Calling HOGWASH on 23andMe’s Ancestry Timeline

Every now and then, I’m aghast when I look at a product and wonder how the devil it ever escaped the lab.  Is there no quality control?  And who thought it was a good idea, anyway, and why?

23andMe’s new Ancestry Timeline, released last week, is one of those.

Not only is it incorrect, but it deceives people into believing something that isn’t true.

Let’s take a look.

23andme-timeline

My Ancestry Timeline at 23andMe is shown above. I notice that my Middle Eastern/North African is missing from the timeline.  It’s less than 1%, but then so is my Native American which is included.

You can see in the text underneath the timeline that 23andMe says this timeline reflects how long ago my MOST RECENT ancestor in that geographic location was born.

Let’s compare this with reality.  You may recall that I recently wrote the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages. In that article, I utilized my known and proven genealogy for my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents to calculate what my ethnicity results should look like.  I’m referring to the same chart of my 64 ancestors for this exercise as well, since I’ve already done a great deal of the work.  Let’s see how reality stacks up to the 23andMe timeline.

On the chart below, I’ve shown the geographic category, the dates from the 23andMe timeline reflecting my most recent ancestor’s birth, my most recent ancestor from that location, and the accuracy of the 23andMe estimate.

Category 23andMe Dates My Most Recent Ancestor Birth 23andMe Accuracy
British and Irish 1900-1930 1759 – Henry Bolton Utter hogwash
French and German 1840-1900 1854 – Hiram Ferverda Close
Scandinavian 1750-1840 No ancestor More hogwash
Eastern European 1720-1810 No ancestor Hogwash
Italian 1690-1810 No ancestor Hogwash
Native American 1690-1790 Uncertain, mother’s side – early 1600s, father’s side – unknown Not verifiable, reasonable

The part of this equation that I find extremely upsetting is the sheer magnitude of how misleading the 23andMe timeline is.  It’s not just wrong, it’s horribly deceptive – massively inaccurate by any measure possible.

Here’s what the 23andMe white paper says about this new tool:

“Admixture date estimator is a 23andMe feature that enables customers to find out, for each of the ancestries they carry, when they may have had an ancestor in their genealogy who was likely to be a non-admixed representative of that population.”

I’m a seasoned genealogist, so I know unquestionably that my 23andMe Timeline is not only wrong, it’s entirely hogwash in 4 of 6 categories. A 5th category is close, and the 6th is reasonable but not verifiable.

The disparity of the British/Irish dates between 1759 when Henry Bolton was born in London and 1900-1930 is evident without discussion.  I do have a lot of British Isles ancestry, but it’s a result of many ancestors, not one and no one born there even remotely recently, let alone within the past generation. For me, someone born between 1900-1930 would be a parent.

Looking back at the Calculating Ethnicity Percentages article, you’ll note that I don’t have any Scandinavian ancestors in any known generation.  The 8% that 23andMe estimates, if accurate, equates to between a great-grandparent at 12.5% and a great-great-grandparent at 6.25%.  If the Scandinavian was one person, they would have been born in that timeframe (1750-1840) – but there was no one person.  The Scandinavian has to be very ancestral, meaning ancient Vikings or Normans or found in the Dutch population which is often found to be “Scandinavian.”  Regardless, there are no Scandinavian ancestors in my pedigree which reaches back well before 1750-1840.  Neither are there any Eastern European or Italian ancestors. None. Nada. Zip.

Perplexingly, it’s that unverifiable category, Native American, that so many people are desperately researching and scavenge for any possible clue.  There is no way to determine whether that category is right or wrong, so they will assume that it is accurate.  However, judging from the track record of the other categories – it’s more likely to be incorrect than correct.  Resorting to history alone, we know that the first European settlers arrived in North America in the early 1600s and my Native heritage is small, based on both my genealogy and my DNA, so a range of 1690-1790 would be a “good guess” with no genetic information at all.  My proven Native ancestors were born in the early/mid 1600s, but I have not successfully identified all of my Native ancestors, in particular the one(s) from my father’s side and when they were fully Native.

For a beginner or someone with unknown parentage, this timeline is horribly, horribly midleading and will cause novices to make massively incorrect assumptions. A British or Irish ancestor born between 1900-1930? Seriously?  This timeline combined with the 39.8% British/Irish suggests a parent.  Think about what an adoptee would take away from this timeline – and how their research could be derailed as a result.  Without parents available to DNA test, this erroneous information could make someone question their parentage.

Here’s an example of just how misleading this information can be.

In my case, I know beyond a doubt that my mother was primarily descended from German and Dutch recent immigrants with some French and Native American (Acadian) thrown in for good measure.  So, based on this timeline stating that a British/Irish ancestor was born in the British Isles between 1900 and 1930, combined with my ethnicity results of 39.8% British and Irish, OH MY GOD, my father is not who I thought, but is some British/Irish man.  MOTHER………………

All I can say is thank goodness I’ve done the DNA testing that I have and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my father is my biological father and not some British man, despite what this timeline suggests.  If I had no other evidence – I certainly would believe that my father was a British man, and I’d be GRATEFUL for this (highly erroneous) information.

On the flip side, many people will utilize this tool to “confirm” suspicions about genealogy.  I’ve already seen this happening on various lists.  With 4 of 6 categories being entirely, provably, incorrect, not to mention that the first category reflecting my largest percentage of ethnicity is so dramatically wrong, one can have absolutely no confidence in any of the other categories. I can’t and neither can anyone else.

I’m not alone either.  This, from another long-time genealogist: “I am dumbstruck.  It couldn’t be further from the truth for me.  I am very colonial on both sides.  Most recent immigrant ancestor was 1797.”  And from another: “No.  Just no.  Not accurate.”

So let me say this again.

You. Can. Have. No. Confidence.

If you already know your genealogy, then you don’t need this tool.  If you don’t know your genealogy, then you’re going to be misled by this tool.

It’s very clear that anyone with many ancestors that came from a particular population, but that haven’t been born in that location in many generations will have an incorrect timeline.  This would include just about everyone with colonial American roots.  The amount of a particular ethnicity does NOT equate to aggregating that ethnicity into a single ancestor and equating the amount of ethnicity to a recent birth in that location.  This logic is predicated on a whole lot of assumptions stacked on top of each other, like a house of cards. And we all know about assume.

23andMe, you should be ashamed of yourself for perpetrating genetic hogwash on your unsuspecting, believing and often vulnerable customers.  Climb down out of your ivory tower, buy a vowel and get a clue.  Statistics in an academic environment and reality sometimes just don’t mesh – and you, 23andMe, have the wherewithal and the customer base to discern the difference. You are supposed to be a science company.  You have no excuse.

I understand the desire to provide new tools to customers, but inaccurate simplicity is never a priority over realism.

I hope 23andMe will have the decency to remove this new deceptive and misleading “feature” that should never have made it past “proof of concept” in the first place.

thumbs-down

Raleigh Dodson (1730-c1794) of Dodson’s Ford; Ferryman, Surveyor and Stone Dresser, 52 Ancestors #143

Can I tell you a secret?  I’ve been dreading and putting off writing this article because I’ve gathered information on Raleigh for so long, it’s in so many places and it’s not the least bit organized.  I hate messes like this, and Raleigh, truthfully, was a mess.

And even more discouraging, Raleigh wasn’t always a mess.

I had transcribed close to 200 pages in a MSWord document over 3 or 4 weeks while visiting Tennessee during multiple trips.  Notes made in courthouses during the day were transcribed at night on my laptop in hotel rooms.

I swear, I thought I transferred those files to my desktop at home – but I obviously did not – because after my laptop was stolen, those transcribed pages were no more.  Now, the saving grace, if there is one, is that I printed parts of those transcriptions which were in the files with some of the notes – and I made copies of some of the deeds at courthouses.  And if you’re wondering if I threw the original notes away after I transcribed them – yes – for the most part.  So, every time I have an anti-packrat moment and tell myself it’s OK to throw something away – I think of situations like this.

After that, for me, to even think about Raleigh was to feel very discouraged.  I can’t go back and recover much of what was lost.  Thankfully, I still have the most important parts and I think I’ve been able to reconstruct most everything relevant – although it felt like it took forever and it was far from joyful. But now it’s done and Raleigh’s life is in order – or as much order as I can give him more than 220 years after he departed this life. Now that I think of it, it’s pretty amazing that we can reconstruct any of  someone’s life nearly 300 years after their birth – as they traipsed across frontiers.

The bad part about doing original research is that you have to sort through a lot of chaff to find any wheat – and I’m reasonably confident that it’s just the chaff that is missing – because thankfully it was the wheat that I printed to use the following day when I returned to the courthouse.

And the answer to the next question you’re about to ask is yes, I do carry a printer (and also a scanner) with me when I travel. Most courthouses won’t allow scanners or photography of the books, but you just never know what else you’ll run across in other locations.

Bookends

We have the bookends of Raleigh’s life pretty well documented – birth and death.  The problem is that I wasn’t happy with that, and I had to go to Hawkins County and try to find his land.  And while it should have been relatively easy, scattered records, burned records and quirky turns made the task much more difficult than I expected.  Truthfully, with Dodson Creek, Dodson Ford, Dodson Creek Church and Dodson Creek Cemetery, how tough could this be – really?  The answer is, much more difficult than I anticipated.

It doesn’t help any that many of Hawkins County’s records burned in the Civil War, including marriage records and wills.  After the war ended, some of the wills were re-transcribed from the original wills that survived, but of course there are no probate dates or other information.  And not all wills survived.  Enough to make a genealogist tear their hair out.

In the First Families of Tennessee, Rawleigh Dodson is recorded as born in 1730, died circa 1794 in Hawkins Co., TN, married Mary unknown, settled in Sullivan County in 1786 and the proof of such settlement is a land grant.  Now, why couldn’t I just enter this into my genealogy program and leave well enough alone?

Because, I’m me and I just can’t.  There is so much more to our ancestors than their birth and death dates – and I had to get to know Raleigh.  I wanted to unravel his life, walk in his footsteps and on his land.

Come along with me and we’ll visit Dodson Ford – and it’s not a car dealership either!  But first, we visit North Farnham Parish in Richmond County, Virginia and travel with Raleigh along the way.

In the Beginning…

The North Farnham Parish Register records Rawleigh’s birth.  Michelle Goad extracted the information, as follows:

Born, Dodson, Rawleigh, son of George and Margaret Dodson, 18 January 1730.

The North Farnham Parish Episcopal Church as it stands today is believed to have been built about 1737.  It has been restored, although it was used as a stable during the Civil War.

North Farnham Church

Raleigh probably watched this church being built.  Maybe he even helped carry tools to the workers.  A 7 year old boy would have probably thought that was fun.  Maybe they let Raleigh pound a few nails too.

The church is located in Farnham, Virginia, in Richmond County on North Farnham Church Road (County Route 692) at its intersection with Cedar Grove Road (County Route 602) about 5 miles from the Rappahannock River.

raleigh-farnham-map

Raleigh’s parents surely lived someplace in the satellite image below.

raleigh-farnham-satellite

This area was settled quite early, being on a neck of land between the Potomac River, the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay, northeast of Richmond.  Maryland lies across the Potomac. This part of Virginia is flat and relatively unremarkable, sporting salt and pepper fields and woods.

raleigh-chesapeake

Given that the parish register included dates preceding 1737, the current building was obviously not the first church building.

Raleigh lived near this location for his entire childhood and perhaps part of his adult life.

In 1739, Raleigh’s father, George, was left “150 acres of land whereon this said George Dodson is now living” in the will of George’s father, Thomas Dodson.   This land is described as being “at the mouth of William Everett’s spring branch adjoining William Forrister and the Rowling? Branch,” when George and Margaret Dodson of North Farnham Parish sold the land in 1756 to William Forrester.

This also tells us that Raleigh knew his grandfather, and probably quite well, given that they lived on his land.  Raleigh would have been about 9 when his grandfather died.  A hard lesson for a young boy about life and death.

Raleigh’s marriage record has not been located, but it’s likely that he married someone who lived near his family in Richmond County, probably sometime around 1754 or 1755.

There is one piece of evidence that suggests Raleigh was living in Prince William County, VA around 1759 to 1761.  There is a court case, Raleigh Dodson vs John Webb in trespass with the notation that the defendant has a special parlance granted him.  Prince William order book 1759-61, p 241.

raleigh-1755-map

You can see, on the 1755 map above that Prince William County in the upper left to the left of the big A isn’t far from Richmond County on the “neck” in the lower right between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers.  A more contemporary map from FamilySearch is shown below.

raleigh-prince-william

Raleigh may have attended the Broad Run Baptist Church in Fauquier County, formed from the southern portion of Prince William County in 1759, when a person whose name has been interpreted as “Roby” Dodson had an infant taken into the care of the church on October 9, 1763.  The infants name, interpreted as “Shier” could be a misread of Toliver or Oliver.  At any rate, we hear no more of “Roby” and “Shier,” and if Roby was Raleigh, we hear no more of him either.

The path from Richmond County to Broad Run, about 100 miles in a wagon, was only an interim stopover for the Dodson families.

raleigh-richmond-to-prince-william

Many of the Dodsons who found their way to Halifax County, Virginia were dismissed from Broad Run between 1763 and 1766.

raleigh-broad-run

The Broad Run Church, above, was founded as a Baptist church in 1762, which meant it was a church of dissenters.  At that time in Virginia, the Anglican church was the only legal church, meaning the only church recognized by law, and membership was mandatory.

Many Dodsons are found in the Broad Run Baptist Church records, but Raleigh is absent.  He would have been required by law to attend the Anglican church, but that doesn’t mean he attended or participated. He might have preferred to pay the fine.

Raleigh’s next appearance would be in Halifax County, Virginia. This trip was about twice as far, and through some rough mountains near Lynchburg, although they may have chosen the route through Farmville instead.

raleigh-prince-william-to-halifax

In 1766, Raughley Dodson and Lazarus, probably his brother, witnessed a deed from Joseph Terry to Thomas Dodson for land on the second fork of Birches Creek, Halifax County, VA Deed book 6-363. This Thomas or his son Thomas, the records are unclear, would thereafter be known as “Second Fork Thomas.”

Raleigh also had a brother Thomas.  The Reverend Silas Lucas identifies Second Fork Thomas as Thomas, the son of Thomas Dodson who married Elizabeth Rose, who was the brother to Raleigh’s father, George.  Therefore, if this is accurate, Second Fork Thomas, born about 1730, would have been Raleigh’s first cousin, not his brother or his uncle.  However, I’m not convinced that the records for Raleigh’s brother, whom nothing is known about, and Raleigh’s uncle Thomas, and Raleigh’s first cousin Thomas haven’t been conflated, especially given that “Second Fork Thomas,” according to Lucas, didn’t die until 1816 in Hawkins County, TN.

raleigh-thomas-dodsons

Thomas Dodson, thought to be “Second Fork Thomas” eventually lived near Raleigh on the north side of the Holston River in Hawkins County.  It’s unclear what happened to Raleigh’s brother, Thomas, although he could certainly be the Thomas in Hawkins County. The Dodson family is incredibly difficult to sort accurately.

Dodson’s Ordinary

Today, the original Dodson Ordinary in Halifax County is a historic site called Carter’s Tavern, located on the main road from South Boston to Danville across the road from Arbor Church, shown on the map below.

raleigh-arbor-church-map

The Dodson Ordinary has a rich and vibrant history of being a stage coach stop and sporting the ghost of a man killed in the building.  The original proprietor, Joseph Dodson, was born in 1724 to Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. This would mean that Joseph was Raleigh’s first cousin.

Joseph arrived in Halifax County in 1766, along with several other Dodson men, probably including Raleigh, and purchased the land on Toby Creek that would become the Dodson Ordinary.

Joseph Dodson died in 1773, leaving the plantation to his wife and son, Joseph.  The same year Joseph died, he sold land, along with “Second Fork Thomas,” in Halifax County.

raleigh-carter-tavern-sign

raleigh-dodson-ordinary

Restoration work within the Tavern revealed the name of Thomas Dodson etched in the fireplace stone mortar, along with a date of 1767.  Given that Joseph bought the land in 1766, it makes sense that in 1767, he would be building a house.  We’ll never know whether the etcher was Raleigh’s brother Thomas, or Joseph’s brother Thomas, or Joseph’s son Thomas, who would have been about 20 in 1766.  I’m betting on Joseph’s son!

Raleigh assuredly knew Joseph well and probably visited the Dodson Ordinary many times as the Ordinary was a regional location of commerce and a stage coach stop, along with a tavern, of course.  Judging from later records, Raleigh probably never met a drop of whisky that he didn’t like, and business transactions in that day were often agreed upon in taverns which were social gathering places for men!  I suspect liquor greased a lot of business deals.

raleigh-top-of-the-world

Across the road from Dodson’s Ordinary, the view is spectacular to the north, across the area of Birches Creek, called the “Top of the World” by local people. On a clear day, you can see the Peaks of Otter, about 70 miles distant as the crow flies.

Directly across the road from Dodson’s Ordinary and east a few hundred feet, local legend tells us that a revival was held under a bush where the Arbor Church is located today.

raleigh-arbor-church

We find the following information about Arbor Church:

The Arbor Church congregation is one of the oldest congregations in Halifax County. In the Spring of 1785 William Dodson, a missionary Baptist preacher held a revival under a bush arbor near Carter’s Tavern. As a result of that revival Arbor Baptist Church was organized with 35 charter members and Mr. Dodson as the first preacher. Mr. Samuel Dodson, owner of Carter’s Tavern donated a triangular lot of about 2 acres on which a log building was erected. The base of the triangle bordered River Road with the apex at a rock spring down the hill. Mr. Dodson said he gave the land that way so that the church would have a continuous supply of water.

In the picture, below, you can see the edge of Dodson’s Ordinary, later named Carter’s Tavern, on the right, and the church is the white building behind the trees on the left.

raleigh-tavern-and-church

Many of the Dodson family members who relocated to Halifax County had been members of Broad Run Church in Fauquier County, including the Reverend Lazarus Dodson, Raleigh’s brother, who was living in this area by 1767 and founded the Little Sandy Creek Church on the Dan River, which runs near the Virginia/North Carolina border.

The southwestern portion of Halifax County and the southeastern portion of Pittsylvania County became the center of Dodson family life in Virginia.  These counties bordered Caswell County, NC on the south, and the Dodsons spilled over into Caswell as well.

Raleigh Buys Land on Country Line Creek

In the winter of 1768, Raleigh bought into the American dream – land.

February 19, 1768, John Roberson and wife Margaret of Orange County, NC sold to Rolley Dodson of said county for 16# Virginia money 50 acres on the east side of the Country Line Creek.  Witnesses Hugh Kelly, Henry Hicks and Henry Willis.  (Orange County Deed book 2-160)

raleigh-halifax-to-country-line

Caswell County, NC was created from Orange County in 1777 and Raleigh’s land fell into Caswell. The Orange County, North Carolina Court of Pleas and Quarter Session records need to be checked for Raleigh between 1768 and 1777.

country line creek

The Caswell County tax list for 1777 shows that Raleigh Dotson was assessed 172# for property in the Richmond District.

Raleigh and his wife Mary sold their 50 acres of land on the south side of Country Line Creek on July 5, 1778 to Clement Gann (being purchased of John Robinson) and evidently moved to Hawkins County, TN about this time.

Given that Raleigh’s deed says on the south side, I’d wager that his land was where Country Line runs east to west, as opposed to the area where it runs more north to south.

We don’t know where on Country Line Creek Raleigh lived, but this is where NC62 crosses Country Line, just south of Yanceyville today.  You can’t actually see the creek, but you can pull off and fish, apparently.

raleigh-country-line

This area is very heavily wooded.  The 1860 census taker added notes about Caswell County, and he describes Caswell County as rolling and hilly as the streams are approached.  He then says, “The roughest areas are those along Country Line Creek.”  Raleigh probably lived along the portion of Country Line Creek shown below.

raleigh-country-line-satellite

In 1777, the heads of household had to take an oath of allegiance to support the Colony of Virginia against the crown.  Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson’s oaths were recorded in Pittsylvania county.  Oaths taken by George Carter included Elisha Dodson, George Dodson (possibly Raleigh’s father), Lazarus Dodson, Rolly Dodson, Thomas Dodson, George Hardy Jr., Joshua Hardy, William Hardy, Charles Lewis and John Lewis.  A Lewis family researcher says this looks like the “Mine Branch” Lewis family and then using Roger Dodson’s survey book,  we can determine that the location of George Carter’s land was south of Mine Branch near Double Creek in Pittsylvania County.

