Quick Tip – Add Most Distant Ancestor and Location

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

Finding Your Common Ancestor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is My Earliest Known Ancestor?

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

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

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

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

How Do I Add or Update Ancestors?

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

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

Click on the “Genealogy” tab.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then click on “next.”

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

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

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

Done

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

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

You can click here to sign in.

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

Thomas Durham’s land ultimately fell into Richmond county, on the peninsula of land known as the Northern Neck of Virginia.

We know nothing about Thomas Durham’s early life, except it’s unlikely that he was born on the Northern Neck of Virginia. In 1652, in Northumberland County, part of which ultimately became Richmond County, all men had to sign an oath of loyalty, and there is no Durham name among the signers.

The Northern Neck area was still inhabited by Indians at that time, and the region was not easily settled, although people were pushing into the area and carving out farmsteads – much to the chagrin of the Indians whose land they were settling upon.

According to “A Tricentennial Portrait” by Robert Harper for the Richmond County, Tricentennial Commission:

In September 1661, the area that would become Richmond County had its own version of warfare when Indians killed 3 men in retaliation for the killing of an Indian man in the spring. The situation escalated and for the next 5 years, raids ensued.

In an unrelated, but threatening incident, the Dutch fleet appeared in the Rappahannock River in 1666. They engaged, and most of the men on the ship were killed. Then, on November 8th, 1666, the worst hurricane to hit Virginia in the 17th century arrived, destroying more than 10,000 buildings and hurling hail the size of eggs.

In case you don’t know, hail the size of marbles descends at about 20 miles an hour, but hail the size of baseballs descends at the rate of over 100 miles an hour. A 100 mile an hour baseball sized piece of hail kills people as well as livestock and wildlife.

A fort was erected at the head of Cat Point Creek to protect settlers within a 20 mile radius, which tells us there were few settlers. Fortunately, a treaty was reached with the Dutch before the fort came into use.

In 1675, war with Indians continues, with 2 settlers being killed in Richmond County by Indians from Maryland. A retaliatory force of 30 men crossed the Potomac River into Maryland and killed Indian King and 10 warriors.

On January 21, 1675/1676, a group of northern Indians went to war with the English and killed 36 people in Rappahannock County. Starting near Port Royal, the Indian warriors fanned out in a circle and destroyed everything English. Turning down the river valley, their objective was to kill 10 men for every Indian who had been killed.

Small groups of planters met for protection and begged Governor Berkeley to send them a commissioned leader. Berkley wrote that no leader could be sent until the next Assembly meeting and ordered the residents to build a new fort at the head of the Rappahannock River (Cat Tail Creek.)

Berkley’s idea was that the Indians would attack the fort in number and not harass the isolated farmers. In February of 1676/1677, the Governor sent an order that no more than 10 men could meet as a group due to fear of a general uprising against him. This act was the fuel that the Indians needed and a number of attacks were carried out on the small groups of settlers.

Richmond County wasn’t very safe and was likely not a location one would choose to settle with a family. A decade later, things had calmed, the remnants of the Indians were gone, and births of many English families were being recorded in the Farnham Parish Church register.

Thomas Durham’s Life

I’ve rebuilt Thomas’s life, as best I can, by extracting the records from the early Virginia counties, beginning with the formation of York County in 1633 and for the next hundred years in Northumberland, Lancaster, Old Rappahannock and Richmond as they were formed from the original York County. Richmond and Essex were both formed in 1692 when old Rappahannock was dissolved and divided into half, with Richmond County being on the north of the Rappahannock River and Essex on the South.

We don’t know where Thomas Durham came from, but we do know that the first record that includes Thomas is found in the Farnham Parish church register with the birth of his daughter, Mary, to Thomas and Dorothy Durham on June 5, 1686.

Additional births attributed to Thomas and Dorothy were for son, Thomas on June 17, 1690 and son John on November 23, 1698.

These records suggest that Thomas was already married to Dorothy who has been reported to be related to the Smoots by sometime in 1685, if not earlier. Dorothy’s history will be reviewed in a separate article.

Farnham Parish was split into two when Old Rappahannock County was split into Richmond and Essex County, with Richmond County becoming North Farnham Parish and Essex County becoming South Farnham Parish.

The North Farnham Parish register transcription, which includes the original Farnham Parish records, does still exist, but is fragmentary and known to be incomplete.

Who is Elizabeth Grady?

In a will written by Elizabeth Grady on March 10, 1693/94 and probated on Nov 4, 1702, Mary Smoot daughter of William Smoot is left all of Elizabeth Grady’s land. The executor of the estate is William Smoot, and the witnesses are Thomas Durham, Richard Draper and John Rankin.

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

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

Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Durham, marries this same Mary Smoot about 1710. Furthermore, based on a 1700 transaction, Dorothy, wife of Thomas Durham is related to William Smoot in some fashion.

Lastly, Thomas Durham and William Smoot appear to be neighbors and lifelong friends.

To answer the question more directly, I have no idea who Elizabeth Grady is, nor why she would be leaving land to Mary Smoot – but tracking Elizabeth Grady and figuring out who she is and how she was connected might well lead to unraveling other mysteries involving the Smooth and Durham families.

The 1700 Deed

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

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

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

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

First, this deed names Dorothy’s living children that are documented in the North Farnham Parish registers. The deed was written in August 1700 and John Durham was born on November 23, 1698.

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

It’s certainly unlikely that between 1686 and 1700 and Dorothy only had 3 children. Six or 7, assuming they all lived until weaned, would be more normal. If the children 4-6 noted in the will, were living, they were assuredly females.

Second, this deed tells us who the neighbors are, that Thomas Durham and William Smoot’s lands abut, and that they live on a branch of Morattico Creek.

Third, who are Ann and William Fox? William Fox’s wife appears to be Anne Chinn, daughter of John Chinn and Alice who is suspected of being a Gilbert and who is Dorothy Durham’s sister.

The following will from Lancaster County by Alice Stretchley indicates that Dorothy Durham is her sister and that Tomassin Marshall is as well.

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

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

Alice Stretchley appears to be Ann Fox’s mother who would have been married first to John Chinn and then to John Stretchley. So Ann Fox would have been Dorothy Durham’s niece.

Fourth, why did William Smoot leave this land to Dorothy separately from her husband, meaning that Thomas Durham could not dispose of this land. This is outside the norms and customs of the day.

How was William Smoot related to both Dorothy and Ann Fox, daughter of Alice Quinn Stretchy?

Thomas Durham’s Great Age

Court Order Book Page 475, Sept 7, 1699 – Ordered that Thomas Durham for the future be exempted from payment of leveys by reason of his great age.

I checked the tithable language in the state of Virginia, and it clearly specifies who shall be taxed, and how, and allows for exemptions for people who were disabled and unable to support themselves, and for people who were aged. The state apparently allowed each county court to determine who was exempted. In other locations, I’ve seen men as young as 45, 55 and as old as 70 being exempted due to age, so I’m guessing that the age at exemption was more a combination of age plus ability to work than age alone.

I would think it would be very unlikely that Thomas Durham was less than 50 years old  with his age referred to as “great” so this would put his birth likely in 1649 or before.

Men in colonial American typically married about the age of 25, which would have been in about 1674 if he were born in 1649. However, we don’t find Mary’s birth until 1686. Was Thomas not married until 1685 or so, or did he have a first wife we don’t know about, or was Dorothy significantly younger than Thomas, or was Thomas younger than age 50 when he was exempted from paying taxes?

It’s also possible that Thomas Durham was an indentured servant and he was not able to marry until his indenture was complete.

Court and Deeds

The ebb and flow of life in colonial Virginia was marked by court sessions that were attended by nearly all men. Deeds were filed, orders made and drinking all around with camaraderie. Thomas Durham witnessed deeds and was found participating in the normal life of colonial planters.

Multiple records indicate a very close relationship with William Smoot(e.)

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

Deed Book March 3, 1704/5 – John Ingo and Martha (Matthew) his wife of Richmond Co. for 36 lb sterling sold to George Glascock of same a 100 acre plantation near the head of Moratico Creek that did formerly belong to John Ingo Sr. father of the same John Ingo and lately purchased of Capt. William Fanteleroy and Catherine his wife bounded by the house of John (blurred), the house of Thomas Durham, house of Edward Ryley, decd and the land of his brother James Ingo. Wit Wells Smoot, John Simmons Ack March 7, 1704. Book 3 page 174

Deed Book Page 352-354 December 1704 – Between John Ingoe and Matthew (sic) his wife and George Glascock…plantation situate near head of Moratico Creek in Richmond County which did formerly belong to John Ingo Sr. father of ye said John Ingo and lately by him sealed with a plantacion together with a considerable quantity of land said John Ingo Sr. purchased of Capt., William Fauntleroy with as much of the said land as lyes within the said John Ingoes bounds beginning ta a marker hickory standing within the house of John Simsted and the said John Ingoes and running along ye line to a swamp issuing out of Miratico Creek hard by the house of Thomas Durham then up said swamp meeting with the line, then NW by the house of Edward Ryley decd then land of his brother James Ingo 100 acres more or less. Signed, John Ingo and Martha Ingo (mark) witness William Smoot and John Simson (mark)

This deed confirmed again that the Durham land was along Moratico Creek.

Court Order Book Page 18 December 6, 1704 – Charles Dodson Jr and Thomas Dodson and Thomas Durham summoned to court for not going to church for two months together.

Court Order BookPage 34 February 7, 1704/05 – Peter Elmore, Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Durham summoned to court to answer presentment of grand jury against them for not going to church for 2 months together and not appearing, ordered they be fined according to law and pay same with costs.

The Dodsons, Durhams and Elmores were neighbors and apparently influenced one another, or at least there was comfort among neighbors and safe haven for resistance.  Church attendance was mandatory in colonial Virginia.

Court Order Book Page 68 September 5, 1705 – Power of attorney made by John Ingo to James Ingo proved by oaths of William (?) and Dorothy Durham and ordered to be recorded.

The ? is probably William Smoot from other evidence. If so, once again, Dorothy Durham is found with William Smoot.

James Gilbert and the Depositions

Richmond County Misc. Record Book (1699-1724)

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

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

The two depositions above were given in 1704.  In 1707, Mary Gilbert, as a widow, was deeding and to Thomas Durham and Dorothy.

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

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

(Note Anne Kelly is Thomas Durham’s indentured servant.)

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

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

I’ve grouped the information about James Gilbert together, because it becomes very important in the story of Dorothy, Thomas Durham’s wife.

The Lay of the Land

We have references to land off of a Branch of Farnham Creek and also Moratico Creek. You can see both of these on the 1859 Bucholtz Map, just below Toreskey and Corbin’s Creeks. Briery Swamp that I believe became Marshy Swamp appeared to be on Totuskey Creek, based on previous Dodson Deeds, and is shown such on this map, but these deeds refer to Briery Swamp off of Farnham Creek, so who knows exactly.

This contemporary map shows Totuskey Creek, Farnham Creek and Morattico Creek. Thomas Dodson lived as far north as Rich Neck and we have Thomas Durham mentioned as far south as Morattico Creek.  Both men owned multiple pieces of land that likely did not abut each other.

On the map above, Rich Neck is at the top, then Totuskey Creek, then Farnham Creek near Sharps, and the lowest arrow is Morattico Creek. As you can see, these creeks have many small feeders across about half of the width of the peninsula.

Today this area is dotted by cleared areas for farming, woodlands and small villages.

The Scandal of Ann Kelly

Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined her age so that the length of her indenture could be determined.  In 1704, she gave her age to be 20, which would have put her birth in 1684.  If she were 14 in 1699, then she would have been born in 1685.

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

However, by 1708, things had heated up quite a bit.

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

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

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

Questions and More Questions

I have so many questions.

Thomas Durham Jr. was born in 1690, so he was 17 when he impregnated Anne Kelly who was then 22 or 23, assuming the child was born in 1708. Given the timing of the second child’s birth, it’s certainly possible that the first child was born even earlier, as in 1706 which means Anne would have gotten pregnant as early as 1705 when Thomas was 15.  Why was she protecting Thomas, even to her own detriment?  Did she believe she would one day marry him?  Or was she fearful?  And if she was fearful, of whom?  And why?

Why did Dorothy step in “on behalf of her husband,” an extremely unusual move for a woman in colonial Virginia?  Why didn’t Thomas Durham step in for himself, or sign a power of attorney?  Instead, Dorothy rode all the way to the court house and appeared personally, instead of Thomas.  This suggests a very strong woman defying her husband’s wishes.  Why?  Did she secretly know that Ann’s child was her grandchild?  Or was it exactly the opposite?  She had no idea and was appalled to make that discovery, which might explain why Thomas Dodson posted Ann’s bond for the second child.

To their credit, between Dorothy Durham and Thomas Dodson, they did not allow Ann to go to jail for something she was only half responsible for, while the non-servant male child of the plantation owner went scot free.  Thomas Dodson was, of course, Mary Durham’s husband and the fact that he posted Anne Kelly’s bond made her indentured to Thomas Dodson after her original indenture ended, according to court order.  Mary Durham Dodson, Thomas’s wife, was the daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Durham.

Oh, what a web we weave!

Then, to add insult to injury, Thomas Durham Jr. married Mary Smoot (who had inherited Mary Grady’s land) about 1710.  Ann Kelly was still serving her additional indentures for having two “bastard children” when Thomas married, given that the additional time to serve was typically 5 years, per child.  She still had years to go.  If Ann had any thought that she would one day marry Thomas Durham Jr., they were assuredly dashed by this point.  Ann is left with two small children, serving additional time as a servant, and Thomas Durham Jr. marries the neighbor girl who inherited land.  After Thomas Durham Jr. and Mary Smoot were married, he legally controlled her land.

This isn’t the first or last time Thomas Durham Jr.’s character would be called into question.

Constable

Court Order Book Page 92, May 6, 1713 – Ordered Thomas Durham officiate as constable for this ensuing year in the roome and stead of Bartholomew Richard Dodson between Moratico and Farnham Creeks and that he repaire to some Justice to be sworn accordingly.

There is no Jr. mentioned, so this looks to be Thomas Durham Sr.  This further confirms the area where Thomas Durham was actually living.

Thomas Durham’s Will

In 1711, Thomas Durham wrote his will, but he didn’t pass away until in 1715.

Thomas Durham’s will was dated August 4, 1711 and proved in court June 1, 1715.

