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.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

DNA Circles: Robert Patrick and Elizabeth McMullen

Two more of my DNA Circles on are centered on Robert Patrick and Elizabeth McMullen. Looking at these two ancestors in more depth has led to questions I didn’t know I had.

Robert “Robin” Patrick is my 4th great-grandfather. He was born in Staunton, Virginia, in 1764, and lived in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee before settling in Floyd County, Kentucky. His daughter, Sarah Patrick, born 5 January 1830, married Lewis Reed on 3 May 1849 in Morgan County, Kentucky. Their daughter, Nancy Emily Reed, married James Thomas Day in Magoffin County, Kentucky, in 1876 and moved to Oklahoma before statehood. They were the parents of my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day.

For years, without question, I have listed Robert’s wife and my 4th great-grandmother as Elizabeth “Betsy” McMullen. However, in doing more research for this post, I have found that there are facts about the marriage of Robert and Betsy that call into question whether she is my ancestor. In 1819 after the birth of seven children, Hugh, Henry, Hiram, Robert, Nancy, Margaret, and Brice—the latter two were twins born in 1816—Betsy filed for divorce, citing her husband’s adultery and abandonment as causes. According to Betsy, Robert was living with another woman.

Robert was ordered to come before the court but never appeared. One sheriff remarked that he “got sight of the defendant but could not arrest him.” Elizabeth was afraid that Robert would dispose of property with which he could provide her support, and Robert was “restrain(ed)…from removing or consigning his property without the jurisdiction of (the) court.” Apparently, after living with a woman named Nancy Prater Allen for several years, Robert finally married her after Elizabeth’s death in 1830. It has been assumed that all of the children born after Betsy filed for divorce in 1819 are the children of Nancy. In 1838 the couple, along with Robert’s brother James and several other families, left Kentucky for the West. They traveled over 700 miles to the new state of Arkansas, mostly by river raft. Robert was 74. If nothing else, he was a tough old man.

Most of Robert and Nancy’s children—Robert Jr., Wiley, Jemima, Mary Ann, George, and Rhoda--moved with them to Arkansas. And therein lies the problem. Sarah, my ancestor Sarah, didn’t. She married Lewis Reed in Morgan County in 1849. She is listed on the 1850 census in Morgan County with her husband; they are both 20 years of age. She died in Magoffin County in 1892. If she was born in 1830, she should be Nancy’s daughter.

But why would Nancy move to Arkansas and leave an 8-year-old behind in Kentucky? Who did she leave her with? So is Sarah really Betsy’s, as I have shown in my tree all along? Looking at just the evidence of family names, it would appear not. Sarah did not have any daughters named Elizabeth, but she named the daughter who would become my 2nd great-grandmother Nancy Emily. Surely Sarah would not name a daughter after the woman who had caused her father to abandon his family.

No doubt because Robert had so many children—most researchers claim 17 total—I have tons of matches to Patrick descendants. Not only do they show up in my DNA Circles and on the Ancestry DNA site, but also on Family Tree DNA. In all, I have at least 50 matches with Patrick descendants. I think I can confidently say that I am a descendant of Robert Patrick. But from which wife?

Again, the lack of chromosome data on Ancestry hampers my ability to answer this question. In theory I should be able to compare amounts of mutual DNA with my matches and determine if we descend from a full or half relationship. In other words, are we only connected by Robert Patrick, or do we have both of our 4th great-grandparents (Robert and Betsy, or Robert and Nancy) in common?

Putting that question aside for a minute, let’s look at my matches (35 of them!) within the Robert Patrick circle. Within the Robert Patrick circle are descendants that match at least one other person in the circle by DNA and also show Robert Patrick as a descendant in the tree they have submitted to Ancestry.

The trees don’t always match the facts. Some list all of the children with birthdates through 1830 as Elizabeth’s (since she was his known wife during that time period and no date of an actual divorce can be found), even when the submitter’s ancestor is quite probably a child of Nancy’s. Some list all the children born after 1819—the date of the divorce petition—as Nancy’s, even though in the case of Sarah, that doesn’t really make sense. Some even show Elizabeth dying in Arkansas, although that was obviously Nancy.

I have to admit that I had listed Elizabeth as the mother of all the children, because I didn’t know until recently about the existence of the divorce petition. This resulted in my being placed in the Elizabeth McMullen circle, even though she might not be the mother of my Sarah. (By the way, when I changed the mother’s name in my tree to Nancy Prater, my Elizabeth McMullen circle disappeared. Now, even though I have changed the name back to Elizabeth, her circle has not reappeared. Shoot. I wish I hadn’t been so hasty; in comparison to Robert’s circle with 36 members, my Elizabeth circle had only 15 members. I really wish I had compared the names before the circle disappeared.)

Within the Robert Patrick circle are descendants of 5 of the 7 children that Robert had with Elizabeth McMullen: 4 descended from Margaret, 3 from Hugh, 3 from Henry, 3 from Brice, and 2 from Hiram. The remaining members of the circle descend from probable children of Nancy: 8 from Mary Ann, 5 from Jemima, 4 from George, and 1 from Rhoda. I am the only descendant of Sarah in the circle.

Eight members of the circle are DNA matches to me. Three of those are descended from Robert Patrick through his daughter, Jemima, a daughter of Nancy; then I have one each from Margaret, Henry, Hugh, and Hiram (all children of Elizabeth) and one from George, a son of Nancy.

The conclusions I reached about my first two DNA circles—Samuel Wheat and Cynthia Stephenson—also apply here. 1) Exploring these ancestors in more depth is a good exercise and gives a direction to my further research. 2) Lack of tools to manipulate the DNA data and erroneous trees make the DNA Circles a dubious help.

My main question is: Where was Sarah from 1838 to 1849? She wasn’t with her father, and she couldn’t have been with either mother. Nancy was in Arkansas, and Elizabeth was dead. So where was Sarah? Maybe if I can ever determine which of Robert’s wives was her mother, I might be able to find her with relatives of that wife. And then again, maybe not. I could only theorize, since her name doesn’t show up until the 1850 census after she is already married to Lewis Reed.

