Save Even MORE at Family Tree DNA – Join a Project! (Plus This Week’s Coupons)

In addition to the first three money saving discounts on Y DNA tests from Family Tree DNA, there’s yet another way to save even MORE money:

  • Holiday Sale Prices on all products – listed here
  • Free 111 marker upgrade with Big Y – described here
  • Why the Big Y Test? – discussed here
  • Weekly coupons – listed on everyone’s personal page and I’ll be sharing mine weekly – see below
  • Join a project (for those who have not yet Y DNA tested)

Yes, you can save even more money by joining a project.

How does that work?

How Can I Save More By Joining A Project?

The free 111 marker upgrade with a Big Y test requires you to test or have tested at some level before you can order a Big Y test.

That means anyone who has tested even at the 12 marker level can purchase the Big Y and obtain the 111 upgrade for free.

Outside of a project, customers can only order a minimum of a 37 marker test – because that’s really the minimum informative test today. Typically a 12 marker test would only be useful to rule out a possible match.  But in this case, in order to purchase the Big Y for someone who has never tested before – the 12 marker test is suddenly VERY useful.

By joining a project, you can still purchase a 12 marker test and that reduces the Big Y bundle price yet again.

For people who have not done any Y DNA testing, this is an unbelievable value.

Joining A Project

To find an appropriate Y DNA project to join, go to the main Family Tree DNA page and type the surname of the man to be tested into the “Search your Surname” box.

I typed Estes.

You will then be shown various projects where the project administrators have listed Estes as one of the surname that is of interest to their project members.

I’m clicking on the Estes project, because Estes men should join the Estes project.  (You can join other projects later.)

You can see that the 12 marker Y DNA project is showing as an available purchase option for $59, above.

By clicking the orange “order now” button, you can order the 12 marker test for $59, further reducing the cost of testing.

You will automatically be joined to this project, and you can join other projects later.

It’s a Little More Complicated – But Not Much

Since the Big Y is only an upgrade test – meaning you must take any Y DNA STR test before ordering the Big Y – this means that your Y DNA test must be registered to your account before you can order the upgrade.

In Family Tree DNA lingo, this means that your order must be entered into a batch. Orders are batched at the end of the day every Monday and Wednesday, so if you will be able to upgrade to the Big Y as soon as your STR panel test, Y12 in this case, is batched.

Now, the challenge is of course that the Big Y coupons could be long gone by the time your order is batched.  You might need to order the Y12 this week, then wait until next week and hope you’re quick enough to find a Big Y coupon.

When you’re ready to upgrade, sign in to the account where you ordered the STR panel test and simply click upgrade, order the Big Y, and you’ll receive the 111 upgrade for free.

This strategy, even though it is slightly more complicated, will save you $$.

How much money, you ask?

Savings

The savings with this approach is even better. You can save a total of $424 as compared with purchasing these products individually.  And the projects will love having additional people join.  This benefits everyone, because projects are the best sources for help with your results.

There are at least some $50 Big Y discount coupons available as well as $25.

After your results are back, please be sure to join the appropriate haplogroup projects too. A haplogroup designation is part of what you receive when you test. The haplogroup project administrators are experts in their particular haplogroup – and what that means to you!

Additional Coupons

Every Monday Family Tree DNA issues Holiday Reward coupons between now and the end of the year.  If you (or someone) uses your coupon to purchase something, Family Tree DNA issues you a second Bonus Reward.

  1. First, I’d like to give a big shout out to my cousin, Jim, who contributed his coupons in addition to mine, below. You can see from the sheer number that we’re both seriously genetic genealogy addicted.
  2. Second, please do me a favor, and if you make a purchase, especially using one of the coupons, I’d really appreciate it if you use my affiliate link.  I receive a small commission if you use my link, and it doesn’t cost you a penny more. It helps keep the lights on for me (and keeps the blog free for everyone) – so if you enjoy and utilize this blog – please click through to purchase and don’t just gather the coupon numbers and post them elsewhere.
  3. Third, if you want to be among the first to receive these e-mails with coupons and other hot-off-the-presses information, subscribe by clicking on the little grey “follow” button on the upper right hand corner of the main blog page at www.dna-explained.com.

So, please click here to sign on and redeem the coupons below, purchase a product or upgrade! Thanks and enjoy the savings!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA

Why the Big Y Test?

My recent article about the Big Y test sale and coupons bundled with a free 111 marker upgrade at Family Tree DNA generated quite a number of questions about the Big Y DNA test itself, and why a male might want to take one. I’ll answer that question, along with a few more that have arisen, as well sharing some of my coupons.

Why the Big Y?

Y DNA tests test a man’s direct paternal (usually surname) line and fall into two groups.

  • STRs – Short Tandem Repeats
  • SNPs – Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms

The first group, STRs, are the typical 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 Y DNA tests.  STR marker location values change rapidly, as compared to SNPs which mutates more slowly.

Each STR test tests the number of STR markers it’s named for. In other words, a 37 marker test tests 37 marker locations with the goal of matching other men with the same surname. Often, as you test higher levels, the results become much more specific and you “lose” matches to men with non-matching surnames. In this case, “losing” is a good thing, like weight!

The closer the STR match on more markers, the more reliable the results. Fewer matches generally mean we’re filtering out the more distant matches in time and the closer in time you shared a common ancestor with the people you match the most closely on the highest marker test you’ve both taken.

In other words, you might match 50 people at 37 markers, but only 20 at 67 markers and 4 at 111 markers.  Those 4 men are the most closely related to you on that direct paternal line – which is why we strongly suggest that people upgrade to 111 markers.

You can see in this example from the Estes project that the first two people whose surname is Estes are not biologically descended from the same male as the last four individuals – because their STR markers showing in the project are quite different.

Because STR markers mutate more rapidly, they are very useful for genealogy – and are used for that purpose.  An exact high marker match (typically 37, 67 or 111) to a male with the same surname indicates that you share a common ancestor with that man, probably within the past few generations and certainly since the advent of surnames. STR mutations sometimes happen independently in different lines, and when that happens, it’s called matching by convergence.

SNPs, on the other hand, are much more stable and mutate at a much slower rate and are therefore sometimes not as useful for traditional genealogy – BUT – they have the power to look further back in time where we have no tools other than DNA to make discoveries about our ancestors.

In general, but not always, men known to descend from a common ancestor will share the exact same “terminal SNP” – meaning the SNP mutation that happened the most recently.  Sometimes a SNP mutation will have happened in the past few generations and men who share a common ancestor since the advent of surnames will have a different terminal SNP, but not often and if they do, it’s generally only one step down the haplotree from each other. Just the “son” leaf on that branch.

On the Big Y haplotree, above, of an Estes male, five people match him on the BY490 branch, six on the BY482 branch above, and so forth. Of course, the next question is who matches him on these branches, so he will look at his Big Y match list to see those individuals.

What this means is that, in general, SNPs define more distant clan relationships, because they happen less often, and STRs define more recent surname relationships – although the more SNPs that are discovered – the more instances of some overlap we see.

The following chart shows where the two kinds of testing are the most useful – which illustrates why we need both kinds of testing.

Sometimes, there are no new SNP mutations that have occurred in a particular since the adoption of surnames. Of course, there is an exception to every guideline, and it just might be you. In fact, it could be between you and your father, or your father and his father. You don’t know what you don’t know and the only avenue to discovery is DNA testing.

What Does the Big Y Do?

While the STR panel tests specific addresses on the Y DNA to read a specific location – the Big Y test is a scan that scans the majority of the Y chromosome.

In other words, the 37 marker test provides you with results for 37 individual locations, or alleles, on the Y chromosome by measuring the number of repeats found at those locations specifically.

However, the more DNA addresses to be checked, the more expensive the test – which is why STR testing is broken into panels.

The Big Y test scans the majority of the Y chromosome to compare to a standard Y DNA pattern.  Because scan technology, known as NGS or next generation sequencing, allows us to look at tens of thousands of locations, it is not as accurate as looking at one specific location (think google satellite view versus driving down the street).  The DNA sequencing equipment scans the entire Y chromosome several times, like 25 or 30, and then reports on how many times something out of the ordinary is seen at a specific location.

If the scan spots something unusual 10 times or more, it’s called as a positive “result.”  Ten times or less, it’s considered a blip and not a high enough confidence result to consider as a valid result to report to a customer.

Why Do You Care?

As a customer, you may not care about the scans and underlying scientific processes that I just described – but you do care about the outcome which is your confirmed haplogroup closest in time to you on the tree. That information is important genealogically.

The Y DNA haplotree is the result of mutations that occurred every few hundred or few thousand years over the lifetime of mankind.  The mutation that identifies you the most closely with your closest male relatives is the last mutation that occurred that you all share – or don’t – which means a new mutation happened since the advent of your surname, assuming you do actually descend from a common ancestor and don’t just circumstantially carry the same surname. Yes, that does occasionally happen.

The result for the customer who takes the Big Y test is that the haplogroup predicted through STR testing is confirmed and generally several more branches and leaves are added to your own personal haplogroup tree.

Family Tree DNA very accurately predicts your branch haplogroup when you take an STR test, but it’s a major branch, near the tree, not a small branch and certainly not a leaf.  Smaller branches can’t be accurately predicted nor larger branches confirmed without SNP testing. The most effective way to SNP test for already discovered haplogroups – plus new ones never before found – perhaps unique to your line – is to take the Big Y.

