Joseph Preston Bolton (1816-1887), Twice Excluded Baptist Deacon, 52 Ancestors #38

Joseph Preston Bolton was born on July 28, 1816 in Botetourt County, Virginia to Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann.  His middle name, Preston, is very likely a family name and may be a clue to his parents ancestry.  We don’t know who his grandparents were on either side.

When I ordered his marriage bond, I was hopeful that we would acquire his signature, but I believe this is all the same handwriting and probably that of the clerk’s, so not Joseph’s signature.

joseph bolton marriage

Joseph married first to Mary Tankersley on March 26, 1838 in Giles County, Virginia, daughter of Pleasant Tankersley and Elizabeth Haley.  This suggests that the Bolton family had moved to Giles County by that time.

PG Fulkerson, local Claiborne County historian, says, in error, that Joseph was married first to Mary Lankins and second to Nancy Preston or Presley, and that she Joseph’s son, Joseph Dode’s mother.  He also says that Joseph (Sr.) came from Giles County in 1831, which we know is incorrect because he was married in Giles Co., VA in 1838.

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.  Joseph Bolton would have been one of Henry’s two sons aged 10-15.

In the 1840 census, Henry Bolton Sr. is living in Giles County, but Joseph Bolton is not shown.  Henry Boulton, Sr. is shown with 1 male under 10, 2 15-20, 1 20-30 and 1 80-90.  The females in the household don’t suggest that Mary is living there, as there is one 15-20 and one 60-70.  Joseph and his wife had an infant daughter by this time.  Apparently Joseph is living elsewhere, probably in a household with another family.

Based on the children’s birth dates between Virginia and Tennessee for both Joseph and his brother John, the Bolton families moved to Tennessee between 1844 and 1846 and lived in the 4 Mile Creek area of what was then possibly Claiborne County, but became Hancock County before the 1850 census.

This makes sense because Joseph’s mother, Nancy Mann Bolton, died in 1841 and his father, Henry, in 1846, so perhaps the family moved right after Henry Bolton’s death.

In the 1850 Hancock County, TN census, Joseph is shown living in subdivision 33 beside Pleasant Tankersley and wife, Polly.

Bolton 1850 census

Everyone was born in Virginia, except Joseph’s two youngest children, Wilborn, age 4 and Morris, age 2 who were born in Tennessee.

Four houses away, we find Joseph’s brother, John Bolton and wife Sarah and their children.  Just two more houses away we find Margaritt (sic) Herrell Martin, the woman who would become Joseph Bolton’s second wife very shortly, and her son, John Martin living next door.  Clearly, Joseph and Margret knew each other as neighbors before Mary “Polly” Tankersley Bolton died.

Next door to Margaret Herrell Martin, we find her parents, William Herrell and Mary McDowell Herrell.  Two houses away from them lived Mary McDowell Herrell’s brother, John McDowell.

This census was actually taken on December 10th, but it was to be taken as of June of 1850.  This may be important, because Joseph Bolton and Margret Herrell Martin married sometime, likely in 1850, after Mary/Polly died.  Joseph and Margaret’s first child was (probably) born in September 1851, based on family records and the census.  In the 1860 census she is shown as age 9 which would put her birth year as either 1851 if she had her birthday, or 1850 if she had not.  We know the census is notoriously wrong in terms of people’s ages.

Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton and Joseph Bolton had 2 children, of which Joseph “Dode” Bolton was the youngest.

The 1860 census is very faint and difficult to read.

Children

Joseph Preston Bolton and Mary “Polly” Tankersley had the following children as gleaned from the census, family records and the book, “Bolton Family History” published by the Bolton Family Association in Claiborne Co., TN in 1985:

1.  Sarah Elizabeth “Betty” Bolton, born June 25, 1839, Giles Co., VA, died January 2,1922 in Claiborne County, TN, buried in the Harrogate Cemetery, married James Monroe “Roe” Martin, her step-brother, son of Margaret Herrell Martin, Joseph Preston Bolton’s second wife.

2.  William M. or A. Bolton, born on Christmas day, 1840 in Giles County, VA, died June 5, 1927 in Pineville, KY, buried in Harrogate Cemetery, married Susan “Tude” Parks. The Bolton family books states that he was a wagonmaster in the Civil War.  He and his wife are shown in the photo below.

Bolton - Parks3.  Milton Halen Bolton born May 1844 (not shown on 1850 or 1860 census but is listed in family book), died 1907, buried in the Cook Cemetery, Claiborne Co., TN, married Narcissus “Nursey” Parks.

4.  James P. Bolton born October 1845 (census says 1843), died 1913, buried in the Cook Cemetery, Claiborne Co, TN, married Martha Jane Parks.

5.  Daniel Marson “Marsh” “Morris” “Uncle Mars” Bolton born June 2, 1846, listed as Wilburn in the census, died August 7, 1924, Claiborne County, TN, buried in the Liberty Cemetery, married Sylvia (Silvina) Jones.

Daniel Bolton6.  Morris Bolton, age 2 in the 1850 census, born 1848, not shown in 1860, so died young or the children have been “renamed” or the census taken wrote the wrong information for the wrong child, given that Milton isn’t shown.

Joseph Bolton and his second wife, Margaret Herrell Martin, daughter of William Herrell and Mary McDowell, first wife to Anson Cook Martin who died about 1845, had the following children:

7.  Matilda Ann Matilda Bolton born September 5, 1851, Hancock Co., TN died July 2, 1909, Claiborne Co. TN, buried in the Cunningham Cemetery, Claiborne Co., TN., married Morgan Cunningham.

8.  Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton, born September 18, 1853, Hancock Co., TN, died February 23, 1920, Hancock Co., TN, buried in the Plank Cemetery, Claiborne Co., TN, married Margaret Clarkson/Claxton.

The Civil War

One researcher credits Joseph Bolton with serving in Co B, 9th Tennessee Cavalry, Union Army.  Checking with www.fold3.com, I found both service and pension records.  One claim is filed in 1879 for a Joseph Bolton in the B8 TN Cav who was age 20 in 1865 upon enlistment is obviously not our Joseph.  Another record for a Joseph Bolton in the Company I, 9th TN Cav was for a man captured and killed in 1865, so obviously not our Joseph, either.

Joseph died in 1887, so he would not have been listed in the 1890 veteran’s census, but his widow, Margret, would have been, assuming she was still alive at that time.  Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly when she died, we only have a date range, sometime before her children deeded her property to each other in 1992.  If she had died before the veteran’s census in 1890, then he would not have been listed if he did serve.

There is no evidence that Joseph Bolton served in the Civil War, on either side.

The Church

It was very difficult in some instances to tell the Joseph Preston Bolton records from those of his son, Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton, especially in later church records.  Suffice it to say that at one time, Joseph Preston Bolton was a Deacon in the Baptist church, but he was censured and then banned from the church, not once, but twice.

In June 1854, the Rob Camp Baptist Church appointed brethren Joseph Bolton and Ervin McDowell to cite brother Jackson Boles for drunkenness to the July meeting to answer the charges.  Now I’m betting that’s just exactly what Joseph wanted to do.  Apparently, he was pretty good at this job, because he got to do it again.

In February 1856, the church appointed brother Joseph Bolton to cite John Owens for drinking spirits when he saw fit and for throwing stones at his fellow men on the Sabbath.  Throwing stones?  Was that alright if it wasn’t on Sunday?

In March 1856, Joseph Bolton brought a charge against Robert Tankersley, a man of color, for saying that Joseph Bolton “was a mean man and a lyer and other things.”  The next meeting notes are from from Robert Tankersley charging Joseph Bolton for “saying that he had stolen flower and bacon.”  This was referred to the April meeting.  I wonder if Robert Tankersley is a former slave of the Bolton or the Tankersley family.  Joseph Bolton’s first wife was Mary Tankersley and her parents moved to Hancock County as well.

In April, 1856, the church, by request of brother Joseph Bolton excludes him from their Christian fellowship.

In September 1859, (very difficult to read)…church being convinced that the ??? in receiving a charge against brother Joseph Bolton wrought by a member already himself under the censure of the church ??? therefore unanimously rescinded the ???

October, 1866, received Joseph Bolton by recantation and baptized into the fellowship of the church.  This could be the younger Joseph Bolton, but it’s doubtful as he would only have been age 13 and it seems to be the older Joseph Bolton that might have something to recant, as far as the church was concerned.

May 1868, elected brother Joseph Bolton to the office of Deacon.  This entry would confirm that the 1866 entry is Joseph Bolton Sr.  Deacon status is confirmed in the notes of July 1868.

Joseph Bolton was also a founding member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Hancock County.  According to the Rob Camp Church minutes, on the second Saturday of April, 1869, Rob Camp Church released the following people from their fellowship to form the Mount Zion Baptist Church.  On the third Saturday of May, the following list of brothers and sisters met to officially constitute the church which would be located on a parcel of land belonging to William Mannon.  Most of these people were related to Margaret Clarkson, Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton’s wife in some fashion.