The Patricks and related families ended up in Madison County, Arkansas, and a little community, still called Patrick, grew up around them. Patrick, Arkansas, where Robert and Nancy are buried, is about two hours from where I live in Oklahoma. Robert Patrick was the grandfather of Grandma Day, my grandmother’s grandmother. I never heard my grandmother mention any relatives in Arkansas, and on some of our family trips we weren’t that far from Robert’s final resting place. Still, it makes me wonder. Grandpa and Grandma Day came to Oklahoma first, and later the Castle family followed. Even if Grandma Day never had any contact again with her grandfather, aunts and uncles in Arkansas, she had to know they were there. Maybe their trek by river 60 years before gave her courage to leave all she knew in Kentucky and move to Oklahoma.

I’m not sure what I think about ol’ Robert. For sure, adultery and abandonment of first wives is nothing new, but I think he treated Elizabeth pretty badly. I guess I have to admire his tenacity—he knew what we wanted and he just hung on until he got it—and his courage in moving west. I think a trip to the cemetery in Patrick is in order.

Photo from

Saturday, December 6, 2014

DNA Circles: Samuel Wheat and Cynthia Stephenson

DNA Circles is Ancestry DNA’s new twist on DNA matches. Judy Russell, who writes the blog The Legal Genealogist calls them  “…shaky leaf hints on steroids.” While still not giving genetic genealogists the tool they really want—something that lets you compare matching segments on a chromosome to identify DNA derived from a particular ancestor—the Circles combine DNA matches with family trees to create circles of Ancestry members who may share particular ancestors. 

Critics are warning that while DNA Circles may prove helpful to genealogists, they have a couple of drawbacks: 1. Since there is no way to compare actual DNA results, you can’t know for sure that the ancestor in your circle is the common ancestor of you and your match, and 2. The matches are only as good as the data in people’s trees, and everyone has seen common mistakes in numerous trees on Ancestry.

I thought it might be useful to look at my 14 DNA Circles--what I know about the ancestor in each circle; what, if anything, I know about my matches; any inaccuracies that I am aware of; and if anything can be learned from the endeavor.

The Ancestors

My 3rd great-grandparents, Samuel Wheat and Cynthia Stephenson, are the ancestors at the center of two of my DNA Circles. They married 13 November 1814 in Madison County, Mississippi Territory (Madison County, Alabama.) Samuel was the son of Zachariah Wheat and Priscilla Reynolds, who married 4 February 1782 in Upper Marlborough (now spelled Marlboro), Prince George’s County, Maryland, where many of our Wheat families seem to originate. Priscilla was the daughter of Thomas Reynolds and Elizabeth Bordley of Prince George’s Co.

Most researchers have Samuel’s (and his brothers’) place of birth as Loudon County, Virginia, which is only about 50-60 miles from Prince George’s County, although it appears that Zachariah Wheat died in Prince George’s County in 1792 at the age of 28. Samuel and his brothers—Josiah, William, and Benjamin--all resided in Madison Co. AL by 1813. Josiah married Martha Fletcher in Madison Co. in 1812; Benjamin married Mary Gourley there in 1812; and William married Esther Stephenson, Cynthia’s sister, again in Madison Co. AL, in 1813.

Samuel apparently makes a detour to Tennessee (daughter Mary Elizabeth was born there in 1826), before he next appears on a tax list in Washington Co. Arkansas in 1828 and on the 1830 census there. In 1840 he is still in Arkansas, but by 1846 he is in Red River County, Texas, and appears on the 1850 census in Milam, Texas. He is in Bell Co. in 1860, living with his daughter M.E. (Mary Elizabeth) and her husband, G.W. (George Washington) Cloer. He died in 23 November 1866 in Grayson Co. Texas and is buried at the Hall Cemetery in Howe.

Samuel was a Primitive Baptist preacher and helped start several churches in Arkansas and Texas. His headstone reads: “In memory of Elder Samuel Wheat, who departed this life November 23, 1866, aged seventy-nine years and one day. Elder S. Wheat had been an old school Baptist from his youth and a minister of the cross for fifty-eight years. Standing firm amidst all the siftings and schisms among the churches. The fearless advocate of electing and reigning grace. Elder Wheat was born in Virginia, emigrated to Alabama, thence to Tennessee, thence to Arkansas, then to Texas in 1847, making his first discourse to Pilot Grove Church in Grayson County to which he made his last a few days before his death. From the 48th Psalm, Walk About Zion.”

Samuel Wheat headstone, Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX
when headstone was still intact

Cynthia Stephenson (sometimes spelled Stinson) and her sister Esther were the daughters of Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley. Elizabeth was the daughter of William Whitley and Esther Fullen, early Kentucky pioneers whose home was known as the “Guardian of the Wilderness Road” and still stands near Crab Orchard, Kentucky. (See my post “Daughter of the American Revolution.”)

Children of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat

I have been able to document the following possible children of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat:

Joseph Wheat, born in 1815 in Alabama; married Malitta DeRecors; appears on 1850 census in Milam, TX; most trees list death date as 1850. Some trees list Joseph as the son of William and Esther (Stephenson) Wheat. Joseph is usually in the same places as Samuel (Madison, AR; Milam, TX), but so is William. Joseph’s first son is Drecory (coined, no doubt, from his mother’s maiden name); second son is Samuel, and third son is William. (If Samuel’s brother William is also my ancestor, as I believe, I would share DNA with the descendants of Joseph Wheat, no matter whether his father is Samuel or William.)

Sarah Elizabeth Wheat, born 1817 in Alabama; married William Jackson in Arkansas; William Jackson is on tax list in Arkansas in 1849, William and Sarah are on 1850 census in Grayson Co. TX; Sarah and children (including son John, age 9) definitely appear on 1870 census in Grayson Co.; Sarah Jackson, widow, living with son John, age 18, on 1880 census; says her parents were born in North Carolina. I wish I could find proof that this person—Sarah Elizabeth Wheat—is daughter of Samuel and Cynthia.