While all of this science may not sound exciting at first glance, the results certainly can be, for a genealogist anyway.

The Big Y:

  • Confirms estimated haplogroups.
  • Provides you with your haplogroup closest in time – meaning puts twigs and leaves on your branches.
  • Helps to build the Y DNA tree, meaning you can contribute to science while learning about your own ancestors.
  • Confirms that men who do match on the same STR markers really ARE in the same haplogroup.
  • Shows matches further back in time than STRs can show.
  • Maps the migration of the person’s Y line ancestors.

Together, STR and SNP tests provide us with the closest mutations meaning the most genealogically relevant as well as (generally) older and more distant mutations, giving us at least some information before the age of surnames. This means you will match men who adopted surnames about the same time your ancestors did.  If you are a McDonald, you might match men whose surname is Campbell, as an example. Or, you might match men with Scandinavian surnames.  All of these pieces of information add to the story of your ancestors before surnames and records – the point at which your paternal line is unquestionably lost to traditional genealogy. Big Y testing is a way to reach back behind that veil.

How else will you ever learn the history of your ancestor in that timeframe? And why wouldn’t you want to?

Summary

If you are interested in discovering any of this information, the Big Y is the most thorough avenue for the genealogist.  You can purchase some SNP markers individually, but that gets expensive very quickly, and you can’t learn about any new markers your DNA might hold if you purchase only SNP markers previously known to exist. Y DNA holds hundreds or even thousands of SNPs with mutations to report.

Additionally, many men’s DNA also holds never-before-discovered SNP mutations.  You can’t discover those any way other than a Big Y test.

Who Should Purchase the Big Y?

  • Males who want to discover their ancestor’s story before the advent of surnames.
  • Men who want to confirm and extend their haplogroup.
  • Men who want to be pioneers and discover new SNPs in their DNA – never previously found.
  • Males who want to participate in research and building the Y DNA tree.
  • Males who have previously taken some level of STR tests at Family Tree DNA.

The Big Y is only an upgrade test. You can only see the Big Y as a purchase option on your account as an upgrade.  Click on the blue Upgrade button located in your Y DNA section or at the top right of your personal page.

Questions

  • I want to discover my father’s paternal line, but I’m a female. What can I do?

Answer – Test your father or brother, or a male relative who carries your father’s surname and descends from the common male ancestor through the direct paternal line.  The article, Concepts – Who To Test For Your Father’s DNA will help you find a male to test for your father’s line.

  • I’m a male, but I haven’t taken any Y DNA test? How can I take the Big Y?

Answer – Easy.  Just order the Y37 test at Family Tree DNA first – then add the Big Y after the Y 37 has been recorded on your account.

  • Is Family Tree DNA using the Big Y scan data to provide the 111 marker upgrade?

Answer – No, according to the lab, they can only reliably extract 72 of the 111 markers from Big Y scan data, reliably, and they do not want to have unreliable STR marker results in the data base, so they will be running the 111 upgrades on the traditional testing platform, not extracting from Big Y scanned data.

  • Is there a sale or coupons?

Answer – In fact, there is a sale, coupons AND you currently receive a free upgrade to 111 markers with the purchase of a Big Y. For example, let’s say that you have already purchased the 37 marker test, or you order that now. You can redeem a coupon (assuming you can find one) in addition to the sale price.  You can then upgrade to the Big Y, which means you receive BOTH the 67 and 111 free.  You can ALSO apply a Big Y coupon to the purchase, if you can fine one, as well.

Here’s an example.

In essence, you receive the entire Y DNA testing package, which would normally cost $912 for $569 which saves you $343.

  • I don’t want to take the Big Y test, I just want to order a 111 marker test. Can I do that?

Answer – Yes, just order the 111 marker test. It’s on sale too and you can redeem a coupon, below, for more savings.

  • I’ve already taken the 111 marker test? Do I still get a discount on the Big Y?

Answer – You still receive the sale price for the Big Y of $475 as well as a discount coupon, assuming you can find one. (See below.)

  • When I click to order the Big Y, I don’t see a free upgrade to 111 markers. How to I order the free upgrade?

Answer – You don’t have to select the free upgrade to 111 markers.  Everyone automatically receives the upgrade when you order the Big Y.  If you already ordered since the sale began, you will receive this without doing anything. Do, however, watch your account to be sure you do receive the upgrade.

  • Can I use coupons plus receive the free 111 marker upgrade when I purchase the Big Y?

Answer – Yes, you receive the sale price, plus you can use each coupon one time.  In addition, if you purchase the Big Y, you receive the 111 upgrade automatically.

  • Where can I find a discount coupon?

Answer – Every customer receives one each week on your personal page.  I will also be sharing mine each week. I shared some yesterday, at this link, and there are more below.

Click here to sign on, redeem your coupons (or mine below) and order. Happy Black Friday early!!!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Best Big Y Deal EVER – Includes FREE 111 Upgrade at Family Tree DNA

Sorry for these really short blog posts – but I’ve just heard from Elliott Greenspan about the best deal EVER at Family Tree DNA, on the Big Y test that includes a FREE STR upgrade.  I don’t think this has been announced officially, so please feel free to forward the link to this article! This deal is so good, I wish I was a male!!!

During the holiday sale which started last weekend, any customer who purchases the Big Y will receive a free upgrade to Y 111 from any level STR test.  You MUST currently have a Y DNA test either ordered or completed in the system.

This means that if you don’t currently have a Y DNA test, and you’re a male (or have a male you want to test,) you can place a Y DNA test for any level and then go in and order a Big Y test, using any coupons. This deal is in ADDITION to any coupons you may have. You may have to wait a bit to order the Big Y until your regular Y DNA test order is registered in the system.

You’ll get a coupon discount on both orders (regular test and Big Y), and you’ll receive the Big Y AND a free upgrade to 111 that you automatically receive when purchasing a Big Y.

Here are a few coupons from my kits that you can use for a purchase discount.  Check your own kit for more.

Click here to sign in and take advantage of the following specials:

  • Holiday pricing for everyone
  • Coupons
  • Free 111 upgrade with Big Y

If you have coupon numbers to share with others, feel free to list in the comments!

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Big Changes for Big Y Test at Family Tree DNA

Today, I received a notification from Family Tree DNA (for group administrators) about some significant and very welcome changes to the Big Y test results.

The Big Y test, launched in November 2013, is a test for men who have already taken the regular Y DNA 37, 67 or 111 marker tests and want to refine their haplogroup further, or contribute to the building of the Y haplotree, or both. The Big Y test scans the entire Y chromosome for mutations, known as SNPs, which finds mutations on the Y chromosome that define branches of the paternal line of humanity. Some of these SNPs are already known, but some may be new, scientific discoveries found in your own DNA.

There’s lots to learn from Big Y testing, especially in conjunction with other testers through matching and haplogroup projects. The Big Y test has been responsible for taking the Y tree from hundreds of branches to tens of thousands that each tell a story of a branch or twig of mankind. That branch just happens to be yours and the people you match on that branch share a similar history.

In order to discern as much as possible, I have tested at least one man in each of my family lines for the Big Y. In the Estes line, I used the Big Y to shed light on a long-standing family story that probably isn’t true. The Big Y from my Lentz line produced very surprising results, matching an ancient burial along the Volga River from the Yamnaya culture. You can read more about that here. This just goes to show that you don’t know what you don’t know until you test.

The Big Y test, a deep dive into your haplogroup history, combined with the STR 37, 67 or 111 STR marker tests provide you with the most information you can obtain from Y DNA. The STR panels are focused on mutations that happen more frequently, so are relevant to genealogy in the past 500-800 years while the SNPs that define haplogroup branches happen less frequently, are viewed as “once in the lifetime of mankind” types of events, and speak to our older history, typically before the advent of surnames. Having just said that, I’ll also add that newer SNPs are being found that have occurred in a genealogical time frame and that do sometimes differentiate different lines of a family.

If you have taken a Y DNA 37, 67 or 111 marker test, you can upgrade to the Big Y by clicking on the blue upgrade link on your home page in the Y DNA section or in the upper right hand corner.

Big Y testers must first have tested to at least the 37 marker level, so the Big Y cannot be ordered without first ordering (or upgrading to) at least the 37 marker test.

The Announcement

Here’s what Family Tree DNA has to say about the new release:

Dear Group Administrators,

We’re releasing a big update to Big Y on October 10th and want to give you a first look before the release goes live.

Once the release is live, we will be recalculating Big Y matches. We anticipate this to take approximately 5-7 days. During this time, you will see a “Results Pending” page when you click on the Big Y section. You will be notified by email once your results are processed and ready.

Once the transition is complete, we will update you as to when BAM files will be available.

What’s New?

Here’s the breakdown of what we added and how it all works

Human Genome 38

We’ve updated from hg19 to hg38. This is a more accurate representation of the human genome and is the most recent version referenced by the human genome community.

Some of the advantages of hg38 are:

  • Better mapping of NGS data to the proper location
  • Consideration of alternative haplotypes across the genome

For more information about human genome builds, click here.

Terminal SNP Guide

We’ve added a terminal SNP Guide that allows you to view and filter the branches closest to the tester’s terminal branch on the haplotree.

BIG Y Browser

We’re giving you the ability to view your SNP data from Big Y. This will allow you to personally assess all SNP call positions that are being evaluated for matching purposes. This data will be continuously updated.

