Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simmons or Soles or (Maybe) Mansell DNA, Part 1

Back at the end of November I got a match on Family Tree DNA with a man named Leo Pentney Gaines. I actually know how I am related to him. If you haven't jumped on the DNA bandwagon yet, you might not realize how seldom you actually know how you are related to your matches. I think some people assume that DNA testing will answer every question they have about their family trees, but unfortunately, that's just not true--at least not yet.

Out of my first page of matches on Family Tree DNA (in order by number of cM's shared), you can see how many I actually know by looking at the table below.

Match Shared cM's Suggested Relationship Do I know how we are related?
My brother 2282.00 Brother Yes
Miller 134.68 2nd-3rd Cousin No
Huff 122.26 3rd Cousin Yes
Leo Pentney Gaines 111.60 2nd-4th Cousin Yes
Castle 83.96 3rd Cousin Yes
Coy 74.33 2nd-4th Cousin No
Dexheimer 70.23 2nd-4th Cousin No
Hay 69.83 3rd Cousin Yes
Stroud 68.35 2nd-4th Cousin No
Childress 68.26 2nd-4th Cousin No

Those who have been tested have the opportunity to list family surnames and download a Gedcom (their tree) to FTDNA. Some take advantage of that opportunity, and some do not.

  • Miller is my closest match next to my brother. At a 2nd cousin level I should probably know who he is. We do not have a single surname in common, including Miller.
  • Huff is one of my Huff cousins. I happen to know that he is deceased. Neither his surnames nor his tree is posted on FTDNA. I know how I am related to him because I have made contact with a couple of hard-working Huff cousins who are finding and encouraging other cousins to test and keeping track of the matches.
  • More to come on Leo Pentney Gaines.
  • As you might have guessed, Castle is one of my Castle cousins. Our great-grandfathers were brothers.
  • Coy has not posted surnames or a tree. I've investigated a little but have been unable to determine how we are connected.
  • According to her posted tree, Dexheimer and I have a couple of locations in common: Russell Co., VA, and Morgan Co., KY. I haven't determined exactly how we are connected, but I have a number of ancestors who migrated from Russell Co. to Morgan Co., so I hope to eventually find our common ancestor.
  • Hay and I share Huff and Roberts ancestors.
  • Stroud posted both surnames and a tree. We have some surnames in common, but I have not been able to determine the exact connection.
  • Childress did not post surnames or a tree.
Out of my second page of 10 matches, I only know how I am connected to one match. (As the number of shared cM's gets smaller, the common ancestor gets farther away and harder to trace.) So you can imagine how excited I was to be able to figure out my connection to Mr. Gaines.

I don't want to discourage anyone from DNA testing because it will only get better as time goes on and more people are tested. I do want to encourage those who test to take advantage of all the tools you have at your disposal. If you can't download a tree, at least list your surnames and reply to email queries from your matches. It is easy to go into your profile on FTDNA and add surnames and locations. In fact, adding locations to my surnames is a goal I have added to my genealogy "to-do" list.

If you do have some information to work with, you can sometimes figure out your connection to a match, as I did with Leo Pentney Gaines. It actually was pretty easy, and I was equally as excited that an existing paper trail on my Smith side has now been validated by DNA.

First, I searched for Leo Pentney Gaines on Even though I didn't know a birthdate or location, I thought I would try because he had a fairly uncommon name. Depending upon the age of the person tested, it might be possible for you to find one of your matches on the 1930 or 1940 census. Sadly, the first result I got in my search for Mr. Gaines was his obituary. He died in October. His home was in Texas, but he was buried in Oklahoma. If I had Googled his name, I would have gotten the same result, and if you don't subscribe to, that is an option.

A second result was the 1930 census for L.P. Gaines, which included the names of his parents, Harry Leo and Mamie Gaines. They were living in Fitzhugh, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, which is where, according to the obituary, Mr. Gaines was buried. So I still had the right family, and living with them in 1930 was Mamie's mother, Joanna Webb. Here was a name I recognized. Her father was Daniel Monroe Mansell, the half-brother of my great-grandmother Fannie. 

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