Irene Charitas (c1665-c1694) and Her Aching Mother’s Soul, 52 Ancestors #100

For a very long time, and on most online trees, Irene Charitas is listed as the wife of Johann Michael Mueller who was born about 1655 in Zollikoffen, Switzerland and who died in 1695 in Steinwenden, Germany.  Her last name is listed as Charitas, but it isn’t.  Charitas is Irene’s middle name.

At this time in history, in Germany and the Germanic speaking Protestant regions of Europe, females were given two names, a first “saints” name and a second name by which they were typically called.  Irene is quite unusual for a Saint’s name and Charitas is very unusual for a middle name.  So unusual in fact that I’ve only seen it one other time, ever.

Charitas is a Latin word meaning charity and “for the love of God.”  Charitas, or charity, is one of the 7 virtues.

Steinwenden 5

We don’t know where Irene was born, but what we do know is that we first find her as Johann Michael Mueller’s wife in Steinwenden, Germany, shown above and below, when she gives birth to the first child recorded to this couple in the church records in 1685.  Could this couple have lived there, or had children elsewhere, previously?  Of course.  Could they have had other children that were baptized in a different church?  Yes.  Michael was born in 1655, so if Irene was his age, they could have married by about 1673-1675 and had another 5 children or so before they appear in the Steinwenden records.  But did they?  We’ll never know for sure, but there is no evidence today to suggest such.

Steinwenden 6

Unfortunately, the only part of the original Steinwenden church that survives today is the bell tower.

Steinwenden 4

Sometime in the early 1680s, the Mueller family arrived in Steinwenden from the Zollikoffen area near Bern, Switzerland. It’s likely that Irene’s family was among the same immigrant group – but we just don’t know and to the best of my knowledge, no research has been done on that topic.  Furthermore, the Johann Michael Mueller family could have made an intermittent stop along the way that we are unaware of.  In other words, Michael could have married Irene Charitas anyplace between Zollikoffen and Steinwenden.

I’m not quite sure how Charitas became her last name on the internet.  Perhaps it’s an assumption based on the fact that her middle name is an unfamiliar name and someone assumed it was her last name.  In any event, it’s been that way for years now and I’m hopeful that records from the actual church can help reduce or eliminate this misinformation.  I’m currently in the process of having the church records retranslated by a professional German genealogist, just to be sure.

When our cousin, the Reverend Richard Miller visited the church in Steinwenden in 1996, the church historians and a German genealogist prepared a summary of the church records involving Johann Michael Mueller, shown below.

In all of the birth records of children born to Michael, Irene Charitas was his wife, and Charitas was not her birth name.  If the child born in 1685 was their first, then Irene Charitas was likely born about 1665, give or take a couple years in either direction.

Steinwenden 7

Recently, Richard sent me the original record of Johann Michael Mueller’s birth from the Steinwenden church.  It’s the second to last entry, below.

Miller 1792 birth steinwenden

Needless to say, I can’t read this, on two fronts, the language and the script, which is why I’m having this and the other records retranslated.

The next we hear of Irene is a church record for a confirmation of Irene Charitas Schlosser, a daughter of Conrad Schlosser, of Steinwinden.  Often, children were named after their godparents with the idea that the Godparents were relatives and they were the appointed relatives responsible for the religious education of the child – and whether spoken or unspoken, it was also expected that if the parents died, the Godparents would raise the children – or at least the one(s) named for them.  Unfortunately, in the age of marginal medical care, no antibiotics and an era where every pregnancy was high risk, that happened all too often.  So, it appears that Conrad Schlosser’s daughter was named for Michael Mueller’s wife, Irene Charitas.

It’s likely that Irene was in some way related to Conrad.  She could have been his sister or aunt or a favorite cousin.  Or, Conrad could have been related to Johann Michael Mueller.  One way or another Conrad trusted Irene enough to name his daughter after her, making Irene Charitas Mueller the first in line to raise her namesake should something happen to Conrad and his wife.  Additional research on the Schlosser family church records is in order.

Steinwenden 1

The first record on this transcriptions says that Jacob Ringeisen of Schweitz was “serving for his cousin” Michael Muller.

In other words, even though the daughter was named for Irene, Michael’s wife, Irene wasn’t present, possibly due to pregnancy herself, and apparently neither was Michael.  However, Michael’s cousin in essence represented Michael and the couple’s commitment at the baptism.

Of course, now this makes me ask just how Michael and Jacob were cousins, and was it through marriage via Irene Charitas?  It looks like we may have yet another family connection hint.  So often in these old church records there is so much more buried in the details that is missed if all you get is a translation of the actual “event.”

In genealogy, always, always, more questions.

Irene Charitas’ life was short.  She probably died before she was 30.  There are no more known records of her, at least not directly.

What we do know is that the last child in these church records is born to Irene and Michael in 1692.  This is the only one of the six children she bore that lived.  This is an incredibly sad story that seems to stretch beyond just “bad luck.”   

Child Birth Death Age at Death
Johann Nicholas Muller June 5, 1685 June 6, 1685 1 day
Johann Abraham Muller July 9, 1688 1696 Less than 6 months
Samuel Muller April 30, 1687 April 30, 1687 Shortly after birth
Catherine Barbara Muller June 7, 1688 June 21, 1691 3 years, 2 weeks
Eva Catherine Muller April 24, 1691 June 29, 1691 2 months
Johann Michael Muller October 5, 1692 1771 78 years

Looking at these children’s deaths, I find the month of June, 1691 particularly heartbreaking.  Clearly, something contagious was occurring and both of Irene’s children died, 8 days apart.  I wonder if the church records reflect a rash of deaths within the village.  Just 11 months later, she would bear her 6th child.  I bet those months between June of 1691 and May of 1692 were living Hell for Irene, between the sorrow and grief of losing her children and the uncertainly of the one she was carrying.

Fortunately for me, Johann Michael Mueller, the second, born in 1692, named after his father, did live, as he is my ancestor.

Johann Michael Mueller Sr. died in Steinwenden in 1695, just three years later. For some reason, from 1692 to 1695, there were no more children born to Johann Michael Mueller and Irene Charitas – nor to Johann Michael Mueller and anyone else.

Why is this important?  Because another rumor that has been rampant over the years is that Johann Michael Mueller was married to Anna Loysa Regina and that she was the mother of Johann Michael Mueller.  At least I was able to figure out where this information originated.

On September 29, 1695, Anna Loysa Regina married Jacob Stutzman in Steinwenden, although I have not seen the original record myself.  She is noted at that time as being the widow of Michael Mueller.

For Anna Loysa Regina to be the window of Michael Mueller, that means that Irene Charitas died sometime after giving birth to Michael Jr. on October 5, 1692 and sometime before Michael Sr.’s death on January 31, 1695, just 2 years and 3 months later, allowing Michael Sr. enough time to remarry after Irene’s death and before his own.  Remarriage often didn’t take much time actually, given that most people already knew each other through church and it was simply a matter of taking stock of the available spouses and making a choice from the willing and most compatible selection.  No, it was not about love but one would hope it was at least about like and that love evolved.  Regardless, marriage was a practical matter of survival as men and women needed each other’s assistance in the daily activities of living and raising children.  Michael would have had a small child who needed a mother.

Michael and Anna Loysa Regina must not have been married long, because there are no children recorded to she and Michael, but she did go on to have children with Jacob Stutzman, one as late as 1706.  Jacob Stutzman Jr. born in 1706, and Johann Michael Mueller Jr., born in 1692, step-brothers of a sort, would in 1727 immigrate to America together.

If all of these records have been accurately translated, Irene Charitas probably died about 1694, possibly in childbirth.  In the natural order of things, March or April 1694 would be about 18 months after Michael was born, representing the typical spacing between children.  Why no record of her death exists in the church records is a mystery.  Perhaps we need to look again, and maybe in the surrounding church records as well.

Cemetery plots in Germany, as is customary in Europe, are reused.  In some cases, they continue within the family, with generation upon generation (pardon the pun) being buried in the same location.  In other cases, the grave is considered “abandoned” if no one pays upkeep, and the site is reused at the discretion of the church.  Gravesites that aren’t abandoned are still reused, but generally by the family and perhaps not as quickly as abandoned graves.  While this is very foreign to those of us in the US, if Europeans did not employ some “recycling” burial strategy, the entire continent would be blanketed with cemeteries and there would no room for the living.

Being someone who wonders about everything, I asked at a Dutch church during a European visit in 2014 about what happened if there were still bones in the grave when they set about burying the next person.  I’m glad I asked, because I then discovered that those little buildings in or near cemeteries weren’t what I thought.  I assumed they were the gardener’s or sextant’s shed, containing things like shovels, lawnmowers, etc.  Well, I was wrong.  Those little buildings are ossuaries containing the bones of the former inhabitants of graves.  The photo below is the ossuary in Wolsum, the Netherlands.

Ossuary Wolsum

This is truly the final resting place until the bones turn to dust, generally stacked something like cordwood with similar types of bones stacked with like bones on shelves.  Yes, seriously.  Once moved from the grave to the ossuary, the bones are not kept together as a “person.”  This photo is an ossuary in Hallstatt, Austria.

Ossuary Austria

From a DNA perspective, these ossuaries, found in almost all cemeteries, are just torture to me, because I can just see the DNA of my ancestral lines in that ossuary, all mixed in with the DNA of the other families…which are probably mine as well, given that these people married their neighbors in the community for generations.  There they are, my ancestors and their DNA, right in front of me, but entirely anonymous and completely unidentifiable.  If we knew who they were, we could obtain the Y and mtDNA lineage of every family in the village, including mine!

The bones in the ossuaries are just waiting to finish turning to dust – a process that takes longer than they are allowed to rest in the ground.  So a grave in Europe is not a place of perpetual rest, it’s a temporary resting point but not the last stop on the journey.  I just can’t help but think what a wonderful scientific study it would be to analyze the bones in an ossuary and compare the results to the DNA of the current village inhabitants, and those descendants who moved away.  And yes, you know I’d be in the front of the line, volunteering.  You could reconstruct an entire village in the 1700s or maybe 1800s from their DNA – maybe even further back.  You could tell who settled there, where they were from originally… you could learn so much.  But back to reality….

Not only do we not know where Irena Charitas and her infant children were buried, their dust assuredly shares that location today with several subsequent generations of Germans, most likely not her descendants because her only known descendant immigrated to America in 1727 with his Stutzman step-brother.  Irene Charitas’ son Johann Michael Mueller, Jr. never knew his mother or father, never remembered seeing his mother’s face, beaming down at him, so joyous that he was alive.  He had no memory of her loving touch.  He was raised by his step-mother and her subsequent husband, Jacob Stutzman, after both of Michael’s parents died by the time he was three.

There was no happy ending for Irene Charitas.  In fact – it seems that her entire adult lifetime was filled with serial grief, except for those few brief months when she and baby Michael both lived.  Irene Charitas’ grief was caused by the births and deaths of 5 children in 5 years, followed by her own death not long after her 6th child was born and survived.  Then, the terrible irony.  When a child finally lives, she herself succumbs.

