ThruLines Suggests Potential Ancestors – How Accurate Are They?

I wanted to evaluate the accuracy of Ancestry’s ThruLines suggested Potential Ancestors when compared with a tree I know is accurate. I conducted an experiment where I created a small tree on Ancestry for a DNA tester that included only the first two generations, meaning grandparents and great-grandparents.

Click to enlarge any image.

This gave Ancestry enough data to work with and means that for the upstream ancestors, Ancestry’s ThruLines suggested specific people as ancestors.

How well did Ancestry do? Are the Potential Ancestors suggested by Ancestry accurate? How do they make those suggestions anyway? Are they useful?

I do have a second, completely separate, full tree connected to my other DNA test, and I do know who those ancestors are, or, in some cases, I know who they aren’t. I’ve had the privilege of working intensively on my genealogy for decades, so I can easily compare what is known and proven, or what has been disproven, to Ancestry’s suggested Potential Ancestors.

We’ll start with the great-grandparents’ generation, but first, let’s talk about how ThruLines works. I’ve previously written about ThruLines here and here.

How ThruLines Works

ThruLines is a tool for people who have taken an AncestryDNA test and who link themselves to their position on their tree. Linking is a critical step. If you don’t link the DNA test to the proper profile, the tester won’t have ThruLines. I provided step-by-step instructions, here.

I want to emphasize this again, ThruLines is a TOOL, not an answer. It may or may not be accurate and it’s entirely UP TO YOU to take that hint, run with it, and verify or disprove. Ancestry is providing you with a hint.

Essentially, the more ancestors that you provide to Ancestry, generally, the better they can do when suggesting additional Potential Ancestors. They do need something to work with. I wrote about that in the article Optimizing Your Tree at Ancestry for More Hints and DNA ThruLines.

If you don’t provide at least your parents and at least your grandparents in a tree, it’s unlikely that Ancestry will be able to provide Potential Ancestors for you.

I added two generations above the parents in this experiment in order to provide Ancestry with a significant “hook” to latch onto to connect with:

  • Other DNA testers who match the tester AND
  • Other people’s trees, whether the tree-owners have tested their DNA or not

So yes, to be clear, Ancestry DOES:

  • Use the trees of other people whose DNA you match AND have the same ancestors in their tree
  • Along with the trees of people you don’t match (or who haven’t DNA tested,) to propose ancestors for you

ThruLines only reaches back to ancestors within 7 generations, meaning the ancestor is the tester’s 5th great-grandparent or closer.

Most suggested Potential Ancestors in ThruLines have descendants who have tested and are DNA matches to you, but not necessarily all.

On your tree itself, the ThruLines “3 people” icon shows on the ancestors that have Thrulines.

Click to enlarge

Looking at this graphic of my tree, you can see that ThruLines ends at the 7th generation, but Potential Ancestors continue to be suggested beyond 7 generations. Note generation 9, below, which is beyond ThruLines but has Potential Ancestors suggested based entirely on other people’s trees.

ThruLines stops at 7 generations, but Potential Ancestor suggestions do not.

In the above example, in generation 7, Michael McDowell (1720-1755) is a known ancestor and has a ThruLine, but his wife is unknown. Ancestry has suggested a Potential Mother for Michael McDowell (1747-1840) who is also the spouse of Michael McDowell (1720-1755).

Here’s the ThruLines suggestion for Michael McDowell’s wife.

Ironically, there are no DNA matches for either Michael or Eleanor. However, there are DNA matches for their child who clearly descends from Michael. This may be an example of a situation where the other testers are beyond the 7th generation, so they don’t show as matches for our tester in Michael’s generation. The other possibility, of course, is a glitch in ThruLines.

(For those familiar with the Michael McDowell (1720-1755) lineage, Eleanor is his mother, not his wife. His wife is unknown, so this Potential Ancestor is incorrect.)

Potential Ancestors Without DNA Matches

A person may still be suggested as a Potential Ancestor even without any DNA matches.

I have seen situations where a parent has DNA matches to several ThruLine ancestors, but their child has the same suggested ancestor with zero DNA matches listed because the child and the match are one generation too far removed to be listed as a DNA match on ThruLines.

Yet, if you search the child’s match list for the individual listed as a DNA match to their parent through that ancestor, that match is also on the child’s match list.

In the chart that follows, you can see that ancestors in the midrange of generations have many DNA matches, but as you approach the 7th generation, the number of matches drops significantly, and some even have zero. That’s because both people of a match pair have to be within the generational boundary for ThruLines to list them as matches.

In some cases, the ancestor is not suggested for the child in ThruLines because the ancestor is the 6th great-grandparent of the child. If you look directly at the child’s tree, the Potential Ancestor may be suggested there.

Points to Remember

  • The difference between ThruLines and Potential Ancestors is that Potential Ancestors are still suggested beyond the hard 7 generation or 5 GG boundary for ThruLines.
  • ThruLines may suggest Potential Ancestors with or without DNA matches.
  • Potential Ancestors, either within or beyond ThruLines must connect to someone in your tree, or another Potential Ancestor or ancestors who connect to someone in your tree.

Incorrect Ancestors and Discrepancies

An incorrect ancestor can be listed in multiple people’s trees, and Ancestry will suggest that incorrect ancestor for you based on the associated trees. At one point, I did a survey of the number of people who had the incorrect Virginia wife listed for my ancestor, Abraham Estes, and the first 150 trees I viewed had the wrong wife. We have church record proof of her death in England before his children were born by his colonial Virginia wife. Garbage in, garbage out.

That doesn’t mean those trees aren’t useful. In some cases, the information “saved” to that person in those incorrect trees shows you exactly what is out there and can’t be correct. For example, if there is a death record and burial for someone, they can’t also be alive 50 years later in another location. Or someone born in 1780 can’t have been a Revolutionary War veteran. Sometimes you’ll discover same name confusion, or multiple people who have been conflated into one. Other times, you may actually find valid hints for your own ancestor misplaced in someone else’s tree. Always evaluate.

You “should” have the same number of matches to the man and woman of a couple if neither of them had descendants with another partner, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I would presume that’s due to tree discrepancies among your matches or other trees on Ancestry.

If the same ancestor is listed with multiple name spellings or similar differences, I have no idea how Ancestry determines which version to present to you as a Potential Ancestor. That’s why ThruLines are hints. Ancestry does show you the various trees they utilized and allows you to peruse them for hints for that suggested ancestor.

Just click on the Evaluate button. Unfortunately, neither of these trees have any records for this ancestor.

If you click on the tree, you are then given the opportunity to add Eleanor (meaning the potential ancestor) to your tree from their tree.

I STRONGLY, STRONGLY suggest that you DO NOT do this. By adding information directly from other people’s trees, you’re introducing any errors from their tree into your tree as well.

If you click through to their tree, you’ll often find that they used someone else’s tree as their “source,” so misinformation propagates easily. Seeing “Ancestry Family Trees” as a source, especially in multiple records, provides you with an idea of the research style of that tree owner. This also conveys the message to less-experienced researchers that copy/pasting from other trees is a valid source.

Use this information provided as hints and do your own research and evaluation.

Where Do Potential Ancestors Come From?

Let’s view an example of an incorrect Potential Ancestor suggestion and proof-steps you can utilize to help validate or potentially disprove the suggestion.

We know that George Middleton Clarkston/Clarkson is NOT the father of James Lee Clarkson based on Y-DNA testing where the descendants of the two men not only don’t match, they have a completely different haplogroup. They do not share a common paternal ancestor. Furthermore, proven descendant groups of both men do not have autosomal DNA matches.

However, George Middleton Clarkson is suggested as a Potential Ancestor in ThruLines as the father of James Lee Clarkson.

Mousing over the ThruLines placard shows 98 DNA matches to other people who claim descent from George Middleton Clarkson. How is it possible to have 98 matches with descendants of George Middleton Clarkson, yet he’s not my ancestor?

Many people just see that “98,” which is a high number and think, “well, of course he’s my ancestor, otherwise, I wouldn’t match all those descendants.” It’s not that simple or straightforward though. It’s certainly possible to all be wrong together, especially if you’re dealing with long-held assumptions in the genealogy community and trees copies from other people’s trees for decades.

To view the ThruLine detail for George Middleton Clarkson, just click on the placard.

The ThruLine for George Middleton Clarkson has three attributed children with DNA matches. Let’s evaluate.

  • ThruLines Child 1 is my own James Lee Clarkson that has been erroneously attached to George Middleton Clarkson. However, the Y-DNA of the three various lines, above, does not match. That erroneous connection alone counts for 80 of those 98 matches. If all of those people who match me do descend from our common ancestor, James, those matches all make sense.

According to early histories, James Lee Clarkson was believed to be George’s son based on geographic proximity between the state of Franklin in eastern Tennessee and Russell County, Virginia, but then came DNA testing which said otherwise.

This DNA grouping from the Clarkson/Claxton DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA shows that the men, above, which includes descendants of James Lee Claxton/Clarkson, all match each other.

  • ThruLines Child 2 is Thomas Clarkston who has 17 DNA matches through 7 of his children.

By clicking on the green evaluate button for Thomas, we see that two of the DNA related trees have records, but three do not.

The first tree is quite interesting for a number of reasons.

  1. Thomas Clarkson is found in Lee County, VA, in relatively close proximity to where James Lee Clarkson is first found in Russell County, VA as an adult in 1795.
  2. There is no actual documentation to connect Thomas Clarkson with George Middleton Clarkson who was hung in 1787 in the lost State of Franklin, Tennessee, now Washington and Greene Counties in Tennessee. It has been “accepted” for years that Thomas descends from George Middleton based on information reportedly passed down within that family long before the internet.

The Claxton/Clarkson DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA shows the Thomas lineage. This lineage reaches back into England based on Y-DNA matches – a huge and important hint for the Thomas descendants that they won’t be able to obtain anyplace else.

Note that Thomas’s Y-DNA does not match that of James Lee Clarkson/Claxton which means these people must match me through a different line. That’s not surprising given that many of the families of this region intermarried for generations.

  • ThruLines Child 3 is David Claxton, who has one DNA match, so let’s look at that by clicking on the green evaluate button.

You’ll see that this ancestor through David Claxton was recommended based on:

  • One DNA match with a tree with 0 source records, and
  • Zero Ancestry member trees of people whose DNA I don’t match, or that haven’t DNA tested

Checking this tree shows no sources for the following generations either, so I have no way to evaluate the accurace of the tree.

However, I did track his descendants for a generation or so and found them in Wilson County, TN, which allowed me to find them in the Clarkson/Claxton Y DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA.

In the Clarkson/Claxton DNA project, we see that this David Claxton of Wilson County, TN is in a third DNA group that does not match either the James Lee Claxton or the Thomas Claxton line.

Furthermore, look at the hints for the descendants of David Claxton based on the Y-DNA matches. This link appears to reach back to a Clayton in Kirkington, Yorkshire.

ThruLines Conflation

In this case, three men of similar or the same surnames were cobbled together as sons of George Middleton Clarkson where clearly, based on Y-DNA testing, those three men are not related to each other paternally and do not share a common paternal ancestor. They cannot all three be descendants of George Middleton Clarkson.

It’s amazing how much is missed and erroneously inferred by NOT testing Y-DNA. In very short order, we just proved that the ThruLine that connected all three of these men to George Middleton Clarkson as their ancestor is inaccurate.

In defense of Ancestry, they simply used user-submitted erroneous trees – but you have it within YOUR power to search further, and to utilize Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA testing for additional clarification. This Clarkson/Claxton information was freely available, publicly, by just checking.

You can find surname or other projects at FamilyTreeDNA, by scrolling down, here, or simply google “<surname you seek> DNA Project.”

How Can These People All Match the Tester?

If we know that the male Claxton/Clarkson line is not the link between these matches, then why and how do these people all DNA match the tester? That’s a great question.

It’s possible that:

  • They match the tester through a different ancestor
  • There has been a genetic disconnect in the Claxton/Clarkson line and the match is through the mother, not the Claxton/Clarkson male
  • Some of the other testers’ genealogy is in error by including George Middleton Clarkson in their trees
  • People accept the George Middleton Clarkson suggestion, adding him to their tree, propagating erroneous information
  • The descendants of James Lee Clarkson/Claxton match because he is their common ancestor, but connecting him to George Middleton Clarkson is erroneous
  • The 15 cM match (and potentially others) is identical by chance
  • The Y-DNA disproved this possibility in this case. In other cases, the matches could have been from the same biological Clarkson/Claxton line, but the testers have their ancestor incorrectly attached to George Middleton Clarkson/Claxton. In this case, we can’t say which of David Claxton, James Lee Claxton and/or Thomas Claxton are or are not individually erroneously connected to George Middleton Clarkson, but we know for a fact that David’s, James’ and Thomas’s descendant’s Y-DNA does not match each other, so they can’t all three be descendants of George Middleton Clarkston. Furthermore, there is no solid evidence that ANY of these three men are his descendant. We know that these three men do not share a common direct paternal ancestor.

I recommend for every male line that you check the relevant Y-DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA and see if the information there confirms or conflicts with a suggested ancestor, or if a descendant hasn’t yet tested. I also STRONGLY recommend that a male in the relevant surname line that carries that surname be asked to test in order to verify the lineage.

ThruLine Ranking

I’m going to rank Ancestry’s suggested Potential Ancestors by awarding points for accuracy on their Potential Ancestor ThruLines suggestions and subtracting points for incorrect Potential Ancestor suggestions. This chart is at the end with links to my 52 Ancestor’s articles for those ancestors.

OK, let’s take a look, beginning with the great-grandparent generation.

Great-Grandparents

I entered all of these ancestors and they are connected to their children, the tester’s grandparents. They are not connected to their parents for purposes of this article, although I do know who the parents are, so let’s see how Ancestry does making Potential Ancestor suggestions through ThruLines.

Ancestors (above example) that are NOT framed by a dotted line and who are NOT labeled as a “Potential Ancestor” have been connected in their tree by the DNA tester, meaning you.

The next generations, below, are all framed by dotted lines, meaning they are Potential Ancestor suggestions provided by Ancestry. Potential Ancestors are always clearly marked with the green bar.

Eight 2nd Great Grandparents

In this generation, because I have not connected them, Ancestry has suggested Potential Ancestors for all sixteen 2X Great-Grandparents.

I’ve provided gold stars for the correct ancestor information meaning both the name and the birth and death date within a year or a decade when they died between census years.

Of these 16, three are completely accurate and the rest were at least partially accurate.

I repeated this process for each one of the suggested Potential Ancestors in the 3rd, 4th and 5th great grandparent categories as well, completing a ranking chart as I went.

Ranking Chart

I’ve ranked Ancestry’s accuracy in their Potential Ancestor recommendations.

  • +2 points means the name AND birth and death years are accurate within a year or decade if they died within a census boundary
  • +1 point means that EITHER the name OR the birth and death dates are (mostly) accurate, but not both
  • 0 means uncertain, so neither positive or negative
  • -1 point means that NEITHER the name NOR birth and death dates are accurate but it’s clear that this is meant to be the correct person. In other words, with some work, this hint could point you in the right direction, but in and of itself, it is inaccurate.
  • -2 means that the person suggested is the wrong person

I’ve been generous where there was some question. I’ve linked these ancestors where I’ve written their 52 Ancestors stories. [LNU] means last name unknown. It’s worth noting that one of the trees Ancestry has available to utilize for Potential Ancestors is my own accurate tree with many source documents for my ancestors.

# Generation Ancestry Name & Birth/Death Years Correct Name & Birth/Death Years # Matches Points Awarded Y or mtDNA Confirmed
1 2nd GGP John R. Estes 1788-1885 John. R. Estes 1787-1885 110 2 Yes
2 2nd GGP Nancy Ann Moore 1789-1865 Ann Moore or Nancy Ann Moore c1785-1860/1870 112 1 Need mtDNA through all females
3 2nd GGP Lazarus Dotson 1785-1861 Lazarus Dodson 1795-1861 46 -1 Yes
4 2nd GGP Elizabeth Campbell 1802-1842 Elizabeth Campbell c 1802-1827/1830 46 1 Yes
5 2nd GGP Elijah R. Vannoy 1782-1850 Elijah Vannoy 1784-1850s 82 -1 Yes
6 2nd GGP Rebecca Lois McNeil 1781-1839 Lois McNiel c1786-c1830s 81 -1 Yes
7 2nd GGP William Crumley ?-1859 William Crumley 1788-1859 97 1 Yes
8 2nd GGP Lydia Brown Crumley 1796-1847 Lydia Brown c1781-1830/1840 112 -1 Yes
9 2nd GGP Henry Bolton 1741-1846 Henry Frederick Bolton 1762-1846 152 -1 Yes
10 2nd GGP Nancy Mann 1777-1841 Nancy Mann c1780-1841 134 1 Yes
11 2nd GGP William Herrel 1803-1859 William Harrell/Herrell c1790-1859 31 1 Yes
12 2nd GGP Mary McDowell 1785-1871 Mary McDowell 1785-after 1872 45 2 Yes
13 2nd GGP Fairwick Clarkson 1800-1874 Fairwix/Fairwick Clarkson/Claxton 1799/1800-1874 82 2 Yes
14 2nd GGP Agnes Sander Muncy 1803-1880 Agnes Muncy 1803-after 1880 106 1 Yes
15 2nd GGP Thomas Charles Speak 1805-1843 Charles Speak 1804/1805-1840/1850 60 1 Yes
16 2nd GGP Ann McKee 1805-1860 Ann McKee 1804/1805-1840/1850 60 1 Yes
17 3rd GGP George M. Estes 1763-1859 George Estes 1763-1859 76 1 Yes
18 3rd GGP Mary C. Younger 1766-1850 Mary Younger c1766-1820/1830 75 -1 Yes
19 3rd GGP William Moore 1756-1810 William Moore 1750-1826 72 1 Yes
20 3rd GGP Susannah Harwell 1748-1795 Lucy [LNU] 1754-1832 69 -2 Need Lucy’s mtDNA through all females
21 3rd GGP Lazarous Dotson 1760-1826 Lazarus Dodson 1760-1826 42 1 Yes
22 3rd GGP Janet Jane Campbell 1762-1826 Jane [LNU] c1760-1830/1840 38 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
23 3rd GGP John Campbell 1772-1836 John Campbell c1772-1838 65 1 Yes
24 3rd GGP Jane Dobkins 1780-1860 Jane Dobkins c1780-c1860 22 2 Yes
25 3rd GGP Francis Vanoy/Vannoy 1746-1822 Daniel Vannoy 1752-after 1794 76 -2 Yes
26 3rd GGP Millicent “Millie” Henderson 1755-1822 Sarah Hickerson 1752/1760-before 1820 76 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
27 3rd GGP William McNeil/McNeal 1760-1830 William McNiel c1760-c1817 116 1 Yes
28 3rd GGP Elizabeth Shepherd McNeil 1766-1820 Elizabeth Shepherd 1766-1830/1840 115 -1 Yes
29 3rd GGP William Crumley 1767-1837 William Crumley c1767-c1839 59 1 Yes
30 3rd GGP Hannah Hanner “Hammer” 1770-1814 unknown 60 -2 Have her mtDNA
31 3rd GGP Jotham Sylvanis Brown 1765-1859 Jotham Brown c1740-c1799 100 -2 Yes
32 3rd GGP Ruth Johnston Brown Phoebe Cole 1747-1802 97 -2 Incorrect person but have correct mtDNA
33 3rd GGP Henry Bolton 1720-1757 Henry Bolton 1729-1765 88 1 Yes
34 3rd GGP Sarah Corry 1729-1797 Sarah Corry 1729-1797 80 2 Need mtDNA through all females
35 3rd GGP Robert James Mann 1753-1801 James Mann 1745-? 77 -1 Need Y-DNA
36 3rd GGP Mary Jane Wilson 1760-1801 Mary Brittain Cantrell c1755-? 80 -2 Incorrect but have correct mtDNA
37 3rd GGP John Herrell 1761-1829 John Harrold c1750-1825 19 -1 Yes
38 3rd GGP Hallie Mary [LNU] c1750-1826 18 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
39 3rd GGP Michael McDowell-McDaniel 1737-1834 Michael McDowell c17471840 25 -2 Yes
40 3rd GGP Sarah Isabel “Liza” Hall Isabel [LNU] c1753-1840/1850 27 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
41 3rd GGP James Lee Clarkson 1775-1815 James Lee Clarkson c1775-1815 170 2 Yes
42 3rd GGP Sarah Helloms Cook 1775-1863 Sarah Cook 1775-1863 188 1 Yes
43 3rd GGP Samuel Munsey-Muncy 1767-1830 Samuel Muncy after 1755-before 1820 108 1 Yes
44 3rd GGP Anne W. Workman 1768-1830 Anne Nancy Workman 1760/1761-after 1860 107 -1 Yes
45 3rd GGP Rev. Nicholas Speak 1782-1852 Nicholas Speak/Speaks 1782-1852 93 2 Yes
46 3rd GGP Sarah Faires Speak 1782-1865 Sarah Faires 1786-1865 93 -1 Yes
47 3rd GGP Andrew McKee 1760-1814 Andrew McKee c1760-1814 86 2 Yes
48 3rd GGP Elizabeth 1765-1839 Elizabeth [LNU] c1767-1838 88 2 Yes
49 4th GGP Moses Estes 1742-1815 Moses Estes c1742-1813 27 1 Yes
50 4th GGP Luremia Susannah Combes 1747-1815 Luremia Combs c1740-c1820 33 -1 Need mtDNA through all females
51 4th GGP Marcus Younger 1735-1816 Marcus Younger 1730/1740-1816 30 2 Yes
52 4th GGP Susanna Hart* 1725-1806 Susanna [possibly] Hart c1740-before 1805 26 -1 Yes
53 4th GGP William Moore 1725-1757 James Moore c1718-c1798 25 -2 Yes
54 4th GGP Margaret Hudspeth 1725-1808 Mary Rice c1723-c1778/1781 26 -2 Need Mary Rice mtDNA through all females
55 4th GGP Samuel “Little Sam” Harwell 1716-1793 Incorrect 36 -2
56 4th GGP Abigail Anne Jackson 1712-1793 Incorrect 33 -2
57 4th GGP Rawleigh “Rolly” Dodson 1730-1793 Raleigh Dodson 1730-c1794 19 2 Yes
58 4th GGP Elizabeth Mary Booth 1728-1793 Mary [LNU] c1730-1807/1808 27 -2 Need Mary’s mtDNA through all females
59 4th GGP Nancy Ann Steele 1728-1836 Unknown mother of Jane [LNU], wife of Lazarus Dodson 16 -2 Need Jane’s mtDNA through all females
60 4th GGP James Campbell 1742-1931 Charles Campbell c1750-c1825 28 -2 Y DNA confirmed NOT this line
61 4th GGP Letitia Allison 1759-1844 Incorrect 31 -2
62 4th GGP Jacob Dobkins 1750-1833 Jacob Dobkins 1751-1835 91 1 Yes
63 4th GGP Dorcas (Darcas) Johnson 1750-1831 Darcus Johnson c1750-c1835 92 2 Yes
64 4th GGP John Francis Vannoy 1719-1778 John Francis Vannoy 1719-1778 47 2 Yes
65 4th GGP Susannah Baker Anderson 1720-1816 Susannah Anderson c1721-c1816 59 2 Need mtDNA through all females
66 4th GGP Thomas Hildreth Henderson 1736-1806 Charles Hickerson c1725-before 1793 37 -2 Have Hickerson Y-DNA
67 4th GGP Mary Frances “Frankie” McIntire 1735-1811 Mary Lytle c1730-before 1794 37 -2 Need mtDNA from all females
68 4th GGP Rev. George W. McNeil 1720-1805 George McNiel c1720-1805 143 1 Yes
69 4th GGP Mary Sarah Coates 1732-1782 Sarah/Sallie or Mary [maybe] Coates c1740-1782/1787 139 1 Need mtDNA through all females
70 4th GGP John James Sheppard Shepherd 1734-1810 Robert Shepherd 1739-1817 136 -2 Have Shepherd Y-DNA
71 4th GGP Sarah Ann Rash 1732-1810 Sarah Rash 1748-1829 178 -1 Yes
72 4th GGP John Crumbley 1737-1794 William Crumley 1736-1793 77 -2 Have Crumley Y-DNA
73 4th GGP Hannah Mercer 1742-1774 Hannah Mercer c1740-c1773 73 2 Yes
74 4th GGP John Hanner (Hainer) Incorrect 19 -2
75 4th GGP Jotham Brown 1740-1799 Incorrect 183 -2 Have Brown Y-DNA
76 4th GGP Phoebe Ellen Johnston 1742-1810 Incorrect 182 -2
77 4th GGP Moses Johnston 1746-1828 Incorrect 45 -2
78 4th GGP Eleanor Havis 1753-1837 Incorrect 47 -2
79 4th GGP Henry Boulton 1693-1737 John Bolton before 1693-after 1729 23 -2 Have Bolton Y-DNA
80 4th GGP Elizabeth Bryan 1658-1742 Elizabeth Goaring 1795-1729 22 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
81 4th GGP Thomas Curry (Corry) 1705-1729 Thomas Curry 1705-1729 25 2 Need Curry Y-DNA
82 4th GGP Monique “Moniky” Curry 1704-1729 Monique Demazares 1705-1729 25 1 Need mtDNA through all females
83 4th GGP Robert James Mann 1740-1787 John Mann 1725-1774 26 -2 Need Mann Y-DNA
84 4th GGP Sarah Susannah McCloskey 1716-1797 Frances Carpenter 1728-1833 28 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
85 4th GGP Benjamin “Col. Ben” Colonel Wilson 1733-1814 Incorrect 28 -2
86 4th GGP Mary Ann Seay 1735-1814 Incorrect 29 -2
87 4th GGP John Hugh McDowell 1695-1742 Michael McDowell c1720-after 1755 7 -2 Incorrect but have correct Y-DNA McDowell Y-DNA
88 4th GGP Mary Magdalena Woods 1705-1800 Incorrect 8 -2
89 4th GGP Ebenezer Hall 1721-1801 Incorrect 6 -2
90 4th GGP Dorcas Abbott Hall 1728-1797 Incorrect 6 -2
91 4th GGP George Middleton Clarkston/Clarkson 1745-1787 Incorrect 98 -2 Incorrect but have correct Clarkson Y-DNA
92 4th GGP Catherine Middleton 1764-1855 Incorrect 94 -2
93 4th GGP William Henry Cook 1750-1920 Joel Cook before 1755 – ? 83 -2 Need Cook Y-DNA
94 4th GGP Elizabeth Wall 1747-1826 Alcy [LNU] c 1755-? 91 -2 Yes
95 4th GGP Obediah Samuel Muncy 1735-1806 Samuel Muncy 1740-1799 33 -1 Yes
96 4th GGP UFN Obediah Muncy wife Unknowen (sic) 1728-1843 Agnes Craven 1745-1811 27 -2 Need Agnes Craven Need mtDNA through all females
97 4th GGP Joseph Workman 1732-1813 Joseph Workman c1736-c1813 64 2 Yes
98 4th GGP Phoebe McRay McMahon 1745-1826 Phoebe McMahon c1741-after 1815 64 1 Yes
99 4th GGP Charles Beckworth Speake/Speaks 1741-1794 Charles Speake c1731-1794 47 1 Yes
100 4th GGP Jane Connor 1742-1789 Incorrect, unknown first wife 40 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
101 4th GGP Gideon Farris 1748-1818 Gideon Faires before 1749-1821 54 -1 Yes
102 4th GGP Sarah Elizabeth McSpadden 1745-1821 Sarah McSpadden c1745-c1820 55 1 Yes
103 4th GGP Hugh McKee 1720-1795 Unknown 34 -2
104 4th GGP Mary Nesbit 1732-1795 Unknown 35 -2
105 4th GGP Private (sic) Unknown father of Elizabeth, wife of Andrew McKee 35 -2
106 4th GGP Anna Elizabeth Carney [wife of “private”] Incorrect 35 -2
107 5th GGP Moses Estes 1711-1788 Moses Estes 1711-1787 13 2 Yes
108 5th GGP Elizabeth Jones “Betty” Webb 1718-1782 Elizabeth [LNU] 1715/1720-1772/1782 5 -2 No known daughters
109 5th GGP George W. Combs 1714-1798 John Combs 1705-1762 6 -2 Need Combs Y-DNA
110 5th GGP Phebe Wade ?-1830 Incorrect 6 -2 Need mtDNA of John Combs first wife through all females
111 5th GGP Sarah Ferguson 1700-1781 Incorrect 3 -2
112 5th GGP Anthony Hart 1700-? Possibly Anthony Hart but no evidence 3 0
113 5th GGP Charles Rev. Moore 1685-1734 Incorrect 4 -2
114 5th GGP Mary Margaret Barry Moore 1690-1748 Incorrect 4 -2
115 5th GGP Ralph Hudspeth II* 1690-1776 Incorrect 9 -2
116 5th GGP Mary Carter 1699-1737 Incorrect 3 -2
117 5th GGP Samuel Harwell 1674-1767 Incorrect 3 -2
118 5th GGP Mary Ann Coleman*8th Ggm (sic) 1678-1723 incorrect 6 -2
119 5th GGP Ambrose (Sar) Jackson 1695-1745 Incorrect 6 -2
120 5th GGP Anne Amy Wyche 1692-1765 Incorrect 6 -2
121 5th GGP George E Dodson (DNA) (sic) 1702-1770 George Dodson 1702-after 1756 23 -1 Yes
122 5th GGP Margaret Dogett Dagord 1708-1770 Margaret Dagord 1708-? 24 1 Need mtDNA through all females
123 5th GGP James Booth 1700-1741 Incorrect 4 -2
124 5th GGP Frances Dale Booth (15great aunt) (sic) 1688-1777 Incorrect 3 -2
125 5th GGP Samuel Scurlock Steele 1709-1790 Incorrect 2 -2
126 5th GGP Robert R. Campbell 1718-1810 Incorrect 34 -2
127 5th GGP Lady: Letitia Crockett 1719-1760 Incorrect 8 -2
128 5th GGP John A. Dobkins 1717-1783 John Dobkins c1710-c1788 20 1 Yes
129 5th GGP Mary Elizabeth Betty Moore 1739-1815 Elizabeth [LNU] c1711-? 20 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
130 5th GGP Peter Johnson 1715-1796 Peter Johnson/Johnston c1720-c1794 0 1 Yes
131 5th GGP Mary Polly Phillips 1729-1790 Mary Polly Phillips c1726-? 1 2 Need mtDNA through all females
132 5th GGP Francis Janzen Vannoy Van Noy 1688-1774 Francis Vannoy 1688-1774 8 1 Yes
133 5th GGP Rebecca Anna Catherine Anderson 1698-1785 Rebecca Annahh Andriesen/ Anderson 1697-1727 13 -1 Need mtDNA through all females
134 5th GGP Cornelius Anderson (Andriessen) 1670-1724 Kornelis Andriesen 1670-1724 5 2 Yes
135 5th GGP Annetje Annah Opdyck 1670-1746 Annetje Opdyck c1675-after 1746 5 2 Need mtDNA through all females
136 5th GGP Thomas Hildret Henderson 1715-1794 Incorrect

 

