Births Deaths Marriages, DNA, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

DNA Definites, no. 25: Colvert.

DNAnigma, no. 20 — SOLVED!

When my maternal second cousins’ DNA results posted last year at Ancestry.com, I immediately noticed we shared a close cousin in common.

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K.J. and G.W. are my second cousins. A.R. is a match we share.

Who was A.R.? Per Ancestry’s centimorgan (cM) totals (which run low), A.R. shared 99 cM with me, 98 cM with K.J., and 111 cm with G.W. That’s roughly the third cousin range. As K.J. and G.W. are the grandchildren of one of my maternal grandmother’s full sisters, I could be reasonably sure that A.R. was with us in the Colvert or McNeely line. (A.R. also matches E.J., great-grandson of my grandmother’s other full sister.)

In trying to contact A.R., I found his sister A.P. She was quite excited about our genetic link and expressed interest in DNA testing. I mailed her an Ancestry.com kit, and her results came in last week. As expected, A.P. matched K.J., G.M. and I in the same range as her brother does. What was our connection though?

A.P. told me that three of her four grandparents were from the Caribbean, so it was highly unlikely that I matched her in those lines. However, her fourth grandparent, her mother’s father J.W., was an enigmatic figure who had disappeared from the family. Was he the link?

J.W.’s name is a common one, and we had only a general idea of his birthplace. I examined my tree carefully, focusing on my maternal grandmother’s family. Given the information we had, nothing seemed to match up. A.P. probed her close relatives for more information and late last week learned that J.W. was born in 1933 and his mother was named Eva.  A quick search turned up J.W. and his mother (and father and siblings) in the 1940 federal census of Statesville, Iredell County, North Carolina.

My heart leaped. Statesville??? That’s where my grandmother was born! Suddenly, connecting A.P. and her grandfather J.W. to my family seemed not just possible, but likely. I searched for more records of J.W.’s mother and found her marriage license. I scanned the document quickly, then stopped short. On 14 June 1930, when Gilmer Walker applied for a marriage license for himself and Eva Petty, 18, he had named her parents as Delia Petty and … Lon Colbert!

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Colbert was a common misspelling of my grandmother’s maiden name, which in fact was COLVERT. I paused. The handwriting was ambiguous, was the first name LON or LOU? Lon W. Colvert, son of John W. Colvert and Harriet Nicholson, was my grandmother’s father. Lewis “Lou” Colvert was his uncle — brother (or half-brother or maybe even step-brother) of John W. Colvert. If Eva’s father were Lou (and Lou were a biological rather than step-brother to John Colvert), then A.P. and my most recent common ancestor (MRCA) would be my great-great-great-grandfather Walker Colvert, and she and I would be estimated half-fourth cousins. The average shared cM range for this relationship is in the single digits, and there’s a 50% that cousins at this distance show no DNA match at all. But A.P. and I share 96 cM, so Lewis Colvert is extremely unlikely to be our MRCA. 

If, instead, Eva Petty Walker’s father were Lon, A.P. and I would be half-second cousins once removed. The cM range for that relationship would be the mid to high double digits. This range not only captures our cM, it also encompasses the cM totals that A.P. shares with my sister, K.J. and G.W., who would all have the same relationship distance with A.P. If Lon is our MRCA, A.P. and my mother and late uncle Charles would be half first cousins twice removed. As the chart below shows, their 182.4 and 173.8 cM shares with A.P. are on the high end of the 1C2R range.

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Gedmatch matrix comparing autosomal cM shares among Colvert descendants — me, my mother, my sister, my maternal uncle, two second cousins, and A.P.

Thus, the evidence points to A.P.’s great-grandmother Eva Petty Walker as the daughter of my great-grandfather Lon W. Colvert. Eva was born 3 October 1911, ten months after Lon’s wife Carrie McNeely Colvert’s youngest daughter was born. Eva was his seventh known child, all but one of whom were girls.

[UPDATE: 5/1/2017 — I just got a match in Ancestry.com to T.C., who is the grandson of Eva Petty Walker’s daughter. Further confirmation.]

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DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Religion

Ain’t you glad?

My great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson has no known patrilineal descendants, but his brothers James Henry and John do. About a year ago, I reached out to my cousin C., who is in the James Henry line, to ask if he would test with 23andme. After some hesitation, he agreed.

C.’s results returned in a few weeks, and I called him to share the details. “So, am I a Henderson?,” he blurted. I laughed: “Of course you are, crazy!” C. is the spitting image of his father, but — his parents had not married. Hearing that Hendersons (including my father and K.H.) were among his top matches and that he shared the same haplogroup as other patrilineal Hendersons had vanquished lingering uncertainties that I had not even known C. harbored.