  • E.H. Clarkson (Edward Hilton, 1st cousin once removed to Margret)
  • Mary Clarkson
  • William Mannon
  • Elizabeth Mannon
  • Mary Muncy
  • Clarissa Hill
  • Sarah Shefley (cousin)
  • Farwix Clarkson (grandfather to Margret)
  • Agnes Clarkson (grandmother to Margret)
  • Nancy Furry (cousin)
  • Elizabeth Clarkson (mother to Margret)
  • Margret Clarkson (future wife of Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton)
  • William Bolton (son of Joseph Preston Bolton)
  • James Bolton (son of Joseph Preston Bolton)
  • John Grimes
  • Catherine Grimes
  • Joseph Bolton (this would be Joseph Preston Bolton Sr., the deacon)

In the first church meeting of the new church, Joseph Bolton was made a Deacon.  One of the first things the new church did was to create a list of members and they all signed a very lengthy statement about the mission of the church.  Among those names is Joseph Bolton, noted as a Deacon, Margret Bolton and Margret Clarkson.  However, a note beside Joseph’s name, obviously added later, says “excluded” and a note beside Margaret’s name says “dis” for dismissed.  Obviously, things did not go swimmingly well at the new church.

Joseph’s name was never again found associated with a church, although he could have attended one the churches such as Liberty which would have been located quite close to his home on Little Sycamore after he moved to Claiborne County.

The 1870 census shows the family in District 14 of Hancock County near the Atlanthis Hill post office, Joseph age 56, Margaret age 60, Matilda age 19, Joseph age 17 and Rebecca Jones, age 14.  I’m not sure who Rebecca is or how she fits in.

The 1880 census shows that Joseph and Margaret had moved from Hancock County into Claiborne County where they lived in the 6th district.  There are no children living with them, and they are neighbors to both Milton N. Bolton and D.M. Bolton

In the Hancock Co. 1880 tax list from the East TN Roots Vol VI, number 4, Margret Bolton is listed with 55 acres, $350 value, 105 to county, 35 to state, 35 to school, 87.5 for special 262.5 total taxes, no poll.  This is very odd because her husband, Joseph Bolton Sr. did not die until 1887.  This may be her inherited land and since she and Joseph, according to the census, are living in Claiborne County, that could explain why he is not listed.

Joseph Bolton Jr. lives beside her with no land, 1 poll, but then under him it says 100 to school and 30 special and 130 total, paid to Edds.  So perhaps he is farming his mother’s land.

Land

On February 21, 1881, in Claiborne County, Daniel Jones and his wife, Ann Jane Jones deed to Joseph Bolton and D.M. Bolton and his wife Silvia land on the waters of Sycamore Creek on Powell Mountain and Little Ridge adjoining the land of H.H. Friar.

This deed puts the migration date from the 4 Mile Creek area in Hancock County to Little Sycamore about 1881 for the Bolton family.

In 1881, in Claiborne County, adjoining Hancock County, we find a deed dated November 25th between Joseph Bolton and his wife Margrett (sic) J. Bolton and D.M. Bolton and Silvania Bolton, his wife, to H. H. Friar for $1200, land on the waters of Little Sycamore and Powell’s Mountain and the Little Ridge, adjoining said Friar and others.  Daniel Bolton is the son of Joseph Bolton Sr. by his first wife Mary Tankersley.

In 1883 and 1884, James Bolton, son of the elder Joseph Bolton purchases land on Little Sycamore Creek in Claiborne County.  In the 1884 deed, the land abuts Sycamore Creek and Christley? Plank’s line and J.J. Park’s line.

This confirms the story in the “Bolton Family History” that the Bolton family owned “quite a bit” of land and that in 1985, it continued to be farmed by the family.  However, it appears that Joseph P. Bolton didn’t actually own the land after 1881, but it was in the family.

The Bolton book tells us that Joseph Sr. “picked up his tools one day and started to work.  While on his way, he fell dead, near the cemetery where he lies buried – the Plank Cemetery, about 5 miles east of Tazewell in Little Sycamore Valley.”

Joseph died in 1887 and is buried in the Plank Cemetery.  Margaret died sometime after 1885, based on a chancery suite, and before 1892, but her death date and burial location are unknown.  I always find it unusual when one parent has a headstone and the other parent’s grave is unmarked.  Always makes me wonder if there is a story lurking there, waiting to be uncovered and told.

plank cem1

plank cem2

Joseph’s original stone is shown above, with an additional stone set by the family association below.

plank cem3

The mystery surrounding Joseph’s middle name, Preston, haunts me. It’s very similar to the Presnell or Presley that some folks obviously thought was his mother’s maiden name.  I strongly suspect it was a family name, so the question becomes whether we can find a Preston family associated with a Bolton or a Mann, preferably a marriage record.  Joseph’s mother was Nancy Mann, most likely Scots-Irish.

I spent quite a bit of time on both Ancestry.com and http://www.familysearch.org and searching the trees at www.rootsweb.com as well.

I did find one very intriguing record of a Bolton/Preston marriage at exactly the right time.  Henry Bolton, born about 1760, was supposed to be from London, according to the ship’s manifest, but where his parents were married and where the ship he sailed on some 15-20 years later could be two entirely different locations.  London was, after all, the “go to” place for both commerce and opportunity.

preston bolton marriage

I searched for additional information about where the Preston surname might be found.  Would Preston be more likely as Henry Bolton’s mother or Nancy Mann’s mother?  According to these maps, Preston is more frequently found in England.

Ancestry provides the following information:

Preston

English: habitational name from any of the extremely numerous places (most notably one in Lancashire) so called from Old English preost ‘priest’ + tun ‘enclosure’, ‘settlement’; the meaning may have been either ‘village with a priest’ or ‘village held by the Church’.  Scottish: habitational name from Presto(u)n, now Craigmillar, in Midlothian. This name has also been established in Ireland since the 13th century.

Preston in England

Preston in Scotland

The DNA Story

We have a total of 6 descendants of Joseph Preston Bolton who have taken the autosomal DNA test at Family Tree DNA.  Of those, three of us descend through Ollie and share other DNA as well, so I have eliminated the other two from the equation.  They are both further down the tree, so share less DNA and it would be too difficult to differentiate between the DNA that we share from our Estes line.  Therefore, for this exercise, we have 4 descendants, as shown, below.

There are other descendants of Henry Bolton through his second wife, Nancy Mann, but I am not utilizing them in this analysis.

joseph bolton 4 desc

I want to see how much of Joseph Preston’s DNA we share, and to, in essence, reconstruct some of Joseph Preston, on paper of course, from our combined DNA.

This, however, presented a problem.

Dillis is my third cousin once removed, and we found it distressing to not “be related” in our matches at Family Tree DNA.  Thankfully, we are, but we had to use the “back door methodology to prove that fact.

In the chart below, you can see that we cousins didn’t all match each other, at least not on the surface.

Dillis Me Barb Janet
Dillis na No Yes yes
Me No na Yes Yes
Barb Yes Yes na Yes
Janet Yes Yes Yes na

This means that I couldn’t simply compare everyone though the chromosome browser, I had to compare several people and then combine the results, deleting the duplicates in the resulting spreadsheet.

The method I used was to push the matches through to the chromosome browser from the match page and then download everyone’s matches to everyone else, meaning I only downloaded the matching information – not everyone’s matches to their entire match list.

The Dillis to Barb match information would be the same as the Barb to Dillis, so I deleted that portion so that all we have is one comparison for each pair.

For example, here’s a comparison of one cousin to two others at the 1cM level.  Look at that beautiful Bolton DNA!

Dillis cousin match

By clicking on the “download to Excel”, right beside the Chromosome Browser Tutorial, you only download the compared results and can then add them to a composite spreadsheet easily.

Dillis preston match

Here is the resulting composite spreadsheet for all of the cousin matches, after I’ve color coded the results.

joseph bolton desc ss

Actually, it’s the color coding that is important.  You have to do this yourself after you copy and paste the relevant results into your spreadsheet.

Let’s take each color one at a time.

First, let’s look at red.

The red are the segments that Dillis and I DO match on.  Yes, that’s what I said….we DO match.  Family Tree DNA has their thresholds set to maximize the largest matches they feel are genuine in a generalized population,  meaning not identical by state, but those rules don’t always apply when you have a known or suspected relationship.  What a nonmatch means at Family Tree DNA is that we don’t meet all of the following criteria:

  • 20cM total
  • At least one individual match over roughly 7.7cM
  • 500 SNPs for at least one segment

Obviously Dillis and I don’t meet that criteria, but we do have relevant matching DNA – lots of it – in at least 5 different areas.  The proof is in the downloaded spreadsheet.  Were it not for the fact that I happen to know our Bolton cousins who have tested, and we each match some of them in common, we would be unable, through Family Tree DNA to determine that we match.  That also means we wouldn’t be able to utilize the smaller Bolton segments to identify other matches – like, maybe Prestons.

