Enforced Bastardry in Colonial America – A DNA Monkey Wrench

Sometimes when men Y DNA test, their results are returned with matches to different surnames, meaning surnames other than their own. In fact, it’s not unusual, but hopefully, they will also match several men who carry their own surname with the idea that those matches will help the tester further their genealogy by being able to connect to ancestors further back in time.

Best case, to identify the actual ancestor.

Worst case, to find hints to lead to their own ancestor through the matching DNA of others.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail, for many genealogists, is to find a Y DNA surname match overseas, in a small village, where the local church still has records. That’s what we did in both the Estes and Speak Y DNA projects. The DNA matches confirmed where those lines originated and the church and other traditional genealogical records confirmed we had discovered the origin location of the actual immigrant ancestor.

You can read one of several articles about the trip back to Lancashire for the Speak line here and to Kent for the Estes line here. DNA made confirming the connection between the American/New Zealand lines and the British lines possible.

However, for some, that overseas match never arrives. I’m here to tell you, 16 years and waiting on my Moore line and we still have only a few matches, and only from the brickwall ancestor in Virginia to current – nothing before and no matches with any other Moore line.

Patience may be a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine!

In some cases, like my Moore line, the surname in question only matches people downstream from the known ancestor.

Talk about frustrating.

Surname Matching Issues and Indentured Servitude

One of the reasons surname matching issues can occur, but that we seldom think of, is the situation in colonial American where indentured servants, those who sold away from 5 to 9 years of their life in exchange for for passage to America, were forbidden to marry.  Therefore, if a female became pregnant, she was forced to have the child outside of marriage – meaning the child took her surname.

If a male indentured servant impregnated someone, he too was forbidden to marry – so the child took the mother’s surname and life went on.

Based on the court notes from Richmond County, Virginia, beginning in 1692, and from Rappahannock County, before that, this was a lot more common that one would think.

Now, fast forward 300 years – the surname and the Y DNA don’t match. Better stated, the person carrying a particular surname today doesn’t match any or many people of the same surname.

Making matters worse, according to the records in North Farnham Parish, in Virginia, beginning in 1600s when the area was Old Rappahannock County and reaching through the 1800s when it was Richmond County, “bastard” children don’t appear in the baptismal records. Having said that, the records are known to be incomplete, even for children born to married parents, but given the number of illegitimate births, it’s difficult to believe that somehow all of those records just happen coincidentally to be missing.

Richmond County is lucky to have any church records. Many locations don’t.

So, if your ancestor was one of the illegitimate children born, there is:

  • Generally no record of their name in the court record.
  • No record of their name in the baptismal records.
  • Often no record of their father’s name.
  • No record of the gender of the child born to the mother.
  • Generally, no record of what happened to them.

If you’re lucky, a court record will exist where the mother was brought before the court and prosecuted for “the sin of fornication” and with having a “bastard child.” Generally, that’s not the kind of record a genealogist is looking for. They are looking for males with their specific surname in wills and deeds, not court cases involving female indentured servants bearing children out of wedlock.

As punishment, the woman’s indenture was extended, from a year in early cases, as seen in the examples below, to 5 years in a later case in Halifax County, Virginia.

Sometimes in these cases, the pregnancy causes the woman to fall into perpetual indentured servitude, as we can see in the Thatchill case.

The father? What happened to him?

Sometimes he had to pay a fee of tobacco to the church to assure that the church would not end up paying to raise the child – because an unwed mother was generally condemned to a life of misery and poverty – unable to support her child after her indenture was over.

Furthermore, many indentured servants didn’t survive. While working a slave to death was counterproductive, because the owner wanted the slave to live long and reproduce for the economic benefit to the owner, indentured servants only served for a number of years, so masters often worked these people relentlessly and maintained them in the poorest of conditions.

Enforced Bastardry

While researching my ancestors in Richmond County, Virginia, I stumbled across the three following cases of what I’m terming “enforced bastardry.” I find it somehow ironic that the very men, court and church that condemned these women for “fornicating” had arranged and condoned the very system that forced them to remain unmarried – in essence forcing them to bear those “bastard” children.

In the following cases, the word “master” does not denote a master/slave relationship in the sense of an African or Native American slave who was a slave for life. These were white European immigrant women who were indentured for a set period of time, to be freed after their indenture was served, assuming they survived, not permanently enslaved.