*William Whitley Wheat, born 1820 in Madison, AL; married Cynthia Ann Maynard in 1838; was living in Texas by 1846, where he appears on the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, dying in Grayson Co. in 1890; buried in Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX. Undoubtedly son of Samuel and Cynthia. Prominent citizen of Grayson Co. where he was a county commissioner for 8 years; subject of a Texas Historical Society marker.

*Mary Elizabeth Wheat, birthdates according to censuses vary from 1822 to 1830, birthplaces both Alabama and Tennessee; married George Washington Cloer Jr., probably in Alabama; on 1850 census in Madison Co. AR; definite proof of connection to Samuel Wheat, as he is living with the Cloers on the 1860 census in Bell Co. TX; G.W. Cloer died in Civil War; Mary Elizabeth died in 1895 in Collin Co. TX.

*Martha Jane Wheat, born 8 December 1827 in Madison Co. AL; married Andrew Jackson Edwards in Arkansas in 1845; on 1850 and 1860 censuses in Madison Co. AL; on 1870 and 1880 censuses in Tarrant Co. TX; died 1916 in Parker Co. TX. The Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas, published in 1889, lists three siblings of William Whitley Wheat: Samuel, Elizabeth, and Martha.

*Susanna Wheat, born 1835 in Arkansas; on 1850 census in Milam, TX, with her parents, Samuel and Cynthia; married her 1st cousin, William Frederick Ming, about 1856; on 1870 census in Grayson Co. and 1880 census in Collin Co. TX; living with her daughter Martha “Mattie” (Ming) Bell on the 1900 census in Garvin Co. OK. Susanna died in 1916 in Carson, OK, while living with the Bells. (More information has come to light about why Susanna, my ancestor, was living apart from her husband in 1910. Explanation to come in future post.)

*The 1850 census is the only census that lists both Wheat parents, Samuel and Cynthia, with children living at home at the time. The children were: James, age 20; John, age 18; Susanna, age 15; Samuel, age 12; and George, age 10.

Many trees list a son Andrew, born 1818. I couldn’t find any more information about him, nor anything definitive about James, John, Samuel, or George. Some trees list a younger daughter named Sallie; is she the same person as Sarah Elizabeth, even though their birthdates vary widely? Which Elizabeth is the one that The Biographical Souvenir lists as a sister of William Whitley Wheat: Sarah Elizabeth or Mary Elizabeth?

Descendants of Samuel and Cynthia in DNA Circles

So now let’s look at the descendants who join me in the DNA Circle with Samuel (11 matches) and Cynthia (3 matches). Ancestry’s claim about DNA Circles is that they look at the DNA matches first and then look at the trees to determine if two matches should share the circle with their common ancestor. You will match at least one other person in the circle by DNA; some other people in the circle will match someone else in the circle, but not you.

And as Roberta Estes, in her blog DNA Explained, points out: The common link is, of course, that in addition to genetically matching someone in the circle, they all share a common ancestor in their tree. Now, yes, it does go without saying that if everyone has the same wrong ancestor -- the circle will show that ancestor. Conversely, if you are the only one with the right ancestor's name and everyone else has the wrong name, then you won't be shown in that circle."
From Roberta's post, "Ancestry's Better Mousetrap--DNA Circles," 19 November 2014.

Ancestry has some kind of fancy algorithm that finds reliable matches in the trees. Sometimes spelling or nicknames or quotes seem to defeat their search. Are my matches’ trees reliable? Are we all listing the right ancestor? Is the shaky leaf the real deal, or do we really connect in some other way? Am I missing some connections because some Ancestry users, including me, have used nicknames or question marks?

The first Ancestry user in the Samuel Wheat DNA Circle is a descendant of Mary Elizabeth Wheat (Cloer.) We are considered both DNA and Tree matches. Samuel would be our 3rd great-grandfather.

The next Ancestry user in the Samuel Wheat DNA Circle gives her 3rd great-grandmother as Sarah Elizabeth Wheat. We are both DNA and Tree matches. Samuel would be her 4th great-grandfather.

The next Ancestry user in the circle shows her 3rd great-grandmother, daughter of Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat, as Mary Polly Wheat, born 1801. There is a big problem with that. In 1801 Samuel would have been 14 and Cynthia would have been 6, according to the user’s own tree. Ancestry considers us both DNA and Tree matches. I believe we are DNA matches, not through Mary Polly Wheat, but through her real ancestor, Mary Polly Stinson, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Whitley) Stephenson, who married her 1st cousin, Logan Stephenson. And in fact, this user and I are both in the Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley DNA circles.

The next user in the circle is the descendant of Martha J. Wheat. We share Samuel Wheat as our 3rd great-grandfather. The next has the right wife for Logan Stephenson, Mary Francis Stephenson, but makes her a daughter of Samuel and Cynthia. Again, while we are DNA matches, Ancestry makes the erroneous assumption that we are Tree matches, just because we both have Samuel Wheat in our trees. Again, our DNA connection appears to be Robert Stephenson and Elizabeth Whitley, and again, we both appear in those circles.

Match #6 is a descendant of William Whitley Wheat. I would agree that we are both DNA and Tree matches. Match #7 is a descendant of Sarah Elizabeth (Wheat) Jackson. While I’m still uncomfortable that I can’t directly tie Sarah Elizabeth to Samuel and Cynthia, I’m prepared to agree that Match #7 and I are DNA and Tree cousins.

The next circle member is a DNA match to the Circle, but not to me. He is a descendant of William Whitley Wheat. I’m prepared to believe we are paper cousins who just don’t share an appreciable amount of DNA. The next is a descendant of Sarah Elizabeth (Wheat) Jackson. We are considered both DNA and Tree matches.

Circle member #10 is a DNA match to the circle and a Tree match to me, as we both show Samuel Wheat as our ancestor. She shows her descent from Samuel’s daughter, Mary Jane (Wheat) Edwards. While researching this child of Samuel and Cynthia, I saw her name as Martha Jane and Mary Martha, but never Mary Jane. ??? I am #11 in Samuel Wheat’s DNA Circle.