It sure would be wonderful to be able to selectively reduce the matching criteria, especially within projects or in specific situations, like to Dillis, or to everyone who shows a certain ancestral surname or ancestor.  We miss a lot by not having this ability, but we can’t quantify how much we miss because we can’t see what we’re missing.

Second, let’s look at the green groups.  These are groups where all of the participants have overlapping DNA that matches.  Matching of three or more individuals from a known ancestor is called triangulation, and that is how DNA is assigned to that particular ancestor.  So, the overlapping portions of the green DNA are Joseph Preston Bolton’s DNA that we all share.  How about that?

The yellow flags the matches between Janet and Dillis who are more closely related.  They also share both Parks and Smith DNA, so those segments, if they don’t match another Boltons, cannot necessarily be attributed to Bolton lineage.  Before I would utilize this spreadsheet for further matching, I would probably remove those segments, or leave them colored to remind myself

I wanted to see a visual of Joseph Bolton’s DNA on his chromosomes, and who carries it today.

Utilizing Kitty Cooper’s wonderful ancestor chromosome mapping tool, a little differently than she had in mind, I mapped Joseph’s DNA and the contributors are listed to the right of his chromosome.  You can build a virtual ancestor from their descendants.  I have only utilized the proven, or triangulated DNA segments proven to three or more descendants.

joseph bolton reconstructed

Wow, how cool is that.

Notice the X chromosome as well.  Due to the unique inheritance pattern of the X chromosome, we know that Joseph received his X from his mother, Nancy Mann, so that is Nancy’s X segment we’re looking at.  Janet and I both carry that segment, that piece of Nancy, in us today.

Let’s look at one more thing.  Let’s see if we can glean any information at all about the surname Preston.

I went back into the Family Finder matching and I utilized the surname match capability.

bolton preston ff

I checked each match to be sure that Preston was a surname and not a county or a middle name, and then I recorded, on paper, the list of names of people who had Preston ancestry who matched each cousin.  Obviously, I was hoping to find someone listed on the match list of multiple, hopefully distant, cousins.

Cousin Dillis matches three people, shown below mapped onto Dillis’s chromosomes in 3 colors.  Notice that on chromosomes 11 and 12 some of them match Dillis in the same location.  This does not inherently mean they match each other too, but they might.  Unfortunately, since we are below the 7cM matching threshold at Family Tree DNA, we can’t utilize the Matrix tool to take a look.

Dillis preston match crop

Between all of the cousins’ matches, there were a total of 47 individuals who listed Preston as one of their surnames.

I decided to download the segment data of Dillis’s three Preston matches, and the one person, Terry, who was listed on two different cousin’s matches.  One of the cousins Terry matches is not a descendant of Joseph Preston Bolton, but descends through another child of Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann.

So, I’ve included those Preston match people in the resulting spreadsheet and let’s take a look at what we have.  Terry is the person who matches two different Bolton descendants.

Preston triangulation match

The spreadsheet has gotten quite large, too large to reproduce here, so I’m only showing an example.

What we want to find is one of the people with Preston genealogy dead center in the middle of a proven Bolton segment.  This can match mean one of a few things.

  • The matching person, Terry, in this case, has unknown Bolton heritage.
  • We share some mutual DNA that contributed to the Bolton line.
  • That mutually shared DNA may be Preston DNA.
  • We are the world’s most unlucky people and Terry matches us on all 27 common segments circumstantially. You can pretty much rule this one out.

Several of these segments have matches between Dillis, at least one of his Preston descendant matches, Terry and other cousins.  One of Dillis’s matches also matches on several of the same segments where Terry matches the cousins as well.

This very strongly suggests distant common ancestry.  What can we do to find out?

Genealogy, we’re back to genealogy.  Now, I need to look at the Family Trees on Family Tree DNA for each of the people who have loaded GEDCOMs to see if I can find any commonality between their Preston ancestors.  I need to send e-mails to those who haven’t uploaded GEDCOM files, and let’s hope that we are lucky enough to find a connecting thread between the Prestons that might lead us to a Preston/Bolton connection, or at least a geography – and who knows – maybe it’s the Bolton/Preston marriage from 1756 in York, England.  Or maybe not – that’s why it’s called a search!

Long shot?  Yep?  Genealogy is an adventure with never any sure answers and every answer leads to more questions.  But, as my brother, John, says, no shot is a sure miss.

I’m thinking Henry Bolton’s mother just might well be a Preston and I’m setting out to find more evidence.

What would be really useful now would be to find a descendant of Henry Bolton’s brother, Conrad.  Unfortunately, Conrad had only one known child, Sarah, born about 1806 who married Jesse W. Keyes on March 29, 1826 in Giles Co., VA.  If Sarah’s descendants also match one of those Preston DNA individuals, preferably on the same segment, then that eliminates Nancy Mann from the equation, confirming the Preston DNA came from Henry’s line.  Yea, I know I’m dreaming, but this is how we utilize DNA to prove hypothesis.

Wish me luck!

Step one….any descendants of Conrad Bolton out there???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Call

last callNo, not that kind of last call.

Last call to vote – in the Rockstar Genealogist competition hosted at John Reid’s blog, Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections.

Rockstar genealogists are those who give “must attend” presentations at family history conferences or as webinars. Who, when you see a new family history article or publication by that person, makes it a must buy. Who you hang on their every word on a blog, podcast or newsgroup, or follow avidly on Facebook or Twitter?

So, you get to vote for your favorites AND it’s your opportunity to make me pay.bag of money

And pay BIG.

This is the only time in my life that guaranteed, my money is going to be quadrupled and I’m not even going to have to buy a lottery ticket, draw a card or roll a dice.  It’s guaranteed!

You see, here’s the deal, in the past voting, a genetic genealogist has never found their way into the top 10 of the Rockstar Genealogists.  Now I’d like to raise awareness for genetic genealogy and how useful it can be, and I am a strong advocate for the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project….sooooo…..if a genetic genealogist finds their way into the winners circle, meaning the top 10, I’ll pay up.  My $250 donation will become $1000 through matching donations and will preserve 2200 pension pages total.  A very worthy cause, don’t you think?

You can read about my original pledge or take a look at what Judy Russell had to say.  You know, she did get up at o’dark thirty and walk to the Alamo for Preserve the Pensions as well, and well, truthfully, I’d rather count out all 25,000 pennies than do that…..

Here’s a list of this year’s nominees. You can vote for as many individuals as you want, but you can only vote once.

Genetic genealogists on the list include:

Voting ends today, Friday, or maybe Saturday, according to John…but don’t wait for Saturday and be disappointed, so vote NOW, include one or more genetic genealogists….and make me pay:)  I’m already counting my pennies!!!

Am I going to have to pay?  Who is it going to be????

last call2

Rockstar Genealogists – Sweetening the Pie

rock

Did you know there was such a thing as a Rockstar Genealogist?  Well, there is, and yours truly, along with 149 of my closest friends, has been nominated.

John Reid is sponsoring this third annual contest on his blog, Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections.  A little digging tells me that I was also nominated in 2013 as well, but I didn’t know it.  Maybe I’m the “Lives Under a Rock” genealogist:)

You can vote for your favorite genealogists by visiting John’s blog and clicking through to vote.  Voting is open now and will end late Friday or Saturday, according to John.  So don’t wait, vote now.

Here is last year’s list of winners and a list of this year’s nominees.

On the 2013 winner’s list, I see several familiar names, including Judy Russell and Megan Smolenyak who both work with genetic genealogy in addition to more traditional genealogy.  I know both of these ladies personally, and I can vouch for the fact that they are, indeed, Rockstar Genealogists.  I would like to see both of them in their Rockstar garb however.

What I didn’t see were any genetic genealogists, those who specialize in that end of the field.  Looking at this year’s nominees, and there were a lot of them, I was very pleased to see several genetic genealogists listed, including CeCe Moore, Tim Janzen, Blaine Bettinger, Bennett Greenspan, Debbie Kennett, Katherine Borges and of course, yours truly.  Not bad for a field that just a decade ago was almost entirely unknown, and 15 years ago, didn’t exist at all.

I find it particularly fitting that Bennett Greenspan is included in this list, given that he’s the man who started it all.  And wow, am I ever in awesome company!

So, given that I’d love to see at least one genetic genealogist in the winner’s circle, complete with their electric guitar, strumming it with their DNA swabs – I’m going to, ahem, sweeten the pie.

pie

Make Me Donate!!!

If any of the above mentioned genetic genealogists are in the list of 2014 winners, I’ll donate $250 to the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions Digitization Project.

