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, 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 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!

42091_334856-01056 (1)

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 to T.C., who is the grandson of Eva Petty Walker’s daughter. Further confirmation.]

[UPDATE: 9/14/2017 — A.P. and my mother (and the other Colvert testees) also shared matches with S.X. S.X. and A.P., in fact, shared a cM total in the 1100 range, which is exceedingly high. I just confirmed that S.X. is another child of J.W., further cementing the conclusion that J.W.’s mother Eva was Lon W. Colvert’s daughter.]

[UPDATE: 4/13/2018 — A couple of days ago, I saw that T.R. is an estimated second cousin match to my mother, and an estimated first cousin match to S.X. It didn’t take too long to figure it out this time — T.R.’s paternal grandmother was another of Eva Petty Walker’s children.]

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.]

DNA, Maternal Kin, Virginia

DNA Definites, no. 21: Randolph.

I came back from vacation to find a nice new match at 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, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

New Ancestor Discovery, no. 1: Stephen Nathaniel Grant.

SN Grant

I don’t know. Am I?’s New Ancestor Discovery “is a suggestion that points you to a potential new ancestor or relative—someone that may not be in your family tree previously. This beta launch is our first step toward an entirely new way to make discoveries, and a way to expand how we do family history.”

Ancestry’s bio of this NAD (it’s based on a compilation of 143 user family trees, and so may be way inaccurate): Stephen Nathaniel Grant was born on November 27, 1820, in Natchitoches, Louisiana, to Stephen Grant and Marie Louise Saidec. He married Marie Celine Armand on February 6, 1840, in Natchitoches, Louisiana. On September 4, 1862, he married Marie Adelaide Elizabeth Armand in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He lived in Natchitoches, Louisiana, from 1850 to 1865 and moved to Calcasieu, Louisiana, sometime between 1865 and 1870. Stephen died on June 3, 1878, in Vernon County, Louisiana, at the age of 57, and was buried in Leesville, Louisiana.

At first glance, I’m puzzled. Natchitoches? All my roots lie north of South Carolina and east of the Appalachians. “Grant,” though. That stirs an antenna.

My great-grandmother Bessie Henderson‘s putative father was Joseph Buckner Martin (1868-1928). Buck’s parents were Lewis H. Martin (1836-1912) and Mary “Polly” Ann Price (1836-1902). Lewis H. Martin was the son of Waitman G. Martin (1810-1866) and Eliza Lewis (1813-??). Waitman G. Martin was the son of Lewis Martin (1779-1820?) and Charity Grant (1788-1864?).

Charity Grant was my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. Is Ancestry picking up a connection this distant? It has matched me to collateral Price and Lewis descendants. Maybe Grant then.

I know very little about Charity Grant. Unsourced internet information asserts that she was born 7 October 1788 in Wayne County to Ephraim Grant (1765-1864) and Nancy Kinchen. The date of her marriage to Lewis Martin is unknown; their other children were Lavinia G. Martin (1812-1899), Abraham George Martin (1815-1862) and Henderson Napoleon Martin (1821-1877). (Henderson Martin married Bethany Lewis, daughter of Urban and Susan Casey Lewis, and sister of Waitman’s wife Eliza Lewis.) Charity allegedly died in 1864 in Onslow County. There’s a lot about this I don’t trust though. I consulted Marty Grant’s website,, which contains the most detailed accounting of the evidence regarding early Wayne County Grants available. He lists a daughter Charity for Ephraim and Nancy, but notes that she was born in 1824 and married Martin Johnston. The only other early reference that I have for Charity is Michael Grant’s 1818 Wayne County estate record, which mentions Charity Martin as the purchaser of “7 bus. & 3 Pecks corn” at his estate sale. (It also lists Elisha, John and Stephen Grant among Michael’s creditors.) Michael Grant was a close neighbor of William and Elisha Grant in the 1790 Wayne County census. Marty Grant conjectures the three as brothers and Charity as William’s daughter.

I dug a little deeper on Stephen Nathaniel Grant. (Meaning, I tried to make sense of the mish-mash of information in the trees of his descendants on Ancestry.) With no attribution, all seem to agree that Stephen’s father was also named Stephen Grant, born 1770 in Tolland, Connecticut, died 1821 in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Stephen Sr.’s father is also uniformly listed as Ephraim Grant, born 1726 in Tolland, Connecticut.

These Stephens and Ephraims stretching from New England through North Carolina to Louisiana are intriguing, but what’s my link? assigned Stephen N. Grant to me as a New Ancestor Discovery on the basis of a DNA Circle. “Using DNA evidence and family trees, we’ve created a DNA Circle of probable descendants of Stephen Nathaniel Grant. You match 2 of 5 members. … Because of this, there is a good chance (up to 70%) you could be either a descendant or relative of Stephen Nathaniel Grant.” (There’s a lot of wiggle room there, notice.)