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

James Lee Claxton/Clarkson (c1775-1815), Died at Fort Decatur, Alabama, 52 Ancestors #166

James Lee Claxton or Clarkson was born about 1775, but our first hint of him is found in Russell County, Virginia in the court records that begin in 1799.

The surname, Claxton, has become Clarkson in several subsequent generations – but even today, in Claiborne and Hancock Counties when people refer to this family who spells their last name Clarkson, it’s pronounced like Claxton or Claxon.

I’m transcribing the names as they are spelled in the records, but I’m referring to James as Claxton. His earliest records are found spelled that way, as are most of his DNA matches.

Russell County, VA

In the Russell Co., VA Court Minute Book 3, 1799-1808:

February 25, 1800, Page 47 – James Claxton, Surveyor of the road in place of James LeMarr and that John Tate furnish a list of tithables.

June 13, 1800, Page 62 – John Tate assigned to furnished Thomas Johnson and James Claxton, surveyors of the road with a list of tithables.

August 26, 1800, Page 80 – Commonwealth vs James Claxton, dismissed.

I’d love to know what that was about.to

February 24, 1801, Page 109 – William Tate, Jr. be surveyor of the road in place of James Claxton and that Thomas Johnson furnish him a list of tithables

March 24, 1801, Page 118 – Commonwealth vs James Claxton, dismissed.

Again? Maybe this has something to do with why his position as surveyor of the road was assigned to William Tate.

February 23, 1802, Page 177 – Zachariah Fugate, Peter Counts, Richard Davis, James Claxton, to view a road from the forks of the road where it takes off Davises until it intersects the road the side of John’s cabins.

James couldn’t have been in too much trouble, since he is still given a position of responsibility.

June 22, 1802, Page 195 – Commonwealth vs Nathan Hobbs, presentment, Jury: Littleberry Robinson, Edward Monahon, Jacob Castle, Peter Starns, Thomas Stapleton, William Hall, John Williams, Robert Lawson, James Claxton, Henry Goodman, John Hall and Peter Alley, def found not guilty

The fact that James Claxton is on a jury list strongly suggests that he is a landowner, but no land records for James have ever been found in Russell County.

Tax lists exist for 1787-1800, 1802 and legislative petitions exist for 1785 and 1810. Some are only partial lists.

The first year that we find James Claxton mentioned is in 1800 in the lower district of Russell County. The upper district is missing.

This timetable is reasonable, because that’s about the time he married Sarah Cook, whose father, Joel Cook also lived in Russell County.

In 1801, we again find James in the lower district and Clayton, John and Joel Cook in the upper district.

In 1802, we find James Claxton in the Upper District of Russell County, along with Joel Clayton, George John Cook.  The tax list is in alpha order, so we don’t know the proximity to each other.

However, there were no other Claxtons by any spelling of the name. Where did James Lee Claxton come from, and why?

Don’t I wish I knew!

Not long after they are married, James Claxton and his bride, Sarah Cook, migrate south across the border of Virginia into Tennessee.

In Russell County, Sarah’s father lived near present day Honaker, Virginia. The wagon trip to Claiborne County would have taken between 6 and 11 days and covered about 110 miles. A 2 or 3 hour drive today, through the mountains, but then it would likely have meant that Sarah seldom, maybe never, saw her parents again.

James and Sarah weren’t the only people from Russell County moving south. The Riley family and likely other Cook family members as well accompanied them and are found as their neighbors in their new location on Powell River.

Claiborne County, Tennessee

Claiborne County at that time encompassed the current Claiborne and Hancock Counties. Hancock was split from Claiborne in the 1840s, so the entire time that James Lee Claxton lived there, it was Claiborne.

The northern part of the county, now Hancock County, where James lived, is quite mountainous and the mountain ranges form the border with Lee County, Virginia.

The Powell River, where James Lee Claxton settled snakes between those mountains, having cut its way through granite – undulating back and forth and back and forth. You can see those bends in the river, below.

The location below, with the red arrow, is Claxton’s Bend where James Lee Claxton lived.

We don’t know exactly when James moved to Claiborne County, but we do know that he is not found on Russell County, VA tax lists after 1800. His eldest son, Fairwick, reports that he was born in 1799 and that he was born in Virginia, so that too is a clue.

Mahala, the next oldest child born in 1803 claims that she too was born in Virginia.

We first find James in a Claiborne County record in 1805.

It would be safe to say they moved between 1803 and 1805, although birth locations gleaned from census records have been known to be wrong before.

Claiborne County, TN Court Notes

June 16, 1805 –  page146 – William Bales overseer of the road from Williamson Trent’s to the Bald Hill near Martin’s Creek intersecting the Virginia line – hands Nathan Morgan, William Morgan, Mark Morgan, Zacharish Stephens, James Claxton, William Allen, Charles Rite, George Spencer, Elijah Smith, Joseph Mourning, William Hatfield, Henry Smith, Jacob Smith, William Evans, John Allen, James Allen, John Riley and John Parrot.

Sept 1805 – page 164 – James Claxton appointed constable, took oaths and gave securities John Husk and Isaac Southern

Sept 1805 – Henry Fugate allowed the following hands to work on road on the North side of Wallen’s ridge in Charles Baker’s company:

  • Nathan Watson
  • David Watson
  • James Poe
  • James Hist or Hust
  • James Morgan
  • John Colter
  • Isac Armstrong?
  • John Jones
  • Thomas Jones
  • Elisha Jones
  • John Rash
  • Zach Stephenson
  • William Pice
  • Isaac Southern
  • Charles Baker
  • William Crosedale
  • William Parton
  • Shelton Parton
  • Drury Lawson
  • James Claxton
  • Goen Morgan
  • William Morgan
  • Obediah Martin’s hand
  • William Martin
  • Johnston Hanbleton
  • Gainford Grimes
  • William Rutherford
  • Jacob Smith
  • Elijah Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Mark Foster
  • Aleander Richie
  • William Dohely?
  • Thomas Harrison
  • Isac Fauster

Road lists are wonderful resources, because they give you in essence a list of the neighbors who live along that road. Everyone was expected to help. Later, we’ll recognize John Riley as a close friend, swearing he had attended James’ wedding, and he’s on both of the above lists.

The Martins are the Martin’s who lived at Martin’s Branch, quite close to the Claxton’s on the Powell River.

Sept. 1806 – page 71 – John Ryla admin of estate of William Ryla decd and for that purpose entered into bond of $1500 for the lawful discharge of his duty – Isaac Southern and James Claxton securities.

Note, that’s really John Riley.

May 1808 –  page 184 – Deed from John Cage to Henley Fugate and John Riley 640 ac – witness James Claxton and William Bails

May 12, 1817 – page 342 – Sarah Claxton to administer the goods and chattels, rights and credits of James Claxton decd – bond Josiah Ramsey

Sarah Claxton be allowed $15 out of estate of James Claxton decd for her serviced rendered in the administration of estate.

August 11, 1817 – Sarah Claxton administrator of the estate of James Claxton decd returned inventory of personal estate – order of sale granted to sell personal estate of deceased.

Is that not sad? It’s bad enough that she lost her husband with a houseful of children, and now she has to lose everything else as well. Men were presumed to own everything and the widow was provided only one third of the value of the estate.

Unfortunately, there is no estate inventory in any of the surviving books.

Feb. 11, 1818 – page 41 – On motion William Graham and Mercurious Cook appointed commissioners to settle with Sarah Claxton administrator of James Claxton decd and make report to the next court.

The great irony is that this was exactly three years to the day after James’s death.

I had always wondered if Mercurious Cook was a relative of Sarah’s, but if he were, he would not have been appointed to settle with her on James’s estate.

James married in 1799, but he was dead by 1817, less than 18 years later. Early deaths always make me incredibly sad, because I know full well what that means to the widow and children.

How did James die? We’ll find out shortly.

Land

By 1810, James owned land in Claiborne County.

1810 – John Hall to James Claxton, 1810, book C-58 (looked up in later Hancock County book for description – 100 acres on the North side of Powell River, Hobbs line, granted in grant 2051 to John Hall from the state of Tn.) – this is the power of attorney to Walter Evans to sell his land entry “after it ripens into a grant” to James Claxton – dated October 29, 1810, registered April 1811

1811 – John Hall to James Claxton, 1811, D-94 for $10 – original states Dec. 4, 1811, John Hall of Sumner County and James Claxton of Claiborne, $300, 100 acres adjacent the land of Thomas Hobbs on the North side of the Powell river, bank of Powell river, up said river, land originally contained in grant 2051 granted to said Hall by the state of Tn. Oct 27 1811. Signed John Hall by Walter Evans his attorney.

By piecing deeds and surveys together over time, we know that the Claxton family all lived adjacent.

Fairwick Claxton, James’s son, was granted land in 1833 which abutted his brother Henry’s and his mother Sarah’s land.

The Claxton’s lived on the Powell River, at a place still known as Claxton’s bend.

We are quite fortunate for an 1834 deed that lists the children of James Claxton and Sarah.

