Y DNA: Part 2 – The Dictionary of DNA

After my introductory article, Y DNA: Part 1 – Overview, I received several questions about terminology, so this second article will be a dictionary or maybe more like a wiki. Many terms about Y DNA apply to mitochondrial and autosomal as well.

Haplogroup – think of your Y or mitochondrial DNA haplogroup as your genetic clan. Haplogroups are assigned based on SNPs, specific nucleotide mutations that change very occasionally. We don’t know exactly how often, but the general schools of thought are that a new SNP mutation on the Y chromosome occurs someplace between every 80 and 145 years. Of course, those would only be averages. I’ve as many as two mutations in a father son pair, and no mutations for many generations.

Dictionary haplogroup.png

Y DNA haplogroups are quite reliably predicted by STR results at Family Tree DNA, meaning the results of a 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker tests. Haplogroups are only confirmed or expanded from the estimate by SNP testing of the Y chromosome. Predictions are almost always accurate, but only apply to the upper level base haplogroups. I wrote about that in the article, Haplogroups and the Three Brothers.

Haplogroups are also estimated by some companies, specifically 23andMe and LivingDNA who provide autosomal testing. These companies estimate Y and mitochondrial haplogroups by targeting certain haplogroup defining locations in your DNA, both Y and mitochondrial. That doesn’t mean they are actually obtaining Y and mtDNA information from autosomal DNA, just that the chip they are using for DNA processing targets a few Y and mitochondrial locations to be read.

Again, the only way to confirm or expand that haplogroup is to test either your Y or mitochondrial DNA directly. I wrote about that in the article Haplogroup Comparisons Between Family Tree DNA and 23andMe and Why Different Haplogroup Results?.

Nucleotide – DNA is comprised of 4 base nucleotides, abbreviated as T (Thymine), A (Adenine), C (Cytosine) and G (Guanine.) Every DNA address holds one nucleotide.

In the DNA double helix, generally, A pairs with T and C pairs with G.

Dictionary helix structure.png

Looking at this double helix twist, green and purple “ladder rungs” represent the 4 nucleotides. Purple and green and have been assigned to one bonding pair, either A/T or C/G, and red and blue have been assigned to the other pair.

When mutations occur, most often A or T are replaced with their paired nucleotide, as are C and G. In this example, A would be replaced with T and vice versa. C with G and vice versa.

Sometimes that’s not the case and a mutation occurs that pairs A with C or G, for example.

For Y DNA SNPs, we care THAT the mutation occurred, and the identity of the replacing nucleotide so we know if two men match on that SNP. These mutations are what make DNA in general, and Y DNA in particular useful for genealogy.

The rest of this nucleotide information is not something you really need to know, unless of course you’re playing in the jeopardy championship. (Yes, seriously.) The testing lab worries about these things, as well as matching/not matching, so you don’t need to.

SNP – Single nucleotide polymorphism, pronounced “snip.” A mutation that occurs when the nucleotide typically found at a particular location (the ancestral value) is replaced with one of the other three nucleotides (the derived value.) SNPs that mutate are called variants.

In Y DNA, after discovery and confirmation that the SNP mutation is valid and carried by more than one man, the mutation is given a name something like R-M269 where R is the base haplogroup and M269 reflects the lab that discovered and named the SNP (M = Peter Underhill at Stanford) and an additional number, generally the next incremental number named by that lab (269).

Some SNPs were discovered simultaneously by different labs. When that happens, the same mutation in the identical location is given different names by different organizations, resulting in multiple names for the name mutation in the same DNA location. These are considered equivalent SNPs because they are identical.

In some cases, SNPs in different locations seem to define the same tree branching structure. These are functionally equivalent until enough tests are taken to determine a new branching structure, but they are not equivalent in the sense that the exact same DNA location was named by two different labs.

Some confusion exists about Y DNA SNP equivalence.

Equivalence Confusion How This Happens Are They the Same?
Same exact DNA location named by two labs Different SNP names for the same DNA location, named by two different labs at about the same time Exactly equivalent because SNPs are named for the the exact same DNA locations, define only one tree branch ever
Different DNA locations and SNP names, one current tree branch Different SNPs temporarily located on same branch of  the tree because branches or branching structure have not yet been defined When enough men test, different branches will likely be sorted out for the non-equivalent SNPs pointing to newly defined branch locations that divide the tree or branch

Let’s look at an example where 4 example SNPs have been named. Two at the same location, and two more for two additional locations. However, initially, we don’t know how this tree actually looks, meaning what is the base/trunk and what are branches, so we need more tests to identify the actual structure.

Dictionary SNPs before branching.png

The example structure of a haplogroup R branch, above, shows that there are three actual SNP locations that have been named. Location 1 has been given two different SNP names, but they are the same exact location. Duplicate names are not intentionally given, but result from multiple labs making simultaneous discoveries.

However, because we don’t have enough information yet, meaning not enough men have tested that carry at least some of the mutations (variants,), we can’t yet define trunks and branches. Until we do, all 4 SNPs will be grouped together. Examples 1 and 2 will always be equivalent because they are simply different names for the exact same DNA location. Eventually, a branching structure will emerge for Examples 1/2, Example 3 and Example 4..

Dictionary SNP branches.png

Eventually, the downstream branches will be defined and split off. It’s also possible that Example 4 would be the trunk with Examples 1 and 2 forming a branch and Example 3 forming a branch. Branching tree structure can’t be built without sufficient testers who take the NGS tests, specifically the Big Y-700 which doesn’t just confirm a subset of existing named SNPs, but confirms all named SNPs, unnamed variants and discovers new previously-undiscovered variants which define the branching tree structure.

SNP testing occurs in multiple ways, including:

  • NGS, next generation sequencing, tests such as the Big Y-700 which scans the gold standard region of the Y chromosome in order to find known SNPs at specific locations, mutations (variants) not yet named as SNPs, previously undiscovered variants and minimally 700 STR mutations.
  • WGS, whole genome sequencing although there currently exist no bundled commercial tools to separate Y DNA information from the rest of the genome, nor any comparison methodology that allows whole genome information to be transferred to Family Tree DNA, the only commercial lab that does both testing and matching of NGS Y DNA tests and where most of the Y DNA tests reside. There can also be quality issues with whole genome sequencing if the genome is not scanned a similar number of times as the NGS Y tests. The criteria for what constitues a “positive call” for a mutation at a specific location varies as well, with little standardization within the industry.
  • Targeted SNP testing of a specific SNP location. Available at Family Tree DNA  and other labs for some SNP locations, this test would only be done if you are looking for something very specific and know what you are doing. In some cases, a tester will purchase one SNP to verify that they are in a particular lineage, but there is no benefit such as matching. Furthermore, matching on one SNP alone does not confirm a specific lineage. Not all SNPs are individually available for purchase. In fact, as more SNPs are discovered at an astronomical rate, most aren’t available to purchase separately.
  • SNP panels which test a series of SNPs within a certain haplogroup in order to determine if a tester belongs to a specific subclade. These tests only test known SNPs and aren’t tests of discovery, scanning the useable portion of the Y chromosome. In other words, you will discern whether you are or are not a member of the specific subclades being tested for, but you will not learn anything more such as matching to a different subclade, or new, undiscovered variants (mutations) or subclades.

Subclade – A branch of a specific upstream branch of the haplotree.

Dictionary R.png

For example, in haplogroup R, R1 and R2 are subclades of haplogroup R. The graphic above conveys the concept of a subclade. Haplogroups beneath R1 and R2, respectively, are also subclades of haplogroup R as well as subclades of all clades above them on the haplotree.

Older naming conventions used letter number conventions such as R1 and R2 which expanded to R1b1c and so forth, alternating letters and numbers.

Today, we see most haplogroups designated by the haplogroup letter and SNP name. Using that notation methodology, R would be R-M207, R1 would be R-M173 and R2 would be R-M479.

Dictionary R branches.png

ISOGG documents Y haplogroup naming conventions and their history, maintaining both an alphanumeric and SNP tree for backwards compatibility. The reason that the alphanumeric tree was obsoleted was because there was no way to split a haplogroup like R1b1c when a new branch appeared between R1b and R1b1 without renaming everything downstream of R1b, causing constant reshuffling and renaming of tree branches. Haplogroup names were becoming in excess of 20 characters long. Today, the terminal SNP is used as a person’s haplogroup designation. The SNP name never changes and the individual’s Y haplogroup only changes if:

  • Further testing is performed and the tester is discovered to have an additional mutation further downstream from their current terminal SNP
  • A SNP previously discovered using the Big Y NGS test has since been named because enough men were subsequently discovered to carry that mutation, and the newly named SNP is the tester’s terminal SNP

Terminal SNP – It’s really not fatal. Used in this context, “terminal” means end of line, meaning furthest down and closest to present in the haplotree.

Depending on what level of testing you’ve undergone, you may have different haplogroups, or SNPs, assigned as your official “end of line” haplogroup or “terminal SNP” at various times.

If you took any of the various STR panel tests (12, 25, 37, 67 or 111) at Family Tree DNA your SNP was predicted based on STR matches to other men. Let’s say that prediction is R-M198. At that time, R-M198 was your terminal SNP. If you took the Big Y-700 test, your terminal SNP would almost assuredly change to something much further downstream in the haplotree.

If you took an autosomal test, your haplogroup was predicted based on a panel of SNPs selected to be informative about Y or mitochondrial DNA haplogroups. As with predicted haplogroups from STR test panels, the only way to discover a more definitive haplogroup is with further testing.

If you took a Y DNA STR test, you can see by looking at your match list that other testers may have a variety of “terminal SNPs.”

Dictionary Y matches.png

In the above example, the tester was originally predicted as R-M198 but subsequently took a Big Y test. His haplogroup now is R-YP729, a subclade of R-M198 several branches downstream.

Looking at his Y DNA STR matches to view the haplogroups of his matches, we see that the Y DNA predicted or confirmed haplogroup is displayed in the Y-DNA Haplogroup column – and several other men are M198 as well.

Anyone who has taken any type of confirming SNP test, whether it’s an individual SNP test, a panel test or the Big Y has their confirmed haplogroup at that level of testing listed in the Terminal SNP column. What we don’t know and can’t tell is whether the men whose Terminal SNP is listed as R-M198 just tested that SNP or have undergone additional SNP testing downstream and tested negative for other downstream SNPs. We can tell if they have taken the Big Y test by looking at their tests taken, shown by the red arrows above.

If the haplogroup has been confirmed by any form of SNP testing, then the confirmed haplogroup is displayed under the column, “Terminal SNP.” Unfortunately, none of this testers’ matches at this STR marker level have taken the Big Y test. As expected, no one matches him on his Terminal SNP, meaning his SNP farthest down on the tree. To obtain that level of resolution, one would have to take the Big Y test and his matches have not.

Dictionary Y block tree.png

Looking at this tester’s Big Y Block Tree results, we can see that there are indeed 3 people that match him on his terminal SNP, but none of them match him on the STR tests which generally produce genealogical matches closer in time. This suggests that these haplogroup level matches are a result of an ancestor further back in time. Note that these men also have an average of 5 variants each that are currently unnamed. These may eventually be named and become baby branches.

SNP matches can be useful genealogically, depending on when they occurred, or can originate further back in time, perhaps before the advent of surnames.

Our tester’s paternal ancestors migrated from Germany to Hungary in the late 1700s or 1800s, settling in a region now in Croatia, but he’s brick-walled on his paternal line due to record loss during the various wars.

The block tree reveals that the tester’s Big Y SNP match is indeed from Germany, born in 1718, with other men carrying this same terminal SNP originating in both Hungary and Germany even though they aren’t shown as a STR marker match to our tester.

You can read more about the block tree in the article, Family Tree DNA’s New Big Y Block Tree.

Haplotype – your individual values for results of gene sequencing, such as SNPs or STR values tested in the 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 marker panels at Family Tree DNA. The haplotype for the individual shown below would be 13 for location DYS393, 26 for location DYS390, 16 for location DYS19, and so forth.

Dictionary panel 1.png

The values in a haplotype tend to be inherited together, so they are “unique” to you and your family. In this case, the Y DNA STR values of 13, 26, 16 and 10 are generally inherited together (unless a new mutation occurs,) passed from father to son on the Y chromosome. Therefore, this person’s haplotype is 13, 26, 16 and 10 for these 4 markers.

If this haplotype is rare, it may be very unique to the family. If the haplotype is common, it may only be unique to a much larger haplogroup reaching back hundreds or thousands of years. The larger the haplotype, the more unique it tends to be.

STR – Short tandem repeat. I think of a short tandem repeat as a copy machine or a stutter error. On the Y chromosome, the value of 13 at the location DYS393 above indicates that a series of DNA nucleotides is repeated a total of 13 times.

Indel example 1

Starting with the above example, let’s see how STR values accrue mutations.

STR example

In the example above, the value of CT was repeated 4 times in this DNA sequence, for a total of 5, so 5 would be the marker value.

Indel example 3

DNA can have deletions where the DNA at one or more locations is deleted and no DNA is found at that location, like the missing A above.

DNA can also have insertions where a particular value is inserted one or more times.

Dictionary insertion example.png

For example, if we know to expect the above values at DNA locations 1-10, and an insertion occurs between location 3 and 4, we know that insertion occurred because the alignment of the pattern of values expected in locations 4-10 is off by 1, and an unexpected T is found between 3 and 4, which I’ve labeled 3.1.

Dictionary insertion example 1.png

STR, or copy mutations are different from insertions, deletions or SNP mutations, shown below, where one SNP value is actually changed to another nucleotide.

Indel example 2

Haplotree – the SNP trees of humanity. Just a few years ago, we thought that there were only a few branches on the Y and mitochondrial trees of humanity, but the Big Y test has been a game changer for Y DNA.

At the end of 2019, the tree originating in Africa with Y chromosome Adam whose descendants populated the earth is comprised of more than 217,277 variants divided into 24,838 individual Y haplotree branches

A tree this size is very difficult to visualize, but you can take a look at Family Tree DNA’s public Y DNA tree here, beginning with haplogroup A. Today, there 25,880 branches, increased by more than 1000 branches in less than 3 weeks since year end. This tree is growing at breakneck speed as more men take the Big Y-700 test and new SNPs are discovered.

On the Public Y Tree below, as you expand each haplogroup into subgroups, you’ll see the flags representing the locations of where the testers’ most distant paternal ancestor lived.

Dictionary public tree.png

I wrote about how to use the Y tree in the article Family Tree DNA’s PUBLIC Y DNA Haplotree.

The mitochondrial tree can be viewed here. I wrote about to use the mitochondrial tree in the article Family Tree DNA’s Mitochondrial Haplotree.

Need Something Else?

I’ll be introducing more concepts and terms in future articles on the various Y DNA features. In the mean time, be sure to use the search box located in the upper right-hand corner of the blog to search for any term.

DNAexplain search box.png

For example, want to know what Genetic Distance means for either Y or mitochondrial DNA? Just type “genetic distance” into the search box, minus the quote marks, and press enter.

Enjoy and stay tuned for Part 3 in the Y DNA series, coming soon.


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The Shocking Divorce of Jane Campbell Freeman: Did She Do It and Was the Devil Involved? – 52 Ancestors #270

Jane Campbell Freeman wasn’t my ancestor, but she was my ancestor’s sister. I might not have paid much attention to Jane were it not for the legislative case and associated scandal that like a whirlpool engulfed her life.

Jane was, ahem, divorced!!!

To say that Jane’s divorce was scandalous is an understatement. To begin with, divorce simply did not happen at that time. It’s shocking not only in that it did happen, but because of the public detail provided and the fact that Jane was apparently never provided an opportunity to rebut what was stated. In fact, Jane herself never appears at all – only the allegations against her, orchestrated by none other than her soon-to-be x-husband. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Are the mind-boggling accusations levied against Jane true? I surely don’t know. You’ll just have to read along and decide for yourself.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA)

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has a huge number of resources – many that you wouldn’t necessarily think of consulting under normal circumstances. But then again, my family has never been “normal.”

Among unusual items found in the State Archives are cases bumped to either the Tennessee Supreme Court, the legislature or other courts outside of the county in which the case originated.

Supreme Court cases are found here, and legislative petitions are here.

Legislative petitions include any petition that at least some residents signed and sent to the legislature which includes regions that were split into different counties. Residents in the part of the county affected signed petitions that were either pro or con. There may have been multiple petitions, so look closely.

Legislative petitions also included divorces and generally affidavits that involve other family members, neighbors, friends as well as those not-so-friendly sometimes.

If you have ancestors in Tennessee, or even family members in Tennessee, you owe it to yourself to take a look. I didn’t think I’d find anything. I mean, what are the chances that anything in my poor farmer families would make it to the Supreme Court? Well, thankfully, one case did – that of the juicy drama-filled contested estate of Samuel Clarkson/Claxton, from burned Hancock County no less. Talk about a goldmine!

A second case involves my Campbell family.

Years ago, when visiting the TSLA in person, I found the divorce case of Jane Freeman, but even AT the library, when requesting the case file, all of the information available today was not in the file at that time. I’m very glad that I ordered this file.

Who was Jane Freeman?

Jane Freeman was born Jane Campbell about 1807 in Claiborne County to John Campbell and his wife Jane “Jenny” Dobkins, my ancestors. Jane’s sister, Elizabeth Campbell married Lazarus Dodson. The divorce record in question is for Elizabeth’s sister, Jane. Elizabeth, older than Jane, had already died when this scandal erupted, but both of Jane’s parents were living, and this must have literally put them through hell – regardless of whether the accusations were true or not.

A divorce in any family in 1830 was quite the scandal, but the circumstances of this particular divorce, which obviously became quite public, was probably devastating to both families along with being the talk of the county for literally decades. It was juicy, to put it conservatively.

A Little Background

Let’s start with Jacob Dobkins and his wife, Dorcas Johnson whose two daughters were both involved in this drama; Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who married John Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins who married George Campbell.

To make things even more complex George Campbell is long believed to be the brother of John Campbell. Both Y and autosomal DNA strongly suggest that’s accurate. In other words, Dobkins sisters married Campbell brothers.

Brothers Married Sisters

Charles Campbell of Hawkins County had two sons, John and George Campbell to whom he jointly sold land. Some years later, John and George sold the land and disappeared from Hawkins County records about the same time that John and George Campbell appeared in neighboring Claiborne County.

Jacob Dobkins, the father of both Jane Dobkins (mother of Jane Campbell) and Elizabeth Dobkins lived just up the road a few miles in Hawkins County from Charles Campbell. He also arrived in Claiborne County at about the same time as the Campbell brothers. Eventually, the Campbell family would come to own Jacob Dobkins’ land long after his death.

The fact that sisters married brothers means that the children of Jenny Dobkins with John Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins with George Campbell would be double first cousins. These family relationships are relevant because of the accusations in the divorce petition.

This is already complicated and we’re not even to John Campbell and Jane “Jenny” Dobkins daughter, Jane Campbell Freeman!

Jane Campbell Freeman’s Divorce

Many Claiborne County records are missing, so we don’t have the actual marriage record of Jane Campbell to Johnson Freeman. Jane was born about 1807.

What we do have is the divorce petition and proceedings as obtained from the TSLA. Divorces at this time were not heard or granted in the county courts, but bumped to the state level and required legislative approval.

1831 Claiborne county Freeman vs Freeman Divorce Legislation

Claiborne County (Tennessee)

Personally appeared before me Joseph Lanham acting justice of the peace for the said county. Melinda Chumly who being sworn as the law directs deposeth and sayeth as follows:

Note that at this time, it was customary for the people involved in the case to ask the questions of the people being deposed. These questions were obviously asked by Jane’s husband, Johnson Freeman. I have left the verbiage exactly intact. You can just hear the southern drawl.

Question: While you was a living at my house the house of Johnson Freeman from September 1829 till in February 1830 did or did you not know my wife Jane Freeman to be guilty of the act of fornication.

Answer: I did know it to be a fact.

Question: How did you know it to be a fact?

Answer: I seen the conduct myself.

Question: Who did you see with her?

Answer: Isaac A. Farris

Question: What did she say to your about it?

Answer: She charged me not to tell on her that if you found it out you would leave her.

Question: Did you know of any other person being with her?

Answer: After I found her out with Izaac A. Farris she told me of others that she was guilty of the same act with.

Question: Who did she say they was?

Answer: Benjamin Matlock and her own cozen John Campbell.

Question: Did you see any imprudent conduct with her and these men?

Answer: I did see vary ugly conduct by her and both the men.

Question: Did she not tell you that her father’s black man named Charles ketched her and said Farris together?

(Her father refers to Jane’s father, John Campbell.)

Answer: Yes, she did tell me so and that Farris hired him not to tell an them by giving him a quart of brandy.

Question: Did she not tell you that after that they had said black Charles to make arrangements for there convenience?

Answer: She did tell me so.

Question: Did she not tell you that she laid out in the woods about half the day with her cozen John Campbell on the day that I helped her brother Jacob kill hogs?

(Jacob Campbell was born about 1801.)

Answer: She did tell me so and that his horse got loose in the time and ran home.

Question: What did she say was the cause of her doing so?

Answer: I talked to her and shamed her about her conduct and asked what was the reason of her doing so and she told me she did not know any cause for you had always treated her well and just – the Devil had overcome her and she believed that it was the works of the Devil.

Given under my hand and seal this 6th day of October 1831

Signed Melinda Chumly by her mark

Sworn to and subscribed to before me Joseph Lanham acting Justice of the Peace for Claiborne County this 6th day of October 1831.

<end of record>

This document provides us with a great deal of genealogical information. As it turns out, I already had most of this, BUT, the commentary about “her own cuzin” is surprising in this context, because it was generally accepted for first cousins to marry. Given that, I’m not sure why the commentary about John being her cousin was included. Jane’s first cousin, George Campbell’s son, John Campbell, was born about 1810.

Freeman pedigree.png

Having said that, my first reaction was that I was thrilled, because momentarily I thought this record would indeed be the confirmation that John Campbell (Jane’s father) and George Campbell (the father of John whom Jane reportedly fornicated with) were absolutely proven brothers because Jane and John were kissing cousins. However, then I remembered that their mothers were sisters, so this verbiage does not confirm that the Campbell men were brothers. ☹ If only the record had said “double cousin.”