Here are the five people in Stephen Grant’s DNA Circle by Ancestry user name:

  • M.G. — a “very high confidence” DNA match — 20-30 centiMorgans, meh — estimated in the 4th to 6th cousin range; descends from Stephen via daughter Louisa O. Grant Simmons.
  • D.E. — not a DNA match; also descends from Stephen via daughter Louisa.
  • kehokk — not a DNA match; also descends via daughter Louisa.
  • J.F. — an “extremely high confidence” DNA match — more than 30 cM — estimated in the 4th to 6th cousin range; descends from Stephen via daughter Elizabeth Grant Bolton. J.F.’s cousin administers this account and knows little about this line.
  • AnthonyQuinn1987 — not a DNA match; also descends via daughter Elizabeth Grant Bolton; J.F. and AnthonyQuinn1987 also share (1) Wiley Hunt (1798, Georgia-1880, Louisiana) and Susan Alford Hunt (1812, North Carolina-1880, Louisiana); (2) John Alexander Brown (1819, South Carolina-1881, Louisiana) and Anny Harris Brown (1828, Georgia-1911, Louisiana); and (3) John F. Bolton (1815, Tennessee-1883, Louisiana) and Mary Ann Goodman Bolton (1818, Alabama-1897, Louisiana) as common ancestors.

For now, I have no idea how I relate to M.G. or J.F. (especially at the predicted closeness), or if Stephen Grant was closely related to Charity Grant, or if Grant is a red herring and some other common ancestor ties me to these two.


DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites, no. 19: Henderson.

My grandmother, a descendant of James Henderson‘s son Lewis Henderson, knew and regarded as kin the descendants of Lewis’ siblings and half-siblings James Henry, John, Nancy, Mollie and Ella Henderson. John’s descendants knew and regarded as kin the descendants of his siblings and half-siblings Lewis, James Henry, Alex, Hepsie, and Susan Henderson. Certain names — Lewis, James, Nancy, Henry — occur with frequency among James’ children and grandchildren. Documents establish and confirm the interconnections between the Hendersons who lived in the area of Dudley in southern Wayne County. All in all, I am more than satisfied that the evidence establishes that Lewis, James Henry, Mary, Eliza, Anna J., Susan, Hepsie, Alexander, John, Nancy, Bettie, Mollie, Edward and Louella Henderson were the children of James Henderson and his first and second wives.

Still, it’s nice to have some science to back it all up.

Yesterday, I noticed a new entry among the DNA matches for my cousin W.H., whose account I am monitoring. I immediately recognized the match as H.K., a descendant of Lewis Henderson. I rushed to my own account and, yes, H.K. is in my list, too. He joins E.G., L.G. and me as representatives of the Lewis branch. Other branches with matches at Ancestry DNA include: W.H. and S.D. (the John branch) and B.B., A.M., P.C. and K.H. (the Susan branch.)

DNA, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

DNA Definites, no. 18: Neill.

As I moaned about in November, I lost most of my deep DNA matches when Ancestry rolled out its “new and improved” test analyses, mostly in lines that branch above my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Allison Nicholson. Imagine my joy, then, when I recently noticed two new matches whose family trees indicated descent from James and Agnes Ann Falls Snoddy Neill of Iredell County, North Carolina. James and Agnes’ daughter Elizabeth Neill married Theophilus Allison (1754-1805) and gave birth to Mary Allison (1792-1857). Mary Allison Nicholson was Thomas A. Nicholson’s mother.

The first match, T.S., is their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson. I contacted L.P., who administers T.S.’ account, and learned that he is her maternal uncle and is a cousin of J.W., my other Neill/Falls match. T.S. is my fifth cousin, three times removed. L.P. and J.W. are my sixth cousins, twice removed.


State of North Carolina, Iredell County

In the name of God Amen,

I James Neill of Said County being in a sick & low condition but thanks be unto God being at this time in perfect mind & memory do make this my last will & Testament. & first I recommend my [obscured] unto God who gave it me & my body I recommend to the Dust to be buried at the discretion of my Exr. In a Christian & decent manner. & as touching my worldly Substance that I am now possessed of I give & bequeath as followeth (viz)

After all my lawfull debts is paid I leave unto my daughter Sarah ten shillings

& unto my Daughter Hannah I leave ten shillings also

& unto my son Wm. I leave & bequeath the land he lives on

& unto James Holmes my son in law & Each of the bodily Heirs of my daughter Mary now deceased I leave to each five shillings

