I just love a good mystery – don’t you? To be good, it has to have some romance of course, a villain, an interesting plot with a twist, a couple red herrings and an unexpected outcome. Personally, I like happy endings too – I just don’t want them to be too predictable.
Well, welcome to the Smith and Jones mystery. And no, those names have not been changed to protect anybody. They are quite real.
When I receive an order for a Personalized DNA Report, I send the client a short questionnaire to complete. They have the opportunity to tell me why they tested their DNA, their goals, ask any specific questions, and to provide their genealogy so I have something to work with. In addition, I customize the cover of their report with their family photos if they so desire.
When Mr. Jones returned his questionnaire, in answer to the questions about why he tested, he gave this response:
“My paternal grandfather was the son of an unwed mother. So my paternal line doesn’t go back very far. I really hope the DNA can help me find out who my paternal ancestors were. So far, the indicators are they are Smiths from Bladen County, North Carolina.”
I cringed when I saw this. Here’s a Jones who thinks he’s a Smith. How am I ever going to straighten this out with these extremely common surnames?
In the genealogy section, he gave me a little more information.
His paternal grandfather, William Hobson Jones, below, was born in 1902 in Bladenboro, NC to unwed mother Emma Elizabeth Jones.
Those are all the facts I had to work with, other than his DNA results themselves, of course.
To begin, I checked the haplogroup hoping for something exotic that will serve as a differentiator. R1b1a2-U106 – so no luck there. However, when I prepared his marker frequency chart, he did have 3 very rare marker values. Great. Now we are getting someplace.
I divide marker values into three categories. Very rare marker values occur in 6% or less of the haplogroup population, rare markers in less than 25%, and the balance are just unremarkable. It’s the rare and very rare markers that give me something to work with, because they form a very specific genetic family surname “fingerprint.” In this case, Mr. Jones’ marker 458 carried a value of 15 which occurs in 2% of the haplogroup R1b population, 576 with a value of 16 which occurs 6% of the time and 444 with 14 that occurs only 1% of the time. These are the litmus paper tests of a real match. In addition to these very rare marker values, he had 9 additional rare markers that can be used to refine the match criteria. We’re in good shape for matching.
Mr. Jones had tested at 67 markers, but he had no matches at that level. However, at 37 markers, he had 3 matches, and they were all to Smith men, none of whom had tested at 67 markers. Now there’s a good indicator that he was right, that his genetic line is indeed Smith. His exact match listed his oldest ancestor as being from Germany, but gave no name. His one mutation match showed his oldest ancestor as Jeremiah Smith born 1795 NC and his 2 mutation match showed no information at all. None of these matches had uploaded GEDCOM files. Disappointing. With more information, this would have been much easier, but it wouldn’t be a good mystery without some glitches!
At 25 markers, he only had 7 matches, but at 12 markers, he had a whopping 536. Obviously his first panel was too vanilla to be very useful, but of course, I did check for additional Smith men. None to be found. Just the 3, but those 3 are all very solid.
Sometimes, at this point, projects are a saving grace. Project administrators are amazing people and put forth a lot of work, sort families, collect genealogies, etc. The Smith DNA project does not have a public website at Family Tree DNA, but they do have a private site.
At their site, I found a group of Smiths who match Mr. Jones, descended from one Moses Jones of Bladen County. Huh? This stopped me in my tracks for a minute, until I realized that this is my client’s kit number, and the Jones family, meaning Emma’s father’s line, indeed, does go back to a Moses Jones. This would be irrelevant were it not incorrect, because Moses Jones’ male Y-line does not match the Smiths. The only Jones line that matches a Smith is the one descended from his daughter Emma who had a child outside of wedlock, apparently by a Smith.
By this time, I was chomping at the bit to work with the genealogy records. William Hobson Jones was born in 1902, so I was hopeful I could find his mother, Emma Jones, in the 1900 census. The first rule in begetting is that the begetters must have physical proximity to each other – and the traveling salesman is the exception, not the rule.
Sure enough, in the 1900 census, there was Emma, right with her parents Nathan and Elizabeth Jones. Emma was much older than I had expected, age 36. She would have been considered a spinster in that time and place, and was probably considered a burden to her family. Having a child would not have improved that situation any.
However, we have hit the proverbial jackpot here. Take a closer look…..at the next door neighbor.
Claudius Smith is the neighbor….but wait….with his wife Glenora Smith. Ok, let’s see if any of their sons are old enough to be the father of Emma’s child. Nope, the oldest son is only 13, but Claudius himself is 38, just 2 years older than Emma. Hmmm…..looks like maybe Claudius is the father, or at least he’s our best candidate right now. Now Claudius might not be the father, but I’d wager that it is someone in his family, like a brother or uncle perhaps, if it is not him. This Smith family is the best candidate due to the old begetters proximity rule.
This also might explain why Emma didn’t marry the father. I wonder if she ever told anyone the identity of the father. The family today certainly didn’t know.
Simple morbid curiosity got the best of me at this point. I just had to look in the 1910 census to see if Claudius Smith and the Jones family were still neighbors. Was there a feud? Did someone move? Imagine my surprise to see Claudius married to Emma who had borne 4 children by this point. What happened to Glenora? And why did my client not tell me about this? Surely he must have known. Looking closer, this Emma is all of age 28 and her oldest child is 4….and flipping the census page, Emma Jones, along with her son Willie, age 6, indeed are still living next door, now in her brother’s household. It seems that perhaps Claudius liked woman named Emma. Maybe he was a widower when Emma Jones became pregnant.
I wondered if I could connect Claudius Smith with the Jeremiah Smith born in 1795 in NC shown as the oldest ancestor of one of Mr. Jones’ Smith matches. I checked various sources, and Ancestry had a tree that pushed this particular Smith family back another generation, but not to Jeremiah. This could probably be done, but not with the time alloted for genealogy in a DNA report. I needed to look for other tools. http://trees.ancestry.com/owt/person.aspx?pid=19139247
Chess Smith is shown as Claudius’s father and Elizabeth Ann Blackburn as his mother. And yes, I’m fully aware that online trees should not be taken at face value, but they are good starting points and cannot be presumed to be incorrect either, especially if they confirm a suspected fact. In this case, that didn’t happen – no Jeremiah.
Fortunately, Mr. Jones had also taken a Family Finder test. He of course had Smith matches. Who doesn’t? But he also had three Blackburn matches. The addition of this single female line surname gave me something concrete to look for. I suggested that Mr. Jones contact his Blackburn autosomal matches to see if they can connect to the Chess Smith line.
So, at the end of the day that began with some level of apprehension that I might not be able to help Mr. Jones identify his genetic paternal line, we had a great research plan in hand.
We had discovered that the neighbor’s name was Smith, and he was married with 11 children in 1900, which might just explain why Emma never married the father of her child. Of course, there might be other reasons too, like the father wasn’t Claudius, but another Smith relative. It looks very promising, using autosomal tools to find Chess Smith’s wife’s surname, Blackburn, that this is indeed the correct Smith family.
Mr. Jones has some genealogy homework to do on the Chess Smith line, and some contact homework to do with his Blackburn matches, but now he does indeed have the information along with the tools he needs to solve the Jones-Smith mystery and break down that brick wall!
And thank you, Mr. Jones for permission to share your exciting family story!