Charles Dodson (1649-1706), Forcible Entry, 52 Ancestors #157

We know approximately when Charles Dodson was born, but we don’t know where and we don’t know who his parents are. According to a deposition recorded in March 1699, Charles says he is about 50 years old, so born about 1649 or 1650…someplace. I think that someplace was England, because Charles Dodson was literate and could write his name. If Charles was born in Virginia in 1650, his family would have to have been wealthy to afford a private tutor to teach their children to read and write. Certainly, judging from Charles’ own children, that didn’t happen…and Charles was a large landowner. Yet his two eldest sons signed their names with a mark. Charles grew up someplace where he received at least some schooling.

A search of Find-My-Past which focused on English records shows three Charles Dodson/Dotsons born in 1644, 1645 and 1646, but none later through 1655. Of course, all parish registers aren’t online. Find-My-Past also shows four London apprenticeships for Charles Dodson between 1661 and 1672 – so the name Charles Dodson apparently wasn’t terribly rare.

We have quite a bit of information about our Charles Dodson as an adult, and clues about other things. And we have rumors to evaluate as well. Charles Dodson is a very interesting man.

If Charles arrived with his parents, they would likely have been found someplace near where Charles emerged as an adult. Perhaps Charles arrived as a young man alone, maybe as an indentured servant, or perhaps with a young wife.

Changing County Boundaries

When researching Charles Dodson, I wanted to be quite thorough, so I began with the earliest records in the part of Virginia where Charles Dodson was first found. In fact, I started with records early enough to find any other Dodson male in early Virginia as well.

Settlement in the Northern Neck of Virginia, shown above as the neck of land that today includes the counties of Westmoreland, Northumberland, Richmond and Lancaster, began about 1635 when the area was part of York County, one of the original counties formed in 1634. St. Mary’s and St. Charles Counties in Maryland are just across the Potomac River, on the north side of the neck.

In 1619, the area which is now York County was included in two of the four incorporations (or “citties”) of the proprietary Virginia Company of London which were known as Elizabeth Cittie and James Cittie.

In 1634, what became York County was formed as Charles River Shire, one of the eight original shires of Virginia.

During the English Civil War, Charles River County and the Charles River (also named for the King) were changed to York County and York River, respectively. The river, county, and town of Yorktown are believed to have been named for York, a city in Northern England.

York County land records and probate began in 1633.

In 1648, Northumberland County was formed from York and then in 1652 Lancaster was formed from Northumberland and York. Land records in Northumberland began in 1650 and probate in 1652.

Old Rappahannock County (not to be confused with the current Rappahannock County) was formed in 1656 from Lancaster County, VA. Land records begin in 1656 and probate in 1665. In 1692, old Rappahannock was dissolved and divided into Essex and Richmond Counties, on either side of the Rappahannock River.

This handy chart shows the early Virginia County formation and when surviving records exist for each county.

Old Rappahannock County was named for the Native Americans who inhabited the area, Rappahannock reportedly meaning “people of the alternating (i.e., tidal) stream.” The county’s origins lay in the first efforts by English immigrants to “seat” the land along the Rappahannock River in the 1640s. The primitive travel capabilities of the day and the county’s relatively large area contributed to the settlers’ hardship in travel to the county seat to transact business and became the primary reason for the county’s division by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1691 to form the two smaller counties of Essex and Richmond.

According to the library of Virginia, old Rappahannock wills are with the Essex County wills, although they have been transcribed and published separately.

Richmond County was formed in 1692 from Old Rappahannock, with land records beginning in 1692 and probate in 1699, although many records are lost for unknown reasons.

The earliest mention of Charles Dodson is found in those records. Another Dodson, Gervais, found in Northumberland, Stafford and Westmoreland Counties had died by 1662, leaving a widow who remarried to Andrew Pettygrow. I found no connection between Gervais and Charles Dodson, no will or family information for Gervais, and no Gervais in the Charles Dodson descendants.

Northumberland County Oath

In 1652, all Tidewater Virginia residents that were not Native were required to take an oath of allegiance.

No Dodson, nor the allied families of Durham or Smoot are listed in the 1652 Northumberland County Oaths of Allegiance.

First Sighting

The first sighting of Charles Dodson is in the Old Rappahannock County deeds in 1679. Of course, then it wasn’t called Old Rappahannock County, just Rappahannock County and it’s abbreviated several ways within deeds. All documents included are from Old Rappahannock or Richmond County, depending on the date of the transaction, unless otherwise stated.

Deed Book Page 278 – July 10, 1679 between Peter Elmore of Rappae County, planter, and Charles Dodson, same, planter, and his heirs and assignes, as much plantable land as 3 tithables can tend in corn and tabb, with priviledge of leaving out for partuidge and further that said Dodson shall have the privilege of coopers and carpenters timber for the use of ye plantation for the term of 19 years from date hereof . (Further the said Elmore doth engage to furnish ye said Dodson with apple trees and peach trees suffichant to make an orchard both of apples and peaches) and further at the expiration of ye said terms the said Dodson is to leave a 30 foot dwelling house and a 50 foot tobacco house tennentable with all fencing in repairs that is at the expiration of the time. An further ye said Dodson to pay ye said Peter Elmore 50 pounds tobacco yearly during he said terme but if said Dodson chance to leave ye said plantation before the expiration of the said time that then ye said Peter Elmore shall have ye refusal before any other.

Signed Peter Elmore with mark and Charles Dodson. Witness William Smoote and Charles Wilson. Looks like it was registered July 7, 1680.

This deed puts Peter Elmore, Charles Dodson and William Smoot together quite early. It’s a rather unusual deed. It certainly suggests that Charles anticipated having either indentured servants or slaves if there was enough land for 3 people to work. This looks to be similar to a lease, for a period of 19 years, or until 1698.

In 1679, Charles would have been 29 or 30 years old, certainly too young to have boys old enough to be working on the plantation.

This was an investment for both men, because the trees provided by Elmore and planted by Dodson wouldn’t bear fruit for several years. Apple trees can produce in 3-6 years and pear in 2-4.

A 30 foot dwelling house certainly isn’t large by today’s standards. Many cabins in Appalachia were smaller, though, and yet they were referred to as “mansion houses.” It wasn’t unusual for a house to be 10 by 16 feet. A 30 foot dwelling house, by comparison, was large. It’s also worth noting that this would suggest that there was no house already existing on the land. This would tell us that Charles’ first home was probably one room width by 30 feet long, or maybe a fraction of that until he could afford to add on. It didn’t have to be 30 feet until 19 years later. Houses were often built in stages.

In the transaction between Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson, the tobacco house was referenced, 50 feet in length, ironically, larger than the house for the residents. The tobacco house would have been a special tobacco barn, constructed for the purpose of drying tobacco, an example shown below.

By code poet – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=407542

On many farms today, including the one I grew up on, the barns are still larger than the houses.

This arrangement was probably a good deal for both Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson – each man benefitting. Peter had someone working his land, planting valuable orchards, building houses and barns, and increasing the value of the land. Charles had access to a plantation large enough to support him and his family without having to actually purchase land. Sounds like a win-win situation, probably for a man with a willingness to work but no cash. Charles could have been an indentured servant himself, just finishing his indenture, which, among other possibilities would explain why he had no cash. But you have to hand it to Charles, he had a lot of spunk and was obviously willing to work hard!!!

The following year, Charles witnessed another transaction for Peter Elmore.

Deed Book Page 282 April 24, 1680 – Henry Dawson to Peter Elmore right in a bill of sale. Witnessed by William Dawson and Charles Dodson

Tobacco

Tobacco was the economic foundation of early Virginia as well as the currency. It was, however, a very labor intensive crop, but much prized in England, as this 1595 woodcut of the first known image of a man smoking tobacco shows. The bad news, for the English, is that tobacco could not successfully be grown there, necessitating importation.

Tobacco quickly depletes the land, requiring about 20 years for fields to lie fallow after a few years use, becoming known as “old fields” in regions where tobacco was farmed. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, a planter could plant tobacco for 3 years, then corn, with deeper roots, for 3 years, then nothing for 20 years. The field could then be used again, meaning that any given planter had to have enough land for it to be unused for tobacco for 23 of 26 years.

Each man, meaning planter, slave or indentured servant could work about 2 acres per year, although the work was backbreaking. That meant, in Charles Dodson’s case, to have 6 acres under production for tobacco at all times meant that he had to have a total of 54 acres, plus land for the house and other areas not farmable. Unfortunately, the 1679 transaction between Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson doesn’t say how much land is involved. Pesky details!

You can click to enlarge images.

The graph above shows a crop rotation example of keeping 6 acres of tobacco, enough for 3 men to tend, under production at all times.

Viewed another way, if a man had 54 acres of cultivable farmland, that means he could have 6 acres at any time under cultivation for tobacco and 6 for corn. Only being able to use one ninth of your land for your primary crop was a very land-intensive investment. Adding in the 3 years for corn production, you can still only use two ninths of your land at any one time.

Tobacco plants shown growing in the garden area of the Museum of Appalachia.

After the tobacco was started in trays, transplanted by hand, groomed, weeded and harvested, it had to be dried, graded and then packed into large wooden barrels or casks called hogsheads for shipping to England. The barrels would then be rolled down the roads from the plantations to the docks. Often in these areas, there would be roads called Rolling Roads, or Rowling Roads. Those were the roads utilized to transport the barrels to the ships – literally rolling them along their way. This means of course that the most desirable plantations were the closest to the river, also meaning that they might have docks where the ships could anchor, facilitating trading and commerce for the plantation owner. The bad news was that these areas tended to be swampy and the first to sustain damage when hurricanes and severe weather hit.

The cartouche on the lower right-hand corner of the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia, below, drawn in 1751, shows tobacco hogsheads being inspected and shipped overseas.

A hogshead was about 3 feet across and had to hold at least 100 pounds of tobacco. The tobacco in the hogshead was graded, and if the tobacco was found to be substandard, the entire hogshead was burned. This was an incredible incentive for planters to produce and ship only the highest quality tobacco.

Son Thomas is Born

The North Farnham Parish register tells us that son Thomas Dodson was born to Charles and Ann Dodson on May 15, 1681. This suggests that Charles was married by at least by sometime in 1680, if Thomas was his first child. However, it’s probable that son Charles Jr. was the first child, or first male child, of Charles Dodson and Ann, pushing the marriage date back to between 1671 and 1676, depending on when Charles Jr. was born.

Thomas is the only child directly attributed to Charles and Ann in the North Farnham Parish church records, which are known to be incomplete. The rest of the records that tell us about Charles’s children are his will written in 1703 and various deeds over the years.

Briery Swamp

Charles witnessed many deeds for neighbors during his lifetime.

Deed Book Page 310 – May 30, 1681 John Harding to Jane Elmore, daughter of Peter Elmore one black cow yearling. Signed with mark. Witness Charles Dodson and Jane Ellmore (signed with mark)

Deed Book Page 330-331 Oct. 23, 1681 from William Fantleroy and wife Katherin to David Fowler 2000 pounds aranoco tobacco in cask 230 acres on the north side of Rappahannock River on the branch of the head of Farnham Neck known by the name of the Briery swamp being part of a greater tract formerly granted to Ambrose Clary pat dates Sept 26, 1667 bounded on corner of John Ingoes below the house and running along the line of said Ingoes land north to a Spanish oak on the line of the aforesaid then N to red oak at a little below the bridge of ye Briery Swamp near Edmund Rylie then NW cross the Briery swamp to a corner tree then NW to another marked read oak by Moartico Creek and then along the old line of William Fantleroy dividend west crossing Briery Swamp to ye place of first began. Signed 1681. Wit Thomas Wills, Charles Dodson. Reg Jan 4, 1681 (82).

This deed witnessed by Charles Dodson puts him in the neighborhood of Briery Swamp.

Briery Swamp is believed to be Marshy Swamp in Richmond County, today. Sadly, the early patents, grants and surveys that do still exist for the Northern Neck do not include drawings of the land, just metes and bounds which make them very difficult to locate on a map today.

The tobacco grown and smoked by Native Americans was too harsh for the English palate. Orinoco (aranoco) tobacco seeds were transported from the Orinoco Valley in Spain and when planted in the rich bottomland of the Northern Neck peninsula, produced a mild yet dark tobacco which quickly became the English favorite.

I took these photos of tobacco flowering in Virginia a few years ago, not realizing at the time how connected my family was to that crop.

Charles Dodson and William Smoot are associated throughout their lives.

Deed Book Page 144-146 I William Smote of Rappahannock County, planter, do stand indebted unto Richard Ellet in the sum of 2400 pounds tobacco and caske to containe the same with all court charges and costs of surveying to be paid at some convenient landing in the parish of Farnham have received a valuable consideration for the same which payment truly to be made I the said William Smothe doe bind ourselves unto the said Ellet. The condition of this obligation is such that is the abovesaid Ellet should loose any part of his land by my survey being land bought of the above said William Smoote that the said Smoot shall make restoration of as much land to the sd Ellet as shall be taken away from him. Provided the said Smooth hath left 200 acres other ways to the said Smoote to restore to the Ellet the abovementioned tobacco and caske to containe the same and for the performance hereof I the aid Smoote to me my heirs and as witness my hand and seal this November 5, 1684. Signed. Witness Charles Dodson, John Ingoe by mark

It looks like the neighbors, William Smoot, John Ingoe and Charles Dodson are all signing as witnesses. It’s always good to know who the neighbors are, because families marry, immigrate and migrate with people they know.

Charles Buys Land

In 1679, Charles transacted with Peter Elmore to improve Elmore’s land, but six and a half years later, Charles had saved enough money to purchase 100 acres of his own.

Deed Book 7, pg 281-283 This indenture made this nine and twentieth day of December in the yeare of our Lord 1685 Between William Thacker and Alice his Wife, Daughter and heire of William Mathews, late of the County of Rappa. in Virginia, Plantr., deced, of the one part and Charles Dodson of the sd County of Rappa., Plantr., of the other part Witnesseth that they the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife for a valuable consideration to them paid have sold unto the sd Charles Dodson all that tract of land being in the Parish of Farnham in the sd County of Rappa: conteyning One hundred acres as by the survey and plat thereof may appear which said hundred acres is part and parcell of a Dividend of land conteyning Eleven hundred Forty and eight acres called or known by the name of Lilleys, lying and being in the County and Parish aforesaid formerly Pattented by the abovesd William Mathews as by the Pattent bearing date the Eighteenth day of November in the year of our Lord One thousand Six hundred Sixty and eight relation being had doth appeare, and the Deeds Pattents and whatsoever touching the same To have and to hold the sd One hundred acres of land with their appertinances unto the sd Charles Dodson his heires to the only proper use of sd Charles Dodson forever with all profitts in as large manner as expressed in the original Pattent of the whole Divident above specified and the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife warrant the said land unto sd Charles Dodson against all persons from or under them and shall acknowledge these presents within three Courts next after the date hereof in Court to be holden for the County of Rappa: aforesd In Witness where of the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife sett their hands and seales

Signed sealed and delivered in the presents of Richard Marshall, William Thacker his marke William Edmonds, Alice Thacker the marke of William Heard, Recognitr in Cur com Rappa. 3 die 9ber 1686 record xxiii die

Know all men by these presents that I William Thacker of the County of Lancaster in Virginia do constitute and appoint my true and well beloved friend, John Ford, to be my true and lawful! Attorney in my place to acknowledge unto Charles Dodson of the County of Rappa: one hundred acres of land in the aforesd. County and ratifying and allowing what my said Attorney shall act and doe in the same In Witness whereof I have put my hand and seale this first day of November 1686

Signed Sealed and delivered in the presents of us Henry Fulton, William Thacker his mark James Kille, Recordr. xxiii die 9hris 1686

This deed is a little more normal – an actual land sale.

Deed Book May 1686 – Alexander and Elizabeth Newman to William Acers 200 acres part of a 600 acre dividend. Signed wit Thomas Carpenter and Charles Dodson.

Charles witnesses a transaction for neighbors in 1686, then buys 300 acres of additional land for himself in 1687.

Deed Book Page 386-387 – Oct 21, 1687 Samuel Travers and Frances his wife of Rappahannock to Charles Dodson of same, planter, for valuable consideration parcel in Farnham 300 acres by survey part of two dividents of land pat by Col. William Travers decd and commonly known as Traverses Quarter or Old Field and surveyed by one Edward Jonson as his platt dated Dec. 9, 1687. Dodson to pay all quitrents and services which shall become due. Signed by Samuel Travers and Frances his wife (mark) witness Raw. Travers, Elias Robinson (mark) Byran Mullican (mark).

Charles Dodson now owns 400 acres, plus the land under lease from Peter Elmore. Given our calculations, a planter must own 18 acres for one man to keep 2 acres under cultivation with tobacco at all times. Therefore, 400 acres would require about 22 men to work the land. Of course, some of that land would have been taken up by houses, barns and livestock. Other portions may have been too low to cultivate. Still, it was a lot more land than Charles Dodson and his family could work by themselves.

John Lincoln

Charles Dodson apparently had a close relationship or at least a relationship of some sort with John Lincoln. First, we find that John and Charles both assigned by the court to help mediate a dispute.

Court Order Book November 1, 1686 page 1 – ordered Charles Dodson and John Lincolne meet together at the house of Barth: Wood to state and audit ye accompts between Hugh Bell plt and ye said Wood deft and make report thereof to the next court and that the said Wood deliver to the said Wood all his working tooles that are in his custody.

Just a month or so later, John Lincoln dictates his will on Dec. 18, 1686, so his final illness must have come upon him unexpectedly.

Later, in an affidavit of witnesses to the making of the will, the comment was made that John Lincolne, the maker of the will, “would have no other but Charles Dodson as his executor although several insisted that he have his wife.”

And an affidavit by another witness, “John Lincoln…he did urge to have Charles Dodson to be his executor several times when his wife was named.”

Apparently Charles Dodson had other ideas, or there was something bothersome to him about the situation.

Court Order Book Jan. 5, 1686/87 – Charles Dodson in open court relinquished his right of executorship to the last will and testament of John Lincolne decd

Now, the subplots gets even more interesting, because less than 6 months later, which really wasn’t unusual for a remarriage in colonial Virginia, John Lincoln’s widow, Elizabeth, remarries to John Hill. Keep the name of John Hill in the back of your mind. You’ll meet him again in a few minutes.

Court Order Book, Page 22 May 4, 1687 This day John Hill as Marrying the Admistrx. of John Lincolne deced confest judgment to Henry Hartley for Sixteen hundred pounds tobb & caske according to Bill which this Court have ordered to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 160 April 3,1690 – Judgment is granted to William Colston against John HIll as Marrying Elizabeth, the Relict of John Lincolne, for five hundred & sixteen pounds of tobb: upon acct. of Clerkes fees, to be pd with cost of suit als exe.

In 1693, Chares Dodson is again involved with John Hill, this time as a witness to a deed where John Hill sells land on the Northumberland River that apparently shared a property line with the deceased John Lincoln.

Deed Book Page 198/201 Deed 21st day of 7ber 1693 John Hill and Elizabeth his wife planter and John Creele, both of Richmond Co planter, for valuable consideration 60 acres beginning at hickory path going to Bartholomew Woods and a path going to Walter Webb, corner tree of George Devenport and John Hill and along line, main branch of Northumberland River, line of John Linkhorne, 60 acres part of 800 acres patented by John Carpenter, Charles Carpenter and William West and part of it takenup John Hill relaction being thereunto had may more fully appears and the reversion and reversions, deeds, letters escrips touching or concerning the same. John and Elizabeth Hill by marks, Gilbert Croswell witness by mark, Mary Creele by mark and Charles Dodson signature.

