Glossary – DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

What is DNA and why do I care?

Good questions. Let’s take a look at the answer in general, then why we use DNA for genealogy.

The Recipe for You

DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is the book of life for all organisms. In essence, it’s the recipe for you – and what makes you unique.

DNA is formed of strands that twist to form the familiar double helix pattern.

The two strands are joined together by one of 4 different nucleotides, one extending from each side to connect in the middle. The nucleotides are:

  • Cytosine – C
  • Guanine – G
  • Thymine – T
  • Adenine – A

The nucleotide names don’t really matter for genetic genealogy, but what does matter is that the sequence of these nucleotides when chained together is what encodes information on long structures called chromosomes. Each person carries 22 chromosomes, plus the 23rd chromosome pair which is gender specific.

Using DNA for Genetic Genealogy

There are four different kinds of DNA that genealogists use in different ways for obtaining ancestors’ information relevant to genetic genealogy. Thankfully, we have 4 different kinds of DNA available to us because of unique inheritance patterns for each kind of DNA – meaning we inherited different kinds of DNA from different ancestral paths. If one kind of DNA doesn’t work in a particular situation, chances are good that another type will.

Genetic genealogy makes use of 4 different types of DNA.

  • Y DNA – passed from males to male children, only (your father’s paternal line)
  • Mitochondrial DNA – passed from females to both genders of children, but only females pass it on (your mother’s matrilineal line)

Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance paths are shown on a pedigree chart in the graphic below, with the blue boxes representing Y DNA and the red circles representing mitochondrial DNA inheritance.

In addition to Y and mitochondrial DNA, genetic genealogists also use two kinds of DNA that reflect inheritance from additional ancestral lines, in addition to the red and blue lines shown above – meaning the ancestral lines with no color.

  • Autosomal DNA – the 22 chromosomes that recombine during reproduction.
  • X Chromosome – always contributed by the mother, but only contributed by the father to female children – this is the 23rd chromosome pair which recombines with a unique inheritance pattern.  You can read more about that in the article, X Marks the Spot.

Receiving What Kind of DNA from Whom

While the Y and mitochondrial DNA have unique and very prescribed inheritance patterns as shown by the red arrows pointing to the blue Y chromosome below at far left, and the red mitochondrial circles at far right, the 22 autosomal chromosomes are contributed equally by each parent. In other words, for each chromosome, a child inherits half of each parent’s DNA. How the selection of which DNA is contributed to each child is unknown.

A child’s gender is determined by the parent’s contributions to the 23rd chromosome, not shown above. The following chart explains gender determination by the X and Y combinations of the 23rd chromosome.

Received from Mother Received from Father
Male child X Y
Female child X X

The Y chromosome is what makes males male.

No Y chromosome?  You’re a female.

However, this X chromosome inheritance pattern provides us with the ability to look at X matches for males and know immediately that they had to have come from his mother’s lineage – because males don’t inherit an X chromosome from their father.

Autosomal DNA and Genetic Genealogy

The 22 non-gender chromosomes recombine in each generation, with half of each chromosome being contributed by each parent, as shown in the illustrations above.

You can see that in the first generation, the child received one blue and one yellow, or one pink and one green, chromosome. In giving each child exactly half of their DNA, each parent contributes some amount of ancestral DNA from generations upstream, as you can see in the mother/father and son/daughter generations.

For example, each child receives, on average, 25% of each of their grandparent’s DNA – although they can receive somewhat more or less than 25%, depending on the random nature of recombination.

Therefore, genetic genealogy testing companies compare tester’s autosomal DNA with other testers and look for common segments contributed by common ancestors, resulting in autosomal matching.

When relatively large segments match between three or more relatives who are not immediate family, we can attribute that DNA to a common ancestor. Of course, the challenge, and the thrill, is to determine which common ancestor contributed that common DNA to our triangulated match group. It’s a great way to verify our research and to break down brick walls.

Let’s face it, you received ALL of your DNA from SOME combination of ancestors, and if you carry large enough pieces from any specific ancestor, we can, hopefully, identify the source of that DNA segment by looking at the genealogy of those we match on that segment.

It’s a great puzzle to unravel, and best of all, it’s the puzzle of you.

More Info

The great news is that you can utilize your Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA differently, to provide you with different kinds of information about different ancestors and genealogy lines.

If you’d like to read more about how the 4 Kinds of DNA can be used, please read the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

You can also enter any word or phrase into the search box in the upper right hand corner of this blog to find additional useful information about any topic.

If You Want to Test

If you’d like to learn more about the various kinds of DNA tests available, and which one or ones would be the best for you, please read the article, Which DNA Test is Best?

Right now, the Y DNA, mitochondrial and autosomal (Family Finder) tests are on sale at Family Tree DNA, through the end of August, 2017.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

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

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

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

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

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

X Matching and Mitochondrial DNA is Not the Same Thing

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of confusion surrounding X DNA matching and mitochondrial DNA. Some folks think they are the same thing, but they aren’t at all.

It’s easy to become confused by the different types of DNA that we can use for genealogy, so I’ll try to explain these differences two or three different ways – and hopefully one of them will be just the ticket for you.

Both Associated with Females

I suspect the confusion has to do with the fact that mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome are both associated in some manner with female inheritance. However, that isn’t always true in the strictest sense, as women also inherit an X chromosome from their father.

Males Inherit:

  • An X chromosome from their mother
  • Mitochondrial DNA from their mother

Females Inherit:

  • An X chromosome from their mother
  • An X chromosome from their father
  • Mitochondrial DNA from their mother

The difference, as you can quickly see, is that females inherit an X chromosome from both parents, while males only inherit the X from their mothers. That’s because males inherit the Y chromosome from their father instead – which is what makes males male.

As a quick overview about inheritance works, you might want to read the article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

The good news is that both mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome have very specific inheritance paths that can be very useful to genealogy, once you understand how they work.

Who Gets What?

Mitochondrial DNA Inheritance

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both genders of children from their mothers. Mitochondrial DNA is NEVER recombined with the mitochondrial DNA of the father – so it’s passed intact. That’s why both males and females can test for their direct matrilineal line through their mitochondrial DNA.

In the pedigree chart above, you can see that mtDNA (red circles) is passed directly down the matrilineal line, while Y DNA is passed directly down the patrilineal (surname) line (blue squares.)

I’ve written an in-depth article titled, Mitochondrial DNA – Your Mom’s Story that might be useful to read, as well as Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story.

The X Chromosome

The X Chromosome is autosomal, meaning that it recombines in every generation. If you are a female, the X recombines just like any other autosome, meaning chromosomes 1-22. You receive a copy from each parent.

The 23rd pair of chromosomes is the X and Y chromosomes which convey gender. Males receive an X from their mother and Y from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Females receive an X chromosome from both parents, just like the rest of chromosomes 1-22.

Inheritance Pathways

If you are a male, the inheritance path of the X chromosome is a bit different from that of a female, because you inherit your X only from your mother.

Females inherit their father’s ONLY X chromosome intact, which he inherited from his mother. Females inherit their X chromosome from their mother in the normal autosomal way. A mother has two X chromosomes, so the mother can give a child either chromosome entirely or parts of both of her X chromosomes.

Because of the different ways that males and females inherit the X chromosome, the inheritance path is different than chromosomes 1-22, portions of which you can inherit from any of your ancestors. Conversely, you can only inherit portions of your X chromosome from certain ancestors. You can read about more about this in the article, X Marks the Spot.

Female X inheritance chart. For male distribution, look at my father’s side of the tree.

My own colorized X chromosome chart is shown above, produced from my genealogy software and Charting Companion. An X match MUST COME from one of the ancestors in the pink and blue colored quadrants. It’s very unlikely that I would inherit parts of my X chromosome from all of these ancestors, but these ancestors are the only candidates from whom my X originated. In other words, genealogically, these are the only ancestors for me to investigate when I have an X DNA match with someone.

Because of this unbalanced distribution of the X chromosome, if you are a male and you match someone on the X chromosome, assuming it’s a legitimate match and not a match by chance, then you know the match MUST come from your mother’s side of the family, and only from her pink and blue colored ancestors – looking at my father’s half of the tree as an example.

If you are a female the match can come from either side, but only from a restricted number of individuals – those colored pink or blue, as shown above.

X chart with Y line included in purple, for males, and mitochondrial line in green.

My mitochondrial line, shown on the X chart would consist of only the women on the bottom row, extending to the right from me, colored in green above. My father’s Y DNA line would be the purple region, extending along the bottom at left. Of course, I don’t have a Y chromosome, because I’m female.

Of the individuals carrying the purple Y DNA, the only one with an X chromosome that a female could inherit would be the father. A female would inherit both the mtDNA of all of the green women, plus could also inherit an X chromosome (or part of an X) from them too.

For males, looking at my father’s half of the chart. He can inherit no X chromosome from any of the purple Y DNA portion, because those men gave him their Y chromosome. My father would inherit his mitochondrial DNA from his direct matrilineal line, shown in yellow, below.

X chart with mitochondrial inheritance line for mother (and child) shown in green, for father shown in yellow.  Both yellow and green lines can contribute to the X chromosome for males and females.

In my father’s case, the females in his tree that he can inherit an X chromosome from are quite limited, but people who have the opportunity to pass their X chromosome to my father are never restricted to only the people that pass his mitochondrial DNA to him. However, the X chromosome contributors always include the mitochondrial DNA contributors for both males and females.

In my father’s case, above, he inherits his X chromosome from his mother, who can only inherit her X from the people on his side of the chart shown in yellow, blue or pink. In essence, the people in yellow or to the left of the yellow with any color.

As his daughter, I can inherit from any of those ancestors as well, since he gives me his only X, who he inherited from his mother. I also inherit an X from my mother from anyone who is green, pink or blue on her side of my chart.

As you can see, my X can come from many fewer ancestors on my father’s side than on my mother’s side.

