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.

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!