3 -2
137 5th GGP Mary Frisby 1709-1794 Incorrect 3 -2
138 5th GGP Alexander (Alex) McEntire 1707-1802 Incorrect 12 -2
139 5th GGP Hannah Janet McPherson 1711-1792 Incorrect 15 -2
140 5th GGP Thomas James McNeil 1699-1803 Incorrect 25 -2
141 5th GGP Mary Hannah Parsons 1697-1784 Incorrect 27 -2
142 5th GGP John Coates 1699-1732 Incorrect 21 -2
143 5th GGP Sarah Ann Titcombe 1710-1732 Incorrect 22 -2
144 5th GGP George Sheppard, Shepherd 1716-1751 George Shepherd c1700-1751 42 1 Have Shepherd Y-DNA
145 5th GGP Elizabeth Mary Angelicke Day (Daye) 1699-? Elizabeth Mary Angelica Daye 1699-after 1750 41 1 Need mtDNA through all females
146 5th GGP Joseph Rash 1722-1776 Joseph Rash before 1728-c1767 36 1 Yes
147 5th GGP Mary Warren 1726-1792 Mary Warren 1726-? 36 1 Yes
148 5th GGP James L Crumley/Cromley 1712-1784 James Crumley c1711-1764 11 -1 Yes
149 5th GGP Catherine Bowen Gilkey 1712-1784 Catherine [LNU] c1712-c1790 11 -1 Need mtDNA through all females
150 5th GGP Edward Willis Mercer 1704-1763 Edward Mercer 1704-1763 5 1 Yes
151 5th GGP Ann Lueretias Coats 1710-1763 Ann [LNU] 1699/1705-c1786/1790 5 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
152 5th GGP Daniel Brown 1710-1798 Incorrect 39 -2
153 5th GGP Mary Brown 1717-1777 Incorrect 40 -2
154 5th GGP Zopher “Elder” Johnson/Johnston* 1700-1804 Incorrect 51 -2
155 5th GGP Elizabeth Williamson Cooper 1703-1794 Incorrect 49 -2
156 5th GGP Joseph Benjamin Johnson (6th ggf) (sic) 1709-1795 Incorrect 3 -2
157 5th GGP Elizabeth Shepard 1709-1786 Incorrect 3 -2
158 5th GGP John (Boulware) Havis (Rev/war) (sic) 1728-1807 Incorrect 4 -2
159 5th GGP Susannah Gentile Boullier (Boulware) 1733-1817 Incorrect 3 -2
160 5th GGP Henry Boulton Jr. 1652-1720 Incorrect 22 -2
161 5th GGP Elizabeth Bryan 1658-1742 Incorrect, linked in two generations Duplicate not processing -2
162 5th GGP Norton Bryan 1634-1672 Incorrect 2 -2
163 5th GGP Elizabeth Middlemore 1640-1658 Incorrect 2 -2
164 5th GGP Guillam Demazure 1685-1706 Guillam Demazares before 1685-after 1705 2 2 Need Y-DNA
165 5th GGP Marie Demazure 1686-1705 Marie [LNU] before 1686-after 1705 2 1 Need mtDNA through all females
166 5th GGP John Robert Mann {Minnis} 1711-1772 Incorrect 3 -2
167 5th GGP Anne Vincent 1711-1747 Incorrect 3 -2
168 5th GGP Joseph David McCluskey 1693-1756 Incorrect 3 -2
169 5th GGP Barbara S Rohlflag 1695-1755 Incorrect 3 -2
170 5th GGP Willis Wilson, Jr. 1710-1794 Incorrect 4 -2
171 5th GGP Elizabeth Goodrich ?-1789 Incorrect 4 -2
172 5th GGP Reverend James Matthew Seay 1696-1757 Incorrect 7 -2
173 5th GGP Elizabeth (James M Seay) Wilson or Lewis 1696-1752 Incorrect 6 -2
174 5th GGP Ephriam Samuel McDowell 1673-1774 Murtough McDowell before 1700-1752 0 -2 Yes
175 5th GGP Margaret Elizabeth Irvine 1674-1728 Eleanor [LNU] before 1700-after 1730 1 -2 Need mtDNA through all females
176 5th GGP Michael Marion Woods 1684-1782 Incorrect 9 -2
177 5th GGP Mary Catherine Woods 1690-1742 Incorrect 9 -2
178 5th GGP Joseph Hall 1680-1750 Incorrect 0 -2
179 5th GGP Sarah Kimball Hall Haley 1686-1752 Incorrect 0 -2
180 5th GGP Edward Abbott 1702-759 Incorrect 0 -2
181 5th GGP Dorcas Mehitable Chandler 1704-1748 Incorrect 0 -2
182 5th GGP James Anderson Clarkston 1717-1816 Incorrect 17 -2
183 5th GGP Thomasina Elizabeth Middleton 1720-1796 Incorrect 17 -2
184 5th GGP Harlace Middleton Incorrect 5 -2
185 5th GGP Capt. Vallentine Felty Kuke Cook 1730-1797 Incorrect 25 -2
186 5th GGP Michael Wall 1728-1749 Incorrect 11 -2
187 5th GGP Rebecca Chapman 1725-1791 Incorrect 11 -2
188 5th GGP Samuel Scott Muncy 1712-1786 Samuel Muncy 1712-after 1798 50 -1 Yes
189 5th GGP Mary Daughtery Skidmore 1710-1797 Mary Skidmore c1710-1811 51 -1 Need mtDNA through all females
190 5th GGP Abraham Woertman Workman 1709-1749 Abraham Workman 1709-1813 26 1 Yes
191 5th GGP Hannah Annetje (Smith) Workman 1706-1747 Annetie Smith 1714-? 26 1 Need mtDNA through all females
192 5th GGP Hugh McMahon 1699-1749 Hugh McMahon 1699-1749 17 2 Need Y-DNA
193 5th GGP Agnas Norton 1699-1747 Agnas Norton after 1700-? 17 2 Need mtDNA through all females
194 5th GGP Thomas Bowling Speake V 1698-1765 Thomas Speak c1634-1681 11 -2 Yes
195 5th GGP Jane Barton/Brisco Smoote 1714-1760 Elizabeth Bowling 1641-before 1692 12 -2 No known daughters
196 5th GGP William Farris 1714-1776 William Faires/Farris before 1728-1776 11 1 Yes
197 5th GGP Deborah Johnson Faries 1734-1812 Deborah [LNU] 1734-1812 11 1 Need mtDNA through all females
198 5th GGP Thomas of Borden’s Grant McSpadden 1720-1765 Thomas McSpadden c1721-1785 19 1 Yes
199 5th GGP Mary Dorothy Edmondson (Edmundson, Edmiston, Edmisten) 1721-1786 Dorothy [possibly Edmiston] 1721-? 28 1 Yes
200 5th GGP Thomas Alexander McKee, Sr 1693-1769 Incorrect 7 -2
201 5th GGP Tecumseh Margaret Opessa Pekowi 1695-1780 Incorrect 6 -2
202 5th GGP Thomas F Nesbit 1707-1783 Incorrect 7 -2
203 5th GGP Jean McKee 1707-1790 Incorrect 7 -2
Total -163

Please note that I will provide a free Y-DNA testing scholarship at FamilyTreeDNA for any male descending through all men from the male ancestor where it’s noted that Y-DNA is needed. Y-DNA is typically the surname line in most western countries.

I will also provide a mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship at FamilyTreeDNA for anyone who descends from the women where it’s noted that mitochondrial DNA is needed. Mitochondrial DNA passes through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female.

If this is you or a family member, please reach out to me.

The Scores

Of the 203 ancestors for which Ancestry provided a Potential Ancestor, they could have amassed a total of 406 points if each one provided an accurate name and accurate birth and death dates within a reasonable margin. If they were completely wrong on every one, they could have earned a negative score of -406.

Ancestry’s ThruLine accuracy score was -163, meaning they were wrong more than right. Zero was the break-even point where there was equally as much accurate information as inaccurate.

In fairness though, the older ancestors are more likely to be wrong than the more recent ones, and there are more older ancestors given that ancestors double in each generation. Once Ancestry provided a wrong ancestor, they continued down that wrong path on up the tree, so once the path was incorrect, it never recovered.

Regardless of why, Ancestry suggested incorrect information, and as we know, many people take that information to heart as gospel. In fact, many people even call these *TrueLines* instead of *ThruLines*.

Ok, how did Ancestry do?

Category Total Percent
+2 – Both Name and Date Accurate or Within Range 24 11.82%
+1 – Name and/or Date Partly Accurate 41 20.2%
0 – Uncertain 1 0.49%
-1 – Neither Name nor Date Accurate, but Enough Context to Figure Out With Research 22 10.84%
-2 – Inaccurate, the wrong person 115 56.65%

 Take Aways – Lessons Learned

This leads us to the lessons learned portion.

  • Never, ever, take ThruLines or Potential Ancestors at face value. They are hints and nothing more. Ancestry states that “ThruLines uses Ancestry trees to suggest how you may be related to your DNA matches through common ancestors.” (Bolding is mine.)
  • Verify everything.
  • Never simply copy something from another tree or accept a hint of any kind without a thorough evaluation. No, your ancestor probably did not zigzag back and forth across the country every other year in the 1800s. If you think they did, then you’ll need lots of information to prove that unusual circumstance. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary proof.
  • Never add extraneous “things” to names like “DNA match” or name someone “Private,” unless, of course, that was actually their name. Extraneous “pieces” in names confuses Ancestry’s search routines too, so you’re hurting your own chances of finding relevant information about your ancestor, not to mention ThruLines for others.
  • Naming someone “Private” isn’t useful if they are attached to other non-private people as ancestors, siblings and descendants. Just sayin…
  • Once the first incorrect ancestor is suggested, ThruLines continues to go up the incorrect tree.
  • In the the older or oldest generations, a small number of DNA matches for a particular ancestor may simply mean that lots of people are beyond the ThruLines match reporting thresholds. Unfortunately, Ancestry does NOT have a function where you can hunt for matches by ancestor.
  • In the the older or oldest generations, a small number of DNA matches may also mean it’s either the wrong ancestor, or they have few descendants, or few have tested.
  • The number of matches, in either direction, is not directly predictive of the accuracy of the suggested ancestor.
  • One of the best ways to validate ancestor accuracy is to match other descendants through multiple children of the ancestor, assuming that the children have been assigned to that ancestor properly. Recall George Middleton Clarkson where the three male children assigned to him do not have the same Y-DNA.
  • Another validation technique is to also match descendants of both parents of the ancestor(s) in question, through multiple children.
  • Remember that paper trail documentation is an extremely important aspect of genealogy.
  • Do not rely on trees without sources, or on trees with sources without verifying that every source is actually referencing this specific person.
  • Same name confusion is a very real issue.
  • For male ancestors, always check the Y-DNA projects at FamilyTreeDNA to verify that males attached as children have descendants with matching Y-DNA.
  • Always test males for their surname line. You never know when you’ll either prove or disprove a long-held belief, or discover that someplace, there has been a biological break in that line.
  • Y-DNA matches can provide extremely valuable information on earlier ancestral lines which may lead to breaking through your brick wall.
  • Mitochondrial DNA testing and matching of descendants is sometimes the only way of proving maternity or discovering matches to earlier ancestors.
  • Both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA, via haplogroups, can provide origins information for that one specific line, meaning you don’t have to try to figure out which ancestor contributed some percentage of ethnicity or population-based DNA.
  • Everyone can test their mitochondrial DNA, inherited from their direct matrilineal line, and men can test their Y-DNA, which is their surname line.
  • Remember that ThruLines can only be as good as the trees upon which it relies.
  • Review the source trees for each Potential Ancestor provided, evaluating each source carefully, including notes, images and web links. You just never know where that diamond is hiding.

How Can Ancestry Improve ThruLines, Potential Ancestors and Provide Customers with Better Tools?

To improve ThruLines and/or Potential Ancestors, Ancestry could:

  • My #1 request would be to implement a “search by ancestor” feature for DNA matches. This would be especially beneficial for situations where matches are beyond the 5GG threshold, or if someone is testing a hypothesis to see if they match descendants of a particular person.
  • Provide a “dismiss” function, or even a function where a customer could provide a reason why they don’t believe a connection or suggestion is accurate. This could travel with that link for other users as well so people can benefit from commentary from and collaboration with others.
  • Provide all DNA matches to people who share a specific ancestor, even if one person is beyond the 5 GG level. Currently, if both people are beyond that threshold, the match won’t show for either, so that’s no problem. The hybrid way it works today is both confusing and misleading and the hard cutoff obfuscates matches that have the potential to be extremely useful. Often this is further exacerbated by the 20 cM thresold limit on shared matches.
  • Add a feature similar to the now defunct NADs (New Ancestor Discoveries) where Ancestry shows you a group of your matches that descend from common ancestors, but those ancestors are NOT connected to anyone in your tree. However, DO NOT name the tool New Ancestor Discoveries because these people may not be, and often are not, your ancestors. If you’re related to a group of people who all have these people in THEIR tree as ancestors, that alone is a powerful hint. You might be descended from their ancestors, from the spouse of one of their children – something. But it’s information to work with when you have brick walls where Ancestry cannot connect someone as a potential ancestor directly to someone in your tree. Even locations of those brick-wall-breaker possible ancestors would be a clue. In fact, it’s not terribly different than the Potential Ancestors today, except today’s Potential Ancestors are entirely tree based (beyond ThruLines) and dependent upon connecting with someone in your tree. These new Brick-Wall-Breaker Potential Ancestors are (1.) NOT connected to your tree, and (2.) are all a result of DNA matches with people who have these ancestors in their tree.
  • If you already map your segment information at DNAPainter, the Brick-Wall-Breaker ancestral lineage connection would be immediately evident if Ancestry provided DNA segment location information. In other words, there are answers and significant hints that could be available to Ancestry’s customers.
  • Extend ThruLines for (at least) another two generations. Today ThruLines ends at the point that many people begin running into brick walls about the time the US census began. Using a 25-year generation, the current algorithm gives you 175 years (about 1825 starting with the year 2000), and a 30-year generation gives you 210 years (about 1790). Extending that two additional generations would give testers two more generations, several more Potential Ancestors, and 50-60 more years, approaching or reaching across the US colonial threshold.
  • Extending ThruLines and adding that Brick-Wall-Breaker functionality wouldn’t be nearly as important if customers could search by ancestor and download their match with direct ancestor information, similar to the other vendors, but since we can’t, we’re completely reliant on ThruLines and Potential Ancestors for automated connections by ancestor. Downloading your match list including a list of each person’s direct ancestors and matching segments would provide resources for many of these customer needs, without Ancestry having to do significant major development. If nothing else, it could be an interim stepping-stone.

_____________________________________________________________

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Sneak Preview: Introducing the FamilyTreeDNA Group Time Tree

Drum roll please!!!

This is a sneak peek of a new tool being rolled out by FamilyTreeDNA in a VERY EARLY BETA soft launch.

Right now, the only way to view the Group Time Tree is by using the link to my group project, below, then, search for a different project name. I’ll show you, but first, let’s talk about this VERY COOL new tool for Big Y group project results.

The Group Time Tree is a feature that group project administrators and project members have wanted for a VERY long time!

At FamilyTreeDNA, the words “group” and “project” are both used to describe Group Projects which are projects run by volunteer administrators. FamilyTreeDNA customers can join any number of projects to collaborate with other testers who have a common interest.

Four basic types of public group projects exist:

  • Surname Group Projects
  • Haplogroup Group Project
  • Geographic Group Projects which can include other types of special interests
  • Mitochondrial Lineage Group Projects

What Does the Regular Discover Time Tree Do?

The Discover tool that was recently introduced (here) provides a Time Tree view of any specific haplogroup (but no surnames or ancestors) in relation to:

  • Big Y testers (not SNP-only testers and not STR results because they can’t be used for time-to-most-recent-common-ancestor (TMRCA) calculations)
  • Ancient Connections
  • Notable Connections

Using the regular Discover Haplogroup took, here’s an example of the haplogroups of the Estes (and other) men, beginning with the R-BY154784 lineage near the bottom. Time is at the top. The only way you know they are Estes men is because I told you. The Discover tool is haplogroup specific, not surname specific.

What Does the New Group Time Tree Do?

The brand-new Group Time Tree is an extension of the Discover technology, but focused within projects and includes both surnames and earliest known ancestors for people who have opted-in to have their results display in public group projects. This tool only works for group projects that have the public display enabled, and includes only data that the administrator has included. Not all administrators have enabled the display of the “Paternal Ancestor” field, for example.

Now, you can see Big Y group project members:

  • All mapped together on a genetic time tree, or
  • By project subgroups defined by the project administrator

I want to provide a friendly reminder that this is a BETA tool and will be fully rolled out in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, it’s fun to have a sneak preview!!!

Estes DNA Group Project

Before going further, here are some screen shots of the Estes DNA Group Project for comparison.

I’ve created multiple color-coded groups within the project based on the genealogy and Y-DNA matches of the participants. The teal groups all descend from the Estes line from Kent, England, and match each other. Since not every man with an Estes surname descends from this line, there are also other color-identified groups.

Additionally, in the Estes project, I do not restrict members to males with the Estes surname, so there are several non-Estes men who have joined. Their Y-DNA shows in the project so I have placed them in an “Autosomal – Not Y DNA” group because they are Estes-related autosomally, not through the direct Y-DNA surname line.

I’ve grouped other clusters of Estes-surname males who do not descend from the Kent line into other color-coded groups, which turned out to be extremely beneficial for the new Group Time Tree.

Let’s see how the Estes Project works with the new Group Time Tree.

The Estes Group Time Tree

Here’s the link to the Estes Group Time Tree. I’ll be using the Estes data for this article, then show you how to view other group projects of your choosing from this link. So please read these instructions.

The Group Time Tree shows a genetic family tree of direct paternal lineages on a time scale. It shows how Big Y tested members of Group Projects are related to each other and when their shared ancestors are estimated to have lived.

Click on any image to enlarge

This is the first display I see.

Looking around, I notice the menu.

Select either “All search results” or the group or groups you want to view.

If you compare the groups above on the menu to the project screen shots, you’ll notice that the colors along the left side equate to the colors of the project subgroupings. We have Eastridge, meaning those who are not genetically Estes, then “Estes Autosomal, Not Y DNA,” then a group of teal project groupings who descend from the Estes Kent line.

I clicked on “Select All Search Results” which displayed everyone in the project from all haplogroups. This resulted in the Estes men being scrunched on the right-hand side, below, due to the long timeframe involved, which is not useful.

What is VERY useful is the Paternal Ancestor column which is the earliest known ancestor (EKA) for each tester’s line. Hopefully, this will encourage everyone to enter their EKA and location. You can find instructions, here.

Ok, let’s “De-select all” and just focus on specific groups.

Much better. I can see a much more relevant timeline for the men in the line being researched. The Estes men are no longer scrunched up along the right side because the left-to-right time is much shorter – 1500ish vs 100,000ish years.

The colored dot on the location flag indicates which colored group these men have been assigned to by the project administrator.

It’s very easy to see if two groups (or two men) descend from the same paternal line.

Next, I added the Eastridge group back into the display as an experiment.

The common ancestor between the single Eastridge Big Y tester and the Estes men is back in the Stone Age, about 35,000 BCE.

I do feel compelled to mention that this information can’t necessarily be extrapolated for all Eastridge men, because there are a few men with Eastridge surnames that are actually genetically Estes men. Someplace along the line, the name got changed. This is the perfect example of why every man needs to test their Y-DNA.

You can remove the menu by clicking on Subgroups.

You make the menu re-appear by clicking on Subgroups again.

I LOVE – LOVE – LOVE that I can see the ancestors and the clusters and I didn’t have to do this grouping myself. These men could have been in one big group in the project and the software would have created the clusters for me.

For example, there has been debate for decades about whether or not Moses Estes of South Carolina was descended from Abraham Estes, the immigrant, and if so, through which son.

Based on the Big Y-700 test (the Big Y-500 did not reveal this) and clustering, we know assuredly that Moses Estes of SC:

  • Descended from the Kent line
  • Descended from Abraham who has mutation R-BY490
  • Did NOT descend from Abraham’s son Moses whose descendants have mutation R-ZS3700

I’ve been keeping this project spreadsheet for years now. It’s wonderful to be able to see a genetic tree visualization. The Big Y men are blocked in red.

I’m hopeful that the balance of the men who have NOT yet taken the Big Y-700 will upgrade now because there’s so much more to learn. This is especially true for men who reach a brick wall prior to Abraham. The Big Y-700 test, perhaps combined with STRs, will place them in a lineage.

I’m sure that we would discover new haplogroups among Abraham’s descendants if they would all upgrade. There are more men who have not tested at the Big Y level than those that have.

Display Options

Under display options, you can add Ancient or Notable connections, remove confidence bars, and adjust the tree height.

Discoveries for Administrators

As a project administrator, one thing I discovered is that I might want to regroup within some of my projects to take full advantage of the color coding on the Group Time Tree. If you are a project administrator, you may want to ponder the same.

I also discovered that when I clicked on Country Map, I did not have Project Statistics enabled.

If you make project configuration changes, this report will only be updated weekly, so it’s not immediate.

The country map shows the distribution of all the countries within the project, not specific groups within projects

You can view Country Maps in either map or table format, but remember that if the project is a surname project and includes autosomal testers, the map view will not be representative of the surname itself. This view shows all groups.

Viewing Another Group Project

To view a different group project, simply enter that project name in the search box. For now, this is how you’ll be able to view group projects until this tool is fully rolled out.

I entered the surname “Speak” and was presented with these options.

Obviously, the surname Speak or a variation is found in these projects. Just click to view.

Your Turn

If you have not yet taken or upgraded to the Big Y-700 test, now’s the time. Order or upgrade, here.

If you have already taken the Big Y-700 test, or want to view a project, click on this link, and search for your project of choice.

Have fun!!!

_____________________________________________________________

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The Best of 2022

It’s that time of year where we look both backward and forward.

Thank you for your continued readership! Another year under our belts!

I always find it interesting to review the articles you found most interesting this past year.

In total, I published 97 articles in 2022, of which 56 were directly instructional about genetic genealogy. I say “directly instructional,” because, as you know, the 52 Ancestors series of articles are instructional too, but told through the lives of my ancestors. That leaves 41 articles that were either 52 Ancestors articles, or general in nature.

It has been quite a year.

2022 Highlights

In a way, writing these articles serves as a journal for the genetic genealogy community. I never realized that until I began scanning titles a year at a time.

Highlights of 2022 include:

Which articles were your favorites that were published in 2022, and why?

Your Favorites

Often, the topics I select for articles are directly related to your comments, questions and suggestions, especially if I haven’t covered the topic previously, or it needs to be featured again. Things change in this industry, often. That’s a good thing!

However, some articles become forever favorites. Current articles don’t have enough time to amass the number of views accumulated over years for articles published earlier, so recently published articles are often NOT found in the all-time favorites list.

Based on views, what are my readers’ favorites and what do they find most useful?

In the chart below, the 2022 ranking is not just the ranking of articles published in 2022, but the ranking of all articles based on 2022 views alone. Not surprisingly, six of the 15 favorite 2022 articles were published in 2022.

The All-Time Ranking is the ranking for those 2022 favorites IF they fell within the top 15 in the forever ranking, over the entire decade+ that this blog has existed.

Drum roll please!!!

Article Title Publication Date 2022 Ranking All-Time Ranking
Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages January 2017 1 2
Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA December 2012 2 1
Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them in in You? June 2017 3 5
AutoKinship at GEDmatch by Genetic Affairs February 2022 4
442 Ancient Viking Skeletons Hold DNA Surprises – Does Your Y or Mitochondrial DNA Match? Daily Updates Here September 2020 5
The Origins of Zana of Abkhazia July 2021 6
Full or Half Siblings April 2019 7 15
Ancestry Rearranged the Furniture January 2022 8
DNA from 459 Ancient British Isles Burials Reveals Relationships – Does Yours Match? February 2022 9
DNA Inherited from Grandparents and Great-Grandparents January 2020 10
Ancestry Only Shows Shared Matches of 20 cM and Greater – What That Means & Why It Matters May 2022 11
How Much Indian Do I Have in Me??? June 2015 12 8
Top Ten RootsTech 2022 DNA Sessions + All DNA Session Links March 2022 13
FamilyTreeDNA DISCOVER Launches – Including Y DNA Haplogroup Ages June 2022 14
Ancient Ireland’s Y and Mitochondrial DNA – Do You Match??? November 2020 15

2023 Suggestions

I have a few articles already in the works for 2023, including some surprises. I’ll unveil one very soon.

We will be starting out with:

  • Information about RootsTech where I’ll be giving at least 7 presentations, in person, and probably doing a book signing too. Yes, I know, 7 sessions – what was I thinking? I’ve just missed everyone so very much.
  • An article about how accurately Ancestry’s ThruLines predicts Potential Ancestors and a few ways to prove, or disprove, accuracy.
  • The continuation of the “In Search Of” series.

As always, I’m open for 2023 suggestions.

In the comments, let me know what topics you’d like to see.

_____________________________________________________________

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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

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DNA Black Friday is Here

Yes, I know it’s not Friday yet, but the DNA Black Friday sales have started, and sale dates are limited, so here we go.

These are the best prices I’ve ever seen at both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage. If you’ve been waiting to purchase a DNA test for that special someone, there’s never been a better time.

Remember, to jump-start your genetic genealogy, test close or targeted relatives in addition to yourself:

  • Parents, or if both parents are not available, full and half-siblings
  • If neither parents nor siblings are available, your siblings’ descendants
  • Grandparents or descendants of your grandparents – aunts, uncles, or their descendants
  • Cousins descended from great-grandparents or other known ancestors
  • Y and mitochondrial DNA descendants of specific, targeted ancestors

For yourself, you’ll want to fish in all the ponds by taking an autosomal test or uploading a DNA file to each of the four vendors. Upload/download instructions are available here.

Everyone can test their own mitochondrial DNA to learn about your mother’s direct matrilineal line, and males can test their Y-DNA to unveil information about their patrilineal or surname line. Women, you can test your father’s, brother’s, or paternal uncle’s Y-DNA.

I’ve written a DNA explainer article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy, which you might find helpful. Please feel free to pass it on.

Vendor Offerings

FamilyTreeDNA

Free shipping within the US for orders of $79 or more

FamilyTreeDNA is the only major testing company that offers multiple types of tests, meaning Y-DNA, mitochondrial and autosomal. You can also get your toes wet with introductory level tests for Y DNA (37 and 111 marker tests), or you can go for the big gun right away with the Big Y-700.

This means that if you’ve purchased tests in the past, you can upgrade now. Upgrade pricing is shown below. Click here to sign on to your account to purchase an upgrade or additional product.

At FamilyTreeDNA, by taking advantage of autosomal plus Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA, you will get to know your ancestors in ways not possible elsewhere. You can even identify or track them using your myOrigins painted ethnicity segments.

FamilyTreeDNA divides your Family Finder matches maternal and paternally for you if you create or upload a tree and link known testers. How cool is this?!!!

MyHeritage

The MyHeritage DNA test is on sale for $36, the best autosomal test price I’ve ever seen anyplace.

MyHeritage has a significant European presence and I find European matches at MyHeritage that aren’t anyplace else. MyHeritage utilizes user trees and DNA matches to construct Theories of Family Relativity that shows how you and your matches may be related.

Remember, you can upload the raw data file from the MyHeritage DNA test to both FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch for free.

Free shipping on 2 kits or more.

This sale ends at the end-of-day on Black Friday.

You can combine your DNA test with a MyHeritage records subscription with a free trial, here.

Ancestry

The AncestryDNA test is $59, here. With Ancestry’s super-size DNA database, you’re sure to get lots of matches and hints via ThruLines.

You can get free shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

If you order an AncestryDNA test, you can upload the raw DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch for free. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not accept uploads from other vendors.

23andMe

The 23andMe Ancestry + Traits DNA test is $79, here. 23andMe is well known for its Ancestry Composition (ethnicity) results and one-of-a-kind genetic tree.

The 23andMe Ancestry + Traits + Health test is now $99, here.

You can get free shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

If you order either of the 23andMe tests, you can upload the raw data file to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch for free. Unfortunately, 23andMe does not accept uploads from other vendors.

Can’t Wait!!

This is always my favorite time of the year because I know that beginning soon, we will all be receiving lots of new matches from people who purchased or received DNA tests during the holiday season.

  • What can you do to enhance your genealogy?
  • Have you ordered Y and mitochondrial DNA tests for yourself and people who carry the Y and mitochondrial DNA of your ancestors?
  • Are you in all of the autosomal databases?
  • Who are you ordering tests for?

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Y DNA Genealogy Case Study: SNPs, STRs & Autosomal – Why the Big Y-700 Rocks!

An expanded version of this article, including the genealogical aspects written for the Speak family, is available here. There is significantly more DNA information and analysis in this article, including STR values and autosomal analysis which can sometimes augment Y DNA results.

In 2004, 18 years ago, I founded the Speak(e)(s) Family DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA in collaboration with the Speaks Family Association (SFA).

The goal of the Association broadly was to share research and to determine if, and how, the various Speak lines in America were related. The “rumor” was that the family was from England, but no one knew for sure. We didn’t even know who was actually “in” the family, or how many different families there might be.

The good news is that to answer these types of questions, you don’t need a huge study, and with today’s tools, you certainly don’t need 18 years. Don’t let that part scare you. In fact, any Speak(e)(s) man who takes a Y-DNA test today will have the answer plopped into his lap thanks to earlier testers.

When I established the Speaks DNA Project, our goal was stated, in part, as follows:

This project was begun to determine the various Speak(e)(s) lines around the world. According to family legend, the original ancestor came to England with William the Conqueror and his last name then was L’Espec. It was later spelled Speke and then the derivatives of Speake, Speak, Speakes, and Speaks carried by descendants today.

We knew there was a Thomas Speak (c1634-1681) who settled in St. Mary’s County, MD by 1661 and had two sons, John the InnKeeper or InnHolder (1665-1731) and Bowling (c1674-1755), named after his mother’s birth surname.

Fast forwarding two or three generations, my ancestor, Nicholas Speak or Speaks was born about 1782 and was first found in Washington County, Virginia in 1804 when he married Sarah Faires. That’s a long way from Maryland. Who was Nicholas? Who were his parents? How did Nicholas get to Washington County, Virginia? There aren’t any other Speaks men, or women, in Washington County. Was he dropped fully grown by the stork?

In 2005, I attended my first Speaks Family Association Convention and gave an introductory talk about Y-DNA. Speaks males volunteered to test.

By the 2006 Convention, we had 8 Y-DNA testers.

At first, everything was fine. Two testers each from Thomas the Immigrant through sons John and Bowling.

  • Thomas, Bowling and then two different sons. They matched.
  • Thomas, John, and his son Richard. They matched too.
  • All four men above match each other.

Everything’s good, right?

Not so fast…

Then, a father/son pair tested who were also supposed to descend from the Thomas, Bowling, and Thomas line. Thankfully, they matched each other, but they did NOT match the other descendants of Thomas the Immigrant.

Because we had multiple men through both of Thomas the Immigrant’s sons, we had confirmed the Y-DNA STR marker signature of Thomas – which means that the father/son pair had experienced a genetic disconnect, or, they were actually descended from a different Speak line.

That wasn’t all though. Two more men tested who believed they descended from Thomas the Immigrant through John and then Richard. They didn’t match each other, nor any of the other men either.

This was a difficult, painful situation, and not what was anticipated. Of course, I reviewed the results privately with the men involved before presenting them at the convention, and only did so with their permission.

In an effort to identify their genealogical lines, we discovered seven other mentions of early colonial Speak immigrants, including one named Thomas.

Over time, we would discover additional Y-DNA genetic Speak lines.

Bonus Cousin

Y-DNA also revealed an amazing new cousin, Henry, who didn’t know who his father was, but thanks to DNA, discovered he is a genetic Speaks AND identified his father.

In 2006, our Y-DNA haplogroup was known only as I1b1. We knew it was fairly rare and found in the rough Dinaric Alps border region between Bosnia and Croatia.

We weren’t wrong. We were just early. Our ancestors didn’t stop in the Alps.

Haplogroups have come a long way since that time.

Today, using the new maps in the Discover tool, the migration path into Europe-proper looks like this.

By the 2009 Convention, more Speaks men were taking Y-DNA tests, but we still had no idea where the Speaks line originated overseas.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail of Y-DNA testing is often a match with a man either from the “old country,” wherever that is, or someone who unquestionably knows where their ancestor is from. Through a match with them, other testers get to jump the pond too.

In early 2010, a man in New Zealand was interested in taking a Y-DNA test and knew where, in England, his ancestors originated.

A few weeks later, the New Zealand tester matched our Thomas Speaks, the Immigrant, line, which meant our ancestors might be from where his ancestors were from. Where was that?

Gisburn.

Gisburn? Where the heck was Gisburn?

Gisburn

Gisburn is a tiny, ancient village in Lancashire, England located in the Ribble Valley on the old Roman road. It appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ghiseburne and is believed to have been established in the 9th century.

This was no longer speculation or unsourced oral history, but actual genetic evidence.

We knew that Thomas Speake, the Immigrant, was Catholic. Maryland was a safe haven for Catholics hoping to escape persecution in England.

Thomas was rumored to have been born to a John, but we had no idea where that rumor arose.

Was our Thomas born in Gisburn too?

Shortly, we discovered that St. Mary’s Church in Gisburn held 50 marked Speaks burials in addition to many unmarked graves.

