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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything’s good, right?

Not so fast…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Cousin

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

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

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

Haplogroups have come a long way since that time.

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

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

The Holy Grail

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

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

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

Gisburn.

Gisburn? Where the heck was Gisburn?

Gisburn

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

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

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

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

Was our Thomas born in Gisburn too?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was his family?

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

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

2013 – The Trip Home

Gisburn

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

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

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

St. Mary’s Church in Whalley

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

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

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

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

Downham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do we know about Twiston?

Twiston

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old documents, however, do provide some insight.

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

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

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

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

Local Testers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 DNA Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Y-DNA Block Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Luckey Speak

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

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

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

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

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

Can STR Markers Be Utilized for Lineage Grouping?

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

  • Occurred independently in different lines
  • Potentially back mutated

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

Let’s analyze the STR mutations.

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

You can view the Speak DNA Project results, here.

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

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

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

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

You read the chart below, as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STR Tests Are Useful When…

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

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

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

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

Family Finder Autosomal Analysis

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

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

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

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

Click on any image to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting the Genetic Dots in England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not all.

Surprise!

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

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

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

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

What is that name?

Here, let me enlarge the chart for you!

Standish.

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

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

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

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

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

Our family names are still found in the Chorley church records

Ancient Connections

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

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

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

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

Where Are We?

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

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

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

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

What about the L’Espec origin myth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our ancestors are indeed speaking across the ages.

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

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In Search of…How Am I Related to That Close Match?

My friend recently reached out to me for some help with a close match at Ancestry. Which vendor doesn’t matter – the process for figuring out who my friend is related to her match would be essentially the same at any vendor.

My friend has no idea who the match is, nor how they are related. That match has not replied, nor is any of her information recognizable, such as an account name or photo. She has no tree, so there are literally no clues provided by the match.

We need to turn to science and old-fashioned sleuthing.

This eighth article in the “In Search of…” series steps you through the process I’m stepping my friend through.

This process isn’t difficult, per se, but there are several logical, sequential steps. I strongly recommend you read through this (at least) once, then come back and work through the process if you’re trying to solve a similar mystery.

The “In Search of…” Series

Please note that I’ve written an entire series of “In Search of…” articles that will step you through the search process and help you understand how to unravel your results. If you’re new, reading these, in order, before proceeding, would be a good idea.

  • I introduced the “In Search of” series in the article, DNA: In Search of…New Series Launches.
  • In the second article, DNA: In Search of…What Do You Mean I’m Not Related to My Family? – and What Comes Next? we discussed the discovery that something was amiss when you don’t match a family member that you expect to match, then how to make sure a vial or upload mix-up didn’t happen. Next, I covered the basics of the four kinds of DNA tests you’ll be able to use to solve your mystery.
  • In the third article, In Search of…Vendor Features, Strengths, and Testing Strategies, we discussed testing goals and strategies, including testing with and uploading to multiple autosomal DNA vendors, Y DNA, and mitochondrial DNA testing. We reviewed the vendor’s strengths and the benefits of combining vendor information and resources.
  • In the fourth article, DNA: In Search of…Signs of Endogamy, we discussed the signs of endogamy and various ways to determine if you or your recent ancestors descend from an endogamous population.
  • In the fifth article, DNA: In Search of…Full and Half-Siblings we discussed how to determine if you have a sibling match, if they are a half or full sibling, and how to discern the difference.
  • In the sixth article, Connect Your DNA test, and Others, to Your Tree, I explained how to optimize your DNA tests in order to take advantage of the features offered by each our primary DNA testing vendors.
  • In the seventh article, How to Share DNA Results and Tree Access at Ancestry, I wrote step-by-step instructions for providing access to another person to allow them to view your DNA results, AND to share your tree – which are two different things. If you have a mystery match, and they are willing to allow you access, in essence “to drive,” you can just send them the link to this article that provides detailed instructions. Note that Ancestry has changed the user interface slightly with the rollout of their new “sides” matches, but I can’t provide the new interface screenshots yet because my account has not been upgraded.

Sarah – The Mystery Match

My friend, who I’ll be calling the Tester, matches Sarah (not her name) at 554 cM. At that close level, you don’t have to worry about segments being removed by Timber at Ancestry, so that is an actual cM match level. Timber only removes segments when the match is under 90 cM. Other vendors don’t remove cMs at all.

Ancestry shows the possible relationships at that level as follows:

Some of these relationships can be immediately dismissed in this situation. For example, the Tester knows that Sarah is not her grandchild or great-grandchild.

Our tester does not have any full siblings, or any known half-siblings, but like many genealogists, she is always open-minded. Both of her parents are living, and her father has already tested. Sarah does not match her father. So, this match is on her mother’s side.

It’s obvious that Sarah is not a full sibling, nor is she a half-sibling, based on the cM values, but she might be a child, or grandchild of a maternal half-sibling.

Let’s begin with observations and questions that will help our Tester determine how she and Sarah are related.

  1. It’s clear that IF this is a half-sibling descendant match, it’s on her mother’s side, because Sarah does not match our Tester’s father.
  2. The tester’s mother has six siblings, none of whom have tested directly, but three of whom have children or grandchildren who have tested.
  3. By viewing shared matches, Sarah matches known relatives of BOTH the maternal grandmother AND maternal grandfather of our tester, which means Sarah is NOT the product of an unknown half-sibling of her mother. Remember, Ancestry does not display shared matches of less than 20 cM. Other vendors do not restrict your shared matches.
  4. Ancestry does not provide mitochondrial DNA information, so that cannot be utilized, but could be utilized if this match was at FamilyTreeDNA, and partially utilized in an exclusionary manner if the match was at 23andMe.

DNAPainter

DNAPainter’s Shared cM Tool provides a nice visual display of possible relationships, so I entered the matching cM amount

The returned relationships are similar to Ancestry’s possible relationships.

The grid display shows the possible relationships. Relationships that fall outside of this probability range are muted.

The color shading is by generation, meaning dark grey is through great-great-grandparents, apricot is through great-grandparents, green is through grandparents, grey is through one or both parents, and blue are your own descendants.

Based on known factors, I put a red X in the boxes that can’t apply to Sarah and our Tester after evaluating each relationship. I bracketed the statistically most likely relationships in red, although I must loudly say, “do not ignore those other possibilities.”

Let’s step through the logic which will be different for everyone’s own situation, of course.

  • Age alone eliminates the great and half-great grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They are all deceased and would be well over 100 years old if they were living.
  • The green half relationships are eliminated because we know via shared matches that Sarah matches BOTH of the Tester’s maternal grandparent’s sides.
  • We know that Sarah is not a second cousin because second cousins match only ONE maternal grandparent’s ancestor’s descendants, and Sarah matches both of the tester’s maternal grandparents through their descendants. In other words, Sarah and our Tester both match people who descend from both of the Tester’s maternal grandmother AND grandfather’s lines, which, unless they are related, means Sarah’s closest common ancestor (MCRA – most recent common ancestor) with our Tester are either her maternal grandparents, or her mother.
  • Therefore, we know that Sarah cannot be any of the apricot-colored relationships because she matches BOTH of our Tester’s maternal grandparents. She would only be related through one of the Tester’s maternal grandparents to be related on the apricot level.
  • Sarah cannot be a full great-niece or nephew, or great or great-great niece or nephew because the Tester has no full siblings, confirmed by the fact that Sarah does not match the Tester’s father.
  • We know that Sarah is not the great-grandchild of the Tester, in part due to age, but the definitive scientific ax to that possibility is that Sarah does not match our Tester’s father. (Yes, our Tester does match her father at the appropriate level.)

We know that Sarah is somehow a descendant of BOTH of Tester’s maternal grandparents, so must be in either the green band of relationships, the grey half-relationships, or the blue direct relationships. All of these relationships would be descended from the Tester’s maternal grandparents (plural.)

We’ve eliminated the blue direct relationship because Sarah does not match the Tester’s father. This removes the possibility that the Tester’s children have an unknown great-grandchild, although in this case, age removes that possibility anyway.

This process-of-elimination leaves as possible relationships:

  • Grey band half niece/nephew and half great-niece/nephew, meaning that the Tester has an unknown half-sibling on their mother’s side whose child or grandchild has tested.
  • Green band first cousin which means that the tester descends from one of the Tester’s maternal aunts or uncles. Given that Sarah is not a known child of any of the Tester’s six aunts and uncles, that opens the possibility that her mother’s sibling has a previously unknown child. Three of the Tester’s mother’s siblings are females, and three are males.
  • Green band first cousin once removed is one generation further down the tree, meaning a child of a first cousin.

Using facts we know, we’ve already restricted the possible relationships to four.

Hypothesis and Shared Matches

In situations like this, I use a spreadsheet, create hypothesis scenarios and look for eliminators.

I worked with the Tester to assemble an easy spreadsheet with each of her mother’s siblings in a column, along with their year of birth. All names have been changed.

The hypothesis we are working with is that the Tester’s mother has a previously unknown child and that Sarah is that person’s child or grandchild.

Across the top of our spreadsheet, which you could also simply create as a chart, I’ve written the names of the maternal grandparents.

The Tester’s mother, Susie, is shown in the boxes that are colored red, and her siblings are listed in their birth order. Siblings who have anyone in their line who has tested are shown by colored boxes.

The Tester is shown in red beneath her mother, Susie, and a potential mystery half-sibling is shown beneath Susie.

This is importantthe relationships shown are FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE TESTER.

This means, at far left, with the red arrow, these people at the top, meaning the mother’s siblings are the Tester’s aunts and uncles.

The next generation down are the Tester’s first cousins, followed by the next row, with 1C1R. The cell colors in that column correspond to the DNAPainter generation columns.

In the red “Mother” group, you’ll see that I’ve included that mystery half-sibling and beneath, the relationships that could exist at that same generation level. So, if the mystery half-sibling had a child, that person would be the half-niece/nephew of the Tester.

The cM value pointed to by the arrows, is the cM value at which the TESTER matches that person.

In this case, Ginger’s son, Jacob matches our Tester at 946 cM, which is exactly normal for a first cousin. Ginger’s son, Aaron, has not tested, but his daughter, Crystal, has and matches our Tester at 445 cM.

Three of the Tester’s aunts/uncles, John, Jim, and Elsie are not represented in this matrix, because no one from their line has yet tested. The Tester has contacted members of those families asking if they will accept a testing scholarship.

Analysis Grids

Some of the children of our Tester’s aunts/uncles have tested, and their matches to Sarah are shown in the bottom row in yellow, on the chart below.

Of course, obtaining Sarah’s matching cM information required the Tester to contact her aunts/uncles and cousins to ask them to look at their match to Sarah at Ancestry.

For each set of relationships with Sarah, I’ve prepared a mini-relationship grid below Sarah’s matches with one of the Tester’s aunts/uncles’ descendants.

  • If Sarah is related to the Tester through an unknown half-sibling, Sarah will match the tester more closely than she will match any of the children of the Tester’s aunts and uncles.
  • If Sarah descends through one of the Tester’s aunts’ or uncles’ lines, Sarah will match someone in those lines more closely than our Tester, but we may need to compensate for generations in our analysis.

I pasted the DNAPainter image in the spreadsheet in a convenient place to remind myself of which relationships are possible between our Tester and Sarah, then I created a small grid beneath the Tester’s match to Sarah, who is the yellow row.

Let me explain, beginning with our Tester’s match to Sarah.

Tester’s Match to Sarah

The Tester matches Sarah at 554 cM, which can potentially be a number of different relationships. I’ve listed the possible relationships with the most likely, at 87%, at the top. I have not listed any relationships we’ve positively eliminated, even though they would be scientifically possible.

I can’t do this for our Tester’s Uncle David, because the Tester has not yet heard back from David’s son, Gary, as to how many cMs he shares with Sarah.

Our tester’s aunts, Ginger and Barbara do have descendants who have tested, so let’s evaluate those relationships.

Ginger and Sarah

We know less about Ginger and Sarah than we do about our Tester and Sarah. However, many of the same relationship constraints remain constant.

  • For example, we know that Sarah matches both of Ginger’s grandparents, because Ginger is our tester’s aunt, Susie’s full sibling.
  • Our tester and all of the other family members who have tested match on both maternal grandparents’ sides.
  • Therefore, we also know that the 2C relationships won’t work either because Sarah matches both maternal grandparents.
  • Based on ages, it’s very unlikely that Sarah is a great-grandchild of Ginger’s children, in part, because I’m operating under the assumption that Sarah is old enough to purchase her own test, so not a child. Ancestry’s terms of service require testers to be 18 years of age to purchase or activate a DNA test. Also, Sarah’s test is not managed by someone else.
  • We don’t know about great-nieces and nephews though, because if one of Ginger’s sibling’s children had an unknown child, that person could be Sarah or Sarah’s parent.

Ginger’s son Jacob

Using the closest match in Ginger’s line, her son Jacob, we find the following possibilities using Jacob’s match to Sarah of 284cM.

The DNAPainter grid shows the more distant relationship clearly.

You can quickly determine that Sarah probably does not descend from Ginger’s line, but let’s add this to our spreadsheet for completeness.

You can see that the MOST likely relationship, of the possible relationships based on our known factors, is 1C2R, which is the least likely relationship between our Tester and Sarah. It’s important to note that our Tester and Jacob are in the same generation, so we don’t need to do any compensating for a generational difference.

Comparing those relationships, you can see that the least likely relationship between Sarah and Jacob is much more likely between Sarah and our Tester.

Therefore, we can rule out Ginger’s line as a candidate. Sarah is not a descendant of Ginger.

Let’s move on to Barbara’s line.

Barbara’s Daughter Cindy

This time, we’re going to do a bit of inferring because we do have a generational difference.

Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary, has tested and matches Sarah at 230 cM. While we know that Sarah probably wouldn’t match Mary’s mother, Cindy, at exactly double that, 460 cM, it would certainly be close.

So, for purposes of this comparison, I’m using 460 cM for Sarah to match Cindy.

That makes this comparison in the same generation as Ginger and our Tester to Sarah. We are comparing apples to apples and not apples to half an apple (an apple once removed, technically, but I digress.) 😊

You can see that this analysis is MUCH closer to the cM amounts and relationship possibilities of Sarah and our Tester.

Here are the possible relationships of Sarah and Cindy, with the most likely being boxed in red.

Where Are We?

Here is my completed spreadsheet, so far, less the two DNAPainter graphs for Ginger and Barbara’s lines.

To date, we’ve eliminated Ginger as Sarah’s ancestor.

Both Susie, the mother of our Tester, and Susie’s sister Barbara are still candidates to have an unknown child based on DNA, or one of their children possibly having an unknown child.

Of course, we still have one more sister, Elsie, and those three silent brothers sitting over there. It’s much easier for a male to have an unknown child than a female. By unknown, in this situation, I mean truly unknown, not hidden.

What’s Needed?

Of course, what we really need is tests from each of Susie’s siblings, but that’s not going to happen. What can we potentially do with what we have, how, and why?

Our Tester can refine these results in a number of ways.

  • Talk to living siblings or other family members and tactfully ask what they know about the four women during their reproductive years. Were they missing, off at school, visiting “aunts” in another location, separated from a spouse, etc.?
  • Check to see if Sarah shared her ethnicity results (View match, then click on “Ethnicity.”) If Sarah has a significant ethnicity that is impossible to confuse, this might be significant. For example, if Sarah is 50% Korean, and one of Susie’s brothers served in Korea, that makes him a prime candidate.
  • If possible, ask John, David, Jim, Ginger, Barbara, and Elsie to take DNA tests themselves. The best test is ALWAYS the oldest generation because their DNA is not yet divided in subsequent generations.
  • If that’s not possible, find a child or grandchild of Elsie, Jim, and John to test.
  • The Tester needs to find out how closely David’s son, Gary matches Sarah, then perform the same analysis that we stepped through above.
  • Ask Ginger’s son, Jacob to see if Sarah also shares matches with the closest family members of the known father of Ginger’s children. One of Ginger’s children could have had an unknown child. This is unlikely, based on what we’ve already determined about Sarah’s match level to Jacob, but it’s worth asking.
  • Ask Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary, to see if she and Sarah share matches with the closest family members of the known father of Barbara’s children. This scenario is much more likely.
  • If the answer is yes to either of the last two questions, we have identified which line Sarah descends from, because she can only descend from both Barbara AND the father of her children if Sarah descends from that couple.
  • If the answer is no, we’ve only eliminated full siblings to Ginger and Barbara’s children, not half-siblings.
  • If our Tester can make contact with Gary, ask him if he and Sarah share matches with David’s wife’s line. One of David’s children could have an unknown child.
  • If our Tester can actually make contact with Sarah, and if Sarah is willing and interested, our Tester can create a list of people to look for in her matches – for example, the spouses’ lines of all of Susie’s siblings. If Sarah matches NONE of the spouses’ lines, then one of Susie’s siblings (our Tester’s aunts/uncles,) or Susie’s mother, has an unknown child. However, if Sarah is a novice tester or genealogist, she might well be quite overwhelmed with understanding how to perform these searches. She may already be overwhelmed by discovering that she doesn’t match who she expected to match. Or, she may already know the answer to this question.
  • It would be easier if Sarah granted our Tester access to her DNA results to sort through all of these possibilities, but that’s not something I would expect a stranger to do, especially if this result is something Sarah wasn’t expecting.

I wrote instructions for providing access to DNA results in the article, How to Share DNA Results and Tree Access at Ancestry.

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Seriously, Addie Browning (1909-1996) is NOT my Father’s Wife – 52 Ancestors #365

Those of you who have followed the escapades and stories about my father know quite well that he was…well…how do I put this graciously? Let’s just say a “ladies man.”

Are you sitting down?

He was married a stunning 13 times. Well, I guess I should put “married” in quotes, because he was not legally married to at least three of those women, and there is at least one more he claimed to have been married to, but no evidence of a marriage has emerged, at least not yet.

My father wasn’t the only player, though, because of the 5 children he believed were his, at least one wasn’t and another one is doubtful:

In this composite photo, my Dad is shown at different ages. Edna and I are positively my father’s children.

  • The first child, Lee Devine, born in 1920 probably was his child, but is long-deceased and had no children, so that can’t be confirmed. I’m left looking for resemblances in photographs. I think I look like Lee.
  • The second and fifth children, my sister Edna and I are my father’s children, as confirmed by DNA.

  • The third child, Violet, was probably not his child, given that I know unquestionably where he was for the first 5-6 weeks of her mother’s pregnancy. And yes, I do mean positively. Unless Violet was born several weeks early, she was almost assuredly not my father’s biological child. The challenge for me is that I have only one very grainy photo and I think she resembles my father more than I do. She looks a great deal like Edna. An artist was kind enough to restore this photo, as best could be achieved without knowing what she looked like.
  • The fourth child, Dave, sadly, was not my father’s son, also proven by DNA. He’s still my brother nonetheless.

I keep watching DNA matches for more potential children, or their children, and now maybe their grandchildren.

All Things Considered…

All things considered…given what I just told you…I wasn’t exactly surprised when another “wife” surfaced a few years back.

