Josh Groban – Who Do You Think You Are – “A Desperate Need”

josh germany

Courtesy TLC

Josh’s new World Premier Video says it all – “I can’t regret what I did for love.”

Before you watch Josh’s TLC episode, I really encourage you to watch the trailer for Josh’s new album, Stages, in the lower right hand corner of this link.  You’ll see why.

Oh Josh, you couldn’t have known about your ancestor,  JZ, when you filmed this new song ….could you?  Did you?

It’s only fitting that Josh, one of the world’s most inspirational musicians with a voice powerful enough to touch the souls of the dead…it’s only fitting that his ancestors would be so….so….so….committed.  Devoted…and fittingly, a musician, among other amazing things.

I have to make a confession, right here and now.  This episode of Who Do You Think You Are is my favorite – ever – hands down – bar none.  And that includes any other similar programs too.

And now I have another confession to make – I’ve seen the episode already – yes – in full.

It’s a press courtesy provided by TLC to those in the media.  The good news is that I receive some pre-release info and I can share it with you.

So, when I tell you this is a wonderful can’t-miss-it-episode, take my word for it – it really is.  If you can’t see it, record it.

Josh starts in LA, where he was born, of course, but it doesn’t take long for him to find his ancestor in Pennsylvania.  You know how that works with these shows – Josh’s pedigree chart magically grows by 3 or 4 generations like a vine on steroids.  However, Josh’s Pennsylvania ancestor in question was a she, and she had young children with her when she immigrated, alone.  Where was her husband?  What happened?

The answer is – should I tell you????

Maybe not.

But, let’s say this….Josh traveled back to Germany, tracking his ancestor to the village of Bietigheim, sat in the pews of the very church where his ancestor preached.  Yes, preached.  Stood at that very lectern….oh my, the history.

josh church

Courtesy TLC

I can see Josh’s ancestor, singing, passionately singing in that church….and I can see Josh, singing the historical songs from his new album, Stages…the song from Lez Miz.  Sharing that same passion, more than 330 years and several generations removed – but still so unquestionably connected.

Then Josh climbed the rickety wooden stairs to the top of the church tower where that same ancestor, also an astronomer, saw and measured the passing of Haley’s Comet on the cold night of November 23, 1682.

josh stairs 2

Courtesy TLC

Josh’s ancestor trod these same steps on that fateful night – as he climbed to his destiny.

josh stairs

Courtesy TLC

That night changed his life – and the fate of Josh’s family.  It was that comet, that darned comet, that would unravel his mind…..

Josh visited the University where his ancestor studied, not for 4 years, but for 8 – because at that time in Germany, theology was the foundation for higher skills and studies, like math and astronomy…and music.  But God, and the church, were the foundation for everything in life.

Math and astronomy were believed at that time to be a better way of understanding God.  And music, we know it feeds the soul and was heavily incorporated into churches at that time.

But Josh’s ancestor didn’t understand God in the same way everyone else did, certainly not like the Lutheran church of the time did.  He became a rather free thinker.  And Josh’s ancestor interpreted the comet and other events to predict a rather grim future…that of cataclysmic doom.

You see, he was, what what we would call today, a “seer,” and he wrote under a pen name as such.

But then, his activities came to the attention of the church hierarchy……

If you like religious history or just a good mystery, if you had ancestors from Germany in the 17th century, if they became pietists, if you are interested in astronomy, if you love old churches – and especially, if you are a Josh Groban fan…this is a must see.

You can see and feel this ancestor in Josh today.

I think my favorite scene in this entire episode was the one where Josh was holding the actual music book his ancestor taught from.  I don’t know if Josh wanted to cry, but I surely did.

josh music book

Courtesy TLC

This made Josh very happy, gave him cold chills.

“I’m so excited to know that he was passionate about music….that he was a music teacher at the time when there were no music teachers.”

josh smile

Courtesy TLC

Josh, you definitely found your ancestor.  I wonder if there is a music gene.  You have clearly both excelled and bring the same depth of passion to everything you do.

What did Josh have to say about all of this?

Upon embarking on his journey: “I’m excited, a little scared, but excited.”

“My imagination is going wild.”  Mine was too at that point, Josh.  Whoever would have guessed???

“A desperate need.”  Things were getting dicey!

“It is a little strange, isn’t it.”

Uh, yes, to put it mildly…..that part gave me cold chills.  Wait until you see what happened in 1693, the year of the prophecy of doom.

I wonder if Josh’s ancestor ever regretted his decisions.  You’ll have to let me know what you think.  Would you like a sneak peak?  Here you go.

One thing is for sure, if JZ can see Josh today, he can see that same love of music, passion and strength of character – and he could never regret the steps that he took that led to Josh.

Don’t forget, TLC, Sunday, March 15th, at 10, 9 central.

josh playing

Courtesy TLC



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New Haplogroup C Native American Subgroups

Haplogroup C is one of two haplogroups, the other being Q, which are found as part of the Native American paternal population in the Americas.  Both C and Q were founded in Asia and subgroups of both are found today in Asia, Europe and the New World.  The subgroups found in the Americas are generally unique to that location.  I wrote about some of the early results of haplogroup Q being divided into subgroups through Big Y testing here.

In the Americas, haplogroup Q is much more prevalent in the Native population.  Haplogroup C is rarely found and originally, mostly in Canada.

Hap C Americas

This chart, compliments of Family Tree DNA, shows the frequency distribution in the Americas between haplogroups Q and C.

However, in the Zegura et al article in 2004, haplogroup C was found in very small percentages elsewhere.

The authors found the following P39 men among the samples:

Northern Athabaskan:

  • Tanana of Alaska, 5 of 12

Southern Athabaskan:

  • Apache, 14 of 96
  • Navajo, 1 of 78

Algonquian (Plains):

  • Cheyenne, 7 of 44

Siouan–Catawban (Plains):

  • Sioux, 5 of 44

I was speaking with Spencer Wells (from the Genographic Project) about this at one point and he said to keep in mind that the Athabaskan migration to the Southwest was only about 600 years ago. That is why our one Southwestern C-P39 looks like he is related to all the other families about 600 years ago.

There are competing theories about whether the Athabaskan came down across the plains or along the western mountains/coast. I found a few recent studies that say both are likely true.  We don’t know if the C-P39 found on the Plains is residual from the migration event or from another source.

In the American Indian DNA Project and other relevant DNA projects, we find haplogroup C in New Mexico, Virginia, Illinois, Canada, New Brunswick, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

In 2012, Marie Rundquist, founder of the Amerindian Ancestry Out of Acadia DNA Project as well as co-founder the C-P39 DNA project wrote a paper titled “C3b Y Chromosome DNA Test Results Point to Native American Deep Ancestry, Relatedness, among United States and Canadian Study Participants.

At this that time, haplogroup C-P39 (formerly C3b) was the only identified Native American subgroup of haplogroup C.  Since that time, additional people have tested and the Big Y has been introduced.  Just recently, another subgroup of haplogroup C, C-M217, was proven to be Native and can be seen as the first line in the haplotree chart shown below.

The past 18 months or so with the advent of full genome sequencing of the Y chromosome with the Big Y test from Family Tree DNA and other similar tests have provided significant information about new haplotree branches in all haplogroups.

Ray Banks, one of the administrators of the Y DNA haplogroup C project and a haplogroup coordinator for the ISOGG tree has been focused on sorting the newly found SNPs and novel variants discovered during Big Y testing into their proper location on the Y haplogroup tree.

I asked Ray to write a summary of his findings relative to the Native American aspect of haplogroup C.  He kindly complied, as follows:

By way of a simplified explanation, a 2012 study by Dulik et al. reported that southern Altains (south central Russia) were the closest living relatives of Amerindian Haplogroup Q men they could identify.

Male haplogroup Q is the dominant finding within Amerindian populations of the Americas.

But male haplogroup C-P39 is also found in smaller percentages among Amerindians of North America.  A second type, of a different, poorly defined C, has been identified among rainforest Indians of northwestern South America.

The 2004 study by Zegura et al. reported that C-P39 was present in some quantities among some Plains and Southwest Indians of the United State, as well among Tananas of Alaska.  No one has done a comprehensive inventory of Amerindian Y-DNA haplogroups.  A high percentage of the Amerindian samples at Family Tree DNA that are P39, in contrast, report ancestry in central or eastern Canada.

It does not seem that anyone has yet definitively addressed whether C-P39 men have a different relationship pattern in relation to Asian groups than seen in haplogroup Q.  Another question is whether they might have been involved in a more recent migration from Asia than Q men who seem to have quickly migrated to all areas of South America as well.

Four men in the Haplogroup C Projects have made their Big Y results available for analysis.  All are from Canada, living in areas varying from central to maritime Canada.

These results show that the four men can be divided into two main groups.  The mutations Z30750 and Z30764 have been tentatively assigned to represent these subgroups.  The number of unique mutations for each man suggests these two subgroups each diverged from the overall P39 group about 3,500 years ago.  This is based on the 150 years per mutation figure that is being widely used.  There is no consensus for what number of years per mutation should be used.  Likewise, the total number of shared SNPs within P39, suggests 14,100 years as the divergence time from any other identified Y-DNA subgroup.  The Composite Y-DNA Tree by Ray Banks contains about 3,700 Y subgroups for comparison.

Ray Banks C Tree 3

The nearest subgroup to P39 has been identified as the F1756 subgroup, last line in the chart above.  These both share as a common earlier subgroup, F4015.   This parallel F1756 subgroup has been identified in Geno 2.0 testing as well as Big Y as containing mostly men from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.  Some apparently have a tradition of a migration from Siberia.

There is available a Big Y test from among this group, and more recently complete Y sequencing in the sample file GS27578 at the Estonian Genome Centre.

Each of these men potentially could have shared one or more of the P39 equivalents creating a new subgroup older than P39.  But this is not the case.  The Big Y results are not complete genome sequencing, and they perhaps miss 30% of useful SNPs, mostly due to inconclusive reads.

The man in the Estonian collection is of particular interest because he is described as an Altaian of Kaysyn in Siberia, Russia.  He is not from the same town as samples in the earlier Dulik study, and thus no direct comparisons can be made.

The Big Y F1756 sample is geographically atypical because the man is Polish but still shares the unusual DYS448=null feature seen in all the available F1756 men in the C Project.  The project P39 men have either 20 or 21 repeats at this marker, instead of a null value.

In conclusion, the age of the P39 group and the failure of others so far to share its many equivalent mutations suggest together that the C-P39 men could have been part of the earliest migration to the Americas.  Like the Q men, the nearest relatives to C-P39 men have central Asian or Siberian origins.

Despite some identification of P39 branching.  Much work needs to be done to understand the branching due to the lack of availability of samples.

So, what’s the bottom line?

  1. C-P39 is being divided into subgroups as more Big Y and similar test results become available. If additional individuals who carry C-P39 were to take the Big Y test, especially from the more unusual locations, we might well find additional new, undiscovered, haplogroups or subgroups.  Eventually, we may be able to associate subgroups with tribes or at least languages or regions.
  2. If you are a Y DNA haplogroup C individual, and in particular C-P39, and have taken the Big Y test, PLEASE join the haplogroup C and C-P39 projects. Without a basis for comparison, much of the benefit of these tests in terms of understanding haplogroup structure is lost entirely.

As always, the power of DNA testing is in sharing and comparing.

Thank you Ray Banks, Marie Rundquist and DNA testers who have contributed by testing and sharing.



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John R. Estes (1787-1885), War of 1812 Veteran, 52 Ancestors #62

John R. Estes has been one of my favorite ancestors since I discovered him, not terribly long after I began to do genealogy, which was itself, a happy accident on a blizzardy winter’s day back in 1978.  It has been a very long and twisty path, with more than a few boulders, dead ends and false starts, to another blizzardy day, as I write this some 37 years later.

John R. Estes would become my obsession and eventually, I would come to know him very well, or at least as well as someone born in the 20th century can know a man born in the late spring or early summer of 1787.

John was a legend and even if he did remain in the shadows most of his life, he still left quite a legacy – scattered about like scraps from a quilt – which I would gather over almost four decades like colorful Easter eggs placed lovingly in a basket as each one was found.

It’s impossible not to be fascinated by this man who lived to just under 100 years of age and survived two wars – serving in the War of 1812 as a solder and living in the battlefield of the Civil War in Claiborne County, Tennessee, near Cumberland Gap.  The second, ironically, far more dangerous than the first.

Much of the information about John R. Estes has dribbled in, bit by bit, over the years. Other segments have had to be pieced together by process of elimination.  The quilt of his life wasn’t easy to reconstruct – and there are still a few missing pieces.

Based on working with all of the old records, and their dates, I’ve been able to narrow his birth date to sometime between March 13th and June 12th, 1787.  But it took all of the records and 37 years to be able to do that.  Genealogy is not for the easily discouraged or faint of heart!

It was just last year that we think we finally found a picture of John R. Estes – maybe.  One of the Estes cousins visited the family of an elderly Estes family member who had passed on, and based on who owned this picture both currently and previously, and its relative age compared to other photos we can identify, we believe this to be John R. Estes.

The original tintype is very dark.  John died in 1885, so for this to be John, it would have to have been taken prior to that time, and the man in this tintype does not look to be incredibly elderly, so perhaps taken in the 1860s or so?

John R. Estes tintype

A family member restored and enhanced the photo, digitally, and this is what was forthcoming.

John R. Estes restored

Much like his picture, John R. Estes lived in the shadows for his entire life.  Cousin Garmon summed it up when he said John “flew under the radar.”  Why?

For example, we know that John had 3 land grants, which he immediately sold, along with at least two inheritances.  Yet, he seemed to have very little in terms of worldly goods.  Not owning land and is the antithesis of the American dream, especially for pioneers pushing the frontier.  If you didn’t own land, you couldn’t vote, you couldn’t sit on a jury and you were a second class citizen.  And John R. Estes clearly had that opportunity and traded it for immediate cash…three different times over a 30 year period.  Why?

Why is a question I would ask over and over again.  So much didn’t and still doesn’t make sense.

There is much we don’t know about John R. Estes, beginning with his middle name.  That is one piece of information that has always eluded me, although we do have a hint.  His grandson, John Reagan (or Regan or Ragan) Estes is supposed to have been named for him.  If that is true, then Reagan is likely one of John’s ancestral surnames.

We know the names, positively, of three of John’s grandparents and probably the 4th as well.  But of his great-grandparents, 4 are entirely unknown, one has no surname and one is speculative.  You’ll notice in my pedigree chart below that John R. is numbered (14) – that’s because I had to number the Johns in this family to sort out who was whom.  The Estes family, like most families, tended to reuse names generation after generation, and that combined with a trend towards slow westward migration mixed the stew, so to speak.  Figuring out who belonged to whom was quite a challenge.

John R. Estes pedigree

I just know that John R. is someplace having a good chuckle because I’ve never been able to figure all of this out, at least not to my satisfaction – especially that issue of his middle name.  It will give us something to discuss one day when I get to meet him in person.  I have a list of questions for all of my ancestors for when that day comes.

I first discovered John R. Estes in Claiborne County, Tennessee, the progenitor of the Estes family of Estes Holler off of Little Sycamore.  Today, that’s Little Sycamore Road, but when John R. Estes first settled there, the road would have been nothing more than a wagon path along Little Sycamore Creek.

In the satellite view below, which covers about about 2.5 miles from the left to the middle arrow, Estes Holler is to the far left with the arrow pointing to the land owned by John R. Estes’s sons.  The middle arrow is the Campbell homestead.  We know John R. Estes lived in close proximity, as his son, John Y. Estes married Rutha Dodson, being raised in that home by her Campbell grandparents.  Based on what little information we have, John likely lived most of his adult life between these two arrows – and Little Sycamore is the road that runs along the Creek in that Valley.  You can see it just below the middle arrow.