Elizabeth Hill wife of John Hill gives power or attorney to John Rankin to acknowledge that she relinquished her dower in that parcel of land.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the Northumberland River on current maps.

It’s unclear whether there was one or two different John Hill’s living at this time. However, John Hill would marry the widow of Charles Dodson after his death. Given Charles Dodson’s close association with John Hill, I suspect that this is the John Hill that would be Charles’ wife’s second husband.

Charles As Estate Executor

Charles served as the executor of more than one estate. About the same time that John Lincoln died, so did Edward Johnson.

Will Book 29 January, 1686/7; Sworn to 27 February, 1686/7 & 2 March, 1686/7.  Edward Johnson of the County of Rappa & Parish of ffarnham. Very Sick of Body but of perfect mind & memory. I leave unto Wm Macanrico three Cowes & one heyfer & one yearling being upon the Plantacon of Ennis Macanrico & one Mare bigg with foale & one bed & what belongeth to it, and all other things that doth belong to me the above ad Cattle to be delivered in kinde when he Cometh to the Age of sixteen & the Mares to Run with encrease from the Day of the Date hereof and do make Charles Dodson my full Executr: to see this my Will fulfilled when my Debts is Satisfied & what is left to Return to Ennis Macanrico. Wit. Danll Everard, Alexander Duke, Peter Elmore

Court Order Book Jan 29, 1686/87 Edward Johnson will, Charles Dodson executor, Peter Elmore witness.

Apparently, all did not go smoothly.

Court Order Book Sept 6, 1687 Rees Evans vs Charles Dodson continued to next court.

Lancaster County Court 12th of October 1687 Whereas at the last Court helde for this County, upon the Peticon of Charles Dodson as Exer, of Edward Johnson (deced), it was then ordered that Agnis, the Wife of William Smith, formerly the Wife of Enis Meconico, late of the County (deced), should render up and deliver unto the said Charles Dodson qualified as aforesaid all that Estate of the said Johnson in her possession of what kinde soever both of goods chattells and Cattle for the use of William, the Sone of the said Meconico, to whome it was bequeathed as by the last Will and Testamt. of the said Johnson it doth appeare, a Probate threof accordingly was granted unto the said Dodson at a Court helde for the County of Rappahannock March the 3d. 1686 and hee haveing given sufficient security to this Court for the said Estate, for the use aforesaid, And the said Dodson complaineing to this Court that the said Agnis (in whose custodie the sd. Estate remaines) in contempt of the aforesd. Order doe therefore hereby order that the Sheriff of this County doe forthwith put the sd. Dodson in possession of all that Estate in her custodie bequeathed as aforesaid; And that the said Agnis bee sworne before the next justice truely to exhibitt the same. James Phillips, William Armes and Mr. John Wade or any two of them are ordered to apprize the said Estate and to bee sworne by the next Justice an Inventory thereof to bee exhibitted to the next Court

Charles in Court

Filing suit in colonial Virginia wasn’t so much a last resort as it seemed to be a way of life.

Court Order Book May 3 1688 order granted Francis Moore against Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book May 3 1688 Judgement granted to Nicholas Ward against Charles Dodson for 1000 pounds tobacco and caske upon obligation to be paid with cost of suit.

Charles Dodson served on a jury twice in 1688.

Going to court was as much entertainment as it was a necessity. Business was transacted and friendships cemented, and sometimes ended, I’m sure.

Sometimes men witnessed deeds of their family and neighbors. Other times, I think the witness was whoever happened to be at the pub, or at court the day the transaction happened to occur.

Deed Book Page 138-140 George Vinson to John Mills, James Gained and Charles Dodson (signature) witness.July 14, 1691

Deed Book Page 138-140 John Mills to William Richardson, John Hooper, Charles Dodson (signature) and Thomas Salsby witness Sept 12, 1692

In 1693, Charles purchases additional land.

Deed Book 2 Jan 1693/4 Samuel Travers and Frances his wife of Richmond Co to Charles Dodson, for 10000 lb tobo and cask, 500 acres, “being part of a patent granted to Mr Thomas Chitwood and George Haselock bearing Date 9th day of July 1662”. This land lying on the main branch of Totuskey Creek beginning white oak in the fork of the said branch…parcel of land sold by said Travers to Daniel Everett to head of another branch…crossing mouth of the same, adj land sold by said Travers to Dan’l Everett. Entry includes “either of our heirs in by from or under Col’n William Travers Father of me the said Samuel Travers”. Signed: Sam’l Travers, Fran Travers. Witness: Peter Hall, Gilbert Hornby (or Fornby), Mary x Wollard. Recorded 20 Jan 1693/4.

Order Book Page 108 Jan. 3, 1693/4 Ordered deed ack by Capt. Samuel Travers to Charles Dodson be recorded

This brings Charles’ land holdings to 900 acres plus the land he leases from Elmore. 900 acres would take 50 men to work the land, if all was farmable.

The Everett family is found adjoining the land of Charles’ grandson, George Dodson, when he sells his land in 1756 that he inherits from Charles’ son, Thomas. This same land would be owned by Dodson men for 3 generations.

Charles Junior Emerges in the Records

Charles Dodson Jr. is first found in conjunction with the 1693 transaction above, when Frances Travers signs power of attorney to John Taverner to relinquish her dower rights. Charles Dodson Jr. and Sr. both witness that transaction, suggesting that Charles Jr. is now age 21, but certainly no less than 16. Therefore Charles Dodson Jr. was likely born about 1672 or no later than 1677, pushing the marriage of Charles Dodson Sr. and Ann back to between 1671 and 1676.

Deed Book Jan. 2, 1693 Frances Travers assigns Power of Attorney to Mr. John Taverner to represent her in court to acknowledge “a certain parcell of land containing Fiver hundred acres sold by my Husband, Samuel Travers, unto Charles Dodson of this County by Deed and purpose. Charles Dodson Jr. signed with mark and Charles Dodson Sr. signed with signature. May 1, 1693

Another deed file the same day also shows Charles Jr. with his father and the Ann presumed to be his mother. Unfortunately, Charles Jr. also married an Anne whose surname is unknown, so it’s unclear whether the Ann below is Ann the mother or Anne the wife.

Deed Book Jan. 2, 1693 I Easter Mills of Richmond County in Virginia do constitute my truly & loving friend, Mr. Edward Read, of the abovesd County to be my lawfull Attorney for me as well in all respects as if myselfe were personally present to acknowledge a Deed made by my Husband, John Mills, & myself unto William Richardson of the abovesd. County of Richmond for One hundred Twenty & five acres of Land in the abovesd. County as Witness my hand and seale this first of May 1693 Easter Mills her marke

Being present Ann Dodson, Charles Dodson Junr., Charles Dodson Senr., Recorded: Cur Corn Richmond 17 die Maii 1693

Nancy, The Brown Cow

While Charles Dodson Jr. was old enough to witness transactions, his brother, Thomas was still a child. Thomas was born in May of 1681 according to the Farnham Church Parish records, making him about 12 when his father deeded him a brown cow named Nancy.

Deed Book Page 165 Charles Dodson convey to beloved son Thomas Dodson brown cow called by the name of Nancy marked with a crop and swallow forke on the left eare and a crop on the right eare together with all her female increase being in exchange with him my said son Thomas for one cow given him by his Godfather Peter Elmore. July 31, 1693 signed, wit William Ward and William Colston

This very interesting transaction tells us that Peter Elmore is Thomas’s godfather, but it does not say grandfather. Since a relationship was identified, if Peter Elmore was Thomas’s grandfather, it surely would have said grandfather, not godfather, since a grandfather is a blood relative and a godfather can be anyone, related or not. It does imply a close relationship between the families, but not necessarily a blood relationship.

This deed does cause me to wonder why the deed was filed at all. There was a cost associated with filing a deed, not to mention the aggravation. Why write this cow-swap up as a deed instead of just letting it be a barnyard transaction?

Clearly, there is something afoot or ahoof that we don’t and never will know.

Hurricane

The History of Northern Neck, Virginia tells us that The Royal Society of London reported that on October 29, 1693, “here happened a most violent storm in Virginia which stopped the course of ancient channels and made some where there never were any.”

Charles Dodson was probably very grateful that his land was not directly on the Rappahannock River.

Totuskey Creek and Ridge Road

These deeds put Charles’ neighbors on Totuskey Creek in proximity to Ridge Road.

Deed Book Page 29-31 May 20, 1694 William Richardson, planter, and Elizabeth wife to John Henly planter, for consideration 50 acres… Thomas Dusin line, part of dividend purchased of John Mills upon a main branch of Totuskey. Signed by marks, wit Ann Dodson signed with plus, Charles Dodson Jr signed with mark CD and Charles Dodson Sr signed.

Deed Book Page 29-31 May 20, 1694 Elizabeth Richardson POA to Thomas Dusin to ack Deed. Signed with mark, wit Ann Dodson by mark, Charles Dodson Jr by mark and Charles Dodson Sr.

Deed Book Page 32-35 June 1, 1694 William Norris and Elizabeth wife of Northumberland Co to Samuel Jones land purchased of Thomas Dusin 52 acres…line of John Ockley, divides land of William Richardson. Signed my mark, wit Henry Hartley, John Hill, John Hendley all signed with mark and Charles Dodson 94 (sic).

It’s interesting that Charles signed his name with the year.

Deed Book Page 32-35 June 1, 1694 Elizabeth Norris POA to Thomas Duzen to ack deed in court. Signed with mark, wit Henry Hartly, John Hill, signed with mark, and Charles Dodson.

Deed Book Page 35-37 June 1, 1694 Thomas Dusin and wife Susanna or Northumberland Co to William Norris paid and 2 hilling hoes to be paid yearly by the said Norris unto the said Duzen so long as he and his wife shall live and if either of them shall die then Norris shall pay but one hilling hoe and to give the said Dusin one falline axe…100 acres by estimation in Richmond Co on branches of Totuskey Creek adj land where said Dusin now lives. Beginning at red oak diving land of William Norris and Thomas Duzen up the branch to corner tree standing near line of William Mathews along Mathews line to the road then to another white oak by the road, then along a line of John Oakley formerly belonging to Thomas Madison then to a gum corner then across the Ridge Road, down line of William Richardson. Signed with marks, Henry Hartley witness, John Hill with mark, Charles Dodson 94 (sic)

I’ve never seen a hilling hoe as a form of monetary exchange before.

Deed Book Page 35-37 June 31, 1694 Power of atty Susan Duson of Richmond Co to appoint my trusty and well beloved friend William Richardson of same to be my attorney to acknowledge the above deed unto William Norris. Wit Henry Hartley, John Hirlly, Charles Dodson. Book 2, page 37

Deed Book Page 144-146 Thomas Dusin and wife Susanna 1600 pounds tobacco in case to Thomas Southerne tract 30 acres part of a patent granted to Thomas Dusin bearing date 21 7ber 1687 at the head of Totuskey branches beginning corner of Old Cone Path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneale along line divides the land of Mr. Spencer and above said Dewsins land, corner belonging to William Mathews, along line dividing land formerly belonging to John Henly and Dusin signed Feb. 26, 1694/5. Signed Wit William Norris, Elizabeth Norris by marks, Charles Dodson signed.,

Deed Book Susanna Dusin POA to William Norris to ack deed. Signed with mark. Wit Charles Dodson signed with mark, William Brokenbrough signed Feb 26, 1694/5

I wish I knew where the Old Cone Path was today.

Ridge Road (also known as 600) today runs from Richmond Road south to the intersection with History Land Highway in the southern part of the county.

Totuskey Creek, today is to the upper left, the spiderlike creeks.

However, we also know that Charles Dodson owned the land referred to as Rich Neck, north of Richmond Road (360), still along 600, probably still called Ridge Road at that time. 600 or Ridge Road dead ends on the north with Oldham Road.

Above, you can see the entire area from the village of Oldhams, past Rich Neck, crossing Richmond Road, on down 600 passing the spiderveins of feeder creeks of Totuskey Creek.

Matthew Ozgrippin and Forcible Entry

In 1695, Charles Dodson did something that sounds very un-Charles Dodson-like.

Court Order Book Page 82 – Aug. 9, 1695 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Osgrippin is dismissed the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Charles Dodson had some kind of a dispute with Matthew Ozgrippin or Ozgriffin. From the entry above, it looks and sounds like a “normal” suit in early Virginia, but it apparently escalated into something very different.

Court Order Cook Page 113 Jan. 1, 1695/6 Whereas it was represented to this court by a warrant from Capt. William Barber and verdict of a jury thereupon that a forcible entry was made upon Matthew Ozgrifin in his possession by Charles Dodson and for that the said warrant and declaration thereupon was by accident mislayed by the clerk and therefore said matter cannot come to trial. The court for prevention of any further force to be committed by the said Charles do order that the said Charles Dodson do give in bond with good and sufficient security for his good abarance towards the said Matthew Ozgrifin and said matter be returned next court.

And of course, as luck would have it, the papers were missing in a volatile case.

Court Order Book Page 121 March 4, 1695/6 Whereas a warrant and verdict of a jury together with other papers relating to a force committed by Charles Dodson and others upon the posession of Matthew Ozgrippen at last January court held for this county was conveyed away from the court table by Mr. Robert Brent amongst his books and other papers and the said Robert Brent being since dead and by reason of the badness of the weather and other accidents that the said clerk of court has not opportunity to procure them again and for that the said Charles Dodson hath not made his appearance at the said fort to answer the fact aforesaid…for prevention therefore of any other or further force to be committed the court ordered the sheriff do take the body of the said Charles Dodson into safe custody and him so to keep until he shall give bond with good security and sufficient security for his aberrance towards the said Matthew Ozgrippin and further ordered the clerk do use all effectual means for the recovery of the said papers.

And then the lawyer died.

And the weather was bad.

This is beginning to sound like a country and western song!!

Court Order Book Page 124 April 1, 1696 Warrant from under the hand of Capt. William Barber one of the majesties of the county granted unto Matthew Ozgrippin complaining that a forcible entry was made by Charles Dodson upon his possession, the sheriff was ordered to summon a good and lawful jury of the neighbourhood to make enquiry of the force committed, which said jury being impaneled and sworn returned with the following verdict, viz, “We of the jury find a forcible entry made by Charles Dodson and the verdict being returned to this court for judgment thereon, the court having fined the said Charles Dodson 1000 pounds of tobacco for the force committed as aforesaid.”

It appears that Charles did, indeed, commit forcible entry. From the previous statements, it sounds like he wasn’t alone.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Nonsuit granted to Matthew Ozgrippen against Charles Dodson, he not appearing, to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Nonsuit granted to Nicholas Liscomb against Charles Dodson, he not appearing to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Order granted against sheriff to Nicholas Liscomb for the nonappearance of Charles Dodson according to declaration.

Next, Charles doesn’t show up for court.

Court Order Book Page 143 June 4, 1696 Reference is granted between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and Charles Dodson def till next court.

If you thought this was over, it wasn’t. By now, Charles is probably hopping mad…again!

Court Order Book Page 143 June 4, 1696 action of waste brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Ozgripin is dismissed for that the plt hath not discharged the costs of a former nonsuit.

An action of waste addresses a change in the condition of a property brought about by the current tenant that damages or destroys the value of that property. Most likely, Matthew Ozgrippin was a tenant on one of Charles Dodson’s farms. It’s also possible that Charles has sublet the land he leased from Peter Elmore.

Court Order Book Page 144 June 4, 1696 Action of trespass brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Ozgrippin is dismissed for that the plt hath not discharged the costs of a former nonsuit.

Now, Charles is in trouble with the court for not paying the costs of the original suit.

Trespass in this type of situation would probably be related to nonpayment of rent or fees, or perhaps that Matthew was utilizing ground not included in his lease.

Court Order Book Page 144 June 4, 1696 Attachment granted to Charles Dodson against the estate of Nicholas Liscumb according to declaration returnable.

Court Order Book Page 151 August 5, 1696 – Mr. Joshua David appeared attorney for Charles Dodson.

Charles hires an attorney.

And least we’re going to finally find out what happened.

Court Order Book Page 151 August 5, 1696 Matthew Ozgrippen brought his action of trespass upon battery in this court against John Rankin, John Magill and Charles Dodson and declared that he and the said Matthew being the peace of our sovereign lord the Kings Majesty at or near his own dwelling house situate near the head of Maraticco Creek in the county aforesaid in the month of December last past and year of 1695 and the said John Rankin, John Magill and Charles Dodson assisting and abetting the said complaintant with force and arms and contrary to the peace and did assault and beat with his fists striking him several and divers blows so that the said compl was forced to retiree to his house for the better security of his life being then in danger and that the said Rankin, Magill and Dodson the said compl with like force and arms pursiing did break open the door of the said house and then and there the compl his wife and children did beat and bruise with several and divers wounds and other outrageous and unlawful actions did trespasses the said deft did to him then and there do and commit and throwing water on his bulked tobacao destroying his corn and from his said house the complt expelling and putting out whereby the comply sayeth he is damnifying and damage hath sustained to the value of 40,000 pounds tobacco which he prayeth judgement with cost. And the said Charles Dodson one of the deft aforesaid in proper person comes into court and sayeth that he is not guilty in manner and form as in and by the said declaration it is set forth and declared for trial thereof. Jury summoned and brought verdict, “We the jury find for the plt and that the plt is damnifyed 1500 pounds of tobacco with verdict the court have confirmed and order that the said Charles Dodson pay unto the said Matthw Ozgrippin 1500 pounds tobacco together with costs of suit.”

Matthew asked for 40,000 pounds tobacco and the court awarded him 1,500 pounds. This sounds like the kind of lawsuit where everyone walks away unhappy.

The head of Moratico Creek could be either of the two branches near the red pin. Farnham Creek is the large creek above and to the left of the pin.

Court Order Book Page 153 August 5, 1696 Matthew Ozgrippin together with William Norris this day in court did ack themselves indebted to William Tayloe in the sum of 3000 pounds tobacco to be paid unto the said Tayloe in case the said Matthew shall not answer an appeal from an order of the court granted unto him by Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 154 August 5, 1696 Attachment granted last court against estate of Nicholas Liscumb to Charles Dodson according to declaration in continued.

Court Order Book Page 154 August 5, 1696 Foreasmuch as the sheriff of the county made appear to the court that he lawfully summoned John Rankin an evidence in the suit depending between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and John Magill. John Rankin and Charles Dodson def at the suite of the said Charles and the said John not appearing the court have fined the said John Rankin according to act of assembly and order that the same be paid unto the said Charles Dodson alias execution.

Apparently, Matthew sued the other two men as well, although he eventually drops at least one, stating that the “matter is in the past now.”  Not so with Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 155 August 5, 1696 – Foreasmuch as the sheriff of the county made appear to the court that he lawfully summoned John Magill an evidence in the suit depending between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and John Magill. John Rankin and Charles Dodson def at the suite of the said Charles and the said John not appearing the court have fined the said John MaGill according to act of assembly and order that the same be paid unto the said Charles alias execution.

Court Order Book Page 171 Oct. 7, 1696 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Nicholas Liscumb dismissed the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Charles doesn’t show up, again, even though he is the plaintiff.

Court Order Book Page 195 Nov. 5, 1696 Petition of William Colston clerk ord that said Colston be allowed and paid out of the fines leveyed upon Charles Dodson for his force committed up on the possession of Matthew Ozgrippin 180 pounds tobacco being fees arising due to him in the prosecution of said force.