I can only imagine the excitement Irene felt about her first pregnancy, followed by the shattering death of the baby.  Surely, she would have told herself that it wouldn’t happen again.  It was a first birth, probably difficult.  The second one would be easier.  Just a few months later, she became pregnant again and full of hope, only to have her dreams shattered again with the death of that child.  And then again…and again and again, year after year after year.  Just five years after that first baby died, she was pregnant for her sixth child.  I wonder if she started out in dread when she discovered she was pregnant again, never allowing herself to be excited, to plan, to hope for that baby to live.  I could understand how she might feel that way after 5 dead babies in 5 years.  I know how frightened I was when I was pregnant for my third child after my second child died.

And then the baby lived but she died.  Oh, the horrible irony.  Poor Irene.  In death, leaving behind her one child that lived.  She must have fought the grim reaper with every ounce of her being until the very end.  But it wasn’t enough.  It just wasn’t enough.

I hope that Irene Charitas was able to see, from afar, her son, Johann Michael Mueller Jr. growing up strong, being raised by his step-mother and step-father in a pious pietist home and that it helped sooth her aching mother’s soul.

Mass Pre-Contact Native Grave in California Yields Disappointing Results

In 2012 during excavation for a shopping mall near San Francisco, a mass grave containing 7 men was unearthed.  The manner in which they were buried led archaeologists to believe that they had been murdered, and quickly buried, not ceremonially buried as tribal members would be.  They were found among more than 200 other burials.

The victims ages ranged from about 18 to about 40 and scientists concentrated on analyzing the wounds, cause of death and DNA of these men.  In part, they wanted to see if they were related to each other and if they originated in this area or came from elsewhere.  In other words, were they unsuccessful invaders as suggested by the circumstances of their burials?

This article tells more about the excavations and includes some photos.

Analysis suggests the men lived about 1200 years ago, clearly before European contact.  Analysis of the men’s teeth provided information about their history.  These men had spent their lives together, but their isotope signatures were clearly different than the individuals in the balance of the burials.  Indeed, they look to have been invaders.

An academic paper titled “Isotopic and genetic analysis of a mass grave in central California: Implications for precontact hunter-gatherer warfare” was published a few weeks ago in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.  The article itself is behind a paywall available here.  The abstract is provided below:



Analysis of a mass burial of seven males at CA-ALA-554, a prehistoric site in the Amador Valley, CA, was undertaken to determine if the individuals were “locals” or “non-locals,” and how they were genetically related to one another.


The study includes osteological, genetic (mtDNA), and stable (C, N, O, S) and radiogenic (Sr) isotope analyses of bone and tooth (first and third molars) samples.


Isotopes in first molars, third molars, and bone show they spent the majority of their lives living together. They are not locals to the Amador Valley, but were recently living to the east in the San Joaquin Valley, suggesting intergroup warfare as the cause of death. The men were not maternally related, but represent at least four different matrilines. The men also changed residence as a group between age 16 and adult years.


Isotope data suggest intergroup warfare accounts for the mass burial. Genetic data suggest the raiding party included sets of unrelated men, perhaps from different households. Generalizing from this case and others like it, we hypothesize that competition over territory was a major factor behind ancient warfare in Central California. We present a testable model of demographic expansion, wherein villages in high-population-density areas frequently fissioned, with groups of individuals moving to lower-population-density areas to establish new villages. This model is consistent with previous models of linguistic expansion. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Genetic Information

I was extremely disappointed with the genetic information.  Working with the local Ohlone community, the scientists did attempt to extract DNA from the 7 individuals in the mass grave, with 6 extractions being successful.

They only analyzed the HVR1 region of the mitochondrial DNA.

Eerkens 2015 table

In the paper, the authors indicate that nuclear DNA which would include the Y chromosome as well as autosomal DNA was too degraded to recover.  While disappointing, there is nothing they can do about that.

However, only analyzing the mitochondrial DNA, which they clearly were able to amplify, at the HVR1 level is an incredible lost opportunity.  They obtained enough resolution in 6 of the individuals to obtain general haplogroup assignments.  However, the HVR2 and coding regions would have provided the defining information about extended haplogroups and individual mutations, including, perhaps, haplogroups rarely or never seen previously in the Americas.

Furthermore, given the information above, we can’t tell if the D1 individuals are related to each other matrilineally or not.  The B2 individuals are clearly not related in a recent timeframe nor are the A2, B2 and D1 people related to each other on their matrilineal line.  What a shame more information wasn’t obtained.

While I’m grateful that DNA testing was undertaken, I’m saddened by the partial results, especially in this day of full genomic sequencing for ancient DNA specimens.  I’m perplexed as to why they would not have obtained as much information as was possible, given the significant effort expended in recovering any ancient DNA specimen.

Some Native Americans Had Oceanic Ancestors

This week has seen a flurry of new scientific and news articles.  What has been causing such a stir?  It appears that Australian or more accurately, Australo-Melanese DNA has been found in South America’s Native American population. In addition, it has also been found in Aleutian Islanders off the coast of Alaska.  In case you aren’t aware, that’s about 8,500 miles as the crow flies.  That’s one tired crow.  As the person paddles or walks along the shoreline, it’s even further, probably about 12,000 miles.

Aleutians to Brazil

Whatever the story, it was quite a journey and it certainly wasn’t all over flat land.

This isn’t the first inkling we’ve had.  Just a couple weeks ago, it was revealed that the Botocudo remains from Brazil were Polynesian and not admixed with either Native, European or African.  This admixture was first discovered via mitochondrial DNA, but full genome sequencing confirmed their ancestry and added the twist that they were not admixed – an extremely unexpected finding.  This is admittedly a bit confusing, because it implies that there were new Polynesian arrivals in the 1600s or 1700s.

Unlikely as it seems, it obviously happened, so we set that aside as relatively contemporary.

The findings in the papers just released are anything but contemporary.

The First Article

The first article in Science, “Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans” by Raghaven et al published this week provides the following summary (bolding is mine):

How and when the Americas were populated remains contentious. Using ancient and modern genome-wide data, we find that the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America. Subsequent gene flow resulted in some Native Americans sharing ancestry with present-day East Asians (including Siberians) and, more distantly, Australo-Melanesians. Putative ‘Paleoamerican’ relict populations, including the historical Mexican Pericúes and South American Fuego-Patagonians, are not directly related to modern Australo-Melanesians as suggested by the Paleoamerican Model.

This article in EurekAlert and a second one here discuss the Science paper.

Raghaven 2015

Migration map from the Raghaven paper.

The paper included the gene flow and population migration map, above, along with dates.

The scientists sequenced the DNA of 31 living individuals from the Americas, Siberia and Oceana as follows:


  • Altai – 2
  • Buryat – 2
  • Ket – 2
  • Kiryak – 2
  • Sakha – 2
  • Siberian Yupik – 2

North American Native:

  • Tsimshian (number not stated, but by subtraction, it’s 1)

Southern North American, Central and South American Native:

  • Pima – 1
  • Huichol -1
  • Aymara – 1
  • Yakpa – 1


  • Papuan – 14

The researchers also state that they utilized 17 specimens from relict groups such as the Pericues from Mexico and Fuego-Patagonians from the southernmost tip of South America.  They also sequenced two pre-Columbian mummies from the Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico.  In total, 23 ancient samples from the Americas were utilized.

They then compared these results with a reference panel of 3053 individuals from 169 populations which included the ancient Saqqaq Greenland individual at 400 years of age as well as the Anzick child from Montana from about 12,500 years ago and the Mal’ta child from Siberia at 24,000 years of age.

Not surprisingly, all of the contemporary samples with the exception of the Tsimshian genome showed recent western Eurasian admixture.

As expected, the results confirm that the Yupik and Koryak are the closest Eurasian population to the Americas.  They indicate that there is a “clean split” between the Native American population and the Koryak about 20,000 years ago.

They found that “Athabascans and Anzick-1, but not the Greenlandis Inuit and Saqqaq belong to the same initial migration wave that gave rise to present-day Amerindians from southern North America and Central and South America, and that this migration likely followed a coastal route, given our current understanding of the glacial geological and paleoenvironmental parameters of the Late Pleistocene.”

Evidence of gene flow between the two groups was also found, meaning between the Athabascans and the Inuit.  Additionally, they found evidence of post-split gene flow between Siberians and Native Americans which seems to have stopped about 12,000 years ago, which meshes with the time that the Beringia land bridge was flooded by rising seas, cutting off land access between the two land masses.

They state that the results support all Native migration from Siberia, contradicting claims of an early migration from Europe.

The researchers then studied the Karitiana people of South America and determined that the two groups, Athabascans and Karitiana diverged about 13,000 years ago, probably not in current day Alaska, but in lower North America.  This makes sense, because the Clovis Anzick child, found in Montana, most closely matches people in South America.

By the Clovis period of about 12,500 years ago, the Native American population had already split into two branches, the northern and southern, with the northern including Athabascan and other groups such as the Chippewa, Cree and Ojibwa.  The Southern group included people from southern North America and Central and South America.

Interestingly, while admixture with the Inuit was found with the Athabascan, Inuit admixture was not found among the Cree, Ojibwa and Chippewa.  The researchers suggest that this may be why the southern branch, such as the Karitiana are genetically closer to the northern Amerindians located further east than to northwest coast Amerindians and Athabascans.

Finally, we get to the Australian part.  The researchers when trying to sort through the “who is closer to whom” puzzle found unexpected results.  They found that some Native American populations including Aleutian Islanders, Surui (Brazil) and Athabascans are closer to Australo-Melanesians compared to other Native Americans, such as Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquian and South American Purepecha (Mexico), Arhuaco (Colombia) and Wayuu (Colombia, Venezuela).  In fact, the Surui are one of the closest populations to East Asians and Australo-Melanese, the latter including Papuans, non-Papuan Melanesians, Solomon Islanders and hunter-gatherers such as Aeta. The researchers acknowledge these are weak trends, but they are nonetheless consistently present.

Dr. David Reich, from Harvard, a co-author of another paper, also published this past week, says that 2% of the DNA of Amazonians is from Oceana.  If that is consistent, it speaks to a founder population in isolation, such that the 2% just keeps getting passed around in the isolated population, never being diluted by outside DNA.  I would suggest that is not a weak signal.

The researchers suggest that the variance in the strength of this Oceanic signal suggests that the introduction of the Australo-Melanese occurred after the initial peopling of the Americas.  The ancient samples cluster with the Native American groups and do not show the Oceanic markers and show no evidence of gene flow from Oceana.

The researchers also included cranial morphology analysis, which I am omitting since cranial morphology seems to have led researchers astray in the past, specifically in the case of Kennewick man.

One of the reasons cranial morphology is such a hotly debated topic is because of the very high degree of cranial variance found in early skeletal remains.  One of the theories evolving from the cranial differences involving the populating of the Americans has been that the Australo-Melanese were part of a separate and earlier migration that gave rise to the earliest Americans who were then later replaced by the Asian ancestors of current day Native Americans.  If this were the case, then the now-extinct Fuego-Patagonains samples from the location furthest south on the South American land mass should have included DNA from Oceana, but it didn’t.

The Second Article

A second article published this week, titled “’Ghost population’ hints at long lost migration to the Americas” by Ellen Callaway discusses similar findings, presented in a draft letter to Nature titled “Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas” by Skoglund et al.  This second group discovers the same artifact Australo-Melanesian DNA in Native American populations but suggests that it may be from the original migration and settlement event or that there may have been two distinct founding populations that settled at the same time or that there were two founding events.

EurekAlert discusses the article as well.

It’s good to have confirmation and agreement between the two labs who happened across these results independently that the Australo-Melanesian DNA is present in some Native populations today.