Next, we discovered that the records of St. Mary’s and All Saints Church in Whalley, eleven miles from Gisburn, held pages and pages of Speak family records. The earliest Speak burial there was in 1540.

In 2011, the SFA Convention was held near Thomas and Bowlng Speak’s land in Charles County, Maryland. My Convention presentation contained a surprise – the information about our Gisburn match, and what we had found. A Y-DNA match, plus church records, and graves. How could that get better?

I showed this cemetery map from St. Mary’s Church in Gisburn, where our New Zealand cousin’s family was buried.

It felt like we were so excruciatingly close, but still so far away.

We knew unquestionably that we were in the neighborhood, but where was our Thomas born?

Who was his family?

I closed with this photo of St. Mary’s in Gisburn and famously said, “I don’t know about you, but I want to stand there.”

It was a throw-away comment, or so I thought, but as it turned out, it wasn’t.

2013 – The Trip Home

Gisburn

Two years later, our Convention was held in Lancashire, and indeed, I got to stand there.

So did our Speak cousin from New Zealand whose Y-DNA test bulldozed this brick wall for us. To be clear, had this ONE PERSON not tested, we would NOT have known where to dig for records, or where to visit.

St. Mary’s Church was surrounded by the cemetery, with many Speak stones. The church itself was built as a defensive structure sometime before 1135 with built-in arrowslits for archers in many locations, including the tower. Our family history was thick and rich here.

St. Mary’s Church in Whalley

Our next stop was St. Mary’s Church in Whalley, where Henry Speke was granted a lease in 1540.

This church is ancient, built in the 1200s, replacing an earlier church in the same location, and stunningly beautiful.

The little green men carved into the wooden choir seats are a wink and a nod to an earlier pagan era. Our ancestors would have known that era too.

In addition to the churches in Gisburn and Whalley, we visited St. Leonard’s Church in Downham which is a chapelry of the church in Whalley.

Downham

This church, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, proved to be quite important to our hunt for family.

Downham, on the north side of Pendle Hill was small then, and remains a crossroad village today with a population of about 150 people, including Twiston.

Twiston is located less than 3 miles away, yet it’s extremely remote, at the foot or perhaps on the side of Pendle Hill.

During our visit, Lord Clitheroe provided us with a transcription of the Downham church records wherein one Thomas Speak was baptized on January 1, 1633/34, born to Joannis, the Latin form of John, in nearby Twiston.

Is this Thomas our Thomas the Immigrant who was born about that same time? We still don’t know. There are clues but they are inconclusive and some conflict with each other.

Records in this area are incomplete. A substantial battle was fought in Whalley in 1643. Churches were often used for quartering soldiers and horses. Minister’s notes could well have been displaced, or books destroyed entirely. There could easily have been more than one Thomas born about this time.

Probate files show that in 1615, “John Speake of Twiston, husbandman” mentions his son William and William’s children, including John who was the administrator of his will. For John to be an administrator, he had to be age 21 or over, so born in 1594 or earlier. Some John Speak married Elizabeth Biesley at Whalley in 1622 and is believed to be the John Speak Sr. recorded in Downham Parish Registers.

The Whalley, Gisburn, and Twiston Speake families are closely connected. The difference may well be that our Thomas’s line remained secretly Catholic, so preferred the “uninhabited” areas of the remote Twiston countryside. Even today, Gisburn is described as being “rural, surrounded by hilly and relatively unpopulated areas.” And that’s Gisburn, with more than 500 residents. Downham is much smaller, about 20% of the size of Gisburn.

What do we know about Twiston?

Twiston

Twiston is too small to even be called a hamlet. The original farm and corn mill was owned originally by Whalley Abbey at least since the 1300s and stands near an old lime kiln, probably in use since Roman times.

This is where you know the earth holds the DNA of your ancestors, and their blood watered the landscape.

When the Speak family lived here, it was considered a “wild and lawless region” by local authorities, probably due in part to its remoteness – not to mention the (ahem) rebellious nature of the inhabitants.

If you were a Catholic, living in a hotbed of “recussants,” and trying to be invisible, Twiston, nestled at the base of Pendle Hill would be a location where you might be able to successfully disappear among those of like mind.

Yes, of course, you’d show up, hold your nose, and baptize your baby in the Anglican church because you needed to, but then you would retreat into the deep hillside woodlands until another mandatory church appearance was required.

The road to Twiston was twisty, rock-lined, and extremely narrow, with rock walls on both sides. If only these ancient buildings and stone walls could speak, share their stories, and reveal their secrets.

Old documents, however, do provide some insight.

This document, originally penned in Latin, was provided by the Lancashire archives.

John Speak, in 1609, was a farmer, with a house (messauge), garden, orchard, 10 acres of farmland, 5 of meadow, and 10 acres of pasture.

Indeed, Twiston is where John Speak lived. If the Thomas born in Twiston to Joannis, Latin for John, in 1633 and baptized on January 1, 1633/34 in old St. Leonard’s Church in Downham is our Thomas, this is his birth location.

For our family, this is, indeed, hallowed ground.

Local Testers

Prior to our visit, we published small ads in local newspapers and contacted historical societies. We found several Speak(e)(s) families and invited them to dinner where the after-dinner speaker explained all about DNA testing. You probably can’t see them clearly, but there are numerous DNA kits lying on the table, just waiting for people to have a swab party.

Our guests brought their family histories, and one of those families traced their line to…you guessed it…Twiston.

Five men from separate Speak families tested. None of them knew of any connection between their families, and all presumed they were not related.

I carried those men’s DNA tests back in my hand luggage like the gold that they were.

They were wrong. All five men matched each other’s Y-DNA and our Thomas Speake line. We got busy connecting the dots genealogically, as best we could given the paucity of extant records.

  • Two of our men descended from Henry Speak born in 1650 who married Alice Hill and lived in Downham/Twiston.
  • Two of our men descended from John Speak born about 1540 who married Elina Singleton and lived in Whalley.
  • Two of our men, including our New Zealand tester, descend from John born sometime around 1700, probably in Gisburn where his son, James, was born about 1745.

We indeed confirmed that we had found our way “home” and that our Speake family has lived there a long time. But how long?

2022 DNA Analysis

Today, the Speaks family DNA Project has 146 members comprised of:

  • 105 autosomal testers
  • 32 Speak Y-DNA testers
  • 24 of whom are Thomas the Immigrant descendants
  • 8 Big Y testers

Over the years, we’ve added another goal. We need to determine HOW a man named Aaron Lucky Speaks is related to the rest of us.

Autosomal DNA confirms that Aaron Luckey is related, but we need more information.

Aaron Lucky is first found in 1787 purchasing land and on the 1790 Iredell County, NC census. We finally located a Y-DNA tester and confirmed that his paternal line is indeed the Lancashire Speaks line, but how?

After discovering that all 5 Lancashire Speaks men descend from the same family as Thomas the Immigrant, we spent a great deal of time trying to both sort them out, and tie the family lines together using STR 25-111 markers, with very limited success.

Can Y-DNA make that connection for us, even though the records can’t?

Yes, but we needed to upgrade several testers, preferably multiple people from each line to the Big Y-700 test.

The Y-DNA Block Tree

When men take or upgrade to a Big Y-700 DNA test, they receive the most detailed information possible, including all available (700+) STR markers plus the most refined haplogroup, including newly discovered mutations in their own test, placing them as a leaf on the very tip of their branch of the tree of mankind.

The only other men “in that branch neighborhood” are their closest relatives. Sometimes they match exactly and are sometimes separated by a single or few mutations. Testers with 30 or fewer mutations difference are shown on the Block Tree by name. Eight Speaks men have taken or upgraded to the Big Y test, providing information via matching that we desperately needed.

This Big Y block tree view shown below is from the perspective of a descendant of Nicholas Speaks (b1782) and includes the various mutations that define branches, shown as building blocks. Each person shown on the Block Tree is a match to the tester with 30 or fewer mutations difference.

Think of haplogroups as umbrellas. Each umbrella shelters and includes everything beneath it.

At the top of this block tree, we have one solid blue block that forms an umbrella over all three branches beneath it. The top mutation name is I-BY14004, which is the haplogroup name associated with that block.

We have determined that all of the Speak men descended from the Lancashire line are members of haplogroup I-BY14004 and therefore, fall under that umbrella. The other haplogroup names in the same block mean that as other men test, a new branch may split off beneath the I-BY14004 branch.

Next, let’s look at the blue block at far left.

The Lancashire men, meaning those who live there, plus our New Zealand tester, also carry additional mutations that define haplogroup I-BY14009, which means that our Thomas the Immigrant line split off from theirs before that mutation was formed.

They all have that mutation, and Thomas didn’t, but he has a mutation that they don’t. This is how the tree forms branches.

Thomas the Immigrant’s line has the mutation defining haplogroup I-FTA21638, forming an umbrella over both of Thomas the Immigrant’s sons – meaning descendants of both sons carry this mutation.

Bowling’s line is defined by haplogroup I-BY215064, but John’s line does not carry this mutation, so John’s descendants are NOT members of this haplogroup, which turns out to be quite important.

We are very fortunate that one of Thomas’s sons, Bowling, developed a mutation, because it allows us to differentiate between Bowling and his brother, John’s, descendants easily if testers take the Big Y test.

Those teal Private Variants are haplogroups-in-waiting, meaning that when someone else tests, and matches that variant, it will be named and become a haplogroup, splitting the tree in that location by forming a new branch.

Aaron Luckey Speak

As you can see, the descendants of Aaron Lucky Speak, bracketed in blue above, carry the Bowling line mutation, so Aaron Luckey descends from one of Bowling’s sons. That makes sense, especially since two of Bowling’s grandsons are also found in Iredell County during the same timeframe and are candidates to be Aaron Luckey’s father.

Here’s a different view of the Big Y testers along with STR Y-DNA testers in a spreadsheet that I maintain.

Thomas the Immigrant (tan band top row) is shown with son, Bowling, who carries haplogroup BY215064. Bowling’s descendants are tan too, near the bottom.

Thomas’s son, John the InnKeeper, shown in the blue bar does NOT have the BY215064 mutation that defines Bowling’s group.

However, the bright green Aaron Lucky line, disconnected at far right, does have the Bowling mutation, BY215064, so this places Aaron Luckey someplace beneath Bowling, meaning his descendant. We just don’t know where he fits yet. The key word is yet.

Can STR Markers Be Utilized for Lineage Grouping?

Sometimes we can utilize STR marker mutations for subgrouping within haplogroups, but in this case, we cannot because STR mutations in this family have:

  • Occurred independently in different lines
  • Potentially back mutated

Between both of these issues, STR mutations are inconsistent and, therefore, in this case, entirely unreliable. I have found this phenomenon repeatedly in DNA projects that I manage where the genealogy line of descent is known and documented.

Let’s analyze the STR mutations.

I’ve created a table based on our 26 Y-DNA testers. However, not everyone tested at 111 markers, so there is a mix.

You can view the Speak DNA Project results, here.

I’ve divided the testers into the same groupings indicated by genealogy combined with the Big Y SNP mutations, which do agree with each other. Those groups are:

  • The Lancaster men that never left, except for the New Zealand tester whose ancestor left just two generations ago. They all share a defining SNP which provides them with an identifying haplogroup that the American line does not have.
  • The Thomas the Immigrant line through son Bowling.
    • The Aaron Luckey line who descends, somehow, from Bowling.
  • The Thomas the Immigrant line through son John the InnKeeper.
  • Two men who have provided no genealogy

We already know that Aaron Luckey descends from Bowling, somehow, but I’m keeping them separate just in case STR values can be helpful.

Let’s look at a total of five STR markers where multiple descendants have experienced mutations and see if we can discern any message. The mutations in the bright yellow Lancashire groups on the project page are summarized and analyzed in the chart, below.

You read the chart below, as follows:

  • For marker DYS-19, the testers who have a value of 16 – then the numbers indicated the number of testers in that group with that value. The Lancaster group has 5, the Bowling group has 7, the Aaron Luckey group has 4, and so forth.
  • The next row, colored the same, shows the value of 17 for marker DYS19.
  • Rows for values of the same marker are colored the same.

This chart does not include several markers where there are one-offs, meaning one mutation in the entire group, or one in each of two different groups that are different from each other. This chart includes markers with mutations that occur in multiple descendants only.

If these mutations were predictive and could be used for lineage assignment, we would expect to see the same mutation only within one of the lines, descended from a common ancestor, consistently, and not scattered across multiple lines.

Let’s start our analysis with the only marker that may be consistently predictive in this group. Marker DYS389ii has an ancestral value of 28, We know this because that value is consistently found in all of the Speaks descendants. A value of 29 is ONLY found in the 4 descendants of Aaron Luckey, and the value of 29 is consistently found in all of his known descendants who have tested. Therefore, it could be predictive.

However, given the nature of STR mutations, it’s difficult to place a lot of confidence in STR-based lineage predictions. Let’s look at the other four markers.

  • Marker DYS19 has a value of 16 in every line, which would be the ancestral value. However, we also find a mutation of 17 in 1 of Bowling’s children, and in 2 of John the InnKeeper’s descendants. That can’t be lineage-defining.
  • Looking at the CDY a/b marker, we find one instance of 35/36, which is a one-off. I wouldn’t have included it if I wasn’t using the other two combinations as examples. The values of 36/36 are found in every line except for the one with no genealogy and only one person has tested at 111 markers. A value of 36/37 is found in only the Bowling line, but not the Aaron Luckey line. The MRCA, or most recent common ancestor between the Bowling descendants is his son, Thomas of Zachia. The best candidates for Aaron Luckey’s father are two of Thomas of Zachia’s sons, but his descendants have a hodgepodge mixture of the two values, so this, again, cannot be a lineage-defining marker.
  • Looking at DYS534, we see a 15 in one of Bowling’s descendants and in 4 of John the InnKeeper’s descendants. Obviously not lineage-specific. There’s a value of 16 in every line which would be ancestral.
  • A value of 33 at DYS710 is found in every lineage, so would be the ancestral value. The value of 34 is found once in each line except for Bowling, which precludes it from being lineage-defining.

Inconsistent lineage results is one of the best reasons to purchase or upgrade to the Big Y-700 test.

Unfortunately, STR placement and lineage determination can be very deceptive and lead genealogists astray. At one time, we didn’t have advanced tools like the Big Y, but today we do.

STR Tests Are Useful When…

To be clear, STR marker tests, meaning the 37 and 111 marker tests available for purchase today, ARE very useful for:

  • Matching other testers
  • Identifying surnames of interest
  • Ruling out a connection, meaning determining that you don’t match a particular line
  • Introductory testing with limited funds that provides matching, a high-level haplogroup, and additional tools. You can always upgrade to the Big Y-700 test.

However, the Big Y-700 is necessary to place groups of people reliably into lineages and determine relationships accurately.

In some cases, autosomal DNA is useful, but in this case, autosomal doesn’t augment Y-DNA due, in part, to record loss and incomplete genealogy in the generations following Thomas of Zachia.

Family Finder Autosomal Analysis

In total, we have the following total Family Finder testers whose genealogy is confirmed:

  • 8 Aaron Luckey
  • 6 Lancashire testers
  • 15 John the InnKeeper testers
  • 33 Bowling testers

An autosomal analysis shows that Aaron Luckey Speak’s descendants match each other (green to green) most closely than they match either of Thomas the Immigrant’s sons, Bowling (tan) or John’s (blue) descendants. We would expect Aaron Luckey’s descendants to match each other the most closely, of course.

The numbers in the cells are total matching centiMorgans/longest segment cM match.

Click on any image to enlarge

Aaron Luckey’s descendants don’t collectively match John or Bowling’s descendants more closely than the other group using centiMorgans as the comparison. Although they match more of Bowling’s descendants (21%) than John’s (13%). This too would be expected since we know Aaron Luckey descends from Bowling’s line, not John’s.

At best, Aaron Luckey’s descendants are 8 or 9 generations removed from a common ancestor with other descendants of Thomas of Zachia, making them 6th or 7th cousins, plus another couple of generations back to Thomas the Immigrant. We can’t differentiate genetically between sibling ancestors or cousin lines at this distance.

Furthermore, we have a large gap in known descendants beneath Thomas of Zachia, other than Charles Beckworth Speak’s son Nicholas’s line. We have at least that many other testers in the project who don’t can’t confirm their Speaks ancestral lineage.

Combining genetic and genealogy information, we know that both Charles Beckworth Speak and Thomas Bowling Speak, in yellow, are found in Iredell County, NC. The children of Thomas of Zachia, shown in purple, are born in the 1730s and any one of them could potentially be the father of Aaron Luckey.

The men in green, including William, Bowling’s other son, are also candidates to be Aaron Luckey’s ancestor, although the two yellow men are more likely due to geographic proximity. They are both found in Iredell County.

We don’t know anything about William’s children, if any, nor much about Edward. John settled in Kentucky. Nicholas (green) stayed in Maryland.

There may be an additional generation between Charles Beckworth Speak (yellow) and Nicholas (born 1782), also named Charles. There’s a lot of uncertainty in this part of the tree.

It seems that Aaron’s middle name of Lucky is likely to be very significant. Aaron Luckey’s descendants may be able to search their autosomal matches for a Luckey family, found in both Iredell County AND Maryland, which may assist with further identification and may help identify Aaron’s father.

If all of the Speak men who took STR tests would upgrade to the Big Y, it’s probable that more branches would be discovered through those Private Variants, and it’s very likely that Aaron Luckey could be much more accurately placed on the tree. Another Aaron Luckey Speak Big Y-700 DNA tester would be useful too.

Connecting the Genetic Dots in England

What can we discern about the Speak family in the US and in Lancashire?

Reaching back in time, before Thomas the Immigrant was born about 1633, what can we tell about the Speak family, how they are connected, and when?

The recently introduced Discover tool allows us to view Y-DNA haplogroups and when they were born, meaning when the haplogroup-defining mutation occurred.

The Time Tree shows the haplogroups, in black above the profile dots. The scientifically calculated approximate dates of when those haplogroups were “born,” meaning when those mutations occurred, are found across the top.

I’ve added genealogical information, in red, at right.

  • Reading from the bottom red dot, Bowling’s haplogroup was born about the year 1660. Bowling was indeed born in 1674, so that’s VERY close
  • Moving back in time, Thomas’s haplogroup was born about 1617, and Thomas himself was born about 1633, but his birth certainly could have been a few years earlier.
  • The Lancashire testers’ common haplogroup was born about 1636, and the earliest known ancestor of those men is Henry, born in Twiston in 1650.
  • The common Speak ancestor of BOTH the Lancashire line and the Thomas the Immigrant line was born about 1334. The earliest record of any Speak was Henry Speke, of Whalley, born before 1520.

The lines of Thomas the Immigrant and the Lancashire men diverged sometime between about 1334, when the umbrella mutation for all Speaks lines was born, and about 1617 when we know the mutation defining the Thomas the Immigrant line formed and split off from the Lancashire line.

But that’s not all.

Surprise!

As I panned out and viewed the block tree more broadly, I noticed something.

This is quite small and difficult to read, so let me explain. At far left is the branch for our Speaks men. The common ancestor of that group was born about 1334 CE, meaning “current era,” as we’ve discussed.

Continuing up the tree, we see that the next haplogroup umbrella occurs about 1009 CE, then the year 850 at the top is the next umbrella, encompassing everything beneath.

Looking to the right, the farthest right blocks date to 1109 CE, then 1318 CE, then progressing on down the tree branch to the bottom, I see one surname in three separate blocks.

What is that name?

Here, let me enlarge the chart for you!

Standish.

The name is Standish, as in Myles Standish, the Pilgrim.

Miles is our relative, and even though he has a different surname, we share a common ancestor, probably before surnames were adopted. Our genetic branches divided about the year 1000.

The Discover tool also provides Notable Connections for each haplogroup, so I entered one of the Speaks haplogroups, and sure enough, the closest Speak Notable Connection is Myles Standish 1584-1656.

And look, there’s the Standish Pew in Chorley, another church that we visited during our Lancashire trip because family members of Thomas Speake’s Catholic wife, Elizabeth Bowling, are found in the Chorley church records.

Our common ancestor with the Standish line was born in about the year 850. Our line split off, as did the Standish line about the year 1000. That’s about 1000 years ago, or 30-40 generations.

Our family names are still found in the Chorley church records

Ancient Connections

The Discover tool also provides Ancient Connections from archaeological digs, by haplogroup.

Sure enough, there’s an ancient sample on the Time Tree named Heslerton 20641.

Checking the Discover Ancient Connections, the man named Heslerton 20641 is found in West Heslerton, Yorkshire, and lived about the year 450-650, based on carbon dating.

The mutation identifying the common ancestor between the Speak/Standish men and Heslerton occurred about 2450 BCE, or 4500 years ago. Twiston and West Heslerton are only 83 miles apart.

Where Are We?

What have we learned from the information discovered through genealogy combined with Big Y testing?

  • We found a Speek family in Whalley in 1385.
  • One of our Lancashire testers descends from a John born about 1540 in Whalley.
  • One of our Lancashire testers descends from Henry born about 1650 in Downham/Twiston
  • Thomas Speake was baptized in Downham and born in Twiston in 1733.
  • Our New Zealand tester’s ancestor was found in Gisburn, born about 1745.

All of these locations are within 15 miles of each other.

  • Chorley, where the Standish family is found in the 1500s is located 17 miles South of Whalley. Thomas Speake’s wife, Elizabeth Bowlings’ family is found in the Chorley church records.

What about the L’Espec origin myth?

  • The Speak family clearly did not arrive in 1066 with the Normans.
  • We have no Scandinavian DNA matches.
  • No place is the surname spelled L’Espec in any Lancashire regional records.
  • The Speak family is in the Whalley/Chorley area by 1000 when the Speak/Standish lines diverged
  • The common ancestor with the Standish family lived about the year 850, although that could have occurred elsewhere. Clearly, their common ancestor was in the Chorley/Whalley area by 1000 when their lines diverged.

The cemetery at Whalley includes Anglo-Saxon burials, circa 800-900. The Speak men, with no surname back then, greeted William the Conqueror and lived to tell the tale, along with their Standish cousins, of course. This, in essence, tells us that they were useful peasants, working the land and performing other labor tasks, and not landed gentry.

Little is known of Lancashire during this time, but we do know more generally that the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people, arrived in the 5th century when there was little else in this region.

Are our ancestors buried in these and other early Anglo-Saxon graves? I’d wager that the answer is yes. We are likely related one way or another to every family who lived in this region over many centuries.

Y-DNA connected the dots between recent cousins, connected them to their primary line in America, provided a lifeline back to Twiston, Whalley, and Gisburn, and then to the Anglo-Saxons – long before surnames.

Aaron Luckey Speak’s descendants now know that he descends, somehow, from Bowling, likely through one of two sons of Thomas of Zachia. They don’t have the entire answer yet, but they are within two generations, a lot closer than they were before.

And this, all of this, was a result of Big-Y DNA tests. We could not have accomplished any of this without Y-DNA testing.

Our ancestors are indeed speaking across the ages.

We found the road home, that path revealed by the DNA of our ancestors. You can find your road home too.

_____________________________________________________________

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The Ancestors are SPEAKing: An 18-Year Y-DNA Study That Led Us Home – 52 Ancestors #381

In 2004, 18 years ago, I founded the Speak(e)(s) Family DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA. I descend from Nicholas Speaks through his son, Charles Speaks.

Some two decades before, I had met my wonderful cousin, Dolores Ham, by snail mail. We were introduced by Mary Parkey (1927-2000), a genealogist in the Cumberland Gap region who seemed to know something, if not everything, about the early settler families.

Mary wasn’t my cousin through the Speaks line, but she knew who was researching each line, and put me in touch with Dolores.

I met other researchers and discovered that a Speaks Family Association (SFA) had been formed in 1979.

I had a young family at the time, so I joined, but never attended any of the annual meetings, known as conventions, until 2005. I did enjoy the newsletters, however. It was always a good day when a newsletter or a letter from a cousin was waiting in the mailbox.

The goal of the Association was to share research and to determine if, and how, the various Speak lines in America were related. The “rumor” was that the family was from England, but no one knew for sure. We didn’t even know who was actually “in” the family, or how many different families there might be.

In 2004, when I established the Speaks DNA Project in collaboration with the SFA, our goal was stated, in part, as follows:

This project was begun to determine the various Speak(e)(s) lines around the world. According to family legend, the original ancestor came to England with William the Conqueror and his last name then was L’Espec. It was later spelled Speke and then the derivatives of Speake, Speakes, and Speaks carried by descendants today.

We knew that there was a Speak family in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Did our ”Nicholas” line descend from Maryland, or not?

We knew there was a Thomas Speak (c1634-1681) who settled there by 1661 and had two sons, John the InnKeeper or InnHolder (1665-1731) and Bowling (c1674-1755), named after his mother’s birth surname.

Fast forwarding two or three generations, our Nicholas Speak or Speaks was born about 1782 and was first found in Washington County, Virginia in 1804 when he married Sarah Faires. That’s a long way from Maryland. Who was Nicholas? Who were his parents? How did Nicholas get to Washington County, Virginia? There aren’t any other Speaks men, or women, in Washington County. Was he dropped fully grown by the stork?

In 2005, I attended my first Speaks Family Association Convention, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and met my lovely cousins who I’m quite close to. I gave an introductory talk about Y-DNA, and several Speaks males volunteered to test, including a descendant of Nicholas.

I was ecstatic, but within a year, we had a, well, “problem.”

In 2006, the Convention was held in Alabama, in the heat of summer. Not only did we have technology issues and lose power during the presentation, part of me hoped it wouldn’t come back on.

At that point, we had 8 Y-DNA testers.

At first, everything was fine. Two testers each from Thomas the immigrant through sons John and Bowling.

  • Thomas, Bowling and then two different sons. They matched.
  • Thomas, John, and his son Richard. They matched too.
  • All four men above, match each other.

Everything’s good, right?

Not so fast…

Then, a father/son pair tested who were also supposed to descend from the Thomas, Bowling, and Thomas line. Thankfully, they matched each other, but they did NOT match the other descendants of Thomas the immigrant.

Because we had multiple men through both of Thomas the immigrant’s sons, we had confirmed the Y-DNA STR marker signature of Thomas – which means that the father/son pair had experienced a genetic disconnect, or, they were actually descended from a different Speak line.

That wasn’t all though. Two more men tested who believed they descended from Thomas the immigrant through John and then Richard. They didn’t match each other, nor any of the other men either.

This was a difficult, painful situation, and not what was anticipated. Of course, I reviewed the results privately with the men involved before presenting them at the convention, and only did so with their permission.

In an effort to identify their genealogical lines, we discovered seven other mentions of early colonial Speak immigrants, including one named Thomas.

Over time, we would discover additional Y-DNA genetic Speak lines.

Bonus Cousin

Y-DNA also revealed an amazing new cousin, Henry, who didn’t know who his father was, but thanks to DNA, discovered he is a genetic Speaks AND identified his father.

Unfortunately, his father had recently passed away, but Henry contacted his uncle and was welcomed into his immediate family, as well as our broader Speaks family. Talk about life-changing! I will never, ever forget Henry’s emotional journey, or the small role I was privileged to play. For a long time, I couldn’t even tell his story without tearing up.

I met Henry in person for the first time at the convention last week. Lots of hugs all around!

In 2006, our Y-DNA haplogroup was known only as I1b1. We knew it was fairly rare and found in the rough Dinaric Alps border region between Bosnia and Croatia.

By User:Doron – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1551217

We weren’t wrong. We were just early. Our ancestors didn’t stop in the Alps.

Today, the migration path into Europe-proper looks like this.

In 2009, the convention was held in the Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church founded by the Reverend Nicholas Speaks, in Lee County, Virginia.

My dear cousin, Lola Margaret Speak Hall descends from Nicholas through two of his children and visited us as Nicholas’s wife, Sarah Faires, describing their lives together.

I can’t even begin to describe how moving it was to hear “Sarah” read from her Bible and recall her life with Nicholas and each of their children, especially those she buried across the road in the cemetery.

The cemetery was visible through the door as Sarah was speaking, describing Nicholas preaching their children’s funerals, and the sound of the clods of dirt hitting their coffins.

That reunion in Nicholas’s church was memorable for another reason, too. I was baptized, surrounded by my family, in my ancestor’s church.

Progress

More Speaks men were taking Y-DNA tests, but we still had no idea where the Speaks line originated overseas.

The Association had been working with John Speake in Cambridge, England, above, who had been assisting the American Speak family by obtaining British records. We had hoped that we would match his Y-DNA, because that would mean that we shared a common ancestor, probably from Priestweston, Shropshire in the 1500s. Plus, we really liked John and wanted to be related.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case, so we knew one English family we did NOT descend from, but we still didn’t know where our family line was from. We are, however, eternally grateful to John for his amazing research and the critical role he would play.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail of Y-DNA testing is often a match with a man either from the “old country,” wherever that is, or someone who unquestionably knows where their ancestor is from. Through a match with them, it allows other testers to jump the pond too.

In early 2010, John Speake in Cambridge reached out to me and said that he had found an anonymous man in New Zealand who was agreeable to taking a DNA test.

By this time, I wasn’t terribly hopeful, but John sweetened those waters by telling me that this man’s family had only been in New Zealand for two generations – and he knew where his ancestors “back home” were from.

I ordered a test for our anonymous tester.

I had nearly forgotten about this man a few weeks later when I suddenly received what seemed like a slot machine jackpot clanging when an entire series of emails arrived, one for each of our Y-DNA testers, saying they had a new match. Yep, our anonymous NZ tester.

Suddenly, I cared a whole lot about his genealogy.

Where was his paternal ancestral line from?

Gisburn.

Gisburn? Where the heck was Gisburn?

Gisburn

Gisburn is a tiny village in Lancashire, England.

This antiquarian map shows “Gisborn” located along the Ribble River. Gisburn is ancient, located on the old Roman road, appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ghiseburne, and is believed to have been established in the 9th century.

This was beginning to get serious. This is no longer speculation or unsourced oral history, but actual evidence.

Another cousin, Susan Speake Sills, a DAR Chapter Regent, started digging immediately. Nothing motivates genealogists like the imminent hope of breaking down a brick wall.

Susan and I shot emails back and forth, night and day, for three or four days, and confirmed that our New Zealand cousin’s ancestor, James Speak, had been born in Gisburn between 1735-1749.

We knew, or though we knew, that Thomas Speake, the immigrant, was Catholic. Maryland was a safe haven for Catholics hoping to escape persecution in England.

Thomas was rumored to have been born to a John, but we had no idea where that rumor arose.

Was our Thomas born in Gisburn too?

Susan discovered that St. Mary’s Church in Gisburn held 50 marked Speaks burials.

In 1602/03, William in Gisburn had a son named John.

We found men named Richard, Stephen, John, William, Thomas and more.

And, there were many unmarked graves and unreadable stones.

Susan was just getting started.

Next, Susan discovered that the records of St. Mary’s and All Saints Church in Whalley held pages and pages of Speak family records.

The earliest Speak burial there was in 1540.

During this timeframe, people did not have the right to come and go freely. They were vassals, tied to the land.

Whalley is 11 miles from Gisburn.

Susan and I were fairly quiet as we worked, because we did NOT want to start any unfounded rumors by speaking too soon in the heat of our excitement. We were desperately trying to connect elusive dots.

In 2011, the Convention was held near Thomas and Bowlng Speak’s land in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, our ancestral homeland in America.

Thomas the immigrant settled in Port Tobacco sometime before 1661 and would have attended St. Ignatius Church at St. Thomas Manor where he was probably buried after his death in 1681, in what is now an unmarked grave.

I wonder if Thomas stood in the churchyard, perhaps during funerals, and gazed out over the Port Tobacco River which of course empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and wondered about the family members he had left behind, across the expansive ocean.

Thomas willed his land to his eldest son, John, who was an InnKeeper in Port Tobacco.

His younger son, Bowling Speak had to secure land on his own. He obtained land generally known as Zachia Manor.

This portion of the grant was specifically called “The Mistake,” although we have no idea why, which is owned in part today by St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

The land where the church actually stands was not owned by Bowling, just the attached land beginning about where the bus is parked and extending into the woods beside Jordan’s Run.

The old St. Peter’s cemetery, where the original church stood, is located nearby, just outside the boundary of Bowling and his son, Thomas of Zachia’s land.

