DNAeXplain Archives – Advanced DNA Articles

Today, another grouping of articles from the DNAeXplained archives.  This time, we’ll be looking at Advanced DNA.  The various categories are:

  • Historical or Obsolete – these are items that were interesting at the time by aren’t really relevant today – except in a historical context. An example would be the announcement of the Genographic 2 project in July of 2012. You may wonder why I didn’t delete these. Looking back, these are somewhat like a genetic genealogy journal.
  • General Information – these are generally articles about DNA and genealogy. They don’t presume that you’re actually working with the results.
  • Basic Education – this may be basic genealogy or basic DNA fundamentals. These articles provide a foundation for working with your results. Think of it as pre-bootcamp.
  • Introductory DNA – these articles do presume you are working with your results. Bootcamp begins here.
  • Intermediate DNA – these are a little more difficult and you’ll probably need the basics and introductory understanding to be able to work at this level.
  • Advanced DNA – very few articles are advanced. In fact, I try very hard to avoid this, when possible. Mostly, these have to do with advanced autosomal techniques and research.
  • Examples – these are examples of using genealogy and DNA together seamlessly. My 52 Ancestors stories fall into this category. Think of these as story problems that include the answers!
  • Educational – educational opportunities such as classes, books and videos.
  • Entertainment – just for fun, like the Who Do You Think You Are series, some of these have no DNA content.
  • Project Administration – articles written for project administrators at Family Tree DNA. Project administrators, of course, will be interested in all of the rest.
  • In the past we’ve covered Historical, General Information, Basic Education, Introductory and Intermediate DNA. Today, let’s look at Advanced DNA.
Title Date Link
Generational Inheritance 2-19-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/02/19/generational-inheritance/
Big Y Release 2-27-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/02/27/big-y-release/
Ancestor Reconstruction 10-3-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/10/03/ancestor-reconstruction/
A Study Utilizing Small Segment Matching 1-21-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/21/a-study-utilizing-small-segment-matching/

There are very few advanced DNA topics.  I like to break things down into simpler stems when possible, so by the time you get to advanced,  you understand all of the components individually.  You’ll notice a lot of educational links in all of the advanced articles.



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Thinking Outside the Box

Some of you may know that I’m speaking again at the Family Tree DNA Conference for project administrators being held in November in Houston.  This is the 11th conference, and I’ve attended them all.

I want to first and foremost thank Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld for hosting this legendary conference, for the 11th time, and for the opportunity and honor to speak to the attendees.

As I’ve been getting my thoughts and my presentation together for this conference, a couple of things have come to mind that I’d like to share.

My conference topic is “Y DNA to Autosomal Case Study – Kicking it Up a Notch.”

I know, the title doesn’t sound terribly interesting, but believe me, after beginning innocently enough, it turned out to be the project from Hell.  Followed by very interesting discoveries whereby it redeemed itself from Hell.

The session description is:

The Crumley surname project was relatively small and had already answered the burning question for which it was created.  Had it served its only purpose?  What else could be done?  The project administrators transitioned this Y DNA project to a Y-plus-autosomal DNA project quite successfully – and made some surprising discoveries along the way.  How did they go from a base of 5 to more than 50 participants in a few weeks?  What did they discover?  How do the descendants of two men born in the 1730s compare autosomally? (Yes, we have autosomal comparative data to 9th cousins.)  What can you learn and how can existing Y projects become the foundation of a hugely successful autosomal project?

But I have to tell you the truth….I made myself insane with this project.  I have over 50 people that had to be hand compared to each other – one by one.  If you’re counting, that’s 1250+ individual comparisons.  The results had to be compiled – which resulted in a spreadsheet of almost 9000 rows.  The relationships of the participants had to be defined, their genealogy collected and assembled and the results analyzed.  Which is what, of course, led to the discoveries I’ll be discussing at the conference.

During the time when I was doing all of those comparisons, I asked myself over and over, “why the dickens am I doing this?”

I realized sometime in the middle of the night last night – the answer to “why I’m doing this,” is really the answer to all of the questions about genetic genealogy research.

In fact, it’s exactly like this quilt.

Thinking Outside the Box

Ok, so what is a quilt doing in the middle of this genetic genealogy article?

Is it even a quilt?

It’s not square like a quilt…but it has blocks – well triangle blocks, three layers and a binding…and it was made by a quilter.  Me.  So it must be a quilt – but it’s unlike any other quilt in many ways.

Its name?

Thinking Outside the Box

That’s at once the disease and the cure!  And it’s the answer.

And it all started with Bennett Greenspan.

undeniable bennett

In the middle of the night, I realized that the fundamental questions in all of genetic genealogy research begin with the words, “Why can’t we…..”

Had Bennett Greenspan not asked that question, and not once, but repeatedly, until he received a satisfactory answer, the field of genetic genealogy would never have existed.

For those not familiar with this legendary story, Bennett, a genealogist (just like the rest of us) back in the prehistoric days of 1999, wanted to know why he couldn’t compare the Y chromosome of one man with a particular surname to another man with the same surname to see if they shared a common ancestor.  He took that question to scientists who worked with the Y chromosome.  Let’s just say the scientists weren’t terribly receptive.

Bennett was politely refused, then more firmly refused, but Bennett persisted until Michael Hammer gave up resisting and just ran the test to get rid of Bennett.  But that didn’t work either, because Bennett had more questions.  Couldn’t someone form a company to do this?  Couldn’t Michael Hammer’s lab at the University of Arizona run those tests for that company, which would come to be known as Family Tree DNA.  Questions begat questions.  History was, unknowingly, being made.  The answers and results of course, we all know about…but had it not been for Bennett’s bravery to ask that initial question – and to persist in the face of rejection and adversity – none of this would have happened.

Bennett didn’t have a crystal ball.  He couldn’t have known that an entire industry would evolve from his simple act of genealogical frustration.  But Bennett is who he is and he continued to ask that question and pursue the answer.

As I spent days and days working through the 50 participants’ data in the Crumley project, I often wanted to quit, but I’m either too anal or too OCD or too persistent to do that.  (No, we’re not voting on that topic:)  I had to finish.  And thank goodness I did, because the discoveries were there waiting for me – but I couldn’t have known that until AFTER I did the work that revealed them.  Had I stopped or never begun, I would never have known.  Same with Bennett – thank goodness he persisted.

So first, I had to first ask the question, “Why can’t we….?” Or more appropriate, “What can we…?” and proceed to find out.

In the field of genetic genealogy, and much more broadly applicable as well, if you never ask that question, you’ll never be wrong or make mistakes.  You’ll never be made fun of.  Your work will never be criticized.  You’ll never be rejected.  You’ll be entirely safe.

But you know what else????

You’ll never be right either.

You’ll never push the frontier.

You’ll never inspire other people to ask that same question.

You’ll never make that discovery.

Because you never took the risk of thinking, and acting, outside the box.

Thanks Bennett.

For being brave enough to persist in the face of adversity…

For allowing that question to burn you to action…

For the revolution you started…

For being a leader, an inspiration and our champion…

For providing a supportive and encouraging environment to conduct our own personal and broader genetic genealogy research…

For facilitating our insanity as citizen scientists…

For thinking outside of the box…




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Ann Mercer (1699/1705-c1786/1790), Weaver and Quaker Mother, 52 Ancestors #95

The first actual documentation of Ann’s name is found in a 1760 lease where Ann and her husband, Edward Mercer, are leasing land in Frederick County, Virginia to their son, Moses Mercer.  This land was located “under the mountain on the easternmost part of Back Creek.”  Both Edward and Ann sign, so Ann was able to at least sign her name.

Mercer 1

This is a picture of that land today.

This branch of the Mercer family was found in Back Creek Valley during the 18th and 19th centuries very near and adjacent to Babb’s Mountain.

Edward Mercer died in 1763, and he named his wife Ann in his will, in addition to his children.

Edward stipulates:

I give and bequeath unto my son Edward Mercer the plantation whereon I now Live containing two hundred and nine Acres and also a survey adjoining thereto containing Ninety six Acres of Land to him his Heirs and assigns forever.

I also Will that my wife shall have the best Rooms in the new House now part built until my son Edward shall build her a compleat house on some part of the plantation at his proper cost which House shall be sixteen foot wide and Twenty foot Long. I also give to my wife Ann Mercer one third part of my parsonal Estate that may remain after the debts and Legacies mentioned are paid.

Lastly I constitute and ordain my well beloved wife Ann Mercer and my son Edward Mercer and Joseph Foset my sole Executors of this my Last Will and Testament revoking and declaring void all former wills and Testaments by me made and done in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal.

It’s interesting that Edward stipulated that Ann received a new house.  At that time, a house the size of 16X20, especially for only one person, was indeed a luxury.  This also tells us that there were two houses involved, an older home and a new house, partly built.  If Edward Jr. built the new house for his mother, there would be a third house too.

Of course, without more completely identifying the land and doing deed work, we would never be able to tell exactly which land was his and if any of the houses are still standing today.  It’s certainly possible that at least one of them remains.  There are a number of historic houses in the area.

Who was Edward Mercer’s wife, Ann?

A letter written by one Harrington to Wilmer Kerns on Oct. 27, 1993 states that Edward Mercer married Ann Croat, Croats (or Coats) in 1726, and he married second to Mary Gamble. However, we know that Edward was married to Ann when he died, based on his will, so this makes no sense.  Another rumor bites the dust – at least the Mary Gamble portion.

Unfortunately, the Croat portion may be incorrect as well.  We have no direct evidence and only scanty indirect evidence that isn’t particularly positive.

The indirect evidence consists of none of the descendants of Ann Mercer matching anyone with a Croat family  line – except for people who have entered Ann Croat in their family tree.  Even if Ann’s surname was Croat, we might still not have an autosomal DNA match for several reasons.

People from that line might not have tested or the line could have died out, at least the American part of the line.  Europeans aren’t nearly as likely to DNA test as Americans. Or, maybe Croat descendants have tested, but we just just not have inherited any of the same DNA from our common ancestors, or not in sufficient quantity, nine generations later.  So while DNA could potentially prove the Croat surname, it can never truly disprove it unless we discover a different surname to prove – and do.

Edward Mercer was born about 1704 or maybe slightly earlier.  Edward and Ann were having children by about 1724, or shortly thereafter, so Ann was probably born about this same time or maybe just a couple years later.  Aaron Mercer was her youngest child and was not of age in 1762 when Edward wrote his will, so Aaron was born after 1741.  Aaron obtained his own land grant in 1774.  This puts Aaron’s birth between 1741 and 1753, which puts Ann’s birth, if she was age 42 when she had her last child, at between 1699 and 1712.  We know she was born before 1712, because she was having children by 1724, so Ann was likely born between 1699 and 1705.

Edward Mercer Jr. began selling land in 1786 when he sold land near Thomas Babb’s fence and in 1790 when he sold the land left to him my his father, which abutted Thomas Babb’s corner.  This would be the land that his mother was supposed to have the house built upon, so this likely tells us that Ann was deceased by this time, although there is an Ann Mercer on the Southampton County tax list in 1791.  Doubtful that this is her, at the other end of the state and at about 90 years of age, but then again, you never know – and the age fits.  Ann, were she living, would have been about 90 in 1790, give or take a couple years.

Ann and Edward first appear in Frederick County in 1744.  Most of their children would already have been born wherever they came from before Frederick County.  Unfortunately, we don’t know where that was, although from the work done for the Edward Mercer article, it appears that this family was in Chester County, PA at least for a while, and before that possibly in New Castle or Marcus Hook, Delaware.

Rumor states that Edward Mercer immigrated in 1737, but this is very unlikely, unless Ann and children came with him.

Another rumor says that youngest child Aaron’s Revolutionary War pension papers state that he was born in Ireland.  This would mean that his parents were still in Ireland between 1741 and 1753 which we know are the bracketing years of Aaron’s birth.  We know that Edward was already in the court records in Frederick County in 1744, so this gives a brief window of 1741-1742 IF Aaron was actually born in Ireland.

I doubt this evidence seriously, especially in light of the fact that Aaron died in 1800, a full 18 years before the first Revolutionary War pensions were given for those veterans who were destitute.

Aaron Mercer stone

Regular pensions weren’t awarded until 1832.  The only way Aaron could have a Revolutionary War pension application is if his widow lived long enough to collect, and never remarried.  Just to be safe, I checked www.fold3.com and found no Revolutionary War pension application for Aaron.  If this actually does exist someplace, please send it in my direction.  I’d be very grateful.

Aaron did receive a bounty land warrant for his Revolutionary War service , however, which may be how and why he migrated to Hamilton County, Ohio in the 1790s, building Mercer Station with his sons and sons-in-law at what became Cincinnati.  I did not find bounty land application for Aaron at Fold3 either, but if it exists, his birth information might be included in that document.

Life in Frederick County

What was Ann’s life like in Frederick County, Virginia?  She lived there for at least 20 years and probably 30 or 40.  Ann lived here while the French and Indian War was escalating.  Her husband, Edward, marched off in 1754 to Fort Necessity with General George Washington to participate in the Washington’s first defeat.  What did Edward do?  He did what every self-preserving Virginian would do under the circumstances.  He turned tail and ran, with the rest of the Virginians, back to the fort, leaving the professional soldiers standing alone in an unprotected field to face the French and Indians.  Then, the Virginia men broke into the liquor and got drunk.  Probably not Edward’s proudest moment.  But maybe Ann never knew.  Maybe what happens in Fort Necessity stays in Fort Necessity.  And it would have too, were it not for George Washington’s report describing the event.  But the people of Frederick County would never have seen that report.

