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.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Many Family Trees Are Wrong as Two Left Shoes


Not surprising to many researchers, many online public family trees on and other sites are wrong! Several days ago, my new-found cousin Janice found an interesting death certificate on that contained family names. Turns out, after further investigation, it was of our 4th-great-aunt, Brittianna Bass Early; she remained in North Carolina because our ancestors' prior enslaver, Council Bass on Northampton County, N.C., willed her in 1830 to one of his three daughters who remained in North Carolina. This daughter was Mrs. Charlotte Holloman of Hertford County, N.C. My third-great-grandmother, Beady Bass, and her children, along with her elderly mother Rose and her brothers, Harry, Jackson, and Seneca Jr., were taken to Hinds County, Mississippi by 1849 because Council Bass had bequeathed them to his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth (Bass) Bass, who settled in Mississippi. Cousin Janice’s third-great-grandmother, Jemima Bass Mayo, and her children were taken to Madison County, Tennessee by 1835 because Council Bass had bequeathed them to his daughter, Mrs. Martha Bass Mayo, who settled in Tennessee. Grandma Beady and Aunt Jemima were Brittianna's sisters.

Item 5th: I give and bequeath unto Charlotte Holloman my daughter two negroe girls named Barsilla and Brittania to her and her heirs forever. (Will dated Sept. 2, 1830, Northampton County, NC.) (Source)

Well, prior to the discovery of Aunt Brittianna’s death certificate, I had researched Charlotte Bass Holloman, with hopes of locating Barsilla and Brittianna. Google searches, searches, and other searches yielded nothing about Charlotte Bass. Not even a marriage record on was found. All of the public Bass family trees that I saw online had no information regarding her husband, whose name was simply noted as “Holloman” in many family trees. When I searched only using the wildcards "Charlotte Holloman," nearly all of the online family trees had her listed as a wife of James Holloman of Hertford County, North Carolina. However, those family trees had her maiden name as Charlotte Everett or Charlotte Holloman. Here are two examples: Example 1, Example 2. Even on, a researcher asked in 2000 if Charlotte Bass’ husband was James Holloman of Hertford County. A responder refuted her claim in this post.

Therefore, I felt it would be a waste of my time to look for Barsilla and Brittianna in Hertford County in 1870. I was wrong! When Cousin Janice alerted me to Aunt Brittianna’s death certificate, I soon found her and her husband, Langley "Lang" Early, and their children in the 1870 Hertford County, North Carolina census! Check out who their next-door neighbors were!

 1870 Hertford County, North Carolina Census: Aunt Brittianna Bass Early and her family lived adjacent to Charlotte Holloman (age 73) in 1870. (Source: 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.).

James & Charlotte Holloman were also found in the 1850 census. Why did researchers conclude that Charlotte was not the daughter of Council Bass but the daughter of Cornelius & Judith Everett Holloman? Were there two couples named James & Charlotte Holloman in Hertford County? If these public online family trees are inaccurate, how many more out there are just wrong as two left shoes? Also, this scenario could be a research tip that many researchers of white families should consider tracing the formerly enslaved African-American families that lived nearby in 1870 to find clues about their own ancestors. Would not Aunt Brittianna Early’s reported maiden name (Bass) on her death certificate have been evidence for a descendant/researcher of Charlotte Holloman that she was the daughter of Council Bass….if that researcher had suspected it beforehand? To add, if AncestryDNA’s DNA Circles are based on submitted family trees, and if many of them are inaccurate, then…. You get the picture?

The death certificate of Aunt Brittianna Bass Early who died in 1914 in Hertford County, North Carolina. Age was reported as 100. This certificate verified my 4th-great-grandparents’ names, Seneca & Rose Bass(Source: North Carolina, Deaths, 1906-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.)

Special Note: If you know a descendant of James & Charlotte Holloman, please share this post with him or her.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

20 Do's and Don'ts of DNA


I have a prediction! 2015 is going to be a phenomenal year for everyone who partakes in genetic genealogy. The interest in genealogy has really catapulted over the past five years, and many people are turning to DNA technology to try to find the answers to lingering family questions and mysteries. Since I anticipate that many more people will take an autosomal DNA test from either 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FTDNA, or other companies, I want to start 2015 off with a post of what I feel are 20 do’s and don’ts of DNA, based on my experiences to date. If you know of others, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

1.    Please do not take any DNA test without first trying to put together your family tree. DNA test-takers need to have started working on their family tree or pedigree chart before jumping to DNA. DNA alone will not magically generate your family tree for you. Genealogy research + DNA technology = A Great Happy Marriage.

