Dorothy Durham’s Parents and the Mysterious William Smoot, 52 Ancestors #165

Given the time in which she lived, we know quite a bit about Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, but we only have hints, and a mystery, about her parents.

Dorothy was born in 1663 – that much we know for sure, or within a year either way, based on a deposition she gave in 1704 regarding the will of one James Gilbert. She died sometime after early 1725 and before 1753 when her second husband, Jeremiah Greenham, died.

Dorothy and Thomas Durham had interactions with several people over the span of their lifetimes that tell us the names of two of Dorothy’s sisters. Other documents tell us that Dorothy was probably closely related to William Smoot, but the fact that Dorothy’s son married William Smoot’s daughter pretty much eliminates the possibility that William Smoot was Dorothy’s father. William could have, however, been her brother or uncle or some other relative.

And then there’s poor James Gilbert. A man so beset by epilepsy that he didn’t remember what was in his will a year or two after signing it. Either he or his wife are also somehow connected to William Smoot as well, because that same William Smoot quit-claimed a deed when Mary Gilbert, widow of James, sold land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham after James Gilbert’s horrible death.

The script of these families living in the Northern Neck of Virginia reads something like the thriller TV series, Dallas, with equally as much intrigue – but without the ability to tune in next season to discover the outcome. It’s like never knowing who shot JR Ewing!

If you’d like to read more about these Northern Neck families that intermarried, along with the history that formed their life and times in the century or so following the settlement of Jamestown, I would suggest the following articles:

The Parents of Charles Dodson, Jamestown Unraveled, 52 Ancestors #163

Anne (probably not) Elmore (c1650/2-c1721), Wife of Charles Dodson, 52 Ancestors #159

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

Thomas Dodson’s Estate Inventory, A Tallow Sort of Fellow, 52 Ancestors #153

Thomas Dodson (1681-1740), Planter on Totuskey Creek, 52 Ancestors #151

George Dodson (1702-after 1756), Disappeared Without a Trace, 52 Ancestors #145

Raleigh Dodson (1730-c1794) of Dodson’s Ford; Ferryman, Surveyor and Stone Dresser, 52 Ancestors #143

Dorothy Durham (1663-after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164

Thomas Durham (before 1649-1715), A Governor’s Son?, 52 Ancestors #161

Mary Durham (1686 – c 1746), Scandals and Scoundrels, 52 Ancestors #152

Henry Dagord or Dagod or Maybe Doggett (c 1660/1683 – after 1708), 52 Ancestors #150

Margaret Dagord (1708-?) of North Farnham Parish, 52 Ancestors #147

This article about Dorothy’s parents is the last in this series.

There are several players in our Northern Neck family drama as we try to unravel who Dorothy’s parents were, and weren’t, so let’s talk about each person briefly, then take a deep dive into the details. What you’ll discover is that we don’t have individual stories, we have a tapestry of interwoven lives in tidewater Virginia when it was Rappahannock County and then after 1692 when it became Richmond County.

William Smoot Sr.

William Smoot does play a prominent role in the life of Dorothy Durham, but it most assuredly is not as her father. It’s easy to see how the confusion arose though, because in August of 1700, William Smoot Sr. deeded land to Dorothy and her children for “the great love I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham.” This does indeed sound fatherly, but it surely wasn’t, because Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr. marries Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot Sr., as proven by William’s 1716 will. Clearly, Dorothy’s son did not marry his mother’s sister, meaning his aunt. However, William Smoot is surely somehow related, as he also mentions Dorothy’s niece through her sister in that same land transaction. We will take a look at the Smoot family to see what gems we can unearth.

James and Mary Gilbert

James and Mary Gilbert are tied into this tapestry by some colorful thread. These families spend a lot of time together, argue like families do, and after James Gilbert’s death, Mary sells her land to Thomas Durham, with William Smoot quit-claiming his interest in that land. Unfortunately, we don’t know what interest William Smoot held in Mary’s land nor his relationship to Mary.

Thankfully, James Gilbert’s will was contested and we find half a dozen depositions that discuss the circumstances involving his will. Unfortunately, none of them tell us exactly who is who, but there are clues to be gathered.

Fortunately, depositions are juicy and make great reading! These remind me of the board game Clue – the butler did it in the kitchen with the candlestick!

John Mills and John Mills Jr.

Somehow, for some reason, James Gilbert leaves his estate to John Mills Jr. Even before James Gilbert’s death, there are extremely hard feelings between the families – so much so that James Gilbert and his wife appear to live apart as a result. This has to be something more serious than hen dung on James Gilbert’s chest. Wait until you hear this story!

Alice and John Chinn

Dorothy’s sister, Alice, married John Chinn. Alice died in 1701 in Lancaster Co, VA and her will is found recorded in will book 8 page 105/106. Her children named in the will were Ann Fox, wife of Capt. William Fox, Catherine Heale and Rawleigh Chinn. We’ll look to see what, if anything we can find about John Chinn and Alice that might suggest who Alice’s parents are.

Thomazin and Abraham Marshall

Dorothy’s sister, Thomazin married Abraham Marshall. We find Abraham also woven into the tapestry of Northern Neck families, in particular, with the Gilberts and Mills. Thomazin is such a beautiful name. I do wonder if it’s the feminine version of Thomas, perhaps in a family who had no male children? I’m very surprised that there is no Thomazin or Alice found in Dorothy’s children, although it’s certain that Dorothy had children that died.

Elizabeth Grady

Elizabeth Grady left her entire estate to Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot? Why, and how was Elizabeth related to Mary Smoot?

Charting the Relationships

When doing both Appalachian and Acadian genealogy, one of my favorite sayings is that it’s not a family tree, but a family vine. I think that’s very true of this time period in Virginia, as well, especially in regions that were for some reason rather isolated – like on the Northern Neck peninsula of land. Granted, new people settled there, but the families who owned land adjacent to each other along a creek were destined to interact and intermarry for a generation or two. There wasn’t anyone else close enough and available, so you married your neighbors who may also have been your kin.

I’m not going to kid you – this is one of the most difficult evaluations I’ve ever done. There are partial records and a lot of players that are obviously somehow connected, but the “how” is not obvious. Maybe you’ll have some thoughts after reading the details – and I’d love to hear from you.

If this is not your family line, you may not revel in the details, but if you have a difficult problem of your own to unravel, you might be interested in how I approached this problem and what I was able to glean.

Now, not to scare you, but the chart below represents the players in this drama and the defining events that connect them together, aside from the relationships implied in the pedigree chart used as the base for the activity grid.  Please click to enlarge this or any graphic.

Let me explain how this works. The pedigree chart in the top half of the graphic shows how the various individuals are connected through known/proven relationships. The three individuals in dark rose are Dorothy Durham and her proven sisters, connected to their unknown parents at the top. It’s very likely that their parents are also interacting in the neighborhood. We know that both of Dorothy’s sisters married local boys, so it makes sense that Dorothy’s parents lived there too. You can’t marry someone if they aren’t close enough to court. In fact, Dorothy’s parents may be some of the people at the bottom of the chart – the ones not connected to the people at the top through known relationships.

The green boxes include data, detailed in the extracted records in the next section, but too detailed to include in the person’s pink or blue box in the chart above without making the box too large for the chart.

For example, the green box below James Gilbert details his activities and interactions with others on the grid. The red arrows point from the person who is interacting with someone else. James Gilbert left his entire estate to John Mills Jr., so a red arrow points from James Gilbert to John Mills Jr.

The above chart is meant to be utilized with the extracted records to form a visual of the complex relationships. The red arrows do NOT include what I would consider to be normal activities, such as land transferred between parents and children, wills, etc. In other words, the red arrows only show the interactions between people who are not directly related and whose relationship to others is not immediately obvious based on the pedigree chart itself.

Anyone who does read this entire document, I welcome your thoughts as to how the various individuals are or might be related to Dorothy Durham. Conversely, if you feel something precludes a specific relationship, I’m interested in that as well. And of course it goes without saying that if anyone has additional information, I’m all ears and would be very grateful for anything missing! There may be additional information in other counties that I’m not aware of.

Extracted Records

Not living in or near the Northern Neck of Virginia, I utilized the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana to access the extracted records for Rappahannock and Richmond Counties, but plus select others. In addition, I utilized a site called “Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties.” I don’t know who compiled this information, and their conclusions are sometimes incorrect, often suffering from generational confusion, but when they provide notes, they always include sources, which is a very valuable contribution. I’m very grateful for all their hard work.

Some records below that involve two parties are included in the information for both people. I couldn’t really see a better way to handle the information, presented in timeline format, without some level of duplication.

The Smoot Family

Somehow, the Smoot family is related to Dorothy. There is no other reason for William Smoot to give Dorothy land with “great love and affection” and name her sister’s child as an alternate beneficiary if they are not family. The question is, of course, how are they related? In order to attempt to answer this question, I stepped back a generation to William Smoot’s (possible) parents and began there.

My initial perspective was that Dorothy was either a child to William Smoot, as is widely reported in people’s family trees, or a sister. That’s where I began my search.

According to the book, The Smoots of Maryland and Virginia by Harry Wright Newman, William Smoot(e)(es)(s) immigrated in 1646 with his wife Grace Wood, Wood being her previous husband’s name, along with their children: Thomas, Richard, Elizabeth, Anne and Ales (Alice) and Elizabeth Wood his wife’s daughter along with Anne Woodnot, William Smoot’s servant. William patented land for his headrights, naming family members noted above individually, on the west side of the Wicohomico River in Charles County, Maryland in 1652.

William Smoot and family settled in Maryland, across the Potomac from the Northern Neck area. He died sometime after his son, Thomas, died in February 1667/68. Grace died on January 14, 1665/66 according to the Archives of Maryland, Vol 60, page 116.

There is a land record for William Smoot in 1683 in Charles County, MD transferring land to Humphrey Warren and also to William Hungerford. There is no estate record for William Smoot of Maryland.

Based on information I was able to find, mostly from the Newman book, I constructed a tree of William Smoot’s known children.

You will notice that there is no William Smoot Jr. listed in known descendants. This means that William Smoot of Rappahannock County, if he is the son of William Smoot of Maryland, had to be born after 1646 when the list of children for which William Smoot Sr. received a headright was documented, meaning William Jr. (the second) would have come of age no earlier than 1667 if he was born after 1646.

Let’s look at the dates and see if that is possible.

First, Grace Wood Smoot had already borne 6 children who lived, so spanning about 12 reproductive years. Let’s say she first married at age 20. That means that in 1646, she would have been no younger than age 32 and possibly older. If Grace was age 32, she had about 10 years more to bear children, so possibly bore 5 additional children, until about 1656. She could also have been past child-bearing age, but she had no more than 10 reproductive years left.

We know for sure that Dorothy Durham was born in 1663, according to her own deposition, so Dorothy Durham could not have been the child of Grace Wood Smoot. Therefore, if Dorothy and William Smoot are brother and sister, it’s not through William Smoot of Maryland and his wife, Grace.

William Smoot of Rappahannock County is first found in the records as a witness in 1672, in a location where William Smoot of Maryland did not live. He was likely at least 21 by this time. His son, William Smoot Jr. first appears in records about 1700, so this makes sense.

By 1678, William Smoot in Rappahannock County is purchasing land, 150 acres on the Moratico Path, adjoining John Ingoe.

In March 1683/84, William Smoot in Rappahannock County with wife Jane transfers land to Richard Ellett, so William is married by that time.

Over the next many years, William Smoot of Rappahannock County appears repeatedly with Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and Peter Elmore – families and neighbors all intertwined one way or another.

These records suggest that William Smoot of Rappahannock County was born no later than 1651, so he could potentially be a son of William Smoot of Maryland, but not if Dorothy is his sister.

William Smoot of Rappahannock County died in 1715, mentioning his grandchildren by daughter Mary who married Thomas Durham Jr., son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. He left everything to his son-in-law, Thomas Durham, and his Durham grandchildren. William Smoot had two other daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, twins, born on March 16, 1698, according to the North Farnham Parish register, but they apparently died, as they are never mentioned elsewhere.

William Smoote and his wife Jane are having children in the 1690s, at the same time as Dorothy and Thomas Durham, so they appear to be about the same age, not offset by a generation.

I have found absolutely nothing to tie William Smoot of Rappahannock County to William Smoot of Maryland other than the same name and living across the Chesapeake from each other.

If William Smoot of Rappahannock County was NOT the son of William Smoot of Charles County, Maryland, then it’s possible that Dorothy was the sister of William Smoot of Rappahannock County.

Given that William Smoot of Rappahannock County’s daughter, Mary, very clearly married the son of Dorothy Durham, Dorothy was assuredly not the daughter of William Smoot of Rappahannock County. If Dorothy had been the daughter of William Smoot, that would have meant that Dorothy’s sister married her son. Ewwww…

However, if Dorothy was the sister of either William Smoot or William Smoot’s wife, and their children married, that would have means that Mary Smooth and Thomas Durham were first cousins. That’s not an unusual marriage in colonial times.

Of course, the speculation about the relationship between Dorothy and William Smoot is all caused by the 1700 deed that reads thus:

Richmond County Deed Book August 2, 1700 – Deed of gift. William Smoot Sr. of N. Farnham Parish Richmond Co. for consideration received and for the great love that I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham wife of Thomas Durham of same county and her children do give unto her and her children a 62 acre parcel of land bounded by Thomas Durham, branch of Morattico Creek, land of the same William Smoot Sr., land of Rowland Lawson, line of Mr. Grimes and line of Clare. If in case the said Dorothy Durham die that then the land shall come to Thomas Durham eldest son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that then the land shall come to John Durham second son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that the land shall come to Mary Durham eldest daughter of the said Dorothy Durham and in case she shall happen to die without issue that then the land shall come to the fourth, fifth, sixth and c children of the same Dorothy, but in case of want of issue that the land shall descend to Ann Fox wife of William Fox of Lancaster Co., gent. Wit John Simmons, Thomas Mackey, ack Aug 7, 1700 Book 3 page 57

Aug 2, 1700 – Power of attorney Jane Smoot wife of William Smoot Sr. having appointed Edward Jones my attorney to ack the above gift to Dorothy Durham and her children. Wit Thomas Mackey, Edmond Overton. Book 3 page 58

Court Order Book Page 56, August 7, 1700 – Ordered that the deed for land ack in this court by William Smoot Sr. unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, be recorded.

This deed indicates that the land is bounded by Thomas Durham, which suggests that he already owned the neighboring land. If so, that would likely have been the Abraham Marshall land referenced in the 1723 sale of this land by Thomas Durham Jr. No deed exists for the sale from Marshall into the Durham family, although the date of 1692 is provided in the 1723 sale.

This 1700 deed is quite interesting and somewhat perplexing. Just to keep the players straight, William Smoot is the father of Mary Smoot, to whom Mary Grady also leaves land. Clearly there is a very close connection between William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.

  • First, this deed is to Dorothy, not Dorothy AND her husband, Thomas Durham together and not to Thomas Durham alone as most land would typically be deeded. This meant that Thomas Durham exercised no authority over this land and could not sell the land. It was Dorothy’s and Dorothy’s alone until her death.
  • Second, William Smoot is also somehow related to Ann Fox, daughter of Dorothy’s sister, Alice who married John Chinn. Alice died in 1701 but Dorothy’s other sister, Thomazin/Thomasin lived until after 1713.
  • Third, this deed names Dorothy’s living children that are documented in the North Farnham Parish registers. The deed was written in August 1700 and John Durham was born on November 23, 1698.

This deed tells us that of Dorothy’s children, Mary is the eldest living daughter and John and Thomas are the eldest living sons. Given John’s birth date, they have to be the only living sons. What we don’t know is whether or not the children referenced as 4th, 5th and 6th are living or are speculative in case they exist in the future.

It’s certainly unlikely that between 1686 and 1700 and Dorothy only had 3 children. Six or 7, assuming they all lived until weaned, would be normal. If the children numbered 4-6 noted in the will, were living, they were assuredly females or they would have been listed ahead of daughter Mary in the inheritance order. If they were living in 1700, they weren’t by the time Thomas Durham Sr. wrote his will in 1711.

Furthermore, I can’t find any record of where William Smoot received this land, unless it’s part of this patent found in the Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants, 1694-1742, Vol 1:

2-315 – William Smoot Sr., 262 acres in Richmond Co. adjacent his other land, Bryary Swamp, James Gilbert, Mr. Leuson, Mr. Grimes line, line of Clears, April 29, 1700

This deed indicates the 262 acres are bounded by James Gilbert – but the 62 acre deed to Dorothy says it is adjacent Thomas Durham, so William Smoot’s land grant may not be the same land that he deeded to Dorothy, or the land of William Smoot, James Gilbert and Thomas Durham may all be adjacent each other. The neighbors, except for Thomas Durham, appear to be the same in William Smoot’s deed to Dorothy as his land grant – so the 62 acres must surely be part of his grant.

Why did William Smoot deed land to Dorothy just a little over three months after he patented the land?

In addition, we find the following deed with William Smoot quit-claiming any right he has to 50 acres of land sold to Thomas and Dorothy Durham by Mary Gilbert.

26 Apr 1707 Richmond County, Virginia Deed Book 4, 1705-1708 page 109a-110a – This Indenture made the six and twentieth day of April anno Domini 1707 and in sixth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Anne by the Grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland Queene, Defender of the faith Between Mary Gilbert of the parish of North Farnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia, Widdow of the one part, and Thomas Durham of North Farnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion aforesaid, Planter and Dorothy his wife of the other party. Witnesseth that the said Mary Gilbert for good and valuable consideration in hand payed the receipt whereof the said Mary doth hereby acknowledge and of every part and parcel thereof doth requitt consrate and discharge the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and theire heires by these presents do give grant, bargaine sole alienate entaile and confirme unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife theire heirs and assignes a certain plantation tract or parcele of land scituate lying and being in the parish of North Ffarnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia upon a Branch of Ffarnham Creeke called and knowne by the name of the Buory (Briery) Swamp, containing by estimation fifty acres, now in the tenure and occupation of Walter Wright and bounded as followeth: …corner along land of William Smoot… the said Mary Gilbert for her self, her heires, Exors. and Admns. doth covenant promise, grant and assign to the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and their heires and assignes In manner and form as followeth, That is to say, that the said Mary Gilbert att the time of the ensealing and delivery hereof hath true title, full power and lawful authority to grant and convey the said bargained land and premisses as aforesaid and allso from time to times and att all times hereafter …… doth hereby grant unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and their heires and assignes with all the rights members and appurtanances thereunto belonging or appurtaining without…..and do Execute and acknowledge any other or further deed or deeds which shall be advised, devised or required by the said Thomas Durham, Dorothy his wife or theire Counsel learned in the law or theire heires or assignes for the better and more sure settlement of all and singular of the premisses hereto granted and every part and parcel of the said land unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and theire heires and assignes forever, In Witness whereof the said Mary Gilbert have hereunto put her hand and seal the day and month and year above written. Signed, sealde and Delivered in the presence of: William Smoot, Mil. Walters Mary M Gilbert (signed with M mark) (seal) Recorded 15 May 1707, Teste: J. Sherlock (Supplement to the History of the Dodson-Dotson Family of Southwest Virginia. Compiled and edited by the Rev. Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr. N.p: the author, 1966., pp. 106-107)

Five items of interest:

  1. Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for importing one person. Someone would receive this for paying their own passage.
  2. Does the fact that Walter Wright is living on this land imply that Mary Gilbert is not living on the land? Does this perhaps mean this land was “family land” and not the farm where she lived with husband James Gilbert?
  3. Mary does not specify the nature of the “valuable consideration” she received, which is rather unusual. It could have been that the Durhams agreed to take care of her in her old age.
  4. Mary clearly retained this land outside of her husband’s will, which means either she owned is separately from him, inherited it after his death, or his will was overturned. Even so, Mary Gilbert would have been entitled to no more than 30% of his estate and we have nothing to indicate that James Gilbert owned this land.
  5. William Smoot is somehow involved with Mary Gilbert and has some unspecified interest in this land, which he releases.

P 110a – William Smoote planter, Farnham Parish, consideration to Thomas Durham of same, planter, quit claim a certain plantation and tract or land situate in upon a branch of Farnham Creek called the Bryery Swamp and bounded (same description as deed between Mary Gilbert and Thomas Durham above) April 20, 1707 signed. Wit Anne Kelly and Mil. Waters

Note Anne Kelly is Thomas Durham’s indentured servant. This land is on the same swamp as the land that William Smoot conveyed to Dorothy Durham in 1700.

Court Order Book Page 299 September 3, 1707 – Mary Gilbert acknowledge deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.

Court Order Book Page 299 September 3, 1707 – William Smoot acknowledge release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.

The only reason William Smoot would be quit-claiming this land is if he had some sort of real or legally perceived interest in the land. That interest would most likely be by inheritance. In other words, we know that William Smoot is not the son of Mary Gilbert, at least not by her Gilbert husband, or their surnames would be the same, so if William Smoot holds an interest in Mary’s land, it would perhaps be because his wife, Jane, is the daughter of Mary Gilbert, he is Mary’s son from an earlier marriage, or because Mary Gilbert and Jane or William Smoot both inherited this land from a common ancestor.

Possibilities for the relationship between William Smoot and Dorothy:

  • Father and daughter – This is discounted because Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr., married William Smoot’s daughter, Mary.
  • Parent and siblings – meaning that Mary is the mother from an earlier marriage to a Smoot man to Dorothy, William Smoot and Dorothy’s sisters, Alice and Thomasin. This is improbable because Thomasin, still living in 1707, does not quitclaim the land to Thomas Durham along with William Smoot.
  • Siblings – meaning that Dorothy, William Smoot and Mary Gilbert are all siblings. This is possible.
  • Siblings in law – Meaning that Dorothy is the sister of William’s wife, Jane. This is also possible.
  • Uncle and niece, meaning that William Smoot is Mary Durham’s uncle, which suggests that Mary Gilbert is Dorothy Durham’s aunt or mother. This is also possible.

I did find something humorous about Jane Smoot, William’s wife.

In the Richmond County Court Order book, one page Page 83, January 2, 1722/23, the court ordered the sheriff to summon to court Jane Smoot, widow, of Northfarnham Parish to answer the presentment of the grand jury for common and notorious swearers.

Jane was in good company, however, because this list of swearers also included Doctor Robert Taylor, so it wasn’t just peasant people who swore and were reprimanded.

Apparently, William Smoot’s estate wasn’t divided until several years later.

Court Order Book, Page 297.298 July 7, 1735 William Smoot’s estate to be divided. Dominick and Joseph Durham by their petition setting forth that William Smoot, decd, did by his will order his estate should be equally divided between Thomas Durham, Margaret Durham, Joseph Durham and Sarah Durham only that his wife Jane Smoot should have it during her natural life which said Jane Smoot is likewise deceased, thereupon pray that persons maybe appointed to divide the same, whereupon John Woodbridge, William Glascock and George Glascock appointed to divide the estate according to the will of the said William Smoot decd and to settle the accounts between the partys and make report to the next court.

Page 298 July 7, 1735 Upon motion of Sarah Durham, Mary Durham is admitted her guardian giving security whereupon the said Mary Durham together with Jeremiah Greenham, her security, entered into bond and acknowledged same.

The North Farnham Parish church registry tells us that Jane Smoot died on October 4, 1726.

Aside from these land transactions, Dorothy and Thomas Durham were clearly very close to the Smoot family.

Court Order book Page 218 Dec. 3 1702 – Nonsuite is granted to Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife for the nonappearance of William Smoote Jr which is ordered to be paid with costs of suit.

One thing I do find unusual is that William Smoot Sr. who died in 1716 does not leave anything to his son, William Smoot Jr. who is mentioned in earlier records. Because he also does not ever deed land to William Jr., and doesn’t mention him in his will, I would presume that William Jr. died sometime before 1716. It appears that William and Jane Smoot had no living children other than Mary Smoot who married Thomas Durham Jr.

Another William Smoot

If two William Smoots at the same time, one in Maryland and one in Rappahannock County weren’t bad enough, there’s a possible third one in the records too.

In the Northumberland County records, we find a William Smoot functioning there, owing corn between 1648 and 1652. There is no William Smoot on the 1652 Northumberland Oaths of Allegiance list.

William Smoot of Maryland was clearly in this area, but William Smoot of old Rappahannock County would likely have been underage at this time, so either this is William Smoot of Maryland or perhaps a third William Smoot.

Now, to make things every more complex, we have another unusual inheritance.

Elizabeth Grady

In a will written by Elizabeth Grady on March 10, 1693/94 and probated on Nov 4, 1702, Mary Smoot daughter of William Smoot is left all of Elizabeth Grady’s land. Mary Smoot is a child at the time.

Is Elizabeth Grady perhaps a sister of William Smoot or his wife, Jane? If so, Elizabeth could also be a sibling of Dorothy Durham.

Elizabeth Grady’s will was written March 10, 1693/94 and probated Nov. 4, 1702: Mary Smoot dau of William Smoot all land, ex: William Smoot; wits Thomas Durham, Richard Draper, John Rankin

The executor of the estate is William Smoot, and the witnesses are Thomas Durham, Richard Draper and John Rankin. Generally, a son, son-in-law, brother or brother-in-law perform executor functions.

Court Order Book Page 184 July 1, 1702 – Will of Elizabeth Grady proved by oaths of John Rankin and Thomas Durham.