I share Cynthia Stinson Stephenson’s DNA circle with 2 other people. The discrepancy in the number of members in Samuel’s and Cynthia’s circles can be explained by the fact that the two other circle members and I listed Cynthia as Cynthia Stinson Stephenson. Apparently, the other members in Samuel’s tree showed her as Cynthia Stephenson. Makes me wonder, if I changed it, would I gain 8 more members in Cynthia’s circle?


My conclusions? Wow, there are a lot of mistakes out there in Ancestry Land. About DNA Circles?

Pro: I’m not sure. It seems like a good idea to have your DNA and Tree matches that show a common ancestor all in one place. And now that I’ve done all this research to verify my circle matches, I have more people to add to my tree and a better “big picture” of the Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat family.

1.       You can’t depend on people’s trees, even if they appear in your DNA Circle. Duh.

2.      You can’t depend on the ancestor in your circle being your common DNA connection with the other circle members. In two instances above, Samuel and Cynthia (Stephenson) Wheat are not our common ancestors; Robert and Elizabeth (Whitley) Stephenson are.

3.      Although it seems like Ancestry has done all the work for you, it actually took me hours of research and analysis to determine that at least two of these matches were completely bogus. (However, part of that is because I had never done the necessary research to document all the children of Samuel and Cynthia Wheat—just the one who really mattered to me—Susanna (Wheat) Ming.)

4.      Ancestry needs a Chromosome Browser! With that tool and Ancestry’s extensive database, all of us could determine exactly how we are connected, but in addition, I could easily determine that for two of the members, our common ancestor is not Samuel Wheat but Robert Stephenson or Elizabeth Whitley. And with a Chromosome Browser, I could probably find out if it is Stephenson or Whitley DNA, thus helping me with future matches.

5.      Ancestry DNA users may be persuaded to make their trees Public or include theoretical ancestors in their trees in the hopes that they will be included in a DNA Circle. I have already succumbed to this myself by adding some probable (by DNA) but undocumented ancestors to my tree, hoping that inclusion in a DNA Circle will give me the “proof” I’m looking for.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Back to the Books: 1850 Census, Jackson County Tennessee, Family #1110

Family #1110 on the 1850 Jackson Co. census is William Lambert, age 39, with his wife of 2 years, Elizabeth “Betsy” Pharris, age 18. Enumerated with William and Betsy are William’s children by his first marriage to Katherine Lewis: Lewis, age 18 (same age as William’s new wife); Nancy, age 16; Anderson, age 12; Judah, age 12; William, age 10; and Andrew, age 6. James, age 1, would appear to be the child of William and Betsy.

William Lambert family, 1850 census,
Jackson County, Tennessee
William Lambert was a comparative newcomer to Jackson County, having arrived sometime between 1840 when he was enumerated on the census in Surry, North Carolina, and 1850 when he appears on this census. According to a note by a descendant on findagrave, Katherine died en route to Jackson County. William and Katherine’s marriage bond may be found in Surry County, NC, dated 29 April 1831. William was also supposed to have had a second wife, Nancy Philpot. If Katherine did die en route to Jackson Co., then it’s possible that William and/or Andrew were sons of Nancy.

Elizabeth Pharris was the daughter of William Pharris, usually called “Billy” to distinguish him from his father William (“Big Bill”) and his grandfather William (“Old Man”).  Elizabeth’s mother, Mariah Vinson, had died when Elizabeth was only 2 (3 Sept 1834), and then her father died two years later (25 Feb 1836). She was raised by her grandparents, James and Elizabeth (White) Vinson. According to the Chancery Court Minutes of Jackson County, Elizabeth “…went from the grave (of her mother) to Vinson’s house and staid there till she married.”

Why was Elizabeth’s childhood a matter for the court? Because not long after she married William Lambert, they sued the administrators of her father’s estate, James Pharris and James Vinson, stating that “they believe James Pharis and James Vinson still owe money to Elizabeth from this Estate.” The case dragged on for years in Jackson County’s Chancery Court.

William and Elizabeth went on to have several more children, according to the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. They were: Mariah, second child and first daughter, born 1851; Alitha, born 1853; Eliza, born 1855; William, born 1858; Samuel, born 1862; Millie, born 1866; Matthew, born 1869; and Elizabeth “Bettie,” born 1874.

William and Elizabeth (Pharris) Lambert
Photo contributed to

 The last census on which William Lambert appears is the 1880 at age 68. He is enumerated with his wife Elizabeth and four children still living at home: Samuel, Millie, Matthew (enumerated as Madison, but it has to be Matthew); and Bettie. Elizabeth Pharris Lambert is still living on the 1910 census with her daughter, Bettie Philpot, a widow, and four of her children.

Mariah is the child of William and Elizabeth that is most interesting to me, because she has a connection with my Huff/Roberts ancestors. Mariah married George Washington Huff, son of Samuel and Lucinda (Hardcastle) Huff, on 16 July 1870. They are enumerated twice on the 1870 census. They were enumerated as family #63, apparently in their own home, as they are the only names at that residence. Their neighbors on either side were Leonard “Knight” Huff (listed as Luna Huff) and his son, James Pendleton Huff (listed as Penelton Huff and transcribed as Perretta!) They are enumerated again at Stephen and Elzina’s home, #179, where they were apparently visiting next door to Mariah’s parents, William and Elizabeth, who lived at #178.

George Washington and Mariah (Lambert) Huff,
1870 census, Jackson Co. TN at their own home

For a long time I have tried to make much of the fact that George and Mariah were at Stephen and Elzina’s house on that enumeration day. At first I thought they were living with the Roberts family, until I found them enumerated at their own house. Then I tried to make a connection with George Huff’s family, thinking that Elzina and George might have been siblings, both children of Samuel Huff. (I still haven’t completely given up that theory, as Samuel was of age and unmarried at the time of Elzina’s birth. He didn’t marry Lucinda Hardcastle until he was almost 40. Could his first wife have died, leaving him with a baby Elzina that he gave to his mother Susannah to raise?) Finally, now that I know I am also a Pharris descendant, could Mariah, daughter of Elizabeth Pharris, be the connection?

