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!
I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.
Thank you so much.
DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- Family Tree DNA
- MyHeritage DNA only
- MyHeritage DNA plus Health
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload
- 23andMe Ancestry
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
- Legacy Tree Genealogists for genealogy research
any suggestions on the BEST test to take to find out ethnicity and such?
Right now it’s the Family Finder test at http://www.familytreedna.com. Having said that, we don’t yet have results back yet for the new Geno 2.0 test, so we may discover that one is better. We just don’t know yet. You can read about that one at http://www.genographic.com.
Thanks for the article, Roberta. It gives me hope that an adoptee like myself can find some “roots” through careful analysis of DNA test results. I’m so looking forward to the Geno 2.0 results.
this was a fascinating read because I have much the same problem! I am trying to find a match for my cousins dna and I wondered how this would be possible. Could you let me know more about this? I have sent in his dna and he has only 2 matches with different surnames. I thought I would at least find out the paternal ancestry, but I do not even know for sure the maternal ancestry! I wasn’t aware you could get someone to do it for you!
Carolyn J Inman email:firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m researching a Smith line that has more Baker surname matches thank Smith ones, and there is no family story of adoption or illegitimacy. Could it be possible that the name was changed somewhere down the line, or should I assume the adopted or illegitimate child theory? My father tested at 37 markers with no matches yet at that level, but with 13 matches at the 25 level with 2 of them being Baker’s. He also has 4 (distant) Baker matches at Ancestry.
Every situation is different and you can’t assume anything. Since you do have some Smith matches, it’s not like there compelling evidence of an NPE. It’s unusual to match people of other surnames in addition to your own. It’s when it’s instead of your own that you need to start thinking about alternative explanations:)
Nice writeup and sleuthing. Specially the methodology about developing a Y-STR fingerprint.
For R1b, does anyone have any updates to these 5 year old 67 Marker Y-STR frequency tables which Leo Little had produced?
I am looking for some updated R1b 111 Marker Y-STR frequency tables.
I am familiar with this new writeup at: http://www.wiik.fi/kalevi/Wiik_Haplogroup_R1b.pdf and also this http://www.smgf.org/ychromosome/marker_details.jspx
With the new Geno 2.0 test, they may be able to ID their terminal Y-SNP or close to it …. but to dig further they are going to still have to take a Y-67 or Y-111 Marker test at FTDNA.
I do have a frequency table like that, but I have compiled it over the years and use it for my clients when I do the DNA reports.
I love the story and am eagerly awaiting the next chapter!
Good job, I wish I could get you to do a search like that for me. I am not getting anywhere due too a lack of understanding. I am able to identify matches, but I do not know how to do marker comparisons. I have done the 67 markers at FTDNA, also Family finder, and 23 and me, and at this time I am awaiting the results of Geno 2.0. If you really love a good mystery, see if you can find a solid match for the father of my great grandfather. I have matches in the Quinn DNA project, but not being able to evaluate markers, leaves me with a blank. I’m in a hole and still digging, get me out of here.
This is exactly what the Personalized Report does. Just be aware that not everyone’s story is as remarkable as Mr. Jones.
Just a quick note: The Smith DNA Project (Official for all locations) at FamilyTreeDNA is a public website. http://www.smithsworldwide.org/ and we also have one at FamilyTreeDNA as we are the official Smith project. We do have a lot of custom charts and trees so in order to create a more full featured DNA project, we house it on our own domain. Kit 23129 lists his line under Jones but of course his pedigree file in the project shows unknown Smith http://www.smithsworldwide.org/tng/pedigree.php?personID=I19166&tree=tree1 – and he matches with a group that we prefer people link to rather than copy/paste. We welcome all those who are Smith/Schmidt/Smyth/Smythe/Smidt et all of all locations. The join link is here http://www.smithsworldwide.org/smithsjoin.asp
5 years after original post….better late than never???
I have this problem also.
My 4th gr gf Isaac Vinson Jones, married Rhoda Elizabeth Smith.
It gets worse. Their granddaughter Nancy Jones, married William Anderson. And their daughter married Michael Robinson.
Despite this collection of common surnames, I have actually found 23 ‘hypothetical’
DNA matches to Isaac Vinson Jones and an equal amount to my Smith ancestor. From AncestryDNA, so I dont know how many are legit, but I also (fingers crossed) assume that at least some of them are right.