In the name of God Amen, I, Thomas Durham of Northfarnham in the County of Richmond being sick in Body but of sound and perfect Memory. Praise be given unto God therefore calling to Mind His Mortallity of my body and that it is appointed for all Men once to Die, Do make and Ordain this my Last Will & Testament, That is to say– Principally & first of all I Recommend my soul unto the hands of God that gave it and my Body to the Earth to be Buried in Christian and Decent manner at the Discretion of my Executors hereafter named; nothing Doubting but at the generall Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty Power of God; And as touching such Worldly Estate wherewith it hath Pleased God to Bless me in this Life—–

Item. I give and Bequeath unto my Dear & Loving wife Dorothy Durham the use of my Plantations, together with all my Lands & Tenements with all and Every of their Appurtenances–Proffits and Commoditys __________ Belonging or appertaining for & During the _____________ of her natural Life and after her Decease if my Son Thomas Durham and Mary his wife do by some sufficient Instrument in writing under their hands and seals and affording to due forme of Law Release and acquitt all and singular their Right, Title and Interest in and unto Fifty acres of Land being the same Tract & Plantation which we had conveyed us by Mary Gilbert unto my son John Durham and his heirs or pay him the said: John Durham Eight Thousand Pounds of Tobacco in Lieu of His said Land and also pay unto my Daughter Mary Dodson Fifteen hundred pounds of Tobacco that then and upon this consideration——-aforesaid: I do give and bequeath unto my said son Thomas Durham and his heirs Lawfully Begotten and for want of such issue unto my son John Durham and his heirs Lawfully Begotton and in _______ of such issue unto my GrandSon Thomas Dodson and his heirs, But if my said son Thomas Durham doth refuse and will not release the said fifty acres of Land nor pay the Tobacco aforesaid: I do will and Bequeath the said Plantation whereon I now dwell with all my Lands unto my son John Durham and his heirs—

Item. I give and Bequeath unto my Son John Durham Fifty acres of Land more or less being the Plantation with all the Tract and Parcell of Land that was Conveyed us by Mary Gilbert, to have and to hold the said Tract and Parcell of Land with the appurtainances unto my said son John Durham and his heirs Lawfully begotten and for want of such issue unto my GrandSon Thomas Dodson and his heirs—

Item. I give and bequeath unto my Son John Durham one Feather Bed and Furniture, one Cow and calf, one Mare and Iron Pott, Two ____ Dishes and half a dozen Plates

Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Mary Dodson Five Thousand Pounds of Tobacco; Fifteen hundred Pounds of the same to be paid by my son Thomas Durham within Nine months after the Decise of my wife and Five hundred the Rest of the said Tobacco to be paid by my Son John Durham at the Decease of my Wife—-

Item. I give and Bequeath all the Residue of my Estate, Goods, Cattle and Chattells unto my wife Dorothy Durham for & During her widowhood, but if she doth Marry that _____ off my Personall Estate, Except what is herein given to John Durham shall be Equally Divided between my wife and my three Children, and I do make and Ordain my Dear & well beloved Wife Sole Executrix of this my Last Will & Testament—Rattifying and Confirming this & none other to be my Last Will & Testament. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this Fourth Day of August in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eleven. Signed, Sealed & Published and Declared in the presence of us– Joan O Searles her mark, Arthur Kay his mark, Miles Walters Thomas Durham his mark (seal)

Att. at a Court held for Richmond County ye first Day of June 1715 This Will was approved in open Court by the oaths of Arthur Key & Joan Searles ______ of the Witness or tthereto be on admitted to Recored…Tests M: Beckewith C.C.O.”

Thomas Durham’s will entry in the will book looks like the clerk reproduced Thomas’s own mark.

Does this mean that Thomas Durham could never write, or that he was simply too ill or old to sign his will? He didn’t pass away for another 4 years, so he certainly was not on his deathbed when he wrote his will in 1711, although he might have thought he was. He does say that he is “sick in body” but he apparently recovered enough to be appointed constable in 1713. Although there is no Jr. or Sr. mentioned, so the 1713 constable entry could have been for his son.

And speaking of his son, Thomas Jr., Thomas Sr. left an inheritance only to the children “lawfully begotten” with his sons, excluding his grandchildren by Anne Kelly, if either of those children were still living.  In that era, illegitimate children could not inherit from their father unless there was specific verbiage to the contrary.

Thomas Durham, according to his will, apparently has two parcels of land – although the will is confusing and he only mentions the 50 acre parcel obtained from Mary Gilbert specifically. The second, referenced rather obliquely, must surely be the 62 acres that he is living on conveyed to Dorothy from William Smoot in 1700. The fact that Thomas Durham does not include this second piece specifically in his will is likely because William Smoot conveyed the land directly to Dorothy, omitting Thomas.

As it turns out, which of his two sons obtained the land becomes irrelevant, because John died without issue in 1722.

P 212 – Thomas Durham inventory July 6, 1715

Dorothy Remarries

We don’t know exactly when Thomas Durham died, but by the time his will was probated, which is typically within 90 days of death, Dorothy was remarried. This seems soon by today’s standards but wasn’t at all uncommon in colonial Virginia.

The fact that Dorothy had remarried meant that she would only receive a child’s share of Thomas’s estate, one fourth, except for the land which he had already bequeathed to his children.

Court Order Book Page 283, June 1, 1715 – Last will and testament of Thomas Durham decd presented into court by Dorothy Greenham, his executrix who made oath and proved by the oaths of Arthur Key and John Searles, two of the witnesses.

Jeremiah Greenham, Dorothy Greenham, John Doyle and Richard Fowler came into court and ack bond for the said Dorothy Greenham admin for the estate of Thomas Durham, decd.

Thomas Griffin, Thomas Glascock, William Downham and George Davenport or any 3 of them to appraise the estate of Thomas Durham, decd. Oath of appraisers to be sworn and also of Dorothy Greenham, the executrix, for her true discovery thereof.

Thomas Durham’s Estate Inventory

Court Order Book Page 62-63 – Jeremiah Greenham and Dorothy, his wife, John Boyle and Richard Fowler of Richmond Co. held and bound for 200 pounds currant money of Virginia condition that Dorothy Greenham executrix of last will of Thomas Durham decd to make a true and perfect inventory of estate of said decd. Signed Jeremiah Greenham, Dorothy Greenham her mark as a D, John Doyle and Richard Fowler

Court Order Book Page 292 July 6, 1715 – Appraisement for estate of Thomas Durham decd returned and recorded.

Thomas’s inventory was taken on June 27, as follows:

  • One feather bed, bolster, 2 pillows and cafos? (cases?), 3 blankets and one rug, one par of cotton cheets, curtains, valances and bedstead – 6.0.0

Rugs at that time meant bed rugs, which were wool and decorative and functioned as both a layer of warmth and decoration on top of colonial beds.

  • One large table and form – 1.0.0

A form was a type of bench.

  • One small “ – 0.05.0
  • Six wooden chairs and one flagg – 0.10.0
  • One Bible and two old books – 0.05.0

I sure would like to know the names of the books.  It would tell us a lot about Thomas.

  • One butter pott, ditto plate and pann – 0.02.06
  • One brass candlestick and one iron pann – 0.01.0

Just one candlestick?

  • One bedstead – 0.05.0
  • One pair small styl’ds (probably stillyards) – 0.02.06
  • One looking glass – 0.01.03
  • One Huckaback table cloth and one dozen of napkins – 1.11.06

Huckaback was a type of course absorbent cotton or linen fabric typically used for making towels.

  • One small old table cloth, 4 old cotton napkins and 2 linen towels, one sheet of the same cloth and one cotton sheet – 0.12.0

Above Stairs

  • One feather bed, bolster, curtains, valances, 1 rugg ? pair of blankets – 02.10.0
  • One old couch bod an old blanket and a cadord? – 0.10.00
  • One rug, two pillows and one bolster case – 0.15.00
  • Three chests – 0.10.00

In the Kitchin

  • One flock bed and bolster, two blankets, one rug and bedstead – 01.0.0
  • One old “, one blanket, one cadoro – 0.05.0
  • One spinning sheel and hoop of cards – 0.10.00
  • A parcel of old tubs – 0.05.00
  • A parcel of iron work – 0.04.02

Kitchin

  • One large iron pott and hooks, qt 9 gal 4 ? p’s – 01.12.00
  • Five small “with four pair of hooks qt 1345 at “ – 02.04.02
  • Two pair of old pott racks – 0.02.00
  • A pair of tongs, one spit – 0.08.0
  • Two smoothing irons – 0.02.0
  • One old musket and one old frying pann – 0.05.06

If the musket was in the kitchen, it probably wasn’t for self-defense.

  • One pofflo? – 0.05.00
  • Two bags 1’b:6’l a and one old sadle 2’b:6’l, one old chest 1’b:6’l – 0.05.06
  • Five hodgos? 8’b, two pailed, two piggins, one old tubb 5’l – 0.13.0
  • A parcel of white salt a’l 2 bushels 2’l, one cart sadle and harness 1’d:6’l – 0.03.06
  • 35 of good pewter at 10’l pr p’d – 29 of old ditto at 6’l ? pd – 02.04.01
  • Three dozen of pewter spoons at 6’b, 16 of wools at 9’l ? pd, one old sauce pann 2’d – 0.18.02
  • Two cows and calves at 2 each, three yearlings at 15’l each, one bull at 3’l 10’s – 06.15.0
  • Five cows at ? 15’s each, one steer 6 years old in 2’l 10’s, two heifers at ? each – 13.05.00
  • Eight sheep at 6 each, one large mare at 3’l – 5.08.0
  • A servant boy two years and 7 months to serve – 08.0.0

Signed:

Thomas Griffin, Thomas Glascock, George Davenport on June 27, 1715

Apparently Anne Kelly long ago completed her indenture, or at least she is not listed as a servant in 1713.  She would have been about 33 by this time.

I love this inventory because it tells us where various items were located in the house. For example, we know that there is an upstairs, and it’s large enough for a bed that included curtains and valances, so no shoddy place to sleep.

The main living quarters, downstairs, included a bed with all the trappings, a second bedstead, but perhaps without a mattress, 2 tables complete with tablecloths and napkins, chairs, butter molds, a looking glass, but only 1 candlestick.

There’s another bed in the kitchen, maybe for the servant boy. It’s flock instead of a feather bed. Flock is a type of filling made of scraps and wool. The spinning wheel is in the kitchen too.

I’m guessing this house had two rooms downstairs, one room “above the stairs,” and the kitchen which may or may not have been attached. There doesn’t seem to be any furniture for more rooms.

There was no mention of tobacco or any farm implements associated with anything except livestock, although tobacco was mentioned in Thomas’s will, so he clearly farmed tobacco in 1711.

Furthermore, there was no cart or wagon. There is only one horse and an old saddle. There are no pistols, which “gentlemen” would have had, and the old musket is in the kitchen. There is no women’s saddle either.

Thomas Durham does not appear to be a wealthy man, yet he does have pewter and tablecloths.

He does not own any slaves which was very common for plantation owners in that time and place.

What I wouldn’t give for that Bible and the information it contained.  We wouldn’t have to wonder who his parents were, or question his wife’s maiden name.  We might even know who his grandparents were, and where they were from in England.  I wonder what ever happened to that Bible.

Guardian

This looks like some tension might have existed between John, the youngest son, Thomas Jr., the eldest son and Dorothy along with her new husband, Jeremiah Greenham.  Daughter Mary was already married to Thomas Dodson.

Page 351, October 5, 1715 – This day John Durham by his petition prayed that his brother Thomas Durham might be admitted his guardian which was granted and said Thomas Durham gives security. Whereupon the said Thomas Durham together with John Harris and Thomas Elmore acknowledge their bond for the said Thomas Durham’s true performance of his guardianship.

Judgement granted to Thomas Durham as guardian for his brother John Durham against Jeremiah Greenham and Dorothy his wife, executrix of the last will of (page 352) Thomas Durham, decd for 1 feather bed and furniture, 1 cow and calf, 1 mare, 1 iron pott, 2 pewter dishes and half a dozen of plates being legacies left him the said John Durham buy the said Thomas Durham, his late father, decd, in his last will and testament, which is ordered to be paid.

Here, we find the source of the issue.  John who was only 17, wanted his share of the estate, even though he would have still been living at home.  This probably means that John went to live with Thomas…and took with him the bed, furniture, cow, calf, mare pewter and other items.  Thomas obviously did not release the 50 acres to John.

Dorothy probably argued that John, as yet underage, was yet living at home so not yet entitled to any of the estate until he came of age.  Clearly, this was not settled and went through the court process, probably causing very hard feelings between Dorothy and both of her sons.

Thomas Durham sells Land

In 1723, Thomas Durham Jr. sells land which could have been his father’s to Thomas Dodson, his sister’s husband.

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

Abraham Marshall is Dorothy Durham Greenham’s sister’s husband.

In 1733, the 100 acres is sold to the Lyell family

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

Deed Book Page 25, May 4 1734 _ From Jane Lawson, John Steptoe Jr. and Joanna his wife of Christchurch parish in Lancaster Co. to Robert Mitchell of St. Mary’s Whiteside in Lancaster 18,000 pounds tobacco and 50# and divers other causes 450 acres in North Farnham Parish bounded on west by a branch of Moratico that divides this land from the land of John Mills, Thomas Durham on the north side, Abraham Goad on the NE, William King and Mr. Anthony Sydnor on the east side, Isaac White on the south. Land part of a patent granted to Thomas Madison dated 1770 (sic) by him sold to Capt. John Purvis and by Purvis to John Ockley and by Ockley given by will to said Jean Lawson. Signed by all.

Drunk at Church

Court Order Book Page 11, Nov. 7, 1721 – Ordered sheriff to summon Thomas Durham of North Farnham Parish to answer presentment of the grand jury against him for coming to his parish church drunk on the 29th day of October last past.

Apparently, Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Jr., now age 31, was a bit rowdy or couldn’t hold his liquor, or both. Apparently now he’s attending church, but not sober.  He obviously did not like to attend church.  Perhaps his earlier escapades weren’t quite forgiven nor forgotten by parishioners.

We’ll leave Thomas’s life and times on this rather humorous note. Well, it’s humorous if you weren’t there and are looking back from a perspective of nearly 200 years. Perhaps Thomas felt that showing up drunk was better than not showing up at all, a fineable offense, as we already know.  Or perhaps Thomas had a drinking problem.  Drinking alcoholic beverages during that time was a daily affair, especially if the water was suspect in terms of cleanliness – but drunk on Sunday morning to the point that he was actually fined?

The Durham family seems determined to leave us with questions!

The Persistent Rumor about Governor Henry Thomas Durham

If you sign on to Ancestry or any other site and look at trees, you’ll find the persistent rumor that Thomas Durham is the son of Governor Henry Thomas Durham who had a son, Thomas, born about 1634.

Unfortunately, there is not one shred of evidence to connect the two. Several trees also have the Governor passing away in 1694 in North Farnham Parish in Richmond County. I can assuredly tell you that there are absolutely NO records to corroborate this information.

The one piece of evidence I did find was posted in 1999 on GenForum by Gene, as follows:

Sorry, guys, LDS records notwithstanding, Thomas DURHAM 1661/1715 of Richmond Co.VA married to Dorothy ??? is NOT the son of Gov. Henry DURHAM of Bermuda. I bought that story too, but couldn’t prove it was the same Thomas.

Finally, I wrote Bermuda Archives, and received an abstract of a lawsuit filed in Bermuda in 1734 that definitely proved that the Thomas who was born to Gov. Hunt lived and died in Bermuda where he had a son “Richard Durham of Sandys tribe marriner Eldest son and heir of Thomas Durham Late of the same Gent: dec’d, who was the son of Henry Durham, Esq.”  The suit was in regard to property in Bermuda lately in the possession of Judith DURHAM, Henry’s wife.  I would love to know also who the parents of our Thomas of Virginia were, but they weren’t Henry and Judith Hunt Durham of Bermuda. I will say there is an outside chance there could be a collateral relationship, since the father of Henry Durham of Bermuda also named Thomas had other sons, who also may have had a son named Thomas, and of course there was trading, etc. between Bermuda and Virginia during that time, of which scant records were kept. Gene in Gotha.

What Gene didn’t mention is that Thomas is a very common first name.

In case you’re having trouble with all the characters, I charted the relationships of Henry Durham, the Governor.

I think we can put the rumor of Thomas Durham of Richmond County being the son of Henry Durham, the Governor of Bermuda, to bed. Furthermore, a Governor’s son would not show up penniless and not own land until 8 years after he was beyond “a great age,” according to court records.

DNA

I was unable to find any evidence in the Durham DNA project that any male Durham descendants of Thomas Durham had done the Y DNA testing. I was quite hopeful, because, needless to say, a match to a Durham from England would give us someplace to look for the origins of our Thomas.

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, with no admixture from the mother, so Thomas’s two sons, would have passed their Durham Y chromosome to their sons and so forth to the current generation of Durham men descended from Thomas.

It appears that Thomas Durham’s son, John, died unmarried on September 23, 1722.

Son Thomas Durham, Jr., aside from the illegitimate children he had with Anne Kelly, whose genders are unknown, according to the North Farnham Parish records had several children, as follows, with Mary Smoot:

  • Durham, John son of Thomas and Mary Durham, Dec. 14, 1724/5 (sic)
  • Durham, Mary daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, May 14, 1728
  • Durham, Susanna daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, May 14, 1728
  • Durham, Margaret and Dominick Newgent, Dec. 2, 1729 (identity of Margaret who is marrying is entirely unknown)
  • Durham, Wilmoth daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, May 21, 1730
  • Durham, Kathrine daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, March 18, 1731
  • Durham, Millicent daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, Aug. 4, 1734
  • Durham, Willmoth Oct. 2, 1734 (death)
  • Durham, Thomas Dec. 3, 1734 (death)

Poor Mary – a new child born in August, a daughter dead two months later and her husband two months following that.