Mind you, it was only in trees, so I was pretty dismissive at first.

My initial reaction was, “No, that can’t be right, that’s not my Dad,” but then I remembered just who I was dealing with.

Still, I glanced at the tree and presumed that someone had made a same-name error. It’s easy enough to do.

However, as I began to gather wives for my father like flowers for a bouquet of a dozen roses, one by one, I realized that maybe, just maybe he had more wives, and more children, just waiting to be discovered. And maybe Addie Browning was one of them.

I began to hope, actually. I’d love to have another sibling. It’s nothing short of amazing that given his propensity for getting married that there were only 5 children attributed to him.

Harlan County, Kentucky

The roads from Tennessee to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan were well-traveled. Many southern families moved north in the early 1900s to work. My grandparents were tenant farmers in Indiana beginning in about 1912 – going back “home” as needed to Tennessee.

A few years later, my grandparents divorced and my father joined the military, his ticket “out,” although “out” was only to Michigan.

Over time, for reasons unknown, my father not only traveled back to Claiborne County and eastern Tennessee, he continued his travels on South, to Georgia and Florida, among other places.

Still, he always returned to his parents’ homes.

His mother, Ollie Bolton had moved to Chicago when he was a teenager where she lived until her death in 1955.

His father, William George Estes, had moved back south and settled in Harlan County, Kentucky a few years later, not terribly far from the Cumberland Gap. He and his new bride lived up on Black Mountain, the highest and most remote mountain peak in Kentucky, nestled up against the Virginia border and not far, as the crow flies, from Tennessee.

By iLoveMountains.org – Kentucky Side of Black MountainUploaded by LongLiveRock, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24273071

Black Mountain was rugged, rough, coal mining country. The residents were clannish. Many if not most of the people who lived there were related to one another.

1920

By 1920, my father had been in the Army since 1917 and his first two children, Lee and Edna were on the way. No, they weren’t twins. Two different women were pregnant, and their children were born 3 months apart. Lots of drama in his life!

His father, my grandfather, Will, had remarried to a woman 21 years his junior who just happened to be his first wife’s cousin. According to the census, they were living in Claiborne County, Tennessee, and had an 18-month-old baby.

In the 1930 census, Will had divorced, remarried again, to his second wife’s cousin, taken up moonshining, and was living in a shack high up on Black Mountain with his third wife and their two young children. The census taker managed to miss several of the most remote residences. I’m guessing that no government official was welcome on that part of Black Mountain. In the 1920s, Harlan County had the highest murder rate of any place in the country, fueled by a lethal combination of anger and moonshine.

We know Will was living in Harlan County as early as 1925 when his daughter was born.

Given that William George Estes, my grandfather was well known on Black Mountain and among the Harlan County miners, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to presume that a younger William Estes, a miner, found in the same county, might be his son by the same name.

Yes, there’s that dangerous word – presume.

That’s exactly what I found and has been perpetuating and spawning itself through online trees.

We need evidence. Facts. Trees are not evidence but some trees may contain valuable hints and sources.

Evidence

Ok, what actual evidence do we have? Let’s start with the census.

You can see that on the 1930 census, one William Estes, age 28, so born about 1902, was a coal miner in Harlan County and married to Addie. They had recently married, since their last birthdays in November, and children had not yet blessed their marriage. At least, no children are listed as living with them.

Then a decade later, in the 1940 census, they are still married and have children who were supposedly 12 (but absent in the 1930 census,) 7, 5, 3, and 6 months.

These children were born in approximately 1928, 1933, 1935, 1937, and 1939.

In 1950, the census shows us that William is still working in the coal mine and they had three more children.

The newest children were born about 1943, 1944, and 1949.

These dates are important.

My Father

My father’s first name was William and he was known as Bill. He was born about 1902, sometime between 1901 and 1903, depending on which document you reference and what suited his fancy at the time. The only consistent part is the date, October 1.

Addie’s William was born about the same time, also in Tennessee.

I can certainly understand why someone attached the wrong William to poor Addie.

I really scrutinized these records closely, because my father was married to more than one woman at a time, at least twice. Yea, I know, that sounds like a country song doesn’t it!

Apparently, he came and went and was home long enough to not arouse “enough” suspicion, at least not initially, and of course long enough to have children. Just because he was married to someone else, living someplace else, didn’t mean he wasn’t also married and living elsewhere. How did he even begin to keep all that straight? Normally, he got caught pretty quickly and moved on to the next lucky wife.

Was the William Estes who was married to Addie my father?

I really had to know. I’d love to dismiss this out of hand, but I just can’t.

Let’s look at the evidence and compare what we know, side by side.

1925-1930

Even though William and Addie appear in the 1930 census together and were recently married, based on later records, they already had a child born three years earlier on April 9, 1927. The conception date would have been on or about July 17, 1926.

In the late 1920s, my father was in Michigan and Illinois. He enlisted in the Army for a third term in 1926, but in 1927 got himself into trouble and spent some time in the brig in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and then in Michigan. He was released on June 29, 1928.

Violet, his third child, was born on February 5, 1929, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Her date of conception, assuming a typical 40-week pregnancy, would have been on May 15, 1928, almost 6 weeks before he was released from jail, in another county. He needed to have the opportunity to meet Violet’s mother in Muskegon. Even if it was love at first sight – Violet’s mother appeared to have been at least 6 weeks pregnant by the time she met my father.

However, he was in hot water for another reason in 1928.

He had married Cora Edmonds on August 6th, 1927, in Benton Harbor, Michigan under an assumed name. Cora filed for divorce on March 27, 1929, and he went to jail, again, a few days later – unrelated to the divorce. I’m guessing the divorce was related to his relationship with Violet’s mother. He believed that Violet was his child. Both then and years later.

In case you’re wondering how this all happened, my father was an alcoholic. He was, given alcohol as a child to quell hunger pangs when they had no food, and enable sleep, as were his siblings who also became alcoholics.

My father carried that addiction into his adult life and made some exceedingly poor decisions. While those decisions clearly affected his life, dramatically, and those around him, he was, in the words of Virgie, both his first and last love, “not all bad.”

He was a tortured soul, abandoned by his parents when he was about 13, along with his younger brother. His indiscretions for the most part had to do with drinking, having sex, and getting married, sometimes without benefit of divorce. That’s not an excuse for his behavior, but perhaps an explanation and an aid to understanding.

In April 1930, when William Estes appeared in the census with Addie in Harlan County, TN, my father was enumerated in the census in jail, in Michigan, where he had been since 1929. My dad was crafty, but even he wasn’t that good. There is no way he was incarcerated in Michigan at the same time he was enumerated in the census in Kentucky, teleporting back and forth.

Then, I thought, what if he really wasn’t in Harlan County and he was simply reported as living there. People do that.

Let’s Dig Deeper

While the William Estes in Harlan County, married to Addie, was having children in 1928, 1933, 1935, and 1939, my father was still indisposed. In other words, he could not have been having children with Addie.

My father is missing in the 1940 census, although based on letters he wrote to a judge, it appears that he remained indisposed until March of 1942.

Addie had children in 1943, 1944, and 1949.

In 1943, my father was living in Muncie, Indiana, and then Chicago, Illinois.

In 1944, he was married to Dortha or Dorothy Kilpatrick (although I don’t know where) and began working at the Eastern State Mental Hospital in Knoxville, TN, in late December. He gave his voting address as Claiborne Co., TN, where most of his family lived, and his residence as Harlan County, KY where his father was living.

In 1945, he traveled to Georgia where he remained until 1948 when he returned to Chicago. In 1949 he married Ellen Billings Copak in Chicago.

In the 1950 census, he is shown living with Ellen and her daughters in Chicago, working in a furniture store, while Addie’s husband is living in Harlan County, with her, still working in the coal mines – just like he has been reliably doing ever since they married in 1930.

Addie and William had their last baby in 1949

Delayed Birth Certificates

Both men were born at home in Tennessee and had to obtain delayed birth certificates.

My father’s middle name was Sterling. He obtained his birth certificate in April 1952, showing his birth location as Hancock County, just up the road from Estes Holler and where his mother’s parents lived.

His address was Fort Wayne, Indiana where my brother, Dave, would be born three years later. Ellen, his wife, lived in Fort Wayne for the rest of her life.

On the back of his birth certificate, his father, William George Estes signed the document and gave his address as Lynch, Kentucky, the closest town to his home.

The William Estes married to Addie Browning obtained his delayed birth certificate 7 years earlier, in 1945.

He was born in Claiborne County, TN, probably in Estes Holler.

His father signed his certificate as Theo Estes, with his mark.

What about death records?

My father died in 1963, in Indiana, listing his wife and father.

The William Estes in Harlan County died in 1975.

The Kentucky death index is shown above.

The Social Security Death Index shows the same death date and a specific location, Cawood in Harlan County.

What about military records?

Addie’s husband served in the Army from 1920-1923 according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My father’s three enlistment dates are shown together on the back of the application submitted for a military headstone.

And finally, if that wasn’t enough, the William Estes in Harlan County registered for the draft in February of 1942, providing his wife’s name, employer, birth date, and location.

It’s interesting that the men looked different too. There would have been no mistaking them in person.

The William Estes married to Addie seemed to be a small man.

My father registered for the draft as well, on March 20th, giving his mother’s Chicago address.

My father was 5’11”, 172 pounds, brown eyes, black hair, and dark complected.

Addie’s husband was 5’4”, 138 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. Clearly not the same man.

Not the Same Man

No one, but no one, after seeing all of this compiled evidence together could ever reasonably conclude that these two men are the same. Nor is Addie’s husband my father.

But, and here’s the complicating part – the two William Esteses are kin to each other.

And, the DNA of their descendants could and probably would match each other.

WHAT???

Nothing, but nothing is ever easy in my family.

Remember way back at the beginning of this article I mentioned that many if not most people in areas like this are related to each other. That’s true in this case too.

While the William Estes who lived in Cawood and was married to Addie is NOT the son of William George Estes who lived up on Black Mountain above Lynch, they are related.

First, I’d like to note that while they lived in the same county, the additional information we’ve discovered has provided us with more specific locations. Cawood, where William and Addie lived near the Crummies mine is about 45 miles and an hour away (today, on paved roads) from where William George Estes lived, “up above” Lynch.

In this case, the same county name does not indicate close proximity or the same community.

Estes Hollow, where both men were born or once lived is a fair distance from both. About 70 miles for William George if he crossed on over Black Mountain and about the same distance for William Estes who lived in Cawood.

The mines were big employers and many men from Appalachia migrated to the area. One of William George Estes’s sons, Estel, joined his father in the bootlegging business and worked in the coalmines before he went north for easier work and the promise of a better future.

Who is the William Estes Married to Addie?

As it turned out, I already had the William Estes who married Addie Browning in my genealogy software, but without his wife or children. Most of this information was provided by Uncle George Estes back in the 1980s. George was born in 1911 and knew these people. According to Uncle George, William’s middle initial was “T”, probably for Theo, and he was called Willie, while my Dad was called Bill and William George Estes was called Will.

William T. Estes, Addie’s husband, was the second cousin once removed (2C1R) of William George Estes. He was third cousins with my father. Their fathers assuredly knew each other and probably grew up as playmates in Estes Holler. Theo and William George were probably born within sight of each other’s cabins.

John R. Estes settled in Estes Holler, which is how it received its name. His descendants obtained land grants, bought land and cleared it, and continue to farm there today.

Estes Holler includes everything on either side of the road between the Springdale Lodge and the red star indicating the land where Jechonias Estes lived. John Y. Estes, his brother lived to the left of the star, a little higher up on the mountainside.

Everyone in these hollows knew each other. William T. Estes and William George Estes unquestionably did too. I’d wager that my father knew William T. Estes who was married to Addie as well.

Both of those men would probably get a chuckle that they are now being conflated into one man, my father, online.

Willie probably wouldn’t be any too happy about that.

A Great Bad Example

This is a great example of why one cannot do same-name associations without a LOT of corroborating evidence that the assigned identities are correct.

It’s also an example of why “just DNA matching” with someone is not confirmation of HOW you’re related to that person.

Today, I would probably match several of the children of Willie Estes and Addie.

According to the DNAPainter Shared cM Tool, the range for 4th cousins could be anyplace from 0-139 cM, with an average of 35.

Looking at the entire 139 cM range of possible relationships, at first glance, one might assume a closer relationship.

This is the perfect example of “don’t’ glance and assume.” Assuming is just so tempting and we’ve all done it! Here’s the argument that you’d hear from someone who has committed the great assume sin.

Their names are the same, William’s father lived in the same county, and their descendants’ DNA matches, so OF COURSE this is the right man. William Estes married to Addie has to be the son of William George Estes.

While these first three individual points are accurate, combined, they do NOT prove that the William married to Addie is the son of William George Estes, nor that the William Estes married to Addie is my father.

In order to bring the full picture into focus, one must consider the rest of the evidence, meaning following that paper trail and documentation for both men, tieing them to their parents, and accounting for their locations at various critical junctures. That, along with the actual matching cM amount and where it falls in the range of possible relationships.

No place is 139 cMs, the highest possible match in the 4C range, equivalent to half-siblings, half-niece/nephew, or even half-great-niece/nephew.

“I match, therefore I am,” is not a thing. It’s more like, “I match, therefore I might be, somehow.”

DNA matching is a launching pad, not a conclusion. Same with trees.

In Summary

If I had any residual doubt in my mind about this relationship, I could attempt to recruit one of William and Addie’s children or grandchildren to test. While I may well match them, I certainly won’t match them at the high level I’d expect of a half-sibling.

I would encourage anyone who marries my Dad to Addie in a tree and is a descendant to take a DNA test and see if we match at a half-sibling level or at 4th cousin level. Of course, we may not match at all which is possible for 4th cousins, but not for half-siblings, half-niece/nephews, or even half-great-niece/nephews.

In the meantime, I’m going to nicely provide this article link to anyone who marries Addie to my Dad in their trees, hoping they will be pleased to receive accurate information and we can stop the propagation of errors.

It would be nice to stop receiving “tree hints” about my father and Addie.

Heaven knows, Dad has more than enough wives already! He doesn’t need an accidental one.

_____________________________________________________________

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Barbara Sing, Seng or Sang (1645-1686), Childbirth Claimed Her – 52 Ancestors #364

Barbara Sing, Seng or Sang was born in Endersbach, Germany in 1645 to Hans Sing/Sang and Barbara Eckardt.

She was surely baptized in the church there, but records don’t exist from the period of the Thirty Years’ War.

Endersbach is just a mile and a quarter up the road from Beutelsbach.

There seemed to be a lot of interaction and intermarriage occurring between Beutelsbach and Endersbach families.

It’s interesting that while, according to the local heritage book, her father, Hans Sang was born in Endersbach, Barbara was the only one of her siblings born there.

Her mother, Barbara Eckardt was born in Beutelsbach, so clearly, the couple chose to live there after their marriage.

The fact that only one child was born in Endersbach, and that birth was during the 30 Years War makes me wonder if the family had to seek refuge in Endersbach during that timeframe.

The Beutelsbach records resume in 1646. We find Barbara’s younger sibling born in Beutelsbach on March 6, 1648. It’s possible that Barbara had a sibling born between 1645 and 1648 in Endersbach or elsewhere.

During the war, record-keeping either wasn’t possible or didn’t bubble up to the top of the priority list when simple survival was a struggle. The people had been brutalized by marauding armies and soldiers for, literally, 30 years – more than a generation. Farms, villages, and entire cities were burned, and their fields ruined. Food was scarce and no one was ever safe.

We know that Barbara was raised in Beutelsbach from 1648 forward, so from the time she was about three years old.

Martin Goll, historian and Beutelsbach resident tells us that Barbara was the daughter of Hans Sang who was a butcher and quite wealthy, at least comparatively, after the Thirty Years War.

8 Marktplatz

The Hans Sang home and butcher shop was located at 8 Marktplatz in Beutelsbach which still exists today, adjacent the fortified gate of the Beutelsbach church.

The home of Barbara’s beau and future husband, Hans Lenz, the son of another wealthy merchant was only 100 feet or so distant at Stiftstrasse 17..

The church, of course, was both the center of Beutelsbach and the center of the community. Having a shop near the church assured that parishioners would pass by your door several times a week.

Having the shop right next to the steps of the fortified tower entrance to the church assured that no one would forget to purchase meats. Today, someone would be out front giving samples and coupons to hungry parishioners after Sunday services😊.

In this photo of the church and tower, the building connected to the tower on the right, directly in front of the white automobile, is the Sing home, 8 Marktplatz.

We are fortunate to have a drawing of Beutelsbach from 1760.

The round fortified tower is visible to the right of the road, with the first house attached to that tower being the Sang home, pointed out by the yellow arrow. The Lenz home is the red arrow, as best I can tell.

This postcard from 1916 shows the gate, church, and adjacent buildings as well. I wonder if the drawing was from an earlier era.

Literally, everyone going to church passed by the door of the butcher shop.

Most villages only had one person practicing any profession, so Hans Sang was probably the only game in town anyway. I hope he did the actual butchering elsewhere, or at least not during church services.

Perhaps the good smells from the Lenz bakery a few feet away helped to overcome the odors emanating from the butcher’s shop which would have been attached to their home. Yes indeed, much more desirable to be the baker’s child.

Marriage

Barbara Sing married Hans Lenz on February 23, 1669, in Beutelsbach, in the church right next to her home.

Sharon Hockensmith took this photo inside the church when she was visiting. I don’t know how much of the interior was the same in 1669, but we can rest assured that the primary structure didn’t change. The choir loft, organ, and windows are likely original.

We don’t know if the custom of the time was to be married in the church proper, or in the adjacent parsonage. Regardless, Barbara and Hans would have attended this church every Sunday during their marriage, except when war, danger, childbirth, or illness interfered.

They probably saw this exact same scene hundreds of times, only with people dressed in clothing of their period.

Children

Barbara’s parents and in-laws were apparently both wealthy, but money can’t buy everything. In fact, it can’t purchase the things we cherish most in life.

Barbara and Hans had 11 children, beginning with their first child who was born in the late fall of 1669.

  • Anna Katharina Lenz was born on November 19, 1669, and married Simon Dendler, a widower from Schnait, on November 30, 1693, in Beutelsbach. However, Martin found no children in the church records. We don’t know what happened to Anna Katharina. They could have moved away and had children elsewhere.
  • Margaretha Lenz was born on January 24, 1671, and died July 13, 1678, in Beutelsbach, only 7 years old.
  • Barbara Lenz was born on March 10, 1672, and died July 11, 1678, two days before her sister, Margaretha. She was 6 years old.

These two sisters passing away two days apart tell us that either there was a communicable illness being passed around, or there was an outbreak of dysentery or something similar. As the only non-infant girls in the family, they probably slept together.

It may not have been a coincidence that the next year, 1679, saw a massive outbreak of plague. We know that malaria was present in Europe in 1678, having arrived on ships from Africa, but Beutelsbach is not a port city. I can’t help but wonder who else in the family was ill, and how many more Beutelsbach residents died in the summer of 1678.