1834 – Fairview Claxton to Sarah Claxton, 1834, Book O-233 for $70.00 – original reads March 27th, 1834, between Farwick Clarkson, Andrew Hurst and wife Mahala, John Plank and wife Elizabeth, Levi Parks and wife Susannah, John Collinsworth and wife Rebecca, Jacob Parks and wife Patsy, heirs at law of James Clarkson deceast of the one part and Sarah Clarkson widow of the aforesaid James Clarkson decd of the other part, all of Claiborne Co. Tn. In consideration of:

  • Farwick Clarkson, $70 (signs with a signature – but all of the rest make marks. Fairwick’s wife is not included for some reason.)
  • Andrew Hurst and wife Mahala – $70
  • John Plank and wife Elizabeth – $70 or 20 (Debra’s note marked through)
  • Levi Parks and wife Susannah – $70
  • John Collensworth and wife Rebecca – $20
  • Jacob Parks and wife Patsy “Polly” – $20

To Sarah Clarkson, widow aforesaid, 100 acres, Claiborne on the North side of Powell river where Sarah lives and land that was conveyed to James Clarkson from John Hall of Sumner Co. Tn. – beginning at Hobbs line, bank of Powell river. Witnessed by John Riley and Johiel Fugate. Registered Jan. 1, 1841

Yep, that’s James original land from 1810 and now Sarah owns it free and clear, in fee simple.

And again, we find John Riley involved with the family.

Visiting the Claxton Land

 In 2005, with the help of a local woman who was able to find the “ford” crossing the Powell River, I was able to visit the Clarkson land. Actually, this was rather happenstance, because I was actually looking for the McDowell Cemetery. What I didn’t realize at the time, is the wonderful vista it would provide of the adjacent lands on the Powell River.

It was also before the days of Google maps, and before my visit to the Clarkson/Claxton cemetery in which I was trapped in the cemetery with a cousin by a lovelorn bull. So, at the time I first visited and forded the Powell River, I didn’t know exactly where the Claxton land was, but I knew that is was nearby because of the hand-drawn surveyor’s map that so helpfully labeled Claxton’s bend.

The McDowell land is within sight of the Claxton land and because the McDowell land is high, appropriately known as “Slanting Misery,” even yet today, you can climb to the top of Misery Hill and view the surrounding lands. And trust me, having done it, not once, but twice, in the dead of summer, it’s very aptly named.

On the map above, the Claxton family cemetery, where I’m sure that Sarah is buried, along with her son Fairwick and many other family members is shown with the left red arrow.

The middle arrow is where I waded, yes, waded, across the Powell River and the right arrow is the location at the top of the hill on Slanting Misery where I climbed to survey the area.

Here’s a closeup on the Claxton Family Cemetery, now called the Cavin Cemetery, named after the current owners. It’s fenced and located in a field at the intersection of Owen Road and River Road, shown above. You can see the square fenced area.

Do you want to come along on my little River adventure?

Actually, I had to go twice, because I was unable to find the McDowell Cemetery the first time. I’ll spare you the story about the bull chasing us away the second time. It seems that every farmer in Hancock County has their own bull. In Indiana, where I grew up, farmers shared one bull – but he was always an extremely happy bull.

The first visit was much more serene, probably because I didn’t realize the level of bull-related danger, so come along.

To begin this chapter of our story, let’s look at the Powell River as seen from Cumberland Gap.

If you wonder why I love this country, one look at this picture and you don’t have to wonder anymore.

Deep breath.

The Powell River cuts a deep swath through the mountains in both Claiborne and Hancock County, Tennessee. This picture is looking east towards Hancock County from the summit and overlook at Cumberland Gap.

The Powell River is certainly not a small river, and it can vary from lazily running along to a raging torrent, depending on the water level and the rain.

It’s pretty daunting to look across this river and not to know how deep it is. However, the only other option was to attempt to drive, and I can swim a lot better than my Jeep.

And yes, for the record, I DO know how difficult it is to get yourself removed from being stuck offroad in Hancock County. Let’s not talk about that right now. I’m still embarrassed.

This is a really bad photo of me screwing up my courage and wading the river. I was half way across when I realized my partner in crime, or supposed partner in wading, was still standing on the riverbank. Her excuse was that she was going to take my picture. I really think she was waiting to see if I was going to have to swim for shore. For the record, it wasn’t deeper than about 3 feet which is why we had to look for the “ford” which is notoriously shallow. The locals told me that the alternative was a 25-mile drive – through the mountains, on two track roads. I’ll wade, thank you.

If you’re wondering what I had in the bag, it was a camera and notes about how previous searchers found the cemetery years before, with a hand drawn map. It didn’t help.

It started out with “cross the river.”

So far, so good.

Then “follow the road…”

What road? Where?

…to the well.”

What well?

“…near the barn.”

Ok, I should be able to see something as big as a barn.

What barn? Where?

You get the idea.

Standing in the middle of the river, looking towards McDowell Shoals. The local folks said there used to be a swinging rope bridge across the river above that island, until it got washed away in a flood. Now THAT made me feel a LOT better. They said it was some hellatious flood.

I don’t know which flood swept this bridge away, but the floods in the region are legendary. The rivers drain the mountains and then empty into each other.

This photo is of the 1977 flood in Sneedville, the county seat of Hancock County where the Clinch River did a great deal of damage. The Powell River empties into the Clinch. Sneedville saw about 15 feet of water and the river was about 33 feet above normal and believed to have been about 10 feet higher than in the previous all time high recorded in 1826.

Here’s a picture of the Powell River somewhat upstream, near the Cumberland Gap, during the 1977 flood. It would have been worse downstream.

So, maybe Slanting Misery wasn’t so miserable after all and provided a safe retreat in a flood.

I do wonder how the Claxton land fared in the floods. It was quite a bit lower.

A report prepared by the US Department of the Interior after the 1977 flood, from which these flood photos were extracted, reported that the 1977 flood resulted from 3 days of rain that saturated the ground, followed by another 4 days of rain a couple days later that caused most of the water to reach the streams as surface runoff. The second rain event dumped more than 15 inches of water on the area.

The 1977 flood levels were the greatest since 1826 on the Powell River. The Claxtons would have been living on their land in 1826, although James.had already died, so Sarah and her children would have had to deal with whatever happened.

In any case, the Powell river can be quite powerful, especially when upstream creeks and rivers receive rainfall. Had I known that, I might have been watchful of the weather – but ignorance is bliss.

I climbed to the top of the hill on Slanting Misery and recorded the vista for posterity.  And am I ever glad that I did, because this is the land of not only the McDowell family, but the Claxtons and (not pictured) the Herrell’s, all of whom intermarried.

The land beyond the barn (yes, THAT barn) is the Claxton land, laying across the river that you can’t see, of course, because it’s in the “dip” between the trees. And yes, you CAN see the barn from on top of the hill, but not from the river level. They probably built the barn where it wasn’t subject to the annual spring floods.

This land is as beautiful as it is remote.

There is nothing like looking at the land of your ancestors to make your heart skip a beat.

Three families that lived here, the Claxtons, the McDowells and the Harrells would intermarry to create my grandmother, Ollie Bolton.

Five generations of ancestors lived on this land as neighbors. The blood of my kinfolk waters this land and has for more than 200 years.

James Claxton’s Death

I was invited to Alabama in July of 2006 to give a DNA presentation. I wasn’t too cracked up about that – Alabama in the dog days of summer – but I decided to go anyway. DNA evangelists, in those early days, took every opportunity to spread the word.

My one and only visit to Alabama would prove to be quite interesting, in a very unexpected way, having nothing to do with the speaking engagement.

I realized after I accepted that invitation that my ancestor, James Lee Clarxton, had died at Fort Decatur, Alabama on February 11, 1815, a casualty of the War of 1812, albeit through disease and not direct warfare. Still, he died in the line of duty, a place he would never have been if he were not serving his country, far from home, in the middle of winter, with little or no food.

More than two years later, on August 11, 1817, Sarah Cook Claxton, his wife, was appointed administrator of the estate of James and the estate was settled May 11, 1818.

I wonder if that means that Sarah wasn’t informed of his death until two and a half years later. Surely not, but why the delay in probating his estate? Typically estates were probated within 30 days – generally at the next court session. But not James’s.

In 1815, Sarah would have only been married for about 15 or 16 years. She and James had 8 children, although some of their birthdates are uncertain and conflict, unless there were twins.

  • Fairwick (or Fairwix) was born 1799/1800, died Feb 11, 1874 and married Agnes Muncy sometime around 1819.
  • Mahala was born in 1801, died in March 1892 and married Andrew Hurst.
  • Elizabeth was born about 1803, died in 1847 and married John Plank.
  • Mary Polly was born about 1803, died in 1887 and married Tandy Welch
  • Susannah was born about 1808, died in 1895 in Iowa and married Levi Parks.
  • Rebecca was born in 1808, died in 1880 in Union Co., TN and married John Collingsworth.
  • Martha Patsy was born in 1811, died in 1898 and married Jacob “Tennessee” Parks.
  • James born 1810/1815 in the 1840 census with a wife and 2 daughters, but by the time Sarah die in 1863, neither he nor his daughters are mentioned as heirs
  • Henry was born 1813/1815, died August 1838 and married Martha Patsy Gillus Walker.

Sarah, James’s widow, seemed to be quite independent. She never remarried, even though she had small children. She lived 48 years as a widow, not passing away until December 21, 1863, and did things that most women didn’t do during that timeframe. For example, she obtained not one, but multiple land grants.

In 1834, Sarah purchased 100 acres from the “heirs at law” of James Clarkson i.e. their children: Fairwix, Mahala, Elizabeth, Susanna, Rebecca, and Martha. Children Mary (Polly) and Henry are not mentioned in the deed. Henry probably was still living at home but Mary (Polly) had been married to Tandy Welch for fourteen years. Perhaps she received her inheritance when she married.

