Noah Wyle – Who Do You Think You Are? – “Shaken to the Core”

On this Sunday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 10/9c on TLC, actor Noah Wyle unravels the mystery of his mother’s family line, searching for answers to a lifelong question about his family’s participation in the Civil War.

Battle of Shiloh Military Park

One of the things I really like about this series is that often, they open by showing the individual talking to their older relatives about their ancestry. I hope this example encourages others to do the same, because often, so much slips away with our older relatives.

Courtesy TLC

Many times they can identify people in photos, tell us where and when the photos were taken, and stories about the people. Noah’s mother points to her grandfather. This photo was taken in Lexington, Kentucky, but the next generation earlier was from much further north (New York) and much further south (Mississippi), both. Tantalizing tidbits.

Another thing I like about this series is that there is so much “on location” history. In some cases, they visit locations where my ancestors lived too. In other cases, like this week, places I’ve never visited and enjoy seeing from a historical perspective. And then there are snippets from episodes that can connect with just about everyone.

Courtesy TLC

Can’t you almost see your ancestor sitting in this old schoolhouse? I can. A portal to the past.

History Buff

Noah tells us that he has always been a history buff and fascinated with the Civil War. He asked his now-deceased Uncle Sandy about his own family’s participation in the Civil War and Uncle Sandy told him that more well-to-do families hired replacements to fight for them, in their place, and their family had probably done the same. Noah was disappointed with that answer. Knowing his relatives lived in Kentucky, a state clearly deeply involved in the Civil War with regiments who fought for both sides, Noah was more disappointed that his ancestor had not stood up and fought for what he believed, regardless of which side of the conflict.

Noah’s mother was able to help him track their family back through several generations to John Henry Mills, born in New York in 1843 but found in 1860 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Noah’s mother had no idea they had relatives in or from Louisiana.

Noah wants to go further, find an objective truth about his ancestors, beyond just a photo and a third generation anecdote, to put meat on their bones.

Noah looks at his mother and asks, “Where do we go from here?’ Well, of course, we know the answer to that!!!

Louisiana

Noah began his journey of discovery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the Louisiana State Archives, hoping to discover more about his ancestor John Henry Mills who married in Mississippi in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War.

Noah discovers that indeed, John Henry Mills did serve in the Civil War, joining for a 90 day enlistment, which was typical for the timeframe. Almost exactly 30 days later, John fought in the Battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest battles of the war in which 23,000 men were killed on April 6th and 7th of 1862.

I had to ask myself how a person with literally no military experience, “an amateur” as Noah said, would feel about finding themselves in that situation.

I so wanted to tell Noah to search for John’s compiled service record at www.fold3.com or to order his compiled service record from NARA, but so far, TV is a one way communications!

Noah already knew that John survived the battle, because his mother had told him that John married Mary Emily Brown in 1863 in Summit, Mississippi, which was Noah’s next destination.

Mississippi

Noah discovered in Mississippi that his 3X great-grandfather retired in 1899 after 24 years as a public servant, much loved, as the local Treasurer, a career he began in 1875.

However, nine years later, by 1904, John’s life had spiraled out of control. Surprisingly so, so much that I gasped when I saw the headline. So did Noah.

I’m not going to give it away, but I will say that John’s tragic end and the very unusual circumstances really gave Noah pause to reflect and reconsider.

The entire town closed on the day of John’s funeral and the church’s bells were tolled for the man “whose love for his family was as beautiful as it was great.”

After discovering the shocking news about John, and the selfless lengths that he went to in order to attempt to save his family, Noah wanted to know what happened to John’s wife, Mary Emily.

Mary Emily

The historian had found Mary Emily Mills on a 1913 list of Mississippi Confederate widows who had applied for a pension. This pension was state funded, not like the federal pensions for the Union widows, and was restricted to those impoverished. The message here, sadly, was that John’s attempt to save his family had failed and his death had been both tragic and pointless.

Mary was on the pensioner’s role until 1927, when she disappeared. Being a genealogist, I, of course, assumed that she died at that point, but that’s not the only reason one was removed from the rolls. Remarriage or a move out of state would also cause removal.

It was suggested that Noah visit the Beauvoir Soldiers Home in Biloxi, Mississippi and his response was a surprised, “there’s more?” As irony would have it, Beauvoir was the original home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the failed Confederacy.

The Beauvoir home for the aged in the early 1900s was for those pensioners or their widows who were destitute. Mary was admitted in 1926 under emergency circumstances, where she lived out her final days.

The photo below shows Noah sitting in the rocker on the porch of the buildings that were built for the residents.

Courtesy TLC

Noah went in search of his ancestors, and he certainly found more than he bargained for.  John Mills was described as a “gentleman of the old school,” his wife, an educated lady who was caught up in a tragic spiral in a turbulent time in our Nation’s history.

I hope you enjoy the episode. Remember, if you can’t tune in, episodes are available online within a day or so of airing. You can also watch back episodes.

Mitochondrial DNA Build 17 Update at Family Tree DNA

I knew the mitochondrial DNA update at Family Tree DNA was coming, I just didn’t know when. The “when” was earlier this week.

Take a look at your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup – it maybe different!

Today, this announcement arrived from Family Tree DNA.

We’re excited to announce the release of mtDNA Build 17, the most up-to-date scientific understanding of the human genome, haplogroups and branches of the mitochondrial DNA haplotree.

As a result of these updates and enhancements—the most advanced available for tracing your direct maternal lineage—some customers may see a change to their existing mtDNA haplogroup. This simply means that in applying the latest research, we are able to further refine your mtDNA haplogroup designation, giving you even more anthropological insight into your maternal genetic ancestry.

With the world’s largest mtDNA database, your mitochondrial DNA is of great value in expanding the overall knowledge of each maternal branch’s history and origins. So take your maternal genetic ancestry a step further—sign in to your account now and discover what’s new in your mtDNA!

This is great news. It means that your haplogroup designation is the most up to date according to Phylotree.

I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few questions that you might have.

What is Phylotree?

Phylotree is, in essence, the mitochondrial tree of humanity. It tracks the mutations that formed the various mutations from “Mitochondrial Eve,” the original ancestor of all females living today, forward in time…to you.

You can view the Phylotree here.

For example, if your haplogroup is J1c2f, for example, on Phylotree, you would click on haplogroup JT, which includes J. You would then scroll down through all the subgroups to find J1c2f. But that’s after your haplgroup is already determined. Phylotree is the reference source that testing companies use to identify the mutations that define haplogroups in order to assign your haplogroup to you.

It’s All About Mutations

For example, J1c2f has the following mutations at each level, meaning that each mutation(s) further defines a subgroup of haplogroup J.

As you can see, each mutation(s) further refines the haplogroup from J through J1c2f. In other words, if the person didn’t have the mutation G9055A, they would not be J1c2f, but would only be J1c2. If new clusters are discovered in future versions of Phylotree, then someday this person might be J1c2f3z.

Family Tree DNA provides an easy reference mutations chart here.

What is Build 17?

Research in mitochondrial DNA is ongoing. As additional people test, it becomes clear that new subgroups need to be identified, and in some cases, entire groups are moved to different branches of the tree. For example, if you were previously haplogroup A4a, you are now A1, and if you were previously A4a1 you are now A1a.

Build 17 was released in February of 2016. The previous version, Build 16, was released in February 2014 and Build 15 in September of 2012. Prior to that, there were often multiple releases per year, beginning in 2008.

Vendors and Haplogroups

Unfortunately, because some haplogroups are split, meaning they were previously a single haplogroup that now has multiple branches, a haplogroup update is not simply changing the name of the haplogroup. Some people that were previously all one haplogroup are now members of three different descendant haplogroups. I’m using haplogroup Z6 as an example, because it doesn’t exist, and I don’t want to confuse anyone.

Obviously, the vendors can’t just change Z6 to Z6a, because people that were previously Z6 might still be Z6 or might be Z6a, Z6b or Z6c.

Each vendor that provides haplogroups to clients has to rerun their entire data base, so a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup update is not a trivial undertaking and requires a lot of planning.

For those of you who also work with Y DNA, this is exactly why the Y haplotree went from haplogroup names like R1b1c to R-M269, where the terminal SNP, or mutation furthest down the tree (that the participant has tested for) is what defines the haplogroup.

If that same approach were applied to mitochondrial DNA, then J1c2f would be known as J-G9055A or maybe J-9055.

Why Version Matters

When comparing haplogroups between people who tested at various vendors, it’s important to understand that they may not be the same. For example, 23andMe, who reports a haplogroup prediction based not on full sequence testing, but on a group of probes, is still using Phylotree Build 12 from 2011.

Probe based vendors can update their client’s haplogroup to some extent, based on the probes they use which test only specific locations, but they cannot fully refine a haplogroup based on new locations, because their probes never tested those locations. They weren’t known to be haplogroup defining at the time their probes were designed. Even if they redefine their probes, they would have to rerun the actual tests of all of their clients on the new test platform with the new probes.

Full sequence testing at Family Tree DNA eliminates that problem, because they test the entire mitochondria at every location.

Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with your haplogroup, because you might match someone it doesn’t appear that you match. For example, our haplogroup A4a=A1 example. At 23andMe the person would still be A4a but at Family Tree DNA they would be A1.

If you utilize MitoSearch or if you are looking at mtDNA haplogroups recorded in GedMatch, for example, be aware of the source of the information. If you are utilizing other vendors who provide haplogroup estimates, ask which Phylotree build they are using so you know what to expect and how to compare.

