William Crumley the First (c1735 – 1793), Originally a Quaker, 52 Ancestors #87

The Crumley Conundrum…that’s what this line of genealogy has been called for years by researchers.  The current generation of researchers named it, but I’m sure all past Crumley researchers would confirm that name with a hearty “hear, hear” or maybe a different line would just say “Amen.”

The Crumley family, due to common first names, large families, wives with no names at all, or no surnames, and often common first names, intermarrying into the same families generation after generation….is a mess.  This has been one of the most difficult unraveling challenges I’ve ever seen…and I don’t pretend to tell you that I have this exactly right.  What I am doing is sharing what I do have documented with the hope that someday, other researchers will be able to add to this research.

I’m fortunate that I do have the benefit of a few pathblazing researchers who came before me…and those are the ones who did share their information before they died or dropped off of the face of the earth.  I swear on everything that is Holy that I will NOT let that happen to my genealogy and my ancestors.

William Crumley, the first, was born in 1735 or 1736 in East Nottingham Township, Chester County, PA to James Crumley and Catharine Gilkey.

Chester County PA map

East Nottingham is in the southwest corner of Chester County which borders Cecil County, Maryland.  They is a very interesting history to this region, but you’ll have to wait for the James Crumley article to read about that!

Frederick County, Virginia

When William was a teenager, his family moved to Frederick County, Virginia, in present day Berkeley Co., West Virginia on the border, literally, between those two states.  Of course, West Virginia didn’t yet exist at that time.

James Crumley land spanning border

This drive from Gerrardstown in Berkeley County, West Virginia to Apple Pie Ridge in Frederick County, Virginia runs along Mill Creek and cuts right through the middle of James Crumley’s land.

James Crumley, William’s father, bought the survey rights to a tract of land totaling 742 acres on Sept. 6, 1753 from James Anderson and on February 1, 1754, the land was granted to James Crumley.  William would have been about 17 or 18 at this time, and certainly of an age to be a big help on the farm.  At this time, that probably meant felling trees, so William was likely to be a very muscular lad.

James Crumley land survey

We are fortunate that the Berkeley County Historical Society published a wonderful article in Issue 8 of the Berkeley Journal titled “Houses and Historic Sites Locates on the James Crumley Land Grant.”  This journal, published in 1979, is still available for purchase through the Historical Society.  All of the plat and survey information is from that article.

In February 1757, William acquired from his father 270 acres at the southern end of the Lord Fairfax tract, in what is now Berkeley County, West Virginia.

James Crumley land divided

One of the Crumley cousins who has visited the site was kind enough to send this map as well.

James Crumley land map

It was also in 1757 that William’s father, James, wrote his will.  Perhaps James was getting his affairs in order.

Frederick County Deed Book 4, page 229, recorded on March 1, 1757:

On February 28, 1757, this indenture between James Crumley (spelled Cromley throughout) and William Crumley (spelled Cromley throughout) both of Frederick County, for 2 shillings current money of Virginia, Frederick County tract of 270 acres…Thomas Martin corner…foot of a ridge…along Martin’s line…crossing Mill Creek…part of 742 acres granted to James Crumley by deed from the proprietors office bearing the date of first of February MDCCLIV (1754).  William Crumley to pay the rent of one ear of Indian corn on Lady Day next.  Signed by James Crumley his mark and witnessed by Thomas Wood, Edmond Cullen and William Dillon

This deed is registered with the court and followed by a similar deed which seems to release William from a one year indenture.

March 1, 1757 James Crumley to William Crumley for 22 shillings…release and confirm unto the said William Crumley (in his actual possession now being by virtue of a bargain and sale to him hereof made for one year indenture bearing date the day next before the date of these presents and force of the statute for transferring uses into posessions)…tract or parcel containing 270 acres.

Today that land is located on Greenspring Road near the Frederick County line on the most southern section of the James Crumley land grant.

The description is exactly as the first document as are the witnesses and it is filed on the same day, March 1st, 1757.

James Crumley home

Today, this map shows the location of the original James Crumley home at 3641 Apple Pie Ridge Road.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 2006 as the Crumley-Lynn-Lodge House in Frederick County, VA.

James Crumley Apple Pie Ridge

The Hopewell Meeting house (shown below) lay southeast of James property, and William’s land lay north, just over or straddling the border between Virginia and West Virginia today.

James Crumley Hopewell

You can see Mill Creek, shown on James’s original grant, running parallel with 51.2 in West Virginia today, south of Gerrardstown.

James Crumley road along Mill Creek

Religion and Politics

William Crumley, along with his father and siblings were residents of Frederick County when George Washington won his first elective office as a Frederick County delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses in July, 1758, so it possible that the two may have had some contact. Washington, however, did not actually live in Frederick County and did very little campaigning there, other than to buy plenty of liquor for the voters.  Voting was a bit different then.

Quaker men were supposed to abstain from drinking alcohol, but that did not seem to apply to our Crumley men, judging from the contents of their estates.

George Washington kept a diary.  It seems he endorsed that old saying about holding your friends close, but holding your enemies closer.  At least, he wanted to know who was on his side, and who was not.

At that time, voting was not private like it is today.  One had to declare publicly who you were voting for.  Voters were allowed to vote for two candidates.

After Washington received the Frederick County polling results, he made an alphabetic list of all the voters and their publicly proclaimed choices. James Crumley and his sons John and William voted for Hugh West. John and William also voted for Colonel Washington, but James, their father, cast only the one vote.   In addition to his voting preference, this also confirms that William was at least 21 years of age by this time.

Like his father, William was a member of the Parish vestry, serving in 1759. Although the Vestry was actually under the jurisdiction of the official Episcopal Church, it had political functions as well, and it was not unusual for Quakers to be members.

Henings Statutes shows that in November of 1769, William was indeed a vestryman.  He and his fellow vestrymen were authorized to levy taxes on the residents to pay for the outcome of a suit wherein a former minister sued for back pay. Chapter LV, page 416:

WHEREAS William Meldrum, clerk, late minister of the parish of Frederick, in the county of Frederick, by judgment of the honourable the general court, hath recovered against John Hite, John Greenfield, John Bowman, Thomas Speake, John Lindsay, William Cocks, Robert Lemen, William Crumley, Cornelius Riddell, Isaac Hite, Thomas Swearingen, and John Funk, gentlemen, late vestrymen of the said parish, the sum of one hundred and forty-nine pounds twelve shillings and one penny, for the balance of his salary as their minister; and also three pounds and nine pence, and four thousand six hundred and fifty-five pounds of tobacco, for costs; and whereas the said vestry were also at some charges in their defence; and it appearing to this present general assembly, that it is reasonable that the said vestry, or such of them as have actually paid the said judgment, costs, and charges, should be reimbursed the same, and such commissions as they, or any of them, may have paid for having the same levied on them: Be it enacted, by the Governor, Council, and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, That the present vestry of the said parish shall and may, and they are hereby authorized and required to levy and assess, upon the tithable persons within their parish, the amount of such judgment, costs, charges, and commissions…

William Crumley was married in about 1761 to Hannah Mercer, daughter of Edward Mercer and his wife Ann.

The Hopewell Church (VA) history book (671 pages) mentions James Crumley, father of William (the first), but William is never mentioned in the book.  William (the first), we know, was also a Vestrymen of the Anglican church, but this is known only from the Laws of Virginia.  It seems strange that no mention is made of William’s “disownment by reason of marriage outside the Quaker faith”, a very common practice in those early years, if in fact he married outside the faith.  If he married within the faith, then his son, William (the second) split with the church at some point, because by 1797, William (the second) was a founder of a Methodist Church in Greene County, TN.

William’s Father Dies

In 1764, William’s father, James died and his will was probated.  William was one of several children mentioned.

In 1773, William, his brother Henry, and their niece Ruth (Doster) Noland through husband Thomas Noland sold 200 acres at the southern end of the Lord Fairfax tract in 1773 to Thomas Faulkner, who had married Jane Dunn, William’s mother-in-law.

Deed Book 2, page 149.

“Two hundred acres being part of a large tract containing 744 acres granted to James Crumwell (sic) decd from the proprietor of the Northern Neck…the said William Crumley, Henry Crumley and Thomas Nolan to Thomas Faulkner.  Hannah William’s wife, Ruth Thomas Nolan’s wife and Sarah Henry’s wife…William Crumley is attorney in fact for Henry Crumley.  One hundred sixty pounds and 8 shillings.  Dated Aug 18, 1773 (I can’t tell if is the date of the deed or of the poa following.  I believe it is the deed.)

William Crumley
Hannah Crumley
Henry Crumley
Thomas Noland
Ruth Noland

William Boyd
Joseph Kile
John Ridgeway
John Tryall?

William’s Wife Dies

In about 1773, William’s wife, Hannah, died.  William and Hannah had 5 children that lived to adulthood.  If they were married in 1761, they likely had at least 6 children, and possibly 7.  It appears that they lost at least one child.

After Hannah’s death around 1773, William married Sarah Dunn, daughter of James and Jane Dunn and step-daughter of Thomas Faulkner, whom, we know is a neighbor because William sold part of James land to Thomas Faulkner.  So William married the neighbor’s daughter.

We know by this time that William was not active in the Quaker church, because in 1774 after his marriage to Sarah, the Hopewell Friends disowned her for marrying “contrary to discipline.”  Obviously, Sarah had to know that would happen before she married William, and didn’t care.

The Revolutionary War

When William was about 45 years old, the Revolutionary War became a reality in Virginia.

In 1781, William was among the Berkeley County citizens who provided supplies for the use of the Revolutionary armies. One certificate (receipt) dated September 30, 1781 indicated that he and three others, including his wife’s brother William Dunn and her stepfather Thomas Faulkner were generously entitled to 225 pounds for just eleven bushels and a peck of wheat.

The only record of William actually receiving reimbursement was a 1782 Publick Service Claim, in which he was “allowed 5 pounds for eight days in actual service as a receiver in Collecting the cloathing and provisions for the use of the state.  This “patriotic service” has qualified at least two of his descendants for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Oral history of wars and service therein, especially if you are on the “right” side tends to be one of the tidbits passed along within families.

Portrait and Biography Album, Jefferson Co., IA, (1890), 188, Sketch of Isaaac H. Crumly, Sec. 9, Penn Township:

Born in East Tennessee Dec 24, 1820 and traces his ancestry back to early Colonial days when his great-grandfather, William Crumly, resided in Virginia. Large slave-holder and served in the Revolution. His son William was a farmer and removed to Tennessee when that country was first settled.  His son Abraham was born in Greene Co., Tenn. in 1787…Abraham Crumly, father of Isaac H. married Elizabeth Marshall, born 25 June 1796, dau. of Abram and Martha (Doane) Marshall; she died 29 Mar 1827. Abraham married, 2nd, Jane McNees, who died 8-18-1845.

William (the first) had at least 15 children in total, who are listed in his will as recorded in Berkeley County, then Virginia, now West Virginia, Will Book 2 page 185-187.

William’s Death

William died in Berkeley County between September of 1792 and September of 1793, most likely in the summer of 1793 or his will would have been probated earlier in the year.  He had gotten his crops planted before he died, because his inventory includes a field of corn.

In William’s will he wrote:

“…My plantation I purchased from my brother John to be sold by my executors to my best advantage, payments to be made but the land not given up to the purchaser until March 26, 1795 which is the expiration of John Antraus lease.  When my executors receive the whole of the purchase money they are to give each of my children that is come of age the sum of 10 pounds.  I leave to my loving wife Sarah Crumley all the rest and the remainder of my estate both real and personal for life or whist she remains my widow.  My widdow Sarah Crumly shall Rays my children together to give them learning out of the profits that arises from my Estate the boys to read write and cifer The Girls to read and write.”

If Sarah remarries, the entire estate is to be sold and after deducting for “raising and schooling my young children” the estate is to be equally divided among my 15 children after adding? to each what they have already received namely James, Ann, William, Catherine, Aaron, Jane, Thomas, Sarah, Henry, Mary, Stephen, Elizabeth, John, Martha and Rebecca.  If any of the children die, the balance to be divided among the remaining children.  Is Sarah remains a widow until her death, the estate to be divided the same way.  Good friend David Faulkner and wife Sarah Crumley executors.  Dated Sept. 30, 1792

William Wilson
Tom Doster
John Watson Sr.
Jesse Rubell (Ruble)

William Crumley died between the date his will was filed in Berkeley County, Virginia, 30 September 1792, and the date it was proved, 17 September 1793, age about 58.  He was not an old man, at least not by today’s standards.  Given that he made his will almost a year before he died, he clearly had advance warning that something was amiss.

I find it interesting that the boys were to be taught to “read, write and cipher,” but the girls only to read and write.  I guess they didn’t need to know how to cipher back then, or at least William didn’t think they did.

The fact that William’s will was probated in Berkeley County tells us that he was living on the land from the James Crumley land grants, not the land his father owned in Frederick County on Apple Pie Ridge.

Houses on the Crumley Land

The journal article tell us that after Sarah’s death in 1809, David Faulker, William’s executor, then living in Greene Co., Ohio, sold William’s plantation of 270 acres for $6000 to Aaron M. Crumley and Thomas Crumley (Superior Court Deed book 20, page 47).  A year later, the brothers sold the land for $4468.33 to Abraham Waidman of Berk’s County, PA (DB 27, p 241).  It sure makes me wonder why they were willing to take a significant hit of about 1/3 of the land’s value in just a year.  Frances Silver then acquired the land, some before 1820 and some after.  Between 1820 and 1821, according to tax records, he build a large, by the standards of those days, brick house which was still standing when the journal article was written.

James Crumley Francis Silver Houe

The home that William would have lived in likely looked much more like a log cabin, and probably was a log cabin.  This cabin, below, was built on the middle section of James land.  William was assuredly in and out of this cabin regularly, as Thomas Faulkner was his second wife’s step-father.

James Crumley Faulkner cabin

The journal article tells us that Thomas Faulkner built a log cabin on this land in 1775 with a wing added about 1785 that was still standing in 1979 when the article was written.

James Crumley Hodgson cabin

William Crumley Homestead

I was able to find William Crumley’s land on an 1890 map by following the ownership of the Silver land, as stated below.