It’s likely that our ancestors, Bowling and his son, Thomas, who died in 1755, within days of each other, and their wives, are buried here.

We gathered on Bowling’s land called Speaks Enlargement, adjacent The Mistake. It felt like Nirvana to have located his land and obtained permission to visit both parcels.

Me, Susan Speake Sills, Lola-Margaret Speak Hall and Joyce Candland, a descendant of John the InnKeeper, standing on Bowling’s land. We laughed so much that day as we explored Bowling and Thomas’s land, cherishing our time together.

Lola-Margaret’s heart-felt kiss of gratitude for this discovery says it all – for all of us. The only difference is that she actually had the hutzpah to do this!

Cousins on the prowl. What would we discover?

Susan found old, unmarked graves in the woods.

Lola-Margaret and I found rocks that had once been owned by Thomas and Bowling.

In 2011, my Convention presentation contained a surprise – the information about our Gisburn match, and what we had found. Church records, and graves.

I showed this cemetery map from St. Mary’s in Gisburn, where our New Zealand cousin’s family was buried.

It felt like we were so excruciatingly close, but still so far away.

We knew unquestionably that we were in the neighborhood, but where was our Thomas born?

Who was his family?

I closed with this photo of St. Mary’s in Gisburn and famously said, “I don’t know about you, but I want to stand there.”

It was a throw-away comment, or so I thought, but as it turned out, it wasn’t.

2013 – The Trip Home

Gisburn

Cousins Susan and Mary Speaks Hentschel left no stone unturned. Two years later, our Convention was held in Lancashire, and indeed, I got to stand there.

So did our Speak cousin from New Zealand whose Y-DNA test bulldozed this brick wall for us.

We were then, and remain, incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity.

Of course, I couldn’t resist the St. Mary’s cemetery, nor the cemeteries at the other churches we would visit. It must be something about being a genealogist. There are still Speak family members being buried here.

There are many ancient and unmarked graves as well.

With abundant rainfall, cemeteries overgrow quickly.

It’s common for stones to be moved to the side, or even built into a wall, in order to facilitate maintenance of the grounds.

St. Mary’s church itself was built as a defensive structure sometime before 1135 with these arrowslits for archers in many locations, including the tower.

The Stirk House

During our visit, we stayed at the beautiful Stirk House in the Ribble Valley, a 17th century manor house and the only local lodging available for a group.

We discovered after we checked in that the Speak family had owned this property in the 1930s and had converted it into a hotel. How lucky could we be? Talk about synchronicity!

The Stirk House was originally built in 1635 using stone from the dismantled Sawley Abbey during Henry VIII’s reign and the resulting dissolution of the monasteries. Our Catholic ancestors would have witnessed this devastation, and probably grieved the destruction deeply.

For some reason, I was incredibly moved as we passed the remains of Sawley Abbey during our visit, and grabbed a shot through the rain-speckled window. At this point, I had no inkling of the historical connection that would emerge.

Whalley Abbey

Whalley Abbey, above, was destroyed as well in the Protestant attempt to eradicate Catholicism. Instead, they succeeded in driving it underground.

As our ancestors’ lives revolved around churches and religion, so did our visit as we retraced their steps through time.

While the stones of Sawley Abbey were repurposed to build local structures after its destruction, the Whalley Abbey and cloister walls, above, still stand, albeit in ruins.

The Abbey, formed in 1178, is shown in ruins here in this 1787 drawing. The village of Whalley is visible in the background, at right, with the church tower evident.

The Abbey spring, believed by some to be sacred, is fenced for protection today.

This trip was truly the opportunity of a lifetime and we tried to take advantage of every minute, absorbing everything our ancestors would have experienced, walking in their footsteps.

I didn’t fully grasp at that time that we weren’t hunting for “the” location or locations where our ancestors trod, but that they trod everyplace here. Wherever we walked, it was in their footsteps.

St. Mary’s Church in Whalley

Our next stop was St. Mary’s Church in Whalley, not far from the Abbey, where Henry Speke was granted a lease in 1540.

This church is ancient, build in the 1200s, replacing an earlier church, and stunningly beautiful.

Our trip group photo was taken inside St. Mary’s.

As we sat in the choir, our guide explained the history of the church, which is our history too.

The little green men carved into the wooden choir seats are a wink and a nod to an earlier pagan era. Our ancestors would have known that era too.

We sat in the pews where earlier generations of Speaks families sat. The boxed, enclosed pews were for the wealthy manor owners. Our family wouldn’t have been sitting there.

The original St. Mary’s church, shown in this painting, looked different than today. The church in the painting would have felt quite familiar to the early Speak families who sat in the pews here each Sunday.

In addition to the churches in Gisburn and Whalley, we visited St. Leonard’s Church in Downham which is a chapelry of the church in Whalley.

Downham

The tower is original to the 1400s, but the rest of the church was rebuilt in 1909-10. Lord Clitheroe graciously brought a drawing of the old church as it looked when the Speak family attended.

This church, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, proved to be quite important to the family.

Pendle Hill from the cemetery outside St. Leonard’s church, where Thomas was baptized.

Pendle Hill can be seen across the roofs of the village houses.

Downham, on the north side of Pendle Hill was small then, and remains a crossroad village today with a population of about 150 people, including Twiston.

Twiston is located less than 3 miles away, yet it’s extremely remote, at the foot or perhaps on the side of Pendle Hill.

What’s left of the stocks at Downham, beside the church cemetery, just waiting for those who needed to be punished, like those reviled Catholics hiding out in the wilds over by Pendle Hill.

During our visit, Lord Clitheroe provided us with a transcription of the Downham church records wherein one Thomas Speak was baptized on January 1, 1633/34, born to Joannis, the Latin form of John, in nearby Twiston.

Is this Thomas our Thomas the immigrant who was born about that same time? We still don’t know, but there are clues.

The problem is that there is a marriage record for a Thomas Speak to Grace Shakelford in 1656, and a burial record in 1666 for Grace recorded as “the wife of Thomas Speak of Twiston.” But there is no burial record for Thomas, and no children recorded either during that time, which is very strange.

So, is that our Thomas, or a different Thomas? Those records don’t align well. It’s certainly a Thomas of the right age, in the right place, and born to a John as well.

However, our Thomas was in Maryland by at least 1661 and probably earlier. Would he have left a wife behind? Would she still have been noted as his wife and him recorded as “of Twiston” if he was in America?

Records in this area are incomplete. A substantial battle was fought in Whalley in 1643. Churches were often used for quartering soldiers. Minister’s notes could well have been displaced, or books destroyed entirely.

In Downham, the years of 1608-1619 are missing, along with 1638-1657, inclusive which would hold records vital to our family for nearly two critical decades.

We know, according to probate records, that the Downham families originated in Whalley based on research by John D. Speake, of Cambridge, contained in the recently published book, The Speak/e/s Family of Southern Maryland

Probate files show that in 1615, “John Speake of Twiston, husbandman” mentions his son William and William’s children, including John who was the administrator of his will. For John to be an administrator, he had to be age 21 or over, so born in 1594 or earlier. Some John Speak married Elizabeth Biesley at Whalley in 1622 and is believed to be the John Speak Sr. recorded in Downham Parish Registers.

However, John seemed to be the Speak given name of choice.

The existing Hearth Tax returns for 1666-1671 that recorded, and taxed, the number of hearths observed in each home during an inspection shows the following Speak households, none of which were too impoverished to have a hearth:

  • 3 in Twiston
  • 2 in Gisburn (Remington)
  • 1 in Stansfield, near Halifax

Of the above entries, 5 were named John, and one was Ann.

There were two additional Speak families in Newchurch, near Pendle, which is more distant, as is Stansfield, maybe a total of 30 miles end-to-end.

There were no Thomas Speaks listed.

One final hint may be that there are three tailors mentioned in the Gisburn church registers over time, one of whom was Thomas, a tailor, who died in 1662. Did our Thomas the immigrant come from a long line of tailors? If so, how could he have supported himself as a tailor in the remote Lancashire countryside? Is that, perhaps, part of why he immigrated, in addition to being Catholic?

Or, maybe our Thomas apprenticed as a tailor in Maryland as an indentured servant and tailors in Gisburn are simply a red herring.

The Whalley, Gisburn and Twiston families are closely connected. The difference may well be that our Thomas’s line remained secretly Catholic, so preferred the “uninhabited” areas of the remote Twiston countryside. Even today, Gisburn is described as being “rural, surrounded by hilly and relatively unpopulated areas.” And that’s Gisburn, with more than 500 residents. Downham is much smaller, about 20% of the size of Gisburn.

What do we know about Twiston?

Twiston

Twiston is too small to even be called a hamlet. These ghostly buildings are what’s left of the former Twiston Mill, built after an earlier mill burned in 1882. The original farm and corn mill was owned originally by Whalley Abbey at least since the 1300s. Twiston is near an old lime kiln, probably in use since Roman times, and the Witches Quarry, a steep, vertical rocky outcrop popular with hikers and rock climbers.

The ancient homesteads were clustered along the bubbling Twiston Brook, a branch of Pendle Brook that originates on Pendle Hill, watering the farm and powering the original corn mill. It was actually a smart place to settle, because the stream was fresh, given that there were no upstream homesteads to pollute the water.

These buildings stood, huddled together, probably for safety, in a field carved out of the wilderness, surrounded today by hundreds of sheep grazing on the hillsides and high moors.

Stone walls divide pastures and line the steep hillsides, with gates allowing shepherds and now, farmers to pass through. Eventually, the sheep venture high enough to graze and shelter on the moorland.

At the higher levels of Pendle Hill, the forest gives way to moors and the sheep roam freely.

The sheep also have the right-of-way, so vehicles travel slowly. The heathered moor is quite stark and incredibly beautiful.

The fields along the Ribble River with its feeder brooks and settlements, running through the valley beneath Pendle Hill are lush, green, and timeless. The land surrounding the River is relatively flat, beckoning settlers and encouraging farming.

This is one of those places where the ancient voices call out and pluck the strings of your heart.

And your heart answers in recognition.

Where you know the earth holds the DNA of your ancestors, and their blood watered the landscape in the Ribble Valley.

By Beacon Hill overlooking the Ribble valley by Bill Boaden, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106624444

Beacon Hill overlooks the Ribble Valley, with Pendle Hill in the background.

Our ancestors lived, and loved here and because of that, we live now.

Their descendants are scattered across the world, on many continents, yet we reunited here in our homeland – like birds following their sacred compass, guiding them across the oceans home again.

When the Speak family lived here, it was considered a “wild and lawless region” by local authorities, probably due in part to its remoteness – and also the rebellious nature of the inhabitants. We have never submitted easily to pressure.

Twiston is nestled at the base of Pendle Hill.

If you were a Catholic, living in a hotbed of “recussants,” and trying to be invisible, Twiston would be a location where you might be able to successfully disappear among those of like mind.

The road to Twiston was too twisty, rock-lined and narrow for our bus to navigate, causing us to have to back up down a one lane road with rock walls on both sides for some distance.

These ancient moss and fern-covered walls have stood for centuries, some with gateway passages to neighboring houses in small hamlets.

Others stand sentry along the old cartways where they’ve been for centuries.

The stone walls keep sheep and cattle in, and today, wayward vehicles out.

The walls have been tended and repaired by generations of stewards. Generations of our Speaks men probably placed some of these very stones, having removed them from their fields.

The footpaths, now roads, pass within inches of old stone homes and barns, dissecting farms in many places. That’s exactly how the old cart road traveled, and how you got to your neighbor’s farm. In fact, that old road took you right to their door.

Pendle Hill always serves as your guidepost.

If you’re lost and don’t know which way to turn, just find the hill and reorient yourself.

Its stark beauty is ever-present. Pendle Hill always looms someplace in the distance.

Since the bus couldn’t get to Twiston, a few adventurous cousins somehow found a taxi to rent and a brave driver willing to take them to Twiston, after he finally figured out where Twiston actually was.

I’m still REALLY mad at myself because I took a hike in the forest instead, although I enjoyed connecting with the land.

It had been a very long day and I didn’t really realize the significance of Twiston at that time. Plus, space in the taxi was limited and I suffer from motion sickness. I should have taken Dramamine, sat on the roof, and gone anyway.

The road to Twiston, now called a lane, grows increasingly narrow. Who knew there was such a remote region in the hill country of Lancashire?

Finally, Twiston appears where the forest ends and the road widens a tiny bit.

If only these ancient buildings and rock walls could speak, share their stories and reveal their secrets. Old documents, however, do provide some insight.

This document, originally penned in Latin, was provided by the Lancashire archives.

John Speak, in 1609, was a farmer, with a house (messauge), garden, orchard, 10 acres of farmland, 5 of meadow, and 10 acres of pasture.

Even orchards were walled to prevent unwanted visitors.

Indeed, Twiston is where John Speak lived. If the Thomas born in Twiston to Joannis, Latin for John, in 1633 and baptized on January 1, 1634 in old St. Leonard’s Church in Downham is our Thomas, this is his birth location.

For our family, this is, indeed, hallowed ground.

Catholics weren’t the only people sheltering in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

The accused Pendle Witches, probably women who were traditional healers, lived here too, persecuted and executed in 1612, as did Quakers, all vilified along with Catholics.

No wonder Thomas, along with the Catholic Bowling family, found a way to make his way to the safety of Maryland.

It’s ironic that in 1670, after being persecuted themselves for their Catholic beliefs, in this same valley, the Speake men were reporting Quakers.

Records of Speak men in Twiston persist into the 1800s, and one of our local testers descends from Henry Speake, born about 1650 in Twiston.

Local Testers

Prior to our visit, we published small ads in local newspapers and contacted historical societies. We found several Speak(e)(s) families and invited them to dinner at the Stirk House where the after-dinner speaker explained all about DNA testing. You probably can’t see them clearly, but there are numerous DNA kits laying on the table, just waiting for people to have a swab party.

Our guests brought their family information and photos and we had an absolutely lovely evening.

One of those families traced their line to Twiston. Be still my heart.

Five men from separate Speak families tested. None of them knew of any connection between their families, and all presumed they were not related.

I carried those men’s DNA tests back in my hand luggage like the gold that they were.

They were wrong. All five men matched each other, AND our Thomas Speake line. Susan and I got busy connecting the dots genealogically, as much as possible

  • Two of our men descended from Henry born in 1650, married Alice Hill and lived in Downham/Twiston.
  • Two of our men descended from John Speak born about 1540, married Elina Singleton, and lived in Whalley.
  • Two of our men, including our New Zealand tester, descend from John born sometime around 1700, probably in Gisburn where his son, James, was born about 1745.

We knew indeed that we had found our way “home.”

2022

Today, the Speaks family DNA Project has 146 members comprised of:

  • 105 autosomal testers
  • 31 Speak Y-DNA testers
  • 24 of whom are Thomas the immigrant descendants
  • 8 Big Y tests

Over the years, we’ve added another goal. We need to determine how a man named Aaron Lucky Speaks is related to the rest of us. Autosomal DNA confirms that he is related, but we need more information.

Aaron Lucky is first found in 1787 purchasing land and on the 1790 Iredell County, NC census. We finally located a Y-DNA tester and confirmed that his paternal line is indeed the Lancashire Speaks line, but how?

After discovering that all 5 Lancashire Speaks men descend from the same family as Thomas the immigrant, we have spent a great deal of time trying to both sort them out, and tie the family lines together, with very limited success.

Can Y-DNA do that for us?

The Y-DNA Block Tree

When men take a Big Y-700 DNA test, they receive the most detailed information possible, including all available STR markers plus the most refined haplogroup possible, placing them as a leaf on the very tip of their branch of the tree of mankind. The only other men there are their closest relatives, divided sometimes by a single mutation. Eight Speaks men have taken or upgraded to the Big Y test, providing information via matching that we desperately needed.

This Big Y block tree is from the perspective of a descendant of Nicholas Speaks and shows the various mutations that define branches, shown as building blocks. Each person shown on the Block Tree is a match to the tester.

Think of haplogroups as umbrellas. Each umbrella shelters and includes everything beneath it.

At the top of this block tree, we have one solid blue block that forms an umbrella over all three branches beneath it. The top mutation name is I-BY14004, which is the haplogroup name associated with that block.

We have determined that all of the Speak men descended from the Lancashire line are members of haplogroup I-BY14004 and therefore, fall under that umbrella. The other haplogroup names in the same block mean that as other men test, a new branch may split off beneath the branch.

Next, let’s look at the blue block at far left.

The Lancashire men, meaning those who live there, plus our New Zealand tester, also carry additional mutations that define haplogroup I-BY14009, which means that our Thomas the Immigrant line split off from theirs before that mutation was formed.

Thomas the immigrant’s line has the mutation defining haplogroup I-FTA21638, forming an umbrella over both of Thomas the immigrant’s sons – meaning descendants of both sons carry this mutation.

Bowling’s line is defined by haplogroup I-BY215064, but John’s line does not carry this mutation, so John’s descendants are NOT members of this haplogroup, which turns out to be quite important.

We are very fortunate that one of Thomas’s sons, Bowling, received a mutation, because it allows us to differentiate between Bowling and his brother, John’s, descendants easily if testers take the Big Y test.

Aaron Luckey Speak

As you can see, the descendants of Aaron Lucky Speak, bracketed in blue above, carry the Bowling line mutation, so Aaron Luckey descends from one of Bowling’s sons. That makes sense, especially since Charles, the father of Nicholas, my ancestor born in 1782, is also found in Iredell County during the same timeframe.

Here’s a different view of the Big Y testers along with STR Y-DNA testers in a spreadsheet that I maintain.

Thomas the immigrant (tan band top row) is shown with son, Bowling who carries haplogroup BY215064.

Thomas’s son John, the InnKeeper, shown in the blue bar does NOT have the BY215064 mutation that defines Bowling’s group.

However, the bright green Aaron Lucky line, disconnected at far right, does have the mutation BY215064, so this places Aaron Luckey someplace beneath, meaning a descendant of, Bowling. We just don’t know where yet.

Sometimes we can utilize STR marker mutations for subgrouping within haplogroups, but in this case, we cannot because STR mutations in this family have:

  • Occurred independently in different lines
  • Back mutated

Between both of these issues, STR mutations are inconsistent and entirely unreliable.

In some cases, autosomal DNA is useful, but in this case, autosomal doesn’t get us any closer than Y-DNA due to record loss and incomplete genealogy above Nicholas. An analysis shows that Aaron Luckey Speak’s descendants match each other closer than they match either John or Bowling’s descendants.

We have a large gap in known descendants beneath Thomas of Zachia, other than Nicholas’s line.

Combining genetic and genealogy information, we know that both Charles Beckworth Speak and Thomas Bowling Speak, in yellow, are found in Iredell County. The children of Thomas of Zachia, shown in purple, are born in the 1730s and any one of them could potentially be the father of Aaron Luckey.

The men in green, including William, Bowling’s other son, are also candidates to be Aaron Luckey’s ancestor, although the two yellow men are more likely due to geographic proximity. They are both found in Iredell County.

We don’t know anything about William’s children, if any, nor much about Edward. John settled in Kentucky. Nicholas (green) stayed in Maryland.

There may be an additional generation between Charles Beckworth Speak (yellow) and Nicholas (born 1782), also named Charles. There’s a lot of uncertainty in this part of the tree.

Aaron Luckey’s descendants may be able to search their matches for a Luckey family, found in both Iredell County AND Maryland, which may assist with further identification.

It seems that Aaron’s middle name of Lucky is likely to be very significant.

Connecting the Genetic Dots in England

What can we discern about the Speak family in the US and in Lancashire?

Reaching back in time, before Thomas was born about 1633, what can we tell about the Speak family and how they are connected, and when?

The recently introduced Discover tool allows us to view the Y-DNA haplogroups and when they were born, meaning when the haplogroup-defining mutation occurred.

The Time Tree shows the haplogroups, in black above the profile dots. The scientifically calculated approximate dates of when those haplogroups were “born,” meaning when those mutations occurred, are found across the top.

I’ve added genealogical information, in red, at right.

  • Reading from the bottom red dot, Bowling’s haplogroup was born about the year 1660. Bowling was indeed born in 1674, so that’s VERY close
  • Moving back in time, Thomas’s haplogroup was born about 1617 and Thomas himself was born about 1634, but it certainly could have been earlier.
  • The Lancashire testers’ common haplogroup was born about 1636, and the earliest known ancestor of those men is Henry, born in Twiston in 1650.
  • The common Speak ancestor of BOTH the Lancashire line and the Thomas the immigrant line was born about 1334. The earliest record of any Speak was Henry Speke, of Whalley, born before 1520.

The lines of Thomas the Immigrant and the Lancashire men diverged sometime between about 1334, when the umbrella mutation for all Speaks lines was born, and about 1617 when we know the mutation defining the Thomas the Immigrant line formed and split off from the Lancashire line.

But that’s not all.

Surprise!

As I panned out and viewed the block tree more broadly, I noticed something.

This is quite small and difficult to read, so let me explain. At far left is the branch for our Speaks men. The common ancestor of that group was born about 1334 CE, meaning current era, as we’ve discussed.

Continuing up the tree, we see the next haplogroup umbrella occurs about 1009 CE, then the year 850 at the top is the next umbrella, encompassing everything beneath.

Looking to the right, the farthest right blocks date to 1109 CE, then 1318 CE, then progressing on down the tree branch to the bottom, I see one name in three blocks.

What is that name?

I’m squinting!!!

Here, let me enlarge this for you!

Standish.

The name is Standish, as in Myles Standish, the Pilgrim.

Miles is our relative, and even though he has a different surname, we share a common ancestor, probably before surnames were adopted. Our genetic branches divided about the year 1000.

The Discover tool also provides Notable Connections for each haplogroup, so I entered one of the Speaks haplogroups, and sure enough, the closest Speak Notable Connection is Myles Standish 1584-1656.

And look, there’s the Standish Pew in Chorley, another church that we visited during our Lancashire trip because family members of Thomas Speake’s wife, Elizabeth Bowling, are found in the church records here.

Our common ancestor with the Standish line lived in about the year 850. Our line split off, as did theirs about the year 1000, or about 1000 years, or 30-40 generations ago.

Our family names are still found in the Chorley Church records

Ancient Connections

The Discover tool also provides Ancient Connections from archaeological digs, by haplogroup.

Sure enough, there’s an ancient sample on the Time Tree named Heslerton 20641.

Checking the Discover Ancient Connections, the man named Heslerton 20641 is found in West Heslerton, Yorkshire and lived about the year 450-650, based on carbon dating.

The mutation identifying the common ancestor between the Speak men and Heslerton occurred about 2450 BCE, or 4500 years ago. Those two locations are only 83 miles apart.

Where Are We?

What have we learned from the information discovered through genealogy combined with Big Y testing?

  • We found a Speek in Whalley in 1385.
  • Thomas Speake was baptized in Downham and born in Twiston in 1733.
  • Our New Zealand tester’s ancestor was found in Gisburn about 1745.
  • All of these locations are within 15 miles of each other.

  • Chorley, where the Standish family is found in the 1500s is located 17 miles South of Whalley. Thomas Speak’s wife, Elizabeth Bowlings’ family is found in the Chorley church records.

What about the L’Espec origin myth?

  • The Speak family clearly did not arrive in 1066 with the Normans.
  • We have no Scandinavian DNA matches.
  • No place is the surname spelled L’Espec in any Lancashire regional records.
  • The Speak family is in Whalley/Chorley area by 1000 when the Speak/Standish lines diverged
  • The common ancestor with the Standish family occurred about the year 850, although that could have occurred elsewhere. Clearly, their common ancestor was in the Chorley/Whalley area by 1000 when their lines diverged.

The cemetery at Whalley includes Anglo-Saxon burials, circa 800-900.

The Speak men, with no surname back then, greeted William the Conqueror.

And lived to tell the tale, along with their Standish cousins, of course.

Are our ancestors buried in these early Anglo-Saxon graves? I’d wager that the answer is yes. We are likely related to every family who lived in this region over many millennia. Little is known of Lancashire during this time, but we do know more generally that the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people, arrived in the 5th century and integrated, eventually, with the Native Britons, the Celts. These carvings certainly do have a Celtic feel.

This family photo, standing in the church in Whalley where it all began, is now imbued with a much deeper significance.

Little did we know.

And this, all of this, was a result of Big-Y DNA tests. We could not have accomplished any of this without Y-DNA testing.

Our ancestors are indeed speaking across the ages.

We really have found the road home, the path revealed by the DNA of our ancestors.

_____________________________________________________________

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Genealogy Research

Charles Speake, (c 1731 – 1794), But Which Charles? – 52 Ancestors #380

We are certain that Charles Speake (spelled a variety of ways including Speak, Speaks, and more) is the father of the Nicholas Speak (or Speaks) who was born in 1782 in Maryland, married Sarah Faires in 1804 in Washington County, Virginia, and founded the Speaks Chapel Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia around 1820.

However, the question is, “which Charles?”

We know about early and later chapters of Charles’ life. What’s missing is a positive identification.

It’s rare that we have an intermediate gap in a lineage. We know the identity of the Catholic immigrant, Thomas Speak (c 1634-1681), along with the next couple of generations. Thomas married Elizabeth Bowling and their son was Bowling Speak (1674-1755).

Bowling married Mary Benson, whose mother is unknown, and their son, known as Thomas (Speake) of Zachia, died within days of his father in 1755. Their wills were probated the same day, September 13th. Nothing confusing there, right?

Both men, thankfully, did write wills. I do have to wonder what took them both. Dysentery or typhoid would be my first guess. I wonder who else in their families died.

Thomas of Zachia’s will reads, in part:

Also I give and bequeath to my two sons Charles Beckworth Speake & Nicholas Speake all the remaining part of that tract of land called Speakes Enlargement & my remaining part of that tract called Mistake containing both together ninety acres to them & their heirs and assigns forever after the Decease of my wife Jane Speake to be equally divided between them by a line drawn from Jordan Swamp to the opposite line & my son Charles Beckworth Speake to have first choice;

There is and remains debate about whether the actual word is or should be Beckworth, Becworth, or Beckwith, but for this purpose, it doesn’t matter. Long-time researcher and Washington DC Family History Center manager for 25 years, Joyce Candland, truly researched the Maryland families to death, and she reports that while there are no Beckworth families living in Charles or surrounding counties in Maryland, there are several Beckwith families. I’m calling him Charles Beckworth for consistency and because that’s how it was transcribed into the will book by the clerk at the time.

Charles Beckworth Speake was born about 1731 or 1732 in Charles County, Maryland. His mother is unknown, but a betting person would say it’s a female Beckwith – just saying. His siblings were:

  • Elizabeth (b c 1725)
  • Edward (b c 1727)
  • Thomas Bowling (b c 1729)
  • John (b 1732 or 1733)
  • Nicholas (b c 1734)
  • Anne (b c 1736)
  • Eleanor (b c 1738)

What’s particularly important here are the names of people NOT among Charles Beckworth Speak’s siblings – specifically Martin and Richard.

Maryland Records

Twenty-three years later, Charles appears in Montgomery County, MD in 1778 where he signed an oath of fidelity along with Martin Speake and Richard Speake.

Those men would have been age 21 by 1778, so born before 1757. The men may well be the grandsons of Thomas of Zachia who died in 1755, or possibly descendants of other related Speak(e)(s) men in this part of Maryland.

The Charles on this list could have been and probably was Thomas of Zachia’s son, but Thomas didn’t have sons named Martin or Richard. Martin and Richard could potentially have been sons of Charles Beckworth. Charles Beckworth would have been about 46 years old by this time, give or take.

No Charles Speak by any spelling is found in Maryland again, not on the 1783 tax list nor is he found on the 1790 Maryland census. No estate either.

The recently published book, The Speak/e/s Family of Southern Maryland by the Speak/e/s Family Association, with John S. Morris, III, as editor, reports that a 1924 letter from A. Howard Speake (born 1867 in Maryland) to Charles Washington Speake (born in 1850, great-grandson of Thomas of Zachia), stated that, “In 1787, 6 or 7 of the Charles County Speakes moved to North and South Carolina.”

The western Carolinas were the frontier that had opened after the Revolutionary War. There wasn’t much settlement there as you can see on this 1770 map of Rowan County, except Fort Dobbs.

You can view photos of reconstructed Fort Dobbs and life on the frontier, here.

Of course, no settlers meant there was land and opportunity following the Revolutionary War, something that was in short supply in Maryland. Too many sons and not enough land encouraged migration to the frontier.

Next Stop – North Carolina

This is where it gets confusing.

In 1787, Charles Speak or Speaks, I’m not differentiating between the various spellings at this point, is found on a tax list in Rowan County, North Carolina.

The next year, Iredell County was formed from Rowan,

In the 1790 census, there is a Charles Speak living in both counties.

Pardon me while I facepalm.

That’s certainly possible given that we know that Thomas of Zachia had several sons. He also had a brother, William, whose descendants, if any, are unaccounted for.

Charles Beckworth Speake, born about 1731, could have had a son, also named Charles, born after 1752 who could have been in his 30s by 1790 and could well have been found on the census. While they may have been in different counties, they could have both lived very close to the county line.

I know there’s a lot of “could” in that paragraph, but what we do know is that there are two men named Charles among the Maryland Speake family members who migrated from Maryland. We also know that there was only one Charles Speak in 1787, so perhaps the younger man was either not yet there, not married, or living in another household.

Maryland Evidence

The 1850 census of Lee County, Virginia confirms that Nicholas Speaks was indeed born in Maryland in 1781 or 1782.

Which of course means his father came from Maryland too.

Nicholas is tied to the Charles in North Carolina. But which Charles is which?

Speak Families of Rowan County, NC

Thomas Specks/Speeks is listed on the 1779 Rowan tax list. He then purchased land in 1782. In 1785 he applied for a patent on Brush Creek

On August 13, 1779, Richard Speaks entered a land grant on both sides of Bear Creek which included a small improvement, which was issued in May of 1789, when the land fell into Iredell County.

In 1784, Richard was paid for NC Revolutionary War military service.

Iredell County was formed in 1788 from Rowan.

On July 16, 1789, Charles Speaks obtained a license to marry Jane Connor. This man is Nicholas’s father.

Clearly, Charles’s first wife who would have been the mother of Nicholas Speaks had died sometime after his migration from Maryland to North Carolina. He wouldn’t have made that journey with small children and no wife.

In the 1790 census, Charles Speaks of Rowan County is shown with 1 male over 16, 4 males under 16 and 3 females, which included his wife. At most, one child would have been born to that marriage by this time, which means that there were at least 5 children born to his first wife. I’d wager several more were born and died or were perhaps already adults.

Four males under 16 suggests that the youngest son was born about 1780. If that is the youngest child in the family, and his first wife was his same age, then she would have been born no earlier than 1735. That’s possible. If those sons were the eldest, then their mother would have been born about 1754, which means this Charles could be a generation offset from Charles Beckworth Speake who was born in the early 1730s.

Charles is enumerated 6 houses away from Martin Speaks with 1, 3 and 3 in his family, who is, in turn, 22 houses from Richard Speaks with 2, 2 and 4.

Susan Sills, another long-time researcher, DAR Chapter Regent (among other positions,) and president emeritus of the Speaks Family Association, tracked Martin and feels he was born 1750-1755. He was still living in 1812.

In 1790, we also find an Ann Speaks with 2 males under 16 and 3 females, living beside one Asa Martin which may or may not be relevant given the first name of Martin Speak. Adam Speeks (sic) is 14 houses away with 1, 2 and 3. Is Ann the widow of Thomas who was on the 1779 tax list? Susan Sills feels that this Thomas is probably Thomas Bowling Speake, brother of Charles Beckworth Speake, given that they both disappear at the same time from Maryland. There is no proof one way or another.

By 1800, only Martin Speak is left in Rowan county, with 12 family members, including 3 older boys 16-25.

Speak Families in Iredell County

The 1790 census in Iredell County shows Charles Speaks with 1, 3, and 2 in his family. This man appears to be younger than the Charles in Rowan County, although that could be an errant assumption if some or all of the other Speaks men nearby are his adult sons or, perhaps, his other children died.

We do know, based on the number of children, that this Charles in Iredell in 1790 is not the Charles Speak who dies in 1794. What happened to the Charles in Iredell in 1790? Is the Charles in Iredell Charles Beckworth Speak, and the Charles in Rowan his son?

Also, in the same county in 1790 we find Luke (probably actually Lucky) Speaks with 1, 2, and 3, and Thomas Speaks with 1, 2, and 2.