Little Sycamore

At the end of John’s life, he had moved to Yellow Springs after he married the Cook widow, which is the third arrow at the right.  After moving to Claiborne County, he spent most of his life on Little Sycamore, the little white road in the valley where the Campbell homestead stood, beside Liberty Church today.

I first started searching for my family heritage information in 1978 and I discovered John R. not long after.  But it would be at least another 20 years until I discovered the name of his father, and where John R. Estes was from.  It was a long journey, and it took me many trips and miles on a labyrinth rollercoaster adventure.  All the time, with every journey, getting to know John a little better, his life, his children, where he lived – and where he didn’t.

Let’s share the journey and let’s start where I found John

Tazewell, Tennessee

Tazewell, that’s the name of the town nearest to where John R. Estes lived in Claiborne County.  I initially thought he lived in that town. Little did I know.  I would discover how remote Estes Holler was when I would first visit, but until that time, I didn’t know there WAS an Estes Holler and I really had no concept of the beautiful mountain ruggedness of Appalachia just south of the Cumberland Gap.  I grew up in Indiana, which was, in essence, flat.

The photo below is of the Powell River, Wallen’s Ridge on the right, just below Cumberland Gap, photographed from the Pinnacle.

This is the land of my people, my ancestors.  Their bones rest here.  Their lives were lived here in these remote and stunning mountains.

Cumberland Gap from pinnacle

Not all of me was Hoosier, because when I first visited Claiborne County, I knew in my heart that I had indeed, come home.  Those mountains spoke to a part of my soul that I never knew existed.  That part of me was dormant until I drank in the view and the essence of this amazing land.  My heart lives in Appalachia.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, in-between motherhood duties, a career and graduate school, I wrote letters to people who lived in Claiborne County.  They sent me snippets and stories once they came to trust me and accept me as one of their own kin.  Claiborne County and that entire region is very clannish, or was at that time.  They might feud like hell between themselves, ala the Hatfields and McCoys, but let a stranger enter the picture and they were solidly one front, at least for the minute.  Eventually, they would forgive me for being a Yankee, knowing I had no choice in the matter of where I was born.

I used to wait excitedly for the mailman to arrive.  If I wasn’t home, the first thing I checked upon arrival was the mail, because some precious genealogy or family document might be in the days booty.  Letters were treasures.  Otherwise it was just junk mail or bills.

One day, a letter arrived from one of the “Old Widows,” as they called themselves, with a juicy, wonderful tidbit – a newspaper clipping.  She had been able to find information about a man named John R. Estes.

Up to this point, I had been scavenging all of the old court records, reading them page by page, and the deeds and any other early records I could find hoping to find a connection between my John Y. Estes and any earlier Estes male.  There were several Estes men who came and went through the county, found in the early records, often as road hands.  There just had to be a connection, and I was determined to find it.

In Claiborne County, P.G. Fulkerson, a local lawyer, born in 1840 and who died in 1929, had kept a ledger where he wrote information when he talked to the old families.  After his death, someone had written a series of articles from information out of his ledger which were published in the Tazewell Observer, the local newspaper, every Wednesday beginning in 1979 and extending into 1981.  The locals referred to “The Fulkerson Papers” as “The Genealogy Bible.”  After all, he knew most of the early settlers or their children, he interviewed people and he, thankfully, wrote down the results!

Given that the Claiborne County courthouse burned in 1838, destroying many, but not all, records, some of the information provided by Fulkerson would otherwise have been lost to posterity.  Some of the information Fulkerson gleaned, of course, would never have been in those records in the first place.

On January 2, 1980, the column was about the Estes family, as follows:

John R. Estes came prior to 1800 from Fairfax County, VA to Little Sycamore Creek.  He married Nancy Moore before coming.  His children were:  Jechonias who married Nancy Bray, William married Jemima McVey removed to Loudon Co., Tempy married Adam Cloud, removed to Ky, Mary married William Hurst, Nancy married William Rudledge, removed to Iowa, John Y married Martha Dotson, removed to Ky, George married a Willis removed to Iowa, Lucy married a Rush.  John R. Estes died at the age of 104.

This was it, the proverbial jackpot – the gold vein – the mother lode. Not only did I now know the identity of the father of John Y. Estes, I also knew the name of John R. Estes’s wife and where he came from.  Bingo, BIG BINGO.

I took this to the proverbial genealogy bank and began my search in Fairfax County, Virginia.  That was a long search, a veeeeerrrrryyyyy long, and extremely unfruitful search that took years between ordering and reading rolls and rolls of microfilm.  Why was it so unfruitful, producing absolutely nothing?  Because P.G. Fulkerson was wrong.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we know that John R. Estes did not come to Tennessee prior to 1800, but in roughly 1818 or between 1818 and 1820.  He did not come from Fairfax County, but Halifax County, Virginia.  William married Jane or Jennie McVey not Jemima and he died in Kentucky, not Loudon County.  Tempy married Adam Clouse, not Cloud.  John Y. married Rutha Dodson, not Martha Dotson, and her father removed to Kentucky, not her or John Y. Estes who removed to Texas.  George married Ollie Pittman, not a Willis. And John R. Estes did not live to be 104, but he only missed it by five or six few years.

Let’s just say that over the years, as I painfully discovered how many errors were in the P.G. Fulkerson papers, he rather fell off of his pedestal of perfection.  At least he did have the names of all of John R. Estes’s children – which is more than any other source ever provided and gave me a base to work with.  And he was right about one thing – John Y. Estes was the son of John R. Estes.

However, I think P. G. Fulkerson did us one other favor.  In the early 1900s, before 1910, the local newspaper, the Claiborne Progress ran a series of articles called “Our Early History” and I think those articles were written by Fulkerson.  In one article, the author tells a funny story about John.

John R. Estes came here before the county was organized from Virginia. He had a son John who lived to be an old man.  John said his wife had a lot of ducks that bothered him.  One Sunday she went to visit a neighbor and left him to keep house.  The ducks came up to the porch to be fed.  He said he then remembered that his wife had a lot of dried beans and he went to feeding them.  After a while they went to the spring branch to get a drink and then as usual with a duck they were ready for more and they again got all they could eat.  Soon he could see their crops were swelling and the ducks were getting restless.  After a while he heard one of their crops pop and then for a quarter of an hour he had a big fourth of July fireworks and afterwards a big paddle duck funeral.

Again, when he arrived isn’t accurate, but the story gives us one of the only glimpses into John the person and his personality.  I can only imagine how unhappy his wife was with him when she returned home.  Clearly, it became a community story that amused many for a long time.

In another article, Fulkerson tells us the following about John:

In discussing the tariff I compared Robert Patterson the manufacturer with his brother Jas. Patterson the farmer, and showed what each had accumulated. Uncle John Estes was present and I frequently called on him to verify my statements.  When the speaking was over Uncle John took me about 100 yards from the crowd and said, “Now I stood by you like a man didn’t I.  Well, I didn’t mind it this time, but I thought I ought to tell you that if you want any more blamed lies proved you must get someone else.”

I don’t know here if Fulkerson is the one with the sense of humor, or John Estes, or both!

I spent a lot of time reconstructing the family of John R. Estes based on early census and remaining marriage records, and was able to verify most of Fulkerson’s information.  There was another male Estes in Claiborne County at this same time, Elisha, a distant cousin to John R. Estes, but thankfully not in Estes Holler and with children having entirely different names except for Nancy and John, but Elisha’s son John was John J.F. not John Y.

I found, quite by accident, a land survey for John R. Estes in 1826.

John R. Estes survey

This was quite an unexpected find, because it was not indexed to John R. Estes.  He sold it immediately, signing off on the actual survey, and it was indexed to the next owner.

The actual survey metes and bounds on subsequent pages is against the “Old Indian Boundary,” a statement that alone sparked years of speculative discussion within the family.

Note John’s signature is the bottom right of the survey page relinquishing his rights and this land to John Harris “for value received.”

John had lived in Claiborne County 6 or 8 years by this time.  Shortly thereafter, John and Ann would have their last child.  Their children were:

  • William Estes born about 1812, married Jennie McVey and removed to Kentucky where he died in 1864. Two of his sons and two of his son-in-laws served in the Union Army.
  • Lucy Estes born April 7, 1813, married Coleman Rush in 1833 and removed to Waubaunsee County, Kansas where she died in 1878.  Coleman fought for the Union.
  • Jechonias Estes born in 1814 in Halifax County, Virginia, married Nancy Bray in 1841, the same week and perhaps the same day as his brother John married Rutha Dodson. Jechonias died in 1888 and is likely buried in the upper Estes cemetery in Estes Holler in Claiborne County, TN, on his land.
  • John Y. Estes born Dec. 29, 1818, married Rutha Dodson in 1841, had several children before he and Rutha divorced by 1880. He walked to Texas (twice) where he died in Nocona, Montague County, in 1895.
  • Temperance “Tempy” Estes born in 1817/1818 who married Adam Clouse about 1835. In 1880 they were living in Madison County, KY.  Adam fought for the Union in the Civil War.
  • Nancy Estes born about 1820 married William Rutledge and then Nathaniel Hooper before 1850. Widowed before 1870, she died between 1880-1900 in Claiborne County.
  • George William Estes born about 1827, married Ollie Pittman in 1847 and removed with her family to Iowa in 1852 where he departed to the California gold fields, never to return, and presumed died.
  • Mary Estes born 1830/1831, married William Hurst in 1851.
  • A female child shown in the 1830 census as born between 1820-1825 but who did not live to the 1840 census or married young. In any event, we don’t know her name.  She may have been the first Estes buried in Claiborne County or vicinity.

Next Stop – Halifax County, Virginia

It would be at least another decade before a letter from my cousin, Garmon, would arrive with a new piece of information.  A composite list of Virginia marriages had been published, and Garmon noted that John Estes had married Ann Moore in Halifax County, Virginia on November 25, 1811.

Halifax County, not Fairfax County.  Just two little letters difference – and a world apart.

Garmon had dug around a little more and felt sure that this was “it,” just as I had been sure about Fairfax County a decade earlier, thanks to P.G. Fulkerson.  Nonetheless, we had to search.

This time, I just got in the car and drove to Halifax County.  Garmon wasn’t getting any younger and I had wasted so many years on Fairfax and other wild goose chases.  I own more Virginia County history books than you can shake a stick at.  In an absolute moment of insanity, I had promised Garmon, years before, that I would find the answer – and I meant to honor that commitment – even though I kicked myself from here to Virginia for making it in the first place.

Halifax County, VA was quite different from Claiborne County, TN.  While Claiborne is unquestionably mountainous, Halifax is more rolling foothills.  There is a lot more flat land and the hills are much gentler, slower to rise and fall.

William Moore land Halifax

This photo is the land that was owned by Nancy Ann Moore’s father, William Moore, looking off in the distance.  If you travel an hour west of Halifax County, you are into the Smokey mountains, but Halifax was still the land of colonial gentleman farmers and their rolling plantations manned by slaves, tenant farmers (meaning generally poor whites) and indentured servants.

In the days when my ancestors lived in Halifax County, anyone wanting “day work,” white or black, would gather on the courthouse lawn in the morning, and anyone needing day workers or laborers would show up and hire folks.  My ancestors were surely there, some in the capacity of laborers and some likely as farmers hiring workers….and it was this courthouse that I would be visiting.  The same steps to the same building my ancestors had climbed for generations – to get married, pay taxes, file deeds and attend court – the social event of their time.

Halifax courthourse

The first thing I did upon arrival in Halifax County, as you might imagine, was to confirm that marriage record.  Indeed, it was there and contained both the signature of John Estes and William Moore, Ann’s father.  However, it was mis-indexed as Ann Moon.

John R Estes Ann Moore marriage

Given the propensity for this family to send me off on wild goose chases, I would have felt a LOT better if this document had said John R. Estes, not John Estes, but it didn’t and it was the closest thing we had to a document at the right time in the right place.

We knew that John R. Estes had migrated to Claiborne County sometime around 1820, or slightly before, based on the birth locations of his various children.  We didn’t have many years to look for him in Halifax County.  There were many, MANY other Estes men, and I spent my week in Halifax extracting dozens of records from the court records, deeds, marriages and anything else I could find to extract while I was there.

The old court records are kept in the dusty, moldy courthouse basement.  It’s actually a blessing to get to work there, because you are not in the hustle and bustle of the realtors and title people needing to look through the more current records.  Nice as those people are, novices are clearly in the way upstairs.  Besides that, the basement could have been a movie set directly from the 1700s with the stone and brick walls, not modern, except for one hanging light over the one table, so you have a much more realistic setting for looking in those old books with the handwritten notes.  It’s easy to lose yourself in those records and be transported back in time, reading the rhythmic handwriting of the court clerk in the 1700s.

Occasionally one of the ladies that works there will come downstairs to check and see if you need anything, or have died since you were last checked on.  I told one of the women that I was a bit overwhelmed with the sheer number of shelves of old record books and I wasn’t sure I was looking in the right places.  She asked me the family name and I told her Estes.  She looked at me again, doing a bit of a double take, and said to me, “Honey, your people aren’t in that book (plaintiffs), they are in this book (defendants.)”  Then she went and got another book and brought it to me and said, “And in here too.”  The court minutes.  I didn’t realize the significance of what she was telling me at the time, because I was just starting out with my Halifax research, but suffice it to say that she was right – my families role in lawsuits had not changed much over the generations.

I love my colorful family.  Those court records were just full of good stuff….like Rebecca Estes, a white woman, who was prosecuted for living with a black man, and then prosecuted for living in sin, unmarried….but according to Virginia law at that time, a white person was prohibited from marrying a black person…so what was she to do?  Next she was prosecuted for having a “mulatto bastard.”  Yep, my family for sure and the court clerk some 200 years later STILL knew it!  Rebecca had a lot of spunk, because she ran a business and sued people for debt and other infractions.  I liked and respected Rebecca a lot.  I also felt terribly sorry for what she had to endure – and I always wondered what happened to her, because she simply disappears from the records.  Perhaps she moved on…perhaps not.

Another Estes female, Susannah Y. Estes, had 5 children and NEVER married.  According to depositions about her estate after her death, she “had always conducted business as if she had been a man.”  Susannah and Rebecca, it turns out, were John R. Estes’s family.  Susannah was his sister and Rebecca was either his niece or cousin.  My family was nonconformant and unconventional.  I knew I had found the right family – and indeed – I had.  I come by it honest.  You might say it’s in my genes!

I didn’t find much that trip to tie things together, but I found a lot of fodder, scraps and puzzle pieces.  I found enough that I knew I would have to make a second trip after I went home and put the pieces of the puzzle I was gathering together.

The War of 1812

By the time I got back home, with my piles and piles of paper, another document of interest had surfaced out of Claiborne County.  It seems that back in the 1930s, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) had indexed some records in Claiborne County.

In those records were depositions for Claiborne County men who filed for military benefits for either the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.

In the records titled, “Abstract of Pensions of the Revolution, War of 1812 and All Wars Prior to 1883 of Claiborne County, Tennessee”  compiled by Annie Walker Burns Page 78 – Section 69, we find:

John R. Estes or John R. Estis:  War of 1812, So. 2273, S.C.2147 Bounty Land Warrants 29686,40-50 and 52720-120-55

He served as a Private in Capt. Grief Barksdale’s Company Virginia Militia, enlisted 9-1-1814, discharged 12-6-1814, residence of Soldier 1851, 1871 Claiborne Co. Tenn, at Tazewell, marriage of soldier and widow 11-25-1811 Halifax Co., VA., maiden name of widow was Ann Moore, death of soldier was 5-30-1885 Yellow Springs, Tenn.

There is a huge amount of information in this document, and from John’s own mouth.  First, it confirms for us that indeed we do have the correct John Estes and Ann Moore.  Thanks Heavens!  Second, it tells us that John served, and where, that he received land, and when he died.

