fall.

miller match5

Looking back at the first fan chart, Catharina Schaeffer is the wife of David Miller, son of Daniel Miller, son of Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena. Yep, it’s a small world.  And truth is stranger, sometimes, than fiction.

So, is our common ancestor a Weber? And if it is a Weber, is it from the Mutterstadt Weber line, or is it a mystery person from Oley, PA – a brick wall that hasn’t fallen yet?

We don’t know.


We’re still working on it.

Now all I need is a tool to find every other person who matches me and my cousin on that same X segment and see who their ancestors are.

Webers or Oley, PA people, or both????

Or are they one and the same?

Webers who are from Mutterstadt and who went to Oley, PA and…

would it be…

could it be…

possible that I descend through that line twice????

Oh, my head hurts.

The genealogy Gods certainly have a perverse and twisted sense of humor.

The lesson here is never assume. Just because you have positively identified your common ancestor with a match, and proven it with triangulation, doesn’t necessarily mean that is your ONLY ancestor that you share with that match.  You know what assume does.

Among other things, it gives you a headache.

Just saying….

Samuel Claxton/Clarkson (1827-1876), Civil War Veteran, 52 Ancestors #46

It’s amazing what a trip to the old home land can do for you – mind, body, spirit and genealogy.

In 2006, Daryl, one of my cousins, and I, went on our annual journey south.  We set out to find the cemetery of the Clarkson/Claxton family in Hancock County, Tennessee, and with help from our distant cousins who are locals, we found it.  We would never have found it without their help!

In this area, everyone is buried in a “family plot” on the old family farm. Current property owners are generally pretty good about granting access, but they do want to know when you’re coming.  Otherwise, you might get to see the business end of a shotgun.  And no, I’m not kidding.  Just ask Daryl!!!

This cemetery was literally out in the middle of a field. You can see it in the photo below, half way to the barn.  This farmer was very generous to have fenced it and maintained it as well.  No wild brambles like in so many.

clarkson field crop

Here’s a picture from the side road, easy walk, no woods. Yippee!!!

It’s rough land there for farming, although beautiful landscape. Daryl says it reminds her of Scotland.  Lots of surface boulders that can’t be plowed.  I can’t imagine how they eeked a living out of this terrain.  Although you have to admit, it’s stunningly beautiful with it’s tiny yellow flowers among lush green grasses, cedar trees and grey boulders.

clarkson field2

We walked across the field and entered the cemetery. Here, I’m between the gravestones of my great-great-grandparents, Samuel Clarkson and his wife, Elizabeth Speaks Clarkson.

Fortunately, we thought to close the gate…

clarkson cemetery me

…because shortly we had company.

clarkson cemetery cows

The first few cows were pretty curious. Mostly they just gazed at us like, “look at those humans, inside the fence, golly gee.”  About this time, it occurred to Daryl and I that we were the ones in the fence, not the cows. It wasn’t keeping them out, but keeping us in.

clarkson cemetery curious cow

But then, things took a turn for the worse….and this guy showed up. He was not curious, he was undecided at first whether he wanted to add us to his harem….after all, we were in his field….or whether he wanted to get rid of us.  Now this bull could easily have torn through that fence had he wanted to.  We knew that, but fortunately, he didn’t.


Daryl and I suddenly became very grateful for that fence, for the gate, and that we were inside it and he was outside. So we went about our business, delaying the question of how we would ever get out of the cemetery to our car which was parked on the other side of the barn, across the open field, and where the bull could be hiding where we couldn’t see.  Unfortunately, the farmer and his wife had gone to town, so no help was forthcoming from that direction.  And there were no trees in the cemetery, and it was HOT!!!  We had to escape, but how?

clarkson cemetery elizabeth

So Daryl and I set about photographing headstones which was why we were there in the first place. We kept a watchful eye on Mr. Bull, and he did the same with us, following us around the cemetery perimeter outside the fence, every now and then, making snorting noises, which I think translated into “Hey, baby!”.

This was the land owned by James Lee Claxton and his wife, Sarah Cook, then their son Fairwick Claxton and his wife Agnes Muncy, then Samuel Claxton/Clarkson and his wife Elizabeth Speaks. My ancestors lived and died here.  Samuel’s daughter, Margaret Claxton/Clarkson who married Joseph Bolton who had my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, was born here.  Fairwick’s mother, Sarah Cook Claxton/Clarkson is probably buried here as well in one of the graves marked only by fieldstones.  Her husband, James Lee Clarkson/Claxton died in 1815 in Fort Decatur, Alabama and is buried there.

Fairwick’s tombstone is broken, and his wife Agnes Muncy’s isn’t inscribed, but probably a fieldstone near Fairwick’s. His gravestone is spelled Fairwix, but all that is left of his first name today is “ix.”  I’ve also seen it spelled Farwix and Farwick.

clarkson cemetery fairwix

Fairwix’s son, Samuel is buried quite near to him.

clarkson cemetery samuel

I always wondered if the family knew Samuel’s name was misspelled. If so, I can hear the discussion now, “Just put the stone in the cemetery….it doesn’t matter.  I’m not paying for another one.”

The 1870 census indicates that both Elizabeth and Samuel could read and write, but Samuel’s mother, Agnes, could not. Samuel’s children attended school, and the older ones could read and write as well.

After awhile, the bull lost interest in us, mostly because his harem cows wandered off to graze someplace else and I think he thought his odds were better with them. However, when it came time to leave, we still snuck out of that fence, carefully shutting the gate, and set a new world’s record making the dash to the car.  After all, we couldn’t see behind the barn and who might be lurking there.  In the photo below, we are in the cemetery and the family barn is just outside.  You can see several unmarked graves, or more specifically, ones marked only with fieldstones, which was certainly the norm.  I was actually quite surprised that Fairwick had a stone.

clarkson cemetery view

The Clarkson barn is a beautiful old barn and the only building left from the time when Fairwick and Samuel would have lived.  The current owner told us that the original house sat between the cemetery and the barn, in the barnyard

Mrs. Cavin, the current owner, said the original road ran right beside the cemetery, but they moved the road when they paved it and it is further away today. She also said that the original house sat behind the cemetery in the clearing and that there were three different families who lived in the general area.

There was a spring back in the holler, looking up Owen Ridge Road from the barn/cemetery and the families dug a 20 foot well or so and it always flowed into the basin. The women went down there to wash clothes.

clarkson barn

I love this old barn. I wonder if Samuel sat on these rocks in the barnyard to take a break from time to time.

clarkson barn2

We took this photo, below, getting into the Jeep, following our record-setting dash.  The mirror is in the lower right hand corner. You can see the cemetery in the distance behind the dead tree and the rusted car.  We were fortunate that the bull didn’t chase us.  Others have, but those are stories for another time.  Where I grew up, one farmer had a bull and others shared.  In Tennessee, everyone has their own bull.  No bull:)

clarkson farm

When we were saying goodbye to this land, I don’t think we realized that we wouldn’t visit again.

These old trees on the Clarkson/Claxton land were probably young when our ancestors lived there. What stories they could tell.

clarkson trees

Now I don’t know if our ancestors can see us from the “other side,” but I’m telling you, if they can, Samuel, along with the rest of the family had one great laugh at us, trapped in the family cemetery on a hot spring day, by a bull.

Samuel Claxton/Clarkson, my great-great-grandfather, was born on this land on June 26, 1827. He served in the Civil War on the Union side, which is the only reason we have a photo of him along with his wife Elizabeth.  He died in 1876 of the after-effects of his service, just two years after his father, Fairwick, and in the middle of a messy lawsuit involving Fairwick’s estate.  Elizabeth delivered her last child in 1876 too, the same year her husband died, and that child had also been buried in this cemetery before she applied for her widow’s pension in 1878.  Elizabeth had a lot of loss and grief in just a few years.

clarkson samuel and elizabeth

Samuel’s physical description by the War Dept. was that he was 5’6” tall, dark complexion and hair and blue eyes. The physical description for both his brother and his nephew were nearly identical except their heights were 5’8”.  Samuel’s pension file number is 239822 and his widow filed under Clarkston on Oct. 18, 1878.  As it turns out, he served under the spelling of the name Claxton although in records we find the name as Clarkson, Claxton and Clarkston, all 3 varieties.  No wonder researchers today are confused.

Clarkson, Samuel Civil War

When Samuel died, he was only 49 years old. What we know of him is mostly through court, census and military records.  There is only one record in his “own” voice.

Samuel Clarkson married Elizabeth Speaks, daughter of Charles and Ann McKee Speaks and granddaughter of Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speaks and Alexander and Elizabeth McKee.

According to Elizabeth’s pension application, in an affidavit signed on December 8, 1879, Sarah Shiflet aged 51 of Alanthus Hill and Calvin Wolfe aged 56 of Alanthus Hill appeared and declared the following:

Sarah Shiflet declares:

“I was present when Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth L. Speak, now Elizabeth L. Clarkson, claimant, was married on the 22nd day of August, 1850 by Rev. Nicholas Speak at the house of Tancy Welch in Hancock County, TN.”

Samuel would have been 23 and she would have been 18.

Calvin Wolfe declared exactly the same thing. Calvin was married to Rebecca Claxton, Samuel Claxton’s aunt.  Tandy Welch (also spelled Welsh) was married to Mary Claxton, also Samuel’s aunt.  Sarah Claxton married Robert Shiflet and was also Samuel’s aunt.

Nicholas Speaks, Elizabeth’s grandfather, was the founder of the Speak Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia, just over the border. Tandy Welch was one of the elders of that church as well as a brother-in-law to Samuel Clarkson.

So we know where they were married, and that their wedding was well attended by aunts and uncles.

Samuel and Elizabeth Speak(s) Clarkson/Claxton had the following children:

  • Margaret N. 1851-1920 married Joseph “Dode” Bolton
  • Cyrena “Rena” M. 1852-1887 Clarkson cemetery Cyrena
  • Surrilda Jane 1858-1920 married William Luke Monday. Her death certificate says that she “had fits and fell into fire and burned to death.”

Clarkson, Jane cemetery

  • Clementine 1853-after 1877
  • Sarah Ann 1857-1860/1870
  • Cynthia “Catherine” 1860-1939 married William Muncy, died of epilepsy
  • John 1861- ?
  • Matilda 1867-1944 never married

Clarkson cemetery Matilda

  • Henry Clint born in 1869, may have married Amanda Jane Estep
  • Mary W. 1872 – after 1930, married Martin Parks

Clarkson, Mary

  • Jerushia 1874-1925 married Thomas Monroe Robinson, below

Clarkson, Jerusha

  •  Elizabeth 1876-1877/1878

The 1900 census indicated that Samuel and Elizabeth had 12 children and 9 were still living. The deceased children would have been Elizabeth, Cyrena and Sarah Ann.  I believe they may have had one more child, Ellen.  In the Clarkson cemetery, without a date, is one last stone that says “Ellen sleeps here.”  Elizabeth Clarkson was the last Clarkson wife to have children, and it’s only her and her children’s generation that have carved headstones instead of fieldstones.  There are several gaps between children that could indicated children who died before a census recorded them for posterity.

A very interesting fact that has become evident by finding a few of the death certificates of Samuel and Elizabeth’s children is that two of their children had epilepsy to the point that the condition directly or indirectly caused their death. This strongly suggests a genetic influence.  Epilepsy does have a genetic component although other factors like head trauma make epilepsy more likely.

According to Stanford Medical School, doctors have discovered a technique called the gene chip, which can quickly screen thousands of genes in an individual. Each bright spot in the chip represents a strong presence of a particular gene in the person being tested. This quick test will help diagnose and treat epilepsy in the near future.

Fortunately, by my generation, if a predisposition to epilepsy was found in Samuel and Elizabeth’s children, it has not manifested itself in either my generation or that of my father, his siblings or my grandmother. Ah, the beauty of genetics.  In this case, I was most certainly on the lucky side of the dice.  Soon, it seems there will be help for those who weren’t as lucky.  I was just sick to think of my great-aunt falling into the fire during a seizure.

The photo below, taken about 1900-1905, is the Tandy Welch home where Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth Speaks were married. Note Cecil Wolfe sitting on top of the chimney!

tandy welsh house

In the 1850 census, the newlyweds, Samuel and Elizabeth Clarkson/Claxton are living beside his parents in Hancock County, where they would both live for the rest of their lives. They also lived beside Samuel’s brother, William, who would sue Samuel relative to their father’s land in the 1870s.  Samuel also lived beside his grandmother, Sarah Claxton.  All of their surnames were spelled Claxton in 1850.

clarkson 1850 census

On February 16, 1854, a note was recorded as due December 25, 1854 from Samuel Clarkston to William Kincaid for $4.75.

About the same time, Samuel buys items at the estate of Isaac Larimore; a satchell for 50 cents, a crock for a dime, a crock for a quarter and a set “t cups and saucers” for a quarter. Those were probably for Elizabeth.  He then bought a shoat (young pig) for 1.55.

samuel clarkson 1860 census

In 1860, life was pretty much the same as it was in 1850. They lived in the same place, but had 5 children.  He is listed as a farmer and his wife’s occupation is listed as “scowering.”  With a houseful of kids and doing laundry in the river on a washboard, I’d bet she did a lot of scowering.

The Civil War

During the Civil War, Samuel Clarkson was a private in Company F of the 8th Tennessee Cavalry of the Union Army. He enlisted May 31, 1863 at London, KY for the term of 3 years and was discharged May 24, 1865 in Knoxville.  What happened in-between those dates would cost him his life in 1876.

This region was torn between those serving with the Union and those in the Confederacy. I have to wonder why he close to volunteer to fight with the Union.  Apparently this sentiment was prevalent in the entire family, as his brother Henry enlisted for the Union in July 1862 and would perish of disease in Louisville, KY in 1864.  His brother, John, enlisted On March 15, 1862 and died on March 20, 1863.  Samuel’s nephew, Fernando, enlisted about 10 days after his uncle, Henry in the same location at Cumberland Gap.  Samuel wasn’t drafted, he went willingly and enlisted for a 3 year term of service.  That means that his wife, now age 31 with 7 children would be left at home to farm, tend the children, fend of marauding soldiers from both sides and anything else that needed to be done.  That would be a difficult decision for a man to make.  But I bet she was a crack shot!

