DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites, no. 23.


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.

DNA, Maternal Kin, Virginia

DNA Definites, no. 21: Randolph.

I came back from vacation to find a nice new match at Ancestry.com. R.M. and I are double eighth cousins, as I am descended from two children of Isham and Jane Rogers RandolphThomas I. Randolph (1722-1788), who married Jane Cary (1751-1774), and Susannah Randolph, who married Carter Henry Harrison (1736-1793). (Thomas Randolph, Susannah Randolph Harrison, and Bettie Randolph Railey’s sister Jane Randolph married Peter Jefferson and gave birth to Thomas Jefferson.)

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Ancestry estimates our relationship as 5th-8th cousins and rates the match as “Good,” meaning that we share 6-12 cM. (Which is quite high for 8th cousins, but is attributable to (1) our double lineage and (2) luck.) That’s lower than I’d ordinarily pursue, but I’ll take it.

DNA, Maternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 19: sorting sides.

Until my mother’s first cousins tested at 23andme, I had no way to distinguish her maternal and paternal matches. Though her thousand-plus hits are still mostly an anonymous mass, I have gained some small insights. Here are two examples:

Madame XX

I sent this woman a share request on 13 June 2012, just two months after I got my initial 23andme results. It’s been crickets ever since. She is either dead or does not give one damn about genealogy. And it kills me because she is estimated as my mother and uncle’s second cousin, sharing 280 cM, (3.76%) across 9 segments with her and 273 cM (3.67%) across 11 segments with him. This mystery woman also shares 2.16%, 7 segments, and 1.98 %, 6 segments, with my deceased aunt’s daughter and son. This is high. Per ISOGG, known second cousins share on average 3.125% and 212.5 cM.

Madame XX does not match either of my mother’s paternal first cousins, M.D. and J.A. Though it’s not an absolute certainty, it’s likely, then, that she is a match on my maternal grandmother’s side. (Without knowing who the Madame is, I can’t unequivocally declare her my mother’s second cousin, but I can say that the numbers are very low for half-first or first, once removed. However, see my Harrisons, where my mother shares 267 cM with her half-second cousin, for what’s possible.)

A second cousin is the child of one’s parents’ first cousins. My grandmother had relatively few full first cousins. In fact, she had exactly none on her father’s side. On her mother’s, there were lots of McNeely aunts and uncles, but relatively few children: Luther‘s son R. Henry McNeely (1903); Emma‘s children Wardenur (1913-1941), Henry (1915-1955), and Irving Houser Jr. (1920-2001); Addie‘s children Ardeanur (1903-1996) and James Smith (1906-1960); Elethea‘s sons William (1903-??), Charles (1904-1968), James (1906-bef. 1920?) and Irving McNeely (1911-1933); Edward‘s son Quincy McNeely (1910-1966); and Janie‘s children Sarah (1911-1937), Frances (1916-??), Willa (1918-) and William McNeely (1925-1965), and Carl Taylor (1923-1988).

We can eliminate all the aunts’ children off the bat. Madame XX’s maternal haplogroup is L0a1a2. My great-grandmother and her sisters were L2d1a and passed that mtDNA down to their children. As the haplogroups don’t match, the mystery lady is not a child of a McNeely daughter. That leaves the offspring of the McNeely sons. As far as I know, neither Henry McNeely, James Smith, William McNeely, Charles McNeely, James McNeely, Irving McNeely Weaver, nor Quincy McNeely had children. (Nor Wardenur Houser Jones, Ardeanur Smith Hart, Sarah McNeely Green, Frances McNeely Williams, and Willa McNeely Sims. Now that I write this out, it sounds crazy. How is it that so few of Henry and Martha McNeely‘s grandchildren had children?) That leaves Henry, Irving Houser, William McNeely or Carl Taylor as the parents of Madame XX. (Unless, of course, my grandmother had first cousins that she did not know of.)

As far as I know, Henry Houser had three sons, only one of whom is living. Irving Houser had one daughter, whom I need to contact independently. William McNeely had one son that I know of. Carl Taylor also had sons. Right now, then, Madame XX is either Irving’s daughter or the daughter of a completely unknown cousin.


L.W., on the other hand, matches my mother, her brother and both their paternal first cousins, making him a solid bet for her father’s side. He’s considerably more distant than Madame XX, but a good match. At 23andme, he’s estimated at 3rd to 5th cousins (.44% shared across 3 segments) with my mother and uncle, and 3rd-6th cousin (.29% across 2 segments) to cousin M.D. Cousin J.A. does not show as L.W.’s match at 23andme, but does show a 13.4 cM match at Gedmatch.

L.W.’s mtDNA haplogroup is L3d1-5, and his Y is E1b1a. I can eliminate him then as a direct patrilineal descendant of my great-great-grandfather Edward C. Harrison or my great-great-grandmother Matilda Holmes. I don’t recognize any of the surnames he lists in his profile. And the states he lists — Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina — suggest that his ancestors moved out of Virginia (assuming that point of common origin) before Emancipation. Unfortunately, my knowledge of my own ancestors beyond the great-great-grandparent level on this side raises serious barriers to identification of our link to L.W. I know the names of the parents of Mary Brown Allen, born 1849 in Amelia County, Virginia, but little else. Jasper Holmes‘ parents were likely Peyton and Nancy Holmes, and they were probably from Charlotte County, as he was. I don’t even know his wife Matilda‘s maiden name though.

Births Deaths Marriages, DNA, Maternal Kin, Virginia

Lineage no. 34.

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:

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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.

me and andy

My second cousin once removed A.B. and me, May 2015.



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I don’t remember exactly when I submitted my sample to 23andme, or what exorbitant price I paid for it, but I received my results in early April 2012. My mother and father received their results in, I think October of the same year. They are numbers 176,931 and 176,975.

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DNA, Maternal Kin, Virginia

L1c1a1a1b legacy.

Thanks to my cousin M.D., we now know that Mary Agnes Holmes Allen and her mother Matilda belonged to haplogroup L1c1a1a1b.

M.D.’s mother, Nita Lourine Allen Meyers Wilkerson, was my grandfather John C. Allen Jr.‘s youngest sister. She was born 20 March 1913 in Newport News, graduated from Huntington High School, then received a nursing degree from Hampton Institute. Here’s Aunt Nita sitting on the front porch of her parents’ house on Marshall Avenue, circa 1916.

Nita Allen ca1914

And her high school diploma:


In 1939, she married Marcellus W. Meyers, a native of Washington, DC, with Beaufort, South Carolina, roots. The couple moved to DC, where their only child was born. Aunt Nita retired from nursing in 1975, returned to Newport News, and immediately pursued a passion for Democratic politics. She served and supported local and state campaigns for nearly twenty years until moving to Maryland shortly before her death in 1996.

Nita Allen Meyers 001

Nita in evening gown in the front hall of my great-grandparents’ house at 2107 Marshall Avenue, Newport News.

Matilda Holmes passed mtDNA haplogroup L1c1a1a1b to all her children, but only her daughter Mary Agnes Holmes Allen carried it further. In turn, of Mary Agnes’ children, only daughter Nita passed the haplogroup on. Today, as far I know, only M.D. and her son D.D. carry Matilda’s legacy.

Mary Allen holding Marita (1943) 001

Mary Agnes H. Allen holding baby M., circa 1943.

Photos courtesy of Julia A. Maclin and M.D.