About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.

MyHeritage Updates Theories of Family Relativity

If you have taken a MyHeritage DNA test or transferred there, quick, check your results because you may have new Theories of Family Relativity! I do.

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MyHeritage introduced Theory of Family Relativity for their DNA customers in February this year at RootsTech. I wrote about the introduction and how to use and evaluate Theories here.

Theories of Family Relativity, sometimes abbreviated as TOFR, first looks at your DNA matches, then their trees, and provides you with theories as to how you share a common ancestor.

These are called theories for a reason. They utilize your tree and other people’s as well. Sometimes multiple trees have to be used to connect the dots if you or your matches tree isn’t extended far enough back in time.

My normal cautions about trees apply here. One of the great things about theories, though, is that if there are different “paths” suggested by trees, TOFR shows those multiple paths and allows you to evaluate for yourself.

Evaluation is crucial – which is why they are called theories.

Multiple DataBases Contribute to Increased Theories

MyHeritage utilizes trees and other information from multiple databases and then ranks their probability of being accurate. Databases include:

  1. MyHeritage records
  2. 45 million trees at MyHeritage
  3. FamilySearch trees
  4. Geni trees

In their blog article, MyHeritage provides additional details such as:

  • The total number of Theories has increased from 6 to 14 million
  • More than 46% of their users have at least one Theory (no tree, no Theory)
  • A new notification system is being rolled out, so you’ll receive an e-mail when you receive new Theories
  • For now, the TOFR database will be updated periodically, but eventually it will be automated so that TOFRs will be reported as they occur

My Theories

In February, I had 51 Theories. This week, MyHeritage refreshed TOFR again and now I have 26 more for a total of 77.

Of these new 26, 24 are accurate. One connects me to the wrong son of my ancestor, and one is inaccurate – but I know why both are wrong.

The second inaccurate theory is because most trees include the wrong mother for my ancestor Phoebe Crumley. Her mother was Lydia Brown, not Elizabeth Johnson. I performed extensive research, including mitochondrial DNA testing, and proved that Phoebe’s mother was Lydia, not Elizabeth. However, wrong trees are plentiful and have been propagating like weeds for years now in many databases with no documentation.

This is why evaluation is critical.

I particularly like that theories aren’t just provided blindly, expecting you to just have faith, but each “link” is evaluated and given a confidence ranking.

Using Theories

He’s an example of how to use theories. You can find them by clicking on the purple View Theories banner or under DNA matches by utilizing the Tree Details filter.

MyHeritage example theory.png

If you have a new Theory, it will be labeled as such so you don’t waste time looking at Theories you’ve already processed. I write a note for every match I’ve reviewed in the notes box in the upper right hand corner.

MyHeritage new theory.png

Theories are important, but don’t overlook the information in the green box. If the theory turns out to be not exactly correct – the additional information may still be the link you need.

View the theory by clicking on either the View Theory link or the Review DNA Match button. Your theory is the first thing you’ll see below the match itself.

MyHeritage view full theory.png

The theory is presented with the detail available when you click on View full theory.

In this example, my first cousin tested and entered at least a partial tree. TOFR created 5 different “paths” based on combinations of trees as to how we are related.

MyHeritage review match.png

I’m displaying Path 1 where the link has a 93% confidence ranking. To view that comparison, click on the green intersection button and additional information between the two trees used to create the theory will display. In this case, it’s me with no additional information, but Path 3, below, shows the link between two trees at our common grandfather level.

MyHeritage green intersection.png

Now if I click on the green intersection button, I see a lot more information, based on the information in both trees, shown side by side comparatively. The more information in the trees, the more information MyHeritage has to use when constructing these Theories.

MyHeritage match detail.png

I love this tool!

Even my Theories that aren’t completely correct provide me with hints and other people’s information to evaluate. I can almost always figure the rest out by myself.

Better yet, given that I paint my matches with known ancestors at DNAPainter, I now have 26 more matches to paint, AND, if I look at my shared matches with these people, I’m sure I’ll have even more. I may never surface for air!

Many people are very likely to discover new ancestors, especially people who are newer to genealogy!

Beware though, and verify, because these connections are hints and theories, not gospel.

How Do You Get Theories?

Maybe you don’t have Theories and want some. How can you encourage the system to generate Theories?

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  • If your DNA is not attached to your person card, connect it by clicking on the DNA tab at the top of any page, then on Manage DNA Kits.

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  • Under Manage DNA Kits, you’ll see 3 dots to the right side. Click there to assign a DNA kit to a person.

MyHeritage assign DNA kit.png

  • You must have a tree, even if it’s a small tree. The more robust your tree, the more Theories you are likely to have because MyHeritage can make those connections. For example, if your tree has only you plus your parents, other trees much have you or your parents in their trees too in order for MyHeritage to be able to connect the dots. Enter as many ancestors as you can into your tree. You can build your tree at MyHeritage or you can upload a GEDCOM file.
  • When MyHeritage offers SmartMatches between your tree and another user’s trees, consider accepting the match after evaluation. Note that if you confirm the match, New and Improved information will be brought over from your match’s tree into yours, so be very discriminating and review each SmartMatch carefully before confirming. I always click through to the tree and review their documentation. Having said this, SmartMatching is one of the tools that MyHeritage can utilize to confirm that two people in different trees are actually the same person.
  • Prepare and Wait – After testing or uploading your DNA, work with your matches and SmartMatches to extend your tree so that you’ll be in a prime position to receive Theories of Family Relativity as soon as it’s run again. Soon, it will be automated and running continuously.

Getting Started

If you want to play, you have to test or transfer. Here’s how:

Have fun!!!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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

Concepts: What are NPEs and MPEs?

Child with helix

Sooner or later in genetic genealogy, you’re going to run across the acronym, NPE or MPE.

Years ago, the phrase NPE was coined to generally mean when the expected parent or parents weren’t.

  • NPE means nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event.
  • Some folks didn’t like that term and began to use MPE, misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage.

Of course, today, this situation could arise as a result of an adoption, a donor situation, either male or female, or the more often thought-of situation where the father isn’t who he’s presumed/believed to be based on the circumstances at hand.

Historically, adoptions weren’t a legal situation. If the parents died on the wagon train, someone took the kids to raise. Ditto a woman raising her sister’s children.

At that time, everyone knew the situation and it wasn’t a secret. A couple (or more) generations later, no one knows and the presumed parent(s) aren’t, especially if the child used the surname of the people who raised him or her. That’s a very common step-father situation, especially before official birth certificates.

Regardless of the situation, the “adoption” was undocumented for future generations. Hence, the term “undocumented adoption.” I’ve used “undocumented adoption” for a long time because I felt there was less judgement inherent in that description. Other people simply say “of unknown parentage.”

Discoveries are Common

Of course today with various types of DNA testing, these types of situations are slowly, or not so slowly, being discovered.

When they reveal themselves, you may have to saw a branch off of your tree. That’s ugly if you’re a genealogist, but at least it’s not someone you know personally.

However, if the people involved are closer in time, the discovery may be a shock or traumatic. I experienced this with my half-brother, Dave, who turned out not to be my biological brother.  I found him and then heartbreakingly lost him. I loved him regardless and wrote about our journey here, here and here.

These situations used to be remarkable, but with so many people DNA testing, these revelations are becoming daily events.

No Judgement

While the first thought that might occur is that someone was cheating, that may not be the case at all. Lots of circumstances may come into play. I wrote about several here.

I would encourage everyone to suspend judgement, not assume and to give our ancestors and family members the benefit of the doubt. We don’t and can’t know what happened to them.

Moccasins and glass houses😊

Besides that – if it wasn’t for your ancestors, you wouldn’t be you!

Super DNA Sales – Amazon Prime Day – July 15 and 16 Only

Amazon Prime is a subscription service that includes free delivery and often that means one-day delivery, at least within the US.

On two days per year, known as Amazon Prime Day, subscribers get access to even better deals on Amazon items. Even if you’re not a prime member, you still receive the great prices, just not the free shipping.

Super prices coupled with free delivery make DNA kits even better values.

Check out the prices for the vendors products we know and love – you may come away with an amazing deal.

DNA Tests

Family Tree DNA – ethnicity, DNA matching and includes free return postage within the US – $49 (discount is applied in the checkout to receive this price)
MyHeritage – ethnicity, DNA matching, and Theories of Family Relativity – $59

AncestryDNA – ethnicity, DNA matching and ThruLines – $49

23andMe Ancestry only – ethnicity, chromosome painting and DNA matching – $99 (apparently no sale price price)

23andMe Ancestry plus Health – above plus health information – $199. There is no sale price from 23andMe on Amazon but a reseller is offering this product for less. In the past, Ancestry in particular has had problems with kits sold through resellers being invalid when the purchaser wanted to activate the kit, with the code already having been used, so when I purchase on Amazon, I only purchase from the actual DNA vendor. You can do as you see fit:)

Free Gift From Me!

If you’re uncertain about what to do after you receive your DNA test results, you’re in luck, because in a few days ago I published DNA Results- First Glances at Ethnicity and Matching. In the next week or so, I’ll be publishing a First Steps article that will get you started with matching, using your results and why they are important.

Just open your new test results and follow along.

Like always, you can share with your family, friends and on social media – and it’s free.

DNA Books

If you want to educate yourself with a book, below you’ll find  my favorite DNA books in no specific order. Note that two of these are brand new.

Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies by Debbie Parker Wayne (this is a brand new book published in March 2019)

Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine Bettinger (published October 2016)

Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne (published January 2016)

DNA Guide for Adoptees by Brianne Kirkpatrick and Shannon Combs-Bennett (just released in May 2019)

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich (March 2018)

Disclosure

Yes, these are affiliate links. You save a bundle and I make a few cents for the effort of gathering this information in one place for you and publishing the article. Doesn’t cost you a penny – you don’t pay anything extra.

Thanks so much for helping to keep this blog free for everyone and keeping the lights on!

Enjoy!

Lucy Moore (c 1754-1832), Minister’s Wife – 52 Ancestors #246

As a woman, I often wonder what will define my life when I’m gone. For our ancestors, it was often a woman’s husband and sometimes, her children. That’s pretty much it.

Of course, today, living on the “right side” of women’s lib which ushered in many opportunities for women, I am much more in control of my own life. I can make my own choices about important and not-so-important matters, without anyone’s agreement or blessing required. Key word is required.

I selected a career, purchased and sold property without my husband’s or father’s “permission” and gasp, I vote. My ancestors would probably be both ecstatic and horrified, depending on who they were and when and where they lived😊

Social media provides me with the opportunity to share choices and record my daily life as I type into the ether.

For better or worse, someday my descendants may be mining Facebook to see what great-grandma was doing on July 4th, a hundred years in the past. They’re going to be awfully bored, but it’s the mundane day to day things that cumulatively weave together the threads of our life. Isn’t that really what we long to know about our ancestors?

I want to know that my great-great-grandmother picked green beans and snapped them sitting under the shade of an old oak tree in a heat wave that was “hotter than Hades, like never before” with her 3 sisters while their small children playing in the creek nearby under their watchful eyes.

There might not have been cameras, but I can paint a powerful mental picture.

My descendants, if I have any, will probably have a good laugh at the fashions, automobiles and old-fashioned technology of the time in which I live. I already cringe looking at the styles of the 60s and 70s.

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See,  you’re laughing already!

At some point far into the future, styles won’t just be old-fashioned, they will have no comprehension of life today. Our life will be entirely unfamiliar.

Picking 3 or 4 events at random from my life, I ask myself if those few items, with no additional information would truly be representative of who I am? Probably not, yet that’s what we find, if we’re lucky, about our ancestors.

The further back in time we search, generally the less we can discover about any ancestor, and women are more difficult than men – beginning with the fact that they change their surnames when they marry. Add to that the fact that they couldn’t vote so aren’t on voter lists, rarely lived outside the home of their father, husband or finally, their children and seldom if ever made purchases like land. Often they weren’t mentioned by name in wills.

Lucy Moore broke the rules. Not all of the rules of the colonial society in which she lived, but a great many. Probably out of necessity – but nonetheless – thankfully, it created records.

I like Lucy, a lot. She was spunky and I can’t help but wonder if that is indeed her legacy to me.

In the Beginning

Nothing about finding Lucy was easy – not even her name. It wasn’t recorded in any family records and was only revealed in deeds. Were it not for that, she would have slipped forever beneath the waves of anonymity.

I suspect, but don’t know, that Lucy is short for Lucinda.

I have calculated Lucy’s approximate birth year by using the birth dates of her children in combination with the tax lists.

I discovered her death date or at least the year quite by accident, after missing it the first time around. Thank goodness for these 52 Ancestors articles which force me to reread everything about each ancestor.

In 1782, William Moore and Lucy had 6 “white souls” in their household in Halifax County, VA, which tells us that they had 4 living children. We don’t know the actual birth dates of any of her children, but information provided in later census and other documents gives us a range or approximation.

If they were married a year before the first child was born, and a child was born every 2 years, their marriage occurred in approximately 1773.

Looking backwards, we know that Jane Moore who married in 1823 was born in 1797. Her sister, Rebecca married in 1825, so she was likely born before 1805. She could have been born about 1799. If that’s the case, then Lucy would have been having children from about 1774 to 1799, a span of 25 years. If Lucy’s first child was born about age 20, then the final child was born at 45.

Of course, children could have been born closer than every 2 years, and some children probably died.

We know that 4 were living in 1782 and 5 were living in 1785.

Therefore, if Lucy was age 45 in 1799, she was born approximately 1754. The census tells us that she was born between 1750-1760, so 1754 works. It’s possible that Lucy was a little older, but not much older because we know, based on the census, that Jane was born in 1797.

Where Was Lucy Born?

We don’t know where Lucy was born, but I can pretty well tell you where she wasn’t born.

Lucy lived her married life in what is today the Vernon Hill community, at the intersection of Oak Level Road and Mountain Road (Highway 360) in Halifax County, VA. Today, at this intersection, we look south and west over the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church and cemetery which was once the land owned by William and Lucy Moore.

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Halifax County was formed in 1752 from Lunenburg County, and the area around Vernon Hills hadn’t yet been settled. Land grants for that area began to be obtained a decade later and it wasn’t until between 1765-1770 that that area was actually cleared and people began taking up residence there.

The families that inhabited this community didn’t move out from Banister Town, as the town of Halifax was called then, or South Boston but migrated from counties like Amelia and Prince Edward which were further north and east where the desirable available land was all taken.

Lucy Moore Prince Edward to Halifax.png

An hour and a half drive today took 10 days in a wagon with no shocks, bumping and jarring all the way in 1765.

Halifax County was the new frontier, a land of opportunity, and the generation to which Lucy’s parents belonged hitched up the wagon, applied for a land patent, and moved. They built log cabins, some of which still stand today more than 250 years later. They cleared the land, backbreaking work, in order to sew small patches of tobacco.

tobacco plants

Tobacco drained the land of nutrients in just a 3 or 4 years, creating “old fields” that had to lie fallow for roughly 20 years, so the need to keep clearing land was incessant.

Tobacco was a high-maintenance crop. On top of depleting the soil, it also required massive amounts of labor and sold for pennies.

Where Lucy lived, everyone worked in the fields and everyone was poor. The larger plantations owned by wealthy settlers who also owned slaves were located along the Dan River, close to South Boston. Vernon Hill was 15+ miles away, a day’s ride and there was no reason to go there. Roads were mud pits and South Boston or Banister Town existed in another far-away world. It’s entirely possible that Lucy never once made the trip to town.

Lucy would have moved to the Vernon Hill or Oak Level area with her parents probably sometime between 1765 and 1772/1774 when she married William Moore. Most of the families who bought land in that region were neighbors from Prince Edward County, so there’s a good possibility that she might have known William before arriving in Halifax County.

Many of the people were also dissenting families. The Rice family is recorded in 1759 in Price Edward as building a meeting house for a dissenting religion. Mary Rice married James Moore, the parents of William Moore, Lucy’s eventual husband. William himself was a dissenting Methodist minister, at least in the beginning.

Dissenting was a binding cause among like-minded families.

Marriage

If Lucy began having children about 1774, give or take a year or so, she likely married between 1772 and 1774, age 18-20.

William Moore had been living in Halifax County since about 1770, so it’s likely that Lucy’s family was a Halifax County family as well.

There was no marriage return filed with the clerk, perhaps because as “dissenters,” they were not an Anglican church-attending family or possibly because some of the records were destroyed during the Revolutionary War. It’s also feasible that during the War, people just didn’t bother to file those marriage returns because it was a long ride to the courthouse, the filing wasn’t free and who knew what the outcome of the war might be.

Now, we’re left to try to fill in the pieces of information that our ancestors knew quite well.

Road Hands

At that time, all property-owning men were required to donate one day per year for road maintenance. Keep in mind that at the time bridges didn’t exist and wagons regularly got mired axle deep in ruts and mud.