Francis Silver acquired the Crumley land in two tracts. The first tract of 62 acres before 1820. He built the beautiful brick house in 1821. The 1820 land book lists no house. The 1822 lists $1,000.00 added for improvements added last year. He purchased the larger tract from Abraham Waidman in 1829 (DB lost). In 1836 Francis Silver sold the brick house with 275¾ acres to his son Zephaniah Silver who had married Martha Jane Henshaw April 17, 1834. They kept the plantation until after the Civil War and sold in 1868 for $12,000.00 to John Hershey. John Hershey sold the house with 197 acres for $5,000.00 to Andrew B. Houck and Samuel Garver. May 1, 1876 (DB 73, p. 275). Samuel Garver and A. B. Houck sold in 1880 to J. R. Brown and Robert M. Brown (DB 77, p. 119, page 259). Joseph R. Brown sold his half interest to Robert M. Brown in 1885, who sold the same year to Charles G. Boyles and James K. Boyles for $8,100.00. Charles G. Boyles sold his half interest to James K. Boyles in 1919. James K. Boyles died in 1932 leaving all his estate to be divide equally between his children (WB 27, p. 386). Daughter Maggie R. Busey died in 1951. The heirs of James K. Boyles sold to James A. Lockard in 1959 who gave a Deed of Trust to Darrell K. Koonce. In 1962 . . .

On the following map, you can see the location of J. Boyles land at what looks like the headwaters of Mill Creek, just north of the border of Berkeley County and Frederick County, on the road that today leads to Gerrardsville.  You can also see North Mountain to the left.

Berkeley county 1890

On these satellite views, you can see the same road today.  The house on the map above is about half way between the dog leg in the road north of the house and the state line ot the south, between the creek and the road.

On the map view of the area, you can see the same dog leg in the road and today, there is  Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, shown in green, across from this area.

William Crumley land map

Moving to the satellite map, you can see the farms in that location today.

William Crumley land satellite

Moving a little closer.

William Crumley land satellite 2

Moving even closer you can see that there is a working farm in this location.

William Crumley land satellite 3

Unfortunately, there is no street view of this area.  The address of this property today is 3647 Dominion Road.

William Crumley farm today

This looks like the original structure.

William Crumley farm home

So, mapping the way from William Crumley’s house to his father’s house on Apple Pie Ridge looks like this.

William Crumley to James Crumley

Visiting William Crumley’s Property (added October 2015)

A speaking engagement in Richmond in the fall of 2015 provided me with the opportunity to visit Apple Pie Ridge in Frederick County, Virginia and the area of Berkeley County, West Virginia that adjoins Frederick County.  William’s father, James Crumley lived on Apple Pie Ridge Road and left sons John and William land a few miles north of his home location.

William Crumley 1c

This path from Apple Pie Ridge Road up the valley to Gerrardstown is the natural path that was once an Indian trail, then a wagon road.  Today, it’s lined with apple trees and orchards, heavy with ripe apples.

William Crumley 2

From Apple Pie Ridge Road, going north, you turn on Winding Hill, then north on Frog Hollow Road which becomes Dominion Road when you cross the state line.  Winding Hill does just that, winds down the hill.

William Crumley 3

The ridge of mountains is forever to the west, standing as a marker that was once the barrier to westward expansion.  This path was the path that the French and Indians took in 1754 to raid the valley and attack the settlers from Gerrardstown to Winchester, and south.  The Europeans weren’t the first to discover that this was the natural pathway along the mountain ridge.

William Crumley’s property spans the state line, with most, including the house being on the West Virginia side.

William Crumley 4

Today, much of the land is cleared, but when James and William Crumley first saw this land, taking the original patent, it was entirely forested and probably looked a lot like this, minus the fence.  They cleared the land one tree at a time – a formidable job.

William Crumley 5

You can see the original house before you cross the state line, although at one time, this was William’s property too.

William Crumley 6

Today, the land in Virginia is newer homes with nicely manicured lawns.

William Crumley 7

William’s land included the headwaters of Mill Creek which meanders north from William’s property through the valley into Gerrardstown.  James Crumley originally owned 752 acres here, more than a mile by a mile if it were square.

William Crumley 8

The headwaters of the creek are on the right side of the road, between the state line and the barns.  You can see the tree, above, growing in about that location in what is today just a field.

William Crumley 9

This would have been a prime location for a house, because the water is guaranteed to be clean and fresh with no one upstream.

William Crumley 10

I wonder if the original cabin was actually near where the spring emerged from the ground in this meadow or if it was where the house is today.

William Crumley 11

Not wanting to disturb the homeowner, we took photos from the church and cemetery across the road.

William Crumley 12

Families who owned this property after William are buried in the cemetery, which causes me to ask the question of whether or not the cemetery is the original Crumley family cemetery.  It would make a lot of sense and it’s directly across the road from the house.

William Crumley 13

The oldest part of the cemetery is directly behind the church.

We know that William Crumley was not Quaker when he died, because his second wife was dismissed from the Quaker church for marrying outside her faith.  Therefore, William and at least his second wife would have been buried in a family cemetery, likely on his land.  His first wife, Hannah, may be buried here as well.

William’s first wife, Hannah Mercer, died relatively young and her family was Quaker, as was William’s father, James Crumley.  Hannah’s father, Edward Mercer was dismissed from the church in 1759, so we don’t know if Hannah continued to follow the Quaker faith or not.  We also don’t know when William “converted” but we do know that he was raised Quaker, but by the time that he married Sarah Dunn in 1774, he was no longer Quaker.

William Crumley 14

William’s land looking west behind the church.

William Crumley 15

It’s difficult to see the actual house with the trees in front.  The rear is clearly an addition.  The front part may well be original.

William Crumley 16

The house actually sits up on a little hill which would assure that the house and barn remained dry, so I’m thinking that this was likely the original location of the house.

William Crumley 17

William’s land extended on north.  This was the southernmost part of his land, then his brother John’s land began.

William Crumley 18

William and John owned the land on both sides of the road.

William Crumley 19

We were able to pull into a driveway and actually see Mill Creek at one point, a bit north of the house.

William Crumley 20

In the curves about half way to Gerrardstown, we saw this historic stone structure beside Mill Creek and wondered how it was used.

Gerrardstown is north of the Crumley land, but not very distant.  This was the closest crossroads village and William would have traversed this road often – certainly any time he had to go to “town” which was the county seat, Martinsburg.

On the corner, we found this old log structure still standing.  It reminded me a lot of the James Crumley property with two independent and unconnected buildings sharing a wall.

William Crumley 21

The man who runs the little local general store told us that this building used to be the tavern and was a very important building where lots of business was conducted.  I’m guessing it was THE most important building in Gerrardstown at one time and may have been here when William rode his horse or drove his wagon on this very road.

We ended our driving tour of William’s land by having lunch in the one and only little corner store in Gerrardstown.  It had one table, the food was homemade and there were three local history books on the table.  If you don’t want to sit inside at the table, then you can sit in one of the two chairs out front and use the top of a barrel for a table.  You’ll be visiting with the local guys sitting out there – much like William probably did some 250+ years ago.

William Crumley 22

William’s Estate

David Faulkner and Sarah Crumley accepted executorship of William’s estate, and Thomas Faulkner and John Watson entered a bond of 1000 pounds for their true and faithful administration of said estate.

On page 219 of Will Book 2, William’s estate was appraised on October 15, 1793 by John Gray, Matthew Rippey and David Baldwin.

Item Appraised Amount in Pounds
One bay mare and colt 22.0.0
One yearling colt 12.0.0
One grey horse 10.0.0
One gray mare 3.0.0
One black mare 9.0.0
One brown cow 3.10
One brindle cow 3.10
One spotted cow 2.17.6
One white cow 3.5
One red cow 3.0.0
One brindled heifer 2.5
One white backed cow 3.6
One white steer 3.0
One red steer 1.16
One pied heifer 2.0
One white cow 3.4
Four calves 2.8
A steer sold to pay for the coffin 1.17.2
Beef sold 2.15.10
19 sheep 5.14
One wagon (sic) 3.0
17 gears at 28 1.8.4
Two plows and one lathing 2.3
650 doz wheat 30.0.0
16 tun hay 24.0.0
123 doz rye 7.10
Vetting? Box 0.7.6
Lock chair and 4 pair gears 3.3.0
27 hogs 9.18
One plow 0.15
Field of corn 3.15
Three hoes and a grubbing hoe 0.6.6
A spade, two dung forks and 3 axes 1.5
A shovel, a sythe and 3 sickles 0.12.0
Pair steelyards 0.3.6
Shoemakers tools 0.4
Iron wedge, old iron and wool sheers 0.4.9
Heel tools or steel tools and 2 bee hives 2.5
A saddle and cloth, a table and 2 bridles 2.3
4 pair stockings 0.12
Pair shoes 0.4.6
Stock buckle knee buckles and brouch 0.12
One pair leggings 0.4
Great coat 1.10
A coat 0.10
Jacket and breeches 0.8
White (probably breechees) 0.3
A Bible 0.16
Sundry other books 0.2.6
Tea kettle 0.12
Warming pan 0.18
Shovel and tongs and irons 0.13
Frying pan 0.4
Flat iron 0.6
Three pots and a kettle 1.0
Two pot racks 0.6
Handsaw gauge and auger 0.4
5 pewter dishes 1.5
Two dozen plates 0.13
Four basons (sic) 0.6
Pails and buckets 0.6
Tea equipage bottles 0.6
A chest 1.8
A case of crawers 3.10
A dough trough 0.12
A table 1.4
Two doz old casts and two casks and malt 1.3
A bed bedstead and furniture 1.10
Three pair cards (for spinning wheel) 0.3
Spinning wheel 0.14
Reel with 4 big wheel and two riddles 0.11.6
Saddle 6.6
Negro wench 55.0.0
An arm chair 6.0.0
Five chairs 1.0.0
Four chairs 0.6
A cradle 0.6
A trundle bedstead and bedding 1.4
A feather bed and furniture 2.5
A bedstead feather bed and furniture 8.0
44 pounds wool 3.6
Small tub 0.1.6
A turee? and 2 cyder barrels 0.10.0
A neel tub and two kegs 0.4.6
Old bags 0.6
A hatchet 0.0.6
A grid iron 0.4.6

I must say, my heart sank when I saw the entry, “negro wench.”  Her name wasn’t even given.  Yet she was the most valuable single item in William’s appraisal which totaled 292.14.1.

However, William is far from being a “large slave holder” as reported in Isaac Crumley’s biographical article.

William’s father, James, also owned one slave at his death, and he was an active member of the Quaker church – a surprising and conflicting set of facts.  I wonder how he justified that.  William had clearly stepped away from the Quaker Church.  Maybe his beliefs about slavery had something to do with that decision.

Looking at William’s inventory, it appears that he was a shoemaker.  Everyone was a farmer in that time and place, but generally, each farmer had some sort of specialized skill which is a secret divulged by the items in their estate inventory.

William had 4 beds, one of which, assuredly a feather bed, was his.  Children typically all slept together in colonial America.  No separate rooms and no luxury of sleeping alone either.

William didn’t have a lot of clothing, even for a man of that time.  Clothing was not changed daily or washed often, as we do today.  Generally, clothing was washed seasonally, and may have been boiled as a form of washing, depending on the material at hand.  In essence, William had one outfit with a few spare pieces.  Let’s take a look at what he had.

Stockings, at that time, were generally white and hand knit of wool or linen and came up over the knee.  There was no elastic, so stockings were held up by garters made of ribbon, leather strips or knitted.  William had 4 pair of stockings, but he only had one pair of shoes.

colonial shoesShoes during that time were handmade, and William probably made his own.  There was no left or right.  In fact, people were encouraged to change their shoes back and forth so their shoes didn’t become left and right.  Shoes were fastened with buckles and soles were fitted with hobnails and iron heel protectors which kept the soles from wearing out. It looks like these “heel tools” were part of William’s inventory as well, as were a variety of buckles.

colonial shoes stockings and breeches

Leggings were generally leather and went over breeches to protect them when out in the brush.  They were the sign of an outdoorsman and not a gentleman.  Leggings came from Native American influence.colonial outfit

A jacket and breeches probably referred to a waistcoat and breeches, shown here from this University of Massachusetts website about colonial clothing.

William’s breeches could have been only knee length.  It was later in the 1700s when they became ankle length.

colonial breeches

Colonial Williamsburg also has a wonderful page showing men’s clothing of this timeframe.  They show a coat, which was a daily piece of clothing that went on top of (or in place of) a waistcoat and breeches.  Sometimes the coats matched the breeches.  Buttons were both expensive and stylish.

colonial coat

William had a great coat, which was similar to our winter coats today.  They were heavy, thick and generally knee length.

colonial great coat

colonial shirt and stockingsInterestingly, William’s inventory does not include any shirts.  A shirt, shown at left, would have been the foundation garment that went underneath the coat.  Underwear did not yet exist at this time.  Shirts were long and the bottom of the shirt was tucked strategically in place to function as a protective layer to keep breeches clean – in other words, pseudo-underwear.  Maybe William’s shirt or shirts were too old and worn out to be considered of any value.

I also notice that William did not have a wig.  This further confirms that he did not move in gentlemanly circles, but was more the frontiersman.  So while William was on George Washington’s list, he certainly was not his peer and likely didn’t come calling.

Clothing was considered quite valuable and not treated disposably as it is today.  Many pieces of colonial clothing, including stockings, were repeatedly patched.  Sometimes people willed their clothing to a particular family member.  It would have been a wonderful gift to receive.

The estate inventory also mention’s William’s coffin.  Interesting that the price of a coffin is equal to a steer.

This begs the question – where was William buried?  We can pretty safely say he was not buried in the Hopewell Friend’s Cemetery since they had kicked his wife out for marrying William.  He was very likely buried on his own land.  The question would then be whether or not that cemetery was continued by the next owners, or if it was lost in time to Nature, or worse.  Is there a lost cemetery someplace near the Francis Silver House today?

Distributing William’s Estate to His Children

After William’s widow, Sarah, died in 1809, sons Thomas and Aaron sold the 270-acre tract as set forth in William’s will.

Two years later, each of the children received $479.09.

Children of William Crumley and Hannah Mercer:

a) James Crumley, oldest son of William Crumley, was born around 1764 in Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1787, he was living with his brother-in-law, Thomas Rees. He married Mary (Polly) Stonebridge, daughter of John and Mary (Hancher) Stonebridge, and lived on land in Frederick County that his wife inherited from her father. His wife Mary died 9 May 1813 and is buried in the Back Creek Meeting House cemetery in Gainsboro, Virginia. James married Elizabeth Downey, a widow, on Christmas Eve, 1815.  They probably struggled financially; two 1821 Deeds of Trust indicate they had borrowed money, using their property as collateral. He was living in Frederick County with his wife in 1830. James Crumley was at least 65 years of age when died without a will.

b) Ann Crumley, born about 1764, married about 1781 to Thomas Rees, son of Thomas and Hannah (Rees) Rees moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania. d. before 1811. Children: Hannah Reese, Jesse Reese, Nancy Reese, William Reese, Rachel Reese, Sarah Reese, James Reese [ca. 1800], Soloman Reese [1802], Thomas Reese, Jr. [ca. 1804].

c) William Crumley (the second), born around 1767, married an unknown wife and moved to Greene County, TN around 1795.

d) Catharine Crumley, born about 1769, married (1) John Eyre, moved to Ross County, Ohio; (2) 1804 James Mooney; moved to Fayette County, Ohio. Died 28 December 1857, buried Walnut Creek Cemetery, Perry Township, Fayette County, Ohio. Children: Robert Eyre, Hannah Eyre, Samuel Eyre, Nancy Eyre, William Eyre; Eliza Mooney [1805], James Mooney, Jr. [1812], Catharine Mooney, Mary (Polly) Mooney.

e) Aaron Mercer Crumley, born 22 October 1771, married 3 February 1796 to Jane Atherton and moved to Greene County, Ohio. Aaron died 18 August 1835, buried Mt. Holly Cemetery near Xenia, Ohio. Children: William Crumley [1798], Hannah Crumley [ca. 1799], Mary (Polly) Crumley [1800], a son [ca. 1802], Sidney Amelia Crumley [ca. 1804], Edward Mercer Crumley [ca. 1806], Maria Crumley [1807], Aaron Crumley [1809], Jane Crumley [1812], Clarissa Matilda Crumley [1814].

