Proving Men Whose Y-Lines Don’t Match Are Related

Younger Store cropped

The old “Younger Store” in Halifax County, Virginia


Yes, I’m shouting.  This is a 30 year BINGO – a wall that DNA just tore down!!!  WOOHOO

Good thing you can’t see my happy dance.  I wouldn’t care right this moment, but I’m POSITIVE I’d be embarrassed later.

Ok, so taking deep breath here – here’s the story.

The Younger Men

I descend from Marcus Younger of Halifax County, Virginia, through his daughter Mary who married George Estes in 1786.  Marcus was born probably somewhat before 1740 in either Essex County, Virginia.  Our first positive record of him is in 1780 when he gave to the Revolutionary War cause “1 gallon, 2 quarts and 1/2 pint brandy.”  We don’t know who Marcus’s wife was, but she may have been a Hart or a Ferguson.  Marcus moved to Halifax County, Virginia shortly after the war and subsequently died there in 1815 with a will listing his children.  There were also subsequent chancery suits relating to his estate, thankfully, that reveal a great amount of information about his children and their lives.  Marcus had only one son, John, born in 1760.  Mary was probably his second child as her husband, George Estes, was born in 1761.

Also living in close proximity to Marcus Younger in Essex County, near the border with Queen and King, was Thomas Younger who was significantly older than Marcus, but was not his father.  Thomas appears in deeds in Essex County, Virginia in the 1740s, but was in King and Queen County in 1752.  Thomas moved to Halifax County by 1765 when he is found on a tax list and died there in 1791, with a will that was witnessed by both Marcus Younger and Marcus’s son John.  This alone suggests strongly that Marcus was not the son of Thomas because heirs generally did not witness wills unless they were nuncupative wills taken orally just before the person died, and Thomas’s was not.  Furthermore, there were chancery suits following both Thomas and Marcus’s deaths that tell us exactly who their heirs were.  This will-witnessing also suggests an extremely close relationship between Thomas Younger and Marcus Younger.  But what, exactly, was that relationship?

Thomas’s parents were Alexander Younger and Rebecca Mills.  Alexander died in Essex County in 1727, with a will.  He had three sons, Thomas, above, James who married a Nash and is well accounted for, and a John who died between 1725 and 1727 when Alexander’s estate is settled.  Almost nothing is known about John.  In addition, there were 5 sisters, only two of which are even somewhat accounted for beyond 1732 or as adults.  This indeed may be a very important clue to the Marcus puzzle.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Descendants of Thomas Younger and of Marcus Younger both took the Y DNA test some years ago, and we were absolutely stunned to discover that their Y DNA did not match.  We have two descendants of John, only son of Marcus, and they do match each other, but no other Youngers.

The several descendants of Thomas Younger match each other and also the descendants of Alexander’s other son, James.  So Marcus seems to be related to the family, carries the surname, but does not share a direct paternal ancestor on his father’s side.

Our candidates for his parents are quite limited.

Barring a totally unknown Younger person, we have the following candidates.

John Younger, son of Alexander, brother to Thomas – but that would also mean that John was not the biological son of Alexander but did share a mother since Marcus’s descendants autosomally match this line today.  Since Alexander’s estate paid to register the death of John, that implies that John was not yet married at the time of his death and responsible for himself.  This pretty much eliminates John.

The other alternative is that Marcus is the illegitimate child of one of Alexander’s daughters.  His daughters were named Ann, Mary, Janet, Susannah and Elizabeth.  Unfortunately, three of those names are repeated in Marcus’s daughters, but it could effectively eliminate Janet and Ann, unless Marcus had a child with that name that died young and he did not reuse the name as so many people did at that time.  As it turns out, Ann and Janet married about 1732, but we have no information on the other 3 daughters other than they were minors at their father’s death in 1727 and Thomas was appointed their legal guardian in 1732.

This scenario, that Marcus was the child of one of Alexander’s daughters would fit what we do know about this family both genetically and genealogically.

The DNA Jackpot

This brings us to today.  And what a day it is.  Until now, none of the descendants of Marcus Younger autosomally matched the descendants of Thomas Younger, at least not that we could prove.       pot of gold                 

I manage the kit of one of the descendants of John Younger, Marcus’s son, we’ll call him Larry.

I received a query from someone about matching Larry autosomally.  I sent the note that I always do, with some basic genealogy info.  What I received back was a pedigree chart screen shot from the match, who we’ll call David, that included Thomas Younger as his ancestor.  He descended from Thomas via a daughter.

