About Me

Roberta EstesRoberta Estes has been a professional scientist and business owner for 25+ years, (MS Computer Science, MBA, graduate work in Geographic Information Systems), as well as an obsessed genealogist since 1978.

In 2005, reflecting her interest and expertise in genetics for genealogy, she formed DNAeXplain, a company providing individual analysis of DNA results and consulting services.

Roberta is a National Geographic Society, Genographic Project affiliate scientific researcher and became part of the design team in 2012. Roberta has authored multiple academic papers, provided content and consultation to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the History Channel, and other organizations and businesses.

The Million Mito Project

In 2020, Roberta launched the Million Mito Project, a collaborative scientific effort to rewrite the tree of womankind for all of humanity in partnership with Dr. Miguel Vilar, Lead Scientist for the Genographic Project, Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA and Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA. 

Early Years of Genetic Genealogy

In 2000, thanks to FamilyTreeDNA, the infant scientific field of DNA for genealogy emerged, allowing DNA to be used to trace individuals to common ancestors. With traditional genealogical records already researched to no avail, and several brick walls needing to fall, Roberta was one of the early DNA project administrators and pioneer adopters of DNA analysis for genealogy. Roberta manages over 20 DNA projects with an emphasis on Native American heritage.

Roberta’s blog, Native Heritage Project documents early evidence of Native people in records and can be found at www.nativeheritageproject.com.

Products and Services

In 2009, DNAeXplain and FamilyTreeDNA teamed to jointly offer Personalized Y and mitochondrial DNA Reports for customers. Currently, Roberta is not accepting private clients.

Roberta speaks and writes widely about DNA and genealogy and has provided keynotes at several major conferences. Her educational webinars are among the most-watched in the industry. Follow Roberta’s activities and available educational resources by subscribing to this free blog.

You can e-mail Roberta at roberta@dnaexplain.com.

418 thoughts on “About Me

  1. I’ve been using DNA painter to map out cousins listed at MyHeritage. On chromosome 15 I noticed 35 cousins starting at 20,004,966 with short matches between 15 – 25 cM. What could that mean?

    • In some cases, they may be accurate, and in some cases they maybe noise. It’s helpful to test other family members to see if they have the same occurrence on the same chromosome which increases the likelihood that it’s accurate.

  2. Hi Roberta, I’ve made some tests at FTDNA (waiting for the BigY now) and I’d like to fully (or nearly) understand all the mechanics of haplogroups and SNPs. I see that there are many groups with many associated SNPs (R1b-M269 has 97 or so). A haplogroup should be defined by one SNP, right? Having so many SNP means that all but one correspond to groups further down the tree that are not yet defined, right? But … 97? It’s a bit confusing to me.
    Can you shed a little light on this subject please? Thanks in advance.

    • Earlier SNPs that were thought to be unique branches were not, so they are still listed (instead of obsoleted) but now along with M269. In some cases, different labs named the same SNP.

  3. Hi Roberta,
    Your articles have been a recent godsend as I’m quickly learning as much as I can to address a family situation. I’m wondering if you know how accurate transfers from Ancestry DNA to Family TreeDNA are? My father was contacted by a woman who believes he is her father as she matched with his uncle (apparently he matched as her great uncle but this is not yet confirmed) on AncestryDNA. To confirm we had her upload her raw data to Family Tree DNA where my father already had an account and results. According to Family Tree DNA her and my father are 3rd-5th cousins with Shared Centimorgans(cM): 102, and Longest Block(cM): 15. Does this confirm that he is not her father? Wouldn’t they share roughly 3600cMs? This was not sufficient evidence for her, and we are concerned about it being a potential scam(ish) attempt.

    Thank you for any help or insight!

    • Generally, the match would be closer, but the tests at Ancestry after May of 2016 are only about 20% compatible. This doesn’t sound plausible, especially if she tested before that time. If she tested later, on the V4 chip, I would suggest that she retest on the Family Tree DNA platform. I still think it sounds very unlikely.

  4. I am perhaps a bit on the dense side here and think that I will ask what sort of approach would be best in terms of my goals. I have the DNA results, on GEDmatch, for my three siblings and a niece of my father.

    I would like to do two things: 1) combine the DNA of all the children of my parents so that I don’t have to do multiple searches to find matches….as in one stop shopping and 2) separate out the DNA from both parents because my mothers family has been in the country since the colonial days while my fathers line entered the US in 1850. That seems to result in my being swamped with maternal matches….but I am not sure of that. Thus, I want to rule out my maternal line matches all in one fell swoop.

  5. Do you know the name of the program or the website it’s on that let’s you compare two scenarios of how someone is related to you after you enter match details? It tells you the probability between them.

  6. Roberta,

    Love the blog and the work you do, and am a frequent visitor.