Samuel’s Civil War unit saw action in the following locations.

  • Duty at Cynthiana, Ky., and along railroad till August, 1863.
  • Pursuit of Morgan July 1-20.
  • Buffington Island, Ohio, July 19.
  • Operations against Scott July 25-August 6.
  • Near Winchester, Ky., July 29.
  • Irvine July 30.
  • Lancaster, Stanford and Paint Lick Bridge July 31.
  • Smith Shoals, Cumberland River, August 1.
  • Assigned to 8th Tennessee Cavalry August, 1863
  • Skirmish, Hawkins County, August 1, 1863.
  • Burnside’s Campaign in East Tennessee August 16-October 17, 1863. Occupation of Knoxville September 2.
  • Greenville September 11.
  • Kingsport September 18.
  • Bristol September 19.
  • Carter’s Depot September 20-21.
  • Zollicoffer September 20-21.
  • Watauga River Bridge September 21-22.
  • Jonesboro September 21.
  • Hall’s Ford, on Watauga River, September 22.
  • Blountsville, Johnson’s Depot and Carter’s Depot September 22.
  • Blue Springs October 10.
  • Henderson’s Mill and Rheatown October 11.
  • Zollicoffer October 12.
  • Blountsville October 14.
  • Bristol October 15.
  • Knoxville Campaign November 4-December 23.
  • Siege of Knoxville November 17-December 5.
  • Duty at Knoxville, Greenville, Nashville and Columbia and patrol duty on line of Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad from Columbia to Nashville till August, 1864.
  • At Bull’s Gap till October, 1864.
  • Rheatown September 28.
  • Watauga River September 29.
  • Carter’s Station September 30-October 1.
  • Operations in East Tennessee October 10-28.
  • Greenville October 12.
  • Bull’s Gap October 16.
  • Clinch Mountain October 18.
  • Clinch Valley, near Sneedsville, October 21.
  • Mossy Creek and Panther Gap October 27.
  • Morristown October 28.
  • Russellville October 28.
  • Operations against Breckenridge in East Tennessee November 4-17.
  • Russellville November 11.
  • Bull’s Gap November 11-13.
  • Russellville November 14.
  • Strawberry Plains November 16-17.
  • Flat Creek November 17.
  • Stoneman’s Saltsville (Va.) Raid December 10-29.
  • Big Creek, near Rogersville, December 12.
  • Kingsport December 13.
  • Near Glade Springs December 15.
  • Near Marion and capture of Wythevill December 16.
  • Mt. Airey December 17.
  • Near Marion December 17-18.
  • Capture and destruction of Salt Works at Saltsville December 20-21.
  • Stoneman’s Expedition from East Tennessee into Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina March 21-April 25, 1865.
  • Wytheville April 6.
  • Shallow Ford and near Mocksville April 11.
  • Salisbury April 12.
  • Catawba River April 17.
  • Swannanoa Gap April 22.
  • Near Hendersonville April 28.
  • Duty in District of East Tennessee till September, 1865. Mustered out September 11, 1865.

Samuel’s regiment lost during service: 1 Officer and 37 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 241 Enlisted men by disease. Total 280.  Disease took six and a half times more men that actual warfare – and that’s not counting the men like Samuel who would succumb later.

Stoneman’s Expedition would be Samuel’s last battle. He came back from that battle quite ill, with bronchitis, and according to his military records, was hospitalized in Knoxville from then until he was mustered out in May and went home to Hancock County.  I wonder how he got home.  After arriving at home, according to later testimony, he was confined to home for 10 weeks to recover.  He did recover somewhat, but never entirely, and was never able to “labor” normally.

Elizabeth’s Pension Application

In 1878, Elizabeth applied for a pension for herself and her four minor children based on Samuel’s service during the Civil War. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated.

Apparently there was some issue in terms of proving who Samuel Clarkson/Claxton actually was, and if he did or did not serve in the Army. Elizabeth had to jump through lots of hoops.  Fortunately, she was able to do so.

On the 14th of Sept. 1878, Elisabeth L. Clarkson of Alanthus Hill age 46 swears that in order to obtain the pension provided by an act of congress approved July 14, 1862, that she is the widow of Samuel Clarkson who was a private in company F commanded by Fielding L. McVey in the 8th regiment of the Tennessee Cavalry volunteers in the war of 1861 and that her maiden name was Elizabeth  L. Speak and that she was married to the said Samuel Clarkson on the 22nd day of August in 1850 at Tandy Welch’s in the county of Hancock an the state of Tennessee by Nicolas Speak, Minister of the Gospel and that there is a record evidence of marriage.

She declares further than Samuel Clarkson her husband died at home in Hancock County Tennessee on the 5th of December in 1876 of bronchitis which disease he contracted while in the service of the US and of which he died.

There are several correspondences between the War Dept. and Elizabeth. She was forced to find people who were present at the births of her children and at her marriage since the Hancock County marriage records were burned during the Civil War.  She did, and they testified or gave depositions.  She was awarded a pension until her death in 1907 in the amount of $8 a month, plus $2 a month for each child under 16.

Elizabeth had to prove that Samuel Claxton in the War Department records was the same person as her Samuel Clarkson. A letter from the War Dept. dated Nov. 4 1878 referencing pension 239,822 states that Samuel Clarkson is not on the roster but that Samuel Claxton mustered out May 20, 1865.

On July 5, 1880, the Clerk of Hancock Co., stated that he find no marriage record for Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth Speak, but that “much of the marriage records of about the date 1850 were lost during the late war.”

Elizabeth also had to prove that Samuel’s illness that caused his death was service related.

In 1879, Rachel Lemons, age 52, who along with Margaret Clarkson Bolton has been present at the birth of Matilda, testified to the following:

“Samuel Clarkson came home from the army sick. Henly F. Robinson MD, now dead, was his physician. I was present and heard the doctor say that Clarkson was afflicted with bronchitis and that he, the doctor, could patch him (Clarkson) up for awhile but that no man could cure him, he was very weakly until he died with said disease.”

General affidavit in the case of Elisabeth Clarkson widow of Samuel Clarkson March 1, 1879. Samuel Payne age 38 a resident of Hancock County and William Sulfrage, aged 57, of Claiborne Co., TN declare:

Samuel Payne declares that he was a soldier in the 8th regiment Tennessee Cavalry Company E and that he knows that Samuel Clarkson belonged to the same regiment (F).

William Sulfrage declares that he was a soldier in the 8th regiment TN Cavalry Company F and the he knows that Samuel Clarkson belonged to the same regiment and company.  The discharge of Samuel Clarkson sets forth the same fact.

Samuel Payne signs, William Sulfrage with his mark.

A “Proof of Disability” form was completed by a Justice of the Peace in Hancock Co.   On June 19, 1879, M.B. Overton, Sneedville, age 56 of Hancock Co., swears “that he was acquainted with Samuel Clarkson and that he was the same Samuel Clarkson who was a private in Company F, 8th regiment of the TN Cavalry and who was discharged at Knoxville on the 20th of May 1865.”  He further states that he “was acquainted with the said Clarkson from his youth and he appeared to be as stout as men of his size and that he joined the US army and that in the year 1864 he was at Knoxville, TN and found the said Clarkson in the hospital under medical treatment and ever after that time he was very feeble and died in 1876.”  Affiant further states that “he was with the said Clarkson at different times and places and noticed that he was very feeble and that he was not by any means stout as he was prior to his enlistment in the army and that his breath was very offensive.”

In an affidavit on June 27, 1879 Samuel M. Payne 39 years of age a resident of Hancock County declares that he “and Samuel Clarkson belonged to the 8th TN Cavalry and that Clarkson was a good soldier until after Stoneman’s Raid in December 1864 when the said Stoneman returned to Knoxville the said Clarkson was sick and was treated in the hospital at that place for he was in the Raid.”

Payne further states that he was in the hospital with Clarkson and that he, Clarkson, told him that he had bronchitis and that he had been personally acquainted with Clarkson since the war and Clarkson told him different times that he had bronchitis which was contracted while in the Army and that it would terminate in his death sooner or later and his information is that Clarkson died with that disease.

Samuel’s doctor testified in an affidavit in Madison Co., KY in the matter of Elizabeth L. Clarkston. On November 18, 1879, Doctor C.J. Bales age 30 a resident of Kingston, Madison Co., KY states that:

Swears “that he is a practicing physician and knew claimant for about 6 years and he did not know claimant prior to enlistment, but have known him since the spring of 1873. He was his family physician and lived 7 or 8 miles from him.  I do not know if he was a sound man or not prior to the enlistment.”  He further stats that he “did not treat claimant while in service but treated him since his discharge.  My first treatment was on Dec. 2, 1876.  His physical condition was bad, he had pneumonia from which disease he died. He had bronchitis the first time I ever saw him and told me he became diseased while in the Army.  He labored some after his discharge but was not able to perform hard labor.”

Bales also stated:

“Samuel Clarkson died Dec. 4 1876.  Immediate cause of death pneumonia.  I knew him from March 1873 to the date of his death.  He was afflicted with chronic bronchitis while I knew him.  He told me that he became afflicted while in the Army. Pneumonia an inflammation of the ?? lungs.  Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes.  Therefore when pneumonia sets up in connection with chronic bronchitis the danger is increased as in the case of Samuel Clarkston.”

Affidavit On June 24, 1880 of Calvin Wolfe age 57 of Alanthus Hill in Hancock Co., TN. and Margaret Bolton of the same place, do state as follows:

“Samuel Clarkson came home sick with bronchitis after he was discharged from the service of the US, was confined to his house 10 weeks and was treated by Dr. H.F. Robinson, now dead. He, Clarkson, partially recovered and got able to walk and ride around through the country and labor a little.  He never got well.  Complained all the time.  Sometimes he could do about half days labor at other times he was not able to do anything.  He was troubled more or less all the time with a cough.  Also general debility up to the time that he was treated by Dr. Bales.  We have personal knowledge of these facts.  We lived a close neighbor to him.”

Affidavit of Clementine Clarkson, age 24, of Alanthus Hill in Hancock County on June 23, 1879.

Clementine states that at the time of her father, Samuel Clarkson’s illness, she was away from home and her mother sent for her to come home. She did so and when reached home and finding her father very feeble she asked him “what’s the matter?”  His answer was “I have got that old disease that I had when I came out of the Army, bronchitis and I want you to come home and your mother wait on me.”

She further declared that she never heard of her father having bronchitis until he came home from the US Army and that he died on the ___ day of December.

A letter from the War Department dated April 28, 1879 states that for Samuel Claxton there is no original enlistment or muster-in roll, but the muster rolls for company F of the 8th Regiment of the TN Cavalry show the following evidence of service.

“Enlisted as a private May 31, 1863 at London, KY to serve 3 years. On roll from enlistment to October 31, 1863, he is reported present and so born on sub rolls to March and April 1865 when reported absent sick since March 12, 1865 Knoxville, TN.  He was mustered out on ? Roll May 20, 1865 at the Asylum US A Genl. Hospital in Knoxville, TN.  Name not borne Samuel Clarkson on any roll on file.”

A letter from the Surgeon General’s office dated Aug. 8, 1879. Samuel Clarkston private Co F 8 TN Cav entered Asylum G.H. Knoxville TN March 12, 1865 with chronic bronchitis and was discharged from service May 20, 1865.  No regt records on file.

A July 5, 1880 affidavit before JP of David N. Louthen 43 (or 48) years, resident of Hancock Co., TN, Mulberry Gap, in the case of Samuel Clarkson.

“I was with the said Clarkson many times after he was discharged from the service. He stated to me that he was still troubled with bronchitis or lung disease that he contracted in the service.  Some 2 weeks before said Clarkson died he stated to me that he was becoming worse with the said disease.”

Rachel Lemons declared relative to Elizabeth Clarkson’s pension application:

“Samuel Clarkson came home from the army sick. Henly F. Robinson MD, now dead, was his physician. I was present and heard the doctor say that Clarkson was afflicted with bronchitis and that he, the doctor, could patch him (Clarkson) up for awhile but that no man could cure him, he was very weakly until he died with said disease.”

Indeed, he did become worse and succumbed on December 5, 1876, just three weeks before Christmas. Given his health and his obvious misery for the decade before his death, one wonders if this was perceived as a tragedy or as a blessing – a release from interminable torture.

Elizabeth, Samuel’s widow, declares that Samuel Clarkson, her husband, died at home in Hancock County Tennessee on the 5th of December in 1876 of bronchitis which disease he contracted while in the service of the US and of which he died.

She declares she has remained a widow since the death of Samuel Clarkson. She has the following children under the age of 16 living at home whose names and date of birth are given below:

  • Matilda Clarkson born March 5, 1867
  • Henry Clarkson born June 19, 1869
  • Mary W. Clarkson born May 5, 1872
  • Jerusha Clarkson Feb. 1, 1874

Elizabeth signs as Clarkston.

elizabeth clarkson signature

Elizabeth finally received a pension retroactively of $8 per month commencing on Dec. 5, 1876 and an additional $2 per month for Matilda, Henry, Mary W. and Jerusha until they reached the age of 16.

The Church

The Clarkson family members attended the Rob Camp Baptist Church which was located not far from where they lived.

Church notes reflect that in August 1858, Mary Martin, Malinda Martin and Saliner Tankersley of color, Elizabeth Clarkson, Nancy Clarkson, William Clarkson, Samuel Clarkson and Edward H. Clarkson were received by experience. This typically means they were then baptized and became members of the church after having a revealing religious experience.  From the number of people joining that month, I suspect that there had been a revival.  Given that a church revival was THE only social outlet for the area, aside from regular church services, pretty much everyone attended, coming from miles around and camping for as long as a week in their wagons.  Revivals were legendary.  And revival fever – it was infectious – terrible ketchin’.