Permanent slaves never officially “married” within the law, and were not prosecuted for “fornication.” In fact, their owners wanted them to reproduce because children of slaves were born into the status of the mother. If the mother was a slave, so were the children.

This was a very profitable arrangement for the slave owner, because slaves that had to be purchased were expensive and in early America, often in short supply. Very occasionally, slave children were baptized, but when so, they were listed under the master’s name, generally not the name of the child and never the name of the parent or parents.

Case 1 – Katherine Thatchill and Catherine Perry, servants to Abraham Marshall

Richmond County Court Order Book, July 2, 1701 – Katherine Thatchill servant to Abraham Marshall by and with her own consent is ordered to serve her master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

This day Abraham Marshall confesed judgement to the churchwarden of Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds good tobacco in cask which this court have ordered to be paid with costs of suit. Exo. Being the fine due from Katherine Thatchill for committing the sin of fornication.

Ordered that Katherine Thatchill do serve Abraham Marshall her present master according to act for the care and trouble of her childbirth of a bastard child.

It being evidently made appear to the court that Catharine Parry, servant to Abraham Marshall did fugitively absent herself from her said master’ service the space of 15 days and that her said master hath expended 300 pounds of tobacco for percuring her againe, the court have ordered that the said Katherine do serve her said master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time and be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

These items appeared in consecutive order on the same court order page on the same day. Given the fourth paragraph, it appears that indeed, there were two women, one Katherine Thatchill and one Catharine Perry.

Amazingly, Catharine Perry only “missed” 15 days of “work” but she paid for it with another year of her life, because her master paid her fine.

Court Order Book May 6, 1702 – Capt. John Tarpley one of the churchwardens of the parish of North Farnham certifying to this court that Thomas Tatchall being a parish charge and Abraham Marshall being willing to discharge the said parish of ye said Thomas, the court have ordered that the said Thomas Tatchall do serve the said Abraham Marshall and Thomazin his wife their heires and assignes until he shall attaine to the full age of 21 years.

Apparently, Katherine Thatchill’s child lived and is now also indentured until he is 21. The only way Katherine can be with her child it to remain on Abraham Marshall’s plantation, assuming she is still alive. In essence, Abraham Marshall has now obtained two indentured servants for the next 21 years.  By that time, where is Katherine Thatchill going to go and how will she survive?  She will probably remain a servant for her entire life, in exchange for food and shelter.  Perhaps her son will do better.

Case 2 – Elinor Hughes, servant to James Gilbert

Richmond County, Virginia Court Order Book, Nov. 4, 1702 – Appearing to this court that Elinor Hughes has by her own confession fugitively absented herself out of the service of her master, James Gilbert, the space of 23 days, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes the space of 46 days after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired.

Elinor Hughes, servant to Gilbert Jones being presented to this court for having a bastard child, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes according to act in consideration for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

This day James Gilbert confessed judgement to the church wardens of North Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco it being the fine of Elinor Hughes for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child to be paid with costs also.

Ordered that Elinor Hughes servant to James Gilbert by and wither own consent do serve her said master of his assignes the space of one whole yeare after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired in satisfaction for his paying her fine for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child.

It’s appears that Elinor had to “pay” double the time she missed for “troubling” her master with her pregnancy, and a year for the fine he paid.  These laws and customs never benefitted the servant, always the master.

Case 3 – Ann Kelly, Servant to Thomas Durham

The drama involving Ann Kelly didn’t begin as anything unusual. Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined Ann’s age so that the length of her indenture could be determined and so that she could be taxed appropriately. Indentures of children not only involved a certain number of years, but lasted until they attained a specific age, minimally.

In 1704, in a deposition, Ann gave her age to be 20, which would have put her birth in 1684. If she were 14 in 1699, then she would have been born in 1685, so this fits.

Court Order Book Page 406, June 7, 1699 – Ann Kelly servant to Thomas Durham being presented to this court to have inspection into her age is adjudged 14 years old and ordered to serve her master or his assigns according to act.

However, by 1708, nine years later, Anne was 23 and circumstances had changed.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – Anne Kelly, servant to Thomas Durham, being brought before the court by her master for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and said Anne refusing to confess who was the father of the child, the court have ordered she be committed to the county goale there to remaine until such time as she shall confess who is the true father of her child and it is also ordered that she serve her master or his assignes after her time by indenture custome or otherwise shall be fully expired according to law in compensation for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

Imagine how intimidating this must have been for Ann. Not only did all those men, dressed in their finery and powdered wigs “know what she had done,” they were pressuring her for the name of the child’s father. Ann, a servant with nothing of her own, not even the right to direct her own body, stood firm, even when sentenced to jail.