This question of Elizabeth’s identity has further reaching implications than it appears, because the people involved are intertwined.

I extracted every Grady record in both Rappahannock and Richmond Counties, and came up exactly empty handed. In other words, we don’t know where Elizabeth Grady obtained this land, who her husband was, nor why she left the land to Mary Smoot, a very young child.

I was not able to discover any land transfer to a Grady in a timeframe in either Rappahannock or Richmond County that would account for how Elizabeth Grady came to own this land which, unfortunately, does not have a description.

Clearly, somehow, Elizabeth Grady was related to Mary Smoot through one of her parents.

Elizabeth Grady and Mary Gilbert both own land that cannot be accounted for.

James and Mary Gilbert

Somehow, James and Mary Gilbert are in this mixture too. One researcher suspects that James and Mary are the parents of Dorothy Durham, and that may in fact be the case. I extracted every single Gilbert entry for Rappahannock and Richmond Counties.

James Gilbert apparently suffered from epilepsy and had for several years according to a deposition sworn in 1704 in conjunction with the contested probating of his will. He may have been “not in his right mind,” as they would say. We know today that untreated epilepsy leads to progressively more brain damage with every seizure. We also don’t know what caused the epilepsy. The testimony indicates he had it for years, but doesn’t say that it was a lifelong problem. It’s possible that a closed head injury resulting from an accident of some type was the beginning of epileptic seizures for James.

Let’s look at what we know about James and Mary Gilbert.

Court Order Book March 5, 1689/90 – Antho: Montades entered his information in this court against James Gilbert for concealing one tithable this last preceding year.

In other counties, I have found that concealed tithables often means that the wife was of mixed race. Anyone not “white” was taxed differently, meaning that white wives were not taxed, but wives of color, or mixed race, were taxed. Therefore, sometimes men refused to pay tax on their wives and were subsequently convicted in court of concealing tithables. Of course, not reporting any taxable person would be concealing tithables, including white males over a certain age (generally 16) and any non-white person, regardless of relationship. Regardless, James was found in 1690 to have more taxable people than he paid taxes for.

In 1690, James Gilbert was assigned jury duty 3 times. If James Gilbert was impaired, he would not have been summoned for jury duty, so we can presume his seizures began or worsened sometime after 1690. This also tells us that James owned land in 1690, because only free white landowners were allowed to sit on juries.

Court Order Book Sept. 2, 1691 – Order granted against sheriff to John Morgan for the nonappearance of James Gilbert according to declaration.

Court Order Book May 5, 1692 – Nonsuit granted to James Gilbert against John Morgan, he not appearing to prosecute to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book May 5, 1692 – Nonsuit granted to James Gilbert against John Thomas, he not appearing to prosecute to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Sept 8, 1692 – Reference granted between John Morgan plt and James Gilbert deft till next court.

Court Order Book Oct. 6, 1692 – Judgment granted to John Morgan against James Gilbert for 1000 pounds tobacco according to declaration to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Nov 2, 1692 – John Morgan brought his action to last August court against James Gilbert and complained against him in a plea of the case for that Nathaniel Browne of the county of Lancaster some time in the year 1690 did receive and marke with his own proper marke one hogshead of tobacco at the house of the said James Gilbert and did by noat under his hand transfer the same unto the complainant or his assignee and that the complainant upon the said noat sending for the said hogshead of tobacco the said James wholy refused to deliver the same and that he still doth refuse to the complainants damage 1000 pounds of tobacco and caske for this prayed judgment but the deft not appearing either by himself of his attorney to answer the said suit, a conditional order passed against him for the sum aforesaid, returnable to this court where the said James Gilbert also not appearing the court have confirmed the above recited order and do order that the said James Gilbert do pay unto the said John Morgan the said 1000 pounds of tobacco, damage with all costs of suit.

Colonial planters were quite litigious. The above type of court cases were quite typical, although this suit makes me wonder if his seizures had begun by this time, along with his apparent cognitive decline.

Court Order Book June 7, 1693 – In the suit depending between William Smyth Plt and William Richardson def for the better decision thereof, it is ordered that Mr Edwin Conway together with a jury to be impaneled by the sheriff of this county or his deputie and sworn by Mr Thomas Glascock who is requested to be present at the time here under expressed on the 2nd Tuesday in July do meet on the land of the said William Richardson and survey a patent granted to Thomas Madison for 250 acres in Rappahannock now Richmond now bearing the date of of November 17, 1670 having regard to the antient reputed bounds of the said patent and that they make report of their proceedings herein to the next court held for this county. Also ordered that James Gilbert do produce the said patent unto the jury and surveyors at the time and place aforesaid.

The Northern Neck land patents suggests that James Gilbert wound up owning some of the patent land, which would explain why he might be holding the original patent itself.

Court Order Book Nov 4, 1698 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Edward Geffery dismist, the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Nov 4, 1698 – The action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris dismist, the plt. not prosecuting

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Suit between James Gilbert and Edward Geffery deft upon reading the declaration, the deft. Pleads not guilty in manner and form as in the said declaration. Jury returns after evidence heard find for the plt 550 pounds tobacco with cost of suit and 500 pounds tobacco in cask damage, and that Geffery pay to Gilbert 1050 pounds tobacco together with cost of suit

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that James Gilbert pay unto John Mills 12 days attendance according to act being by him subpoenaed an evidence in the suit between James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery deft.

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that Willliam Lawson be paid for 12 days attendance according to act by James Gilbert being by him subpoenaed an evidence in the suit between said James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery def.

Court Order Book Sept 7, 1699 – the action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris dismist, the plt not prosecuting.

Deed Book P 117-119 Oct 30, 1699 between John Mills, planter and Easter Mills, wife, Richmond Co., to William Richardson 20 acres in Farnham Parish begin at corner white oake in a branch joining upon Thomas Duzin line running along the line SW or thereabouts until the dividing line between James Gilbert and the said Mills, along the line of William Smyth until he comes to the said marked white oak. Mills bought it of George Vincent. Signed by both with their marks. Witness Samuel Jones mark, John Browne.

This tells us that James Gilbert’s land is adjacent to John Mills land. Extreme hard feelings develop between James Gilbert and the Mills family. James Gilbert, for some reason, leaves everything in his estate to John Mills Jr. which causes a huge rift with his wife, Mary Gilbert.

Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Edward Geffery is dismist, the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Nov. 4, 1702 – Appearing to this court that Elinor Hughes has by her own confession fugitively absented herself out of the service of her master, James Gilbert, the space of 23 days, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes the space of 46 days after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired.

Elinor Hughes, servant to Gilbert Jones (sic) being presented to this court for having a bastard child, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes according to act in consideration for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

This day James Gilbert confessed judgement to the church wardens of North Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco it being the fine of Elinor Hughes for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child to be paid with costs also.

Ordered that Elinor Hughes servant to James Gilbert by and with her own consent do serve her said master of his assignes the space of one whole yeare after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired in satisfaction for his paying her fie for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child.

Court Order Book Nov. 6, 1702 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Abraham Marshall is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book June 3, 1703 – Action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

James Gilbert wrote his will on January 31, 1701, with the will being probated January 7, 1704. I actually ordered a copy of the original will, hoping it would be more complete or hold clues that the extracted version did not.

In the name of God, Amen…..I James Gilbert of North Farnham Parish in the County of Richmond being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto God…that I be buried in a Christianlike and decent manner, at the Resurrection I shall receive the same againe by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly estate where in the power of God, and, as touching such worldly estate where it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I give devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and forme:

I suspect the paragraph above was probably standard verbiage for anyone drawing up a will, BUT, I’ve included the verbiage at this time for two reasons. First, in following depositions, people testify that he was not “of perfect mind and memory” and that he told people he was not at all sure that there was a Resurrection. James apparently wasn’t terribly ill, because he lived another three years. James goes on to say, in his will:

I give and bequeath to Mary, my deare beloved wife the summe of twenty shillings of lawful money of England to be raised and levyed out of my estate.

I give to my well beloved friend John Mills Jr. whome I likewise constitute make and ordaine my only and sole executor of this my last will and testament all singular my estate both personal and reall excepted before excepted by him and his heires freely to be possessed and enjoyed and I do hereby utterly disallow revoke and disannul all every other testaments wills legacies and executed by me in any ways before time named? willed and bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have herunto sett my hand and seale the day and year abovementioned.

Signed:

James Gilbert, his mark

Witnessed by Edward Welch, his mark

Jone Williams, her mark,

Thomas White

Probated ? sacrament White and Welch in ? Richmond 7th die Jany 1704 and recordeded 12 die ?

Unfortunately, James Gilbert’s land is not described in detail.

There are two very important aspects of this will that were not in the published extracted form. First, Gilbert states that is wife’s name is Mary, which helps assure us that the Mary Gilbert mentioned later is his wife. Second, he states that John Mills Jr. is his friend, not his grandson, not his son-in-law, not his nephew, his friend. The relationship between the two men was that of friend. That’s important because it removes speculation about the nature of their relationship.

Based on this language, it seems that James Gilbert and John Mills Jr. expected problems – so the fact that this was James only will and everything else was revoked was stated multiple times in various ways. I do wonder at the motivation of James Gilbert’s choices. Clearly, something is unstated.

My understanding of colonial law is that James Gilbert was unable to summarily cut Mary Gilbert out of her share of his estate, deemed to be minimally 30% by law, unless he left her more.

The book, Brabbling Women: Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia by Terri Snyder says:

Virginia’s intestacy statutes guaranteed a widow’s dower as one third – or, if childless, to one half – life interest in real estate and absolute interest in personal property, which until 1705 included increasingly valuable slaves. Husbands who wrote wills, of course, could give more than the amounts specified by intestacy statutes, but not less.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been as estate inventory for James Gilbert filed in Richmond County, which is unusual. There is no inventory listed in the book of extracted records that I utilized nor did the clerk return an estate inventory with the copy of the will. I wish the clerk had SAID there wasn’t an inventory so I don’t have to wonder if it was overlooked. An estate inventory is also not noted in the court notes, so I suspect, for some reason, there was none. There is nothing normal about James Gilbert’s estate.

James Gilbert died sometime between June of 1703 and June of 1704. That’s when things get quite juicy!!! The will is probated and Mary is quite unhappy, as one might expect. For us as genealogists, that’s when the good stuff begins.

Court Order Book June 7, 1704 – Last will and testament of James Gilbert being presented to this court by the executor therein named for proofe, the same was proved by the oaths of Thomas White and Edward Welsh and order for probate granted thereon.

Thomas White appears to be the uncle of John Mills Jr.

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

Often, or when possible, the appraisers were the largest creditor, someone from the wife’s family and a totally disinterested party.   A child or someone who benefitted from the will was never appointed an appraiser.

Court Order Book Aug 2, 1704 – Petition of Mary Gilbert setting forth ye last will of her decd husband James Gilbert, was only proved in common forme and that the same ought to have been proved in dur forme of law yt: ye executr of the said decd be summed to the next court held for this county to prove y said will in due forme of law.

Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Order for proving the last will of James Gilbert is continued till morning.

Court Order Book Nov 1, 1704 – Pursuant to an order of court Aug 3, 1704 granted upon the petition of Mary Gilbert for the (C???) of John Mills, executor of the last will and testament of James Gilbert, decd, to prove the will of the said James according to due form of law, it only being proved in (____) form, the said Mills accordingly appeared and Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge, not insisting on any further proofe by ye said Will than already made but did by his pleading make voyd the same and all dependence and evidences in order to prove the said James in his lifetime revoked and said will. The court on ye consideration of ye whole matter are of judgement that the will of said James Gilbert is a good will and duely proved and that the evidences produced to prove the revocation thereof are not sufficient in the law to prove the said revocation from which judgement (upon reading the order) the said Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge did appeale to the 5th day of the next general court and upon the motion of the said Mary Gilbert by her aforesaid attorney George Eskridge (the evidence produced to prove the abovesaid revocation being put into writing and severally sworne to in court) are ordered to be recorded.

From which judgment Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge appeals to the 5th day of the next general court.

This day Samuel Samford and Edward Jones acknowledge themselves indebted to the justices of Richmond county in the full and just summe of 20,000 pounds tobacco and caske to be paid to the justices their exrs and admrs in case Mary Gilbert do not prosecute an appeale by her made from an order of this court this day obtained against her by John Mills exr of James Gilbert to the 5th day of the next general court.

The general court was held at Williamsburg each April and October, and I have been unable to find any references to specific cases or James Gilbert’s among the reported decisions. In 1799, the general court was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.

A call to the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, a part of the Colonial Williamsburg, confirms that indeed, the general court records from the time period including 1704 have burned. Very unfortunately, this seems to be the end of our information about this case, except for the following depositions which were clearly given in preparation for the general court case.

The following depositions were found in the Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 by TLC Genealogy.

Page 26 – Deposition. Thomas Langdale, aged about 24 years, says that one and a half years before James Gilbert’s death, John Mills came over to James Gilbert’s where your deponent then lived and when the said John Mills went away, said Mills told your deponent that James would make his will, meaning your deponent’s master, and sometime after that, John Mills Jr. came to your deponent’s master’s house and your deponent’s master, James Gilbert, went along with the said John Mills Jr. and when the said James Gilbert came back again, your deponent asked him whether he had finished his business and the said James Gilbert answered, yes, and some time after that, your deponent asked John Mills Jr. who your deponent’s master has left his estate to and the said John Mills Jr. answered that he had left it all to him, only 20 shillings and that he had left to his wife, and sometime after that, your deponent met with Thomas White and he told your deponent that his master has set him free when he died. Signed Nov. 2, 1704. Thomas (U his mark) Langdale

This deposition raises far more questions than it answers. We know that James Gilbert’s will was dated January 31, 1701/02. If we calculate his actual death based on this date, this deposition tells us that James Gilbert actually died in about June or July of 1703. Not included in this deposition, but through genealogy, John Mills Sr.’s wife, Hester, was the daughter of Richard White. Therefore, we know that John Mills Jr.’s mother was not a child of James Gilbert. This is in addition to James Gilbert’s will referring to John Mills Jr. as his friend.

Page 26b Deposition. Ann Kelly, aged 20 years or thereabouts, says that on last New Year’s Day, Thomas Durham, your deponent’s master, sent her to James Gilbert’s to desire him to come down to pipe it, and as your deponent and said James Gilbert were coming back, by John Mills his plantation, James Gilbert asked your deponent whether his old woman was at your deponent’s master’s house and your deponent answered, yes, she was, and said James Gilbert held up his 2 hands and said, God’s Curse Light upon that family naming John Mills and all his family and said that if it were not for John Mills and his wife, he and his wife would never have lived at variance as they did, and your deponent told said James Gilbert that it was his own fault, living so, and asked him why he had not fought away his chest and confound that will which he made, and the said James Gilbert said that John Mills and his family had robbed his chest so that they would not agree upon any means that he should fetch it away, and that they were ashamed of it, and the said James Gilbert said that there was a will made but swore by God that he knew not what was in it no more than I did, and your deponent asked said James Gilbert whether he was no sent for to sign his will, but said Gilbert answered, swearing by his God, that he did not sign it, and told your deponent that he had not the sense to make a will, and that John Mills was a rogue for making a false will and that made him and his wife live so discontentedly and further your deponent says that she saw said Gilbert last Feb. count 15 head of cattle for 40. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 by mark

Since this deposition was given in November of 1704, I would presume that “last New Year’s Day” would mean New Year’s of January 1704, not January of 1703.

Clearly, the damage from James Gilbert’s seizures, and perhaps whatever caused them to begin with, is taking its toll.

If there is a smoking gun, this might be it relative to Dorothy being the daughter of Mary and James Gilbert, although it alone is very weak evidence. On New Year’s Day, a day of celebration, James Gilbert’s wife was already at the home of Dorothy Durham. By this time, January 1704, James Gilbert was already very angry with the Mills family for some reason. This occurred between one and two years after James Gilbert made his will and left everything to John Mills Jr. By this time, James also claims he doesn’t know what is or was in the will and that he didn’t sign.

Page 27 – Deposition. Lawrence Callahan aged about 21 years says that your deponent being at John Simon’s house on a Sabbath Day, sometime last summer, he heard John Mills and Thomas Landale talking together, and that Thomas Langdale told John Mills that he did not know that he was to be set free by his master’s will until he had met Thomas White coming from Moratico Mill and the said John Mills said that he should be free nevertheless. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 Lawrence Callahan by his mark

James Gilbert had at least one indentured servant, Thomas Landale.

Page 27 Dorothy Durham aged about 41 years says that sometime before James Gilbert’s death, being in company of said Gilbert and William Smoote, amongst other discourse, she heard said Gilbert say to said Smoote that he did not know that there was any Resurrection or not, and that had made a will to John Mills, but that it signified nothing, and that your deponent did, several times, hear the said Gilbert say that John Mills was a rogue and that he nor any of his should ever be the better for what he had. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 – Dorothy (P her mark) Dureham

Clearly, William Smoot is involved with this family, one way or another. One would think that if James Gilbert was Dorothy’s father that Gilbert would not have informed a daughter, namely Dorothy, that he was left his estate to John Mills Jr. by allowing her to overhear a discussion with another person. Not only does this deposition not state a relationship to James Gilbert, the discussion about the will suggests that Dorothy is not the child of James Gilbert.

Page 27b – Deposition. John Ingo, aged about 29 years, says that James Gilbert, a small time before his death, was at his house and did declare to him that he did intend to fetch away his chest from John Mills’ house, for he said that it lay in such a nasty condition, with hen dung and such like nastiness, that he could not well come at his chest for it and that he was afraid that the chest and goods both would be damnified with the nastiness, and that he did intend to fetch the chest home to his own house and did swear bitterly that John Mills, nor any of his family, should ever be the better for anything of his estate, and that the will that he made did signify nothing, and the said John Ingo further says that a little before James Gilbert was burnt, he asked him whether he was not persuaded to make a will or made drunk when he did make it, and the said James Gilbert answered that he was not, but was as sober as he was at that time, and then the said James Gilbert was sober. Signed Nov. 3, 1704 John Ingo

This deposition, along with the next is disturbing. It appears that James Gilbert burned to death.

Page 28 – Deposition. Martha Ingo says that some small time before James Gilbert’s death, said Gilbert being at your deponent’s house, she asked said Gilbert why he did not alter his will, and Gilbert answered that he would, and at the same time, your deponent heard Gilbert swear, by God’s blood, that John Mills nor any of his family should ever be the better for anything that he had, for he was a very rascal or a rogue, and further, said Martha Ingo says that a small time before the said James Gilbert was burnt, she heard her husband, John Ingo, ask said Gilbert whether he was not persuaded to make a will or made drink when he did make it, and that the said Gilbert answered him and said that he was not drunk, but that he was sober. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 by her mark

Apparently James Gilbert drank, and got drunk, but denied being drunk when he made his will.

Page 28 – Deposition. William Smoot says that James Gilbert was not in his perfect senses by reason of fits, which had followed him for several years, and I having some discourse with him about a will which he had made to John Mills for to had him altered it, and he said he had made a will to John Mills, but it signified not, for it was good for nothing and I advising him to prepare for his end and to make his peace with God and to be reconciled with his wife, and he giving very foolish and cross answers, I told him that if he had a mind to have the Sacrament given to him, that no minister would give it to him if he did not change his mind, and likewise, I asked him if he thought there was a Resurrection or not, and he said he did not know and that he did not go to church nor would not yield to have any reading to him in his sickness, nor at other times did not care for it, as ever I could understand, but it was his delight to be in the woods with his sponsor(?) on the Sabbath day. Signed Nov. 2, 1704

This deposition gives us a possibility of what happened to James Gilbert, and perhaps how he burned to death. He may have had an epileptic seizure and fallen into a fire. Furthermore, the testimony about his “foolish and cross answers” would well signify increasing brain damage as a result of the seizures that he had been enduring for several years. That might also explain why he felt that his will meant nothing, when ultimately, it would be upheld by the court.

The fact that William Smoot does not specify a relationship to James Gilbert certainly suggests that they were not closely related by blood.

Page 28b – Deposition. John Rankin, aged about 38 years, says that about 3 years ago, your deponent being in the woods with Mr. George Devenport, near your deponent’s plantation, John Mills Sr. met there with your deponent and said to your deponent that James Gilbert, late decd, was going to live up in Stafford and the said Mills did request your deponent to persuade said Gilbert not to go. Immediately while the said Mills was in your deponent’s company, and your deponent did, by his advice at that time, persuade said Gilbert not to go, nor did said Gilbert ever go, and further, your deponent some short time after, met with the said Mills and the said Mills said that the aforesaid Gilbert did intend to get your deponent to write the said Gilbert’s will, but your deponent never did. Some considerable time after your deponent met with said Gilbert and after some discourse, the said Gilbert said to your deponent that that will that had made to young Mills, signified nothing, and some time before said Gilbert’s death about 10 days, your deponent went to see said Gilbert at his house and amongst some other discourse said Gilbert told your deponent that the aforesaid will signified nothing. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 John Rankin

I wonder why James Mills Sr. did not want James Gilbert to move to Stafford County in 1701.

This ends the depositions. The court apparently found that James Gilbert’s will held, given that John Mills Jr. continues to be the executor, which then begs the question of how Mary Gilbert later sold land to Thomas Durham. She must have owned it fully in her own right or inherited it after James Gilbert’s death. Otherwise the land would have been part of James Gilbert’s estate.

Court Order Book October 4, 1705 – Action brought by Mary Gilbert against John Ingo dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Feb. 7, 1705/06 – In action of case between John Dalton and Mary his wife, admin of William Brockenbrough decd plt and John Mills, Jr., exec of James Gilbert decd, deft for 334 lb tobacco, the deft being returned by sheriff by copy left and no appearing upon the motion of the plt an attachment is granted to him against the estate of the deft for the summe aforesaid

Court Order Book March 7, 1705/06 – Judgment granted to John Dalton and Mary his wife admin of William Brockenbrough decd against John Mills Jr. exec of James Gilbert decd for 335 lb tobacco due by account which is ordered to be paid with costs of suit.

Deed Book Page 109a-110a April 26, 1707 – Indenture between Mary Gilbert of North Farnham Parish, widow and Thomas Durham and same and wife Dorothy – that Mary Gilbert for consideration sell tract of land upon branch of Farnham Creek called the Briery Swamp containing 50 acres now in occupation of Walter Wright bound by corner along land of William Smoote. Signed with mark, Witness William Smoot and Mil. Walters

This deed tells us that Mary Gilbert’s land bordered that of William Smoot. We don’t know how Mary or James Gilbert came into possession of this land. Generally, the widow does not inherit land, only a percentage of the estate, so Mary must have owned this land individually. Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for one headright.

Deed Book P 110a William Smoote planter, Farnham Parish, consideration to Thomas Durham of same, planter, quit claim a certain plantation and tract or land situate in upon a branch of Farnham Creek called the Bryery Swamp and bounded (same description as deed between Mary Gilbert and Thomas Durham above) April 20, 1707 signed. Wit Anne Kelly and Mil. Waters

Court Order Book Page 299 Sept. 3, 1707 Mary Gilbert acknowledges deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.

Page 299 Sept. 3, 1707 William Smoot acknowledged release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.

It appears we need to look at the Mills family to see if there any clues to be found.

John Mills Family

John Mills, the elder, who died in February of 1710/11 was married to Hester White as proven by the will of Richard White probated in July of 1708 in Richmond County naming his children, including Hester Mills. Hester’s brother, Thomas White was continuously involved with the John Mills family.

When John Mills Sr. died in 1711, son John Jr. was of age and inherited the “land where I now live” from his father, but several other children were still underage.

John Mills (Sr.) is first mentioned in January of 1686/87 when he posts bond for Elizabeth Lincolne to administer the estate of her deceased husband, John Lincoln. Charles Dodson is listed as the administer of that estate. John Hill married John Lincoln’s widow and after her death. Charles Dodson’s widow, Ann, later marries John Hill, evidently after the death of Elizabeth Lincoln.

In 1691-1694, John Mills and wife Hester are buying and selling land on Tostuskey Creek.

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that James Gilbert pay unto John Mills 12 days attendance according to act being by him subpoenaed as evidence in the suit between James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery deft.

Deed Book, Pages 117-119 Oct 30, 1699 between John Mills, planter and Easter Mills, wife, Richmond Co., to William Richardson 20 acres in Farnham Parish begin at corner white oake in a branch joining upon Thomas Duzin line running along the line SW or thereabouts until the dividing line between James Gilbert and the said Mills, along the line of William Smyth until he comes to the said marked white oak. Mills bought it of George Vincent. Signed by both with their marks. Witness Samuel Jones mark, John Browne.

I John Mills have nominated and appointed William Smoot Jr. my true and lawful attorney to deliver to Mr. William Richardson a deed of land to him and his heirs. October 1, 1700. Witness Thomas Mackey, William Smoot Sr. signed by John Mills with his mark

I Hester Mills nominate William Smoot Jr. (same as above) including witnesses.

This deed is quite interesting, because it proves that Gilbert did own land and locates the land of James Gilbert adjacent to John Mills.

In March of 1700, John Mills is ordered by the court to be paid for 8 days attendance in a suit where Francis Moore, a ship’s captain who is also a merchant versus William Smoot Jr. and again in 1701 where John Mills attends court 10 days for the same suit.

Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by John Mills against Abraham Marshall and Thomasin his wife is dismist, the plt not appearing to prosecute

This is extremely interesting, because Thomasin Marshall is the sister of Dorothy Durham.

In August and October of 1700, John and Hester Mills both give power of attorney to William Smoot Jr. the son of William Smoot Sr., in order for them to prove a land sale to William Richardson and save them a trip to the courthouse.

In July of 1706 when neighbor Charles Dodson dies, and his widow, Ann, married John Hill, John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard White or any 3 of them are ordered by the court to meet and appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. These men all lived in the vicinity of Charles Dodson – and each other. Richard White is the father-in-law of John Mills. We don’t know who the wife of Charles Dodson was, but she is very possibly a local woman.

Court Order Book, Page 40 June 2, 1709 – Action brought by Jeremiah Greenham against John Mills is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Jeremiah Greenham would one day marry Dorothy Durham, but in 1709, Dorothy’s first husband, Thomas Durham Sr. was still living.

Richmond County Will Book P 37 – John Mills, Farnham Parish, will Dec. 30 1709, probated Feb. 7, 1710/11, son John land where I now live, daughters Hannah, Hester, Elizabeth Green, other sons Richard 50 ac, Thomas 50 ac, George (under 21), James (under 21), wife Hester, exec wife, wit Winifred Southern, John Rankin, Thomas White.

The birth of Elizabeth to John and Ester Mills is recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register.

Court Order Book Feb 7, 1710/11 – Will of John Mills, late of this county, decd, proved by oathes of John Rankin and Thomas White, 2 of the witnesses, admitted to record and Hester Mills executrix. Probate granted.

It’s unlikely that James Gilbert left his entire estate to John Mills Jr. because John Jr. was James Gilbert’s son-in-law. Understanding that James Gilbert’s will says John Mills Jr. is a friend, I still had to work through this possibility, because clearly James Gilbert had to have some motivation for leaving his entire estate to John Mills Jr.

If John Mills Jr. was the eldest son of John Mills Sr., given that John Sr. had 2 underage sons at his death, suggesting that the rest of his children were of age, that would put the age of John Mills Jr. at about 30 or 32 when his father died in 1711. If he was 32 in 1711, he would have been about 22 or 23 in 1702 when James Gilbert wrote his will. This would put the birth of John Mills Jr. about 1679.

We know that James Gilbert first shows up in the records in 1690. If Gilbert’s daughter is indeed Dorothy Durham, which is as yet only speculation, she was born in 1663 and was married in the 1680s, as were her sisters. Therefore, James Gilbert would have had to have been in the area, if not in the records, by the mid 1680s.

While women have children for generally 20-24 years, it’s likely that John Mills Jr. is a generation younger than James Gilbert and his wife, Mary – although it would not be impossible for John Jr.’s wife Mary to be the daughter of James Gilbert and his wife Mary, although I think it’s extremely unlikely given James Gilbert referring to John Mills Jr. as his friend and not as anything more.

John Mills Jr. is first mentioned in any records in the will of James Gilbert wherein all of the drama begins.

North Farnham Parish Wills, Richmond County, Virginia – f69r – James Gilbert of North Farnham Parish, will dated 31 Jan 1701/02, probated 7 June 1704 wife Mary; executor: friend. John Mills Jr; wits: Edward Welch, Jane Williams, Thomas White.

Please refer to the James Gilbert section for the depositions and proceedings having to do with James Gilbert’s will.

We don’t know when John Mills Jr. married, nor who his wife was, other than her first name was Mary, but we do know that he was married before March of 1719 when his son George was born. George died in January of 1721. A second child is recorded as Mills Mills (sic) born in 1722.

Court Order Book Page 38, April 4, 1722 – George Davenport, John Mills, Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Thomas Welch. All sworn and also Elizabeth Welch, executrix.

This order would have been John Mills Jr, as John Mills Sr. was deceased by this time.

Based on the following entry, John Mills Jr. is dead by 1728 and Mary Mills, his widow, appears to have married Thomas Livack.

Court Order Page 435 October 2, 1728 Action of debt between Frances Hill executrix of will of John Hill, decd, plt and Thomas Livack and Mary, wife, executrix of will of John Mills, decd, for 16,000 pounds tobacco due by bond, the def being called and not appearing the motion of the plt judgement is granted her against the defts.

Yes, this is the same John Hill that married Elizabeth, the widow of John Lincoln and Ann, the widow of Charles Dodson, and who was married at the time of his death to Frances.

Dorothy’s Sisters

We know who two of Dorothy’s sisters are due to the fortuitous listing of relatives in four wills.

  • The first will belongs to John Stretchley, second husband to Dorothy’s sister, Alice.

Abstracts of Lancaster County, Virginia Wills 1653-1800 by Ida J. Lee

Stretchley, John – probated 6 Dec. 1698. Recorded 14 Dec. 1698.

Wife: Alice. Daughters-in-law: Catherine Chinn, Anne Chinn. Son- in-law: Raw. Chinn. Cousin: Edwd. Audley. Sister: Sarah Bambridge. Extrx: Wife. Wits: Wm. Ball, Rich. Ball, Geo. Haile. W.B. 8, p. 87.

In this case, daughters-in-law means daughters by law, or step daughters in today’s vernacular.

  • The second will that of John Stretchley’s wife, Alice, from the same source. Alice’s first husband, John Chinn had been married previously and died in 1691.

Alice died with a will in 1701.

Stretchley, Alice, wife of Jno. Stretchley of St. Mary’s White Chappell. 29 Aug. 1701. Rec. 8 Oct. 1701. Daughters: Anne Fox the portion bequeathed her by Jno. Chinn, her father, and by Jno. Stretchley, her father-in-law; Catherine Heale. Sisters: Dorothy Durham and Tomassin Marshall. Son-in-law: Capt. Wm. Fox. Son: Rawleigh Chinn “all money in the hands of Mr. Jno. Pemberton, Mercht. of Liverpool.” Cousin: Mary Dodson. Wits: Jas. Taylor, Lewis Pugh, David Smith. W.B. 8, p. 106.

  • The third will is by Ann Chinn Fox Chichester, Dorothy’s niece, mentioned above, who first married William Fox who died in 1718, then Richard Chichester. John Fox’s will mentions wife Ann and daughter Mary, but sadly, according to Ann’s will, Mary has apparently died.

Ann’s Will is dated February 9, 1725, and was recorded December 10, 1729 in Clerks Office, Lancaster County, Virginia – Will book no. 12, pg. 123

In the name of God I am Ann Chichester, wife of Richard Chichester of the County of Lancaster…

Item – I give to my Aunt Dorothy Greenham, wife of Jeremiah Greenham of Richmond Co. Planter, my suit of silk crape clothes and a suit of muslin head clothes – with apron, rufels and —

Item – My will and desire is that my Mulatto girl name Mary which is now in possession of Jeremiah Greenham and my aunt Dorothy Greenham his wife remain with my Aunt Greenham until the said mulatto girl Mary shall rise to the years of twenty and one if my Aunt Dorothy Greenham shall live so long and in case my Aunt shall die before Mary shall come to 21 years then my will is that my niece Ellen Heale have ye said mulatto until she arrives to 21 years and at the expiration of 21 my will and pleasure is that mulatto Mary be free from all persons whatsoever.

Item – I give unto Capt. George Heale Junr, William Heale Junr. Ann Heale, Catherine Heale, twenty shillings each.

Item – I give unto Joseph Chinn, son of my brother Rawleigh Chinn, my Negro woman Moriah and her three children viz: namely Hannah, Nanny, Ruth, to him ye said Joseph Chinn and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten but if he shall die without such heirs then my will and desire is that the said Negro woman Moriah and her three daughters, namely Hannah, Nanny, and Ruth and their increase be equally divided amongst my brothers children namely, Thomas Chinn, Chichester Chinn, Ann Chinn, and Sarah Ellen Chinn and their heirs forever.

Item – I give to my brother Rawleigh Chinn my two Negro lads namely Dublin and Cefis until such time my nephew Christopher Chinn shall come to the age of twenty one years and then my will and desire is that Christopher Chinn have and enjoy my two negros Dublin and Cefis to him the said Christopher Chinn and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten forever, but in case he die without heirs then my will is that John Chinn have ye Negro Dublin and Rawleigh Chinn have and enjoy Cefis to them and their heirs forever.

Item – I give to Rawleigh Chinn, son of my brother Rawleigh Chinn twenty shillings.

Item – I give unto Ann Chinn all my plate hereafter mentioned, viz: one large silver tankard market or engraves ISA (?), half a dozen silver spoons and silver ladle marked ACA and one silver tumbler to her and her heirs.

Item – I give to Ann Chinn one suit of my clothes and half a dozen new Rusia Leather chairs.

Item – I give unto Eliza Heale all the remainder of my clothes of the better sort.

Item – I give unto Catherine Lindsey and Catherine Kirk all my usual wearing clothes to be equally divided between them.

Item – I give to Sarah Heale three silver salts and my side saddle.

Item – I give James Atchison six hundred pounds of tobacco to be paid him out of the crop made on the hills plantation.

Item – I give unto my brother Rawleigh Chinn ten Pounds Sterling I have in the hands of Mr. William Dawkins, merchant in London.

Item – I give unto my brother all residue of my estate in what nature forever.

Item – I appoint my loving brother Rawleigh Chinn my sole executor of this my last will and testament, revoking all former wills and deeds by me made and do publish and declare this the last as witness my hand and seale this ninth day of February, One Thousand Seven Hundred twenty and five/six.

Signed, sealed and published in presence of Edmond Carroll, Eliza Heale, Catherine Quick (Kirk?). Rawleigh Chinn audited her est. Feb. 13, 1729, amt. 250 pounds.

  • The fourth will is that of Abraham Marshall, husband of Tomazin, sister to Dorothy, found in Richmond County, VA.

Will of Abraham Marshall, blacksmith written November 3, 1708 and probated July 6, 1709 – Wife Thomasin use of plant. and lands in North Farnham Parish, after her death to daughter Mary Campbell, if she has no heirs, to brother John Marshall of Bradfield in Berkshire in the Kingdom of England, and if he has no heirs to go to John Durham of North Farnham Parish; son in law Alexander Cambell; exec: wife; witnesses: Thomas Morgan, Alexander Thompson, [Mil.] Walters

Tree

Based on the various wills, plus a few birth years from the parish register, we have the following tree for Dorothy and her sisters.

What’s obviously missing are the parents of Dorothy, Thomasin and Alice.

Abraham Marshall

Thomasin was married to Abraham Marshall by the time their daughter was born in 1699. She may have been married to him many years previously, but that is the first record of Thomasin. Abraham Marshall died in 1709 and Thomasin remarried to William Goodridge. Goodridge died in 1713, mentioning her in the will written May 12, 1713 and probated on September 2, 1713, along with his children from a prior marriage. William’s will was proven by Thomas and Dorothy Durham – Thomasin’s sister and brother-in-law.

North Farnham Parish Register – Mary Marshall daughter of Abraham and Thomasin Marshall, January 7, 1699

Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by John Mills against Abraham Marshall and Thomasin his wife is dismist, theplt not appearing to prosecute

Court Order Book July 2, 1701 – Katherine Thatchill servant to Abraham Marshall by and with her own consent is ordered to serve her master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

This day Abraham Marshall confesed judgemtent to the churchwarden of Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds good tobacco in cask which this court have ordered to be aid with costs of suit. Exo. Being the fine ode from Katherine Thatchill for committing the sin of fornication.

Ordered that Katherine Thatchill do serve Abraham Marshall her present master according to act for the care and trouble of her childbirth of a bastard child.

It being evidenctly made appear to the court that Catharine Parry, servant to Abraham Marshall did fugitively absent herself from her said master’ service the space of 15 days and that her said master hath expended 300 pounds of tobacco for percuring her againe, the court have ordered that the said Katherine do serve her said master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time and be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

Court Order Book May 6, 1702 – Capt. John Tarpley one of the churchwardens of the parish of North Farnham certifying to this court that Thomas Tatchall being a parish charge and Abraham Marshall being willing to discharge the said parish of ye said Thomas, the court have ordered that the said Thomas Tatchall do serve the said Abraham Marshall and Thomazin his wife their heires and assignes until he shall attaine to the full age of 21 years.

Court Order Book Nov. 6, 1702 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Abraham Marshall is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Motion of Abraham Marshall by his attorney Daniel McCarty setting forth that James Dooling servant to the said Abraham hath by ye persuasion of some of his neighbors absented himself from his said masters service and doth refuse to return home with him. It is heretofor ordered that the said James do forthwith returne home to the service of his said master and that he continue in the same will further order from the court.

Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Especiall impll. Is granted in the suite betweene Abraham Marshall blacksmith, plt and Robert Renolds deft, until next court.

Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Daniel McCarthy entered attorney for Abraham Marshall.

Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Upon petition of James Dolling for his freedome ordered that the said James to returne home to the service of his said master, Abraham Marshall, and that Mr. Francis Moore who imported the said James make oath that he has indentures for the terme of 9 years according to the certificate produced to this court under the hand of the Mayor of the Citty of Dublin.

Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Imparlance granted in the suite betweene Abraham Marshall, blacksmith, plt and Robert Reynolds deft until next court.

Richmond County Wills by Robert Headley Jr. – F131t – Abraham Marshall, blacksmith, will Nov 3, 1708, July 6, 1709, wife Thomasin use of plantation and lands in North Farnham Parish, after her death to daughter Mary Cam(p)bell, if she has no heirs, to brother John Marshall of Bradfield in Berkshire in the kingdom of England and if he has no heirs, to go to John Durham (son of Thomas Durham) of NFP; s-i-l Alexander Cam(p)bell; exec wife, wit Thomas Morgan, Alexander Thompson (Mil.) Walters.

The birth of Mary Marshall to Abraham and Thomas in was recorded on Jan 7, 1699 in the North Farnham Parish Register (page 126), yet apparently she had married Alexander Cam(p)bell by November 1708. One or the other entries has to be incorrect. The Parish Register is known to have been copied into a new book at least once.

Deed Book Dec 10, 1723 Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr., 5 shillings 100 acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bounded by Spanish Oak corner tree of Charles Dodson part of patent formerly granted to William Thatcher by the main branch of Totoskey and then (metes and bounds.) Signed Thomas and Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker and Jeremiah Greenham

Deed Book Dec 10, 1723 between Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr. of Richmond Co. 5000 pounds tobacco received by Thomas Dodson Sr. certain parcel of land formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date 25th of 9ber, 1692, containing 100 acres bounded (same as lease above). Signed Thomas Durham, Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham

Mary Dodson appeared in court May 6, 1724 and released her dower

Deed Book Page 12 Lease and release Dec 6-7, 1733 from Thomas Dodson Sr. and Mary his wife and Thomas Dodson Jr. and Eliza his wife all of NFP to John’n Lyell of same in consideration of a negro woman to be delivered to said Dodson as soon as any comes to Virginia to be sold as the said Dodson Jr. wished about 130 acres in North Farnham Parish and bounded by Charles Dodson by the main swamp of Totuskey. The other 30 acres of land is bounded by old Cone path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneal, a line of trees that divides the land of Mr. Spencer and the land of Thomas Dusin, corner oak formerly belonging to William Matthews, along Matthews line the land formerly belonging to John Jenly. Of the 130 acres, 100 acres formerly belonged to Abraham Marshall by a deed dates 25 9ber 1692 and from thence conveyed to Thomas Durham and by the said Durham sold to Thomas Dodson Sr. The other 30 acres was formerly sold by Thomas Dusin to Thomas Southern by deed dated 21 7ber 1687. Signed Thomas Dodson Sr. his mark T, Mary her mark M, Thomas Dodson Jr., Elizabeth her mark, witnesses Robert Reynolds and George Gibson and William Creel, Recorded April 1, 1734

John Chinn

John Chinn’s (Chynn) family was involved in transporting people to Virginia in order to receive headrights. Alice was John Chinn’s second wife, marrying sometime before the birth of their first child in 1682 which puts Alice’s birth about 1662, or earlier. John died a decade later, in 1692, with a will listing his children.

John Chinn is obtaining patents as early as 1664 for land upon Morrattico Creek, by the Dragon Swamp and at the head of Morrattico. In his adult life, he appears to live in Lancaster County, adjacent Richmond County. Given that John was already patenting land about the time Alice Chinn was born, he was probably at least 20 years older than Alice.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 4; Pg 436 – John Chinn, 100 acs. Lancaster Co., 24 Aug. 1664, p. 125, (630). Upon Morrattico Cr., adi. his own & land of Henry Davis. Trans. of 2 pers: James Potter, Thomas Coate.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 31 – John Chynn, 370 acs. upon a br. of Moratico Cr., adj. land’ of Edward Miles; 17 Mar. 1667/8, p. 113. Granted is David Fox, Gent., assigned to Lambeth Lambethson, who assigned to Alexander Portus, by him assigned to Thomas Williams, who assigned to John Chynn & Henry Davis, & sd. Davis assigned his title to sd. Chynn.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 31 – John Chynn & John Gibson, of Lancaster Co., 550 acs. in Rappa. Co., 17 Mar. 1667/8, p. 113. Beg. by the Draggon Swampe & adj. land of John &c. Trans. of 11 pers: John Johnson, James Johnson, Henry Woodbridge, Anne Wilson, Wm. Harman Flering, Francis Dolphin, Rich.Jno. Medler (?), Wm. Baker, Rick. Parker.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 70 – Mr. Thomas Wright & John Chynn; 220 acs. N. side of Rappa. Co., near the head of Moratticoe Cr., by the Mill Dam, &c; 26 Apr. 1670, p. 276. Trans. of 5 pers: Ralph Hall, Ben. Davis, Cutberth Taylor, Lyddia Gates, Edward Jones.

Today, we find on Family Search that Edge Hill, nearing Downings Virginia is listed as being the home of the Chinn family, and nearby, we find Chinn’s Pond. This correlates with the location of the above grants and deeds. Edge Hill Road is shown with the red balloon, below. Chinn’s Pond is the body of water to the right of the red balloon.

The two inlets to the north are Farnham Creek and Totuskey Creek, both locations documented in the various deeds. We know that are allied families are living between Chinn’s and Rich Neck, north of 360, near the Haynesville Correctional Center, shown below.

Where Are We?

Ok, we have lots of data, but where are we really?

Good question. I wondered the same thing.

Here’s what we know.

William is NOT Dorothy’s Father

William Smoot is not Dorothy’s father, as proven both by his interactions and his will where he leaves all of his estate to his grandchildren through daughter Mary who married Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr., highlighted in yellow.

Further evidence of this is that William Smoot’s daughter, Mary, married Dorothy’s son. If Dorothy was William Smoot’s daughter, then Dorothy’s son would have married her sister.

William Smoot and Mary Gilbert are both Related to Dorothy

William Smoot is related to both Dorothy and her sister, Alice, given that William deeds land in 1700 to Dorothy and in the case that Dorothy dies without heirs, Dorothy’s sister’s daughter receives the land.

After James Gilbert’s death, Mary Gilbert sells 50 acres to Thomas and Dorothy Durham, NOT just Thomas Durham. William Smoot quitclaims the land that Mary Gilbert sells to the Durhams. This suggests that the relationship between both William Smoot and Mary Gilbert is to Dorothy Durham, not her husband, Thomas. Otherwise, the deeds would have been to Thomas Durham, not to Dorothy alone in 1700 and Thomas and Dorothy in 1707.

Therefore, William Smoot is probably a sibling of Mary Gilbert. If Mary Gilbert is of the age to be the mother of Dorothy, then Mary Gilbert would have been born no later than 1643 and possibly as early as 1620. That would make Mary between the ages of 64 and 87 in 1707 when she deeds the land to Thomas and Dorothy Durham, and William Smoot quitclaims the land.

William Smoot of Rappahannock County is first found in the records in 1672, so of age and born no later than 1650. He and his wife are having children in the 1680s and his son, William Smoot Jr. comes of age by 1701.

Scenario 1 – Is William Smoot the Son of Mary Gilbert?

Given the ages involved, William Smoot could possibly have been the son of Mary Gilbert by a previous marriage.

If William Smoot is the son of Mary Gilbert and the brother to Dorothy, then Thomasin and Alice’s heirs would both have had to quitclaim the land that Mary sold to Dorothy and Thomas Durham in 1707. This didn’t happen, so I doubt that Mary Gilbert is the mother of both William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.

If William Smoot is the brother of Dorothy Durham, with Mary Gilbert being their mother, then Mary was married to a Smoot before she married James Gilbert.

This would mean that James Gilbert was the step-father of Dorothy Durham and William Smoot, along with Dorothy’s sisters, Alice and Thomasin. That means that William Smoot is also the brother to Thomasin Marshall and Alice Chinn. Not impossible.

It’s also possible that Mary’s child is Jane Smoot, not William. If so, the same laws would apply, given that a husband owns his wife’s land unless she holds the land separately from him.

However, either scenario, William or Jane as the brother to Dorothy, causes me to question why William Smoot would have quit-claimed that 1707 deed, but the other living child known to be Dorothy’s sister, Thomasin, did not quitclaim the deed. Also, Dorothy’s sister Alice mentioned her two sisters in her 1701 will, but did not mention a brother. Unusual, since William Smoot was generous in the 1700 deed towards Alice’s daughter.

Therefore, I find it very unlikely that William Smoot is the brother of Dorothy Durham.

Scenario 2 – Mary Gilbert, sister to William Smoot and Dorothy’s Parent?

Another possibility is that Mary Gilbert, William Smoot (or his wife) and Dorothy’s parent are all three the children of unknown parents. This means the reason William deeded land to Dorothy was because he was her uncle. The reason Mary Gilbert deeded land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham was because she was Dorothy’s aunt and the reason William Smoot quitclaimed the deed was because he owned an interest in that land as Mary’s sibling. This does not explain why Dorothy’s sister, Thomasin, still living in 1707, along with the heirs of Dorothy’s deceased sister, Alice, didn’t also have to quitclaim that deed since ownership would have passed through their parent’s generation. If this is the case, it makes the next scenario more likely.

It’s also possible that ownership of that land was not to all three siblings, meaning Mary Gilbert, William Smoot and Dorothy’s parents, which means that Thomasin and Alice would not need to quitclaim that land if Dorothy’s parents did not own any interest. We would need to know how the land that was conveyed in 1707 was obtained by Mary Gilbert and exactly why William Smoot had an ownership right in that land. A part of that story is also why Mary Gilbert managed to retain that land after James Gilbert’s death and his entire estate being left to John Mills Jr.

This is one of the two most likely scenarios, the second being shown below.

Scenario 3 – William Smoot as the Brother of Mary Gilbert – Mother of Dorothy

In this scenario, William Smoot is the brother of Mary Gilbert, and Mary Gilbert is the mother of Dorothy Durham, Alice and Thomasin, all known to be sisters.

If William Smoot is the brother of Mary Gilbert, or Jane Smoot is Mary Gilbert’s sister, with Mary Gilbert inheriting land from their common parent(s), or even another sibling, then William would have been quitclaiming his interest in his parent’s land. Given that Mary Gilbert deeded this land in 1707, and that William Smoot’s apparent only son, William Smoot Jr., had probably died, William Smoot Sr. would have had no objection to the land from his parents going to his niece who was also a grandmother to his grandchildren through his daughter Mary and Dorothy’s son Thomas. Dorothy Durham was also William’s neighbor, so he had lived beside her for his entire life. The land sold by Mary Gilbert abutted William Smoot’s land as well as Thomas and Dorothy Durham’s land, so it was a perfect fit.

The other possibility is that William is not, himself, the brother of Mary Gilbert, but that his wife, Jane, was Mary Gilbert’s sister. The same laws would apply since William Smoot would have been the person selling his wife’s land. Jane did sign a release of dower. If Jane Smoot was Dorothy’s aunt, would William have said in the 1700 deed that he was transferring land for the “great love” he has for Dorothy? I don’t know.

If he had only added two words, “my niece,” or whatever Dorothy was to him.

In my opinion, the most likely scenario is that Mary Gilbert was originally a Smoot, or is the sister of Jane Smoot through unknown parents, and that William Smoot is not the father of Dorothy Durham, but her uncle, which explains the various relationships in a satisfactory manner that makes sense – including the omission of Thomasin’s quit-claiming the 1707 deed. She held no interest.

Tracking Neighborhood Land

In an act of utter desperation, I created a grid in Excel of all of the land transactions that included anyone with any of the family names I’ve worked with in early Rappahannock or Richmond County. These families were all neighbors.  Mary Gilbert had to acquire that land she sold in 1707 in some fashion – and given that it was bounded by William Smoot’s land, it had to have originated in these early families.

By anyone, I mean anyone mentioned as having land that bounded Smoot or Gilbert, anyone who acted as a witness, and of course, the buyer and seller.

The following grid shows only the first 12 columns of approximately 35, but it does show all of the Gilbert, Smoot or 50 acre involved transactions, highlighted in yellow.

Names on the left with nothing in their rows have entries in the columns not displayed that reflect land sales to and from Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and others who are neighbors but not directly involved.  My goal was to perhaps find some common links to a neighbor whose land touches Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and William Smoot – early – before Mary Gilbert obtained the land in whatever manner.