Court Order Book Page 244 June 3, 1697 Order brought against Charles Dodson by Matthew Ozgrippin dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

And so, the drama is finally over in June of 1697, almost two years after it started in court in August 1695, and 18 months after Charles committed forcible entry and apparently assaulted Matthew Ozgrippen.

This behavior of Charles is so aberrant from anything else we’ve seen that it calls into question why. I have to wonder if the problem was so outrageous that Charles resorted to equally as outrageous behavior.

Charles was about 45 years old in 1695, no spring chicken by any means and not likely to be a young hothead, lacking maturity. This type of behavior calls into question things like one’s daughter’s integrity, but Ozgrippen was married with children.

The what is disclosed, but never why.

We will clearly never know the true backstory, other than knowing that Charles was extremely angry for some reason and the two men with him appear to share Charles’ anger or outrage.

The Elmore Lease

According to the July 10, 1679 Elmore lease, Charles Dodson’s lease on Elmore’s land expired in 19 years, which would have been July 10, 1698.

At this time, Charles was supposed to have built a house and barn, planted orchards and fenced the area.

We don’t hear any more about this land, but if Charles vacated in 1698 as stipulated, that might explain his reference in his 1702/03 will to his new house on his plantation.

I’m sure when he was a young man first leasing that land, he never anticipated that 19 years later, he would be in the twilight years of his life.

Back to Normal Lawsuits

For the next year and a half after the Ozgrippin drama ends, Charles Dodson keeps a low profile. He doesn’t sue anyone, doesn’t get sued by anyone, doesn’t sit on a jury, doesn’t witness deeds and doesn’t appear in any court records, but in late 1698, he appears again.

Court Order Book Page 355 Nov. 4, 1698 Attachment granted to Charles Dodson against estate of Thomas Yates.

Court Order Book Page 373 March 1, 1698/9 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Thomas Yates dismissed, the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Court Order Book Page 387 March 3, 1698/9 Action brought by Charles Dodson against William Cambell is dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

I’m beginning to wonder about this trend of Charles not showing up in court after filing suit. It is one way to have a suit dismissed, but we don’t see evidence of Charles doing this earlier. Does make one wonder.

Specifically, I’m wondering if Charles, in his mid-late 40s has suffered small strokes or maybe what today would be known as a traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries are known to create changes in behavior and impulsiveness. Something like being thrown from a horse could cause that kind of injury. That fact that he is suddenly not interacting with others as someone who has previously been trusted and responsible, after having done so for many years, makes me wonder if his neighbors were all aware.

The Deposition and More Goodies

Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 TLC Genealogy Page 4 – Deposition of Charles Dodson Sr. aged about 50 years that about last April 16 being on board the Doublin Merchant in company with John Macgill he did hear the said John Macgill agree with Mr. Francis Moore, Merchant of the said shop, for a man servant named John Conner who had 6 years to serve by indenture and that the said Dodson read the said indenture and further says not. Signed Charles Dodson Recorded March 6, 1699

I called the Richmond County clerk’s office on 4-17-2017 and they don’t know where to look for this document. I was hoping to obtain a copy because it carries the actual signature of Charles Dodson. The Library of Virginia Chancery Records Index shows Richmond County chancery documents beginning in 1748.

Here, we find Charles Dodson in the company of John MacGill once again. Thank goodness for this deposition, which tells us approximately when Charles was born.

The Dublin Merchant with Francis Moore as Captain was a well know merchant ship that traveled back and forth from England and Ireland, transporting tobacco from Virginia and in return, bringing indentured servants.

At least one of those indentured servants worked on Charles Dodson’s plantation.

Court Order Book Page 408 June 7, 1699 Thomas Lane, servant to Charles Dodson, being presented.

When an underage servant became indentured, they were often presented to the court in order to have their age adjudged. This served two purposes. First, the length of the indenture sometimes was dependent on the age of the servant and second, their “legal age” as determined by the court also determined when the “master” had to start paying tithes on the servant, which typically happened for a white male at age 16.

Charles Dodson still “owns” part of this man’s time when his estate is filed in 1706, so apparently this man’s indenture was longer than the traditional 7 years.

Court Order Book Page 473 Sept. 7, 1699 Nonsuit granted against Charles Dodson Sr. to James Lovett the said Dodson not appearing to prosecute and to be paid with cost of suit.

Charles Dodson didn’t show up, AGAIN, and just about the time I think that maybe something is REALLY wrong with him, he’s on a jury. Go figure!!!

Court Order Book Page 485 Oct. 5, 1699 Mr. Charles Dodson on Jury

Of course, conceivably the jury member could have been Charles Jr., but it’s unlikely given that he didn’t yet own land and it the record doesn’t say Jr.

Court Order Book Page 510 Nov. 2, 1699 Order granted against the sheriff to Charles Dodson for nonappearance of William Cambell according to declaration. Attachment hereon granted to sheriff.

Court Order Book Page 510 Nov. 2, 1699 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Mathew Ozgrippin is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Not Ozgrippin again…4 years later. I’d wager Ozgrippin is still Charles Dodson’s tenant, even after their altercation.

Court Order Book Page 511 Nov. 2, 1699 Action brought by Charles Dodson Sr. against William Norris is dismissed the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 11 January 4, 1699/1700 Judgement granted to Charles Dodson assignee of John Bertrand against William Cambell for 531 pounds good tobacco in case upon bill to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 60 October 2, 1700 Ordered Mr. Charles Dodson Sr., Mr. Geo Davenport and Denis Commeron or any 2 of them some time between this and the next court to meet at the house of John Gill late decd (now of Henry Adcock) and inventory and appraise estate. Capt. John Tarply requested to administer oath.

Hmmm, I wonder if this is really John Gill or if it’s John McGill.

Court Order Book Page 68 Oct. 3, 1700 Order granted against the sheriff to William Norris, assignee of Charles Dodson for the non appearance of James Ritchins.

Court Order Book Page 82 – March 6, 1700/01 Judgement granted to William Norris assignee of Charles Dodson against James Kitchin for 450 pounds tobacco in caske upon bill to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 106 May 8, 1701 Order granted against sheriff to Capt. John Lancaster for the non-appearance of Charles Dodson, Sr.

Charles doesn’t show up for court again.

Court Order Book Page 128 Dec. 4, 1701 Action brought by Capt. John Lancaster against Charles Dodson Sr. is dismist ye plt not prosecuting.

Charles Writes His Will

Charles Dodson’s will was written on 11 January 1702/3 and probated on 6 February 1705/06 at North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Colony of Virginia. It’s rather unusual that a will would be written two years before the individual died, but apparently something happened to Charles, caused him to be injured or ill and anticipate that he was going to die, but then he recovered for about 3 years.

In The name of God amen, I Charles Dodson being sick and weake of body but in sound and Good disposing memory praise be given to God for the same do make this my Last Will and Testament in manner and forme following that is to say first & principally I resigne my soul into the merciful hands of almighty God my Greator assuredly hoping through the merritts of my blessed Saviour to obtaine Remission of all my sins and my body I Committ to the Earth whence it was taken to be Decently buryed by the Discretion of my Executrix herein after named and as for the worldly Goods and Estate the Lord hath Lent me I dispose therof as followeth.

I Give bequeath to my son Charles Dodson the plantation formerly call Coll Travers quarter with a hundred and fifty acres of Land to him and to the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if the above Charles Dodson should dye without any male heirs that then the Land should Returne to the next heire of the Dodson.

Secondly. I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Dodson a plantation seated in a neck formerly called the Rich neck with a hundred and fifty acres of Land to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body forever and if the above said Thomas Dodson should dye without any male that then the Land should return to the next heire of the Dodson.

Thirdly. I Give and bequeath to my son Bartho: Rich’d Dodson the plantation that Thomas Reeves liveth on knowne by the name of oake neck with one hundred and fifty acres of Land binding upon the Land formerly belonging to Daniele Everard from the head to the foot to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body and if he should dye without male heires that then the Land to returne to the next heires.

Fourthly. I Give and bequeath to my son William Dodson the Plantation in hickory neck with one hundred and fifty acres of land to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if no male heire appeare then to Returne to the next heire of the Dodson the said Land to bind upon brother Bartho Richd Dodson Land from the head to the foot

Fifthly. I Give and bequeath to my son John Dodson two hundred acres of Land it being part of hickory neck and of Indian Cabin neck binding upon his brother William Dodson to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body and if the above said Wm Dodson should die without any male heire that then the Land Returne to the next of the Dodson

Sixthly. I Give and bequeath to my son Lambert Dodson my new Dwelling plantation with the hundred acres of Land belonging to it to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if no male heire appears that then the Land to Returne to the next of the Dodson.

Seventhly. I Give and bequeath to my Deare and Loving Wife Anne Dodson and my daughters Anne Dodson and Elizabeth Dodson all my moveable Estate of what kind soever within and without to be Equally Divided betweene them.

Eighthly. My desire is that none of the Land out of the name might be sold Except one Brother selleth to another and if no male appeareth by none of my sons then my Daughters may Inheritt the Land.

Lastly. And all the Rest and Residue of my Estate Goods and Chattells not herein before bequeathed after my Debts and funrall Expenses discharged I do give and bequesth unto my Deare and Loving wife Anne Dodson whome I do make sole Exectrix of this my Last will and Testament Revoking all other wills by me heretofore made. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seale the 11th day of Jan. one thousand seven hundred two three. Charles Dodson Sen (Seal) Proved in Richmond County Court by the oath of Christopher Petty the 6th day of Febry. 1705 and by the oath of John Beckwith the 6th day of March following & Recorded.

signed Charles Dodson

Test J Sherlock CI Cur

Richmond County, Virginia – Wills

Charles will did not have any witnesses, which was rather unusual but perhaps suggested the will was made hurriedly, with the expectation that he might not live long.  The will was proven by Christopher Petty on February 6, 1705/06 and John Beckwith on March 6, 1705/06 even though they apparently did not witness the creation of signing of the will itself.

Charles Sells Land to Sons

Charles wrote his will on January 11th, but apparently 3 weeks or so later, he felt better and realizing that he was not going to die imminently, decided to deed the land he was leaving to both Charles and Thomas instead of waiting for nature to take its course. I would surely love to know what happened to Charles in January of 1702/03.

Deed Book Page 208-210 February 2, 1702 Charles Dodson of North Farnham Parish Richmond Co for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Charles Dodson Jr of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Charles Dodson Jr or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1702 Book 3 page 104

Deed Book Page 210-212 February 2, 1702 Charles Dodson of North Garnham Parish Richmond Co for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Thomas Dodson of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck that Charles Dodson Jr. now lives on. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Thomas Dodson or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1703 Book 3 page 105

The area called Rich Neck, today is about 8000 feet across the bottom of the arc created by Marshy Swamp

One mile square by one mile is 640 acres. This area is roughly that size, which means Charles Dodson’s 300 acre property would have encompassed about half of area, if his property were inside the arc. We know it did not fit inside the arc exactly, because a branch separates the land of the two brothers, but we know this is the general area because of the Oldham Community, Oldham Road, the Lyells community and the Lyells Chapel Baptist Church just beneath Rich Neck.

Charles son, Thomas Dodson eventually sold the land to the Lyell family and Thomas’s daughter married an Oldham. So, we know that we’re looking at Charles Dodson’s land, we just don’t know exactly where the boundaries were located. Running the deeds forward in time to current or until a landmark is recognized, such as a church, could locate Charles’ land exactly.

Court Order Book Page 221 Feb 3 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Thomas Dodson and ordered recorded.

Court Order Book Page 221 Feb 3 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Charles Dodson and ordered recorded.

Charles was adamant that this land was forever to be Dodson land, but that determination made it particularly difficult for his sons to sell the land, to anyone, for any reason, except their brothers.

The Rest of Charles Land

We know that Charles Dodson owned at least 600 acres in total, based on the deeds we have found. Deeds equaling 300 acres are missing.

Charles’s will indicates that he owned 900 acres of land that he left to his sons, as follows:

  • 300 acres – Rich Neck, 150 each to Thomas and Charles Jr.
  • 150 acres – Oak Neck, to Bartholomew Richard
  • 150 acres – Hickory Neck, to William
  • 200 acres – Indian Cabin Neck, to John
  • 100 acres – new dwelling plantation, to Lambert

Other than Rich Neck, I’ve been unable to locate the other descriptions on a current map, today, but tracking the land forward in time through sales might be able to determine locations. We do know, generally, that Charles land fell in the following region along Totuskey Creek and its branches including Rich Neck.

At least one of these fields, or probably several, near Rich Neck belonged to Charles Dodson.

Interestingly, the land that eventually belonged to Charles Dodson, according to this map in the book “Richmond County, Virginia 1692-1992 A Tricentennial Portrait” by Robert R. Harper for the Richmond County Tricentennial Commission, was occupied by the Rappahannock Indians until between 1674 and 1676.

Charles Cheats the Grim Reaper

Just when you think the curtain is drawing on the last act, it isn’t, after all.

Court Order Book Page 332 June 7, 1704 Ordered Charles Dodson, William Smoote and George Devenport or any 2 of them appraise estate of James Gilbert. Sworn plus Mary Gilbert executrix.

Charles is apparently still trusted enough to be ordered to appraise an estate inventory and to serve on a jury.

Court Order Book Page 336 June 7, 1704 William Smoote and Charles Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 344 Aug. 2, 1704 Will of Thomas Southerne and proved by oaths of Christopher Petty and Charles Dodson

Charles’s sons, now in their 20s, and neighbor Thomas Durham, somewhat a legendary bad boy, seem to be misbehaving together.

Court Order Book Page 18 December 6, 1704 Charles Dodson Jr and Thomas Dodson and Thomas Durham summoned to court for not going to church for two months together.

Court Order Book Page 34 February 7, 1704/05 Peter Elmore, Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Durham summoned to court to answer presentment of grand jury against them for not going to church for 2 months together and not appearing, ordered they be fined according to law and pay same with costs.

Looks like they recruited Peter Elmore too.

Court Order Book Page 75 October 4, 1705 Will of Eve Smith presented to the court by son Abraham Goad with oaths of William Dodson, Charles Dodson Sr. and Anne Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 83 October 4, 1705 Action brought by William Lambert against Charles Dodson is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Charles Dodson’s Estate

Some time between October 4th 1705 and February 6th 1706, Charles Dodson died.

Court Order Book February 6, 1705/06 Will of Charles Dodson proved by oath of Christopher Petty

Court Order Book Page 137 March 6, 1705/06 Will of Charles Dodson proved by   oath of John Beckwith.

Charles’s wife remarried to John HIll before July 3.

Court Order Book Page 171 July 3, 1706 Upon petition of John Hill and Anne his wife, exec of the will of Charles Dodson decd ordered that John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard Whtie or any 3 of them meet at the house of John Hill and inventory and appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. All sworn plus John Hill and Anne, his wife.

Charles Dodson estate inventory was filed with the court on Oct. 17, 1706, as follows:

  • Feather bed and bedstead and parcel of sheets and one blanket and one rugg – 0600
  • One flock bed and paire of blankets one sheet and rug and bolster and bedstead – 0500
  • One saw and six reep hooks and one paire of old pestells holsters and one old chest and one old bill book – 0200
  • Eight chairs – 0800
  • Two wooden chairs – 0100
  • One chest of drawers and table – 1000
  • Two chest – 0250
  • One small table couch – 0150
  • One warming pan two paire of tongs and one box iron – 0200
  • One pair hilliards – 0250
  • One super table cloth and 12 napkins – 0200
  • Four old napkins and one old table cloth – 0050
  • One feather bed curtains and valens one blankett one pair of sheets and two pillows – 1100
  • A parcel of old books – 0150
  • Ole looking glass and lantron? – 0050
  • One old flock bed 2 blankets rug bolster and pillows – 0400
  • 2 spinning wheels – 0150
  • 3 pots 3 pothooks and 3 pot hangers one spit and one iron pestell – 0450
  • 99 weight of pewter – 0950
  • One bellmettle pestle and mortar 0 0700
  • 7.5 pounds of brass – 0130
  • One servant man 3 years and 8 months to serve – 2200
  • One pare of small hilliards and two smoothing iron and two cutting knives and skewers – 0150
  • One mare and two horses – 2400
  • Parcel of old iron – 0100
  • Pair of cart wheels – 0060
  • Old crosscut saw – 0150
  • One saddle and pillow or pillion – 0120
  • 3 cows and 3 years old – 1800
  • One cow and calfe – 0500
  • 6 two yeare olde – 1200
  • One steere of 5 years old – 0500
  • 2 barren cows and heifer and one calfe – 1400
  • 3 old sheep – 0300
  • 3 lambs – 0200

Total 18780

Signed John Rankin, William Smoot and Richard R. White (his mark)

William Smoot was there in the beginning, and he was there in the end too.

I absolutely love estate inventories, because they tell us exactly what was in the household and on the farm when the man died. Inventories included everything owned by the couple, because the man was presumed to own all property except for the wife’s clothes and any land deeded to her, explicitly stating without the husband’s involvement, after their marriage. The wife was entitled to one third of the value of the estate unless he provided for more in his will. However, the actual value was established by the sale of the inventory items, not by the inventory itself.

Charles’ estate is remarkable in a few different ways. First, because there are no slaves – and this man owned 900 acres of land before he gave 300 acres to his oldest sons, leaving him with 600 acres. How did he farm this land? Perhaps he first had tenants, like Ozgrippin and then his sons began farming as soon as possible.

Second, there are no plows, axes, wagons or carriages. There is only one man’s saddle and no woman’s saddle. Perhaps Charles last 100 acres where his new house was built wasn’t an active plantation.

There were a total of 3 horses, and no oxen. Oxen worked the fields. Clearly, Charles Dodson was not farming. I suspect he leased land to others and accepted a percentage of the crops as payment. In the vernacular of the day, Charles had certainly achieved the American Dream.

Of the estates I’ve worked with in the Northern Neck families, this is the first one with any hint of opulence. The table cloth and 12 napkins would have certainly been for entertaining. There is also an old table cloth and a couch, which is certainly not a piece of furniture of necessity.

There were a total of 10 chairs, but only three beds, and only one was a feather bed. One of the beds had bed curtains,

By Allot rené – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19091796

I remember on a tour of a period home several years ago being told that bedcurtains were both for privacy and warmth.

Servants came and went in the bedchamber, and Charles Dodson had at least one servant, although we really don’t know if this man, Charles Lane, worked in the house or on the farm. I’m betting, on the farm, where labor translated into tobacco, the currency of early Virginia – except Charles estate didn’t include any tobacco. Perhaps it had not yet been planted for 1706.

One bed was a feather bed, considered a luxury, but the second and third were a flock beds. Flock was a bed filled with flocks or locks of coarse wool or pieces of cloth cut up finely, according to the dictionary. I found a wonderful article about beds and bedding here, including pictures.

A bedstead was considered to be the bed without the mattress, typically with slats or rope beneath the mattress, reaching from side to side of the bedstead.

A bolster was a stuffed cylinder of fabric that lay beneath the bottom sheet beneath the pillows at the top of the bed.

Blankets were woolen, but bed rugs, although none survive today, were decorative for on top of the blankets.

A warming pan typically means a pan to warm the bed, generally filled with rocks and heated in the fireplace.

However, there are no chamber pots listed.