But, it gets even better, because right now, there are two organizations, the Illinois and Indiana Genealogy Societies, who are matching donations to this project, so my $250 will become $500.  So, if I “have to” donate, I’ll be doing it through one of them.

But we’re not done, it gets even better yet.  Right now, Ancestry.com is matching every donation 100%, so that $250 that turned into $500 actually turns into a $1000 donation.  That $1000 donation preserves 2200 pages that are in desperate need of preservation and that will be available free, forever, for everyone.

I had three ancestors serve in the War if 1812, one of whom died in the service of his country, so I feel very strongly about this crowdsourcing project.  These records are incredible and many times include information about wives and children not available elsewhere.  In one case, the pages of a family Bible were torn out and are today found in that pension file – the file of a man that no one today knew even served in that war.

So, if someone else would like to join into the pie sweetening, that would be just wonderful.  No such thing as too many cooks in this kitchen!  Post your sweetener as a comment to this article.  After all, it’s all in good fun and for a great cause.  Pass the sugar!

Vote!

So, please vote now and do your share to make sure I “have to” donate and let’s get at least one of our genetic genealogists into the winner’s circle.  You can vote for as many people as you want, but you can only vote once.

Here’s the link to vote.

Jack the Ripper???

The DNA community had some exciting news this past week about the identity of Jack the Ripper, notorious serial killer of prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888.  In total, there were 11 murders potentially linked to Jack the Ripper, with 5 being considered the most likely to be positively his victims.  He slit the throats of his victims, in some cases disemboweled them and mutilated their faces.

ripper1

While there were many suspects and much speculation, the identity of the murderer was never established.  Among the suspects was one 23 year old Polish immigrant, Aaron Kosminski.  Aaron worked and lived in Whitechapel and was reportedly seen with one of the victims, but incriminating evidence was not given by the witness and he was released.  In 1891 he was committed to an insane asylum, probably a paranoid schizophrenic, where he eventually died.  He heard “solitary voices” and indulged in “unmentionable vices” which typically means activity of a sexual nature.

Last week, the British tabloid newspaper, the Daily Mail, ran a “world exclusive” article that Jack the Ripper has actually been identified as Aaron Kosminski utilizing DNA evidence found at the scene of one of the murders, that of Catherine Eddowes.

This was followed almost immediately by articles much more skeptical in nature, one in the Oregon Live and one by our own Judy Russell.

The reader’s digest version of the DNA part of the story is that a shawl was found with Catherine when she was murdered, although there is no evidence that the shawl was hers.  It’s believed that the killer left the shawl for some unknown reason.

The first problem with this story is that there is no proof that this shawl was indeed found with the body.  Catherine was so poor she reportedly hawked her shoes the night before, and the shawl in question was worth more than the shoes.  She has also just been released from jail for drunkenness before she was found murdered, and no shawl was mentioned by anyone.  Just the same, that doesn’t mean the shawl didn’t exist, and there is powerful DNA evidence, if it’s accurate, suggesting that this shawl was found exactly as stated, with Catherine’s body.

Russell Edwards purchased the blood-soaked shawl at auction, the shawl purportedly being found by a policeman the night of the murder and taken home to his wife, a dressmaker, who put it away unwashed.   Edwards hoped to somehow use the shawl to prove it was not only authentic, but to identify Jack the Ripper.

Edwards contacted Dr Jari Louhelainen, a leading expert in genetic evidence from historical crime scenes who combines his day job as senior lecturer in molecular biology at Liverpool John Moores University with working on cold cases for Interpol and other projects. He agreed to conduct tests on the shawl in his spare time.

Catherine’s DNA

He was able to extract DNA from some of the blood on the shawl and eventually managed to obtain mitochondrial DNA results.

Edwards managed to track down an individual, Karen Miller, who descends from the same matrilineal line as Catherine Eddowes, her three times great-granddaughter, and the mitochondrial DNA matched.  This is interpreted as confirming the identity of the blood on the shawl as that of Catherine.

Herein lies the second problem.

The article states that they “managed to get six complete DNA profiles from the  shawl” and that they were “a perfect match.”

I’m assuming, here, and I passionately hate to assume, because we all know what assume does…but I’m assuming that they are referring to mitochondrial full sequences here, all 16,569 locations on the mitochondria.  It would have been very helpful had they stated exactly what they tested.

They also don’t tell us what haplogroup they are working with.  If this is haplogroup H, it’s possible to have hundreds of “exact matches” because haplogroup H, itself, comprises almost 50% of Europeans today.  Of course, if they managed to sequence the entire mitochondria, the results would likely fall into a subclade, and some subclades are very rare, even within haplogroup H.

Because haplogroup H is so large, there is a great deal of diversity within H, and many of the subclades are small.  Furthermore, some people have no “unusual markers,” and those people tend to have many more matches than people who do have “unusual markers.”  Unusual markers are those mutations that have probably occurred in a family line and are not generally found in the majority of those of that particular subclade.

By way of example, here are the results from someone who is a member of haplogroup V, from eastern Europe.  They do not fall into a subclade of V and they have several extra mutations and one missing mutation compared to what is typically found in haplogroup V participants.

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This individual has 3 full sequence matches, two of which are exact matches, but neither of those lead to the same ancestor.  This is a rather typical situation, not out of the ordinary.

The Ripper’s DNA

Another discovery on the shawl was that of semen, possible evidence of the Ripper himself.  They enlisted the help of Dr. David Miller who found surviving epithelium cells, a type of tissue that coats organs, in this case, thought to have come from the urethra during ejaculation.

Here a quote from Dr. Louhelainen about the DNA findings from these cells.

“Then I used a new process called whole genome amplification to copy the DNA 500 million-fold and allow it to be profiled.

Once I had the profile, I could compare it to that of the female descendant of Kosminski’s sister, who had given us a sample of  her DNA swabbed from inside  her mouth.

The first strand of DNA showed a 99.2 per cent match, as the analysis instrument could not determine the sequence of the missing 0.8 per cent fragment  of DNA. On testing the second strand, we achieved a perfect 100 per cent match.

Because of the genome amplification technique, I was also able to ascertain the ethnic and geographical background of the DNA I extracted. It was of a type known as the haplogroup T1a1, common in people of Russian Jewish ethnicity. I was even able to establish that he had dark hair.”

Here is the third problem.

This description seems to combine two types of sequencing.  Now, that’s not a bad thing, it’s simply confusing.  Based on the haplogroup of T1a1, we know that they sequenced mitochondrial DNA and that they did in fact manage to sequence it to the full sequence level.  How do we know this?  Because each mitochondrial haplogroup is designated by certain specific mutations.  In this case, the final 1 of T1a1 is indicated by location 9899 in the coding region of the mitochondria – so in order to designate this individual as a member of haplogroup T1a1, they had to sequence the coding region.  Again, we presume (the cousin of assume – with the same consequences) that they were able to successfully sequence the entire mitochondria.

Now for the fly in the ointment, I have not found this haplogroup in Russian Jewish people.  In fact, the clients who I have done DNA Reports for who fall into this haplogroup are not Jewish – none of them, nor do they have Jewish matches.  Neither does Dr. Behar identify this as a Jewish haplogroup in his founding mother’s paper.  Nor is this identified elsewhere as a Jewish haplogroup.  Of course, this Daily Mail article has no sources, so we can’t independently verify what was said, but it looks like this assertion of T1a1 typical of Jewish people may be in error.

However, from his discussion, we can also tell that additional sequencing has been done on the DNA retrieved, because you can’t determine traits like hair color without autosomal sequencing.  Therefore, if the descendant is truly related to Jack the Ripper, then at least part of their autosomal DNA should match as well, and that was not addressed.  If the autosomal DNA does not match, at least in part, then it calls into question the conclusions drawn by the mitochondrial DNA match.

We know that Kosminski was born about 1865 if he was 23 in 1888 when the crimes were committed.  The DNA matches a descendant of his sister.  Let’s assume, for purposes of argument that his sister was born about the same time.  And let’s use the standard genealogy generation of 30 years.  This means that the sister’s child was born in 1895, her child in 1925, her child in 1955 and maybe yet another child in 1985.  That’s a total of 6 DNA transmission events to a common ancestor, being the parents of the Kosminski siblings.  Therefore, Kosminski is the great-great-uncle to the child born in 1955.  Therefore, the individual born in 1955 should share about 6.25 of their autosomal DNA with Kosminski.  If they don’t, then there’s a problem.

If they do, then why didn’t the article tell us that.  This information would, in essence, seal the deal – well, assuming all of the other presuming is remedied.

Is It True???

First, let me state that in science, I’m always very, very skeptical of publication via newspaper or internet, especially publication via tabloid.  This has been fraught with problems.  Debbie Kennett has covered this repeatedly on her blog.  Another example is the announcement of  Pict DNA being identified – published and never proven.  I know of other cases in which DNA evidence is intentionally twisted, inaccurately, to fit the intentions of the publishing entity.  So, yes, I’m a rabid skeptic without provable evidence.