James’s Pension Record

Most of what is known about James Lee Clarkson/Claxton and his family is taken from the service and pension files of the National Archives. The pension file is voluminous, containing thirty-nine pages. It’s always a good day when you receive a thick envelope from the archives!

In the 1850’s, Congress passed several acts benefiting military survivors and widows. It was during that period that Sarah Clarkson applied for both his pension and bounty land. We know about his death because Sarah applied for both.

According to the Treasury Department letter dated Dec. 30, 1853, James Claxton enlisted on November 8, 1814 and died on February 11, 1815. His widow, Sarah, had received a half-pay pension of $4 per month under the Act of April 16, 1816.

Hancock Co, State of Tennessee – On this 8th day of March 1851 personally appeared before me a JP John Riley of Hancock Co., Tn. and John Taylor of Lee Co., Va. who being duly sworn according to law declare that Sarah Clarkson is the widow of James Clarkson decd who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. John Brockman in the 4th regiment of East Tennessee militia commanded by Col. Baylis – in the War with Great Britain declared by the United States of the 18th day of June 1812. That said Sarah Clarkson was married to James Clarkson decd in Russell Co. in the St. of Va on the 10th of October 1805 by one John Tate a JP in their presence, that the name of the said Sarah Clarkson before her marriage aforesaid was Sarah Cook, that her husband the said James Clarkson died at Fort Decature on the 20th of Feb. AD 1815 and that she is still a widow, and they swear that they are disinterested witnesses.   Signed by both John Riley and John Taylor and witnessed by AM Fletcher. Sworn before William T. Overton JP

John Riley again. A disinterested witness means that they don’t stand to benefit from the statement.

A second sworn statement is given below:

On March 8th, 1851 personally appeared before me Sarah Clarkson aged 76 years a resident of Hancock Co. Tn. who being duly sworn according to law declares that she is the widow of James Clarkson decd who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. Brock (number of regiment not recollected) regiment of E. Tennessee militia commanded by Colonel (too light to read) in the war with Great Britain declared June 18th, 1812. That her said husband was drafted at Knoxville Tn. on or about the 13th of November AD 1814 for the term of 6 months and continued in actual service as she is informed and believes in said War for the term of 3 months and 7 days and died at Fort Decatur or near there on or about the 20th of February 1815 as will appear on the muster rolls of his company on account of sickness. She further states that she was married to the said James Clarkson in Russell Co. VA on October 10th 1805 by one John Tate JP and that her name before her marriage was Sarah Cook and that her said husband died at Fort Decatur as aforesaid on the 20th of February AD 1815 and that she is still a widow. She makes this declaration for the purpose of obtaining the bounty land to which she may be entitled under the act passed September 25th, 1850. Witness Fairwick Clarkson (possibly others as the bottom of page is cut off) and she makes her mark.

James Lee Claxton’s death date is given variously as February 11 and February 20, by different sources.

In another statement, Sarah gave her marriage date to James Lee Claxton as October 10, 1799 which meshes better with the births of their children. By 1805, James and Sarah were living on the Powell River in what is now Hancock County, Tennessee, raising a family. Their oldest son, Fairwick (Fairwix, Farwick, Farwix), also my ancestor, was born in 1799 or 1800.

A third document tells us a little more about the circumstances of James death.

State of Tennessee, County of Hancock, on the 29th day of August in the year of our Lord 1853, personally appeared before me a JP within and for the county and state aforesaid. Foster Jones and Tandy Welch citizens of said state and county who being duly sworn according to law declare that they were personally acquainted with James Clarkson decd (sometimes called and written Claxton) who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. Brock in the 4th regiment as well as recollected of E. Tennessee militia commanded by Col. Bales in the War with Great Britain declared June 18 1812 and that the said James Clarkson (or Claxton) sickened and died before the expiration of the time for which he engaged to serve in the said war and he belonged to the said company and regiment to which we did and that we each of us have applied under the act of Sept. 28 1850 and obtained land warrants for our service in said war. Tandy Welch and Foster Jones both make their marks, AM Fletcher a witness and Stephen Thompson a witness.

Another statement indicates that both Tandy Welch and Foster Jones witnessed the death of James Claxton.

Tandy Welch, the man who was at James’ side when he died, five years later, on June 22, 1820, married James’ daughter, Mary.

On November 29, 1853, personally appeared before me Mrs. Sarah Clarkston, a resident of Hancock County aged 79 years…widow of James Clarkson…married about 1799…drew 5 years half pay in 1816…obtained 40 acres of land bounty dated Sept. 22, 1853 number 92928.

The War of 1812 is a rather neglected war, as they go. We don’t know a lot about where these men were on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. What follows is a little information about his regiment from The Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812.

The 4th Regiment, along with Colonel William Johnson’s Third Regiment and Colonel Edwin Booth’s Fifth Regiment, defended the lower section of the Mississippi Territory, particularly the vicinity of Mobile. They protected the region from possible Indian incursions and any British invasion. These regiments were under the command of Major General William Carroll. They manned the various forts that were located throughout the territory: Fort Claiborne, Fort Decatur, and Fort Montgomery, for example. Sickness was rampant in this regiment and the desertion rate was high. The regiment mustered in at Knoxville and was dismissed at Mobile.

And then this from one of the soldiers, Thomas David, at Camp Montgomery who kept a diary:

I now volunteered again and under Capt Henry Lane subsequently attached to Gen McIntosh. [Jones’ Regiment] I think it was the latter part of October 1814 that we were mustered into service at Fort Hawkins, and went soon (well supplied) to Fort Decatur, on the Tallapoosa river. We built boats to carry provisions down the river. We started overland to Fort Claiborne [Louisiana]. We got there eight days before the boats arrived with the food, and there was none at the Fort. We had bad times, some suffered extremely, some died. Before our supplies came reports came that the British had taken Fort Bowyer at Mobile point, and an attack upon the town fort was expected. What were we to do?

Sarah initially had problems collecting James’ pension and bounty land due to the difference in the spelling of his last name, Clarkson, under which she applied, vs Claxton. I fully understand that, because I have issues with James’s records today for the same reason.

Sarah did collect a widow’s benefit of half pay, $3.85 a month, for five years, although exactly when is unclear. During the 1850’s she also received a land grant of forty acres. However, she filed a deposition in March of 1854, claiming she was entitled to 80 acres. The 40 acre grant was cancelled (a copy of the cancelled certificate is in the pension file) and the 80 acre grant approved. In the for-what-it’s-worth category, the scanned version of his pension file at Fold3 is significantly incomplete.  More than half is missing, so I’m glad I ordered it from the National Archives years ago.

Sarah’s monthly pension ceased when the Civil War began. After the war, her son, Fairwick, filed an oath of loyalty in order to apply for restoration as administrator of her estate since Sarah had died. He also vouched for Sarah’s loyalty and testified about Sarah’s “heirs to wit”. Sukey Parks, wife of Lewis Parks, is said to have moved to Iowa some 20 years ago, Farwix and Polly are residents of Hancock County, Patsy and Mahala are in Claiborne County, and Rebecca is listed as living in Union County. Rebecca is reported as “disloyal”, meaning Confederate, but that “cannot be proven from personal knowledge.”

We know from James’s records that he was buried at Fort Decatur, on a hill not far from the fort. He never came home.  I wonder if Tandy Welch and Foster Jones, two of the local men in his unit, bore the responsibility of telling her about his death after they were discharged later in 1815. The war of 1812 ended just a month after James died – on March 23, 1815.

I decided that since I was going to Alabama anyway that I’d like to go and find James’ grave at Fort Decatur and pay my respects to him where he is actually buried.

That sounded much easier than it was to prove to be.

First, I had to find Fort Decatur.

Finding James

I began by trying to find the location of Fort Decatur. After many frustrated attempts, I finally discovered that the Fort was not preserved, but neither was it destroyed. It was simply abandoned and allowed to decay.

In subsequent years, the site had been purchased with a significant piece of other property by Auburn University for their Experimental Agricultural Farm. So one can get to the fort, if one can find the fort, which is another matter altogether. But then again, I thought, how difficult can a fort be to find?

I would discover that the answer to that question is not what it appeared.

I was fortunate to locate two local men who knew the area well and were raised there. Unfortunately, neither was able to accompany me during my visit. I arrived on a Sunday morning in one of the most remote places I’ve ever been. I pulled into the parking lot of a very rural church to ask directions, and the children were actually frightened of me. They literally ran inside to hide. I was both confused and felt terrible.

Then I realized I was literally right down the road from where the Tuskeegee Sylphilis Study infamously took place. Some things cast a very long shadow.

The local people didn’t even know there WAS a fort. Actually, I think they thought I was crazy. And the Experimental Agricultural Farm was completely deserted.

Fortunately, my friend had sent me an old drawing of the fort made shortly after its construction. It is located between the railroad tracks, which were not there when the fort was built, obviously, and the bend in the river.

I would wager that James is buried on that hill behind the fort. The documentation said it was near the spring.

My friend also sent me a photograph of the monument at Fort Decatur.  It was placed there in 1931 by the Alabama Anthropological Society (which ceased to exist long ago).  The inscription on the plaque reads:

FORT DECATUR

1814

Built by the 3d U. S. Inf.

You can see that it is illegible, but illegible or not, monument itself should at least be visible as it’s pretty good size, and fenced – right?

Fort Decatur was built by a contingent of NC militiamen in 1812/1813 as a fortification in the War of 1812 when our country was fighting with the English.

