For all I malign the inadequacies of Ancestry DNA, it has yielded up distant-relative matches in a way that 23andme has yet to touch. I did a search for “Nicholson” among my matches, and J.W.B. popped up. As I scanned his family tree, the name that snagged my eye first was “Jehu Idol.” I knew that name. I LOVED that name. So economical. So Biblical. So 18th century. And the husband of Hannah Nicholson, sister of John Stockton Nicholson Jr. and half-sister of James Nicholson. J.W.B. and I are 5th cousins, twice removed.
Iredell County, North Carolina, was settled in the mid-eighteenth century largely by Scots-Irish and German immigrants pushing down the spine of the Shenandoah Valley from the mid-Atlantic colonies. Interspersed among them, of course, were the omnipresent English, but also here and there a Dutch family. Such were the Van Pools, who settled first in Maryland before heading south in the mid-18th century.
Ancestry DNA estimates D.F.M. as my 5th-8th cousin. I would not have noticed her name among my hundreds of distant matches, but Shared Ancestor Hint — a comparison of family trees, and Ancestry’s best feature — brought her into sharp focus. To be precise, we are fifth cousins, once removed, both descendants of John Van Pool and his wife, Elizabeth Peyster Van Pool. I am descended from daughter Nancy Van Pool, who married Samuel McNeely, and D.F.M. from son David Van Pool. Nancy and Samuel McNeely’s son John W. McNeely fathered Henry W. McNeely, my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather.
Ancestry also estimates L.B. as my 5th-8th cousin, and I found him, too, via Shared Ancestor Hint. We are in fact 7th cousins, descended an equal number of generations from Jacob Van Pool and Elizabeth Hampton via sons John Van Pool and Henry Van Pool.
Last night, idly perusing my most recent Ancestry.com matches, I ran across a screen name I recognized. I zapped an excited Facebook message, and this morning here’s what M.S. posted:
“Cost of being an Ancestry.com member: $20 a month. Cost of getting your DNA analysis: $100. Finding out that Lisa Henderson, whom you already admire and love like a sister is actually related to you when you were just asking her to help you sort through all the genetic genealogy: PRICELESS! Wow!”
I’ve known M.S. and his sister A.S. for nearly 30 years — A. and I went to college together — and our friendship has deepened in the last several years. (A.S. has an amazing Tumblr, Hey to Your Mama N’em.) A few years ago, I did some rudimentary genealogical research for them and have encouraged M. and offered advice as his own research has deepened and as he began his foray into DNA testing. The last thing I ever imagined was that we’d share chromosomes! I have no idea what our link is, but neither of us will leave a stone unturned trying to find out!
Over the weekend, I did one of my infrequent checks for matches at Ancestry DNA. I found a new match to C.B., an estimated 5th-8th cousin. Heaving a sigh, I idly checked his family tree — and immediately recognized many of his surnames as common to Wilson County, my birthplace. I looked a little more closely at his profile, and … I’ll be damned. His daughter was my high school classmate! How in the world are we connected?
M.W. is the second Beddingfield High School grad that I’ve matched in Ancestry or 23andme. The other was a classmate of my sister. I have no clue how we match M.R. either.
I can assume the C.B. match is on my father’s side, as is M.R. I also assume that it is through an Anglo ancestor. What throws me is that I don’t know of any white ancestors from Wilson County or northern Wayne or southern Edgecombe Counties, from which Wilson was created. Clearly, I have one, or some, though, as these and a couple of other Wilson County matches attest. The most likely conduit is through my Artis-Seaberry-Hagans, who had obvious Euro ancestry about which I know nothing and who lived in northern Wayne County.
An initial exchange of messages with M.R. has fallen silent, but I’m hoping a collabo with M.W. will get me somewhere.
Ancestry.com pegs O.M. and me as 4th to 6th cousins, and L.P. and me as 5th to 8th. O.M., who is in her 80s, discovered her African ancestry (estimated at about 35%) only after receiving her DNA results. Apparently, this inheritance came entirely entirely from her father, whose identity her mother did not disclose. O.M.’s daughter B.C. and L.P. have deduced that their connection lies in an mixed-race African-American Herring family from Sampson County that I haven’t been able to connect to either Margaret Herring Price or Hillary Herring. Still, is that my link, too?