I must admit, I chuckled at the thought of the horse breaking loose and running home.

One Melinda Chumbley, daughter of Robert Chumley, was born in 1821, but why was Melinda living with Johnson Freeman? Robert was not deceased. Robert Chumley’s brother, Lewis testifies in the next document.


Personally appeared before me Joseph Lanham…Lewis Chumbly who being sworn deposeth as follows:

Question: Did or did not Jane Freeman my wife, the wife of Johnson Freeman, confess to you after I had left her that she was guilty of the act of fornication previous to my leaving of her?

Answer: She did openly confess the fact of her being guilty of fornication with two different men.

Question: Who did she say they were?

Answer: Isaac A. Farris and Benjamin Matlock.

Question: How long did she say she has been guilty of this conduct before I left her?

Answer: All the previous fall and winter before you left her in April 1830.

Question: How come she to make this confession?

Answer: I was a talkin to her about your distress and asked her why she done so and she said she could not tell the cause for you had always treated her well.

Given under my hand and seal the 4th day of October 1831.

Lewis Chumbly

<end of record>

This documents their marriage date at least in or prior to the summer of 1829.

Lewis Chumbley (not Crumley which is a different family) was born in 1808 in Virginia and died in 1885 in Arthur, Claiborne County, Tennessee. The Chumbley family is known to have lived in that area and intermarried with the Dodson family (not to be confused with the Dobkins family) as well.

Another relationship worth noting is that in 1839, Lazarus Dodson, Jane Campbell Freeman’s brother-in-law who became a widower when her sister Elizabeth Campbell died, married Rebecca Freeman whose parents are unknown. Somehow these families are intertwined.


Personally appeared before me…Mary Chumly being sworn…:

Question: Did or did not Jane Freeman my wife the wife of Johnson Freeman confess to you after I had left her that she was guilty of the act of formication?

Answer: She did openly con that she had been guilty of two different men.

Question: Did she say who they was?

Answer: She said she had been guilty of Isaac A. Farris and Benjamin Matlock for some time before you left her.

Given under my hand this 6th day of October 1831.

Mary Chumly sign with an X

<end of document>

Mary Chumley is probably Lewis’s wife.

Ok, now I’m beginning to wonder why all three depositions are from Chumley family members.

The next deposition:

Personally appeared before me…Hannah Huffaker being sworn…:

Question: Did or did not Jane Freeman my wife the wife of Johnson Freeman confess to you after I had left her that she was guilty of the act of fornication while I was a living with her and for which cause I left her.

Answer: She did openly confess that she actly(?) been guilty of fornication with different men before you left her.

Question: Did she say she had any cause for doing it?

Answer: No she said you had always treated her well and she had done the wrong without any cause.

Given under my hand this 6th day of October 1831.

Hannah Huffaker signs

<end of record>

So, we, and the court, are to believe that Jane just went around confessing to multiple people that she had slept with two or three different men while married?

Not only that, but Jane repeatedly stated that her husband had always treated her well?


The bolding in the document below is mine. I could not read the entire document.

Roll – 12

Petition – 1831-147

To the honorable General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, now in session.

Your petitioner begs leave to represent that his wife Jane Freeman in ?icotation of the most solemn obligation of matrimony by the most illicit acts of fornication has disowned his bed, prostituting herself to illicit cauc?ious not only with one person, but with several that showing not only a (“perfect” struck through) total disregard to those solemn obligations by which she was bound as a wife but also the great degree of depravity rendering herself a common prostitute.

Your petitioner begs leave further to represent that he has the deepest sense of those sacred ties by which husband and wife are united feeling deeply sensible that no travail or slight cause ought to induce a ?peratice, but that the greatest degree of forbearance ought to guide the husband towards the woman whom he has taken to his bosom as a companion for life. But when a wife so far transcends the bounds of duty as to trample under foot the most sacred obligation of the holy institution of matrimony stating the honour of her husband prostituting herself and rendering that husband liable to raise foster children who are the offspring of her ?scife and wholly fornication with others – then your petitioner humbly begs leave to represent that the good of society ? in charity and ? to such injured husband a separation ought to take place when the mere name of wife with all the duties notated appertains to a woman the matrimonial obligations notated the husband disowned the wife debased and prostituted then your petitioner humble begs leave to represent that your honorable body is the only tribunal before which he can appear to fully disenthrall him from the dishonorable companion to which he is bound.

Your petitioner humbly begs leave to represent to your honorable body that he and said wife have no children which will make a separate less disagreeable. Your petitioner humbly begs leave to represent to your honorable body that the conduct of said wife was unprovoked on his part having always treated her with ? and humanity for the evidence of which fact together for the fact of conduct your petitioner has represented his wife guilty of your petitioner begs leave to refer your honourable body to the submitted affidavits of Malinda Chumley, Lewis Chumley, Mary Chumley, Hannah Huffaker and Phoebe Hicks.

Your petitioner humbly hopes and prays that your honorouble body will grant his petition and grand him a divorce from his said wife Jane Freeman by passing an act to the effect and as unduty bound he will ever pray.

Johnson Freeman signs

October 7, 1831

Note that the affidavit of Phoebe Hicks was not in the packet.

Marked on the front of the packet:

Johnson Freeman to be divorced from his wife Jane Freeman (underneath) reasonable

<end of record>


Wow, that’s incredibly harsh. Three times Jane was referred to as a prostitute or having prostituted herself. A prostitute is defined in the dictionary as a “person, in particular a woman, who engages in sexual activity for payment.”

There is no testimony about money changing hands. If Jane was literally prostituting herself, I would think there would be a lot more than 2 or 3 men involved. In this case, the term prostitute appears to be used only to further shame and demean Jane and portray her actions even more negatively than simply (allegedly) cheating on her husband with three different men.

Notice that there is no deposition from Jane herself, nor did she depose any of the witnesses. Jane apparently didn’t attend court. It doesn’t appear that the court requested her presence, although one would think that the court would wish to hear from Jane herself in one form or another given the gravity of the charged, basically bankrupting a female, and the lifelong ripple effects it would have on Jane.

Neither of the three men accused were deposed either.

Clearly Johnson Freeman was living with Jane during 1829 and up until April of 1830. We don’t know when they were married but given that most women were pregnant with their first child within weeks of their wedding, I wonder why Jane and Johnson had no children. That in and of itself seems rather unusual.

It seems there is far more to this story that we’ll never know.

And we wonder why divorced women carried such a stigma, even into the late 1900s. Divorced women were considered “fallen” whether they were or not.

I’m left wondering if those allegations of infidelity against Jane are true, and true or not, how this affected the rest of Jane’s life. How could Jane even continue to live in Claiborne County and who did she live with? Who supported her? Single women generally weren’t able to support themselves.

The 1830 census doesn’t show a Johnson Freeman, or anything similar, and Jane’s father, John Campbell doesn’t show anyone of the proper age in his household to be Jane. Mary Freeman, who lives near to Lewis Chumbley doesn’t have any males in her household. I can’t find either Johnson Freeman or Jane.

Who Were the Men?

Isaac A. Farris was probably Isaac Armstrong Farris born in 1809 to one Gideon Farris. Isaac’s grandparents, Gideon Faires and Sarah McSpadden were also my ancestors.

Apparently, unlike Jane, Isaac’s reputation wasn’t terribly damaged, because just a few months later, he is found on a jury in Claiborne County and married Charity Ruth Snuffer in 1868 in Collin County, Texas, the same location where the Campbell family migrated. Isaac was married previously, as he had a child by 1840.

Benjamin Matlock apparently does not stay in the county, as he isn’t readily found.

John Campbell, the double-first-cousin that Jane Campbell Freeman was accused of having carnal relations with married Sarah Willis about 1830. Apparently his reputation wasn’t terribly damaged either. According to the census, John and Sarah had a child in 1832. At some point, John Campbell and family moved to Missouri.

All I can say is that family reunions must have been quite interesting. These families lived close, interacted regularly and attended the same churches. They couldn’t exactly ignore each other. Did the Campbells unite behind Jane, or did this fracture the Campbell family internally too?

What do we know about Jane Campbell and Johnson Freeman?

What About Johnson Freeman?

I wanted to know as much as possible about Johnson Freeman? What kind of person was he? Was he a stable, respected member of the community or was he a scoundrel?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the Claiborne County court notes for this timeframe are imaged at Family Search. Unfortunately, there is no index, but they are online and you can read them.

Page. By. Bloody. Page.

Thirteen years worth of court notes. Thousands of pages.

I just couldn’t help myself.

I didn’t discover a lot about Johnson Freeman, but I did find something.

During the Monday, March 15, 1830 court session, jurors appointed to next term of court include Johnson Freeman.

This indicates that he owned land given that the requirements to be a juror included being 21 or over, free, white and a land-owner in good standing.

In his divorce petition, Johnson says he left his wife in April of 1830.

On June 22, 1830 Johnson Freeman serves as a juror.

On March 21, 1831, before his divorce was granted, on page 199 of the original Claiborne County court notes and page 103 of the electronic version:

“Delinquent, insolvent and removed out of my county taxes include William Farris, Johnson Freeman,” and others.

Generally, these delinquent/insolvent tax documents aren’t filed for this exact date, meaning March 1831, but reflect the tax due and unable to be collected for some prior time, usually the tax due from the year before.

We know that Johnson’s life was in upheaval in 1830 and that he was still living someplace in Tennessee in 1831, because on October 7, 1831, Freeman signed a final divorce petition document wherein he described, 3 different times, how Jane had “prostituted herself” and how upstanding, moral and chaste he had been, giving Jane absolutely NO reason to cleave unto someone else.

Apparently at least 6 months before Johnson Freeman wrote that October letter to the court extoling his virtues, he skipped town, leaving his taxes unpaid. Was this because he was distraught over his wife embarrassing him? Or was this simply the kind of person he was? We’ll never know, because I have been unable to locate Johnson Freeman anyplace else. Ever. Maybe he changed his name so as not to be caught and held liable for his taxes.

In 1839 Jane is noted as a widow in her father’s estate settlement. It’s possible that this is because Johnson died and being a widow was so much more socially acceptable than “divorced.” In any case, listing her status as widow allows Jane some shred of dignity.

Still, every single soul in the county would have known about the allegations and depositions against Jane. Something like this was not a secret. News traveled fast on the mountain grapevine and communal memories lasted forever.

“You know who that is don’t you? Jane Freeman, the trollop who cheated on her husband, with THREE different men.”


“Yes, and one of them was her cousin too. They got caught by her father’s slave when the horse broke loose and ran home.”

“Said the Devil made her do it.”

“That’s been more than a decade now and no one will be caught dead with her.”

Perhaps the allegations and the resulting gossip damaged Jane more than the divorce itself.

Tracking Jane

I’m really curious what happened to Jane Campbell Freeman.

In 1845, one Jane Freeman married Ransom Hose, Hare or House in Claiborne County. The Jane Freeman who married was originally believed to have been the daughter of Jane Freeman. However, the 1831 divorce record that says that Jane and Johnson Freeman had no children casts doubt on this scenario.

Freeman Hare marriage

click to enlarge

Could this marriage to Ransom Hare, Hose or House have been Jane Campbell Freeman herself? It’s possible that this was an unrelated Jane Freeman, or possibly Jane’s daughter. It seems very unlikely that Jane marrying in 1845 is the daughter of Jane Campbell Freeman who had no children with Johnson Freeman in 1831. For Jane (the younger) to have been born in 1832 and marry in 1845, she would have been marrying at the age of 13 – which did happen, but very rarely. I cannot find Ransom in the 1850 census.

In Jane’s father’s 1839 estate settlement, Jane is noted as Jane Freeman, indicating that her surname is still Freeman and stating that she is a widow in 1839. She wasn’t exactly a widow, but that was probably a face-saving definition. I know of other “divorced” women, whether legally or functionally divorced who “became” widows on the census. Wishful thinking perhaps and much less embarrassing.

Rumored Records

Jane later married a Cloud in Claiborne County according to researcher, Richard Cowling, but he didn’t say which Cloud, when or provide a source. The Claiborne County marriage records don’t reflect this marriage, but they are not entirely complete. Richard had access to older generations for years, so his source could have been family stories.

From now-deceased researcher Mary Price:

Jane Campbell – first married a Freeman. He died and she then married a Cloud. If this is true, Jane was widowed again soon after. In 1842 she reportedly made a contract with John D. Hall for support. She had one known child. Jane and her son reportedly moved to Texas with her Campbell relatives soon before 1870.

I cannot find Jane in one census anyplace. I do find a John Hall in 1850, but no Jane is evident, either with John or a Jane by any last name that looks promising.

Mary Price stated, quite indignantly, that Jane indeed was with her family in Texas in the census, and that she died in Texas. She was reproachful when I asked nicely for documentation or which Campbell family to research in which Texas county. I searched extensively finding no Jane of that rough age, by the surname Campbell, Freeman, Hare or Cloud, born in Tennessee or with any Campbell family.

I read the Claiborne County court notes page by page from 1829 through 1842, finding no mention of John Hall nor Jane Freeman. Either Mary found something I missed, there are court notes beyond the ones I found, or someone misinformed Mary.

Unfortunately, neither the first nor last name of Jane’s son is given. If Jane was born in 1807, she would have been capable of having children until about 1852 which means that there’s a good possibility that her son lived into the 1900s. Death records began being kept in various Texas counties between 1890 and 1910 – but no record of Jane that I can find.

Effectively, Jane disappeared from the records.


As I reflect back on Jane Campbell Freeman, I can’t help but think that she was treated very unfairly.

It’s possible that indeed Jane did do exactly what she was accused of, meaning being unfaithful to her husband. Even if that accusation is true and warranted a divorce, there’s a world of difference between infidelity and prostitution.

Infidelity does not imply prostitution, not by any stretch of the imagination.

I would further state that if Johnson Freeman for some reason decided he wanted to get divorced, finding a few people among his friends to testify that indeed, Jane admitted to having sex with multiple other men would have sealed her fate – and with it, assuring that a divorce would be granted. Not only that, but everyone would understand WHY he requested a divorce and his reputation would not be tarnished. Far from it, in fact, he would be perceived with sympathy as the long-suffering victim.

I also question why Jane and Johnson had no children themselves. If Jane had a child later, it doesn’t appear that she was infertile. What was going on with that marriage? If she was cheating as regularly as implied, why didn’t she get pregnant by one of her lovers?

Furthermore, why did Johnson Freeman skip town and neglect to pay his taxes? That has nothing to do with divorce, but everything to do with his character. We KNOW he did that – we don’t know what Jane did or didn’t do.

Why was Jane never afforded the opportunity and minimal courtesy to either be deposed which would not have required a long expensive trip to the capital in Nashville or to appear in front of the legislature? Why did she not get to question the witnesses when they were giving depositions about her, as was the tradition at that time. Was she intimidated into foregoing that opportunity?

Was it a foregone conclusion that any woman accused of habitual infidelity when her husband was good to her and deserved her loyalty, coupled with an affidavit stating that she admitted being under the influence of the devil would be enough evidence to assure a divorce decree? Was it presumed that NOTHING Jane could have said at that point would have made any difference in the outcome? Is that why Jane didn’t participate, or was she not afforded the opportunity?

Why did Jane stay in Claiborne County after her very public divorce? Was it because she literally had no place else to go?

Was Jane trapped for life by an ugly story, true or otherwise?

Did Jane in fact marry not once, but twice more?

What kind of arrangement did Jane make in 1842 with John Hall, if any, and why can’t I find anything reflected in the court notes as reported by Mary? Are there entire Claiborne County books not microfilmed?

It’s sad that accusations of infidelity and prostitution were used to crucifying someone with words – destroying their life publicly based on who believed uncontested affidavits. There is nothing presented to defend Jane – nothing even noting that she was notified of the proceedings. That’s not punishment or simple evidence, that’s destruction by libel and slander.

And if indeed Jane had a child, assuredly he suffered as well because of the stain, deserved or otherwise, on his mother’s reputation.

Hopefully Texas, the tough land of cattle drives, roughshod gunslingers, sagebrush and new beginnings was wild-west enough that Jane got to leave much of the stigma behind.




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Triangulation in Action at GEDmatch

Recently, I published the article, Hitting a Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters. The “Home Run” article explains why you want to use a chromosome browser, what you’re seeing and what it means to you.

This article, and the rest in the “Triangulation in Action” series introduces triangulation at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, GEDmatch and DNAPainter, explaining how to use triangulation to confirm descent from a common ancestor. You may want to read the introductory article first.

This first section, “What is Triangulation” is a generic tutorial. If you don’t need the tutorial, skip to the “Transfers” or “Triangulation at GEDmatch” sections.

What is Triangulation?

Think of triangulation as a three-legged stool – a triangle. Triangulation requires three things:

  1. At least three (not closely related) people must match
  2. On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA and
  3. Descend from a common ancestor

Triangulation is the foundation of confirming descent from a common ancestor, and thereby assigning a specific segment to that ancestor. Without triangulation, you might just have a match to someone else by chance. You can confirm mathematical triangulation, numbers 1 and 2, above, without knowing the identity of the common ancestor.

Reasonably sized segments are generally considered to be 7cM or above on chromosomes 1-22 and 15cM or above for the X chromosome.


Triangulation means that all three, or more, people much match on a common segment. However, what you’re likely to see is that some people don’t match on the entire segment, meaning more or less than others as demonstrated in the following examples.

FTDNA Triangulation boundaries

You can see that I match 5 different cousins who I know descend from my father’s side on chromosome 15 above. “I” am the grey background against which everyone else is being compared.

I triangulate with these matches in different ways, forming multiple triangulation groups that I’ve discussed individually, below.

Triangulation Group 1

FTDNA triangulation 1

Group 1 – On the left group of matches, above, I triangulate with the blue, red and orange person on the amount of DNA that is common between all of them, shown in the black box. This is triangulation group 1.

Triangulation Group 2

FTDNA triangulation 2

Group 2 – However, if you look just at the blue and orange triangulated matches bracketed in green, I triangulate on slightly more. This group excludes the red person because their beginning point is not the same, or even close. This is triangulation group 2.

Triangulation Group 3 and 4

FTDNA triang 3

Group 3 – In the right group of matches, there are two large triangulation groups. Triangulation group 3 includes the common portions of blue, red, teal and orange matches.

Group 4 – Triangulation group 4 is the skinny group at right and includes the common portion of the blue, teal and dark blue matches.

Triangulation Groups 5 and 6

FTDNA triang 5

Group 5 – There are also two more triangulation groups. The larger green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal people because their end locations are to the right of the end locations of the red and orange matches. This is triangulation group 5.

Group 6 – The smaller green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal person because their start locations are before the dark blue person. This is triangulation group 6.

There’s actually one more triangulation group. Can you see it?

Triangulation Group 7

FTDNA triang 7

Group 7 – The tan group includes the red, teal and orange matches but only the areas where they all overlap. This excludes the top blue match because their start location is different. Triangulation group 7 only extends to the end of the red and orange matches, because those are the same locations, while the teal match extends further to the right. That extension is excluded, of course.

Slight Variations

Matches with only slight start and end differences are probably descended from the same ancestor, but we can’t say that for sure (at this point) so we only include actual mathematically matching segments in a triangulation group.

You can see that triangulation groups often overlap because group members share more or less DNA with each other. Normally we don’t bother to number the groups – we just look at the alignment. I numbered them for illustration purposes.

Shared or In-Common-With Matching

Triangulation is not the same thing as a 3-way shared “in-common-with” match. You may share DNA with those two people, but on entirely different segments from entirely different ancestors. If those other two people match each other, it can be on a segment where you don’t match either of them, and thanks to an ancestor that they share who isn’t in your line at all. Shared matches are a great hint, especially in addition to other information, but shared matches don’t necessarily mean triangulation although it’s a great place to start looking.

I have shared matches where I match one person on my maternal side, one on my paternal side, and they match each other through a completely different ancestor on an entirely different segment. However, we don’t triangulate because we don’t all match each other on the SAME segment of DNA. Yes, it can be confusing.

Just remember, each of your segments, and matches, has its own individual history.

Imputation Can Affect Matching

Over the years the chips on which our DNA is processed at the vendors have changed. Each new generation of chips tests a different number of markers, and sometimes different markers – with the overlaps between the entire suite of chips being less than optimal.

I can verify that most vendors use imputation to level the playing field, and even though two vendors have never verified that fact, I’m relatively certain that they all do. That’s the only way they could match to their own prior “only somewhat compatible” chip versions.

The net-net of this is that you may see some differences in matching segments at different vendors, even when you’re comparing the same people. Imputation generally “fills in the blanks,” but doesn’t create large swatches of non-existent DNA. I wrote about the concept of imputation here.

What I’d like for you to take away from this discussion is to be focused on the big picture – if and how people triangulate which is the function important to genealogy. Not if the start and end segments are exactly the same.

GEDmatch does not utilize imputation, but in order to allow matching to chips with fewer location, they have relaxed their matching thresholds which sometimes generates larger matching segments than those shown at the original vendor.

Triangulation Solutions

All vendors except Ancestry offer some type of triangulation.

If you and your Ancestry matches have uploaded to GEDmatch, Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, you can triangulate with them there. Otherwise, you can’t triangulate Ancestry results, so encourage your Ancestry matches to transfer.

I wrote more specifically about triangulation here and here.

Transfer your results in order to obtain the maximum number of matches possible. Every vendor has people in thier data base that haven’t tested elsewhere.


Have you tested family members, especially everyone in the older generations? You can transfer their kits from Ancestry or 23andMe if they’ve tested there to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch.

Here’s how to transfer:

The upload to GEDmatch is very easy. After setting up your account at GEDmatch, here, you’ll find the link to upload files on the right side of your page.

Gedmatch upload.jpg

Triangulation at GEDmatch

Triangulation GedMatch.png

Many GEDmatch functions are free, with only the more advanced falling under the Tier 1 subscription model which costs $10 per month.

Triangulation GedMatch Menu.png

Basic One to One matching (shown below) is one of the free tools.

Triangulation GedMatch basic.png

I suggest that you enter your kit number and accept the defaults until you’ve gotten your feet wet with GEDmatch tools, changing default settings and what they mean to results.