Once again, I was stunned, because here was the link we had sought for so many years…a genetic bond between Thomas and Marcus.

Of course, the first thing I did was to ask about other lines as well through which Larry and David might be related.  There were none.

Then I turned to DNA.  On the Family Tree DNA match list, Larry matches me and Larry matches David, but David is not on my match list.  This could well be because we don’t have any segment matches above the match threshold of approximately 7.7cM at Family Tree DNA, but since we both match Larry, I could look at Larry’s matches and then drop the comparison level to below the matching threshold to see all of our common matches between the three of us.

Here are our default 5cM matches.

I am orange.  David is blue.  Larry is who we are being compared against.

younger 5 cm

Dropping the cM level to 1 shows us that golden nugget we have searched for so diligently.

Look at chromosome 1.  All 3 of us match on a small segment of DNA.  That DNA is Younger DNA.  And that little orange and blue segment proves that indeed, Marcus and Thomas were related.

younger 1 cm

This also means that there will be others who fall into this “too small to be a match but hugely relevant small segment” scenario.  In order to take a look, I triangulated all of the matches for my cousin Larry and David, and there were a total of 15 individuals.

But here’s the amazing part.

There are 16 people in total, including Larry and David who match.

I compared them in the chromosome browser, and downloaded all of them.  I then sorted them by chromosome and start/end segment.  Here is that oh so beautiful “proof” match on chromosome 1.

younger match chart

There are a total of 191 individual segments across all chromosomes where these people match Larry.

Of those 191 segments,  there are also 94 segments on which one or more of us also match each other.  Those are shaded green above for chromosome 1.

Of those 94 segments, only 8 were large enough to be above the matching threshold.  That means that there were a total of 86 segments that were below the matching threshold but that were useful genealogically.  On chromosome 1 above, only Larry and I would have been over that threshold, and we were already shown as matches.

Looking at those 8 large segment matches, some were between known relatives on both sides, like me and Larry on chromosome 1, but until there was someone who connected the dots and matched someone on both sides, like David, on a segment large enough to be counted as a match, the connection wasn’t there and the other matches weren’t meaningful to the question and answer of whether Marcus and Thomas were related.

David matches Larry on a large enough segment to be counted as a match on chromosomes 4 and 10, neither of which is a match to me in that location.

The golden “proof” egg, in this case, for the three of us, was hidden in a very small golden egg croppedsegment on chromosome 1 that would otherwise have gone entirely unnoticed and unreported because it was not over the match threshold.

What’s next, you ask?  I’m sending e-mails to all 15 people, of course, asking how they connect to the Younger family.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be doubly lucky today and one of them will descend from one of the unknown wives families.  We have a couple of those surnames that are theorized but unproven.  That would be like hitting the lottery twice in one day!


This story already has a most wonderful PS.  The genealogy Gods are at work.

As soon as I finished composing this article, I had an e-mail from a match to Larry.  This lady is actually his closest match, but was not in the triangulation group I had been working with.  She told me that she is an adoptee and that she was seeking information.  On the off chance that she might fit into the group I had been working with, I downloaded her segments too and added it to the spreadsheet.  Not only does she fit in the group, she also matches me as well and other proven Younger descendants. not on chromosome 1, but on 3 other common locations.

She matches Larry most closely, so she likely descends from John Younger’s line through Larry’s ancestor.  I sent this woman some photos of the Younger descendants in my line, and she replied saying this is the first actual biological family line she has ever found.  She started actively looking in 1994 when she applied for her redacted adoption information and received a razored out paper that was full of holes and looked like Swiss cheese.  I can only imagine how she must have felt.

So, of course, I did what any other insanely addicted genealogist would have done.  I stayed up half the night, literally, putting together all of my “notes” in some semblance of order so she can see her family line, photos of my trip to fine the Marcus Younger cemetery, etc.  I asked her how she feels, and she said she is very excited and it’s also a tad bit scarry.  Yes, I imagine so…knowing you’re related to a crazy genealogist.  But you know, I bet she’s doing her happy dance too.

happy dance 2Note:  Photo of Younger Store taken by Brownie Mackie in 2002 in Halifax County, Va.



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50 thoughts on “Proving Men Whose Y-Lines Don’t Match Are Related

  1. What a wonderful success story. Thanks for sharing your story with your analysis. I’ve been running into lots of these small segment matches and was wondering if I should keep track of them as I manage 10 family kits. After reading your article, I’m keeping all those small matches in my excel file.