If you’ve ever heard one of those southern fire and brimstone preachers, you’ll understand what I mean. They’ll literally scare the Hell out of you, or scare the you out of Hell, one way or the other!  By the time they’re done with you, you can feel and see the flames lapping at your toes!!!  And you certainly don’t want to be the only one left behind when all of your siblings and neighbors are escaping Hell’s firey reach – so it’s into the river and into the church.  In Samuel’s case, it would have been the Powell River, beside his house and near the church as well.

powell river

This baptism, below, was typical of this region and occurred in the same part of Hancock County, in the same way, near the Tennessee/Virginia state line in 1963.

creek baptism

Almost exactly a decade later, we find a note about Samuel in the Rob Camp Baptist Church minutes dated Saturday, Sept. 2, 1868: “Excluded Samuel Clarkson for getting drunk and not being willing to make any acknowledgements whatever.” This means that he wasn’t willing to publicly apologize and admit that he “did wrong” and promise to mend his ways. Clearly, he didn’t think he had “done wrong,” or he wasn’t about to mend his ways.  One way or the other, Samuel was done with church altogether.

In May of 1869, a group of people including Elizabeth, Samuel’s wife and several other family members were excused from Rob Camp Church to establish a new church, but Samuel’s name was not among them nor was his name among the new Mt. Zion Church membership. His severance with organized religion was apparently permanent.  I wonder if there was a preacher at Samuel’s funeral.

samuel clarkson 1870 census

In the 1870 census, Elizabeth Speaks and Samuel Claxton have 8 children and are living beside his parents, Fairwick and Agnes Muncy Claxton.

Samuel’s father, Fairwick Claxton died on February 11, 1874. On Jan. 19, 1875, a lawsuit was filed in Hancock Co. Chancery Court that eventually would be settled after Samuel’s death in the Tennessee State Supreme Court. That’s where Daryl and I found those records which had been transferred from Hancock County before the courthouse burned.  Thanks Heavens for small favors!

The Lawsuit

Samuel’s brother, William Clarkson filed suit against Samuel Clarkson, etal.

Enrolling docket – chancery court – Page 167 – January 19, 1875 – To the Honorable H.C. Smith chancellor for the first chancery district of Tennessee sitting at Sneedville…your orator William Clarkson, a resident of Union Co., Tn., that on the 11th day of Feb. 1874, his father Fairwix Clarkson died intestate in the said county of Hancock.  A few days before the death of said Fairwix and while on his death bed, and in his last  sickness, he was by means of undue influence induced to sign deeds which purported to convey his real estate to his son Samuel Clarkson and one of his granddaughters, Nancy Furry, and a daughter Rebecca Wolfe, each getting a separate tract by a separate conveyance.  The deed to the said Samuel Clarkson conveyed a tract lying in the 4th civil district of said county of Hancock adjoining the land of Melburn Overton, James Overton and others, the tract conveyed to said Nancy Furry lies in the same civil district and adjoins lands of Montgomery and Clarkson and others and the tract conveyed to Rebecca Wolfe lies in the same civil district and adjoins the lands of Rhoda Shiflett, Henry Yeary and others.  Said lands are valuable and are worth $2000 or more.  The consideration named in each of said deeds in the sum of $150 but nothing was paid.  These lands constituted almost the entire estate of said Fairwix.  He left a widow surviving him and several other children and grandchildren who were in no way provided for by said intestate.  Your orator shows dates and expressly charges that the two said deeds were pretended to have been made and executed, the said Fairwix Clarkson was so enfeebled in mind that he was incapable of doing any binding act, and that therefore the said pretended conveyances were not his acts and deeds and that he really died the true owner of said lands and the same of rightly belong to his heirs-at-law.

The suit goes on to name the many heirs of Fairwick.

June 2, 1875 – The answer of Samuel Clarkson, Nancy Fury, Rebecca Wolf and Agnes Clarkson to the bill of complaint of William Clarkson files in the chancery court in Sneedville…these respondents reserving all the benefits of exceptions to the complaints said bill answering say – They admit the death of Fairwick Clarkson as stated and that he died intestate – that 5 days before his death he executed the deeds mentioned in the bill and while in his last sickness and in his proper mind. That some 12 months or two years before his death, (page 185) he expressed the same feeling and agreed to the same contracts as mentioned in the deeds as being his free and voluntary act and such as he intended to carry out.  He was in his proper mind all the while during his last sickness and equally so 12 months on two years before the execution of the deeds mentioned in the bill and the deeds only carried out his expressed contract two years before his death and without any undue influence or inducement of any kind whatever.

These respondents admit the conveyance were made to them and made in good faith and for a valuable consideration – Respondent Samuel Clarkson’s 100 acres more or less lies in the River Bluffs and is of little value. Respondent Nancy Furry has about 100 and 20 acres on the top of the river bluffs in the limestone and cedar and Rebecca Wolfe has about 56 acres on the same lonts? of land.  These respondants state they have paid fully for the land and will probably have to pay more than their contracts on the debts a matters the deceased much desired should be paid and hence said deeds were executed in good faith and for the purposes stated.  Respondents have lived with the deceased and his wife, now his widow, for at least 7 years working hard for his support and his hers? who has relinquished her dower interest to these respondants.  The lands are properly bounded and located by the bill, but the estimated value is too much.  Respondents admit the number of heirs stated, respondents now repeat and state that their Father the deceased was properly at himself when the deeds were executed and only executed a contract contemplated 12 months before that time – the there was no undue influences used or persuasion to induce the execution of the deeds, that they were freely and voluntarily executed by the deceased.  Respondent also shows the estate was indebted and no personal estate to payment and these respondents has paid up the debts.

This document tells us that Fairwix was unable to attend to the farm for the last 7 years, which means since 1868, and Samuel, in addition to his own health issues, assisted his ailing father, helping to support his parents, sister and niece.

Depositions ensued. In one taken Feb 11, 1876, we find the following testimony by John T. Montgomery:

2nd by complainant – do you know who waited upon Fairwix Clarkson and attended to his affairs for some years before he died and for who?

Answer – I have a knowledge of Samuel Clarkson and family cropping him would and doing his milling .

Oral Examination of complainants state of Samuel Clarkston lived on the land so mentioned and cultivated the same during the time.

Answer – he was living on the place and cultivated part of it.

On June 14, 1876, Samuel Clarkson was deposed. This is the only record we have of his actual words.

The said witness Samuel Clarkson aged about 49 years being duly sworn deposed as follows.

Please state if you are the son of the said Fairwick Clarkson and one of the defendants in this case.

Answer – I am said to be the son of Fairwick Clarkson and am one of the defts in the case.

2nd question – State if you were well acquainted with your father before his death and for what length of time?

Answer – I was well acquainted all of my life with him.

3rd question – State where you lived at the time of your father’s death?

Answer – In the 14th Civil District of Hancock County Tennessee on the lands I got of my father.

4th question – State how far you lived from your father? (page 3)

Answer – I live some two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards from father.

5th question by defts – State who provided for your father before his death and how long?

Answer – I provided for my father about seven years before his death. I made the grain and took care of it for him, and paid the rents of my own crop.  And I also got his firewood for him, that is the principal part of it – and prepared it for the fire place and put it on the fire for him.

6th question by respt. – State if your father was properly in his mind up to the time of his death?

Answer – To my knowledge he never was out of his proper mind.

7th question – State how long before your father’s death he contracted to you the part of the land you live on, and anything you may know about the balance owned by the other defendants?

Answer – My father contracted the land to me that I now live on in the year 1867. And he died in the year 1874.  He said that he was going to strike off the lands on the side of the road he lived to Nancy Furry and Rebeca Wolfe except fifty acres to Furnando Clarkson.

8th question – State if at any time (he) your father ever showed you any of the lines and what he said about them?

Answer – (He) my father showed me a corner tree to the part I got of him. He said that was the corner to which he was going to make me deed.  He said he was going to go and show deft Wolfe his line he said that his wife had paid him for it and was going to make them a deed to it.  He said he was going to cut-off to Rebecca Wolfe about fifty acres, and deed the other to Nancy Furry.  He said she had paid for it value received and he was going to make her a deed to it.  The deeds were after words made to Defts.  This talk all passed before he was taken down sick.  The deeds were made after wards.

9th question – State if you paid for your part of the land and how? Answer – I did pay for it… In pure hard labor.  I am still paying for it by taking care of my mother as was my contract.  I paid about thirty five dollars and Calvin Wolfe and wife and Nancy Furry paid about forty-five dollars on fathers debts since his death.

10th question by same – State if the above payments were part of the consideration of the decd mentioned.

Answer – No they were not (page 5)

On July 15, 1876, Agnes Clarkson, the mother of both Samuel and William Clarkson was deposed. Among other things, she said the following:

By same – Did you hear the decd Fairwix Clarkson say anything about the disposition he had made of the lands in dispute in this case as what he intended to make of said land and at what time did you hear him talk about the matter?

Answer – I have years ago heard him talk about what disposition he intended to make of it.

By same – Please state what he said before to the disposition of said lands.

Answer – He and myself were alone and he said he wanted his business wound up that he intended to make three deeds one to Samuel Clarkson, one to Rebecca Wolf and one to Nancy Ferry(was then). I asked him what he intended to do with his other children and he said he would do by them as they had done by him they had left him in a bad condition and he had nothing for them.  I persuaded him to leave same land for them and he said I need not talk to him for he would not.

This document was found in the case file and includes Samuel Clarkson’s signature, unless a clerk wrote and signed everything.

1876 Samuel signature

It was acknowledged that the deposition be taken at the house of Agness Clarkson on June 9th.  Agness was the mother of both William and Samuel, and this entire situation must have grieved her heart deeply as she watched it destroy what was left of her family.

On December 5, 1876, Samuel died, officially of pneumonia, but probably of tuberculosis contracted during his Civil War service.

1877 Clarkson chancery filing

Court record on March 13, 1877 – In this case the death of the defendant Samuel Clarkson is suggested and admitted to be true and the defendant left a widow Elizabeth Clarkson and several children viz., Margaret Bolton wife of Joseph Bolton, Rena Clarkson, Clementine Clarkson, Jane Monday wife of Luke Monday, Catharine Clarkson, Matilda Clarkson, Jerusha Clarkson, Mary Clarkson, Elizabeth Clarkson, John Clarkson, Henry Clarkson and the two first named children being adults. Thomas McDermott solicitor of said minors, Elizabeth, Rena and Joseph Bolton and wife Margaret Bolton enter their appearance and waives service of process.  It is therefore ordered and decreed that this cause be and the sheriff is ordered to summon Luke Monday and the other children of said deceased to appear at the next term of this court to show cause if any why this suit should not be revived against them.

March 14, 1878 – the court finds that there was no undue influence, and William Clarkson requests a trial transcript for the supreme court, where he intends to file, which is where Daryl and I found this case.

Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth applies for a widow’s pension based on Samuel’s service in the Civil War. She could have applied earlier, but maybe she just needed to end one crisis before beginning a separate legal action.

That’s about all we know about Samuel Clarkson/Claxton’s life, at least from the records that existed at the time he lived. Fortunately, there are a few records, all born out of conflict of some type.  That conflict certainly was a detriment to his life.  The Civil War cost him his life, and the lawsuit over his father’s land had to make his last year of life miserable.  He passed over, worried I’m sure, about the outcome of that suit and his wife’s ability to support herself and raise the underage children still at home.  Not to mention, Samuel was supporting his mother as well, apparently an arrangement promised to his father, Fairwick, before his death.  What would happen to her?

There is a great irony here, and that is that cousin Daryl and I descend, one of us from Samuel, and one of us from William. Do you think they were both turning over in their graves?  Daryl is one of my closest cousins and friends, while I’m sure that the rift over Fairwick’s estate stood between the brothers as insurmountable as a mountain.

There is something else that William and Samuel shared with all of their Clarkson/Claxton male kin who carried the surname, and the Y chromosome of Fairwick and of James Claxton before him, and that is their DNA.

The Claxton/Clarkson DNA

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, unchanged, and unmixed with any DNA from the mother, which gives us the ability to track this DNA back in time.

Several Claxton/Clarkson men have tested in the Clarkson/Claxton DNA project.  As it turns out, there are several separate groups of Clarkson/Claxton men in the DNA project.  There are, however, 19 Clarkson/Claxton/Williams men who are unquestionably matches to each other that include this group of Clarkson/Claxton men.

We don’t know exactly how all of these men are related, but we know positively that they are, because their DNA matches and their surnames are very similar.  Based on the surname, it’s seems that the original name was Claxton, not Clarkson, which makes research somewhat easier and explains the constant confusion in Hancock County surrounding the surname.Clarkson Y dna group

The first group labeled Bedford and Claiborne Co., TN group reflects the ancestry of Samuel Claxton. Fortunately, our Claiborne/Hancock County line is represented by three different kits, number 48133, 139774 and 117479.  Yes, for two of those kits, the surname is Williams, the result of a common law marriage wherein the children took their mother’s surname, but research has proven, along with the DNA, that biologically this line is Claxton.  Kit 48133 descends through Fernando Clarkson, son of James, son of Fairwick.  The Williams line descends through Hugh Claxton, son of Henry Avery Claxton, son of Fairwick.

The Claxton DNA markers are unique enough that at both 37 and 67 markers, these men only have matches to other Claxton and Williams men. That’s certainly a blessing since their haplogroup is R-U198, a subgroup of about a quarter of European men who test.  I am thankful for our rare STR marker values which make us unique.  Not everyone is that fortunate.  If one of our participants were to test further, I’m sure that we would be members of a smaller haplogroup subgroup as well.  Maybe someday someone will take the Big Y, after we find that common ancestor, which seems to be a more pressing focus than haplogroup definition.

On the chart below, notice the “mode” line. We could just as easily call this the “earliest ancestor reconstructed” line for our Claiborne/Hancock Claxton group.  This is because the mode is the most frequently found number for each STR marker within the group.  In other words, whoever our common ancestor is, this is what his DNA looks like, using all of the results to determine the original value.

clarkson Y dna group2

Each of the colored boxes within the group shows the difference from the mode, in coloration.  You can double click to enlarge the chart.