Barbara, four months pregnant at the time, must have been heartbroken, losing her two little girls just two days apart.

  • Johann Georg Lenz was born on February 21, 1674, and died on April 2, 1758, in Beutelsbach of old age at 84. He married Sibilla Muller on February 2, 1698, also in Beutelsbach. After his parents passed away, he and Sibilla lived in the home place, continuing the vinedresser and vintner profession. Unfortunately, Johann George’s back was injured by falling stones. They had 8 children, 3 or 4 of whom lived to adulthood. Johann George and Sibilla are my ancestors.
  • Daniel Lenz was born November 14, 1675, and died November 7, 1758, seven months after his older brother. He married Anna Katharina Lang in 1702 and they had 8 children, 3 of whom lived to adulthood. Daniel was a vintner as well, but was described as having “stupid eyes” which likely meant he was either partially blind or cross-eyed. He did field work, fell down from an apple tree, and nearly died another time from choking on his own blood. Daniel couldn’t read but was an avid churchgoer and seemed to have a good life in spite of having “stupid eyes.”
  • Elisabetha Lenz was born July 27, 1677, and no death or marriage records are found for her, nor are any children’s baptismal records. She likely died young. I wonder if she died in the same outbreak that took her two sisters in July of 1678.
  • Anna Maria Lenz was born December 19, 1678, and died May 5, 1721, in Beutelsbach from a tumor. I’d love to know what kind of a tumor. She married Hans Jakob Bechtel about 1698. He was a baker, then a judge, and eventually, mayor. They had 12 children, 6 of whom lived to adulthood.
  • Johann Jakob Lenz, a vinedresser and vintner, was born April 19, 1680, and died on May 6, 1744, in Beutelsbach of “high-temperature gastric fever” which was probably dysentery, also known as “bloody flux.” He married Anna Katharina Knodler in 1717 in Grunbach. They had 8 children, of which two lived to adulthood. Two others died as young adults before marrying. Their last child was listed as “simple” at his baptism and likely did not survive.
  • Philip Lenz was born on November 2, 1681, and died September 24, 1737, in Beutelsbach at 56 years of age of melancholy. He was a vintner and married Justina Bohringer in 1716. They had 5 children, of whom 2 lived to adulthood and one died as a young adult of heatstroke.
  • Martin Lenz was born November 11, 1683, and died a few days later on November 27th.
  • Barbara Lenz, the last child, probably named for her mother, was born July 2, 1686. She died 25 days later, on July 27th, 17 days after her mother. Clearly, complications of childbirth took both mother and child.

Of the 41 grandchildren we know were born to Barbara, only 16 or 17 survived to adulthood. That’s a 61% mortality rate, meaning almost two-thirds of the children didn’t live to marriage age.

The Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper is merciless.

Barbara Sing died on July 10, 1686. We don’t know why, other than it was assuredly something to do with childbirth. It could have been Puerperal Fever, also known as childbed fever, which can lead to blood poisoning. However, her death could also have been a result of a hemorrhage, internal damage, or loss of a large amount of blood.

Given that the child died too, I’d be inclined to think that perhaps childbed fever was the culprit as a result of a long labor. The long labor could have caused the child’s death as well, especially if something went wrong, such as a breach birth.

Regardless, Barbara was gone. She was only 40 or 41 years old, and left several children behind.

  • Katherina was 17
  • Johann George was 12
  • Daniel was 10
  • Elisabetha, if she was living, would have turned 9 on the day her new sister, Barbara, died
  • Anna Maria was 7
  • Johann Jakob was 6
  • Philipp was 4

Barbara had to wonder, as she was desperately ill, who would raise her children?

Who would kiss their boo-boos?

Who would take care of them?

Fix their favorite foods?

Hold and comfort them?

Who would love them the way she loved them?

Would they remember her?

What about her newborn baby? Would she survive? How, without her mother’s milk?

And what was her husband, Hans, to do?

How could he possibly tend the vineyards, press the grapes, produce wine and maintain his business selling wines while looking after 7 or 8 children?

He couldn’t exactly take all the children to the fields with him, especially not a baby.

Those questions cross the mind of every mother from time to time. However, in Barbara’s case, this was very real and pressing – not an abstract thought.

Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper visited all too often in the days before antibiotics and modern medicine.

The good news, or bad news, or both, was that there were others in the same situation. Joining forces made sense.

A Step-Mother for Barbara’s Children

Barbara didn’t exactly get to select her successor – the woman who would raise her children after she could no longer do so.

Hans waited a respectable amount of time before remarrying, 12 months to be exact. The banns had to be posted for 3 weeks, and the minister would have posted and read the marriage banns on the first Sunday following the 1-year anniversary of Barbara’s death, inviting anyone who had any knowledge of why the couple shouldn’t marry to come forth.

On August 2, 1687, Hans married Barbara Roller(in) who was the widow of Sebastian Heubach from Endersbach. Barbara was born in 1748, so she would have been 39 years old when she married Hans. However, we find no children born to them, nor do I find any record of children born from her first marriage either, which occurred in 1672.

If Barbara already had children, she and Hans joined their families when they wed. If not, then perhaps Barbara welcomed the opportunity to become a mother and love the first Barbara Lenz’s children.

Step-parents are the parents who choose us.

Mitochondrial DNA Candidates

Mitochondrial DNA is a special type of DNA passed from mothers to their children, but only passed on by daughters. It’s never admixed with the DNA of the father, so it is passed on essentially unchanged, except for an occasional small mutation, for thousands of years. Those small mutations are what make this DNA both genealogically useful and provide a key to the past.

By looking at Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA, we can tell where her ancestors came from by evaluating information provided by the trail of tiny mutations.

Only one of Barbara’s daughters, Anna Maria who married Hans Jakob Bechtel (Bechthold,) is known to have lived to have children. Although, if two other daughters lived, it’s possible that either Anna Katharina (born 1669) or Elisabetha (born 1677) married and had children elsewhere.

Anna Maria Lenz Bechtel had two daughters who lived to adulthood, but only one married.

  • Anna Maria Bechtel was born in 1715 and married Jakob Siebold/Seybold of Grunbach. Their children were all born in Remshalden.
    • Anna Maria Seybold was born  in 1737 and married Johann Jacob Lenz in 1761, children unknown
    • Regina Dorothea Seybold was born in 1741, married Johann Wolfgang Bassler in 1765, and had one known daughter.
      • Johanna Bassler was born in 1785, married Johannes Wacker in 1814, and had three daughters, Johanna Elisabetha (1818), Dorothea Catharina (1822), and Carolina Friederica (1825.)
    • Anna Catharina Seybold born in 1751 married Johann Leonhard Wacker in 1813 in Remshalden. No known daughters.
    • Elisabeth Seybold born in 1752 married Johann Michael Weyhmuller in 1780 in Remshalden and had three daughters who lived to adulthood, married, and had daughters.
      • Anna Maria Weyhmuller born 1785, married Eberhard Sigmund Escher from Esslingen in 1807, but children are unknown.
      • Regina Dorothea Weyhmueller born 1787 and married Salomo Dautel in 1814 in Remshaulden. They immigrated to America in 1817, location and children unknown.
      • Elisabetha Weyhmueller born in 1792 and had daughter Jakobine Hottmann in 1819 with Daniel Hottmann. She then married Wilhelm Friedrich Espenlaub and had Josephina Friederika Espenlaub in 1830. Children unknown.

For anyone who descends from Barbara Sing through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Please reach out! Let’s see what we can discover about Barbara together!

_____________________________________________________________

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FamilyTreeDNA DISCOVER™ Launches – Including Y DNA Haplogroup Ages

FamilyTreeDNA just released an amazing new group of public Y DNA tools.

Yes, a group of tools – not just one.

The new Discover tools, which you can access here, aren’t just for people who have tested at FamilyTreeDNA . You don’t need an account and it’s free for everyone. All you need is a Y DNA haplogroup – from any source.

I’m going to introduce each tool briefly because you’re going to want to run right over and try Discover for yourself. In fact, you might follow along with this article.

Y DNA Haplogroup Aging

The new Discover page provides seven beta tools, including Y DNA haplogroup aging.

Haplogroup aging is THE single most requested feature – and it’s here!

Discover also scales for mobile devices.

Free Beta Tool

Beta means that FamilyTreeDNA is seeking your feedback to determine which of these tools will be incorporated into their regular product, so expect a survey.

If you’d like changes or something additional, please let FamilyTreeDNA know via the survey, their support line, email or Chat function.

OK, let’s get started!

Enter Your Haplogroup

Enter your Y DNA haplogroup, or the haplogroup you’re interested in viewing.

If you’re a male who has tested with FamilyTreeDNA , sign on to your home page and locate your haplogroup badge at the lower right corner.

If you’re a female, you may be able to test a male relative or find a haplogroup relevant to your genealogy by visiting your surname group project page to locate the haplogroup for your ancestor.

I’ll use one of my genealogy lines as an example.

In this case, several Y DNA testers appear under my ancestor, James Crumley, in the Crumley DNA project.

Within this group of testers, we have two different Big Y haplogroups, and several estimated haplogroups from testers who have not upgraded to the Big Y.

If you’re a male who has tested at either 23andMe or LivingDNA, you can enter your Y DNA haplogroup from that source as well. Those vendors provide high-level haplogroups.

The great thing about the new Discover tool is that no matter what haplogroup you enter, there’s something for you to enjoy.

I’m going to use haplogroup I-FT272214, the haplogroup of my ancestor, James Crumley, confirmed through multiple descendants. His son John’s descendants carry haplogroup I-BY165368 in addition to I-FT272214, which is why there are two detailed haplogroups displayed for this grouping within the Crumley haplogroup project, in addition to the less-refined I-M223.

Getting Started

When you click on Discover, you’ll be asked to register briefly, agree to terms, and provide your email address.

Click “View my report” and your haplogroup report will appear.

Y DNA Haplogroup Report

For any haplogroup you enter, you’ll receive a haplogroup report that includes 7 separate pages, shown by tabs at the top of your report.

Click any image to enlarge

The first page you’ll see is the Haplogroup Report.

On the first page, you’ll find Haplogroup aging. The TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) is provided, plus more!

The report says that haplogroup I-FT272214 was “born,” meaning the mutation that defines this haplogroup, occurred about 300 years ago, plus or minus 150 years.

James Crumley was born about 1710. We know his sons carry haplogroup I-FT272214, but we don’t know when that mutation occurred because we don’t have upstream testers. We don’t know who his parents were.

Three hundred years before the birth of our Crumley tester would be about 1670, so roughly James Crumley’s father’s generation, which makes sense.

James’ son John’s descendants have an additional mutation, so that makes sense too. SNP mutations are known to occur approximately every 80 years, on average. Of course, you know what average means…may not fit any specific situation exactly.

The next upstream haplogroup is I-BY100549 which occurred roughly 500 years ago, plus or minus 150 years. (Hint – if you want to view a haplogroup report for this upstream haplogroup, just click on the haplogroup name.)

There are 5 SNP confirmed descendants of haplogroup I-FT272214 claiming origins in England, all of whom are in the Crumley DNA project.

Haplogroup descendants mean this haplogroup and any other haplogroups formed on the tree beneath this haplogroup.

Share

If you scroll down a bit, you can see the share button on each page. If you think this is fun, you can share through a variety of social media resources, email, or copy the link.

Sharing is a good way to get family members and others interested in both genealogy and genetic genealogy. Light the spark!

I’m going to be sharing with collaborative family genealogy groups on Facebook and Twitter. I can also share with people who may not be genealogists, but who will think these findings are interesting.

If you keep scrolling under the share button or click on “Discover More” you can order Y DNA tests if you’re a biological male and haven’t already taken one. The more refined your haplogroup, the more relevant your information will be on the Discover page as well as on your personal page.

Scrolling even further down provides information about methods and sources.

Country Frequency

The next tab is Country Frequency showing the locations where testers with this haplogroup indicate that their earliest known ancestors are found.

The Crumley haplogroup has only 5 people, which is less than 1% of the people with ancestors from England.

However, taking a look at haplogroup R-M222 with many more testers, we see something a bit different.

Ireland is where R-M222 is found most frequently. 17% of the men who report their ancestors are from Ireland belong to haplogroup R-M222.

Note that this percentage also includes haplogroups downstream of haplogroup R-M222.

Mousing over any other location provides that same information for that area as well.

Seeing where the ancestors of your haplogroup matches are from can be extremely informative. The more refined your haplogroup, the more useful these tools will be for you. Big Y testers will benefit the most.

Notable Connections

On the next page, you’ll discover which notable people have haplogroups either close to you…or maybe quite distant.

Your first Notable Connection will be the one closest to your haplogroup that FamilyTreeDNA was able to identify in their database. In some cases, the individual has tested, but in many cases, descendants of a common ancestor tested.

In this case, Bill Gates is our closest notable person. Our common haplogroup, meaning the intersection of Bill Gates’s haplogroup and my Crumley cousin’s haplogroup is I-L1195. The SNP mutation that defines haplogroup I-L1145 occurred about 4600 years ago. Both my Crumley cousin and Bill Gates descend from that man.

If you’re curious and want to learn more about your common haplogroup, remember, you can enter that haplogroup into the Discover tool. Kind of like genetic time travel. But let’s finish this one first.

Remember that CE means current era, or the number of years since the year “zero,” which doesn’t technically exist but functions as the beginning of the current era. Bill Gates was born in 1955 CE

BCE means “before current era,” meaning the number of years before the year “zero.” So 2600 BCE is approximately 4600 years ago.

Click through each dot for a fun look at who you’re “related to” and how distantly.

This tool is just for fun and reinforces the fact that at some level, we’re all related to each other.

Maybe you’re aware of more notables that could be added to the Discover pages.

Migration Map

The next tab provides brand spanking new migration maps that show the exodus of the various haplogroups out of Africa, through the Middle East, and in this case, into Europe.

Additionally, the little shovel icons show the ancient DNA sites that date to the haplogroup age for the haplogroup shown on the map, or younger. In our case, that’s haplogroup I-M223 (red arrow) that was formed about 16,000 years ago in Europe, near the red circle, at left. These haplogroup ancient sites (shovels) would all date to 16,000 years ago or younger, meaning they lived between 16,000 years ago and now.

Click to enlarge

By clicking on a shovel icon, more information is provided. It’s very interesting that I-L1145, the common haplogroup with Bill Gates is found in ancient DNA in Cardiff, Wales.

This is getting VERY interesting. Let’s look at the rest of the Ancient Connections.

Ancient Connections

Our closest Ancient Connection in time is Gen Scot 24 (so name in an academic paper) who lived in the Western Isles of Scotland.

These ancient connections are more likely cousins than direct ancestors, but of course, we can’t say for sure. We do know that the first man to develop haplogroup I-L126, about 2500 years ago, is an ancestor to both Gen Scot 24 and our Crumley ancestor.

Gen Scot 24 has been dated to 1445-1268 BCE which is about 3400 years ago, which could actually be older than the haplogroup age. Remember that both dating types are ranges, carbon dating is not 100% accurate, and ancient DNA can be difficult to sequence. Haplogroup ages are refined as more branches are discovered and the tree grows.

The convergence of these different technologies in a way that allows us to view the past in the context of our ancestors is truly amazing.

All of our Crumley cousin’s ancient relatives are found in Ireland or Scotland with the exception of the one found in Wales. I think, between this information and the haplogroup formation dates, it’s safe to say that our Crumley ancestors have been in either Scotland or Ireland for the past 4600 years, at least. And someone took a side trip to Wales, probably settled and died there.

Of course, now I need to research what was happening in Ireland and Scotland 4600 years ago because I know my ancestors were involved.

Suggested Projects

I’m EXTREMELY pleased to see suggested projects for this haplogroup based on which projects haplogroup members have joined.

You can click on any of the panels to read more about the project. Remember that not everyone joins a project because of their Y DNA line. Many projects accept people who are autosomally related or descend from the family through the mitochondrial line, the direct mother’s line.

Still, seeing the Crumley surname project would be a great “hint” all by itself if I didn’t already have that information.

Scientific Details

The Scientific Details page actually has three tabs.

The first tab is Age Estimate.

The Age Estimate tab provides more information about the haplogroup age or TMRCA (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) calculations. For haplogroup I-FT272214, the most likely creation date, meaning when the SNP occurred, is about 1709, which just happens to align well with the birth of James Crumley about 1710.

However, anyplace in the dark blue band would fall within a 68% confidence interval (CI). That would put the most likely years that the haplogroup-defining SNP mutation took place between 1634 and 1773. At the lower end of the frequency spectrum, there’s a 99% likelihood that the common ancestor was born between 1451 and 1874. That means we’re 99% certain that the haplogroup defining SNP occurred between those dates. The broader the date range, the more certain we can be that the results fall into that range.

The next page, Variants, provides the “normal” or ancestral variant and the derived or mutated variant or SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) in the position that defines haplogroup I-FT272214.

The third tab displays FamilyTreeDNA‘s public Y DNA Tree with this haplogroup highlighted. On the tree, we can see this haplogroup, downstream haplogroups as well as upstream, along with their country flags.

Your Personal Page

If you have already taken a DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can find the new Discover tool conveniently located under “Additional Tests and Tools.”

If you are a male and haven’t yet tested, then you’ll want to order a Y DNA test or upgrade to the Big Y for the most refined haplogroup possible.

Big Y tests and testers are why the Y DNA tree now has more than 50,000 branches and 460,000 variants. Testing fuels growth and growth fuels new tools and possibilities for genealogists.

What Do You Think?

Do you like these tools?

What have you learned? Have you shared this with your family members? What did they have to say? Maybe we can get Uncle Charley interested after all!

Let me know how you’re using these tools and how they are helping you interpret your Y DNA results and assist your genealogy.

_____________________________________________________________

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William Crumley’s Original 1792 Will Surfaces – 52 Ancestors #360

Sometimes late at night, just before I go to bed, I check MyHeritage for Record Hints and Ancestry for those little green leaf hints.

One recent midnight, I noticed a hint at Ancestry for William Crumley II. Of course, I have to have three William Crumley’s in a row in my tree.

Clicking on this hint revealed West Virginia Wills.

Of course, the first thing I noticed was that West Virginia wasn’t formed as a state until 1863, but I also know that counties and their earlier records “go with” their county into a new state. Berkeley County was formed from Frederick County, Virginia in 1772.

However, William Crumley II died between 1837 and 1840 in Lee County, Virginia, so I wasn’t very hopeful about this hint. Nonetheless, I clicked because, hey, you never know what you might discover. That’s why they’re called hints, right?

Hint 1 – The Will Book

I discovered the Berkeley County Clerk’s Will Book where William Crumley the first’s will had been dutifully copied into the Will Book on pages 185 and 186 after it was “proved” in court by witnesses on September 17, 1793. Witnesses who proved a will swore that they saw him sign the original and the will submitted was that same, unmodified, document.

This William Crumley is not William Crumley II, where this hint appeared, but his father, who did not have this hint.

I’ve been in possession of that will information for several years, so there was no new information here.

