Anne Workman (c1761- after 1860), Centenarian, 52 Ancestors #57

Anne Workman was born sometime after her parents, Joseph Workman and Phoebe McMahen were married in 1761 in York County, PA.

Based on her marriage in 1788 to Samuel Muncy, she would likely have been born before 1768.  Later census records put the date between 1761 and 1769, although the census can be notoriously incorrect.  So, it would be safe to say she was born sometime between 1761 and 1769.

We know little about her early life, except by virtue of what was happening in the world around Anne when she was growing up.

Anne spent at least part of her youth in York County, one of the most “interesting” places to have been during the Revolutionary War.  “Interesting” of course is a matter of perspective.

Anne would have been a teenager when Yorktown, in York County, became a focal point of the War, but her family had probably moved on by then.

It’s not known exactly when the family moved from York County, at the eastern end of PA, to Washington County, near Pittsburgh, on the far western end of the state.  Washington County, PA was formed in 1781, in honor of George Washington.  It is bordered on the south by present day West. Virginia, which was at that time the state of Virginia.

Anne’s father, Joseph Workman is listed in the Pennsylvania Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia Index, 1775-1783 for Washington County, PA at the Pennsylvania State Digital archives.

Joseph Workman Wash Co PA Rev War service

Anne was one of ten children born to Joseph Workman and Phoebe McMahon.  Joseph and Phoebe started their married life in York County, PA and moved to Washington County, PA about the time of the Revolutionary War.  They did not move to Montgomery County, VA until sometime in the 1780s, probably between 1781 and 1783.  The Workman men served in the Montgomery County militia after their arrival and were on the compiled rolls that included men from 1777-1790.

These were not trivial moves.

Workman migration map

Anne’s parents were probably in Montgomery County, VA by September 1785 when Abraham Workman, probably Anne’s brother, married Hannah Lirner, according to “Some VA Marriages: 1700-1799” compiled by Cecil D. McDonald, Jr.

We know that Anne Workman married Samuel Muncy in Montgomery County three years later, the marriage bond shown below.

1788 Muncy Workman bond

Anne’s father, Joseph wrote a letter authorizing the marriage on June 16, 1788.

1788 Workman Muncy letter

Based on early land grants and deeds, the Muncy family lived on Walker’s Creek in Montgomery County.  They seemed settled there, at least until the later 1790s, but the Workman family is found moving increasingly north and west.  Anne’s father, Joseph, was found by 1793 in Wythe County, after it was formed.

In 1799, Samuel Muncy  and Agnes Craven, the parents of the Samuel Muncy that Anne Workman married, moved to Lee County, Virginia.  From the information we have, Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman went along with the family.  Several of Samuel’s siblings went as well, and the family lived on the Powell River in Lee County, very near the border with Claiborne County, Tennessee for the next dozen years.  The area of Walker’s Creek in Montgomery County and the Powell River area, shown below, in Lee County are very similar.

powell river lee co

We don’t find Samuel and Anne in the records.  It appears that the children of Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven were fairly transparent. Some appeared on the personal tax lists, which is how we know the names of the group that left in 1811 when Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven sold their land.

At least some of their children remained behind.

Hannah Muncey, born in 1771 to Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven married a Bayley and remained in Lee County.

Reuben Muncy, went to Kentucky but had returned to Lee County by 1820 and had moved south in to Claiborne Co., TN by 1840.

It’s uncertain whether Francis Muncy and James were sons of Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven or sons of their son, Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman – but regardless, it is certain that they stayed in Lee County, Virginia.

Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman remained behind in Lee County as well.

For Samuel, it must have been difficult to see his siblings and possibly his parents climb into a wagon and leave, knowing full well that he would probably never see them again.

If Samuel’s parents left for Kentucky in 1811 as well, they would have been around age 70.  It’s surmised that the sale of Samuel and Agnes’s land in 1811, the disappearance of Samuel and his sons from the Lee County tax list, and the appearance of some of these individuals in Knox (now Harlan) County, KY are connected events.

Anne Workman Muncy, however, had already said all of her good byes to her family in 1799.  She had been married for eleven years and probably had several children by that time.  To load everything you have in a wagon, including your children, and leave your entire blood family behind must have been very difficult.  She was probably about 31 or 32 years of age.  I wonder if she looked back with tears or ahead with resolve, or maybe a bit of both.

Today, that trip is 180 miles and about three and a half hours.  Then, it would have taken at least a couple of weeks, enduring whatever weather Mother Nature had to offer.

map Montgomery Co to Lee Co

Francis Muncy and James Muncy may have been children of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman.  They were born in 1788 and about 1790, respectively.  We don’t know of any more children until Agnes is born on January 19, 1803.  Sarah Muncy who married Jeremiah Owens was born sometime between 1801 and 1807, according to later census records.   Samuel who married Louisa Fitts was born probably between 1800 and 1805.

Anne Workman Muncy would have been able to bear children until she was about 45 years of age, so until about 1813 or so.  Surely they had more children.

In 1809, Francis Muncy married Lovey Randolph.  James married Nancy Owens about 1815 and by 1820, both Agnes and Sarah had married as well to Fairwick Claxton and Jeremiah Muncy, respectively.  In 1825, Samuel Muncy married Louisa Fitts.

We know that Sarah who married Jeremiah Owens was a Muncy, because the death certificate of James B. Owens, the youngest son of Sarah Muncy Owens gives his parents as Jerry Owens and Sallie Muncy. This is the only firm documentation we have of the maiden name of Sarah.

James Owens death cert

We also know that Sarah Muncy Owens and Agnes Clarkson/Claxton were sisters based upon testimony given in the chancery suit filed after Fairwick Clarkson/Claxton’s death.  In that suit, William and James Owens testify and William states that he is the nephew of Fairwick Claxton.  Agnes Clarkson/Claxton is the wife of Fairwick.  Fairwick’s sisters did not marry Owens men and we find both William and James Owens in the 1850 census with Jeremiah and Sarah Muncy Owens as their parents.

The 1800 and 1810 census don’t exist for either Lee County, VA or Claiborne County, TN.

Anne Workman Muncy bore witness to a second war as well, the War of 1812.  While none of the actual fighting took place in Lee or Claiborne County, the men from those locations enlisted, or were drafted, and served in other locations, often walking hundreds of miles to Alabama where the Tennessee forces clashed with the Creek Indians.

Francis Muncy, of course, was a common name within the Muncy family, being the name of the American progenitor for which someone in each generation was named.  There is a War of 1812 service record for a Francis Muncy in Virginia in Bradley’s Regiment, from in Wythe County.  This is not likely our Francis.

A Samuel Muncy served in Evan’s Virginia Militia, but I was unable to determine where that militia unit was formed.

The National Archives is in the process of digitizing the War of 1812 records, so we will hopefully, soon, be able to determine if the Samuel who served was Anne’s husband or son.

The 1820 Lee County census documents Francis, Reubin, James, Jeremiah, John, Joshua and one Nancy, over the age of 45 living alone.  Of course, this causes an entire raft of questions and provides absolutely no answers.  Nancy, of course, is a common nickname for Anne.  Nancy (Anne) Workman Muncy would have been about age 52, but we know that son Samuel was not married until 1825, so he would likely have been living with his family.  Also, if this is our Nancy, where was her husband, Samuel?  Unfortunately, the census is in semi-alpha order, so we can’t tell who is living near whom.  We really don’t know who this Nancy Muncy was and the only thing we know about her age is that she was over 45.  She could have been quite elderly.  Nancy is not found in 1830.

The 1830 census shows us several Muncy men in Lee County.

  • Francis age 30-40 (born 1790-1800)
  • James age 30-40 (born 1790-1800)
  • James age 30-40 (born 1790-1800)
  • Samuel age 20-30 (born 1800-1810)
  • John age 20-30 (born 1800-1810) plus a male age 60-70 and a female age 60-70
  • John age 30-40 (born 1790-1800)
  • Jeremiah age 40-50 (born 1780-1790)

Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman would have been about 62 years of age and could well have been the couple with John, age 20-30.  John could have been their son.

We catch what is probably a glimpse of Anne Workman Muncy, by the name of Nancy, in the Thompson Settlement Church notes in 1833 when a Nancy Muncy joins the church by experience.  That means she would have been baptized and not joined from another church.  She would have been about 65 years old.  In Montgomery County, Virginia, the family would have been Anglican, based on early records that indicate two churches were formed; one Presbyterian church for the Scotch-Irish and the Anglican church for the balance of the population.

An entire group of Muncy and related folks joined the church within a few months, and many on the same days.  On the first Saturday of September and the first Saturday of October in 1833, a Nancy Muncy joined the church.

1st Sept Sat 1833

  • 1833 Frances Muncy received by experience (son of either Samuel and Anne Workman Muncy or Samuel Munch and Agnes Craven)
  • 1833 Nancy Muncy by experience (probably Anne Workman Muncy)

1st Sat Oct 1833

  • 1833 Anny Muncy by exp (probably daughter of James Muncy)
  • 1833 James Muncy by exp (possible son of Samuel and Anne Workman)
  • 1833 Nancy Muncy by exp (probably Nancy Owens, wife of James)

1st Sat November 1833

  • 1833 Samuel Muncy (probably Samuel (the fourth), son of Samuel and Anne Workman Muncy)

1st Sat Jan 1834

  • Louisa Muncy (probably Lousia Fitts, wife of Samuel (the fourth))

The 1840 Lee County, census shows several Muncy families, many younger.

However, we find Samuel Muncy, age 30-40 beside Jeremiah Owens, age 30-40, 2 doors from Willoughby Muncy (son of Francis), 2 doors from Cornelius Fitts.

This is the group of people, known relatives, who signed as executor and bond for Samuel Muncy who died in 1839, probably the husband of Anne Workman Muncy.

We also find a Francis, age 50-60 and then a John age 30-40 with a male and female, ages 70-79.  We also find James, age 40-50.

In 1840, in Claiborne County, TN, across the county/state border, Fairwick Claxton has a female living in his household, age 70-80 (born 1760-1770), likely Anne Workman Muncy.

The last two pieces of information we have about Anne are pretty amazing, actually, when you think about it

In both the 1850 and the 1860 census, Nancy Munsy was living with Agnes and Fairwick Claxton in Claiborne County, TN.  They lived just a couple doors away from Sarah and Jeremiah Owens, Agnes’s sister, and James Muncy had moved close by as well.

In the 1850 census, Nancy is shown to be age 81 (born 1769) and in 1860, she is shown to be age 99 (born 1761).

1850 Hancock census Muncy

Nancy was born in a time before modern medicine.  There were no antibiotics.  There were no childhood inoculations, and there was no clean, treated water supply.  Childbirth was risky for mother and child both, and many didn’t survive.  Roughly half the children died before reaching adulthood from illnesses today that we don’t even consider particularly dangerous.

Yet, Anne survived.  She survived at least three major moves by wagon, from one side of Pennsylvania to the other, likely during the Revolutionary War.  Then, just a few years later, from Pennsylvania to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where the family settled and she married.

Shenandoah River

“Shenandoah River, aerial” by La Citta Vita

In another decade, she would be loading into the wagon again, moving from Montgomery County to Lee County, VA.

Anne would have said a tearful goodbye to her parents, then in their 60s, but she would not be at their gravesides in another few years when they died.  That news, she would have received by letter or by “family grapevine,” if at all.

Anne probably lost siblings and children and she did lose her husband, yet survived another 20+ years.

In all of Hancock County, in 1860, there was only one other woman even near Anne (Nancy) Workman Muncy’s age, also named Nancy, ironically.  There were a couple within a few years in Hawkins, Scott and Lee Counties, but very few.

Anne, known as Nancy Workman Muncy beat the odds.

We don’t know how much longer she lived, only that she was not in the 1870 census.  I really hope she made it to 100 and all of her extended family visited and gathered around, and that she enjoyed her very special day with lots of visits.  After all, what else does a centenarian want?  She would have had a slew of great and great-great-grandchildren by then – more than 55 that I know of, and I’ve lost track of several lines – plus the children she assuredly had that we don’t know about today.

Anne is assuredly buried in the Clarkson/Claxton cemetery.  That cemetery figured in the land that her son-in-law Fairwick left his heirs and was described as being in the center of the land, right near the main house, where Anne would have lived for the last 20+ years of her life.

I hope Anne got to sit outside on a beautiful spring day and just soak up the warm mountain sunshine, maybe watching her great-grandchildren play on the rocks and near the barn.

I sure wish I could sit and talk with her about the century of life she saw, what changed in her lifetime and how.  She was born before the Revolutionary War.  Her father served.  I wonder what she thought – should we as a country secede and try to make it on our own, or should we remain a colony of England?  She would have been a teen when that was being decided.  And, her family was moving – two long moves within just a few years.  Why did they decide to head west at that time – to the edge of the frontier?  What she excited or frightened?  How did that affect her life?

Another 15 years later, in 1799, she herself pushed the frontier further west, homesteading in a land just surveyed and with few settlers on Wallin’s Ridge in Lee County.  She left family behind in Virginia and then, in turn, was left behind when her in-laws and Samuel Muncy’s siblings packed up for Kentucky a dozen years after settling on Wallin’s Ridge.

She saw men leave and fight, some of them not returning from the War of 1812.  Her own neighbor, James Claxton, the man who would have been her daughter, Agnes’s father-in-law, was one of those who died.  It was his land that Anne Workman Muncy lived out her life and died upon.

If the Samuel Muncy who married Louisa Fitts was her son, she stood by his grave as they buried him in 1843.  If James Muncy was her son, she buried him in 1854 and depending on when she died, she may have buried Francis Muncy in 1864.  She would have stood in the cemetery, near where her own grave would be when they buried her grandson, James Claxton, and his wife sometime between 1845 and 1850.  She probably helped raise those great-grandchildren, as they lived with Agnes and Fairwix Claxton, as did she.  They would have known their great-grandmother well.

She may have stood inside the cemetery, over and over again, as her grandsons and great-grandsons were buried as a result of the Civil War.  She would have grieved with her daughter, Agnes Muncy Claxton/Clarkson, as word came again and again of their capture and deaths.

Anne Workman Muncy was still alive as the country trembled on the brink of yet a third war in her lifetime, one that would horribly divide and not unite the country.  She could have seen the Civil War which terribly devastated Hancock County and divided the families irreparably between allegiances to the Union and the Confederacy.  Let’s hope she didn’t suffer through that catastrophe.  Let’s hope by then, Anne “Nancy” Workman Muncy was resting in peace in the Clarkson cemetery, outside the back door, with the rest of her family.

claxton land

Only the two known daughters of Anne Workman Muncy would have passed her mitochondrial DNA on to future generations.  Women give their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of children, but only females pass it on.  Since it is not mixed with the DNA of the father, it gives us a periscope to peer into the past and see where her matrilineal lines originated in the world.

Sarah Muncy Owens had several daughters, according to the census, but I have had a difficult time finding them as adults.

  • Nancy born in 1820
  • Agness born in 1826
  • Louisa born in 1828, married a David Rice in Hancock County and had two children, Sarah and Mary Ann, before dying in 1860 in childbirth, according to the census mortality schedule. Daughter Sarah married Daniel Owens.
  • Mary Ann born in 1829
  • Martha born in 1837
  • Mildred born in 1842, married Clinton Clouse and had daughters Lorinda who married George Cole, Sarah, Coraline and Elnora. Lived in Harlan County, KY in 1900.

Agnes Muncy Claxton had only two daughters who married and had children:

  • Sally Claxton born 1829, died 1900, married Robert Shiflet and had daughters Elizabeth who married William Lundy, Catherine who married Pleasant Powell, Rhoda who married John Burchfield and Agnes who married Tom Smith.
  • Rebecca Claxton born in 1834, died in 1923, married Calvin Wolfe, had daughters Nancy who married a Marcum, Elizabeth who married Francis Marion Herd, Agnes, June, Sasha (Sarah) who married Charles Hobbs and Easter who married Charles Cole.

I have a DNA scholarship for anyone who descends from these daughters through all females to the current generation.  Males are fine in the current generation, because woman pass their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of children.

Claxton land from road



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Secondary Genealogical and Genetic Lines

When we find an autosomal match in genetic genealogy, and we then discover that person shares a common ancestral line with us, we do our happy dance and  tend to forget that they might actually share a second line as well.

It’s easy to discount in the excitement of the moment, especially if you’re working in a situation where your match to that ancestral line on that segment has not been proven by triangulation.

But let’s face it, all genetic genealogy success stories, whether just one to one matches or triangulation begin with individual matches.

So, I was curious, just how many of our matches really do share a secondary genealogy line.

Now, let’s be very clear here about what a secondary line is, and is not.

This is my father’s pedigree chart.

father's pedigreeLet’s say that I find a match who shares the bottom center couple – Samuel Claxton and Elizabeth Speaks.

They automatically share the lines to the right of those ancestors in the pedigree chart – those who contribute to the DNA of Samuel and Elizabeth.  In this case, that would be Fairwick Claxton, Agnes Muncy, Charles Speak and Ann McKee.

As we move the pedigree chart out further in time – that list of common ancestors that we do share would include everyone on this chart including and beneath the blue cell, James Lee Claxton.  These are NOT secondary lines, just ancestors of the people in the original match that we would also expect to have received some amount of DNA contribution from.

father's pedigree 2

Now, let’s say we start looking at the tree of the person we match and we discover that they also share the top center ancestors, Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann.

father's pedigree 3

That is a secondary line, not connected genetically to the first line.

Obviously, if the person we match has ancestors living in the same geography as our ancestors, there’s a possibility that they will share a second (or even third) ancestral line.

How often does that actually happen?

I’ve been working with my shakey leaf matches at  Shakey leaf DNA matches are those with whom Ancestry has identified that you have a DNA match and a common ancestor in a tree.  I love shakey leaves!!!!  They save me so much work.

shakey leaf

Now, the easy assumption to make is that your DNA match is through the ancestor noted on the tree.  That’s certainly possible, and if that is your only common ancestor, it’s even probable – but without a chromosome browser and triangulation there is NO PROOF.

There is no way at Ancestry to prove a genetic relationship.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t gather evidence.

I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of matches at Ancestry, our common ancestor, which child they descend from and any other known common lines.

ancestry match spreadsheet

I have a total of 137 rows, each representing a shakey leaf match at

Of those, 16 disappeared with Ancestry’s new phasing rollout in November.  No, I am not “over that”…nor do I think it’s accurate because I match some of those same people elsewhere and triangulate with common ancestors.  Nuff said about that – no point in beating a dead horse.

Recently, Ancestry has added a feature that allows a hint to additional shared ancestors.  However, on mine, which is all I can really address, all of my multiple hints were to people in the same line where Ancestry appears to have been confused, perhaps by people’s trees.

For example, the three hints on the match below includes one, as shown, one to only the mother (Suzanna Berchtol) and one to their grandson’s wife’s mother (but not her father.)  But there was no match to the son and his wife.  These are not inaccurate, just confusing.

multiple hints

None of my multiple hints were actually to different lineages – although several matches’ trees do exist that include unquestionable matching to multiple lines.

Ancestry includes a great comparison feature.

If you view your shakey leaf match, they show you the common ancestor of both individuals in a tree, as show below with cousin Harold.

common surnames

If you scroll down, you will see the list of common surnames we share – in the green box on the left.

Because I know my own tree quite well, along with cousin Harold’s, I know by just looking at this list that all of these except one are from the same line as Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley, our common ancestors.

But, for purposes of example, let’s say that I discover one that isn’t.

Let’s say Mercer isn’t a name from our known common line.

common surname compare

By clicking on Mercer, you can see that yes, indeed, we do share a common ancestor.  Hannah Mercer appears recognizably the same in both trees.

Looks like cousin Harold has more Mercers than I do, so I need to visit with cousin Harold about this.

Now let’s look at Webb, our name that is not from this common line.

common surname compare 2

Webb doesn’t match.  Furthermore, I haven’t entered anything about this person that even remotely identifies them, so I need to address that.  Even approximations are useful, and no information at all is not useful.

I went through this process for every single common surname for each tree that I match.  Of interest, there were only a few trees that didn’t have any surnames that I needed to check.

On top of the matches I lost through phasing, we need to subtract another 21 for private trees and one more because their tree won’t load due to a technical issue of some sort.  Of the 21 private trees, I have written to all 21, and 4 of the individuals answered me by telling me the name of our common ancestor.  However, that still does not provide me with the ability to see this page that shows our common matching surnames.

That leaves me with 99 shakey leaf matches whose trees I can see.

Of those, 52 do not have a common ancestor or a common line that makes me think we might have a common ancestor.  What the heck does that mean?

It means that roughly half of my matches either do or might have a secondary matching line.

Let me give you a couple of examples that make it difficult to decide.

Campbell – those darned Campbells.  First, I’m at a dead end with mine in Hawkins County, TN around 1800.  We do have a Y DNA representative from my line though, and we know that our Campbell line matches the Campbell clan line.  So, anyone where I see Campbell in their surname list, regardless of how far back in time that Campbell link goes – I categorize as “possibly Campbell.”  Because, frankly, we not only don’t know for sure how long that sticky DNA can stick together and I don’t know which line my Campbells descend from in 1700s Virginia, assuming that is where they came from.

Secondly, Hall.  My Hall family was from Tolland County, CT.  When I see someone else’s tree that shows a Hall ancestor from Tolland County, CT, even though they don’t connect with mine – I know darned good and well there is a very high likelihood that this is the same Hall family as mine.  So, I categorize that as “probably Hall.”

When I find a dead hit in terms of a common ancestor, I just enter their name in that column

I have 4 that I’ve categorized as “not recognizable” which means to me that it looks quite suspicious in terms of surname/geography, but no smoking gun like Hall in Tolland County.  I’m combining these with the “no” group for now, understanding that a “no” could turn into a “yes” with a breakthrough for anyone at any minute.

I have 13 labeled “possible.”

I have 7 labeled “probable” but ironically, two of those have two lines each that are not connected to each other.

I have 8 that are Acadian, meaning they descend from a large group of common surnames from the Acadian community.  This is a highly endogamous community and it’s nearly impossible to tell which DNA comes from where and originally belonged to whom.  This means that lines on my chart that appear to be disconnected probably are not.  I view these as all “yes” in terms of multiple lines.

I have 15 matches with positively confirmed secondary lines, and of those, another 5 possible third lines.

So how does this stack up:

No Possibly Probably Acadian Yes-Confirmed >2 lines
% Matches 56 13 7 8 15 10 + 8 Acadians

Truthfully, this is far more than I expected.  I thought it would be the rare match where I would have two disconnected genealogical lines.  In reality, it appears that it could be about half the time.  This certainly causes me to take a moment to pause and reflect – and makes triangulation even more important.

