Monday, May 18, 2015

African Autosomal DNA Matching: A Feeling I Can’t Describe


Autosomal DNA tests (like 23andMe, FamilyTree DNA, etc.) are allowing many people of African descent to gain insight about some of their African roots in a very profound manner – by connecting them to African distant cousins. I get chills when a new African match appears among my DNA relatives or that of my parents, my maternal aunt, and my maternal uncle, all of whom I have tested with 23andMe. I am not alone in my reaction. Many people are jumping for joy when they get a new African DNA match. They eagerly post about it in Facebook groups like DNA Tested African Descendants and others. I feel and understand their joy. It is indeed a feeling that’s indescribable!

To date, my family has at least four valid DNA matches to African cousins. I say “valid” because the African DNA cousins also match other known family members on the same spot on the same chromosome. These matches are likely to be “Identity by Descent” (IBD). According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), IBD is when a matching segment of DNA, shared by two or more people, has been inherited from a recent common ancestor without any intervening recombination.[1] To learn more about the threshold for matches from various DNA companies, see this link. There are other matches that I am not sure about, so I will leave them out of this post for now.

Three of my family’s four valid DNA matches to date have shared no greater than 8 cM but matching multiple family members. The other match, who is from Madagascar, shares 10 cM with my father, as shown below. According to geneticist Tim Janzen, many matches under 15 cMs will, in any case, share ancestry more than ten generations ago and will be mostly beyond the reach of genealogical records[2] For many African Americans, the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade here in America was at least 8 generations ago. I plausibly asserted that after nine generations back, I hit the time frames in my own family tree when many of my African ancestors were living in Africa. Many in that 9th generation endured the horrific Middle Passage, while few in that 9th generation were probably among the first to be born on American soil to African parents. This is my best guess based on genealogical findings to date.

The 9th generation would be my 7th-great-grandparents. Everyone have a total of 512 7th-great-grandparents, and a majority of mine were undoubtedly Africans. Although nine or more generations back is beyond my genealogical scope thus far, these African DNA matches are definitive links to the Motherland. These African DNA matches are clear indications that family members were left behind when our enslaved African ancestors were: (1) captured and marched to the Atlantic shores of Africa from their villages in the interior; (2) chained to the belly of slave ships; (3) survived the gruesome Middle Passage; (4) auctioned in slave markets in South Carolina, Virginia, the Caribbean, and other places; and (5) birthed my American-born ancestors.

Like most descendants of enslaved Africans in America, I am an admixture of many African ethnic groups. I estimate that I had hundreds of ancestors who endured the horrific Middle Passage, and they came from areas throughout West Africa and West-Central Africa. A few may have even hailed from Mozambique and Madagascar, based on transatlantic slave trade statistics. All of them make up the 89.8% Sub-Saharan African ancestry that 23andMe proclaims is part of my ancestry composition. Therefore, I hope to add to my present list of four as more Africans take the autosomal DNA tests (23andMe, FamilyTree DNA, etc.). To increase discoveries like these, 23andMe had been offering free kits to people with four grandparents from one of the sub-Saharan African countries — Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo , Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Enrollment in this project is now closed. More info about that project can be read here.

My African DNA matches from 23andMe include the following:


Family Link:                
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:

Ethnic groups/tribes:

Paternal grandfather, Hulen Kennedy
Fru, Nchoungong
Matches my father, his paternal 2nd cousin, & me on the same spot on chromosome 3
5.3 to 6.1 cM
Bamileke - his mother is from the Bambili tribe and his father is from the Nkwen tribe


Family Link:
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:

Ethnic groups/tribes:
Maternal grandfather, Simpson Reed
Dodoo, Wunu, Bansah
Matches my mother, her sister & brother, their 1st cousin 3X removed, and me on the same spot on chromosome 2
5.1 to 5.9 cM
Ashanti and Ewe peoples


Family Link:
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:

Ethnic groups/tribes:
Maternal great-grandmother, Mary Danner Davis
Not Available
Not Available
Matches my mother, her brother, their two maternal 2nd cousins, and me on the same spot on chromosome 5
7.2 to 7.7 cM
Not shown (probably Basotho people)


Family Link:
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:
Ethnic groups/tribes:
Paternal grandfather, Hulen Kennedy
Ramalanjaona, Rajoelinjaka
Matches my father and his paternal first cousin twice removed
10 cM
Malagasy people

I must say, a match to someone from Lesotho is a big surprise! I am still researching the possibilities of that valid match. Nonetheless, to underscore the importance of these matches, genetics expert Shannon Christmas, who is a 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador and co-administrator of The Hemings-Jefferson-Wayles-Eppes Autosomal DNA Project, conveys that autosomal DNA matches with native Africans are the best indicators of one's ancestral origins in Africa. He further asserts that these African DNA connections are the types of discoveries that people of African descent should embrace and encourage because they teach us far more than haplogroup predictions and autosomal biogeographical analysis. I have communicated with two of these African DNA cousins via social media and inbox messages, and I look forward to the day when I meet them in person. Undoubtedly, tears will fall from my eyes.

Note: I will update this post as I get more African DNA matches in the future.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day Story: When Giving a Child Up is the Best


My sister and I are blessed to have such a loving, nurturing mother. We have always had a close relationship with our Mom, who loved being a Mom. That’s why I couldn’t understand how a woman, who gives birth to a child, opt out of being a mother to that child. However, as I got older, I began to understand why. With some women, the greatest love that she can give to her child is giving that child up. What do I mean?