While I always read these wills, even when I have a typewritten published transcription, I know that the handwriting and the signature is not original to the person who wrote the will. The handwriting is that of the clerk.

To begin with, the signature of the deceased person can’t possibly be original after he died. William’s will was written and signed on September 30, 1792, almost exactly a year before it was probated on September 17, 1793. William was clearly ill and thinking about his family after his demise.

Given that court was held every three months, William likely died sometime between June and September of 1793.

I really wish Ancestry would not provide hints for a 1792/3 will for a man who died between 1837 and 1840.

My ancestor, William II who died in about 1840 is at least mentioned in his father’s will as a child. However, if I saved this will to William II from this hint, Ancestry would have recorded this event as his will, not the will of his father, so I declined this hint. I did, however, later connect this document to William I, even though Ancestry did NOT provide this document as a hint for him.

Hint 2 – 1764 Tax List

I clicked on the next green leaf hint for William II. A tax list for 1764. Nope, not him either given that William II wasn’t born for another three years.

Next.

Hint 3 – Executor’s Bond

Something else from Berkeley County attached to the wrong person, again.

Bother.

What’s this one?

Executor’s bonds for William Crumley’s estate who died in 1793. Now this is interesting because the bond includes the signatures of the executors, including William’s wife Sarah. I got VERY excited until I remembered that Sarah was William’s second wife and not my ancestor.

Not to mention this record dated in 1793 is still being served up on the wrong William Crumley – the same-name son of the man who died in 1793.

Worse yet, these hints did NOT exist on the correct William Crumley the first who I wrote about, here.

Ok, fine.

There’s one more hint for William II before bedtime.

Hint 4 – Berkeley County AGAIN

What’s this one?

I saw that it was from Berkeley County and almost dismissed the hint without looking. By that time, I was tired and grumpy and somewhat frustrated with trying to save records to the right person and not the person for whom the hints were delivered.

Am I EVER glad that I didn’t just click on “Ignore.”

Accidental Gold

Staring at me was the ORIGINAL WILL of William Crumley the first in a packet of Loose Probate Papers from 1772-1885 that I didn’t even know existed. I thought I had previously exhausted all available resources for this county, but I clearly had not. I’m not sure the contemporary clerks even knew those loose records existed and even if they did, they probably weren’t indexed.

Thankfully, they’ve been both scanned and (partially) indexed by Ancestry. They clearly aren’t perfect, but they are good enough to be found and sometimes, that’s all that matters. I’d rather find a hint for the wrong person so I can connect the dots than no hint at all.

My irritation pretty much evaporated.

There’s additional information provided by Ancestry which is actually incorrect, so never presume accuracy without checking for yourself. The date they are showing as the probate date is actually the date the will was executed. If I were to save this record without checking, his death/probate would be shown as September 30, 1792. That’s clearly NOT the probate nor William’s death date.

Not to mention, there were many more than 3 additional people listed in this document. There was a wife, 15 children, and the 4 witnesses to the will itself. I actually found another two names buried in the text for a total of 22 people.

Always, always read the original or at least the clerk’s handwritten copy in the Will Book.

Originals are SELDOM Available

I’ve only been lucky enough to find original wills in rare cases where the will was kept in addition to the Will Book copy, a later lawsuit ensued, or the will surfaced someplace. The original will document is normally returned to the family after being copied into the book after being proven in court.

For some reason, William’s original will was retained in the loose papers that included the original estate inventory as well. That inventory was also copied into the will book a couple of months later. Unfortunately, I’ve never found the sale document which includes the names of the purchasers.

Normally, the original will is exactly the same as the clerk’s copy in the Will Book. It should be exact, but sometimes there are differences. Some minor and some important. The will book copy is normally exact or very close to a copy transcribed by someone years later. Every time something is copied manually, there’s an opportunity for error.

Therefore, I always, always read the will, meaning the document closest in person and in time to the original, just in case. You never know. I have discovered children who were omitted in later copies or documents.

In his will, William stated that he had purchased his plantation from his brother, John Crumley. Their father, James Crumley had willed adjoining patented land to his sons, John and William. I was not aware that William had purchased John’s portion, probably when John moved to South Carolina about 1790.

William states that his plantation should be sold by the executors. The purchaser was to make payments but the land “not to be given up to the purchaser till the 26th of March in the year 1795 which is the expiration of John Antram’s (?) lease upon it.” It’s unclear whether William was referring only to the plantation he purchased from John, or if he’s referring to the combined property that he received from his father and that he purchased from John as “his plantation.”

This also tells us that William clearly didn’t expect to live until the end of that lease. The fact that the land was leased was probably a result of his poor health even though he wasn’t yet 60 years old. This also makes me wonder how long he had been ill.

William also explicitly says he has 15 children, then proceeds to name them, one by one. Unfortunately for everyone involved, William’s youngest 10 children were all underage, with the baby, Rebecca, being born about 1792.

William probably wrote his will in his brick home, above, with a newborn infant crying in the background. Sarah, his wife must have been distraught, wondering what she would do and how she would survive with 10 mouths to feed, plus any of his older children from his first marriage who remained at home. The good news, if there is any, is that the older children could help. Sarah was going to need a lot of help!

I surely would love to know what happened to William.

I can close my eyes and see the men gathered together, sitting in a circle that September 30th in 1792. It was Sunday, probably after church and after “supper” which was served at noon. William might have been too ill to attend services.

Maybe one man was preparing a quill pen and ink at a table. William spoke thoughtfully, perhaps sitting on the porch or maybe even under the tree, and the man inked his feather and wrote. You could hear the feather scratch its way across the single crisp sheet of paper. William enunciated slow, measured words, conveying his wishes to the somber onlookers who would bear witness to what he said and that, at the end, when he was satisfied, they had seen him sign the document.

From time to time, someone would nod or clear their throat as William spoke. At one point, the scrivener made a mistake and had to scratch out a couple words. Or perhaps, it wasn’t the scrivener’s error. Maybe William misspoke or someone asked him if he really meant what he said. It’s heartbreaking to write your will with a house full of young children. He knew he was dying. Men of that place and time only wrote wills when they knew the end was close at hand.

Of course, we find the obligatory language about Sarah remaining his widow. He tried to provide for Sarah even after his death. Sarah was 15 years or so younger than William and died in 1809 when she was about 59 years old. Her baby would have been about 17 years old, so she was about 40 or so when William wrote his will and died, with a whole passel of kids.

William appointed one David Faulkner, probably related to his brother John’s wife, Hannah Faulkner, along with his wife, Sarah Crumley, as his executors. Sarah’s stepfather was Thomas Faulkner, who was also her bondsman. David may have been her brother, so William probably felt secure that Sarah’s interests would be looked after.

The selection of executors may tell us indirectly that son William Crumley II had already left for the next frontier, Greene County, TN. William II was listed on the Berkeley County tax list in 1789, but not again, suggesting he had already packed up and moved on, probably before his father became ill.

But here’s the best part, on the next page…William Crumley’s actual original signature.

I wonder if this was the last time he signed his name.

Signature Doppelganger

It’s extremely ironic that the signature of his son, William Crumley the second, looks almost identical to the signature of William the first, above. We know absolutely that this was the signature of the eldest William, and we know positively that later signatures in 1807 and 1817 in Greene County, Tennessee were his son’s.

This nearly identical signature of father and son suggests that perhaps William Crumley the eldest taught his son how to write.

The family was Quaker. We know William’s father, James Crumley was a rather roudy Quaker, and William the first married Quaker Sarah Dunn in 1774, after his first wife’s death. That marriage is recorded in the Quaker minutes because Sarah had married “contrary to discipline” which tells us that William Crumley was not at that time a Quaker, or had previously been dismissed.

Quakers were forbidden from many activities. If you were a Quaker, you couldn’t marry non-Quakers, marry a first cousin, marry your first spouse’s first cousin, marry your former husband’s half-uncle, administer oaths, do something unsavory like altering a note, purchase a slave, dance, take up arms, fight, game, move away without permission, encourage gambling by lending money, train or participate in the militia, hire a militia substitute, attend muster, or even slap someone. Every year, several people were “disowned” for these violations along with failing to attend meetings, failing to pay debts, moving away without settling business affairs, or helping someone else do something forbidden, like marry “contrary to discipline.” Heaven forbid that you’d attend one of those forbidden marriage ceremonies or worse yet, join the Baptists or Methodists!

It’s unknown if William returned to the Quaker Church although it’s doubtful, because in 1774 Sarah is listed as one of the persons “disowned” for marrying him, and there is no reinstatement note or date. Furthermore, in 1781, William was among the Berkeley County citizens who provided supplies for the use of the Revolutionary armies.

One certificate (receipt) dated September 30, 1781 indicated that he and three others, including his wife’s brother William Dunn and her stepfather Thomas Faulkner were entitled to 225 pounds for eleven bushels and a peck of wheat.

We also know that William Crumley owned a slave when he died and Quakers were prohibited from owning slaves based on the belief that all human beings are equal and worthy of respect. Regardless, many Quakers continued to own slaves but purchasing a slave, at least at Hopewell, caused you to be “disowned.”

Still, William may have sent his children to be educated at the Quaker school given that the Quaker school was the only educational option other than teaching your children yourself. Quaker schools were open to non-Quaker children. We know, based on the books ordered in the 1780s for local students in multiple languages that the school was educating and welcoming non-Quaker children too.

The Hopewell Quaker Meeting House (church) built an official schoolhouse in 1779, but it’s likely that school had been being conducted in the Meeting House before a separate school building was constructed. By that time, William Crumley the second would have been 12 years old and had likely already been taught the basics, perhaps by his father.

Of course, the William Crumley family at some point, probably in 1764 when William’s father James Crumley died, if not before, had moved up the road and across the county line to Berkeley County which was about seven and a half miles from the Hopewell Meeting House (and school). That was quite a distance, so William the first may have been instructing his own children, making sure they knew how to read and write and sign their names.

No wonder his son’s signature looks exactly like his.

Education and the Hopewell Meeting House

In 1934, the Hopewell Friends History was published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the church which provided a great deal of historical information about the church itself, that part of Frederick County and the Quaker families. Unfortunately, the notes from 1734 to 1759 were lost when the clerk’s home burned, along with most of the 1795 minutes later.

Based on his will, William clearly placed a very high value on education. He instructed that his “widdow Sarah Crumley shall rays my children together to give them learning out of the profits that arises from my estate, the boys to read, write and cifer, the girls to read and write.” Apparently, females weren’t perceived to need “cifering.”

William himself would have attended school at Hopewell after his family moved from Chester County, PA in 1744 when he was 9 or 10 years old.

William’s children, following in his footsteps, may well have attended the Hopewell School or perhaps another brick school that existed near White Hall, about halfway between The Crumley home and the Hopewell Meeting House, although it’s unclear exactly when that school was established.

Many Quakers mentioned in the 1800s in the church notes are buried at what is now the White Hall United Methodist Church on Apple Pie Ridge Road. The earliest burial there with a stone is 1831 which seems to be when headstones began to be used in the area.

William also directed his funeral expenses to be paid, of course, and his executors sold a steer to pay for his coffin.

It’s doubtful that William is buried here, in the Hopewell Cemetery, unless he reconciled with the church. William’s parents are most likely buried here. His father, James, died in 1764 and his mother, Catherine, died about 1790. William would have gazed across this cemetery as a child attending services and stood here during many funerals, possibly including the service of his own first wife, Hannah Mercer, and perhaps some of their children.

I wonder if it ever occurred to him as a child that he might one day rest here himself.

No early marked graves remain before the 1830s, but people had been buried here for a century in unmarked graves by that time.

I can’t help but think of William the first, as a child, probably attending school in this building, peering out these windows, after his family moved from Pennsylvania in the early 1740s. He worshiped here on Sundays. Perhaps his son, William II and his older children attended school here some three decades later.

This stately tree in the cemetery was likely a sapling when William was a young man.

Given that William seems to have left the Quaker Church, willingly or otherwise sometime before 1774 and probably before 1759, it’s much more likely that William is buried in the cemetery right across the road from his home in an unmarked grave adjacent and behind what is now the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church.

I don’t know, but I’d wager that this is the old Crumley family cemetery.

Perhaps William was the first person to be buried here, or maybe his first wife or one of his children. His brother, John, may have buried children here too.

Almost Too Late

Thank goodness William’s original will was microfilmed when it was, because the pages were torn and had to be carefully unfolded and repaired. William’s will might have been beyond saving soon. After all, his will had been folded several times and stored in what was probably a metal document box, just waiting to be freed, for more than 225 years.

There is information on these original documents that just isn’t available elsewhere.

It’s interesting to note the legal process that took place when wills were brought to court when someone died. The clerk wrote on the back of the will, below William’s signature, on what would likely have been the outside of the folded document that the will had been proven in open court (OP), he had recorded and examined the will and that the executors had complied with the law and a certificate was granted to them.

I believe the bottom right writing is No. 2 Folio 185 which correlated to the book and page.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that William’s original will still exists and got tucked away for posterity. I’m ever so grateful to Mr. Hunter, that long-deceased Clerk of Court who is responsible for resurrecting William’s signature, the only tangible personal item of William’s left today, save for a few DNA segments in his descendants.

Flowers, looking into the window of the Hopewell Meeting House.

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Dorcas Johnson’s Mitochondrial DNA Secret Revealed – 52 Ancestors #357

Dorcas (also spelled Darcus) Johnson was born about 1750 and died about 1835. We know she died in Claiborne County, Tennessee, but the location of her birth has always been assumed to be Virginia.

You know there’s already trouble brewing when you read that assume word, right?

Dorcas, in the early genealogies, was reported to be the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, but always a skeptic, I had my doubts. I’m working through the various options to prove or disprove that connection. I wrote about my initial findings, here.

What we do know, positively, about Dorcas is that she married Jacob Dobkins in Dunmore County, Virginia, in 1775. There’s no date listed, but it is shown between the September and October marriages.

Dunmore County was renamed as Shenandoah a few years later, so all of the early Dunmore County records aren’t “missing,” they are Shenandoah County records.

Dorcas and Jacob migrated to eastern Tennesee, probably before Tennessee was even a state n the 1790s, settling in Jefferson County on the White Horn Branch of Bent Creek, Near Bull’s Gap. By 1800, they had moved once again to the fledgling Claiborne County when it was first formed. Dorcas Johnson and Jacob Dobkins spent the rest of their lives in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

The Johnson Books

Peter Johnson’s descendants wrote several early books in the 1900s about that family, specifically focused on the child they descended from. More recently, Eric E. Johnson wrote a book where he distilled the earlier books and added a great deal of original research compiled over decades. Eric has very graciously shared and I am ever so grateful for his generosity.

Dorcas’s Siblings

Not all early books report the same children for Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, so I’ve prepared a composite list of children, as follows:

  • Richard (Derrick, Derrie) Johnson (1746-1818) married Dorcas Dungan in Pennsylvania and later, Elizabeth Nash in Westmoreland County, PA. Richard was born in Cumberland County, PA and died in Jefferson County, Ohio.
  • Dorcas Johnson (c1748/1750 – c1831/1835) married Jacob Dobkins in 1775 in Dunmore/Shenandoah County. Dorcas is reported in one of the early Johnson books and was reported to have married Reuben Dobkins. She married Reuben’s brother, Jacob. Jacob’s other brother, Evan Dobkins, married one Margaret Johnson, earlier in 1775 in the same location where Dorcas married. However, Margaret Johnson is not listed in any of the Johnson books.
  • James Johnson (1752-1826), was born in Pennsylvania and died in Lawrence County, Illinois after having lived in Indiana for some time. He married Elizabeth Lindsay in 1783.
  • Solomon Johnson (1765-1843), apparently the youngest child was born near Greencastle, Cumberland (now Franklin) County, Pennsylvania and died in Forward Township, Allegheny County, PA. He inherited his father’s land and married the neighbor, Frances (Fanny) Warne in 1790. It was Solomon’s Bible records that provided Peter Johnson’s wife’s name as Mary Philips. It’s worth noting that Solomon named a daughter, Dorcas, and the Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins named a son Solomon.

Two other sources report Peter’s wife’s first name as Polly which is a well-known nickname for Mary. The only source for Mary Polly Phillips’ surname is the Solomon Johnson Bible.

Four additional daughters are reported with much less specific information available.

  • Mary Johnson – Nothing known.
  • Polly Johnson – Nothing known, although it has been speculated that Mary and Polly were one person, and possibly Richard’s only child by his first wife that Peter Johnson and Mary/Polly Philips took to raise when Richard’s wife died. If this is the case, then Mary would have been born about 1768 and can therefore NOT be the Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins in 1775.
  • Rebecca Johnson, possibly born about 1762. One book states that Rebecca married John Stephens or Stevens and moved to Monongahela County, West Virginia but nothing more is known. This same source states that Stephens served with Richard Johnson in the Revolutionary War, although that could be militia duty. This line needs to be fleshed out and could prove critical. What happened to Rebecca Johnson?
  • Rachel Johnson is reported to have married a John Dobkins and possibly moved to Knox County, Indiana, but nothing more is known. Jacob Dobkins’ brother, John Dobkins married Elizabeth Holman. It’s possible that there’s an unknown brother, or Rachel is the Johnson daughter who married Reuben Dobkins. Dorcas was reported to have married Reuben, but she married Jacob.

In the various Johnson books, two Johnson daughters are reported to have married Dobkins men, and indeed, that’s exactly what happened, but the first names don’t match exactly

If indeed Dorcas Johnson is the full sibling of Mary, Polly, Rebecca or Rachel Johnson, they would carry the same mitochondrial DNA passed to them from their mother – which they in turn would have passed on.

This means that if we can locate someone descended from those daughters through all females to the current generation (which can be male), their mitochondrial DNA should match at the full sequence level.

In summary, we know very little about Mary Polly Philips herself. We don’t know who her parents were, nor if she had siblings. We also don’t really know how many children, specifically daughters, she had.

Where Did Mary Polly Philips Come From?

One of the books reports that Mary Polly Philip’s son, Richard, born in 1746, also known as Derrie, was born in Amsterdam. We know this cannot be true because Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips were already living in Antrim Township of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania by 1742 when he obtained a land grant.

However, since Derrie is a Dutch nickname for Richard, the story that Dorcas was Dutch, or spoke Dutch, may have originated from this nickname. This does beg the question of how Richard obtained that nickname.

The Pennsylvania Dutch settled heavily in Cumberland County where the couple is first found, so it’s possible that Mary Polly may have spoken German. Regardless, one of the family histories states that she didn’t speak English when she married Peter Johnson which raises the question of how they communicated.

Of course, this is confounding given that many early genealogies suggest or state that they were either Scottish, Scots-Irish or Welsh. One history suggests that Peter settled at Wilmington, Delaware, then lived at Head of Elk, Maryland which are both Swedish settlements.

Peter Johnson was supposed to have a brother James and they were both supposed to be from Scotland, with noble peerage, nonetheless.

And another report had Peter sailing from Amsterdam where he had been born.

Clearly these can’t all be true.

Bottom line is this – we don’t know anything about where either Peter or his wife’s families originated. The first actual data we have is Peter’s 1742 land grant in Cumberland County, PA, an area settled by both the Germans and Scots-Irish.