These births and deaths leave us with Thomas Durham Jr. having only one known son, John, born in 1724. John is reported to have married Sarah Hightower and had three sons, Joshua Durham (1748-1816), Charnel Hightower Durham (1753-1836) and Daniel Durham (1777-1868). The births of both Joshua and Charnel are recorded in the North Farnham Parish records, but Daniel is not. I’m hopeful that a male Durham descends from one of these lines and has tested or is willing to Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA. If that’s you, please let me know.  I have a testing scholarship for you!!!

Summary

I have this nagging feeling that we are missing the first half of Thomas Durham Sr.’s adult life.

The first mention of the Durham surname is in 1686 with the birth of Thomas and Dorothy’s child, Mary. She may have been their first child born and she is the first recorded, but the records are known to be incomplete.

In 1699, we find Thomas exempted from taxes due to his great age, but his wife, Dorothy, in 1704 says she’s about 41 years of age, which would put her birth year at about 1663.

If Thomas was of “great age” in 1699, he would have been at least 50, if not 60 or older. In 1699, Dorothy would have been 37.

Furthermore, Thomas Durham owns no land at all until in 1700 when William Smoot deeds 62 acres to Dorothy, omitting him in the deed, and then in 1707, Mary Gilbert adds another 50 acres.

We know, based on Thomas’s will in 1711 he still owns two pieces of land, one of which is the 50 acre tract.

However, there are some rather unusual things about Thomas. He never, not once, sits on a jury. In Virginia, at that time, I believe you had to be a white landowner to do so. That would likely mean he was not eligible until 1707. Either he or his son were appointed constable in 1713, which means they were respected and trusted within the community.

In 1723, Thomas Durham Jr. sells 100 acres of land that belonged to his mother’s sister’s husband. However, there is no record of either Thomas Jr. or Thomas Sr. purchasing that land. Where Thomas Jr. obtained it is a mystery. If the 1692 notation in the deed refers to when Abraham Marshall sold the land to Thomas, it would have had to be Thomas Sr. because Thomas Jr. was still a child, born in 1690.

In other words, there seems to have been some transactions that were handled by family that were never recorded at the courthouse.

While we know quite a bit about the life of Thomas Durham from 1686 on, we know absolutely nothing about his life before that time. Was he perhaps an indentured servant, fulfilling his obligation before he could marry?

He certainly did not come to the Northern Neck with any money, because he did not purchase land until 21 years after his presence is the area is first known. He never owned slaves which was very common for plantation owners, although he did have at least two indentured servants – one of which gave him two grandchildren.

Thomas Durham Sr. remains, in very large part, a mystery.

Native American Y Haplogroup C-P39 Sprouts Branches!

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

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

Native American Y DNA Haplogroups

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

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

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

Haplogroup C-P39 Sprouts Branches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Tree

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

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

Beneath C-P39, several sub-branches develop.

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

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

The Next Step

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

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

Contributing

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

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

Thank you in advance – every little bit helps!

Kudos

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

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

DNA Testing for Native Heritage

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

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

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

Which DNA Test is Best?

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

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

Testing Goals

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

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

We will be discussing testing for:

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

We will be reviewing the following test types:

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

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

  • Additional Vendor Considerations

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

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

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

The Big 3

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

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

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

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

  • Full mitochondrial sequence that informs you about your matrilineal line (only) at Family Tree DNA.
  • Y DNA test (for males only) that informs you about your direct paternal (surname) line (only) at Family Tree DNA.
  • Family Finder, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching at Family Tree DNA.
  • AncestryDNA, an autosomal test at Ancestry.com that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. (Do not confuse this test with Ancestry by DNA, which is not the same test and does not provide the same features.)
  • 23andMe Ancestry Service test, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching.

A Word About Third Party Tools

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

Let’s get started!

Ethnicity

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

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

Yep, same person, different ethnicity breakdowns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at each company separately.

Ethnicity – Family Tree DNA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethnicity – Ancestry

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more about Genetic Communities here and here.

Ethnicity – 23andMe

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

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

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

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

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

Ethnicity Summary

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

DNA test costs are similar, although the Family Tree DNA test is less at $79. All three vendors have sales from time to time.

Ethnicity Vendor Summary Chart

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

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Ethnicity Test Included with $79 Family Finder test Included with $99 Ancestry DNA test Included with $99 Ancestry Service
Percentages and Maps Yes Yes Yes
Shared Ethnicity with Matches Yes No Yes
Additional Feature Y and mtDNA mapping of ethnicity matches Genetic Communities Ethnicity phasing against parent (has issues)
Additional Feature Ancient Origins Ethnicity mapping by chromosome
Additional Feature Ancient DNA Project Ancestry Timeline

 

Adoption and Parental Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adoptee Y and Mitochondrial Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adoption Summary

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

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

Adoptee Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage
Autosomal DNA – Males and Females
Matching Yes Yes Yes Yes – problems
Relationship Estimates* Yes – May be too close Yes – May be too distant Yes – Matches may not be sharing Yes –  problematic
International Reach Very strong Not strong but growing Not strong Small but subscriber base is European focused
Trees Yes Yes No Yes
Tree Quantity 54% have trees, 46% no tree (of my first 100 matches) 56% have trees, 44% no tree or private (of my first 100 matches) No trees ~50% don’t have trees or are private (cannot discern private tree without clicking on every tree)
Data Base Size Large Largest Large – but not all opt in to matching Very small
My # of Matches on 4-23-2017 2,421 23,750 1,809 but only 1,114 are sharing 75
Subscription Required No No for partial, Yes for full functionality including access to matches’ trees, minimal subscription for $59 by calling Ancestry No No for partial, Yes for full functionality
Other Relevant Tools New Ancestor Discoveries
Autosomal DNA Issues Many testers don’t have trees Many testers don’t have trees Matching opt-in is problematic, no trees at all Matching issues, small data base size is problematic, many testers don’t have trees
Contact Methodology E-mail address provided to matches Internal message system – known delivery issues Internal message system Internal message system
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes No
Y-DNA – Males Only
Y DNA STR Test Yes- 37, 67, and 111 markers No No No
Y Haplogroup Yes as part of STR test plus additional testing available No Yes, basic level but no additional testing available, outdated haplogroups No
Y Matching Yes No No No
Advanced Matching Between Y and Autosomal Yes No No No
Mitochondrial DNA- Males and Females
Test Yes, partial and full sequence No No No
Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Yes, included in test No Yes, basic but full haplogroup not available, haplogroup several versions behind No
Advanced Matching Between Mitochondrial and Autosomal Yes No No No

Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification

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

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

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

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

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

Genealogy – Autosomal –  Family Tree DNA

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

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

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

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

Unique autosomal tools provided by Family Tree DNA are:

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

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

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

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

Genealogy – Autosomal – Ancestry

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

Ancestry is the only testing vendor (other than MyHeritage who is not included in this section) to require a subscription for full functionality, although if you call the Ancestry support line, a minimal subscription is available for $59. You can see your matches without a subscription, but you cannot see your matches trees or utilize other functions, so you will not be able to tell how you connect to your matches. Many genealogists have Ancestry subscriptions, so this is minimally problematic for most people.

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

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

Unique tools provided by Ancestry include:

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

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

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

Genealogy – Autosomal – 23and Me

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

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

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

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

The one genealogy feature unique to 23andMe is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genealogy – Autosomal Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23andMe is the least friendly of the three companies, with several genetic genealogy unfriendly restrictions relative to matching, opt-ins, match limits and such. They have experienced problem after problem for years relative to genetic genealogy, which has always been a second-class citizen compared to their medical research, and not a priority.

23andMe has chosen to implement a business model where their customers must opt-in to share segment information with other individuals, either one by one or by opting into open sharing. Based on my match list, roughly 60% of my actual DNA matches have opted in to sharing.

Their customer base includes fewer serious genealogists and their customers often are not interested in genealogy at all.

Having said that, 23andMe is the only one of the three that provides actual triangulated matches for users on the New Experience and who have opted into sharing.

If I were entering the genetic genealogy testing space today, I would test my autosomal DNA at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, but I would probably not test at 23andMe. I would test both my Y DNA (if a male) and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA.

Thank you to Kitty Cooper for assistance with parent/child matching and triangulation at 23andMe.

Genealogy Autosomal Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Matching Yes Yes Yes – each person has to opt in for open sharing or authorize sharing individually, many don’t
Estimated Relationships Yes Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser Yes No – Large Issue Yes
Chromosome Browser Threshold Adjustment Yes No Chromosome Browser No
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes
Trees Yes Yes – subscription required so see matches’ trees No
Ability to upload Gedcom file Yes Yes No
Ability to search trees Yes Yes No
Subscription in addition to DNA test price No No for partial, Yes for full functionality, minimal subscription for $59 by calling Ancestry No
DNA + Ancestor in Tree Matches No Yes – Leaf Hints – subscription required – Best Feature No
Phased Parental Side Matching Yes – Best Feature No No
Parent Match Indicator Yes No Yes
Sort or Group by Parent Match Yes Yes Yes
In Common With Tool Yes Yes Yes
Not In Common With Tool Yes No No
Triangulated Matches No – pseudo with ICW, browser and matrix No Yes – Best Feature
Common Surnames Yes Yes – subscription required No
Ability to Link DNA Matches on Tree Yes No No
Matrix to show match grid between multiple matches Yes No No
Match Filter Tools Yes Minimal Some
Advanced Matching Tool Yes No No
Multiple Test Matching Tool Yes No multiple tests No multiple tests
Ethnicity Matching Yes No Yes
Projects Yes No No
Maximum # of Matches Restricted No No Yes – 2000 unless you are communicating with the individuals, then they are not removed from your match list
All Customers Participate Yes Yes, unless they don’t have a subscription No – between 50-60% opt-in
Accepts Transfers from Other Testing Companies Yes No No
Free Features with Transfer Matching, ICW, Matrix, Advanced Matching No transfers No transfers
Transfer Features Requiring Unlock $ Chromosome Browser, Ethnicity, Ancient Origins, Linked Relationships, Parentally Phased Matches No Transfers No transfers
Archives DNA for Later Testing Yes, 25 years No, no additional tests available No, no additional tests available
Additional Tool DNA Circles – subscription required
Additional Tool New Ancestor Discoveries – subscription required
Y DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Mitochondrial DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Advanced Testing Available Yes No No
Website Intuitive Yes, given their many tools Yes, very simple No
Data Base Size Large Largest Large but many do not test for genealogy, only test for health
Strengths Many tools, multiple types of tests, phased matching without parent DNA + Tree matching, size of data base Triangulation
Challenges Website episodically times out No chromosome browser or advanced tools Sharing is difficult to understand and many don’t, website is far from intuitive

 

Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Two indispensable tools for genetic genealogy that are often overlooked are Y and mitochondrial DNA.

The inheritance path for Y DNA is shown by the blue squares and the inheritance path for mitochondrial DNA is shown by the red circles for the male and female siblings shown at the bottom of the chart.

Y-DNA Testing for Males

Y DNA is inherited by males only, from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Women instead inherit an X chromosome from their father, which makes them female. Because the Y chromosome is not admixed with the DNA of the mother, the same Y chromosome has been passed down through time immemorial.

Given that the Y chromosome follows the typical surname path, Y DNA testing is very useful for confirming surname lineage to an expected direct paternal ancestor. In other words, an Estes male today should match, with perhaps a few mutations, to other descendants of Abraham Estes who was born in 1647 in Kent, England and immigrated to the colony of Virginia.

Furthermore, that same Y chromosome can look far back in time, thousands of years, to tell us where that English group of Estes men originated, before the advent of surnames and before the migration to England from continental Europe. I wrote about the Estes Y DNA here, so you can see an example of how Y DNA testing can be used.

Y DNA testing for matching and haplogroup identification, which indicates where in the world your ancestors were living within the past few hundred to few thousand years, is only available from Family Tree DNA. Testing can be purchased for either 37, 67 or 111 markers, with the higher marker numbers providing more granularity and specificity in matching.

Family Tree DNA provides three types of Y DNA tests.

  • STR (short tandem repeat) testing is the traditional Y DNA testing for males to match to each other in a genealogically relevant timeframe. These tests can be ordered in panels of 37, 67 or 111 markers and lower levels can be upgraded to higher levels at a later date. An accurate base haplogroup prediction is made from STR markers.
  • SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing is a different type of testing that tests single locations for mutations in order to confirm and further refine haplogroups. Think of a haplogroup as a type of genetic clan, meaning that haplogroups are used to track migration of humans through time and geography, and are what is utilized to determine African, European, Asian or Native heritage in the direct paternal line. SNP tests are optional and can be ordered one at a time, in groups called panels for a particular haplogroup or a comprehensive research level Y DNA test called the Big Y can be ordered after STR testing.
  • The Big Y test is a research level test that scans the entire Y chromosome to determine the most refined haplogroup possible and to report any previously unknown mutations (SNPs) that may define further branches of the Y DNA tree. This is the technique used to expand the Y haplotree.

You can read more about haplogroups here and about the difference between STR markers and SNPs here, here and here.

Customers receive the following features and tools when they purchase a Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test at 23andMe. The 23andMe Y DNA information is included in their Ancestry Services test. The Family Tree DNA Y DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. You can click here to read about the difference in the technology between Y DNA testing at Family Tree DNA and at 23andMe. Ancestry is not included in this comparison because they provide no Y DNA related information.

Y DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of STR panel marker testing Yes, in panels of 37, 67 and 111 markers No
Test panel (STR) marker results Yes Not tested
Haplogroup assignment Yes – accurate estimate with STR panels, deeper testing available Yes –base haplogroup by scan – haplogroup designations are significantly out of date, no further testing available
SNP testing to further define haplogroup Yes – can purchase individual SNPs, by SNP panels or Big Y test No
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees available for your matches Yes No
E-mail of matches provided Yes No
Calculator tool to estimate probability of generational distance between you and a match Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic projects No
Ability to search Y matches Yes No Y matching
Ability to search matches within projects Yes No projects
Ability to search matches by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer result location on tree Yes, detailed with every branch Yes, less detailed, subset
Terminal SNP used to determine haplogroup Yes Yes, small subset available
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins – match ancestral location summary by haplogroup, by test level Yes No
SNP map showing worldwide locations of any selected SNP Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the paternal line, by test panel Yes No
Big Y – full scan of Y chromosome for known and previously unknown mutations (SNPs) Yes No
Big Y matching Yes No
Big Y matching known SNPs Yes No
Big Y matching novel variants (unknown or yet unnamed SNPs) Yes No
Filter Big Y matches Yes No
Big Y results Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

Mitochondrial DNA Testing for Everyone

Mitochondrial DNA is contributed to both genders of children by mothers, but only the females pass it on. Like the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the DNA of the other parent. Therefore, anyone can test for the mitochondrial DNA of their matrilineal line, meaning their mother’s mother’s mother’s lineage.

Matching can identify family lines as well as ancient lineage.

You receive the following features and tools when you purchase a mitochondrial DNA test from Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test from 23andMe. The Family Tree DNA mitochondrial DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. The 23andMe mitochondrial information is provided with the Ancestry Services test. Ancestry is omitted from this comparison because they do not provide any mitochondrial information.

Mitochondrial DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of testing Yes, mtPlus and Full Sequence No
Test panel marker results Yes, in two formats, CRS and RSRS No
Rare mutations, missing and extra mutations, insertions and deletions reported Yes No
Haplogroup assignment Yes, most current version, Build 17 Yes, partial and out of date version
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees of matches available to view Yes No
E-mail address provided to matches Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic available No
Ability to search matches Yes No
Ability to search matches within project Yes No projects
Ability to search match by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer location on tree No Yes
Mutations used to determine haplogroup provided Yes No
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins –match ancestral location summary by haplogroup Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the maternal line, by test level Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

 

Overall Genealogy Summary

Serious genealogists should test with at least two of the three major vendors, being Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, with 23andMe coming in as a distant third.