Children of William and Sarah Crumley:

f) Jane Crumley, born about 1774, married (1) Jonah Bull, son of Robert and Sarah (Littler) Bull, moved to Butler County, Ohio; (2) 18 October 1825 John S. Patton. Children: not yet identified; the 1820 Butler County census shows 1 boy under 10, 1 between 10 and 16, and 1 between 16 and 26; 1 girl between 10 and 16, and a woman 26 to 45. Jane and Jonah were 45+.

g) Thomas Crumley, born 31 December 1776, married 22 January 1801 Elizabeth Gardner moved to Harrison County, Ohio. d. 3 July 1861, buried in Dickerson Graveyard, Harrison County, Ohio. Children: Samuel Crumley [1801], Sarah Crumley [1802], Mary Crumley [1805], William Crumley [ca. 1807], Thomas Crumley, Jr. [ca. 1808], Ira Crumley [1809], Elizabeth Crumley [1811], John Crumley [1813], Hannah Crumley [ca. 1816], James [1817, the 1840 Harrison County census taker], Aaron W. Crumley [1820], Emily Crumley [1822], Joseph Crumley [1824], David M. Crumley [1827].

h) Sarah Crumley, born about 1778, married 10 February 1800 Jesse Wright, son of Benjamin and Jane (Faulkner) Wright. Children: not yet identified; the 1810 Berkeley County census indicated that there were 3 boys and 1 girl under 10 years of age.

i) Henry Crumley, born 10 April 1780, married (1) 30 August 1801 Mary Rees, daughter of Thomas and Margaret (Rees) Rees; (2) 11 April 1814 Elizabeth Flowers, moved to Greene County, Ohio, and to Fountain County, Indiana (3) 6 February 1840 Jane Black, d. 24 September 1864, buried Union Church Cemetery, Aylesworth, Indiana. Children: Matilda Crumley, Julean Crumley, Harriet Crumley, John Crumley, Rees Crumley [ca. 1818].

j) Mary Crumley, born 2 June 1782, married 22 October 1806 John Heberling, son of Andrew Heberling, moved to Harrison County, Ohio, died 13 April 1864, buried Short Creek Township, Harrison County, Ohio. Children: Henry Heberling, Eliza Heberling, Hiram Heberling [ca. 1811], John Heberling [ca. 1812], William Heberling, George H. Heberling [1814], James Heberling, Andrew Heberling, Rebecca Heberling, Mary Heberling.

Mary Crumley Heberling’s tintype photo below is the oldest Crumley photo known. It appears that she is wearing a Quaker bonnet – part of the “plain dress” doctrine of the Quaker faith.

Mary Crumley 1782-1864

k) Stephen Crumley, born 3 April 1784, moved to Green County, Ohio. married 30 May 1813 to Jane Stanfield, daughter of William and Charity (Mendenhall) Stanfield, moved to Fountain County, Indiana; d. 6 February 1837, buried Union Church Cemetery, Aylesworth, Indiana. Children: William Crumley [1815], James C. Crumley [1817], Nancy Crumley [1819], Mary Crumley [1820], Charity Crumley [1823], Stephen Crumley, Jr. [1824], Euphemia Crumley [1826], John Crumley [1828], Sarah Crumley [1829].

l) Elizabeth Crumley, born about 1786, married 24 April 1809 to Isaac Booth, son of Thomas Booth; moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania, and Harrison County, Ohio. Died before 1824. Children: Thomas Booth, Jeremiah Booth, William Booth.

m) John Crumley, born about 1788, married 20 January 1812 to Elizabeth Hancher. Died 12 September 1814. Children: Sarah Crumley. His widow married 7 December 1819 to Richard Beeson.

n) Martha Crumley, born about 1791, married to Thomas Wright, son of Benjamin and Jane (Faulkner) Wright; moved to Columbiana County, Ohio. Children: William C. Wright [1815].

o) Rebecca Crumley, born about 1792, married 4 November 1813 to William Stewart. Moved to Harrison County, Ohio. Children: not yet identified; the 1820 Berkeley County census shows 3 boys under 10.

DNA and Origins

One of the mysteries about the Crumley family is where they originated.  The Quaker faith seems to suggest England, strongly, but does the DNA tell us the same thing?

Looking at the matches and matches map for our Crumley men who took the Y DNA test, we find the following Ancestral Locations at 111 markers:

  • Scotland – 3 (Graham, McCreight and McWhorter)
  • Ireland – 1 from Kilkenny, Ireland

At lower marker levels, Scotland and Ireland are still very prevalent, with English lagging significantly behind.

An Ancestral Location is a balloon that shows where someone you match finds their most distant ancestors.  Of course, this is subject to the accuracy of their genealogy, but we’re looking for patterns, not individual occurrances, unless we happen to find another Crumley male.  Unfortuantely, there are no Crumley’s from the British Isles that have tested, at least, none that match our line.

At 67 markers, the matches map looks like this:

Crumley matches 67 markers

Not everyone enters the geographic information for their most distant ancestor, but generally, as long as there are several matches, you can still get a good idea of the distribution.

At 37 markers, we see the following distribution on the Matches Map.

Crumley matches 37 markers

This pattern is far more suggestive of Ireland than England, although clearly, it doesn’t rule England out.  We may also be seeing deep ancestry, not more recent ancestry, since the advent of surnames.

Hopefully, one day, we’ll match a Crumley male from England who knows exactly where his ancestral family was from.  Our Crumley line may be linked to the history of the Quakers in England.

Acknowledgements: Irmal Crumley Haunschild and Nella Myers, researchers who contributed greatly to Crumley research here, and who have gone on to meet the ancestors.  Thanks also to Paul Nichols, Larry Crumley and Jerry Crumly who are all very much alive!



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Tom Bergeron, Who Do You Think You Are, “A Killing Field”

Tom Bergeron courtesy TLC.

Tom Bergeron courtesy TLC.

This Sunday, August 30 at 9/8c TLC will air TV host’s Tom Bergeron’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?  However, TLC was very late getting their episode info out, so I haven’t had the opportunity to preview.  I’ll be enjoying the episode right along with you.

In the episode, Tom Bergeron sets out to unravel the murky history of his paternal roots. Tracing back over 400 years, he uncovers the dramatic story of his 10x great-grandparents, who endured brutal warfare and starvation in France. Then Tom follows their daughter, who was orphaned as a teenager and bravely set off across the Atlantic, playing a significant role in establishing the New World.

“Someone dead for over 300 years, if you’re willing to listen, can teach you things about what you are doing now.”

I have French ancestors too, and I can’t wait to find out what Tom is talking about….



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Ancestry Shared Matches Combined With New Ancestor Discoveries

Ancestry added a greatly anticipated feature this week that promises to help genealogists – shared matches.  This is similar to the “In Common With” feature at Family Tree DNA – at least in concept.

Shared Matches

Previous to this announcement, when you match someone at Ancestry, the only way you can see who else they happen to match in common with you is if you are placed in an ancestor DNA Circle with them – and then you can only see the other people in that Circle.

For example, here is my Henry Bolton DNA Circle.

circle henry bolton matches2

The people I match are shown with an orange line.  Each of those people match me, and they may also match other people in the Circle that I don’t match.

circle henry match matches2

Regardless of whether I match the individuals directly, or they match someone else that I match, the common factor is that we all share Henry Bolton identified as an ancestor in our tree.

What Ancestry introduced today is the ability to click on any of these people who match me, OR, the people in the circle who do NOT match me but who do share Henry Bolton in their tree and match others in the circle – and see who they match in common with me.  This should allow people to group their matches, at least tentatively and is especially promising for those frustrating people with whom you match closely but have private trees and won’t reply to messages.

While this is interesting for circles, it’s not terribly useful in terms of breaking down walls, because I already know Henry Bolton is my ancestor.  In other words, I wouldn’t be in the circle if I didn’t already know the identity of that ancestor.

What I’m particularly interested in, is applying this tool to my NADs, or New Ancestor Discoveries, because if I can figure out how these people truly are related to me, then I may be able to make a discovery of a new ancestor in my tree.  Now THIS holds a lot of promise and intrigues me greatly.  So, let’s take a look at my NADs and see how this new tool works and if it’s useful.  I can hardly wait!!!

State of the NADs

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that Ancestry and I have been having a bit of a friendly Bad NAD duel.  Ancestry keeps giving me new ancestor discoveries (NADs) but in several cases, I have unquestionably proven that those NADs are not my ancestors – hence the term – Bad NADs.  In one case, the new ancestor assigned to me is the husband of my ancestors sister.  However, I currently have three NADS that are related to each other than may benefit greatly by this new shared matches tool.

Since my last NAD update, where Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte were given to me a second time, another NAD has been added – John David Curnutte’s mother, Deresa Chaffin.

shared matches nads

Here’s the tree version of this relationship

shared matches nad tee

NAD Circles and Matches

In the NAD Circle for Diedamia Lyon, John David Curnutte and Deresa Chaffin, we find both Don and Michael, whom I match.

First, keep in mind that I may match both Don and Michael on other lines – so the fact that I match both of them and they both descend from a common ancestor does NOT mean that is how I connect genetically to both of them.  But for purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that it is and proceed.

The fact that we find these two individuals whose DNA I match in all three circles suggests that the relationship is through the Curnutte line, and not through Diedamia Lyon at all, except for the fact that these men also descend from her.  Given that John David’s Curnutte’s mother is also a NAD suggests that the connection to Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte is through the Curnutte line.  Although Deresa Chaffin’s husband is not listed, he is John Tolliver Curnutte and clearly, the connection might be through him as opposed to Deresa – just like the connection to the couple Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte was through the Curnutte husband.

The NAD Circle for Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte are identical, with two matches and 5 non-matching individuals.

shared nad diedemia lyon

For each one of these individuals in the Circle, if you click on their name on the right, you’ll be able to see a variety of information, including their pedigree and matching surnames, maps and locations, and the new shared matches tab.

shared matches shared surnames

The new shared matches tab is a great tool, and it’s particularly important, when unraveling NADs to use it in conjunction with the shared surnames, shown at left.  These are the surnames found in both your tree and the person whose tree you’re comparing against.

Let’s take a look at one of these – Moore, as an example.

shared matches surname compare

As you can see, these are either not the same line or at least can’t be identified as such.  However, in some cases, you may recognize your matches’ end of line person as connecting with your tree further upstream.  It’s times like this that having a robust tree where you’ve tracked downstream lineages of your ancestor’s siblings can be very beneficial.

By clicking on the shared matches option, you’ll see the following people who you match in common with the individual – in this case, Don, my DNA match.  I could also compare to one of the people in the Circle whom I don’t DNA match.

shared matches shared with

What I’m particularly looking for are matches with that lovely shakey leaf by the View Match button on the far right.  Ahem…there aren’t any, which means none of these matches match me with a known common ancestor.  Rats!!!

While Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte have the same members as each other in their NAD circles, John’s mother, Deresa Chaffin, has more members in her NAD circle – which means more opportunities for me to find common line hints..

shared matches nad circle

The DNA matches are to the same 2 people, but now there are additional people in the circle who also match Michael and Don.

The great news is that in addition to clicking on your matches to see who else they match, you can also click on any other circle member.  I’m very, very hopeful that a distinct trend emerges so I can tell at least what line these NADs might be associated with.

I needed a mechanism to keep track of who all my matches match, that I match, and what lines they descend from – so I created a spreadsheet.

NAD Matches Spreadsheet

shared matches spreadsheet

Column 1 – NAD – The ancestor’s name of the NAD Circle where these individuals are found as members.

Column 2 – Person in Circle – The “person in circle” is the individual whose name shows either as a DNA match or as a circle member who does not match my DNA, but does match the DNA of at least some of the other circle members.

Column 3 – DNA Match – Tells me if this person is a DNA match to me or not.

Column 4 – Common Family Line to Person in Circle – The common ancestral line (or lines) if I can determine whether or not we share a specific ancestral line.  By the way, just because we share that line does NOT mean that is how we are DNA related – and no – there is no way to tell without a chromosome browser.

Column 5 – Common Surnames to Person in Circle – Common surnames between my tree and the person in the Circle, as identified by Ancestry.

Column 6 – Shared Matches with Person in Circle – Names of Shared Matches between me and the person in the Circle.

Column 7 – Common Line with Shared Match – Common ancestral lines with shared matches (column 6).

I combined the information from Diedamia Lyon, John David Curnutte and John’s mother, Deresa Chaffin.  I sorted column 6, Shared Matches with Person in Circle, alphabetically, hoping that some of these matches would be the same, and they are, and would be identifiable to specific family lines.

So….Drum Roll….Who is the Common Ancestor???

I compared each person identified as a person in the NAD Circle (column 2), or any person that matches me and a person in the NAD Circle (column 6) with my other spreadsheet that I maintain listing all of my Ancestry matches and our common ancestors.

The group that includes the initials EVH are a family of siblings and their children, so they really only count once.  The person by the name Mars has a private tree, but told me that our common ancestor was Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley, the same individuals as my cousin group through EVH.

It’s certainly possible that the common DNA that connects me with Michael and Don and possibly with John David Curnutte’s parents are through the Vannoy/Crumley line.

If indeed, our common ancestor is upstream of Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley, which is a VERY BIG if, but it’s the only lead I have – then they must fill a known pedigree void.

Deresa Chaffin, according to the Ancestry overview (which is all I have to go on at this moment and is compiled from 705 trees which makes me exceedingly nervous) was born in 1775 in Virginia to Simon Chaffin and Agatha Curnutte.  She married John Tolliver Curnutte, so we have an intermarriage already (or incorrect surname information), which can mean a larger dose of the Curnutte DNA.  Trying to follow these individuals up their trees at Ancestry was an exercise in frustration and futility with many of the wives surnames being the same as the husband and no sources or documentation of any kind.  Suffice it to say, I can’t connect the dots through surnames or location, other than the state of Virginia.