It just happens that ancestors in the mitochondrial line also are able to contribute an X chromosome and either gender can inherit parts of their X chromosome from any female upstream of their mother in the direct matrilineal line. However, only the direct matrilineal line (yellow for your father and green for your mother) contributes mitochondrial DNA. None of the other ancestors contribute mtDNA to this male or female, although females contribute their mtDNA to other individuals in the tree. For a more detailed discussion on inheritance, please read the article, “Concepts – ‘Who to Test Series”.

Special Treatment for X Matches

While the generally accepted threshold for autosomal DNA is about 7cM, for X DNA, there appears to be a much higher incidence of false matches at higher levels than the rest of the chromosomes, as documented by Philip Gammon as in his Match-Maker-Breaker tool.  This appears to have to do with SNP density.

I would encourage genetic genealogists to consider someplace between 10 and 15 cM as an acceptable threshold for an X chromosome match. This of course does not mean that smaller segment matching can’t be relevant, it’s just that X matches are less likely to be relevant at levels below 10-15 cM than the rest of the chromosomes.

Summary

As you can see, the mitochondrial DNA is passed from one line only – the direct matrilineal line – green to my mother and then me, yellow to my father. The mitochondrial DNA has absolutely NOTHING to do with the X chromosome, as they are entirely different kinds of DNA. It just so happens that the individuals who contribute mitochondrial DNA are also some of the ancestors who can contribute an X chromosome to either males or females.

The yellow and green ancestors always contribute mitochondrial DNA, but the pink and blue NEVER contribute mitochondrial DNA to the father and mother in our chart.

The X chromosome has a very distinctive inheritance path, shown in the first fan chart, that will help identify potential ancestors who may have contributed your X chromosome – which is wonderful for genealogists. If your ancestor is not colored pink or blue, in the first chart, they did not contribute anything to your X chromosome – so an X match MUST come from a pink or blue ancestor (which includes yellow and green in the later charts.)

By color, the people in the fan chart provide the following:

  • Purple – Y chromosome to father only.  Y is passed on to a male child, but not to females.
  • Yellow – Mitochondrial always to father. X always from mother to males but X can come from either yellow or pink and blue ancestors upstream.
  • Green – Mitochondrial always to the mother.  Females receive an X chromosome from their green mother and also from their father, who received his X chromosome from his yellow mother.
  • PInk and blue on father’s side – contribute to the father’s X chromosome, in addition to yellow.
  • Pink and blue on mother’s side – contribute to the mother’s X chromosome, in addition to green.

 

If you are a male and see an X match on your father’s side of the tree, you know that match is either actually coming from your mother’s side of the tree, or the match is false, meaning identical by chance.

The great news is that X matching is another tool with special attributes in the genealogist’s toolbox, along with both mitochondrial and Y DNA.

Your X chromosome test is included as part of the Family Finder test. You can order the Family Finder or the mitochondrial DNA tests here.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

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

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

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

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

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

Using X and Mitochondrial DNA Charts by Charting Companion

Charting Companion by Progeny Genealogy interfaces with many genealogy software programs to produce lovely charts and graphs not available within the genealogy software applications themselves. I first installed Charting Companion when I used PAF and was very glad to see that it interfaces with RootsMagic too, the software I switched to when PAF was no longer supported. RIP PAF😦

Over the past couple years, Charting Companion has implemented DNA focused reports. I covered their first report, the X Ancestor Chart when it was first introduced, but they have since added mtDNA charts, and most recently X Descendant Charts. I love these reports and how useful they are to the genealogist.

It’s important to understand that both your mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome have special inheritance paths and therefore, special uses for genetic genealogy research. I wrote about the X chromosome here and here.

The article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is a brief description of the various kinds of DNA testing available to genetic genealogists, and who can test for which kind.

X Chromosome Inheritance Path

In males, the X chromosome is only inherited from the mother, because the father gives the male a Y chromosome, which is what makes the male, male. In females, the father contributes his X chromosome to his daughter, as does her mother. However, the father only received an X from his mother – so you can see that the inheritance pattern for the X chromosome is not the same as other chromosomes where all children receive 50% of their inherited DNA from each parent.

Because of this unusual inheritance pattern, you can easily tell whether an autosomal match that shares an X chromosome could descend from the ancestor you think they might. If you’re a male and you think an X match comes through your father or one of his ancestors – think again, because it can’t.

Here’s my hand-drawn chart of the ancestors that portions of my X chromosome could have descended from.

X Chart0001

Now that I have charting companion, I no longer have to hand draw this chart. Charting Companion does it quickly and easily for me. And it’s much, MUCH neater!

x fan

The X chromosome is tested as part of an autosomal DNA test, but not all vendors report X matches. Ancestry does not provide information about the chromosomes where you match anyone, so at Ancestry, there is no way to know if you match someone on the X chromosome. Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test does test for and report X chromosome matching and so does GedMatch if you upload your raw data files from any vendor.

Mitochondrial DNA Inheritance Path

Mitochondrial DNA is not passed to the children from males. Females pass their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.

This pedigree chart below shows the Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance path for a brother and sister. Both siblings received their mother’s mtDNA, which reaches back in time directly up the matrilineal line ONLY.

Y and mito

The great news is that since the mitochondrial DNA is never admixed with the father’s DNA, it’s a direct pipeline that informs us about the matrilineal line for hundreds and thousands of years back in time.

The bad news is that in order to find out about the mitochondrial DNA of another ancestor in your tree – meaning all of your ancestors that don’t have red circles in the chart above, you must find someone descended from a female through all females to the current generation, which can be a male. Testing for mitochondrial DNA is available through Family Tree DNA.

Let’s say you want to find out about the mitochondrial DNA of your father’s mother to fill in one of the haplogroups in your DNA pedigree chart. You would need to locate an individual to test who carries your father’s mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Your father can test, if he’s living and willing. If your father is deceased, and he had no siblings, and his mother is deceased with no siblings, you’re going to have to go on back up that tree until you find someone with living descendants who descend through only females to the current generation, which can include males.

Charting companion makes finding those descendants easy.

Getting Started

You can purchase Charting Companion at this link. And for those of you wondering, no, I don’t have any financial interest in Charting Companion or Progeny Genelaogy, nor is this a paid article, nor do I receive any commission or kickback or anything like that if you purchase this product, nor am I related to or know the owner. I don’t accept or write any articles for pay from anyone or any company, ever, and never have. I did, however, receive a free update to the Charting Companion software I had already purchased, but you will too if you have already purchased version 6.

After installing Charting Companion, which is painless (I had to install the latest upgrade for this article), Charting Companion opens the file you indicate, which is typically your production file for your genealogy software. You’ll select the person you want to be reflected as the source or center of your charts or reports in the yellow Name field, shown below. In my case, I selected Barbara Dreschel to be the person around whom the reports will center.

In case you’re wondering, “Babbit” was her nickname and J1c2f is her mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.  The only effective way I’ve discovered to maintain haplogroup information is as a middle name, so that’s what you’re seeing.

chart-drechsel

Next, you’ll select the type of report that you want to create.

You’ll want to click on the “Charts and Reports” tab and for the X chromosome charts, you’ll want to select either the Ancestor Charts, or the Descendant Charts.

chart companion

Net, you’ll select the X version, which is located under “color” because the proper people are colorized in pink and blue.

Ancestor chart options

Ancestor X Charts

Ancestor charts generally start with you and work their way back in time.   My X version shows which ancestors I inherited my X chromosome from. This can be very helpful when evaluating matches. In some cases, you cannot have a match to a particular person on the X chromosome from the particular line in question.

Ancestor charts come in two flavors, one is a traditional ancestor chart, the fan version shown earlier in this article, and the second version is a pedigree chart.

x pedigree 1

x pedigree 2

These charts make it easy to see who you could have received your X chromosome from – so X matches must be from the pink and blue colored ancestors and cannot be from ancestors whose boxes are not colored.

For example, if I match a descendant of John Y. Estes, located at the top of the pedigree chart, above, on the X chromosome, I know the common ancestor that I received the X DNA from is NOT John Y. Estes, because I couldn’t have inherited any X DNA from him. That’s easy to discern, because there is no coloration in John Y.’s box. So an X match to a descendant of John Y. Estes is not FROM John Y. Estes. It’s either a false match or the matching X chromosome is from another common ancestor. Of course, that doesn’t mean we both aren’t descended from John Y. Estes – it only means that our X match is not from John Y.  I wrote about false matches here.

When I receive an X match to someone and we’re trying to find a common ancestor, I suggest that my match print this same chart for themselves and that will help them determine which ancestors or ancestral lines we might potentially have in common.

Descendant X Charts

Recently Charting Companion announced a new tool, Descendant X Charts. On these charts, the ancestor is the focus and the descendants who inherited their X chromosome are colored either pink or blue. Part of the Descendant X Chart for Barbara Drechsel is shown below. You can click on any graphic to enlarge.

chart-descendant-drechsel

Descendant Charts look a little different than Ancestor Charts. Don’t be confused by the white box between Elnora Kirsch and her daughters. That’s just her husband, Curtis Benjamin Lore. While he contributes an X chromosome (with daughters) or doesn’t (with sons,) it’s not HIS X chromosome we’re tracking in this chart, it’s the X chromosome of Barbara Drechsel. Curtis would be shown either on his own ancestor chart, or you can create a Descendant X Chart for Curtis.

You might notice in this diagram that this family is particularly prone to not having children. Trying to find ANY DNA participants has been very challenging. However, when I do find them (fingers crossed) I’ll know immediately if they (and I) could possibly carry the X chromosome of Barbara Drechsel by looking at these charts. I’m someplace to the left on this chart, but off the edge of the graphic above.

My favorite Charting Companion charts are still the fan charts though, shown below, because they are compact and succinct and you can see everything on one chart on one page.

chart-descendant-fan

Mitochondrial DNA Charts

To find descendants who carry the mitochondrial DNA of any female, select the person whose mtDNA-carrying descendants you want to find. Then click on the Charts and Reports tab and select the Descendant Chart. You’ll then see various options at the top, where you’ll want to click on the Contents tab.

chart-mtdna-menu

Select Mitochondrial DNA. Note that you can also select the Y chromosome DNA, but that’s much more evident if you’re looking for a male, because the surname stays the same, so DNA testing candidates are generally rather obvious.

chart-mtdna-descendants

On the mtDNA Descendants Chart above, the people in pink and blue carry the mtDNA of Barbara Drechsel. The blue people, males, won’t pass it on to their offspring, but the pink people, females, will if they have offspring. You can see that many females in this family did not have children, so there are several dead ends for Barbara’s mtDNA, including one more daughter who is off of the right hand side of the page. On your computer, you can scroll and the printed reports allow you to overlap.

