Lucy Moore (c 1754-1832), Spunky Plaintiff – 52 Ancestors #248

In Lucy’s first article, Lucy Moore, Minister’s Wife, we discovered Lucy’s first name in deeds with her husband, the Reverend William Moore, in Halifax County, Virginia.

Married probably between 1772 and 1774, Lucy and William had 4 children in 1782 when the head of household “census” was taken in Virginia, and 5 by 1785. Like most couples, they farmed and had a child approximately every 18 months to 2 years for their entire marriage, or at least until Lucy no longer became pregnant.

Lucy is a fairly unusual name, so it was easy to identify Lucy Moore as the wife of William Moore. However, as it turns out, there were actually two more Lucy Moores who lived in the same time and place.

What are the chances of that?

Three Lucy Moores

In 1817, “my” Lucy Moore would have been about 63 years old. 1817 is the year that another Lucy Moore is added to the mix. Lucy Akin married James Moore, son of Lucy and William Moore. From 1817 on, we have to be careful about which Lucy we are dealing with.

For years it was presumed that the marriage on July 30, 1831 of Lucy Moore to James Ives was the widow, Lucy Akin Moore remarrying, but a subsequent chancery suit reveals that it was not.

No, and it wasn’t the widow Lucy Moore either. It was an unexpected third Lucy Moore.

The Lucy Moore that married James Ives was Lucy and William Moore’s daughter. I didn’t make that discovery until I just happened to read every chancery suit that contained the name Moore in Halifax County in anything resembling the right timeframe. Sometimes suits referenced people that had died decades before.

In the Virginia Chancery Index, I entered Moore and selected Halifax where the final chapter of a long sordid story unfolded.

Hard Times

Everything seemed to be fine in William and Lucy Moore’s family until about 1796 or 1797 when something happened to Reverend William Moore. Not only did he stop submitting marriage returns to the county to be recorded, he was listed as exempt from paying taxes in 1797. The only legitimate reasons for a man in his late 40s to be tax exempt was from disability or because he was an official – and William wasn’t an official. Furthermore, he was listed as exempt off and on from then until 1816 when the tax lists stop.

In 1797, Ransom Day sold William Moore 100 acres of land that was where the “meeting house” stood, although the meeting house was excluded from the sale. In 1801, William and Lucy sold that land.

We know William was still farming because later a lawsuit was filed regarding 1306 pounds of tobacco that were not credited to William Moore in 1812. Farmers took their tobacco to the warehouse to be graded and sold according to the crop quality. The warehouse that William was doing business with was subsequently purchased and neither the old nor the new owner ever credited William for the 1812 tobacco sale.

This ongoing lawsuit seemed to be part of a downward spiral that eventually culminated with William losing his land, and worse.

Financial problems don’t seem to be isolated to William Moore. In 1812, his two sons, William Moore Jr. and Azariah Moore are both found to be unable to pay their taxes. Was this perhaps reflective of them attempting to help their father, or was this a learned lifestyle behavior?

Azariah would have been near 30, if not 30, by this time so he was no young whipper-snapper. Both boys eventually moved to Pittsylvania County within a few months, the county next door, where they both continued living beyond their means to the point where Azariah’s wife’s father stipulated that her inheritance could not be touched by Azariah nor could it pay for his debts. Pretty harsh terms.

By 1817 Azariah is living in Pittsylvania according to the tax list, and in 1818, he marries there. William Jr. settles in Pittsylvania too.

However, in 1826, Aza Moore (Azariah, Lucy’s son) sells 50 acres of land on Birches Creek to Lucy Moore for $100, bounded by William Moore Sr.’s old line, the old ridge path and along the ridge path. Azariah had purchased land on Birches Creek in 1814 from William Phelps which was bounded by William Moore, Edward Henderson and William Ferrell.

My first opinion of this transaction was that Azariah took pity on his mother. However, if that’s the case, then why not just give her the land or for the token $1 typical of close family sales? Was this really a case of Lucy trying to help Azariah by purchasing his land? Were both parties benefitted by this transaction? The price does not seem to be at all under market value.

William Moore died in 1826 after having lost his land, so this may have been the only way to guarantee some income for Lucy. If Azariah had sold his land to his father, it could then have been attached for William’s debt.

William’s son, James Moore lost his land in 1827. He’s not found in the census in 1830 and it was believed that he was dead by that time based on the census combined with the fact that Lucy Moore married in 1831. As it turns out, it wasn’t that Lucy Akin Moore that married in 1831, but a different Lucy.

These events are not isolated and are connected.

1830 Census

The 1830 census is confusing. We know Lucy Moore was the head of household, but we don’t know who else was living with her.

It appears that perhaps two Lucy Moores, mother and daughter, were living together in 1830, when Lucy Moore is listed in the census with the following:

  • Female 70-80 so born in 1750-1760 (Lucy, widow of William Moore)
  • 2 females 50-60 so born 1770-1780 (Probably daughter Elizabeth Moore born 1790 and possibly daughter Mary Moore born 1775)
  • Female 40-50 so born 1780-1790 (Daughter Lucy Moore, born 1792)
  • 2 females under 5
  • 1 male under 5

Who did those children belong to? Was one of the women a widow? It had been assumed that Lucy Akin Moore was one of the women living with Lucy Moore, head of household, based on the fact that James Moore was believed deceased and they would have probably had children.

Thank goodness for Azariah who sold his mother land. It looks like Lucy was supporting 7 people. I wonder how Lucy came up with the $100 to purchase that land. That would have been an awful lot of egg money.

Lucy’s Chancery Suit

One of the events that defined Lucy’s life is the path she took after William died in 1826. She would have been about 72 at the time.

Women simply didn’t file lawsuits. Women were supposed to be subservient, accept whatever happened to them and not make waves.

Lucy wasn’t any of those things. She stood up for herself and her rights, regardless of who had been responsible for overlooking the fact that Lucy never signed away her dower rights in William’s land.

Had William failed to inform Lucy of what he was doing. Did she object and refuse to sign? Was it an oversight?

You’d think the men who accepted William’s deed as collateral would know better. At that time in Virginia, women had to be examined separately from their husbands and confirm that they did indeed want to relinquish their dower right in the property. A woman’s dower was 30% of the value of the property.

What really happened?

In a chancery suit filed in Halifax County by Lucy Moore on November 30, 1826, we discover the following complaint:

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This complaint states that William owned 200 acres of land and that he had signed the land as security for a debt owed to Isaac Medley which could be sold to discharge the debt if it wasn’t paid. It wasn’t and the land was sold, but Lucy never signed away her dower portion to either Isaac or the trustees.

Isaac had “not as yet” assigned Lucy’s portion to her, so Lucy asked the court to do such and to cause her dower portion to be surveyed.

Clearly, Isaac wasn’t going to do this without court intervention, or it would already have been done. Lucy’s “not as yet” was very tongue in cheek.

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Isaac’s answer to the complaint states that he agrees that Lucy had never relinquished her dower portion. What else could he do? At that point, neighbors, Charles  T. Harris, Thomas Dixon (also spelled Dickson sometimes), John Ferguson and James Wilson were appointed commissioners to decide what was fair for Lucy, taking into account both quality and quantity of land.

When settling estates, the court typically ordered as property appraisers one person with no connection to the family, one person related to the wife and the person who was owed the highest amount of debt. I wonder if one of these men was related to Lucy.

Of course, this order also meant that Lucy would receive the house. It’s not as if an elderly woman could build a new one and no group of men was going to put a widow out into a field with no shelter. Nor would the court have approved that because the widow would have wound up on the public rolls and that was to be avoided at all costs.

Furthermore, judging from the 1830 census, Lucy was likely supporting additional people.

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This entry summarized the proceedings where the court ordered the land survey and requested the commissioners to report back to the court.

Ironically, Isaac Medley doesn’t even fight Lucy’s claim. Just the fact that Lucy was spunky enough to file the suit is testimony about Lucy in its own right. I’m cheering her on!

This case filing is the single most revealing document for William and Lucy Moore. In it, William’s death year is revealed as are the circumstances of how he lost his land.

Furthermore, we obtain an actual survey of William’s land, and thereby Lucy’s. William purchased his land from his father James, who bought land from James Spradling. I presumed that Spradling’s land was the same land that William Moore purchased from his father and set out to find the patent.

I found James Spradling’s original patent dated Sept 15, 1765, part of which was conveyed to William’s father, James Moore. Later, 200 acres was conveyed to William Moore in 1798.

Ironically, this same land patented by Spradling was patented in 1762 by Isham Womack. If I have identified the correct Isham Womack, his father is Thomas Womack and mother Mary Farley who lived in Prince Edward County, VA. Thomas’s mother was reported to be Sarah Worsham. These early families from Henrico County were very intermarried. The Womacks, Worshams, Rices and Moores were all interacting in Amelia and Prince Edward Counties.

DNA also tells us that the Womack’s are somehow related to the Moores, and therefore to me, but I have no idea how. At least, not yet.

It’s enough to make a genealogist pull their her out!

Lucy’s Survey

In December 1826, the surveyor drew the following and laid off Lucy Moore’s 50 acres, including the “mansion house,” such as it was. Mansion house meant where the landowner lived, not indicating that it was in fact a mansion. Many of these early frontier mansions were noted as being 10X12 or 12X16.

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Several years ago, cousin Walter Dixon attempted to draw the metes and bounds of these plats and place them on a map of the area.

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These parcels were mapped utilizing DeedMapper. I used to own this tool before my laptop was stolen and I’ve now purchased the upgraded version along with the background Halifax County maps.

Yes, for one survey. Genealogists are crazy aren’t we!

DeedMapper

The day DeedMapper arrived, I couldn’t stop myself until I had figured out where William and Lucy’s land was located.

It wasn’t as easy as I anticipated, because I thought surely that once I figured out where James Spradling’s land was located William’s would be a shoo-in because it would be the same land, or part of the same land – fitting like a puzzle piece. I was wrong.

Someone had plotted and contributed the 2 surveys of Charles Spradlen.

I don’t have any way of knowing whether or not these surveys are accurately placed or approximated.

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Spradlin owned 2 parcels, this one in purple is 304 acres.

The next one, just beneath is 162 acres and shares property lines with his 304 acre parcel.

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James Moore bought 238 acres from James Spradling, but he also bought another 800+ acres from other people. He sold land to Edward Henderson (his son-in-law) and to William Moore as well as others. At one time, James probably owned most of this entire area – more than 1000 acres in total.

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William Moore’s land was difficult to draw because it meandered on three branches of waterways. The only waterways on the second fork of Birches Creek that matched up with the drawing and the survey are where the purple plot is located. It doesn’t close because the open side is the 3 meanders that you can clearly see. This makes sense, because the leftmost border touches his father’s land and in 1826 is noted as Ferguson’s line.

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Lucy’s survey, in purple above, doesn’t close correctly. Old surveys often don’t. In this case, William’s and Lucy’s surveys were written on the same page and I had to correct one of the lines that the surveyor had mistakenly written in one or the other.

Of course, Lucy also owned another 50 acres someplace that abutted William’s land. It may have abutted the portion of William’s land that became hers.

Fortunately, with the underlying Halifax County map, I was able to determine an approximation of where William and Lucy’s land was located today using Google maps.

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Using these two ponds (red arrows at right) and the creek for guidance, I was able to determine the location of the middle red star at left in William’s survey, roughly outlined in green. Lucy’s survey is shown roughly in black. You can see that William’s land includes present-day Henderson Trail which also includes the Henderson Cemetery, long believed to have been the original Moore Cemetery.

Hallelujah!

Here’s Google Maps aerial view.

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The middle red star on William’s green survey, above, is the little grey balloon at left on this aerial view. The cemetery is approximately at the red star. The right red arrow points to the upper pond with the red arrow on the map with the green outline. The green arrow points to Henderson Trail, visible on both maps.

Normally Google Maps doesn’t travel down roads without center lines, let alone dirt roads, and certainly not private 2 tracks.

All I can say is that the Google car must have been lost, because here we stand on Henderson Trail looking directly at Lucy’s land.

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Standing on William’s land.

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How lucky can I be? Below, looking down the trail to the west.

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Below, looking south across Henderson Trail, you can see the Blue Ridge in the distance to the west.

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When I visited and stood in this very location, I suspected it might have been James Moore’s land, but I never suspected it was Williams or Lucy’s, nor did I suspect that William owned the land where the original cemetery was located. I thought William’s land was further north, by Mountain Road where the Mount Vernon Baptist Church stands today.

The Good-Bad News

This land is for sale, as in right now.

That’s the good-bad news.

107 acres, outlined in red below, is available at this link where you can see additional photos.

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The bad news is that the land alone is priced out of my range at $365,000, even if it is a great value. There is no existing house or mention of a well or electricity having been run back there.

So maybe it’s good news that it’s out of my price range. I’m confused.

Contrast this to the $200 that Isaac Medley paid in 1826 for William’s entire 174 acres.

This is part of William’s land and before that, James’ land.

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I suspect that the current day line between the two red arrows is the southwestern line of Lucy’s survey.