This weekend, I have been thinking a lot about the late Mrs. Gertrude “Gert” Estelle Belton Brown. She was my father’s birth mother. I remember her well. She lived in Harvey, Illinois. We visited her every summer up until her demise in 1983. I can still picture the inside of her house she shared with her husband, David Brown. When my family and I traveled to Chicago, we would spend at least one or two nights with her and/or my Aunt Geraldine before spending the remaining time in Chicago with my mother’s sister and her family.

Gertrude Belton Brown (1908-1983) with her daughter, Aunt Geraldine

Growing up, I was always told that she was my grandmother too, and for that I had great love for her. However, I used to wonder why she chose to give my father up to his biological father. Shortly after my father was born in Leake County (Lena), Mississippi, Grandma Gert left with her infant boy and moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where she resided with relatives. She had been living in Leake County for a short while with her uncle and aunt, Arthur & Mattie Belton Jones. Well, a tall and reserved man named Hulen “Newt” Kennedy wasn’t having it. He was Dad’s biological father. He did not want any child of his being raised in the neo-slavery Mississippi Delta. So he traveled to Clarksdale to get him, and he brought him back to Leake County. Making no fuss, Grandma Gert allowed him to take my father. She didn’t see him again until 16 years later.

Upon returning back to Lena, Grandpa Newt asked his childless double first cousin, Willie Ealy Collier, and her husband, George Collier, to raise him. George & Willie Collier were esteemed educators, so Grandpa Newt knew that they could give my father a great upbringing. And that, they did! They legally adopted my father. They were also wonderful grandparents to me and my sisters. We were very close to them, and I thank God, as well as Grandma Gert and Grandpa Newt, for giving me the best grandparents in the world. When Grandma Willie would say to me, “Buster, you have plenty of my blood in you,” I knew what she meant because my father’s true parentage was not a secret. Being double first cousins, she and Grandpa Newt Kennedy shared the same four grandparents. Read “Grandma Was Right” for DNA evidence.

Grandma Gert later expressed to my Mom that she had no regrets giving my father up. She knew that he would have a much better life back in Leake County and that the Colliers would be great parents to her son. Still, I didn’t understand things until I started researching her family. As I connected the dots, everything began to make sense. Genealogy gives you more than just your family tree; it helps to put things into perspective.

You see, Grandma Gert’s life was filled with instability since she was a young girl. She was born in 1908 in Warren County, Mississippi near the Bovina community, to Peter Belton Jr. & Angeline Bass Belton. However, in the 1910 census, Grandma Angeline Belton was reported as the head of household and was reported as being a widow. Grandma Gert and her older brother, Jake Belton, were in the household. Peter Belton was nowhere to be found in 1910, so I assume that he had died near the time Grandma Gert was born.  Therefore, she didn’t have a father.

 1910 U.S. Federal Census – Warren County, Mississippi

Then by 1920, within that 10-year span, her mother Angeline had another daughter in 1912 (my great-aunt Pearlie), remarried, and moved to Sharkey County, Mississippi, in the neo-slavery Mississippi Delta. In the 1920 census, Grandma Angeline’s second husband, Henry Dennis, was the head of household. The only child in the household was my grandmother’s older brother, Jake Belton. See below. Aunt Pearlie was left back in Warren County, being raised by her father, William Weekley, and his new wife.

1920 U.S. Federal Census – Sharkey County, Mississippi (Where was my grandmother?)

I still have yet to figure out why Grandma Gert wasn’t in the household and with whom she was living. Based on Aunt Pearlie’s memory, Angeline had died around 1920, probably shortly after the 1920 census was taken. Therefore, not only did Grandma Gert not have a father, but she lost her mother when she was around 12 years old. I don’t know with whom she resided after her mother died. To add salt to her wound, her only brother, Jake Belton, died five years later in 1925. Life had dealt her a bad deck of cards. Her immediate family – her parents and her brother – were gone forever. And she was a teenager when she reconnected with her baby sister, Aunt Pearlie Mae Weekley Spicer (1912-2008).

At age 18, she gave birth to her first child, my aunt Geraldine Rayford Parham. Similar to my father, Aunt Geraldine was raised by her father’s family. She would reunite with Grandma Gert years later, and they remained close. I loved visiting Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Fred Parham, who lived just a few blocks away from Grandma Gert in Harvey, Illinois. Aunt Geraldine showered us with lots of love. She will always have a special place in my heart.

Aunt Geraldine Parham (1926-1991)

Sadly, I have only been able to find Grandma Gert in the 1910 census. I can’t find her in 1920, 1930, nor in 1940. From what I understand, she had lived in a number of locations – Nitta Yuma, Mississippi; Kosciusko, Mississippi; Earle, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Lena, Mississippi; Clarksdale, Mississippi, and lastly, Harvey, Illinois. Unfortunately, instability was part of her life and would not have been conducive to the upbringing of a child. I am sure that she cried many tears after releasing her infant boy to his father. Genealogy enabled me to see clearly why she did what she did. She wanted for him what she didn’t have – a great, stable childhood. Giving him up was the “greatest love of all” that she could give to her child. Happy Mother’s Day, Grandma Gert! You will never be forgotten. R.I.P.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Four Generations of Enslaved Ancestors Held By One Trust

A scan of the will of Council Bass, September 2, 1830, Northampton County, North Carolina (Source)

This weekend, numerous articles reported that actor Ben Affleck asked Dr. Henry Louis Gates to exclude the fact that one of his ancestors was a slave-owner in the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots.” He wanted it hidden. This was revealed from a hacked Sony e-mail written on July 22, 2014, that was recently placed on WikiLeaks.  The question many are asking is WHY?