There is no way to tell if this is our Raleigh and his son Lazarus, but given that our Raleigh is living in Caswell County in North Carolina, this is likely not our Raleigh or his son, Lazarus who would have been about 17.  This is more likely Raleigh’s brother, the Reverend Lazarus Dodson, who did indeed live in Pittsylvania County.  The Rev. Elias Dodson names one “Rolly” as the son of Rev. Lazarus, which makes more sense than our Raleigh who was living in NC swearing an oath of this type in Virginia.

Raleigh obviously left for what would become east Tennessee sometime between July of 1778 when he sold his Caswell County land, and May of 1779 when Rawley Dodson and Dodson’s Creek are both mentioned in Washington County land warrant 1382.

After Raleigh had left Caswell, the name of Rawley Dodson shows up there once again in matters pertaining to the estate of John Moore, Jr. (1786-1791).  A list of accounts included the name of Rawley Dodson in Caswell Co., will book C, June court 1792.

raleigh-caswell-to-hawkins

East Tennessee

The area where Raleigh settled in present day east Tennessee was originally the Washington District, then Sullivan County, North Carolina, then in 1784 the highly political and volatile rogue State of Franklin, then in 1786 Hawkins County, North Carolina, then in 1790 the Territory South of the Ohio River which then became Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1796 when Tennessee became a state.  Raleigh lived in all of these places without moving an inch.  The boundaries moved around him, and not without a great deal of drama either.  Raleigh must have been in a constant state of emotional upheaval!

raleigh-1796-map

On the 1796 map above, Washington County is shown as land south of the Holston, with Hawkins County just across the river.  Hawkins C.H. means Hawkins Courthouse, which is today’s Rogersville.

Elijah Chissum had a ferry across the Holton River and Dodson Ford crossed just beneath Hawkins Courthouse too.

From the book Tennessee Land Warrants, Vol 4 Part 1:

Page 60 – 407 (291) March 10, 1780 Elijah Chisum enters 100 acres on the left fork of Dodson’s Creek, border begins at a bent below the first row of nobs and runs down the creek.  Warrant issued on June 18, 1780 by John Adair and the warrant was assigned August 16, 1788 by Elijah Chusum to John Cox (Thomas King, witness) 100 acres surveyed June 12, 1787 by Rawleigh Dodson, James Bunch and Reason Kartin, chain carriers, grant 527 issued Nov. 26, 1789

The above warrant tells us that Raleigh was a surveyor.  Another grant tells is that Elijah Chism’s line bordered Evans’ line, a neighbor of Raleigh.

From the book Valid and Invalid North Carolina Warrants in Tennessee by Dr. A. B. Pruitt:

Page 48 – Washington County warrant 1382 to Rowley Dotson for 150 acres on Dotson’s Creek and joins tract where said Dotson lives, warrant issued May 21, 1779 and warrant issued October, 24, 1779 by John Carter, Book 28, page 121

The entry book for John and Landon Carter, entry takers for “Washington Co., NC, now Tennessee,” shows a warrant, 1783, dated May 21, 1779, directing the surveyor of Sullivan County to “lay off for William Payne 150 acres on the Holston River adjoining a tract of land known as the ‘burnt cabin’”.  This land was surveyed on April 28, 1787 for Rawleigh Dodson by Rawl Dodson, deputy surveyor.

Did Raleigh survey his own land, or was Rawl Dodson, in this case, Raleigh Jr.?  It’s interesting that his nickname may have been Rawl.

The State of NC issued grants to Raleigh Dodson for two tracts of 150 acres, both apparently entered before Hawkins County was created in 1786; grant #1481 for 150 acres on the left fork of Dodson’s creek and #1489 for 150 acres on the south side of Holston River.  Dodson’s Creek, no doubt named by or for Raleigh Dodson, is a branch of the Holston River on the south side of the river and nearly opposite the town of Rogersville.  Dodson’s Ford was located near the mouth of Dodson’s Creek where the Indians’ Great War Path and Trading Path crossed the Holston River.

raleigh-1780-dodson-ford

“Dodson Ford -1780” is marked on this historic map, courtesy of the Hawkins County Archives.

The location of Dodson Ford was at one time was marked by a Tennessee Historical marker, although the marker was reportedly hit and then stolen years ago and never replaced.  The land around Dodson’s Ford is some of the most beautiful in east Tennessee.

raleigh-land

Above, the Dodson land looking south from across the Holston River. This is one of my favorite photos, because it conveys the flavor of the land and I think, the spirit of the frontiersmen, and women, who first settled these rolling hills along the river.

raleigh-holston

Looking upstream towards Dodson Ford from the mouth of Honeycutt Creek on the Holston River.  The Ford was about the location of the pillar on the right bank of the river in the distance.

raleigh-1789-grant

Raleigh’s 1789 land grant, above, is for 150 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of the Holston on Dodson’s Creek on the left fork above Evans line.  Beginning on a beech tree running thence:

  • West 110 poles to a white oak (1815 feet)
  • Then north 220 poles to a pine (3630 feet
  • Then east 110 poles to a stake (1815)
  • Then south 221 poles to the beginning (3646.50 feet)

This was granted at Fayetteville, NC on November 26, 1789.

Another grant was entered by both Lazarus and Raleigh, both granted the same day, November 26, 1789. (Click to enlarge.)

raleigh-1789-grant-2

Raleigh’s grant reads, “150 acres in Sullivan County on the south side of Holston River lying between Dodson’s Creek and a former entry including a spring at the head of Dodson’s creek, beginning on Lazarus Dodson’s line,” then metes and bounds, as follows:

  • Pine running thence along the same south 40 degrees east 100 poles to a hickory (1650 feet)
  • Then south126 poles to a post oak (2079 feet)
  • West 186 poles to a stake then (3069 feet)
  • North 35 east 236 poles to the beginning (3894 feet)

Lazarus’s grant reads as follows:

300 acres in Sullivan on the south side of Holston lying on both sides of Dodson’s Creek beginning on a red oak,

  • Then with a conditional line between John Sanders and said Dodson running thence along the same south 65 degrees west 240 poles to a poplar and black gum (3960 feet)
  • South 50 poles to a white oak (825 feet)
  • Rawley Dodson’s line
  • Thence along same south 40 east 140 poles to a white oak thence (2310 feet)
  • East 140 poles to a stake then (2310 feet)
  • North 200 poles to the beginning (3300 feet)

Raleigh’s deed, as it turns out, becomes quite important later in the story, as this is the land that Raleigh actually lived on and leaves to his son, Raleigh.  Raleigh Sr.’s son, Lazarus, lived right next door.  Father and son filed for and obtained their land at the same time.

Interestingly, the last sentence says “the said Rawley Dodson shall cause this grant to be registered in the registers office of said Sullivan County within 12 months from the date hereof otherwise the same shall be void and of no effect.”

So the grant was only the first step.  If you didn’t register the deed, the grant didn’t matter.

Page 124-798 (681) – Rolly Dotson enters 300 acres on the south side of Holston River and on both sides of Dotson’s Creek, border, begins on Dodson’s line on a branch at a white oak marked D, runs along said Dodson’s line and up the branch.  Duplicate warrant issued Sept., 28, 1792.

I’d love to find that tree with a “D.”

Between Raleigh and Lazarus’s main grants, they owned 600 acres, just under a mile by a mile square on the west side of Dodson’s Creek.  That doesn’t count Raleigh’s 1791 purchase of the Honeycutt land, which was an additional 163 acres.  Lazarus’s land actually crossed Dodson Creek and abutted John Sanders land, on the east side.

On the map below, the blue arrows approximate Raleigh’s grant, and the red includes the approximate land that Lazarus and Raleigh held together.  After Raleigh bought the Honeycutt land, those red arrows on the left would have moved over by Honeycutt Creek on the Holston. A one mile by one mile square of land is 640 acres and one Pole is 5.5 yards or 16.5 feet.There are 5,280 feet in a linear mile.

raleigh-land-boundaries

We know that Raleigh’s land included Dodson Ford which was the extension of the present day Old Persia Road/Tennessee 66 where it merged with Old Tennessee 70.  The old highway marker for Dodson Ford used to be located at this intersection.

So, Where was Dodson Ford?

We can pretty well place where Dodson Ford was located.

You can’t see the old road today on the satellite image, but you can see the old bridge just the other side of where Old Tennessee 70 intersects with Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

raleigh-old-road

A local man told me that the old bridge there was built where Dodson Ford used to cross.  The only part of the old bridge you can see today is the pilings near the south bank and in the river.  Arnott’s Island is the teardrop shaped island to the right of the old bridge.

Old Tennessee 66 was Old Persia Road which intersected with Old Tennessee 70 and Crossed the Holston where it ended, at Dodson’s Ford.  What we don’t know for sure is exactly where Dodson Ford was located, but we do know approximately, within a few hundred feet.

Based on what we know about our Raleigh’s deeds and the neighbor’s deeds, we now know that Raleigh Dodson and Lazarus owned land primarily west of Dodson Creek, top red arrow shown on the map below, including Dodson Ford which crossed the Holston River.

raleigh-ford-location

George Kite owned the land where the Kite Cemetery is located today and is also where Evan’s station was located, probably at the intersection of what is today Dodson Creek coming from the east and Louderback Creek on the south, marked by the bottom red arrow on the map above.  Of course, George Kite sold part of his land to Louderback, which is how that Creek obtained its name.  The old Kite house is very near the Kite Cemetery, which is the green square just below the Kite arrow.

On the satellite image below, you can see the location of the mouth of Dodson Creek, to the far right, Arnott’s Island, the bend in old Tennessee 70 where the Sanders Cemetery is located, marked by the red arrow a the bottom.  the scars from the old road that led to the old bridge across the Holston, likely where Dodson Ford was as well, are marked by the two arrows at left.

raleigh-dodson-ford-map

The location of the Ford itself was likely very close to where the old 66/70 bridge across the Holston was eventually built, which has now been torn down and dismantled, except for the bases.

raleigh-dodson-ford-pilings

We could call these the ghost sentinels of Dodson Ford – remnants of the past, standing watch today.

The TVA Authority land acquisition map from 1943 shows the old bridge over the Holston at this location labeled Tennessee 66 and Tennessee 70, confirming that Old 66 was indeed Old Persia Road.

And it would make sense that the bridge over the Holston, whenever it was built, was built at or near where the old Dodson’s Ford used to be located.  After all, the Ford was located at the easiest place to cross the river.

raleigh-tva-map

I wish someone had told me that there WAS a TVA land acquisition map when I first started trying to piece Raleigh’s land history together, because it would have been a LOT easier to work backwards through contemporary deeds than trying to work forward from land grants.

We Interrupt Raleigh’s Life to Bring you the Revolutionary War

In October, 1780, the forces under Col. Arthur Campbell gathered at Dodson’s Ford before going downriver to the attack on the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Talequah, Tallassee, and others.

Both Lazarus and his father, Raleigh Dodson served in the Revolutionary War.

Their Revolutionary War service is documented in “North Carolina Revolutionary Army Accounts, Index to Soldiers residing in Washington and Sullivan County, 1781-1783.

NC Army Acct

Both Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson are listed.

nc army acct detail

After finding this tantalizing nugget, I contacted the NC Archives and eventually, visited, in order to obtain the original records.

According to pay records found in the NC Archives, in Raleigh, NC, Lazarus Dodson served in the Revolutionary War in August of 1783.  That is likely the date of his discharge, so he may have served earlier in the year.

Laz dodson rev war pay record

In 1783, an Act authorizing the opening of a land office for the redemption of specie and other certificates was passed, and all soldiers holding specie or certificates were enabled to redeem them by taking land in exchange, at a rate fixed by the state of North Carolina.

laz dodson rev war auditor record

Believe it or not, there were two holes punched in this document, reflecting how it has been stored.

Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson both served in the Revolution and are both found in the Morgan district which includes the land that would become East Tennessee.

raleigh rev war record

A second Rolley Dotson is found in the Hillsboro district (auditors Mebane and Nichols), which is the area of NC below Halifax/Pittsylvania in VA.  We know that our Raleigh was in East Tennessee prior to this time, but that this part of Tennessee was still North Carolina.

district auditors

The auditors and their corresponding districts found in the archives helped define which Raleigh was which.

nc rev war districts

We don’t know exactly who Lazarus and Raleigh served under, nor what they did when they were in service.  I wonder if they joined Col. Campbell on the march against the Cherokee in 1780/81, or if they fought at King’s Mountain in October of 1780, as did many men from this area.  Unfortunately, there is no roster for either event, but they are the most likely campaigns for men from Hawkins County to have participated in.  Colonel Arthur Campbell was involved in both, camped at Dodson Ford in late 1780 on his way destroy the Cherokee towns and was probably related to Charles Campbell, Raleigh’s neighbor on Dodson Creek.

Raleigh’s Life Resumes in Hawkins County After the Revolutionary War

In 1786, Raleigh signed the petition seeking the formation of Hawkins County along with his sons, Lazarus and Toliver.  Unfortunately, the original petition seems to be missing.

Raleigh is mentioned in numerous land warrants, nearly all of which were issued in the Dodson’s Creek area and subsequently assigned or sold to others.  I have limited the information here to the land Raleigh actually kept, because that is the most informative to us about Raleigh’s life.

In June 1791, Raleigh purchased a tract of 163 acres at a sheriff’s sale, formerly the John Honeycutt property, which adjoined the property of Elisha and Lazarus Dodson and included Honeycutt Creek.

June 6, 1791 – Thomas Berry sheriff of Hawkins County, to Rawley Dodson for 111#, 163 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of the Holston River including two plantations beginning on the river bank, Elisha Dodson’s line, Lazerus Dodson’s line, being a tract of land sold by execution the property of John Honeycutt.  Registered July 5, 1799  Liber E – 194

In December of 1808, Raleigh’s son, Raleigh, conveys Raleigh’s grant land to James Breeden, then Breeden sells the land to Daniel Seyster:

We know both Breeden and Seyster lived in the immediate area, because in 1801, a deed from James Breeden to Daniel Seyster described that land as being on Dodson Creek near Evans Station adjoining lands of George Kite, Breeden and Dodson’s line.

Stations were called such at that time because they were generally fortified homes in which other residents could take shelter, and of course, defend, in case of Indian attack.  This tells us that one of the early stations was indeed on Dodson Creek, and near the Kite land.  At least one old Kite home still stands, or did in 2009, within view of the Kite Cemetery.

raleigh-kite-cemetery

The Kite Cemetery includes the progenitor, George Kite’s grave and overlooks both the old Kite home and Dodson Creek.

raleigh-kite-cem-old-trees

This cemetery is named the Kite Cemetery, because George Kite is buried here, along with many of his family members, but there are also many unmarked graves.  The cemetery could have been in use before 1796 when George Kite arrived on the scene.  In fact, it may have originally been the Evans Cemetery. Early pioneers had to be buried someplace.

The photo below shows the old Kite home.

raleigh-kite-house

George Kite was the original Kite settler in Hawkins County, arriving about 1796.

raleigh-kite-dodson-creek

Dodson Creek runs in front of the Kite Cemetery, in the field across the road.

raleigh-dodson-creek-2

You can see the old Kite house in the distance below, across the roof of the newer home.

raleigh-kite-house-from-cemetery

In 1796, in deed book 1, page 196, George Kite purchased 600 acres from George Kiger (later written as Kizer and Kiser) on the south side of the Holston on Dodson Creek, formerly Honeycutt Creek, including Evans station.

In 1812, George Kite sells to Thomas Haynes half of the 200 acre tract from NC to John Gransby granted on November 27,1762 and that John Evans conveyed to Kite.  So we know that the Kite land is the original Evans Station land.  Eventually, Thomas Haynes’ descendants include Dru Haynes, after whom Dru Haynes Road is named today, running along the east side of Dodson Creek.

In 1813, George Kight Sr. sells 200 acres to Henry Louderback described as lying on both sides of the west fork of Dodson Creek on Evans old line on the southeast side of the creek.  Today’s Louderback Creek was originally known as Dodson Creek.

raleigh-kite-cem-map

An 1826 deed refers to the heirs of Daniel Cyster, deceased.  One John Dodson obtained a grant that bordered Cyster’s land and refers to Mark Mitchell’s land grant.

In 1806, Raleigh Jr. sells his father’s land.

January 29, 1806 – Rawleigh Dodson to James Breeden, both of Hawkins County for $500, 150 acres in Hawkins County on the south side of Holston, Lazarus Dodson’s line (refers to the original grant 537, dated Nov. 26, 1781 and registered in Hawkins County March 2, 1793), witness Richard Mitchell, Thomas Murrell.

Followed by:

To all whom these presents…I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Rawleigh Dodson decd do for a valuable consideration relinquish and quit claim my right, title…to the before described tract of land this <blank> day of 1806.  Witness Thomas Murrell, William (x) Jeffer, Rawleigh Dodson ack Feb 1806 and proved by William Jeffer and Raleigh Dodson registered August 20, 1806.

And then in deed book 6, page 139:

April 2, 1806 – James Breeden having bought of Raleigh Dodson a tract where on said Dodson now lives on the south side Holston River, 150 acres beginning in old line of Lazarus Dodson acd February 24 last by Dodson and Sarah Dodson in Hawkins court to said Breeden with John Saunders hereby assigns his interest in said land under a bond for $6000.  Witness Mark Goldsberry, Co? Foster

John Saunders signs off because this is Raleigh’s original land and John is married to Raleigh’s daughter.

August 20, 1806, transaction date January 29, 1806 – James Breeden from Raleigh Dodson 4-154 for $500 grant 537, 150 acres, original grant lines – Begin at Lazarus Dodson’s line run along same, east 100 poles to hickory, south 126 poles.

December 2, 1808 – Raleigh Dodson to James Breeden, for 150 pounds, the land lying below Dodson’s Ford on the south side of Holston beginning on the river bank at an elm and white walnut sprout on Elisha Dodson’s line, then with said line south 10 east 140 poles to a dogwood sapling and white oak on Lazarus Dodson’s line then north 70 east to Dodson’s Creek then north 94 poles to a white oak on the bank of the river then down the meandering of the river to the beginning.  Warranty and defending….as far as they may not interfere with the land of John Saunders and William Lawson…tract of land conveyed to my father at sheriff’s sale and I the said Raleigh Dodson having the said land devised to me do make over and convey my said right…”

Even though this deed is dated in December, it is submitted at the November Court and witnessed by A. Campbell and Thomas Jackson and ordered to be recorded.

raleigh-breeden-1808-deed

The January 1806 deed is very important, because it is the actual land Raleigh lived on, according to his will.  This deed tells us that Raleigh actually lived west of Dodson Creek, on the Holston, which makes sense when piecing the deeds of others in the neighborhood together.  We also know that Dodson Ford was on the west side of Dodson Creek, near but apparently not at the mouth of Dodson Creek, because the deeds never refer to the mouth of the creek.  This meshes with the 1808 land description.

Charles Campbell and Michael Roark lived in-between Raleigh Dodson and George Kite on Dodson Creek..  I would love to know exactly where.  There are three nice branches which would have been spring fed to the west of Dodson Creek and those branches are likely where Charles Campbell and Michael Roark lived.

One of those branches has this old bridge over Dodson Creek, leading to the field where the spring branch would be.  I suspect that Charles Campbell lived here.

raleigh-dodson-creek-campbell

Charles Campbell’s granddaughter married Raleigh Dodson’s grandson a generation later in Claiborne County. Relationships forged between families on Dodson Creek lasted for generations, even as those families continued the ever-westward migratory movement to new locations.