The Mitochondrial DNA Chart is a great tool to find out who carries the mitochondrial DNA of any ancestor.

Summary

I love tools that help people understand their DNA and how it’s useful to their genealogy. The X charts make seeing the X inheritance path so much easier than trying to explain in verbiage (or drawing by hand) – and provides an easy visual to quickly identify whether a particular ancestor could potentially be responsible for an X DNA match.

For mitochondrial DNA, the charting tool makes the task of finding appropriate descendants to test much easier. It can also work in reverse. If you want to know if a particular person is a candidate for testing for a specific ancestor’s mtDNA, it’s easy to see immediately if their box is colored pink or blue.

I especially love tools that are ubiquitous and run with almost any software package and that don’t require special plugins. Furthermore, I’m particularly enamored with vendors who listen to and take suggestions to heart from their customer base. No, this suggestion wasn’t mine, but the X Descendant Chart was implemented within a week of when it was suggested by a customer. Two weeks later, it was in production – and now all Charting Companion customers benefit. A big thank you to Pierre Clouthier at Progeny Genealogy.

Top 10 Most Popular Articles of 2015

Wordpress 2015

WordPress, the blogging software I use, provides a year-end summary that is quite interesting.

I really like this report, as I tend to be very focused on what I’m researching and writing, not on stats – so this is a refreshing break and summary. I thought you might be interested too.

The top 10 most viewed posts in 2015 were, in order from least to most:

10thPromethease – Genetic Health Information Alternative – From December 2013

People are beginning to ask about how they can obtain some of the health information that they were previously receiving from 23andMe.  For $5, at Promethease,  you can upload any of the autosomal files from either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or Ancestry.com.  They will process your raw data and provide you with a report that is available to download from their server for 45 days.  They also e-mail you a copy.

9thX Marks the Spot – From September 2012

When using autosomal DNA, the X chromosome is a powerful tool with special inheritance properties.  Many people think that mitochondrial DNA is the same as the X chromosome.  It’s not.

8thThick Hair, Small Boobs, Shovel Shaped Teeth and More – From February 2013

Yep, there’s a gene for these traits, and more.  The same gene, named EDAR (short for Ectodysplasin receptor EDARV370A), it turns out, also confers more sweat glands and distinctive teeth and is found in the majority of East Asian people.

7thMythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA – From June 2013

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

6th4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy – from October 2012 – This is probably the article I refer people to most often.  It’s the basics, just the basics.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the different “kinds” of DNA and how they can be used for genetic genealogy.

It used to be simple.  When this “industry” first started, in the year 2000, you could test two kinds of DNA and it was straightforward.  Now we’ve added more DNA, more tools and more testing companies and it’s not quite so straightforward anymore.

5thIs History Repeating Itself at Ancestry? – from August 2012

Is history repeating itself at Ancestry?

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I should publish this posting.  As I write and rewrite it, I still haven’t made up my mind.  It’s one of those sticky wickets, as they are called.  One of the reasons I hesitate is that I have far more questions than answers.

4thWhat is a Haplogroup? – From January 2013

Sometimes we’ve been doing genetic genealogy for so long we forget what it’s like to be new.  I’m reminded, sometimes humorously, by some of the questions I receive.

3rdAutosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best? – From February 2015

This now obsolete article compared the autosomal tests from Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe.  23andMe, as of year end (2015), is in the midst of rewriting their platform, which obsoletes some of the tools they offered previously.   As soon as the 23andMe transition to their new platform is complete, I’ll be writing an updated version of this article for 2016.  Until then, suffice it to say I am recommending Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, in that order.

2ndEthnicity Results – True or Not? – from October 2013

I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I receive that go something like this:

“I received my ethnicity results from XYZ.  I’m confused.  The results don’t seem to align with my research and I don’t know what to make of them?”

1stProving Native American Ancestry Using DNA – From December 2012 – this has been the most popular article every year since 2012. This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s also the most common question I receive.

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one.

“My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.”

Interesting

I was surprised, at first, to see so many older posts, but then I realized they have had more time to accumulate hits.

Of these all-time Top 10, three of them, including the most popular, which is most popular by far, have to do with Native American ancestry, directly or indirectly. The most common questions I receive about ethnicity also relate to the discovery of Native American ancestry.

Thank you everyone for coming along with me on this on this wonderful journey.  It will be exciting to see what 2016 has to offer.  I already have some exciting research planned that I’ll be sharing with you.

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m wishing you new ancestors!

Just One Cousin

Recently, someone wrote to me and said that they thought the autosomal DNA matching between groups of family members was wonderful, but they have “just one first cousin” and feel left out.  So, I decided to see what could be done with just two cousins.  In this case, the two cousins are full siblings and both first cousins to my mother, Barbara.  This would be the same process whether there was one or two cousins, since the two are siblings. Utilizing two cousins who are siblings just gives me the advantage of additional matching and triangulation capabilities.

This does presume that both people involved are willing to share and do a bit of comparison work on their various DNA accounts.  In other words, you can’t do this by yourself without cooperation from your cousin.

Here’s the common ancestor of our testers.

Miller Ferverda chart

Barbara, Cheryl and Don took a Family Finder autosomal DNA test at Family Tree DNA.

The DNA shared by Barbara, Cheryl and Don is from their common ancestral couple, Hiram B. Ferverda and Evaline Louise Miller.

Some of that shared DNA will be Hiram’s Ferverda DNA and some will be Evaline’s Miller DNA.  The only way to differentiate between the Ferverda and Miller DNA is to test people who are only Ferverda or only Miller, descendants of people upstream of Hiram and Evaline, and if there are any common segments between the testers and those Ferverda or Miller individuals, you can then assign that DNA segment to that side of the family – Miller or Ferverda.

I’m using Barbara’s chromosome as the “match to” background, below.  Cheryl, in orange, and Don, in blue, are shown as matches to Barbara.  You can see that these three people share a lot of their grandparents DNA.  You can also see where Don and Cheryl didn’t inherit the same DNA from their father, in some instances, like on chromosome 1 below, where Cheryl (orange) matches Barbara on a much larger part of the chromosome than Don does (blue.)  But then look at chromosome 13 where Barbara and Don match on a huge segment and Cheryl, just a small portion.  Don and Cheryl inherited different DNA from their parents at these locations.

Two cousins browser

The three testers’ common DNA segments on chromosome 1 are shown in the table below.  I’ve colored Cheryl’s pink and her brother, Don’s, blue.  You can see that Barbara matches some segments with Don that Cheryl didn’t inherit from her parents.  All of the DNA Barbara matches with Cheryl on this chromosome is also matched, at least in part, in that location, with Don.  The chart below, matches the graphic above, for chromosome 1 and is the “view data in a table” option on the chromosome browser as well as the leftmost “download to excel” option.  The download to excel option at right downloads all of the matches for the individual, not just the ones currently showing in the chromosome browser.

Two cousins combined

When at least two known relatives have tested, we have something to compare against.  In this case, we have a total of 3 people, 2 siblings and a first cousin, before we start matching outside known family.  We don’t know which of their shared DNA comes from which ancestor, but we can now look for people who match Barbara and at least Cheryl OR Don which proves a common ancestor between the three individuals.  Matching Barbara, Cheryl AND Don would be even better.

The gold standard for DNA matching, called triangulation, that proves a particular segment to a specific ancestor is as follows.

  • All (at least 2) people match you on the same segment.
  • Those people also match each other on the same segment.
  • Meaning, at least three people with a known common ancestral line must match on the same segment.

The key word here is “on the same segment”.

The next thing to do is to find out which of Barbara’s, Cheryl’s and Don’s matches are “in common with” each other.  This means Barbara, Cheryl and Don all share a matching segment with these other people, but without additional analysis, we can’t determine whether they share a match on the same segment or not.

I ran Barbara “in common with” Cheryl and you can see that the first two people returned on that match list were me and Don because matches are listed in the order of the largest cM of shared data first.  The “in common with” tool is the blue crossed arrows, below.

Two cousins ICW

Next I ran Barbara in common with Don.

There were a total of 43 people in common with Cheryl and 49 with Don.

I downloaded the matching individuals (download link at the bottom right of the match page) and sorted them in a spreadsheet to see who matches whom. Here’s what the first part of my spreadsheet looks like (sorted in chromosome and segment order.)  I colorized the rows by cousin for easier visualization.

Two cousins match example

We have 92 total matching individuals in common with Barbara and Cheryl and then Barbara and Don.  A total of 19 people are listed as matching BOTH Cheryl and Don (for a total of 38 rows in the spreadsheet), so that means that there are 54 people who are in common with either Barbara and Cheryl or Barbara and Don, but not in common with all 3, Barbara AND Cheryl AND Don.  This illustrates how differently siblings inherit DNA from their parents and how it affects matches another generation later.

In Common With Matches To both Don and Cheryl To Cheryl only or Don only, but not both
Barbara 19 (38 rows of 92) 54

Clearly, the people who match all three individuals, Barbara, Cheryl and Don are likely the closest relatives.

So let’s focus on those closest matching people.  If you were utilizing only one cousin here, you would simply utilize every “in common with” match between two individuals and move forward.  Because I have siblings here, and because I don’t want to deal with 72 different people, I’m using the fact that they are siblings to focus my efforts on the most closely related matches – people who match Barbara AND both siblings.  You could also limit your focus by something like a common ancestral surname between all match members.

The next step is for each tester, meaning Barbara, Cheryl and Don, to compare each individual on the common match list to their DNA.  This means that Barbara, Cheryl and Don all three will compare to all 18 individuals.  We now have only 18 matching people, instead of 19, because I removed my own matches, since mine are a subset of Barbara’s.  Checking to see how each of our testers matches each common matching person is the only way to determine that there is a three (or 4) way triangulation that will confirm a common ancestor.