You can see that Fairwick has three kits who descend from him. Kit number 48133 has had a mutation at location DYS439 and kit 139774 has experienced a mutation at location CDYb.  For both of these men’s lines, those will be line marker mutations.  We know they happened between Fairwick and their generation.  In the case of kit 139774, we know that CDYb mutation happened between Hugh and the current generation, because kit 117479 who also descends from Hugh does not carry that mutation.  In fact, kit 117479 has had no mutations since Fairwick, and judging from the fact that he matches the mode exactly, as well as the Bedford County Group, shown by kit 23358, directly above his, exactly.  He has had no mutations since the original common ancestor, probably a few generations earlier, probably someplace in North Carolina.  This tells us that Fairwick also matched that original ancestor exactly.  We don’t know about Samuel directly, since no one in his direct line has tested, but he is most likely to match Fairwick exactly.

It’s ironic, in this family drama, that what we do know about Samuel’s DNA is courtesy of his two brothers, both of whom were probably estranged from him, based on what happened to his father’s estate

In Summary

In many ways, Samuel’s life, and death, make me sad. This isn’t the way life is supposed to work.  There was no “happily ever after.”  Elizabeth and Samuel had a normal beginning, married in her uncles house, and began their family.  I’m sure they were like every young couple, starry-eyed, very much in love, and excited to set up housekeeping.  He bought her teacups and saucers, a luxury in the back woods, hills and hollers of Appalachia.  However, the Civil War interrupted their life and as fate would have it, defined their future, abbreviated as it would be.

We’ll never know what inspired Samuel to volunteer to fight. The Claxton’s didn’t own slaves and neither did most people living in Hancock County.  It was a rocky area not generally able to support more people than lived there – let alone anyone extra.  Most of the residents are clannish and while they are very interested in the neighbors business, who they are likely related to several times over, they want to remain out of the business of anyone they don’t know.  For some reason, Samuel must have felt strongly about the Civil War, because he, two brothers, one brother-in-law and a nephew, Fernando,volunteered as well.  Three of those four men would perish in the war and Samuel afterwards.

The illness that Samuel contracted during the war clearly made the man miserable. The testimony of the people who knew him and the physicians who treated him make that evident.  He complained all of the time and his breath was very offensive.  He coughed constantly, was weak and couldn’t work.  He spent from late 1864 until his death in 1876 as an ill man with increasingly degenerating health, but still caring for his aging parents.

His wife, Elizabeth, called one of her daughters home to help. The only thing that saved this family was likely that they lived in a nuclear family unit, meaning several generations lived on the land, including Samuel’s father, Fairwick, his mother and several of his siblings lived in close proximity.  Looking back and at the testimony about his father, Fairwick, during his last 7 years when he was disabled, I have to wonder if some of the reason that Samuel’s siblings all-too-willingly left was to escape a disabled and needy father, grandmother and brother.  Life during this time was very difficult for the Clarkson family, and they could have used any help they could have gotten.  Fairwick was obviously very hurt by the fact that so few of his children helped him when he was in need and chose to treat them as they had treated him.

To make Samuel’s life even more miserable, two of his brother’s, John and Henry died in the Civil War, as did his brother-in-law, John Wolfe. This family was wracked with tragedy and sorrow during the Civil War and never escaped that long shadow.

Samuel apparently drank. We don’t know the circumstances, or how often, but he was obviously unrepentant, according to church records in 1868.  I guess if anyone deserved to get drunk, it was probably Samuel Clarkson.  He earned the right.  I hope that drinking didn’t become yet another chronic problem for him.  He might have used alcohol to deaden pain, either physical or emotional, or both.

By the time Samuel’s father, Fairwick, died in 1874, 3 of Fairwick’s sons were dead, two of them in the Civil War, his son-in-law of the same cause, and one daughter. In addition, Samuel was gravely ill and Fairwick had to know he was not long for this earth.  That left only 2 daughters and William as the healthy son, but William moved away from the homeplace, to Union County.  Fairwick’s wife, Agness’s, depositions about how only Samuel, one daughter and one granddaughter helped them are hard to read without heartache, especially knowing how ill Samuel was while he was trying to help his father.

Agness would bury her son Samuel, before her own death sometime after 1880.

On top of all of that, Samuel’s wife, Elizabeth, would bury her last child born in the year Samuel died, along with at least 3 more before 1900.  Oral family history is unproven but indicates that both of her sons died about 1900 as well. Some of Samuel and Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren are shown in this photo taken about 1896.

Elizabeth Speaks 1896

Samuel’s last days weren’t heralded by being surrounded by a loving family, but by a lawsuit filed by his only living brother alleging that Samuel unduly influenced their father prior to his death. He would have died in the house that sat in this clearing between the rocks and the barn.

clarkson barnyard

The pictures reveal the true value of that land – it was, in essence, unfarmable, full of rocks – but Samuel had to deal with the allegations and the turmoil of the lawsuit in addition to his rapidly failing health. Elizabeth must have been a wreck.  In addition to everything else, she had two epileptic children.  After Samuel’s death, she also had her mother-in-law to care for.  How did she manage?

Samuel gave a deposition at his mother’s house just weeks before his own death and died before that lawsuit was complete. No undue influence was found, but then William refiled the suit in the Supreme Court, so the drama continued.  We never did discover exactly how that Supreme Court cases ended, but since William never owned any land in Hancock County, I would presume that that suit too was found in favor of Samuel’s heirs.

I hope that Samuel truly was proud to wear his military uniform. He seemed to be, and he and Elizabeth make a beautiful couple.  I’m so grateful for that photo – it’s the only one of Samuel, although he doesn’t look particularly happy – although no one smiled in pictures taken during that timeframe.  Both Samuel and Elizabeth sacrificed greatly.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice – that of his life, after fighting a valiant battle for 11 years after the war, while helping his father.  It was a battle Samuel would not win.  Elizabeth carried far more than her share of the load, beginning with the war and never ending until she was buried alongside Samuel in the Clarkson Cemetery in 1907, still his widow, 31 years after his death.

Kostenki14 – A New Ancient Siberian DNA Sample

k14 skeleton

This week, published in Science, we find another ancient DNA full genome sequence from Siberia in an article titled “Genomic structure in Europeans dating back at least 36,200 years” by Seguin-Orlando et al.. This sample, partially shown above, is quite old and closely related to the Mal’ta child, also found in Siberia from about 24,000 years ago. Interestingly enough, K14 carries more Neanderthal DNA than current Europeans. This skeleton was actually excavated in 1954, but was only recently genetically analyzed.

k14 mapFrom the paper, this map above shows the locations of recently analyzed ancient DNA samples.  Note that even though K14 and Mal’ta child are similar, they are not located in close geographic proximity.

k14 population clusterAlso from the paper, this chart of population clusters is quite interesting, because we can see which of these ancient samples share some heritage with today’s indigenous American populations, shown in grey. UPGH=Upper Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherer, MHG=Mesolithic Hunter Gatherer, which is later in time that Paleolithic, and NEOL=Neolithic indicating the farming population that arrived in Europe approximately 7,000-10,000 years ago from the Middle East

You can see that the Neolithic samples show no trace of ancestry with today’s Native people, but both pre-Neolithic Hunter-Gatherer cultures show some amount of shared ancestry with Native people. However, to date, MA1, the Malta child is the most closely related and carries the most DNA in common with today’s Native people.

Felix Chandrakumar is currently preparing the K14 genome for addition to the ancient DNA kits at GedMatch.  It will be interesting to see if this sample also matches currently living individuals.

Also from the K14 paper, you can see on the map below where K14 matches current worldwide and European populations, where the warmer colors, i.e. red, indicated a closer match.

K14 population matches

Of interest to genealogists and population geneticists, K14’s mitochondrial haplogroup is U2 and his Y haplogroup is C-M130, the same as LaBrana, a late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer found in northern Spain. Haplogroup C is, of course, one of the base haplogroups for the Native people of the Americas.

The K14 paper further fleshes out the new peopling of Europe diagram discussed in my Peopling of Europe article.

This map, from the Lazardis “Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans” paper published in September 2014, shows the newly defined map including Ancient North Eurasian in this diagram.

Lazaridis tree

K14 adds to this diagram in the following manner, although the paths are flipped right to left.

K14 tree

Blue represent current populations, red are ancient remains and green are ancestral populations.

Dienekes wrote about this find as well, here.

Paper Abstract:

The origin of contemporary Europeans remains contentious. We obtain a genome sequence from Kostenki 14 in European Russia dating to 38,700 to 36,200 years ago, one of the oldest fossils of Anatomically Modern Humans from Europe. We find that K14 shares a close ancestry with the 24,000-year-old Mal’ta boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some contemporary western Siberians, and many Europeans, but not eastern Asians. Additionally, the Kostenki 14 genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with a population basal to all Eurasians that also relates to later European Neolithic farmers. We find that Kostenki 14 contains more Neandertal DNA that is contained in longer tracts than present Europeans. Our findings reveal the timing of divergence of western Eurasians and East Asians to be more than 36,200 years ago and that European genomic structure today dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a meta-population that at times stretched from Europe to central Asia.

You can read the full paper at the two links below.

It’s been a great year for ancient DNA analysis and learning about our ancestral human populations.

However, I have one observation I just have to make about this particular find.

What amazing teeth. Obviously, this culture did not consume sugar!

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 Presentations

Ireland banner

The coordinators of Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 have made the various presentations available for free on YouTube.  The lectures were sponsored by Family Tree DNA and organized by ISOGG volunteers.

Here is a description of the lectures.

Thanks much to both the Genetic Genealogy Ireland sponsors, coordinators and presenters. There are more than 30 presentations available and something for everyone.  Take a look.

Henry Bolton (c1759-1846), Kidnapped, Revolutionary War Veteran, 52 Ancestors #45

Henry Bolton is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, we know a lot about him, especially after he settled in Botetourt County, Virginia.  We know something about him when he immigrated, and we know nothing, or almost nothing, about his life before that except for misty shreds of oral history.

My line of the Bolton family descends through Henry’s second wife, Nancy Mann, through son Joseph Preston Bolton, through his son Joseph “Dode” Bolton, through his daughter Ollie Bolton who married my grandfather, William George Estes. The Joseph Preston Bolton family, along with three of Joseph’s siblings, moved from Giles County, VA to Hancock County, TN in the mid-1840s and Henry’s descendants are found in both Hancock and Claiborne County, Tennessee.  Of course, there are also many scattered to the winds today.

The Bolton family in Claiborne and Hancock County formed a family association in about 1900 and through at least the 1990s, had regular, annual meetings. In that area, these often took place over Memorial Day weekend, known as “Decoration Day” and were spent, in part, tending to family cemeteries.  Often, you have several events to attend on that same weekend and many people intentionally ‘came home’ at that time.  Finding a hotel anyplace in that vicinity was impossible during that timeframe.

The fact that there was a family association of some sort was extremely beneficial, because it allowed the family to preserve pictures and stories of the earlier generations.

Given that Joseph Preston Bolton only died in 1887, and his son, Dode, in 1920, you’d think that both of those men would have known about the early life of Henry Bolton, and passed those stories to their children. There is a story, as told in the Bolton Family History published in 1985 by the Bolton Family Association, but it is frustratingly sketchy.

Henry Bolton Sr. was born in 1755 and died November 24, 1846. There are several stories, somewhat different, as to how the two brothers, Henry and (Condery) Conrad came to America.

Reports from the family members, Mrs. Holt, late of Arizona and Mrs. Bunker of Iowa, say that Henry Sr. and his brother Conrad came from London, England around 1770-1774. Someone was showing the boys the scenes at the harbor when suddenly the vessel started to move out to sea.  The boys felt that they were tricked into being on the boat.

When they landed in America, the boys were taken to a farm near Hagerstown, Maryland and were bound out to a Mr. Moore for a number of years to pay for their passage to America. Their duties consisted of caring for Mr. Moore’s horses.

One day while Henry was thus employed, a stranger came to look at Mr. Moore’s horses with the idea of obtaining horses for the Continental Army, which was encamped near Hagerstown. The gentleman told Henry that if he would join the Army, he would no longer be bound to Mr. Moore.  The next day Henry went to the place where the soldiers were camped and joined the Army.  He saw the gentleman with whom he had talked the day before and to his surprise, learned he was General George Washington.  He served under him until the end of the war.  This is documented in the Pennsylvania State Archives, Philadelphia County Militia 6th Services, Vol 1, page 799.

Henry took part in the battle of Brandywine and during this battle he was wounded in the hip and as a result of this wound, he walked with a limp. After the battle, he was laid across a cannon and taken from the battlefield.  The battle of Brandywine was fought near Chad’s Ford, Pennsylvania, September 11, 1777.

Henry never received a pension because his papers were lost in a fire during the War of 1812, some say the Hagerstown fire, some say when the British buried the White House.  “He was with the Fourth Battalion of Philadelphia Co., Pa, Eight Company, under Captain Isaiah Davis.  8th Class under William Coats  – Henry Boulton.”

According to the books written about the Bolton families of England, Boldon, Bolton, Boulton, and Bolten were all common variations of the name which was Anglo-Saxon in the first place.

We still hear a great deal of Anglo-Saxon English in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky. “Have you eaten?” is the way we ask the question in mainstream American English.  “Have you et?” is the way it would be said in most of England, even in sophisticated households.  This is our true Anglo Saxon we sometimes sound like those of the British rather than those of the mainstream English.

Since the formative years of English language, irregular verbs have given its users more trouble than any other part of our speech. Mountain speech has preserved some of these different forms.  We don’t’ hear them as much as we did a few years ago.  We still hear expressions as : halp or holped for helped; clumb for climbed; seen or seed for saw; fotch for fetched; was borned for born; wropped for wrapped and on and on.  The use of more than one negative to make a strong statement has always been common in the Germanic language and English is much more Germanic than it is anything else.  Chauser, six centuries ago used double negatives, we have found some of the older Boltons closer to Chaucer in some respects than to the “Latin Learning” halls of learning.  So whether it was English or German, brothers often spelled the name differently in the old days when spelling was not formalized anyway.