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This topographical map clearly shows the land features such as the ridges and valleys carved by the streams. Lucy’s upper left corner must have been near the upper red arrow. Her property was between the arrows and did not extend as far east as the little blue pond

Lucy lived here for more than half a century. She walked these lands. She is probably buried just a few feet away in the woods where I could walk and visit with her, William, her in-laws and her other children that did not marry and move away. Her parents probably lived nearby and are buried here too or within a mile or so if I just knew who they were and where to look.

OMG, do I need to go back to Halifax County and just take a look? Could I even get high speed internet here? Is there a quilt shop anyplace close?

This is killing me!

The Almost-Missed Gift

The part I almost missed was written on the yellowed back of the papers that were folded into a neat little chancery suit packet and filed away for the next 180+ years.

Lucy’s death is recorded here. Given that the dates on this suit are not on the quarter sessions boundaries meaning March, June, September and December, I suspect that the chancery court was held monthly. Therefore, Lucy probably died in either June or July of 1832 which caused the suit to abate.

Lucy Moore death

Given that the survey occurred in December 1826, I’m unclear why this suit was never resolved and the land never conveyed to Lucy.

Given that the suit apparently was never entirely resolved, that left Lucy’s dower land in legal limbo which caused me a big problem trying to track it forward in time.

Lucy’s 2 Parcels of Land

Keep in mind that Lucy owned 2 pieces of property. The 50 acres conveyed to her by Azariah and the 50 acres that she was entitled to based on this survey. Both were located in close proximity, if not adjacent.

On August 26, 1831, James and Lucy Ives sell to Elizabeth Moore 25 aces adjoining Isaac Medley, James Wilson and others for $1. Both sign with marks. Lucy could have actually died by this time, or the family was preparing for her death.

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Note that the furthest north point of Lucy’s survey is described as Wilson’s pine, line or maybe lane, and we know that Isaac Medley did in fact obtain the balance of William’s land.

This deed strongly suggests that one of the women living with Lucy Moore in 1830 was Elizabeth Moore. It’s unclear which 25 acres this is, or how Lucy Moore came to have an interest in this acreage. It could be half of Lucy Moore’s 50 acres from Azariah or half of her 50 acres dower right. But who owned the other 25 acres?

In 1842, Lucy Ives and Elizabeth Moore sell to William Henderson 3.25 acres for $10 adjoining the lines of Henderson and Medley. This deed was witnessed by Edward and Benjamin Ferrell, families found living adjacent in the census. This acreage, added to the 47 acres sold to William Henderson in 1863 by Lucy Ives and Rebecca Slate stated as land where Elizabeth Moore lived would equal either the 50 acres Lucy bought from Azariah or the 50 she obtained from Isaac Medley that was William’s through the chancery suit. I believe that the Henderson land was to the east and south of Lucy’s land, where Henderson Lane is located today.

This only leaves 25 acres of Lucy’s land missing.

On both the 1851 and 1852 tax lists for Halifax County, Elizabeth Moore is shown with her 25 acres on Birches Creek owned in fee, 14 miles SW of the town of Halifax. She is not shown with either 47 or 50 acres. When I was in Halifax County viewing these tax lists, I didn’t realize I should also be looking for names like Ives and Slate. If I were to go back, I would know to look for more. It’s too bad Halifax County is so far away.

The lack of correlation between the deeds and tax lists is frustrating. Perhaps someone else was paying the taxes if Elizabeth was renting it out to be farmed.

A Previously Unknown Child

When I visited Halifax County 15 or 20 years ago and sifted through the chancery suits, they were being prepared to be sent to the Virginia Archives at Richmond. The preparation procedure took months into years, and at that time, the only indexing was by plaintiff and defendant. A very nice man, Lawrence Martin, now deceased, volunteered half a day a week reading and indexing each case and slipping the loose and sometimes scattered papers into manila file folders. As the cases were prepared for scanning in Richmond, additional surnames of people mentioned in the proceedings were added.

Today, using the Virginia Chancery Index, you can enter a surname and view all of the cases that include that surname in the county for a specific date range.

I found Lucy’s suit when I visited, although I nearly ignored it because I didn’t put 2 and 2 together and realize Lucy Moore in the 1830s was William’s wife.

The basement was musty, dusty, humid and hot and I was tired. Photographs were highly discouraged, so I took notes, reams and reams of notes. Today, I would use my phone or a digital camera, but those tools didn’t exist in those days. Unfortunately, my notes didn’t include everything, just what I thought was important at the time.

Thankfully, I reviewed the digital cases at the Library of Virginia because papers had been misfiled and new cases had been unearthed. Lawrence did a huge amount of reconstructing of case files. What a wonderful legacy he left.

The Unknown Suit

One of the most useful cases didn’t include any Moore party as either a plaintiff or defendant, so I had missed it entirely.

In this suit, I discovered a previously unknown child of William and Lucy Moore who gave a deposition in the case Joseph Dunsman vs William Bailey having to do with an outstanding debt involving William Moore.

Prior to reading this suit, I thought that the Lucy Moore who had married James Ives was Lucy Akin Moore, widow of James Moore. James lost his land in 1827 and was absent in the 1830 census. Someone with children was living with Lucy Moore (William’s widow) in 1830 and in 1831 Lucy Moore married James Ives. Subsequently Lucy Ives signed documents involving Lucy Moore. All makes sense, right?

Well, it does make sense, but it just so happens that it’s wrong.

Lucy Akin Moore is not the Lucy Moore who married James Ives.

Lucy Moore gives her first deposition in 1825

The Depositions

Halifax Chancery Suit 1832-034 Joseph Dunman vs William Bailey and Co.

Chancery suits are indexed by the date they completed, not the date they were filed.

The suit was filed on Nov. 30, 1825 and William Moore provided a deposition.

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Affidavit of William Moore of lawful age to be read into evidence in support of a motion for an injunction…in which Joseph Dunman is plaintiff and William Bailey & Co., defendants.

Sometime in May 1821 the said Moore gave a delivery bond with Jos. Dunman as his surety to William Bailey and Co. conditioned as usual in such bonds for the delivery of certain property therein mentioned. That in the same month and after giving the bond aforesaid he came to William Bailey the acting partner of the firm and after conversing with the said Bailey and shewing him some papers in the said Moore’s possession the said William Bailey said that he would stop all proceedings on the delivery bond aforesaid, as there was little or nothing due to the said firm from the affiant. This affiant also states that the day on which he gave the bond as aforesaid he sent his wife and daughter to the said Bailey on the subject above mentioned and they informed him on their return that the said Bailey told them that the affiant need not trouble himself to bring the property included in the said bond to the day and place appointed for the sale.

William Moore signs and dates November 29, 1825

This deposition and one from Lucy Moore were subsequently objected to because the plaintiffs were not given notification in advance so they could attend and question the person being deposed.

In the file, we find original paperwork from 1821.

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This order from the Commonwealth of Virginia dated April 27, 1821 to the Halifax County Sheriff orders him to confiscate the property of William Moore and James Moore in order to settle the debt of 38.1.0 to William Bailey plus $6.69 costs.

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Interest was accrued from March 1, 1818 at the rate of 6% per year.

By the time the sheriff’s fees and bond was added, the total was 45.10.0 and was levied against the collateral William had provided.

I wonder if this means that James Moore had nothing, since all property seemed to have been Williams. Was this James’s debt, or William’s?

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William and James Moore asked to retain possession of their property until the day of the sale.

How would this family survive with no horses and no furniture?

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I am unclear whether or not this sale proceeded in 1821. In the case file are statements about what happened at the courthouse the day of the sale and that Bailey has said he was not prosecuting.

I suspect the sale did not occur, because Lucy states that Bailey does nothing for 3 years. Furthermore, in 1822, William Moore deeds to Isaac Medley his 200 acres on Birches Creek to secure a debt. I would have thought this was to pay the above debt, but apparently it was not, because that debt continued. In 1825, this land was auctioned, and Isaac Medley purchased it for $200 – $1 an acre. Today part of that same land is now worth $350,000. William must be rolling over in his grave.

It’s also worth noting here that William’s land only surveyed for 174 acres, not 200. What happened to that 26 acres?

In 1824, William Moore Sr. gives even more property for security, and now the debt is to Isaac Medley for $560.68. The property consists of one wagon and gear, 4 horses, 3 cattle, 12 hogs, 3 feather beds, furniture, 2 bedsteads, all household and kitchen furniture and plantation tools.

If William loses this bet, the gig is over, because that’s literally everything in the house, plus the property itself including the house. What a huge, huge risk. William must have been extremely desperate.

How does an elderly couple even have this discussion? Was William stoic, determined, angry, or a broken, despondent man? What did he say to Lucy?

Another deed follows that was exceedingly difficult to read that states that William Moore sold 50 acres on Birches Creek to William Hartis (maybe Harris?). The land adjoined his own, that of Isaac Medley and William Ferrell, Esq.

This is a vicious circle. You can’t farm without tools and you can’t keep the tools without using the land as collateral. You sell some land, which reduces your ability to earn. I think William was very disabled by this time which is probably how the debt became so overwhelming.

This also causes me to wonder about William Moore’s cause of death. He was old and this was terribly stressful, so this could have hastened a death from natural causes. It could also have prompted him to committ suicide. That’s entirely speculation, but his death did follow shortly after he lost his land. We know he was gone by the end of November in 1826.

1825 Counter-Suit

In 1825 William Moore filed a counter-suit and the entire mess drags on until after both Lucy and William have died. The fact that these 2 suits are so closely related also explains why the suit that Lucy brought against Isaac Medley for the land that was sold to satisfy this debt was never resolved and it too abated upon Lucy’s death in 1832. By this time, I’m sure that everyone was just glad it was over.

Based on the March 1832 date on some of these documents without mention of Lucy being deceased, it’s likely that she died between March and July.

In the case file, testimony is included that states that parties considered William Moore to be in essence bankrupt, unable to pay, the debt being uncollectible years before his death. Even if true, how hurtful this must have been for the minister and his wife to endure at the end of their lives when there was absolutely nothing that could be done.

Nearly 7 years later, on March 12, 1832, Joseph Dunman notifies William Bailey that he is going to depose Edward Henderson and Lucy Ives on Friday the 16th.

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This 1821 notice states that William Moore and James Moore owe William Bailey 58.12.0 which is given in English pounds, plus $6.64 bail for the debt.

This now explains the suit filed in 1825 by William Moore against Bailey that reached back to 1812 for 1306 pounds of tobacco for which Bailey had never paid William Moore his $68.

Given that William Moore did not have a will when he died, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this suit is the list of his property that he gave as security in order for his land not to be confiscated for this debt.

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Levyed on the 15th day of May 1821 on two horses five feather beds and furniture, (bed)steads – the property of William Moore the sale appointed and advertised to be in Halifax Courthouse on the 4th Monday of June 1821. A delivery bond with Joseph Dunham security was taken for the delivery of the property on the day and at the place appointed for the sale on the 4th day of June 1821. The plaintiff by their order stayed all further proceedings. Whereupon the bond aforesaid is forthwith returned to the clerk’s office.

I can feel the level of desperation mounting for both William and Lucy. In 1821, William would have been about 71 years old.

In November 1825 in her deposition, Lucy Moore states that she is of lawful age, so I would take that to mean over age 21, although it could be younger for females. This puts her birth before 1804 which is confirmed by later census documents. Lucy clearly states that William is her father and references her mother, which would have been Lucy Moore, William’s wife. Clearly Lucy the daughter was named for Lucy the mother.

The first time I read this, I thought to myself that perhaps Lucy Akin Moore was using the terms father and mother loosely – although that bugged me. At that time, I thought Lucy Moore in the 1825 deposition would have to have been Lucy Akin Moore. Who else could she have been?

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Lucy states that:

In May 1821 a sheriff came to William Moore her fathers and was about to seize property to satisfy an execution in favor of William Baily and Company but the said William Moore induced the sheriff to wait and not take his property until he could send down to Major W. Baily whereupon the said Lucy and her mother went down to said Bailey and he informed them to tell this said William Moore to give a bond for any little articles and that he need not trouble himself to deliver the property agreeable to the condition of the said bond, for that there was a hogshead of tobacco that the said Moore had not been paid for as he ought to be and further this affiant saith not.

Lucy then signed with her mark.

Bailey agreed, apparently, that he owed William Moore for the 1812 tobacco.

Lucy’s 1825 affidavit was objected to because no previous notice had been given, so eventually, she provided a second one.

Nearly 7 years later, Lucy is deposed again.

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This time Lucy Moore is being deposed as Lucy Ives at John Herbert’s tavern on March 16, 1832.

This deponent objecting from religious motives to being sworn being first duly and solemnly affirmed according to law saith…

My father William Moore sent my mother down to see William Bailey the sheriff had been to William Moors to seaze property for the debt due William Bailey from my father. I went with my mother. He Bailey said that her father might not put himself to any trouble might give a delivery bond on any little thing and he would stop the suit. He told my mother that he should not loose the hogshead of tobacco.

That comment about her religion is very interesting. I am not aware of Methodists or other religions other than the Amish, Mennonite, Brethren and Quakers being unwilling to swear an oath.