No genetic genealogy testing regimen is complete without Y and mitochondrial DNA for as many ancestral lines as you can find to test. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll never know if you don’t test.

Unfortunately, many people, especially new testers, don’t know Y and mitochondrial DNA testing for genetic genealogy exists, or how it can help their genealogy research, which is extremely ironic since these were the first tests available, back in 2000.

You can read about finding Y and mitochondrial information for various family lines and ancestors and how to assemble a DNA Pedigree Chart here.

You can also take a look at my 52 Ancestors series, where I write about an ancestor every week. Each article includes some aspect of DNA testing and knowledge gained by a test or tests, DNA tool, or comparison. The DNA aspect of these articles focuses on how to use DNA as a tool to discover more about your ancestors.

 

Testing for Medical/Health or Traits

The DTC market also includes health and medical testing, although it’s not nearly as popular as genetic genealogy.

Health/medical testing is offered by 23andMe, who also offers autosomal DNA testing for genealogy.

Some people do want to know if they have genetic predispositions to medical conditions, and some do not. Some want to know if they have certain traits that aren’t genealogically relevant, but might be interesting – such as whether they carry the Warrior gene or if they have an alcohol flush reaction.

23andMe was the first company to dip their toes into the water of Direct to Consumer medical information, although they called it “health,” not medicine, at that time. Regardless of the terminology, information regarding Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for example, were provided for customers. 23andMe attempted to take the raw data and provide the consumer with something approaching a middle of the road analysis, because sometimes the actual studies provide conflicting information that might not be readily understood by consumers.

The FDA took issue with 23andMe back in November of 2013 when they ordered 23andMe to discontinue the “health” aspect of their testing after 23andMe ignored several deadlines. In October 2015, 23andMe obtained permission to provide customers with some information, such as carrier status, for 36 genetic disorders.

Since that time, 23andMe has divided their product into two separate tests, with two separate prices. The genealogy only test called Ancestry Service can be purchased separately for $99, or the combined Health + Ancestry Service for $199.

If you are interested in seeing what the Health + Ancestry test provides, you can click here to view additional information.

However, there is a much easier and less expensive solution.

If you have taken the autosomal test from 23andMe, Ancestry or Family Tree DNA, you can download your raw data file from the vendor and upload to Promethease to obtain a much more in-depth report than is provided by 23andMe, and much less expensively – just $5.

I reviewed the Promethease service here. I found the Promethease reports to be very informative and I like the fact that they provide information, both positive and negative for each SNP (DNA location) reported. Promethease avoids FDA problems by not providing any interpretation or analysis, simply the data and references extracted from SNPedia for you to review.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you should be sure you really want to know before you delve into medical testing. Some mutations are simply indications that you could develop a condition that you will never develop or that is not serious. Other mutations are not so benign. Promethease provides this candid page before you upload your data.

Different files from different vendors provide different results at Promethease, because those vendors test different SNP locations in your DNA. At the Promethease webpage, you can view examples.

Traits

Traits fall someplace between genealogy and health. When you take the Health + Ancestry test at 23andMe, you do receive information about various traits, as follows:

Of course, you’ll probably already know if you have several of these traits by just taking a look in the mirror, or in the case of male back hair, by asking your wife.

At Family Tree DNA, existing customers can order tests for Factoids (by clicking on the upgrade button), noted as curiosity tests for gene variants.

Family Tree DNA provides what I feel is a great summary and explanation of what the Factoids are testing on their order page:

“Factoids” are based on studies – some of which may be controversial – and results are not intended to diagnose disease or medical conditions, and do not serve the purpose of medical advice. They are offered exclusively for curiosity purposes, i.e. to see how your result compared with what the scientific papers say. Other genetic and environmental variables may also impact these same physiological characteristics. They are merely a conversational piece, or a “cocktail party” test, as we like to call it.”

Test Price Description
Alcohol Flush Reaction $19 A condition in which the body cannot break down ingested alcohol completely. Flushing, after consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, includes a range of symptoms: nausea, headaches, light-headedness, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that may lead to further inebriation, but the symptoms can lead to mistaken assumption that the people affected are more easily inebriated than others.
Avoidance of Errors $29 We are often angry at ourselves because we are unable to learn from certain experiences. Numerous times we have made the wrong decision and its consequences were unfavorable. But the cause does not lie only in our thinking. A mutation in a specific gene can also be responsible, because it can cause a smaller number of dopamine receptors. They are responsible for remembering our wrong choices, which in turn enables us to make better decisions when we encounter a similar situation.
Back Pain $39 Lumbar disc disease is the drying out of the spongy interior matrix of an intervertebral disc in the spine. Many physicians and patients use the term lumbar disc disease to encompass several different causes of back pain or sciatica. A study of Asian patients with lumbar disc disease showed that a mutation in the CILP gene increases the risk of back pain.
Bitter Taste Perception $29 There are several genes that are responsible for bitter taste perception – we test 3 of them. Different variations of this gene affect ability to detect bitter compounds. About 25% of people lack ability to detect these compounds due to gene mutations. Are you like them? Maybe you don’t like broccoli, because it tastes too bitter?
Caffeine Metabolism $19 According to the results of a case-control study reported in the March 8, 2006 issue of JAMA, coffee is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and caffeine consumption has been associated with increased risk for non-fatal myocardial infarction. Caffeine is primarily metabolized by the cytochrome P450 1A2 in the liver, accounting for 95% of metabolism. Carriers of the gene variant *1F allele are slow caffeine metabolizers, whereas individuals homozygous for the *1A/*1A genotype are rapid caffeine metabolizers.
Earwax Type $19 Whether your earwax is wet or dry is determined by a mutation in a single gene, which scientists have discovered. Wet earwax is believed to have uses in insect trapping, self-cleaning and prevention of dryness in the external auditory canal of the ear. It also produces an odor and causes sweating, which may play a role as a pheromone.
Freckling $19 Freckles can be found on anyone no matter what the background. However, having freckles is genetic and is related to the presence of the dominant melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant.
Longevity $49 Researchers at Harvard Medical School and UC Davis have discovered a few genes that extend lifespan, suggesting that the whole family of SIR2 genes is involved in controlling lifespan. The findings were reported July 28, 2005 in the advance online edition of Science.
Male Pattern Baldness $19 Researchers at McGill University, King’s College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. have identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that together produce an astounding sevenfold increase of the risk of male pattern baldness. Their results were published in the October 12, 2008 issue of the Journal of Nature Genetics.
Monoamine Oxidase A (Warrior Gene) $49.50 The Warrior Gene is a variant of the gene MAO-A on the X chromosome. Recent studies have linked the Warrior Gene to increased risk-taking and aggressive behavior. Whether in sports, business, or other activities, scientists found that individuals with the Warrior Gene variant were more likely to be combative than those with the normal MAO-A gene. However, human behavior is complex and influenced by many factors, including genetics and our environment. Individuals with the Warrior Gene are not necessarily more aggressive, but according to scientific studies, are more likely to be aggressive than those without the Warrior Gene variant. This test is available for both men and women, however, there is limited research about the Warrior Gene variant amongst females. Additional details about the Warrior Gene genetic variant of MAO-A can be found in Sabol et al, 1998.
Muscle Performance $29 A team of researchers, led by scientists at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth College, have identified and tested a gene that dramatically alters both muscle metabolism and performance. The researchers say that this finding could someday lead to treatment of muscle diseases, including helping the elderly who suffer from muscle deterioration and improving muscle performance in endurance athletes.
Nicotine Dependence $19 In 2008, University of Virginia Health System researchers have identified a gene associated with nicotine dependence in both Europeans and African Americans.

Many people are interested in the Warrior Gene, which I wrote about here.

At Promethease, traits are simply included with the rest of the conditions known to be associated with certain SNPs, such as baldness, for example, but I haven’t done a comparison to see which traits are included.

 

Additional Vendor Information to Consider

Before making your final decision about which test or tests to purchase, there are a few additional factors you may want to consider.

As mentioned before, Ancestry requires a subscription in addition tot he cost of the DNA test for the DNA test to be fully functional.

One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, is that both 23andMe and Ancestry sell customer’s anonymized DNA information to unknown others. Every customer authorizes the sale of their information when they purchase or activate a kit – even though very few people actually take the time to read the Terms and Conditions, Privacy statements and Security documents, including any and all links. This means most people don’t realize they are authorizing the sale of their DNA.

At both 23andMe and Ancestry, you can ALSO opt in for additional non-anonymized research or sale of your DNA, which you can later opt out of. However, you cannot opt out of the lower level sale of your anonymized DNA without removing your results from the data base and asking for your sample to be destroyed. They do tell you this, but it’s very buried in the fine print at both companies. You can read more here.

Family Tree DNA does not sell your DNA or information.

All vendors can change their terms and conditions at any time. Consumers should always thoroughly read the terms and conditions including anything having to do with privacy for any product they purchase, but especially as it relates to DNA testing.

Family Tree DNA archives your DNA for later testing, which has proven extremely beneficial when a family member has passed away and a new test is subsequently introduced or the family wants to upgrade a current test.  Had my mother’s DNA not been archived at Family Tree DNA, I would not have Family Finder results for her today – something I thank Mother and Family Tree DNA for every single day.

Family Tree DNA also accepts transfer files from 23andMe, Ancestry and very shortly, MyHeritage – although some versions work better than others. For details on which companies accept which file versions, from which vendors, and why, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

If you tested on a compatible version of the 23andMe Test (V3 between December 2010 and November 2013) or the Ancestry V1 (before May 2016) you may want to transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free and pay only $19 for full functionality, as opposed to taking the Family Finder test. Family Tree DNA does accept later versions of files from 23andMe and Ancestry, but you will receive more matches if you test on the same chip platform that Family Tree DNA utilizes instead of doing a transfer.

Additional Vendor Considerations Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Subscription required in addition to cost of DNA test No Yes for full functionality, partial functionality is included without subscription, minimum subscription is $59 by calling Ancestry No
Customer Support Good and available Available, nice but often not knowledgeable about DNA Poor
Sells customer DNA information No Yes Yes
DNA raw data file available to download Yes Yes Yes
DNA matches file available to download including match info and chromosome match locations Yes No Yes
Customers genealogically focused Yes Yes Many No
Accepts DNA raw data transfer files from other companies Yes, most, see article for specifics No No
DNA archived for later testing Yes, 25 years No No
Beneficiary provision available Yes No No

 

Which Test is Best For You?

I hope you now know the answer as to which DNA test is best for you – or maybe it’s multiple tests for you and other family members too!

DNA testing holds so much promise for genealogy. I hesitate to call DNA testing a miracle tool, but it often is when there are no records. DNA testing works best in conjunction with traditional genealogical research.

There are a lot of tests and options.  The more tests you take, the more people you match. Some people test at multiple vendors or upload their DNA to third party sites like GedMatch, but most don’t. In order to make sure you reach those matches, which may be the match you desperately need, you’ll have to test at the vendor where they tested. Otherwise, they are lost to you. That means, of course, that eventually, if you’re a serious genealogist, you’ll be testing at all 3 vendors.  Don’t forget about Y and mitochondrial tests at Family Tree DNA.

Recruit family members to test and reach out to your matches.  The more you share and learn – the more is revealed about your ancestors. You are, after all, the unique individual that resulted from the combination of all of them!

Jessica Biel – A Follow-up: DNA, Native Heritage and Lies

Jessica Biel’s episode aired on Who Do You Think You Are on Sunday, April 2nd. I wanted to write a follow-up article since I couldn’t reveal Jessica’s Native results before the show aired.

The first family story about Jessica’s Biel line being German proved to be erroneous. In total, Jessica had three family stories she wanted to follow, so the second family legend Jessica set out to research was her Native American heritage.

I was very pleased to see a DNA test involved, but I was dismayed that the impression was left with the viewing audience that the ethnicity results disproved Jessica’s Native heritage. They didn’t.

Jessica’s Ethnicity Reveal

Jessica was excited about her DNA test and opened her results during the episode to view her ethnicity percentages.

Courtesy TLC

The locations shown below and the percentages, above, show no Native ethnicity.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica was understandably disappointed to discover that her DNA did not reflect any Native heritage – conflicting with her family story. I feel for you Jessica.  Been there, done that.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica had the same reaction of many of us. “Lies, lies,” she said, in frustration.

Well Jessica, maybe not.

Let’s talk about Jessica’s DNA results.

Native or Lies?

I’ve written about the challenges with ethnicity testing repeatedly. At the end of this article, I’ll provide a reading resource list.

Right now, I want to talk about the misperception that because Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results showed no Native, that her family story about Native heritage is false. Even worse, Jessica perceived those stories to be lies. Ouch, that’s painful.

In my world view, a lie is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. Let’s say that Jessica really didn’t have Native heritage. That doesn’t mean someone intentionally lied. People might have been confused. Maybe they made assumptions. Sometimes facts are misremembered or misquoted. I always give my ancestors the benefit of the doubt unless there is direct evidence of an intentional lie. And if then, I would like to try to understand what prompted that behavior. For example, discrimination encouraged many people of mixed ethnicity to “pass” for white as soon as possible.

That’s certainly a forgivable “lie.”

Ok, Back to DNA

Autosomal DNA testing can only reliably pick up to about the 1% level of minority DNA admixture successfully – minority meaning a small amount relative to your overall ancestry.

Everyone inherits DNA from ancestors differently, in different amounts, in each generation. Remember, you receive half of your DNA from each parent, but which half of their DNA you receive is random. That holds true for every generation between the ancestor in question and Jessica today.  Ultimately, more or less than 50% of any ancestor’s DNA can be passed in any generation.

However, if Jessica inherited the average amount of DNA from each generation, being 50% of the DNA from the ancestor that the parent had, the following chart would represent the amount of DNA Jessica carried from each ancestor in each generation.

This chart shows the amount of DNA of each ancestor, by generation, that an individual testing today can expect to inherit, if they inherit exactly 50% of that ancestor’s DNA from the previous generation. That’s not exactly how it works, as we’ll see in a minute, because sometimes you inherit more or less than 50% of a particular ancestor’s DNA.

Utilizing this chart, in the 4th generation, Jessica has 16 ancestors, all great-great-grandparents. On average, she can expect to inherit 6.25% of the DNA of each of those ancestors.

In the rightmost column, I’ve shown Jessica’s relationship to her Jewish great-great-grandparents, shown in the episode, Morris and Ottilia Biel.

Jessica has two great-great-grandparents who are both Jewish, so the amount of Jewish DNA that Jessica would be expected to carry would be 6.25% times two, or 12.50%. But that’s not how much Jewish DNA Jessica received, according to Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates. Jessica received only 8% Jewish ethnicity, 36% less than average for having two Jewish great-great-grandparents.

Courtesy TLC

Now we know that Jessica carries less Jewish DNA that we would expect based on her proven genealogy.  That’s the nature of random recombination and how autosomal DNA works.

Now let’s look at the oral history of Jessica’s Native heritage.

Native Heritage

The intro didn’t tell us much about Jessica’s Native heritage, except that it was on her mother’s mother’s side. We also know that the fully Native ancestor wasn’t her mother or grandmother, because those are the two women who were discussing which potential tribe the ancestor was affiliated with.

We can also safely say that it also wasn’t Jessica’s great-grandmother, because if her great-grandmother had been a member of any tribe, her grandmother would have known that. I’d also wager that it wasn’t Jessica’s great-great-grandmother either, because most people would know if their grandmother was a tribal member, and Jessica’s grandmother didn’t know that. Barring a young death, most people know their grandmother. Utilizing this logic, we can probably safely say that Jessica’s Native ancestor was not found in the preceding 4 generations, as shown on the chart below.

On this expanded chart, I’ve included the estimated birth year of the ancestor in that particular generation, using 25 years as the average generation length.