In Passengers to America, 1977, by Michael Tepper, page 366, we find the statement that Henry Bolton, age 15 and his brother Condery, age 16, immigrated from the Port of London, England to Maryland between March 13 and 20, 1775 on the vessel Culbert. Both were listed as laborers and being indented servants for 7 years.

After the close of the Revolutionary War, Henry Bolton Sr. married Catherine Chapman, August 17, 1786. They had six children: Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary “Polly”, Jacob, Peter and Sarah.  Catherine Chapman Bolton died, August 17, 1798.

The files in the state library in Harrisburgh, PA reveals the following: There is an indexed in the published Pennsylvanian Archives a marriage of Henry Bolton of Swedes Church (Gloria Dei), Philadelphia, the church may have the complete record.

Here in Pennsylvania, their first child, Elizabeth Bolton was born on November 6, 1787. She married Absolem C. Dempsey on October 26, 1809.  This is listed on page 677 in the original Henry Bolton Bible.

In the 1790 census of Washington County, MD, both Henry and his brother Conrad are listed as heads of families. Henry is listed with one free male over 16 and one free while male under 6 and two free white females and one other free person. Page 117

At the time of the 1810 census of Botetourt County, VA, Henry Bolton is listed as head of a family with 3 males under 10, 1 male age 10-16, 1 male age 16-20, 1 male 45 and up, 3 females age 0-10, 1 female age 10-16, one age 26-45. Page 52.

Henry’s first wife Catherine Chapman Bolton died on August 17, 1789 and he married Nancy Mann on April 5, 1799. This is recorded on page 403 of the Annals of Southwest Virginia by Lewis P. Summers.  Marriage bond was signed by James Mann.

We don’t know the exact date, but sometime after the first census in 1790, Henry Sr. moved to Botetourt County, VA. He and Nancy Mann Bolton lived several years at Pearisburg, Giles Co., VA.  Giles County was formed in 1806 from Montgomery, Monroe, Tazewell, Gray, Mercer and Wythe Counties.

Henry’s Bible still had a small valentine “tucked” between the pages in 1972. Nelle Patterson Serry, daughter of Elyan Bolton Patterson, owner of the Bible told the story that it was from his sweetheart.  It had something written on it in the German language.

In personal appearance, Henry Bolton Sr., was a large, tall man, but a very gentle man.

In addition to his children, he “raised” Sarah Bolton, the daughter of his brother Conrad. The parents of Sarah both died rather young.

In the 1790 federal census, Washington County, MD on page 118, Conrad Bolton was listed as head of a household with 1 free white female. Then in the 1810 census of Botetourt County, page 52, Conrad is listed, one male 45 and up, one free female 0-10, one free female 26-45.  The census of 1830 doesn’t show Conrad.

In the census of 1810 and 1820 reveal that Henry and Conrad are listed as heads of family living in Botetourt Co., Va. In 1830, 1840 and 1850 lists Henry as living in Giles County.

In the back of this book, pages 148 and 149, we find pictures of the Henry Bolton Bible. These pages were subsequently used for DAR membership.

Henry Bolton Bible

Henry Bolton Bible2

The entries are transcribed as well on pages 150 and 151 and given in the table later in this article.

As it turns out, this cannot be the original Henry Bolton Bible, although the family in Claiborne County refers to it as such. Also as unfortunately, the DAR has it included in Henry’s file as “the Henry Bolton Bible,” even though it can’t be the original.  How do we know?

First and foremost, the Bible’s publication date of 1811 is many years after some of the entries, so it’s obvious that this was a later Bible and the entries from an earlier Bible were probably copied into this one.

I ordered Henry’s DAR application, years ago, and it is quite a mess. It appears that someone reused an application for a different ancestor.  There is nothing on the application that we don’t have from another source.

The Bolton book discusses two Bibles and refers to this one as “the original Henry Bolton Bible”, then says the following:

The one called ‘The Polly Bolton Bible’ was taken to the San Juan Islands by James Francis Bolton and George Bolton, sons of Peter and Polly. James F. copied the genealogical pages out of the old Bible before taking it to the San Juan Islands for his sister Adaline Capman Bolton (Ensign.)  Later his niece Marguerite Francis Wright, daughter of Mary Bolton Wright, copied Adalin’s records.  She then copied it again for Jane Virginia Berringhausen Sarnoff.  Marguerite has this copy notarized.  Jane Virginila Sarnoff has the notarized copy at this time.

I obtained a copy of a book, years ago, written about the Peter Bolton family who undertook the long wagon trip to Cedar County, Iowa in 1855. This was so long ago the copy is on slippery copy paper.  Peter Bolton married Mary Fall or Falls in January 13 or 16, 1822 in Fincastle, Botetourt Co., VA.  The license was dated December 26, 1821.  They moved to Giles County about 1830 and then on October 1, 1855 they sold their land on Big Stony Creek near Pearisburg in Giles County, and moved to Cedar County, Iowa, joining William Henry Bolton, Peter’s younger brother who had settled there in 1836.

In this book, they too discuss two Bolton Bibles. One of the two Bolton Bibles they discuss is called the “Polly Bolton Bible,” Polly being the wife of Peter Bolton, the second son of Henry Bolton.  However, their second Bible is actually a copy of this Bible that was made and then taken to the San Juan islands.  The author states that the Polly Bolton Bible was the one taken to the San Juan Islands, and the Peter Bolton Bible is the copy that remained in Iowa, and that was the copy subsequently notarized.  The author has that notarized copy.  There is yet a third Bible in Iowa that was copied from one or the other as well.  She has compared the two Iowa Bibles and the Polly Bolton Bible includes information about Henry Bolton’s other children, while the other does not.  The Peter Bolton Bible includes more information about Peter’s children and descendants.

Copies of the Bible pages are included, but I am not reproducing them here. The Bible was printed in Philadelphia by Jesper Harding who printed Bibles from 1829-1859, so we know from this date and from the history of the Bible that this one is newer than the Claiborne County one.  The handwriting is the same in all of the older entries as well.

So this brings us to a total of four Bolton Bibles, the 1811 Bible being the oldest.

The author then states that she received a letter in 1974 from Elyan Bolton about the “original” Henry Bolton Bible, which is the Bible referred to in the Claiborne County Bolton Family book. She speculates that perhaps the Bible they have is the Bible of Catherine Chapman, Henry’s first wife.  Unfortunately, that isn’t a possibility for either Bible with publication dates of 1811 and 1829-1859.  Catherine died in 1798, before these Bibles were printed.

What follows is the text of the notarized copy of the Iowa Bolton Bible.

This is a copy of Frances Wright’s copy taken from the Bible of Mary Bolton (Polly) who was born May 6, 1796 and died in 1875. The copy was made by Jams Francis Bolton, son of Mary and Peter Bolton for his sister Adeline Bolton Ensign, before he took the Bible to Lopas Island.

Mary was the wife of Peter Bolton. They were married in Pearsburg (sic) in Giles County, Virginia and came to Tipton Co., Iowa in 1854.

Frances Wright, daughter of Mary Frances Bolton Wright made this copy from that of my great Aunt Adeline Ensign.

Henry and William Bolton started from England to America with their parents in 1751 – or there about. They suffered shipwreck and Henry and William alone survived.  They both enlisted in the US Army.  William was never again heard of by Henry.  The name has originally been Bolder but was changed accidentally and thru shyness to correct officers during army enlistment.

Henry settled in Virginia and founded the family. He was married twice.

Henry Bolton born Nov. 24, 1741 – England

Died in 1846 – ages 105 years

Married Catherine Chapman who died in 1798

Married Nancy ? in 1799, died 1842

Obviously, some of this is incorrect or incomplete, based on records that we do have, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely incorrect.

I am listing Henry’s children and other individuals from the Bibles in the table below. One column is from from the Claiborne County Bolton Bible, a second from the Iowa Bible and a third with any additional information.

  Henry Bolton Children with Catherine Chapman Claiborne County Bible Birth Iowa Bible Birth Additional Information
1 Elizabeth Born Nov. 6, 1787, married Oct 26 to Absolum Dempsey Nov. 6, 1787 Married in 1809, died in 1874
2 Catherine June 17, 1789 Married Daniel Wrightsman March 7, 1815, died after July 1862 Washington Co., TN
3 Mary March 15, 1791- d 1809 Died Nov 25, 1809
4 Jacob April 27 1793 Married Virginia Inksell March 20, 1816, died Nov. 25, 1859, Georgia
5 Peter Sept. 28, 1796 – d 1888 Married Mary “Polly” Falls Dec. 20, 1820, died Mar. 7, 1858, Cedar Falls, Iowa
6 Sara Sally, died April 15, 1798 Sept. 15, 1797 – d Sept 10, 1798 Alternate birth is 1795
7 Children with Nancy Mann
8 Henry Jan. 11, 1800 Married Sept. 7, 1826 Elizabeth Obenchain, died before April 20, 1875
9 Margaret June 1802 Married Jacob Keister Feb. 23, 1824
10 George Dec. 24, 1804 Married Margaret Duncan Jan. 29, 1828
11 Sara 1806
12 William Nov. 10, 1807 Also known as William Henry, died 1863/1864 Cedar Co., Iowa
13 Patrick Oct. 21, 1809
14 Patsy Oct. 21, 1809 Martha Patsy, married George Pearis French Nov. 26, 1828, died after 1880
15 Nancy Oct. 21, 1809 Oct. 30, 1811 Married Thompson Harvey Peters March 18, 1830, died 1855
16 Christine Sept. 9, 1812 Married July 24, 1833 to Oliver Cline Peters, died after 1880
17 Christinery Month illegible, 6th, 1813 Same as above
18 Joseph July 28, 1816 July 18, 1814 Born July 28, 1816, married Mary Tankersley March 26, 1838, died Dec., 28, 1887 Claiborne Co., TN.
19 John B. 1814 July 30, 1816 Born July 30, 1814, married Sarah F. Tankersley, died 1864 Claiborne Co., TN
20 Absolom August 1, 1818 Aug. 1, 1818 Absolem Dempsey Bolton, married Jan. 23, 1843 to Elizabeth Ann Henderson, died June 2, 1892 Crowley Co., KS
21 Daniel Last day of May, 1920 May 31, 1820 Married Elizabeth Jane Fulenwider, died 1887
22 Elyan April 6, 1822 April 1, 1822 Married Isaac Russell Patterson May 30, 1854 Giles Co., VA, died Aug. 9, 1903 Claiborne Co., TN
23 James July 9, 1824 James Madison, married Elsie Virginia Thorne Aug. 12, 1851, died May 26, 1904
24 David January 9, 1826 Jan. 9, 1828 Married Rebecca Henderson July 26, 1847, died Sept. 22, 1859, Hancock Co., TN
25 Other
26 Rebecca Henderson March 10, 1820 married on Aug 3 or 8, 1847 Wife of David Bolton
27 Rebecca Bolton Died November 18, 1856 Wife of David Bolton, children raised by David’s sister, Elyan
28 Truly Ann Dailey March 28, 1836
29 Olive Peters Johnson June 1887
30 Nancy Bolton Died October 16, 1841 This is Nancy Mann
31 Henry Bolton Died November 24, 1846 Henry himself.
32 Sara E. Jane October 15, 1864
33 Nancy C. Bolton February 13, 1850
34 Sarrah A. N. Bolton August 25, 1851
35 Martha V. Susan Bolton May 15, 1853
36 William Abslem Patterson January 19, 1866
37 Sally Bolton Died April 15, 1798 This is Sara, last child with Catherine Chapman
38 Cathy Bolton Died August 17, 17?? This is Catherine Chapman who died on this date in 1798.

It’s clear that neither of these Bibles is actually Henry Bolton’s original Bible, because neither has a full list of his children by either wife. Furthermore, it’s equally as unlikely that these Bibles belonged originally to his wives.  It’s unlikely that either wife was literate, and the list of children is incomplete for both wives.  Furthermore, both Bibles were printed after the wives respective marriages to Henry, and in the case of Catherine Chapman, both were printed after her death.

The records from the Claiborne County Bible were extracted by Hazel Venable Barnard and she stated that she couldn’t read much of the writing, so we know that there were entries not transcribed. Hazel’s transcription, along with a copy of the Bible pages, as shown here, were hand written and then notarized by Mary Trent on November 23, 1981 with the note that this can be used by any of the generations listed in this book, meaning the Bolton Family book, to join the D.A.R.

At the end of the book about the Peter Bolton family, the author included a pedigree chart of the Bolton family of Bolton and Blackburn in Lancashire as a possible progenitor family of Henry Bolton. That chart, found in a book titled, “Bolton Family” by Robert Bolton, John A. Gray, printer, 1862, does not continue through Henry Bolton’s generation, but she found several Henry’s and Williams in the chart.  Of course, William and Henry are both painfully common names in England, both having been names of Kings.  A Y DNA test with any Bolton male from that Bolton and Blackburn family would tell us immediately.

Another book, titled “Bolton and Culver (Colver) Family Tree” published in 1964 by Dorothy Bolton Bunker adds a few details. She says that Henry served as a deacon for 50 years in the Baptist Church.  In his youth he had been connected with the Methodist Church as he had a card showing his attendance at a Wesley School in England.

I contacted the school in England several years ago and they had no records of a Henry Bolton. Of course, that doesn’t disprove anything, it simply means we can’t confirm this information.  For all we know, the card Henry carried might have been equivalent to a Sunday School attendance card today.

And of course, no family story would be complete without the Crazy Aunts. They told me years ago, and I’ve also seen this story elsewhere too, that the Boltons were “proud Germans.”  I don’t know where they got that, unless it is a remnant story brought about by those German Bibles, but there is ample evidence today that the Bolton family was English, at least at the time that Henry and Conrad migrated, intentionally or unintentionally.