On October 26, 1793, Charles purchased 200 acres of land on Hunting Creek in Iredell County from James Maiden, but that deed was not filed until 1795, after Charles’ death. Witnesses were Christopher Houston and Mary Hughes, and the deed was proven by Howard Barker.

Locating Hunting Creek in Iredell County was challenging. I found it above Iredell, but the portion within Iredell seems to intersect with the South Yadkin and is called the South Yadkin today. Regardless, it’s not far from the Wilkesboro area. The other Speaks men owned land nearby.

I found this lovely Iredell County map on WikiTree, here, with some of the early landowners mapped. You can see Hunting Creek meandering across the northeast corner of the county. A HUGE thank you to whatever anonymous person created this.

John Maiden, the man Charles purchased land from, is shown in the upper right corner living nearby other people that Charles interacted with, including Christopher Houston and Andrew Mitchell – so we know we have the right neighborhood.

Settlements at that time were located along rivers and streams for easy access to water.

This current map helps us locate both Long Branch and Hunting Creek, now the South Yadkin.

Even today, much of this land is still heavily wooded.

Today, Powell Bridge Road approaches and crosses the South Yadkin near where Charles Speaks lived.

The land along Hunting Creek appears to be flat and fertile – a perfect place to homestead.

In 1800, we find Thomas Speaks, with 1 male 26-44, 1 male under 10, 2 males 10-15, 2 males over 45, 1 female over 45, 2 females under 10, and 2 females 10-15.

We also find Luckey Speaks two houses away with 11 people in his household, including 5 sons and two women 26-44, the same age category he falls into. We know from land grants that Aaron Luckey Speeks applied for land on a branch of Hunting Creek in August of 1787, and later also obtained land on Brush Creek. Aaron Luckey died in 1825 when his wife, Lucretia petitioned the court to have her dower land set off.

Thomas and Aaron Luckey seem to be in the same age bracket and clearly live very close to each other, which suggests they may be brothers.

They may be the nephews of Charles Speak. It’s clear that they are somehow related.

Charles’ Death

Charles Speak died before August 26, 1794 when his estate was probated in Iredell County court and administration granted to his wife, Jane. This would be the same Jane who he married in 1789 in Rowan County. Charles was enumerated in Rowan County in 1790, but clearly, by 1794, he was living in Iredell. Based on his known children and their ages, he cannot be the Charles in Iredell in 1790.

Charles had probably died within 90 days of when his estate was probated, and quite unexpectedly, based on the fact that he had no will. On September 24th, his personal property was sold.

Purchaser Item
Jean Speakes 1 woman’s saddle and bridle
Jean Speakes 1 quantity pewter
Jean Speakes 1 bed and furniture
Jean Speakes 3 beds
Jean Speakes 1 flare (flax?) Wheel
Jean Speakes 1 pot of hooks
Jean Speakes 1 Dutch oven and hooks
Jean Speakes 1 bay mare
Jean Speakes 1 pail
Jean Speakes 1 pair cotton cords
Jean Speakes 2 hogs
Jean Speakes 1 cradle
Jean Speakes 1 table
Jean Speakes 1 pig
Jean Speakes 1 ? brake
Susana Speaks 1 bed
Susana Speaks 1 flare wheel
Susana Speaks 1 coter ?
Susana Speaks 2 books
Claiborne Howard Chisels?
Claiborne Howard 2 plains
Claiborne Howard Crooked links?
Claiborne Howard 2 ax
John Maiden 1 bare mattock
John Maiden Quantity tobacco plough and shire
John Maiden ?
Will Gill 1 bay more
Larriner Maiden 1 handsaw, draw knife
Jeremiah Gaither 1 ? sole leather
Willl Howard 1 lath?
Robert Luckey 1 cow and heifers
Robert Luckey 1 ? edge and draw knife
Arch. Young 1 pair bowl ?
James Gibson 1 pail and churn
Solomon Hays 1 ? iron
John Harvey 1 quantity tobacco
Thomas Bill 1 jug
Francis Holing? 1 loom
James Holman 1 G stick 1 ?
Thomas Morgan 1 looking glass and stoole?
Thomas Bill Sr. 1 grindstone and cow
James McCord 3 lythes
Francis Barnard 1 loin and shote
Solomon Parker 1 shire
Halbert Hobart 1 flat wheel
James Lovelace 1 cow
Edward Jacobs 2 sheep
Will Anderson 2 ewe?
John Hudson 2 ewe
James Maiden 1 colt
Will Partrick 1 sheep
Katy Holman 2 sholtes
James McCord 1 bay hide
Jean Speaks 1 clock

That cradle just tugs at my heart. Did Jean have a baby? She did purchase her cradle from his estate, given that the husband legally owned everything.

This family wasn’t poor. There were 5 beds, a looking glass, and a clock.

I find it very interesting that a man named Robert Luckey is purchasing, and we have a mystery person by the name of Luckey Speak, also written on his land grant as Aaron Luckey Speak. This leads me to think that some Speaks man was married to a Luckey woman, pardon the pun.😊

A land grant in 1778 to Robert Luckey shows his land on the “waters of Hunting and Bever Creek and Burr Creek” which also places him in the same proximity. I wonder if he came from Maryland.

The writing on the original estate sale document was difficult, at best, so if you can correct or figure out anything that I missed, please let me know.

Susanna Speak purchased immediately after the widow. Was Susannah a daughter that was of age, so not listed as an orphan two years later? If so, what happened to her? If not, who is she?

On November 16, 1794, the court ordered Burgess Gaither, Christ. Houston and William Young, Esq., to settle Charles’s estate. I would LOVE to see that estate settlement, but it’s not in the estate packet nor are settlements detailed in the court notes.

On March 14, 1795, Charles’ widow, Jane, purchased 5 acres on Hunting Creek from James Maiden including the house where she lives. Was the house that Charles built not built on his property? Or, somehow, did Jane wind up not living on his property? Normally, Charles property would have been managed by the children’s guardians and she would have remained living there as well – at least until the children were of age. We don’t know because there’s no record of the disposition of Charles’ land. Furthermore no guardian had been appointed for the children, which suggests she is filling that role.

More than a year later, in May of 1796, Richard Speaks was appointed guardian for Charles’ orphan sons Joseph, Thomas, Nicholas, John, and James Speaks. Charles’ only daughter mentioned, Elizabeth, was put under the guardianship of Elizabeth Speaks. We have no idea who Elizabeth was, but she could have been the widow of one of the other Speaks men who had arrived or died since 1790.

If any of these children were born to Charles’ second wife, Jane Conner, they weren’t living with her after May of 1796 – or – if there were additional children that were living with Jane or Jean, they weren’t mentioned in the estate, which is entirely possible.

Something must have happened to Jane, or in her life, to keep those children for more than a year, then for the court to assign guardianship.

Jane bought the few acres with her house, but what happened to the rest of Charles’ land?

Clearly, Jane was not doing well, because on November 2, 1799, she allowed Aaron Butler to have her property if he would support her forever. Neither Aaron nor Jane are found in the 1800 census. My heart aches for that woman.

Charles’ Estate Packet

Fortunately, we find Charles’s signature on promissory notes in his estate packet. I’ve never been so grateful for debts owned!

I sure would like to know what he purchased from Anthony Bitting.

This note is for carpentry services to William Howard in 1789, witnessed by Thomas Prather. Did Charles spruce up the house for his new bride when he remarried?

Another transaction in December of 1792 was to John Larkin Hodgson(?) for wool hats – 2 for boys and 1 woman’s, probably for his wife or perhaps his daughter. They were finished two months later, in the dead of winter when they would have been sorely needed. It snows in Iredell County. That brandy might have been to keep warm too!

This receipt submitted in May of 1796 for payment shows Charles’ wife paying taxes for 1793 and 1794. Does this mean that he died in 1793, or were taxes simply paid the following year?

One promissory note in August of 1793 for a yard of linen and something else was submitted by William Taylor to Charles’ estate for payment. It appears that this might be a merchant account.

Another note is for blacksmith work at “sundry times” and mending a “riffle,” or is that roofe, in 1792. Looks like he may have traded a cow at one point for payment of part of the account. It also appears that he might have been building a cabin, given that it looks like there is a reference to logs. That would make sense given his land grant in 1793 on Hunting Creek.

Two more payments are to James Maiden and Isaac Holeman for bushels of corn.

Another is paid to James Gaither from the estate, but the receipt doesn’t say what it’s for.

Another to Elias Lovelace (constable) for what appears to be stud service for a horse?

A bill submitted to his estate for payment in 1795 was dated October 26, 1793 from Charles Speak to Andrew Mitchell for making one pair of leather breeches. We know Charles was still living at that time. We also know the leather breeches weren’t in the estate sale.

Andrew Mitchell is shown on the Iredell County early settler map, also along Hunting Creek.

There are other payments to or from William Taylor and James McCord, but no note is included in the packet. This could be from the estate sale.

Richard Speak

We don’t know who Richard Speaks was, but it’s clear that he was a relative of some sort, and it’s tempting to presume he’s Charles’ brother. However, there are problems with that assumption.

To begin with, if this Charles is Charles Beckworth, then he has no brother, Richard.

If we are a generation further down the tree, then indeed, this Charles could be the son of Charles Beckwith, and Richard could be his brother. Another possibility, of course, is that these men are uncle/nephew, or, that Richard is Charles’s oldest son.

We do know that Charles, Martin, and Richard all appear together in North Carolina, and that they all sign the Maryland oath before leaving.

In 1796, Richard sold his land on Bear Creek in Rowan County, along with another parcel in 1797, which gave his residence as Washington County, TN, which was essentially most of the eastern portion of Tennessee upon Tennessee’s formation.

Bear Creek is now in Davie County, formed in 1836 from Rowan, adjacent the eastern border with Iredell, and very near where Hunting Creek intersects with the South Yadkin, also near Beaverdam Branch. In 1791, Martin Speaks bought land on Beaverdam and in 1800, on the South Yadkin. This locates Richard, Martin and Aaron Luckey all together in this area.

This area is called Cooleemee Junction in Davie County, today.

While Google Maps calls this entire stream system the South Yadkin, other topo maps still call it Hunting Creek and Bear Creek.

Richard and Aaron Luckey probably lived within 1000 feet of each other, but it’s several miles up Hunting Creek from Cooleemee Junction to the area where James Maiden owned land.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that James Maiden didn’t own additional land further south in what is today Davie County that he sold to Charles Speak and his widow. However, I don’t think that happened, because we find the neighbors, including James Maiden, purchasing at Charles Speak’s estate sale – which pretty much tells me Charles lived several miles upstream of Richard on Hunting Creek. Of course, that new cabin could have been closer to Richard. There’s just no way of knowing today.

What we do know is that Richard moved on, to Washington County, TN, with Charles’ orphans in tow.

In 1804, we find Nicholas Speaks, then 22, marrying Sarah Faires in Washington Co., VA.

There is absolutely no further record of any of Nicholas’s siblings, nor of his guardian, Richard. It’s like they just disappeared off the face of the earth. Perhaps they did during a time of significant churn or their disappearance is due, in part, to record loss.

It’s worth noting that Charles’ son, Nicholas, named his children, in birth order as best I can group them:

  • Charles
  • Sarah Jane
  • Samuel Patton (Where did that middle name come from?)
  • John
  • Joseph
  • Thomas
  • Jane V.
  • Jesse
  • James Alan
  • Frances “Fanny” J.
  • Rebecca

The names bolded are the same names as Nicholas’s father and brothers. Only sister, Elizabeth is missing and there’s certainly room for a baby to have died.

And, ironically, there is no Richard, which certainly begs the question of how Nicholas was related to Richard, and what happened.

Sanity Grid

I’ve completed a grid that, I hope, helps sort these North Carolina relationships.

Ann seems to be Thomas’s widow. Adam is only found once and could be Thomas’s son. We know that Thomas Bowling Speak’s wife’s name was Ann from the Maryland records.

Richard, Charles, and Martin, in blue, are together in Montgomery County, MD, then arrive together in North Carolina.

There are two Charleses enumerated in 1790, one in both Rowen and Iredell County. The Charles in Rowan in 1790 and earlier seems to be the man who died in Iredell in 1794, which begs the question of what happened to the Charles enumerated in Iredell in 1790. Was he Charles Beckworth Speak?

The blue group and last three grouped together with a black border overlap.

Martin, Luke (Lucky) and Thomas are all three found in very close proximity, as is Richard, before he leaves.

I strongly suspect that Thomas who arrived in 1779 was Thomas Bowling Speak, and that he was accompanied by his brother Charles Beckworth Speak, which is why we have two Charles in 1790. One could be the son of Thomas Bowling Speak, or the son of Charles Beckworth Speak.

Who Was Charles, the Father of Nicholas?

I surely wish I had the answer to that question.

  • Charles could be Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speaks, son of Thomas of Zachia named in the 1755 will.
  • Charles could be the son of Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speaks.
  • Charles could be the son of Thomas Bowling Speake who disappears from Maryland records after selling his land in 1766 and is likely the Thomas who appears in Rowan County in 1779.

Whoever Charles is, he seems to have left Maryland with both Martin and Richard – and all three men were of age in 1778.

Given that we don’t have a will for Charles Beckworth Speak, it’s possible that Richard was his eldest son, which is why he was appointed as the guardian of the younger children. If this is the case, then Richard would have been born in the 1750s and the youngest children, as late as 1780. For a guardian assigned in 1796, the children would all have been under 21, so born after 1775. That means that Charles would probably have had two wives before Jane Conner if he was having children from 1755-ish through 1780.

We have no indication of this, but it’s also possible that William Speak, son of Bowling Speak, brother to Thomas of Zachia might have had children and one of the Charles might have belonged to him or been his grandchild.

One thing we do know, positively, thanks to Y DNA is that Nicholas Speaks, Charles’s son, does indeed descend through the Bowling Speak line and not the John the InnKeeper line, both sons of Thomas the immigrant.

Given that Bowling only had two sons, Thomas of Zachia who died in 1755, and William whom we know nothing about, that limits the options.

Of Thomas’s sons, we believe that both Thomas Bowling Speak and Charles Beckworth Speak migrated to Rowan County in 1778, right as the Revolutionary War was ending.

Thomas of Zachia did have two other sons, Edward and Nicholas who stayed in Maryland, so the Charles who appears in Rowen County is less likely to be their son.

My bet is that Charles, the father of Nicholas and the other orphans is either:

  • Charles Beckworth Speak himself, although I’m inclined to think that perhaps the Charles who disappears after the 1790 census may have been the elder Charles who settled in close proximity to his sons.
  • Charles Beckworth Speak’s son by the same name. Probably the most likely option. This man might well be brothers with Martin and Richard found in Maryland. This would also explain the Richard who is appointed guardian of the orphan children in 1796.
  • Charles, a son of Thomas Bowling Speak whose widow was Ann found on the 1790 census.

Next Steps

How might we proceed? The best bet would be to search the DNA matches from Nicholas’s descendants to find any matches with Beckworth or Beckwith families. Of course, multiple lines of descent are certainly possible, so caution would be in order. This would be especially useful if the tester has painted their segments and identified which ones descend through the Speaks line.

Of course, the lack of those matches wouldn’t prove a negative, but multiple matches within the Beckwith/Beckworth family to multiple people in Nicholas’s line, preferably triangulated matches, would be an incredible piece of evidence suggesting not only that Nicholas’s father is Charles Beckworth/Beckwith Speaks, but also might point the way to the correct Beckwith family.

Another possibility is to search the autosomal DNA matches of the Nicholas Speaks descendants to see if they have any matches with the Luckey family, either in Maryland or early in Rowan/Iredell County.

We don’t know who Charles Beckworth Speak married, nor do we know the surname of Thomas Bowling Speak’s wife, Ann.

Could I be lucky enough to find this information in Nicholas’s matches’ trees?

_____________________________________________________________

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Tracking John Dobkins or Dobbins to Maryland – 52 Ancestors #378

Scientist Dr. David Resnik discusses the concept of consilience of evidence with his students. In essence, consilience of evidence isn’t a brick wall falling in one fell swoop, but chipping away at that wall with all sorts of different types of evidentiary tools. That’s what we’re going to do.

This article provides the next chapter in the life of John Dobkins Sr. and his son by the same name. Or maybe I should say it’s an earlier chapter, because we are stepping back in time. I said stepping, but it’s more like mountain climbing, except you’re not even sure you’re on the right mountain.

After the last few articles about the Dobkins family, I’ve received several inquiries asking, “How do you do this?” Today, I’m sharing the methodology with you in this article, but every question has different types of evidence, in different places. Those pieces will, cumulatively, inform our conclusion – which – by the way, may need to be reevaluated at any time due to new evidence emerging.

I should probably state the obvious. Genealogy is a series of moving from one roadblock to the next – after doing the happy dance, of course.

One of the most difficult tasks in (American) genealogy is to advance an ancestor back in time and space when you have no idea where they came from. For example, we found John Dobkins Sr., wife Mary, and their son, John Dobkins Jr. with his wife Elizabeth, in Shenandoah Valley on the Virginia frontier in 1735. Just one of 49 settlers. That’s it. John, 49 other people, and that’s all we knew.

Unless there’s some type of record, how do you figure out where they came from?

In our case, not only do we have that issue, we also have the problem of an uncertain surname.

It’s written variously as:

  • Dobkins and Dobkin in Virginia and on into Tennessee
  • Dobikins and Dobekins, with and without the s, in Virginia, but that “i” or “e” between the b and k may be an early handwriting artifact
  • Dobbin and Dobbins in Virginia and into Tennessee
  • Dobin and Dobins
  • Dawbin and Dawbins in Virginia

Neither John Sr. nor John Jr. could write, so their names were written by those who could. English spellings weren’t standardized, but when you add in the fact that the person doing the writing might have been German or Scots-Irish or Welsh, or something else, they would have written that name the way they heard it, filtered by the language their ears were used to.

I have found our Dobkins men, and guess what, their surname where I found them was spelled Dobbins. Now that doesn’t mean it was actually Dobbins, it just means that I found them and that’s how it happened to be spelled this time.

Hopefully, there will be more records to unearth. Unfortunately, VERY little is online, and much no longer exists, or never did.

This chapter in their lives is the story of how I found them. Make yourself a cup of tea!

That Danged FAN Club

I accidentally discovered the power of the “fan club” about 30 years ago when I compiled an “everything” document about my Halifax County, Virginia families, then entered it into a spreadsheet, and looked for patterns of people associated with various Estes men. I “knew,” or thought I knew that my John R. Estes and his wife, Nancy Ann Moore were from Halifax County, VA, but I needed more. I needed proof, but first, I needed evidence. I visited Halifax County, in person, three different times.

I did find my evidence, and then my proof, confirmed by deeply buried dusty documents in the courthouse basement, then by DNA connections.

FAN, friends, and neighbors, was named as such by Elizabeth Shown Mills. She provides an example, here

In essence, it’s spreading the net in an ever-broader circle to evaluate everyone around your ancestor.

  • Who did they marry?
  • What church did they attend?
  • Who were their neighbors on census and tax lists?
  • Who signed as their deed witnesses?
  • Who witnessed their wills?
  • Who provided bond for them?
  • Where did they live, down to the plot?
  • What was the history of the area when they lived there?

Let me translate. You can’t find this stuff in any quick search. If you’re lucky, VERY lucky, someone will have thoroughly researched your line and documented it, with sources. You’ll also find some of this research electronically, but most of it is still in courthouse basements and libraries. I use the FamilySearch catalog for county resources religiously.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll find hundreds of wrong trees that have been copied and copied and copied, perpetuating inaccuracies and bad information. Look for sources, and verify.

Look for what’s not there too. What records aren’t mentioned? What does your ancestor’s absence in records indicate or suggest? Why are they NOT on a tax list, or in a census?

Reread records you already have. Let me say that again. Reread records you already have. You may see with new eyes what you missed before, or understand something differently.

Furthermore, read histories and journals of the area you are researching.

Look for obscure resources, such as petitions in state archives, etc.

Write what you know, or think you know, in chronological order. You’ll spot holes, inaccuracies, and conflicts. You’ll wind up asking yourself those tough questions. Write this like you’re explaining the situation to a novice, because someday, you’ll be gone and the person reading it will be a novice.

Let’s begin where I was stuck.

Shenandoah Valley History

I was stuck. I “think” I’m at the end of the available records, although I do still need to peruse Orange County Court notes. During the process of writing this article (which is why I tell people to write everything down, in order), I also discovered that I need to read about 40 years of Frederick County, VA records too. That’s great because they hold possibilities.

An earlier researcher who provided a great deal of information about John Dobkins included many original sources. Cecil Smyth reported that “John was a Scotch-Irishman from Ulster, Northern Ireland. We do not know the year he emigrated or anything about his wife. They settled in what was Orange County, VA in 1731 or 1732.”

Unfortunately, Cecil did not explain where he obtained that information. Over time, I came to believe that he surmised that information based on several factors:

  • John Dobkins had two children baptized by the Presbyterian minister in 1741. Cecil missed the fact that he also had one child baptized by the Lutheran minister, Reverend John Stoever in 1737. Those records were probably unknown back then.
  • The first settlers arrived with Jost Hite in 1731. Cecil reported John’s arrival as “1731 or 1732.” What evidence is there that John Dobkins was there this early?
  • Cecil found and reported that “John Dobikin Sr. (b c 1685) received a bond from Benjamin Borden on 24 September 1735 for “150 pounds Sterling to make patent in full and ample manner as the King gives me” on 150 acres, part of Benjamin Borden’s 3,300 acre tract. The 6 January 1735/36 Morgan Morgan/Peter Woolf census listed John Sr. as a settler on the McKay, Hite, Duff and Green 100,000 acre Colony of Virginia grant land.” The Bordon Grant was primarily settled by the Scots-Irish.

Initially, I didn’t realize this 1735 transaction was a bond, not a grant. In essence, Borden promised John that he could get a patent on that land.

Because the two men, John Dobkins Jr. and Sr. had the exact same name, their records were intermixed and I’m not clear that other researchers understand or understood there were two men. One would have to analyze the records closely.

I came to be suspicious of Cecil’s Scots-Irish statement, as well as the date, as I found conflicting information.

Confusing

John Dobkins was VERY CONFUSING!!!

If it feels like I’m shouting that, I am.

My first problem, as I assembled the big picture involving land and neighbors, was that I realized that the FAN Club didn’t seem to be Scots Irish.

Then, I found this:

Van Meter, a trapper, held a 10,000-acre tract in the Shenandoah Valley which he had acquired from Lord Fairfax. A condition of this sale was that one hundred German families were to settle in the Valley. Van Meter sold this land to Joist Hite of eastern Pennsylvania in 1727. Hite proceeded to search for one hundred German families, and, in 1731, the group headed for the Valley.

Aha, maybe this is where Cecil got the 1731 date, but John Dobkins Sr. did not seem to be among the Germans.

Was John Dobkins German?

John Dobkins Jr. on the other hand, eventually lived right in the middle of the German families on Holman Creek. But that wasn’t until the mid-1740s.

These men are getting even more confusing.

But wait, there’s more:

Enroute, they encountered Robert McKay and his group of Scotch-Irish settlers from the coast. They perfected a plan to pool land and money so that they could eventually obtain more land from Lord Fairfax. They purchased 70,000 more acres over the next two years and determined a plan for dividing it. The Scotch-Irish were to settle the eastern half from Winchester to Luray and Hite’s Germans would occupy the western portion from Winchester to beyond what is now Strasburg. Hite erected a house five miles south of Winchester along what was to become the “Valley Pike” (U.S. Route 11).

And then:

Other settlers were soon to follow. Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White arrived from the Monocacy Valley in Maryland and settled in the area of what is now Mt. Jackson.

And there’s more.

Religion

Henry Scarborough in an article about Quaker Pioneers of Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties reported that he had discovered the original Quaker Meeting House on the land of Jacob Neff, near Holman’s Creek near where it flows into the North Branch of the Shenandoah River. That’s exactly where the Holman and Moore lands were located. In the 1800s, Samuel Moore still owned the adjacent land.

Today, the Corhaven Cemetery is a cemetery of enslaved people on the land of Sam Moore, maybe 1000 feet from the present day Liberty Church.

Based on the Cemetery photos this is on the border of the Jacob Holeman and Daniel Holeman 1749 land grants, and it’s on the Fairfax Survey line. So was John Dobkins Jr.’s land, just slightly further west. In the 1770s, John Dobkins Jr.’s son, Reuben,  married Elizabeth Holman, daughter of Jacob Holman.

Elizabeth Holman’s father, Jacob, owned slaves, which pretty much precludes Quaker, Mennonnite and Brethren. Reuben Dobkins inherited some of his slaves, which probably excludes those religions for the Dobkins family too.

According to the Holman Y DNA project, Holman appears to be English. Rev. Stoever said he married two English couples in his journal when he visited the Shenandoah Valley and he married Thomas Holman, so this makes sense.

Liberty church replaced the original Quaker church that was located a mile or so closer to the Shenandoah River, adjacent an old cemetery. Neither the church nor the cemetery exists today, but it was between the Neff Mill (Neff’s were Swiss) on the Shenandoah River on the road that is now Quicksburg Road. Early residents stated that people came on horseback from Mt. Jackson to New Market, on horseback, to attend the Quaker Church that was on Neff’s land.

John Dobkins Sr.’s land was 4 or 5 miles southeast of the church, and John Dobkins Jr.’s land was about the same distance northwest. Additionally, rumors of other meeting houses, especially in connection with the Allen family, have never been confirmed, but they assuredly could have existed. So, there were Quakers living in close proximity to John Dobkins.

Scarborough also mentioned that early Shenandoah Valley settlers followed the practice of some of the early settlers in Pennsylvania of not securing patents for their lands, but assigning their warrants and surveys from the pioneers to those who wished to purchase land from them. This may explain, in part, what happened to the original land of John Dobkins Sr. just south of the Fairfax line. It is what happened to the land of John Jr.

The author closes with this paragraph which will assuredly send me down a very deep rathole for days. This is exactly why I never seem to finish anything!

Ok, so we have Quakers, Lutherans, Mennonite, Brethren and the Scots-Irish Presbyterians all mixing it up in the valley. But they assuredly did not arrive all together and they established their own communities.

People almost NEVER traveled alone. Most often, a group of family members, or at least community members traveled together. Given that this valley was unsettled at the time they arrived, they had full agency in terms of picking their neighbors, meaning where someone lived and who their neighbors were might well be a clue as to who they arrived with. Which, in turn, might tell us more about them.

However, I can’t tell who John Dobkins arrived with.

Who did he settle near? Who were his neighbors?

Who did he have direct contact with?

Oh, and there’s one more thing too.

The Moore Family

John Dobkins Jr.’s wife has been reported to be Elizabeth Moore, daughter of Thomas Moore – but once again, I’ve found NOTHING to support this. That doesn’t mean it’s not true though, especially since we have no factual idea of where that family came from.

There is one clue.

In 1751, John Dobkins Jr. sold his land on Holman Creek to Thomas Moore.

That’s it – the sole contact between those two men. Well, at least on the surface. Let’s dig deeper and spread our net wider. It’s always about this time that I’m VERY irritated with Elizabeth Shown Mills – probably also because it’s generally about 2 AM and I’m beyond exhausted and frustrated.

Why do these ancestors have to hide?????

The Lawsuit and Peter Wolf’s List

Thankfully, we have a 22-year-long lawsuit, Hite vs Fairfax, a deposition and a list.

Peter Wolf’s deposition in the lawsuit taken 6th March 1754 and witnessed by Isaac Parkins, Ger’m Keys and Thomas——–(?).

Peter Wolf being first sworn…Deposeth as followeth, That he is now in the fifty fourth year of his age that he came into this Colony from the Jerseys some time in the year 1733, and that he settled upon a tract of Land which was supposed to belong to Joist Hite and as this Deponent believe the same was in Dispute That sometime in the year of our Lord 1736 this Deponent was sent for by the Lord Fairfax who was then as Samuel Timmands’s to Pilot him up to Joist Hite’s which accordingly he did.

There are also a couple of references to Peter Wolf’s list that he took known as “the number of Settlements upon the Grant granted to Robert McCay Jost Hyte and their Partners in the forks of Shannando and the several Branches thereof.”

This is the 100,000-acre grant given to Jost Hite and his Quaker partner Robert McKay. They needed to seat 100 families to fulfill their obligation under that conditional grant to seat 1 family per 1000 acres.

Note that some historians state that McCay is Quaker, not Scots-Irish.

They list the 49 names, as follows:

    • Robert McCay Senr.
    • John Funk
    • Henry Johnston
    • Thomas Parmer
    • John Denton
    • Jonah Denton
    • Henry Falkenburg
    • Edward Wormwood
    • Andrew Falkenburg
    • Jacob Falkenburg
    • David Carlock
    • Benjamin Allen
    • Reiley More
    • John Lewis
    • William White
    • John Dobikin Senr.
    • James Gill
    • Andrew Bird (Burd in 1770)
    • John Nichols
    • William Bridges
    • Charles Smith
    • Daniel Holeman
    • Charles Robinson
    • William Linviel
    • John Gorden
    • John Wood
    • John Cannaday
    • Robert McCay Jr.
    • Joseph Whites
    • William Oldham
    • William Barke
    • William Anns (?)
    • Barnel Hegin
    • Samuel White
    • Joshua Jobe
    • George Robinson
    • James Sickles
    • William Barnett
    • James Leeth
    • John Calbreth
    • John Edmondson
    • Isaac Howell (Houser in 1770)
    • John Read
    • Joseph Tindell
    • Michael Brook
    • Joseph Read
    • David Keath
    • William Goodwin
    • George Leeth

Whereas the said Robert McCay, Jost Hyte and their Partners have requested of us George Hobson and Morgan Morgan two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace at Opeckon in the County of Orange to view the Settlements within their said Grant and that Mr. George Hobson went part of the Way with me in order to view the same the weather proving bad he returned and there being no other Magistrate over the Ridge Mr. Jost Hight appointed Peter Wolfe in his room to go with me to view the said Settlements within the said Grant.

I the said Morgan Morgan do hereby certify that the said Peter Wolfe and myself have viewed and that we seen the above Settlement being in number forty-nine and that the same are now improving by the above named persons within the said Grant Given under my hand this 26 day of January A:Dom: 1735/6.

Morgan Morgan

This is followed by Peter Wolf, on January 26th, 1735/36, stating that he “had in fact viewed the settlements in the Fork of Shannando and the several Branches thereof and that he did see forty-nine Settlements in number and that the same were now improving by the Persons named in the list.”

The red names are the original plats, and the blue names are 1770 landowners. What happened to the rest of those people???

I can’t help but notice that the name Morgan Morgan looks Welsh to me. Hmmm.

Welsh, tuck that away in some corner of my mind.

The Neighborhood is Established

This list establishes the earliest neighborhood.

I noticed James Gill on that list. He is the person who, with his wife, in 1737, John and Elizabeth Dobkins stood up with each other when their babies were baptized. Note that James Gill was killed by Indians 22 years later on April 24, 1758. This must have struck terror into the hearts of the Dobkins family members. James was their neighbor and friend.

Is the proximity of James Gill to John Dobkins on that list circumstantial? Did they stand up for each other just because they were neighbors? Were they actual neighbors? Was there something else? Were they related?

Using the maps provided in the Smyth book, above, and the accompanying names from the location where we believe that John Dobkins Sr. lived, just beneath the Fairfax line in what would become Augusta County, then proceeding north, I’ve combined the information by plat, as best I could. The properties between the two maps aren’t the same shape and don’t exactly fit, but I’ve come close. The people are listed in the “closest to furthest” proximity to John Dobkins.

Note that the date is the patent date, NOT the date the families settled on the land.