I want to see this assertion go through the verification process with a second, reputable, lab.  By reputable, I mean one not associated with any of these other questionable assertions.  Then, I’d like to see the results published in an industry accepted journal.  Yes, that takes time, and yes, there are questions to answer, but the resulting paper carries with it credibility that is impossible to obtain otherwise.  Unfortunately, publishing results in a tabloid paper immediately causes me to question why they would have made that choice if they had solid proof.

Ok, now that I’ve said that, I want to address the question at hand.  Is it true?  Might it be true?

I’d like to make two points.  First, while I used random examples of mitochondrial matching, this isn’t a random situation.  This is a known individual in both cases, with known and I’m assuming, provable, genealogy to both Catherine Eddowes and to Aaron Kosminski.  We’re not looking at random matches here and we’re not looking for a common ancestor.  We know who the common ancestor is in both of these situations and we’re looking for matches to confirm that identity.  This, by the way, is exactly how our armed forces identify remains of soldiers and repatriate them to the family.  This uses the exact same premise – that we’re not looking for random matches, but for a match with a known family member of known provenance – with possibly, hopefully, family line mutations.

Now, let’s use a bit of math, which is sometimes, but not always, my friend.

I’m going to use two examples, haplogroup T1a1 and haplogroup J1c2f because it’s mine and I have easy access to those results.  We know that the mitochondrial DNA attributed to Kosminski is T1a1 and we’ll just let mine stand in for Catherine Eddowes.

In the Family Tree DNA data base, haplogroup T represents 8.06% of the participants and haplogroup J, 7.77%.  As of September 8, they have a total of 43,329 full sequence mitochondrial DNA results in their data base.  I calculated the number of members of each haplogroup based on that percentage and then I checked the corresponding DNA project at Family Tree DNA.  Then I checked to see how many occurrences of the subgroups of J1c2f and T1a1 were found and calculated the percentage of haplogroup J and T they represent.  The total subgroup percentage is the percentage of J1c2f and T1a1 of the entire FTDNA full sequence population.

  % FTDNA # Members Hap Project # #J1c2f/ T1a1 % of  Hap Proj Total % subgroup
J1c2f 7.77 3336 2165 6 .2 .01
T1a1 8.06 3492 673 52 .73 .12

London’s population was estimated to be 1 million in 1800 and 6.7 million in 1900, so let’s use the figure of 6 million for 1888 as an estimate.

Of 6 million people, you would expect to find 600 people carrying haplogroup J1c2f and 7200 people carrying T1a1.  Therefore to find two of those individuals whose DNA is found on the same scarf, who have a forensic tie, or a suspicion of a tie, is astronomically small.

If math is my friend today, we would multiple values of each haplogroup in the population together to find the odds of finding both in one place.

That would be .0001 times .0012, which equals 1.2e-7 which means, 0.00000012, in other words, about one in 1.2 billion.  The population of the world in 1875 was calculated to be about 1.3 billion

So, assuming their work is accurate, and assuming that this isn’t a huge elaborate hoax, it’s very likely accurate, and Jack the Ripper is very probably Aaron Kosminski.

Where’s the Beef???

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Remember the old Wendy’s refrain, “Where’s the Beef?’’

Well, I want to believe this story, especially since it’s such a feel good fairy tale story involving a Jack the Ripper hobbyist and DNA, of course.  But I’m really left waiting for some kind of corroboration.  Was it Carl Sagan that said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?”  Well, they do and I really hope the authors will subject their findings to peer review and authenticate their claims.  If this isn’t true, it’s a hugely elaborate and well-planned hoax perpetrated probably to sell a resulting book or movie which should, if that is true, be named “Jack the Ripoff.”

I want this to be true, and I want the authors to make a believer out of me.  I want no presumes or assumes left standing.  So….where’s the beef???

Ralph Dean Long (1922-1994), My Stepfather, 52 Ancestors #36

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It was 20 years ago this weekend that he slipped away…this man I loved so much.  Well, slipped away isn’t exactly the right word for it.  He removed his own life support because the family was not united in their decision of what should be done.  So, he somehow rallied the strength and did it himself.  He was one of the bravest men I ever knew…in a very quiet, unassuming, homey type of way.  His final act of bravery only surprised me in that he was able to somehow find the physical strength to do it.

When I think of him, which is often, I think of him in his blue denim overalls.  He was a farmer, a Hoosier with a bit of a lisp and a definite Hoosier drawl, and a breathy, raspy laugh that was interjected between his words many times, like he got his own joke part way through and he just had to laugh before he could continue.  His sentences were full of laughter pauses and punctuations.  But when he was serious, he was dead serious and a man of very, very few words.  God help anyone who hurt someone, human or animal, that he loved.

Dean, as he was called, was born on December 26th, 1922 in Howard County, Indiana to Harley Clinton Long (1878-1949) and Lottie Bell Lee (1881-1962), the youngest of 12 or 13 children.  I never knew his parents.  I did, however, know several of his siblings.

Two of his siblings, Arnold and Wilma, never married.  They lived on the old family farmstead their entire lives.  Another sister, Verma, married but never had children.  She was the eternal sourpuss, and it was the family joke that her husband died to get away from her.  Wilma, on the other hand was the loving sweet aunt and Arnold, well, I’d describe him as a lecherous old man.  My Dad told him once that if he put his hands on me, or my mother, again, he’s kill him – and I do believe he meant it.  More importantly, Arnold believed it.

Dean was married initially to Martha Mae Alexander and they had two children, my step-brother, Gary, and a daughter, Linda who died as an infant.  Linda was born with what appeared from pictures to be Down’s syndrome.  When my daughter was born, Dean gave me Linda’s baby blanket.  I was extremely moved but I could never use it. It’s still safely tucked away.

Dean was grief-stricken when his daughter died at 18 months of age, the day after his birthday and two days after Christmas in 1959, but his heart-ache was only beginning.  His wife had a disease that was, at that time, impossible to diagnose. It was progressive, debilitating and fatal.  I don’t remember the name of the disease, but he carried a newspaper article in his billfold about it, and there were only a handful of known cases at the time.  It took her a decade to die, all while fighting an unknown foe to live and raise her son.

The aunts were Dean’s salvation during this time, because they stepped in and helped take care of Gary while Dean tended to his wife through her many hospitalizations.  This was before the days of handicapped accessibility, but he modified the house with all kinds of aids for her.  Many of which remained long after he and my mother were married simply because they were useful.

After Martha’s death, in 1968, Gary, by then a teenager, began manifesting symptoms of mental illness and was institutionalized episodically for many years.  We always wondered if Gary’s illness was in some way caused in utero by the beginnings of his mother’s horrible illness.

Through all of this, Dean continued to farm, because that was what he did – and if you’re a farmer, you have to farm whether you feel like it or not. He also developed chronic ulcers, had 7 or 8 surgeries to stop the bleeding over the years.  The family was “called in” more than once because he wasn’t expected to survive.  His abdomen looked like a railroad track.

But he did survive, because he had to – he had a family to take care of who needed him desperately.

By the time I met Dean, about 1969, he had joined Parents Without Partners and he was the “fix it” guy for all of the ladies in the group.  He would visit those who needed something fixed, in exchange for dinner or coffee and a doughnut maybe.  Everyone loved Dean.

For a man with so much grief and loss in his life, he was always warm, smiling, friendly and funny.  Nobody didn’t like Dean.  Well, except my Mom.

You see, Dean “took a shine” to her.  Yep, our stuff got fixed first, and he came “calling” complete with flowers wearing his only suit.  My Mom wasn’t interested in a farmer, because she grew up on a chicken farm, hated every minute, and swore she would never go back.  I recall vividly the day that Dean dropped in unexpectedly, carrying flowers and a box of Dunkin Doughnuts, in his ill-fitting too-big light blue suit.  He walked up the driveway hill, smiling and hopeful with a spring in his step carrying the box and flowers carefully, like the crown jewels.  He rang the doorbell.  Mom didn’t want company.  She had worked all day and was tired, plus, she wasn’t interested in a farmer.  I was happy to see Dean and headed to answer the door

Mother stopped me and told me not to answer the door.  He knocked and knocked, long after any hope of an answer disappeared.  Then he turned and walked slowly down the driveway hill, to his car, his shoulders slumped, head down and the flowers hanging forlornly from his hand.  He looked back at the house one more time and there was no smile.  He got in his car and drove away.  I cried and cried, not for myself, but for the oh-so-evident sadness, disappointment and terrible loneliness of that man in the ill-fitting blue suit.  Mother felt terrible and I told her she should.

Apparently something changed, because the door never went unanswered again and Dean became a regular part of our lives.

Then one day he asked me if he could marry my mother.  He and mother went to visit Gary and asked his blessing too.  We began planning a country wedding in a small white church.  Life was glorious for everyone.