And unto my son Archibald I leave ten Shillings

And unto my son James I leave & bequeath the plantation he now lives on being a part of the Tract of land my son Wm. now lives on

& unto my daugter Elizabeth I give ten Shillings

& unto my son Robert I give & bequeath the land I now live on includeing my new entry Joining my ould Samuel Neills, Andrew Ramseys, & James Patterson, lands together with the residue of my Personal Estate Except what I give & bequeath unto my beloved Wife which is as follows (viz) I leave unto her a mare called Short her saddle & bridle her bead & furniture a third of my houshold furniture a third of my Dwelling house if necissary for her accommodation the above movable property to be at her disposal at her death Together with a good & honourable maintainance to be given her by my said son Robert during her natural life Also I leave unto her my negro wench Luce & the one half of my cattle to be eaquel in value with my son Roberts half the whole of which is to be at her disposal at her death.

And Lastly I do hereby constitute & appoint my beloved Wife & my son Robert to be the Executors of this my last will And Testament And I do in the presence of the subscribeing Witnesses publishing & Decclareing this & no other to be my last Will & Testament In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & Seal this 22d Day of June 1793

/s/ James Kerr, John Falls Jurat     James X Neill {seal}

Will of James Neill, Will Book 1, page 154. Iredell County, North Carolina Probate Records 1735-1970,


August 23rd, 1793 Iredell County State of North Carolina. In the name of God Amen I Agness Neill of the State & County aforesaid being in a Sick & poure State of health but being Sound in mind & Memory I do will & Bequeath to my son Andrew Snoddy, one feather bead the one I have for my own use with all the furniture belonging to the same also three Puter Dishes Six plates Six Basons five porringers one large Metal pots one small Do. Item I Bequeath to my Daughter Elizabeth Alison, Wife of Theophilus Alison, my Chest & all my body Cloas, also the mare willed to me at my Husbands death, Mare named Short, also Six Head of Sheep I do Give & bequeath to my son James Neill, one Cow & Calf, & one year old heifer, also my Table & four Chares & one Smothing Iron, Also I do bequeath to my son Robert Neill the Loom & What tacklings there is belonging to the Sd. Loom & one Smoothing Iron Item I Do leave & Bequeath to my grand Daughter Agness Alison, Daughter of Theophilus & Elizabeth Alison one feather Bead, & all the furniture belonging to the same as known by The white cotton tick with one Copper Tea Cittle.

I do also leave to my grand Daughter Agness Neill, Daughter to my son Robert & Margaret Neill, one feather bed, & furniture it is a striped Tick the remainder of my Stock to be Sold & Eaquell Divided among my three sons & Daughter Andrew Snoddy Jas. & Robt. Neill & Elizabeth Alison. I Do request them to give me a decent Buring to be paid out of that part of the Stock which to be Sold. I do also give & bequeath to my son Andrew Snoddy Six yards of thick cloth which I now have.

I make this my last will & Testament & do my son in law Theophilus Alison to be my Executor in Witness whereof I have set my hand & Seal this 23rd Day of August A.D. 1793 Test

Thomas Allison Junior, Samuel Wilson Jurat   Agness X Neill {seal}

Will of Agness Neill, Will Book 1, page 153. Iredell County, North Carolina Probate Records 1735-1970,


In the name of God Amen, Theophilus Allison of the County of Iredell in the State of North Carolina being very sick and weak in body But of Perfect mind and Memory thanks be unto God calling unto the mortality of My Body and Knowing it is appointed for all men all to die do make and ordain this my last will and Testament that is to say Principally and first of all I give and command my Soul into the hand of almighty God that give it and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be Buryed in decent Christian Burial at the discretion of my Executors and as touching such worldly Estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life I give devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form first I give and bequeath to my dearly Beloved wife my Negro Woman named Soose and her child Esther my mare named Short and saddle and Bridle her Bed and furniture and all the dresser Furniture and Six head of Cattle of her own picking also six sheep of her own Choosing the one half of the Kitchen Furniture to be hers and hers for ever also I give to my well beloved Daughter Nancy Allison Peggy Allison Mary Allison Elizabeth Allison and Daely Simonton Allison and my well beloved Jefferson Theophilus Allison an Equal divide of the remainder of my property (Excepting my Land) to be given to them as Mary Becomes of age the plantation I now live on I allow my Executors to dispose of at any time if they think Best Before my son Jefferson Theophilus Allison come of age and make Good Titles and the price thereof to be my sons Jefferson Theophilus Also my Tennessee Land I allow to be equally divided among my wife and children I allow for the support of the family & use of the place my sorrel Mare called Magay and her year old filly and the horse called Tobby and wagon and four pair of Gears and all other Plantation Tolls & all the Hogs and as many of my cattle as my Executors shall Think necessary and the remainder of both Horses and Cattle to do to public sale. I also allow my Executors to keep upon the plantation the rest of my Negroes not willed but if they my Executors should at any time think Better to hire or sell one or more of my Negroes to do it and make good rights all other property not mentioned if needed for the use of the family to be kept, but if not needed to be sold and I do by these presents constitute appoint and ordain my trusty friends Elizabeth Allison my wife Richard Allison my brother and Joseph Kerr my brother in law Executors of this my last will and Testament and do by these presents revoke and disavow and disalow all other former Testaments will Legacies bequests and Executors by me in any wise before named willed or bequeathed, ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and Testament in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one Thousand Eight hundred and five signed seal published pronounced and declared in presents of us –