Triangulation GedMatch one to many.png

You’ll see your matches and related information along with a link to GEDCOM files, if uploaded, as well as WikiTree links. Please provide some form of tree.

Note that matching is more “generous” since GEDmatch implemented it’s relaxed thresholds in an attempt to include files generated from vendors who use fewer DNA locations. In other words, you may find the same match at GEDmatch differs, and is larger, than the match to the same person at the original vendor. Check when possible.

While basic matching doesn’t provide you with triangulation information, triangulation information is available in multiple ways.

You can see the kit numbers of your matches, shown above in the red box, so you can look at their matches the same way you view your own. However, there are easier ways to see who you match in common with someone. (The unblurred kits are mine, so no privacy issues.)

Another free tool is called “People who Match both, or 1 of 2 kits.”

Triangulation GedMatch both.png

Click on that link.

Triangulation GedMatch 2 kits.png

You’ll enter two kit numbers. I suggest you accept the defaults for the rest of the selection criteria.

Triangulation GedMatch both kits.png

You’ll see how both of the kits you’ve entered, shown along the top, match various people on the match list that they match in common. The great news is that those “A” kits are Ancestry kits!! Unfortunately, newer kits can’t be identified by the initial letter.

To explain further, kits in column T52 (number obscured) and column M13 (number obscured) both match the top person at far left, *Roberta. Kit T52 matches *Roberta as does kit M13. Every person on this match list matches the person whose kit we are viewing plus T52 and M13, but we don’t know where they match or if they all match each other on a shared segment. To discover that information, we need to triangulate either by comparing all 3 to each other one by one and recording the results, looking for a 3-way overlap of 7 cM or greater, or using a triangulation tool.

Triangulation is one of the Tier 1 paid features.

Triangulation GedMatch Triangulation.png

Click on “Triangulation,” enter your kit number and accept the search criteria by clicking on “Submit” at the bottom of the page.

On this page, you’re viewing sets of people who triangulate with you. In this example, we’re looking at chromosome 7 where I triangulate with 6 people. You can view how the segments stack up at the far right, in green, as well as the start and end positions, or addresses to the left of the green bars.

Triangulation GedMatch segments.png

In this display, you’re looking for everyone to match everyone else in the same location.

For example, I triangulate with LRRY in combination with Rebecca, Buster and Charlene, respectively. Each of those people also triangulate with the others, and me, as well.

We form a triangulation group of 5 individuals who match on a reasonably sized segment, between 19 and 34 cM, of the same chromosome.

The person in this group whose genealogy I know the furthest back in time is Buster, and we both descend from Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy. Therefore, I know that the triangulated segment that I share with all of these people descended to me through those ancestors. These people may not (all) descend directly from Lazarus and Elizabeth, but if not, they descend from the ancestors of either or both Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy.

Other Resources to Help Identify Common Ancestors

GEDmatch offers a variety of tools, including:

  • Segment Search which allows you to search for a specific segment to match
  • Phasing generates kits reflecting the portion of DNA inherited from each parent if at least one parent has tested
  • Lazarus tool reconstructs ancestors from descendants, although this does not always work accurately depending on the descendants and variables involved
  • Evil twin which allows you to utilize the half of your parents’ DNA that you did not inherit, if the parent has tested
  • GEDCOM file search and compare (please upload a GEDCOM file)
  • Clusters that show groups of people who match you and each other

Other Vendors

I wrote recently about how to work with triangulation at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe. Join me soon to see how to work with triangulation at DNAPainter.



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

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Let’s Play DNA on Jeopardy!

My cousin, Kelly, e-mailed me saying that recently Jeopardy! had a category called:


I think this means that DNA is most definitely now a mainstream topic. Jeopardy has been having championships, and Kelly says that the contestants did quite well with these questions.

Let’s play along and see how we do. Write your “questions” to the following answers down on a piece of paper, and I’ll provide the Jeopardy questions at the end.

$400 Answer is below:


$800 Answer is below:


The $1,200 Answer is below:


The $1,600 Answer is below:


The $2,000 Answer is below:


Ok, compile your questions to the above answers and let’s see how you did, according to Jeopardy:

  • $400 question – What is “a carrier?”
  • $800 question – What is “a genome?”
  • $1200 question – What is “mitochondria.”
  • $1600 question – What is “22?”
  • $2000 question – What is “A, C, T and G?”

How did you do? I tended to overthink the answers. For example, for the $800 question, the mental illness/health aspect of the answer made me think they were seeking Exome, which is the medical portion of the genome. Judges?

For the $1200 question, I thought that since they said mtDNA, the question couldn’t possible be mitochondria. That would be too easy because they gave that away in the answer – but mitochondria was correct.

For the last question, I overthought the answer and gave the full nucleotide name, not the abbreviation, even though the answer clearly said letters.

This is why I’m not on Jeopardy😊

How much DNA Jeopardy money did you accumulate? Now if we could just spend that money for DNA tests, right?

Mary Lytle Hickerson (c1720/5 – 1793/4), Died at Mulberry Fields – 52 Ancestors #266

We don’t know who Mary’s parents are, but Mary Lytle’s surname comes from two sources. First, an 1877 letter written from her unnamed granddaughter in Texas to a relative in Wilkes County provides us with this information:

Nacogdoches, Texas.

May the 20th, 1877

Dr. Hickison

Dear Sir,

I write you in regard to a business matter.

You will doubtless be surprised to hear from one of Elizabeth Hickison’s daughters. My mother was daughter of Charles Hickison of North Carolina. He was buried at the Mulberry Fields on the Yadkin River, Wilkes County, North Carolina. My grandmother’s maiden name was Mollie Little. She was from Scotland. Grandfather was from England. I write you the particulars so you will know who I am. My mother married a Stuart. I was 3 years old when we left that country. My age is 86 years. I have been a widow 34 years.

(remainder of letter is missing)

Comments by Felix Hickerson:

I think it is undoubtedly true that the Charles Hickison here referred to was the father of David Hickerson and the grandfather of Litle (Lytle) Hickerson.

Whether Hickerson was originally spelled “Hickison” is doubtful, as an old lady, aged 86, living so far away, could easily become careless about the spelling when perhaps others adopted the simplified spelling.

“Mulberry Fields” was the original site of the town of Wilkesboro. It was the central meeting place for a large neighborhood.

It’s very unfortunate that rest of the letter was lost, including the name of the sender.

Felix Hickerson didn’t have access to online records in 1940 when he published this information, but I do.

I checked the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census for women in Nacogdoches County born about 1791 in North Carolina.

In 1880, there were none, so the author had presumably passed away by then.

In 1870, we find Jane Anderson, age 78, born in North Carolina who cannot read or write. Hmmm. Just because the woman sent a letter doesn’t mean she actually scribed it herself.

Jane Anderson is living with J. B. Anderson, son of Benjamin Anderson, age 50 (born 1830) in Alabama.

There is no other female fitting this description in this county in 1870, or even close to this description, meaning born in North Carolina. Of course, we don’t know when she went to Texas.

In 1860, Jane Anderson, age 68, is living with Napoleon B. Anderson, age 26, born Alabama and Caledonia Anderson, age 18, born Texas. It appears that Jane can read and write.

In 1850, Jane Anderson, age 59, is married to Benjamin Anderson, age 92, living along with Jefferson Anderson, 20, Harriett 17, Doctor, 16, all born in Alabama. Were these Jane’s children?

I can’t find a record where Jane married Benjamin Anderson.

However, if Jane has been widowed 34 years in 1877, that tracks back to 1843, and Jane Anderson was clearly married in 1850.

Jane Anderson could be the wrong person, but if so, then where is the right person in the 1870 census? Or any census, for that matter?

Another inconsistency is that Mary Lytle Hickerson’s 1793 will very clearly calls forth her daughter, Mary Stewart, who clearly did marry a Stewart, Steward or Stuart, however you spell it.

Mary’s will does not mention a daughter named Elizabeth. However, Mary also did not mention Sarah and Rachel, and we know positively these two women were her daughters.

There’s no question that the author knew her mother’s name. She would not have mistaken Mary for Elizabeth, and middle names at the time her mother would have been born were exceedingly uncommon.

Is Elizabeth Hickerson who married a Stewart yet another unknown daughter? It’s certainly possible. In 1771, Charles Hickerson witnessed the will of Lydia (Harrison) Stewart who had son Samuel Stewart, the probable husband of Mary Hickerson Stewart. Lydia Stewart’s will also mentions sons Benjamin, Joseph, David, Samuel, Isaiah and John.

Mary Lytle Hickerson’s husband, Charles Hickerson, didn’t have a will, so the will mentioning children is Mary’s.

Mary’s will named sons David and Joseph Hickerson, daughters Jane Miller and Mary Stewart, along with Mary’s son Samuel Hickerson, leaving the balance of her estate to “my daughters” without identifying them.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the name of the letter’s author was on the portion that is missing.

I’ve been unable to identify the author from the census and other available information.

Lytle as a First Name

In combination with the surname Little provided in the 1877 letter, we also have evidence in the form of the name Lytle being used as a first name for Mary Lytle Hickerson’s grandchildren. Spelling was, of course, arbitary and phoenetic at that time in history. Lytle and Little would have been pronounced the same way, so the spelling would have been the preference of the speller.

Mary Lytle Hickerson in North Carolina

We know very little about Mary from records that involve her before she signed the deed with an X when she and Charles sold land to their son, David on July 29, 1788. In fact, there is no direct evidence other than the fact that David, born between 1750 and 1760 named his son Lytle.

We know, positively, that Mary and Charles were living on Mulberry Creek ten years before the deed-signing, in 1778 when Charles made a land entry, and that they lived in Surry County, the part that woul,d become Wilkes in 1776 when a group of militia men marched to the Cherokee Towns.

It’s probable that by 1774 they had already settled along the Yadkin near what was then called Mulberry Fields, today the area just north of Wilkesboro. Charles was listed in the tax district of Col. Benjamin Cleveland who we know positively lived there.

The first record of Charles Hickerson in North Carolina isn’t on this part of the Yadkin River but about 15 miles west of what is today Winston-Salem.

On January 11, 1771, Charles Hickerson witnessed the will of Lydia Stewart. Her husband, Samuel, had died a few years before, leaving his land to two of his sons, but his moveable estate to Lydia.

It stands to reason that Lydia lived on that land until her death. In fact, based on her will, it seems apparent that she still lived in the old home place.

Charles Hickerson, and by extension, Mary, would have had to live in close proximity to Lydia to witness her will. It’s also worth mentioning that at least one of Mary’s daughters, Mary, married a Stewart, if not two daughters – meaning Elizabeth too. This might suggest that the Hickersons in fact lived very close to Lydia – close enough for their kids to court.

Where did Lydia Stewart live?

Lydia Stewart’s Land

I lucked out. Not only did my cousin, Carol, discover that indeed, Charles had witnessed Lydia’s will, along with his mark for a signature, but I discovered that Wes Patterson has researched the Stewarts extensively. You can see his website, here.

Based on Wes’s work, it looks like Lydia Stewart lived on land that her husband, Samuel, willed to sons Benjamin and Joseph.

This land was located near where the Great Wagon Road crossed the Yadkin River where modern Robinhood Road intersects Chickasha Road near Gorgales Creek, then known as Muddy Creek.

Samuel had a land grant for 640 acres on Muddy Creek above the head of Stewarts Run.

Today Stewart’s Creek is Shallowford/Country Club Road.

The old wagon road came into Lewisville at Shallowford Road near Lewisville-Vienna Road. Yadkinville Hwy., Old 421, crosses the Yadkin River at Old 421 River Park.

Then, Wes’s item #16 confirms the location on Bersheba Creek where Samuel Stewart Sr. and Lydia had lived.

I found and marked these locations on Google maps, here.

Mary Lytle Winston-Salem.png

I’ve marked these places on the map, above.

On the left, at 7699 Yadkinville Road we see where 421, aka the Old Wagon Road crossing the Yadkin. The dotted line dot above that is where the Bashavia Creek empties into the Yadkin. This is where Lydia and Samuel lived, and where Charles Hickerson would have witnessed her will.

I wonder if Charles was working on her land after arriving in North Carolina from wherever they came from.

The other Robinhood Road locations are 5901 Robinhood at Chickasha Road, mentioned by Wes, and 4600 where Robinhood crosses Muddy Creek.

At 1425 Lyndale, we find the head of Tomahawk Creek, then Stewart’s Run, mentioned in one of the deeds.

Mary Lytle Bashavia.png

I think it’s safe to say we’ve pretty well isolated where Lydia lived given that the deed says on both sides of Bashavia on the east side of the Yadkin, and we know that Charles and Mary Lytle Hickerson lived someplace nearby.

Mary Lytle Muddy.png

The land around Winston-Salem is much flatter than further west in Wilkes County where Charles and Mary would settle permanently. Standing on the bridge below, looking north where the old Wagon Road crossed the Yadkin. Lydia and Samuel Stewart’s land would have been on the right, beyond the bend in the river.

Mary Lytle Yadkin.png

Moving on West

It appears that perhaps Charles and Mary checked things out here, and decided, for some reason, to keep moving west.

Mary Lytle Winston-Salem to Wilkesboro.png

Wilkesboro is about 45 miles further west on the Yadkin River, although the Yadkin does not follow 421, but arches north and then back south to Wilkesboro. Charles and Mary settled near Mulberry, north of Wilkesboro just a few miles. After the Revolution, they patented the land they had been living on where they lived the rest of their lives.

Note under item 15 that Les says that Samuel Stewart Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Winscott. He probably believed this to be true because Samuel Stewart Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth, sold land in 1774 mentioned in Lydia Stewart’s will.

I think that Wes might have been confused. Cousin Carol found the marriage bond of Elizabeth Winscott who married Thomas Benjamin Steward/Stuard on August 19, 1769. Either John or Joseph Stewart signed with Thomas, and Elizabeth appears to have been an orphan. Carol indicated that the original document was in very poor condition, badly smeared, and the transcribed version spelled the groom’s name as Benman Sheart. Carol found the record by reading the originals.

Therefore, we know that Elizabeth Winscot did indeed marry a son of Lydia’s, but not Samuel, who obviously was also married to an Elizabeth in 1774. The woman in the 1877 letter who was born in 1791 says that her mother’s name was Elizabeth Hickerson and she had married a Stewart – which certainly tells us that Elizabeth Hickerson Stewart was yet alive in 1791.

Either Mary Hickerson and Elizabeth Hickerson are one and the same person, or two of Mary Lytle Hickerson’s daughters married Stewart men.

Other than Mary Lytle Hickerson’s signature on the 1788 deed, the next we find of her is when she composed her will. Unfortunately, we don’t have a will for Charles Hickerson, so without Mary’s we would know little.

Mary Lytle Hickerson’s Will

Mary Hickerson’s will was composed on December 5th, 1793. The will was unsigned and the will was clearly not prepared by an attorney. It says that the will was “Delivered in the presence of us Amy Hickerson Jane Miller” so the witnesses were two Mary’s daugher and daughter-in-law, suggesting that they were the two people who just happened to be in the house as she was dictating or speaking her will.

Mary was likely very gravely ill, possibly suddently, told whoever was in the cabin at the time what she wanted, and that was it.

At the February Court term, the family probated Mary’s will.

Mary Lytle will.jpg

Recorded at the February 1794 court held in Wilkes County, meaning that Mary died sometime between December 5th and the February court dates, we find her will recorded and written into the book.

In the name of God Amen, I Mary Hickerson of the County of Wilkes and State of North Carolina, being of Sound mind and memory, blessed be God, do this the fifth day of December in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety three make and publish this my last Will and Testament in the manner following, that is to say– First, I give my son Joseph Hickerson one purple rugg. I also give my daughter Jane Miller my chest and tea ware. I also give my daughter Mary Stewart and her son Samuel Hickerson one feather bed and also my daughter, Mary Stewart, all the goods in the above mentioned chest. And all the balance of my property to be equally divided amongst my daughters. I also leave my son David Hickerson three yards of white linnin. Also this is my last Will and Testament and Desire. Delivered in the presence of us Aney Hickson Jane Miller.

Aney Hickerson was the wife of Joseph Hickerson, Mary’s son. Jane Miller was Mary’s daughter who was married to Leonard Miller.

Note that Mary specifically names her daughter, Mary Stewart.

We later discover that not all of Mary’s children were mentioned in her will.

What do we know about Mary’s children?

Mary Lytle and Charles Hickerson’s Children

Happy Valley History and Genealogy written and published in 1940 by Felix Hickerson provides the names of the children of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle. Below, I’ve expanded significantly on what Felix included. This isn’t intended to be critical of Felix, but I have a lot more available resources than Felix did in 1940, plus DNA evidence. Then again, living in Wilkes County, Felix probably had access to records that no longer exist or will never be online – not to mention the long memories of residents still alive who were born in the first half of the 19th century.

Let’s look at what we know about each child of Mary Lytle Hickerson.

David Hickerson

  • David Hickerson born circa 1750/1760 in Virginia married Nancy Toliver (Taliaferro). His children include:
    • John Hickerson 1782-1845 who married Nancy Petty and died in Manchester, Tennessee
    • Charles Hickerson born about 1784, died 1819 in Wilkes County, unmarried
    • David Hickerson Jr. born 1787, died in 1861 in Manchester, Tennessee
    • Joseph Hickerson born 1789, married in 1813 to Nancy Rousseau, died in 1850 in Coffee County, Tennessee
    • Major Lyttle Hickerson born 1793, married in 1827 to Amelia Gwynn, died 1884 in Wilkes County

Mary Lytle - Lytle Hickerson.jpg

    • Nancy Hickerson born about 1794 married a Cole, probably Isaac who proved David Hickerson’s will in court, died before 1870 in Coffee County, Tennessee
    • Mary “Polly” Hickerson 1798-1847 who married John Adams
    • Lucy Hickerson 1804-1853 who married an Allison
    • Sarah “Sally” Hickerson born about 1805 and married Isaac Lusk of Tennessee, died before 1860

There are no photos of Mary Lytle Hickerson’s children, of course, and I believe Lytle Hickerson is the only existing photo of one of Mary’s grandchildren. Does Lytle look like Mary or Charles?

With the exception of sons Charles and Lytle, David Hickerson and his children moved to Coffee Co., TN about 1809, but assuredly before 1812 because David’s son, David Hickerson Jr., served in the War of 1812 from Coffee County.

Rabbit Hole – Cameo Appearance of Nathaniel Vannoy

It’s interesting to note that Nathaniel Vannoy is a witness to David Hickerson’s will dated January 25, 1821. Daniel Vannoy was married to David Hickerson’s sister, Sarah. This goes to show that people kept in touch with family members, even distant, as they removed from their home counties and expanded westward.

The fact that Nathaniel Vannoy witnessed David’s will, suggesting he was a trusted friend or relative, but not next of kin, causes me to wonder if Nathaniel is the missing male child of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson who was born prior to 1788.

Although that gives me pause, because David Hickerson sued Daniel Vannoy for slander back in Wilkes County in 1794. Daniel Vannoy disappeared from the records after that suit, so it’s possible that David didn’t get along with Daniel, but was fine with his sister Sarah and her Vannoy children – especially if Daniel left. Several people sued Daniel Vannoy about that time for slander and assault.

David Hickerson’s son, Lytle, signed for another one of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson’s children, Susan, when she married in 1822.

At that time, Lytle Hickerson could have been Susan Vannoy’s closest living relative living in Wilkes County, with her parents both gone. In fact, for all we know, Lytle could have raised Susan after her mother, Sarah, died.

The Happy Valley story goes on to say that David Hickerson went to Tennessee in 1809, established a grist mill in 1815, later a cotton gin, sawmill and corn mill on the Duck River between 1820 and 1830. The family story of the migration of Sarah Hickerson Vannoy’s son, Elijah Vannoy, to Claiborne County, Tennessee is that the family came up the Duck River, which until this very minute, made no sense whatsoever. Elijah’s daughter is the person who conveyed that information about the Duck River, so it could be considered fairly close to the source.

Bingo – Elijah was visiting his uncle David Hickerson, probably considering whether to settle there or not, and I thought that Nathaniel Vannoy is Elijah’s brother that did stay, at least for a while. If so, I wonder who Nathaniel married and if he had children.

Another piece of this puzzle that never made sense is that the Duck River is no place close to Claiborne County where Elijah settled, so it’s not “on the way” nor would it be logical.

Mary Lytle Duck River.png

On the map above, the Duck River begins about Manchester, Tennessee where David Hickerson lived in Coffee County, and ended on the Tennessee River, further west.

Sneedville, where Elijah Vannoy settled is in the upper right-hand corner of the map.

Mary Lytle Wilkesboro to Duck River.png

If Elijah too had traversed the Duck River, from the west to get to Coffee County, he then had a long overland route to get back east to Sneedville which is far closer to Wilkesboro than to Manchester, or anyplace on Duck River.

I’m not even sure that a water route to Coffee County from Wilkesboro, meaning “up the Duck River,” makes sense under any circumstances.

The Yadkin River becomes the PeeDee which empties into the Atlantic near Charleston, SC. From there, travelers would need to travel around Florida by boat, to the Mississippi River at New Orleans, then traveling north to Paducah, Kentucky where they could intersect with the Tennessee River, then traveling the Tennessee back south to Manchester, southeast of Nashville.

That seems very counter-intuitive. On the map below, you can see the direct route, albeit over the mountains. The “water route” looks much longer and more difficult and I’ve not heard of anyone else taking a long water route between North Carolina and anyplace in Tennessee. Of course, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – especially not in my family who failed to do anything in the “normal” way.

Mary Lytle around Florida.png

Back to David Hickerson and Nathaniel Vannoy.

In a December 1833 deposition about the validity of David Hickerson’s will that was signed a dozen years earlier, in 1821, James Haggard, another one of the witnesses, testified that, “Sanders is dead and Vannoy the last I saw of him he resided in Greenville District, North Carolina.”

I was unsuccessful in discovering more about Nathaniel Vannoy in Greenville District, North Carolina, nor anything about a district called “Greenville District.”