Having none of this, Dorothy Durham, Thomas’s wife, steps in.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – This day Dorothy Durham for on the behalf of her husband Thomas Durham confessed judgement to the church wardens of Northfarnham parish to the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco the same being the fine of Anne Kelly for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child which is ordered to be paid with costs.

I can’t even begin to explain how unusual this was. Not only did Dorothy appear at court, of her own volition, she clearly defied her husband to do so. Not only that, but Dorothy apparently controlled some financial aspects of the household, a very unusual situation for a woman in colonial Virginia. There seemed to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dorothy was capable and authorized to pay the 500 pounds of tobacco – even though Dorothy did say she was acting “on behalf of her husband.”

In every other similar case, some male community member steps forward and posts bail, or not, but no female ever steps forward like Dorothy did. I’m convinced that posting bail, in most cases, wasn’t so much to help the poor woman who had the child as it was to retain the services of the woman and not be inconvenienced. In Dorothy’s case, we’ll never know what motivated her to attend court alone, step up in place of her husband AND pay the fine for Anne Kelly. But she did!

Furthermore, in most cases, the female willingly named the child’s father. In this case, we do discover the name of the father the following March, and I wonder if Dorothy knew all along.

Court Order Book Page 4, March 2, 1708/9 – Anne Kelly came into court and made oath that Thomas Durham Jr. is the true father of 2 bastard children borne of her body in the time of her service with his father, Thomas Durham the elder. Upon motion of the Queen’s attorney ordered that Thomas Durham Jr. be summoned to next court to enter into bond with security for the indemnification of the parish and what charge may acrew to the parish for or by reason of the children aforesaid.

In March of 1708/09, Anne Kelly was dragged before the court a second time. This time, however, she named the father of the children – Thomas Durham Jr., the son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. While Thomas Jr. was summoned to post bond to the churchwardens so they would not incur future costs on behalf of the children, Thomas Jr. was not fined for fornication nor did he have to pay Anne Kelly’s fine for fornication and having a bastard child. Men were never fined. I guess those women managed to fornicate and get pregnant all by themselves!

This time, it wasn’t Dorothy who paid Anne Kelly’s fees, nor Thomas Durham Sr. or Jr., who should have by all rights paid her fines – but Thomas Dodson who was married to Mary Durham, Dorothy’s daughter. Anne Kelly, according to another court note, was assigned by Thomas Durham Sr. to Thomas Dodson, so was already serving at Thomas Dodson’s house, which adjoined the land of Thomas Durham Sr. In any event, after her original indenture, plus extra time for the first pregnancy, Anne was obligated to serve additional time working for Thomas Dodson because he paid her fine for the second pregnancy, caused by his brother-in-law.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2, 1708/09 Anne Kelly servant to Thomas Dodson being this day brought before this court for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child the court have ordered Anne Kelly to serve Thomas Dodson or his assignes according to law after her time by indenture or otherwise is fully expired, in consideration of his paying her fine for committing the offence aforesaid.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2 1708/09 Thomas Dodson confest judgement to the churchwardens of North Farnham parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco being the fine of Anne Kelley for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and it ordered that he pay the same with costs.

Anne Kelly arrived in June of 1699 at the age of 14. By 1709, she is still serving as an indentured servant, has had two illegitimate children, sired by her “master’s” son and still has at least two years left to serve on her indenture time, based on the court records. From this we know that Anne’s original indenture was at least for 9 years, because she was still a servant in July of 1708. A year later, in 1709, she is still serving, and has had 2 years added on to her time. This means that she will be serving until at least 1711 sometime, if not longer, and presuming she doesn’t get fined for fornicating again. This means that her indenture time beginning in 1699 when she was 14 is now extended to when she is minimally 26 years old, when she will be released with a suit of clothes to somehow make her way with two children.

And the greatest irony of all, Thomas Durham Jr. married the daughter of the neighbor planter in about 1710, beginning his “legitimate” family with her. So, while Anne Kelly is still paying with the days of her life for her crime of “sinning” with Thomas Durham Jr. on one farm, he has married the daughter of the neighbor and is setting up housekeeping – probably within view everyday of Anne Kelly.