If we use the logic that the fully Native ancestor was not between Jessica and her great-great-grandmother, that takes us back through an ancestor born in about 1882.

The next 2 generations back in time would have been born in 1857 and 1832, respectively, and both of those generations would have been reflected as Indian on the 1850 and/or 1860 census. Apparently, they weren’t or the genealogists working on the program would have picked up on that easy tip.

If Jessica’s Native ancestor was born in the 7th generation, in about 1807, and lived to the 1850 census, they would have been recorded in that census as Native at about 43 years of age. Now, it’s certainly possible that Jessica had a Native ancestor that might have been born about 1807 and didn’t live until the 1850 census, and whose half-Native children were not enumerated as Indian.

So, let’s go with that scenario for a minute.

If that was the case, the 7th generation born in 1807 contributed approximately 0.78% DNA to Jessica, IF Jessica inherited 50% in each generation. At 0.78%, that’s below the 1% level. Small amounts of trace DNA are reported as <1%, but at some point the amount is too miniscule to pick up or may have washed out entirely.

Let’s add to that scenario. Let’s say that Jessica’s ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed with some European. Traders were well known to marry into tribes. If Jessica’s “Native” ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed, that means Jessica today would carry even less than 0.78%.

You can easily see why this heritage, if it exists, might not show up in Jessica’s DNA results.

No Native DNA Does NOT Equal No Native Heritage

However, the fact that Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results don’t indicate Native American DNA doesn’t necessarily mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor.

It might mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor. But it might also mean that Jessica’s DNA can’t reliably disclose or identify Native ancestry that far back in time – both because of the genetic distance and also because Jessica may not have inherited exactly half of her ancestor’s Native DNA. Jessica’s 8% Jewish DNA is the perfect example of the variance in how DNA is actually passed versus the 50% average per generation that we have to utilize when calculating expected estimates.

Furthermore, keep in mind that all ethnicity tools are imprecise.  It’s a new field and the reference panels, especially for Native heritage, are not as robust as other groups.

Does Jessica Have Native Heritage?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but here’s what I do know.

  • You can’t conclude that because the ethnicity portion of a DNA test doesn’t show Native ancestry that there isn’t any.
  • You can probably say that any fully Native ancestor is not with in the past 6 generations, give or take a generation or so.
  • You can probably say that any Native ancestor is probably prior to 1825 or so.
  • You can look at the census records to confirm or eliminate Native ancestors in many or most lines within the past 6 or 7 generations.
  • You can utilize geographic location to potentially eliminate some ancestors from being Native, especially if you have a potential tribal affiliation. Let’s face it, Cherokees are not found in Maine, for example.
  • You can potentially utilize Y and mitochondrial DNA to reach further back in time, beyond what autosomal DNA can tell you.
  • If autosomal DNA does indicate Native heritage, you can utilize traditional genealogy research in combination with both Y and mitochondrial DNA to prove which line or lines the Native heritage came from.

Mitochondrial and Y DNA Testing

While autosomal DNA is constrained to 5 or 6 generations reasonably, Y and mitochondrial DNA is not.

Of course, Ancestry, who sponsors the Who Do You Think You Are series, doesn’t sell Y or mitochondrial DNA tests, so they certainly aren’t going to introduce that topic.

Y and mitochondrial DNA tests reach back time without the constraint of generations, because neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA are admixed with the other parent.

The Y DNA follows the direct paternal line for males, and mitochondrial DNA follows the direct matrilineal line for both males and females.

In the Concepts – Who To Test article, I discussed all three types of testing and who one can test to discover their heritage, through haplogroups, of each family line.  Every single one of your ancestors carried and had the opportunity to pass on either Y or mitochondrial DNA to their descendants.  Males pass the Y chromosome to male children, only, and females pass mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.

I don’t want to repeat myself about who carries which kind of DNA, but I do want to say that in Jessica’s case, based on what is known about her family, she could probably narrow the source of the potential Native ancestor significantly.

In the above example, if Jessica is the daughter – let’s say that we think the Native ancestor was the mother of the maternal great-grandmother. She is the furthest right on the chart, above. The pink coloring indicates that the pink maternal great grandmother carries the mitochondrial DNA and passed it on to the maternal grandmother who passed it to the mother who passed it to both Jessica and her siblings.

Therefore, Jessica or her mother, either one, could take a mitochondrial DNA test to see if there is deeper Native ancestry than an autosomal test can reveal.

When Y and mitochondrial DNA is tested, a haplogroup is assigned, and Native American haplogroups fall into subgroups of Y haplogroups C and Q, and subgroups of mitochondrial haplogroups A, B, C, D, X and probably M.

With a bit of genealogy work and then DNA testing the appropriate descendants of Jessica’s ancestors, she might still be able to discern whether or not she has Native heritage. All is not lost and Jessica’s Native ancestry has NOT been disproven – even though that’s certainly the impression left with viewers.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA Tests

If you’d like to order a Y or mitochondrial DNA test, I’d recommend the Full Mitochondrial Sequence test or the 37 marker Y DNA test, to begin with. You will receive a full haplogroup designation from the mitochondrial test, plus matching and other tools, and a haplogroup estimate with the Y DNA test, plus matching and other tools.

You can click here to order the mitochondrial DNA, the Y DNA or the Family Finder test which includes ethnicity estimates from Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA is the only DNA testing company that performs the Y and mitochondrial DNA tests.

Further Reading:

If you’d like to read more about ethnicity estimates, I’d specifically recommend “DNA Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

If you’d like more information on how to figure out what your ethnicity estimates should be, I’d recommend Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

You can also search on the word “ethnicity” in the search box in the upper right hand corner of the main page of this blog.

If you’d like to read more about Native American heritage and DNA testing, I’d  recommend the following articles. You can also search for “Native” in the search box as well.

How Much Indian Do I Have In Me?

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups

Concepts – “Who To Test?” Series

I often receive questions about who to test to obtain (discover) the Y or mitochondrial DNA of a particular ancestor in one’s tree. The question often arises when people are attempting to find either Y or mitochondrial DNA to confirm that an ancestor descends from or belongs to a particular population.

For example, “My great-great-grandmother was supposed to be Cherokee.  How can I tell if she was?”

The answer would be that if she was Cherokee on her mother’s direct maternal side, testing the mitochondrial DNA of specific descendants would yield the answer.

Regardless of origins, the concept and techniques apply to everyone. People of Native American, African, Jewish, European and Asian heritage carry specific haplogroups and match people who have similar roots.

You may want to read this short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy to understand the difference between Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA, what testing can tell you, and how they can help your genetic genealogy.

At a very basic level:

  • Y DNA testing tests the direct paternal (typically surname) line only, for males only. The Y chromosome is only passed from fathers to sons, so it is not divided nor mixed with the mother’s DNA. Females don’t have a Y chromosome, which is why they can’t test.
  • Mitochondrial DNA testing tests the direct matrilineal line only, for everyone, males and females both. The mitochondria is passed from mothers to all of her children, but is only passed on by females. It is not mixed with the father’s DNA, so it is not divided during the inheritance process.
  • Autosomal DNA testing tests all of your DNA, providing cousin matches and ethnicity estimates – but does not provide you with specifics about any individual line. You inherit half the autosomal DNA of each of your parents, so ancestral DNA diminishes by half in each generation. Autosomal testing is a great overview of all of your DNA lineages, but can’t tell you where any particular line comes from.

Testing the appropriate descendants of each ancestor allows us to build a DNA pedigree chart in order to determine the proven, specific heritage and origins of each individual line.

Here’s what my DNA Pedigree Chart looks like through my 8 great-grandparents where I’ve successfully obtained the Y and mitochondrial DNA of their descendants. Y and mitochondrial DNA, of course, has special properties and reaches back hundreds and thousands of years in time, because the Y and mitochondrial DNA is not diluted by the DNA of the other parent during inheritance.

I’ve converted the relationships in my pedigree chart above to an Ancestor Pedigree Chart, below, because we will be working with each individual and adding lines for other family members as we determine who we can test. You can click to enlarge the image.

In the Ancestor Pedigree Chart, shown above, there are 16 different people who all carry mitochondrial DNA, representing 8 different mitochondrial lines. Mitochondrial contributors, all women, shown in pink both carry and contribute mitochondrial DNA. Mothers contribute their mitochondrial DNA to the males, shown by pink hearts, but the men don’t pass it on. The daughters pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children.

There are 8 people, shown in blue, who carry and contribute Y DNA, representing 4 different Y lines.

Each mitochondrial and Y line of DNA has a story to tell that can’t be told any other way. Autosomal DNA does not provide specific information about the genesis or ethnicity of any particular line, but Y and mtDNA does. If you want to know specifically where, what part of the world, or what clan that particular ancestor descended from, Y and mitochondrial DNA may tell you.

The question becomes, who can be tested that is living today to obtain that specific information about each particular ancestor.

Of course, the answer of who to test to find the ancestral Y and mitochondrial DNA varies depending on the gender of the person, and where they are located in your tree.

If the person in the tree is no longer living, the answer about who to test may hinge on their siblings, and the descendants of their siblings or maybe cousins. Or perhaps you’ll need to go back up the tree a generation or two to find appropriately descended relatives to test.

For each of the individuals in this tree, I’m going to answer the question of whom to test to obtain their Y and mitochondrial DNA – and how to find a suitable candidate. Talking them into testing, however, is all up to you:)

If you haven’t tested your Y or mitochondrial DNA, and you want to, you can order those tests at Family Tree DNA.  I suggest a minimum of 37 markers for Y DNA. You can always upgrade later to 67 or 111 markers.  Regardless of your testing level, you’ll receive haplogroup estimates, matches and other information.  For mitochondrial DNA, order the full sequence test so you’ll receive your full haplogroup designation. Several Y and mitochondrial haplogroups originated in Asia, with some lines settling in Europe, some in Asia and some in the Americas – so you need as much information as you can extract from your DNA.

Please join me for the “Concepts – Who To Test?” Series – coming soon to a this blog, so stay tuned!!!

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

Thomas Dodson’s birth on May 15, 1681 to Charles Dodson and wife, Anne, is recorded in the North Farnham Parish register. At the time of Thomas’s birth, this part of Virginia, now Richmond County, was Old Rappahannock County.

Thomas’s birth was just 74 years after the founding of Jamestown, and Jamestown was still the colonial capital of the colony of Virginia – very early in the history of America.

The part of Virginia where Thomas was born, the Northern Neck began to be settled in about 1735.

In 1792, Old Rappahannock County was dissolved and the portion of Old Rappahannock where the Dodson family lived became Richmond County where Thomas spent his life. Fortunately, the Richmond County records are for the most part, intact.

I must say that these records, especially the court orders, have been key into not just identifying Thomas by his birth and death dates, and maybe marriage and children’s births thrown in for good measure – but by the rhythm of daily life in colonial Virginia. All males attended court which was, other than church, the only entertainment in pre-electronic America. Church every Sunday was mandatory. The regular births of children and deaths of neighbors and family members. The plantations, the tobacco, the spats recorded in those old notes. Life was much richer than those birth and death dates.

I’ve grouped items in a few cases, but mostly, I’ve used these records to walk through Thomas’s life in order, to give us a flavor today for what his life was actually like. Oh, how I wish we had something, anything, that he actually wrote that would shed light on how he thought and what he was like. But Thomas couldn’t write. The closest we can get is to create our vision of Thomas by his actions and those he was closest to.

Thomas’s Mother

Thomas’s mother’s name was Ann or Anne, but her surname is unknown, although I have seen it listed several times as Elmore. However, I have never seen any documentation behind the Elmore surname. Sometimes, surnames attached to trees are copied and pasted so many times that people just assume that they have to be accurate because they are “all over the place,” but copying a tree repeatedly has absolutely no bearing on the accuracy of the fruit of the tree. Copying it 1000 or 2000 times doesn’t make it any truer – just more plentiful.

Because I was bound and determine to end the mystery of Elmore, if it was at all possible, I embarked on a research trip and indeed, I solved the mystery. I’ll tell Ann’s story in her own article, but suffice it to say here that her surname was not Elmore. Thomas Dodson’s mother’s surname remains a mystery.

Nancy the Cow

The first record involving Thomas Dodson occurred when Thomas was 12 years old, which is a bit unusual. However, this recorded deed seems to be a preemptive strike or a reaction perhaps to criticism for the exchange of one cow for another. Yes, a cow.

1692-1694 Richmond County, VA, Deed Book 1; Antient Press: (Page 165)

I Charles Dodson do give & convey unto & with my beloved Son, Tho: Dodson, one brown Cow called by the name of Nancy marked with a crop & swallow forke on the left Eare, & a crop on the right tare, together with all her female increase being in Exchange with him my sd Son, Thomas, for One Cow given him by his Godfather, Peter Elmore, To have & to hold unto him the said Thomas his Executrs: Admstrs: or assignes together was aforesaid from me my heirs forever, And I do hereby warrant the sd Cow together with all her female increase unto him the sd Thomas his Executrs: &c. of & from the claimes of me the sd Charles, my Executrs; &c. & all & every other persons what so ever, In Witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand & seale this 31st day of July Ano: 1693 Sealed & delivered in presence of us Wm Ward, Charles Dodson Wm. Colston Record Richmond Co. 31st die Julii 1693

I do have to wonder why they traded cows, and why the trade was recorded and not just done without fanfare. I’m sure there’s more to this story that we’ll never know. Recording deeds was not free, nor convenient, so there had to be something else.

This deed probably explains where the Elmore surname attached to Anne originated, but Godfather does not mean that Thomas’s mother was an Elmore. Godfather simply means that Peter Elmore, who it turns out, was another neighbor, stood up with Charles and Ann Dodson when baby Thomas was baptized in the North Farnham Parish church in 1681.

How Many Thomas’s Were There?

Seldom do we find records of children in court or land records, unless their parents die or the transaction is unusual, like Nancy the cow.

The early mention of Thomas caused me some concern, because I began to wonder if there was more than one Thomas. Was Thomas really a minor, or were there two Thomas Dodsons?

Two or more Thomas Dodsons in the same records at the same time might become intermixed. I assembled the early records and was greatly relieved to see that in spite of that fact that there were several Charles Dodsons, other than Thomas Dodson Sr.’s son, Thomas Jr., there were no other Thomas Dodsons during this timeframe to muddy the waters. Charles Dodson and Thomas Durham were neighbors, and I do wonder if perhaps Thomas Dodson was named for Thomas Durham. Ironically, if so, Thomas Dodson married Thomas Durham’s daughter, Mary.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.

On the pedigree chart above, the individuals in green are my ancestors. The ones in tan are the various Charles Dodsons. Fortunately, there was only one Thomas in the records before his son, Thomas Jr., came of age in about 1725 when he married Elizabeth Rose.

Marriage

Twenty years and three months after his birth, on August 1, 1701, Thomas Dodson married Mary Durham, daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Smoot Durham, their neighbors in what had become Richmond County, VA. Age 20 is on the young side for a male to marry at that time, but perhaps the fact that his father was willing to give him land helped secure the deal.

According to a 1723 deed, the land of Thomas Durham conveyed to Thomas Dodson was marked by the corner tree of Charles Dodson. This tells us that the Dodsons and Durhams were neighbors and Thomas Dodson literally married the girl next door.

The book, “Virginia Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800” found on Ancestry provides us with additional information.

Thomas Received Land From His Father

When Thomas first appears in deed records as an adult, he had recently married and would have been looking to establish a homestead.

Thomas Dodson’s father wrote his will on January 11, 1702/1703 in which he leaves to Thomas “a plantation seated in a neck formerly called the Rich Neck with 150 acres of land to him and the male heires lawfully begotten of his own body forever and if the above said Thomas Dodson should dye without any male that then the land should returned to the next heire of the Dodson.“

Just a few days later, Charles deeded adjacent tracts of land to Thomas and his brother Charles. It might appear that Charles was rushing to get his affairs in order. Was Charles ill, thinking he would die soon?