George Huff and Mariah Lambert married on 16 July. They were enumerated at their own home on 30 August and at Stephen and Elzina’s on 3 September. It’s pretty apparent they were just visiting. Now—were they visiting cousins, siblings, or just friends and neighbors? I wish I knew.

So, the point of this exercise is to look at connections among these Jackson Co. families. Through Elizabeth’s ancestors, connections have been made to the Vinson and Pharris families. Through Elizabeth’s descendants, connections have been made to the Huffs. I’m looking forward to digging into the Lamberts’ neighbors at house #1111, Caleb and Sally Huff Roberts and at house #1112, Samuel and Lucinda Hardcastle Huff.

I can’t leave William and Elizabeth Lambert without pointing out that one of their descendants is one of my largest DNA matches at 122 cM’s. By the early 1900’s George and Mariah and many of their 10 children had moved to Illinois. George appears for the last time on the 1910 census in Johnson Co. IL. He died 4 Sep 1911 and is buried in Williamson Co. IL. Mariah appears on the 1920 census in Williamson Co., and she died there on 11 Nov 1929.

George and Mariah’s son, Mitchell Cullom Huff (appears in some places as Joseph Mitchell Huff), married Lizzie Keith in Jackson Co. on 24 Dec 1910, and died in Johnson Co. IL on 21 Dec 1954. Mitchell and Lizzie’s son Andy, born in Illinois in 1920, is my big DNA match, probably because we share both Huff and Pharris DNA. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Back to the Books (and a Little DNA): 1850 Census, Jackson County Tennessee, Family #1108

A few weeks ago my cousin Barbara sent me an annotated list of 15 households that were living near each other on the 1850 Jackson County, Tennessee, census. She suggested we take another look at the relationships among these families. Believe me, it is not that easy in Jackson Co. TN. These are the most complicated relationships I’ve ever seen. At least it seems so to me 165 years later; I’m sure the citizens of Jackson Co. in 1850 knew exactly who they were related to. Too bad somebody didn’t write it all down. The best we can do in 2014 is try to find clues in the census, court records (of which there were many), and DNA results.

Our related families lived in District 15 of Jackson Co. The enumeration of District 15 runs 12 pages, and Barbara’s list begins with the families on page 10. (My Stephen and Elzina—enumerated as Elsy—are on page 7.) The first family on Barbara’s list, shown as Family #1108 on the census, is Polly Carter, age 68; Leroy, age 27; and Isabella, age 12.

1850 Census, Jackson County TN, District 15, Page 10

Just taking this family as an example ought to give you an idea of the craziness of Jackson County. To begin with, Polly Roberts Carter was the long-time paramour of the infamous Enoch Carter. Enoch was married to Susannah Wilkinson in Greene Co. TN in February 1794, and they arrived in Jackson Co. about 1804. While he was still married to Susannah, he lived off and on with Catie Johnson, widow of William Pharris, and helped her spend the inheritance intended for William’s children. Catie finally left him when he married Polly, with whom he had also had a long-time affair. (By the way, Enoch may have been married a couple of times before he married Susannah, and he wasn’t finished when he married Polly. In between and after his marriage to Polly, he also had relationships—and children--with Rhoda Manier and Sookie Huff.)

Barbara is descended from Enoch and his wife Susannah Wilkinson, but she has long thought that my 2nd great-grandfather, Stephen Roberts, and his brother Caleb were the children of Enoch Carter and Polly Roberts before they were married. Honestly, I resisted for a long time because I had trouble believing anybody in the 1800s could treat marriage so flippantly, but it looks like Barbara is probably right.

Following Polly back to the 1840 census was my first clue. On that census her family consisted of 2 males 15-19, 1 male 20-29, 1 female under 5, and herself (1 female 50-59.) One of the males 15-19 is probably Leroy who is 27 on the 1850 census. The 5-year-old female could be Isabella, who is 12 on the 1850 census. I know it’s not conclusive, but I just can’t help but think that the male 20-29 is Stephen. He is not enumerated by name on the 1840 census, and he is not living with his brother Caleb. Nor is there a male 20-29 living with any of the possible Roberts families.

I shared with Barbara that I was coming around to her point of view on the parentage of Stephen and Caleb. She said, “I don’t know why I never thought of this before! Why don’t you check your DNA results and see if you have any matches who show Enoch’s maternal grandparents, Daniel McPherson and Ruth Shires, in their trees? If you have even one, it’s a good bet you are also a descendant of Enoch Carter!” I have at least 8, and that’s just on A few more show up on Family Tree DNA.

Polly does not appear on the 1860 census, but Leroy is enumerated as L.S. Carter, age 37, with his daughter Mary, age 5. What in the world is his occupation? The enumerator had quite fancy handwriting. Does it say “Whiskey & Candy”? The “whiskey” is clear, but I can’t decipher the rest of it. Apparently, Leroy’s wife had died. About 1867 he married Sarah Elizabeth Samples, who had previously been married to a McKinney. On the 1870 census Leroy, age 49, is enumerated with wife Sarah, age 36; Mary, age 16; John McKinney, age 14; Feby McKinney, age 11; Linder A. McKinney, age 9; and Mariah Carter, age 2. Trees on list two more children: Nora “Nobie” Ann Carter, born 1871, and Leroy, born 1874. No occupation is listed for Leroy in 1870.

This photograph shows half-brothers Leroy Carter (son of Enoch Carter and Polly Roberts) and Enoch Chapman Carter (son of Enoch Carter and Catie Johnson.) I guess the brothers must have been close at one time, or why have their photographs taken together? However, the relationship ended in tragedy. They argued in the street one Sunday after church over a matter of scriptural interpretation. Enoch, in a pique of temper, threw a rock at Leroy and killed him. According to Carter family lore, Enoch changed his name and moved to Oklahoma, never to be seen in Jackson County again.

Leroy Carter and Enoch Chapman Carter
Photo contributed to

Well, that’s family #1, and one brick wall may have fallen. Until something convinces me differently, I think I believe that my great-great-grandfather Stephen Roberts is the son of Enoch Carter and Polly Roberts. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reviews and Previews

In a previous post I mentioned a book titled Albion's Seed by the great historian David Hackett Fischer. If you have ancestors from Massachusetts (Puritans), Delaware (Quakers), Virginia (plantation owner or indentured servant), or Appalachia (Scots-Irish), you will want to read this insightful book about how each of these areas was influenced by the customs, language, building techniques, etc. of the particular area of Britain from which it got its emigrants.