However, looking at my tree, my vacancies for ancestors in that timeframe, in the Vannoy/Crumley branch of the tree are limited.

shared matches pedigree

Phebe, Jotham Brown’s wife’s surname is unknown, but they were married about 1760.

William Crumley’s wife’s name is unknown, but they were married by about 1788.  Clearly, Deresa being born in 1775 cannot be William Crumley’s wife (or Jotham Brown’s), and Deresa married a Curnutte, so she cannot be the ancestor in question for either vacancy.

John Tolliver Carunutte, Deresa’s husband was born about 1774, so clearly, he isn’t my ancestor either.  One generation upstream, I have vacancies for six unknown parents, one of which would have been surnamed Brown.  These people would have been born between 1720 and 1740, at the latest, and possibly earlier, so probably not John Tolliver or Deresa Chaffin’s parents either.

Unfortunately, we’re now back into the ether – and it’s very tenuous ether at that.  Without a chromosome browser, I can’t confirm that the DNA of any of these matches triangulate with the Vannoy/Crumley DNA line – or any line for that matter.

However, in the spirit of running every lead down, right into the ground, and in this case, into the rathole – I view these new shared matches as my only hope of ever unraveling the mystery of the 3 related NADs.  So far, I’ve proven they can’t be my ancestors, at least not in that line, but I still have absolutely no idea of how or if they are related to me – despite due diligence on my part- at least all the due diligence I can think of.

Suffice it to say I’m disappointed.  It’s not my lucky day.  No happy dance for me.  I guess I probably don’t have to mention that if Ancestry provided a chromosome browser, I wouldn’t even have to be slogging around in the mud trying to piece these puzzle pieces together that might not even be from the same puzzle.

However, your mileage may vary and it may be your lucky day, so please give this new shared matches tool a try.  If nothing else, it will help you group your matches by ancestral group and will give you clues as to the family groups of those people with private (or no) trees.  And who knows, maybe you’ll unravel your NAD and actually discover a new ancestor!!!  It could happen, especially if your matches are willing to download to GedMatch for verification!

Here’s Ancestry’s blog posting about the new shared match tool which includes a nice “how to” video.



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Phasing Yourself

Do you ever have one of those “lightbulb” moments?

I do.

I was wishing there was a way at GedMatch to compare everyone against me and my mother at the same time – to see who we both match.  And then I realized….there is….but not in the way I had been thinking.

Both of my parents are deceased now, but my mother swabbed before she passed over…a gift I thank her for daily.

GedMatch provides a Phasing program, under Analyze Your Data.

GedMatch phasing

I used the Phasing program to recreate my father whose DNA hasn’t been available from him since 1963.  I had my DNA and my mother’s autosomal DNA results, so the phasing program compared those two files and split my DNA in half and created a “half” file that is my mother and the remainder “half” file that is my father – or at least the half of him that I received.

I looked at the Mom half file and thought to myself that I should delete it to make space since I have the whole Mom file.

I’m glad I didn’t, although I could certainly have recreated the file, because it’s that phased half Mom file that is the equivalent of running my matches against me and Mom together to see which of my matches match us both.

And the clear benefit, of course, is that I know immediately which side of the family my matches are from.  Plus, if anyone doesn’t match me and a parent, then the results are not IBD, identical by descent.  Phasing against a parent is the gold standard in determining IBD vs IBC or identical by chance.

Let’s take a look at the match results.  Please note that 1500 is the GedMatch display limit, so when you see 1500, it means more than 1500, but you have no idea how many more than 1500.  By running your two (maternal and paternal) half phased kits, you can obtain up to 3000 instead of being constrained by the 1500 limit.  In order to see more than 1500, you can sort several columns in highest to lowest and lowest to highest order, and often you can obtain the entire list by sorting the columns and copy/pasting to Excel, so long as the entire list isn’t over 3000.

10 cM 7 cM 5 cM
Full Kit 825 1500 1500
Mother Half 145 495 1500
Father Half 583 1143 1500
Total 2 Halves 728 1638 3000
Not IBD 97 >138 unknown

Truthfully, I was surprised to lose 97 matches at 10cM by having them match neither parent.  That’s about 12%.

The other tidbit you may find interesting is that I have so many more matches on my father’s side than on my mothers.  My mother’s four grandparents were Dutch (the immigrant off the boat), Brethren (endogamous, German), German (immigrant off the boat) and Acadian/English (here since very early 1600s, endogamous).  My father’s ancestors have been in this country for hundreds of years – all of them.  The German, Dutch and French aren’t nearly as well represented in the DNA data bases as are the traditional colonial Americans who had lots of children and moved west, into Appalachia leaving lots of descendants today trying to sort through their ancestry.

So, if you have one or both of your parents’ DNA, phase yourself at GedMatch.

For those of you who don’t have parents available, but do have other relatives, try the Lazarus tool to reconstruct part of an ancestor’s genome.



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Elizabeth “Probably Not Webb” Estes (1715/1720-1772/1782 ), Wife of Moses, 52 Ancestors #86

Moses Estes Sr. did us a huge favor.  Both of his wives were named Elizabeth, so when he was an old man, he didn’t have any “jealous wife” memory type issues when he mistakenly used his first wife’s name in a fit of pique (or a fit of whatever) when talking to his second wife.  That’s a good thing, because indeed, he was an older gentleman when he married the second Elizabeth, Elizabeth Talbot, a widow, and he had a lot of years experience having said “Elizabeth.”  The favor he did was to tell us when, exactly, he married the second Elizabeth.  In 1782, they had a prenuptial agreement which was filed with the court.  How’s that for ahead of your time!

However, it’s the first Elizabeth I’m interested in, the mother of Moses’s children and specifically, my ancestor, Moses Estes Jr.

Was Elizabeth a Webb?

We’re actually fortunate that we know the first Elizabeth’s first name.  It’s her last name that is in question.  However, if you take a quick look at the Ancestry trees for Moses Estes, born in 1711 and who died in 1787, you’ll find that the majority of those trees list Webb as her last name, or mistakenly list Elizabeth Jones Talbot, Moses’s second wife.

Those same trees will list another tree as a source…and so it goes.  Around and around.  For the record – we don’t know the first Elizabeth’s last name.  It’s a myth – but a myth that might have a source.  You see, there was a reference to a record…someplace.

I have to confess here, I’ve never seen the original record, BUT, someplace, I have seen a researcher’s notes referring to a land record that included Moses Estes and a male Webb.  That researcher had made the “connection” that because Moses Estes bought or leased land from the Webb male, that the Webb male was Moses’s wife’s father.

A leap of faith you say?  Yes, a leap of something, that’s for sure.  But, it could be true and it’s a place to begin further research…if I could only find that doggone reference.

But the problem is that I’ve lost the reference and I don’t remember where I saw it…other than it was in someone’s handwritten notes years ago.  I remember thinking to myself “that’s it??!!!”  That’s how someone connected some extremely tenuous dots that Elizabeth’s surname was Webb?  I remember being incredulous and thinking that there was surely more.  Then, in the 1980s, a historical novel was released that included the Estes family, and Elizabeth’s name in that novel was Webb too.  The deck was stacked at that point, and in the annals of mythology, and online trees, Elizabeth’s surname became Webb and took on a life of its own.

I’ve pulled every record I have in this house, and didn’t find that reference.  Now I’m doubting myself.  Did I even see it?  Did I dream it?  Does it exist at all – even the researcher’s note?  And if that researcher’s note exists, does the real record exist?  As many Virginia records as I’ve extracted, I’ve never come across an Estes/Webb transaction and neither has my cousin, the retired lawyer who extracted half of Virginia for Estes names.  OK, that’s an exaggeration, probably not half, just the early counties, but still, she doesn’t have it in her records either.  Of course, not everyone extracts EVERY record by that surname.  Some people are sane humans and only extract their own line’s records.  So, if that happened, maybe Moses’s record was overlooked by other researchers.

So, if you happen to come across any Virginia land record of a Webb and an Estes – or any other record, for that matter, of a Webb and an Estes between about 1730 and 1770 or so, please, PLEASE send it to me complete with the reference and source.  I promise, I will never, ever, lose it again.

Because, you know, Elizabeth’s surname actually might be Webb, but I can’t research it any further until I find that doggone slippery reference that I know I saw at one time or another.

So, if we don’t know Elizabeth’s last name, what do we know about her?

Life in Virginia

We first find Moses Estes as an adult in Hanover County in 1734.  He would have been age 23 at that time, and he was purchasing land jointly with his brother Robert and his other brother John served as a witness.

In 1736, Moses patented land adjoining his brother’s land.

In general, men did not purchase land before they married, so it’s quite likely that Moses was married about 1734 to a local gal from Hanover County, the area that would become Louisa and then Amelia as new counties were formed.

Elizabeth’s son, William was born sometime between 1735 and 1740, so Elizabeth was probably born in 1715-1720 or maybe even slightly earlier.

In 1742 Louisa County was formed and the Estes lands fall into this county.  That’s a very fortunate turn of events, because Louisa County records exist where most of Hanover’s have been destroyed.  Unfortunately, the Hanover records that might include a marriage document, or estate documents for Elizabeth’s parents, are gone.

We know, due to later deeds, that Moses lived in an area between Contrary and Northeast Creeks in Louisa, later Amelia County, between the red arrows.  It was here that Elizabeth had her children and raised her three young boys.

Louisa Northeast Contrary Creeks

1742 is also about the time that Elizabeth’s son John was born.  Son Moses Jr. was born about that time as well. Elizabeth and Moses were probably just like all other pioneer couples and had a child every 18-24 months for as long as the female was fertile, which would have been until about 1755-1760 for Elizabeth.  However, we only know of three sons.

The transaction that tells us Elizabeth’s first name is a land sale in Amelia County in 1751 in which Elizabeth, wife of Moses, relinquished her dower right in the land.  Dower right in Virginia meant that if a man died, his wife was entitled to one third of his estate by right of dower.  The husband could not relinquish his wife’s dower rights, so she had to sign to relinquish those.  Typically, the wife was “examined separately” from her husband, so the husband could not influence her answer.  Of course, she had to go home with her husband, so I’m not sure how effective asking the wife privately if she relinquished her dower actually was.  Can’t you just imagine that ride home, had the wife said, “no” that it wasn’t by her own will that she was signing away her dower rights?  How many ways can you spell ugly??

A great many deeds don’t have this additional signature, and I know of one case where the man sold his land and died a couple years later.  The wife then sued the purchaser for her one third of his land and won.  Not only that, but she got the third with the house in which she was living at the time.  One gets the idea that maybe she didn’t know her husband sold the land they were living on, especially since it was a mortgage that defaulted, which is how the sale came about – through the default to the mortgage holder.  In that place and time, the mortgagee signed a deed that the mortgage holder redeemed if they defaulted.  That kind of situation, is, of course, exactly the reason that the wife had to sign, and woe be unto the buyer that doesn’t see to that detail.

In 1758, Elizabeth and Moses are living in Amelia County and the French and Indian War is in full swing.  The House of Burgesses passed an act for the defense of the frontier and we find Moses, John and William Estes of Amelia County on the roster.  These young men are probably still living at home, as they were late teenagers or in their early 20s and not yet married.

This list suggests that perhaps Moses Jr. was the youngest of the three sons and not quite old enough to serve with his father and older brothers.  He probably felt very left out and I’m sure he did not want to be left at home with his mother as his father and brothers got to ride off to war and do all of those “exciting” grown-up manly things – at lease from Moses Jr.’s perspective.

I’m sure Elizabeth was glad to have a son remain at home.  He may have been too young to ride with the men, but he was certainly old enough to provide some protection, farm labor and partnership to his mother.

Moses Sr. is mentioned in the court minutes and deed books from time to time, but another decade would pass before we hear from Elizabeth again.  In 1768, Moses Jr. sells the land he had purchased from his father-in-law, John Combs’, estate and that sale is witnessed by his father and mother, Moses Estes Sr. and Elizabeth.

By 1768, Elizabeth had attended the weddings of all three of her sons, had gained three daughter-in-laws and had at least half a dozen grandchildren to enjoy.

An Uncomfortable Juncture

In 1769, Moses Sr. filed suit in Amelia County against his brother, Elisha, surrounding his father, Abraham’s, estate distribution – never mind that Moses’s father died more than 48 years earlier.  This may be the worst case of procrastination I’ve ever seen.  Or maybe, a long-festering boil erupted between the brothers.

I suspect that when one person in a household does something that dramatic, it is reflected via the domino effect to the rest of the family members too.  This was probably a highly emotional time, with depositions, threats and high drama.  It’s hurtful to think or know that your sibling betrayed and cheated you.  Whether it was true or not, it surely appears that Moses believed it to be true.  Elisha, in essence, in court documents, called Moses a liar, another upsetting turn of events.  Moses surely paced and swore and cried, if he let Elizabeth see his tears.  It’s hard to be the one betrayed.  And either he was the one betrayed, or he was the betrayer.  Either way – a family ripped apart.  You know Elizabeth’s household was in a state of upheaval as these unpleasant events unfolded like layers of an onion.

Elizabeth’s three sons were married and had families of their own by this time.  They may have been living with Moses and Elizabeth, or on their property, or nearby.  If Elizabeth and Moses had other children, they would still have been at home.  Elizabeth probably tried to function normally, attending church and other normal social functions of the day.  But, assuredly, Elisha’s wife and children were there too.  Not only would this suit have divided the family, it likely divided the community as well.

Maybe this court suit and the level of discomfort it caused had something to do with why Elizabeth and Moses moved to Halifax County, taking all three of their grown sons and their families along.  Maybe they were trying to put the lingering past behind them with a new beginning.

On to Halifax County, VA

By 1771, the family was moving to Halifax County and Moses Sr. bought land just west of South Boston on the Pole Bridge Branch of Miry Creek.

Moses Estes land aerial

In 1771, Moses sells his land in Amelia County and once again, Elizabeth relinquished her dower rights and signs with an X, which tells us that she could not write – and probably could not read since the two tend to go together.

However, they may not have moved right away, because in January of 1772, Moses (of Amelia County) sells to William Estes (of Amelia County) 100 acres of his land in Halifax County.  Elizabeth signs this document as well.

We know that Moses was living in Halifax County by this time or very shortly thereafter, because in March of 1772, the court authorized paying him as a road hand for building a bridge across Burches Creek, near his land.

Later in October of 1772, Moses sells the balance his land in Halifax County to his 3 sons and Elizabeth does not sign, so her death may have occurred between January and October of 1772. Given that we know that Moses owned the land on Pole Branch, and he is buried there himself, it’s very likely that Elizabeth is buried in the Estes Cemetery on that land as well.