No hard feelings there, I’m sure. I can’t help but wonder what happened to these women and their children.

Note that in  only one of these cases do we have any idea of the gender of the child and his name from a later record. In the rest of the cases, and normally, there are no names, and no birth dates, although we can at least surmise a year. We also don’t know if the children survived. There are no records in Richmond County in later years for any individual that appears to be the offspring of these women.

In colonial Virginia, the stigma of illegitimacy never washed away. The best way to remove it? Move. Far away. Preferably to the frontier where pioneers were far too busy clearing land and eking out a living to ask questions. Marry someone and start a life far distant from those damning court records and community knowledge.

If you think this scenario might fit your family situation, what do you do?

What To Do?

Unfortunately, these cases are very difficult, if not impossible, to crack.

Hints that enforced bastardry might be involved would include:

  • Few Y DNA matches to your surname
  • Significant close Y DNA matches to another surname
  • Y DNA matches to your surname only downstream of your brick wall ancestor, never at an earlier date and never overseas
  • Ancestor seems to appear out of no place in colonial America
  • No records. Bastard children were not recognized legally as the children of the father so there would be no inheritance.

Of course, the problem is that any of these circumstances mentioned above can be caused by other factors. Few Y DNA matches can be caused by few (or no) descendants or the fact that your line just hasn’t tested. No overseas matches can stem from the same thing, or the Y line has simply died out in the original location. If you’d like to read more, Concepts –  Undocumented Adoptions vs Untested Y Lines discussed more about this topic.

Matches to other surnames can result from a common ancestor before the advent of surnames or misattributed parentage, also known as NPEs or non-parental events, in other lines, as well as your own.

Ancestors who seem to appear out of no place can be a result of records destruction, or ancestors arriving as indentured servants or convicts, remaining poor and never owning land. A combination of these factors is particularly devastating for the genealogist, because it appears that our ancestor literally dropped out of the sky, arriving via the stork.

One approach I take is to look for common geography between my ancestor and the ancestors of other people with closely matching surnames. For example, in the case of Ann Kelly, we know that the father of her children was Thomas Durham, Jr. If the children were male, their surname would be Kelly, but their Y DNA would be Durham. Once you focus on a geography for the Y DNA line, you can turn to autosomal matching for that same surname to see if other people emerge as matches who are not directly descended from the paternal line.

Another avenue, and don’t laugh, is to google the various terms together, such as “Durham, Kelly, 1700, Virginia.” I’ve often found the old Rootsweb and GenForum lists to be wonderful sources of earlier research that has never made it into print or into trees anyplace. – and they both show up in Google searches.

However, in the Kelly/Durham case, as irony would have it, Thomas Durham Sr. had only one surviving son.   Thomas Durham Jr.’s only son, John, had three sons. Just recently, a Durham male descendant of Thomas Jr. through grandson Charnel was discovered and Y DNA testing is currently underway.

It will be very interesting to see if our Durham tester matches any Kelly males.


In order to utilize Y DNA, you must find a male from your desired line who is descended from the ancestor in question through all males to take a Y DNA test. Typically, this means a male who carries the same surname, assuming no name changes or adoptions.

Today, the only vendor offering Y DNA testing and matching is Family Tree DNA. Fortunately, they also offer autosomal testing with the Family Finder test, and Advanced Tools so that you can see if a Y DNA match also matches you autosomally. Their Family Finder matching tool also allows you to search by both current and ancestral surnames.

Click here to order either test. You’ll need both a Y DNA test and the Family Finder test to do the combined search for people who match on both the Y DNA and autosomal results.

You may also want to read the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy, which explains about the different kinds of DNA that can be utilized for genealogy research.



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55 thoughts on “Enforced Bastardry in Colonial America – A DNA Monkey Wrench

  1. Roberta,

    Thanks for this article. My maternal grandfather’s line likely fits one of these scenarios. His closest matches are a couple of people with a common surname. We know they descend from a woman posting bastardy bonds in NC in the early 1800s. The strange thing is that the next closest set of matches all match a family of a third, different surname. It’s almost as if there were two different surname switches in this line within a measurable time frame. The puzzling thing for finding my ancestor is that I can’t be sure which of these two surnames I should be looking for. My grandfather doesn’t share a single auDNA segment with the descendant of the NPE event in NC (and doesn’t even have any ICWs with him), so it’s possible the tea connection is further back. Seems a puzzling case.