Daniel Vannoy’s brother, Nathaniel Vannoy, died in 1835 in Greenville, the city, in Greenville County, South Carolina at about age 87. Born in 1749, it’s somewhat unlikely that Nathaniel would have been in Tennessee in 1821 at 71 or 72 years of age witnessing a will. Nathaniel was the register of deeds in Wilkes County in 1814 and 1815, a founder of the New Hope Baptist Church in 1830, and died living with his daughter in South Carolina in 1835. You wouldn’t think Nathaniel would have witnessed a will in Tennessee unless he lived there and anticipated being able to prove the will in court.

However, Nathaniel Vannoy’s son, Andrew, settled in Bedford County, Tennessee, and married on January 7, 1821, the same month that Nathaniel Vannoy witnessed David Hickerson’s will. Bedford County is just a few miles on west of Manchester near where David Hickerson lived. It’s possible that Nathaniel helped to move his son to Tennessee, helped him get settled, attended his wedding, and visited David Hickerson in the process. In that case, Greenville District would have been mistakenly recorded as North Carolina instead of South Carolina.

We’ll likely never know and the information available is ambiguous.

Let’s look at Mary Lytle Hickerson’s other son, Joseph Hickerson.

Joseph Hickerson

Felix tells us the following:

  • Joseph Hickerson, probably born around 1765 – Captain of the 13th VA Regiment, Rev War and later of the Wilkes County Militia

Felix was mistaken. Joseph, the son of Charles and Mary, is NOT the Joseph who served in Virginia. He can’t be, because that Joseph Hickerson died during the war.

His service record says:

Joseph Hickerson, enlisted October 1777 for 3 years, sick at Bethlehem 13th VA reg commanded by Col. William Russell – listed under casualties as “Dead Nov 8.”

Mary Lytle Joseph Hickerson Rev War.png

In a March 1939 letter from Adelaide Sisson, the Librarian General of the DAR to Frances Hickerson of Hickerson Station in Tullahoma, Tennessee, Adelaide says that the Joseph who served in Virginia was born in 1747 and was married in 1768 to a Whiting.

The lineage is published in the DAR Lineage book, Volume 166, page 221. She further says that the DAR is focused on New England and cannot be of further assistance with Virginia. It’s too bad she didn’t bother to look further, being located in Washington DC, because that would have prevented the incorrect information being disseminated about Joseph Hickerson from Wilkes County for, oh, the next 80+ years!

Obviously, Mary’s son Joseph listed in her 1793 will was a different Joseph Hickerson. We know that Charles and Mary Hickerson were in Surry County by January 1771, so it made no sense that their son Joseph served in Virginia several years later.

Joseph, the son of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle was born about 1766, lived his life in Wilkes County, married Ann Green (or Greer), date unknown but clearly before 1793, and had at least 4 children:

  • Joseph Hickerson born 1789
  • David Hickerson born 1793
  • Joshua Greer Hickerson 1794-1856, married Susannah Murphey and moved to Warren County, TN
  • Sarah Hickerson born about 1803

Mary Hickerson

Felix tells us that:

  • Mary Hickerson married Mr. Stewart and (possibly) moved to Texas

While indeed Mary Hickerson clearly did marry a Stewart, she may or may not have moved to Texas. Texas didn’t exist in the 1790s, to begin with, and it’s likely they moved someplace else first. Texas was part of Spain until 1821 when it became part of Mexico who actively recruited Anglos. By 1834, 30,000 Anglos lived in Texas. The Texas Revolution took place in 1835-1836 and Texas joined the union in 1845. Given this history, it’s unlikely that Mary Hickerson Stewart was living in Texas prior to about 1830.

Typically, Tennessee was the path to Texas, or one of the paths.

While this information came from the 1877 letter, given that the writer, whoever she was, says that her mother’s name is Elizabeth, not Mary, I have to wonder if Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle Hickerson had another daughter, Elizabeth, that we don’t know about, who also married a Stuart. The letter’s author clearly knew her mother’s name – and Mary Lytle Hickerson when she was creating her will in 1795 on her death bed clearly knew her daughter’s name.

Mary and Elizabeth are not nicknames for each other.

The Stewart that Mary Hickerson probably married was Samuel Stewart, who I thought was the son of Samuel and Lydia Stewart who lived close enough to Charles Hickerson for him to witness Lydia’s will in January of 1771 in Rowan County.

By the time Lydia Stewart’s will was probated in 1772, the location was Surry County. Lydia mentions son Samuel Stewart inheriting the bed known as “his bed.” Of course, “his bed” could still be “his” after he moved from his mother’s home, but it sounded to me like Samuel was still using “his” bed.

One Samuel Stewart sued Daniel Vannoy, husband of Mary’s daughter, Sarah Hickerson, in 1781. In 1794, after Mary’s will was probated, Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, Samuel Hickerson alias Stewart, and Daniel Vannoy were embroiled in slander and assault lawsuits.

The one child of Mary Hickerson Stewart’s that we know positively existed was Samuel Hickerson aka Samuel Steward/Stewart. Descendants of Sarah Hickerson DNA match with the children of one Samuel Hickerson who was found in Kentucky.

Samuel Hickerson alias Stewart also went by the name of Lytle. Did Mary rename him entirely after she married Samuel Stewart from Lytle Hickerson to Samuel Stewart?

Note that Wes Patterson, under item 15, says that Samuel Stewart Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Winscott. If the Samuel married to Mary Hickerson is the son of Lydia Stewart, then did he later marry Mary Hickerson? Note that the women in 1877 letter said her mother, Elizabeth, married a Stewart and that she was born in 1791.

So, there is some doubt about whether or not Mary Hickerson Stewart/Steward moved to Texas, but clearly Elizabeth Hickerson Stuart’s daughter wound up there.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to Mary Hickerson Stewart, when, or where – or to her Stewart husband, whatever his name was. Mary’s son, Samuel Hickerson appears to have gone to Kentucky where today, I have DNA matches to his descendants.

Clearly, for anyone descending from daughter Mary Hickerson Stewart, there’s a lot of unraveling left to do.

Jane Hickerson

Felix tells us that:

  • Jane Hickerson married Mr. Miller.

Indeed, Jane, born about 1760 did marry Leonard Miller with whom she had at least 7 children, three being daughters. I can only confirm one child positively, and three probably based on DNA matches to their descendants.

  • Michael Miller 1783-1858
  • Benjamin Miller born 1790, lived in South Carolina by 1815, in Alabama by 1820 and in Lafayette County, Mississippi by the 1830s when his father, Leonard was living with him and collecting a Revolutionary War Pension
  • William Miller 1791-1889

It appears that Jane remarried in 1806 in Wilkes County to John Reynolds based on a marriage bond signed by David Hickerson, her brother. It’s possible that instead of Jane herself, one of her daughters, also named Jane, married in Wilkes County.

Jane Hickerson’s situation is interesting, to say the least.

In May of 1794, following a series of lawsuits, Leonard Miller forfeits his bond and does not appear as a witness in the slander suit of Janes brother, David Hickerson, versus her brother-in-law, Daniel Vannoy.

This series of lawsuits is particularly brutal, because Jane Hickerson Miller herself was convicted of concealing a feather bed stolen from her sister, Rachel Hickerson Harris, during a 1789 robbery and arson of Rachel’s home. The jury’s remarks are particularly unflattering towards Jane:

March term 1793 – State of North Carolina Morgan District Superior Court of law – The jurors for the state upon their oath present that Jone Miller late of the County of Wilkes in the Morgan District labourer being a person of evil name and fame and of dishonest conversation and a common buyer and receiver of stolen goods on the 10th day of March 1789 in the county aforesaid one feather bed of value of 15 pounds of the goods and chattels of one Braddock Harris by a certain ill disposed person to the jurors aforesaid as yet unknown then lately before feloniously stolen of the same ill disposed person unlawfully unjustly and for the sale of Wicked gain did receive and have (she the said Jone Miller) then and there well knowing the said bed to have been feloniously stolen to the great damage of the said Braddock Harris and against the peace and dignity of the state . J. Harwood Atto. Genl. State vs Jone Miller Ind. Misdemeanor, Braddock Harris, John Roberts (name marked through) prosr. And witness. Joseph Hickerson. Witness Rachell Harris. Sworn and sent.

This robbery and arson committed by John Roberts, followed by lawsuits filed after Mary Hickerson’s death, divided the Hickerson family terribly. Many suits for assault and slander follow – and the only thing that’s clear is that there’s a war being fought between the Hickerson siblings along with their spouses.

  • During this time, about 1794, Mary (or Elizabeth) Hickerson Stewart leaves, Daniel Vannoy disappears without a trace and Leonard Miller moves, apparently without Jane, to South Carolina. Braddock and Rachel Harris move to South Carolina too and in 1809, David Hickerson goes to Tennessee.
  • In 1800, Jane Miller appears in the census in Wilkes county, without a male of Leonard’s age in the household. She does have 3 males 10-15, 1 male 16-25, 2 females under 10, 1 female 16-25, and one female 26-44, which would likely be her.
  • In 1800, John Reynolds is the same age as Jane, has children, but no wife.
  • In 1810, John Reynolds has a male 26-44 and a female of the same age. These age brackets seem to be off.
  • Leonard Miller, in Laurens County, SC, in 1810 does have a female of his age in the household, so perhaps he remarried too.
  • In 1833, Leonard Miller, then living in Jefferson County, Alabama applied for a pension for having served in Rutherford’s Campaign under Col. Benjamin Cleveland in Wilkes County. After his death, in April 1845, Leonard’s son, Benjamin stated that Leonard had 7 children, and he had heard from none of his siblings in the past 18 years, dating back to about 1827. Benjamin said the last he heard, they were scattered with some in Kentucky and Virginia, but he didn’t know where. He said that Leonard had not had a wife since he had been a pensioner.

Something happened between Jane and Leonard Miller, and it looks like they got a “divorce” in one manner or another. I found no divorce records, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Rachel Hickerson

Apparently Felix didn’t discover Rachel Hickerson.

  • Rachel Hickerson was born about 1765 and married Braddock Harris about 1786.

In April 1786, Braddock was convicted in court of “intended rape,” was carted through the town for an hour as a spectacle with a sign pinned to his forehead saying, “This is the effects of an intended rape.”

John Roberts burned Rachel and Braddock Harris’s house on March 1, 1789 after robbing their home. In collaboration with John, Rachel’s sister Jane Miller hid the stolen feather bed.

No wonder this family was at war!

After Mary Lytle Hickerson died in late 1793 or early 1794, Rachel Hickerson Harris stayed in Wilkes County long enough to testify against both Roberts and her sister, but then she and Braddock left for Laurens District, which became Laurens County, SC where they lived until at least 1810. Rachel died in 1822 in Franklin County, Georgia. Rachel had at least 8 children including three females.

  • Stephen Harris born about 1787/9
  • Mollie Harris born 1792, marriage unknown
  • Sallie Harris born about 1792/4-1856 married Nathan Curry, having many children including at least 6 daughters
  • Nancy Harris born 1799, marriage unknown
  • John Lane Harris born about 1802
  • Littleton Harris born about 1804
  • William Washington Harris born about 1807

Sarah Hickerson

Felix also didn’t discover Sarah Hickerson.

  • Sarah Hickerson married Daniel Vannoy on October 2, 1779.

Sarah was born sometime between 1752 and 1760, based on her husband’s age and her marriage date. Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy had:

  • Elijah Vannoy born about 1784 married Lois McNiel in 1809 and moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee a couple years later
  • An unknown son born before 1788
  • An unknown daughter born before 1788
  • Joel Vannoy born in 1792 married Elizabeth St. Claire in 1817, having 8 children. He then married Emily Lemira Suddworth about 1832 in Burke County where they had another 10 children.
  • Susan Vannoy, born about 1804, married George McNiel in 1822 in Wilkes County and had 6 children
  • Possibly another daughter born between 1795-1800

According to the census, Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy had at least one unidentified male and one unidentified female child, both born before 1788. They may have had another daughter born between 1795 and 1800.

That male child may have been Nathaniel Vannoy, found in 1821 in Franklin County, Tennessee witnessing the will of David Hickerson, or maybe not. Nathaniel could also possibly have been Daniel Vannoy’s brother, although he would have been quite aged to have been traveling.

It’s also possible that the unidentified children didn’t survive.

Possibly Elizabeth Hickerson

  • Elizabeth Hickerson, mother of the anonymous letter writer who left Wilkes County about 1794 married a Stuart (Stewart/Steward)

It’s possible that Mary Lytle Hickerson had another daughter named Elizabeth, based on the 1877 letter from Elizabeth’s daughter where she states that her mother married a Stewart and that she (the letter writer) was born in 1791.

I find it hard to believe that the letter-writer would record her mother’s name incorrectly.

If Elizabeth Hickerson’s daughter was born in 1791, and Mary Lytle was having children by about 1745, Elizabeth’s mother would have been between the ages of 43 (born in 1748) and 33 (born in 1768 as Mary’s last child.)

When Was Mary Lytle Hickerson Born?

We know that Mary Lytle Hickerson’s daughter, Mary Hickerson Stewart had a son named Samuel Hickerson who used aliases including Stewart, Lytle, and Litle.

In 1781, Samuel Steward filed a suit against Daniel Vannoy in Wilkes County. I initially thought this was Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, Samuel, but at this point, I doubt that she had her son, Samuel in 1760 or before which would have had to be the case if he were filing a suit in 1781. Samuel would have had to be of age to file suit. It Samuel was age 21 in 1781, he had to have been born in 1760 or earlier.

We know that Charles Hickerson was age 60 in 1784 when he was exempted from taxes, which puts his birth year in 1724.

Assuming that Mary is not older than Charles, and that they married when she was about 20, and assuming that her daughter Mary Hickerson is Mary Lytle’s oldest child, that put’s daughter Mary’s birth about 1745. To have had son Samuel in 1760, Mary would have given birth when she was 15. While that’s not impossible, especially given that he appears to have been illegitimate, it’s unlikely.

Mary Lytle Hickerson’s will specifically names Samuel Hickerson as Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, and he is the only grandchild she left anything to by name. I suspect that this is because she probably raised Samuel in her home after he was born illegitimately to his mother, before Mary married the Stewart male probably sometime after 1771.

Based on the ages of her children, I suspect Mary Lytle was born about the same time as Charles Hickerson, so would have been about 68 when she died in December 1793 or early 1794.

Mary’s DNA

I’ve identified autosomal DNA segments on three chromosomes that descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle. What we don’t know, and can’t discover until we figure out who their parents are, is whether these segments descend through Charles or Mary.

Mary Lytle segments.png

Mary’s Direct Matrilineal Line

However, if we can find someone descended from Mary Lytle through all females to the present generation, which can be male, we can obtain Mary’s mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both sexes of children from their mother, but only females pass it on. Therefore, the mitochondrial DNA of Mary’s daughter’s direct linear female descendants (to the current generation which can be male) is the same as Mary Lytle Hickerson’s.

Mary’s mitochondrial DNA can tell us a great deal about where she came from and may help us further break down brick walls, especially if it’s rare, or Native. We don’t know who Mary’s mother is, so Mary’s mitochondrial DNA is a direct lifeline to matrilineal ancestral women – Mary’s mother, grandmother and so forth.

Of Mary’s daughters, listed above, we know that:

  • Mary Hickerson Stewart had one son, but nothing more is known
  • Jane Hickerson Miller had daughters, but I’ve been unable to document who they were
  • Rachel Hickerson Harris’s daughters are listed in bold, above
  • Sarah Hickerson Vannoy’s only known daughter, Susan, is bolded above as well
  • Elizabeth Hickerson Stuart’s only known child is the nameless author of the 1877 letter from Nacogdoches, Texas. If anyone can figure out who she is, and if she had daughters, please let me know.

If you descend from these women through all females to the present generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you. Please get in touch! We have brick walls to break down together.



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Frank Sadowski: Terror on Tombstone Ridge – 52 Ancestors #269

Frank Sadowski

Frank Sadowsky, or Sadowski, whichever way you prefer to spell it, was my mother’s fiancé who was killed on Okinawa during the brutal battle that led to the end of World War II.

I mentioned Frank in my mother’s story about professional dancing in Chicago during WWII, which is where she met him when she danced with Frank’s sister, Margie. Both women were members of the Dorothy Hild Dancers that performed at the posh Edgewater Beach Hotel. You can read those articles here and here, if you wish, but the real story is about Frank.

I honored Frank with an article, Frank Sadowski (1921-1945), Almost My Father, on Memorial Day, 2015, since Frank clearly didn’t leave any descendants to do that for him. I can’t explain it, but I felt driven to record Frank’s story, and far be it from me to argue with a desire that strong.

That article, in a most amazing twist of fate led Curtis, Frank’s nephew, to find me when he was struck with a sudden urge to do a Google search on Frank’s name just three weeks later.

I know, I know, how strange could that be some 70 years after Frank’s death. It’s bizarre, but not nearly as bizarre as what was yet in store.

Curtis’s son, Bert, is serving in the military and Bert’s great-uncle Frank served as Bert’s inspiration, standing at his grave, before Bert enlisted.

Little did Curtis, or Bert, know that I had Frank’s ring, cherished lovingly by mother for all those years.

I still cry remembering this, but I knew deep in my heart what needed to happen. Yep, Frank’s Ring Goes Home is the next chapter that unfolded before Christmas in 2015 when Burt was gifted with Frank’s ring. I promise, you’ll want to read this with a full box of Kleenex nearby.

Bert ring.jpg

Bert is the proud owner of Frank’s ring today and I know beyond a doubt that Frank is watching over him.

Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d think Mother and Frank might have been somehow involved in this, from the other side😊

But the weird quirks of fate were not yet finished with Curtis and me.

Those articles would also lead Joan Mikol to find me. That wasn’t Joan’s first fortuitous discovery either. Nope, because several years ago, in Chicago, walking her dog, Joan noticed scrapbooks sticking out of the trash that included clippings and photos belonging to the Sadowski family. The scrapbook that Frank’s sister, Margie, had kept about Frank, including his letters home. After Margie’s death, non-family members threw everything away.

Thankfully, Joan pulled the scrapbooks out of that trash can and saved them – for decades – until she too googled Frank’s name. Below, Joan gifting the scrapbooks to the Sadowski family.


What Joan didn’t know is that house had been the Sadowski home which just happened to be inhabited by a ghost.


Joan, Curtis (above), his wife Janet and I met near Chicago as Joan gave the scrapbooks to me and I gave them a few hours later to Curtis. I told that story in Sadowski WWII Scrapbooks Salvaged from Trash Heap.

Those pages revealed such a treasure trove. I discovered information about Mom and Frank that I never knew before. Thank goodness the scrapbook is back with the Sadowski family where it belongs.

Janet is currently scanning the contents for all to share.

Who Was Frank Sadowski?

I wanted to know more about Frank – the mystery man that stole my mother’s heart and never let it go. Frank, a medical school student, enlisted in the war, even though he clearly didn’t need to. Why would he do that?

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It appears that Frank’s interest in the military began in high school. This 1938 article in the Chicago Tribune mentions ROTC Second Lieutenant Frank Sadowski. He would have been 17 that year.

Frank graduated 2 years later, in 1940 from the Steinmetz Academic Centre.

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You’ll notice that Frank is wearing his ROTC uniform in his senior yearbook photo, above.

A serious student, Frank recorded his dreams in his high school yearbook.

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It’s ironic somehow that by February 16, 1943 when he enlisted, Frank was well on his way to becoming a physician, fulfilling his goal by following in his father’s footsteps.

Frank had also fallen madly in love with my mother.

So much for “down with women.”

However, Frank would never become a famed physician and surgeon, nor marry my mother, because his military interest overshadowed both. Frank’s infamy would be through the sacrifice of his life in the service of his country, saving others. Exactly how Frank saved others wasn’t exactly like he had envisioned.

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Frank registered for the draft on February 16, 1942. I notice he registered under Sadowski, not Sadowsky as his military records are listed.

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Then, exactly a year to the day later, on February 16, 1943, Frank enlisted.

Frank’s mother was dead set against Frank’s enlistment. Her reason was not what you might expect. You’ll find out why and a whole lot more in Frank Sadowski, Jr. – Bravery Under Fire.

Frank’s sister saved his letters and pasted them in that scrapbook, later found by Joan more than 30 years after Frank’s death. Not wanting his family to worry, Frank downplayed the severity of what was occurring in the Pacific in his preserved letters to his sister and father.

Sadly, I don’t have Frank’s letters to my mother, or hers to him, but I’d wager they were of a different flavor, probably intensely personal, and he likely downplayed the danger to her too. Mother told me that she knew when she kissed Frank goodbye at the train station when he left the last time that she would never see him again, at least not on this side of the grave.

Frank Sadowski christmas

1944 would be Frank’s last Christmas – ever. He was deployed to Okinawa on a destroyer on December 9th. Just before boarding the ship, Frank sent one last v-mail letter to my mother in which he says that he writes to her daily, whether he can mail those letters or not. I wonder if she ever received them. The other soldiers, “Joes” as he calls them, tease him because of his devotion.

Frank wrote letters to family members in which he tells them how much he loves them, thinly veiling his homesickness with attempts at humor and then finally, “Don’t forget, your son still loves you,” written to his Dad.

Lastly, “Well, Dad, my time is running out but my love for you and the family isn’t.”

Did Frank somehow know?

Maybe what the fortune-teller told Frank’s mother was right…


After arriving in Okinawa, Frank’s foot was injured in training, but he intentionally omitted that information in letters home. The military apparently informed his father and Frank was quite unhappy about that fact – telling his father that he had a “slight cut” on his foot from an ax but was in “the pink of condition.”

Yeah, right.

Frank’s father suggested that he should not serve on the front lines until the foot could be further evaluated. After all, having a fully functional foot for a soldier is critical to safety, but Frank was having none of that.

That “ax” was actually a machete that caused an infection against which sulfa drugs were ineffective, as Frank later confessed to his sister, Margie, who he affectionately calls “Red.”

While Frank was fighting an infection in his foot and his father was encouraging him not to serve on the front, my Mom was busy preparing with the USO for a military show at which she is planning the best surprise EVER for Frank. I can only imagine the look on Frank’s face as he stood in the audience to realize that the “star” was his own lovely fiancée.

But of course, that too would never happen.