Their interpretations and theories about how this Oceanic DNA arrived in some of the Native populations vary a bit, but if you read the details, it’s really not quite as different as it first appears from the headlines.  Neither group claims to know for sure, and both discuss possibilities.

Questions remain.  For example, if the founding group was small, why, then, don’t all of the Native people and populations have at least some Oceanic markers?  The Anzick Child from 12,500 years ago does not.  He is most closely related to the tribes in South America, where the Oceanic markers appear with the highest frequencies.

In the Harvard study, the scientists fully genome sequenced 63 individuals without discernable evidence of European or African ancestors in 21 Native American populations, restricting their study to individuals from Central and South America that have the strongest evidence of being entirely derived from a homogenous First American ancestral population.

Their results show that the two Amazonian groups, Surui and Karitians are closest to the “Australasian populations, the Onge from the Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal (a so-called ‘Negrito’ group), New Guineans, Papuans and indigenous Australians.”  Within those groups, the Australasian populations are the only outliers – meaning no Africans, Europeans or East Asian DNA found in the Native American people.

When repeating these tests, utilizing blood instead of saliva, a third group was shown to also carry these Oceanic markers – the Xavante, a population from the Brazilian plateau that speaks a language of the Ge group that is different from the Tupi language group spoke by the Karitians and Surui.

Skoglund 2015-2

The closest populations that these Native people matched in Oceana, shown above on the map from the draft Skoglund letter, were, in order, New Guineans, Papuans and Andamanese.  The researchers further state that populations from west of the Andes or north of the Panama isthmus show no significant evidence of an affinity to the Onge from the Andaman Islands with the exception of the Cabecar (Costa Rica).

That’s a very surprising finding, given that one would expect more admixture on the west, which is the side of the continent where the migration occurred.

The researchers then compared the results with other individuals, such as Mal’ta child who is known to have contributed DNA to the Native people today, and found no correlation with Oceanic DNA.  Therefore, they surmised that the Oceanic admixture cannot be explained by a previously known admixture event.

They propose that a mystery population they have labeled as “Population Y” (after Ypykuera which means ancestor in the Tupi language family) contributed the Australasian lineage to the First Americans and that is was already mixed into the lineage by the time it arrived in Brazil.

According to their work, Population Y may itself have been admixed, and the 2% of Oceanic DNA found in the Brazilian Natives may be an artifact of between 2 and 85% of the DNA of the Surui, Karitiana and Xavante that may have come from Population Y.  They mention that this result is striking in that the majority of the craniums that are more Oceanic in Nature than Asiatic, as would be expected from people who migrated from Siberia, are found in Brazil.

They conclude that the variance in the presence or absence of DNA in Native people and remains, and the differing percentages argue for more than one migration event and that “the genetic ancestry of Native Americans from Central and South America cannot be due to a single pulse of migration south of the Late Pleistocene ice sheets from a homogenous source population, and instead must reflect at least two streams of migration or alternatively a long drawn out period of gene flow from a structured Beringian or Northeast Asian source.”

Perhaps even more interesting is the following statement:

“The arrival of population Y ancestry in the Americas must in any scenario have been ancient: while Population Y shows a distant genetic affinity to Andamanese, Australian and New Guinean populations, it is not particularly closely related to any of them, suggesting that the source of population Y in Eurasia no longer exists.”

They further state they find no admixture indication that would suggest that Population Y arrived in the last few thousand years.

So, it appears that perhaps the Neanderthals and Denisovans were not the only people who were our ancestors, but no longer exist as a separate people, only as an admixed part of us today.  We are their legacy.

The Take Away

When I did the Anzick extractions, we had hints that something of this sort might have been occurring.  For example, I found surprising instances of haplogroup M, which is neither European, African nor Native American, so far as we know today.  This may have been a foreshadowing of this Oceanic admixture.  It may also be a mitochondrial artifact.  Time will tell.  Perhaps haplogroup M will turn out to be Native by virtue of being Oceanic and admixed thousands of years ago.  There is still a great deal to learn.  Regardless of how these haplogroups and Oceanic DNA arrived in Brazil in South America and in the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska, one thing is for sure, it did.

We know that the Oceanic DNA found in the Brazilian people studied for these articles is not contemporary and is ancient.  This means that it is not related to the Oceanic DNA found in the Botocudo people, who, by the way, also sport mitochondrial haplogroups that are within the range of Native people, meaning haplogroup B, but have not been found in other Native people.  Specifically, haplogroups B4a1a1 and B4a1a1a.  Additionally, there are other B4a1a, B4a1b and B4a1b1 results found in the Anzick extract which could also be Oceanic.  You can see all of the potential and confirmed Native American mitochondrial DNA results in my article “Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups” that I update regularly.

We don’t know how or when the Botocudo arrived, but the when has been narrowed to the 1600s or 1700s.  We don’t know how or when the Oceanic DNA in the Brazilian people arrived either, but the when was ancient.  This means that Oceanic DNA has arrived in South America at least twice and is found among the Native peoples both times.

We know that some Native groups have some Oceanic admixture, and others seem to have none, in particular the Northern split group that became the Cree, Ojibwa, Algonquian, and Chippewa.

We know that the Brazilian Native groups are most closely related to Oceanic groups, but that the first paper also found Oceanic admixture in the Aleutian Islands.  The second paper focused on the Central and South American tribes.

We know that the eastern American tribes, specifically the Algonquian tribes are closely related to the South Americans, but they don’t share the Oceanic DNA and neither do the mid-continent tribes like the Cree, Ojibwa and Chippewa.  The only Paleolithic skeleton that has been sequenced, Anzick, from 12,500 years ago in Montana also does not carry the Oceanic signature.

In my opinion, the disparity between who does and does not carry the Oceanic signature suggests that the source of the Oceanic DNA in the Native population could not have been a member of the first party to exit out of Beringia and settle in what is now the Americas.  Given that this had to be a small party, all of the individuals would have been thoroughly admixed with each other’s ancestral DNA within just a couple of generations.  It would have been impossible for one ancestor’s DNA to only be found in some people.  To me, this argues for one of two scenarios.

First, a second immigration wave that joined the first wave but did not admix with some groups that might have already split off from the original group such as the Anzick/Montana group.

Second, multiple Oceanic immigration events.  We still have to consider the possibility that there were multiple events that introduced Oceanic DNA into the Native population.  In other words, perhaps the Aleutian Islands Oceanic DNA is not from the same migration event as the Brazilian DNA which we know is not from the same event as the Botocudo.  I would very much like to see the Oceanic DNA appear in a migration path of people, not just in one place and then the other.  We need to connect the dots.

What this new information does is to rule out the possibility that there truly was only one wave of migration – one group of people who settled the Americas at one time.  More likely, at least until the land bridge submerged, is that there were multiple small groups that exited Beringia over the 8,000 or so years it was inhabitable.  Maybe one of those groups included people from Oceana.  Someplace, sometime, as unlikely as it seems, it happened.

The amazing thing is that it’s more than 10,000 miles from Australia to the Aleutian Islands, directly across the Pacific.  Early adventurers would have likely followed a coastal route to be sustainable, which would have been significantly longer.  The fact that they survived and sent their DNA on a long adventure from Australia to Alaska to South America – and it’s still present today is absolutely amazing.

Australia to Aleutians

We know we still have a lot to learn and this is the tip of a very exciting iceberg.  As more contemporary and ancient Native people have their full genomes sequenced, we’ll learn more answers.  The answer is in the DNA.  We just have to sequence enough of it and learn how to understand the message being delivered.

Botocudo Ancient Remains from Brazil

One thing you can always count on in the infant science of population genetics…  whatever you think you know, for sure, for a fact…well….you don’t.  So don’t say too much, too strongly or you’ll wind up having to decide if you’d like catsup with your crow!  Well, not literally, of course.  It’s an exciting adventure that we’re on together and it just keeps getting better and better.  And the times…they are a changin’.

We have some very interesting news to report.  Fortunately, or unfortunately – the news weaves a new, but extremely interesting, mystery.

Ancient Mitochondrial DNA

Back in 2013, a paper, Identification of Polynesian mtdNA haplogroups in remains of Botocudo Amerindians from Brazil, was published that identified both Native American and Polynesian haplogroups in a group of 14 skeletal remains of Botocudo Indians from Brazil whose remains arrived at a Museum in August of 1890 and who, the scientists felt, died in the second half of the 19th century.

Twelve of their mitochondrial haplogroups were the traditional Native haplogroup of C1.

However, two of the skulls carried Polynesian haplogroups, downstream of haplogroup B, specifically B4a1a1a and B4a1a1, that compare to contemporary individuals from Polynesian, Solomon Island and Fijian populations.  These haplotypes had not been found in Native people or previous remains.

Those haplogroups include what is known as the Polynesian motif and are found in Indonesian populations and also in Madagascar, according to the paper, but the time to the most common recent ancestor for that motif was calculated at 9,300 years plus or minus 2000 years.  This suggests that the motif arose after the Asian people who would become the Native Americans had already entered North and South America through Beringia, assuming there were no later migration waves.

The paper discusses several possible scenarios as to how a Polynesian haplotype found its way to central Brazil among a now extinct Native people. Of course, the two options are either pre-Columbian (pre-1500) contact or post-Columbian contact which would infer from the 1500s to current and suggests that the founders who carried the Polynesian motif were perhaps either slaves or sailors.

In the first half of the 1800s, the Botocudo Indians had been pacified and worked side by side with African slaves on plantations.

Beyond that, without full genome sequencing there was no more that could be determined from the remains at that time.  We know they carried a Polynesian motif, were found among Native American remains and at some point in history, intermingled with the Native people because of where they were found.  Initial contact could have been 9,000 years ago or 200.  There was no way to tell.  They did have some exact HVR1 and HVR2 matches, so they could have been “current,” but I’ve also seen HVR1 and HVR2 matches that reach back to a common ancestor thousands of years ago…so an HVR1/HVR2 match is nothing you can take to the bank, certainly not in this case.

Full Genome Sequencing and Y DNA

This week, one on my subscribers, Kalani, mentioned that Felix Immanuel had uploaded another two kits to GedMatch of ancient remains.  Those two kits are indeed two of the Botocudo remains – the two with the Polynesian mitochondrial motif which have now been fully sequenced.  A corresponding paper has been published as well, “Two ancient genomes reveal Polynesian ancestry among the indigenous Botocudos of Brazil” by Malaspinas et al with supplemental information here.

There are two revelations which are absolutely fascinating in this paper and citizen scientist’s subsequent work.

First, their Y haplogroups are C-P3092 and C-Z31878, both equivalent to C-B477 which identifies former haplogroup C1b2.  The Y haplogroups aren’t identified in the paper, but Felix identified them in the raw data files that are available (for those of you who are gluttons for punishment) at the google drive links in Felix’s article Two Ancient DNA from indigenous Botocudos of Brazil.

I’ve never seen haplogroup C1b2 as Native American, but I wanted to be sure I hadn’t missed a bus, so I contacted Ray Banks who is one of the administrators for the main haplogroup C project at Family Tree DNA and also is the coordinator for the haplogroup C portion of the ISOGG tree.

ISOGG y tree

You can see the position of C1b2, C-B477 in yellow on the ISOGG (2015) tree relative to the position of C-P39 in blue, the Native American SNP shown several branches below, both as branches of haplogroup C.

Ray maintains a much more descriptive tree of haplogroup C1 at this link and of C2 at this link.