The core of the Henderson family is deeply religious, and our reunions feature a farewell prayer breakfast at the host hotel. C., who is an ordained Baptist minister, rose to deliver a mini-sermon to those gathered. “Blood done sign my name,” he said. “Blood … done sign my name.” You may know this traditional gospel song, whose lyrics speak to the belief in the redemption of sinners through the blood that Jesus Christ shed on Calvary. C. preached on salvation Sunday morning, but he also invoked this metaphor in a different way. With a simple DNA test, C. was free from doubt and able confidently to claim his place among the Hendersons. Blood had signed his name on the roll books of our family.

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DNA, Maternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 20: a Colvert-McNeely?

The tests I had two maternal second cousins (first cousins to each other) take may be bearing fruit.

My maternal grandmother, Margaret Colvert Allen, had two full sisters, Louise Colvert Renwick and Launie Mae Colvert Jones. K.J. and G.W. are Aunt Launie’s grandchildren by a son and daughter. Per Gedmatch, K.J. and I match 394.4 cMs (46.2 on the X), which is a whopping match for second cousins. G.W. and I match 151.5 (45.6 on the X), which is on the low side of the second cousin range.

Here is matrix showing the matches between K.J. and G.W. and my grandmother’s descendants, me (L.Y.H.), my mother B.A.H., my uncle C.C.A., and my sister K.H.J.

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I have ZERO identified matches to my grandmother’s African-American lines. I was startled then to get a new match last week that matched me at 40 cM (per Ancestry, which lowballs estimates), K.J. at 91 and G.W. at 137.  It didn’t take long to get a response from him that identified him as E.J., the great-grandson of my Aunt Louise. In other words, a second cousin-once removed to me, K.J. and G.W. My cM total with E.J. is lower than might be expected, but K.J.’s and G.W.’s are right in line with the estimated range. (I’m hoping he’ll upload to Gedmatch so we can get better cM estimates and wider comparisons.) So, finally, descendants of all three Colvert-McNeely sisters have done DNA testing and all match appropriately.

Several months ago, K.J., G.W. and I had a match to an unknown person who hit us all in the estimated 3rd-4th range. I have communicated with his sister, who indicated that three of their four grandparents were Caribbean-born, making her maternal grandfather the most likely connection. Unfortunately, A.P. knows very little about her grandfather. Comparing A.P.’s brother A.R. to me, K.J., G.W. and E.J. yields cM totals of 99, 98, 111 and 27.7. That’s in the half-second cousin or second cousin once removed range for me, K.J. and G.W. and half-third/third once-removed for E.J., indicating that we likely share at least one great-grandparent/great-great-grandparent.

Let’s work with that assumption. Though it’s possible that Caroline McNeely Colvert had a child other than my grandmother and her sisters, presumably older, I’m doubtful. She would not have been the first McNeely sister to bear a child out of wedlock, and there’s no reason to think she would have given up such a child. (Especially to anyone outside her large immediate family.) So, of the two, the more likely shared ancestor is Lon W. Colvert. Another possibility is Lon’s son, John Walker Colvert II. He had only one known child, a son who died in childhood in a car accident, but there could have been others and the cM numbers could work in that scenario. Right now, we just don’t have enough information, but Lon and Walker are the starting point of my working hypothesis.

[Update: 4/4/2017 — Mystery solved. As suspected, Lon W. Colvert is our most recent common ancestor.]

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DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

New Ancestor Discovery, no. 2: Irvin and Sabra Fisher Sessoms.

Actually, Stephen Grant and his wife Marie Celina Armand were New Ancestor Discoveries 1 and 2, per http://www.ancestry.com. I talked about Stephen here. (Though I may share ancestry with her husband, Marie Celina I’ve discounted as a blood relative because she was of French descent.) Irving Sessoms and his wife, Sabra Jane Fisher, then, are NADs 3 and 4. Neither name speaks to me, but they were from Sampson County, North Carolina – like my Aldridge and Balkcum ancestors – so I’m intrigued.

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Here’s what may or may not be true about Irvin Sessoms:

  • He was the son of Blake Sessoms (1781-1841) and Rachel [last name unknown] (1792-1880).
  • He was born 22 April 1817 in Sampson County.
  • He married Sabra Fisher in about 1835.
  • They had nine children: Molcey Jane Sessoms Grice (1845-1894), Uriah Sessoms (1846-1925), Susanah Sessoms McGrossen (1848-1889), William Henry Sessoms (1850-1930), Elizabeth Sessoms (1852-1874), Gilead Sessoms (1854-1867), Lucinda Sessoms (1856-1927), Minson M. Sessoms (1859-1940), and Andrew J. Sessoms (1861-1905).
  • He died 1862 in Little Coharie township, Sampson County.

Here’s what may or may not be true about Sabra Jane Fisher:

  • She was the daughter of Sanders Fisher (1793-1876) and Sophia Butler (1792-??).
  • She was born 29 September 1821 in Sampson County.
  • She died 11 September 1903 in Roseboro, Little Coharie township, Sampson County.