As it turns out, according to his service records from the National Archives, John R. Estes applied for three different benefits, at different times, spanning 20 years – all three necessitating an application then which was a goldmine now.  It’s interesting, because when I ordered his pension file then, and comparing it to the file on now, there are some different documents in either set that aren’t in the other.

John R. Estes War 1812 index card

John completed an application on Sept. 28, 1850 and signed the document on February 3, 1851 swearing to his service in order to apply for a service-based land grant based on a Congressional Act of September 1850.  It seems it did not take long for word to travel.  He wrote the application the same month as the congressional act.

John R. Estes bounty app 1850

John R. Estes bounty app 1850 2

In this document, John R. Estes states that he was 63 years of age, which I presume was in September 1850 when he completed the form.  That would put his year of birth about 1787, assuming he had already had his birthday by September.  This was one of the documents used to reconstruct his birth month and year.

Forty acres was granted in Milan, Missouri in January 1854 which John R. Estes sold to George Estes of Claiborne County, TN and which was registered on April 22, 1857 in Missouri.

John R. Estes 40 acres

John R. Estes 40 acres registered

The land office however, included a very interesting letter that says in part:

Military land warrant # 29686 issued to John R. Estes under the Act of Sept. 28, 1850 located by Joshua R. Barbee at…..on Sept. 18, 1852 and returned to the land office for the reason that there was some name erased and another (Mr. Barbee) inserted.  Affiant says that the name erased was George W. Estes that he (affiant) erased the name of George W. Estes by the knowledge, consent and direction of said George W. Estes.  That said Estes went to California some time in the year 1853 and that he is supposed to have died at any rate his whereabouts is unknown to his relatives in the section of the country.  Sworn and subscribed before me this 2nd of March 1857.

John R. Estes 40 acres erasure letter

Attached to the certificate is the sale document where John R. Estes sold his land on April 23, 1852, after which time his son George left Claiborne County with the intention of settling on that land in Missouri.  You can see the “erasure” in the second line below where Joshua Barbee’s name has been overwritten over something else.

John R. Estes 40 acres signoff

Following this document is an affidavit in which Joshua Barbee says that George W. Estes directed him to remove his (George’s) name and insert his own.  He also tells us that George went to California in 1853 and his family doesn’t know his whereabouts.

John R. Estes Barbee affidavit

This land was registered in 1857 for Barbee, so apparently something convinced the land office of the legitimacy of Barbee’s claim.

We know for a fact that George W. Estes and family set out from Claiborne County for Missouri where George planned to claim his father’s War of 1812 Bounty Land.  However, something along the way changed his mind and it appears that George Estes never made it to Missouri. There are three different accounts of this story, and although they differ in details, they all agree in substance, as told by the family.

In the spring of 1852, three families living in Claiborne County, Tennessee, traveled west by covered wagon seeking a new home. They reached a spot on the line between Missouri and Iowa and there they settled. The place at that time was known as Pleasant Plains and eventually became known as Pleasanton, Iowa.

The families were those of Patrick Willis, George Estes and James Pittman, father of George Estes’s wife, Ollie Pittman. But Patrick Willis and George Estes didn’t stay long in Iowa as they had heard of the discovery of gold in California. They left their families in Iowa and went to make their fortunes.

In the course of a couple of years, Patrick Willis returned with a small fortune. George Estes was doing so well he decided to stay and add to his fortune, apparently having several productive gold claims. In the summer of 1854 George Estes wrote to his wife that he was returning, and that was the last that she ever heard from him. He sold his claims and left with a man from Kentucky.  When he didn’t return, the man was contacted. He said that Estes had become ill and that he was taken to a hospital in St. Louis. Inquiries were made but the hospitals had no record of him, and no trace of him was ever found.  It’s believed that he was murdered for his money, probably by the man from Kentucky.

Another version of this story says that George was robbed and killed on the way to California.  Is it possible that he was carrying the money from his father’s land that he had sold?  Or maybe his father’s land grant was the seed money for those gold claims.

On March 19, 1855, John R. Estes applied for additional land due to him based on the Act of Congress on March 3, 1855.  Again, word traveled fast – this time 16 days.  In this application, he says that he sold the original 40 acres to George Estes.

John R. Estes 1855 bounty

When the warrant wasn’t forthcoming, an inquiry was sent on behalf of John.  I suspect that John could not write, or not well enough to compose a letter.

We don’t know if his application went missing or the office was just overwhelmed with lots of applications for land, but on August 4, 1856 John R. Estes was awarded an additional 120 acres of land in Plattsburg, MO.

John R. Estes 120 acres

When we sometimes wonder why pioneers moved from the states east of the Mississippi to Missouri, these land grants were probably a big part of what spurred the exodus.  Most of the veterans were too old to homestead, and many of them had already done it once.  But their sons were looking for land, cheaper land, and enough land that they weren’t hemmed in by their brothers and sisters.  Plus, that pioneer spirit was burning.

John R. Estes sold this second land grant to John W. Wilson from Mifflin, PA on March 17, 1856.  There must have been some kind of exchange or system for buyers and sellers to come to arrangements, because assuredly John R. Estes was not in PA and it’s unlikely that John Wilson was in Claiborne County, TN.

On March 13, 1871, John R. Estes applied for a pension.  If John thought the land grant process was cumbersome, he hadn’t seen anything yet.

John completed an application form – yes – they had printed forms back then, and signed as the applicant – although his handwriting is a lot shakier at 83 than it was at 63.

This document tells us a great deal, like that he was drafted and did not volunteer.  He served from September 1814 to December 1814 when he was discharged at Ellicott’s Mills in Maryland. He served in VA., and Maryland was under Col. Greenhill and Gen. Joel Leftridge and had resided in Claiborne since March 1814 (which we know is incorrect) and currently lives 4 miles east of Tazewell.  This document also says that he is married and his wife’s name is Ann Moore and gives their marriage date along with his age as 83, if he remembered correctly.

John R. Estes 1871 pension app

This information is confusing, because the 1870 census tells us something different.

In the 1850 census, John Estus, age 61 is shown as a shoemaker with his wife Nancy, age 65 and youngest daughter Mary, age 19.  It does not appear that John lives in Estes Holler at this point, based on the neighbors, but does live in the general vicinity.

John R. Estes 1850 census

Martha Cook is a 35 year old widow, her youngest child being age 2.  John and Martha live no place close to each other.

Based on the neighbors, by the 1860 census, John has moved down into the Estes Holler area, probably slightly east, near John Campbell and the Cook land.  Note that there is a Cook cemetery in Estes Holler, so these families certainly lived adjacent.  In the 1860 census, both John R. Estes and Nancy Ann were living.  He is shown as a miller with no real estate but $65 worth of personal property.  So, how does a miller mill with no mill?  Just wondering.  Obviously he works for someone else, but I don’t see a miller nearby.

John R. Estes 1860 census

In 1860, Temperance’s daughter, Mary Clouse is living with John R. and Ann Estes, although it could be for her to help them as they are in their 70s.

John is living beside Thomas Campbell and a group of Cooks.  One house away we find the widow Martha Cook, significantly his junior, raising her family.

Of course, between 1860 and 1870, the Civil War ripped through Claiborne County like one forest fire after another, pretty much devastating everything in its wake.  John R. Estes was more than 75 years of age.  We don’t’ know when John’s wife, Nancy or Anne (she went by both names), died, but it was sometime in that decade.  We have no idea what happened to them during the Civil War.  There are no family stories that have been handed down.

What we do know is that John R.’s son, John Y. Estes fought for the Confederacy and was held as a Prisoner of War.  This must have worried John R. Estes terribly, presuming that somehow they had received word.  Otherwise, he was just gone…and for too long.

By this time, John’s son George had perished, or more accurately, “disappeared.”  John’s son, William, died in Kentucky in 1864, but we don’t know the circumstances.  It may have been related to the war.  William’s sons and sons-in-law both fought for the Union.  John’s daughters had all married and moved on, except for Nancy and perhaps Mary.  Lucy and Tempy’s husbands were fighting for the Union.  John’s daughter-in-law, Ruthy lived close by and managed to feed her children while John Y. fought for the Confederacy.  And of course, on top of everything else, Nancy died.

Martha Cook 1860 census

By 1870, John R. was married to Martha, age 67 (born 1803), the widow Cook, shown with daughters Rachel and Nancy, ages 25 and 21, above in 1860.  I believe these to be the Cook daughters, which is how we identified who John R. Estes married.  Note that Martha’s daughter Nancy is noted as “idiotic” on both census schedules.

John R Estes 1870 census

John R. Estes applied for a pension from the War of 1812 in 1871, stating that he was married to Ann Moore.  Did he forget who he was married to?  Was there confusion about who he was married to at the time of the war versus who he was married to when he applied for the pension?  Was he not married to Martha Cook?  If that was the case, then where was Nancy?  She is not listed living with anyone else in the 1870 census.

John R. Estes could have married Martha Cook in Hancock County, as the Hancock County records burned, but why would they have married in Hancock County, given that they were both Claiborne County residents?

John R. Estes stated that he lived 4 miles East of Tazewell.  We know that John’s children owned land at the end of Estes Holler behind Pleasant View Church, and this works out to be about 4 miles, so I’m sure this is the vicinity where John R. Estes lived too.  Jechonias is shown on the tax lists with land in 1851 in this area and John Y. Estes lived in Estes Holler in 1851, according to a lawsuit.  Jechonias bought the adjacent land in 1874.  The census shows that John R. lived in this area as well.

Estes upper cemetery

This land would be owned by several generations of Estes families.  The photo above is taken from the oldest Estes cemetery, near the top of the ridge, looking down the mountain across Estes lands.  I don’t know that John R. Estes ever actually lived on this land, but he assuredly lived close, because the name of the neighbors are all familiar and eventually, many would become relatives by marrying his children and grandchildren.  He is likely buried here.  Jechonias was the only Estes to own land at the time that Ann and John died.

Ironically, we know, at least as of 1871, how John R. claimed to have sided in the Civil War.  Men were required to have someone sign an affidavit that they were loyal during the Civil War to apply for a War of 1812 pension.  John had William Cunningham who fought for the Union, sign as testimony for his allegiance.  Whether he was always a Union man or this was revisionist history in order to obtain his pension, we’ll never know, but given that a Union veteran signed for him, it’s more likely to be true.  William Cunningham continues to be connected with the Estes family, eventually loaning Rutha money to purchase the Estes lands after John Y. Estes left for Texas.

John R. Estes Cunningham signature

This wasn’t the end of the paper work however.  There are at least 7 different bureaucratic documents and filings in John’s pension file relative to people testifying that neither John R. Estes nor his witnesses were Confederates and internal memos from one department to another requesting verification of John’s service record….and on the right forms please.  The postmaster at Tazewell testified that William Cunningham served for the Union in the Civil War.

If John R. Estes really was a Union man during the Civil War, this may have put him at odds with his son, John Y. Estes, who fought for the Confederacy, but John R. Estes did sign as a witness for John Y. when he signed all of his worldly goods over to his teenage son in 1865 a few months after returning from the Civil War.  Furthermore, John Y. names his last son, born in 1871, after his father, so it doesn’t appear they were at odds with each other.

I think if your son was held as a POW, and lived to tell the tale, after being injured, you wouldn’t care which side he fought for – only that he was back home again.  But he wasn’t home permanently.  In 1879, at about age 61, John Y. Estes left Claiborne County, walked to Texas and established a new life there.  Some say that was his second trip to Texas on foot, that he walked the first time, returned to Tennessee and then went back.  John R. Estes, at age 92 or 93, said goodbye to his son for the last time.  I wonder how John R. felt.  Was he sad to see John Y. go, upset that he was leaving his family or glad for his new opportunity?  Maybe some of each.

In 1880, John R. Estes, age 93, is shown as a pensioner and living still with Martha, age 66, and her daughter Rachel O. Cook age 35, noted as step-daughter.   Martha’s youngest daughter, Nancy, is gone and has probably died.

John R. Estes 1880 census

John R. Estis died May 30, 1885, at Yellow Springs, TN, in Claiborne County.

John R. Estes death

The postmaster of Yellow Springs signed an affidavit as to his date of death.  John had outlived at least 4 of his 9 children.

John R. Estes death 2

Yellow Springs is an area towards Hancock County from Estes Holler and it’s clearly more than 4 miles from Tazewell, so John moved once again between 1871 and 1885 when he passed away.

Now that we know when John R. died, and about his years in Claiborne County, let’s look back and see what we can discover about John’s life in Halifax County before moving to Claiborne.

We have discovered a lot about John R., but we still don’t know who his parents were.

Halifax County, Virginia

After my return from trips to Halifax County and Claiborne County, I ordered every microfilm available for either county and read them, page by page, at the Family History Center.

I made spreadsheets of what I found, because Halifax County was not only a popular place for Estes men to settle, but it was a popular “stopping off point” it seems, on the way west.  A few years there and then they were gone.

Complicating things further, there were several men named John.

The Tax Man Cometh

One of the most valuable tools turned out to be the two types of tax records.

One type of tax was taxes paid on land owned and the second type was paid on personal property.  That way, they could tax everyone on something and some people on both.  Personal property tax included tax on males over the age of 16 and items like cows and horses.  Some years they taxed people on far more, like clocks and curtains.  The sheriff took the list for each district and was responsible for collecting the taxes due.

Once you knew who the neighbors were in each location you could tell which John was which, for example, based on where they lived, which district, and their neighbors.

Now all the Estes men in Halifax County did not behave and stay put – they wandered around a bit – especially the young land-free ones.  I suspect they rented land or were laborers for others.  The men who owned land, of course, could be reliably found on both lists year after year in the same location, with their sons showing up as neighbors as they came of age and married.

John R. Estes never owned land.  Plus there were about a dozen John Estes’s.  Many were easy to eliminate, because they appeared on the tax list too early to be John R. Estes, or they were clearly associated with a specific family group, or had a middle name that didn’t begin with R.

Through this associative process, I eliminated all but 3 or 4 Johns.

Even more confounding was that the Estes families in Halifax County lived in the eastern half of the county, in and near South Boston and in the far northeast corner of the county.  On the other hand, the Moore family, William Moore, Nancy Moore’s father lived on the far western side of the county, almost to the Pittsylvania County line.

South Boston to Mount Vernon

This situation was very unusual and didn’t make sense, at least not at first.  Remember, you don’t marry who you don’t see, and in that time and place, you normally saw your neighbors, your family and the people who attended your church.  How did John R. Estes come to meet Nancy Ann Moore?

Hint – Ann’s father, William Moore, was a minister for a “dissenting religion,” according to the court records – those radical Methodists.  He married many members of John R. Estes’s mother’s family, according to marriage returns.  Of course, we didn’t figure this out until after we figured out who John’s mother was!

The 1810 tax list shows a John Estes where a John Estes never resided before, in the western part of the county, whose taxes were taken the same day as James Moore, who was exempt due to age.  James Moore was Ann Moore’s grandfather.  Perhaps John R. Estes was farming James Moore’s land for him or helping on his farm.  John was taxed for 1 white male and 1 horse.

But wait.  To add confusion, a second John Estes was also taxed in that district, and he was taxed the same day as William Moore, Nancy’s father, for 1 white male and 1 horse.  These tax lists were taken a month apart – so it’s possible but unlikely that the John Estes record was a duplicate.

From painstakingly recreating all of the Estes families over the previous decade, I know that there are four John’s of about the same age.  One is John, son of Abraham, one is John son of Bartlett who died in 1804, a third is John, son of Bartlett (son of Moses) and Rachel pounds and fourth, John, son of someone else.  But I wasn’t sure which John was ours and telling them apart was sometimes a challenge.

John, son of Abraham is easier to discern, generally, because he does not tend to live in the Estes cluster that includes Bartlett and other descendants of Moses Estes Jr, in South Boston.  His father, Abraham, lived in the northeast corner of the county.  Bartlett who died in 1804’s son was younger, born in 1793 or 1794, so he isn’t listed early.  He also lived in the north part of the county.  Bartlett and George Estes were brothers, sons of Moses Jr. and lived adjacent, on their father’s land, in what is now South Boston.