Raleigh’s Will

Raleigh seems to have still been actively engaged in his business in September of 1792.  Published in the Knoxville Gazette, which was published in Rogersville in its early years, I found an ad for R. Dodson, dated Sept. 8, 1792 stating:

The public are hereby informed that there is a FLAT kept at Dodson’s Ford on Holston where constant attendance will be given to convey passengers across the river.  R. Dodson, Sept. 6, 1792

Clearly sometime between September of 1792 and July of 1793, it became clear to Raleigh that his days were numbered.  Thank goodness he had a will, because we would have been quite lost without this record.

Source: Hawkins County Wills: Page 145

In the Name of God, Amen. I, Rawleigh Dodson Sr. being in an infirm state of health but of sound mind and considering that I may shortly leave this life, I have thought it necessary to make this my last Will & Testament, revoking all former wills by me made, and in the first place I resign myself to the disposal of my Creator hoping for mercy & forgiveness. In respect of my Earthly affairs, To my wife I leave and bequeath my whole Estate real & personal to her use during her natural life, after which I leave to my son Rawleigh Dodson the plantation on which I now live with all the appurtenances, also one other piece of land joining, butted and bounded as appears by the patent in my name, also all my working tools, horses, except a motherless colt, three cows with their calves, one feather bed with the furniture, half the pewter, and one half pot mettal, also what hay I may have remaining. To my grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton, the remainder of my cattle equally divided, also the remainder of the pewter and pot mettal to be equally divided between them, and to Mary Shelton one bed and furniture, also the motherless colt, one cotton and one linen wheel and half the cards, the other wheel & cards to Nancy. There is a bond due me of fifteen pounds from Henry Rowan to be collected and my debts paid out of it. Peggey Manafee my eldest daughter having by her husband obtained credit for sixty pounds for which I have his note, I hereby direct my Executor to give up said note. My sons Lazarus and Tolliver I have done a Fatherly part by and hereby acquit them of all demands that I may have against them. My daughter Nelly the wife of John Saunders I consider I have done enough for, having given her husband the land he now lives on. My son James to whom I have (already) given several things, I now bequeath my claim on Thos. Jackson for share of some land to be obtained by a warrant by me given to said Jackson to be laid on the halves provided said warrant obtains a title for land. Warrant was for 300 acres. I also appoint my son Lazarus and my neighbor Rodham Kenner my Executors and do authorize and direct them to put this my said Will & Testament into effect. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal This 20th day of July A.D. 1793._Rawleigh x Dodson (seal) (his mark) _Test. Thos. Jackson Rodham Kenner Mary x Shelton (her mark)

Raleigh wrote his will on July 20, 1793.  The date of probate is not known, but indications are that he was alive in Nov. 1794 when he and his son James sold tracts of 40 and 110 acres to Robert Brown (Hawkins deeds 2-328 and 2-329).  This land may have involved the join patent with Thomas Jackson referred to in Raleigh Dodson’s will, the land he left to his son James.

raleigh-will-page-1

raleigh-will-page-2

Raleigh’s will, above, was recopied into the will book after the Hawkins County courthouse burned in the Civil War.  The name Menasco was apparently misspelled or misinterpreted as Manafee.  An easy mistake to make, given that there were Manafee families in the county in the 1860s, and James Menasco had left in 1795 for Georgia after his wife died, so the name Menasco was unfamiliar in the county in the late 1860s.

Raleigh’s Wife, Mary

Raleigh Dodson does not name his wife in his will, but left to her his whole estate both real and personal during her lifetime “after which I leave to my son Rawleigh the plantation on which I now live and another piece adjoining”.  The adjoining land was that obtained from the sheriff in 1791.  Raleigh Dodson Jr, sold his father’s patent land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806 and we find the following as well:

‘I, Mary Dodson, widow and relict of Raleigh Dodson, decd, relinquish and quit claim my right, title and interest to this land.”  (Hawkins deed 4-154)

Giles County, Tennessee, Court records show that Mary Dodson, widow, was appointed administrator of the estate of Raleigh Dodson on September 7, 1815.

It has been speculated that the widow, Mary Dodson, may have gone with her son Raleigh Jr. to Alabama and then to Giles and Williamson Counties, TN.  There is one Raleigh Dodson on the Giles County tax list in 1812. Given that the court record says, “Mary Dodson, widow,” implying that she is the widow of Raleigh, whose estate she is being appointed administrator of, I am extremely doubtful that this is our Mary, widow of Raleigh who died in approximately 1794 in Hawkins County.  Raleigh’s estate had been resolved for years by 1815 and there was no need to appoint an administrator in Giles County. Furthermore, our Raleigh’s wife Mary would have been 85 or 86 by this time, a very unlikely candidate to be an estate administrator.

The Amis Store Ledger

In 1775, the grandparents of Davy Crockett settled in the Watauga colony in the area in what is today Rogersville near the spring that today bears their name. After an Indian attack and massacre, the remaining Crocketts sold the property to a Huguenot named Colonel Thomas Amis.

In 1780/1781, Colonel Amis built a fort at Big Creek, on the outskirts of the present-day Rogersville which was then in Sullivan County, NC.

That same year, about three and one-half miles above downtown Rogersville, Amis erected a fortress-like stone house around which he built a palisade for protection against Indian attack.  This is known as the Amis Stone House, shown below and here.

amis-house

The next year, Amis opened a store; erected a blacksmith shop; and built a distillery. Amis also eventually established a sawmill and a gristmill. From the beginning, Amis kept a house of entertainment which was also a stagecoach stop, a place for travelers to rest and spend the night as well as locals to gather.  Of course, it was a tavern too.

Built as a defensive garrison in addition to a trading post, the upper part of the house originally had rifleports instead of windows.  This speaks to the environment on the Holston in 1780 and 1781, when Raleigh Dodson and Thomas Amis began doing business.

Year’s later, Amis’ daughter Mary recalled that she frequently wakened to hear Indians grinding their knives and tomahawks on her father’s grindstone.

The view from Amis House is beautiful and is the vista Raleigh would have seen, overlooking Big Creek Valley.

raleigh-view-from-amis-house

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41895021

Thomas Amis also kept an account ledger book which is, thankfully, still in existence.  This is one of the only documents that shows who lived in this area in the early years.

Raleigh Dodson had an account with Amis.  The record book begins in 1782 with Raleigh’s account, as follows:

  • Oct 12, 1782 – to balance in settlement
  • November 20, 1782 – laying grubbin ghoe
  • April 8, 1783 – beating out plows
  • April 24, 1783 – 1 fish gigg, laying bar plow and coulter, 1.5 lb iron and mending gigg, sharpening plow, making Dutch plow
  • December – work on picks
  • January 3, 1784 – 1 gallon whisky
  • April 26, 1784 – whisky
  • Half Gallon whisky to Shelton
  • September 4, 1785 – balle in settlements
  • February 28, 1786 – half cow, 5 quarts whisky
  • December 24, 1786 – 1 gal whisky
  • January 20, 1787 – 1 pint whisky, half pint whisky
  • Undated – 3 pints whisky, half pint whisky
  • February 7, 1787 – 3 pints whisky
  • February 14, 1787 – half gallon whisky
  • March 8, 1787 – 1 quart whisky, 1 hank silk, to season mare, half pint whisky
  • May 5, 1788 – half pint whisky, 3 yards calamanco (a thin glossy woolen fabric often with stripes or checkered designs – you can see several examples here)
  • May 6, 1788 – 1 stock trist
  • 2 ballads(?)
  • July 10, 1788 – 1 pint whisky, sharpening plow
  • Sept 29, 1788 – 2 half pints whisky
  • October 28, 1788 – half pint whisky
  • November 5, 1788 – half pint whisky
  • March 24, 1789 – half pint fun (rum?)
  • April 12, 1789 – 1 quart whisky, half pint whisky, 1 quart whisky
  • July 5, 1789 – 1 gallon whisky
  • September 10, 1789 – 1 quart whiskey and jug
  • July 4, 1789 – 3 pints whisky

Mr. Rawly Dotson Credit

  • By Mabice (havice?)
  • By 1 skin
  • By 1 grindstone
  • By bale charged in new acct
  • By 24.25 bushels corn
  • By 2 days work

1788

  • March 28 – by 22 bushels corn
  • May 21 – By 2 days work
  • May 22 – by 5 bushels corn from W. Bell
  • October 10 – by 3 days work dressing the mill

1789

  • June 4 – by dressing mill
  • 10.6 carried to page 105

To balance brought forward from folio

  • June 22 – 4 gallon whisky, 1.25 gallons whisky

1789

  • August 4 – 1 bottle and whisky
  • Sept. 3 – 1 quart whisky
  • Sept 24 – half gallon whisky
  • Sept 25 – to shoeing horse for son James
  • Oct. 6 – making bar plow and finding iron, pinting (pointing) coulter, 3 quarts whisky from Sanders, half pint whisky, half pint whisky, three half pints whisky

1789 – Mr. Rawly Dotson credit

  • Aug. 14 – by cash
  • October 10 – by 2 bushels rye, by 206.5 pounds beef
  • Oct. 22 – by 1 peck wheat brought by William Payne Jr.
  • Oct 23 – by 10.5 bushels rye
  • Carried to folio 6 – 18.4

Mr. Rawly Dotson debit

1789 balance brought forward from folio

  • Nov. 4 – half pint whisky, 3 pints whisky, half pint whisky, half pint whisky
  • Nov. 9 – half pint whisky
  • Dec. 4 – making 33 nails and finding iron
  • Dec. 24 – 2 gallons whisky

1790

  • Jan 18 – half pint whisky, to ball in settlements, 2 half pints whisky, 2 pints whisky
  • Jan. 22 – to 15 paid for hackle, to one gander
  • April 23 – to able in whiskey

1789 – Mr. Rawly Dotson credit

  • Nov. 4 – by dressing mill, by 1 bushel rye
  • Nov. 9 – by one grindstone
  • Dec. 24 – by 2.25 bushel corn

1790

  • January 18– by 1 deerskin, by credit ammisted from 65 folio, by balee to charged to new acct
  • Jan. 22 – by 253 lb. port
  • 10.4 carried to folio

There are also much more abbreviated accounts for Talifero and Elisha in 1783 and Oliver and Lazarus in 1794.  Raleigh does not name a son, Elisha, in his will, but I would not be at all surprised to discover that Elisha had simply been omitted because his father had already seen to his inheritance and Elisha didn’t owe his father any debts.

Raleigh’s account tells the story of a farmer, and one who was probably very glad to have a resource to sharpen his plow blades, work on his picks and shoe his son’s horses.  I do wonder if the Shelton mentioned was the father of Raleigh’s granddaughters mentioned in his will.  It’s too bad there is no first name with Shelton.  A recheck of the Amis store accounts doesn’t show any Sheltons on the list of creditors.

Raleigh was also apparently a fisherman, judging by the fact that his fish gigg had to be mended which probably meant that he hit a rock when spearfishing.  Anyone carrying a fish gigg was in danger of being mistaken for the devil himself. Some giggs looked like pitchforks, and some looked more like barbed rakes. The photo below is from a museum and may well have looked similar to Raleigh’s gigg.

raleigh-fish-gigg

By Charlez k – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7439566

Obviously, the Dodson family diet was varied with beef, wild game and fish.

It might appear that Raleigh drank a lot of whiskey.  I really do have to wonder if he had what would be termed today, “a drinking problem.”  However, given his ferry business, it’s also conceivable that Raleigh was selling whiskey, by the shot probably, to clients.  If he was a smart man, and one must presume he was simply to survive on the frontier, he would also have offered food and lodging to guests who needed to cross the river, along with livery service, taking care of and stabling their horses for the night.

So Raleigh’s whiskey may not have been all for himself…or maybe it was.

It seems that Raleigh traded “dressing the mill” for some of his purchases.

What is “Dressing the Mill”?

A mill used for grinding corn and grain must be dressed, usually once a year by a millstone “dresser.”  The stones ground themselves flat with usage, and the dresser would separate the upper and lower stones, and carve furrows in the stones in a prescribed pattern.  These furrows or grooves helped to direct the corn or other grain into and  through the millstones.

The furrow design is shown below.

raleigh-dressing

By Stevegray at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=728078

Dressing was often done in the dead of winter, or when the mill was otherwise closed to safeguard the secrets of crafting the mill.  This would also be the time when farmers like Raleigh would be less busy in the fields, so had time to dress the millstones.

The metal tools used to carve the furrows would often become imbedded in the mill dresser’s forearms.  Itinerant dressers would travel the countryside looking for temporary work, and the miller would ask the dresser to “show your mettle” which means rolling up his sleeves and showing his forearms to see if they looked slightly blue from an accumulation of iron splinters.  Of course, having these splinters didn’t mean you were a good dresser, only that you had some experience.

The photo below shows a contemporary stone dresser.

raleigh-stone-dresser

By Rasbak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4492066

You can see a short video here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/1rod/3610810417/

So, in addition to being a land speculator, a ferryman, a surveyor, a farmer and a fisherman, Raleigh was also a stone dresser.

Religion, or Lack Thereof

We don’t know anything about Raleigh’s religious beliefs, except that he was not a tee-totaller.  However, there is evidence of religious activity on the frontier, in churches in Hawkins County, and Raleigh is conspicuously absent – just as he is from the Broad Run Baptist Church .

The County Line Church in Hawkins County was constituted as “North on Holston” in March 1792 and while there are many Dodsons in evidence, Raleigh isn’t among them.  This church may have been too distant, being located on the north side of the Holston on the county line border between Hawkins and Grainger Counties.

However, the Big Creek meeting house that first met in June 1790 was held in what I believe was the location of the Amis Store.

Regardless, the “South Holston” appears in the Holston Association minutes in August of 1791 and included Jesse Dodson, William Murphy and George Evans as messengers.  In October 1792, there is a reference to Deader Creek Church whose messengers were the same William Murphy and George Evans as listed with Holston River, and I strongly suspect that “Deader Creek” is actually Dodson Creek – George Evans being the George Evans of Evan’s Station.

Of course, just because Raleigh didn’t take a leadership role as a messenger to the association didn’t mean he wasn’t a church member.  We do know that at least one of Raleigh’s son’s, Lazarus, took a leadership role in the Gap Creek Baptist Church in Claiborne County by 1805.

Raleigh’s brother, Lazarus, was a Baptist minister in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, as well.

Where is Raleigh Buried?

The good news, and bad news, is that there are few cemeteries in this area.  The Dodson Creek Cemetery, which was the location I initially suspected, is too far east and wasn’t established until 1831.  The deed is hanging on the cemetery fence, and the establishment date is on the stone, so obviously a lot of people ask.

raleigh-dodson-creek-cem

After working the deeds both forwards and backwards, in summary, I’ve found the following information about Raleigh’s land.  Remember, in the beginning when I told you Raleigh was messy – well, this is it!

  • Raleigh died in roughly 1794, leaving his home tract (presumed to be 150 acres and not the 300 acres total) and adjoining tract (or 163 acres) to son Raleigh.
  • Son Raleigh sold Raleigh’s original land to James Breeden on January 29, 1806, with Raleigh’s wife releasing her dower rights.
  • In 1816, James Breeden sold to James Saunders 120 acres of land on Dodson Creek.
  • In 1818, James Breeden sold 200 acres, 2 tracts of land to Samuel Smith, below Dodson Ford, abutting both Elisha Dodson and Lazarus Dodson’s lines.

Unfortunately, neither of these Breeden deeds match the 150 acres that Raleigh Dodson owned, but in the end, it doesn’t matter, because of what eventually happens.

  • James Sanders is the father of John Ross Sanders, born in 1815, and who inherited the land that his father James owned. John Ross Sanders is buried in the Sanders Cemetery, located at the bend in Dodson Ford Road (today Old Tennessee 70) directly “above” the Dodson Ford and where the old bridge was located.  The location of the cemetery is shown below, in green.

raleigh-sanders-cem-map

  • In 1844, James Sanders sold 184 acres to John R. Sanders at the mouth of Dodson Creek adjacent land of Peter Smith and others. John Ross Sanders dies in 1861 and is buried on his land.  His widow, Martha sells the land in 1874 to her daughter, Lucy, and son-in-law, James H. Vance, who are also buried in the Sanders Cemetery.
  • In 1818, Samuel Smith sold 160 acres on Dodson Creek to Henry Chesnutt described as below a large spring running into the creek, the road from Dodson Ford to Campbell (although Campbell is not clear) along said road to Smith’s meadow, across the bottom field, the Holston river below the mouth of Dodson Creek.
  • In 1819, Henry Chessnut sold to John A. McKinney 160 acres at Dodson’s Ford, west ?, south Dodson Creek leads from Dodson Ford to Knoxville, heirs of Samuel Smith, black walnut below mouth of Dodson Creek.

Unfortunately, this Chesnutt sale makes tracking Raleigh’s land even more difficult, because Lazarus sold his land adjoining Raleigh’s and John Sanders to James Chesnutt, so the Chesnutt family is deeply interwoven into this area.

  • In 1855, Charles A. McKinney and John Netherland, executors of the estate of John A. McKinney, sold to John Reynolds for $750 the land on the south side of Holston on the waters of Dodson creek adjoining land of John Reynolds, Peter Smith and others, begin at a black oak, west on the bank of Dodson Creek below the spring S46W134 poles to oak on bank line then with line 40W154p to road leading from Dodson’s Ford to Knoxville then with said road NE112P along said road to upper end meadow owned by John Reynolds at end of ditch made by John McKinney then on ditch north across bottom to walnut to bank of sluice then across sluice and NW to lower end of island at sycamores then up river to upper point of island then across sluice to SE course to mouth of Dodson creek, to then to the beginning, 163 acres – including the island immediately below Dodson’s Ford, half of which the said John Reynolds now owns.

This 163 acres is probably the same 163 acres that Raleigh purchased in 1791, adjoining his original land grant tract.  Below Dodson’s Ford would have meant downriver.  Dodson Ford would have been on Raleigh’s original land grant, not the land he bought in 1791.

Chili Sanders said that some of the islands washed away years ago in a flood. If these islands still exist today, they would include Arnott’s island and it would put Dodson’s Ford above Arnott’s Island, at the mouth of Dodson Creek – which is not mentioned in Raleigh’s deeds.  So it’s likely that Dodson’s Ford was actually just below Arnott’s Island today – and those other islands indeed washed away.

  • A clue to where John Reynolds obtained his land is found in this 1835 deed from James Smith wherein he deeds the land his father Samuel Smith died with, on the Holston River between Honeycutt Creek and Dodson creek – only the land of the heirs of Joshua Smith below and John A. McKInney above, and others, about 290 acres, half part James Smith is entitled to until death of his mother and then entitled to half of all land, which would be 109 acres all of which I sell my interest in.
  • In 1841, John Reynold sells some land to John Leonard and in 1855, John Leonard sells land to Valentine D. Arnott adjoining Peter Smith’s land, Isaac Louderback and others.

The land along Dodson Creek became unbelievably divided and convoluted. Many deeds don’t include the number of acres which makes identifying the land, unless there are metes and bounds that can be matches to earlier deeds, nearly impossible.  Samuel Smith died and his heirs had intermarried with the Chesnutts, Sanders, Reynolds and other local families.  People lost their land.  Land became divided between heirs.  Heirs bought other heirs land.  Divorces and remarriages happened. In at least one case, a deed was ordered to be recorded, and never way.  And of course, the courthouse burned during the Civil War.  Other than all of that, the land was easy to track.

However, eventually, the land coalesces once again.  By 1943, the Arnott and Bradshaw families owns all of this land in question.  As it turns out, the Arnott family sold the land to the Bradshaws, so all of this land at one time belonged to the Arnott family.

  • In a 1936 deed from J. F. Arnott to R. M. Bradshaw, the road crossing the bridge is referred to as 66 and 70 and the road from Rogersville to Greenville (70) and the road from Rogersville to Bulls Gap (66). It also refers to a deed from Hugh Chesnut and wife.
  • On December 26, 1889, Hugh Chesnutt and wife sold to W. D and J. F. Arnott 109.75 acres adjoining the land of John R. Sanders…Dodson’s Creek…Dru Haynes corner, stake in Dodson’s Ford road…tract from R. H. Reynolds to Hiloh Chesnut.
  • 1884 deeds from Hugh Chesnut and wife refer to one third undivided interest in land on Dodson Ford Road.
  • In 1895, Hugh Chesnutt and wife Hilary, W. H. Reynolds and wife Lucy, John R. Sanders, Nola Sanders and Mary Wolsey Smith share in three tracts of land – one of which is the John Ross Sanders land, the second appears to be on Dodson Creek but further north, near the Kites and D.L. Haynes and the third is their interest in the estate of John R. Sanders, decd.