What was Ann doing while Edward was off chasing French and Indians?  She was home defending the homestead if need be.  She would have had 2 children who were adults, possibly two more who were of age, and several at home.  She needed to do everything that had to be done with her husband present, except without her husband.  If the family was lucky, they had two guns.  One for Edward to take with him, and one for Ann to use at home.  Edward’s estate showed “2 old guns” so perhaps this is exactly what happened.  I’m betting Ann could shoot with the best of the men.  Frontier women had to be able to take care of themselves – and their family.  It was that or perish – and we know that Ann’s family did not perish.

Edward and Ann also owned land abutting the Indian trader, John VanMeter and his sons.  It’s certainly possible that the friendly relations garnered by the VanMeter family, and the Tuscarora living on the land of neighbor James Crumley paved the way for these families to be left alone – although many of their neighbors up and down the valley were killed or kidnapped.

The brutality was unrelenting.  George Washington reported that many families had abandoned their land and returned back east.  He further said that there were no settlers beyond Winchester, that Winchester was now the edge of the frontier.  That means that they could no longer defend anything further west, and the line of mountains that we see in these photos was indeed the edge of the frontier, where raids occurred daily and one’s property was very likely to be burned.  Only the brave or crazy stayed, and maybe those who remained were some of each.  Needless to say, the Mercer’s remained, but they may have had friends among the traders and Native people that helped pave the way.

Someone else writing about this timeframe also said that anyone who lived in this region has surely lost at least one family member.  Unfortunately, there are no records, but I have to wonder what life was like for Ann, especially when Edward was gone to war.

The year 1763 brought another terror in the form of Pontiac’s War where Chief Pontiac tried and very nearly successfully eradicated European settlers to the seacoast.  Once again, farms were abandoned and life was quite tentative.  Most of Maryland along the eastern side of the mountains was abandoned.  The Virginians weren’t quite as likely to leave – they didn’t in 1754.  But as Quakers, they weren’t very likely to fight either.  These attacks abated in 1765 when Pontiac was killed and the Indians realized their French cohorts were truly defeated.

If Ann lived long enough, she would also have lived to see the Revolutionary War which began another decade later, in 1776.  In many ways, the Revolutionary War was the second or third act of the French and Indian War which culminated with a treaty relative to European settlement that was almost immediately broken, before the ink was even dry.  The Proclamation Line of 1763 might as well not have existed, for all the good it did.  This line was the boundary of which settlers were not to encroach.  That lasted about half a day, if that long.  It’s no wonder that the Native people were constantly furious with the Europeans and their broken promises.  In this case, it appeared that this promise was never meant to be kept and only made to appease the Indians immediately.  If that was the case, it was very short-sighted and caused an immense amount of grief on the frontier.

Line of 1763

Apple Pie Ridge

The area of Frederick County where Ann and Edward Mercer settled was bountiful, a good farming area without too many rocks and with plentiful game and clean water.

The area received its name from the numerous apple trees in the area which still exist in abundance today.

mercer 2

Everyplace you look you find apple trees weighted heavily with fruit.  Today, the area is a major exporter for apple juice, but it has always been an apple harvest area.

Mercer 3

The ridge, ever-present and always in the distance marked the border and boundary for a long time.  For the Native people, it marked the north/south path across this part of the continent, which became the Wagon Road and then contemporary interstate 81.

Mercer 4

We’re fortunate that we are able to generally locate Ann and Edward Mercer’s land based on the proximity to both the Babb Family and James CrumleyHannah Mercer, Ann’s daughter married William Crumley, the son of James Crumley, who also lived on Apple Pie Ridge Road.  The photo above is taken on the land between Edward Mercer’s land and William Crumley’s land, near the border of Virginia and West Virginia, in northern Frederick County.  The ridge however, runs the entire distance of the county, and much further.  Winchester, Virginia is not called the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley for nothing.

I was recently able to take a driving tour of the area that would have encompassed Ann and Edward Mercer’s land in Frederick County.

On this map of Frederick County, the forested area to the right of and above Cedar Grove is Babb’s Mountain.  To the right of Babb’s Mountain would have been Babb’s Great Meadow.  Cattail Run is the eastern most portion of Back Creek.  The road labeled 677 is known as “Old Baltimore Road” and it is the old way, literally, from the east coast.  You can always tell which are the truly old roads by the age of the homes on the road.

Mercer 5

Just slightly on north, we find White Hall and then just north, at the top of this screen shot, the James Crumley home on Apple Pie Ridge Road (just above the 739 sign) – about 3 miles today between the Mercer area and the James Crumley area.

Mercer 6

Let’s take a driving tour and see what the area is like.

Babb’s Mountain and the Old Baltimore Road

Mercer 7

Starting at Old Baltimore Road and Babb’s Mountain Road, the area looking towards Apple Pie Ridge is quite pleasant.  People graze cattle, as Edward Mercer did.  The could well have been the area called “Babb’s Great Meadow.”

Mercer 8

Looking back toward Babb’s Mountain, which can be seen from anyplace within several miles proximity, we can clearly see the mountain and the lands at the base or “under the mountain” as the early deeds said.

Mercer 9

This is the land of beautiful barns.  Stunningly beautiful barns.  The Mercer’s barn was surely much larger than their house.  They were then and still are today.

Mercer 10

And of course, this is the land of never-ending apple trees with the ever-present ridge in the background.

Mercer 11

When a man died in Virginia in the 1700s, his estate inventory included everything in the household.  The wife had to “buy back” whatever she wanted, AFTER his debts were settled, if anything was left, so the estate inventory was comprehensive.

Edward Mercer’s estate inventory would reflect Ann’s possessions too, although legally, she didn’t have any possessions except her dower right which was one third of the value of the land.  Edward left Ann one third of his personal possessions, which would have included furniture, pots and pans and such.  I’ve always wondered how the man though his wife would “make do” without two thirds of her things – meaning all of the tools she had been using before his death to take care of the family.  Two thirds of the need didn’t disappear because he did.  Some men just split everything between the children and omitted the wife entirely.  Of course, I’m sure the wife wasn’t absolved of the work, just relieved of most of her tools to do that work.

Edward’s estate included apple cyder, of course, which tells us they had apple trees.  Apple presses, similar to the one shown below, were used to extract the juice from the apples before it became cyder, or hard cyder.

Mercer 12

Apples not made into cyder were boiled in large cauldrons and turned into apple butter which was used in place of butter.

Mercer 13 v2

Interestingly enough, a newly found cousin who grew up in Frederick County sent me this tidbit about local apple tradition:

“When I was a kid, the neighbors annually gathered and snitzed apples for cider on Friday, then all day Saturday would be cooking down apple butter.  A high school classmate of mine lives near where you were in Virginia and they continue the ritual every year.”

Of course, I had to ask what snitzing apples was.

“Scnitz or Snitz is Pennsylvania “Dutch” for dried apple slices. We used it as a verb (to make snitz’s) as we sat around peeling, coring and slicing the apples. We didn’t dry them.. they went for apple butter.  As a kid, my favorite part was the apple peeling machine. I was pretty happy over there cranking away watching the apple whirl around while the blade took the peeling off.”

Thank you so much cousin Tom for sharing a bit of our apple culture heritage.

Another item in Edward’s estate that certainly wasn’t his was a loom.  The loom would have been paired with the unbroken flax (flax that had not yet been shelled) which would have eventually been spun and woven.  Interestingly enough, there is no spinning wheel, which makes me wonder why.  Was Ann only a weaver and someone else did the spinning.  A loom is no small item, which maybe is why Edward stipulated the size of Ann’s house to be built.  Colonial Williamsburg includes a wonderful page on Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing practices of this timeframe.

This, along with casks of flax seeds tells us that one of the plants grown on the Mercer plantation was flax, used to spin linen threads which was then woven into cloth, then made into clothing.  It’s no wonder that clothes were listed in estate inventories and most people only had one outfit – and that’s what they were buried in.

Cloth itself was quite valuable, not just within the home, but as a commodity.  Thread and linen fabric was quite difficult to make and required several discrete steps after harvest including shelling, bleaching, drying, crimping, cleaning, combing or hackling and spinning.  It was easier to spin linen if you added a bit of wool, hence linsey-woolsey.  In spite of this, the average frontier home would produce about 62 yards of cloth per year.  Of course this had to clothe everyone.  A good piece of clothing would buy 20 acres or more.

Ironically, those women who wove that valuable cloth went barefoot in the summer – hence the saying, “barefoot and pregnant.”


Religion, in some cases, is guilt by association.  That’s the way Quakers are.  We know that Ann was a Quaker because Edward was a Quaker.  We know Edward was a Quaker because he got thrown out of the Quaker church in 1759 for drinking to excess.

Ironic isn’t it that his estate had absolutely no liquor, nor still.  Perhaps Edward was too friendly with his Quaker neighbor, James Crumley, who did indeed own a still.  Edward’s daughter Hannah married James Crumley’s son, William.  James and Edward would have been contemporaries.  James died in 1764, about the same time that Edward died.  They lived down the road from each other for the entire time they lived in Frederick County, and they attended the same church – well – up until Edward got the boot.  There is a good possibility that they came to Frederick County together, because both men are first found there in 1744.  During this time, there was a significant migration of Quakers from the Chester County, PA region – and Ann and Edward Mercer may have been among them.

If Ann was not a Quaker, Edward would have been thrown out of the church much sooner, for marrying outside the church.  Therefore we know Ann was Quaker.

Mercer 14

The Hopewell Friends Meeting House was established in Frederick County in 1734 and this is the church that both the Crumleys and Mercers would have attended.

Mercer 15

Ann would certainly have attended this church from 1744 up until 1759 when Edward got himself removed from the church.  How Ann reacted to this is unknown.  She still had young children at home.  Was Ann too embarrassed to attend church after Edward got into trouble?  Was she painted with the same brush?  Was she ostracized or unwelcome because of his behavior?  Or did Ann just lift up her chin and attend, deciding that she could not control Edward but she was going to go to church with him or without him?  Was that allowed once he had gotten himself in trouble?  How did Edward’s actions affect Ann’s relationship within the church, officially and unofficially?

Mercer 16

How did this episode affect Ann’s relationship with others in the community?  How did if affect Edward’s relationship with Ann?  Was she supportive of Edward or disgusted with him?  Was she simply tolerant of his activities, or actively opposed?  Did Edward truly have a drinking problem, or did he have a wild Saturday night?  From the church statement, it appears that he is “drinking to excess” not just having an isolated binge or having too much fun at an apple snitzing.  This is also the same church that overlooked the fact that James Crumley was distilling liquor and made him a vestryman in the Anglican church representing the Quaker interests.

Did Edward have a drinking problem by “Quaker standards” or did Edward truly have a drinking problem?  I hope he was not mean to Ann or the children.  Alcoholism seems to be such a continuing theme in my family.

Mercer 17

How this affected the family has a direct impact on where Ann was buried.  Was she still a Quaker at her death?  Was she a practicing Quaker?  Did her children bury her in the Quaker Cemetery or did they bury her beside Edward, who was surely NOT buried in the Quaker Cemetery?

Mercer 18

This also makes me wonder where Ann’s son, John Mercer, was buried in 1748 when he died.  Is he buried in the Hopewell Cemetery?  This was before Edward Mercer got himself into trouble, so it’s likely that Ann and Edward’s son, John, is buried here.  I surely wonder what caused the death of a young man.  And I wonder if Ann is buried by John or by Edward.  Ann outlived Edward by at least 23 years and possibly more.  A lot can change in that time.  Had she initially been very angry with him, that could have mellowed, especially after his death.

One of my friends whose husband had been exceedingly difficult for her to deal with for many years was grieving her husband after his death.  Talking to her before his death, I would have expected her to be the merry widow.  I knew her well enough to ask her about the discrepancy, and she blessed me with these words of wisdom, “Honey, some of them are a lot easier to love after they are dead.”  Touche!!!

Furthermore, Ann didn’t have to decide where she was going to be buried.  That fell to her children.

Mercer 19

Perhaps the earliest burials at Hopewell are found here, in the center, under this ancient tree who stands silent sentry.  Perhaps Ann rests here.  If trees could only talk.

Children and Descendants

Ann and Edward Mercer had seven children that lived to adulthood.  Son John died before both Edward and Ann in 1748, in Frederick County, already an adult.