William Smoot’s land that he obtained in 1700 may have been in his hands as early as 1684 and surely was by 1694.  The neighbors are given in the patent bounds as:

  • Rowland Lawson (Leuson)
  • James Gilbert
  • Mr. Grimes (probably John, from other grants)
  • Clears who is probably Ambrose Clary

William Smoot’s land, and that of his neighbors, appears to be complex, based on these 4 entries in the book, Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants (1694-1742) Vol I:

Only two other 50 acre transactions occurred, both in 1694, one from John Mills Sr. to Thomas Dusin and one from Thomas and Susanna Dusin to William Richardson for the same land.

These lands appear to have been in the early Thomas Madison grant or grants.  Madison partnered with Richard White whose daughter Hannah was the wife of John Mills Sr.  Furthermore, James Gilbert in the 1693 court case appears to be in possession of the land grant in question. It appears that the Madison grant(s) and the Griffin grant abutted, based on 3-79, above.

Further research on the various people involved and whose land abutted these transactions produced the following information:

  • Richard White had a will and named two daughters, both of whom were married in 1708 when he died and none were named Mary, Jane, Dorothy or Thomasin.
  • Thomas Madison died in 1674 leaving everything to wife Katherine, mentioning his brother but no children.
  • Thomas Dusin died in 1704, which is after James Gilbert, but leaves his entire estate to his wife, Susannah, mentioning no children.  Dusen, according to a will he witnessed sometime before 1677 was about age 29, so born about 1648 or earlier.
  • John Henley, mentioned as the 1794 purchaser was alive yet in 1709, witnessing a will.
  • Madison also sold land to William Matthews whose daughter, Alice, married William Thacker, another gentleman patenting land in the Northern Neck of Virginia and who sold land to Charles Dodson in 1685. William Thacker was also William Smooth’s neighbor, according to Smoot’s 1694 land patent awarded in 1700.
  • William Matthews sold land to both Abraham Marshall and Charles Dodson. William Matthews died before 1686, his widow married Peter Elmore, long associated with Charles Dodson.
  • William Thacker died in 1698 leaving an underage son, Gabriel and 2 daughters, Catherine and Susanna.
  • Thomas Southern died in 1704, leaving sons James and William and 3 unnamed daughters. However, daughters Susannah (1691), Winifred (1693) and Thomas (1695) are recorded in the North Farnham Parish register for this couple, so they were having children too late to me Dorothy’s parents.
  • Ambrose Clary disappears from the records entirely.
  • Daniel O’Neal is clearly present in the community, but I was unable to find a will after 1699, nor is he present in the Maryland Families data base.  This actually may be he could be a candidate worthy of further research.
  • The Grimes family continues to appear in the records, but I was unable to find anything for John Grimes.  Further deed research would be in order, as well as early wills.
  • I was also unable to find anything further in a cursory search for Edward Riley, meaning that I have not returned to the library to search court records and all deeds.
  • Richard Fowler died in 1718.
  • John Ingo, Sr., died in 1701 leaving sons John, James and daughter Elizabeth Ascough.
  • Rowland Lawson’s father was also apparently named Rowland. One of these men was importing headrights in the 1660s.  Rowland Jr. lived and died in 1706 in Lancaster Co., VA, naming sons Henry and Rowland in his will.  His brother may have been Epaphro.

Needless to say, I’ve struck out with finding any other likely connection for Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin among the neighbor families – at least among the families involved most consistently or with a 50 acre land conveyance.

One possibility yet remaining would be to search for land transactions from both Thomas Madison and William Fauntleroy, husband of Katherine Griffin Fauntleroy, for 50 acre sales to attempt to find the land that was eventually conveyed by Mary Gilbert to Dorothy and Thomas Durham and quitclaimed by William Smoot.

This land may yet be the key to unlocking the identity of Mary Gilbert and her relationship to Dorothy Durham and William Smoot.

Revisiting James Gilbert

What remains is the question of why James Gilbert willed his estate, except for 20 shillings, to John Mills Jr. It’s possible that the reason is because he and Mary Gilbert had no children and he was the step-father to her children. This act would have upset his wife terribly, which it obviously did, but could be logically explained in this manner, although clearly this is speculation. Of course, the other possibility is that the cumulative brain damage caused him to become either irrational or confused. This is certainly a valid possibility, given that one of the depositions indicated that he couldn’t successfully count cows, mistaking 15 for 40.

It’s also possible that Mary Gilbert had no children and was the sibling of William Smoot and Dorothy’s parent – so James Gilbert felt he had no one to leave his estate to – meaning no children. Although that still doesn’t explain why he attempted to omit his wife.

In some way, Mary Gilbert and William Smoot (or his wife) came to own land jointly, probably from common parents, which is why William quitclaimed his interest in the land when Mary sold the land in 1707 to Dorothy and Thomas Durham. This also suggests that there were no additional invested property-owners in that land, because no one else conveyed or quitclaimed that land. We know that if William Smoot was Mary’s child, he would have had no vested interest in the land unless he was left that land by James Gilbert, and James Gilbert only left land to John Mills Jr. If Mary Gilbert has previously been married to a Smoot who left land to William, Mary Gilbert would not have been able to sell that land, because she would have had no interest. Widows only obtained life estate and did not own their husband’s land in fee simple. We also know that if William Smoot was Mary’s son, and Dorothy’s brother, that the third living sibling, Thomasin should also have quitclaimed that deed, and she did not, nor did the heirs of Alice, Dorothy’s other sister who had previously died.

If Mary Gilbert is William Smoot’s sister, and the mother of Dorothy and her two sisters, then Mary Gilbert had to be born before 1643, given that Dorothy was born in 1663 and may not have been the oldest of the three daughters.

If Mary Gilbert was born in or before 1643, and was the sister to William Smoot, then neither William Smoot nor Mary could have been the children of William Smoote who settled in Maryland, because we know that in 1646, when he immigrated, he did not have a daughter named Mary.

William Smoot could be the son of William Smoot of Maryland if Mary Gilbert is not his sister, but is instead the sister of his wife Jane. If that is the case, then who William Smoot descends from is irrelevant to the search for Dorothy Durham’s parents.

It’s possible that William Smoot’s wife is the person related to Mary Gilbert, and that Jane Smoot and Mary Gilbert’s parents are also the grandparents of Dorothy Durham through an unknown parent.

Having sifted through all of the available information, the best fit is that William Smoot (or his wife) and Mary Gilbert were siblings, and that Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin were the daughters of Mary Gilbert, possibly through an unknown first husband, given James Gilbert’s discussion about his will with Dorothy within hearing. That’s not exactly how you want to inform your daughter that she has been disowned. Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin could have been the daughters of James Gilbert as well, although it seems somewhat doubtful.

If Dorothy and her sisters were step-daughters, that might be one reason why James Gilbert felt no compunction to leave any of his estate to Dorothy, Alice or Thomasin – but it does not explain why he only left 20 shillings to his wife and the balance of his estate to a friend. How was his wife supposed to survive after his death? If Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin were his children, we’ll just have to chalk James Gilbert’s decision up to cumulative brain damage due to epilepsy.

The other scenario that fits equally as well is that Mary Gilbert had no children, William Smoot had only one living daughter, Mary, who married Thomas Durham Jr., and that Dorothy’s parent was the sibling of both Mary Gilbert and William Smoot (or his wife.)

I am still hopeful that someday more information will emerge, such as previously undiscovered records out of Williamsburg from the general court or early chancery suits from Richmond County.

Until that time…this is the best we can do.

My Opinion

My opinion, barring further evidence, is that the most likely scenario is Scenario 3 and that Mary Gilbert is the mother of Dorothy Durham and that James Gilbert may or may not have been her father – and that either William Smoot or his wife Jane and Mary Gilbert were siblings.

My second choice would be Scenario 2 where Mary Gilbert is the sibling of William Smoot or his wife Jane, and both are siblings of Dorothy’s parent, whoever that was.

DNA

Unfortunately, the only way to prove the theory that Mary Gilbert is Dorothy’s mother would be to utilize the mitochondrial DNA DNA of Mary Gilbert through her daughters, but since we have no idea if Mary Gilbert had any children – there are no known daughters for us to track their descendants to current.

Dorothy and her sisters had the following female children whose descendants may be candidates for testing.

If Jane Smoot’s daughter, Mary Smoot that married Thomas Durham Jr. is the sister to Dorothy’s mother, or to Dorothy, the mitochondrial DNA of her daughter, Mary, through all females to the present, would match the mitochondrial DNA of the lines shown above.

Mary Durham Dodson had two daughters, Alice born in 1711 that married an Oldham and Mary born in 1715 that married William Creel.  Nothing more is known about these lines.

However, if Mary Durham Dodson’s mtDNA matched that of Dorothy Durham’s daughter’s descendants or that of Dorothy’s daughter’s descendants – we would then know that the relationship of William Smoot to Dorothy was through his wife and not him.  Conversely, we would also know that if the mtDNA did not match, then the relationship was not directly matrilineal and probably through William Smoot and not his wife.

We can’t verify William Smoot’s Y DNA line because he had no surviving sons.

Unfortunately, we can’t use autosomal DNA in this instance to universally search for Smoot, because the descendants of Thomas Durham Jr. will match a Smoot line. The descendants of Thomas Dodson who married Mary Durham MAY show a Smoot line, because Dorothy Durham is shows in so many trees to be Dorothy Smoot.

Smoke or Fire?

However, searching at both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry for matches with the Smoot surname has produced what I would classify as smoke. But you know that old saying about smoke and fire.  The question is, do we have fire?

At Ancestry, Smoot matches break down as follows:

  • 38 total
  • 10 are private
  • 10 are either the Thomas Durham/Dorothy line
  • 9 lines are too late to be useful
  • 9 descend from the Charles County, Maryland Smoots. One of these lines matches me on a known line that is not related to the Northern Neck families.

Those from the Charles County Smoot line share from 6.1cM on one segment to 18.7 cM on two segments.  The person with 18.7 cM on two segments is known to be related through another line, although they could be related through two separate lines. Five have shared matches, but none of the shared matches are useful meaning we don’t share common ancestors in trees and there are either no common surnames, they don’t have trees, or the surnames in common don’t seem to be from the same lines.

Unfortunately, Ancestry has no chromosome browser.

Those 11 matches to people who descend from the Smoot line in Charles County, Maryland are an awful lot of smoke for there to be no fire. Because of the interrelated families and because of the distance in terms of generations and time, we would need to carefully triangulate any autosomal DNA matches to Smoot and they would have to NOT be related to me through any other line – meaning the testers would need to have a pretty complete pedigree chart.

At Family Tree DNA, Smoot matches break down as follows:

  • 8 total
  • 2 no tree BUT they are assigned to my father’s side through family match phasing
  • 4 are from Thomas Durham/Dorothy line
  • 2 are from the Charles County, Maryland Smoot line with longest blocks of 8 and 9 cM

Fortunately, I have more tools to work with at Family Tree DNA, including a chromosome browser that allows me to view the matching DNA segments of the 8 people who match me.  Unfortunately, neither of the two Charles County matches match me on the same segment as another person from my known Durham line, nor do they match anyone else is the Smoot group using the matrix tool.

So, if the matches to Smoot descendants of the Charles County, Maryland group is fire and not smoke, we still need proof.  That means we’ll need more testers to match and some to triangulate on my known Dodson segments.

Let’s hope that in time, between additional DNA testers, advances in technology and perhaps more genealogical records becoming available, that one day we’ll be able to solve the mystery of the relationship of William Smoot and Mary Gilbert to Dorothy Durham, and identify Dorothy’s parents!

Dorothy Durham (1663 – after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164

Dorothy, born in 1663, was the wife of Thomas Durham by sometime in 1685, because their daughter, Mary, was born on June 5, 1686 in what was then Rappahannock County, Virginia, now referred to as Old Rappahannock. We don’t know if Mary was Dorothy’s first child, but Mary was the first of Dorothy’s children recorded in the North Farnham Parish church records which are known to be incomplete.

We also know that Dorothy had two more children that lived, Thomas Durham born on June 17, 1690 and John Durham on November 23, 1698. By that time, Richmond County had been formed and Rappahannock County was dissolved.

Dorothy appears to be somewhat younger than Thomas Durham, her husband, who was probably born sometime before 1649 based on the fact that he was exempted from paying levies by the court in September of 1699 “by reason of his great age.” Dorothy was all of 36 years old at that time. It wasn’t uncommon for second wives to be significantly younger than their husbands and it looks like Thomas was probably at least 25+ years older than Dorothy, if not more.

Thomas died before June 1, 1715 when his will was probated, leaving Dorothy with children still at home. Dorothy did what colonial wives did, she remarried quickly, in February 1715, before Thomas Durham’s will was probated. Probate of a will generally happened no later than 90 days after the person died although in this case, Thomas had obviously died sometime prior to February when Dorothy remarried. Someone had to manage the plantation, plant the crops, maintain tobacco which necessitated a lot of manual labor and TLC at just the right time, and harvest the tobacco when ripe. Dorothy married Jeremiah Greenham, a well-respected gentleman who had been involved with the family and neighborhood for years.

Jeremiah Greenham died in 1753 and we know that his wife at the time was named Mary. Dorothy was last recorded in a document in 1725 and died sometime between then and 1753, a span of 28 years. Dorothy died between the ages of 62 and 90.

It’s possible that Dorothy had passed away by January 13, 1726 when Jeremiah Greenham sold his Stafford County land to brothers Thomas Dodson and Greenham Dodson. No wife signed a release of dower, so we can’t tell if the lack of a signature was because Jeremiah was unmarried at the time, or it was an oversight. I think this at least suggests that Dorothy might have been deceased by this date.

However, Dorothy was alive a year earlier on February 9, 1725 when Ann Chinn Fox Chichester, Dorothy’s niece who had no children wrote a will wherein she left “my suit of silk crape clothes and a suit of muslin head clothes, with apron, rufels and —“ to her Aunt Dorothy Greenham. Ann’s will was probated on December 10, 1729 but we can’t tell if Aunt Dorothy was alive to collect her suit of silk crepe.

Clothes were expensive in colonial Virginia, and silk crepe, by whatever spelling, would have been a very nice gift that Aunt Dorothy surely would have appreciated.

We don’t know when Dorothy died, but we do know that Jeremiah retained a close relationship with John Durham, Dorothy’s grandson through her son Thomas Durham. Jeremiah Greenham left John Durham his “Great Bible.” Sadly, Jeremiah had no children of his own.

Dorothy Durham had two known sisters, Alice who married first to John Chinn and second to John Stretchly and Thomazin who married first to Abraham Marshall and second to William Goodridge. Dorothy could have had more siblings, but those are the only two mentioned in 1701 and 1725 wills.

The oft-repeated story about Dorothy’s parents is that she is the daughter of William and Jane Smoot, but working with the records, I can tell you that I’m nearly positive that Dorothy is not William Smoot’s daughter, although she is clearly somehow related to William Smoot. I even have some idea about who Dorothy’s parents might have been, but there is no smoking gun yet today. Maybe in due time, utilizing advanced DNA methodologies. Or maybe someone’s “great Bible” will turn up on e-Bay or records from another location will be found. There is always hope!

Colonial Northern Neck Virginia

What was life like in the Northern Neck of Virginia when Dorothy would have lived there?

This area was still suffering from Indian warfare in 1676 when Bacon’s Rebellion gained a foothold. Servants and slaves took the opportunity to escape. Plantations were burned, as was Jamestown, depicted in the engraving below.

Armed men gathered, eager to fight and emotions ran high. In 1677, the Northern Neck settlers dared not venture from their plantations for fear of their lives. If Dorothy’s family lived in tidewater Virginia then, it would have been a frightening place. Dorothy would have been about 13 at that time.

Militia units were formed and frontier patrols were maintained in this region until about 1700 to protect the families from Indian attack from hostile northern Indians. These patrols were reinstituted in 1704 across the Rappahannock River in Essex County. Plantations were distant from each other, and although the area was sparsely settled, it was still in many ways a frontier.

Bacon’s Rebellion resulted in the courts removing the ability for men without land to have a vote. It would be more than 200 years before non-landowners recovered that right. Dorothy’s husband, Thomas Durham, wouldn’t have been able to vote until 1700, when William Smoot deeded land to Dorothy, if indeed Dorothy’s land would have been considered Thomas Durham’s land for purposes of voting. Furthermore, to sit on a jury, one had to be a landowner, so the lack of land was a handicap and detriment to Civil liberties we all take for granted today. Serving at court and voting was reserved for the more successful male residents, in essence creating a defacto class system. While Thomas and Dorothy don’t appear to be poor, based on Thomas’s estate inventory and the fact that they eventually owned land, they certainly had to work their way up the social and economic ladder.

There is no record of Thomas Durham ever purchasing or patenting land although in 1723, Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Jr. sells land that looks for all the world like it might have originally belonged to his father. If indeed this was Thomas Durham Sr.’s land, the deed was never filed at the courthouse, just passed down by hand.

Deed Book Page 240 Dec 4-10, 1723 – From Thomas Durham of Richmond County to Thomas Dodson Sr. of same 5000 pounds tobacco parcel of 100 acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date of Nov. 25th 1692 situate in Richmond Co and bounded by Charles Dodson, being part of the pat formerly granted to William Thatcher by the main branch of Toteskey. Signed Thomas and Mary Durham. Wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham. Recorded May 6, 1724 and Mary Durham appeared in court to relinquished dower.

Abraham Marshall is Dorothy Durham’s sister’s husband. By 1723, Thomas Durham Sr. had died and Dorothy was married to Jeremiah Greenham.

Thomas Durham Sr.’s will is confusing. He directly addressed the 50 acres of land deeded to him in 1707 by Mary Gilbert, but he also makes indirect reference to additional land in this statement:

“If said Thomas Durham doth refuse and will not release the said 50 acres of land nor pay the tobacco aforesaid, I do will and bequeath the said plantation whereon I now dwell with all my lands unto my son John Durham and his heirs.”

Was the land Thomas and Dorothy dwelt on the Abraham Marshall land of 100 acres or the 62 acres deeded by William Smoot?  By all rights, Thomas should not have been willing the Smoot land, because Dorothy owned that land severally.  However, I was never able to discover what happened to Dorothy’s 62 acres. Dorothy did not have a will.

Unruly Virginia!

Dorothy and Thomas Durham began their married life at what was economically, probably the worst time possible. Beginning in the early 1680s, too much tobacco caused a glut in the market and tobacco prices plummeted. Planters called for the Virginia government to limit planting and restore prosperity, and when that didn’t happen, plant cutting riots erupted. If the governor wouldn’t help them, then they would take matters into their own hands, literally.

In May of 1682, rioting spread up and down the Rappahannock River and the Northern Neck peninsula, resulting in militias from other counties being called in to keep the peace. This was about the time that Dorothy and Thomas would have been courting and marrying.

One burgess blamed the time of year and cider brewing for the riots, according to the History of Essex County, Virginia, by James Slaughter, stating that, “All plantations flowing with cider, drunk so unripe by our licentious inhabitants that they allow no time for its fermentation but in their brains.”

According to Slaughter, half the tobacco crop was destroyed in Rappahannock County that summer and tensions ran high. Thankfully, tobacco prices rose in 1683 but the specter of “renewed rebellion hung over an unruly Virginia until the end of the century.”

Unruly Virginians, indeed – but the specter of those angry frontiersmen brings a smile to my lips. Yep, those would be my ancestors.

In 1684, a French visitor to Rappahannock County did us the favor of recording his travels and attendance at a wedding celebration, thus:

“The Virginians eat almost no bread, seldom drink during meals, but they did nothing afterwards for the rest of the day and all night but drink, smoke, sing and dance. They had no wine. They drank beer, cider and punch, a mixture of beer, three jugs of brandy, three pounds of sugar and some nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix these well together and when the sugar has melted they drink it and while making away with the first, they prepare another bowl of it.”

Anyone want to try that recipe?

The Frenchman then reported that the next morning he “did not see one who could stand straight.” Guests spent the night at parties in colonial Virginia because travel was difficult. Probably also because people were highly intoxicated. Ladies slept on beds and men on the floor.

The French visitor also mentioned that one “could not enter a house without being served venison. It is very good in pies, boiled and baked.” This tells us that hunting was an important part of the culture of colonial Virginia, and domestic livestock had not yet taken the place of wild game on the tables of the planters and their families.

At least twice, the Rappahannock court sponsored county-wide parties. In 1683, the county declared a public feast to celebrate the birth of a son to King Charles II and in 1689, the birth of a Price of Wales in England.

More than 100 gallons of “rum or other strong liquors with sugar proportionable” so that the party could “be done with all the expressions of joy this county is capable of” were ordered by the court and consumed – mostly on the north side of the Rappahannock River, now Richmond County, where court was in session at the time. I bet that was one very interesting court session!

(Sir Walter) Raleigh’s First Pipe in England, an illustration in Fredrick William Fairholt’s Tobacco, its history and associations

Tobacco smoking was also quite in vogue, according to our traveling Frenchman:

“Large quantities of it are used in this country, besides what they sell. Everyone smokes while working and idling. I sometimes went to hear the sermon. Their churches are in the woods and when everyone has arrived the minister and all the others smoke before going in. The preaching over, they do the same thing before parting. They have seats for that purpose. It was here I saw that everyone smokes, men, women, girls and boys from the age of seven years.”

I must say, I knew that adult men smoked tobacco as a social pastime, and to some extent, it doesn’t surprise me that some women smoked. However, I was taken aback to think about my 7-year- old ancestors, both boys and girls, smoking. It would be another 300 years before we understood how harmful that habit is, and how difficult to break once established. At that time, it was not only popular, tobacco smoking conveyed that one was of the upper class. Tobacco was also believed to have medicinal and curative properties.

Education, if it happened at all, was a private matter. Public schools did not exist in this part of Virginia until after the Civil War, and most people could not read or write. In fact, according to Slaughter, Governor Berkley (1642-1677) said, “I thank God that there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”

Wealthy planters sent their sons to England to be properly educated, but the Durham family certainly did not fall into that category. Dorothy in her 1704 deposition where, among other things, she gave her age as “about 41 years,” signed with a “P” for her mark. Thomas Durham signed his will with a mark as well.

The Deed

In 1700, something quite unusual happened.

William Smoot Sr. deeded land to Dorothy Durham in her own right, meaning the land was in her name only. Her husband could not sell it or otherwise control that land. This is an extremely unusual circumstance and begs the question of why. Unfortunately, any clue we might have is entirely mute.

Richmond County VA Deed Book, August 2, 1700 – Deed of gift. William Smoot Sr. of N. Farnham Parish Richmond Co. for consideration received and for the great love that I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham wife of Thomas Durham of same county and her children do give unto her and her children a 62 acre parcel of land bounded by Thomas Durham, branch of Morattico Creek, land of the same William Smoot Sr., land of Rowland Lawson, line of Mr. Grimes and line of Clare. If in case the said Dorothy Durham die that then the land shall come to Thomas Durham eldest son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that then the land shall come to John Durham second son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that the land shall come to Mary Durham eldest dau of the said Dorothy Durham and in case she shall happen to die without issue that then the land shall come to the fourth, fifth, sixth and c children of the same Dorothy, but in case of want of issue that the land shall descend to Ann Fox wife of William Fox of Lancaster Co., gent. Wit John Simmons, Thomas Mackey, ack Aug 7, 1700 Book 3 page 57

Aug 2, 1700 – Power of attorney Jane Smoot wife of William Smoot Sr. having appointed Edward Jones my attorney to ack the above gift to Dorothy Durham and her children. Wit Thomas Mackey, Edmond Overton. Book 3 page 58

Court Order Book Page 56, August 7, 1700 – Ordered that the deed for land ack in this court by William Smoot Sr unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, be recorded.

It’s also obvious that somehow, William Smoot is related to Dorothy. Not only does he convey this land for “the great love that I beare unto Dorothy…and her children,” but he also reverts the land ownership to Anne Fox, who just happens to be Dorothy’s niece through sister Alice, if Dorothy dies without heirs.

The Deposition

James Gilbert died in 1704, having made a will in January 1701/02 leaving his entire estate to John Mills Jr., instead of his wife and family. James suffered from “fits,” as seizures were called at the time, and based on the 1704 depositions of various neighbors and (possibly) family members, he verbally revoked his will, but didn’t seem to believe that he needed to do so in writing, officially.

Therefore, as you might imagine, there was quite a hullaballoo after his death regarding his will and estate.

Dorothy Durham gave a deposition about the matter in 1704, which is how we discover her age. From the Richmond County, VA Miscellaneous Record Book, we find the following:

Page 27 – Deposition. Dorothy Durham aged about 41 years says that sometime before James Gilbert’s death, being in company of said Gilbert and William Smoote, amongst other discourse, she heard said Gilbert say to said Smoote that he did not know that there was any Resurrection or not, and that had made a will to John Mills, but that it signified nothing, and that your deponent did, several times, hear the said Gilbert say that John Mills was a rogue and that he nor any of his should ever be the better for what he had. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 – Dorothy (P her mark) Dureham

Furthermore, in 1707, after James Gilbert’s estate is (presumably) settled, Mary Gilbert, James Gilbert’s widow sells 50 acres of land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham, with William Smoot quit-claiming the deed.

How are Dorothy, her sister Alice, William Smoot and Mary Gilbert related? We don’t know exactly, but we’ll discuss the various options and data in a separate article about Dorothy’s parents.