2.    After you get your DNA results, please respond to your messages. Also, please accept invitations to share genomes from other DNA matches in 23andMe. To ignore someone's message is just plain rude and disrespectful, in my opinion. The “I Don’t Have Time” excuse will likely fall on deaf ears. Utilizing DNA to uncover family histories is a serious business for many. If you are not interested in communicating with DNA matches, please opt out of making yourself visible. We don’t need to see your name and be reminded how rude you are being by not responding, especially if we share a lot of DNA and are not distantly related.

3.    If you haven chosen to make your family tree private in AncestryDNA or anywhere, at least have one and be willing to send other DNA matches an invitation to view it upon request. Or if you have an electronic copy of your pedigree chart, be willing to share it via e-mail upon request. How can anyone expect to make the connection if DNA matches cannot view a family tree? Comparing family trees or pedigree charts is key to figuring out family relationships.

4.    DNA and genetics are not easy to understand, but the basics of genetic genealogy are relatively understandable. You will be doing a disservice to yourself and your DNA matches if you don’t try to understand some of the basics. Here’s a good online guide called “Beginner’s Guide to Genetic Genealogy.” Here’s another one from 23andMe called “Genetics 101.”

5.    This tip reiterates no. 3. I get this a lot à “Let me know how we may be related.” And that DNA match has not provided a family tree, but maybe a few surnames with only the states where their ancestors resided. Don’t have in your profile that your surnames are Jones, Anderson, and Ragsdale from Mississippi and Tennessee and expect me to magically know how we are related. Give me and your DNA matches something to work with. Show me a family tree!

6.    If you have built a family tree, please include exact locations (county and state…..or city/town and state) and not just the state of birth or death. I have seen so many family trees with just a state listed. Narrow it down for us by giving us a little more information, like the county and/or city or town. I won’t magically know where in South Carolina your paternal grandmother lived and died.

7.    Please don’t just list only two surnames in your profiles. Surely, you have knowledge of more than two surnames in your family tree? Adoptees are exempt from this.

8.    Please don’t leave your profile in 23andMe (and others) blank. I understand that people are nervous about providing the public with too much information about themselves. I get that. However, if you have chosen to take a DNA test and would like to learn how some of your DNA matches are related, and perhaps learn more about your ancestry, include surnames and family locations in your profile. Again, give us more to work with!

9.    If you decide to take the AncestryDNA test, please consider uploading your raw data file to GEDmatch. AncestryDNA has no analysis tools, and those analysis tools are essential in trying to figure out how DNA matches are related. Even if you take 23andMe or FTDNA’s Family Finder tests, which have valuable analysis tools, please consider uploading to GEDmatch. To make things a little easier, include your GEDmatch number(s) on your 23andMe profile.

10. If a DNA match asks you to please upload to GEDmatch so he or she can try to determine the family connection, ignoring that request is just plain rude! See no. 9.

11. Please have patience with GEDmatch. It’s a free, online DNA utility program that experiences high traffic. Therefore, their servers are often over capacity. I know that’s irritating, but it is still our best bet for being able to analyze DNA results and to triangulate DNA matches, especially if you have only taken the AncestryDNA test. Just check back often, and you will get in the site.

12. If you are white, please don’t respond with, “I just don’t see how we can be related because I am white.” Here’s one word for you to study: MISCEGENATION. Please know that the following scenarios occurred: (1) Many slave-owners fathered children with enslaved women via rape or consensual sex; (2) Yes, there were consensual interracial relationships since America was founded, even on plantations; and (3) Many people “passed” as white because they could.

13. I know that many times, surnames are often our basis for determining how DNA matches are related. Please know that it is very possible for many people to share a common surname and not be related through that surname. With African Americans, relying solely on surname matching can lead many to travel down the wrong path. That’s why it is vitally important to include family locations in your family trees or pedigree charts and on your profiles.

14. Please take time to read the profiles of your DNA matches in 23andMe. That alone may answer some initial questions you may have. For example, if you read my profile, you will immediately learn that Collier is my adoptive family via my father’s adoptive parents, who I loved dearly. Sending me a message with a speculation that we are biologically related via your Collier ancestors will say to me, “You did not even read my profile.”