The first road hand list in the 1782 court records includes the Moore men and shows us who the neighbors are:

John Pankey surveyor from Walton’s Mill path to county line, tithes John Sloane?, James Ferguson, Hugh Ferguson, Thomas Jeffress, Lewis Halay, Benjamin Halay, Daniel Trammell, Thomas Trammell, Richard Lamkin, Richard Thompson, William Yates, Jesse Spradling, Isaac Farguson, John Farguson, Nimrod Farguson, Charles Spradling, Mack (Mackness) Moore, Rich Moore, William Moore, Thomas Williamson Jr. and Sr., Edward Henderson, William Pankey, Nathan Sullins, John Mullins, Wiliam Ashlock, James Moore, Bartholowmew Harris, Benjamin Edwards, William Edwards, Thomas Dodson Jr. and Sr., George Dodson, Robert, Mathis, John Tolles, Martin Palmer, William Walton.

The county line would have been Pittsylvania County which was roughly 5 miles west on Mountain Road

Was Lucy’s family among these road hands?

The Candidates

The most likely candidates for William Moore’s wife were the neighbors, of course. Those are the young ladies that William would have seen most often – at church, perhaps at school if there was one, in the neighborhood and at entertainment events like corn shuckings. Of course, that’s assuming they grew corn in Halifax county. I know they grew literally tons of tobacco and tobacco picking was not a mixed-gender social event.

Of course, the fly in this ointment might be that William began preaching before 1775, which means that he might have met Lucy in a different church someplace on his circuit outside of this immediate community.

However, if Lucy was from one of the local families, the following families, in alphabetical order, were involved with the Moore family by living adjacent or witnessing documents during that time-frame.

Dodson – The Dodson family was in Halifax County before 1774 when James Moore sold Thomas Dodson land bounded by James Spradling and James Henry. I have proven Dodson ancestors, so I could DNA match through those folks. If Lucy was a Dodson, this could be nearly unsolvable using DNA, especially so far back in time.

However, if I have overlapping DNA matches between known Dodson segments and segments that descend from the Moore line, that could be a clue using DNAPainter.

Ferguson – The Ferguson/Farguson family also hails from Prince Edward and Amelia County and witnessed deeds in Halifax County for the Moores for years beginning with Joseph Ferguson in 1773 when James Moore sold land to Thomas Ward.

I do DNA match several descendants of the Ferguson line although not all through Halifax County. I suspect that my Combs family was intermarried with the Fergusons in Amelia County. If Lucy was a Ferguson/Farguson, this too could be complex.

Henderson – The Henderson family is intermarried with the Moores. James Moore’s daughter, Lydia, is all but certain to be the wife of Edward Henderson who was from Prince Edward County and owned land adjacent to James Moore. In 1786, James Moore sells land to Edward Henderson bounded by the “old fields,” James Henry, William Moore, Nathan Sullings and was witnessed by Mackness and William Moore along with John Poindexter.

I do DNA match members of the Henderson family, but some of Edward Henderson’s children intermarried with descendants of Marcus Younger through the Clark family. How I match the Henderson line descendants would be critical information, meaning through those Henderson children who married Clarks or other Hendersons.

Henry – In 1776, James Henry is listed in a deed as “of Accomack County” when he sold land to James Spradling which bounds James Moore’s plantation. The Henry family shares lines with the Moore family in 1774 and family members, including women, witness deeds over the years, including 1778. In 1780, James Henry is listed “of King and Queen County” when he sells additional land to James Moore via his power-of-attorney William Ryburn. Henry family members may not have lived in Halifax County.

DNA matches do not suggest a connection with a Halifax County Henry family.

McDaniel – Henry McDaniel witnessed a deed in 1773 for James Moore’s sale to Thomas Ward along with James Thompson and Joseph Ferguson.

I do DNA match with descendants of Henry McDaniel.

Pankey – James Moore sells land to John Pankey in 1778 intersecting with Colonel Henry’s line, witnessed by Joseph Dodson, Charles Spradling, Edward Henderson and William Moore. In 1780 Moore sold Pankey additional land and in 1781 when the deed was witnessed by William Parker, Jonathan Colquitt and Charles Crenshaw. In 1784, James Henry of King and Queen County sold more land to James Moore against Pankey’s line and Nathan Sullins. Witnesses were John Poindexter, Howard Henderson and William Walter. The Pankeys were involved with the Moore clan for years, including a suit for slander in the 1800s.

Pankey is an unusual surname and I do have DNA matches from the Halifax line.

Slate – The Slate family has some type of relationship with the Moore family. They were in the area by 1770 when Samuel Slate witnessed the original deed for James Moore when he purchased his initial land from James Spradling and then again in 1774. William Slate counter-signed a debt document for William Moore in 1824, and two of William’s daughters married Slate men.

Given the Slate marriages, I expected to DNA match Slate descendants, but surprisingly, I don’t, at least not yet. Either these daughters had few children, their descendants haven’t tested or we don’t share DNA segments.

Spradling – The James Spradling family shared a property line with the James Moore family, witnessed deeds and a Spradling son lived with James Moore for 2 years before enlisting for the Revolutionary War. James Moore bought his original land from James Spradling in 1770 but Spradling patented the land in 1765. However, this patent was the exact same patent filed by Isham Womack in 1762, so a change of hands happened between 1762 and 1765. Spradling witnessed deeds in 1774 and conveyed land to James Moore again in 1778 and 1785.

There is one DNA match that descends from a Rachel Spradling born in 1730 and died in Halifax County. I would expect more if Lucy was a Spradling.

However, I have numerous matches to descendants of the Womack family that I can’t explain.

Stubblefield – The Stubblefield family also came from Prince Edward County. George Stubblefield witnessed the original James Moore land purchase in 1770. Sally, James Moore’s daughter married Martin Stubblefield in about 1787. This family may have been related before coming to Halifax County.

A Lemuel Moore which may have been James Moore’s son or grandson married Ann Stubblefield in Grainger Co., TN in 1804. The Stubblefield and Moore families migrated from Halifax to Grainger together.

I DNA match lots of people from this line, which I would expect with the multiple marriages into the Moore line and migration together on into Tennessee. However, if I don’t match through known Stubblefield marriages into the Moore family, the Stubblefield DNA matches may mean something more.

Thompson – The Thompson family was in the area by 1773 when James Thompson witnessed a deed for James Moore. In 1798, James Moore’s son, Mackness, married Sarah Thompson and his daughter Mary Moore married Richard Thompson, both in 1789.

I do DNA match some people with Thompson ancestors from Halifax County, but this is expected due to the known Moore-Thompson marriages. Ancestry trees suggest that James Thompson was married to an Elizabeth Rice, although her ancestry needs work and could be a different Rice line, not related to Mary Rice, James Moore’s wife.

Walton – Walton’s Mill path had to be someplace close because Walton deeds tell us that William and Spencer Walton owned land on the Second Fork of Birches Creek, the same waterway where the Moores lived. The Walton family was also from Prince Edward County and various members witnessed deeds for the Moore family for years including 1781. In 1781 Stephen Pankey sold land to William Walton which was bounded by Spencer Walton and the Henry line.

I have no DNA matches to the Walton line out of Halifax County.

Ward – James Moore sold land to Thomas Ward in 1774 which was noted as adjacent to Thomas Ward and James Henry. I do have one DNA match to a James Ward descendant from this time-frame in Halifax County, plus a few later Ward matches as well.

The Surname/DNA Exercise

I’m not sure how useful this exercise was or wasn’t. What I do know is that I could probably narrow or eliminate some of these surnames as possibilities if the tester descends from other known Moore family members or other ancestors such as Dodsons or Youngers.

My DNA matches to these people, of course, could be from an entirely different line. Unless the person has tested at a vendor where we can see segments, I have no way to determine how I match the individual. Vendors reporting both segments and trees are Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and third party site, GedMatch.

This intermarrying grapevine effect, of course, represents the problem of endogamy or less pronounced, what happens with a common migration path over a century or so. We just have no idea who married whom in the past, not to mention the ever-lurking NPE (non-parental event.).

We still don’t know who Lucy’s parents were, but we do know something about her life.

A Preacher’s Wife

Lucy was a preacher’s wife from very early in their marriage, if not for their entire marriage. I’m guessing that one of the reasons she married William was because of his religious zeal. He may have had a very charismatic personality as well.

Without TV or any outside influences like radio, the preacher was just about the only organized drama that existed in rural Virginia. Fire and brimstone was both exciting and impressive! People traveled for miles to watch preaching and to see their neighbors and catch up on the gossip of course.

Who got “saved” and went to the confessor’s bench? Who got baptized? Who wasn’t at church? Who was sick? Who was drunk on Saturday night? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

According to an article about William Moore, in 1805 he had been preaching “more than 30 years,” which means that if Lucy and William were married between 1772 and 1775, he preached nearly their entire marriage which spanned more than half a century, until his death in 1826.

Being married 50 years today is remarkable. Being married 50 years then was flat out incredible!

I wonder if William met Lucy at a church function.

We can surmise from William’s profession, aside from farming, because of the added burden that being a circuit-riding minister placed on Lucy that she was every bit as devoted to their religion of choice as was he. She too was a dissenter, so it’s a small leap of faith to surmise that her family was as well. Many dissenting families from Prince Edward County moved to Halifax and it’s unlikely that her father would have approved the marriage if their family hadn’t been of like minds.

When William was absent, which was probably quite often, especially in the early years, the farm work, the animals and the children all fell to Lucy. Not to mention that she had to be prepared to handle any emergency by herself.

This would make it even more important for her to have family members present in the community.

Lucy even managed through the Revolutionary War, part of which was fought in Halifax County. Without communications like we have today, she would never have known when the Red Coats might be arriving, or what they would do if they did.

Lucy also lived through the War of 1812. At least one of her sons, Azariah and a son-in-law, John R. Estes, both served in the War of 1812.

Lucy didn’t just marry William, she married the church. William was even absent on Christmas. The 1784 Methodist Christmas Conference was held in Baltimore, Maryland and William is recorded as having been in attendance. The ministers arrived and worked for 6 weeks in advance. That 300 mile trip would have taken roughly a month in each directly. Lucy was probably pregnant at the time. We know that between 1782 and 1785, William and Lucy had at least one child that lived. She would have had 5 children under the age of 10.

Lucy had to be incredibly self-sufficient to survive.

I wonder how many of her children were born while William was away.

Halifax County Records

I don’t know if the story is true or a tall tale, but when I was in Halifax County at the courthouse, I was told that the only reason the records were spared during the Revolutionary War when the British marched through was because the clerk or other official draped his Masonic apron over the record books.

This unmistakable message to other Masons would have spoken volumes that nothing else could have done. If this is indeed a true story, that apron is responsible for preserving the records of my ancestors.

Without deed and court records, we would never have known anything about Lucy.

Lucy in the Records

We first discover Lucy in the records in 1786 when she witnessed the sale of land from James Moore to Leonard Baker. William Moore and wife Lucy were witnesses, as was Mackness Moore, William’s brother. Lucy and James both sign with an X in this document, but neither are recorded as signing with an X in others. Go figure.

Maybe they could write, but it wasn’t something they did often, so was difficult. William, of course, being a minister, would have had occasion to write often.

In 1794, Lucy witnessed the sale of land from Edward Henderson to Isaac Barr. The deed says the land shared lines with William Moore and James Henry. William and James Moore were also witnesses. Edward Henderson’s wife, Lydia, is William Moore’s sister, so Lucy’s sister-in-law. There is no mention of signing with marks in this document.

In 1801, William Moore and wife, Lucy, sell 100 acres for 85 pounds to Arthur Slaton, which may actually be Slate, “except where the meeting house stands.” The meeting house is directly across the road from the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church today. Property lines were shared with Isaac Barry and “across the mountain.” Ritchie McGregor, John Farguson and Pheby Walton serve as witnesses.

Obviously, these deeds were signed in the neighborhood, probably by whoever was in the kitchen (or the church, or tavern) at the time, and transported later to the clerk’s office to be recorded. Of course, that’s assuming they were recorded at all.

Generations of deeds were sometimes passed from hand to hand.

Challenges

Records in Halifax County do exist, but they are often incomplete. Tax lists are partial in many cases and they don’t exist at all for some years

The 1790, 1800 and 1810 census are all three missing, a devastating blow.

Significant gaps in marriage licenses recorded, especially around the Revolutionary War, suggest that records are missing.

Chain of property ownership is frustratingly incomplete. It’s clear that not all deeds were registered.

Property transferred by either commissioner or estate administrator or executor whose last name is not the same as the owner is almost impossible to track.

And worse yet, for me anyway, there were multiple Lucy Moores living in the same place at the same time. Lucy is not a common name, unlike William or James. How could I be this unlucky?

Multiple Lucys

I discovered two Lucy Moores and thought I had them sorted out, but as I was writing Lucy’s story, I discovered a third Lucy which meant I had to reevaluate everything.

The second Lucy Moore was added in 1817 when Lucy Akin married James Moore, son of William and Lucy Moore.

These two Lucy’s shouldn’t be terribly difficult to tell apart.

Lucy, wife of William Moore would have been in her mid-60s by this time. Lucy Akin would have been a young woman.

However, the lives of these two Lucy’s were bound together by tragedy. Then a third Lucy was discovered in the resulting court records.

Lucy Moore’s most interesting years, in a very unexpected way, were just beginning.

Lucy’s most defining moments came in the 1820s when she was in her late 60s and 70s.

All I can say is that Lucy Moore was not a well-behaved woman, at least not by the standards of the time in which she lived! I must have inherited that from her!

Bravo Lucy!

Join me for the next article to find out what Lucy did!

Colorize Old Photos

I know this isn’t about DNA, but it is about ancestors and old photos. What’s not to love!

My friend sent me a link where you can upload an old photo and it’s colorized, for free. (Thanks Chris!)

I’m having so much fun, I just have to share with you.

https://colourise.sg/#colorize

The photo below is my Mom from during WWII. I think she looks a lot more real in the colorized version, at right.

Mom colorized.png

The technology works best with high resolution, in-focus photos. That doesn’t mean it won’t work with others and it’s free to try.

It works great with groups of people too. Here’s my Dad with my sister’s kids.

Dad colorized.png

Have fun!

DNA Results – First Glances at Ethnicity and Matching!

People who have worked with genetic genealogy for a long time often forget what it’s like to be a new person taking a DNA test.

Recently, someone asked me what a tester actually sees after they take a DNA test and their results are ready. Good question, especially for someone trying to decide what might work for them.

I’m going to make this answer very simple. For each of the 4 major vendors, I’m going to show what a customer sees when they first sign in and view their results. Not everything or every tool, just their main page along with the initial matching and ethnicity pages.

Please feel free to share this article with people who are new and might be interested. It’s easy to follow along.

I do want to stress that this is just the beginning, not the end game and that every vendor has much more to offer if you take advantage of their tools.

Best of all, it’s so much FUN to learn about your heritage and your ancestry, plus meeting cousins and family members you may not have known that you had.

I’ve been gifted with photos of my grandparents and great-grandparents that I had no idea existed before meeting new family members.

I hope that all the new testers will become excited and that their results are just a tiny first step!

The Vendors

I’m going to take a look at:

Each vendor offers DNA matching to others in their database, plus ethnicity estimates. Yes, ethnicity is only an estimate.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA was the first and still the only genetic genealogy testing company to offer a full range of DNA testing products, launching in the year 2000. Today they stand out as the “science company,” offering both Y and mitochondrial DNA testing in addition to their Family Finder test which is comparable with the tests offered by Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage.

Your personal page at Family Tree DNA shows the following tools for the Family Finder test.

Glances Family Tree DNA home

The two options we’ll look at today are your Matches and myOrigins, which is your ethnicity estimate.

Click on Matches to view whose DNA matches you. In my case, on the page below, you can see that I have a total of 4610 matches, of which 986 have been assigned to my paternal side, 842 to my maternal side, and 4 to both sides. In my case, the 4 assigned to both sides are my children and grandchildren, which makes perfect sense,

Glances Family Tree DNA matches

You can click to enlarge this graphic.

The green box above the matches indicates additional tools which provide information such as who I match in common with another person. I can see, for example, who I match in common with a first cousin which is very helpful in determining which ancestor those matches are related through.

The red box and circle show information provided to me about each match.

Family Tree DNA is able to divide my matches into “Maternal,” “Paternal” and “Both” buckets because they encourage me to link DNA matches on my tree. This means that I connect my mother to her location on my tree so that Family Tree DNA knows that people that match Mother and me both are related on my mother’s side of the tree.

Your matches don’t have to be your parents for linking to work. The more people you link, the more matches Family Tree DNA can put into buckets for you, especially if your parents aren’t available to test. Plus, your aunts and uncles inherited parts of your grandparent’s DNA that your parents didn’t, so they are super important!

Figuring out which side your matches come from, and which ancestor is first step in genetic genealogy!

You can see, above, that my mother is “assigned” on my maternal side and my son matches me on both.

“Bucketing” is a great, innovative feature. But there’s more.

The tan rounded rectangle includes ancestral surnames, with the ones that you and your match have in common shown in bold.

Based on the amount of DNA that I share with a match, and other scientific calculations, a relationship range is calculated, with the linked relationship reflecting where I’ve put that person on my tree.