    I had a question regarding IBD Segments. Is it possible to get a segment of DNA Say (20-30 CM) on the same chromosome from the same relative and it be IBD even if the segments don’t overlap?

    I was comparing my DNA on DNA painter with 2 other relatives who apparently I share a 2nd great grandfather with. (half 3rd cousins. 74-80 total CM shared respectively). We share large segments on chromosome 14, but they are in different positions.

    I had read in some places on forums people saying that the segments had to overlap to prove IBD or Triangulation, but I’m looking for clarification from someone who I respect in this field of study. Thanks so much……MIKE

  7. Hi Roberta

    Apologies first for using this comment stream but I can’t find an email address for yourself. Understandably.

    Can you advise me on a problem that must have affected other genealogists? I have a family tree on MyHeritage, rather like casting a fly on the water. Some time ago I was advised that several apparently very good matches had been made with my tree. After long analysis I discovered that the source of matching data was a lady who had assumed that my great grandfather was the same person as a gentleman born the same year and of similar name in her tree. She had then simply transferred the subsequent information into her tree.

    I have communicated with her and explained the situation – both gentlemen had produced different children – but my great grandfather’s ancestors and his wife have now been incorporated into this other tree. I have received no reply from the lady in question.

    I am now receiving matches from MyHeritage from other correspondents, who are genuine members of the ‘false’ tree, but who have no connection at all with me. Perhaps genuine connections with me are being turned away because of the recorded data on the ‘false’ tree?

    I have tried unsuccessfully to discuss this with MyHeritage but their contact system relies on multi-choice selection and I receive no reply whichever I select. This problem must have occurred with other genealogists and on other online sites – what does one do in this situation?

    Joe Connell from the UK


    I just read your blog dealing with indentured servants. I have a proverbial brick wall involving an indentured servant, and thought perhaps you might have some ideas of how to go about trying to bust it. In a nutshell, about 15 years ago we used FTDNA to trace the Y-DNA of several Denbow and Denbo men in North America, the Caribbean and England. In NA we found that all the various clans, excluding one in Maine, had the same paternal haplotype, originally designated J2F, but latter refined to a specific Jewish tribe (believe it or not). However, the Maine clan, as well as the two English Denbow men all had a male haplotype of R1B, which is very common in Europe.

    Now comes the part about the indentured servant. Prior to the DNA testing, my Ohio clan, which traces back to a Maryland clan, had discovered that we apparently traced back to an indentured servant, John Denboe, who came to the Crown Colony of Maryland in 1664. We have found record of his indenture and know who he was indentured too — one Thomas Thurston, a renegade Quaker.

    The other NA Denbo(w)s, with the exception of the Maine clan, also trace back to this same indentured servant. How do we know this? Another Denbow (James, professor of archaeology and anthropology at the University of Texas), a member of our Iowa Clan, and I were perfect Y-DNA matches out to over 60 markers, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Iowa clan and the Ohio clan both come off the same Maryland stem, although we’ve been unable to unearth the paperwork to prove that in the conventional way.

    We have not found any references to this John Denboe in English records. He appears on the Maryland shores, originally Cecil County, then Harford County, as an indentured servant of said Thurston. We have speculated that he may have been the son of a Denbow woman and Jewish man, and then was given his mother’s name, much as the situation you described with indentured female servants who became pregnant while still serving their time in bondage. However, in this case, if this theory is correct, the pregnancy and birth would have occurred in England, prior to John’s indenture.

    The other possibility is that there is somewhere in England a small group of Denbows who have the J2F haplotype and that the female line cross-over occurred at any earlier date. I personally tend to doubt this possibility, because if it was the case it probably would be easier to find reference to John in English records.

    At any rate, I just thought you might have some insights into this kind of problem since it has some common elements with your blog on indentured servants and you seem to have some expertise on that subject.

    Thanks for any help you might be able to give.


    • Have you considered an adoption of a haplogroup J baby boy in England?? by a haplogroup R family.[maybe by remarriage of his widowed mother to the R Denbow man]…and the adopted boy or his descendant was indentured to serve in Maryland??

  9. I would like to find out whether my half sister and I share a mother or a father. We are adopted and do not have any other relatives to test. We found each other because friends told us we look alike! What’s our best bet test at FTDNA? At this time, confirming our relationship through autosomal testing (we tested with a private company) and trying to learn which parent we share is our only interest.

  10. Hi Roberta,
    I have very little information about my mother’s parents, other than her father. And I suspect that my mothers lied on my birth certificate about my biological father whom I have never known or met, though I have seen pictures of him & been told my other family members he was my father.
    I would like to have a full report done on all of my ancestors – from both : my mother’s side & my father’s side of my family.
    Can you please advise me on which report would be best & help me to do this.
    Many thanks in advance!