Knowing the history of your haplogroup’s naming will allow you to better evaluate haplogroups found outside of Family Tree DNA matchs.

Build History

You can view the Phylotree Update History at this link, but Built 17 information is not yet available. However, since Family Tree DNA went from Built 14 to Build 17, and other vendors are further behind, the information here is still quite relevant.

Growth

If you’re wondering how much the tree grew, Build 14 defined 3550 haplogroups and Built 17 identified 5437. Build 14 utilized and analyzed 8,216 modern mitochondrial sequences, reflected in the 2012 Copernicus paper by Behar et al. Build 17 utilized 24,275 mitochondrial sequences. I certainly hope that the authors will update the Copernicus paper to reflect Build 17. Individuals utilizing the Copernicus paper for haplogroup aging today will have to be cognizant of the difference in haplogroup names.

Matching

If your haplogroup changed, or the haplogroup of any of your matches, your matches may change. Family Tree DNA utilizes something called SmartMatching which means that they will not show you as a match to someone who has taken the full sequence test and is not a member of your exact haplogroup. In other words, they will not show a haplogroup J1c2 as a match to a J1c2f, because their common ancestors are separated by thousands of years.

However, if someone has only tested at the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 (current mtDNA Plus test) levels and is predicted to be haplogroup J or J1, and they match you exactly on the locations in the regions where you both tested, then you will be shown as a match. If they upgrade and are discovered to be a different haplogroup, then you will no longer be shown as a match at any level.

Genographic Project

If you tested with the Genographic Project prior to November of 2016, your haplogroup may be different than the Family Tree DNA haplogroup. Family Tree DNA provided the following information:

The differences can be caused by the level of testing done, which phase of the Genographic project that you tested, and when.

  • Geno 1 tested all of HVR1.
  • Geno 2 tested a selection of SNPs across the mitochondrial genome to give a more refined haplogroup using Build 14.
  • Geno 2+ used an updated selection of SNPs across the mitochondrial genome using Build 16.

If you have HVR1 either transferred from the Genographic Project or from the FTDNA product mtDNA, you will have a basic, upper-level haplogroup.

If you tested mtDNA Plus with FTDNA, which is HVR1 + HVR2, you will have a basic, upper-level haplogroup.

If you tested the Full Mitochondrial Sequence with Family Tree DNA, your haplogroup will reflect the full Build 17 haplogroup, which may be different from either the Geno 2 or Geno 2+ haplogroup because of the number and selection of SNPs tested in the Genographic Project, or because of the build difference between Geno 2+ and FTDNA.

Thank You

I want to say a special thank you to Family Tree DNA.

I know that there is a lot of chatter about the cost of mitochondrial DNA testing as compared to autosomal, which is probe testing. It’s difficult for a vendor to maintain a higher quality, more refined product when competing against a lower cost competitor that appears, at first glance, to give the same thing for less money. The key of course is that it’s not really the same thing.

The higher cost is reflective of the fact that the full sequence mitochondrial test uses different technology to test all of the 16,569 mitochondrial DNA locations individually to determine whether the expected reference value is found, a mutation, a deletion or an insertion of other DNA.

Because Family Tree DNA tests every location individually, when new haplogroups are defined, your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup can be updated to reflect any new haplogroup definition, based on any of those 16,569 locations, or combinations of locations. Probe testing in conjunction with autosomal DNA testing can’t do this because the nature of probe testing is to test only specific locations for a value, meaning that probe tests test only known haplogroup defining locations at the time the probe test was designed.

So, thank you, Family Tree DNA, for continuing to test the full mitochondrial sequence, thank you for the updated Build 17 for refined haplogroups, and thank you for answering additional questions about the update.

Testing

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level, now’s a great time!

If you have tested at the HVR1 or the HVR1+HVR2 levels, you can upgrade to the full sequence test directly from your account. For the next week, upgrades are only $99.

There are two mtDNA tests available today, the mtPlus which only tests through the HVR1+HVR2 level, or about 7% of your mitochondrial DNA locations, or the mtFull Sequence that tests your entire mitochondria, all 16,569 locations.

Click here to order or upgrade.

Concepts – Segment Survival – 3 and 4 Generation Phasing

Have you ever had something you need to refer back to and can’t find it? I do this more often than I care to admit.

About a year ago, I did a study when I was writing the “Concepts – Parental Phasing” article where I tracked segment matches from generation to generation through three generations.

I wanted to see how small versus large segments faired during the phasing process with a known relative. In other words, if a known relative matches a child and a parent on the same segment, does that known relative also match the relevant grandparent on that same segment, or is that match ”lost” in the older generation.

This first example shows the tester matching all 4 generations of the Curtis lineage.

The second example, below, shows the Tester matching only the two youngest generations, but not the Grandparent or Great-grandparent.

Obviously, the tester cannot match the child and parent without also matching the grandparent and great-grandparents, who have also tested, for the segment to be genealogically relevant, meaning passed from the common ancestor to both the tester and the descendants in the Curtis line.  For the match between the tester and the parent/child to be valid, meaning the DNA descended from the common ancestor, the DNA segment MUST also be carried by the Grandparent and Great-grandmother.

If the segment matches all four people, then it phases through all generations and is a solid phased match.

If the segment matches only two contiguous generations, and not the older generation, as shown above, the segment is identical by chance in the younger generations, and is not genealogically relevant.

A third situation is clearly possible, where the tester matches the older generation or generations, but not the younger. In this case, the DNA simply did not get passed on down to the younger generations. In the example shown below, the segment still phases between the Grandparent and the Great-grandmother.

I’ve extracted the results from the original article and am showing them here, along with a 4 generation study utilizing 5 different examples.

The results are important because they were unexpected, as far as I was concerned.

Let’s take a look at the original results first.

Original Study – 3 Generations – 2 Meiosis

In the first study comparing three generations, I compared four different groups of people to a known relative in their family line. None of the family groups included any of the same people.

If the known relative matches the youngest generations, meaning the child and the parent, both, the location was colored green. This means the match phased through one generation. If the known relative also matched the third generation, the grandparent, on that same location, the location remained green. If the known relative did not match the oldest generation in addition to the child and the parent, then the location was changed to red, because the phasing was lost.

Green means that the matches did phase in all three generations and red means they either did not phase or the phasing was “lost” in the older generation.  Lost, in this instance, means the DNA match never happened and it was “lost” during the analysis process.

I followed this same process for 4 separate groups of three individuals, resulting in the following distribution of matching segments through all three generations (green), versus segments that matched the younger two generations but not the older generation (red) or don’t phase at all, meaning they match only one of the two younger relatives.

I marked what appears to be a threshold with a black line.

As you can see, the phasing threshold cutoff appears to be someplace between 2.46 and 3.16 cM. These matches are through Family Tree DNA, so all SNPs will be 500 or over. In other words, almost all segments below that line phased to all three generations. Many or most segments above that line were lost in upstream generations. This means they were false matches, or identical by chance (IBC).

More segments phased to earlier generations than I expected.  I was especially surprised at the number of small segments and the low threshold, so I was anxious to see if the pattern held when utilizing 4 generations which involves 3 meiosis..

New Study – 4 Generations – 3 Meiosis

In any one generation, a match can occur by chance, but once the match has phased through the parent’s generation, meaning the cousin matches the child AND the parent on the same segment, it’s easy to assume that they would, logically, match through the next two generations upwards as well. But do they? Let’s take a look.

Instead of just the summary information provided in the 3 generation study, I’m going to be showing you the three steps in the evaluation process for each example we discuss. I think it will help to answer questions, as well as to enable you to follow these same steps for your own family.

In total, I did 5 separate 4 generation comparisons, labeled as Examples 1-5, below.

Example 1 – 4 Generation – 3 Meiosis (DL)

A known cousin was compared up the tree on the relevant line through 4 generations. The relationship of the testers is shown in the chart above, with the blue arrows.

On the Curtis line, 4 individuals in descending generations were tested:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Great-grandparent

In the Solomon line, one descendant was tested.

The results show the DNA segments that phased for 2, 3 and 4 generations, which is a total of 3 meiosis, meaning three times that the DNA was passed from generation to generation between the Great-grandparent and the Child.

The individual whose matches are tracked below is a third cousin to the Great-grandparent of the group. The relationship of the cousin to the descendants of the great-grandparent is shown below.

In reality, the distance of the cousin relationship isn’t really relevant. The relevant aspect is that the cousin DOES match all 4 relatives that tested, and we can track the segments that the cousin matches to the child, parent or grandparent back through the great-grandparent to see if they phase, meaning to see if the match is legitimate or not. In other words, was the segment passed from the Great-grandparent to the Grandparent to the Parent to the Child?

This first chart shows the cousin’s matches to all 4 of the family members. I’ve colored them green if they have phased matches, meaning adjacent generations on the same segment. In the comment column, I’ve explained what you are seeing.

This chart is a little more complex than previously, because we are dealing with 4 generations instead of 3. Therefore, I’m showing the cousin’s matches to all 4 individuals.