The Indians were backing the British because the British told them that if they won, they would return all of their lands. The Creek Indians were a particular stronghold, and these forts along the Alabama Rivers, plus some in Mississippi and Louisiana and Northern Florida provided protection for the then sparse residents and also for locations from which to fight.

Fort Decatur was relatively small, as forts go, and was only a militia stronghold, not a hospital or supply fort. Many of the soldiers from Fort Decatur traveled between Fort Montgomery and Fort Claiborne in Louisiana. Other contingents built other now defunct forts at the convergence of the Coosa and Talapaloose rivers – Fort Williams and Fort Strothers, also nearby, a large supply fort. Davis’s journal said that his regiment was dispatched, on foot, to Fort Claiborne but they beat the supply boat by almost 2 weeks and had nothing to eat. Getting troops someplace was one thing. Feeding them was quite another.

The regiments that were at Fort Decatur were devastated by famine, starvation and associated diseases. They probably also had typhoid, given the descriptions of what was going on. One soldier said that they lost 50% of their men, which according to the roster, is accurate. Most of the deaths were due to disease and starvation, not fighting the Creeks. All of this was incredibly sad, especially when I think of my ancestor’s last days.

I hate to think his death was for naught, but given that the war ended a month later, and that he wasn’t killed defending his country, but died a miserable death instead – I do feel that his life was wasted in the sense that his death was premature and pointless. I have to wonder what prompted him to join.

Most of these men didn’t even have horses, as soldiers had to supply their own, and they marched from Knoxville to Alabama, on foot, in the winter. Those who survived were discharged in May and then walked home again. In addition to James, there was a drummer and a fifer, typically boys between 12 and 15, as only 16 and over were allowed to fight. One of those young boys was possibly the brother of James’s wife, Henry Cook – so Sarah lost her husband and possibly her little brother or a nephew as well.

Very interesting indeed, and a devastating chapter in a War whose soldiers probably didn’t even understand why they were fighting. They were “drafted” or volunteered in the militia because they had no other choice. Both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War were passionate wars with a purpose, regardless of your perspective. This one was just something that had to be done.

Ironically, the Fort was built across from a very large Indian village that spanned 4 miles on the bends of the river. In 1815, the Indians came to the fort to ask for peace. Eventually, they were removed to Oklahoma along with the Cherokees. Some left and joined the Seminole in Florida.

One of the reasons I was able to find information about the fort is because the Governor of Tennessee, John Sevier, also died at the fort just a couple of weeks before James Claxton. Sevier was buried outside the fort on a hillside. The fort itself was built on the top of an Indian mound. Some years later, a contingent of men returned to Fort Decatur and exhumed Sevier, bringing him back to Tennessee and reburying him in Nashville. The location of Sevier’s body was marked at the time with a marble marker. Other graves were either entirely unmarked, or with wooden crosses. Given that half the men were dead, the other half likely sick, most of the graves were probably unmarked.

During a stop in the Tennessee archives in Nashville on my way to Alabama, I was able to unearth a great deal of information about the trip to exhume Sevier, but nothing that would definitively locate the cemetery or burial location today. Some think Sevier may not have been buried with the rest of the men, but I bet he was.

On the map below, the fort is marked, along with Sevier’s gravesite. Reports of the cemetery said it was near a spring, which is shown on the original drawing.

The roads have changed from the time that the “old Federal Road’ ran alongside the original Fort. The map below shows the current configuration.

A current topo map insert is shown below as well. Armed with all of this information, how could I fail to find the fort? The men who had grown up locally played on and in the fort as a child.

I gave this personal version of a scavenger hunt my best effort.

I found Milstead, which was located right on Highway 40. I found the University of Auburn farms, and the 4 brick houses where I’d guess the students stay. Not a soul was anyplace on the land. I went behind the big yellow building to the brick house back there too, and saw the road going on back. I followed the road, thinking either I’d find someone to ask or I’d find the fort. The road (2 track) went back and then along the railroad for maybe 1/8th mile, then crossed over the railroad track. From the maps I had found, it looked like the fort was between the railroad and the river, and that it was where the river bent to the west leaving the tracks. I have a GPS unit in my car, and I was at that location, and there is a hill, but the kudzu was so thick that I couldn’t see anything. I followed that road on for a ways and it shortly turned towards the river and there were “no trespassing” signs, which I ignored (against my better judgment) and followed the road down to the river. I thought maybe I could see the fort from that road down by the river, but I couldn’t.

I took a photo, which I now can’t find, and I left before someone started shooting at me. The area looked like it was privately owned after crossing the railroad track. In retrospect, I think I probably went too far. With kudzu covering everything, and I mean literally everything, it was impossible to tell.

I returned home very disappointed. It was a relatively miserable and disheartening trip. I seldom fail at finding something – especially a something that large.

I don’t mind tramping through the woods in 100 degree heat to find an ancestor – but not finding something as large as a fort, being miserable and having driven for more than 900 miles for the privilege was hard to bear.

My cousin, Daryl, and I were planning to return the following year, but life interfered and we have been unable to return to find the fort.

Fortunately, an unlikely source, YouTube has come to my rescue. Someone took a video “tour” of Fort Decatur, so we can all enjoy the visit.

Apparently nothing, or not much, is left of the original fort itself, just the earthworks. In part, this explains why I was unable to find a “fort.” Knowing that James died there while watching this video was a very moving moment. I couldn’t be more grateful for this man’s kindhearted posting of this video.

Above is a clip from the video within the “fort” itself, and below, the ditch that surrounded the fort.

And look, there’s that marker in the video! It does still exist.  I guess this is the closest thing to a grave marker that James Lee Claxton will ever have.

I found the location on Google maps, but try as I might, I can’t see the marker or the remains of the fort. However, the bend in the River is distinctive and we know that the fort is located right beside the river, about where the T is in Tallapoosa.

The tiny village of Milstead is in the lower left corner.  The Auburn farm is the circle driveway and the farm to the left of the circle driveway.  I believe they own the area from 40 to the river.

The fort would have been located in the forested area below, between the hill and the river, and the gravesite wouldn’t have been far. Looking at this area today, compared with the map that shows John Sevier’s grave, it certainly looks like the gravesites were near the railroad.

Utilizing the various maps and hints, I think that the fort is right about where the tip of the red arrow is located, below. The green area below the fort would be the hill, as draw on the original map and current day topo. The two blue arrows to the left would be the old road that fords the river, and the road approach on the far bank. The two blue arrows on the right side are the spring and the stream. This leave, of course, the hill in the middle between the fort, the railroad tracks,and the various blue arrows. If James was buried on the hill, near the spring, he could have been buried on the right side of the hill area, probably not far from the road cut today, which you can see between the right blue bottom arrow and the railroad tracks..

Additional research and working with the University revealed that during the time when the railroad tracks were laid that human bones were unearthed and pretty much ignored. I have to wonder if those bones were the bones of the men who died during the War of 1812. We know that several soldiers died at this location, roughly half of the men stationed here were reported as deceased during their enlistment, although only about 6 were noted on the roster as having died in January and February.

However, given that the fort location was near the Indian village and mound, the bones uncovered could also have been Native bones. None were salvaged. They were quickly “reburied” by recovering them with dirt.

I know that the chances of me going back to Alabama AND finding Fort Decatur are slim to none, but I have certainly gotten closer to the gravesite of James Clarkson than any other family member ever has. I paid my respects, such as they were.

I suspect James’ widow, Sarah, always wanted to visit his grave. She never really got to say goodbye. His youngest children never knew him.

Tandy Welch, James’s future son-in-law was with James when he died and was probably one of the men who buried James. Sarah and his children would have had to be content to know that at least James had two old friends with him, Tandy Welch and Foster Jones. James too would have taken comfort knowing that Tandy would help look after his young family. That’s probably how Tandy came to marry James’ daughter.

Sarah never remarried.

James Claxton’s Y DNA

We had two burning questions when we began DNA testing on the Claxton line.

First, were the various groups of Claxton, Clarkson, Clarkston and similar surnames one group, or many?

To some extent, we’ve answered that question.

There are several unrelated groups of men, as you can see when looking at the Claxton Y DNA project. By the way, we welcome all Claxton and Clarkson descendants, so please test at Family Tree DNA and join the project. If you are a male Claxton or Clarkson, take the Y DNA test at 37 markers or above, in addition to the Family Finder test. For everyone else descended from any of these lines, take the Family Finder test and please, join the Claxton project.

What is surprising is that some men found in or near the same geographic locations do not have matching Y DNA, meaning they don’t share a common direct paternal line.

In some cases, based on their genealogy, we know these men who don’t match are truly descended from different lines. In other cases, we may have encountered some new lines, meaning those through uncertain parentage or adoption whose surname has remained Claxton, but their Y chromosome is reflective of a different ancestor.  We consider those “new” Claxton lines, because they are clearly Claxton from here forward.

Our second question was the geographic origins of our Claxton line. Where did our ancestors live before they immigrated? Of course, the best way to tell would be for a Claxton male from that location to take the Y DNA test, and match our line, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

One of our Claxton men took the Big Y test. Thank you immensely!

The Big Y test scans virtually the entire Y chromosome for mutations called SNPs that point to deep ancestry on the paternal line. In our case, the Claxton’s terminal SNP, meaning the one furthest down the tree, is haplogroup R-FGC29371. This by itself doesn’t mean a lot, but in context, it does.