As I read this, I wonder why William sent his wife to see Bailey instead of going himself. We know that William had some sort of issue that caused him to be exempt from taxes, likely a physical disability. Could he not walk or ride? Had he suffered a stroke? Is this why Lucy went instead of William going to see Bailey himself?

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Question by plaintiff – Did you or did you not understand from William Bailey that the property to be put into the delivery bond was or was not to delivered by him to be sold at the day of sale or was the matter to be stopped until the credit for the tobacco could be settled?

Answer – I understood a stop was to be put to all and afterwards he waited 3 years before he pushed the matter.

Question by same – Did your father give a delivery bond agreeably to William Bailey’s desire and who as the security?

Answer – He did give the bond and Joseph Dunman was his security.

Question by same – Was William Moore able to pay the debt at that time if William Bailey had endeavored to collect it?

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Answer – Yes and double that debt.

Question of the agent to the defendant – Are you not the daughter of William Moore?

Answer – yes

Lucy Ives now signs with her mark again on March 16, 1832.

There’s the answer. Lucy Moore, now Ives, is the daughter of both William and Lucy Moore. Of course, by this time William has been dead since 1826 and Lucy is either dead or dies before July of 1832. William can’t be deposed again and Lucy, his wife, was never deposed at all – although I do have to wonder why. Even if Lucy Moore-the-mother is still alive, she is likely in poor health at roughly 78 years of age.

I do wonder if the financial stress and the stress of these lawsuits contributed to their deaths.

The 1850 Census

In the 1850 census, we find:

  • Elizabeth Moore, age 50, so born in 1800 (I suspect this is actually too young)
  • Lucy Ives age 60, born in 1790
  • Rebecca Ives age 40 born in 1810
  • Ann Ives age 22 born in 1828
  • William Ives age 19 born in 1831.

Elizabeth Moore would be Lucy-wife-of-William’s daughter.

Lucy Ives would be Lucy-wife-of-William’s daughter who married James Ives in 1831. James Ives has apparently died. For a long time, we thought this Lucy was Lucy Akin Moore Ives but based on the deposition, we know that’s not the case.

While Rebecca Ives and Ann Ives were born before Lucy Moore and James Ives were married, it’s not impossible that Lucy Moore Ives had two children before marriage that are in 1850 using her married name. It’s also possible that James Ives had two children from a previous marriage who are now living with Lucy. A third possibility is that these children belong to both Lucy Moore Ives and James Ives and were born before they were married.

In the 1840 census, James Ives is 50-60 living with a female of the same age, with 2 females 30-40, 1 female 20-30, 2 females and 2 males 10-15. It’s impossible to make any inferences except that the female who was age 50-60 was probably Lucy.

This also tells us that Lucy Moore Ives would have married at age 41, so her childbearing years would have been limited.

In the 1830 census, which was before Lucy Moore (the daughter) was married in 1831, in the Lucy-wife-of-William’s household, there were 3 small children, 2 females and a male under the age of 5. Ann Ives could have been that person. Rebecca Ives, whoever she is, could also be the mother of Ann and William Ives. Ives could be a married name for Rebecca.

In 1850, Elizabeth, Lucy and Rebecca lived near the Ingraham, Irby, Womack, Ferguson, Henderson and Anderson families and beside Hawkins Landrum who is noted as a pauper. He was also a preacher.

In 1851, Lucy Moore (wife of William) had been deceased for several years, but in a deed from Isaac and Martha Medley to William Irby, the land is described as “Birches Creek nearly opposite to Vernon Meeting House beginning at Lucy Moore’s corner, Wilson’s corner, Jacob Ferguson corner, same land Isaac Medley purchased of William Moore, decd.” Unfortunately, either I didn’t record the number of acres, or it wasn’t given. Somehow, Isaac had once again come into possession of that land.

Lucy Akin Moore and James Moore

Following James Moore’s loss of land in 1827 for debt, I find no trace of them in any future records. He and Lucy Akin could well have packed up and left Virginia for distant locations. At that time, both Tennessee and Kentucky were prime destinations.

1860 Arrives

In the 1860 census, we find three women living together 10 houses from Raleigh Moore who lived very near the Henderson land at Oak Level.

In the same household:

  • Elizabeth Slate, 50 (born 1810)
  • Lucy Ives, 60 (born 1790)
  • Elizabeth Moore 58 (born 1792)

I know who Elizabeth Moore is and Lucy Ives, but who is Elizabeth Slate?

Two of Lucy’s daughters married Slate men, but the only one who was married prior to 1810 had a daughter Elizabeth in 1825, so the relationship of this Elizabeth Slate to the other two women is unknown, assuming there is a relationship at all. It could simply have been that Elizabeth Slate was a neighbor that needed a place to live, or she was willing to help care for Elizabeth Moore and Lucy Ives who were aging.

There’s one other possibility as well, and that’s that the census name is incorrect and Elizabeth Slate is actually Rebecca Slate, Lucy’s daughter. The birth year is too late in the census too, because Rebecca married in 1825. So I’m not suggesting that Elizabeth Slate is actually Rebecca Moore Slate, but simply saying that in light of Rebecca Slate’s signature 3 years later in 1863, we know she’s in the area, not accounted for in the census and I can’t find any indication of what happened to William Slate or any children.

Multiple Elizabeth Moores Too

In the Halifax County death records, an Elizabeth Moore died in 1861 and another in 1863.

Multiple Elizabeth Moores were living at this time in Halifax County, so I have to be very careful not to intermix their records.

The Elizabeth Moore who died in 1861 appears to be the daughter of Caroline Brooks who married William Moore, son of Thomas Moore, (probable son of Lucy and William Moore,) according to an 1834 deed followed by an 1861 estate inventory for Carolina Brooks. These two Elizabeth Moores lived in close proximity. This William Moore was living when the 1860 census was taken and his wife Elizabeth was born about 1819 and had a 2-year-old child in 1860, along with other children.

The Elizabeth Moore who died in 1863 appears to be our Elizabeth Moore because the estate of Elizabeth Moore was committed to the sheriff with Hawkins Landrum, appointed and confirmed as appraiser. Hawkins was Elizabeth’s neighbor in the 1860 census.

This means that Elizabeth’s land was conveyed by administrator or commissioner, not under her name which makes it almost impossible to track forward in time. Were I to return to Halifax County, I would peruse the deeds for Hawkins Landrum as conveyor, not Elizabeth Moore.

In 1863, Lucy Ives sells to William Henderson 47 acres for $1175 adjoining with Morgan (William) Irby, William Henderson, Clementine Anderson, land where Elizabeth Moore, decd owned and Lucy Morz. (sic) Lucy Ives and Rebecca Slate sign with their marks.

In 1864, Lucy Ives purchased items at the estate sale of Elizabeth Moore and in 1865, Samuel P. Watkins confirmed the account for the estate of Elizabeth Moore which was continued into 1866. I would love to have those papers! I wonder if Samuel Watkins conveyed her property.

Unfortunately, when visiting Halifax County, I failed to copy the estate inventory of Elizabeth Moore, if it exists. Much of Elizabeth’s belongings probably belonged to her mother, Lucy since it appears that Elizabeth retained the land and house for another 31 years after Lucy’s death.

Confusion

Unfortunately, there are missing pieces to this puzzle that don’t make sense.

We know that three of Lucy’s children were involved with her land, all 3 being daughters, but these weren’t Lucy’s only children or her only daughters. These may have been the children that Lucy felt would never marry and needed to be provided for. But Rebecca Slate did marry several years before Lucy died.

If some children maintained an ownership interest in Lucy’s land, why didn’t others, especially since Lucy apparently died intestate?

Even using the benefit of the doubt situation, saying that Thomas wasn’t Lucy’s son, but her husband’s brother, we still know of several other children.

We first find Lucy in the records in 1786 witnessing a deed. Based on the number of and ages of the children, assuming that Lucy was William’s only wife, they had to be married by 1772/1775 to have the number of children that were born.

We know that Azariah who was born about 1783 sold land directly to Lucy, so was likely her son.

We know that Nancy, born about 1785, named a daughter Lucy, so she too was undoubtedly her daughter.

Children

The known children of Rev. William and Lucy Moore in rough birth order are listed below, with the daughters who maintained an interest in her land bolded.

Lucy’s signature appears on some of the marriage bonds, a very unusual gift from the past. At least, we think it’s Lucy, not her daughter’s signature. Lucy the daughter signed with a mark. We’re assuming that Lucy Moore’s signature was actually her signature and not signed by someone else.

  • Thomas Moore (speculative child) was born between 1771 and 1777, taken from the 1792 personal tax data. This is probably the Thomas who married Polly Baker in 1798 given that his granddaughter’s middle name is Baker. Thomas died in 1801 leaving orphans Rawley and William who were bound by the overseers of the poor to Anderson Moore who had also come from Prince Edward County and bought land from Nimrod Ferguson near James and William Moore. However, the Y DNA of one of Anderson’s Moore descendants doesn’t match the James/William Moore line DNA, but Raleigh Moore’s does. In the 1840 census, Raleigh Moore is living beside Edward Henderson. If Thomas is not Lucy’s son, he is her brother-in-law. The fact that Thomas’s children were bound to Anderson Moore raises the question of why, especially since William Moore lived across the road, and if/how Anderson was related. William Moore was apparently disabled by this time.
  • Mary Moore (speculative child) born in 1775, found in 1850 census living with William B. Moore (the orphan of Thomas Moore and brother to Raleigh Moore). One Mary Moore signed Rebecca Moore’s marriage license in 1825 along with Lucy. Since there is no marriage record for Mary Moore, nor did she appear to have shared in her mother’s estate, she may have died before her mother’s land was sold. It’s also possible that the Mary living in 1850 is not the Mary who signed Rebecca’s marriage license in 1825. We do know that Mary is somehow connected due to the marriage document she witnessed.
  • Azariah Moore was born in 1783 or before and served in the War of 1812, dying in 1866. Letitia described him at the time of his enlistment as 5 feet 10 inches, nearly black hair, blue eyes and a red complexion. His occupation was deputy sheriff. He married Letitia Johnson in 1818 in Pittsylvania County, having four daughters and two sons. Letitia’s father left her money but stipulated that Azariah couldn’t touch it, nor could it be used to pay his debts. Letitia’s widows pension application was rejected, saying Azariah was not on the roles of Capt. Faulkner’s regiment.
  • William Moore (Jr.), born 1775-1785, moved to Pittsylvania County before 1815 and had business dealings with his brother, Azariah. William probably married Sarah (or Sally) and had at least 2 sons and 3 daughters. By 1850 William had died, but his wife Sarah was shown as age 64 (born 1786) along with Nancy Jenkins age 36 (born about 1814), Sarah Jenkins age 11 (born about 1839) and a son William Moore born about 1820, age 30.
  • Nancy “Ann” Moore born about 1785 married John R. Estes on November 25, 1811 and moved to Claiborne Co., TN by 1820 where she died between 1860-1870. She had 4 sons and 5 daughters, all but one living to adulthood.
  • James Moore born about 1785 married Lucy Akin in 1817, lived beside Edward Henderson in the 1820 census and was absent from the 1830 census. In 1827 James lost his land to debt to Isaac Medley, the same man who purchased William Moore’s land. There is mention of a James Moore in the 1830s pertaining to the chancery suit involving William Moore’s debt, but nothing more is known about James.
  • Kitty Moore born about 1788 married Francis Slate in 1805. Her father wrote a note giving permission and her two brothers both signed as her bond, indicating they are both 21 or over. Kitty and Francis are living in Surry Co., NC in 1850. They have son Archibald who is 35 and noted as an invalid, Rabecca (sic) 33 and Elizabeth 25.
  • Elizabeth Moore who depending on the census was born either in 1792 or in 1800. She apparently winds up with her mother’s land and never marries. Elizabeth died in 1863.
  • Lucy Moore born about 1790, married James Ives in 1831. Given that she would have been 41 at the time, it’s unknown whether she had William Ives with James Ives or whether William was someone else’s child. Lucy apparently died between the 1860 and 1870 census.
  • Jane Moore born 1800 or earlier married James Blackstock in 1823. I cannot find this couple in 1830, but in 1840 one James Blackstock was living in Halifax County, age 50-60, female age 40-50 (born 1790-1800), with 2 male children, ages 10-15 and 15-20. In 1850, James Blackstock age 68 (born 1782) lived beside William Henderson, wife Jane 53, so born in 1797, son James L. Blackstock age 21. By 1860, neither James nor Jane are shown in the census, and their son James is married with a family. However, in 1870 James Blackstock, age 88, is living alone beside John Blackstock, age 49, probably his son. It appears that Jane probably didn’t have female children.

William Moore 1823 signature Jane Moore to James Blackstock

Interestingly enough, both Rebecca Moore and Lucy Moore sign Jane’s marriage document, in addition to William Moore.

My original assumption was that the Lucy who signed was Jane’s mother, but that might not be the case. Jane’s sister Lucy was born in 1790, so would have been 33 in 1823 when Jane married – clearly old enough to sign as a witness.