Eventually, all of these people would sell to the Arnott family, according to the 1943 map.

It’s telling that in 1850, John Ross Sanders neighbor is Valentine Arnott.

raleigh-1850-hawkins-census

Therefore, all pointers suggest, strongly, that the John Ross Sanders cemetery is also where his father, James Sanders who reportedly died in 1863 is buried as well.

If indeed this is the land owned by Raleigh Dodson, it’s also likely where he is buried too.  Family cemeteries didn’t tend to disappear entirely, they tended to enlarge and were sometimes “renamed” to reflect the surname of the next family that owned the land.

raleigh-sanders-land-map

The John Sanders property is located on the east side of Dodson Creek on Sanders Road, shown above.  The original home is gone now, but there does not appear to be a cemetery on that land either, so John Sanders and Nellie are probably buried in the Sanders Cemetery on Old Tennessee 70 – the little green spot at left.

The Sanders cemetery is also located on the only readily available high ground.  The land on the north side of the road, formerly called Dodson Ford Road, between the railroad and the Holston River is too low and floods.  No family would bury someone where their grave would flood.

The only other reasonable possibility would be the Kite Cemetery, which is significantly further south, or possibly a now lost cemetery.

My bet is that not only is Raleigh buried in the Sanders Cemetery, but he lived on this land as well. He would assuredly have lived as close as he could to Dodson Ford, with quick access to the Holston, but far enough away that his home didn’t flood.  The Sanders Cemetery and surrounding land fits the bill exactly.

Sanders Cemetery

When I visited Hawkins County in August 2009, it was beastly hot, but Chili Sanders, a local firefighter and also a descendant of Raleigh Dodson, was kind enough to take me up to the Sanders Cemetery early one Sunday morning, while the temperature was only in the 80s, before it got hot.

FindAgrave has mislabeled the Sanders Cemetery as the Reynolds Cemetery and shows no internments, which is incorrect on both counts.

However, cemetery information obtained at the Hawkins County archives shows the Sanders Cemetery, #158, correctly and with directions.  “Take Highway 70 south from Rogersville, turn left after crossing the Hugh B. Day Bridge.  Cemetery is located on hill to the right after the railroad crossing.”  That’s exactly right.

When I visited in 2009, the cemetery was almost impenetrable, and were it not for Chili knowing exactly where to go and how to get in, finding and accessing this cemetery would have been nearly impossible.  Ok, scratch nearly.

raleigh-sanders-cem

This is the entrance and this is partway up the “hill” at the bend in Old Tennessee 70 just east of the railroad track.  We climbed the fence and hiked up the hill.  Chili assured me he had the property owner’s permission, and believe me, I prayed that he did and they didn’t forget.  Thankfully, everyone knows Chili, so long as they didn’t shoot first.  Overgrown cemeteries on private property in remote mountain locations in Appalachia are not someplace you really want to be discovered by unhappy property owners.

raleigh-john-ross-sanders

The earliest marked burial is John Ross Sanders who died in 1861.

raleigh-john-ross-sanders2

This grave is probably marked because John’s wife, Martha, didn’t pass away until 1911.  She outlived John by 50 years and two months and remarried to a Smith.

raleigh-chili-sanders

Chili Sanders standing above the grave of James H. Vance born February 5, 1807 and died in 1884.  James was the son-in-law of John Ross Sanders and married to John’s daughter, Lucy. I look at Chili and wonder if he looks anything like Raleigh Dodson.

raleigh-james-vance

There are very few gravestones, but the cemetery itself is not small.

raleigh-sanders-cem-2

raleigh-sanders-cem-3

There are many unmarked graves beneath the vegetation. You can see and feel them, meaning the sunken ground, and sometimes see the fieldstones peeking through the vegetation.

raleigh-sanders-cem-4

I tripped over a few fieldstones buried in the underbrush which were in all probability, gravestones, and felt awful.  I wonder if that was Raleigh trying to get my attention.  “Hey, I’m here!!!”

raleigh-sanders-cem-5

Thank goodness there were no snakes.

raleigh-sanders-cem-6

Some portions of the cemetery were simply inaccessible.

raleigh-sanders-cem-7

I would very much like to set a Revolutionary War stone for Raleigh in this location, near Dodson’s Ford, on land he assuredly owned. It pains my heart that Raleigh doesn’t have a gravestone.

Raleigh’s Children

Raleigh had several children, and were it not for his will, we’d have to do a lot of speculating.  Children as named in Raleigh’s will:

  • Rawleigh Dodson Jr
  • Grandchildren Mary and Nancy Shelton
  • Nelly, wife of John Saunders
  • James Dodson
  • Peggy Manafee (Margaret Dodson Manasco)
  • Lazarus Dodson
  • Toliver (Oliver) Dodson

Elisha is not named in Raleigh’s will, and is entirely speculative, based on the fact that he appeared with Raleigh and his children and owned land adjacent to both Lazarus and Raleigh.  If Elisha is Raleigh’s son, Raleigh had obviously already provided for him, and he owned Raleigh no debts to be forgiven.

  • Elisha Dodson (speculative)

If Elisha wasn’t Raleigh’s son, who was he?

You can read more about Raleigh’s children in Raleigh’s wife Mary’s article.

DNA

One of the traits that seems to be inherited by Dodson descendants is the love of genealogy.  Perhaps the fact that the Reverend Silas Lucas devoted so many years to Dodson research, so it’s relatively easy to track your lines has something to do with the popularity of Dodson family genealogy.

There also seems to be a disproportionate number of Dodson autosomal DNA matches as well.  I’m not sure if this is because the early Dodson’s were very prolific, producing a large number of descendants today, or if the Dodson DNA is particularly hearty (nah), or if the fact that the Dodson Lucas genealogy legacy produces a lot of trees, enabling people to connect their trees after DNA connects their genes. Probably the result of the first and third options.

At Ancestry.com, I have 387 DNA matches with whom I share a common ancestor is a tree.  Of those, 11 descend from George Dodson and Margaret Dagord through 5 separate sons.   Thirteen DNA matches descend from George’s parents, Thomas Dodson and Dorothy Durham through 5 separate sons.  Two descend directly from Raleigh through son, Toliver and son James.  I’m not counting my direct cousins through my own line.

That’s 7% of my matches from the Dodson line alone, which is a bit high, considering that I have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and Raleigh is one generation beyond that at my GGGGG-grandfather.

I think this is proof positive that a well-researched genealogy, in print, in one form or another, has a HUGE effect on the number of DNA-plus-tree matches you’ll receive on that line. It’s also evidence of why accurate research is so important.  Otherwise, everyone will put erroneous information into all their trees, and then will believe that because they match so many other people with the same trees, that they must all be correct and DNA confirms the genealogy.

That’s isn’t the case.

Ancestry matches your DNA and then, if you have a common ancestor identified in both your trees, even if they are erroneous in the same way, displays your common ancestor for you to view.  So just be wary of common mistakes and assuming that a DNA match validates genealogy as written.  It doesn’t.  You can both simply be wrong in the same way – and this most often happens when people copy trees without individually scrutinizing and verifying information and documentation.

raleigh-common-ancestor

It’s fun to see how you connect to common ancestors.

In Summary

Raleigh led an incredible life.  He lived in 3 states plus the wild State of Franklin and the Territory South of the Ohio.  He lived on and helped forge at least two frontiers.  When Raleigh moved to the Holston River in what would become Hawkins County, he was approaching the half-century mark, and in addition to homesteading, he would yet fight in the Revolutionary War.

Raleigh was clearly a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades; a skilled ferryman, a land surveyor and a stone dresser, in addition to being a hunter, fisherman and a farmer.  Of course, everyone on the frontier was a farmer, or you didn’t eat.

In addition to those skills, Raleigh was a Patriot and served in the Revolutionary War.  When Raleigh was discharged in 1783, he was certainly not a young man at age 53. He served with his son, Lazarus.  Lazarus and Raleigh were apparently very close.  Not only did they serve in the war together, they also applied for side-by-side land grants and lived on the Holston River between Honeycutt Creek and Dodson Creek together until after Raleigh passed away, probably in 1794.

Raleigh apparently did not apply for land as payment for his Revolutionary War service, but his son, Lazarus did.  Raleigh appeared to be quite savvy and didn’t seem like a man to leave much laying on the table in terms of what was due to him, so I wonder if there are transactions yet to be found, or he sold his Revolutionary War land claim before it was registered in his name.

A decade after his discharge, Raleigh was writing his will in Hawkins County on Dodson Creek where he and his son, James, made a final land sale in 1794.

Sometime after that, Raleigh passed away and his son, Raleigh, and his wife, Mary, lived on his land for the next dozen years, when the scene fades to black in 1808.

Today, Raleigh’s descendants still live along Dodson Creek – Chili Sanders being descended through daughter Nellie who married John Saunders/Sanders.

raleighs-turkeys

Chili was gracious enough during my visits to invite me to visit his home and allowed me to photograph his land – the same land that John Saunders owned which was obtained from Raleigh. So this was originally Raleigh’s land.  If you look closely, you can see turkeys in the distance, at the bottom of the hill, across the fence line. Raleigh probably looked out and saw turkeys too, and deer, and bobcat, and fox and wolves. Raleigh would have thought this was his lucky day!  “Hey Mary, turkey for dinner!”

This land wouldn’t have been cleared when Raleigh settled here, but Raleigh and his sons and son-in-laws, and their descendants for generations have cleared the land and forged a life from what was once unbroken wilderness – along Raleigh’s namesake Dodson Creek.

Indeed, Raleigh “showed us his mettle.”

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, specifically prior to Raleigh, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more.  His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later.  Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.

Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages

There has been a lot of discussion about ethnicity percentages within the genetic genealogy community recently, probably because of the number of people who have recently purchased DNA tests to discover “who they are.”

Testers want to know specifically if ethnicity percentages are right or wrong, and what those percentages should be. The next question, of course, is which vendor is the most accurate.

Up front, let me say that “your mileage may vary.” The vendor that is the most accurate for my German ancestry may not be the same vendor that is the most accurate for the British Isles or Native American. The vendor that is the most accurate overall for me may not be the most accurate for you. And the vendor that is the most accurate for me today, may no longer be the most accurate when another vendor upgrades their software tomorrow. There is no universal “most accurate.”

But then again, how does one judge “most accurate?” Is it just a feeling, or based on your preconceived idea of your ethnicity? Is it based on the results of one particular ethnicity, or something else?

As a genealogist, you have a very powerful tool to use to figure out the percentages that your ethnicity SHOULD BE. You don’t have to rely totally on any vendor. What is that tool? Your genealogy research!

I’d like to walk you through the process of determining what your own ethnicity percentages should be, or at least should be close to, barring any surprises.

By surprises, in this case, we’re assuming that all 64 of your GGGG-grandparents really ARE your GGGG-grandparents, or at least haven’t been proven otherwise. Even if one or two aren’t, that really only affects your results by 1.56% each. In the greater scheme of things, that’s trivial unless it’s that minority ancestor you’re desperately seeking.

A Little Math

First, let’s do a little very basic math. I promise, just a little. And it really is easy. In fact, I’ll just do it for you!

You have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Generation # You Have Who Approximate Percentage of Their DNA That You Have Today
1 You 100%
1 2 Parents 50%
2 4 Grandparents 25%
3 8 Great-grandparents 12.5%
4 16 Great-great-grandparents 6.25%
5 32 Great-great-great-grandparents 3.12%
6 64 Great-great-great-great-grandparents 1.56%

Each of those GGGG-grandparents contributed 1.56% of your DNA, roughly.

Why 1.56%?

Because 100% of your DNA divided by 64 GGGG-grandparents equals 1.56% of each of those GGGG-grandparents. That means you have roughly 1.56% of each of those GGGG-grandparents running in your veins.

OK, but why “roughly?”

We all know that we inherit 50% of each of our parents’ DNA.

So that means we receive half of the DNA of each ancestor that each parent received, right?

Well, um…no, not exactly.

Ancestral DNA isn’t divided exactly in half, by the “one for you and one for me” methodology. In fact, DNA is inherited in chunks, and often you receive all of a chunk of DNA from that parent, or none of it. Seldom do you receive exactly half of a chunk, or ancestral segment – but half is the AVERAGE.

Because we can’t tell exactly how much of any ancestor’s DNA we actually do receive, we have to use the average number, knowing full well we could have more than our 1.56% allocation of that particular ancestor’s DNA, or none that is discernable at current testing thresholds.

Furthermore, if that 1.56% is our elusive Native ancestor, but current technology can’t identify that ancestor’s DNA as Native, then our Native heritage melds into another category. That ancestor is still there, but we just can’t “see” them today.

So, the best we can do is to use the 1.56% number and know that it’s close. In other words, you’re not going to find that you carry 25% of a particular ancestor’s DNA that you’re supposed to carry 1.56% for. But you might have 3%, half of a percent, or none.

Your Pedigree Chart

To calculate your expected ethnicity percentages, you’ll want to work with a pedigree chart showing your 64 GGGG-grandparents. If you haven’t identified all 64 of your GGGG-grandparents – that’s alright – we can accommodate that. Work with what you do have – but accuracy about the ancestors you have identified is important.

I use RootsMagic, and in the RootsMagic software, I can display all 64 GGGG-grandparents by selecting all 4 of my grandparents one at a time.

In the first screen, below, my paternal grandfather is blue and my 16 GGGG-grandparents that are his ancestors are showing to the far right.  Please note that you can click on any of the images to enlarge.

ethnicity-pedigree

Next, my paternal grandmother

ethnicity-pedigree-1

Next, my maternal grandmother.

ethnicity-pedigree-2

And finally, my maternal grandfather.

ethnicity-pedigre-3

These displays are what you will work from to create your ethnicity table or chart.

Your Ethnicity Table

I simply displayed each of these 16 GGGG-grandparents and completed the following grid. I used a spreadsheet, but you can use a table or simply do this on a tablet of paper. Technology not required.

You’ll want 5 columns, as shown below.

  • Number 1-64, to make sure you don’t omit anyone
  • Name
  • Birth Location
  • 1.56% Source – meaning where in the world did the 1.56% of the DNA you received from them come from? This may not be the same as their birth location. For example an Irish man born in Virginia counts as an Irish man.
  • Ancestry – meaning if you don’t know positively where that ancestor is from, what do you know about them? For example, you might know that their father was German, but uncertain about the mother’s nationality.

My ethnicity table is shown below.

ethnicity-table

In some cases, I had to make decisions.

For example, I know that Daniel Miller’s father was a German immigrant, documented and proven. The family did not speak English. They were Brethren, a German religious sect that intermarried with other Brethren.  Marriage outside the church meant dismissal – so your children would not have been Brethren. Therefore, it would be extremely unlikely, based on both the language barrier and the Brethren religious customs for Daniel’s mother, Magdalena, to be anything other than German – plus, their children were Brethren..

We know that most people married people within their own group – partly because that is who they were exposed to, but also based on cultural norms and pressures. When it comes to immigrants and language, you married someone you could communicate with.

Filling in blanks another way, a local German man was likely the father of Eva Barbara Haering’s illegitmate child, born to Eva Barbara in her home village in Germany.

Obviously, there were exceptions, but they were just that, the exception. You’ll have to evaluate each of your 64 GGGG-grandparents individually.

Calculating Percentages

Next, we’re going to group locations together.

For example, I had a total of one plus that was British Isles. Three and a half, plus, that were Scottish. Nine and a half that were Dutch.

ethnicity-summary

You can’t do anything with the “plus” designation, but you can multiply by everything else.

So, for Scottish, 3 and a half (3.5) times 1.56% equals 5.46% total Scottish DNA. Follow this same procedure for every category you’re showing.

Do the same for “uncertain.”

Incorporating History

In my case, because all of my uncertain lines are on my father’s colonial side, and I do know locations and something about their spouses and/or the population found in the areas where each ancestor is located, I am making an “educated speculation” that these individuals are from the British Isles. These families didn’t speak German, or French, or have French or German, Dutch or Scandinavian surnames. People married others like themselves, in their communities and churches.

I want to be very clear about this. It’s not a SWAG (serious wild-a** guess), it’s educated speculation based on the history I do know.

I would suggest that there is a difference between “uncertain” and “unknown origin.” Unknown origin connotates that there is some evidence that the individual is NOT from the same background as their spouse, or they are from a highly mixed region, but we don’t know.

In my case, this leaves a total of 2 and a half that are of unknown origin, based on the other “half” that isn’t known of some lineages. For example, I know there are other Native lines and at least one African line, but I don’t know what percentage of which ancestor how far back. I can’t pinpoint the exact generation in which that lineage was “full” and not admixed.

I have multiple Native lines in my mother’s side in the Acadian population, but they are further back than 6 generations and the population is endogamous – so those ancestors sometimes appear more than once and in multiple Acadian lines – meaning I probably carry more of their DNA than I otherwise would. These situations are difficult to calculate mathematically, so just keep them in mind.

Given the circumstances based on what I do know, the 3.9% unknown origin is probably about right, and in this case, the unknown origin is likely at least part Native and/or African and probably some of each.

ethnicity-summary-2

The Testing Companies

It’s very difficult to compare apples to apples between testing companies, because they display and calculate ethnicity categories differently.

For example, Family Tree DNA’s regions are fairly succinct, with some overlap between regions, shown below.

ethnicity-ftdna-map

Some of Ancestry’s regions overlap by almost 100%, meaning that any area in a region could actually be a part of another region.

ethnicity-ancestry-map-2

For example look at the United Kingdom and Ireland. The United Kingdom region overlaps significantly into Europe.

ethnicity-ancestry-map

Here’s the Great Britain region close up, below, which is shown differently from the map above. The Great Britain region actually overlaps almost the entire western half of Europe.

ethnicity-ancestry-great-britain

That’s called hedging your bets, or maybe it’s simply the nature of ethnicity. Granted, the overlaps are a methodology for the vendor not to be “wrong,” but people and populations did and do migrate, and the British Isles was somewhat of a destination location.

This Germanic Tribes map, also from Ancestry’s Great Britain section, illustrates why ethnicity calculations are so difficult, especially in Europe and the British Isles.

ethnicity-invaders

Invaders and migrating groups brought their DNA.  Even if the invaders eventually left, their DNA often became resident in the host population.

The 23andMe map, below, is less detailed in terms of viewing how regions overlap.

ethnicity-23andme-map

The Genographic project breaks ethnicity down into 9 world regions which they indicate reflect both recent influences and ancient genetics dating from 500 to 10,000 years ago. I fall into 3 regions, shown by the shadowy Circles on the map, below.

ethnicity-geno-map-2

The following explanation is provided by the Genographic Project for how they calculate and explain the various regions, based on early European history.

ethnicity-geno-regions

Let’s look at how the vendors divide ethnicity and see what kind of comparisons we can make utilizing the ethnicity table we created that represents our known genealogy.

Family Tree DNA

MyOrigins results at Family Tree DNA show my ethnicity as:

ethnicity-ftdna-percents

I’ve reworked my ethnicity totals format to accommodate the vendor regions, creating the Ethnicity Totals Table, below. The “Genealogy %” column is the expected percentage based on my genealogy calculations. I have kept the “British Isles Inferred” percentage separate since it is the most speculative.

ethnicity-ftdna-table

I grouped the regions so that we can obtain a somewhat apples-to-apples comparison between vendor results, although that is clearly challenging based on the different vendor interpretations of the various regions.

Note the Scandinavian, which could potentially be a Viking remnant, but there would have had to be a whole boatload of Vikings, pardon the pun, or Viking is deeply inbedded in several population groups.

Ancestry

Ancestry reports my ethnicity as:

ethnicity-ancestry-amounts

Ancestry introduces Italy and Greece, which is news to me. However, if you remember, Ancestry’s Great Britain ethnicity circle reaches all the way down to include the top of Italy.

ethnicity-ancestry-table

Of all my expected genealogy regions, the most definitive are my Dutch, French and German. Many are recent immigrants from my mother’s side, removing any ambiguity about where they came from. There is very little speculation in this group, with the exception of one illegitimate German birth and two inferred German mothers.