Estes cem box elders

Or, did Elizabeth not sign because the deed was to her sons and she (and they) saw no need for her to go to the courthouse to sign?

Given that Elizabeth’s death seems to have occurred after Moses sells his Amelia land, it’s most likely that Elizabeth did make it to Halifax County, but possibly, just barely.  Did she ever get to live in this house that Moses built?

Estes Osborne home

We don’t know for sure that Elizabeth died in 1772, but we do know for sure she had died by 1782.  Elizabeth was not an old woman.  If she was born in 1715, she would have been 57-67 and if she was born in 1720, age 52-62.  She may still have had older children at home.  If there were no other living children, then she had likely buried 6 or 7 of her children, or maybe more – and then left their graves behind when she moved to Halifax County.  I can’t even begin to imagine that heartache.

Elizabeth may have lived long enough to see the Revolutionary War which began in 1775.  In 1778, the focus of the fighting shifted to the south, including Virginia.  She certainly lived through the ramping up process that led to that war which was focused on resistance to taxes imposed by England on the colonies which the colonists felt were unjust.  All men paid taxes and I’m sure it was the hot topic of conversation for months and maybe years before the war actually began.  Halifax County was involved in the fighting by 1780 and 1781, and it’s quite likely that Elizabeth’s son Moses’s land was used as an encampment by soldiers.  Elizabeth’s grandson, George fought in that war.  Did he come to tell his grandmother goodbye before he left, if she was still living at that time, or did he visit her grave one last time?

If Elizabeth didn’t die before 1780, she would have buried her adult son, William, in the family cemetery on Grubby Road in Halifax County.  About that same time in 1780, son John left with his family for the Holston River in what is now Tennessee.  At that time, Tennessee was not yet a state and that area was unsettled and wild frontier, with settlers still skirmishing with the Indians.  Once a family left, it was forever.  No one came back.

I hope that Elizabeth did not have to bury her son.  1780 would have been a year of terrible loss for her.  When a grown child left for parts unknown, not only did they leave, but they took with them the grandchildren and the only form of communication was an occasional letter – if that – assuming people could read and write.

Men, in that timeframe, did not remain single for long – so it’s possible that Elizabeth did live to see 1780 – and it may have broken her heart.  She was assuredly resting in the cemetery, beside son William, by 1782.

In 1782, Moses remarried (with that prenuptial agreement) and 5 years later, Moses was dead, probably buried beside his first wife Elizabeth and his son, William, in the cemetery on his property.  In fact, it appears that Moses second wife predeceased him, so it’s entirely possible that Moses lies between the two Elizabeths. If a man ever had to behave, he does!

I found Moses’ land in the early 2000s when I visited Halifax County several times, working on the various genealogy records in the courthouse.  Based on the land records and following them forward in time, I was able to locate Moses’s original land, with the help of a couple of wonderful cousins, an incredibly patient and generous landowner and some unimaginable good luck.  I think Moses and Elizabeth were helping me!

Moses Estes cemetery

I wonder how long Elizabeth lived on this land.  Did they live in the house Moses built, or did she die while they would have been living in a cabin.  Was the cabin they lived in first the cabin that sat back on the hill where John, Moses and Elizabeth’s son, eventually lived before he headed out for the frontier in 1780?

Estes clearing

There are so many questions and so few answers.

Elizabeth’s Children

Elizabeth had the following known children.  I’ve always suspected that she also had some daughters, but to date, none are known.

Elizabeth’s sons are as follows:

1. The oldest son born to Moses and Elizabeth was probably John, born between their marriage and 1742, or so. We don’t know the year for sure, but what we do know is that John’s eldest son, Abraham, born in 1764, gave the following testimony when applying for a Revolutionary War pension.

“I, Abraham was born in Amelia County, Virginia.  My father moved from there to Halifax, Va. where he lived until the fall of 1779, where he moved to the Holston River until 1780.”  After that they removed to Warren Co., KY.

John Estes married Elizabeth Chism, daughter of John Chism and Elizabeth Gillington.  She was remembered in her grandfather, Nicholas Gillington’s will in Halifax County in 1772.  John Estes died in 1824 in Warren Co., KY.

2. Another son, Moses Jr., was born about 1742 or maybe slightly earlier, married Luremia Combs about 1762, whose father, John Combs also lived in Amelia County. Moses Jr. bought land in Lunenburg County from his brother-in-law after John Combs death, but moved with his father, Moses Sr. to Halifax County about 1770 where they both spent the rest of their lives.  He died in 1813 with a will.

Moses had a son, Moses (the third), who was born between 1775 and 1780 in Halifax County and died in 1875 in Smith County, TN, per the probating of his will in 1875.  And no, those dates are not typos.  He married Selah Palmer.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the only grandchild of Elizabeth whose photo we have.  Most of her grandchildren died before the camera was in wide use, after the Civil War.  Moses (the third) lived to be over 100, as did his brother George Estes as well as George’s son, John R. Estes.  Longevity runs in this family.  I look at this man and wonder if he looks anything like Elizabeth and Moses Sr.

Moses Estes 1779-1875 m Selah Palmer

John R. Estes, my ancestor, below, would have been this man’s nephew.  John R. and his father, George, both also lived to be around 100, as have several of their descendants.

John R. Estes restored

3. The third son of Moses Sr. and Elizabeth, William Estes, was also born in the same 1735-1740 timeframe. William married Mary Harris.  He died in 1780 and his estate was probated in Halifax County, VA.  Family legend says that he was a drover of horses and drove them to the East coast being gone for long periods of time.  He apparently had what was probably an appendicitis attack and became very ill.  His wife was sent for, but she was days away and did arrive, but William had already died.  Mary brought his body home and buried him in the family cemetery.


Unfortunately, DNA won’t help us with Elizabeth in this circumstance, at least not directly or immediately.

It’s ironic that the one trait that has a huge potential to affect my life, that of longevity, is most likely genetic, yet, we can’t identify that gene (or genes), nor do I know if I carry it.  We do know that several people downstream of Moses and Elizabeth lived to the age of 100, and a few slightly older.  Two of my aunts and my grandfather are in that group – so I potentially could carry the Estes longevity gene.  We also don’t know where it came from – meaning from Moses’s or Elizabeth’s family.  All I do know is that Moses’s father’s line does not seem to be responsible for the longevity gene – but we know nothing about Moses’s mother nor Elizabeth’s family.

Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA is dead to us unless she had daughters that we don’t know about – and they turn up “proven” in some fashion.  I do find it hard to believe that only three sons survived from a marriage that would have produced children for more than 20 years – so at least 10 children and quite possibly more.

Of course, another avenue to find Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA would be through her sisters, or her mother’s sisters, if they have any descendants through all females – but of course – I’d have to know who her parents were to identify her siblings, or her mother’s siblings.

I have looked at my autosomal DNA results for Webb, but without knowing the name of the man I’m looking for, I can’t pinpoint anything obvious.  Perhaps I should create a “Webb” tree out of my matches trees and see what turns up the most “close” to me since I carry less of the ancestor’s DNA than the generations that are further upstream than I am.

Although since I’m not even sure I have Webb ancestry, those people with Webb in their tree could be solely circumstantial.  Webb is not an uncommon surname and it is a Virginia family in close proximity with all of the other early colonial Virginia families – so possibly and probably intermarried.

Right now, my only hope against hope is for an Ancestry NAD – New Ancestor Discovery.  As upset as I was that Ancestry gave me an ancestor that wasn’t mine who hung around for months before disappearing, and has now reappeared, I’d be very interested in a Webb NAD – because that might be possible and I could then at least attempt to convince my relevant NAD matches to download their result to GedMatch where I can view the matching DNA segments to see if they triangulate.

Having said that, it would be my luck that I’d get a NAD that really looked to be “real” but wasn’t.  However, it I had a NAD, I could at least then attempt to work with the results.

However, regardless of how much I wish for a Webb NAD, it’s probably too far back time.  Initially Ancestry was planning to reach back 10 generations in time.  Elizabeth’s parents would be 9.  However, when the NADs and Circles were released, Ancestry was only reaching back 6 or 7 generations.  In some cases, for DNA Circles, I believe this has been expanded by maybe one generation or two, but not to 9 or 10 – at least not yet.  But I’m still hoping that Ancestry reaches back more generations as they become more confident and refine their new features.  I’m also hoping for a Webb NAD and praying for Ancestry to add a chromosome browser so I don’t have to try to convince my matches (it’s so unbecoming to beg) at Ancestry to transfer to Family Tree DNA and/or download to GedMatch.

While I’m wishing, I’d like for Family Tree DNA to add tree matching as well.  They already have the chromosome browser feature and trees, so tree matching would be a very logical follow-on step.  And from there, maybe ancestor predictions???

We are truly DNA and genealogy junkies aren’t we!  Anything to find those elusive ancestors.  I just want to know if Elizabeth is a Webb, and if not, who is she???



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Native American Haplogroup C Update – Progress!!

native border

Haplogroup C-P39 is the Native American branch of Y DNA paternal haplogroup C.  It’s rare as chicken’s teeth.  Most Native American males fall into haplogroup Q, making our haplogroup C-P39 project participants quite unusual and unique.  So are the tools needed to identify branches on the Native American haplogroup C tree.

Last week, Family Tree DNA added a group of 9 SNPs found in haplogroup C to their product offering.  This was done without an announcement and without any fanfare – but it’s really important.  Without the ongoing support of Family Tree DNA, we wouldn’t have the Big Y test, nor the refining SNP tests that can be added to the Big Y in areas where the results are ambiguous.  Individuals who don’t want to purchase the Big Y can purchase these haplogroup defining SNPs individually as well.

The Native defining SNP for haplogroup C is P39.  People who test positive for C-P39 will then want to test Z30750 and Z30764.

  • Z30503
  • Z30601
  • FGC21495
  • Z30750
  • Z30764
  • PF3239
  • Z30729
  • FGC263
  • FGC31712

However, because haplogroup C-P39 is so rare – and to date – we have found several new SNPs in every man who has taken the Big Y test – and because those new, never before discovered SNPs are the bread crumbs that we need to follow to discover how our ancestors settled and dispersed across the Americas – we strong recommend the Big Y test at Family Tree DNA for all C-P39 men.  The Big Y test doesn’t just look at known SNP locations, it scans the entire Y chromosome for mutations.  Therefore, it’s both a genealogy and a research tool.

To that end, we very much want to fund this testing from the project coffers where necessary to advance our understanding.  Just to whet your appetite, we have participants now across Canada and also in the American Southwest.  We desperately want these men to take the Big Y test so we can get a much clearer picture of how they are related, and how many mutations they have individually – but don’t share – because that is how we estimate when they last shared a common ancestor.  In other words, the mutations build the branches of the tree.

This week, we’ve ordered another new C-P39 Big Y test.  If you are C-P39 – Native American haplogroup C – and have not yet taken the Big Y – please consider doing so.

If you are Native American and haplogroup C – please join the C-P39 and the American Indian projects.  You can do so from your home page at Family Tree DNA by clicking on the “Projects” tab at the upper left of your personal page, then on “join projects.”  You can search for the word “Indian” in the project list to find the American Indian project and scrolling down to the Y haplogroup projects and clicking on C will take you to the C-P39 link.

project join

If you can contribute to funding these Big Y tests, please do – even small amounts help.  The link to donate directly to the C-P39 project is: https://www.familytreedna.com/group-general-fund-contribution.aspx?g=Y-DNAC-P39

Each individual who takes the Big Y test is also encouraged to upgrade to 111 markers.  We need as much information as we can get.

Marie Rundquist and I are co-administrators of the C-P39 project, and she wrote the following verbiage in honor of the 5 year anniversary of the first discovery of what is now C-P39 in the Native Community.  We, as a community, have come a very long way in just 5 years!

It was in 2010, five years ago, when Keith Doucet first tested for the C P39 Y DNA (formerly C3b) Native American DNA type in the Amerindian Ancestry out of Acadia Family Tree DNA study — with numbers of Doucets (and Doucettes!) having the same, Native American, C P39 Y DNA result.  It’s amazing when you think of our journey and how much this research has benefitted our knowledge of our history in North America!

Who can ever forget Keith Doucet’s discovery? http://www.familyheritageresearchcommunity.org/doucet_dna.html

Or Emile Broome’s Y DNA discovery, also from 2010? http://www.familyheritageresearchcommunity.org/broome_dna.html

…and the subsequent discoveries of related Doucets and Doucettes and other project members from all regions of the US and Canada who tested in our project and whose results showed the same Native American C P39 Y DNA haplogroup type?

There is great similarity among the DNA test results for our C P39 Y DNA candidates despite differences in geographic locations and surnames, with testers from across the United States, including the American Southwest, the North East, the South, and Canada compared.  Initial Big Y DNA test results for project members have shown remarkable similarity as well.  Additional Big Y test results for tests underway and the availability of 9 new SNPs for our project members help us discover whether this trend is amplified by the additional tests or if we (the C P39 Y DNA project) can distinguish downstream uniqueness among our participants. The C P39 Y DNA test has received the generous support of its members, Family Tree DNA leadership and scientists, product managers, and volunteer administrators in establishing our superior C P39 Y DNA baseline and we are grateful for your support.

Visit the C P39 Y DNA project site to learn more. https://www.familytreedna.com/public/ydna_C-P39/

Thank you to our project members for your continued participation!  And thank you to Family Tree DNA for their ongoing dedication, research and support.  Collectively, we discover more of our history every day!

native border



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Naughty Bad NADs Sneak Home Under Cover of Darkness

Welcome back to the soap opera!

5 bad nads

Those Bad NADs…they’ve done it AGAIN.  Yep, they’re back.  You remember…it was right after April’s Fool’s Day and Ancestry gifted me with two New Ancestor Discoveries that weren’t – Diedamia Lyon and John David Curnutte.  Then, a couple months later, ungrateful houseguests that they were, they disappeared one night, never to be seen again…well…until now.

But because Ancestry must have thought I was lonely, they assigned me three additional bad NADs to take their place.  Now, the good news was that while these three were indeed Bad NADS and not actual new ancestor discoveries – there was a silver lining to this cloud.  Even though these NADs aren’t my ancestors – at least I was able to document some ways to figure out why and how bad NADs are assigned – so hopefully you can work through your NADS too.

But apparently, John and Diedamia weren’t at all happy with the accommodations where they were residing after disappearing in June, so they snuck back sometime overnight.  Yep, they’re back.  I woke up, and there they were, staring at me, just like they had never been gone.  When I was a kid, on the farm, anything that showed up like this was always pregnant.  Diedamia, do you have something to tell me???

The guest room is getting quite full now…with 5 Bad NADs in residence – all impostors – claiming to be related to me.  Why, you’d think I had won the lottery or something…

I took a look, again, at Diedamia and John, utilizing the same tools that I used to determine that John Larimer and Jean Larimer weren’t my ancestors – nor was Robert Shiflet.  But given that I have only two actual DNA matches with descendants of Diedamia and John, and we don’t show any other common family links that I can discern – I was unable to figure out why I have a DNA link to two of John and Diedamia’s descendants.  Perhaps there is a common ancestor upstream someplace that will become evident one day.  Or, maybe it’s like Robert Shiflet and I’m descended through the wife’s siblings, or like the Larimers where my McKee matches also match the Larimer line.  One thing is for sure, Diedamia Lyons and John Curnutte are not my ancestors.  How I’m related to them, if I’m related to them, is yet to be determined.  Maybe that will be a future episode of the soap opera.  What shall we call this mini-series?  As the NADs Return???

It will be interesting to see how long John and Diedamia, and for that matter, my other bad NADs, hang around this time.  Seems like I have a bit of a NAD revolving door.  One thing is for sure….it’s interesting to see who is waiting for me every day.

So, let’s update the NAD Scoreboard:

  • Ancestry – 0
  • Bad NADs – 7



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4 Generation Inheritance Study

I’ve recently had the opportunity to perform two, 4-generation, inheritance studies.

In both of these cases, we have the DNA of 4 generations: grandmother, parent, child and grandchild or grandchildren.  I’ll be using the second study because there are two great-grandchildren to compare.

Let me introduce you to the players.

4 gen pedigree

I wanted, with real data, to address some assertions and assumptions that I see being made periodically in the genetic genealogy community.  We need to know if these hold up to scrutiny, or not.  Besides that, it’s just fun to see what happens to DNA with 4 generations and 5 people to compare.

What kinds of information are we looking to confirm or refute in this study?

1 – That small segments don’t occur within a couple generations, meaning that that DNA can’t be or isn’t broken into small segments that quickly.

2 – That small segments can never be used genealogically and are not useful.

3 – That DNA is most of the time passed in 50% packages.  While this is true in the first generation, meaning a child does receive half of each parent’s DNA, they do not receive 25% of each grandparent’s DNA.

4 – That segments over a certain threshold, like 5 or 7 cM, are all reliable as IBD (identical by descent.)

5 – That segments under a certain threshold, like 5 or 7 cM are all unreliable and should never be used, in fact, cannot ever be used and should be discarded.

6 – That there is a rule that you cannot have more than two crossovers per chromosome.

All individuals tested at Family Tree DNA and we’ll be using the FTDNA chromosome browser for comparisons.

First, let’s look at the amount of expected DNA matching versus the actual amount of DNA matching, per generation.  The entire number of cM being measured is 6766.2, per the ISOGG Autosomal Statistics Wiki page.

Expected vs Actual Inheritance Chart

This chart compares the expected versus actual amount of DNA shared between person 1 and person 2,

Person 1 Person 2 Expected DNA Match cM/% Actual DNA Match
Grandmother Parent (grandmother’s child) 3383.1 / 50% 3384.03 / 50.01%
Grandmother Pink Child (grandmother’s grandchild) 1691.5 / 25% 1670.64 / 24.69%
Grandmother Blue Grandchild (grandmother’s great-grandchild) 845.775 / 12.5% 704.84 / 10.39%
Grandmother Green Grandchild (grandmother’s great-grandchild) 845.775 / 12.5% 842.64 / 12.45%

Chromosome Data

Now, let’s take a look at our chromosome data.  Keep in mind, everyone is being compared to the oldest generation – in this case – the great-grandmother’s DNA.


  • The background chromosome belongs to the great-grandmother of the youngest generation – meaning everyone is being compared to her.
  • Grandparent = orange – because the child receives 50% of each parent’s DNA, the orange child of the great-grandmother will match her DNA 100%.
  • Grandchild = pink – since the grandchild is being compared to the grandparent, and not their parent, we will see how much of the grandmother’s DNA the pink child received. The dark spaces are the “ghost image” of the grandfather’s DNA – identified by the lack of the grandmother’s DNA in that location.
  • Oldest great grandchild = blue
  • Youngest great grandchild = green

The two great grandchildren are full siblings.  None of the parents involved are related to each other or to other generational spouses.  This has been confirmed both by genealogy pedigree chart and by utilizing the tools at GedMatch for comparisons to each other as well as the “are your parents related” tool.

The first comparison, below, shows the 4 individuals compared to the great grandmother’s DNA at the Family Tree DNA with the match default set at 5cM

4 gen ftdna default

The image below, shows the same individuals after dropping the match criteria to 1cM.  Several small colored segments appear.

4 gen ftdna 1 cm

I downloaded all of the matching data for these individuals into a spreadsheet so that I could work with the actual chromosomal data.  I’m not boring you with that here, but I have used the raw matching data for the actual comparisons.


Let’s talk about what a crossover is, because understanding crossovers are important

Crossover example 1 – A crossover is where you start/stop receiving DNA from one grandparent or the other.  This is easy to see if we look at chromosome 1.

4 gen crossover

In this example, the parent is orange and the child is pink but they are both being compared to the grandparent of the pink person, the mother of the orange person.

What this means is that while the orange person will always match the grey background chromosome of their mother, the pink person will only match their grandmother on the portion of the DNA they received from their mother that was from their grandmother.  The pink person received their grandfather’s DNA in some locations, and not their grandmother’s.  Where that transition happens is called a crossover and it is where the colored segment stops, as noted by the arrows above, and the back background begins, indicating no match to the grandmother.

You can see that the matches span the center of the chromosome where the grey area indicates there is no data being read.  There is also a second small grey area to the right of the center.  Ignore these grey areas.  They are in essence DNA deserts where there isn’t enough DNA to be read or useful.  Family Tree DNA (and other vendors) stitch the data on both sides together, so to speak, and matches on both sides of this area are considered to be contiguous matches.

You can see that the pink person has two crossover areas where they stopped receiving DNA from the mother’s mother (background chromosome being compared against) and instead started receiving DNA from the mother’s father.  How do we know that?  There only two people who contributed the orange parent’s DNA that the pink child inherited.  If the pink child did not inherit the orange parent’s Mom’s DNA on this segment, then the pink child had to have inherited the orange parent’s Dad’s DNA.

Crossover example 2 – A second kind of crossover is where you are still receiving DNA from the same parent, but from different ancestors on that parental line

I’ve created a chart to illustrate this phenomenon

The names in the charts at the bottom are the people who tested today.  All of these individuals are known cousins who are from my mother’s side.  The name at the top is the common ancestor of all of the testers.

In the first situation, in locations 1-5, Me, Charlie and David match.  None of the three of us match our cousin, Mary on those locations.  However, moving to locations 6-10, Me, Charlie and Mary match each other, but not David.  Looking at our pedigree charts, we can see that the cousins are matching on different ancestral lines.

4 gen generational crossover

Me, Charlie and David share a wife’s line, Sally (wife of John), that Mary does not share.  Me, Charlie and Mary share common DNA from George, a male further upstream in that line.  George’s son John married Sally.  Mary descends from George through a different child, which is why she does not match any of us on the segments we received from Sally, John’s wife.

Location Me Charlie David Mary
1 Sally Sally Sally No match
2 Sally Sally Sally No match
3 Sally Sally Sally No match
4 Sally Sally Sally No match
5 Sally Sally Sally No match
6 George George No match George
7 George George No match George
8 George George No match George
9 George George No match George
10 George George No match George

If you’re just looking at the question, “do Charlie and I match?” the answer would of course be yes, but until we look at a broader spectrum of cousins, we won’t know that our match is actually from two different people in the same descendancy line and that we have an ancestor crossover between locations 5 and 6.  However, we’re still receiving our DNA from the same parent, but which ancestor of that parent contributed the DNA has switched

How prevalent are crossovers?

Number of Crossover Events

These are all parent/child crossovers where the DNA donor switched.  We can only determine that this happened because we can compare generationally against the grey background great grandmother to the youngest generation

  • Orange parent to Pink child – 49
  • Pink child to Blue child – 47
  • Pink child to Green child – 39

The most segmented chromosome, chromosome 1, has 5 separate matching segments for the blue great grandchild (as compared to the great-grandmother), or 10 crossover events (because neither end was at the beginning or end, although start and end numbers are sometimes “fuzzy”).  You can see where a crossover event occurs when the DNA goes from matching to non-matching.

4 gen chr 1 crossovers


I downloaded all of our matching data into a spreadsheet so that I can work with the segment matches individually.

Looking at the data, there are a few things that jump out immediately:

  • On chromosomes 4 and 14, the pink child received none of the orange grandmother’s DNA. That means that the pink child had to have received the grandfather’s DNA for all of chromosome 15. So, if anyone thinks that the 50% rule really works uniformly across generations – here’s concrete proof that it doesn’t. Furthermore, this occurred for an entire chromosome – twice out of 23 chromosomes, or 8.7% of the time.
  • On chromosome 11, the exact opposite happened. The pink child received all of the grandmother’s chromosome, but barely gave any to their blue child. The blue child received their mother’s DNA in that location. On chromosome 13, the pink child received almost all of the grandmother’s DNA.
  • Please note that while the averages of expected versus inherited DNA work out pretty closely, when averaging across all 23 chromosomes, as shown in the Expected vs Actual Inheritance Chart, the individual chromosomes and how much of which grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s DNA is inherited varies wildly from none to 100%.
  • There are several locations on 10 different chromosomes where the DNA has been passed generationally intact 2 or 3 times, without division.
  • Several small segments have been created within 3 transmission events.There are small green and blue segments on several different chromosomes which reflect very small amounts of the great grandmother’s DNA inherited by the green and blue great-grandchildren. This conclusively dismisses the theory that small segments aren’t ever created within a couple of generations.
  • Chromosome 10 is very choppy, including small blue and green grandchild segments that match the orange grandparent and the great-grandmother without having matches to the pink child. This means that those unconnected blue and green small segments are either identical by chance or there is a read issue with the pink person’s DNA on this chromosome.
  • There are a total of 31 small segments, meaning under 7cM. Of those, a total of 10 do not triangulate, meaning they match the grandmother but they do not match their parent.  The 7 pink segments appear to triangulate, but without another generation of transmission (like the blue and green great-grandchildren), or without the grandfather’s DNA, or without triangulation with a known relative on that segment, it’s impossible to tell for sure. Therefore, 14, or 45% are valid segments and do triangulate.
  • There are a total of 92 chromosomal transmission events that took place, meaning that 23 chromosomes got passed from the background person to their orange child, 23 from the orange child to their pink child, 23 from the pink child to the blue grandchild and 23 from the pink child to the green grandchild.
  • Furthermore, based on this limited study, at least 32.26% of the small segments do not triangulate and are not IBD, but are instead identical by chance.
  • In three instances, the exact DNA (from the great grandmother) was given to both the green and blue great grandchildren. In eight other events, the same DNA, without division, was given from a parent to one child.
  • There are several instances, on chromosomes 3, 4, 9, 14, 15, 16, 20, and 22 where the pink child passed none of their grandmother’s DNA to their child, even though they inherited the grandmother’s DNA.

Individual Chromosomes and Their Messages

I’d like to walk through several chromosomes and chat a little bit about what we’re seeing.

Chromosome 1

4 gen chr 1

First, I’d like to illustrate the difference between chromosome matches at the default level (the first chromosome, above) and at the 1cM level (the lower chromosome.)  At the lower match threshold, you will see additional small segment matches that are not shown at the higher threshold, noted by red arrows.

Let’s take a look at the messages held by our individual chromosomes.

On all of these chromosomes, you’ll see that the orange child matches thier mother, the background person being compared against, exactly, on every location that is measured.  Half of everyone’s DNA comes from their mother, so all of their DNA will match to her on any given chromosome.  Remember, we are only measuring matching DNA (half identical segments) – so the other half of the person’s DNA that matches their father is not shown.

I have left the orange segments in the graphics, even though they all match on the entire chromosome length, so you can see the continuity from generation to generation.  Pink is the orange person’s child, so you can see that the pink child inherited part of the DNA the orange person inherited from their mother, but not all.  The part that is black in the pink row, as compared to the orange segment, means that the pink child inherited that DNA from their grandfather at those locations – and not the grandmother being compared against

In one instance, on chromosome 1, the pink child gave their grandmother’s DNA to both of their children.  You can see that to the far left with the red arrow.

4 gen chr 1 grandmother transmission

You can also see that the blue grandchild only received a small part of their great grandmother’s DNA, but the green grandchild received a much larger segment.

In one area, the pink child clearly received their grandmother’s DNA, but didn’t give any of it to either the blue or green grandchild, shown below at the red arrow.  There is no blue or green matching the great-grandmother’s DNA.

4 gen chr 1 no transmission

To the right of the arrow, top, above, you can see where the pink child contributed their grandmother’s DNA to their blue child, but not to the green child.  The pink child contributed their other parent’s DNA in that instance, bottom, above, because their child does not match their orange mother – so that DNA had to come from the grandfather.

On the chromosome match that includes the smaller segments, below, you can see there are a total of 5 segments not shown with the higher threshold.

4 gen chr 1 small segments

The first two arrows, on the left, point to small segments shared by the blue and green grandchildren with their great-grandmother and their pink parent – so these triangulate and they are fine.

The third arrow, on the right hand side pointing to the green segment that does not match with the pink parent indicates a match that is identical by chance.  We’ll talk more about this in chromosome 3.

The fourth arrow, at the far right, shows a small segment of orange DNA that was passed to their pink child, but the pink child did not pass it on to either of their children.  This segment could be a legitimate segment by descent, but it could also be by chance.  We’ll talk about that more on chromosome 8.

Chromosome 2

4 gen chr 2

Chromosome 2 shows two small segments.  You can see that the pink child gave a significant portion of their grandmother’s DNA to the blue child, but only two small segments to the green child in that region, at the red arrows.  They do triangulate though, because they match their parents.  See how nicely the DNA stacks up between all of the generations.

Chromosome 3

4 gen chr 3

The pink child inherited very little of the grandmother’s DNA in this region.  Of the small amount the pink child did inherit, the pink child gave even less of it to their children.  One small piece to the green grandchild, shown at right, and none to the blue grandchild.

Why, then, is there a lonely blue segment on this comparison chromosome showing that the blue great-grandchild matches their orange grandmother and their great-grandmother, but not their pink parent?  This is the first example of an identical by chance segment (or a read error in the pink parent’s file).

4 gen chr 3 small seg

Three Kinds of DNA Match Segments

There are three kinds of DNA segment matches.