The 1811 tax list shows us one very, very important clue.  This is probably the most subtle clue I’ve ever received.  Do you see it?

Date Name White Slaves Horses Comments
Mar 4 Moses (2) 1 0 6
Mar 4 Josiah 1 0 0 Son of Moses
Apr 9 William 1 0 1 Son of Bartlett (son of Moses)
Apr 9 Marcus 1 0 1 Son of George
Apr 9 George 1 0 1 Son of Moses
Apr 9 John 1 0 0 Son of Abe or Bartlett?
Apr 10 John (SG) 1 0 0 Son of George
Mar 19 Bartlett (north) 1 0 0 Son of Moses
Mar 25 Bartlett (north) 2 1 6 Son of Bartlett, son of Moses?

SG – that’s it – that’s the clue.  In the vernacular of how Halifax County tax lists read, that means “son of George.”  Glory be.  That is our answer.  Our John R. Estes is the son of George.

The next year, 1812, cements that relationship.

We show John SD or SB.  SD makes no sense, because there is no D Estes male, but SB would be son of Bartlett.  Bartlett is George’s brother and they live adjacent in South Boston.  We show George with his other son Marcus.  The John with Marcus would be John (SG) because the other John is SD or SB, leaving John on the 27th unaccounted for and likely son of Abraham from the North.  John, son of Bartlett who died in 1804 is still too young to be shown on the tax lists individually.

Date Name White Slaves Horses Comments
Apr 4 Moses (2) 1 0 5
Apr 18 Josiah 1 0 2 Son of Moses
Apr 29 John (SD or perhaps SB) Son of Bartlett
Apr 27 John Son of Abe
May 5 George 1 0 2 Son of Moses
May 12 Marcus 1 0 0 Son of George
May 12 John (SG) 1 0 0 Son of George

In 1815, John is once again listed as (SG) and in 1816 and 1817, he is listed as John R. Estes instead of John (SG), but living in this same cluster.  Hallejuah!!!!!

These tax lists are one way that we know when John R. Estes actually left Halifax County.

Serving in the War of 1812

John R. Estes served in the War of 1812 while living in Halifax County, VA.  He was drafted for the period of three months.  What did he do while he was away in the War, serving in Grief Barksdale’s company?

According to the 1812 Virginia Historical site:

Capt Grief Barksdale’s Company of Riflemen from Charlotte County, VA during the period Sept. 1, 1814 until Dec. 1, 1814. His company was attached to LT Col William C. Greenhill’s 4th Regiment of Virginia Militia and sent to Camp Fairfield on the James River near Richmond. This regiment was made part of Brig General Joel Leftwich’s 2d Brigade and on October 12th it departed from nearby Fort Mimms and arrived at Camp Snowden, MD on Oct. 27, 1814., then it proceeded to Camp Crossroads near Elliot Mill’s, a few miles from Baltimore arriving there on November 9, 1814. They arrived too late to have any contact with the British and were discharged in late November 1814. Source: Butler’s ” A Guide to VA Militia Units in the War of 1812″, 2d edition dated 2011, pages 24,57,& 240.

On page 240, the author indicates that Lt Col William C. Greenhill’s 4th Regiment was a part of the 2nd Brigade commanded by Brig. General Joel Leftwich which was created on September 5, 1814 at Camp Fairfield located near the James River leading into Richmond. On October 5th it was ordered to march with General Breckenridge’s brigade to Washington, DC. On October 12th it left Camp Mims near Richmond and arrived at Camp Snowden, MD on October 27th. The brigade arrived at Ellicott Mills near Baltimore on November 9th and was discharged at the end of November. The Battle of Baltimore had taken place on September 13th and after their defeat the British had left the area. Colonel Greenhill’s regiment consisted of seven company sized units from the counties of Pittsylvania, Halifax and Charlotte.

The conditions, however, were punishing.  Rains that fall were unrelenting.  At one time, three fourths of the men were ill.

In a letter of September 18, Brig. Gen. Thomas Marsh Forman, commander of the First Brigade, Maryland Militia, wrote of “a most tremendous Northwester which is punishing our poor soldiers, most of whom are in very thin clothing.”

Thus, John R. Estes was not involved in any encounter with the enemy.  John R. was lucky.  He was in the right place at the right time and avoided warfare, even though he was probably waterlogged.  In years to follow, because he did serve, he would obtain two land grants and a pension for his service of $8 a month.  That pension probably made a big difference in his quality of life.

John’s son, Jechonias, was probably born while he was gone.

Courthouse Basement Finds

Another find in the basement of the Halifax County courthouse was the chancery records – and I don’t mean the index or minutes – I mean the actual case packets – tied neatly in bundles with little ribbons.  Chancery court is a court that focuses on solutions for civil actions as opposed to criminal prosecutions for breaking the law.  Today, divorces are held in chancery court since a solution as to the division of property, assets and debts needs to be found.

These old chancery records have been indexed and scanned and will soon be available at the State of Virginia archives site – so no need to sort through boxes in the basement anymore.  It’s a good thing too, because those case bundles which included all kinds of information had a habit of walking away – not to mention many were in bad shape.  Being 200 years old will do that to you!

A long and complex case in which Thomas Yates and his wife, Phoebe Combs Yates sues Joseph Farguson about the ownership of a slave styled “Halifax Co., Va. Chancery 1812-019, Yates vs Farguson and Combs” includes depositions by John R. Estes and also his father George Estes whose mother was Luremia Combs.

John Eastes says that some time since Dec. 25, 1811 he saw Joseph Farguson carry the negro boy Jess to Thomas Yates and told him he did not consider they had any right to him, but if they would pay him what they were owing him on account of said negro, he would give him up and they refused to do it.

Given under the hand and seal Nov. 27, 1812. Sarah Farguson signed with a mark, Thomas Douglas signed, Lemuel Moore with a mark, Joseph Denman with a mark, John R. Estes signed.

Agreeable to a court order dated June 15, 1813 we met at the dwelling house of Jacob Farguson decd and proceeded to take the depositions of Sarah Farguson, Thomas Douglas and John R. Estes.  All three of these depositions are the same as given earlier except there were two questions posed to John R. Estes:

Q: By the plaintiff who were they that refused to take the negro boy Jesse and pay up the money?

A: I saw Mrs. Phebe Yates and Mrs. Combs

Q: By the same did you not understand that Thomas Yates about that time was gone to Linchburg?

A: Some time before that I did

Q: How long was it before you carried the notice for to take deposition at Chalmers Store?

A: I don’t know.

This day John R. Estes came before me and made oath that he delivered a true copy of the within to Thomas Yates on the 19th (of July) given under my hand this July 23rd 1814. Charles Harris. There is a note in John R. Estes hand (in light pencil unfortunately) that says On the 19th of July 1814, I John R. Estes delivered a true copy of the within to Thomas Yates.

Another note dated Nov 27, 1814 that John R. Estes came before Joseph Sanford, a JP, and made oath that he delivered a true copy of the within notice in Thomas Yates house to Mrs. Combs and William Yates.

Yet another note dated July 19, 1814 that John R. Estes of lawful age personally appeared before William Bailey and made oath that he delivered on the 24th, 25th or 26th of November 1812 a copy of the within notice in the dwelling house of Thomas Yates with Mrs. Combs and Yates wife.

Deducing John R.’s Father

In summary, there were only 4 possible fathers for John R. Estes; Bartlett who died in 1804 and lived in the north, Abraham whose son John who married in 1808 and moved to Charlotte County, Bartlett who married Rachel Pounds or George who married Mary Younger.  There were no other men who don’t already have sons John attributed to them and accounted for, who lived in Halifax when John R. was born about 1787 and who remain in Halifax County until he reaches 21 in about 1809, so we have no other reasonable candidates.

Bartlett and Rachel had a son the same year or within a year of when John R was born, also named John.  However, one John is designated as SG, and one as SB or SD, so we now know that George did in fact have more children than just Susannah Y., including a John of exactly the right age.

Furthermore, John, son of Bartlett appears to still be living in Halifax in 1837 during Moses’ estate settlement, eliminating him as a possibility for our John.

Abraham’s son John lived in the north and goes back and forth between Halifax and Charlotte Counties.

I have never been able to find the John, son of Bartlett who died 1804.  However, he is too young regardless, having been born in 1793/1794.  Based on a subsequent lawsuit after Bartlett’s widow’s death in 1824, I believe that this John died, which would eliminate him from being our John.

George Estes who married Mary Younger and had a son John (designated as SG), was previously unknown, and is the most likely candidate for the father of our John R.  John R. named one of his sons George and one of his daughters Mary.  John R. also named one of his sons John Y.  George’s daughter Susannah was named Susannah Y. and his son was named William Y.  John R’s daughter Lucy had a daughter whose middle name was Younger.  Neither Bartlett’s name nor those of any of his children appear in John R’s family.  George Estes’s wife was Mary Younger.

Therefore, I concluded that John R. Estes’s parents were George Estes, son of Moses Estes Jr., and Mary Younger, daughter of Marcus Younger.

The final confirmation of John R’s parents came from a most unexpected set of records.

Mary Younger Estes’s parents were Susannah and Marcus Younger.  Marcus died in 1816, but in 1842, a chancery suit was filed having to do with the distribution of his estate after an unmarried daughter’s death.

I extracted data from the “Younger, Marcus Chancery Suit 1842-057, Halifax Co. Va.” and in the documents from that suit, I found the payments made to the various heirs of Marcus Younger.  In the case of John Estes, he was listed as an heir because his mother was deceased.  John was listed as married to Nancy and as living in Tennessee.

It is noted that Mary Younger Estes’s children will receive one sixth of her one quarter share of the 83 acres to be sold following the death of Mary’s unmarried sister.

The children of Mary Estes were listed as: John Estes, William, Susannah, Sally wife of T. Estes, Polly wife of James Smith and a grandchild name Mark Estes.  So, not only do we have John’s name, we have the entire list of his siblings.

This was followed by another document listing the locations of the heirs, including:

Younger Wyatt and Polly his wife – Rutherford County Tennessee

John Estes and Nancy his wife – “ditto marks” under Rutherford County.  John was actually in Claiborne at this time and there was no John Estes in the 1840 census in Rutherford County.  John’s wife was Nancy (Ann) Moore.  None of the other John’s married Nancys or Anns.

This was an EXTREMELY long way around the block to discover the identity of the parents of John R. Estes – and it’s nothing short of a miracle that I did actually find the information scattered in extremely obtuse locations – like a genealogy version of a scavenger hunt.  There were many times I just wanted to give up and asked myself if it was really, REALLY that important.

The night I made the discovery of “SG” on the tax list, I knew in that instant who John’s father was.  I was in the Family History Center and they were closing for the evening.  I was excited, very excited – decades of searching Happy Dance excited.  The librarian virtually patted me on the head and told me to go home.

I was far too excited to just do that.  I lived half an hour away so by the time I got home, it was getting late.

I decided to call Garmon, regardless of how late it was.  After all, he had been searching for the answer for 45 years, which made my 20 or so look puny.

Garmon answered the phone groggily, “hhh….hello.”

“Wake up.”

“Who is this?”

“Your cousin, Bobbi.”


“Yes Bobbi.  I know who John R. Estes’s parents were.”

Very alert now….”You DO???”

“Yes, do you want to know?”

“Do I want to know?  I’d stand in the corner on my head and clap my hands to know.”

“George – it was George Estes…and Mary Younger.”

“Well, I’ll be.”

As I looked out my kitchen window at the peaceful moon that night rising over the trees and happily visited with Garmon, my long time research buddy and cousin, telling him the story of “SG,” I had no idea of the landmines that would lurk in the future, threatening to derail our discovery.

The DNA Landmine

When I first visited Halifax County, DNA testing for genealogy didn’t yet exist.

When I first visited Halifax County, Virginia, after the advent of DNA testing, autosomal testing didn’t yet exist and we were happily testing for 12 and then 25 Y DNA markers.

In the Estes DNA project, we had several descendants of the immigrant, Abraham Estes who had tested, but so far, no one proven from his son, Moses’s line.

Garmon, of course, was the very first Estes to test, but we didn’t know which line we descended from.  We were just pleased that we matched up to Abraham’s Y DNA genetic profile.

Abraham, the immigrant had a son, Moses, who settled in Halifax County, VA, who had a son Moses Jr., who remained in Halifax County and had several sons as well.  Moses Jr.’s son, George served in the Revolutionary War and we would eventually discover that he was the father of John R. Estes, my ancestor.  George also had three other sons.  These several generations of men made up the pool of many of the Estes families in the southern part of Halifax County.

I was fortunate to be able to meet one elderly Estes gentleman, we’ll call Beau, and spent several hours on multiple days listening to his stories about his life and ancestors, including “Granpappy George” who died at either 105 or 116, depending on which version of the story you liked and which day he was telling it.

His cousin, a female, Pat, was also very involved in genealogy and she joined us as well.  We drank iced tea and sat in the shade under trees so old they probably had stories about our ancestors themselves, had they been able to talk.  Glorious summer days in the south.

I had discovered the location of the old family land and Pat knew the story of why and where the graves had been moved.  There was no resting in peace in this family.

Beau and Pat’s line of the family descends from George, the Revolutionary War soldier, through his daughter Susannah Y. Estes who reportedly married her cousin, also an Estes, some say Tom Estes, which is why her surname remained Estes.  She lived among the rest of the Estes clan on Estes land owned originally by Moses Jr., father of George.  Susannah’s son, Ezekiel, from whom Beau descends, is shown below in what I believe is a death photo, taken in 1885.

Ezekiel Estes

Ezekiel bears a striking resemblance to his uncle, John R. Estes.

This Estes line descends to Beau and Beau was quite eager to take a DNA test to represent our George Estes line.  As a responsible genetic genealogist, I of course had a DNA kit handy, and Beau happily swabbed as I timed the event.  I brought his kit home and mailed it to Family Tree DNA.

A few weeks later, I received a message that Beau’s DNA results were available, but as a project administrator, I didn’t receive the notification that the other kits in the project had matches.  I remember thinking, “that’s odd.”

I signed in to see Beau’s results, and what awaited me was every genealogists nightmare.  The George Estes line, represented by Beau, did not match the ancestral Abraham Estes line.  And yes, to answer the next question, we had tests from several descendant lines from Abraham, so we know positively what his DNA looked like – and it looked nothing at all like Beau’s.

no match

I was sick, just sick.  It took me a day or two to process this information.  Truthfully, I was in shock and it threw a terrible monkey wrench into genealogy?

Should I stop researching my Estes genealogy since we were obviously not Esteses in the original sense of the word?  Was Moses Sr. not Abraham’s son?  Was Moses Jr. not Moses Sr.’s son?  Was George not Moses Jr’s son?  Who didn’t begat whom?  And under what circumstances?  How come Garmon matches the Abraham ancestral line, but Beau didn’t?  Was I in the wrong damned county barking up the wrong tree…..AGAIN????

And then that little voice started talking to me……was Susannah Y. Estes ever really married to her Estes cousin?

I had to know.

If Susannah was not married to an Estes cousin when she had son Ezekiel, from whom Beau descends, then the DNA wouldn’t be Estes, but the surname would be, given that the child took her surname.

But the family was sure, absolutely positive.  I called Pat and talked to her about this without saying too much, and she was very indignant that Susannah absolutely had been married to her cousin and that George, Susannah’s father, “would not have put up with any other kind of behavior.”

I could tell that another trip to Halifax County was in the offing.  I needed more records and I needed to concentrate on Susannah, someone I hadn’t necessarily neglected, but who I certainly wasn’t focused on.