Tract Date Name 1770 Name Acres Origins
98-873  Z Burd, Andrew 210 Chester Co, PA
45-870  Y Hodge, John 210 Poss PA
Neighbor to Y, drawn but not listed Dobkins, John Sr. Not shown 150
X Harrison, Burr 3 Poss Long Island, NY
G-228  Q July 21, 1749 Hodge, John Hodge, John 126
G-229  P July 21, 1749 Scholl, Peter Schell, Peter 420 in 1749, 110 in 1770 NY or NJ
G-230 July 21, 1749 Schene, Jane (widow of Matthew Skeen) On map but no name 301 Midlothian, Scotland
G-231  M July 21, 1749 Looker, Thomas Looker, Thomas 431 in 1749, 182 in 1770
N Cutlip, George and Skeen, Matthews 64 + 108 in 1770
G-232 July 21, 1749 Sevier, Valentine Includes New Market, long tract, no 1770 designation 370 in 1749 London, England
G-237 July 21, 1749 Seahorn, Nicholas Above Valentines, not shown in 1770 399 in 1749 Germany
G-234 K, L July 21, 1749 Newman, Mary (widow of Samuel) John and Walter Newman 216 in 1749, 26 and 66 in 1770 St. Stephen Parish, Cecil Co., MD
G-235  I July 21, 1749 Carroll, William Carroll, Joseph 600 in 1749, 300 in 1770 Prob MD
G-244 July 21, 1749 Carroll, William 143 Chester Co., PA
G-236 July 21, 1749 Newman, Samuel Houser, Henry 400 in 1749, 140 in 1770
G-233 F, G July 21, 1749 Lusk, Samuel Chester Co., PA Alderson, Curtis & John 404 in 1749, 74 & 80 in 1770 Alderson – Yorkshire, England to NJ to PA
G-393  99 July 10, 1735 Holman, Daniel Holman, Daniel 891 in 1749, 395 in 1770 see G395 England or VA
G-395 Aug 2, 1750 Holman, Daniel Holman, Daniel 130 in 1770, can’t determine 1749 lines Poss Kent Co., MD
G-394 Aug 2 1750 Holman, John Holman?, 420
G-238 lower E July 21, 1749 James, William Kagey, Henry 315 in 1749, 309 in 1770
G-238 upper D July 21, 1749 James, William James, Thomas & Joseph Can’t tell in 1749, 184 in 1770
G-239  B, C July 21, 1749 Ruddle, John Ruddle, George & Harrison, George 412 in 1749, 174 & 35 in 1770 Chester Co., PA
G-390  99 Aug 2, 1750 Naffe, John Henry Sherill, Adams, Neave, J.H. 470 in 1749, 200 in 1770 Neff – Bonfield, Germany
N-96 Aug 5, 1766 Harrison, Burr Not drawn 200
G-241 A July 21, 1749 Ruddle, Cornelius Kingree, Daniel 393 in 1649, 197 in 1770
H-710 Oct 20, 1756 Neff, John Henry Not marked 404
M-94 Dec 18, 1762 Clark, William Not marked 187
G-240 July 21, 1749 White, William Not marked 410 Monocacy, Maryland
158 June 29, 1739 White, William Not marked 400
G-269 Aug 12, 1749 Clark, William Clark, William & Carleck, David 462 in 1749, 400 in 1770, shown as pat in 1737 Carleck- Germany
157 June 29, 1739 Allen, Benjamin (Barnstable, Mass) (Reuben’s uncle) Not shown 400 Reuben Allen, Cecil Co., MD (Quaker)
Forestville on Holman Creek
H-135 1752 Brock, Henry Not shown 268 NY
G-367 1749 Brock, George Not shown 224
H-113 1752 Funkhauser, Christian Not shown 444

It’s clear that these maps and land plats are not equivalent. It’s also worth noting that this is not a list of all the settlers, especially not in 1770. It’s a history of these specific land plats. We know that this isn’t a complete list, because John Dobkins Jr. owned land west of Forestville by 1751 and the Fairfax Line surveyors found him already there and farming in 1746.

This is only Benjamin Bordon’s 3300-acre tract. We also know that many of these men, if not all, had settled here in the 1730s. Their land just wasn’t granted until years later.

The early settlers’ plots and plats are shown in approximate order, south to north. I wish John’s land had been shown and labeled, but it wasn’t. However we know, based on the size of the original 3300 acres, and the fact that exactly 150 acres are missing, and there’s one plat drawn but not identified that it’s probably his. We can probably find some confirmation based on other documents – and who he interacts with. Plus, his will was probated in 1746 in Augusta County, not Frederick, which tells us he HAS to be one of the three plots below the Fairfield Line.

We also know that the Hite-Fairfax dispute delayed or caused land to be granted without being resurveyed. The grants were passed and assigned hand to hand, and the ownership was questionable for the next 35 years. This probably explains why there is no record of John Dobkins Sr.’s land being disposed of by his widow, Mary.

What else do we have?

Baptisms

Besides John Dobkins and James Gill, who else had children baptized in 1737 by the German, Lutheran Rev. Stoever?

  • Andrew Bird father of Rebecca Bird born in 1732, witnesses James Gill and Sarah Moor.
  • William Breedyes, father of James born 1733 and Hanna born 1734
  • Rilie Moor father of Terkis Moore born 1731, witness Catharine Gerlach
  • Rilie Moor father of Thomas Moor born 1732, witness Theobaldt Gerlach and wife
  • Rilie Moor father of Jacob born 1734 witness Andrew Bird
  • Rilie Moor father of John born 1736 witness Charles Ehrhardt and wife Clara
  • John Hodge’s 3 children
  • William White’s 3 children
  • Daniel Hoolman’s (Holman) son Isaac, witness James Guill (Gill)
  • John Leenwill’s son Lewis, witness Stephen Lewis
  • Frederich Gebert father of Susanna baptized in 1736, witness Clara Strubel
  • Nicolaus Brintzler, sponsor John Frederick Strubel.

By 1738 and 1739, Stoever was baptizing German children in the Valley, so Germans had clearly arrived by then.

In a different portion of Stoever’s book, we find what look to be marriages. Based on the reference to Orange County, we know it was before 1743.

  • June 8 – John Hodge and Elisabeth Windseeth, Jacob Thigh and Mary White, Daniel Hoolman and Elizabeth Cartlay, North River, Shenandoah, vulgo, Cockel Town in Orange County, in the Colony of Virginia.

I also noticed that Stoever had several Monocacy baptisms too. Some of those surnames are the same as those found in the Shenandoah Valley, including Gerlach. Hmmm…

Did Stoever travel to the Valley to service some of the same families he knew in the Monocacy area?

Dobkins Children

Sometimes first names matter.

We know that John Dobkins Jr. had children with the first names of:

  • Thomas
  • John
  • Jean
  • Jacob
  • Evan
  • Reuben
  • Rebecca

Fortunately, at least two of these children had rather unusual names – Evan and Reuben. Jacob isn’t terribly common either. I need to keep my eyes open for families with these names, especially in one family.

I searched for Evan in the early books and found Evan Jones who lived in the Shenandoah Valley. Evan Jones was said to be Welsh. He lived near the county line on Back Road, formerly known as Zane’s Road.

FAN Club

Ok, now I’m off to my spreadsheet. I have a love/hate relationship with spreadsheets. The data entry feels like wasted time and is mind-numbing, but the results are often quite fruitful because you can see relationships in ways that don’t require you to remember things.

Plus, when you are forced to go back through original documents, you find things you missed.

I couldn’t figure out what happened to the land belonging to John Dobkins Jr., which would bracket his death for me – and might give me a clue whether or not he actually did go to the western waters, Washington County, in what would become Tennessee after it struggled, then died on the vine as the rebel State of Franklin.

Did he actually homestead two frontiers? One when he was maybe 30 or 35, and another when he was 70, or older?

I entered all of the data I have for John Dobkins Sr, John Dobkins Jr. and their children into the spreadsheet. I went back to sources, such as Chalkley’s Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia series and the Northern Neck Virginia Land Patent books. No, you wouldn’t think of Shenandoah Valley as the Northern Neck, but there we are.

Click to enlarge images

I’m showing the first 7 rows of my spreadsheet as an example. I have a total of 362 rows, and 77 items. An item is not equivalent to a row.

You can see items 1 and 2, above. I create a separate row for every person named in the item.

In item 1, which is John Dobkins’ Sr.’s land grant, which was actually a bond, so I need to fix that, two people were mentioned. Both John and Benjamin Borden have a row. I neglected to add that William White stated that he saw the transaction.

Giving everyone their own row allows me to filter for all occurrences of Benjamin Borden, for example.

Assigning an item number lets me select all people mentioned in item 1.

Using filters, I can select any surname(s) and see the various people who interacted with John Dobkins by that surname.

For example, here’s Moore.

In the last book I rechecked, I found something in the index which led me to an entry that, somehow, I had missed previously.

Here’s the answer to what happened to John Dobkins Jr.’s land, and when. Glory be!!!!

Name spelling is not standardized, AND, the search feature does not always work correctly. I actually consult the index, then look on each page. That’s how I found this entry which answered this perplexing question.

John did not have an estate in Augusta County, Virginia, so apparently when he assigned his survey, S-374, he was living, which increases the probability of the man in Washington County in November of 1787 being our John Dobkins. April 1, 1788 is when this was recorded. Not surprising given winter roads and weather.

However, now I need to check the Frederick County,VA records for John, because until I saw this, I didn’t realize he had moved across the county line from the part of Augusta which became Shenandoah. It’s VERY obvious now.

However, this still is a bit confusing because the acreage doesn’t agree. This is 200 different acres than we previously knew about on Stoney Creek.

I asked Cousin Carol to check and see what she could find. Carol and I have been researching our family for decades together, and she often finds things that I haven’t.

Cousin Carol

Cousin Carol found something more.

John’s original survey on Stoney Creek that was assigned to William Bean. This is the land documented earlier by Jeffrey LaFavre, here and here.

Carol found John Dobekin’s 400 acre survey. Thomas Gill is his chainer, providing one more connection to the Gill family. In fact, this Thomas Gill is the child whose baptism John Dobkins witnessed in 1737, the same day as Thomas’s father, James Gill witnessed the baptism of John’s son, Thomas Dobkins.

Both men had sons named Thomas baptized the same day, and stood up for each other’s baptisms. Hmmm…

The front of the survey shows that the survey was done for John Dobekins, but I can’t read the word after his name. Then William Bean is written in.

Then, “assigned to Cap. Cornelias Ruddle in presence of William White and John Ruddle, deed to issue inthe name of William Bean by desire of Cornelias Ruddle.”

The survey jacket confirms the chain of ownership.

No wonder the titles to these lands are confused and were for decades. This land wasn’t conveyed and recorded, the warrant and survey were just assigned. Not surprising since it was a long ride to the courthouse.

I swear, John is playing hide and seek with me.

Histories

I’m a big fan of “History of” books, especially ones that were written quite early. Some of those books include the memories of people born in the early 1800s, and they tell us what their grandparents, born in the 1700s, told them.

Those are absolute goldmines.

The History of Shenandoah County is searchable, including by first name only.

I searched for Reuben, and among others, discovered both Reuben and Jacob Moore. Hmmm…

“About the year 1734, as noted in the preceding chapter, Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White settled in this neighborhood,” referring to the Smith Creek corridor.

Then, “In 1734, Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White came from the Monocacy Valley in Maryland and took up some of the fertile lands at or near the site of Mt. Jackson.”

“Fertile lands” might be a clue as to why they settled in that specific location.

It appears, based on a 1782 journal of a Quaker minister that Grifith Dawbin (Dobbin), Thomas Moore and the Allens were Quakers. It’s interesting to note that the women from the Hopewell Friends church accompanied the minister to Shenandoah, 55 miles distant. On the road, they met a contingent of Friends from York County, PA.

Searching for Evan produced references to Evan Jones and a few others.

Why is John Dobkins never mentioned anyplace in these histories? I’m going to assume it was because he was a simple, quiet, yeoman farmer, just plowing his fields and harvesting his produce.

Additional Resources

There are also other resources that I use as well.

One is WikiTree and another is WeRelate. WeRelate has profiles of ancestors grouped usefully. Here’s the list of Early Settlers on the North Branch of the Shenandoah River.

I also have a friend, Maree, who is relentless in digging through obscure resources. I think she views these missing folks as a personal challenge to uncover the truth. Most of what she finds doesn’t hit that mark, but that’s the price one pays for the ONE that does. Bless her patient heart!

This time, I had to laugh because Maree kept finding my Dodsons out of Virginia. DNA confirms that they are not the same family, but those names do sound alike. Too much alike.

In any event, between my research, Maree, and my cousin, Carol, we are making halting progress. I probably ran down 200 blind alleys. Did I mention we were having, literally, a hurricane during this research adventure too?

I’m not going to bore you with every alley, but I do want to share relevant information from my “everything” document. .

Riley Moore

Riley Moore, a near neighbor of John Dobkins Sr., is listed in the Register of Old Augusta Families at WeRelate.

Remember the unsourced rumor that John Dobkins Jr.’s wife was the daughter of Thomas Moore. For that to be true, she would have been born around 1710, which means Thomas Moore would have been born in the 1680s or earlier.

She cannot be the daughter of Riley’s son, Thomas, who married Phebe Harrison, the granddaughter of an entirely different ancestor of mine, Isaiah Harrison that I didn’t expect to find here. What this means, though, is that if I match descendants of this Thomas Moore, it could be through my Harrison line, not because of Dobkins/Moore DNA.

We are at least one generation offset, because this Thomas Moore would be the same age as John Dobkins Jr, not a generation older. The older generation was Riley Moore. If he had a daughter, Elizabeth, she’s not mentioned in his will, and the other children are.

However, Riley Moore had a brother or half-brother named Thomas Moore as well, who also immigrated to Shenandoah from Monocacy Hundred in 1733. Born about 1717, he married Mary Allen, whose father was Reuben Allen, which connects the Allen and Moore families.

Reuben is not a common name. Now it’s in two families who are found with our Dobkins folks.

This Thomas Moore died in 1790 and did have a daughter Elizabeth, but apparently did not mention his daughter, Elizabeth’s married name in his will. I think I need to review his estate documents, in particular, the settlement if there is one. If indeed, Elizabeth is Thomas’s daughter, she would have married John Dobkins before he arrived in Shenandoah Valley, or at least by 1735, the birth year of their first child baptized in Orange County. This means Elizabeth would have been born 1710ish.

Given that Thomas Moore’s birth date is given as “after 1717,” this seems to eliminate this connection too, or maybe his birth date is simply wrong.

However, given the common first names, such as Reuben and Jacob, not to mention Thomas, there easily could be some connection, someplace. Or, maybe it’s further back a generation.

Riley Moore died in 1760 on his land in the Shenandoah Valley which then fell into Frederick County, VA. He only named his wife and sons James and Reuben. Witnesses to the will were Evan Jones, Amos Lewis and Susan Lewis. There’s the name Evan. Evan is the Welsh name for John.

Riley Moore was clearly English, given that his children were born and baptized at St. Barnabas Church, Queen Anne’s Parish, Prince George Co., MD between 1700 and 1712. There was no child named Elizabeth.

There seems to be a connection before Shenandoah Valley, and there assuredly is one after arrival.

In the road orders, on May 22, 1750, “Thomas Moore and Riley Moore are hereby Appointed Surveyors of the High Way in the room of Daniel Holdman and it is Ordered that they set up posts of Directions and Clear & keep the same in repair According to Law.”

Posts of direction. The earliest road signs. Clearly, more settlers were passing through on their way south and, eventually, on into the Carolinas.

Benjamin and Reuben Allen

Benjamin Allen never married. Reuben Allen was his brother. The following information is provided by Mike, here.

Reuben Allen I – Although there is no record of surveys or patents for land near Mt. Jackson owned by Benjamin Allen’s brother Reuben, Reuben Allen I appears to have been by far the larger landowner of the two. Reuben Allen I died in 1741. As his sons were too young to have acquired much wealth on their own, the various Fairfax Grants in 1749, issued to Reuben Allen I’s widow Mary and her sons Reuben II, Jackson and Joseph, appear to be for lands previously owned by their father. These Fairfax Grants of 625, 400, 270, and 202 acres, all four of which joined Benjamin Allen’s land, were no doubt for lands once owned by Reuben Allen I, brother of Benjamin.

Dr. Wayland in writing his “History of Shenandoah County, Virginia” makes no mention of Reuben Allen I, brother of Benjamin. However, Reuben evidently followed Benjamin to the Valley, as he had in Cecil County, Md. Reuben Allen I died intestate in 1741 and records of his estate are found in Orange County, Va. The deed in Dartmouth in 1721 shows he had a wife Mary at that time. No marriage has been found in either Quaker or Civil records. The Carleton Genealogy states Mary was Mary Jackson, dau of Samuel Jackson of Baltimore Co., Md, but this has been proved incorrect. Samuel Jackson died in Baltimore County in 1719 and his dau Mary was willed 90 acres of “Carter’s Rest” and 100 acres of “Jackson’s Outlet” (Md. Calendar of WiUs, Vol. 5, p 2). This same 100 acres of Jackson’s Outlet was leased to James Taylor by Mary Forster. Taylor, in turn leased the land to Mary Forster’s brother-in-law, Rowland Kemble. No record of Reuben Allen is found in Deed Records and Rent Rolls in Baltimore County, which at this time period bordered on Cecil Co., Md. However, the possibilities are good that Mary’s maiden name was Jackson as this name appears many times among the descendants. Reuben and Mary may have married before he left N. J. to move to Cecil Co., Md. in 1719.

Mary survived Reuben Allen I, as did five known children. Reuben and Mary had been married over twenty years and there were undoubtedly other children, some of them minors when Reuben died in 1741, but no Guardianship records were found, nor dower rights for his widow. With the distance to the Courthouse it is not surprising that none of these records exist. In fact, it is a sign of the hardiness of these Allens that we do have in Orange County, the petition for letters of Administration, made by Reuben Allen II, shown in the Court Order Book as “eldest son”; the Administration Bond of Reuben Allen II, made with Benjamin Allen and Thomas Moore as Sureties; and a full and complete inventory of his goods and chattels made by Peter Scholl, William White and Abraham Collett. The inventory shows it was made February 2, 1741/42 and was filed for record the 27th day of May 1742. The Administration Bond is dated November 26, 1741, and the record shows Reuben Allen II, Thomas Moore, and Benjamin Allen acknowledged this Bond in Court. Reuben Allen II was a Quaker, as evidenced by his affirmation in lieu of the oath of Administration (Orange County Va. Will Bk 1, pp 179, 180, 219, 221). Thomas Moore, one of the sureties for the Bond, was the son-in law, husband of Mary Allen.

A comparison of household articles in the inventories of both Reuben Allen I and Mary Allen shows many items still in the possession of Mary when she died in 1751 (Aug. Co. Will Bk 1 p 423). Jackson and Joseph Allen were named Administrators of the Estate of Mary Allen, deceased on the 29th of May 1751 (Aug. Co. Will Bk 1 pp 336 337). Thomas Moore and John Dobekin were sureties for Jackson and Joseph Allen’s Administration Bond (Aug. Co. Will Bk 1 p 356). Reuben Allen II, son of Reuben and Mary Allen died within a day or two of his mother. Whether their deaths were the result of an Indian raid, or perhaps an epidemic is not known. Ingaborg Allen, widow of Reuben II was granted letters of Administration on 28 May 1751, with Cornelius Ruddell and John Dobiken as Sureties (Aug. Co. Will Bk I p 335).

It’s very clear that these families were close, and likely intertwined.

Evan Jones

From the VAGenweb site:

In 1791, Evan Jones was high sheriff of Shenandoah County. In 1785 he had been one of the census enumerators, and he was prominent as a magistrate and otherwise. His home was on the Back Road (Zane’s Road?) in the southwest part of the county, one mile from the Fairfax (Rockingham) Line. It is probable that in every generation of his descendants there has been an Evan Jones. The old homestead today (1927) is owned by one of them, Evan Jones, and his brother, J.A. Jones. The old farm has never been out of the hands of the Jones family. The present Evan Jones is one of the men prominent in county affairs.

I have been unable to determine where Evan Jones came from.

Backtracking Up the Great Wagon Road

The Dobkins family seems very connected to the Moore family. Furthermore, John Dobkins arrives at the same time, and lives close to the Monocacy men – Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White.

I think it’s time to look in the Monocacy and see what I can find. Based on Riley Moore’s information, it looks like Prince George’s County, Maryland might be a good beginning.

This also makes sense on another level too.

In the book about Life on Holman Creek, I find my Millers, Zirkles, Garbers, Wines and a very large number of my Brethren family members literally surrounding John Dobkins land. Where did they come from? Frederick County, Maryland, near Hagerstown, land that was once part of Prince George’s County. In other words, the Monocacy.

By Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant) – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1951953

The Monocacy River runs south out of Adams County, PA into Frederick County, MD, above, where it dumps into the Potomac River, below.

By G. Edward Johnson – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93635068

An old Indian trail, probably the first “highway,” was found along the river.

The Great Wagon Road eventually connected these places. Of course, what began with a trickle when those first 49 settlers arrived on horseback or walking, became a steady stream of wagons carrying families with dreams, especially after the Revolutionary War.

What does Maryland have to offer?

Found Him!!!

The book, Pioneers of Old Monocacy is chocked full of historical information, including an index entry for both John Dobbins Sr, and John Dobbins Jr.

Doggone, there he is, plus his son in 1733 and 1734. This means that John Dobkins Jr. would have been married by this time, and probably pushes his birth year back to about 1708 or earlier.

Clearly, based on this document, I need to find the Maryland State Papers and see what else is there.

The second list, in 1734, tells us that John Dobbin got into a bit of trouble. Poor quality tobacco plants were to be burned in order to preserve the quality of the cured and finished tobacco product. If a man didn’t have some tobacco to be burned, generally in a central location, witnessed by others, that simply meant he had failed to comply with the order. This transgression, of course, could affect the price that all the farmers could command for their combined tobacco crop.

This event could have had something to do with why the two Dobkins men decided to pack up and strike out for the frontier. No one could tell them what to plant and grow there, or how to do it. Wheat, corn, and, eventually, apples were the primary crops in the Shenandoah Valley. Not all fields had to be cleared either. Some were already open prairie, the Indian “old fields,” now abandoned, but ready to be utilized again with much less effort than felling mature trees across an entire forest.

Prince George’s County is where the Van Meters were from too. They were involved in the earliest settlement of the Shenandoah Valley, so John Dobkins likely knew them and had heard the tales.

Thomas Cresap was living in Prince George’s County as well. Cresap was a land speculator, Indian trader, and explorer. His questionable methods and “loose” transactions caused so much angst between Pennsylvania and Maryland settlers, and governments, that he literally started Cresap’s War, named not in honor of him, but because of him.

All I can say is that John Dobkins, or Dobbins, needed to be very grateful he teamed up with Van Meter and not Cresap.

It’s hard to think of Maryland as the wild west, but at one time, it clearly was.

Maryland in the 1730s

I don’t exactly know where John Dobbins and his son lived, but it’s likely someplace in this region.

We know that they were in the “Monoccosea Hundred,” shown below, in the Catoctin Valley in western Frederick County. Cacoctin Mountain, the eastern-most reach of the Blue Ridge, about 15 miles east of Hagerstown, is where Camp David is located today.

Many of the surnames, such as Friend, found in this area when John Dobkins lived there are also found in the early Shenandoah Valley settlement.

The settlers likely congregated, perhaps at Richard Touchstones, in preparation for beginning the journey “from Monocacy to Shenandoah Mountain,” today’s South Mountain.

The Valley led directly from Maryland, across the mountains and into the Shenandoah valley, further south.

Many of the Quakers at Hopewell in Fredrick County, VA came from Monocacy, as did Benjamin Borden – the man who initially gave bond to John Dobkins in 1735, promising that John could patent his land. A list of early Frederick County wills can be found here.

Preparations

I don’t know what kind of thought and preparation went into the decision to leave Maryland and embark not only on a journey, but a journey into the complete unknown. The Shawnee Indians had all been massacred by the Catawbas in that very valley, probably between 1650 and 1700, so the Shenandoah Valley was at that point, uninhabited. The Warrior path that would become the settlers’ trail, then the Wagon Road, and now Highway 11 ran directly along the North Fork of the Shenandoah and Smith Creek.

John Dobkins was a farmer. He and his son wouldn’t have left Maryland until after the crops were harvested. They would have planned to arrive in the springtime in time to, hopefully, prepare the land for even a small first-year crop in the Shenandoah Valley.

Fall was a preferred time to migrate anyway. Not wet like the spring. Not the heat and humidity of the summer, and not frozen and slippery in the winter.

Perhaps the hardest part was leaving family behind.

John Dobkins the elder, and Mary, his wife, were clearly old enough to have adult children. Did some of those children stay behind? Daughters maybe, who married, and we will never know who they are?

Did they have siblings, or parents, that they would never see again? What and who were they leaving behind?

Did they visit tiny graves, taking flowers and explaining that they would see those children in Heaven one day?

If they didn’t leave living children behind, they surely wept as they said goodbye beside those graves one last time.

If they left living children behind, what became of them? Did John and Mary also leave weeping grandchildren behind?

Did they give them mementos to remember them by? Would they ever see any of them again?

The Trail to Shenandoah

This map shows the old Philadelphia Waggon Road at its beginning near Opequon Creek and Antietam Creek on the Potomac River.

Opequon Creek, shown above at the red arrow, at the Potomac where the wagon road to Shenandoah Valley left from.

This journey would take them about an hour and a half, maybe two, today. Just an afternoon drive – down and back in one day. It would have taken at least two weeks, and probably more since many people were probably on foot, and the terrain was rugged.

It was “only” 80-100 miles. Only. A paradigm shift away from anything resembling safety or life as they knew it.

Crossing the Potomac from the border between Maryland and West Virginia. Of course, they would have had to ford the river or take a rope ferry.

You can see the Blue Ridge in the distance.

About 10 miles later, the Shenandoah River empties into the Potomac River. Our pioneers turn left and head upstream, into the mountains.

The Valley from above shows the mountains on both sides. John and the other families continue to follow the river, between the mountain ranges. Maybe the wives said to each other, when the men were out of hearing, that they could go back if they wanted. Several would have been pregnant.

Crossing from present-day West Virginia, into Virginia, directly into Frederick County. These buildings wear the patina of age. John passed here, but of course, there was nothing more than a path.

Mountains rise on both sides of the road.

If they traveled in the late fall, it would have been stunningly beautiful as they, day by day, approached the land where they would stake out their claims and build the cabins that would be their new homes.

A little further south, the valley widens a bit, offering more tillable land, and the Shenandoah River splits into the North and South Branches at present-day Front Royal.

Our group of settlers continue down the North Fork. They were halfway by now. Without Hite or Van Meter, someone who could “pilot” the way, they would have been entirely lost.

The group would have passed and made note of occasional Indian mounds, sad sentries to the villages that were destroyed, with all their inhabitants, a generation earlier. Ghost villages.

Today, the Old Valley Pike is marked by sleepy villages with beautiful homes built before automobiles, standing close to the present-day roads.

The settlers’ path brought them closer to the Blue Ridge to the east, paralleling the North Fork of the Shenandoah.

South of Mt. Jackson, the caravan would have forded the Shenandoah one last time, trying to keep at least some things dry. Just east of that location, the mouth of Smith Creek deposits its water into the North Fork of the Shenandoah, dividing the waterway once again.

The horse train continued its path south, on to the Borden grant. They would have wanted to find headwaters of creeks to assure clean water for people and livestock.

The settlers are now threading the needle, with the North Fork of the Shenandoah behind the tree line at right, and Smith Creek behind the trees below the escarpment at left. This valley looks relatively flat, beautiful, and fertile.

Better yet, it was uninhabited, theirs for the taking and working the land.

One of the settlers would, unwittingly, settle on the land where the Shenandoah Caverns would be discovered on Neff land in 1884. Endless Caverns, the longest cave system in Virginia, was discovered about a mile from John Dobkins Sr.’s land in 1879. For all we know, and John never knew, that cave labyrinth might run right under his land.

Questions – So Many Questions

Indeed, we managed to push the needle about 100 miles, back into Maryland. That seems so much further than 100 miles. It seems like a lifetime, a different world. It assuredly was for those brave settlers.

Why did the Monocacy men continue to travel beyond the other settlers? As each of the other families stopped and claimed land, why did they settle, together, so far south on Smith Creek? Was that considered the best land? Were they late arrivals? Did it cost less, to Borden, because it was more remote and therefore, more dangerous?

We know that Daniel Holman built a fort house at the entrance of Holman Creek where it intersects with the Shenandoah River for the protection of his family and nearby settlers, probably in the red area above, about 200 X 300 feet. Three sides would have been protected by water. Holman’s Fort would have been about 5 miles north of where John Dobkins settled.

What records can be found in Prince George’s County, Maryland?

Is the original name Dobbins, Dobkins, Dobikins, or something else?

Did John arrive in Maryland from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New York like some of the other Prince George’s County families?

Was John Dobkins or Dobbins an immigrant? If so, when did he arrive, and from where?

Was he married when he arrived?

Who was his wife, Mary?

Is John, his wife, Mary, or his son John’s wife, Elizabeth, related to the Allen and Moore families? My bet is yes.

Is the Dobkins family related to the other Monocacy families?

What about James Gill and the two sons named Thomas? Is that significant?

What does Y DNA tell us?

Dobkins Y DNA – What Does It Say?

We have two men descended from Evan’s son, Thomas Dobkins, who was born in 1781 in East Tennessee and died in 1822 in Missouri.

The high-level haplogroup of these two men is I-M253, but unfortunately, they don’t match any other men of the same surname.

At 37 markers, the highest they tested, they do match one man who is from Scotland, and one man living in Sweden. That’s it!

Unfortunately, haplogroup I-M253 is about 4500 years old and most frequently found in Scandinavia and Northwest Europe.

Of course, with sea travel and Vikings, it could have traveled anyplace in that region.

I am attempting to find another male to take a Big Y test, as the DNA of the original tester was not sufficient to process.

Viewing the Dobkins 12-marker matches, the correlation with the British Isles, northwest Europe, and Scandinavia is reinforced/

All I can really say with a high degree of confidence is that the Y DNA of the Dobkins line is rare. That’s much better than being common, but we need more markers and the Big Y test.

If you are a Dobkins male descended from this line, please reach out. I’d love to provide a Y DNA testing scholarship for you.

We still need more evidence.

_____________________________________________________________

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FamilyTreeDNA to Surpass 60,000 Y DNA Haplogroups and Introduces New Time Tree

The public Y DNA tree at FamilyTreeDNA is on the brink of crossing the 60,000 branch threshold.

When do you think it will sprout enough leaves to get there? I’m betting on tomorrow, or maybe the next day?

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Discover Tool Grows Too

The new Discover tool launched almost exactly three months ago, and people are purchasing or upgrading to the Big Y test to learn about their matches and discover their place in the history of mankind. Of course, every test boosts genealogy and helps the tree of mankind grow. You can read about how to use the Discover tool, here.

The Discover Tool continues to add features for Y DNA testers too.

Introducing the Time Tree

A couple of weeks ago, FamilyTreeDNA introduced the time tree.

The time tree shows your haplogroup age and placement on the tree, plus age estimates for nearby haplogroups too. You can click up and down the tree by haplogroup.

My Estes haplogroups are shown above with incredible accuracy based on my proven genealogy. I’m still amazed that science, alone, without the benefit of genealogy, can get within half a century many times.

Looking at another example, you can see that haplogroup Q-FTC17883 has two testers and a notable connection, Kevin Segura.

The genetically calculated age estimate of this branch is about 1950.

Using the back arrow to click back one haplogroup shows the current testers, the Lovelock4 ancient sample, and additional haplogroups.

Note that while the Lovelock sample is shown to be the same haplogroup as today’s testers, recovery of ancient DNA is not always complete. In other words, that sample might have SNPs that the contemporary testers don’t have, or the sample may be incomplete, or no-calls may not be reported. Sample ages may not be included either, so FamilyTreeDNA has to work with what’s available.

What I’m saying is that Lovelock 4 is “at least,” reliably, haplogroup Q-FTC17883 and shares that SNP with present-day testers.

But Wait, There’s More

This past week, FamilyTreeDNA made another big update.

Included are the ancient samples published in the recent paper about the Southern Arc, the bridge between western Asia and Europe and samples from western Europe and England that help tell the story of Anglo-Saxon migration.

These ancient peoples helped form the gene pool in Europe, then pushed on into the British Isles.

Additionally, this past week’s updates include:

  • 345 new haplogroup reports (Haplotree changes up until September 23rd)
  • In total, almost 2,600 ancient DNA samples, including all the samples from the Southern Arc and Anglo-Saxon migration papers, two large new studies with a total of 590 samples!
  • In total, over 4,300 academic modern DNA samples from different parts of the world, including 1,200 new from Sardinia
  • New flags added: Druze, Italy (Sardinia), Western Sahara (Sahrawi)

Fun

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find my ancestral lines in appropriate surname and regional projects, upgrading cousins, and finding new people to test.