Lucy, the daughter, signs with her mark in the 1825 and 1832 depositions, and this document is signed by Lucy, suggesting that this was signed by Lucy the mother.

  • Rebecca Moore born 1800 or earlier married William G. Slayte (Slate) in 1825. I can’t find this couple after their marriage but in the 1850 census, there is a Rebecca Sleet, age 62 (born in 1788) living with John P. Sleet and family in Orange County, VA. In the household is a child by the name of Lucy J. Sleet and Rebecca M. Sleet. In 1863, Rebecca Slate signs a deed selling her mother’s land. One tree on Ancestry shows a William Slate born to William G. in 1833 in Pittsylvania County, died 1896 in Halifax, married a Lucy Jordan and had 4 children. This William is shown on the census to be a minister.

William Moore 1825 signature Rebecca Moore to William Slayte

Lucy Moore signs this document too, as does Mary Moore. This document causes me to suspect Mary Moore is another daughter that never married.

Possible Children

Possible additional children of Lucy Moore are the 3 individuals below.

  • Lemuel born before 1791, perhaps as early as 1770-1780, appears in 1812 on the Halifax County tax list and in an 1825 debt suit filed against him. Then we find Lemuel in 1830 in Grainger Co. TN beside Mastin Moore, known to be a grandson of William’s brother. Sometimes Lemuel is written as Samuel. Furthermore, a Lemuel Moore married Anna Stubblefield in 1804 in Grainger County and died in 1859 in Laurel County, Kentucky. In 1797, Lemuel Moore is found in Greene County, TN beside Rice Moore, William Moore’s brother. There are clearly two Lemuel Moores. I suspect one is William’s brother and one is William’s son. I have DNA matches through 3 of Lemuel’s children at what would be (1) 4C1R, (2) 5C and (4) 5C1R if the Lemuel in Laurel County, KY is indeed William’s son. If that Lemuel is more distantly related, the relationships would be more distant. The connection could also be through the Stubblefield line, which may be connected through either William’s wife, Lucy, or William Moore’s parents.
  • Isaac born in 1793 or before, assigned as a road hand in 1814 with James Moore and Samuel (Lemuel?). Nothing more.
  • Israel born in 1791 or earlier, appears 1 time on the tax list in 1812 the same day as William. Nothing more.

Of the above, I strongly suspect one of the two Lemuels is William’s son. The other possibly his brother. There is no record of what happened to Isaac or Israel.

Mitochondrial DNA

I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descending from Lucy Moore through all females to the current generation, which can be male. Lucy’s daughters who had or might have had daughters are listed below

Nancy “Ann” Moore who married John R. Estes and moved to Claiborne County, TN.

Nancy had the following daughters who had children who could have passed Lucy’s mitochondrial DNA to the current generation.

  • Lucy Estes (1812-1886) born in Claiborne County, TN and died in Waubaunsee Co., Kansas, married Coleman Rush and had 2 daughters. Only one daughter, Lucy Rush who married William Bell had any females who had females who have living descendants today that represent Lucy Moore’s mitochondrial line. Lucy Rush had daughters:
  • Temperance Estes born about 1817 or 1818 married Adam Clouse in Claiborne County. They had 9 children including 6 daughters:
    • Ann J. Clouse born in 1841 but I find no record of her marrying or having children.
    • Mary Mollie Clouse born 1842 married Amos Hutchens, died in Bourbon Co., KY in 1918 and had two daughters, Rosetta Hutchens and Mary Hutchens who both had daughters as well.
    • Jemima Clouse who was born about 1844 and about whom nothing more is known.
    • Sarah J. Clouse born about 1849 and about whom nothing more is known.
    • Louisiana Clouse born about 1856 and about whom nothing more is known.
    • Elizabeth Clouse born in 1858 and who may have married Robert F. Cook in 1882. If she had daughters, they would carry Lucy’s mitochondrial DNA.
  • Nancy Estes (1820-1890) married Nathaniel Wilburn Hooper and had two daughters
    • Mary Hooper born in 1853, nothing further known.
    • Malinda Hooper born in 1855, nothing further is known.
  • Mary Estes, born about 1830 and died before 1864 in Jackson, KY married William Hurst and had 3 daughters. The only daughter known to marry is:
    • Rebecca Hurst (1855-1899) Madison Co., KY who married Silas Charles Harding and had daughters, Mary Harding (b 1874), Julia Harding (b 1875), Martha Margaret Harding (1883-1980), Josie Harding (1892-1981), Rebecca Harding born 1899 and Bessie Harding (1900-1989) who married Elmer Baker. It’s not known if any of these daughters had daughters.

Kitty Moore married Francis Slate and lived in Surry Co., NC. In 1860, Kitty appears to be deceased, but we find Frank Slate, age 92 in Stokes County, NC, with:

  • Rebecca Slate age 46, Mary Slate age 13, Lucy Slate age 8 and Kitty Slate age 1. If these daughters are the children of Rebecca Slate, they are likely Lucy’s grandchildren, assuming Rebecca is the daughter of Kitty Moore and Francis Slate and not a daughter-in-law.

Brenda, who descends from this Slate line shows Kitty and Francis’s children to be: John (1809-1970), Azariah (1810-1850), Archibald (1812-1900), William Harrison (1815-1860), Mary Rebecca (1817-?), Peterson James (1820-1875), Isham James (1823-?), Elizabeth (1825-?), Sarah (1825-1869) along with Jeremiah, Robert and Matilda with no dates. No spouses are given for any of the females.

Autosomal DNA

I look at these segments, painted to John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore, Lucy’s daughter, and I know some of them descend to me today from Lucy. Hopefully, one day, these segments will help me determine the identity of Lucy’s parents.

Lucy Moore DNAPainter.png

What I can say is that I’ve identified the segments on chromosome 6 as belonging to James Moore and Mary Rice, so they did not descend from Lucy. The rest all come from John Estes or Nancy Moore. If they came from Nancy, then some probably descended from Lucy.

There are secrets yet to be revealed.

Summary

Lucy’s life was a real challenge to unravel. After discovering her first name, it appeared that the only thing we would ever know about Lucy was her name from deeds. Based on what we know about her husband and children, Lucy’s life must have been exceedingly difficult.

For the beginning of her married life, Lucy raised children and farmed while William was absent circuit riding and ministering. That continued until at least 1796 or 1797 when something happened to William to disable him.

I can’t help but wonder if a horse threw him while he was riding. Of course, any number of things could have happened, none of them good. Lucy would have been about 43 when William’s disability occurred. Lucy was still having children at that time and may have had another child, or two. Regardless, Lucy was left in a situation where she had a houseful of stairstep children to raise and a disabled husband.

Beginning in 1793 and 1794, a schism embroiled the Methodist religion, and drama ensued on that front as well. William left the Methodist church and founded a new religion. I can’t help but wonder if that didn’t have something to do with why Lucy and William bought the land where the meeting house stood in 1797, and perhaps had something to do with why they sold it in 1801. For some reason, the meeting house was not included in the deed either time. Why did Ransom Day want to retain the “Moore Meeting House?” How long had William been preaching there? Perhaps as long as the family had been in Halifax County. We know he began preaching before 1775. Did he stop preaching there because of the schism?

We can rest assured that Lucy was in that Meeting House probably almost as much as she was in her own house.

In 1803, William founded what is today the Pleasant Grove United Church of Christ a few miles down the road with another minister, part of a new religion, an offshoot of Methodism called “Just Plain Christian” and then “The Christian Church.”

William’s financial difficulties began during this period of religious dissention and increased until the end of his life 30 years later. It seemed like one thing after another went wrong.

In 1798, their (probable) son Thomas married, but was dead by 1801, orphaning two young sons, Raleigh and William Moore. Those children were bound out to the neighbor, Anderson Moore.

About this same time, William and Lucy sold the 100 acres of land where the Meeting House stood that they had only owned for 4 years. I’d guess they needed money based on the fact that William was disabled for some reason, but there could also have been some religious pressure as well.

William’s tobacco in 1812 was sold to a warehouse that didn’t credit the sale, went bankrupt and was sold. The new owner didn’t credit the sale either. This dispute would never be unraveled in William’s lifetime and this seemed to snowball into further debt.

Two of Lucy and William’s sons, William and Azariah, were in financial trouble in 1812 too.

The War of 1812 descended upon the family, and son Azariah (reportedly) served as did their new son-in-law John R. Estes.

We know that William could still travel, at least somewhat, because he was just across the border marrying a couple in 1817 for which he was paid a dollar. He provided a deposition in 1819 when the couple wanted to divorce what was rather uncomplimentary in nature.

By 1820, John R. Estes with their daughter, Nancy, had departed for Claiborne County, Tennessee, next door to Grainger County where William Moore’s brothers and also possibly his son, Lemuel, lived already. Lucy would never see Nancy or her grandchildren again. That had to be one heartbreaking day, watching the wagon leave, disappearing into a dot in the distance, with Nancy, age 35 or so and between 5 and 7 grandchildren ranging in age from 7 or 8 to newborn, depending on when they left, exactly.

Were those children waving out the back of the wagon in tears, or did they not realize they would never see their grandmother again? And what about Nancy? She surely understood.

In 1821 and 1822, William’s financial pressures increased, with him signing his land over and eventually, all of his personal property as collateral for debt.

Son James was also embroiled in this transaction.

In 1825, William filed a countersuit regarding the tobacco sale and gave a deposition.

In 1826, Lucy bought land from her son, Azariah.

In 1826, William lost his land and everything else, including their beds, in a protracted series of painful lawsuits, and subsequently died.

Throughout all of this, Lucy was a silent partner. Normally, an elderly widow would fade into oblivion, especially under these circumstances, but that’s not what Lucy did.

Lucy took stock of the situation and did what my Dad referred to as, “pulling herself up by her bootstraps,” taking charge of the situation.

Lucy’s husband William had never obtained her permission by way of a signature when he pledged the land for collateral. He lost the land to Isaac Medley, but Lucy regained her full one-third share by filing a lawsuit a few days after Thanksgiving the year that William died. Clearly, Isaac wasn’t counting on that.

That lawsuit in addition to other chancery suits provide us with incredible insight into Lucy’s life, previously unknown children, and by inference, details about Lucy herself.

Lucy was a silent partner for just so long. When William died, Lucy clearly knew what needed to be done, and did it, regaining her portion of the land. It may have been a “good ole’ boys” network, with deeds being signed in candle-lit taverns, but Lucy was not going to suffer the consequences of being overlooked in subdued, complacent, subjective silence.

Lucy’s estate at her death in 1832 consisted of 100 acres of land that she left, one way or another, to her daughters, based on later sales. Not bad for a minister’s wife who had to save her egg money to purchase 50 acres from her son in her own name 6 years earlier at 72 years of age.

Lucy’s life-long can-do attitude, her perseverance in the face of unbelievable adversity and her bravery remain inspirational today, 187 years after her death.

Lucy,  this t-shirt is ode to you from your 4 times great-granddaughter!

Lucy Moore tshirt.png

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DNA Results – First Glances at Ethnicity and Matching!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vendors

I’m going to take a look at:

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

Family Tree DNA

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

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

Glances Family Tree DNA home

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

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

Glances Family Tree DNA matches

You can click to enlarge this graphic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glances Family Tree DNA tree

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

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

Family Tree DNA Ethnicity

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

Glances Family Tree DNA myOrigins

MyHeritage

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

Glances MyHeritage home

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

Clicking on DNA Matches shows you the following match list:

Glances MyHeritage matches

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

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

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

Theory match 2

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

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

MyHeritage Ethnicity

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

Glances MyHeritage ethnicity.png

23andMe

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

Glances 23andMe home

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

Glances 23andMe matches

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

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

23andMe Ethnicity

What 23andMe does exceptionally well is ethnicity estimates.

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

Glances 23andMe ethnicity

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

Glances 23andMe chromosome painting

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

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

Ancestry

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

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Glances Ancestry home

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

Glances Ancestry DNA tab

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

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

Glances Ancestry matches

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

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

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

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

Ancestry Ethnicity

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

Glances Ancestry ethnicity

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

Sharing Information

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

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

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

Transferring

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

Enjoy your new matches and have fun!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Exploring Family Trees Website, Including Average DNA Percent Inheritance by Ancestor

Sometimes you just have to do something just because it’s fun.

That’s the website learnforeverlearn at this link, a free tool created by B. F. Lyon visualizations that allows you to view your family tree or pedigree chart in very novel ways.

Here’s what greets you.

learnforever splash

The “About This” link at the very top of the page shows the following:

learnforever about

In case you’re wondering, your Gedcom file never leaves your PC, so you don’t need to worry about security.

Getting Started

First, you’ll be prompted to upload a Gedcom file, a file generated by either your genealogy software like RootsMagic or a site like Ancestry. If you have a tree at Ancestry, you can download it into a Gedcom file format and save on your computer.

My own personal Gedcom file from my PC software was too large, so I downloaded a smaller file that I use on Ancestry. I’ve entered all of my ancestors at Ancestry through 12 generations, if known, and some of their children. I use my Ancestry file to focus on direct line ancestors and DNA matches, not as my primary tree.