We have a real mystery on our hands.

Not to mention that we still don’t know positively that the Dorcas reported in Peter Johnson’s line who married a Reuben Dobkins is the same person as “my” Dorcas who married Jacob Dobkins. However, given the autosomal matches, I’m quite comfortable at this point, between both documentary and genetic evidence, in confidently adding Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips as Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ parents.

Well, that is, unless someone or something proves me wrong.

One thing is abundantly clear, if Dorcas isn’t their daughter, she’s related to them in some fashion because many of Peter Johnson’s descendants and Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ descendants match and triangulate when comparing autosomal DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA

Dorcas Johnson inherited her mitochondrial DNA from her mother, whoever that was, who inherited it from her mother, on up the line.

Mitochondrial DNA is never mixed with the DNA of the father, so it’s never divided or diluted. In other words, except for an occasional mutation, it’s passed intact from mothers to all of their children. However, only females pass it on.

In the current generation, males can take a mitochondrial DNA test so long as they descend through all females from the ancestor whose mitochondrial DNA is being sought. In other words, their mother’s mother’s mother’s line on up the tree through all mothers.

I’ve been fortunate enough to find two direct descendants of Dorcas Johnson Dobkins through all female lines (different daughters) who were kind enough to take a mitochondrial DNA test.

Not only did they match each other, they also matched other people at the full sequence level.

What did we discover?

Haplogroup

Dorcas’s descendants were determined to be haplogroup H2a1, a European haplogroup found dispersed widely across Europe.

This can put to rest any speculation about Native American heritage which often arises when a woman’s parents are unknown.

What Information Can Be Gleaned from the Haplogroup Alone?

Using the public mitochondrial DNA tree, we can see that H2a1 is found in 57 countries as identified by testers’ earliest known ancestor (EKA) entries.

This is one reason why it’s important to enter earliest ancestor information (under the gear when you mouse over your name in the upper right-hand corner, under Genealogy in Account Settings.)

But that’s not the only reason to enter as much information as possible. Everyone helps everyone else in genetic genealogy by providing complete information, or as complete as possible.

Matches

Dorcas’s descendants who took the mitochondrial DNA test have a total of 299 HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Region matches. Today, testers can only order the mtFull product which tests the entire 16,569 locations of the mitochondria. Years back, people could order a partial test that only tested part of the mitochondria, called the HVR1 (HVR=Hypervariable Region) or the combined HVR1 & HVR2 regions.

You can select to view matches at the full sequence level, or people you match at the HVR1 or HVR2 level which will include people who did not take the higher mtFull test.

While some people are inclined to ignore their HVR1 and HVR2 results, I don’t because I’m always on the hunt for someone with a common ancestor or other useful information who did NOT test at the full sequence level.

You just never know where you’re going to find that critical match so don’t neglect any potential place to find leads.

To begin, I’m focusing on the full sequence matches that have a genetic distance of 0. GD0 simply means those testers match exactly with no mutations difference.

My cousin has 9 exact matches.

Matilda Holt is Dorcas’s granddaughter.

I viewed the trees for the closest matches and added some additional info.

I viewed the trees, worked several back in time, and found a few other testers who also descend from Dorcas.

One match remains a tantalizing mystery.

Bobby’s line hits a dead-end in Claiborne County, Tennessee, but I cannot connect the dots in Dorcas’s line.

Evan Dobkins, Jacob’s brother who married Margaret Johnson lived in Washington County, VA until the 1790s, but reportedly died in Claiborne County about 1835. Bobby’s EKA could be a grandchild of Dorcas that is previously unknown. She could also be the granddaughter of Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins. I traced his line back to a woman born in 1824 and noted as Catherine Brooks in her marriage to Thomas Brooks in 1847. The Brooks family were close neighbors and did intermarry with the Dobkins family.

I emailed my cousin’s other matches; Karen, Catherine, Leotta, and Betty, and heard back from only one with no information.

With no earliest known ancestor, no tree, and no reply, I’m stuck on these matches, at least for now.

Let’s take a look at the GD1 matches, meaning those with one mutation difference and see what we can find there.

GD1 Matches

My cousin has 36 GD1 matches, meaning one mutation difference. Might they be useful?

Hmmm, well, here’s something interesting. With one exception, these earliest known ancestors certainly are not English, Welsh or Scots-Irish. They also aren’t German or Dutch.

I attempted to build a tree for Sarah Anna Wilson who was born in 1823 and died in 1858, but without additional information, I quickly ran into too much ambiguity.

Maybe there’s better information in the rest of the GD1 matches’ earliest known ancestors.

These people all look to be…Scandinavian?

Let’s take a look at the Matches Map.

Matches Map

On the matches map, only a few of the 36 GD1 matches filled in the location of their earliest known ancestor. This can be done on either the matches map, or when you complete the earliest known ancestor information.

Exact matches are red, and GD1, 1 step matches, are orange.

All 10 of the GD1 matches that have completed their locations are found in Scandinavia, one in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, with the rest concentrated in Finland.

In fact, the largest cluster anyplace is found in Finland, with a second pronounced cluster along the eastern side of Sweden.

Generally speaking, the green 3-step matches would be “older” or more distant than the yellow 2-step matches that would be older than the orange one-step matches which would be older than the red exact matches.

What Does This Mean?

I’d surely like more data. Scandinavian testers are wonderful about entering their EKA information, as compared to many US testers, but I’d still like to see more. Some show ancestors but no location, and some show nothing evident.

I’m going to dig.

Where Can I Find More Info?

For each person, I’m going to utilize several resources, as follows:

  • Trees on FamilyTreeDNA (please, let there be trees)
  • Earliest known ancestor (EKA)
  • Ancestry/MyHeritage/FamilySearch to extend trees or location locations for listed ancestors
  • Email address on tester’s profile card
  • Google their name, ancestor or email
  • Social media
  • Surnames/locations on their FamilyTreeDNA profile card
  • WikiTree/Geni and other publicly available resources

Even just the email address of a tester can provide me with a country. In this case, Finland. If the tester lives in Finland today, there’s a good chance that their ancestor was from Finland too.

Sometimes the Ancestral Surnames provide locations as well.

Search everyplace.

Create A New Map

Using Google My Maps, a free tool, I created a new map with only the GD1 matches and the location information that I unearthed.

I found at least general (country level) locations for a total of 30 of 36 GD1 matches. Ten are the locations provided by the testers on the Matches Map, but I found an additional 26. All of the locations, with one exception, were found in either Finland or Sweden. One was found in Denmark.

Some locations were the same for multiple testers, but they did not have the same ancestors.

While I’m still missing 6 GD1 match locations, with one exception noted previously, the names of the matches look Scandinavian as well.

This message is loud and clear.

Dorcas’s ancestors were Scandinavian before they came to the US. There’s no question. And likely from Finland.

Thoughts

So, maybe Dorcas really didn’t speak English.

But if she didn’t speak English, how did she communicate with her Scottish or Scots-Irish or maybe Dutch husband? The language of love only suffices under specific circumstances😊

And how did they get to Pennsylvania?

But wait?

Didn’t one of the family histories suggest that Peter Johnson was from Wilmington, Delaware and then from Head of Elk, now Elkton, Maryland?

Weren’t those both Swedish settlements?

Head of Elk, Maryland

Sure enough, Head of Elk, Maryland was settled by Swedish mariners and fishermen from Fort Casimir, Delaware, now New Castle, in 1694 – just 15 miles or so upriver.

Here, moving right to left, we see Fort Casmir, Delaware, then Elkton, Maryland, followed by the location on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania where Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips settled in 1742.

One of those early Johnson books says that Peter Johnson spent some time in Frederick County, Virginia which would be near Winchester, Virginia, halfway between 1742 and 1775 on the map. However, many modern researchers discount that and presume that Virginia was mistaken for Maryland. The 1742 land bordered on and extended into Frederick County, Maryland.

However, since Dorcas Johnson married Jacob Dobkins whose father lived on Holman Creek in Dunmore County in 1775, and Rachel Johnson was supposed to have married a John Dobkins, and, Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins, Peter Johnson HAD to have spent at least some time in that location in 1775 if these were his daughters. Those girls were certainly not traveling alone during the Revolutionary War.

By 1780, Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips were in Allegheny County, by Pittsburg where they spent the rest of their lives.

Their daughters had moved on to East Tennessee with their Dobkins husbands, assuming that indeed, Dorcas Johnson is the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips.

Conclusions Anyone?

I’m always hesitant to draw conclusions.

However, I would suggest the following:

  • I would expect Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA to be found in a Swedish settlement that also happened to include people from Finland and Denmark.
  • It would be unlikely for Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA to be found in a heavily Scots-Irish and German area such as Cumberland County, PA and Frederick County, MD.
  • We have several triangulated matches between my cousin, Greg, who descends from one of Peter Johnson’s sons and Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ descendants through multiple children.
  • I match several people autosomally who descend from Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips through their other children.
  • Mary Polly Phillips doesn’t sound very Scandinavian. Was her name anglicized?

How Can We Firm This Up?

The best way to verify that Dorcas Johnson descends from Mary Polly Phillips is to test another person who descends through all females to the current generation through a different daughter. If they are sisters, both descending from Mary Polly Phillips, their descendants’ mitochondrial DNA will match very closely if not exactly.

The only other potential daughters are:

  • Rachel who is reported to have married a Dobkins male, possibly John, and maybe moved to Knox County, Indiana.
  • Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins, but she isn’t reported as a daughter of Mary Polly Phillips.
  • Rebecca who may have married John Stephens and might have moved to West Virginia.

That’s a whole lot of maybe.

Finding Rebecca and a mitochondrial DNA descendant would be a huge step in the right direction. The only record I can find that might be Rebecca is in December of 1821 when John Stephens’ will is probated in Boone County, KY with wife, Rachel, daughters Salley, Catharine, Rebecca, Mary, and Rachel who is encouraged to never go back to live with John Smith. Wonderful, a Smith – every genealogists nightmare.

If you descend from this couple, PLEASE get in touch with me!

It doesn’t look like this avenue is very promising, so let’s think outside the box and get creative.

Peter Johnson’s Y DNA

Given that Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips were married, they assuredly had to be able to talk, so either she spoke English, or he spoke her Native tongue.

One of the stories about Peter’s family is that he was either Swedish or Dutch, and that his family was from the New Sweden settlement in America.

If this is accurate, then Peter Johnson would have Scandinavian Y and mitochondrial DNA. Since men don’t pass their mitochondrial DNA on to their offspring, that route is not available to us, but what about his Y DNA?

Is there a Y DNA test through a Johnson male descendant of Peter Johnson, and if so, what information does it convey?

Can we use the Y DNA test of a descendant of Peter Johnson to help confirm that Dorcas Johnson is the daughter of Mary Polly Philips? How would that work?

Stay tuned!

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DNA Shows Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips Are My Relatives, But Are They My Ancestors? – 52 Ancestors #350

One of the requests by several people for 2022 article topics revolved in some way around solving challenges and showing my work.

In this case, I’m going to show both my work and the work of a newly-discovered cousin, Greg Simkins.

Let’s start by reminding you of something I said last week in Darcus Johnson (c1750-c1835) Chain Carrier – Say What??.

Darcus is reported in many trees to be the daughter of Peter Johnson (Johnston, Johnstone) and his wife Mary Polly Phillips. Peter reportedly lived in Pennsylvania and died in Allegheny County, PA. However, I am FAR from convinced that this couple was Darcus’s parents.

The distance from Shenandoah County, VA to Allegheny Co., PA is prohibitive for courting.

The Shenandoah County records need to be thoroughly researched with various Johnson families reconstructed. I’m hoping that perhaps someone has already done that and a Johnson family was living not terribly far from Jacob Dobkins father, John Dobkins. That would be the place to start.

Greg, Peter Johnson’s descendant through son James reached out to me.

Hi Roberta, I read your essay today on Dorcas Johnson. I wanted to write to you because I am a descendant of Dorcas’s brother James and have DNA matches to support our connection.

Clearly, I was very interested, but I learned long ago not to get too excited.

Then, Greg kindly shared his tree and DNA results with me. He was also generous enough to allow me to incorporate his information into this article. So yes, this article is possible entirely thanks to Greg.

I was guardedly excited about Greg’s communication, but I wasn’t prepared for the HUGE shock about to follow!

Whoa!!!

Greg has done his homework and stayed after school.

First, he tracked the descendants of Peter through all of his children, to present, where possible, and added them into his trees at the genealogy vendors. The vendors can do much better work for you with as much ammunition as you can provide.

Second, he has doggedly tracked matches at MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, Ancestry and GEDmatch that descend through Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips’s children. By doggedly, I mean he has spent hundreds to thousands of hours by his estimation – and based on what I see, I would certainly agree. In doing so, he pushed his own line back from his great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Johnson, three generations to Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips – and proved its accuracy using DNA.

Altogether, Greg has identified almost 250 matches that descend from Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips, and mapped those segments across his chromosomes.

Greg made notes for each match by entering the number of matching cMs into their profile names as a suffix in his tree. For example, “David Johnson 10cM” instead of “David Johnson Jr.” or Sr.  That way, it’s easy to quickly see who is a match and by how much. Brilliant! I’m adopting that strategy. It won’t affect what other people see, because no living people are shown in trees.

Of course, DNA is on top of traditional genealogical research that we are all familiar with that connects people via deeds, wills, and other records.

Additionally, Greg records research information for individuals as a word document or pdf file and attaches them as documents to the person’s profile in his tree. His tree is searchable and shareable, so this means those resources are available to other people too. We want other researchers to find us and our records for EXACTLY this reason.

One thing to note is that if you are using Ancestry and use the Notes function on profiles, the notes don’t show to people with whom you share your tree, but links, sources and attached documents do.

Greg has included both “Other Sources” and “Web Links” below.

Click images to enlarge

For example, if I click on Greg’s link to Historic Pittsburg, I see the land grant location for Peter Johnson. Wow, this was unexpected.

Ok, I love maps and I’m hooked. Notice the names of the neighbors too. You’ll see Applegate again. Also, note that Thomas Applegate sold his patent to Richard Johnson. Remember the FAN club – friends and neighbors.

Ok, back to DNA for now.

The Children

Ancestors with large families are the best for finding present-day DNA matches. Of course, that’s because there are more candidates. More descendants and that means more people who might test someplace. This is also why you want to be sure to have your DNA in all 4 major DNA vendors, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe, plus GEDmatch.

This is a portion of Greg’s tree that includes the children of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips. Note that two Johnson females married Dobkins men. I’ve always suspected that Margaret Johnson and Dorcas Johnson were sisters, but unless we could use mitochondrial DNA, or figure out who the parents of either Peter or Mary are, there’s no good way to prove it.

We’re gathering some very valuable evidence.

At Ancestry, Greg has 85 matches on his ThruLines for Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips, respectively.

  • Of course, Greg has the most matches for his own line through Peter’s son James Johnson (1752-1826) who married Elizabeth Lindsay and died in Lawrence County, IL: 35 matches.
  • Next is Margaret Johnson (1780-1833) who married Evan Dobkins in Dunmore County, VA, brother of my ancestor, Jacob Dobkins. She probably died in Cocke County, TN: 25 matches. Dorcas named one of her children Margaret and Margaret may have named one of her children Dorcas.
  • Solomon Johnson (1765-1843) married Frances Warne and stayed in Allegheny County, PA: 8 matches. Notice one of Peter’s neighbors was a Warner family. Dorcas named one of her children Solomon, a fairly unusual name.
  • Mary Johnson (1770-1833) married Garrett Wall Applegate and died in Harrison County, IN: 7 matches. The Applegates were Peter Johnson’s neighbors and Garrett served in the Revolutionary War in the 8th VA Regiment. Clearly, some of these settlers came from or spent time in Virginia.
  • Dorcas Johnson (c1750-c1835) married Jacob Dobkins in Dunmore County, VA and died in Claiborne County, TN: 5 matches.
  • Peter Johnson (1753-1840) married Eleanor “Nellie” Peter and died in Jefferson County, KY: 4 matches.
  • Richard D. Johnson (1752-1818) married Hannah Dungan and Elizabeth Nash: 2 matches.

Unfortunately, since most of those matches are between 7 and 20 cM, and Ancestry does not display shared matches under 20 cM, we can’t use Ancestry’s comparison tool to see if these people also match each other. That’s VERY unfortunate and extremely frustrating.

Greg matches more people from this line at MyHeritage, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, and thankfully, those vendors all three provide segment information AND shared match information.

Cousins Are Critical

While Greg, unfortunately, does not match me, he does match several of my cousins whose tests I manage.

Two of those cousins both descend from Darcus Johnson through her daughter Jenny Dobkins, through her daughter Elizabeth Campbell, through her daughter Rutha Dodson, through her sons John Y. Estes and Lazarus Estes, respectively.

Another descends through Jenny Dobkins son, William Newton Campbell for another 5 generations. These individuals all match on a 17 cM segment of Chromosome 20.

Other known cousins match Greg on different chromosomes.

Looking at their shared matches at FamilyTreeDNA, we find more Dobkins, Dodson and Campbell cousins, some that were previously unknown to me. One of those cousins also descends through William Newton Campbell’s daughter for another 4 generations and matches on the same segment of chromosome 20.

DNAPainter

Emails have been flying back and forth between me and Greg, each one with some piece of information that one of us has found that we want to be sure the other has too. Having research buddies is wonderful!

Then, Greg sent a screenshot of a portion of his chromosome 20 from DNAPainter that includes the DNA of the cousins mentioned above. I didn’t realize Greg was using DNAPainter. It’s an understatement to say I’m thrilled because DNAPainter does the cross-vendor triangulation work automatically for you.

Just look at all of those matches that carry this Johnson/Phillips segment of chromosome 20. Holy chimloda.

Greg also sent his DNAPainter sharing link, and it turns out that this is only a partial list, with one of my cousins highlighted, dead center in the list of Peter Johnson’s and Mary Polly Phillip’s descendants. Greg has even more not shown.

Trying Not to Jump to Conclusions

I’m trying so hard NOT to jump to conclusions, but this is just SOOOO EXCITING!

Little doubt remains that indeed, Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips are the parents of Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins and also of Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins. I’ve eliminated the possibility of other common ancestors, as much as possible, and verified that the descent is through multiple children. This particular segment on chromosome 20 reaches across multiple children’s lines.

I say little doubt remains, because some doubt does remain. It’s possible that perhaps Dorcas and her sister weren’t actually daughters of Peter Johnson, but maybe children of his brother? Peter was reported to have a brother James, a sheriff in Cumberland County, PA. but again, we lack proof. If Dorcas is Peter Johnson’s niece, her descendants would still be expected to match some of the descendants of Peter and his wife.

Also complicating matters is the fact that Greg also has a Campbell brick wall with a James Campbell born about 1790 who lived in Fayette County, PA, in the far northwest corner of the state. Therefore, DNA matches through Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’s daughters Jenny and Elizabeth who married Campbell brothers need to be verified through her children’s lines that do NOT descend through her daughters who married Campbell men.