What this really means is that we cannot assume that DNA/Tree matches are connecting the dots between the right genetic lines and the right pedigree lines in a tree – because about half of the time, it could be the wrong line in our and their tree.  And this little experiment, by the way, cannot take into account the dead ends on either my tree or theirs that can’t be accounted for.

Let’s be very clear about this.  You DO share DNA with this person from a common genealogical line.  You MAY share DNA with this person from multiple lines.  The DNA may NOT have come down to you from both (or multiple) lines. From tools we have at Ancestry, we can’t tell which line or lines contributed the DNA.

The only way to prove a match is to a specific ancestral line is to triangulate the match, meaning that the same segment of DNA matches between a minimum of three people who share the same ancestor.  To do this, you need a chromosome browser, which Ancestry does not and says they won’t provide.

More and more Ancestry customers are transferring their results to Family Tree DNA and to GedMatch to take advantage multiple pools and tools.  So, you can’t prove a relationship at Ancestry, but there is still a lot of useful work that you can do based on your matches trees…so long as you don’t need proof.  In the next few days, we’ll be talking about how to maximize your AncestryDNA experience.



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Cilantro – Love It or Hate It

This falls into the “just for fun” category.

I received this e-mail from 23andMe a few weeks ago.


I found this interesting, so I clicked on the “see my report” link.


I don’t like cilantro, but it doesn’t taste like soap to me, just bitter.


This genetic connection was reported in two papers written by 23andMe and is found on two different genetic locations, one described above, and one, below.


On this same page, my family and cousins were listed by group of who carries which version of the gene. I found that interesting, so I decided to ask and see how reality stacked up to genetic prediction.

I texted my kids to see if they liked Cilantro, and the fact that they were excited, thinking I had found a new recipe to try, gave me the answer.  They both do.  I don’t.  Let’s see how this stacks up to those two marker values and their cumulative predictions.

Rs2741762 Rs3930459 Actually Likes or Dislikes
Son Typical odds like/dislike Higher odds of disliking Likes
Daughter Typical odds like/dislike Typical odds like/dislike Likes
Me Lower odds of disliking Higher odds of disliking Dislikes

Looking at this information, my son should probably dislike Cilantro, my daughter would have normal odds of liking or disliking it, and if I averaged, I’d fall in the middle too, but that’s not how it worked out in real life.



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Samuel Muncy (1761/1768-1839), Who’s Your Daddy, Your Mamma, and Your Kids?, 52 Ancestors #56

I feel like I should give you a warning.  Get a cup of coffee, or tea, and some chocolate.

This article is long.  It was difficult.  Really difficult.  Made me wonder WHY I think genealogy is fun.  BUT, after wading through the swamp with the alligators, draining the swamp, fighting the alligators and a few snappers, analyzing the evidence including an “emergency” marriage bond retrieval from a friend who was in Salt Lake City at a conference last week (thank you Jen,) there is something resembling an answer at the end.  But man, this one was tough.  And no, do not turn ahead and peek…you’ll miss all the fun.

So get something good to drink and settle in for a bit.  If nothing else, it’s a darned good story!

The Widows

First, let me introduce you to “The Widows” and Uncle George who wasn’t my uncle.  I didn’t appreciate the widows and Uncle George nearly enough when they were still with us, although I surely hope they are continuing to help me from the other side now.

The Widows.

They called themselves that, an affectionate name for a group of elderly widows who all lived in Claiborne County, Tennessee in the 1970s and 1980s when I first began doing genealogy.

I didn’t realize I was doing genealogy, I just wanted to know something about my father’s family.  So, I picked up the phone, dialed “zero” for operator and asked the operator to connect me with any Estes in Tazewell, Tennessee.  She obliged and I talked to a very nice person who gave me the name of someone else to call who “knew more” than they did.  Within a call or two, I was talking to someone who did know a lot, and who knew my father and grandfather, and who then told me I need to talk to “Uncle George” who “knew everything about the Estes family there was to know.”

Uncle George was in his 70s and indeed, he was a wealth of knowledge. He wasn’t a genealogist either, he just knew a lot about the family.  The family storykeeper.  Everyone knew that he knew a lot and was the unofficial repository of everything Estes, so everyone gave him any piece of information or photo worth having.  In turn, he redistributed the wealth to anyone who was willing to listen and maybe take notes.  His wife, Edith, made fried chicken and sweet tea and fed you while the two of you talked.  From time to time, she would interject something she knew from her side of the family or from another source.  They were both my cousins.  Everyone there is my cousin.

There were no sources or citations, there was what “my grandpa told me before he died,” and more, like where the old cabins stood.  Sometimes there were notes and Bibles, but mostly there was what George knew.  If you asked him, often he could tell you who told him what and how they knew.  And George could take you to your ancestral land and tell you about life there long ago.

Claiborne and Hancock Counties in eastern Tennessee share rivers, mountain ranges and families.  George knew about the Estes family and a couple of other families that fed into the Estes line, but he didn’t know about my grandmother’s Bolton line.  He did know who knew.  Mollie, one of the widows.  And Mollie knew about the Claxton line too, because the Claxton’s married into the Boltons and were near neighbors “up to Hoop Creek.”

Now Mollie might not know about some other line, but she too knew which widow to call to find out.  Between all of the “widows” and a few widowers and unwidowed people, they had an entire network.  Sadly, for the most part, the knowledge died with them – and they are all gone now – one by one like lightening bugs that no longer light up the warm summer evenings.

Now, this might sound like nothing but gossip and hearsay, but that’s just not the case.

These people were born between 1890 and 1910, most of them, and were well-respected as elders within the community.  My ancestor, Agnes Claxton lived until sometime after 1880 and before 1900.  Had I thought to have asked, I’m sure Mollie would have known when she died.  Even though I’m pretty sure Mollie never met Agnes, she surely knew of her and about her.  Mollie’s mother and grandmother would have known Agnes well.  And you can rest assured….EVERYONE would have known about that lawsuit….

It was Mollie who first told me about Agnes Claxton, the wife of Fairwick.  We had a long discussion about whether the surname was Claxton or Clarkson or Clarkston and how you pronounced the surname.  Regardless of how you spelled it, it was “said” the same in that holler.  And Fairwick or Farwix was another long discussion.

Mollie told me that Agnes was a Muncy and that her parents were Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman.  She told me that Agnes’s grandparents were Samuel Muncy and Agnes, and that Agnes (Muncy Claxton) was named for her grandmother, which is how she kept the two Samuel Muncy couples straight in her mind.

Mollie never told me that Agnes’s grandmother’s surname was Craven.  She told me a lot about closer generations, but she had reached the end of her neighborhood knowledge, knowing that Agnes was named for her grandmother Agnes.  Little did I know at the time that Agnes Muncy Claxton’s mother, Anne (Nancy) Workman Muncy had lived to nearly 100, or maybe past 100 and was listed living with Agnes in the 1860 census, at age 99.

Mollie and the widows didn’t research the families outside of the county.  They did not visit the state library – they just gathered family stories.  From time to time, one of them would go to the local library, but at that time, there were very few resources.  THEY were the resources.  Sometimes one would make a quick trip to the courthouse, but mostly, they shared with you a wealth of family oral history and photos.

Mollie didn’t know there had been a book written about the Muncy family in the 1950s.  I think Mollie and the other widows thought that the only relevant information about the family was the last few generations that lived in Claiborne and neighboring counties.  Anything else was too distant and far away.

It wasn’t until the publication of the Early Settlers of Lee County book in 1977 that any of the early Muncy information became available in the general area.  This was either unknown to Mollie when I was talking to her about this line in the 1980s, or she didn’t think it relevant.

Maybe it would have upset her, or maybe she would simply have disregarded it as incorrect.  You see some of the information written in the Lee County book and the 1956 book by Mary Edith Shaw titled “The Descendants of Francis Muncy I with Allied Families” conflicted with what Mollie told me.  I can see her now, waving it off and saying, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you, Honey.  I can only tell you what Hazel told me, and Hazel was her daughter you know”…or something similar.  The widows would have put little stock in what “outsiders” would have said about the families especially if it conflicted with what they knew from their own families and experience.

For me, it became a brick wall.  An enigma.

Sooner or later, if you’re a genealogist, you hit this ancestor.  That’s the one who has two sets of parents designated, depending on the source, and I’m not counting Ancestry trees as sources.  One source was a well-researched and thorough book.  The second was a credible family source who claimed she knew, and she should have known.  Mollie’s mother and grandmother would have known Agnes Muncy Claxton and her children.  Agnes’s granddaughter, Margaret Claxton, married Mollie’s grandfather’s brother.  These people lived close, saw each other in church and knew the families well.

So, now that you’ve met “the widows” and know what Mollie had to say about Agnes Muncy Claxton, let’s see what we know about Samuel Muncy, the purported father of Agnes Muncy Clarkson/Claxton.  We immediately start out with a problem, because there were (at least) four Samuel Muncys.

The Four Samuels

In order to help keep things straight, I’m going to introduce you to the players, because there are 4 different Samuel Muncy’s that we’re going to be talking about, and the only way to keep them straight is their wives names.

  • Samuel Muncy Sr. who married Mary Skidmore
  • Samuel Muncy Jr. who married Agnes Craven. He is the son of Samuel Muncy Sr.
  • Samuel Muncy (the third) who married Anne Workman. His parentage is uncertain, which is what we’ll be discussing.
  • Samuel Muncy (the fourth) who married Louisa Fitts and is attributed to be the son of Samuel Muncy (the third.)

And just to add confusion, I’m going to assume that you know that if Samuel Muncy Sr. died, then Jr. would become Sr. in documents and the third would become Jr. – assuming they were living in the same county where they needed to be “kept separate.”  Furthermore, as if that isn’t confusing enough, Sr. and Jr. did not always mean father and son.  It meant older and younger and if the two men of the same name were father and son, that was hunky dory.  If not, it was still hunky dory.  Everyone, back then, knew who was who.  It’s only us, today, who are confused.

Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman

The subject of our discussion today is Samuel Muncy (the third) who married Anne Workman.  We actually know every little.  Let’s start at the beginning.

Samuel Muncy was born, most likely in Montgomery County, VA.  Ok, we’re good so far. We don’t know when, for sure, or to whom, or even positively where, but maybe we can assemble some evidence and piece a bit of his life together

Beginning with his birth and for most of the rest of his life, things are “fuzzy” to put it mildly, including who his parents and his children were.  For that matter, we only know where he was during oblique snippets of his life and then he disappears into the haze again, sometimes to reappear later, someplace else, and then eventually, simply to disappear into the mists and myths of time.

Samuel Muncy obtained a license to marry Anne Workman on June 16, 1788 in Montgomery County, Virginia.  That much is solid, because we have his marriage bond.  Based on the year he was married, he would likely have been born in 1767 or earlier.

1788 Muncy Workman bond

From this bond, we know that Samuel could not write his name.  Richard Coop? or Coup was his bond, and he couldn’t write his name either.  Just three months earlier, on March 23, 1788, Samuel had provided the bond for Richard when he married Dolly Loman, also in Montgomery County.  We know it was probably the Samuel who married Anne Workman who signed Richard’s bond with his mark because Samuel Muncy Jr. could write, based on his signature on an 1811 deed.

1788 Richard Coop bond

Was Richard Samuel’s best friend, or were these two men somehow related?  I can’t find anything about Richard Coop/Coup and Dolly Loman.

Herein lies the beginning of the confusion.

1788 Workman Muncy letter

This letter, which accompanies the 1788 marriage bond for Samuel Muncy (Munsey) and Anne Workman says:

“Mr. Abraham Trig, this comes from Joseph Workman and Obediah Munsey, that we are willing that Anne Workman and Samuel Munsey should be married.  This from under our hands this 15 day of June 1788.  Signed Joseph Workman and Obediah Munsey.”

What this document was interpreted by family historians to say:

Joseph Workman is the father of Anne Workman and Obediah Munsey is the father of Samuel Munsey.

This is NOT what this document says.  It’s true in most cases that the father of the individuals who were marrying did sign the bond, but that is not universally true, even if the father was living.

Well then, who was Obediah Munsey?  Obediah is another enigma.  Serial enigmas.

Obediah Munsey was the son of Samuel Munsey Sr. and Mary (who was probably a) Skidmore who moved to Montgomery County, VA sometime after 1738.  Samuel Sr. had several sons, but the two that concern us today are Obediah and Samuel Jr. who married Agnes Craven.

For a very long time, the Samuel (the third) who married Anne Workman was considered to be the son of Samuel Jr. and Agnes Craven, that is, until this marriage bond was found and Obediah was assigned as Samuel (the third)’s father.

However, I believe that Samuel (the third) who married Anne Workman IS the son of Samuel Jr. and Agnes Craven, for several reasons.  Let’s take a look at the evidence, which spans his entire life, bit by bit.

First, Obediah and Samuel Jr. were brothers.  They were together a lot in the court and other records of Augusta, Montgomery, Fincastle and Rockingham Counties.

We don’t know who Obediah married, and truthfully, we don’t even know for sure THAT he married.  He served in the militia along with his brothers, including Samuel Jr., in multiple companies over the years.  The last record we have for Obadiah is that he had land surveyed on Walker’s Creek, in Montgomery County, in 1789, but the records for Obediah may not be complete.

Walker’s Creek spans this entire distance from Pearisburg, VA where Walker’s Creek, the largest tributary of the New River, empties into the New, all the way along the river to Bland, Virginia, a distance of about 34 miles if you follow the blue route along Walker Creek.

Walker Creek, VA

Obediah’s brother was Samuel Munsey (Jr.) who married Agnes Craven.  He too lived with the other Munsey men on Walker’s Creek in Montgomery County, but in the 1790s Samuel moved to Lee County.  What we know positively is that Samuel was on the personal property tax list in 1799 in Lee County and a survey was signed over to him that year.  By 1801 he had received the deed for the survey for the land on the Powell River, on the north side of Wallen’s Ridge very near the Thompson Settlement Church, shown below at the upper right.  In the bottom left of the map is Four Mile Creek, where many Muncy descendants settled, about 10 miles distant as the crow flies

Thompson settlement church

Samuel Jr. was married to Agnes Craven by about 1761 when Agnes’s father died and mentioned her in the will.  While she was not mentioned by her married name, she was left the land she was living on, and in 1767, Samuel Muncy was paid along with the rest of the heirs.

Samuel (the third,) if he was their son, could have been born anytime between when they married prior to 1761 and 1767, given that Samuel (the third) married Anne Workman in 1788.  Because he signed a bond himself that same year (assuming it was he that signed Richard Coop’s marriage bond,) he would have had to have been 21 or older.

According to family historian Mary Edith Shaw in her book, “The Descendants of Francis Muncy I with Allied Families,” we know that Samuel Muncy (Jr.) and Agnes Craven had the following confirmed children, and she mentions more, such as Francis and James, who we will discuss in a minute:

  • Hannah born 1771 married a Bayley and stayed in Lee County
  • Peter born 1782 went to Knox County, Kentucky about 1811 and then to Indiana
  • Reuben went to Knox Co., Ky in 1811 but returned to Lee County by 1820
  • Francis A. Muncy born in 1788 who stayed in Lee County, Virginia

This photo of Peter Muncy, the son of Peter born in 1782, below was taken in Knox Co., KY, when he was 88 years old in 1916.  This Peter would have been the nephew of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman.

Peter Muncy 1916

There is some confusion about Francis Muncy and James Muncy.  They are both attributed to Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven as their children, but I’m not so sure.

To make matters worse, the Shaw book says that the “name” Francis (as Franklin) went with Peter to Knox County, meaning that he named one of his sons Franklin, but given the context it is easy to interpret as meaning Francis went with that group.

Francis A. Muncy was born in February 1788 several months before Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman were married, according to the Francis A. Muncy Bible record.  This suggests strongly that Francis A. Muncy was not the son of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman, although it does not eliminate the possibility.  He was more likely  the son of Samuel Jr. and Agnes Craven.

However, there is a fly in that ointment too.  If Agnes Craven was married by 1761, she would have been about 20 years of age, or older, depending on her age at marriage and how long she had been married in 1761.  That means she was 47, or older, in 1788, probably too old to be giving birth, and age 49 in 1790 when James was born.

This makes me suspect that both Francis and James Muncy who stayed in Lee County may have been the children of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman.  Why do I think this might be the case?

Francis Muncy would marry Lovey Randolph, daughter of Willoughby and Francis Thornton Randolph about 1809, which is probably why he stayed in Lee County.  We know from Willoughby’s will in 1822 that the James Munsey family lived on his lands at that time, along with Jeremiah Owens.  Willoughby’s will ties the families of Francis Muncy, James Muncy and Jeremiah Owens together.

James Muncy, born about 1790 married Nancy Owens and also stayed in Lee County. He bought land from Willoughby Muncy in 1819 and was living on his land in 1822 when Willoughy died, according to his will.  In 1845, James deeded his land to Francis Muncy’s son, Willoughby Muncy and moved to Four Mile Creek in Hancock County beside Sarah and Jeremiah Owens and Agnes and Fairwick Claxton.

By 1799, we know that Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven were in Lee County, VA because Robert Walker who had land surveyed in 1798 signed that 100 acres on the North side of Wallin Ridge over to Samuel Muncy on November 2, 1799.  Samuel is also listed on the tax list in 1799.

1798 survey Walker Muncy

1799 survey Walker to Muncy

We don’t know for sure if Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman were with Samuel Muncy Jr. and Agnes Craven, but since several of Samuel Jr.’s sons were along, and Samuel and Anne do wind up in that part of Lee County with their children, it’s a safe bet.

By 1810, we know that Samuel Muncy was still in Lee County, Virginia, based on the personal property tax list, along with Francis, James and Peter, also on the list.  What we don’t know for sure is whether this Samuel was Samuel Jr. husband of Agnes Craven or Samuel (the third) husband of Anne Workman – but given that Samuel and Agnes didn’t sell their land until 1811, I would assume that is the Samuel Jr. on the tax list.

Deed Book 2, page 359, February 9, 1811

This indenture made the 9th of February 1811 between Samuel Muncy of Lee County and James Fletcher…for the sum of 200 dollars lawful money of the US in hand paid by the aid James Fletcher…tract of land containing 100 acres bearing the date August 8, 1801…on the north side of Wallings Ridge bounded…line of James McMillan…James Fulkerson’s.  Said Samuel Muncy and Agness his wife have hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals.  Samuel Munsey signed – no signature for Agness

In the presence of:

Thomas Gilbert
Isaac Sayers
Willoughby Randolph
Francis (X) Munsey

Note that this Francis Munsey cannot sign his name, but someone wrote in the Francis A. Munsey Bible, shown below.  Also note that Samuel Muncy who signed for Richard Coop’s marriage bond could not sign his name, but Samuel Jr. could.

Francis A. Muncy Bible

What happened to Samuel Jr. and Agnes after they sold their land is open to speculation, but Peter, Reuben and possibly others settled in Knox County, KY, the part that would become Harlan County, on Indian Creek near the Cumberland River.

In 1811, Samuel and Agnes would have been 70 years of age or older.

Of Samuel Jr. and Agnes’s children, Hannah and Reuben stayed in (or returned to) Lee County, on the Powell River.

It appears that Samuel (the third) who married Anne Workman also stayed in Lee County based on the fact that his children married in this region.  About 1809, Francis Muncy married Lovey Randolph, about 1814 James Muncy Married Nancy Owens, about 1820 Agnes Muncy married Fairwick Claxton, and before 1822, Sarah married Jeremiah Owens.

In addition, Samuel Muncy died in Lee County, VA in 1839 and Anne, listed as Nancy, is found living with Agnes in both the 1850 and 1860 census just across the border in Hancock County, TN.  This isn’t a smoking gun, but it’s a pretty compelling argument.

James Muncy, who bought land from Willoughby Randolph in 1819 and was living on his land in 1822, moved into Hancock County on 4 Mile Creek very close to the family of Agnes Muncy and Fairwick Clarkson in the early 1850s after selling his land to the son of Francis Muncy and Lovey Randolph in 1845.

In the survey below, you can see Claxton’s bend and just to the left of that, you can see Four Mile Creek intersecting with Powell River.  According to the 1850 census, Jeremiah Owens and Sarah his wife only lived 4 or 5 houses from Fairwix and Agnes Clarkson, who had the elderly Nancy Munsey living with them.

Claxton Bend v2

After Samuel Muncy and Agnes sold their land in Lee County in 1811, no records have been found to pinpoint their identity or whereabouts until an 1839 record reveals the death of Samuel Muncy – but which one?  We can’t tell if this is Samuel Jr., husband of Agnes, or Samuel (the third) husband of Anne Workman.  Based on the administrator and bondsman, I feel it was Samuel (the third), husband of Anne Workman.

At a court for Lee County on February 18, 1839, Order book 4 page 384:

On a motion of James Muncy who made oath as administrator and together with Cornelius Fitts, his security, entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of 80 dollars, condition as the law directs, certificate is granted and the said James Muncy for obtaining letters of administration on the estate of Samuel Muncy, deceased in due form.

Ordered that Randolph Noe, Nathaniel Alsop and James Southern being justly sworn before a justice of the peace, do truly and justly appraise in current money, the personal estate of Samuel Muncy, deceased, and return this appraisement under their hands to the court.

Was this Samuel Jr., husband of Agnes who would have been nearly 100 years old  and possibly older, or Samuel (the third), husband of Anne Workman who would have been between 72 and 78?  Given the administrator, who gave the bond and the age of the Samuel’s involved, I think it was probably Samuel (the third), husband of Anne Workman.

Because of the marriage bond in Montgomery County, VA that showed Obediah Muncy signing for the marriage of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman in 1788, that Samuel has been assigned as the child of Obediah.  I do not believe this is true, in part, because that Samuel, who married Anne Workman, named two of his children Samuel and Agnes, and none were named Obediah.

In addition, we find Anne Muncy, by the nickname Nancy, living with their daughter Agnes and husband, Fairwix Claxton in the 1850 and 1860 census where she is listed as age 81 (born 1769) in 1850 and age 99 (born in 1761) in 1860.  An older woman is also living with Agnes and Fairwick Claxton in the 1840 census, age 70-80 (born 1760-1770).  This was likely Anne, the year after Samuel died.  Fairwick’s mother is living in a separate household next door.

Furthermore, Samuel (the fourth), the likely son of Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman, married Louisa Fitts and Cornelius Fitts, Louisa’s brother, was bond for Samuel’s 1839 estate.