Like Frank’s dreams, mother’s wasn’t to be either.

Frank, recovered and back on a ship reports that he has all of his earthly possessions packed into a single duffel bag, including writing paper and an 8X10 photo of mother that he worries about being damaged.

Writing home to his family was obviously important, as was mother, because space in that bag was at a premium.

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Frank says the Bible, a small New Testament I’m sure, probably similar to the one above, lives in his pocket.

Suddenly, Frank’s letters became sporadic, causing his family and Mom to compare letters as they try to piece together what is happening.

Then something goes wrong. In January, Frank winds up in Hawaii and tells his family he is sightseeing.



Of course, that wasn’t true.

While the machete wound didn’t kill him, something else nearly did.


On February 9th, Frank says he is scheduled to receive additional inoculations, but that doesn’t happen. By February 12th, Frank was quite ill in the Philippines with infectious jaundice, probably what is today known as Leptospirosis. Frank’s letter on February 17th is very short, telling his family that his skin is very yellow. He doesn’t write again until March 2nd.

His silence was driving them insane.

In March 1945, Frank was “hospitalized” for 18 days due to jaundice. I use that word loosely, because we’re talking a battlefield hospital where Frank tells his family that the soldiers have managed to rig up a shower – and how glad they are for that convenience we take for granted.

On March 2nd, Frank tells his sister he is so ill that he is falling asleep while writing.

Ironically, had Frank just remained sick a little longer, he wouldn’t have died in April.

Frank mentioned that mail is taking 5 months to arrive, so imagine Mom and Frank’s family receiving Frank’s last letters, dribbling in months after his death.

And not knowing which letter was actually the “last” that would arrive. They may not have received his Christmas letters until sometime in May, weeks after he died.

How gut-wrenching and traumatic. They must have looked forward to and simultaneously dreaded the mail delivery every single day – all while life went on around them and they had to go through the motions of participation.


On April 1st, the Battle of Okinawa began, which would claim the lives of between 100,000 and 130,000 men over the next 82 days. Between 14,000 and 20,000 of those men were Americans, with the remainder being Japanese and conscripted Okinawans. That’s roughly 1,500 deaths every single day with far more during intense fighting.

Just a month earlier, Frank was incredibly ill with infectious jaundice which followed on the heels of an infected machete wound. Frank would clearly have still been weak after being ill for several weeks during February and March.

By April 6th, the US was in the thick of the bloodiest Pacific Theater battle of WWII, on Okinawa, and had been for almost a week. April 6th was the day that Frank landed on the Okinawan beach and with the 382nd Infantry, Frank moved inland, engaging in a battle that lasted until June 22nd.

This horrible battle was anything but a sure win. In fact, there were days that winning was gravely in doubt.

The kamikaze Japanese soldiers fought hard, willingly sacrificing their lives, costing the American troops many lives and much equipment. Ultimately, the US forces won that battle, clearing Okinawa of Japanese soldiers – but at an exorbitantly high price – including Frank.

WWII was ending. VE Day, Victory in Europe was declared on May 8, 1945 and VJ Day, Victory in Japan was declared in Japan on August 15, 1945.

Frank’s story ended on April 19th, just 13 days after he arrived on the Okinawa beach and began making his way to Kaniku, the gateway village to Tombstone Ridge. How aptly that would be named, sadly.

Frank would die on Tombstone Ridge, but how, exactly? Frank was a medic, given that he had been enlisted in medical school at Northwestern before volunteering for the military to serve his country.

Was his sister’s statement true – that Frank was shot in the head as he threw his body over a fallen soldier that had been wounded? She also mentioned in a letter that Frank was awarded a medal posthumously for “bravery under fire.”

Was he?

What medal might that have been? What happened to those medals? They weren’t in the trash heap, at least not that Joan found. Neither was the flag that would have draped Frank’s coffin at his funeral in 1949. That too is absent.

Any awards or honors would have been presented to Frank’s next of kin, his parents, given that he and my mother hadn’t married. That wedding was planned for his return, which of course never happened either.

Questions – More Questions

Why am I so plagued with questions? Always, more and more questions.

I think it’s the genealogy curse.

The circumstances surrounding Frank’s death are so murky. You’d think there would be more information. He died in the midst of hundreds, thousands, of other soldiers.

There has to be information, someplace.

Keep in mind that the National Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis burned in 1973. Frank’s records were assuredly among the records that went up in flames, incinerating irreplaceable history.

I check Ancestry, MyHeritage, Fold3 and other resources often for additional information. New records are being transcribed and indexed all the time, so you never know what might be found.

I discovered the Roster of the WWII Dead 1939-1945 on Ancestry which included Frank’s service number.

SAdowski roster of dead.png

Frank’s service number is also reflected on his tombstone request, completed by his father in 1949, almost 4 years after Frank’s death.

Frank Sadowski headstone request

Why was Frank’s tombstone being ordered 3 years and 11 months after he died?

Curtis tells me that Frank’s father, also a physician, had a terrible time getting Frank’s body returned for burial, finally having to “pull some strings,” taking measures outside of normal channels – but Curtis didn’t know exactly what, or when.

Frank’s father was finally successful, with Frank Jr. eventually being buried in All Saints Cemetery, at least supposedly.


Frank’s military headstone was ordered in March of 1949. The family was finally able to obtain at least some level of closure. Frank finally had a funeral, right?

Or did he?

Where is the notice of Frank’s death, obituary or funeral in the newspaper? Surely a man killed in action defending his country would rate AT LEAST a mention in the Chicago Tribune. Not only that, but Frank Jr.’s father, also named Frank, was a physician, so money certainly was not an issue.

Other family members had obituaries including Frank’s father.

Sadowski Frank Sr obit.png

Frank’s father’s obituary in the Chicago Tribute published on February 7, 1972.

I needed to know more and opted to retain a researcher who specializes in reconstructing service records from multiple sources I’ve never even heard of – with the hope of discovering additional information about the circumstances surrounding Frank’s death.

Frank’s Death

Frank’s case is tough, really really tough.

Twenty months after my original request, I have finally, finally received a few more records about Frank along with associated records of Frank’s unit – the 96th Division, 382nd Infantry.

The only information directly about Frank is contained in only one document – his hospital admissions file.

Sadowski hospital admission.pngSadowski hospital admission 2.png

Or, in Frank’s case, there was no hospital record. He died on the battlefield on April 19, 1945, of multiple wounds to the “thorax, generally.”

The causative agent was “bullet, missile not stated.” In other words, he was shot, and with what didn’t matter.

What exactly, is the thorax? The medical definition states that it’s an area of the body between the head and the abdomen. In other words, the chest.

I initially thought that Frank likely died of a severed artery or major blood vessel – but the record says, “with no nerve or artery involvement.” Of course, this suggests that someone actually investigated his wounds.

However, if Frank was hit with multiple bullets or missiles, he likely took a direct hit in the lower throat or chest and died immediately due to a severed artery or vein or blood loss. At least, I hope that, mercifully, he did.

Frank’s wounds may have been such a mess that trying to determine exactly “what” he died of was futile and really didn’t matter. He died of battle wounds. Period. They had hundreds of these reports to complete, daily.

Given the description of what happened during those horrific days, I have serious doubts that anyone devoted any time to any men who were already dead.

Soldiers and commanders had everything they could do to deal with fighting, tactics and the wounded. Not to be harsh, but dead soldiers weren’t a priority at that point, nor should they have been.

This leaves me with a general feeling that the circumstances surrounding Frank’s death listed on the hospital card may have been completed sometime after the fact and may simply be a routine completion of a mandatory form by someone who was not on the front and had no idea what actually happened to Frank. In other words, I question the accuracy of what information IS there, and I still wonder what really happened.

Let’s take a look at the formerly classified history of the 382nd Infantry Regiment to understand the circumstances under which Frank lived the last 13 days of his life, and the day of his death.

Reconstructing the Final Days of Frank’s Life

Sadowski 382 history.png

These records have been extraordinarily difficult to extract from the government.

I requested information about Frank’s service, death and his wounds. I was hoping to learn more about Frank’s activities and what happened to him.

Where was Frank’s body buried, exhumed and shipped home from? Was his body actually returned almost 4 years later, or is that just when his headstone was ordered?

Surely if Frank’s father had to move Heaven and Earth to obtain Frank’s body, then there’s a military record someplace. There HAS to be. The military doesn’t do anything without multiple copies of records – often stored in multiple places – which is how records can in some situations be reconstructed despite the 1973 fire.

We know from Frank’s letters that Frank was in the Philippines for training before he shipped to Okinawa. What else can we glean from the 382’s history, both from the documents provided by the government as well as Okinawa: The Last Battle from which I’ll be quoting as well.

The government’s History of the 382nd provided by the researcher with Frank’s hospital admission record tells us that Frank’s unit was involved beginning in October 1944 in the liberation of Leyte Island from Japanese control and establishing bases for future operations against the enemy. It’s worth noting that many men in the medical unit received commendations including the Bronze Star for bravery, heroic achievement and “untiring and courageous efforts instrumental in saving many wounded men” under intense fire.

Some men received these medals posthumously, such as Stanley Beeman:

Private First Class Beeman, a litter bearer went forward to a position where one of the line companies was under heavy machine gun fire from several pill boxes. With utter disregard for his own personal safety, he evacuated and treated many wounded men. In so doing, PFC Beeman sustained a wound but refusing treatment for himself, he returned again to the front line in an attempt to rescue a wounded soldier whose position was covered by fire from enemy automatic weapons. In this attempt, he was fatally wounded. His heroic conduct in giving his own life to save a comrade was in the finest tradition of the military service.

The commendations awarded to these men were recorded in the unit history for their service on Leyte Island.

It’s worth noting the extremely difficult conditions revealed by in the Bronze Star justification for Staff Sergeant Leland Jorsch:

When enemy machine gun and sniper fire began inflicting heavy casualties among our troops, medical aid men were not available for the evacuation of casualties.

Many of these awards reference highly concealed enemy positions. Several discussed injured men lying helplessly in a swamp and one mentions a soldier who exposed his position as a decoy to allow fellow soldiers to escape. Miraculously, the decoy lived and didn’t even appear to have been injured. Another man was killed within 6 feet of the man he was attempting to rescue. Yet another saved the man he was attempting to help, but was killed while giving aid.

All is not fair in war. One report tells of the enemy force masquerading under a white flag opening fire, killing 11 and wounding 33. One soldier crawled into a flooded rice paddy three times under enemy fire to save those wounded soldiers.

Another man crawled into the same enemy fire that had just killed his fellow soldier attempting to rescue a wounded man.

Yet another hero was assisting a wounded soldier when the platoon fell back, stranding them both – necessitating crossing enemy sniper fire carrying the wounded soldier to reach safety.

The posthumous award to Virgil Carrick based on his valiant behavior on October 21, 1944 reads like the description of what was said to have happened to Frank:

When a comrade was wounded while his platoon was moving through a rice field under heavy enemy fire, Private Carrick, without hesitation, went to his aid. In full view of the enemy, he administered first aid to the wounded soldier until he was himself mortally wounded by sniper fire. His heroic sacrifice exemplifies the finest traditions of the service.

Ryukyus Islands

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The opening page of this report states that the 382nd Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division was ordered to land April 1, 1945 on the Southern Hagushi Beaches on the West Coast of Okinawa Shima and attack south.

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This photo shows Marines wading ashore on Okinawa on April 1st.

In the Pentagon document detailing the history off the 382nd Infantry unit provided with Frank’s hospital admissions record, the description of Frank’s unit’s activities during this time begins about page 72 with instructions to land behind the 96th and assist in the execution of the Corps mission of driving across the narrow neck and splitting the island in half. The 382nd infantry was tightly tied with the 381st and 383rd.

Page 75 and 76 discuss rehearsals and training, including:

  • Short and distance fighting
  • Target practice
  • The requirement that all men be able to swim 50 yards
  • Using tanks for fighting and protection
  • Close combat and booby traps
  • Combat in villages, clearing houses
  • Perimeters
  • Scouting and patrolling
  • Ambushes and surprise attacks
  • Disarming and destruction of booby traps and gapping mine fields
  • Map reading, compasses and sketching exercises
  • Physical hardening – calisthenics, hardening marches and athletics
  • Identification of friendly and enemy aircraft
  • Weapons inspection and maintenance
  • Ordinance and signal equipment
  • Amphibious vehicles

The soldiers spent much of the month of March practicing before actually landing on Okinawa Shima on April 1st known as L-Day. Of course, Frank wasn’t practicing because he was desperately ill.

The typed images that follow are from the governmental history of the 392nd included with Frank’s report.

Sadowski 382 history 1.pngSadowski 382 history 2.png

On April 4th, the 3rd Battalion took up positions in Nodake. Frank had not yet joined the unit, but he would on April 6th while this fighting was underway. Okinawa, at this point, is only about 3 miles wide with Nodake and Ginowan being about half way across.

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In the The US Army in WWII, Chapter 5, we discover that on April 5th:

In the center of the island, troops of the 382d Infantry advanced more than two miles south from Nodake along the division’s east boundary (shown below).

Sadowski Nodake.jpg

On the west coast, the 96th’s right-flank units swept along the flatlands from Isa to Uchitomari. Progress was only a little slower in the division’s center along Route 5. Enemy resistance, which included artillery fire from the area to the south, varied from sniper fire to intense machine-gun and mortar fire directed out of scattered Japanese strong points.

For the 96th Division, 5 April marked the beginning of iron resistance on Okinawa. The 383d estimated at one time during the day that its forward elements were receiving fire from 20 machine guns and from 15 to 20 mortars, besides artillery pieces. Driving through the green, rolling country east of the Ginowan road, the 382d unmasked a series of fortified positions, many of them protected by mine fields. Each position caused American casualties and required enveloping movements. Well-camouflaged Japanese troops, supported by tanks, attacked the 1st Battalion during the afternoon, but the attack was broken up by artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire. During the day, the 382d gained about 400 yards on the left (east) and 900 yards on the right.

Those fortified hills are shown in the red box on the map, above.

Page 106 of the document shows a photo of Frank’s Unit, and for all we know, Frank could be in the photo.

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Published in a weekly intelligence report from 1945, the above example of the techniques used by Japanese to fortify defensive positions was provided with the following commentary:

The diagram does not show all the defensive positions in the area depicted and is designed only to indicate the method by which the enemy attained mobility even in fighting from positions underground. In describing this position, the bulletin states: About 50 yards south of the approach road was the camouflaged entrance to a typical tunnel system within the hill. The entrance was a square log-shored shaft 30 feet deep. A smaller curved shaft which came to the surface about 15 feet away was probably designed for ventilation purposes. The main tunnel to the hill installations ran from this shaft, under the road to the first of a series of caves approximately 100 feet from the shaft entrance. This tunnel was from four to five feet high and three feet wide. Walls were reinforced with logs six to eight inches in diameter, loose coral rock on the ceilings was held in place by logs. The tunnel apparently was used for ammunition storage as well as communication.

This is the environment that Frank and other soldiers would encounter in the region of Nodake, Ginowan, Kaniku, Kakazu, Nishibaru, Tombstone Ridge and the fortified hills and ridges.

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This reconnaissance photo of Tombstone Ridge, near the village of Kaniku, was taken with North appearing at the bottom, not the top.

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This map illustrates troop movements.

On the Google map below, you’ll note Kakazu Ridge to the left and the locations of Nishibaru, Tanabaru to the east with Ginowan in the upper right. It’s also worth noting that the large word, Ginowan in the middle of the map is the US Futenma Air Force Base.

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Kaniku is located where the red arrow points, and Tombstone Ridge is located between the red arrow and Tanabaru according to the 1940s map.

Referring now to the activities of April 9th:

The 382nd was ordered to the ridge just east of Kaniku, also known as Tombstone Ridge, which was literally covered with caves, pillboxes and fortified tombs and dominated the flat terrain on both sides and front.

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This aerial photograph taken in 1945 when the US built the Futenma Air Base would include the villages along with Tombstone Ridge. Flat areas were described as flanking the sides of Tombstone Ridge.

I can’t tell how far the ridge runs, but the darkest areas would hide the thickest vegetation. I’ve marked Tombstone Ridge with a red star, but the hilly area clearly stretched along the south of the base and then along the east side as well. Prime ambush terrain for troops attempting to travel along the southbound road from or to Ginowan.

The men fought their way very slowly south on this road.

From 6 to 8 April the 382d Infantry advanced slowly east of the Ginowan road.

Unfortunately, I cannot find Kaniku on Google maps, although GoMapper shows Kaniku as a small place-name, below, not far from the Okinawa National Hospital. That’s all I needed.

Sadowski Kaniku map.png

Based on the military maps, Google maps and GoMapper, it appears that Tombstone Ridge is the area between Kaniku and Tanabaru, closer to Kaniku, today dissected by the expressway and ramps.

Sadowski Kaniku and Tombstone Ridge.png

This area is generally quite built up – but “driving” down these tiny roads in the green area today, you can still feel the remoteness and steepness of the terrain. Some roads aren’t paved.

It was here that Frank died, on the ridge named for the burial tombs on either side.

Sadowski Tombstone road.png

This Google Maps Street View photo is from the top of the ridge looking down the west side, where our soldiers were fighting.

Other roads are still 2-track and dirt in these hills today.

The enemy fought stubbornly from hilly ground north and west of Kaniku and delivered heavy fire from his strong positions on Tombstone Ridge, just south of Kaniku, and from Nishibaru Ridge, southwest of Tombstone.

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The hills north of Kaniku would likely be the green undeveloped area.

Quantities of rifle, machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire were poured on the troops as they moved south. Savage hand-to-hand encounters marked the slow progress of the regiment, which suffered numerous casualties. By night of 8 April the regiment was strung out on a wide front just north of Kaniku and Tombstone Ridge. Heavy fire from the front, from the Kakazu area on the right (west), and from its exposed left (east) flank, where the 184th was slowed by strong opposition, had brought the 382d virtually to a dead stop.

Frank might have only landed 2 days before, but by this time, he was in the thick of the fighting and that beach landing must have seemed a lifetime ago.

Sadowski 4 locations.png

All 4 locations, Kakazu, Nishibaru, Kaniku and Tanabaru are shown above. The distance as the crow flies between Kaniku and Tanabaru is about 2000 feet, but of course, that would be directly over Tombstone Ridge, through the green area. All green areas are undeveloped for a reason – they are terribly difficult terrain, or very low along a river.

As we read the events that took place over of the next few days, note that the 382nd was divided into three Battalions. I did not find any direct information as to which one of the Batillions of the 382nd Frank was fighting in, at least not in his records. However, based on where the 1/382 was located on the fateful day of Frank’s death, I suspect he may have been assigned to the 1st, but that’s far from a fact. Therefore, as I read this, I realize that regardless of exactly where Frank was fighting at any specific moment in time, all men were embroiled in the fight for their life – a fight many would not survive. Half of one Battalion was annihilated.

Back to April 9th, 1945 in the government report, below.

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Sadowski, ridge east of Kaniku

Looking over Tombstone Ridge from the the ramp of a bridge over the expressway, today.

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My God, this was brutal. One LMG (light machine gun) section killed entirely. The rest running low on ammunition, and all while being attacked from the hills above.

Among other things, the soldiers were exhausted.

Sadowski history 6.1.jpgSadowski history 6.2.jpg

The government report begins discussing the 19th, above, describing how the 382nd assaulted the ridge, struggling to fight their way to the top through the foothills through a brutal attack under a hailstone of bullets and mortar fire.

The 1st Battalion led the assault, but all 3 Battalions were fighting close to each other, with the 1st and 2nd moving together to assault and attempt to take Tombstone Ridge, passing through the ranks of the 3rd Battallion. Clearly Frank could have served in any of these – men were mowed down in all three.

Sadowski soldiers.jpg

Photos from Okinawa show all vegetation destroyed including leaves entirely stripped from trees and plants by the intensity of the warfare. It’s no wonder that this battle was nicknamed the “typhoon of steel” by American troops and “rain of steel” by the Japanese based upon the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of the Japanese kamikaze attacks and the sheer number of troops and vehicles involved in the assault on Okinawa.

In another document, we find additional information about the days before Frank’s death. This verbiage from the US Army in WWII: Okinawa: The Last Battle tells us the following:

The 382d Infantry of the 96th Division, in the center of the XXIV Corps line, also came to a standstill during 9-12 April. The 382d had three battalions on line by 10 April – the 2d on the right (west), the 1st in the center, and the 3d on the left. On the west the 2d Battalion tied in loosely with the 383d Infantry on Highway 5; on the east a large gap lay between the 184th Infantry of the 7th Division and the 382d.

The terrain fronting the 382d was notable for its irregularity but had a few prominent features lending themselves to defense. The enemy had fortified Tombstone Ridge, a long low hill running northeast southwest just south of Kaniku, as well as high ground south of Nishibaru. Kakazu Ridge extended across much of the regiment’s right (west) front; and the upper part of the gorge, east of Highway 5, was an effective obstacle even if less precipitous here than on the other side of the highway north of Kakazu.

Sadowski Tombstone ridge expressway.jpg

Tombstone Ridge at Kaniku cut by the expressway.

The main effort of the 382d during this period was made on 10 April, while the 381st and 383d on the west were attempting their “powerhouse” attack on Kakazu. The 382d attacked southwest with three battalions in line. On the west the Battalion advanced several hundred yards and crossed the gorge, only to halt in the face of heavy fire from its front and flanks. On the regimental left (east) the 3d Battalion gained one of the knobs east of Tombstone Ridge, but continual rain, which bogged down the tanks and decreased visibility, combined with heavy enemy mortar, machine-gun, and 47-mm. fire to force the battalion to withdraw to its original position north of the Ginowan road.

Sadowski Okinawa infantry.jpg

This photo donated to the WWII Museum by Thomas Hanlon shows the 96th infantry advancing through Okinawa – clearly in a flat area.