Nagging Questions

I know, I’m being a spoilsport, but I still have questions that need answers.

For example, I still need to account for how the Johnson girls managed to get to Shenandoah County, VA (Dunmore County at that time) to meet the Dobkins boys, spend enough time there to court, and then marry Evan and Jacob nine months apart in 1775. Surely they were living there. Young women simply did not travel, especially not great distances, and marriages occurred in the bride’s home county. Yet, they married in Shenandoah County, VA, not in PA.

What About the Records?

We are by no means done. In fact, I’ve just begun. I have some catching up to do. Greg has focused on Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips in Pennsylvania. I need to focus on Virginia.

Of course, the next challenge is actual records.

What exists and what doesn’t? FamilySearch provides a list for Dunmore County, here, and Shenandoah, here.

Was Peter Johnson ever in Dunmore County that became Shenandoah County, VA, and if so when and where? If not, how the heck did his two daughters marry the Dobkins boys in 1775? Was there another Johnson man in Dunmore during that time? Was it James?

Where was Peter Johnson in 1775 when Dorcas and Margaret were marrying? Can we positively account for him in Pennsylvania or elsewhere?

Some information has been published about Peter Johnson, but those critical years are unaccounted for.

It appears that the Virginia Archives has a copy of the 1774-1776 rent rolls for Dunmore County, but they aren’t online. That’s the best place to start. Fingers crossed for one Peter Johnson living right beside John Dobkins, Jacob’s father. Now THAT would convince me.

Stay tuned!

Note – If you’d like to view Greg’s tree at Ancestry, its name is “MyHeritage Tree Simkins” and you can find it by searching for Maude Gertrude Wilson born in 1876 in Logan County, Illinois, died January 27, 1950 in Ramsey County, Minnesota, and married Harry A. Simkins. Elizabeth Ann Johnson (1830-1874) is Maude’s grandmother.

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WikiTree Challenge Fun – It’s My Turn!

For the past year, WikiTree has been having a weekly Challenge where volunteers work with the genealogy of guests.

Every Wednesday at 8 PM Eastern, a publicly viewable reveal is held for the guest from the week before, and the guest for the new week is introduced.

This week, I’m fortunate enough to be the guest and it’s going to be like Christmas early. If you’re interested, you can view last evening’s kickoff, here.

As an added bonus, Shelley, last week’s guest and I discovered that multiple of our ancestors lived in the same places and even attended the same church. Serendipity at work. I have brick walls. She does too. Maybe Shelley and I are related. Wouldn’t THAT be fun!!!

Want to work on a Challenge or learn more? There’s a great video here.

You can sign up for a Challenge team here, but you don’t have to. Anyone can research and add information to WikiTree profiles. You are most welcome to work on mine this week. In fact, I’m hoping that people with common ancestors will improve the information available. Maybe you’ll discover information that’s new to you too!

The Goal

The goal, broadly speaking, is for WikiTree to provide the most complete, documented, accurate genealogy in a one-large-tree format.

Before WikiTree, I was skeptical and discouraged about big one-single-trees because there were (are) so many errors, but WikiTree is different because it’s collaborative, genial and there are people available to help resolve any issues. Did I mention that everyone is a volunteer?

I enjoy WikiTree. WikiTree is free and allows descendants to enter their Y and mitochondrial information, as well as their GEDmatch ID for autosomal.

WikiTree now has about 27 million-ish profiles, so assuredly there’s something there for everyone.

Challenge is Fair Game

How do volunteers work with genealogy during the challenge? Pretty much any way you want!

People:

  • Break down brick walls (my favorite)
  • Find interesting information about known ancestors
  • Add data and detailed information
  • Provide proofs
  • Upload photos and documents
  • Correct information
  • Saw off branches (yep, it happens)

Volunteers who work on the challenge can accrue points, but it’s more about solving puzzles.

If you want to research, here’s my tree on WikiTree. I’m RobertaEstes13 at Ancestry and you can find my tree by searching for my father, William Sterling Estes 1902-1963. No, it’s not cheating to use every resource available.

Of course, everything is game. I tried to add at least the basic information at WikiTree for all of my known and proven ancestors ahead of time because I didn’t want people to replow a field I had already plowed.

I also made notes when people or data previously added was questionable or needed documentation. I also add each of the 52 Ancestors articles I’ve written about many ancestors.

Brick Walls Set in Concrete

I’ve created a list of my most painful, particularly difficult, brick walls that need attention. I’m hoping that maybe someone else either has that same ancestor, or perhaps has experience in the region. Something. Anything.

James Lee Claxton’s father

I feel like this one is so close, but so far away. We first find James Lee Claxton (Clarkson) in Russell County, VA in 1799. He married and shortly thereafter, moved down the valley to Claiborne County, TN. James died in 1815 in the War of 1812, and thankfully, his widow Sarah Cook, provided information in her land and pension applications. The surname is spelled both Clarkson and Claxton in various places, but based on Y DNA matches, the spelling seems to be Claxton in the other family who shares an earlier ancestor with my James.

In the Claxton Y DNA project, James’s descendants match with a group of people from Bedford County, TN, whose earliest known ancestor is James Claxton born about 1746 and eventually found in Granville Co., North Carolina in 1769. He may be connected to an early Francis Claxton from Bertie County.

Two genealogists compiled information about this line on a now somewhat dated website. Some links are broken, but the data is still quite useful. However, a lovely summary can be found, here.

James Claxton born about 1746, reportedly, had a son James who was found in 1798 in Sumner County, TN, so my James could not be the son of James born in 1746 if this is accurate. However, based on autosomal DNA matches between the two groups, these two lines, meaning mine and the Bedford County line, can’t be very distantly removed.

The James from North Carolina is named in 1784 as the executor of the will of John Hatcher whose wife, Mary, is proven Native based on their son’s Revolutionary War testimony. We don’t know why James was named as executor, or if they were related. It would be easy to assume that he was married to a daughter, but there is no evidence for that either.

Unfortunately, there are no other Claxton Y DNA matches that can push this line further back in time, anyplace.

I wrote about James Lee Claxton, here and his WikiTree profile is here.

Joel Cook and Family

Sarah’s says, in her pension application, that her father was Joel Cook and he is quite a conundrum. Based on the history of the region, he was clearly born elsewhere and settled in Russell County about 1795, as the frontier was settled. He is associated with a Clayton (Claton) Cook who moved to Kentucky about 1794, then back, then back to Kentucky again.

Records are sparse. Joel sells his land in 1816. It has been suggested that he migrated to Floyd County, KY, or perhaps elsewhere, along with Clayton, but I don’t have any evidence of that – or anything else for that matter.

Joel arrived out of thin air and disappeared into thin air. The only other hint we have is that a young man, Henry Cook, served as a drummer in the War of 1812 from Claiborne County, TN, and died in the service. It’s certainly possible that he was Sarah’s younger brother or maybe nephew.

We don’t have Y DNA from this line. If the Floyd County Cook group Y DNA tests, it would be nice to know if any of those people match any of Sarah Cook’s descendants.

I haven’t written about either Sarah or her father, Joel, but Sarah’s Wikitree profile is here and Joel’s is here.

By the way, I inadvertently think I and other early genealogists were responsible for the misinformation on her profile that Sarah’s birth surname is Helloms. In 1850 she is living with a man, John Helloms, 5 years younger than she is who is listed as an “idiot.” It was assumed that this was her brother and her surname was assigned as Helloms before we had her pension application. Now I suspect that as a widow, she may have been paid by the Hancock County court to take care of him. Court records have burned. There may be a connection with this family however, as she was assigned as the administrator of a William Hulloms estate in Claiborne County in 1820, not long after her husband’s death.

Unfortunately, Helloms as Sarah’s maiden name won’t seem to die, no matter how many times I saw that branch off of the tree. Having said that, it’s probable that somehow, given her relatively close involvement with Helloms men twice, 30 years apart, that she is somehow related.

Charles Campbell’s Father

John Campbell born about 1772 and George Campbell born about 1770, probably in Virginia, are believed to be the sons of Charles Campbell who lived in Hawkins County, TN. Unfortunately, Charles, who died about 1825, had no will and much to my chagrin, the deed for his land after his death was never actually recorded.

The Y DNA clearly provides matching to the Campbell line from Inverary, Argylishire, Scotland. Both the migration path and neighbors combined with DNA matching suggests strongly that Charles migrated from the Orange/Augusta/Rockingham County portion of Virginia.

I chased a hot lead based on matches that suggest Gilbert Campbell’s line and wrote about that, here. Gilbert had a son named Charles, but in-depth research indicates that his son Charles is probably accounted for in Virginia. Gilbert did have a brother or son named James. We don’t know who the parents of James and Gilbert were and that’s key to this equation.

Oral history suggests a connection with a James Campbell. It’s possible that this John and this George were a different John and George than Charles jointly sold land to, although it’s highly doubtful.

Both John and George Campbell married Dobkins sisters, daughters of Jacob Dobkins who lived up the road from Charles Campbell before the entire Dobkins/Campbell group moved to Claiborne County, TN together about 1800.

I wrote about John Campbell, here and his WikiTree profile is here. Charles Campbell’s story is here and his profile is here.

Julien Lord or Lore’s Origins

Julien Lord, born someplace about 1652, probably in France, is one of the early Acadian settlers. Julien is listed in 1665 on a list of soldiers who sailed for Nova Scotia. He would only have been 13. He is later listed on various census documents which is how we obtained his birth year.

I know that recently additional documents have become available in France and I’m hopeful that perhaps his association with the other men might pinpoint an area and we can find Julien’s parents. Of course, the surname could have been spelled much differently in France – Lohr, Loire, Loree, etc. I can’t help but wonder if he was an orphan and that’s why he was shipped out.

Julien Lord’s WikiTree profile is here.

Magdalene (birth surname unknown,) wife of Philip Jacob Miller

This one is driving me insane. Magdalena was born sometime about 1730, probably in Pennsylvania among the Brethren or possibly Mennonite families. She married Philip Jacob Miller, a Brethren man, about 1751, just as he was moving from York County, PA to Frederick Co., VA.

Magdalena was assuredly Brethren or Mennonite, because marriages outside the faith were not allowed at that time and those who did were effectively shunned unless the spouse converted.

Magdalena’s surname was rumored to be Rochette for years, but thorough research produced not one shred of evidence that Rochette is accurate. There aren’t even any Rochette families living anyplace close. Everyone has heard that rumor, and no one knows it’s source.

We do have Magdalena’s mitochondrial DNA signature. Her haplogroup is H6a1a and she has 2 exact matches. One match provided no genealogical information but the other match showed her ancestor as Amanda Troutwine (1872-1946) who married William Hofaker. I did some genealogical sleuthing several years ago and based on superficial information, found the following lineage for Amanda Troutwine.

  • Sarah Baker 1851-1923 and George Troutwine

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141291811

  • Elias Baker and Mary Baker 1824-1897

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141291811

  • Jacob Baker and Sarah Michael 1801-1892

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10806589/mary-baker

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/36831933/sarah-baker

  • Mary Myers 1775-1849 buried Clayton, Montgomery Co., Ohio m Jacob Michael

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/38045030/mary-michael

https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/91021180/person/74020727592/facts?_phsrc=fxJ1330&_phstart=successSource

  • Johannes Meyer and Margaretha Scherman 1750-1825

https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/91021180/person/280002009231/facts

I have not confirmed this information. If it is accurate, Margaretha born in 1750 could be Magdalena’s sister or niece, perhaps?

I created a tiny tree and discovered that Mary’s husband lived in Frederick County, Maryland, the same place that Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena lived. Mary died in Montgomery County, Ohio, the same place that many Brethren families settled and very close to the Miller men.

Mary’s WikiTree profile is here and shows her mother, Margaret Sherman/Schuermann to have been born about 1750 in York County, PA, the location where the Miller family was living. The question is, who was Margaret’s mother. Is this the clue to solving the identity of Magdalena, the wife of Philip Jacob Miller?

I wrote about Magdalena, here, including a list of known Brethren families, and her WikiTree profile is here.

Barbara (birth surname unknown) Estes Mitochondrial DNA

Barbara (birth surname unknown) Estes, born sometime around 1670 was (at least) the second wife of Abraham Estes.

Abraham’s first wife, Barbara Burton, died in England before he immigrated in 1673.

For years, on almost every tree, her surname has been shown as Brock, but there is absolutely no evidence that’s correct.

Abraham’s daughter, Barbara Estes married Henry Brock, so there was indeed a Barbara Brock, but this person was the daughter, NOT the wife of Abraham Estes. A man wrote a novel, as in fiction, in the 1980s that assigned Abraham’s wife’s surname as Brock and that myth simply won’t die.

I would very much like to find a mitochondrial descendant of Barbara, Abraham’s wife, mother to his children, to take a mitochondrial DNA test. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from a direct line of matrilineal ancestors. Anyone today, male or female, who descends from Barbara directly through all females from any of her daughters carries Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA may lead us to Barbara’s parents.

I wrote about Barbara, here, and her WikiTree profile is here.

Bonus Round – Elizabeth (surname unknown,) wife of Stephen Ulrich

Elizabeth was born about 1725, possibly in Germany and if not, probably in Pennsylvania. She married Stephen Ulrich sometime around 1743 and died in around 1782 in Frederick County, Maryland. Unfortunately, her identity has been confused with that of her daughter, Elizabeth Ulrich (1757-1832) who married Daniel Miller. And as if that wasn’t confusing enough, her mother-in-law’s name was also Elizabeth, so we had three Elizabeth Ulrich’s three generations in a row.

We have two testers who believe they descend from Elizabeth. Unfortunately, one of them is incorrect, and I have no idea which one.

Tester #1 shows that he descends from Hannah Susan Ulrich (1762-1798) who married Henry Adams Puterbaugh (1761-1839), is haplogroup U2e1, and matches with someone whose most distant ancestor is Elizabeth Rench born in 1787 in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania and died in 1858 in Ohio. I did as much research as possible and wrote about that, here.

Then, I went to visit Elizabeth’s WikiTree profile here which, I might note, reflects the long-standing oral history that Elizabeth’s birth surname was Cripe.

I noticed at WikiTree that another individual has indicated that he has tested for Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA, and it’s an entirely different haplogroup, H6a1b3. Uh oh!

He descends through daughter, Susannah Ulrich who married Jacob I. Puterbaugh.

My heart sank. I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, but both can’t be correct. Unless of course Stephen Ulrich was married twice.

My tester’s most distant ancestor on WikiTree is found here. If the genealogy is accurate, her line will connect with Hannah Susan Ulrich (1762-1798) who married Henry Adams Puterbaugh (1761-1839).

A third mitochondrial DNA tester through a different daughter would also break this tie. Anybody descend from Elizabeth, wife of Stephen Ulrich, through all females? If so, please raise your hand!

WikiTree Challenge Results Next Wednesday

I can hardly wait until next Wednesday’s reveal to see what so many wonderful volunteers will find. Breaking through tough brick walls would be wonderful, but so would anything.

I’m excited and oh so very grateful for this opportunity.

If you’re not familiar with WikiTree, take a look for yourself.

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A Triangulation Checklist Born From the Question; “Why NOT Use Close Relatives for Triangulation?”

One of my readers asked why we don’t use close relatives for triangulation.

This is a great question because not using close relatives for triangulation seems counter-intuitive.

I used to ask my kids and eventually my students and customers if they wanted the quick short answer or the longer educational answer.

The short answer is “because close relatives are too close to reliably form the third leg of the triangle.” Since you share so much DNA with close relatives, someone matching you who is identical by chance can also match them for exactly the same reason.

If you trust me and you’re good with that answer, wonderful. But I hope you’ll keep reading because there’s so much to consider, not to mention a few gotchas. I’ll share my methodology, techniques, and workarounds.

We’ll also discuss absolutely wonderful ways to utilize close relatives in the genetic genealogical process – just not for triangulation.

At the end of this article, I’ve provided a working triangulation checklist for you to use when evaluating your matches.

Let’s go!

The Step-by-Step Educational Answer😊

Some people see “evidence” they believe conflicts with the concept that you should not use close relatives for triangulation. I understand that, because I’ve gone down that rathole too, so I’m providing the “educational answer” that explains exactly WHY you should not use close relatives for triangulation – and what you should do.

Of course, we need to answer the question, “Who actually are close relatives?”

I’ll explain the best ways to best utilize close relatives in genetic genealogy, and why some matches are deceptive.

You’ll need to understand the underpinnings of DNA inheritance and also of how the different vendors handle DNA matching behind the scenes.

The purpose of autosomal DNA triangulation is to confirm that a segment is passed down from a particular ancestor to you and a specific set of your matches.

Triangulation, of course, implies 3, so at least three people must all match each other on a reasonably sized portion of the same DNA segment for triangulation to occur.

Matching just one person only provides you with one path to that common ancestor. It’s possible that you match that person due to a different ancestor that you aren’t aware of, or due to chance recombination of DNA.

It’s possible that your or your match inherited part of that DNA from your maternal side and part from your paternal side, meaning that you are matching that other person’s DNA by chance.

I wrote about identical by descent (IBD), which is an accurate genealogically meaningful match, and identical by chance (IBC) which is a false match, in the article Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance.

I really want you to understand why close relatives really shouldn’t be used for triangulation, and HOW close relative matches should be used, so we’re going to discuss all of the factors that affect and influence this topic – both the obvious and little-understood.

  • Legitimate Matches
  • Inheritance and Triangulation
  • Parental Cross-Matching
  • Parental Phasing
  • Automatic Phasing at FamilyTreeDNA
  • Parental Phasing Caveats
  • Pedigree Collapse
  • Endogamy
  • How Many Identical-by-Chance Matches Will I Have?
  • DNA Doesn’t Skip Generations (Seriously, It Doesn’t)
  • Your Parents Have DNA That You Don’t (And How to Use It)
  • No DNA Match Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Related
  • Imputation
  • Ancestry Issues and Workarounds
  • Testing Close Relatives is VERY Useful – Just Not for Triangulation
  • Triangulated Matches
  • Building Triangulation Evidence – Ingredients and a Recipe
  • Aunts/Uncles
  • Siblings
  • How False Positives Work and How to Avoid Them
  • Distant Cousins Are Best for Triangulation & Here’s Why
  • Where Are We? A Triangulation Checklist for You!
  • The Bottom Line

Don’t worry, these sections are logical and concise. I considered making this into multiple articles, but I really want it in one place for you. I’ve created lots of graphics with examples to help out.

Let’s start by dispelling a myth.

DNA Doesn’t Skip Generations!

Recently, someone emailed to let me know that they had “stopped listening to me” in a presentation when I said that if a match did not also match one of your parents, it was a false match. That person informed me that they had worked on their tree for three years at Ancestry and they have “proof” of DNA skipping generations.

Nope, sorry. That really doesn’t happen, but there are circumstances when a person who doesn’t understand either how DNA works, or how the vendor they are using presents DNA results could misunderstand or misinterpret the results.

You can watch my presentation, RootsTech session, DNA Triangulation: What, Why and How, for free here. I’m thrilled that this session is now being used in courses at two different universities.

DNA really doesn’t skip generations. You CANNOT inherit DNA that your parents didn’t have.

Full stop.

Your children cannot inherit DNA from you that you don’t carry. If you don’t have that DNA, your children and their descendants can’t have it either, at least not from you. They of course do inherit DNA from their other parent.

I think historically, the “skipping generations” commentary was connected to traits. For example, Susie has dimples (or whatever) and so did her maternal grandmother, but her mother did not, so Susie’s dimples were said to have “skipped a generation.” Of course, we don’t know anything about Susie’s other grandparents, if Susie’s parents share ancestors, recessive/dominant genes or even how many genetic locations are involved with the inheritance of “dimples,” but I digress.

DNA skipping generations is a fallacy.

You cannot legitimately match someone that your parent does not, at least not through that parent’s side of the tree.

But here’s the caveat. You can’t match someone one of your parents doesn’t with the rare exception of:

  • Relatively recent pedigree collapse that occurs when you have the same ancestors on both sides of your tree, meaning your parents are related, AND
  • The process of recombination just happened to split and recombine a segment of DNA in segments too small for your match to match your parents individually, but large enough when recombined to match you.

We’ll talk about that more in a minute.

However, the person working with Ancestry trees can’t make this determination because Ancestry doesn’t provide segment information. Ancestry also handles DNA differently than other vendors, which we’ll also discuss shortly.

We’ll review all of this, but let’s start at the beginning and explain how to determine if our matches are legitimate, or not.

Legitimate Matches

Legitimate matches occur when the DNA of your ancestor is passed from that ancestor to their descendants, and eventually to you and a match in an unbroken pathway.

Unbroken means that every ancestor between you and that ancestor carried and then passed on the segment of the ancestor’s DNA that you carry today. The same is true for your match who carries the same segment of DNA from your common ancestor.

False positive matches occur when the DNA of a male and female combine randomly to look like a legitimate match to someone else.

Thankfully, there are ways to tell the difference.

Inheritance and Triangulation

Remember, you inherit two copies of each of your chromosomes 1-22, one copy from your mother and one from your father. You inherit half of the DNA that each parent carries, but it’s mixed together in you so the labs can’t readily tell which nucleotide, A, C, T, or G you received from which parent. I’m showing your maternal and paternal DNA in the graphic below, stacked neatly together in a column – but in reality, it could be AC in one position and CA in the next.

For matching all that matters is the nucleotide that matches your match is present in one of those two locations. In this case, A for your mother’s side and C for your father’s side. If you’re interested, you can read more about that in the article, Hit a Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters.

You can see in this example that you inherited all As from your Mom and all Cs from your Dad.

  • A legitimate maternal match would match you on all As on this particular example segment.
  • A legitimate paternal match would match you on all Cs on this particular segment.
  • A false positive match will match you on some random combination of As and Cs that make it look like they match you legitimately, but they don’t.
  • A false positive match will NOT match either your mother or your father.

To be very clear, technically a false positive match DOES match your DNA – but they don’t match your DNA because you share a common ancestor with your match. They match you because random recombination on their side causes you to match each other by chance.

In other words, if part of your DNA came from your Mom’s side and part from your Dad’s but it randomly fell in the correct positional order, you’d still match someone whose DNA was from only their mother or father’s side. That’s exactly the situation shown above and below.

Looking at our example again, it’s evident that your identical by chance (IBC) match’s A locations (1, 3, 5, 7 & 9) will match your Mom. C locations (2, 4, 6 8, & 10) will match your Dad, but the nonmatching segments interleaved in-between that match alternating parents will prevent your match from matching either of your parents. In other words, out of 10 contiguous locations in our example, your IBC match has 5 As alternated with 5 Cs, so they won’t match either of your parents who have 10 As or 10 Cs in a row.

This recombination effect can work in either direction. Either or both matching people’s DNA could be randomly mixed causing them to match each other, but not their parents.

Regardless of whose DNA is zigzagging back and forth between maternal and paternal, the match is not genealogical and does not confirm a common ancestor.

This is exactly why triangulation works and is crucial.

If you legitimately match a third person, shown below, on your maternal side, they will match you, your first legitimate maternal match, and your Mom because they carry all As. But they WON’T match the person who is matching you because they are identical by chance, shown in grey below.

The only person your identical by chance match matches in this group is you because they match you because of the chance recombination of parental DNA.

That third person WILL also match all other legitimate maternal matches on this segment.

In the graphic above, we see that while the grey identical by chance person matches you because of the random combination of As from your mother and Cs from your father, your legitimate maternal matches won’t match your identical by chance match.

This is the first step in identifying false matches.

Parental Cross-Matching

Removing the identical by chance match, and adding in the parents of your legitimate maternal match, we see that your maternal match, above, matches you because you both have all As inherited from one parent, not from a combination of both parents.

We know that because we can see the DNA of both parents of both matches in this example.

The ideal situation occurs when two people match and they have both had their parents tested. We need to see if each person matches the other person’s parents.

We can see that you do NOT match your match’s father and your match does NOT match your father.

You do match your match’s mother and your match does match your mother. I refer to this as Parental Cross-matching.

Your legitimate maternal matches will also match each other and your mother if she is available for testing.

All the people in yellow match each other, while the two parents in gray do not match any of your matches. An entire group of legitimate maternal matches on this segment, no matter how many, will all match each other.

If another person matches you and the other yellow people, you’ll still need to see if you match their parents, because if not, that means they are matching you on all As because their two parents DNA combined just happened, by chance, to contribute an A in all of those positions.

In this last example, your new match, in green, matches you, your legitimate match and both of your mothers, BUT, none of the four yellow people match either of the new match’s parents. You can see that the new green match inherited their As from the DNA of their mother and father both, randomly zigzagging back and forth.

The four yellow matches phase parentally as we just proved with cross matching to parents. The new match at first glance appears to be a legitimate match because they match all of the yellow people – but they aren’t because the yellow people don’t match the green person’s parents.

To tell the difference between legitimate matches and identical by chance matches, you need two things, in order.

  • Parental matching known as parental phasing along with parental cross-matching, if possible, AND
  • Legitimate identical by descent (IBD) triangulated matches

If you have the ability to perform parental matching, called phasing, that’s the easiest first step in eliminating identical by chance matches. However, few match pairs will have parents for everyone. You can use triangulation without parental phasing if parents aren’t available.

Let’s talk about both, including when and how close relatives can and cannot be used.

Parental Phasing

The technique of confirming your match to be legitimate by your match also matching one of your parents is called parental phasing.

If we have the parents of both people in a match pair available for matching, we can easily tell if the match does NOT match either parent. That’s Parental Cross Matching. If either match does NOT match one of the other person’s parents, the match is identical by chance, also known as a false positive.

See how easy that was!

If you, for example, is the only person in your match pair to have parents available, then you can parentally phase the match on your side if your match matches your parents. However, because your match’s parents are unavailable, your match to them cannon tbe verified as legitimate on their side. So you are not phased to their parents.

If you only have one of your parents available for matching, and your match does not match that parent, you CANNOT presume that because your match does NOT match that parent, the match is a legitimate match for the other, missing, parent.

There are four possible match conditions:

  • Maternal match
  • Paternal match
  • Matches neither parent which means the match is identical by chance meaning a false positive
  • Matches both parents in the case of pedigree collapse or endogamy

If two matching people do match one parent of both matches (parental cross-matching), then the match is legitimate. In other words, if we match, I need to match one of your parents and you need to match one of mine.

It’s important to compare your matches’ DNA to generationally older direct family members such as parents or grandparents, if that’s possible. If your grandparents are available, it’s possible to phase your matches back another generation.

Automatic Phasing at FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA automatically phases your matches to your parents if you test that parent, create or upload a GEDCOM file, and link your test and theirs to your tree in the proper places.

FamilyTreeDNA‘s Family Matching assigns or “buckets” your matches maternally and paternally. Matches are assigned as maternal or paternal matches if one or both parents have tested.

Additionally, FamilyTreeDNA uses triangulated matches from other linked relatives within your tree even if your parents have not tested. If you don’t have your parents, the more people you identify and link to your tree in the proper place, the more people will be assigned to maternal and paternal buckets. FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor that does this. I wrote about this process in the article, Triangulation in Action at Family Tree DNA.

Parental Phasing Caveats

There are very rare instances where parental phasing may be technically accurate, but not genealogically relevant. By this, I mean that a parent may actually match one of your matches due to endogamy or a population level match, even if it’s considered a false positive because it’s not relevant in a genealogical timeframe.

Conversely, a parent may not match when the segment is actually legitimate, but it’s quite rare and only when pedigree collapse has occurred in a very specific set of circumstances where both parents share a common ancestor.

Let’s take a look at that.

Pedigree Collapse

It’s not terribly uncommon in the not-too-distant past to find first cousins marrying each other, especially in rather closely-knit religious communities. I encounter this in Brethren, Mennonite and Amish families often where the community was small and out-marrying was frowned upon and highly discouraged. These families and sometimes entire church congregations migrated cross-country together for generations.

When pedigree collapse is present, meaning the mother and father share a common ancestor not far in the past, it is possible to inherit half of one segment from Mom and the other half from Dad where those halves originated with the same ancestral couple.

For example, let’s say the matching segment between you and your match is 12 cM in length, shown below. You inherited the blue segment from your Dad and the neighboring peach segment from Mom – shown just below the segment numbers. You received 6 cM from both parents.

Another person’s DNA does match you, shown in the bottom row, but they are not shown on the DNA match list of either of your parents. That’s because the DNA segments of the parents just happened to recombine in 6 cM pieces, respectively, which is below the 7 cM matching threshold of the vendor in this example.

If the person matched you at 12 cM where you inherited 8 cM from one parent and 4 from the other, that person would show on one parent’s match list, but not the other. They would not be on the parent’s match list who contributed only 4 cM simply because the DNA divided and recombined in that manner. They would match you on a longer segment than they match your parent at 8 cM which you might notice as “odd.”

Let’s look at another example.

click to enlarge image

If the matching segment is 20 cM, the person will match you and both of your parents on different pieces of the same segment, given that both segments are above 7 cM. In this case, your match who matches you at 20 cM will match each of your parents at 10 cM.

You would be able to tell that the end location of Dad’s segment is the same as the start location of Mom’s segment.

This is NOT common and is NOT the “go to” answer when you think someone “should” match your parent and does not. It may be worth considering in known pedigree collapse situations.

You can see why someone observing this phenomenon could “presume” that DNA skipped a generation because the person matches you on segments where they don’t match your parent. But DNA didn’t skip anything at all. This circumstance was caused by a combination of pedigree collapse, random division of DNA, then random recombination in the same location where that same DNA segment was divided earlier. Clearly, this sequence of events is not something that happens often.

If you’ve uploaded your DNA to GEDmatch, you can select the “Are your parents related?” function which scans your DNA file for runs of homozygosity (ROH) where your DNA is exactly the same in both parental locations for a significant distance. This suggests that because you inherited the exact same sequence from both parents, that your parents share an ancestor.

If your parents didn’t inherit the same segment of DNA from both parents, or the segment is too short, then they won’t show as “being related,” even if they do share a common ancestor.

Now, let’s look at the opposite situation. Parental phasing and ROH sometimes do occur when common ancestors are far back in time and the match is not genealogically relevant.

Endogamy

I often see non-genealogical matching occur when dealing with endogamy. Endogamy occurs when an entire population has been isolated genetically for a long time. In this circumstance, a substantial part of the population shares common DNA segments because there were few original population founders. Much of the present-day population carries that same DNA. Many people within that population would match on that segment. Think about the Jewish community and indigenous Americans.

Consider our original example, but this time where much of the endogamous population carries all As in these positions because one of the original founders carried that nucleotide sequence. Many people would match lots of other people regardless of whether they are a close relative or share a distant ancestor.

People with endogamous lines do share relatives, but that matching DNA segment originated in ancestors much further back in time. When dealing with endogamy, I use parental phasing as a first step, if possible, then focus on larger matches, generally 20 cM or greater. Smaller matches either aren’t relevant or you often can’t tell if/how they are.

At FamilyTreeDNA, people with endogamy will find many people bucketed on the “Both” tab meaning they triangulate with people linked on both sides of the tester’s tree.

An example of a Jewish person’s bucketed matches based on triangulation with relatives linked in their tree is shown above.

Your siblings, their children, and your children will be related on both your mother’s and father’s sides, but other people typically won’t be unless you have experienced either pedigree collapse where you are related both maternally and paternally through the same ancestors or you descend from an endogamous population.

How Many Identical-by-Chance Matches Will I Have?

If you have both parents available to test, and you’re not dealing with either pedigree collapse or endogamy, you’ll likely find that about 15-20% of your matches don’t match your parents on the same segment and are identical by chance.

With endogamy, you’ll have MANY more matches on your endogamous lines and you’ll have some irrelevant matches, often referred to as “false positive” matches even though they technically aren’t, even using parental phasing.

Your Parents Have DNA That You Don’t

Sometimes people are confused when reviewing their matches and their parent’s match to the same person, especially when they match someone and their parent matches them on a different or an additional segment.

If you match someone on a specific segment and your parents do not, that’s a false positive FOR THAT SEGMENT. Every segment has its own individual history and should be evaluated individually. You can match someone on two segments, one from each parent. Or three segments, one from each parent and one that’s identical by chance. Don’t assume.

Often, your match will match both you and your parent on the same segment – which is a legitimate parentally phased match.

But what if your match matches your parent on a different segment where they don’t match you? That’s a false positive match for you.

Keep in mind that it is possible for one of your matches to match your parent on a separate or an additional segment that IS legitimate. You simply didn’t inherit that particular segment from your parent.

That’s NOT the same situation as someone matching you that does NOT match one of your parents on the same segment – which is an identical by chance or false match.

Your parent having a match that does not match you is the reverse situation.

I have several situations where I match someone on one segment, and they match my parent on the same segment. Additionally, that person matches my parent on another segment that I did NOT inherit from that parent. That’s perfectly normal.

Remember, you only inherit half of your parent’s DNA, so you literally did NOT inherit the other half of their DNA. Your mother, for example, should have twice as many matches as you on her side because roughly half of her matches won’t match you.

That’s exactly why testing your parents and close family members is so critical. Their matches are as valid and relevant to your genealogy as your own. The same is true for other relatives, such as aunts and uncles with whom you share ALL of the same ancestors.

You need to work with your family member’s matches that you don’t share.

No DNA Match Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Related

Some people think that not matching someone on a DNA test is equivalent to saying they aren’t related. Not sharing DNA doesn’t mean you’re not related.

People are often disappointed when they don’t match someone they think they should and interpret that to mean that the testing company is telling them they “aren’t related.” They are upset and take issue with this characterization. But that’s not what it means.

Let’s analyze this a bit further.

First, not sharing DNA with a second cousin once removed (2C1R) or more distant does NOT mean you’re NOT related to that person. It simply means you don’t share any measurable DNA ABOVE THE VENDOR THRESHOLD.

All known second cousins match, but about 10% of third cousins don’t match, and so forth on up the line with each generation further back in time having fewer cousins that match each other.

If you have tested close relatives, check to see if that cousin matches your relatives.

Second, it’s possible to match through the “other” or unexpected parent. I certainly didn’t think this would be the case in my family, because my father is from Appalachia and my mother’s family is primarily from the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and New England. But I was wrong.

All it took was one German son that settled in Appalachia, and voila, a match through my mother that I surely thought should have been through my father’s side. I have my mother’s DNA and sure enough, my match that I thought should be on my father’s side matches Mom on the same segment where they match me, along with several triangulated matches. Further research confirmed why.

I’ve also encountered situations where I legitimately match someone on both my mother’s and father’s side, on different segments.

Third, imputation can be important for people who don’t match and think they should. Imputation can also cause matching segment length to be overreported.

Ok, so what’s imputation and why do I care?

Imputation

Every DNA vendor today has to use some type of imputation.

Let me explain, in general, what imputation is and why vendors use it.

Over the years, DNA processing vendors who sell DNA chips to testing companies have changed their DNA chips pretty substantially. While genealogical autosomal tests test about 700,000 DNA locations, plus or minus, those locations have changed over time. Today, some of these chips only have 100,000 or so chip locations in common with chips either currently or previously utilized by other vendors.

The vendors who do NOT accept uploads, such as 23andMe or Ancestry, have to develop methods to make their newest customers on their DNA processing vendor’s latest chip compatible with their first customer who was tested on their oldest chip – and all iterations in-between.

Vendors who do accept transfers/uploads from other vendors have to equalize any number of vendors’ chips when their customers upload those files.

Imputation is the scientific way to achieve this cross-platform functionality and has been widely used in the industry since 2017.

Imputation, in essence, fills in the blanks between tested locations with the “most likely” DNA found in the human population based on what’s surrounding the blank location.

Think of the word C_T. There are a limited number of letters and words that are candidates for C_T. If you use the word in a sentence, your odds of accuracy increase dramatically. Think of a genetic string of nucleotides as a sentence.

Imputation can be incorrect and can cause both false positive and false negative matches.

For the most part, imputation does not affect close family matches as much as more distant matches. In other words, imputation is NOT going to cause close family members not to match.

Imputation may cause more distant family members not to match, or to have a false positive match when imputation is incorrect.

Imputation is actually MUCH less problematic than I initially expected.

The most likely effect of imputation is to cause a match to be just above or below the vendor threshold.

How can we minimize the effects of imputation?

  • Generally, the best result will be achieved if both people test at the same vendor where their DNA is processed on the same chip and less imputation is required.
  • Upload the results of both people to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. If your match results are generally consistent at those vendors, imputation is not a factor.
  • GEDmatch does not use imputation but attempts to overcome files with low overlapping regions by allowing larger mismatch areas. I find their matches to be less accurate than at the various vendors.

Additionally, Ancestry has a few complicating factors.

Ancestry Issues

AncestryDNA is different in three ways.

  • Ancestry doesn’t provide segment information so it’s impossible to triangulate or identify the segment or chromosome where people match. There is no chromosome browser or triangulation tool.
  • Ancestry down-weights and removes some segments in areas where they feel that people are “too matchy.” You can read Ancestry’s white papers here and here.

These “personal pileup regions,” as they are known, can be important genealogically. In my case, these are my mother’s Acadian ancestors. Yes, this is an endogamous population and also suffers from pedigree collapse, but since this is only one of my mother’s great-grandparents, this match information is useful and should not be removed.

  • Ancestry doesn’t show matches in common if the shared segments are less than 20cM. Therefore, you may not see someone on a shared match list with a relative when they actually are a shared match.

If two people both match a third person on less than a 20 cM segment at Ancestry, the third person won’t appear on the other person’s shared match list. So, if I match John Doe on 19 cM of DNA, and I looked at the shared matches with my Dad, John Doe does NOT appear on the shared match list of me and my Dad – even though he is a match to both of us at 19 cM.

The only way to determine if John Doe is a shared match is to check my Dad’s and my match list individually, which means Dad and I will need to individually search for John Doe.

Caveat here – Ancestry’s search sometimes does not work correctly.

Might someone who doesn’t understand that the shared match list doesn’t show everyone who shares DNA with both people presume that the ancestral DNA of that ancestor “skipped a generation” because John Doe matches me with a known ancestor, and not Dad on our shared match list? I mean, wouldn’t you think that a shared match would be shown on a tab labeled “Shared Matches,” especially since there is no disclaimer?

Yes, people can be forgiven for believing that somehow DNA “skipped” a generation in this circumstance, especially if they are relatively inexperienced and they don’t understand Ancestry’s anomalies or know that they need to or how to search for matches individually.

Even if John Doe does match me and Dad both, we still need to confirm that it’s on the same segment AND it’s a legitimate match, not IBC. You can’t perform either of these functions at Ancestry, but you can elsewhere.

Ancestry WorkArounds

To obtain this functionality, people can upload their DNA files for free to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, companies that do provide full shared DNA reporting (in common with) lists of ALL matches and do provide segment information with chromosome browsers. Furthermore, both provide triangulation in different ways.

Matching is free, but an inexpensive unlock is required at both vendors to access advanced tools such as Family Matching (bucketing) and triangulation at Family Tree DNA and phasing/triangulation at MyHeritage.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at FamilyTreeDNA, here.

MyHeritage actually brackets triangulated segments for customers on their chromosome browser, including parents, so you get triangulation and parental phasing at the same time if you and your parent have both tested or uploaded your DNA file to MyHeritage. You can upload, for free, here.

In this example, my mother is matching to me in red on the entire length of chromosome 18, of course, and three other maternal cousins triangulate with me and mother inside the bracketed portion of chromosome 18. Please note that if any one of the people included in the chromosome browser comparison do not triangulate, no bracket is drawn around any others who do triangulate. It’s all or nothing. I remove people one by one to see if people triangulate – or build one by one with my mother included.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at MyHeritage, here.

People can also upload to GEDmatch, a third-party site. While GEDmatch is less reliable for matching, you can adjust your search thresholds which you cannot do at other vendors. I don’t recommend routinely working below 7 cM. I occasionally use GEDmatch to see if a pedigree collapse segment has recombined below another vendor’s segment matching threshold.

Do NOT check the box to prevent hard breaks when selecting the One-to-One comparison. Checking that box allows GEDmatch to combine smaller matching segments into mega-segments for matching.

I wrote about Triangulation in Action at GEDmatch, here.

Transferring/Uploading Your DNA 

If you want to transfer your DNA to one of these vendors, you must download the DNA file from one vendor and upload it to another. That process does NOT remove your DNA file from the vendor where you tested, unless you select that option entirely separately.

I wrote full step-by-step transfer/upload instructions for each vendor, here.

Testing Close Relatives Is VERY Useful – Just Not for Triangulation

Of course, your best bet if you don’t have your parents available to test is to test as many of your grandparents, great-aunts/uncles, aunts, and uncles as possible. Test your siblings as well, because they will have inherited some of the same and some different segments of DNA from your parents – which means they carry different pieces of your ancestors’ DNA.

Just because close relatives don’t make good triangulation candidates doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Close relatives are golden because when they DO share a match with you, you know where to start looking for a common ancestor, even if your relative matches that person on a different segment than you do.

Close relatives are also important because they will share pieces of your common ancestor’s DNA that you don’t. Their matches can unlock the answers to your genealogy questions.

Ok, back to triangulation.

Triangulated Matches

A triangulated match is, of course, when three people all descended from a common ancestor and match each other on the same segment of DNA.

That means all three people’s DNA matches each other on that same segment, confirming that the match is not by chance, and that segment did descend from a common ancestor or ancestral couple.

But, is this always true? You’re going to hate this answer…

“It depends.”

You knew that was coming, didn’t you! 😊

It depends on the circumstances and relationships of the three people involved.

  • One of those three people can match the other two by chance, not by descent, especially if two of those people are close relatives to each other.
  • Identical by chance means that one of you didn’t inherit that DNA from one single parent. That zigzag phenomenon.
  • Furthermore, triangulated DNA is only valid as far back as the closest common ancestor of any two of the three people.

Let’s explore some examples.

Building Triangulation Evidence – Ingredients and a Recipe

The strongest case of triangulation is when:

  • You and at least two additional cousins match on the same segment AND
  • Descend through different children of the common ancestral couple

Let’s look at a valid triangulated match.

In this first example, the magenta segment of DNA is at least partially shared by four of the six cousins and triangulates to their common great-grandfather. Let’s say that these cousins then match with two other people descended from different children of their great-great-great-grandparents on this same segment. Then the entire triangulation group will have confirmed that segment’s origin and push the descent of that segment back another two generations.

These people all coalesce into one line with their common great-grandparents.

I’m only showing 3 generations in this triangulated match, but the concept is the same no matter how many generations you reach back in time. Although, over time, segments inherited from any specific ancestor become smaller and smaller until they are no longer passed to the next generation.

In this pedigree chart, we’re only tracking the magenta DNA which is passed generation to generation in descendants.

Eventually, of course, those segments become smaller and indistinguishable as they either aren’t passed on at all or drop below vendor matching thresholds.

This chart shows the average amount of DNA you would carry from each generational ancestor. You inherit half of each parent’s DNA, but back further than that, you don’t receive exactly half of any ancestor’s DNA in any generation. Larger segments are generally cut in two and passed on partially, but smaller segments are often either passed on whole or not at all.

On average, you’ll carry 7 cM of your eight-times-great-grandparents. In reality, you may carry more or you may not carry any – and you are unlikely to carry the same segment as any random other descendants but we know it happens and you’ll find them if enough (or the right) descendants test.

Putting this another way, if you divide all of your approximate 7000 cM of DNA into 7 cM segments of equal length – you’ll have 1000 7 cM segments. So will every other descendant of your eight-times-great-grandparent. You can see how small the chances are of you both inheriting that same exact 7 cM segment through ten inheritance/transmission events, each. Yet it does happen.

I have several triangulated matches with descendants of Charles Dodson and his wife, Anne through multiple of their 9 (or so) children, ten generations back in my tree. Those triangulated matches range from 7-38 cM. It’s possible that those three largest matches at 38 cM could be related through multiple ancestors because we all have holes in our trees – including Anne’s surname.

Click to enlarge image

It helps immensely that Charles Dodson had several children who were quite prolific as well.

Of course, the further back in time, the more “proof” is necessary to eliminate other unknown common ancestors. This is exactly why matching through different children is important for triangulation and ancestor confirmation.

The method we use to confirm the common ancestor is that all of the descendants who match the tester on the same segment all also match each other. This greatly reduces the chances that these people are matching by chance. The more people in the triangulation group, the stronger the evidence. Of course, parental phasing or cross-matching, where available is an added confirmation bonus.

In our magenta inheritance example, we saw that three of the males and one of the females from three different descendants of the great-grandparents all carry at least a portion of that magenta segment of great-grandpa’s DNA.

Now, let’s take a look at a different scenario.

Why can’t siblings or close relatives be used as two of the three people needed for triangulation?

Aunts and Uncles

We know that the best way to determine if a match is valid is by parental phasing – your match also matching to one of your parents.

If both parents aren’t available, looking for close family matches in common with your match is the next hint that genealogists seek.

Let’s say that you and your match both match your aunt or uncle in common or their children.

You and your aunts or uncles matching DNA only pushes your common ancestor back to your grandparents.

At that point, your match is in essence matching to a segment that belongs to your grandparents. Your matches’ DNA, or your grandparents’ DNA could have randomly recombined and you and your aunt/cousins could be matching that third person by chance.

Ok, then, what about siblings?

Siblings

The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of you and someone who also matches your sibling is your parents. Therefore, you and your sibling actually only count as one “person” in this scenario. In essence, it’s the DNA of your parent(s) that is matching that third person, so it’s not true triangulation. It’s the same situation as above with aunts/uncles, except the common ancestor is closer than your grandparents.

The DNA of your parents could have recombined in both siblings to look like a match to your match’s family. Or vice versa. Remember Parental Cross-Matching.

If you and a sibling inherited EXACTLY the same segment of your Mom’s and Dad’s DNA, and you match someone by chance – that person will match your sibling by chance as well.

In this example, you can see that both siblings 1 and 2 inherited the exact same segments of DNA at the same locations from both of their parents.

Of course, they also inherited segments at different locations that we’re not looking at that won’t match exactly between siblings, unless they are identical twins. But in this case, the inherited segments of both siblings will match someone whose DNA randomly combined with green or magenta dots in these positions to match a cross-section of both parents.

How False Positives Work and How to Avoid Them

We saw in our first example, displayed again above, what a valid triangulated match looks like. Now let’s expand this view and take a look more specifically at how false positive matches occur.

On the left-hand (blue) side of this graphic, we see four siblings that descend through their father from Great-grandpa who contributed that large magenta segment of DNA. That segment becomes reduced in descendants in subsequent generations.

In downstream generations, we can see gold, white and green segments being added to the DNA inherited by the four children from their ancestor’s spouses. Dad’s DNA is shown on the left side of each child, and Mom’s on the right.

  • Blue Children 1 and 2 inherited the same segments of DNA from Mom and Dad. Magenta from Dad and green from Mom.
  • Blue Child 3 inherited two magenta segments from Dad in positions 1 and 2 and one gold segment from Dad in position 3. They inherited all white segments from Mom.
  • Blue Child 4 inherited all gold segments from Dad and all white segments from Mom.

The family on the blue left-hand side is NOT related to the pink family shown at right. That’s important to remember.

I’ve intentionally constructed this graphic so that you can see several identical by chance (IBC) matches.

Child 5, the first pink sibling carries a white segment in position 1 from Dad and gold segments in positions 2 and 3 from Dad. From Mom, they inherited a green segment in position 1, magenta in position 2 and green in position 3.

IBC Match 1 – Looking at the blue siblings, we see that based on the DNA inherited from Pink Child 5’s parents, Pink Child 5 matches Blue Child 4 with white, gold and gold in positions 1-3, even though they weren’t inherited from the same parent in Blue Child 4. I circled this match in blue.

IBC Match 2 – Pink Child 5 also matches Blue Children 1 and 2 (red circles) because Pink Child 5 has green, magenta, and green in positions 1-3 and so do Blue Children 1 and 2. However, Blue Children 1 and 2 inherited the green and magenta segments from Mom and Dad respectively, not just from one parent.

Pink Child 5 matches Blue Children 1, 2 and 4, but not because they match by descent, but because their DNA zigzags back and forth between the blue children’s DNA contributed by both parents.

Therefore, while Pink Child 5 matches three of the Blue Children, they do not match either parent of the Blue Children.

IBC Match 3 – Pink Child 6 matches Blue Child 3 with white, magenta and gold in positions 1-3 based on the same colors of dots in those same positions found in Blue Child 3 – but inherited both paternally and maternally.

You can see that if we had the four parents available to test, that none of the Pink Children would match either the Blue Children’s mother or father and none of the Blue Children would match either of the Pink Children’s mother or father.

This is why we can’t use either siblings or close family relatives for triangulation.

Distant Cousins Are Best for Triangulation & Here’s Why

When triangulating with 3 people, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) intersection of the closest two people is the place at which triangulation turns into only two lines being compared and ceases being triangulation. Triangle means 3.

If siblings are 2 of the 3 matching people, then their parents are essentially being compared to the third person.

If you, your aunt/uncle, and a third person match, your grandparents are the place in your tree where three lines converge into two.

The same holds true if you’re matching against a sibling pair on your match’s side, or a match and their aunt/uncle, etc.

The further back in your tree you can push that MRCA intersection, the more your triangulated match provides confirming evidence of a common ancestor and that the match is valid and not caused by random recombination.

That’s exactly what the descendants of Charles Dodson have been able to do through triangulation with multiple descendants from several of his children.

It’s also worth mentioning at this point that the reason autosomal DNA testing uses hundreds/thousands of base pairs in a comparison window and not 3 or 6 dots like in my example is that the probability of longer segments of DNA simply randomly matching by chance is reduced with length and SNP density which is the number of SNP locations tested within that cM range.

Hence a 7 cM/500 SNP minimum is the combined rule of thumb. At that level, roughly half of your matches will be valid and half will be identical by chance unless you’re dealing with endogamy. Then, raise your threshold accordingly.

Ok, So Where are We? A Triangulation Checklist for You!

I know this has been a relatively long educational article, but it’s important to really understand that testing close relatives is VERY important, but also why we can’t effectively use them for triangulation.

Here’s a handy-dandy summary matching/triangulation checklist for you to use as you work through your matches.

  • You inherit half of each of your parents’ DNA. There is no other place for you to obtain or inherit your DNA. There is no DNA fairy sprinkling you with DNA from another source:)
  • DNA does NOT skip generations, although in occasional rare circumstances, it may appear that this happened. In this situation, it’s incumbent upon you, the genealogist, to PROVE that an exception has occurred if you really believe it has. Those circumstances might be pedigree collapse or perhaps imputation. You’ll need to compare matches at vendors who provide a chromosome browser, triangulation, and full shared match list information. Never assume that you are the exception without hard and fast proof. We all know about assume, right?
  • Your siblings inherit half of your parents’ DNA too, but not the same exact half of your parent’s DNA that you other siblings did (unless they are identical twins.) You may inherit the exact same DNA from either or both of your parents on certain segments.
  • Your matches may match your parents on different or an additional segment that you did not inherit.
  • Every segment has an individual history. Evaluate every matching segment separately. One matching segment with someone could be maternal, one paternal, and one identical by chance.
  • You can confirm matches as valid if your match matches one of your parents, and you match one of your match’s parents. Parental Phasing is when your match matches your parent. Parental Cross-Matching is when you both match one of each other’s parents. To be complete, both people who match each other need to match one of the parents of the other person. This rule still holds even if you have a known common ancestor. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been fooled.
  • 15-20% (or more with endogamy) of your matches will be identical by chance because either your DNA or your match’s DNA aligns in such a way that while they match you, they don’t match either of your parents.
  • Your siblings, aunts, and uncles will often inherit the same DNA as you – which means that identical by chance matches will also match them. That’s why we don’t use close family members for triangulation. We do utilize close family members to generate common match hints. (Remember the 20 cM shared match caveat at Ancestry)
  • While your siblings, aunts, and uncles are too close to use for triangulation, they are wonderful to identify ancestral matches. Some of their matches will match you as well, and some will not because your close family members inherited segments of your ancestor’s DNA that you did not. Everyone should test their oldest family members.
  • Triangulate your close family member’s matches separately from your own to shed more light on your ancestors.
  • Endogamy may interfere with parental phasing, meaning you may match because you and/or your match may have inherited some of the same DNA segment(s) from both sides of your tree and/or more DNA than might otherwise be expected.
  • Pedigree collapse needs to be considered when using parental phasing, especially when the same ancestor appears on both sides of your family tree. You may share more DNA with a match than expected.
  • Conversely, with pedigree collapse, your match may not match your parents, or vice versa, if a segment happens to have recombined in you in a way that drops the matching segments of your parents beneath the vendor’s match threshold.
  • While you will match all of your second cousins, you will only match approximately 90% of your third cousins and proportionally fewer as your relationship reaches further back in time.
  • Not being a DNA match with someone does NOT mean you’re NOT related to them, unless of course, you’re a second cousin (2C) or closer. It simply means you don’t carry any common ancestral segments above vendor thresholds.
  • At 2C or closer, if you’re not a DNA match, other alternative situations need to be considered – including the transfer/upload of the wrong person’s DNA file.
  • Imputation, a scientific process required of vendors may interfere with matching, especially in more distant relatives who have tested on different platforms.
  • Imputation artifacts will be less obvious when people are more closely related, meaning closer relatives can be expected to match on more and larger segments and imputation errors make less difference.
  • Imputation will not cause close relatives, meaning 2C or closer, to not match each other.
  • In addition to not supporting segment matching information, Ancestry down-weights some segments, removes some matching DNA, and does not show shared matches below 20cM, causing some people to misinterpret their lack of common matches in various ways.
  • To resolve questions about matching issues at Ancestry, testers can transfer/upload their DNA files to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and GEDmatch and look for consistent matches on the same segment. Start and end locations may vary to some extent between vendors, but the segment size should be basically in the same location and roughly the same size.
  • GEDmatch does not use imputation but allows larger non-matching segments to combine as a single segment which sometimes causes extremely “generous” matches. GEDmatch matching is less reliable than FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage, but you can adjust the matching thresholds.
  • The best situation for matching is for both people to test at the same vendor who supports and provides segment data and a chromosome browser such as 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, or MyHeritage.
  • Siblings cannot be used for triangulation because the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) between you and your siblings is your parents. Therefore, the “three” people in the triangulation group is reduced to two lines immediately.
  • Uncles and aunts should not be used for triangulation because the most recent common ancestors between you and your aunts and uncles are your grandparents.
  • Conversely, you should not consider triangulating with siblings and close family members of your matches as proof of an ancestral relationship.
  • A triangulation group of 3 people is only confirmation as far back as when two of those people’s lines converge and reach a common ancestor.
  • Identical by chance (IBC) matching occurs when DNA from the maternal and paternal sides are mixed positionally in the child to resemble a maternal/paternal side match with someone else.
  • Identical by chance DNA admixture (when compared to a match) could have occurred in your parents or grandparent’s generation, or earlier, so the further back in time that people in a triangulation group reach, the more reliable the triangulation group is likely to be.
  • The larger the segments and/or the triangulation group, the stronger the evidence for a specific confirmed common ancestor.
  • Early families with a very large number of descendants may have many matching and triangulated members, even 9 or 10 generations later.
  • While exactly 50% of each ancestor’s DNA is not passed in each generation, on average, you will carry 7 cM of your ancestors 10 generations back in your tree. However, you may carry more, or none.
  • The percentage of matching descendants decreases with each generation beyond great-grandparents.
  • The ideal situation for triangulation is a significant number of people, greater than three, who match on the same reasonably sized segment (7 cM/500 SNP or larger) and descend from the same ancestor (or ancestral couple) through different children whose spouses in descendant generations are not also related.
  • This means that tree completion is an important factor in match/triangulation reliability.
  • Triangulating through different children of the ancestral couple makes it significantly less likely that a different unknown common ancestor is contributing that segment of DNA – like an unknown wife in a descendant generation.

Whew!!!

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line.

  1. Don’t use close relatives to triangulate.
  2. Use parents for Parental Phasing.
  3. Use Parental Cross-Matching when possible.
  4. Use close relatives to look for shared common matches that may lead to triangulation possibilities.
  5. Triangulate your close relatives’ DNA in addition to your own for bonus genealogical information. They will match people that you don’t.
  6. For the most reliable triangulation results, use the most distant relatives possible, descended through different children of the common ancestral couple.
  7. Keep this checklist of best practices, cautions, and caveats handy and check the list as necessary when evaluating the strength of any match or triangulation group. It serves as a good reminder for what to check if something seems “off” or unusual.

Feel free to share and pass this article (and checklist) on to your genealogy buddies and matches as you explain triangulation and collaborate on your genealogy.

Have fun!!!

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