Ray Banks C1 tree

The branch above is the Polynesian (B477) branch and below, the Native American (P39) branch of haplogroup C.

Ray Banks C2 treeIn addition to confirming the haplogroup that Felix identified, when Ray downloaded the BAM files and analyzed the contents, he found that both samples were also positive for M38 and M208, which moves them downstream two branches from C1b2 (B477).

Furthermore, one of the samples had a mutation at Z32295 which Ray has included as a new branch of the C tree, shown below.

Ray Banks Z32295

Ray indicated that the second sample had a “no read” at Z32295, so we don’t know if he carried this mutation.  Ray mentions that both men are negative for many of the B459 equivalents, which would move them down one more branch.  He also mentioned that about half of the Y DNA sites are missing, meaning they had no calls in the sequence read.  This is common in ancient DNA results.  It would be very interesting to have a Big Y or equivalent test on contemporary individuals with this haplogroup from the Pacific Island region.

Ray notes that all Pacific Islanders may be downstream of Z33295.

Not Admixed

The second interesting aspect of the genomic sequencing is that the remains did not show any evidence of admixture with European, Native American nor African individuals.  More than 97% of their genome fits exactly with the Polynesian motifs.  In other words, they appear to be first generation Polynesians.  They carry Polynesian mitochondrial, Y and autosomal (nuclear) DNA, exclusively.

Botocudo not admixed

In total, 25 Botocudo remains have been analyzed and of those, two have Polynesian ancestry and those two, BOT15 and BOT17, have exclusively Polynesian ancestry as indicated in the graphic above from the paper.

When did they live?  Accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating with marine correction gives us dates of 1479-1708 AD and 1730-1804 for specimen BOT15 and 1496-1842 for BOT17.

The paper goes on to discuss four possible scenarios for how this situation occurred and the pros and cons of each.

The Polynesian Peru Slave Trade

This occurred between 1862-1864 and can be ruled out because the dates for the skulls predate this trade period, significantly.

The Madagascar-Brazil Slave Trade

The researchers state that Madagascar is known to have been peopled by Southeast Asians and not by Polynesians.  Another factor excluding this option is that it’s known that the Malagasy ancestors admixed with African populations prior to the slave trade.  No such ancestry was detected in the samples, so these individuals were not brought as a result of the Madagascar-Brazil slave trade – contrary to what has been erroneously inferred and concluded.

Voyaging on European Ships as Crew, Passengers or StowAways

Trade on Euroamerican ships in the Pacific only began after 1760 AD and by 1760, Bot15 and Bot17 were already deceased with a probability of .92 and .81, respectively, making this scenario unlikely, but not entirely impossible.

Polynesian Voyaging

Polynesian ancestors originated from East Asia and migrated eastwards, interacting with New Guineans before colonizing the Pacific.  These people did colonize the Pacific, as unlikely as it seems, traveling thousands of miles, reaching New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island between 1200 and 1300 AD.  Clearly they did not reach Brazil in this timeframe, at least not as related to these skeletal remains, but that does not preclude a later voyage.

Of the four options, the first two appear to be firmly eliminated which leaves only the second two options.

One of the puzzling aspects of this analysis it the “pure” Polynesian genome, eliminating admixture which precludes earlier arrival.

The second puzzling aspect is how the individuals, and there were at least two, came to find themselves in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and why we have not found this type of DNA on the more likely western coastal areas of South America.

Minas Gerais Brazil

Regardless of how they arrived, they did, and now we know at least a little more of their story.


At GedMatch, it’s interesting to view the results of the one-to-one matching.

Both kits have several matches.  At 5cM and 500 SNPs, kit F999963 has 86 matches.  Of those, the mitochondrial haplogroup distribution is overwhelmingly haplogroup B, specifically B4a1a1 with a couple of interesting haplogroup Ms.

F999963 mito

Y haplogroups are primarily C2, C3 and O.   C3 and O are found exclusively in Asia – meaning they are not Native.

F999963 Y

Kit F999963 matches a couple of people at over 30cM with a generation match estimate just under 5 generations.  Clearly, this isn’t possible given that this person had died by about 1760, according to the paper, which is 255 years or about 8.5-10 generations ago, but it says something about the staying power of DNA segments and probably about endogamy and a very limited gene pool as well.  All matches over 15cM are shown below.

F999963 largest

Kit F999964 matches 97 people, many who are different people that kit F999963 matched.  So these ancient Polynesian people,  F999963 and F999964 don’t appear to be immediate relatives.

F999964 mito

Again, a lot of haplogroup B mitochondrial DNA, but less haplogroup C Y DNA and no haplogroup O individuals.

F999964 Y

Kit F999964 doesn’t match anyone quite as closely as kit F999963 did in terms of total cM, but the largest segment is 12cM, so the generational estimate is still at 4.6,  All matches over 15cM are shown below.

F999964 largest

Who are these individuals that these ancient kits are matching?  Many of these individuals know each other because they are of Hawaiian or Polynesian heritage and have already been working together.  Several of the Hawaiian folks are upwards of 80%, one at 94% and one believed to be 100% Hawaiian.  Some of these matches are to Maori, a Polynesian people from New Zealand, with one believed to be 100% Maori in addition to several admixed Maori.  So obviously, these ancient remains are matching contemporary people with Polynesian ancestry.

The Unasked Question

Sooner or later, we as a community are going to have to face the question of exactly what is Native or aboriginal.  In this case, because we do have the definitive autosomal full genome testing that eliminates admixture, these two individuals are clearly NOT Native.  Without full genomic testing, we would have never known.

But what if they had arrived 200 years earlier, around 1500 AD, one way or another, possibly on an early European ship, and had intermixed with the Native people for 10 generations?  What if they carried a Polynesian mitochondrial (or Y) DNA motif, but they were nearly entirely Native, or so much Native that the Polynesian could no longer be found autosomally?  Are they Native?  Is their mitochondrial or Y DNA now also considered to be Native?  Or is it still Polynesian?  Is it Polynesian if it’s found in the Cook Islands or on Hawaii and Native if found in South America?  How would we differentiate?

What if they arrived, not in 1500 AD, but about the year 500 AD, or 1000 BCE or 2000 BCE or 3000 BCE – after the Native people from Asia arrived but unquestionably before European contact?  Does that make a difference in how we classify their DNA?

We don’t have to answer this yet today, but something tells me that we will, sooner or later…and we might want to start pondering the question.


I want to thank all of the people involved whose individual work makes this type of comparative analysis possible.  After all, the power of genetic genealogy, contemporary or ancient, is in collaboration.  Without sharing, we have nothing. We learn nothing.  We make no progress.

In addition to the various scientists and papers already noted, special thanks to Felix Immanual for preparing and uploading the ancient files.  This is no small task and the files often take a month of prep each.  Thanks to Kalani for bringing this to my attention.  Thanks to Ray Banks for his untiring work with haplogroup C and for maintaining his haplogroup webpage with specifics about where the various subgroups are found.  Thanks to ISOGG’s volunteers for the haplotree.  Thanks to GedMatch for providing this wonderful platform and tools.  Thanks to everyone who uploads their DNA, and that of their relatives and works on specific types of projects – like Hawaiian and Maori.  Thanks to my haplogroup C-P39 co-administrators, Dr. David Pike and Marie Rundquist, for their contributions to this discussion and for working together on the Native American Haplogroup C-P39 Project.  It’s important to have other people who are passionate about the same subjects to bounce things off of and to work with.  This is the perfect example of the power of collaboration!

Kennewick Man is Native American

Finally, an answer, after almost 20 years and very nearly losing the opportunity of ever knowing.

Today, in Nature, a team of scientists released information about the full genomic sequencing of Kennewick Man who was discovered in 1996 in Washington state.  Previous DNA sequencing attempts had failed, and 8000 year old Kennewick Man was then embroiled in years of legal battles.  Ironically, the only reason DNA testing was allowed is because, based on cranial morphology it was determined that he was likely more closely associated with Asian people or the Auni than the Native American population, and therefore NAGPRA did not apply.  However, subsequent DNA testing has removed all question about Kennewick Man’s history.  He truly is the Ancient One.

Kennewick man is Native American.  His Y haplogroup is Q-M3 and his mitochondrial DNA is X2a.  This autosomal DNA was analyzed as well, and compared to some current tribes, where available.

From the paper:

We find that Kennewick Man is closer to modern Native Americans than to any other population worldwide. Among the Native American groups for whom genome-wide data are available for comparison, several seem to be descended from a population closely related to that of Kennewick Man, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Colville), one of the five tribes claiming Kennewick Man. We revisit the cranial analyses and find that, as opposed to genomic-wide comparisons, it is not possible on that basis to affiliate Kennewick Man to specific contemporary groups. We therefore conclude based on genetic comparisons that Kennewick Man shows continuity with Native North Americans over at least the last eight millennia.

Interestingly enough, the Colville Tribe, located near where Kennewick Man was found, decided to participate in the testing by submitting DNA for comparison.

Kennewick Colville

The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man by Rasmussen, et al, Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14625

Also from the paper:

Our results are in agreement with a basal divergence of Northern and Central/Southern Native American lineages as suggested from the analysis of the Anzick-1 genome12. However, the genetic affinities of Kennewick Man reveal additional complexity in the population history of the Northern lineage. The finding that Kennewick is more closely related to Southern than many Northern Native Americans (Extended Data Fig. 4) suggests the presence of an additional Northern lineage that diverged from the common ancestral population of Anzick-1 and Southern Native Americans (Fig. 3). This branch would include both Colville and other tribes of the Pacific Northwest such as the Stswecem’c, who also appear symmetric to Kennewick with Southern Native Americans (Extended Data Fig. 4). We also find evidence for additional gene flow into the Pacific Northwest related to Asian populations (Extended Data Fig. 5), which is likely to post-date Kennewick Man. We note that this gene flow could originate from within the Americas, for example in association with the migration of paleo-Eskimos or Inuit ancestors within the past 5 thousand years25, or the gene flow could be post colonial19.

The authors go on to say that Kennewick Man is significiantly different than Anzick Child, which matches closely with many Meso and South American samples.  Kennewick on the other hand, is closely related to the Chippewa and Anzick was not.

This divergence may suggest a population substructure and migration path within the Americas, although I would think significantly more testing of Native people would be in order before a migration path would be able to be determined or even suggested. It is very interesting that Anzick from Montana, 12,500 years ago, would match Meso American samples so closely.  I would have expected Kennewick to perhaps match Meso Americans more closely because I would have expected the migration pathway to be down the coastline.  Perhaps that migration had already happened by the time Kennewick man came onto the scene some 8000 years ago.

You can read the entire paper at this link.

Yamnaya, Light Skinned, Brown Eyed….Ancestors???

Late last fall, I reported that scientists had discovered a European ghost population.  This group of people then referred to as the ANE, Ancient Northern Europeans, was a previously unknown population from the north that had mixed into the known European populations, the Hunter-Gatherers and the farmers from the Middle East, the Neolithic.

That discovery came as a result of the full genome sequencing of a few ancient specimens, including one from the Altai.

Recently, several papers have been published as a result of ongoing sequencing efforts of another 200 or so ancient specimens.  As a result, scientists now believe that this ghost population has been identified as the Yamnaya and that they began a mass migration in different directions, including Europe, about 5,000 years ago.  Along with their light skin and brown eyes, they brought along with them their gene(s) for lactose tolerance.  So, if you have European heritage and are lactose tolerant, then maybe you can thank your Yamnaya ancestors.