  • For a location to have no color and be labeled “No Phased Match” means that there was a match to one family member, but not to the adjacent generation upstream, so it’s not a genealogically relevant match. In other words, it’s a false match.
  • For a location to have no color and be labeled “Oldest Gen Only” means that the cousin matches the great-grandmother only. Those matches may be genealogically relevant, but because we don’t have a generation upstream of her, we can’t phase them and can’t tell if they are relevant or not based only on the information we have here. Obviously you’ll want to evaluate each match individually to see if it is a legitimate or false match using additional criteria.
  • For a location to be colored green, it must phase entirely for all the generations from where it begins upwards in the tree. For some matches, that means all 4 generations. Some matches that do phase only phase for 2 or 3 generations, meaning that the segment did not get passed on to younger generations. The two shades of green are only to differentiate the match groups when they are adjacent on the spreadsheet.
  • If the cell is green and says “4 Gen Match,” it means that the match appeared in all 4 generations and matched (or at least overlapped.)
  • If the cell is green and says “3 Gen Match,” it means that the match appeared in the oldest 3 generations and matched. The match did NOT appear in the child’s generation, so what we know about this segment is that it did not get passed to the child, but in the three generations in which it does appear, it phased.
  • If the cell is green and says “2 Gen Match,” it means that it appeared in the oldest two generations and phased, but did NOT get passed to the parent, so it could not have been passed to the child.
  • Matches to any single generation (but not the immediate upstream generation) are labeled “No Phased Match.”
  • If the cell is red and says “Lost Phasing” it means that the segment phased in at least two generations but did NOT match the adjacent generation upstream. Therefore, this is an example of a segment that did phase in one generation, but that was actually identical by chance (IBC) further upstream. In the case of the red segments above, they phased in all three of the younger generations, only to become irrelevant in the oldest generation when the tester did not match the Great-grandmother.

Now, looking at the same segment chart sorted by centiMorgan size.

Sorted by centiMorgan size gives you the opportunity to note that the larger segments are much more likely to phase, when given the opportunity. Translated, this means they are much more likely to be legitimate segments.

Formatted in the same way as the 3 generation groups, we see the following chart of only the segments, with the matches that were to the oldest generation only removed because they did not have the opportunity to phase. What we have below are the results for the matches that did have the opportunity to phase:

  • Green means the segment did phase
  • Red Means the segment did not phase and/or lost phasing.
  • White rows that did NOT phase are red above, along with rows that lost phasing.
  • White rows that are labeled “Oldest Gen Only” were removed because they are the oldest generation and did not have the opportunity to phase with an older generation.
  • For details, refer to the original charts, above.

Example 2 – 4 Generation – 3 Meiosis (CF-SV)

A second 4 generation comparison with a first cousin to the Great-grandmother results in more matches due to the closeness of the relationship, yielding additional information.

The 4 individuals in this and the following 3 examples are related in the following fashion:

Child 1 and Child 2 are siblings and Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 are siblings.

The two cousins are first cousins to the great-grandmother, so related to the matching individuals in the following fashion:

Because first cousins are significantly closer than third cousins, we have a lot more matching segments to work with.

It’s worth noting in the above chart that the two groups colored with gold in the right column both look like they phase, but when you look at the relationships of the people involved, you quickly realize that an intermediate generation is missing.

In the first example, the Grandparent and Great-grandmother do phase, but the child does not, because the cousin doesn’t also match the parent on that segment, so the parent could NOT have passed that segment to the child.  Therefore, the child does not phase.

In the second example, the cousin matches the Parent and Great-Grandmother, but the parent is missing in the match sequence, so these people don’t phase at all.

Sorted by centiMorgan size, we see the following.

Formatted by phased segment size, where red means did not phase or lost phasing and green means phased, we see the following pattern emerge.

Example 3 – 4 Generation – 3 Meiosis (CF-PV)

The next comparison is the still Cousin 1 but compared to Child 2.

In this case, three segments lost phasing when compared to older generations. They look like they phased when comparing the cousin to the Parent and Child, but we know they don’t because they don’t match the Grandparent, the next adjacent generation upstream.

Sorted by centiMorgan size, we see the following:

It’s interesting that all of the segments that lost phasing were quite small.

Formatted by segment size where red equals segments that did not phase or lost phasing and green equals segments that did phase.

Example 4 – 4 Generations – 3 Meiosis (DF-SV)

The fourth example utilizes Cousin 2 and Child 1.

In this comparison, no segments lost phasing, so there are no red segments.

Sorted by centiMorgan size, above and phased versus unphased segments, below.

Example 5 – 4 Generations – 3 Meiosis (DF-PV)

This last example utilizes the results of Cousin 2 matching to Child 2.

Again we have a group identified by gold in the last column that looks like a phased group if you’re just looking at the chromosome start and end locations, until you notice that the Grandparent is missing. The Parent and Child do share an overlapping segment mathematically, and it appears that this is part of the Great-grandmother’s segment, but it isn’t because the segment did not pass through the Grandparent. Of course, there is always a small possibility that there is a read issue with the grandparent’s file in this location, but as it stands, the parent and child’s matching segment loses phasing because it does not phase to the grandparent.

Again, three segments lost phasing.

Above, the spreadsheet sorted by centiMorgan value and below, by phased and unphased segments.

Side By Side Comparison

This side by side comparison shows the 5 different comparisons of 4 generations and 3 meiosis.

The pattern looks very similar and is almost identical in terms of the threshold to the original 3 generation study.  The 3 gen study thresholds varied from 2.46 to 3,16.  The largest 3 generation unphased segments were 3.36, 4.16, 4.75 and 6.05.

This suggests that your results with a 3 generation study are probably nearly just as reliable as a 4 generation study, although we did see one instance where phasing was lost after three matching generations. However, evaluating that match itself reveals that it was certainly highly questionable with the Parent carrying more of the “matching” segment to the Child than the Grandparent carried. While it was technically a 3 generation match before losing phasing, it wasn’t a solid match by any means.

With more test data, this could also mean that off-shifted matches or questionable matches are more likely to not phase or fail in higher generations.  I wrote here about methodologies for determining legitimate and false matches.

Discussion

I assembled a summary of the pertinent information from the five different 4 generation charts.

  • As expected, very small segments often did not phase. However, around the 3.5 cM region, they began to phase and reliably so. However, some larger segments, one as large as 7.13, did not phase.
  • It appears from the small number of segments that lost phasing that most of the time, if a segment does phase with the next generation upstream, it’s a valid segment and will continue to phase upwards.
  • Occasionally, phased segments are not valid and fail a “test” further up the tree. These are the segments that “lost phasing.”
  • The segments that did lose phasing were smaller segments with the largest at 3.68 cM.
  • Phasing, even in small segments, seems to be a relatively good predictor of a segment that is identical by descent, as determined by continuing to match ancestral segments on up the tree.

Of course, additional matches with cousins on the same segments would strengthen the argument as well, with or without phasing. Genetic genealogists are always looking for more information and ways to strengthen our evidence of connections with our cousins and family members. After all, that’s how we positively identify segments attributable to specific ancestors.

Testing Your Own Family

If you have either 3 or 4 individuals in descending generations, you can reproduce these same kinds of results for yourself. It’s actually easy and you can use the charts, methodology and color coding above as a guide.

You will need a relative that matches on the side of the oldest generation. In this case, the relatives were cousins of the great-grandmother. The relative will need to match the other two or three downstream people as well, meaning the direct descendants of the oldest relative. By copying the cousin’s entire match list from the Family Finder chromosome browser, you will be able to delete all matches other than to the people in your family group and compare the results using the same methodology I have shown.

If you don’t have access to the cousin’s match list, you can copy the matches to the cousin from the family member’s match lists and combine them into one spreadsheet.  The outcome is the same, but it’s easier if you have access to the cousin’s matches because you only have to download one file instead of 4.

What Can I Do With This Information?

Based on identifying segments as legitimate or false matches, you can label your DNA Master Spreadsheet with the information you’ve gleaned from the process. I’ve done that with just phasing to my mother. Studies such as this give me confidence that the larger phased segments with my mother are legitimate; even some segments below 5 cM and as low as 3.5 cM that DO phase.

These results and this article is NOT a suggestion that people should assume that ALL smaller segment matches are legitimate, because they aren’t. These studies are attempts to figure out HOW to discern which segments are valid and how to go about that process, including small segments. We now have three tools that can be utilized either together or individually:

  • Parental phasing
  • Multi-generation phasing, utilizing the parental phasing tools
  • Cousin Matching to phased segments, which is what we did in this article
  • Family Tree DNA’s Family Phasing which in essence does this sort of matching for you, labeling your matches as to the side they descend from.

From the phasing information we’ve discovered, it appears that most segments below 3.5 cM aren’t going to phase and the majority are NOT legitimate matches.

This is a limited study.  Additional information could change and would certainly add to this information.

More is Better

As always, more data is always better.  Additional examples of results using this same phasing/cousin matching technique would allow quantification of the reliability of phased results as compared to unphased results.  In other words we know already that phased results are much better and more reliable than unphased results, but how much more and what are the functional limits of phased results?

There really is no question about the reliability of phased results in regard to larger segments, but additional information would help immensely in understanding how to successfully utilize smaller phased segments, in the range of 3.5 to 8 cM.

I would also suspect that in endogamous families, the thresholds observed here will move, probably with the phasing threshold moving even lower. People from fully endogamous cultures have many legitimate common small segments from sharing ancient ancestors. It would be interesting to observe the effects of endogamy on the observations made here.

I’m not Jewish and don’t have access to Jewish family information, but if several Jewish readers have tested multi-generational family and have a cousin from that side to test against, I would be glad to publish a followup article similar to this one with endogamous information.

It’s so exciting to be on the forefront of this wonderful genetic genealogy frontier together and to be able to experiment and learn.

I hope you use this methodology to explore, have fun and discover new information about your family.

Mary Durham (1686 – c 1746), Scandals and Scoundrels, 52 Ancestors #152

Mary Durham, daughter of Thomas Durham and Dorothy Smoot was born June 5, 1686 in North Farnham Parish in what was then Old Rappahannock County, Virginia.