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The biggest challenge was introducing our cat to his dog.

I loved life on the farm and I became Dad’s shadow.  One of my biggest joys was to help Dad with the chores – driving the tractor, birthing hogs, whatever.  A few things I didn’t like and Dad was just grateful for any help he had.  Gary wasn’t there much and when he was, didn’t much care for farm work.  My mother fit right in, and was grateful Dad didn’t raise chickens.

I had been without a father since my own father’s death in 1963, so I was extremely grateful to have a father.  Dean became Dad someplace along the line and if you didn’t know I wasn’t his biological daughter, you would never have known.  I always joked with him.  Anything “bad” I told him was his fault and I inherited from him.

One day, he walked in from the barn, walked over to me sitting at the kitchen table, thunked me on the head with his thumb, which was his special gesture of affection, looked at me and said, “Hey, when I married your mother, I got my daughter back.”  His eyes welled up with tears, and then he just walked out of the room like he had told me nothing more important than that the soybeans were sprouting.  He was just that way, a man of very few words but deep commitment and undying love.

Now let’s just say I wasn’t the most well-behaved teenager in the world and I gave my mother multiple episodes of heartburn – and that’s probably putting it very mildly and quite understated.  She, however, got very even with me by wishing that awful mother curse upon me – “May your children be 10 times worse than you are.”  She removed said curse and apologized profusely many years later, but it was too late and the damage was already done.

But Dad, well, he was always the encouraging one.  He told me I could do anything I wanted to do, and that I could be anything I wanted to be…and growing up poor, on a farm, had nothing to do with it.  He looked at me one day, walking past the metal swing outside as we were snapping beans and said, “Bobbi, if anyone changes the world, it will be you,” and just continued walking.

I was dumbstruck, and remember looking at his back walking away after he dropped that bombshell on me.  I wondered what he meant.  But those rare words from Dad sunk in and hit home, and I’ve never forgotten them.

I remember vividly, oh so vividly, when Jim and I were at the National Geographic Society for a DNA Conference in 2005.  As we walked down the huge marble Explorer’s Hall – I looked at Jim and said, “Wouldn’t Dad he surprised?”  Jim said, “Not at all.”  I kind of laughed, because it’s a very long way from the hog farm in Indiana to the Explorer’s Hall in Washington DC.  Dad would have been proud.  However, little that I did ever surprised Dad.  He was the eternal optimist in spite of the horrible challenges he had weathered.

For some reason, possibly because he had lost his only daughter and I had lost my much-beloved father, we formed a special bond.  In fact, a bond so special it transcended his lifetime.  A year or so after his passing, I was sleeping, alone in my house.  Suddenly, in the middle of the night, someone woke me up.  I woke up with a start, sat straight upright, confused and terrified, because I was, supposedly, alone in the house.  I had just a few seconds to think about it, because a fireball suddenly exploded into the bedroom door from the hallway.  The house was on fire, and had I not been awake, I would have perished, trapped in that bedroom.  Yes, it was Dad who woke me up.

So, when I took this picture in my garden this weekend, I wondered where those rays came from.  I certainly didn’t see them when I was taking the photo. Then, I realized that it was indeed 20 years to the day since Dad’s passing.  Leave it up to Dad to say hello like this.  He was such a beautiful soul.

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Mom has joined him now, as has Gary.

Losing Dad happened far too soon, and in large part due to his own choices regarding smoking.  That saddened me and to some extent, angered me, because neither Mom nor I, nor my kids, were ready for him to go.  Mom grieved his death horribly.  It’s also testimony however to how powerful nicotine addiction is – you’ll do it in the face of sure and certain death.  The fact that Dad wanted to, and couldn’t, overcome it saddens me even more.

While losing Dad was terrible, I have so many wonderful memories of him.  And he was such a kind, gentle and funny man.  His quiet demeanor belied his love of humor and a good prank, and I think he was always pondering one in the back of his mind

One of the favorite family stories was when, as a teenager, he stuffed the school heat ducts full of chicken feathers.  When the heat came on in the fall, not only did some of them manage to catch on fire and stink to high heavens, but the rest of them blew out all of the ducts into the classrooms. Of course, he “knew nothing about that,” (chuckle, chuckle) and neither did his brothers, but for some reason, that was a family favorite story for the duration of the lives of the brothers and sisters.  The sisters mostly rolled their eyes.

dad4Another time, Dad dressed up as a pregnant woman for some event – probably a fundraiser for something – likely on a dare.  I had to help him with his dress and bra and teach him how to walk pregnant, in high heels.

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I don’t think he ever got the hang of that.  Mom strapped a pillow on him before he went to the event.  Good thing he didn’t get stopped in this truck.  The local cops would have been talking about that forever.

His baldness was also a topic of conversation and of eternal, unending jokes.  He was not sensitive about it, so it was never off limits.  One time, we bought him a hairbrush for bald men, with no bristles.  I have absolutely no idea when this photo was taken, but he was clearly wearing a wig.

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He loved to Rendezvous and he was a mountain man.

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Those Rendezvous men were all the epitome of pranksters.  One time, when I went to visit, he was fictitiously being “tried” for molesting a ground hog.

To add to things, I got him a “doll” on a couch one year to take along with him.  The doll was wearing something red and black and she reclined on her fainting couch.  She was, perhaps slightly suggestive, a little risqué perhaps, nothing more. That doll on her 3 foot couch was kidnapped immediately and was held for ransom, passed around from camp to camp and tent to tent and appeared here and there, for years.  One time her stockings appeared tied to Dad’s top tent pole like a flag.

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Dad’s Rendezvous nickname was “Hoot” and I don’t think it had to do entirely with an owl either, although clearly a double entendre.  He was, indeed, a hoot.

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Even this younger picture, as a teenager, with Verma, reflects his sense of humor.  They were in Indianapolis and whatever was going on , she was not amused.  She was never amused.  He was always amused.

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He always had stories to tell too, some true and some, well, in the flavor and honor of Rendezvousing.  I have no idea about the red eye in the skull, but I’m sure there was some wonderful story about that, perhaps tailored to the listener.  I do know that he had a very unique turtle shell with vulture feet and a vulture head with feathers for a tail and a variety of stories about how that happened, depending on the audience at hand.

In later years, Dad spent a lot of time with school kids showing them old timey ways to do things.  He would set up his “camp” at the schools in the yard someplace and the classes would come out one by one.

Dad was always making an outfit or something for his encampment out of castoffs.

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He turned just about anything and everything into something useful for his encampment.  I made a lot of his Rendezvous clothes for him.  He made things like buttons out of wood and bone.  Mom and I used to go and visit him when he went “camping.”  He loved that.  Sometimes I would go in period costume too and generally caused some kind of ruckus, which was, of course, the entire point.

One time I announced to everyone that he had gotten my mother pregnant.  At the time, most of them didn’t know I wasn’t his biological child, so it was a tongue in cheek accusation, meant, of course, to give them something to “talk about” over the weekend.  He might have been tried for that too, for all I know.  Couldn’t be worse than molesting a groundhog.  I think he was sentenced to hang for that one, but was rescued by some Indian.  There was always some twist or subplot spontaneously evolving and all in great fun and joviality.  How he always looked forward to the next encampment, which was, of course, the next chapter in a continually unfolding drama with no script.

After Dad passed away, I went to the encampment the next summer in Burlington, his “home” Rendezvous location where they had a memorial, in Rendezvous tradition, to say goodbye to him.  His camp was set up “empty” and on Saturday night, the men all gathered around his campfire.  They all told stories about him and the good times they all shared, like that time he nearly got hung for molesting that groundhog.  I said to them that he could not have been a better father had he been mine biologically.  They got really quiet, then one of them said, “We didn’t know that he wasn’t your father.  We knew that one of you kids was a step-child, but based on how close you were to your Dad, we thought you were the biological child.”  To him, I was his child, pure and simple.

I miss Dad. He could have had another 10 or maybe even 20 years with us.

After his passing, I brought some of his phlox home from the farm and planted it here, along with some of his ferns that grew so thickly along the north side of the farmhouse.

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The purple phlox grows tall here and thrives.  I moved it from my other house when I built this one, along with several ferns.

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Today, I went outside to find the phlox blooming with, and shedding onto, the white Rose of Sharon.  I think of Dad every time I see the phlox blooming and that makes me feel good, just like seeing the ferns unfold their beautiful spikes in rebirth does every spring.  But today, this beautiful combination of the white flower and the purple bloom spoke to me of the purity of love and eternity, and how those that are gone are really still here – forever.  The phlox may have shed its bloom, but it is obviously still quite beautiful.

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I will miss Dad forever, and I will grieve his passing forever, because I will love him forever.  But I will also honor his life by smiling and living with humor, honor and dignity.  I strive to cultivate the qualities in myself I so admired in him and found so inspirational and discovered were my bedrock, and hope to pass them on to my children, by example.  What better legacy could I leave him?