P 210-212 Feb. 2, 1702 Deed of Gift. Charles Dodson of North Farnham Parish Richmond Co. for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Thomas Dodson of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck that Charles Dodson Jr. now lives on. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Thomas Dodson or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1703 Book 3 page 105

Court Orders Page 221 Feb. 3, 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Thomas Dodson and ordered recorded.

Sons Born

The first child born to Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham recorded in the parish books, which are known to be incomplete, is George Dodson born in October of 1702. However, it makes more sense that son Thomas Dodson, whose birth is unrecorded, would have been born first and named after his father. If that is true, then Thomas would have been born almost immediately after their marriage, August 1, 1701, for Mary to have gotten pregnant again and had George in October of 1702. The more reasonable scenario is that Thomas was born about 1704, but that begs the question of who George Dodson, firstborn, was named after?

Given that we don’t know who either Charles nor Ann’s father was, George could have been a family name on either side.

Church Non-Attendance

During this time, the court order books are full of people being “presented” to the court for not attending church. The Anglican church was the official church of the crown in Virginia and attendance was mandatory. Non-attendance was prosecuted and fines levied. One would ask themselves why a man would not attend church, knowing the consequences. When you find groups of men, known to be associated, one wonders if their non-attendance was a religious or a political statement, or something else perhaps – but what?

Court Order Book Page 18 December 6, 1704 Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Dodson and Thomas Durham summoned to court for not going to church for two months together.

Court Order Book Page 34 February 7, 1704/05 Peter Elmore, Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Durham summoned to court to answer presentment of grand jury against them for not going to church for 2 months together and not appearing, ordered they be fined according to law and pay same with costs.

Thomas’s Father Dies

Charles Dodson’s will was proven in court on February 6, 1705/6, two years after he wrote it.

Thomas Can’t Write

Aside from Thomas’s noncompliance with church attendance, his life appears to be very “normal” for the time and place, with Thomas occasionally being summoned, along with other men, for occasional civic duty.

Court Order Book Page 111 February 6, 1705 Petition of Christopher Petty that he might build or erect a mill on a run or water course of Totuskey and having only and on one side it was ordered by the aforesaid court that Peter Elmore and Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson should layout and value one acre of land on the opposite side which accordingly we the subscribers have done to the best of our judgements and do value said acre to be worth 20 shillings. Signed Peter Elmore, his mark, Charles Dodson his mark and Thomas Dodson his marke,

This record tells us that Thomas Dodson cannot sign his name, and therefore, very likely cannot read. One record extractor recreated the “marks” of the people who signed, and Thomas always signed with a “T.” Thomas’s father, Charles Dodson always signed his name – so probably was literate. The Charles Dodson in this record is Thomas’s brother, Charles, who also signed with a mark.  The Dodson boys never learned to read or write.

Thomas’s Mother Remarries

We know that Thomas’s father died around January of 1705/06, because Charles’ will was probated on February 6th of that year. Generally, wills were probated between 30 and 90 days after the individual died, meaning at the next county court session.

Estates and remarriages are almost always interesting, and thankfully, produce records when conflicts arose. Thomas’s mother, Ann, remarried not long after Charles death, to John Hill, according to court records.

On July 3, 1706, the court ordered that John Hill and his wife Anne, executrix of the last will and testament of Charles Dodson dec’d meet at the house of said John Hill and ordered that John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard White inventory and appraise all the estate of the said Charles Dodson. Court Order Book 4-171.

This would suggest one of two things. Either John Hill moved into the home of Charles Dodson and Ann when he married widow Ann Dodson, or someone else is living in the Charles Dodson home and Charles’ remaining estate had been taken with Ann to John Hill’s house. Lambeth Dodson, the son to whom Charles leaves his new plantation would only have been 16, not old enough to work the plantation alone.

Thomas is Ill

Court Order Book Page 198 Oct. 2, 1706 Thomas Dodson summoned to appeare as one of the last grand jury and not appearing was fined according to law and it now appearing to this court that Thomas Dodson was sick at the time when the grand jury made their appearance it is thereupon ordered that the fine be remitted.

Apparently, not long after his father dies, Thomas is ill as well. Charles Dodson died when he was 57 and when Thomas was 25. A sad time with a father gone too soon.

By the spring of 1707, things got interesting.

Ejected

Court Order Book Page 261 April 3 1707 Ejection firma depending in this court between James Greenehead plt and Thomas Dod deft is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Plt is short for plaintiff and def or deft for defendant.

This record is copied exactly from a transcript, not the original. I believe this is Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson. There is a John Dodd in Richmond County, but never did I encounter a Thomas Dod.

An ejection firmae, according to “A Law Dictionary” by Henry Campbell Black, is an ejection of ejectment of farm. The name or a writ or action of trespass which lay at common law where lands or tenements were let for a term of years, and afterwards the lessor, reversioner, remainder-man or any stranger ejected or ousted the lessee of his term, terme or farm. In this case the latter might have his writ of ejection, by which he recovered at first damages for the trespass only, but it was afterwards made a remedy to recover back the term itself, or the remainder of it, with damages. It is the foundation of the modern action of ejectment. Ejectment is the action which lay for the recovery of the possession of land and for damages for the unlawful detention of its possession.

This certainly sounds like an adversarial situation. Ironically, Thomas Dodson’s mother-in-law, as a widow in 1715, would marry Jeremiah Greenham.

Thomas Dodson Sues His Step-Father

On April 3rd in 1707, Thomas Dodson was having a particularly bad day, because in addition to the ejectment, above, he files suit against his step-father as executor of his father’s estate after marrying Thomas’s mother, then apparently drops the suit.

Court Order Book Page 262 April 3 1707 Action brought by Thomas Dodson against John Hill marrying the executrix of Charles Dodson is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

This probably means that there was some issue with Charles Dodson’s will or estate and after filing the suit (although we don’t have the filing itself) the parties came to an agreement. Charles Dodson’s estate was fairly straightforward, as he left land to sons and conveyed that land to Thomas before his death, making this suit very curious. Charles left the rest of his “moveable estate” to his wife and daughters, who did not file suit.

Trespass

On June 2, 1708, Thomas (X) Dodson and Bar’t Rich’d Dodson witnessed a complaint of damages on trespass of land involving James Toone, John Fan and John Miller.

At that time, trespass generally meant that one man was somehow infringing upon the land or resources of another, as in cut down his tree in the forest, not trespass as we think of it today. The men generally disagreed about where the property line was located, which were much less defined then than they are now.

Fornication

Not only was a family squabble occurring in the Dodson family between Thomas and his step-father and maybe his mother, but it appears that Thomas’s wife’s Durham family was having some high drama of their own as well that spilled over to Thomas Dodson. Keep in mind that the Durhams are neighbors of Thomas Dodson, in addition to being his in-laws.

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

Note that the county goale was how jail was spelled at that time.

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

So Anne Kelly won’t tell who the father is, but Dorothy, Thomas Durham’s wife, won’t let her go to jail. Hurray for Dorothy – stepping up. I’d love to have been a mouse in that house.

Anne Kelly was indentured to the Durham family when she was just 14, in June of 1699, and fresh off the boat, literally. She was brought into court to have her age adjudged to determine the length of her indenture.

Nine years later, Anne is still indentured, now with a child, and 23 years old. Generally, servants are required to serve an additional 5 years if they have a child while indentured. Plus they are fined for fornication, even though they are not permitted to marry, and if they or someone can’t pay the fine, they are jailed. She was brave to not tell, but who was she protecting? Or was Anne afraid?

Eight months later, we discover the identity of the father.

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

Thomas has to enter into a bond, but not pay a fine. A bond is only confiscated if the child becomes a financial burden to the church. So, in colonial Virginia, the woman is fined and sentenced for fornication, but the man is not. Apparently the fact that “it took 2” didn’t matter, or perhaps a certain level of morality was expected of women but not men.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2, 1708/09 Anne Kelly servant to Thomas Dodson being this day brought before this court for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child the court have ordered Anne Kelly to serve Thomas Dodson or his assignes according to law after her time by indenture or otherwise is fully expired, in consideration of his paying her fine for committing the offence aforesaid.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2 1708/09 Thomas Dodson confest judgement to the churchwardens of North Farnham parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco being the fine of Anne Kelley for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and it ordered that he pay the same with costs.

I had to read this twice. It appears that while Anne Kelly is indentured to Thomas Durham Sr., she is working for Thomas Dodson going to work additional time for Thomas Dodson after her indenture to Thomas Durham is completed because Thomas Dodson paid her fine.

So, I have to ask, where the Hell is Thomas Durham Jr. in all of this????? Why isn’t he paying the fine? Why isn’t he stepping up?

As it turns out, Thomas was a minor, although that’s clearly not an excuse.

Thomas Durham Jr. was born on June 27, 1690, meaning that in 1708 he was 18 years old. Anne was 5 years older than Thomas Jr. who had been 17 (or younger) when Anne got pregnant, the first time, depending on when she actually had the child. The second time, in March 1709, when Anne had borne 2 children by Thomas, he was just shy of 19 and she was about 24 – and by then she was facing at least 10 more years of servitude to Durham (plus whatever was left of her original time) plus some servitude time to Thomas Dodson as well – probably another 5 years. This means that Anne Kelly would have served at least until she was 39 if not 44, adding in the first fine that Dorothy Durham paid.

Indeed, the crime of fornication was expensive…for the woman. The male involved, as we will see shortly, was free to live his life unencumbered.

Back to Boring Old Land

After all that fornication excitement, these land records are just outright boring!

Court Order Book Page 55 B – In obedience to an order of court dated June 2, 1709 wherein it was ordered that a jury should go upon the land in difference between James Tone by his nearest friend John Fan, plt and John Miller, def, to survey according to the most known and reputed bounds thereof the land aforesaid, we by the named jury underwritten met upon the land and find the def a trespasser and that said deft has committed damage upon the said land to the value of 5 shillings sterling. July 5, 1709 signers include Bar: Richd Dodson, Thomas (T his mark) Dodson

Court Order Book Page 14 April 2, 1712 Christopher Petty and Thomas Dodson, processioners appointed for one of the precincts of Northfarnham Parish have made returns that Robert Downeman has refused to procession the land of William Downeman Sr. and Hugh Cambell being undecided, it is ordered that the sheriff summon a jury of the most able and antient freeholders to lay out and survey the land of William Downeman and Hugh Cambell.

Processioners were men appointed to periodically review the property lines with all parties concerned within the parish. This was to reduce conflicts and gain agreement by all to the location of those lines. Antient is an obsolete spelling of ancient.

I can just see these men tromping around in the swamps.

Thomas’s Dodson’s Father-In-Law Dies

Thomas Durham, Thomas Dodson’s father-in-law, wrote his will in 1711, but did not pass away until 1715, when his will was probated in June.

Will Book page 210 – Thomas Durham, North Farnham Parish, will August 4, 1711, probated June 1 ,1715, wife Dorothy the plantation, after her death to son Thomas and Mary his wife, son John, dau Mary Dodson, grandson Thomas Dodson, ex: wife; no witnesses.

In Thomas Durham’s 1711 will, he specifically mentions his daughter, Mary Dodson and her son, Thomas Dodson, which would be the son of Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham.

Alice Dodson Born

Daughter Alice was probably born about 1712.

Thomas’s Brother and Wife Die

In addition to Thomas Dodson’s father-in-law’s death in May of 1715, Thomas’s brother was ill, apparently for several months, and died as well. Sadly, Charles’s daughter, Anne was born on July 16, 1715, 8 days after Charles wrote his will but before his will was probated in May of 1716 by his widow.  They had a newborn child, a very sick husband and a questionable wife, as she wrote her will in 1718 and died in 1719, leaving several orphans. It appears that daughter Anne died too, because nothing more is known of her and she is not mentioned in her mother’s will.

We don’t know who raised Thomas’s brother’s children, but given that there were several Dodson siblings, they along with the wife’s siblings were the most likely candidates.

Court Order Book Page 250 – Charles Dodson, Farnham Parish, will July 8, 1715, probated May 2, 1716, son Charles all land between spring branch and the branch that parts by land from the land of Thomas Dodson, son Furtunatus all land below by spring branch. Wife Anne, ex: wife; wits Bartholomew R. Dodson, George Petty

The Thomas Dodson family would have been greatly aggrieved and making regular trips to the cemetery, wherever that was.

Mary Dodson Born

Daughter Mary Dodson was born October 5, 1715, in the midst of the Durham and Dodson deaths.

This must have been a terribly emotional time.

Thomas’s Mother-In-Law Remarries

In February 1715/16, Thomas Dodson’s mother-in-law remarries to Jeremiah Greenham.

David and Greenham Dodson Born

Sons David and Greenham Dodson were both probably born between 1715 and 1720. Greenham, probably named for Jeremiah Greenham would have been born sometime after Jeremiah married Dorothy in February of 1715/16.

Thomas as Appraiser

Court Order Book Page 143 Oct. 7, 1719 Ann Ayes formerly Ann Elmore and made oath that Peter Elmore Jr. departed this life without making any will and giving security for her administration of the estate.

John Harris, Hugh Harris, Christopher Petty and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Peter Elmore. All sworn plus Ann Ayres.

Will Book Page 135 Peter Elmore estate appraised and signed by John Harris, Thomas Dodson (T his mark) Hugh Harris Nov. 4, 1719

While all we see here are the court records, keep in mind that Peter Elmore was Thomas Dodson’s godfather and the Dodson neighbor, probably for his entire life.

Ann Elmore, Peter’s daughter had married Robert Ayres, so she is clearly not Ann Dodson, wife of Charles.

John Hill

Court Order Book Page 36 March 7, 1721/22 Frances Hill wife of John Hill relinquished right of dower in piece of land sold by her husband unto Thomas Creele and ack last Jan court.

We have no way of knowing if this John Hill is the same John Hill as Ann Dodson married in 1706, but the Dodson family involvement with this John seems to suggest so. If that is the case, then between 1706 and 1722, Ann Dodson Hill died and John remarried to Frances.

John Hill and Frances Hill, relict of Robert Reynolds, decd came into court and made oath that Robert Reynolds departed this life without making any will so farr as they know or believe and on their petition and giving security for their just and faithful administration of the decds estate, certificate granted them for obtaining probate.

John Hill, Frances Hill, Caron Brannon and James Neale came into court and ack bond for John Hill and Frances Hill admin of estate of Robert Reynolds, decd.

Thomas Dodson, Christopher Petty, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and Thomas Scurlock or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Robert Reynolds decd. All sworn plus John and Frances Hill, the admins.

Jeremiah Greenham

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

Thomas Dodson and his wife’s step-father Jeremiah Greenham apparently get along well, as they are paired numerous times in various affairs.

Bridle Road

Court Order Book Page 40 April 4, 1722 Upon motion of Thomas Dodson and others ordered that Mr. Travers Downman forthwith cause a sufficient bridle road to be cleared round his plantation into the Ridge Road.

That bridle road is probably a real road today, if we just knew where the Ridge Road was, we might be able to find some candidates along Totuskey Creek.

On the map below, the Ridge Road is marked with the red pin. Downman’s land may have been towards Moratico, at the bottom of this picture, below the red pin. Today, Ridge Road, Richmond Road and History Land Highway are paved, and the rest of the roads are still dirt.

Totuskey Creek is the spider-like structure to the upper left of the red pin on the left side.

There are several small roads intertwined with Totuskey Creek.

This picture is facing Totuskey Creek at its closest point to Ridge Road. I don’t know if this was the Dodson land, but Thomas was assuredly familiar with this land.

More Estates Appraised

As men aged, they were perceived to be wiser, or just perhaps more experienced. When possible, estate appraisers consisted of the deceased person’s largest creditor, a person related to the widow to represent her interests and someone unconnected with the deceased but a county resident familiar with prices of goods. Finding someone “unconnected” in a community where everyone knew everyone well, and many families were intermarried must have been challenging. I suspect that many times the third man was really a respected member of the community. These three men would agree, with their various interests, on the value of the estate, so the process was deemed to be fair to all involved.