Most of what we know about Mary Durham is related to her husbands, mostly her first husband by whom her children were born, Thomas Dodson.

Mary grew up along Totuskey Creek, red pin below, on the peninsula of land in Virginia known as the Northern Neck, surrounded on three sides by water; the Rappahannock River, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. It was then and remains rather insular. At that time, the economy was driven by tobacco.

Neighbors Married Neighbors

Based on deeds of her father as well as her brother, husband and husband’s father, it appears that Mary’s parents were neighbors with her husband’s parents, and she married the boy from across the fence. Mary and Thomas probably saw each other during their daily life, and on Sunday’s dressed up for church at North Farnham Parish, although the current church wasn’t built until 1737. Mary and her family would have attended the original church, located a few miles north of the present-day church, in a now forgotten location.

We don’t really know how Mary dressed or much about her lifestyle, but in general, the colonial Virginians attempted to keep up with the styles in England. The Durham family was not poor, but they also weren’t aristocratic. The lady above is fashionably dressed in 1700 in England. All I can say is that I hope it was winter with all of that fabric. She would have sweat to death in the summer, and washing machines were still an invention of the future.

Mary was quite young when she married Thomas Dodson. Their marriage was recorded on August 1, 1701 in the North Farnham Parish parish register. Mary was all of 15 years old, specifically 15 years and almost 3 months. That’s awfully young to marry, even in colonial Virginia. Thomas Dodson was all of 20 years old, young for a colonial male to marry too.

Of course, that raises the question of why they married so young. The first thought would be pregnancy. We can’t really rule that in or out, but here’s what we do know.

The first child recorded in the Farnham Parish Church registry for Mary and Thomas was George, born on October 31, 1702, a year and almost 3 months after their marriage. That means Mary did not get pregnant until they had been married 6 months. That too is unusual, as effective birth control did not exist at that time and there was no reason in that time and place not to begin a family immediately.

However, there’s son Thomas Dodson Jr. whose birth is not recorded in the Farnham Church register, which is known to be incomplete. Typically, the first male child is named after the father. If Thomas Jr. was the first child born to Mary and Thomas, then Mary would have to have been VERY pregnant when she married Thomas, in order for there to be enough time to have Thomas Jr., conceive George and give birth to him in October of 1702.

Mary’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr.’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married before 1725 to Elizabeth Rose, suggesting he was born before 1705.

If Thomas was the second born, who was the first born, George, named after, and why?

Land

In February 1702/03, Thomas Dodson’s father, Charles Dodson, deeded land to Thomas. A month earlier, Charles had written his will and included that same land for Thomas. He apparently decided to go ahead and deed the land before his death. On the same day, he also deeded land to son Charles Dodson and indicated that Charles was already living on his land – so it’s likely that Thomas was too.

The land deeded to Thomas was half of Charles Dodson’s 300 acre tract and the half that brother Charles lived on was called Rich Neck. The other half is the land Thomas received, separated from Rich Neck by a branch of the creek.

In the article about Thomas Dodson, we identified where Rich Neck was located.

At age sixteen and a half, with a four month old baby, if not two children, Mary was now the mistress of a plantation.

Scandal

In 1708 and 1709, and probably somewhat before and after, the Durham family was embroiled in a whopper of a scandal. In 1699, Thomas Durham, Mary’s father, had “purchased” an indentured servant named Anne Kelly. She was almost exactly Mary Durham’s age, 14 at that time, as judged by the court. I don’t know if the girls would have been allowed just to be girls, at least part of the time, or if their class difference would have kept them apart, even though they lived under the same roof.

However, Anne Kelly and Mary’s brother, Thomas Durham Jr. had no problem with class differences, it appears, at least not initially. In 1708, Anne was brought before the court, presented by her “master, Thomas Durham Sr.,” charged with fornication and bringing a bastard child into the world. Keep in mind that indentured servants were prohibited from marrying before their indenture was complete, so if they engaged in any intimate activity and a child resulted, the child was legally prevented from being legitimate because of their mother’s indentured status.

Anne refused to reveal the name of the father, and was fined and sentenced to jail. We’ll never know of course, if Anne was protecting someone, or if she was fearful. One way or another, she was certainly vulnerable.

Dorothy Smoot Durham, Thomas Durham Sr.’s wife came into court that same day and paid Anne’s fine, preventing Anne from having to spend time in jail. Why Dorothy performed this brave feat is unknown. It could have been out of the goodness of her heart. It could have been because she knew the identity of the father, or it could have been because she did not want to have to deal with an infant whose mother was in jail, and a servant who couldn’t serve. Regardless, Dorothy did what she needed to do – and reading between the lines, what her husband would not..

Just 10 months later, Anne Kelly was back in court again with another “bastard child,” but this time she told the court that both children were begotten by Thomas Durham Jr., Mary’s brother – although he would only have been 17 or so when the first child was conceived, if not younger. Given that there was only 10 months between Anne’s first court appearance the her second, for the second child, it’s feasible that the first child was born perhaps a year before she was actually brought into court initially. If so, then Thomas Durham Jr. would have been 16.

The second time Anne was fined, it wasn’t Dorothy that intervened, but Thomas Dodson, Mary’s husband. He paid Anne’s fine, and it appears from the court record that Anne was already serving at Thomas Dodson’s house. In any event, after her original indenture, Anne was obligated to serve additional time working for Thomas Dodson because he paid her fine. The added time to an indenture for each child was 5 years, typically, and the indenture for the fine might have been 5 years as well.

So, in addition to her own family, Mary had Anne living with them with her two children that were Mary’s nieces or nephews. In 1710, this means that Mary had at least 4 children under the age of 10 in the household and possibly as many as 8.

What is that Chinese blessing/curse? “May you live in interesting times.” Certainly these days were, especially in light of the fact that Thomas Durham Jr. married the neighbor girl, Mary Smoot about 1710 while Anne Kelly was still indentured to the family, serving extra time and raising HIS two children to boot. I’d wager Anne was none too happy for various reasons which would have added more drama to Thomas Durham’s wedding when he married Mary Smoot, related to his mother.

So 1708, 1709 and 1710 would have been very interesting years in the Durham family as well as at the Dodson’s plantation next door.

Mary’s Father Dies

In 1711, Mary’s father apparently became ill and wrote his will on August 4th, 3 days after Mary would have celebrated her 10 year wedding anniversary. In Thomas Durham’s will, among others, he mentions daughter Mary Dodson and her son, Thomas Dodson. We now know unquestionably that Thomas was born before August of 1711 and probably named after Thomas Durham, his grandfather.

We can guess, based on the average of one child every other year that Mary had born 5 children by this time. However, given what we know about the rest of her children, and who was living in 1739 when Thomas Dodson made his will, the children born between the first two sons and 1710 or 1711 died. There would have been three children whose names are unknown today that Mary gave birth to and buried, if not as children, then within her lifetime, before Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739. Many children died in an age with no inoculation’s and no antibiotics.

Daughter Alice Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but about 1729, she married William Creel who was born in 1712, so we’ll count her as being born about 1712 as well.

Thomas Durham, Mary’s father, did not die until 1715, with his will being probated in June of that year. This suggests that he was ill from 1711, 4 years. Thomas would have been about 55 when he died, certainly not old by today’s standards.

Mary would have been 5 months pregnant for daughter Mary when she buried her father. She would have stood at her father’s grave beside her mother with at least three living children, if not more. It would have been a sad day in later winter or spring.

I wonder if Anne Kelly joined the family, bringing Thomas Durham Sr.’s two illegitimate grandchildren, if they were still living, to his funeral.  If so, I’d bet you could cut the tension with a knife between Anne Kelly, Thomas Durham Jr. and his wife who probably had at least one child herself by this time.

Births and Remarriage

Daughter Mary Dodson was born a few months later on October, 5 1715. We know she lived because her father’s will in 1739 mentions her as Mary Oldham.

In February 1716, just 8 months after Mary’s father’s will was probated, her mother, Dorothy remarried to Jeremiah Greenham. This marriage was apparently not a negative turn of events, because the Dodsons and Durhams and Greenhams appear in many documents together. Even more telling is that Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson named a son Greenham, so obviously Jeremiah Greenham was much loved. Greenham Dodson was born sometime between the 1716 marriage and 1720, so let’s assign him to the 1717 slot, given that he was married by 1740.

That means that son David, who wrote a will with a possibly pregnant wife in 1740 would have likely been born about 1719.

A child who would have been born about 1721 is missing, so was probably born and died at some point before Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739.

Son Abraham Dodson was born April 4, 1723 in North Farnham Parish. He married Barbara, surname unknown and moved to Faquier County where he died in 1768.

The Next Generation

Mary’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr. was apparently married in 1724, because on February 21, 1725, Mary’s first grandchild, a grandson, Joseph was born to Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth Rose. Mary was pregnant herself at that time, so her grandson Joseph would be older than her own two youngest children.

Son Joshua Dodson was born May 25, 1725 in North Farnham Parish, three months after her first grandchild was born.  Joshua was living in Faquier County in 1762 with wife Ruth when the Broad Run Church was constituted.

On April 30, 1726, George Dodson left the fold and married Margaret Dagod. That December, a daughter, Mary, named after her grandmother of course, was born to George and Margaret. I wonder if Mary felt particularly close to her namesake granddaughter.

Mary’s last child, Elisha, was born in 1727 when she was 41 years old. Mary had been bearing children for 25 years, a quarter century, risking death with each birth, for herself and the child as well.