15. Please be cordial when responding to messages from your DNA relatives. Sharp, condescending tongues have no place in DNA communications, unless the person deserves to be “chewed out”. If someone provides you with information about your family, show your home training by saying, “THANK YOU.”

16. If you encounter someone who is not a DNA match to you, but they can show via a paper trail that you two are distantly related, please don’t assume that a NPE probably took place. (NPE = Non-Paternity Event, when someone’s father was really not the biological father, unknowingly.) DNA transmission is quite random. Family members may inherit different chromosomes from the same ancestors. Also, the probability that 23andMe (and others) will find a match between two relatives is the following:

First cousins or closer:  ~ 100%
Second cousins:           > 99%
Third cousins:             ~ 90%
Fourth cousins:           ~ 45%
Fifth cousins:              ~ 15%
Sixth cousins & beyond: < 5%
(Source: 23andMe)

17. DNA companies give predictions about relationships. If 23andMe predicts that someone is a third cousin, or if GEDmatch gives the MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) as 4.0 generations, that doesn’t always mean that your great-great-grandparent(s) is that DNA match’s great-great-grandparent(s), too. Those are just estimations based on the amount of DNA you two share. For example, my cousin Alisa from Arkansas shares enough DNA with my mother to have a prediction of third cousins. However, after I was finally able to determine the connection, she is really my mother’s fourth cousin once removed.

18. If both of your parents are living, test both of them, if you have their permission and can afford to do so. Having one or both parents tested greatly helps to determine if a DNA match is a paternal relative or a maternal relative. Great substitutes are aunts, uncles, and grandparents, if you are blessed to have grandparent(s) living.

19. In most cases, haplogroups should not be used to try to figure out family connections. Not all people who share the same haplogroup are relatives. In fact, most of your relatives will actually have a different haplogroup because your haplogroup only tells you about your direct maternal or direct paternal lineage. Direct maternal lineage means your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother and so on lineage. Direct paternal lineage means your father’s father’s father’s father’s father and so on lineage. However, in a case where you suspect that a DNA match is a direct maternal or paternal relative, then the haplogroup may confirm it with further testing and analysis. For example, my third cousin’s maternal grandmother’s mother, Laura Danner Reid, and my maternal grandmother’s mother, Mary Danner Davis, were sisters. Therefore, our maternal or mitochondrial haplogroup should be the same, since it is passed down unchanged from mother to child. Indeed, when she received her 23andMe results, we had the same maternal haplogroup L2a1a, which came from our great-great-grandmother, Louisa Bobo Danner (1842-1921), and her mother Clarissa Bobo and so on.

20. Read, read, read! Once you have taken the DNA test, please continue to educate yourself about DNA. Many informative articles and blog posts can be read online. This will certainly help to understand how DNA is passed down and how certain matches are related, especially if you share DNA on the X chromosome with a DNA match. 

DNA is a wonderful, groundbreaking technology that is growing. It has enabled many people and me to break down a number of brick walls in our family trees. Again, if you know of other DNA tips, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wondering, Pondering, and Theorizing with DNA

With DNA and genealogy research, I talk to myself all the time. No joke! I’d bet that I am not the only one! Wondering, pondering, and theorizing out loud is actually the nature of documental and genetic genealogy research. To wonder is to think about it. To ponder is to consider thoroughly and deeply. Then, to theorize is to suggest scenarios or situations about what is possibly true or real. Talk it all out. Then, write it down! This helps one to map out a research plan in order to find the answers to pertinent questions that surface based on the information at hand or based on an interesting DNA match.

With that said, this blog post is threefold. First, I want to demonstrate this wondering, pondering, and theorizing using the case of a recent DNA match, as I work my way towards figuring out the family connection. Since I often talk with my fingers, I am talking it out in the writing of this blog post. Secondly, I want to stress the importance of utilizing GEDmatch. Thirdly, I want to put this research out there in hopes that it may lead to a major clue from someone who recognizes the families in question.

Ms. Cargill is a "Very High" DNA match to me in AncestryDNA. She has been in my list of matches since I’ve been on AncestryDNA, and I have wondered how she is related to me. The predicted relationship is 4th cousins. According to AncestryDNA, a confidence score of “Very High” means that Ms. Cargill and I share approximately 20 to 30 cM (centiMorgans) of DNA. AncestryDNA further assesses that there’s a 99% chance that my match and I share a single recent common ancestor within 5 or 6 generations. Thankfully, Ms. Cargill has a family tree that’s viewable to the public. Therefore, the wondering, pondering, and theorizing began. I ponder my DNA matches further by asking myself the right questions.