Perhaps Affleck failed to realize that the long-lasting institution of chattel slavery was deeply interwoven into America’s historic fabric for hundreds of years. Hundreds!  Although American chattel slavery was the most inhumane form of slavery on this earth, why cover it up? It happened and it happened for a long time. Unfortunately, slavery was part of the foundation of America’s growth and development. 

During this dark time in our American history, enslaved African Americans were considered property. That “property” was subject to many legal transactions because our enslaved ancestors were basically expensive “material goods.” These inhumane legal transactions can be found in many county court records. Here is one of many that I recently discovered in my own family history that is the focus of this blog post (not Affleck). Four generations of ancestors in one family were held by a legal trust for nearly 20 years.

Two years ago, I finally broke down that 1870 brick wall with my great-great-grandfather, Jack Bass, and his family. According to the 1870 & 1880 censuses and his Freedman’s Bank application, he was born in or around 1845 in North Carolina. His Freedman’s Bank application, dated January 16, 1871, asked the question, “Where Brought Up?” Grandpa Jack reported Mississippi. This led me to theorize that he was likely transported to Mississippi from North Carolina at a young age and had spent most of his childhood in Hinds County, Mississippi near Jackson.

When I found the huge clue that enabled me to knock down that 1870 brick wall, as explained in The Ancestors Spoke: Another Longtime Brick Wall Crumbles!, my theory turned out to be accurate. Not only that, I also discovered that Grandpa Jack was born under a legal trust that his mother’s first enslaver had established via his will. His family were not residing on the farm of their legal owner at the time of his birth. This legal trust had held Grandpa Jack, his mother, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother in North Carolina. Four generations!

Approximately 15 years before Grandpa Jack Bass was born, Council Bass of Northampton County, North Carolina wrote his will on September 2, 1830. He bequeathed Grandpa Jack’s mother Beady – my 3rd-great-grandmother – and other family members to his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Bass Coggins Bass. Yes, both her maiden name and her last married name was Bass. According to NC marriage records, she had married Jesse Bass Jr. on January 16, 1828. He was her second cousin. Shortly after their marriage, Jesse and Elizabeth migrated to Hinds County, Mississippi by 1830. He was reported in the 1830 census in Hinds County. This was Elizabeth’s second marriage, and she was presumably in Mississippi when her father wrote his will.

Per Council’s will, Elizabeth was given land and slaves, and those slaves – my family – were to be held in trust strictly for Elizabeth’s benefit. Council obviously did not want his cousin/son-in-law to benefit at all. This seemed to have been the main reason why my ancestors were held in North Carolina for the next 18 years after his will. In 1830, Council Bass made the following special bequeath to Elizabeth in his will. Notice his phrase in red.

Item 2nd: I convey all of my land on the South side of the Road leading from Bryans Crossroad to Rich Square including my dwelling house with the following Negroes that is to say, Harry, Beady, Hezekiah, Jackson, and Willie unto Bryan Randolph in trust for the benefit of my daughter Elizabeth Bass during her life and after her death I give and bequeath the said land . . . with the negroes Harry, Beady, Hezekiah, Jackson, and Willie unto her surviving children to be equally divided amongst them. . . . It is my will that the trustee Bryan Randolph pay unto my daughter Elizabeth Bass annually the amount of the rent of said land and hire of said Negroes after reserving what may be necessary for the support of the three old Negroes, Sharper, Rose, and Peggy which I wish to be maintained on the plantation as long as they live unto my daughter Elizabeth for her own use and benefit and the same be not subject to the order or use of her husband in any way whatsoever.

Based on census records, death certificates, and other evidence, I have determined that the lot of slaves bequeathed to Elizabeth were children of Rose, including Grandma Beady. Circumstantial evidence, such as naming patterns, strongly suggest that Peggy was Rose’s mother. Sharper may have been Rose’s father, but I am still looking for more evidence to prove it. Council Bass bequeathed other children of Grandma Rose, my 4th-great-grandmother, to his other two married daughters, Martha Mayo and Charlotte Holloman, and his granddaughters, Susan Crisp and Eliza Coggins.

In his will, Council Bass appointed a neighbor named Bryan Randolph as the trustee. Randolph was responsible for hiring out my family and keeping an accurate accounting. The proceeds from the hiring out of my enslaved ancestors, as well as from the rent of his land, were to be paid annually to Elizabeth. My enslaved ancestors were transferred to Bryan Randolph’s farm after Council Bass died, shortly after he wrote his will. His will was probated in December 1830.

I learned from online family trees that Bryan Randolph died in 1838. Luckily, FamilySearch has digitized many of North Carolina’s estate records, and I decided to take a look at Randolph’s estate file, all 436 images! Lo and behold, among his thick estate record was a complaint titled “William Britton vs. Jesse Bass and wife, October 1838.” Those images can be seen here.  Apparently, Jesse & Elizabeth Bass were not happy with William Britton, the named executor of Bryan Randolph’s estate and the new trustee of Council Bass’ property. They petitioned the court to appoint someone else. Also, Randolph’s estate file contained an accounting of the hiring and keeping of Grandma Beady, her three children, and her brothers, Harry and Jackson, for the years 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840. Interestingly, in 1840, Elizabeth Bass was paid over $700.