On my return trip, the first place I went was the courthouse, to find Susannah’s marriage record.  Some of the Halifax records are either very thin or missing altogether.  For example, there were virtually no marriage records during the Revolutionary War.  Now you know people were still getting married, but since they didn’t know who was going to win the war, they weren’t paying any money to have anything registered – or the records have disappeared, all but 2 or 3 of them.  It’s this type of information you can’t glean from just finding your own ancestor’s records, because you have no idea if they are the only person in the marriage records for the year or just one of several thousand.  Context can make a big difference in how you interpret a missing record.

Susannah was born about 1800 and her first child, the son in question, Ezekiel, was born about 1814.  That is awfully, awfully young and there was no marriage record.  In fact, this is so young it smacks of a nonconsensual relationship of some sort.

Susannah’s next children were born in 1818, 1825, 1828 and 1835.  Three were females and one additional male, Marcus, who died between 1850 and 1860. In Susannah’s estate after her death in 1870, she said and her heirs say she had no idea where Marcus’s wife and children are or were and that she did not hear from them after they left the area years before.  She didn’t know if she had grandchildren through Marcus or not, but she had provided for them if she did.  How sad for Susannah.  She had no idea she had outlived her son by 10-20 years.

However, since there was no marriage record for Susannah, I was dead in the water at this point, with no proof of anything and DNA that didn’t match what it was supposed to match.  I felt like a fish flopping out of water, gasping, with no help in sight.

One of the things I learned a long time ago about genealogy is that the more work you do, the better the chance of opportune accidents happening. In other words, sometimes fate takes pity on you – or maybe it’s just your turn.

When I extract records for a particular surname, I extract all of the records of the relevant timeframe and often beyond.  I worry about putting them together later….and yes…I’m fully aware that I waste a lot of time doing work that turns out to be irrelevant.  But sometimes, it’s not entirely irrelevant and there may be tidbits that are extremely important….later.

Like the marriage records of Susannah’s children, for example.

Her eldest son, Ezekiel Estes married Martha Barley on December 10, 1854.

The clerk’s office had the actual minister’s return and it was chocked full of information, including that both Ezekiel and Martha were illegitimate, and both of their fathers’ were unknown, or at least not named, and that they married at the home of the bride’s mother.

Ezekiel Estes marriage

Oh.  Illegitimate…no father’s name.  Nonmatching DNA.  Hmmmmm….

Let’s look at Susannah’s other children who married in Halifax County.  Another child’s entry says that the father is unknown and a third simply has a line drawn through the father’s name space.  Another child married out of the county, but I had what I needed.

Finally, after Susannah’s death when Ezekiel was trying to settle her estate, depositions were taken regarding the division of her estate and in particular, the validity of some debts.

In this testimony, from various people, it is verified that Susannah never married and that she conducted all of her own business – in other words, there was never a male partner in her life.

Through the sources we would normally use to verify a marriage, we come up empty handed – but lack of evidence does not constitute proof that she never married.  Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.   Susannah could have married in an adjacent county.  However, the fact that her children’s marriage licenses all reflect an unknown father and an illegitimate legal status sheds light on Susannah’s marital status, as do the depositions after her death.  And Susannah’s surname never changed.  She was born an Estes and died an Estes too.

So, Pat was wrong, but not entirely wrong – because if you look back at the chancery suit distributing the assets of Mary Younger Estes, John R.’s sister, Sally, did marry a T. Estes.  So the family had taken the information that one of George’s daughter’s married an Estes cousin and attached that information, opportunistically, to Susannah.  It made sense, and given that both of the women’s names began with S, it would have been easy to genuinely confuse the daughters, especially a generation or two later.

George indeed did tolerate Susannah having illegitimate children, 5 of them apparently, and he supported her through the process, eventually signing his Revolutionary War bounty lands over to her as well as his assets in Halifax County.  I’m sure he knew all too well that she needed the help.  After the death of George’s wife, between 1830 and 1842, Susannah likely took care of George until he died in 1859.  In fact, it was her son, Ezekiel that reported George’s death.  So George stood by Susannah and Susannah took care of George.

So, back to the DNA.  Based on Ezekiel’s marriage license, we know that his mother, Susannah was not married at the time of his birth.  We also know, from the DNA itself that she did not get pregnant by an Estes male.

The DNA of George’s line has since been confirmed by other Estes male descendants.

When I did eventually explain this to Beau, he wasn’t very happy, but I explained to him that his line can be proud to establish a new Estes DNA line and what a strong woman Susannah had been.  However, when I explained that he is still related to Granpappy George, through Susannah, just like he always was, and he carries Granpappy’s George’s surname, he was much MUCH happier.  He didn’t really care about the DNA, but he surely cared a lot about being related to Granpappy George.

Out of all of this, I have to look at Susannah through a different lens.  Yes, I do wonder why.  Why did she get pregnant so young and why did she never marry?  Why did she continue to have illegitimate children?  But I also have grown to have an admiration for Susannah, knowing how difficult it would have been in that time and place to hold your head upright in spite of everyone and the hateful and derogatory things that were assuredly said about you behind your back and in front of your face.  She must have been quite a spunky lady.  She raised her children, took loans, bought property and pretty much acted like any man of that day.  She was assuredly a woman born before her time.

But as for that pesky DNA issue – this type of situation is exactly why it’s so very important to test more than one male line from each ancestor.  You just never know if one line really represents that ancestor otherwise – unless they match a descendant of someone further upstream or a descendant of another son.

This also illustrates why it’s important to verify information provided.  I’m sure at some point that a conversation about Susannah went like this:

“Why did Susannah still have the Estes surname after having 5 children?”  and the answer went something like this:

“She must have been married to her Estes cousin.  Grandpappy George’s daughter married her Estes cousin, you know.”

That not entirely untrue answer probably took on a life of its own and became Susannah’s family truth.

I’m glad this wasn’t the first Estes DNA participant test or we could have been led badly astray.  I’m also glad that we were able to find additional descendants of George to test for DNA validation.

Over the years, I’ve become quite the skeptic about the “full truth” of both family stories and single DNA tests for any line and now I need proof of everything!  I’m not saying I think people intentionally tell untruths, I think it’s generally more like that childhood game of telephone where you whisper a phrase like, “Beau has brown shoes,” in your neighbor’s ear and 15 whispers later to 15 other people, the end result is something like, “Bows are brown mushrooms.”

I’m sorry I wasted the time in Fairfax County, but even the frustration in Halifax County caused by the Beau’s unexpected DNA results wasn’t a waste.  Indeed, it caused me to dig deeper, and even though I was searching for information about Susannah at that point, and not John R. Estes, I found more and more about the entire family that provided perspective and understanding of their life and times – including that all-important chancery suit naming Mary Younger Estes’s heirs.

It was just a jig in the road and not a dead end after all, but it certainly seemed like a disaster at the time.




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Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American

Mitochondrial DNA provides us with a unique periscope back in time to view our most distant ancestors, and the path that they took through time and place to become us, here, today.  Because mitochondrial DNA is passed from generation to generation through an all-female line, un-admixed with the DNA from the father, the mitochondrial DNA we carry today is essentially the same as that carried by our ancestors hundreds or even thousands of years ago, with the exception of an occasional mutation.

Y and mito

You can see in the pedigree chart above that the red mitochondrial DNA is passed directly down the matrilineal line.  Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, of both genders, but only the females pass it on.

Because this DNA is preserved in descendants, relatively unchanged, for thousands of years, we can equate haplogroups, or clans, to specific regions of the world where that particular haplogroup was born by virtue of a specific mutation.  All descendants carry that mutation from that time forward, so they are members of that new haplogroup.

For example, here we see the migration path of haplogroup A, after being born in the Middle East, spreading across Eurasia into the Americas, courtesy of Family Tree DNA.

Hap A map crop

This pie chart indicates the frequency level at which haplogroup A is found in the Americas as compared to haplogroups B, C, D and X.

Hap A distribution

However, not all of haplogroup A arrived in the Americas.  Some subgroups are found along the path in Asia, and some made their way into Europe.  There are currently 48 sub-haplogroups of haplogroup A defined, with most of them being found in Asia.  Every new haplogroup and sub-haplogroup is defined by a new mutation that occurs in that line.  I wrote about how this works recently in the article, Haplogroups and The Three Brothers.

In the Americas, Native American mitochondrial haplogroups are identified by being subgroups of haplogroup A, B, C, D and X, as shown in the chart below.

beringia map

In the paper, Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders, by Tamm et al (2007), haplogroup A2 was the only haplogroup A subgroup identified as being Native American.

As of that time, no other sub-haplogroups of A had been found in either confirmed Native American people or burials.

In June, 2013, I realized that a subgroup of mitochondrial haplogroup A4 might, indeed, be Native American.

The haplogroup A4 project was formed as a research project with Marie Rundquist as a co-administrator and we proceeded to recruit people to join who either were haplogroup A4 or a derivative at Family Tree DNA, or had tested at and appeared to be haplogroup A4 based on a specific mutation at location 16249 in the HVR1 region.  As it turns out, location 16249 is a haplogroup defining marker for haplogroup A4a1.

There weren’t many of these Ancestry people – maybe 20 in total at that time.  Ancestry has since discontinued their mitochondrial and Y DNA testing and has destroyed the data base, so it’s a good thing I checked when I did.  That resource is gone today.

Family Tree DNA has always been extremely supportive of scientific studies, whether through traditional academic channels or via citizen science, and they were kind enough to subsidize our testing efforts by offering reduced prices for mitochondrial testing to project members.  I want to thank them for their support.

Other haplogroup administrators have also been supportive.  I contacted the haplogroup A administrator and she was kind enough to send e-mails to her project members who were qualified to join the A4 project.  Supportive collaboration is critically important.

I wrote an article about the possibility that A4 might be Native, and through that article, raised money to enable people to test at Family Tree DNA or upgrade to the full sequence test.  Full sequence testing is critical to obtaining a full haplogroup designation.  Many of these people were only, at that time, defined by HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 testing as haplogroup A.  Haplogroup A is, indeed, a Native American haplogroup, but it’s also an Asian haplogroup and we see it in Europe from time to time as well.  The only way to tell the difference between these groups is through full sequence testing.  Haplogroup A was born in Asia, about 30,000 years ago and has many subgroups.

What Do We Know About Haplogroup A4?

Haplogroup A4 has been identified as a subgroup of the parent haplogroup A and is the parent haplogroup of A2.  In essence, haplogroup A gave birth (through a mutation) to subgroup A4 who gave birth through a mutation to subgroup A2.

To date, before this research, all confirmed Native American haplogroups were subgroups of haplogroup A2.

In the Kumar et al 2011 paper, Schematic representation of mtDNA phylogenetic tree of Native American haplogroups A2 and B2 and immediate Siberian-Asian sister clades (A2a, A2b, A4a, A4b and A4c), no A4 was reported in the Americas, although A4 is clearly shown as the parent haplogroup of A2, which is found in the Americas.

On the graph below, from the paper, you can see the color coded “tabs” to the right of the haplogroup A designations that indicate where this haplogroup is found.  As you can see, A4 and subgroups is found only in Siberia and Asia, not in the Americas, which is indicated by yellow.

Hap A and B genesis

Schematic representation of mtDNA phylogenetic tree of Native American haplogroups A2 and B2 and immediate Siberian-Asian sister clades (A2a, A2b, A4a, A4b and A4c). Coalescent age calculated in thousand years (ky) as per the slow mutation rate of Mishmar et al. [58] and as per calibrated mutation rate of Soares et al. [59] are indicated in blue and red color respectively. The founder age wherever calculated are italicized. The geographical locations of the samples are identified with colors. For more details see complete phylogenetic reconstruction in additional file 2 (panels A-B) and additional file 3. Kumar et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011 11:293 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-293

I then checked both GenBank and for haplogroup A4 submissions.  Ian Logan’s checker program makes it easy to check submissions by haplogroup.

MtDNACommunity reflected one A4 submission from Mexico and from the United States, which does not necessarily mean that the United States submission is indigenous – simply that is where the submission originated.  The balance of the submissions are from either academic papers or from Asia.

During this process, I utilized PhyloTree, Build 15, shown below, as my reference tree.  Build 16 was introduced as of February 2014.  It renames the A4 haplogroups.  In order to avoid confusion, I am utilizing the Build 15 nomenclature.  These are the haplogroup names currently in use by the vendors and utilized in academic papers.

Hap A tree

I am also utilizing the CRS version, not the RSRS version of mutations.  Again, these are the mutations referenced by academic papers and the version generally used among genealogists.

Family Tree DNA provides an easy reference chart of which mutations are haplogroup defining.  For haplogroup A4, we find the following progression.

A4 T16362C
A4a G1442A
A4a1 G9713A, T16249C
A4a1a T4928C

This means that everyone who falls in haplogroup A4 carries this specific mutation at location 16362.  The original value at that location was a T and in haplogroup A, that T has mutated to a C.  This defines haplogroup A4.  So, if you don’t have this mutation, you definitely aren’t in haplogroup A4.  Everyone in haplogroup A4 carries this mutation (unless you’ve had a back mutation, a very rare occurrence.)

This is actually a wonderful turn of events, because it means that the defining mutation for A4 is in the HVR1 region, which further means that regardless of how the haplogroup A individual is classified, I can tell with a quick glance if they are A4 or not.

In addition, subgroups are defined by other mutations as well, shown above.  For example, haplogroup A4a carries the A4 mutation of T16362C plus the additional mutation of G1442A that defines subclade A4a.

Full sequence testing showed that there was actually quite a variety of subhaplogroups in the project participants.

What Did We Find?

In the haplogroup A4 project, we now have 55 participants who fell into 11 different haplogroups when full sequence tested.

A4 project distribution crop

I have removed all haplogroup A2 individuals from further discussion, as we already know A2 is Native.  We have established a haplogroup A2 project for them, as well.


We found two haplogroup A4b individuals.  The most distant known ancestor of one is found in Tennessee, but the most distant ancestor of the other is found in England.  These two individuals have 19 HVR1 matches, of which many are to other A4b individuals.  There is no evidence of Native American ancestry in this group.


This unusual haplogroup name indicates that this is a subgroup of haplogroup A4, defined by a mutation at location 200 that has changed from A to G.  The new subgroup is waiting to be named.  So eventually A4-A200G will be replaced with something like A4z, just as an example.

This individual is from Asia, so this haplogroup is not Native.


One individual, upon full sequence testing, was found to carry haplogroup A10, which is not a subgroup of A4.  This is quite interesting, because the most distant ancestor is Catherine Pillard, originally believe to be one of the “Kings Daughters,” meaning French.  This article explains the situation and the question at hand.

All five of her full sequence matches are either to other descendants of Catherine Pillard, or designated as French Canadian.

One of this woman’s ten HVR2 matches shows her ancestor, Annenghton Annenghto, as born at the Ossosane Mission, Huronia, La Rochelle, Ontario, Canada and died in 1657 in Canada.  If this is correct and can be confirmed, haplogroup A10 could be Native, not French.  Her daughter, Marie Catherine Platt has a baptismal record dated March 30, 1651, was also born at the mission, and is believe to be Huron.

This article more fully explains the research and documents relevant to Catherine Pillard’s ancestry.

Based on these several articles, it seems that an assumption had originally been made that because the individual fell into haplogroup A, and haplogroup A was Asian and Native, that this individual would be Native as well.

This determination was made in 2007, based on only the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of the mitochondrial DNA, and on the fact that the DNA results fell within haplogroup A, as documented here.  The HVR1 and HVR2 regions do not include the haplogroup defining mutations for haplogroup A10, so until full sequence testing became available, this sequence could not be defined as A10.  The conclusion that haplogroup A equated to Native American was not a scientific certainty, only one of multiple possibilities, and may have been premature.

I contacted several French-Canadian scholars regarding the documents for Catherine Pillard and there is no consensus as to whether she was Native or European, based on the available documentation.  In fact, there are two very distinct and very different opinions.  There is also a possibility that there are two women whose records are confused or intermixed.

