Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages

There has been a lot of discussion about ethnicity percentages within the genetic genealogy community recently, probably because of the number of people who have recently purchased DNA tests to discover “who they are.”

Testers want to know specifically if ethnicity percentages are right or wrong, and what those percentages should be. The next question, of course, is which vendor is the most accurate.

Up front, let me say that “your mileage may vary.” The vendor that is the most accurate for my German ancestry may not be the same vendor that is the most accurate for the British Isles or Native American. The vendor that is the most accurate overall for me may not be the most accurate for you. And the vendor that is the most accurate for me today, may no longer be the most accurate when another vendor upgrades their software tomorrow. There is no universal “most accurate.”

But then again, how does one judge “most accurate?” Is it just a feeling, or based on your preconceived idea of your ethnicity? Is it based on the results of one particular ethnicity, or something else?

As a genealogist, you have a very powerful tool to use to figure out the percentages that your ethnicity SHOULD BE. You don’t have to rely totally on any vendor. What is that tool? Your genealogy research!

I’d like to walk you through the process of determining what your own ethnicity percentages should be, or at least should be close to, barring any surprises.

By surprises, in this case, we’re assuming that all 64 of your GGGG-grandparents really ARE your GGGG-grandparents, or at least haven’t been proven otherwise. Even if one or two aren’t, that really only affects your results by 1.56% each. In the greater scheme of things, that’s trivial unless it’s that minority ancestor you’re desperately seeking.

A Little Math

First, let’s do a little very basic math. I promise, just a little. And it really is easy. In fact, I’ll just do it for you!

You have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Generation # You Have Who Approximate Percentage of Their DNA That You Have Today
1 You 100%
1 2 Parents 50%
2 4 Grandparents 25%
3 8 Great-grandparents 12.5%
4 16 Great-great-grandparents 6.25%
5 32 Great-great-great-grandparents 3.12%
6 64 Great-great-great-great-grandparents 1.56%

Each of those GGGG-grandparents contributed 1.56% of your DNA, roughly.

Why 1.56%?

Because 100% of your DNA divided by 64 GGGG-grandparents equals 1.56% of each of those GGGG-grandparents. That means you have roughly 1.56% of each of those GGGG-grandparents running in your veins.

OK, but why “roughly?”

We all know that we inherit 50% of each of our parents’ DNA.

So that means we receive half of the DNA of each ancestor that each parent received, right?

Well, um…no, not exactly.

Ancestral DNA isn’t divided exactly in half, by the “one for you and one for me” methodology. In fact, DNA is inherited in chunks, and often you receive all of a chunk of DNA from that parent, or none of it. Seldom do you receive exactly half of a chunk, or ancestral segment – but half is the AVERAGE.

Because we can’t tell exactly how much of any ancestor’s DNA we actually do receive, we have to use the average number, knowing full well we could have more than our 1.56% allocation of that particular ancestor’s DNA, or none that is discernable at current testing thresholds.

Furthermore, if that 1.56% is our elusive Native ancestor, but current technology can’t identify that ancestor’s DNA as Native, then our Native heritage melds into another category. That ancestor is still there, but we just can’t “see” them today.

So, the best we can do is to use the 1.56% number and know that it’s close. In other words, you’re not going to find that you carry 25% of a particular ancestor’s DNA that you’re supposed to carry 1.56% for. But you might have 3%, half of a percent, or none.

Your Pedigree Chart

To calculate your expected ethnicity percentages, you’ll want to work with a pedigree chart showing your 64 GGGG-grandparents. If you haven’t identified all 64 of your GGGG-grandparents – that’s alright – we can accommodate that. Work with what you do have – but accuracy about the ancestors you have identified is important.

I use RootsMagic, and in the RootsMagic software, I can display all 64 GGGG-grandparents by selecting all 4 of my grandparents one at a time.

In the first screen, below, my paternal grandfather is blue and my 16 GGGG-grandparents that are his ancestors are showing to the far right.  Please note that you can click on any of the images to enlarge.

ethnicity-pedigree

Next, my paternal grandmother

ethnicity-pedigree-1

Next, my maternal grandmother.

ethnicity-pedigree-2

And finally, my maternal grandfather.

ethnicity-pedigre-3

These displays are what you will work from to create your ethnicity table or chart.

Your Ethnicity Table

I simply displayed each of these 16 GGGG-grandparents and completed the following grid. I used a spreadsheet, but you can use a table or simply do this on a tablet of paper. Technology not required.

You’ll want 5 columns, as shown below.

  • Number 1-64, to make sure you don’t omit anyone
  • Name
  • Birth Location
  • 1.56% Source – meaning where in the world did the 1.56% of the DNA you received from them come from? This may not be the same as their birth location. For example an Irish man born in Virginia counts as an Irish man.
  • Ancestry – meaning if you don’t know positively where that ancestor is from, what do you know about them? For example, you might know that their father was German, but uncertain about the mother’s nationality.

My ethnicity table is shown below.

ethnicity-table

In some cases, I had to make decisions.

For example, I know that Daniel Miller’s father was a German immigrant, documented and proven. The family did not speak English. They were Brethren, a German religious sect that intermarried with other Brethren.  Marriage outside the church meant dismissal – so your children would not have been Brethren. Therefore, it would be extremely unlikely, based on both the language barrier and the Brethren religious customs for Daniel’s mother, Magdalena, to be anything other than German – plus, their children were Brethren..

We know that most people married people within their own group – partly because that is who they were exposed to, but also based on cultural norms and pressures. When it comes to immigrants and language, you married someone you could communicate with.

Filling in blanks another way, a local German man was likely the father of Eva Barbara Haering’s illegitmate child, born to Eva Barbara in her home village in Germany.

Obviously, there were exceptions, but they were just that, the exception. You’ll have to evaluate each of your 64 GGGG-grandparents individually.

Calculating Percentages

Next, we’re going to group locations together.

For example, I had a total of one plus that was British Isles. Three and a half, plus, that were Scottish. Nine and a half that were Dutch.

ethnicity-summary

You can’t do anything with the “plus” designation, but you can multiply by everything else.

So, for Scottish, 3 and a half (3.5) times 1.56% equals 5.46% total Scottish DNA. Follow this same procedure for every category you’re showing.

Do the same for “uncertain.”

Incorporating History

In my case, because all of my uncertain lines are on my father’s colonial side, and I do know locations and something about their spouses and/or the population found in the areas where each ancestor is located, I am making an “educated speculation” that these individuals are from the British Isles. These families didn’t speak German, or French, or have French or German, Dutch or Scandinavian surnames. People married others like themselves, in their communities and churches.

I want to be very clear about this. It’s not a SWAG (serious wild-a** guess), it’s educated speculation based on the history I do know.

I would suggest that there is a difference between “uncertain” and “unknown origin.” Unknown origin connotates that there is some evidence that the individual is NOT from the same background as their spouse, or they are from a highly mixed region, but we don’t know.

In my case, this leaves a total of 2 and a half that are of unknown origin, based on the other “half” that isn’t known of some lineages. For example, I know there are other Native lines and at least one African line, but I don’t know what percentage of which ancestor how far back. I can’t pinpoint the exact generation in which that lineage was “full” and not admixed.

I have multiple Native lines in my mother’s side in the Acadian population, but they are further back than 6 generations and the population is endogamous – so those ancestors sometimes appear more than once and in multiple Acadian lines – meaning I probably carry more of their DNA than I otherwise would. These situations are difficult to calculate mathematically, so just keep them in mind.

Given the circumstances based on what I do know, the 3.9% unknown origin is probably about right, and in this case, the unknown origin is likely at least part Native and/or African and probably some of each.

ethnicity-summary-2

The Testing Companies

It’s very difficult to compare apples to apples between testing companies, because they display and calculate ethnicity categories differently.

For example, Family Tree DNA’s regions are fairly succinct, with some overlap between regions, shown below.

ethnicity-ftdna-map

Some of Ancestry’s regions overlap by almost 100%, meaning that any area in a region could actually be a part of another region.

ethnicity-ancestry-map-2

For example look at the United Kingdom and Ireland. The United Kingdom region overlaps significantly into Europe.

ethnicity-ancestry-map

Here’s the Great Britain region close up, below, which is shown differently from the map above. The Great Britain region actually overlaps almost the entire western half of Europe.

ethnicity-ancestry-great-britain

That’s called hedging your bets, or maybe it’s simply the nature of ethnicity. Granted, the overlaps are a methodology for the vendor not to be “wrong,” but people and populations did and do migrate, and the British Isles was somewhat of a destination location.

This Germanic Tribes map, also from Ancestry’s Great Britain section, illustrates why ethnicity calculations are so difficult, especially in Europe and the British Isles.

ethnicity-invaders

Invaders and migrating groups brought their DNA.  Even if the invaders eventually left, their DNA often became resident in the host population.

The 23andMe map, below, is less detailed in terms of viewing how regions overlap.

ethnicity-23andme-map

The Genographic project breaks ethnicity down into 9 world regions which they indicate reflect both recent influences and ancient genetics dating from 500 to 10,000 years ago. I fall into 3 regions, shown by the shadowy Circles on the map, below.

ethnicity-geno-map-2

The following explanation is provided by the Genographic Project for how they calculate and explain the various regions, based on early European history.

ethnicity-geno-regions

Let’s look at how the vendors divide ethnicity and see what kind of comparisons we can make utilizing the ethnicity table we created that represents our known genealogy.

Family Tree DNA

MyOrigins results at Family Tree DNA show my ethnicity as:

ethnicity-ftdna-percents

I’ve reworked my ethnicity totals format to accommodate the vendor regions, creating the Ethnicity Totals Table, below. The “Genealogy %” column is the expected percentage based on my genealogy calculations. I have kept the “British Isles Inferred” percentage separate since it is the most speculative.

ethnicity-ftdna-table

I grouped the regions so that we can obtain a somewhat apples-to-apples comparison between vendor results, although that is clearly challenging based on the different vendor interpretations of the various regions.

Note the Scandinavian, which could potentially be a Viking remnant, but there would have had to be a whole boatload of Vikings, pardon the pun, or Viking is deeply inbedded in several population groups.

Ancestry

Ancestry reports my ethnicity as:

ethnicity-ancestry-amounts

Ancestry introduces Italy and Greece, which is news to me. However, if you remember, Ancestry’s Great Britain ethnicity circle reaches all the way down to include the top of Italy.

ethnicity-ancestry-table

Of all my expected genealogy regions, the most definitive are my Dutch, French and German. Many are recent immigrants from my mother’s side, removing any ambiguity about where they came from. There is very little speculation in this group, with the exception of one illegitimate German birth and two inferred German mothers.

23andMe

23andMe allows customers to change their ethnicity view along a range from speculative to conservative.

ethnicity-23andme-levels

Generally, genealogists utilize the speculative view, which provides the greatest regional variety and breakdown. The conservative view, in general, simply rolls the detail into larger regions and assigns a higher percentage to unknown.

I am showing the speculative view, below.

ethnicity-23andme-amounts

Adding the 23andMe column to my Ethnicity Totals Table, we show the following.

ethnicity-23andme-table-2

Genographic Project 2.0

I also tested through the Genographic project. Their results are much more general in nature.

ethnicity-geno-amounts

The Genographic Project results do not fit well with the others in terms of categorization. In order to include the Genographic ethnicity numbers, I’ve had to add the totals for several of the other groups together, in the gray bands below.

ethnicity-geno-table-2

Genographic Project results are the least like the others, and the most difficult to quantify relative to expected amounts of genealogy. Genealogically, they are certainly the least useful, although genealogy is not and never has been the Genographic focus.

I initially omitted this test from this article, but decided to include it for general interest. These four tests clearly illustrate the wide spectrum of results that a consumer can expect to receive relative to ethnicity.

What’s the Point?

Are you looking at the range of my expected ethnicity versus my ethnicity estimates from the these four entities and asking yourself, “what’s the point?”

That IS the point. These are all proprietary estimates for the same person – and look at the differences – especially compared to what we do know about my genealogy.

This exercise demonstrates how widely estimates can vary when compared against a relatively solid genealogy, especially on my mother’s side – and against other vendors. Not everyone has the benefit of having worked on their genealogy as long as I have. And no, in case you’re wondering, the genealogy is not wrong. Where there is doubt, I have reflected that in my expected ethnicity.

Here are the points I’d like to make about ethnicity estimates.

  • Ethnicity estimates are interesting and alluring.
  • Ethnicity estimates are highly entertaining.
  • Don’t marry them. They’re not dependable.
  • Create and utilize your ethnicity chart based on your known, proven genealogy which will provide a compass for unknown genealogy. For example, my German and Dutch lines are proven unquestionably, which means those percentages are firm and should match up relatively well to vendor ethnicity estimates for those regions.
  • Take all ethnicity estimates with a grain of salt.
  • Sometimes the shaker of salt.
  • Sometimes the entire lick of salt.
  • Ethnicity estimates make great cocktail party conversation.
  • If the results don’t make sense based on your known genealogical percentages, especially if your genealogy is well-researched and documented, understand the possibilities of why and when a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent. For example, if your DNA from a particular region exceeds the total of both of your parents for that region, something is amiss someplace – which is NOT to suggest that you are not your parents’ child.  If you’re not the child of one or both parents, assuming they have DNA tested, you won’t need ethnicity results to prove or even suggest that.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not facts beyond very high percentages, 25% and above. At that level, the ethnicity does exist, but the percentage may be in error.
  • Ethnicity estimates are generally accurate to the continent level, although not always at low levels. Note weasel word, “generally.”
  • We should all enjoy the results and utilize these estimates for their hints and clues.  For example, if you are an adoptee and you are 25% African, it’s likely that one of your grandparents was Africa, or two of your grandparents were roughly half African, or all four of your grandparents were one-fourth African.  Hints and clues, not gospel and not cast in concrete. Maybe cast in warm Jello.
  • Ethnicity estimates showing larger percentages probably hold a pearl of truth, but how big the pearl and the quality of the pearl is open for debate. The size and value of the pearl is directly related to the size of the percentage and the reference populations.
  • Unexpected results are perplexing. In the case of my unknown 8% to 12% Scandinavian – the Vikings may be to blame, or the reference populations, which are current populations, not historical populations – or some of each. My Scandinavian amounts translate into between 5 and 8 of my GGGG-grandparents being fully Scandinavian – and that’s extremely unlikely in the middle of Virginia in the 1700s.
  • There can be fairly large slices of completely unexplained ethnicity. For example, Scandinavia at 8-12% and even more perplexing, Italy and Greece. All I can say is that there must have been an awful lot of Vikings buried in the DNA of those other populations. But enough to aggregate, cumulatively, to between a great-grandparent at 12.5% and a great-great-grandparent at 6.25%? I’m not convinced. However, all three vendors found some Scandinavian – so something is afoot. Did they all use the same reference population data for Scandinavian? For the time being, the Scandinavian results remain a mystery.
  • There is no way to tell what is real and what is not. Meaning, do I really have some ancient Italian/Greek and more recent Scandinavian, or is this deep ancestry or a reference population issue? And can the lack of my proven Native and African ancestry be attributed to the same?
  • Proven ancestors beyond 6 generations, meaning Native lineages, disappear while undocumentable and tenuous ancestors beyond 6 generations appear – apparently, en masse. In my case, kind of like a naughty Scandinavian ancestral flash mob, taunting and tormenting me. Who are those people??? Are they real?
  • If the known/proven ethnicity percentages from Germany, Netherlands and France can be highly erroneous, what does that imply about the rest of the results? Especially within Europe? The accuracy issue is especially pronounced looking at the wide ranges of British Isles between vendors, versus my expected percentage, which is even higher, although the inferred British Isles could be partly erroneous – but not on this magnitude. Apparently part of by British Isles ancestry is being categorized as either or both Scandinavian or European.
  • Conversely, these estimates can and do miss positively genealogically proven minority ethnicity. By minority, I mean minority to the tester. In my case, African and Native that is proven in multiple lines – and not just by paper genealogy, but by Y and mtDNA haplogroups as well.
  • Vendors’ products and their estimates will change with time as this field matures and reference populations improve.
  • Some results may reflect the ancient history of the entire population, as indicated by the Genographic Project. In other words, if the entire German population is 30% Mediterranean, then your ancestors who descend from that population can be expected to be 30% Mediterranean too. Except I don’t show enough Mediterranean ancestry to be 30% of my German DNA, which would be about 8% – at least not as reported by any vendor other than the Genographic Project.
  • Not all vendors display below 1% where traces of minority admixture are sometimes found. If it’s hard to tell if 8-12% Scandinavian is real, it’s almost impossible to tell whether less than 1% of anything is real.  Having said that, I’d still like to see my trace amounts, especially at a continental level which tends to be more reliable, given that is where both my Native and African are found.
  • If the reason my Native and African ancestors aren’t showing is because their DNA was not passed on in subsequent generations, causing their DNA to effectively “wash out,” why didn’t that happen to Scandinavian?
  • Ethnicity estimates can never disprove that an ancestor a few generations back was or was not any particular ethnicity. (However, Y and mitochondrial DNA testing can.)
  • Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, except in very recent generations – like 2 (grandparents at 25%), maybe 3 generations (great-grandparents at 12.5%).
  • Continental level estimates above 10-12 percent can probably be relied upon to suggest that the particular continental level ethnicity is present, but the percentage may not be accurate. Note the weasel wording here – “probably” – it’s here on purpose. Refer to Scandinavia, above – although that’s regional, not continental, but it’s a great example. My proven Native/African is nearly elusive and my mystery Scandinavian/Greek/Italian is present in far greater percentages than it should be, based upon proven genealogy.
  • Vendors, all vendors, struggle to separate ethnicity regions within continents, in particular, within Europe.
  • Don’t take your ethnicity results too seriously and don’t be trading in your lederhosen for kilts, or vice versa – especially not based on intra-continental results.
  • Don’t change your perception of who you are based on current ethnicity tests. Otherwise you’re going to feel like a chameleon if you test at multiple vendors.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not a short cut to or a replacement for discovering who you are based on sound genealogical research.
  • No vendor, NOT ANY VENDOR, can identify your Native American tribe. If they say or imply they can, RUN, with your money. Native DNA is more alike than different. Just because a vendor compares you to an individual from a particular tribe, and part of your DNA matches, does NOT mean your ancestors were members of or affiliated with that tribe. These three major vendors plus the Genographic Project don’t try to pull any of those shenanigans, but others do.
  • Genetic genealogy and specifically, ethnicity, is still a new field, a frontier.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not yet a mature technology as is aptly illustrated by the differences between vendors.
  • Ethnicity estimates are that. ESTIMATES.

If you like to learn more about ethnicity estimates and how they are calculated, you might want to read this article, Ethnicity Testing, A Conundrum.

Summary

This information is NOT a criticism of the vendors. Instead, this is a cautionary tale about correctly setting expectations for consumers who want to understand and interpret their results – and about how to use your own genealogy research to do so.

Not a day passes that I don’t receive very specific questions about the interpretation of ethnicity estimates. People want to know why their results are not what they expected, or why they have more of a particular geographic region listed than their two parents combined. Great questions!

This phenomenon is only going to increase with the popularity of DNA testing and the number of people who test to discover their identity as a result of highly visible ad campaigns.

So let me be very clear. No one can provide a specific interpretation. All we can do is explain how ethnicity estimates work – and that these results are estimates created utilizing different reference populations and proprietary software by each vendor.

Whether the results match each other or customer expectations, or not, these vendors are legitimate, as are the GedMatch ethnicity tools. Other vendors may be less so, and some are outright unethical, looking to exploit the unwary consumer, especially those looking for Native American heritage. If you’re interested in how to tell the difference between legitimate genetic information and a company utilizing pseudo-genetics to part you from your money, click here for a lecture by Dr. Jennifer Raff, especially about minutes 48-50.

Buyer beware, both in terms of purchasing DNA testing for ethnicity purposes to discover “who you are” and when internalizing and interpreting results.

The science just isn’t there yet for answers at the level most people seek.

My advice, in a nutshell: Stay with legitimate vendors. Enjoy your ethnicity results, but don’t take them too seriously without corroborating traditional genealogical evidence!

Jane Dodson (c1760-1830/1840), Pioneer Wife on 5 Frontiers, 52 Ancestors #142

Jane Dodson was the wife of Lazarus Dodson who was born in about 1760 and probably died in either McMinn County or Claiborne County, Tennessee in about 1826. However, were it not for the 1861 death record of Lazarus and Jane’s son, Lazarus Dodson (Jr.), we would never have known Jane’s name.

Lazarus Jr. died in Pulaski County, Kentucky on October 5, 1861, just before fighting began there in the Civil War. Fortunately, for us, he has a death record and that record tells us that he was born in 1795 and that the names of his parents were Lazarus Dodson and Jane.

dodson-lazarus-1861-death

dodson-lazarus-1861-death-2

This is the only extant record of Lazarus’s mother’s name. Granted, there is no surname, but I’m just grateful for the tidbit we do have. How I do wish though that someone had thought to record her maiden name, because it’s unlikely at this point that we will ever know.

Getting to Know Jane Through Lazarus

What do we know about Jane? Most of what we know about Jane’s life is through Lazarus’s records – not an uncommon circumstance for a frontier wife.

The first positive ID of Lazarus Dodson Sr., Jane’s husband, was when he was recorded as having camped at the headwaters of Richland Creek (in present day Grainger County, TN) in the winter 1781/1782. Lazarus would have been approximately 22 years of age at this time, or possibly slightly older.

From the book Tennessee Land Entries, John Armstrong’s Office:

Page 105, grant 1262 – Dec. 4, 1783 – James Lea enters 317 acres on the North side of the Holston below the mouth of Richland Ck at a “certain place where Francis Maberry, Major John Reid, and Lazarus Dodson camped with the Indians at they was going down to the Nation last winter and opposite the camp on the other side of the river, border, begins at upper end of the bottom and runs down, warrant issued June 7, 1784, grant to Isaac Taylor.

The “Nation” referred to is the Cherokee Nation.

It has long been suspected that the Dodson and Lea families were intermarried or somehow interrelated, and it’s certainly possible that Lazarus’s wife, Jane, was a Lea. I almost hate to mention that possibility, because I don’t want to start any unsubstantiated rumors.

On the other hand, if an unattached Jane Lea were to be documented, of the right age, in the right place, she would have to be considered as a candidate. Keep in mind that we don’t know who Lazarus’s mother was either, so these families could have been intermarried before Lazarus came onto the scene.

It’s also possible that the only connection between the two families was that they were neighbors for more than a decade on the rough shores of Country Line Creek in Caswell County, North Carolina, before moving to untamed waters of the Holston River in what would become eastern Tennessee. Country Line Creek was described by the 1860 census taker almost a hundred years after Raleigh and Lazarus lived there as the roughest area in Caswell County. The area called Leasburg, in fact, was designated at the first county seat in in Caswell County in 1777, although it was a few miles distant from Country Line Creek.

The James Lea (1706-1792) family lived on Country Line Creek in Caswell County, NC, as did Raleigh Dodson, Lazarus’s father. This James Lea, according to his will, did not have a son James, nor a daughter, Jane – so it wasn’t his son who patented the land at the mouth of Richland Creek.

Due to the land entries, we know that both Lazarus and members of the Lea family were present in what would become Hawkins County at least by 1783, and probably earlier.

We don’t know exactly when Lazarus arrived in what was then Sullivan County, NC, but we do know that in 1777, men named Lazarus and Rolly Dodson are recorded as having given oaths of allegiance in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, bordering Caswell County, NC, an area where they were known to have lived, based on multiple records including their Revolutionary War service records. It’s unclear whether this pair is our Raleigh and Lazarus, but the fact that those two names appeared together is highly suggestive that they might be. However, they were not the only Raleigh and Lazarus males in the Dodson family or in this region.