An accounting for the hiring and keeping of Grandma Beady, her three children (unnamed), and her brothers, Harry and Jackson, in 1839 from Bryan Randolph’s estate record. (Source)

I also learned from online family trees that William Britton had died in 1844. I decided to find his estate records to see if I could learn more. Since William Britton was appointed as the new trustee of Council Bass’ property, will my ancestors be found in his records? The answer was YES. His estate records were also found on FamilySearch. Thankfully, his estate record only contains 45 scanned documents, and among those 45 pages was a complaint titled, “The Bill of Complaint of Richard O. and William J. Britton, Administrators of William Britton deceased vs Jesse Bass and wife Elizabeth.” This complaint was filed in 1846 because Jesse & Elizabeth believed that Richard and William J. Britton were not keeping an accurate accounting of the hiring of negroes left by Council Bass for Elizabeth’s benefit. In that 1846 complaint, the slaves now named were Harry, Jackson, Grandma Beady and her children, Eliza, Jemima, Hetty, Peggy, and Jackson, and “old Peggy” and Rose (Source). The second Jackson was Grandpa Jack Bass, my great-great-grandfather! “Old Peggy” was likely Grandpa Jack’s great-grandmother – the mother of Grandma Rose, who was the mother of Grandma Beady. Based on my calculations, she may have been around 90 years old!

To add, another eye-catching document in William Britton’s estate record was a petition issued by Elizabeth Bass on January 25, 1848, to move her slave inheritance – my ancestors – to Mississippi. Her husband Jesse Bass had recently died, leaving her with two young daughters; the probate court of Hinds County, Mississippi had appointed her guardianship. In the petition, she claimed that my enslaved family would be more valuable to her and her daughters if they were in Mississippi with them (Source). Knowing that her father’s will specifically requested that Jesse have no control over her slaves, perhaps Elizabeth felt confident in petitioning this move after Jesse’s death. 

Nonetheless, her request was granted, and Grandpa Jack Bass and his family were transported to Hinds County, Mississippi around 1849. He was only a young boy, no more than 4 years old. (Note: His father Tom Bowden was left back in North Carolina.) I can’t help but wonder if his great-grandmother Peggy – my 5th-great-grandmother – had lived two more years to make the trip. That trek to central Mississippi from northeastern North Carolina, adjacent to Virginia, was a 900-mile journey that likely took weeks by uncomfortable, wooden wagons and by feet. I wonder . . . .

Jan. 25, 1848 Petition: “….The defendant Elizabeth further assuring & with that the property mentioned in complaint Bill viz the slaves will be much more valuable to herself and her children if removed to the State of Mississippi where they all reside. In view of these considerations she is desiring that this Honorable Court will issue a surrender of the said slaves to the defendant……” (Source)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jumping to Conclusions with Genealogy and DNA

In genealogy research, as well as genetic genealogy, jumping to conclusions is easily done. Researchers may find something or someone that looks like a promising clue to tracing back further, or researchers may even find something or someone that looks exciting and appears to be connected. Before we know it, we are deeming that research finding as a factual connection BEFORE more in-depth research reveals something otherwise. In other words, reasonable assumptions convert to bona fide conclusions without a reasonably exhaustive search for all pertinent information. In many cases, the closer analysis or more in-depth research never happens. Consequently, many erroneous family trees or pedigree charts are being shown or false information is being presented. I was guilty of this recently.

Now that genetic DNA technology has come onto the genealogical scene, jumping to conclusions is even easier, unfortunately. Let’s face it. Many of these conclusions could be wrong as two left shoes. Why? Here are several reasons why many conclusions could possibly be wrong:

1.    Some researchers have based their conclusions on one person’s DNA results. More accurate conclusions can be drawn from analyzing multiple family members’ results.
2.    Some researchers overlook the chance that their initial analysis is wrong because the finding is exciting, interesting, and seems to fit. Therefore, they fail to examine the contradictory evidence.
3.    Some researchers often erroneously conclude that just because two or three people are someone’s DNA matches too, then they all must descend from the same ancestor. They often fail to consider that with autosomal DNA test results from 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA, or GEDMatch, our DNA matches may be maternal relatives or paternal relatives. That’s why DNA triangulating is very important and ensuring that the people in question all match each other.
4.    Also, a misunderstanding of DNA technology or a gross lack of knowledge about DNA can often lead to many erroneous conclusions.

Recently, I decided to ask my mother’s brother to take the 23andMe test. He eagerly agreed, and I had a DNA kit sent to one of his sons in Memphis, who collected my uncle’s saliva. 23andMe has analyzed and calculated his results; they have been uploading some of the results this weekend. When I saw my uncle’s Ancestry Composition last night, my mouth dropped. I realized that I had jumped to a wrong conclusion in 2013, shortly after getting my mother’s 23andMe results. I even wrote an entire blog post on this wrong assumption.

When I wrote “DNA Found Native Americans Resting in Family Tree” in August 2013, I was largely confident that the huge Native American segment on my mother’s X chromosome came from her paternal grandmother, Sarah Partee Reed (1852-1923). My aunt (mother’s sister) and I also have large Native American segments on our X chromosomes. See diagrams below. You see, family elders had relayed that Grandma Sarah had some Native American ancestry. I even presented some circumstantial evidence of this alleged Native American ancestry in that blog post. Since 50% of a female’s X-DNA comes from her paternal grandmother, I wasn’t totally off-based from concluding this, right? But, I overlooked where the other 50% of my mother and aunt’s X-DNA come from because it appeared that I had DNA proof of my family elders’ Native American claim. That would have been major. Nonetheless, my elders’ Native American claim may still be accurate, but the huge Native American segments on our X-chromosomes definitely did not come from Grandma Sarah Partee Reed.