Elisha Dodson was born February 22, 1727 in North Farnham Parish. He married Sarah Averitt (Everett) whose parents were William and Margaret Everett.

Four days apart in October of 1728, Mary’s second and third grandchildren arrived, son Lazarus to George Dodson and Margaret Dagod and son Thomas to Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. What a week that must have been!!! Babies and toddlers everyplace in the Dodson family, as the next generation had begun in earnest.

The Westward Movement Begins

In December 1733, Thomas Dodson Sr, wife Mary, Thomas Dodson Jr. and his wife Elizabeth sold land on the main swamp of Totuskey to Johnathan Lyell. That land sale is actually very helpful, because just below Rich Neck, today, there is a Lyell Church and about 3 or 4 miles northwest of Rich Neck is a Lyells crossroads. This deed which was originally the Thomas Durham Sr. land helps us to locate where this family group lived. You can click to enlarge the map below.

Mary signs this deed with her mark, an M, indicating that she cannot write her name. Education for women in terms of reading and writing was deemed unimportant and unnecessary for women in colonial America.

After this land sale, Thomas Dodson Jr. moved to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier County in 1759 and was a founding member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762.

The Broad Run Church was about 105 miles from Rich Neck, but 100 miles in a wagon was about a 10 day journey, or a couple days if you were just riding a horse. By stage, at least two days, if not 3. Mary may not have seen Thomas’s family again. Perhaps he returned for an occasional visit by horseback. I hope so, for Mary’s sake, but it was very unlikely that his family came along.

Daughter Alice married William Creel about 1729 and by 1746, they too were buying land in Prince William County.

Blindness

About this time, Mary’s son Elisha experienced a devastating eye injury that blinded him for life. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we do know from the Reverend Elias Dodson who wrote about the Dodson family about 1860 that Elisha was blind from an accident or event dating from Elisha’s childhood. I have to wonder what could have been so devastating as to blind him entirely, not just in one eye. Measles, uevitis and trachoma are all 3 diseases known to cause blindness. Some type of accident could have as well, but I suspect an accident would have been more likely to only blind one eye.

Death, Death and More Death

Daughter Mary would probably have married about 1735 and son David, about 1737 or 1738, given that he had one child in 1739 when Thomas Dodson wrote his will.

On February 7, 1739/40, Thomas Dodson penned his will saying he was sick and weak of body. He left Mary the plantation along with all of the negroes and moveable estate during her natural life. He does not say anything about reducing her inheritance to one third or a child’s portion that if she remarries. Clearly, he loved Mary dearly and provided for her as best he could.

Thomas leaves land and other items to their children. Thomas’s will is the only way we know about son David, because David’s birth is not found in the North Farnham Parish register, nor is his marriage, and he lives in another county.

Thomas does not pass away immediately after writing his will. His death is shown in the North Farnham Parish register as occurring on November 21, 1740. Thomas was apparently ill between February and the end of November when he died. Mary would have cared for him for these nine months. Ironic, nine months to bring a child into the world and nine months to usher Thomas to the other side.

Mary’s heart must have been sick with worry and grief. Her son, David, living in Prince William County, wrote his will on April 27, 1740, just 2 months and 20 days after his father wrote his will. David’s will was probated three months later on July 28th, so before Thomas’s death. In February, when Thomas Dodson wrote his will, he left 20 shillings to his granddaughter, the daughter of David Dodson, but two months later, when David wrote his will, the daughter was apparently deceased, because David leaves his slaves to his wife during her lifetime and then to his child, “if my wife should prove to be with child.” I wonder what caused the deaths of David’s child, and David himself, and if they died of the same thing. I wonder if wife Amey was with child, and if so, what happened to Amey and the child.

Of course, communication at that time was by letter, and if the people involved did not read and write, they would have had to have someone write the letters for them, as well as read them when received. News traveled slowly, so the granddaughter may have already died when Thomas Dodson wrote his will. Regardless, that child was dead by the time David Dodson wrote his will, and we don’t know if David’s wife was with child, nor what happened to her. Clearly, Mary couldn’t go to help, had she known, because she had her hands full at home. Mary’s youngest child would have been 12. At least the children were old enough to be of assistance. I would wager that during this time Mary spent many tearful nights alone by the fireplace after everyone else went to bed.

As the months and years rolled on, after Thomas’s death, more grandchildren were born in the rhythmic two year cycle of pregnancy and birth. I hope Mary enjoyed those children in the bright sunshine of the Northern Neck summertime.

Was Robert Galbreath A Scoundrel?

Mary’s life seems to have taken a downturn after Thomas’s death. Thomas’s will was probated on March 2, 1740/41 with Mary and son, Greenham, as executors.

Mary received the plantation with son Elisha inheriting it after her death. We don’t have any record of what happened to that plantation, unfortunately.

Thomas Dodson’s estate inventory should be interesting, if it is detailed, because all items were deemed to have been owned by the man when he died. Therefore all kitchen items, bedding, cloth, spinning wheels, and anything owned by the “couple” or the “woman,” except her clothes and unless it was specifically deeded to her, without him, was legally the mans and inventoried as part of his estate. Even though this practice of exclusive male spousal property ownership, by today’s standards, is barbaric, it does serve to give us a peephole into their lives.  Looking at a man’s estate inventory tells us how the entire household lived.

Eighteen months after Thomas’s death, on September 29, 1743, Mary Durham Dodson married Robert Galbreath and sure enough, lawsuits followed – just 10 months later. Robert Galbreath or Galbraith is not a known name in the neighborhood. One wonders where he came from and how Mary met him and became familiar enough to marry.

On July 3, 1744, in chancery court, Greenham Dodson files on behalf of himself as executor of the estate of Thomas Dodson, and others, against Robert Galbreath. (Court Record Book 11-406)

On May 7, 1745, the suit was resolved and the court decided that the petitioner, Greenham Dodson, should “take possession of the coverture, according to the intention of the testators will” and that he should use it for the benefit of Mary Galbreath during her coverture. Robert Galbreath refused to give security and was ordered to pay costs. (Court Record Book 11-458)

I checked the Virginia Chancery Suit index site for Richmond County, and either those records never made it to the State Library, or they aren’t online yet. I would love to see the entire case file for this suit. More specifically, I want the juicy tidbits. What was the problem? Was Mary in danger, and if so, why? The court’s position is rather extreme, as these judgements go in early Virginia – especially given that women in essence lost rights and property to their husbands when they married. The only saving grace was that at least the land owned by Thomas Dodson wasn’t owned by Mary in fee simple, so Galbreath couldn’t dispose of it, as it was a life estate to go to Elisha at Mary’s death. The balance of the moveable estate that Thomas left, not so. Galbreath would have had the legal right to do anything he wanted with everything not left to someone other than Mary. For the court to remove that right from a colonial male would have been a decision not reached lightly and only due to a serious problem.

That suit doesn’t sound friendly at all, and it wasn’t resolved between July of 1744 and May of 1745 by the parties involved, as is often the case. The term coverture means the legal status of a married woman, considered to be under her husband’s protection and authority. Perhaps the Dodson children felt that Robert Galbreath was utilizing the estate of Thomas Dodson for himself, not for Mary. Mary would have been 57 years old.

This entry is the last record of Mary. After that, the screen goes dark. I worry, posthumously of course, that Mary was in danger or ill and not taken care of in the last months of her life.

I feel good about the fact that Greenham took a stand and was sticking up for his mother, whether it was for the benefit of his mother or whether it was to preserve his father’s estate. Regardless, someone was looking out for Mary’s interests, which were the same as the Thomas Dodson estate’s interests, and was willing to go to court to do so.

We don’t know what happened next. Divorce was unheard of, but Greenham could have “had a man to man talk” with Robert, as it appears that Robert might have hightailed it back to Lancaster County. Mary could simply have continued to live on the land in Richmond County, until she died and the land fell to Elisha, as Thomas’s will indicated. Son Elisha would have been 13 when his father died, so a young man that within just a few years would have been able to run the plantation quite effectively.  By 1744 Elisha would have been 17 and in 1745, 18 years old.  He didn’t need Galbreath to run Thomas Dodson’s plantation.

Following the Trail to Prince William County

In 1746, both Greenham Dodson and William Creel, husband of Alice Dodson Creel are buying land in Prince William County. I feel that Mary likely died about this time, being the impetus for several of Mary’s children to pull up stakes and move west, with nothing holding them in Richmond County any longer.

Elisha would have turned 20 in 1747. Apparently moving west was more attractive than living on the family plantation, because he too moved to Prince William County, although we don’t know when, other than it was before 1762.

Galbreath’s Death

Robert Galbreath died 4 years after Greenham filed and won the suit, but with no mention of a wife. Does that indicate that Mary had died by this time? Did Mary move with Robert to Lancaster County? Or maybe after the suit, she moved with her children to Prince William County? Or did she live with George Dodson in Richmond County, or remain on her own plantation? We’ll never know.

Abstracts of Lancaster County, Virginia Wills 1653-1800 by Ida J. Lee

Galbreath, Robert. Will. 10 Oct. 1749. Rec. 9 March 1749. Cousin, Richard Weir; Ezekiel Morris; Margaret Carter. Extr. Cousin Richard Weir. Wits; Isaac White, Michael Dillon. W.B. 14, p. 274.

Inventory of above, returned by Isaac White, admr 11 May 1750. W.B. 14, p. 285.

Suit: Isaac White, Pltf. vs Katherine Jones, Defd. Robert Galbreath had made a gift to his daughter-in-law Katherine Carter, since intermarried with Humphrey Jones. Dated 29 Sept. 1752. Rec. 18 June 1753. W.B. 15, p. 139.