A smoothing iron was a clothing iron, heated in the fireplace and then used to iron the clothes. Little did I realize I actually own a child’s replica smoothing iron, at least I think it’s a child’s replica.

Above, the base of one iron and a second, smaller iron that is about two and a half inches long, assembled. Below, the smaller iron comes apart into two pieces, the bottom for heating and the top for putting on the bottom so that, hopefully, the ironer’s hands won’t be burned.

This iron did not descend through my father’s family line, so it certainly isn’t Charles Dodson’s.

The spinning wheels certainly weren’t tools used by Charles, but the looking glass may have been a shared resource. Looking glasses were scarce and status symbols.

Charles had cattle and sheep, but no pigs.

There were no kettles or cooking utensils listed other than the 3 pots, although pothooks were accounted for. There were no plates, although the 99 pewter could include plates. Forks would not have been pewter.

There were also no candleholders or other utensils.

And lastly, there was no tobacco, which is what makes me think that Charles leased or rented his land – probably to his sons.

Do you ever ask yourself what you would want from an ancestor’s estate?

In this case, I think I would want the parcel of old books. That, I think, might be the key to understanding more about Charles. I did notice that there is no Bible, although he might have already passed that on. His son, Charles Jr., died 10 years later and there is no Bible in his inventory either.

More than I’d like to own any one thing, I think I’d just like to turn back time and visit Charles’ plantation. Heck, as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to visit with Charles and Ann in their home and sit with the family at one of the dinners. Yep, that’s what I’d like.

I wonder how many generations back in time Charles knew, and what he knew about his ancestors. Clearly, he would have been able to tell us something about the family in England.

Ann Dodson Remarries

There is no marriage record for Ann Dodson, but by the time Charles estate was ordered to be inventoried in July of 1706, she had already remarried to John Hill. Quick marriages in colonial America were common and in the interest of all parties concerned. The Dodson and Hill families had known each other for years, and there are many documents that include both Charles Dodson and John Hill. Charles would probably have been very pleased, although it appears that not everyone was.

Court Order Book Page 267 April 3, 1707 Action brought by Thomas Dodson against John Hill marrying the Executrix of Charles Dodson, is dismist, Plt. not prosecuting.

Whatever the issue with Thomas, it was settled out of court.  I do wonder if he was upset about his mother remarrying or about something within the estate.  There does appear to be quite a bit missing.

Court Order Book Page 267 April 3 1707 Action brought by Catherine Gwyn executor of the last will and testament of John and Elizabeth, executors of the last will and testament of Charles Dodson, decd, is dismissed plt not prosecuting. (verified text of above in transcribed text)

Court Order Book Page 275 May 7 1707 John Hll and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson confest judgement to Katherine Gwyn exec of will of Majr David Gwyn for 8 pounds 19 shillings and 8 pence 3 farthings and 731 pounds of sweet sented tobacco due upon balance of accounts ordered to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 281 May 8 1707 Imparlance granted in suite between John Harper plt and John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson decd, till next court.

Court Order Book Page 292 July 3 1707 John Harper against John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson decd, deft for 500 pounds of tobacco upon balance of accounts, def pleaded they owed nothing and plt asked time to next court.

Court Order Book Page 303 Sept 4 1707 Judgement granted to John Harper against John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson, decd, for 405 pounds tobacco due by account proved by oath of plt ordered paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 323 Dec 4 1707 John Hll and Anne his wife exe of will of Charles Dodson decd against John Harper dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 40 June 2 1709 Judgment granted to John Davis Sr. against John Hill and Anne, wife, exec of Charles Dodson decd for 136 pounds tobacco due by account ordered paid with costs.

There were quite a few people bringing suit to collect debts, which is quite unusual if the executrix agrees that the debt is valid.

Prices in Virginia

Charles Dodson died in early 1706, and his estate was valued in English pounds. However, the true money of the early Virginia economy was most often tobacco. People paid their debts with tobacco, paid for land with tobacco and paid court costs and taxes with tobacco.

In the court records, I discovered 1709 prices, regulated by the court, for various items, mostly alcohol, which was considered to be totally indispensable, and items like pasturage for your horse and a night’s lodging.

1709 prices county to entertain and sell at:

  • Gallon rum 10 s or 12 tob
  • Quart English beer 15 s of 15 tob
  • Quart of punch, one third rum and good sugar 12 s or 12 tob
  • Good dyet 12s or 12 tob
  • Pasturage or fodder 24 hours 03 s or 3 tob
  • Pottle of corn 3 s or 3 tob
  • Quart of Medera Wine 2 s 6 d or 3 tob
  • 1 night lodging 3 s or 3 tob
  • Small beer p gallon 7 s 1/2 or 7 /.2 tob

It’s interesting to compare items in Charles estate to see what that item could have purchased according to the 1709 prices, which were probably roughly the same as 1706 prices.

Son, Charles Dodson Dies

Ten years after Charles Dodson Sr., dies, his son, Charles Jr. dies as well, just two weeks after the birth of his daughter, Mary. It’s obviously a very sad day for the Dodson family. I believe, but am not positive, that Ann Dodson Hill is still living.

Charles Dodson Jr.’s wife, Anne, surname unknown, does not remarry, so we can tell the estates apart by the fact that Charles Sr.’s wife is now Ann Hill.

The year before Charles Jr. died, he absented himself from church. He certainly could have been ill. In 1715, Charles Jr. would have been in his early 40s.

Court Order Book Page 22 June 1, 1715 Charles Dodson to be summoned to answer the presentment of the grand jury against him for absenting himself from divine service at the church for a month past in the parish of Farnham.

Court Order Book Page 325 July 7, 1715 Charles Dodson being summoned to answer presentment of the grand jury against him for not going to church for one month, but not appearing when called, it is ordered that he be fined 50 pounds of tobacco and that he pay the same to the churchwardens of the Northfarnham Parish with costs.

Given the following land entry, it appears that the reason Charles wasn’t in church is that he was ill, gravely so.

Court Order Book Page 250 Charles Dodson, Farnham Parish, will July 8, 1715, probated May 2, 1716, son Charles all land between spring branch and the branch that parts by land from the land of Thomas Dodson, son Furtunatus all land below by spring branch. Wife Anne, ex: wife; wits Bartholomew R. Dodson, George Petty

Charles Jr.’s will was probated in May, 1716.

Will Book Page 468 May 1, 1716 Last will of Charles Dodson decd presented into court by Ann Dodson, his executrix, who made oath and proved by Bartholomew Richard Dodson, one of the witnesses.

Ann Dodson, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and William Hanks came into court and acknowledge their bond for the said Ann Dodson’s just and faithful administrator of the estate of Charles Dodson, decd.

Joshua Stone, Thomas Dew, William Stone and John Fenn or any 3 of them to appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. All sworn by oath and Ann Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 473 May 2, 1716 Judgement granted Mathew Davis against Ann Dodson executrix of Charles Dodson decd for 456 pounds tobacco due by bill which is ordered to be paid out of the estate, with costs.

Will Book Page 506 June 6, 1716 Appraisement of estate of Charles Dodson decd ordered recorded.

Will Book Page 268 and 269 – Pursuant to an order of the court dated the 2 day of May 1716…being sworn to inventory and appraise all and singularly effects of Charles Dodson as was ? to by executrix Ann Dodson:

  • 2 cows and calfs – 4.0.0
  • 2 barron cows – 3.10.0
  • 1 heifer and 3 yearlings – 3.0.0
  • 2 cow and calf – 2.0.0
  • 5 piggs 7 shotes and 2 old sows – 1?.5.0
  • 16 sheep – 3.15.0
  • 2 iron potts 60 – 0.10.0
  • 1 brass cottoll 2 – 0.0.8
  • 28 ? old putor – 0.7.0
  • 1 pr of floams? and a grato – 0.0.2
  • 6 bowls and 1 tray – 0.7?.2
  • 6 wooden trenchers 0.0.6
  • 2 spinning whells – 0.4.0
  • 2 wedges old pestill spit and pott rack – 0.4.0
  • 1 table 2 chests and a box – 0.7.0
  • 1 old cush? And runlotts – 0.3.0
  • 4 bottols a pail and pig on att – 0.3.6
  • 4 old hoes and 2 axes att – 0.1.0
  • 1 feather bed boosted and cord att – 0.17.6
  • 1 small flock ditto at – 0.5.0
  • 1 old chalf bed and 2 old blankets at – 0.2.0
  • 1 old chamberpot att – 0.0.1

Total inventory estate of 12.14.7

Inventory was taken by Joshua Stone, Thomas Dew and William Stone

The crops of tobacco that was growing at ye time of this document being ye first day of August amount to 129.6

The thing I find most surprising about Charles’ Jr. estate is that, compared to his father, he didn’t have a large estate at all, and he owned no slaves. Indentured servants were typically listed too, with the number of years they had yet to serve. Charles owned 150 acres of land and had owned that land since 1702. How was he farming without either slaves or indentured servants given the intensive labor requirements of tobacco?

Court Order Book Page 20 July 5, 1716 Case between William Gantleroy Gent and Ann Dodson executrix of estate of Charles Dodson, decd, deft, at deft motion an imparlance is granted her till next court.

Court Order Book Page 37 August 2, 1716 Judgement granted William Fantleroy gent against the estate of Charles Dodson in the hands of Ann Dodson, administratrix of Charles Dodson’s estate for 694 pounds tobacco said Fantleroy making oath in court that the same is justly due which is ordered to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 43 August 2, 1716 William Barber action of debt against Ann Dodson, executrix of will of Charles Dodson, decd, for 900 pounds of good sound merchantable tobacco and caske due by bill is dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

The next entry is quite interesting, given that John Hill is married to Charles Jr.’s mother.

Court Order Book Page 43 August 2, 1716 John Hill his action of case against Ann Dodson executrix of the will of Charles Dodson decd for 313 pounds tobacco due by account is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Given that there was no prosecution, it looks like they settled their differences out of court.

Court Order Book Page 71 October 4, 1716 William Barber his action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of the will of Charles Dodson, decd, is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 72 John Naylor action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of will of Charles Dodson decd dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 93 Feb. 7, 1716/17 John Naylor action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of will of Charles Dodson, decd, for 468 pounds of sweet scented tobacco upon balance of a bill is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

In March 1718/19, Ann Dodson dies too. This couple died relatively young. Their youngest child, Mary, wouldn’t turn 4 until in July of 1719.

Will Book Page 78 March 4, 1718/19 Will of Ann Dodson decd presented in court by Charles Dodson, her executor and proved by oath of Bartholomew Richard Dodson.

Motion of Charles Dodson executor of will of Ann Dodson decd his account against decd estate is admitted to record.

Will Book Page 107b – Account: March 31, 1719. An account of what tobacco I have paid for the estate of Ann Dodson, decd. To: funeral charges; burying of my sister, Mary Dodson; Thomas Reed, Mr. Newman Broockenbrough, Capt. Woodbridge, John Simson; Jeames Foushe: Total 1890. Per me – Charles Dodson. At the motion of Charles Dodson this account was AR at April 1, 1719 R. Court

Except Mary never turned 4. Instead, she died the same month as her mother.

The Sons Attempt to Sell

Charles Dodson Sr. intended to keep his land in the family, but in reality, he hobbled his son’s choices by allowing them to sell only to each other and not outside the family. Was this intentional, to keep them in Richmond County, or was this an unintended consequence of his good intentions?

Was there a son in particular that Charles worried might squander his fortune?

In 1720, the sons and their sons begin to attempt to dispose of the land inherited from Charles Dodson Sr. by “leasing” land for 3 natural lifetimes.

Deed Book Page 522-523 July 8 1720 John and Charles Dodson to Robert Matthews, all of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, 4000 pounds tobacco for the term of 3 natural lifetimes and the longest liver of them a tract in Farnham Parish now in posession of Christopher Petty and ye land of Bartholomew Richard Dodson on branche of Totaskee containing 100 acres being half of 200 acres Charles Dodson father of aforesaid John and grandfather of Charles Dodson gave to John Dodson by his last will. Three natural lives to wit Robert Mathews, Sarah Mathewes and Joana Mathews and the longest liver of them paying every year the usual rent due and one ear of Indian corn yearly unto the aid John and Charles Dodson if demanded. Signed both by mark, Charles with C, wit Thomas Reeve and George Petty.

John and Charles Dodson bound unto Robert Mathews for 8000 pounds tobacco…obligation to perform and keep all ye convenants and agreements. Signed with markes wit Thomas Reeve and George Petty July 2, 1720

Deed Book Page 21 May 5-6 1734, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and wife Elizabeth of Weecomoce (Wicomico) Parish in Northumberland County to Thomas Dodson of North Farnham Parish in Richmond County for 4500 pounds tobacco, 150 acres lying between the Oke neck and Hickory Neck Branch in Richmond county which land (is part of 500 acres that) [part in parenthesis lines out in transcription] was formerly sold by Capt. Samuel Traverse to Charles Dodson, father to the said Bartholomew Richard Dodson. Land is bounded by Daniel Everit. Signed by him, her mark, Wit Thomas Legg, H Miskell, Jeremiah Greenham, Rec May 6 1734

DNA

DNA has become an important genealogical tool. The Dodson Y DNA Project at Family Tree DNA tells us that there are least three distinct Dodson lineages in the US today.

One group is haplogroup I from Talbot County, Maryland, whose ancestor died in 1745, and two other groups are haplogroup R. The largest group is the Charles Dodson descendants. There are also several “dangling Dodsons” with no matches today.

No Dodson males that match the genetic profile of Charles Dodson have yet taken the Big Y test, which would help establish deep ancestry, but two have taken some level of SNP testing and have tested R-P25 and R-L2.

Male haplogroups are shown on trees, similar to pedigree charts.

The haplotree looks a lot like a pedigree chart for a very good reason. Mutations happened just like children are born and are recorded the same way, as descendants of the “father” SNP in question.

The Dodson line is confirmed to be R-M269, the most common haplogroup in Europe with almost half the European men carrying this haplogroup. Let’s just say that our distant ancestors were very successful in terms of reproducing and colonization. SNP R-P25 is upstream, or a grandfather to R-M269, but R-L2 is not, being found several generations downstream

Haplogroup L2 is known to be historically Celtic, but it is widely scattered today as shown by this SNP map at Family Tree DNA.

Of course, we know that the Celts settled in the British Isles at one time, so we expect to find L2 in both continental Europe and across the channel, which we do.

Ancestry has a nice feature that allows you to look for clusters of surnames based on various census and other records, both in the US and England.

The Dodson surname distribution in Scotland in 1841 was very small, as shown above.

However, the Dodsons were much more widespread in England in 1891, with the most pronounced region being in the northern portion of the country, primarily Yorkshire and Lancashire and a small area surrounding London where the population is very concentrated.

The surname origin indicates that Dodson is a patrronymic form of Dodd, meaning Dodd’s son, of course.

From the above pages, you can view all immigration records for Dodsons.

This could be very useful, because if a Charles Dodson descendant matches one of the descendants of these people, whose immigration location is known, on a segment proven to be “Dodson,” that’s a huge hint as to the ancestral location of the family.

Unfortunately, these individuals would show up under “Dodson” matches at Ancestry, but not under Charles Dodson, because they don’t descend from him, so no leaf hints.

However, the surname search should work.

The possible Dodson link wouldn’t be any of the people with the green leaf hints indicating that we share a common ancestor in our trees, such as the first two matches shown below.  We would find descendants of these immigrants in the matches without green leaves, such as the third match, below.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that this IS the Dodson family, but there is a match.  Let’s see what that match has to say about their Dodson ancestor.

Lewes, Sussex, not where the majority of the Dodsons are from in England.

The only way to know for sure if this match is valid, and if the common DNA is from Dodson ancestors would be for the match to transfer either to Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch (or preferably both) where we can match and triangulate to other known Dodson descendants utilizing a chromosome browser to confirm the source of the DNA.

Where is the Charles Dodson Line From?

We don’t know. There are four ways to tell.

One way is to find the record of Charles birth in the existent records, and somehow prove that Charles in the church record is the Charles that is later found as an adult in the Northern Neck. Of course, it’s possible that Charles was not in fact born in England, which puts a fly in that ointment. The good news is that now we know that Charles was born within a year or so of 1649, which at least provides us with a reasonable birth range.

A second way is to have a Y DNA match to someone who knows that their Dodson came from a particular small village in England, and search the records in and near that location.

A third way would be to find someone descended from one of the Dodson immigrants from known locations, discover they have autosomal DNA tested (or test them), that there are no other common lines, and that a segment match to that person triangulates to other proven Dodson descendants.

A fourth way is to find a Dodson autosomal DNA match that is NOT descended from Charles, who knows their ancestral Dodson location in England and does not share any other lines.  If that person’s matching segments triangulate to known Charles Dodson line segments, that’s a good indication and could lead us to a Dodson male to Y DNA test to confirm.

Y DNA matching would be so much easier and absolutely indisputable evidence. We need Dodson men from England to Y DNA test!

Concepts – Percentage of Ancestors’ DNA

A very common question is, “How much DNA of an ancestor do I carry and how does that affect my ethnicity results?”

This question is particularly relevant for people who are seeking evidence of a particular ethnicity of an ancestor several generations back in time. I see this issue raise its head consistently when people take an ethnicity test and expect that their “full blood” Native American great-great-grandmother will show up in their results.

Let’s take a look at how DNA inheritance works – and why they might – or might not find the Native DNA they seek, assuming that great-great-grandma actually was Native.

Inheritance

Every child inherits exactly 50% of their autosomal DNA from each parent (except for the X chromosome in males.) However, and this is a really important however, the child does NOT inherit exactly half of the DNA of each ancestor who lived before the parents. How can this be, you ask?

Let’s step through this logically.

The number of ancestors you have doubles in each generation, going back in time.

This chart provides a summary of how many ancestors you have in each generation, an approximate year they were born using a 25 year generation and a 30 year generation, respectively, and how much of their DNA, on average, you could expect to carry, today. You’ll notice that by the time you’re in the 7th generation, you can be expected, on average, to carry 0.78% meaning less than 1% of that GGGGG-grandparent’s DNA.

Looking at the chart, you can see that you reach the 1% level at about the 6th generation with an ancestor probably born in the late 1700s or early 1800s.

It’s also worth noting here that generations can be counted differently. In some instances, you are counted as generation one, so your GGGGG-grandparent would be generation 8.

In general, DNA showing ethnicity below about 5% is viewed as somewhat questionable and below 2% is often considered to be “noise.” Clearly, that isn’t always the case, especially if you are dealing with continental level breakdowns, as opposed to within Europe, for example. Intra-continental (regional) ethnicity breakdowns are particularly difficult and unreliable, but continental level differences are easier to discern and are considered to be more reliable, comparatively.

If you want to learn more about how ethnicity calculations are derived and what they mean, please read the article Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

On Average May Not Mean You

On average, each child receives half of the DNA of each ancestor from their parent.

The words “on average” are crucial to this discussion, because the average assumes that in fact each generation between your GGGGG-grandmother and you inherited exactly half of the DNA in each generation from their parent that was contributed by that GGGGG-grandmother.

Unfortunately, while averages are all that we have to work with, that’s not always how ancestral DNA is passed in each generation.

Let’s say that your GGGGG-grandmother was indeed full Native, meaning no admixture at all.

You can click to enlarge images.

Using the chart above, you can see that your GGGGG-grandmother was full native on all 20 “pieces” or segments of DNA used for this illustration. Those segments are colored red. The other 10 segments, with no color, were contributed by the father.