1.Haak et al. (2015) from Feb. 18, 2015 “Steppe migration rekindles debate on language origin” by Ellen Callaway

1.Haak et al. (2015) from Feb. 18, 2015 “Steppe migration rekindles debate on language origin” by Ellen Callaway

For those of us who avidly follow these types of discoveries, this is not only amazing, it’s wonderful news.  It helps to continue to explain how and why some haplogroups are found in the Native American population and in the Northern European population as well.  For example, haplogroup Q is found in both places – not exact duplicates, but certainly close enough for us to know they were at one time related.  It also explains how people from Germany, for example, are showing small percentages of Native American ancestry.  Their common ancestors were indeed from central Asia, thousands of years ago, and we can still see vestiges of that population today in both groups of people.

So, if the Yamnaya people are the ghost people, the ANE, who are they?

The Yamna culture was primarily nomadic and was found in Russia in the Ural Region, the Pontic Steppe, dating to the 36th-23rd century BC.  It is also known as the Pit Grave Culture, the Ochre Grave Culture and feeds into the Corded Ware Culture.

"Corded Ware culture" by User:Dbachmann - Own work based based on Image:Europe 34 62 -12 54 blank map.png. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Corded Ware culture” by User:Dbachmann – Own work based based on Image:Europe 34 62 -12 54 blank map.png. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Characteristics for the culture are burials in kurgans (tumuli) in pit graves with the dead body placed in a supine position with bent knees. The bodies were covered in ochre. Multiple graves have been found in these kurgans, often as later insertions.  The first known cart burial is also found in a kurgan grave.  A kurgan often appears as a hill, example shown below, and have been found in locations throughout eastern and northern Europe..

Hallstatt-era tumulus in the Sulm valley necropolis in Austria, photo by Hermann A. M. Mucke.

Hallstatt-era tumulus in the Sulm valley necropolis in Austria, photo by Hermann A. M. Mucke.

Additionally, some scientists believe that the Yamna culture was responsible for the introduction of PIE, Proto-Indo-European-Language, the now defunct mother-tongue of European languages.  Others think it’s way too soon to tell, and that suggestion is jumping the gun a bit.

Why might these recent discoveries be important to many genetic genealogists?  Primarily, because Y haplogroup R has been identified in ancient Russian remains dating from 2700-3400 BCE.  Haplogroup R and subgroups had not been found in the ancient European remains sequenced as of last fall.  In addition, subgroups of mitochondrial haplogroups U, W, H, T and W have been identified as well.

Keep in mind that we are still dealing with less than 300 skeletal remains that have been fully sequenced.  This trend may hold, or a new discovery may well cause the thought pattern to be “reconfigured” slightly or significantly.  Regardless, it’s exciting to be part of the learning and discovery process.

Oh yes, and before I forget to mention it…it seems that your Neanderthal ancestors may not be as far back in your tree as you thought.  They have now found 40,000 year old skeletal remains that suggest that person’s great-great-grandfather was in fact, full Neanderthal.  That’s significantly later than previously thought, by 10,000 or 20,000 years, and in Europe, not the Near East…and who knows what is just waiting to be found.  The new field of ancient DNA is literally bursting open as we watch.

I’ve accumulated several recent articles and some abstracts so that you can read about these interesting developments, in summary, and not have to do a lot of searching.  Enjoy!


Modern Europe was formed by milk-drinking Russians: Mass migration brought new genetic makeup to continent 5,000 years ago


DNA Deciphers Roots of Modern Europeans


Science – Nomadic Herders Left a Strong Genetic Mark on Europeans and Asians


Nature – DNA Data Explosion Light Up the Bronze Age


From the European Nucleotide Archive.

Investigation of Bronze Age in Eurasia by sequencing from 101 ancient human remains. We show that around 3 ka BC, Central and Northern Europe and Central Asia receive genetic input through people related to the Yamnaya Culture from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, resulting in the formation of the Corded Ware Culture in Europe and the Afanasievo Culture in Central Asia. A thousand years later, genetic input from North-Central Europe into Central Asia gives rise to the Sintashta and Andronovo Cultures. During the late BA and Iron Age, the European-derived populations in Asia are gradually replaced by multi-ethnic cultures, of which some relate to contemporary Asian groups, while others share recent ancestry with Native American


The Bronze Age (BA) of Eurasia (c. 3,000-1,000 years BC, 3-1 ka BC) was a period of major cultural changes. Earlier hunter-gathering and farming cultures in Europe and Asia were replaced by cultures associated with completely new perceptions and technologies inspired by early urban civilization. It remains debated if these cultural shifts simply represented the circulation of ideas or resulted from large-scale human migrations, potentially also facilitating the spread of Indo-European languages and certain phenotypic traits. To investigate this and the role of BA in the formation of Eurasian genetic structure, we used new methodological improvements to sequence low coverage genomes from 101 ancient humans (19 > 1X average depth) covering 3 ka BC to 600 AD from across Eurasia. We show that around 3 ka BC, Central and Northern Europe and Central Asia receive genetic input through people related to the Yamnaya Culture from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, resulting in the formation of the Corded Ware Culture in Europe and the Afanasievo Culture in Central Asia. A thousand years later, genetic input from North-Central Europe into Central Asia gives rise to the Sintashta and Andronovo Cultures. During the late BA and Iron Age, the European-derived populations in Asia are gradually replaced by multi-ethnic cultures, of which some relate to contemporary Asian groups, while others share recent ancestry with Native Americans. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesised spread of Indo-European languages during early BA and reveal that major parts of the demographic structure of present-day Eurasian populations were shaped during this period. We also demonstrate that light skin pigmentation in Europeans was already present at high frequency during the BA, contrary to lactose tolerance, indicating a more recent onset of positive selection in the latter than previously believed.


The Bronze Age (BA) of Eurasia (c. 3,000-1,000 years BC, 3-1 ka BC) was a period of major cultural changes. Earlier hunter-gathering and farming cultures in Europe and Asia were replaced by cultures associated with completely new perceptions and technologies inspired by early urban civilization. It remains debated if these cultural shifts simply represented the circulation of ideas or resulted from large-scale human migrations, potentially also facilitating the spread of Indo-European languages and certain phenotypic traits. To investigate this and the role of BA in the formation of Eurasian genetic structure, we used new methodological improvements to sequence low coverage genomes from 101 ancient humans (19 > 1X average depth) covering 3 ka BC to 600 AD from across Eurasia. We show that around 3 ka BC, Central and Northern Europe and Central Asia receive genetic input through people related to the Yamnaya Culture from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, resulting in the formation of the Corded Ware Culture in Europe and the Afanasievo Culture in Central Asia. A thousand years later, genetic input from North-Central Europe into Central Asia gives rise to the Sintashta and Andronovo Cultures. During the late BA and Iron Age, the European-derived populations in Asia are gradually replaced by multi-ethnic cultures, of which some relate to contemporary Asian groups, while others share recent ancestry with Native Americans. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesised spread of Indo-European languages during early BA and reveal that major parts of the demographic structure of present-day Eurasian populations were shaped during this period. We also demonstrate that light skin pigmentation in Europeans was already present at high frequency during the BA, contrary to lactose tolerance, indicating a more recent onset of positive selection in the latter than previously believed.

The findings echo those of a team that sequenced 69 ancient Europeans3. Both groups speculate that the Yamnaya migration was at least partly responsible for the spread of the Indo-European languages into Western Europe.

The report on the 69 ancient remains sequenced is below.


Steppe migration rekindles debate on language origin

The Harvard team collected DNA from 69 human remains dating back 8,000 years and cataloged the genetic variations at almost 400,000 different points. The Copenhagen team collected DNA from 101 skeletons dating back about 3,400 years and sequenced the entire genomes.


Population genetics of Bronze Age Eurasia


Dienekes Anthropology Blog

Forensic Science International: Genetics Received 2 January 2014; received in revised form 21 May 2014; accepted 25 May 2014. published online 04 June 2014.

The Altai Mountains have been a long term boundary zone between the Eurasian Steppe populations and South and East Asian populations. Mitochondrial DNA analyses revealed that the ancient Altaians studied carried both Western (H, U, T) and Eastern (A, C, D) Eurasian lineages. In the same way, the patrilineal gene pool revealed the presence of different haplogroups (Q1a2a1-L54, R1a1a1b2-Z93 and C), probably marking different origins for the male paternal lineages.


Dienekes Anthropology Blog

Includes mitochondrial haplogroups C, U2e, T, U5a, T1, A10.


Population Genetics copper and Bronze Age populations of Eastern Steppe, thesis by Sandra Wilde (in German)


Eurogenes blog discusses


Polish Genes Blog


Early European May Have Had Neanderthal Great-Great-Greandparent

40,000 year old Romanian skeleton with 5 – 11% Neanderthal, including large parts of some chromosomes – as close as a great-grandparent.  Previously thought that interbreeding was in the Middle East and 10,000 or 20,000 years earlier.


How is this all happening?

The Scientist Magazine has a great overview in the June 1, 2015 edition, in “What’s Old is New Again.”

George Estes (1763-1859), 3 Times Revolutionary War Veteran, 52 Ancestors #66

George Estes was born in Amelia County, Virginia to Moses Estes and Luremia Combs on February 3, 1763.  He tells us his birth date and his father’s name, among several other very interesting things, in his application for a Revolutionary War pension.

In 1832, Congress passed an act making men who served in the Revolution eligible for a pension.  Thank goodness they did, because it caused records to be created documenting the service and lives of these men that would otherwise never have existed.

George applied for his pension on September 14, 1833.  In his owns words, he tells us about his 3 tours of duty.  Yes, three separate tours of duty.

George Estes pension

George Estes pension 2

George Estes pension 3

“I entered the service in January 1781 as a substitute for my father Moses Estes and marched from Halifax County where I then lived under Captain Wall through the counties of Charlotte, Lunenburg, Dinwiddie and Petersburg to Cabin Point on the James River.”

I would think the word “marched” implies on foot.  And there is a lot of marching going on.

Cabin point

“At that place I was transferred to Capt. Long’s company of infantry and marched with him to Suffolk on the Nansemond River where I was stationed for some time under Colonel Dick and Gen. Michlenburg.  From there we marched to Portsmouth and many other places and arrived at Barrett’s Neck where I was discharged by Capt. Lewis in the month of April 1781 having served 3 months on this tour.  My discharge is lost and cannot be found but the service record is proved by Elias Palmer who was a soldier with me during the whole time.

In the month of May 1781 I was drafted to serve my own tour and marched from Halifax County in Capt. Clark’s company through Richmond to New Kent Courthouse where we joined General Mechlenburg’s Company.  I was then attached to Capt. Read’s company of cavalry and continued with him marching in various directions until our time of service for 3 months expired.  I was discharged by General Waine in the County of Charles City in the month of August 1781.  My discharge is lost and cannot be found and I do not know any person living who was in that service with me.

In the fall of 1781 I moved a family of people to the state of Tennessee staid in that country upwards of a year and in the month of October 1782 I entered the service of the United States as a volunteer and marched from the county of Washington in state of North Carolina in Capt. Cox’s company of mounted horsemen under Col. Campbell and Col. Shelby into the Cherokee Nation of Indians.  We marched in various directions in the said nation until we arrived at the shoemake town.  At that place we received information that a treaty had been reached with the indians and we were discharged.  The whole time of service on this term was 2 months and 20 days.  I was discharged by Capt. Cox about the end of December and came to Virginia where I have lived in the county of Halifax ever since.  My discharge is lost and cannot be found and no person [is] in this country that was in that service with me.