If indeed this is our Lazarus, he was likely of age at that time, so he could have been born before 1760. This suggests that Lazarus was likely married not long after 1777.

Therefore, it’s likely that Raleigh along with Lazarus moved from the Halifax/Pittsylvania Virginia border with Caswell County, North Carolina to what was then Sullivan County, Tennessee sometime after July 1778 when Raleigh sold his land and before May of 1779 when Raleigh’s first tract was granted in what would become Hawkins County, Tennessee.

We know that Lazarus was clearly there by the winter of 1781/1782 and probably by spring of 1779 when his father first appears in the written records.

Sometime in the fall or winter of 1778, Raleigh and Lazarus, and Jane if she were married to Lazarus, would have navigated the old wagon roads from Caswell County to near Rogersville, Tennessee. Was Jane frightened, or excited? Was she pregnant? Did she have any idea what to expect? Was this, perchance, her honeymoon? If so, she probably didn’t care where she went, so long as it was with Lazarus. I remember those days of lovestruck early marriage. The words “to the moon and back” are in love songs for a reason!

The earliest record where we find Raleigh Dodson in what would become Hawkins County, TN is in a land warrant dated October 24,1779 which is a tract for Rowley Dotson for 150 acres joining another tract “where said Dotson lives,” that warrant being issued on May 21, 1779.

By 1780, the Revolutionary War had come to eastern North Carolina.

In October, 1780, the forces under Col. Arthur Campbell gathered at Dodson’s Ford before going downriver to the attack on the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Talequah, Tallassee, and others.

Jane and Lazarus lived at Dodson Ford, and this would probably have been quite frightening for Jane. Could she see the soldiers from her cabin? Did she hear the talk about the expedition? Did Lazarus go along?  Colonel Arthur Campbell brought 200 additional men to the Battle of King’s Mountain, also fought in October of 1780.  Was Lazarus among those men too?  Unfortunately, there is no definitive roster for the Battle of King’s Mountain, only information gathered from here and there.

We know that both Lazarus and his father, Raleigh, served during the Revolutionary War, being discharged in August of 1783 in what was then western North Carolina. Both of their service records provide that information. We don’t know how long they served, but most men served in local militia units routinely.

We also know that in the winter of 1781/1782, Lazarus Dodson was camped on the Holston at the mouth of Richland Creek with Major John Reid “with the Indians,” before they “went down to the Nation,” meaning the Cherokee Nation.  Major Reid’s militia unit was form in 1778 and early 1779 at Long Island on Holston. The phrase, “with the Indians” is baffling, especially given that the militiamen destroyed the Indian towns.

One way or another, Jane was probably alone much of the time between when they settled on the Holston in late 1778 or early 1779 until August of 1783.  Those days, waiting for word about Lazarus were probably very long days, weeks and months, although during this timeframe, men often returned home between engagements if they could.

We don’t know if Jane was Lazarus’s first wife, or not – or whether he married her in Pittsylvania or Halifax County, Virginia, Caswell County, North Carolina or on the frontier in what would become Tennessee. Pittsylvania, Halifax and Caswell Counties bordered each other on the Virginia/North Carolina line, and the Dodson family was active in all three counties.

We do know unquestionably that Jane was the mother of Lazarus Dodson Jr. born in 1795, so she was assuredly married to Lazarus Sr. by that time.

In 1794, Raleigh Dodson, Jane’s father-in-law, died and in 1797, Lazarus moved within Hawkins County from near Dodson Ford on the Holston River to the White Horn Fork of Bent Creek near Bull’s Gap.

The 1800 census is missing, as is 1810, but we know that by 1800 Lazarus and Jane had moved once again were living near the Cumberland Gap, on Gap Creek, in Claiborne County. In 1802 Lazarus is recorded in the court notes of Claiborne County as a juror, which would indicate that he owned land there by then, a requirement to be on a jury.

Lazarus, and therefore most likely Jane as well, was a member of Gap Creek Baptist Church in Claiborne Co., which was located on Lazarus’ land. Lazarus is referenced in the minutes on Saturday, June 5th, 1805. Another church, Big Springs, in the same association, had asked for Gap Creek’s help with determining what to do about “a breach of fellowship with James Kenney and it given into the hands of members from other churches, to wit Absolom Hurst, Lazarus Dodson and Matthew Sims and they report on Sunday morning a matter too hard for them to define on for they had pulled every end of the string and it led them into the mire and so leave us just where they found us.”

I’m sure whatever that breach was, it was the talk of Gap Creek Baptist Church.

The only Lazrus Dotson or similar name in the 1820 census is found in Williamson County, Tennessee and is age 26-44, born 1776-1794, so too young to be our Lazarus who was born about 1760.

However, 1819 is when Lazarus Dodson sells his land on Gap Creek in Claiborne County, Tennessee and reportedly goes to Jackson County, Alabama for some time. So the 1820 census may simply have missed him. It’s also possible that Lazarus and Jane were living on Indian land in what is now Jackson County.

Or perhaps Lazarus and Jane were in transit. Lazarus’s nephew, William, son of Lazarus’s brother,Toliver, also known as Oliver, was living in Jackson County by early 1819 and lived there until his death in 1872. In fact, there is a now extinct town named Dodsonville named after William.

Two of Lazarus Sr’s sons apparently went with him to Jackson County; Lazarus Jr. and Oliver (not to be confused with Lazarus’s brother Oliver,) born in 1794. Lazarus Jr.’s son and Oliver’s son both claim to have been born in Alabama, Oliver’s son in 1819 and Lazarus Jr.’s son about 1821. If Lazarus Sr. was living in Alabama during this time, then so was Jane. It must have pained Jane to leave some of her children behind in Tennessee. No matter how old your children are, they are still your children.

Jane would have been close to 60, and she would have been packing up her household, for at least the third time, if not the fourth time, and moving across the country in a wagon. The distance from Claiborne County to Jackson County, Alabama was approximately 200 miles, which, at the rate of about 10 miles per day in a wagon would have taken about 3 weeks. I wonder if Jane got to vote in the decision to move to Jackson County. I’m guessing not.

Trying to wrap our hands around when Jane was born is made somewhat easier by the fact that she was recorded in the 1830 McMinn County, Tennessee census. Yes, I said Tennessee. Yes, she moved back. With or without Lazarus? We don’t know.

jane-1830-census

In the 1830 census, Jane Dodson is living alone and is recorded as being age 60-70, elderly by the standards of 1830 when the average life expectancy was a mere 37 years. This would put Jane’s birth year between 1760 and 1770. Therefore, Jane was likely married between 1778 and 1790. Those dates bracket the other information we have perfectly, but it doesn’t offer us any help in determining whether or not Jane was married to Lazarus before moving to the frontier, or after. Jane is not shown in the 1840 census, so either she has died or she is living with a family member where she can not be identified.

How Many Moves?

We know that Jane wasn’t born in eastern Tennessee in 1760 or 1770, because very few white families lived there then. Well, of course, this is assuming that Jane was not Native. I’m not entirely sure that’s a valid assumption, but without her mitochondrial DNA, we’ll never know for sure. Without any evidence, or even oral history for that matter, we’ll assume that Jane is not Native, although the fly in that ointment could be the record showing Lazarus camping “with the Indians.” Certainly not direct evidence about Jane, but enough to make you pause a bit and wonder, especially in a time and place when Indians were considered the enemy.

One way or another, perhaps as teenager or maybe as a bride, Jane probably moved from the relative security of the Piedmont area to the volatile frontier with Indians and soldiers coming and going for at least half a decade.

The soldiers destroyed the Cherokee villages in 1780 and early 1781, so the war on the frontier was far from over. The Revolutionary War was still being fought in many locations – and if Jane was married to Lazarus then, she spent that time in a cabin on the frontier along the Holston River, below, in what is today Hawkins County, Tennessee. Her cabin joined the land of her father-in-law, Raleigh, but he was gone fighting in the War too. Perhaps Jane spent a lot of time with her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, and her sister-in-law, Nelly Dodson Saunders whose husband John was serving as well. In fact, I’d wager that every able-bodied man was serving, so the women of Dodson Creek on the Holston River had better be able to defend themselves.

jane-near-dodson-ford

This photo was taken very near where Dodson Ford crossed the river, also the location where the Great Warrior Path and Trading Path had crossed for generations.

Lazarus served in the Revolutionary War and was discharged in 1783. That would mean that Jane likely waited at home, hoping that he would not be killed and leave her with some number of small children. At that time, women were either pregnant or nursing, so Jane could have been pregnant while he was at war.

We know that after Lazarus was discharged, he patented land in the western Tennessee counties, but it appears that Lazarus lived on Dodson and Honeycutt Creeks adjacent his father, Raleigh, during this time. That does not mean Lazarus and Jane didn’t perhaps move from one place to another, just not a great distance.

jane-dodson-creek

Dodson Creek, above, is beautiful, as is Honeycutt Creek, below. Jane and Lazarus lived between the two.

jane-honeycutt-creek

This old tree stands at the mouth of Honeycutt Creek and the Holston River.

jane-tree-at-honeycutt

Did Jane stand beneath this tree when it was small and watch for Lazarus to return?

In 1793 or 1794, Jane’s father-in-law, Raleigh, died and the family would have mourned his passing. Jane may have been pregnant at that time for either Oliver or Lazarus Jr. I’m quite surprised that there is no Raleigh among her children, although it’s certainly possible than an earlier Raleigh may have been born and died.

There is a hint that Lazarus may have moved to Greene County, TN and was living there in 1794, or at least a stud racehorse that he co-owned with his brother-in-law, James Menasco, was being advertised “at stud” in Greene County. I can just see Jane rolling her eyes over this great adventure.

Sadly, Lazarus’s sister, Peggy Dodson Mensaco died between 1794 and 1795 when James Menasco sold his land and moved to Augusta, Georgia. Jane would have stood in the cemetery a second time in just a few months as they buried her sister-in-law. I do wonder who raised Peggy’s two children. Was it Jane who comforted them at the funeral?

Oliver was born to Jane in 1794 and Lazarus in 1795.

In 1797, we know that Lazarus sold his land on Dodson Creek and moved to the Whitehorn Fork of Bent Creek, ten miles or so south in Hawkins County, but now in Hamblen County.

White Horn Fork of Bent Creek begins someplace near Summitt Hill Road, runs south, and then intersects with Bent Creek in Bull’s Gap. However, White Horn runs through an area called White Horn, following 66 the entire way, for about 5 miles, from the top of the map below to Bull’s Gap, at the bottom.

jane-white-horn-map

You can see on the satellite map of the region below that this is rough country.

jane-white-horn-satellite

This view of White Horn Creek, below, is from White Horn Road.

jane-white-horn-from-road

White Horn from a side road, below. The creek wasn’t large, but the water would have been very fresh. Water from the source of a stream was always coveted for its cleanliness.

jane-white-horn-side-road

A few years later, by about 1800, Lazarus and family had moved to Claiborne County, where they settled just beneath the Cumberland Gap on Gap Creek, shown below on Lazarus’s land where it crosses Tipprell Road today.

jane-gap-creek

Lazarus bought land early and by 1810 had patented additional land on Gap Creek.

jane-tipprell-road

Lazarus and Jane were likely living on or near this land the entire time they lived in Claiborne County, based on deed and church records. The Gap Creek Baptist Church, which stood on their land still exists today. Jane very probably attended this church, but of course it would have looked very different then, if it was even the same building, at all. It would have been a log structure at that time, as would their home.

gap-creek-church-cropped

In 1819, Lazarus sold out, again, and headed for Alabama. In Alabama, Jane and Lazarus would have settled in the part of Jackson County ceded by the Cherokee earlier that year, so perhaps someplace on what is now Alabama 79, then the main road from Tennessee into Alabama. It probably looked much the same then as it does today. Hilly and treed – for miles and miles and miles. I can’t help but feel for the displaced Cherokee. I wonder if Jane did as well.

jane-jackson-co.

The historic town of Dodsonville once existed in Jackson County, just beneath Scottsboro.

jane-dodsonville

Lazarus’s brother Oliver’s son, William, lived in Jackson County from 1819 until his death in 1872. He is buried in the Dodson Cemetery near Lim Rock, not far from historic Dodsonville, named for him. Dodsonville is probably under dammed Guntersville Lake, today.

By this time, I just feel weary for Jane. I’m sure she longed for a cabin where she could put down roots and didn’t have to sell out and pack up every few years to start over again with few belongings in an unfamiliar place with unknown dangers and strangers she didn’t know. I wonder if Lazarus was the kind of man that was always starry-eyed and enamored with the next great opportunity. Was life just one great adventure after another to him?

We know that in 1826, Lazarus Jr. (we believe) repurchased his father’s land back in Claiborne County, and that Lazarus Sr.’s land transactions, apparently having to do with his estate, were being handled in McMinn County. There is no will or probate for Lazarus Sr. in either Claiborne County or McMinn County, and the Jackson County records were burned in the Civil War.

Giving Lazarus Sr. the benefit of the doubt here, we’ll presume that Lazarus Sr. moved from Alabama directly back to McMinn County and did not first return to Claiborne and then move to McMinn. One way or another, they, or at least Jane, came back to Tennessee as did her sons Lazarus Jr. and Oliver.

Sometime between 1827 and 1830, Jane’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Campbell Dodson, Lazarus Jr.’s wife died. If Jane had not already returned to Tennessee, she may have returned in the wagon with Lazarus Jr. to help with his four children born between 1820 and 1827. However, by 1830, those children were living with their Campbell grandparents, who would raise them to adulthood, in Claiborne County. Perhaps the Campbell grandparents raised the children instead of Jane because they owned a farm and there were two of them and they were somewhat younger than Jane by at least a decade, if not more.  Jane, alone, would have had to handle 4 young children. Besides that, Jane’s other son, David had recently died too, leaving his widow needing help with her children as well.  Jane would have been approaching 70 by this time.

Lazarus Jr. returned to Claiborne County and is found in the records beginning in 1826 when he repurchased his father’s land. This is presuming that the land repurchase was by Lazarus Jr. and not Lazarus Sr. Lazarus Jr. remained in Claiborne County where he is found in the court notes from 1827 through about 1833 when he is recorded as being absent and owing taxes.

We know that in 1830 Jane lived someplace near Englewood in McMinn County. Liberty Hill Road runs between Englewood and Cochran Cemetery Road, so this view would have been familiar to Jane, then, too.

jane-liberty-hill-road

So Jane got to pack up for at least a 5th time and move back to Tennessee, and that’s if we know about all the moves, which is certainly not likely.

If Jane married Lazarus in 1778 or 1779, before they left Virginia, that means she got to make major moves at least 5 times between about 1780 and 1825, or roughly every 9 years. And those moves would have been while pregnant, nursing babies, with toddlers, and whatever other challenge or inconvenience you can think of.

In 1825 or so, Jane would have been 60-65 years old. The last thing most people want to do at that age is bounce around in a wagon with no shocks on rough rutty roads crossing mountains – relocating “one last time.”

jane-cumberland-gap

Cumberland Gap, from the summit, overlooking Claiborne County.

Perhaps Lazarus died mysteriously after suggesting “just one more move.”

Jane’s Children

We know beyond a doubt that Lazarus Jr., born in 1795, was Jane’s son, and we can presume that any children born after Lazarus were Jane’s as well since she was still living in 1830.

This 1826 McMinn County deed comes as close as we’re going to get to identifying Jane’s children.

Abner Lea and Others Obligation to William Dodson: State of Tennessee McMinn County. Know all men by these presents that the Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson and Eligha (sic) Dodson and William Dodson and Jessee Dodson and Lazrus Dodson and held and firmly bound in the penal sum of two thousand dollars which payment will and freely to be maid now(?) and each of us do bind our selves our heirs executor and administrators to the abounded signed sealed and delivered this day and date above written. This is our obligation is as such that has the above abound to appoint Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson to be the gardeans [guardians] of the estate of Lazarous Dodson dc’d also we authorize the said Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson to make to William Dodson a deed of Conveyeance to the part of land granted to the said William Dodson North East Quarter of Section 11 Township 5 Range first east of the meridian. Also that we confirm the sale made on the 13 day of May 1826 we also agree to give unto the heirs of David Dodson a certain piece or parcel of land designated to David Dodson by Lazarus Dodson de’d be it further understood that this is to be there part and all that they are entitled to by us, where unto we have set our hand and quill this 11 day of September 1826. Abner Lea Oliver Dodson Eligha Dodson Lazarous Dodson Jesse Dodson

Witnesses: Landford and Rhodes, William Dodson

Therefore, based on the above deed, and the information for each of the individuals below, I believe that Lazarus had 7 children that lived to adulthood, and therefore, Jane probably did as well. We know for sure that the youngest three are Jane’s children.

  • Jesse
  • Elijah
  • Mary
  • Oliver
  • Lazarus
  • David
  • William

Jesse Dodson was born by 1781 or earlier as he was of age in March 1802 when he served as a juror in Claiborne Co., TN at the March term and also the June term when he was designated as “Little Jesse Dodson.” Junior or “little” in this context meant younger, not necessarily “son of Jesse.” This designation was no doubt for the purpose of distinguishing him from Rev. Jesse Dodson, a much older man who was also a resident of Claiborne County at this time. Jesse, the son of Rev. Jesse Dodson was born in 1791, thus being too young to serve as a juror in 1802.

Prior to this, Jesse Dodson Jr. was “assessed for 1 white poll” and was was included “among those living within the Indian Boundary for the year of 1797 which the county court of Grainger released the sheriff from the collection of taxes.”

Apparently these people, it had been determined, were living beyond the treaty line on Indian land and were not within the jurisdiction of Grainger Co. This part of Grainger became Claiborne in 1801 and included the area beneath Cumberland Gap that Lazarus eventually owned and was living on by 1800.

Jesse Dodson and Mary Stubblefield Dodson joined the Big Spring Baptist church “by experience” in March 1802. They received letters of dismissal from the church in Nov. 1805, but Jesse returned his letter in May 1806. Apparently in early 1807 Jesse got into a dispute with the church over a theological question which continued on through Sept 1807 when the question was dismissed. In Aug 1808, Jesse was “excluded” from the church for “withholding from the Church.” He is not again found in the records of Claiborne Co.

On June 20, 1811, one Jesse Dodson was licensed to trade with Indian tribes in Madison Co., Alabama which borders Jackson County. Descendants of this man reportedly carry the oral tradition that he was an Indian trader. Jesse was said to be the oldest son of a large family of boys. Once when the Indian trader returned from one trip and was preparing to leave on another, the father implored his older son to take along his younger brother. The trader refused, saying the boy was so inexperienced that he would be killed by Indians. The father was adamant and insisted, so the trader relented and took the boy along. The brother was killed by Indians before Jessee’s eyes. From then on there were hard feelings between the Indian Trader and his father.

This is a tradition which may have grown with the telling over the generations, but there could be some grains of truth in the tale. The land that became Jackson Co., Alabama was originally part of the Mississippi Territory and was occupied by the Cherokee until they gave it up by treaty on Feb. 27, 1819. It is certainly possible that Jesse Dodson, Indian Trader of the Mississippi territory, was a son of Lazarus Dodson, Sr.

A Jesse Dodson was on the 1830 census of Jackson Co., AL though the family statistics are puzzling. The household consisted of 2 males 5-10, 1 male 10-15, 1 male 20-30, 1 female under 5, 1 female 10-15, 1 female 30-40 and 1 female 50-60. This would not be Jesse Dodson the Indian Trader unless he were away from home on the date of the census enumeration or unless the census taker made an error in recording the statistics. We have no record of the children of this Jesse Dodson.

Elijah Dodson, based on the 1826 deed, was also a son of Lazarus Dodson Sr, although there were multiple Elijah Dodsons. Elijah appears to be connected in the records of Claiborne with Martin Dodson and Jehu Dodson who are not mentioned in the 1826 deed. Elijah was born in 1790 in Hawkins County according to information in the Oregon Donation land claims. He died in Yamhill Co., Oregon in 1859. His first wife was Mary, surname unknown, whom he married March 12, 1807 in “Clayborn Co, Tn.”. His second wife was Elizabeth surname unknown who died in the Autumn of 1854. They were married in September of 1848 in Polk Co., Oregon.

In the June 1805 term of court, Claiborne Co., TN, Elijah along with Jehu was appointed as a road hand to work on a road of which Martin Dodson was overseer. It was a segment of the Kentucky road from the top of Wallen’s ridge to Blair’s creek. In August 1814 Elijah proved a wolf scalp he had killed in 1814 and at the August term 1815 he served as a juror. There are no records of Elijah in Claiborne beyond this date.

It is possible that Elijah eventually went to Henry Co., Ohio and Clay Co., Missouri before moving to Oregon where he made a claim to land in Yamhill Co. on which he lived from Feb 1848 until his death. It is believed that two of his sons were with him in Oregon. The record stated that his first wife left 6 children.

Mary Dodson

Abner Lea is certainly an interested party in the 1826 deed from the heirs of Lazarus Dodson. Abner is reported (although unverified) to have been married to a Mary Dodson on November 15, 1796 in Orange County, NC. The list of Lazarus’s heirs, which apparently includes Abner Lea, strongly suggests that Mary, Abner’s wife, was the daughter of Lazarus Sr. Abner’s birth date is reported to be about 1770 in Caswell County, NC, so too young to be a brother-in-law to Lazarus Sr. and about the right age to have married his daughter.

In 1810, Lazarus purchased land from Abner Lea in Claiborne County. If this is the Abner Lea born in 1770, he was about 40 in 1810. Abner Lea’s brother was James Lea, born in 1767, and in the winter of 1781/1782, Lazarus Dodson was encamped on the land patented by one James Lea in 1783 at the mouth of Richland Creek where it intersected with the Holston River, in what is now Grainger County. A James Lea family is also found on Country Creek in Caswell County, near where Raleigh and Lazarus Dodson lived before moving to the Holston River in 1778/1779.

Nothing is known about descendants of this couple.

Oliver Dodson was born August 31, 1794 in Hawkins Co., TN and died December 8, 1875 in McMinn Co., TN. He married Elizabeth, surname unknown who was born March 16, 1795 in Virginia and died Aug 7, 1883 in McMinn Co., TN. Both are buried in the Mt. Cumberland Cemetery, McMinn County.

jane-oliver-dodson

The first records of Oliver in Claiborne County are found in the court minutes in August 1815 when he proved he had killed a wolf and collected the bounty for the wolf scalp.

On January 16, 1820, Oliver was relieved as road overseer of the Kentucky Road from where Powell’s Valley Road intersects the same at Wallen’s field to the state line at Cumberland Gap. At the August term 1820 he exhibited the scalp of a wolf he had killed in Claiborne in 1819. In June, 1824 he sued William Hogan for a debt and was awarded damages and costs.

Sometime before or after these events, Oliver spent some time in Jackson Co., Alabama. where one of his sons Marcellus M. Dodson claimed to be born in 1819. By 1830, Oliver was settled in McMinn Co, TN where he lived the remainder of his life.

A chancery suit filed in McMinn in 1893 involving the estate of Oliver Dodson gives us a list of his children and some of his grandchildren. The suit, chancery case #1282 Lazarus Dodson (his son) vs Mary Jane Reynolds stated that all were nonresidents of McMInn County except for Lazarus who files for himself and as administrator of Oliver Dodson and Mary Jane Reynolds. Some grandchildren lived in Knox Co., TN and the others lived in California, Texas, Missouri, Oregon, Montana, Georgia and other states.

David Dodson, based on the 1826 deed, is also a son of Lazarus Dodson, Sr. David is not in the records of Claiborne County except for the one time when he witnessed the deed to William Hogan from Lazarus Dotson and Abner Lea in May 1819.

If it is the same David Dodson who later appeared in McMinn Co., TN, then he was probably born between 1790 and 1800. David Dodson (Dotson) died in McMinn County before the 1826 deed. David’s widow was Fanny Dotson born 1790-1800 according to the 1830 census of McMinn Co. with a household consisting of herself, 1 male 5-10, 1 male 10-15, 1 female under 5, 2 females 5-10. She is living beside Jane Dodson, the widow of Lazarus Sr. and also beside William Dodson.

The land referenced in the 1826 deed is roughly the Cochran Cemetery area, shown below, near Englewood in McMinn Co.

David Dodson who died on August 15, 1826 is reported to be buried in this Cemetery, although he is not listed on FindAGrave, so his grave is apparently unmarked. It appears that David and Lazarus may have died in very close proximity to each other relative to their death dates. Poor Jane apparently lost a husband and a son within a very short time. This makes me wonder if there was an illness that took them both.

cochran cemetery

William Dotson was living next door to Jane Dodson in 1830. His household consisted of 1 male under 5, 1 male 20-30, (so born 1800-1810) 1 female under 5, 1 female 5-10 and 1 female 20-30. He was the administrator of the estate of David Dotson and seems a little old to be a son of David and Fanny, so could conceivably be a brother instead.

In 1826 in McMinn County, we find the land in Section 11, Township 5, Range first east of the meridian being conveyed to William by “guardians of the estate of Lazarus Dodson, deceased.”

jane-mcminn-1836

1836 McMinn County district map – The Rogers Connection – Myth or Fact by Sharon R. McCormack

If William is Jane’s son, and he was born about 1800, then she would have been about 30-40 at that time, and based on the birth years of her other children, closer to 40.

A William L. Dotson was appointed one of the arbitrators between the administrators of the estates of Thomas and William Burch, decd, in June of 1834. Thomas Burch died circa 1830 and had been the administrator of the estate of his father, William Burch, who died about 1828. One of the daughters of William Burch was Mrs. Aaron Davis, apparently, a former neighbor of Lazarus Dodson in Claiborne Co. Mentioned in Thomas Burch’s estate is a note against the estate of William Burch, decd and an unidentified piece of land in Claiborne Co. Aaron Davis was a member of Gap Creek Church of Claiborne Co. TN in 1818.

There were several William Dodsons in McMinn Co and it is not entirely possible to separate them without further records, but one of them was the son of Lazarus Sr.  William L. Dodson, believed to be the son of Lazarus, was born December 11, 1804 and died August 29, 1873. I sure would like to know what the L. stood for. Lazarus, or perhaps his mother’s maiden name?  William L. is buried in the Cochran Cemetery in McMinn County, along with Lazarus’s son David. It’s likely that Jane, Lazarus Sr.’s widow, is buried in the Cochran Cemetery as well, given that she was living adjacent to David and William in 1830, and William owned the land on which the cemetery stood.

It’s possible that Lazarus Sr. is buried in the Cochran Cemetery too, although based on the land purchase back in Claiborne County in 1826, it’s also possible that he is buried in Claiborne County or even back in Jackson County, Alabama. It has never been entirely clear whether the Lazarus that repurchased that Claiborne County land was Sr. or Jr. In any event, Claiborne County is where Lazarus Sr.’s marker rests today, set by descendants in 2011 in the Cottrell Cemetery on the land Lazarus once owned.

laz dodson marker

Unfortunately, Lazarus’s death date of 1826 was inscribed incorrectly as 1816, but by the time we saw the stone for the first time, it had already been set and it was too late to change the engraving.

Jane’s Other Children

If the children listed above are all Lazarus and Jane’s children, there were other children who were born and did not survive, given that children were typically born every 18 months to 2 years. The (approximate) birth dates of the children we can identify:

  • Jesse – 1781
  • Elijah – 1790
  • Mary – 1790+, so say 1792
  • Oliver – 1794
  • Lazarus – 1795
  • David – 1790-1800, so call it 1797
  • William – 1800-1810, so call it 1804 based on the cemetery record

This means there were children born in the following approximate years, in the following locations, that did not survive:

  • 1783 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1785 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1787 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1789 – probably on Dodson Creek
  • 1799 – probably on White Horn Branch
  • 1801 – in Claiborne County
  • 1803 – in Claiborne County

If Jane was 60-70 in 1830, she would have had to be closer to 70, or born about 1760 to be having children by 1781, so she would have been about 40 in 1800. It’s likely that she did not have any children after William born in 1804.

Of course, we don’t know when or where those children died, or were buried. It could have been where they were born or anyplace between there and McMinn County. One son could have been killed by Indians. If that is true, Jane must have been heartsick and I’d wager there were some rather unpleasant words between Jane and Lazarus, if indeed he encouraged Jesse to take the son who was killed along on the trading expedition.

All we know for sure is that no additional children were mentioned in the 1826 deed and unlike son David, they did not leave heirs. Given that Lazarus apparently did not have a will, or if he did, it has never been found, all of his living children or deceased children with heirs would have been mentioned in the deed.

If Jesse is Jane’s son and first child, that puts her marriage year at about 1780, so she either was married in North Carolina (or bordering Virginia) and her honeymoon was spent in a wagon bouncing its way to the new frontier, or she arrived to homestead on the Holston River with her parents, whoever they were, and soon thereafter married the handsome frontiersman, Lazarus Dodson. There were probably not many spousal candidates to choose from on the Holston River, so they were both probably very pleased to marry and begin their family.

Jane’s Death and Burial

Jane died sometime after 1830 and before 1840, based on the census. In 1830 she was living beside son David Dodson’s widow and William Dodson. Later deeds show that the land owned by William Dodson conveyed in the 1826 deed includes the Cochran Cemetery near present-day Englewood.

jane-cochran-cemetery-map

We know that William Dodson is buried there and David Dodson is reported to be buried there as well, along with several other Dodsons listed on FindAGrave. Jane seems to be surrounded by her descendants.

jane-cochran-internments-2

William L. Dodson, buried in the Cochran Cemetery, is shown on FindAGrave to be the son of Elisha Dodson and Mary Matlock. Elisha is shown to be the son of the Reverend Jesse Dodson, who was the preacher at Big Springs in Claiborne County. I don’t know if this is accurate, nor do I know what documentation was utilized for this information.

Unfortunately, both the Reverend Jesse Dodson and Lazarus Dodson Sr. were both functioning in Claiborne County at the same time in the early 1800s. I do find it odd that Jesse’s son, Elisha, who died in Polk County in 1864, would have a son, William L., living beside Jane and David Dodson, in McMinn County. It’s entirely possible that Elijah and Elisha, very similar names, have been confused and intermixed.

jane-cochran-aerial

The Cochran Cemetery, where Jane is probably buried is shown above and below.

jane-cochran-from-road

County Road 479 is Cochran Cemetery Road.

jane-cochran-cemetery-road

The terrain is hilly but not mountainous and these rolling hills are what Jane saw in her last few years, living in McMinn County.

jane-cochran-distance

Mitochondrial DNA

If Mary Dodson who married Abner Lea is indeed the daughter of Jane Dodson, and if there are descendants who descend through all females to the current generation, we could test that descendant to obtain the mitochondrial DNA of Jane.

Mothers give their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of children, but only females pass it on. In order to find Jane’s mitochondrial DNA we’d need to find a descendant through her one female child, Mary – assuming that indeed Mary is Jane’s daughter.

Jane has been theorized to be a Honeycutt, given that Lazarus lives on Honeycutt Creek and has some interest in land conveyed in 1810, a Lea based on continued interaction with that family, and a Native woman since Lazarus was encamped with the Native people in 1781/1782. That may not be terribly likely since the Cherokee towns were destroyed, but then again, love has never been hindered terribly by warfare – and married to a white man might be as safe as a Native woman could be at that time.

Finding the haplogroup of Jane’s mitochondrial DNA would at least put the Native possibility, as small as it is, to sleep one way or the other, forever. Native American haplogroups are distinct from European, African or Asian haplogroups.

If you descend from Jane Dodson through daughter Mary through all females to the current generation, which can be male, please let me know. I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Autosomal DNA – The Dog’s Leg 

Can autosomal DNA help?

Well, theoretically, yes. However, in actuality, for me, today, the answer is “not exactly” or at least not in the way I intended.

I need to warn you, before we start, that this section is the proverbial dog’s leg – meaning we start in one place, and through a series of twists and turns, wind up someplace entirely different.  I debated removing this section – but I decided to leave it because of the educational value and discussion.  “The Dog’s Leg” would actually be an apt description of my entire 37+ years doing genealogy.

So, if you’re up for a bit of an adventure on twisty roads, let’s go!!!

jane-dodson-chart

The first problem we encounter is that Jane is several generations back in the tree, even to the most closely related descendants that have DNA tested at Family Tree DNA where we have chromosome data to work with.

Son Lazarus Jr. carried half of Jane’s DNA, and with each generation, roughly half of Jane’s DNA from the previous generation was lost. Today, descendants would carry anyplace from 3.12% to less than 1% of her DNA, so the chances of carrying the same segment that matches other descendants is progressively smaller in each generation.

Furthermore, today, we have no way to tell which DNA that the descendants might carry is Jane’s DNA, even if it can be attributed to Lazarus and Jane and no common ancestor downstream. In other words, Jane’s DNA and Lazarus’s DNA combined in their children and to sort it back into Jane’s and Lazarus’s individually, we have to have the DNA of Lazarus’s ancestral Dodson line and Jane’s ancestral line to be able to sort their DNA into his and her buckets. Today, we have some people from Lazarus’s line, but obviously none from Jane’s, since we don’t know the identity of her parents or siblings.

To know whose DNA is whose, we’d need matching DNA from Lazarus Sr.’s siblings descendants, for example. That, we may be able to obtain. However, we don’t have that information about Jane.

For the record, the person labeled “Tester,” below, in red has not tested today. If they were to test, because they descend through Lazarus Dodson Jr. through a second wife, if that red tester matches any of the green testers, we would know for sure that their common DNA is that of Lazarus Jr. (and not his wife), assuming no other common ancestral lines, because the green testers and red tester descend through different wives of Lazarus Jr.

jane-dodson-chart-2

While this would help us identify Dodson DNA in Lazarus Jr.’s generation, which means that DNA came from Lazarus Sr. and Jane as a couple, it doesn’t help us identify Jane’s DNA.

What Can We Tell About Jane?

So, what might we be able to tell about Jane?

I have access to the DNA results for Buster and Charlene (above) at Family Tee DNA, in addition to my own DNA results, of course.

I checked my own results for any Honeycutt, using the match search filter. There were two, and both also shared other surnames that I share. No particular common ancestral line or location was evident.

I also attempted to search for the surname Lea, but unfortunately, one cannot request only a particular match string, so the matches included any first or surname that included “lea.” Even more difficult, the matching Ancestral Surnames column often didn’t extend to the “L” names, so I can’t tell whether the matching surname is Lea or something else that includes “lea.”

That’s disappointing.

Next, let’s try Dodson.

You can see an example of the Ancestral Surnames below and only 4 rows maximum are displayed, even when expanded. The first three matches didn’t make it to the D surnames. I’m hoping this problem, which is relatively new, will be fixed soon.

jane-ancestral-surnames

I have 21 matches for Dodson, with 15 having trees. Let’s see if any of these people share my Dodson line.

Match # Common Ancestors
1 George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, Raleigh Dodson’s parents
3 Greenham Dodson and Eleanor Hightower (brother to George Dodson who married Margaret Dagord), also a Campbell line
4 George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, also a Crumley line
5 No common ancestor shown, but have Dodson in their ancestor surname list (5 matches)
6 Not far enough back to connect (5 matches)
7 Greenham Dodson and Eleanor Hightower

Some of my Dodson matches list Dodson in their Ancestral Surnames, but I don’t find an ancestor with the Dodson surname in their actual tree.

Of the people who do have Dodson ancestors in their trees, I find 4 where I can identify the common ancestor, and all 4 are some number of generations before Lazarus Sr. or even his father, Raleigh. In one case, there is also another identifiable ancestor with a different surname (Crumley) and in another line, a common surname (Campbell) but no common ancestor.  However, I’m brick walled on Campbell and the Campbell line did marry into the Dodson line in Lazarus Jr’s generation.

These Dodson matches are exciting, and here’s my dream list of what I’d like to do next:

  • What I’d really like to be able to do is to select all 21 of my matches and create a grid or matrix that shows me the people who match in common with me and any of them. Those would obviously be people who do NOT carry the Dodson surname, because people who do carry the ancestral (or current) Dodson surname are already listed in the 21.
  • Then, I’d like to see a matrix that shows me which of all these people match me and each other on common segments – and without having to push people through to the chromosome browser 5 at a time.
  • I’d like to be able to sort through all of the ICW matches (both Ancestral Surnames and direct ancestors in trees) to see if they have Honeycutt or Lea, or any other common surnames with each other. Because if the common surname isn’t Dodson, then perhaps it is Jane’s surname and finding a common surname among the matches might help me narrow that search or at least give me hints.
  • I’d like to be able to see who in my match list matches me on any particular given segment. In other words, let’s say that I match three individuals on a specific chromosome segment. I’d like to be able to search through my matches online for that information.
  • I’d like to be able to sort through my Dodson matches list by specific ancestor in their tree, like Lazarus Dodson. Today, I have to search each account’s tree individually, which isn’t bad if there are a few. However, with a common surname, there can be many pages of matches.

In the following example, I match 3 other Dodson descendants on a large segment of chromosome 5. This match is not trivial, as it’s 32 to 39 cM in length and approximately 7500 to 9000 SNPs.  These are very solid matches.

jane-chromosome-browser

  • The green person (JP) is stuck in Georgia in 1818 with a female Dodson birth, so the common ancestor is unknown.
  • The yellow person (CA) descends from George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, Raleigh’s parents, through another child.
  • The pink person (JP) has no tree but shows Dodson, Smoot and Durham in Virginia which tells me these are the early generations of the Dodson line. Thomas Dodson’s wife’s birth name was Durham and they were parents of both George and Greenham Dodson.  Smoot comes through the Durham line.

These individuals match me on the following segment of chromosome 5.

jane-segment-matches

Lazarus and Jane are 6 generations upstream from me, so George Dodson is 8 and Thomas Dodson is 9. That’s pretty amazing that this relatively large segment of DNA appears to have potentially been passed through the Dodson line for this many generations.  Note the word potentially.  We’re going to work on that word.

Regardless of how early or how many generations back, these matches are clearly relevant AND have been parentally phased to my father’s side, both by virtue of the Phased Family Matching (maternal and paternal buckets) at Family Tree DNA and by virtue of the fact that they don’t match my mother.

The next question is whether or not these people match each other, so to answer that question, I need to move to the matrix tool.

jane-matrix

Utilizing the matrix, we discover that they DO match each other. What we don’t know is whether they match each other on that particular segment of chromosome 5, but given the size of the segment involved, and that they do match each other, the chances are very good that they do match on the same segment.

Of course, since the yellow match is unquestionably my line of Dodson DNA and because my common ancestor with this person is upstream of both Lazarus and Raleigh, then this matching DNA segment on chromosome 5 cannot be Jane’s DNA.

Therefore, I’d really like to know who else I match on this specific segment, particularly on my father’s side, so that I can see if there are any additional proven Dodson lineage matches on this segment.  This would allow me to properly assign the people who match me on my father’s side on this segment as being “Dodson line,” even if I can’t tell for sure who the common ancestor is.

That function, of course, doesn’t exist via searching at Family Tree DNA today, but what I can do is to check my Master DNA Spreadsheet that I’ve downloaded to see who else matches me on that segment.  If you would like to know how to download and manage your spreadsheet, see the Concepts Series of articles.

My Master DNA Spreadsheet shows 23 additional matches on this segment on my father’s side, 8cM or larger, with two, one at 32.96 cM indicating a common Durham lineage, and another at 33.75 cM indicating a Dodson lineage.  Therefore, this segment can reasonably confidently be assigned to the Dodson side of the tree, and probably to the Durham line – an unanticipated bonus if it holds.

jane-dodson-pedigree

I would need additional evidence before positively assigning this segment to the Durham line, given the distance back in time.  I would need to be sure my Durham match doesn’t have a hidden Dodson match someplace, and that their tree is fairly complete.

While this little exercise helps me to identify Dodson DNA and possibly Durham DNA, it hasn’t done anything to help me identify Jane’s DNA.

Of course, if I had matches to people with Honeycutt or Lea DNA, then that might be another matter and we would have a hypothesis to prove or disprove. Or, if I could search for common surnames, other than Dodson, among my matches trees and Ancestral Surnames.

I’m going to try one more cousin, Buster, who is generationally closer than I am to see if he matches a Honeycutt at Family Tree DNA, by any chance. Nope, no Honeycutt.

I also checked at Ancestry, just to see if I match anyone there who also descends from Lazarus Sr., and I do not. I do, however, match 2 people through Lazarus’s father Raleigh, 15 people through Raleigh’s parents, George Dodson and Margaret Dagord and 14 people through Raleigh’s grandfather, Thomas Dodson.

If I match this many, it sure makes me wonder how many from this line have tested and that I don’t match. Of course, at Ancestry, they have no chromosome browser or matrix types of tools (without building your own pseudo-matrix using the Shared Matches feature), so there is no way to discern if your matches also match each other and there is no way to know if they match you and/or each other on the same segments.

The Ancestor Library – My DNA Daydream

I dream of the day when we will be able to recreate the DNA profiles of our ancestors and store them in an “Ancestor Library.” That way, when I identify the DNA on chromosome 5, for example, to be that of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord, I can assign it to that couple in the “ancestor library.” Then, if this segment on chromosome 5 is either partially or wholly Durham, I can move it up one generation and then to the Durham ancestral line in the library.

Let me explain what this “Ancestor Library” will do for us.

Let’s say we know that a piece of DNA on chromosome 1 that was inherited from Lazarus and Jane is not Dodson DNA, and let’s say we have ideal circumstances.  We know this DNA came from Lazarus and Jane because this large common matching segment is found in three descendants through three different children. We already know what the Dodson progenitor DNA in this location looks like, because it’s proven and already in the library, and our Lazarus/Jane DNA on chromosome 1 doesn’t match the Dodson DNA in the Ancestor Library. Therefore, by process of logical deduction, we know that this segment on chromosome 1 has to be Jane’s DNA. Finally, we have an identifiable piece of Jane.

Now, let’s say we can submit this sequence of Jane’s DNA into the “Ancestor Library” to see which “ancestors” in the library match that sequence of DNA.

There could be several of course who descend from the same ancestral couple.

We obtain our “Ancestor Library” match list of potential ancestors that could be ours based on Jane’s DNA segment, and we see that indeed, there is a Honeycutt line and our DNA matches that line. Depending on how many other ancestral lines also match, the segment size, etc., this would be sufficient to send me off scurrying to research Honeycutt, even if the results don’t “prove” beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jane’s parents were.  Ancestor Library matches most assuredly would give us more to work with on that magical day, sometime in the future, than we have to work with today. In fact, the Ancestor Library would actively break down brick walls.

Ok, I’ve returned from my daydream now…but I do wonder how many years it will be until that DNA future with the “Ancestor Library” comes to pass and we’ll be able to fill in the blanks in our family tree utilizing DNA to direct our records research, at least in some cases.

The Rest of the Story – My Secret

Ok, I’ll let you in on my secret. Truth is that I’ve been working on the Ancestor Library proof of concept for over 2 years now.  In November 2016, I gave a presentation at the Family Tree DNA Conference titled “Crumley Y DNA to Autosomal Case Study – Kicking It Up a Notch” about reconstructing James Crumley from 50 of his descendants.  Just to give you an idea, this is a partial reconstruction utilizing Kitty Cooper’s tools, not quite as she intended.

james-crumley-reconstruct

Just to let you know, ancestor reconstruction can be done. It may be a daydream today in the scope that I’m dreaming, but one day, it will happen. Jane’s ancestry may someday be within reach once we develop the ability to functionally “subtract out” Lazarus’s DNA from Jane’s descendants.

In Summary

I wish we had some small snippet of Jane’s voice, or even Jane’s identifiable DNA, but we don’t. All we can do is to surmise from what we do know.

We know that Jane moved from place to place, and apparently a non-trivial number of times.

Jane’s life can be divided into frontiers.

  • Birth to 1778 – 1780 – Virginia or North Carolina, probably
  • 1780 – 1797 – Holston River between Honeycutt and Dodson Creeks, present day Hawkins County, Tennessee
  • 1797 – 1800 – White Horn Fork, near Bull’s Gap, then Hawkins County, Tennessee, today, probably Hamblin County
  • 1800 – 1819 – Gap Creek beneath the Cumberland Gap, Claiborne County, Tennessee spanning the old Indian boundary line
  • 1819 – before 1830 – Jackson County, Alabama when the Cherokee ceded their land
  • 1830 – 1840/death – McMinn County, Tennessee

The longest time Jane spent in one place was about 19 years in Claiborne County where Lazarus was a member of the Gap Creek Baptist Church by 1805.  Jane was very likely a member there too, as it would be extremely unusual for a woman not to attend the same church where her husband was a member of some status.

It’s actually rather amazing that we were able to track Jane and family at all, considering the number of places they lived and given the distances that they moved. While we do hold onto them by the tiniest threads – surely we must know how many of the threads of the fabric of Jane’s life are now irrecoverably lost – like pieces of a quilt, frayed with wear and gone.

Jane had at least three children that lived, and probably a 4th since Oliver was born the year before Lazarus. She may have had 7 living children if all of Lazarus’s children were hers too – meaning she was Lazarus’s only wife. We have nothing to indicate that either Lazarus or Jane were married more than once, except for how common death was on the frontier. If all of Lazarus’s children were also Jane’s, then Jane likely had as many children that died as lived, presuming she was married for her entire child-bearing life. Losing every other child is a nightmare thought for a mother, especially today – but it was more or less expected before the days of modern medicine. Let that soak in for a minute.

One of Jane’s children may have been killed by Indians. If this is true, then that episode may have affected Jane’s relationship with her husband and potentially her son Jesse, too. Unfortunately, records during this time are scant and many are missing entirely. We will probably never know if Jesse, the Indian trader, was Jane’s son.

I hope that some day, in some way, we’ll be able to unravel the mystery of Jane’s surname. In order for that to happen, new records will either need to appear, perhaps in the form of a nice juicy chancery suit, or a family Bible needs to be found, or DNA technology needs to improve combined with some serendipity and really good luck.

In the meantime, I’ll remember Jane as the weary and infinitely patient frontier wife, repeatedly packing up and moving from one frontier to the next, for roughly 45 years, whether she really wanted to or not.

I will think of her gently caring for her grandchildren after Elizabeth Campbell Dodson died, perhaps wiping their tears as their mother was buried in a grave lost to time, not long after Jane lost her own husband, Lazarus and son David. 1826 and 1827 were grief-filled years for Jane, with one loss after another.  She buried far too many close family members.

I will think of Jane living in McMinn County in her final years, between her son David’s widow, Fanny, and their children, and son William’s family. Between those two families, Jane had 7 grandchildren living within earshot: 3 toddlers, 3 between 5 and 10 and one boy about 11 or 12. He was probably a big help to Jane and Fanny both.

I hope Jane’s golden years were punctuated by the ring of grandchildren’s voices and laughter as she gathered them around her chair in front of the fireplace on crisp winter evenings, or on the shady porch on hot summer days.  She would have regaled them with stories “from a time far away and long ago” about her journeys in wagons, across rivers before bridges and through wars into uncharted territory, where Indians and soldiers both camped in their yard at Dodson’s Ford more than 50 years earlier. I can hear her now, can’t you? “Why, they were right outside, chile.” Their eyes must have been as big as saucers. Grandma Dodson’s life was amazing!

I hope Jane’s death, when it came, was swift and kind. Ironically, she outlived her adventure-loving husband by at least 4 years and maybe more than 14. And I will always wonder if Lazarus died after suggesting to Jane that they move one more time!

Jane can never regret not having taken that leap of faith, not having followed the elusive dream, be it hers or his, or both, because it seems that they always went…well, maybe except for that one last time.

I surely hope Jane is resting in peace, because while her life is infinitely interesting to us today, with her progressive migrations to “the next” frontier, it appears that rest is probably not something Jane got much of during her lifetime.

My Son in Vietnam – The Story of Bob and Nahn

Have you ever seen a “birth” announcement for a 48 year old child’s arrival? No? Well, you have now.

nhan-birth

Meet Nahn, son of Bob Thedford. You see, Bob never knew that Nahn existed, and Nahn didn’t know how to find his father.

For 48 years, Nahn dreamed and Bob had no idea…and then one day…that all changed, thanks to a DNA test at Family Tree DNA.

I became peripherally involved in Bob and Nahn’s story in 2013 when Bob’s wife, Louise, contacted me, in shock.

Bob, Nahn and Louise’s story is a bittersweet mix of sorrow and joy. I want to let Louise tell the story. After Nahn’s discovery, Louise created a document chronicling what happened so she didn’t have to write the same information over and over again to various people who wanted to know “what happened.”

Bob’s DNA Story

I want to relate a DNA story that happen in our family that added an unexpected branch to our family tree.

I took my first mtDNA test with Family Tree DNA in early 2006 and received my mitochondrial results in June 2006. In July 2010, I received results from a Family Finder DNA test. Then in March of 2012, I received results mt Full Sequence test.

When I was ordering my mt Full Sequence upgrade, I mentioned to my husband what I was doing. He said, “I want to take a DNA test. Can you order me a kit?”  So I placed an order for him for a Family Finder kit. We both received our results in March of 2012. At that time we had no idea of the life changing experience that was in store for us.

A few months later I ordered a kit for my son, our daughter and Bob’s mother. It was worked out between all of us that I would be the administrator of all kits. Checking on matches, following up on e-mails, contacting matchings. Anything that needed to be done to connect with distant cousins.

In September of 2013 we discovered that my husband had a Skin Cancer. It was caught in the early stages and we had hope that with proper treatment he could be cured.

Toward the end of September 2013, I went on-line to check all the FTDNA profiles for new matches. I have to login into each profile one at a time.

I would always check my profile first. On this night I has a few new matches but nothing that really caught my eye at the time.

Next I logged into my husband’s profile. He had a new match near the top of his match list just under our daughter and his mother.  I sat there and stared at the screen for a couple of minutes trying to comprehend what I was seeing.

The name on the screen was one I had never heard in the past. But the shared centiMorgans between my husband and this person was in the parent / child relationship range.

Our daughter shared 3,380 centiMorgans with her father. And this person shared 3,384 centiMorgans with my husband. I kept staring at the screen and the thought that was running through my head, the lab has made a mistake!!

nhan-match

I decided to contact Roberta Estes who writes a DNA Blog.  I explained to Roberta my findings. I said, “I think I already know the answer, but could there be a mistake by FTDNA in interpreting Vo Hun Nhan’s results?”

Her reply to me was, “I have never seen the lab make a mistake of the kind it would take for this to be in error.  Having said that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, but the entire process is automated via the tag on the vials.  I can’t even imagine how it would happen.”

I had checked our daughter and my mother-in-law’s profile, finding the same name with large amounts of matching centiMorgans. I began to think that the lab had not made a mistake.

After lot of investigation and e-mails to several people, we confirmed that Vo Huu Nhan is my husband’s 48 year old biological son. Without the DNA test we would never know of his existence. My husband had no idea that he had a son.

On October, 15, 2013, Bob reached out to Nahn’s contact, asking how to contact Nahn. Bob served in the Vietnam War from March 1968 to March 1969. Nhan was born in August 1969.

After my husband returned to the States he had 8 months left on his tour of duty. He was sent to Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama to finish out his tour. Huntsville is my home and that is where we first came to know each other.

Bob’s tour of duty was over in December 1969 and he returned back home to Fort Worth, Texas. It was not long after he returned back to Texas, that me and my 5 year old son moved to Fort Worth.

Four days after Bob reached out to Nahn’s contact, we received this letter about what Nahn said when he was told that they had found his father.

“I just received a message from Nhan’s best friend (Son Tran who introduced Nhan to me and asked me to give Nhan a chance to have a DNA test) that Nhan was very happy about the news… He said that “he would not be happier if someone gave him a million dollar than give him a father!!”

The results of the DNA test were bittersweet. All of the family was overly excited to have found Nhan but were sad to find out that for all these years we did not know of his existence. Nhan lives in South Vietnam in the Mekong Delta, he doesn’t speak English and does not own a computer.

All Nhan had been told about his father was that he was an American G.I. and his name was Bob. That was after he came home crying and asking his grandmother “Why the kid’s made fun of him and why did he look different compared to everyone else.” He looks more like Bob’s father than looks like Bob. Another thing we couldn’t deny after seeing a picture of him.

How Nhan came to know about the DNA test was through a childhood friend that lives in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). His friend Dang Van Son had heard that DNA kits were being brought to Saigon and that they were looking for “Children Left Behind” to come and take the test.

nhan-with-friend

Nahn and his friend, Son, in Vietnam. Son arranged for Nahn’s DNA test.

Son contacted Nhan and told him he should come and take the test. They only had 80 test kits to go around. I don’t know how many came for the test but Nhan was able to be tested.

After we confirmed that all was legit. Son began to e-mail us and send pictures of Nhan and his family as well as send messages from Nhan.  Nhan has 5 children, 1 son and 4 daughters.

nhan-with-children

Nahn has 3 grand-children by two daughters. This added 9 new family members to my Family Tree. Nhan has been married twice. One marriage ended in divorce and his second wife died of liver cancer about 2008.

Nhan had several jobs in Vietnam so I was told by his friend Son. Porter in market, rescue diver, worked on a floating market boat.

nhan-working

On Christmas morning of 2013 we received a call from Vietnam. It was Nhan calling to wish us a Merry Christmas. His friend Son’s daughter translated. Then we received an e-mail picture of the family. We were able to Skype with him one time before my husband passed away.

In 2014, Louise and Bob discovered how difficult Nahn’s life had been. Nahn’s friend, Son, sent them the following:

nhan-letter-2

You can learn about the lives of mixed American and Vietnamese children in this YouTube video, along with information about Trista Goldberg who founded Operation Reunite and partnered with Family Tree DNA to reunite these families.

Louise continues:

On April 17, 2015 before Bob passed away a few days later on April 26, the Washington Post published an article “Legacies of War” Forty years after the fall of Saigon, soldiers’ children are still left behind. They profiled 5 children still looking for their father’s. The lead story was about my husband and Nhan.

There is a picture in the article where they are sitting in front of the computer. The reporter is Skyping with our daughter Amanda for the story. That is Amanda on the screen. The second story is about Nhan’s childhood friend Dang Van Son that has been such a help to us and Nhan with keeping us in touch with each other.

nhan-skyping

Amanda and Nahn Skyping.

On the day Bob passed away, our local paper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s front page story was the story about my husband and Nhan from the Washington Post, Legacies of war connect Vietnam, Tarrant County.

It was so surreal to be walking to the coffee shop and pass all the newspaper’s boxes and see Bob and Nhan’s picture in the window of the boxes. Bob was in hospice at the hospital and we knew it was a matter of time, and shortly he would not be with us anymore.

By the time these articles were published my husband was to the point of non-communication. The Washington Post had wanted to Skype with me and Bob but it was not possible. Bob passed away on Sunday night, April 26, 2015.

I knew that Bob was critically ill, then Louise informed me that Bob had passed away. I was just heartsick that Bob and Nhan never had the opportunity to meet in person. It seemed that a dream for both Bob and Nahn, so close, finally within reach, had just slipped away. I thought, at that time, that this was the end of the story, and certainly not the ending any of us wanted – but it wasn’t the end after all.

Twenty-one months later, I heard from Louise again, this time with very unexpected news.

A Visa for Nahn

Again, from Louise:

In October of 2015 we received an e-mail from Trista Goldburg the person with “Operation Reunite” who bought kits from Family Tree DNA and took them to Saigon for testing.

She had received an e-mail from Franc Shelton, Country Fraud Prevention Coordinator, Mission Vietnam FPU, U.S. Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Dear Trista,

I hope you are well.  I would like to  encourage you to reach out to the family of Robert Thedford and urge the daughter of Mr. Thedford to consider undergoing another DNA collection, and to pay for a collection here at the consulate for Mr. Vo, at one of the approved labs from the list I sent you.

We just had a case in which we were able to close out because the parties involved proceeded in the manner which I discussed with you—in that case, the American father is practically indigent, but fortunately there were Viet Khieu benefactors in California who generously paid for the testing.  I moved that case to the front of the line and expedited all our procedures-we collected the alleged son’s sample here on 30 September and had the results back 2 weeks later (99.99%).  I hand-carried the results to the immigrant visa unit and strongly encouraged them to expedite their own processes (I have no control over that however).

Amanda was going to take a second test and we would pay for the test. The lab closest on the AABB Accredited Relationship (DNA) Testing Facilities list was, University of North Texas, Fort Worth, Texas.

When Amanda contacted them she was told they no longer did DNA testing. She replied back to Trista and let her know what she found. There were a few more letters exchanged. Amanda never did take a second test. We did not hear anything more for several months until July of this year when we received and e-mail from Nhan with a copy of his and his daughters Immigration Visa’s.

Nahn’s Letters

I have to share with you two letters Nhan sent to me. I feel sure his friend Son wrote the letter as Nhan dictated them. They are so sweet.

DEAR  MU USA  MUM,

ALLOW  ME  TO CALL    YOU  AS  MY USA  MUM.

IAM HAPPY THAT I HAVE  TWO  MUM  IN THE WORLD

  1. USA  MUM,
  2. VIETNAMSE MUM,

HAVE  GOOD MORNING MY USA MUM.

MAY GOD BLESS US

MY WARMEST REGARDS  TO YOU AND THE FAMILY,

STEP SON OF  LOVED HUSBAND  OF YOU.

VO HUU  NHAN.

1/JULY 2016 DEAR  MY USA MOTHER,

And another letter.

I DO  THANK  TO EVERY-ONE  WHO HELPED  ME  IN DNA  TESTING RESULLT,  AND BASING ON DNA TEST RESULT  I  KNOW  YOUR HUSBAND  IS  MY  BIOLOGCAL FATHER,

  DEAR  MY USA  MOTHER WITH YOUR  HELP  TODAY  I   WILL  OWN  FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE  TO HELP ME,

I WILL  WORK  TO BE COME  AN US CITIZEN AS SOON AS I CAN,

I ALWAYS  AM  PROUD  OF MY US FATHER

I PRAY FOR HIM  DAILY   AND NOW HE HAS HIS LIFE  ON THE HEAVEN IT IS  THE BEST LIFE FOR HIS SOUL

AND I THINK HIS SOUL  ALWAYS  SHOW ME  THE WAY TO GO TO ——–

THANK   US MOTHER!

APPLICANT: VO HUU  NHAN

 11/JULY/2016

A Christmas Surprise

As these events unfolded, I was pulling for Louise and Bob, and rooting for Nahn, but without understanding the immigration process, there was little I could do to help. In fact, I didn’t think there was much anyone could do to help Nahn.

When Louise’s update e-mail arrived a few days after Christmas in 2016, it was with pictures – of Nahn – here – with her in the US. I was amazed, to put it mildly. A miracle had happened.

nhan-with-louise

Nahn and his American Mom, Louise

Not only that, but Nahn arrived with his mother and his youngest daughter – and not just to visit, but to live in the US permanently.

nhan-mother-daughter

Nahn, his Vietnamese mother and daughter in Texas, a few days after arrival, visiting Louise.

I asked Louise how Nahn’s arrival felt, for her and Amanda, given that Bob was gone and had so much wanted to meet Nahn. In a very real way, they were living Bob’s dream for him.

Yes it was a bittersweet reunion without Bob being here to enjoy it with us. Our daughter, Amanda, was excited about the meeting. She is my and Bob’s only child and now she has two half brothers.

nhan-with-amanda

Nahn and Amanda, half-siblings, meeting for the first time in Texas.  I love their smiles.  They look so happy!

Amanda has lived such a different life than Nhan. Nothing extravagant, her father has a hard-working police officer and worked a second part time job for 23 years to allow me to stay home with Amanda. Amanda earned her own way through college, but had so many more opportunities than Nahn. It’s so sad that Bob never knew Nahn existed.

Nhan has been able to prove he has an American father. Nhan, his youngest daughter, 12 year’s old, and his mother have been granted immigration visa’s. Nhan, his mother and daughter arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday night December 20th, 2016, thirty-six hours after leaving Vietnam.

I thought that Nahn and his family came for a visit, but that’s not the case, according to Louise.

My understanding is that Nhan, his mother and daughter plan to make Texas their new home. Currently they are living in Dallas, which is an hour or so from where I live. I am in contact with their Refugee Resettlement Case Worker at Refugee Services of Texas.

The case worker told me the night they arrived it was very cold, they came with one small bag of clothes and the clothes they had on. Clearly they weren’t prepared for winter. The next day, helping them settle in, she took them to a Walmart and said they walked in and their eyes got big and they said “WOW”!!!!!!!!!

Their case worker said her next goal is to help Nahn find a job. She will also help him learn how to ride a bus for transportation.

Nahn and his family have so many obstacles to overcome living here. The major one is the language barrier. None of them know any English except “Thank You, Hello” and “WOW” although they are already taking English classes.

nhan-with-daughter

Nahn and his daughter – their first Christmas in Texas, a few days after arrival.

In many ways, Nahn, his mother and daughter represent the journey of so many of our ancestors who arrived with the hope of making better lives for themselves and their children. They too arrived without knowing the language and with few, if any, belongings. The difference is that they often arrived in a group of other immigrants from the same country – so they had extended family and help – and others who could speak the language. Nahn and his small family arrived in a group of just 3.

I can only think how difficult the life they left must have been to warrant this kind of foray, really a leap of incredible faith, into an totally unknown world where an entirely uncertain future is more attractive than one’s current life. Nahn, his mother and daughter are incredibly brave. At some level, they must certainly be unspeakably frightened too.

I would be terrified, wondering how I would eat, how I would live, where I would live and would I be able to find work to provide for myself, my mother and a daughter with special needs.

One thing is for sure, Bob would be busting-the-buttons-off-his-shirt proud of Nhan.

How to Help

Knowing my blog readers, I know your next question will be how you can help Nahn and his family. I’m not sure what they will need from day to day, and what has already been taken care of. Please feel free to contact Nhan’s case worker, below, if you know of a job or want to help in another way.

Kate Beamon at Refugee Services of Texas
9696 Skillman, Suite 320 Dallas, TX 75243

Phone, (214) 821-4883
e-mail, kbeamon@rstx.org
http://www.rstx.org/about-us.html

Acknowledgements

A heartfelt thank you to Louise for sharing this very personal story of her family’s journey.

Louise conveys a special thank you from her family to Bennett Greenspan at Family Tree DNA.

2016 Genetic Genealogy Retrospective

In past years, I’ve written a “best of” article about genetic genealogy happenings throughout the year. For several years, the genetic genealogy industry was relatively new, and there were lots of new tools being announced by the testing vendors and others as well.

This year is a bit different. I’ve noticed a leveling off – there have been very few announcements of new tools by vendors, with only a few exceptions.  I think genetic genealogy is maturing and has perhaps begun a new chapter.  Let’s take a look.

Vendors

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA leads the pack this year with their new Phased Family Matches which utilizes close relatives, up to third cousins, to assign your matches to either maternal or paternal buckets, or both if the individual is related on both sides of your tree.

Both Buckets

They are the first and remain the only vendor to offer this kind of feature.

Phased FF2

Phased Family Matching is extremely useful in terms of identifying which side of your family tree your matches are from. This tool, in addition to Family Tree DNA’s nine other autosomal tools helps identify common ancestors by showing you who is related to whom.

Family Tree DNA has also added other features such as a revamped tree with the ability to connect DNA results to family members.  DNA results connected to the tree is the foundation for the new Phased Family Matching.

The new Ancient Origins feature, released in November, was developed collaboratively with Dr. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona Hammer Lab.

Ancient European Origins is based on the full genome sequencing work now being performed in the academic realm on ancient remains. These European results fall into three primary groups of categories based on age and culture.  Customer’s DNA is compared to the ancient remains to determine how much of the customer’s European DNA came from which group.  This exciting new feature allows us to understand more about our ancestors, long before the advent of surnames and paper or parchment records. Ancient DNA is redefining what we know, or thought we knew, about population migration.

2016-ancient-origins

You can view Dr. Hammer’s presentation given at the Family Tree DNA Conference in conjunction with the announcement of the new Ancient Origins feature here.

Family Tree DNA maintains its leadership position among the three primary vendors relative to Y DNA testing, mtDNA testing and autosomal tools.

Ancestry

In May of 2016, Ancestry changed the chip utilized by their tests, removing about 300,000 of their previous 682,000 SNPs and replacing them with medically optimized SNPs. The rather immediate effect was that due to the chip incompatibility, Ancestry V2 test files created on the new chip cannot be uploaded to Family Tree DNA, but they can be uploaded to GedMatch.  Family Tree DNA is working on a resolution to this problem.

I tested on the new Ancestry V2 chip, and while there is a difference in how much matching DNA I share with my matches as compared to the V1 chip, it’s not as pronounced as I expected. There is no need for people who tested on the earlier chip to retest.

Unfortunately, Ancestry has remained steadfast in their refusal to implement a chromosome browser, instead focusing on sales by advertising the ethnicity “self-discovery” aspect of DNA testing.

Ancestry does have the largest autosomal data base but many people tested only for ethnicity, don’t have trees or have private trees.  In my case, about half of my matches fall into that category.

Ancestry maintains its leadership position relative to DNA tree matching, known as a Shared Ancestor Hint, identifying common ancestors in the trees of people whose DNA matches.

ancestry-common-ancestors

23andMe

23andMe struggled for most of the year to meet a November 2015 deadline, which is now more than a year past, to transition its customers to the 23andMe “New Experience” which includes a new customer interface. I was finally transitioned in September 2016, and the experience has been very frustrating and extremely disappointing, and that’s putting it mildly. Some customers, specifically international customers, are still not transitioned, nor is it clear if or when they will be.

I tested on the 23andMe older V3 chip as well as their newer V4 chip. After my transition to the New Experience, I compared the results of the two tests. The new security rules incorporated into the New Experience meant that I was only able to view about 25% of my matches (400 of 1651(V3) matches or 1700 (V4) matches). 23andMe has, in essence, relegated themselves into the non-player status for genetic genealogy, except perhaps for adoptees who need to swim in every pool – but only then as a last place candidate. And those adoptees had better pray that if they have a close match, that match falls into the 25% of their matches that are useful.

In December, 23andMe began providing segment information for ethnicity segments, except the parental phasing portion does not function accurately, calling into question the overall accuracy of the 23andme ethnicity information. Ironically, up until now, while 23andMe slipped in every other area, they had been viewed at the best, meaning most accurate, in terms of ethnicity estimates.

New Kids on the Block

MyHeritage

In May of 2016, MyHeritage began encouraging people who have tested at other vendors to upload their results. I was initially very hesitant, because aside from GedMatch that has a plethora of genetic genealogy tools, I have seen no benefit to the participant to upload their DNA anyplace, other than Family Tree DNA (available for V3 23andMe and V1 Ancestry only).

Any serious genealogist is going to test at least at Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, both, and upload to GedMatch. My Heritage was “just another upload site” with no tools, not even matching initially.

However, in September, MyHeritage implemented matching, although they have had a series of what I hope are “startup issues,” with numerous invalid matches, apparently resulting from their usage of imputation.

Imputation is when a vendor infers what they think your DNA will look like in regions where other vendors test, and your vendor doesn’t. The best example would be the 300,000 or so Ancestry locations that are unique to the Ancestry V2 chip. Imputation would result in a vendor “inferring” or imputing your results for these 300,000 locations based on…well, we don’t exactly know based on what. But we do know it cannot be accurate.  It’s not your DNA.

In the midst of this, in October, 23andMe announced on their forum that they had severed a previous business relationship with MyHeritage where 23andMe allowed customers to link to MyHeritage trees in lieu of having customer trees directly on the 23andMe site.  This approach had been problematic because customers are only allowed 250 individuals in their tree for free, and anything above that requires a MyHeritage subscription.  Currently 23andMe has no tree capability.

It appears that MyHeritage refined their DNA matching routines at least somewhat, because many of the bogus matches were gone in November when they announced that their beta was complete and that they were going to sell their own autosomal DNA tests. However, matching issues have not disappeared or been entirely resolved.

While Family Tree DNA’s lab will be processing the MyHeritage autosomal tests, the results will NOT be automatically placed in the Family Tree DNA data base.

MyHeritage will be doing their own matching within their own database. There are no comparison tools, tree matching or ethnicity estimates today, but My Heritage says they will develop a chromosome browser and ethnicity estimates. However, it is NOT clear whether these will be available for free to individuals who have transferred their results into MyHeritage or if they will only be available to people who tested through MyHeritage.

2016-myheritage-matches

For the record, I have 28 matches today at MyHeritage.

2016-myheritage-second-match

I found that my second closest match at MyHeritage is also at Ancestry.

2016-myheritage-at-ancestry

At MyHeritage, they report that I match this individual on a total of 64.1 cM, across 7 segments, with the largest segment being 14.9 cM.

Ancestry reports this same match at 8.3 cM total across 1 segment, which of course means that the longest segment is also 8.3 cM.

Ancestry estimates the relationship as 5th to 8th cousin, and MyHeritage estimates it as 2nd to 4th.

While I think Ancestry’s Timber strips out too much DNA, there is clearly a HUGE difference in the reported results and the majority of this issue likely lies with the MyHeritage DNA imputation and matching routines.

I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file to MyHeritage, so MyHeritage is imputing at least 300,000 SNPs for me – almost half of the SNPs needed to match to Ancestry files.  They are probably imputing that many for my match’s file too, so that we have an equal number of SNPs for comparison.  Combined, this would mean that my match and I are comparing 382,000 actual SNPs that we both tested, and roughly 600,000 SNPs that we did not test and were imputed.  No wonder the MyHeritage numbers are so “off.”

My Heritage has a long way to go before they are a real player in this arena. However, My Heritage has potential, as they have a large subscriber base in Europe, where we desperately need additional testers – so I’m hopeful that they can attract additional genealogists that are willing to test from areas that are under-represented to date.

My Heritage got off to a bit of a rocky start by requiring users to relinquish the rights to their DNA, but then changed their terms in May, according to Judy Russell’s blog.

All vendors can change their terms at any time, in a positive or negative direction, so I would strongly encourage all individuals considering utilizing any testing company or upload service to closely read all the legal language, including Terms and Conditions and any links found in the Terms and Conditions.

Please note that MyHeritage is a subscription genealogy site, similar to Ancestry.  MyHeritage also owns Geni.com.  One site, MyHeritage, allows individual trees and the other, Geni, embraces the “one world tree” model.  For a comparison of the two, check out Judy Russell’s articles, here and here.  Geni has also embraced DNA by allowing uploads from Family Tree DNA of Y, mitochondrial and autosomal, but the benefits and possible benefits are much less clear.

If the MyHeritage story sounds like a confusing soap opera, it is.  Let’s hope that 2017 brings both clarity and improvements.

Living DNA

Living DNA is a company out of the British Isles with a new test that purports to provide you with a breakdown of your ethnicity and the locations of your ancestral lines within 21 regions in the British Isles.  Truthfully, I’m very skeptical, but open minded.

They have had my kit for several weeks now, and testing has yet to begin.  I’ll write about the results when I receive them.  So far, I don’t know of anyone who has received results.

2016-living-dna

Genos

I debated whether or not I should include Genos, because they are not a test for genealogy and are medically focused. However, I am including them because they have launched a new model for genetic testing wherein your full exome is tested, you receive the results along with information on the SNPs where mutations are found. You can then choose to be involved with research programs in the future, if you wish, or not.

That’s a vastly different model that the current approach taken by 23andMe and Ancestry where you relinquish your rights to the sale of your DNA when you sign up to test.  I like this new approach with complete transparency, allowing the customer to decide the fate of their DNA. I wrote about the Genos test and the results, here.

Third Parties

Individuals sometimes create and introduce new tools to assist genealogists with genetic genealogy and analysis.

I have covered these extensively over the years.

GedMatch, WikiTree, DNAGedcom.com and Kitty Cooper’s tools remain my favorites.

I love Kitty’s Ancestor Chromosome Mapper which maps the segments identified with your ancestors on your chromosomes. I just love seeing which ancestors’ DNA I carry on which chromosomes.  Somehow, this makes me feel closer to them.  They’re not really gone, because they still exist in me and other descendants as well.

Roberta's ancestor map2

In order to use Kitty’s tool, you’ll have to have mapped at least some of your autosomal DNA to ancestors.

The Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer written by Don Worth and available at DNAGedcom is still one of my favorite tools for quick, visual and easy to understand segment matching results.

ADSA Crumley cluster

GedMatch has offered a triangulation tool for some time now, but recently introduced a new Triangulation Groups tool.

2016-gedmatch-triangulation-groups

I have not utilized this tool extensively but it looks very interesting. Unfortunately, there is no explanation or help function available for what this tool is displaying or how to understand and interpret the results. Hopefully, that will be added soon, as I think it would be possible to misinterpret the output without educational material.

GedMatch also introduced their “Evil Twin” tool, which made me laugh when I saw the name.  Using parental phasing, you can phase your DNA to your parent or parents at GedMatch, creating kits that only have your mother’s half of your DNA, or your father’s half.  These phased kits allow you to see your matches that come from that parent, only.  However, the “Evil Twin” feature creates a kit made up of the DNA that you DIDN’T receive from that parent – so in essence it’s your other half, your evil twin – you know, that person who got blamed for everything you “didn’t do.”  In any case, this allows you to see the matches to the other half of your parent’s DNA that do not show up as your matches.

Truthfully, the Evil Twin tool is interesting, but since you have to have that parent’s DNA to phase against in the first place, it’s just as easy to look at your parent’s matches – at least for me.

Others offer unique tools that are a bit different.

DNAadoption.com offers tools, search and research techniques, especially for adoptees and those looking to identify a parent or grandparents, but perhaps even more important, they offer genetic genealogy classes including basic and introductory.

I send all adoptees in their direction, but I encourage everyone to utilize their classes.

WikiTree has continued to develop and enhance their DNA offerings.  While WikiTree is not a testing service nor do they offer autosomal data tools like Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, they do allow individuals to discover whether anyone in their ancestral line has tested their Y, mitochondrial or autosomal DNA.

Specifically, you can identify the haplogroup of any male or female ancestor if another individual from that direct lineage has tested and provided that information for that ancestor on WikiTree.  While I am generally not a fan of the “one world tree” types of implementations, I am a fan of WikiTree because of their far-sighted DNA comparisons, the fact that they actively engage their customers, they listen and they expend a significant amount of effort making sure they “get it right,” relative to DNA. Check out WikiTree’s article,  Putting DNA Results Into Action, for how to utilize their DNA Features.

2016-wikitree-peter-roberts

Thanks particularly to Chris Whitten at WikiTree and Peter Roberts for their tireless efforts.  WikiTree is the only vendor to offer the ability to discover the Y and mtDNA haplogroups of ancestors by searching trees.

All of the people creating the tools mentioned above, to the best of my knowledge, are primarily volunteers, although GedMatch does charge a small subscription service for their high end tools, including the triangulation and evil twin tools.  DNAGedcom does as well.  Wikitree generates some revenue for the site through ads on pages of non-members. DNAAdoption charges nominally for classes but they do have need-based scholarships. Kitty has a donation link on her website and all of these folks would gladly accept donations, I’m sure.  Websites and everything that goes along with them aren’t free.  Donations are a nice way to say thank you.

What Defined 2016

I have noticed two trends in the genetic genealogy industry in 2016, and they are intertwined – ethnicity and education.

First, there is an avalanche of new testers, many of whom are not genetic genealogists.

Why would one test if they weren’t a genetic genealogist?

The answer is simple…

Ethnicity.

Or more specifically, the targeted marketing of ethnicity.  Ethnicity testing looks like an easy, quick answer to a basic human question, and it sells kits.

Ethnicity

“Kim just wanted to know who she was.”

I have to tell you, these commercials absolutely make me CRINGE.

Yes, they do bring additional testers into the community, BUT carrying significantly misset expectations. If you’re wondering about WHY I would suggest that ethnicity results really cannot tell you “who you are,” check out this article about ethnicity estimates.

And yes, that’s what they are, estimates – very interesting estimates, but estimates just the same.  Estimates that provide important and valid hints and clues, but not definitive answers.

ESTIMATES.

Nothing more.

Estimates based on proprietary vendor algorithms that tend to be fairly accurate at the continental level, and not so much within continents – in particular, not terribly accurate within Europe. Not all of this can be laid a the vendor’s feet.  For example, DNA testing is illegal in France.  Not to mention, genetic genealogy and population genetics is still a new and emerging field.  We’re on the frontier, folks.

The ethnicity results one receives from the 3 major vendors (Ancestry, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe) and the various tools at GedMatch don’t and won’t agree – because they use different reference populations, different matching routines, etc.  Not to mention people and populations move around and have moved around.

The next thing that happens, after these people receive their results, is that we find them on the Facebook groups asking questions like, “Why doesn’t my full blooded Native American grandmother show up?” and “I just got my Ancestry results back. What do I do?”  They mean that question quite literally.

I’m not making fun of these people, or light of the situation. Their level of frustration and confusion is evident. I feel sorry for them…but the genetic genealogy community and the rest of us are left with applying ointment and Band-Aids.  Truthfully, we’re out-numbered.

Because of the expectations, people who test today don’t realize that genetic testing is a TOOL, it’s not an ANSWER. It’s only part of the story. Oh, and did I mention, ethnicity is only an ESTIMATE!!!

But an estimate isn’t what these folks are expecting. They are expecting “the answer,” their own personal answer, which is very, very unfortunate, because eventually they are either unhappy or blissfully unaware.

Many become unhappy because they perceive the results to be in error without understanding anything about the technology or what information can reasonably be delivered, or they swallow “the answer” lock stock and barrel, again, without understanding anything about the technology.

Ethnicity is fun, it isn’t “bad” but the results need to be evaluated in context with other information, such as Y and mitochondrial haplogroups, genealogical records and ethnicity results from the other major testing companies.

Fortunately, we can recruit some of the ethnicity testers to become genealogists, but that requires education and encouragement. Let’s hope that those DNA ethnicity results light the fires of curiosity and that we can fan those flames!

Education

The genetic genealogy community desperately needs educational resources, in part as a result of the avalanche of new testers – approximately 1 million a year, and that estimate may be low. Thankfully, we do have several education options – but we can always use more.  Unfortunately, the learning curve is rather steep.

My blog offers just shy of 800 articles, all key word searchable, but one has to first find the blog and want to search and learn, as opposed to being handed “the answer.”

Of course, the “Help” link is always a good place to start as are these articles, DNA Testing for Genealogy 101 and Autosomal DNA Testing 101.  These two articles should be “must reads” for everyone who has DNA tested, or wants to, for that matter.  Tips and Tricks for Contact Success is another article that is immensely helpful to people just beginning to reach out.

In order to address the need for basic understanding of autosomal DNA principles, tools and how to utilize them, I began the “Concepts” series in February 2016. To date I offer the following 15 articles about genetic genealogy concepts. To be clear, DNA testing is only the genetic part of genetic genealogy, the genealogical research part being the second half of the equation.

The Concepts Series

Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors

Concepts – Identical By Descent, State, Population and Chance

Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs and Pickin’ Crab

Concepts – Parental Phasing

Concepts – Y DNA Matching and Connecting With Your Paternal Ancestor

Concepts – Downloading Autosomal Data From Family Tree DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 1 – Assigning Parental Sides

Concepts – Genetic Distance

Concepts – Relationship Predictions

Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation

Concepts – Sorting Spreadsheets for Autosomal DNA

Concepts – Managing Autosomal DNA Matches – Step 2 – Updating Matching Spreadsheets, Bucketed Family Finder Matches and Pileups

Concepts – Why DNA Testing the Oldest Family Members Is Critically Important

Concepts – Undocumented Adoptions Versus Untested Y Lines

My blog isn’t the only resource of course.

Kelly Wheaton provides 19 free lessons in her Beginners Guide to Genetic Genealogy.

Other blogs I highly recommend include:

Excellent books in print that should be in every genetic genealogist’s library:

And of course, the ISOGG Wiki.

Online Conference Resources

The good news and bad news is that I’m constantly seeing a genetic genealogy seminar, webinar or symposium hosted by a group someplace that is online, and often free. When I see names I recognize as being reputable, I am delighted that there is so much available to people who want to learn.

And for the record, I think that includes everyone. Even professional genetic genealogists watch these sessions, because you just never know what wonderful tidbit you’re going to pick up.  Learning, in this fast moving field, is an everyday event.

The bad news is that I can’t keep track of everything available, so I don’t mean to slight any resource.  Please feel free to post additional resources in the comments.

You would be hard pressed to find any genealogy conference, anyplace, today that didn’t include at least a few sessions about genetic genealogy. However, genetic genealogy has come of age and has its own dedicated conferences.

Dr. Maurice Gleeson, the gentleman who coordinates Genetic Genealogy Ireland films the sessions at the conference and then makes them available, for free, on YouTube. This link provides a list of the various sessions from 2016 and past years as well. Well worth your time!  A big thank you to Maurice!!!

The 19 video series from the I4GG Conference this fall is now available for $99. This series is an excellent opportunity for genetic genealogy education.

As always, I encourage project administrators to attend the Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy. The sessions are not filmed, but the slides are made available after the conference, courtesy of the presenters and Family Tree DNA. You can view the presentations from 2015 and 2016 at this link.

Jennifer Zinck attended the conference and published her excellent notes here and here, if you want to read what she had to say about the sessions she attended. Thankfully, she can type much faster and more accurately than I can! Thank you so much Jennifer.

If you’d like to read about the unique lifetime achievement awards presented at the conference this year to Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, the founders of Family Tree DNA, click here. They were quite surprised!  This article also documents the history of genetic genealogy from the beginning – a walk down memory lane.

The 13th annual Family Tree DNA conference which will be held November 10-12, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency North Houston. Registration is always limited due to facility size, so mark your calendars now, watch for the announcement and be sure to register in time.

Summary

2016 has been an extremely busy year. I think my blog has had more views, more comments and by far, more questions, than ever before.

I’ve noticed that the membership in the ISOGG Facebook group, dedicated to genetic genealogy, has increased by about 50% in the past year, from roughly 8,000 members to just under 12,000. Other social media groups have been formed as well, some focused on specific aspects of genetic genealogy, such as specific surnames, adoption search, Native American or African American heritage and research.

The genetic aspect of genealogy has become “normal” today, with most genealogists not only accepting DNA testing, but embracing the various tools and what they can do for us in terms of understanding our ancestors, tracking them, and verifying that they are indeed who we think they are.

I may have to explain the three basic kinds of DNA testing and how they are used today, but no longer do I have to explain THAT DNA testing for genealogy exists and that it’s legitimate.

I hope that each of us can become an ambassador for genetic genealogy, encouraging others to test, with appropriate expectations, and helping to educate, enlighten and encourage. After all, the more people who test and are excited about the results, the better for everyone else.

Genetic genealogy is and can only be a collaborative team sport.

Here’s wishing you many new cousins and discoveries in 2017.

Happy New Year!!!

Mary, Mary (Dodson Redmon) Quite Contrary, 52 Ancestors #140

This article isn’t about my ancestor, at least not directly, but it’s about the daughter of my ancestor, Lazarus Dodson, who popped up on a census quite unexpectedly. Not only did that mean I had to go looking for her, and she wasn’t particularly easy to find, but I had to try to discern if Mary Dodson really was the daughter of Lazarus – or if she was perhaps the child of his wife, Rebecca, and was just known by the Dodson surname.

Records that should exist don’t, and I found myself calling her Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. But then, given how difficult Lazarus and his father were to track, Mary probably comes by it honestly.

In the process of discovery about Mary, yet another daughter, Sarah, was discovered. For Heaven’s sake, how many more are there?

Through those two families, more information surfaced (Ok, was excavated), and because of all of that, we may just have figured out where Lazarus is buried. Maybe. Mary still isn’t telling all of her secrets, but I’m positive that she knows! After all, she stood by the grave that October day in 1861 as the clods of dirt fell onto Lazarus’s coffin and the grey clouds of misery swept overhead, engulfing everyone in their path.

But before I begin this series of twists and turns in the ancestor labyrinth, I want to give credit where credit is due.

First and foremost, I have to say, I love my friends, family and blog subscribers, because between them, they have found things I missed, found things I never knew existed, and inspired me to dig deeper. They are also indirectly responsible for me getting nothing productive done this week. My Christmas tree isn’t up, gifts aren’t wrapped and I’ve been eating leftovers and canned soup for days. Tonight I’m splurging on pizza. That’s what happens when genealogists get wrapped up in a “mission.”

If you’re laughing, it’s because you’re a genealogist, because our families probably don’t see the humor…

My friend, Tom, sent me the deed shown below, which started everything. Fifteen hours later, I realized I was hungry, and tired, very tired. But wow, what a day “visiting” Pulaski County, Kentucky. And that was just on day one!

You might think there isn’t much here in this one deed, but this was just the launching pad I needed. Come along as we work our way through the records and discover more about Mary Dodson, presumed daughter of Lazarus Dodson, my ancestor.

The Deed

mary-dodson-1861-deed

Between Lazarus Dodson and Rebecca Dodson his wife of Pulaski County KY and Sarah Chumbly and Mary Dodson of the other part. Sum of $4000 paid to Lazarus Dodson in hand – sold to Sarah Chumley and Mary Dodson tract of land the one whereon I now reside together with all of the appertainces hereunto belonging containing 50 acres more or less lying in Pulaski County and bounded as follows to wit. Beginning on a dogwood and sycamore on White Oak Creek and on a branch thereof thence up the same to the mouth of the Grabel Branch thence up the same eastwardly to the old Patten line near said Grabeal’s field then with said line westwardly to C. Chamberlain’s grass lot thence with said Chamberlains line some 30 poles to a maple on William Rainwater’s

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line thence with said line southward to the main branch thence down the same with the meanderings thereof to the beginning and said Lazarus Dodson doth bind himself and heirs to forever warrant…but said lands are not to pass into their possession until after the death of said Lazarus Dodson and Rebecca his wife then they are to have free and full possession thereof. August 9, 1861. Signed by Lazarus with his mark and by Rebecca.

The note in the left margin says “Delivered to? William Redman 24 March 1865”

The clerk registered this deed on the 10th of August, 1865.

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The first thing I thought was how odd that the deed was signed in August 1861 and not recorded until in 1865, but then I realized what had been happening in Kentucky between 1861 and 1865 – the Civil War. No one was interested in registering a deed – if they even could register deeds. They were simply interested in surviving. They would register deeds later if they survived.

In this case, Lazarus signed the deed in August, died in October and the Confederate forces set up camp either near or on his land in November, followed a couple months later by the infamous battle of Mill Springs (Logan’s Crossroads.) This family was busy, distracted and, I’m sure, fearful. This does tell us that the house where the deed resided during the Civil War didn’t burn to the ground. I’m betting that was the home of William Redman and Mary Dodson or perhaps the home of Lazarus’s wife, Rebecca Dodson, if they weren’t all living together during this time.

I can’t help but wonder, did those pioneer women take up arms to guard the homestead from marauding soldiers from both sides?  I bet so.  They probably didn’t have a lot of time to grieve Lazarus’s passing.  But I digress…

This deed description is important for 2 reasons. First, for all the names that it provides. Neighbors are important when trying to bring deeds to current and locate properties.

Second, the description in essence creates a rough image for us of what the land looked like and who lived on which side. I’ve drawn a very rough approximation, below.

mary-dodson-rough-land

We can see that this land has to be in a location on White Oak Creek where you move north to the mouth of a branch, then east on that branch then west and south to the main White Oak branch.

Topozone shows several cemeteries on White Oak Creek, but no Graebel or Grabel branch, or Graebel anything.

Given the deed to Mary and Sarah who were clearly adults in 1861, I was beginning to suspect that perhaps the marriage year of 1839 was incorrect for Lazarus Dodson and Rebecca Freeman. Lazarus’s first wife, Elizabeth Campbell, died before 1830. But Mary and Sarah, assuming Sarah is his daughter too, were not Elizabeth’s children based on the 1838 death of Elizabeth’s father, John Campbell, and the subsequent estate which individually lists Elizabeth’s children/heirs.

Mary Dodson is found living with Lazarus and Rebecca in 1860 and she was born in the early/mid-1830s, depending on which date you use. Clearly, before 1839.

dodson-1860-pulaski-census

Is Mary Dodson the daughter of Rebecca Freeman Dodson?

My friend sent me the original marriage document between Lazarus Dodson and Rebecca Freeman, as I had previously been working with a transcription. I suspected the year might have been incorrectly transcribed, but the transcribed document turned out to be accurate alright.

mary-lazarus-and-rebecca-marriage

You can see on the last entry on the page that Lazarus and Rebecca obtained their marriage license on June 21st 1839 and Thomas Davis married them on June 29th, 1839. (You can click to enlarge any graphic.) I’ve never been so disappointed to confirm that a record was accurate before.

Now, of course, the question is who was the mother of Mary Dodson, and possibly Sarah. And are Mary and Sarah sisters?

1850

I desperately need to find Lazarus and Rebecca in the 1850 census, and I’ve tried every way to Sunday to find them, all to no avail. Either they missed the census or the name is so terribly butchered that it’s unrecognizable – and possibly someplace I’m not looking.

One surprising piece of information is that the deed index tells us that Lazarus bought his land in Pulaski County in 1857, just 4 years before deeding it to Mary and Sarah. I had supposed that Lazarus had been in Pulaski County since about 1833 and had long owned land. Obviously not.

1860

In 1860, we found Lazarus and Rebecca living with Mary Dodson, but the 1861 deed strongly suggests that “they” had another child, Sarah who had married a Chumley, and was perhaps widowed? Why else would Lazarus and Rebecca leave land to her, even under the guise of a purchase? How would a “spinster daughter” and possibly a “widow daughter” come up with $4000 to purchase the family farm from their parents?

My friend Tom sent this the next morning. I think he and I both spent that day “in Pulaski County.”

mary-sarah-dodson-and-william-chumley-marriage

Indeed, Sarah Dodson, by another spelling, Datsan, had married William Chumley in 1846 in Claiborne County, which implies that Lazarus himself was probably living in Claiborne in 1846. Huh??? Not at all what I thought, given that he left the state back in 1833 and then faced back taxes, a lawsuit and a judgement between 1835 and 1837.

Lazarus married Rebecca Freeman in Claiborne County in 1839, so maybe Lazarus came back and lived back in Claiborne for some time. The Chumley family lived near Lazarus’s land beneath Cumberland Gap and otherwise intermarried with the Freeman family, so this does make sense.

I checked the 1840 census, again, but there are only two Lazarus Dodsons in the entire country, and both are age 30-39. Lazarus was 45 in 1840, not to mention the rest of the family doesn’t match either.  So Lazarus remains missing in both 1840 and 1850.

Mary’s Marriage

We don’t find Mary Dodson in the 1870 census, but that’s because she married on July 28, 1864 to William Redman in Pulaski County.

mary-dodson-marriage

Mary Dodson gives her age as 32, so born in approximately 1832, depending on whether Mary had had her 1864 birthday yet, and her birth location is given as Claiborne County, Tennessee.

So now we know when and where Mary was born. This information probably brackets dates for Lazarus Dodson’s arrival in Pulaski County from sometime between 1846 when Sarah married in Claiborne to sometime before 1857 when he purchases land in Pulaski County.

Lazarus has to have been married a second time between Elizabeth Campbell and Rebecca Freeman, unless Elizabeth didn’t actually die and those children living with her parents in 1830 weren’t the Dodson children. However, neither Mary nor Sarah were mentioned in John Campbell’s 1838 estate record as having been Elizabeth’s heirs, and Lazarus Dodson is stated as Elizabeth’s heir’s father, so we know that neither Mary nor Sarah are Elizabeth’s children.

Therefore, Lazarus had remarried by 1830 or 1831, given Mary’s birth in 1831/1832, but the marriage record is not found in Claiborne County. Why did Lazarus and his second wife not raise his children by Elizabeth Campbell?

1870

In 1870, we do find Rebecca Dodson and Sarah Chumley living with one William Dodson, age 23. William would have been age 13 in 1860, born in 1847 in Tennessee, so a child at home if he were the son of Rebecca and Lazarus. Who is this William Dodson, married to Eliza? How is he tied in, and where did he go?

Also, one David W. Dodson is living with the Dunsmore family next door.  Surely this isn’t just a coincidence.  Who is he?

This isn’t an ancestor labyrinth, it’s a maze!

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This census tells us that Sarah was born in 1833 in Tennessee, the year that Lazarus, according to an 1861 deed filed in Claiborne County, sold land to David C. Cottrell in Claiborne County. It may only be coincidence, or not, that the land Lazarus sold was originally patented to one Robert Chumbley.

Another Twist in the Maze

The 1860 census for Pulaski County, Kentucky solves the riddle of the identity of William Dodson, born in 1846, along with David Dodson, born in 1856.

Both men are the son of John C. Dotson, also Dodson, and Barthenia. This John Dodson is the son of Lazarus Dodson and Elizabeth Campbell, and Barthenia is Barthenia Dobkins.

This census tells us that John Campbell Dodson was living in Kentucky by 1854 when son John was born – although we don’t know that he was living in Pulaski County that early.

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Both John and Barthenia seem to have disappeared by 1870.  There are several John Dodson or Dotsons listed as Civil War soldiers.  It’s certainly possible that he perished in the war, which would explain why his son David is living with another family in 1870 as farm labor.

The fact that John moved to Pulaski County, was living with his father and clearly interacted with that family in a positive fashion tells us that Lazarus did not lose touch entirely with his children in Claiborne County.

I wonder if the fact that Lazarus had children by his first marriage is why he “sold” the land to Mary and Sarah, rather than granting a deed of gift.  A sale can’t be contested, but a deed of gift as the only valueable item of inheritance certainly could be.

The Chumley Connection

In 1850, William Chumley and wife Sarah are living in Pulaski County and are noted as having been married within the year. Sarah’s age of 19 puts her birth year in 1831. It also means that if she indeed was married in 1846, she was age 15. Unusual, but not impossible.

mary-1850-pulaski-census

They are not living among the surnames found in the deeds of Lazarus Dodson later. At first, I thought this might not be the same family, but it is.

In 1860, Sarah and William Chumley are living in Russell County, KY, on the same page with other Chumbley family members. Her age of 30 puts her birth in about 1830.

William and Sarah Chumley still have no children, but living with them is Elizabeth Kissee, age 6. This Elizabeth is probably the Elizabeth that Sarah later remembers in her will.

mary-1860-pulaski-census

Immediately following the 1870 census, we find Sarah’s will executed and probated.

It’s odd for Sarah to have died before the age of 40, and had no children. I wonder if she had some type of disease or disability.

In May of 1870, Sarah makes her will in Russell County. It is filed with the court in September 1870, so Sarah has apparently died by then, just weeks after the census. The actual 1870 census document date is August 11, 1870, but the census is supposed to be taken “as of” June of the census year. It’s possible that Sarah was dead, or quite ill, by August 11, given that she was “week in body” on May 20 when she made her will. There was no occupation listed on the census which is odd for an adult, even if the occupation is “keeping house.”

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Sarah Chumbly week in body but of good sound mind…to Elizabeth Carea (Cazea?) one bed beding and furniture also one cow and calf. Second to my 2 neaces and one neffu the now living children of my sister Mary Redman all the balance of my effects after paying my berrial expenses and debts if any. I appoint William Redman by brotherinlaw my executor with my will annexed. May 20, 1870. Signed by Sarah Chumley with her mark. Witness Linsey Walter (his mark) and John Johnson.

The will was recorded Sept 23, 1870.

Based on her will, it’s very clear that Mary Redmon is Sarah’s sister and she was obviously close to her sister and brother-in-law, both. Who is Elizabeth Carea or Cazea? I suspect she is the same Elizabeth Kissee that is living with Sarah in 1860.

It’s very unusual that Sarah never had any children, given that she was married for 24 years, from 1846 to 1870.

In another odd turn of events, it appears that Sarah’s husband, William, died on May 10, 1870, just 10 days before Sarah wrote her own will and obviously before the effective date of the census.

In the Russell County, KY probate records, William’s estate records begin on page 32, including the inventory and estate sale, and there is not one Dodson or Redmon on the list of purchasers.

At William’s estate sale, Sarah bought several things including farm tools, so she apparently wasn’t planning on dying right away.

Rebecca Dodson in 1880

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In 1880, Rebecca Dodson, Lazarus’s widow is still living and with her is granddaughter Martha Redmon, listed as such. Of course, at that time in the census, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone listed as a step-grandchild. And given that Rebecca Freeman Dodson likely raised both Mary and Sarah after their mother’s death when they were just young girls, Rebecca was the child’s “grandmother” anyway.

Given that there were no other children evident in the deed signed by Lazarus just before his death, it appears that he and Rebecca did not have children either, or at least none that lived, although if Rebecca was 39 when she married, that might have been too late in life.

Unfortunately, we don’t know when Rebecca died, although it was between 1880 and the 1900 census when she would have been right at 100 years of age.  Rebecca’s death is not recorded in the Kentucky death indexes. Nor do we know where she is buried, although it clearly has to be someplace near where she lived and is probably beside Lazarus.

It’s worth noting that Rebecca’s neighbor in 1880 is Charles Chamberlain, mentioned in the 1861 deed as a neighbor whose property lines abut Lazarus’s.

Mary Dodson Redmon’s Burial

After much gnashing of teeth, I finally discovered where Mary Dodson Redmon is buried, and as fate would have it, the Lee Cemetery is right beside a branch of White Oak Creek, the Creek mentioned in the deed that Lazarus conveyed to Mary and Sarah back in 1861.

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Mary’s daughter, Martha, married William Harrison Rainwater (1863-1909). And it just so happens that one William Rainwater owned the land bordering Lazarus’s land in 1861. Given these names, it looks very much like this family in essence stayed right where they were planted in 1857.

Lee Cemetery is located on Lee Cemetery Road, which is not noted on Google maps as such.

According to the 1900 Pulaski County census, Mary Dodson was born in July 1833 in Tennessee.

mary-1900-pulaski-census

Family members report her birthdate to be both June 15th and July 15th, with the year ranging anyplace from 1830 to 1837 in various trees, with no supporting documentation. I suspect that since Mary reported her own birth information in 1900 as July 1833, that is probably most accurate. It would make sense for children to be born approximately 2 years apart as well, so perhaps Sarah in was born in 1831 and Mary in 1833.

Mary Dodson’s husband, William Perry Redmon apparently knew he was going to die, because he made a will in 1887. People of that time and place did not make wills “just in case” but waited until they knew they were going to need a will imminently. Again, another gift from my friend, Tom.

mary-william-redmon-will

To wife Mary Redman my home and tract of land lying on the south and west side of the Columbia Road and also the 50 acres on the north east side of said road known as the Owens farm. Also a boundary on the opposite side of the rode from my house beginning at the former of the field at the Marsee line on a black oak at the corner of new ground thence with the cross fence to the James Redman’s spring then down the branch to the Columbia road to have for her lifetime and at her death I want my sons Thomas Redman and Melver Redman to have all the land described above.

To wife, bay horse and sorel mare and cattle and sheep and hogs and all my household and kitchen furniture. My wagon and all my farming tools of any description and bees also my corn and meete on hand.

I want my land divided equally between my two boys giving them equal number of acres dividing it north and south and I give Melver this end where I know live and my clock I give to my daughter Sarah Redman one bed bedding and one side saddle and one chist.

I give Martha A. Rainwater my cubbard at Mary’s death.

I give Melver my dun mule and John the black mule and I give Melver my fan mill I give my son John the land known as the Rha Becka Dodson

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Farm.

I give to Charity Redman the land upon which she now lives to hold during her life on widowhood and at her death I want her children that she has by James Redman to have said land.

I give to my grandson Volantes Dodson two dollars also my two grandchildren Jacob G. Price one collar and Amanda E. Price one dollar. I also furnish Charity Redman my gray mare to have to make her crop this season then the mare is to be returned to Mary to hold as her own and I give to my wife Mary all by debts that coming to me out of these debts my daughter Sarah is to have $65 and if not paid out of these debts out of my hole estate if necessary to pay for that amount of meny that I owe her as guardian.

On testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand this the 9th day of January 1887.

Signed William Redman by his mark and witnessed by D. M. Cooper and A. McWilliams

William’s will was submitted to the January 1887 court.

This will tells us that Lazarus Dodson’s land, phrased as the “Rha Becka Dodson Farm” went to John Redmon in 1887. This also tells us that William Redmon’s lands were on both sides of the Columbia Road. Today, the “Old Columbia Road” remains visible and marked and 80 is now the original old Columbia Road elsewhere.

I would like to see if I can determine what happened to the Rebecca Dodson Farm once John Redmon owned it, but the grantor deed index for Pulaski County for this timeframe has not been imaged online.

According to FindAGrave, the son John would be John Franklin Redmon (1866-1929) who was born and died in Pulaski County, so he may well have kept this land his entire life. In fact, it’s certainly possible that it’s still in the same family.

I have made inquiries to descendants both who posted memorials on FindAGrave which includes a granddaughter, as well as on Ancestry, but no luck yet with replies. I’m hopeful that someone, someplace knows where his land or farm was that John Franklin Redmon inherited from his parents, and that I can locate it today.

Mary Dodson Redmon died on July 2, 1903, but her death is not recorded in the Kentucky Death records, or at least it’s not indexed.

FindAGrave does not indicate if there is a headstone or not, but Mary Dodson’s birth date is given as June 15, 1827, although the 1900 census shows her birth year as 1833. I suspect 1832 in her marriage record or 1833 is accurate, especially given that Lazarus Dodson’s first wife, Elizabeth Campbell Dodson’s last child was born in 1827.

Volantus Dodson, age 9, is shown as the son of William Dodson, living just 2 houses away from Rebecca Dodson in 1880. Volantus is the son of William, age 38, who has apparently remarried to a 19 year old Mary since the 1870 census when William was newly married to Eliza.

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If you’re scratching your head, so was I.

The only way Volantus being William Redmon’s grandson makes any sense at all is that William Redmon’s daughter from his first marriage was the Eliza who married William Dodson and had son Volantus before she passed away. Checking Pulaski County marriage records, this is indeed the case. Eliza Caroline Redmon married William Dodson in December of 1868.

mary-eliza-redmon-marriage

Eliza Redman, age 24 in 1870, so born in 1846, had to be William Redman’s daughter from his first marriage, because William Redman didn’t marry Mary Dodson until 1864.

Therefore, Mary Dodson’s step-daughter married her half-brother’s son, William, who was Mary’s half-nephew. No blood relation, but I had to draw this out on paper to be sure.

These families are incredibly intermarried and interconnected.

Volantus is later shown as William V. Dodson and he also marries a Mary who becomes Mary Dodson. Too many Mary Dodson’s!!!

Cemetery Triangulation

Out of other options at this point, I decided to “borrow” a genetic genealogy technique and resort to “cemetery triangulation.”

I know this sounds odd, but hear me out on this one.

We have the following information:

  • We know the names of adjacent property owners for Lazarus Dodson in 1861.
  • We know that Mary Dodson married William Redman/Redmon and where she is buried.
  • We can also find neighbors in the census in 1860, 1870 and 1880 when Lazarus and then Rebecca are still living.
  • Rebecca retained right to the land for the duration of her life, so she was likely still living on this land in 1880.
  • We can track some individuals forward and backward in time through both deed and probate records
  • We have burial records at FindAGrave.
  • We have Google maps to look at the current location both in terms of maps, satellite images and for some roads, street view.

Unfortunately, not all of the deed records are imaged online at Family Search for Pulaski County. Some indexes are, and some deed books are, but not all. So, we will use what we can, then we’ll resort to FindAGrave and Google maps.

Do I sound like a desperate genealogist? Well, I am. And I want credit for this new term too, “cemetery triangulation,” born of desperation.

First let’s look at the deeds.

The Deeds

In 1857, John McWilliams sold the land to Lazarus Dotson that was subsequently conveyed to Mary Dodson and Sarah Chumley in 1861, effective after Rebecca Freeman Dodson’s death.

Sarah Dodson Chumley died in 1870, before Rebecca Freeman Dodson, which would leave the land to her sister, Mary Dodson Redmon. Mary’s husband, William Redmon, left the Rebecca Dodson farm to his son John Franklin Redmon.

The balance of the deeds below represent my attempts to trace this land, and failing that, the land of the neighbors, forward or backward in time, hoping to find additional descriptions with landmarks are locatable today. Tracking the neighbors land, especially when you know which side the land lays on directionally from your ancestor’s land is extremely useful and has been responsible for me being able to actually locate my ancestor’s land several times. Let’s see if this works in Pulaski County.

The lines mentioned in the Lazarus Dodson deed were:

  • White Oak Creek
  • William Rainwater
  • C. Cornelius line and grass lot
  • Graebel, Grabel’s field and Graebel’s branch

We find the following information about individuals whose purchase or sale of land falls on the right side of 1861, and who either are or may be the neighbors in question. In some cases, I’ve moved a generation forward in time to attempt to determine the location of family land or when I noticed a sale between two of the families mentioned (Rainwater to Graebel for example).

Year Grantor (seller) Grantee (buyer) Book Location Imaged Online Cemetery
1857 John McWilliams et al Lazarus Dotson 17-609 No Unmarked burials
1850* Nelson McWilliams John and Benjamin McWilliams, sons of Nelson 14-158 On White Oak Creek purchased from William N. McWilliams Yes Unmarked grave, lives one house from Lazarus
1854 Nelson McWilliams John McWilliams 17-9 No
1844 Charles Chamberlain John M. Weddle 12-339 mtg No No Chamberlains
1857 C. Chamberlain A. J. James 17-561 No
1857 Charles Chamberlain Fontain T. Fox 17-672 No Foxs in White Oak, quite a bit south
1853 Charles and Elizabeth Chamberlain Solomon Weddle 18-72 40 acres, Pucket Place, White Oak, west side Weddle Spring branch, Daws corner, Daniel McDaniel line, Charles & Elizabeth Chamberlain quitclaim Yes Solomon Weddle in Chesterview, Daws are in Science Hill
1880 C. Chamberlin Charles F. Poff 30-483 No No Chamberlain or Poff
1873 Charles and Elizabeth Chamberlain Jacob Castle 25-350 No Castles in Science Hill, distant
1873 Jacob and Rhoda Grabeel Rhoda Adams 25-485 No Grabeels in Grabeel Cemetery, Rhoda in Collins Cemetery
1885 Jacob and Rhoda Grabel William H. Neece 35-69 No Grabeels in Grabeel Cemetery, William H. Meece in Lee Cemetery
1889 LB and Rosetta Rainwater William P. Grabeel 38-289 No, pg 759 of index Wm Patterson Grabeel buried Science Hill, Rainwaters in New Hope

*Earliest McWilliams Grantee Deed – He says be purchased of William N.? McWilliams, but there is no deed in the index.

The earliest McWilliams graves, which are in the 1890s, are in the Woodstock Cemetery, near Woodstock, northeast of Somerset, not near Lazarus’s land. The early McWilliams must have been buried elsewhere, probably in unmarked graves.

Cemetery Sleuthing

Now that we know who we are looking for, let’s check the cemeteries for the following information:

  • Burials of individuals listed
  • Burials of other early family members of the surnames listed, especially if the individuals listed can’t be found
  • Oldest marked burial in the cemetery, indicating which cemeteries are older versus newer
  • Patterns relative to burials from the oldest census records of neighbors
  • Family cemeteries
  • Locations

Refer to the chart above for the relevance of the individuals mentioned and the cemetery name, if known.

Lee Cemetery

Lazarus’s daughter, Mary Dodson Redmon, other Redman/Redmons and William H. Meece (died 1924) are buried in the Lee Cemetery. The earliest death date on a marker in this cemetery is 1874 for a Redmon, but there is reportedly an Ann Poor Lee who died in 1809 buried there, wife of a Revolutionary War soldier, with no marker. There are some other obviously early burials in this cemetery and several stones with no date, so it’s certainly possible that Lazarus Dodson is buried there as well. This cemetery seems to be a small community cemetery, still in use, based on the number of families and surnames buried there, especially early and when compared with the census.

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Kentucky 80 looking down Amy Lane towards the cemetery.

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The 1860 census shows several neighbors of Lazarus Dodson. Interestingly enough, William Rainwaters is shown 4 census pages away, so not terribly far, but that may indicate that he lived on another road. We don’t know the order the census taker took. However, other neighbors whose families are buried the Lee Cemetery are shown adjacent to Lazarus.

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Nelson McWilliams, whose son sold Lazarus his land and who lives two houses from Lazarus in 1860, lies someplace in an unmarked grave. I suspect Nelson’s grave is in this cemetery.

Thomas Lay, Lazarus’s neighbor, unknown birth and death dates on the stone, but according to the census, born in 1836, is buried in the Lee Cemetery.

If John Campbell Dodson and wife Barthenia died in Pulaski County between 1860 and 1870, they are probably buried here too.

Andersons and Weddles are found in Lee Cemetery as well. Most of the early neighbor families are not found with markers in any cemetery, not until after the Civil War and often not until the 1890s and after 1900.

Hopeful Baptist Church Cemetery

William H. Rainwaters, born in 1831 and died in 1871, likely the William Rainwater whose land abuts Lazarus, is buried in Hopeful Baptist Church Cemetery. Some Chumbleys are buried here too. In 1870, William H. Rainwater is living among the Comptons, Gassitts, Meeces, McWilliams, Dunsmores and Andersons, the same families who are buried in the Lee Cemetery.

Maybe even more importantly, William Rainwater is living 4 houses from William Dodson where Rebecca Freeman and Sarah Chumley are living.

William’s son Lubantus B. sold land to the Graebel family. Lubantus is buried in New Hope, not far from Hopeful.

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New Hope

William Harrison Rainwater and wife Martha Ann Redmond (Redman, Redmon) Rainwater are buried in the New Hope Cemetery. So are L.B. and Rosetta Rainwater who sold land to William P. Grabeel.

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Weddle

John M. Weddle is buried in the Weddle cemetery.

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Mt. Zion

The earliest Daws are in Mount Zion Cemetery in Science Hill and they died after 1900.  Early family members are clearly buried elsewhere. Castles are at Science Hill as well.

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Chesterview

Solomon Weddle 1822-1890 is buried in the Chesterview Cemetery

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Collins

Rhoda Adams died in 1878 and is buried in Collins Cemetery.

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Rainwater

The oldest Rainwater burials are at the Rainwater Cemetery near Roberts and Wolf Creek Road.  The oldest burial in this cemetery is 1825.

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Grabeel

Grabeel Family Cemetery is a small family cemetery with 3 marked burials east of 80 just slightly, and close to Lee Cemetery.

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Jacob is likely whose land abutted Lazarus Dodson’s.

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Cemetery Triangulation

Now that we know where the various players are buried, or where their family members are buried, let’s see how these cemeteries look connected together on a map. I’ve omitted the most distant cemeteries where the most distantly connected burials are found. This sort of reminds me of the 3 legged shape of the triskelion.

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You can see here that these cemeteries are all in an area about 2 miles north to south and about 3 miles east to west.  On the map below, you can also see all of the branches of White Oak Creek.

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The cemetery with the most closely related burials, both in terms of Mary Dodson Redman being buried there, and in terms of neighbors, is the Lee Cemetery, located at the lower right end of the blue cemetery trail. The second most meaningful is probably the Graebel family cemetery, located just north of the Lee Cemetery, because Graebel is noted as a neighbor of Lazarus with abutting property lines.

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It’s probably also worth nothing that most of the time, people live on what were “main roads” at the time, which are generally still main roads today. Columbia Road is mentioned in William Redmon’s will, which is 80 today, and is likely the road where Lazarus lived.

mary-cem-triang-closest

The next cemetery north at the crossroads of 80 and the Cumberland Parkway today is where Solomon Weddle is buried who bought land from the Chamberlains in 1853. The Chamberlain land abutted Lazarus’s land in 1861, although obviously not the land they sold in 1853. This provides a general location of where these families lived.

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The other cemeteries are too far north and too far west to fit well with the White Oak Creek land description.

Current Map Stream Plus Deed Description

Utilizing two different tools, let’s compare the deed description from Lazarus Dodson’s 1861 sale to the current day map of the streams. The current town of Nancy is marked below and the various branches of White Oak Creek can be seen to the left of Nancy, along with the entire area covered by the cemeteries and other geographic locations we’ve discussed above and will be discussing, below.

mary-nancy-location

Based on the cemetery geographic configuration and the number of burials, the burials would strongly suggest that Lazarus’s land was very near, or perhaps even under, the Lee Cemetery.

mary-dodson-rough-land

Looking again at the deed description, we see that Lazarus’s line moves north to the mouth of a branch of White Oak Creek owned by Graebel, then east, then west to Chamberlain, then south to the main branch.

So there has to be an intersection of a branch on the north side of Lazarus’s land.

Unfortunately, there are two distinct branches of White Oak Creek, both with intersections, shown on the map below.

mary-white-oak-intersections

Both intersecting Ys of those branches are found south of present day Nancy, which based on the cemeteries and burials, seems to be too far south.

The Lee Cemetery is located on Amy Road, red arrow below. The cemetery is located on an extension of the right branch of White Oak Creek, roughly half a mile north of Nancy.

mary-lee-arrow

However, there is no branch to the right of this branch that would allow for the Graebel branch, at least no branch that is showing today.

However, moving north up the western branch of White Oak Creek, we see that there is indeed a branch that extends to the east, crossing 80 and ending by E. Waterloo. If indeed Lazarus’s land was on south of this branch, it would his land would be bordered roughly by Warner Road on the south, White Oak Creek to the west and the unnamed branch on the north, shown with blue arrows. The area of 50 acres that Lazarus owned, if it were square, is roughly 1,500 feet by 1,500 feet, the area shown inside the blue arrows. Of course, Lazarus’s land was clearly anything but square – but at least this gives us an idea of size.

mary-lazarus-approximate-land

How does the land approximated by the blue arrows line up with cemeteries?

The Lee Cemetery is the red arrow in the lower right corner.

The Grabeel family cemetery is the red arrow in the center between Warner and Old Columbia Road east of 80.

The Chesterview (Weddle burial) cemetery is the red arrow at top left at the interchange of 80 and Cumberland Parkway.

There are three cemeteries about equally far north of the 80/Cumberland Parkway exchange, but the earliest and closest burials of neighbors are represented by the Grabeel and Lee Cemeteries.

The cemetery, census and deed triangulation shows the best fit for Lazarus’s land is someplace between the Lee Cemetery and the blue arrows. This technique has narrowed the location of Lazarus’s land to roughly a mile northwest to southeast, roughly along 80 (Old Columbia Road) and roughly half a mile from 80 to the southwest.

mary-mile-by-mile

Taking a Drive

Let’s take a drive using Google Street View and see what this area looks like. We are surely on Lazarus’s land, we just don’t know exactly where. This area would have been familiar to Lazarus and his family.

Let’s start on what is today 80, just north of Nancy, where the Old Columbia Road separates from the current road to the right. Of course, the old road is the original road, and the newer road used to be the original road too. Unfortunately, we can’t “drive down” the smaller roads, including Old Columbia Road, because the Google cars don’t travel on dirt, gravel or roads without center line markings. Sadly, that means we can’t visit the Lee Cemetery.

Below – 80 north of Nancy where the old road separates to the right.

mary-old-columbia-road

This part of Kentucky is pretty flat, flatter than the land on Tiprell Road in Claiborne County, perhaps giving us some idea of what attracted so many Claiborne County families to Pulaski County.

Below, just south of Amy Lane. The Lee Cemetery is probably behind that clump of trees.

mary-amy-lane

Below, looking left (west) off of 80 just south of Warner Road.

mary-warner-road

Below, looking west on Warner Road. This could well be Lazarus’s land.

mary-warner-road-intersection

On 80, north of Warner Road where the road crosses one of the branches of White Oak Creek at the source. This could be one of the eastern branches in Lazarus’s deed.

mary-white-oak-warner

The very northern tip of White Oak Creek where Fawbush Road crosses the source. This is probably north of Lazarus’s land based on the description.

mary-white-oak-fawbush

The Battle of Mill Springs

I cannot leave Pulaski County without at least touching on the Battle of Mill Springs, also known as the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads.

Lazarus Dodson died in October of 1861, and in a way, it was just in time. Major battles of the Civil War were fought on both of the pieces of property he owned in his lifetime.

mary-cumberland-to-lee-cem

His land just beneath the Cumberland Gap was the site of fighting and the Cottrell soldier’s encampment at Butcher Springs. In fact, a Civil War map is how we located the homestead, exactly. The house and two barns were drawn on the map. Battles raged for the Gap itself, and Lazarus’s former land was repeatedly devastated by the warfare. The Gap changed hands three times during the war. Lazarus probably never knew about any of this since he died early in the war.

As irony would have it, Lazarus’s son-in-law, John Y. Estes fought on this land, for the Confederates. It’s unclear whether Lazarus maintained any connection with his children living in Claiborne County.  His daughter’s step-son fought and died for the Union, and his own son, John Campbell Dodson is reported to have fought in the Civil War as well, but I have been unable to find documentation.