The end of Mary’s life may have been difficult, at best. I hope her children sheltered her from whatever storms she encountered.

Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson’s Children

Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham were married on August 1, 1701. Some of their children are well documented, and others are virtually unknown.

George Dodson had a son, Rawleigh born in 1731. The name Rawleigh was shared in Richmond County by Rawleigh Travers, a family member of the Travers family that Charles Dodson, father of Thomas, bought land from, Rawleigh Downman, neighbors of the Dodsons, and Rawleigh Chinn, the son of Alice Smoot born in 1642 who married a Chinn. Alice Smoot was Mary Durham’s aunt. Sir Walter Raleigh may have popularized this name in the early 1600s. I’ve always wondered where the name Rawleigh came from in the Dodson family. Perhaps this is a clue.

  • Thomas Dodson Jr.’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married before 1725 to Elizabeth Rose, suggesting he was born before 1705. About 1733, Thomas moved to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier in 1759 and was a founding member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762. In 1766, Thomas moved to Halifax County, wrote his will in 1779 and died in 1783. In later years, in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties, the records of various Thomas Dodsons are intermingled and confused.
  • Alice Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but about 1729 she married William Creel, born in 1712. They had children, one being John Creel born in 1732. Daughter Alice Creel was mentioned in Thomas Dodson’s 1739 will. By 1746, William Creel was buying land in Prince William County and in 1757, William died with Thomas Dodson (Jr.) being one of the men to appraise his estate. His wife was listed at that time as Anne, with Alice apparently having died sometime between 1739 and 1757.
  • Mary Dodson born October 5, 1715 had married an Oldham by the time her father wrote his will in 1739. Nothing more is known about this line.
  • David Dodson’s birth is unrecorded. His wife’s name is Amey, surname unknown. David died in Prince William County in 1740, his will dated April 27th that year and probated in July. He left his wife the use of his slaves and then to his child if his wife should prove to be with child. Thomas Dodson left 30 shillings to his granddaughter, the daughter of David Dodson, but nothing more is known of this child. She probably died between the time that Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739 and David Dodson’s will in 1740. Either that or David omitted his daughter from his will, or the David who died in 1740 is not the son of Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson.
  • Greenham Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married to Eleanor Hightower by 1740, meaning he was probably born 1715-1720. In 1746, Greenham sold his land in Richmond County and moved to Amelia County. He had moved to Halifax County by 1772 and in 1777, a Greenham Dodson signed a loyalty oath.

I have always wondered about the genesis of the name, Greenham. Jeremiah Greenham married the widow Dorothy Durham in 1716, probably not long before Greenham Dodson’s birth to Thomas and Mary Durham Dodson. Jeremiah would have been Greenham Dodson’s step-grandfather and possibly also his godfather.

  • Abraham Dodson was born April 4, 1723 in North Farnham Parish. He married Barbara, surname unknown and moved to Faquier County by 1762 where he died in 1768.
  • Joshua Dodson was born May 25, 1725 in North Farnham Parish and was living in Faquier County with wife Ruth in 1762 when the Broad Run Church was constituted. Joshua may have lived in Halifax County on his way to Surry County, NC where he settled and may have died there before 1790. It’s also possible that he moved on to South Carolina.
  • Elisha Dodson was born February 22, 1727 in North Farnham Parish. He married Sarah Averitt (Everett) whose parents were William and Margaret Everett. He was left land after his mother’s death, by his father’s will, but there is no record of the disposition of the land. By 1762, he was in Faquier County when his brother, Thomas, released his claim on his father’s estate. In 1774, Elisha moved on to Halifax County where he died in 1796 or 1797. According to the manuscript of the Reverend Elias Dodson, Elisha was blind due to an eye injury as a child.

All of Mary’s sons eventually moved from Richmond County. Thomas Jr. first in 1733 when he sold his land and move to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier in 1759. His siblings would follow over the years.

David left before 1740. Greenham left in 1745, after he filed and won the suit against Robert Galbreath on behalf of his mother and his father’s estate. Did Mary perhaps die at this time or shortly thereafter? Was her ill health what caused Greenham to file suit? Was Robert not caring for her properly? Did Mary’s death free Greenham to move to Prince William County in 1746 along with Mary’s daughter Alice Creel as well? Did Mary’s three youngest sons move with their siblings at this time, or did they stay in Richmond County until later? There is no record of land ownership to help unravel that question.

Given the 1745 lawsuit and the fact that both Greenham, who was obviously looking after his mother’s interests, and daughter Mary left for Prince William County in 1746, I suspect Mary died between 1745 and 1746.

Mary’s son George sold his land in 1756 in Richmond County and appears to have been the last to leave, although we don’t know what happened to George and Margaret after that sale, because they are never recorded elsewhere.  Their children, by virtue of who they married, had to have been living nearby their Dodson cousins. Two of George’s children married other Dodson family members..

In 1762, Thomas Dodson of Faquier County, released his right to his claim on the estate of his father, Thomas, to his brothers; Greenham Dodson of Amelia County, Abraham, Joshua and Elisha of Faquier County. Brother George is notably absent and is not found again after selling his Richmond County land in 1756. One could presume that Mary has died by 1756 – otherwise it’s unlikely that George would have sold and left his mother. By 1762, when Thomas relinquished his right to his share of his father’s estate, and with all of her sons gone from Richmond County, Mary was assuredly buried in the churchyard beside Thomas Dodson.

In 1745, Mary would have been 59 years old, in 1756, age 70 and in 1762, 76 years old.

Where is Mary Buried?

Both Mary and Thomas Dodson died after the new Farnham Parish Church was built in 1737, although their children died before the new church was constructed.

They could have been buried where earlier family members rested but the most likely location for their burial is the cemetery behind the church.  There are no marked graves from this early date. The other possibility of course is that there was a family cemetery, now lost to time, although family cemeteries did not seem to be prevalent in this part of Virginia at this time.

It looks like there is room for lots of unmarked burials in this location.

Mary’s Grandchildren

Eventually, Mary’s 9 children that lived to adulthood would give her a total of 47 known grandchildren, and probably many more. We don’t know how many children Alice Dodson Creel or Mary Dodson Oldham bore. Furthermore, we know that more than 47 had to have been born. Using the known children’s births and a reproductive span of 24/25 years for each woman, giving them the opportunity to have approximately 12 children, spaced 2 years apart, assuming all children lived long enough to nurse for the first year (in many cases, effectively preventing conception of another child,) we calculate that at least 37 additional grandchildren were born and died.

If you add the 47 grandchildren we know about, the 37 that had to have been born and died, and 20 additional births through Alice and Mary, if they survived beyond 1739 when they were recorded in their father’s will, that’s 104 grandchildren.

Of the 34 grandchildren for whom we have documentation, 21 were born in Mary’s lifetime. Two of Mary’s children didn’t begin having children until about the time she died, or after. Mary’s son, George remained in Richmond County and had several children that Mary would have been close to, as he lived on land adjacent to Mary.

Son Thomas left in 1733, taking his grandchildren, aged 8 and under, along with him. That must have been difficult for Mary, seeing her grandchildren leave and knowing she might well not see them again. Mary’s daughters Alice and Mary would have been marrying about that time though, so perhaps those grandchildren that we don’t know about helped to sooth the ache in Mary’s heart. We also don’t know if Alice and Mary remained local or left as well with their husband’s while Mary was still living.

What we do know is that son George stayed, with his children who were probably very close to Mary. Son Greenham stayed until between 1745 and 1746. Mary would have known his children as well. Abraham, Joshua and Elisha were only just beginning their families in the mid-1740s when Mary was aging and probably died.

Mary’s grandchildren’s births spanned roughly half a century, from 1725 to about 1772.

Mary probably had at least one great-grandchild when she died, although she wouldn’t have known the child. Grandson Joseph who was born in 1725 had son Thomas in about 1746, beginning the next generation. Unfortunately, Thomas Jr. had moved to Farquier County in 1733, so unless Mary went along as her sons moved westward, she would never have gotten to hold her great-grandchild.

At least 8 grandchildren died within Mary’s lifetime, meaning that except for David who lived distantly, she would have stood at the funerals and gravesides of 7 grandchildren, and probably 5 of her own children as well. Plus her parents, in-laws, husband and probably at least some of her siblings and their children as well.

Not an easy life, by any means.

Life and Death in Colonial America

I created the chart below to visualize what the “typical” family looked like, in terms of birth, survival and death of children. Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson’s children are listed across the top. The ones in red died or are slots in which we know children would have been born. Mary’s grandchildren are listed in the columns under each child, the red ones known to have died or are unfilled slots – silent sentinels to children who were born and died with no record that they existed except for the blank spot on the chart.

Mary’s two daughters married, but their descendants have never been traced. If the daughters lived after their father’s 1739 will, they would have had additional children as well, not shown below. You can click to enlarge the image.

  • ? Before the name means I’m uncertain if this child is in this family. If not, another child would have filled that slot.
  • ? After the nickname means I’m uncertain if that is this person. For example, there are multiple candidates for “Second Fork” Thomas and the various George nicknames are confused.
  • ? After a first name means that the person’s surname is unknown.
  • Reverend Silas Lucas was unable to differentiate between the later generations of George Dodsons – there is a significant amount of confusion regarding who married whom.
  • Green = my lineage
  • Red = young deaths or children unaccounted for in the birth order, probably born and died
  • No birth years are known for Greenham’s children – placed at 2 year intervals based on estimated marriage and birth dates of their childen, and continued for 25 years.
  • Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739 and died in 1740.
  • Mary Durham Dodson was living in 1745, but in 1749 when her second husband Robert Galbreath wrote his will, she is notably absent, although they may have been living separately.
  • Grey = children who married cousins

Just looking at the amount of known red – that’s a lot of death. At that time, it was considered normal to lose roughly half your children before they reached adulthood.