I was looking for a similar book that covered more American regions when I found American Nations by Colin Woodard. He divides North America (yes, he includes Canada and northern Mexico) into eleven "nations." However, his book wasn't really what I expected. It was not an explanation of how customs from the old country traveled to America; his book was more about ideas and opinions and how even today the thinking of the original settlers in the eleven regions affects our political and social decisions. If you want to know what your ancestor was thinking and how it affects you even today, you should read American Nations.

Turning from books to software, I'd like to recommend a new (free) genealogy program called Genome Mate. Genome Mate allows you to upload DNA results from Family Tree DNA, 23 and Me, Gedmatch, etc. so that they can be compared on one site. In addition to graphics that show matches with relatives by chromosome and segment, Genome Mate also utilizes ICW (In Common With) data, lists surname matches, suggests possible ancestor connections, and provides plenty of room for research notes. I'm working through my list of Relatives, noting email communications and ancestor connections/lineages, if I know them.

Examples from Genome Mate site

Thank goodness for this new program--I was getting so tired of looking through file folders and reading back through emails to find out if I was remembering something/somebody correctly.

Just a couple of warnings. Maybe it's just me, but I haven't been able to figure out how to cut and paste from an outside source to Genome Mate. It would be nice if I could copy the URL of a family tree and paste it to the Family Tree box on Genome Mate. Or copy an email and paste it in my Research Notes. Again, maybe it's possible and I just don't know how.

Be sure to read the fine print on uploading data from I spent five hours trying to download data from, only to read on the Genome Mate site that "Since Ancestry does not provide DNA segment data, there will not be segment data displayed on Genome Mate's main page for Ancestry." Not their fault, but mine--I should have read all the instructions before starting.

After an insanely long process, all you will have is a list of relatives and their surnames. It would be nice to have all available matches in the same place, but personally, I don't think it's worth the time it took. (I quit before all the results were downloaded.) If it showed segment matches, it would be worth it, but it doesn't.

Genome Mate instructions state that the only way to get segment information is to upload Ancestry data to Gedmatch first. True, and great that you can get it from Gedmatch, but of course, you only have that option if the owner of the DNA data uploads his results to Gedmatch. You have no control over that.

Genome Mate ( has helpful written instructions (just be sure you read all of them!) and YouTube videos to help you get started. More information is available at and a Facebook page keeps you up-to-date on new features.

A recent newsletter from Family Tree magazine informed me that the new season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC will begin July 23. Ancestral profiles for the following celebrities are featured this season: Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lauren Graham, Kelsey Grammar, Cynthia Nixon, and Rachel McAdams.

"Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." will begin its new season on PBS on September 23. Profiles there will include Sally Field, Ben Affleck, Carole King, and Tina Fey.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

More J. Wheat Mysteries Solved

I recently was notified of a Family Finder match on Family Tree DNA. We share 82.61 cM’s, and he and my brother share 125.23 cM’s, both suggested as 2nd-4th Cousin Matches by FTDNA. His last name is Spencer, not a known surname to me, and he listed only that surname, with locations in Texas and Oklahoma. He listed his oldest known paternal ancestor as Ollie Spencer and his oldest known maternal ancestor as Pearlie Wheat. Luckily, these two ancestors were married to each other, so I was able to find the correct family on (I did try emailing Mr. Spencer who hasn’t replied yet.)

Ollie M. Spencer married Paralee (Pearl Lee) Wheat on 23 August 1906 at Comanche, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory (southern Oklahoma.)  On the 1910 census they are living with Paralee’s step-father, Joseph T. Cook, age 42, and mother Alice E. (Brink) Cook, age 41, in Stephens County, Oklahoma.  Paralee is 21; the census gives her birthplace as Texas. Siblings of Paralee are Samuel E., age 16; Ella M., age 13; Mary R., age 12; Ethel M., age 9; Jesse E., age 7, and Fannie V., age 5, all with the surname Wheat. Others listed on the census were obviously children of Joseph T. Cook, presumably by a deceased wife, the oldest being 20 and the youngest age 9; the remaining child, Annie L. Cook, age 1, was almost certainly the child of Joseph and Alice.

1910 census, Stephens Co., OK
Cooks, Wheats, Spencers
Thanks to some Public Trees on, I found Alice on the 1870 census with her parents, Jacob and Anna Brink in Milam, Texas. Alice was 8 months old. Turning to FamilySearch, I found the marriage of A.L. Brink to J.A. Wheat on 28 May 1885 in Milam, Texas. Is this my J.A. Wheat? I’m almost certain it is. The timing is just right. The last child of J.A. Wheat and Cynthia Ming was Thomas J., born in 1884. Cynthia remarried in 1890. But where I had assumed that J.A. (Those initials again! That right there almost convinces me it’s the same man.) had died, apparently he and Cynthia either divorced, or he abandoned the family.  Many of the same Public Trees indicate that J.A. (or sometimes Joseph) Wheat was born in Scotland, which is probably why none of them have been able to trace him any further. I can’t imagine where that came from, but it’s possible one person posted it on, and others have copied that information. I’m pretty sure I can connect him to the other Wheat families of Grayson Co. (See the post “The Mystery of J. Wheat.”)

I do question how J.A. ended up in Milam County in 1885 where he married Alice. While still in northeastern Texas, it is far from his original counties of residence, Grayson and Collin. However, if you look at my Wheat family in general, they moved around a lot within that region of northeastern Texas and southern Oklahoma. Cynthia was born in Grayson Co. but moved to Collin Co. before my grandfather was a year old; she married Thomas L. Rhodes in Parker Co., TX.  My grandfather John enlisted in the Army in 1906 in Logan Co., OK, while living in Pawnee Co.—a considerable distance; John and his brother worked on a ranch in Cottle Co., TX; John married my grandmother in Hughes Co., registered for WWI in Oklahoma Co., and died in Seminole Co.  And back to J.A.--if you’re going to abandon your first wife, you want to do it as far from where she is as possible.