23andMe

23andMe allows customers to change their ethnicity view along a range from speculative to conservative.

ethnicity-23andme-levels

Generally, genealogists utilize the speculative view, which provides the greatest regional variety and breakdown. The conservative view, in general, simply rolls the detail into larger regions and assigns a higher percentage to unknown.

I am showing the speculative view, below.

ethnicity-23andme-amounts

Adding the 23andMe column to my Ethnicity Totals Table, we show the following.

ethnicity-23andme-table-2

Genographic Project 2.0

I also tested through the Genographic project. Their results are much more general in nature.

ethnicity-geno-amounts

The Genographic Project results do not fit well with the others in terms of categorization. In order to include the Genographic ethnicity numbers, I’ve had to add the totals for several of the other groups together, in the gray bands below.

ethnicity-geno-table-2

Genographic Project results are the least like the others, and the most difficult to quantify relative to expected amounts of genealogy. Genealogically, they are certainly the least useful, although genealogy is not and never has been the Genographic focus.

I initially omitted this test from this article, but decided to include it for general interest. These four tests clearly illustrate the wide spectrum of results that a consumer can expect to receive relative to ethnicity.

What’s the Point?

Are you looking at the range of my expected ethnicity versus my ethnicity estimates from the these four entities and asking yourself, “what’s the point?”

That IS the point. These are all proprietary estimates for the same person – and look at the differences – especially compared to what we do know about my genealogy.

This exercise demonstrates how widely estimates can vary when compared against a relatively solid genealogy, especially on my mother’s side – and against other vendors. Not everyone has the benefit of having worked on their genealogy as long as I have. And no, in case you’re wondering, the genealogy is not wrong. Where there is doubt, I have reflected that in my expected ethnicity.

Here are the points I’d like to make about ethnicity estimates.

  • Ethnicity estimates are interesting and alluring.
  • Ethnicity estimates are highly entertaining.
  • Don’t marry them. They’re not dependable.
  • Create and utilize your ethnicity chart based on your known, proven genealogy which will provide a compass for unknown genealogy. For example, my German and Dutch lines are proven unquestionably, which means those percentages are firm and should match up relatively well to vendor ethnicity estimates for those regions.
  • Take all ethnicity estimates with a grain of salt.
  • Sometimes the shaker of salt.
  • Sometimes the entire lick of salt.
  • Ethnicity estimates make great cocktail party conversation.
  • If the results don’t make sense based on your known genealogical percentages, especially if your genealogy is well-researched and documented, understand the possibilities of why and when a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent. For example, if your DNA from a particular region exceeds the total of both of your parents for that region, something is amiss someplace – which is NOT to suggest that you are not your parents’ child.  If you’re not the child of one or both parents, assuming they have DNA tested, you won’t need ethnicity results to prove or even suggest that.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not facts beyond very high percentages, 25% and above. At that level, the ethnicity does exist, but the percentage may be in error.
  • Ethnicity estimates are generally accurate to the continent level, although not always at low levels. Note weasel word, “generally.”
  • We should all enjoy the results and utilize these estimates for their hints and clues.  For example, if you are an adoptee and you are 25% African, it’s likely that one of your grandparents was Africa, or two of your grandparents were roughly half African, or all four of your grandparents were one-fourth African.  Hints and clues, not gospel and not cast in concrete. Maybe cast in warm Jello.
  • Ethnicity estimates showing larger percentages probably hold a pearl of truth, but how big the pearl and the quality of the pearl is open for debate. The size and value of the pearl is directly related to the size of the percentage and the reference populations.
  • Unexpected results are perplexing. In the case of my unknown 8% to 12% Scandinavian – the Vikings may be to blame, or the reference populations, which are current populations, not historical populations – or some of each. My Scandinavian amounts translate into between 5 and 8 of my GGGG-grandparents being fully Scandinavian – and that’s extremely unlikely in the middle of Virginia in the 1700s.
  • There can be fairly large slices of completely unexplained ethnicity. For example, Scandinavia at 8-12% and even more perplexing, Italy and Greece. All I can say is that there must have been an awful lot of Vikings buried in the DNA of those other populations. But enough to aggregate, cumulatively, to between a great-grandparent at 12.5% and a great-great-grandparent at 6.25%? I’m not convinced. However, all three vendors found some Scandinavian – so something is afoot. Did they all use the same reference population data for Scandinavian? For the time being, the Scandinavian results remain a mystery.
  • There is no way to tell what is real and what is not. Meaning, do I really have some ancient Italian/Greek and more recent Scandinavian, or is this deep ancestry or a reference population issue? And can the lack of my proven Native and African ancestry be attributed to the same?
  • Proven ancestors beyond 6 generations, meaning Native lineages, disappear while undocumentable and tenuous ancestors beyond 6 generations appear – apparently, en masse. In my case, kind of like a naughty Scandinavian ancestral flash mob, taunting and tormenting me. Who are those people??? Are they real?
  • If the known/proven ethnicity percentages from Germany, Netherlands and France can be highly erroneous, what does that imply about the rest of the results? Especially within Europe? The accuracy issue is especially pronounced looking at the wide ranges of British Isles between vendors, versus my expected percentage, which is even higher, although the inferred British Isles could be partly erroneous – but not on this magnitude. Apparently part of by British Isles ancestry is being categorized as either or both Scandinavian or European.
  • Conversely, these estimates can and do miss positively genealogically proven minority ethnicity. By minority, I mean minority to the tester. In my case, African and Native that is proven in multiple lines – and not just by paper genealogy, but by Y and mtDNA haplogroups as well.
  • Vendors’ products and their estimates will change with time as this field matures and reference populations improve.
  • Some results may reflect the ancient history of the entire population, as indicated by the Genographic Project. In other words, if the entire German population is 30% Mediterranean, then your ancestors who descend from that population can be expected to be 30% Mediterranean too. Except I don’t show enough Mediterranean ancestry to be 30% of my German DNA, which would be about 8% – at least not as reported by any vendor other than the Genographic Project.
  • Not all vendors display below 1% where traces of minority admixture are sometimes found. If it’s hard to tell if 8-12% Scandinavian is real, it’s almost impossible to tell whether less than 1% of anything is real.  Having said that, I’d still like to see my trace amounts, especially at a continental level which tends to be more reliable, given that is where both my Native and African are found.
  • If the reason my Native and African ancestors aren’t showing is because their DNA was not passed on in subsequent generations, causing their DNA to effectively “wash out,” why didn’t that happen to Scandinavian?
  • Ethnicity estimates can never disprove that an ancestor a few generations back was or was not any particular ethnicity. (However, Y and mitochondrial DNA testing can.)
  • Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, except in very recent generations – like 2 (grandparents at 25%), maybe 3 generations (great-grandparents at 12.5%).
  • Continental level estimates above 10-12 percent can probably be relied upon to suggest that the particular continental level ethnicity is present, but the percentage may not be accurate. Note the weasel wording here – “probably” – it’s here on purpose. Refer to Scandinavia, above – although that’s regional, not continental, but it’s a great example. My proven Native/African is nearly elusive and my mystery Scandinavian/Greek/Italian is present in far greater percentages than it should be, based upon proven genealogy.
  • Vendors, all vendors, struggle to separate ethnicity regions within continents, in particular, within Europe.
  • Don’t take your ethnicity results too seriously and don’t be trading in your lederhosen for kilts, or vice versa – especially not based on intra-continental results.
  • Don’t change your perception of who you are based on current ethnicity tests. Otherwise you’re going to feel like a chameleon if you test at multiple vendors.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not a short cut to or a replacement for discovering who you are based on sound genealogical research.
  • No vendor, NOT ANY VENDOR, can identify your Native American tribe. If they say or imply they can, RUN, with your money. Native DNA is more alike than different. Just because a vendor compares you to an individual from a particular tribe, and part of your DNA matches, does NOT mean your ancestors were members of or affiliated with that tribe. These three major vendors plus the Genographic Project don’t try to pull any of those shenanigans, but others do.
  • Genetic genealogy and specifically, ethnicity, is still a new field, a frontier.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not yet a mature technology as is aptly illustrated by the differences between vendors.
  • Ethnicity estimates are that. ESTIMATES.

If you like to learn more about ethnicity estimates and how they are calculated, you might want to read this article, Ethnicity Testing, A Conundrum.

Summary

This information is NOT a criticism of the vendors. Instead, this is a cautionary tale about correctly setting expectations for consumers who want to understand and interpret their results – and about how to use your own genealogy research to do so.

Not a day passes that I don’t receive very specific questions about the interpretation of ethnicity estimates. People want to know why their results are not what they expected, or why they have more of a particular geographic region listed than their two parents combined. Great questions!

This phenomenon is only going to increase with the popularity of DNA testing and the number of people who test to discover their identity as a result of highly visible ad campaigns.

So let me be very clear. No one can provide a specific interpretation. All we can do is explain how ethnicity estimates work – and that these results are estimates created utilizing different reference populations and proprietary software by each vendor.

Whether the results match each other or customer expectations, or not, these vendors are legitimate, as are the GedMatch ethnicity tools. Other vendors may be less so, and some are outright unethical, looking to exploit the unwary consumer, especially those looking for Native American heritage. If you’re interested in how to tell the difference between legitimate genetic information and a company utilizing pseudo-genetics to part you from your money, click here for a lecture by Dr. Jennifer Raff, especially about minutes 48-50.

Buyer beware, both in terms of purchasing DNA testing for ethnicity purposes to discover “who you are” and when internalizing and interpreting results.

The science just isn’t there yet for answers at the level most people seek.

My advice, in a nutshell: Stay with legitimate vendors. Enjoy your ethnicity results, but don’t take them too seriously without corroborating traditional genealogical evidence!

Jane Dodson (c1760-1830/1840), Pioneer Wife on 5 Frontiers, 52 Ancestors #142

Jane Dodson was the wife of Lazarus Dodson who was born in about 1760 and probably died in either McMinn County or Claiborne County, Tennessee in about 1826. However, were it not for the 1861 death record of Lazarus and Jane’s son, Lazarus Dodson (Jr.), we would never have known Jane’s name.

Lazarus Jr. died in Pulaski County, Kentucky on October 5, 1861, just before fighting began there in the Civil War. Fortunately, for us, he has a death record and that record tells us that he was born in 1795 and that the names of his parents were Lazarus Dodson and Jane.

dodson-lazarus-1861-death

dodson-lazarus-1861-death-2

This is the only extant record of Lazarus’s mother’s name. Granted, there is no surname, but I’m just grateful for the tidbit we do have. How I do wish though that someone had thought to record her maiden name, because it’s unlikely at this point that we will ever know.

Getting to Know Jane Through Lazarus

What do we know about Jane? Most of what we know about Jane’s life is through Lazarus’s records – not an uncommon circumstance for a frontier wife.

The first positive ID of Lazarus Dodson Sr., Jane’s husband, was when he was recorded as having camped at the headwaters of Richland Creek (in present day Grainger County, TN) in the winter 1781/1782. Lazarus would have been approximately 22 years of age at this time, or possibly slightly older.

From the book Tennessee Land Entries, John Armstrong’s Office:

Page 105, grant 1262 – Dec. 4, 1783 – James Lea enters 317 acres on the North side of the Holston below the mouth of Richland Ck at a “certain place where Francis Maberry, Major John Reid, and Lazarus Dodson camped with the Indians at they was going down to the Nation last winter and opposite the camp on the other side of the river, border, begins at upper end of the bottom and runs down, warrant issued June 7, 1784, grant to Isaac Taylor.

The “Nation” referred to is the Cherokee Nation.

It has long been suspected that the Dodson and Lea families were intermarried or somehow interrelated, and it’s certainly possible that Lazarus’s wife, Jane, was a Lea. I almost hate to mention that possibility, because I don’t want to start any unsubstantiated rumors.

On the other hand, if an unattached Jane Lea were to be documented, of the right age, in the right place, she would have to be considered as a candidate. Keep in mind that we don’t know who Lazarus’s mother was either, so these families could have been intermarried before Lazarus came onto the scene.

It’s also possible that the only connection between the two families was that they were neighbors for more than a decade on the rough shores of Country Line Creek in Caswell County, North Carolina, before moving to untamed waters of the Holston River in what would become eastern Tennessee. Country Line Creek was described by the 1860 census taker almost a hundred years after Raleigh and Lazarus lived there as the roughest area in Caswell County. The area called Leasburg, in fact, was designated at the first county seat in in Caswell County in 1777, although it was a few miles distant from Country Line Creek.

The James Lea (1706-1792) family lived on Country Line Creek in Caswell County, NC, as did Raleigh Dodson, Lazarus’s father. This James Lea, according to his will, did not have a son James, nor a daughter, Jane – so it wasn’t his son who patented the land at the mouth of Richland Creek.

Due to the land entries, we know that both Lazarus and members of the Lea family were present in what would become Hawkins County at least by 1783, and probably earlier.

We don’t know exactly when Lazarus arrived in what was then Sullivan County, NC, but we do know that in 1777, men named Lazarus and Rolly Dodson are recorded as having given oaths of allegiance in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, bordering Caswell County, NC, an area where they were known to have lived, based on multiple records including their Revolutionary War service records. It’s unclear whether this pair is our Raleigh and Lazarus, but the fact that those two names appeared together is highly suggestive that they might be. However, they were not the only Raleigh and Lazarus males in the Dodson family or in this region.

If indeed this is our Lazarus, he was likely of age at that time, so he could have been born before 1760. This suggests that Lazarus was likely married not long after 1777.

Therefore, it’s likely that Raleigh along with Lazarus moved from the Halifax/Pittsylvania Virginia border with Caswell County, North Carolina to what was then Sullivan County, Tennessee sometime after July 1778 when Raleigh sold his land and before May of 1779 when Raleigh’s first tract was granted in what would become Hawkins County, Tennessee.

We know that Lazarus was clearly there by the winter of 1781/1782 and probably by spring of 1779 when his father first appears in the written records.

Sometime in the fall or winter of 1778, Raleigh and Lazarus, and Jane if she were married to Lazarus, would have navigated the old wagon roads from Caswell County to near Rogersville, Tennessee. Was Jane frightened, or excited? Was she pregnant? Did she have any idea what to expect? Was this, perchance, her honeymoon? If so, she probably didn’t care where she went, so long as it was with Lazarus. I remember those days of lovestruck early marriage. The words “to the moon and back” are in love songs for a reason!

The earliest record where we find Raleigh Dodson in what would become Hawkins County, TN is in a land warrant dated October 24,1779 which is a tract for Rowley Dotson for 150 acres joining another tract “where said Dotson lives,” that warrant being issued on May 21, 1779.

By 1780, the Revolutionary War had come to eastern North Carolina.

In October, 1780, the forces under Col. Arthur Campbell gathered at Dodson’s Ford before going downriver to the attack on the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Talequah, Tallassee, and others.

Jane and Lazarus lived at Dodson Ford, and this would probably have been quite frightening for Jane. Could she see the soldiers from her cabin? Did she hear the talk about the expedition? Did Lazarus go along?  Colonel Arthur Campbell brought 200 additional men to the Battle of King’s Mountain, also fought in October of 1780.  Was Lazarus among those men too?  Unfortunately, there is no definitive roster for the Battle of King’s Mountain, only information gathered from here and there.

We know that both Lazarus and his father, Raleigh, served during the Revolutionary War, being discharged in August of 1783 in what was then western North Carolina. Both of their service records provide that information. We don’t know how long they served, but most men served in local militia units routinely.

We also know that in the winter of 1781/1782, Lazarus Dodson was camped on the Holston at the mouth of Richland Creek with Major John Reid “with the Indians,” before they “went down to the Nation,” meaning the Cherokee Nation.  Major Reid’s militia unit was form in 1778 and early 1779 at Long Island on Holston. The phrase, “with the Indians” is baffling, especially given that the militiamen destroyed the Indian towns.

One way or another, Jane was probably alone much of the time between when they settled on the Holston in late 1778 or early 1779 until August of 1783.  Those days, waiting for word about Lazarus were probably very long days, weeks and months, although during this timeframe, men often returned home between engagements if they could.

We don’t know if Jane was Lazarus’s first wife, or not – or whether he married her in Pittsylvania or Halifax County, Virginia, Caswell County, North Carolina or on the frontier in what would become Tennessee. Pittsylvania, Halifax and Caswell Counties bordered each other on the Virginia/North Carolina line, and the Dodson family was active in all three counties.

We do know unquestionably that Jane was the mother of Lazarus Dodson Jr. born in 1795, so she was assuredly married to Lazarus Sr. by that time.

In 1794, Raleigh Dodson, Jane’s father-in-law, died and in 1797, Lazarus moved within Hawkins County from near Dodson Ford on the Holston River to the White Horn Fork of Bent Creek near Bull’s Gap.

The 1800 census is missing, as is 1810, but we know that by 1800 Lazarus and Jane had moved once again were living near the Cumberland Gap, on Gap Creek, in Claiborne County. In 1802 Lazarus is recorded in the court notes of Claiborne County as a juror, which would indicate that he owned land there by then, a requirement to be on a jury.

Lazarus, and therefore most likely Jane as well, was a member of Gap Creek Baptist Church in Claiborne Co., which was located on Lazarus’ land. Lazarus is referenced in the minutes on Saturday, June 5th, 1805. Another church, Big Springs, in the same association, had asked for Gap Creek’s help with determining what to do about “a breach of fellowship with James Kenney and it given into the hands of members from other churches, to wit Absolom Hurst, Lazarus Dodson and Matthew Sims and they report on Sunday morning a matter too hard for them to define on for they had pulled every end of the string and it led them into the mire and so leave us just where they found us.”

I’m sure whatever that breach was, it was the talk of Gap Creek Baptist Church.

The only Lazrus Dotson or similar name in the 1820 census is found in Williamson County, Tennessee and is age 26-44, born 1776-1794, so too young to be our Lazarus who was born about 1760.

However, 1819 is when Lazarus Dodson sells his land on Gap Creek in Claiborne County, Tennessee and reportedly goes to Jackson County, Alabama for some time. So the 1820 census may simply have missed him. It’s also possible that Lazarus and Jane were living on Indian land in what is now Jackson County.

Or perhaps Lazarus and Jane were in transit. Lazarus’s nephew, William, son of Lazarus’s brother,Toliver, also known as Oliver, was living in Jackson County by early 1819 and lived there until his death in 1872. In fact, there is a now extinct town named Dodsonville named after William.

Two of Lazarus Sr’s sons apparently went with him to Jackson County; Lazarus Jr. and Oliver (not to be confused with Lazarus’s brother Oliver,) born in 1794. Lazarus Jr.’s son and Oliver’s son both claim to have been born in Alabama, Oliver’s son in 1819 and Lazarus Jr.’s son about 1821. If Lazarus Sr. was living in Alabama during this time, then so was Jane. It must have pained Jane to leave some of her children behind in Tennessee. No matter how old your children are, they are still your children.

Jane would have been close to 60, and she would have been packing up her household, for at least the third time, if not the fourth time, and moving across the country in a wagon. The distance from Claiborne County to Jackson County, Alabama was approximately 200 miles, which, at the rate of about 10 miles per day in a wagon would have taken about 3 weeks. I wonder if Jane got to vote in the decision to move to Jackson County. I’m guessing not.

Trying to wrap our hands around when Jane was born is made somewhat easier by the fact that she was recorded in the 1830 McMinn County, Tennessee census. Yes, I said Tennessee. Yes, she moved back. With or without Lazarus? We don’t know.

jane-1830-census

In the 1830 census, Jane Dodson is living alone and is recorded as being age 60-70, elderly by the standards of 1830 when the average life expectancy was a mere 37 years. This would put Jane’s birth year between 1760 and 1770. Therefore, Jane was likely married between 1778 and 1790. Those dates bracket the other information we have perfectly, but it doesn’t offer us any help in determining whether or not Jane was married to Lazarus before moving to the frontier, or after. Jane is not shown in the 1840 census, so either she has died or she is living with a family member where she can not be identified.

How Many Moves?