There are two ways to do this at Family Tree DNA.

1. You can, 5 matches at a time, compare in the chromosome browser, then download only the matching segments to a spreadsheet for those 5 individuals. This means 4 sets of matches for each of three people.

Two cousins browser download

2. You can download Barbara, Cheryl and Don’s entire segment match list and then eliminate the matches that aren’t relevant to the discussion – meaning everyone except the 18 common matches between the three people.

The download option for the entire segment match list for the person whose kit you are looking at is shown at the top of the chromosome browser, to the right.  Downloading the currently showing individuals matching segments is shown at the top of the chromosome browser, to the left.

Because we can only push 5 people at a time to the chromosome browser, in this case, it will be easier to simply download all of the matches for each of the three individuals and then put them into a common spreadsheet and sort by the names we determined match in common between all three cousins.

I downloaded all of the matches for Barbara, Cheryl and Don, colorized them and then sorted them in the spreadsheet by the name of who they matched.  I then searched for the names of the 18 individuals who matched Barbara, Cheryl and Don, and copy/pasted them into a separate spreadsheet.

I could then sort the 18 matching individuals results by chromosome and start and end location.

two cousin matches

Barbara’s DNA matches are white rows, Cheryl’s are pink and Don’s are blue.

The segments where Barbara, Don and Cheryl all match more than one other person on an overlapping area of their DNA segments are colorized green.  This means that 4 or more people match on that same identical segment, the three known cousins and at least one other person.

The segments where at least Barbara and either Don or Cheryl (but not both) match at least one other person are colorized yellow. This means that least three people match on that same segment.

Since the gold standard of triangulation is 3 individuals matching on the same segment, both the yellow and green segments contain matches that fall into this category and are triangulated.  All of those segments match at least two of the cousins, who match each other, plus in some cases, additional people too.

Let’s walk through one triangulation sequence.

In the green cluster, above, you can see that Barbara, Cheryl and Don all match Arthur on overlapping portions of the same segment.  The overlapping portion between all 3 individuals and Arthur runs from 49,854,186 to 53,551,492.  In addition, both Don and Cheryl match Tiffany on part of that same segment and Barbara matches Dean on part as well.  These segments aren’t exactly the same for any of the cousins, with different amounts of matching DNA as reflected in the different cM and SNP values.

So, who is triangulated based on just this one green cluster?  Barbara, Cheryl, Don and Arthur are triangulated to a common ancestor.  We know that common ancestor is either the common ancestor of Cheryl, Don and Barbara – Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller – or upstream of that couple.

Tiffany is triangulated to both Cheryl and Don, but since Cheryl and Don are siblings, that’s irrelevant at this point – meaning we can’t tell if that match is IBS by chance or real because there is no additional match – at least not in this cluster.

In total, there are 19 green clusters (triangulated to at least 4 people) and 12 yellow clusters (triangulated to at least 3 people.)

In other words, the DNA that came from Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller is present in these matching people as well.  The million dollar question, is, of course, which upstream ancestor did it come from?  We genealogists are never satisfied, are we?  Every answer just leads to more questions.

Before we begin looking at the DNA results and discussing what they mean, I want to share with you the family tree of Hiram Ferverda and Evaline Miller, because the DNA of the people who match Don, Cheryl and Barbara had to come from these people as well.  This chart shows 7 generations back from Barbara, Cheryl and Don.  The common ancestors of the people with whom they triangulate are likely to be within this timeframe.

two cousins fan chart

The colorized ancestors above are the ancestors who contributed the X chromosome to both John Ferverda, Barbara’s father and Roscoe Ferverda, Cheryl and Don’s father.

In my working example, below, I’m utilizing the matches on chromosome 14 because chromosome 14 includes examples of a couple of interesting features.

Two cousins chr 14

Let’s look at the first green grouping.  All three cousins match to SB and then Barbara matches also to Constance and William, our Lentz cousin on part of that overlapping segment as well.  This suggests that this grouping might come from the Lentz side of the Miller tree, although we’ll see something else in a minute that might give us pause to reflect.  So just hold that thought.  Regardless, it does tell us that these individuals do share a common ancestor and it’s on the Miller side, not the Ferverda side.

The second green grouping is larger and includes larger segments as well, which are more reliably used, although the smaller green cluster clearly meets and exceeds the triangulation requirement of 3 matching individuals on the same segment.

This larger green cluster is actually quite interesting, because there are a total of 4 individuals, Ellen, Arthur, Eric and Tiffany who are all triangulated on this same segment with Don, Cheryl and Barbara.  So, not only are they triangulated to Don, Cheryl and Barbara, but also to each other.  These 7 people all share a common ancestor.

The yellow grouping shows an area where Eric matches Barbara and Don plus Arthur as well, but not Cheryl.  We don’t know anything about Arthur or Eric’s genealogy, so we don’t know if this is Miller or Ferverda DNA, at least not yet.  We’ll learn more about Arthur and Eric in a minute, even without their genealogy!

There are a couple of other areas on other chromosomes that are of interest too.

On this cluster on chromosome 12, we find a known Miller cousin, Rex, 2nd cousin to Barbara, Cheryl and Don.  Because Rex also descends from the parents of Evaline Miller, we know that this segment shared with Rex has to be Miller DNA, not Ferverda DNA.

Two cousins chr 12

On this segment of chromosome 3, below, we see that Barbara, Cheryl and Don match Herbert, another known Miller cousin, plus Dee and Constance in much smaller amounts on the same segment.  This tells us that this segment is descended from our common ancestor with Herbert.

Two cousins chr 3

Barbara, Don and Cheryl’s common ancestor with Herbert is Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich (Ullery), which makes them third cousins once removed – except – Herbert got a second dose of Miller DNA because Daniel Miller’s son, Isaac, married his first cousin who was also a Miller and shared grandparents with him.  So Herbert, genetically, is closer than he would appear since he received the double dose of Miller DNA three generations upstream.

Gotta love these close knit families.  The Millers were Brethren.  These double doses of family DNA often carry forward by matching downstream when they might otherwise not be expected do so.  That’s the upside of these endogamous groups.  Now, here’s the downside.

Two cousins chr 7

See the segments with the words problem written to the right?  Do you recognize what the problem is?  You’ll notice that in the matching group we have BOTH cousin Herbert who is a Miller (and not a Lentz) and cousin William who is a Lentz (and not a Miller.)

This is a very common situation in endogamous communities.

To make matters worse, we are dealing with very small segments here, where we often see confusion.  However, let’s look at the possibilities.

We do have triangulation, so one of three things has happened here.

First, the Brethren are an endogamous population that intermarried nearly exclusively within their faith.  The Lentz and Miller families were both Brethren.

Here are our possibilities.

  1. Our Lentz cousin has some Miller in one of his lines. This is entirely possible since he has a “short” pedigree chart and his families are living in the same Brethren communities as the other Lentz and Miller families.
  2. Our Miller cousin has some Lentz in one of his lines. That is less likely, because his genealogy is pretty well fleshed out, although certainly possible because, once again, the families were living within close proximity and attending the same churches, etc.
  3. This segment is truly a population based segment and will be found in people descending from that same base population. If this is the case, we still received it from one of our ancestors who came from that population, but since the Lentz and Miller lines may have both carried this same segment, we can’t tell who it came from. In other words, their common ancestor is further back in time than the Lentz and Miller families found in the US.

This segment cannot be IBS by chance because it does triangulate with the three cousins, Barbara, Don and Cheryl.  The definition of IBS by chance shows us that chance segments would not phase (or match with) with a parent.  If Don, Cheryl and Barbara all three carry this matching segment, it’s because their fathers both received it from their grandparents who were the common ancestor of Don, Cheryl and Barbara.

Neither Cheryl, Don nor Barbara can phase directly to their parents, who are deceased, so in this case, matching against first cousins is the best substitute we have.  We know that common DNA between the first cousins had to come from their father’s, who were brothers.  This in essence virtually phases Barbara, Don and Cheryl to their father’s on these matching segments.  Not ideal, by any means, but even partial parental phasing is better than no phasing at all.

A third match, Dean, shows Miller in his family tree, but I could not connect his Miller line to the Johann Michael Miller ancestral line, from which our Miller line descends – so Dean is not a known cousin.  Sometimes a common surname, even if found in the same geographic location, is not proof that the DNA connection is through that line.  It’s easy to make that assumption, but it’s an assumption that is just waiting to bite you.  Don’t do it!

Because of our known, proven DNA and genealogy matches to Herbert, we can attribute all of the segments where Herbert triangulates with either Barbara and Cheryl or Barbara and Don as Miller for all people involved.  This means that this common DNA descends either from Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich or Daniel’s father Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalene, surname unknown.

Why have I listed two couples?  Because, remember, Herbert has a double dose of Miller DNA from cousins and we don’t know which segment Barbara inherited, one from Daniel/Elizabeth or one from Philip Jacob/Magdalene (or some of each.)  If the segment is from Daniel/Elizabeth, it could have come from either the Ulrich or Miller side.  If it came from Daniel, then it also came from his father and mother, Philip Jacob/Magdalena and could either be Miller or Magdalena’s unknown line.

Herbert triangulate

Because of our known, proven DNA and genealogy matches to Rex, we can attribute all of the segments where Rex triangulates with either Barbara and Cheryl or Barbara and Don as Miller for all people involved.  Their common ancestor is John David Miller and Margaret Lentz, so their shared DNA could be either Lentz or Miller and is likely some of each.

Rex triangulate

For segments where there is no triangulation, but Barbara matches either Herbert or Rex, I still note that segment as Miller on my spreadsheet, since they are proven cousins, but I just omit the triangulation note.

For Barbara, that’s a total of 51 segments of her DNA that we can now assign to a Miller ancestral couple.

Furthermore, every segment that Barbara matches with either Cheryl or Don is now confirmed to be from her father’s side of the family, not her mother’s.  While we don’t have Barbara’s parents available for testing, this is a pseudo way to phase your results to determine matches from one parents’ side of the family.  For Barbara, that’s a total of 91 segments, some of them quite large.  For example, roughly half of chromosome 13 matched with Don.