This Claxton cousin’s closest matches on the Big Y test are men with the following last names:

  • Parker
  • Joyce
  • Grigsby
  • Gray
  • Daniel

This suggests that he doesn’t necessarily match these men in a genealogical timeframe, and in fact, he doesn’t match them on the regular STR marker test panel at Family Tree DNA – but it means that those families and his are probably from the same place at some time before the advent of surnames.

Utilizing the SNP utility at Family Tree DNA, we see that there are only three locations of clusters where this SNP is found, so far, and all 3 are in the UK.

Of course, as luck would have it, one is in Ireland, one in Scotland and one near the Scotland/England border.

The Unresolved Mystery

We still haven’t identified the parents of James Lee Claxton. I’m firmly convinced that his middle name, Lee, given in 1775 when middle names were only purposefully given, is a clue. Middle names at that time in the colonies were generally only bestowed when they were family surnames. Everyone having surnames came in vogue not long thereafter, but I strongly suspect Lee is a family name.

Unfortunately, Lee is also a rather common name, but I have been on the lookout for decades now for any Lee or Lea connection. So far, that has been another blind alley wild goose chase…but hey…you never know which of these goose chases might actually net something!  One thing, none ever will if we don’t pursue those geese.

In a future article about James’ potential father’s, I’ll step through what we’ve done and who we’ve ruled out.

In the mean time, nearly 13 years after founding the Claxton/Clarkson surname project, I’m still waiting for that person to test someplace in the UK that will match our Claxton line.

While waiting for that person to test, I’d settle for a definitive line out of Virginia, perhaps!

If you are a Claxton male, please consider both Y DNA and autosomal testing (the Family Finder test) at Family Tree DNA and joining the Claxton project.

Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story

Have you ever wondered why you would want to test your Y DNA? What would a Y DNA test tell you about which ancestors? What would it mean to you and how would it help your genealogy?

If you’re like most genealogists, you want to know every single tidbit you can discover about your ancestors – and Y DNA not only tells males about people they match that are currently living and share ancestors with them at some point in time, but it also reaches back beyond the range of what genealogy in the traditional sense can tell us – past the time when surnames were adopted, peering into the misty veil of the past!

If you aren’t a male, you can’t directly test your Y DNA, because you don’t have a Y chromosome, but that’s OK, because your father or brother or another family member who does carry the same Y chromosome (and surname) as your father may well be willing to test.

What Is Y DNA?

Y DNA a special type of DNA that tells the direct story of your father’s surname line heritage – all the way back as far as we can go – beyond genealogy– to the man from whom we are all descended that we call “Y line Adam.” In the pedigree chart below, Y DNA is represented by the people with blue squares – generally the surname line.

Y DNA is never mixed with the mother’s DNA, so the Y DNA of the blue line of ancestors above remains unbroken and intact and the Y DNA is passed from father to only their male children. The Y chromosome is what makes males male, so females never inherit a Y chromosome. Of course, that means females can’t take Y DNA tests, so they have to ask a family member to test who carries the Y chromosome of the line they are interested in.

Because the surname doesn’t typically change for males between generations, this test is particularly powerful in identifying specific lineages of the male’s surname.  For men looking to identify their paternal line, Y DNA testing is extremely powerful!

Y DNA testing is a great way to determine which ancestral line of a given surname a male descends from.

Want to see how this works?  Family Tree DNA provides 13 great tools for every Y DNA customer. Let’s take a look!

Haplogroup

Everyone who tests their Y DNA at Family Tree DNA receives a haplogroup assignment. Think of a haplogroup as your genetic clan. Haplogroups have a history and a pedigree chart, just like people do. Haplogroups and their branches can identify certain groups of people, such as people of African descent, European, Asian, Jewish and Native American.

While the Y DNA is passed intact with no admixture from the mother, occasionally mutations do happen, and it’s those historical mutations that form clans and branches of clans as generation after generation is born and continues to migrate to new areas.

If you take any Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA, you will receive a haplogroup prediction. In the following example, the gentleman received haplogroup C-P39 as his haplgroup prediction.

Haplogroup predictions from Family Tree DNA are very accurate. They are basic in nature, but detailed enough to identify the continent where your ancestors are found as well as sometimes identifying groups like Jewish or Native American. To receive a more refined haplogroup, additional tests are available (individual SNPs, SNP panels and the Big Y), which confirm the original haplogroup assignment and give you the opportunity to find the smallest branch of the haplotree upon which you reside as a leaf.

Let’s look at an example.

Y haplogroup C arose in Asia and subgroups are found today in parts of Asia, Europe and among Native American men.

Recently, by utilizing the Big Y test, an advanced specialized test that scans the majority of the Y chromosome for mutations, the haplogroup C tree was extended by several branches at Family Tree DNA.

With regular STR marker testing, which is the Y DNA test you purchase from Family Tree DNA,  this particular haplogroup C male had his base haplogroup of C identified along with the additional branch of C-P39. With additional advanced testing of some type, such as individual SNP testing, panels of SNPs available for some haplogroups, or the Big Y test – testers can learn more about their haplogroups – and with the Big Y, virtually everything there is to know about their Y chromosome.

However, until testers receive their regular STR results for their markers, advanced tests aren’t available to order, because testers don’t yet know into which haplogroup, or clan, they will be placed.

The haplogroup C Y-DNA project at Family Tree DNA provides a map of the most distant known ancestors of Haplogroup C members, including all branches, shown below.

Hapologroup C-P39, a Native American subgroup, is found in a much more restricted geography in the Haplogroup C-P39 project, below.

Tools at Family Tree DNA

At Family Tree DNA, your Y haplogroup is shown in the upper right hand corner on your personal page dashboard.

In the Y DNA section, additional tools are shown. Let’s look at each tool and what it can tell you about your direct paternal line.

You can always navigate to the Dashboard or any other option by clicking on the myFTDNA button on the upper left hand corner and then the Y DNA dropdown.

Matches

The first place most people look is at their Matches page. In the case of our example, he has twenty three 111 marker matches ranging from one person with a genetic distance of 1, meaning one mutation difference, to several with 6 mutations difference. The fewer mutations, in general, the most likely the closer in time your most recent common ancestor with your match.

You can see by just looking at the matches below why entering the name of your earliest known ancestor (under Manage Personal Information, Account Settings, Genealogy) is so important!!! That’s the first thing people see and the best indication of a common ancestor. I always include a name, birth/death date and location.

In this case, it’s very clear the common ancestor of most, if not all, of these men is Germain Doucet born in 1641 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia. And before you ask, yes, it’s rather unusual to have an entire list of men descended from one man, but it’s clearly not unheard of.

As you can see, many of these matches (names obscured for privacy) have trees attached to their results and several have also taken the autosomal Family Finder test.

The different Y-DNA haplogroups listed to the right are a function of the “Terminal SNP,” meaning the SNP that tested positive furthest out towards the tip of the branch of the tree. Four matches have had additional SNP testing which shows their terminal SNP to be either Z30754 or M217.

This gentleman can then view his 67, 37, 25 and 12 marker matches by clicking on that dropdown.

He can also e-mail any of his matches by clicking on the envelope icon or view their trees by clicking on the pedigree icon.

Results

Next, let’s look at the Y-STR results for 67 markers. This page should really probably say “raw results,” because as many people say, “it’s just a page of numbers.”

This page shows your values and mutations at specific markers – in other words, what makes you both different from other people and the same as people you match, which means you share a common ancestor at some point in time in the not too distant past.

The beauty of these numbers, is, of course, in what they tell us in context of matching other people. You can’t have matches without these numbers. You also can’t have maps or anything else without the raw mutation information.

HaploTree and SNP Page

STR markers show mutations in recent timeframes, generally within the past 500-800 years, but SNPs take you back into antiquity – just like your family pedigree chart – working from closest to further back in time .

Your Haplotree and SNP page shows you the tree for your haplogroup – in this case C – designated by SNP M216, shown at the very top, along with all branches of the tree. The branches and leaves are color coded based on whether you have tested for that particular SNP, and if so, whether you were positive, meaning you carry the mutation, or negative, meaning you don’t.

SNP Map

The SNP map shows you cluster locations worldwide where any selected SNP is found.

Matches Maps

One of my favorite tools is the Matches Map because it shows the most distant ancestor for all of your matches that have provided that information.

Hint: you MUST enter the geographic information through the link at the bottom of this map (below) for YOUR ancestor to be displayed on THIS map and also on the maps of your matches.

You can also display your match list by clicking on the link beneath the map. You can click on the pins on the map to display the accompanying information.

Note the legend, as your exact matches are shown in red, 1 step mutations in orange, 2 steps in yellow, and so forth. Be sure to look for clusters, and note that if there are multiple people listed in the same location, their pins will stack on top of each other.

For example, in this case, the orange pin shown has two people’s ancestors in that location, including this tester, and a relevant cluster is clearly shown in Nova Scotia.

Migration and Frequency Maps

Are you wondering how your ancestor and his ancestors arrived where you first find them?

The haplogroup Migration Maps shows you the path from Africa to wherever they are found – in this case, the Americas.

The Frequency Map then shows you how much of the New World population is branches of haplogroup C.

Haplogroup Origins

The Haplogroup Origins tool shows the distribution of the haplogroup, by region, by match type and count.  Please note that you can click on any graphic to enlarge.

For example, this person has one 111 marker C-Z30765 match in Canada.

Ancestral Origins

The Ancestral Origins page shows matches by country along with any comments. These matches don’t have any comments, but comments might be Ashkenazi or MDKO (most distant known origin) when US is given.