Lazarus’s land in Pulaski County, Kentucky didn’t fare much better with Confederate General Zollicoffer setting up his winter camp near Nancy in Pulaski County in November 1861, a month after Lazarus’s death. The battle of Mill Springs took place on January 19, 1862, with union forces appearing to have advanced across Lazarus’s land.

Lazarus had only been buried for 3 months and his family certainly would have been involved, whether by choice or not.

At least 671 soldiers from both sides died that day, most being buried on the battlefield in what is now the Mill Springs National Cemetery, located on the battlefield. Looking at those burials on FindAGrave, almost every local surname is represented. It’s hard not to fight when the battle is in your back yard.

Mary Dodson Redmon’s step-son’s stone is found in the Mill Springs Cemetery, having died fighting as a Union soldier. Truly families were irreconcilably torn apart by this war.

mary-battle-of-spring-mill

The town of Nancy, today, was then called Logan’s Crossroads. The Battle of Mill Springs is also called the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads. The map below is a Civil War era map showing the Union (blue) and Confederate forces (red).  It’s surprising to me how much of the area was still wooded.

mary-battle-of-spring-mill-map

Looking at a contemporary map, with the battle field located by the red balloon, you can see that Old Robert Port Road is still listed by the same name. What is today 235 is the old Mill Springs Road. What is today 80 is the old Somerset Road.

mary-battle-of-spring-mill-locatoin

The Battlefield itself is located just half a mile or so south southeast of Nancy. In this wider perspective, you can see the landmarks discussed earlier.

mary-battle-of-spring-mill-nancy

The battlefield includes the National Cemetery where the war dead are interred.

mary-battlefield-of-spring-mill

mary-battlefield-of-spring-mill-satellite

Many names of local people are included in the National Cemetery. Almost every family is represented. William Redmon’s son, William Perry Redmon(d), from his first marriage is one of the casualties. He died March 17, 1864. His memorial marker resides in Mill Springs today, but where his body rests is unknown. Probably near where he fell in battle.

mary-w-p-redmond-stone

Another of William Redmon’s sons fought as well, but wasn’t killed in Battle.  William fought as well, for a Kentucky Confederate unit. Wars not only devastated the countryside, they devastated families. This would have been a sorrowful and terrifying time for these families.

mary-mill-springs-national-cemetery

DNA

Remember, as much as we think Mary Dodson is Lazarus Dodson’s daughter, we really don’t have confirmation. How I wish that 1861 deed from Lazarus had said, “my daughters,” but it didn’t.

It will take autosomal DNA testing of Mary’s descendants and having them match to Lazarus’s proven descendants to confirm or at least lend credence to the fact that Mary is Lazarus’s daughter. Let’s hope that someday, someone from Mary’s line tests at Family Tree DNA where we have autosomal data from several of Ruthy’s descendants to compare as well as DNA through Lazarus’s son, Lazarus.

mary-dodson-kin2

Mary Dodson’s great-grandchildren would be half third cousins to Buster and Mary, who have DNA tested, and they would be related more distantly to several other descendants who have also DNA tested. However, 90% of third cousins match, so the odds are very good that if Mary Dodson was the half-sister to Ruthy Dodson or her full brother, Lazarus Dodson, Mary descendants would match some of the descendants from Lazarus’s first marriage to Elizabeth Campbell.

In Summary

mary-lazarus-someplace

We will likely never find Lazarus’s grave, but we know he has to be someplace in this picture, and if I had to make an educated guess, I would suggest that he is buried in the Lee Cemetery, someplace near his daughter, Mary Dodson Redman/Redmon.

mary-lee-cemetery

Photo by Terry Hail.

And speaking of Mary, someone was kind enough to send me a photo.

mary-dodson-redmon

Mary Dodson Redmon, above.

This is particularly interesting to me, because while I don’t have a picture of Lazarus Dodson, I do have a picture that we believe is Ruthy Dodson Estes, proven to be Lazarus’s daughter and presumably Mary Dodson’s half sister.

We are not positive that this photo, below, is Ruthy Dodson Estes, but the photo was found in Uncle Buster’s picture box, along with that of John Y. Estes, her husband, and their son, Lazarus Estes. Uncle Buster, Ruthy’s great-grandson, said that he believed this was Ruthy and that he had been told she had red hair.  Ruthy suffered from debilitating arthritis, and you can see that this woman’s hand is disfigured.

mary-ruthy-dodson-estes-original

A friend was kind enough to clean this picture up for me.

mary-ruthy-dodson-estes-restored

Comparing the photos of Ruthy Dodson Estes to the photo of Mary Dodson Redmon below, do these women look like they could be half-sisters?

mary-and-ruthy

New Family Tree DNA Holiday Coupons – And the 12 Myths of Family Finder

It’s Monday coupon day – so I’m listing this week’s coupons and also discussing the Family Finder test this week.

Family Finder, Family Tree DNA’s autosomal test is one of the most popular DNA tests, for good reason.

First, like the name implies, it finds your family members on multiple lines of your family – not just the direct Y line (paternal, for males) or the matrilineal line (for both genders.)

Second, Family Finder provides you with an ethnicity estimate which is quite reliable at the continent level for the past 5 or 6 generations.  All ethnicity tests should be taken with somewhat of a grain of salt, because we are still on the frontier of this science.  But let’s face it, this is fun!

myorigins

Furthermore, Family Tree DNA just added a new function titled Ancient Origins that reaches further back in time. Where were your ancestors from?

ancient-origins

12 Myths of Family Finder

Since it’s the holiday season, and the “12 Days of Christmas” is playing in the background, let’s do the “12 Myths of Family Finder.”

1. Since I’ve taken an autosomal test elsewhere, I don’t need to take one at Family Tree DNA too.

You might want to rethink that strategy, and here’s why. Different people test at different companies. Only a few of us nut-cases test at all companies – so you don’t know which matches you’ll be missing if you’re not in all of the data bases. You know how Murphy’s Law works, your best match will be at the last place you test.

2. I already have a tree elsewhere, so I don’t need to upload or create a family tree at Family Tree DNA too.

You definitely need a tree, and here’s why. Family Tree DNA allows you to connect yourself and your relatives on your tree, utilizing phased matches to multiple people to assign your matches to either your maternal or paternal side of the tree, or both.  You can see the blue paternal, red maternal and purple “both” icons on the screen shot below.  No other vendor has this feature, and it requires a tree.

Phased FF2

Furthermore, your matches want to view your tree because Family Tree DNA also provides an ancestral surname matching function. And believe me, if you have one of my surnames AND our DNA matches, I want to see your tree! You’ll want to see mine too! So upload a Gedcom file or create a tree and connect DNA tests to the appropriate people in your tree. You’ll be very glad you did!

You can see an example of several people who have tested and are linked to their proper location in my tree.  My mother and myself are on the left, and three people from my father’s line are shown on the right.  This is how Family Tree DNA assigns matches to maternal and paternal sides of your family

ftdna-linked-tree

3. Autosomal testing doesn’t show anything about the paternal line or the maternal line.

This is probably a misunderstanding, and here’s why. This statement is probably an artifact of the fact that Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are a separate kind of DNA that ONLY provides information about the direct paternal and direct maternal lines. However, autosomal DNA provides autosomal information from all ancestral lines, including the direct paternal and matrilineal lines too. You can read more about the different kinds of DNA testing and what they provide here.

4. Autosomal DNA testing will find my Native, African (or other small amounts of your admixture) no matter how far back that ancestor lived.

Not true, and here’s why. Autosomal DNA is pretty good at finding admixture in amounts over about 1%. However, each generation loses 50% of the DNA in the preceding generation. You carry about 1% of your ancestors’ DNA back 5 or 6 generations ago – which is about 150 years. Beyond that, it’s the luck of the roll of the dice as to whether fate has smiled on you and you carry a large enough ancestral segment to be found. However, Y and mitochondrial DNA DO reach infinitely back into time for just the direct paternal and direct matrilineal lines, so consider those tests as well.

5. If my sibling has already tested, I don’t need to.

That’s a myth most of the time, but not always. You and your full sibling both inherited half of each of your parents’ DNA, but not the same half. In reality, you share about half of the same DNA with your full sibling, meaning the other half is different. So you and your siblings will each have some of the same autosomal DNA matches, and some different. You’ll want to test every sibling, full and half – that is unless both parents have tested (full siblings) or the common parent has tested for half-siblings.

6. If I’ve tested, I don’t need to test my parents. That’s duplication.

In this case, duplication can be a good thing. Testing your parents will automatically divide your matches effectively in half for you – so long as you connect their test to your tree. If you have only one parent, that’s fine too. Family Tree DNA assigns maternal or paternal sides for phased matches to each parent for you. By the way, if you have grandparents, great-grandparents or the siblings of those people, you’ll definitely want to test the members of the oldest generation in your family. And don’t wait – you never know when it will be too late.  And not to be morbid, but Family Tree DNA will overnight kits to funeral homes if you perhaps waited a bit too long.

7. I don’t have full siblings, I only have half-siblings, so there is no need to test them.

This is right part of the time, but not always.  Don’t you just love these “it depends” answers!

If you have a half sibling and your shared parent is living, then you’re right, you don’t need to test the half-siblings because the parent is available. If that parent isn’t available, then a half-sibling can be even MORE useful than a full sibling, since you immediately know which side anyone who matches you and that sibling come from – your shared parent’s line.

8. I tested elsewhere and uploaded into GedMatch, so I don’t need to test anyplace else.

Nope, and here’s why. Family Tree DNA began DNA testing people 16 years ago. Many people who have tested at Family Tree DNA are now deceased or their kits are being managed by another family member. Suffice it to say that not everyone uploads their results to GedMatch for various reasons, so if you want to be sure to catch all of your matches, you’ll want to test at Family Tree DNA and be in their data base too.

9. I’ll upload my results from 23andMe or Ancestry to Family Tree DNA instead of retesting. It costs less.

That’s a good idea, up to a point, and that point is the point in time that 23andMe moved to their V3 chip and Ancestry moved to their V2 chip. Both of those chips have significantly less markers than their prior chips, making them incompatible with some of the locations on the Family Tree DNA chip. Those dates are approximately November 2013 for 23andMe and roughly May of 2016 for Ancestry. If you tested before those dates, then by all means, upload for the $39 unlock fee. That’s a great value. If you tested after that, it’s a no go, at least not now. You’ll need to retest.

10. I’ll just wait until Family Tree DNA accepts uploads from 23and Me and Ancestry again.

Family Tree DNA has indicated they are working towards that goal, but with the current Family Finder test price at $59 for the full 700,000 locations, compared to the transfer price of $39, it makes more sense to take the Family Finder test for the additional locations tested, even if Family Tree DNA were to make the transfer available today. In some cases, only about half of the locations are compatible which will clearly affect matching at some level. The only time waiting to transfer would be a preferred option would be if the person who took the original test is no longer available to retest.

11. I don’t want to test, because I can’t spit that much. Or substitute “because I am afraid of needles.”

Good news for you. The Family Tree DNA test kit is a swab kit, like a Q-Tip to scrape the inside of your cheek. No spitting, blood or needles involved.

12. I would like to upgrade my family member’s kit, but I can’t because they died.

All is not lost. If you have authorization to upgrade the kit, and they previously tested at Family Tree DNA, you can easily order that upgrade today if enough DNA remains.

Family Tree DNA archives DNA for 25 years. If you have your family member’s account number and password, assuming they gave you administrative privileges for their account, you can order an upgrade for your deceased relative the same as any other account. If you don’t have permission or full access to the account (kit number and password), or they didn’t designate you as DNA beneficiary on their account, you’ll need to obtain permission from the family first. Over time, DNA does degrade, so your best bet for upgrade success is with a sample that has been at the lab for less than 5 years. If in doubt, call Family Tree DNA and they will help you.

I upgraded my mother’s account to Family Finder after she passed away, and that’s one of the best gifts she ever gave me!  It’s a wonderful legacy that gifts me over and over again every day.

This Weeks Coupons

This week’s holiday discounts coupon codes are shown below and they include a few for Family Finder which can be used on top of the $59 sale price. At these prices, I’m offering upgrades to several family members who have previously tested.

Click here to redeem these coupons, or to see how much your own discount code is this week. If you don’t want to use your discount code, feel free to post in the blog comments for others to share.

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Lazarus Dodson (1795-1861), Under the Radar?, 52 Ancestors #139

Lazarus Dodson was born in 1795, probably in what is now Hawkins County, Tennessee, to Lazarus Dodson Sr. and his wife, Jane, whose name we don’t know.

The Dodson family had settled on land on what is now Dodson Creek in Hawkins County by 1787, before Tennessee was even a state. Hawkins County was formed in 1787 in what was then North Carolina from Sullivan and Greene Counties, although the boundary between North Carolina and Virginia, on Hawkins County’s north border, remained in dispute for years. Dodson Creek was on the south side of the Holston River, so safely in North Carolina.

Dodson Creek

Beautiful pool at the bend in Dodson Creek where it leaves the road.

Charles Campbell and his sons, John and George also lived on Dodson Creek. John Campbell, born about 1782, married Jane “Jenny” Dobkins, the daughter of Jacob Dobkins who lived just down the road near White Horn.

dodson-ford-to-white-horn

The Campbell and Dodson families lived near Dodson’s Ford, located at the mouth of Dodson Creek near the power plant today.  The Dodson homestead would have been on the high ground, approximately at the location of 621 Old Tennessee 70, while the ford itself crossed the river, just above that location.  The land between the homestead and the river was low and prone to flooding.

This beautiful scene overlooks both the Campbell and Dodson lands from a vantage point across the Holston River.  Their lands are directly behind, beneath and beside the power plant.  This is beautiful country.

Hawkins view of Campbell land

Raleigh Dodson, the father of Lazarus Dodson Sr. manned and owned the ferry crossing the Holston River at Dodson Ford.

Indian war path

The road from Old Prussia Road to where the ferry crossed no longer exists today, but if you extend the line along Dodson Creek from the intersection of Old Tennessee 70 and Old Prussia Road along the west side of Dodson’s Creek, crossing the river near Arnott’s Island, that’s the general path.

dodson-ford-location

According to local history, this was also the Great War Path, and the Indians used to camp at the mouth of Dodson’s Creek, in the area not plowed today. Locals find artifacts and firepits there.

dodson-ford-indian-encampment

It probably looks much the same today as it did then, except for the fields.

holston river at dodson ford

Bull’s Gap was the next major stop and it was about 12 miles on south, just past White Horn. Everyone traveled these main roads, and everyone, including Jacob Dobkins and his daughters would stop at Raleigh Dodson’s house (and probably tavern/store) after crossing the river.

In 1797, Lazarus Dodson Sr. moved to the White Horn branch of Bent Creek, very near Jacob Dobkins.

Claiborne County, Tennessee

Around 1800, this entire group of families moved from Hawkins County to what would become Claiborne County in 1801, including Jacob Dobkins, John and George Campbell along with their Dobkins wives and Lazarus Dodson and his wife, Jane. John Campbell would have married Jane “Jenny” Dobkins about 1795 and George’s brother, married Jane’s sister, Elizabeth Dobkins, about the same time – both daughters of Jacob Dobkins. Lazarus Dodson Sr. was a neighbor. He could have been otherwise related, by virtue of his wife, Jane, whose surname is unknown. We also don’t know the surname of Raleigh Dodson’s wife. There seems to be some connection to the Lea family, both in Virginia and in Tennessee. These early pioneer families could well have been related before moving to Dodson Creek.

Lazarus Dodson Jr. would have been about 5 years old when his parents moved to Claiborne County. Lazarus probably attended school in the same one room building that also functioned as a church on his father’s land.

gap-creek-church-cropped

That church still exists today, on the banks of Gap Creek, on land owned by Lazarus.

gap-creek

In Claiborne County, Jacob Dobkins, John Campbell and George Campbell settled not terribly far from each other, but Lazarus Dodson settled several miles away, just below the Cumberland Gap at Butcher Springs, shown on the Civil War map, below. The location of Cotterell is the farm sold to David C. Cotrell by Lazarus Dodson in 1833 and confirmed in 1861. Present day Tiprell Road was called Gap Creek Road at that time, and Back Valley Road runs southwest from Patterson’s Smith Shops which is the intersection of 25E and Back Valley Road Today

camp cottrell civil war map

In the photo below, I’m standing in the Cottrell Cemetery located on the road just above the Cottrell home. In the photo, looking southeast, you can see the church standing today in the location of Patterson’s Smith Shops.

Me in Cottrell Cemetery

Below, the same cemetery, but looking west over Lazarus’s land.

cottrell cemetery

Today, Lincoln Memorial University, in the background below, owns the cemetery as well as part of the original Dodson land.

dodson-cottrell-cemetery-lmu

Does one of the many fieldstones mark the grave of Elizabeth Campbell, the wife of Lazarus Dodson, Jr.? Did he have children that died and were buried here – children that never lived long enough to be recorded in their grandfather, John Campbell’s estate settlement papers in 1841?

dodson-cottrell-unmarked-graves

As I stood in the cemetery the sweltering June day that we set Lazarus Dodson Sr.’s DAR marker, honoring his Revolutionary War Service, I couldn’t help but wonder if this old tree had been young when Lazarus Dodson Jr. was a young boy, scampering through the fields here too.

dodson-cottrell-old-tree

On the map below, Lazarus Dodson Sr.’s land was located at 1595 Tiprell Road on the upper left, Jacob Dobkins lived on what is now Al Campbell Lane (ironically) and John Campbell’s land was at the location with the red balloon on Little Sycamore Road. George Campbell’s land was located near Jacob Dobkins’, just slightly to the west.

dodson-cumberland-map

Both Lazarus Dodson Jr. and Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of John Campbell and Jane “Jennie” Dobkins, would have grown up in Claiborne County, but how they managed to “court” at that distance is unknown. The identity of Jane, the wife of Lazarus Dodson Sr. might be a clue, but we don’t know who she was. A church affiliation might be another clue, although Lazarus helped found Gap Creek Church near his home and Jacob Dobkins and John Campbell likely attended church at Big Springs in Tazewell or a smaller congregation closer to their home, if the now defunct church on Little Ridge behind John Campbell’s house had yet been established at that time.

Regardless of how, Elizabeth Campbell and Lazarus Dodson Jr. did court, and did marry about 1818 or 1819, based on the birth date of March 1, 1820 for their oldest child.

Unfortunately, Lazarus Dodson Sr. and Lazarus Dodson Jr. are both functioning as adults in Claiborne County and they are difficult to tell apart. In 1819, Lazarus Dodson, presumably Sr., sells his land near the Cumberland Gap, but in 1826, Lazarus Dodson, presumably Jr., repurchases the same land. Families, family dynamics and politics have never been simple!

In May 1819 Lazarus Dotson and Abner Lea, both of Claiborne Co., sold to William Hogan of Lee Co., VA by $5000 bond a tract of 640 acres. This deed was witnessed by Martin Beaty, William Jones and David Dodson (Claiborne deed E-366). The deed does not say Lazarus Sr. or Jr., but there is no indication that Lazarus Jr. had purchased this land, so the presumption has to be that Lazarus Sr. sold the land he obtained in 1810. The witness David Dodson may be the one who moved to McMinn Co TN and was likely another son of Lazarus Sr.

Alabama Indian Trader

At one point in time, about 1819 or 1820, Lazarus and his wife, Elizabeth Campbell, went to Alabama. This was a somewhat confounding turn of events, until you consider the multiple pieces of evidence that indicate the involvement of the Dodson family with Indians.

The first piece of evidence is that Lazarus Dodson’s father, Lazarus Sr., is reported in a later land survey to have been encamped with the Indians in what was then Sullivan and became Hawkins County, at the mouth of Richland Creek in the winter of 1781/1782.

dodson-richland-creek

The mouth of Richland Creek was located just above an island, as seen above. You can see, on the map below, that in 1787, Richland Creek was located deep in Indian Territory, about 50 miles east of Rogersville and another 40 or so south of Arthur which is located on the south end of Tiprell Road where Lazarus Dodson eventually settled.

Elisha Wallen, the longhunter and first white man to settle in this country, built a cabin near the mouth of Richland Creek in 1775, before he pulled up stakes and moved to Cumberland Gap, near where Lazarus settled about 1800.

dodson-richland-rogersville-gap

There is no trace of the Indians or their encampment today. Lazarus wouldn’t recognize it. I bet that island at the mouth of Richland Creek is full of artifacts, some of which could have been left by Lazarus Dodson.

dodson-richland-encampment

Second, we find Lazarus’s father, Raleigh settling on the Great War Path, in Hawkins County, where the Indians traveled and camped.  Clearly, Lazarus Sr. know the Indians well.  Keep in mind that we don’t know who either Raleigh or Lazarus Sr.’s wives were.

The third piece of evidence is that Jesse Dodson, probably Lazarus’s brother, is living inside the Indian boundary just beneath the Cumberland Gap in 1797.  He was assessed for 1 white poll, but was then excused from tax when the Grainger Court released the Sheriff from the collection of taxes. At this time, the only people excused from taxes were Native people. This begs the question of whether Jesse was part Native and/or whether his wife was Native as well.

However, the failure to collect taxes may have been an issue of jurisdiction instead of heritage. Apparently these people were living beyond the treaty line on Indian land and were not within the jurisdiction of Grainger County. Claiborne County was not formed until 1801.

On the 1795 map below, you can see the Indian boundary line, just west of the Kentucky Road where it intersects with Cumberland Gap. This same Indian Boundary line is referenced in Lazarus Dodson’s deeds. 560 of the 640 acres Lazarus owned of this land was conveyed to him in 1810 by Abner Lea, thought (but unproven) to be Lazarus’s brother-in-law. The acreage amounts don’t match, but keep in mind that two Claiborne County deed books, H and L, from this timeframe are entirely missing.

1795 map claiborne co

If this Jesse Dodson living beyond the Indian Boundary Line in 1797 is the son of Lazarus Sr., then he preceded his father to Claiborne County by a couple of years and may well have settled on the land where Lazarus eventually lived, which was indeed, just inside the Indian Boundary line and was originally Cherokee land. This might well explain why Lazarus selected the land that he did, given that the rest of the people he moved with settled several miles to the southeast in a group.

Jesse Dodson and Mary Stubblefield Dodson joined the Big Spring Baptist church in Tazewell “by experience” in March 1802. They received letters of dismissal from the church in Nov. 1805, but Jesse returned his letter in May 1806, indicating he had returned. Apparently in early 1807 Jesse got into a dispute with the church over a theological question which continued through Sept. 1807 when the question was dismissed. In Aug. 1808, Jesse was “excluded” from the church for “withholding from the Church”. He is not again found in the records of Claiborne County. We know this Jesse Dodson is not the son of the Reverend Jesse Dodson whose son, Jesse Jr. was born in 1791. We otherwise don’t know who this Jesse is, other than perhaps the Jesse who was living beyond the Indian Boundary Line in 1797 who was possibly the Jesse who was subsequently licenses to trade with the Indians.  Yes, I know there are works like perhaps and possibly here, but this is the best we can do.

On June 20, 1811, Jesse Dodson was licensed to trade with Indian tribes in Madison Co., Alabama. Descendants of this man have the oral tradition that he was an Indian Trader. He was said to be the oldest son of a large family of boys. Once when the Indian trader returned from one trip and was preparing to leave on another, the father implored his older son to take along his younger brother. The trader refused, saying the boy was so inexperienced that he would be killed by Indians. The father was adamant and insisted, so the trader relented and took the boy along. He has killed by Indians before the trader’s eyes. From then on there were hard feelings between the Indian Trader and his father. This is a tradition which may have grown with the telling over the generations, but there could be some grains of truth in the tale. If would certainly be interesting to know for sure if Jesse the Indian Trader is the son of Lazarus Dodson Sr.

Jackson County, Alabama

The land that became Jackson Co., Alabama was originally part of the Mississippi Territory and was occupied by the Cherokee until they gave it up by treaty on Feb. 27, 1819. It is certainly possible that Jesse Dodson, Indian Trader of the Mississippi Territory, was a son of Lazarus Dodson, Sr., who, himself was camping with the Indians in the winter of 1781/1782. Indeed, Lazarus Sr. did appear to have a family of mostly boys and the name Raleigh is conspicuously absent from a list of descendants, perhaps indicating a death.

1819 is also the year that Lazarus Dodson Sr. sold his Claiborne County land and when several of his children apparently went to Alabama.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with why Lazarus went to Alabama, but it can’t be ignored either.

Andrew Jackson was Major General in the Tennessee Militia. He was ordered to New Orleans to fight the British in January 1813. He was ordered to disband his troops (2500) and return to Tennessee when he reached present day Natchez, Mississippi. No pay or provisions for his men and they had to forage their way back 500 miles to Tennessee. Some people stayed in Alabama. Jackson returned and defeated the Creek Indians (Red Sticks) at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on May 27, 1814. The Indians were forced to cede 23,000,000 acres to the Federal Government. Mississippi became a State in 1817 and Alabama in 1819. Many of the militia from Tennessee returned to Tennessee, packed up their belonging, and returned with their families in two wheel carts to “Squat” on the Indian Lands in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The squatters were given title to the lands by the States. Some of the “Civilized” Creeks were also allowed to “keep” their lands.

I checked land records maintained by the state and the BLM and find no Lazarus Dodson. However, there are many entries for Dodson men during and after this time.

I initially discounted the oral history that Lazarus had gone to Jackson County, Alabama, but his son, John Campbell Dodson shows that he was born in Alabama repeatedly – in the 1850 census, in the 1860 census and on his Civil War papers.

Lazarus Dodson Jr. was just slightly too young to be involved in the War of 1812, having been born in 1795, and his father Lazarus Sr., probably slightly too old, having been born about 1760. I did check Kentucky’s War of 1812 veterans, just to be sure, given that Lazarus Jr. lived there from about 1833 until his death in 1861 – and there is no listing for Lazarus Dodson by any spelling.

Return From Alabama

Elizabeth Campbell Dodson died sometime between 1827 when the last child was born and 1830 when the Dodson children are living with their Campbell grandparents.

Lazarus Dodson is once again active in Claiborne County, beginning in 1826 (according to an 1826 deed that may have been “doctored” and wasn’t registered until 1829) but consistently from mid-1827 through 1833 when Lazarus sells his land to David Cotterell and apparently moves to Pulaski County, Kentucky. By this time, Lazarus Dodson Sr. has died, so we know the Lazarus after 1826 is Lazarus Dodson Jr. who had married Elizabeth Campbell and later, Rebecca Freeman.

If Elizabeth died in Alabama, the reason for Lazarus’s return is evident. What was Lazarus to do with 4 children under the age of 7 or 8? Elizabeth may have died after returning to McMinn or Claiborne County. If so, she died before 1830 when the children were living with their grandparents.

Truthfully, I suspect that Elizabeth died after Lazarus returned to Tennessee. Otherwise, if Elizabeth had born a child in 1827 and died shortly thereafter, I suspect the child would have died too. Who would have nursed that child during the 200 mile, or minimum 10 day trip, from Alabama to Claiborne County, TN? Lazarus obviously couldn’t.

Cumberland Gap, Again

In 1826 Lazarus Dodson Sr.’s estate is being referenced in the September McMinn County court notes where Lazarus (Jr.) is one of several “gardeans of the estate” of Lazarous Dodson, deceased.

Abner Lea and Others Obligation to William Dodson: State of Tennessee McMinn County. Know all men by these presents that the Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson and Eligha (sic) Dodson and William Dodson and Jessee Dodson and Lazrus Dodson and held and firmly bound in the penal sum of two thousand dollars which payment will and freely to be maid now(?) and each of us do bind our selves our heirs executor and administrators to the abounded signed sealed and delivered this day and date above written. This is our obligation is as such that has the above abound to appoint Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson to be the gardeans [guardians] of the estate of Lazarous Dodson dc’d also we authorize the said Abner Lea and Oliver Dodson to make to William Dodson a deed of Conveyeance to the part of land granted to the said William Dodson North East Quarter of Section 11 Township 5 Range first east of the meridian. Also that we confirm the sale made on the 13 day of May 1826 we also agree to give unto the heirs of David Dodson a certain piece or parcel of land designated to David Dodson by Lazarus Dodson dec’d be it further understood that this is to be there part and all that they are entitiled to by us, where unto we have set our hand and quill this 11 day of September 1826. Abner Lea, Oliver Dodson, Eligha Dodson, Lazarous Dodson, Jesse Dodson

Witnesses: Landford and Rhodes William Dodson

In Sept. 1826, William Hogan living in McMinn Co., TN. sold to Lazarus Dodson and John Pace of Claiborne Co., for $3500, a tract of 640 acres adjoining Peter Huffakers field, a compromise line between Hogan, Aaron Davis and William Jones, excepting four acres heretofore conveyed to the said Huffaker and two acres donated by Hogan to the Baptist Church, including the meeting house and also a donation to the Trustees of the Washington School, including the schoolhouse. This deed was not certified by oath in Claiborne County court until April term of 1829 and not registered until October 20, 1829. This is registered in Claiborne County on pages 285 and 286.

dodson-1826-deed

dodson-1826-deed-2

This has to be Lazarus Jr. since Lazarus Sr. is dead and this land appears, based on earlier and later deeds, to be the original land that Lazarus Sr. owned. Did Lazarus Jr. repurchase his father’s land because of sentimental reasons, or because it was a great deal? Maybe some of both? Was this land still in the family. Was Hogan related? If so, how? So many questions!

On June 4, 1827, Lazerus Dodson made a deed of mortgage to Augustine P. Face (Pace) in McMinn County, but the land was located in Claiborne County, TN. (McMinn County Court Minutes, B/124)

At the October Claiborne County court session in 1829, the Sheriff, John Hunt, and Luke Tierman, a merchant from Baltimore, Maryland registered a judgement recovered by Daniel Rogers against Willliam Hogan. This judgment went up for auction and was specifically stated to be “the very tract of land William Hogan then lived on and the same he bought of Lazarus Dodson.” This was sold at auction with Tierman winning the land for $5 and then Sheriff Hunt conveys the 540 acres to John Tierman.

dodson-1829-tierman

dodson-1829-tierman-2

dodson-1829-tierman-3

This photo is taken on Tiprell Road looking north towards the mountain on the land that was owned by Lazarus.

dodson land tipprell road

This land is quite beautiful on up the mountain a bit.  Gap Creek runs alongside the road.

tipprell-road

Older Cottrell descendants indicate that Lazarus’s barn and perhaps a log structure (home?) was located in what is now this clump of trees, in the clearing to the right, just beneath the location of the Cottrell home on the Civil War map. The cemetery, as the crow flies, is just on the other side of the trees on the top of the hill, but you can’t get there from Tiprell Road today.

Given where the Civil War fighting occurred, this scene looks bucolic today, but it certainly wasn’t then. Lazarus didn’t live long enough to know about the fighting that would take place during the Civil War on the land he and his father once owned, but his daughter Rutha Dodson’s husband, John Y. Estes, would fight on these very grounds.

dodson-barn-land

I don’t know, but I’m guessing that somehow Lazarus Dodson is connected to William Hogan, given the multiple appearances of Hogan and Lazarus Dodson Sr. and Jr. together. Furthermore, it looks like there may have been something “funny” going on with this 1826 Dodson/Hogan land transaction that was not registered until 1829 at the same court session where Rogers judgment and Tierman’s auction winning of the land, somehow intertwined, are also registered.

How was this ever resolved, with two men, Tierman and Lazarus Dodson both appearing to own the exact same land? I’ll never know, but it does not appear to have gone to court again. Given the agrarian economy where almost everything seems to have been litigated, that in and of itself is amazing.

In 1827 Lazarus appears in the Claiborne County court minutes for the June session as the security for Andrew Chumbly in the case the State vs Andrew Chumbly. Thereafter Lazarus appears in the court minutes, serving as juror in September 1827, sued for debt by Moses Ball in March 1828 (Ball was awarded damages in Sept. 1828), ordered to a road jury in Dec 1829, serving as juror in March 1830, as constable in March 1831, after which Lazarus Dodson’s name disappears from court records until March 16, 1835 when John Hunt, sheriff and collector of public taxes lists Lazarus Dodson on his list of “persons being removed out of my county or insolvent so their poll tax cannot be collected for the year 1833 or 1834”.

Based on an 1861 deed, we know that Lazarus Dodson sold the land on present day Tiprell Road to David C. Cotterell in 1833.

1861, May 6 – Lazrous (sic) Dodson formerly of Claiborne Co, TN but now of Pulasky Co. KY to David C. Cotterell for $100 “to me the said Lazarous Dodson paid in the year 1833 having then sold to David Cotterell a tract of land on Gap Creek known as the Robert Chumbley land who had entered said land and sold and assigned said entry over to me and when the grant issued it came out in said Chumley’s name and afterwards was assigned by my request to said Cotterell”…beginning at a white oak two poles below Walker’s line, crossing Gap Creek, etc…his mark Lazarus Dodson. Wit Lewis Chumbley, Andrew Chumbley   Ack May 6, 1861 by Lazarus Dodson by appearance before James Allcorn, clerk of Court in Pulaksi Co., KY. Registered Oct 13 1870 Claiborne Co., TN

Note that the above item took place just 5 months before Lazarus died.

If Lazarus Jr. bought the land in 1826 for $3500, why did he sell it for $100 in 1833?  Or was this only a portion of what was sold?  Where is the deed for the rest?  Is that deed in the lost deed books?  The indexes remain, but they don’t show this land sale.

This survey shows Robert Chumley’s 100 acres of land.

robert-chumley-survey

The name of Lazarus Dodson is on a list of free male inhabitants, 21 and upwards, of Claiborne County in 1833.

The foregoing records suggest that Lazarus was living in Claiborne Co., in 1830, though he is not found there on census records for that year, or anyplace else for that matter. It is possible he lived in the household of another family, although at that time one could not serve on a jury if you weren’t a while male landholder over the age of 21.  If Lazarus owned his own land, and we know he did, then why wasn’t he listed on the census?

The following records indicate that Lazarus left the county again for a few years beginning in 1833, returning to marry his second wife, Rebecca Freeman, on June 29, 1839.

On to Kentucky

In 1835, we find a Hawkins County record that states that Lazarus is not a resident of the State of Tennessee.

May 7, 1835 – John A. McKinney vs David C. Cotterall, John Pace and Lazarus Dodson – the def John Pace and Lazarus Dodson are not residents of this state…ordered that they make appearance at Rogersville on the first Monday of Nov next term or complaintants bill will be taken pro confesso and a copy of order to be published in the Abington newspaper and on motion of said complainant leave is given him to take depositions of the def, Dodson subject however to all just exceptions.

Nov. 3, 1835 – they failed to appear.

Sept. 18, 1837 – ord by court that the clerk and master ascertain the amount if interest due on $87.50 being half the amount of the obligation executed by the def John Pace and Lazarus Dodson to the complainant.

Sept. 1837 – cause came for final hearing by responses made that Cottrell by an agreement made with the compl pending this suit has assumed to pay the sum of $100 which at that time was half of the obligation and he was bound to do with as the foot of the agreement with Pace and further that Dodson is liable to pay the complainant the remaining half of said obligation with interest in the amount of $118.56 with interest from this date until paid.

In 1839, Lazarus Dodson married Rebecca Freeman in Claiborne County. I wonder if he married someone else in-between Elizabeth Campbell and Rebecca Freeman. In that time and place, being single for several years is indeed unusual.

Lazarus Dodson and Rebecca Freeman Dodson have not been located on the 1850 census. They are not on the census of Pulaski Co., KY that year. The children of Lazarus and Elizabeth Campbell Dodson appear to have been raised after Elizabeth’s death by their Campbell grandparents. Lazarus, their father, left the area by about 1833, when the youngest child was only 6 years old, but these children were clearly raised in Claiborne County, married there and established homes.

I wonder what prompted Lazarus to move to Pulaski County, Kentucky, and if it had anything to do with the Hawkins County suit and the two years back taxes owed? Was Lazarus flying below the radar, as best one could in that time and place?

If he was living in Kentucky, how did he meet and marry Rebecca Freeman in 1839 in Claiborne County? There are far more questions about Lazarus’s life than we have answers.

John Campbell’s Death

In 1838, Lazarus Dodson’s former father-in-law died. Since Elizabeth Campbell, Lazarus’s first wife was also deceased, her portion fell to Lazarus and Elizabeth’s children.

In 1839, Lazarus is listed as receiving settlement from the estate of his father-in-law John Campbell.

In 1841 Wiley Huffaker was appointed by the court of Claiborne Co. as guardian of the minor heirs of Lazarus Dodson and of Elizabeth Dodson, decd. This was relative to the settlement of the estate of Elizabeth’s father, John Campbell, who died in 1838. The children received land, slaves and cash from their grandfather’s estate which was first rented and then sold for their benefit. The guardianship records continue until Dec. 1845 when the final settlement was made with Lasrus Dotson, the youngest heir, who would be Lazarus the third. This also confirms the birth year of Lazarus (the third) as 1827, given that he would have turned 18 in 1845.

Lazarus and Elizabeth’s children’s names were taken from the records relative to the estate of John Campbell, their grandfather, when a guardian was appointed for them relative to their inheritance. The children of Lazarus Dodson Jr. and Elizabeth Campbell were:

  • Ruthy Dodson, born March 1, 1820 who married John Y. Estes in 1841 in Claiborne County, died in 1903 and is buried in the Venable Cemetery in Little Sycamore.
  • John Campbell Dodson, born 1820-1821 in Alabama, married Barthenia Dobkins in 1839 in Claiborne County and died after 1860.
  • Nancy Ann Dodson born about 1821, married James S. Bray in 1840 in Claiborne County and died between 1852 and 1860.
  • Lazarus Dobkins Dodson was born in 1827 (between 1822-1828 according to the census,) married Elizabeth H. Carpenter in 1845 in Claiborne County and died in 1885 in New Madrid County, Missouri.

One More Child?

Mary Dodson was living with Lazarus and Rebecca in the 1860 census. Her birth predates Lazarus’s marriage to Rebecca by 8 years. Was she a child of a wife between Elizabeth Campbell and Rebecca Freeman? Did Lazarus have a second wife we know nothing about?

dodson-1860-pulaski-census

Mary Dodson died sometime after 1860 and is not found in the Kentucky death records.

While Mary’s birth in 1831 is before Lazarus’s marriage to Rebecca in 1839, Mary is not listed in the estate settlement for Elizabeth Campbell, so she is clearly not Elizabeth’s child. It’s possible that Mary is not Lazarus’s child at all. We have no further information about Mary, and she remains a mystery.

Lazarus’s Death

Kentucky implemented very early death records, although they are fragmented and often incomplete.

lazarus-1861-pulaski-co-ky-death

However, we are fortunate that Lazarus is listed (last row, above), and his death record provides both his birth year AND his parents’ names! Well, except for his mother’s surname, of course.  We’re not THAT lucky!

dodson-lazarus-1861-death

dodson-lazarus-1861-death-2

Lazarus Dotson or Dodson is listed as white, age 66, male, married, a farmer and died on October 5, 1861 of “breast disease.” He was born in 1795 in Virginia and both resided and died in Pulaski County, Kentucky. His parents were Lazarus Dodson and Jane, both born in Virginia.

In a female, I would presume breast disease to be breast cancer, but in a male, breast disease is a bit of a mystery.

What Needs to be Done?

We don’t know where Lazarus is buried, nor do we know where he lived. Deed work, which might identify where Lazarus lived, has not been done in Pulaski County. We also don’t know if he had a will, probate or inventory records.

I contacted the Pulaski County Historical Society, hoping I could hire a researcher to do the deed work for me, with no luck. If anyone has any Pulaski County genealogy resources, either books or feet on the ground, please let me know.

DNA

Deed and records research in Pulaski County isn’t the only missing piece of the puzzle.

To date, no male Dodson from this line has Y DNA tested. If you’re a male Dodson from this line, please get in touch with me. I have a DNA testing scholarship for you!

However, just because we don’t have the Dodson Y DNA doesn’t mean we are dead in the water entirely. Let’s see what autosomal DNA can tell us about Lazarus.

I have one cousin who descends from this line, through one of Lazarus Jr.’s children. She is my only known cousin who descends through another child of Lazarus Jr.. I have several cousins who descend from the same child that I do.

One of the challenges faced in this particular line is that Jacob Dobkin’s daughters, Jennie and Elizabeth, married Campbell brothers, John and George, respectively.

dodson-dobkins-campbell-marriages

At least’s it’s widely accepted that John Campbell and George Campbell were brothers, both sons of Charles Campbell, from a variety of relatively convincing but less than cast-in-concrete evidence. What we don’t have, and probably never will have, is exact proof that John and George were brothers.

John and George Campbell’s Y DNA matches, but that’s not proof they were brothers, only that they share a common ancestor someplace back in time. Since they married sisters, one could expect the descendants of both men (and their Dobkins wives) to share at least some DNA.

This happens to be important because we have autosomal DNA from descendants of George Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins as well, but because brothers married sisters, we can’t use the DNA from the George Campbell line to differentiate the DNA of the John Campbell descendants.  Nor can we use the fact that these descendants match to prove that George and John were brothers, because we know they married sisters, which could be why the DNA from descendants of both lines matches.

Nothing frustrating about this, right???

The cousin, Mary, that descends from Lazarus Dodson Jr. and Elizabeth Campbell through their youngest child, Lazarus, matches me on four locations of 5 cM or greater.

dodson-mary-me

This is pretty exciting.  You can see the orange segments on the chromosome browser below.

dodson-mary-chr-browser

Given that we match on 4 segments, I was very hopeful that some of my DNA and Mary’s would triangulate with another known cousin, but it didn’t, except for my half-sister’s granddaughter, which is a relative too close for meaningful triangulation.

Triangulation, of course, is when three different cousins who descend from the same ancestor have DNA in common, meaning that all three match each other on the same segment. This indicates that the DNA segment descends from that common ancestor.

Since my DNA doesn’t triangulate, are there perhaps other pieces of Campbell and Dobkins DNA that still exist in descendants and can be proven to come from these ancestors?

The Power of Cousins

While Mary is the only cousin descended from Lazarus Dodson and Elizabeth Campbell, through another child, there are LOTS of other cousins who are descended  through the same child of Lazarus Dodson and Elizabeth Campbell that I descend from through daughter Ruthy Dodson.  Additionally, one cousin, William P. descends through George Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins.

I manage a number of kits for cousins. I’ve downloaded their matches and sorted to see which of the various cousins might match Mary.

Lo and behold, look at this!  Jackpot!

dodson-cousin-mary-matches

Several cousins match Mary, and look, several segments in the red squares, triangulate between cousins, and Mary, as well. We know this is either Campbell, Dodson or Dobkins DNA, we just don’t know which. Even removing the Dodson DNA, hypothetically, without people who descend from either the Dobkins line, but not the Campbell line, or vice versa, there is no way to tell which is which.

Of the cousins above, William P. descends from George Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins, while the balance all descend from Ruthy Dodson Estes. Those segments that triangulate between William P. and anyone else MUST be from the Campbell/Dobkins lineage, and not the Dodson line, because William P. does not descend from the Dodson line.

dodson-dobkins-campbell-line-2

Therefore, the triangulated match on chromosome 2 between Mary, Iona and William P. descends through the Campbell/Dobkins line and not Lazarus Dodson.  Not only that, but it’s a huge segment of 44 cM for double 4th cousins that has descended for five generations. Unfortunately, we just proved that this isn’t Lazarus’s DNA, but the rest could be.

Stacy’s match to Mary, Carol and Charlene on chromosome 12 is quite interesting. Let’s take a look.

Stacy is my half-sister’s granddaughter, so the common ancestor between Stacy and me is my father. In this case, we know unquestionably that my father carried the portion of chromosome 12 that Stacy carries, but that I did not inherit that segment.  This tells me that I inherited DNA from my father’s mother’s side on that segment.  That’s useful to know, even if it is via the back door through process of elimination.

Obviously, Carol, Mary and Charlene inherited that segment from their common ancestor(s).  Both Carol and Charlene descend from Ruthy Dodson Estes through her son, Lazarus Estes. Carol and Charlene’s lines diverge at Lazarus, but Charlene descends from my father’s brother.

dodson-cousin-mary-pedigree

While the chart above shows that Mary, Stacy, Charlene and Carol all 4 received the same segment of Elizabeth Campbell or Lazarus Dodson’s green DNA on chromosome 12, it doesn’t really show the full effect.

dodson-cousin-mary-green-pedigree

We know that all of these family members in green inherited this exact same DNA segment, and passed it along to the bottom generation. In this group, I’m the odd person out – having not received the green DNA from my father, while my sister did.

While these are not my matches that happen to triangulate, they are indeed my cousins and this triangulated DNA is that of my ancestors that I just don’t happen to carry.

Thank goodness for the power of cousins and the staying power of DNA for 7 proven generations!!!

A Mystery Man

Despite being able to piece some of Lazarus Dodson’s life together, we have gaping holes and many unanswered questions.  I just have the feeling that there is a very big piece of Lazarus’s life missing, some key event or cornerstone element – possibly surrounding the property beneath Cumberland Gap at Butcher Springs.  If we had that piece of information, perhaps the rest would fall into place and make sense.

Was his marriage license to Elizabeth Campbell lost in Claiborne County? That’s certainly possible.

When did Lazarus go to Alabama, and why? How long did he stay?

Did Elizabeth die in Alabama or back in Tennessee?  In McMinn County or Claiborne?

Why did Lazarus repurchase his father’s land in 1826, or 1829?

What was going on with that land transaction? There are certainly some oddities.

What relationship did Lazarus have with the Pace, Hogan and Lea families?

What about that lawsuit in Hawkins County he never showed for?

If he sold his land when he left, in 1833, why did he have unpaid taxes in 1835 for 1833 and 1834?

Why did Lazarus leave his children in Tennessee with their grandparents when he left for Kentucky about 1833? His oldest would have been 13 and his youngest about 6.

For that matter, why did he leave his children with their Campbell grandparents by 1830, and where was he in 1830?

Who is Mary Dodson born in 1831?  Who was her mother?

Did Lazarus have a second wife between Elizabeth Campbell and Rebecca Freeman that we know nothing about?

Did Lazarus ever pay what was owed according to the court in 1837, or is that perhaps part of the reason he went to Kentucky in the first place?

If Lazarus was living in Kentucky in 1839, how did he meet and marry Rebecca Freeman in Claiborne County, TN?

Where was Lazarus Dodson in the 1840 and 1850 census?

Why did Lazarus actually sign the deed in 1861? Was this a remnant of the “odd” land transactions surrounding that piece of ground on Tiprell Road that remained since 1826 or maybe even earlier, with his father in 1810 and 1819?

This leaves me with a feeling that there was something odd going on, and perhaps Lazarus Dodson was flying a bit beneath the radar. Perhaps Pulaksi County, Kentucky Records would be enlightening.