Just as a matter of interest, within those 91 segments that Barbara matches with either Don or Cheryl, a total of only 7 segments matched exactly between all 3 individuals in terms of start and end location, cMs and SNPs.  While you might expect a number of small segments to match exactly, these weren’t all small.  In fact, most weren’t small and some were quite large.

Exactly matching DNA segments between Barbara and Cheryl and Barbara and Don.

Chromosome Matching cM Matching SNPs
1 8.65 1189
1 7.01 1150
8 27.79 7279
10 20.78 5141
12 27.68 6046
14 2.11 700
14 49.47 9032

This means that these segments were not divided at all in a total of 5 DNA transmission events.

  • Hiram to John
  • Hiram to Roscoe
  • John to Barbara
  • Roscoe to Cheryl
  • Roscoe to Don

Additionally, I carry two of these exact segments as well, so those two segments survived 6 transmission events.

Clearly these segments are what we would term “sticky” because they certainly are not following the statistical average of dividing the DNA in half (by 50%) in each transmission event.

There is one more thing we can tell from matching.

Both Barbara and Cheryl match with SB on the X chromosome on the same segments.

Two cousins X

This is particularly interesting because of the special inheritance path of the X chromosome.  We know that SB must be related on Evaline Miller’s side of the family, because John and Roscoe Ferverda did not receive an X chromosome from their father.  So Barbara, Cheryl and Don have to have received it from Evaline.  Unfortunately, SB listed no genealogy on Family Tree DNA, but based on the X chromosome inheritance path, I can tell you that SB is either descended from John David Miller and Margaret Lentz, or from the Schaeffer, Lentz or Moselman lines colored pink or blue, below.

Two cousins X fan

At this point, I made a chart of how the matches grouped with each other on each of the green clusters.

Just one cousin chart

I intended to create a nice chart in Excel or Word, but with all of the various colors of ink involved, I didn’t think I could find enough color differentiation so we’ll just have to suffer with my hand-made chart.  There are subtle color differences here – a different color or marker type for each of the 19 green clusters.

What I did was to look at each of the green DNA spreadsheet groupings and create a colorized chart, by group, for each grouping.  So everyone in the first cluster had their X in the boxes of who they matches in the same color, say blue pen.  The second group, orange marker, and so forth.  That way I can see who was orange or yellow or blue and if those groups tend to cluster together.

Remember Arthur and Eric from above, whose genealogy we knew nothing about.  You can see, for example, that Arthur matches in various groups with lots of people, and most often, Tiffany.  Arthur and Eric also match in multiple groups that include each other and Rex, a known Miller descendant, so we can attribute both Arthur and Eric’s DNA matches to the Miller side of the tree.  Keep in mind, all of these people also match with Barbara, Cheryl and Don.

Tiffany clusters with Arthur and Sarah and Eric in multiple groups and with Constance, David, Ellen, Leland and Rex in at least one other cluster.  So another Miller side person.

On chromosome 14, Eric, Ellen, Arthur and Tiffany were all triangulated on the same segment with Don, Cheryl and Barbara, so we know those 7 individuals unquestionably share a common ancestor.

Let’s look at SB again, our X match.  Since SB’s X connection can’t come from the Miller side, given the X inheritance path, and SB also matches with our Lentz cousin, it’s likely that SB is related through the Lentz lines.

Normally, when doing this matching relationship chart, you tend to see two distinct groupings, a mother’s side and a father’s side.  In other words, there will be some groups that absolutely don’t overlap with the others.  That’s not the case here.

So, by now you might be wondering what happened to the Ferverda side of the family?  I was secretly hoping to find a closet Ferverda relative in this exercise, and I thought we might have, actually.  Notice that Harold has no clustering at all, but he clearly matches Barbara, Cheryl and Don – but doesn’t cluster with any other Miller or Lentz cousins.  Therefore, he could be from the Ferverda side of the family, but since he provided no genealogy information or surnames at Family Tree DNA, I can’t easily tell.

However, I am not entirely without recourse.  I checked Harold “in common with” Barbara and discovered that he matches both Rex, our Miller cousin and William, our Lentz cousin, so even though Harold did not triangulate with William and/or Rex on any segments with both Barbara and/or Cheryl/Don, those Miller/Lentz matches certainly suggest descent from this line.  I’ll be sending him an e-mail!

So, there are no Ferverda cousins represented in these matches.

I decided to check one more thing, now that I know that all of these matches are on the Miller side and that we have 3 known, proven genealogical cousins, Rex, Herbert and William.  I wanted to see how many of our individuals who match Barbara, Cheryl and Don also match one of the known cousins.  I selected Barbara as the base match kit to use, since we know they all matched Barbara, Cheryl and Don, and then I ran “in common with” for each one of them with Barbara, with the following results.  A few did match one of the Miller or Lentz cousins, but fewer than I expected.miller matches chart

*However, we had a surprise.  Dean matched another Miller male individual whose line is proven to descend through two children of Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena, surname unknown.  Another first cousin marriage.  Another cousin discovered!

Furthermore, I noticed yet another individual, Doug, in Barbara’s match list and in common with 6 of the matches as well.  Looking at Doug’s pedigree chart, not only is he a Miller descendant, he also descends from two of the Miller wives lines too.  Another cousin confirmed!

But why no Ferverda matches?

Recent immigrants.

The Ferverda side of the family immediately jumps the pond to Holland, with Hiram himself being an immigrant as a young teen in the 1860s.  There are few Ferverda (Fervida, Ferwerda) descendants here in the US to test, and many are Brethren or Mennonite.  Few people in the Netherlands have participated in DNA testing.

The converse of that, Evaline Miller’s lines have all been in the US since the early/mid-1700s, so there are lots of descendants.  Oh, the difference about a hundred years and 5 or 6 generations makes in the number of descendants who might be available to test.  This situation, unfortunately, created a very lopsided chart without the division I’m used to seeing.  On the other hand, thank goodness Evaline’s line and Hiram’s line are very distinct!

At this point, if you’re doing this “one cousin” exercise, you’ll need to do a few things.

1.  Check each of the matching individuals to see if they have uploaded or created a pedigree chart at Family Tree DNA. If they do, their pedigree icon will be green, shown below. If so, click on the icon and search for every surname (and variant) associated with your known common lines with your cousin.

2.  Check to see if these people entered a list of surnames, even if they don’t have a pedigree chart. The surnames are listed in the furthest right column. If you have entered your surnames, any that match yours will be bolded. Beware of variant spellings.

two cousins pedigree and surnames

You can see above that I am the only one of the matches shown with a pedigree chart icon, shown in green, and the common surnames are bolded at right.

3.  If your matches don’t have a pedigree chart, write to them and tell them you have a common ancestor and give them a list of your ancestors in your direct line. Please, PLEASE include the name on the kit that you match. Many people manage multiple kits and will ignore requests with only partial information.

4.  If you have additional cousins to test, do so. I’m sure you can see how valuable additional cousins DNA would be.

5.  Be sure to check your matches by “ancestral surname” to be sure that you haven’t missed any cousins who have already tested. The ancestral surname search box can be seen above the “known relationship” heading in the graphic above.

6.  If you haven’t done so, enter your surnames under the “Manage Personal Information” tab under “My Account” at Family Tree DNA. Then click on the genealogy tab, then Surnames.

Two cousins genealogy settings

7.  From your main personal page, of course, you can upload your Gedcom file by clicking on “My Family Tree.”

8.  Run “in common with” for each of the common matches of your two cousins and look for common matching names between them.  Those matching “in common with” names serve as a hint as to shared ancestry.  Your answer may be hiding in your cousins’ trees!

Utilize all of these tools to help your search.

Summary

Not bad for thinking we couldn’t do anything with our DNA matches because we had “just one cousin” to work with, even though I cheated and used siblings.

What, exactly, did we manage to do?

  • I attributed 91 segments of Barbara’s DNA to her father’s side of the tree.
  • I filled in 51 segments of Barbara’s DNA to ancestral couples.
  • I found 5 confirmed genealogy/DNA cousins.
  • I found 16 people whose genealogy is unknown, but who triangulate with Barbara, Cheryl and Don.  We know for sure which side of the tree these people match on – all Millers.
  • I can tell the X match which lines they descend from, even if they don’t know.
  • I can do one more very cool thing.  Utilizing the Lazarus utility at GedMatch, I can now recreate at least a partial autosomal DNA file for both John and Roscoe Ferverda, the fathers of our testers.  Join me in a couple days and we’ll see how that works!

This same process works between any two people who know how they are related and their common ancestor.  It’s a great way to find cousins you didn’t know you had, or you didn’t know have DNA tested, and how they are related to you and each other.

Some people get very discouraged when even thinking about working with endogamous populations, or cousin marriages.  One of the reasons I used this particular example is that I wanted to illustrate that while these situations are challenging from time to time, they are far from hopeless – so don’t let that deter you.

In fact, of the 5 confirmed cousins discovered during this process, some in unexpected ways, at least 3 and possibly 4 are through multiple lines.  Some of these matches are probably thanks to endogamy.

Happy hunting!

One Match, Two Ancestors – Never Assume

Woman with HeadacheA few days ago, I received a note from someone who descends from my Miller line. Specifically, from our common ancestor, Philip Jacob Miller (1726-1799) and his wife, Magdalena (1727-1808).

Many records give Magdalena’s surname as Rochette, but I have found not one shred of evidence as to that or any other surname, nor can I find where the information about the Rochette surname originated.  So call me stubborn, but until there is some sort of proof, I’m not using it.  I will say one thing though.  Philip Jacob Miller was Brethren, as were his parents, and it’s very likely that his wife was also from the Brethren community – and there was no Rochette in the Brethren community or even in the same county.  And yes, I’ve personally checked the records.