I was born in the county of Amelia on the third day of February 1763.  My age was recorded in a family bible that was in my father’s possession but I don’t know what became of it.  I lived in the county of Halifax when I entered the service in the said county when the war ended and have lived in the county ever since.  Christopher White, Thomas Conner and Peter F. Kent and many others can testify as to my character for veracity and their belief of my service as a soldier of the Revolution.  There is no clergyman living in my neighborhood.”

George (X) Estes

      (his mark)

Sept. 14, 1833

So George served three times in total, twice by obligation, when his father and his numbers came due, and once as a volunteer.  He served in place of his father.  War is difficult enough for a young man.

When George filed for his pension, he was 70 years old.  While he signed with an X in 1833, in earlier documents, he signed his name, so he was capable of writing.

George Estes signature 1

George’s signature is shown on a petition dated Dec. 10, 1785, above, for an assessment for religious teachers.  Note that his name appears very near that of William Younger who lived adjacent his father Moses Estes.  George would marry Mary Younger a year later, although a connection between the two Younger families has never been proven.

George Estes signature 2

This petition dated November 17, 1795 shows Moses and his son George Estes both of whom are opposed to the sale of the church glebe lands, in addition to the signature of their neighbor William Younger.  Note that George actually spells his own name in two different ways, Estes and Eastis.  And we wonder why we are confused today.

Documenting George’s first two tour service records in Virginia was difficult, but finding the third one was next to impossible.  Then, quite by accident, when looking for my Dodson family records, I stumbled across the documentation for George’s third tour, where he is listed as George Eastis, in the North Carolina archives, of all places.

From the Book “Tennessee Soldiers in the Revolution” by Penelope Johnson Allen, now digitized at

George Estes rev war accounts

Look at this, George is right across the page, directly from Lazarus Dodson, the man I was looking for.  Talk about serendipity.

George Estes Army account

My cousin, Debbie, wrote to the NC archives and was sent the following document that tells us that George Estes was paid in a specie certificate, a type of credit voucher, on June 12, 1783.  His name appears on the 10th line in the third column.  Ironically, Lazarus Dodson, whose name appears two entries below George’s is the father of Lazarus Dodson, whose daughter, Rutha or Ruthy, would marry George’s grandson John Y. Estes in Claiborne County, Tennessee in January 1841, 58 years after their grandfathers  served together in the Revolutionary War.  I wonder if they ever figured that out.

George Estes specie certificates

I called the North Carolina archives and asked if the original pay rosters and additional information were available.  They said they were, but they did not do “lookup work.”  A week later, I was standing at the research desk in the archives in Raleigh, with these papers in hand, and an amazed librarian kind of stuttered and stammered around when I introduced myself and told her where I came from (Michigan) and why I was there.  I think they are far more used to people “going away” when told the archives doesn’t do “lookup work” than showing up 1000 miles and a week later.  Sadly, that trip was for naught, because while they did have additional records for some soldiers, there was nothing more for George.  Don’t even ask how upset I was.

Why, I was then forced to do research on some of my NC lines since I was there in the archives with nothing else to do.  I mean…you can’t waste a trip like that!

George’s certificate was issued by the auditors, Bledsoe and Williams, and by referencing the attached documents, you can determine the location where the soldiers served. In this case, exactly as described by George Estes, he served in the Morgan District which included the Washington and Sullivan County areas which eventually became Tennessee.

George Estes army districts

By putting these three pieces of information together, George’s pay list, which includes the auditor, the auditor and their districts – we can confirm where George was when he served his third service term.

George Estes district auditors

In 1833, from Jasper Co., GA, Clarissa C. Boyd declares that her brother, George Easters, a resident of Halifax Co., VA in 1781, served 6 months in the Virginia militia. On January 15, 1784. George Estes, infantry, Continental Line, was issued a certificate for the balance of his pay.

George was placed on Virginia pension roll at $31.38 per annum, certificate 16886 issued on Oct. 12, 1833.

On April 5, 1855 in Halifax Co., George (X) Estes of said county, age 92, applies for bounty land.  He obtains the land and signs the bounty certificate over to his daughter Susannah immediately.

What do we know about what happened to George during his Revolutionary War service?

In his first term of service, serving in place of his father, Moses, George spent time at Cabin Point on the James River about which we discover the following:

By late summer 1780 with South Carolina under their control, the British were ready to push into Virginia and Maryland and deal Washington a final blow. In Virginia, Governor Thomas Jefferson had placed General Steuben in charge of the state’s defense. By January 1, 1781, the British were in Chesapeake Bay and Jefferson was calling up county militiamen to repel the impending attack. Benedict Arnold, now in charge of the British fleet, sailed up the James River and burned Richmond then moved back downriver to settle in at Portsmouth on the Chesapeake Bay.  The Halifax County Militia and was sent to Cabin Point on the James River to watch for Arnold’s next anticipated raid up the river. The militia had little to do but sit and wait and worry about the news coming in daily of Cornwallis’ raids in the Carolinas and his impending threat to Virginia.

It seems that all was not well at home in Halifax County during this time.  Boyd’s Ferry is the present city of South Boston and the Boyd’s Ferry crossing was very close to the Estes homestead, which was located just above the crossing on the main road.

In a letter to Governor Jefferson dated February 15th, 1781, camped at Boyd’s Ferry on the Dan River, Greene called for reinforcement of militia:

“We have crossed the Dan, and I am apprehensive they will cross it above us…If they should they will oblige us to cross the Stanton branch of the Roanoke…It is by no means certain, that Lord Cornwallis will not push through Virginia.”

Jefferson dispatched letters on February 17 and 18 to a long list of county Lieutenants and Baron von Steuben asking for militia to join General Greene who had “crossed the Dan at Boyd’s Ferry and was retreating before the enemy.” News of the alarming activities of Greene and Cornwallis aligned along either side of the Dan near Boyd’s Ferry must have reached the Halifax County Militiamen shortly after February 18. While they sat on the James River waiting for Arnold to make a move, Cornwallis and his army was camped at the doorstep of their homes in Halifax County.

The record is dated February 23, 1781 Cabin Point, Virginia and states:

“A list of the mens names belonging to Major Jones Battalion of Militia who have deserted. Distinguishing those who carried off their arms from those who did not. Also those who deserted from their post.”

The list of names does not include George Estes.  He had a decision to make, and he chose to remain at his post, although one could scarcely have blamed him had he returned home to protect and defend his home place and family.  Perhaps the knowledge that his father and siblings were there relieved his mind somewhat.

Now let’s turn to George’s third tour of duty from what would become eastern Tennessee, but was at that time western North Carolina..

In 1782, the Cherokee, who had sided with the British continued to raid.  John Sevier banded together a group of men in western North Carolina, now eastern Tennessee, and with Colonels Campbell and Shelby marched on the Cherokee towns.  Shoemake town, as it was called by whites, was located in upper Georgia and had previously been burned in May of 1781.  The Indians allied with the British because the British assured them that they would stop the encroachment of the Europeans into their traditional territory.  The Indians did not fare well in the Revolutionary War, nor afterwards.  This “march on the Cherokee” appears to have been one last final grandstand that gave the Cherokee the final nudge to end their part in the war.

Overhill towns map

Rather miraculously, George does not seem to have engaged in any actual battles during his 3 tours of duty.  By this late date in the war, most of the actual fighting was in North and South Carolina.

George Estes street sign

After returning to Halifax County, George Estes spent most of his life on his father’s original land.  His father Moses died in 1813, but the estate was contested and not settled until 1837, long after many of Moses’s children had died as well.

That land is located in the city of South Boston at the intersection of Estes and Main Street.  The following photo is standing in the Oak Ridge cemetery, originally part of the Estes land, looking down Estes Street.  Note the blue water tower.  It’s a landmark we’ll reference later.

George Estes land

The Estes farm used to be beyond the blue tank on the left and the houses on the right. Today Estes Street is gated, not because it’s an upscale gated community, but because that land is now the landfill.  This was heartbreaking to me, until I learned that the graves had been moved.  It still makes me sad.

Below is what’s left of the Estes land taken from behind the area (yes, I was in the landfill but I cropped that portion from the photo.)  We are looking at the original Estes woods.

George Estes landfill

In the above photo, for perspective, notice the blue water tower in the upper right corner. In the photo below, you can see the ‘other end” of the now gated “Estes Street” emerging that originates near the blue water tower that can also be seen in the left upper corner of the photo.

George Estes landfill 2

The Estes family in Halifax County, Virginia tells the story of when the family moved the graves from the old Estes land shown above to the Estes plot in the Oak Ridge cemetery. This apparently happened in the early 1900s and the only graves not moved were those of two unrelated people, one being an unrelated child whose parents had no place to bury the child and the second, an “in-law” of a descendant whose family did not want them moved.

It turns out that when Moses Estes’ children fought so bitterly over his land, they also apparently established separate cemeteries. One cemetery was the “original” Estes cemetery where Ezekiel, Susannah,  Ezekiel’s mother who is George’s daughter, George and probably old Moses himself are buried. The other cemetery was located behind the houses, apparently, down Estes street. I believe that the Oak Ridge Estes plot is the original Estes cemetery, but I cannot definitively prove this through records still in existence today, although an early cemetery history states that this is the case. Oral history says that when they moved Moses’s grave, only a collar bone and a casket hinge were left. Whether this is accurate or a tall tale, we’ll never know, but indeed, whatever remains of the elder Estes clan is buried in the Oak Ridge cemetery directly across the street from the old Estes homestead and at the end of Estes Street. The rest, well, it’s under the landfill or dispersed.

Today Main Street is paved. When they removed the cobblestones to pave Main Street, they used them to construct the beautiful stone wall around the cemetery. George Estes served on many “road crews” as documented in court records and it is entirely possible that he laid these very cobblestones, shaped from the stones found on the Estes land. George was probably glad to get rid of them as they would have made plowing difficult.

The bright white monuments in the cemetery are the Estes family stones, made of marble apparently, after they were cleaned by family members about 2006. Ezekiel who died in 1885 has a stone that proclaims him “an honorable man,” but none of the earlier family members have stones. Ezekiel’s mother Susannah died in 1870 and his grandfather George died in July of 1859, an amazing 96 years of age.

Oak Ridge cem entrance

The Halifax County Estes family has a clearly remembered oral history of “Granpappy George who lived to be 108 (or 106 or 115).” Sometimes stories grow with time, and that one certainly did, but he was quite elderly when he passed and obviously legendary.

George lived far from a sedentary lifestyle. He was obviously not afraid of adventure or danger, serving three separate terms in the Revolutionary War, one as a substitute for his father and one as a volunteer. George returned home and married Mary Younger on December 19, 1786 the same day that his brother Bartlett Estes married Rachel Pounds. I wonder if they were married in a double ceremony.

estes younger marriage

Younger marcus signature

When I first started researching this couple, everyone in the family said that George Estes and Mary Younger could not have been the father of John R. Estes because they only had one child, Susannah. As a novice, I figured those researchers had a lot more information and years of experience, but as one by one, I worked through and eliminated many of the alternative parents, the options became fewer and fewer and I began to wonder how “they” knew that George only had one child. I certainly hadn’t found anything that said he had only one child. And having found only one child doesn’t mean there was only one child. In fact, I’ve become very suspicious of any record before the days of modern birth control that suggests that someone had only one or two children, unless the wife or husband died.