Dorothy Was No Shrinking Violet

Women don’t appear much in county records, except for an occasional release of dower rights when their husbands sold land. Even then, most women appointed a male as her power of attorney in order to release her dower right so she did not have to attend court in person.

Dorothy was unique in a couple of ways. She not only owned land in her own right, she also personally appeared in court in a rather controversial case. I can just imagine Dorothy waltzing before the burgesses, in spite of the gasps of the assembled men because of her audacity, showing up in court like that…and taking care of business

The drama that unfolds in 1708 casts Dorothy in quite a different light than any other colonial women I have ever encountered in the records.

The drama didn’t begin as anything unusual. Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined Ann’s age so that the length of her indenture could be determined and so that she could be taxed appropriately. In 1704, Ann gave her age to be 20, which would have put her birth in 1684. If she were 14 in 1699, then she would have been born in 1685.

Court Order Book Page 406, June 7, 1699 – Ann Kelly servant to Thomas Durham being presented to this court to have inspection into her age is adjudged 14 years old and ordered to serve her master or his assigns according to act.

However, by 1708, nine years later, Anne was 23 and circumstances had changed.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – Anne Kelly, servant to Thomas Durham, being brought before the court by her master for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and said Anne refusing to confess who was the father of the child, the court have ordered she be committed to the county goale there to remaine until such time as she shall confess who is the true father of her child and it is also ordered that she serve her master or his assignes after her time by indenture custome or otherwise shall be fully expired according to law in compensation for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

Imagine how intimidating this must have been for Ann. Not only did all those men, dressed in their finery and powdered wigs “know what she had done,” they were pressuring her for the name of the child’s father. Ann, a servant with nothing of her own, probably dressed in hand-me-down clothes, if not rags, didn’t even have the right to direct her own body.  Ann faced them down and stood firm, probably shaking with fear, even when sentenced to goale (jail.)

Having none of this, Dorothy steps in.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – This day Dorothy Durham for on the behalf of her husband Thomas Durham confessed judgement to the church wardens of Northfarnham parish to the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco the same being the fine of Anne Kelly for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child which is ordered to be paid with costs.

I can’t even begin to explain how unusual this was. Not only did Dorothy appear at court, of her own volition, she clearly defied her husband to do so. Not only that, but Dorothy apparently controlled some financial aspects of the household, because there seemed to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dorothy was capable and authorized to pay the 500 pounds of tobacco – even though Dorothy did say she was acting “on behalf of her husband.” In every other similar case, some male community member steps forward and posts bail, or not, but no female ever steps forward like Dorothy did.

I’m convinced that posting bail, in most cases, wasn’t so much to help the poor woman who had the child as it was to retain the services of the woman and not be inconvenienced by her absence. In Dorothy’s case, we’ll never know what motivated her to attend court alone, step up in place of her husband AND pay the fine for Anne Kelly. But she did!

Furthermore, in most cases, the female willingly named the child’s father. In this case, we do discover the name of the father the following March, and I wonder if Dorothy knew all along.

Court Order Book Page 4, March 2, 1708/9 – Anne Kelly came into court and made oath that Thomas Durham Jr. is the true father of 2 bastard children borne of her body in the time of her service with his father, Thomas Durham the elder. Upon motion of the Queen’s attorney ordered that Thomas Durham Jr. be summoned to next court to enter into bond with security for the indemnification of the parish and what charge may acrew to the parish for or by reason of the children aforesaid.

In March of 1708/09, Anne Kelly was dragged before the court a second time. This time, however, she named the father of the children – Thomas Durham Jr., the son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. While Thomas was summoned to post bond to the churchwardens so they would not incur future costs on behalf of the children, Thomas Jr. was not fined for fornication nor did he have to pay Anne Kelly’s fine for fornication and having a bastard child. Men were never fined, prosecuted for the sin of fornication, nor treated with or sentenced to “goale.” I guess those women somehow managed to get pregnant all by themselves!

This time, it wasn’t Dorothy who paid Anne Kelly’s fees, nor Thomas Durham Sr. or Jr., who should have by all rights paid her fines – but Thomas Dodson who was married to Mary Durham, Dorothy’s daughter.

No place in any of this does Thomas Durham Jr. step up – not once.

I’m proud of Dorothy and her chutzpah in defiance of the social norms of the day and for her courage to do what was right, in spite of whatever the personal consequences.

I can just hear the conversation:

Dorothy: “Thomas Durham, if you won’t pay the fine for Anne Kelly, I’ll just go to court and do it myself.”

Thomas: <Chuckling> “Thou will, will thou?”

Dorothy: “Indeed, I will.”

Thomas: “I think not.” <Frowning, not chuckling anymore.>

Dorothy: “The Hell I won’t. You watch.”

Thomas: “Bet me? I forbid it.” <Menacing>

Dorothy: “Bloody Hell. Hold my beer!”

Thomas: <Calling after Dorothy’s back as she whooshes out the door, climbing on their only horse and not bothering to ride side-saddle, as becoming to a respectable gentlewoman.> “Dorothy, it’s not nice to swear.”

Thomas: <Drinks Dorothy’s beer.>

Dorothy, you go girl!!!

Dorothy’s Children

Dorothy had three children that lived and very likely many more that didn’t.

All three of Dorothy’s children’s births are recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register.

  • Daughter Mary Durham was born June 5, 1686 and married Thomas Dodson, the neighbor lad, on August 1, 1701. She would only have been 15 years old. Their first child, and Dorothy’s first grandchild, was George Dodson, born on October 31, 1702. With mother and baby both safe, the Durham and Dodson households were both celebrating!
  • Son John Durham was born on November 23, 1698. John was somewhat of a challenging child. He may have been troubled by the death of his father in 1715, because in 1716, John and his brother, Thomas sued his mother, Dorothy, who had remarried to Jeremiah Greenham. Custody of John was awarded by the court to his brother, Thomas, and John’s share of the estate was distributed. What the heck does a teenage boy need with a bedstead? Regardless, John went to live with his brother Thomas, taking with him all of the items his father left him in the will. It could be argued that perhaps brother Thomas coveted some of those items along with brother John’s labor and hence, encouraged the suit against their mother. John never married and was dead by 1722.
  • Son Thomas Durham was born on June 17, 1690 and died on December 3, 1734. He would have been 44 years old. He married Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot and wife Jane sometime around 1710, when his “bastard children” by Ann Kelly would only have been a couple years old and when Ann would still have been indentured to his father, probably serving her additional time for fornication with Thomas. Talk about awkward!

1734 was a terrible year for Mary Smoot Durham, Thomas Durham Jr.’s wife. She gave birth to her youngest child, Millicent on August 4th, buried daughter Wilmoth, 4 years old on October 2nd and her husband, Thomas Durham (Jr.), died on December 3rd, leaving Mary with a 4-month-old baby and 8 other children, although it appears that daughter Margaret was already married by this time and some of the other children may have died.

The Silent Spaces

Understanding that women are typically married and fertile for about 24 years, and presuming all children live to the age of weaning, approximately 12 children are born to each woman before the days of birth control. If some children die at birth or before they are weaned, then more than a dozen children can be born.

We know that Dorothy was born in 1663, so we can presume she would have begun having children about the time she married, with the first child arriving probably about 1684. Therefore, we have many spaces in which she probably had children that died and were buried at the Farnham Parish church in the old location, lost today, with only a general location known.

In the cemetery in the now-lost churchyard, we would find several of Dorothy’s children born in about the following years:

  • 1684
  • 1688
  • 1692
  • 1694
  • 1696
  • 1700
  • 1702
  • 1704
  • 1706
  • 1708 possibly

That’s an awful lot of babies to have died. Nine, maybe ten. Some may have lived long enough to smile, to play, even to talk and run in the warmth of the sunshine. Then they died, taking a piece of their mother’s heart with them. Every single one.

Every child was buried in a tiny grave, probably with a small wooden cross. Each one had a name.  Dorothy probably held each one as they died, cleaned their tiny body and dressed them in the best way she could afford.

One baby girl was probably named Dorothy, her own namesake. Other baby girls would likely have been named Alice and Thomasin, after Dorothy’s sisters. Two more would have been named after her parents and two more after Thomas Durham’s parents as well.

Dorothy probably visited the graveyard to tend the graves of her children, then to visit Thomas, for the duration of her life. She is probably buried beside them. Knowing in her heart she would be reunited with them one day is probably the only thing to relieve her grief, even a little, and only for a short time.

Those children’s birthdays and death days are never forgotten, even if they are unspoken.

Dorothy’s DNA

Dorothy only had one daughter, Mary, that lived. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on. Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA would have been passed through daughter Mary to her daughters, and so forth on to the current generation, where male children carry it as well.

Mary Durham Dodson had the following daughters:

  • Alice Dodson married William Creel about 1729. It’s unknown what happened to Alice Creel after her father, Thomas Dodson’s death in 1739.
  • Mary Dodson was born in 1715 and married an Oldham by the time her father wrote his will in 1739. Nothing more is known of this line.

It Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA was passed on, it was through Mary, through one of these daughters.

Dorothy’s and her two sisters both carried their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.  Dorothy’s sister’s mitochondrial DNA was the same as hers, so we can look at descendants of Dorothy’s sisters who descend through all females to view Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA.

Sister Thomasin who married Abraham Marshall had only one known daughter, Mary, who married Alexander Campbell in 1708. I have not traced this family thoroughly, but what I have found shows only two male Campbell children. If this is the case, then Thomasin’s mitochondrial DNA is no more. Perhaps Mary Marshall did have additional children by Alexander Campbell and daughters would be discovered if the line was thoroughly researched.

Dorothy’s sister Alice who married John Chinn had two daughters. Anne Chinn had no children, but Catherine Chinn married William Heale and had several, including daughters:

  • Ellen Heale married David Ball
  • Anne Heale
  • Catherine Heale married John Canaday
  • Sarah Heale married Lindsay Opie
  • Elizabeth Heale married William Davenport and had 2 daughters, Judith Davenport born April 4, 1747 and Elizabeth Davenport born Dec. 27, 1749, both in Richmond County, Virginia. Nothing more is known about Judith or Elizabeth. Hopefully there are descendants through all females living today.

The females who could have passed Dorothy or her sister’s mitochondrial DNA to currently living descendants are shown in the chart below.  You can click to enlarge.

If anyone (male or female) descends from these females through all females from Dorothy or her sisters to the current generation, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you through Family Tree DNA. You carry the mitochondrial DNA of Dorothy Durham and her mother, whoever she was. Perhaps you carry the answer to the secret of her mother’s identity too!

I’d love to hear from you.

Quick Tip – Add Most Distant Ancestor and Location

This Quick Tip will help you get the most out of your Y and mitochondrial DNA results at Family Tree DNA in 9 easy steps.  It’s not difficult, so let’s take a look at how this will help you and walk through the steps together.

Finding Your Common Ancestor

As genealogists, our goal is to find our common ancestor with our matches and this is done through matching our DNA and looking at the relevant branches of our and our matches’ trees.

At Family Tree DNA, one of the things each of us can do to help our matches identify our most distant direct matrilineal (mtDNA) and Y DNA matches is to complete the Earliest Known Ancestor fields in our Personal Information.

If you’re wondering how this benefits YOU, just look at the information you see about your matches. How much information you see is entirely dependent on your match completing their Most Distant Ancestor and that ancestor’s location information.

Note that you can click on any of the graphics to enlarge.

In the above example, the matches (names obscured for privacy) happen to be my mitochondrial DNA full sequence matches. Regardless of which matches you’re looking at, all Y and mtDNA matches show the Earliest Known Ancestor – which is absolutely critical information for you to discern whether you can identify a common ancestor, and whether or not the location of that ancestor is someplace near the location of your own earliest known ancestor.

The second screen where Earliest Known Ancestor information appears is the Matches Map, below, which shows you the location of the Earliest Known Ancestor of each of your matches.

My Matches Map for full sequence mitochondrial results is shown above, with my ancestor shown with the white pin. Ancestors and their locations are critically important for determining the relevance of matches.

The more everyone shares, the better for everyone who matches!

Who is My Earliest Known Ancestor?

It’s easy to get confused, because this field isn’t asking for your oldest known ancestor in that entire line, but your DIRECT LINE ancestor, specifically:

  • For mitochondrial DNA – your earliest known ancestor is your direct MATERNAL (matrilineal) ancestor – so, you, your mother, her mother, her mother, etc., until you run out of mothers. If your oldest ancestor in that line is the husband of one of the mothers, that doesn’t count – because you only inherit your mitochondrial DNA from the direct matrilineal females. The person listed in this field MUST BE A FEMALE. If you see one of your matches listing a male, you know they are confused.

To clarify, in the above pedigree chart, you inherit your mitochondrial DNA from the red circle ancestors – so the oldest ancestor in that line is whose name is listed as the Earliest Known Ancestor.

  • For your paternal line, Y DNA for males, your Earliest Known Ancestor would be your surname ancestor on the direct paternal line – shown by blue squares, above.

How Do I Add or Update Ancestors?

Step 1 – On your dashboard, beneath your picture, click on the orange “Manage Personal Information” link.

Step 2 – You will then see the Account Setting toolbar below.

Click on the “Genealogy” tab.

Step 3 – Click on the “Earliest Known Ancestors” link, beneath the Genealogy tab.

Step 4 – Update your Earliest Known Ancestors information, then click on the orange “Save” button on the bottom to save your information.

Step 5 – To add or update the Ancestral Location, click on “Update Location” for the Direct Paternal or Direct Maternal side, shown above.. You will see the following map which displays the locations for your ancestors if you have entered that information.

For females, since you don’t have a Y chromosome, your paternal location, won’t show. Everyone’s mitochondrial DNA location will be displayed on the map.

Step 6 – Below the map, click on “Edit Location.”

A grey box will be displayed with your current information showing. To add information or change a location, click on “Update Maternal Location” or “Update Paternal Location.” The Maternal and Paternal steps are the same, so we’ll use the maternal line as an example.

Step 7 – Enter your direct matrilineal ancestor’s name, birth year and location. This is the information that will show in your match link to others. Be sure it’s your earliest known ancestor in your mother’s direct line; your mother, her mother, her mother, etc.

Then click on “next.”

Step 8 – The system will search for the location you entered, showing in the search location, below, or finding the closest location. The system automatically completes the longitude and latitude, so ignore those fields.

Click on Search. You will be given the option to change the verbiage of the location. This may be useful when the name of the town, region or country has changed from when your ancestor lived there versus the name today.

Step 9 – Your final information will be shown, so click on “Save and Exit.”

Done

Congratulations, you’re finished!  If you want to update your information, just follow the same process.

Now might be a good time to check your information to be sure it’s as detailed and complete as possible. After all, we all want information about our matches, so we need to give them our own!

You can click here to sign in.

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Mothers, Weddings and a Lobster, 52 Ancestors #160

To celebrate this Mother’s Day, I decided to create a composite of weddings of the women in my matrilineal line. I feel a special affinity for this line, because not only does it include my mother who I miss dearly, and my grandmother, who I knew as a child, but these women passed their mitochondrial DNA to me.

Weddings, in families, mark the boundaries of generations and often, at least historically, the passage into adulthood. These happy events are celebrated by family gatherings that create lasting memories. Today’s wedding culture has become an industry, but weddings weren’t always that way. Often, they were relatively quiet events, more practical than celebratory and limited to family. However, before the advent of cameras, we have no visual records, so the memories died with the attendees.

Sooo….I can hear you thinking, as you recollect some certain relative….maybe no visual records isn’t such a bad thing!

No worries because, today, that certainly isn’t the case.  Come along for a 5-generation jaunt through the bridal gallery of (some not so) well-behaved women. Let’s face it, there is always more to the story than meets the eye!

Nora Kirsch marries Curtis Benjamin Lore

My photographically preserved family bridal history begins with separate photos of Nora Kirsch and Curtis Benjamin Lore taken in Aurora Indiana when they married on January 18, 1888. Oral history tells us that Nora made her own wedding dress and descended the stairs into the parlor at her parents home, the Kirsch House, to marry Curtis.

Of course, the big secret is that Curtis was already married to someone else and let’s just say that this marriage was arranged by shotgun.  Given the choice of an angry estranged wife in Pennsylvania or sure and certain death at the hands of an angry father in Indiana, Curtis chose to get married and was divorced by the Pennsylvania wife a few months later.

Nora always modified her wedding date by a year so her children wouldn’t figure out about the shotgun circumstances.  No one counted on genealogists to dig up the family secrets.  You’re welcome, Nora!

These photos were clearly taken in a studio and there are no photos of the actual wedding. That’s REALLY unfortunate, because if there had been, Nora’s grandmother, Katharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch, five generations back for me, would have been in attendance and we would have a picture of her – which we don’t today. She passed away the following year.

Edith Lore marries John Whitney Ferverda

Twenty years later, less one day, Nora and Curtis’s daughter, Edith Barbara Lore married John Whitney Ferverda in the minister’s home on Friday evening, January 17, 1908, in Rushville, Indiana. This wedding was obviously very low key, probably because the bride’s father had been ill with both typhoid followed by tuberculosis, so there was no money for any kind of a wedding. Nora was supporting the family by sewing clothing and making alterations.

The groom’s family was Brethren, lived in northern Indiana, and was probably not pleased with his marriage outside the faith. The easiest thing to do? Marry quietly, most likely with her parents in attendance. The local newspaper carried the announcement the following day.

Nov. 18, 1908 – Miss. Edith Barbara Lore and Mr. John Whitney Ferveda were quietly married at the Presbyterian church parsonage in North Harrison Street last night by Rev. J. L. Cowling.

This photo of Edith was taken about that time.

This photo of John and Edith together was probably taken about 1920.  It’s one of very few of them together – maybe 3 total.

You can rest assured that Edith and John were both in attendance at the wedding of their son, Harold Lore Ferverda in either 1934 or 1939, but there were no photos of that wedding either.

Barbara Jean Ferverda marries Dan Bucher

Their daughter, my mother, Barbara Ferverda, married Daniel Bucher in 1943 when he was on leave from the Army, in the midst of WWII. And no, there are no photos of that wedding, but we can get close. I think these photos may actually have been taken on the leave when they got married and may have even been the day they married.  They too were married either by a Justice of the Peace or in a minister’s home.

I think they eloped, although that was never discussed nor any reasons why.  They married in Joliet, Illinois, no place near home and in the neighboring state. Another family secret floated to the surface.  You’re welcome, Mom!  Wink!!!

From things said later, I get the distinct impression that although they went together as “steadies” throughout high school, that this wedding was not planned much in advance. A lot of wartime marriages were rather spontaneous and happened prior to the man being shipped overseas.

Another Pictureless Wedding

Mother’s niece, Lore’s daughter, Nancy, married in 1958, and I desperately WISH there were photos of that wedding because both of my grandparents and my mother were in attendance. Why oh why oh why could there not have been photos????

John Bucher marries Karen Heckaman

The next family wedding was my brother, John Bucher and his wife Karen Heckaman when they married on September 2, 1962. I was crushed because I desperately wanted to be flower girl and wasn’t invited to attend.  Well, John, here’s to you.

I think this was the first and only suit my brother ever owned.

John’s wedding photo, above, includes the parents of the bride, at left, Karen and John, my mother in plaid, John’s father, Daniel Bucher and his wife, Betty.  I think Mom and Dan were trying, as gracefully as possible, to ignore each other.

Both of my grandparents had passed away within the past couple years, barely missing a wedding I know they would very much have wanted to attend.

My Turn

Several years later, I was married at home. You may notice that you can’t see mother’s left arm, hidden under mine. She had received third degree burns the day before on the toaster oven, but didn’t tell me until I arrived that day to get ready for the wedding. Her arm was bandaged at the hospital and she was taking pain medication. I had to help her dress. Poor Mom. Let’s just say she already wasn’t happy and this didn’t help the situation at all!

The best man, at far right, brother of the groom, wasn’t happy either, for a whole different set of reasons. Wedding drama extraordinaire!!! The memories of THAT day and the surrounding events would take a book and would have to be written as a novel because no one would believe it otherwise.

WWII interfered in my mother’s first marriage and sadly, Vietnam would interfere with mine.

Mom Remarries

Next, the generational tables were turned and it was mother who was getting married to my much-beloved step-father, Dean Long.

Karen and I are standing by Mom and Dean at the reception serving table in the basement of the church. No professional photography of course, but at least we had our own personal cameras and thankfully, a few of those photos still exist.

That day was eventful and memorable beyond anyone’s expectations.  That dark blue dress I’m wearing is a maternity dress and I spent the morning and early afternoon at the hospital with false labor pains.  In fact, the pains began at the hair dresser while Mom an I were getting our hair done, so she drove me to the hospital.  No stress here!

As soon as the doctor told me he thought the pains were “probably” false labor, I got up off the gurney and told the staff I had to leave because my mother, who had driven me to the hospital and was in the waiting room, very nervously pacing back and forth, was getting married in a couple hours.  There were several questioning and incredulous looks as I departed, but I was on my way out the door nonetheless.

I figured by that point that if the pains were real and not false, I had enough time to get through the wedding before I needed to get back to the hospital.

This picture makes me laugh, because it is reminiscent of “trimming the family.” No, I have NO idea what was trimmed out of this photo of Karen and me. There may have been water damage later when a tornado damaged the roof. I also don’t know who took this photo, but Mom was notorious for taking bad pictures – heads cut off, crooked – but at least she took them.  And with all the various stressors that day, she can certainly be forgiven.

The Little Country Church

Let’s fast forward more than a decade to my second marriage which took place in a beautiful old-fashioned little church.

This time, we did have professional photography, a first in my family, BUT, the photographer’s camera malfunctioned and only photos taken before the ceremony survived.

This is my absolutely favorite photo of my step-father and one of my all-time favorite photos ever. He and I were devoted to each other and I could not have loved a father-of-blood more. His daughter, who was my age, died as an infant, on Christmas no less.

One day, this man of very few words walked past me sitting in his chair at the kitchen table on a hot summer day on the farm, thunked me gently on the head with his knuckle, a gesture of affection, and told me that when he married my mother, he got his daughter back. He just kept walking, like nothing had happened. The tears streamed down my face, because I felt so fatherless after my father died when I was 7 until Dean came into my life several years later. I was so very touched to know he felt the same way about me.

Of the pictures that survived the camera malfunction, we have only a few taken before the actual ceremony, but these alone were worth the price.

My daughter, as the flower girl, scattered petals in the aisle in advance of the bride. However, during the rehearsal, she scattered only a few petals, for practice, and then picked them up. During the actual wedding, she scattered all the petals in her basket, then scurried out in the aisleway to pick them up. My maid of honor quickly retrieved my daughter, who began to cry because she couldn’t pick up the flower petals and that was a VERY IMPORTANT part of her job! Ah, the memories of that sweet, sweet child.

Unfortunately, a decade later, the groom would have a massive stroke and another decade later, I would again remarry. Life seldom unfolds as planned.

The Winery Wedding

This wedding was outdoors at a lovely European-style winery on an island. My step-father was watching from the other side, but I know he was there.  My children, now grown, stood up with me. My son and his wife, at left, with my brand-new granddaughter were able to attend. Mom, John and Karen were there, to the right of me in the photo, along with my daughter.

Now, John and Mom are both gone, so I’m very grateful for these family photos. Had my husband and I simply married at the courthouse, as we had discussed, there would have been no wedding celebration, and hence, no photos! That was our one and only 4 generation picture!

I love this photo too, of Mom walking me down the aisle. I’m not sure who was holding up whom!!! I was so happy that day to have my family gathered which hadn’t happened in many years and would never happen again.

My wonderful granddaughter, making her official debut at the wedding in a dress made by my daughter, matching hers.

Mom and I had a fantastic time together at the reception, held in a cooking school.  The chef was also a comedian, but no one but my husband and I knew that in advance.  Mom and I shared lots of laughs. I’m so glad, because she would be gone soon.

My matron of honor for the earlier church wedding made me this stunning quilt with signature squares from the attendees at the winery wedding.

A few years later, it would be my turn as the mother of the bride.

The Fifth Generation Bride

My beautiful (and smart and wonderful and charming, and did I mention smart) daughter married a few years ago on the hottest day of the summer. I cherish this photo and all the memories of that day we spent together. Our family-of-blood, which was limited to just the two of us, and family-of-heart gathered that day, and I don’t know what we would have done without them.

When family-of-blood is gone, family-of-heart becomes your family. The photo below, taken at the “preparatory party” just before my daughter’s wedding is of me, with my matron of honor who retrieved my daughter from petal gathering at the church wedding and made the quilt for my wedding at the winery two decades later. She and her husband, who had helped dress me as a bride, prepared lunch for the group before my daughter’s wedding. Some friends are forever.  Thirty-five years and counting.

As photography has become ever more present in our lives, we now record not just the momentous events, but the fun parts that makes them more than just milestones.

Sometimes it’s the little things – like dressing the bride.

You know that saying about “it takes a village,” well, I’m telling you, it did. Without my quilt family and other close friends, we would have been lost that day. But more than help, this was a bonding experience for everyone involved.

What am I doing, you ask? I’m sewing my daughter into her dress.  That’s a needle and thread in my hand.  Never underestimate the power of a quilter!!! We will make anything work, one way or another.

In our family, each bride on her wedding day receives a handkerchief made or embellished by my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore. Nora and her mother, Barbara Drechsel were lacemakers and created beautiful lace handkerchiefs and collars.