  • Richard Mercer could have been the Richard who married a woman named Mary and lived in Berkeley County. John Mercer mentioned a brother Richard in his 1748 will that was filed in Winchester.  It’s difficult to tell when Richard first appears in the records because there is an earlier Richard that is found with Edward Mercer as well.
  • Elizabeth Mercer was born about (or after) 1724 and married by 1748 to William Heath who was born on Sept. 18, 1724. William was mentioned in the 1748 will of his brother-in-­law, John Mercer.
  • John Mercer was born circa 1727 and died in 1748, apparently unmarried. John lived in Frederick County, where his will is on file in the courthouse. His father, Edward Mercer, was named administrator for his estate.
  • Moses Mercer was of age and leasing land from his father by 1760. Moses was born in 1732 and died in 1805, in Frederick County. Appraisers of Moses’ estate were Jacob Rinker, Richard Barrett, and Thomas Babb. Moses married Dinah Morrison, who was called Dianna in his will. She was born Dec. 24, 1729, and died in April 1810. After Moses’ death in 1804, Dinah received all moveable property during her natural life, plus one-third of profits from real estate. She wrote her will on April 10, 1810 and it was probated June 7, 1810. Witnesses were Aaron and John Mercer, and John Barnard. Her close friend, Abraham Lewis was named the executor. Moses and Dinah signed their names with an X “His mark” and “Her mark,” respectively.
  • Hannah Mercer married William Crumley about 1763 and had died by 1774. Hannah was mentioned in the will of her brother John in 1748, and in the will of Elizabeth Morris in 1760. This begs the question of the identity of Elizabeth Morris? Might this be a clue to the identity of Hannah’s mother, Ann?
  • Edward Mercer (Jr.) was given “the plantation where I now live – 209 acres plus adjoining 96 acre survey” by his father. Edward was born about 1744. His age was proven from a deposition given in the Augusta County Circuit Court. The name of his spouse is not known.
  • Aaron Mercer, the youngest son, not of age in 1752 – served in Revolutionary War. On October 28, 1799 he obtained a Virginia Revolutionary War land grant in Ohio and moved to Ohio. Reportedly in his pension application (which is not at www.fold3.com as of 9-15-2015) he says he was born in Ireland. Aaron died on December 17, 1800 in Hamilton County, Ohio and is buried in the Old (Columbia) Baptist Graveyard. Given that there were no Revolutionary War pensions before 1818, there would have been no pension application by him, although if his wife, Elizabeth Carr, was still living, she could have applied in either 1818 as destitute or 1832/33 as a surviving veteran’s wife. She is reported to have died in 1820, so I’m quite suspicious of the claim that his Revolutionary War pension paperwork stated that he was born in Ireland.

Of these children, only two are females.  Both Ruth and Hannah had daughters.  These daughters would propagate the mitochondrial DNA of Ann Mercer.  Woman give their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but it is only passed on by the females.  Today, to see what Ann’s mitochondrial DNA looks like, we need to find someone who descends from Ann through all females to the current generation.  The current generation can be male.  From Ann’s mitochondrial DNA, we can look through a periscope back in time to see where her ancestors were from in the world – and we might be lucky enough to match a Croat female line.  Could we be that lucky?

  • Hannah Mercer married William Crumley and had daughter Ann who married Thomas Reese and had four daughters, Hannah, Nancy, Rachel and Sarah.
  • Hannah Mercer Crumley also had daughter Catherine who married James Mooney and then John Eyre. She had daughters Catherine, Mary (Polly), Eliza, Hannah and Nancy. This family migrated to Fayette County, Ohio.
  • Ann’s daughter Elizabeth Mercer married William Heath. Nothing further is known about this couple.

If you descend from these women, I’d love to hear from you and if you descend through all females to the current generation (you can be a male), there is a DNA scholarship waiting for you!

Mercer 20



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Looking for and Contacting Birth Family Members

When I ran the article title DNA Testing Strategy for Adoptees and People with Uncertain Parentage, one commenter asked how one goes about putting together the pieces of the puzzle, and then how does one go about making contact?  What do you do, or say, to increase your likelihood of being successful?

I am probably the all-time worst person to answer this question, because I intensely dislike telephone conversations and especially in awkward situations.  My family has had a few of those awkward parentage situations, mostly having to do with my father and grandfather, both “ladies men,” and I’ve been both rejected and hung up on more than once – so you don’t want advice from me on this topic.

I turned to someone with a track record of success – not only in terms of putting together the convincing evidence about the missing parent – but in terms of preparation for contact, approach and actually making the contact.

Diane Harman-Hoog, with www.dnaadoption.com was kind enough to write this article.

DNAadoption page

Diane works with adoptees and others seeking their biological parents every day.  She is a retired technology professional, so transitioning her skills to a genetic genealogy puzzle was the perfect fit for Diane.  In addition to working with a team who has developed the specific search techniques, sometimes in spite of some of the vendors we have to work with, Diane has created an educational venue and teaches others the techniques and how to help themselves.

Diane is summing up a significant process here, in just a few paragraphs.  If you’d like to know more about these techniques, please visit http://www.dnaadoption.com and take a look at their class offerings.

Many people call Diane and the people at DNAAdoption search angels – that’s because they truly are.  Not only are they reuniting families, when the family wants to be reunited – but Diane and her team are providing the adoptee with a history, something they have never had.  Thank you so much Diane – for this article and for everything that you and the folks at DNAadoption do.

From Diane Harman-Hoog

We at DNAadoption are having a great deal of success with reuniting birth family members with adoptees and with others who have lost track of a father, for example.

One of the first things an adoptee should do is try to get their non-identifying birth information, if available, through their adoption agency.  Many times this alone can be used in a traditional search even without DNA.  If they have non-id that is older than 5 years, we recommend they apply for an update. We at www.DNAAdoption.com can help if they don’t know how to go about this process.

The DNA Search Process

The world was a lot easier before Ancestry decided to ignore what we all felt were hard and fast principles of the search – meaning providing the tester with chromosome match information – the chromosome number and start and stop locations of matching DNA. We collected chromosome data and “In Common With” genealogy data, ran them through our programs with resulting spreadsheets that group overlapping DNA into sets and then noted which people in that set were ICW with others in the set.

A definition or two is in order here. I prefer to tell students that ICW means blood related. Overlapping means any part of the chromosome segments that overlap, they do not have to be the same length.

Identification by Triangulation

We can have two people with starting and ending addresses on a particular chromosome which makes us think that they received the segment from the same ancestor. However, nature plays a little joke with us on that part, because there are two sides to the chromosome and each side has the same address sequence. On one side, the addresses increase going one way and on the other side, they increase going the other way.

When we identify people who look like they have overlapping chromosomes then if they are blood related with each other, then the segments came from the same ancestor. The very small segments are probably not indicative of family heredity but are environmentally caused genetic strings.

I use this example of blood related. You are blood related (ICW) with all your matches as you are the very bottom of the relationships and related to both sides. You maternal grandmother is probably not blood related or ICW with your paternal grandfather. In most cases, they come from different families.

In general, the longer the segment the closer the relationship, but when the prediction is closer than second cousins, we start to look at the total of all the segments over about 6 cM (centimorgans) that overlap.

Then we look for common ancestors using the trees of those two individuals. Next is triangulation where three people match on the same segment. That is because every one of your matches overlaps with your DNA segments and is always ICW with you. So two plus one gives us the three to triangulate.

In order to look for common ancestors on the trees, you need 3 things:

    • Overlapping DNA segments
    • ICW status between the same individuals
    • And some tree information from each party.

Expanding trees

We get as much of the tree that we can for each person and then we have to go to work expanding the existing tree. First the tree must go up in the traditional genealogical manner, you, your parents, your grandparents etc. You also treat any matching person the same way so you get a normal looking genealogical tree. If this is a 2nd cousin match, take the tree back to at least 3 generations past the great grandparents.

Then comes the really tedious part. You come back down the tree identifying all the offspring and all of their offspring down to the years where you would expect the grandparent or other unidentified person to be living. As you go down the tree (towards the present), you must also add each spouse for each of the offspring and go up their ancestry a ways to see if they might also be related. By the time you get down to the actual candidate of the father, you would hope to find that both his mother and father are related to DNA matches of yours.

The difficulty often comes from two directions, incomplete trees that you just cannot fill in and completing the most recent generations. At that point we have to rely on Google searches and obituaries to make the final identifications.

In essence, the DNA identifies who you are related to, triangulation identifies groups of people who share a common ancestor, and their trees will lead you to the identification of both that common ancestor and hopefully, your parent.

If this is a little sketchy, the full course takes 4 weeks and I am trying to summarize it here. Some searches only take a tree or two but I have also done ones that took 200 trees (and five years).


Then Ancestry came along and is refusing to give us the chromosome numbers. This is particularly bad for adoptees who rely upon those numbers to confirm or deny the relationships.

So we deal with it in this manner. We have a DNA software Client for ancestry called DNAGedcom from the DNAGedcom site. It reads your Ancestry DNA account and generates a match list of all your matches and an ancestors list of all the ancestors of those matches. A more recent addition is also an ICW list to show us which matches are ICW with which other matches.


Whenever possible do everything you can to encourage these matches to download onto Gedmatch.

Another trick, after you transfer the kits to Gedmatch, is to use the report on Gedmatch, named “People who match one or both of 2 kits”. This report takes the gedmatch # of two individuals and measures them against each other. If I run it against my brother, Ken, and my maternal cousin, Jon, I will get three different lists. The first list is of kits that both Jon and Ken match. Since our mother and Jon’s mother are sisters, then we can assume that these are maternal matches for both Jon and Ken. The second list shows kits that only Jon matches, that would be from his father’s side of the family and the third list shows only kits that Ken matches so that would be cousins that Ken matches who are not maternal but from our father’s side.

It must be understood that using DNA analysis is not an exact science but a learned art as DNA inheritance can be capricious. We are working with probabilities and averages here. We cannot say that there are 169 cM of DNA shared, so the match is a second cousin, but rather, the match might be a second cousin.

Now we play the odds. We match ancestors from the ancestors list and as a start call them Common Ancestors.  So if both Ancestry trees have Pierre LeBlanc born in 1769  in Louisiana and both Pierre’s have the same parents we call them common ancestors until proven otherwise. The odds are actually fairly high if the two families are ICW with each other.

We cannot just say that a child of Pierre LeBlanc is absolutely in Jon’s direct line but we will expand the trees and trace individuals down. If they eventually start lining up with other DNA match descendants we will accept that it is direct line. However, of course NPEs are always a concern and there is no way to completely protect from that eventuality.


Contact Time

As you continue the search now, with live people, do not use the word “adoption” until you are certain of the relationship with the person you are speaking to. This includes people like a librarian, as well as possible relatives. Some people feel strongly about not assisting adoptees in finding a birth family. One of my clients let it slip to a first cousin. That was the end of the relationship. We really needed information that cousin had.

So now we have built trees down and have three males who were in the correct vicinity at the correct time for conception. Each of these males has one line descending from a DNA match, but only one has the other parent also descending from a DNA match!

Our tree has developed to include possible common ancestors from all three tests and gedmatch.

We try to obtain up-to-date contact information which in these days of cell phones is harder to get than it used to be.

The only person we encourage to make contact is the adoptee or another birth family member who is looking. None of us will do it for them. If contact is refused then at least they have talked to the person once.

Whether we are down to the exact level or perhaps only to a cousin or aunt or uncle, we advise proceeding with caution. We advise the contact to be made on the basis of DNA information and asking for help with a family tree. A lot of detective work goes on before a phone call is made to confirm the suspicions – at least as much as possible. We check where people were at that time, or did a woman have a child born at a time that would mean that this child could not have been hers. What was their life like?  Do most facts line up with the non-ID information? It is possible that the non-ID is fictional but we assume that most of it is right until we prove otherwise.

Making the Call

If a man is calling the person we are pretty sure is his birth mother, the conversation will go something like this. ”I am looking to fill in some members of my family tree and DNA testing shows that we might be related. I am quite sure I am related to the Woolworth line from talking to other matches. I want to be sure you have my contact information in case you think of something that might help me after we talk, email is –, my phone number is –. I was born on October 1, 1963 in Syracuse NY. Does that mean anything to you?  (Hoping for a positive indication.) Yes I was adopted, My adoption papers are hard to read, but my birth name might have been Dennis. The state has given me a little information about my birth mother, she was 26 and in secretarial school. Her mother was 56 and her father deceased. She had a sister and two brothers.”

Hopefully by then she is in tears.  Most birth mothers have been praying to be found. If she is unhappy then he should give her some time. He has provided contact information for himself. Also he should send her a little card afterward, thanking her for her time and provide a picture of himself and his family, along with his contact information.

Good luck to you all.

Diane Harman-Hoog

You can contact Diane at harmanhoog@gmail.com



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23andMe to Get a Makeover After Agreement with FDA

Today’s e-mail contained a message from 23andMe announcing that they have obtained partial FDA approval.  Not approval to continue what they were doing, apparently, but approval to provide some carrier status (for 36 genetic disorders), wellness and trait reports to participants.  Here’s the e-mail:

FDA 23andMe 1FDA 23andMe 2

You can read their new privacy statement here and new terms of service here.

This new functionality, replacing the old and current functionality requires a web site redesign.  Now, given that the genetic genealogy community has been begging for some functional changes for years now, this could be the silver lining to the cloud.

Sure enough, when I signed in, it says a new experience is coming.  I hope they have taken the many suggestions provided by the genetic genealogy community to heart when doing the redesign.

FDA 23andMe New Experience

Here’s a link to the FAQ.

Not everything currently available will be included in the new version.  For a comprehensive list, check here.

If you tested before the FDA shutdown in December of 2013, which happened just about concurrently with the release of their V4 chip, although the two events were unrelated, you may not qualify for all of the new reports.  It appears that you may need to upgrade to the new V4 chip platform.  23andMe states that US customers won’t have to pay anything extra for the new reports, but they don’t say that upgrading to the V4 chip would be free.  They also don’t address international customers.  I’ll guess we’ll find out.

FDA 23andMe New Reports

Now for the bad news, at least for people who have been using 23andMe for family type autosomal projects.  The price of testing increased, not just a little either – but doubled.  It was $99 and it’s now $199, as of today.  The good news – Family Tree DNA and Ancestry are still $99.  A fine way for 23andMe to thank the genetic genealogy community that kept them afloat in the nearly two years since the FDA shut down their medical and health reporting.

I think, in terms of genealogists and genealogy testing, they just shot themselves in the foot.