We know that Jane wasn’t born in eastern Tennessee in 1760 or 1770, because very few white families lived there then. Well, of course, this is assuming that Jane was not Native. I’m not entirely sure that’s a valid assumption, but without her mitochondrial DNA, we’ll never know for sure. Without any evidence, or even oral history for that matter, we’ll assume that Jane is not Native, although the fly in that ointment could be the record showing Lazarus camping “with the Indians.” Certainly not direct evidence about Jane, but enough to make you pause a bit and wonder, especially in a time and place when Indians were considered the enemy.

One way or another, perhaps as teenager or maybe as a bride, Jane probably moved from the relative security of the Piedmont area to the volatile frontier with Indians and soldiers coming and going for at least half a decade.

The soldiers destroyed the Cherokee villages in 1780 and early 1781, so the war on the frontier was far from over. The Revolutionary War was still being fought in many locations – and if Jane was married to Lazarus then, she spent that time in a cabin on the frontier along the Holston River, below, in what is today Hawkins County, Tennessee. Her cabin joined the land of her father-in-law, Raleigh, but he was gone fighting in the War too. Perhaps Jane spent a lot of time with her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, and her sister-in-law, Nelly Dodson Saunders whose husband John was serving as well. In fact, I’d wager that every able-bodied man was serving, so the women of Dodson Creek on the Holston River had better be able to defend themselves.

jane-near-dodson-ford

This photo was taken very near where Dodson Ford crossed the river, also the location where the Great Warrior Path and Trading Path had crossed for generations.

Lazarus served in the Revolutionary War and was discharged in 1783. That would mean that Jane likely waited at home, hoping that he would not be killed and leave her with some number of small children. At that time, women were either pregnant or nursing, so Jane could have been pregnant while he was at war.

We know that after Lazarus was discharged, he patented land in the western Tennessee counties, but it appears that Lazarus lived on Dodson and Honeycutt Creeks adjacent his father, Raleigh, during this time. That does not mean Lazarus and Jane didn’t perhaps move from one place to another, just not a great distance.

jane-dodson-creek

Dodson Creek, above, is beautiful, as is Honeycutt Creek, below. Jane and Lazarus lived between the two.

jane-honeycutt-creek

This old tree stands at the mouth of Honeycutt Creek and the Holston River.

jane-tree-at-honeycutt

Did Jane stand beneath this tree when it was small and watch for Lazarus to return?

In 1793 or 1794, Jane’s father-in-law, Raleigh, died and the family would have mourned his passing. Jane may have been pregnant at that time for either Oliver or Lazarus Jr. I’m quite surprised that there is no Raleigh among her children, although it’s certainly possible than an earlier Raleigh may have been born and died.

There is a hint that Lazarus may have moved to Greene County, TN and was living there in 1794, or at least a stud racehorse that he co-owned with his brother-in-law, James Menasco, was being advertised “at stud” in Greene County. I can just see Jane rolling her eyes over this great adventure.

Sadly, Lazarus’s sister, Peggy Dodson Mensaco died between 1794 and 1795 when James Menasco sold his land and moved to Augusta, Georgia. Jane would have stood in the cemetery a second time in just a few months as they buried her sister-in-law. I do wonder who raised Peggy’s two children. Was it Jane who comforted them at the funeral?

Oliver was born to Jane in 1794 and Lazarus in 1795.

In 1797, we know that Lazarus sold his land on Dodson Creek and moved to the Whitehorn Fork of Bent Creek, ten miles or so south in Hawkins County, but now in Hamblen County.

White Horn Fork of Bent Creek begins someplace near Summitt Hill Road, runs south, and then intersects with Bent Creek in Bull’s Gap. However, White Horn runs through an area called White Horn, following 66 the entire way, for about 5 miles, from the top of the map below to Bull’s Gap, at the bottom.

jane-white-horn-map

You can see on the satellite map of the region below that this is rough country.

jane-white-horn-satellite

This view of White Horn Creek, below, is from White Horn Road.

jane-white-horn-from-road

White Horn from a side road, below. The creek wasn’t large, but the water would have been very fresh. Water from the source of a stream was always coveted for its cleanliness.

jane-white-horn-side-road

A few years later, by about 1800, Lazarus and family had moved to Claiborne County, where they settled just beneath the Cumberland Gap on Gap Creek, shown below on Lazarus’s land where it crosses Tipprell Road today.

jane-gap-creek

Lazarus bought land early and by 1810 had patented additional land on Gap Creek.

jane-tipprell-road

Lazarus and Jane were likely living on or near this land the entire time they lived in Claiborne County, based on deed and church records. The Gap Creek Baptist Church, which stood on their land still exists today. Jane very probably attended this church, but of course it would have looked very different then, if it was even the same building, at all. It would have been a log structure at that time, as would their home.

gap-creek-church-cropped

In 1819, Lazarus sold out, again, and headed for Alabama. In Alabama, Jane and Lazarus would have settled in the part of Jackson County ceded by the Cherokee earlier that year, so perhaps someplace on what is now Alabama 79, then the main road from Tennessee into Alabama. It probably looked much the same then as it does today. Hilly and treed – for miles and miles and miles. I can’t help but feel for the displaced Cherokee. I wonder if Jane did as well.

jane-jackson-co.

The historic town of Dodsonville once existed in Jackson County, just beneath Scottsboro.

jane-dodsonville

Lazarus’s brother Oliver’s son, William, lived in Jackson County from 1819 until his death in 1872. He is buried in the Dodson Cemetery near Lim Rock, not far from historic Dodsonville, named for him. Dodsonville is probably under dammed Guntersville Lake, today.

By this time, I just feel weary for Jane. I’m sure she longed for a cabin where she could put down roots and didn’t have to sell out and pack up every few years to start over again with few belongings in an unfamiliar place with unknown dangers and strangers she didn’t know. I wonder if Lazarus was the kind of man that was always starry-eyed and enamored with the next great opportunity. Was life just one great adventure after another to him?

We know that in 1826, Lazarus Jr. (we believe) repurchased his father’s land back in Claiborne County, and that Lazarus Sr.’s land transactions, apparently having to do with his estate, were being handled in McMinn County. There is no will or probate for Lazarus Sr. in either Claiborne County or McMinn County, and the Jackson County records were burned in the Civil War.

Giving Lazarus Sr. the benefit of the doubt here, we’ll presume that Lazarus Sr. moved from Alabama directly back to McMinn County and did not first return to Claiborne and then move to McMinn. One way or another, they, or at least Jane, came back to Tennessee as did her sons Lazarus Jr. and Oliver.

Sometime between 1827 and 1830, Jane’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Campbell Dodson, Lazarus Jr.’s wife died. If Jane had not already returned to Tennessee, she may have returned in the wagon with Lazarus Jr. to help with his four children born between 1820 and 1827. However, by 1830, those children were living with their Campbell grandparents, who would raise them to adulthood, in Claiborne County. Perhaps the Campbell grandparents raised the children instead of Jane because they owned a farm and there were two of them and they were somewhat younger than Jane by at least a decade, if not more.  Jane, alone, would have had to handle 4 young children. Besides that, Jane’s other son, David had recently died too, leaving his widow needing help with her children as well.  Jane would have been approaching 70 by this time.

Lazarus Jr. returned to Claiborne County and is found in the records beginning in 1826 when he repurchased his father’s land. This is presuming that the land repurchase was by Lazarus Jr. and not Lazarus Sr. Lazarus Jr. remained in Claiborne County where he is found in the court notes from 1827 through about 1833 when he is recorded as being absent and owing taxes.

We know that in 1830 Jane lived someplace near Englewood in McMinn County. Liberty Hill Road runs between Englewood and Cochran Cemetery Road, so this view would have been familiar to Jane, then, too.

jane-liberty-hill-road

So Jane got to pack up for at least a 5th time and move back to Tennessee, and that’s if we know about all the moves, which is certainly not likely.

If Jane married Lazarus in 1778 or 1779, before they left Virginia, that means she got to make major moves at least 5 times between about 1780 and 1825, or roughly every 9 years. And those moves would have been while pregnant, nursing babies, with toddlers, and whatever other challenge or inconvenience you can think of.

In 1825 or so, Jane would have been 60-65 years old. The last thing most people want to do at that age is bounce around in a wagon with no shocks on rough rutty roads crossing mountains – relocating “one last time.”

jane-cumberland-gap

Cumberland Gap, from the summit, overlooking Claiborne County.

Perhaps Lazarus died mysteriously after suggesting “just one more move.”

Jane’s Children

We know beyond a doubt that Lazarus Jr., born in 1795, was Jane’s son, and we can presume that any children born after Lazarus were Jane’s as well since she was still living in 1830.

This 1826 McMinn County deed comes as close as we’re going to get to identifying Jane’s children.

Abner Lea and Others Obligation to William Dodson: State of Tennessee McMinn County. Know all men by these presents that the Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson and Eligha (sic) Dodson and William Dodson and Jessee Dodson and Lazrus Dodson and held and firmly bound in the penal sum of two thousand dollars which payment will and freely to be maid now(?) and each of us do bind our selves our heirs executor and administrators to the abounded signed sealed and delivered this day and date above written. This is our obligation is as such that has the above abound to appoint Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson to be the gardeans [guardians] of the estate of Lazarous Dodson dc’d also we authorize the said Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson to make to William Dodson a deed of Conveyeance to the part of land granted to the said William Dodson North East Quarter of Section 11 Township 5 Range first east of the meridian. Also that we confirm the sale made on the 13 day of May 1826 we also agree to give unto the heirs of David Dodson a certain piece or parcel of land designated to David Dodson by Lazarus Dodson de’d be it further understood that this is to be there part and all that they are entitled to by us, where unto we have set our hand and quill this 11 day of September 1826. Abner Lea Oliver Dodson Eligha Dodson Lazarous Dodson Jesse Dodson

Witnesses: Landford and Rhodes, William Dodson

Therefore, based on the above deed, and the information for each of the individuals below, I believe that Lazarus had 7 children that lived to adulthood, and therefore, Jane probably did as well. We know for sure that the youngest three are Jane’s children.

  • Jesse
  • Elijah
  • Mary
  • Oliver
  • Lazarus
  • David
  • William

Jesse Dodson was born by 1781 or earlier as he was of age in March 1802 when he served as a juror in Claiborne Co., TN at the March term and also the June term when he was designated as “Little Jesse Dodson.” Junior or “little” in this context meant younger, not necessarily “son of Jesse.” This designation was no doubt for the purpose of distinguishing him from Rev. Jesse Dodson, a much older man who was also a resident of Claiborne County at this time. Jesse, the son of Rev. Jesse Dodson was born in 1791, thus being too young to serve as a juror in 1802.

Prior to this, Jesse Dodson Jr. was “assessed for 1 white poll” and was was included “among those living within the Indian Boundary for the year of 1797 which the county court of Grainger released the sheriff from the collection of taxes.”

Apparently these people, it had been determined, were living beyond the treaty line on Indian land and were not within the jurisdiction of Grainger Co. This part of Grainger became Claiborne in 1801 and included the area beneath Cumberland Gap that Lazarus eventually owned and was living on by 1800.

Jesse Dodson and Mary Stubblefield Dodson joined the Big Spring Baptist church “by experience” in March 1802. They received letters of dismissal from the church in Nov. 1805, but Jesse returned his letter in May 1806. Apparently in early 1807 Jesse got into a dispute with the church over a theological question which continued on through Sept 1807 when the question was dismissed. In Aug 1808, Jesse was “excluded” from the church for “withholding from the Church.” He is not again found in the records of Claiborne Co.

On June 20, 1811, one Jesse Dodson was licensed to trade with Indian tribes in Madison Co., Alabama which borders Jackson County. Descendants of this man reportedly carry the oral tradition that he was an Indian trader. Jesse was said to be the oldest son of a large family of boys. Once when the Indian trader returned from one trip and was preparing to leave on another, the father implored his older son to take along his younger brother. The trader refused, saying the boy was so inexperienced that he would be killed by Indians. The father was adamant and insisted, so the trader relented and took the boy along. The brother was killed by Indians before Jessee’s eyes. From then on there were hard feelings between the Indian Trader and his father.

This is a tradition which may have grown with the telling over the generations, but there could be some grains of truth in the tale. The land that became Jackson Co., Alabama was originally part of the Mississippi Territory and was occupied by the Cherokee until they gave it up by treaty on Feb. 27, 1819. It is certainly possible that Jesse Dodson, Indian Trader of the Mississippi territory, was a son of Lazarus Dodson, Sr.

A Jesse Dodson was on the 1830 census of Jackson Co., AL though the family statistics are puzzling. The household consisted of 2 males 5-10, 1 male 10-15, 1 male 20-30, 1 female under 5, 1 female 10-15, 1 female 30-40 and 1 female 50-60. This would not be Jesse Dodson the Indian Trader unless he were away from home on the date of the census enumeration or unless the census taker made an error in recording the statistics. We have no record of the children of this Jesse Dodson.

Elijah Dodson, based on the 1826 deed, was also a son of Lazarus Dodson Sr, although there were multiple Elijah Dodsons. Elijah appears to be connected in the records of Claiborne with Martin Dodson and Jehu Dodson who are not mentioned in the 1826 deed. Elijah was born in 1790 in Hawkins County according to information in the Oregon Donation land claims. He died in Yamhill Co., Oregon in 1859. His first wife was Mary, surname unknown, whom he married March 12, 1807 in “Clayborn Co, Tn.”. His second wife was Elizabeth surname unknown who died in the Autumn of 1854. They were married in September of 1848 in Polk Co., Oregon.

In the June 1805 term of court, Claiborne Co., TN, Elijah along with Jehu was appointed as a road hand to work on a road of which Martin Dodson was overseer. It was a segment of the Kentucky road from the top of Wallen’s ridge to Blair’s creek. In August 1814 Elijah proved a wolf scalp he had killed in 1814 and at the August term 1815 he served as a juror. There are no records of Elijah in Claiborne beyond this date.

It is possible that Elijah eventually went to Henry Co., Ohio and Clay Co., Missouri before moving to Oregon where he made a claim to land in Yamhill Co. on which he lived from Feb 1848 until his death. It is believed that two of his sons were with him in Oregon. The record stated that his first wife left 6 children.

Mary Dodson

Abner Lea is certainly an interested party in the 1826 deed from the heirs of Lazarus Dodson. Abner is reported (although unverified) to have been married to a Mary Dodson on November 15, 1796 in Orange County, NC. The list of Lazarus’s heirs, which apparently includes Abner Lea, strongly suggests that Mary, Abner’s wife, was the daughter of Lazarus Sr. Abner’s birth date is reported to be about 1770 in Caswell County, NC, so too young to be a brother-in-law to Lazarus Sr. and about the right age to have married his daughter.

In 1810, Lazarus purchased land from Abner Lea in Claiborne County. If this is the Abner Lea born in 1770, he was about 40 in 1810. Abner Lea’s brother was James Lea, born in 1767, and in the winter of 1781/1782, Lazarus Dodson was encamped on the land patented by one James Lea in 1783 at the mouth of Richland Creek where it intersected with the Holston River, in what is now Grainger County. A James Lea family is also found on Country Creek in Caswell County, near where Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson lived before moving to the Holston River in 1778/1779.

Nothing is known about descendants of this couple.

Oliver Dodson was born August 31, 1794 in Hawkins Co., TN and died December 8, 1875 in McMinn Co., TN. He married Elizabeth, surname unknown who was born March 16, 1795 in Virginia and died Aug 7, 1883 in McMinn Co., TN. Both are buried in the Mt. Cumberland Cemetery, McMinn County.

jane-oliver-dodson

The first records of Oliver in Claiborne County are found in the court minutes in August 1815 when he proved he had killed a wolf and collected the bounty for the wolf scalp.

On January 16, 1820, Oliver was relieved as road overseer of the Kentucky Road from where Powell’s Valley Road intersects the same at Wallen’s field to the state line at Cumberland Gap. At the August term 1820 he exhibited the scalp of a wolf he had killed in Claiborne in 1819. In June, 1824 he sued William Hogan for a debt and was awarded damages and costs.

Sometime before or after these events, Oliver spent some time in Jackson Co., Alabama. where one of his sons Marcellus M. Dodson claimed to be born in 1819. By 1830, Oliver was settled in McMinn Co, TN where he lived the remainder of his life.

A chancery suit filed in McMinn in 1893 involving the estate of Oliver Dodson gives us a list of his children and some of his grandchildren. The suit, chancery case #1282 Lazarus Dodson (his son) vs Mary Jane Reynolds stated that all were nonresidents of McMInn County except for Lazarus who files for himself and as administrator of Oliver Dodson and Mary Jane Reynolds. Some grandchildren lived in Knox Co., TN and the others lived in California, Texas, Missouri, Oregon, Montana, Georgia and other states.

David Dodson, based on the 1826 deed, is also a son of Lazarus Dodson, Sr. David is not in the records of Claiborne County except for the one time when he witnessed the deed to William Hogan from Lazarus Dotson and Abner Lea in May 1819.

If it is the same David Dodson who later appeared in McMinn Co., TN, then he was probably born between 1790 and 1800. David Dodson (Dotson) died in McMinn County before the 1826 deed. David’s widow was Fanny Dotson born 1790-1800 according to the 1830 census of McMinn Co. with a household consisting of herself, 1 male 5-10, 1 male 10-15, 1 female under 5, 2 females 5-10. She is living beside Jane Dodson, the widow of Lazarus Sr. and also beside William Dodson.

The land referenced in the 1826 deed is roughly the Cochran Cemetery area, shown below, near Englewood in McMinn Co.

David Dodson who died on August 15, 1826 is reported to be buried in this Cemetery, although he is not listed on FindAGrave, so his grave is apparently unmarked. It appears that David and Lazarus may have died in very close proximity to each other relative to their death dates. Poor Jane apparently lost a husband and a son within a very short time. This makes me wonder if there was an illness that took them both.

cochran cemetery

William Dotson was living next door to Jane Dodson in 1830. His household consisted of 1 male under 5, 1 male 20-30, (so born 1800-1810) 1 female under 5, 1 female 5-10 and 1 female 20-30. He was the administrator of the estate of David Dotson and seems a little old to be a son of David and Fanny, so could conceivably be a brother instead.

In 1826 in McMinn County, we find the land in Section 11, Township 5, Range first east of the meridian being conveyed to William by “guardians of the estate of Lazarus Dodson, deceased.”

jane-mcminn-1836

1836 McMinn County district map – The Rogers Connection – Myth or Fact by Sharon R. McCormack

If William is Jane’s son, and he was born about 1800, then she would have been about 30-40 at that time, and based on the birth years of her other children, closer to 40.

A William L. Dotson was appointed one of the arbitrators between the administrators of the estates of Thomas and William Burch, decd, in June of 1834. Thomas Burch died circa 1830 and had been the administrator of the estate of his father, William Burch, who died about 1828. One of the daughters of William Burch was Mrs. Aaron Davis, apparently, a former neighbor of Lazarus Dodson in Claiborne Co. Mentioned in Thomas Burch’s estate is a note against the estate of William Burch, decd and an unidentified piece of land in Claiborne Co. Aaron Davis was a member of Gap Creek Church of Claiborne Co. TN in 1818.

There were several William Dodsons in McMinn Co and it is not entirely possible to separate them without further records, but one of them was the son of Lazarus Sr.  William L. Dodson, believed to be the son of Lazarus, was born December 11, 1804 and died August 29, 1873. I sure would like to know what the L. stood for. Lazarus, or perhaps his mother’s maiden name?  William L. is buried in the Cochran Cemetery in McMinn County, along with Lazarus’s son David. It’s likely that Jane, Lazarus Sr.’s widow, is buried in the Cochran Cemetery as well, given that she was living adjacent to David and William in 1830, and William owned the land on which the cemetery stood.

It’s possible that Lazarus Sr. is buried in the Cochran Cemetery too, although based on the land purchase back in Claiborne County in 1826, it’s also possible that he is buried in Claiborne County or even back in Jackson County, Alabama. It has never been entirely clear whether the Lazarus that repurchased that Claiborne County land was Sr. or Jr. In any event, Claiborne County is where Lazarus Sr.’s marker rests today, set by descendants in 2011 in the Cottrell Cemetery on the land Lazarus once owned.

laz dodson marker

Unfortunately, Lazarus’s death date of 1826 was inscribed incorrectly as 1816, but by the time we saw the stone for the first time, it had already been set and it was too late to change the engraving.