Henry from the Beginning

Now that you’ve heard the various stories about Henry, what do we actually know about him?

Absolutely nothing until he immigrates.

Henry Bolton Immigration

The first record we have of Henry Bolton is his immigration along with his brother Conrad, also called Condery. They left the port of London in March of 1775.  Henry was age 15 and Conrad was 16, both were laborers.  This puts Henry’s birth in 1760.  They sailed on the ship, the Culvert, and landed in Maryland.

Both boys are listed as “of London.” I notice there are many who would be indentured servants for 4-7 years as it states, but there are only 4 young boys of the ages 15 and 16, and 3 of those are from London, so they could have been kidnapped on the docks of London as some of the family stories state.  The story below includes the kidnapping, but with a bit of a different twist.

From the book “Biographical History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.”

George Bolton was born in the Territory of Wisconsin (now Iowa), December 9, 1840. His father, William Bolton, was one of the seven men who first settled in Cedar County, in 1836. His grandfather, Henry Bolton, when a lad in his teens, was kidnapped and brought to America from his native country, Germany. He made his escape and a short time afterward enlisted in the cause of the colonies and fought in the Revolutionary war under General Washington.

From the book, London, The Biography by Peter Ackroyd:

London has always been a city of immigrants. it was once known as the “city of nations” and in the mid-18th century Addison remarked that “when I consider this great city, in its several quarters or divisions, I look upon it as an aggregate of various nations, distinguished from each other by their respective customs, manners and interests.

Fresh generations with their songs and customs arrived at least as early as the time of the Roman settlements, when London was opened up as a European marketplace. The working inhabitants of the city might have come from Gaul, from Greece, from Germany, from Italy, from North Africa, a polyglot community all speaking a variety of rough or demotic Latin.  By the 7th century, when London rose again as an important port and market, the native and immigrant populations were thoroughly intermingled.  There was also a more general change.  It was no longer possible to distinguish Britons from Saxons and after the northern invasions of the 9th century, the Danes entered the city’s racial mixture.  By the 10th century the city was populated by Cymric Brythons and Balgae, by the remnants of the Gaulish legions, by East Saxons and Mercians, by Danes, Norwegians and Swedes, by “Londoners”.  A text known as IV Aethelred mentions that those who “passed through” London in the period before the Norman settlement were “men from Flanders, Pontheiu, Normandy and the Ile de France” as well as “men of the emperor: Germans.”

 London map 1300

London about 1300 shows St. Katherine’s Hospital, where the docks were located, to the right of the tower at the furthest eastward development.

Ackroyd continues:

The immigrant roles of 1440-41 provide an absorbing study in ethnicity and cultural contrast. Some 90% were classified as Doche, this was the generic term including Flemish, Dane and German, but more than half in fact came from Holland.  In the city wards the Italians comprised “a commercial and financial aristocracy” although there were differences within the group.  There were Frenchman, a number of Jews, and the “Greek, Italian and Spanish physicians”, but the underclass of that period seems to have been Icelanders who were commonly employed as servants.

When it comes to European melting pots, London is an extreme case, but Ackroyd’s brief survey of its immigrant history provides some idea of how difficult it will be to figure out the precise origins of many European paternal ancestors, not just Londoners. People have moved around for a long time.  Our genes allow us to look through a keyhole into the distant past and in time may allow us to chronicle the journey from today back in time to the long-forgotten.

Cousin Dillis represents our male Bolton line and has graciously agreed to have his DNA tested, several times now. The good news and the bad news is that the Bolton men have a very unique DNA signature above 25 markers.  At 67 markers, Dillis only matches Boltons plus an Elliott and a Sheldon, both families hailing from England.

At 12 markers, Dillis has many matches on the Matches Map, which signify matches to an earlier common ancestor since many of these matches don’t hold at higher markers. This is particularly useful in showing the migration and settlement path of Henry’s ancestors.  Note that while England is the most prevalent, the Germanic region is the most prevalent on the continent, suggesting a connection with that region in the distant past.

bolton matches map

When I visited London in 2013, we visited the dock area at St. Katherine’s, which was, at the time Henry and Conrad would have been hanging about the docks, the poorest section of the city. St. Katherine’s is located beside the Tower of London on the Thames River, shown below, in a 1746 map.  This would have been just a few years before Henry and Conrad were here, willingly or unwillingly.

1746 London Map

Here’s a picture today of the Thames River and the Tower Bridge, very close to this location.

London Bridge

Kidnapping of young boys was not uncommon. A ship’s captain did not want to sail partly empty, so if he was short a few bodies, he would kidnap some strapping lads and hold them captive just long enough to depart.  After they were underway to America, their fate was sealed and upon arrival, they were sold into indentured servitude, auctioned upon arrival, with the auction fees paying the captain for their passage.

If it’s true that the boys were kidnapped, then it’s likely that Henry and Conrad were abducted from this dock area as it was the main dock for London and we know from the manifest this is where the ship sailed from.

I can just see two teen-age boys messing around, getting themselves into trouble and making a nuisance of themselves – just before they were nabbed. And I can hear their mother warning them against doing just that….can’t you?  In fact, maybe they were enticed onto the boat with the promise of a treat, food or payment for some odd job.  Maybe this is the same place that they lived and unwillingly departed for America. The tenements, the poor area, were adjacent the docks and everyone left the stench of the overcrowded quarters in the day.

One of the family stories related is that Henry and Conrad’s mother had died, and the step-mother “arranged” for them to depart. The other tidbit of that story is that they lived “on London Bridge.”  Today there are no houses on London Bridge itself, but at that time, or just prior, there were – so this could be true.

London Bridge pano

This 1632 painting, “View of London Bridge,” by Claude de Jongh, shows the detail of London Bridge including the houses and shops built on the bridge itself. This is not information that someone in the US would know, especially several generations later and after the original London Bridge was demolished in 1831.

By the 1600s there were some 200 buildings on the bridge. Some stood up to seven stories high, some overhung the river by seven feet, and some overhung the road, to form a dark tunnel through which all traffic must pass, including (from 1577) the palatial Nonsuch House, a model shown below.

nonsuch house

The roadway was just 12 feet (4 m) wide, divided into two lanes, so that in each direction, carts, wagons, coaches and pedestrians shared a passageway six feet wide. When the bridge was congested, crossing it could take up to an hour. Those who could afford the fare might prefer to cross by ferry but the bridge structure had several undesirable effects on river-traffic. The narrow arches and wide pier bases restricted the river’s tidal ebb and flow, so that in hard winters, the water upstream of the bridge became more susceptible to freezing and impassable by boat. The flow was further obstructed in the 1700s by waterwheels installed under the two north arches to drive water pumps, and under the two south arches to power grain mills; the difference in water levels on the two side of the bridge could be as much as six feet, producing ferocious rapids between the piers. Only the brave or foolhardy attempted to “shoot the bridge”—steer a boat between the starlings when in flood—and some were drowned in the attempt. The bridge was “for wise men to pass over, and for fools to pass under.”

The southern gatehouse became the scene of one of London’s most notorious sights: a display of the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar and boiled to preserve them against the elements. The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate, in 1305, starting a tradition that was to continue for another 355 years. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450, Thomas More in 1535, Bishop John Fisher in the same year, and Thomas Cromwell in 1540. In 1598 a German visitor to London Paul Hentzner counted over 30 heads on the bridge. Heads were still reported on the bridge at late as 1772.  So, this is something that young Henry and Conrad would have witnessed, perhaps with great awe and fascination.  Or perhaps, with fear.

London Bridge 1616

In this 1616 drawing, you can see Old London Bridge with the spiked heads of executed criminals in the foreground above the Southwark Gatehouse in the lower right hand corner.

Another drawing from a 1682 map, below.

London Bridge 1682

By 1722 congestion was becoming so serious that the Lord Mayor decreed that “all carts, coaches and other carriages coming out of Southwark into this City do keep all along the west side of the said bridge: and all carts and coaches going out of the City do keep along the east side of the said bridge.”

In 1758–62, all houses and shops on the bridge were demolished through Act of Parliament. The two center arches were replaced by a single wider span to improve navigation on the river. If the Bolton family did have a house or shop on London Bridge, they would have lost it about this time, which is about when Henry and Conrad were born.

Whether or not Henry and Conrad left London willingly, or unwillingly, this area and adjacent St. Katherine’s dock would have been where they departed.

London map 1806

In this London map of 1806, you can still see the Tower and the docks, to the right of the tower, are marked in a teal blue box.

If you’d like to fly through a 3D animation of London before the 1666 fire, click here.  It’s well worth the time.

After arriving in American, both Henry and Conrad were indentured servants for 7 years. This would mean, under normal circumstances, that Henry and Conrad both would have been serving their time as indentured servants to pay for their passage until that same time in 1783.  Most crossings took about 60 days, so May or June of 1783.

Indentured servants were not allowed to marry until they finished their indenture.

We know they were indentured to someone, and several different accounts tell us that it was a Mr. Moore, one family history adding, near Hagerstown, Maryland.

One fact that argues against Henry Bolton being a poor child who was kidnapped is that he knew how to write, and judging from the letter he wrote asking for the clerk to issue his daughter a marriage license, he was far more literate than just having the ability to sign his name. It’s unlikely that a poor child would have learned how to sign their name, let alone write a letter.  Having said that, it’s possible that he learned during his indentured servitude, but rather unlikely.

Yet another story adds a bit more dimension. This one is from the Iowa Bolton family.

He enlisted through the direct influence of George Washington, who came to the barn where he was caring for the horses of a man by the name of Moore who he was bound out to. Washington wore a long coat and asked Henry if he would like to draw his own pay. (He) said, “I understand you are a bound boy and I see you take good care of the horses.” His answer was, ” I would like to, but Mr. Moore is very good to me.” Washington said, “You come to my tent in the morning at nine o’clock and we’ll will arrange it.” Henry said, “Who are you?” He said, “George Washington. The boys will tell you where my headquarters are.” So in the morning Henry went and was taken to headquarters where the guard asked Washington if he had an appointment with a young man at nine o’clock. He said yes. Washington advised him to enlist and go back and take care of his horses till further orders. He was assigned to the artillery. He was at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at York. After the war he returned and worked for Mr. Moore. The story says that he was married while working for Mr. Moore then moved to … (end of transcription).  Reference: A typed page stating: “BOLTON HISTORY. This was copied from information Grandma Lewis had copied from the Bolton history book that Uncle Will (?) Bolton had.” Unknown where this book is available today (March 16, 1997).

We do have documentation that Henry was in the Revolutionary War, although I’ve never found anything on Fold3 or any other location, aside from the record from the Pennsylvania Archives, below, where he is listed as having served.

Ref. Penn. Archives, sixth Series, Vol. 1, page 799:

Military Record: Fourth battalion of Philadelphia Co., PA, Eights company, under Isaiah Davis, eighth, class under Lt. William  Coats – “Henry Bolton”

Oral history tells us that Henry was at the Battle of Brandywine. Oral history of his Revolutionary War service descended through several different lines that separated when his children left Virginia and had no subsequent opportunity to infect each other with Henry Bolton stories.

Battle of Brandywine

The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American army of General George Washington and the British army of General Sir William Howe on September 11, 1777. The British defeated the Americans and forced them to withdraw toward the American capital of Philadelphia. The engagement occurred near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania during Howe’s campaign to take Philadelphia, which he ultimately did and held until June of 1778.

Here is a picture of the field where the Battle took place, looking toward the American position. If Henry truly was shot at the Battle of Brandywine, this was where it occurred and where he was rolled off of the field on a cannon, if that part is true.

Battle of Brandywine battlefield

Here’s the battlefield from another angle.

Battle of Brandywine battlefield2

With a little imagination, I can see the men from both sides.  It looks so serene today, but it wasn’t on September 11, 1777.

The painting below, Nation Makers by Howard Pyle depicts a scene from the battle and hangs in the Brandywine River Museum.

Battle of Brandywine by Pyle

In 1779, Henry is listed on the tax rolls of Providence Twp., Philadelphia Co., PA, taxed in the amount of 5.0, which would have been pounds and no shillings. Henry was clearly not in the military if he was farming at this time.  He also would not have been indentured.  This was only 4 years after his arrival and he would only have been 19 or 20 years old, unless there was a second Henry Bolton in that area.

If indeed, Henry was also at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, as claimed, that would have happened on October 19, 1781.

It would be unusual for him to be in the military in 1777, farming in 1779, in the military in 1781, on a tax list in 1783 and then finishing his indenture in 1787 when he was married.

This timeline doesn’t quite make sense from several angles.

This painting below depicts the surrender at Yorktown.

Yorktown surrender

Henry would have been 21 at this time.  Was he truly there?  Did he care for the horses?

One account says that Henry finished his time with Mr. Moore after he finished in the war. Another account says that George Washington told Henry that he was no longer bound.

We find Henry in 1783 in Limerick, Township, Philadelphia Co., PA on a tax list with no land, no horses, 1 cattle and no negroes. Were he indentured, he would not have been listed individually.

It’s recorded in the Bolton book that Henry married Catherine Chapman on August 17, 1787 in Olde Swedes Church, Philadelphia, PA. However, in the Old Swedes church records, compiled from the original records, I did not find a confirmation of this marriage. Note that there is no index and I read for several years in each direction.

Old Swedes Church

One story claims that Henry’s marriage took place during his indenture, and that he went back and finished his time with Mr. Moore. If Mr. Moore was living near Hagerstown, Maryland, it would be very unlikely for Henry to be marrying in Philadelphia.  Not to mention, no father would want his daughter marrying an indentured servant, a man of no means to support said daughter.  I expect, by the time that Henry was married that he had finished his indenture and had a trade or some ability to support a family.