Looking at this another way, the death of 6 of the children of Mary Durham Dodson reduced the number of descendants a few generations downstream by half, which is literally thousands. Just in the first generation, had those children lived to fully reproduce, that would have been another 72 grandchildren for Mary.

Taking a look at this phenomenon in a chart, you can see the potential in the reduction of descendants with just one missing child, or conversely, the potential addition of descendants in a few generation with just one added child. I stopped around 1900, because that’s the timeframe that birth control became popular and family sizes began to shrink.

Five surviving children per generation is certainly reasonable. Ten is likely too optimistic.

It’s no wonder, though, with that number of descendants in just one generation why people with heavy colonial ancestry have high numbers of autosomal DNA matches.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA, which could tell us a great deal about Mary’s heritage on her direct matrilineal line is MIA. Why is it MIA? Women pass their mitochondrial DNA to each of their children, but only female children pass it on. In order to find Mary’s mitochondrial DNA, we would need to test a descendant of Mary through all females to the current generation, when males are eligible as well.

And of course, it’s the two daughters that we don’t know anything about.

If anyone has done research on the daughters, Alice Dodson married to William Creel, or Mary Dodson who married an Oldham, please speak up. Not only can we update their information, but we may be able to find an appropriate person to test for Mary’s mitochondrial DNA. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first eligible person.

Summary

Mary’s was probably a typically colonial wife, albeit marrying very young. Depending on the family social standing, Mary’s life could have ranged from helping in the fields to overseeing the household and the “domestics” inside. We do know that at least by the time Thomas Dodson died, he did own slaves in addition to at least one indentured servant during his lifetime. Most of the labor would have been for the growth and harvesting of tobacco, and not for household labor. Their “plantation” was probably modest. The Northern Neck was not Tara and they did not own one of the mansion houses.

Mary’s life was probably defined by church and children. While church attendance was mandatory, and men were fined for non-attendance, religion seemed to sooth the heart of those who endured devastating losses. And pretty much everyone who had children experienced devastating losses. In Mary’s case, probably 5 or 6 children died in her lifetime, possibly more, not to mention several grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and her husband. Death is a part of the cycle of life, but that’s an awful lot of death to endure, at least by today’s standards.

Yet, Mary continued to function. She had more children. She went to church and when necessary, she went to the cemetery which was certainly a place far too familiar.

The early cemeteries, whether on plantations or in churchyards are lost to time. Few stones exist on the Northern Neck for people who were born before the mid-1800s. The location of the early Farnham Parish Church is lost to us today, too, and that may have been where family members were buried before the present church was built in 1737. Plantations, and all farms then were considered plantations, may have had their own cemeteries, now reclaimed by Mother Nature or development.

In many ways, the fact that the Northern Neck is a peninsula and not easily accessible has protected it from development, so the unmarked and unknown graves of the colonial planters may still remain unmolested as they rest in peace on one of the first American frontiers.

Jennifer Grey – Who Do You Think You Are – “Her Name Was Shendyl”

I have such fond memories of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in their Academy Award Winning timeless love story, Dirty Dancing.

My friend and I used to have Dirty Dancing stitch-a-thons, watching and stitching, both of us being cross-stitchers at the time. It’s hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago now. That friend moved away long ago, Patrick, sadly, passed away, but Jennifer is the same lovely lady – matured a bit.

On this Sunday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 10/9c on TLC, Jennifer is the star once again, uncovering the truth about the emigrant grandfather she thought she knew, learning how he survived adversity to become a beacon of his community. Jennifer also uncovers the devastating tragedy that stopped her great-grandmother from ever making it to America.

Jennifer says that “beyond my parents’ story, I knew so little.” I think that’s true for many, especially today with the hustle and bustle of our hectic lifestyles. By the time we realize we want to know, it’s too late.

Jennifer knew her grandparents, but didn’t know the name of her grandfather’s mother. That struck her as very odd, that her mother, still living, didn’t know her own grandmother’s name. How could they not know her name?

As a child, Jennifer’s grandfather, Izzy, below, struck her as beaten down and sad.

Photo courtesy TLC

Izzy’s real name was Israel Brower. He was a Jewish immigrant at the age of 16, in 1907, from Russia. He and his siblings traveled alone to American onboard a ship to join their father, already here. The family story was that Izzy had immigrated with the family silver sewn into the lining of his coat.

If that’s true, that’s probably all they had.

It’s worth noting that even in the 1900s, surname spellings can differ dramatically. Brower here, Braver on the ship’s manifest and Browerman in Russia.

Izzy, even as a young person, exhibited a great deal of drive and ambition. Many job postings of that time included phrases such as “Jews need not apply,” which motivated many Jewish people to enter the professional world, where they were not beholden to anyone for a job. Izzy went from being a printer, his occupation upon arrival, looking for work, to a pharmacist, owning his own drugstore by 1910. For some people, including Izzy, deprivation, anti-Semitism and challenges translate into the development of tenacity.

Jennifer visited the pharmacy school that Izzy attended and was able to view original documents. No white gloves needed this time!

Photo courtesy TLC

It’s interesting to see how different the pharmacy profession was then and now. Drug stores were an integral part of every community and neighborhood, with the druggist dispensing medical information as well. The line between practicing medicine and filling prescriptions was much greyer then.

Jennifer goes on to discover more about Izzy, bringing the story of his life to light in ways she certainly didn’t expect.

Still, pieces were missing. She had found Izzy’s siblings and father, but what about his mother? Where was she? What was her name?

Jennifer wondered why she didn’t know. Why her mother didn’t know. Why no one spoke of life before America in her Jewish family. Why?

As the Jewish historian told Jennifer, “Immigration is a rupture.” The stories get left behind. As someone else said, which is so true, “What the son wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember.” What we view today as interesting heritage, they viewed as bad memories that needed to by confined to the past.

Many immigrants didn’t immigrate because they simply wanted to. In the case of Jewish families, they immigrated for survival. Their memories of the homeland weren’t good ones, and they wished to put the bad, whatever it was and however awful it had been, behind them forever. They only looked to the future. Sometimes that future didn’t hold everyone from the past…

Her name was Shendyl. Shendyl. And as for what happened to Shendyl, you’ll need to tune in or watch online after the episode airs.

A Career in Genetic Genealogy

One of the questions I’m asked regularly is how one might prepare for a career in genetic genealogy.  I can’t really answer that question very effectively, because there is no official path or course of study for this career.  My own entry point was through a strong science and computer background, although my degrees are “legacy” by today’s standards, combined with a 35+ year obsession with genealogy and what I thought was an early retirement from my first career.  Little did I know I’d be busier than ever.

In November 2016, I met Jessica Taylor and Paul Woodbury at the International Conference on Genetic Genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA and held annually in Houston, Texas.  I had corresponded with Paul several times previously, before he went to work with Legacy Tree Genealogists, owned and founded by Jessica Taylor.

It was wonderful to meet Paul in person, one of the benefits of attending conferences. As you can see, we were having a great time on a lab tour at Gene by Gene.

Paul is the first (and only, so far) person that I’ve met that actually proactively decided to become a genetic genealogist.  Everyone else gravitated to this field from elsewhere or fell into it one way or another.  That really isn’t surprising given that genetic genealogy is only 17 years old, and that there wasn’t enough interest, testing or tests to constitute a career or even a specialty in genetic genealogy for the first several years.

I began writing the Personalized DNA Reports, available through Family Tree DNA and my website, in about 2004.  At that time, autosomal DNA testing for genealogy didn’t yet exist and wouldn’t for several more years.

The advent of autosomal testing with cousin matching and ethnicity estimates has really brought genetics into the forefront of genealogy research.  So the question of how one becomes a genetic genealogist, whether by plan from the beginning or by reinventing or adding to an existing career is a question we’re going to hear more and more.

I’ve asked Paul to write a guest column about the career path to becoming a genetic genealogist.  I would like to thank Paul for this article and Legacy Tree Genealogists for the coupon for readers who might benefit from genealogy research (at the end of the article), and with that, I’ll turn it over to Paul.

Pursuing a Career in Genetic Genealogy by Paul Woodbury

Person I just met: “What do you do for work?”

Me: I’m a genetic genealogist.”

Person I just met: “Wow! I didn’t even know that job existed. How did you get into that?”

I probably have this same conversation or variations on the theme every other day. Since I was sixteen, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in genetic genealogy. My fascination with genealogy began when I was still very young. I can trace my interest to the family history binder I got from my grandparents on my eighth birthday. But, in 2006 during the Winter Olympics, a television special entitled “African American Lives” aired on PBS and it introduced me to my chosen career. In the show, they shared stories regarding the ancestry and origins of African American celebrities. They used traditional genealogical research but brought in DNA as part of their exploration. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a genetic genealogist. Along those lines, I attended Brigham Young University where I majored in genetics and minored in Family History. If I could do it over again, I might have switched my focus.

Throughout my undergraduate education, my professors had no idea what to do with me. Most of my peers were preparing for medical school or for work in research labs. Many of our professors had emphases in plant genetics. Since I had a very different aim, I struggled in my classes which had limited application to the field of genetics. When I approached my professors requesting advice or references, they were at a loss of where to direct me. While my genetics education provides a strong framework for understanding genetic inheritance and biological concepts, most of the skills I use as a genetic genealogist I learned through informal and on-the-job education.