The 382d suffered its worst setbacks of 10 April in the center of its line. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles W. Johnson, attacked Tombstone Ridge, which dominated the ground across the entire regimental front. By 0840 Company A had seized the northern nose of the ridge, but it was stopped by small-arms fire from the steep slopes of the ridge and by heavy artillery and mortar fire. Colonel Johnson then swung Companies B and C around west of Kaniku for an assault on the ridge from the northwest. The Japanese were unusually quiet while Companies B and C advanced to the crest, but shortly afterward they delivered a 15-minute concentration of mortar and artillery fire, at the conclusion of which they swarmed out of pillboxes, trenches, and caves.

A furious struggle followed. From the reverse slope of Tombstone machine guns opened up on the Americans at almost point-blank range. The Americans used portable flame throwers, but the Japanese brought forward flame throwers of their own.

Sadowski flamethrower

Soldier using a flame thrower.

Spigot mortar shells burst on the hill. Colonel Johnson, who had previously extricated Company A from its deadlocked position on the north of Tombstone, now committed it on the right (southwest) of the other two companies. It was of no avail. On the northeast flank, now open, the Japanese overran a machine-gun position; only one man was able to escape. The American troops on the right made a few more yards in a desperate effort to gain a firm foothold on the ridge. By 1415 it was obvious to Colonel Johnson that further attack would be fruitless, and he secured permission from regiment to pull out of the fire-swept area. The men made an orderly retreat to high ground north of Kaniku. More spigot mortar fire fell during the withdrawal, but the troops remained calm; they were “too tired to give a damn.”

Sadowski Spigot

WWII Spigot Mortar, an anti-tank device known as the Blacker Bombard.

The abortive attacks of the 382d Infantry on 10 April were its last attempts to move forward until the Corps’ offensive opened on 19 April.

On 11 and 12 April this regiment, like the 7th Division to the east, mopped up small bypassed.

On April 13th: The attack on the 32d and 184th Infantry was not in regimental strength, as planned. Two infiltration attempts by about a squad each were repulsed by the 184th before midnight. Two squads also attacked the 3d Battalion of the 382d Infantry, just to the west of the 184th, and a savage fight ensued, during which an American private killed a Japanese officer with his bare hands, but the enemy did not follow through with this assault. While groups of two or three tried to infiltrate behind the 7th Division front, the only attack of any weight came shortly after midnight against Company G of the 184th. By the light of flares it discovered to its front from thirty to forty-five Japanese, carrying rifles and demolitions; the company opened fire and sent the enemy running for the cover of caves and trenches. Perhaps, as Colonel Yahara later said, the 22d Regiment, which was not familiar with this part of the island as was the 62d Division, was bewildered by the terrain and became too broken up for a coordinated attack. Perhaps another change of plans further weakened the enemy’s attack on the east. Possibly the 22d Regiment moved by design or by chance to the west and ended by taking part in the attacks on the 96th Division.

The assault on the 96th was heavy, sustained, and well organized. The enemy artillery and mortar preparation began promptly at 1900 as planned and continued in heavy volume until about midnight, when it lifted over the center of the division line. Japanese in groups ranging from platoon (about 50) to company size (about 200), with radio communications to their own command posts, began to infiltrate in strength into the American lines in the general area between Kakazu Ridge and Tombstone Ridge. (See Map No. XIII and also this map.)

On April 12-14th, the three Battalions of the 382nd were shown by blue lines, with the Japanese in red, in this section of Map XIII above. Regardless of which Battalion Frank was embedded with, he was in the midst of this Hell.

Sadowski 382 map.png

The 96th Division front in the area under attack was thinly held by the 382d and 383d Regiments. There was a large bulge in the lines where the 382d had been held up by strong enemy positions in the Nishibaru Kaniku Tombstone Ridge area. A series of fire fights broke out as the Japanese closed with elements of the 382d strung along Highway 5 and with troops of the 383d just west of the highway. Troops of the 2d Battalion, 383d Infantry, saw a group of sixty soldiers coming down the highway in a column of twos. Thinking they were troops of the 382d, the 383d let twenty of them through before realizing that they were Japanese; then it opened fire and killed most of the enemy group. At 0100 the 2d Battalion of the 382d, calling for artillery fire, repulsed an attack by a group estimated as of company strength. Although troops of the two regiments in this sector killed at least a hundred Japanese during the night, a number of the enemy managed to make their way into the Ginowan area. Japanese proved to be the only ones who attained any measure of success in the entire offensive of 12-13 April.

Sadowski 382 map 2.png

This map reports the movements of April 6-15; the movements of April 15th shown by dots with the heavy hashed lines indicating their positions as of 4 PM. The 382-1 marched to the east of Kaniku and the 382-2, if I’m understanding this correctly, marched directly to the west of Kaniku. Regardless of who moved exactly where, Frank was in one of these units that surrounded Kaniku along Tombstone Ridge and where he would remain until the 19th.

Sadowski 382 map 2 legend.png

Given those movements, it looks like Frank was fighting someplace in the area triangulated by the red arrows, probably near the upper arrow.

Sadowski 382 map April 15.png

The government report on the 19th, the day Frank died, reports the following:

Sadowski 382 history 7.png

Based on this verbiage and the report from the 20th, Frank died taking Tombstone Ridge. Mop up probably meant not only removing the Japanese, but also assisting our injured soldiers and removing our dead.

Sadowski 382 history 8.pngSadowski 382 history 9.png

The gorge above, is likely the area just north of Kaniku where the river cuts through the ridge.

Sadowski Tombstone gorge.png

The description of April 19thon this page, including a few photos, tells us a little more:

Meanwhile the 96th Division was attacking with the 382d Regiment on the left (east) and the 381st on the right (west). The 382d Infantry had the task of taking Tombstone Ridge and the Tanabaru Escarpment; the 381st, that of seizing Nishibaru Ridge and the Urasoe-Mura Escarpment beyond. The 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, on the division right at the saddle between Kakazu and Nishibaru Ridges, was a mile ahead of the division left. Facing the 96th in the Kaniku-Nishibaru sector, the 12th Independent Infantry Battalion, which had absorbed the depleted 14th Independent Infantry Battalion, defended the center. It had the 1st Light Machine Gun Battalion attached, and altogether numbered about 1,200 men.

On the left, the 2d Battalion of the 382d Infantry moved out at 0640 and began occupying the series of small hills to the front, only a few of which were held by the enemy. Sniper and mortar fire from the Rocky Crags on the left was a source of trouble and caused casualties. A few spots of resistance developed but were easily overcome. At one point a Japanese popped out of a small roadside cave and satchel-charged the lead tank of a column; by a strange quirk the tank toppled over against the hole and closed it. The road was now effectively blocked to the other tanks. A few scattered grenade fights took place but did not prevent a gain of 800 yards on the division’s left.

Immediately to the right there was no opposition to the advance of the 1st Battalion until Company C on the left and Company A on the right started a pincer move against the northern tip of Tombstone Ridge, so named because of the large number of burial tombs on either side. About seventy-five feet high and half a mile long, it was the dominating terrain feature of the vicinity.

Sadowski Tombstone half mile.jpg

On this contemporary map, the red broken arrow in the lower right hand corner marks 500 feet, so the combination of red arrows above marks a half mile, roughly 2500 feet. The information about the ridge elsewhere says that it runs northeast to southwest, and we know there is a gully marking the northern end, which is likely the river.

The current location of the area known as Kaniku, which is probably close to but possibly not the exact same location as the village in 1945, is marked with a red star. The Ginowan Road is the curved road to the north of the star where foliage today overlays a tunnel under the Ginowan road.

Frank and the soldiers had unknowingly walked into a trap.

As soon as the two companies moved forward the Japanese positions on the ridge broke their silence. Company C was stopped on the east side by machine-gun and mortar fire, Company A on the west side by grenades. Artillery and tank fire was brought on the position to neutralize it. At noon Company A charged up the west slope only to find that it could neither stay on top nor go down the other side. The company commander was killed on the crest. In the midst of this action a supporting tank was lost to a 47-mm. antitank gun. At the end of the day the 1st Battalion held only a precarious position across the northwest nose of the ridge and along a portion of the west slope. The crest was nowhere tenable and the east side was wholly in the hands of the Japanese. Though Tombstone Ridge was unimposing from a distance, it harbored a maze of mutually supporting underground positions that opened on either face and made it a formidable strong point.

Sadowski April 19 Tombstone Ridge.jpg

You can see in the above excerpt from Map 23 that the 382nd in blue was pressing south and the Japanese, in red, were entrenched on Tombstone Ridge. Given that Frank died, these troop movements might suggest that he was fighting in the 1/382.

April 19th could well be described as the worst, bloodiest, most difficult battle of the war on Okinawa – aside from the fact that Frank was killed.

This next section of the government report is very telling – 43% of their men, almost half, has been killed or wounded. An utterly horrific day from which no soldier would emerge unchanged.

Sadowski 382 history 10.png

By noon on the 24th, the top of Tombstone Ridge has been reached by all Battalions. Frank would have been proud. His body probably lay someplace on that ridge where his blood had been spilled and his lifeblood seeped into the earth by the Okinawan tombs.

Sadowski 382 history 11.png

The 382nd went on to move south until the end of June when the island was once again swept for final cleanup.

Sadowski 382 history 12.png

The end of the report contains statistics about equipment and rounds of ammunition in addition to a summary of the Japanese defenses and why they were so costly in terms of American lives. In essence, the Japanese dug into the natural terrain, taking advantage of caves, causing the Americans to literally fight an uphill battle in terribly difficult terrain that offered a great deal of camouflage to the Japanese.

Sadowski 382 history 13.pngSadowski 382 history 14.png

One interesting comment was that on Okinawa, “there has been a noticeable decrease in infectious hepatitis which has assumed epidemic proportions during the rehabilitation period on Leyte and aboard ship enroute to this target.”

This commentary about insects is telling as well and may provide a significant clue as to what happened to Frank’s body.

Sadowski 382 history 15.png

Their recommendation was also to increase the medical detachment to 36 from 32 men. It was noted elsewhere that the medical detachment experienced much higher mortality rates than the regular troops.

In the section about enemy tactics, we find further information. Note that blue means US troops and red, Japanese.

Sadowski 382 history 16.pngSadowski 382 history 17.png

The Japanese soldier’s apparent expectation and welcoming of death seemed to make them appear fearless. The US soldier may have won the battle, but clearly, they respected the character of the Japanese soldiers.

Sadowski 382 history 19.png

Near the end, a summary of the losses was included.

Sadowski 382 history 20.png

I didn’t realize that this area is only comprised of 6.3 square miles. That’s not much. 380 Americans killed, 1997 wounded and 11 missing means that we sacrificed 60.32 men for every square mile. There are 640 acres in a square mile, so we gave one life for every 10.61 acres and a man was wounded or killed for every 1.69 acres. If you include Japanese casualties, there were bodies everyplace – literally 2.54 Japanese dead per acre, in addition to the American casualties. No wonder they had problems with retrieving bodies, burials and flies. I would wager that the caves and existing tombs provided a fortuitous ready-made solution.

Sadowski 382 history 21.png

We won, and Frank’s service certainly helped to achieve that.

But Frank lost, making the ultimate sacrifice.

Frank’s Remains

Truthfully, I expected a much higher American casualty count. This makes me wonder if indeed Frank’s body could have been initially missing and since no Japanese were left on the island except for prisoners, that’s how it was determined that Frank was in fact dead. In other words, there were no American POWs from this battle. Was Frank’s body found later? Is that why his grave marker was ordered almost 4 years later?

That report caused me to wonder if the rest of the men killed were shipped home and buried right away, so I checked. I discovered that Thomas Beeman’s military headstone was ordered in February 1949, just before Frank’s was ordered. I checked another man who was listed as killed in November 1944 and his military headstone was ordered in October of 1948. This looks like a pattern.

Was Frank already laid to rest, and the headstone just ordered later for some reason?

I called All Saints Cemetery in Chicago where Frank is buried and they informed me that Frank was actually buried on March 23rd, 1949, the day his marker was ordered. They have no further information except that he was killed in action. They don’t know where his body was shipped from, nor do they have an obituary nor funeral home information.

Where was Frank’s body for almost 4 years?

You will note that the events of the day Frank was killed are vague and later, reports said that the battle and terrain were so rough that they were unable to retrieve either our men or the Japanese for burial.

Given the description of what happened beginning April 10th, I wonder if Frank actually was killed on April 19th, or if that was when they recorded his death and that it actually occurred a few days before in the fighting.

Was Frank’s body actually recovered? If it was, does Frank’s body rest someplace in Okinawa? Was he either buried there, or not found and actually not buried? So many questions. Are there any answers at all? Not in Frank’s file, that’s for sure, but maybe elsewhere?

In an article by Ian Michael Spurgeon in the publication, Army History in the winter of 2017, titled, “The Fallen of Operation Iceberg,” the name for the Okinawan invasion, Michael discussed the burials of the men killed during this period:

The US Army moved across Okinawa in a steady, but bloody, march. Though successful, the campaign cost the lives of more than 12,000 Americans. By 1945, after nearly 4 years of operational experience in the Pacific, the US efforts to recover those killed in action – called graves registration activities – were at their wartime peak. Usually American forces rapidly evacuated most casualties for treatment or burial behind the front lines. As a result, over 95% of those killed in ground fighting were recovered and identified. However, the intensity of the fighting on Okinawa as well as the poor weather resulted in the loss of identification material for many remains. They became the unknown soldiers of Operation Iceberg.

Spurgeon goes on to say that specific platoons were tasked with collecting the dead which were to be brought down from battlefield positions to collection points where men retrieved the bodies and the balance of the platoon processed the dead elsewhere. Sometimes due to this practice, the deceased soldiers bodies were actually separated in the records from the location where they were killed.

On April 10th, these soldiers tasked with removing the bodies found themselves in the midst of the fighting among the 96th Infantry division.

This page shows the hills on Okinawa honeycombed with caves and dugouts. Perhaps this was Tombstone Ridge.

Sadowski Okinawa tomb 2

Taken by “photolibrarian”

The photo above of a large sacred tomb cave taken by “photolibrarian” on Kadena Air Base illustrates that tombs, some quite large, were concealed in caves and often camouflaged. These tombs held the bones of generations of ancestors and were revered in Okinawan families. You can read more about those traditions here.

Below that photo, we see the 96th Division Cemetery of Okinawa.

Sadowski Okinawa 96th cemetery.jpg

The above photo taken in 1945 of the entrance to the 96th Division Cemetery, where Frank was probably initially laid to rest, was donated to the National WWII Museum by Charles Reed.

Sadowski 96th cemetery crosses.jpg

This photo of the cemetery from June 1945 with its rows of stark white crosses was donated by Thomas Hanlon.

The article goes on to say that the bodies were to be delivered as soon as possible to the nearest military service cemetery. Due to the climate, injuries and terrain, not all bodies were complete or in good condition and some soldiers were not buried intact.

While the wooden white cross markers in these photos appear to be orderly and graves individual, that’s not exactly the case as shown in this YouTube video where servicemen are being buried in the 96th Division Cemetery during WWII. Bulldozers cleared trenches and canvas-wrapped bodies, men still wearing their boots, were buried in mass graves, side by side in long orderly rows with their fallen brethren, where their remains were covered by hand with shovels. White crosses were placed in rows above the graves.

As best I can tell based on the map in the article, the 96th Infantry Cemetery was located someplace close to the star on the map, below.

Sadowski 96th cemetery.jpg

These cemeteries were intended to be temporary, until the end of the war, and battlefield burials were discouraged.

In December 1945, the War Department began the process of removing and returning fallen Americans to their homes from across the world. On Okinawa, remains of servicemen were scattered over rough terrain and found in isolated areas. American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) investigation teams recovered few remains from the battlefields since most of the remains had already been removed and buried. Civilians often found remains before teams arrived.

In July 1947, AGRS established a mobile identification laboratory in Okinawa where disinternment teams removed remains from graves and all identification material buried with them. They looked for the original report buried alongside the remains, in a bottle or other weather-proof vessel, and compared it with the cemetery records. Remains were then transferred to tables and examined for decomposition, bones, damage, teeth to be compared with dental records, personal effects and ID tags. After positive identification, the remains were then reburied for later transfer.

In March 1948, the AGRS ordered the relocation of more than 9000 remains from Okinawa to a processing laboratory on Saipan where they were stored in a temporary mausoleum at Naha. In the end, of more than 10,000 burials, only 203 sets of remains remain unidentified in 2017.

It sounds like Frank was buried several times; initially in the 96th Cemetery, reburied waiting for shipment, then interred in a mausoleum at Naha, next shipped home on a refrigerated vessel, likely sent by train to Chicago and finally buried one last time in All Saints Cemetery. That’s a long nearly 4-year final journey no one knew about.

Curtis mentioned that Frank’s father had a difficult time getting Frank’s body shipped home. This article explains why. It doesn’t say how long the remains stayed in Naha, but I browsed through several Headstone Applications for Military Veterans killed in April 1945 in Okinawa, and nearly all of those headstones were ordered in the same timeframe as Frank’s, so it appears that Frank arrived home about a year after his body was sent to Naha.

Soldiers cards marked as “nonrecoverable” had headstones ordered in 1960 which gives me at least some confidence that Frank’s body is actually buried in his grave in All Saints Cemetery in Chicago.

Assuming that Frank’s body did make a final journey home inside that casket, we also know that part of him remains in the earth on Tombstone Ridge as well as in soil of the long-defunct 96th Cemetery.

In reality, I don’t think where Frank’s actual body is matters now, because whether any part or all of Frank’s remains came home in that wooden box, his grave celebrates his life, honors his sacrifice and provided at least some modicum of closure for his family. Not only that, Frank’s grave served as inspiration for Bert and will continue by its very existance to stand as a silent sentry, whispering encouragement to others for decades to come.


My biggest disappointment is that while the unit report detailed who received medals of honor for the earlier battle on the Island of Leyte, it doesn’t include that information for Okinawa, the battle in which Frank died.

Margie, Frank’s sister, indicated than he posthumously received an award for “bravery under fire.” Mom told me that he died trying to save another soldier on the battlefield. I’m presuming of course that a family member told Mom that. She would have no other way to know.

Frank would have worn a Combat Medic Badge based on his assignment.

Sadowski combat medic badge.jpg

Frank’s Purple Heart medal to which he was unquestionably entitled may have disappeared over time, but I found one that I’m awarding him by proxy, right here and now.

Sadowski purple heart.jpg

Sadowski Purple Heart award.jpg

If Frank was awarded a Bronze Star, which would have been for “heroic or meritorious achievement or service,” it could also have included a “V” for valor.

Sadowski bronze star.jpg

I was unable to determine what medals Frank was awarded, or why. If any of you have any idea how I might make that discovery, I’m all ears.


Unless new information comes to light, I feel that I’m closing this final chapter of Frank’s story, at least the portion that I can tell. You never know, Frank might not be finished quite yet😊

He seems to be quite a character!

Frank died in 1945, was later laid to rest, a few times apparently, then brought back to life by the combined efforts of many people (plus fate) in order that his story have a heartbeat of its own.

Bert ring hand.JPG

I take comfort knowing that Frank is with Mom and that his ring is with Bert where I feel with all my heart that both he and Mom would unquestionably want it to live on.

After all, it’s within the Sadowski family that Frank will be fondly remembered, his story told and retold to future generations, having become not the famed doctor, but instead a courageous legendary hero, his memory bathed forever in the colors of our flag.

Gone, but never, ever, forgotten.

Sadowski flag.jpg

DNA Inherited from Grandparents and Great-Grandparents

Philip Gammon, our statistician friend has been working with crossover simulations again in order to tell us what we might expect relative to how much DNA we actually inherit from grandparents and great-grandparents.

We know that on average, we’re going to inherit 25% of our DNA from each grandparent – but we also know in reality that’s not what happens. We get more or less than exactly 25% from each person in a grandparent pair. It’s the total of the DNA of both grandparents that adds up to 50% for the couple.

How does this work, and does it make a difference whether we inherit our grandparent’s DNA through males or females?

Philip has answers for us as a result of his simulations.

DNA Inheritance from Grandparents

Philip Gammon:

When we consider the DNA that we inherit from our ancestors the only quantity that we can be certain of is that we receive half of our autosomal DNA from each parent. This is delivered to us in the form of the 22 segments (i.e. chromosomes) provided by our mothers in the ova and the 22 segments/chromosomes provided by our fathers in the sperm cell. Beyond parent-child relationships we tend to talk about averages. For instance, we receive an average of one quarter of our DNA from each of our four grandparents and an average of one-eighth of our DNA from each of our eight great-grandparents etc.

These figures vary because our parents didn’t necessarily pass on to us equal portions of the DNA that they received from their parents. The level of variation is driven by the number (and location) of crossover events that occur when the ova and the sperm cells are created.

The statistics relevant to the recombination process were discussed in detail in a previous article (Crossovers: Frequency and Inheritance Statistics – Male Versus Female Matters). With the availability these days of abundant real data from direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies (such as the 23andMe data utilised by Campbell et. al. in their paper titled “Escape from crossover interference increases with maternal age”) we can use this information as a basis for simulations that accurately mimic the crossover process. From these simulations we can measure the amount of variation that is expected to be observed in the proportions of DNA inherited from our ancestors. This is precisely what I have done in simulations run on my GAT-C model.

Before looking at the simulation results let’s anticipate what we expect to see. The previous article on crossover statistics revealed that there are an average of about 42 crossovers in female meiosis and about 27 in male meiosis. So, on the set of 22 chromosomes received from our mothers there will have been an average of 42 crossover locations where there was a switch between DNA she inherited from one parent to the other. That means that the DNA we inherit from our maternal grandparents typically comes in about 64 segments, but it won’t necessarily be 32 segments from each maternal grandparent. Chromosomes that experienced an odd number of crossovers contain an even number of segments (half originating from the grandmother, the other half from the grandfather) but chromosomes with an even number of crossovers (or zero!) have an odd number of segments so on these chromosomes you must receive one more segment from one grandparent than the other. And of course not all segments are the same size either. A single crossover occurring close to one end of the chromosome results in a small segment from one grandparent and a large segment from the other. All up there are quite a few sources of variation that can affect the amount of DNA inherited from grandparents. The only certainty here is that the amount inherited from the two maternal grandparents must add to 50%. If you inherit more than the average of 25% from one maternal grandparent that must be offset by inheriting less than 25% from the other maternal grandparent.