A Bloomberg Business article here discusses more about the new offering, including the following statement:

“The revamped test also will feed data into 23andMe’s new drug-discovery unit, led by Genentech Inc. veteran Richard Scheller. Along with gathering genetic information, 23andMe also surveys its customers on their physical traits and symptoms. By developing this unique database, the company hopes to gain a better understanding of how genes drive disease, leading to new drug targets. Out of 1 million customers, more than 80 percent have consented to participate in research, 23andMe has said.”

Clearly, the real 23andMe interest is not and has never been in genetic genealogy, but in gathering the DNA of participants to sell and utilize to design and discover drugs that are assuredly, not going to be available for free or discounted prices to those genetic genealogists who agreed to provide their DNA and other information “for research purposes.”  I have to wonder how many people realize that’s what they have done and that’s what they are doing every time they answer one of the front and center surveys on the 23andMe site.

For a long time, I think people who tested at 23andMe thought of “medical research” as the type of research involved with the Michael J. Fox Foundation which is nonprofit.  In fact, 23andMe is affiliated with this organization and has published articles including Michael in 2012.  Given that, I was uncomfortable when 23andMe patented a gene having to do with Parkinson’s Disease.

However, subsequent articles that announced that 23andMe had patented the technology for designer babies made it abundantly clear, at least to me, that the 23andMe medical interest was not altruistic as I had once believed.

You can opt out of their research, at least partially.  Your genetic information is still used in an anonymized aggregated fashion.  There is no complete opt-out, as best I could tell in either the old or new terms of service and privacy policy.

In any event, change is afoot and we’ll see the new version of the 23andMe website by the end of the year, according to Anne Wojcicki’s e-mail announcement.  Let’s hope that there is an improved genealogy matching experience.  Let’s also hope they make it unmistakably clear to customers, both old and new, that they are going to use their genetic information for high-stakes profit-making ventures and give us a way to opt out of the research aspect entirely without being penalized.



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Mass Pre-Contact Native Grave in California Yields Disappointing Results

In 2012 during excavation for a shopping mall near San Francisco, a mass grave containing 7 men was unearthed.  The manner in which they were buried led archaeologists to believe that they had been murdered, and quickly buried, not ceremonially buried as tribal members would be.  They were found among more than 200 other burials.

The victims ages ranged from about 18 to about 40 and scientists concentrated on analyzing the wounds, cause of death and DNA of these men.  In part, they wanted to see if they were related to each other and if they originated in this area or came from elsewhere.  In other words, were they unsuccessful invaders as suggested by the circumstances of their burials?

This article tells more about the excavations and includes some photos.

Analysis suggests the men lived about 1200 years ago, clearly before European contact.  Analysis of the men’s teeth provided information about their history.  These men had spent their lives together, but their isotope signatures were clearly different than the individuals in the balance of the burials.  Indeed, they look to have been invaders.

An academic paper titled “Isotopic and genetic analysis of a mass grave in central California: Implications for precontact hunter-gatherer warfare” was published a few weeks ago in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.  The article itself is behind a paywall available here.  The abstract is provided below:



Analysis of a mass burial of seven males at CA-ALA-554, a prehistoric site in the Amador Valley, CA, was undertaken to determine if the individuals were “locals” or “non-locals,” and how they were genetically related to one another.


The study includes osteological, genetic (mtDNA), and stable (C, N, O, S) and radiogenic (Sr) isotope analyses of bone and tooth (first and third molars) samples.


Isotopes in first molars, third molars, and bone show they spent the majority of their lives living together. They are not locals to the Amador Valley, but were recently living to the east in the San Joaquin Valley, suggesting intergroup warfare as the cause of death. The men were not maternally related, but represent at least four different matrilines. The men also changed residence as a group between age 16 and adult years.


Isotope data suggest intergroup warfare accounts for the mass burial. Genetic data suggest the raiding party included sets of unrelated men, perhaps from different households. Generalizing from this case and others like it, we hypothesize that competition over territory was a major factor behind ancient warfare in Central California. We present a testable model of demographic expansion, wherein villages in high-population-density areas frequently fissioned, with groups of individuals moving to lower-population-density areas to establish new villages. This model is consistent with previous models of linguistic expansion. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Genetic Information

I was extremely disappointed with the genetic information.  Working with the local Ohlone community, the scientists did attempt to extract DNA from the 7 individuals in the mass grave, with 6 extractions being successful.

They only analyzed the HVR1 region of the mitochondrial DNA.

Eerkens 2015 table

In the paper, the authors indicate that nuclear DNA which would include the Y chromosome as well as autosomal DNA was too degraded to recover.  While disappointing, there is nothing they can do about that.

However, only analyzing the mitochondrial DNA, which they clearly were able to amplify, at the HVR1 level is an incredible lost opportunity.  They obtained enough resolution in 6 of the individuals to obtain general haplogroup assignments.  However, the HVR2 and coding regions would have provided the defining information about extended haplogroups and individual mutations, including, perhaps, haplogroups rarely or never seen previously in the Americas.

Furthermore, given the information above, we can’t tell if the D1 individuals are related to each other matrilineally or not.  The B2 individuals are clearly not related in a recent timeframe nor are the A2, B2 and D1 people related to each other on their matrilineal line.  What a shame more information wasn’t obtained.

While I’m grateful that DNA testing was undertaken, I’m saddened by the partial results, especially in this day of full genomic sequencing for ancient DNA specimens.  I’m perplexed as to why they would not have obtained as much information as was possible, given the significant effort expended in recovering any ancient DNA specimen.



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Catherine Crumley (c1712-c1790), Raised Her Family in a Two Room Cabin, 52 Ancestors #94

Catherine Crumley 1

I had been planning to make my way to Apple Pie Ridge for some time now, when an opportunity presented itself by way of a speaking engagement in Richmond, VA in the fall of 2015.  I checked the map, and sure enough, Apple Pie Ridge, where my Quaker ancestors, James Crumley and his wife, Catherine, lived, was right on the way home.

When driving in Frederick County close to Apple Pie Ridge, how the Ridge obtained its name becomes immediately obvious.

Catherine Crumley 2

There are indeed apple orchards everyplace.  This time of year, the apples are being harvested and there are semis taking the apples to be processed into yummy goodies that will provide people from all over the US with apple products until next year’s harvest.

However, this is not how James and Catherine would have harvested apples or what they would have done with them.  The Museum of the Shenandoah, in Winchester, VA, provides a wonderful exhibit of farm implements of yesteryear, including an apple picker, right under the “What is it?” question, below.

Catherine Crumley 3

I had no idea what this was, being so long, but when they provided the answer – it seemed obvious.

Since we’re on the subject, the item on the bottom is a mash stirrer.  Mash, for those who don’t know, is part of the whiskey making process.  James Crumley was a Quaker, but a still was listed in his estate inventory, so he would likely have used one of these as well.

Directly under the basket of the apple picker is a weighing system.  James had a brass scales, stillyards and money scales in his estate inventory too, so it probably looked something like this.

Apples, however, were not made into whiskey, but into “cyder’ and sometimes hard cyder and things like applesauce and applebutter.  Not to mention items like pies, but pies didn’t keep.  Apples were also dried.

Below, an apple butter pot probably similar to one Catherine would have used.

Catherine Crumley 4

When I was a child, we made a lot of applesauce and applebutter, but we did not cook it in a pot outdoors, although some of the “less progressive” families did – in the same outside facility they used for maple sugar in the winter time.

And of course, there was apple juice which preceded hard cyder.

Catherine Crumley 5

The first step to juicing apples were to press them in an apple press similar to the one above.

Apples were a staple in Frederick County and were raised with little effort to provide for the family for the upcoming winter and until next fall.  Today, they are an important cash crop for the families of the region.  The orchards are beautiful, but it’s surprising that there are few farm markets.  We did find one, but it was a bit north, towards Martinsville in Berkeley Co., West Virginia.

Catherine Crumley 6

Orr’s Farm Market sells lots of different varieties of apples.  They also allow tasting and the apples were so good.  I was surprised at how different the differing varieties tasted.

The Ridge

Sometimes when you visit a location, things become obvious which were not obvious previously.  For example, that there was a ridge of mountains that “began” the Blue Ridge just to the west of James and Catherine Crumley’s land.  Apple Pie Ridge Road runs along that ridge, parallel, in the valley, north to south.

Catherine Crumley 7

The “good land” for faming lies in that valley to the east of those mountains which run the length of the county and of course into two adjacent counties, one to the south in Virginia, the beginning of the Shenandoah Valley and then extending north into Berkeley County, West Virginia.  In fact, James and Catherine also owned land in Berkeley County, just a hop, skip and a jump up the road.

Who Was Catherine?

Catherine has been rumored to be a Gilkey, but I doubt seriously if she is.  Or better stated, other than family stories, there is nothing at all to substantiate this claim, and several reasons to introduce questions.

In Paul Morton’s book, “The Crumley Family,” he reports that James married a Scottish lass named Catherine Gilkey in 1732 in Chester County, PA, but he provided no documentation.  A Scottish lass would have been Presbyterian.  If James had married a Presbyterian, he would have been dismissed from the Quaker Church, so either she became Quaker or he did not marry a Presbyterian.

Paul Nichols reports in his document, The Crumley Family, that “very old family records from Richard Griffith, a prominent Frederick County genealogist, indicate that the Gilkeys may have been the parents of his wife Catherine, but no marriage documentation has ever been found.”

At the Handley Library and Archives in Winchester, VA, among the papers of Richard Griffin, a local genealogist from the 1930’s is the following dating from 1872:


Written by Aaron H. Griffith, 1872

“My grandfather John Griffith 2nd married Mary Faulkner daughter of Jesse Faulkner and Mary his wife. Mary Faulkner was the daughter of James Cromley and his wife Catherine. James Cromley lived on Apple Pie Ridge on land he bought from his father-in-law Davie Gilkie. This land was originally granted by the King to our kinsmen James Wright and John Litler in 1734 who sold it to John Cheadle the eminent Friend who lived in eastern Virginia. John Cheadle sold it to David Gilkie who as I have said sold it to his son-in-law James Cromley, who in turn, willed it to his son John Cromley. John Cromley sold it to his brother-in-law Jesse Faulkner who sold it in 1778 to his son-in-law John Griffith. There my father was born, and there I was born on the 11th of the 3rd Mo. 1802.”

Of all the evidence, this seems to be the most credible, because Aaron Griffith was born only 40 years after James Crumley died, and only a couple years after James’ wife Catherine died.  His parents and family would have known this family first hand.

In 1758, it seems that James Crumley had a bit of a meltdown in court, potentially having to do with Barbara Gilkey Hagen, the remarried wife of David Gilkey.  If Catherine Crumley is a Gilkey, Barbara is her mother.  In the court records, the first record immediately before a proceeding with Barbara Hagen having to do with her bond (probably in conjunction with an estate, probably David Gilkey’s estate), states that it was ordered “that the sheriff take James Crumley into custody for behaving indecently before the court.”  In a 1936 letter, J. W. Baker, another Frederick County genealogist interpreted this behavior as evidence of some kind of family row.

However, James could have been in court to testify for Barbara, or it may have been circumstantial.  I do have to wonder what would provoke a Quaker into doing something “indecent” before the court.

If Catherine was the daughter of David and Barbara Gilkey, why are there no children named David or Barbara?

Sometimes family stories are true, but sometimes, they aren’t.  In this case, we have two stories to choose from.

There is also another family story that Catherine in a Bowen which has exactly as much credibility as the Gilkey story, and for exactly the same reason.

The Bowen rumor says that Catherine was the daughter of Henry Bowen.  James Crumley and Henry Bowen were neighbors in Frederick County, VA, but James Crumley’s marriage to Catherine took place years before in Pennsylvania.

However, “A.C. Nash, David Williams Cassat and Lillian May Berryhill: their descendants and ancestors,” (1986) has a chapter on the Crumleys. This book indicates Catherine may have been a Bowen and not a Gilkey.

Dorothy T. Hennen in “Hennen’s Choice: a compilation of the descendants of Matthew … “(1972), page 390, also suggests Catherine was a Bowen.

There is other circumstantial evidence that also hints at this possibility.  In Virginia, at that time, when a man died, three men were assigned to appraise his estate.  Typically, one was the dead man’s largest creditor, one was someone in the wife’s family, and one was a disinterested party.  The three individuals had to agree on the value of the man’s estate, with the exception of his land, and submit their report to the court to be filed.

The three men who appraised James Crumley’s estate after his death in 1764 included Henry Bowen.  If Catherine was a Bowen, then this Henry was her brother.  Of course, the Bowens were neighbors, so it’s impossible to surmise whether this interaction was a result of living in the same neighborhood or being related to Catherine.

There is a Bowen family in the Nottingham Quakers book referencing the church in Cecil County Maryland, adjoining Chester County, PA, but there is no Henry and no David or Barbara Gilkey, nor a Catherine Gilkey or Bowen mentioned.

I do, however, know why both stories exist.  James Crumley bought land from both David Gilkey and Henry Bowen, both men reputed to have been the father of Catherine.

On October 1, 1745, James purchased 219 acres of a 438 acre tract, part of a November 12, 1735 patent from the Colony issued to James Wright and John Littler who later sold the land to David and Barbara Gilkey his wife. (Tract 71A, Map 5.) James Crumley paid 37 pounds to the Gilkeys, who had lived on the land. James then sold the Gilkey land to his son John on February 28, 1757 for 25 shillings. Later, the same 219 acres was willed to John in his father’s will.  Perhaps James wanted to assure that John did actually receive this land.