Philip Jacob Miller and wife Magdalena had two sons, David, who my newly found cousin descends from, born in 1757, and Daniel, who I descend from, born in 1755. My cousin and I had “met” on 23and Me a year or so ago, but since she was not at Family Tree DNA, she could not join the Miller-Brethren surname project and I couldn’t compare her results to those of other known Miller descendants.  The Miller-Brethren DNA project focuses on the Miller families who were members of the Brethren (or similar) religions – and yes – there was more than one genetic Miller family – even in the same county and congregation.  They even moved cross-country together, yet they were not all from the same Miller ancestral line.  Y DNA busted that assumption years ago, but it was not at all what we expected to find!

When I received a note from my cousin that she had taken advantage of Family Tree DNA’s (almost) free transfer opportunity, I was thrilled, because we could then compare her to the rest of the clan.

In the Miller-Brethren project, we have three other cousins, all of whom descend from Daniel Miller in one way or another, that my cousin matches. Her best match is to my mother with 82 shared centimorgans and next, with me at 64.

You can see the comparison on the chromosome browser, below, at the default thresholds. Green is my mother, orange is me and blue is cousin Herbie who descends from another son of Daniel Miller.  You can see that there is a very large chunk of DNA on chromosome 14 where we all match.  A fourth cousin, shown in pink, also descended from Daniel, does not carry this segment of DNA on chromosome 14.

miller match

Dropping the threshold to 1cM produced more matching segments, but still no pink on chromosome 14, so clearly our pink cousin did not receive any Miller DNA on chromosome 14. However, we can attribute a huge chunk of chromosome 14 to Philip Jacob Miller and wife, Magdalena.  This segment is quite large, a total of 48cM and 12,894 SNPs.

miller match2

A second very interesting match is on the X chromosome. It’s fairly large too, a total of 11.84cM broken into three segments.  You can see that both mother and I match my cousin on the same X segments – obviously from Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena.  Right?  Wrong.  Wrong.  Very wrong.

If you’re scratching your head about now, you’re not alone.  Keep reading…

Do you ever just get a sense that something isn’t right? A second sense that you need to check again?  Well, in genetic genealogy, never assume.  After I thought for just a second, I decided to grab my X chromosome map, because something just didn’t seem right.  So glad I did, because Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena are NOT on the X inheritance path of my mother (and therefore not me either) so the X match CANNOT come from them.

miller match3

Using Charting Companion software, I can easily see, in pink and blue, who my mother’s X chromosome comes from in her lineage.  You can also see that Philip Jacob Miller isn’t on the X path, and neither are his descendants for two downstream generations – not until David Miller’s wife, Catharine Schaeffer, brings her X to the game.  So, the X match cannot be through this Miller line.

So, where did it come from?

In addition to this chart, I also sent an X chromosome pedigree chart to my cousin. She looked it over, and made a discovery.

Moving to my grandmother’s X chart, because the print is too small to read if I add another generation on my mother’s chart, you can now see Maria Magdalena Weber.

miller match4

Maria Magdalena Weber was born in 1724 in Mutterstadt, Germany to Johann Martin Weber and Maria Magdalena Schunck.

As it turns out, my cousin has another ancestor Eva Maria Weber, born in 1709, someplace in the Phalz portion of Germany, first found in Oley, PA. Now, it turns out, that Oley, PA is also where some of my other ancestors lived.  The DeTurks, Hochs and Deharcourts married into the Schaeffer family who migrated to Montgomery County, Ohio and married into the Miller family.  And yes, for those who are wondering, the Schaeffer line IS in my X path and yes, there are brick walls there that need to fall.

miller match5

Looking back at the first fan chart, Catharina Schaeffer is the wife of David Miller, son of Daniel Miller, son of Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena. Yep, it’s a small world.  And truth is stranger, sometimes, than fiction.

So, is our common ancestor a Weber? And if it is a Weber, is it from the Mutterstadt Weber line, or is it a mystery person from Oley, PA – a brick wall that hasn’t fallen yet?

We don’t know.

Yet.

We’re still working on it.

Now all I need is a tool to find every other person who matches me and my cousin on that same X segment and see who their ancestors are.

Webers or Oley, PA people, or both????

Or are they one and the same?

Webers who are from Mutterstadt and who went to Oley, PA and…

would it be…

could it be…

possible that I descend through that line twice????

Oh, my head hurts.

The genealogy Gods certainly have a perverse and twisted sense of humor.

The lesson here is never assume. Just because you have positively identified your common ancestor with a match, and proven it with triangulation, doesn’t necessarily mean that is your ONLY ancestor that you share with that match.  You know what assume does.

Among other things, it gives you a headache.

Just saying….

Margaret Herrell (c1810-1892), Twice Widowed Church Founder, 52 Ancestors #43

Margaret Herrell, also spelled Harrell, was born about 1810 to Mary McDowell and William Herrell/Harrell, probably on the Powell River in Lee County, Virginia very near the border of Tennessee and Virginia.

In 1812, we know that William Herrell was living in Lee County Virginia based on the deed where he purchased land in Claiborne County, Tennessee, on Powell River very close to the land where his wife’s father, Michael McDowell lived, known as Slanting Misery. In fact, Michael witnessed the deed.

This photo shows the Herrell land, standing in the Herrell cemetery.

herrell land

By 1814, Margaret’s father, William Herrell, was marching off to war, but Margaret was probably too young to remember much, if anything, about that.

Margaret Herrell married Anson Cook Martin about 1828, based on the birth year of her eldest child, in 1829, if his birth year is correct.

We know that in 1830, Anson Martin was living in Lee County, Virginia along with a John Martin. Anson was listed as age 20-30 as was his wife.  No children are listed, which casts doubt on the birth of their first child in 1829.

The first actual record of Margaret that we have, by name, is on December 1, 1833 when she was noted as “received by experience,” typically meaning baptized, in the Thompson Settlement Church, just over the border in Lee County, Virginia, on the Powell River. Her husband Anson Cook Martin had been received by experience just two months previously on October 1, 1833, along with his brother James Monroe Martin.  This would have been when Margaret was pregnant with William and John, if they were in fact twins as the 1850 census indicates.

When this part of the country was forming, churches were important social institutions, although it’s hard to think of a church with no building or permanent location as an institution. The church, in addition to religion, provided an important bond among residents and was often the only organized social outlet for women.

Thompson Settlement Church was established in 1800, just 4 years after Tennessee became a state. It was referred to as the River Church as it was established on and along the Powell River near where the river crossed between Virginia and Tennessee between Lee County Virginia and then Claiborne County, Tennessee, now Hancock County.

herrell property

The Herrell Property is shown above with the red arrow.

For the first quarter century, until 1824, the Thompson Settlement Church met in various locations, including Rob Camp, shown above on the bottom left, in Claiborne County which would eventually spin off its own church. Meetings were being held in Rob Camp as early as 1801, according to Thompson Settlement Church minutes.  Rob Camp was more than 15 miles from the mother church, but other churches were even further.  Gap Creek was at Cumberland Gap, more than 35 miles distant, and Big Springs was south of Tazewell in Claiborne County at current Springdale, 35 miles in the other direction.  Blackwater Church formed and was not far from Sneedville, 2 mountain ranges over and near the border with Lee County as well.  In 1820, Mulberry Gap Missionary Church formed.

Mulberry Gap from the Mulberry Gap School

The photos above and below, taken by Phillip Walker, show the terrain of these hills. Above, Mulberry Gap from Mulberry Gap school, and below, Mulberry Gap Church nestled in the valley.

Mulberry Gap Baptist Church from Mulberry Gap School (road leads to gap)

Initially, Thompson Settlement Church borrowed preacher Jesse Dodson from Big Springs Baptist Church. The first Thompson Settlement Church building,  erected in 1822, measured 24X26 feet.  This would have been about the size of a cabin.  Before that, they met in peoples’ homes or outside.  The minutes are full of references to places like “Earl’s Cabins” where the church was to meet on the second Saturday of each month.  Oh yes, and church services were not always held on Sunday.  It’s not recorded in the minutes, but revivals were legendary and very popular and families would come long distances and camp in their wagons for several days as visiting preachers would inspire them.

The current Thompson Settlement Church is the 5th building, but in the same general proximity.  You can also see the location of Rob Camp on the map below, and the road between the two.

Rob Camp Map

The Thompson Settlement church minutes are also full of “trials” where members were reported for offenses such as adultery (Nancy Fletcher), lying (Eleanor Fletcher), swearing (Henry Fortner), absconding this country without paying his debts (John Owens), disobeying the church (Elisha Steward), drinking spirituous liquors to excess (Robert Clark), not being lawfully married (Hanna Denham), unchristian behavior, using unbecoming language and requesting to be excluded (James Muncy), drinking to excess (Brother Carnes), not requesting a letter of dismissal (Lewis and Susannah Tasket) and worse yet, withdrawing herself from the church and joining the Methodist Society (Elizabeth Wells.) Knowing the history of the area, this was likely the Speak Methodist Church founded in 1820 just up the road a few miles in Lee County, Virginia.  Brother Smith Sutton even turned himself in for drinking too much and getting angry.  I wonder if his wife had anything to do with his decision to turn himself in!

On the 1838 membership list, Margaret and Anson Martin were both noted as dismissed, meaning they were members in 1838 and dismissed some time later. Anson joined Rob Camp Church in 1844, much closer to where they lived and a spinoff the of the Thompson Settlement Church.  Anson died not long after, because the last child that Margaret had was Alexander born in 1844.  Anson was only about 35 years old and left Margaret to raise nine children as a widow.  She lived alone for the next six years or so, until she married Joseph Bolton after his wife died, leaving him with seven children.  Their combined household of sixteen children, plus two more that they would have together, probably made for one noisy household in a relatively small space.  Log cabins were all small, no matter how large your family.

The females on the list of Margaret’s children, below, have their names bolded, signifying that they passed the mitochondrial DNA of Margaret Herrell to their children. Today, anyone who descends from Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton through all females carries her mitochondrial DNA as well.  In the current generation, this can be a male, because women give their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on.  I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone who fits this description.