Observations:

  • The “circle” of DNA testers linked to Irvin and Sabra has five members, plus me. I match two of them — E.K. (an estimated 4th cousin), who is descended from their son Andrew J. Sessoms, and J.S. (estimated 5th cousin), descended from daughter Lucinda Sessoms. (I also match an estimated 4th cousin called “KnowThyPast” in common with both E.K. and J.S. I don’t know how I match KTP, but I thought it was via Van Pools on my mother’s side, which is not helpful here.) The other three in the circle: B.M. (descended from son William Henry), J.W. (descended from son Andrew), and A.L. (descended from son Minson.)
  • A passel of Aldridge/Balkcums have tested at Ancestry, but I seem to be the only one linked to the Sessomses. This could mean I’m totally off base with my speculation about my connection to them. Or, maybe it means that the link is specifically via my great-great-great-grandmother Margaret Balkcum Henderson, who likely had a different father than her sister, my great-great-great-grandmother Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge. Still, if this were the case, I might expect my Margaret-descended cousins H.K., L.G., and sibling set J.H., L.H. and M.C. to link to the Sessomses. They don’t.
  • Irvin Sessoms and Sabra Fisher Sessoms were contemporaries of my ancestors Robert Aldridge, Eliza Balkcum Aldridge and Margaret Balkcum Henderson. Thus, Irvin and Sabra could not have the direct ancestors of any of them.
  • Maybe “Molcey Jane” was a name with common currency in early 18th century Sampson County. It stood out for me though. There were three Molcey/Malseys among Eliza and Margaret’s (believed) Balkcum kin. The first was Malsey Lee Balkcum (1820-1889), wife of John Balkcum, whom I believe to have been a half-brother to Eliza Balkcum Aldridge and Margaret Balkcum Henderson. The second was Malsey Jane Balkcum Knowles, born about 1852 to Lemuel and Jemima Rackley Balkcum. Lemuel was, I believe, another half-brother to Eliza Balkcum Aldridge and Margaret Balkcum Henderson. The third was Malsey Alice Balkcum, born about 1855 to John and Malsey.

 

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DNA, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

DNA Definites, no. 24: Nicholson.

Two more Nicholson matches at Ancestry DNA.

The first is with T.L. His ancestor Moses P. Nicholson migrated to Indiana in the 1830s, long before my great-great-grandmother Harriet Nicholson was born. T.L. has no other Iredell County lines, underscoring the unlikelihood that our match is through some other line.

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The second is R.H., who also matches T.L. R.H. is descended from a first-cousin marriage between grandchildren of both of John S. Nicholson‘s wives, as am I.

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Unfortunately, Ancestry has a hard time interpreting matching trees that involve multiple spouses and fathers and sons with the same names, and these charts are not quite right.

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DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites, no. 23.

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Joseph Buckner Martin (1868-1928) is said to have been the father of my great-grandmother Bessie Henderson and her brother Jesse “Jack” Henderson. Does DNA back this up?

Sort of.

One of Bessie’s descendants (me) and three of Jack’s (J.E., L.H. and M.C.) have tested with Ancestry DNA. I match each of them as expected. But whom do we match?

Buck Martin was the son of Lewis H. and Mary Ann “Polly” Price Martin. Though Lewis and Polly had ten children, so far I have not identified matches for any of us with descendants of any of them.

Let’s back up a generation though. Lewis H. Martin was one of 11 children of Waitman G. and Eliza Lewis Martin. My close cousins J.E. and L.H. match G.A., who is descended from Lewis’ brother Henderson N. Martin.

Eliza Lewis Martin (1813-??) was the oldest child of Urban Lewis and Susan Casey Lewis. Her siblings: John Lewis, Fannie Lewis Denmark, Joel Lewis, Bethany Lewis Martin, Susan Marinda Lewis Potts, Patience Lewis Denmark, William Lewis, Elizabeth Lewis, and Mary Ann Lewis Martin. My close cousins and/or I match descendants of at least two of them, John (J.K., K.P.) and Susan (E.P., B.P.). (My father also has matches to Susan’s descendants E.G.P. and B.A.P. at Gedmatch and D.P. at FTDNA.) In addition, J.E. and L.H. match B.T., a descendant of Urban Lewis’ brother Laban Lewis. And over at 23andme, my father’s first cousin J.H. matches A.L., an Urban and Susan Casey Lewis descendant, and K.C.K., a descendant of one of Susan Casey Lewis’ siblings.

Polly Price Martin was the daughter of James and Margaret Herring Price. Polly had  sisters Margaret “Peggy” Price Williams and Susan Price Dail. M.C., J.E. and/or I match a descendant of Susan Dail and five descendants of Peggy’s great-grandson Merle Williams.

So, while we do not have matches with any of Buck’s siblings’ descendants, we do have matches to all four of his grandparents’ line — Martin, Lewis, Price and Herring. This does not exclusively establish Buck Martin as my ancestor, but it goes a long way.

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