Court Order Book Page 202 Robert Reanolds estate inventory signed by Christopher Petty, Thomas Dodson and Thomas Skourlock April 4, 1722

Court Order Book Page 209 Inventory of Thomas Welch signed by Jeremiah Greenham, George Devenport and Thomas Dodson May 2, 1722

Court Order Book Page 124 Nov. 6, 1723 Thomas Dodson sworn on grand jury.

Abraham Born

Son Abraham Dodson was born in April 1723.

Thomas Buys Land From His Brother-in-Law

1720-1733 Richmond Co VA Deed Book 8; Antient Press: (Page 240

This indenture made the Tenth day of December Anno Dm. 1723 Between Thomas Durham of County of Richmond of one part and Thomas Dodson Senr. of County aforesaid of other part; Witnesseth that Thomas Durham in consideration of sum of Five shillings of lawfull money of England to him in hand paid by Thomas Dodson Senr., do by these presents bargaine and sell unto Thomas Dodson Senr. his heirs a parcel! of land containing One hundred acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall sitaute in County of Richmond and bounded; Begining at a Spanish Oak corner tree of Charles Dodson, being part of a Pattent formerly granted to Wm: Thatcher by the Maine Branch of Totoskey, and extending thence S. 12 degrees W. 122 perches to a Mulberrie tree, thence S. 54 degrees E. 98 by a red Oak, corner tree, thence E. N. E. 34 perches by a red Oak, thence No, 24 degrees E. 104 perches to a Poplar in said Maine Branch, thence down said Branch its severall courses to the first station; Together with all Timber trees and other trees with all prof itts comodites and priviledges; To have and to hold the hundred acres of land and premises unto Thomas Dodson Senr, his heirs dureing the full term of one year paying therefore the Rent of one Eare of Indian Corn on the Feast Day of the Birth of our Lord God next ensueing if lawfully demanded, to the end that by vertue of these presents and of the Statute for transferring uses into possession, Thomas Dodson Senr, may be in the actuall possession of the land and premises and thereby enabled to take a grant of the inheritance thereof to him and his heirs; In Witness whereof the parties abovesaid to these presents interchangeably have set their hands and seals the day and year first above written

Signed Thomas and Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker and Jeremiah Greenham

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

This land appears to be the same as above, but the payment amount/method is different. The extractions are taken from two different sources.

Dec. 10, 1723 Mary Dodson appeared in court and released her dower

This deed or deeds provide a lot of information. First, the deed locates the land on Totuskey Creek for Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson and Thomas Durham Sr. Second, this tells us that Thomas Durham Jr., the man who impregnated the indentured servant, twice, did not marry the servant, but instead married Mary Smoote in about 1710, a year or so after the second child was born of Anne Kelly.

Thomas Durham’s involvement with Anne Kelly and her two children was apparently done. By 1723, Anne might have been raising those children, now teenagers and serving several more years to Thomas Dodson in payment for her “sin” and his payment of HER fine for fornication, but Thomas Durham skated free, married and is living the life of his choice while living very near to Anne Kelly, probably next door, as she suffers the permanent consequences of their “fornication.”

At a Court held for Richmond County the sixth day of May 1724, Thomas Durham came into Court and acknowledged this his Deed unto Thomas Dodson Senr. which was admitted to Record

The mouth of Totuskey Creek is shown above, where it intersects with the Rappahannock River. We know that the Dodsons lived someplace on the main branch of Totuskey Creek. Farnham, to the right down 3 (History Land Highway) is the location of the North Farnham Parish Church.

Much of the area remains low and swampy today.

The photos above and below are Totuskey Creek near its intersection with highway 3, named the History Land Highway. Minus the houses and modern reminders, this area probably didn’t look a lot different then. Swamp where it was too wet for trees, then woods and fields where they could be cleared.

We don’t know exactly where Briery Swamp was located on the Totuskey, but we do know that there was a North Branch. Other family names with deeds reflecting Briery Swamp were Mills, Goad, Headley, Lawson, Downman and Griffin.

Judging Workmanship

It appears that perhaps Thomas Dodson was selected for a peacekeeping role, perhaps reflecting a respected position within the community. At age 43, he had already outlived the average life expectancy for that time of 37 years old.

Court Order Book Page 154 May 7, 1724 In action between Robert Schofield plt and Mary Dalton deft by consent of both parties that Thomas Dodson and William Hanks appointed between now and next court and view the work done by the plt for the deft and report whether in their opinion it be done in a workmanlike manner and the suit continued.

Court Order Book Page 173 Sept 2, 1724 Thomas Dodson Sr and Jeremian Greenham sworn on jury.

Joshua Born

Son Joshua Dodson was born in May 1725.

Stafford County Land

Stafford County, Virginia Deed Book J, 1722 – 1728; {Antient Press}: pp 340-346

This indenture made 13th January and Last day January 1726 between Jeremiah Greenham of County Richmond and Parish of North farnam sawyer of one part and Thomas Dodson and Greenham Dodson, Planters of the above said county Witnesseth Jeremiah Greenham in consideration sum ten shillings of good is lawfull money of great Britain by deeds of lease release hath granted all that tract of land between the Branches of Potomack and Accakeek runs in the Parish Overwharton containing 316 acres being the Moyety of 632 acres of land granted in Joynt Tenancy to one Thomas Leechman and one William Williams and the said 316 acres was also made over by less & reless dated 9th July 1714 unto Jeremiah Greenham the aforesaid 632 acres granted to Leachman & Williams was by a deed from the Proprietors office dated 21st July 1710 and the aforementioned 316 acres is bounded … beginning at a corner marked red oak standing by the Path that leads from the head of Accakeek run to Capt. Mountjoys Mill being one of the corner trees mentioned in the said Deed .. to corner marked gum tree standing by the said Path .. to corner marked Pine standing in the line of land survey’d for James Harvey thence along Harvey’s line .. thence East to the stony lick branch to corner marked black oak standing in the said bank being marked for a Dividing tree between Leechman and Williams by Mr. George Crosby Sr.. & Mr. John Addams persons well acquainted with the said land Indifferently chosen by the said Leechman and Williams to make a division between them in manner may appear by an agreement Division in writeing duly executed dated 13th June last past ..

Presence Thos. Humston, Jere: Greenham

Rawleigh Travers

At Court held for Stafford County 8th February 1726 Jeremiah Greenham acknowledged this deed lease and release’.. admitted to record.

I wonder why Jeremiah Greenham sold this land to the Dodson brothers. Furthermore, I wonder if Dorothy was now deceased, because she did not relinquish her dower right in the land.

I could find no record of children for Jeremiah Greenham.

Stafford County was north of Richmond County, along the Potomac, but not far.

This area appears to be a Nature Preserve today, unless their land was further inland.

The head of Accokeek Creek seems to be in the area just Northwest of Ramoth in the upper left corner of the map below, and the branches of the Potomac are just below that location, so perhaps this is where Thomas’s land fell.  There is no record of what happened to this land.

Back in Richmond County

Clearly, Thomas Dodson never lived on the land in Stafford County, as he continued to function in Richmond County, often serving on the jury or appraising estates for neighbors that have passed away.

Court Order Book Page 272 March 3, 1725/26 Thomas Dodson action of debt against Adam McLeroy dismissed the plt not prosecuting.

This is the only record where Thomas sued for debt, which compared to other planters, was rather amazing.  However, he obviously wasn’t averse when necessary.

Page 308 October 5, 1726 Will of Peter Elmore decd presented by Charity Elmore his executrix who made oath and proved by Bartholomew Richard Dodson and Thomas Dodson, two of the witnesses.

Bartholomew Richard Dodson, Thomas Dodson, John Oldham and James Oldham or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Peter Elmore. All sworn plus Charity Elmore, executrix.

Elisha Born

Elisha Dodson was born in February of 1727.

Another Estate

Court Order Book Page 338 April 5, 1727 Thomas Scurlock, Thomas Dodson, William Everitt and Abraham Goad or any 3 of them to appraise estate of John Petty, decd. All sworn.

This William Everitt is probably the father of Sarah Everett who married Thomas’s son, Elisha. When Thomas’s son, George sold the land in 1756 that his father, Thomas, left to him, it abutted the land of a William Everett.

John Hill Dies

Court Order Book Page 399 April 3, 1728 Last will of John Hill decd presented by Frances Hill, executrix and oath of James Wilson and John Hightower, two witnesses.

Frances Hill, John Hightower and Lambert Dodson came into court and ack bond for Frances Hill’s administration of will of John Hill decd.

Thomas Scurlock, Thomas Dodson, John Hightower and Bartholomew Richard Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of John Hill. Oaths admin to all 3 plus Frances Hill.

Is this the same John Hill that was married to Ann Dodson? Given the family association with Thomas Dodson and two of his brothers, I would guess so. He obviously remarried.

More Jury Duty

Court Order Book Page 599 Sept. 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 602, 603 Sept. 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury to hear case for “tending of second for tobacco.”

I’m not entirely clear was “tending of second” was, but Hening’s Statutes discuss it in 1730 and it seems to be related to practices involving the pruning and care of plants to increase the quality of the tobacco as opposed to the yield. Thomas wasn’t accused of this, but obviously someone was and it wasn’t a trivial offense.

Court Order Book Page 603 September 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury, twice.

Court Order Book Page 604 September 2, 1731 John Dodson is security for John and Ann Elmore.

Court Order Book Page 605, 606 September 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury, twice.

Court Order Book Page 644 May 3, 1732 Thomas Dodson, Sr, Jeremiah Greenham and John Hill on grand jury.

Family Squabble

Court Order Book Page 625 March 2, 1731/32 Thomas Dodson Jr. pl vs Lambert Dodson deft 2747 pounds tobacco due by account, the def being called and not appearing on the motion of the plt judgement is granted him against the def and John Gibson his security for the aforesaid sum and costs unless def appears at next court and answers the action.

Court Order Book Page 5 Nov. 7, 1732 Thomas Dodson Jr. vs Lambert Dodson continued till next court.

Court Order Book Page 12 Nov. 7, 1732 Thomas Dodson Jr. plt vs Lambert Dodson def for 2747 pounds tobacco due by account being called and not appearing the judgement of the March court is again confirmed.

It looks like the family has another squabble between Thomas Jr. and his uncle. This is the first mention of Thomas Dodson Jr. in the record books. Ironically, it isn’t the uncle claiming his nephew owes him, but the other way around.  Furthermore, Lambert never shows up in court and the case is found for Thomas Jr.  This one is a head scratcher too.  Thomas Jr. would have been about 32 at this time, so clearly old enough to be farming or functioning as a “planter” and conducting business.

Thomas Jr. Buys Land

Deed Book 8, p.660 August 6, 1733 Abraham & Winifred Daile and Ellinor Southorn to Thomas Dodson Jr. 30 acres formerly belonging to Daniel O’Neal. Rec. August 6, 1733

Father and Son Sell Land

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

This hurts my heart. Until now, we had no evidence that Thomas Dodson was participating in the slave trade, but now we do. Raising tobacco was a very labor intensive endeavor. There weren’t enough people to do the work, and indentured servants, if they weren’t worked to death, eventually had to be freed. Not so with Africans, although there weren’t enough slaves arriving either. Native people were being enslaved by this time as well, as evidenced by a 1711 record in Richmond County, although not having to do with the Dodson family.

Court Order Book Page 170 Mary Dodson wife of Thomas Dodson Sr and Eliza Dodson wife of Thomas Dodson Jr both of NFP appoint friend Henry Miskell of same POA to ack 130 acres land which was sold by our husbands to Mr. John’s Lyell of same by deed dated today. Signed Dec. 7 1733 both by mark. Wit Robert Reynolds (Renold) and George Gibson, William Creele Rec April 1, 1734

Court Order Book Page 170 Thomas Dodson and Thomas Dodson Jr. came into court and ack their deeds of lease and release for land unto Jonathan Lyell.

Court Order Book Page 171 April 1, 1734 Henry Miskell by virtue of power of attorney from Mary Dodson and Elizabeth Dodson the wives of Thomas Dodson and Thomas Dodson Jr to him in that behalf made relinquished the said Mary and Elizabeth’s right of dower in the land conveyed in the deeds unto Jonathan Lyell.

Women often did not want to attend court, so they would appoint a male, who was going to attend court anyway, to be their power of attorney and give their word, on their behalf, that they did indeed relinquish their dower right in the land.

There is a Lyell church at Rich Neck in Richmond County, the green area just below Rich Neck on the map below.  A crossroads named Lyells if located about 3.5 miles, as the crow flies, to the northwest of Rich Neck, at the intersection of Oldham’s Road and King’s Highway (History Land Highway.) The Lyell family was certainly located in this area.

Another Neighbor Dies

Court Order Book Page 170 April 1, 1734 John Oldum, Thomas Dodson, Richard Brown and John Flynt or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Robert Mathews. All sworn plus Sarah Mathews and James Oldum, executors.

Every time we see an estate record, we know that one of Thomas’s neighbors, and probably his friends, has died. Thomas Dodson’s daughter, Mary, married an Oldham.

Thomas Buys Brother Bartholomew Richard’s Land

Deed Book 9 Page 21 May 5-6 1734, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and wife Elizabeth of Weecomoce (Wicomico) Parish in Northumberland County to Thomas Dodson of North Farnham Parish (NFP) in Richmond County for 4500 pounds tobacco, 150 acres lying between the Oke neck and Hickory Neck Branch in Richmond county which land (is part of 500 acres that) [part in parenthesis lines out in transcription] was formerly sold by Capt. Samuel Traverse to Charles Dodson, father to the said Bartholomew Richard Dodson. Land is bounded by Daniel Everit. Signed by him, her mark, Wit Thomas Legg, H Miskell, Jeremiah Greenham, Rec May 6, 1734 and Elizabeth Dodson relinquish dower.

Based on the 1702 will of Charles Dodson, Bartholomew inherited the land at Oak Neck and William inherited the land called Hickory Neck, from their father. I wonder if Oak Neck and Hickory Neck are near Rich Neck, the land inherited by son Thomas.

Charles Dodson Sr. obviously felt very strongly about the land that he left his sons. However, he made it very difficult for them to move on, because he stipulated that they could only leave it to heirs of their body, or sell it to their brothers, assuring that it would always stay in the family. The sons attempted to honor his wishes.

Court Order Book Page 181 May 6, 1734 Bartholomew Richard Dodson and Elizabeth wife ack deed for lease and release to Thomas Dodson.

Power of Attorney

Obviously, Thomas Dodson was already in court this day.

Deed Book 9 Page 25 Jane Lawson of Christ Church Parish in Lancaster County, Power of Attorney (POA) to Thomas Dodson to ack in Richmond County court a deed dated today for 450 ac to Robert Mitchell of St. Mary White Chapel in Lancaster County. Deed made my me, John Steptoe Jr and Joanne, his wife. Signed May 4, 1734 wit Tobias Phillips, John Brown rec May 6 1734

Court Order Book Page 182 May 6, 1734 POA from Jean Lawson to Thomas Dodson proved with oath of Tobias Phillips and John Brown, witnesses.

Court Order Book Page 182 Thomas Dodson by virtue of a POA from Jane Lawson to him ack the same Jane Lawson’s deed for land and the livery of seizen thereon until Robert Mitchell and John Steptoe Jr and Johanna his wife.

Court Order Book Page 186 May 6, 1734 Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 393 May 3, 1736 – Henry Miskell, William Deavenport, John Hightower and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of John Ogleby decd. Sworn along with Margery Ogleby admin.

Fortunatis Dies

Court Order Book Page 600 May 1, 1738 Thomas Dodson, William Everett, George Glascock and John Hightower or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Fortunatus Dodson, decd. All sworn, plus Alice Dodson admin.

Fortunatus was Thomas Dodson’s nephew, son of his brother Charles who died more than 20 years before.

Thomas must have thought to himself that the next generation was beginning to pass on. By this time, Thomas was 57 years old and Fortunatis would have been about 38, having married Alice Goad a dozen years earlier.

Page 622 July 3, 1738 Thomas Dodson on jury.