With Anson Cook Martin, Margaret had the following children:

  • John Martin born 1829 or 1833 died April 1, 1918 Harrogate, Claiborne Co., TN married Hannah Eldridge. His death certificate says he’s age 89, but his birth year has been overstruck with a magic marker, incorrectly, as 1839. Note that in the 1850 census, he is noted as a 17 year old twin with William.
  • Eveline Martin born March 11, 1830, died Feb. 1, 1905 Whitley Co., KY, married to Alexander Calvin Busic who died in 1862 the Civil War.
  • William Martin born 1833 died 1867-1869, married Rachel Markham. Note that William and John are shown as 17 year old twins in the 1850 census. Mary Parkey indicated that it’s believed that William is buried in the Martin Cemetery in the Hopewell Community off of Cedar Fork Road. Both he and his wife’s graves are unmarked.Martin Cemetery MapThis may be where William Martin is buried, but it looks to be too far west for the original Martin cemetery, given that the Herrell, Bolton and McDowell families were living on the Powell River to in the upper right hand corner on Slanting Misery between River Road and Wolfenberger Hollow Road.Slanting miseryThe Martin Cemetery is located off of Martin Cemetery Road.Martin Cemetery location
  • Surrelda (Selerenda) Jane Martin born 1834/1836, died 1890 Hancock Co., TN, buried in Liberty Cemetery, Claiborne County, married Pleasant Smith.

We have a photo of Surelda Jane and Pleasant Smith. I wonder if he was tall or she was short, or both.  I wonder if she looked like her mother, Margaret.  This is probably as close as we’ll ever get to seeing Margaret.

Surelda Harrell Pleasant Smith

Here is the photo restored, courtesy of Dillis Bolton.

surelda harrell pleasant smith restored

  • James Monroe “Roe” Martin born December 29, 1836 in Virginia, died November 15, 1914 in Middlesboro, KY, married Sarah Elizabeth “Betty” Bolton, daughter of Joseph P. Bolton and his first wife, Mary Polly Tankersley. In other words, he married his step-sister. Note, he is not shown with the family in the 1850 census.
  • Manerva Martin born in 1838
  • Mary Marlene Martin born March 10, 1839, died Feb. 17, 1893 Hancock Co., TN, married March 11, 1860 to Edward Hilton Claxton. She is buried in the Clarkson Cemetery near Mt. Zion Church where E. H. was the church moderator at Mt. Zion for many years. The Claxton’s owned the land just downstream of Slanting Misery.
  • Malinda “Linda” Martin born July 31, 1842 died June 30, 1903 Whitley Co., KY, buried Riley Cemetery, Whitley Co., married James Parks.
  • Alexander Martin born 1844, died after 1860

In the 1840 census, Anson Martin is living in Claiborne County, Tennessee and Anson and Margaret are shown with 6 children, 1 male under 5, 2 males 5-10, 2 females under 5 and 1 female 5-10. Anson is shown as age 30-40 but Margaret is shown as age 20-30.  Based on all of the evidence for her birth year, I would think it is most likely 1810.  It looks like they are short one daughter and the boys birth years don’t line up, but all of the boys are accounted for.

Margaret and Anson live one house away from her father, William Harrell and William lives 2 houses away from John McDowell, his wife’s brother.

In 1845, this part of Claiborne County, Tennessee would become Hancock County.  It was about this time that Anson died.

In the 1850 census, Margaret Martin is shown in a close-knit family group. In order, we find the following households:

  • Pleasant Tankersley, brother to Polly Tankersley
  • Joseph Bolton and his wife Polly Tankersley – Joseph would be Margaret Herrell Martin’s second husband – very shortly, in fact.
  • 3 houses
  • John Bolton, brother to Joseph Bolton
  • Jacob Wolfenbarger (confederate in the Civil War)
  • John Martin with his apparent mother, Elizabeth Martin in the household
  • Margaret (Herrell) Martin, age 38, born in Virginia, widow of Anson Cook Martin. She is shown with her children, the last one born in 1844, about the time that Anson died. It’s worth noting that she had 17 year old twins, William and John. Twins that lived were rather rare. The first 3, and the 6th child, were born in Virginia. Given where the family lived, they probably passed back and forth over the border quite easily. Margaret shows that she herself was born in Virginia in 1812.

Margaret Martin 1850 census

  • Margaret was living next to her parents, William and Mary McDowell Harrell.
  • Abel Harrell, her brother, was living next to her parents.
  • Mary Busic
  • John McDowell, Margaret’s uncle.

In December 1852, Margaret Bolton was received by experience in the Rob Camp Church along with Syrena McDowell, possibly her brother’s daughter.

rob camp

Rob Camp Baptist Church had officially spun off from the Thompson Settlement Church in the mid-1840s. By 1856, Joseph Bolton was embroiled in church politics after having been accused by Robert Tankersley, a black man, of saying he had stolen bacon and bread.  Apparently unhappy, Joseph asked to have himself excluded from the church in April 1856.  Apparently, Margaret continued to attend, because in 1866, Joseph was once again received by recantation and baptized into fellowship.  By 1868, he was a deacon and in 1859, he and Margaret were founding members of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, very close to the Clarkson cemetery, today. Eventually, Joseph was excluded from this church as well, and Margaret was dismissed, which means dismissed in good standing by letter, allowing a member to join another church, also in good standing.

Margaret’s father, William Herrell died in October of 1859. Although the courthouse records have burned, twice, some records do remain.  This 1860 deed may well have been in private hands all this time, because it was given to me by a descendant of Alexander Herrell who still owns and farms part of this land.

The deed itself is in metes and bounds and is dated November 17, 1860, just about the right time for William’s estate to be being settled.

In the deed, “William Edens and Mary, his wife, Hiram Edens and Mildred, his wife, Nancy Herril, Joseph Bolton and Margret his wife and her heirs, have this day bargained and sold and do hereby transfer and convey to Alexander Herril and his heirs forever for $100 in hand paid a tract of land in Hancock County, district 14, containing 32 acres bounded as follows, beginning on the south bank of the Powels River…line of William Edens…”

The deed is witnessed by A. Montgomery and M.B. Overton and signed by all of the people listed as conveying the land to Alexander. I do wonder why Margaret’s brother Abel Herrell didn’t sign.

The 1860 census quality is very poor, but Margaret looks to be age 50, which would put her birth in 1810.

Margaret has two of her Martin children living at home. Joseph has 4 of his children from his first marriage as well, and Margaret and Joseph have two children of their own.

  • Mary Ann Matilda Bolton born September 5, 1851, died July 2, 1909, married Martin Cunningham.
  • Joseph B. Bolton, born September 18, 1853, died February 23, 1920, buried in the Plank Cemetery, Claiborne Co., TN and married Margaret Clarkson/Claxton.

Of course, this begs the question of when Mary Ann Matilda Bolton was actually born, and when Mary Polly Tankersley died.

The 1850 census shows Joseph Bolton still married to Mary Polly Tankersley, but Mary’s birthdate is shown to be September of 1851, so if both records are accurate, Mary died sometime after June 1850 and Margaret and Joseph were married before year end, giving the 9 months gestation necessary. However, there is a fly in the ointment.  The census form is dated December 10th.  Now, it’s possible that it was taken in December but “as of” June and it’s possible that Mary was born in 1852 instead of 1851.  There are also other possibilities.

I tried to verify that Mary Ann Matilda is the same person who married Martin Cunningham in Claiborne County in 1877. Looking at the 1880 census, Martin and Matilda Cunningham have a son who is 2 years old and named Joseph, so I’m thinking this is the right person.  She shows her age as 24 so born in 1856.  Her husband is 4 years younger.

In the 1900 census, Matilda Cunningham’s son Joseph was followed by daughter Margaret two years later. However, Matilda’s age is listed as 40 and her birth year given as 1860, which we know is incorrect from the earlier census.

The Civil War left no family unscathed. Sometime after 1860 and before 1870, Alexander, Margaret’s youngest child by Anson Martin died.  Did he die in the Civil War?  Perhaps, but we have no proof.  He was the right age and in the right place, that’s for sure.  Hancock County was raided by bands of both Union and Confederate forces, plus, battles were fought nearby at and around Cumberland Gap.  Food was scarce and families were frightened, both for those who left to fight, and for those who stayed behind.

Margaret’s daughter, Evaline, lost her husband, Calvin Busic in the war to malarial fever, according to the 1890 veterans census, leaving her with three children to raise.

In 1869, Margaret and Joseph Bolton were founding members of Mt. Zion Church. Margaret’s name is listed in the member’s list alongside Matilda Bolton and Evaline Busic, her daughters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 1870 census shows Margaret Bolton, age 60, born in Virginia. Neither Joseph nor Margaret can read nor write.

In 1874, on the same day her father, Joseph Bolton, was censured by the Mt. Zion Church, Matilda Bolton made application for a letter of dismissal from the church.

On July 1, 1778, the following deed was executed.

Whereas we Pleasant Smith, Serelda Smith his wife, John Martin and Hanah Martin his wife have a fee simple interest in remainder to take and be united with the processions after the death of Marget (sic) Bolton who has a life interest in the same in tract of land in the state of Tennessee Hancock County Number 14 district containing by estimation 50 acres be the same more or less bounded by the lands of John McDaniels, Elexander Herrells and others. For the consideration of $100 to be paid in hand we have bargained and old and hereby convey to J. M. Martin the fee simply interest in remainder…this first day of July 1878.  Witnessed William Cook, D.M. Bolton and signed by John (x) Martin, his mark, Hannah Martin, her mark, Pleasant Smith and Serelda T. Smith.

This was not filed until December 10th, 1892, suggesting that Margaret Herrell Bolton had died by that time.

On July 12, 1878 a deed was signed between Joseph Bolton and Margaret Bolton his wife, Hiram Edins and Mildred Edins his wife, William Edins and Mary Edins his wife, Nancy Herrell and Alexander Herrell and Jane Herrell his wife to William J. Edins, all of Hancock Co., TN for “a certain tract of land for $200 to them in hand paid and receipt is hereby acknowledged lying in district no. 14 on the North side of Powells River known as a part of the widow Herrell dower containing by estimation 20 acres and bounded as follows…beginning on the N bank of Powells river on Hiram Edins corner, thence up the river as it meanders the distance unknown to an ash on the bank of Powells river, then leaving the river northwardly the distance unknown to a large hickory on the top of the river bluff, thence northwardly the distance unknown to a poplar and elm in a field, thence northwardly to Wolfenbarger’s line, then went to Hiram Edins.”  Witnesses JM Martain and JD Wolfenbarger.  Margaret Bolton her mark, William Edins, Mary Edins her mark, Hiram Edins, Mildred Edins her mark, Alexander Herrell, Jane Herrell her mark, Nancy Herrell her mark.