Q1: Do we have any common surnames in our families?

I looked at her family tree and recognized one common surname: MILLER. My father has Miller ancestors from Warren County, Mississippi. However, her Millers were from Arkansas, and her oldest-traced Miller ancestor, her great-grandfather Joseph Miller, was born in Tennessee around 1829. My father’s oldest-traced Miller ancestor is his great-great-grandfather, Fredrick Miller, who was born around 1827 in Mississippi, according to the censuses. However, the 1900 census-taker reported Virginia as the birthplace of Fredrick Miller’s parents. The differences in our ancestors’ locations do not mean that our Millers aren’t related. Many enslaved African Americans had family members that were taken or sold to other states. However, we lacked more information to connect our Millers.

Q2: Did she have ancestors who lived in the same area as my ancestors during and after slavery?

I viewed Ms. Cargill’s family tree thoroughly and determined that the answer to that question was NO. Since AncestryDNA does not provide any analysis tools, I couldn’t compare her to known relatives in order to narrow down how we may be related. At this point, I could only speculate that maybe the connection is on my father’s side and through our Millers.

Q3: What about GEDmatch?

More in-depth research is required to try to connect the dots. Also, since AncestryDNA lacks analysis tools, maybe we can turn to GEDmatch for possible answers. GEDmatch is a free, third-party DNA utility site that helps to find the family connection between people who have uploaded their autosomal DNA raw data file from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA's Family Finder. Think of GEDmatch as “DNA Central” – the central location where DNA testers from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or FTDNA's Family Finder can upload and compare DNA data. Therefore, in GEDmatch, one will gain many more DNA matches and have many analysis tools that allow people to compare, analyze, and determine how someone may be related and their ancestral backgrounds. GEDmatch is highly recommended (see

Thankfully, Ms. Cargill had uploaded her AncestryDNA raw data file to GEDmatch. I was able to do a “One-to-One” comparison and determined that she shares 20.6 cM with me. Since I have also uploaded both of my parents’ data files to GEDmatch, I was also able to determine that Ms. Cargill matches my mother and not my father. Therefore, our Millers aren’t related. She shares 20.7 cM with my mother with a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) of 4.7 generations back. Therefore, the connection goes back to slavery.

GEDmatch’s analysis tools as of 12/29/2014

Q4: What else can we do to help us figure out this connection?

Utilizing the DNA triangulation feature in GEDmatch, I decided to compare Ms. Cargill to other known relatives on my mother’s side in order to determine if the connection is on Mom’s mother’s side or Mom’s father’s side. Unfortunately, Ms. Cargill did not match them.

Ms. Cargill also asked herself the same question. Her parents are deceased. But as a substitute, she decided to test her father’s brother to garner more clues about her paternal side and to assist with DNA analysis. However, since her father and her uncle were half-brothers who shared the same father, any mutual DNA matches between her and her uncle would be related via her paternal grandfather, Roland Miller (1875-1940) of Augusta, Arkansas. Interestingly, testing a parent’s half-sibling can provide greater specificity since it narrows the family connection down to one grandparent.

Lo and behold, her uncle matched Mom!  According to GEDmatch, they share a whopping 81 cM over 2 segments with a MRCA of 3.7 generations back. Her uncle also shares 89 cM over 2 segments with Mom's sister. Therefore, GEDmatch is estimating that her uncle and my mother and aunt probably share the same great-great-grandparents, i.e., 3rd cousins. This is close kin, in my opinion!

Q5: Who were Roland Miller’s parents, grandparents, etc. and where were they from?

Ms. Cargill has only been able to trace back to her grandfather Roland's parents. They were Joseph Miller (born c. 1829) and Sarah Roddy (born c. 1843). Both had been enslaved near Augusta, Arkansas and remained in the area after slavery. The family connection is via Joseph or Sarah.

Q6: What can I garner from the censuses?

According to the 1870 and 1880 Woodruff County, Arkansas censuses, Joseph Miller was born in Tennessee and Sarah Roddy Miller was born in Arkansas. According to the 1880 census, Joseph and Sarah’s parents were born in Tennessee. Therefore, for both Joseph and Sarah, there was a forced family migration from Tennessee to Arkansas. Of noteworthiness, the same migration pattern existed for other black Miller and Roddy families that lived nearby. Presently, Ms. Cargill does not know the names of her great-great-grandparents.