Below is a snapshot of the ancestry composition of my uncle’s X-chromosome. To my surprise, a vast majority (over 80%) of his X-DNA is of Native American ancestry! His ancestry composition includes 2.0% Native American, and most of it is on his X chromosome. Another small chunk falls on his chromosome 7. A man inherits all of his X-DNA from his mother, while 50% of a female’s X-DNA comes from her mother and the other 50% come from her father’s mother. Therefore, the Native American ancestry on my, my Mom, and her siblings’ X chromosomes came from their mother, my maternal grandmother.

(1) The ancestry composition of my Uncle’s X chromosome

 (2) The ancestry composition of my Mom’s X-chromosome

(3) The ancestry composition of my Aunt’s X-chromosome

(4) The ancestry composition of my X-chromosome

(5) X-chromosome triangulation in 23andMe: My uncle compared to my mother (green), my aunt (blue) and me (purple). My match to my uncle on the X chromosome is my Native American segment (69-115 Mbp, 33.9 cM, 3297 SNPs)

With my uncle’s DNA results, and utilizing the male X inheritance chart, I can now pinpoint which of my maternal grandmother’s ancestors could and could not have passed down these large Native American segments on our X. One of these five great-great-great-grandparents passed it down, along with the average percentage of X-DNA that my uncle can inherit from them. However, from each of these five Mississippi ancestors, my uncle could inherit as little as 0% or as much as 100%.

1.    Wade Milam (born c. 1820 in Alabama): 25%
2.    Margaret “Peggy” Warren Milam (born c. 1829 in Tennessee): 25%
3.    Unknown mother of Edward Danner (probably born c. 1800 in So. Carolina): 25%
4.    Elijah Wilbourn Jr. (born 1810 in So. Carolina): 12.5% (He was white.)
5.    Clarissa Bobo (born c. 1823 in So. Carolina): 12.5%

Now I wonder if Cousin Robert Danner (1905-2008), my maternal grandmother’s first cousin, was right after all. He was a walking history book! You see, when I first interviewed him in 1996, he showed me the following picture of his paternal grandmother, my great-great-grandmother, Louisa “Lue” Bobo Danner (daughter of Clarissa Bobo). I immediately asked him if she had Native American ancestry. Other family members had shared with me that she was half Native American, while my mother and other family members had shared that she was half white. There was obvious confusion about her ancestral background.

Well, Cousin Robert confirmed her white paternity, and he was even able to provide the name of Grandma Lue’s white father, Elijah Wilbourn, and a white half-brother called Sandy Wilbourn. Hear his interview here. A solid 4th cousin DNA match in FTDNA between my mother’s second cousin Orien (another great-granddaughter of Grandma Lue) and a great-great-grandson of Elijah’s brother seems to suggest that this paternity claim is accurate. With my eyes fixated on Grandma Lue’s picture, I then asked if maybe Grandma Lue’s mother (Clarissa Bobo) may have had Native American ancestry. Cousin Robert expressed that he never heard anything about that. However, he relayed that his father told him that his grandfather’s people back in South Carolina were considered “Black Indians.” Therefore, the alleged Native American ancestry was via my great-great-grandfather, Edward Danner. For some reason, I ignored that claim about Grandpa Edward Danner and had deemed it as being one of those “Indian myths”. Now my uncle’s DNA results have me wondering. Hmmmmm………

My great-great-grandmother, Louisa “Lue” Bobo Danner (1842-1921)

My maternal grandmother, Minnie Davis Reed (1908-1971), around 5 years old, with her mother, Mary Danner Davis (1867-1932). She was Grandma Mary’s youngest child of nine children.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Finding the Connection to a DNA Match Within An Hour!

One thing I always stress to people when they want to take a genetic DNA test is to start building their family tree first. Not only that, please have an available family tree or pedigree chart that they are willing to show to DNA matches upon request to aid in figuring out family connections. Even if they desire for their family tree to be private, I advise people to be willing to accept requests from DNA matches to view it.

I have prepared two family trees on One is loaded with pictures, scanned documents, etc. that is synced to my Family Tree Maker software. This tree is for my use only. I have another one that contain names, dates, locations, and any other information I chose to show that’ll help DNA matches to connect the dots. This second tree is the one that I allow DNA matches to view publicly. It’s attached to my ancestry profile. Viewing family trees or pedigree charts is essential to making the connection. Back and forth e-mail exchanges of names and surnames can swallow up a lot of time. Just simply show me a family tree! I will demonstrate how this greatly helped to connect the dots within an hour! This DNA connection is especially wonderful because it enabled me to find my great-grandmother’s younger sister!

Recently, I obtained a new match in AncestryDNA. Her name is Sherri, and she is a “Very High” confidence match with a prediction of 4th cousins. According to AncestryDNA, “very high” confidence means that the approximate amount of sharing is 20-30 cMs. Her DNA account is maintained by her husband. Thankfully, he made Sherri’s family tree public. I clicked on it and started looking at the names of her ancestors. The first ancestor to catch my attention was her maternal great-grandmother, Maria Bass, because Bass is one of my surnames.