If your match has uploaded or created a tree, you can view their tree (if they share) by clicking on the little blue pedigree icon, above, circled in tan between the two arrows.

Glances Family Tree DNA tree

Here’s my tree with my family members who have DNA tested attached in the proper places in my tree. Of course, there are a lot more connected people that I’m not showing in this view.

Advanced features include tools like a matching matrix and a chromosome browser where you can view the segments that actually match.

Family Tree DNA Ethnicity

To view your ethnicity estimate, click on myOrigins and you’ll see the following, along with people you match in the various regions if they have given permission for that information to be shared with their matches:

Glances Family Tree DNA myOrigins

MyHeritage

MyHeritage has penetrated the European market quite well, so if your ancestors are from the US or Europe, MyHeritage is a wonderful resource. They offer both DNA testing and records via subscription, combining genetic matches and genealogical records into a powerful tool.

Glances MyHeritage home

At MyHeritage, when you sign in, the DNA tab is at the top.

Clicking on DNA Matches shows you the following match list:

Glances MyHeritage matches

To review all of the information provided for each match, meaning who they match in common with you, their ancestral surnames, their tree and matching details, you’ll click on “Review DNA Match.”

MyHeritage provides a special tool called Theories of Family Relativity which connects you with others and your common ancestors. In essence, MyHeritage uses DNA, trees and records to weave together at least some of your family lines, quite accurately.

Here’s a simple example where MyHeritage has figured out that one of the testers is my niece and has drawn our connection for us.

Theory match 2

Theories of Family Relativity is a recently released world-class tool, easy to use but can solve very complex problems. I wrote about it here.

Advanced DNA tools include a chromosome browser and triangulation, a feature which shows you when three people match on a common segment, indicating genetically that you all 3 share a common ancestor from whom you inherited that common piece of DNA.

MyHeritage Ethnicity

To view your ethnicity estimate at MyHeritage, simply click on Ethnicity Estimate on the menu.

Glances MyHeritage ethnicity.png

23andMe

23andMe is better known for their health offering, although they were the first commercial company to offer autosomal commercial testing. However, they don’t support trees, which for genealogists are essential. Furthermore, they limit the number of your matches to your 2000 closest matches, but if some of those people don’t choose to be included in matching, they are subtracted from your 2000 total allowed. Due to this, I have only 1501 matches, far fewer matches at 23andMe than at any of the other vendors.

Glances 23andMe home

At 23andMe when you sign on, under the Ancestry tab you’ll see DNA Relatives which are your matches and Ancestry Composition which is your ethnicity estimate.

Glances 23andMe matches

While you don’t see all of the information on this primary DNA page that you do with the other vendors, with the unfortunate exception of trees, it’s there, just not on the initial display.

23andMe also provides some advanced tools such as a chromosome browser and triangulation.

23andMe Ethnicity

What 23andMe does exceptionally well is ethnicity estimates.

To view your ethnicity at 23andMe, click on Ancestry Composition.

Glances 23andMe ethnicity

23andMe refines your ethnicity estimates if your parents have tested and shows you a composite of your ethnicity with your matches. However, I consider their ethnicity painting of your chromosomes to be their best feature.

Glances 23andMe chromosome painting

You can see, in my case, the two Native American segments on chromosomes 1 and 2, subsequently proven to be accurate via documentation along with Y and mitochondrial DNA tests at Family Tree DNA. The two chromosomes shown don’t equate necessarily to maternal and paternal.

I can download this information into a spreadsheet, meaning that I can then compare matches at other companies to these ethnicity segments on my mother’s side. If my matches share these segments, they too descend from our common Native American ancestor. How cool is that!!!

Ancestry

Ancestry’s claim to fame is that they have the largest DNA database for autosomal results. Because of that, you’ll have more matches at Ancestry, but if you’re a genealogist or someone seeking an unknown family member, the match you NEED might just be found in one of the other databases, so don’t assume you can simply test at one company and find everything you need.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Glances Ancestry home

At Ancestry, when you sign on, you’ll see the DNA tab. Click on DNA Story.

Glances Ancestry DNA tab

Scrolling past some advertising, you’ll see DNA Story, which is your Ethnicity Estimate and DNA Matches.

ThruLines, at right, is a tool similar to MyHeritage’s Theories of Family Relativity, but not nearly as accurate. However, Thrulines are better than they were when first released in February. I wrote about ThruLines here.

Glances Ancestry matches

Clicking on DNA Matches shows me information about my matches, in red, their trees or lack thereof in green, and information I can enter including ways to group my matches, in tan.

One of Ancestry’s best features is the green leaf, at the bottom in the green box, accompanied by the smiley face (that I added.) That means that this match’s tree indicates that we have a common ancestor. However, the smiley face is immediately followed by the sad face when I noticed the little lock, which means their tree is private and they aren’t sharing it with me.

If DNA testers forget and don’t connect their tree to their DNA results, you’ll see “unlinked tree.”

Like other vendors, Ancestry offers other tools as well, including the ability to define your own colored tags. You can see that I’ve tagged the matches at far right in the gold box with the little colored dots. I was able to define those dots and they have meanings such as common ancestor identified, messaged, etc.

Ancestry Ethnicity

To view your ethnicity estimate, click on “View Your DNA Story.”

Glances Ancestry ethnicity

You’ll see your ethnicity estimate and communities of matches that Ancestry has defined. By clicking on the community, you can see the ancestors in your tree that plot on the map into that community, along with a timeline. Seeing a community doesn’t necessarily mean your ancestor lived there, but that you match a group of people who are from that community.

Sharing Information

You might be thinking to yourself that it would be a lot easier if you could just test at one vendor and share the results in the other databases. Sometimes you can.

There is a central open repository at GedMatch, but clearly not everyone uploads there, so you still need to be in the various vendors’ data bases. GedMatch doesn’t offer testing, but offers additional tools, flexibility and open access not provided by the testing vendors.

Of these four vendors, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage accept transferred files from other vendors, while Ancestry and 23andMe do not.

Transferring

If you’re interested in transferring, meaning downloading your results from one vendor and uploading to another, I wrote a series of how-to transfer articles here:

Enjoy your new matches and have fun!

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Disclosure

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Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

The Reverend William Moore (c 1750-1826), Twice Dissenting Minister – 52 Ancestors #245

William and James are both common names, as is Moore. Saying this family has been difficult to research is an understatement. I’ve made multiple trips back to Halifax County, Virginia over a period of 3 decades – each one unearthing new tidbits, but also adding more questions than answers.

Slowly, a painting of the life of William Moore has unfolded, in quite an unexpected way. But first, I had to figure out which William Moore was mine.

Multiple William Moores

There were at least five, count ‘em, five, William Moores in Halifax County, Virginia in the late 1700s, and at least two James Moores. Of course, every William and James had children named William and James, and Thomas too. Oh yea, there were Thomas Moores in Halifax connected to the Williams and James. By 1800, we had another 3 “disconnected” Williams, probably sons of the other Moore men.

I was pulling my hair out.

The only way to even begin to straighten this out is deeds that include neighbors, waterways, court records and tax lists. Plus, a couple Williams had the decency to die with a will – but not mine of course.

Worse yet, the descendants of an “unrelated” James Moore, also from Amelia County, today live on the land that my James and William Moore lived on in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I say “unrelated” because the Y DNA tells us that they don’t share a paternal Moore ancestor, but I’m not entirely convinced they are in fact “unrelated.” More about that in James Moore’s article, yet to come.

I’m able to somewhat separate my particular William Moore from the other Williams because my William, after moving to Halifax County with his father, James, never moved again. He always lived in the same location, the Second Fork of Birches Creek, on land that is now the Vernon Hill community at the intersection of Oak Level Road and Highway 360, also known as Mountain Road.

Before I introduce you to my William, let me tell you who he is not.

The Wrong Williams

These men are NOT my William Moore. I compiled an embarrassingly large “every name” spreadsheet of every Moore person I could find in colonial Virginia with the assistance of Joyce Browning’s excellent extractions before she retired from active genealogy. This means that if there is a land sale with a buyer, seller and 4 witnesses, there are 6 entries in my spreadsheet for this transaction, which is also indexed by location and waterway.

Needless to say, the Moore family was not isolated, and the Combs, Rice and Estes families took the same migration path from eastern Virginia to Halifax County, more or less, so their records are contained in this same 25,000+ row spreadsheet. By the middle to late 1700s, these early colonial families had been intermingling and intermarrying as they pushed the westward frontier for 5 or 6 generations.

Yes, it was a miserable exercise BUT, BUT and this is very important, without that effort, I would never have been able to sort these families. In some cases, I still can’t entirely.

These 4 William Moores who are also found in Halifax County in the 1700s and the early 1800s are NOT my William.

  1. William (1) Moore born between 1712-1715 and died in Halifax County in 1786. He was living there as early as 1767 according to the vestry processioning notes. He lived on (Little) Cherrystone Creek and had a wife named Prudence who predeceased him. He is somehow connected to Robert Wooding. His children were Lucy Anna Moore who married John Echols and lived in Lunenburg County, Elizabeth Moore who married a Rowlett, William Jr. who lived in Pittsylvania County and probably married Sarah Hill. William lists grandchildren in his will, was wealthy and had an extensive probate.
  2. William (2) Moore born between 1770-1780 lived on Catawba and Childrey Creeks on land purchased by his father, Thomas who lived in Cumberland Co., VA in 1804. In 1829, William and his son William G. along with sons Wesley and Barnett were acquitted of assault. William (2) was declared a “lunatic” in 1833 and died in 1834 with a will. He had wife Mary, children; Harriett who married Thomas E. Moore, a hatter, who MAY have been the son of my William Moore or possibly a son of Daniel Moore, but there is no proof. (I’d love a Y DNA test from this line.) Harriett and Thomas sold their interest in William (2) Moore’s estate in 1834 from Charlotte County, next door to Halifax. William (2) also had son Barnett B. Moore born 1794 who married Lydia Booker and died in Greenbrier, WV, William G. Moore who married Virginia Taylor, Thomas P. Moore who married Susan Daniel, John W. Moore who was alive in 1834, Mary Moore who married a Taylor, Elizabeth Moore who married Donald Murphy and Jenetty Moore who married Griffin Toombs. There is no known Y DNA test from this Moore line, but I suspect there may be a relationship with my William Moore family. In addition to the possible marriage, Isaac Medley was William (2) Moore’s estate administrator and was involved with my William as well, both as a neighbor and the man who foreclosed his property. On the other hand, Isaac Medley was a wealthy land speculator and seemed to be involved with everyone.
  3. William (3) Moore married Rhoda Archer Powell in August 1802. His estate was probated in by 1804 in Halifax County. If they had a child, it was a female. This William may be the William associated with the Hugh Moore group.
  4. William (4) Moore alive in 1775 who accepted a slave in payment of his wife’s share of her father, James Hill’s estate. I believe they lived on or near Wynne and Terrible Creeks in Halifax County.

While these aren’t my William Moore, it’s certainly possible that some of these men are related to my William Moore and if the Y DNA were be tested of Moore males who descend from these lines, we would be able to prove or disprove it – breaking down brick walls for all parties. There’s also an early Daniel and Thomas Moore who may be related. I have a DNA testing scholarship for any Moore male who descends from these lines. If any of these are your lines, leave a comment on this article, please!

My Guy – The Reverend William Moore

The Reverend William Moore was one of the earliest Methodist Ministers in the US, even before the Revolutionary War, and in particular, Virginia. He was such an interesting man and quite well traveled for a humble Virginia colonial farmer. Of course, most of his travels were on the back of a horse plodding through all kinds of weather on his way to meeting houses carrying his Bible in his saddlebag. He began as a circuit-riding preacher.

William Moore was born about 1750 in Amelia County, Virginia near Saylor Creek, the part that would become Prince Edward County in 1754. His parents, James Moore and Mary Rice lived beside her parents Joseph Rice and his wife Rachel, so William grew up beside his grandparents, at least until they pulled up stakes, packed the wagon and set off for greener pastures about 75 miles away.

Back then, 75 miles was a far distance. William may never have seen his grandparents again.

By 1770, the Moore family had moved to Halifax County, Virginia where on January 7th we find a deed from James Spradling and his wife, Mary, to James Moore for “238 acres on the branches of the second fork of Burches Creek whereon the said Moore now lives being a part of a patent to said Spradling dated Sept. 16, 1765.” This deed was witnessed by George Stubblefield. The Moores had a generations-long relationship with the Stubblefield family and may have already been related.

Halifax County Tax Lists

Before the 1790 census, thank goodness we have Halifax County tax lists, at least partial rolls for some years.

William Moore first appears on the head of household list in 1782 with a total of 6 “white souls.” Given that 2 are he and his wife, that leaves 4 children born over approximately 8 years, plus one year before the birth of the first child and 1 year for maybe 1 death puts the marriage of William and Lucy at about 1772. Subtracting 21 years from that puts William’s birth at about 1750 or 51, or earlier. We know William died in 1826, which would have made him about 77. Lucy lived for several more years.

In 1783, a personal property tax list was taken that tells us that William had one horse and 2 cows and in 1784, he is taxed with 100 acres “from last year.” By 1784, he is up to 7 cattle and in 1785, he has 7 household members, so another child has been born. William continues to be taxed on 100 acres of land, even though he hasn’t purchased any yet, according to the deed books. As a “renter,” he is likely responsible for the taxes on the land he cultivates.

In 1788, he has 2 horses but in 1789 and 1790, only 1. Unfortunately, the 1790 census for Halifax County is missing as is 1800 and 1810.

By 1792, William has 2 horses until 1795 when he has one again but in 1796, back to 2. I suspect he is breeding a horse and selling the colt, but that’s just a guess.

In 1794, William begins being taxed on 170 acres.

In 1797, William is listed as exempt from taxes. There are very few reasons for this to occur:

  • Advanced age (70 at that time in Halifax County)
  • Disability (authorized by the court)
  • A minister
  • A sheriff or official

Granted, William was a minister, but not an Anglican minister. Never before had he been listed as exempt from taxes. His father, James, had been exempt every year since 1791, likely due to advanced age. I think James was born by 1721, so the fact that he was exempt in 1791 would seem to corroborate that.

William is not exempt in 1798, but is again in 1799.

If William was exempt because of age, he would have been consistently exempt from 1797 on, but he wasn’t. Something happened to William in 1796 or 1797, which is also the same time that he stopped submitting marriage documents to the Halifax County Clerk to be recorded.

In 1798, William is listed with 170 acres +100 acres from R. Dayelle. Is this really Ransom Day?

In 1799, William has a total of 300 acres listed as follows:

  • 100 from James Moore
  • 100 from same
  • 100 from Ransom Day

In 1799 and 1800, William is back to one horse but has 2 again in 1801. The 1801 tax list says nothing about being exempt.

In 1802, William is taxed on 200 acres of land and that correlates with the sale of the 100 acres that he bought previously from Ransom Day. He has 3 horses that year and he is exempt again. He has 3 horses in 1803 and 1804, but 2 in 1805.

William continues to be exempt until 1806 and 1809 when he is not listed as exempt and has 4 horses. He is once again listed as exempt in 1810. After that, the tax lists are different and only provide the number of acres which continues to be 200 acres on the Second Fork of Birches Creek for William.

In 1812, William begins to be listed as William Sr., indicating that another, younger William has emerged, likely his son.

I can’t tell all of the William Moores in the county apart, so we don’t know when or if William’s son William joined the tax list. Both William and his brother Azariah married and settled in Pittsylvania County.

Azariah shows up on the tax rolls in 1804, meaning he would have been born in 1783 or before. He was a veteran in the war of 1812. His death was recorded in Pittsylvania County, but unfortunately his mother’s name is not provided.

1816 is the last year that we have tax lists for this time period. William is missing entirely from the 1820 census. The only possible William Moore that could be him is not living among the neighbors where I would expect to find him and has a slave. Given what I know about William, I’d be very hard-pressed to believe that William is mine. I think he was either missed or is at the bottom of a census page that managed to get cut off. Looking at the schedule, that’s exactly where I would expect to find him, based on his known neighbors.

Dissenters!

The Rice and Moore families were early dissenting families in Prince Edward County, meaning they did not belong to the Anglican Church. Initially, these dissenting churches were illegal, but eventually, after the Revolutionary War, each county was grudgingly allowed to have 2 or 3 “dissenting ministers” who had to be ordained and to register with the county who would then license them to perform marriages and other ministerial functions.

The requirement for ordination served to severely limit the number of requests, as ordination implied some sort of formal training and interacting with the upper echelon of the church, not just being inspired, jumping on a tree stump and preaching to your neighbors.

Joseph Rice, William Moore’s grandfather, is recorded in 1759 as having built a meeting house for a dissenting religion in Prince Edward County, so we know that William Moore was raised in a “dissenting” household. This is very probably why William’s marriage to Lucy was never recorded in the records of Halifax (or Prince Edward) County, as their marriage was likely not performed by a minister from the Anglican Church. In 1770-1775 when they would have married, the provision for dissenting ministers to be licensed had not yet been incorporated into law, so their marriage was technically nonexistent.