I enter their Y DNA haplogroup into Discover and share my new-found information with my cousins who agreed to test. Everyone loves Discover because it’s so relatable.

For example, you can enter haplogroup:

  • I-A1843 to view Wild Bill Hickok
  • Q-M3 for Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket
  • R-FT62777 to learn about Johnny Cash

By entering your own, or your ancestor’s Y DNA haplogroups, you can discover where they came from, which lines they share with notable people, and identify their ancient cousins. The more refined your haplogroup, the more relevant the information will be, which is why I recommend the Big Y test. My Estes line estimated haplogroup from STR testing is R-M269

There are 23 haplogroups between R-M269 and my ancestor, Moses Estes’s haplogroup, R-ZS3700 in 1711. R-M269 is interesting, but R-ZS3700 is VERY relevant.

Even if you can’t “jump the pond” with genealogy records, you certainly can with Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing.

Can you find the Y DNA haplogroups of your male ancestors? Check surname projects and your autosomal matches for cousins who may have or would be willing to Y DNA test. I wish I had just tested all those earlier cousins at the Big Y level, because several have gone on to meet their ancestors and I can’t upgrade their sample now.

Test yourself and your cousins to reveal information about your common ancestors, and have fun with your new discoveries!!

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Why was Old Man Jacob Dobkins’ Will Fraudulently Secreted, Concealed and Destroyed? – 52 Ancestors #375

Get yourself a BIG, oversized cuppa java, because this is better than the best soap opera.

Yes, really.

Know what else? We’ve vindicated Old Man Jacob Dobkins too. At least somewhat. When you’re done reading this, his last will and testament will no longer be “disappeared.” We’ve “reappeared” it, 191 years later, almost two centuries after John Hunt, the sheriff, wrote it for him. John then read it aloud to those in the room. Jacob acknowledged that it was what he wanted, then he sat down and signed it, in his home, in front of John Hunt, two unbiased, unrelated, witnesses, and a few nosey family members.

How could that will have simply disappeared without so much as a trace?

Back Story

For decades, the fact that Jacob Dobkins had no will made no sense. Truthfully, my cousins and I all looked, individually, and I think we just figured it was one more of those head-scratching omissions. I knew from Jacob’s Revolutionary War Pension papers approximately when he died – and I even read the court records page by page – all to no avail. Nada. Nothing.

That omission was inexplicable.

According to his Revolutionary War Pension application, Jacob Dobkins was born in 1751 in Augusta County, Virginia. I wrote about his early life and service in the article, Jacob Dobkins (1751-1835); Several Bullet Holes Through His Clothes.

He truly lived an amazing life.

By La Citta Vita – Shenandoah River, aerial, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26763408

After the War, where Jacob served in Kentucky and Ohio, he returned to his home in Shenandoah County, Virginia – to, his wife Dorcas and young children. But Jacob had experienced a taste of adventure and what lay beyond those Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley – and he would never be the same. He heard them calling.

Jacob packed up his family and struck out for the frontier, first settling in Washington County, NC, which was contested land between Virginia and NC. His name appears on a petition to the governor of North Carolina in 1789, asking, begging for help and protection after the State of Franklin dissolved. You can read my transcription, here.

Tennessee was not yet a state, and this territory referred to as “South of the French Broad” was literally the untamed wild west.

Then we find Jacob in Jefferson County, then Hawkins on the border with Greene County for a dozen years, then on to the Indian Boundary Line in what would become Claiborne County, TN in 1801.

His was one of the first homes established along Cedar Fork on the Powell River.

Jacob’s original Claiborne County home stood well into the 1900s, and likely still stands today in a reconstructed village. You can see more photos and read about his homestead in the article, Come Sit a Spell With Jacob Dobkins.

Jacob was already living in Claiborne County when it was formed in 1801, sitting on the original court as a juror. He was no young man by this time – about 50 years old. His eldest children were already marrying.

In 1802, Jacob bought land on the north side of Wallen’s Ridge from Longhunter Elisha Wallen, and added more acreage over the years. I believe his goal was to purchase enough land to provide an enticement to his children to remain nearby.

Two of his daughters, Jane (Jenny) and Elizabeth married Campbell boys from Hawkins County.

John Campbell and Jenny Dobkins owned land adjoining the Liberty Baptist Church today. The original house still stands next door.

Jacob sold land to Elizabeth Dobkins and George Campbell as well as to his son, Solomon, and his other daughter Margaret who married Elijah Jones.

His son John Dobkins patented land on the south side of Wallen’s Ridge and lived nearby too.

Jacob’s home wasn’t large, at least not by today’s standards. However, by the standards of the frontier, Jacob appeared to be rather well-off, at least for a humble farmer. His strategy of buying land on the undeveloped frontier, clearing it, then selling it a few years later to new settlers was paying off. You could always purchase more land on the frontier further west. Jacob seemed to be an upright, respected man within the community, serving on juries, witnessing deeds, attending court, and doing what normal men of his time did.

In 1809, Jacob did something quite out of character. Perhaps as he aged, he needed help. By 1810, his children were all adults, married and none remained at home. Jacob was 58 or 59 years old when he purchased slaves.

“I Jesse Cheek hath bargained and sold unto Jacob Dobkins 4 negroes names Aneker or Anekey, Mitilty, Jiary, Amelyer for the consideration of $130 in hand paid.”  March 29 1809 Jesse signs, registered July 30, 1809.  John Campbell and Solomon Dobkins are witnesses.

Jacob’s son, Solomon, who was of age to marry and did shortly thereafter, and son-in-law John Campbell were witnesses.

As much as I hate to say this, I think this building on Jacob’s property was probably the slave quarters. I could be wrong, of course.

There’s one other single chimney standing that was clearly attached to a structure of some sort.

In some cases, the enslaved people simply slept in the main house, but in this case, Jacob seems to have purchased a family unit.

That transaction broke my heart. However, those enslaved people tie into Jacob’s will, or lack thereof. They would affect his family for generations, much more than he could ever, ever have anticipated. I bet Jacob, from the other side, fervently wished he could go back in time and “undo” his action. However, that’s not a choice we get.

By then, all he could do was watch it unfold and unravel.

Jacob seemed to have a relaxed, close relationship with his children. They lived nearby.

Jacob began distributing his property to his children, including his enslaved people, in about 1814 or 1815. Solomon would have just returned from the War of 1812 where he got into some sort of trouble. He was court-martialed and stripped of his Captain rank. Solomon’s problems wouldn’t end there.

We find only snippets about the Dobkins family for the next several years. Early census schedules, a few deeds, tax lists, court notes, and such. Everything seemed pretty normal except for a thing or two.

Never ignore or dismiss “a thing or two.”

One of those “things” was that Jacob Dobkins died, with assets, including property, but not only did he NOT have a will, neither was his death reported to the court so an administrator could be ordered to process his estate.

That means his estate records, will, inventory, and such were missing from two separate sets of records – the Will book and the Court Minutes – both of which exist for this time period. How odd.

I found that even stranger because we knew exactly where to look in the records based on his pension payments and when they stopped.

Then…BOOM!!!

Bombshell

A few days ago, cousin Debbie messaged me with this:

YAY! I finally found a document with proof that Jacob Dobkins is Jane Dobkins/Campbell’s father!

Of course, I wanted to know where and how. Debbie told me that the local DAR Registrar checked and found that a contested will existed at the Tennessee State Library and Archives that included Jane Dobkins’ deposition wherein she states that she is Jacob Dobkins’ daughter.

Now, we had known this for years, based on DNA matches among other evidence, but the problem is that none of that evidence was adequate for DAR membership, which was Debbie’s goal.

Debbie sent me the link to the Supreme Court case. She ordered the page she needed. I ordered all 59.

I was hoping against hope that the title of the case as indexed was in error and that William Fregate was actually William Fugate who was rumored to have been married to the sister of John and George Campbell. The person who initially set forth that theory is now deceased and declined to provide any evidence or even a source – except to say that there was a contested will and I would just have to find it myself.

Was this THAT will? It didn’t look hopeful from the name of the case, but hey, you never know.

J. B. Heiskell next friend vs Jeherle Fregate, admr.

Here’s the case description.

Add. plaintiffs: Avery Sinira Deadrick, mother of Cynthia Ann, Lewis, Nelson, & Hessy & Jean Jefferson. Defendant administrator of the estate of William Fregate (dec.). Through the will of the deceased, the complainants state they are entitled to their freedom. Defendant states the will was fraudulently obtained and altered.

Furthermore, searching for the keywords Dobkins and Campbell did NOT display this case – so I was very uncertain.

I ordered the case to be scanned anyway. I’ve spent a whole lot more for nothing before.

This case turned out to be an absolute goldmine.

However, I still don’t know if one of the Fugate men married John and George Campbell’s sister.

This document answered a whole lot of questions, exposed a family scandal, and gave birth to an avalanche of new questions.

Jacob’s Children

Here’s what we know, or thought we knew, about Jacob Dobkins and his wife, Dorcas Johnson’s children:

  • Andrew Dobkins born circa 1775 in probably Dunmore County, VA died in 1852 Greene County, TN, married Johanna Woolsey around 1800, and had children, William, Patsy, Rebecca, Dorcas, Rachel, and Mary “Polly.” Note – at the end of this case, I now believe that Andrew was NOT the child of Jacob, but of one of Jacob’s brothers, either Reuben or Evan who also migrated with him to the Virginia/North Carolina borderlands, but did not move to Claiborne County.
  • Jane “Jenny” Dobkins was born about 1777 in Dunmore County and died between 1850 and 1860 in Claiborne County, TN. She married John Campbell around 1800 and had children Jacob, Elizabeth, Elmira, Jane, Martha, Rutha, George Washington, and William Newton. Note – Her deposition provided us with her birth year.
  • John Dobkins was born about 1777, probably in Dunmore County, VA, and died after 1840 in Claiborne County, TN. He married Elizabeth Shaw before 1805 and had two known children, Lorenzo Dow and John.
  • Jacob Dobkins Jr. – Note – this person previously attributed to Jacob Sr. is the son of Solomon Dobkins and is not Jacob’s son. It’s likely that at one time Jacob did have a son with his name, but we find no records as an adult.
  • Reuben Dobkins was born about 1783 in Shenandoah County, VA, and died in 1823 in Claiborne County, TN. His wife’s name was Mary “Polly.” It’s unclear whether they had children before his death. Note – It appears she remarried to Thomas Martin.
  • Elizabeth Dobkins was born about 1783 in Shenandoah County, VA, and died after 1850 in Claiborne County, TN. She married George Campbell around 1796. They had Elizabeth “Betsy,” Barnabus “Barney,” Dorcus, Peggy, Jenny, Charles, James, John, and Jacob. Note – We only learn of son Jacob through this lawsuit.
  • Margaret “Peggy” Dobkins was born about 1785 in what would become Tennessee and died after 1850 in Claiborne County, TN. She married Elijah Jones in 1808 and had Elisha and Dorcas.
  • Solomon Dobkins was born about 1787 in the territory that would become Tennessee and died in 1852 in Kaufman County, TX. He married Elizabeth about 1809 and had Phebe, Jacob, George, Hugh, Alexander, Nancy Ann, Barthena, Lucinda, Manervy, Clinton, and Marcellus.

Goldmine!

I learned an incredible amount about so many aspects of Jacob’s life, the lives of his children, and the neighborhood where he lived. This lawsuit, despite the horrible injustice done to the complainants, provided a plethora of picturesque information about day-to-day life in the first half of the 1800s in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

For the most part, I’m simply transcribing this incredible document. I will be adding commentary from time to time. I’ve labeled where my commentary begins.

In some cases, I have omitted legal jargon that does not add to the narrative. Three dots also means some text is omitted. Occasionally, I have simply summarized a passage.

Numbers are electronic page numbers in the pdf files, here and here, received from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The second document has the document page, along with the original page number. For the most part, I’ve left the punctuation intact and corrected little of the sentence syntax. In many cases, it’s obvious that commas and periods are missing. Bolding is mine for ease in reading. Indentions are the transcriptions.

The handwriting is difficult. Words I can’t make out have a ?, so maybe you can figure out that word. If so, please post in the comments with the page number and surrounding words so I can find it. Thanks.

The two pdf scanned files are:

To future researchers – you’re welcome!

The Lawsuit

J.B Heiskell by their next friend vs Jehile Fugate administrator of William Fugate

Comment: Yay – it is Fugate!

[Page 1] Filed Sept 12, 1853 – 12th Chancery Circuit – Motion to dismiss disallowed – affirmed and remanded to the chancery court – deft to pay the costs of this court.

[Page 2] Index – not transcribed

[Page 3] A record of a case began and determined in the Chancery Court at Tazewell in the Eastern Division of the State of Tennessee where in Cynthia Ann and others are complainants and Solomon Dobkins and others are defendants.

Comment: The chancery court records do not exist for this timeframe, so the only records we have are those that have been appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The process was that the local Clerk and Master would hand copy all of the pleadings and depositions and answers and send an entire packet of certified documents to the Supreme Court. That’s what we have today.

On Oct. 3, 1850, Cynthia Ann one of the complainants appeared before the Clerk and Master and took and subscribed the following oath, to wit:

Cynthia Ann and others vs Solomon Dobkins and others.

[She certifies her poverty and asks for a decree.]

Complainants Anny Louisa Deadrick and Cynthia Ann, Lewis, Nelson and Hessy, her children and Isam Jefferson, the last of who is the brother of complainant Any Louisa Deadrick. That about 14 or 15 years ago Jacob Dobkins departed this life in the said county, after making his last will and testament by the provisions of [Page 4] which your complainants are entitled to their freedom, that the said will has been fraudulently secreted and concealed for many years and they believe up to this time but if it is not yet concealed it has been destroyed lately, as they have been informed that within a very short time since, the said will was in the possession of George Campbell, who is the son-in-law of the testator, and your complainants Anny Louisa Deaderick and her said two children, Lewis and Hessy are in the possession of the said George Campbell, complainant Cynthia is in the possession of Margaret Jones, who is a daughter of the testator, but she lives with one Joseph Simmons.

Comment: Who lives with Simmons? Margaret or Cynthia, or maybe both?

Complainant Nelson is in the possession of and claimed by one William Fugate who has lately threatened to sell him to a negro trader, and complainant Nelson charges that this is a plan of the said William Fugate to have your complainant taken out of the country to that he can not assert his right to his freedom. Complainant Isom Jefferson is in the possession of and claimed by one Solomon Dobkins. Complainants show that they are all in a state of slavery are likely to continue such unless they can get the aid of the courts of the country. Your complainants further show that the said will as they are informed and believe was witnessed by Randal Lanham and William Lanham one of which has left the country, but the other is yet in the said County of Claiborne. Your complainants further show that they have been illegally held in slavery for many years and have been for a long time serving the persons herein before named without any compensation.

The premises? considered your complainants, who are all residents of the said county of Claiborne, pray that the said Soloman Dobkins, George Campbell, Margaret Jones, William Fugate, all of whom are residents of the said county, may be [Page 5] made defendants to this bill of complaint and that they be compelled to answer the same fully and in every particular and especially that they be required to answer and say at what date the said Jacob Dobkins departed this life? And where? Did he the said Jacob not make his last will and testament in the county of Claiborne and what are its contents? Who witnessed the said will? So if not ? in the possession of the said George Campbell? If not where is it? Do they or either of them know where it is? Where was it when they last saw it or heard of it? Let each answer and give answers to the statement and charges of this bill according to the best of their knowledge and information and belief, let them and each of them answer and say who are the witnesses of said will? And why it is that the said will was never presented to the court for probate and recording? Who were the executors appointed in the said will? And the said defendants and called on, if the said will is yet in existence, to produce and file the same with the answer, and especially let the said George Campbell and answer and say where the said will is? Was it not in his possession? If so when? Has he not shown the said will to some persons since the death of the said testator? If so whom? And to whom did he show it, let him state when last he saw the will? And if it is not in his possession, let him answer and say where it is according to his knowledge information and belief.

And in the mean time your complainants pray that are injunction may issue to restrain the said defendants from removing your complainants or either of them out of the county of Claiborne and that your Honors will also appoint a receiver to take them into possession so that they may not be sold or removed out of the county and beyond the jurisdiction of this honorable court.

[Page 6] And on final hearing, the prayer of complainants is that the said will may be set up in the Honorable Court if by the fraud of any of the said defendants it has been destroyed and complainants declared free, and if the said will is provided that the complainants be allowed to take steps under it to secure their freedom, that they have an account of their hire from the time that they were entitled to their freedom, and if in any thing they have mistaken their remedy they pray such other and further and different relief as they may be entitled to, under the circumstances of the case. This is the first application for an injunction in the case. They therefore pray for relief.

Netherland and Maynard Heiskell, solicitors for complainants.

Signed by Cynthia Ann with her mark on September 30, 1850

Court required defendants to post bond in “double the supposed value of the complainants for their good treatment” [Page 7] and failing to provide that bond the sheriff is to take the complainants into his possession and keep them safely until further order of the court.

Comment: I’m utterly dumbstruck – at several levels.

  • First – if true – I’m amazed that anyone would actually try to hide a death and will from an entire county – and apparently succeed.
  • Second, that Cynthia Ann, an enslaved woman who didn’t even have a last name, and her family members, had the MOXY to actually file suit against the ENTIRE DOBKINS FAMILY. People that could sell them down the river, could beat them, deprive them of food, and take their very lives. They could sell off their children. That happened all the time.
  • Third, that the slaves were able to find white men to file their suit as their “next friends” in the south is a testimony of a different kind.
  • Fourth – the fact that apparently many people are accused of being involved in this illegal fraud – and many in high standing in the county – is jaw-dropping.

Of course, this might not be true. We have to wait, look at the evidence, and see.

I have so many more questions than I started out with.

Subpoena to answer was filed and issued on October 3, 1850.

The Sheriff is commanded to summon Solomon Dobkins, William Fugate, George Campbell and Margaret Jones to appear at the Chancery Court to be held at the court house in Tazewell upon the first Monday of December next to answer the bill of complaint by Cynthia Ann and others, persons of color, filed against them.

Delivered October 8, 1830.

December 3, 1850 – Defendants allowed until [Page 8] second rule day to file their answers so as not to delay the hearing of this cause.

Comment: I’d say the defendants either weren’t taking this case seriously or were intentionally being uncooperative.

December 5, 1850 – Court issues interlocutory order because the injunctions had not been complied with. Margaret Jones has not complied with the order of the Judge granting the injunction and has suffered the said complainant Cynthia to be attached and that the sheriff has taken bond from certain other persons to wit: Thomas W. Jennings with George Rose his security for her forthcoming at the term of this court. William Fugate in like manner, failed to provide bond and that Nelson has been taken by virtue of the attachment and placed in the hands of Robert C. Woodson and bond taken with William Riley for security. Solomon Dobkins has given bond for the forthcoming of the complainant Jefferson at the present term of this court and for his good treatment until this time, but [Page 9] that the said bond does not embrace the time yet to come during the pendency of this suit. George Campbell has entered into a bond similar to the bond last named for the forthcoming of said Anny Louisa Deadrick and Louis and Hessy.

Cynthia Ann and Nelson to be delivered up to the Clerk and Master who is directed to hire the said complainants to some fit person at a fair rate per annum who shall give bond with approved security each in the penalty of $1200 for the safekeeping, kind treatment and care of said Negros during the space of 12 months from the first of January next and delivery at the expiration of the said period.

Comment: That’s exactly right – Margaret Dobkins Jones and William Fugate, neither one complied either initially or by the two extra days provided by the court. I bet the defendants are taking this suit much more seriously now.

That Solomon Dobkins and George Campbell enter into like bond for $1200 and that George Campbell in the sum of $200 as to the mixed treatment of the negroes, complainants, in their custody, respectively

[Page 10] Dec. 6, 1850 – Ordered to take the deposition of Elizabeth Campbell of Claiborne County, she being aged and infirm on giving defendants 5 days notice. Also deposition of George Campbell.

December 28, 1850 – Answers of George W. Campbell and wife was filed, which is as follows, to wit:

George W. Campbell to the bill of complaint filed in the chancery court at Tazewell

[Page 11] George Campbell says it is true Jacob Dobkins died in Claiborne County, TN about the time mentioned in the bill, but the precise time…does not now remember. It is true that respondent married one of the daughters (Elizabeth) of said Jacob. It is true that the complainants except the girl Hessy mentioned in the bill were the slaves of Jacob Dobkins at the time of his death, the said Hessy having been borned since his death. It is true that at the death of the said Jacob he was the owner of another slave named Berry, brother to the complainant Isham Jefferson. It is true that the death of the said Jacob Dobkins he made his last will and testament which was drawn by John Hunt who is since dead and was witnessed by William Lanham who resides in Claiborne County and Randall Lanham who has left the state. It is also true that the provisions of said will the complainants were entitled to their freedom.

At the death of the testator this respondent together with the other sons-in-law of the testator and his daughter met at the testators house about the time of the death of the testator and after they were assembled, they all with the exception of Elijah Jones who married a daughter of said testator walked out to the garden fence and Solomon Dobkins son of the testator and one of the defendants in the court remarked to them that his father had made a will by which he set all his negroes free (the complainants.) And that if he, the said Solomon or John Hunt, who were named executors in it saw it, they would be found to go by it, said Solomon further said that they were all of age and that the best way was to burn or destroy the said will, to this proposition the wife of respondent objected and said she would rather have nothing than that her father’s will should be burnt or destroyed. The said Solomon said that the will was in [Page 12] a box in the house and in a chest. We went in the house and the said Solomon went to the chest, unlocked it, and took out the box and put it under his arm and as he went out of the house he plucked the coat of respondent and ? went out with said Solomon, who put the box containing said will I the respondents arms and respondent immediately handed them over to John Dobkins a son of testator and brother to Solomon, the said John was a man of weak and ? mind, he had the said will out, when he was about to destroy it or burn it, the wife of respondent spoke to her brother John and with much feeling said “in God’s name Johnny don’t destroy our father’s will” on which the said John handed the will to his said sister, who put it into her bosom and carried it home with her that evening. Respondent further says that the said Elijah Jones, who had married one of the daughters of said testator but had separated from her and was on bad terms with said Solomon was not as respondent believed present at that time in the house as said Solomon had ordered him away, but he was not far off as the said Jones went home with respondent and wife that night, and after getting to respondents house his wife took the will out of her bosom and handed it to the said Jones and said “That is what they say is my father’s will.” Said Jones took it and after reading it over said that it was the will of her father, and that in it the negroes were set free. The said will was then put in a chest of respondent’s house and it remained there until within the last three years, which it was taken away by some person, but by whom respondent does not personally know – nor does he now know where it is, but as to the contents of the will they are truly stated in the bill so far as the freedom of the complainants is concerned.

Comment: Holy cow. I can hardly believe what I’m reading.

He set his negroes free, yet his children, or at least one of them, schemed, apparently successfully, to keep them enslaved?

Elizabeth took her father’s will and literally put it where she knew her brother wasn’t going to get it? She would have been in her 50s at the time.

What happened to Elizabeth’s determination? What changed her mind? What happened to the will?

In the late 1800s, you can see the fence around the original homestead and another building that was added later. Is this the fence they stood beside after Jacob died? This photo was probably only taken some 70 years or so later.

In this section, we also learn that John Dobkins may have had a disability – or at lest he was described as such.

And we now know that neither Elizabeth nor George could read or write, but that Solomon Dobkins and Elijah Jones both could.

Elijah also tells us that he and his wife separated. I know from later documents that he remarried in the 1840s, but I never found an actual divorce. Ironically, Elijah, even twenty years after separating from his wife, was still on good terms with her family except for her brother, Solomon.

Respondent further states that during the time said will [Page 13] was in his wife’s possession it was seen by Barnibus Campbell and Charles Campbell, sons of this recipient, who came to enquire for it, because they said they had heard that said Solomon Dobkins had threatened to put respondent in the penitentiary for destroying the said will. It was also seen and respondent believes read by one Mordecai Cunningham who was examining among the papers of respondent for some title deeds and was reading them over and when said Cunningham came to the will and looked it over he remarked to respondent that it was the will of Jacob Dobkins, ? rather he spoke to respondent’s wife and said “This is your father’s will.”

Comment: For years there has been LOTS of speculation about whether or not Barney was in fact the child of George Campbell. This removes all doubt about what George thought, anyway. Some Y DNA from Barney’s descendants does not match the Campbell line, but other does, as does some autosomal, so while there is a genetic break downstream someplace, Barney is indeed George Campbell’s son.

Respondents will state why said will was not sooner spoken of and produced by him. On the day when it was determined to secret said will and to keep the complainants as slaves a bond was drawn up in the penalty of several thousand dollars binding each one who signed it, (and all both men and women were prevailed upon to sign it) and that they were to abide by a division or property that day made among them, and were to keep the said will a secret. Respondent further states that since the filing of the bill in this case that William Fugate one of the defendants in this care and complainant came to the house of respondent and told respondent and his wife that the said Fugate held “that forfeited bond, that he got it out of the papers of the papers of John Campbell and that he meant to enforce it,” and the said Fugate further stated to respondent and his wife that when they were examined about the matter all they had to say was that there never was any will there and further said he understood it as well as any of the lawyers and that the way was to let him and Barney look for it and that they could not find it, that he would show them about freeing the negroes. Respondent knew the hand write of the testator and so did his wife and he believes the signature to the said [Page 14] will was in the proper hand writing of the said Jacob Dobkins.

Comment: Holy chimloda! It truly was a cabal. Not only did they decide to defraud the complainants, but also to prevent their own father’s last wishes as stated in his will, from being carried out. Not just having to do with his immovable property, but also with the human lives he controlled, but wished to free upon his death.

I won’t even ask the question about why Jacob didn’t just free them before his death, because the answer is probably the same reason as why his children didn’t want to free them either.

Also, this confirms that John Campbell died in Claiborne county. I believed so, but there has been speculation otherwise. So John Campbell retained the paper that everyone signed pledging to keep their guilty secret on penalty of forfeiture of the bond.

Where was that bond money? Who held it? How much did they have to pledge? And maybe even more important, who told? Clearly, someone told.

How is William Fugate involved anyway?

Respondent further states that the names and ages of the complainants and the persons with whom they are living are correctly set out in the bill respondent further states that he knows that the complainants are entitled to their freedom under the will of the said testator and he has always insisted that those of them in his possession should be liberated at his death and he new freely consents that the complainants maybe emancipated. And having fully answered defendant prays to be dismissed with his ?.

George Campbell signed with his mark

Elizabeth also signed with her mark.

Comment: Prior to this suit, I have never seen a middle initial for George Campbell. I’m guessing the W. is probably for William, but that’s just a guess.

[Page 15] January 8, 1851 – the answer of Solomon Dobkins was filed.

Soloman Dobkins…states that there are many falsehoods contained in the complainants’ bill.

True that he is the son of Jacob Dobkins who departed this life in the latter part of the year 1835 as well as he recollects. He was at times in great intimacy with his father, having been his agent in the transaction of his business for near 20 years before his death. At the time of his death he was very old and infirm. About four? years before the death of Jacob Dobkins made his will and testament in which there as a bequest of freedom to all his negroes as respondent understood though he never read the same as he now recollects. This request of freedom extended to all of complainants who were then in ?. The said Jacob placed this will in the hands of respondent for safekeeping and it remained in his possession for a short time only when the said Jacob spoke to respondent and informed him that he had understood since he made his will that the laws of the state would not allow the emancipation of slaves unless they were removed beyond the limits of Tennessee, and that being the case he said “it would be better for the slaves to remain in slavery” or “that they preferred to remain in slavery” the precise expression respondent does not remember. He then took the will out of the hands of respondent, and it was the understanding of respondent that the said Jacob did not intend to set [Page 16] his negroes free. His object then as respondent supposed was to destroy the same, since which time respondent has never seen it or has he ever heard of the same until within a few years past, when he heard that George W. Campbell one of the respondents in this case had the will of the said Jacob, so soon as respondent heard this he remarked that it would penitentiary the said Campbell for he had concealed the same. The said Campbell and his wife Elizabeth were heirs of the said Jacob. Shortly after the said Campbell came to the house of respondent in company with his wife Elizabeth and denied to respondent that he had taken or concealed the will, this was done in the presence of said Elizabeth and it is a little remarkable if they had the will, or knew of its existence, that they did not inform respondent of it as he was one of the executors of the said Jacob in the will placed in the hands of respondent by the said Jacob, as respondent was informed at the time of its execution. The conduct of the said Campbell and wife in concealing the will from the knowledge of respondent can be accounted for alone upon the grounds that they were heirs of the said Jacob, and that if his will could be supplied, that would be in total to a childs part of the value of said slaves.

The charges in the bill of complaint as to what occurred about the time of the death of the said Jacob in response to the distribution of the will is basely false and without the semblance of truth to the best of the recollection of respondent but the respondent will state what did occur. About the time of the death of the father of respondent or shortly after, all the heirs not at the old family mansion of the said Jacob, respondent told them all that some years ago his father had made a will by which he had set his negroes free and provided that his [Page 17] other property should be equally divided amongst his heirs. That he did not believe that it was the will of the old man that the negroes should be free, but that if the will was found they would be entitled to their freedom, that if the old man had not destroyed it, and could be provided he would be compelled to execute it and free the negroes. But he if had done so and it could not be provided they should divide the property equally as it appeared to be the wish of the old man, that all his heirs should share alike.

Comment: It appears that Jacob gave his will to his son, whom he trusted.

The main home on a property was often called the mansion in old deeds and references. It probably was a mansion to some, but not in the way we think of Tara.

Here’s Jacob’s mansion.

Respondent further states that before the day Jacob was buried, the keys of the trunk he said Jacob were placed in the hands of the said G. W. Campbell who kept the same in his possession until Benjamin Sewell and John Hunt the commissioners agreed upon divided the property. Respondent never saw a tin box then as respondent now recollects as entirely (or untrue) as stated in the answer of said Campbell, the bond to which he refers in his special answer instead of containing a penalty against producing or discussing the will, only contains a penalty to abide by the award of the commissioners who divided the property, said bond is in existence and will be provided upon the final hearing if necessary. Randall Langham and William Langham were witnesses to the will before referred to and John Hunt and respondent were executors of the same, as respondent is informed and believes.

Comment: Of course, the commissioners divided the property not knowing the full scope of what they should be doing. So agreeing to abide by their division, which was predicated upon deceit, is exactly the same as saying they agree to keep their mouth shut.

Also, John Hunt was the man who physically wrote Jacob Dobkins’ will, so he would assuredly have asked about it. They clearly lied to Hunt who by 1850 is conveniently dead and can’t be deposed.

Respondent denies all knowledge of said will or its contents except as above stated. He never believed that it was the will of is father to set the negroes free after said will was given up to him. If said will is in existence respondent calls for the production of the same and full proof in ? thereto. Respondent never either distinctly or indistinctly agreed with any person to conceal or destroy the same, according to the best of [Page 18] his recollection and belief. Respondent has had the boy Isom Jefferson in his possession claiming his as his own property under the division of said commissioners and does not believe that the commissioners would ever have installed this suit, if they had not been prompted to do so by some evil-disposed persons and intermeddlers in other people business. Respondent denies all fraud or improper conduct and having fully answered he prays to be hence dismissed with his ?.

Solomon Dobkins signs

Comment: I can’t even…

January 8, 1851 – William Fugate answer.

That he came to the county of Claiborne some time in the year 1826. Some few years thereafter the same Jacob Dobkins departed his life, but at [Page 19] what precise time respondent is not informed nor has he any correct means of learning. Respondent had but a slight personal acquaintance with the said Jacob, having seen him but seldom before his death. The said Jacob Dobkins owned some negroes in his lifetime and complainant may have been among the number.

Whether or not the said Jacob made a will before his death, respondent knows nothing and consequently cannot speak of its contents. Respondent has no recollection of ever having heard that he had done so, until within the last twelve months. Respondent denies all knowledge of said will or its contents and call for any proof of the same. It is true as stated in complainants bill that he has in his possession the boy Nelson but no claims to him have been an innocent, honest and long? purchaser for a fair and ? consideration, without any notice that the said boy had any right or claim to freedom. Respondent purchased him of John Dobkins, now dead in the year 1837 as well as ? for $297.50, all of which has been paid in good faith to the said John Dobkins, said boy Nelson was five years old in August 1837, said boy Nelson was since he was purchased by respondent has been a locaky? and painy? child, until the last two or three years and has consequently been of little value to respondent. The said John Dobkins was one of the heirs at law of the said Jacob, decd.