The first thing you see after uploading your Gedcom file is that your pedigree chart is displayed in one tree. If you want to see examples before uploading your own, click here, or view mine below. You can click to see a larger image.

learnforever ancestors

What fun! If you’ve experienced pedigree collapse where you are descended from the same ancestral line multiple times, you’ll see that in this large pedigree map. I don’t have pedigree collapse, but you take a look at fun examples under “Sample Trees.”

If you want to see more detail, just scroll your mouse wheel for larger or smaller. If you get yourself lost, simply reset pan/zoom or reset to the root person.

You can’t “hurt” this application because you reload your file every time you want to use it, so you can always just start over.

Your options are at the top, but by mousing over anything on the page, you can generally learn a lot more. Every time I use this tool, I notice something I didn’t see previously.

learnforever toolbar

Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Who’s Who

I currently have 793 individuals in my tree. By clicking on the “Current Tree Details” at the top of the page, you can see the list of who is included.

learnforever tree detail

This is an easy way to see if you have any issues in your file. I quickly discovered that I have two people with typos in their birth dates because the years have 3 digits. How did that happen?

Validation Check

You can also run a data validation check.

learnforever data validation

What a valuable tool!

Hmmm, looks like I need to do some cleanup. Ahem!!

The X Chromosome

At the top right, you can click on “Highlight X DNA Contributions” which creates a view of the people who contributed or are candidates to contribute segments of their X chromosome to the home person. Remember that you can change the home (root) person to someone else in your tree, like maybe one of your parents, for example.

The X is important because it has unique inheritance properties that can be very helpful that I wrote about here.

learnforever x contributions

I moused over the various people and discovered that when you “land” on someone, you can view their information. In this case, my great-grandmother who, on average, contributed 12.5% of her DNA to me and 25% of her X chromosome.

learnforever ancestor contribution

I can then view Evaline’s ancestor or descendant tree, or a straight path to the root, which is me, by clicking the blue buttons.

learnforever ancestor tree

Years

learnforever years

By scrolling your mouse up and down between people, you can see a horizontal black “line” that shows you a year. By following the line, you can see who in your tree was living during that year.

learnforever living years

Gosh this is fun!

History

By mousing over the green year bar at far right, you can see what was going on historically at that time, as well as in your own family.

learnforever history

I love this tool!

Locations

Under the options tab, at upper left, by toggling the flag icon, you can then view your tree by birth location.

learnforever options

I love this view.

learnforever flags

You can view the migration progression by just looking at your tree.

Scroll on down the options tab for more display possibilities.

Possible Immigrants

learnforever possible immigrants

Ancestor Information

learnforever statistics

In my case, the “number of children” information isn’t accurate because I have not fleshed out the families at Ancestry. I was only working primarily with my direct ancestors.

Unique Birthplaces

learnforever birthplaces

I’ve combined unique birthplaces with potential immigrants.

Ancestor Cone

learnforever ancestor cone

By mousing, you can see how many ancestors you had at a particular time and the total world population.

learnforever ancestors vs world population

Wow. In 1615, I had 16,384 ancestors? I need to get busy! I am never going to be finished!

Just when you think you can’t have any more fun…

You can read more about this tool and ways to use it in an article written by the author here.

Thank You

I don’t know B. F. Lyon who created this cool free website, but under the options tab, I found this:

Want more options/features? Let me know at bradflyon@gmail.com

Please drop Brad a note to say thank you or offer suggestions!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

DNA Testing the Recently Deceased

No one really want to think about this, but it happens.

You’ve always meant to DNA test someone, and they’ve agreed, but either you didn’t order the kit, or the kit is far away from where they passed away.

What can you do?

Take heart, all is not lost. You have two options.

Swabbing the dead

Swabbing the Deceased

Some funeral homes work with companies for DNA preservation and other services, but these services do not provide you with genealogy results from any of the major vendors and are processed by the lab associated with the company whose kit the funeral home is selling.

For genealogy, you have two options.

  1. Call Family Tree DNA (713-868-1438 9-5 CST) and have them overnight you a swab kit. The funeral director can swab the inside of their cheek and generally, funeral directors do a great job. You may want to ask for extra vials to be included in the overnight package, just in case. This is your last (and only) chance.
  2. If you don’t have time or aren’t in a location where you can receive an overnight delivery, purchase an Identigene paternity test kit at any CVS or similar drugstore. That kit will cost you about $27 for the kit alone, but the kit contains sterile swabs and a sterile pouch for inserting the swabs after swabbing the inside of the cheek. DO NOT SEND THE SWABS TO IDENTIGENE. Instead, call Family Tree DNA and explain that you are sending the Identigene swabs to their lab for processing. They will provide you with instructions and you must obtain approval before sending non-standard swabs for processing.

Caveats and Alternatives

  • Cheek swabbing must occur before embalming because embalming fluid interferes with DNA processing, per Dr. Connie Bormans, lab director at GenebyGene.
  • Per my friendly mortician, if you’re desperate and embalming has occurred, another area where some have achieved swabbing success is the crease behind the ear lobe where skin cells tend to become trapped if the body has not already been cleaned in that area. At this point, you have nothing to lose by trying.
  • Please note that sometimes “overnight” is not actually overnight. I attempted to overnight something across the Memorial Day weekend and “overnight” in that case was actually Friday to Tuesday for all carriers. If you are in a pickle, be aware of delivery constraints surrounding weekends, holidays and perhaps a very remote location.

Ordering

After the kit is returned to Family Tree DNA for processing, you can order the regular suite of tests. I would suggest that you order all the tests you actually want initially, because the quantity and/or quality of the DNA sample may be questionable.

In other words, later upgrades may not be successful. I had that situation occur with my aunt’s mitochondrial DNA test results. The initial mtPlus test was successful, but her sample could not be upgraded to either the mitochondrial full sequence or Family Finder.

Three Data Bases in One Test

While you can’t obtain a spit sample from a deceased person for other autosomal tests, you can transfer the person’s autosomal DNA results to both GedMatch and MyHeritage for additional matching after processing.

Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in this difficult situation, but if you do, you have options.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

MyHeritage Expands DNA Testing to Include (Optional) Health Information

Recently, I received news that MyHeritage is now offering a DNA test for genealogy that can also be utilized to obtain health information. I had some questions about the service and reached out to MyHeritage, so after I share their announcement, I’ll provide the information I received from MyHeritage.

The MyHeritage Health service is different from the services currently provided by either 23andMe or, individually, Promethease, by uploading your file.

MyHeritage Health and Ancestry.png

The text of the MyHeritage announcement e-mail follows below:

The new test provides comprehensive health reports that can empower future health and lifestyle choices. It is a superset of the current MyHeritage DNA test and includes its pillar features: a percentage breakdown of ethnic origins and matching to relatives through shared DNA. MyHeritage is now the only global consumer DNA company to offer an extensive health and ancestry product in dozens of languages. The two tests will be offered on our website side by side.

The new test provides health reports that show users their risk of developing or carrying genetic conditions. Reports include conditions where single genes contribute to the risk, such as hereditary breast cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and late-onset Parkinson’s disease; conditions associated with multiple genes, such as heart disease, and type 2 diabetes; and carrier status reports on conditions that can be passed down from a couple to their children, such as Tay-Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis.

Learn more about the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test by reading the press release and the blog post.

For an overview of the new test, you are invited to view the “About MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test” video. This video has a separate version for US users.

The MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit is available at the price of $199 + shipping on the MyHeritage DNA website. Users who have already purchased the genealogical (ancestry-only) MyHeritage DNA test can upgrade to receive health reports for $120. The new health kit is available globally except in a few countries that do not allow health-related consumer genetic testing.

Privacy is our top priority. All health data is protected by state-of-the-art encryption. Health report data is secured using additional password protection and is so secure that even MyHeritage employees cannot access it. MyHeritage has never licensed or sold user data, and has committed to never do so without explicit user consent. MyHeritage is the only consumer DNA company that has pledged to never sell data to insurance companies. It also applies a strict policy to prohibit the use of its DNA services by law enforcement agencies.

There’s more detail in the MyHeritage press release:

In total, MyHeritage’s Health+Ancestry test covers one of the most extensive ranges of conditions offered by an at-home DNA test: 11 Genetic Risk Reports, including a hereditary breast cancer (BRCA) report that tests 10 pathogenic variants; 3 Polygenic Risk Reports; and 15 Carrier Status Reports.

The World Health Organization identifies cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death globally. This makes MyHeritage’s unique report for heart disease risk particularly beneficial. This report is based on a cutting-edge method called Polygenic Risk Score that examines hundreds, and in some cases thousands of variants across the entire genome.

In addition to heart disease, the Health+Ancestry product also includes a Polygenic Risk Score for type 2 diabetes, a condition that has significantly increased in prevalence in recent decades and now affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and 40% of Americans within their lifetime. MyHeritage is also unique in providing a third Polygenic Risk Score for breast cancer, which delivers a risk assessment for breast cancer when none of the BRCA variants that MyHeritage tests for are found. MyHeritage is currently the only major home DNA testing company to offer Polygenic Risk Reports for multiple conditions, and more Polygenic Risk Reports will be added shortly after the product’s initial release. The three initial Polygenic Risk Reports support only populations with European ancestry, but the company has begun conducting research to allow the polygenic reports to cover a broader spectrum of populations in the future.

The list of conditions and genes reported can be found here.

The unique aspect of the MyHeritage Health test is that they include diseases or conditions that are polygenic, meaning that multiple locations on multiple genes are taken into consideration in combination to create the report.

From the MyHeritage blog, for people in the US:

In the United States, we work with an independent network of physicians called PWNHealth, which supervises this new service and provides clinical oversight.

As with our current genealogical DNA kit, activation is required to associate the kit with the individual who is taking the test. With the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry kit, activation must be done by the user who took the DNA test and it includes an additional step: completing a personal and family health history questionnaire. This ensures that users receive the reports that are appropriate for them. In the United States, an independent physician will review each health history questionnaire, approve the processing of the test, and evaluate all health reports before they are released. When a report indicates an increased risk for a specific condition, the physician will further determine whether genetic counseling is advised. If genetic counseling is recommended, a phone or video consultation with a genetic counselor from PWNHealth is included at no additional cost.

In the United States, the physician oversight and genetic counseling is an important benefit of the MyHeritage DNA Ancestry + Health test. This ensures that users will not be on their own when interpreting the results, in cases where the results indicate increased risk and the physician considers genetic counseling to be essential. In other words, our test provides access to experts who can help people understand their results, which our major competitor does not provide.

I personally feel that the physician oversight and access to a counselor is extremely important. I greatly appreciate that the counselor is included free in cases that merit that level of attention.

Of course, having taken the 23andMe test and utilized Promethease, I’m curious what the MyHeritage information might reveal that wasn’t covered in either of those others. In particular, my father had heart disease and my sister died of a heart attack, so I’m particularly concerned about heart health.

Questions, Answers and Things to Note

  • If you transferred your DNA to MyHeritage from any vendor, you’ll need to test on the MyHeritage chip in order to receive the health reports.
  • The health part of the test is not available to residents of NY, NH and RI due to their state laws. Sorry folks.
  • If you tested your DNA at MyHeritage, you are eligible for an upgrade to the Health product for the price of $120 by signing on to your account here and clicking on the Health tab. If you do not see the $120 upgrade option, that means that you are not eligible for the upgrade because you either haven’t tested yet, or you transferred your DNA file from another vendor.

MyHeritage Health.png

  • To order a new DNA+Health test or upgrade, click here. Current subscribers after signing on will see the new Health tab beside the DNA tab.

MyHeritage DNA tab.png

  • If you order a DNA kit without ordering through the Health tab, you’ll receive an Ancestry only test, but you can still upgrade for the $120 later, so don’t worry.

Occasionally, you can save a few $$ by ordering the initial genealogy-only MyHeritage DNA kit on sale, like for the current price of $59, then wait until your results are back and order the upgrade for $120, for a total of $179 – representing a $20 savings over the $199 price for the Ancestry+Health kit. Now is a great time to order!

  • The upgrade or purchase of the Health test provides initial health information for the first year, but after year 1, if you want updated health information as it becomes available, a health subscription costs $99 per year.

MyHeritage Health subscription.png

I was confused about exactly what the $99 Health Subscription covers, so I asked MyHeritage if I already have a full subscription (which I do, love, and you can try for free), would I still need to purchase the $99 Health Subscription?

I received the following reply:

Yes, you would still need the $99 Health Subscription, if you wish to gain access to all new Genetic Risk and Carrier Status Reports as they are released, beyond those you will get in your initial health results. None of the current subscriptions negates the need for the additional Health subscription for receiving health updates.

However, the Health Subscription will also unlock the advanced MyHeritage DNA genealogical features (see https://blog.myheritage.com/2018/12/starting-today-new-dna-upload-policy/) such as AutoClusters and Theory of Family Relativity.

So, a non-genealogist who buys the new MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry kit and adds the health subscription will not need to buy another type of subscription to unlock the advanced MyHeritage DNA genealogical features.

What’s Next?

MyHeritage Kit.jpg

I literally have my new MyHeritage DNA kit in my hands (because I transferred by DNA from another vendor initially) and I’m getting ready to swab.

After I receive my results, I’ll write a comparison about my MyHeritage health results as compared to my 23andMe results.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Honoring Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, 97-year-old Navajo Code Talker of North Cottonwood, Arizona, holding his DNA kit from Family Tree DNA after swabbing, photo courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

I can’t even begin to describe the honor I feel to be able to write a Memorial Day article honoring WWII USMC veteran, William Tully Brown, one of the few living Navajo Code Talkers.

I first became aware of William because he matches the Anzick Child in one of the DNA projects at Family Tree DNA that I administer. I reached out to his daughter Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair who has graciously facilitated communications with her father.

William is 100% Native American, Navajo, as confirmed by his autosomal DNA, family genealogy and tribal history.

If you’re wondering about how a Navajo man born on the Navajo reservation in Arizona might match the DNA of a child buried approximately 12,500 years ago in Montana, the answer is because they share a common ancestor very long ago from a highly endogamous population.

Neither Anzick Child nor William have any ancestors that weren’t Native American, so any DNA that they share must come from Native American ancestors. In other words, their DNA is identical by population.

The original group of individuals migrating across Beringia who would settle in the Americas, the ancestors of all of the Native people extending across North, Central and South America, is thought to have been very small. Of course, there were no humans living in the American continents at that time, so that founding population had no new DNA sources to introduce into the expanding population. All aboriginal people descended from the original group.

beringia map

By Erika Tamm et al – Tamm E, Kivisild T, Reidla M, Metspalu M, Smith DG, et al. (2007) Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders. PLoS ONE 2(9): e829. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000829. Also available from PubMed Central., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16975303

It’s believed by some scientists that over time, additional migrations arrived from far Northeast Asia, in what is now Siberia, but that founding population in Asia is the same population that the original group left.

Today, we see fully Native people, including William, with ethnicity results that include North and Central America, Siberia and often, a small amount of East Asian, totaling 100%.

William’s DNA contributions are amazing, and we’ll cover them in a future article, but what I’d really like to do today is to honor his military service and incredible legacies. Yes, legacies, plural. When I think I couldn’t love and respect this man any more, he contributes selflessly again as he approaches the century mark. God Bless this man!

Let’s begin by talking about William’s incredible service with the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker WWII

William Tully Brown in a younger photo, courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

The Navajo Code Talkers, highly intelligent and incredibly brave men, were the heroes of WWII. The original group of Navajo Marines recruited specifically for their language skills to serve in the Pacific theater numbered 29 but had been expanded to more than 400 by the end of the war.

Only 7 Code Talkers are still alive today. William Tully Brown is 97 years old and is pictured at the beginning of this article in his Marine uniform, which he still loves, and above in a younger photo.

The great irony is that the Navajo had been forbidden as children to speak their Native language, practice their religion, arts or culture, raised often in boarding schools intended to assimilate them and rid them of their Native “ways.” It’s those same children, as men, who saved the very country that tried to “beat the Indian” out of them, teaching them to suffer in silence, according to now deceased Code Talker, Chester Nez.

We should all be incredibly grateful that the Navajo were so forgiving.

Navajo is a very complex language with many dialects, making it unintelligible to other language speakers. It was estimated that only about 30 non-Navajo individuals spoke or understood Navajo in 1942 – making it a wonderful choice for a secret code.

The Navajo language proved to be undecipherable, even by the best cryptographers, and remained so for decades. Meanwhile, the Code Talkers translated communications and tactical information to and from the Navajo language, utilizing radio, telephone and other communications on the front lines of the war. The work of the Code Talkers was essential to the Allied Victory of WWII, with Code Talkers being present at many important battles including Utah Beach and Iwo Jima.

At the Battle of Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

For many years, the humble Navajo men weren’t recognized, keeping their military secrets, even from their families. It wasn’t until 1968, a quarter century later, that the documents were declassified, resulting in recognition for the brave Code Talkers.

August 14th was designated as National Navajo Code Talkers Day in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. In 2000, Bill Clinton signed a law which awarded gold medals of honor to the 29 men who developed the special Navajo military code, and silver congressional medals to all Code Talkers. You can view William Tully Brown’s name in the Congressional Record, here.

Their pride and loyalty remains unwavering.

You can read more about the Code Talkers here.

The Language of Our Ancestors

Veteran Code Talker, Kee Etsicitty said, ” We, the Navajo people, were very fortunate to contribute our language as a code for our country’s victory. For this, I strongly recommend we teach our children the language our ancestors were blessed with at the beginning of time. It is very sacred and represents the power of life.”

The Navajo language isn’t the only language and legacy that William Tully Brown will be remembered for. His DNA, yet another language, is a second selfless legacy that he leaves.

William Brown tested his DNA at Family Tree DNA which matches not only with the Anzick child, but with many other individuals who are Navajo or carry Native American DNA.

The Navajo history tells us that they migrated from the far north. Remnants of that journey remain in their oral legends. Archaeologists suggest that the migration from the northwest occurred around the year 1500.

The Navajo language roots confirms that connection.

Navajo is a Na Dene language, a derivative of Athabaskan which is also spoken in Alaska, in northwestern Canada, and along the North American Pacific rim.

Athabascan language map

CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147052

This map shows the areas where the Na-Dene languages are spoken today.

The languages spoken in areas of the southwestern part of the US are referred to as Southern Athabaskan languages.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that we find DNA matches to William Brown by several individuals whose ancestry is Native from and who still live in areas within the northern orange regions.

DNA is Forever

William Tully Brown’s legacy isn’t only in the Navajo code words he spoke in WWII, or his bravery, but also the code carried in his DNA that he has so generously contributed. William’s DNA has now been documented and will endure forever.

William’s genetic legacy reaches out to future generations, extending the connection to the ancestors through the threads of time, back to the Anzick child and forward for generations to come – drawing us all together.

Thank you Marine veteran William Tully Brown for your immense generosity, sacrifices and altruistic contribution of both life-saving and live-giving codes. How fitting that your heroism began 80 years ago with a war-winning language that would rescue both our country and democracy, as well as our Allies – and now, near your century mark, you are leaving a remarkable legacy by contributing your own genetic words, your DNA, for posterity.

Preserving our country then and our Native heritage now, uniting past, present and future. Gathering the generations together, lighting their way home.

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Attribution:

Thank you to Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair, the daughter of USMC veteran William Tully Brown, Code Talker, for permission to write this article, her generosity, and for his photos.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Concepts – Endogamy and DNA Segments

Members of endogamous populations intermarry for generations, creating many segments that match, especially at small centiMorgan levels. These matching segments occur because they are members of the same population – not because they are genealogically related in a recent or genealogical time-frame.

Said another way, endogamous people are all related to each other in some way because they descend from a small original population whose descendants continued to intermarry without introducing people outside of the community into the genetic line. In other words, the DNA segments of the original population simply keep getting passed around, because there are no new segments being introduced.

If you only have 10 segments at a specific genetic location to begin with, in the original population – then the descendants of those original people can only have some combination of the DNA of those original people until another person is introduced into the mix.

Examples of endogamous populations are Ashkenazi Jews, Native Americans, Acadians, Mennonite, Amish and so forth.

If you have some family lines from an endogamous population, you’ll match with many members of that group. If you are fully endogamous, you will have significantly more matches than people from non-endogamous groups.

I suggest that you read my article, Concepts: The Faces of Endogamy to set the stage for this article.

In this article, I want to provide you with a visual example of what endogamy looks like in a chromosome browser. It doesn’t matter which vendor you use so long as you can drop the cM count to 1, so I’m using FamilyTreeDNA for this example.

I’ve used three people as examples:

  • Non-endogamous European
  • Ashkenazi Jewish
  • Native American (Sioux)

For all testers, I selected their closest match above 200 cM total plus the following 4 for a total of 5 people to compare in the chromosome browser. I have only shown chromosomes 1-8 because I’m trying to convey the concept, not exact details of each chromosome, and 8 chromosomes fit into one screen shot.

If you’re not familiar with the terminology, you can read about cM, centiMorgans, in the article “Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs, and Pickin’Crab.”

Let’s take a look at our 3 examples, one at a time.

Non-Endogamous European Individual

The tester is non-endogamous. Four of the 5 individuals are known family members, although none were target tested by the tester.

Endogamy non-endogamous.png

The tester’s matches at 1 cM are shown below:

Endogamy non-endogamous 1cM.png

Note that the grey hashed regions are regions not reported, so no one matches there.

Below, the same 5 matches shown at 7 cM where roughly half of the matches will be identical by chance. Identical by descent segments include identical by population. You can read about the various types of “identical by” segments in the article, “Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance”.

Endogamy non-endogamous 7cM.png

Ashkenazi Jewish Individual

The tester, along with both of their parents have tested. None of the matches are known or identified relatives.

Endogamy Jewish.png

Even though none of these individuals can be identified, two are related on both sides, maternal and paternal, of the person who tested.

In the chromosome browser, at 1cM, we see the following:

Endogamy Jewish 1cM.png

At 7cM, the following:

Endogamy 7cM.png

Native American Individual

The tester is 15/16 Native from the Sioux tribe. It’s unlikely that their matches are entirely Native, meaning they are not entirely endogamous. None of the matches are known or identified family members.

Endogamy Native.png

At 1 cM shown below:

Endogamy Native 1cM.png

At 7 cM, below:

Endogamy Native 7cM.png

Side by Side

I’ve placed the three 1 cM charts side by side with the non-endogamous to the left, the Jewish in the center and the Native, at right.

endogamy side by side.png

It’s easy to see that the Jewish tester has more 1 cM segments than the non-endogamous tester, and the Native tester more than both of the others.

Summary Comparison Chart

The chart below shows the difference in total number of segments, number of segments between 1 and 6.99 cM, and number of segments at 7 cM or larger. I downloaded these results into a spreadsheet and counted the rows.

Total Segments Total segments at 1 – 6.99 cM Total at 7 or > cM % 7 or >
Non-Endogamous 98 70 28 29
Jewish 168 139 29 17
Native American 310 295 15 5

You’ll note that the non-endogamous individual only has 58% of the number of total segments compared to the Jewish individual, and 32% compared to the Native American individual. The Jewish individual has 54% of the number of segments that the Native person has.

I was initially surprised by the magnitude of this difference, but after thinking about it, I realized that the Native people have been endogamous for a lot longer in the Americas than the Ashkenazi Jewish people in Europe. At least 12,000 years compared to roughly 2000 years, or approximately (at least) 6 times longer. Furthermore, the Native people in the Americans were entirely isolated until the 1400s, with no possibility of outside admixture. Isolation lasted even longer in the tribes that were not coastal, such as the Sioux in the Dakotas.

Note that the Jewish person and non-endogamous person have almost as many 7cM segments as each other, but the Native person has roughly half as many when compared to the other two. That means that because I made my selection starting point based on total cM, and the Native person has a LOT more 1-6.99 cM segments than the others, at that level, there are fewer strong segment matches for the Native individual.

The Native person’s percentage of 7 cM or greater segments is a much smaller percentage of the total segments.

As a percentage, the 7 or greater cM segments are 29% of the non-endogamous person’s total, 17% of the Jewish person’s, but only 5% of the Native person’s total.

Endogamy not only makes a difference when comparing results, but the specific endogamous population along with their history, how heavily endogamous they are, and how long they have been endogamous appears to factor heavily into the comparison as well.

DNA Day Sale at Family Tree DNA

Family-Tree-DNA logo

Every year we look forward to Family Tree DNA’s DNA Day sale which starts today and ends April 25th.

This year, virtually everything is on sale – single tests, bundles of different tests, upgrades and even SNP packs for Y DNA testers.

For those who need a primer on the different kinds of tests, the article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is a quick read.

DNA Day 2019 single tests

Bundles are great values.

DNA Day 2019 bundles.png

If you’ve already taken a Y DNA test, now’s the time to upgrade!

DNA Day 2019 upgrades.png

I wrote about the Big Y-500 to Big Y-700 upgrade and what to expect here.

Know what you want already?

Click here to order!

If you’re a new customer, purchase from the main page.

If you already have an account, sign in and click on “Add Ons and Upgrades” at the top right above the banner on your personal page.

DNA Day 2019 upgrade button.png

Even SNP Packs for Advanced Y Testers are on Sale

Please note that if you have taken or upgrade to the Big Y test, you don’t need to purchase a SNP pack.

SNP packs are an upgrade for those men who have already tested Y DNA STR panels 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 who seek to verify haplogroup branches on the Y tree without taking the Big Y test. The good news is that SNP packs are less expensive than the Big Y. The bad news is that SNP packs test only a fraction of the available SNPs and they make no new discoveries. If you’re uncertain about what to purchase, I would recommend talking to your surname or haplogroup administrator about your goals for testing.

My personal preference is for the Big Y-700 because of the advanced testing capabilities, the additional STR markers, additional matches and the fact that discoveries can be made with the Big Y test. In other words, new SNPs, meaning potential new haplogroups can be discovered with the Big Y, while SNP packs test existing SNPs to place a person further down on the tree.

If you’re interested in SNP packs, they are almost never on sale, but they are now.

DNA Day 2019 SNP pack.png

If you want to order a SNP pack, click here to sign on to your account, then click on the blue upgrade button beside your Y DNA results.

DNA Day 2019 Y upgrade button.png

Next, you’ll see several selections, so click on “Buy Now” under Advanced Tests.

DNA Day 2019 advanced test.png

Next, select SNP Pack.

DNA Day 2019 SNP pack select.png

Then choose the appropriate SNP pack for your haplogroup and testing goals.

No matter which tests you select, you’ll be enjoying the results and new matches soon!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Using Ancestry’s New Match Grouping Dots aka “MyMatchDots”

I’d like to say that yesterday’s article titled “Using Ancestry’s Tree Tags” was a little test to see if you were paying attention, but it wasn’t.

I conflated two different new features, and today, I’d like to straighten that out.

First, a shout out to Paula Williams for catching this. Thank you.

What Happened?

Flat out – I messed up. Mea culpa.

Ancestry introduced several new beta features at the same time. Cumulatively, it’s a big change. The functionality is interconnected AND they don’t all work reliably or consistently, so it’s more than a little confusing, or at least it obviously was for me. There is also no “i” information button describing the new features or providing instructions. However, I did find information on MyTreeTags in Ancestry Support here and grouping of matches using colored dots here.

Grouping matches using colored dots also doesn’t have a “name” like MyTreeTags, so it was easy to conflate with the tags. I wish they had named the grouping dots something like “MyMatchDots” to clearly differentiate the function from MyTreeTags, especially since they were released at the same time. Therefore, I’m referring to them at “MyMatchDots” because that’s a lot easier than “grouping matches using colored dots.”

I wasn’t just flying blind. I did watch the training video and thought I understood, but clearly I didn’t have all the moving pieces and parts straight. Maybe you don’t either, and this will help.

There is no graceful recovery here, except to apologize and fix the issue by publishing the correct information.

The good news is that I described the functionality of the colored dots for grouping matches (MyMatchDots) accurately.

The bad news is that I called it by the wrong name in the title and I referred to the colored grouping dots as “tags.” Seemed like a perfectly fitting name to me. Somehow, now I need to bleach that out of my mind. MyMatchDots, MyMatchDots, MyMatchDots…

The error, or course, HAD to be obvious AND in the title – a publishing sin that’s simply non-recoverable. Just like the tool you drop will roll to dead center under the table, bed or the vehicle where you can’t possible reach it. In case anyone had any doubt, Murphy lives!

So, from time to time, those of us who publish just get to suck it up and issue a correction. Today it’s my turn. Thank you for your tolerance and understanding.

One positive aspect – I’ve included additional information about MyMatchDots as well, based on questions and comments from the earlier article.

Groups (MyMatchDots) and MyTreeTags – the Difference

There are now two methods of grouping at Ancestry.

Groups (MyMatchDots) – Colored grouping dots that I described in the original article and am republishing below. I have deleted the earlier article with the incorrect title. The instructions for how to use match grouping dots in that article were and are accurate, but I’ve updated here.

MyMatchDots and MyTreeTags are different in that grouping dots (MyMatchDots) allow you to select up to 24 colored dots to append to and tag YOUR DNA MATCHES on your match list.

MyTreeTags – Tree tags allow you to tag people IN YOUR TREE, living or deceased, with predefined or custom tags.

Here’s a quick screenshot of examples of MyTreeTags as part of a new beta Workspace. In the next few days, I’ll publish an article with examples of how to activate and use MyTreeTags and more about the beta Workspace.

MyTreeTags beta workspace

What follows is the re-publication of yesterday’s instructions for defining and using the colored grouping dots, plus, how to sort and filter using the colored groupings (MyMatchDots.)

Using Ancestry’s New Color Grouping Dots (MyMatchDots)

One of Ancestry’s new beta features is their grouping feature using colored dots that’s I’m referring to as MyMatchDots – my name, not theirs. To enable, you need to click on “Extras” on the top black menu bar, then “Ancestry Lab” on the dropdown, then enable both MyTreeTags and New and Improved DNA Matches.

Ancestry lab.png

No, I don’t know what happens if you only enable one of the features, or turn them off and on. These features seem to be pretty tightly coupled. Feel free to experiment, but I haven’t.

Your DNA Matches

Everyone utilizes matching differently, for different purposes. Your goal should be to devise a grouping methodology that will support the way you are using DNA matching.

I’m showing you how I’m utilizing the colored dots for grouping my matches, and why, but your preferred method and mine may not be at all the same.

Next, click on DNA Matches.

Ancestry matches with tags.png

This shows my closest 2nd cousin matches. You’ll notice that many don’t have trees, or have unlinked trees, but since these are second cousin matches, it was relatively easy for me to figure out quickly which lines they descend from based on who I match in common with them. You can see my comments just below “Add/edit groups” and the little colored dots.

The little colored dots (MyMatchDots) are the group identifiers that I’ve added to each match.

By clicking on the “Add/edit groups” to the right of the colored dots, you can view the legend, meaning the groups you’ve defined. This is what you’ll see every time you want to group someone.

Ancestry tags.png

Notice that the first person, which is my own V2 (version 2) kit, is showing with a green dot, meaning I’ve identified the common ancestor. I could select any number of dots that I’ve defined, or I could define more dots by creating a custom group.

Ancestry custom groups.png

You have 24 colors to select from. I know that sounds like a lot, but you’ll need to do some planning.

MyMatchDots Grouping Strategy

I thought about creating a maternal and paternal match group, but that seemed like a waste of colored dots, so for now, I haven’t. The only way I have to identify maternal and paternal at Ancestry, because neither parent is available to test there, is via known ancestors – and that information is immediately evident to me by the comment indicating the common ancestor.

I tried to think about how I would use the colored dots for sorting.

I decided on the stop light analogy. A green dot for “identified ancestor,” yellow for either “probably identified” or darker yellow for “speculative,” and red for “I’m working on this but it’s tough.” In other words, red means not yet identified. No colored dot means I haven’t worked on that match.

I made both “messaged” and “private” both darker red dots, because often those are used together when I have a show stopper. I want to revisit matches in both of those categories, so I’ll want to be able to sort for them to see if:

  • trees have become public
  • more helpful shared matches exist
  • messages have been answered and I didn’t notice

What’s Missing?

Did you notice what’s missing? That little green leaf on your match list indicating that this person is a DNA match AND has a shared ancestor.

Ancestry common ancestors dropdown.png

While Ancestry just recently re-indexed the trees, the Shared Ancestor Hint “Common Ancestors” leaf is still missing on the matches page where it used to be displayed. I’m hopeful that it will be back as an icon on the match list.

Worse yet, when you click on the “Common Ancestors” filter to display only common ancestors, this error message appears.

Ancestry common matches.png

I do have common ancestor matches – 704 of them to be exact.

Let’s hope that this is a temporary glitch that will be fixed soon.

For me, being able to see the green leaf on my full match list is extremely important because I want to be able to quickly discern which of those matches have shared ancestors.

Fortunately, I made a note for each shared ancestor previously identified, so I sorted for “Notes” in order to group appropriately.

Ancestry notes.png

However, if you haven’t already made those notes, then sorting for notes isn’t useful.

If your account displays Common Ancestors when you select that option, skip to the “Ideas for Using MyMatchDot Groups” section of this article.

If your account does NOT display Common Ancestors, read the Work-Around section, next.

Work-Around

Utilizing my “regular” kit, which does NOT have ThruLines because I have two kits attached to “me” on the same tree, I can group by color (as you’ve seen), but Common Ancestors green leaf function is broken.

Utilizing my second kit V2 kit, which DOES have ThruLines, I can click on “704 Shared Ancestor Hints” from my main DNA Summary page or select the “Common Ancestors” dropdown.

Ancestry shared ancestor links.png

This works.

Ancestry common ancestor leaf.png

I understand that you can “force” common ancestors sorting to work on kits without ThruLines by toggling the Beta option for Advanced Matching to off, but after all the work I just did grouping all 704 of my shared matches, I’m not willing to risk losing all of those dots to test this workaround. The Beta “off” or “on” is for the entire account, not for each individual kit on the account.

What I will do, shortly, is to create a “twin” in my tree and connect my kit that doesn’t have ThruLines to that twin so both kits aren’t attached to “me.” That may or may not solve the problem.

If you do NOT have ThruLines yet, and you want to retain any existing New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), you must do so before you make a change that enables ThruLines, because NADs are gone on my account that HAS ThruLines, but they exist on the account without ThruLines. NADs have not been updated in many months, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to retain the existing information. I wrote about how to archive both your Circles and NAD information in this article. My account with ThruLines did retain the Circles. You can toggle back and forth from having ThruLines to not having Thrulines to view your NADs, but eventually, I’m sure they will disappear.

Sorting MyMatchDots

Now that you have matches grouped by color, how do you sort for those clusters? On your matches page, the dropdown for “All matches” shows the groups as well as reports how many people are in each group.

Ancestry groups sort

Ideas for MyMatchDot Groups 

I’ve shared my MyMatchDot grouping strategy, but I’ve kind of stumbled around playing with what works and what doesn’t. I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything.

One person mentioned to me that they are using dots to identify Leeds clusters. I wrote about the Leeds Method in this article which includes links to several articles by Dana Leeds who developed the methodology. She has also written this update. I may group based on Leeds clusters as well as the group dots I’ve already defined.

The great news is that you can assign any number of colored dots, through 24, for groups associated with any individual match.

Someone else mentioned that they were initially grouping based on Genetic Affairs clusters, but matches can change clusters, especially if the thresholds change, so that might not be such a good idea.

In the next article, we’ll talk about how to activate and use MyTreeTags.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Full or Half Siblings?

Many people are receiving unexpected sibling matches. Everyday on social media, “surprises” are being reported so often that they are no longer surprising – unless of course you’re the people directly involved and then it’s very personal, life-altering and you’re in shock. Staring at a computer screen in stunned disbelief.

Conversely, sometimes that surprise involves people we already know, love and believe to be full siblings – but autosomal DNA testing casts doubt.

If your sibling doesn’t match at all, download your DNA files and upload to another company to verify. This step can be done quickly.

Often people will retest, from scratch, with another company just for the peace of mind of confirming that a sample didn’t get swapped. If a sample was swapped, then another unknown person will match you at the sibling level, because they would be the one with your sibling’s kit. It’s extremely rare, but it has happened.

If the two siblings aren’t biologically related at all, we need to consider that one or both might have been adopted, but if the siblings do match but are predicted as half siblings, the cold fingers of panic wrap themselves around your heart because the ramifications are immediately obvious.

Your full sibling might not be your full sibling. But how can you tell? For sure? Especially when minutes seem like an eternity and your thoughts are riveted on finding the answer.

This article focuses on two tools to resolve the question of half versus full siblingship, plus a third safeguard.

Half Siblings Versus Step-Siblings

For purposes of clarification, a half sibling is a sibling you share only one parent with, while a step-sibling is your step-parent’s child from a relationship with someone other than your parent. Your step-parent marries your parent but is not your parent. You are not genetically related to your step-siblings unless your parent is related to your step-parent.

Parental Testing

Ideally two people who would like to know if they are full or half siblings would have both parents, or both “assumed” parents to compare their results with. However, life is seldom ideal and parents aren’t always available. Not to mention that parents in a situation where there was some doubt might be reluctant to test.

Furthermore, you may elect NOT to have your parents test if your test with your sibling casts doubt on the biological connections within your family. Think long and hard before exposing family secrets that may devastate people and potentially destroy existing relationships. However, this article is about the science of confirming full versus half siblings, not the ethics of what to do with that information. Let your conscience be your guide, because there is no “undo” button.

Ranges Aren’t Perfect

The good news is that autosomal DNA testing gives us the ability to tell full from half-siblings by comparing the siblings to each other, without any parent’s involvement.

Before we have this discussion, let me be very clear that we are NOT talking about using these tools to attempt to discern a relationship between two more distant unknown people. This is only for people who know, or think they know or suspect themselves to be either full or half siblings.

Why?

Because the ranges of the amount of DNA found in people sharing close family relationships varies and can overlap. In other words, different degrees of relationships can be expected to share the same amounts of DNA. Furthermore, except for parents with whom you share exactly 50% of your autosomal DNA (except males don’t share their father’s X chromosome), there is no hard and fast amount of DNA that you share with any relative. It varies and sometimes rather dramatically.

The first few lines of this Relationship Chart, from the 2016 article Concepts – Relationship Predictions, shows both first and second degree relationships (far right column).

Sibling shared cM chart 2016.png

You can see that first degree relations can be parent/child, or full siblings. Second degree relationships can be half siblings, grandparents, aunt/uncle or niece/nephew.

Today’s article is not about how to discern an unknown relation with someone, but how to determine ONLY if two people are half or full siblings to each other. In other words, we’re only trying to discern between rows two and three, above.

As more data was submitted to Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project, the ranges changed as we continued to learn. Blaine’s 2017 results were combined into a useful visual tool at DNAPainter, showing various relationships.

