Back in April, after I connected the dots between my great-grandfather John C. Allen Sr. and Edward C. Harrison, I ran all my information by respected genetic genealogist Angie Bush. She agreed that autosomal DNA testing indicated a very close relationship between my mother and A.B. and that triangulation pointed directly to Edward as their common great-grandfather, but recommended another test that would absolutely eliminate some other line of patrilineal descent. I asked if my uncle would be willing to submit a sample for a Y-DNA analysis, which would show if he, via his father and grandfather, descended from a male Harrison forebear. He agreed without hesitation.
Here’s how it works: The Y chromosome passes down virtually unchanged from father to son. Occasionally, mistakes (or “mutations”) occur in the copying process, and these mutations can be compared to estimate the time frame in which two men share a most recent common ancestor (“MRCA.”) If their test results are a perfect or nearly perfect match, they are related within a traceable timeframe. Per Family Tree DNA, “Paternal line DNA testing uses STR markers. STR markers are places where your genetic code has a variable number of repeated parts. STR marker values change slowly from one generation to the next. Testing multiple markers gives us distinctive result sets. These sets form signatures for a paternal lineage. We compare your set of results to those of other men in our database.”
My uncle sent in his kit in early May, and his results posted a few days ago. The first thing I looked for was FTDNA’s designation of my uncle’s Y-haplogroup. 23andme had assigned him R1b1b2a1a1, which had given me pause because I’d seen the James River Harrisons’ Y-haplogroup listed as R1b1a2. FTDNA’s designation is regarded as more authoritative than 23andme’s, however, so I was anxious to see if the apparent discrepancy remained. It does not. The James City Harrisons’ haplogroup has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date naming conventions and is now R-M269. As is my uncle’s.
I next checked his matches. My uncle took the Y-67 test, which examined markers at four levels, 1-12, 13-25, 26-37, 38-67. I had matches at each level. Upon Angie Bush’s advice, I sent emails to two of my top matches inquiring into their line of descent. I haven’t yet heard back from either of them, but that’s all right.
They are, as are five of the seven top matches, either named Harrison or Bassett:
When I referred to the Harrison Y-DNA Project, I saw that lineage #34 (James River & Presidential Harrisons) contained two kits. One (H-4) traced descent to William Henry Harrison, born 1773 in Charles City County, and the other (H-99) to William Henry Bassett, born 1795.
(An explanatory note below stated: “According to family lore, William Henry Bassett b. 1795 was raised by Elizabeth Harrison Rickman, daughter of Benjamin Harrison IV, “The Signer,” and Elizabeth Bassett. William Bassett’s Y-DNA does not match any of the other known Bassett family’s; however, his descendant has a 63/67 match to the James River Harrison line DNA … indicating that in addition to being raised by the Harrison family, William Bassett was likely the son of one of the James River Harrisons.”)
The row of numbers along the top are the STR markers described above. Men whose markers match at 62/67 (or better) share a common ancestor and are grouped into a lineage. The image above only shows 24 markers, but there are actually 67. With H-4, the Presidential line, my uncle matches 63/67. With H-99, the Bassett line, he matches 65/67! John C. Allen Sr. and his patrilineal progeny, then, are members of Lineage 34. Specifically, they descend, in reverse order, from Edward Cunningham Harrison (1847-1908), William Mortimer Harrison (1817-1865), Thomas Randolph Harrison (1791-1833), Peyton Randolph Harrison (1759-1839), Carter Henry Harrison (1729-1796) [the younger brother of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and uncle of President William Henry Harrison], and Benjamin Harrison IV (1696-1744).
Half-brothers John C. Allen Sr. (1876-1953) and Hugh T. Harrison Sr. (1886-1970), sons of Edward C. Harrison.
Many thanks to all who helped solve this 138 year-old mystery — my mother, my uncle, A.B. and her sister M.H., T.N., and the expert analysis and advice of Angie Bush.
My second cousin once removed A.B. and me, May 2015.