Let’s say she married a person who was not Native, and in every generation since, there were no additional Native ancestors.

Her child, generation 6, inherited exactly 50% of her DNA, shown in red – meaning 10 segments..

Generation 5, her grandchild, inherited exactly half of her DNA that was carried by the parent, shown in red – meaning 5 segments..

However, in the next generation, generation 4, that child inherited more than half of the Native DNA from their parent. They inherited half of their parent’s DNA, but the half that was randomly received included 3 Native segments out of a possible 5 Native segments that the parent carried.

In generation 3, that child inherited 2 of the possible 3 segments that their parent carried.

In generation 2, that person inherited all of the Native DNA that their parent carried.

In generation 1, your parent inherited half of the DNA that their parent carried, meaning one of 2 segments of Native DNA carried by your grandparent.

And you will either receive all of that one segment, part of that one segment, or none of that one segment.

In the case of our example, you did not inherit that segment, which is why you show no Native admixture, even though your GGGGG-grandmother was indeed fully Native..

Of course, even if you had inherited that Native segment, and that segment isn’t something the population reference models recognize as “Native,” you still won’t show as carrying any Native at all. It could also be that if you had inherited the red segment, it would have been too small and been interpreted as noise.

The “Received” column at the right shows how much of the ancestral DNA the current generation received from their parent.

The “% of Original” column shows how the percentage of GGGGG-grandmother’s DNA is reduced in each generation.

The “Expected” column shows how much DNA, “on average” we would expect to see in each generation, as compared to the “% of Original” which is how much they actually carry.

I intentionally made the chart, above, reflect a scenario close to what we could expect, on average. However, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility to see something like the following scenario, as well.

In the second example, above, neither you nor your parent or grandparent inherited any of the Native segments.

It’s also possible to see a third example, below, where 4 generations in a row, including you, inherited the full amount of Native DNA segments carried by the GG-grandparent.

Testing Other Relatives

Every child of every couple inherits different DNA from their parents. The 50% of their parents’ DNA that they inherit is not all the same. The three example charts above could easily represent three children of the GG-Grandparent and their descendants.

The pedigree chart below shows the three different examples, above.  The great-great-grandparent in the 4th generation who inherited 3 Native DNA segments is shown first, then the inheritance of the Native segments through all 3 children to the current generation.

Therefore, you may not have inherited the red segment of GGGGG-grandmother’s Native DNA, but your sibling might, or vice versa. As you can see in the chart above, one of your third cousins received 3 native segments from GGGGG-grandmother. but your other third cousin received none.

You can see why people are always encouraged to test their parents and grandparents as well as siblings. You never know where your ancestor’s DNA will turn up, and each person will carry a different amount, and different segments of DNA from your common ancestors.

In other words, your great-aunt and great-uncle’s DNA is every bit as important to you as your own grandparent’s DNA – so test everyone in older generations while you can, and their children if they are no longer available.

Back to Great-Great-Grandma

Going back to great-great-grandma and her Native heritage. You may not show Native ethnicity when you expected to see Native, but you may have other resources and recourses. Don’t give up!

Reason Resources and Comments
She really wasn’t Native. Genealogical research will help and mitochondrial DNA testing of an appropriate descendant will point the way to her true ethnic heritage, at least on her mother’s side.
She was Native, but the ethnicity test doesn’t show that I am. Test relatives and find someone descended from her through all females to take a mitochondrial test. The mitochondrial test will answer the question for her matrilineal line unquestionably.
She was partly, but not fully Native. This would mean that she had less Native DNA than you thought, which would mean the percentage coming to you is lower on average than anticipated. Mitochondrial DNA testing someone descended from her through all females to the current generation, which can be male, would reveal whether her mother was Native from her mother’s line.
She was Native, but several generations back in time. You or your siblings may show small percentages of Native or other locations considered to be a component of Native admixture in the absence of any other logical explanation for their presence, such as Siberian or Eastern Asian.

Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA Testing to Supplement Ethnicity Testing

When in doubt about ethnicity results, find an appropriately descended person to take a Y DNA test (males only, for direct paternal lineage) or a mitochondrial DNA test, for direct matrilineal results. These tests will yield haplogroup information and haplogroups are associated with specific world regions and ethnicities, providing a more definitive answer regarding the heritage of that specific line.

Y DNA reflects the direct male line, shown in blue above, and mitochondrial DNA reflects the direct matrilineal line, shown in red. Only males carry Y DNA, but both genders carry mitochondrial DNA.

For a short article about the different kinds of DNA and how they can help genealogists, please read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

Ethnicity testing is available from any of the 3 major vendors, meaning Family Tree DNA, Ancestry or 23andMe. Base haplogroups are provided with 23andMe results, but detailed testing for Y and mitochondrial DNA is only available from Family Tree DNA.

To read about the difference between the two types of testing utilized for deriving haplogroups between 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, please read Haplogroup Comparisons between Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

For more information on haplogroups, please read What is a Haplogroup?

For a discussion about testing family members, please read Concepts – Why DNA Testing the Oldest Family Members is Critically Important.

If you’d like to read a more detailed explanation of how inheritance works, please read Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors.

Unwelcome Discoveries and Light at the End of the Tunnel, 52 Ancestors #156

Mother used to say that things happen in groups of 3. These past couple weeks have proven her old adage to be true. What an emotional roller-coaster!

Sooner or later, every genealogist meets an ancestor they really don’t like. One whose personal values are diametrically opposed to their own in a way that causes the genealogist some amount of…well…let’s just say consternation. Maybe even soul searching as you struggle to understand. And maybe you can’t understand and you wish the ancestor just wasn’t yours.

I met one of those when I wrote about Thomas Day, the probable wife murderer. When I discovered his murderous history, which looks very much like he beat his wife to death, given that he was found sitting by her dead body, I even checked my pedigree chart to see how far back he fell. The answer is 9 generations, meaning that if I carry any of his DNA at all, today, it would be on average 0.195% of his DNA, less than one fifth of 1%. I felt like I dodged that bullet. Whew!!

Coping Mechanisms

It’s interesting to see how people cope with revelations like this. This ancestor is so distant that you can emotionally distance yourself in many ways – by saying he might not be a murderer after all, by compensating for his behavior by making excuses, by minimizing the negative information, by emotionally divorcing yourself from him, or by accepting the evidence, feeling empathy for his spouse and realizing that he, 9 generations ago, really has nothing to do with you today.

But let’s face it. Who wants an icky ancestor?

Each of the ancestors in our tree has bad and good, some more bad than good, and some vice versa. We know so very little about any of our ancestors that we define them by the snippets, good or bad, that we do know. Keep in mind that each of those people did indeed do one thing that was very important to you – and that’s to beget your ancestor who begot another ancestor who a few generations later had one of your parents who had you. You would not exist, as you, without them – regardless of anything else in their life. You are their legacy every bit as much as what they did when they were alive.

We can simply hope we don’t “inherit” the “murderous” proclivity, genes, or whatever brought that person to that place in time in a way that led to that behavior – whether the driving factor was some something social, situational or genetic. We hope that the trait or tendency was not passed to us, today, either through genetics or family dynamics, meaning learned behaviors by example.

Whatever it was, we don’t want it!

Mental Illness – The Untouchable Topic

Of course, there is the possibility that mental illness was involved. Mental illness tends to be the topic that no one, and I mean no one, discusses.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, in my family line, a descendant of Thomas Day, Joel Vannoy, Thomas Day’s great-great-grandson was in fact committed to the Eastern State Mental Hospital for the insane in Knoxville, Tennessee. Joel was my great-great-grandfather.

The people in Tennessee who told me all kinds of things when I first began visiting and talking about genealogy never revealed that. They talked about wife cheaters and wife beaters and women having children not fathered by their husbands and “carrying on” with the preacher, but no one ever talked about mental illness. That was THE taboo subject.

After I made that discovery, quite by happenstance, in the court records, it turned out that people knew. Then the uncomfortable discussion immediately turned to which side of the family the “crazy came down from.” Everyone was very anxious to distance themselves not from Joel himself, but from the possible spectre of mental illness – and by virtue of the unsaid, that it was or could be found in their line as well.

Joel wasn’t dangerous, just “preachin’, swearin’, and threatenin’ to fight,” according to his hospital paperwork, but his grandson, my grandfather might have been a different matter.

Smoke and Fire

My grandfather, William George Estes, seemed to have a somewhat distant relationship with a moral compass. He not only cheated on my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, but with her own young cousin. After my grandmother divorced him, he married that cousin. They moved to Harlan County, Kentucky where he was a moonshiner and then cheated on her with her cousin. See a pattern here, perhaps? Divorced and married again, he treated that third wife very poorly, according to my mother who visited a grand total of one time. Mother was horrified and did not wish to discuss the situation.

Sometimes oral history is right, and sometimes it’s wrong, but there is often some sort of fire where there is smoke. In the case of William George Estes, there are troubling whispers about the murder of a revenue agent. I have no idea if that story is true, but I do know that one of his children starved to death, according to the death certificate. No one talked about that either. In fact, until I found the death certificate quite by accident, I never knew the child existed. I wanted to believe that the cause of death was wrong, but then I recalled that my father’s sister reported that when they were young, they didn’t have enough food and the children were fed moonshine to keep their hungry stomachs from hurting and so that they would sleep.

Imagine hearing this about your parent and grand-parents. Imagine living like that as a child. Imagine being my father.

Then, add to that the fact that the Aunt, who was somewhat inclined to embellish, said that when your grandparents divorced, when your father was about 12, neither parent wanted your father or his brother who was younger by two years. The boys, desperate, hopped on a freight train with the hobos, finally making their way back to Tennessee, from Indiana, to their grandparents’ home. They arrived very hungry and dirty. I didn’t want to believe that, but after being told the same thing by three different people with personal knowledge, I realized it was true.

Mind you, the mother who didn’t want him is the mother my father cared for, at home, for months, in her final lengthy illness in 1955. He did not betray her as she had betrayed him.

That unwanted 12 year old child turned into a 14 year old who lied about his age to enter the service in World War I. Anything was probably better than trying to scavenge. It’s no wonder he spent the majority of his life, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places” and trying to pretend everything was OK when it wasn’t.

I have never believed, nor do I believe today, that the past is necessarily a predictor or deterministic of the future. I don’t believe that parents’ actions dictate what the child will turn out to be, either bad or good, although they certainly have an influence. The world is full of examples that disprove that logic, in both directions. I fully believe that nurture can either overcome or mediate nature – excepting of course for barriers like Down’s Syndrome that people are born with – and that our own personal decisions are what drives and determines our lives. Of course, sometimes there seems to be no nurture, but still, we have the ability to choose and to change – to create our own destiny.

My father was no angel. He was human. I have no idea how much of his behavior sprung from his early environment, but I know that later he made choices that were not in his own best interest and he paid dearly for them.

The Father I Knew

The father I knew loved me, doted on me in fact, for just short of 8 years. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1963.

He spent quality time with me when I did see him. He made special meals and I got to have special “coffee” with him. Coffee parties instead of tea parties. Of course, “coffee” was really warm milk and sugar with enough coffee to look like today’s latte. He played dolls with me, pulled me in my red wagon and often held me as I slept. I have no bad or negative memories of him.

My parents separated when I was young. While my father was a doting father to me, he was also doting in a different way, it appears, on women other than my mother.  A long-time pattern with my father it seems, as with his father.

My “half-brother,” Dave, who also knew my father, remembered him in the same affectionate way.

The father we knew took us fishing and was a man we adored. Our father rescued animals in need, a raccoon whose mother was killed on the road, an orphan duck and a little dog named Timmy. He rescued people too, including two orphan children from the orphanage in Knightstown, Indiana with his last wife, Virgie.

Dave and I who were born when my father was in his 50s have very different memories about my father than my sister, Edna, who was born when my father was in his 20s.

Edna did not know our father as a child and her opinion of him was formed entirely from her mother’s perspective.

My father did find Edna as an adult and tried to establish a relationship, as best you can after a prolonged absence. Pictured above, my father with Edna’s children between about 1958-1960.

I surely don’t blame Edna’s mother for how she felt, as my father was anything but a model husband – at least until his last marriage.

His last wife, Virgie, a lovely woman, knew him, understood him and loved him. In a letter to me after his death, she wrote that no matter what anyone said about him, no one knew what he had survived as a child and that he was not all bad. Perhaps he at last finally found the love he sought so desperately. I hope so. He was killed two years and 3 days after their marriage.

Our Identity

Our identity, in many ways, is tied to our family – to our parents. It’s tied to knowing that our parents are our parents, that our father is our father, that our siblings are indeed our siblings. It’s rooted in what we believe to be true and in good memories that make us feel warm, wanted and loved.

Our identity is uprooted when we discover something that contradicts, challenges or disproves that identify, and to say it’s upsetting is just about as big an understatement as can be made.

It shakes our very worldview, of ourselves and our place in the family. It makes us question if we are somehow less worthy because of circumstances beyond our control. We wonder if we were unwanted, a mistake, or an inconvenience.

We question who we really are. These types of discoveries are life-shaking and life-altering.

Grief

I’ve always felt that many times, I’ve been brought to and through something to provide me with perspective so that I can help others. Perhaps that’s one way of making bad things alright – of finding a plateau for acceptance – or maybe it’s just my justification for why bad or painful things happen. The silver living, so to speak. Regardless, it’s a way of helping others through situations that are almost impossible to understand without having walked a mile in those shoes.

Sometimes that mile is awfully long, uphill and freefalling at the same time, and treacherous, let me tell you. The worst roller-coaster ride you’ll ever experience.

Such was the case with the discovery that my brother, Dave, wasn’t really my brother. I then spent months doubting that my father was my father, only to discover that he was my father, and not Dave’s father. It was a miserable few months filled with doubt, dread and anxiety. The end was a mixture of relief for myself and anguish for Dave’s loss – information I never shared with him because he was terminally ill at that point.

In essence, I twice, within a few months, lost the brother I so loved.

That experience gave me the opportunity to experience the agony that others would as well, but also to learn that love really has nothing to do with biology. The depth of suffering is equal to the depth of love.

When we lose what we believe, there is grief involved. Grief over the lost truth, over the part of what we believed ourselves to be that isn’t, doesn’t exist, and dies before the rebirth of a revised identity.

Sometimes grief over the fact that someone lied to us, or hid the truth – even if they believed it was for our own good or their own protection. Grief has many reasons and many forms. But when we lose something we held dear, in any form, we grieve.

The Double Whammy

When grief is mixed with betrayal, it’s even worse. Betrayal takes a couple of forms too. Betrayal of oneself, of a moral compass, or personal betrayal by someone we love and thought we could trust.

Think of betrayal of a moral compass as occurring when someone does something that they know they shouldn’t – and do it anyway. And I’m not talking about eating chocolate here – but actions that are socially, culturally or legally unacceptable – generally addressed by legal or severe personal consequences.

Think of personal betrayal as when you discover that your spouse cheated on you.

Sometimes betrayals involved both kinds of issues. Those are particularly ugly.

Times Three

This past week or two, I’ve gotten to experience up close and personal three different betrayal/grief situations – although they are not all three mine. Two belong to close friends, which means I share their pain as I have been involved in their respective journeys.

In one case, a woman accidentally discovered through DNA that her mother and her uncle are half instead of full siblings. Yes, there are all kinds of reasons why that might be, but the first assumption out the gate is always that grandma cheated. That may not be the case, but other options, like the possibility that nonconsensual sex might be involved is also disturbing. Most of us clearly know what is involved in begetting, but we really don’t want to know the details of grandma’s sex life. TMI.

Regardless of why, the revelation that the person you grew up with believing was your full sibling is not, and the entire family lived in ignorance, except for one person, who probably lived a lie – is very disturbing on several levels. It means rethinking everything and everyone involved. It also means you’ll probably never know what really happened, but you get to deal with all of the possibilities. A homework assignment no one signs up for.

Been there, done that. It’s ugly and it takes time to get used to your new identity that you don’t like nearly as well as your old one. Your family members get new identities too. And grandma? You’re just confused about her, at the same time remembering that women at that time had very few options. All I can say is try not to judge.

It takes time to process through all of this very emotional high drama, especially when you suddenly realize you’ve spent several decades working on the genealogy of a line that isn’t yours. One more thing to grieve.

In the second case, a friend discovered the identity of his father, after decades of looking, being one of two brothers. Along with that, he discovered why the secret was closely guarded by his mother for her entire life. It’s one of those stories that would make a wonderful soap opera or reality TV show – so long as it’s not your own story. It’s also incredibly sad on so many levels.

My friend is well adjusted. He’ll absorb this, he’ll deal with it and go on. He now owns the truth he sought for so long. However, I know he was hoping that maybe his father had “only been a married man.” At one time, his mother having an affair with a married man seemed scandalous, but compared to the truth, it’s the tame option.

While these types of events are extremely interesting and colorful if they aren’t your ancestors, they are far from amusing when you discover that they pertain to your parent.

Which leads me to the third situation. My own.

Let’s just say that sometimes you have to go through a really dark tunnel to emerge into the light.

The Dominoes Fall

There is a great irony to the fact that I am probably the only person, ever, that knows, or will know when I’m finished, the truth about my father’s life. Except for my father, William Sterling Estes, himself, of course.

The dominoes began to fall a couple weeks ago. And they haven’t stopped. Just when I think there can’t possibly be any more left to discover, there is. It there a bottom to this barrel?

While the two circumstances with my friends involved DNA, one as the accidental medium of discovery, and one as the solution to the long-standing question of paternity, my situation, ironically, has nothing at all to do with DNA.

What are the chances, right?

Sometimes people think that only DNA reveals unsettling surprises, but that’s not the case. Unmasking the truth is as old as genealogy and research itself.

I’ve been prepared for years to find an unknown sibling, or two, or maybe three. Kind of hopeful, actually, since all of the ones I know about are deceased. Nope, that didn’t happen via DNA.

What I have discovered is why there was such a big gap in my father’s life.

Pandora’s Box

Let’s just say I’m struggling through this. I am extremely grateful for the woman who sent me the information, but man alive, has it ever opened a Pandora’s box. Like my friend who unveiled the identity of his father, I got what I wanted but the situation discovered is very disturbing on several different levels – which is obviously why it was hidden by anyone who knew.

The information revealed that my father was using an alias, and was prosecuted for statutory rape after marrying a 15 year old girl. The female in question had listed her age on the marriage license as 18, and had previously told him she was 24 when they met. The testimony asserts that the girl’s mother told my father that the female in question was 15 five days before they were married, which means that he committed statutory rape, because he was an adult. And yes, he went to prison for a felony – for having sex with his wife, who was less than 30 days away from being 16 which was the legal age of consent in that state at that time.

Scratching your head as to how that makes sense? Me too.

The first thing I did was to have a huge meltdown when I saw the words statutory rape. I mean, the second word is horrible enough, before the addition of the first word. That was before I discovered the details, almost two weeks into this nightmare, specifically the age discrepancy issue and the fact that the wife lied about her age on the marriage license – and that the “event” was consensual. I breathed a huge sigh of relief about the consensual part, because I really did not want to think of my father in the way I typically think of a rapist.

There had been vague rumblings in the family about a situation like that, but I thought I had disproved those rumors years ago, based on when and where my father applied for his Social Security card. I was wrong. This was something entirely different. The original rumbling was probably two stories conflated together or someone who only knew a tidbit. That old smoke and fire thing again.