  11. I have a “brick wall” in my husband’s tree. Edward G Estes born in TN, lived in Salem, Marion County Illinois. My husband refused to submit a DNA sample, but my daughter did. There are DNA matches to Estes families that connect to the Abraham lines but I have not been able to find how Edward is related to them. Any suggestions how I can resolve this?

  12. Hi Roberta, I’ve really enjoyed reading through your posts and responses. You help make the complex much easier to comprehend — something we need when it comes to genetics (and much else!). I have a question. I’ve been involved in an effort to unravel a lot of “wishful thinking” about the origins of the Cochran(e) family and have specifically undertaken to locate Cochran(e) men with known County Londonderry, NI ancestors and use y-chromosome tests to validate family lore about our exact origins of our family. It’s worked beautifully as I’ve arranged over 30 111 marker y-DNA tests and have a whole flock of genetic cousins we never could be sure of before (and by the way excluded seven other Cochrane lines that cannot possibly be related to us in the male line). But now I’m down to the nitty-gritty of things. I have isolated a group of Cochran(e) men that vary by a genetic distance of 0 to 3 and the majority of them vary on the basis of the allele value of STR marker DYS442 — it’s either 13 or 14 among this group. My question is simple — are there any general rules to say which way these STR marker mutations go — higher or lower from an “original value” of any given allele? I have tracked the Irish ancestors of these men down to a townland level — an amazing feat — and am trying to grapple with which of these ancestral lines might have led to another. I won’t be disappointed to learn that it’s all random up or down movement of STR allele values, but don’t want to overlook the possibility of inferring something important from the results I’ve seen. I’d be grateful to hear what you have to say. Thank you. RMC- Big Rapids, Michigan.

    • Generally it’s lower to higher, BUT, we have a significant number of back mutations AND your situation would not necessarily be the norm. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any publications on this matter. Let me poke around a bit and see what I can determine. It’s a very interesting question and the answer now that we have a lot more data might be different than what we thought we knew previously.

  13. I believe I am a descendant of the Edward Mercer b. 12 Dec. 1704 in Frederick, VA. One of the sons of Edward and Ann Coats was a Moses Mercer (1732) who was the father of Edward (1776 also in Frederick). Edward and spouse Mary Ellis had a son Edward, Jr. born in PA in 1801. he married Jane Tweedy in Ohio in 1826 and one of their children was my great, great grandmother Sarah Jane Mercer who married David Watkins. Many from that branch went to Bureau Co., IL

    • I would live to know if you match any of the Crumley descendants. If you have taken the Family Finder year at Family Tree DNA, please join the Crumley surname project.

  14. Roberta, thank you for sharing your extensive research and findings; I have seen more on my maternal Haplogroup D1f1 here than anywhere on the internet. I always felt Native inside and had no way to know being adopted. thanks again! M, Tallahassee, FL

  15. There is a wonderful article about a doctor tracing ALS through the Cumberland Gap area.
    STAT: Rick Berke

  16. Roberta,

    What is your policy on the reposting of your posts? I am a member of a forum where someone reposted your post, “Proving or Disproving a Half Sibling Relationship Using DNAPainter” verbatim with the following disclaimer at the top of their post;

    From dna-explained.com – https://dna-explained.com/ – Standard disclaimer from dna-explained.com says they are affiliated with FTDNA (DUH! 😵

    They never once mention who you are.


    • My preference would clearly be accreditation. If they posted the words and not the link, meaning the article itself, that’s a copyright violation unless they ask and receive permission. Also, the comment about affiliation with FTDNA is a bit misleading in that I have relationships with various companies as almost all prominent bloggers do. I state that at the bottom of every article so I’m wondering about the purpose of stating one. Perhaps they don’t understand copyright law.

      • Well, they do have the link. I was curious about that comment too. I thought it implied that you are somehow an employee of FTDNA or something like that. As I did say that they do NOT mention or state your name. Should I say something to the owners of the forum?

        • I am not an employee of Family Tree DNA. I do have a contractual relationship with them as well as the other companies listed at the bottom of my articles. I’m glad they posted the link and not the words. You might ask what the purpose of their comment. Do they do that when they post other links too? I’m glad for the link to be posted. The rest is curious. Maybe just a comment that I freely disclose at the bottom of each article and not limited to FTDNA would suffice.

  17. Roberta,

    I believe that the problem is solved. Overnight, the person removed everything save the title and URL for every blog post that they “borrowed.” Btw, they had reposted articles from you and several other people that you would know. I think that this “incident” is over.