  1. Identical by descent (IBD) where you receive the segment from your ancestors and we can track it as far back up the tree as we have living people. This is the example where the small segment of the great-grandchildren (blue or green) match their parent (pink), their grandparent (orange) and their great-grandmother’s background chromosome being compared against.
  2. Identical by state (IBS) which sometimes is used to mean not identical by descent. What it actually means is that you can still match and receive the DNA from your ancestors, but the segment may be very prevalent in a specific community or ethnic group. An alternative explanation is that the DNA ‘state’ is so common that everyone in that area has it, so it’s virtually useless in identifying ancestors, because you can’t really tell which lines it came from. So IBS does triangulate, because it did come from a common ancestor, but you may match a large number of people at this location. Portions of chromosome 6 are known to fall into this category.  More often than not, I hear IBS used to indicate that there is a match, but the common ancestor isn’t known or hasn’t yet been identified.
  3. Identical by chance (IBC) is where a specific DNA combination is a match, but it’s not a match because it was handed down ancestrally, but simply by the luck of the draw.  Because everyone carries the DNA of both parents, sometimes people can match you by zigzagging back and forth between your father’s and mother’s DNA.  These matches aren’t ancestral, but just by luck or chance.  Shorter matches, meaning small segments, are much more likely to be identical by chance than longer matches. When you have both parents DNA, you can easily eliminate IBC segments because they won’t triangulate – as we have just demonstrated on chromosome 3.

You can read more about this here and here.

Chromosome 4

4 gen chr 4

Chromosome 4 is particularly interesting because the orange person matches their background mother, of course, but apparently their pink child inherited this entire chromosome from the pink person’s grandfather – because the pink person does not match their grandmother – there are no pink matching segments to the background grandmother.

Chromosome 5

On chromosome 5, the pink child matches the grandmother on almost the entire chromosome, except for a small part to the left of center.

4 gen chr 5

You may notice that there is a segment of blue that appears to extend beyond the pink bar at the left arrow – which would mean that the blue area matches the great-grandmother without matching the pink parent.  The segments on the chromosome map are not exactly to scale, and the beginnings and ends are sometimes what is referred to as fuzzy.  This means that they are not exact measurements but that they in essence the absence or presence of DNA in a bucket of a specific size.  If any part of your DNA is in that bucket, then your start or stop segment are the edges of that bucket.  In this case, the entire match is 47.51cM for the pink child and 49.82 for the blue grandchild, so the difference may or may not be relevant.

Although this actually is a small matching segment, or non-matching segment, you would never notice this if you were just looking at the blue grandchild matching to the great grandmother.  It’s only with the introduction of the parent’s pink DNA that you notice that the blue great grandchild’s DNA match with the great grandmother extends beyond that of the parent.

Chromosome 6

4 gen chr 6

Chromosome 6 is rather unremarkable except that the orange person seems to have had a read or file error of some sort.  The orange results are shown in two separate pieces, but we know that the orange person must match their mother 100%.  We know this issue is in the orange person’s file, because their pink child and both of the blue and green grandchildren match the background person, the orange persons’ mother, with no break in their DNA.

Chromosome 7

4 gen chr 7

Chromosome 7 shows another example of 5 generations matching with the stacking of orange, blue, green and pink against the background person’s chromosome, at right.  It also shows another example an identical by chance match, with the blue grandchild showing a match to their great-grandmother but no match to their pink parents, near the center at the red arrow.

Chromosome 8

4 gen chr 8

Chromosome 8 shows another example of the pink child having inherited a small segment of their grandmother’s DNA, but not passing it on to their children.

How do we know if this is a legitimate IBD segment, or if it something else?  Since the pink child will match their mother 100%, and they didn’t pass it on tho their children, how can we prove that the small pink segment where they match their grandmother is  IBD.

How could we prove this one way or the other?

First of all, it probably doesn’t matter, except as a matter of interest – or unless of course this one segment is THE one you need to identify that colonial ancestor.  If this was a normal match, we could just see if the match matched the child and the parent too, which would immediately phase the match against their parent – but we can’t do that when matching to a grandparent because the child will always match their parent 100%.

If you have the grandfather’s DNA at Family Tree DNA, you could compare the pink grandchild to their grandfather. On chromosome 8, the grandfather’s DNA in the pink row is identified by the dark grey – because it’s where the pink grandchild does not match their grandmother – so they must match their grandfather on that segment because their orange parent only had two pieces of DNA to give them, the piece from their mother or the piece from their father.

Therefore, if this is a valid segment, then you won’t see at match in the grandfather’s DNA on same portion of the segment.  If you see a match to both the grandmother and the grandfather, it’s likely that the small segment match to the grandmother is not identical by descent –  you but really don’t know for sure.

How could that be?  I asked David Pike that question and he pointed out that in one case, he discovered that the grandparents both shared the same DNA segment.  The child inherited it from one parent or the other, and passed it on to their child, but since the mother’s and father’s DNA was identical, there is no way to tell which grandparent the segment actually came from.  And in this case, the segment would match both grandparents.  That is a trait of endogamy and of IBS, or identical by population.  If you’re saying, BOO, HISS, about now, I totally understand.

After talking to David, I also realized that if your DNA at those locations just happens to be all homozygous, for example, all Ts, on both sides, for a run of SNPs in a row, and if your parents and grandparents have Ts in either location, you will match them…and anyone else who does too.

So here we have an example of a match that could be IBD if it truly is a small segment by descent and you don’t match the other grandparent at that location.  It could be IBC or IBS (by population) if you match both of your grandparents on this segment – but it might be IBD.  It’s IBD from one and IBC/IBS from the other – but which one is which?

However, since I don’t have the grandfather’s DNA at Family Tree DNA, my only other alternative is to move to GedMatch and create a phased kit for the grandfather by subtracting the grandmother’s DNA from her orange child, which will give me the DNA the orange child received from their father.  Then I can compare the pink grandchild to the grandfather’s phased kit – which is the father’s DNA that the orange child received.  This is fine, even if it is only half of the grandfather’s DNA – it s the half that the pink child’s mother received and passed a portion to the pink child.

I would suggest doing this entire exercise on either Family Tree DNA or on the GedMatch platform, and not jumping back and forth between the two.  The start and stop segments aren’t exactly the same, and sometimes the segments read differently, creating more segments at GedMatch than at FTDNA.  I’m not saying that is wrong, just that it isn’t consistent between the two platforms and when you are dealing with small segments, in particular, you need consistency.

Chromosome 9

4 gen chr 9

On chromosome 9, the pink child received little of the grandmother’s DNA, and gave none of it to their green child.  And yes, if you have a good eye the blue child’s right boundary is slightly beyond the their pink parents – so – you already know what that means.  Either a fuzzy boundary or a slight piece of DNA that happened to match with the great-grandmother identical by chance (IBC.)

Chromosome 10

4 gen chr 10

This chromosome is incredibly interesting because it’s comprised of all small segments.  In fact, this is the exact reason why you NEED to look at the 1cM range.  At the default setting, if there are no matches except the orange person to their mother.  It looks like none of the grandmother’s DNA was passed to the pink child, but in fact, may not be the case.  There are three segments passed to the pink child, although the pink child did not pass these on to either of their children.  See the discussion on segment 8 about how to tell for sure, if you need to.

The blue and green segments, since they do not match their pink parent are not IBD but are instead IBC.  The really interesting part of this is that in one case, the blue and green grandchildren’s DNA matches the orange grandmother on the same segments exactly, but does not match the pink parent.

How can this possible be, you ask, barring a file read issue?  Good question.  Remember, each child inherits half of their parent’s DNA.  In this case, both children apparently inherited the same DNA from both parents, but it wasn’t the orange DNA, but that of the pink child’s father.

It just happened, when the blue and green children’s DNA combined with that of their mother, it just happens to read as a match, for a small segment.  You can read about how this might happen in the article, “How Phasing Works and Determining IBD Versus IBS Matches.”

Unfortunately, all these comparisons can do is to tell us simply what does and does not match – they can’t tell us why.  Sometimes, based on other comparisons, like phasing and triangulation, we can figure out the “why” part of the puzzle – and sometimes, we can’t.

Chromosome 11

4 gen chr 11

On chromosome 11, the pink child inherited all of the grandmother’s DNA through their orange parent, but gave less than half to their green child and a small segment to the blue child.  The pink child gave the exact same segment in the center to both their blue and green children.

Chromosome 12

4 gen chr 12

On chromosome 12, the pink child inherited little of their grandmother’s DNA, but passed every bit of what they inherited to both of their children, shown by the nice stack at right.  The start and stop locations are exact between the three.

However, in addition, we have three small segments where the green and blue grandchildren match their orange grandmother without matching their pink parent – so those are IBC.

Chromosome 13

4 gen chr 13

The pink child inherited almost all of their grandmother’s entire chromosome, except for a very small bit at the far right end.  The pink child passed almost their entire chromosome 13 to their green child, but only a small amount to the blue child.

Chromosome 14

4 gen chr 14

This story is easy.  The pink child inherited their grandfather’s entire chromosome 14 because they do not match their grandmother’s DNA at all.

Chromosome 15

4 gen chr 15

This is a very “normal” chromosome.  The pink child inherited about half of their grandmother’s DNA and gave about half of what they inherited to their green child.  Of course, their blue child got left out altogether – but that looks to be a lot more “normal” than we once thought.

I am skipping chromosome 16-22, because they are more of what you’ve already seen and is, by now, quite familiar  Plus, you can take a look at the full chromosome comparison graphic and do your own analysis.

X Chromosome

The X chromosome is a bit different, and I’d like to take a look at that.

4 gen X

The X chromosome has special inheritance properties that other chromosomes don’t have.  In particular, women inherit an X just like they inherit their other chromosomes from 1-22 – one from Mom and one from Dad.  Men, however, only receive an X from their mother.  Therefore, there are relatives that you cannot inherit any X DNA from.  I wrote about this here and here along with examples and charts.

In this example, the inheritance path is such that it does not affect what can and cannot be inherited since we are comparing to a great-grandmother, but in other situations,  this would not be the case.

One last observation about the X chromosome.  I have found matching on the X to be particularly unreliable, and have found several situations, where, due to those special inheritance properties, we know beyond any doubt that the common ancestor on the X cannot be the same ancestor as has triangulated on the other chromosomes.  So word to the wise – be very vigilant and hesitant to draw conclusions from X matching.  I never utilize the X without corroborating autosomal matches and even then, I’m very reticent.

In Summary

On the average, we do inherit about half of our DNA from in each generation from each ancestral generation.  But the average and the actuality of what happens is two entirely different things.  Averages are made up of all of the outliers, and if you are one of those outliers, the average isn’t really relevant to you.  Kind of reminds me of “one size fits all” which really means “one size fits almost nobody well” and “everyone is some shade of unhappy.”

I wrote about generational inheritance and how it doesn’t always work the way we think, or expect.  It’s very important to pay close attention to your own DNA and not rely on averages unless you have absolutely no other choice – and only then understanding the averages are likely wrong in one direction or the other – but it’s the best we’ve got, under the circumstances.

So what can we apply to our genealogy from this little experiment.

  1. Some of the small segments across 4 generations are valid, meaning identical by descent or IBD.
  2. At least one third of the small segments aren’t valid and are identical by chance, or IBC.
  3. Without some form of triangulation or parental phasing, it’s impossible to tell which small segments are and are not valid, or identical by descent.
  4. Small segments are indeed formed within a 2 or 3 generation span, so they are not always a results of many generations of dividing.
  5. However, the further back in time your ancestor, the more likely that they will only be represented in your DNA by small segments, if any.
  6. Many small segments are valid and are not a result of IBC.  However, most are not and one needs to understand how to recognize signs of an IBC vs an IBD match.
  7. Disregarding small segments uniformly is like throwing away the only clues you may have to your most distant ancestors – which are likely your brick walls.
  8. The largest segment that was not valid was 3.14cM and 600 SNPs.
  9. The smallest valid segment was 1.25cM and 500 SNPs.

Getting the Most Out of Your DNA Experience

There is a lot more information available to us in our DNA results than is first apparent.  It takes a bit of digging and you need to understand how autosomal DNA works in order to ferret out those secrets.  Don’t discount or ignore evidence because it’s more difficult to use – meaning small segments.  The very piece or breadcrumb you need to solve a long-standing mystery may indeed be right there waiting for you.  Learn how to use your DNA information effectively and accurately – including those small segments.

You need to test every cousin you can find and convince to swab or spit.  It’s those cousin matches that help immensely with triangulation and confirming the validity of all DNA segments, matching them back to common ancestors.  You are building walkways or maybe pathways back in time, with your DNA as the steppingstones.  Genetic genealogy is not a one person endeavor.  It takes a village, hopefully of cousins willing to DNA test!



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Genealogy Research

Bryan Cranston – Who Do You Think You Are – “A Dissipated Man”

You may know actor Bryan Cranston from his roles in “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Breaking Bad.”  The Bryan you’ll see on Who Do You Think You are on Sunday, August 23rd, on TLC is completely different.

Bryan Cranston and Christopher look over a document.

Bryan Cranston and Christopher look over a document – courtesy TLC.

Bryan Cranston describes his childhood growing up in Los Angeles as a happy one… until the day his father, an unsuccessful actor, left the family when Bryan was 11. Even though he eventually reconnected with his dad, Bryan has always been curious whether there are trace elements of men who don’t meet their familial responsibilities that have filtered down from generations.

Bryan travels to his father’s hometown, Chicago, and meets with a local genealogist to help him jump-start his search. A 1930 census reveals two things that Bryan did not know: his grandfather Edward was a World War I veteran – and his grandmother Alice was NOT his grandfather’s first wife!

Digging deeper, Bryan sees that on Edward Cranston’s WWI draft card, he indicated he had a wife and child – confirming he was not only married once before, but he had a daughter – an aunt Bryan never knew existed. To find more information on the wife and child, Bryan looks through divorce records, and discovers a filing for an Irene Cranston vs. Edward Cranston. Through this document, Bryan learns the name of his aunt: Kathleen. He’s saddened to see that Irene accused Edward of abandoning her and their 8 year old daughter – the first sign that this is indeed a pattern in the Cranston line. Curious about the fate of his aunt, Bryan discovers that Kathleen died of tuberculosis at just 16.

Knowing that Edward fought in WWI, Bryan heads to the Illinois State Archives in hopes he will find some more WWI documents pertaining to his grandfather. There, he pores over a copy of Edward’s Honorable Discharge Record from WWI. Bryan learns that Edward was not drafted, but enlisted; choosing to leave his family and go to war.

Edward served as an engineer and endured intense conditions as he constructed bridges while under heavy shelling and gunfire from the Germans. As Bryan peruses his grandfather’s record, a couple entries catch his eye. First, Bryan is surprised to see that under “vocation,” Edward’s profession states “actor”! Second, Bryan is taken aback to see his grandfather has listed himself as “single,” which he knows is not true. Bryan is disappointed to learn that Edward may have done this to prevent the government from automatically taking money out of his paycheck and sending it to his wife and daughter, which was standard at the time to provide for the families back home.