Q7: Where is the Tennessee connection in my mother’s family?

My only known, Tennessee-born maternal ancestor was my mother’s great-great-grandmother, Peggy Warren Milam. After years of research, I was finally able to determine that she was born in Williamson County, Tennessee around 1829. Grandma Peggy, her parents, and siblings were enslaved by Edward Warren, who transported them to Marshall County, Mississippi during the 1830s. Grandma Peggy was eventually sold to Joseph R. Milam of present-day Tate County, Mississippi. I recently determined that Grandma Peggy had a sister who was sold to Ed Warren’s son-in-law, Erasmus J. Ellis; he took her to Ouachita County, Arkansas around 1858. For further details about that discovery, which was revealed from a close DNA match, read DNA Does It Again – Another Long Lost Sibling Found!.  

Q8: Who were Joseph and Sarah Miller’s last enslavers, and are there any obvious links to Edward Warren or Erasmus J. Ellis?

After researching the 1850 and 1860 Jackson County, Arkansas Slave Schedules, the 1830 – 1870 censuses, and searching through, as well as finding an informative online source, I was able to tie both Joseph & Sarah Miller to the Alexander & Agnes Roddy Family of Jackson County, Arkansas. (Note: Woodruff County was created from Jackson County in 1861.) Six key facts about the white Roddy family included the following:

     (1)   Alexander and Agnes Roddy were from Spartanburg County, South Carolina. They had 7 sons and 1 daughter named Rose.
     (2)   Their daughter Rose Roddy married John MILLER in 1807 in Spartanburg County, and the Millers subsequently had seven children.
     (3)   The Roddy and Miller families both moved to Tipton County, Tennessee by 1825. The Roddys and Millers were reported in the 1830 Tipton County, TN Census.
     (4)   By 1835, the Roddy and Miller families both moved to Jackson County, Arkansas and established a plantation called Walnut Woods near Augusta, Arkansas.
     (5)   Alexander Roddy died in Jackson County, Arkansas in 1840 at the age of 81. According to the 1840 census, two sons, Elias and John Roddy, owned 25 slaves, collectively.
     (6)  His daughter, Rose Roddy Miller, died in 1851. Per the 1850 Jackson County, Arkansas Slave Schedule, three of Rose’s sons, Wilson, James, and Henry Miller, were the only Miller slave-owners in the county, owning 24 slaves, collectively.

Although I haven’t been able to find any online Arkansas probate/estate records or wills for members of the Roddy and Miller families, chances are very high that people in this family were the last enslavers of Joseph & Sarah Miller and their parents. First, the migration pattern matches (TN>ARK). Secondly, the white Roddys and Millers lived in the same township as Joseph and Sarah, and other black Miller and Roddy families in 1870. Nonetheless, I could not find any ties between the white Millers and Roddys to Edward Warren and Erasmus J. Ellis.

Q9: Could the connection go back to South Carolina?

After learning that the white Roddy and Miller families had been living in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, I diverted my attention to my mother’s great-grandparents, Edward Danner (1832-1876) and Louisa “Lue” Bobo Danner (1842-1921). Both of them were born in Union County, South Carolina, which is adjacent to Spartanburg County. Their enslaver Dr. William J. Bobo took them to Panola County, Mississippi in 1858. Thomas Danner Jr., the previous enslaver of Grandpa Edward and his parents, and David Boyce, the previous enslaver of Grandma Lue’s mother and her family, as well as Dr. William Bobo, had all resided in the Cross Keys and Sedalia area of Union County. This area is less than 10 miles from the Union/Spartanburg County line.

Q10: Do Ms. Cargill and her uncle match my Mom’s 2nd cousin, too?

Fortunately, my mother has a second cousin, Orien, who has taken the AncestryDNA and the 23andMe DNA tests. Edward and Lue Danner are Cousin Orien’s great-grandparents, too.  Therefore, I asked Ms. Cargill to see if she matches her in AncestryDNA. She confirmed that both she and her uncle also match Cousin Orien! Major clue!

Q11: Is DNA triangulation possible?

Since Cousin Orien hasn’t uploaded her data to GEDmatch yet, I decided to see if all of the matches were on the same chromosome. Using the chromosome browser tool in GEDmatch, I was able to do some DNA triangulation between Mom, Ms. Cargill, and her uncle. As the following diagram shows, Mom matches Ms. Cargill and her uncle on overlapping segments on chromosome 17, from 7.2 to 39.2 Mbp (50.4 cM) with her uncle, and from 18.5 to 39.2 Mbp (20.7 cM) with Ms. Cargill. Mom also matches her uncle on chromosome 8 (30.5 cM).