Jane’s Other Children

If the children listed above are all Lazarus and Jane’s children, there were other children who were born and did not survive, given that children were typically born every 18 months to 2 years. The (approximate) birth dates of the children we can identify:

  • Jesse – 1781
  • Elijah – 1790
  • Mary – 1790+, so say 1792
  • Oliver – 1794
  • Lazarus – 1795
  • David – 1790-1800, so call it 1797
  • William – 1800-1810, so call it 1804 based on the cemetery record

This means there were children born in the following approximate years, in the following locations, that did not survive:

  • 1783 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1785 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1787 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1789 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1799 – probably on White Horn Branch
  • 1801 – in Claiborne County
  • 1803 – in Claiborne County

If Jane was 60-70 in 1830, she would have had to be closer to 70, or born about 1760 to be having children by 1781, so she would have been about 40 in 1800. It’s likely that she did not have any children after William born in 1804.

Of course, we don’t know when or where those children died, or were buried. It could have been where they were born or anyplace between there and McMinn County. One son could have been killed by Indians. If that is true, Jane must have been heartsick and I’d wager there were some rather unpleasant words between Jane and Lazarus, if indeed he encouraged Jesse to take the son who was killed along on the trading expedition.

All we know for sure is that no additional children were mentioned in the 1826 deed and unlike son David, they did not leave heirs. Given that Lazarus apparently did not have a will, or if he did, it has never been found, all of his living children or deceased children with heirs would have been mentioned in the deed.

If Jesse is Jane’s son and first child, that puts her marriage year at about 1780, so she either was married in North Carolina (or bordering Virginia) and her honeymoon was spent in a wagon bouncing its way to the new frontier, or she arrived to homestead on the Holston River with her parents, whoever they were, and soon thereafter married the handsome frontiersman, Lazarus Dodson. There were probably not many spousal candidates to choose from on the Holston River, so they were both probably very pleased to marry and begin their family.

Jane’s Death and Burial

Jane died sometime after 1830 and before 1840, based on the census. In 1830 she was living beside son David Dodson’s widow and William Dodson. Later deeds show that the land owned by William Dodson conveyed in the 1826 deed includes the Cochran Cemetery near present-day Englewood.

jane-cochran-cemetery-map

We know that William Dodson is buried there and David Dodson is reported to be buried there as well, along with several other Dodsons listed on FindAGrave. Jane seems to be surrounded by her descendants.

jane-cochran-internments-2

William L. Dodson, buried in the Cochran Cemetery, is shown on FindAGrave to be the son of Elisha Dodson and Mary Matlock. Elisha is shown to be the son of the Reverend Jesse Dodson, who was the preacher at Big Springs in Claiborne County. I don’t know if this is accurate, nor do I know what documentation was utilized for this information.

Unfortunately, both the Reverend Jesse Dodson and Lazarus Dodson Sr. were both functioning in Claiborne County at the same time in the early 1800s. I do find it odd that Jesse’s son, Elisha, who died in Polk County in 1864, would have a son, William L., living beside Jane and David Dodson, in McMinn County. It’s entirely possible that Elijah and Elisha, very similar names, have been confused and intermixed.

jane-cochran-aerial

The Cochran Cemetery, where Jane is probably buried is shown above and below.

jane-cochran-from-road

County Road 479 is Cochran Cemetery Road.

jane-cochran-cemetery-road

The terrain is hilly but not mountainous and these rolling hills are what Jane saw in her last few years, living in McMinn County.

jane-cochran-distance

Mitochondrial DNA

If Mary Dodson who married Abner Lea is indeed the daughter of Jane Dodson, and if there are descendants who descend through all females to the current generation, we could test that descendant to obtain the mitochondrial DNA of Jane.

Mothers give their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of children, but only females pass it on. In order to find Jane’s mitochondrial DNA we’d need to find a descendant through her one female child, Mary – assuming that indeed Mary is Jane’s daughter.

Jane has been theorized to be a Honeycutt, given that Lazarus lives on Honeycutt Creek and has some interest in land conveyed in 1810, a Lea based on continued interaction with that family, and a Native woman since Lazarus was encamped with the Native people in 1781/1782. That may not be terribly likely since the Cherokee towns were destroyed, but then again, love has never been hindered terribly by warfare – and married to a white man might be as safe as a Native woman could be at that time.

Finding the haplogroup of Jane’s mitochondrial DNA would at least put the Native possibility, as small as it is, to sleep one way or the other, forever. Native American haplogroups are distinct from European, African or Asian haplogroups.

If you descend from Jane Dodson through daughter Mary through all females to the current generation, which can be male, please let me know. I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Autosomal DNA – The Dog’s Leg 

Can autosomal DNA help?

Well, theoretically, yes. However, in actuality, for me, today, the answer is “not exactly” or at least not in the way I intended.

I need to warn you, before we start, that this section is the proverbial dog’s leg – meaning we start in one place, and through a series of twists and turns, wind up someplace entirely different.  I debated removing this section – but I decided to leave it because of the educational value and discussion.  “The Dog’s Leg” would actually be an apt description of my entire 37+ years doing genealogy.

So, if you’re up for a bit of an adventure on twisty roads, let’s go!!!

jane-dodson-chart

The first problem we encounter is that Jane is several generations back in the tree, even to the most closely related descendants that have DNA tested at Family Tree DNA where we have chromosome data to work with.

Son Lazarus Jr. carried half of Jane’s DNA, and with each generation, roughly half of Jane’s DNA from the previous generation was lost. Today, descendants would carry anyplace from 3.12% to less than 1% of her DNA, so the chances of carrying the same segment that matches other descendants is progressively smaller in each generation.

Furthermore, today, we have no way to tell which DNA that the descendants might carry is Jane’s DNA, even if it can be attributed to Lazarus and Jane and no common ancestor downstream. In other words, Jane’s DNA and Lazarus’s DNA combined in their children and to sort it back into Jane’s and Lazarus’s individually, we have to have the DNA of Lazarus’s ancestral Dodson line and Jane’s ancestral line to be able to sort their DNA into his and her buckets. Today, we have some people from Lazarus’s line, but obviously none from Jane’s, since we don’t know the identity of her parents or siblings.

To know whose DNA is whose, we’d need matching DNA from Lazarus Sr.’s siblings descendants, for example. That, we may be able to obtain. However, we don’t have that information about Jane.

For the record, the person labeled “Tester,” below, in red has not tested today. If they were to test, because they descend through Lazarus Dodson Jr. through a second wife, if that red tester matches any of the green testers, we would know for sure that their common DNA is that of Lazarus Jr. (and not his wife), assuming no other common ancestral lines, because the green testers and red tester descend through different wives of Lazarus Jr.

jane-dodson-chart-2

While this would help us identify Dodson DNA in Lazarus Jr.’s generation, which means that DNA came from Lazarus Sr. and Jane as a couple, it doesn’t help us identify Jane’s DNA.

What Can We Tell About Jane?

So, what might we be able to tell about Jane?

I have access to the DNA results for Buster and Charlene (above) at Family Tee DNA, in addition to my own DNA results, of course.

I checked my own results for any Honeycutt, using the match search filter. There were two, and both also shared other surnames that I share. No particular common ancestral line or location was evident.

I also attempted to search for the surname Lea, but unfortunately, one cannot request only a particular match string, so the matches included any first or surname that included “lea.” Even more difficult, the matching Ancestral Surnames column often didn’t extend to the “L” names, so I can’t tell whether the matching surname is Lea or something else that includes “lea.”

That’s disappointing.

Next, let’s try Dodson.

You can see an example of the Ancestral Surnames below and only 4 rows maximum are displayed, even when expanded. The first three matches didn’t make it to the D surnames. I’m hoping this problem, which is relatively new, will be fixed soon.

jane-ancestral-surnames

I have 21 matches for Dodson, with 15 having trees. Let’s see if any of these people share my Dodson line.

Match # Common Ancestors
1 George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, Raleigh Dodson’s parents
3 Greenham Dodson and Eleanor Hightower (brother to George Dodson who married Margaret Dagord), also a Campbell line
4 George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, also a Crumley line
5 No common ancestor shown, but have Dodson in their ancestor surname list (5 matches)
6 Not far enough back to connect (5 matches)
7 Greenham Dodson and Eleanor Hightower

Some of my Dodson matches list Dodson in their Ancestral Surnames, but I don’t find an ancestor with the Dodson surname in their actual tree.

Of the people who do have Dodson ancestors in their trees, I find 4 where I can identify the common ancestor, and all 4 are some number of generations before Lazarus Sr. or even his father, Raleigh. In one case, there is also another identifiable ancestor with a different surname (Crumley) and in another line, a common surname (Campbell) but no common ancestor.  However, I’m brick walled on Campbell and the Campbell line did marry into the Dodson line in Lazarus Jr’s generation.

These Dodson matches are exciting, and here’s my dream list of what I’d like to do next:

  • What I’d really like to be able to do is to select all 21 of my matches and create a grid or matrix that shows me the people who match in common with me and any of them. Those would obviously be people who do NOT carry the Dodson surname, because people who do carry the ancestral (or current) Dodson surname are already listed in the 21.
  • Then, I’d like to see a matrix that shows me which of all these people match me and each other on common segments – and without having to push people through to the chromosome browser 5 at a time.
  • I’d like to be able to sort through all of the ICW matches (both Ancestral Surnames and direct ancestors in trees) to see if they have Honeycutt or Lea, or any other common surnames with each other. Because if the common surname isn’t Dodson, then perhaps it is Jane’s surname and finding a common surname among the matches might help me narrow that search or at least give me hints.
  • I’d like to be able to see who in my match list matches me on any particular given segment. In other words, let’s say that I match three individuals on a specific chromosome segment. I’d like to be able to search through my matches online for that information.
  • I’d like to be able to sort through my Dodson matches list by specific ancestor in their tree, like Lazarus Dodson. Today, I have to search each account’s tree individually, which isn’t bad if there are a few. However, with a common surname, there can be many pages of matches.

In the following example, I match 3 other Dodson descendants on a large segment of chromosome 5. This match is not trivial, as it’s 32 to 39 cM in length and approximately 7500 to 9000 SNPs.  These are very solid matches.

jane-chromosome-browser

  • The green person (JP) is stuck in Georgia in 1818 with a female Dodson birth, so the common ancestor is unknown.
  • The yellow person (CA) descends from George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, Raleigh’s parents, through another child.
  • The pink person (JP) has no tree but shows Dodson, Smoot and Durham in Virginia which tells me these are the early generations of the Dodson line. Thomas Dodson’s wife’s birth name was Durham and they were parents of both George and Greenham Dodson.  Smoot comes through the Durham line.

These individuals match me on the following segment of chromosome 5.

jane-segment-matches

Lazarus and Jane are 6 generations upstream from me, so George Dodson is 8 and Thomas Dodson is 9. That’s pretty amazing that this relatively large segment of DNA appears to have potentially been passed through the Dodson line for this many generations.  Note the word potentially.  We’re going to work on that word.

Regardless of how early or how many generations back, these matches are clearly relevant AND have been parentally phased to my father’s side, both by virtue of the Phased Family Matching (maternal and paternal buckets) at Family Tree DNA and by virtue of the fact that they don’t match my mother.

The next question is whether or not these people match each other, so to answer that question, I need to move to the matrix tool.

jane-matrix

Utilizing the matrix, we discover that they DO match each other. What we don’t know is whether they match each other on that particular segment of chromosome 5, but given the size of the segment involved, and that they do match each other, the chances are very good that they do match on the same segment.

Of course, since the yellow match is unquestionably my line of Dodson DNA and because my common ancestor with this person is upstream of both Lazarus and Raleigh, then this matching DNA segment on chromosome 5 cannot be Jane’s DNA.

Therefore, I’d really like to know who else I match on this specific segment, particularly on my father’s side, so that I can see if there are any additional proven Dodson lineage matches on this segment.  This would allow me to properly assign the people who match me on my father’s side on this segment as being “Dodson line,” even if I can’t tell for sure who the common ancestor is.

That function, of course, doesn’t exist via searching at Family Tree DNA today, but what I can do is to check my Master DNA Spreadsheet that I’ve downloaded to see who else matches me on that segment.  If you would like to know how to download and manage your spreadsheet, see the Concepts Series of articles.

My Master DNA Spreadsheet shows 23 additional matches on this segment on my father’s side, 8cM or larger, with two, one at 32.96 cM indicating a common Durham lineage, and another at 33.75 cM indicating a Dodson lineage.  Therefore, this segment can reasonably confidently be assigned to the Dodson side of the tree, and probably to the Durham line – an unanticipated bonus if it holds.

jane-dodson-pedigree

I would need additional evidence before positively assigning this segment to the Durham line, given the distance back in time.  I would need to be sure my Durham match doesn’t have a hidden Dodson match someplace, and that their tree is fairly complete.

While this little exercise helps me to identify Dodson DNA and possibly Durham DNA, it hasn’t done anything to help me identify Jane’s DNA.

Of course, if I had matches to people with Honeycutt or Lea DNA, then that might be another matter and we would have a hypothesis to prove or disprove. Or, if I could search for common surnames, other than Dodson, among my matches trees and Ancestral Surnames.

I’m going to try one more cousin, Buster, who is generationally closer than I am to see if he matches a Honeycutt at Family Tree DNA, by any chance. Nope, no Honeycutt.

I also checked at Ancestry, just to see if I match anyone there who also descends from Lazarus Sr., and I do not. I do, however, match 2 people through Lazarus’s father Raleigh, 15 people through Raleigh’s parents, George Dodson and Margaret Dagord and 14 people through Raleigh’s grandfather, Thomas Dodson.

If I match this many, it sure makes me wonder how many from this line have tested and that I don’t match. Of course, at Ancestry, they have no chromosome browser or matrix types of tools (without building your own pseudo-matrix using the Shared Matches feature), so there is no way to discern if your matches also match each other and there is no way to know if they match you and/or each other on the same segments.

The Ancestor Library – My DNA Daydream

I dream of the day when we will be able to recreate the DNA profiles of our ancestors and store them in an “Ancestor Library.” That way, when I identify the DNA on chromosome 5, for example, to be that of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, I can assign it to that couple in the “ancestor library.” Then, if this segment on chromosome 5 is either partially or wholly Durham, I can move it up one generation and then to the Durham ancestral line in the library.

Let me explain what this “Ancestor Library” will do for us.

Let’s say we know that a piece of DNA on chromosome 1 that was inherited from Lazarus and Jane is not Dodson DNA, and let’s say we have ideal circumstances.  We know this DNA came from Lazarus and Jane because this large common matching segment is found in three descendants through three different children. We already know what the Dodson progenitor DNA in this location looks like, because it’s proven and already in the library, and our Lazarus/Jane DNA on chromosome 1 doesn’t match the Dodson DNA in the Ancestor Library. Therefore, by process of logical deduction, we know that this segment on chromosome 1 has to be Jane’s DNA. Finally, we have an identifiable piece of Jane.

Now, let’s say we can submit this sequence of Jane’s DNA into the “Ancestor Library” to see which “ancestors” in the library match that sequence of DNA.

There could be several of course who descend from the same ancestral couple.

We obtain our “Ancestor Library” match list of potential ancestors that could be ours based on Jane’s DNA segment, and we see that indeed, there is a Honeycutt line and our DNA matches that line. Depending on how many other ancestral lines also match, the segment size, etc., this would be sufficient to send me off scurrying to research Honeycutt, even if the results don’t “prove” beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jane’s parents were.  Ancestor Library matches most assuredly would give us more to work with on that magical day, sometime in the future, than we have to work with today. In fact, the Ancestor Library would actively break down brick walls.

Ok, I’ve returned from my daydream now…but I do wonder how many years it will be until that DNA future with the “Ancestor Library” comes to pass and we’ll be able to fill in the blanks in our family tree utilizing DNA to direct our records research, at least in some cases.

The Rest of the Story – My Secret

Ok, I’ll let you in on my secret. Truth is that I’ve been working on the Ancestor Library proof of concept for over 2 years now.  In November 2016, I gave a presentation at the Family Tree DNA Conference titled “Crumley Y DNA to Autosomal Case Study – Kicking It Up a Notch” about reconstructing James Crumley from 50 of his descendants.  Just to give you an idea, this is a partial reconstruction utilizing Kitty Cooper’s tools, not quite as she intended.

james-crumley-reconstruct

Just to let you know, ancestor reconstruction can be done. It may be a daydream today in the scope that I’m dreaming, but one day, it will happen. Jane’s ancestry may someday be within reach once we develop the ability to functionally “subtract out” Lazarus’s DNA from Jane’s descendants.

In Summary

I wish we had some small snippet of Jane’s voice, or even Jane’s identifiable DNA, but we don’t. All we can do is to surmise from what we do know.

We know that Jane moved from place to place, and apparently a non-trivial number of times.

Jane’s life can be divided into frontiers.

  • Birth to 1778 – 1780 – Virginia or North Carolina, probably
  • 1780 – 1797 – Holston River between Honeycutt and Dodson Creeks, present day Hawkins County, Tennessee
  • 1797 – 1800 – White Horn Fork, near Bull’s Gap, then Hawkins County, Tennessee, today, probably Hamblin County
  • 1800 – 1819 – Gap Creek beneath the Cumberland Gap, Claiborne County, Tennessee spanning the old Indian boundary line
  • 1819 – before 1830 – Jackson County, Alabama when the Cherokee ceded their land
  • 1830 – 1840/death – McMinn County, Tennessee

The longest time Jane spent in one place was about 19 years in Claiborne County where Lazarus was a member of the Gap Creek Baptist Church by 1805.  Jane was very likely a member there too, as it would be extremely unusual for a woman not to attend the same church where her husband was a member of some status.

It’s actually rather amazing that we were able to track Jane and family at all, considering the number of places they lived and given the distances that they moved. While we do hold onto them by the tiniest threads – surely we must know how many of the threads of the fabric of Jane’s life are now irrecoverably lost – like pieces of a quilt, frayed with wear and gone.

Jane had at least three children that lived, and probably a 4th since Oliver was born the year before Lazarus. She may have had 7 living children if all of Lazarus’s children were hers too – meaning she was Lazarus’s only wife. We have nothing to indicate that either Lazarus or Jane were married more than once, except for how common death was on the frontier. If all of Lazarus’s children were also Jane’s, then Jane likely had as many children that died as lived, presuming she was married for her entire child-bearing life. Losing every other child is a nightmare thought for a mother, especially today – but it was more or less expected before the days of modern medicine. Let that soak in for a minute.

One of Jane’s children may have been killed by Indians. If this is true, then that episode may have affected Jane’s relationship with her husband and potentially her son Jesse, too. Unfortunately, records during this time are scant and many are missing entirely. We will probably never know if Jesse, the Indian trader, was Jane’s son.

I hope that some day, in some way, we’ll be able to unravel the mystery of Jane’s surname. In order for that to happen, new records will either need to appear, perhaps in the form of a nice juicy chancery suit, or a family Bible needs to be found, or DNA technology needs to improve combined with some serendipity and really good luck.

In the meantime, I’ll remember Jane as the weary and infinitely patient frontier wife, repeatedly packing up and moving from one frontier to the next, for roughly 45 years, whether she really wanted to or not.

I will think of her gently caring for her grandchildren after Elizabeth Campbell Dodson died, perhaps wiping their tears as their mother was buried in a grave lost to time, not long after Jane lost her own husband, Lazarus and son David. 1826 and 1827 were grief-filled years for Jane, with one loss after another.  She buried far too many close family members.

I will think of Jane living in McMinn County in her final years, between her son David’s widow, Fanny, and their children, and son William’s family. Between those two families, Jane had 7 grandchildren living within earshot: 3 toddlers, 3 between 5 and 10 and one boy about 11 or 12. He was probably a big help to Jane and Fanny both.