I found it difficult to believe that my father was sentenced to prison under the stated circumstances, so I talked to a historian at the archives in the state where this occurred and then visited the county where the trial proceedings remain.  The verdict; yes, that is exactly what happened and why. If a male over the age of consent had sex with a female under the age of consent, it was considered statutory rape. There was absolutely no legal differentiation between that and forcible rape, and the mandatory sentence was the same too.

The woman who sent me the original information assumed I knew about “it” and had omitted the information from his timeline because of what “it” was. Believe me, “it” was news to me.

If you’re saying “Holy Cow” or the same phrase with another word in place of cow, so was I. I walked around for days shaking my head and doing the facepalm. I desperately want to grab ahold of my father, shake him, and scream, “What the hell were you thinking?”

An alias and an underaged girl – what was he thinking? My mother had a saying about that kind of behavior too – something to do with thinking with the wrong body part.

Of course, I’m assuming here that my father did in fact know her true age, but I suspect that he had no idea he could be prosecuted if they were married. Perhaps that’s why they married. Or maybe he believed the girl’s version of her age. His testimony is not included in the case because he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

Why did he do that, considering the length of a sentence for statutory rape? Perhaps to spare his wife from having to testify about very private things? Maybe he didn’t fully understand. We’ll never know, because I clearly can’t ask him what he was thinking.

I do know, based on his letters, that he didn’t realize that his wife divorced him a couple years later. How sad is that?

And in the greatest of ironies, the judge who sentenced him wound up trying to help him, saying that his hands were tied in the situation by the guilty plea and the mandatory sentence required.

The Maze

I feel like I’ve spent the past two weeks or so living in a twisty-turny maze that rivals any spine-tingling gripping can’t-put-it-down novel I’ve ever read. Except this is no novel.

As any good genealogist knows, there are clues to be followed. And yes, because I can’t not know, I dug into every clue with the tenacity of a beagle after a fresh bone.

It’s been a productive search too, finding records at state and county archives. Many records. Some with depositions and testimony. Some include heartbreaking letters…from my father.

My father did go to prison, but he was not a violent man. He seemed to have been somewhat impulsive and he loved too many women, the wrong women, too closely together. I can’t help but wonder if there are more wives and marriages yet to be discovered, but because he was using an alias or aliases, I’ll likely never know. If you’re up for some high drama entertainment, you can read more about my father’s story here.

I’m guessing alcohol played a part in his errant decisions too. I’m not surprised, given what we know about his childhood. Both of his brothers had alcohol issues as well. Maybe nature and nurture were both stacked against them.

My mother and others said that my father fought with the demon, alcohol, and tried repeatedly to “get clean.” Those were the days before AA. At his death, Virgie, his wife at the time, said he was clean and had “dried out” in the VA hospital in Fort Wayne. Her daughter said he had fallen off the wagon. Regardless of whether he ultimately won that battle in his 60s or was defeated one last time by alcohol, alcoholism surely informed many of his decisions and negatively affected the relationships in his life in the years my mother knew him – and probably earlier as well.

Yes, my father’s life was “colorful” in a very sad way and the price he paid was heart-wrenching and dark. I shudder to think about his life in prison. I’m still struggling with the reality of my father and prison and all of the associated connotations and baggage.

A history of prisons in the state where he served exists, and it’s so horrid I haven’t been able to read more than a few paragraphs at a time. Yes, prisoners deserve to serve time, but they don’t deserve to be chained together for up to 18 hours a day, working on road construction in the unrelenting heat as, one by one, they fall and die. That’s torture, not punishment or rehabilitation.  He served during that time. Is it any wonder that the prison’s detailed inmate records for this time period have somehow disappeared over the years?

More than once in these past couple of weeks I have wondered if it would have been an easier discovery to find out he wasn’t my father at all – rather than to discover my father was not quite who I thought he was.

Conflict

I will be sharing more with you as I can, while respecting the privacy of people who may still be living. When you’re doing genealogy, you really never expect the big reveal to be your parent – and certainly not in quite this way.

But first, before I can share more, I have to finish the research and get through this dark space and out of the tunnel into the light.

I’m both very angry with my father for his behavior that can’t be called anything but massively stupid, at best, and predatory at worst. It’s very difficult to wrap my head around that and to know that I’ll probably never really know whether he was in some ways a victim himself or whether he was, in truth, a slimy bottom feeder. Or some combination of both.

At the same time, my heart aches terribly for him based on some of the evidence that has come forward. He was, after all, my father, the man I loved and adored. The thought of him being tortured, for years, tears at the very fabric of my soul. Yet, he survived, and so will I.

It’s hard to feel this conflicted about someone you dearly loved and idolized as a child and who was ripped from your life by death. It’s also very difficult to reconcile the man I knew with the man in the impersonal black and white words of the legal proceedings staring back at me resolutely and unblinkingly from paper yellowed with age.

I am sharing this most difficult journey because I want others who find themselves in this darkness, regardless of the details of what put you into this space, to know that you are not alone.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

For all of you who might make or have made an inconvenient or unwelcome discovery – through DNA or through traditional genealogical records – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And yes, it’s really dark and ugly and lonely in the tunnel, because it’s a tunnel you have to walk alone.

As you struggle in that dark place, I want you to remember something.

You are YOU, not someone else. You may be a biological product of your parents, but more so you are a product of your own hard work and your personal decisions. Your accomplishments and your decisions are yours. Parents don’t get the credit and they don’t get the blame.

Whatever the dark space, you are the awesome outcome, regardless of anything else. You have the opportunity and potential to shine.

Unwelcome discoveries like this may cause you to doubt or devalue yourself. Don’t.

Just. Don’t. Go. There.

There is a fork in the road, multiple forks in the road, for all of us, and it’s the choice you make at those forks that matters. Those forks define your life.  Your forks – your decisions, not theirs. Their forks do not reflect on you.

Your life is your book. Your parents only get an opening chapter. You get to write the rest. Those are your blank pages to fill. Yours. Only yours.

You are only in control of you. Your ancestor’s decisions, while they clearly affect your life in terms of your existence, where you were born and your economic circumstances, do not define who you are or dictate the kind of person that you evolve to be or the choices you make.

Regardless of the creepy critters in the dark haunted tunnel, the trap doors and the spider webs, there is a light at the end and you will emerge a better and more empathetic person than you entered. It’s painful, but not fatal.

Just keep walking, putting one foot in front of the other, and don’t be afraid. The discovery is the worst part, and by the time you’re walking in that tunnel, the discovery is over. You’re now in the healing process. Your wounds will become scars that testify to your strength and survival. Be proud of your resilience.

Just. Keep. Walking.

As I used to say to my kids, “the only way to it is through it.”

Feel the feelings you need to feel, but don’t let those consume you or define you either – and don’t wallow there. No good will come of that. Purposefully walk through the tunnel and out the other end into the warmth and light. The rest of your life is waiting for you, and you ARE the light for others.

Easter is, after all, a time of resurrection and redemption – of the earth when flowers joyfully spring from their long sleep and as our souls emerge from colorless hibernation as well.

Take heart, spring always arrives, no matter how long, cold or bleak the winter in the tunnel!

Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

Somehow, I missed the announcement that Family Tree DNA now accepts uploads from MyHeritage.

Update – Shortly after the publication of this article, I was notified that the MyHeritage download has been disabled and they are working on the issue which is expected to be resolved shortly.  Family Tree DNA is ready when the MyHeritage downloads are once again functional.

Other people may have missed a few announcements too, or don’t understand the options, so I’ve created a quick and easy reference that shows which testing vendors’ files can be uploaded to which other vendors.

Why Transfer?

Just so that everyone is on the same page, if you test your autosomal DNA at one vendor, Vendor A, some other vendors allow you to download your raw data file from Vendor A and transfer your results to their company, Vendor B.  The transfer to Vendor B is either free or lower cost than testing from scratch.  One site, GedMatch, is not a testing vendor, but is a contribution/subscription comparison site.

Vendor B then processes your DNA file that you imported from Vendor A, and your results are then included in the database of Vendor B, which means that you can obtain your matches to other people in Vendor B’s data base who tested there originally and others who have also transferred.  You can also avail yourself of any other tools that Vendor B provides to their customers.  Tools vary widely between companies.  For example, Family Tree DNA, GedMatch and 23andMe provide chromosome browsers, while Ancestry does not.  All 3 major vendors (Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe) have developed unique offerings (of varying quality) to help their customers understand the messages that their unique DNA carries.

Ok, Who Loves Whom?

The vendors in the left column are the vendors performing the autosomal DNA tests. The vendor row (plus GedMatch) across the top indicates who accepts upload transfers from whom, and which file versions. Please consider the notes below the chart.

  • Family Tree DNA accepts uploads from both other major vendors (Ancestry and 23andMe) but the versions that are compatible with the chip used by FTDNA will have more matches at Family Tree DNA. 23andMe V3, Ancestry V1 and MyHeritage results utilize the same chip and format as FTDNA. 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 utilize different formats utilizing only about half of the common locations. Family Tree DNA still allows free transfers and comparisons with other testers, but since there are only about half of the same DNA locations in common with the FTDNA chip, matches will be fewer. Additional functions can be unlocked for a one time $19 fee.
  • Neither Ancestry, 23andMe nor Genographic accept transfer data from any other vendors.
  • MyHeritage does accept transfers, although that option is not easy to find. I checked with a MyHeritage representative and they provided me with the following information:  “You can upload an autosomal DNA file from your profile page on MyHeritage. To access your profile page, login to your MyHeritage account, then click on your name which is displayed towards the top right corner of the screen. Click on “My profile”. On the profile page you’ll see a DNA tab, click on the tab and you’ll see a link to upload a file.”  MyHeritage has also indicated that they will be making ethnicity results available to individuals who transfer results into their system in May, 2017.
  • LivingDNA has just released an ethnicity product and does not have DNA matching capability to other testers.  They also do not provide a raw DNA download file for customers, but hope to provide that feature by mid-May. Without a download file, you cannot transfer your DNA to other companies for processing and inclusion in their data bases. Living DNA imputes DNA locations that they don’t test, but the initial download, when available, file will only include the DNA locations actually tested. According to LivingDNA, the Illumina GSA chip includes 680,000 autosomal markers. It’s unclear at this point how many of these locations overlaps with other chips.
  • WeGene’s website is in Chinese and they are not a significant player, but I did include them because GedMatch accepts their files. WeGene’s website indicates that they accept 23andme uploads, but I am unable to determine which version or versions. Given that their terms and conditions and privacy and security information are not in English, I would be extremely hesitant before engaging in business. I would not be comfortable in trusting on online translation for this type of document. SNPedia reports that WeGene has data quality issues.
  • GedMatch is not a testing vendor, so has no entry in the left column, but does provide tools and accepts all versions of files from each vendor that provides files, to date, with the exception of the Genographic Project.  GedMatch is free (contribution based) for many features, but does have more advanced functions available for a $10 monthly subscription.
  • The Genographic Project tested their participants at the Family Tree DNA lab until November 2016, when they moved to the Helix platform, which performs an exome test using a different chip.
  • The Ancestry V2 chip began processing in May 2016.
  • The 23andMe V3 chip began processing in December 2010. The 23andMe V4 chip began processing in November 2013.

Incompatible Files

Please be aware that vendors that accept different versions of other vendors files can only work with the tested locations that are in the files generated by the testing vendors unless they use a technique called imputation.

For example, Family Tree DNA tests about 700,000 locations which are on the same chip as MyHeritage, 23andMe V3 and Ancestry V1. In the later 23andMe V4 test, the earlier 23andMe V2 and the Ancestry V2 tests, only a portion of the same locations are tested.  The 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 chips only test about half of the file locations of the vendors who utilize the Illumina OmniExpress chip, but not the same locations as each other since both the Ancestry V2 and 23andMe V4 chips are custom. 23andMe and Ancestry both changed their chips from the OmniExpress version and replaced genealogically relevant locations with medically relevant locations, creating a custom chip.

I know this if confusing, so I’ve created the following chart for chip and test compatibility comparison.

You can easily see why the FTDNA, Ancestry V1, 23andMe V3 and MyHeritage tests are compatible with each other.  They all tested utilizing the same chip.  However, each vendor then applies their own unique matching and ethnicity algorithms to customer results, so your results will vary with each vendor, even when comparing ethnicity predictions or matching the same two individuals to each other.

Apples to Apples to Imputation

It’s difficult for vendors to compare apples to apples with non-compatible files.

I wrote about imputation in the article about MyHeritage, here. In a nutshell, imputation is a technique used to infer the DNA for locations a vendor doesn’t test (or doesn’t receive in a transfer file from another vendor) based on the location’s neighboring DNA and DNA that is “normally” passed together as a packet.

However, the imputed regions of DNA are not your DNA, and therefore don’t carry your mutations, if any.

I created the following diagram when writing the MyHeritage article to explain the concept of imputation when comparing multiple vendors’ files showing locations tested, overlap and imputed regions. You can click to enlarge the graphic.

Family Tree DNA has chosen not to utilize imputation for transfer files and only compares the actual DNA locations tested and uploaded in vendor files, while MyHeritage has chosen to impute locations for incompatible files. Family Tree DNA produces fewer, but accurate matches for incompatible transfer files.  MyHeritage continues to have matching issues.

MyHeritage may be using imputation for all transfer files to equalize the files to a maximum location count for all vendor files. This is speculation on my part, but is speculation based on the differences in matches from known compatible file versions to known matches at the original vendor and then at MyHeritage.

I compared matches to the same person at MyHeritage, GedMatch, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. It appears that imputed matches do not consistently compare reliably. I’m not convinced imputation can ever work reliably for genetic genealogy, because we need our own DNA and mutations. Regardless, imputation is in its infancy today.

To date, two vendors are utilizing imputation. LivingDNA is using imputation with the GSA chip for ethnicity, and MyHeritage for DNA matching.

Summary

Your best results are going to be to test on the platform that the vendor offers, because the vendor’s match and ethnicity algorithms are optimized for their own file formats and DNA locations tested.

That means that if you are transferring an Ancestry V1 file, a 23andMe V3 file or a MyHeritage file, for example, to Family Tree DNA, your matches at Family Tree DNA will be the same as if you tested on the FTDNA platform.  You do not need to retest at Family Tree DNA.

However, if you are transferring an Ancestry V2 file or 23andMe V4 file, you will receive some matches, someplace between one quarter and half as compared to a test run on the vendor’s own chip. For people who can’t be tested again, that’s certainly better than nothing, and cross-chip matching generally picks up the strongest matches because they tend to match in multiple locations. For people who can retest, testing at Family Tree DNA would garner more matches and better ethnicity results for those with 23andMe V2 and V4 tests as well as Ancestry V2 tests.

For absolutely best results, swim in all of the major DNA testing pools, test as many relatives as possible, and test on the vendor’s Native chip to obtain the most matches.  After all, without sharing and matching, there is no genetic genealogy!

Introducing the Match-Maker-Breaker Tool for Parental Phasing

A few days after I published the article, Concepts – Segment Size, Legitimate and False Matches, Philip Gammon, a statistician who lives in Australia, posted a comment to my blog.

Great post Roberta! I’m a statistician so my eyes light up as soon as I see numbers. That table you have produced showing by segment length the percentage that are IBD is one of the most useful pieces of information that I have seen. Two days to do the analysis!!! I’m sure that I could write a formula that would identify the IBD segments and considerably reduce this time.

By this time, my eyes were lighting up too, because the work for the original article had taken me two days to complete manually, just using segments 3 cM and above. Using smaller segments would have taken days longer. By manually, I mean comparing the child’s matches with that of both parents’ matches to see which, if either, parent the child’s match also matches on the same segment.

In the simplest terms, the Segment Size article explained how to copy the child’s and both parents’ matches to a spreadsheet and then manually compare the child’s matches to those of the parents. In the example above, you can see that both the child and the mother have matches to Cecelia. As it turns out, the exact same segment of DNA was passed in its entirety to the child from the mother, who is shown in pink – so Cecelia matches both the child and the parent on exactly the same segment.

That’s not always the case, and the Segment Size article went into much greater detail.

For the past month or so, Philip and I have been working back and forth, along with some kind volunteers who tested Philip’s new tool, in order to create something so that you too can do this comparison and in much less than two days.

Foundation

Here’s the underlying principle for this tool – if a child has a match that does NOT match either parent on the same segment, then the match is not a legitimate match. It’s a false match, identical by chance, and it is NOT genealogically relevant.

If the child’s match also matches either parent on the same segment, it is most likely a match by descent and is genealogically relevant.

For those of you who noticed the words “most likely,” yes, it is possible for someone to match a parent and child both and still not phase (or match) to the next higher generation, but it’s unusual and so far, only found in smaller segments. I wrote about multiple generation phasing in the article, “Concepts – Segment Survival – 3 and 4 Generation Phasing.” Once a segment phases, it tends to continue phasing, especially with segments above about 3.5 cM.

For those who have both parents available to test, phased matching is a HUGE benefit.

But I Have Only One Parent Available

You can still use the tool to identify matches to that one parent, but you CANNOT presume that matches that DON’T match that parent are from the other (missing) parent. Matches matching the child but not matching the tested parent can be due to:

  • A match to the missing parent
  • A false match that is not genealogically relevant

According to the statistics generated from Philip’s Match-Maker-Breaker tool, shown below, segments 9 cM and above tend to match one or the other parent 90% or more of the time.  Segments 12 cM and over match 97% of the time or more, so, in general, one could “assume” (dangerous word, I know) that segments of this size that don’t match to the tested parent would match to the other parent if the other parent was available. You can also see that the reliability of that assumption drops rapidly as the segment sizes get smaller.

Platform

This tool was written utilizing Microsoft Excel and only works reliably on that platform.

If you are using Excel and are NOT attempting to use MAC Numbers, skip this section.  If you want to attempt to use Numbers, read this section.

I tried, along with a MAC person, to try to coax Numbers (free MAC spreadsheet) into working. If you have any other option other than using Numbers, so do. Microsoft Excel for MAC seemed to work fine, but it was only tested on one MAC.

Here’s what I discovered when trying to make Numbers work:

  • You must first launch numbers and then select the various spreadsheets.
  • The tabs are not at the bottom and are instead at the top without color.
  • The instructions for copying the formulas in cells H2-K2 throughout the spreadsheet must be done manually with a copy/paste.
  • After the above step, the calculations literally took a couple hours (MacBook Air) instead of a couple minutes on the PC platform. The older MAC desktop still took significantly longer than on a Microsoft PC, but less time than the solid state MacBook Air.
  • After the calculations complete, the rows on the child’s spreadsheet are not colored, which is one of the major features of the Match-Maker-Breaker tool, as Numbers reports that “Conditional highlighting rules using formulas are not supported and were removed.”
  • Surprisingly, the statistical Reports page seems to function correctly.

How Long Does Running Match-Maker-Breaker Tool on a PC Take?

The first time I ran this tool, which included reading Philip’s instructions for the first time, the entire process took me about 10 minutes after I downloaded the files from Family Tree DNA.

Vendors

This tool only works with matches downloaded from Family Tree DNA.

Transfer Kits

It’s strongly suggested that all 3 individuals being compared have tested at Family Tree DNA or on the same chip version imported into Family Tree DNA.

Matches not run on the same chip as Family Tree DNA testers can only provide a portion of the matches that the same person’s results run on the FTDNA chip can provide. You can run the matching tool with transferred results, but the results will only provide a subset of the results that will be provided by having all parties that are being compared, meaning the child and both parents, test at Family Tree DNA.