Via 23andMe, Mom shares 324 cM across 17 segments with Cousin Orien. Utilizing the Family Inheritance Tool in 23andMe, I determined that Cousin Orien matches me and Mom on chromosome 17 from points 6.0 to 38.0 Mbp.  See diagram below. Since Ms. Cargill confirmed that she and her uncle match Cousin Orien in AncestryDNA, I am confident that they all will be matching in the same area on chromosome 17, indicating that they all descend from a common ancestor(s). 

UPDATE (12/31/2014): Cousin Orien has uploaded to GEDmatch. As anticipated, she indeed matches Ms. Cargill's uncle on chromosome 17 in the same region at 48.1 cM. She also matches him on chromosome 10 at 15.3 cM for a total of 63.5 cM.

Q12: What did this additional DNA triangulation conclude?

It confirms that there’s a close family relationship between Joseph Miller (born c. 1829 in TN) or Sarah Roddy (born c. 1843 in Ark.) and Grandpa Edward Danner (born c. 1832 in SC) or Grandma Louisa “Lue” Bobo Danner (born 1842 in SC). Perhaps two of them – Joseph and Grandpa Ed, Joseph and Grandma Lue, Sarah and Grandpa Ed, or Sarah and Grandma Lue – were first cousins who shared the same grandparents? If that’s the case, Mom and Ms. Cargill’s uncle would be 3rd cousins once removed who happen to share above-average DNA even for 3rd cousins. See DNA sharing chart here.

Q13: Can a closer look at the time frames and locations give more insight?

The answer to this question is YES, and hopefully this blog post demonstrated that. It helps to analyze where people were and when they resided in various locations. Mapping out time frames and locations can greatly assist in figuring out family connections.

Grandma Lue’s family is the foundation of my first book, Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery, which goes back to her mother Clarissa Bobo (born c. 1823), Clarissa’s parents, and three of Clarissa’s four grandparents. Grandma Lue’s father was white. Therefore, I am placing my bet that the connection is via Grandpa Edward Danner since I have never found any ties to the Miller/Roddy Family of Spartanburg County, SC in my Bobo/Boyce research. But you just never know sometimes!  Many unknowns remain prevalent, even within well-researched family lines. More genealogical research is necessary to solve this mystery. More DNA matches will greatly assist. However, asking the right questions out loud and researching to find the answers, in conjunction with DNA triangulations, enabled me to narrow it down to this point, which is good progress.

Stay tuned for updates to this DNA mystery. Hopefully!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why Many African Americans Should Do the Genetic DNA Testing

My great-great-grandparents, Hector Davis & Lucy Milam Davis of Panola County, Mississippi

Since I started researching my family history in 1993, I have seen the interest in genealogy leapfrog! Many African Americans are actively researching to document the history of their ancestors. An attest to this rapid growth can be witnessed by the large number of people who are members of Black genealogy groups on Facebook like Our Black Ancestry, which currently has over 20,000 subscribers, like AfriGeneas, which currently has over 6,000 subscribers, and like the African-American Genealogy Forum, which currently has over 3,000 subscribers. There are more, and they all are growing.

Reading the genealogical accomplishments in these groups often leaves me in awe! I am often fascinated by what many have uncovered about their ancestors. Contrary to those “impossibility declarations” that Dr. Henry Louis Gates makes on Finding Your Roots on PBS, a number of people have successfully traced their families back to the first African ancestor to touch American soil.  Although many researchers and I have traced back five or more generations, we are looking to autosomal DNA to take us further or to help us prove if certain people were our ancestors. The more people that get tested with 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or other DNA companies, the more that connections can be proven and more ancestors can be unearthed.

DNA technology is especially beneficial for documenting our enslaved ancestors. Slave ancestral research is not an easy task. However, finding and utilizing the right records and the correct methodologies for slave ancestral research, many people are able to trace back to enslaved ancestors who were born in the 1700s. DNA can and has assisted greatly in these quests. These documented histories are a great legacy to the generations after us. Therefore, one’s willingness to participate in genetic DNA testing not only helps the individual to understand his ancestral background, but it’s conducive to the many active researchers who desire to leave that great legacy.