J.A. finally came to rest (literally and figuratively) in Stephens Co., OK. According to Findagrave, J.A. Wheat is buried in the Diamond Cemetery in Stephens Co. in southern Oklahoma. His birthdate is given as 15 February 1859, which dovetails nicely with his birthdate/age on the 1880 Collin Co. census where I originally found him with Cynthia Ming and her family.  His date of death is given as 12 April 1906, about a year after the birth of his youngest child with Alice, and a couple of years before Alice married Joseph Cook. Some Public Trees list his place of death as Haskell in northeastern Oklahoma, so it’s possible that he had wandered again and Alice had his body brought to Stephens Co., where she was living, for burial. He seems to be the only Wheat buried in that cemetery.

J.A. Wheat headstone
This is a perfect example of how traditional genealogical research and DNA results can work together to document the life of an ancestor. I am now pretty sure that I have documented J.A. Wheat’s life from beginning to end. I wish I had more definitive proof that he was the son of Henry and Caroline (Farris) Wheat, but as I accumulate more DNA matches, perhaps that will come.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ode to Poetry

April is Poetry Month, and I can't let the month go by without writing about how important poetry has been in my life and how it still brings back memories of my family.

As I mentioned in my post, "Grandparent #2: Frances (Fannie) Lou Castle," my grandmother could recite long narrative poems that she learned in the 4th grade. When I think of them, they bring back memories of childhood Christmases and birthdays, occasions when we begged her to recite them. I have searched in vain on the Internet and in old poetry books for copies of these poems. I guess the point is that, while I don't remember them in their entirety, some verses are there in my mind and come back to me clearly, even today.

So do more familiar poems, the kind by famous authors that you find in poetry anthologies. She was always reciting some small snatch of a favorite poem and certain situations still bring them to my mind. The weather or season often elicited from her some little part of a poem; on a beautiful autumn day she would talk about "October's bright blue weather." The whole first stanza of the poem by Helen Hunt Jackson says:

          O suns and skies and clouds of June,
          And flowers of June together.
          Ye cannot rival for one hour
          October's bright blue weather.

I always liked that one because October was my birthday month.

The sight of a bird in winter brought this nursery rhyme. 

          The north wind doth blow,
          And we shall have snow,
          And what will poor robin do then?
          He'll sit in a barn,
          And keep himself warm,
          And hide his head under his wing,
          Poor thing.

Stubbornness on my part might cause her to recite:

          There was a little girl
          And she had a little curl
          Right down in the middle of her forehead.

          When she was good
          She was very very good 
          And when she was bad she was horrid.

Out driving on a winter day, as we often did, might bring these first lines of "Snow-Bound" by John Greenleaf Whittier:

          The sun that brief December day
          Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
          And, darkly circled, gave at noon
          A sadder light than waning moon.

Haven't you seen winter days just like that?

My dad was my grandmother's pupil at Pleasant Porter Elementary School in 6th grade. He especially remembered two exciting narrative poems that they studied while in her room: "Sohrab and Rustum" by Matthew Arnold and "Horatio at the Bridge" by Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay. Carrying on this warlike theme, I remember choosing "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson as my poem to recite in front of the class in 8th grade. (I was in love with the 1930s/1940s actor, Errol Flynn, and had seen his movie of the same name.) I still remember most of the poem, including the refrain

          Cannons to right of them
          Cannons to left of them
          Cannons in front of them
          Volleyed and thundered.

I can't believe I stood up in front of my 8th grade class and recited:

          Into the mouth of Hell
          Rode the six hundred.

The other poem I remember from school was one we were required to recite in 9th grade. I hated it--probably because, at age 14, I didn't really understand it. I still remember lines from it, though. It was "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley.

          Out of the night that covers me
          Black as the pit from pole to pole
          I thank whatever gods may be
          For my unconquerable soul.

Nothing I had endured up until 9th grade--even reciting this poem in class--had led me to think my soul was in danger of being conquered.

My mother also loved poetry and made her own book of her Favorite Poems when she was in 6th grade.

It's nice to know that she also loved Emily Dickinson.

In his later life my dad identified with a poem by John Burroughs called "Waiting." After a couple of truly tragic things that happened to my dad in his life, it gives me peace to know he could face his future as fate tempered with hope. Here is the first stanza of "Waiting."

          Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
          Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
          I rave no more 'gainst time or fate
          For lo! my own shall come to me.

In my grandmother's later life, when she had lost so many siblings and friends to death, she often recited "The Last Leaf" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I can only remember the final stanza:

          And if I should live to be
          The last leaf on the tree
                    In the spring;
          Let them smile, as I do now
          At the old forsaken bough
                    Where I cling.

But the poem of my grandmother's that I remembered when she died in 1992 at age 95 was "The Chambered Nautilus," also by Oliver Wendell Holmes. With some difficulty and tears, I read it at her funeral service.

          Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
          As the swift seasons roll!
          Leave thy low-vaulted past!
          Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
          Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
          Till thou at length art free,
          Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What's in a Name?

A friend of mine recently got her DNA results from and was showing me her Ethnicity Estimate. I remembered that Ancestry had come out with a whole new version of ethnicity results last fall, and I had never really looked at mine since the new version appeared on their website. So I did.

On a previous post, "Where in the World Am I From?" I reported the results from my first ethnicity profile on Ancestry. I was 44% Central European, 33% British Isles, 21% Scandinavian, and 2% Uncertain. I knew that Ancestry got a lot of flak from experts in the field of DNA genealogy for the high proportion of Scandinavian ancestry in a large number of people who wouldn't be expected to have it. I wasn't especially skeptical of my Scandinavian numbers, because first of all, it's cool to be a Viking, and second, I figured my Irish and Scots forefathers probably did have some Scandinavian ancestry.