In the 1790 census, we find both Henry and Conrad in Washington Co., Maryland, along with an unknown John Bolton:

  • Conrad Bolton – - 1 (this is free white females)
  • John Bolton 1 1 1 – - (free white males over 16, under 16 and females)
  • Henry 1 1 2 1 – (free white males over 16, under 16, females and other free persons)

So, by 1790, Henry appears to be married and he is living in the county where Hagerstown is the county seat.

Based on the reported birth locations of Henry’s children, he would have moved from Maryland to Botetourt County, VA between 1791 and 1793.

He is not on the Botetourt County 1793 tax lists, but in 1794, we find Henry in Hugh Allen’s District: Henry Boltan, 2 tithables, 2 horses. We then find him for the next many years on various tax lists.  Conrad does not appear until the 1820 census.

Tithables mean the number of people being taxed. Exact specifications vary depending on the time and place, but white males over either 16 or 21 and people of color of either gender, of any age beyond childhood, generally age 12 or 16, and over, were taxed.  One would assume it would be a man and his sons and any slaves.  In families of color, the wives were taxed too.

  • 1795: Henry Bolton, 1 tithable, 2 horses.
  • 1796, Robert Harris District: Henry Bolton, 1 tithable, 3 horses.
  • 1798: Henry Bolton, 1 tithable.

Catherine Chapman Bolton died in Botetourt County on August 17, 1798. 1798 was a particularly difficult year for Henry, because his infant daughter, Sarah, also died within just a couple of months of Catherine’s death.  Two accounts tell us she died in April, and one on September 10th.  Regardless of when, it’s apparent that Henry had a lot of loss, along with 5 children to care for between the ages of 2 and 11.  I wish we knew where Catherine and Sarah were buried.

In 1799, Henry Bolton is on the Botetourt County, VA personal tax list, but Conrad is either not in Botetourt County or is one of Henry Bolton’s tithables.

  • 1799: John Holloway District: Henry Bolton, 5 tithables.

On April 5th 1799, Henry Bolton married Nancy Mann, 8 months after Catherine’s death.  In January 1800, Nancy had the first of 14 children she would have with Henry.

Henry Bolton signs his marriage bond to Nancy Mann, below, along with James Mann’s mark. It’s uncertain how James Mann and Nancy Mann are related, but traditionally, a father would sign for his daughter, if he were living.  If not, perhaps a brother or uncle.

Henry Bolton Nancy Mann marriage

Beginning in 1803, and then for many years, we find Henry on the Botetourt County tax lists.

  • 1803: George Rowland District: Henry Bolton 1 tithable, 3 horses
  • 1804: George Rowland District: Henry Bolten, 1 tithable,. 4 horses.
  • 1805: George Rowlands: Henry Bolton 1 tithable and 5 horses.
  • 1807; George Rowland District: Henry Bolton 1 tithable 3 horses.
  • 1810: Joseph Hannah’s District: Henry Bolton 2 tithables 3 horses.
  • 1811: Joseph Hannah’s District: Henry Bolton 2 tithables 3 horses
  • 1814: Joseph Hannah’s District: Jacob Bolton, 1 tithable – Jacob is Henry’s oldest son born in 1793.  He would have been 21 this year.  He is also likely Henry’s second tithable in 1810 and 1811.

Henry’s son, Henry, was born in 1800, so this second Henry on the 1814 list cannot be Henry’s son. Henry may have been recorded twice.  Sometimes, on other tax lists, men are recorded twice if they own land in two places.  However, we have no evidence that Henry owned any land at all.

  • 1814: James McClanahan’s District: Henry Bolton 2 tithables, 5 horses, also Henry Bolton 3 tithables, 6 horses, 7 cattle
  • 1816: James McClanahan’s District: Henry Bolton 2 tithables 5 horses
  • 1817: James McClananah’s District: Henry Bolton, 2 tithables, 5 horses and Jacob Bolton, 1 tithable, 1 horse

In 1817 and1818, in Joseph Hannah’s District, a Robert Bolton (1818) and Robert Bolton, Jr. (1817) are introduced, with one tithable. Interestingly enough, DNA testing shows that these two Bolton lines, meaning Henry Bolton and Robert Bolton, do not share a common ancestor.

  • 1819: James McClanahan’s District:  Henry Bolton, 2 tithables, 7 horses, Peter Bolton, 1 tithable, Jacob Bolton, 1 tithable, 2 horses.  Peter Bolton was Henry’s second son, born in 1796.
  • In 1820, in James Trevor’s district, we find Henry Boulton with 2 tithables and 7 horses, Josiah Boulton with 1 tithable and 1 horse, Robert Boulton with 1 tithable and 1 horse and Edward Boulton with 1 tithable. Clearly Josiah and Edward were not sons of Henry, unless Josiah is actually Jacob.

In the 1820 census, Henry Bolton is in Botetourt County with 13 people, his son Jacob with 5 people and Conrad with 3 people. Where had Conrad been all of this time?

  • 1821a: James Trevor’s District:  Henry Boulton, 5 horses, Henry Boulton Jr., 1 horse and Jacob Boulton, 1 horse.
  • In 1822, on James Trevor’s list, Henry appears with 5 horses and his son, Henry Jr., appears with 1 horse.
  • In 1822, on Matthew Wilson’s list, Jacob Bolton is shown with 1 horse.

In 1828, Henry’s daughter married George P. French, and Henry pens and signs the following letter to the county clerk.

Henry Bolton French marriage auth

The above note reads:

David French


You will please issue a license for George P. French to marry my daughter Patsy Bolton. Given under my hand and seal this 26th day of November 1828.

Signed Henry Bolton
William Bolton
George Bolton

We are quite fortunate to have a picture of Martha Patsy Bolton French.

Martha Patsy Bolton French

I look at her and wonder if she looks like Henry or Nancy, or both.

The other picture we have is of Henry’s oldest daughter by Catherine Chapman, Elizabeth, who married the Reverend Absalom Dempsey.

Elizabeth Bolton Dempsey

Elizabeth’s portrait, painted about 1840 is located at the Mill Creek Baptist Church in Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia.  The church did not send the painting of Elizabeth’s husband, Absalom Dempsey, but it does hang in the church.

Mill Creek Baptist Church

Family stories report that Henry Bolton was a member of Mill Creek Church for 50 years, one story says a deacon, and if that is the case, it would have included the time when his son-in-law, Absalom Dempsey was minister there, and earlier. It’s evident that Henry thought a lot of Absalom, because Henry and Nancy named one of their sons after Absalom.  It may well be that Nancy Mann Bolton and daughter Sarah are both buried here beside the Mill Creek Church.  Abraham Dempsey and his wife rest here.  His stone is below.  Her grave is unmarked.  She died in 1874, two years after Absalom and is very likely buried beside Absalom.

Dempsey headstone

I would love to know what Henry Bolton looked like. We have two photographs of Henry’s sons, Peter Bolton (son of Catherine Chapman) and wife Mary Falls, and Daniel Bolton (son of Nancy Mann) and Elizabeth Fulwider that I have been prohibited from sharing by the individual who sent me the photos.  Additionally, we have photos of Elizabeth Bolton Dempsey, daughter of Catherine Chapman, and Martha Patsy Bolton French, daughter of Nancy Mann, both shown above.

I can tell you that Daniel, in one of the photographs I can’t share, looks incredibly like Abraham Lincoln. Had I not known it wasn’t, it would be a very easy mistake to make.  I can also tell you that I don’t see a lot of resemblance between the siblings.  Of course, one is a painting, one is a very poor tintype and two are fairly early photographs.  The photo of Martha Patsy French is by far the best.

The photo below, at left, is Joseph “Dode” Bolton, Henry’s grandson with wife Nancy Mann through son Joseph Preston Bolton.

Joseph B Bolton2

There is one more old photo, William Henry Bolton, grandson of Henry Bolton, the immigrant, and wife Nancy Mann, through son Henry Bolton and Elizabeth Obenchain.

In the 1830 census, Henry Bolton Sr. is living in Giles County with 11 children in his household, while his son, Henry Bolton Jr. is living in Botetourt County.

In the 1840 census, Henry Bolton Sr. is living in Giles County with 1 male under 10, 2 males 15-20, 1 male 20-30 and 1 male 80-90. Nancy seems to be missing although she reportedly did not die until 1841.  In 1846, Henry died as well. They reportedly lived near Pearisburg, in Giles County.

A cousin reports that a comment by a neighbor was recorded regarding Henry’s death: “One lady told me as though it happened yesterday. ‘It was a pity. He was getting better from the fever and feeling hungry he got up from his bed and went to the kitchen and ate beef stew that was on the stove and that finished him.’” I feel sorry for whoever made that stew.  Nancy Mann had died earlier, but Henry was obviously living with someone.

At one point in my research, I became quite excited because I thought sure we had found the Henry Bolton Cemetery. Turns out, we had, but not the original Henry, one of his descendants, his grandson Henry through son Jacob Bolton and Virginia Inksell.  Grandson Henry (1823-1890) married Mary Catherine Shue (1821-1915) and they build Rose Hill.

The book, Related Families of Botetourt County Virginia states that many of the early Bolton families are buried at Rose Hill on land that passed from the Boltons to the Firebaugh family and although this is not Henry’s original land, it probably was in the same general vicinity. According to local historian, Alice Firebaugh, the old Rose Hill farm is located on Route 630, Blackburg Road. This is where the “Bolton Cemetery” is located that caused me such great initial excitement.

A piece of that history lies on the ridge of Rose Hill Farm. The Firebaughs call it Cemetery Hill because that is where the Bolton Cemetery is located.

Bolton cemetery

The cemetery is in a state of disrepair.

Bolton cemetery2

Given the information we have, we know that the original Henry Bolton family was enumerated in two tax districts, McClanahan’s and Hannah’s.

The book also tells us that the McClannahan’s live on Catawba Creek. That the area is near Eagle Rock, and that the Hannah’s are on Craig’s Creek and that the Hannah family is buried in the Godwin Cemetery.  The Godwin Cemetery, according to FindAGrave, is dead center in the middle of the town of Fincastle and the Firebaugh family Cemetery is found on Virginia 735 .

These land marks give us some barometers to use to find the general area of Henry Bolton’s land in Botetourt County before he moved to Giles County before 1830.

Bolton Botetourt landmarks

803 Shawnee Trail is an address in the Shawnee Woods subdivision where the Bolton cemetery was cleaned up so that it didn’t get bulldozed when the subdivision was being built.

Catawba Creek runs out of Fincastle, shown on the map above, and extending the map distance, we can see Eagle Rock to the north, on the map below.

Catawba and Eagle Creek

Zooming in on that area, we find that Craig Creek dumps into the James River as does Catawba Creek.

Craig Creek James River

There is a Bolton Cemetery at Rose Hill, but it’s later members of the Bolton family that are buried in that location.

Mill Creek Church was 5 miles due east of the center of Fincastle.

Mill Creek Church

Henry Bolton’s land was probably in this vicinity, between roads 360 and 735.

Here’s a view of the area from near Fincastle. Looks beautiful, but quite imposing.

Fincastle view

The Bolton family moved a nontrivial distance from the Fincastle area to the Pembroke area of Giles County. After locating the Bolton land in Giles County, I marked the location as well as the Mill Creek Baptist Church outside of Fincastle.  Today, it’s an hour and a half on mountain roads.  In those days, it would have been probably a 2 or 3 day journey, if not more.  The average wagon speed was 20 miles a day, and that wasn’t through mountains.  Clearly, they didn’t go back and forth to church at Mill Creek from Giles County, so Henry’s membership at Mill Creek would have terminated about 1830 when he is first found on the census in Giles County.

Fincastle to Stoney Creek

Henry died at Big Stony Creek, Pembroke, Giles County, Virginia. It’s unclearly whether this was on son Peter’s land on Big Stoney Creek, on Henry’s own land although no deed was found, or on another relatives land.  One thing is for sure, a man in his 80s or 90s had to have some help in that place and time.  Henry could not have been farming at the time he died.  If born in 1760, he would have been 86 when he passed.

A cousin sent me an aerial partial view of the Bolton lands in Giles County where Henry and Nancy reportedly lived shortly before they died in the 1840′s.  She said that in 1975, there were still old rock foundations visible, and a dug out cellar.  A distance from the old foundations by traversing an old overgrown road was the Bolton cemetery, with all but two graves unmarked.  Most of the graves were sunken between 1-2 ft, indicating the use of disintegrating wooden caskets.  There was a remnant of a high, wide stone fence just beyond the graveyard.

Stoney Creek land

I didn’t receive any further information from the cousin, but I did search the Giles County maps along Big Stoney Creek where the Bolton family lived, according to the Giles County deeds when Peter sold his land in 1855.

Indeed, I found the land matching this screen shot above on road 627, also called Darnell Mountain Road which intersects with Big Stoney Creek Road.

Here’s the entrance to State Road 627 from 635, Big Stoney Creek Road.

Stoney Creek road

As you can see, it’s heavily forested.

Stoney Creek road2

Backing away a bit, you can see where road 627 turns off of Big Stoney Creek Road.

Stoney Creek Pearisburg

As you can see, this area is near Pearisburg, Pembroke and the Virginia/West Virginia border.

Stoney Creek Pearisburg2

Behind the Bolton property was nothing but mountains. Cascade Falls is shown on the map.

Giles county waterfall

Henry Bolton Estate Inventory

We may not know exactly where Nancy Mann and Henry Bolton died and are buried, although I strongly suspect it’s on the land where he lived in Giles County, but we do know something about what he owned at the end of his life.