Another possibility is that marriage records are missing in Halifax County for the Revolutionary War years. They could have been married and the return filed, only to be subsequently lost.

Unfortunately, because that record doesn’t exist today, we don’t know Lucy’s last name.

The Early Methodist Church

William Moore is particularly interesting because of his, at that time, revolutionary religious ideas, and his passionate renderings of them.

The Methodist church had its roots in England. Francis Asbury volunteered his service to America in 1771, and in 1776, when the Revolutionary War broke out, he was the only Methodist minister to remain in America. The rest, along with many Anglican ministers as well, returned to the safety of England. While the Methodists often received the sacraments from Anglicans, now that option no longer existed.

Seeing the problem of the lack of ministers, Asbury set about finding American men to recruit as circuit riders. He had a problem however, in that ministers at that time had to return to England to be ordained, something colonial men were not interested in doing, nor was it practical, especially not in wartime. Asbury continued his work as best he could with the resources he had.

The Methodist Church in the colonies was a fledgling organization. The 1784 Christmas Conference, held a few years after the American Revolution, in Baltimore, Maryland, was a historic founding conference of the newly independent Methodists within the United States 

By November 1784, it had become evident that the American Methodists were to be granted some level of freedom from the English Anglican Church Methodist societies, and Thomas Coke was to ordain Francis Asbury as the first American Bishop at the Christmas Conference.

Eighty-three itinerant ministers were eligible to attend that conference, and of those, 60 were present, including William Moore. This record is preserved in a painting of the historic event. Unfortunately, William is too far to the rear to be seen clearly, but he is individually identified.

One possible fly in the ointment is that a different William Moore who lived in Baltimore was known to be associated with Francis Asbury, but the William Moore from Halifax County was close to another minister at that conference by the name of James O’Kelly. My ancestor, William Moore, is known to be the man who founded a church in Halifax County with O’Kelly.

We will never know for sure if the William Moore in the painting is mine from Halifax County or the William from Baltimore. For now, I’m going to assume it was my William because of his association with O’Kelly and his level of commitment to the Methodist faith.

The 1784 Christmas Conference

The famous “1784 Christmas Conference” in Baltimore, Maryland, convened on Christmas Eve, where Francis Asbury was ordained by Thomas Coke by the authority of John Wesley. This signaled the beginning of the organized Methodist Church in America, separate from England. At this conference, itinerant preachers gathered from the frontiers where they were circuit riders. Over a six-week period they prepared for the meeting and they were all present for the historic ordination of Asbury on Christmas Day along with 12 additional ministers who were ordained, setting the precedent that ministers were ordained in America at the Conference.

William Moore 1784 Christmas Conference Asbury Ordination.jpg

This wood carving of a painting shows the ordination of Asbury by Coke, with the legend prepared, below.

William Moore Christmas Conference key.jpg

William Moore Christmas Conference.png

This is the best rendition we have of William Moore if this is our William.

William’s son, Azariah, was described by his widow in her War of 1812 pension application as having had black hair, blue eyes and a red complexion.

William is described in “The Lives of Christian Ministers” as follows:

REV. WILLIAM MOORE became an itinerant preacher among the Methodists in 1778 and continued three years having located in 1791. He was at the Conference in 1779, as also was O’Kelly, and was one of the preachers that approved the appointing of a presbytery and the giving of the ordinance to the people. This Conference was regular in its appointment and had plenary powers. It appointed a presbytery to ordain its preachers and authorized the administration of the ordinances. The answer to the question, “What mode shall we adopt for the administration of baptism?” was “Either sprinkling or plunging, as the parents or adult may choose.” Whether dissatisfied with the circuit assigned him, after Mr. Asbury came to the Conference, we know not. He was admitted however while Asbury was under the protection of his friend Mr. White’s roof in the state of Delaware. After Mr. O’Kelly’s withdrawal, he united with him in his labors, and attended the General Meetings. He attended the Conference or General Meeting at Shiloh in Halifax county, Virginia, in 1805, and served on the presbytery of ordination. Up to this time he had been a minister more than thirty years.

The interesting thing about the above passage is that the 1805 date and the 30 years comment combined indicate that William became a minister before 1775.  Also interesting is that William became a minister before the Revolutionary War, while Asbury was taking shelter from the War and not traveling to preach.

This begs the question of when William was ordained. Did he travel back to England, or was he ordained in the US?

To understand this issue of circuit assignments, it helps to understand how the Methodist religion worked at that time since there were very few ministers. The following graphic is from “Life of Rev. James O’Kelly – Christian Church in the South  – Restoration Movement.”

William Moore Methodist initerant system.png

In essence, this ruckus was caused because ministers who did not like where they were assigned had no avenue to appeal. Keep in mind that most of these ministers were also farmers. Many were not paid at all, so being absent from one’s farm for long stretches could have devastating financial and family implications.

Not only did William witness history being made at the 1784 Conference, he was part and parcel. While William Moore didn’t leave us a journal, we’re fortunate that O’Kelly, who was friends with Thomas Jefferson, wrote, Asbury wrote and the church that O’Kelly and William Moore founded recorded their history!

Let’s take a look at what they tell us.

Later Conferences

William likely attended state conferences as well in order to participate in the functioning of the church and commune with the other ministers.

In 1786, the Virginia Conference met at Laine’s Chapel in Sussex county. In 1787, the Conference in Virginia was held at the Rough Creek church in Charlotte county across the Staunton River from Halifax. In 1781 and 1789 the Conference met in Petersburg.

By 1791 William was no longer attending the Methodist Conference, having “located”, meaning he was no longer itinerant, according to the Methodist Church archives, and was assigned to a church.

This is probably the period when the Moore Meeting House in Halifax County, Virginia, where William lived, was established, even though William Moore didn’t own that land.

The Methodist Church couldn’t explain why William didn’t have an obituary on file, but I solved that mystery.

Dissenting Again – A New Methodist Church

At the Baltimore Conference held November 11, 1793, the Rev. James O’Kelly and his immediate cohorts, which likely included our William Moore, withdrew from the Conference after a disagreement with Bishop Asbury (possibly over slavery, which Kelly and Moore vehemently opposed) to establish the “Republican Methodist Church.”

In 1801, the name was changed to “The Christian Church” and in 1803 they founded what is today the Pleasant Grove United Church of Christ in Halifax County, just down the road three and a half miles from where William lived.

William Moore Pleasant Grove map.png

William’s Ordination

In 1805, William Moore with James O’Kelly together attended the Conference or General Meeting for their new religion at Shiloh in Halifax County. William Moore served upon the presbytery of ordination at that event and was recorded as having been a minister more than 30 years, which dates his preaching career to before 1775.

We don’t know exactly when William Moore was ordained, but if he did not go to England, then I wonder if his ordination was “made official” at the 1784 Christmas Conference because the next general Methodist conference was not held until 1791 or 1792 and then every 4 years afterward.

William is recorded as having filed a marriage return with the county clerk in 1786 and produced his ordination papers in court in 1789. We know that he was present at the 1784 Christmas Conference where 12 ministers were ordained. If he was ordained earlier, it’s unclear how that could have happened unless he traveled to England for his ordination or was unofficially ordained by the other ministers. If that had happened, then how would he have had ordination papers?

What I wouldn’t give for a copy of those ordination papers submitted to the court or William’s probably threadbare copy of “The Sunday Services of the Methodists in the United States of America,” written by Wesley, typically presented to ministers at the time of their ordination.

The following quote about William Moore from “The Lives of Christian Ministers” hints that he may have been ordained during the Revolutionary War and before the Christmas Conference in 1784. When the War broke out, Asbury stopped circuit riding and took refuge in Delaware in the home of Mr. White and did not return to circuit riding until immediately following the Christmas Conference in 1784.

“Whether dissatisfied with the circuit assigned him, after Mr. Asbury came to the Conference, we know not. He was admitted however while Asbury was under the protection of his friend Mr. White’s roof in the state of Delaware.”

So if not Asbury, then who “admitted” William Moore?

According to Asbury’s transcribed notes, on page 381, in a footnote, he states that in 1778, at Broken Back Church in Leesburg, VA, the following questions were asked:

Ques.: What are our reasons for taking up the administration of the ordinances among us? Ans.: Because our Episcopal Establishment is now dissolved, and, therefore, in almost all our circuits the members are without the ordinances.” Eighteen preachers approved. They were Isham Tatum, Charles Hopkins, Nelson Reed, Reuben Ellis, Philip Gatch, Thomas Morris, James Morris, James Foster, John Major, Andrew Yeargin, Henry Willis, Francis Poythress, John Sigman, Leroy Cole, Carter Cole, James O’Kelly, William Monroe (or Moore, Lednum, op. cit., 280), Samuel Roe. Other questions were: “What form of ordination shall be observed to authorize any preacher to administer? Ans. By that of a presbytery. Ques. Who are the presbytery? Ans. Philip Gatch, Reuben Ellis, James Foster and in case of necessity, Leroy Cole. What power is vested in the presbytery by this choice? First to administer the ordinances themselves; second, to authorize any other preacher or preachers, approved by them, by the form of laying on of hands.

Asbury disproved, but it happened nonetheless.

Was this “approval” William’s ordination? This 1778 date correlates with the information provided in the “Lives of Christian Ministers.” William could have been preaching prior to 1778 before being ordained.

According to the History of Methodism in the US discussing the American Revolution:

Up until this time, with the exception of Strawbridge, none of the missionaries or American preachers was ordained. Consequently, the Methodist people received the sacraments at the hands of ministers from established Anglican churches. Most of the Anglican priests were Loyalists who fled to England, New York or Canada during the war. In the absence of Anglican ordination, a group of native preachers ordained themselves. This caused a split between the Asbury faction and the southern preachers. Asbury mediated the crisis by convincing the southern preachers to wait for Wesley’s response to the sacramental crisis. That response came in 1784.

Was William one of the self-ordained ministers? What the 1784 answer to officially ordain William Moore at the Christmas Conference?

It’s known that William Moore and James O’Kelly were fast friends. In 1786, O’Kelly was assigned to preside over the circuit that included Halifax County.

William Moore produced his ordination papers in court in Halifax County, VA in 1789 and was licensed as one of the 3 “dissenting ministers” allowed to each county after the Revolutionary War. In order to qualify, each minister had to produce their ordination papers and then they were licensed to perform marriages, baptisms and other ministerial functions.

Most importantly, they could register the marriages they performed. We know that William was marrying people in Halifax before this date, at least as early as 1786 when he married Bolling Hamlett and Polly Combes and registered the marriage with the clerk of court, so his ordination was clearly prior to 1786, one way or another.

The Moore Meeting House and Neighborhood

William moved to Halifax County with his father, likely farming part of his father’s land for several years. William and Lucy were married by about 1772, so the marriage likely occurred in Halifax County sometime after William moved there about 1770.

The Revolutionary War and William’s circuit riding likely interrupted plans for land ownership, but in 1797, Ransom Day sold William Moore 100 acres on Polecat and Birches Creeks for 75 pounds, with the “meeting house excluded.” It’s worth noting that Thomas Moore witnessed this purchase, given that Thomas is believed to be one of William’s children, perhaps his eldest. If Thomas Moore was not William’s son, Thomas was probably William’s youngest brother.

William and Lucy owned this tract of land until 1801 when they sold it to Arthur Slaton, again, excepting “where the meeting house stands.” They couldn’t sell what they didn’t own.

Two of William’s daughters married Slayte/Slate men.

In deeds later in the 1800s, the meeting house is referred to as the “Moore Meeting House” even though William never officially owned it.

In 1798, James Moore sold 200 acres for 65 pounds on the Second Fork of Birches Creek to William. Thomas Moore witnessed that transaction too. The Ferguson family, neighbors with whom an alliance from Amelia County is suspected, along with Henderson family members served as witnesses.

William Moore meeting house property.png

William Moore’s 1797 land purchase from Ransom Day, “meeting house excepted,” today includes the land where the Vernon Hill post office is located, a contemporary brick house and probably the white house to the east as well.

William Moore meeting house location.png

William’s property included the land where the Mount Vernon Baptist Church is currently located, directly across the road from the brick house which is the parsonage.

William Moore Mount Vernon Baptist Church.png

On the map below, the red arrow points to the Mount Vernon Baptist Church which did not exist when William Moore owned this land.

William Moore Mount Vernon aerial.png

Where star #1 is placed is the original location of the Moore Meeting House, and star #2 marks the location of an old abandoned cemetery, probably permanently lost to time by now.

The person who took me to the old cemetery probably 15 years ago told me that when he was a child, they played in the cemetery, but recently backhoes and bulldozers had all but obliterated what was left. There were at one time “old stones” but none were either there or readable when I visited. True to form, Yucca plants and Periwinkle revealed that this location had once been a burial ground, even though when I visited piles of logging debris were pretty much all that was left.

I doubt this is where William and Lucy are buried, given that this land was sold in 1801. Assuredly, William preached funerals in this forgotten cemetery though as his neighbors were laid to rest.

William Moore Mt. Vernon cemetery.jpg

The cemetery across the road beside the Mt. Vernon Church did not exist in 1909 when the land was split between the heirs of Mrs. I. C. Saterfield who inherited the land from her father, an Anderson. The cemetery was founded in 1936, so William clearly isn’t buried here either. He’s probably buried on the land owned by his father, James, located just to the south.

William Moore Henderson cemetery.png

At one time, pretty much all of this land was owned by James Moore, William Moore or Edward Henderson. Today, the land south of the intersection of Mountain Road (360) and 683 (Oak Level), on the west side of the road is owned by the Henderson family. The old cemetery, probably shared between Edward Henderson and his father-in-law, James Moore is located approximately where star #3 is placed.

We’re fortunate that after William’s death in 1826, Lucy contested William’s 1822 transaction which resulted in him losing their land and sued for her share of the property. She won and the court ordered a survey which was included in the chancery papers.

William Moore Lucy survey.jpg

The acreage doesn’t exactly add up to 200, so clearly either the entire tract does not equal 174 acres, or 25 acres were split earlier and never recorded.

William’s land is probably where the Mount Vernon Baptist Church stands today, given that in 1851, Lucy’s land is referenced as being directly across the road from the Vernon Meeting House. The Vernon Meeting House was originally the Moore Meeting House, located on the north side of the road, probably renamed when the original building was torn down and a “new” one constructed in its place.

Across the street from today’s church where the parsonage stands is where the original Moore meeting house was located, surrounded by William’s 100 acres that he bought from Ransom Day, “excepting the meeting house,” as shown in the photo below on the north side of Mountain Road.

William Moore parsonage.jpg

Researching this land further, the deeds explicitly mention the headwaters of Polecat Creek which originates on this piece of land. The deed also mentioned the waters of Birches Creek which is on the south side of the road, so William’s 100 acres spanned the road.

Furthermore, the minister at the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church explained the church’s history, indicating that the “original” church was on the north side of the road in the 1800s, which is confirmed by various deeds.

William Moore Polecat Creek source.jpg

The headwaters of Polecat Creek are behind the dog house, which sits where the old Moore Meeting House used to be. I can see the church-goers wandering to the stream after the sermon to drink from the gourd dipper shared by all.

William Moore buildings.jpg

Apparently, the “Moore Meeting House,” as it would come to be called, was the predecessor to the “original” Mt. Vernon Baptist Church that was built on the north side of the road and torn down after the church on the south side of the road was built in the early 1900s.

Looking to the east of the original meeting house location today, we see an old house which probably dates to the 1800s, but not from the early 1800s. Those would have been log cabins.

William Moore white house

This home with its old barn is beautiful and likely stands on the 100 acres that William once owned.

William Moore white house close.jpg

In 1801, William Moore and his wife Lucy sold this land “except where the meeting house stands.” In deeds as late as 1854 references are made to both the “lines of Lucy Moore” which apparently intersected with this land across the road and where the “old Moore Meeting House” stood.

William Moore barn.jpg

Buildings in Halifax County aren’t replaced because they are old. They are simply re-appropriated for something else. I surely wish the old Moore Meeting house still existed. It was probably a small log cabin that was built sometime before 1790 was torn down in the 1800s.

William Moore Halifax.jpg

I love these old buildings. Many of the original cabins were turned into barns and are still in use.

William Moore field.jpg

Driving south on 683, Oak Level Road, William’s land is stunningly beautiful. The land here is gently rolling and occasionally, rocky.

William Moore back of property.png

The back side of the Moore land is 663, also known as Carlbrook Road. Although the road is paved, it probably resembles the region when William first settled here and began to clear the trees to farm.

William Moore fields.jpg

William’s fields. James Moore bought land that had just been patented, so no fields would have existed then. James and William cleared the land for farming. Back-breaking work.

William Moore Henderson field.jpg

Houses are visible, scattered widely, in the distance. Many structures date from the 1800s and some even earlier. I believe this is the old Henderson property, above.

William Moore old structure.jpg

Historic structures peek at you from fields and woods, whispers from the past.

William Moore hill.jpg

A misty morning on Oak Level Road, I wonder if William would recognize his land today?

Just down Mountain Road, slightly west of High Point Road, we find a place the locals call Top of the World. Looking north, you can see for 50 miles to the Peaks of Otter in the distance.

William Moore top of the world.png

All can say is that it’s a good thing that the one lot for sale along Mountain Road didn’t have a very good view, or I might be a Virginia resident today, following in the footsteps of William Moore. I was truly tempted.

William Moore rolling hills.jpg

Driving down the road, you can see timeless visages of yesteryear. Not much has changed except there are more fields and fewer trees.

William Moore Birches Creek

What stories these old barns and houses could tell, if they could just speak.

William Moore old barn

Foundations were made of gathered stones, as were early gravestones.

William Moore old house

Who lived here? Did William know them? Are they family?

William Moore spring

Pioneers looked to settle on land with a fresh spring, assuring clean water that had not been contaminated by human or animal waste.

William-Moore-creek.jpg

Soon the spring formed a little creek, like this one on the old Moore land

William Moore log cabin

There’s every possibility that this log building stood when William lived. Given his role as a minister for half a century, comforting families in times of grief, he was probably in every home in this part of Halifax County at one time or another.

Road Hands

Road hand lists are invaluable sources of information. Episodically, the court would order certain “hands” to labor on the various roads, which of course were dirt and full of ruts at that time. Those lists tell us who the neighbors were. In 1801, we find this court entry:

Jacob Farguson surveyor from Martin’s Fork to County Line, hands James Farrell Jr. and Sr., Josiah Young, Exekiel Foulke, Frederick Ferrell, James Watson, Sherwood Watson, Edward Henderson, John Henderson, Hudson Butler, Arter Slayton, Hudson Farguson, William Moore, Robert Walton, Isac Wilson, William Womack, William Farguson, David Wilson, Richard McGrigor, Bartlett Chaves (listed twice).

Of these surnames, we know that the Fergusons lived in Amelia County when the Moore family did, Edward Henderson is believed to be William’s brother-in-law, Arthur Slayton bought land from William Moore and two of William’s daughters married Slayte men.

The most interesting aspect of this list is that somehow my DNA is connected to the Womack family through the Moore line. Not just once but matching roughly 30 descendants. This means there’s smoke and probably fire if I could just unravel the web.

We don’t know the surname of William Moore’s wife, Lucy, or the identity of 3 of William’s grandparents. Lots of opportunity for a Womack connection. The Womack family is also found in Amelia and Prince Edward Counties interacting with both the Moore family and the Rice’s.

There’s a story there yet to be told!

The Split!

Religion is nothing if not contentious.

The Rev. William Moore was apparently very close to the Rev. James O’Kelly.  Both were probably at the Christmas Conference in 1784 where O’Kelly was ordained.

William was destined to split with the Methodist Church, and probably did so when his friend James O’Kelly left the church. William then participated in founding both a new religious sect and a new church.

On August 4, 1794, O’Kelly and his ministerial secessionists from the Methodist church met in Surry County, VA to organize and form their own church.

From the Pleasant Grove Church, a few miles east of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, I was provided with the following information:

At the end of the 18th century, and the Christian Church in America was only 6 years old. At this time Reverend James O’Kelly who had broken from the Methodist Church because of a dispute with Francis Asbury came into Halifax County, Va. preaching the Word. Finding a number of people attracted to his preaching and being interested in the new Church movement called “Just Plain Christian,” the Rev. O’Kelly proposed that a Christian Church be organized, and Pleasant Grove Church, just off Mountain Road, was organized by the Rev. O’Kelly in 1803.

William Moore Pleasant Grove Church.jpg

In a flyer for their 197th anniversary, Sunday June 4, 2000, they indicate that their church was established in 1803 and that the first two ministers were Rev. James O’Kelly followed by Rev. William Moore. The first building was constructed of logs and stood just south of the present building. Unfortunately, their older church minutes no longer exist, having departed with one of the previous ministers.

William Moore Pleasant Grove today.png

The original building stood where the circular driveway is today, with the steps remaining in the center of the circle. In the photos above, they are to the right of the tree and resemble a pile of rocks. When I first visited, I was told that they left the steps so that the ladies could use them to mount horses or climb into wagons or buggies.

Motivation

Information about James O’ Kelly written by J.F. Burnett, Minister in the Christian Church, helps us understand the issues that motivated both O’Kelly and by inference, William Moore, to split with the Methodist Church.

The question as to whether or not preachers should be allowed to administer the communion, baptize candidates, marry people, and bury the dead, always found Mr. O’Kelly on one side, and the rule of the Church on the other. Bishop Asbury’s insistence that the laymen were to “pay, pray and obey” was always objectionable to Mr. O’Kelly and the divergence increased and the chasm widened, and the point of cleavage became more prominent, so that by the time the General Conference met in 1792 a crisis  was inevitable. By this time too, Mr. O’Kelly had reached a high place in the favor of the church. He had presided over some of the largest and most important districts within the territory then occupied by the Methodist Church, and only two men out-ranked him in authority. He had, in all probability, accumulated means sufficient to put him above the necessity of salary and most certainly he had reached a well established leadership among his brethren. But it was not these that gave him prestige in the conference. It was his devotion to the right, his indomitable will, and his Christian courage. He would have been impressive had he been clothed in rags, and walking bearfoot. The craven had no place in his makeup, either as a man or a preacher.

On December 1, 1789 James O’Kelly sat in the body of the conference where the bishops proposed that a council of presiding elders be convened and strongly opposed some of the measures. Notwithstanding, Bishop Asbury, who was in favor of them, deemed it wise to call a second, but only 10 elders attended and a third was never held. O’Kelly labored heartily in favor of a general conference and to him the Methodist church owes “that essential and valuable constitutent of its polity.” He wrote letters to Thomas Coke, Wesley’s ambassador securing his cooperation, and in consequence bringing these two fathers of American Methodism to the verge of antagonism. Seeing that a crisis had been reached, which he could not prudently ignore, Asbury sacrificed his personal wishes and consented to the holding of a general conference. It was called for November 1, 1792 and O’Kelly introduced a resolution to modify the bishop’s power of appointment to the extent of allowing any preacher who should feel dissatisfied with the place assigned to him an appeal to the conference. This was rejected by a large majority and O’Kelly sent in his resignation and withdrew. Several of O’Kelly’s adherents also left the conference and he subsequently organized a “Republican Methodist Church,” afterward called the “Christian Church.” In 1829 it included several thousands in its membership, mostly in North Carolina and Virginia. O’Kelly focused his efforts primarily in Virginia where he oversaw the best circuits.

At one point, Thomas Coke reported that he had prevailed upon O’Kelly and “his 36 ministers” to remain within the church, but that was not to be. The split occurred and O’Kelly held conferences in his new group of churches.

William Moore was clearly one of O’Kelly’s band of 36 merry ministers.

The General Meeting for 1805 was held at Shiloh church on the line of Pittsylvania and Halifax counties. The presbytery appointed to ordain Rev. Thomas E. Jeter was composed of the following Elders: James O’Kelly, Clement Nance, Joseph Hackett, William Moore, and Coleman Pendleton.

The General Meeting of the Conference was held at Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1807 and 1808.

The General Meeting in 1809 was held June 4th at Shiloh, in Virginia, where O’Kelly preached at Apple’s chapel and administered the Lord’s Supper. Five other ministers were present. It’s likely that William Moore attended and based on the meeting locations, we can gain insight into what William was doing at that time. He traveled far more than most men of his generation.

In 1810, the General Meeting of the Conference was held at Pine Stake church in Orange County, Virginia. It was there that a division occurred due to a difference of opinion in respect to “the mode and subjects of water baptism, which led to the organization of the North Carolina and Virginia Conference.”

Mr. O’Kelly was a strong effusionist. In his book entitled “The Prospect before Us by Way of Address to the Christian Church,” he says, “But to illustrate the figures still further. The ark may be a figure of Christ’s Church; the family that entered into the ark and were saved so as by water, may answer as a figure of household baptism under the gospel dispensation.”

Translated, this meant that O’Kelly strongly preferred sprinkling as opposed to baptismal immersion, and he felt that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost were three separate literal beings, not one tri-partite Holy Being.

If O’Kelly held those beliefs, it’s likely that William Moore did too, given that they co-founded a new church in Halifax County in 1803.

1811’s Virginia Conference was held in Caroline County. As it pertained to religion, it’s a safe bet that William Moore and O’Kelly were probably at the same conferences as long as both attended.

O’Kelly died in October 1826, the year before William Moore. It’s a safe bet that those two men reunited on the other side!

O’Kelly published pamphlets and books throughout his life, including a hymnal. Reading O’Kelly’s writings would probably enlighten William Moore’s descendants about his beliefs as well.

Slavery

Another influencing factor in the split from the Methodist Church may have been O’Kelly’s strict opposition to slavery. He was known as a “heroic opposer of slavery and enforced the anti-slavery law of the church.”

Francis Asbury stated in his “Journal,” volume 1, page 384, “Brother O’Kelly let fly at them (about slavery) and they were made mad enough.” In 1789, O’Kelly published his Essay on Negro-Slavery after having manumitted his only slave in 1785.

William Moore did not own slaves, nor did his father nor most of his children. Ironically, his refusal to participate in that wicked institution may have contributed to his financial issues that resulted in losing his property.

I get the sense that William Moore was a very strong, very determined man.

William’s Trail

In 1782 and 1799, one William Moore signed petitions protesting the glebe land provided to the ministers of the Anglican church. I don’t know if my William was the one who signed, but it would make perfect sense that a man who received no benefits from the Anglican church wouldn’t want his tax money to provide a farm for their minister. William certainly didn’t get a farm paid for by the government. In fact, the petition William signed was to sell the glebe land.

William married dozens of people between 1786 and 1797 when the records abruptly stop, which of course suggests that these couples were also dissenters or members of dissenting families. That makes sense, because at least 3 families have connections in some way to the family of John R. Estes who William’s daughter, Ann Moore, known as Nancy, married in 1811.

The marriage records found at the courthouse may have stopped because when William withdrew from the Methodist religion, he also lost his official “blessing” as a dissenting minister. That didn’t stop him from preaching, and I doubt it stopped him from marrying people either. It certainly didn’t stop anyone from being buried or baptized!

As a minister and respected member of the community, William was peripherally involved in many lawsuits and transactions, typically as a witness. I’m sure as a minister, his testimony was fairly unimpeachable. Probably the most interesting of these cases were the ones for hog-stealing and slander where Edward Henderson (probably his brother-in-law) alleged that someone was “drunk and out of humor.”

William didn’t avoid lawsuits entirely though. In 1795, Uzza Pankey sued William Moore for slander and in 1796, William sued Benjamin Huddleston, Usse Pankey and Stephen Pankey. We don’t know the outcomes, but the Pankeys were neighbors and William had performed the marriage of one family member. William Moore and the Pankeys shared a property line, so life must have been interesting during this time.

I’d love to know what the slander suit was about. Looking at William’s 1819 deposition, he didn’t mince words.

No matter the century, there’s always neighborhood drama.

In 1796, the overseers of the poor bound John Chambers, the son of Sarah Chambers to “William Moore, preacher.”

In 1797, William Moore was a witness for Isaac Medley against Bolling Hamlett, whose wedding William had performed. Isaac Medley is an important figure in William’s life, so stay tuned.

In 1813, William Moore, along with Azariah are found with “effects insufficient to pay taxes,” but this William mentioned could be William’s son, William.

In 1812, 1813 and 1814, Azariah and William are deputy sheriffs, but I suspect this record pertains to the younger William Moore.

In 1814, William is sued for debt, twice. Early Virginia was very litigious.

In 1815, William Moore is taxed for his 200 acres on the Second Fork of Birches Creek, so we know how much land he owns.

Drunk or Insane

The most humorous document was an 1819 chancery suit regarding a wedding over which William presided in 1817 where he opined that the groom was either drunk or insane, but let’s look at William’s own words.

Deposition of William Moore in the suit between Isabel Dodson and John Dodson…Reverend William Moore saith that:

“on the 4th day of July 1817 I was sent for to marry a cupple in Milton (NC). There were a number of people collected together about the tavern. I took a seat in the Pizza and asked who was to be married. Some person replied “you’ll see directly” and in a very quick time John F. Dodson led Isabel Baines to the Pizza (probably piazza). I asked him for his license, he said he had them, and some person replied “you have them not” but that Thomas Turner who has them who had gone up to Jack’s Woods Tavern for dinner. I then told Dodson that he might lead back his bride until I got the license and he said so. I saw Thomas Denaho and he delivered me a lawful license. I then walked into the room the noon? and told him I was ready to wait on him, he led up his bride and I married the pair. I then took a seat in the pizza, there was a decanter of spirits setting on the shelf, he asked me if I would take a drink of grog and I told him no, he then took a drink and pulled out a red morocco pocketbook and gave me a dollar. In the time that I was performing the ceremony he said something it set the poeple a laughtin (sic) but I did not hear what it was that he said. I concur him to be in a state of intoxication at the time of the marriage or in a state of insanity. I have been acquainted with him for several years and I always considered him a person of weak intellects.”

Sworn October 19, 1819 William Moore (signed.)

William Moore 1819 signature.jpg

William certainly didn’t pull any punches. I’d wager the entire Dodson family, some of whom also lived on the Second Fork of Birches Creek, were permanently aggravated with William.

Debt

In 1820, there were 2 debt cases, one by and one against William Moore, but we can’t tell based on the little information we have which William Moore was involved.

In 1824, William Moore signed a debt document.

William Moore 1824 signature.jpg

By this time, William’s signature was quite shaky. He would have been on the north side of 70, probably 75.

William Moore 1824 signature close.jpg

This signature really makes me wonder. My presumption was that it was shaky because William was elderly, but the signature on an 1825 document looks quite different.

Another debt was incurred by William in 1825 as well and he conveyed to William Minor a deed of trust for 50 acres of his land.

In 1827, “James Young of Halifax County to Isaac Medley of Halifax whereas William Moore by a certain indenture bearing date March 26, 1822 did convey to James Young a tract of 200 acres bounded by the lines of Joseph Dunman, estate of Jacob Farguson, Jane Wilson, James Moore and Edward Henderson Sr. as described in said deed. James Young did expose to sale on November 25, 1825 and sold for $200 to Isaac Medley.”

On March 4th, 1827, William’s land was conveyed by trustee to Isaac Medley.

The conveyance does not say that William is deceased, but we know that by November 1826 William had expired because Lucy’s suit states that “sometime in the current year her husband William Moore disposed of some land to Isaac Medley for debt but that Lucy never conveyed her right of dower. William subsequently died.” The court ordered Lucy’s dower portion surveyed and she received 50 acres that included the mansion house.

Mansion house at that time meant main dwelling. I’ve seen descriptions of mansion houses that were 10X14 or 12X16, so not a mansion as we think of them today.

The Tobacco Lawsuit

A suit filed in Halifax County chancery court in 1825 reached back to 1812. In this suit which is clearly our William, based on both the other witnesses and the fact that he is referred to as the Reverend William Moore, he files suit regarding 1360 pounds of tobacco which was valued at $5 per hundred pounds which would be $68, a lot of money at that time.

The original company went out of business and was purchased by William Baily. William Moore alleges that he was never credited with the amount he was owed which was supposed to have been credited to his account.

In this suit, William appeared before the clerk on October 20, 1825. On March 12, 1825, William Henderson stated that he went to Manchester, VA with Reverend William Moore where the tobacco was inspected at Johnson’s warehouse and the amount of $5 per hundred was offered.

On February 25, 1825, William Moore notified William Bailey of the time and location that William Moore Junior and William Henderson were to be deposed at the homes of Nathaniel Wilson in Dansville, VA and at the house of William Minor, respectively.

William signed this notice, shown below.

William Moore 1825 signature.jpg

I wonder if someone wrote and signed this notification for William. It surely is not the signature of the same person who signed in 1824 with palsied writing.

We have additional signatures of William Moore when he signed for his daughters to marry.

Kids and Marriage

The known children of Rev. William and Lucy Moore:

  • Thomas Moore was born between 1771 and 1777, taken from the 1792 personal tax data. This is probably the Thomas who married Polly Baker in 1798 given that his granddaughter’s middle name is Baker. Thomas died in 1801 leaving orphans Rawley and William who were bound by the overseers of the poor to Anderson Moore who had also come from Prince Edward County and bought land from Nimrod Ferguson near James and William Moore. However, the Y DNA of one of Anderson’s Moore descendants doesn’t match the William Moore line DNA. In the 1840 census, Raleigh Moore is living beside Edward Henderson.

William Moore Raleigh cemetery.jpg

Raleigh is buried in a cemetery in a very overgrown clump of trees (above) on his land (below) at Vernon Hill where he also maintained a tavern.

William Moore Raleigh cemetery overgrown

  • Elizabeth Moore born between 1770-1780. She apparently winds up with her mother’s land and doesn’t marry.
  • Azariah Moore was born in 1783 or before and served in the War of 1812, dying in 1866. He married Letitia Johnson in 1818 in Pittsylvania County, having four daughters and two sons. Letitia’s father left her money but stipulated that Azariah couldn’t touch it, nor could it be used to pay his debts of which there seemed to be many. According to the census, one son apparently died young, but James F. Moore who was born in about 1822 survived. In 1880 we find Letitia S. Moore age 79 living with her son James F. Moore, age 58. It appears that James never married, or he married after his mother’s death sometime after 1880.
  • William Moore, born 1775-1785, moved to Pittsylvania County before 1815 and had business dealings with his brother, Azariah. William probably married Sarah (or Sally) and had at least 2 sons and 3 daughters. By 1850 William had died, but his wife Sarah was shown as age 64 (which could be in error) along with Nancy Jenkins age 36 (born about 1814), Sarah Jenkins age 11 (born about 1839) and a son William Moore born about 1820, age 30.
  • Ann Moore, known as Nancy, born about 1785 married John R. Estes on November 25, 1811 and moved to Claiborne Co., TN about 1820 where she died between 1860-1870.

John R Estes Ann Moore marriage

  • James Moore born about 1785 married Lucy Akin in 1817, lived beside Edward Henderson in the 1820 census and was dead before 1830 with no known children. In 1827 James lost his land by debt to Isaac Medley, the same man who purchased William Moore’s land the same year. By 1831, Lucy Akin Moore, James Moore’s widow, had married James Ives.
  • Kitty Moore born about 1788 married Francis Slate in 1805 and lives in Surry Co., NC in 1850.

William Moore 1805 signature Kitty Moore to Francis Slate.jpg

  • Jane Moore born about 1803 married James Blackstock in 1823.

William Moore 1823 signature Jane Moore to James Blackstock.jpg

  • Rebecca Moore born about 1805 married William G. Slayte (Slate) in 1825.

William Moore 1825 signature Rebecca Moore to William Slayte.jpg

Note that William Slayte is the same person (or at least the same name) that signed the debt document with William Moore in 1824.

Possible additional children of William Moore:

  • Lemuel born before 1791, perhaps as early as 1770-1780, appears in 1812 on the Halifax County tax list. In 1830 we find a Lemuel in Grainger Co. TN beside Mastin Moore, known to be a grandson of William’s brother. Sometimes Lemuel is written as Samuel. Furthermore, a Lemuel Moore married Anna Stubblefield in 1804 in Grainger County and died in 1859 in Laurel County, Kentucky. In 1797, Lemuel Moore is found in Greene County, TN beside Rice Moore, William Moore’s brother. I have DNA matches through 3 of Lemuel’s children at what would be (1) 4C1R, (2) 5C and (4) 5C1R if the Lemuel in Laurel County, KY is indeed William’s son. If that Lemuel is more distantly related, the relationships would be more distant. The connection could also be through the Stubblefield line, which may be connected through either William’s wife, Lucy, or William Moore’s parents.
  • Isaac born in 1793 or before, assigned as a road hand in 1814 with James Moore and Samuel (Lemuel?).
  • Israel born in 1791 or earlier, appears 1 time on the tax list in 1812 the same day as William.
  • Mary Moore born in 1775, found in 1850 census living with William B. Moore (the orphan of Thomas Moore and brother to Raleigh Moore).

Foreclosure

By 1820 William was encountering financial difficulties. He would have been in his 70s by this time and probably less likely to preach. His income while not completely dependent on preaching was probably affected somewhat.

William took a loan using his land as collateral in 1822. He was unable to repay the loan, and his land was deeded to Isaac Medley by trustee in 1827 after he died. Those documents do give us a list of his meager holdings though, one wagon and gear, 4 horses, 3 cattle, 12 hogs, 3 feather beds, furniture, 2 bedsteads, all household and kitchen furniture and plantation tools, which he includes in with the land to secure the debt of $560.58. That would have left his wife, Lucy, with absolutely nothing – not even a pan to cook in, let alone anything else. This is the act of a truly desperate man.

However, Lucy never released her dower when he obtained the fateful loan in 1822.

After William’s death, Lucy sued Isaac Medley, the person who purchased William’s land (or debt) for $200 to obtain her 1/3 share of the dower rights and won. Actually, Isaac agreed to allow her the widow’s dower share. We’ll never know of course whether he did that because it was the right thing to do, or because he knew unquestionably that he would lose the suit if it went to trial.

I do know that hard feelings between the Moore and Medley families continued into the 2000s, but no one seems to remember why. As one Moore descendant in Halifax County says, “maybe that explains why the Moores have always disliked the Medleys,” except his language was stronger.

In addition to the actual documents of the lawsuit, we also have a survey showing William’s initial holdings and the portions with the “mansion house” apportioned to Lucy.  She held this land free and clear, not as a life estate and it began right across the road from the old Moore Meeting House.

Given that Lucy didn’t sign, I wonder if Lucy even knew that William had used their property as collateral for the 1822 loan.

While this may have, in part, been due to the lingering 1812 tobacco issue, it surely wasn’t entirely due to that. William owed far more than $68 plus interest would have covered. I can’t help but wonder how he came to owe so much money.

The 1824 debt to William Bailey for $100 as a result of a lawsuit would have complicated William’s financial situation further.

The 1824 document is the only signature of William’s that is shaky. Was he simply that upset? He certainly could have been if they just finished in the courtroom and another $100 issue was added to his already insurmountable debt. Was he an old man who saw the writing on the wall and knew that he was sinking?

My heart aches for William. No one wants to be vulnerable and watch everything you’ve worked for your entire life slip beyond your grasp.

No one wants to leave their elderly spouse of 50+ years unable to receive the basics of food and shelter without having to depend on their children.

William’s other signatures really don’t match each other either, although we don’t know why. It’s possible that his only authentic signature in the last few years of his life was the 1824 debt paper because everyone involved knew how legally critical that signature was.

He could have signed with an X and had the signature witnessed, but William was probably too proud to submit to that indignity on top of the debt indignity he was already suffering.

Y DNA

William Moore had several sons, but his Y DNA signature isn’t found through his sons, but from his brother’s descendants, plus a matching genetic signature from a descendant of Thomas who was probably William’s son.

William’s brother, Mackness Moore (c1766-1829) married Sarah Thompson and moved to Grainger County, Tennessee along with the Thompsons and Stubblefields. Mackness had son Richard, who had son Mastin Moore, shown below.

William Moore Mastin Moore

Mastin, William’s great-nephew, seated, is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing a Moore male. He probably resembled William, at least somewhat.

Viewing the Moore Worldwide Y DNA project at Family Tree DNA, we see that the descendants of James Moore are assigned as Group 19.

William Moore Y DNA.png

In addition to the 3 men who descend from James Moore and the one from Thomas Moore, we see another individual whose ancestor was John L. Moore, born in 1866 in Tennessee and married Lillie Whitaker.

John L. Moore’s death certificate shows that he died on September 14, 1932 in Nashville. He was a farmer and his father is given as Jim Moore.

The 1870 census shows John L. Moore, age 4, with brother Samuel, age 2, sister Amanda J. age 15 and brother William C., age 18, with James Moore, 39, and wife Mary, age 25, living in Putnam County, TN. It’s clear that William and Amanda aren’t Mary’s children, but John and Samuel look to be.

In 1880, James and Mary are living in Morgan County, with James working for the railroad. They now have additional children, Frances, 9, Mary, 7, Lydia 4, and James 1. John’s mother has been attributed as Mary Scott, but the delayed birth certificate for the James Moore whose mother was Mary Scott was born on October 2, 1882 in Sparta, White County, unless the James Moore who was in the 1880 census died.

James Moore, the father was born in 1831 in Tennessee. The name James looks quite familiar, of course. We know that Moore men migrated to Grainger County, but we have no idea if James descends from the Grainger group or whether, if we could simply pierce the brick wall of the identity of James’s parents, we might be able to push William Moore’s brick wall right over too.

After waiting 15 years, in 2018 a new Moore match appeared. The match isn’t exact, but a genetic distance of 3 at 67 markers. That man hails from Scotland, although I don’t know where in Scotland and he has yet to answer.

At least we have a Moore match that reaches back in time before James Moore, which answers unspoken questions about his paternal line.

Questions, so many Questions…

As I review William’s life, I’m left with so many questions.

  • How did William and apparently his brothers and father avoid the Revolutionary War? If William was born in 1750, he would have been the perfect age to have served between 1775-1780. The Methodists were not pietists.
  • Why did William become exempt from taxes in 1797, and was sporadically exempt for 7 of the 12 years we have records for between 1797-1810?
  • Why did William stop returning marriage documents in 1797? Was it related to a disability or the fact that he withdrew from the Methodist Conference? If so, that should have been in 1793, unless William didn’t withdraw when O’Kelly did. However, we know that by 1794, William was involved in the formation of the new religion, and that predates the 1797 discontinuance by 3 years.

My guess is a disability of some sort given the exact correlation with the first tax exemption year. However, we know that William was still attending the annual conference in 1805 and marrying people in 1817, according to his deposition, so the source of his disability might have resulted from an accident of some sort as opposed to dementia, strokes or related diseases.

  • Why did William allows the overseers of the poor to bind Thomas’s young children to Anderson Moore after Thomas’s death instead of taking them to raise? Was whatever happened to William in 1797 a factor?
  • When William left the Methodist Church, did his new denomination have their own ordination practices? If so, did O’Kelly ordain him again? Was he both twice dissenting and twice ordained?
  • How was William, or was he related to the Womacks, Stubblefields and Fergusons? DNA matches suggest strongly that either he was descended from the Womack family. Records of all three of those families are intermixed in Prince Edward and Amelia Counties and earlier.
  • The name Azariah is very unusual, yet we find Azariah Baily in 1780 as a witness to a deed with Charles Spradling and Edward Henderson, neighbors of both James and William Moore. Azariah Moore was born between 1780 and 1790. Was Azariah Baily related to William Moore or his wife? DNA shows no apparent matches to the Baily family of Halifax County.
  • The name Lemuel isn’t common either. We find a Lemuel Ferguson witnessing a deed with William Moore on Sandy Creek in 1793 when Nimrod Ferguson (Farguson) sells land to Hudson Farguson, his son. Nimrod Farguson appears as early as 1771 on a road list with James Moore. There are several DNA matches to descendants of both Nimrod and Isaac Ferguson, born in the early 1700s, but these matches could be a result of other lines. The name Isaac is possibly found in William Moore’s family but Nimrod doesn’t appear in the children of either James or William.
  • I know this is impossible to answer, but I’d surely like to know where William is buried. I’m guessing with his father in the Henderson Cemetery located on private land.

The Reverend William Moore, apparently a tenacious man who dissented not once, but twice, still stubbornly guards his secrets some 200 years later.

Mitochondrial DNA: Part 4 – Techniques for Doubling Your Useful Matches

This article is Part 4 of a series about mitochondrial DNA. I suggest you read these earlier articles in order before reading this one:

This article builds on the information presented in parts 1, 2 and 3.

Hellooooo – Is Anyone Home?

One of the most common complaints about ALL DNA matches is the lack of responses. When using Y DNA, which follows the paternal line directly, passed from father to son, hopefully along with the surname, you can often discern hints from your matches’ surnames.

Not so with mitochondrial DNA because the surname changes with each generation when the female marries. In fact, I often hear people say, “but I don’t recognize those names.” You won’t unless the match is from very recent generations and you know who the daughters married to the present generation.

Therefore, genealogists really depend on information from other genealogists when working with mitochondrial DNA.

Recently, I experimented at Family Tree DNA  to see what I could do to improve the information available. Family Tree DNA is the only vendor that provides full sequence testing combined with matching.

This exercise is focused on mitochondrial DNA matches, but you can use the same techniques for Y DNA as well. These are easy step-by-step instructions!

Let’s get started and see what you can do. You’ll be surprised. I was!

Your Personal Page at Family Tree DNA

mitochondrial personal page

On your personal page, under mtDNA, click on Matches.

Matches

You’ll be viewing your match list of the people who match you at some level.

You’ll see several fields on your match list that you’ll want to use. Many of the bullet points in this article refer to the fields boxed in red or red arrows.

mitochondrial matches

You can click this image to enlarge.

Let’s review why each piece of information is important.

  • Be sure you’re using viewing your matches for the HVR1, HVR2 and Coding region in the red box at the top. Those are your most relevant matches. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t also view your HVR1+HVR2 matches, and your HVR1 matches, because you literally never know what might be there. However, start with the HVR1+HVR2+Coding Region.
  • Focus on your Genetic Distance of 0 matches. Those are exact matches, meaning you have no mutations that don’t match each other. A genetic distance of 1 means that you have one mutation that doesn’t match each other. You can read about Genetic Distance here.
  • Be sure you’re looking at the match results for the entire data base or the project you want to be viewing. For example, if I’m a member of the Acadian AmerIndian project and have Acadian ancestry on my direct matrilineal line, knowing who I match within that project may be extremely beneficial, especially if I need to narrow my results to known Acadian families.
  • Look at the earliest known ancestor (EKA) information. Don’t just let your eyes gloss over it, really look at it. There may be secrets hidden here that are critical for solving your puzzle. The mother of Lydia Brown was discovered by a cousin recently after I had (embarrassingly) ignored an EKA in plain sight for years. You can read about that discovery here.
  • Click on the little blue pedigree icon on your match to view trees that go hand in hand with the earliest known ancestor (EKA) information. Some people provide more information in either the EKA or the tree, so be sure to look at both for hints.

mitochondrial tree

  • If your match’s pedigree icon is grey, they haven’t uploaded their tree. You can always drop them an email explaining how useful trees are and ask them if they will upload theirs.

Utilizing Other Resources

Many people don’t have both trees and an EKA at Family Tree DNA. Don’t hesitate to check Ancestry, MyHeritage or FamilySearch trees with the earliest known ancestor information your match provides if they don’t have a tree, or even if they do to expand their tree. We think nothing of building out trees for autosomal matches – do the same for your matches’ mitochondrial lines.

Finding additional information about someone’s ancestor is also a great ice-breaker for an email conversation. I mean, what genealogist doesn’t want information about their ancestors?

For example, if you match me and I’ve only listed my earliest known ancestor as Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch, you can go to Ancestry and search for her name where you will find several trees, including mine that includes several more generations. Most genealogists don’t limit themselves to one resource, testing company or tree repository.

mitochondrial ancestry tree

WikiTree includes a descendants link for each ancestor that provides a list of people who have DNA tested, including mtDNA. Here’s an example for my ancestor, Curtis B. Lore.

mitochondrial wiki tree

Unfortunately, no one from that line has tested their mitochondrial DNA, but looking at the descendants may provide me with some candidates that descend from his sisters through all females to the current generation, which can be male.

You can do that same type of thing at Geni if you have a tree by viewing that ancestor and clicking on “view a list of living people.”

mitochondrial Geni

While trees at FamilySearch, Ancestry and MyHeritage don’t tell you which lines could be tested for mitochondrial DNA, it’s not difficult to discern. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on by females to the current generation where males can test too – because they received their mitochondrial DNA from their mother.

Family Tree DNA Matches Profiles

Your matches’ profiles are a little used resource as many people don’t realize that additional information may be provided there. You can click on your match’s name to show their profile card.

mitochondrial profile

Be sure to check their “about me” section where I typed “test” as well as their email address which may give you a clue about where the match lives based on the extension. For example, .de is Germany and .se is Sweden.

You can also google their email address which may lead to old Rootsweb listings among other useful genealogical information.

Matches Map

mitochondrial matches map

Next, click on your Matches Map. Your match may have entered a geographical location for their earliest known ancestor. Beware of male names because sometimes people don’t realize the system isn’t literally asking for the earliest known ancestor of ANY line or the oldest ancestor on their mother’s side. The system is asking for the most distant known ancestor on the matrilineal line. A male name entered in this field invalidates the data, of course.

My Matches Map is incredibly interesting, especially since my EKA is from Germany in 1655.

mitochondrial Scandinavia

The white pin shows the location of my ancestor in Germany. The red pins are exact matches, orange are genetic distance of 1, yellow of 2 and so forth.

Note that the majority of my matches are in Scandinavia.

The first question you should be asking is if I’m positive of my genealogical research – and I am. I have proofs for every single generation. The question of paternity is not relevant to mitochondrial DNA, since the identity of the mother is readily apparent, especially in small villages of a few hundred people where babies are baptized by clergy who knows the families well.

Adoptions might be another matter of course, but adoptions as we know them have only taken place in the past hundred years or so. Generally, the child was still baptized with the parents’ names given before the 1900s. Who raised the child was another matter entirely.

Important Note: Your matches map location does NOT feed from your tree. You must go to the Matches Map page and enter that information at the bottom of that page. Otherwise your matches map location won’t show when viewed by your matches, and if they don’t do the same, theirs won’t show on your map.

mitochondrial ancestor location

Email

I KNOW nobody really wants to do this, but you may just have to email as a last resort. The little letter icon on your match’s profile sends an email, or you can find their email in their profile as well.

DON’T email an entire group of people at once as that’s perceived as spam and is unlikely to receive a response from anyone.

Compose a friendly email with a title something like “Mitochondrial DNA Match at Family Tree DNA to Susan Smith.” Many people manage several kits and if you provide identifying information in the title, you’re more likely to receive a response

I always provide my matches with some information too, instead of just asking for theirs.

Advanced Matching

mitochondrial advanced matches

Click on the advanced matching link at the bottom right of the mtDNA area on your personal page.

The Advanced Matches tool allows you to compare multiple types of tests. When looking at your match list, notice if your matches have also taken a Family Finder (FF) test. If so, then the advanced matching tool will show you who matches you on multiple types of tests, assuming you’ve taken the Family Finder test as well or transferred autosomal results to Family Tree DNA.

For example, Advanced Matches will show you who matches you on BOTH the mtDNA and the Family Finder tests. This is an important tool to help determine how closely you might be related to someone who matches you on a mitochondrial DNA test – although here is no guarantee that your autosomal match is through the same ancestor as your mitochondrial DNA match.

mitochondrial advanced matches filter

On the advanced matching page, select the tests you want to view, together, meaning you only want to see results for people who match you on BOTH TESTS. In this case, I’ve selected the full mitochondrial sequence (FMS) and the Family Finder, requested to show only people I match on both tests, and for the entire database. I could select a specific project that I’ve joined if I want to narrow the matches.

Note that if you don’t click the “yes” button you’ll see everyone you match on both tests INDIVIDUALLY, not together. So if you match 50 people on mtDNA and 1000 on Family Finder, you would show 1050 people, not the people who match you on BOTH tests, which is what you want. You might match a few or none on both tests.

Note that if you select “all mtDNA” that means you must match the person on the HVR1, HVR2 and coding region, all 3. That may not be at all what you want either. I select each one separately and run the report. So first, FMS and Family Finder, then HVR2 and Family Finder, etc.

When you’ve made your selection, click on the red button to run the report.

Family Finder Surnames

Another hint you might overlook is Family Finder surnames.

mitochondrial family finder surnames

Go to your Family Finder match list and enter the surname of your matches EKA in the search box to see if you match anyone with that same ancestor. Of course, if it’s Smith or Jones, I’m sorry.

mitochondrial family finder surname results

Entering Kirsch in my Family Finder match list resulting in discovering a match that has Kirsh from Germany in their surname list, but no tree. Using the ICW (in common with) tool, I can then look to see if they match known cousins from the Kirsch line in common with me.

Putting Information to Work

OK, now we’ve talked about what to do, so let’s apply this knowledge.

Your challenge is to go to your Full Sequence match page in the lower right hand corner and download your match list into a spreadsheet by clicking the CSV button.

mitochondrial csv

Column headings when downloaded will be:

  • Genetic Distance
  • Full Name
  • First Name
  • Middle Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Earliest Known Ancestor
  • mtDNA Haplogroup
  • Match Date

I added the following columns:

  • Country
  • Location (meaning within the country)
  • Ancestral Surname
  • Year (meaning their ancestor’s birth/death year)
  • Map (meaning do they have an entry on the matches map)
  • Tree (do they have a tree)
  • Profile (did I check their profile and what did it say)
  • Comment (anything I can add)

This spreadsheet is now a useful tool.

Our goal is to expand this information in a meaningful way.

Data Mining Steps

Here are the steps in checklist format that you’ll complete for each match to fill in additional information on your spreadsheet.

  • EKA (earliest known ancestor)
  • Matches Map
  • Tree
  • Profile
  • Advanced matching
  • Family Finder surname list
  • Email, as a last resort
  • Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, WikiTree, Geni to search for information about their EKA

Doubling My Match Information

I began with 32 full sequence matches. Of those, 13 had an entry on the Matches Map and another 6 had something in the EKA field, but not on the Matches Map.

32 matches Map Additional EKA Nothing Useful
Begin 13 on Matches Map 6 but not mapped 13
End 29 remapped on Google 5 improved info 3

When I finished this exercise, only 3 people had no usable information (white rows), 29 could be mapped, and of the original 13 (red rows), 5 had improved information (yellow cells.)

mitochondrial spreadsheet

Please note that I have removed the names of my matches for privacy reasons, but they appear as a column on my original spreadsheet instead of the Person number.

Google Maps

I remapped my matches from the spreadsheet using free Google Maps.

mitochondrial Google maps

Purple is my ancestor. Red are the original Matches Map ancestors of my matches. Green are the new people that I can map as a result of the information gleaned.

The Scandinavian clustering is even more mystifying and stronger than ever.

Add History

Of course, there’s a story here to be told, but what is that story? My family records are found in Germany in 1655, and before that, there are no records, at least not where my ancestors were living.

Clearly, from this map and also from comparing the mutations of my matches that answered my emails, it’s evident that the migration path was from Scandinavia to Germany and not vice-versa.

How did my ancestor get from Scandinavia to Germany?

When and why?

Looking at German history, there’s a huge hint – the Thirty Years’ War which occurred from 1618-1648. During that war, much of Germany was entirely depopulated, especially the Palatinate.

Looking at where my ancestor was found in 1655 (purple pin), and looking at the Swedish troop movements, we see what may be a correlation.

mitochondrial Swedish troop movements

In the first few generations of church records, there were several illegitimate births and the mother was referred to as a servant woman.

It’s possible that my Scandinavian ancestor came along with the Swedish army and she was somehow left behind or captured.

The Challenge!

Now, it’s your turn. Using this article as a guideline, what can you find? Let me know in a comment. If you utilize additional resources I haven’t found, please mention those too!

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County Formation Petitions Resolve Long-Standing Mystery: Which William Crumley Got Married? – 52 Ancestors #244

Recently, I became aware of petitions in the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), by county, when reading this article by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist. If you have ancestors in Tennessee, check this resource.

Between 1840 and 1850, several of my ancestors lived in the area of Claiborne and Hawkins County, Tennessee that would become Hancock County in 1848 when the Tennessee Supreme Court overruled attempts to block the formation of the new county.

This process of forming Hancock County was not straightforward and resulted in numerous petitions being filed, which was probably terribly frustrating at the time and probably divisive within the community. However, the petitions are a goldmine of information now. Not only can we discover how our ancestors felt about the county’s formation but even more importantly, signatures are found on the petitions.

In order to sign a petition, one must be a registered voter. I know for sure that voters had to be white and male, but they may have also been required to be landowners although I have some doubt about that.

Some signatures appear to be original, and others appear to be transcribed from a list.

I ordered the petitions from the Tennessee State Archives and they arrived a couple weeks later.

Who Lived in Hancock County, Tennessee?

My ancestors who lived in this region between 1840 and 1850 included the following men who were old enough to sign the petitions in the 1840s.

Ancestor 1840 County 1850 County Signs Petitions
Joel Vannoy 1813-1895 Claiborne, the part that became Hancock Moved to Little Sycamore Community in Claiborne County Yes 1841 (2), 1843 (2)
Elijah Vannoy c 1784->1850 Claiborne, part that became Hancock Hancock County Yes 1841 (2), 1843 (2)
William Crumley III 1788-c1852 Claiborne, part that became Hancock Hancock County, on Blackwater, the portion that was previously Hawkins Yes 1841 (second petition), 1843 (2)
Joseph Preston Bolton (1816-1887) Giles, VA but received at Thompson Settlement Church in 1842 by experience, suggesting he is living in what would become Hancock by this time Hancock County, on 4 Mile Creek No
William Herrell (c1789-1859) Claiborne, part that became Hancock Hancock on Powell River No
Michael McDowell Claiborne, part that became Hancock Lived on Powell River, died before 1850, may have died before petitions No
Fairwick Claxton/Clarkson (c1799-1874) Claiborne, part that became Hancock Hancock on Powell River No

The Crumley and Vannoy families intermarried, and the Bolton, Herrell, McDowell and Clarkson families lived adjacent on the Powell River very near the Virginia border and intermarried as well. The Crumley/Vannoy group signed the petitions, and the Bolton/Herrell/McDowell/Claxton/Clarkson group did not.

I’m sure there was some underlying reason for how these two groups of residents felt, that that information has not trickled down to us today.

There is a very unexpected surprise involving the signature of William Crumley on this petition.

First, let’s look at the petitions themselves.

The Petitions

In total, 6 petitions existed between 1839 and 1844. In 1848, the Tennessee Supreme Court finally decided the fate of Hancock County and since it exists today, we know that they voted in favor of the county formation.

On these petitions, the introductory paragraphs stated the purpose of the petition, followed by the signers. Not all petitions had signature pages nor were productive, so I’ve included the petition pages that included names of my ancestors.

Petition 2

TSLA Summary:

Claiborne County petition from 311 signatures from Hawkins and Claiborne Counties asking they be allowed to form a new county. (Hancock County)

  • Roll – 16
  • Year – 1841
  • Petition – 122a

Detail from actual petition:

On September 2, 1841, residents petitioned for the following, the verbiage extracted.

“Petition as a result of the inconveniences under which we labor traveling some 25 miles over large cragged mountains to serve as jurors or in other cases and at great expense and trouble, we heretofore employed a surveyor to run out the boundary of a new county composed of the parts, Hawkins and Claiborne. He returned 389 square miles in said bounds, which is 30 square miles over and above the constitutional number of square miles prescribed for any new county.”

This first petition was not granted. However, there were six total pages of signatures that appear to be the original signatures, not a transcribed list, dated September 2, 1841.

Hancock petition 1841

Elijah Vannoy is signature #5

Hancock petition 1841-5

Joel Vannoy’s signature is #99.

Petition 3

TSLA petition summary:

Claiborne County – new county  –  Petition from certain citizens of Claiborne County asking they be permitted to form a new county.

  • Roll – 16
  • Year – 1841
  • Petition – 85

From the petition signed Dec. 22, 1841, submitted on Dec. 31, 1841, heard on January 25, 1842.

“Petitioners of Claiborne County secondly petition your honorable body that we are a people far remote from the county cits (seats) Tazewell and that we employed a surveyor will qualified and after being duly sworn…”

Followed by a description of the proposed county bounds and signatures of petitioners within the pounds of the territory of the county” that appear to be original. They state they have 160 qualified voter signatures and ask if the petition is not granted, “if the ballot box says we have, let us hear it and if not, let us not trouble your honors further.” They state they have an overwhelming majority and a constitutional right to establish a new county.

Only 93 signatures are included.

Hancock petition 1841 second

William Crumley signed at #21 and his son John Crumley at #23.

Hancock petition 1841 second 2

Joel Vannoy signed at #73, his father Elijah Vannoy Sr. at #92 and Joel’s brother, Elijah Vannoy Jr. at #93.

Petition 4

TSLA Summary:

Claiborne County  –  Petition from 246 citizens Claiborne and Hawkins Counties to form a new county to be known as Hancock County. Map of proposed county and statement of Richard Mitchell, deputy surveyor, included in the folder.

  • Roll – 16
  • Year – 1843
  • Petition – 61

From the petition:

November 1843 – Petitioners of Hawkins and Claiborne County living at a remote distance from the seat of justice of each county and often having to attend as jurors and in other business, over cragged mountains and high waters, we pray your honorable body to grand unto us a new county composed in the parts of Hawkins and Claiborne. We have not approached closer than 12 miles to the existing county seats. We have  at least 600 qualified voters in the bounds of the new contemplated county and this being our third petition…”

Hancock petition 1843

Joel Vannoy signed at #12 and Elijah Vannoy at #33.

Hancock petition 1843 2

E Vannoy signs at #69, but either this one or the signature at #33 would be Jr. Many of these signatures look very similar, causing me to wonder if some of the signatures were transcribed from an original list, not actually signed on this document.

Hancock petition 1843 3

William Crumley signs at #202, but it matches the rest and does not appear to be an original signature. William’s son, Aaron F. Crumley signs at #194.

This document is followed by the survey dated by the surveyor as to its accuracy November 11, 1843. I wonder if some of the signature papers were lost, although at the end of the signature section there were 34 more that said “signed over legend” which I presume means people who signed with an X witnessed by another individual.

That does not equate to the 600 mentioned, but perhaps this is in addition to an earlier petition.

Petition 5

TSLA Summary:

Claiborne County – new county – Petition from 106 citizens of Claiborne County asking they be allowed to form a new county.

  • Roll – 17
  • Year – 1843
  • Petition – 146

From the petition:

Nov 25, 1843 – Petitioners of Claiborne County who reside in the part in the bounds and in favor of a new county.

Hancock petition 1843 second

William Crumly signed at #14, with son Aaron F. Crumley at #13, son John Crumley at #19 and Elijah Vanoy at #18. Of course, we don’t know the order of the homes of the people involved, but Elijah’s son, Joel married William’s daughter, Phoebe, in 1845.

Some of these signatures appear to be original, but the Aaron and William Crumley signatures appear to be the same.

Hancock petition 1843 second 2

Elijah Vanoy Sr. or Jr. signed at #28 and Elijah Sr.’s son, Joel signed at #85.

There were a total of 106 signatures on 3 pages. Only the people in the affected area needed to sign one way or another.

William Crumley’s Signature Solves a Mystery

With 4 William Crumleys in successive generations, keeping them straight has been a challenge, to put it mildly.

In the article about William Crumley (the third born 1788), son of William Crumley (the second born 1767/8), I discussed the fact that both men lived in Greene County, TN, and one of them married Elizabeth Johnson in October 1817.

For a very long time, it was presumed, based on her probable age, if Elizabeth was who we thought she was, that she had married the younger William Crumley, and that his wife, Lydia Brown had died shortly after giving birth to a child in April of 1817. Speedy remarriages weren’t uncommon in that time and place.

The only somewhat unusual circumstance is that Elizabeth Johnson would have gotten pregnant in June, because the next child born to William Crumley (the third) and his wife was my ancestor Phoebe who arrived in March of 1818. It was also a little unusual that Lydia Brown’s mother’s name was Phoebe Cole and Elizabeth named her first child Phoebe. But then again, the Johnsons and Browns were intermarried too or maybe Elizabeth was just incredibly generous.

Or, maybe Lydia didn’t die after all and Elizabeth married a different William Crumley and was not the mother of Phoebe.

By testing the mitochondrial DNA of the descendants of the child born in April of 1817, Phoebe’s descendants along with the descendants of the next child, Malinda, born in 1820, we confirmed that their mitochondrial DNA was identical. Now granted, this could happen if the two women, Lydia and Elizabeth shared a common matrilineal ancestor.

That’s rather unlikely since Phoebe Cole was from New Jersey and Elizabeth Johnson’s father, Zopher, was from Pennsylvania – but with genealogy you never know for sure. Stranger things have happened.

However, William Crumley’s signature on this petition is corroborating data for the mitochondrial evidence.

William Crumley who married in 1817 has a different signature than two other documents signed in Greene County by a William Crumley as well.

William Crumley the third would have been called Jr. in Greene County, given that William Crumley (the first) was already long deceased by 1817, so William Crumley the second would have been William Crumley Sr. in Green County.

I had to make a chart to keep all of the Williams and their signatures straight.

Who In Greene County, TN Signed What
William Crumley I, 1735/6-1793 Never in Greene County, TN Nothing in Greene County
William Crumley II, 1767/8-c 1839 Sr. 1796 court order in the Territory South of the Ohio, possibly 1807 marriage document for William III, possibly 1817 marriage document.
William Crumley III, 1788-1859 Jr. Married in 1807 as Jr., signed War of 1812 affidavit in 1814, marriage of Aaron Crumley in 1814 and signs as William Jr., 1816 marriage for Isaac Crumley where he signs as Jr.
William Crumley IV, 1811-1864 Married in 1840 in Greene Co.

We don’t know which William Crumley married in 1817. What I really NEED to know if if William the third married in 1817, because my ancestor, Phoebe, was born in 1818.

We know unquestionably that the 1796 document was signed by William Crumley II because the older William Crumley was dead by then, and the younger one still a minor. This does of course assume the signature is actually Williams.

William Crumley 1796 signatureA comparison of the various signatures, assembled by researcher Stevie Hughes some years ago shows us the following variations.

Crumley signature comparisons

The next signature is William Crumley from the 1841 petition and looks to be nearly an exact match to the 1816 signature but NOT to the 1817 marriage signature.

Hancock County 1841 Crumley signature

The signature from William Crumley’s 1814 power of attorney having to do with his War of 1812 service is shown below. This signature looks to be identical to the 1814 signature, again, assuming this is his actual signature and the clerk did not transcribe it. the clerk would have been the same person if these signatures are transcribed, so the signatures would “match.” No wonder I’m confused.

william-crumley-poa 1814

We know that William Crumley in 1807 is in fact the man who married Lydia Brown and that signature does not match the man who signed the 1796 document just a decade earlier. What we don’t know for sure, at least without further analysis, is that the first bondsman in 1807 was the groom and not the groom’s father.

The signature in 1807 and 1817 looks more alike than the other two signatures, who also resemble each other. This 1807/1817 resemblance is what led researchers for years to assume that the William who married Lydia Brown is the same William that married Elizabeth Johnson.

The surnames look very similar, but the Ws look different. The W in 1817 looks a bit wobbly.

William Crumley Lydia Brown marriage

Jotham Brown was Lydia’s brother, and William Crumley Sr. would have been the father of William Crumley Jr. who married Lydia Brown. How do we know that?

William Crumley who married in 1807 was underage, so his father had to sign for him. He could not sign for himself. So clearly, there is some confusion about who is being called Jr. and Sr. and who is marrying who in 1817.

What we still don’t know positively is if the man in 1817 who married Elizabeth Johnson was William the second or third.

The signature on the petition in Hancock County matches exactly to that of William Crumley the third (Jr. in Greene County, born 1788) and not that of the man who married Elizabeth Johnson in 1817.

We know the man who signed the Hancock County petition in 1841 was William the third born in 1788 (Jr. in Greene County) because this William died between 1837 and 1840 in Lee County, VA, right across the county line from Hancock County, TN.

My Unexpected Gift

When I requested this petition, I thought I might learn something interesting about my ancestors and the history of the region where they lived, generally.

I never expected to solve a long-standing mystery. I didn’t even realize what I had, at first, and then the light bulb clicked on and I retrieved the various signatures for comparison.

We now have two important independent pieces of evidence that point to the same conclusion. We have full sequence mitochondrial DNA results from Family Tree DNA that match, strongly suggesting that Phoebe Crumley had the same mother as both her older sister who was born in 1817 before William Crumley married Elizabeth Johnson and Phoebe’s younger sister born in 1820. Furthermore, we have a signature for William Crumley (born in 1788) in Hancock County in 1841 which is not the signature of the William Crumley who married in Greene County in 1817.

William Crumley (the older of the two men in 1817) would have been 50 years old, marrying for the second time, and did not need a separate bondman. He had enough money to be his own bondsman while his son who had been a minor in 1807 did not. William Crumley born in 1788, the younger of the two William’s would also have been marrying for the second time, and he wouldn’t have needed a secondary bondsman either in 1817.

Regardless of the signatures, given the question about originality, I’m extremely grateful for the mitochondrial DNA test results.

You just never know what one single signature, DNA test or piece of information will do for you and more information is always better.

Order everything!

Identifying Unknown Parents and Individuals Using DNA Matching

There have been a lot of questions recently about the methodology used by people searching for unknown parents and other unidentified individuals. I covered this technique in concept recently at a conference as part of an overview presentation. In this article, I’m addressing only this topic and in more detail.

What is the methodology that genealogists use to identify unknown parents? It’s exactly the same process used to identify unknown Does, meaning unidentified bodies as well as violent criminals who have left DNA, such as blood or semen, at a crime scene.

How is Identifying Unknown Individuals Different from Genealogy?

Genealogists are interested in discovering their ancestors. Generally, genealogists know who their parents are and most of the time, their grandparents as well. Not very many people can tell you the names of their great-grandparents off the top of their head – not unless they ARE genealogists😊

Genealogists interview family members and access family sources, such as photos, Bibles, boxes of memorabilia and often extend their family another generation or two using these resources. Then, to gather additional information, genealogists turn to publicly available sources such as:

Constructing a Tree

Genealogists utilize software to create trees of their ancestors, either on their own computers with software such as Family Tree Maker, Legacy, RootsMagic or the free tree building software from MyHeritage. They then either synchronize or duplicate their tree on the public sites mentioned above which provide functionality such as “hints” that point to documents relevant to the ancestors in their tree. Additionally, they can access the trees of other genealogists who are researching the same ancestors. This facilitates the continued growth of their tree by adding ancestors and extending the tree back generations.

While tree-building is the goal of genealogists, the trees they build are important tools for people seeking to identify unknown individuals.

The Tree

Generations tree

In my tree, shown in the format of a pedigree chart, above, you can see that I’ve identified all 16 of my great-great-grandparents. In reality, because I’ve been a genealogist for decades, I’ve identified many more of my ancestors which are reflected in my tree on my computer and in my trees at both Ancestry and MyHeritage where I benefit from hints and DNA matches.

Genealogical pedigree charts are typically represented with the “home person,” me, in this case at the base with my ancestors branching out behind them like a lovely peacock’s tail.

While I’m looking for distant ancestors, adoptees and others seeking the identities of contemporary people are not looking back generations, but seek to identify contemporary generations, meaning people who are alive or lived very recently, typically within a generation.

Enter the world of genetics and DNA matching.

Genetics, The Game Changing Tool

Before the days of DNA testing, adoptees could only hope that someone knew the identify of their biological parents, or that their biological parents registered with a reunion site, or that their court records could be opened.

DNA testing changed all of that, because people can now DNA test and find their close relatives. As more people test, the better the odds of actually having a parent or sibling match, or perhaps a close relative like an aunt, uncle or first cousin. My closest relative that has tested that I didn’t know was testing is my half-sister’s daughter.

You share grandparents with your first cousin, and since you only have 4 grandparents, it’s not terribly difficult to figure out which set of grandparents you connect to through that first cousin – especially given the size of the databases and the number of matches that people have today.

The chart below shows my matches as of June 2019.

Vendor

Total Matches

Second Cousin or Closer

Family Tree DNA

4,609

18

MyHeritage

9,644

14

23andMe

1,501

5

Ancestry

80,151

8

You can see that I have a total of 45 close matches, although some of those matches are duplicates of each other. However, each database has some people that are only in that database and have not tested at other companies or transferred to other databases.

Situations like this are exactly why people who are searching for unknown family members take DNA tests at all 4 of the vendors.

Stories were once surprising about people who tested and either discover a previously unknown close relative, or conversely discovered that they are not related to someone who they initially believed they were. Today these occurrences are commonplace.

Matches

If you’re searching for an unknown parent or close relative, you just might be lucky to receive a parental, sibling, half-sibling or uncle/aunt match immediately.

An estimated relationship range is provided by all vendors based on the amount of DNA that the tester shares with their match.

Generations Family Tree DNA matches

My mother’s match page at Family Tree DNA is shown above. You can see that I’m Mother’s closest match. My known half brother did not test before he passed away, and mother’s parents are long deceased, so my mother should NEVER have another match this close.

So, who is that person in row 2 that is also predicted to be a mother or daughter? I took a test at Ancestry and uploaded my results to Family Tree DNA for research purposes, so this is actually my own second kit, but for example purposes, I’ve renamed myself “Example Adoptee.” Judging from the photo here, apparently my “adopted” sibling was a twin😊

If the adoptee tested at Family Tree DNA, she would immediately see a sibling match (me) and a parent match (Mom.) A match at that cM (centiMorgan) level can only be a parent or a child, and the adoptee knows whether she has a child or not.

Let’s look at a more distant example, which is probably more “typical” than immediately finding a parent match.

Let’s say that the “male adoptee” at the bottom in the red box is also searching for his birth family. He matches my mother at the 2nd-3rd cousin level, so someplace in her tree are his ancestors too.

People who have trees are shown with gold boxes around the tiny pedigree icons, because they literally are trees of gold.

Because of Family Tree DNA’s “bucketing” tool, the software has already told my Mother that the male adoptee is a match on her father’s side of her tree. The adoptee can click on the little pedigree icon to view the trees of his matches to view their ancestors, then engage in what is known as “tree triangulation” with his other close matches.

From the Perspective of the Adoptee

An adoptee tests not knowing anything about their ancestors.

Generations adoptee

When their results come back, the adoptee, in the red box in the center, hoping to identify their biological parents, discovers that their closest matches are the testers in the pink and blue ovals.

The adoptee does NOT know that these people are related to each other at this point, only that these 7 people are their closest matches on their match list.

The adoptee has to put the rest of the story together like a puzzle.

Who Matches Each Other?

In our scenario, test takers 2, 3 and 8 don’t match the adoptee, so the adoptee will never know they tested and vice versa. Everyone at a second cousin level will match each other, but only some people will match at more distant relationships, according to statistics published by 23andMe:

Relationship Level

Percentage of People Who Match

Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, half siblings, half aunts/uncles and 1st cousins

100%

2nd cousins

>99%

3rd cousins

90%

4th cousins

45%

5th cousins

15%

6th cousins and more distant

<5%

You can view a detailed chart with additional relationships here.

Tree Triangulation

By looking at the individual trees of test taker 1, 4 and 5 whom they match, the adoptee notices that John and Jane Doe are common ancestors in the trees of all 3 test takers. The adoptee may also use “in common with” tools provided by each vendor to see who they match “in common with” another tester. In this case, let’s say that test taker 1, 4 and 5 also match each other, so the adoptee would also make note of that, inferring correctly that they are members of the same family.

The goal is to identify a common ancestor of a group of matches in order to construct the ancestor’s tree, not a pedigree chart backwards in time, as with genealogy, but to construct a descendants’ tree from the ancestral couple to the current day, as completely as possible. After all, the goal is to identify the parent of the adoptee who descends from the common ancestor.

Generations adoptee theory

In this case, the adoptee realized that the pink test takers descended from John and Jane Doe, and the blue test takers descended from Walter and Winnie Smith, and constructed descendant trees of both couples.

The adoptee created a theory, based on the descendants of these two ancestral couples, incorporating other known facts, such as the year when the adoptee was born, and where.

In our example, the adoptee discovered that John and Jane Doe had another daughter, Juanita, whose descendants don’t appear to have tested, and that Juanita had a daughter who was in the right place at the right time to potentially be the mother of the adoptee.

Conversely, Walter and Winnie Smith had a son whose descendants also appear to have not tested, and he had a son who lived in the same place as Juanita Doe. In other words, age, opportunity and process of elimination all play a role in addition to DNA matches. DNA is only the first hint that must be followed up by additional research.

At this point, if the adoptee has taken either Y or mitochondrial DNA testing, those results can serve to either include or exclude some candidates at Family Tree DNA. For example, if the adoptee was a male and matched the Y DNA of the Smith line, that would be HUGE hint.

From this point on, an adoptee can either wait for more people to test or can contact their matches hoping that the matches will have information and be helpful. Keep in mind that all the adoptee has is a theory at this point and they are looking to refine their theory or create a new one and then to help narrow their list of parent candidates.

Fortunately, there are tools and processes to help.

What Are the Odds?

One helpful tool to do this is the WATO, What Are the Odds statistical probability tools at DNAPainter.

Using WATO, you create a hypothesis tree as to how the person whose connection you are seeking might be related, plugging them in to different tree locations, as shown below.

Generations WATO

This is not the same example as Smith and Doe, above, but a real family puzzle being worked on by my cousin. Names are blurred for privacy, of course.

Generations WATO2

WATO then provides a statistical analysis of the various options, with only one of the above hypothesis being potentially viable based on the level of DNA matching for the various hypothetical relationships.

DNAPainter Shared cM Tool

If your eyes are glazing over right about now with all of these numbers flying around, you’re not alone.

I’ll distill this process into individual steps to help you understand how this works, and why, starting with another tool provided by DNAPainter, the Shared cM tool that helps you calculate the most likely relationship with another person.

The more closely related you are to a person, the more DNA you will share with them.

DNAPainter has implemented this tool based on the results of Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project where you can enter the amount of DNA that you share with someone to determine the “best fit” relationship, on average, plus the range of expected shared DNA.

Generations DNAPainter Shared cM Project

You, or the test taker, are in the middle and the relationship ranges surround “you.”

For example, you can clearly see that the number of cMs for my Example Adoptee at 3384 is clearly in the Parent or Child range. But wait, it could also be at the very highest end of a half sibling relationship. Other lower cM matches are less specific, so another feature of the DNAPainter tool is a life-saver.

At the top of the page, you can enter the number of matching cMs and the tool will predict the most likely results, based on probability.

Generations 3384

The relationship for 3384 cMs is 100% a parent/child relationship, shown above, but the sibling box is highlighted below because 3384 is the very highest value in the range. This seems to be a slight glitch in the tool. We can summarize by saying that it would be extremely, extremely rare for a 3384 cM match to be a full sibling instead of a parent or child. Hen’s teeth rare.

Generations parent child

Next, let’s look at 226 cM, for our male adoptee which produces the following results:

Generations 226

The following chart graphically shows the possible relationships. The “male adoptee” is actually Mom’s second cousin. This tool is quite accurate.

Generations 226 chart

Now that you’ve seen the tools in action, let’s take a look at the rest of the process.

The Steps to Success

The single biggest predictor of success identifying an unknown person is the number of close matches. Without relatively close matches, the process gets very difficult quickly.

What constitutes a close match and how many close matches do adoptees generally have to work with?

If an adoptee matches someone at a 2nd or 3rd cousin level, what does that really mean to them?

I’ve created the following charts to answer these questions. By the way, this information is relevant to everyone, not just adoptees.

In the chart below, you can view different relationships in the blue legs of the chart descending from the common ancestral couple.

In this example, “You” and the “Other Tester” match at the 4th cousin level sharing 35 cM of DNA. If you look “up” the tree a generation, you can see that the parents of the testers match at the 3rd cousin level and share 74 cM of DNA, the grandparents of the testers match at the 2nd cousin level and share 223 cM of DNA and so forth.

Generations relationship table

In the left column, generations begin being counted with your parents as generation 1. The cumulative number of direct line relatives you have at each generation is shown in the “# Grandparents” column.

Generations relationship levels

Here’s how to read this chart, straight across.

Viewing the “Generation” column, at the 4th generation level, you have 16 great-great-grandparents. Your great-great-grandparent is a first cousin to the the great-great-grandparent of your 4th cousin. Their parents were siblings.

Looking at it this way, it might not seem too difficult to reassemble the descendancy tree of someone 5 generations in the past, but let’s look at it from the other perspective meaning from the perspective of the ancestral couple.

Generations descendants

Couples had roughly 25 years of being reproductively capable and for most of history, birth control was non-existent. If your great-great-great-grandparents, who were born sometime near the year 1800 (the births of mine range from 1785 to 1810) had 5 children who lived, and each of their descendants had 5 children who lived, today each ancestral couple would have 3,125 descendants.

If that same couple had 10 children and 10 lived in each subsequent generation, they would have 100,000 descendants. Accuracy probably lies someplace in-between. That’s still a huge number of descendants for one couple.

That’s JUST for one couple. You have 32 great-great-great-grandparents, or 16 pairs, so multiply 16 times 3,125 for 50,000 descendants or 100,000 times 16 for…are you ready for this…1,600,000 descendants.

Descendants per GGG-grandparent couple at 5 generations Total descendants for 16 GGG-grandparent couples combined
5 children per generation 3,125 50,000
10 children per generation 100,000 1,600,000

NOW you understand why adoptees need to focus on only close matches and why distant matches at the 3rd and 4th cousin level are just too difficult to work with.

By contrast, let’s look at the first cousin row.

Generations descendants 1C.png

At 5 descendants per generation, you’ll have 25 first cousins or 100 first cousins at 10 descendants per generation.

Generations descendants 2C

At second cousins, you’ll have 125 and 1,000 – so reconstructing these trees down to current descendants is still an onerous task but much more doable than from the third or fourth cousin level, especially in smaller families.

The Perfect Scenario

Barring a fortuitous parent or sibling match, the perfect scenario for adoptees and people seeking unknown individuals means that:

  • They have multiple 1st or 2nd cousin matches making tree triangulation to a maternal and paternal group of matches to identify the common ancestors feasible.
  • Their matches have trees that allow the adoptee to construct theories of how they might fit into a family.

Following the two steps above, when sufficient matching and trees have been assembled, the verification steps begin.

  • Adoptees hope that their matches are responsive to communications requesting additional information to either confirm or refute their relationship theory. For example, my mother could tell the male adoptee that he is related on her father’s side of the family based on Family Tree DNA‘s parental “side” assignment. Based on who else the adoptee matches in common with mother, she could probably tell him how he’s related. That information would be hugely beneficial.
  • In a Doe situation where the goal is to identify remains, with a relatively close match, the investigator could contact that match and ask if they know of a missing family member.
  • In a law enforcement situation where strong close-family matches that function as hints lead to potential violent crime suspects, investigators could obtain a piece of trash discarded by the potential suspect to process and compare to the DNA from the crime scene, such as was done in the Golden State Killer case.

If the discarded DNA doesn’t match the crime scene DNA, the person is exonerated as a potential suspect. If the discarded DNA does match the crime scene DNA, investigators would continue to gather non-DNA evidence and/or pick the suspect up for questioning and to obtain a court ordered DNA sample to compare to the DNA from the crime scene in a law enforcement database.

Sometimes DNA is a Waiting Game

I know that on the surface, DNA matching for adoptees and unknown persons sounds simple, and sometimes it is if there is a very close family match.

More often than not, trying to identify unknown persons, especially if the tester doesn’t have multiple close matches is much like assembling a thousand-piece puzzle with no picture on the front of the box.

Sometimes simply waiting for a better match at some point in the future is the only feasible answer. I waited years for my brother, Dave’s family match. You can read his story here and here.

DNA is a waiting game.

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