I hope Jane’s golden years were punctuated by the ring of grandchildren’s voices and laughter as she gathered them around her chair in front of the fireplace on crisp winter evenings, or on the shady porch on hot summer days.  She would have regaled them with stories “from a time far away and long ago” about her journeys in wagons, across rivers before bridges and through wars into uncharted territory, where Indians and soldiers both camped in their yard at Dodson’s Ford more than 50 years earlier. I can hear her now, can’t you? “Why, they were right outside, chile.” Their eyes must have been as big as saucers. Grandma Dodson’s life was amazing!

I hope Jane’s death, when it came, was swift and kind. Ironically, she outlived her adventure-loving husband by at least 4 years and maybe more than 14. And I will always wonder if Lazarus died after suggesting to Jane that they move one more time!

Jane can never regret not having taken that leap of faith, not having followed the elusive dream, be it hers or his, or both, because it seems that they always went…well, maybe except for that one last time.

I surely hope Jane is resting in peace, because while her life is infinitely interesting to us today, with her progressive migrations to “the next” frontier, it appears that rest is probably not something Jane got much of during her lifetime.

My Son in Vietnam – The Story of Bob and Nahn

Have you ever seen a “birth” announcement for a 48 year old child’s arrival? No? Well, you have now.

nhan-birth

Meet Nahn, son of Bob Thedford. You see, Bob never knew that Nahn existed, and Nahn didn’t know how to find his father.

For 48 years, Nahn dreamed and Bob had no idea…and then one day…that all changed, thanks to a DNA test at Family Tree DNA.

I became peripherally involved in Bob and Nahn’s story in 2013 when Bob’s wife, Louise, contacted me, in shock.

Bob, Nahn and Louise’s story is a bittersweet mix of sorrow and joy. I want to let Louise tell the story. After Nahn’s discovery, Louise created a document chronicling what happened so she didn’t have to write the same information over and over again to various people who wanted to know “what happened.”

Bob’s DNA Story

I want to relate a DNA story that happen in our family that added an unexpected branch to our family tree.

I took my first mtDNA test with Family Tree DNA in early 2006 and received my mitochondrial results in June 2006. In July 2010, I received results from a Family Finder DNA test. Then in March of 2012, I received results mt Full Sequence test.

When I was ordering my mt Full Sequence upgrade, I mentioned to my husband what I was doing. He said, “I want to take a DNA test. Can you order me a kit?”  So I placed an order for him for a Family Finder kit. We both received our results in March of 2012. At that time we had no idea of the life changing experience that was in store for us.

A few months later I ordered a kit for my son, our daughter and Bob’s mother. It was worked out between all of us that I would be the administrator of all kits. Checking on matches, following up on e-mails, contacting matchings. Anything that needed to be done to connect with distant cousins.

In September of 2013 we discovered that my husband had a Skin Cancer. It was caught in the early stages and we had hope that with proper treatment he could be cured.

Toward the end of September 2013, I went on-line to check all the FTDNA profiles for new matches. I have to login into each profile one at a time.

I would always check my profile first. On this night I has a few new matches but nothing that really caught my eye at the time.

Next I logged into my husband’s profile. He had a new match near the top of his match list just under our daughter and his mother.  I sat there and stared at the screen for a couple of minutes trying to comprehend what I was seeing.

The name on the screen was one I had never heard in the past. But the shared centiMorgans between my husband and this person was in the parent / child relationship range.

Our daughter shared 3,380 centiMorgans with her father. And this person shared 3,384 centiMorgans with my husband. I kept staring at the screen and the thought that was running through my head, the lab has made a mistake!!

nhan-match

I decided to contact Roberta Estes who writes a DNA Blog.  I explained to Roberta my findings. I said, “I think I already know the answer, but could there be a mistake by FTDNA in interpreting Vo Hun Nhan’s results?”

Her reply to me was, “I have never seen the lab make a mistake of the kind it would take for this to be in error.  Having said that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, but the entire process is automated via the tag on the vials.  I can’t even imagine how it would happen.”

I had checked our daughter and my mother-in-law’s profile, finding the same name with large amounts of matching centiMorgans. I began to think that the lab had not made a mistake.

After lot of investigation and e-mails to several people, we confirmed that Vo Huu Nhan is my husband’s 48 year old biological son. Without the DNA test we would never know of his existence. My husband had no idea that he had a son.

On October, 15, 2013, Bob reached out to Nahn’s contact, asking how to contact Nahn. Bob served in the Vietnam War from March 1968 to March 1969. Nhan was born in August 1969.

After my husband returned to the States he had 8 months left on his tour of duty. He was sent to Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama to finish out his tour. Huntsville is my home and that is where we first came to know each other.

Bob’s tour of duty was over in December 1969 and he returned back home to Fort Worth, Texas. It was not long after he returned back to Texas, that me and my 5 year old son moved to Fort Worth.

Four days after Bob reached out to Nahn’s contact, we received this letter about what Nahn said when he was told that they had found his father.

“I just received a message from Nhan’s best friend (Son Tran who introduced Nhan to me and asked me to give Nhan a chance to have a DNA test) that Nhan was very happy about the news… He said that “he would not be happier if someone gave him a million dollar than give him a father!!”

The results of the DNA test were bittersweet. All of the family was overly excited to have found Nhan but were sad to find out that for all these years we did not know of his existence. Nhan lives in South Vietnam in the Mekong Delta, he doesn’t speak English and does not own a computer.

All Nhan had been told about his father was that he was an American G.I. and his name was Bob. That was after he came home crying and asking his grandmother “Why the kid’s made fun of him and why did he look different compared to everyone else.” He looks more like Bob’s father than looks like Bob. Another thing we couldn’t deny after seeing a picture of him.

How Nhan came to know about the DNA test was through a childhood friend that lives in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). His friend Dang Van Son had heard that DNA kits were being brought to Saigon and that they were looking for “Children Left Behind” to come and take the test.

nhan-with-friend

Nahn and his friend, Son, in Vietnam. Son arranged for Nahn’s DNA test.

Son contacted Nhan and told him he should come and take the test. They only had 80 test kits to go around. I don’t know how many came for the test but Nhan was able to be tested.

After we confirmed that all was legit. Son began to e-mail us and send pictures of Nhan and his family as well as send messages from Nhan.  Nhan has 5 children, 1 son and 4 daughters.

nhan-with-children

Nahn has 3 grand-children by two daughters. This added 9 new family members to my Family Tree. Nhan has been married twice. One marriage ended in divorce and his second wife died of liver cancer about 2008.

Nhan had several jobs in Vietnam so I was told by his friend Son. Porter in market, rescue diver, worked on a floating market boat.

nhan-working

On Christmas morning of 2013 we received a call from Vietnam. It was Nhan calling to wish us a Merry Christmas. His friend Son’s daughter translated. Then we received an e-mail picture of the family. We were able to Skype with him one time before my husband passed away.

In 2014, Louise and Bob discovered how difficult Nahn’s life had been. Nahn’s friend, Son, sent them the following:

nhan-letter-2

You can learn about the lives of mixed American and Vietnamese children in this YouTube video, along with information about Trista Goldberg who founded Operation Reunite and partnered with Family Tree DNA to reunite these families.

Louise continues:

On April 17, 2015 before Bob passed away a few days later on April 26, the Washington Post published an article “Legacies of War” Forty years after the fall of Saigon, soldiers’ children are still left behind. They profiled 5 children still looking for their father’s. The lead story was about my husband and Nhan.

There is a picture in the article where they are sitting in front of the computer. The reporter is Skyping with our daughter Amanda for the story. That is Amanda on the screen. The second story is about Nhan’s childhood friend Dang Van Son that has been such a help to us and Nhan with keeping us in touch with each other.

nhan-skyping

Amanda and Nahn Skyping.

On the day Bob passed away, our local paper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s front page story was the story about my husband and Nhan from the Washington Post, Legacies of war connect Vietnam, Tarrant County.

It was so surreal to be walking to the coffee shop and pass all the newspaper’s boxes and see Bob and Nhan’s picture in the window of the boxes. Bob was in hospice at the hospital and we knew it was a matter of time, and shortly he would not be with us anymore.

By the time these articles were published my husband was to the point of non-communication. The Washington Post had wanted to Skype with me and Bob but it was not possible. Bob passed away on Sunday night, April 26, 2015.

I knew that Bob was critically ill, then Louise informed me that Bob had passed away. I was just heartsick that Bob and Nhan never had the opportunity to meet in person. It seemed that a dream for both Bob and Nahn, so close, finally within reach, had just slipped away. I thought, at that time, that this was the end of the story, and certainly not the ending any of us wanted – but it wasn’t the end after all.

Twenty-one months later, I heard from Louise again, this time with very unexpected news.

A Visa for Nahn

Again, from Louise:

In October of 2015 we received an e-mail from Trista Goldburg the person with “Operation Reunite” who bought kits from Family Tree DNA and took them to Saigon for testing.

She had received an e-mail from Franc Shelton, Country Fraud Prevention Coordinator, Mission Vietnam FPU, U.S. Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Dear Trista,

I hope you are well.  I would like to  encourage you to reach out to the family of Robert Thedford and urge the daughter of Mr. Thedford to consider undergoing another DNA collection, and to pay for a collection here at the consulate for Mr. Vo, at one of the approved labs from the list I sent you.

We just had a case in which we were able to close out because the parties involved proceeded in the manner which I discussed with you—in that case, the American father is practically indigent, but fortunately there were Viet Khieu benefactors in California who generously paid for the testing.  I moved that case to the front of the line and expedited all our procedures-we collected the alleged son’s sample here on 30 September and had the results back 2 weeks later (99.99%).  I hand-carried the results to the immigrant visa unit and strongly encouraged them to expedite their own processes (I have no control over that however).

Amanda was going to take a second test and we would pay for the test. The lab closest on the AABB Accredited Relationship (DNA) Testing Facilities list was, University of North Texas, Fort Worth, Texas.

When Amanda contacted them she was told they no longer did DNA testing. She replied back to Trista and let her know what she found. There were a few more letters exchanged. Amanda never did take a second test. We did not hear anything more for several months until July of this year when we received and e-mail from Nhan with a copy of his and his daughters Immigration Visa’s.

Nahn’s Letters

I have to share with you two letters Nhan sent to me. I feel sure his friend Son wrote the letter as Nhan dictated them. They are so sweet.

DEAR  MU USA  MUM,

ALLOW  ME  TO CALL    YOU  AS  MY USA  MUM.

IAM HAPPY THAT I HAVE  TWO  MUM  IN THE WORLD

  1. USA  MUM,
  2. VIETNAMSE MUM,

HAVE  GOOD MORNING MY USA MUM.

MAY GOD BLESS US

MY WARMEST REGARDS  TO YOU AND THE FAMILY,

STEP SON OF  LOVED HUSBAND  OF YOU.

VO HUU  NHAN.

1/JULY 2016 DEAR  MY USA MOTHER,

And another letter.

I DO  THANK  TO EVERY-ONE  WHO HELPED  ME  IN DNA  TESTING RESULLT,  AND BASING ON DNA TEST RESULT  I  KNOW  YOUR HUSBAND  IS  MY  BIOLOGCAL FATHER,

  DEAR  MY USA  MOTHER WITH YOUR  HELP  TODAY  I   WILL  OWN  FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE  TO HELP ME,

I WILL  WORK  TO BE COME  AN US CITIZEN AS SOON AS I CAN,

I ALWAYS  AM  PROUD  OF MY US FATHER

I PRAY FOR HIM  DAILY   AND NOW HE HAS HIS LIFE  ON THE HEAVEN IT IS  THE BEST LIFE FOR HIS SOUL

AND I THINK HIS SOUL  ALWAYS  SHOW ME  THE WAY TO GO TO ——–

THANK   US MOTHER!

APPLICANT: VO HUU  NHAN

 11/JULY/2016

A Christmas Surprise

As these events unfolded, I was pulling for Louise and Bob, and rooting for Nahn, but without understanding the immigration process, there was little I could do to help. In fact, I didn’t think there was much anyone could do to help Nahn.

When Louise’s update e-mail arrived a few days after Christmas in 2016, it was with pictures – of Nahn – here – with her in the US. I was amazed, to put it mildly. A miracle had happened.

nhan-with-louise

Nahn and his American Mom, Louise

Not only that, but Nahn arrived with his mother and his youngest daughter – and not just to visit, but to live in the US permanently.

nhan-mother-daughter

Nahn, his Vietnamese mother and daughter in Texas, a few days after arrival, visiting Louise.

I asked Louise how Nahn’s arrival felt, for her and Amanda, given that Bob was gone and had so much wanted to meet Nahn. In a very real way, they were living Bob’s dream for him.

Yes it was a bittersweet reunion without Bob being here to enjoy it with us. Our daughter, Amanda, was excited about the meeting. She is my and Bob’s only child and now she has two half brothers.

nhan-with-amanda

Nahn and Amanda, half-siblings, meeting for the first time in Texas.  I love their smiles.  They look so happy!

Amanda has lived such a different life than Nhan. Nothing extravagant, her father has a hard-working police officer and worked a second part time job for 23 years to allow me to stay home with Amanda. Amanda earned her own way through college, but had so many more opportunities than Nahn. It’s so sad that Bob never knew Nahn existed.

Nhan has been able to prove he has an American father. Nhan, his youngest daughter, 12 year’s old, and his mother have been granted immigration visa’s. Nhan, his mother and daughter arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday night December 20th, 2016, thirty-six hours after leaving Vietnam.

I thought that Nahn and his family came for a visit, but that’s not the case, according to Louise.

My understanding is that Nhan, his mother and daughter plan to make Texas their new home. Currently they are living in Dallas, which is an hour or so from where I live. I am in contact with their Refugee Resettlement Case Worker at Refugee Services of Texas.

The case worker told me the night they arrived it was very cold, they came with one small bag of clothes and the clothes they had on. Clearly they weren’t prepared for winter. The next day, helping them settle in, she took them to a Walmart and said they walked in and their eyes got big and they said “WOW”!!!!!!!!!

Their case worker said her next goal is to help Nahn find a job. She will also help him learn how to ride a bus for transportation.

Nahn and his family have so many obstacles to overcome living here. The major one is the language barrier. None of them know any English except “Thank You, Hello” and “WOW” although they are already taking English classes.

nhan-with-daughter

Nahn and his daughter – their first Christmas in Texas, a few days after arrival.

In many ways, Nahn, his mother and daughter represent the journey of so many of our ancestors who arrived with the hope of making better lives for themselves and their children. They too arrived without knowing the language and with few, if any, belongings. The difference is that they often arrived in a group of other immigrants from the same country – so they had extended family and help – and others who could speak the language. Nahn and his small family arrived in a group of just 3.

I can only think how difficult the life they left must have been to warrant this kind of foray, really a leap of incredible faith, into an totally unknown world where an entirely uncertain future is more attractive than one’s current life. Nahn, his mother and daughter are incredibly brave. At some level, they must certainly be unspeakably frightened too.

I would be terrified, wondering how I would eat, how I would live, where I would live and would I be able to find work to provide for myself, my mother and a daughter with special needs.

One thing is for sure, Bob would be busting-the-buttons-off-his-shirt proud of Nhan.

How to Help

Knowing my blog readers, I know your next question will be how you can help Nahn and his family. I’m not sure what they will need from day to day, and what has already been taken care of. Please feel free to contact Nhan’s case worker, below, if you know of a job or want to help in another way.

Kate Beamon at Refugee Services of Texas
9696 Skillman, Suite 320 Dallas, TX 75243

Phone, (214) 821-4883
e-mail, kbeamon@rstx.org
http://www.rstx.org/about-us.html

Acknowledgements

A heartfelt thank you to Louise for sharing this very personal story of her family’s journey.

Louise conveys a special thank you from her family to Bennett Greenspan at Family Tree DNA.

GeneaBlog Awards and GeneAwards

geneablog-awards

Tamura Jones’ blog, Modern Software Experience, has been awarding GeneaBlog Awards since 2006. I’ve been fortunate enough in the past to garner a mention for individual articles, but this year, I hit the motherlode.

I’m honored that Tamura has recognized DNA-Explained as the Best All-Around Genetic Genealogy Blog in his 2016 GeneaBlog Awards, one of only four awards he gave this year.

I’m in fine company, mind you, in 2016 and earlier as well.

I found it very interesting to view the awards from 2008-2015, listed at the bottom of the 2016 awards. If you click on his Awards page, you can see Awards back through 2006 and several “Best and Worst” articles in his GeneAwards series as well, including for 2016.

geneawards

Guess who garnered the “worst new app” for 2016. If you guessed We’re Related, you’re right. Never let the truth interfere with a good story. I’m with you Tamura!

One of my favorite all-around blogs is ClueWagon, which Tamura has consistently mentioned over the years. One of the reasons I love ClueWagon is that Kerry makes me laugh. Every time. How can you not love ClueWagon? I mean, her tag line reads, “My name is Kerry. I like dead people.” Oh, and if you want to read about what Kerry has to say about why your new Ancestry DNA matches don’t have trees, click here.

Blaine Bettinger’s blog, The Genetic Genealogist, was honored by Tamura back in 2008, in the genetic genealogy dark ages. Blaine’s blog was all of a year old in 2008! In fact, I think it was the only Genetic Genealogy blog back then. My how times have changed!

In 2015, Jim Bartlett’s wonderful blog, Segmentology, was awarded Best New Genetic Blog. Now don’t be confused by this, Jim isn’t new to genetic genealogy. In fact, I found him in the 2005 photos I took at the Family Tree DNA Genetic Genealogy Conference held in Washington DC at the National Geographic Society. It just took the rest of us all that time into nagging Jim into blogging.

Thanks Tamura for having the love for genealogy to do this every year and taking the time to create your realistic, thought-provoking articles and entertaining product reviews. Love them or hate them – you make all of them interesting – and hopefully save the rest of us a lot of frustration and heartache along the way!

New Year’s Genealogy Resolution – Hey, Look, ANCESTOR

heart

As genealogists, we love genealogy, right?

So we certainly don’t need to be encouraged to work on genealogy. Often, we have to be encouraged to stop working on genealogy – like to do bothersome things like eat and sleep.  Oh yes, and work.

However, sometimes, I find myself researching haphazardly without direction, and I don’t seem to ever get anything “done,” as if there is such a thing in genealogy.  This is the genealogical equivalent of “SQUIRREL” aka “ANCESTOR.”

For me, goals give me direction and clarity. If I wake up in the morning without a plan for the day, I’m much less likely to accomplish anything.

Once a year we make New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions give us the opportunity to reflect upon what is important to us and how we might go about achieving those things.

But more importantly, resolutions are promises to ourselves. And in my case, a commitment to my ancestors.

I only have one Genealogy Resolution this year.

I know, I know….how can there just be one?

Well, defining what is the MOST IMPORTANT lets me focus on that one goal, without distractions. Ok, with hopefully only a few distractions. Scratch that. I welcome distractions, but only if they are brick walls falling on other lines. See, I’m already distracted. Just thinking about brick walls falling does that to me.  Which is exactly why I need a focused plan.

resolution

I love the 52 Ancestors stories because they give my ancestors’ lives shape.  Birth, death, where they lived, what happened during their lifetimes, what we know or can figure out about each of them and weave into a story – including something about DNA for each of them. These articles bring these people, who are part of me, to life.  And because the articles are online, they can be updated as more information is discovered. How’s that for optimistic! Plus, the stories are available for posterity and they function as “cousin bait.”

Notice, I didn’t say 52 stories.  I want my goal, promise, resolution to be achievable. I don’t want to get discouraged and set myself up for “failure” if I miss a week for some reason. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is how we phrase the goal!

Let’s face it, sometimes life just gets in the way. Sometimes the research and gathering of information for a particular ancestor is particularly intense. Sometimes, I have to wait for information to arrive. Sometimes I need to find someone to DNA test, or order upgrades.  Sometimes we find out that we were, uh, cough…um, wrong…and we have to do some revising.  Ok, we have to saw the whole darned branch off the tree and start over. Dang!

I’d be very happy with 50 stories, truthfully!

This isn’t like that age old promise to exercise more, which, by the way, I’ve already abandoned this year – in favor of genealogy research. I mean, really, who has time for  sweating when there are ancestors who need to be found???

Plus, now that I’ve shared my resolution with you, you are all going to hold me accountable! Right?

Do you have a genealogy resolution for 2017?  Do share!