As it turns out, Susannah was the only child that was easily evident. And “they” didn’t know how “they” knew – trying to find the source of that information was like trying to find the elusive fountain of youth. And that was before the days of quick-click trees on Ancestry. If the researchers had looked at the few census records we do have, they would have seen a discrepancy that screamed for an explanation – multiple children living with George and Mary.

George and Mary positively had 7 children who survived to adulthood and probably at least two who didn’t, based on a combination of records, including the 1820 and 1830 census.

It seems that several of George’s children regularly pushed the envelope of the day and would have brushes with the law or, perhaps better stated, the court system and “polite society.” It’s thanks to those records that we can add color to our family portrait. I love lawsuits – well – historical lawsuits anyway. I extracted probably 75-100 years worth of court, deed and tax records from Halifax County and reassembled them, like a big puzzle, into family groups.

Of particular interest was the information from the “Younger, Marcus Chancery Suit 1842-057, Halifax Co. Va.” In the documents from that suit, I found the payments made to the various heirs of Marcus Younger, who had died in 1816. In the case of Mary Younger Estes, her heirs are listed in 1842 because she is deceased. This suit was filed almost 30 years after Marcus’s death.  Normally would never think to look that far out – but chancery suits are often quite different. It’s not at all unusual for chancery suits to reach back 2 generations, to a grandparent’s will, especially if unmarried children are involved, as was the case with Marcus’s will. When the unmarried child dies, Mary’s sister in this case, sometimes the assets revert to the other children or their heirs.

In the suit papers, it is noted that Mary Younger Estes’s children will receive one sixth of her one quarter share of the 83 acres to be sold following the death of Mary’s unmarried sister.

The children of Mary Younger Estes were listed as: John, William, Susannah, Sally wife of T. Estes, Polly wife of James Smith and a grandchild name Mark Estes. This means that Mary had 6 children either living or who had died but who have heirs. In this case, one child has died leaving one heir, Mark.

Of course, I found this list AFTER I had reassembled what I believed to be the family of Mary Younger and George Estes. You know it didn’t match up perfectly, or I wouldn’t even be mentioning it.

I had all of those children listed, but in addition, I had a Bartlett and Rebecca.

There is no son Bartlett listed in the 1842 document, but there is instead a grandchild named Mark Estes. This implies that Mark’s parent is of the Estes surname, the parent is dead and Mark is the only living child. We know through various records that daughter Susannah has a son, Mark, but this cannot be that Mark because Susannah is very clearly included as living. We also know that George’s son, Marcus, died in 1815 leaving a widow and no children. The Bartlett I have attributed as the son of Mary and George had 7 children, and none known to be Mark, although one male name is unknown.

There are several Bartletts living in this vicinity and I could have the various Bartlett’s confused. However, if daughter Rebecca died and left a son Mark, this would fit perfectly. But, if it is the same Rebecca, she is prosecuted in 1844 for living with a black man, which precludes her from being dead in 1842, so Rebecca is not the child of George Estes, but more likely George’s niece.

This family makes me pull my hair out.

Thankfully, it seems that several of George’s children have lived a bit of a colorful life, meaning they have records that remain about them having had brushes with the law or, perhaps better stated, the court system and running afoul of “polite society.” Here is what is known about the children of George Estes and Mary Younger.

  • John R. Estes whose photo we believe is shown below was probably the oldest child and was born sometime between March and June of 1787. He married Ann Moore in 1811 and was on the way to Claiborne Co., TN by 1820 where he died in 1885, like his father, nearly reaching 100 years of age. Obviously, there is a longevity gene in the Estes family. John R.’s great grandson, William George Estes lived to be 98 years of age and William George’s two daughter both lived to be just shy of 100.  There’s hope that I’ll live long enough to finish my genealogy research:)

John R. Estes restored

  • Marcus Estes was born about 1788 as well and is shown on tax lists in Halifax County from 1811-1814 when he dies, leaving a widow with the beautiful name of Quintinney. In 1815, his estate is assigned to the sheriff to administer. There is also a War of 1812 record for Marcus, but there may be no further service records since no one applied for either bounty land or a pension based on his service. He served in the same unit as his brother, John R. Estes and I have to wonder if he died during that time.
  • William Y. Estes was also born sometime in this timeframe. The census says 1785 or 1786, but the census is also often notoriously wrong. In 1815, William married Rebecca Miller and drank to the point where his wife’s father commented on his behavior in his will in a very unflattering manner, forbidding William to ever have any control over Rebecca’s inheritance. William died in Halifax County between 1860 and 1870.
  • Susannah Y. Estes was born about 1800 and never married. She had 5 illegitimate children between 1814 and 1835, 2 males and three females. She lived on the old home place and cared for her elderly father, George, until his death in 1859.
  • Polly Estes, born between 1801 and 1808 married in 1824 to James Smith. She died in Halifax County after 1880, having had 4 children. We know very little about Polly, because, she was apparently one of the few well-behaved Estes’s. You know that old saying about “well behaved women seldom make history.”  I relish my ill-behaved ancestors and their family members because that is often the only way we learn about their lives and put meat on their bones.  Below, George’s signature along with James Smith when Polly marries.

George Estes Polly marriage bond

This photo is of George’s grandchild, J. E. and wife Mary Anne Smith, the youngest child of Polly Estes Smith.

JE and Mary Ann Smith

I’m dying to know about that eye patch.

  • Sally Estes was born sometime around 1800 and married her first cousin, Thomas Estes, son of Bartlett Estes and Rachel Pounds. Marrying cousins was a common practice of the time. They removed to Tennessee shortly after their marriage.  George and Thomas both sign the marriage bond, below.

George Estes Sally marriage bond

I initially thought Rebecca Estes was George’s child because of her proximity in the census where in 1830, a Rebecca Estridge with 3 daughters is living near George Estes and Susan Estes, all living in separate households. In 1835, a Rebecca Estes is in the court notes with Robert Rickman for support of her child, and in 1844, Rebecca is “indicted for felony, report of grand jury – a white woman living together in open adultery with a negro man, James Bird, free man of color, as presented by Jacob W. Farguson and William Ingram.” I cannot find Rebecca nor James Bird after this time. If this is the same Rebecca in 1844 as in 1830 and 1835, then she cannot be the child of George Estes because in 1842, Rebecca would have been dead.

It’s very unlikely that either Bartlett or Rebecca are George’s children and we are simply missing one child who had son Mark. It is certainly possible that this Marcus was born posthumously to George’s son Marcus. Given that Marcus’s estate went entirely to debt, there would have been nothing left to leave to a child, so no guardian would have been appointed.  We’ll likely never know, but this is the most likely explanation.  There is no Mark or Marcus Estes in the 1840 or 1850 census.

Life in Halifax County

We don’t have a lot of information about life as George knew it, but thanks to Susannah, we do have a couple of glimpses into what their life was like.

Susannah Estes never married, lived on the old homeplace and wound up with all of George’s assets which caused problems with his other children. By the time George Estes died in 1859, there was nothing left, so he had no will. He had already deeded his land to Susannah, plus anything left from his pension or his Revolutionary War service.

On February 12, 1833, George Estes grants to Susan Y. Eastes, “my daughter, all my right, title, claim and interest which I have for military services rendered during the War of the Revolution.”

Much to my shock, in early 1837, Susannah brings suit against her father forcing him to answer to the court why he, as executor, has not distributed his father, Moses’s estate.

On March 25, 1837, George Estes deeds to Susannah Y. Estes “for $100 land on both sides of road from Halifax to S. Boston on Dan River adjoining Adam Toot, John Ransom, John Jinnett, tract of land that my father Moses died seized of.” This occurs immediately after George’s father’s estate was settled.

If you look at a map of South Boston plotting the locations we know, this is a huge tract of land.

Estes land South Boston map

We know the land went as far north at present day Waddell Woods (top arrow) because Waddell spring is mentioned in deeds.  The Oak Ridge Cemetery is the green area pointed out by the second arrow from the top.  The blue water tower is across the street, to the right of that arrow.  The main road is 129 and is pointed to by the third arrow from the top, running from the Dan River (at the bottom) through the Estes land and on North.  Today, this land includes most of South Boston, then Boyd’s Ferry.

We get a glimpse of their possessions, when, in 1842, Susannah, who now owns her parents land, takes a mortgage which is void if it is paid. Apparently, the mortgage is paid, because nothing more is ever mentioned in any of the deed or court books.

“Tract of land where we now live, one three-horse wagon and gear, 1 bay mare, 1 grey horse, hogs and sheep, all of our present crop of corn and fodder, tobacco, 4 feather beds and furniture, household and kitchen furniture, plantation tools for debt of $50.16.”

In addition to the land George inherited from Moses, George continues to assist Susannah.

On April 15, 1857, George Estes deeds to Susan Y. Estes the bounty lands he is entitled to “by late acts of Congress and a part of proceeds being in the hands of Easley Holt and Co. In consideration of natural love and affection and value received…all right and interest to any balance that is remaining at my death after paying my debts with him.”

When she died on August 23, 1870, Susannah was not a poor woman and left a nontrivial estate, including land. Her personal property inventory probably included many items inherited from her father and mother:

Appraisement of property of Susan Estes:

  • cow
  • yearling
  • loom
  • potatoes
  • walnut chest
  • barrels
  • flax wheel
  • 3 pots
  • 2 skillets
  • oven
  • brass kettle
  • tea kettle
  • 4 jars
  • 4 jugs
  • 2 water buckets
  • 3 axes
  • lot tin
  • 2 pitchers and bottles
  • 1 jar vinegar
  • lot tableware
  • hoes
  • wedges
  • pot rack
  • candlesticks
  • 1 press
  • 1 desk
  • 1 looking glass
  • 7 chairs
  • 1 bed
  • bolster
  • pillar
  • 1 blanket
  • 1 counterpin and sheet
  • 1 quilt
  • 1 barrell cider
  • small chest
  • basket
  • 2 bee hives

I can’t help but wonder what the quilt looked like and who made it.  Was it from a time when she and her mother and sisters perhaps gathered around a quilting frame?

After Susan’s death, a lawsuit followed regarding a debt incurred before her death and the validity of the debt based on her mental state.  She was deemed competent.  Aside from the depositions, which were in themselves very enlightening as to Susannah’s life, and death, the list of items she purchased at the store, on account, I found very interesting as well:

The following are items appearing on the store account of “Miss Susan Estes”:

  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Bucket
  • Linen shirt
  • 2 linen collars
  • 5 yards calico (total 1.06)
  • 3 yard gingham
  • 1 bottle ? oil
  • 20 yards oznaburg
  • 75 yard pant goods
  • Weeding hoe
  • Shelves for buster
  • Coffee pot
  • Tin bucket
  • Sugar
  • Rice
  • Candles
  • Molasses
  • Coffee
  • Bacon
  • Molasses
  • Coffee
  • Nails
  • Shoes
  • 1 oz indigo
  • 1 # soda
  • Coffee
  • Sole leather
  • 2 oz indigo
  • Pale cotton
  • Sugar
  • Copperons?
  • Rubber tuck combs
  • 2 yd cambric
  • Flex thread
  • 6 8×10 window glass
  • Bacon
  • Seed oats
  • Bags
  • Frt and drayage
  • Paid on acct with bacon from house
  • Goods box
  • Plow point
  • Coffee
  • Fine iron
  • Goods box
  • Molasses
  • Hat for Buster
  • Pants for Buster
  • Coat for Buster
  • Vest for Buster
  • Bacon sides
  • Pole exe
  • Pale Box
  • Stamped envelope (.04)
  • Bacon sides
  • 2 doz henning??
  • Paid with Reg. 162 old casting

Obviously, Buster is a nickname for someone, but who?  Whoever, he was, he had a vest, hat, coat, pants and shelves.