Sibling shared cM DNAPainter.png

Note that in the 2017 version of the Shared cM Project, the high end of the half sibling range of 2312 overlaps with the low end of the full sibling range of 2209 – and that’s before we consider that the people involved might actually be statistical outliers. Outliers, by their very definition are rare, but they do occur. I have seen them, but not often. Blaine wrote about outliers here and here.

Full or Half Siblings?

So, how to we tell the difference, genetically, between full and half siblings?

There are two parts to this equation, plus an optional third safeguard:

  1. Total number of shared cM (centiMorgans)
  2. Fully Identical Regions (FIR) versus Half Identical Regions (HIR)

You can generally get a good idea just from the first part of the equation, but if there is any question, I prefer to download the results to GedMatch so I can confirm using the second part of the equation too.

The answer to this question is NOT something you want to be wrong about.

Total Number of Shared cM

Each child inherits half of each parent’s DNA, but not the same half. Therefore, full siblings will share approximately 50% of the same DNA, and half siblings will share approximately 25% when compared to each other.

You can see the differences on these charts where percentages are converted into cM (centiMorgans) and on the 2017 combined chart here.

I’ve summarized full and half siblings’ shared cMs of DNA from the 2017 chart, below.

Relationship Average Shared cM Range of Shared cM
Half Siblings 1,783 1,317 – 2,312
Full Siblings 2,629 2,209 – 3,394

Fully Identical and Half Identical Regions

Part of the DNA that full siblings inherit will be the exact same DNA from Mom and Dad, meaning that the siblings will match at the same location on their DNA on both Mom’s strand of DNA and Dad’s strand of DNA. These sections are called Fully Identical Regions, or FIR.

Half siblings won’t fully match, except for very small slivers where the nucleotides just happen to be the same (identical by chance) and that will only be for very short segments.

Half siblings will match each other, but only one parent’s side, called Half Identical Regions or HIR.

Roughly, we expect to see about 25% of the DNA of full siblings be fully identical, which means roughly half of their shared DNA is inherited identically from both parents.

Understanding the Concept of Half Identical Versus Fully Identical

To help understand this concept, every person has two strands of DNA, one from each parent. Think of two sides of a street but with the same addresses on both sides. A segment can “live” from 100-150 Main Street, er, I mean chromosome 1 – but you can’t tell just from the address if it’s on Mom’s side of the street or Dad’s.

However, when you match other people, you’ll be able to differentiate which side is which based on family members from that line and who you match in common with your sibling. This an example of why it’s so important to have close family members test.

Any one segment on either strand being compared between between full siblings can:

  • Not match at all, meaning the siblings inherited different DNA from both parents at this location
  • Match on one strand but not the other, meaning the siblings inherited the same DNA from one parent, but different DNA from the other. (Half identical.)
  • Match identically on both, meaning the siblings inherited exactly the same DNA in that location from both parents. (Fully identical.)

I created this chart to show this concept visually, reflecting the random “heads and tails” combination of DNA segments by comparing 4 sets of full siblings with one another.

Sibling full vs half 8 siblings arrows

This chart illustrates the concept of matching where siblings share:

  • No DNA on this segment (red arrow for child 1 and 2, for example)
  • Half identical regions (HIR) where siblings share the DNA from one parent OR the other (green arrow for child 1 and 2, for example, where the siblings share brown from mother)
  • Fully identical regions (FIR) where they share the same segment from BOTH parents so their DNA matches exactly on both strands (black boxed regions)

If a region isn’t either half or fully identical, it means the siblings don’t match on that piece of DNA at all. That’s to be expected in roughly 50% of the time for full siblings, and 75% of the time for half siblings. That’s no problem, unless the siblings don’t match at all, and that’s entirely different, of course.

Let’s look at how the various vendors address half versus full siblings and what tools we have to determine which is which.

Ancestry

Ancestry predicts a relationship range and provides the amount of shared DNA, but offers no tools for customers to differentiate between half versus full siblings. Ancestry has no chromosome browser to facilitate viewing DNA matches but shared matches can sometimes be useful, especially if other close family members have tested.

Sibling Ancestry.png

Update 4-4-2019 – I was contacted by a colleague who works for an Ancestry company, who provided this information: Ancestry is using “Close Family” to designate avuncular, grandparent/grandchild and half-sibling relationships. If you see “Immediate Family “the relationship is a full sibling.

Customers are not able to view the results for ourselves, but according to my colleague, Ancestry is using FIRs and HIRs behind the scenes to make this designation. The Ancestry Matching White Paper is here, dating from 2016.

If Ancestry changes their current labeling in the future, this may not longer be exactly accurate. Hopefully new labeling would provide more clarity. The good news is that you can verify for yourself at GedMatch.

A big thank you to my colleague!

MyHeritage

MyHeritage provides estimated relationships, a chromosome browser and the amount of shared DNA along with triangulation but no specific tool to determine whether another tester is a full or half sibling. One clue can be if one of the siblings has a proven second cousin or closer match that is absent for the other sibling, meaning the siblings and the second cousin (or closer) do not all match with each other.

Sibling MyHeritage.png

Family Tree DNA

At Family Tree DNA, you can see the amount of shared DNA. They also they predict a relationship range, include a chromosome browser, in common matching and family phasing, also called bucketing which sorts your matches into maternal and paternal sides. They offer additional Y DNA testing which can be extremely useful for males.

Sibling FamilyTreeDNA.png

If the two siblings in question are male, a Y DNA test will shed light on the question of whether or not they share the same father (unless the two fathers are half brothers or otherwise closely related on the direct paternal line).

Sibling advanced matches.png

FamilyTreeDNA provides Advanced Matching tools that facilitate combined matching between Y and autosomal DNA.

Sibling bucketing both.png

FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder maternal/paternal bucketing tool is helpful because full siblings should be assigned to “both” parents, shown in purple, not just one parent, assuming any third cousins or closer have tested on both sides, or at least on the side in question.

As you can see, on the test above, the tester matches her sister at a level that could be either a high half sibling match, or a low full sibling match. In this case, it’s a full sibling, not only because both parents tested and she matched, but because even before her parents tested, she was already bucketed to both sides based on cousins who had tested on both the maternal and paternal sides of the family.

GedMatch

GedMatch, an upload site, shows the amount of shared DNA as well. Select the One-to-One matching and the “Graph and Position” option, letting the rest of the settings default.

Sibling GedMatch menu.png

GedMatch doesn’t provide predicted relationship ranges as such, but instead estimates the number of generations to the most recent common ancestor – in this case, the parents.

Sibling GedMatch total.png

However, GedMatch does offer an important feature through their chromosome browser that shows fully identical regions.

To illustrate, first, I’m showing two kits below that are known to be full siblings.

The green areas are FIR or Fully Identical Regions which are easy to spot because of the bright green coloring. Yellow indicate half identical matching regions and red means there is no match.

Sibling GedMatch legend.png

Please note that this legend varies slightly between the legacy GedMatch and GedMatch Genesis, but yellow, green, purple and red thankfully remain the same. The blue base indicates an entire region that matches, while the grey indicates an entire region not considered a match..

Sibling GedMatch FIR.png

Fully identical green regions (FIR) above are easy to differentiate when compared with half siblings who share only half identical regions (HIR).

The second example, below, shows two half-siblings that share one parent.

Sibling GedMatch HIR.png

As you can see, there are slivers of green where the nucleotides that both parents contributed to the respective children just happen to be the same for a very short distance on each chromosome. Compared to the full sibling chart, the green looks very different.

The half-sibling small green segments are fully identical by chance or by population, but not identical by descent which would mean the segments are identical because the individuals share both parents. These two people don’t share both parents.

The fully identical regions for full siblings are much more pronounced, in addition to full siblings generally sharing more total DNA.

GedMatch is the easiest and most useful site to work with for determining half versus full siblings by comparing HIR/FIR. I wrote instructions for downloading your DNA from each of the testing vendors at the links below:

Twins

Fraternal twins are the same as regular siblings. They share the same space for 9 months but are genetically siblings. Identical twins, on the other hand, are nearly impossible to tell apart genetically, and for all intents and purposes cannot be distinguished in this type of testing.

Sibling GedMatch identical twin.png

Here’s the same chart for identical twins.

23andMe

23andMe also provides relationship estimates, along with the amount of shared DNA, a chromosome browser that includes triangulation (although they don’t call it that) and a tool to identify full versus half identical regions. 23andMe does not support trees, a critical tool for genealogists.

Unfortunately, 23andMe has become the “last” company that people use for genealogy. Most of their testers seem to be seeking health information today.

If you just happen to have already tested at 23andMe with your siblings, great, because you can use these tools. If you have not tested at 23andMe, simply upload your results from any vendor to GedMatch.

At 23andMe, under the Ancestry, then DNA Relatives tabs, click on your sibling’s match to view genetic information, assuming you both have opted into matching. If you don’t match your sibling, PLEASE be sure you BOTH have completely opted in for matching. I can’t tell you how many panic stricken siblings I’ve coached who weren’t both opted in to matching. If you’re experiencing difficulty, don’t panic. Simply download both people’s files to GedMatch for an easier comparison. You can find 23andMe download instructions here.

Sibling 23andMe HIR.png

Scrolling down, you can see the options for both half and completely identical segments on your chromosomes as compared to your match. Above,  my child matches me completely on half identical regions. This makes perfect sense, of course, because my father and my child’s father are not the same person and are not related.

Conversely, this next match is my identical twin whom I match completely identically on all segments.

Sibling 23andMe FIR.png

Confession – I don’t have an identical twin. This is actually my V3 test compared with my V4 test, but these two tests are in essence identical twin tests.

Unusual Circumstances

The combination of these two tools, DNA matching and half versus fully identical regions generally provides a relatively conclusive answer as to whether two individuals are half or full siblings. Note the words generally and relatively.

There are circumstances that aren’t as clear cut, such as when the father of the second child is a brother or other close relative of the first child’s father – assuming that both children share the same mother. These people are sometimes called three quarters siblings or niblings.

In other situations, the parents are related, sometimes closely, complicating the genetics.

These cases tend to be quite messy and should be unraveled with the help of a professional. I recommend www.dnaadoption.com (free unknown parent search specialists) or Legacy Tree Genealogists (professional genealogists.)

The Final SafeGuard – Just in Case

A third check, should any doubt remain about full versus half siblings, would be to find a relative that is a second cousin or closer on the presumed mother’s side and one on the presumed father’s side, and compare autosomal results of both relatives to both siblings.

There has never been a documented case of second cousins or closer NOT matching each other. I’m unclear about second cousins once removed, or half second cousins, but about 10% of third cousins don’t match. To date, second cousins (or closer) who didn’t match, didn’t match because they weren’t really biological second cousins.

If the two children are full siblings meaning the biological children of both the presumed parents, both siblings will match the 2nd cousin or closer on the mother’s side AND the 2nd cousin or closer on the father’s side as well. If they are not full siblings, one will match only on the second cousin on the common parent’s side.

You can see in the example below that Child 1 and Child 2, full siblings, match both Hezekiah (green), a second cousin from the father’s side, as well as Susan (pink), a second cousin from the mother’s side.

Sibling both sides matching.png

If one of the two children only matches one cousin, and not the other, then the person who doesn’t match the cousin from the father’s side, for example, is not related to the father – although depending on the distance of the relationship, I would seek an additional cousin to test through a different child – just in case.

You can see in the example below that Child 2 matches both Hezekiah (green) and Susan (pink), but Child 1 only matches Susan (pink), from the mother’s side, meaning that Child 1 does not descend from John, so isn’t the child of the Presumed Father (green).
Sibling both sides not matching.png

If neither child matches Hezekiah, that’s a different story. You need to consider the possibility of one of the following:

  • Neither child is the child of the Presumed Father, and could potentially be fathered by different men
  • A break occurred in the genetic line someplace between John and Hezekiah or between John and the Presumed Father.

In other words, the only way this safeguard works as a final check is if at least ONE of the children matches both presumed parents’ lines with a second cousin or closer.

And yes, these types of “biological lineage disruptions” do occur and much more frequently that first believed.

In the End

You may not need this safeguard check when the first and second methodologies, separately or together, are relatively conclusive. Sometimes these decisions about half versus full siblings incorporate non-genetic situational information, but be careful about tainting your scientific information with confirmation bias – meaning unintentionally skewing the information to produce the result that you might desperately want.

When I’m working with a question as emotionally loaded as trying to determine whether people are half or full siblings, I want every extra check and safeguard available – and you will too. I utilize every tool at my disposal so that I don’t inadvertently draw the wrong conclusion.

I want to make sure I’ve looked under every possible rock for evidence. I try to disprove as much as I try to prove. The question of full versus half siblingship is one of the most common topics of the Quick Consults that I offer. Even when people think they know the answer, it’s not uncommon to ask an expert to take a look to confirm. It’s a very emotional topic and sometimes we are just too close to the subject to be rational and objective.

Regardless of the genetic outcome, I hope that you’ll remember that your siblings are your siblings, your parents are your parents (genetic or otherwise) and love is love – regardless of biology. Please don’t lose the compassionate, human aspect of genealogy in the fervor of the hunt.

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