For this blog post, I am presenting another case in which I really need DNA to help to confirm potential enslaved ancestors. The last enslaver of my great-great-great-grandparents, Wade Milam (born c. 1825 in AL) and Peggy Warren Milam (born c. 1829 in TN), was Joseph R. Milam of present-day Tate County, Mississippi. After years of research, I was finally able to figure out how Joseph acquired Grandma Peggy, since she was not from Alabama. A DNA match from Arkansas even helped to confirm Grandma Peggy’s family from whom she was separated! You can read it HERE. Joseph Milam was born in Madison County, Alabama in 1811. He, his wife, his parents, and most of his siblings moved to Marshall County, Mississippi around 1835. The censuses confirmed that they brought slaves with them. Only one brother, James W. Milam, remained in Alabama and settled in Talladega County. (Remember that.) Once they landed in Mississippi, Joseph Milam decided to go about 8 miles further west, into present-day Tate County, where he established his plantation on the Tate-Panola County line by 1840.  

Since Grandpa Wade Milam was also from Alabama, I theorized that perhaps the white Milams transported him to Mississippi. So I decided to place some focus on Joseph’s father, Jarvis Jackson Milam, just to see if I can find out anything about his origins. Thankfully, the Milam Family is a well-researched family, and I learned that Jarvis died on July 4, 1849 in Marshall County, Mississippi. To my fortune, has digitized Marshall County Probate Records for the time period 1839 to 1871. You can access them HERE. I fortunately found an inventory of Jarvis Milam’s estate, dated March 30, 1850, and it listed 26 enslaved people by name, age, and value.

The slave inventory of Jarvis Milam’s Estate, March 30, 1850
Marshall County, Mississippi

I didn’t expect Grandpa Wade to be a part of Jarvis’s estate because he was enslaved on Joseph Milam’s plantation by 1846. That’s the approximate year when his first-born, my great-great-grandmother Lucy Milam Davis (1846-1927), was born. However, “Little Spencer, age 11” on the inventory caught my attention. This was likely Spencer Milam, who lived right next door to my great-great-grandparents, Hector & Lucy Davis, in 1870. Spencer and his first wife, Huldah (Hector’s sister), married on the same day as Grandpa Hector and Grandma Lucy; both couples married on July 7, 1866. It appears that they traveled together to the courthouse to get married.  I immediately wondered and suspected that Spencer Milam was somehow related to Grandma Lucy. But was he?

Spencer & Huldah Milam lived adjacent to Hector & Lucy Davis in 1870, DeSoto (now Tate) Co., MS.
Joseph Milam’s widow, Eunice Milam, was next-door.
Grandma Lucy’s mother Peggy was two households above Eunice.

“Spencer, 50” and “Lucy, 45” on the slave inventory also caught my attention. Interestingly, sleuthing through the 1850 Marshall County slave schedule, I discovered that the three older males, Spencer, Anthony, and Abraham, were all reported as 52, rather than 50 that was reported on the slave inventory. Lucy was reported as 54, instead of 45 that was reported on the slave inventory. Like any researcher would likely ask, were Spencer and Lucy the parents of Grandpa Wade? Had Grandma Lucy Davis been named after her paternal grandmother? Also, many researchers would understandably theorize that “Little Spencer” was probably their son. But was he?

I decided to scroll through the Marshall County Probate Records images on to see if I will discover more on other pages. I am so glad that I did that! I am also happy that I checked to see if there were probate records on for Talladega County, Alabama. Again, I hit pay dirt! You will see why the Alabama records were important. The following three important documents were found:

ESTATE DOCUMENT 1: The following slaves were sold from Jarvis Milam’s estate, April 29, 1851. This document verified that Spencer and Lucy were husband and wife. “Spencer and wife Lucy” were acquired by Joseph R. Milam. “Little Spencer” and Ann were acquired by Jarvis’ son, Benjamin L. Milam.

ESTATE DOCUMENT 2: Jarvis’ widowed son, James W. Milam, died in Talladega County, Alabama in Nov. 1841. In another estate document, Jarvis was named the guardian of James’ only child, James Clayton Milam. Shortly after little orphaned James moved to Marshall County, Mississippi to live with his grandparents, he died at a young age in 1844. Little James’ estate record was also found, and it included his slave inheritance from his father. The inventory was made on April 19, 1844. I discovered that “Little Spencer” and “Little Ann,” who were inventoried in Jarvis’ 1850 estate, had come from Jarvis’ son James, who was in Alabama! Therefore, “Little Spencer” was NOT the son of Spencer and Lucy.