  18. Hi . I been searching 4 days after I receive my y male Y chromosome test but I couldn’t find where can i find matches result or relative can you help me please

  19. Hello, According to a 1827 church record from the Oberstedten, Hesse Lutheran parish my 4th grandfather was a v. Hammerstein from Britain . So far I have no DNA proof yet ! My mothers kit # T714363 and mine # T568598 have some weak connections with other kits here on this forum. But this might also come through other related emigant families from our Hesse region to USA/Canada … Curiously we have quite strong matches with kits who have REBER families from Reading/Manheim Pennsylvania in their trees …

  20. I have tested with all three and have no close matches. Also with Igenea, swiss company. Istill have no real close matches. Adopted in 1960 from a French woman in Morocco by american couple. 3rd to 5th cousins, mostly French. I am not convinced that my adoptive dad is not my birth dad. Would a male second cousin once removed ( hopefully i got that right) have some common dna with me ? I have no natches with adoptive father’s relative who have done the tests. What is the liklihood that he coukd still be my birth father? Thanks.

  21. Is it possible for two men with an MRCA of 6 on Ancestry’s Y-DNA test (2012) to not share enough autosomal DNA to show up as matches to each other on Ancestry’s Autosomal DNA test? Also, if two men were identical matches for each of the 46 markers on Ancestry’s Y-DNA, does that mean they share the same father? Thank you for any info you can provide on this. I’ve been trying to solve find an answer to each question for the past 5 years.

    • Yes, it’s possible with a difference of 6 to share no autosomal DNA. A difference of 6 probably signifies many generations difference. And no, even if the Y DNA matches identically, it does not mean one is the father. I have some people in my projects who share an ancestor 8 or 9 generations ago and still match identically. Another line descending from the same ancestor has several mutations in the same number of generations. If the people can retest at Family Tree DNA, including the Y and Family Finder, that would be most useful.

  22. My parents had their DNA tested by AncestryBy DNA in 2006 before the company folded. They are now deceased and this was their only DNA test. Is it possible to transfer their data to any of the Big 3? Thank you.

    • They didn’t exactly fold. They are still there. I don’t believe they retain the original sample, but it would be worth a phone call. The answer to your question about a transfer is no. Did they have the Y or mitochondrial test done?

      • It looks like they had the standard 176 marker test to generally gauge racial ancestry percentages and did not do mitochondria or Y tests. I will try and track down a phone number and see what is possible. Thanks for the quick response, and your story on Jacob Lenz was fascinating!

        • That’s the old DNA Print test that has been obsolete for 15 years. Ethnicity tests from the major vendors use about 700,000 markers. It’s too bad they didn’t test any other markers, but at least you know.

  23. I recently signed up for DNA Explained. I read the latest one today (
    Dorothea Catharina Wolflin (1755-?), Despair in the Abyss of the High Sea – 52 Ancestors #215) and I really enjoyed it. I am a descendant of German grandparents so I recognized places etc. Thanks for keeping me entertained this afternoon.
    —> Anne Grimm

  24. I participated in autosomal DNA testing with Ancestry and FTDNA approximately 5-6 years ago. I have been impressed with MyHeritage and their emerging tools and international database (I have already uploaded my results to the site). Knowing that testing methods are sometimes tweaked and can differ somewhat between vendors, I was wondering if I should take a new test (MyHeritage has a great seasonal deal ongoing)? If there would be any advantage to doing so, I wouldn’t mind spending the money. Any expert input would be appreciated!

  25. Hi Roberta, I have a puzzle I was hoping you could help me with. My friend did his DNA at 23 and Me and discovered he was only 1/2 Jewish, instead of 100% Jewish. He also had a very close match 1632 cm/25 segments. I offered to take a look at it for him and he contacted the close match. The match told him that he was donor conceived from a clinic close to where my friend’s family lived when he was conceived.

    And so that’s the mystery apparently solved except for one thing: they don’t share the same paternal haplogroup. They don’t share the same maternal haplogroup either nor any x material. My friend’s paternal haplogroup is I-L1498 and his match’s paternal haplogroup is I-M423. Is it possible for them to be half brothers and not share the same paternal haplogroup?

  26. Hi Roberta, my name is Jim Estus and I’ve recently taken the deep dive into my families past. No only Estus, but my Mom’s and both Grandparent’s. Long story short, my understanding of my last name is that is was once spellled Estes, but changed in the mid-late 1800s in Kentucky to “us”. I’ve been able to trace back to Trimble and Henry Co’s Kentucky, and fairly certain to Virginia when Abraham arrived in the US.
    Do you have any Estus info you’d be willing to pass along? A side note, I’m an urban planner and have been using GIS in my profession for over 30 years, would love to connect.
    All the best,
    Jim Estus
    Twentynine Palms, CA
    Littleton, CO
    Rockville, MD
    Enid, Norman and Durant, OK

    • Hi Jim. Yes, it’s probably Estes. You can tell for sure by taking the Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA and seeing if your Y chromosome matches one of the Estes groups. I’d bet on Abraham’s descendants. Here’s a short article about the different kinds of DNA tests. https://dna-explained.com/2012/10/01/4-kinds-of-dna-for-genetic-genealogy/ If you take the Y DNA test, you can then join the Estes DNA project at FTDNA. I would suggest that you order the Family Finder autosomal test at the same time. That way you can see who you match both ways. Here’s a link to order the tests: https://bit.ly/2A3vnmf I will e-mail you as well.

  27. I can’t seem to contact you by email so will try and connect here. I am preparing a history of my father’s ancestry and noticed that you have an error in Philip Jacob Miller’s estate inventory. You have One young bull when it is one young ditto. So he had four horses at the time of his death.

  28. I just happened to find your Blog on George Dodson. George was my 7th great-uncle; his brothers, Thomas, (through son Jesse) and Elisha (through daughter Ruth) were my 6th great-grandfathers, because Jesse and Ruth married. I have taken a DNA test at Ancestry, as has my mother (the Dodson’s are on her line), and two of my siblings.

    • I’m at Ancestry and also Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage. There are lots of Dodson descendants who match!

    • I’m an affiliate research with Nat Geo, or do you mean what they are doing in a different sense? If that’s the question, they are still testing people.

  29. Who had the Miles Cary line? My 8th Great Grandfather was John Cary 1610 the Plymouth Pilgrim who joined the Colony in 1634. Other 8th Great Grandfathers were Gov William Bradford, Francis Billington and 9th Great Grand Parents, John and Ellenor Billington, which all four came over in 1620 on the Mayflower. One of my Many Great Uncles was William Carey, married to Mary Boleyn, Henry VIII,s Sister in law. William was also a third cousin of Henry VIII.

  30. Hi. My siblings and I bought kits from Ancestry.com. I did mine about 3 years ago, both of my sisters just did their recently.
    The report says Shared DNA: 1,943 cM across 73 segments for 1 sister.
    1,586 cM across 63 segments for my little sister.
    But it appears we are completely from the same regions in Europe.
    Uninformed and uneducated in this field. but from what I have read, this is saying that they are both my half-siblings?? So, the first thing I asked them is the shared DNA that they share with each other and it was also in the 1586 range. Who can I get to help me with this? To say this has caused a great deal of despair is an understatement.

      • Happy to do this! Once I purchase, then what are the next steps? How will this work? I guess our first question is do we already have enough information – or do we need to take a sibling test? If so, I assume you can recommend something for us? I don’t feel like I am getting a straight answer from local companies that offer those. They say that Ancestry isn’t comparing the same way that they would. This is where we need an independent expert.

  31. Hello I recently had my dna processed by Ancestry, it came back indicating I had some Acadian ancestry by I had no French ethnicity, what am I missing

  32. I have an exact HVR1 HVR 2 match to…yes…Marie Antoinette. FTDNA mtdna plus test. I am not able to locate her coding region to see how exact, but am wondering if my link to her family is further than 1600’s? Funny because I look very close to Julianna Maria Wolfenbuttel. My family is amazed at the resemblance. My HVR1 T16519C; HVR2 T152C, C194T, A263G, 315.1C. Is her coding region available to the public?

    • I’m not sure where you found this information, but I have no idea if/where Marie’s full sequence is available.

  33. Hello,

    Wow, a plethora of information here! I found your website while googling “John Parker Moore Halifax County VA” He is my G5 Grandfather and was born in 1765 in Halifax County, VA and lived until 1856 in Macon County, NC.

    His mother was a Parker from Maryland.

  34. Roberta,

    What is your opinion of the new DNA website, mitoYDNA.org? Do you intend to write about it? So far, it seems like a good replacement for Ysearch.org

  35. I have followed many of your blogs and so appreciate them. I am trying to use autosomal DNA triangulations to predict which of a set of Calhouns are the parents of my direct ancestors. This has been ongoing for a couple years of data triangulation. I have 3 likely candidates from the data, 2 of which have triangulations with their father’s in-laws so that didn’t help. I’ve tried a mathematical formula instead that I’d love to know your opinion on. I averaged all of the cM matches for each triangulation and then divided them by the average total cM’s for each triangulation. My reasoning was that some of the triangulations had nicely sized cM matches but they were from much closer cousins. I wanted to average them out to equate them with the triangulations for much more distant cousins. One thing POPPED out. One of the 3 possibilities had a match that was over 1000 times higher than the rest of the kits. His father in law’s triangulation was 3 times higher than the rest of the options. Does this indicate my direct ancestor is the one with the very large comparative figure? Thank you so much!

    • I don’t understand how this would help. I don’t do consulting through blog comments because without seeing data and specific examples, I don’t have the benefit of the view that you do.

  36. I take it that you probably have read all that I have written about Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh and Jacob on http://www.JacobBrumbaugh.com ? These below I’ve written recently for Findagrave but they’re not published yet. Ned. Ned21@mac.com

    Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh (c 1740-1803)
    Published Brethren church stories from the 1920s-30s (e.g., Maurice Henry, Hist. COB in MD, p. 31) cite Mary Elizabeth Angle (alt. Engle) as the first convert to the German Baptist Brethren faith in western Maryland. Family tradition is that she influenced her husband Jacob (originally Lutheran) to join as well but there is no church documentation of this. Instead we infer it from a number of circumstances: (1) his 2nd son John and the husband of his only daughter, Samuel Ullery, became Brethren ministers, (2) another son Jacob Jr. married a Dunker, Catherine Rentch, (3) Jacob is named in county revolutionary records along with dozens of other men as constituting the “Mennonites and Dunkers” (mostly pacifist) of the era, (4) at his death an inventory showed 16 benches in the barn and this is consistent with holding “home church” as Brethren often did, (5) Brethren histories from the 1920s-30s do prominently mention Jacob as a pacifist who served as a “packman” rather than bear arms during the French & Indian War (1755-1763) , and (6) his inventory at death gave no evidence he owned any firearms. It is therefore likely that he was a Brethren as well.

    Mary Elizabeth and Jacob Jr. served as co-administrators of the large and complex intestate estate (real estate in both MD and PA) of Jacob after he died in 1799. Within basically 3 years the estate was settled with some real estate passing to each of the 7 children; and Mary received a life estate share into which all the children paid.

    Jacob and Mary Elizabeth had six sons and one daughter: Jacob Jr., John, Mary (married Samuel Ullery), David, Daniel, Henry, and George.

    Mary died in 1803 and she and Jacob are buried in the family cemetery bordered by a wrought iron fence located in the middle of the cornfield nearest their original home (to the R off MD route 10N). It is now owned by the Hagerstown Regional Airport but there is a provision which requires the Airport to maintain the family cemetery. The home itself at one time in 2010 was the “#1 most endangered historic property in Maryland” according to a Preservation magazine article that year. Among other reasons it was so called was that it exemplified so many of the homes of pioneer families that founded the present day town of Hagerstown (founded 1765 by Jonathan Hager, another German immigrant and an associate of Jacob).

    CAUTION: Many people often confuse these Brumbaughs with the sons of Johannes Heinrich Brumbaugh, a brother or cousin of Jacob, who may have married an Elizabeth Baker; they had sons Jacob called”Jockel”, George “Yarrick”, Conrad, and John the “Strumpf weber” (stocking weaver) who also lived nearby and also migrated to and later acquired land in Morrison’s Cove, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. So between Jacob, Jacob Jr., and Jockel, and several other Jacobs in the next generation of the two parallel Brumbaugh families– there were at least 5 Jacob Brumbaughs living in 1799– it can get confusing.

    A Biographical Sketch of
    Johann Jacob Brumbaugh (1726-1799)
    From Original Research

    By Norman E. Donoghue, II
    June 2020

    Johann Jacob Brumbaugh (1726-1799) was born in Osthelden, Siegen-Wittgenstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and died in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in 1799, from whence he was carried back to his home farm, Claylands Contrivance Resurveyed north of Hagerstown, Washington County, Maryland, where he is buried in a family cemetery off route 10, where a black, wrought-iron fence protects his headstone in the middle of a cornfield. (The cornfield is owned by the Hagerstown Regional Airport and they are legally required by contract to continue to maintain the gated cemetery).

    Jacob arrived at Philadelphia on Capt. Thomas Coatam’s ship Nancy on Aug. 31, 1750, from Rotterdam via Cowes (an island in the English Channel). Family legend recorded is that he arrived with 50 pounds sterling in his pocket (which was a goodly sum, the equivalent of two years’ pay for a British soldier then). He signed his name to take the oath of allegiance to the king and to the colony established a century earlier by William Penn. From there he sought cheap farmland and found it in then Frederick County, Maryland, where, described as a “weaver,” he bought 50 acres in 1753, the beginning of his eventual 900-acre farm property there on which he grew wheat, rye, barley, oats and other grains. Local records there show that Jacob owned no slaves and grain farmers did not generally need them like tobacco farmers did.

    Part of his farm lay on the line which Mason & Dixon laid out in 1765 as the agreed-upon corrected boundary between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland, which before that time had been in dispute.

    Jacob married Mary Elizabeth Angle (b. ca 1740 of Henry Angle, dates unknown, an earlier German immigrant) who is recorded by some church historians as “the first convert to the German Baptist Brethren sect in western Maryland”; this occurred sometime in the late 1750s when it is likely that they had to fall back East a few miles to avoid widespread Indian depredations during the French & Indian War. During that war, family legend recorded later notes that Jacob served as a “packman” on the Braddock Campaign which marched close by his farm; and local records show that Jacob quartered soldiers on his farm and served as a “scout” for Jonathan Hager’s rangers during those years. (There are also stories recorded in Brethren histories of Jacob Brumbaugh aiding Col. George Washington during that Campaign, but without any known evidence to support them.)

    Jacob’s farm prospered and he and Elizabeth had at least seven children, all of whom survived to adulthood, married, and had their own children:
    Jacob Jr. (c 1760) m. Catherine Rentch; Mary Elizabeth (c 1761) m. Samuel Ullery (a Dunker minister); John (c 1762) (also a Dunker minister) m. Mary Elizabeth Miller; Daniel (1772) m. Elizabeth Long; David Angle (1776) m. Anna Eve Kiessecker; Henry (1777) m. Margaret Rentch; and George (1783) m. Louisa Gelwicks.

    Around 1763 the local town Jonathan Hager had named after his late wife, Elizabeth town, was formally recognized. It prospered and was only later in the early nineteenth century when the town became known as Hagerstown.

    Johann Jacob was over 50 years old in 1776 at the time of the revolutionary war and the draft age was 16-50 then in Maryland, so he was exempt on account of his age. He gave over his “gun” as he was instructed, to Capt. Cellars, when blankets were collected, he gave 2—these actions are recorded in the minutes for 1776 of the committee of observation of Elizabeth town; and later in the war, he sold grains to Henry Schnebely, the local agent for the Continental Army as is shown in a receipt of 1780. All these actions were later deemed by Daughters of the American Revolution (as well as the Sons of ….) as actions qualifying Jacob as a “Patriot”; therefore, his descendants can qualify for membership in these organizations. As Jacob was a member of the Church of the Brethren (“Dunker”), which was devoutly pacifist, we have the rare but not unheard of occurrence of a pacifist as patriot. His sons Jacob Jr. and John both paid fines in Dec. 1776 indicating that they were both then of military age and pacifist Dunkers.

    Jacob’s and his eldest sons’ non-participation in the revolutionary war never seemed to have unduly disadvantaged the Brumbaughs as it did for many pacifists who were fined, publicly shamed, punished, ignored commercially, had their livestock and furniture distrained to pay fines and otherwise severely disadvantaged. This did not occur to Jacob and he and his family prospered in the post-war period. They prospered so much that Jacob seemed to have a mission in the 1780s & ‘90s to buy up as much farmland as he could in a pacifists’ paradise called “Morrison’s Cove,” a fertile valley in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles northwest of Hagerstown where other Dunkers and Mennonites lived. He bought there 12 farms of aggregate acreage of about 3,000 acres. It is likely that he was thinking ahead to his children’s inheritance and determined to see that they had farmland enough on which to make a living. Today, there is in the Cove a Brumbaugh Mountain and a main road called Brumbaugh Road. (Numerous members of both lines of Brumbaughs discussed in this sketch lived at some point in the Cove).

    Three of the farms so purchased were bought from Henry and Elizabeth Drinker, an elite, wealthy Quaker merchant couple in Philadelphia. There is correspondence between Jacob and Henry in Henry Drinker’s archives at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Also, in 1803 Jacob Jr. traveled to Philadelphia to pay off the final balance of a mortgage on one of the properties, and on Aug. 23, 1803 he was invited in to breakfast with the Drinkers (as recorded in volume 3 of Elizabeth Drinker’s nearly 50-year diary published by Northeastern University Press in 1991).

    The other action Jacob Brumbaugh took in the post-war period was to operate two copper stills for distilling grains into whiskey. Jacob was a fairly major distiller when he died with over 450 gallons of whiskey in the inventory of his estate. When the administrators of the state held the public auction a couple months later, they sold only 270 gallons, leaving 80 gallons to be consumed at the auction by the 75 people who attended the 2-day affair. No doubt, a good time was had by all. Although Brethren congregations often admonished their members not to drink alcohol to excess, particularly at estate auctions, many did so anyway. Among the inventory items were “a Table and 16 benches” “up Stairs.” This is usually regarded as an indication that he held “home Church” on the second floor as Dunkers often did. There were no guns or muskets among the inventory, another indication of pacifism. There were “12 old books” indicating some level of literacy. The son Jacob Jr., however, indicated in his correspondence with a creditor that he had had the local schoolmaster write the letter, so the level of literacy was likely not too high in the earliest Brumbaughs. There were also no slaves recorded as part of the inventory; Brethren admonished their congregation not to own slaves.

    Philadelphia Quaker merchant Henry Drinker described Jacob in a letter to a correspondent in Maryland as “a bearded German,” the only physical description ever found of Jacob, and many bearded Germans then were sectarians like Jacob.

    If one of Jacob Brumbaugh’s goals in emigrating to America had been to work hard to achieve the most he could achieve in an agricultural environment, he had succeeded. If one of his goals was to found a large family on a firm footing with ample land and wealth to provide a sure financial base for his offspring, he had also succeeded at that. One of the goals of Brethren folk was to turn out ample population for the local congregation of the Brethren church. In this effort Jacob had partial success as his eldest three children, Jacob Jr. married to a Dunker, Mary Elizabeth married to a Dunker minister, and John also a Dunker minister were ready to keep the modest numbers of the faith thriving, though his other children affiliated themselves with other churches, in the mainstream of Protestant denominations, mostly determined by the faith of their wives.

    This pacifist had been an immigrant, a Patriot in his adopted country, a husband and father and grandfather, a Dunker, a farmer and distiller, and a success at nearly all his endeavors. When he died in Morrison’s Cove, Bedford County, Pennsylvania in April 1799, his family carried the body back to his home farm, Claylands Contrivance Resurveyed in Elizabeth Hundred, Washington County (the first, in September 1776, of nearly sixty counties and cities to be named after our first president), Maryland [FindaGrave memorial # FaG 158346036].

    Jacob Brumbaugh’s home, built in the 1750s, was long the #1 most endangered historical property in Maryland according to the Maryland Historic Trust, but the property on which it sits has been owned by the Airport for several decades and the old building was recently torn down by the Airport. Some artefacts may be housed at the Maryland Historic Trust. The house was listed “for its connection with the early settlement of Washington County.” Maryland Historical Trust Inventory (WA-I-480).

    Note Bene: There were at least 5 Jacob Brumbaughs during this Jacob’s time and even more came later. Untangling them is sometimes a chore. First, this Jacob (1726-1799). He had, second, his son, Jacob Jr. (1760-1814)[FaG 211261461]. Third was Jacob called “Jockel” Brumbaugh (1734-1816)[FaG 158674715], a son of Johannes Henrich Brumbaugh, about whom little factual detail is known. Jockel had a fourth Jacob, his son Johann Jacob Brumbaugh Kemper (1764-1848)[FaG 38598071] and siblings Georg called “Yarrick”, Conrad, and John (also known as Johannes der Strunpf Weber = “John the stocking weaver”). Each sibling had a large family of 8-15 children and many repeated the names Jacob, John, George, etc. in ensuing generations including a fifth Jacob, Georg’s son Jacob C. Brumbaugh (1797-1871) [FaG 12311831]. We believe that Johannes Henrich Brumbaugh was either a brother or a cousin of Jacob Brumbagh-1, but definite documentary proof is hard to come by. (FaG = Find-a-Grave Memorial #)

    Martin Grove Brumbaugh, Ph.D. (1862-1930), an educator of renown and governor of Pennsylvania, and Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh (1862-1952), a physician and esteemed genealogist who wrote the book on Genealogy of the Brumbaugh Families in America, were descended from Johannes Henrich Brumbaugh. Both men served with distinction long terms as board members and MGB as president of Juniata College.

    (Sources: Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, Genealogy of the Brumbaugh Families in America (1913) which was unable to determine Jacob’s birthplace but generously reproduced deeds and much other primary source material; Report on Johann Jacob Brumbaugh by Anne Schmidt-Lange, certified genealogist (German speaker), 2014, based on LDS microfiche of German birth registers; Deed records of Washington County, Maryland, and Franklin County and Bedford County, Pennsylvania; Scharf, History of Western Maryland; histories of the German Baptist Brethren of Maryland by J. Maurice Henry (1937) and Freeman Ankrum (1961); estate papers of Washington County, Maryland; tax lists of these counties; Minutes of the Committee of Observation of Elizabeth town district, 1776-77; Crane, The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker (1991); Henry Drinker archive at Historical Society of PA, Phila.; numerous other primary and secondary sources- for more see JacobBrumbaugh.com, a blog kept by N. E. Donoghue, email address: ned21@mac.com).

  37. Roberta, I heard the beginning of your list of things you would like to see from the DNA providers on the MyHeritage Live event. Would love to see a blog post with all of them.

  38. Roberta, I have located links from the Roger Clapp Family back to 1474. I first saw some of your info a long time ago pertaining to the Clapp Family. I have misplaced your Email address. Can you please let me know of your Email address. You can contact me Paul Morris Hilton tinym81@rogers.com

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