Most of my education relating specifically to genetic genealogy came through attending conferences, networking with leaders in the field, reading blogs, online forums, and books dedicated to the topic and working under the guidance of skilled mentors. Because genetic genealogy is a fairly new field, I have also found that much of my genetic genealogy education comes through hands-on experience dealing with real situations. I learn most as I apply my knowledge towards the resolution of a research goal, and as I search for novel approaches to solve more advanced research problems.

When I first began attending conferences, I would ask those offering classes on genetic genealogy topics what they recommended for those preparing to enter the field. Every one of them told me that I should pursue a masters or Ph.D. in Genetics or Bioinformatics. I ignored their advice. While there is certainly a demand for expertise in those areas, I saw a need (and still see a need) for genealogists who are well-versed in applying genetics to traditional research rather than vice-versa. As discussed previously, most of what I use daily as a genetic genealogist, I learned outside of my genetics classes. To be a good genetic genealogist, you do not necessarily need to be a geneticist. Nevertheless, to be a good genetic genealogist, you do need to be a good genealogist.

Genetic testing is increasingly becoming part of reasonably exhaustive research as mandated by the genealogical proof standard. As DNA takes its place as one record among many, good genetic genealogists will need to be well-versed in at least the basics of traditional research, and traditional researchers will need to be well-versed in at least the basics of DNA evidence. Certainly there are specialists in different localities, languages or types of record, but they exist in relation to larger genealogical practice, evidence analysis and problem solving. Specialty in genetic genealogy is not a stand-alone emphasis. For any individual planning to pursue genetic genealogy research as a career, I recommend specializing in other traditional research fields as well. Personally, I specialize in French, Spanish and Scandinavian research in addition to my emphasis on genetic genealogy.

Even now, genetic genealogy education is mostly offered through conferences and institutes. Some conferences and institutes which I have attended and which regularly offer in-depth courses on genetic genealogy include the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree and DNA Day (SCGS), RootsTech, Institute for Genetic Genealogy (I4GG), and the Family Tree DNA Group Administrators Conference. A host of other conferences, institutes, workshops and seminars also provide instruction on genetic genealogy including national conferences like NGS and FGS and local society conferences. Online offerings are also on the rise and one fairly new resource is a 15-week online course dedicated to Genetic Genealogy at Excelsior College. (https://genealogy.excelsior.edu/genealogy/genetic-genealogy/)

Conferences are not only valuable for the classes and sessions they provide dedicated to genetic genealogy topics, but also for the opportunities they provide to network with other genealogists and genetic genealogy researchers. By attending RootsTech and other conferences while still a college student, I was able to collaborate and network with leaders in the field of genetic genealogy. Through my correspondence and collaboration with these individuals, I have benefited from wonderful relationships and important mentorship opportunities.

Even if you do not have the opportunity to participate in genealogy conferences and network with other professionals, you can still benefit from online communities, forums and blogs which provide in depth education regarding genetic genealogy:

Books I recommend for genetic genealogy education:

  • Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne
  • NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection by David Dowell
  • The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger

Perhaps the most important challenge for preparing to enter the field of genetic genealogy is gaining experience in the field. As you work with prospective employers and clients it is important to have a portfolio of professional level reports and materials to help increase confidence in your ability. Consider starting work on your own family history. As you compile evidence and proof arguments, be sure to abide by standards of genealogical proof and the genetic genealogy standards. When collaborating with other genetic cousins and relatives, consider pursuing some pro-bono work in helping them with their research problems. When you share your portfolio with clients or prospective employers, don’t be shy. This is your opportunity to show off the full range of your ability, so don’t feel bad about sharing a 30 page report. Since there are currently no organizations offering credentials in genetic genealogy specialty, clients and employers have to depend upon your previous experience in the area. For any research you do, make sure to write it up in a clearly written report.

Even if you are a very good researcher, you cannot be a successful professional genealogist without strong writing and communication skills as well. Even the most brilliant research breakthroughs go unnoticed when they are not effectively communicated. In addition to improving your research skills, work on developing your time management, report writing, and communication skills.

As genealogy becomes a more popular field of inquiry and as more people participate in genetic genealogy testing, demand for DNA interpretation and genetic genealogy research will only increase. Demand for genetic genealogy research services is already high and is rapidly increasing. In my view, demand for genealogy research is driven by disconnect and displacement from cultural roots. Current trends in migration and family structures lend themselves to more frequent disconnect and displacement between families and communities. In many cases, the cultural and familial ties being broken today through refugee crises, adoption, and misattributed parentage have sparse record trails on which we can rely for future genealogy research. As a result, genetic genealogy will play an increasingly important role in genealogy research in the future. It is an exciting time to be involved in the field of genetic genealogy and a great many opportunities are on the horizon. If you plan to join the field, make sure to arm yourself with the education and experience you will need to succeed.

Paul Woodbury is a Senior Genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists, a genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in genetic genealogy and DNA analysis. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree website at https://www.legacytree.com 

Exclusive Offer for DNAexplain readers:

Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project from Legacy Tree Genealogists using code SAVE100. Valid through March 24th, 2017.  Click here for more information, or to redeem coupon.

Concepts – “Who To Test?” Series

I often receive questions about who to test to obtain (discover) the Y or mitochondrial DNA of a particular ancestor in one’s tree. The question often arises when people are attempting to find either Y or mitochondrial DNA to confirm that an ancestor descends from or belongs to a particular population.

For example, “My great-great-grandmother was supposed to be Cherokee.  How can I tell if she was?”

The answer would be that if she was Cherokee on her mother’s direct maternal side, testing the mitochondrial DNA of specific descendants would yield the answer.

Regardless of origins, the concept and techniques apply to everyone. People of Native American, African, Jewish, European and Asian heritage carry specific haplogroups and match people who have similar roots.

You may want to read this short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy to understand the difference between Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA, what testing can tell you, and how they can help your genetic genealogy.

At a very basic level:

  • Y DNA testing tests the direct paternal (typically surname) line only, for males only. The Y chromosome is only passed from fathers to sons, so it is not divided nor mixed with the mother’s DNA. Females don’t have a Y chromosome, which is why they can’t test.
  • Mitochondrial DNA testing tests the direct matrilineal line only, for everyone, males and females both. The mitochondria is passed from mothers to all of her children, but is only passed on by females. It is not mixed with the father’s DNA, so it is not divided during the inheritance process.
  • Autosomal DNA testing tests all of your DNA, providing cousin matches and ethnicity estimates – but does not provide you with specifics about any individual line. You inherit half the autosomal DNA of each of your parents, so ancestral DNA diminishes by half in each generation. Autosomal testing is a great overview of all of your DNA lineages, but can’t tell you where any particular line comes from.

Testing the appropriate descendants of each ancestor allows us to build a DNA pedigree chart in order to determine the proven, specific heritage and origins of each individual line.

Here’s what my DNA Pedigree Chart looks like through my 8 great-grandparents where I’ve successfully obtained the Y and mitochondrial DNA of their descendants. Y and mitochondrial DNA, of course, has special properties and reaches back hundreds and thousands of years in time, because the Y and mitochondrial DNA is not diluted by the DNA of the other parent during inheritance.

I’ve converted the relationships in my pedigree chart above to an Ancestor Pedigree Chart, below, because we will be working with each individual and adding lines for other family members as we determine who we can test. You can click to enlarge the image.

In the Ancestor Pedigree Chart, shown above, there are 16 different people who all carry mitochondrial DNA, representing 8 different mitochondrial lines. Mitochondrial contributors, all women, shown in pink both carry and contribute mitochondrial DNA. Mothers contribute their mitochondrial DNA to the males, shown by pink hearts, but the men don’t pass it on. The daughters pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children.

There are 8 people, shown in blue, who carry and contribute Y DNA, representing 4 different Y lines.

Each mitochondrial and Y line of DNA has a story to tell that can’t be told any other way. Autosomal DNA does not provide specific information about the genesis or ethnicity of any particular line, but Y and mtDNA does. If you want to know specifically where, what part of the world, or what clan that particular ancestor descended from, Y and mitochondrial DNA may tell you.

The question becomes, who can be tested that is living today to obtain that specific information about each particular ancestor.

Of course, the answer of who to test to find the ancestral Y and mitochondrial DNA varies depending on the gender of the person, and where they are located in your tree.

If the person in the tree is no longer living, the answer about who to test may hinge on their siblings, and the descendants of their siblings or maybe cousins. Or perhaps you’ll need to go back up the tree a generation or two to find appropriately descended relatives to test.

For each of the individuals in this tree, I’m going to answer the question of whom to test to obtain their Y and mitochondrial DNA – and how to find a suitable candidate. Talking them into testing, however, is all up to you:)

If you haven’t tested your Y or mitochondrial DNA, and you want to, you can order those tests at Family Tree DNA.  I suggest a minimum of 37 markers for Y DNA. You can always upgrade later to 67 or 111 markers.  Regardless of your testing level, you’ll receive haplogroup estimates, matches and other information.  For mitochondrial DNA, order the full sequence test so you’ll receive your full haplogroup designation. Several Y and mitochondrial haplogroups originated in Asia, with some lines settling in Europe, some in Asia and some in the Americas – so you need as much information as you can extract from your DNA.

Please join me for the “Concepts – Who To Test?” Series – coming soon to a this blog, so stay tuned!!!