Advanced Matching Combines Tools

Another of my favorite tools is the Advanced Matching tool, available under the Tools and Apps tab.

Advanced Matches is a wonderful tool that allows you to combine test types. For example, let’s say that you want to know if any of the people you match on the Y DNA test are also showing up as a match on the Family Finder test. You could further limit match results by project as well.

Be sure to click on “show only people I match in all selected tests” or you’ll receive the combined list of all matches, not just the people who match on BOTH tests, which is what you want.

In this example, I’ve selected 12 markers and Family Finder, because I know I’m going to find a few matches for illustration.

Of course, for adoptees, finding someone with whom you match closely on the Family Finder test AND match exactly (or nearly) on the Y DNA test would be very suggestive of a patrilineal common ancestor in a recent timeframe.

Projects

We started our discussion about Y DNA haplogroups by referencing two different haplogroup C projects. Family Tree DNA has over 9000 projects for you to select from.  The good news is that you really don’t have to limit your selections, because you can join an unlimited number of projects.

Thankfully, you don’t have to browse through all the available projects.

  • Haplogroup projects are categorized by Y or mtDNA and then by subgroup where appropriate.
  • Surname projects exist as well and are searchable for your genealogy lines.
  • Geographical projects cover everything else, from geographies such as the Denmark project to the American Indian project.

Some projects focus on Y DNA, some on mtDNA and some include both.  Additionally, some projects welcome people with autosomal results that pertain to that family surname or region.  Every project is run by one or more volunteer administrators that define the focus of the project.

To help people select relevant projects, project administrators can enter surnames that pertain to their project so that Family Tree DNA can match your surname to the project list to provide you with a menu of candidate projects to join.

Of course, you’ll need to read the project description for each project to see if the project actually pertains to you. You can see what is available for other surnames by utilizing the “Search by Surname” function, at the bottom of the menu.

You can also scroll down and browse in a number of ways in addition to surname.

All testers should join their haplogroup project so that everyone can benefit from collaboration.

You can join and manage your projects from your home page by clicking on the Projects tab on the upper left, shown below.

Y DNA Summary

I hope this overview has provided you with some good reasons to test your Y DNA or to better understand your results if you’ve already tested.

If you are a male and are interested in testing a line that is not your surname line, or if you are a female and you can’t test, you can find a male who descends from the ancestral line in question through all males and recruit that gentleman to test.  You can also check existing surname projects to see if someone from your line has already tested.

Y DNA holds the secrets of your patrilineal line. You never know what you don’t know unless you test. You don’t know what kind of surprises are waiting for you – and let’s face it, our ancestors are always full of surprises!

Y DNA Order Options

Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers this type of testing.  Ordering options include 37, 67 and 111 marker tests. You can also order 12 and 25 marker tests within projects. I suggest testing at the highest level the budget will allow, but no less than 37 markers. Most people have matches. Some people have a lot of matches and need the 111 marker test to more fully refine their matches to just the ones that may be genealogically relevant.

You can always upgrade later to a higher marker level later, but the combined original test plus upgrade cost more separately than just purchasing the larger test out the gate. It’s really a personal decision based on your goals and your budget.

Discounts

If you have never tested at Family Tree DNA, you can obtain a discount any day of the week by joining through your surname project. Just click here and then enter your surname into the Project Search box, shown upper right below.  I’ve typed Estes for purposes of illustration.

You will be shown a list of projects (at left above) where the various project administrators have indicated that someone with your surname might be interest in their project. Read the project descriptions, then click on the resulting project that best suits your situation – generally your surname – Estes above for example. You will automatically be joined to the project you select when you order a product, shown below. After you order, you can join multiple projects.

Next, click on the test level you wish to order.

By virtue of comparison, the project pricing for 37, 67 and 111 markers, above, saves you $20 off the regular price if you don’t order through a project.

If you already have a kit number at Family Tree DNA and have ordered other products, you can sign in, upgrade and order your Y DNA test by clicking here.

Happy ancestor hunting!

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Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Native American Y Haplogroup C-P39 Sprouts Branches!

I am extremely pleased to provide an update on the Haplogroup C-P39 Native American Y DNA project. Marie Rundquist and I as co-administrators have exciting discoveries to share.

As it so happens, this announcement comes almost exactly on the 4th anniversary of the founding of this project at Family Tree DNA. We couldn’t celebrate in a better way!

Native American Y DNA Haplogroups

Haplogroup C is one of two core Native American male haplogroups. Of the two, haplogroup Q is much more prevalent, while haplogroup C is rare. Only some branches of both haplogroup Q and haplogroup C are Native American, with other branches of both haplogroups being Asian and European.

C-P39 is the Native American branch of haplogroup C, and because of its rarity, until now, very little was known. There were no known branches.

In February 2016, Marie Rundquist created a focused project testing plan to upgrade at least one man from each family line to the full 111 markers along with a Big Y test in order to determine if further differentiation could be achieved in the C-P39 haplogroup lineage.

Haplogroup C-P39 Sprouts Branches

In November 2016, Marie presented preliminary research findings at the International Genetic Genealogy Conference in Houston, Texas, with a final evaluation being completed and submitted to Family Tree DNA for review in March 2017. As a result, Marie provides the following press release:

April 29, 2017: Based on a recent “Big Y” DNA novel variant submission from the C-P39 Y DNA project, the Y Tree has been updated by Family Tree DNA scientists. With this latest update, in addition to the C-P39 SNP that distinguishes this haplogroup, there are now new, long-awaited, downstream SNPs and subclades, as reflected in the Y Tree that offer new avenues for research by members of this rare, Native American haplogroup. A summary of new C-P39 Y DNA project subclades follows:

  • North American Appalachian Region: C-P39+ C-BY1360+
  • North American Canada – Multiple Surnames: C-P39+ C-Z30765+
  • North American Canada – Multiple Surnames: C-P39+ C-Z30750+
  • North American Canada: Acadia (Nova Scotia): C-P39+ C-Z30750+
  • North American Canada: Acadia (Nova Scotia): C-P39+ C-Z30754+
  • North American Southwest Region: CP39+ C-Z30747+

The following SNP (BY18405+) was found to have been shared only by two C-P39 project members in the entire Big Y system, as reported here:

  • North American Canada Newfoundland: C-P39+ C-BY18405+
  • North American Canada: Gaspe, QC: C-P39+ C-BY18405+

The ancestors of two families represented in the study, one in the Pacific Northwest and another in the North American Southwest did not experience any mutations in the New World and Big Y results are within the current genetic boundaries of the C-P39 SNP haplogroup as noted.

The Family Tree DNA C-P39 Y DNA Project is managed by Roberta Estes, Administrator, Marie Rundquist, Co-Administrator, and Dr. David Pike, Project Advisor. The “Big Y” DNA test is a product of Family Tree DNA.

Reference: https://www.familytreedna.com/public/ydna_C-P39

The New Tree

The new C-P39 tree at Family Tree DNA is shown, below, including all the new SNPs below P39, a grand total of eight new branches on the C-P39 tree.

It’s just so beautiful to see this in black and white – well, green, black and white. It’s really an amazing accomplishment for citizen scientists to be contributing at this level to the field of genetics.

Beneath C-P39, several sub-branches develop.

  • BY1360 which is represented by a gentleman from Appalachia.
  • BY736 which is represented by two downstream SNPs that include the surnames of both King and Brooms from Canada.
  • Z30747 which is represented by a Garcia from the southwest US, following by downstream subgroup Z30750 represented by a Canadian gentleman, and SNP Z30754 represented by the Acadian Doucette family from Nova Scotia.

This haplotree suggests that the SNP carried by the gentleman from Appalachia is the oldest, with the other sub-branches descending from their common ancient lineage. As you might guess, this isn’t exactly what we had anticipated, but therein lies the thrill of discovery and the promise of science.

The Next Step

Just like with traditional genealogy, this discovery begets more questions. Now, testing needs to be done on additional individuals to see if we can further tease apart relationships and perhaps identify patterns to suggest a migration path. This testing will come, in part, from STR marker testing along with Big Y testing for some lines not yet tested at that level.

We’re also hopeful, of course, that anyone who carries haplogroup C-P39 or any downstream branch will join the C-P39 project. Collaboration is key to discovery.

Contributing

If you would like to donate to the C-P39 project general fund to play a critical role in the next steps of discovery, we would be eternally grateful. At this point, we need to fund at least 4 additional Big Y tests, plus several 111 marker upgrades, totaling about $3000. You can contribute to the project general fund at this link:

https://www.familytreedna.com/group-general-fund-contribution.aspx?g=Y-DNAC-P39

Thank you in advance – every little bit helps!

Kudos

I want to personally congratulate Marie for her hard work and dedication over the past year to bring this monumental discovery and tree update to fruition. It’s truly an incredible accomplishment representing countless hours of behind the scenes work.

Marie and I would both like to thank all of our participants, individuals who contributed funds to the testing, Dr. David Pike as a project advisor and, of course, Family Tree DNA, without whom none of this would be possible.

DNA Testing for Native Heritage

If you are male and have not yet Y DNA tested, but believe that you have a Native ancestor on your direct paternal (surname) line, please order at least the 37 marker test at Family Tree DNA. Your results and who you match will tell that story!

People with Native heritage on any ancestral line are encouraged to join the American Indian Project at Family Tree DNA. If you have tested elsewhere, you can download your results to Family Tree DNA for free.

For additional information about DNA testing for Native American heritage, please read Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA.