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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