James Clayton Milam’s Estate, April 19, 1844, Marshall County, Mississippi
Mariah and four children, Ann, Spencer, Amanda, Anderson
Lizzy and three children, Amelia, Fanny, Hampton
Riah and two children, Alfred, Edmund

ESTATE DOCUMENT 3: After finding document 2, I was also fortunate to discover that some of Talladega County, Alabama probate records had been digitized and uploaded to I found James W. Milam’s will that he wrote on November 1, 1841. This will named the same slaves, and James desired for his father Jarvis to take them to Mississippi. See the following:

“Second. I give and devise and bequeath to my son  James Clayton Milam three Negro women and there children viz Mariah and three children, Ariah & two children, also Liz a yellow girl & two children, the above named Negroes I wish removed by my father Jarvis Milam to the state of Mississippi. Third, a Negro man Stephen and a woman named Sylvia with all my personal and real estate I wish sold on a credit of 12 months….”

If I had not found those estate documents, I would have continually theorized that “Little Spencer” (Spencer Milam) may have been Spencer and Lucy’s son. Now, I am asking the following questions: (1) Was Spencer Milam’s mother, Mariah, a daughter of Spencer and Lucy who Jarvis had given or sold to his son, James W.? I feel that it is more than coincidental that there’s an Elder Spencer and a child Spencer. (2) Again, was Grandpa Wade also a child of Elder Spencer and Lucy? (3) Were Mariah and Grandpa Wade siblings? If so, Spencer Milam in 1870 and Grandma Lucy were first cousins.

DNA would certainly help to determine if there’s a connection to Jarvis Milam’s slaves. I am in contact with a great-grandson of Spencer Milam and his second wife, Mollie. Some years ago, one of my elderly relatives (a granddaughter of Hector & Lucy Davis) stated that she thinks that Spencer and his family were a “different set” and weren’t related to Grandma Lucy. However, Spencer Milam’s great-grandson, who was born and raised in the area, knew my Davis Family as being his cousins, according to his family elders. Therefore, we are confused.

Spencer Milam’s great-grandson also took the 23andMe DNA test recently. He did not match me and my mother. Speculating that Mariah, his great-great-grandmother, may have been a sister of Grandpa Wade Milam, Mom’s great-great-grandfather, that theory would make them as possibly being 4th cousins. With 4th cousins, there's only a 45% chance that DNA will detect a kinship. This link explains the probabilities. Therefore, because of the higher probability of a non-match (55%), I am not ready to conclude that Grandpa Wade was not related to Mariah, Little Spencer, Elder Spencer and Lucy. Also, while he doesn't match my mother, he may match other family members. I am awaiting my aunt's 23andMe DNA results to see if he matches her. My mother and her sister likely inherited different chromosome segments from the same common ancestors. That's the nature of DNA transmission.

I found a number of those enslaved by Jarvis Milam in the 1870 and 1880 Marshall County censuses, including Dudley (who was also born in AL) and his family. They retained the Milam surname. To add, Jarvis Milam’s will, which can be read here on FamilySearch, identified Ann, who was the first slave on his 1850 inventory, as Dudley’s wife. The enslaved children inventoried after her and before Dudley were their children. Were Dudley, James, and Morgan Milam, who were all born in Alabama too, the sons of Elder Spencer and Lucy? Were they Grandpa Wade Milam’s brothers? Were they Mariah’s brothers, too? There were and are many black Milam descendants in Marshall County, Mississippi and elsewhere. It would be wonderful if some of them took the 23andMe DNA test (or others) to help determine if Elder Spencer and Lucy were our direct ancestors and my 4th-great-grandparents. I will maintain hope!

DNA Note: If you decide to take the AncestryDNA test, I highly recommend that after you get your results, please upload your raw data file to GEDmatch. See GEDmatch is a great online DNA program that allows you to further analyze your DNA results with their great analysis tools. It is also free. AncestryDNA does not offer any analysis tools. GEDmatch's analysis tools are essential if you desire to compare people in your relative list to figure out ancestral connections, which is known as DNA triangulation. The meaning of DNA triangulation is further explained HERE. 23andMe offers great analysis tools as well. However, I would also recommend that 23andMe users (and others) upload to GEDmatch as well. You will gain more matches in GEDmatch. 

Research Note: To date, I have been unable to find any court records showing Jarvis Milam deeding slaves to his children before they left Madison County, Alabama or after they arrived in Marshall County, Mississippi.