On April 1, 1755, Henry Bowen sells to James Crumley for 5 shillings a tract of land containing 53 acres being part of a larger tract containing 103 acres.  It’s signed by Henry Bowen and witnessed by Charles Parkins and Evan Thomas and recorded in Deed Book 3, page 447.

Granted, 5 shillings is an artificially low price for 53 acres, but then again, we don’t know what kind of land constituted that 53 acres.  It could have been prime, cleared farmland or swamp – and that would make a huge difference in how much the land was worth.

Henry Bowen’s land abutted James land – so they were neighbors as well.

However, Henry Bowen left a will and named his children; Henry, John, Jacob, Mary, Hannah, Margaret, Jean, Ann and Persilla.  He lists both Isaac Eaton and Peter Babb as sons-in-law, but neither a daughter Catherine nor a son-in-law James Crumley are mentioned.  Henry did, before his death, deed land to daughter Presilla and her husband, William Gaddis, but Presilla is still mentioned in Henry’s will. In the deeds where Henry Bowen sells to his children, the price is “for love and affection.”  Of course, none of this resolves the 5 shilling question relative to James Crumley.

James Crumley married his wife, Catherine, before they came to Frederick County.  In fact, he married her several years before, back when they were living in Chester County, PA, and I have yet to find any record of either David Gilkey or Henry Bowen in Chester County, PA. Now of course, one can’t prove a negative, but autosomal DNA testing and matching has also failed to connect to either of these families.  Again, that’s not proof that Catherine is not a Gilkey or a Bowen, but together the evidence is suggestive that she is not.  Said another way, the DNA evidence is not suggestive that Catherine was a Gilkey or a Bowen, but new people test daily and we don’t know what the future will hold.

Unfortunately, we have no idea, besides those two stories, what Catherine’s surname might be.

However, what we do know is that James and Catherine did not live on the Gilkey land.  How do we know this?  Because James was considerate enough to die with a will.  In his will, he left ”the plantation” to his youngest son Samuel, and when John sold that land in 1793, the deed very specifically said that this was the land James purchased of Giles Chapman.  In James Crumley’s will, John inherited the Gilkey land.  We know this because John states such when he sells that tract as well.

Virginia tax records indicate that Catherine lived for at least another 18 years after James Crumley’s death, as she is listed as a white female head of household in 1782 with one white male and three blacks, and in 1783 with two slaves, two horses, and seven head of cattle. Her name continues to appear in the records until 1787, with an additional 3 slaves.  The white male was probably John, because Samuel appears to be dead by 1768 or Samuel.

There is no 1790 census, and John sells the land in 1793, so Catherine is assuredly gone by this time.  By 1782, Catherine would have been about 70 years old, or perhaps slightly younger.  She lived to be at least 75.

The 1793 deed from John Crumly and wife Hannah, then of Newberry in the 96 District of SC, tells us that the tract contains 150 acres and is part of a larger tract granted to Giles Chapman by grant and that he conveyed that land to James Crumley and then a second tract granted by James Crumley and devised in his will to Samuel Crumley and said John Crumly was his heir.  This tells us that Samuel probably was underage when he died and John was likely James’ eldest son.  Another possibility is that Samuel was not underage when he died, and moved away, leaving a will elsewhere that names his brother as his heir.  There is no Samuel Crumley will in Frederick County.

There is also a very interesting deed from William Crumley, Henry Crumley and Thomas Doster, all of Frederick County, on January 30, 1768 where they are bound to their brother John Crumly for the sum of 1000 pounds to secure their obligation that after the death of their mother Katherine Crumly they convey all their rights to the plantation on which she now resides and to allow said John Crumly the quiet possession of said property, signed by the same.  Witnesses were Henry Ross, M. Morgan, John Lindsey Jr. and Josiah Pickett, recorded in Deed Book 12, page 351.

Thomas Doster marries Mary, the daughter of Catherine and James, so he is the brother-in-law of Henry, William and John.

This indicates that Samuel had died by 1768, but sometime after the 1757 will.  That would explain why Katherine was living on the estate that John owned and he would eventually retain possession. If Samuel were living, Katherine would have been living with him on the home plantation that Samuel would have owned.

This means that Catherine, probably after burying her husband, also buried her son.

The Crumley Home

Sometimes luck smiles on a genealogist, and it smiled on me.  When researching James Crumley, cousins discovered that the home he and Catherine once owned was now a historic property and had been lovingly restored.

When visiting Frederick County, I had only planned to drive by, pull into the driveway by the road, and take some photos.  I was accompanied by my Crumley cousin, Pam.  However, when we arrived, the property is fairly heavily treed, and while you can see the house, you can’t see all of the house.

Pam and I decided to muster our combined courage and go to the door to ask permission to take closer photos of the house.  The dog was chained, so we felt relatively safe.  The owner came to the door, was a bit surprised to say the least, but was extremely gracious and provided a great deal of information.  She went inside to call her husband who had information in his office, and when she came back outside, she offered to give us an impromptu tour of the old section of the house.

Pam and I thought we had died and gone to heaven.  This is the house that Catherine would have lived in – all two rooms of it – from the time she was about 30 years old until her death.  She clearly had children within these walls, because in 1757, when James made his will, at least one of her children, Samuel, was underage, indicating he was born sometime after 1736.  Catherine would have had children until she was in her early-mid 40s, 42 or 43, so about 1754 or 1755. When Catherine was the woman of the house, she would have been managing at least 5 children, if not more, plus her husband, herself and at least 4 slaves in these two rooms.  Not exactly a wealthy plantation owner.

The second half of the house was added in the 1800s as a separate building that shared a wall, but at that time, there was no connection inside between the two halves of the house.  You had to go outside to go into the “other half” from whichever half you were in.  You can clearly see the divide, looking at the front of the house.  Cousin Pam and a friendly cat are posing, below.  The old half is on the left.

Catherine Crumley 8

In the photo below, the original log cabin is the part with the fireplace, and the entire section beginning with the door that extends to the rear (left) was added as a third section much later.

Catherine Crumley 9

Eventually, the owners, sometime in the late 1800s cut an inside doorway between the two halves of the house.  A rear addition was also put on, doubling the size of the house.  However, the piece that Catherine would recognize was the left part, looking straight on to the house from the road, which is the right section in the photo above, taken from the side.  Furthermore, the upper level was at one time raised to make a full story.  In Catherine’s day, it was about half-height – perfect for children.

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This picture is of the original chimney.  You can see that it was extended with bricks when the roof was raised.  The chimney must extend above the roof to prevent the roof from catching on fire, so the original roof was likely below the second story window that was added when the second floor was raised.

When Catherine lived here, it was a half story and probably where the children slept.

This floor, upstairs, is most likely original.

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My ancestor, Catherine’s son William Crumley, born in 1735 or 1736, climbed these stairs and played on this floor, perhaps, and slept in this very room, but probably not in a bed by himself.  Children shared beds – those children lucky enough to sleep in a bed and not on straw on the floor.

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The upstairs was accessible through an unusual stairway beside the fireplace.  In the photo below, you can see the yellow door to the far right.

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It’s extremely narrow and is accessible today.  Here is what it looks like from the upstairs.

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Here is cousin Pam emerging from the stairway on the bottom floor.  You can tell from her smile what a wonderful day we are having!

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There are two original windows that remain.

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One original windows is shown in the photo above to the right of the fireplace on the lower floor  An exact duplicate looks into the second half of the house.  Of course, at one time, that second window looked outside.

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The house is dark (without lights) as it would have been when Catherine lived there.  The only other source of light would have been a front and back door.  The front door is original.  That in itself is absolutely incredible, almost 300 years later.

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This “old” door is far more substantial than any door manufactured today.

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The logs of the house itself can still be seen in the rear of the original part where the new addition was added.  The owners exposed that portion and it’s beautiful.  It’s now part of a hallway.

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You can see the square headed forged nails.

It’s unusual, but there were rows of rock between the logs.

Here, you can see the logs chinked together at what was the original corner of the house.

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Looking down, there is a metal something sticking out of the log.  We don’t know what this is.

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You can see another view of this metal piece in a photo provided by Pam.

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If anyone knows what it is, please let me know.

Pam and I both had to touch the logs – knowing that James and Catherine both touched them.

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The current owner has marked “age lines” with each of her children’s birthdays on the door jam.  I remember my mother doing the same thing, and it makes me wonder if Catherine did something similar, oh so long ago.

Looking at James Crumley’s estate inventory, we can get some idea of how much furniture they had and where it might have fit in the two room cabin.

James had “beds and furniture” but unfortunately, they don’t tell us how many beds – although we know there was more than one.  About the only other things inside the house were brass scales, stillyards and money scales for conducting business, chests, pewter, stove and kitchen iron ware.  It says nothing about plates and such, and often those things are listed individually.  It also does not list any books or a Bible.  Nor a mirror.  Nor pewter plates, so they likely ate out of wooden trenchers.  While James did have a nontrivial amount of “cash, silver, gold and paper” to the tune of 26 pounds, and he was owed notes for 119 pounds, they didn’t seem to have much in terms of physical property.

Catherine probably cooked over the fire in the fireplace.  There could possibly have been an outside kitchen as well, but so far, nothing like that has come to light.  There would be evidence of a cooking area, and none has been found.

Furthermore, there have been no slave quarters found either, and we know that James had at least four slaves and Catherine continued to have slaves through the 1787 tax list.  Did they sleep with the family or perhaps upstairs with the children?

And then there was the matter of the still…

The Still

A still was not a common estate inventory item in Frederick County.  This means that not everyone had one, and I’m guessing that most of the Quaker men did not have a still.  But James assuredly did, and used it liberally according to his estate inventory where he had 15 gallons of liquor, a cyder mill and casks.

This still likely caused Catherine no small amount of heartburn.  This family was Quaker, but they apparently weren’t fanatically Quaker.  How much trouble did this still cause Catherine at church or within the community?  For that matter, did it cause trouble at home?

Or is the fact that there was so much debt owed to James indicative of the fact that he was a successful “businessman” within the community?  Yes, he appeared to be a shoemaker, but he also appeared to be what we would term a moonshiner today.

However, there may be more to this story than we already know.

The road that intersects Apple Pie Ridge Road in front of James and Catherine’s home is called Tuscarora Road.  The current owner told us that the Tuscarora migrated through the area.  This makes perfect sense given that they left North Caroline beginning in 1713 after the Tuscarora War, and groups migrated back and forth from then until the last group left North Carolina for New York in the early 1800s.  There are many place names along the Blue Ridge mountains, roughly paralleling I81, that include the word Tuscarora. In fact, Tuscarora Creek runs through the center of Martinsville, West Virginia, the next county north of Frederick County.

The local people tell us that the Tuscarora camped and lived in these locations for some time.  It’s unlikely that they all left.  Some would have worked and traded within the community.

We visited the historic village of Gerrardstown, about 10 miles north of James Crumley’s land where the “History of Gerrardstown” also told us the same story – that the Tuscarora were found throughout this area and along the ridge as they migrated to the north – except this book also says that the Tuscarora lived here.  There are many local areas and landmarks there with Tuscarora in their name.

Did the fact that James Crumley had a still have something to do with why the Tuscarora continued to stay and perhaps live on his land?  Was he simply an opportunist after discovering that the Tuscarora, whose chiefs had asked the whites not to provide drink to their Indian men, were camping and perhaps living on his land?  Is that part of why he carried so very much debt owed to him?

How did Catherine feel about this?  It makes me wonder if their “slaves” were African or if they were perhaps Indian – although if they were Indian it begs the question of why they simply did not just leave.  If they were Indian, they would not have been Tuscarora, but captives of other tribes that the Tuscarora held or sold or maybe used to pay their debts.  The men captives were often killed, but the women and children, being much easier to control and less likely to cause trouble, were generally sold into bondage.

There may be yet more to this story to be unraveled.

The French and Indian War

This part of the country was incessantly raided, up and down this valley, during the French and Indian War which began in 1754.  The old Indian Path became the Wagon Road which has now become I81.  During the French and Indian War, this area became the ingress and egress for both the French and hostile Indians conducting raids, hoping to drive the settlers out of their area and back from whence they came.

Areas from Martinsburg into Gerrardstown and down the valley through Winchester and further south were raided by the French and Indians.  This is exactly where James and Catherine lived – on the old main road.

Prisoners were taken, settler families were killed and life during this time period was in a state of upheaval.  In some areas, entire counties were abandoned, to be resettled later.  But that didn’t happen in Frederick County.  These settlers stayed put right where they were.  They had put down roots and they weren’t going anyplace, not even upon threat of death.

The Tuscarora Indians sided with the Americans.  Perhaps the proximity of the Tuscarora to James Crumley provided him with some modicum of protection – or at least forewarning.  Neither James nor any of his sons show any record of having served in this conflict, with the exception of one entry regarding being absent from militia service.  James would have been in his early 40s and his eldest sons between 18 and 20, so any of these men could have served.  Maybe their Quaker religion precluded it in their case, but their Quaker religion did not seem to preclude the still.  Perhaps they were selectively Quaker.

Cousin Jerry Crumly in his book, “Pioneer Ancestors: Crumley, Copeland et al” states the following:

At a Court Martial convened in Frederick County, Virginia on October 13, 1760, Captain Lewis Moore returned his muster roll and ordered that John Crumley, of the company commanded by Captain Moore, be fined 40 shillings for absenting from three private and one general muster.i Again, it seems unusual for a Quaker to be a member of a military unit, but here is evidence that John was in the militia during the French and Indian War. Hopewell Friends History, 1734 to 1934, Frederick Co., VA records that “in the years 1754-1755 a determined effort was made by the colonial government to force Friends to bear arms against the French and Indians, and upon their steady refusal some of them were beaten and imprisoned.”ii Perhaps John Crumley and his father, James, both found it preferable to serve in the militia rather than to be beaten and imprisioned. John’s Court Martial would indicate that his heart really wasn’t in it.