So it seems that both Catherine Pillard’s DNA and supporting documents are ambiguous at this point in time.

One of the ways we determine mitochondrial ethnicity in situations like this is “guilt by genetic association,” to quote Bennett Greenspan.  In other words, if you have exactly the same DNA and mutations as several other people, and they and their ancestors are proven to live in Scotland, or Paris, or Greece, you’re not Native American.  This works the other way too, as we’ll see in Kit 11 of the haplogroup A4 outliers group.

Looking at other resources, MtDNA Community shows two references to A10, one submitted from Family Tree DNA and one from the below referenced article.

Haplogroup A10 has one reference in Mitogenomic Diversity in Tatars from the Volga-Ural Region of Russia by Malyarchuk et al, (201 Molecular Biological Evolution) but has since been reassigned as haplogroup A8, as follows:

However, some of the singular haplotypes appear to be informative for further development of mtDNA classification. Sample 23_Tm could be assigned to A10 according to nomenclature suggested by van Oven and Kayser (2009). However, phylogenetic analysis of complete mtDNAs (fig. 1) reveals that this sample belongs to haplogroup A8, which is defined now by transition at np 64 and consists of two related groups of lineages—A8a, with control region motif 146-16242 (previously defined as A8 by Derenko et al. [2007]), and A8b, with motif 16227C-16230 (supplementary table S3, Supplementary Material online). Analysis of HVS I and II sequences in populations indicates that transition at np 64 appears to be a reliable marker of haplogroup A8 (supplementary table S3, Supplementary Material online). The only exception, the probable back mutations at nps 64 and 146, has been described in Koryak haplotype EU482363 by Volodko et al. (2008). Therefore, parallel transitions at np 64 define not only Native American clusters of haplogroup A2, that is, its node A2c’d’e’f’g’h’i’j’k’n’p (Achilli et al. 2008; van Oven and Kayser 2009), but also northern Eurasian haplogroup A8. Both A8 and subhaplogroups are spread at relatively low frequencies in populations of central and western Siberia and in the Volga-Ural region. A8a is present even in Transylvania at frequency of 1.1% among Romanians, thus indicating that the presence of such mtDNA lineages in Europe may be mostly a consequence of medieval migrations of nomadic tribes from Siberia and the Volga-Ural region to Central Europe (Malyarchuk et al. 2006; Malyarchuk, Derenko, et al. 2008).

On Phylotree build 15, A10 is defined as T5393C, C7468T, C9948A, C10094T A16227c, T16311C! and the submissions are noted as the Malyarchuk 2010b paper noting it as “A8b”and a Family Tree DNA submission.

At this point, haplogroup A10 is indeterminate and could be either Native or European.  We won’t know until we have confirmed test results combined with confirmed genealogy or location for another A10 individual.


Haplogroup A4 itself is not the haplogroup I originally suspected was Native.  When this project first began, we had few A4s, and I suspected that they would become A4a1 when full sequence tested.  I expected A4a1 would be Native American.

Subsequent testing has shown that haplogroup A4 very clearly falls into major subgroups, as defined by different mutations.

A4 European

The European A4 group is comprised of three participants.  Of those three, two are matches to each other and the third is quite distant with no matches.  I suspect that we are dealing with two different European sub-haplogroups of A4.

Two project participants, one from Romania and one from Poland match each other and both match one additional individual from Hungary who is not a project member.  This group is eastern European.

The Romanian and Polish kits that match each other both carry mutations at locations 16182C, 16183C, 16189C, 150T, 204C, 3213G, 3801C and 14025C.  The third person that they match, who is not a project member, from Hungary, matches one of those kits exactly, so that gives us three kits carrying this same series of mutations.  These mutations do not match any other individuals carrying haplogroup A4.  This group appears to be Jewish, as all three of the participants are of the Jewish faith.

This leaves the third project participant from Poland who does not have any matches today, within or outside of the project.  This participant is clearly a different subclade of A4.  They match none of the defining markers of the group above. They do have unique mutations at locations not found in other A4 participants within the project.

This provides us with the following European haplogroup A4 results:

  • Eastern European –Jewish – 2 participants plus one exact full sequence match outside of project
  • Eastern European – does not match group above, has no matches today, five unique mutations including 4 in the coding region.

A4 Chinese

This A4 participant is from China.

This sequence is actually very interesting because of its relative age.  This individual has 109 matches at the HVR1 level.  This means, of course, that they are exact matches.  They match many people in varying locations such as people with Spanish surnames, participants from Michigan, Mexico and Asia which include people with extended haplogroups of A, A4 and A4-A200G haplogroup designations.

At first this appears confusing, until you realize two things.  First, the participant doesn’t continue those matches at the HVR2 level and second, this means that all of those people still carry the Haplogroup “A4 signature” HVR1 mitochondrial DNA, exactly.

This means that those matches stretch back in time thousands of years, until before the divergence of Native Americans and Asians, so at least 12,000 years, if not longer.  People who have incurred mutations in the HVR1 region don’t match, but those who have not, and today, there are only 109 in the Family Tree DNA data base, still match each other – reaching back to their common Asian ancestor many millennia ago.

This individual has developed two mutations in the HVR2 region at locations 156G and 159G.  The participant also does not carry the haplogroup A defining mutation at location 263G which means either that 263G actually defines a subgroup, or this participant has had a back mutation to the original state at this location.  This individual did not test at the full sequence level.

A4 Americas

This leaves a total of 14 haplogroup A4 individuals within the project.

In order to show a comparison, I have removed all private mutations where none of this group matches each other.  I have also removed the haplogroup defining mutations as well as 16519C and all insertions and deletions since those areas are considered to be unstable.  In other words, what I’m looking for are groups of mutations where this group matches each other and no one else.  These are very likely sub-haplogroup defining mutations.

In addition to all private mutations, deleted columns include: 16223, 16332, 16290, 16319, 16362, 16519, 73, 152, 235, 263, 309.1, 309.2, 315.1, 522, 523, 663, 750, 1438, 1736, 2706, 4248, 4769, 4824, 7028, 8794, 8860, 11719, 12705, 14766, 15326.

I then rearranged the remaining columns and color coded groups.  You can click on the chart to enlarge.

A4 mutations

Note: na means not available, indicating that the participant did not test at that level.  An x in the cell indicates that the mutation indicated in that column was present.

The purple and apricot groupings show different clusters of matches.  The light purple is the largest group, and within that group, we find both a dark purple group and an apricot group.  However, not everyone fits within the groups.

A4 – Virginia

The first thing that is immediately evident is that the first kit, Kit 1, is not a member of this purple grouping.  This person has three full sequence matches outside of the project, one whose ancestor was born in Texas.  This individual has three unique full sequence mutations.  This grouping may be Native, but lacks proof.

Additional genealogical research might establish a confirmed Native American connection. If Kit 1 is Native, this line diverged from this larger A4 group long ago, before any of these purple or apricot mutations developed.

This participant’s ancestor traces to Virginia.  Regardless of whether this haplotype is Native or not, it is most likely a sub-haplogroup of A4.

A4 – Colombia

The next least likely match is Kit 2.  This individual shares two of the common HVR2 markers, 146 and 153, but did not test at the full sequence level.  Given what I’m seeing here, I suspect that 146 might be a sub-haplogroup defining mutation for this light purple group.  In addition, 8027 and 12007 might be as well.  That includes everyone (who has tested at the relevant levels) except for Kit 1 and Kit 11.

Haplogroup A4 from Colombia is most likely Native.  Few people are in the public data bases are from Colombia.  One would expect several mutations to have occurred as groups migrated.  At the HVR1 level, this individual has 18 matches, most of which have Spanish surnames.  This participant has no HVR2 matches.

A4 – California Group

The next group is the apricot group which I’ve nicknamed the California group.  Both of these participants, Kit 3 and Kit 4, find their ancestors in either southern California or Baja California, into Mexico.  Finding these haplogroups among the Mexican, Central and South American populations is an indicator of Native heritage, as between 85% and 90% of Mexicans carry Native American matrilineal lineage.

These participants also match a third individual who is not a project member whose ancestor is also found in Baja California.  This group’s defining mutations are likely 16209C, 5054T, 7604A, 7861C and 12513G.  Fortunately, these will be relatively easy to discern due to the HVR1 mutation at 16209.

A4 – Puerto Rico Group

The dark purple group, Kits 5-9, is the Puerto Rican group even though it includes one kit from Mexico and one from Cuba.  The Mexican kit, Kit 5, in teal, is only a partial match.  Kits 6-9 match each other plus several additional people not in the project whose most distant ancestors are found in Puerto Rico as well.  This group has several defining markers including 16083T, 16256T, 214G, 2836T, 6632C and possibly 16126C, although Kit 5 carries 16126C while Kit 9 does not.

The Puerto Rico DNA project has another 18 individuals classified as haplogroup A or A4 and they all carry 16083T, 16256T and those who have taken the HVR2 test (10) carry 214G as well.  Only one carries 16126C, so that would not be a defining mutation for this major group, but could be for a subgroup of the Puerto Rico group.

Given the history of Puerto Rico, this is probably a signature of the Taino or Carib people.

In 2003, 27 Taino DNA sequences were obtained from pre-Columbian remains and reported in this paper by Laluezo-Fox et al.  This was very early in DNA processing, especially of remains, and they were found to carry only haplogroups C and D.  These remains were not from the islands, but were from the La Caleta site in the Dominican Republic.

The Taino today are considered to be culturally extinct due to disease, enslavement and harsh treatment by the Spanish, but they maintained their presence into the 20th century and were a significant factor in the population of the West Indies, including Puerto Rico.  Their descendants would be expected to be found within the population today.  The Taino were the primary tribe found on Puerto Rico and were an Arawak indigenous people who arrived from South America.  The Taino were in conflict with the Caribs from the southern Lesser Antilles.

Carib women were sometimes taken as captives by the Taino.  The Caribs originated in South American near the Orinoco River and settled on the islands around 1200AD, after the Taino were already settled in the region.

It’s therefore possible that haplogroup A4 is a Carib signature.  In 2001, Martinez-Cruzaco et al published a paper titled Mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals substantial Native American ancestry in Puerto Rico in which they found that haplogroup A was absent in the Taino by testing the Yanomama whose territory was close to the Taino.  If this is the case, then haplogroup A must have arisen and admixed from another native culture, or, conversely, the Yanomama tested were an incomplete sampling or simply not adequately representative as a proxy for the Taino.  However, if haplogroup A4 is not found in the Taino, the most likely candidate would be the Caribs, assuming that the Martinez-Cruzaco paper conclusions are accurate, or the even older Ortoiroid, Saladoid culture or Arawak tribe who are believed to have assimilated with or were actually another name for the Taino.

A4 – Mexican/Puerto Rican Mutation 16126 Group

This group, Kits 5-8, is defined by mutation 16126C.  It’s quite interesting, because it includes Kit 5 that does not match the rest of the Puerto Rican markers.  Only some Puerto Rican samples carry 16126C.  Kits 5-8 in this the A4 project do carry this mutation, but 18 of the haplogroup A kits in the Puerto Rican project which do carry the dark purple signature mutations do not carry this mutation.  This mutation may be a later mutation in some of the people who settled on Puerto Rico and some of which remained on the mainland.  The most distant ancestor of Kit 5 is from Tangancícuaro de Arista, Michoacan de Ocampo, shown below.

Tangancícuaro de Arista, Michoacan de Ocampo

Kit 5 has five full sequence matches, all of which carry Spanish surnames.

A4 Outliers

This leaves only kits 10-14.  These kits don’t match each other but do fall, at least on some markers, within the light purple group.

Kit 12 is from Costa Rica and has no matches at the HVR1 level because of a mutation at location 16086C, but has not tested at the HVR2 or full sequence levels.   They might fit into a group easily with additional testing.

Kit 13 is from Mexico and has only two HVR1 matches who have not tested at a higher level.  This kit, like Kit 5, does not carry mutation 16111T which could indicate an early split from the main group or a back mutation.

Kit 10 is from Mexico, has 17 HVR1 matches, some of which indicate that their ancestors are from Texas and Mexico.  Kit 10 has no HVR2 or full sequence matches.

Kit 11 is from Honduras and interestingly, has 158 HVR1 matches to a wide variety of people including those from Costa Rica, Mexico, South Carolina, Oklahoma, a descendant of a Crow Tribal member, North Dakota, Guatemaula, the Cree/Chippewa, a descendant of an Arikawa and one person who indicated their oldest ancestor is from Aragon, in Spain.  This means that all of these people carry the light purple group defining 16111T mutation.

Kit 14 is from Honduras and has only two matches at the HVR1 level, one which is from El Salvador.  Both of the matches have only tested to the HVR1 level.  Kit 14 does carry the 16111T mutation as well as most of the other light purple mutations, but is missing mutation 164C which is present in the entire rest of the light purple group.  This could signify a back mutation.  In addition, Kit 14 matches on marker 16189T with kit 6 from Puerto Rico and on 16311C with Kit 1 from Virginia, but with no other participants on these markers.

These people and their matches and mutations could well represent additional subgroups of haplogroup A4


This leaves us with the A4a1 subgroup, which is where I started 18 months ago.

The haplogroup A4a1 group is very interesting, albeit not for the reasons I initially anticipated.  Again, the same columns were deleted as noted in A4, above, leaving only columns (mutations) unique to this group.  As with the other subgroups, these are likely sub-haplogroup defining mutations.

A4a1 mutations

Note:  na means not available, indicating that the participant did not test at that level

A4a1 Mexico

Kit 15, the pink individual did not take the HVR2 or full sequence test, but does not match any other participants at the HVR1 level.  This person’s maternal line is from Mexico.  Kit 15 could be Native and with additional testing could be a different subclade.

A4a1 European Group

The three yellow rows are positively confirmed from Europe.  Kits 1 and 2 do not match each other nor any other participants.

Kit 3 however, matches Kits 4-14.

Kits 3-14, all match each other at the HVR1 level.  One individual has not taken the HVR2 test and one has not taken the full sequence test, but otherwise, they also all match at the HVR2 and full sequence level.  Note that Kit 3 is also in the confirmed European group based on two sets of census documentation.

Within the group of participants comprising kits 3-14, several have oral history and some have circumstantial evidence suggesting Native ancestry, but not one has any documented proof, either in terms of their own ancestors being proven Native, their ancestor’s family members being proven Native, or the people they match being proven as Native.

Kit 3 states that their ancestor was born in England in 1838.  I verified that the 1880 census for New York City confirms that birth location of their ancestor.  The daughter’s mother’s birthplace is also noted to be England in the 1900 census.

Therefore, based on the fact that Kit 3 is proven to be English, according to the census, and this kit matches the rest of the group, Kits 4-14, at the HVR1, HVR2 and full sequence levels, it is very unlikely that this group is Native.

Kit 15, who does not match this group, but who has not tested above the HVR1 level, is the only likely exception and may be Native.  Full sequence testing would likely suggest a different or expanded subgroup of haplogroup A4a1.

Further documentation could add substantially to this information, but at this point, none has been forthcoming.

In Summary – The Layers of Haplogroup A4

Full sequence testing was absolutely essential in sorting through the various participant results.  As demonstrated, the full sequence results were not always what was expected.

When full sequence tested, one participant was determined to be Haplogroup A10, which is not a subgroup of A4.  Haplogroup A10 is indeterminate and could be Native but could also be European.  Additional A10 results will hopefully be forthcoming in the future which will resolve this question.

None of the haplogroup A4a1 participants provide any direct evidence of Native ancestry, with the possible exception of one A4a1 kit whose matrilineal ancestors are from Mexico and who has not tested at a higher level.  Three A4a1 participants have confirmed European ancestry and one of those participants matches most of the others.  A4a1, with possibly one exception, appears to be European.  The A4a1 participant whose ancestors are from Mexico does not match any of the other participants and could eventually be classified as a subhaplogroup.