Comment: This establishes John Dobkins’ death between the 1840 census and the 1850 census, before the suit was filed.

The charge in complainants bill that respondent intended to sell the said boy Nelson to a negro trader is utterly gratuitous and unfounded. Respondent may have threatened the boy to do so, but if so it was without any serious purpose on the part of respondent, but done with a view to scare him and make him a better boy. If the said complainant Nelson is entitled [Page 20] to his freedom under the will of the said Jacob Dobkins, respondent will interpose no difficulties in his way, but if not he insists upon his rights under the purchase from the said John. The bill of sale taken at the time of the sale of said boy will be produced upon the final hearing if required. Respondent denies all formal or improper conduct on his part and having fully answered he prays to be discharged.

William Fugate signed on January 8, 1851

Margaret Jones failed to answer.

Dec term 1852 death of Solomon Dobkins suggested.

Comment: This seems to be out of order.

January 11,1852?

Complainants represent that since the filing, Solomon Dobkins has made an arrangement to sell or has actually sold to said Fugate his valuable farm lying in Claiborne County [Page 23] and is making preparation to leave the state with his property to the state of Texas.

Comment: This sounds quite shady and is exactly what the original complainants asked the court to prevent from happening. Isom would have had no choice but to go, and Texas is way beyond the reach of the Tennessee courts.

Isom Jefferson is asking for his payment of the amount which is due to Isom Jefferson for his services for the last 15 years or more. Asked that the court enjoin Fugate from paying our any part to said Dobkins until the final hearing and Dobkins enjoined from transferring of negotiating any notes or choses in action given for the said purchases money or any past thing.

[Page 25] Dobkins answers and said he sold his farm to Fugate for $5195 to be paid by a negro girl for $500 and other payment terms listed. Claims Isom has no claim upon him.

[Page 26] It appears that William Fugate accepted Nelson in payment from the Dobkins heirs for “a claim which the said Fugate had upon the heirs of said Jacob Dobkins.”

June 3, 1851, the answer of William Fugate was filed to the separate suit against Solomon Dobkins and William Fugate. Fugate claims he has no knowledge of the complainant’s right to freedom, and that is a question between other parties. Admits he did purchase Dobkins tract of land [Page 28] and that respondent was to surrender all claim to a certain slave named Nelson to said Dobkins, which slave is one of the complainants in this case. Executed note to Dobkins due March 1, 1851 payable in Tennessee money.

Fugate said Nelson was to be traded. (page 28)

Comment: in October 1850, Solomon Dobkins and Jefferson, then using the Dobkins surname, sign an agreement wherein Solomon frees Jefferson, but Jefferson has to agree to drop his suit in chancery for his labor and wages in the 15 years since Jacob Dobkins’s death.

Did Jefferson sign this because he was afraid of being taken to Texas and this was his only safe way out?

When I initially found this several years ago, I was very confused by this transaction and could find nothing in the court record. It had seemingly appeared “out of the blue.” Solomon’s son, Jacob signed as a witness, and Nathaniel Brooks was Solomon’s son-in-law. John Campbell Dodson was the grandson of Jane Dobkins and John Campbell.

Did Jefferson high tail it out of town, or did he stay nearby his family? I cannot find him in any future records other than this suit.

June term 1851 – Court orders an investigation of Solomon Dobkins, William Fugate and Campbell and wife, and Margaret Jones, whether Jacob Dobkins made a will and if so ? the provisions of the will such as are alleged in the bill of complainants, or what the provisions of the same…to the next term.

Comment: This looks to be getting quite serious.

Clerk and Master report October 2, 1851

Clerk and Master has caused the parties to appear before him at his office on the 19 September and depositions taken.

[Page 32] The bill alleges that some 14 or 15 years before it was filed Jacob Dobkins made a will by which complainants are entitled to their freedom which will has been concealed.

The answer of Solomon Dobkins admits that a will was made by which the negroes were to be set free and that after he had made the will, the old man stated to him that he had understood the laws would not admit the emancipation of slaves unless they were removed out of the state and that it would be best for the negroes to remain in slavery, but denies any knowledge of assistance in the concealment of the will

The answers of defendant Fugate states that he knew nothing about the will.

The answer of G. W. Campbell and wife admit that a will was made which emancipated the slaves of the deceased, the complainants and the children of Amey Louisa Deadrick bring among the number.

From the evidence taken the ? facts appear.

W. Campbell states that a will was made by Jacob Dobkins which set his slaves free as stated more fully in his answer.

Elizabeth Campbell states that when they [Page 33] met to divide the slaves, Solomon Dobkins stated that his father had made a will which intended his slaves to be set free that him and John Hunt were the executors and of either of them saw it they would be compelled to carry it out; he recommended that it be destroyed; she took the will from John Dobkins who was about to destroy it and carried it home with her where it remained until a few years ago when it was taken out by some person to her unknown.

Comment: No wonder Soloman wanted to go to Texas.

William Lanham states that him and Randall Lanham witnessed a will made by Jacob Dobkins which was drawn by John Hunt. Solomon Dobkins was present. He did not hear that part of it which disposed of the property ?. The testator Jacob Dobkins signed and acknowledged it in his presence. He never witnessed but one will for said Jacob Dobkins.

Barnabas Campbell saw a paper which his mother handed him stating it was the will of her father. He did not read it.

Elijah Jones was present when the negroes were divided and he then heard that a will was made by Jacob Dobkins, he advised the heirs to have the will proven and to go by its intentions, but they stated they would lose too much and they had the negroes divided. He read the will at George W. Campbells; he cannot give the precise words of the will but so far as the freedom of the slaves was concerned, the will stated that the negroes were to be set free or emancipated if the laws of Tennessee would allow them to remain in this state and if it would not allow them to remain if emancipated, they were to stay on the farm of Solomon Dobkins and he Solomon was to take care of them and act as their agent for them and to have the control of them.

[Page 34] Then as other proof in the record as to a decision made by Jacob Dobkins of his slaves among his heirs several years before his death; but as this first decision was not regarded by the heirs in the settlement of the estate and a new division made by them, and not relied upon the answers; the master does not believe it affects the merits of the case as to the will and he does not examine it further.

From the foregoing facts in the cause the Clerk and Master reports that the said Jacob Dobkins in his lifetime made a will and which will was unreported at the time of his death and which will has been concealed since or destroyed so that it has never been proven or recorded. And by the terms of this will the complainants Isam Jefferson, Nelson, Cynthia Ann, Amey Louisa Deaderick and Lewis and Hessy, children of Amy Louisa Deaderick are entitled to be emancipated, in parcealnce? of the acts of assembly in such cases, made and provided, which was clearly in intention of the testator.

The evidence upon which the above report is founded is respectfully reported.

[Page 35] Response by Solomon Dobkins et al:

The proof shows that there was a division of the negroes in question by old man Dobkins amongst his children some 15 or 20 years before his death and the negroes delivered into the possession of his children and consequently the old man Jacob had no right to dispose of them by will or otherwise twenty years afterward.

Comment: It’s interesting that Jacob began parceling out both his land and other “property” about the time he broke his collarbone as he reported to the court. This was only five years or so after he purchased the enslaved people, who appear to be a family.

The fact that Jacob Dobkins made a will by which the negroes were to be emancipated does not sufficiently appear from the proof.

If he made a will from the proof, the emancipation of the complainants was only conditional, if the laws of Tennessee would permit them to remain in this state, as the laws of the state at that time of the death of Jacob Dobkins would not allow the complainants freedom, and to remain in Tennessee, the bequest of freedom was null?, as the condition would not be allowed by our laws.

[Page 36] Decree – June term 1851

That said Jacob Dobkins did in his lifetime make a will which was unrecorded at the time of his death, which will has been concealed, secreted or destroyed and that has been provided. By the term of said will the complainants as named are entitled to be emancipated and that the said provisions be drawn up in due form and filed as follows:

The last will and testament of Jacob Dobkins decd as ascertained in the Chancery Court at Tazewell in the cause pending in said court [Page 37] wherein Cynthia Ann, Isom Jefferson, Nelson, Amey Louisa Deaderick and her children Lewis and Hessy by their next friend…as complainants and Solomon Dobkins, William Fugate, Margaret Jones and George Campbell and wife as defendants and transmitted to the county court.

“I Jacob Dobkins do direct and will that all my slaves shall be set free at my death and emancipated according to law. I do appoint Solomon Dobkins and John Hunt my executors. May 1831. Signed Jacob Dobkins Witness William Lanham and Randall Lanham.”

The same being affirmed by this court.

Comment: So the court in essence “reconstructed” the will of Jacob Dobkins, as best it could, and ordered it to be recorded. *Only* 16 years later.

This also gives us an approximate time that Jacob wrote his will – in May of 1831 which means he must have been feeling poorly. He would have been 80 years old at that time. Fortunately, he lived to file for his Revolutionary War pension the following year, which provided us with a wealth of information.

Jacob died between September (final pension payment) and sometime in December of 1835 (when his heirs quitclaimed his land to daughter Betsey.) Maybe that land was the price of her changing her mind.

Defendants file bill of exception.

[Page 38] Defendants take exception to the language employed in the decree so far as the same declares that by said will it was intended to manumit complainants that bring an adjudication upon that point.

They also except to said decree pronounced on the report because the language of the will as set out in the report and decree is not in conformity with the language of the witnesses, giving the language of the will

And because the evidence does not so prove the will as to establish the same.

January 5, 1852

Clerk and Master reports:

    • Isam Jefferson to Abel Kesterson for $100
    • Nelson to Robert Woodson? For $65
    • Cynthia Ann to J. B. Heiskel for $30

Comment: I believe this is the result of the court ordering that some of the complainants be taken into protection and then let out for wages. It’s interesting that Isom is included given his agreement with Solomon Dobkins in late 1850 when he was supposedly freed. Perhaps Isom, Nelson, and Cynthia Ann are receiving their own wages now, under the oversight of the court.

[Page39]

Same as the following year, 1853.

At December term court, 1852, the death of Solomon Dobkins is suggested in this cause.

[Page 40] June 9, 1853 Court notes that defendant Solomon Dobkins is deceased. Jehiel Fugate as administrator. This suit to continue against Jehiel Fugate as administrator.

[Page 41] – Court is attempting to determine value of the 15 years of services. Judgement irrovuppo? was regularly entered against Margaret Jones in her lifetime, the other defendants having answered.

Comment – Referring to Margaret Jones “in her lifetime” means she is deceased as of June 9, 1853. Perhaps she was ill before, and that’s why she never answered the complaint.

Clerk and Master proceed to take proof and state an account of the value of the services of the complainants showing:

    1. How long they have been illegally held in servitude, by whom each complainant has been held.
    2. The value of the services of each of the said complainants from the time of the death of Jacob Dobkins deceased, computing interest on the same from the end of each year to the next term of this court.
    3. What allowance if any should be made to the persons holding said complainants for ? clothing.

[Page 42] And that the Clerk and Master make report the next term of this court. Made June term 1851 and should have been inserted at the proper place.

Supplemental Bill

Solomon Dobkins entering into bond with approved security in the sum of $2000 conditional to pay and satisfy all such sums as shall be decreed to the complainants Isom Jefferson for his services upon the final hearing and to abide by and perform whatever decree shall be made in the premiss?, that the imprimation? granted in this cause and the attachment preventing the defendant Fugate from paying to deft Dobkins the amount due him for the tract of land shall be ?.

On the 8 of Sept. 1851 a bond was executed and deposited which is as follows…Solomon Dobkins, William M Cocke and William Bullard…held and firmly bound…the condition that when a bill has been [File 2 page 1, original document numbered page 41] filed by said Isom Jefferson by his next friend…against said Solomon Dobkins and William Fugate (a supplemental bill) at attach certain funds in the hands of said William Fugate belonging to said Dobkins to satisfy an alleged amount due to complainant Isom Jefferson for his services and at the last term of the Chancery Court at Tazewell when said cause is pending, the imprimation? was dissolved upon the said Dobkins entering into bond. Now if the said Dobkins shall pay and satisfy all such sums as shall be decreed to the complainant Isom Jefferson for his services upon the final hearing and abide by and perform whatever ? shall be made in the permises?, then this bond to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue. Sept. 8, 1851.

Comment: Again, this is after the document filed between Solomon Dobkins and Isom Jefferson. Perhaps the court didn’t care for those conditions. We know that Isom is no longer with Solomon though, so at least he didn’t get spirited away to Texas.

June term 1853 – Jehiel Fugate and William Fugate pray and appeal from the decree pronounced in this cause to the next term of the Supreme Court to be held at Knoxville upon the second Monday of September next, and said despondents having given bond and security.

[Page 2 – original document page 42]

Granted.

William Fugate, William Niel and Jehiel Fugate bondsmen. June 10, 1853

Proof of complainants – depositions of George Campbell, Elizabeth Campbell, William Lanham and Barnet Campbell taken by complainants before the Clerk and Master.

[Page 3 – original document page 43]

George Campbell first sworn stated that he has now heard his answer which he had ? in read out to him and the said answer contains the true statement of the matters in controversy as far as he recollects, and adopts his answer as his deposition and adopts the same now; and he wishes to state further that he had never seen the keys spoken of by Solomon Dobkins in his answer or had them in his possession, and that the first time he saw them was on the day the divide was made when they was in the trunk and used then by Solomon Dobkins, they was never deposited in his custody for safe keeping.

  1. Question by respondent S. Dobkins by his agent Jacob Dobkins. Did I not propose to the heirs to divide according to my father’s will for if John Hunt or myself found that will it was my opinion that we would be compelled to go by it and the negroes would be free but from what my father had told me since he wrote will, I knew that was not his will at that time for them to be free.

Answer: My recollection is not good enough to recollect what he said now about it not being his will at that time. I am satisfied that he never stated that he knew that was not his father’s will at that time.

Comment: Jacob Dobkins is Solomon Dobkins’ son. Apparently, Solomon has already gone to Texas.

2. Did you not all agree, if he had not destroyed his written, that we would divide by it and all agree to it.

A: As for my part I did not agree to it, or have anything to do with it. The old woman managed it. I had very little to do with the proceedings from the start.

Comment: I think he just threw his wife, Elizabeth, under the bus.

3. Then did I not give you the key of my [Page 4, original document page 44] father’s trunk to keep until we could get ressris? To come ad divide the estate, and did you not take the key home with you and that night come and steel four of the negroes and take them home and conceal them in your loft and claimed them as your own property and stated that your lawyer had advised you to do so, and then did I not ? you, that if you did not take them back it would penitentiary you, and you sent them home again that day and also after that did not ? John Hunt and B. Sewell to come and divide our father’s estate equal among us soon as it was convenient and the day was set and the heirs all met and you come and fit ? the key of father’s trunk, then did I not give you or your wife father’s trunk to unlock, supposing father’s money to be in it, and you took it, and did you not unlock it and the ? divide the money?

A: He never gave me the key of the trunk to keep, and I did not bring the key with me. Then was four of the negroes come home and by a lawyer’s advise then were kept in the loft and if the old woman (my wife) had got her just rights they would all have belonged to her by a divide that the old man had made before he made he will, I think he had some talk then about penitentiarying me for it, but he would have been short of penitentiarying me for that, I sent them back again. I think they did agree to let Sewell and Hunt divide the negroes. I had no hand in it and cannot recollect but little about it. I never took the key and never had it in my possession. I never unlocked the trunk or had my hand in it. These negroes were a part of the negroes that were divided.

Comment: Oh boy, the plot gets even thicker. Those poor enslaved people, being stolen back and forth and hidden in the barn loft. What little peace and continuity they had in their lives was gone.

4. Who unlocked the trunk?

[Page 5, original document 45]

A: John Dobkins unlocked the trunk and took the will out.

5. Do you know who he gave the will to?

A: I do not know any more than what my wife states, that he gave it to her.

And further this deponent saith not.

George Campbell signed by his mark.

Elizabeth Campbell next sworn states:

That as near as she can recollect Jacob Dobkins died in 1835. She is a daughter of said Jacob, the first that she knew of the will was on the day we had met to have the negroes divided. My brother Solomon Dobkins came to us and stated that father had made a will by which he had set his negroes free and that if John Hunt or him saw it they would be compelled to carry it and the only way was for us all men and women to agree and destroy the will, and I said to him in the name of God with my hand held up that I would have no hand in it, that if father had made a will and had not given me a cent, I would rather it would stand and I turned off and left them, who were all standing at the garden fence, and the minit I saw the will, John Dobkins had it out in the yard, he gave it to me and I brought it home. Elijah Jones came home with me that night, and took the will out of my bosom, and handed to him, stating that here is the paper they say is my father’s will, and he took it and read it over to himself and stated that it was his will and by it the negroes were free; the will was put in a chest and kept locked up and I do not know when it was taken out, or by whom.

Hessy is a child of Amey Louisa Decubinch?. She is about 11 years old on the instant of [Page 6, original document page 46] January last, as well as an idiot?.

Comment: If “idiot” is what this says, that was the accepted term of the time for people with intellectual developmental disabilities. It was not a derogatory term then.

Solomon Dobkins was sick with the mumps some three years after father’s death, he expected to die and sent for us to come and see him. My husband and me went to see him, and I stated to him in a conversation that he had not treated my husband as he should have done, that he had threatened to send him to the penitentiary for breaking open a trunk and taking out the will, and he asked George Campbell if he did not open the trunk and take out the will, and he replied that he had not done it, and Solomon then asked him who had done it and George said that it was your brother John.

Comment: I have never seen mumps referred to in a historical document before, nor did I realize it was potentially fatal. Apparently, mumps victims sometimes develop encephalitis and other severe diseases. Thank goodness for the mumps vaccine that began being administered to children in 1963.

Witness states that she could read when she was young and was acquainted with her father’s hand write, that she looked at the will and she believed that the signature to it was in his hand write.

Witness states that she was in a small box which was in a chest that Solomon Dobkins unlocked the chest and took the same box which contained the will out, he went out with it and she did not see him open it. John Dobkins had the will in his hand and handed it to her as she has stated.

While the will was in her house, Barney Campbell, and Charles Campbell who were her sons saw the will. Barney Campbell came and stated that Solomon Dobkins had been there and threatened to send George Campbell to the penitentiary for croming? the will of Jacob Dobkins and he had come to see about it. Charles Campbell came also for the same purpose. Mordicai Cunningham also saw it.

Comment: This is interesting, because it appears that Elizabeth’s two sons did not know what their parents had schemed to do, and that the evidence was still locked inside in that chest. Having said that, I wonder if Solomon was trying to stir up trouble. What was his objective in telling Barney and Charles?

The will continued there until about three years ago when it disappeared, she does not know who took it, or what had become of it the only person who was about the house who would likely have taken it was her grandson Nathaniel Brooks, and she does not know that he got it.

Witness states in cross examination that the will was kept with some deeds, the last she recollects of seeing it was about three years ago, but she missed it first about a year ago and Brooks would have known the will from his education from the other papers.

On the night after father was buried we were all there but George Campbell and Solomon Dobkins stated that his father had left him and John Hunt to settle the matter and his father wanted the male? to have the property equal, he did not say that he had made a will, and that if any of us was contrary he had it in his power to cut us off without anything. My father never told me he had made a will, or said anything to me about a will, I could read a little and was used to father’s hand write that was the way I knew it was his signature to the will. The chest was locked and the key usually hung up on the bed nail.

Comment: A bed nail was what people hung their clothes on.

That was very clearly a threat from Solomon.

She never read the will, she looked at it when Jones handed it back and saw her father’s name to it signed by him as she believes and witnesses by William Lanham and Randall Lanham, and heard Solomon Dobkins say it was her father’s will

Witness states that the key hung up that unlocked the chest when the will was kept and Brooks could have for the key and opened the chest if he wanted to he is the son-in-law of Solomon Dobkins, he was then not the son-in-law of Dobking was visiting then.

Further this deponent saith not.

Elizabeth Campbell signed with her mark.

Comment: When trying to figure out when Dorcas Johnson, Jacob Dobkin’s wife died, I was able to establish that she died before Jacob, in part because she did not apply for his pension as a widow.

Furthermore, Jacob apparently did not mention her, or, if he did, the people who read the will didn’t mention that because it was irrelevant after she died.

I had previously discovered an index entry that Jacob Dobkins’ heirs all quitclaimed his land to Betsy Campbell, here called Elizabeth. Of course, that’s the deed book that is missing. So we don’t know who all signed.

I found it very odd at the time that they all quitclaimed to her, not her husband. A quitclaim is not a buyout, but in essence, simply a relinquishment of rights for no remuneration. I still wonder why, but I’m now sure it has something to do with that clandestine agreement and what she and her siblings and their spouses all colluded to do.

Until reading this, I don’t think I ever fully comprehended what it meant to not be able to read. It’s not just having to make an X for your signature. It’s not being able to verify anything – even that the document you hold in your hands is your own father’s will. You must trust everyone else, even for the most critical transactions of your life.

[Page 8, original page 48]

William Lanham next sworn states that some time in June or May, the year he does not recollect, Alexander Dobkins a son of Solomon Dobkins came to him in the field and states that John Hunt was at his grandfather’s doing something writing and wanted me to go and witness it. I told him to go and get Randall, my brother and he done so. I went up to the house and John Hunt, Jacob Dobkins, and Solomon Dobkins were there. Hunt said they wanted us to witness some writing, he commenced reading a paper which he said was the will of Jacob Dobkins, he read on down to the disposition of the property and he stopped and stated that it was not usual for the witnesses to hear that part of a will and implied that if that was the way I did not care about knowing; when he was done reading Old Jacob Dobkins went up to the table and set down and signed the paper. Hunt asked him if he acknowledged the execution of the will and he stated that he did and acknowledged the contents of it. My brother Randall Lanham and myself witnessed it. Randall Lanham moved to Indiana and from there to Missouri and the report is he is deceased, but I do not know whether it is true or not.

Witness states that he did not read the will and he did not know that it is the same will that Mrs. Campbell spoke of, he never knew its contents or that the negroes were to be free, until he heard it spoken of, he thinks it was upwards of twenty years ago that the will was witnessed, he never witnessed but one will for old Mr. Dobkins.

Witness states he was well acquainted with Isom Jefferson, he was a good boy to work and industrious and peaceable and from 1835 up to this [Page 8, original page 49] time his since were worth after clothing him seventy four dollars a year upon earning?.

Signed William Lanham

Comment: I’m stunned that this man doesn’t know if his brother is actually deceased, or not.

Barnabus Campbell next sworn stated that Solomon Dobkins came to my house and stated that he intended to penitentiary Old George Campbell for burning his father’s will, this was a short time after the death of Jacob Campbell, George Campbell was my father and immediately came to his house to see about it, and when I come my mother handed me a paper which she stated was her father’s will. I took it in my hands and looked at it, but did not read it. I handed it to my brother Charles and he handed it back to mother, told my mother what Dobkins had said and she said the will was not burned, nor never should be that he ? Solomon Dobkins would be glad it was burnt. The rumor of the county was that the old man had made a will setting the negroes free.

Signed Barnet Campbell

Comment: This Jacob Campbell has to be a previously unknown son of George and Elizabeth, because the Jacob Campbell who was the son of John Campbell and Jenny lived into the late 1870s and died in Texas.

Deposition of Elijah Jones and William H. Jennings taken by complainants May 16, 1851 (1851?) before the Clerk and Master.

Elijah Jones sworn states at the time that the heirs of Jacob Dobkins Sr. met (after the death of the said Dobkins, I was present, I believe it was in December 1835). They met I was informed in order to divide the estate as they would all of age, then was something said about the old man Dobkins having made a will, they all as well as I knew ? at a ? that they would not have the will proven and recorded; my advice to them was to record the will [Page 10, original document page 50] and live up to the contents; they refused to do so and said that they would lose too much if that was done. My understanding was that if the will was proven that they would lose the negroes; the will was not shown to me then, but I believe that I saw and read the will at George Campbell’s that evening or the next morning. I am not certain which, I cannot now state what was the whole contents of the will, as it has been so long, but I feel very confident that the negroes were to be free, but on what terms or conditions I do not recollect. I knew that as I insisted they heed the letter not divide the negroes, that Solomon Dobkins became very much irritated and ordered me to leave the place. I replied to him that it was a public day and that I would not leave, but that I would say no more, only that I thought they would someday wish they had taken my advice. They proceeded to make a decision. John Hunt and Benjamin Sewell was two if not all that was chosen by the heirs to make the decision. I am not certain who were the witnesses to the will. I believe that William Lanham was one but am not certain that he was. I have almost forgot all about the will and the whole transaction, but since I was summoned I have reflected brought second things to recollection, that I could not have stated when the subpoena was served. There was very little interest in the will if the negroes were set free, for them was not much other personal property belonging to the estate. This was the reason that they all agreed to divide all the difference in the price of the negroes were made up in other property.

And further this deponent saith not.

Elijah Jones

[Page 11, original document page 57]

Comment: Even knowing that John Hunt was aware of Jacob’s will, they STILL involved him, perhaps not wanting to arouse suspicion. How did they even look the man in the eye? Is it possible that Hunt simply looked the other way? He couldn’t insist on enforcing a will that Jacob could have destroyed. However, he could and should have required the estate to be submitted to the court for administration. Why didn’t he? He was, after all, the sheriff.

Thomas W. Jennings next sworn deposeth and saith that before William Fugate bought the boy Nelson, he came to my house and asked me if I knew anything about there being a will of Jacob Dobkins and I told him all I knew about it was from the report in the neighborhood, he said he was talking about buying this boy and he did not think it would be any effect, that it was not recorded.

By William Fugate: Have you not been an agent for these complainants, in this matter, and did you not threaten that you would file a bill to have them set free.

Answer: I have not been an agent for them. I have never stated that I would have it done, but I have stated that it would be done.

And further this deponent saith not

Signed Thomas W. Jennings

Comment: It appears that there is another person that supports their bid for justice.

Depositions of Jenny Campbell, William Riley, and Elijah Jones taken Sept 12, 1851 before the Clerk and Master

Jenny Campbell first sworn:

Question by Solomon Dobkins: If your father Jacob Dobkins made a distribution of his negroes before his death amongst his children, please state when it was and how it was.

Answer: I know nothing of my own knowledge only from information.

By same: Which one of the negroes did your sister Mrs. Jones take home with her, how long did she keep him and what did she do with him?

Answer: Jefferson was the one she took home with her. I do not know how long she was with him. She went back to her father’s when her and her husband parted but I do not recollect

[Page 12 – original document page 52] when that was. The boy remained with her and she took him back with her to her father’s. The boy was with her several years before she went to her father’s.

How old was the boy when she took him away?

Answer: I do not know exactly, but from my best recollection he was about 9 or 10 years of age, the boy stayed at Old Mr. Dobkins after she came back and I think Mrs. Jones clothed him and she remained there until a short time before the death of old Mr. Dobkins.

Question by complainant’s solicitor: What is your age? Can you write or read writing?

Answer: I am in my seventy-fourth year. I cannot read or write. I never saw the will and know nothing about its contents.

Comment: These few sentences are packed full. Jenny is my ancestor. First, this absolutely confirms that she is Jacob’s daughter. It’s this deposition that cousin Debbie was seeking.

This is also the only place she ever provides her age – and the only words we have from her own mouth.

Her deposition also provides significantly more information about Margaret Dobkins Jones. She apparently took Isom when he was a child. When Margaret separated from her husband, she went back home to her father’s. I wonder if she took her children with her. I can’t help but wonder what happened between her and Elisha. He allowed her to take her possessions, and if I recall, returned the land too.

Divorce was unheard-of at the time and required Supreme Court permission. There was no such thing as no-fault. I did not find their divorce in the index at the Tennessee Archives, but their indexing system leaves a lot to be desired since this case didn’t even come up using the surname of Dobkins.

Where did Margaret go before Jacob died, and why did she leave her father’s home? She was about 30 when she left her husband and a little over 50 when Jacob died. In 1850, Margaret is age 65 and living with Daniel Leonard, a carpenter, who is living one house away from Joseph Simmons

We also learn that Jenny can’t read or write, and her age which gives us a birth year of 1777, assuming she had already had her birthday in 1851.

While Jenny did live nearby, it was across Little Ridge, so she and John Campbell were not direct neighbors with Jacob Dobkins or her siblings. She seems to not have maintained day-to-day contact with people in that group. Plus, she was raising her daughter, Elizabeth’s children and probably had no time for drama. Still, she and John were a part of the group who agreed to secret her father’s will and divide the slaves.

Jenny lived beside present-day Liberty Baptist Church, and Jacob lived on what is now A. L. Campbell Lane. Solomon Dobkins as well as George Campbell and Elizabeth lived adjacent to Jacob Dobkins on the Powell River.

William Riley next sworn

In the fall of the year 1834, I taught a school in the neighborhood of the old Mr. Dobkins, perhaps the schoolhouse was on his land. During the school I went to Old Mr. Dobkins’s one night to stay all night with him. While in conversation with Jacob Dobkins decd he said then was a boy then by the name of Berry that he had given to Mary Martin when he was a child. His mother died left him and if she would raise him she might have him. He told me that she had taken him in her bed and raised him and he intended the boy Berry for her and that a short time previous he had sent the boy home to her and the boy stayed some time with her and got dissatisfied and had come back to him, and that he had sent word to Mary Martin and Thomas Martin to come and get him, that he intended the boy for them. He also told me to tell [Page 13 – original page 53] them to come down and get the boy and he would make them a bill of sale to him, for fear that he might drop off said he, and the heirs might rock them out of the boy.

Did Mrs. Martin get the boy away before the death of the old man, if not what became of him?

Answer: She did not. He remained then until the death of the old man, when he and the complainants were divided amongst the heirs.

How long after this conversation was it until Old man Dobkins died?

To the best of my belief, he died in the year of 1835.

Signed William Riley

Elijah Jones next sworn:

Mr. Jones you will please state all you may know in relation to a division of the negroes of Old Man Dobkins in his lifetime, if there was one, if so who got the complainant Isom Jefferson?

Answer: There was a division in part of the negroes, I believe it was in the year 1815. The boy Isom Jefferson was given to my wife, [I] was not present, we then lived in Powells Valley. I moved the boy to my house and kept him then for some time. I cannot say how long but I think it was something near 12 months when me and my wife separated. I sent the boy home to the old man Dobkins by my father with a letter. In that letter stated to the old man, as he had given me the negro, that I would return him to him and he might give him to his daughter if he saw proper. He remained there as I believe until the death of the old man. When the property and negroes was to be divided I was there, and insisted of the negroes was to be divided, that Isom Jefferson should [Page 14 – original page 54] belong to my wife. I claimed no interest myself. I then stated that as the old man had given him to me, and her that I claimed no part, that she ought to have him. The answer by all was that the old or former division was of no effect and they would not let her have the boy, is all I know at this time about the division as respects that boy. There was another boy the old man gave to Mary or Polly Dobkins wife of Reuben Dobkins. She did not get him at the last division. I insisted she ought to have him, for he took him when helpless and had all the trouble that was the frowned?. The old man stated he gave her to the boy Berry, then the heirs all still insisted that the former decision or gifts should not hold, nor did they let them. I believe that George Campbell and wife the first decision was to have a girl Amey but I do not believe that they received her at that time. I got Isom Jefferson but believe she was to remain with the old man perhaps as long as he lived, but I am not certain. They got her at the last division but did not get all her children. My wife for one Cynthia Ann and John Dobkins got one. I am not certain what was his name, he was a small boy. I supposed his name was Nelson. They both are children of Anny as I was informed and am informed that by an complainants in this bill.

Comment: This is quite interesting because it confirms that the Reuben Dobkins who died in 1823 was the son of Jacob Dobkins, and not Jacob’s brother by the same name. This progression makes me think the Mary “Polly” who was Reuben’s wife remarried to Thomas Martin, which is why Jacob tried to gift her with the child, Berry. What happened to Berry?

Was not Old Mr. Dobkins at the time of his death a very aged infirm man, what was his age and what we the condition of mind, had not age made him very childish?

Answer: He was among the best? of men. I have not been with the old man for some time [Page 15 – original page 55] before his d