I have to wonder if Catherine ever hid in the cellar.  This is one of the very few log cabins I’ve ever seen with a cellar.  Would the cellar have been considered an area of safety or a sure trap with no exit?  Did the men have guns to protect the homeplace?  No guns are listed in James Crumley’s estate inventory in 1764, just a few years later.

Catherine was raising her children on a frontier that was also a war zone – a situation that never entirely resolved until after the Revolutionary War ended.  Catherine lived to see that as well.  Of her three sons, we know nothing of the children of Henry, but William and John had 8 sons between them.  We know that son William, then living just north of Catherine on land once owned by James and Catherine spanning the border with Berkeley County, now West Virginia, provided supplies for the use of the Revolutionary army.  He was allowed 5 pounds for 8 days of service as a “receiver” in collecting clothing and provisions.  He also contributed 11 bushels and a peck of wheat along with his wife’s brother-in-law and his wife’s step-father.

Catherine Crumley 26

Perhaps those supplies were stored in William’s barn, shown above, on land left to William by his father, once granted to James and Catherine by Lord Fairfax.

Fortunately for Catherine, and the other settlers, there were no actual battles in Frederick County in the Revolutionary War.  However, when living there, with war and raids raging all around, following the French and Indian War which was not really resolved until 1763 – it must have felt like there was always some kind of unrest and conflict that threatened not only your possessions and home, but your very life and that of your children and grandchildren. This must have somehow become “normal” to Catherine, because life went on.  She raised her children and did all the things that needed to be done – somehow.  Both before and after James’ death.

Let’s take a look at how Catherine would have lived on the farm, outside of her 2 room cabin.  One thing is for sure, with very little space, most activities other than some cooking, sleeping and keeping warm in the winter likely took place outside.

Out Buildings

There were some outbuildings on the property.  The one I find the most interesting is nestled behind the house.  It’s quite close today, but before the additions, it was a bit further away.  The owner thinks it may have been a smokehouse just for hanging meat, since no evidence of fire has been found there either.  She does not think it’s original to the property, but it does look quite old and I wonder if it is.  It’s log, not sawed planks, so it likely predates a sawmill.

Catherine Crumley 27

This little building is just fascinating.

Catherine Crumley 28

I wondered about this house being for the still, but a still would have required a fire as well, and there is no evidence of a fire being built inside this building.  The owner told us that the construction was said to have been of Irish origin by on one of the individuals who came to look at the property when it was being listed on the Historic Register.  of course, since we don’t know when it was constructed, we don’t know if this is a hint as to James and Catherine Crumley’s origins or not.  We don’t even know who said it was Irish, why, and if that was accurate or not.

Catherine Crumley 29

There are two other outbuilding, but both of them date to after the Crumley’s owned this land.

Catherine Crumley 30

This building was rebuilt with many of the original materials.

Catherine Crumley 31

This corn crib has never been rebuilt, but doesn’t date to when Catherine lived here.

The original well still exists too, just a few feet in front of the house.  Behind the house, down a hill, is a creek.  I’m sure the well was a welcome addition, but I doubt it was here when Catherine was alive.  She, I’m sure, walked to the creek, or sent her children or slaves.

Catherine Crumley 32

Another outbuilding that is “gone” would be the outhouse, of course.

One final building was the all-important barn.  The barn on this property was substantial.  The owner indicated that the barn was in very poor condition when they bought the property some 40+ years ago.  They felt it was a second barn built on an original foundation.  The foundation remains, and we could see differences in construction styles in different sections.

Catherine Crumley 33

Ironically, the barn was substantially larger than the original log cabin house.

Last on the tour was the cellar.  While many people would not find this exciting, we did.  We don’t know if James built this cabin or not, but it was rather “deluxe” for its time with two rooms and a cellar – albeit a dirt floor cellar.  It would have provided storage for root vegetables through the winter and probably storage for perishables like milk in the summer as well.

Catherine Crumley 34

These steps would have been original of course, although the doors have been just recently replaced..

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These stones are huge and very heavy.  I wonder how they found or quarried them, transported them and placed them.

The chestnut beams supporting the house are in amazing condition considering their age and moist conditions under the house.

Catherine crumley 36

Based on modifications made to the walls for ductwork, we could see the significant depth of the walls.  This looks more like a fort than a house.  Maybe this is part of the answer as to the defense of the family.  It could also explain why there are rocks between the logs.  Rocks deflect gunfire better than wood.

Catherine Crumley 37

These walls appear to be more than 2 feet thick in some areas.

The Cemetery?

Where is Catherine buried?  That’s a good question.  Most likely, where James and her son Samuel are buried.  So, where is James buried?

He would have been buried in one of two places.  Either on his own land or at the Hopewell church.

James and Catherine were Quakers.  Some of their children and their descendants continued that Quaker tradition for generations.  Some may still be Quaker today.

However, James didn’t seem, from his estate inventory, considering his liquor and still, to be a fundamentalist Quaker, although we have no evidence he was ever in any trouble within the church.  Whether he was discreet, meaning perhaps the church elders were among those who owed him money, or the elders were simply turning a blind eye – we’ll likely never know.  He was also a vestry member of the Anglican church which was likely political in nature but shows that he was a respected citizen.  For the rest of that story, see the James Crumley article.

The property owner told us that when they bought the property, there was one single gravestone propped up in the barn.  They wanted that stone, but the previous owners took it when they left.  We don’t know where on the property that stone would have been located, or why it was in the barn.  It was from a later date when the Lodge family owned the land.  But it does tell us one thing.  There was a cemetery at one time.  Was it the Crumley cemetery repurposed for new owners?  Or was it truly the Lodge cemetery with only one burial?  Are James and Catherine along with their son Samuel buried at their home or at Hopewell Friends Church?

The Hopewell Friends Church

Catherine Crumley 38

Churches and religion were extremely important to these pioneer families.  Many had sacrificed greatly in order to be able to participate in their religion of choice – and not just in the present generation – but often for many preceding generations.  Most of these people demonstrated a willingness to lay their lives down and risk everything for their religion.  This leads me to believe that, if possible, James Crumley would have wanted to be buried at Hopewell, according to his Quaker beliefs.

Catherine Crumley 39

The Hopewell Church was the first Quaker Church or Meeting House in this area and was established in 1734, before James and Catherine arrived, but not terribly long before they arrived.  They would have worshipped in this church, part of which has been expanded.

Catherine Crumley 40

If James and Catherine Crumley are buried here, it is likely in the center part under this very old tree where the earliest burials likely took place.  There are many unmarked graves.

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This church, except for modernization somewhat, likely has not changed much since Catherine attended.

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Did Catherine pick flowers and sit them in the windows of the house or the church to cheer the family or to lift her own spirits when warfare, strife and sorrow invaded her life?

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Gazing across the fields from the back of the church, we see the ever-present mountains in the distance.  These mountains at once defined boundaries and opportunity.  Did Catherine look at them and think about the lands she came from?  Did she think about her parents and perhaps children buried in hallowed ground left behind?  What did Catherine think about when she gazed at these mountains?  Did she have any idea that her descendants would spread across and settle the rest of the country within just a few generations?

Catherine Crumley 44

Those mountains would be both a barrier and a highway. It would be down those mountains and through the valleys that at least one of Catherine’s sons and many of her grandchildren would venture.  It would be across those mountains that the husbands and sons of settlers would march to fight the French and Indians in 1754 and to settle distant places, founding Quaker churches wherever they went.  The mountains were somewhat of a barrier for settlers, at least for a little while, but they provided no barrier at all to Indians who raided the settlements, hoping to stem the ever-growing tide of intruding settlers.  That didn’t work, and the settlers pressed on, through the mountains, into the heartland and eventually, from sea to sea.

Catherine’s Children

Catherine and James had a total of five known children, four that lived to adulthood.

  • John Crumley, probably the oldest, born about 1733 or 1734 in Chester County, PA. He married Hannah Faulkner and moved to Newberry County, SC before 1790.
  • William Crumley, born about 1735 or 1736, also in Chester County. William lived his life on land bordering Frederick County, VA and Berkeley County, West VA left to him in his father’s will. William married Hannah Mercer.
  • Mary Crumley married Thomas Doster and possibly secondly to Jesse Faulkner.
  • Henry Crumley married Sarah whose last name is unknown. All we know about Henry is that he left the area and apparently died about 1792.
  • Samuel Crumley is mentioned in his father’s will as underage, but he did not live to claim his inheritance.

In that day and time, there would likely have been at least twice and maybe three times that many children born to a pioneer couple, so at least some of those children are buried someplace in Frederick County – likely the same place James, Catherine and Samuel are buried.

Catherine’s Mitochondrial DNA

Of the four surviving children, only one was female, which limits our ability to find someone who carries Catherine’s mitochondrial DNA.  Fortunately, daughter Mary Crumley who married Thomas Doster and had three daughters, Ruth, Sarah and Mary.

Mother’s pass their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.  Mitochondrial DNA can tell us a great deal about the ancestry of Catherine – information we will likely never know unless we find someone who carries her mitochondrial DNA and who is willing to test.

If you descend from Catherine’s daughter, Mary Crumley, who married Thomas Doster and possibly Jesse Faulkner, through all females to the current generation, in which you can be male or female, and you’re willing to DNA test – I have a DNA testing scholarship for you!!!!



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DNAeXplain Archives – Intermediate DNA Articles

Today, another group from the DNAeXplained archives.  This time, we’ll be looking at Intermediate DNA.  The various categories are:

  • Historical or Obsolete – these are items that were interesting at the time by aren’t really relevant today – except in a historical context. An example would be the announcement of the Genographic 2 project in July of 2012. You may wonder why I didn’t delete these. Looking back, these are somewhat like a genetic genealogy journal.
  • General Information – these are generally articles about DNA and genealogy. They don’t presume that you’re actually working with the results.
  • Basic Education – this may be basic genealogy or basic DNA fundamentals. These articles provide a foundation for working with your results. Think of it as pre-bootcamp.
  • Introductory DNA – these articles do presume you are working with your results. Bootcamp begins here.
  • Intermediate DNA – these topics are a little more challenging and you’ll probably need the basics and introductory understanding to be able to work at this level.
  • Advanced DNA – very few articles are advanced. In fact, I try very hard to avoid this, when possible. Mostly, these have to do with advanced autosomal techniques and research.
  • Examples – these are examples of using genealogy and DNA together seamlessly. My 52 Ancestors stories fall into this category. Think of these as story problems that include the answers!
  • Educational – educational opportunities such as classes, books and videos.
  • Entertainment – just for fun, like the Who Do You Think You Are series, some of these have no DNA content.
  • Project Administration – articles written for project administrators at Family Tree DNA. Project administrators, of course, will be interested in all of the rest.
  • In the past we’ve covered Historical, General Information, Basic Education and Introductory DNA. Today, let’s look at Intermediate DNA.
Title Date Link
To SNP or not to SNP? 8-10-2012 http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/10/to-snp-or-not-to-snp/
Phasing the X Chromosome 12-30-2012 http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/30/phasing-the-x-chromosome/
The Autosomal Me – Unraveling Minority Admixture 2-6-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/02/06/the-autosomal-me-unraveling-minority-admixture/
The Autosomal Me – The Ancestors Speak 2-10-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/02/10/the-autosomal-me-the-ancestors-speak/
The Autosomal Me – Who Am I? 2-13-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/02/13/the-autosomal-me-who-am-i/
The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results 2-24-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/02/24/the-autosomal-me-testing-company-results/
The Autosomal Me – Rooting Around in the Weeds Using Third Party Tools 3-3-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/03/03/the-autosomal-me-rooting-around-in-the-weeds-using-third-party-tools/
The Autosomal Me – DNA Analysis – Splitting Up 3-12-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/03/12/the-autosomal-me-dna-analysis-splitting-up/
The Autosomal Me – Start, Stop, go – Identifying Native Chromosome Segments 3-18-2013 the-autosomal-me-start-stop-go-identifying-native-chromosome-segments
The Autosomal Me – Extracting Data Segments and Clustering 4-8-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/04/08/the-autosomal-me-extracting-data-segments-and-clustering/
The Autosomal Me – The Holy Grail – Identifying Native Genealogy Lines 5-31-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/05/31/the-autosomal-me-the-holy-grail-identifying-native-genealogy-lines/
The Autosomal Me Summary and PDF File 6-2-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/06/02/the-autosomal-me-summary-and-pdf-file/
Kitty Cooper’s Chromosome Mapping Tool Released 8-3-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/08/03/kitty-coopers-chromsome-mapping-tool-released/
Family Tree DNA Updates Family Finder and Adds Triangulation 10-3-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/03/family-tree-dna-updates-family-finder-and-adds-triangulation/
Mitochondrial DNA Convergence and Matches 10-11-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/11/mitochondrial-dna-convergence-and-matches/
Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Match Matrix Released 12-10-2013 http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/10/family-tree-dnas-family-finder-match-matrix-released/
Introducing the Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer 1-9-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/01/09/introducing-the-autosomal-dna-segment-analyzer/
That Unruly X…Chromosome That Is 1-23-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/01/23/that-unruly-x-chromosome-that-is/
Big Y Matching 6-24-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/06/24/big-y-matching/
Big Y DNA Results Divide and Unite Haplogroup Q Native Americans 6-25-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/06/25/big-y-dna-results-divide-and-unite-haplogroup-q-native-americans/
Utilizing Ancient DNA at GedMatch 9-22-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/09/22/utilizing-ancient-dna-at-gedmatch/
Ancient DNA Matches – What Do They Mean? 9-25-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/09/25/ancient-dna-matches-what-do-they-mean/
Ancient DNA Matching – A Cautionary Tale 9-30-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/09/30/ancient-dna-matching-a-cautionary-tale/
Chromosome Browser War 11-30-2014 http://dna-explained.com/2014/11/30/chromosome-browser-war/
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Just One Cousin 1-11-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/01/11/just-one-cousin/
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Estes Big Y DNA Results 3-26-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/03/26/estes-big-y-dna-results/
Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins 5-21-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/05/21/are-you-native-native-american-haplogroup-origins-and-ancestral-origins/
4 Generation Inheritance Study 8-23-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/23/4-generation-inheritance-study/
Phasing Yourself 8-27-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/27/phasing-yourself/
Ancestry Shared Matches Combined With New Ancestor Discoveries 8-28-2015 http://dna-explained.com/2015/08/28/ancestry-shared-matches-combined-with-new-ancestor-discoveries/



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Finding Hidden Treasure in Estate Inventories

Recently, I spent an entire day in Richmond at the Library of Virginia, also known as the State Archives.  Like always, I prepared a research list.  While most of my research procured nothing, which isn’t unusual after you’re already plucked all the fruit you can readily see – I did come up with one big winner.