These are Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton’s siblings conveying the land of her mother, “widow Herrell.”

In the 1880 census, Joseph and Margaret have moved to Claiborne County and they are living beside Milton Bolton. This is in the Little Sycamore area not far from the Plank Cemetery where Joseph is buried.  Margaret is age 72, so born in 1808 and can read but cannot write.  He can do neither.

Margaret was born in Tennessee but both of her parents were born in NC. Joseph was born in VA, as was his mother, but his father was born in England.

In the Hancock Co. 1880 tax list from the E. Tennessee Roots vol VI, number 4, Margret Bolton is listed with 55 acres, $350 value, 105 to county, 35 to state, 35 to school, 87.5 for special 262.5 total taxes, no poll. This is very odd because her husband, Joseph Bolton Sr. did not die until 1887.

Joseph Bolton Jr. lives beside her with no land, 1 poll, but then under him it says 100 to school and 30 special and 130 total, paid to Edds.

In June 1881, Joseph and Margaret Bolton along with D.M. Bolton and Silveny, his wife purchase land together from Daniel Jones and on November 25th of the same year, they deed the land on Little Sycamore in Claiborne County along with Daniel Marson Bolton and his wife, Silvania to H. H. Friar.

April 4, 1885 – From Alexander Herrell, Nancy Herrell of Hancock Co. and Margaret Bolton of Claiborne Co. to William Mannon of Hancock, parcel of land for $175, 65 acres it being a part of a 50 acre grant granted to Thomas Lawson Sr. assigned to John Grimes of number 485 dated March 13, 1827 also a part of a larger grant granted by the State of TN to William Mills of number 56 dates the 9th of January 1852 lying in the 14th district of Hancock and on the N side of Powels river bounded…JW Yeary’s corner but now William Mannon’s corner, conditional line between James W. Yeary and William Mills, conditional line between JW Years and Green B. Lawson, also between JW Yeary and William Herrell… conditional line between SP Lamarr? And Greene B. Lawson…conditional line between Greene B. Lawson and William Mills.  All 3 sign with a mark and Emanuel Stafford and Andrew Mannon witness.

This is likely part of the original William Herrell land and possibly the widow Herrell’s dower land.

Joseph Bolton, Margaret’s second husband, died on December 28, 1887 in Claiborne County and was buried in the Plank Cemetery.  They had been married or 37 years.

In 1889, a lawsuit was filed by James Speers against defendants that are the children of Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton, by both of her husbands.

James E. Speers in a March 1889 lawsuit vs J.M. Martin, William J. Martin, Joseph Bolton and Margaret in Hancock Co. Cannon Herral, Alexander Herrell and John McDowell were witnesses paid by Speer. W.J. Martin was also a witness. (Note the elder Joseph Bolton died in 1887 so this must be the younger Joseph B. Bolton and Margaret Clarkson.)

This may imply that Margaret Herrell Bolton has passed away by March 1889 or simply that she has passed her interest to her children.

Margaret Bolton probably rests with her husband, Joseph Bolton, in the Plank Cemetery, in Claiborne County very near the land they sold to the Frairs in 1881.

plank cem1

However, we’re not sure. Joseph’s grave is marked but Margaret’s isn’t.  It’s possible that after Joseph’s death she moved back to the 4 Mile Creek and Powell River area of Hancock County, possibly to live with one of her children.  There is a list of members in the 1885 Rob Camp Church minutes and Margret (sic) Bolton appears on that list along with many Herrells, McDowells and Clarksons.  Of course, Joseph Bolton Jr. also had a wife named Margaret, so they are difficult and often impossible to tell apart.

Did Margaret go back “home?” It’s certainly possible.  The Mt. Zion Church minutes indicated that on June 3rd, 1888 Margret Bolton, Farwick Shiflet and a

Adeline Shiflet along with Jane Montgomery were received into the congregation. The younger Margaret Bolton, wife of Joseph B. Bolton,  was already a member of this church, and as late as 1887, Joseph B. Bolton was still attending because that is when he was last censured for drinking and swearing.  Two men by the same name, father and son, should not be allowed to have wives with the same first name as well.

If Margaret Herrell Bolton did move back home, then she may not be buried in the Plank Cemetery, but may be buried in the Herrell Cemetery in Hancock County, located on River Road not far from the Martin Creek Church, in one of the unmarked graves shown below, or even possibly where Anson Martin is buried. Of course, Anson may be buried in this cemetery as well.

Herrell cemetery

The Herrell Cemetery is located on River Road, shown on the map below.

herrell cemetery location

Many of the graves are unmarked.

herrell cemetery 2

Margaret was the first generation to be born and to die in the same general area of Hancock County. She lived her life in these beautiful and rugged mountains, buried two husbands and at least 4 children.  She was a founding member at Mt. Zion Church and may have been a founder of Rob Camp Church as well.  She found herself a widow in her 30s and raised her children, as a widow, for more than 5 years before remarrying.  Likely, she farmed, just like her husband would have done.  It was farm or starve.  Margaret could neither read nor write, but she owned land.  When she remarried, she married a man who was a widower and who had 7 children of his own, increasing her household size to 16 before having 2 more children with Joseph Preston Bolton, her second husband.

Their only son, Joseph “Dode” Bolton was my great-grandfather. His daughter, Ollie was my grandmother.  She died five months before I was born, so I never knew her.  Her son was my father.  I mention this, because Margaret, through her descendants gave me a very special gift.

Because Margaret had two husbands, we have the potential to tell which DNA came from her, and only her. Normally, with a couple, we can only say that the DNA came from one of the two people.  However, by comparing the DNA of people who descend from Margaret through her two husbands, we can isolate Margaret’s DNA.  Wherever the descendants of the children from the first husband match the descendants of the children from the second husband, the only common denominator has to be Margaret.

I was quite excited at first, because there are two other people who descend from Margaret’s marriage with Anson Martin who have tested, and whom I match. But then, I took a good look at their pedigree charts, and I also share a Clarkson line with them. The Clarksons also lived right along the Powell River.  So, we can’t tell if we are matching on the Herrell line, or the Clarkson line.  I was quite disappointed, until I realized that one of our matches was on the X chromosome, and it has special inheritance properties.  You can see the match to the person in orange on the X chromosome at the bottom of this chromosome chart.  The places where the blue and orange match up are the locations where the tree of us share DNA – but that’s the DNA that might be Herrell or Clarkson.

possible herrell chromosome match

The X chromosome is inherited from only part of your ancestors.  Specifically, men only inherit an X from their mother, because they inherit the Y from their father that makes them a male.

My X inheritance path from my grandmother Ollie Bolton is shown on the fan chart, below. You can see that wherever there is a blue male, he only inherits from his pink mother and that creates entire vacant areas of the pedigree chart.  This limits who I can inherit my X chromosome from – dramatically – and would be even more restrictive if I were a male.

olliex

The question now was whether or not the orange person also has Margaret Herrell Martin in her X chromosome inheritance path, and NOT any of our other common lineages.  Her tree, beginning with her grandparents, is shown below.

margaret herrell match pedigree

After verifying that I have none of these other lines in my tree nor that my ancestral lines fed any of these lines, I concentrated on the relevant lineage of her tree..

margaret herrell match pedigree crop

My match didn’t have her tree entirely filled out, but I can complete it easily. The X inheritance path to Margaret Herrll is shown by the red arrows.  The green arrows also show individuals from whom she inherited her X chromosome, but they turn out to be irrelevant because they don’t lead to a common ancestor utilizing only the X inheritance path.  Said another way, I do share several common ancestors with this woman, including Joseph Bolton, but they are irrelevant when evaluating X chromosome matches unless the X path results in common ancestors.  Of course, many lines are eliminated from the X inheritance path.

In her case, Surelda Jane Martin is the daughter of Margaret Herrell Martin and Anson Cook Martin. My matches inheritance path to Margaret is through her father, who inherited his entire X from his mother Nursie Bolton, who inherited her X from her mother and father Alvis Bolton and Helen Smith.  Helen Smith received her X from her father Pleasant Smith and mother, Serelda Martin, whose mother was Margaret Herrell.

Margaret Herrell match pathOur other common ancestral lines are through the Bolton and Clarkson families. If you look at my fan chart, you’ll note that my Clarkson line ends at Samuel Clarkson/Claxton because he didn’t inherit his X from his father and my Bolton line ends with Joseph Bolton because he didn’t inherit his X from his father, Joseph Bolton – so those are entirely irrelevant to the X chromosome.

In my matches tree, Alvis Bolton inherited his X from his mother Nursissa Parks, who inherited her X from her parents, Jacob Parks and Polly Claxton/Clarkson. However, Polly Claxton inherited her X from James Lee Claxton/Clarkson and Sarah Cook, neither of whom are in my X inheritance path.  They are two generations upstream of Samuel Claxton, so that line has already been eliminated, as was the Bolton line.

Therefore, the only ancestor I share in common with my match that falls in both of our X inheritance paths is….drum roll….Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton.

Therefore, that beautiful orange segment on the X chromosome is a gift to me, and my match, directly from Margaret herself.

Margaret Herrell X

Isn’t it beautiful, seeing an actual artifact from Margaret Herrell?

Margaret Herrell match table

Switching to table view, we can see all of the segments that I share with my orange match. However, we can’t tell if the matches on chromosome 2-13 are from the Herrell, Bolton or Clarkson lines.  However, due to the special inheritance path of the X chromosome, we can identify the X segment specifically as having come from Margaret Herrell, by process of elimination.

Margaret was obviously an incredibly strong, resourceful and resilient woman. I like to think that in addition to some of her DNA, I inherited some of those qualities as well.