Gammon grandparents maternal percent.png

The above chart shows the results of 100,000 simulation runs. Excluding the bottom and top 1% of results, 98% of people will receive between 18.7% and 31.3% of their DNA from a maternal grandparent. The more darkly shaded region in the centre shows the people who receive a fairly even split of between 24% and 26% from the maternal grandparents. Only 28.8% of people are in this region and the remainder receive a less even contribution.

On the set of 22 chromosomes received from fathers there will have been an average of around 27 crossovers so the DNA received from the paternal grandparents has only been split into around 49 segments. It’s the same amount of DNA as received from mothers but just in larger chunks of the grandparent’s DNA. This creates greater opportunity for the father to pass on unequal amounts of DNA from the two grandparents so it would be expected that results from paternal inheritance will show more variation than from maternal inheritance.

Gammon grandparents paternal percent.png

The above chart shows the results of 100,000 simulated paternal inheritance events. They are more spread out than the maternal events with the middle 98% of people receiving between 16.7% and 33.3% of their DNA from a paternal grandparent. Only 21.9% of people receive a fairly even split of between 24% and 26% from each paternal grandparent as shown by the more darkly shaded region in the centre.

Gammon grandparents percent cM.png

To help with the comparison between maternal and paternal inheritance from grandparents the two distributions have been overlayed on the same scale in the chart above. And what are the chances of receiving a fairly even split of grandparents DNA from both your mother and your father? Only 6.3% of people can be expected to inherit an amount of between 24% and 26% of their DNA from all four grandparents.

Now I’ll extend the simulations out to the next generation and examine the variation in proportions of DNA inherited from the eight great-grandparents. There are effectively four groups of great-grandparents:

  • Mother’s maternal grandparents
  • Mother’s paternal grandparents
  • Father’s maternal grandparents
  • Father’s paternal grandparents

The DNA from group 1 has passed to you via two maternal recombination events, from your mother’s mother to your mother, then from your mother to you. On average there would have been 42 crossovers in each of these recombination events. Group 4 comprised two paternal recombination events averaging only 27 crossovers in each. The average amount of DNA received along each path is the same but along the group 1 path it would comprise of more numerous smaller segments than the group 4 path. Groups 2 and 3 would be somewhere between, both consisting of one maternal and one paternal recombination event.

Gammon greatgrandparents percent cM.png

The above chart shows the variation in the amount of DNA received from members of the four groups of great-grandparents. 25,000 simulations were performed. The average amount from any great-grandparent is 12.5% but there can be considerably more variation in the amount received from the father’s paternal grandparents than from the mother’s maternal grandparents. Groups 2 and 3 are between these two extremes and are equivalent. It doesn’t matter whether a paternal recombination follows a maternal one or vice versa – the end result is that both paths consist of the same average number of crossovers.

The table below shows the range in the amount of DNA that people receive from their great-grandparents. The bottom and top 1% of outcomes have been excluded. Note that these are based on a total of 3,418 cM for the 22 autosomes which is the length observed in the Campbell et. al. study. The average of 12.5% of total DNA is 854.5 cM:

Group 1st percentile 99th percentile
Mother’s maternal grandparents 522 cM 1219 cM
Mother’s paternal grandparents 475 cM 1282 cM
Father’s maternal grandparents 475 cM 1281 cM
Father’s paternal grandparents 426 cM 1349 cM

As a matter of interest, in each of the 25,000 simulations the amount of DNA received from the eight great-grandparents were sorted into order from the highest cM to the lowest cM. The averages of each of these eight amounts were then calculated and the results are below:

Gammon greatgrandparents average cM.png

On average, a person receives 1,129 cM from the great-grandparent that they inherited the most of their DNA from and only 600 cM from the great-grandparent that they received the least of their DNA from. But none of us are the result of 25,000 trials – we are each the product of recombination events that occurred once only. The above chart shows the average or typical variation in the amount of DNA received from the eight great-grandparents. Half of people will have experienced more variation than shown above and half of people will have experienced less variation.

Could you have received the same amount of DNA from all eight grandparents? Of course, it is possible, but it turns out that it is extremely unlikely. The average is 12.5% (854.5 cM) so anything between 12% (820.4 cM) and 13% (888.7 cM) could be considered as being close to this figure. The results reveal that this did not occur in any of the 25,000 simulations. Not one person received amounts between 12% and 13% from all eight great-grandparents.

Widening the criteria, I observe that there were 13 instances in the 25,000 simulations where people received between 11.5% and 13.5% of their DNA from all eight great-grandparents. That is still an extremely rare occurrence. Expanding the range further to between 11% and 14% saw a total of 126 instances, but this still only represents about half a percent of all observations. I think that we just have to face the fact that unless we are an extremely rare individual then we will not have inherited close to equal amounts of DNA from our eight great-grandparents.

Now, back to Roberta.

Thanks Philip.

Now we see why we might not inherit the same amount of DNA from our grandparents and great-grandparents.

We Don’t Have Equal Numbers of Matches on Tree Branches

This also might explain, at least in part, why people don’t have the same number of DNA matches on each branch of their tree.

Of course, other reasons include:

  • Uneven family sizes
  • Fewer or more cousins testing on different branches
  • Recent immigration meaning there are few people available to test
  • Family from a region where DNA testing and/or genealogy is not popular
  • Endogamy which dramatically increases the number of people you will match

Real Life Example

In our real-life example, two grandchildren are fortunate to have three grandparents and one great-grandparent available for matching.

For comparison purposes, let’s take a look at how many matches each grandchild has in common with their grandparents and great-grandparent.

The line of descent is as follows:

Gammon line of descent.png

Both end of line testers are female children.

The transmission path from their great-grandmother is:

  • Female to their paternal grandmother
  • Female to their father
  • Male to female tester

The transmission path from their maternal grandfather is:

  • Male to their mother
  • Female to female tester

The transmission path from their maternal grandmother is:

  • Female to their mother
  • Female to female tester

This first chart shows the number of common matches.

Matches Grand 1 Grand 2 GGF GGM Grand 3 Grand 4
Female 1 absent 1061 absent 238 529 1306
Female 2 absent 1225 absent 431 700 1064

It’s interesting that the matches in just 3 generations to the great-grandmother vary by 55%. The second tester has almost twice as many matches in common with her great-great-grandmother as she does the first tester. There a difference in the earlier generation, meaning matches to Grand 2, but only about 23%. That difference increased significantly in one generation.

The second chart shows the total number of matching cM with the matching family member.

Total cM Grand 1 Grand 2 GGF GGM Grand 3 Grand 4
Female 1 absent 1688 absent 713 1601 1818
Female 2 absent 1750 absent 852 1901 1511

We can see that the amount of DNA inherited from a grandparent does correlate with the number of matches to that grandparents. The more DNA shared, of course the better the chances of sharing that DNA with another person. However, multiple factors may be involved with why some people have more or fewer matches.



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What is a Quilt? – 52 Ancestors #268

Morning Star Medicine.jpg

A few weeks ago, someone from Scandinavia asked me the question, “What is a quilt?”

First, I was a bit stunned because of all the locations in the world, people in the far north need quilts more than people in warmer latitudes – so the question itself surprised me. However, when I visited Scandinavia, I realized that quilts are not nearly as popular there as in the US. There are few if any quilt shops – and apparently, judging from that question, few quilts.

Then, I began to answer the question technically. A quilt is three layers of textiles, sandwiched together.

  • The bottom layer is typically utilitarian, one piece of fabric that you won’t see became it’s face down, or against you.
  • The middle layer is something called quilt batting which is most often cotton or wool, warm and insulating, which also serves to give the top a kind of puffy effect – filling out the wrinkles a bit.
  • The top is often multiple coordinating fabrics pieced in a pattern, or artistic.

A quilt is not only warm and wonderful, but it’s beautiful too.

You can see the 3-layer sandwich and the quilting in the example below of a quilt edge waiting to be trimmed and a binding applied to secure the three layers together so it looks attractive and the layers don’t ravel.

Quilt 3 layers

The back is larger than the front and waiting to be trimmed. The batting is the white middle layer.

The quilt top itself is generally smaller pieces of fabric sewn together to create either a pattern or some type of art work as illustrated by the same quilt’s corner, shown below.

Quilt pattern.jpg

All three layers are then quilted, sewn together in a pattern which serves to hold the quilt together and is decorative at the same time. You can see the swirl pattern on this quilt which is the quilting.

Quilts serve as blankets on beds, personal napping companions, as art, or as utilitarian items like table runners, clothes and much more. I keep one in my car for picnics, emergencies and naps. My quilts have been used for almost everything over the years including animal rescue.

Quilts can be self-expressive clothing too.

Quilt DNA vest

In this photo, I’m wearing a quilted vest with a matching laptop bag. Actually, that bag’s large enough to carry half of what I own! I might have been a little bit overexuberant when I made the bag.

I dug around on my phone and showed this next example of a quilt to the person who asked. I’m particularly fond of this quilt, made out of scraps of fabric, most of which I hand-dyed myself using a marbling technique. Translated, this means I made both the fabric, except the solid red and dark grey, designed the pattern and then made the quilt. I love it because it’s bright and cheery and holds many good memories.

Losing my Marbles.jpg

This is what happens when life gives you scraps and you are losing your marbles.

My friend told me it made him dizzy. Well, this quilt, named “Losing Your Marbles,” was quite complex and kind of made me dizzy in a different way too.

Sigh. I think I failed to convert or even convince him.

A Quilt is Not About Fabric

Later, as I thought more about the question, I realized that while I gave my friend a technically accurate answer, quilts are really much more and I failed to convey the beauty behind quilts which has little to do with the fabric or pattern.

Quilts are love. Pure and simple. You don’t make a quilt for someone you don’t love.

Full stop.

Yes, there are different kinds of love, but quilts are the quintessential expression of love and caring for others.

Quilters Create Quilts, and Quilts Define Quilters

As with our ancestors, what we do defines who we are. Who we are also determines what we do. My great-grandmother who died in 1949, more than anything else, is remembered for being a quilter who graced everyone in the family with one or more lovingly hand-made quilts that have now been passed on for 3 going on 4 generations.

I just might have picked up the quilting bug from my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore (1866-1949).

Climbing vine family photo2

Nora was a quilter extraordinaire, representing the State of Indiana in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair with her Climbing Vine quilt, above. Long after her death, Mom, me and my daughter posed in front of her quilt at a quilt show.

Nora's pink and green quilt

Nora created stunning quilts that took years to complete as well as utilitarian quilts, like the pink and green hand-quilted Depression Era quilt that graced Mom’s bed for years.

Handkerchief quilt

Nora made what is now known as “The Handerchief Quilt.” This old blue “Drunkard’s Path” quilt was so loved and worn that I had to find a way to salvage it. There were literally holes, in several places, but my kids loved it so much they cried at the prospect of using it to make something else.

“You can’t cut Mawmaw’s quilt, ” they sobbed. They had know it their entire lives as their grandmother’s quilt that they used to snuggle underneath with her. Little did they know it was her grandmother, Nora, that made the quilt they so loved.

Regardless, I certainly couldn’t cut sometime that priceless to my children so a solution had to be found. I dug around in Mom’s “heritage drawer” and took some of my grandmother, Edith’s handkerchiefs to repair her mother, Nora’s quilt.

Now this quilt embodies 5 generations – Nora, the original quilter, her daugher Edith’s handkerchiefs,  then Barbara, my mother snuggled under it with her grandchildren, and I restoring the quilt to something useable. Of course, then my kids insisted I immediately put it away for safekeeping! Someday it will belong to one of them.

And so it goes, quilts embody love, being a virtual hug from the quilter every time you wrap the quilt around you. Quilts are a method of passing love on generation after generation.

Quilts are wonderful family heirlooms, even tattered old ones – but that’s not all. They are also for family-of-heart.



I was reminded of that, in spades, the day my second-mother of sorts passed away. I don’t remember ever not knowing Mrs. Larsen – Louise as I came to call her as an adult. She was our neighbor before I started school, my friends’ mother, my Girl Scout leader and then my friend. She inspired me, she disciplined me when I needed it, and sometimes when I didn’t – she was my mentor and cheerleader. She wasn’t always right, but she always cared. She was sometimes at odds with my quite conservative and strict mother, so the Larsen household was a safehaven of sorts for the neighborhood kids.

After high school, I moved away but kept in touch with Louise for decades through her family and sporadic visits. I attended her daughter’s funeral, a horribly sad day when we buried one of my best friends. Years later, I went home for another daughter’s wedding and visited with Louise when I managed to get back home, which wasn’t often. My mother moved, then died, so there was no reason to go back anymore, but I manage a last visit about a decade ago and spent time with Louise.

A few years later, Louise began to slip into dementia and moved, albeit reluctantly, in with her daughter in a distant state. Nothing was familiar and Louise was not happy.

I made a quilt for her, quickly so she could have it immediately. I included fabrics I thought she would enjoy and wrote a letter tucked into the box with the quilt saying that the floral fabrics represented the lives of the girls in her scout troop. We had bloomed from the seeds she had planted. Her daughters told me that she couldn’t remember much from the present, but she could name each of “her girls” from the Scout troop. She would reminisce and wonder what happened to each of us.

Eventually, Louise entered hospice. I knew the end was near and wished her GodSpeed through this final trial.

Louise passed over, released from the terrible burden of dementia, comforted by her quilt over these increasingly difficult four+ years as dementia consumed her.

I hope when she could no longer remember who I was, or who family was, that the flowers in the quilt still brought her solace in some deeply visceral way – even though she could not remember why. I hope she felt love when someone tucked her in or covered her with the quilt.

I hope the quilt enveloped her and helped her feel safe when no one was present. I hope the quilt served its purpose, embraced her and shepherded her to the next world.

A few hours after her passing, her daughter sent this:

She was covered with the quilt you made for her for the past week. You were with her the entire time.

I sobbed. The quilt, send on a mission of comfort and love had worked its magic.

That is what a quilt is.

And then:

I took the quilt home. It’s a family heirloom now. Thank you.

This, my friends, is why we quilt.

And now, I hope the quilt brings comfort and warm memories to her family members for many years to come.

Quilts Document Lives

As a genealogist, I’ve come to realize that quilts often document life’s journey – both for recipients as well as the quilter. You might want to read about Sarah’s Quilt, found in her estate inventory, as an example. In fact, throughout this article, all of the links tell stories that are important parts of the lives of quilters and the people who received those gifts of love.

Quilt Google Hangout Studio.jpg

I recently did a Google Hangout for WikiTree about using quilts and other forms of personal handwork as documentation, which you can watch here. As you can see, my producer, Chai, was making sure everything is in order before the hangout started. She, along with her rescue cat-sisters, help me quilt.

Why Quilt?

Quilters make quilts for many reasons – as varied as there are people and quilts. Almost any opportunity suffices!


Because a new baby is on the way.


Or has just arrived!

Then they start growing up.


You might make a quilt because you’re a grandma and your granddaughter mentions that she likes warm, fuzzy flannel.

quilt dialysis.jpg

Or to comfort a man who suffered through dialysis as single parent and unable to work while he waited for a kidney transplant that he did eventually receive, but it was touch and go for a long time. Whew!

quilt cousin husband death.jpg

Because your cousin and genealogy buddy’s husband passed away, so you take some scraps from a quilt you made for yourself, assemble it into a quilt overnight, quilt it and have it to her in another state within a week. Who needs sleep? It’s overrated!

quilt castle 2.jpg

When your granddaughter wants a “princess castle.” Note this is a card table cover with an adult doing something on top of the table.

quilt Netherlands.jpg

As a gift to celebrate a trip to the Netherlands with, and the retirement of my cousin, Cheryl, with whom I share the Dutch Ferwerda (Ferverda, Fervida) ancestral line and a lot of Frisian DNA. This quilt is so full of symbolism. Delft blue, Netherlands orange, tulips, windmills and more.

Ferverda windmill.jpg

Cheryl and I visiting “our” family windmill, above, discovered by ace Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink.

Quilt Dutch Yvette.jpg

And yes, Yvette received a quilt too during my next visit. We’ve become fast friends. I keep waiting for Yvette to discover that we’re related. Hurry up, Yvette!

quilt friendship.jpg

You might make a quilt as a going away gift (sniffle) for a dear friend who moved (too) far away. This friendship quilt was made by several people, each adding a row with personal meaning for our dear friend. The cats helped!

Quilt Friendship center.jpg

The center of the friendship quilt is embroidered with “You never really leave a place you love. Part of it you will take with you and part of you will be left behind.”

The bordering row is photos of our quilt group and memories that we shared. This quilt has been passed on to the next generation now, as a healing care quilt gifted with love.

Quilt Dave.jpg

I made this quilt for my long-haul truck-driver brother to use in his rig. Yes, that’s Dave, my brother who wasn’t my brother, but I couldn’t have loved him more. DNA isn’t everything. (Did that really come out of my mouth???)

crane quilt 2.JPG

After my brother who was my brother, John, and my brother who wasn’t my brother, Dave, both passed away (a few months apart no less), I adopted another brother, John. So yes, I really do have my brother John and my other brother John, who has now survived cancer! John lived in Japan and sent me Japanese kimono fabric, part of which I turned into his care quilt during his chemo. Cranes have a special healing significance in Japanese culture, believed to live for a thousand years and referred to as the “bird of happiness.”


My daughter loves shoes and handbags! This one is titled “Diva’s Dreams.” You should see what’s on the back. No, I’m not showing.


Lifetime achievement awards honoring the lifework of Max Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan establishing the genetic genealogy industry.

Quilt DNA me.jpg

Of course, then I wanted a DNA quilt for myself too. And before you ask, sorry, this is not a published pattern but is similar to a free pattern published by “In The Beginning” fabrics. Unfortunately, since the DNA/science fabric is no longer available, neither is the pattern…but you can always try and ask them for a copy.

Quilt England.jpg

This quilt was made for cousin to celebrate a trip together to the homeland of our Speak and Bowling ancestors in Lancashire, England, spending time in London on the way, of course. What fun we had and memories we made!

Quilt Eagle veteran.jpg

Thank you to a veteran for their service. Again, no pattern. I charted this out on graph paper. I’d like to make another one for myself. So many quilts needing to be made, so little time.

Quilt English tea.jpg

One might make a quilt to relive wonderful memories of a trip to England, represented by lovely English flowers. Never mind that my spouse left me stranded in London. I found a quilt shop to self-medicate with fabric and make myself feel better. I also learned a few new words in the process.

In Gisburn, the village of my Speak family ancestors, we found a lovely tea shop, represented in the four corners by teapots, of course.


For the unborn child of a woman whose firefighter husband was intentionally targeted, run down and killed while participating in the volunteer “Fill-the-Boot” program for Muscular Dystrophy – as she was pregnant with their first child. Worse yet, she was the nurse on duty in the emergency room where her husband was taken after he was hit.

Talk about your worst nightmare. I still shudder to think about this. Many of the care quilts I make are for people who need hope or comfort – or maybe just a hug and reminder that there is love in this world.

Quilt frozen.jpg

Because somebody’s doll needed a “Frozen” quilt. How could I resist this face?

Quilt floral window.jpg

When you need to make a “ garden window” for a friend’s mother who was diagnosed with cancer in the fall and was afraid that she wouldn’t live to see the next spring. She lived to greet several more springtimes.


To say thank you to a wonderful benefactor for funding an archaeological dig.

I absolutely love this quilt! It’s a good thing I made it “for” someone specific or it would never have left my house.

Quilt Pink Panther.jpg

Because your granddaughter loves the Pink Panther and wants to live in Paris.

Always support the dreams of young people! They will be the ones to bring you fabric in your elder years. Someday I’ll explain to her how difficult this multicolor sawtooth block border was to design and construct.

Oh yes, and her doll needed a matching Paris quilt too.


For a police officer shot and nearly killed in the line of duty while responding a domestic dispute in process. His partner was killed that night, in cold blood, by the same perpetrator, a felon previously convicted of murder. I met this quilt’s recipient quite by accident a few years later. A friend and the granddaughters helped.

Quilt sunflower wedding.jpg

As a wedding gift for a lovely couple where sunflowers were the theme.

Quilt Nativity.jpg

This amazing quilt was a thank you to a wonderful friend whose generosity I could never repay. This is one of my all-time favorite quilts and if I didn’t love him so much, I would have kept it and sent him something else.

I believe that when you make something “for” someone, it must go to them. I create with “intention” and thoughtful focused positive energy – so it would not be right for the quilt to go elsewhere. In essence, it would be “quilt cheating.”

In rare cases where the person passes over before I can finish a care quilt that I was making for them, I ask the family if they would like to have the quilt or would like for me to pass it on to another special person who needs a care quilt.

Quilt ocean sunrise.jpg

This cheery quilt hopefully eased the ravages of chemo by allowing the recipient to take his mind elsewhere – to the ocean. The amazing center seascape fabric was painted by Mickey Lawler. Another quilt I loved.

Quilt purple.jpg

Just because you love purple is a great reason to make a quilt. I originally created this for myself, but then…someone else needed it more than me, so it’s on a journey of its own. I birthed it, but it was not mine to steward. Maybe I’ll make another one and see if I can manage to keep the next one😊

Quilt retirement.jpg

To celebrate a public safety officer’s retirement, where he can finally be safe. Thank God!

That officer is my son, and I sewed patches from his uniforms in the 4 blue corners after I gave him the quilt. It was a very long career for a police officer’s mother to endure. I tried not to worry, but there was just no helping myself. Now he’s on to act two and I hope to live long enough to make him a retirement quilt from his second career!


A cheerful quilt for a family member to celebrate life’s fun moments. The recipient participates in triathlons and the family takes the quilt along for picnics.

Quilt Outside the Box.jpg

Feeling creative with scraps and “thinking outside the box.” This wall hanging is about 5 feet tall.

Quilt One Block Wonder.jpg

As a housewarming gift for my daughter. I love her a lot, because I made this quilt for me!😊 Now I get to enjoy it at her house where it was obviously meant to live because it’s absolutely perfect there.

Quilt rose.jpg

A rose quilt for my son-in-law’s grandmother when she became ill. She loved pink and roses.