In the photo above, as my daughter is dressing, I’ve opened the handkerchief that she will carry down the aisle with her flowers. Yes, Nora, and Edith and Mom were all with us that day, one way or another.

In fact, Mom left a special wedding gift for my daughter before she departed to join my step-Dad on the other side – her cherished Hummell Christmas ornaments. Just looking at this picture makes me cry.  It made my daughter cry too.  She’s smiling but you can see the tears in her eyes.

My wedding handkerchief, made by Nora or Barbara, given to me by mother, is framed for posterity.

Finally, the bride is assembled, with a little help from our friends.  Yes, pieces-parts were gathered from near and far, and some assembly and reassembly was required.  Instructions, however, were not included!  Dressing the bride at home was a warm-hearted, very dear and memorable experience.

Here’s the “village” that it took, minus a few people that were somehow missing from the photo.  It was a bit hectic that day.

The village included my quilt-sisters, below. The six of us had been though just about every curve-ball life could throw at us – together. Oh, and one quilt sister, at far right, is also a cousin, something we didn’t discover until after we met.

We had to eat, at some point, so lunch was buffet and the bride was not allowed to eat anything that might stain her dress. Somehow she managed to both eat AND stay clean.  Family gatherings that include breaking bread nourish the body as well as the soul.

The “before the wedding” photography occurred outside, in my yard.

It took all of us to get that done, plus the photographer, another long-time friend aka family-of-heart who had videoed my outside wedding, including the bee who buzzed me as the vows were being exchanged. Tiny detail – I’m terrified of bees, especially tangled in my hair.  No, I did not run backwards down the aisle.  Being late to my own wedding had been bad enough.  However, that video is pretty comical because you can’t tell that it’s a bee I’m swatting at.  I somewhat resemble Ninja bride – and then there’s the laughing.  My poor mother was mortified, again.

My friend’s photography turned out exceptionally well, as you can see – and my daughter had no bee visitors, thankfully.

While these photos look beautiful and elegant, there was an incredible amount of fussing to make them perfect. Five women sweating and fussing with a bridal gown is quite a sight. I’ve omitted those photos. I still have to face the quilt sisters.😊

All I can say is God bless my quilt sisters. We’ve been such an integral part of each other’s lives for so many years, decades, now. We’ve watched our children be born, grow up and marry, and in many cases, participated in the events in a very much hands-on fashion. We spend Christmas Eve together, some holidays and birthdays and even a 50th anniversary.  We are truly family.  My daughter grew up with several “aunts.” There are even stories about that too.  Obvious to us, but not to others – we had people wondering how my daughter’s aunts could originally be from so many different states!

Next, it was time to get the bride into the van to go to the wedding. We all had a good laugh. I’m also omitting those photos, on pain of death if I include them. I also have to face my daughter.😊

First, a quick stop on the front porch for a picture with the groom.

No custom in this family of the groom not seeing the bride ahead of time on the wedding day. The poor groom was actually ill, and not just nerves, but he did a fine job of getting through the day with few people knowing how poorly he felt.  They had to find a doctor during the honeymoon.  Yes, he took a lot of ribbing for that!

Carrying on the step-father tradition, my husband escorted my daughter down the aisle. I’m not sure who was more nervous. Can you tell that he dotes on her? The picture below reminds me of the photo at my wedding with me and my step-father.

Reception Memories

After the actual wedding ceremony is finished, the fun begins. These are the aspects that the wedding date in a genealogy software program can never convey. Traditional wedding photography doesn’t catch this either, but for family bonding and stories, the reception is often the best part. The “big event” is over and everyone lets their hair down.

For example, when the groom’s grandmother, in purple above, in front of the groom, led the family in the chicken dance. You go grandma!!! Thank goodness for these photos and great times, because she is now departed too.

The person who made the cakes clearly had a sense of humor!

And speaking of humor, there was the lobster…

It’s called payback, karma perhaps – something unique from the “rents” as my daughter used to call her parents. Yes, indeed, a lobster showed up uninvited at the wedding, all decked out. That’s me and my husband waving at my daughter, one of those “special moments” reflective of the past that one can only fear resurfacing.  Never mess with the “rents.”  They love you, but they will get you just the same!

Rumor has it that the lobster greeted them that evening at their honeymoon location too. But of course, that’s just a rumor and I know absolutely NOTHING about it. Funny though that no one has seen hide nor claw of the lobster since.

If you want to know the story of the lobster, let’s just say that you’ll have to ask my daughter, or maybe wait until the next wedding or family gathering when someone, I’m sure, will be more than happy to spill the beans.  After all, that’s what family gatherings are for, right?

Isn’t making family history fun!!!

Thank goodness for cameras, weddings, mothers and families, of blood and of heart – with a lobster thrown in for good measure!!!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mitochondrial DNA – Your Mom’s Story

Have you ever wondered why you would want to test your mitochondrial DNA? What would a mitochondrial DNA test tell you about your 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 mitochondrial DNA not only tells us about people we match that are currently living, that share ancestors with us 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!

Every single one of your ancestors has their own individual story to tell – and if you really want to know who you are and where each ancestral line came from, mitochondrial DNA is the insider story on your mother’s matrilineal line.

What Is Mitochondrial DNA?

Mitochondrial DNA a special type of DNA that tells the direct line story of your mother’s mother’s mother’s heritage – all the way back as far as we can go – beyond genealogy– to the woman from whom we are all descended that we call “mitochondrial Eve.”

Mitochondrial DNA is never mixed with the father’s DNA, so the red circle pedigree line above remains unbroken and intact and is passed from mothers to all of their children, as you can see in the brother and sister at the bottom. Only females pass mitochondrial DNA on to their children, so all children carry their mother’s mtDNA. The great news is that everyone can test for mitochondrial DNA, unlike Y DNA where only males can test, shown by the blue square pedigree line above.

However, because of the surname changes in every generation for females, you can’t tell at a glance by looking at your mitochondrial matches’ surname if you are or might be related, like you can with Y DNA which tracks the direct paternal line which means the surname typically doesn’t change. If your match doesn’t list a common ancestor that you recognize, you may need to do some genealogy work to search for that ancestor.

This doesn’t mean mitochondrial DNA isn’t useful, because it can provide you with lots of information – some of which is useful genealogically and some that provides you with knowledge of where your matrilineal line came from and their course of travel through time, over hundreds and thousands of years.

Mitochondrial DNA is an extremely underutilized resource that gives us the ability to peer down the periscope of one family line for thousands of years.

Not to mention, it’s just plain fun!  Who doesn’t want to know more about our ancestors, and especially when the information resides within us and is so easy to retrieve.

Family Tree DNA provides 10 great mitochondrial tools for every customer. Let’s take a look at what you receive and how to utilize this information.

Haplogroup

Everyone who tests their mitochondrial 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 matrilineal DNA is passed intact with no admixture from the father, 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 the entry level mtDNA Plus test which only tests about 6% of the available mitochondrial markers, those most likely to mutate, you will receive a base haplogroup, because that’s all that can be determined by those markers. If you take the mtFull Sequence test which tests all of the 16,569 mitochondrial locations, you will receive a full haplogroup designation, plus a lot more.

What’s the difference? In my case, my full haplogroup is J1c2f, meaning that my branch of haplogroup J is the result of 4 branching events from mother haplogroup J. Haplogroup J itself was formed by a defining set of mutations. The first branch was J1, then J1c, and so forth.

Haplogroup J was formed someplace in the Middle East and its branches are found primarily in the Mediterranean, Europe and western Asia today, plus, of course, diaspora regions like the Americas, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The mitochondrial Haplogroup J Project at Family Tree DNA provides a map of the most distant known ancestors of Haplogroup J members, including all branches, shown below.

My branch, haplogroup J1c2f, a rare haplogroup, is found in a much more restricted geography. It has taken 10 years or so to accumulate 10 pins on the map.  Of course, there would be more if everyone tested and joined their haplogroup project.

How Old is Haplogroup J?

With the mtFull Sequence test, you receive a lot more information than with the mtPlus test, for not a lot more investment, as you can see in the chart below and as we work through results.

Haplogroup Born Years Ago Receive With Test
J 34,000 mtPlus
J1 27,000 mtFull Sequence
J1c 13.000 mtFull Sequence
J1c2 10,000 mtFull Sequence
J1c2f 1,000 mtFull Sequence

Estimated dates for each haplogroup branches “birth” have been provided in the paper, A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root by Behar et al.

Haplogroup J itself was born about 34,000 years ago, someplace in the Middle East or near the Black Sea.

Haplogroup J1c2f was born about 1000 years ago, and utilizing the map of J1c2f in combination with the known history of my full sequence matches allows me to learn where my ancestors were in more recent times. In my case, I’m fascinated by that cluster in Sweden and Norway, all of whom I’m related to with in the last 1000 years or so. Is there a message there for me about where my ancestor lived, perhaps, before the first documentation of my ancestral line in Germany in 1799?

More Please

Are you starting to see the benefit to mitochondrial DNA testing? We’ve only scratched the surface.

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

In the mtDNA section, additional tools are shown. Let’s look at each one and what it can tell you about your matrilineal line.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.

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

Matches

The first place most people look is at their Matches page. In my case, I have 38 full sequence matches. Full sequence matches are the most likely to match in a genealogical time frame. You can see by just looking at my 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.

As you can see, most of my matches (names obscured for privacy) have trees attached to their results and many have also taken the family finder test. Both are great news for me!

I can then view at my HVR1+HVR2 matches, which is equivalent to the mtPlus test today.

I have 266 HVR1+HVR2 matches, many of whom have also taken the full sequence test. Those who have taken the higher level test, I can disregard because their results, if they match, are already included on the full sequence match page. I do review the people who have not yet taken the full sequence test because a valuable match may be lurking there.

I can e-mail my matches by clicking on the envelope.

Results

Next, let’s look at our results. This page should really probably say “raw results,” because as many people say, “it’s just a page of numbers.”  Yes, it is, but there is magic in these numbers because they are the key to “everything else mitochondrial.”

This page shows your mutations – in other words, what makes you both different from other people and the same as people you match, which isolates your matches to people with whom you share a common ancestor at some point in time. The fewer mutations difference, generally the closer in time your common ancestor. If you match someone exactly, it means you share all of the same mutations, including “extra” and “missing” mutations typically found in people who carry your hapologroup.

There are two formats provided, the RSRS and the CRS, which I explained in the article, The CRS and the RSRS. You don’t need to know these details, but they are available if you are interested.

Some of these mutations shown are your haplogroup and subgroup defining mutations. For example, haplogroup J1c2f is defined by the mutation at location 9055, shown above. If you have all these mutations but don’t have G9055A, then you’re not haplgroup J1c2f, you’re J1c2.

Haplogroup Haplogroup Defining Mutations
J C295T, T489C, A10398G!, A12612G, G13708A, C16069T
J1 C462T, G3010A
J1c T14798C
J1c2 A188G
J1c2f G9055A

Most mutations shown, other than haplogroup defining mutations, are typically found in your subgroup, but others are “rare.” It’s those rare extra or missing mutations that are your family-line-defining mutations. In my case, both G185A and G228A are family line defining. But you really don’t need to worry about this unless you are going to take a deep dive, because the matching and other tools included by Family Tree DNA provide further analysis in ways far easier to understand and without you having to understand or worry about the nitty-gritty details.

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

Let’s look at the story they tell.

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 “Update Ancestor’s Location” link at the bottom of this map for YOUR ancestor to be displayed on THIS map (white pin) and also on the maps of your matches. You can see how useful this information is!  I wish everyone would do this, even if they are adopted and the only information they have is where they were born! Clusters are important for genealogy matching as well as for more distant origins.

You can also display your match list by clicking on the “Show Match List” link under the map. You can click on the pins on the map to display the accompanying information.

On the full sequence map, your exact matches are shown in red, 1 step mutations in orange, 2 steps in yellow, so you can easily look for clusters.

Once again, the Scandinavian group stands out because many are exact matches to my German ancestor. Do you think there might be a message there?

If not for my mitochondrial DNA, how else would I ever obtain this information, given that the German church records ended in 1799 for my matrilineal line? Did they end in 1799 because my ancestral line wasn’t in Germany before that?

Migration and Frequency Maps

Are you wondering how your ancestor and her ancestors arrived in the location where you first find them?

The haplogroup Migration Maps show you the ancestral path from Africa to, in my case, Europe.

The Frequency Map then shows you how much of the European population is haplogroup J, which includes subgroups.

Haplogroup Origins

The Haplogroup Origins page shows me the distribution of my haplogroup, by region, by match type.

For example, I have 7 exact matches in Norway and 1 in Poland. Only a portion of my Haplogroup Origins page is shown here, and only the Full Sequence Matches.  HVR1 and HVR1+HVR2 matches are displayed as well.

Ancestral Origins

The Ancestral Origins page shows my matches by Country along with any comments. My matches shown don’t have any comments, but comments might be Ashkenazi or MDKO (most distant known origin) when US is given as the most distant ancestral location.

Again, I’ve only shown my full sequence matches.

Advanced Matching Combines Tools

Another of my favorite tools is Advanced Matches, 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 mtDNA test are also showing up as a match on the Family Finder test. You could further limit this 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.

There aren’t any people that match me on BOTH the Family Finder test and the full sequence mtDNA test, which tells me that these matches are several generations back in time.  For purposes of example, I’m showing my two matches on both the HVR1 and the Family Finder test, below – just so you can see how the tool works.

Because both of these people tested at the HVR2 level, where we don’t match, the mitochondrial part of this match is likely hundreds to thousands of years ago and isn’t connected to the Family Finder match.  However, if these two matches had NOT tested at a higher level, where I know we don’t match, the combined match of mtDNA and the Family Finder test might be a significant hint as to our common ancestral line.

Of course, for adoptees, finding someone with whom you match closely on the Family Finder test AND match exactly on the full sequence test would be very suggestive of a matrilineal common ancestor in a recent timeframe.

Combination matching is a powerful tool.

Projects

We started our discussion about mitochondrial haplogroups by referencing the MtDNA Haplogroup J project. Family Tree DNA has over 9000 projects for you to select from.

Thankfully, you don’t have to browse through them all, as they are broken down into categories.

  • Haplogroup projects are categorized by Y or mtDNA and then by subhaplogroup where appropriate.
  • Surname projects exist as well and are searchable for your genealogy lines.
  • Geographical projects cover everything else, from geographies such as the Cumberland Gap region of Appalachia to the American Indian project. Some projects focus on Y DNA, some on mtDNA, some both plus include people with autosomal results that pertain to that project.

Project administrators can enter surnames that pertain to their project so that Family Tree DNA can match the tester’s surname to the project list to provide the tester with a menu.

Please do READ the project description before joining, as lot of people join every project listed, even though the surname listed in that project in no way pertains to their family.  For example, in the Estes list above, my Estes line is in no way connected to the Estis family of the Ukraine or Fairfield County, SC nor are they haplogroup I, so joining the haplogroup I-L161(Isles) Y DNA project would be futile even if I was an Estes male.

Needless to say, if you’re a female who did not test under your birth surname, the project menu won’t be relevant to you, so you’ll need to use the “Search by Surname” function, at the bottom of the menu to find projects for your surname.

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. Testing in isolation without collaboration benefits no one.  We all benefit from matching and sharing, both individually and as a larger group.  Think of those maps and clusters!

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

Mitochondrial Summary

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

Mitochondrial DNA holds the secrets of your matrilineal 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!

You can order or upgrade your mitochondrial DNA test by clicking here.

LivingDNA Product Review

Living DNA entered the landscape for ethnicity testing in the summer/fall of 2016. Hands down, they win the contest for “cool logo.”

Ordering and Waiting

I ordered my test, and the results were frustratingly slow in arriving – more than 3 months after submission. Their website currently says “within 10-12 weeks our results will be ready to explore.” Speedy is not their middle name. At first I thought the delivery time of 12 weeks was a startup snafu, but apparently it’s their standard delivery window.

Sometimes vendors offer free tests with the hope of a good review. I typically order tests like any other customer from a vendor, because it’s not a fair review if the vendor knows they are testing someone who will likely review their product. In other words, I don’t want special treatment. However, in this case, I did complain to the Marketing Director and received my results shortly thereafter. I don’t know how long those results would have taken otherwise.

Price

LivingDNA is a British company, registered in England and Wales. Their price in US dollars is normally $159 with an additional $9.95 for standard delivery (5-7 working days) or $39.95 for premium delivery (2-3 working days). At the time I ordered, US purchasers were required to purchase premium delivery, making the price of an ethnicity test effectively $199.

The LivingDNA ethnicity test costs substantially more than Ancestry or 23andMe at $99 or Family Tree DNA at $79, plus shipping. The other vendors products include ethnicity results plus matching to other testers and varying comparison tools. LivingDNA hopes to offer matching between testers in the future.

Terms and Conditions

Thankfully, Judy Russell recently provided a great overview and digestion of Living DNA’s terms and conditions. Please read Judy’s First look: Living DNA terms of use.

Vendors can and do modify their terms and conditions, so always read what any vendor provides, including any fine print.

LivingDNA’s Claims

The page that greets customers provides the following verbiage.

LivingDNA claims twice the detail of other ancestry tests. Detail, which means reference populations and regions in this case, does not necessarily equate to accuracy, but we’ll see how they fare in that department.

LivingDNA is the only company, to date, that offers ethnicity breakdown by regions within the British Isles, based on the POBI (People of the British Isles) project results funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Living DNA claims to have a 3-in-1 ancestry test, meaning ethnicity, mitochondrial and Y DNA, which isn’t exactly true, but it’s not entirely false either. It’s a matter of perception.

LivingDNA is a scan test that scans specified locations in your genome. Haplogroups, both Y and mitochondrial, are defined by specific locations that carry mutations. LivingDNA scans for Y and mitochondrial haplogroup mutations at some level, but they do not offer anything more for Y and mitochondrial DNA than the haplogroup designation. In other words, no detail and no matching. The LivingDNA results are in the same ballpark as 23andMe or the Genographic project, but much less detailed than Family Tree DNA. Ancestry doesn’t offer any Y or mtDNA results, haplogroup or otherwise. To see a detailed comparison of Y and mtDNA testing and who provides what, please refer to Which DNA Test is Best?

LivingDNA does not offer DNA matching, nor do they currently provide a download raw data file so that you can upload your results elsewhere. They indicated in a February Rootstech conference call that they want to move towards both of these goals.

All major vendors (with the exception of Genographic) provide free updates to existing customers when they update their data base, so it’s good that LivingDNA does too.

As for the LivingDNA claim to “view your ancestry through history,” let’s take a look and see what they deliver.

Navigation

Notice on the left hand side of the page that I have two options under Ancestry:

  • Family Ancestry – your ethnicity results
  • Motherline – your mitochondrial DNA results

If I were a male, I would also have Fatherline.

Where ever you are on the site, additional options are always shown on the upper left hand side of the page.

Mother Line – Mitochondrial DNA

First, let ‘s look at my mitochondrial DNA results. Your Motherline options are shown on the bar to the left of your page.

The “Download Results” function has not yet been implemented.

The first Motherline page provides an overview.

I know already that my full haplogroup through full sequence testing at Family Tree DNA is J1c2f. Let’s see what LivingDNA tells me.

Living DNA shows my haplogroup as J1c, which isn’t incorrect as far as it goes, but isn’t complete either.

Living DNA gives me an option to ‘take a tour” of my results, so I did. The heat map, below, shows the locations of my “mother line haplogroup.” Heat maps are hotter, or darker, meaning more intense, where the frequency is greater.

Please note that you can click on any image to enlarge.

I’m not clear whether LivingDNA is displaying a map for haplogroup J1c, or core haplogroup J, given the “hottest” region shown is, surprisingly, Yemen. J1c is typically considered to be European, so surely this map must be referring to haplogroup J plus all subgroups.

The LivingDNA heat map is significantly different than the spatial frequency map for haplogroup J, shown below, published in the academic paper, Genetic Stratigraphy of Key Demographic Events in Arabia published in PLoS ONE in March 2015 by Fernandes et al.

Next, Living DNA discusses the genetic migration for haplogroup J.

Followed by a migration map.

Haplogroup J is shown in Europe here. What happened to Yemen? From this map, it looks like J was born near the Black Sea and traveled directly to Europe, which certainly doesn’t track with the heat map or the PLoS ONE article.

Last, the phylogenetic tree showing the path from Mitochondrial Eve, the first known woman to have offspring that lived to today, to me. I notice in this tree that the migration map above omits haplogroup JT between R and J.

Fatherline – Y DNA

Clearly, being a female, I don’t carry a Y chromosome, but the Y DNA section holds the same pages of information as the mitochondrial DNA section, above, which you also receive if you are a male.

Family Ancestry

The Family Ancestry section is where you will find your autosomal ethnicity results.

You have four options, shown on the left bar.

The first page you will see offers you the option to take a tour and then provides basic information.

In the “What Makes You” section, my results show that I’m 93.4% European and 6.6% unassigned in the rest of the world.

Well, that’s pretty boring, but there’s more.

Click on the “+” to the right of the word “Global” which shows regional results, shown below.

Clicking on the “+” again shows the full breakdown, including the British Isles detail. They could certainly make finding this information more intuitive than “+” and “-“. I suspect a lot of people miss this detail, and if you’re testing for ethnicity, which is all LivingDNA offers today, this IS the important part of the test.

You can click on each region to show history about that region, but I surely wish they had shown a map of the British Isles with the sub-region highlighted instead of the image of the body. It’s impossible to discern which present day counties are included in which LivingDNA regions.

My English ancestors whose locations I know are from Lancashire and Kent, and I can’t tell which of the English regions referenced by LivingDNA would include the locations my ancestors are from.

Ireland, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory, but is also a pretty large area.

The Family Ancestry Map shows the locations where your ancestors were found.

Clicking “explore in full” and then the “+” button shows me the following, as does the “Through History” selection.

I’m 72.5% Great Britain and Ireland and 12% North and West European and 6.2% unassigned European which is reflected on the map below, with the darker area having the higher frequency. However, please note that the legend and map are reversed.  On the legend, the Europe unassigned at 6.2% is shown as the darkest shade of green, where on the map, the Great Britain and Ireland shown at 75.2% is shown as the darkest, which is accurate if you are using heat maps.

Click on the “+” sign once again moved to subregions showing the detail of where your ethnicity is found.

Clicking on the region at left shows the associated region on the map.

Please note that some of the features both above and below did not display correctly, or at all, using a PC with either Edge or Internet Explorer browsers.  MACs did better.

Another really easy to miss feature is the “click here” just above the word “standard” which allows you to view your family ancestry at different points through history, beginning with 500 years ago. I really like this video type feature as it shows you the movement of your ancestors with time.

Expanding back in time.

At the bottom of each time period is some history to go along with the time period you’re viewing.

Clicking on the Chart option, shows the following.

How Accurate is Living DNA’s Ethnicity?

I wrote the article “Calculating Ethnicity Percentages” to explain how to determine, based on your known genealogy, what to anticipate in your ethnicity percentages, and to compare the various vendors’ accuracy, although Family Tree DNA has since released an update since that article was published.

For purposes of comparison, I calculated all of my 64 GGGG-grandparent’s ethnicity percentages – each individual accounting for approximately 1.56% of my DNA today.

The following chart shows how LivingDNA compared with my known genealogy.

LivingDNA significantly overestimated my total British Isles. My known and inferred British Isles, based on surnames and colonial American records, is no more than 50.7%, while Living DNA shows it at half again as much, at 75.2%. That’s simply not possible, given the immigration records of my ancestors and the proven locations of their origins in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

I can’t align the known locations of my British or Scottish ancestors with the British Isles regions shown, so I really don’t know if the subregion breakdown within the British Isles is accurate or not. That’s not a problem with the LivingDNA analysis, but is due to the fact that my British Isles ancestry with proven locations is scant.

LivingDNA shows Scandinavian that I don’t show in my genealogy, but they aren’t alone, as we’ll see in a minute when we look at how they stack up to the other vendors.

LivingDNA badly missed the mark for my German which is proven at 25% and my Dutch proven at 14%, although clearly that unassigned European probably comes from that grouping. Living DNA shows Germanic at 9%.

LivingDNA clearly struggled with DNA outside of Europe, as they could not identify any DNA anyplace else in the world. Other vendors have identified Middle Eastern, North African and Native American. Of those, only the Native American is solidly proven.

Altogether, with unassigned Europe and unassigned in the rest of the world, 12.8% of my DNA is unassigned.

Compared to Other Vendors

I’ve updated the chart below to include the LivingDNA results along with the new Family Tree DNA update that occurred in April 2017. The only vendor results which are not the results provided by vendors with a current test is the Genographic project, whose ethnicity results changed in November 2016 when they switched their testing vendor to Helix. I have not retested at Genographic. I have included Genographic in the chart, but excluded them in the comparison because their categories are so broad as to not be functionally comparable to the major vendors and the results are obsolete at this point.

Compared to the other three major vendors, Living DNA was the worst at determining my British Isles ethnicity percent as compared to other regions. Family Tree DNA was the best.

All vendors showed Scandinavian, which is not reflected in my genealogy. The school of thought most prevalent is that Scandinavian is possibly reflective of Viking ancestry that was so ingrained into the population as to remain a constant today. That may be true, at least to some extent. LivingDNA shows less Scandinavian than anyone else, making them the most accurate in this category given that I have no known Scandinavian genealogy.