Thompson Settlement Baptist Church

Let’s look at the Thompson Settlement Baptist Church records which exist from 1801 and see if they can help.

The first mention of the Munsey family is in 1822 when James Muncy was received by experience, but then dismissed in 1823 for unchristian behavior.  There was nothing for another decade until, in 1833, a whole group of related people joined the church.  Makes me wonder if there was an old fashioned camp meeting where a lot of “saving” was going on.

Here’s an engraving from a Methodist camp meeting in 1819, although in Appalachia, the people would have been dressed very differently.

camp meeting

Camp meetings were very popular and were both entertainment and excitement, anticipated by people for weeks on end.  They were a combination social event, emotional religious exhortation and “reality TV.”

We’re fortunate that some of the Thompson Settlement church minutes remain.

1st Sept Sat 1833

  • 1833 Frances Muncy received by experience (son of Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman or of Samuel Jr. and Agnes Craven)
  • 1833 Nancy Muncy by experience (probably Nancy Owens, wife of James Muncy)
  • 1833 Barbary Jayne (Willoughby Randolph’s daughter, I think)
  • 1833 Mary Randolph

1st Sat Oct 1833

  • 1833 Anny Muncy by exp (probably daughter of James Muncy)
  • 1833 James Muncy by exp (is this the same one as in 1822?)
  • 1833 Nancy Muncy by exp (probably Nancy (Anne) Workman Muncy)
  • 1833 William Jayne
  • 1833 Willoughby Randolph by exp and after being baptized requests letter of dismission and is granted

1st Sat November 1833

  • 1833 Samuel Muncy (probably Samuel (the fourth))

1st Sat Jan 1834

  • Louisa Muncy (probably Lousia Fitts, wife of Samuel (the fourth))

1st Sat May 1834

  • Hannah Jayne (Willoughby Randolph’s daughter)
  • Lucy Jayne

The Thompson Settlement Baptist church minutes mention a Samuel Muncy beginning in 1833, probably the son of Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman Muncy, who married Louisa Fitts.  Louisa was also a church member.

We don’t find two Samuels, so it’s also unlikely that Samuel (the third) was a member.  He would have been in his early 70s at this time, as would Anne Workman Muncy who did join.

In 1835, an Anny Muncy was excluded, but it is believed to have been Anna Muncy, the daughter of James, who had two illegitimate children.  That would certainly have gotten her dismissed from the church.  Six months later, James Muncy was also excluded, probably her father or possibly her brother.

A second Nancy Muncy is shown in 1833, which is probably Anne Workman Muncy.  Nancy and Anne were often used interchangeably.  The 1850 and 1860 census both refer to Nancy Munsy.

Which Samuel is Which?

The next thing we find, in 1839, is the death of one Samuel Muncy.  But which one?

We know that Samuel (the 4th) married to Louisa Fitts was still having children until 1843 or 1844, so it’s not that Samuel.

So all of this brings me to the third reason why I think that Samuel (the third)’s parents were Samuel Muncy and Agnes Craven, not Obediah.

If Samuel (the third, who married in 1788, was the first born child, he would have likely been named Samuel.  He named his son Samuel (the fourth) as well.  No place in the family is there a child named Obediah, not in any of the grandchildren either.  However, Samuel and Anne Workman also named a daughter Agnes.

That Agnes is the Agnes Muncy that married Fairwick Claxton about 1820.  We know that Muncy was her name because of the widows and their cumulative information

I was also told that Agnes Claxton’s father was Samuel Muncy and her mother was Anne Workman, but I don’t know where they obtained that information.  My cousins, the widows, had notes stuck in drawers and books and boxes and Bibles that they retrieved when I visited.

There’s more evidence too.  In the chancery suit filed in Hancock County, TN, in 1876 following Fairwick Claxton’s death, William Owens, age 40, testified that he was the nephew of Fairwick Claxton.  James Owens, age 30, testified as well, but did not give his relationship to Fairwick.  William and James Owens are shown in the 1850 census as the children of Sarah and Jeremiah Owens who lived 5 houses from Fairwick Claxton and his wife, Agnes Muncy.  Sarah and Jeremiah Owens also had children named Agnes and Samuel, but no Obediah.

Further connecting these families, in 1822, Jeremiah Owens was also listed as living on Willoughby Randolph’s land with James Muncy.  According to family members, Sarah Muncy Owens is buried in the Claxton Cemetery at the intersection of River and Owens Road in Hancock County with her sister Agnes Muncy Claxton and family.

Furthermore, James Muncy, after selling his land to Willoughby Muncy, son of Francis Muncy who married Lovey Randolph, moved in to the 4 Mile Creek area, which is very close to where Sarah and Agnes lived.  James Muncy died there in 1854.

In the 1850 and 1860 census, Nancy Muncy was living with Agnes and Fairwick Claxton.

1850 Hancock census Muncy

She was given as age 81 in 1850 and age 99 in 1860.  So Anne Workman survived to a great age.  I do wonder where they lived from 1811 until 1839 when Samuel died.

It is assured that Anne Workman Muncy is buried in the Claxton cemetery since she lived with daughter Agnes and the cemetery was literally out the back door.

Claxton Cemetery Hancock Co.

When Anne’s husband Samuel died, where he was buried is open to speculation.  Given that his estate order was filed in Lee County, they were probably not living in Claiborne County, TN (now Hancock County) at that time – but the entire family lived along the Powell River within a few miles of each other and the county and state line was just a detail.

Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman probably had several children but it has been most difficult to ascertain their names.

Further confusing the matter, there are many family members sharing names like Francis and Samuel.  Additionally, the Hancock County records have burned.

A Fifth Samuel

Information provided by another Muncy cousin adds more confusion.  According to “Some Branches of the Workman Family Tree,” by Ralph Hall Sayre, the following are “known issue of Samuel and Anne (Workman) Muncy:”

1. James Muncy, born ca. 1790
2. Thomas Muncy, born ca. 1792
3. Samuel Muncy, born ca. 1798; married Hannah Black [The researcher disagrees with this and feels he married Dicy Spalding.]
4. William Muncy, born ca. 1803; married Peggy Hensley
5. Levi Muncy, born ca. 1808
6. Nancy Muncy, born ca. 1810; married Francis Aldridge
7. Polly Muncy, born ca. 1811; married Henry Davis

Of course, it doesn’t say how they know.  These families are found in Kentucky, with the cousin providing the information descending from Nancy, #6.  She provides this further information.

“Are you aware that Anne Workman’s brother Moses married an Elizabeth Muncy (born ca. 1781) in 1802 Tazewell County, VA? It’s believed Elizabeth was a daughter of Obediah Muncy, and indeed she named her first son Obediah Workman. Moses and Elizabeth Muncy Workman moved to Logan Co. VA. I believe that’s my Samuel Muncy taxed in Tazewell County the same year Moses and Elizabeth married. Samuel was taxed in Tazewell County, VA 1801-4,

Your Samuel and Agnes were already in Lee County by that time. By 1810 my Samuel was taxed in Cabell County, WV (which I believe was a case of new county formation, not a physical move.) By 1819 Samuel was taxed in Floyd Co. KY, apparently living in the area which later became Lawrence Co. KY. By 1822 he appears in the Lawrence County, KY tax lists, where he appears consistently through 1827.

So it appears that as your Samuel and Agnes moved further south and west my Muncy line moved a bit north and west.

I know Nancy Muncy married Francis (Frank) Aldridge who was the son of James and Margaret Muncy Aldridge. I believe, but cannot prove, that Margaret was somehow related to the Samuel Muncy who was living in Cabell County, WV when Margaret’s husband James was convicted of “moonshining.”  This Margaret Muncy Aldridge also appears in the Floyd Co./Lawrence Co. KY records along with Samuel and his oldest sons. As you know, I believe this Lawrence Co. KY Samuel is the one who married Anne Workman. And I also believe this Samuel is the son of Obediah, not Samuel.”

If those are the children of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman, then who is the elderly Nancy Munsey living with Agnes Claxton in 1850 and 1860?  What other Samuel married an Anne of that same age and would name his children, Agnes and Samuel?

Clearly, the Samuel noted above born in 1798 cannot be the son of Samuel (the third) if the Samuel Muncy (the fourth) who lived with the other Muncy group in Lee County on the Hancock County border is Samuel’s son.  If Samuel Muncy (the fourth) is not Samuel (the third)’s son, then why did Cornelius Fitts, his brother-in-law, post bond at Samuel’s death?

Clearly, we have yet a fifth Samuel, also believed to be the Samuel who married Anne Workman.  It’s worth noting here that Lawrence County (where this family is found) and Harlan County (where Samuel Jr. and Agnes Craven’s children settled), although both are in eastern Kentucky, are not adjacent or even close.

eastern kentucky county map

Furthermore, Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman were not having and raising children in Lawrence County, Kentucky while their children in Lee County, VA near the Claiborne County border were being raised and marrying there.  We clearly have two different Samuel Muncys involved and identified as the same person.

The Lee County VA and Hancock County, TN Munseys

The following group of people are found together in Lee and Hancock County and I feel certain they are related to each other. In addition, because Nancy is found with this group in 1850 and 1860 and we have Samuel’s death in 1839, I feel that this group can be none other than the children of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman.  There likely are more children.

Children candidates of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman:

Francis Muncy, born in 1788, married Lovey Randolph about 1809, daughter of Willoughby Randolph and was very active in the Thompson Settlement Baptist church.  Francis was born on February 3, 1788, before Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman obtained their marriage license on June 16th.  On the other hand, Agnes Craven Muncy was nearing 50 years old by that date.  It remains unclear whether Francis was the son or brother to Samuel Muncy (the third).

Francis Munsy’s children, according to the Lee County Settlers Book which used the transcribed Bible, and confirmed through the Thompson Settlement Church records where possible, were:

  • Hannah born 1810 married John Jayne
  • William Joseph Muncy born 1812 married Lucy Jayne
  • Willoughby Randolph Muncy born 1816 married Catharine Jayne
  • James Frances Muncy born 1819 (restored to the church 1842)
  • Sarah Sally Muncy born 1821 married Harvey Thompson about 1840 (Sally Muncy, daughter of Francis received in the church 1842)
  • Mary Polly Muncy born 1824 married James Sims
  • Frances Minerva Muncy born 1826 married James Jayne (received in the church 1842)
  • Andrew Jackson Muncy born 1829
  • Nancy Ann Muncy, unmarried, died 1858 or typhoid
  • Samuel R. Muncy born 1834 married Letitia Hedrick
  • Elizabeth born 1838 married William S. Rollins

James Muncy, born about 1790, according to the census, married Nancy Owens about 1815, bought land from Willoughby Randolph in 1819, was living on Willoughby Randolph’s land in 1822.  In 1845, he, sold that land to Willoughby Muncy, son of Francis Muncy and Lovey Randolph, moving to 4 Mile Creek beside both Sarah Muncy Owens and Agnes Muncy Claxton after 1850.  This family was also active in the Thompson Settlement Church, although eventually withdrew.  In 1850, James was deaf, according to the census.

His known children were, although there were likely more:

  • Ann, born about 1815, had two children in about 1837 and 1840, never married
  • Jeremiah Muncy born in 1827 married Mary before 1850
  • Ellen Jane, born in 1815, married Henry Yeary before 1850 (and lived by Henry Claxton in the 1850 census)
  • John born 1830
  • William born 1832 and married Anna
  • Peter born 1834 married T. Catherine
  • Sarah born 1836 married Martin Brown
  • Ruben born 1838
  • Hannah born 1840 married John Hatfield

Samuel Muncy (the fourth), probably born between 1800 and 1805, married Louisa Fitts who according to the 1850 census was born in 1805 in North Carolina.  They were married in Lee Co., VA about 1825 and after their marriage they became members of the Thompson Settlement Church.  He was received a member the first Saturday in November 1833 and Louisa, the first Saturday in January 1834.  In 1835 Samuel Muncy was appointed a delegate to the Association.

Fitts Gap is very close to the Thompson Settlement Church in Lee County.

Fitts Gap

Samuel Muncy (the fourth) died in 1843-44 and is buried in the Campbell-Curry family burial plot, located near the old Towell Ford of Powell River in Lee county.  A marker has been placed at the grave in recent years without dates.  His youngest son was born in 1844.  Louisa died November 5, 1857 of a fever at the age of 46.

Their children were:

  • Henry Towell Muncy born July 27, 1826 and died December 11, 1893
  • Melinda Muncy born 1829, married Martin Van Buren Wynn
  • William Muncy born 1832, Sallie Muncy born 1833, died 1897, never married
  • Preston Muncy born 1844, married Millie McDaniel.

Henry Towell Muncy, born in 1823, is shown in the photo below, the grandson of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman.

Henry Towell Muncy 1826-1893

William Muncy 1832-1923, below.

William Muncy 1832-1923 crop

These pictures of Henry and William would be the sons of this Samuel Muncy (the fourth) and grandsons of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman.

This stray picture, below, found in the Estes family picture box was labeled Bill Muncy.    Maybe someone can better or positively identify this person.

William Muncy Hancock County TN

Agnes Muncy, born in 1803, married Fairwick Claxton/Clarkson about 1820.  They lived within 5 houses of Sarah Muncy and Jeremiah Owens.

Their children were:

  • James born 1820, married unknown, died 1840-1845
  • Henry Avery Claxton, born 1821, married Nancy Manning, died 1864 Civil War
  • William Claxton born 1815, married Martha Walker and Eliza Manning, died about 1920
  • Samuel Claxton born 1827, married Elizabeth Speak and died in 1876
  • Sally Claxton born 1829, married Robert Shiflet, died 1900
  • Nancy Claxton born 1831-1833, married John Wolfe and died before 1875
  • Rebecca Claxton born 1834 married Calvin Wolfe died 1923
  • John Claxton, born 1840, died 1863 Civil War

Samuel Claxton/Clarkson, below, born in 1827, is the son of Agnes Muncy and Fairwick Claxton, so another grandson of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman.

Samuel Claxton

I think Samuel Claxton looks a lot like Henry Towell Muncy.  They would have been first cousins.

Samuel’s sister, Sally Claxton Shiflet is shown below.

Sarah Clarkson Shiflett

Sarah Muncy, born between 1801 and 1807.  In 1876, William Owens, age 40, testified that he was the nephew of Fairwick Claxton.  James Owens, age 30, testified as well, but did not give his relationship to Fairwick.  William and James Owens are shown in the 1850 census as the children of Sarah and Jeremiah Owens who lived 5 houses from Fairwick Claxton and his wife, Agnes Muncy.  Today, there is an Owen Cemetery within sight of the Clarkson (Cavin) Cemetery where Fairwick is buried and that land sits at the intersection of Owen Ridge Road and River Road.

In 1822, Jeremiah Owens was living on the Willoughby Randolph land with James Muncy.

In 1830 and 1840, the Jeremiah Owens family was in the Lee County census, but by 1850 they were living as neighbors to Agnes Muncy and Fairwick Claxton near Four Mile creek on the Powell River in Hancock County, TN.  The children of Sarah Muncy and Jeremiah Owens, according to the 1850 census, were:

  • Nancy born in 1820
  • Agness born in 1826
  • Louisa born in 1828
  • Mary Ann born in 1829
  • William born in 1835
  • Martha born in 1837
  • Samuel born in 1840
  • Mildred born in 1842
  • James born in 1845

Sarah was born in 1807, according to the census, and was married when she was about 13, so about 1820.  She shows her birth in Tennessee.  In 1860, her birth year is shown as 1801.

Regardless of the relationship of James and Francis to Sarah and Agnes, meaning whether they are brothers or uncles, Sarah and Agnes are confirmed as sisters to each other via the chancery suit testimony.

Sarah’s sons, who gave depositions in the Clarkson/Claxton suit are shown below:

William Owens

James Owens (below) and William Owens (above), grandsons of Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman.  I particularly love the quilt.

James Owens

Samuel Owens, shown below, served in the Civil War for the Union.

samuel owens

It’s fun to look at old photos.  Peter would have been Samuel Muncy’s nephew, so his brother’s child.  The rest of these would have been Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman Muncy’s grandchildren.  Do you see any resemblance?

Can DNA Help?

In this case, there is only one way that I can think of that DNA testing could potentially help.

We have connecting evidence to believe that several people are siblings and descendants of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman, meaning Francis Muncy, Sarah Muncy Owens, Agnes Muncy Claxton, James Muncy and Samuel Muncy (the fourth.).  If this is the case, then some of the DNA of Agnes Craven would have been passed to them if they are descended from her.

In fact, if Agnes was their grandmother, they would have inherited about 25% of her DNA.

Today, I’m several generations downstream of Agnes Muncy Claxton.

Ancestor % of Agnes Craven DNA
Agnes Craven 100
Samuel Muncy (the third) 50
Agnes, Sarah, James, Francis, Samuel (4th) and other children 25
Samuel Claxton 12.5
Margaret Claxton/Clarkson 6.25
Ollie Bolton 3.12
William Sterling Estes 1.56
Me 0.78

If DNA inheritance actually happened at the 50% level in each generation for each segment, which we know it doesn’t, then I would carry under 1% of Agnes’s DNA and it would likely not show up in a large enough total or a large enough segment to be over the vendor matching thresholds.  However, if we have a particularly sticky segment, we might find some of Agnes Craven’s DNA in descendants today.

And you know what…the answer is no if you don’t look.

If we find Craven autosomal DNA, it would confirm that Agnes was the mother of Samuel and not Obediah’s unknown wife, unless she too was a Craven.  Of course, that we’ll never know.

In order to prove the Craven connection, we would actually need to match a descendant of any proven Craven who is not related to the Muncy line on a segment that is shown to come from the Muncy line in the descendants of Agnes, Sarah, James, or Francis.

After looking at the various cousins that might be involved, I found a total of 8 cousins who descend from Fairwick Clarkson/Claxton and Agnes Muncy or Jeremiah and Sarah Muncy Owens.

Of those cousins, Jim matches one Craven descendant who descends from the Craven line upstream of Robert Craven.

However, two cousins from separate children of Fairwick and Agnes both match Larry who descends directly from Robert Craven and Mary Harrison, the parents of Agnes Craven.  Larry has no Muncy or other common ancestry.  His Craven line is shown below:

  • Robert and Mary Harrison Craven
  • William Craven
  • Abigail Craven
  • Thomas Hayes
  • Nicholas Hayes
  • Mary Hayes
  • Flaude Johnson
  • Private
  • Private
  • Tester

The two cousins who descend from Agnes Muncy Claxton are Stacy and Brian.  This is the best possible matching scenario we could have – a descendant of Agnes Craven’s parents and two separate lines from Agnes Claxton.

Stacy is my great-niece, so even though I don’t match Larry, it stands to reason that I’m just not over the threshold, and Stacy is, so I may carry some smaller segments that match both Stacy and Larry.  In other words, the DNA carried by both Stacy and I was provided my by father.

I downloaded Stacy’s matches to me and to Larry, as well as Brian’s matches to Larry.  In this case, we need to triangulate to Larry, the Craven descendant, since he is the only person who matches both Stacy and Brian.

Since Brian doesn’t match either Stacy or me over the Family Tree DNA matching threshold, let’s hope that Larry matches both Stacy and Larry on some segments, making a triangulated group.

Craven Claxton DNA

In the two dark red locations, Larry matches both Stacy and Brian, creating a triangulated group, proving that all three members of this group does share common DNA with the descendant of Robert Craven and Mary Harrison.  Unless we are really unlucky enough that Obediah would have also married a Craven, this proves that Agnes Claxton/Clarkson was a descendant of Agnes Craven.

Note the light red segments that include Stacy, me and Larry.  While these do triangulate, Stacy and I both share a recent ancestor – my father.  The triangulation between Larry and Brian Stacy is much stronger evidence since Brian and Stacy’s common ancestor is Agnes Muncy Clarkson/Claxton.

This was a really long way around the block to prove who Samuel Muncy (the third)’s parents were, by proving who his grandparents were.  Once again, small segments came to our rescue – 8, 9 and 10 generations after our common ancestor.

I tried to do the same thing for Joseph Workman and Phoebe McMahon, Anne Workman’s parents, but I wasn’t as successful at Family Tree DNA.  There are suggestive matches, but nothing conclusive and I haven’t heard back from people about their ancestry.

However, there is a piece of very interesting evidence at

I have two matches with people who descend from Joseph Workman and Phoebe McMahon, all 3 of us through different children.  Neither of my two matches at Ancestry have Muncy DNA nor do they appear to have other lines in common with me.

However, as we know, DNA matches without triangulation are not proof, they are only suggestions of a common ancestral line.

And we also know at Ancestry that there are no chromosome browser tools to prove common DNA segments, so we can never have proof there.

So, we can count these Ancestry matches as pieces of evidence, along with our other evidence, but not as proof.

Samuel Evidence

So, is Agnes Claxton/Clarkson the daughter of Samuel Muncy (the third,) and Anne Workman Muncy, or not?

If so, is Samuel (the third) also the father of Sarah who married Jeremiah Owens, James Muncy who married Nancy Owens, Samuel Muncy (the fourth) who married Louisa Fitts and Francis Muncy who married the daughter of Willoughby Randolph?

I believe the answer to at least some of these questions is yes.

  • We know that Samuel Muncy Jr. and Agnes Craven were in the Wallin Ridge/Powell River area from 1799 through 1811 based on land transactions.
  • We know that Samuel and Agnes sold their land and probably left for Kentucky in 1811 with some of their children. Willoughby Randolph and Francis Muncy witnessed that transaction.  Samuel and Agnes were about age 70 at that time.
  • We know that in 1809 Francis Muncy married Lovey Randolph and by 1815, James Muncy had married Nancy Owens, so it’s very likely that their parents were living in this area at the time.
  • Francis Munsy was born four months before Samuel (the third) and Anne Workman were married, but by the same token, Agnes Craven Munsey would have been about 47 years old , and perhaps older, at the time of his birth.  James was born about 2 years later.
  • We know that slightly before 1820, Sarah Muncy married Jeremiah Owens and Agnes Muncy married Samuel Claxton.  From the 1876 lawsuit, we know that Agnes and Sarah were sisters.
  • In 1819 James Muncy purchased land from Randolph Muncy and in 1822, James Muncy and Jeremiah Owens are living on Willoughly Randolph’s land according to his will.
  • Samuel Muncy (the fourth) married Louisa Fitts about 1825.
  • In 1839 Samuel Muncy dies with James Muncy appointed administrator and Cornelius Fitts posts bond for the estate. Cornelius Fitts is the brother of Louisa Fitts who marries Samuel Muncy (the fourth) who is thought to be the son of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman.
  • In 1845, James Muncy sells his land that be bought from Willoughby Randolph in 1819 to Willoughby Muncy, the son of Francis Muncy who married Lovey Randolph.
  • James Muncy moved in the 1850s from Lee County to very near Sarah Muncy Owens and Agnes Muncy Claxton on Four Mile Creek in Hancock County.
  • In the 1850 and 1860 census, the Jeremiah Owens family and Agnes Claxton along with Nancy Muncy are all living adjacent in Hancock County
  • Nancy Muncy is living with Agnes and Fairwick Clarkson/Claxton in the 1850 and 1860 census. An older woman of the right age to be Nancy is living with them in 1840 as well, which is a year after Samuel died.
  • Sarah Muncy Owens names children Agnes and Samuel. Agnes Muncy Claxton names her son Samuel. There are no Obediah’s in the family line.
  • Robert Craven’s descendants autosomal DNA triangulates with that of two of Agnes Muncy’s descendants, albeit on small segments.
  • I match to two descendants of Anne Workman’s parents, Joseph Workman and Phoebe McMahon at AncestryDNA.  Our matches are via three of their children’s lines.

So, what do you think?

Is Agnes Claxton the daughter of Samuel Muncy (the third) and Anne Workman?

Is Samuel Muncy (the third) who married Anne Workman in 1788 the son of Samuel Muncy Jr. and Agnes Craven or of Obediah Muncy?

Tell me what you think based on the evidence.



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A Study Utilizing Small Segment Matching

There has been quite a bit of discussion in the last several weeks, both pro and con, about how to use small matching DNA segments in genetic genealogy.  A couple of people are even of the opinion that small segments can’t be used at all, ever.  Others are less certain and many of us are working our way through various scenarios.  Evidence certainly exists that these segments can be utilized.

I’ve been writing foundation articles, in preparation for this article, for several weeks now.  Recently, I wrote about how phasing works and determining IBD versus IBS matches and included guidelines for telling the difference between the different kinds of matches.  If you haven’t read that article, it’s essential to understanding this article, so now would be a good time to read or review that article.

I followed that with a step by step article, Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching, on how to do phasing and matching in combination with the guidelines about how to determine IBD (identical by descent) versus IBS (identical by chance) and identical by population matches when evaluating your own matches.

Now that we understand IBS, IBD, Phasing and how matching actually works on a case by case basis, let’s look at applying those same matching and IBS vs IBD guidelines to small data segments as well.

A Little History

So those of you who haven’t been following the discussion on various blogs and social media don’t feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of a conversation with no context, let me catch you up.

On Thanksgiving Day, I published an article about identifying one of my ancestors, after many years of trying, Sarah Hickerson.

That article spurred debate, which is just fine when the debate is about the science, but it subsequently devolved into something less pleasant.  There are some individuals with very strong opinions that utilizing small segments of DNA data can “never be done.”

I do not agree with that position.  In fact, I strongly disagree and there are multiple cases with evidence to support small segments being both accurate and useful in specific types of genealogical situations.  We’ll take a look at several.

I do agree that looking at small segment data out of context is useless.  To the best of my knowledge, no genealogist begins with their smallest segments and tries to assemble them, working from the bottom up.  We all begin with the largest segments, because they are the most useful and the closest connections in our tree, and work our way down.  Generally, we only work with small segments when we have to – and there are times that’s all we have.  So we need to establish guidelines and ways to know if those small segments are reliable or not.  In other words, how can we draw conclusions and how much confidence can we put in those conclusions?

Ultimately, whether you choose to use or work with small segment data will be your own decision, based on your own circumstances.  I simply wanted to understand what is possible and what is reasonable, both for my own genealogy and for my readers.

In my projects, I haven’t been using small segment data out of context, or randomly.  In other words, I don’t just pick any two small segment matches and infer or decide that they are valid matches.  Fortunately, by utilizing the IBD vs IBS guidelines, we have tools to differentiate IBD (Identical by Descent) segments from IBS (Identical by State) by chance segments and IBD/IBS by population for matching segments, both large and small.

Studying small segment data is the key to determining exactly how small segments can reasonably be utilized.  This topic probably isn’t black or white, but shades of gray – and assuming the position that something can’t be done simply assures that it won’t be.

I would strongly encourage those involved and interested in this type of research to retain those small segments, work with them and begin to look for patterns.  The only way we, as a community, are ever going to figure out how to work with small segments successfully and reliably is to, well, work with them.

Discussing the science and scenarios surrounding the usage of small data segments in various different situations is critical to seeing our way through the forest.  If the answers were cast in concrete about how to do this, we wouldn’t be working through this publicly today.

Negative personal comments and inferences have no place in the scientific community.  It discourages others from participating, and serves to stifle research and cooperation, not encourage it.  I hope that civil scientific discussions and comparisons involving small segment data can move forward, with decorum, because they are critically needed in order to enhance our understanding, under varying circumstances, of how to utilize small segment data.  As Judy Russell said, disagreeing doesn’t have to be disagreeable.

Two bloggers, Blaine Bettinger and CeCe Moore wrote articles following my Hickerson article.  Blaine subsequently wrote a second article here.  Felix Immanuel wrote articles here and here.

A few others have weighed in, in writing, as well although most commentary has been on Facebook.  Israel Pickholtz, a professional genealogist and genetic consultant, stated on his blog, All My Foreparents, the following:

It is my nature to distrust rules that put everything into a single category and that’s how I feel about small segments. Sometimes they are meaningful and useful, sometimes not.

When I reconstructed my father’s DNA using Lazerus (described last week in Genes From My Father), I happily accepted all small segments of whatever size because those small segments were in the DNA of at least one of his children and at least one of his brother/sister/first cousin. If I have a particular small segment, I must have received it from my parents. If my father’s brother (or sister) has it as well, then it is eminently clear to me that I got it from my father and that it came to him and his brother from my grandfather. And it is not reasonable to say that a sliver of that small segment might have come from my mother, because my father’s people share it.

After seeing Israel’s commentary about Lazarus, I reconstructed the genome of both Roscoe and John Ferverda, brothers, which includes both large and small segments.  Working with the Ferverda DNA further, I wrote an article, Just One Cousin, about matching between two siblings and a first cousin, which includes lots of small data segments, some of which were proven to triangulate, meaning they are genuine, and some which did not.  There are lots more examples in the demystifying article, as well.

What Not To Do 

Before we begin, I want to make it very clear that am not now, and never have, advocated that people utilize small data segments out of context of larger matching segments and/or at least suspected matching genealogy.  For example, I have never implied or even hinted that anyone should go to GedMatch, do a “one to many” compare at 1 cM and then contact people informing them that they are related.  Anyone who has extrapolated what I’ve written to mean that either simply did not understand or intentionally misinterpreted the articles.

Sarah Hickerson Revisited

If I thought Sarah Hickerson caused me a lot of heartburn in the decades before I found her, little did I know how much heartburn that discovery would cause.

Let’s go back to the Sarah Hickerson article that started the uproar over whether small data segments are useful at all.

In that article, I found I was a member of a new Ancestry DNA Circle for Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, the parents of Sarah Hickerson.

Ancestry Hickerson match

Because there are no tools at Ancestry to prove DNA connections, I hurried over to Family Tree DNA looking for any matches to Hickersons for myself and for my Vannoy cousins who also (potentially) descended from this couple.  Much to my delight, I found  several matches to Hickersons, in fact, more than 20 – a total of 614 rows of spreadsheet matches when I included all of my Vannoy cousins who potentially descend from this couple to their Hickerson matches.  There were 64 matching clusters of segments, both small and large.  Some matches were as large as 20cM with 6000 SNPs and more than 20 were over 10cM with from 1500 to 6000 SNPs.  There were also hundreds of small segments that matched (and triangulated) as well.

By the time I added in a few more Vannoy cousins that we’ve since recruited, the spreadsheet is now up to 1093 rows and we have 52 Vannoy-Hickerson TRIANGULATED CLUSTERS utilizing only Family Tree DNA tools.

Triangulated DNA, found in 3 or more people at the same location who share a common ancestor is proven to be from that ancestor (or ancestral couple.)  This is the commonly accepted gold standard of autosomal DNA triangulation within the industry.

Here’s just one example of a cluster of three people.  Charlene and Buster are known (proven, triangulated) cousins and Barbara is a descendant of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

example triang

What more could you want?

Yes, I called this a match.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a confirmed ancestor.  How much more confirmed can you get?

Some clusters have as many as 25 confirmed triangulated members.

chr 13 group

Others took issue with this conclusion because it included small segment data.  This seems like the perfect opportunity in which to take a look at how small segments do, or don’t stand up to scrutiny.  So, let’s do just that.  I also did the same type of matching comparison in a situation with 2 siblings and a known cousin, here.

To Trash…or Not To Trash

Some genetic genealogists discard small segments entirely, generally under either 5 or 7cM, which I find unfortunate for several reasons.

  1. If a person doesn’t work with small segments, they really can’t comment on the lack of results, and they’ll never have a success because the small segments will have been discarded.
  2. If a person doesn’t work with small segments, they will never notice any trends or matches that may have implications for their ancestry.
  3. If a person doesn’t work with small segments, they can’t contribute to the body of evidence for how to reasonably utilize these segments.
  4. If a person doesn’t work with small segments, they may well be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but they’ll never know.
  5. They encourage others to do the same.

The Sarah Hickerson article was not meant as a proof article for anything – it was meant to be an article encouraging people to utilize genetic genealogy for not only finding their ancestor and proving known connections, but breaking down brick walls.  It was pointing the way to how I found Sarah Hickerson.  It was one of my 52 Ancestors Series, documenting my ancestors, not one of the specifically educational articles.  This article is different.

If you are only interested in the low hanging fruit, meaning within the past 5 or 6 generations, and only proving your known pedigree, not finding new ancestors beyond that 5-6 generation level, then you can just stop reading now – and you can throw away your small segments.  But if you want more, then keep reading, because we as a community need to work with small segment data in order to establish guidelines that work relative to utilizing small segments and identifying the small segments that can be useful, versus the ones that aren’t.

I do not believe for one minute that small segments are universally useless.  As Israel said, if his family did not receive those segments from a common family member, then where did they all get those matching segments?

In fact, utilizing triangulated and proven DNA relationships within families is how adoptees piece together their family trees, piggybacking off of the work of people with known pedigrees that they match genetically.  My assumption had been that the adoptee community utilized only large DNA segments, because the larger the matching segments, generally the closer in time the genealogy match – and theoretically the easier to find.

However, I discovered that I was wrong, and the adoptee community does in fact utilize small segments as well.  Here’s one of the comments posted on my Chromosome Browser War blog article.

“Thanks for the well thought out article, Roberta, I have something to add from the folks at DNAadoption. Adoptees are not just interested in the large segments, the small segments also build the proof of the numerous lines involved. In addition, the accumulation of surnames from all the matches provides a way to evaluate new lines that join into the tree.”

Diane Harman-Hoog (on behalf of the 6 million adoptees in this country, many of who are looking for information on medical records and family heritage).

Diane isn’t the only person who is working with small segment data.  Tim Janzen works with small segments, in particular on his Mennonite project, and discusses small segments on the ISOGG WIKI Phasing page.  Here is what Tim has to say:

“One advantage of Family Finder is that FF has a 1 cM threshold for matching segments. If a parent and a child both have a matching segment that is in the 2 to 5 cM range and if the number of matching SNPs is 500 or more then there is a reasonably high likelihood that the matching segment is IBD (identical by descent) and not IBS (identical by state).”

The same rules for utilizing larger segment data need to be applied to small segment data to begin with.

Are more guidelines needed for small segments?  I don’t know, but we’ll never know if we don’t work with many individual situations and find the common methods for success and identify any problematic areas.

Why Do Small Segments Matter?

In some cases, especially as we work beyond the 6 generation level, small segments may be all we have left of a specific ancestor.  If we don’t learn to recognize and utilize the small segments available to us, those ancestors, genetically speaking, will be lost to us forever.

As we move back in time, the DNA from more distant ancestors will be divided into smaller and smaller segments, so if we ever want the ability to identify and track those segments back in time to a specific ancestor, we have to learn how to utilize small segment data – and if we have deleted that data, then we can’t use it.

In my case, I have identified all of my 5th generation ancestors except one, and I have a strong lead on her.  In my 6th generation, however, I have lots of walls that need to be broken through – and DNA may be the only way I’ll ever do that.

Let’s take a look at what I can expect when trying to match people who also descend from an ancestor 5 generations back in time.  If they are my same generation, they would be my fourth cousins.

Based on the autosomal statistics chart at ISOGG, 4th cousins, on the average, would expect to share about 13.28 cM of DNA from their common ancestor.  This would not be over the match threshold at FTDNA of approximately 20 cM total, and if those segments were broken into three pieces, for example, that cousin would not show as a match at either FTDNA or 23andMe, based on the vendors’ respective thresholds.

% Shared DNA Expected Shared cM Relationship
0.781% 53.13 Third cousins, common ancestor is 4 generations back in time
0.391% 26.56 Third cousins once removed
20 cm Family Tree DNA total cM Threshold
0.195% 13.28 Fourth cousins, common ancestor is 5 generations back in time
7 cM 23andMe individual segment cM match threshold
0.0977% 6.64 Fourth cousins once removed
0.0488% 3.32 Fifth cousins, common ancestor is 6 generations back in time
0.0244 1.66 Fifth cousins once removed

If you’re lucky, as I was with Hickerson, you’ll match at least some relative who carries that ancestral DNA line above the threshold, and then they’ll match other cousins above the threshold, and you can build a comparison network, linking people together, in that fashion.  And yes you may well have to utilize GedMatch for people testing at various different vendors and for those smaller segment comparisons.

For clarification, I have never “called” a genealogy match without supporting large segment data.  At the vendors, you can’t even see matches if they don’t have larger segments – so there is no way to even know you would match below the threshold.

I do think that we may be able to make calls based on small segments, at least in some instances, in the future.  In fact, we have to figure out how to do this or we will rarely be able to move past the 5th or 6th generation utilizing genetics.

At the 5th generation, or third cousins, one expects to see approximately 26 cM of matching DNA, still over the threshold (if divided correctly), but from that point further back in time, the expected shared amount of DNA is under the current day threshold.  For those who wonder why the vendors state that autosomal matches are reliable to about the 5th or 6th generation, this is the answer.

I do not discount small segments without cause.  In other words, I don’t discount small segments unless there is a reason.  Unless they are positively IBS by chance, meaning false, and I can prove it, I don’t disregard them.  I do label them and make appropriate notes.  You can’t learn from what’s not there.

Let me give you an example.  I have one area of my spreadsheet where I have a whole lot of segments, large and small, labeled Acadian.  Why?  Because the Acadians are so intermarried that I can’t begin to sort out the actual ancestor that DNA came from, at least not yet…so today, I just label them “Acadian.”

This example row is from my master spreadsheet.  I have my Mom’s results in my spreadsheet, so I can see easily if someone matches me and Mom both. My rows are pink.  The match is on Mom’s side, which I’ve color coded purple.  I don’t know which ancestor is the most recent common ancestor, but based on the surnames involved, I know they are Acadian.  In some cases, on Acadian matches, I can tell the MRCA and if so, that field is completed as well.

Me Mom acadian

As a note of interest, I inherited my mother’s segment intact, so there was no 50% division in this generation.

I also have segments labeled Mennonite and Brethren.  Perhaps in the future I’ll sort through these matches and actually be able to assign DNA segments to specific ancestors.  Those segments aren’t useless, they just aren’t yet fully analyzed.  As more people test, hopefully, patterns will emerge in many of these DNA groupings, both small and large.

In fact, I talked about DNA patterns and endogamous populations in my recent article, Just One Cousin.

For me, today, some small segment matches appear to be central European matches.  I say “appear to be,” because they are not triangulated.  For me this is rather boring and nondescript – but if this were my African American client who is trying to figure out which line her European ancestry came from, this could be very important.  Maybe she can map these segments to at least a specific ancestral line, which she would find very exciting.

Learning to use small segments effectively has the potential to benefit the following groups of people:

  • People with colonial ancestry, because all that may be left today of colonial ancestors is small segments.
  • People looking to break down brick walls, not just confirm currently known ancestors.
  • People looking for minority ancestors more than 5 or 6 generations back in their trees.
  • Adoptees – although very clearly, they want to work with the largest matches first.
  • People working with ethnic identification of ancestors, because you will eventually be able to track ethnicity identifying segments back in time to the originating ancestor(s).

Conversely, people from highly endogamous groups may not be helped much, if at all, by small segments because they are so likely to be widely shared within that population as a group from a common ancestor much further back in time.  In fact, the definition of a “small segment” for people with fully endogamous families might be much larger than for someone with no known endogamy.

However, if we can identify segments to specific populations, that may help the future accuracy of ethnicity testing.

Let’s go back and take a look at the Hickerson data using the same format we have been using for the comparisons so far.

Small Segment Examples

These Hickerson/Vannoy examples do not utilize random small segment matches, but are utilizing the same matching rules used for larger matches in conjunction with known, triangulated cousin groups from a known ancestor.  Many cousins, including 2 brothers and their uncle all carry this same DNA.  Like in Israel’s case, where did they get that same DNA if not from a common ancestor?

In the following examples, I want to stress that all of the people involved DO HAVE LARGER SEGMENT MATCHES on other chromosomes, which is how we knew they matched in the first place, so we aren’t trying to prove they are a match.  We know they are.  Our goal is to determine if small segments are useful in the same situation, proving matches, as with larger segments.  In other words, do the rules hold true?  And how do we work with the data?  Could we utilize these small segment matches if we didn’t have larger matching segments, and if so, how reliable would they be?

There is a difference between a single match and a triangulated group:

  • Matches between two people are suggestive of a common ancestor but could be IBS by chance or population..
  • Multiple matches, such as with the 6 different Hickersons who descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, both in the Ancestry DNA Circle and at Family Tree DNA, are extremely suggestive of a specific common ancestor.
  • Only triangulated groups are proof of a common ancestor, unless the people are  closely related known relatives.

In our Hickerson/Vannoy study, all participants match at least to one other (but not to all other) group members at Family Tree DNA which means they match over the FTDNA threshold of approximately 20 cM total and at least one segment over 7.7cM and 500 SNPs or more.

In the example below, from the Hickerson article, the known Vannoy cousins are on the left side and the Hickerson matches to the Vannoy cousins are across the top.  We have several more now, but this gives you an idea of how the matching stacked up initially.  The two green individuals were proven descendants from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

vannoy hickerson higginson matrix

The goal here is to see how small data segments stack up in a situation where the relationship is distant.  Can small segments be utilized to prove triangulation?  This is slightly different than in the Just One Cousin article, where the relationship between the individuals was close and previously known.  We can contrast the results of that close relationship and small segments with this more distant connection and small segments.

Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy

The Vannoy project has a group of about a dozen cousins who descend from Elijah Vannoy who have worked together to discover the identify of Elijah’s parents.  Elijah’s father is one of 4 Vannoy men, all sons of the same man, found in Wilkes County, NC. in the late 1700s.  Elijah Vannoy is 5 generations upstream from me.

What kind of evidence do we have?  In the paper genealogy world, I have ruled out one candidate via a Bible record, and probably a second via census and tax records, but we have little information about the third and fourth candidates – in spite of thoroughly perusing all existent records.  So, if we’re ever going to solve the mystery, short of that much-wished-for Vannoy Bible showing up on e-Bay, it’s going to have to be via genetic genealogy.

In addition to the dozen or so Vannoy cousins who have DNA tested, we found 6 individuals who descend from Sarah Hickerson’s parents, Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle who match various Vannoy cousins.  Additionally, those cousins match another 21 individuals who carry the Hickerson or derivative surnames, but since we have not proven their Hickerson lineage on paper, I have not utilized any of those additional matches in this analysis.  Of those 26 total matches, at Family Tree DNA, one Hickerson individual matches 3 Vannoy cousins, nine Hickerson descendants match 2 Vannoy cousins and sixteen Hickerson descendants match 1 Vannoy cousin.

Our group of Vannoy cousins matching to the 6 Charles Hickerson/Mary Lytle descendants contains over 60 different clusters of matching DNA data across the 22 chromosomes.  Those 6 individuals are included in 43 different triangulated groups, proving the entire triangulation group shares a common ancestor.  And that is BEFORE we add any GedMatch information.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s not.  Another recent article found 31 clusters among siblings and their first cousin, so 60 clusters among a dozen known Vannoy cousins and half a dozen potential Hickerson cousins isn’t unusual at all.

To be very clear, Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy were not “declared” to be the parents of Elijah Vannoy, born in 1784, based on small segment matches alone.  Larger segment matches were involved, which is how we saw the matches in the first place.  Furthermore, the matches triangulated.  However, small segments certainly are involved and are more prevalent, of course, than large segments.  Some cousins are only connected by small segments.  Are they valid, and how do we tell?  Sometimes it’s all we have.

Let me give you the classic example of when small segments are needed.

We have four people.  Person A and B are known Vannoy cousins and person C and D are potential Hickerson cousins.  Potential means, in this case, potential cousins to the Vannoys.  The Hickersons already know they both descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

  • Person A matches person C on chromosome 1 over the matching threshold.
  • Person B matches person D on chromosome 2 over the matching threshold.

Both Vannoy cousins match Hickerson cousins, but not the same cousin and not on the same segments at the vendor.  If these were same segment matches, there would be no question because they would be triangulated, but they aren’t.

So, what do we do?  We don’t have access to see if person C and D match each other, and even if we did, they don’t match on the same segments where they match persons A and B, because if they did we’d see them as a match too when we view A and B.

If person A and B don’t match each other at the vendor, we’re flat out of luck and have to move this entire operation to GedMatch, assuming all 4 people have or are willing to download their data.

a and b nomatch

If person A and B match each other at the vendor, we can see their small segment data as compared to each other and to persons C and D, respectively which then gives us the ability to see if A matches C on the same small segment as B matches D.

a and b match

If we are lucky, they will all show a common match on a small segment – meaning that A will match B on a small segment of chromosome 3, for example, and A will match C on that same segment.  In a perfect world, B will also match D on that same segment, and you will have 4 way triangulation – but I’m happy with the required 3 way match to triangulate.

This is exactly what happened in the article, Be Still My H(e)art.  As you can see, three people match on chromosomes 1 and 8, below – two of whom are proven cousins and the third was the wife surname candidate line.

Younger Hart 1-8

The example I showed of chromosome 2 in the Hickerson article was where all participants of the 5 individuals shown on the chromosome browser were matching to the Vannoy participant.  I thought it was a good visual example.  It was just one example of the 60+ clusters of cousin matches between the dozen Vannoy cousins and 6 Hickerson descendants.

This example was criticized by some because it was a small segment match.  I should probably have utilized chromosome 15 or searched for a better long segment example, but the point in my article was only to show how people that match stack up together on the chromosome browser – nothing more.   Here’s the entire chromosome, for clarity.

hickerson vannoy chr 2

Certainly, I don’t want to mislead anyone, including myself.  Furthermore, I dislike being publicly characterized as “wrong” and worse yet, labeled “irresponsible,” so I decided to delve into the depths of the data and work through several different examples to see if small segment data matching holds in various situations.  Let’s see what we found.

Chromosome 15

I selected chromosome 15 to work with because it is a region where a lot of Vannoy descendants match – and because it is a relatively large segment.  If the Hickersons do match the Vannoys, there’s a fairly good change they might match on at least part of that segment.  In other words, it appears to be my best bet due to sheer size and the number of Elijah Vannoy’s descendants who carry this segment.  In addition to the 6 individuals above who matched on chromosome 15, here are an additional 4.  As you can see, chromosome 15 has a lot of potential.

Chrom 15 Vannoy

The spreadsheet below shows the sections of chromosome 15 where cousins match.  Green individuals in the Match column are descendants of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, the parents of Sarah Hickerson.  The balance are Vannoys who match on chromosome 15.

chr 15 matches ftdna v4

As you can see, there are several segments that are quite large, shown in yellow, but there are also many that are under the threshold of 7cM, which are all  segments that would be deleted if you are deleting small segments.  Please also note that if you were deleting small segments, all of the Hickerson matches would be gone from chromosome 15.

Those of you with an eagle eye will already notice that we have two separate segments that have triangulated between the Vannoy cousins and the Hickerson descendants, noted in the left column by yellow and beige.  So really, we could stop right here, because we’ve proven the relationship, but there’s a lot more to learn, so let’s go on.

You Can’t Use What You Can’t See

I need to point something out at this point that is extremely important.

The only reason we see any segment data below the match threshold is because once you match someone on a larger segment at Family Tree DNA, over the threshold, you also get to view the small segment data down to 1cM for your match with that person. 

What this means is that if one person or two people match a Hickerson descendant, for example you will see the small segment data for their individual matches, but not for anyone that doesn’t match the participant over the matching threshold.

What that means in the spreadsheet above, is that the only Hickerson that matches more than one Vannoy (on this segment) is Barbara – so we can see her segment data (down to 1cM ) as compared to Polly and Buster, but not to anyone else.

If we could see the smaller segment data of the other participants as compared to the Hickerson participants, even though they don’t match on a larger segment over the matching threshold, there could potentially be a lot of small segment data that would match – and therefore triangulate on this segment.

This is the perfect example of why I’ve suggested to Family Tree DNA that within projects or in individuals situations, that we be allowed to reduce the match threshold – especially when a specific family line match is suspected.

This is also one of the reasons why people turn to GedMatch, and we’ll do that as well.

What this means, relative to the spreadsheet is that it is, unfortunately, woefully incomplete – and it’s not apples to apples because in some cases we have data under the match threshold, and in some, we don’t.  So, matches DO count, but nonmatches where small segment data is not available do NOT count as a non-match, or as disproof.  It’s only negative proof IF you have the data AND it doesn’t match.

The Vannoys match and triangulate on many segments, so those are irrelevant to this discussion other than when they match to Hickerson DNA.  William (H), descends from two sons of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.  Unfortunately, he only matches one Vannoy, so we can only see his small segments for that one Vannoy individual, William (V).  We don’t know what we are missing as compared to the rest of the Vannoy cousins.

To see William (H)’s and William (V)’s DNA as compared to the rest of the Vannoy cousins, we had to move to GedMatch.

Matching Options

Since we are working with segments that are proven to be Vannoy, and we are trying to prove/disprove if Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson are the parents of Elijah through multiple Hickerson matches, there are only a few matching options, which are:

  1. The Hickerson individuals will not triangulate with any of the Vannoy DNA, on chromosome 15 or on other chromosomes, meaning that Sarah Hickerson is probably not the mother of Elijah Vannoy, or the common ancestor is too far back in time to discern that match at vendor thresholds.
  2. The Hickerson individuals will not triangulate on this segment, but do triangulate on other segments, meaning that this segment came entirely from the Vannoy side of the family and not the Hickerson side of the family. Therefore, if chromosome 15 does not triangulate, we need to look at other chromosomes.
  3. The Hickerson individuals triangulate with the Vannoy individuals, confirming that Sarah Hickerson is the mother of Elijah Vannoy, or that there is a different common unknown ancestor someplace upstream of several Hickersons and Vannoys.

All of the Vannoy cousins descend from Elijah Vannoy and Lois McNiel, except one, William (V), who descends from the proven son of Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy, so he would be expected to match at least some Hickerson descendants.  The 6 Hickerson cousins descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, Sarah’s parents.

hickerson vannoy pedigree

William (H), the Hickerson cousin who descends from David, brother to Sarah Hickerson, is descended through two of David Hickerson’s sons.

I decided to utilize the same segment “mapping comparison” technique with a spreadsheet that I utilized in the phasing article, because it’s easy to see and visualize.

I have created a matching spreadsheet and labeled the locations on the spreadsheet from 25-100 based on the beginning of the start location of the cluster of matches and the end location of the cluster.

Each individual being compared on the spreadsheet below has a column across the top.  On the chart below, all Hickerson individuals are to the right and are shown with their cells highlighted yellow in the top row.

Below, the entire colorized chart of chromosome 15 is shown, beginning with location 25 and ending with 100, in the left hand column, the area of the Vannoy overlap.  Remember, you can double click on the graphics to enlarge.  The columns in this spreadsheet are not fully expanded below, but they are in the individual examples.

entire chr 15 match ss v4

I am going to step through this spreadsheet, and point out several aspects.

First, I selected Buster, the individual in the group to begin the comparison, because he was one of the closest to the common ancestor, Elijah Vannoy, genealogically, at 4 generations.  So he is the person at Family Tree DNA that everyone is initially compared against.

Everyone who matches Buster has their matching segments shown in blue.  Buster is shown furthest left.

When participants match someone other than Buster, who they match on that segment is typed into their column.  You can tell who Buster matches because their columns are blue on matching locations.  Here’s an example.

Me Buster match

You can see that in my column, it’s blue on all segments which means I match Buster on this entire region.  In addition, there are names of Carl, Dean, William Gedmatch and Billie Gedmatch typed into the cell in the first row which means at that location, in addition to Buster, I also match Carl and Dean at Family Tree DNA and William (descended from the son of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson) at Gedmatch and Billie (a Hickerson) at Gedmatch.  Their name is typed into my column, and mine into theirs.  Please note that I did not run everyone against everyone at GedMatch.  I only needed enough data to prove the point and running many comparisons is a long, arduous process even when GedMatch isn’t experiencing problems.

On cells that aren’t colorized blue, the person doesn’t match Buster, but may still match other Vannoy cousin segments.  For example, Dean, below, matches Buster on location 25-29, along with some other cousins.  However, he does not match Buster on location 30 where he instead matches Harold and Carl who also don’t match Buster at that location. Harold, Carl and Dean do, however, all descend from the same son of Elijah so they may well be sharing DNA from a Vannoy wife at this location, especially since no one who doesn’t share that specific wife’s line matches those three at this location.

Me Buster Dean match

Remember, we are not working with random small data segments, but with a proven matching segment to a common Vannoy ancestor, with a group of descendants from a possible/probable Hickerson ancestor that we are trying to prove/disprove.  In other words, you would expect either a lot of Hickerson matches on the same segments, if Hickerson is indeed a Vannoy ancestral family, or virtually none of them to match, if not.

The next thing I’d like to point out is that these are small segments of people who also have larger matching segments, many of whom do triangulate on larger segments on other chromosomes.  What we are trying to discern is whether small segment matches can be utilized by employing the same matching criteria as large segment matching.  In other words, is small segment data valid and useful if it meets the criteria for an IBD match?

For example, let’s look at Daniel.  Daniel’s segments on chromosome 15, were it not for the fact that he matches on larger segments on other chromosomes, would not be shown as matches, because they are not individually over the match threshold.

Look at Daniel’s column for Polly and Warren.

Daniel matches 2

The segments in red show a triangulated group where Daniel and Warren, or Daniel, Warren and Polly match.  The segments where all 3 match are triangulated.

This proves, unquestionably, that small segments DO match utilizing the normal prescribed IBD matching criteria.  This spreadsheet, just for chromosome 15, is full of these examples.

Is there any reason to think that these triangulated matches are not identical by descent?  If they are not IBD, how do all of these people match the same DNA? Chance alone?  How would that be possible?  Two people, yes, maybe, but 3 or more?  In some cases, 5 or 6 on the same segment?  That is simply not possible, or we have disproven the entire foundation that autosomal DNA matching is based upon.

The question will soon be asked if small segments that triangulate can be useful when there are no larger matching segments to put the match over the initial vendor threshold.

Triangulated Groups

As you can see, most of the people and segments on the spreadsheet, certainly the Elijah descendants, are heavily triangulated, meaning that three or more people match each other on the same locations.  Most of this matching is over the vendor threshold at Family Tree DNA.

You can see that Buster, Me, Dean, Carl and Harold all match each other on the same segments, on the left half of the spreadsheet where our names are in each other’s columns.

triangulated groups

Remember when I said that the spreadsheet was incomplete?  This is an example.  David and Warren don’t match each other at a high enough total of segments to get them over the matching threshold when compared to each other, so we can’t see their small segment data as compared to each other.  David matches Buster, but Warren doesn’t, so I can’t even see them both in relationship to a common match.  There are several people who fall into this category.

Let’s select one individual to use as an example.

I’ve chosen the Vannoy cousin, William(V), because his kit has been uploaded to Gedmatch, he has Vannoy matches and because William is proven to descend from Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy through their son Joel – so we expect some Hickerson DNA to match William(V).

If William (V) matches the Hickersons on the same DNA locations as he matches to Elijah’s descendants, then that proves that Elijah’s descendant’s DNA in that location is Hickerson DNA.

At GedMatch, I compared William(V) with me and then with Dean using a “one to one” comparison at a low threshold, simply because I wanted as much data as I could get.  Family Tree DNA allows for 1 cM and I did the same, allowing 100 SNPs at GedMatch.  Family Tree DNA’s lowest SNP threshold is 500.

In case you were wondering, even though I did lower the GedMatch threshold below the FTDNA minimum, there were 45 segments that were above 1cM and above 500 SNPs when matching me to William(V), which would have been above the lowest match threshold at FTDNA (assuming we were over the initial match threshold.)  In other words, had we not been below the original match threshold (20cM total, one segment over 7.7cM), these segments would have been included at FTDNA as small segments.  As you can see in the chart below, many triangulated.

I colorized the GedMatch matches, where there were no FTDNA matches, in dark red text.  This illustrates graphically just how much is missed when the small segments are ignored in cases with known or probable cousins.  In the green area, the entry that says “Me GedMatch” could not be colorized red (because you can’t colorize only part of the text of a cell) so I added the Gedmatch designation to differentiate between a match through FTDNA and one from GedMatch.  I did the same with all Gedmatch matches, whether colorized or not.

Let’s take a look and see how small segments from GedMatch affect our Hickerson matching.  Note that in the green area, William (V) matches William (H), the Hickerson descendant, and William (V) matches to me and Dean as well.  This triangulates William (V)’s Hickerson DNA and proves that Elijah’s descendants DNA includes proven Hickerson segments.

William (V) gedmatch matches v2

In this next example, I matched William (H), the Hickerson cousin (with no Vannoy heritage) against both Buster and me.

William (H) gedmatch me buster

Without Gedmatch data, only two segments of chromosome 15 are triangulated between Vannoy and Hickerson cousins, because we can’t see the small data segments of the rest of the cousins who don’t match over the threshold.

You can see here that nearly the entire chromosome is triangulated using small segments.  In the chart below, you can see both William(V) and William (H) as they match various Vannoy cousins.  Both triangulate with me.

William V and William H

I did the same thing with the Hickerson descendant, Billie, as compared to both me and Dean, with the same type of results.

The next question would be if chromosome 15 is a pileup area where I have a lot of IBS matches that are really population based matches.  It does not appear to be.  I have identified an area of my chromosomes that may be a pileup area, but chromosome 15 does not carry any of those characteristics.

So by utilizing the small segments at GedMatch for chromosome 15 that we can’t otherwise see, we can triangulate at least some of the Hickerson matches.  I can’t complete this chart, because several individuals have not uploaded to GedMatch.

Why would the Hickerson descendant match so many of the Vannoy segments on chromosome 15?  Because this is not a random sample.  This is a proven Vannoy segment and we are trying to see which parts of this segment are from a potential Hickerson mother or the Vannoy father.  If from the Hickerson mother, then this level of matching is not unexpected.  In fact, it would be expected.  Since we cheated and saw that chromosome 15 was already triangulated at Family Tree DNA, we already knew what to expect.

In the spreadsheet below, I’ve added the 2 GedMatch comparisons, William (V) to me and Dean, and William (H) to me and Buster.  You can see the segments that triangulate, on the left.  We could also build “triangulated groups,” like GedMatch does.  I started to do this, but then stopped because I realized most cells would be colored and you’d have a hard time seeing the individual triangulated segments.  I shifted to triangulating only the individuals who triangulate directly with the Hickerson descendant, William(H), shown in green.  GedMatch data is shown in red.

chr 15 with gedmatch

I would like to make three points.

1.  This still is not a complete spreadsheet where everyone is compared to everyone.  This was selectively compared for two known Hickerson cousins, William (V) who descends from both Vannoys and Hickersos and William (H) who descends only from Hickersons.

2. There are 25 individually triangulated segments to the Hickerson descendant on just this chromosome to the various Vannoy cousins.  That’s proof times 25 to just one Hickerson cousin.

3.  I would NEVER suggest that you select one set of small segments and base a decision on that alone.  This entire exercise has assembled cumulative evidence.  By the same token, if the rules for segment matching hold up under the worst circumstances, where we have an unknown but suspected relationship and the small segments appear to continue to follow the triangulation rules, they could be expected to remain true in much more favorable circumstances.

Might any of these people have random DNA matches that are truly IBS by chance on chromosome 15?  Of course, but the matching rules, just like for larger segments, eliminates them.  According to triangulation rules, if they are IBS by chance, they won’t triangulate.  If they do triangulate, that would confirm that they received the same DNA from a common ancestor.

If this is not true, and they did not receive their common DNA from a common ancestor, then it disproves the fundamental matching rule upon which all autosomal DNA genetic genealogy is based and we all need to throw in the towel and just go and do something else.

Is there some grey area someplace?  I would presume so,  but at this point, I don’t know how to discern or define it, if there is.  I’ve done three in-depth studies on three different families over the past 6 weeks or so, and I’ve yet to find an area (except for endogamous populations that have matches by population) where the guidelines are problematic.  Other researchers may certainly make different discoveries as they do the same kind of studies.  There is always more to be discovered, so we need to keep an open mind.

In this situation, it helps a lot that the Hickerson/Vannoy descendants match and triangulate on larger segments on other chromosomes.  This study was specifically to see if smaller segments would triangulate and obey the rules. We were fortunate to have such a large, apparently “sticky” segment of Vannoy DNA on chromosome 15 to work with.

Does small segment matching matter in most cases, especially when you have larger segments to utilize?  Probably not. Use the largest segments first.  But in some cases, like where you are trying to prove an ancestor who was born in the 1700s, you may desperately need that small segment data in order to triangulate between three people.

Why is this important – critically important?  Because if small segments obey all of the triangulation rules when larger segments are available to “prove” the match, then there is no reason that they couldn’t be utilized, using the same rules of IBD/IBS, when larger segments are not available.  We saw this in Just One Cousin as well.

However, in terms of proof of concept, I don’t know what better proof could possibly be offered, within the standard genetic genealogy proofs where IBD/IBS guidelines are utilized as described in the Phasing article.  Additional examples of small segment proof by triangulation are offered in Just One Cousin, Lazarus – Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again, and in Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching.

Raising Elijah Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson from the Dead

As I thought more about this situation, I realized that I was doing an awful lot of spreadsheet heavy lifting when a tool might already be available.  In fact, Israel’s mention of Lazarus made me wonder if there was a way to apply this tool to the situation at hand.

I decided to take a look at the Lazarus tool and here is what the intro said:

Generate ‘pseudo-DNA kits’ based on segments in common with your matches. These ‘pseudo-DNA kits’ can then be used as a surrogate for a common ancestor in other tests on this site. Segments are included for every combination where a match occurs between a kit in group1 and group2.

It’s obvious from further instructions that this is really meant for a parent or grandparent, but the technique should work just the same for more distant relatives.

I decided to try it first just with the descendants of Elijah Vannoy.  At first, I thought that recreated Elijah would include the following DNA:

  • DNA segments from Elijah Vannoy
  • DNA segments from Elijah Vannoy’s wife, Lois McNiel
  • DNA segments that match from Elijah’s descendants spouse’s lines when individuals come from the same descendant line. This means that if three people descend from Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley, Elijah’s son and his wife, that they would match on some DNA from Phoebe, and that there was no way to subtract Phoebe’s DNA.

After working with the Lazarus tool, I realized this is not the case because Lazarus is designed to utilize a group of direct descendants and then compare the DNA of that group to a second group of know relatives, but not descendants.

In other words, if you have a grandson of a man, and his brother.  The DNA shared by the brother and the grandson HAS to be the DNA contributed to that grandson by his grandfather, from their common ancestor, the great grandfather.  So, in our situation above, Phoebe’s DNA is excluded.

The chart below shows the inheritance path for Lazarus matching.

Lazarus inheritance

Because Lazarus is comparing the DNA of Son Doe with Brother Doe – that eliminates any DNA from the brother’s wives, Sarah Spoon or Mary – because those lines are not shared between Brother Doe and Son Doe.  The only shared ancestors that can contribute DNA to both are Father Doe and Methusaleh Fisher.

The Lazarus instructions allow you to enter the direct descendants of the person/couple that you are reconstructing, then a second set of instructions asks for remaining relatives not directly descended, like siblings, parents, cousins, etc. In other words, those that should share DNA through the common ancestor of the person you are recreating.

To recreate Elijah, I entered all of the Vannoy cousins and then entered William (V) as a sibling since he is the proven son of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.

Here is what Lazarus produced.

lazarus elijah 1

Lazarus includes segments of 4cM and 500 SNPs.

The first thing I thought was, “Holy Moly, what happened to chromosome 15?”  I went back and looked, and sure enough, while almost all of the Elijah descendants do match on chromosome 15, William (V), kit 156020, does not match above the Lazarus threshold I selected.  So chromosome 15 is not included.  Finding additional people who are known to be from this Vannoy line and adding them to the “nondescendant” group would probably result in a more complete Elijah.

lazarus elijah 2

Next, to recreate Sarah Hickerson, I added all of the Vannoy cousins plus William (V) as descendants of Sarah Hickerson and then I added just the one Hickerson descendant, William, as a sibling.  William’s ancestor is proven to be the sibling of Sarah.

I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Clearly if the DNA from the Hickerson descendant didn’t match or triangulate with DNA from any of the Vannoy cousins at this higher level, then Sarah Hickerson wasn’t likely Elijah’s mother.  I wanted to see matching, but more, I wanted to see triangulation.

lazarus elijah 3

I was stunned.  Every kit except two had matches, some of significant size.

lazarus elijah 4

lazarus elijah 5 v2

Please note that locations on chromosomes 3, 4 and 13, above, are triangulated in addition to matching between two individuals, which constitutes proof of a common ancestor.  Please also note that if you were throwing away segments below 7cM, you would lose all of the triangulated matches and all but two matches altogether.

Clearly, comparing the Vannoy DNA with the Hickerson DNA produced a significant number of matches including three triangulated segments.

lazarus elijah 6

Where Are We?

I never have, and I never would recommend attempting to utilize random small match segments out of context.  By out of context, I mean simply looking at all of your 1cM segments and suggesting that they are all relevant to your genealogy.  Nope, never have.  Never would.

There is no question that many small segments are IBS by chance or identical by population.  Furthermore, working with small segments in endogamous populations may not be fruitful.

Those are the caveats.  Small segments in the right circumstances are useful.  And we’ve seen several examples of the right circumstances.

Over the past few weeks, we have identified guidelines and tools to work with small segments, and they are the same tools and guidelines we utilize to work with larger segments as well.  The difference is size.  When working with large segments, the fact that they are large serves an a filter for us and we don’t question their authenticity.  With all small segments, we must do the matching and analysis work to prove validity.  Probably not worthwhile if you have larger segments for the same group of people.

Working with the Vannoy data on chromosome 15 is not random, nor is the family from an endogamous population.  That segment was proven to be Vannoy prior to attempts to confirm or disprove the Hickerson connection.  And we’ve gone beyond just matching, we’ve proven the ancestral link by triangulation, including small segments.  We’ve now proven the Hickerson connection about 7 ways to Sunday.  Ok, maybe 7 is an exaggeration, but here is the evidence summed up for the Vannoy/Hickerson study from multiple vendors and tools:

  • Ancestry DNA Circle indicating that multiple Hickerson descendants match me and some that don’t match me, match each other. Not proof, but certainly suggestive of a common ancestor.
  • A total of 26 Hickerson or derivative family name matches to Vannoy cousins at Family Tree DNA. Not proof, but again, very suggestive.
  • 6 Charles Hickerson/Mary Lytle descendants match to Vannoy cousins at Family Tree DNA. Extremely suggestive, needs triangulation.
  • Triangulation of segments between Vannoy and Hickerson cousins at Family Tree DNA. Proof, but in this study we were only looking to determine whether small segment matches constituted proof.
  • Triangulation of multiple Hickerson/Vannoy cousins on chromosome 15 at GedMatch utilizing small segments and one to one matching. More proof.
  • Lazarus, at higher thresholds than the triangulation matching, when creating Sarah Hickerson, still matched 19 segments and triangulated three for a total of 73.2cM when comparing the Hickerson descendant against the Vannoy cousins. Further proof.

So, can small segment matching data be useful? Is there any reason NOT to accept this evidence as valid?

With proper usage, small segment data certainly looks to provide value by judiciously applying exactly the same rules that apply to all DNA matching.  The difference of course being that you don’t really have to think about utilizing those tools with large segment matches.  It’s pretty well a given that a 20cM match is valid, but you can never assume anything about those small segment matches without supporting evidence. So are larger segments easier to use?  Absolutely.

Does that automatically make small segments invalid?  Absolutely not.

In some cases, especially when attempting to break down brick walls more than 5 or 6 generations in the past, small segment data may be all we have available.  We must use it effectively.  How small is too small?  I don’t know.  It appears that size is really not a factor if you strictly adhere to the IBD/IBS guidelines, but at some point, I would think the segments would be so small that just about everyone would match everyone because we are all humans – so the ultimate identical by population scenario.

Segments that don’t match an individual and either or both parents, assuming you have both parents to test, can safely be disregarded unless they are large and then a look at the raw data is in order to see if there is a problem in that area.  These are IBS by chance.  IBS segments by chance also won’t triangulate further up the tree.  They can’t, because they don’t match your parents so they cannot come from an ancestor.  If they don’t come from an ancestor, they can’t possibly match two other people whose DNA comes from that ancestor on that segment.

If both parents aren’t available, or your small segments do match with your parents, I would suggest that you retain your small segments and map them.

You can’t recognize patterns if the data isn’t present and you won’t be able to find that proverbial needle in the haystack that we are all looking for.

Based on what we’ve seen in multiple case studies, I would conclude that small segment data is certainly valid and can play a valid role in a situation where there is a known or suspected relationship.

I would agree that attempting to utilize small segment data outside the context of a larger data match is not optimal, at least not today, although I wish the vendors would provide a way for us to selectively lower our thresholds.  A larger segment match can point the way to smaller segment matches between multiple people that can be triangulated.  In some situations, like the person A, B, C, D Hickerson-Vannoy situation I described earlier in this article, I would like to be able to drop the match threshold to reveal the small segment data when other matches are suggestive of a family relationship.

In the Hickerson situation, having the ability to drop the matching thresholds would have been the key to positively confirming this relationship within the vendor’s data base and not having to utilize third party tools like GedMatch – which require the cooperation of all parties involved to download their raw data files.  Not everyone transferred their data to Gedmatch in my Vannoy group, but enough did that we were able to do what we needed to do.  That isn’t always the case.  In fact, I have an nearly identical situation in another line but my two matches at Ancestry have declined to download their data to Gedmatch.

This not the first time that small segment data has played a successful role in finding genealogy solutions, or confirming what we thought we knew – although in all cases to date, larger segments matched as well – and those larger segment matches were key and what pointed me to the potential match that ultimately involved the usage of the small segments for triangulation.

Using larger data segments as pointers probably won’t be the case forever, especially if we can gain confidence that we can reliably utilize small segments, at least in certain situations.  Specifically, a small segment match may be nothing, but a small segment triangulated match in the context of a genealogical situation seems to abide by all of the genetic genealogy DNA rules.

In fact, a situation just arose in the past couple weeks that does not include larger segments matching at a vendor.

Let’s close this article by discussing this recent scenario.

The Adoptee

An adoptee approached me with matching data from GedMatch which included matches to me, Dean, Carl and Harold on chromosome 15, on segments that overlap, as follows.

adoptee chr 15

On the spreadsheet above, sent to me by the adoptee, we can see some matches but not all matches. I ran the balance of these 4 people at GedMatch and below is the matching chart for the segment of chromosome 15 where the adoptee matches the 4 Vannoy cousins plus William(H), the Hickerson cousin.

  Me Carl Dean Harold Adoptee
Me NA FTDNA FTDNA GedMatch GedMatch
Harold GedMatch FTDNA FTDNA NA GedMatch
Adoptee GedMatch GedMatch GedMatch GedMatch NA
William (H) GedMatch GedMatch GedMatch GedMatch GedMatch

I decided to take the easy route and just utilize Lazarus again, so I added all of the known Vannoy and Hickerson cousins I utilized in earlier Lazarus calculations at Gedmatch as siblings to our adoptee.  This means that each kit will be compared to the adoptees DNA and matching segments will be reported.  At a threshold of 300 SNPs and 4cM, our adoptee matches at 140cM of common DNA between the various cousins.

adoptee vannoy match

Please note that in addition to matching several of the cousins, our adoptee also triangulates on chromosomes 1, 11, 15, 18, 19 and 21.  The triangulation on chromosome 21 is to two proven Hickerson descendants, so he matches on this line as well.

I reduced the threshold to 4cM and 200 SNPs to see what kind of difference that would make.

adoptee vannoy match low threshold

Our adoptee picked up another triangulation on chromosome 1 and added additional cousins in the chromosome 15 “sticky Vannoy” cluster and the chromosome 18 cluster.

Given what we just showed about chromosome 15, and the discussions about IBD and IBS guidelines and small matching segments, what conclusions would you draw and what would you do?

  1. Tell the adoptee this is invalid because there are no qualifying large match segments that match at the vendors.
  2. Tell the adoptee to throw all of those small segments away, or at least all of the ones below 7cM because they are only small matching segments and utilizing small matching segments is only a folly and the adoptee is only seeing what he wants to see – even though the Vannoy cousins with whom he triangulates are proven, triangulated cousins.
  3. Check to see if the adoptee also matches the other cousins involved, although he does clearly already exceeds the triangulation criteria to declare a common ancestor of 3 proven cousins on a matching segment. This is actually what I did utilizing Lazarus and you just saw the outcome.

If this is a valid match, based on who he does and doesn’t match in terms of the rest of the family, you could very well narrow his line substantially – perhaps by utilizing the various Vannoy wives’ DNA, to an ancestral couple.  Given that our adoptee matches both the Vannoys and the Hickersons, I suspect he is somehow descended from Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.

In Conclusion

What is the acceptable level to utilize small segments in a known or suspected match situation?

Rather than look for a magic threshold number, we are much better served to look at reliable methods to determine the difference between DNA passed from our ancestors to us, IBD, and matches by chance.  This helps us to establish the reliability of DNA segments in individual situations we are likely to encounter in our genealogy.  In other words, rather that throw the entire pile of wheat away because there is some percentage of chaff in the wheat, let’s figure out how to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Fortunately, both parental phasing and triangulation eliminate the identical by chance segments.

Clearly, the smaller the segments, even in a known match situation, the more likely they are identical by population, given that they triangulate.  In fact, this is exactly how the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes have been reconstructed.

Furthermore, given that the Anzick DNA sample is over 12,000 years old, Identical by population must be how Anzick is matching to contemporary humans, because at least some of these people do clearly share a common ancestor with Anzick at some point, long ago – more than 12,000 years ago.  In my case, at least some of the Anzick segments triangulate with my mother’s DNA, so they are not IBS by chance.  That only leaves identical by population or identical by descent, meaning within a genealogical timeframe, and we know that isn’t possible.

There are yet other situations where small segment matches are not IBS by chance nor identical by population.  For example, I have a very hard time believing that the adoptee situation is nothing but chance.  It’s not a folly.  It’s identical by descent as proven by triangulation with 10 different cousins – all on segments below the vendor matching thresholds.

In fact, it’s impossible to match the Vannoy cousins, who are already triangulated individually, by chance.  While the adoptee match is not over the vendor threshold, the segments are not terribly small and they do all triangulate with multiple individuals who also triangulate with larger segments, at the vendors and on different chromosomes.

This adoptee triangulated match, even without the Hickerson-Vannoy study disproves the blanket statement that small segments below 5cM cannot be used for genealogy.  All of these segments are 7.1cM or below and most are below 5.

This small segment match between my mother and her first cousins also disproves that segments under 5cM can never be used for genealogy.

Two cousins combined

This small segment passed from my mother to me disproves that statement too – clearly matching with our cousin, Cheryl.  If I did not receive this from my mother, and she from her parent, then how do we match a common cousin???

me mother small seg

More small segment proof, below, between my mother and her second cousin when Lazarus was reconstructing my mother’s father.

2nd cousin lazarus match

And this Vannoy Hickerson 4 cousin triangulated segment also disproves that 5cM and below cannot be used for genealogy.

vannoy hickerson triang

Where did these small segments come from if not a common ancestor, either one or several generations ago?  If you look at the small segment I inherited from my mother and say, “well, of course that’s valid, you got it from your mother” then the same logic has to apply that she inherited it from her parent.  The same logic then applies that the same small segment, when shared by my mother’s cousin, also came from the their common grandparents.  One cannot be true without the others being true.  It’s the same DNA. I got it from my mother.  And it’s only a 1.46cM segment, shown in the examples above.

Here are my observations and conclusions:

  • As proven with hundreds of examples in this and other articles cited, small segments can be and are inherited from our ancestors and can be utilized for genetic genealogy.
  • There is no line in the sand at 7cM or 5cM at which a segment is viable and useful at 5.1cM and not at 4.9cM.
  • All small segment matches need to be evaluated utilizing the guidelines set forth for IBD versus IBS by chance versus identical by population set forth in the articles titled How Phasing Works and Determining IBD Versus IBS Matches and Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching.
  • When given a choice, large segment matches are always easier to use because they are seldom IBS by chance and most often IBD.
  • Small segment matches are more likely to be IBS by chance than larger matches, which is why we need to judiciously apply the IBD/IBS Guidelines when attempting to utilize small segment matches.
  • All DNA matches, not just small segments, must be triangulated to prove a common ancestor, unless they are known close relatives, like siblings, first cousins, etc.
  • When working in genetic genealogy, always glean the information from larger matches and assemble that information.  However, when the time comes that you need those small segments because you are working 5, 6 or 7 generations back in time, remember that tools and guidelines exist to use small segments reliably.
  • Do not attempt to use small segments out of context.  This means that if you were to look only at your 1cM matches to unknown people, and you have the ability to triangulate against your parents, most would prove to be IBS by chance.  This is the basis of the argument for why some people delete their small segments.  However, by utilizing parental phasing, phasing against known family members (like uncles, aunts and first cousins) and triangulation, you can identify and salvage the useable small segments – and these segments may be the only remnants of your ancestors more than 5 or 6 generations back that you’ll ever have to work with.  You do not have to throw all of them away simply because some or many small segments, out of context, are IBS by chance.  It doesn’t hurt anything to leave them just sit in your spreadsheet untouched until the day that you need them.

Ultimately, the decision is yours whether you will use small segments or not – and either decision is fine.  However, don’t make the decision based on the belief that small segments under some magic number, like 5cM or 7cM are universally useless.  They aren’t.

Whether small segments are too much work and effort in your individual situation depends on your personal goals for genetic genealogy and on factors like whether or not you descend from an endogamous population.  People’s individual goals and circumstances vary widely.  Some people test at Ancestry and are happy with inferential matching circles and nothing more.  Some people want to wring every tidbit possible out of genealogy, genetic or otherwise.

I hope everyone will begin to look at how they can use small segment data reliably instead of simply discarding all the small segments on the premise that all small segment data is useless because some small segments are not useful.  All unstudied and discarded data is indeed useless, so discarding becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But by far, the worst outcome of throwing perfectly good data away is that you’ll never know what genetic secrets it held for you about your ancestors.  Maybe the DNA of your own Sarah Hickerson is lurking there, just waiting for the right circumstances to be found.



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Ann McKee (1804/1805 – 1840/1850), Methodist Convert, 52 Ancestors #55

We know that Ann McKee was born before March 24, 1805 because on that day, her father, Andrew McKee, wrote his will and named Ann as one of his daughters.   Andrew McKee did not die until 1814, so the 1810 census of Washington County, Virginia, shows us that Ann was one of 7 daughters, 5 that were under the age of 10 and 2 that were age 10-16.

Given that Ann married Charles Speak who was born in either 1804 or 1805, it’s likely that Ann was born sometime between 1800 and 1805, most probably about 1801.

On June 21, 1814, Ann’s father, Andrew’s will was probated in Washington County, indicating that he had died in the spring or early summer.  Court was held every 3 months, so we know that he died sometime after the March court session.  Ann would have been about 10 years old.  Ann’s mother, Elizabeth, was left with 13 children, from about age 24 to less than 4 years of age.

The 1820 census shows Elizabeth McKee with 1 male under 10, no females under 10, 2 females 10-16, two females 16-26 and one female over 45.

This means that Ann was in the 16-26 group because we know there were two daughters born after Andrew wrote his will in 1805 and before it was probated in 1814.  Therefore, Ann was born between 1804 and 1810 according to the census, and before March of 1805 according to her father’s will, so she was born in either 1804 or the early part of 1805.

Ann grew up on the Middle Fork of the Holston River, just across the Holston from Hutton Creek, according to her father’s land records.  Road 751 follows Hutton Creek south out of Glade Spring to where it empties into the Holston River, so Andrew McKee’s land was easy to find.

Andrew McKee Washington Co Va land

Today, this land lays several miles north of Abington, between Glade Spring and Chilhowie, on the south side of 81 on the bends of the Holston off of Friendship Road.

Andrew McKee Washington Co Va land map2

By 1828, the provisions of Andrew McKee’s will had taken effect, and this land was sold, but by then, Ann had married and been in Lee County, VA with her husband Charles Speak for 5 years and had a family of her own.

Andrew’s will stated that his sons were to pay his daughters each $200 when they came of age, which in Virginia was age 18 or marriage, whichever came first.  Ann would have received her $200 about the time of her 18th birthday which would have been in 1822 or 1823.  Perhaps her $200 functioned as a form of dower money and was partly the money Charles and Ann used to move to Lee County, Virginia.  Maybe that money was part of the money used for the Speak land, or maybe they purchased a wagon and livestock.  Today it would be worth about $4500, but then, you could buy a nice farm with that much money.  Land in the west that needed to be cleared and had no buildings, called improvements, certainly cost less than land that had already been improved and was being cultivated.

Ann’s mother, Elizabeth McKee is shown in the 1830 Washington County census, but by 1840 she has either passed away or is living with one of her children.

Update: Please note that this information has been updated. Please see this article, here, about Elizabeth McKee and her children. Ann was Presbyterian, but the William McKee below is NOT her brother.

Ann McKee’s family was assuredly Presbyterian, because her brother, William who was born in 1783 and died in 1833, possibly before his mother, is buried in the Sinking Springs cemetery, with a marker. (This has been proven to be inaccurate. This William is not Ann’s brother.)

Sinking springs McKee marker

Sinking Springs was the church founded by the Presbyterian Minister, Reverend Cummings in 1784.

By 1840, four of Ann’s siblings had passed away, brother William about 1811, Andrew in 1831, Jane and Rebecca before March of 1839. Two siblings were under 40 when they died, and one was under 50. Of course, childbirth is a constant danger to women.

Ann switched religions, probably before she went to Lee County, Va.  The dashing young man, Charles Speak, son of Nicholas, the preacher who would found Speak Methodist Episcopal Church in Lee County, Virginia may have influenced young Ann to convert.  Her family may have been very unhappy with her choice, and perhaps her leaving Washington County was a final separation from Presbyterianism and a new beginning in many ways.  Clearly, at least part of Ann’s family continued to embrace the Presbyterian religion, because her brother and his family were buried in the Presbyterian cemetery.

At that time, the Methodists were looked down upon by the Presbyterians for very emotional “exhorting.”

Nicholas Speak, Ann’s father-in-law, founded the Speak Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1820s in Lee County, Virginia, where the entire family settled, on land that Nicholas purchased in 1823.  In 1839, Nicholas deeded a piece of that land for the church to the trustees, and Charles was one of them, so we know for sure that not only did the Speak family all live together, adjacent, as indicated in the census records, but they all built that church and worshipped together too.

Ann Spent every Sunday of her adult life, and probably many other days too, in the original log cabin church that burned, replaced in the late 1800s by this beautiful little white country church, as viewed standing in the cemetery across the road.

Speak Chapel from Cemetery

Ann McKee and Charles Speak had 4 girls and 2 boys, all born in Lee County, Virginia.  The last child, that we know of, was born in 1829, but Ann did not pass away until between 1840-1850.  So either they had children we don’t know about, or several children died, or Ann may not have been well the last decade of her life.

We don’t know whether Ann or her husband Charles died first.  What we do know is that in 1840 they were both living and by 1850, they had both passed away.  Their children who were yet unmarried were living with relatives.

Ann and Charles were undoubtedly buried in the cemetery across the road from the Speak Methodist Church.  Everyone in the Speak family was buried there.  I’ve never been clear whether this is a “family” cemetery or a “church” cemetery, but it probably matters little because most of the people who attended the church were family, and if not initially, were in the next generation.

You can see the cemetery standing in the doorway of the church, looking across the road.  After Charles and Ann McKee Speak passed, Nicholas and Sarah must have looked at the cemetery and thought about them every day, along with their other children and grandchildren buried there.  Nicholas surely preached a lot of funerals there, one for each of those fieldstones.

Speak Cemetery from church

The only contemporary marker is one placed by the Speak Family Association for Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak.  It looks for all the world like their family is gathered around them – and they are – together in eternity as they were here on earth.  You held them close when they were alive, saw them most every day, and buried them close when they passed over.  Their Methodist faith told them they would see each other again.

Speak cemetery fieldstones

Ann’s mitochondrial DNA was carried by all of her children, but only her daughters passed it on to their daughters.  Mitochondrial DNA can tell us a great deal about Ann’s ancestors in the past.  For example, their ethnicity and what part of the world her ancestors came from.

To find out about Ann’s mitochondrial DNA, we need to find someone who is descended from Ann through all females to the current generation.  In the current generation, the person can be male or female, since females give their mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of children, but only the females pass it on.

Ann McKee and Charles Speak had the following children, where bolded individuals represent Ann’s descendants who passed her mitochondrial DNA on to their children:

  • Sarah Jane Speak born about 1824, died 1888, married Andrew M. Callahan and had three daughters, one of whom died young. The surviving daughters were:
    • Mary Ann Callahan born in 1849 who married Samuel Patton Bartley, moved to Brown Co., Kansas, and who had daughters Estte Callahan (b 1879), Nannie Callahan (B 1881), Della Callahan (B 1886), Stella Callahan (B1888), Dora Callahan (b 1890) and Gladis Callahan (b 1898)
    • Elizabeth Matilda Callahan born in 1863 and married Sterling Brown Owsley.  They moved to Woodlawn, Nemaha Co., Kansas and had daughters Minnie May Owsley (b 1887) and Carrie L. Owsley (b 1892)
  • Nicholas Speak born December 13, 1825, died after 1864, married Rachel Rhoda Callahan
  • Andrew McKee Speak born about 1826, died December 19, 1900 in Grant Co., KY, married Lavina Chance
  • Rebecca Speak born about 1827, married James Painter in 1853 and lived in Claiborne County, TN, then in Kentucky. She had at least one daughter.
    • Martha G. Painter born in 1863
  • Charity Speak born about 1829, died after 1880, married Adam Harvey Johnson and lived in Claiborne County on Little Sycamore Road. They moved to Grainger county and had daughters:
    • Elizabeth Johnson (b 1867)
    • Safrona Johnson (b 1868) married Henry Cook and had daughters Alice Cook (b 1891), Margaret Cook (b1893), Abie Cook (b 1896), Evie Cook, (b 1896), Nellie Cook (b 1903), Lucy Cook (b 1905) and Nancy Cook (b 1917)
  • Elizabeth “Bettie” Speak born July 26, 1832 in Indiana, died Oct. 3, 1907 in Hancock County, TN, married Samuel Claxton and had the following daughters:
    • Margaret Clarkson/Claxton born in 1851and married Joseph “Dode” Bolton and had daughters, Ollie Bolton (b 1874), Elizabeth Bolton (b 1879), Ida Bolton (b 1886), Mary Lee Bolton (b 1888) and Cerenia Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bolton
    • Surrilda Jane Clarkson/Claxton born in 1858 and married Luke Monday having daughters Connie Elizabeth Monday (b 1876) and Hester Monday (b 1888)
    • Clementine Clarkson/Claxton 1853-1880, no record of marriage
    • Cynthia (Catherine) Clarkson/Claxton born in 1860 married William Muncy and had Jelina Muncy?, Geneva Muncy (b 1892), Bessie Muncy (b 1897) and Emma Muncy(b 1893)



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Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching

dna word cluster4

What, exactly, is an autosomal DNA match?

Answer:  It’s Relative

I’m sorry, I just had to say that.

But truthfully, it is.

I know this sounds like a very basic question, and it is, but the answer sometimes isn’t as straightforward as we would like for it to be.

Plus, there are differences in quality of matches and types of matches.  If you want to sigh right about now, it’s OK.

We’ve talked a lot about matching in various recent articles.  I have several people who follow this blog religiously, and who would rather read this than, say, do dishes (who wouldn’t).  One of our regulars recently asked me the question, “what, exactly, is a match and how do I tell?”

Darned good question and I wish someone had explained this to me so I wouldn’t have had to figure it out.

In the computer industry, where I spent many years, we have what we call flow charts or wernier diagrams which in essence are logic paths that lead to specific results or outcomes depending on the answers at different junctions.

flow chart

I had a really hard time deciding whether to use the beer decision-making flow chart or the procrastinator flow chart, but the procrastinator flow chart was just one big endless loop, so I decided on the beer.

What I’m going to do is to step you through the logic path of finding and evaluating a match, determining whether it’s valid, identical by descent or chance, when possible, and how to work with your matches and what they mean.

Let me also say that while I use and prefer Family Tree DNA, these matching techniques are universal and apply to results from 23andMe as well, but not for Ancestry who gives you no browser or tools to compare your DNA to anyone else.  So, you can’t compare your results at Ancestry.

Comparing DNA results is the lynchpin of genetic genealogy.  You’re dead in the water without it.  If you have tested at Ancestry, you can always transfer your results to Family Tree DNA, where you do have tools, and to GedMatch as well.  You’re always better, in terms of genealogy, to fish in as many ponds as possible.

Before we talk about how to work with matches, for those who need to figure out how to find matches at Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, I wrote about that in the Chromosome Browser War article.  This article focuses on working with matching DNA after you have found that you are a match to someone – and what those matches might mean.

Matching Thresholds

All autosomal DNA vendors have matching thresholds.  People who meet or exceed those thresholds will be shown on your match list.  People who do not meet the initial threshold will not be considered as a match to you, and therefore will not be on your match list.

Currently, at Family Tree DNA, their match threshold to be shown as a match is about 20cM of total matching DNA and a single segment of about 7.7cM with 500 SNPs or over. The words “about” are in there because there is some fuzziness in the rules based on certain situations.

After you meet that criteria and you are shown as a match to an individual, when you download your matching data, your matches to them on each chromosome will be shown to the 1cM and 500 SNP level

At 23andMe, the threshold is 7cMs/700 SNPs for the first segment.  However, 23andMe has an upper limit of people who can match you at about 1000 matches.  This can be increased by the number of people you are communicating or sharing with.  However, your smallest matches will be dropped from your list when you hit your threshold.  This means that it’s very likely that at least some of your matches are not showing if you have in excess of 1000 matches total.  This means that your personal effective cM/SNP match threshold at 23andMe may be much higher.

Step 1 – Downloading Your Matching Segments

For this comparison, I’m starting with two fresh files from Family Tree DNA, one file of my own matches and one of my mother’s matches.  My mother died before autosomal DNA testing was available, so her results are only at Family Tree DNA (and now downloaded to GedMatch,) because her DNA was archived there.  Thank you Family Tree DNA, 100,000 times thank you!!!

At Family Tree DNA, the option to download all matches with segment information is on the chromosome browser tab, at the top, at the right, shown below.

ftdna download button

If you have your parents DNA available to test and it hasn’t been tested, order a kit for them today.  If either or both parents have been tested, download their results into the same spreadsheet with yours and color code them in a way you will understand.

In my case, I only have my mother’s results, and I color coded my matches pink, because I’m the daughter.  However, if I had both parents, I might have colored coded Mother pink and Dad blue.

Whatever color coding you do, it’s forever in your master spreadsheet, so make a note of what it is.  In my case, it’s part of the match column header.  Why is it in my column header?  Because I screwed up once and reversed them in a download.

Step 2 – Preparing and Sorting Your Spreadsheet

In my master DNA spreadsheet, I have the following columns,

dna master header

The green cell matches are matches to me from 23andMe.  My cousin, Cheryl also tested at 23andMe before autosomal testing was offered at Family Tree DNA.

The Source column, in my spreadsheet, means any source other than FTDNA.  The Ignore column is an extraneous number generated at one time by downloads.  I could delete that column now.

The “Side” column is which side the match is from, Mom or Dad.  Mom’s I can identify easily, because I have her DNA to compare to.  I don’t identify a match as Dad’s without having identified an ancestral line, because I don’t have his DNA to compare to.

And no, you can’t just assume that if it doesn’t match Mom, it’s an automatic match to Dad because you may have some IBS, identical by chance, matches.

The Common Ancestors/Comments column is just that.  I include things like when I e-mailed someone, if the match is triangulated and if so, with whom, etc.

In my master spreadsheet, the first “name” column (of who tested) is deleted, but I’ve left it in the working spreadsheet (below) with my mother for illustration purposes.  That way, neither of us has to remember who is pink!

Step 3 – Reviewing IBD and IBS Guidelines

If you need a refresher on, phasing, IBD, identical by descent, IBS which can mean either identical by chance or identical by population, it would be a good time to read or reread the article titled How Phasing Works and Determining IBD Versus IBS Matches.

Let’s briefly review the IBD vs IBS guidelines, because we’ll be applying them in this article.

Identical by Chance – Can be determined if an individual you match does not match to one of your parents, if parents are available.  If parents are not available for matching, IBS by chance segments won’t triangulate with other known genealogical matches on a common segment.

Identical by Descent – Can be suggested if a common ancestor (or ancestral line) can be determined between any two people who are not known relatives. If the two people are known close relatives, and their DNA matches, identical by descent is proven.  IBD can be proven with previously unknown family or genealogical matches when any three people descending from that same ancestor or ancestral line all match each other on the same segment of DNA.  Three way matching is called triangulation.

Identical by Population – Can be determined when multiple people triangulate with you on a specific segment of DNA, but the triangulated groups are from proven different lineages and are not otherwise related.  This is generally found in smaller segments from similar regions of the world.  Identical by population is identical by descent, but the ancestors are so far back in time that they cannot be determined and may contribute the same DNA to multiple lineages.  This is particularly evident in Jewish genealogy and other endogamous groups.

Step 4 – Determining Parental Side and IBS by Chance

The first thing to do, if you have either or both parents, is to determine whether your matches phase to your parents or are IBS by chance.

In this context, phasing means determining whether a particular match is to your father’s side of the family or to your mother’s side of the family.

Remember, at every address in your DNA, you will have two valid matches to different lines, one from your mother and one from your father.  The address on your DNA consists of the chromosome number which equates to the street name, and then the start and end locations, which consists of a range of addresses on that street.  Think of it as the length of your property on the street.

First, let’s look at my situation with only my mother’s DNA for comparison.

It’s easy to tell one of three things.

  1. Do mother and I both match the person? If so, that means that DNA match is from mother’s side of the family. Mark it as such. They are green, below.
  2. If the individual does not match me and mother, both, and only matches me, then the match is either on my father’s side or it’s IBS by chance. Those matches are blue below. Because I don’t have my father’s DNA, I can’t tell any more at this step.
  3. Notice the matches that are Mom’s but not to me. That means that I did not receive that DNA from Mom, or I received a small part, but it’s not over the lowest matching threshold at Family Tree DNA of 1cM and 500 SNPs.

match mom

In this next scenario, you can see that mother and I both match the same individual, but not on all segments.  I selected this particular match between me, my mother and Alfred because it has some “problems” to work through.

match mom2

The segments shown in green above are segments that Mom carries that I don’t.  This means that I didn’t receive them from mother.  This also means they could be  matching to Alfred legitimately, or are IBS by chance.  I can’t tell anything more about them at this point, so I’ve just noted what they are.  I usually mark these as “mother only” in my master spreadsheet.

match mom3

The first of the two green rows above show a match but it’s a little unusual.  My segment is larger than my mothers.  This means that one of five things has happened.

  1. Part of this segment is a valid match.  At the end, where we don’t match, the match extends IBS by chance a bit at the end, in my case, when matching Alfred. The valid match portion would end where my mother’s segment ends, at 16,100,293
  2. There is a read error in one of the files.
  3. The boundary locations are fuzzy, meaning vendor calculations like ‘healing’ for no calls, etc..
  4. I also match to my father’s line.
  5. Recombination has occurred, especially possible in an endogamous population, reconnecting identical by population segments between me and Alfred at the end of the segment where I don’t match my mother’s segment, so from 16,100,293 to 16,250,884.

Given that this is a small segment, the most likely scenario would be the first, that this is partly valid and partly IBS by chance.  I just make the note by that row.

The second green segment above isn’t an exact match, but if my segment “fits within” the boundaries of my mother’s segments, then we know I inherited the entire segment from her.  Once again, my boundaries are off a bit from hers, but this time it’s the beginning.  The same criteria applies as in 1-5, above.

match mom4

The green segments above are where I match Alfred, but my mother does not.  This means that these segments are either IBS by chance or that they will match my father.  I don’t know which, so I simply label them.  Given that they are all small segments, they are likely IBS by chance, but we don’t know that.  If we had my father’s DNA, we would be able to phase against him, too, but we don’t.

Now, if I was to leave this discussion here, you might have the impression that all small segment matches have problems, but they don’t.  In fact, here’s a much more normal “rea life” situation where mother and I are both matching to our cousin, Cheryl, Mom’s first cousin.  These matches include both large and small segments.  Let’s take a look and see what we can tell about our matches.

match mom complete

Roberta and Barbara have a total of 83 DNA matches to Cheryl.

Some matches will be where Barbara matches Cheryl and Roberta doesn’t.  That’s normal, Barbara is Roberta’s mother and Roberta only inherits half of Barbara’s DNA.  These rows where only Barbara, the mother, matches Cheryl are not colorized in the Start, End, cM and SNP columns, so they show as white.

Some matches will be exact matches.  That too is normal.  In some cases, Barbara passes all of a particular segment of DNA to Roberta.  These matches are colored purple.

Some of these matches are partial matches where Roberta inherited part of the segment of DNA from Barbara.  These are colored green. There are two additional columns at right where the percentage of DNA that Roberta inherited from Barbara on these segments is calculated, both for cM and SNPs.

Some of the matches are where Roberta matches Cheryl and Barbara doesn’t.  Cheryl is not known to be related to Roberta on her father’s side, so assuming that statement is correct, these matches would be IBS, identical by state, meaning identical by chance and can be disregarded at legitimate matches.  These are colored rust.  Note that most of these are small segments, but one segment is 8.8cM and 2197 SNPs.  In this case, if this segment becomes important for any reason, I would be inclined to look at the raw data file of Barbara to see if there were no calls or a problem with reads in this region that would prevent an otherwise legitimate match.

Let’s look at how these matches stack up.

Number Percent (rounded) Comment
Exact Matches 26 31 100% of the DNA
Barbara Only 20 24 0% of the DNA
Partial Matches 29 35 11-98% of the actual DNA matches
Roberta Only (IBS by chance) 7 8 Not a valid match

I think it’s interesting to note that while, on the average, 50% of the DNA of any segment is passed to the child, in actuality, in this example of partial inheritance, meaning the green rows, inheritance was never actually 50%.  In fact, the SNP and cM percentages inherited for the same segment varied, and the actual amounts ranged from 11-98% of the DNA of the parent being inherited by the child.  The average of these events was 54.57143 (cM) and 54.21429 (SNPs) however.

On top of that, in 13 (26 rows) instances, Roberta inherited all of Barbara’s DNA in that sequence, and in 20 cases, Roberta inherited none of Barbara’s DNA in that sequence.

This illustrates that while the average of something may be 50%, none of the actual individual values may be 50% and the values themselves may include the entire range of possibilities.  In this case, 11-98% were the actual percentage ranges for partial matches.

Matching Both Parents

I don’t have my father’s DNA, but I’m creating this next example as if I did.

match both parents

Matches to mother are marked in green.

I have two matches where I match my father, so we can attribute those to his side, which I’ve done and marked in orange.

The third group of matches to me, at the bottom, to Julio, Anna, Cindy and George don’t match either parent, so they must be IBS by chance.

I label IBS by chance segments, but I don’t delete them because if I download again, I’ll have to go through this same analysis process if I don’t leave them in my spreadsheet

Step 5 – How Much of the DNA is a Match?

One person asked, “exactly how do I tell how much DNA is matching, especially between three people.”  That’s a very valid question, especially since triangulation requires matching of three people, on the same segment, proven to a common ancestral line.

Let’s look at the match of both me and my mother to Don, Cheryl and Robin.

match mom part

In this example, we know that Don, Cheryl and Robin all match me on my mother’s side, because they all three match me and my mother, both on the same segment.

How do we determine that we match on the same segment?

I have sorted this spreadsheet in order of end location, then start location, then chromosome number so that the entire spreadsheet is in chromosome order, then start location, then end location.

We can see that both mother and I match Cheryl partially on this segment of chromosome 1, but not exactly.  The start location is slightly different, but the end location matches exactly.

The area where we all three match, meaning me, Mom and Cheryl, begins at 176,231,846 and ends at the common endpoint of 178,453,336

On the chart below, you can see that mother and I also both match Don, Cheryl’s brother, on part of this same segment, but not all of the same segment.

match mom part2

The common matching areas between me, Mom and Don begins at 176,231,846 and ends at 178,453,336.

Next, let’s look at the third person, Robin.

Mom and I both match Robin on part of this same overlapping segment as well.  Note that my segment extends beyond Mom’s, but that does not invalidate the portion that does match between Robin, Mom and I.

match mom part3

Our common match area begins at the same location, but ends at 178,453,336, the same location as the common end area with Don and Cheryl

Step 6 – What Do Matches Mean? IBD vs IBS in Action

So, let’s look at various types of matches and what they tell us.

match mom example

Looking at our matching situation above, let’s apply the various IBD/IBS rules and guidelines and see what we have

1. Are these matches identical by chance?  No.  How do we know?

a. Because they all match both me and a parent.

2. Are these matches identical by descent? Yes. How do we know?

a. Because we all match each other on this segment, and we know the common ancestor of Cheryl, Don, Barbara and me is Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller.  We know that Robin descends from the same ancestral Miller line.

3. Are these matches identical by population.  We don’t know, but there is no reason at this point to think so. Why?

a. Because looking at my master spreadsheet, I see no evidence that these segments are also assigned to other lineages. These individuals are also triangulated on a large number of other, much larger, segments as well.

4. Are these matches triangulated, meaning they are proven to a common ancestor? Yes. How do we know?

a. Documented genealogy of Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller. Don, Barbara, Cheryl and me are known family since birth.
b. Documented genealogy of Robin to the same ancestral family, even though Robin was previously unknown before DNA matching.
c. Even without the documented genealogy, Robin matches a set of two triangulation groups of people documented to the same ancestral line, which means she has to descend from that same line as well.

In our case, clearly these individuals share a common ancestor and a common ancestral line.  Even though these are small segments on chromosome 1, there are much larger matching segments on other chromosomes, and the same rules still apply.  The difference might be at some point smaller segments are more likely to be identical by population than larger segments.  Larger segments, when available, are always safer to use to draw conclusions.  Larger groups of matching individuals with known common genealogy on the same segments are also the safest way to draw conclusions.

Step 7 – Matching With No Parents

Sometimes you’re just not that lucky.  Let’s say both of your parents have passed and you have no DNA from them.

That immediately eliminates phasing and the identical by chance test by comparing to your parents, so you’ll have to work with your matches, including your identical by chance segments.

A second way to “phase” part of your DNA to a side of your family is by matching with known cousins or any known family member.

In the situation above, matching to Cheryl, Don and Robin, let’s remove my mother and see what we have.

match no mom

In this case, I still match to both of my first cousins, once removed, Cheryl and Don.  Given that Cheryl and Don are both known cousins, since forever, I don’t feel the need for triangulation proof in this case – although the three of us are triangulated to our common ancestor.  In other words, the fact that my mother does match them at the expected 1st cousin level is proof enough in and of itself if we only had one cousin to test.  We know our common ancestor is Cheryl and Don’s grandparents, who are my great-grandparents, Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller.

When I looked at Robin’s pedigree chart and saw that Robin descended from Philip Jacob Miller and wife Magdalena, I knew that this segment was a Miller side match, not a Ferverda match.

Therefore, matching with someone whose genealogy goes beyond the common ancestor of Cheryl, Don and me proves this line through 4 more generations.  In other words, this DNA segment came through the following direct line to reach Me, Mother, Cheryl and Don.

  • Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena
  • Daniel Miller
  • David Miller
  • John David Miller
  • Evaline Louise Miller who married Hiram Ferverda

Clearly, we know from the earlier chart that my mother carried this DNA too, but even if we didn’t know that, she obviously had to have carried this segment or I would not carry it today.

So, even though in this example, our parents aren’t directly available for IBS testing and elimination, we can determine that anyone who matches both me and Cheryl or me and Don will have also matched mother on that segment, so we have, in essence, phased those people by triangulation, not by direct parental matching.

Step 8 – Triangulation Groups

What else does this match group tell us?

It tells us that anyone else who matches me and any one of our triangulation group on that segment also descends from the Miller descendant clan, one way or another.

Why do they have to match me AND one of the triangulation group members on that segment?  Because I have two sides to my DNA, my Mom’s side and my Dad’s side.  Matching me plus another person from the triangulation group proves which side the match is on – Mom’s or Dad’s.

We were able to phase to eliminate any identical by chance segments people on Mom’s side, so we know matches to both of us are valid.

On Dad’s side, there are some IBS by chance people (or segments) thrown in for good measure because I don’t have my Dad’s DNA to eliminate them out of the starting gate.  Those IBS segments will have to be removed in time by not triangulating with proven triangulated groups they should triangulate with, if they were valid matches.

When you map matches on your chromosome spreadsheet, this is what you’re doing.  Over time, you will be able to tell when you receive a new match by who they match and where they fall on your spreadsheet which ancestral line they descend from.

GedMatch also includes a triangulation utility.  It’s a great tool, because it produces trios of people for your top 400 matches.  The results are two kits that triangulate to the third person whose kit number you are matching against.

The output, below, shows you the chromosome number followed by the two kit numbers (obscured) that triangulate at this location, and then the start and end location followed by the matching cMs.  The result is triangulation groups that “slide to the right.”

gedmatch triang group3

In the example above, all of the triangulation matches to me above the red arrow include either Mother, my Ferverda cousins or the Miller group that we discussed in the Just One Cousin article.  In other words they are all related via a common ancestor.

You can tell a great deal about triangulation groups by who is, and isn’t in them using deductive reasoning.  And once you’ve figured out the key to the group, you have the key to the entire group.

In this case, Mom is a member of the first triangulation group, so I know this group is from her side and not Dad’s side.  Both Ferverda cousins are there, so I know it’s Mom’s Dad’s side of the family.  The Miller cousins are there, so I know it’s the Miller side of Mom’s Dad’s side of the family.

Please also note that while this entire group triangulates within itself, that the group manages to slide right and the first triangulated group of 3 in the list may not overlap the DNA of the last triangulated group of 3.  In fact, because you can see the start and end points, you can tell that these two triangulated groups don’t overlap.  The multiple triangulation groups all do match some portion of the group above and below them (in this case,) and as a composite group, they slide to the right. Because each group overlaps with the group above and below them, they all connect together in a genetic chain.  Because there is an entire group that are triangulated together, in multiple ways, we know that it is one entire group.

This allows me to map that entire segment on my Mom’s side of my DNA, from 10,369,154 to 41,685,667 to this group because it is contiguously connected to me, triangulated and unbroken.  The most distant ancestor listed will vary based upon the known genealogy of the three people being triangulated  For example, part of this segment, may come from Philip Jacob Miller himself, the line’s founder,, but another part could come from his son’s wife, who is also my ancestor.  Therefore, the various pieces of this group segment may eventually be attributed to different ancestors from this particular line based upon the oldest common ancestor of the three people who have triangulated.

In our example above, the second group starts where the red arrow is pointing.  I have absolutely no idea which ancestor this second group comes from – except – I know it does not come from my mother’s side because her kit number isn’t there.

Neither are any of my direct line Estes or Vannoy relatives, so it’s probably not through that line either.  My Bolton cousins are also missing, so we’ve probably eliminated several possible lines, 3 of 4 great grandparents, based on who is NOT in the match group.  See the value of testing both close and distant cousins?  In this case, the family members not only have to test, they also have to upload their results to GedMatch.

Conversely, we could quickly identify at least a base group by the presence in the triangulation groups of at least one my known cousins or people with whom I’ve identified my common ancestor.  Two from the same line would be even better!!!


The last thing I want to show you is an example of what an endogamous group looks like when triangulated.

gedmatch endogamy

This segment of chromosome 9 is an Acadian matching group to my Mom – and the list doesn’t stop here – this is just the size of the screen shot.  These matches continue for pages.

How do I know this group is Acadian?  In part, because this group also triangulates with my known Lore cousin who also descends from the same Acadian ancestor, Antoine Lore, son of Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille.  Additionally, I’ve worked with some of these people and we have confirmed Honore Lore and Marie Lafaille as our common ancestor as well.  In other cases, we’ve confirmed upstream ancestors.

Unfortunately, the Acadians are so intermarried that it’s very difficult to sort through the most distant genetic ancestor because there tend to be multiple most distant ancestors in everyone’s trees.  There is a saying that if you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians and it’s the truth.  Just ask my cousin Paul who I’m related to 137 different ways.

Matches to endogamous groups tend to have very, very long lists of matches, even triangulated, which means proven, matches.

Oh, and by the way, just for the record, this lengthy group includes some of my proven Acadian matches that were trimmed, meaning removed, from my match list when Ancestry did their big purge due to their new and improved phasing.  So if there was ever any doubt that we did in fact lose at least some valid matches, the proof lies right here, in the triangulation of those exact same people at GedMatch


I hope this step by step article has helped take the Greek, or maybe the geek, out of matching.  Once you think of it in a step by step logical basis, it makes a lot of sense and allows you to reasonably judge the quality of your matches.

The rule of thumb has been that larger matches tend to be “legitimate” and smaller matches are often discarded en masse because they might be problematic.  However, we’ve seen situations where some larger matches may not be legitimate and some smaller matches clearly are.  In essence, the 50% average seldom applies exactly and rules of thumb don’t apply in individuals situations either.  Your situation is unique with every match and now you have tools and guidelines to help you through the matching maze.

And hey, since we made it to the end, I think we should celebrate with that beer!!!




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Naia – Oldest Native American Facial Reconstruction

Naia, named affectionately for the ancient water nymphs of Greek mythology is actually the face of the oldest Native American.  At least, the oldest one whose skull is complete and whose face we can reconstruct.  Naia was a teenager when she died between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago by falling into a cave in the Yukatan. In 2007, her remains were found in a submerged cavern, and history was about to be made, after waiting some 12,000+ years.

A scientific team would study her remains, sample her DNA and reconstruct her face.  The January 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine has an absolutely wonderful article and the online magazine version does as well.

nat geo naia

Start by reading the wonderful story, of course, but don’t miss the video about how they recovered the remains and the subsequent analysis.  There is also a photo gallery and several other links, across the top of the article – all worth seeing.

One of the unexpected findings was how different Naia looks than what we would have expected based on what Native people look like today.  She had a more African and Polynesian facial structure than later Native people, and she was much smaller.  Be sure to check out Nat Geo’s “clues to an ancient mystery.”

Naia’s mitochondrial DNA confirms that indeed, her matrilineal line originated in Asia, a common base haplogroup found in Native Americans todayhaplogroup D1.

The accompanying academic paper was published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal Science, titled “Late Pleistocene Human Skeleton and mtDNA Link Paleoamericans and Modern Native Americans” by James Chatters et al.

The article is behind a paywall, but the abstract is as follows:


Because of differences in craniofacial morphology and dentition between the earliest American skeletons and modern Native Americans, separate origins have been postulated for them, despite genetic evidence to the contrary. We describe a near-complete human skeleton with an intact cranium and preserved DNA found with extinct fauna in a submerged cave on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This skeleton dates to between 13,000 and 12,000 calendar years ago and has Paleoamerican craniofacial characteristics and a Beringian-derived mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup (D1). Thus, the differences between Paleoamericans and Native Americans probably resulted from in situ evolution rather than separate ancestry.

A second article, published in Science, also in May 2014, “Bones from a Watery “Black Hole” Confirm First American Origins” by Michael Balter discuss the fact that the earlier skeletons of Native people often don’t resemble contemporary Native people.

Also behind a paywall, the summary states:


Most researchers agree that the earliest Americans came over from Asia via the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska, beginning at least 15,000 years ago. But many have long puzzled over findings that some of the earliest known skeletons—with long skulls and prominent foreheads—do not resemble today’s Native Americans, who tend to have rounder skulls and flatter faces. Some have even suggested that at least two migrations into the Americas were involved, one earlier and one later. But the discovery of a nearly 13,000-year-old teenage girl in an underwater cave in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula argues against that hypothesis. The girl had the skull features of older skeletons, but the genetic profile of some of today’s Native Americans—suggesting that the anatomical differences were the result of evolutionary changes after the first Americans left Asia, rather than evidence of separate ancestry.

Of course, the fact that Naia was found so early in such a southern location has spurred continuing debate about migration waves and paths, land versus water arrivals.  Those questions won’t be resolved until we have a lot more data to work with – but they do make for lively debate.  Dienekes wrote a short article about this topic when the paper was first released, and the comments make for more interesting reading than the article.



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Lazarus – Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

Recently, GedMatch introduced a tool, Lazarus, to figuratively raise the dead by combining the DNA of descendants, siblings and other relatives of long-dead ancestors to recreate their genome.  Kind of like piecing Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Humpty Dumpty

Blaine Bettinger wrote about using Lazarus here and here where he recreated the genome of his grandmother.  I’d like to use Lazarus to see how it works with one pair of siblings and a first cousin.  Blaine was fortunate to have 4 siblings.  I have a much smaller group of people to work with, so let’s see what we can do and how successful we are, or aren’t.  But first, lets talk about the basics and how we can reconstruct an ancestor.

The Basics

An individual has 6766.2 cM of DNA.  Both parents give half of their DNA to each child, but not exactly the same parental DNA is contributed to each child.  A random process selects which half of the parents’ DNA is given to each child.  Different children will have some of the same DNA from their parents, and some different DNA from each parent.

Obviously, the DNA contributed to each child from a parent is a combination of the DNA given to the parent by the grandparents.  Approximately half of the grandparent’s DNA is given to each child.  In many cases, the DNA contributed to the child from the grandparents is not actually divided evenly, and we receive all or nothing of individual segments, not half.  Half is an average that works pretty well most of the time.  It’s a statistic, and we all know about statistics…right???

Therefore, children carry 3383cM of each parent’s DNA.  Each sibling carries half of the same DNA from their parents.  From the ISOGG autosomal DNA statistics chart, each sibling actually carries 25% of exactly the same DNA from both parents, 50% where they inherited half of the same DNA from one parent and different DNA from the other parent, and 25% where the siblings don’t share any of the identical DNA from their parents. This averages 50%.

This chart, also from ISOGG, sums up what percentage of the same DNA different relatives can expect to carry.

cousin percents

Recreating Ferverda Brothers

I have a situation where I have a person, Barbara, and two of her first cousins, Cheryl and Don, who are siblings.  This is the same family we discussed in the Just One Cousin article.

Miller Ferverda chart

In this case, Cheryl and Don share 50% of Roscoe’s DNA.

Barbara shares 12.5% of Hiram and Evaline’s DNA with Cheryl and 12.5% with Don, but not the same 12.5%.  Since siblings share 50% of their DNA, Barbara should share about 12.5% of Cheryl’s DNA and an additional 6.25% that the Cheryl didn’t receive from Roscoe, but that Don did.

Translating that into cMs, Barbara should share about 850 cM with Cheryl and an additional 425 cM with Don, for an approximate total of 1275 cM.

At, I selected the Tier 1 (subscription or donation) option of Lazarus and was presented with this menu.

lazarus menu

My first attempt was to recreate Barbara’s father, John W. Ferverda.  I allowed 100 SNPs and 4cM because I was hoping to be able to accumulate more than the required 1500cM of matching DNA for the kit to be utilized as a “real kit,” available for one-to-many matching.

100SNP 4cM 200SNP 4cM 300SNP 4cM 400SNP 4cM 500SNP 4cM 600SNP 4cM 700SNP 4cM
John W. Ferverda 1330.7 cM 1370.2 cM 1360.0 cM 1353.5 cM 1338.7 cM 1336.2 cM 1322.9 cM

I then experimented with the various SNP levels, leaving the cM at 4.

The resulting number of cM of just over 1300, no matter how you slice and dice it, is very near the expected approximation of 1275.

Using the Lazarus tool, I created “John Ferverda” by listing Barbara as his descendant and both Cheryl and Don as cousins.

To create “Roscoe Ferverda,” I reversed the positions of the individuals, listing Don and Cheryl as descendants and Barbara as the cousin.

Lazarus options

These two created individuals, “John” and “Roscoe” should be exactly the same, and, thankfully, they were.

Both recreated “John” and “Roscoe” represent a common set of DNA from the parents of both of these men, Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller based on the matching DNA of their descendants, Barbara, Cheryl and Don.

The way Lazarus works is that all kits in Group 1, the descendants, are compared with Group 2, other relatives but not descendants.  The descendants will carry some of Roscoe’s DNA, but also the DNA of Roscoe’s wife, the mother of Don and Cheryl.  By comparing against known relatives but not direct descendants, Lazarus effectively narrows the DNA to that contributed only by the common ancestor of group 1 and group 2.  In this case, that common ancestor would be John and Roscoe’s parents, Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller.  By comparing the descendant and non-descendant-but-otherwise-related groups, you effectively subtract out the mother’s DNA from the descendants – in this case meaning the DNA of John Ferverda’s wife and Roscoe Ferverda’s wife.

In other words, the descendants, above, are NOT compared to each other, but instead, to each one of the not-descendant-but-otherwise-related group.

Unfortunately, none of the kits generated was over the 1500 cM threshold.  I remembered that there is also a second cousin, Rex, whose DNA we can add because he descends from the parents of Evaline Miller.

Adding Rex to the mix brought the resulting “Roscoe” kit to 1589.7 cM and the resulting “John” kit to 1555.7 cM, both now barely over the 1500 threshold – but over just the same and that’s all that matters.  Soon, we’ll be able to utilize both of these kits for direct matching as a “person” at GedMatch.  Now how cool is that???

You receive four pieces of output information when you create a Lazarus kit.

First, a comparison between the descendants (Group 1 above, Kit 2 below) and each of the cousins and related-but-not-descendants individuals (Group 2 above, Kit 1 below), by chromosome.

John W. Ferverda

Processed: 2015/01/09 17:32:41
Name: John W. Ferverda
SNP threshold = 100 cM
Threshold = 4.0 cM
Batch processing will be performed if resulting kit achieves required threshold of 1500 cM.


Kit 1

Kit 2





























Obviously, these are only snippets of the output for chromosome 1.  You receive a chart of this same information for all of the chromosomes of the people being compared.

Second, a chart that shows the resulting matching segments.

Resulting Segments:

































At the bottom of this second set of numbers is the all-important total cM.  This is the only place you will find this number

Total cM: 1555.7

Third, a list of the original kits that have match results between the two groups.

Original Kits match with result:


































































And finally, a summary.

196074 single allele SNPs were derived for the resulting kit.
37068 bi-allelic SNPs were derived for the resulting kit.
233142 total SNPs were derived for the resulting kit.
Kit number of Result: LX056148
Kit Name: John Ferverda 8
Your Lazarus file has been generated.

Is this as good as the real McCoy, meaning swabbing John and Roscoe?  Of course not, but John and Roscoe aren’t available for swabbing.  In fact, John and Roscoe are both probably finding this pretty amusing from someplace on the other side, watching their children “recreate” them!

I can hear them now, shaking their heads, “Well I never….”

They should have known if they left Cheryl and me here, together, unsupervised that we would do something like this!!!



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Charles Speak (November 19, 1804/5 -1840/1850), Church Trustee, 52 Ancestors #54

Charles Speak was born on November 19 in either 1804 or 1805, in Washington County, Virginia, the first child of Nicholas Speak and Sarah Faires.

We know little about the childhood of Charles, except by inference.

On August 12, 1804, Sarah and Nicholas were married in Washington  County, VA by the Rev. Charles Cummings.  Rev. Cummings was of the Presbyterian faith as were many of Sarah’s relatives, indicating that they were probably of Scotch-Irish descent. Reverend Cummings answered the call to minister about a mile northwest of present day Abington, VA and established the Sinking Springs and Ebbing Springs Churches.  Rev. Cummings died in 1812 and was buried at Sinking Springs, so it’s very likely that the Faires and Speak families were members of the Sinking Springs Church at that time and that the church of Charles’ childhood was likely Presbyterian.

Cummings Cabin Sinking Springs

Today, the log cabin of Reverend Cummings sits in the Sinking Springs Cemetery, founded in 1774, where the early settler burials are found in unmarked graves.  The photo above, courtesy the Historical Society of Washington County Virginia, shows the current church in the background.

There is a notation in the journal of Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury that he had visited in the home of Gideon Faires, so it is likely that Gideon embraced the faith of this new religion of Methodism sometime between 1802 when Nicholas and Sarah were married and 1816 when Francis Asbury died.  Perhaps Sarah and Nicholas were also caught up in this new faith.  In addition to Asbury, Methodist circuit riders traveled the area evangelizing the settlers.

In 1814, Charles’ father, Nicholas left in August to serve in the War of 1812 and was gone until he was discharged in February of 1815.  Sarah had 5 children by then, ranging in age from 9 or 10 to the baby at 13 months.  Charles was the eldest, turning 9 or 10 that November, and he would have been left to help his mother as best he could.  Nicholas would have left crops in the field which had to be harvested that fall, and I’m betting that young Charles did far more work than most children that harvest season.  While they expected and hoped that Nicholas would come home, they didn’t really know.  Many men didn’t.  This must have been a trying time for the family.

In the 1820 Washington County census, Charles would have been 14 or 15 and he is shown living with his parents.  Not long after the 1820 census, his father, Nicholas Speaks, would decide to move to Lee County, Virginia where he purchased land on  November 29, 1823 on Glade’s Branch, now known as Speak’s Branch, in the southern part of the county not far from the border with Tennessee.

Charles Speak married his sweetheart, Ann McKee on February 27, 1823, the same year that the Speak family bought the land in Lee County.  I wonder how that marriage proposal occurred.  Did Charles know his father was pulling up stakes and moving?  Had Nicholas been contemplating this move for some time, discussing it with his eldest son?  Did Charles tell Ann that he was going, moving to the frontier, and that he wanted her to come along?  Did she try to convince him to stay in Washington County?  Ann’s father was deceased, but was her mother still living?  Was this looked upon with high expectations and great anticipation, or dreaded, knowing the amount of work they faced, homesteading in the wilderness?

Was this move precipitated by religious conviction?  Nicholas Speak founded the church still known as Speak Chapel on Glade Branch and founded the Methodist religion in Lee County, shortly after his arrival.

The photo below of the original Nicholas Speak cabin was taken in the 1960s, more than 140 years after it was built.

Nicholas Speaks Cabin

Regardless of how it happened, it did, and Charles took his young bride to Lee County where they settled, their first child arriving about a year later in 1824.

Charles and Ann had the following children:

  • Sarah Jane Speak born about 1824, died 1888, married Andrew M. Callahan
  • Nicholas Speak born December 13, 1825, died after 1864, married Rachel Rhoda Callahan
  • Andrew McKee Speak born about 1826, died December 19, 1900 in Grant Co., KY, married Lavina Chance
  • Rebecca Speak born about 1827, married James Painter
  • Charity Speak born about 1829, died after 1880, married Adam Harvey Johnson
  • Elizabeth “Bettie” Speak born July 26, 1832 in Indiana, died Oct. 3, 1907 in Hancock County, TN, married Samuel Claxton

We have a picture of Elizabeth Speak with husband, Samuel Claxton/Clarkson in his Union army uniform before his death in 1876.

Samuel Claxton Elizabeth Speaks

Charles’ son, Nicholas Speak, named after his grandfather, fought with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Nicholas enlisted on Sept. 30, 1861 as a private.  He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, served in Virginia, and was commissioned an officer in Company C, Virginia 21st Infantry Battalion.  He then transferred to company E, Virginia 64th on Dec. 1, 1862.  He rejoined on October 20, 1863.  He is “present” on pay muster rolls through August 30, 1864.  However, it is noted in September and October of 1864 that he “is dismounted at present” which means he was without a horse.  In November and December 1864, he is “absent to get a horse but his time has expired.”  His last record is that he is a prisoner of War and was paroled on April 29, 1865 at Cumberland Gap at the end of the war.  The record on Ancestry which is a compiled service record says he did not survive he war, but I find nothing in his actual records on Fold 3 to indicate otherwise.  He was a POW, released at the end of the war.

I found Nicholas’s POW records as well which say he was at the Military prison in Louisville, KY, captured in Lee Co., VA, on May 17, 1864, initially sent to Nashville, received in Louisville on July 14, 1864 and sent to Camp Douglas in Illinois the same day.  Nicholas’s record says that he, “claim to have been loyal.  Was conscript in the rebel army and desire to take oath of allegiance and become a loyal citizen.”  That tactic, true or otherwise, apparently did not work, because he remained a POW until the end of the war.

Samuel Patton Speak, son of Charles’ brother, Samuel Speak, also served and was captured the same day but died Nov. 20, 1864 of smallpox and was buried near Camp Douglas.  Samuel Patton Speak’s brother, William Hardy Speak was also captured the same day as the other two Speak men, sent to the same prison, but survived the war.  There are abbreviated notes that indicate he may have claimed he was conscripted as well.

Charles Speak’s sister, Rebecca, had been married to William Henderson Rosenbalm (Rosenbaum.)  Rebecca died in February of 1859 and with four small children to raise, William remarried that November to her sister, Frances, known as Fannie, also a sister of Charles.  They had 4 more children in quick succession.  William Henderson Rosenbalm enlisted as a confederate soldier on April 18, 1863, was captured in Lee County, VA on May 17, 1864.  On July 17th, he was in Louisville in the Military prison and was transferred to Camp Douglas, noted as conscripted, where he was received the next day.  His military records show that he died on September 25, 1864, a prisoner of war, also at Camp Douglas.

All 4 men were captured the same day in Lee County.  They must have been together, probably patrolling at night from the pieces I put together of their combined service records.  These men were Charles son, Nicholas, Charles’ nephews Samuel and William and Charles’ (deceased and living) sisters’ husband, William Rosenbalm.  This must have been a terribly devastating day for the Speak family.  And this at the same time that Charles’ sister, Elizabeth’s husband, Samuel Claxton, was serving the Union and several of his family members died in that service.  The families only lived 6 or 7 miles apart although clearly their allegiances were worlds apart.

Camp Douglas, south of Chicago, Illinois, on the prairie, was one of the largest POW camps for Confederate soldiers and became known as the North’s Andersonville.  In the aftermath of the war, Camp Douglas came to be noted for its poor conditions and death rate of between seventeen and twenty-three percent.

Toward the end of 1864, surgeons refused to send recovering prisoners back to the barracks due to the rampant scurvy, attributed to the policy of withholding vegetables from the prisoners. In October 1864, 984 of 7,402 prisoners were reported as sick in the barracks and were believed to have been significantly underreported.

Meanwhile, in November 1864, as repairs were being carried out, water was cut off to the camp and even to the hospital. Prisoners had to risk being shot in order to gather snow, even beyond the dead line, for coffee and other uses.  This was the time during which both William Rosenbalm and Samuel Speak died, on September 25th and November 20th, 1864, respectively.

Some 4,275 Confederate prisoners were known to be reinterred from the shallow camp cemetery to a mass grave at Oak Woods Cemetery after the war.

It’s doubtful that Nicholas was conscripted, given that he was an officer and he signed this receipt as such.  It’s impossible to tell without being there, but it would appear that the Speak family in Lee County, Virginia, were Confederates.

Nicholas Speaks Civil War

It must have been difficult after the Civil War for Charles Speak’s adult children to resolve the breach of the Civil War.

Elizabeth Speak Claxton’s husband, Samuel Claxton, died as a result of his Union service in 1876 while Elizabeth’s brother, Nicholas Speak, fought for the Confederacy and was a POW under horrific conditions.  Nicholas reportedly died in the 1860s, after the war ended.  Samuel Patton and William H. Speak, two of Charles’ nephews also fought in the same unit with Nicholas, were captured along with him on “nite duty.”  One of the newphews died.  William Rosenbalm, Charles’ brother-in-law was also captured that fateful night and died as a POW as well.  If those men really were conscripted, then perhaps family relationships might not have been so difficult.  Regardless, having spent all of those months in a Union prison would have been life altering and would not make anyone fond of the Union.  Maybe it’s a good thing Charles and his wife didn’t live to see this misery and the very large wedge the Civil War probably drove between their children.

Other than the census, the only other piece of information we have about  Charles Speak is his mention in a deed in 1839 when Nicholas Speak transferred the land for Speaks Methodist Church to the trustees that included his son Charles.

To Tandy Welch, Trustee of Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church

This Indenture made this ____ day of ____ in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine Between Nicholas Speak of Lee County and State of Virginia of one part and Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs, trustees in trust for the use and purpose herein after mentioned all of the County of Lee and State aforesaid (Morgan, Welch and Yeary of Claiborne County and State of Tennessee) Witnesseth that the said Nicholas Speak for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar in specie to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath given granted bargained and sold and by these presents doth grant bargain and sell unto the said Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs and their successors (trustees) a certain lot or parcel of land containing one acre and 9 poles lying and being in the county and State aforesaid and bounded as follows Beginning at a white oak on the west side of Glade branch S 150 W 13 poles crossing the branch to a white oak near rocks N700 E 13 poles to a double dogwood & white oak N 150 E 13 poles to a white oak thence a strait line to the Beginning to have and to hold the said tract of land with all appurtenances, and privileges thereunto belonging, or in any ways appertaining unto the said Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs and their successors in office forever for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States according to the rules and disciplin which from time to time may be agreed upon and adopted by the ministers and preachers of the said Church, at their general Conference in the United States. And in further trust and confidence that they shall at all times permit such ministers and preachers, belonging to said M. E. Church to preach and expound the word of God therein. And the said Nicholas Speak doth by these presents warrant and forever defend the before mentioned piece of land with the appurtenances thereto belong unto the before mentioned trustees and their successors in office forever against the claim of all persons whomsoever. In testimony whereof the said Nicholas Speak has hereunto set his hand and seal the day and year aforesaid.

Nicholas Speak {Seal}

At a court of quarter sessions continued and held for Lee County at the courthouse thereof on the 19th day of June 1839 This Indenture of bargain and sale for land between Nicholas Speak of the one part, and Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs of the other part, was acknowledged in open court and ordered to be recorded.

Teste F.W.S. Morison CC

Speak Chapel

The church, shown above, is not the original which was a log structure and burned in the late 1800s.  The current church was constructed about 1900 and still stands.

In the 1840 census, Charles is shown with 1 male age 30-40, wife age 30-40, 6 children; 2 males 10-15, 1 female 10-15, 2 females 5-10, 1 female under age 5.

The 1840 Lee County census is taken in house order and has not been alphabetized.  There are 6 Speak households living adjacent in Lee County so I’m suspecting that the entire Speak family all lived on Nicholas’ land adjacent the church.  James Bartley, married to Charles’ sister, Sarah Jane Speak, also lives next door.

Speak Lee Co 1840 census

Speak Lee Co 1840 census 2

Charles and his wife both died between 1840 and 1850 and are assuredly buried in the Speak family cemetery, across from Speak Methodist Church, even though they have no stone.  Their graves are among those unmarked or marked with field stones.  At the time, the family members knew where they were buried, as they stood beside the graves at the funeral, and that was all that mattered.  They weren’t thinking about great-great-great-grandchildren returning 170+ years later.

speak cemetery

Charles and Ann were both between 40 and 50 years of age when they died, certainly not elderly.  They had no children after 1829, or at least none that we know of.  Ann would have been just under 30 in 1829, so perhaps she had health issues, or children were born and died.  Apparently whatever killed Charles and Ann wasn’t terribly contagious, because none of their children died, nor did Charles parents or siblings who obviously lived in close proximity.

Both of Charles parents, Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak would have stood beside the grave as they buried Charles.  It was unusual in that time for both aged parents to be alive.  They would have stood over Ann McKee Speak’s grave too, as they buried her, probably without any of her family in attendance since Ann and Charles moved away from Washington County, Virginia, when they married.  Nicholas likely preached the sermon for both his son and daughter-in-law.  He was not a young man himself, between 58 and 68.  While Nicholas committed their bodies to the soil and their souls to God, Sarah assuredly gathered their 6 children to her and cried as she buried her son and daughter-in-law, her grandchildren’s father and mother, both within such a short period of time.

Neither Charles nor Ann are found in the 1850 census.  Charles’ daughter Rebecca is living with her grandparents Nicholas and Sarah Speak.  Charles’ daughter Charity is living with her sister, Sarah, who married Andrew Callahan.

Elizabeth Speak, age 18, Charles’ youngest daughter was married to Samuel Claxton earlier in 1850, by her grandfather, Nicholas Speaks, the Methodist minister, by then 68 years of age, at the home of Tandy Welch.  Tandy Welch had married Mary Polly Clarkson (Claxton), daughter of James Lee Clarkson and his wife Sarah Cook.  James and Sarah also had a son, Fairwick Clarkson, who married Agnes Muncy, and their son Samuel Claxton married Elizabeth Speak.  Tandy was one of the Speak Chapel church trustees noted in the 1839 church deed.

On the map below, the Claxton land where Elizabeth Speak and Samuel Claxton lived is represented by the red balloon, and Speak Chapel is at the top.  The walking directions and options are shown. Certainly a horse and wagon would have been quicker, but still, it’s not like the siblings lived next door.  Tandy Welch lived near the Claxton’s as well, so Speak Methodist Church was a long way to go for Sunday services.  He was obviously very committed.

Speak chapel map

Charles and Ann only had 2 sons, and those two sons only had 3 sons between them.  We weren’t able to obtain a Y DNA sample from Charles’ line, but this is when having a large family comes in quite handy.  When the Speak(e)(es) DNA project was founded in 2004, we were able to obtain a Y DNA sample from another of Nicholas’ sons, James Allen Speak’s descendant.

Many times in DNA testing, when you can’t find a suitable candidate in your own line, you need to go back up the tree and follow sons lines until you find someone with living direct male descendants who are willing to test.

In our case, the SFA, Speak Family Association was the key to finding other Speak descendants who are interested in genealogy and therefore, willing to test.  Since that time, we have another two Nicholas lines represented, through sons Joseph and Jesse, but still no Y DNA candidates for son Charles.  Three of Nicholas’s 7 sons are now represented in the Speak Y DNA project.

Autosomal, another type of DNA testing for genealogy, confirms that the cousins from the various lines are related, but still, I’d like to see Charles Y DNA results, because he’s my direct ancestor.

Maybe someday!

That’s the great thing about DNA testing, you never know who is going to test and match.  There is a new surprise just about every day.



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

Genealogy Services

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