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.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simmons or Soles or (Maybe) Mansell DNA, Part 2

I had never heard of the Mansells before I discovered my great-grandfather's Guion Miller application for Indian citizenship on behalf of his children. He made a deposition in 1908 which includes some genealogically significant information:

"I think about the time of her (his wife Fannie's) birth her father died, and then after she was born his wife married a white man...Her mother's married name at the time she was born was Mansfield or Mansel, some called her Elizabeth Mansfield. Her name was Elizabeth Sims before marriage. My wife's mother's mother was Soles. Her given name was Priscilla Soles. My wife's father was John Mansel, sometimes known as Mansfield. I do not remember her father's parents' names...My wife's mother's name was Cotton when we came to this country (Indian Territory/Oklahoma.)"

Until my brother and I found this application in the archives at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, I had always thought my grandfather's mother's name was Fannie Cotton. My source for this information was my grandmother, and I don't doubt that this was what she had heard or what she thought to be true.

Here are the facts as I know them: 1. Others have listed a birthdate of 7 June 1849 for Fannie. I don't know exactly where this information comes from, but in any case, Francis Mansfield, age 1, is enumerated on the 1850 census of Pike Co. AL with her mother Elizabeth Mansfield and brothers William, Samuel, Daniel, Simeon, Benjamin, John, and Amos. She is consistent about her age in later censuses: age 11 in 1860, age 21 in 1870, and age 31 in 1880. 2. Her mother's husband and father of the boys was John Mansell, who died around 1843/1844. 3. Her mother married William W. Cotton on 26 August 1863.

If you've been following closely, you see the discrepancy. Even though Fannie used the name Mansell on her marriage license to Stephen A. Smith, John Mansell could not have been her father as he was dead at least five years before her birth. William W. Cotton was probably not her father either. He and Elizabeth did not marry until 1863, and I haven't been able to find him on the 1850 census in Pike Co. It's possible that Fannie was the daughter of one of the Mansell sons, granddaughter to Elizabeth, but so far there's no proof of that either, and Stephen flatly states in his deposition that John Mansell was her father.

Genealogists certainly wish they could trust every piece of information they find in a written document from the actual time period, but in this case you have to take a closer look. First, the source of the information is Stephen A. Smith who is relating information about his deceased wife's family. Second, his motive is to gain Cherokee citizenship for his children. However, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. It's not crucial that he establish John Mansell as the father of these children as he is claiming Indian descent through the mother, Elizabeth Simmons.

I think he was either reporting what he had been told or he was trying to protect the reputation of his late wife whose mother apparently was not married to her father at the time of her birth. In fact, I kept hoping I would find some way that he was telling the truth, some discrepancy in the date of John Mansell's death, but I read the estate papers myself on, and they are dated from 1843 to 1848 and do not list Francis (Fannie) as an heir of John Mansell, deceased, although all the boys are listed.

Perhaps DNA will someday provide the data that will allow me to identify Fannie's father. What I was pleased to find in the list of surnames of Leo Pentney Gaines on FTDNA was the name Simmons, as this corroborated what Stephen Smith said in his deposition: that Elizabeth's maiden name was Sims (in other places, he used Simes or Simmons.) Some trees on have Elizabeth's maiden name as Monroe and Monrow, perhaps derived from the middle name of her son Daniel.

Other statements made by Stephen were either carefully worded or literally true. "I think about the time of her birth her father died"; well, give or take 5 years or so. "Her mother's married name at the time she was born was Mansfield or Mansell"; true. "My wife's mother's name was Cotton when we came to this country." I think this is further proof that Elizabeth did come to Oklahoma with the Smiths in 1894. This has been stated by some family members and disputed by others because of Elizabeth's age at the time, but in the original application for Indian rights that was filed while Fannie was still alive, Elizabeth made her statement before a notary public in Cleveland Co., Oklahoma Territory. This brings us back to the Webb family again. It was suggested to me by a Mansell cousin that perhaps Elizabeth came to Oklahoma with the Smiths and returned to Alabama with Joanna Mansell Webb's family, who traveled back to Alabama before finally settling permanently in Oklahoma.

Some of Stephen's other statements still require some proof which I hope DNA can someday provide. In a Guion Miller application filed by one of the Mansells, Elizabeth's father is identified as Benjamin Simmons. Some trees list his wife as Leannah Souls. Many Mansell researchers recognize some kind of connection between Elizabeth and Luke Russell Simmons. (She is listed as one of his creditors in his estate papers and bought several items at the auction of his assets.) The wife of Luke Russell Simmons has been identified as both Priscilla Hargette and Priscilla Soles.

Leo Pentney Gaines and I share 111 cM's on our FTDNA tests, which is not a small match. We are definitely related, probably as descendants of Elizabeth Simmons. Not only did DNA help me find this cousin, it may someday help me identify the true fathers of Fannie and Elizabeth. The obituaries of Mr. Gaines also alerted me to the fact that his mother remarried and had other children with a different last name. If they ever do DNA testing, I will be aware that they are also descendants of Mamie Webb, Joanna Mansell, and Elizabeth Simmons.

I only wish that determining my connection with some of my other DNA matches was as easy as it was with Mr. Gaines. This week I've found a dozen new cousins that all match in the same area of Chromosome 19. A dozen! Can I determine who our common ancestor is? Not that easy. That's a post for another day.


  1. Hi Becky, Elizabeth Mansel is my gggrandmother. We are having a reunion (Scott, Webb, Mansel) the third saturday of June. I am related to her through Ola Webb Scott (her daughter) and my grandmother Beatrice Scott Richardson.

  2. Ola seems to have been a popular name within the Mansell/Smith families. I have a couple of them in my database.
    Where is the reunion? I doubt that I can come, but I would love to.