Haplogroup A4 itself appears to be divided into multiple subgroups, several of which may eventually form new sub-haplogroups based on their clusters of mutations.

There is clearly a European and a Chinese A4 grouping.  The European group is broken into two subgroups, one of which is Jewish.

In the Americas, there are several A4 subgroups, including:

  • Virginia – indeterminate whether Native
  • Colombia – likely Native
  • California – likely Native
  • Puerto Rico (2 groups) – very likely Native

There are also 5 outliers who don’t match others within the group, hailing from:

  • Costa Rica – likely Native
  • Mexico (2) – likely Native
  • Honduras – matching several confirmed Native people in multiple tribes at the HVR1 level
  • Honduras – likely Native

A4 grid v2

Note: Undet, short for undetermined, means that the results could be Native or European but available evidence has not been able to differentiate between those alternatives today.

*A4 needs to be further divided into additional haplogroup subgroups.


Obviously, a study of this complexity couldn’t be done without the many resources I’ve mentioned and probably some that I’ve forgotten.  I thank everyone who contributed and continues to contribute.  I also want to thank the people who contributed to the funding for participant testing.  We could not have done this without your contributions in combination with the discounts offered by Family Tree DNA.

However, the most important resource is the participants and their willingness to share – their DNA, their research and their family stories.  During this project, two of our participants have passed away.  I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate this research to them, and I hope they know that their DNA keeps on giving.  This is their legacy.


I would like to thank Ian Logan for his assistance with haplogroup designation, Family Tree DNA for testing support and discounts, my project co-administrator, Marie Rundquist, Bennett Greenspan, Dr. Michelle Fiedler and Dr. David Pike for paper review.



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Sixth Season – Who Do You Think You Are?


Who Do You Think You Are returns this Sunday, March 8th at 10 eastern, 9 central on TLC for its sixth season.

Each week, a celebrity goes on a journey to trace their heritage, making discoveries and generally creating envy for the rest of us.  Of course, we have those same kinds of discoveries to make in our own family history too.

I love this series, in part because it makes genealogy so personal and real and encourages people to become interested in their past that may seem inaccessible, but really isn’t.

To quote TLC, “To know who you are…you have to know where your story began.”

“Lives will change forever.”

That may seem an exaggeration, but often, it’s not.  Understanding your ancestors and how their decisions shaped you today can be very powerful.

To quote one of the celebrities:

“This gives me new light into the rest of my life.”

Plus, the stories are just so, well, juicy!  And moving.  I mean, someone cries in every single episode.  And its not because they discovered the courthouse burned.

This season’s lineup of well-known personalities discovering their ancestry include:

  • Julie Chen
  • Angie Harmon
  • Sean Hayes
  • Bill Paxton
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • America Ferrara
  • Tony Goldwyn
  • Josh Groban

I just want to know one thing.  Is Josh Groban going to sing when he finds his music teacher ancestor????  That would be worth watching all by itself!

Looking forward to “date night” and tweeting with other viewers #WDYTYA.  Come along and join the fun.



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Ruthy Dodson (1820-1903), Survivor, Divorced, Land Owner, 52 Ancestors #61

We thought her name was Martha.  They said her name was Martha – but it wasn’t…or if it was there is no direct evidence of that.  She never once used Martha on documents, signing deeds or in the census from 1850 through 1900.

The name Martha came to us from P. G. Fulkerson, a long-time attorney and historian in Tazewell, Tennessee who was born in 1840 and died in 1929.  He wrote about many of the early pioneer families.  His records indicated that John Y. Estes married Martha Dodson.  For all the good information he did provide, he was also wrong a non-trivial part of the time, and he might have been wrong about her name as well.

Ruthy Dodson, often called Rutha, was born in 1820, we’re not sure where, and died in 1903 in Estes Holler, in Claiborne County, Tennessee.  Martha was a family name.  One of Rutha’s daughters was named Martha as was Rutha’s aunt, Martha Campbell Jones, so Rutha’s given name could actually have been Martha, maybe Martha Ruth.

We might have Rutha’s picture too, but we’re not sure.  This photo was found in Uncle Buster’s picture box, along with the photo we think was John Y. Estes, the man once Rutha’s husband.  Uncle Buster said he thinks that he recalls being told that Rutha had red hair.

Ruthy suffered from debilitating arthritis in her later years, and the hand of the woman in the picture is disfigured, suggesting perhaps that she had arthritis.

Rutha Dodson Estes v2

Photo restorers have suggested that her clothes in this photo look more like the 1860s or 1870s, but of course that would assume that they clothes were contemporary.  I know that clothes were kept, passed down and used for generations, so even if her clothes were from the 1860s or 1870s, that doesn’t mean that’s when the photo was taken.  Ruthy looks to be maybe 50 or 60 in this photo, which would make the year 1870 or 1880.  The photo below is restored and colorized.  I owe a debt of gratitude to the restorer.  I can’t believe how much this brings Ruthy to life.


If this picture is Ruthy, or Rutha, she is the mother of Lazarus, George Buchanan, Elizabeth and John Reagan Estes.  Her original photo, enlarged, is shown below.

Rutha cropped

Do these people look like she could be their mother?  It’s sad that this photo had nothing to identify it except what Buster thought he could remember.

Rutha Dodson Estes children

Rutha’s four children above, from top left clockwise are Elizabeth Estes Vannoy, George Buchanan Estes (hat), Lazarus Estes (bottom right) and John Reagan Estes (about 1905).  Of these, I think that both Elizabeth and Lazarus have Lazarus’s nose – which apparently continued to grow for their entire lives.  Elizabeth is age 95 in the photo and John Reagan’s nose grew as he aged too, as you can see in the photo below.

John Reagan Estes

But in the younger photo of John Reagan Estes, about 1905, when he was 34, I think he looks a lot like the woman in the photo who may be Rutha.  It’s difficult to see George Buchanan under his hat, and this is the only known photo of him.

Where was Rutha Born?

Ruthy Dodson was born on March 1, 1820, possibly in Alabama, to Lazarus Dodson and Elizabeth Campbell, although her family was definitely a Claiborne County, TN family, both before and after that time, which is what made an Alabama birth seem so unusual.

This potential Alabama birth location was a bit of a surprise.  Where did that come from?  Is it true?  These families were surprisingly mobile for people without automobiles.

Lazarus Dodson, either Sr. or Jr. sold land in Claiborne County in 1819 and both Lazarus Dodson Sr. and Jr. disappeared from the records entirely until about 1826 when Lazarus Dodson reappears, about the time Lazarus Dodson Sr. died.

Alabama became a state in 1819 and the lands ceded or taken from the Indians in the War of 1812 would become available shortly.  However, many pioneer families knew this and attempted to beat the rush.  Many of the militia from Tennessee returned to Tennessee, packed up their belonging, and returned with their families in two wheel carts to “Squat” on the Indian Lands in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi until they could obtain title.

The Dodson family seems to have been involved with Indian trading in Alabama since at least 1797, so Lazarus may have simply been joining family there and he may well have gone with his father, Lazarus Dodson, Sr.

Or, Rutha may have been born in Claiborne County or elsewhere in Tennessee before they left or along the way.  She certainly would not have been the first child to be born in a wagon on the trail.  Rutha gives her birth location as Tennessee on every census from 1850 through 1910 – so you’d think if she were born in Alabama, at least one census would tell us that – but it doesn’t.

Another researcher indicates that Rutha’s brother, Lazarus Dobkins Dodson’s (say that 3 times fast) Civil War records support that he was born in Jackson County, Alabama as well.

Jackson County is located on the far northeastern border of Alabama, not far from Chattanooga, TN. and bordering both Franklin and Marion Counties in Tennessee and Dade County, in Georgia.  It was formed in 1819 from land acquired from the Cherokee Indians.

Jackson County, Alabama

Jackson County isn’t as distant as it sounds either – just over 200 miles from Tazewell.

Tazewell to Scottsboro

Lazarus Dodson returned to Claiborne County at some point, because he is on an 1833 Claiborne County tax list, but then he’s gone again in 1833 and 1834 because his taxes are unpaid.  In 1835, a Hawkins County court record relative to a lawsuit shows him to be out of the state entirely.  Was his family with him?

We don’t know when his wife, Elizabeth Campbell died, but it may have been before 1830.  In 1830, there are 4 young children living with Elizabeth Campbell’s  parents, John and Jane “Jenny” Campbell in Claiborne Co. TN.  The last surviving child born to Lazarus and Elizabeth Campbell Dodson was Lazarus, born in 1827, so I strongly suspect Elizabeth died between 1827 and 1830.

After the death of Elizabeth Campbell Dodson’s father, John Campbell, in 1838, an administrator was appointed for Elizabeth Campbell’s children who were in Claiborne County at that time.  This record actually threw me for a loop, because these children were listed as minor heirs of Lazorous Dodson, implying that he was dead, but he wasn’t.  He may well have been living out of the state though.

From “Claiborne Co., TN Will Book A / 1837-1846” by Claiborne Co. Historical Society:  June Term 1841 – Settlement application – Wiley Huffaker, Clerk & James A. Hamilton, Guardian.  Guardian’s report of minor heirs of Lazorous Dodson.  John C., Nancy, Ruth, and Lazorous Dodson, minor heirs of Lazorous Dodson.

Whether Rutha was born in Tennessee or Alabama, I think it’s probably safe to say she spent the earliest years of her childhood in Alabama, until she was at least 6 or 7.  She probably found the adventure of the ten day or so wagon ride back to Tennessee exciting…unless it was because her mother had died and Lazarus was going home to bring his children to his wife’s parents.  How does a single man raise 4 small children alone on the frontier, especially if one of the children is a nursing infant?

Rutha was probably very glad to see her grandmother, even though she likely had no prior memory of her.  You know, however, that Jenny Dobkins Campbell welcomed her granddaughter home with open arms.  Grandmothers are like that!

Rutha’s mother, Elizabeth may have died after their return to Claiborne County, and if that is the case, then she is probably buried in the Campbell family cemetery.  The Campbell family cemetery is on the hill above the homestead, in the photo below.  This is looking towards Estes Holler over the landscape.  The Campbell (now Liberty) Cemetery is on the top of a hill.

Liberty cemetery

In 1839, Lazarus Dodson remarried to Rebecca Freeman and in the 1840 census, Jane Campbell, Rutha’s grandmother, is living with one female between the ages of 15 and 20 and one male between the ages of 10 and 15, so it’s very likely that both Rutha and her younger brother, Lazarus, are living with their grandmother on Little Sycamore Road.

That arrangement probably suited everyone, especially since by then, Rutha might have been being courted by John Y. Estes who lived nearby.

Rutha’s two older siblings had married in 1839 and 1840.

The John Campbell homestead still stands, within walking distance of Estes Holler – and probably a shorter distance “the back way” over the hills than down the roads.

The Campbell homestead where Rutha was raised, below, is down the hill from the cemetery.  Standing in the cemetery, you can see the roof of the house.  Literally, John Campbell, after his burial, “watched over” the house.

Campbell house from cemetery

John Y. Estes probably walked Rutha out to the spring, shown here in front of the house in what looks like a ditch, to help her draw water for her grandmother.

Campbell property

He likely carried the buckets for her, showing how strong and capable he was.  Rutha was obviously smitten.

Campbell spring

Maybe John kissed Rutha under these trees by the spring that seeps out of the ground by the rocks on the right.  Do you think her grandmother was watching from behind the curtains?  Maybe Grandma sent Rutha’s little brother, 5 years younger, out to “help,” especially if the kissing got too serious or took too long.

Married Life

On January 3, 1841, Rutha married John Y. Estes and moved just down the road into Estes Holler.  I wonder if John asked Rutha to marry him at Christmas.  I wonder if he asked her grandmother “for her hand in marriage” first.  Was Rutha’s father, Lazarus anyplace close enough to attend the wedding, or was he in already in Kentucky by this time?  Lazarus Dodson is not found in the 1840 census in Claiborne County.

One thing you know for sure, Rutha’s grandmother was right with her when she married and Rutha’s siblings probably were too.  At that time in Claiborne County, the “marriage return” was shown on the page to the right of the license.  John McNeil, a Justice of the Peace in Claiborne County married John and Ruthy.  He lived in or near Estes Holler, so would have known all parties concerned.  And besides, John McNeil was married to another Elizabeth Campbell, likely a cousin, although we’re not quite sure how.

John Y Estes Rutha Dodson marriage

The old Liberty Church (shown below) stands right beside the Campbell homestead but wasn’t organized until 1856, and Pleasant View church at the mouth of Estes Holler wasn’t founded until 1909, so it’s very likely that John Y. Estes and Rutha Dodson were married in a now forgotten little church on Little Sycamore Creek near where Liberty Church was organized in 1856 called Little Ridge Church.  Little Ridge Church was located on Joseph McVey’s land, and in 1850, John Y. Estes is living beside Joseph McVey.  Joseph McVey’s sister, Jennie, married John Y. Estes’s brother, William.

Truly, in these hills and hollers, everyone was related to everyone, one way or another – and often in several ways.  That “I Am My Own Grandpa” ditty is funny, quite funny actually, until you realize it’s your family they are talking about.

liberty church

In 1842, John Y. Estes signed for Ruth’s final estate settlement money from her grandfather, John Campbell’s estate. From the court records, “John Y. Estes receipt dated 5th Sept. 1842 for $54.35.”

Wiley Huffaker, the court appointed guardian, goes on to tell us a bit more.

“Leaving yet in my hands, one hundred eleven dollars & fourty one cents which is each heirs share & which is due & owing to Lazarous Dotson, the youngest heir. The other three having received their whole share as appears from the vouchers on file. Which settlement was presented to the court at October term 1842 & by the court examined & ordered to be filed and recorded, being received by the court. Wiley Huffacker, Guardean.”

From this, we know that in total, Rutha received $111.41, the same as her brother Lazarus. In 1841, this would have purchased a small farm in Claiborne County.  Rutha would have been considered an attractive catch.

By 1850, both Rutha and her younger brother Lazarus had married and were both living a few houses from each other and close to their grandmother as well, who was by this time age 70.

Ruth’s brother John Campbell Dodson married Barthena Dobkins, his first cousin, in 1839.  In the 1850 census, they were living near the other siblings and John listed his birth location as Alabama and his age as 29, so the family was in Alabama in the 1820/1821 timeframe.

A land transaction in 1851 shows that John Estes is renting land in Estes Holler, which turns out to be the land that some 30 years later, Rutha would own. A lot would happen between 1851 and Rutha’s land ownership days.

Rutha’s husband John Y. Estes is listed as a laborer in 1850, as a shoemaker in 1860, just before the Civil War

Normally, in the 10 years between census records, if the family is living in the same location, one assumes that nothing much changed, but that wasn’t the case between 1860 and 1870, although both census records look relatively normal.  They don’t even begin to tell the story of the hellatious decade in-between.

The Civil War

From the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 until mid-1865, John Y. Estes was gone close to four years – four very long years, both for John and Rutha who was left in essence living in a battlefield close to Cumberland Gap.  The battles there never ended and neither did the search for food.

John fought for the Confederacy in bloody battles, marched across at least three states and was finally captured when he was probably attempting to come home after being dismissed from a hospital for his leg injury in 1864.

John was held as a POW until March of 1865 and then deposited north of the Ohio River with orders to stay there until the War was over.  When John arrived back home, his family had survived without him for four terrible years. His wife was 45 years old and yet she would have another child in 1867 and yet another in 1871, at age 51.  By 1880, they were divorced according to the census.

In October of 1865, shortly after his return, John deeded all of his worldly belongings to Lazarus, his teenage son.  I don’t know what happened, but I can hear a huge fight after he returned from the war between Rutha and John.  In the 1870 census, they have no land and no personal estate, but then, neither does Lazarus, their son, who lives two houses away.