John Knox

Robert Knox       Jurat                 /s/ Theophilus Allison

Jherrod Stroud

Will of Theophilus Allison, Will Book 2, page 44. Iredell County, North Carolina Probate Records 1735-1970,


DNAnigma: Autosomalgeddon; or, “Them’s that got shall have. Them’s that not shall lose.”

Day 2. Ancestry DNA has rolled out its better “mousetrap.” A new and “improved” way of identifying genetic relationships. I dropped from 80 pages of matches to 17. I lost a known 4th cousin (whom I match at 23andme, FTDNA and Gedmatch). I’ve lost nearly all the distant Euro-descended matches that lent credence to speculation about some of my white ancestors. I’ve lost all but three “shaky leaf” shared ancestor hints. I have no Circles. I’ve gained some new matches. Most have private trees or no tree at all. None have shaky leaves. None share my surnames.

This is not a win.

I knew the new analysis would disproportionately negatively impact non-whites, adoptees or those who otherwise have limited information about their ancestry, and I’m waiting vainly for an authoritative acknowledgment of that fact. All I’m seeing are cheery reassurances that this really is for the greater good, you’ll see. These comments seem blind to the realness of the loss of so-called “false negatives.”  This is privilege on display. For people whose genealogies descend in orderly, documented ranks, free from slavemaster paternity or undocumented marginalized others — onward and upward.

For the rest of us?  This is not a win.


DNA, Maternal Kin, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites: Ancestry (under)estimates.

Of my zillions of matches at Ancestry DNA, to date I’ve able to document 13 of them. Four were cousins I already knew; one was a cousin I conjectured, but couldn’t prove; and two others are from family lines I knew, though I did not know the match. I am related to the remaining six — the most distant matches — via late colonial or early antebellum-era white ancestors previously identified but unproven.

The chart below shows Ancestry DNA’s estimates of my kinship to these 13, as well as our actual relationship. Ancestry tends to underestimate relationship slightly in matches closer than five degrees, and I try to keep this in mind when speculating about my mystery matches.

Match Ancestry Estimate Actual Relationship
W.H. 3rd-4th cousin 2nd cousin, once removed
G.J. 4th-6th cousin 2nd cousin, once removed
H.B. 4th-6th cousin 3rd cousin, once removed
S.D. 4th-6th cousin 3rd cousin
G.P. 5th-8th cousin 3rd cousin, 3x removed
E.G. 5th-8th cousin 4th cousin
B.J. 5th-8th cousin 4th cousin
G.L. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, once removed
J.W. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, once removed
D.M. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, once removed
J.B. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, twice removed
E.D 5th-8th cousin 6th cousin, twice removed
L.B. 5th-8th cousin 7th cousin
DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites, no. 15: Henderson.

I spotted the match on Ancestry DNA back in February. A German surname. A family tree largely filled with what appeared to be Germans and Frenchmen. But interspersed among the list of ethnic origins — Nigeria, Mali, Ivory Coast/Mali, Senegal …? I examined the tree a little more closely, and — there — could it be? A name I recognized. A rather common name, but one that matched that of a grandson of Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons, my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson‘s sister.

I reached out.  I also emailed a cousin, the daughter of the named man’s sister, if she thought her uncle had offspring of that age, in that place. It was very possible, she said. This uncle had not been in touch much. He was believed to have assumed a sort of liminal identity — not quite white maybe, but far from black. He had married several times, she thought, and had died in California.

Months passed.

Then, at the beginning of September, I heard back from E.G. He doesn’t know much about his grandfather, the match, but wondered if I did. Yes, I replied, I do. Ancestry (with its usual underestimating) pegged E.G. and I as 5th to 8th cousins, but we are 4th. Our great-great-grandmothers were sisters. He is the first Henderson relative I have matched beyond my double-cousins (whom I match more closely as Aldridges), and the first in my own Lewis line beyond my immediate relatives.