Recently, with the help of a professional genealogist, Henry’s estate was located in Giles County. However, the film was too poor to read, so a second professional genealogist was retained to physically go to the Virginia State Archives and access the originals.  We were lucky, very lucky.  I could read most of the items and transcribed them, as follows:

Giles County, February 22, 1847 – Inventory and appraisement of the personal estate of Henry Bolton. Will Book B, pages 446 and 447

Note - Do means ditto

Items Amount in Dollars
Cupboard $5, one desk $4, One bureau $9 18
One wooden clock $8, one sugar box 12.5 cents 8.12
One family Bible $.75, two German Bibles, two hymn books rethence? confession of faith one hymn book vesper (or verger) Baptist $.75 1.50
One split bottom chair $3, one iron chur? 3.37 ½
1 falling leaf table $1, one high ? bedstead and other furniture $8, one ? posted Do (ditto, probably meaning bedstead) and its furniture $7 16.00
One Do $3.50, one Do $5, three candlesticks 18.75 7.50
One set of spools 50, one looking glass and slate 25 cents .75
One hand sun? auger chain and square 75 cents and one flat iron and sheep shears 75 cents and one pair saddle bags 25 cents 2.00
One hone for rasures 25 cents and bed pot 10 cents one set of shoe tools 25 cents three bed screws one resure (razor) and strap 12 ½ cents .72 ½
One pair of and irons and fire shovel 75 cents, one coffee mill candle moles and one stay? 37 ½ cents 1.12 ½
One spinning wheel and big wheel and reel 150, two churns and one half bushel ? and old irons 75 cents 2.25
One hand axe and three falling axes 1.50 and old box and old irons 50 cents 2.00
One falling leaf table and two pairs 1.50 one loom and its contents 1.50 3.00
Two pairs of hams and chains and two collars and two bridles , one pair hams and chains $5 and one pair brick lands and head stall? Bridle 75 cents 5.75
One pair stillyards and cutting knife steel draw knife sythe anvil 2.00
Relag gen saddle old bridle 25 cents four tubs and one box 87 ½ cents one large kettle and hooks 1.50 2.62 ½
One biscuit baker and lid one oven and pot and hook 2.75
One tea kettle and two pot racks 1.25 one half a crite of corn supposed to be two hundred bushels at 37.5 cents per bushel when measured 72.5 bushels 28.42 ½
One lot of pickled pork 6.82 at 4 cents per pound 27.28
One fat stand and lard 1.25, one bedstead and cord and grine stone 125 one sythe and cradle 100 3.50
One double tree two devises 50 two pair streature and log chains 2.62 ½ one patton felon 150 4.52 ½
Eleven head of sheep at 75 cents a head 8.25
One ball face horse for $35, one bay mare for $20, 55.00
Nine ? hogs $10 one dun cow 1 calf 8 18.00
One year old steer $3, one year old heifer $3 6
Half of two stacks of oats $2, one lot of flax %, one horse bucket one tube? Old shade? Two hoes two iron wedges and bull tongue and ring 1.60
Two shovel plows 1.50 one doe tray and maul rive? 25 cents 1.75
One cockle sieve and kittle hammer and old tick 75 cents .93 ¾
Hackle bull tongue and auger two little stacks of rye 38 cents and one lot of stack fodder 6 6.35

Signed by Hugh Johnston, Edward Eaton and David Eaton

Next, we have the bill of sale for the property of Henry Bolton, as follows:

Purchaser What How much $
James Stafford Two clevises? and double tree and single tree $1, one smoothing iron 50 cents 1.10
William Simpson? One patton ? 3.12 1/4
Washington Gordon One cupboard 3.63 ditto one collar and bridles 1.52 ½ 5.25
Henry Sadler One stack of flox 1.05
Andrew Gott One rasure strop and rasure 12 ½, do to four chairs 1.05 ¼ 1.18 ¾
John Morrison One ball faced horse 39.75
Absolum Bolton One pair big streachers $1, do to one pair one horse 31 ¼, do to one log chain 1.87 ½, do to one iron wedge 3 ½, two hoes 75 cents, one meal tub 12 1.2, one sieve wood bread tray 25 cents, one pot rack 90 cents, one pot rack 90 cents, one keg 50 cents, one pair of sheep shears 15 cents one arm chair 1.30, one bedstead and its furniture 5.25, one cutting bon? steel 20 cents, 11 head of sheep 11.55, two tacks 62 ½, one bay mare 15 43.26 1/2
James Johnson One bon .12 1/2
Edward Eaton One meal tub 15 cents, one falling leaf table 82 cents, one pair brick bands $1, one grine stone 88 cents white show 2.75, eight stock hogs 1.50 per head for $12 17.90
Richard Eaton One spade and ring 25 cents, one old saddle and old bridle 1.20 1.46
Samuel Thompson One pair candle moles and coffee mill 8 cents, one falling ? $1 1.08
John E. Stafford One bull tongue and bucket .25
John C. Farley One set and irons 75 cents, one box and old irons 1.00, one pair saddle bags 25 cents, one falling leaf table $1, one lot stock fodder $3 6.00
Subtotal here 118.78 1/4
Joseph Eaton Two chairs? $1, one half ? and old irons 1.12 ½, one square and auger and chisel 75 cents 2.87 ½
Reuben Hughes One sythe stake .12 ½
William Oliver Two candlesticks 17 ½ 17
Peter Meadows Two pailes 27 ½
Elean Bolton One wood clock $1, one bureau $1, one bedstead and its furniture $1, one do $1 4.00
David Eaton One oven and hooks 75, one tub 55 1.30
Olive C. Peters One iron wedge 37 ½, one big kittle and hooks 2.25, one spinning wheel 1.50, one chamber pot 15 cents, one candlestick 14, one bucket and auger 37 ½ one pair of gears 162 ½, bolt? of ayes? 2 8.92 1/2
William Morrison One shovel plow 1.12, one fret? 1.42, one felling ax 55 cents, one collar and bridle $2, one tin kittle 50 cents 3.66 ¼
David Bolton One tub and ? 50 cents, one sythe and cradle 1.37, one lot shoe tools 1.12 ½, one wheat sieve and hammer 50 cents, face ax 60 cents, one family Bible 50 cents, two German Bibles 5 cents, one lot of books 25 cents, half oat stack $4, one slate 16 ¼, one old hone 25 cents 9.00
Russle Johnson Biscuit baker and lit 1.06 ¼, set of spools 37 ½, one desk 1.50 3.93 ¾
James Eaton One pair of gearo? 2.12 ½
Subtotal here 46.50
Hugh Johnson One shovel plow 75 cents, six chairs 2.62 ½, one bedstead and end 50 cents 3.87 ½
Edward Johnston Sugar box 12 ½ cents, one big wheel 75, one hand ax 80 cents, one hand saw 37 1/2 , one cow and calf $11, two years old steer 3.14, one year old heifer 3.79 17.18
William B. Mason One lot of pickled pork 29.19
Peter Fizer One lot corn 25.37
Amount 77.62

Signed, Edward Johnson, admin of Henry Bolton decd, filed Feb 22, 1827, bill of sale

Note – Elean Bolton is Henry’s daughter who married Russell Patterson in 1854 and moved to Hancock County, TN. She and her husband wound up raising the children of David Bolton who also moved to Hancock County where he and his wife both died.

You can tell a lot about how a man lived by what was left when he died.  Henry farmed, had an assortment of livestock, and shaved.  He had a clock, which was a luxury, as was a desk.  Henry had 3 candlesticks and molds to make 2 candles at a time.  He owned shoemakers tools which he likely used himself, as there is no record of Henry ever having slaves.  He had a set of spools, a spinning wheel and a loom, which appeared to be loaded, meaning a project had been left half finished, probably by Nancy, before she died.

Henry drank coffee, because he had a coffee mill.  Like all pioneer homesteads, cooking was done in the fireplace and a potrack held the pots as they cooked, plus utensils sometimes.  A typical colonial fireplace in Jamestown is shown below.  This probably looked a lot like Henry Bolton’s home where the fireplace was also the only source of heat.  There is no stove as mentioned in the statement about Henry’s death – that he ate stew from the stove.  Perhaps he did not die at home.

colonial fireplace Jamestown

Henry had two horses, a saddle and saddlebags to carry whatever needed to be carried back and forth. Of note, he did not have any oxen which would have been used to plow, nor a farm wagon.  He may have previously sold those.

Henry had quite a bit of furniture in addition to the desk.  He had a cupboard and a total of 9 chairs, one of which was an “arm chair,” probably “his” chair.  There were two tables including one noted as a fall leaf table.  He had three bedsteads and a bureau. His house was probably quite full.

Further confirming Henry’s ability to read was a group of books.  I’d love to know the titles, as that would tell us even more about Henry Bolton.  I can just see Henry sitting by the fireplace, in his arm chair, reading a book on the table by the light of the fire and a candle as Nancy wove on the loom or spun on the wheel.

And now, we also have an answer about the Henry Bolton Bible, or Bibles. Did you catch that?

David Bolton bought the “family Bible” for 50 cents and two German Bibles for 5 cents. The “family Bible” was most likely Henry Bolton’s Bible dated 1811.  Why was Henry’s Bible dated so late?  Perhaps this was not the first Bible.  Cabin fires were very common in frontier America and if the cabin burned, so did everything inside the cabin.

So, where did David Bolton live? You guessed it…Hancock County, TN.  He died in 1859 and his wife preceded him in death.  Elyan, his sister, who married Isaac Patterson raised his children and the children of their brother, John, as well, who died in 1864.  This entire group, including Joseph Preston Bolton lived very near each other in Hancock County – which explains how the “original Henry Bolton” Bible came to be in the possession of Elyan Bolton Patterson’s descendants.  Perhaps the Germany rumors were fueled by those 2 German Bibles.  So, there were indeed 3 Bibles owned by Henry Bolton, but the 2 German Bibles seem to have disappeared over time.  Where did they come from in the first place, whose were they and why did Henry Bolton have them?  We believe that Catherine Chapman was English and that Nancy Mann was Irish, but were they? I just hate it when new information causes me to second guess and question what I thought I knew!

In total now, we have 6 Bibles associated with this family.

  • The “original” Henry Bolton Bible that was sold at Henry’s estate sale, noted as the family Bible, to son David. This Bible, dated 1811, came to Hancock County and was subsequently owned by Hazel Venable Barnard whose mother was Susan Bolton, daughter of Milton Bolton, son of Joseph Preston Bolton and Mary Tankersley. Joseph was the son of Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann.
  • Two German Bibles, current whereabouts unknown, also sold to David Bolton at Henry’s estate sale.
  • The Polly Bolton Bible printed sometime between 1829-1859. Polly (Mary) Falls was the wife of Peter Bolton, son of Henry Bolton and Catherine Chapman. Peter is probably who Henry lived with in Giles County. Peter sold his land on Big Stoney Creek in 1855 and moved to Iowa.
  • Two additional Bibles, information copied from the Polly Bolton Bible, one of which went to Lopas Island in Washington State, and one stayed in Iowa.

It was 34 years after Henry Bolton’s death in 1846, in the 1880 census, that we obtain the final confirming piece of the puzzle indicating that Henry was born in England and that his wife, Nancy Mann, was born in Virginia.

The 1880 census was the first US census to list the location of the birth of parents. Joseph Preston Bolton in Claiborne County, TN listed his parents’ birth location as England for his father and Virginia for his mother

1880 Joseph Bolton census

Hints of Henry in England

Periodically I revisit searches that I have undertaken previously to see if anything new turns up. After all, records are being added to the major data bases everyday.

Searching for Conrad and Condery provided one record, but the dates are a bit off and the name doesn’t match exactly.  But look where the christening took place…at St. Katherine’s by the Tower in London…right where the boat docks are located.

Conrath Bolten

Searching for Henry, also at FamilySearch, unfortunately, doesn’t give us anything compelling, nor a birth to the same parents or location as Conrath, above. However, Conrath’s father’s name was indeed, Henry and both Henry and Conrad named daughters Sarah.  It’s enough to make you wonder, but not enough to do anything else.

Henry Bolton England

Henry’s DNA

Utilizing the autosomal DNA of the descendants of Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann, we see the confirmed Henry Bolton/Nancy Mann segments below.

Henry's painted DNAI have not been able to “prove” all of the possible segments through triangulation, but if all of the segments are indeed Bolton segments, then Henry’s chromosome map would look like the map below. Clearly, we need a lot more descendants to test to create more color on Henry’s chromosome map, but still, it’s pretty amazing that we can recreate this much of Henry’s chromosome map from these few descendants.

Henry's possible painted DNA

I don’t know how many descendants Henry has, but figuring that he had 20 children total and of those, 2 died fairly young. Of the remaining 18 children, most had 7 or 8 children.  I don’t have complete information for some.

Using a 30 year generation, Henry could have a huge number of descendants.

Year Multiplier Descendants
1760 Henry born
1790 Henry has 18 children
1820 8 144 grandchildren
1850 8 1152 great-grandchildren
1880 8 9216
1910 8 73,728
1940 2 (birth control had become prevalent) 147,456
1970 2 294,912
2000 2 589,824

If this is anyplace close to accurate, Henry Bolton could have well over half a million descendants today. If you add Sarah, Conrad’s daughter into the mix, you could well have another 4000 descendants in the US of the unknown parents of Henry and Conrad Bolton.

If you are a descendant of Henry or Conrad Bolton, please consider taking the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA and joining the Bolton DNA project.  We’d love to have you!


I’d like to thank cousin Hazel Venable Barnard, now deceased, for being such a wonderful steward of that Bolton Bible record, cousin Dillis for Y DNA testing and for lots of research over the past 30 years, so much that I no longer remember what was mine and what was his, cousin Pam for the Google screenshot of the Giles County property and Henry Bolton cause of death information, and Anita Firebaugh for the Firebaugh, Bolton cemetery and Rose Hill information. In addition, a descendant of the Robert Bolton who is not related contributed the Bolton land tax information, extracted by Yvonne Mashburn-Schmidt, a professional genealogist specializing in southern records at I’d also like to send a special thank you to Yvonne for finding both the Henry Bolton estate inventory and the genealogist in Virginia to retrieve the originals.  Plus, she helped me decipher some of the difficult handwriting, especially pertaining to those all-important family Bibles.

Genealogy is not a hobby that one can undertake alone, or at least, it’s much more productive and enriching when people share their findings. Without the collective contributions and collaboration of all of these people, our knowledge of Henry would be scant indeed.  I hope this is a fitting tribute to our immigrant ancestor, Revolutionary War Veteran, Henry Bolton, on Veteran’s Day.