  2. This could explain my Hawk family problem. Our Hawk yDNA only matches one other Hawk male. What really surprised us is both of us matching a Hicks. Both of our earliest known ancestors were born sometime between 1760 and 1780, said to have been born in Pennsylvania. There are no matches to anyone overseas. Needless to say, I’ll be checking early court records.

    • I don’t know how long indentured servitude lasted. I know for sure into the 1700s but I don’t know when it ended. And I’m betting each state was different. They would have been colonies at that time of course.

      • In a newspaper interview published in “Taney County Republican” on May 14, 1914, my maternal great-grandfather tells of being brought to St Louis and bonded out at the age of 6 by his father. So the practice of indentured servitude was still in practice in 1838.

        Source: The Taney County republican. (Forsyth, Mo.) 1895-1992, May 14, 1914, Image 1« Chronicling America « Library of Congress


      • In South Carolina, the state of indentured servitude was in effect long after the Colonial period. It may have been called something else, but it was basically involuntary slavery. Each county in SC had a “poor house” until the 1960s, and whole families were indentured out to work off debt. If the family included girls 14 years of age and boys 16 years of age, the girls could be indentured into marriage to pay a father’s debt, and boys could be indentured out to work, with the “wages” going to pay off the father’s debt.

        Orphanages in SC also indentured out children up to age 16, girls often sold into marriage, boys sold into work under the guise of “learning a trade.” I found my Craft ancestor’s children in the Orphan House of Charleston in Nov. of 1882, 4 children between the ages of 6 and 11. Three were indentured out before they were 14. The other, a girl, presumably was married out of the orphanage, but I have found no trace of her after 1882.

        As late as 1864 in Spartanburg Co. SC, bastary petitions were filed in Criminal Court. My 3rd great grandmother Page filed a Bastardy petition to force the father of her child, a prominent militia Captain who was 40 years older than she, to pay for his support. It was a case of “he said, she said” back then, and the case was thrown out, or nolle prossed. A bastardy bond was posted, but not by the culprit. It was posted by my Page 4th great grandfather.

        As far as rights of bastard children, someone else researching SC history might find this interesting or helpful. In another example of my tangled ancestry, in 1825, a 4th great grandparent petitioned the SC Legislature to recognize his 4 illegitimate children by his common law wife (he was legally married at the time but his wife had abandoned him and run off with another man) as his legal heirs. The case failed, and the illegitimate male child of the legal wife by another man was named as his legal heir because he was married to the child’s mother.

        He also petitioned the SC Legislature for a divorce from the legal wife, on the grounds that she abandoned him to open a house of ill repute with her lover, but he couldn’t even divorce her, because divorce was not legal until 1959. The suit failed, but she apparently died, because he legally married again after the death of his common law wife. But until the legal wife died, he could not convey real estate to his 4 illegitimate children without the written consent of the legal wife, who had to renounce her dower interest first.

        And don’t even get me started on the law of premogeniture, which was not abolished in SC until 1791. Sometime when you’ve nothing better to do, ask me about the scoundrel son who stole his father’s Will which left everything to his mother, so he could sell it out from under her and abscond to Canada.

        My female ancestors are my heroes. I don’t think I am strong enough to withstand all the trials they had to just to survive.

  3. Love this article, Roberta! I spend much of my research time exploring such entangled webs in colonial Virginia. And as a result of this research, I have come across an Eleanor Durham in early Hanover County, St. Paul’s Parish that may extend the story of Anne Durham. Eleanor Durham is never listed with child nor why she was alone. But there was a James Durham in the parish that apparently didn’t provide her shelter or food. She was a woman on her own at the “Church Wardens hands”. Below is all from St. Paul’s Vestry Record:

    page 120 (1728): By me, Samuel White, paying Eleanor Durham’s charge

    page 374 (1759): To Eleanor Durham toward her support

    page 397 (1760): To Eleanor Durham toward her support
    To William Taylor his account for corn and bacon for Eleanor Durham

    page 400 (1761): To Eleanor Durham toward her support

    page 405 (1762): To Eleanor Durham toward her support to be lodged

    page 409 (1763): To Eleanor Durham toward her support lodged as above (in the Church
    Wardens hands)

    page 433 (1764): To Eleanor Durham toward her support

    page 437 (1767): To Eleanor Durham toward her support

    • Thank you. This is fascinating. I can’t wait to be in a location where I can look at this in conjunction with the rest. Do you have Durhams or look specifically for this?

      • I have Durhams as they and my Thurmans match White YDNA. Interestingly, a John White was one of the church wardens of St. Paul’s Parish.

  4. My Paternal Uncle family was Nugroho and My Father’s family name was Purnomo. They’re full siblings but they’re used a different surnames. But I bet when my Brother’s, My Father’s, my Paternal Uncle, my Paternal Cousin’s (Man) and my Paternal Grandfather’s have 100% exacly same to my Y DNA Haplogroup O-M133.

  5. Another fascinating post – thanks, Roberta. This one strikes particularly close to home for me! I started the BARTLETT Y-DNA Surname Project in 2002 to find my BARTLETT ancestor. Long story short: he is Thomas BARTLETT c1703-1783 Richmond Co, VA – his 1767 Will named 5 sons, and we have matching Y-DNA from descendants of 4 of them – all E-V13, the only such haplogroup in our project, and ruling out several other BARTLETT lines in MD and VA. I’ve spent days in the Courthouse in Warsaw, and the first records I’ve been able to find for him is in the North Farnham Parish Register: 6 Jan 1726 birth of James BARTLETT, son of Thomas and Elizabeth; 1727 death of Frances BARTLETT (presumed infant); 1727 Court action: Thomas BARTLETT Plt and John MOZINGO for 512 pounds tobacco; NFPR 24 May 1729 birth of Anis BARTLETT, dau of Thomas and Elizabeth; etc (almost a record every year up to the 1770s). But nothing earlier. We know (primogeniture) by his Will that eldest son was John, so he was born before James in Jan 1726 – probably in spring/summer of 1724. So where was Thomas in 1724? I’ve done Y-111 and Big-Y and no matches other than the 16 of us who all match in the BARTLETT project (who can all trace back to Thomas 1705) and a few others of different surnames. Having found no earlier records of any BARTLETT in Richmond Co, VA or the Northern neck before 1726, I am concluding that Thomas was the immigrant and/or an indentured servant. He was a dirt farmer his whole life as were his sons. The possibility of an NPE has always lingered, but I’ve not found any other E-V13s from the Northern Neck that could fit this time frame. But your blogpost has really hit the mark! And my situation fits what you describe. On the one hand, I want to Y-DNA-test BARTLETTs in England, until I find a Match, on the other hand, that might be quite a goose chase. Maybe first, a more in depth review of matching Y-12 to Y-37 E1bs… Thanks for your post on this issue with examples in Richmond Co, VA at the time frame of my focus.

  6. This has happened in one of my family’s yDNA tests. My ancestor is Matthews (Mathis) and his closest matches are men with the surname of Autry and Autrey. Both Matthews and Autry match many men by the name of Collins. I’ve communicated with the Autry and Collins family researchers and no one has a clue. To complicate matters, we’re also related to the Autry family through marriages during the 1800s but this NPE event appears to have happened in the early 1700s. I’m not sure if my ancestor is a Matthews, Autry or Collins?

  7. Fascinating article.
    I do have another reason for surname changes for you, which may be of interest.
    It was quite common in England (and still is) for male children to take on the surname of their stepfather, particularly if their true father had died and their mother remarried. This was indeed the case for me.
    In 1860, my direct ancestor was baptised William Green. His father though was killed in an Iron Foundry explosion shortly before he was born. Eleven years later, he appears as William Green in the 1871 UK Census. A little later, his mother, Mary Ann Green (nee Tunbridge), remarries to a Charles (‘Chas’) Powell and goes on to have three more children by him. In 1891 William is still William Green, but his siblings and of course, mother and Stepfather, are all ‘Powell’s.
    William marries in 1893. On marriage, he finally takes his Stepfather’s surname ‘Powell’. (The certificate reads “Married as Powell”). Sadly his mother dies very shortly afterwards. It is therefore possible that it was her wish he fulfilled by changing his surname.
    (NB: In England, up until quite recently, it was legal for both husband and wife to change their surnames on marriage. Indeed, there are cases where both adopt an entirely unrelated one to either of them!)

  8. I looked for a long time to find my earliest ancestor, Nathaniel Norton, of Maine. Then found a court record where Abigail Norton had bastard son and was fined. The child’s birthdate is the same as my Nathaniel. With the YDNA we match several men of the Gray surname but have not found the link yet. All the Gray’s are from NC, TN, and that area not Maine. More work for the future.

  9. Roberta: very solid article, and thank you again. This is helpful not only to my husband for his Y “break” 4-5 generations back but also to my Griffin line, where a few males have done the original Y but I believe have not moved their results to FT-DNA nor taken the newer tests… question: can the older Nat Geo Y test be transferred to FTDNA? I will start looking into that myself.

    Thank you!

    Susan Percival Speers Massachusetts

    On Sun, Jul 23, 2017 at 7:12 AM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > Roberta Estes posted: ” Sometimes when men Y DNA test, their results are > returned with matches to different surnames, meaning surnames other than > their own. In fact, it’s not unusual, but hopefully, they will also match > several men who carry their own surname with the idea t” >

  10. Roberta, you do it yet again. I had no clue that indentured servants were not allowed to marry and the children had to take the mother’s surname.

    Oh, the many things I’ve learned from you! Thank you! Again!

  11. I just came across this whilst browsing records at North Carolina Digital Collection. There’s a book you can browse there or get from the Internet archive called NC Bastardy Bonds. It says that in early North Carolina if a woman became pregnant out of wedlock she would be ordered to the court and made to tell who the father is. Then that person or a family member would post a bond so the state would not have to pay for the rearing of the child. Sometimes the mother and father posted bonds. So those might prove very helpful in determining parentage.

    • Yes, it was published in 1990 by Betty J and Edwin A Camin. One still needs to read county court minutes which are most of the time not indexed!

  12. Roberta, Can you advise me on the following; My great grandfather, Cornelius Robinson, was born around 1838 and was a slave on the S. H. Wilds Plantation in Darlington, SC. My cousin, Tyrone Robinson did the FTDNA test in 2015. There is no Robinson! John Dalrymple and Jack Scarborough as 1st generation matches. There were Dalrymples in Darlington, SC. I can’t find the connection.

      • I tested with Ancestry and uploaded to Family Finder. I added Tyrone’s results to Family Finder also. There are no revelations on Robinson or Dalrymple. I do have a Dalrymple match on Ancestry who is a descendant of John Dalrymple.

  13. Oh my, so if we are talking about my 7th gg Thomas and Dorothy Smoot Durham who often turn up in trees of autosomal matches for me and my 3 paternal half-siblings, it might help explain what subjectively feels like an excess paternal matches with Rappahonock ancestry who don’t have Durhams in their trees. Is there documentary evidence regarding any of the Kelly children?

    Assuming the Kelly descendants are out there testing, as soon as I finish sequencing my matches on every chromosome (half way there) , I think I might try to look more systematically at that line and at unexplained segs. It would be fun if one of those long lasting single segments I’ve read about were in play.

  14. I found your article fascinating, thank you. My cousin took the YDNA test and our Bradley surname leads to the Douglas family of Scotland (6th Baron of Drumlanrig). I think about the history of the feudal wars and the actions of the men when they pillaged a settlement and can only conclude that a Douglas man impregnated a Bradley woman by means of rape,
    George Bradley b. July 26, 1786 somewhere in England was supposedly the 2nd son of a Lord.
    So the YDNA results name several Douglas but none have Bradley as well. This is my brick wall what do you suggest I do next? Thanks.

  15. Thank you, Roberta, I know you wrote this article just for me ! Can’t wait to travel to Edinburg.

  16. I had not previously included Enforced Bastardy in my possibility of reasons for my unexplained NPE. Thanks for providing this very informative & well-written article.

  17. Excellent article, however the testings statement “Today, the only vendor offering Y DNA testing and matching is Family Tree DNA. ” is a little misleading as 23andme uses SNP’s and FTDNA uses STR.

    • 23andMe does not offer STR testing or matching. In this case, matching is the key to the puzzle and Family Tree DNA is the only vendor who offers that service.

  18. Very informative article. Thank you, Roberta.
    I’ve been involved in a group study of the descendants of Thomas Ireland of Long Island, 1600s. He had many sons, some stayed on LI, others migrated up the Hudson and others to southern New Jersey around Atlantic City area. I worked up the yDNA information with about 14 descendants with the surname Ireland, Irelan or some other variation, with the following note about others with TI’s yDNA:
    “There are several people who match Thomas Ireland’s yDNA who do not carry the Ireland surname. There is no doubt that Thomas Ireland was an ancestor in the paternal line. This is explained by adoption, taking the name of a step-father, a woman giving birth out of wedlock, the child retaining her maiden name or a married woman pregnant by an Ireland male, but accepted knowingly or unknowingly by her husband. I have contacted two of these men and they show some interest in determining their ancestral line.”
    One of the men was able to trace his ancestor to the Atlantic City area in the early 1700s. Both his ancestors and the Irelands were members of the Quaker church. His ancestors moved after that first generation.

  19. Enjoy this article especially the part about my ancestors, Thomas Durham and Anne Kelly and a few more you mentioned.

  20. There was one account I read where each time the woman who was indentured gave birth to her master’s child the court lengthened her time of indenture. De facto slavery.

  21. As ever, a thorough and fascinating article! You clearly demonstrate how the patriarchal church and courts typically assigned responsibility and punishment for “fornication” and “sin” to the female, not the male, But in contrast to the situations of “free” women, indentured and enslaved women were more completely subject to the will of their masters, who had control over, not only their time and labor, but their very bodies. So enforced bastardy could also be preceded by a similarly enforced rape. A woman’s “choice”, under such circumstances, was highly questionable, though neither choice nor rape should not be assumed. We just have no way of knowing how much choice a young, dependent indentured or enslaved woman might have, but the odds were heavily stacked against choice.

    Perhaps Anne Kelly tried to protect the master’s son from parent or community censure by not naming the father because she truly cared about him or perhaps she feared retaliation. In any case, it is notable that at least his mother did move in and take responsibility for Anne’s fine. Although the young woman still had years added to her bondage and the grandchild denied.

  22. Are such records available clear into the War of 1812 period?
    I have a 111 marker test for which there has been only ONE match in 8 years. Of a different surname at 25-1 . HE does match his presumed papertrail according to the Surname project.
    My brickwall is in Richmond VA with a child born in Jan 1813. Can’t locate him in records unti the 1840 census in Missouri.
    Thank you for the informative article.

  23. Roberta, thanks so very much for this article! It does certainly shed some light on a possible explanation for my situation where there are no matches for any of my paternal lines possible two surnames, Kay or Mason. It also provides some great direction on how I can proceed, so that I don’t feel completely helpless to proceed. Even if I don’t succeed in identifying the actual paternal ancestor, I would rather have something to research than nothing.

  24. My brother matches his YDNA with a lot of people who match a common ancestor in Germany during the 1500’s. I also did his Family Finder and he matches that way too. I have only done the Family Finder. Should I consider this to be the one we are looking for in Germany. The church in Seigen Germany has all the records. We are part of the Germanna Colony of Virginia.

  25. My grandfather John Malone Disney, “Tony” was what most people called him, he was born MO 1879. His father was Charles David Disney born 1852, who was the son of John Rufus Disney.

    Charles had two sons William Rufus born 1877, and John Malone 1879. I found a death record showing that the mother of William was Nancy Harmon. However grandpa Disney remained with his father until Charles David Disney married Louisa Hatmaker.

    Is was said that she dropped him off at the Macedonia Church, Jacksboro, Tn where Thomas Gaylor and his wife Sarah Slover Gaylor were cleaning the church. The Gaylors raised about 7 such children,and I have not been able to find any records of my Grandfather.

    I know where he lived, Sarah had school for them, he did not attend public school. If anyone has any record please contact me, or reply to this request.

    I have not been able to find his mother, do no believe he and his brother had the same mother. I found a censes showing that Charles David and his youngest son were living with William and his wife Maytee Frits Disney. Also the whole Disney clan lived in the area and not one of them stepped up tp take him in.

    Thank you,

    Donna Disney Robinson Cox

  26. Another time of “enforced bastardy” I’ve encountered is when the couple married outside of the established church, and thus may not have been considered legally married. The Anglican Church mainained “bastardy” records for such unions, and if you come from a line of religious dissenters in England, you’re likely to encounter such records. But it appears that these situations didn’t always result in the offspring taking the mother’s surname.

  27. This is a very interesting article, and could be the answer to my family’s Y-DNA dilemma. I asked my uncle to do the Y-DNA test, since he is the last male Long in my mother’s family and I had a 25-year-old brick wall at my ggg-grandfather Long (b 1806). I was shocked when his results came back with no Long matches, and almost all of the 67-marker results were matches to Kendricks. What makes it more weird is that my gg-grandfather Long married a Kendrick woman. I don’t even know how to begin trying to untangle that mystery.

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