Then, I opened up the profile for Maria Bass to garner more information. Census records were attached to her great-grandmother’s profile, which helped a great deal. My eyes opened wider when I noticed that her Maria Bass resided in Sharkey County, Mississippi in 1910. My father’s maternal grandmother, Angeline Bass Belton, lived in Sharkey County too after 1910. She was originally from Warren County. Shortly after her daughter, my great-aunt Pearlie, was born in 1912, Grandma Angeline relocated to Sharkey County, leaving Aunt Pearlie in Warren County to be raised by her father. Apparently, Grandma Angeline had family in Sharkey County. I opened up that 1910 census page to look at Maria Bass’ household. Immediately, I saw a major clue!

1910 Census – the Robinson Household, Sharkey County, Mississippi
Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Beat 4, Sharkey, Mississippi; Roll: T624_749; Page: 7B;
Enumeration District: 0085; FHL microfilm: 1374762

Maria Bass Robinson (age 28) was the wife of Will Robinson. This was Will's first marriage because "M1" was recorded. This was Maria's second marriage because "M2" was recorded. Two children that Maria had before her marriage to Will Robinson were in the household. Their surname was McAllister. This was a big clue! Take a look at the 1900 Warren County, Mississippi census below, where I had found my great-great-grandmother, Frances Morris Bass McAllister, and her second husband, George McAllister. Her first husband, my great-great-grandfather Jackson “Jack” Bass, had died after 1880, and Frances remarried to George McAllister in 1888.

1900 Census – the McAllister Household, Warren County, Mississippi
Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Bovins, Warren, Mississippi; Roll: 831; Page: 3B;
Enumeration District: 0138; FHL microfilm: 1240831

In 1900, the McAllister household was a blended family that contained some of Grandma Frances’ adult children by Grandpa Jack; one of them was Grandma Angeline Bass (age 20). Two of George McAllister’s children by his previous wife were also in the household. By 1900, George and Grandma Frances had two children together, Willie (son) and Annie McAllister; they were also in the household. But more importantly, Maria McAllister (age 18), with her baby daughter Rebecca (age 1), was also in the household. Her marital status was “married.” Maria was reported as being George’s daughter-in-law.

Prior to this, I had assumed that Maria McAllister was Grandma Frances’ step-son’s young wife. I was wrong. Why? Because on Maria Bass’ profile page, Sherri’s husband included the following note: Maiden name: An obit has her down as Mariah Bass Robinson. Therefore, Maria was truly a Bass and appears to have been another daughter of Grandpa Jack Bass & Grandma Frances who was born around 1882. While Grandma Frances remarried to George, Maria married one of George’s sons. Was she truly my great-grandmother Angeline’s younger sister? Well, a second major clue was in the 1920 census!

1920 Census – the Robinson Household, Drew County, Arkansas
Source Citation: Year: 1920; Census Place: Bartholomew, Drew, Arkansas; Roll: T625_61; Page: 11B;
Enumeration District: 48; Image: 772

Thankfully, Sherri’s husband had also attached the 1920 census to Maria Bass’ profile. The family had left Sharkey County, Mississippi and relocated to Drew County, Arkansas by 1920. Maybe that was the reason why Aunt Pearlie never mentioned them. By 1920, Maria and Will Robinson now had a total of eight children together. However, the second major clue was that a young man named Will McAllister was living in the household. He was reported as the head of household's brother-in-law! Bingo! As previously mentioned from the 1900 census, Will (Willie) McAllister was indeed Grandma Frances’ son with her second husband.

Therefore, Sherri and I are a DNA match in AncestryDNA as predicted 4th cousins because our great-grandmothers were sisters! We are actually 3rd cousins. Her match to me identified a new sister that I had not included on my family tree. To add, this new sister – Aunt Maria(h) Bass McAllister Robinson – had 10 additional children with her second husband, Will Robinson, for a total of 13. All this time, my father and I thought that this branch of his biological mother’s family tree had basically “died out.”

There are three things that made this DNA connection very discoverable:  

(1) A public family tree was included on Sherri’s AncestryDNA profile.
(2) Census records were attached to her ancestors’ profiles, which allows DNA matches to see where they were living.
(3) Sherri’s husband included an important note on her ancestor’s profile about her maiden name.

This blog post is not to suggest that if people have a viewable family tree available, family connections will be made within an hour. That is not the case at all. However, family connections can indeed be found more quickly if family trees are available for DNA matches to view. Again…show me the family tree! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Truth Is In the Spit


Within the past week, I have discovered two great and revealing DNA matches. They are great discoveries because after I analyzed their family trees, I discovered that they are descendants of Uncle Random. Discovering these two DNA matches in the same week is not coincidental, in my opinion. The ancestors are working overtime! Uncle Random seems to want to validate my research findings and his place on my family tree. Having this DNA evidence is major, indeed! The truth is definitely in the spit.

I have written about the discovery of Uncle Random in previous blog posts (see list below); therefore, I will not go into genealogical details in this blog post about how I discovered him and another set of 4th-great-grandparents after staring at one of my brick walls for over 15 years. However, here’s a synopsis of the facts that were uncovered over the past two years.

Uncle Random was Random Briscoe (born c. 1816) of Marshall County, Mississippi. Genealogy research findings strongly indicate that he was likely the older brother of my great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret “Peggy” Milam (born c. 1829), who resided in adjacent Tate County during and after slavery. Research findings revealed that Grandma Peggy, Uncle Random, their siblings and parents, Adam and Sarah Ann, had been enslaved by a man named Edward “Ed” Warren. Shortly after relocating from Williamson County, Tennessee to Marshall County during the mid-1830s, Ed Warren fell on hard times. In 1839, he decided to write a bill of sale, purporting to sell his six slaves to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe. Those six enslaved people were noted as Adam (55) and his wife, Sarah (40), and Random (23), Sam (14), Margaret (10), and Caledonia (8).

On August 14, 1839, Edward Warren purported to sell his six slaves – my ancestors – to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe, Marshall County, Mississippi.

Despite that 1839 bill of sale, most of the six slaves remained with Ed Warren up until his death in 1842. Grandma Peggy and her brother Sam were sold to Joseph R. Milam of present-day Tate County.  Apparently, either James Briscoe decided not to keep Uncle Random, and he sold him to his brother, Notley Warren Briscoe, or James never ended up acquiring him from Ed Warren after all. Whatever the case may have been, Uncle Random was inventoried in Notley’s estate on January 4, 1861. Notley died in 1860 in Marshall County, and among the 27 slaves inventoried were Uncle Random, his wife Mariah, and their seven children. Notley’s will, dated Jan. 6, 1858, confirmed that Random and Mariah were an enslaved married couple (source).

Notley W. Briscoe’s estate; Random & his family were the first nine slaves recorded in the appraisement of 27 slaves, Jan. 4, 1861, Marshall County, Mississippi (source).
Negro man slave, Random, $600
woman, Maria and infant boy, $800
girl, Sarah Ann, $1000
boy, Bill, $1000
girl, Caladonia, $800
boy, Parmeous, $700
girl, Parthenia, $350
boy, Rufus, $250

Well, a descendant of Parmeous and a descendant of Rufus were DNA matches to me and my mother. According to GEDmatch, my mother shares 46.2 cM across 4 segments with Parmeous Briscoe’s great-great-great-granddaughter. GEDmatch gives a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) of 4.1 generations. She and my mother are 4th cousins once removed. I thoroughly checked this descendant’s family tree to ensure no other possible ancestral connection exists, as far as I could tell. I did not see any.

In 2012, shortly after discovering Grandma Peggy’s origins and her family, I found a Briscoe descendant named Ivy on At that time, she was only able to trace back to her great-grandfather, Rufus Briscoe (1856-1924). I sent Ivy a message, providing additional information that went back another generation to Rufus’ father, Uncle Random. Well, earlier this week, I discovered that she is among my DNA matches in AncestryDNA! She’s a “High Confidence” match for the 5th-8th cousin range. Although Ivy has not uploaded her AncestryDNA raw data file to GEDmatch, which would allow me to do some recommended DNA triangulation, I am still confident that our match is because Uncle Random Briscoe was her great-great-grandfather, after looking at the other branches of her family tree. Ivy and my mother are 4th cousins.

As presented in the blog post, Name Discrepancies Can Often Lead to More,” the Briscoe surname itself was one of the clues that enabled me to unearth Grandma Peggy’s origins. I found three of her children’s death certificates.  One death certificate reported that her maiden name was WARREN.  The second one reported that her maiden name was BRISCOE.  The third one did not report her maiden name. Interestingly, the death certificate of her youngest son, William Milam (1864-1950), was the one that reported Briscoe as her maiden name. The informant was Uncle William’s wife, Parthenia Milam. Elder family members knew her as “Aunt Phenie.”

One of the things several family elders shared with me about Uncle William and Aunt Phenie Milam was how they walked everywhere. They didn’t have a car or any children, so they depended on their legs to get them where they wanted to go. One cousin shared, “Uncle Will and Aunt Phenie walked everywhere together! It was nothing to look up and see them walking down the road; an elderly couple who always got where they needed to go by foot.” I can envision Uncle Will talking about his Uncle Random Briscoe, who lived over in Marshall County, during those many walking excursions. With Aunt Phenie possibly having knowledge that Random Briscoe was Grandma Peggy’s brother, one can plausibly assert that may have been the reason why she reported BRISCOE as the maiden name.

To add, not only has DNA proven the connection to Uncle Random Briscoe, but to another sibling named Caledonia. My November 2014 blog post entitled “DNA Does It Again – Another Long Lost Sibling Found!” details that discovery. Caledonia’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Alisa of Arkansas, was a DNA match to me and my mother in 23andMe. She shares 51 cM (0.69%) across 4 segments with my mother and 42 cM (0.57%) across 3 segments with me.  She and Mom are 4th cousins once removed, but they share far above the normal range even for 4th cousins. The same applies to Parmeous Briscoe’s descendant. According to 23andMe, the range for 4th cousins is 0.07 – 0.5%, with an average of 0.20% (13.28 cM) (source). According to the ISOGG, the average for 4th cousins once removed is 0.0977% (6.64 cM) (source). These matches seem to indicate that my mother and I carry a good amount of Adam and/or Sarah Ann’s DNA, who were my 4th-great-grandparents. The truth is in the spit!

Related Posts:

Apr. 11, 2012

Jan. 1, 2013

May 5, 2014

Nov. 3, 2014

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Developing a Historical Timeline


Are you looking for another way to present the family history to your family, either for a family reunion booklet or just to pass on information about the family to family members? Try a historical timeline. A timeline presents the history in a chronological and understandable order. Also, it gives one the opportunity to include other pertinent events of history that affected the family history or were turning points in the family history. If you have graphic design experience, a timeline can be presented in a cool graphic like the ones presented on this website, or it can simply be a two column table built in Microsoft Word.

I am presenting one that I built in Microsoft Word and have transferred it to this blog. This is a timeline of my 4th-great-grandmother Rose Bass’ history. Within the past several months, I have found other descendants, and meeting more descendants is definitely forthcoming. Hopefully, this timeline will clearly highlight the events of her life during slavery, and it can be an example of a family history timeline for others to mimic. Also, all of the family information chronicled in this timeline is based on genealogy research with documentation. Some sources are noted.

The Historical Timeline of Grandma Rose Bass and Her Children, 1780 – 1880

Grandma Rose was born around this time frame, likely on Council Bass’ plantation in Northampton County, North Carolina.
The U.S. Federal Census reported Council Bass of Northampton County, North Carolina as owning 5 slaves. He lived near the town of Rich Square on land located on the Urahaw Swamp Creek that his grandfather, John Bass, had left to him in 1777 (source). Those five slaves on his plantation included Sharper, Peggy, and Grandma Rose. It is believed that Sharper and Peggy were Grandma Rose’s parents. By this time, Grandma Rose had at least one child, Jemima, who was born c. 1796 (source). Another slave on Council Bass’ plantation may have been named Seneca, the husband of Grandma Rose.
The U.S. Federal Census reported Council Bass with eight slaves. By this time, Grandma Rose had at least three children, Jemima, Beady, and Harry.
America declared war against the British on June 18. This conflict became known as the War of 1812.
By this time, Rose had at least six children: Jemima, Beady, Harry, Jackson, Seneca Jr., and Brittie Ann.
Before he died, Council Bass wrote his will on Sept 2. In the will, he bequeathed Beady, Harry, Hezekiah, and Jackson, as well as Grandma Rose, and elderly Sharper and Peggy to his daughter, Elizabeth Bass, but to be held in trust by Bryan Randolph for the benefit of Elizabeth and her heirs. Council bequeathed Jemima and her children, Isaac, Archie, Nancy, Goodson, and Alfred, to his daughter, Martha Bass Mayo. Council bequeathed Seneca Jr. to his granddaughter, Eliza Coggins. Council bequeathed Barsilla and Brittie Ann to his daughter, Charlotte Holloman (source). (Barsilla may have also been a child of Rose.)
By this time, Martha Bass Mayo and her husband Frederick Mayo have settled in Madison County, Tennessee, taking Grandma Rose’s oldest daughter, Jemima, and her children with them. Elizabeth Bass and her husband Jessie Bass have settled in Hinds County, Mississippi. Elizabeth’s daughter, Eliza Coggins, also moved to Hinds County and later married Rhesa Hatcher, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. However, the slaves that Council Bass bequeathed to Elizabeth were held back in Northampton County, North Carolina on Bryan Randolph’s farm. Also, Charlotte Holloman was in nearby Hertford County, where Brittie Ann and Barsilla were now enslaved on the Holloman place.
Bryan Randolph died. The court appointed William Britton as the executor of his estate and the new trustee of Elizabeth’s slave inheritance that included Grandma Rose and her children, Beady (and her children), Harry, Hezekiah, and Jackson, as well as her elderly parents, Sharper and Peggy (source).
William Britton died. His sons became the executors of his estate and the new trustees of Elizabeth’s slave inheritance (source).
Elizabeth Bass of Mississippi summoned the Northampton County Court to collect her share of the profits from the estate of William Britton from the hire of the slaves that her father Council Bass had left in a trust for her. In 1847, that slave lot now included Grandma Rose, her sons, Harry and Jackson, her daughter, Beady, and Beady’s children, Eliza, Jemima, Hetty, Peggy, and Jackson “Jack” (my great-great-grandfather), and her very elderly mother, Peggy (around 90) (source). Beady’s husband/mate, Thomas Bowden, was enslaved on Lemuel Bowden’s farm nearby.
Elizabeth Bass petitioned the Northampton County Court to deliver her slave inheritance to her in Hinds County, Mississippi. Her husband Jessie Bass recently passed away, and she claimed that her slave inheritance would benefit her and her two small children if they were in Mississippi with her. Her request was granted (source).
By this time, Grandma Rose’s daughter, Jemima, has had six additional children by her husband Willis named Rose, Beady, Sylvesta (female), Dick, Mary, and William Mayo in Madison County, Tennessee on Frederick Mayo’s farm.
Martha Bass Mayo’s daughter, Polly Mayo, has married a man named James W. Givens, and the Givens left Tennessee and settled in Cass County, Texas around 1852, taking some of Jemima’s children, including Goodson, Nancy, Mary, and Isaac Mayo, with them. They remained in Texas after slavery.
The Civil War began and is won by the North in 1865.
Slavery ended as a result of the Civil War. Three of Grandma Rose’s children, Jackson Bass, Seneca Hatcher, and Beady Bass, and their children settled in Hinds and Warren County, Mississippi. Her son, Harry Bass, settled in Issaquena County, Mississippi, where he died in July 1880.
Grandma Rose’s daughter, Brittie Ann, and her husband Langley Earley and their children, Silvia, Dempsey W., Alice, Goodman, Jacob, Richard, Bondy, Rosetta, and William Earley, were back in Hertford County, North Carolina living near Ahoskie, where Brittie Ann died in 1914 at an old age. In 1870, the Earley Family lived adjacent to Charlotte Bass Holloman.
Grandma Rose’s son, Seneca Hatcher, has relocated to Cairo, Illinois by 1880. Her oldest daughter, Jemima Mayo, is still living and residing with her daughter, Beady Mayo, in Madison County, Tennessee in 1880. Jemima is about 84 years old.