The estate inventory of Edward Mercer who died sometime between May 4th 1763 when he last appears in the Frederick County, Virginia court minutes in a road order, and November 1, 1763 when his estate was probated.  At that same court session, he was replaced as overseer or the road, so he apparently was still “working” up to a few months before he died, even though he prepared his will “being sick, aged and weak of body” in September of 1762.  Edward was probably just shy of 60, certainly not an old man – so his estate should reflect an active life, not a “retirement,” if there was such a thing then.

The first bingo I found in the library was a book of transcribed wills and estate inventories.  I was quite relieved because that meant I might not have to ask them to pull the microfilm and read that.  Old books on microfilm are not always legible nor is the indexing ever complete.  The only individuals indexed are the primary individual – not witnesses or wives or anyone else.  Many times the “rest of the story” is told in who surrounds individuals during their lifetime – so we need all of that additional information.

So, when I found Edward Mercer’s estate inventory listed in the transcribed book, I was ecstatic.  I read the estate inventory, and it was short and general.  It listed things like, “agricultural produce and farm animals.”  Well, I have to tell you, I’ve seen a lot of colonial wills and I have never seen one list something like that.  They list the produce and they list the animals, individually, or at least by breed.  In other words, you in far more danger of receiving far more information that you wanted than not enough, if an estate inventory was taken and filed.

It appeared that I was going to have to get the microfilm after all.

Estate inventories are a vastly overlooked source of information not available elsewhere.  The wills tell who your ancestors left his or her worldly goods to, but the estate inventory tells you what those goods were and those goods tell a huge story about your ancestor’s life.  In addition to what IS in the estate inventory, what ISN’T in the inventory tells a story too – especially in the context of the time and place in which they lived.

Many men did have a will.  Most wills were not written much in advance.  Sometimes wills were made verbally as the individual was on death’s doorstep to whomever was nearby.  These are called noncupative wills.  Sometimes, death was unexpected and there no opportunity for a will.

Most women did not have wills because most women did not own items outright, meaning outside of a marriage where the man was assumed to be the owner of the land (except for her dower rights.)  Often women retained what is known as a “life estate” where the woman holds either property or other items for the term of her life, at which point their ownership reverts to others, generally one or several children as specified in her husband’s will when he died.

If the woman dies before the man, the husband automatically owns everything so no will for the wife is necessary.  I’m talking about historical US wills, not current law.  I’m not a lawyer…I don’t play one on TV or anyplace else:)

Understanding how wills and ownership of both property and personal items worked helps in unraveling what estate inventories tell us.

When the man died, an inventory of everything was taken, even if the wife was to retain “household items.”  While that seems vastly unfair, especially since she often had to bid to buy her own cooking utensils back at a sale, it’s a huge boon for genealogists.

Sometimes individuals are mentioned in inventories – and in some cases, an item is left to a daughter in a will, but by the time she collects that item, she is married and a married name is listed.  In other cases, if something is left specifically to an individual, it is not included in the appraisal.  It doesn’t seem standardized, you say?  It’s not – and often it helps to look at other wills and estates from that county and time to observe what was customary.  Any deviation from custom must have been caused by something…and that something could be interesting to a genealogist.

Even the individuals who appraise your ancestor’s estate are important.  In Virginia, if your ancestor’s spouse was still living, one person who was from the “wife’s family” was chosen, keeping her interests in mind, the largest debtor of the person who died was selected, keeping their interests in mind, and one person completely disinterested in the outcome of the estate appraisal was selected.

With that information, you can sometimes add to your knowledge of the family, especially if you know the wife’s family is likely in the area.  How would you know that?  If your ancestor lived in that area when he married, his wife’s family would have been from that area too.  Young people often met at church or social functions – and with limited transportation – that social group wasn’t from any great distance.

People often married their neighbors or individuals from just a mile or two away.  Courting was likely done on foot, or maybe on horseback.  You can’t marry someone you can’t court!

So, let’s take a look at Edward Mercer’s will and see what is actually in the estate inventory.

The subscribers by virtue of an order of Frederick County Court being first sworn has met and appraised such of the estate of Edward Mercer, deceased, as was brought to our view by Ann Mercer and Joseph Fanset the executors – viz –

The values would be given in pounds, shillings and pence.

Edward Mercer estate 1

  • One old loom 0-15-0
  • Red Cow 0-15-0
  • 1 Cow and bell 3-0-0
  • 1 brindle cow 2-10-0
  • A brindle cow 2-0-0
  • A white cow 2-10-0
  • White back heifer 2-0-0
  • White bull 2-0-0
  • White heifer 1-15-0
  • Speckled heifer 2-0-0
  • Red yearling steer 1-0-0
  • White steer 1-7-0
  • White faced heifer 1-10-0
  • Brindle calfe 0-15-0
  • A pide yearling 1-0-0
  • A brindle yearling 1-0-0
  • Six calves 3-6-0
  • 2 pide steers 3-15-0
  • 2 heifers 2-10-0
  • One stear 2-10-0
  • A roan horse 6-0-0
  • An old mare 2-10-0
  • A mare and colt 3-10-0
  • A bay mare and colt 5-0-0
  • Old wagon and gears 9-0-0
  • A pen and gears 1-3-0

Edward Mercer estate 2

  • Eight swine 0-?-0
  • 2 sows and pigs 0-16-0
  • Harrow pens 0-10-0
  • Cart wheels 1-0-0
  • A rick of hay 3-0-0
  • 2 ricks of hay 6-10-0
  • Hay in the barn 2-0-0
  • Grain in the barn 12-0-0
  • Unbreak flax 0-5-0
  • 2 caskes and flax seed 0-9-0
  • Corn foder 0-10-0
  • Hay in the stable 0-15-0
  • A mall and wedges 0-5-0
  • 2 old axes 0-5-0
  • Indian corn 2-0-0
  • 2 old hoes 0-7-0
  • Small grind stone 0-3-0
  • An old gun 0-15-0
  • Another old gun 0-10-0
  • 2 bells and collar 0-5-0
  • Some old carpenters tools 0-14-0
  • Old iron 0-2-6
  • A pair of small stilliards 0-5-0
  • Few nails 0-2-0
  • Some more carpenters tools 0-10-0
  • An old saddle 1-5-0
  • Suit of cloathes 5-10-0
  • Side saddle 1-5-0
  • Old lumber 0-6-0
  • 8 old chairs 1-0-0
  • Old dough trough 0-3-0
  • A chaf (?) bed and cloaths 1-15-0
  • One bed and furniture 4-0-0
  • Seven old bags 0-7-0
  • Old casks and reel 0-5-0
  • Old chest 0-10-0
  • A morter 0-2-6
  • A warming pan 1-0-0
  • Old reeds and wifts (or mosts or wefts) 0-4-0

Edward Mercer estate 3

  • Some salt 0-6-6
  • Smoothing box and candlestick 0-3-0
  • Hand and gridirons 0-8-0
  • Iron poths (pots?) hangers and frying pan 1-3-0
  • Old books 0-6-0
  • Puter (pewter) 2-6-0
  • Some old tins 0-2-0
  • Sythes and hangings 0-14-0
  • Old copper 0-1-3
  • 3 old casks 0-5-6
  • 1 cask of cyder 1-4-1
  • 2 old whelbs(?) and branding iron and old tea kettle 0-11-0
  • Warping barrs and boxes 0-5-0
  • Hannah Mercers puter 5-0-0
  • Her bed and furniture 8-0-0

Jesse Pugh, Joseph Babb, Peter Babb

At court held for Frederick County the first day of May 1764.  This appraisement was returned and ordered to be recorded by the court.

The first thing this inventory tells us is that Edward Mercer was very involved in animal husbandry and likely only farmed enough to feed his animals.  He did not have plows and other typical farming implements and had many more animals than the typical farmer.

Edward’s family had chairs, not just a bench to sit on. And almost enough chairs for each person to sit at the same time.  He had 7 children, so the estate is one chair short for the entire family to sit together.  Perhaps one chair broke.  They are described as “old.”  However, there is no table listed.  That’s rather odd.

Edward was a good-hearted person.  He did not kill his old mare who was probably no longer useful.

Edward was likely a carpenter.  Every man on the frontier had a specialty skill, and his appears to be carpentry based on his tools.  This means that when you find homes built in that timeframe in that area, Edward may have worked on those.

Edward owned no slaves, but he clearly could have afforded slaves had he so chosen.  His lack of slaves then must have been either a personal moral judgment or a religious conviction.  However, other Quakers did own slaves including the family his daughter, Hannah, married into.

The flax and loom suggest that his wife and daughter spun and wove, although interestingly enough, a spinning wheel is not listed.  However, you can’t get from flax to weaving without spinning it into thread first.

There is cyder, but no alcohol.  There is no still.  This is highly ironic, since Edward Mercer was kicked out of the Quaker church in 1759 for…you guessed it….drinking.  In fact, “too frequently drinking strong drink to excess.”

Edward Mercer signed his will and owned books, so obviously this man could read and write.  How I’d love to know what those books were.

There is no Bible, although Edward was a Quaker up until he was kicked out of the church in 1759, ironically, for drinking, not attending meetings and not being penitent about either.

Other than Hannah’s furniture, which did include a bed, there were two other beds mentioned.  Was there a bed for the parents, then a boys bed and a girl’s bed?  There were two girls and five boys.

And speaking of Hannah, she is mentioned in the estate inventory, but it’s very likely that she was married by this time.  However, the fact that she is mentioned by her maiden name does not prove that Hannah was not married.  They may simply have referred to her as she was listed in the will. I have often wondered if she was already married when the will was written, even though Edward does not refer to Hannah by a married name.  The reason I question this is because Edward says that the “puter” (pewter) is already “in her possession.”  That would likely mean that she is not living at home, but unless she were married, where else would she be living?  Edward said the same thing about Hannah’s 6 head of cattle as well, that they are already in her possession.  But then he goes on to say she can leave her mare on his plantation as long as she remains unmarried, so obviously she is not married at that time.  There must be something here that I’m missing.  Perhaps she was living with another family member before she married.

Edward does have two old guns, and he fought in the French and Indian War, so this makes sense.  These are likely the guns he carried with General George Washington at Fort Necessity.  What I wouldn’t give to see those guns.

And speaking of things I’d love to see…that old chest is one.  I want to open that chest and see what is inside.  I’m guessing that might be where Edward kept any spare clothes he had or anything of value – like maybe letters!!!

We also know that Edward’s wife, Ann, was living because she was one of the individuals who administered his will and “presented” his estate to the court.

We know that the family had candles.  The poorest families didn’t and worked only by the light of the sun.  Sundown meant bedtime.

In Edward’s case, either his estate was not sold at public auction, or there is no court record of the sale.  Many times, the sale is recorded, item by item, and who was present at the sale can tell you a huge amount.  In some cases, you can track valuable family heirlooms this way.

In one case, I knew who bought my ancestor’s family Bible – which means I know who subsequently lost it by leaving it when they sold a house and moved (in the 1880s.)  Yep, it’s in the possession of the family of the new homeowners who have no idea WHY they have this old German family Bible – but they are convinced that it’s important and valuable.  The good news is that they are protecting it.  The bad news is that they do not wish to part with it.

The moral of this story?  Don’t think you’ve found everything when you find your ancestors will, or even if you don’t find a will.  There is likely to be an estate appraisement with or without a will, and sometimes the information in the estate inventory tells you far more about your ancestors life and how they actually lived than the will itself.  Wills tell you who is supposed to get what, but estates tell you the story of your ancestors life through what they left behind.

If you look around your own house, you’ll realize that your sewing machine and quilting tools, for example, at my house, are far more personal and representative of what you do with your daily life than the land you own.

In terms of getting to know your ancestor, their stuff is far more important than their land.

Let me close with one very personal example.

The farm I grew up on was lost to the family through a long series of estate errors and complex legal maneuvers.  I swore I’d never return.  However,  I decided a couple years ago to “drive by” out of curiosity when I was driving cross country to a speaking engagement and had to drive within a couple of miles of the property.  The draw was just too strong and several years had passed since all of the drama.  The individual who wound up with the property immediately sold it, so there was no one living there that I knew.  The coast seemed to be clear.