Wanting to know about Edward’s own roots, Bryan finds a 1910 census which shows his grandfather Edward at 5 years old living with Bryan’s great-grandparents, Daniel and Margaret Cranston. Bryan is relieved to see they were married for 41 years – a break in the cycle of desertion! Daniel was born in Canada and Margaret in Ireland. This confirms the rumor Bryan has heard that the Cranston clan came through Canada. But where in Canada did he come from? For more information about his great-grandfather, Bryan consults a 1937 Death Certificate for Daniel Cranston. Not only does Bryan see that Daniel was born in Montreal, but he also learns the names of he 2x great-grandparents, Henry Cranston and Sarah McLeod. The Irish in Montreal were largely Catholic, meaning it is very likely that baptismal records exist there for Daniel. Bryan heads to Montreal to find out more about the Cranston clan.

At the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, Bryan discovers the baptismal record for his great-grandfather, Daniel James Cranston, from 1849. The record is brief, but does tell Bryan that Daniel was baptized “of the legitimate marriage of Joseph Cranston, carpenter, absent, and Sarah McLeod of this parish…” Absent! Is this the right Cranston? It’s puzzling that Daniel’s father is listed as Joseph, but the historian points out that this is the only Cranston/McLeod family at the time with children, so it is likely this is the correct family.

Investigating further, Bryan looks at a 1861 Canadian Census and sees an entry for “D. Cranston” living in the “Ladies Benevolent Institution,” an orphanage. Orphanage records indicate Daniel was given to the orphanage because his mother had to go to work as a servant because his father was a “dissipated man.” Joseph had indeed abandoned his family, and was the 3rd generation of Cranston men to do so.

Next, Bryan finds a record for “1882 US National Home for Disabled Veterans Register for Joseph H. Cranston.” This lists Joseph, Bryan’s 2x great-grandfather, as having served in the Civil War, and then being admitted into the Veterans home in 1883 and passing away there in 1889. The military home in Dayton, Ohio still exists today, and Bryan heads there to see what Joseph’s life, and death, there may have been like.

At the Veteran’s Soldier home in Dayton, Bryan finds a newspaper article about his great-grandfather’s death. The article outlines Joseph’s final evening and reveals that Joseph and a pal from the Veteran’s home were on a night out, “becoming more or less intoxicated,” and paid for a hotel room. When they didn’t wake in the morning, the landlord went to the room and “found the room full of gas and the two men lying on the bed in a lifeless condition.” Bryan discovers that his 2x great-grandfather is buried opposite the soldier’s home and visits his ancestor’s grave.

Bryan Cranston in the cemetery.

Bryan Cranston in the cemetery – courtesy TLC.

In the cemetery, Bryan reflects on the Cranston men. Of the 3 relatives he’s found, only one seems to have stayed with his family, including his father. The others seemed to shirk all family responsibilities, and dedicated themselves to being a soldier instead.

However, Bryan can take comfort in knowing he was able to reconnect with his father, and in being committed to his own wife and children – something other Cranston’s weren’t able to do.

I really felt for Bryan in this episode.  It’s difficult to find ancestors and find their behavior and choices so personally disappointing.  Thankfully, Bryan broke that cycle.  I do find it interesting that at one point, Bryan asked, “is there something in the DNA.?”  I’ve wondered that myself on more than one occasion.



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Ethnicity Testing and Results

I have written repeatedly about ethnicity results as part of the autosomal test offerings of the major DNA testing companies, but I still receive lots of questions about which ethnicity test is best, which is the most accurate, etc.  Take a look at “Ethnicity Percentages – Second Generation Report Card” for a detailed analysis and comparison.

First, let’s clarify which testing companies we are talking about.  They are:

Let’s make this answer unmistakable.

  1. Some of the companies are somewhat better than others relative to ethnicity – but not a lot.
  2. These tests are reasonably reliable when it comes to a continent level test – meaning African, European, Asian and sometimes, Native American.
  3. These tests are great at detecting ancestry over 25% – but if you know who your grandparents are – you already have that information.
  4. The usefulness of these tests for accurately providing ethnicity information diminishes as the percentage of that minority admixture declines.  Said another way – as your percentage of a particular ethnicity decreases, so does the testing companies’ ability to find it.
  5. Intra-continental results, meaning within Europe, for example, are speculative, at best.  Do not expect them to align with your known genealogy.  They likely won’t – and if they do at one vendor – they won’t at others.  Which one is “right”?  Who knows – maybe all of them when you consider population movement, migration and assimilation.
  6. As the vendors add to and improve their data bases, reference populations and analysis tools, your results change. I discussed how vendors determine your ethnicity percentages in the article, “Determining Ethnicity Percentages.”
  7. Sometimes unexpected results, especially continent level results, are a factor of ancient population mixing and migrations, not recent admixture – and it’s impossible to tell the difference. For example, the Celts, from the Germanic area of Europe also settled in the British Isles. Attila the Hun and his army, from Asia, invaded and settled in what is today, Germany, as well as other parts of Eastern Europe.
  8. Ethnicity tests are unreliable in consistently detecting minority admixture. Minority in this context means a small amount, generally less than 5%.  It does not refer to any specific ethnicity. Having said that, there are very few reference data base entries for Native American populations.  Most are from from Canada and South America.

In the context of ethnicity, what does unreliable mean?

Unreliable means that the results are not consistent and often not reproducible across platforms, especially in terms of minority admixture.  For example, a German/Hungarian family member shows Native American admixture at low percentages, around 3%, at some, but not all, vendors.  His European family history does not reflect Native heritage and in fact, precludes it.  However, his results likely reflect Native American from a common underlying ancestral population, the Yamnaya, between the Asian people who settled Hungary and parts of Germany and also contributed to the Native American population.

Unreliable can also mean that different vendors, measuring different parts of your DNA, can assign results to different regions.  For example, if you carry Celtic ancestry, would you be surprised to see Germanic results and think they are “wrong?”  Speaking of Celts, they didn’t just stay put in one region within Europe either.  And who were the Celts and where did they ‘come from’ before they were Celts.  All of this current and ancient admixture is carried in your DNA.  Teasing it out and the meaning it carries is the challenge.

Unreliable may also mean that the tests often do not reflect what is “known” in terms of family history.  I put the word “known” in quotes here, because oral history does not constitute “known” and it’s certainly not proof.  For the most part, documented genealogy does constitute “known” but you can never “know” about an undocumented adoption, also referred to as a “nonparental event” or NPE.  Yes, that’s when one or both parents are not who you think they are based on traditional information.  With the advent of DNA testing, NPEs can, in some instances, be discovered.

So, the end result is that you receive very interesting information about your genetic history that often does not correlate with what you expected – and you are left scratching your head.

However, in some cases, if you’re looking for something specific – like a small amount of Native American or African ancestry, you, indeed, can confirm it through your DNA – and can confirm your family history.  One thing is for sure, if you don’t test, you will never know.

Minority Admixture

Let’s take a look at how ethnicity estimates work relative to minority admixture.

In terms of minority admixture, I’m referring to admixture that is several generations back in your tree.  It’s often revealed in oral history, but unproven, and people turn to genetic genealogy to prove those stories.

In my case, I have several documented Native American lines and a few that are not documented.  All of these results are too far back in time, the 1600s and 1700s, to realistically be “found” in autosomal admixture tests consistently.  I also have a small amount of African admixture.  I know which line this comes from, but I don’t know which ancestor, exactly.  I have worked through these small percentages systematically and documented the process in the series titled, “The Autosomal Me.”  This is not an easy or quick process – and if quick and easy is the type of answer you’re seeking – then working further, beyond what the testing companies give you, with small amounts of admixture, is probably not for you.

Let’s look at what you can expect in terms of inheritance admixture.  You receive 50% of your DNA from each parent, and so forth, until eventually you receive very little DNA (or none) from your ancestors from many generations back in your tree.

Ethnicity DNA table

Let’s put this in perspective.  The first US census was taken in 1790, so your ancestors born in 1770 should be included in the 1790 census, probably as a child, and in following censuses as an adult.  You carry less than 1% of this ancestor’s DNA.

The first detailed census listing all family members was taken in 1850, so most of your ancestors that contributed more than 1% of your DNA would be found on that or subsequent detailed census forms.

These are often not the “mysterious” ancestors that we seek.  These ancestors, whose DNA we receive in amounts over 1%, are the ones we can more easily track through traditional means.

The reason the column of DNA percentages is labeled “approximate” is because, other than your parents, you don’t receive exactly half of your ancestor’s DNA.  DNA is not divided exactly in half and passed on to subsequence generations, except for what you receive from your parents.  Therefore, you can have more or less of any one ancestor’s individual DNA that would be predicted by the chart, above.  Eventually, as you continue to move further out in your tree, you may carry none of a specific ancestor’s DNA or it is in such small pieces that it is not detected by autosomal DNA testing.

The Vendors

At least two of the three major vendors have made changes of some sort this year in their calculations or underlying data bases.  Generally, they don’t tell us, and we discover the change by noticing a difference when we look at our results.

Historically, Ancestry has been the worst, with widely diverging estimates, especially within continents.  However, their current version is picking up both my Native and African.  However, with their history of inconsistency and wildly inaccurate results, it’s hard to have much confidence, even when the current results seem more reasonable and in line with other vendors.  I’ve adopted a reserved “wait and see” position with Ancestry relative to ethnicity.

Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder product is in the middle with consistent results, but they don’t report less than 1% admixture which is often where those distant ancestors’ minority ethnicity would be found, if at all.  However, Family Tree DNA does provide Y and mitochondrial mapping comparisons, and ethnicity comparisons to your matches that are not provided by other vendors.

Ethnicity DNA matches

In this view, you can see the matching ethnicity percentages for those whom you match autosomally.

23andMe is currently best in terms of minority ethnicity detection, in part, because they report amounts less than 1%, have a speculative view, which is preferred by most genetic genealogists and because they paint your ethnicity on your chromosomes, shown below.  You can see that both chromosome 1 and 2 show Native segments.

Ethnicity 23andMe chromosome

So, looking at minority admixture only – let’s take a look at today’s vendor results as compared to the same vendors in May 2014.

Ethnicity 2014-2015 compare

The Rest of the Story

Keep in mind, we’re only discussing ethnicity here – and there is a lot more to autosomal DNA testing than ethnicity – for example – matching to cousins, tools, such as a chromosome browser (or lack thereof), trees, ease of use and ability to contact your matches.  Please see “Autosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best?”  Unless ethnicity is absolutely the ONLY reason you are DNA testing, then you need to consider the rest of the story.

And speaking of the rest of the story, National Geographic has been pretty much omitted from this discussion because they have just announced a new upgrade, “Geno 2.0: Next Generation,” to their offering, which promises to be a better biogeographical tool.  I hope so – as National Geographic is in a unique position to evaluate populations with their focus on sample collection from what is left of unique and sometimes isolated populations.  We don’t have much information on the new product yet, and of course, no results because the new test won’t be released until in September, 2015.  So the jury is out on this one.  Stay tuned.

GedMatch – Not A Vendor, But a Great Toolbox

Finally, most people who are interested in ethnicity test at one (or all) of the companies, utilize the rest of the tools offered by that company, then download their results to www.gedmatch.com, a donation based site, and make use of the numerous contributed admixture tools there.

Ethnicity GedMatch

GedMatch offers lots of options and several tools that provide a wide range of focus.  For example, some tools are specifically written for European, African, Asian or even comparison against ancient DNA results.

Ethnicity ancient admixture


So what is the net-net of this discussion?

  1. There is a lot more to autosomal DNA testing than just ethnicity – so take everything into consideration.
  2. Ethnicity determination is still an infant and emerging field – with all vendors making relatively regular updates and changes. You cannot take minority results to the bank without additional and confirming research, often outside of genetic genealogy. However, mitochondrial or Y DNA testing, available only through Family Tree DNA, can positively confirm Native or minority ancestry in the lines available for testing. You can create a DNA Pedigree Chart to help identify or eliminate Native lines.
  3. If the ancestors you seek are more than a few generations removed, you may not carry enough of their ethnic DNA to be identified.
  4. Your “100% Cherokee” ancestor was likely already admixed – and so their descendants may carry even less Native DNA than anticipated.
  5. You cannot prove a negative using autosomal DNA (but you can with both Y and mitochondrial DNA). In other words, a negative autosomal ethnicity result alone, meaning no Native heritage, does NOT mean your ancestors were not Native. It MIGHT mean they weren’t Native. It also might mean that they were either very admixed or the Native ancestry is too far back in your tree to be found with today’s technology. Again, mitochondrial and Y DNA testing provide confirmed ancestry identification for the lines they represent. Y is the male paternal (surname) line and mitochondrial is the matrilineal line of both males and females – the mother’s, mother’s, mother’s line, on up the tree until you run out of mothers.
  6. It is very unlikely that you will be able to find your tribe, although it is occasionally possible. If a company says they can do this, take that claim with a very big grain of salt. Your internal neon warning sign should be flashing about now.
  7. If you’re considering purchasing an ethnicity test from a company other than the four I mentioned – well, just don’t.  Many use very obsolete technology and oversell what they can reliably provide.  They don’t have any better reference populations available to them than the major companies and Nat Geo, and let’s just say there are ways to “suggest” people are Native when they aren’t. Here are two examples of accidental ways people think they are Native or related – so just imagine what kind of damage could be done by a company that was intentionally providing “marginal” or misleading information to people who don’t have the experience to know that because they “match” someone who has a Native ancestor doesn’t mean they share that same Native ancestor – or any connection to that tribe. So, stay with the known companies if you’re going to engage in ethnicity testing. We may not like everything about the products offered by these companies, but we know and understand them.

My Recommendation

By all means, test.

Test with all three companies, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry – then download your results from either Family Tree DNA or Ancestry (who test more markers than 23andMe) to GedMatch and utilize their ethnicity tools.  When I’m looking for minority admixture, I tend to look for consistent trends – not just at results from any one vendor or source.

If you have already tested at Ancestry, or you tested at 23andMe on the V3 chip, prior to December 2013, you can download your raw data file to Family Tree DNA and pay just $39.  Family Tree DNA will process your raw data within a couple days and you will then see your myOrigins ethnicity results as interpreted by their software.  Of course, that’s in addition to having access to Family Tree DNA‘s other autosomal features, functions and tools.  The transfer price of $39 is significantly less expensive than retesting.

Just understand that what you receive from these companies in terms of ethnicity is reflective of both contemporary and ancient admixture – from all of your ancestral lines.  This field is in its infancy – your results will change from time to time as we learn – and the only part of ethnicity that is cast in concrete is probably your majority ancestry which you can likely discern by looking in the mirror.  The rest – well – it’s a mystery and an adventure.  Welcome aboard to the miraculous mysterious journey of you, as viewed through the DNA of your ancestors!



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