LivingDNA was second worst in determining my Dutch/French/German heritage if you presume that all of the 6.2% European unassigned fell into that group. If you don’t make that presumption, then LivingDNA was the worst. 23andMe was the best.

LivingDNA had the highest amount of unassigned at 6.6% of any vendor while Family Tree DNA and Ancestry assigned all of my DNA and 23andMe only has .1% unassigned.

LivingDNA missed my Native altogether, while all three other vendors found it, even though it is a small percentage.

Summary

LivingDNA did not perform well in any category relative to ethnicity as compared to the other major vendors with the exception of Scandinavian. Surprisingly, they placed last in the British Isles category which is their area of expertise.

Some of my British Isles heritage is inferred, which could theoretically have raised my genealogical percentage of DNA if I am incorrect in my inference. In other words, in reality, my British Isles heritage % could be even lower than the 50.7% shown on the chart. It’s also possible that amount is slightly low, but my British Isles can’t be much higher because more than 45% of my genealogy is unquestionably proven elsewhere with relatively recent German and Dutch immigrants. So, at most, my British Isles can’t be more than 55%.

If LivingDNA had shown less British Isles than my genealogy, I would have been accepting of that information, given that their specialty is supposed to be British Isles ethnicity and some of my British Isles is inferred. However, LivingDNA was 50% higher than my own calculations, showing 75.2%.

My mitochondrial haplogroup at Living DNA was not incorrect, but it was incomplete, showing only 2 of 4 branches of haplogroup J, as proven by full mitochondrial sequencing. By comparison, the two other vendors who provide the same type of scan tests for mitochondrial and Y DNA, 23andMe shows me as J1c2 and the Genographic Project 2.0 test shows me as J1c2f. Family Tree DNA shows me as J1c2f as well, but their mitochondrial DNA test is more comprehensive and is a separate test altogether, not included in their Family Finder autosomal test.

I can’t correlate my known English genealogy to specific regions as reported by LivingDNA because my only ancestors whose British Isles locations are specifically known came from London, a melting pot from all over the rest of England, Kent and Lancashire, so I can’t pass any judgement as to the relative accuracy of LivingDNA’s British Isles breakdown except to say my known Irish appears to be accurate.

What I can say is that for anyone who doesn’t have primarily British Isles DNA, or entirely British Isles DNA, I would not recommend this test given the issues noted above. Additionally, LivingDNA is substantially more expensive at $149 than the competing products at $99 (23andMe and Ancestry) and $79 (Family Tree DNA,) all of whom also include matching.

For this test to be useful, the tester would need to be nearly or entirely British and have their genealogy proven to specific regions within the British Isles in fairly recent generations to ascertain accuracy. For me, with a high level of American colonial DNA mixed with relative recent ancestors from western Europe, the test fared poorly.

I would be very interested in knowing the accuracy from the standpoint of multiple testers whose ancestors are entirely from the British Isles and have proven an extensive genealogy back through their 64 GGGG-grandparents. In other words, are the regions within the British Isles accurate?

Keep in mind that all ethnicity tests are really estimates and vary based on the reference panels used by the vendor and the algorithms the vendor uses internally to assign your DNA to specific ethnicities.  LivingDNA points out on their website that inheritance is not a constant at 50% per generation (of ancestral DNA being passed to the next generation) and ethnicity testing is not an exact science – and they are right, on both counts.

In other words, your mileage will vary – a lot.

Which DNA Test is Best?

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’re a savvy shopper and you’re doing some research before purchasing a DNA test. You’ve come to the right place.

The most common question I receive is asking which test is best to purchase. There is no one single best answer for everyone – it depends on your testing goals and your pocketbook.

Testing Goals

People who want to have their DNA tested have a goal in mind and seek results to utilize for their particular purpose. Today, in the Direct to Consumer (DTC) DNA market space, people have varied interests that fall into the general categories of genealogy and medical/health.

I’ve approached the question of “which test is best” by providing information grouped into testing goal categories.  I’ve compared the different vendors and tests from the perspective of someone who is looking to test for those purposes – and I’ve created separate sections of this article for each interest..

We will be discussing testing for:

  • Ethnicity – Who Am I? – Breakdown by Various World Regions
  • Adoption – Finding Missing Parents or Close Family
  • Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification
  • Medical/Health

We will be reviewing the following test types:

  • Autosomal
  • Y DNA (males only)
  • Mitochondrial DNA

I have included summary charts for each section, plus an additional chart for:

  • Additional Vendor Considerations

If you are looking to select one test, or have limited funds, or are looking to prioritize certain types of tests, you’ll want to read about each vendor, each type of test, and each testing goal category.

Each category reports information about the vendors and their products from a different perspective – and only you can decide which of these perspectives and features are most important to you.

You might want to read this short article for a quick overview of the 4 kinds of DNA used for genetic genealogy and DTC testing and how they differ.

The Big 3

Today, there are three major players in the DNA testing market, not in any particular order:

Each of these companies offers autosomal tests, but each vendor offers features that are unique. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe offer additional tests as well.

In addition to the Big 3, there are a couple of new kids on the block that I will mention where appropriate. There are also niche players for the more advanced genetic genealogist or serious researcher, and this article does not address advanced research.

In a nutshell, if you are serious genealogist, you will want to take all of the following tests to maximize your tools for solving genealogical puzzles. There is no one single test that does everything.

  • Full mitochondrial sequence that informs you about your matrilineal line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $199.
  • Y DNA test (for males only) that informs you about your direct paternal (surname) line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test begins at $169 for 37 markers.
  • Family Finder, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $89.
  • AncestryDNA, an autosomal test at Ancestry.com that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. (Do not confuse this test with Ancestry by DNA, which is not the same test and does not provide the same features.) This test currently costs $99, plus a subscription for full access.
  • 23andMe Ancestry Service test, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. The genealogy version of this test costs $99, the medical+genealogy version costs $199.

A Word About Third Party Tools

A number of third party tools exist, such as GedMatch and DNAGedcom.com, and while these tools are quite useful after testing, these vendors don’t provide tests. In order to use these sites, you must first take an autosomal DNA test from a testing vendor. This article focuses on selecting your DNA testing vendor based on your testing goals.

Let’s get started!

Ethnicity

Many people are drawn to DNA testing through commercials that promise to ‘tell you who you are.” While the allure is exciting, the reality is somewhat different.

Each of the major three vendors provide an ethnicity estimate based on your autosomal DNA test, and each of the three vendors will provide you with a different result.

Yep, same person, different ethnicity breakdowns.

Hopefully, the outcomes will be very similar, but that’s certainly not always the case. However, many people take one test and believe those results wholeheartedly. Please don’t. You may want to read Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages to see how varied my own ethnicity reports are at various vendors as compared to my known genealogy.

The technology for understanding “ethnicity” from a genetic perspective is still very new. Your ethnicity estimate is based on reference populations from around the world – today. People and populations move, and have moved, for hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years. Written history only reaches back a fraction of that time, so the estimates provided to people today are not exact.

That isn’t to criticize any individual vendor. View each vendor’s results not as gospel, but as their opinion based on their reference populations and their internal proprietary algorithm of utilizing those reference populations to produce your ethnicity results.

To read more about how ethnicity testing works, and why your results may vary between vendors or not be what you expected, click here.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from testing, only to be sure consumers understand the context of what they will be receiving. Generally speaking, these results are accurate at the continental level, and less accurate within continents, such as European regional breakdowns.

All three testing companies provide additional features or tools, in addition to your ethnicity estimates, that are relevant to ethnicity or population groups.

Let’s look at each company separately.

Ethnicity – Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity tool is called myOrigins and provides three features or tools in addition to the actual ethnicity estimate and associated ethnicity map.

Please note that throughout this article you can click on any image to enlarge.

On the myOrigins ethnicity map page, above, your ethnicity percentages and map are shown, along with two additional features.

The Shared Origins box to the left shows the matching ethnic components of people on your DNA match list. This is particularly useful if you are trying to discover, for example, where a particular minority admixture comes from in your lineage. You can select different match types, for example, immediate relatives or X chromosome matches, which have special inheritance qualities.

Clicking on the apricot (mitochondrial DNA) and green (Y DNA) pins in the lower right corner drops the pins in the locations on your map of the most distant ancestral Y and mitochondrial DNA locations of the individuals in the group you have selected in the Shared Origins match box. You may or may not match these individuals on the Y or mtDNA lines, but families tend to migrate in groups, so match hints of any kind are important.

A third unique feature provided by Family Tree DNA is Ancient Origins, a tool released with little fanfare in November 2016.

Ancient Origins shows the ancient source of your European DNA, based on genome sequencing of ancient DNA from the locations shown on the map.

Additionally, Family Tree DNA hosts an Ancient DNA project where they have facilitated the upload of the ancient genomes so that customers today can determine if they match these ancient individuals.

Kits included in the Ancient DNA project are shown in the chart below, along with their age and burial location. Some have matches today, and some of these samples are included on the Ancient Origins map.

Individual Approx. Age Burial Location Matches Ancient Origins Map
Clovis Anzick 12,500 Montana (US) Yes No
Linearbandkeramik 7,500 Stuttgart, Germany Yes Yes
Loschbour 8,000 Luxembourg Yes Yes
Palaeo-Eskimo 4,000 Greenland No No
Altai Neanderthal 50,000 Altai No No
Denisova 30,000 Siberia No No
Hinxton-4 2,000 Cambridgeshire, UK No No
BR2 3,200 Hungary Yes Yes
Ust’-Ishim 45,000 Siberia Yes No
NE1 7,500 Hungary Yes Yes

Ethnicity – Ancestry

In addition to your ethnicity estimate, Ancestry also provides a feature called Genetic Communities.

Your ethnicity estimate provides percentages of DNA found in regions shown on the map by fully colored shapes – green in Europe in the example above. Genetic Communities show how your DNA clusters with other people in specific regions of the world – shown with dotted clusters in the US in this example.

In my case, my ethnicity at Ancestry shows my European roots, illustrated by the green highlighted areas, and my two Genetic Communities are shown by yellow and red dotted regions in the United States.

My assigned Genetic Communities indicate that my DNA clusters with other people whose ancestors lived in two regions; The Lower Midwest and Virginia as well as the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana.

Testers can then view their DNA matches within that community, as well as a group of surnames common within that community.

The Genetic Communities provided for me are accurate, but don’t expect all of your genealogical regions to be represented in Genetic Communities. For example, my DNA is 25% German, and I don’t have any German communities today, although ancestry will be adding new Genetic Communities as new clusters are formed.

You can read more about Genetic Communities here and here.

Ethnicity – 23andMe

In addition to ethnicity percentage estimates, called Ancestry Composition, 23andMe offers the ability to compare your Ancestry Composition against that of your parent to see which portions of your ethnicity you inherited from each parent, although there are problems with this tool incorrectly assigning parental segments.

Additionally, 23andMe paints your chromosome segments with your ethnic heritage, as shown below.

You can see that my yellow Native American segments appear on chromosomes 1 and 2.

In January 2017, 23andMe introduced their Ancestry Timeline, which I find to be extremely misleading and inaccurate. On my timeline, shown below, they estimate that my most recent British and Irish ancestor was found in my tree between 1900 and 1930 while in reality my most recent British/Irish individual found in my tree was born in England in 1759.

I do not view 23andMe’s Ancestry Timeline as a benefit to the genealogist, having found that it causes people to draw very misleading conclusions, even to the point of questioning their parentage based on the results. I wrote about their Ancestry Timeline here.

Ethnicity Summary

All three vendors provide both ethnicity percentage estimates and maps. All three vendors provide additional tools and features relevant to ethnicity. Vendors also provide matching to other people which may or may not be of interest to people who test only for ethnicity. “Who you are” only begins with ethnicity estimates.

DNA test costs are similar, although the Family Tree DNA test is less at $89. All three vendors have sales from time to time.

Ethnicity Vendor Summary Chart

Ethnicity testing is an autosomal DNA test and is available for both males and females.

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Ethnicity Test Included with $89 Family Finder test Included with $99 Ancestry DNA test Included with $99 Ancestry Service
Percentages and Maps Yes Yes Yes
Shared Ethnicity with Matches Yes No Yes
Additional Feature Y and mtDNA mapping of ethnicity matches Genetic Communities Ethnicity phasing against parent (has issues)
Additional Feature Ancient Origins Ethnicity mapping by chromosome
Additional Feature Ancient DNA Project Ancestry Timeline

 

Adoption and Parental Identity

DNA testing is extremely popular among adoptees and others in search of missing parents and grandparents.

The techniques used for adoption and parental search are somewhat different than those used for more traditional genealogy, although non-adoptees may wish to continue to read this section because many of the features that are important to adoptees are important to other testers as well.

Adoptees often utilize autosomal DNA somewhat differently than traditional genealogists by using a technique called mirror trees. In essence, the adoptee utilizes the trees posted online of their closest DNA matches to search for common family lines within those trees. The common family lines will eventually lead to the individuals within those common trees that are candidates to be the parents of the searcher.

Here’s a simplified hypothetical example of my tree and a first cousin adoptee match.

The adoptee matches me at a first cousin level, meaning that we share at least one common grandparent – but which one? Looking at other people the adoptee matches, or the adoptee and I both match, we find Edith Lore (or her ancestors) in the tree of multiple matches. Since Edith Lore is my grandmother, the adoptee is predicted to be my first cousin, and Edith Lore’s ancestors appear in the trees of our common matches – that tells us that Edith Lore is also the (probable) grandmother of the adoptee.

Looking at the possibilities for how Edith Lore can fit into the tree of me and the adoptee, as first cousins, we fine the following scenario.

Testing the known child of daughter Ferverda will then provide confirmation of this relationship if the known child proves to be a half sibling to the adoptee.

Therefore, close matches, the ability to contact matches and trees are very important to adoptees. I recommend that adoptees make contact with www.dnaadoption.com. The volunteers there specialize in adoptions and adoptees, provide search angels to help people and classes to teach adoptees how to utilize the techniques unique to adoption search such as building mirror trees.

For adoptees, the first rule is to test with all 3 major vendors plus MyHeritage. Family Tree DNA allows you to test with both 23andMe and Ancestry and subsequently transfer your results to Family Tree DNA, but I would strongly suggest adoptees test on the Family Tree DNA platform instead. Your match results from transferring to Family Tree DNA from other companies, except for MyHeritage, will be fewer and less reliable because both 23andMe and Ancestry utilize different chip technology.

For most genealogists, MyHeritage is not a player, as they have only recently entered the testing arena, have a very small data base, no tools and are having matching issues. I recently wrote about MyHeritage here. However, adoptees may want to test with MyHeritage, or upload your results to MyHeritage if you tested with Family Tree DNA, because your important puzzle-solving match just might have tested there and no place else. You can read about transfer kit compatibility and who accepts which vendors’ tests here.

Adoptees can benefit from ethnicity estimates at the continental level, meaning that regional (within continent) or minority ethnicity should be taken with a very large grain of salt. However, knowing that you have 25% Jewish heritage, for example, can be a very big clue to an adoptee’s search.

Another aspect of the adoptees search that can be relevant is the number of foreign testers. For many years, neither 23andMe, nor Ancestry tested substantially (or at all) outside the US. Family Tree DNA has always tested internationally and has a very strong Jewish data base component.

Not all vendors report X chromosome matches. The X chromosome is important to genetic genealogy, because it has a unique inheritance path. Men don’t inherit an X chromosome from their fathers. Therefore, if you match someone on the X chromosome, you know the relationship, for a male, must be from their mother’s side. For a female, the relationship must be from the mother or the father’s mother’s side. You can read more about X chromosome matching here.

Neither Ancestry nor MyHeritage have chromosome browsers which allow you to view the segments of DNA on which you match other individuals, which includes the X chromosome.

Adoptee Y and Mitochondrial Testing

In addition to autosomal DNA testing, adoptees will want to test their Y DNA (males only) and mitochondrial DNA.

These tests are different from autosomal DNA which tests the DNA you receive from all of your ancestors. Y and mitochondrial DNA focus on only one specific line, respectively. Y DNA is inherited by men from their fathers and the Y chromosome is passed from father to son from time immemorial. Therefore, testing the Y chromosome provides us with the ability to match to current people as well as to use the Y chromosome as a tool to look far back in time. Adoptees tend to be most interested in matching current people, at least initially.

Working with male adoptees, I have a found that about 30% of the time a male will match strongly to a particular surname, especially at higher marker levels. That isn’t always true, but adoptees will never know if they don’t test. An adoptee’s match list is shown at 111 markers, below.

Furthermore, utilizing the Y and mitochondrial DNA test in conjunction with autosomal DNA matching at Family Tree DNA helps narrows possible relatives. The Advanced Matching feature allows you to see who you match on both the Y (or mitochondrial) DNA lines AND the autosomal test, in combination.

Mitochondrial DNA tests the matrilineal line only, as women pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Family Tree DNA provides matching and advanced combination matching/searching for mitochondrial DNA as well as Y DNA. Both genders of children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA is more difficult to work with because of the surname changes in each generation, but you cannot be descended from a woman, or her direct matrilineal ancestors if you don’t substantially match her mitochondrial DNA.

Some vendors state that you receive mitochondrial DNA with your autosomal results, which is only partly accurate. At 23andMe, you receive a haplogroup but no detailed results and no matching. 23andMe does not test the entire mitochondria and therefore cannot provide either advanced haplogroup placement nor Y or mitochondrial DNA matching between testers.

For additional details on the Y and Mitochondrial DNA tests themselves and what you receive, please see the Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA section.

Adoption Summary

Adoptees should test with all 4 vendors plus Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

  • Ancestry – due to their extensive data base size and trees
  • Family Tree DNA – due to their advanced tools, chromosome browser, Y and mitochondrial DNA tests (Ancestry and 23andMe participants can transfer autosomal raw data files and see matches for free, but advanced tools require either an unlock fee or a test on the Family Tree DNA platform)
  • 23andMe – no trees and many people don’t participate in sharing genetic information
  • MyHeritage – new kid on the block, working through what is hoped are startup issues
  • All adoptees should take the full mitochondrial sequence test.
  • Male adoptees should take the 111 marker Y DNA test, although you can start with 37 or 67 markers and upgrade later.
  • Y and mitochondrial tests are only available at Family Tree DNA.

Adoptee Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage
Autosomal DNA – Males and Females
Matching Yes Yes Yes Yes – problems
Relationship Estimates* Yes – May be too close Yes – May be too distant Yes – Matches may not be sharing Yes –  problematic
International Reach Very strong Not strong but growing Not strong Small but subscriber base is European focused
Trees Yes Yes No Yes
Tree Quantity 54% have trees, 46% no tree (of my first 100 matches) 56% have trees, 44% no tree or private (of my first 100 matches) No trees ~50% don’t have trees or are private (cannot discern private tree without clicking on every tree)
Data Base Size Large Largest Large – but not all opt in to matching Very small
My # of Matches on 4-23-2017 2,421 23,750 1,809 but only 1,114 are sharing 75
Subscription Required No No for partial, Yes for full functionality including access to matches’ trees, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No No for partial, Yes for full functionality
Other Relevant Tools New Ancestor Discoveries
Autosomal DNA Issues Many testers don’t have trees Many testers don’t have trees Matching opt-in is problematic, no trees at all Matching issues, small data base size is problematic, many testers don’t have trees
Contact Methodology E-mail address provided to matches Internal message system – known delivery issues Internal message system Internal message system
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes No
Y-DNA – Males Only
Y DNA STR Test Yes- 37, 67, and 111 markers No No No
Y Haplogroup Yes as part of STR test plus additional testing available No Yes, basic level but no additional testing available, outdated haplogroups No
Y Matching Yes No No No
Advanced Matching Between Y and Autosomal Yes No No No
Mitochondrial DNA- Males and Females
Test Yes, partial and full sequence No No No
Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Yes, included in test No Yes, basic but full haplogroup not available, haplogroup several versions behind No
Advanced Matching Between Mitochondrial and Autosomal Yes No No No

Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification

People who want to take a DNA test to find cousins, to learn more about their genealogy, to verify their genealogy research or to search for unknown ancestors and break down brick walls will be interested in various types of testing

Test Type Who Can Test
Y DNA – direct paternal line Males only
Mitochondrial DNA – direct matrilineal line Males and Females
Autosomal – all lines Males and Females

Let’s begin with autosomal DNA testing for genealogy which tests your DNA inherited from all ancestral lines.

Aside from ethnicity, autosomal DNA testing provides matches to other people who have tested. A combination of trees, meaning their genealogy, and their chromosome segments are used to identify (through trees) and verify (through DNA segments) common ancestor(s) and then to assign a particular DNA segment(s) to that ancestor or ancestral couple. This process, called triangulation, then allows you to assign specific segments to particular ancestors, through segment matching among multiple people. You then know that when another individual matches you and those other people on the same segment, that the DNA comes from that same lineage. Triangulation is the only autosomal methodology to confirm ancestors who are not close relatives, beyond the past 2-3 generations or so.

All three vendors provide matching, but the tools they include and their user interfaces are quite different. 

Genealogy – Autosomal –  Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA entered DNA testing years before any of the others, initially with Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

Because of the diversity of their products, their website is somewhat busier, but they do a good job of providing areas on the tester’s personal landing page for each of the products and within each product, a link for each feature or function.

For example, the Family Finder test is Family Tree DNA’s autosomal test. Within that product, tools provided are:

  • Matching
  • Chromosome Browser
  • Linked Relationships
  • myOrigins
  • Ancient Origins
  • Matrix
  • Advanced Matching

Unique autosomal tools provided by Family Tree DNA are:

  • Linked Relationships that allows you to connect individuals that you match to their location in your tree, indicating the proper relationship. Phased Family Matching uses these relationships within your tree to indicate which side of your tree other matches originate from.
  • Phased Family Matching shows which side of your tree, maternal, paternal or both, someone descends from, based on phased DNA matching between you and linked relationship matches as distant as third cousins. This allows Family Tree DNA to tell you whether matches are paternal (blue icon), maternal (red icon) or both (purple icon) without a parent’s DNA. This is one of the best autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, shown below.

  • In Common With and Not In Common With features allow you to sort your matches in common with another individual a number of ways, or matches not in common with that individual.
  • Filtered downloads provide the downloading of chromosome data for your filtered match list.
  • Stackable filters and searches – for example, you can select paternal matches and then search for a particular surname or ancestral surname within the paternal matches.
  • Common ethnicity matching through myOrigins allows you to see selected groups of individuals who match you and share common ethnicities.
  • Y and mtDNA locations of autosomal matches are provided on your ethnicity map through myOrigins.
  • Advanced matching tool includes Y, mtDNA and autosomal in various combinations. Also includes matches within projects where the tester is a member as well as by partial surname.
  • The matrix tool allows the tester to enter multiple people that they match in order to see if those individuals also match each other. The matrix tool is, in combination with the in-common-with tool and the chromosome browser is a form of pseudo triangulation, but does not indicate that the individuals match on the same segment.

  • Chromosome browser with the ability to select different segment match thresholds to display when comparing 5 or fewer individuals to your results.
  • Projects to join which provide group interaction and allow individuals to match only within the project, if desired.

To read more about how to utilize the various autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, with examples, click here.

Genealogy – Autosomal – Ancestry

Ancestry only offers autosomal DNA testing to their customers, so their page is simple and straightforward.

Ancestry is the only testing vendor (other than MyHeritage who is not included in this section) to require a subscription for full functionality, although if you call the Ancestry support line, a minimal subscription is available for $49. You can see your matches without a subscription, but you cannot see your matches trees or utilize other functions, so you will not be able to tell how you connect to your matches. Many genealogists have Ancestry subscriptions, so this is minimally problematic for most people.

However, if you don’t realize you need a subscription initially, the required annual subscription raises the effective cost of the test quite substantially. If you let your subscription lapse, you no longer have access to all DNA features. The cost of testing with Ancestry is the cost of the test plus the cost of a subscription if you aren’t already a subscriber.

This chart, from the Ancestry support center, provides details on which features are included for free and which are only available with a subscription.

Unique tools provided by Ancestry include:

  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) which indicate a match with whom you share a common ancestor in your tree connected to your DNA, allowing you to display the path of you and your match to the common ancestor. In order to take advantage of this feature, testers must link their tree to their DNA test. Otherwise, Ancestry can’t do tree matching.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most useful DNA tool at Ancestry. Subscription required.

  • DNA Circles, example below, are created when several people whose DNA matches also share a common ancestor. Subscription required.

  • New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), which are similar to Circles, but are formed when you match people descended from a common ancestor, but don’t have that ancestor in your tree. The majority of the time, these NADs are incorrect and are, when dissected and the source can be determined, found to be something like the spouse of a sibling of your ancestor. I do not view NADs as a benefit, more like a wild goose chase, but for some people these could be useful so long as the individual understands that these are NOT definitely ancestors and only hints for research. Subscription required.
  • Ancestry uses a proprietary algorithm called Timber to strip DNA from you and your matches that they consider to be “too matchy,” with the idea that those segments are identical by population, meaning likely to be found in large numbers within a population group – making them meaningless for genealogy. The problem is that Timber results in the removal of valid segments, especially in endogamous groups like Acadian families. This function is unique to Ancestry, but many genealogists (me included) don’t consider Timber a benefit.
  • Genetic Communities shows you groups of individuals with whom your DNA clusters. The trees of cluster members are then examined by Ancestry to determine connections from which Genetic Communities are formed. You can filter your DNA match results by Genetic Community.