On top of whatever the situation was with Rutha’s marriage to John and the devastation in Estes Holler, the war had also been fought on the land just beneath the Cumberland Gap where Rutha grew up when her family lived in Tennessee.  It’s the land that her grandfather, Lazarus Dodson, Revolutionary War veteran, owned and where he is buried, we think, or at least where his tombstone rests today, and she clearly would have had some sentimental attachment.  I wonder how she felt knowing that her family land was in the midst of the active fighting for three solid years – that the family homes and cemetery were assuredly destroyed.  Soldiers were encamped by the springs and cannon fire resonated, being fired from the Cumberland Gap, directly above the homestead.

Rutha was probably grateful that her father sold the last of the land in 1861 and had moved to Pulaksi Co., KY – a fortuitous move, and perhaps a farsighted one too.

Dodson Cottrell cemetery

This is the Cottrell Cemetery, formerly the cemetery on the land owned by Lazarus Dodson, in Claiborne County, on the Lincoln Memorial University campus today, but previously accessed off of Tipprell Road.

Cottrell Cemetery overlooking Dodson land

From the Dodson/Cottrell cemetery, overlooking the valley where Lazarus Dodson owned land.

For Rutha, her husband’s role fighting for the Confederacy wasn’t the entire story – not by a long shot.

Rutha’s sister, Nancy, married James Bray who fought for the Union, as did Rutha’s brother Lazarus.  The Bray’s were near neighbors in Estes Holler, living beside brother Lazarus Dodson in the 1850 census and one house away from sister Rutha and John Y. Estes.  Sometime between 1852 and 1860, Nancy died.

Nancy’s death must have been devastating for Rutha, especially after losing her mother, her father living elsewhere and the death of her grandfather who was raising the four Dodson children.  Did Rutha help to raise her sister’s children?  I cannot find these four children in the 1860 census.  Did they perish as well?

By 1860, all three of Rutha’s siblings were gone from Claiborne County and her beloved grandmother had passed away.

Rutha’s brother, John Campbell Dodson had moved to Pulaski County, KY and was living near his father, Lazarus Dodson.

Rutha’s brother, Lazarus was living in Trimble Co., KY in 1860 with his birth location noted at Tennessee, as it was in 1850.  However, his birth place is noted as Jackson Co., Alabama from his Civil War records.

Lazarus Dodson was a Union soldier.  He enlisted at Charlestown, Indiana on Sept. 10 1862 to serve 3 years and was described as being 6 feet tall with light complexion, blue eyes and light hair.  Because Lazarus Dobkins Dodson’s grandfather, Lazarus Dodson, was an Indian trader, there has been some question about whether or not Lazarus Dodson Sr.’s wife was Native.  Given this description of light complexion, blue eyes and light hair, it’s very unlikely that his grandmother was an Indian, unless she too was significantly admixed.

Lazarus Dobkins Dodson was discharged in August 1864 at Rock Island, Illinois, a Union Prisoner of War Camp, by reason of a surgeon’s certificate of disability on account of disease – deafness contracted in service.  Lazarus received a certificate of disability for discharge on August 2, 1864 at which time his address was Bethlehem, Clark Co., Indiana.

In 1880, Lazarus Dodson and his family were living in Fulton Co., KY at New Madrid Bend, just across the Mississippi River from New Madrid, Mo. where Lazarus and his second wife, Harriett died.

Rutha’s brother, brother-in-law and husband were all serving at the same time, fighting for opposite sides.  Rutha had to be very torn and perhaps did not pray for any specific side to win, but for the personal safety of the men in her life.

Was Rutha outcast because her husband fought for the South?  She must not have been entirely ostracized, because Lazarus Dobkins Dodson’s children later went to Claiborne County to visit their “Aunt Ruthy” according to family stories.

After the War

Life in the south, especially in the areas where fighting had occurred or that were otherwise devastated by the war, was divided permanently into two pieces – before and after.  Life changed forever.  It wasn’t so much a matter of who won, but of the effects of the conflict itself.  Everyone picked up the pieces and went on as best they could.  They had no other choice.

Beginning with the 1865 deed where John deeded all of his belongings to his son, Lazarus, we see the foreshadowing that things aren’t quite right in Estes Holler.

Starting in 1867, Rutha’s household would begin to shrink when Lazarus married Elizabeth Vannoy.  Of course, they didn’t go far, just next door.  In 1870 Elizabeth married William George Vannoy and they moved next door too.

In 1878, George Buchanan Estes married neighbor, Elizabeth King and they too would move a few doors away for the next 15 years.

In 1879, John Y. Estes signed a deed granting access across his land and by 1880, he was in living Texas, having walked the entire distance, never to return.

The 1880 census shows us that Rutha cannot read or write, and neither can her youngest daughter, but her son, 3 years younger, can both read and write.  However, this does not seem to be a gender based issue, as Rutha’s two oldest daughters, both still at home at ages 23 and 21 can read and write and her 19 year old daughter. Rutha, can read but not write.  Youngest daughter Rutha was born when her mother, Rutha, was 47 years old, so she may have had a learning impairment.

estes 1880 claiborne

Also on the 1880 census, Rutha was noted as divorced, a status that carried a great deal of stigma in that day and time.  Today, the very fact that she was noted as divorced may signal to us that she was a very brave and self-confidant woman.  Many “divorced” women never officially divorced and claimed they were widows.  Occasionally one of those “dead husbands” would show up causing quite a ruckus!

On December 6, 1881, at 61 years of age, Rutha bought land, the land she had been living on for years. The court records show that Ruth Estes and her heirs made an indenture, to W. H. Cunningham, for $150.00 for 90 acres of land – meaning Rutha had to take a loan to purchase the land.

The property was adjoining the land of Jechonias Estes, Lazarus Estes and others; beginning on a hickory stump, an old baud ? in Houstans line of Wallins Ridge. Thence north 9, west with Harkins line 94 poles to the Buzzard Rock on top of Wallins Ridge. The debt was satisfied and the deed was filed on February 9, 1883.

Buzzard Rock

Buzzard Rock, above, is a local landmark at the top of Wallin’s Ridge.  Everyone who lives there knows where it is.  Every family has a story that their grandpa is the one who named Buzzard Rock because he hunted up on the ridge and cleaned his kill there.  Of course, I didn’t tell all, or any, of those people that Buzzard Rock is mentioned in the original land grants and deeds in the early 1800s, long before their grandpa’s were a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  People love their family stories and connection to the land and there is no reason to tell them otherwise.  This way, everyone gets to share in the lore and “own a piece of the rock.”  Of course, Rutha did actually own up to Buzzard Rock, so maybe she did clean things up there.  It wouldn’t surprise me any!  She had to feed her family one way or another in the desperate days of the Civil War.

In 1884, daughter Martha, known as Nannie, married Thomas Ausban and they lived close by as well.  However, they didn’t have children, or at least none that lived.

Then, in 1888, tragedy struck.  Both Martha and her unmarried sister, Margaret Melvina, would die within two days of each other in April, on the 7th and on the 9th.

With John Y. Estes in Texas, I’m guessing that their brother, John Regan Estes, then age 17, dug their graves with the help of their grandfather, Lazarus, who carved their gravestones.  Their deaths two days apart suggest some type of disease or illness.  There were no death certificates at that time, so other than vague family stories about smallpox and no one other than Lazarus being willing to dig graves, we have no inkling of why or how they died.  We only know it was a tragedy.

Venable Estes stones

Margaret Melvina, known as “Vina,” is buried here among the Estes stones in the Venable, now known as Pleasant View, cemetery.  At one time you could read the hand carving on her stone.  Her brother, Lazarus would have carved her stone, just like he carved the stones for the rest of the family.  Martha probably rests here too, but her husband could have buried her elsewhere.  If she is here, her grave is marked with a fieldstone that was probably carved at one time, but has since succumbed to the elements.

Rutha would have been devastated.  Her life had not quite worked out the way she anticipated in terms of her marriage and the horrible events of the Civil War.  Rutha’s children were marrying and leaving home, her husband gone permanently to Texas, her health was deteriorating and now her two daughters were suddenly dead.  It must have seemed like her world was coming to an end.  That must have been the worst week of Rutha’s life.

Rutha developed crippling arthritis.  The family in Texas tells us that she was disabled for 22 years, which would date from about 1881, right after John Y. left for Texas.

I hope John Y. Estes didn’t intentionally marry a young woman with an inheritance and leave an old woman who had a disabling disease.  I tend to think not, because several of his children joined him in Texas eventually.

The family tells that Rutha lived “up above” Lazarus Estes, and eventually her condition got so bad that the men had to go and get her and carry her down on a litter because she was too “crippled up” to walk.  The clearing on the side of the mountain in the photo below is just above Lazarus’ land.

John Y Estes clearing

Rutha’s three adult daughters lived with her until Margaret died in 1888, but Nancy and Rutha both lived with their mother as long as she lived.

Rutha’s youngest son, John Reagan, however, was another matter.  He married Docia Johnson in Claiborne County in 1891, but by 1893, he had Texas fever.  He told his mother goodbye and headed, on a train, unlike his father who walked, to Texas.  A few days later, he had left Tennessee behind forever and on November 1st, John Reagan Estes stepped onto the platform at Belcherville, Texas to start a new life there, in Texas, the land of promise.

Rutha probably knew when she waved goodbye to her baby, John, on that fall day as he stepped into a wagon for someone to take him to the depot, that she would never see him again.  He was all of 22 years old.  She was 73.  I imagine she shed a lot of tears.  It seems that mothers have been doing this since the beginning of time.

Rutha must have been feeling her age, because on October 20, 1893, just before John Reagan left for Texas, Rutha deeded her 90 acres of land to daughters Nancy and Rutha for $150.  Rutha signed with her mark.

Rutha Dodson Estes deed

This barn is on Lazarus’s land, but it looks “up the mountain” in the direction of Buzzard Rock where Rutha lived.

Lazarus barn toward rutha

In the 1900 census, we find Rutha living with her daughters Nancy and Ruthy.  Ruthy gives her birth year and month as March 1825 and her status as widowed.  John Y. Estes had died in 1895 in Texas, so if they never divorced officially, Rutha was then a widow, legitimately.

Rutha, at age 75 in the census, and more likely actually age 80, is shown as a farmer and her two daughters, 38 and 32, are shown as “farm labor.”  Rutha says she had 8 children and 6 are living, but based on the spacing of her younger children, I suspect she lost 3 if not 4 children early in her marriage, as infants.  She may have been counting children that lived past infancy.  The two who died of course would have been her two adult daughters, Margaret and Martha, in 1888.

In 1903, Ruthy passed away, at age 83.  Lazarus carved her gravestone and she rests with the rest of the Estes Family in the Venable Cemetery.

Rutha Estes stone

Rutha lived a long life for that place and time and saw some amazing history.  Her life certainly did not unfold the way she would have anticipated, beginning with her young mother’s death, probably followed by her father’s absence.  Rutha was most likely living with her grandparents, John and Jenny Campbell in 1838, at about age 18, when her grandfather passed as well.

The Civil War interfered with her married life, with her husband gone for years, a Confederate soldier who was a Union POW, and her brother and brother-in-law fighting for the Union forces.  To make matters even worse, Estes Holler was embroiled in the fighting with regular skirmishes, not to mention under constant threat of hungry soldiers trying to find food for themselves and their horses.  It’s a miracle the family survived at all, and they would not had it not been for Rutha and her daughter.  Rutha’s daughter, Elizabeth, stole the family cow back from the soldiers who had taken the cow during their plundering.

The grim reaper visited far too often, showing no mercy in taking Rutha’s two daughters two days apart.  Rutha probably lost 2 or 3 children when they were young, after she was first married.  She buried at least 10 and probably more than a dozen grandchildren in Estes Holler, including three other instances when there were multiple deaths within a few days.

When Rutha died, the only family left in Tennessee to bury her would have been Lazarus and her two daughters, Ruthy and Nancy.  Everyone else was dead or gone to Texas.  Soon, only Lazarus and his family would remain.

Once again, Lazarus carved a grave stone as they laid Rutha to rest in the Venable Cemetery where her daughters waited for her and Lazarus would join her in a few years.

In the 1910 census, daughter Rutha is living with Lazarus and Elizabeth, but Nancy has gone on to Texas and is living in Comanche County, Oklahoma with her brother, George Buchanan Estes.

In 1911, Lazarus Estes sold Nancy and Rutha another acre of land – probably the acre that held their mother’s house.

Just a year later, in 1912, both Rutha and Nancy appear before a notary in Montague Co., TX to sign a deed selling their land, 90+1 acres, to J.C. Estes and Charlie Estes, their nephews, Lazarus’s sons – the third generation to own this land.

By 1920, both Lazarus and Elizabeth would be dead and Nancy and Ruthy would both be living in Texas in Montague Co., enumerated under last name Easter.

And because, just because, we thought we had the mystery of where Ruth was born resolved, daughters Nancy and Ruthy say their father was born in Virginia and their mother in Alabama. So while Ruthy never claimed her birth in Alabama on her own census records, her daughters and siblings did.

The amazing thing about Rutha is that she not only survived, she triumphed over adversity.  She survived a rough start necessitating that her grandparents raise her and her siblings.  She survived the deaths of her children and grandchildren, an obviously problematic marriage, the Civil War along with the resulting starvation conditions, and being left alone to raise several children when her husband left for Texas.  I’m guessing that might have been easier than the Civil War era.

Not only did Rutha survive, she went on to purchase land in her own name, to pay a mortgage in full and register the deed, free and clear just two years later, and she was the one to leave an inheritance to her children, in spite of her chronically painful condition.  An incredible and inspirational woman.  I wish we knew more.  I hope I carry some of her admirable qualities – even if I didn’t inherit her red hair gene and I certainly don’t want to share her arthritis gene.

Missing Mitochondrial DNA Information

We don’t know anything about Rutha’s mitochondrial DNA.  We know, of course, that she inherited it from her mother, Elizabeth Campbell, and she from her mother, Jenny Dobkins, and she from her mother, Dorcas Johnson and she from her mother Mary Polly Phillips who was supposed to be from Scotland, if all the records are right.  But, those records have gotten might flimsy and unproven by the time we’re back to Mary Polly Phillips – one might say that they fall into the bailiwick of hearsay.

I’d love to have Rutha’s mitochondrial DNA tested.  With that, we’ll be able to tell a great deal about their matrilineal ancestors and where they were likely from.  Who were they?  Scots, Irish, Celts?  Where did they come from?

Ruthy only had one daughter that survived to have children, Elizabeth who married William George Vannoy.

Elizabeth Estes and William George Vannoy had two daughters who lived to adulthood and married.

Eliza Vannoy, also known as Louisa and Liza Vannoy, born in 1871 married Joe Robert Miller.  They had one daughter who married:

  • Nell Lee Miller born in 1902 married William Homer Jackson.

Doshia Phoebe Vannoy born in 1875 who married James Matthew Hutson.  They had three daughters who married as well:

  • Opal Hutson who was born in 1900 who married Grady Murphy.
  • Lizzie “Lucille” Hutson born in 1907 who married a Luttrell.
  • Audrey Hutson born in 1917 who married Alfred Long

In addition to Ruth’s daughter’s children, Ruth’s sister also carries her mitochondrial DNA and passed it to her children as well.  Nancy Dodson is reported to have had the following daughters with James Bray:

  • Margaret Rhoda Bray born 1853, married Johnson Isaiah Davis and had daughter Flora Ann.
  • Mary born 1848
  • Carline (probably Caroline) born 1838

There could be other children whose names I don’t have.

If you descend from any of these women through all women, I have a DNA scholarship for you.  Males in the current generation are just fine – but must descend through all females.

If this is your family, contact me regardless of how you descend, because more importantly, we’re kin!  I’m guessing we might have some interesting stories to share!  Our family may be described a lot of ways, but boring is not one of them.



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