I pulled into the driveway by the road, not pulling up any further, and about a minute later, a man in a pickup truck approached from behind asking if he could help me.  I could tell he wasn’t terribly happy.  I explained who I was and why I was there.

The man in the truck was the current owner (who I didn’t know and who was not involved in the legal mess) and he was very kind and gracious.  It was a very emotional visit for me (understatement!), as it was the first time I had been back since I moved my mother to town back twenty years before, after Dad’s death.

We chatted for a few minutes, talking about the property, and he asked me if I wanted to walk around with him.  The house had burned, which was another shock, but the barn looked just the same, just with a new coat of paint.

It was the barn that represented Dad in my mind anyway, so we walked in that direction.  We went inside and I was sharing with him my memories of how the barn used to be, when I spotted something in the hayloft, right above where my Dad used to sit in his favorite “barn chair.”  I asked the owner what it was.  He climbed up in the hayloft and retrieved an old box, handing it down to me.

It was Dad’s old box.  I recognized it right away.  He made it years ago and kept “stuff” in it.  Dad was always making something utilitarian like this out of almost nothing.

There were only a couple small things of no value in the box, plus some straw, but it was undoubtably, unquestionably his box.

Dad's box open

I no longer cared about the land or the farm, but I desperately wanted this box that my Dad had made with his own hands.  The current owner said he liked old boxes like that, and my heart just sank.  He had every right, of course.  But then, he gave me the box. I was ever so grateful.

This box which carries the spirit of the man who crafted and made it with his hands means far more to me than the land.

Dad's box closed2

I feel like this was a wink from Dad.  A special gift to me some 20 years after he left this earth.

Perhaps there is a surprise ancestor-wink waiting for you in an estate inventory too.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

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Lady Godiva (c1040-1066/1086), Gift of God, 52 Ancestors #93

You just never know who you’re going to find hanging around in your family tree.


In the upper left hand corner of the wonderful royal lineage chart created by Ky White for me, you can see Lady Godiva on her trusty steed.

Chart Godiva crop

Lady Godiva, of all people, is my 32 times great-grandmother.  Yes, that means that the word great appears 32 times before the word grandmother.  Amazing isn’t it.  And you know, the very first thing I wonder is if I carry any of her autosomal DNA at all.  As remote as it seems, at the 34 generation level, I obviously carry the DNA of some of my ancestors from 34 generations ago, or I would have no DNA at all.

The problem with finding DNA at this genealogical distance is first, that the DNA would likely be chopped into such small pieces that it would be extremely difficult to differentiate from other DNA – like IBP (identical by population) or even DNA inherited from other common ancestors.  I have just one line back this far, so in the past 32 generations, were I to match someone else who also descended from Lady Godiva, it’s very possible, if not probable, that we both descend from other common ancestors as well.  So DNA, at least today, isn’t an option for proving descent.

Discovering Lady Godiva as an ancestor was fun.  Researching her was fun too.  Of course, as luck would have it, I discovered that I descended from Lady Godiva about a year AFTER I stood in the square in Coventry (England), by her statue, entirely oblivious.  Couldn’t she have whispered in my ear????

Wanna hear something really bad??  I left because I spotted a Starbucks down the street as the tour guide was talking about Lady Godiva.  No kidding.  I’m kicking myself now, let me assure you!  My husband even said I was probably related to her, and I assured him that I was not.  Duh.  DUH!!!!!  Kicking self.

I had not found my gateway ancestor yet at that time, who connected me back many generations through lots of royalty.  A gateway ancestor is kind of a jackpot – because once you find them, a whole new world of royalty opens up to you.  The difference between royalty and peasantry is that someone has done the genealogy of royalty already!  Woohoooo.

So, let’s take a look at Coventry and the life of Lady Godiva.

Coventry, Warwickshire, England

The first chronicled event in the history of Coventry took place in 1016 when King Canute and his army of Danes were laying waste to many towns and villages in Warwickshire in a bid to take control of England, and on reaching the settlement of Coventry they destroyed the Saxon nunnery.  Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva (a corruption of her given name, “Godgifu”) rebuilt on the remains of the nunnery to found a Benedictine monastery in 1043 for an abbot and 24 monks, dedicated to St. Mary.  Leofric had been appointed Earl by Canute and was one of the three most powerful men in the country, while Godiva was already a woman of high status before marriage and owned much land.

“He [Leofric] and his wife, the noble Countess Godgifu, a worshipper of God and devout lover of St Mary ever-virgin, built the monastery there from the foundations out of their own patrimony, and endowed it adequately with lands and made it so rich in various ornaments that in no monastery in England might be found the abundance of gold, silver, gems and precious stones that was at that time in its possession. ”

— John of Worcester

Edward the Confessor, who had been crowned King by this time, favored pious acts of this nature and granted a charter confirming Leofric and Godiva’s gift.

So, Lady Godiva was a powerful woman in her own right.

Lady Godiva by John Collier

“Lady Godiva by John Collier” by John Collier in about 1897 – Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lady_Godiva_by_John_Collier.jpg#/media/File:Lady_Godiva_by_John_Collier.jpg

Godiva, or Godgifu in old English, known as Lady Godiva, lived from about 1040 to about 1067.  She was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to a legend dating back at least to the 13th century, rode naked – only covered in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants.

This sounds like the ultimate marital disagreement and subsequent dare.  Never challenge a strong woman!

The name “Peeping Tom” for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom had watched her ride and was struck either blind or dead.

Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. They had one proven son Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia.  So much for my hopes of mitochondrial DNA!

Godiva’s name occurs in charters and the Domesday survey, though the spelling varies. The Old English name Godgifu or Godgyfu meant “gift of God”; Godiva was the Latinized version. Since the name was a popular one, there are contemporaries of the same name.

Ely Cathedral

“Ely Cathedral by John Buckler” by John Buckler (1770-1851) – http://oxfordprints.com/Cambridge%20Prints.htm (cropped and straightened by uploader). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ely_Cathedral_by_John_Buckler.JPG#/media/File:Ely_Cathedral_by_John_Buckler.JPG

If she is the same Godiva who appears in the history of Ely Abbey, now the Ely Cathedral in Ely, Cambridgeshire, the Liber Eliensis, written at the end of the 12th century, then she was a widow when Leofric married her. Both Leofric and Godiva were generous benefactors to religious houses. In 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery at Coventry on the site of a nunnery destroyed by the Danes in 1016.  Writing in the 12th century, Roger of Wendover credits Godiva as the persuasive force behind this act. In the 1050s, her name is coupled with that of her husband on a grant of land to the monastery of St Mary, Worcester and the endowment of the minster at Stow, St. Mary, Lincolnshire.

Lady Godiva and her husband are commemorated as benefactors of other monasteries at Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham. She gave Coventry a number of works in precious metal made for the purpose by the famous goldsmith Mannig, and bequeathed a necklace valued at 100 marks of silver. Another necklace went to Evesham, to be hung around the figure of the Virgin accompanying the life-size gold and silver rood, a type of medieval cross, she and her husband gave, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London received a gold-fringed chasuble. She and her husband were among the most munificent of the several large Anglo-Saxon donors of the last decades before the Conquest.  The early Norman bishops made short work of their gifts, carrying them off to Normandy or melting them down for bullion.

So, all things considered, she is the last person I’d expect to find riding naked through town.


“Maidstone 018” by Linda Spashett Storye_book – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maidstone_018.jpg#/media/File:Maidstone_018.jpg

Maidstone side

The manor of Woolhope in Herefordshire, along with four others, was given to the cathedral at Hereford before the Norman Conquest by the benefactresses Wulviva and Godiva – usually held to be this Godiva and her sister. The church there has a 20th-century stained glass window representing them.

Her signature, “di Ego Godiva Comitissa diu istud desideravi”, [I, The Countess Godiva, have desired this for a long time], appears on a charter purportedly given by Thorold of Bucknall to the Benedictine monastery of Spalding. However, this charter is considered spurious by many historians. Even so it is possible that Thorold, who appears in the Domesday Book as sheriff of Lincolnshire, was her brother.

The Nude Ride

The legend of the nude ride is first recorded in the 13th century, in the Flores Historiarum and the adaptation of it by Roger of Wendover.  Despite its considerable age, it is not regarded as plausible by modern historians, nor is it mentioned in the two centuries intervening between Godiva’s death and its first appearance, while her generous donations to the church receive various mentions.

According to the typical version of the story, Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband’s oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride on a horse through the streets of the town. The painting below, from 1892, depicts her moment of decision.

Lady Godiva took him at his word, and after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation in one of the most famous instances of voyeurism. In the story, Tom bores a hole in his shutters so that he might see Godiva pass, and is struck blind. A wooden statue of “Peeping Tom” shown in an 1826 article is shown below.

Peeping Tom

“Peeping Tom effigy Coventry-Gentlemans Magazine-vol96(1826)-p20” by W. Reader – Reader, W. “Peeping Tom of Coventry and Lady Godiva”, p.20-, “Show Fair at Coventry described,” p.22- Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle. Vol. XCVI (Jul-Dec 1826) (books.google). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peeping_Tom_effigy_Coventry-Gentlemans_Magazine-vol96(1826)-p20.png#/media/File:Peeping_Tom_effigy_Coventry-Gentlemans_Magazine-vol96(1826)-p20.png

In the end, Lady Godiva’s husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes.

So, if this is true, then indeed, Lady Godiva is a heroine, a martyr of sorts and probably venerated by the townspeople.  Too bad all she is remembered for is the naked part.

Some historians have discerned elements of pagan fertility rituals in the Godiva story, whereby a young “May Queen” was led to the sacred Cofa’s tree, perhaps to celebrate the renewal of spring. Cofa’s Tree was likely the source of the name Coventry and may have been a central or boundary tree around which Coventry sprung up.

The oldest form of the legend has Godiva passing through Coventry market from one end to the other while the people were assembled, attended only by two knights. This version is given in Flores Historiarum by Roger of Wendover (died 1236), a somewhat gullible collector of anecdotes, who quoted from unnamed earlier writers.

The truth of the matter is likely much more mundane.

Coventry was still a small settlement, with only 69 families (and the monastery) recorded in the Domesday Book some decades later. At that time, the only recorded tolls were on horses. Thus, it’s questionable whether there is any historical basis for the famous ride. The story is particularly doubtful since Countess Godiva would herself have been responsible for setting taxation in Coventry; Salic law, which excluded females from the inheritance of a throne or fief, did not apply in Anglo-Saxon society, and Coventry was unquestionably Anglo-Saxon. If only because of the nudity in the story, its popularity has been maintained, and spread internationally, with many references in modern popular culture – including a brand of chocolate named after her.

Other attempts to find a more plausible rationale for the legend include one based on the custom at the time for penitents to make a public procession in their shift, a sleeveless white garment similar to a slip today and one which was certainly considered “underwear” at that time.

Thus Godiva might have actually travelled through town as a penitent, in her shift. Godiva’s story could have passed into folk history to be recorded in a romanticized version. Another theory suggests that Lady Godiva’s “nakedness” might refer to her riding through the streets stripped of her jewelry, the trademark of her upper class rank. However, these attempts to reconcile known facts with legend are both weak; in the era of the earliest accounts, the word “naked” is only known to mean “without any clothing whatsoever.”

A modified version of the story was given by printer Richard Grafton, later elected MP for Coventry. According to his Chronicle of England (1569), “Leofricus” had already exempted the people of Coventry from “any maner of Tolle, Except onely of Horsse (sic.)”, so that Godiva (“Godina” in text) had agreed to the naked ride just to win relief for this horse tax. And as a pre-condition, she required the officials of Coventry to forbid the populace “upon a great pain” from watching her, and to shut themselves in and shutter all windows on the day of her ride. Grafton was an ardent Protestant and sanitized the earlier story.

The ballad “Leoffricus” in the Percy Folio (ca. 1650) conforms to Grafton’s version, saying that Lady Godiva performed her ride to remove the customs paid on horses, and that the town’s officers ordered the townsfolk to “shutt their dore, & clap their windowes downe,” and remain indoors on the day of her ride.

Godiva's ride

Marshall Claxton: Lady Godiva (1850), the Herbert, Coventry

Lady Godiva’s Death

After Leofric’s death in 1057, his widow lived on until sometime between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and 1086. She is mentioned in the Domesday survey as one of the few Anglo-Saxons and the only woman to remain a major landholder shortly after the conquest. By the time of this great survey in 1086, Godiva had died, but her former lands are listed, although now held by others. Thus, Lady Godiva apparently died between 1066 and 1086.

The place where Godiva was buried has been a matter of debate. According to the Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, or Evesham Chronicle, she was buried at the Church of the Blessed Trinity at Evesham, which is no longer standing, although the bell tower (below) remains today.

Evesham Belltower

According to the account in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “There is no reason to doubt that she was buried with her husband at Coventry, despite the assertion of the Evesham chronicle that she lay in Holy Trinity, Evesham.”

Dugdale (1656) says that a window with representations of Leofric and Godiva was placed in Trinity Church, Coventry (below), about the time of Richard II (1367-1400)

Trinity Church, Coventry

No matter when she lived or died, or whether she rode naked or not, Lady Godiva is certainly a venerated figure of both mythology and history in Coventry today.  And regardless, she is my ancestor.  I’m so grateful that information about her does exist, and that it’s so very interesting.

A beautiful statue celebrates Lady Godiva’s ride forever in the old marketplace at Coventry.




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