Quilt Grandma apron.jpg

After Grandma passed over, I made this memory quilt featuring spare fabric from her rose quilt, other fabrics to commemorate her interests, a couple sweatshirt fronts including a turkey at the top made by her grandchildren along with Grandma’s apron that she made and wore every Christmas holiday to make special cookies – for as long as my son-in-law can remember. The brown border fabric is St. Louis arch fabric to celebrate good memories.

Not all quilts are made for humans, however.

Quilt Ellie.jpg

Ellie, my grandpuppy had a “baby quilt” that I made the week my daughter rescued her and she was living with me because my daughter then left for vacation. We bonded.

A year or so later, Ellie rescued another fur-family member.

Quilt couch cover.jpg

One might make a quilt as a couch cover. (Ok, truth – I gave this to my grandpuppies who loved it…to death.)

Quilt girls.jpg

Then, they received their own “dog quilts.” They love them, especially when grandma comes over to babysit when they don’t feel well and snuggle with them. (What do you mean by, “are they spoiled?”)


As a memory quilt for a father whose son died a tragic, long, painful death, the result of a drunk driver who hit his car head on. I officiated at the funeral of this young man. Heartbreaking is an understatement. So many lives destroyed and others indelibly changed.


And another quilt for the mother of that same son. I hope these quilts brought them more peace than sadness. Each parent chose the items they wanted in their individual quilts. All of the fabric in the front of both quilts is from the son’s clothing. Knowing the family well, these quilts were extremely difficult for me as the quiltmaker.

This next quilt, on the other hand, was a lot of fun! You might recognize this as the Texas state flag.

Quilt Texas.jpg

I made this quilt for my good friend, Janine, who is a proud 5th generation Texan, loves Texas, and we have such wonderful memories together.

Quilt Texas icons.jpg

Quilted with boots and other Texas symbols.


With NASCAR fabric on the back, because Janine is an awesome reporter on the NASCAR circuit.


Gifted to her as a surprise alongside a Texas road one spring day taking photographs together when the bluebonnets were blooming. What wonderful memories we’ve made and continue to make!

I kept hoping Janine and I would discover that we are cousins! It finally happened along with a DNA match. Viva genealogy!!!


A wall-hanging made for my mother to celebrate her dancing career, titled “Stars Over Broadway,” made from ribbons Mom won for crocheting and other handwork at various state and county fairs. Mom was an incredible multi-talented lady.

This quilt is also nicknamed, “Never Again” as it fought me every step of the way and was much more difficult than it looks due to the intertwined custom “dancing” design and the unforgiving nature of the ribbons.


This is what happens when your husband mentions that he wants a table cover for his ham radio work. Yes, that is printed circuit board fabric! Electronics is his passion and he loves his geeky quilt!

Quilt Apollo.png

Said husband and I made this quilt together on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing to celebrate that historic day that inspired Jim to enter the world of electronics. One day that choice would allow him to contribute to the Mars Insight project – 50 years later.

And look, they found the cat that jumped over the moon. Who knew?


When your quilt-sister helps you finish the quilt (at her son’s house) because your brother (John) had just been diagnosed with cancer and you need to have the quilt done by, literally, tomorrow morning. Yes, you might say that Mary and my families are intertwined now. Families of heart for decades, that’s for sure. Weddings, births, deaths, surgeries, Christmas Eves, memories, love. May we have many more years.

Quilt Mom's for John.jpg

A memory quilt for my brother, John, after my mother passed away. The blocks in the quilt are Mom’s clothes and linen calendar towels that she collected every year. She also gave them as gifts every year too.

Every. Single. Year.

I selected calendar towel years in which something significant happened in John’s life. There are more towels on the back too.

Quilt Mom for me.jpg

I made a quilt commemorating Mom’s life for myself too, and one for all 5 of her grandchildren. I even included a piece of my Dad’s tie that he wore walking me down the aisle – blue diagonal striped material in the right border, beside the pig towel. Yes, I grew up on a hog farm and wouldn’t trade it for the world. This quilt graces “Mom’s” bed in the spare bedroom, so keeps her grandson and family warm when they visit.

Quilt Christmas for Ronnie.jpg

A fun I-spy quilt for a senior citizen who lives in a group care facility and still loves Santa. His communication is limited but the smile on his face was a mile wide and he wants to keep this quilt on his bed year-round!

Ronnie says of his quilt, “Heaven might be like this.” I hope so Ronnie!

Quilt blue flower.jpg

Flowers for my close friend who is now cancer-free. This quilt accompanied her through the rough times, and now will see her through many wonderful years too.


To celebrate the new millennium and that I survived Y2K in a technology field. LHM!!!

My husband and I selected these fabrics and made this quilt before we were married. Don’t tell him, but that just might have had something to do with why I said “yes.”


When your young rescue cat, Elizabeth, at left, only 18 months old, has cancer and isn’t going to be with you very long. Elizabeth loved her soft quilt.

Both of these fur children came to live with me after abuse and starvation at the hands of a monster. Kitters, at right, still loves the quilts, now hers via right of inheritance.

Quilt Tabitha.jpg

Some quilts get loved so much they have to be patched. The original owner of this quilt, an amazing cat named Tabitha, has passed on now, but the family is still loving her quilt (and her.)

Sometimes quilts receive a Second Act that is more important, and sometimes more appreciated than the first one. Ellie and Libby, my grandpuppies, had possession of this quilt for awhile, but Kitters, Chai and Mandy, cats who are infinitely disgusted by dogs have taken possession now, when Jim isn’t napping under it. And sometimes when he is. The battle continues.

Film at 11.

Quilt Loren.jpg

This quilt went to the family of a young man who tragically perished in a housefire, along with everything in the house including their fur-family.

Another two quilts went to his mother and sister as well. I’m very negligent about taking pictures before the quilts leave for their intended homes.

Literally hundreds of these “care quilts” have been created over the years by the quilt-sisters, sometimes alone, but often working together on the spur of the moment, between jobs and families, to create a healing gift for someone in need.


Sometimes fur-family members get into the act too. I needed all the help I could get with the blocks of a wedding quilt!

Quilt Code Talker.jpg

This Navajo Code Talker quilt of love was made for Code Talker, USMC William Brown. Sadly, he passed over as the quilt was on its way, but it served him at his funeral in a place of honor, and now comforts his daughter.

Quilt Anniversary.jpg

A surprise by the quilt-sisters to celebrate Mary’s 50th anniversary.

Quilt Mary baby.jpg

Indeed, quilts are expressions of love to celebrate births, anniversaries and everything in-between. To commemorate lives well-lived and lost too soon. For people we know and love and “care quilts” for people we’ve never met but need a helping hand or a lift of their spirits.

Quilt Love Heart.jpg

So to answer my friend who, by now, is probably extremely sorry he asked and dozed off long ago. Quilts are the spirit of humanity, pedestrian scraps of life joined together to create beauty, but most of all, quilts are simply expressions of love.



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Triangulation in Action at 23andMe

Recently, I published the article, Hitting a Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters. The “Home Run” article explains why you want to use a chromosome browser, what you’re seeing and what it means to you.

This article, and the rest in the “Triangulation in Action” series introduces triangulation at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, GedMatch and DNAPainter, explaining how to use triangulation to confirm descent from a common ancestor. You may want to read the introductory article first.

This first section, “What is Triangulation” is a generic tutorial. If you don’t need the tutorial, skip to the “Triangulation at 23andMe” section.

What is Triangulation?

Think of triangulation as a three-legged stool – a triangle. Triangulation requires three things:

  1. At least three (not closely related) people must match
  2. On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA and
  3. Descend from a common ancestor

Triangulation is the foundation of confirming descent from a common ancestor, and thereby assigning a specific segment to that ancestor. Without triangulation, you might just have a match to someone else by chance. You can confirm mathematical triangulation, numbers 1 and 2, above, without knowing the identity of the common ancestor.

Reasonably sized segments are generally considered to be 7cM or above on chromosomes 1-22 and 15cM or above for the X chromosome.


Triangulation means that all three, or more, people much match on a common segment. However, what you’re likely to see is that some people don’t match on the entire segment, meaning more or less than others as demonstrated in the following examples.

FTDNA Triangulation boundaries

You can see that I match 5 different cousins who I know descend from my father’s side on chromosome 15 above. “I” am the grey background against which everyone else is being compared.

I triangulate with these matches in different ways, forming multiple triangulation groups that I’ve discussed individually, below.

Triangulation Group 1

FTDNA triangulation 1

Group 1 – On the left group of matches, above, I triangulate with the blue, red and orange person on the amount of DNA that is common between all of them, shown in the black box. This is triangulation group 1.

Triangulation Group 2

FTDNA triangulation 2

Group 2 – However, if you look just at the blue and orange triangulated matches bracketed in green, I triangulate on slightly more. This group excludes the red person because their beginning point is not the same, or even close. This is triangulation group 2.

Triangulation Group 3 and 4

FTDNA triang 3

Group 3 – In the right group of matches, there are two large triangulation groups. Triangulation group 3 includes the common portions of blue, red, teal and orange matches.

Group 4 – Triangulation group 4 is the skinny group at right and includes the common portion of the blue, teal and dark blue matches.

Triangulation Groups 5 and 6

FTDNA triang 5

Group 5 – There are also two more triangulation groups. The larger green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal people because their end locations are to the right of the end locations of the red and orange matches. This is triangulation group 5.

Group 6 – The smaller green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal person because their start locations are before the dark blue person. This is triangulation group 6.

There’s actually one more triangulation group. Can you see it?

Triangulation Group 7

FTDNA triang 7

Group 7 – The tan group includes the red, teal and orange matches but only the areas where they all overlap. This excludes the top blue match because their start location is different. Triangulation group 7 only extends to the end of the red and orange matches, because those are the same locations, while the teal match extends further to the right. That extension is excluded, of course.

Slight Variations

Matches with only slight start and end differences are probably descended from the same ancestor, but we can’t say that for sure (at this point) so we only include actual mathematically matching segments in a triangulation group.

You can see that triangulation groups often overlap because group members share more or less DNA with each other. Normally we don’t bother to number the groups – we just look at the alignment. I numbered them for illustration purposes.

Shared or In-Common-With Matching

Triangulation is not the same thing as a 3-way shared “in-common-with” match. You may share DNA with those two people, but on entirely different segments from entirely different ancestors. If those other two people match each other, it can be on a segment where you don’t match either of them, and thanks to an ancestor that they share who isn’t in your line at all. Shared matches are a great hint, especially in addition to other information, but shared matches don’t necessarily mean triangulation although it’s a great place to start looking.

I have shared matches where I match one person on my maternal side, one on my paternal side, and they match each other through a completely different ancestor on an entirely different segment. However, we don’t triangulate because we don’t all match each other on the SAME segment of DNA. Yes, it can be confusing.

Just remember, each of your segments, and matches, has its own individual history.

Imputation Can Affect Matching

Over the years the chips on which our DNA is processed at the vendors have changed. Each new generation of chips tests a different number of markers, and sometimes different markers – with the overlaps between the entire suite of chips being less than optimal.

I can verify that most vendors use imputation to level the playing field, and even though two vendors have never verified that fact, I’m relatively certain that they all do. That’s the only way they could match to their own prior “only somewhat compatible” chip versions.

The net-net of this is that you may see some differences in matching segments at different vendors, even when you’re comparing the same people. Imputation generally “fills in the blanks,” but doesn’t create large swatches of non-existent DNA. I wrote about the concept of imputation here.

What I’d like for you to take away from this discussion is to be focused on the big picture – if and how people triangulate which is the function important to genealogy. Not if the start and end segments are exactly the same.

Triangulation Solutions

Each of the major vendors, except Ancestry who does not have a chromosome browser, offers some type of triangulation solution, so let’s look at what each vendor offers. If you and your Ancestry matches have uploaded to GedMatch, Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, you can triangulate with them there. Otherwise, you can’t triangulate Ancestry results, so encourage your Ancestry matches to transfer.

I wrote more specifically about triangulation here and here.

Let’s look at triangulation at 23andMe.

Triangulation at 23andMe

At 23andMe, click on “DNA Relatives” in the Ancestry dropdown at the top of your page.

Triangulation 23andMe DNA Relatives.png

You will then see your list of matches.

23andMe does offer a Mom’s side and Dad’s side option, but only if at least one of your parents has tested AND you and that parent BOTH elect to share with each other. It’s not automatic.

To view your relationship with someone on your match list, click on that person’s name. I selected a known relative on my father’s side, Stacy.

Scroll down to the “Relatives in Common” section where you will see your matches in common with the person you selected. Stacy and I have 284 matches in common.

Triangulation 23andMe shared DNA.png

You can view the relationships of the match to you, and also to the person you’ve selected.

“Yes,” in the shared DNA column indicates that you, the person you selected (Stacy) and this match share DNA on a common segment. In other words, you triangulate.

In this example, Stacy and I share a triangulated segment with my own V4 kit (of course), and with both James and Diana, but not with George or Everett. We both match James and Everett, just not on the same segment, so we don’t triangulate.

Let’s look at James. By clicking on “Yes,” I can view the chromosome browser.

Scrolling down, I see that Stacy (purple), me (background grey) and James (orange) share DNA on only one segment, on chromosome 17.

Triangulation 23andMe chromosome 17.png

That segment triangulates between the three of us. I know how I am related to Stacy, but not how I am related to James. I can tell via my matches and triangulation with James that our common segment descends to me through my Vannoy line.

Unfortunately, 23andMe does not support trees in the traditional way, but some people enter surnames and locations, and you can download some Family Search ancestors to 23andMe or place a link to a tree elsewhere. I wrote about that here.

Check your 23andMe matches for surnames, common locations and links to trees.

You can also download your 23andMe segment matches and their information by clicking on Download Aggregate Data at the bottom of your matches page. Segment matches tell you exactly where on each chromosome you match other people.

Triangulation 23andMe download.png

Segment matches is NOT the same thing as downloading your raw DNA data file to upload to another vendor. See the Transfer section for those instructions.

Other 23andMe Resources to Identify Common Ancestors

23andMe provides additional tools, noted below, with the links to instructional articles I’ve written.


Have you tested family members, especially everyone in the older generations? You can transfer their kits from Ancestry or 23andMe if they have already tested there to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA or GedMatch.

Here’s how to transfer:

I wrote recently about how to work with triangulation at FamilyTreeDNA. and MyHeritage. Join me soon for similar articles about how to work with triangulation at GedMatch and DNAPainter.

Most of all – have fun!



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Thank you so much.

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Top 10 All-Time Favorite DNA Articles

Top 10

I’ve been writing about DNA is every shape and form for approaching 8 years now, offering more than 1200 free (key word seachable) articles.

First, thank you for being loyal subscribers or finding my articles and using them to boost your genealogy research with the power of DNA.

You may not know this, but many of my articles stem from questions that blog readers ask, plus my own genealogical research stumbling-blocks, of course.

DNAeXplain articles have accumulated literally millions and millions of page views, generating more than 38,000 approved comments. Yes, I read and approve (or not) every single comment. No, I do not have “staff” to assist. Staff consists of some very helpful felines who would approve any comment with the word catnip😊

More than twice that number of comments were relegated to spam. That’s exactly why I approve each one personally.

Old Faithful

Looking at your favorites, I’ve discovered that some of these articles have incredible staying power, meaning that people access them again and again. Given their popularity and usefulness, please feel free to share by linking or forwarding to your friends and genealogy groups.

Subscribe for FREE

Don’t forget, you can subscribe for free by clicking on the little grey “follow” box on the upper right hand side of the blog margin.

Top 10 subscribe

Just enter your e-mail address and click on follow. I don’t sell or share your e-mail, ever. I’ve never done a mass e-mailing either – so I’ll not be spamming you😊

You will receive each and every article, about 2 per week, in a nice handy e-mail, or RSS feed if you prefer.

Your Favorites

You didn’t realize it, but every time you click, you’re voting.

So, which articles are reader favorites? Remember that older articles have had more time to accumulate views.

I’ve noted the all-time ranking along with the 2019 ranking.

Starting with number 10, you chose:

  • Number 10 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum – Published in 2016 – How ethnicity testing works – and why sometimes it doesn’t work like people expect it will.

Ethnicity results from DNA testing. Fascinating. Intriguing. Frustrating. Exciting. Fun. Challenging. Mysterious. Enlightening. And sometimes wrong. These descriptions all fit. Welcome to your personal conundrum! The riddle of you! If you’d like to understand why your ethnicity results might not have … Continue reading →

  • Number 9 all time and number 4 in 2019: How Much Indian Do I Have in Me? – Published in 2015 – This article explains how to convert that family story into an expected percentage.

I can’t believe how often I receive this question. Here’s today’s version from Patrick. “My mother had 1/8 Indian and my grandmother on my father’s side was 3/4, and my grandfather on my father’s side had 2/3. How much would … Continue reading →

  • Number 8 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy – Published in 2012 – Short, basic and THE article I refer people to most often to understand DNA for genealogy.

Let’s talk about the different “kinds” of DNA and how they can be used for genetic genealogy. It used to be simple. When this “industry” first started, in the year 2000, you could test two kinds of DNA and it was … Continue reading →

Yep, there’s a gene for these traits, and more. The same gene, named EDAR (short for Ectodysplasin receptor EDARV370A), it turns out, also confers more sweat glands and distinctive teeth and is found in the majority of East Asian people. This is one … Continue reading →

  • Number 6 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: What is a Haplogroup? – Published in 2013 – One of the first questions people ask about Y and mitochondrial DNA is about haplogroups.

Sometimes we’ve been doing genetic genealogy for so long we forget what it’s like to be new. I’m reminded, sometimes humorously, by some of the questions I receive. When I do DNA Reports for clients, each person receives a form to … Continue reading

  • Number 5 all-time and number 10 in 2019: X Marks the Spot – Published in 2012 – This article explains how to use the X chromosome for genealogy and its unique inheritance path.

When using autosomal DNA, the X chromosome is a powerful tool with special inheritance properties. Many people think that mitochondrial DNA is the same as the X chromosome. It’s not. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited maternally, only. This means that mothers … Continue reading →

  • Number 4 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: Ethnicity Results – True or Not? – Published in 2013 – Are your ethnicity results accurate? How can you know, and why might your percentages reflect something different than you expect?

I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I receive that go something like this: “I received my ethnicity results from XYZ. I’m confused. The results don’t seem to align with my research and I don’t know what … Continue reading →

  • Number 3 all-time and number 1 in 2019: Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages – Published in 2017 – With the huge number of ethnicity testers, it’s no surprise that the most popular article discussed how those percentages are calculated.

There has been a lot of discussion about ethnicity percentages within the genetic genealogy community recently, probably because of the number of people who have recently purchased DNA tests to discover “who they are.” Testers want to know specifically if ethnicity percentages are right … Continue reading →

  • Number 2 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: Which DNA Test is Best? – Published in 2017 – A comprehensive review of the tests and major vendors in the genetic genealogy testing space. The answer is that your testing goals determine which test is best. This article aligns goals with tests.

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’re a savvy shopper and you’re doing some research before purchasing a DNA test. You’ve come to the right place. The most common question I receive is asking which test is best to purchase. There is … Continue reading →

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one. “My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.” The reasons vary, and … Continue reading →

2019 Only

Five articles ranked in the top 10 in 2019 that aren’t in the top all-time 10 articles. Two were just published in 2019.

  • Number 8 for 2019: Migration Pedigree Chart – Published in 2016 – This fun article illustrates how to create a pedigree charting focused on the locations of your ancestors.

Paul Hawthorne started a bit of a phenomenon, whether he meant to or not, earlier this week on Facebook, when he created a migration map of his own ancestors using Excel to reflect his pedigree chart. You can view … Continue reading →

Just as they promised, and right on schedule, Family Tree DNA today announced X chromosome matching. They have fully integrated X matching into their autosomal Family Finder product matching. This will be rolling live today. Happy New Year from Family … Continue reading →

  • Number 6 for 2019: Full or Half Siblings – Published in April 2019 – Want to know how to determine the difference between full and half siblings? This is it.

Many people are receiving unexpected sibling matches. Every day on social media, “surprises” are being reported so often that they are no longer surprising – unless of course you’re the people directly involved and then it’s very personal, life-altering and you’re … Continue reading →

Ancestry’s new tool, ThruLines has some good features and a lot of potential, but right now, there are a crop of ‘gators in the swimmin’ hole – just waiting for the unwary. Here’s help to safely navigate the waters and … Continue reading →

One of the most common questions I receive, especially in light of the interest in ethnicity testing, is how much of an ancestor’s DNA someone “should” share. The chart above shows how much of a particular generation of ancestors’ DNA … Continue reading →

In Summary

Taking a look at a summary chart is interesting. From my perspective, I never expected the “Thick Hair, Small Boobs” article to be so popular.

“Which DNA Test is Best?” ranked #2 all time, but not in the 2019 top 10. I wonder if that is a function of the market softening a bit, or of fewer people researching before purchasing.

I was surprised that 5 of the top 10 all-time were not in the top 10 of 2019.

Conversely, I’m equally as surprised that 3 of the older 2019 articles not in the all-time top 10.

I’m very glad these older articles continue to be useful, and I do update them periodically, especially if I notice they are accessed often.

Article All-time Top 10 2019 Top 10
Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum 10 0
How Much Indian Do I Have in Me? 9 4
4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy 8 0
Thick Hair, Small Boobs, Shovel Shaped Teeth, and More 7 9
What is a Haplogroup? 6 0
X Marks the Spot 5 10
Ethnicity Results – True or Not? 4 0
Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages 3 1
Which DNA Test is Best? 2 0
Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA 1 2
Migration Pedigree Chart 0 8
X Chromosome Matching at Family Tree DNA 0 7
Full or Half Siblings Published in 2019 6
Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not get Bit by the ‘Gators Published in 2019 5
Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You? 0 3

What Would You Like to See in 2020?

Given that your questions are often my inspiration, what articles would you like to see in 2020?

Are there topics you’d like to see covered? (Sorry, I don’t know the name of your great-great-grandfather’s goat.)

Burning questions you’d like to have answered? (No, I don’t know why there is air.)

Something you’ve been wishing for? (Except maybe for the 1890 census.)

Leave a comment and let me know. (Seriously😊)

I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2020 and hope you’ll come along!



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research