You may wonder why I included this story in my DNA blog.  Well, pure and simple, I inherited a wonderful legacy from Dad, my step-father, and my life was greatly enriched by his presence.  Sometimes, inheritance has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with DNA.  He was as much my Dad, and in some ways more so, than my biological father.  A hundred or two hundred years ago, everyone would have thought I was his daughter and today, we would somehow discover that now dissolved fact and it would be considered a NPE or an undocumented adoption.  It wasn’t a surprise to us, it was just life as we lived it day by day.  It was only a surprise to those who didn’t know, which, 100 years later, would have been everyone.  Think about the fact that in his lifetime, even many of his close friends didn’t realize.

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What Does and Doesn’t a Y DNA Match Mean?

It’s easy to forget how foreign this landscape looks to a newbie, but the newbies are our next generation genealogists and genetic genealogists.

This week, someone e-mailed me who had tested at Family Tree DNA and asked how to contact their Y DNA match they had found in a project that I manage.  I thought that was a very strange request, since your matches are on your personal page along with their e-mail addresses, so I asked for the name on their kit and their kit number so I could take a look.

As it turns out, they had no Y DNA matches on their personal page, so they were hunting for matches elsewhere.  They had joined the haplogroup E1b1a-M2 project and it’s there that they found their “matches” that they were asking about.  I commend their tenacity in hunting for matches and finding them in a project, even though they weren’t exactly what they thought.

The kit number here is 343629, Lewis.  You can see in the screen shot from the haplogroup E-M2 project page that they don’t match anyone exactly at 12 markers, and their closest match is to Harris above their entry, and they have 3 mismatches at 12 markers.

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As it turns out, Lewis and Harris didn’t qualify as matches, which is why they weren’t displayed on their personal match page.  This explains why kit 343629 was asking me how to contact their “matches.”

Family Tree DNA has set up match thresholds.  For someone to be listed as your match, they need to have no more than the following total number of mutations difference from your results.

Markers in Panel Tested Maximum Number of Mutations Allowed
12 0 unless in a common project, then 1
25 2
37 4
67 7
111 10

The reason for these thresholds is that DNA mutates at an “average” rate and for someone to have more than this number of mutations in that marker range means, generally, that the match is too far back in time to be genealogically relevant.  For people who do have matches, you can utilize Family Tree DNA’s TIP calculator to obtain an estimate of how distant the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) might be from you and your match.  I wrote about the TIP calculator and the MRCA both, so refer to those articles for more into on those tools.

The next question this person asked is, “How do you tell which markers indicate someone as a close cousin?”

The answer really involves several aspects or DNA testing, and I’m going to answer their question here, in pieces, so that everyone can benefit.

  1. In general, finding family via the Y markers is not about “which markers” as much as it is about the number of matching markers. If you share a common ancestor, the DNA of that man’s descendants will accrue mutations over time. If the common ancestor is before the advent of surnames in the culture in which they resided, then the surnames may not match, but the common ancestor still existed.
  2. In general, 12 markers is not sufficient to determine a common ancestor, although you can rule out common ancestors in a genealogical timeframe, generally accepted to be 500-800 years, by high numbers of mismatches caused by mutations. I would suggest this person test at higher markers because sometimes people do pick up matches at higher levels where more mutations are allowed, especially if the mutations happened, for some reason, in the lower panels but few happened in the higher panels. I do see this when writing the Personalized DNA Reports for people, not often, but it does occur, especially at 111 markers.
  3. You cannot necessarily identify a “close cousin” or any specific relationship utilizing Y DNA testing alone, especially at low marker levels, such as 12 and 25.  Although if someone matches you on all 111 markers, there is a very good chance that you share a common ancestors in just a few generations. What the traditional Y test (meaning not the Big Y test) does confirm is whether or not you share a common paternal ancestor and then it’s up to genealogy and autosomal testing to determine how close that relationship might be. The number of matching Y markers can provide hints and generalities through the TIP tool, but nothing more.
  4. For this individual, in addition to upgrading beyond 12 markers, I would recommend that they take the Family Finder autosomal test because that will provide them with a list of cousins on all of their lines, not just their Y line. Based on their earlier commentary, they are looking for all family, not just their paternal line. If you have Y matches and autosomal matches, through the Advanced Matching tool on your Personal Page you can see who, if anyone, is a match to you on both.
  5. However, all of this said, the combined pattern of Y markers, not individual markers, determine the match or non-match, and it is your personal DNA signature. Think of it as a song and the markers as notes in your own personal DNA song. Given that mutations arise in each person’s line, sometimes the various DNA mutations are rare, and those rare markers together can be utilized to determine how closely one might match someone else, especially if the surnames don’t match. I see this often in African American descendants of slaves because surnames weren’t adopted until after the Civil War ended in 1865. Often the 1870 census is our first opportunity to find these families with a surname, and sometimes they subsequently changed their surname.

One of the things I do for my customers as part of a Personalized DNA Report is to complete a profile for them of the relative rarity of their DNA by marker.  Please note that I don’t do DNA reports for people who haven’t tested at least 37 markers because I don’t have enough information to work with.

In the case of this individual, I compared their 12 markers in my database of haplogroup marker frequency with the following results.

y match 2

Values under 25% are bolded, as they are rarer values and the combination of these rarer values are likely to be your own personal family line rare marker DNA signature.  Said differently, you are more likely to be more closely related to those who carry this rare marker signature than those who don’t.

This person has 6 out of 12 markers that are relatively rare.  Normally, one would expect no more than 3, so this is likely why they have no matches.  This is a good news, bad news thing.  The bad news – no matches today.  The good news is that these rare markers value, combined, are a wonderful personal filter that eliminates matches by convergence.  So, someday, when they do have a solid match, it will be relevant and not just because they have all common markers.

And now for the next question.  How can you obtain your own list of marker frequencies?  Obviously, you can order the DNA Report for $349, or if all you want is the marker frequencies, you can order a Quick Consult for $50 and can obtain all 111 of the Y marker frequencies for any one kit.

Guarantees

Most people just want an answer.  I fully understand that.  Me too, but often, that’s not how DNA testing and genetic genealogy as a whole works.  So the question, “What test can I take to give me the answer?” really doesn’t have a solid, works every time, answer.  There is no absolute, no guarantee.  Sometimes, depending on the question at hand, a regular Y DNA test will do exactly what you want.  Other times, like in this case, not so much.  But you won’t know until you test and there is no way to predict an outcome.  Testing may provide the answer in spades, immediately, and it diggingdoes sometimes.  Other times, you get a puzzle piece with a fortune cookie note that says ”you will undergo more DNA testing.” The answers are tied to DNA testing, yours and other peoples, traditional genealogy research and sometimes, luck.  But it has been my experience that those who work the hardest, test most thoroughly and dig the deepest are most often the ones who experience more occurrences of “luck.”  Keep digging.

As Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”  Not nearly as eloquent as Dr. Pasteur, my old Hoosier farmer Dad would have said, “apply a little more elbow grease.”

I hope this has helped to clarify what a Y DNA match actually does and doesn’t mean, and how to take the next step in finding your family.

My Brother John and My Other Brother John

heart swirlMan, life can really throw you some twists and turns, especially if you’re a genealogist with genetics thrown into the mix.

You see, things don’t always go as planned, nor are they always as they appear to be.  Not every family is the American epitome of the little white house, the picket fence, the station wagon and the collie dog.  Ok, maybe I should update that to an SUV and an electronic fence, but you still get the idea.

In my case, I was born with one sibling…that I knew of.  That was my half-brother on my mother’s side, John.  I obviously knew this man from the literal day that I was born.  In one of the few surviving family pictures, and only one of two with John and I together, John is holding me in a Christmas photo at my grandparents with our first cousins, the year I was born.

john me as baby

John was 13 years older than me, so it’s not like we were ever close.  He was married when I was 5 and really not an active part of my life, so functionally, I grew up an only child.

But I actually had three more half siblings and maybe a fourth, who turned out not to be.  That fourth would be my brother Dave, who was my brother of heart but not my brother of DNA.  I loved him intensely although I only knew him for a few very short years.

So now we’re up to 5 total, with one being not genetic.  We know, for sure that John, my mother’s son is hers, and that my sister Edna is genetically my half-sister.  Lee, we’ll have to assume is accurate because he is gone and there are no children to test, and I have another alleged half-sister that has not been located.

Then, I acquired a step-brother, Gary, when my mother remarried who I also referred to as my brother and in actuality, I acquired a step-sister too, but she had already passed away.  I’ve never thought of her as my “sister Linda,” but technically, I think she was.  I don’t know for sure.  Is a step-sibling who died before your parent married your step-parent your step-sibling????

So, if you need a score sheet.