Genealogy – Autosomal – 23and Me

Unfortunately, the 23andMe website is not straightforward or intuitive. They have spent the majority of the past two years transitioning to a “New Experience” which has resulted in additional confusion and complications when matching between people on multiple different platforms. You can take a spin through the New Experience by clicking here.

23andMe requires people to opt-in to sharing, even after they have selected to participate in Ancestry Services (genealogy) testing, have opted-in previously and chosen to view their DNA Relatives. Users on the “New Experience” can then either share chromosome data and results with each other individually, meaning on a one by one basis, or globally by a one-time opt-in to “open sharing” with matches. If a user does not opt-in to both DNA Relatives and open sharing, sharing requests must be made individually to each match, and they must opt-in to share with each individual user. This complexity and confusion results in an approximate sharing rate of between 50 and 60%. One individual who religiously works their matches by requesting sharing now has a share rate of about 80% of their matches in the data base who HAVE initially selected to participate in DNA Relatives. You can read more about the 23andMe experience at this link.

Various genetic genealogy reports and tools are scattered between the Reports and Tools tabs, and within those, buried in non-intuitive locations. If you are going to utilize 23andMe for matching and genealogy, in addition to the above link, I recommend Kitty Cooper’s blogs about the new DNA Relatives here and on triangulation here. Print the articles, and use them as a guide while navigating the 23andMe site.

Note that some screens (the Tools, DNA Relatives, then DNA tab) on the site do not display/work correctly utilizing Internet Explorer, but do with Edge or other browsers.

The one genealogy feature unique to 23andMe is:

  • Triangulation at 23andMe allows you to select a specific match to compare your DNA against. Several pieces of information will be displayed, the last of which, scrolling to the bottom, is a list of your common relatives with the person you selected.

In the example below, I’ve selected to see the matches I match in common with known family member, Stacy Den (surnames have been obscured for privacy reasons.)  Please note that the Roberta V4 Estes kit is a second test that I took for comparison purposes when the new V4 version of 23andMe was released.  Just ignore that match, because, of course I match myself as a twin.

If an individual does not match both you and your selected match, they will not appear on this list.

In the “relatives in common” section, each person is listed with a “shared DNA” column. For a person to be shown on this “in common” list, you obviously do share DNA with these individuals and they also share with your match, but the “shared DNA” column goes one step further. This column indicates whether or not you and your match both share a common DNA segment with the “in common” person.

I know this is confusing, so I’ve created this chart to illustrate what will appear in the “Shared DNA” column of the individuals showing on the list of matches, above, shared between me and Stacy Den.

Clicking on “Share to see” sends Sarah a sharing request for her to allow you to see her segment matches.

Let’s look at an example with “yes” in the Shared DNA column.

Clicking on the “Yes” in the Shared DNA column of Debbie takes us to the chromosome browser which shows both your selected match, Stacy in my case, and Debbie, the person whose “yes” you clicked.

All three people, meaning me, Stacy and Debbie share a common DNA segment, shown below on chromosome 17.

What 23andMe does NOT say is that these people. Stacy and Debbie, also match each other, in addition to matching me, which means all three of us triangulate.

Because I manage Stacy’s kit at 23andMe, I can check to see if Debbie is on Stacy’s match list, and indeed, Debbie is on Stacy’s match list and Stacy does match both Debbie and me on chromosome 17 in exactly the same location shown above, proving unquestionably that the three of us all match each other and therefore triangulate on this segment. In our case, it’s easy to identify our common relative whose DNA all 3 of us share.

Genealogy – Autosomal Summary

While all 3 vendors offer matching, their interfaces and tools vary widely.

I would suggest that Ancestry is the least sophisticated and has worked hard to make their tools easy for the novice working with genetic genealogy. Their green leaf DNA+Tree Matching is their best feature, easy to use and important for the novice and experienced genealogist alike.  Now, if they just had that chromosome browser so we could see how we match those people.

Ancestry’s Circles, while a nice feature, encourage testers to believe that their DNA or relationship is confirmed by finding themselves in a Circle, which is not the case.

Circles can be formed as the result of misinformation in numerous trees. For example, if I were to inaccurately list Smith as the surname for one of my ancestor’s wives, I would find myself in a Circle for Barbara Smith, when in fact, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that her surname is Smith. Yet, people think that Barbara Smith is confirmed due to a Circle having been formed and finding themselves in Barbara Smith’s Circle. Copying incorrect trees equals the formation of incorrect Circles.

It’s also possible that I’m matching people on multiple lines and my DNA match to the people in any given Circle is through another common ancestor entirely.

A serious genealogist will test minimally at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, who provides a chromosome browser and other tools necessary to confirm relationships and shared DNA segments.

Family Tree DNA is more sophisticated, so consequently more complex to use.  They provide matching plus numerous other tools. The website and matching is certainly friendly for the novice, but to benefit fully, some experience or additional education is beneficial, not unlike traditional genealogy research itself. This is true not just for Family Tree DNA, but GedMatch and 23andMe who all three utilize chromosome browsers.

The user will want to understand what a chromosome browser is indicating about matching DNA segments, so some level of education makes life a lot easier. Fortunately, understanding chromosome browser matching is not complex. You can read an article about Match Groups and Triangulation here. I also have an entire series of Concepts articles, Family Tree DNA offers a webinar library, their Learning Center and other educational resources are available as well.

Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to provide Phased Family Matches, meaning that by connecting known relatives who have DNA tested to your tree, Family Tree DNA can then identify additional matches as maternal, paternal or both. This, in combination with pseudo-phasing are very powerful matching tools.

23andMe is the least friendly of the three companies, with several genetic genealogy unfriendly restrictions relative to matching, opt-ins, match limits and such. They have experienced problem after problem for years relative to genetic genealogy, which has always been a second-class citizen compared to their medical research, and not a priority.

23andMe has chosen to implement a business model where their customers must opt-in to share segment information with other individuals, either one by one or by opting into open sharing. Based on my match list, roughly 60% of my actual DNA matches have opted in to sharing.

Their customer base includes fewer serious genealogists and their customers often are not interested in genealogy at all.

Having said that, 23andMe is the only one of the three that provides actual triangulated matches for users on the New Experience and who have opted into sharing.

If I were entering the genetic genealogy testing space today, I would test my autosomal DNA at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, but I would probably not test at 23andMe. I would test both my Y DNA (if a male) and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA.

Thank you to Kitty Cooper for assistance with parent/child matching and triangulation at 23andMe.

Genealogy Autosomal Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Matching Yes Yes Yes – each person has to opt in for open sharing or authorize sharing individually, many don’t
Estimated Relationships Yes Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser Yes No – Large Issue Yes
Chromosome Browser Threshold Adjustment Yes No Chromosome Browser No
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes
Trees Yes Yes – subscription required so see matches’ trees No
Ability to upload Gedcom file Yes Yes No
Ability to search trees Yes Yes No
Subscription in addition to DNA test price No No for partial, Yes for full functionality, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No
DNA + Ancestor in Tree Matches No Yes – Leaf Hints – subscription required – Best Feature No
Phased Parental Side Matching Yes – Best Feature No No
Parent Match Indicator Yes No Yes
Sort or Group by Parent Match Yes Yes Yes
In Common With Tool Yes Yes Yes
Not In Common With Tool Yes No No
Triangulated Matches No – pseudo with ICW, browser and matrix No Yes – Best Feature
Common Surnames Yes Yes – subscription required No
Ability to Link DNA Matches on Tree Yes No No
Matrix to show match grid between multiple matches Yes No No
Match Filter Tools Yes Minimal Some
Advanced Matching Tool Yes No No
Multiple Test Matching Tool Yes No multiple tests No multiple tests
Ethnicity Matching Yes No Yes
Projects Yes No No
Maximum # of Matches Restricted No No Yes – 2000 unless you are communicating with the individuals, then they are not removed from your match list
All Customers Participate Yes Yes, unless they don’t have a subscription No – between 50-60% opt-in
Accepts Transfers from Other Testing Companies Yes No No
Free Features with Transfer Matching, ICW, Matrix, Advanced Matching No transfers No transfers
Transfer Features Requiring Unlock $ Chromosome Browser, Ethnicity, Ancient Origins, Linked Relationships, Parentally Phased Matches No Transfers No transfers
Archives DNA for Later Testing Yes, 25 years No, no additional tests available No, no additional tests available
Additional Tool DNA Circles – subscription required
Additional Tool New Ancestor Discoveries – subscription required
Y DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Mitochondrial DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Advanced Testing Available Yes No No
Website Intuitive Yes, given their many tools Yes, very simple No
Data Base Size Large Largest Large but many do not test for genealogy, only test for health
Strengths Many tools, multiple types of tests, phased matching without parent DNA + Tree matching, size of data base Triangulation
Challenges Website episodically times out No chromosome browser or advanced tools Sharing is difficult to understand and many don’t, website is far from intuitive

 

Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Two indispensable tools for genetic genealogy that are often overlooked are Y and mitochondrial DNA.

The inheritance path for Y DNA is shown by the blue squares and the inheritance path for mitochondrial DNA is shown by the red circles for the male and female siblings shown at the bottom of the chart.

Y-DNA Testing for Males

Y DNA is inherited by males only, from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Women instead inherit an X chromosome from their father, which makes them female. Because the Y chromosome is not admixed with the DNA of the mother, the same Y chromosome has been passed down through time immemorial.

Given that the Y chromosome follows the typical surname path, Y DNA testing is very useful for confirming surname lineage to an expected direct paternal ancestor. In other words, an Estes male today should match, with perhaps a few mutations, to other descendants of Abraham Estes who was born in 1647 in Kent, England and immigrated to the colony of Virginia.

Furthermore, that same Y chromosome can look far back in time, thousands of years, to tell us where that English group of Estes men originated, before the advent of surnames and before the migration to England from continental Europe. I wrote about the Estes Y DNA here, so you can see an example of how Y DNA testing can be used.

Y DNA testing for matching and haplogroup identification, which indicates where in the world your ancestors were living within the past few hundred to few thousand years, is only available from Family Tree DNA. Testing can be purchased for either 37, 67 or 111 markers, with the higher marker numbers providing more granularity and specificity in matching.

Family Tree DNA provides three types of Y DNA tests.

  • STR (short tandem repeat) testing is the traditional Y DNA testing for males to match to each other in a genealogically relevant timeframe. These tests can be ordered in panels of 37, 67 or 111 markers and lower levels can be upgraded to higher levels at a later date. An accurate base haplogroup prediction is made from STR markers.
  • SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing is a different type of testing that tests single locations for mutations in order to confirm and further refine haplogroups. Think of a haplogroup as a type of genetic clan, meaning that haplogroups are used to track migration of humans through time and geography, and are what is utilized to determine African, European, Asian or Native heritage in the direct paternal line. SNP tests are optional and can be ordered one at a time, in groups called panels for a particular haplogroup or a comprehensive research level Y DNA test called the Big Y can be ordered after STR testing.
  • The Big Y test is a research level test that scans the entire Y chromosome to determine the most refined haplogroup possible and to report any previously unknown mutations (SNPs) that may define further branches of the Y DNA tree. This is the technique used to expand the Y haplotree.

You can read more about haplogroups here and about the difference between STR markers and SNPs here, here and here.

Customers receive the following features and tools when they purchase a Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test at 23andMe. The 23andMe Y DNA information is included in their Ancestry Services test. The Family Tree DNA Y DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. You can click here to read about the difference in the technology between Y DNA testing at Family Tree DNA and at 23andMe. Ancestry is not included in this comparison because they provide no Y DNA related information.

Y DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of STR panel marker testing Yes, in panels of 37, 67 and 111 markers No
Test panel (STR) marker results Yes Not tested
Haplogroup assignment Yes – accurate estimate with STR panels, deeper testing available Yes –base haplogroup by scan – haplogroup designations are significantly out of date, no further testing available
SNP testing to further define haplogroup Yes – can purchase individual SNPs, by SNP panels or Big Y test No
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees available for your matches Yes No
E-mail of matches provided Yes No
Calculator tool to estimate probability of generational distance between you and a match Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic projects No
Ability to search Y matches Yes No Y matching
Ability to search matches within projects Yes No projects
Ability to search matches by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer result location on tree Yes, detailed with every branch Yes, less detailed, subset
Terminal SNP used to determine haplogroup Yes Yes, small subset available
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins – match ancestral location summary by haplogroup, by test level Yes No
SNP map showing worldwide locations of any selected SNP Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the paternal line, by test panel Yes No
Big Y – full scan of Y chromosome for known and previously unknown mutations (SNPs) Yes No
Big Y matching Yes No
Big Y matching known SNPs Yes No
Big Y matching novel variants (unknown or yet unnamed SNPs) Yes No
Filter Big Y matches Yes No
Big Y results Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

Mitochondrial DNA Testing for Everyone

Mitochondrial DNA is contributed to both genders of children by mothers, but only the females pass it on. Like the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the DNA of the other parent. Therefore, anyone can test for the mitochondrial DNA of their matrilineal line, meaning their mother’s mother’s mother’s lineage.

Matching can identify family lines as well as ancient lineage.

You receive the following features and tools when you purchase a mitochondrial DNA test from Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test from 23andMe. The Family Tree DNA mitochondrial DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. The 23andMe mitochondrial information is provided with the Ancestry Services test. Ancestry is omitted from this comparison because they do not provide any mitochondrial information.

Mitochondrial DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of testing Yes, mtPlus and Full Sequence No
Test panel marker results Yes, in two formats, CRS and RSRS No
Rare mutations, missing and extra mutations, insertions and deletions reported Yes No
Haplogroup assignment Yes, most current version, Build 17 Yes, partial and out of date version
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees of matches available to view Yes No
E-mail address provided to matches Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic available No
Ability to search matches Yes No
Ability to search matches within project Yes No projects
Ability to search match by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer location on tree No Yes
Mutations used to determine haplogroup provided Yes No
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins –match ancestral location summary by haplogroup Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the maternal line, by test level Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

 

Overall Genealogy Summary

Serious genealogists should test with at least two of the three major vendors, being Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, with 23andMe coming in as a distant third.

No genetic genealogy testing regimen is complete without Y and mitochondrial DNA for as many ancestral lines as you can find to test. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll never know if you don’t test.

Unfortunately, many people, especially new testers, don’t know Y and mitochondrial DNA testing for genetic genealogy exists, or how it can help their genealogy research, which is extremely ironic since these were the first tests available, back in 2000.

You can read about finding Y and mitochondrial information for various family lines and ancestors and how to assemble a DNA Pedigree Chart here.

You can also take a look at my 52 Ancestors series, where I write about an ancestor every week. Each article includes some aspect of DNA testing and knowledge gained by a test or tests, DNA tool, or comparison. The DNA aspect of these articles focuses on how to use DNA as a tool to discover more about your ancestors.

 

Testing for Medical/Health or Traits

The DTC market also includes health and medical testing, although it’s not nearly as popular as genetic genealogy.

Health/medical testing is offered by 23andMe, who also offers autosomal DNA testing for genealogy.

Some people do want to know if they have genetic predispositions to medical conditions, and some do not. Some want to know if they have certain traits that aren’t genealogically relevant, but might be interesting – such as whether they carry the Warrior gene or if they have an alcohol flush reaction.

23andMe was the first company to dip their toes into the water of Direct to Consumer medical information, although they called it “health,” not medicine, at that time. Regardless of the terminology, information regarding Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for example, were provided for customers. 23andMe attempted to take the raw data and provide the consumer with something approaching a middle of the road analysis, because sometimes the actual studies provide conflicting information that might not be readily understood by consumers.

The FDA took issue with 23andMe back in November of 2013 when they ordered 23andMe to discontinue the “health” aspect of their testing after 23andMe ignored several deadlines. In October 2015, 23andMe obtained permission to provide customers with some information, such as carrier status, for 36 genetic disorders.

Since that time, 23andMe has divided their product into two separate tests, with two separate prices. The genealogy only test called Ancestry Service can be purchased separately for $99, or the combined Health + Ancestry Service for $199.

If you are interested in seeing what the Health + Ancestry test provides, you can click here to view additional information.

However, there is a much easier and less expensive solution.

If you have taken the autosomal test from 23andMe, Ancestry or Family Tree DNA, you can download your raw data file from the vendor and upload to Promethease to obtain a much more in-depth report than is provided by 23andMe, and much less expensively – just $5.

I reviewed the Promethease service here. I found the Promethease reports to be very informative and I like the fact that they provide information, both positive and negative for each SNP (DNA location) reported. Promethease avoids FDA problems by not providing any interpretation or analysis, simply the data and references extracted from SNPedia for you to review.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you should be sure you really want to know before you delve into medical testing. Some mutations are simply indications that you could develop a condition that you will never develop or that is not serious. Other mutations are not so benign. Promethease provides this candid page before you upload your data.

Different files from different vendors provide different results at Promethease, because those vendors test different SNP locations in your DNA. At the Promethease webpage, you can view examples.

Traits

Traits fall someplace between genealogy and health. When you take the Health + Ancestry test at 23andMe, you do receive information about various traits, as follows:

Of course, you’ll probably already know if you have several of these traits by just taking a look in the mirror, or in the case of male back hair, by asking your wife.

At Family Tree DNA, existing customers can order tests for Factoids (by clicking on the upgrade button), noted as curiosity tests for gene variants.

Family Tree DNA provides what I feel is a great summary and explanation of what the Factoids are testing on their order page:

“Factoids” are based on studies – some of which may be controversial – and results are not intended to diagnose disease or medical conditions, and do not serve the purpose of medical advice. They are offered exclusively for curiosity purposes, i.e. to see how your result compared with what the scientific papers say. Other genetic and environmental variables may also impact these same physiological characteristics. They are merely a conversational piece, or a “cocktail party” test, as we like to call it.”

Test Price Description
Alcohol Flush Reaction $19 A condition in which the body cannot break down ingested alcohol completely. Flushing, after consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, includes a range of symptoms: nausea, headaches, light-headedness, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that may lead to further inebriation, but the symptoms can lead to mistaken assumption that the people affected are more easily inebriated than others.
Avoidance of Errors $29 We are often angry at ourselves because we are unable to learn from certain experiences. Numerous times we have made the wrong decision and its consequences were unfavorable. But the cause does not lie only in our thinking. A mutation in a specific gene can also be responsible, because it can cause a smaller number of dopamine receptors. They are responsible for remembering our wrong choices, which in turn enables us to make better decisions when we encounter a similar situation.
Back Pain $39 Lumbar disc disease is the drying out of the spongy interior matrix of an intervertebral disc in the spine. Many physicians and patients use the term lumbar disc disease to encompass several different causes of back pain or sciatica. A study of Asian patients with lumbar disc disease showed that a mutation in the CILP gene increases the risk of back pain.
Bitter Taste Perception $29 There are several genes that are responsible for bitter taste perception – we test 3 of them. Different variations of this gene affect ability to detect bitter compounds. About 25% of people lack ability to detect these compounds due to gene mutations. Are you like them? Maybe you don’t like broccoli, because it tastes too bitter?
Caffeine Metabolism $19 According to the results of a case-control study reported in the March 8, 2006 issue of JAMA, coffee is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and caffeine consumption has been associated with increased risk for non-fatal myocardial infarction. Caffeine is primarily metabolized by the cytochrome P450 1A2 in the liver, accounting for 95% of metabolism. Carriers of the gene variant *1F allele are slow caffeine metabolizers, whereas individuals homozygous for the *1A/*1A genotype are rapid caffeine metabolizers.
Earwax Type $19 Whether your earwax is wet or dry is determined by a mutation in a single gene, which scientists have discovered. Wet earwax is believed to have uses in insect trapping, self-cleaning and prevention of dryness in the external auditory canal of the ear. It also produces an odor and causes sweating, which may play a role as a pheromone.
Freckling $19 Freckles can be found on anyone no matter what the background. However, having freckles is genetic and is related to the presence of the dominant melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant.
Longevity $49 Researchers at Harvard Medical School and UC Davis have discovered a few genes that extend lifespan, suggesting that the whole family of SIR2 genes is involved in controlling lifespan. The findings were reported July 28, 2005 in the advance online edition of Science.
Male Pattern Baldness $19 Researchers at McGill University, King’s College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. have identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that together produce an astounding sevenfold increase of the risk of male pattern baldness. Their results were published in the October 12, 2008 issue of the Journal of Nature Genetics.
Monoamine Oxidase A (Warrior Gene) $49.50 The Warrior Gene is a variant of the gene MAO-A on the X chromosome. Recent studies have linked the Warrior Gene to increased risk-taking and aggressive behavior. Whether in sports, business, or other activities, scientists found that individuals with the Warrior Gene variant were more likely to be combative than those with the normal MAO-A gene. However, human behavior is complex and influenced by many factors, including genetics and our environment. Individuals with the Warrior Gene are not necessarily more aggressive, but according to scientific studies, are more likely to be aggressive than those without the Warrior Gene variant. This test is available for both men and women, however, there is limited research about the Warrior Gene variant amongst females. Additional details about the Warrior Gene genetic variant of MAO-A can be found in Sabol et al, 1998.
Muscle Performance $29 A team of researchers, led by scientists at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth College, have identified and tested a gene that dramatically alters both muscle metabolism and performance. The researchers say that this finding could someday lead to treatment of muscle diseases, including helping the elderly who suffer from muscle deterioration and improving muscle performance in endurance athletes.
Nicotine Dependence $19 In 2008, University of Virginia Health System researchers have identified a gene associated with nicotine dependence in both Europeans and African Americans.

Many people are interested in the Warrior Gene, which I wrote about here.

At Promethease, traits are simply included with the rest of the conditions known to be associated with certain SNPs, such as baldness, for example, but I haven’t done a comparison to see which traits are included.

 

Additional Vendor Information to Consider

Before making your final decision about which test or tests to purchase, there are a few additional factors you may want to consider.

As mentioned before, Ancestry requires a subscription in addition tot he cost of the DNA test for the DNA test to be fully functional.

One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, is that both 23andMe and Ancestry sell customer’s anonymized DNA information to unknown others. Every customer authorizes the sale of their information when they purchase or activate a kit – even though very few people actually take the time to read the Terms and Conditions, Privacy statements and Security documents, including any and all links. This means most people don’t realize they are authorizing the sale of their DNA.

At both 23andMe and Ancestry, you can ALSO opt in for additional non-anonymized research or sale of your DNA, which you can later opt out of. However, you cannot opt out of the lower level sale of your anonymized DNA without removing your results from the data base and asking for your sample to be destroyed. They do tell you this, but it’s very buried in the fine print at both companies. You can read more here.

Family Tree DNA does not sell your DNA or information.

All vendors can change their terms and conditions at any time. Consumers should always thoroughly read the terms and conditions including anything having to do with privacy for any product they purchase, but especially as it relates to DNA testing.

Family Tree DNA archives your DNA for later testing, which has proven extremely beneficial when a family member has passed away and a new test is subsequently introduced or the family wants to upgrade a current test.  Had my mother’s DNA not been archived at Family Tree DNA, I would not have Family Finder results for her today – something I thank Mother and Family Tree DNA for every single day.

Family Tree DNA also accepts transfer files from 23andMe, Ancestry and very shortly, MyHeritage – although some versions work better than others. For details on which companies accept which file versions, from which vendors, and why, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

If you tested on a compatible version of the 23andMe Test (V3 between December 2010 and November 2013) or the Ancestry V1 (before May 2016) you may want to transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free and pay only $19 for full functionality, as opposed to taking the Family Finder test. Family Tree DNA does accept later versions of files from 23andMe and Ancestry, but you will receive more matches if you test on the same chip platform that Family Tree DNA utilizes instead of doing a transfer.

Additional Vendor Considerations Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Subscription required in addition to cost of DNA test No Yes for full functionality, partial functionality is included without subscription, minimum subscription is $49 by calling Ancestry No
Customer Support Good and available Available, nice but often not knowledgeable about DNA Poor
Sells customer DNA information No Yes Yes
DNA raw data file available to download Yes Yes Yes
DNA matches file available to download including match info and chromosome match locations Yes No Yes
Customers genealogically focused Yes Yes Many No
Accepts DNA raw data transfer files from other companies Yes, most, see article for specifics No No
DNA archived for later testing Yes, 25 years No No
Beneficiary provision available Yes No No

 

Which Test is Best For You?

I hope you now know the answer as to which DNA test is best for you – or maybe it’s multiple tests for you and other family members too!

DNA testing holds so much promise for genealogy. I hesitate to call DNA testing a miracle tool, but it often is when there are no records. DNA testing works best in conjunction with traditional genealogical research.

There are a lot of tests and options.  The more tests you take, the more people you match. Some people test at multiple vendors or upload their DNA to third party sites like GedMatch, but most don’t. In order to make sure you reach those matches, which may be the match you desperately need, you’ll have to test at the vendor where they tested. Otherwise, they are lost to you. That means, of course, that eventually, if you’re a serious genealogist, you’ll be testing at all 3 vendors.  Don’t forget about Y and mitochondrial tests at Family Tree DNA.

Recruit family members to test and reach out to your matches.  The more you share and learn – the more is revealed about your ancestors. You are, after all, the unique individual that resulted from the combination of all of them!

Update: Vendor prices updated June 22, 2017.

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