In addition, Ezekiel Estes submitted a bill to the estate for $21.18 for shingling the house and Susannah’s doctor bill was $51.  She died a slow death of a heart ailment.

Mary Mildred Estes

Above, George Estes’s granddaughter, Susannah’s daughter, Mary Mildred Estes born April 3, 1828 and died Jan. 20, 1917 in Lynchburg, VA., married William Greenwood and second, Jesse Jacobs..

Susannah’s son, Ezekiel Estes, below, born in 1814 and died in 1885 in Halifax County, married Martha Barley.

Ezekiel Estes

George Estes himself had a few encounters with the legal system. People at that time seemed to be quite litigious, and George was involved with no fewer than 14 nonfamily cases, generally as a defendant, and went to court even more often as a witness.

Court days, which initially happened quarterly, then monthly, were quite the social event in the 1700s and 1800s in Virginia. Anyone who was anyone attended, and much business was transacted outside the courthouse and in the taverns. It was also one of the best ways to hear the news as well as see the news being made. The original reality TV!

I recall that when my daughter and I first went to Halifax County, we visited the clerk’s office asking asked about the various record books and such. My daughter had the book of court notes out, and was looking in the plaintiff’s index. We told the lady that we were looking for Estes and she said “Oh, well then, your people are in this book”, and retrieved the defendants ledger. Things haven’t changed much over the years apparently. The Estes family is legendary, or at least infamous!

George’s first court appearance was in 1786 when he was prosecuted for “profane swearing.” In one case, George and his father Moses were involved as witnesses in a lawsuit where someone signed a document they later regretted after partaking of the fruit brandy at the Estes home. The Estes family was well known for its fine orchards. The fruit brandies were kept cool in a special compartment under the foundation of the house.

In 1802, George put a mortgage on his household items which included 2 feather beds and furniture for 9 pounds, 2 shillings and 2 pence. You can tell that of their household goods, the coveted items were the feather beds.

Most of the court cases, not included in the 14 mentioned above, were years and years of appearances having to do with Moses estate settlement which was finally settled in 1837, 24 years after Moses’s death. George, the eldest son, was 74 years old when his father’s estate was settled and he immediately deeded his portion of the land to Susannah.

This family battled over land and inheritance for generations, beginning in 1813 with Moses death, followed by George’s children and then Susannah’s and continuing into the present generations whose parents were still involved with that land until the county took the land by imminent domain. At least one person refused to sell the land and instead has a ‘long term lease”, although what they think they’ll do with a stinky landfill is beyond me. I suspect it was a matter of principle.

When I visited Halifax County, two elderly living cousins, Doug and Shirley, remembered the land from their childhood. Shirley told me that the original home burned in about 1933, complete with all of the family photos, Bibles, etc. She remembers that someone on the school bus told her that her grandparents house burned the night before.

The man who bulldozed the property after the city purchased it told me there were 3 houses “back there,” all “farm type” homes. Apparently the first home built was a log cabin, probably about 1782 when the family first arrived from Amelia County, and it was later used for the young couples after they were first married.

The home that burned was described as a large 2 story home with upper and lower porches all around. Porches are important in the south.

There has been a great deal of speculation about why George provided only for his daughter Susannah. It could be because she was not married and he felt protective towards her, wanting to provide for her and his grandchildren after his passing. She was very young, 13 or 14 when she became pregnant, and it would be easy to see how he could have been especially protective of her and her children whom he had lived with for their entire lives. In essence, George raised her children as his own, especially Ezekiel who was the eldest. Ezekiel was born right about the time that George and Mary stopped having children, so Ezekiel probably just fit perfectly into the stair-steps of children.

It could also be that George gave his worldly good to Susannah because she took care of George in his old age – although that wouldn’t explain the 1830s deeds. George’s wife Mary probably died sometime between 1820 and 1830, and certainly before George started deeding to Susannah in 1833, because Mary signed no release  of dower rights.

Others have suggested that perhaps Susannah might have been an opportunist and perhaps manipulative or devious. Some have questioned the propriety of the situation. Susannah had only two male children. Her oldest, Ezekiel, has descendants who have DNA tested and they match a Moore family that lived in the area, although not the same Moore family that Susannah’s brother, John R. Estes married into.

I think it suffices to say that George, Susannah and Ezekiel were extremely close and given the social stigma attached to illegitimate birth in that era, let alone 5 illegitimate children, the family was probably increasingly subject to harsh scrutiny, discrimination, criticism and were socially marginalized. One hint may be held in George’s 1833 Revolutionary War pension application where he states there is no clergy in his neighborhood, but the oldest church in the county is but a few blocks down the street from his home, within walking distance. One can certainly understand why and how George could and would feel a great deal of affection for his grandchildren in particular, as he apparently lived with them as they grew up. There are several records that involve both George and Ezekiel who probably looked up to his grandfather as a role model.

In fact, it was Ezekiel Estes who reported the death of George Estes and said that he was 100 years and 4 months old, born in Amelia County. I hope, for George’s sake, that the family had a bang up 100 year old birthday celebration where everyone came to visit and eat that fine southern food, even if we know today they were a few years early. Or maybe George really was 100 years old in 1859 and simply misstated his birth year in 1833. Regardless, I hope they had a wonderful celebration and he had many guests who sat and visited and imbibed some of that fine Estes brandy! I wish I could hear the stories of his hundred years of life.  What a gift that would be.

Estes Cem white stones

George is reportedly buried here in the Estes section of the Oak Ridge Cemetery immediately to the right just inside the entrance.  The Estes family markers are all bright white here after being cleaned by now deceased cousin Nancy Osborne.  We don’t know exactly where Susannah, George with his wife Mary Younger and Moses with his wife Luremia Combs are buried, but rest assured that they are here among their descendants and family members.

It’s believed that George and Mary are buried in the unmarked area, below.

Estes cem vacant stop

In the following photograph, the picture is taken from behind the stones, before they were cleaned and restored, with the original Estes land showing across the street.  The Estes homestead was behind these houses which stand on part of Moses’ land that was sold off by descendants.  The original homestead is now the landfill, although some forest was preserved as a barrier between these homes and the landfill the last time I in visited in 2006 or so.  The cobblestones showing in the wall below are the original road cobblestones that George probably helped to lay.

Estes cem and wall

I would like to have a Revolutionary War marker placed for George Estes in the cemetery so that he will be honored and his grave will be marked for future generations.

George certainly lived an amazing life.  He was born in Amelia County during the French and Indian war, as his father and uncles serving in that conflict.  About 1770, the Moses Estes family migrated in mass, it seems, to Halifax County where his father and grandfather, both named Moses, established homes, albeit a few miles apart.

About the time George came of age, he volunteered to take his father’s place in the Revolutionary War.  After returning home, just a month later, his own “slot” came up, so he then served for himself.

Many Estes men were pushing the new frontier.  In fact, George moved an Estes family to Hawkins County, TN, probably offering to help in order to see a bit of the world.  He stayed for almost a year, and it was from there in October of 1782 that he enlisted as a volunteer to serve his third stint in the military in the Revolutionary War.  George obviously saw a lot and probably talked about that part of the country to his children when telling tales about his great adventure.  He’s one of the very few men I’ve ever heard of going BACK home from the frontier, and staying there.  His son, John R. Estes would eventually settle in Claiborne County, TN himself, some 30+ years later, near where his father was in what would become Eastern Tennessee.

We don’t know much about George’s religious leanings.  When he was young and first married, church attendance was required in the Anglican church.  That’s also about the time he was prosecuted for “profane swearing.”

We know that his wife, Mary Younger’s family was probably Methodist, a dissenting religion, but one that was “legal” by the 1780s.  Given that his son, John R. Estes married the minister’s daughter, in all likelihood, this family was Methodist.  Whether George was enthusiastically Methodist too, “went along” begrudgingly and slept through services in the back row or simply stayed at home, we’ll never know.  We do know, per a deposition, that George Estes was with the Reverend William Moore’s family on Christmas Day, 1811.  George’s son, John R. Estes was married to Reverend William Moore’s daughter, Ann Moore.

At least two of George’s children ran badly afoul of either the law of the social norms of the time.  Son William drank to excess and daughter Susannah had five children out of wedlock, as a pattern occurrence.  This would have made it difficult for the rest of George’s children to “marry well” because something like that paints the entire family with the same brush.

Today, it’s inconceivable to us, but at that time, people who were born “out-of-wedlock” really could only marry others of their same social status.  Interracial marriages were outlawed and the choices people had, both legally and in reality were much more limited than today.  Remember, I told you that the county clerk still knew that the Estes’s would be found in the “defendants” book???  Maybe this is part of why so many descendants left for lands where there was less judgment waiting and one could start anew, without stigma already attached from the behavior of others.

George’s wife Mary would pass away sometime between about 1820 and 1830.  George would have been between 60 and 70 years old at that time, and would live almost another 30-40 years.

After Mary’s death, it appears that Susannah took care of George.  Given that by this time, Susannah had 5 illegitimate children she had to provide for, George’s pension probably took care of Susannah as well.  I wonder how military pensions were figured at that time.  I would have thought they would all have been relatively equal for the same rank (private), and if unequal, perhaps George received something for each of his three stints in the military.  By way of contrast, his son, John R. Estes who served in the War of 1812 was collecting a pension at the same time received $8 a month as compared to George’s $31 year, which breaks down to $2.58 per month.  In the end, Susannah wound up with all of George’s assets although, clearly, his pension stopped when he died.

By the time George died, his son Marcus had passed away, possibly in the War of 1812, and there are a couple of children I lose in the records, but as far as we know, most of George’s children outlived him. Some had moved west but George still had Polly, Susannah and William Y. nearby, although William Y. seemed unable to even help himself, due to his drinking, based on numerous court records.

The good news is that because of where Moses’s land was located, and the ability to locate the Oak Ridge Cemetery today, then track through the landfill deeds and family records, we were able to find the original Estes land.

Furthermore, we know that graves were moved from the Estes cemetery, now under the landfill, to the Estes plot in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, which may have been the original Estes cemetery in the first place.

All I know is that when cousin Nancy started talking about having moved the graves and finding the collar bone of Moses Estes, I just couldn’t stop myself from thinking about DNA.  I know fully well that today, even with enough money, that the retrieval of ancient DNA for consumer purposes really isn’t a viable option.  But I also know that in another decade, with the advances in technology and the associated drop in prices, combined with what has been able to be accomplished with sequencing ancient genomes – that eventually – that collarbone would have been useful.

I know, bad genealogist, bad genealogist.  Bad, bad, bad.  I can’t help it.  It’s that nonconformant Estes side coming out!  It’s in my genes.  I can’t help it.  In fact, I know where there’s a bone we can dig up to prove it….