The following products versions CAN be all be compared successfully at Family Tree DNA, as they all utilize the same Illumina chip:

  • All Family Finder tests
  • Ancestry V1 (before May 2016)
  • 23andMe V3 (before November 2013)
  • MyHeritage

The following tests do NOT utilize the same Illumina testing platform and cannot be compared successfully with Family Finder tests from Family Tree DNA, or the list above. Cross platform testing results cannot be reliably compared. Those that DO match will be accurate, but many will not match that would match if all 3 testers were utilizing the same platform, therefore leading you to inaccurate conclusions.

  • Ancestry V2 (beginning in May 2016 to present)
  • 23andMe V4 (beginning November 2013 to present)

The child and two parents should not be compared utilizing mixed platforms – meaning, for example, that the child should not have been tested at FTDNA and the parents transferred from Ancestry on the V2 platform since May 2016.

If any of the three family members, being the child or either parent, have tested on an incompatible platform, they should retest at Family Tree DNA before using this tool.

What You Need

  • You will need to download the chromosome match lists from the child and both parents, AT THE SAME TIME. I can’t stress this enough, because any matches that have been added for either of the three people at a later time than the others will skew the matching and the statistics. Matches are being added all the time.
  • You will also need a relatively current version of Excel on your computer to run this tool. No, I did not do version compatibility testing so I don’t know how old is too old. I am running MSOffice 2013.
  • You will need to know how to copy and paste data from and to a spreadsheet.

Instructions for Downloading Match Files

My recommendation is that you download your matches just before utilizing this tool.

To download your matches, sign on to each account. On your main page, you will see the Family Finder section, and the Chromosome Browser. Click on that link.

At the top of the chromosome browser page, below, you’ll see the image of chromosomes 1 through X. At the top right, you’ll see the option to “Download all matches to Excel (CSV Format). Click on that link.

Next, you’ll receive a prompt to open or save the file. Save it to a file name that includes the name of the person plus the date you did the download. I created a separate folder so there would be no confusion about which files are which and whether or not they are current.

Your match file includes all of your matches and the chromosome matching locations like the example shown below.

These files of matches are what you’ll need to copy into the Match-Maker-Breaker spreadsheet.

Do not delete any information from your match spreadsheets. If you normally delete small segments, don’t. You may cause a non-match situation if the parent carries a larger portion of the same segment.

You can rerun the Match-Maker-Breaker tool at will, and it only takes a very few minutes.

The Match-Maker-Breaker Tool

The Match-Maker-Breaker Tool has 5 sheets when you open the spreadsheet:

  • Instructions – Please read entirely before beginning.
  • Results – The page where your statistical results will be placed.
  • Child – The page where you will paste the child’s matches and then look at the match results after processing.
  • Father – The page where you will paste the father’s matches.
  • Mother – The page where you will paste the mother’s matches.

Download

Download the free Match-Maker-Breaker tool which is a spreadsheet by clicking on this link: Match-Maker-Breaker Tool V2

Please don’t start using the tool before reading the instructions completely and reading the rest of this article.

Make a Copy

After you download the tool, make a copy on your system. You’ll want to save the Match-Maker-Breaker spreadsheet file for each trio of people individually, and you’ll want a fresh Match-Maker-Breaker spreadsheet copy to run with each new set of download files.

Instructions

I’m not going to repeat Philip’s instructions here, but please read them entirely before beginning and please follow them exactly. Philip has included graphic illustrations of each step to the right of the instruction box. The spreadsheet opens to the Instructions page. You can print the instruction page as well.

Copy/Pasting Data

When copying the parents’ and child’s data into the spreadsheets, do NOT copy and paste the entire page by selecting the page. Select and copy the relevant columns by highlighting columns A through G by touching your cursor to the A-G across the top, as shown below.  After they are selected, then click on “copy.” In the child’s chromosome browser download spreadsheet, position the curser in the first cell in row 1 in the child’s page of the Match-Maker-Breaker spreadsheet and click on “paste.”

Do NOT select columns H-K when highlighting and copying, or your paste will wipe out Philip’s formulas to do calculations on the child’s tab on the spreadsheet.

The example above, assuming that Annie is the last entry on the spreadsheet, shows that I’ve highlighted all of the cells in columns A-G, prior to executing the copy command. Your spreadsheets of course will be much longer.

I wrote a very quick and dirty article about using Excel here

The Match Making Breaking Part

After you copy the formulas from rows H2 to K2 through the rest of the spreadsheet by following Philip’s instructions, you’ll see the results populating in the status bar at the bottom. You’ll also see colors being added to the matches on the left hand side of the spreadsheet page and counts accruing in the 4 right columns. Be patient and wait. It may take a few minutes. When it’s finished, you can verify by scrolling to the last row on the child’s page and you’ll see something like the example below, where every row has been assigned a color and every match that matches the child and the father, mother, both or is found in the HLA region is counted as 1 in the right 4 columns.

In this example, 5 segments, shown in grey, don’t match anyone, one, shown in tan is found in the HLA region, and three match the father, in blue.

Output

After you run the Match-Maker-Breaker tool, the child’s matches on the Child tab will be identified as follows:

This means that segment of the child that matches that individual also matches the father, the mother, both parents, the HLA region, or none of the above on all or part of that same segment.

What is a Match?

Philip and I worked to answer the question, “what is a match?” In the Concepts article, I discussed the various kinds of matches.

  • Full match: The child’s match and parent’s match share the same exact segment, meaning same start and end points and same number of SNPs within that segment.
  • Partial match: The child’s match matches a portion of the segment from the parent – meaning that the child inherited part of the segment, but not the entire segment.
  • Overhanging match: The child’s match matches part or all of the parent’s segment, but either the beginning or end extends further than the parents match. This means that the overlapping portion is legitimate, meaning identical by descent (IBD), but the overhanging portion is identical by chance (IBC.)
  • Nested match: The child’s match is smaller than the match to the parent, but fully within the parent’s match, indicating a legitimate match.
  • No match: The person matches the child, but neither parent, meaning that this match is not legitimate. It’s identical by chance (IBC).

Full matches and no matches are easy.

However, partial matches, overlapping matches and nested matches are not as straightforward.

What, exactly, is a match? Let’s look at some different scenarios.

If someone matches a parent on a large segment, say 20cM, and only matches the child on 2cM, fully within the parent’s segment, is this match genealogically relevant, or could the match be matching the child by chance on a part of the same segment that they match the parents by descent? We have no way to know for sure, just utilizing this tool. Hopefully, in this case, the fact that the person matches the parent on a large segment would answer any genealogical questions through triangulation.

If the person matches the parent but only matches the child on a small portion of the same segment plus an overhanging region, is that a valid match? Because they do match on an overhanging region, we know that match is partly identical by chance, but is the entire match IBC or is the overlapping part legitimate? We don’t know. Partly, how strongly I would consider this a valid match would be the size of the matching portion of the segment.

One of the purposes of phasing and then looking at matches is to, hopefully, learn more about which matches are legitimate, which are not, and predictors of false versus legitimate matches.

Relative to this tool, no editing has been done, meaning that matches are presented exactly as that, regardless of their size or the type of match. A match is a match if any portion of the match’s DNA to the child overlaps any portion of either or both parent’s DNA, with the exception of part of chromosome 6. It’s up to you, as the genealogist, to figure out by utilizing triangulation and other tools whether the match is relevant or not to your genealogy.

If you are not familiar with identical by descent (meaning a legitimate match), identical by population (IBP) meaning identical by descent but because the population as a whole carries that segment and identical by chance (IBC) meaning a false match, the article Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance explains the terms and the concepts so that you can apply them usefully.

About Chromosome 6

After analyzing the results of several people, the area of chromosome 6 that includes the HLA region has been excluded from the analysis. Long known to be a pileup region where people carry significant segments of the same DNA that is not genealogically relevant (meaning IBP or identical by population,) this region has found to be often unreliable genealogically, and falls outside the norm as compared to the rest of the segments. This area has been annotated separately and excluded from match results. This was the only region found to universally have this effect.

This does not mean that a match in this region is positively invalid or false, but matches in the HLA region should be viewed very skeptically.

The Results Tab – Statistics

Now that you’ve populated the spreadsheet and you can see on the Child tab which matches also match either or both parents, or neither, or the HLA region, go to the Results tab of the spreadsheet.

This tab gives you some very interesting statistics.

First, you’ll see the number and percent of matches by chromosome.

The person compared was a female, so she would have X matches to both parents. However, notice that X matching is significantly lower than any of the other chromosomes.

Frankly, I’ve suspected for a long time that there was a dramatic difference in matching with the X chromosome, and wrote about it here. It was suggested by some at the time that I was only reporting my personal observations that would not hold beyond a few results (ascertainment bias), but this proves that there is something different about X chromosome matching. I don’t know what or why, but according to this data that is consistent between all of the beta testers, matching to the X chromosome is much less reliable.

The second statistics box you will see are statistics for the matches to the child that also match the parents. The actual matches of the child to the parents are shown as the 23 shown under “excluded from calculations.”

The next group of statistics on your page will be your own, but for this example, Philip has combined the results from several beta testers and provided summary information, so that the statistics are not skewed by any one individual.

Next, the match results by segment size for chromosomes 1-22. Philip has separated out segments with less than 500 SNPs and reports them separately.

You will note that 90% or more of the segments 9 cM and above match one of the two parents, and 97% or more of segments 12cM or above.

The X chromosome follows, analyzed separately. You’ll notice that while 27% of the matches on chromosomes 1-22 match one or both parents, only 14% of the X matches do.

Even with larger segments, not all X segments match both the child and the parents, suggesting that skepticism is warranted when evaluating X chromosome matches.

Philip then calculated a nice graph for showing matching autosomal segments by cM size, excluding the X.

The next set of charts shows matches by SNP density. Many people neglect SNP count when evaluating results, but the higher the SNP count, the more robust the match.

Note that SNP density above 2,200 almost always matched, but not always, while SNP density of 2,800 reaches the 97% threshold..

The X chromosome, by SNP count, below.

X segment reach the 100% threshold about 1600, however, we really need more results to be predictive at the same level as the results for chromosomes 1-22.  Two data samples really isn’t adequate.

Once again, Philip prepared a nice chart showing percentage of matching segments by SNP count, below.

Predictive

In the Segment Survival – 3 and 4 Generation Phasing article, one can see that phased matches are predictive, meaning that a child/parent match is highly suggestive that the segment is a valid segment match and that it will hold in generations further upstream.

Several years ago, Dr. Tim Janzen, one of the early phasing pioneers, suggested that people test their children, even if both parents had already tested. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how that would be the least bit productive, genealogically, since people were more likely to match the parents than the children, and children only carry a subset of their parent’s DNA.

However, the predictive nature of a segment being legitimate with a child/parent match to a third party means that even in situations where your own parent isn’t available, a match by a third party on the same segment with your child suggests that the match is legitimate, not IBC.

In the article, I showed both 3 and 4 generations of phased comparisons between generations of the same family and a known cousin. The results of the 5 different family comparisons are shown below, where the red segments did not phase or lost phasing between generations, and the green segments did phase through multiple generations.

Very, very few segments lost phasing in upper (older) generations after matching between a parent and a child. In the five 4-generation examples above, only a total of 7 groups of segments lost phasing. The largest segment that lost phasing in upper generations was 3.69 cM. In two examples, no segments were lost due to not phasing in upper generations.

The net-net of this is that you can benefit by testing your children if your parents aren’t available, because the matches on the segment to both you and the child are most likely to be legitimate. Of course, there will be segments where someone matches you and not your child, because your child did not inherit that segment of your DNA, and those may be legitimate matches as well. However, the segments where you and your child both match the same person will likely be legitimate matches, especially over about 3.5 cM. Please read the Segment Survival article for more details.

If you want to order additional Family Finder tests for more family members, you can click here.

Group Analysis

Philip has performed a group analysis which has produced some expected results along with some surprising revelations. I’d prefer to let people get their feet wet with this tool and the results it provides before publishing the results, with one exception.

In case you’re wondering if the comparisons used as examples, above, are representative of typical results, Philip analyzed 10 of our beta testers and says the following:

The results are remarkably consistent between all 10 participants. Summing it up in words: with each person that you match you will have an average of 11 matching segments. Three will be genuine and will add to [a total of] 21 cM. Eight will be false and add to [a total of] 19 cM.

Philip compiled the following chart summarizing 10 beta testers’ results. Please note that you can click to enlarge the images.

The X, being far less consistent, is shown below.

We Still Need Endogamous Parent-Child Trios

When I asked for volunteer testers, we were not able to obtain a trio of fully endogamous individuals. Specifically, we would like to see how the statistics for groups of non-endogamous individuals compare to the statistics for endogamous individuals.

Endogamous groups include people who are 100% Jewish, Amish, Mennonite, or have a significant amount of first or second cousin marriages in recent generations.

Of these, Jewish families prove to be the most highly endogamous, so if you are Jewish and have both Jewish parents’ DNA results, please run this tool and send either Philip or me the resulting spreadsheet. Your results won’t be personally identified, only the statistics used in conjunction with others, similar to the group analysis shown above. Your results will be entirely anonymous.

Philip’s e-mail is philip.gammon@optusnet.com.au and you can reach me at roberta@dnaexplain.com.

Caveat

Philip has created the Match-Maker-Breaker tool which is free to everyone. He has included some wonderful diagnostics, but Philip is not providing individual support for the tooI. In other words, this is a “what you see is what you get” gift.

Thank You and Acknowledgements

Of course, a very big thank you to Philip for creating this tool, and also to people who volunteered as alpha and beta testers and provided feedback. Also thanks to Jim Kvochick for trying to coax Numbers into working.

Match-Maker-Breaker Author Bio:

Philip’s official tagline reads: Philip Gammon, BEng(ManSysEng) RMIT, GradDipSc(AppStatistics) Swinburne

I asked Philip to describe himself.

I’d describe myself as a business analyst with a statistics degree plus an enthusiastic genetic genealogist with an interest in the mathematical and statistical aspects of inheritance and cousinship.

The important aspect of Philip’s resume is that he is applying his skills to genetic genealogy where they can benefit everyone. Thank you so much Philip.

Watch for some upcoming guest articles from Philip.

Jessica Biel – A Follow-up: DNA, Native Heritage and Lies

Jessica Biel’s episode aired on Who Do You Think You Are on Sunday, April 2nd. I wanted to write a follow-up article since I couldn’t reveal Jessica’s Native results before the show aired.

The first family story about Jessica’s Biel line being German proved to be erroneous. In total, Jessica had three family stories she wanted to follow, so the second family legend Jessica set out to research was her Native American heritage.

I was very pleased to see a DNA test involved, but I was dismayed that the impression was left with the viewing audience that the ethnicity results disproved Jessica’s Native heritage. They didn’t.

Jessica’s Ethnicity Reveal

Jessica was excited about her DNA test and opened her results during the episode to view her ethnicity percentages.

Courtesy TLC

The locations shown below and the percentages, above, show no Native ethnicity.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica was understandably disappointed to discover that her DNA did not reflect any Native heritage – conflicting with her family story. I feel for you Jessica.  Been there, done that.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica had the same reaction of many of us. “Lies, lies,” she said, in frustration.

Well Jessica, maybe not.

Let’s talk about Jessica’s DNA results.

Native or Lies?

I’ve written about the challenges with ethnicity testing repeatedly. At the end of this article, I’ll provide a reading resource list.

Right now, I want to talk about the misperception that because Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results showed no Native, that her family story about Native heritage is false. Even worse, Jessica perceived those stories to be lies. Ouch, that’s painful.

In my world view, a lie is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. Let’s say that Jessica really didn’t have Native heritage. That doesn’t mean someone intentionally lied. People might have been confused. Maybe they made assumptions. Sometimes facts are misremembered or misquoted. I always give my ancestors the benefit of the doubt unless there is direct evidence of an intentional lie. And if then, I would like to try to understand what prompted that behavior. For example, discrimination encouraged many people of mixed ethnicity to “pass” for white as soon as possible.

That’s certainly a forgivable “lie.”

Ok, Back to DNA

Autosomal DNA testing can only reliably pick up to about the 1% level of minority DNA admixture successfully – minority meaning a small amount relative to your overall ancestry.

Everyone inherits DNA from ancestors differently, in different amounts, in each generation. Remember, you receive half of your DNA from each parent, but which half of their DNA you receive is random. That holds true for every generation between the ancestor in question and Jessica today.  Ultimately, more or less than 50% of any ancestor’s DNA can be passed in any generation.

However, if Jessica inherited the average amount of DNA from each generation, being 50% of the DNA from the ancestor that the parent had, the following chart would represent the amount of DNA Jessica carried from each ancestor in each generation.

This chart shows the amount of DNA of each ancestor, by generation, that an individual testing today can expect to inherit, if they inherit exactly 50% of that ancestor’s DNA from the previous generation. That’s not exactly how it works, as we’ll see in a minute, because sometimes you inherit more or less than 50% of a particular ancestor’s DNA.

Utilizing this chart, in the 4th generation, Jessica has 16 ancestors, all great-great-grandparents. On average, she can expect to inherit 6.25% of the DNA of each of those ancestors.

In the rightmost column, I’ve shown Jessica’s relationship to her Jewish great-great-grandparents, shown in the episode, Morris and Ottilia Biel.

Jessica has two great-great-grandparents who are both Jewish, so the amount of Jewish DNA that Jessica would be expected to carry would be 6.25% times two, or 12.50%. But that’s not how much Jewish DNA Jessica received, according to Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates. Jessica received only 8% Jewish ethnicity, 36% less than average for having two Jewish great-great-grandparents.

Courtesy TLC

Now we know that Jessica carries less Jewish DNA that we would expect based on her proven genealogy.  That’s the nature of random recombination and how autosomal DNA works.

Now let’s look at the oral history of Jessica’s Native heritage.

Native Heritage

The intro didn’t tell us much about Jessica’s Native heritage, except that it was on her mother’s mother’s side. We also know that the fully Native ancestor wasn’t her mother or grandmother, because those are the two women who were discussing which potential tribe the ancestor was affiliated with.

We can also safely say that it also wasn’t Jessica’s great-grandmother, because if her great-grandmother had been a member of any tribe, her grandmother would have known that. I’d also wager that it wasn’t Jessica’s great-great-grandmother either, because most people would know if their grandmother was a tribal member, and Jessica’s grandmother didn’t know that. Barring a young death, most people know their grandmother. Utilizing this logic, we can probably safely say that Jessica’s Native ancestor was not found in the preceding 4 generations, as shown on the chart below.

On this expanded chart, I’ve included the estimated birth year of the ancestor in that particular generation, using 25 years as the average generation length.

If we use the logic that the fully Native ancestor was not between Jessica and her great-great-grandmother, that takes us back through an ancestor born in about 1882.

The next 2 generations back in time would have been born in 1857 and 1832, respectively, and both of those generations would have been reflected as Indian on the 1850 and/or 1860 census. Apparently, they weren’t or the genealogists working on the program would have picked up on that easy tip.

If Jessica’s Native ancestor was born in the 7th generation, in about 1807, and lived to the 1850 census, they would have been recorded in that census as Native at about 43 years of age. Now, it’s certainly possible that Jessica had a Native ancestor that might have been born about 1807 and didn’t live until the 1850 census, and whose half-Native children were not enumerated as Indian.

So, let’s go with that scenario for a minute.

If that was the case, the 7th generation born in 1807 contributed approximately 0.78% DNA to Jessica, IF Jessica inherited 50% in each generation. At 0.78%, that’s below the 1% level. Small amounts of trace DNA are reported as <1%, but at some point the amount is too miniscule to pick up or may have washed out entirely.