  • John – half-brother by mother
  • Dave – half-brother by father, who wasn’t genetically
  • Edna – half-sister by father, proven genetically
  • Lee – alleged half-brother by father, you decide based on the photo
  • Sister – alleged half-sister by father, not found
  • Gary – step-brother
  • Linda – step-sister deceased before becoming step-sister

So, my perception of being an only child wasn’t exactly right.

Now, let’s make this next part easy – they are all dead now, with my brother John being the last to go 22 months ago.  Yes, those wounds are still fresh – I lost both of my brothers in 2012, my sister Edna in 1990 and my brother Gary in 1999 tragically.

Yep, every last one of them is gone.  So, I am truly an only/orphan child now.

So, you ask, where did my other brother John come from?

Well, now that’s a story about southern families, and cousins, and love, and why we genealogists are always confused.

You see, I met John, my “other brother” John, several years ago – and yes, via DNA. No, he’s not genetically my brother, although I’m always prepared for a here-to-for unknown sibling to pop up at one of the testing companies.  My father was very much the “ladies man,” extremely handsome and a bit of a rogue and scoundrel.

My “other brother” John’s family and mine are from the same areas of NC – and John and I share a common bond in both the culture and our Native heritage.  And John and I are both Scots-Irish.  John and I both moved away from home for our career.  John and I are both genealogists.  John joined the Cumberland Gap group and became a regular contributor…making suggestions…helping with fundraising ideas for DNA testing…and more.  In fact, “other brother” John and I have way more in common than half-brother John and I did.

We e-mailed back and forth about our research adventures and I did a DNA report for John, so I know his DNA inside and out, pardon the pun.  My half-brother John declined to DNA test.  Over the months and years, my “other brother” John became a close friend, then my cousin, then my brother.

“Other brother” John has been very kind to me in many ways – a very giving soul.  He would take the photos of my ancestors published in my blog articles and “fix” them for me, remove scratches, colorize them, all without being asked.

One day I went to the mailbox.  Inside, there was a box from Japan with beautiful cotton and silk fabrics.  I’m a quilter, and I was just speechless about his generosity – partly because I know how much shipping costs from Japan – not to mention that these fabrics aren’t available here.  He hoped I could make quilts to raise money for DNA testing.  The fabrics were so beautiful that I couldn’t bring myself to cut them.

john2

Then, one day John dropped out of the Cumberland Gap Yahoo group.

I was surprised and worried.  I missed John and e-mailed him and asked him why.

John, it seemed, was experiencing some issues, and those issues would eventually manifest themselves into a cancer diagnosis.

John’s cancer diagnosis was a personal blow, to a friend, to someone I had become very close to – my “cousin,” John.

Now Judy Russell talked the other day in her blog about collecting cousins.  I never realized it, but I’ve done the exact same thing over the years.  Since I was raised as an only child – not finding my half siblings by my father until I was an adult – I began researching my genealogy and collecting cousins when I was 22.  I don’t know that I meant to, but it was such a wonderful adventure for me to meet someone I was related to.  I was always in awe that I had relatives and some of them even looked like me, and like my father who had died when I was young.

When I was a child, I used to ask Santa for a baby brother or sister…every year.  That was, of course, before I understood the mechanics of such things, as my father was deceased.  Still, as a child who wanted a sibling, it didn’t matter and Santa of course, being who he was, could deliver anything.

My heart hurt for John, as my heart hurts for any of my cousin collection when they or their family is sick or hurting.  One of the things I do to express my love and concern are “care quilts,” because that’s what quilters do when we don’t know what else to do.

So, I made John a care quilt…and I cut the Japanese fabric to do it. What better person to use it for?

john quilt

John underwent multiple biopsies, flew from Japan to Massachusetts, underwent surgery, suffered an incorrect diagnosis, became even more ill, was finally diagnosed correctly, and began chemo.  John and his wife are gardeners at their home in Japan.  Clearly, that wasn’t going to happen this year.

I planted pots of plants for John and every day, I take pictures of John’s flowers and post them to Facebook for him.  I know it’s not the same, but it is all I can do.  His miscellaneous “mixed seed” packets have performed amazingly for him.

john flowers

And then, John’s mother died, right in the middle of John’s chemo.  Just when you think things couldn’t get worse.

One day, in the midst of all of this pain, the days and weeks of chemo torment and the emotional trauma, John became my brother.   I can’t tell you exactly what day, but I realized that I love him as a brother, and he, me as a sister – and we simply made it so.  It already was, we just acknowledged it.  Isn’t this was family does? Support one another, especially in times of need?

So yes, I now have my brother John and my other brother John.  Why, you ask, does this matter to you?

Well, because in another generation or so, my granddaughters will tell their kids, “Yes, my grandma had her brother John and her other brother John.”  And then they might chuckle to themselves.  They may not think to mention that one wasn’t my biological brother, and then to add which one wasn’t my biological brother?  And even if they did, they could get it backwards, especially since they are too young to have known my now deceased older brother John.  Aha, a family mystery in the making.  Not a mystery today, but in another couple generations, it may well be – and all the information may be garbled.

Recognize this pattern in any of your family stories?

But it gets worse, because I’m from a southern family on my Dad’s side.  Yes, indeed, I also have Uncle Buster who is not my uncle but my first cousin once removed, and his brother Uncle George.  However, his sister is not Aunt anyone.  No, I don’t know why except I was close to both George and Buster and not the sister.

In the south, any older relative and sometimes non-relatives are called “Aunt” and “Uncle” as a sign of respect, without respect to race.

Furthermore, I also have quilt sisters.  I have Mary who is my sister.  Here we are playing in a mud puddle after gardening in the rain.  Isn’t that what sisters do?

I’ll let you guess from the t-shirts which one is me!

mary puddle

Now Mary has other biological sisters who don’t live here so aren’t my Quilt Sisters.  She’s also from a southern family and has sistens, which are cousin/sisters – cousins who function as sisters.

So in essence, both sisterhood and cousinship are applied selectively and without consistency.  Furthermore cousin can mean anything from literally 1st cousins to “we’re kin but I have no idea how” to 14th cousins 3 times removed.  In other words, it implies some kind of real or fictive relationship – and you, the listener, have no idea what that relationship actually is and there is no standardized gauge to judge by.  Worse yet, the speaker may not either.  Does this make sense?

Ok, here’s a much better picture.  Mary and I have a wonderful time no matter what we are doing.  Here we are at Mary’s son’s house.  I introduced her son to my friend who became his wife about 15 years ago, so I think I have some kind of honorary relationship to them too. When my mother was alive, our family always had Christmas on Christmas Eve at her house, but now, we spend Christmas Eve with Mary and her family.

me mary quilt

Mary and I aren’t blood sisters, although Mary has not DNA tested (yet) so we might be cousins.  In this picture, we’re hemming my original brother John’s care quilt that I made for him when he received his cancer diagnosis in 2010.  This is what sisters do.

However, my other Quilt Sister, Kathy, is indeed my cousin. Yes, for real, genealogically and biologically and genetically, all three.  So she’s my cousin and my sister.  But you see, I didn’t know any of that when I first met her quite by happenstance through our careers.  Talk about serendipity!  We discovered that we shared Brethren ancestors, quite by accident, sitting at a conference room table waiting on late meeting attendees one day.  It was after that she became a Quilt Sister.  Here Kathy and I are holding Mary’s 50th anniversary quilt that we helped to make.  This too is what sisters do.

kathy mary quilt

Is it any wonder as genealogists that we are constantly trying to figure out why the DNA of family members doesn’t fit exactly as we think it should?  Maybe some of the “undocumented adoptions,” or NPEs, non-parental events, aren’t really.  Maybe they are just the much loved “other brother” John – the brother by choice, or the quilt sister, or maybe Uncle Buster or my other “Cousin George” (not to be confused with Uncle George) who isn’t my blood cousin at all but my good friend Anne’s cousin.  But since Anne is another sister of heart, then Cousin George is my cousin too, pictured with his quilt, below, given as a thank you for his supportive role in the Lost Colony Research Group and DNA projects.  This is how relatedness works in southern families.  Bless all our hearts!

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And I haven’t given you the entire “family” list – there are more.  I am so fortunate to have many members of my family and family of heart.  I’ve gathered many to love.

Aren’t we lucky that love is the one commodity we can give as humans that is only limited by the size of our heart.  Giving more doesn’t diminish what others receive, and it enriches us.  Why, we can collect and add to our family our entire lives!!!

What a confusing legacy we’re leaving for future genealogists:)  Just thinking about that makes me laugh!

And as for my brothers John….all I have to say is that I’m so glad their names weren’t Derrell, because I already have my cousin Daryl and my other cousin Derrell, and they are both females.  Nope, not kidding!

Welcome to the family John.  Had no idea what you were getting into did you:)  All I can say is, well, bless your heart!

john 1