Surveyor

Court Order Book Page 632 July 4, 1738 Thomas Dodson appointed surveyor of the highways for this ensuing year of the Coach Road from Richard Oldums to the lower end of the county and ordered he clear the same according to law. A coach road would have had to have been a substantial road in good repair to be able to handle the width of a coach and team of horses without vibrating the passengers to death.

Court Order Book Page 638 July 4 1738 Thomas Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book 1738/1739 – Page 81 – Thomas Dodson, William Everitt, James Tarpley and Richard (B?) or any 3 of them to appraise estate of James Oldham decd. All sworn plus Juney and John Oldham, execs.

Again, we don’t know exactly where the Oldham family lived, but there is a location called Oldhams, just a mile or so from Rich Neck.

If Thomas was responsible for the road from Oldham’s to the southern end of the county, that would mean from Oldham’s on Road 600 to what is now 360, intersecting with Ridge Road, also road 600, and on south. There were only two roads that traversed the county north to south. Given that we know that this road, now 600, was called the Ridge Road, perhaps the Coach Road was the other road, running closer to the Rappahannock that is today called either the King’s Road, a holdover from colonial times, or History Land Highway.  Thomas was responsible for one or the other.

Thomas Dodson’s Will

Thomas Dodson wrote his own will on February 17, 1739/40 when he was only 58 years old. The will was probated on March 2, 1740/41.

In The Name Of God Amen I Thomas Dodson of North Farnham p’ish in Richmond County Being sick and Weak of Body but in Perfect since and Memory do make and ordain this to be my Last Will and Testam.t in manner and forme –

Impri I lend to my Wife Mary Dodson my Plantation whereon I now Live and the Land thereto Blonging with all my Negroes and Moveable Estate dureing her Natural Life –

Item. I give to my Son Thomas Dodson Five Shill’s to be Paid by Ex’rrs

I give to my Son George Dodson and his heirs for Ever one hundred and fifty Acres of Land whereon he ye sd George Dodson is now Liveing

I Give to my Son Greenham Dodson and his heirs for Ever the Whole Tract of Land I bought of Lambarth Dodson –

I give to my Sone Elisha Dodson & his Heirs for Ever the Plantation whereon I now Live and Land Land therto Belonging after my Wife Mary Dodsons Decease –

I Give to my Daughter Alice Creel One Negroe Girl named Sarah –

I give to my Daughter Mary Oldam one New Suit of calica Cloaths –

I Give to my Son Greenham Dodson one Negroe man Named Harry –

I GIve to my Son Abraham Dodson one Negroe Woman named Bess and one Negroe Boy named Joe –

I Give to my Son Josha Dodson one Negroe woman Named Sue and one Negroe Boy named Dick –

I give to my son Elisha Dodson one Negroe Girl Named Nan –

I give to my son Greenham Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I give to my son Abraham Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I give to my son Joshua Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I give to my son Elisha Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I Give to Granddaughter ye Daughter of David Dodson Twenty Shill’s

All the Remaining Part of My Estate be the same more or Less I give to be Equally Divided between three of my sons: Vist Abraham Dodson Joshua Dodson & Elisha Dodson

I Likewise ordain and Appoint my Wife Mary Dodson and my son Greenham Dodson to be the true and Lawful Exr.s of the my Last will & Tesatament as Witness my hand and seal this 17th Day of February 1739

(S) Thomas (T his mark) Dodson (Seal)

Wits: H. Miskell, John (X) Hightower, Charles Dodson

Thomas’s will removes all doubt about his participation in the slave trade. He owned at least 7 slaves, and potentially more.  While at the time, owning slaves was clearly a sign of prosperity for the slave owner and “normal” in that society, today, seeing these records causes no small amount of anguish.  All I can say is that I hope he was a kind and generous man.

The death of Thomas Dodson is recorded in the North Farnham Parish Records as November 21, 1740. Typically wills are probated within 90 days, at the next court, so the probate date of March 2, 1740/1741, which is the current year of 1741, makes sense. At that time, the new year did not begin until March 25, March 2 would have been considered 1740 at that time, but is 1741 today.

Richmond County Will Book 5 p.380 – Thomas DODSON, inv; 6 Apr 1741. p.387 – Thomas DODSON, f.inv; 3 Aug 1741.

Will Book 5 has not been transcribed.  I have written for a copy of Thomas’s inventory.  I hope it’s long and detailed! I will add it here when it arrives.

Thomas left multiple tracts of land:

  • To wife Mary, “the plantation whereon I now live and the land thereto belonging” and at the death of Mary, the plantation should go to son Elisha Dodson
  • To son George Dodson, “150 acres of land whereon the said George Dodson is now living
  • To son Greenham Dodson “the whole tract of land I bought of Lambarth Dodson.”

Unfortunately, there is no record of what became of the land Thomas left to Elisha, which would have informed us of where Thomas actually lived at that time.

One of the first two tracts, according to Reverend Silas Lucas, is the Travers land. That land, called Rich Neck, was sold by the heirs of Thomas Dodson to Charles Lovelace, date no specified but apparently in Richmond County. In later years, the heirs of Lovelace sold the land back to James Boothe Dodson, son of Charles.

If today’s Rich Neck is the same Rich Neck as the references on a contemporary map, I’ve found it!!!

It’s surrounded by Marshy Swamp, which could well have been the Briery Swamp of the 1600s and early 1700s. Marsh Swamp has mill ponds and we know that Briery did as well.

There certainly is a north branch of Marshy Swamp, so I’m thinking this fits the bill quite nicely and I don’t see any other candidate waterways that fit all of the criteria, including a location named Rich Neck and Lyell Church.  I do believe these dots are connected!

The satellite view shows that indeed, there is farmland surrounded by the Creek which is a branch of Totuskey.

Unfortunately, 619 does not have Street View, so I can’t “drive down” it remotely.

Here’s Richmond Road where it crosses Marshy Swamp

Thomas’s Estate Didn’t End With the Will

After Thomas’s death, his widow, Mary Durham Dodson married Robert Galbreath on September 29, 1743 and sure enough, lawsuits followed – just 10 months later.

On July 3, 1744, in chancery court, Greenham Dodson files on behalf of himself as executor of the estate of Thomas Dodson, and others, against Robert Galbreath. (Court Record Book 11-406)

On May 7, 1745, the suit was resolved and the court decided that the petitioner, Greenham Dodson, should “take possession of the coverture, according to the intention of the testators will” and that he should use it for the benefit of Mary Galbreath during her coverture. Robert Galbreath refused to give security and was ordered to pay costs. (Court Record Book 11-458)

That doesn’t sound terribly friendly. The term coverture means the legal status of a married woman, considered to be under her husband’s protection and authority. Perhaps the Dodson children felt that Robert Galbreath was utilizing the estate of Thomas Dodson for himself, not for Mary. Mary would have been 57 years old.

I checked the Virginia Chancery Suit index site for Richmond County, and either those records never made it to the State Library, or they aren’t online yet. I would love to see the entire case file for this suit.

Where was Thomas Dodson Buried?

We don’t know where Thomas Dodson was buried, but he may be buried at the North Farnham Parish church.

You can see that there is a cemetery behind the North Farnham Parish Church, built in 1737, just a few years before Thomas died. Thomas may have helped to build this church.

DNA

The Dodson DNA is quite interesting. While I have not been able to find males close to me genealogically to test, I’m quite fortunate that several Dodson males who descend from this line have already tested. And thankfully, their Y DNA matches each other, so we know that the Dodson Y DNA lineage looks like. I’m incredible grateful for projects at Family Tree DNA, because without projects, there would be no avenue to “find” our ancestor’s DNA lineage, at least not without being able to find someone to test. Projects allow us to leverage the combined tests of others for our own genealogy. Hopefully, we’re reciprocating in kind by joining appropriate projects with our own tests.

As it turns out, there is more than one line of Dodsons, genetically speaking. To begin with, there are haplogroup I Dodsons and two haplogroup R Dodson groups, plus additional Dodsons who don’t match anyone. Charles Dodson’s line is haplogroup R, or more specifically, R-M269.

Charles County, Maryland lies directly across the Potomac River from the Northern Neck, but the Dodson family descended from John Dodson who settled there is NOT the same Dodson family. This isn’t what I would have expected.

The Dodson Y DNA project has several members. The DNA project itself can be found at this link, and a description of some of the lineages can be found at this link.

These lineages as listed on the website include two individuals who descend from Charles Dodson (1645-1705) through son Thomas (1681-1740) and his son Thomas (1707-1783), in blue and yellow, above.

Both men descended through Charles’ son Thomas have marker value of 13 at DYS439, in red above, which could be a line marker mutation. What we don’t know is when this mutation occurred in this line. In fact, it could have been anyplace from Thomas Sr. through Isaac.

Kit 17119 – Charles – Thomas – Thomas – Joseph – Caleb – Isaac – William – (plus 3 more generations)

Kit 24573 – Charles – Thomas – Thomas – Joseph – Caleb – Isaac – John – (plus 5 more generations)

Kit 8571 – Charles – Thomas – George – Lazarus – Elisha – (plus several generations)

The one additional individual, kit 8571, who descends through Thomas has only tested to 12 markers. However, we’re in luck because marker 439 is contained within that panel and carries a value of 14.

Therefore, we know that the mutation to 13 occurred someplace below Thomas Sr. and between Thomas Jr. and Isaac. Thomas Sr. did not carry this mutation, because the descendant of his son George does not have the mutation. Therefore 439=13 is NOT a line marker mutation for Thomas Sr.

What Does the Dodson DNA Look Like?

The Dodson DNA project documents that many of Charles Dodson’s descendants have tested and together, form the genetic Y DNA STR signature of the Northern Neck, Richmond County, Virginia line in America.  STRs are short tandem repeat markers, meaning those shown in the results below.

As you can see, in many cases, there is no question about the original marker value, because there are no mutations and all of the descendants match. In other cases, for other markers, there are several mutations. Mutations from the “normal” value for the group of participants is shown by colorized cells.

We can reconstruct the original STR markers of Charles Dodson’s DNA by determining the most common values.

The Dodson project was one of the early projects established, so people have tested at all different levels. The lower levels, such as 12 markers, are less useful. Additionally, few have uploaded Gedcom files, which makes determining who is descended from which of Charles’ sons somewhat difficult.

I have utilized the information listed on the Dodson public project page, shown above, to create the chart below, listing the original Charles Dodson value for each marker, plus the percentage of the time this marker is found in haplogroup R-M343, which is R1b. This will inform us of any unusual or rare marker values for the Dodson lineage – forming in essence a Dodson rare marker genetic signature that should suffice to isolate Dodson men from others. Markers that appear in less than 10% of the people who carry this haplogroup are bolded.

Allele Location Dodson Value % in R-M343 (R1b)
393 13 91
390 24 60
19 15 9
391 11 67
385a 11 87
385b 13 11
426 12 98
388 12 98
439 14 2
389-1 13 71
392 13 86
389-2 29 63
458 16 18
459a 9 95
459b 10 81
455 11 97
454 11 98
447 25 69
437 15 85
448 19 78
449 28 11
464a 15 80
464b 15 71
464c 17 48
464d 17 69
460 10 probably, or 11 19 (10) or 74 (11)
GATA H4 11 71
YCA II a 19 95
YCA II b 23 81
456 16 40
607 15 70
576 18 42
570 17 57
CDY a 36 30
CDY b 39 22
442 11 12
438 12 94
531 11 92
578 9 97
395S1a 15 93
395S1b 16 96
590 8 99
537 10 90
641 10 98
472 8 100
406S1 10 85
511 10 85
425 12 100
413a 22 15
413b 23 89
557 16 73
594 10 96
436 12 99
490 12 97
534 17 8
450 8 97
444 12 73
481 22 60
520 20 85
446 13 76
617 12 91
568 11 95
487 13 92
572 11 88
640 11 95
492 12 73
565 12 88
710 33 16
485 15 84
632 9 98
495 16 87
540 12 85
714 25 31
716 26 93
717 19 88
505 12 80
556 11 94
549 12 33
589 12 92
522 10 52
494 9 98
533 13 22
636 12 91
575 10 100
638 11 97
462 11 95
452 31 9
445 13 6
GATA A10 14 8
463 23 5
441 13 83
GGAAT 1B07 10 92
525 10 85
712 20 31
593 15 98
650 18 33
532 14 23
715 24 62
504 17 56
513 12 72
561 15 87
552 24 77
726 12 99
635 23 80
587 18 92
643 10 83
497 14 92
510 17 71
434 9 96
461 12 80
435 11 98

Summary

Thomas Dodson’s life was probably very typically colonial. Thomas wasn’t aristocracy, wasn’t a Burgess or man representing the government in Virginia, but he wasn’t poor either. He inherited land and bought more, raising tobacco and amassing enough to leave each of his sons a plantation. He was an up-and-comer. He had indentured servants as well as slaves – unfortunately, the norm for a successful planter in Virginia of that time. He was a man making his way in a new land, in rather uncharted territory. Many of his children would continue the legacy and push on to new frontiers.

Thomas wasn’t just a planter. He took an active role in the community.  At various times he was a processioner, a surveyor, a bondsman and many times, a juror and estate appraiser.  Yes, once or twice, he was on the wrong end of the stick as well.  Perhaps he sewed a few wild oats, but apparently not nearly as many as his brother-in-law, young Thomas Durham Jr.

Thomas Dodson would have heard about England, the old country, and the King or Queen, but he was born in the new colony of “Virginny” and probably couldn’t relate to a place and aristocracy he didn’t know. He was part of the first generation of people thoroughly “American.” He was born a generation after the tenuous establishment of Jamestown and almost 40 years after the 1722 Indian raid that nearly destroyed the English settlement.

Thomas died less than a half century before the American Revolution and before the French and Indian War. Thomas and his generation began the foundation of what would, some 40 years after his death, become the United States of America. Thomas became the transition between the fledgling colony clinging to the coast by establishing a thriving tobacco-based economy that would expand and evolve into the foundation for an independent country, something for which his grandchildren stood firm and would fight.

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, including Thomas Dodson, Mary Durham and their children, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more. His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later. Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.

Sources

  • Richmond County Virginia Marriage References and Family Relationships 1692-1800 by F. Edward Wright
  • Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 TLC Genealogy
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1692-1695 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1695-1701 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1701-1704 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1705-1708 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Abstracts of Land Records of Richmond County, VA 1692-1704 by Mary Marshall Brewer
  • Richmond Co., VA 1714-1715 Deeds by Ruth and Sam Sparicio
  • Deed Abstracts Richmond Co., VA 1715-1718 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond Co., VA 1719-1721 Deeds by Ruth and Sam Sparicio
  • Richmond Co., VA 1721-1725 Deeds by Ruth and Sam Sparicio
  • Richmond County VA Deeds and Bonds 1721 and 1734 by TLC Genealogy
  • Richmond County VA Deeds and Bonds 1734 and 1741 by TLC Genealogy
  • The Registers of North Farnham Parish 1663-1814 and Lunenburg Parish 1783-1800 Richmond County, Virginia Compiled and Published by George Harrison Sanford King 1966
  • Marriages of Richmond County, VA 1668-1853 by George Harrison Sanford King
  • Wills of Richmond Co., Va 1699-1800 by Robert K. Keadley, Jr
  • Richmond Co Will Book 4 1717-1725 by TLC
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1692-1694 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1694-1697 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1698-1699 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1699-1701 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1702-1704 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1704-1708 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1705-1706 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1707-1708 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1708-1709 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1711-1713 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1714-1715 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1716-1717 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1718-1719 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1722-1724 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1724-1725 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1726-1727 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1728-1729 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1729-1730 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1731-1732 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1732-1734 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1732-1739 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1735-1736 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1737-1738 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County, Virginia Court Orders 1721-1752 An Every Name Index by TLC Genealogy

Note that at the Allen County Public Library multiple books were rebound together and sometimes the title did not accurately reflect the contents. I searched all of the Richmond County books available which their catalog reflects includes contiguous dates.