Let’s add to that scenario. Let’s say that Jessica’s ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed with some European. Traders were well known to marry into tribes. If Jessica’s “Native” ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed, that means Jessica today would carry even less than 0.78%.

You can easily see why this heritage, if it exists, might not show up in Jessica’s DNA results.

No Native DNA Does NOT Equal No Native Heritage

However, the fact that Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results don’t indicate Native American DNA doesn’t necessarily mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor.

It might mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor. But it might also mean that Jessica’s DNA can’t reliably disclose or identify Native ancestry that far back in time – both because of the genetic distance and also because Jessica may not have inherited exactly half of her ancestor’s Native DNA. Jessica’s 8% Jewish DNA is the perfect example of the variance in how DNA is actually passed versus the 50% average per generation that we have to utilize when calculating expected estimates.

Furthermore, keep in mind that all ethnicity tools are imprecise.  It’s a new field and the reference panels, especially for Native heritage, are not as robust as other groups.

Does Jessica Have Native Heritage?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but here’s what I do know.

  • You can’t conclude that because the ethnicity portion of a DNA test doesn’t show Native ancestry that there isn’t any.
  • You can probably say that any fully Native ancestor is not with in the past 6 generations, give or take a generation or so.
  • You can probably say that any Native ancestor is probably prior to 1825 or so.
  • You can look at the census records to confirm or eliminate Native ancestors in many or most lines within the past 6 or 7 generations.
  • You can utilize geographic location to potentially eliminate some ancestors from being Native, especially if you have a potential tribal affiliation. Let’s face it, Cherokees are not found in Maine, for example.
  • You can potentially utilize Y and mitochondrial DNA to reach further back in time, beyond what autosomal DNA can tell you.
  • If autosomal DNA does indicate Native heritage, you can utilize traditional genealogy research in combination with both Y and mitochondrial DNA to prove which line or lines the Native heritage came from.

Mitochondrial and Y DNA Testing

While autosomal DNA is constrained to 5 or 6 generations reasonably, Y and mitochondrial DNA is not.

Of course, Ancestry, who sponsors the Who Do You Think You Are series, doesn’t sell Y or mitochondrial DNA tests, so they certainly aren’t going to introduce that topic.

Y and mitochondrial DNA tests reach back time without the constraint of generations, because neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA are admixed with the other parent.

The Y DNA follows the direct paternal line for males, and mitochondrial DNA follows the direct matrilineal line for both males and females.

In the Concepts – Who To Test article, I discussed all three types of testing and who one can test to discover their heritage, through haplogroups, of each family line.  Every single one of your ancestors carried and had the opportunity to pass on either Y or mitochondrial DNA to their descendants.  Males pass the Y chromosome to male children, only, and females pass mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.

I don’t want to repeat myself about who carries which kind of DNA, but I do want to say that in Jessica’s case, based on what is known about her family, she could probably narrow the source of the potential Native ancestor significantly.

In the above example, if Jessica is the daughter – let’s say that we think the Native ancestor was the mother of the maternal great-grandmother. She is the furthest right on the chart, above. The pink coloring indicates that the pink maternal great grandmother carries the mitochondrial DNA and passed it on to the maternal grandmother who passed it to the mother who passed it to both Jessica and her siblings.

Therefore, Jessica or her mother, either one, could take a mitochondrial DNA test to see if there is deeper Native ancestry than an autosomal test can reveal.

When Y and mitochondrial DNA is tested, a haplogroup is assigned, and Native American haplogroups fall into subgroups of Y haplogroups C and Q, and subgroups of mitochondrial haplogroups A, B, C, D, X and probably M.

With a bit of genealogy work and then DNA testing the appropriate descendants of Jessica’s ancestors, she might still be able to discern whether or not she has Native heritage. All is not lost and Jessica’s Native ancestry has NOT been disproven – even though that’s certainly the impression left with viewers.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA Tests

If you’d like to order a Y or mitochondrial DNA test, I’d recommend the Full Mitochondrial Sequence test or the 37 marker Y DNA test, to begin with. You will receive a full haplogroup designation from the mitochondrial test, plus matching and other tools, and a haplogroup estimate with the Y DNA test, plus matching and other tools.

You can click here to order the mitochondrial DNA, the Y DNA or the Family Finder test which includes ethnicity estimates from Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA is the only DNA testing company that performs the Y and mitochondrial DNA tests.

Further Reading:

If you’d like to read more about ethnicity estimates, I’d specifically recommend “DNA Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

If you’d like more information on how to figure out what your ethnicity estimates should be, I’d recommend Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

You can also search on the word “ethnicity” in the search box in the upper right hand corner of the main page of this blog.

If you’d like to read more about Native American heritage and DNA testing, I’d  recommend the following articles. You can also search for “Native” in the search box as well.

How Much Indian Do I Have In Me?

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups

Concepts – Segment Survival – 3 and 4 Generation Phasing

Have you ever had something you need to refer back to and can’t find it? I do this more often than I care to admit.

About a year ago, I did a study when I was writing the “Concepts – Parental Phasing” article where I tracked segment matches from generation to generation through three generations.

I wanted to see how small versus large segments faired during the phasing process with a known relative. In other words, if a known relative matches a child and a parent on the same segment, does that known relative also match the relevant grandparent on that same segment, or is that match ”lost” in the older generation.

This first example shows the tester matching all 4 generations of the Curtis lineage.

The second example, below, shows the Tester matching only the two youngest generations, but not the Grandparent or Great-grandparent.

Obviously, the tester cannot match the child and parent without also matching the grandparent and great-grandparents, who have also tested, for the segment to be genealogically relevant, meaning passed from the common ancestor to both the tester and the descendants in the Curtis line.  For the match between the tester and the parent/child to be valid, meaning the DNA descended from the common ancestor, the DNA segment MUST also be carried by the Grandparent and Great-grandmother.

If the segment matches all four people, then it phases through all generations and is a solid phased match.

If the segment matches only two contiguous generations, and not the older generation, as shown above, the segment is identical by chance in the younger generations, and is not genealogically relevant.

A third situation is clearly possible, where the tester matches the older generation or generations, but not the younger. In this case, the DNA simply did not get passed on down to the younger generations. In the example shown below, the segment still phases between the Grandparent and the Great-grandmother.

I’ve extracted the results from the original article and am showing them here, along with a 4 generation study utilizing 5 different examples.

The results are important because they were unexpected, as far as I was concerned.

Let’s take a look at the original results first.

Original Study – 3 Generations – 2 Meiosis

In the first study comparing three generations, I compared four different groups of people to a known relative in their family line. None of the family groups included any of the same people.

If the known relative matches the youngest generations, meaning the child and the parent, both, the location was colored green. This means the match phased through one generation. If the known relative also matched the third generation, the grandparent, on that same location, the location remained green. If the known relative did not match the oldest generation in addition to the child and the parent, then the location was changed to red, because the phasing was lost.

Green means that the matches did phase in all three generations and red means they either did not phase or the phasing was “lost” in the older generation.  Lost, in this instance, means the DNA match never happened and it was “lost” during the analysis process.

I followed this same process for 4 separate groups of three individuals, resulting in the following distribution of matching segments through all three generations (green), versus segments that matched the younger two generations but not the older generation (red) or don’t phase at all, meaning they match only one of the two younger relatives.

I marked what appears to be a threshold with a black line.

As you can see, the phasing threshold cutoff appears to be someplace between 2.46 and 3.16 cM. These matches are through Family Tree DNA, so all SNPs will be 500 or over. In other words, almost all segments below that line phased to all three generations. Many or most segments above that line were lost in upstream generations. This means they were false matches, or identical by chance (IBC).

More segments phased to earlier generations than I expected.  I was especially surprised at the number of small segments and the low threshold, so I was anxious to see if the pattern held when utilizing 4 generations which involves 3 meiosis..

New Study – 4 Generations – 3 Meiosis

In any one generation, a match can occur by chance, but once the match has phased through the parent’s generation, meaning the cousin matches the child AND the parent on the same segment, it’s easy to assume that they would, logically, match through the next two generations upwards as well. But do they? Let’s take a look.

Instead of just the summary information provided in the 3 generation study, I’m going to be showing you the three steps in the evaluation process for each example we discuss. I think it will help to answer questions, as well as to enable you to follow these same steps for your own family.

In total, I did 5 separate 4 generation comparisons, labeled as Examples 1-5, below.

Example 1 – 4 Generation – 3 Meiosis (DL)

A known cousin was compared up the tree on the relevant line through 4 generations. The relationship of the testers is shown in the chart above, with the blue arrows.

On the Curtis line, 4 individuals in descending generations were tested:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Great-grandparent

In the Solomon line, one descendant was tested.

The results show the DNA segments that phased for 2, 3 and 4 generations, which is a total of 3 meiosis, meaning three times that the DNA was passed from generation to generation between the Great-grandparent and the Child.

The individual whose matches are tracked below is a third cousin to the Great-grandparent of the group. The relationship of the cousin to the descendants of the great-grandparent is shown below.

In reality, the distance of the cousin relationship isn’t really relevant. The relevant aspect is that the cousin DOES match all 4 relatives that tested, and we can track the segments that the cousin matches to the child, parent or grandparent back through the great-grandparent to see if they phase, meaning to see if the match is legitimate or not. In other words, was the segment passed from the Great-grandparent to the Grandparent to the Parent to the Child?

This first chart shows the cousin’s matches to all 4 of the family members. I’ve colored them green if they have phased matches, meaning adjacent generations on the same segment. In the comment column, I’ve explained what you are seeing.

This chart is a little more complex than previously, because we are dealing with 4 generations instead of 3. Therefore, I’m showing the cousin’s matches to all 4 individuals.

  • For a location to have no color and be labeled “No Phased Match” means that there was a match to one family member, but not to the adjacent generation upstream, so it’s not a genealogically relevant match. In other words, it’s a false match.
  • For a location to have no color and be labeled “Oldest Gen Only” means that the cousin matches the great-grandmother only. Those matches may be genealogically relevant, but because we don’t have a generation upstream of her, we can’t phase them and can’t tell if they are relevant or not based only on the information we have here. Obviously you’ll want to evaluate each match individually to see if it is a legitimate or false match using additional criteria.
  • For a location to be colored green, it must phase entirely for all the generations from where it begins upwards in the tree. For some matches, that means all 4 generations. Some matches that do phase only phase for 2 or 3 generations, meaning that the segment did not get passed on to younger generations. The two shades of green are only to differentiate the match groups when they are adjacent on the spreadsheet.
  • If the cell is green and says “4 Gen Match,” it means that the match appeared in all 4 generations and matched (or at least overlapped.)
  • If the cell is green and says “3 Gen Match,” it means that the match appeared in the oldest 3 generations and matched. The match did NOT appear in the child’s generation, so what we know about this segment is that it did not get passed to the child, but in the three generations in which it does appear, it phased.
  • If the cell is green and says “2 Gen Match,” it means that it appeared in the oldest two generations and phased, but did NOT get passed to the parent, so it could not have been passed to the child.
  • Matches to any single generation (but not the immediate upstream generation) are labeled “No Phased Match.”
  • If the cell is red and says “Lost Phasing” it means that the segment phased in at least two generations but did NOT match the adjacent generation upstream. Therefore, this is an example of a segment that did phase in one generation, but that was actually identical by chance (IBC) further upstream. In the case of the red segments above, they phased in all three of the younger generations, only to become irrelevant in the oldest generation when the tester did not match the Great-grandmother.

Now, looking at the same segment chart sorted by centiMorgan size.

Sorted by centiMorgan size gives you the opportunity to note that the larger segments are much more likely to phase, when given the opportunity. Translated, this means they are much more likely to be legitimate segments.

Formatted in the same way as the 3 generation groups, we see the following chart of only the segments, with the matches that were to the oldest generation only removed because they did not have the opportunity to phase. What we have below are the results for the matches that did have the opportunity to phase:

  • Green means the segment did phase
  • Red Means the segment did not phase and/or lost phasing.
  • White rows that did NOT phase are red above, along with rows that lost phasing.
  • White rows that are labeled “Oldest Gen Only” were removed because they are the oldest generation and did not have the opportunity to phase with an older generation.
  • For details, refer to the original charts, above.

Example 2 – 4 Generation – 3 Meiosis (CF-SV)

A second 4 generation comparison with a first cousin to the Great-grandmother results in more matches due to the closeness of the relationship, yielding additional information.

The 4 individuals in this and the following 3 examples are related in the following fashion:

Child 1 and Child 2 are siblings and Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 are siblings.

The two cousins are first cousins to the great-grandmother, so related to the matching individuals in the following fashion:

Because first cousins are significantly closer than third cousins, we have a lot more matching segments to work with.

It’s worth noting in the above chart that the two groups colored with gold in the right column both look like they phase, but when you look at the relationships of the people involved, you quickly realize that an intermediate generation is missing.

In the first example, the Grandparent and Great-grandmother do phase, but the child does not, because the cousin doesn’t also match the parent on that segment, so the parent could NOT have passed that segment to the child.  Therefore, the child does not phase.

In the second example, the cousin matches the Parent and Great-Grandmother, but the parent is missing in the match sequence, so these people don’t phase at all.

Sorted by centiMorgan size, we see the following.

Formatted by phased segment size, where red means did not phase or lost phasing and green means phased, we see the following pattern emerge.

Example 3 – 4 Generation – 3 Meiosis (CF-PV)

The next comparison is the still Cousin 1 but compared to Child 2.

In this case, three segments lost phasing when compared to older generations. They look like they phased when comparing the cousin to the Parent and Child, but we know they don’t because they don’t match the Grandparent, the next adjacent generation upstream.

Sorted by centiMorgan size, we see the following:

It’s interesting that all of the segments that lost phasing were quite small.

Formatted by segment size where red equals segments that did not phase or lost phasing and green equals segments that did phase.

Example 4 – 4 Generations – 3 Meiosis (DF-SV)

The fourth example utilizes Cousin 2 and Child 1.

In this comparison, no segments lost phasing, so there are no red segments.

Sorted by centiMorgan size, above and phased versus unphased segments, below.

Example 5 – 4 Generations – 3 Meiosis (DF-PV)

This last example utilizes the results of Cousin 2 matching to Child 2.

Again we have a group identified by gold in the last column that looks like a phased group if you’re just looking at the chromosome start and end locations, until you notice that the Grandparent is missing. The Parent and Child do share an overlapping segment mathematically, and it appears that this is part of the Great-grandmother’s segment, but it isn’t because the segment did not pass through the Grandparent. Of course, there is always a small possibility that there is a read issue with the grandparent’s file in this location, but as it stands, the parent and child’s matching segment loses phasing because it does not phase to the grandparent.

Again, three segments lost phasing.

Above, the spreadsheet sorted by centiMorgan value and below, by phased and unphased segments.

Side By Side Comparison

This side by side comparison shows the 5 different comparisons of 4 generations and 3 meiosis.

The pattern looks very similar and is almost identical in terms of the threshold to the original 3 generation study.  The 3 gen study thresholds varied from 2.46 to 3,16.  The largest 3 generation unphased segments were 3.36, 4.16, 4.75 and 6.05.

This suggests that your results with a 3 generation study are probably nearly just as reliable as a 4 generation study, although we did see one instance where phasing was lost after three matching generations. However, evaluating that match itself reveals that it was certainly highly questionable with the Parent carrying more of the “matching” segment to the Child than the Grandparent carried. While it was technically a 3 generation match before losing phasing, it wasn’t a solid match by any means.

With more test data, this could also mean that off-shifted matches or questionable matches are more likely to not phase or fail in higher generations.  I wrote here about methodologies for determining legitimate and false matches.

Discussion

I assembled a summary of the pertinent information from the five different 4 generation charts.

  • As expected, very small segments often did not phase. However, around the 3.5 cM region, they began to phase and reliably so. However, some larger segments, one as large as 7.13, did not phase.
  • It appears from the small number of segments that lost phasing that most of the time, if a segment does phase with the next generation upstream, it’s a valid segment and will continue to phase upwards.
  • Occasionally, phased segments are not valid and fail a “test” further up the tree. These are the segments that “lost phasing.”
  • The segments that did lose phasing were smaller segments with the largest at 3.68 cM.
  • Phasing, even in small segments, seems to be a relatively good predictor of a segment that is identical by descent, as determined by continuing to match ancestral segments on up the tree.

Of course, additional matches with cousins on the same segments would strengthen the argument as well, with or without phasing. Genetic genealogists are always looking for more information and ways to strengthen our evidence of connections with our cousins and family members. After all, that’s how we positively identify segments attributable to specific ancestors.

Testing Your Own Family

If you have either 3 or 4 individuals in descending generations, you can reproduce these same kinds of results for yourself. It’s actually easy and you can use the charts, methodology and color coding above as a guide.

You will need a relative that matches on the side of the oldest generation. In this case, the relatives were cousins of the great-grandmother. The relative will need to match the other two or three downstream people as well, meaning the direct descendants of the oldest relative. By copying the cousin’s entire match list from the Family Finder chromosome browser, you will be able to delete all matches other than to the people in your family group and compare the results using the same methodology I have shown.

If you don’t have access to the cousin’s match list, you can copy the matches to the cousin from the family member’s match lists and combine them into one spreadsheet.  The outcome is the same, but it’s easier if you have access to the cousin’s matches because you only have to download one file instead of 4.

What Can I Do With This Information?

Based on identifying segments as legitimate or false matches, you can label your DNA Master Spreadsheet with the information you’ve gleaned from the process. I’ve done that with just phasing to my mother. Studies such as this give me confidence that the larger phased segments with my mother are legitimate; even some segments below 5 cM and as low as 3.5 cM that DO phase.

These results and this article is NOT a suggestion that people should assume that ALL smaller segment matches are legitimate, because they aren’t. These studies are attempts to figure out HOW to discern which segments are valid and how to go about that process, including small segments. We now have three tools that can be utilized either together or individually:

  • Parental phasing
  • Multi-generation phasing, utilizing the parental phasing tools
  • Cousin Matching to phased segments, which is what we did in this article
  • Family Tree DNA’s Family Phasing which in essence does this sort of matching for you, labeling your matches as to the side they descend from.

From the phasing information we’ve discovered, it appears that most segments below 3.5 cM aren’t going to phase and the majority are NOT legitimate matches.

This is a limited study.  Additional information could change and would certainly add to this information.

More is Better

As always, more data is always better.  Additional examples of results using this same phasing/cousin matching technique would allow quantification of the reliability of phased results as compared to unphased results.  In other words we know already that phased results are much better and more reliable than unphased results, but how much more and what are the functional limits of phased results?

There really is no question about the reliability of phased results in regard to larger segments, but additional information would help immensely in understanding how to successfully utilize smaller phased segments, in the range of 3.5 to 8 cM.

I would also suspect that in endogamous families, the thresholds observed here will move, probably with the phasing threshold moving even lower. People from fully endogamous cultures have many legitimate common small segments from sharing ancient ancestors. It would be interesting to observe the effects of endogamy on the observations made here.

I’m not Jewish and don’t have access to Jewish family information, but if several Jewish readers have tested multi-generational family and have a cousin from that side to test against, I would be glad to publish a followup article similar to this one with endogamous information.

It’s so exciting to be on the forefront of this wonderful genetic genealogy frontier together and to be able to experiment and learn.

I hope you use this methodology to explore, have fun and discover new information about your family.