      • I’m so happy for you!!! You’ve been searching for such a long time. And you refused to take no for a valid answer. Good job Bobbie! You’re so dedicated, and I appreciate that!!
        Best Regards,

  2. Thanks, Roberta. Great story. That confirms what I have been doing and,also, shows how crazy we can be with those little 1cm matches! Oh, well, we love those happy dances!

  3. So are you saying that you have direct male descendants of the same common male ancestor from only abt 300 years ago and none of the current direct male descendants match on their genetic Y-DNA markers but you’ve proven that they are direct male descendants from the same common male ancestor some other way? What?

  4. Roberta,

    Good lord!!! What a marvelous story, you are probably still dancing. Thank you so much for all you do.. It gives hope to al of us for our “brick walls”


  5. This is a wonderful story, so well explained, that I think I could picture both of you doing the Happy Dance! Thanks for sharing, and also, for verifying ideas that some of us may have wondered about. Who knows, maybe you and I match on a 1. LOL.

    This information makes SO much sense! We are all happy to hear when we can see a match that had been unproven.

  6. I loved story and that you have the ability to sort all this out and then explain it so well. I have 2 different surnames where we are not matching with the family we thought we were from. Hopefully we will someday be able to figure out our matches with the chromosome segments. I hadn’t thought to do that. My story on one line is pretty much like yours. Three males from what we thought was the same line did the Y test and not one of them matched which sure let the air out of our bubble. But when the FF test came out we are all matching so we are thinking it is a maternal line we are matching through. Your story just gave me some hope of eventually sorting it out.

  7. Thank you for your story. I have been trying to build clusters of matches, and i have several now, each of which has a number of those under-5cm matches. Most of the literature says to ignore them, but there is part of me that has not wanted to accept that. Your story tells me that I should not. Congratulations on your good day. You have given me a new perspective on reviewing my matches.

  8. Thanks for the mention in the PS. I have finally calmed down form doing my happy dance. It may be noted here that I am also a “crazy genealogist”. I have compiled my adoptive family’s family history for years. As in our case, Roberta, I guess that gene does run in our family!

  9. The shared DNA on chromosome 1 is not proof of a relationship. Small segments like that are shared by most people. You can compare non-related people (in a genealogical time-frame) and find such segments in common. There is a reason the DNA testing companies set the thresholds where they do for matching purposes.

    • Hi Dean, I only showed chromosome one, but as I mentioned in the story, there are many more shared segments between several known cousins. The problem is that we couldn’t see them until someone matched above the threshold.

  10. Stories like this give me and other adoptees hope that one day a match will point the way to heritage. Thanks for sharing Roberta.

    Now if we can talk more people into taking more DNA tests.

  11. Thank you for explaining these subjects so well. It makes me think that I can understand.
    I also have Alexander and Rebecca Younger, they are my 6xggrandparents- I descend through their son John, then his daughter Jane….Surnames of Dabney and Garrett are between them and me.
    I’ve always wished I was related to you somehow to benefit from all that you know- and now I find out I am….
    Dolores West

  12. This is simply wonderful . I am dancing with you ! I was just thinking about all of the thousands of hours,we all have put in searching over the years.Knowing that there just had to be some kind of relationship…This is huge ! Hugs for a job well done 🙂

  13. Good work. Side note – I married an “Estes” who decended from Moses who was the brother of George who married Mary Younger. Who would ave thought that the 2 families would meet again like this.

    • It would be interesting to see if you match your wife. I’m not entirely convinced that the Estes and Younger group did not have earlier marriages in Essex County because they lived adjacent there and then moved to Halifax and Moses lived adjacent a William Younger. If your wife is game, that would be a very interesting comparison because we know she is not descended from Marcus like I am, so comparing to me would not be useful for this little experiment.

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  15. So let me get this straight, I am related thru John, Marcus’ son, you don’t believe Marcus was Thomas’ son but the son of one of his daughters? That would be fantastic info.
    So who was Marcus’ father??

    • You’re almost got it. We know who the daughters of Thomas are through several lawsuits, and Marcus is NOT the son of Thomas’s daughters. I think he is the son of one of Thomas’s sisters. Alexander, Thomas’s father died young and Thomas was the guardian of 5 of his sisters and one of his brothers. If his sister had an illegitimate child, and especially if she died, it would likely have been Thomas to raise the child. We don’t know who Marcus’s father is, but maybe in time we will.

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