Well, now they don't. My new Ethnicity Estimate is 79% Great Britain, 15% Ireland, and 6% Trace Regions. These include 3% Europe East, 1% Europe West, 1% Italy/Greece, <1% Scandinavian, and <1% Iberian Peninsula. I've gone from 21% Scandinavian to less than 1%. However, I'm not really surprised at my overwhelmingly English/Scots/Irish roots, as I would be hard-pressed to find a surname in my tree that can't be traced to those regions.

I thought it might be fun to do a little survey of the surnames in my tree--where they come from and what they mean. Since none of my ancestors are recent immigrants and I haven't been able to trace very many of them conclusively to their mother country, surnames are the only evidence I have for country of origin. Let's see if my surname origins match up with the origins that estimated from my DNA.

FYI: Surnames did not come about until the Middle Ages, when populations grew large enough that individuals with the same given names had to be differentiated from each other. There are four major ways in which surnames were given: based on the father's name (for example, Johnson, "son of John"); based on the occupation of the individual (John the Baker, John the Carpenter, etc.); based on a place (John Hill, John Meadows, John London); or based on a characteristic (John Little, John Brown.)

On my dad's dad's side, I have Smith, Williams, Simmons, and Soles. Just for fun, let's throw in Banks and Perkins, the surnames belonging to my brother's y-DNA matches. We know they are related to us--we just don't know how. I'm using's surname information, which can be found at

SMITH--English: occupational name for a worker in metal
WILLIAMS--English (also very common in Wales): son of William
SIMMONS--English (southern): son of Simon, or Anglo-Norman: son of Simund
SOLES--Old English; from sol, a muddy place, or possibly from Middle English (Latin solus), "single" or "unmarried", or if spelled
SOULE or SOULES--uncertain origin; perhaps derived from "soul" as a term of affection
BANKS--English or Scottish: name for someone who lived on the slope of a hill or by a riverbank
PERKINS--English (also mid and south Wales): son of Perkin

On my dad's mom's side, surnames include Castle, Sargent, Bays, Day, Lewis, Reed, Horton, Kendrick, Lea, Oney, McGrady, Cock, Patrick, and Henson.

CASTLE--English: someone who lived or worked at the castle (However, if the original spelling was Kassell or Cassell, as many Castle genealogists have speculated, my Jacob "the Longhunter" would have had a German, not English, origin.)
SARGENT--English and French: originally, an occupational name for a servant
BAYS--English: son of Bay
DAY--English: a pet form of David or other personal name; or, from a root word meaning "to knead" (related to dough), name for a dairy maid or servant of either sex
LEWIS--English (but most common in Wales): from the Norman personal name Ludovicus, or from the Welsh Llywelyn, or from the Irish/Scots Lughaidh
REED--English: nickname for a person with red hair or a ruddy complexion
HORTON--English: from one of many places in England with this name; from Old English horh "dirt" + tun "enclosure" or "settlement"
KENDRICK--Welsh, Scottish, or English: from the Welsh personal name Cynrig; shortened version of the Scots MacKendrick; or from the English Cyneric, meaning "royal power"
LEA--English: someone who lived near a meadow
ONEY--English: probably originally Olney, from two different places in England. One meant "Olla's island"; one was originally Onley, "single" + "clearing"
MCGRADY--Irish: son of Bradach, "proud"
COCK--English: "male bird or fowl," originally someone who struts like a rooster, then became generalized to "youth" and incorporated in names such as Alcock and Hancock
PATRICK--Scottish and Irish: son of Padraig, originally Latin Patricius, "son of a noble father"; popularized, of course, by St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland
HENSON--English: son of Henne (short for Henry), Hayne, or Hendy

On my mom's dad's side, I have Wheat, Farris, Stephenson, Whitley, Ming, Beasley, Fullen, Bordley, and Logan.

WHEAT--English: grower or seller of wheat, from hwit, meaning "white" because of its use in making white flour
FARRIS--Scottish: son of Fergus; in southeast England, possibly variant of Farrar, "worker in iron," "shoer of  horses" 
STEPHENSON--English and Scottish: son of Stephen; sometimes shortened to Stinson. My Stephensons are supposed to be Scottish.
WHITLEY--English: place name, from hwit "white" + leah "wood"
MING--English: of uncertain origin; perhaps from shortened version of personal name, Dominick
BEASLEY--English: from a place in Lancashire; perhaps beos, meaning "bent grass" + leah, meaning "woodland clearing"
FULLEN--English: same origin as Fuller, an occupational name for a person who helped make cloth by wetting and walking on it
BORDLEY--English: place name, originally bord, "board" + leah, "woodland clearing"
LOGAN--Scottish or northern Irish: from a place name, originally lagan, "hollow"

And finally, from my mom's mom's side of the family: Bell, Roberts, Powell, Fowler, Crudup, Cooper, Battle, Dixon, and Huff. DNA evidence also points to Pharris, Broyles, and Wilhoit.

BELL--Scottish or northern English: bell maker, or someone who lived near the bell
ROBERTS--English: son of Robert. Very frequent in Wales and west central England.
POWELL--English (of Welsh origin): Anglicized form of Welsh ap Hywel, "son of Hywel," a personal name meaning "eminent"
FOWLER--English: occupational name for a bird-catcher (a common medieval occupation)
CRUDUP--Probably an Americanized version of North German Gratop, a nickname for an old man. From German gra (gray) + top (braid)
COOPER--English: occupational name for a maker and repairer of wooden barrels
BATTLE--English and Scottish (of Norman origin): habitational name from the place of a battle
DIXON--Northern English: son of Dick
HUFF--English: habitational name, meaning "spur of a hill." German: from the personal name Hufo. My Huffs were Dutch, so probably the German meaning.
PHARRIS--Irish variant of Farris. I'm still not completely certain that my Farris and Pharris ancestors weren't originally the same family.
BROYLES--American form of German Breuhl (one of my Germanna families)
WILHOIT and various spellings--German: from Willeit, wil "small settlement" + leite "slope" (another Germanna family)

Kindof fascinating, isn't it? Certainly bears out the ethnicity estimate of almost 95% Great Britain and Ireland. It's also fun to see what characteristics distinguished a person or place back then and to compare medieval occupations to those we have today. Can you imagine having a job that required you to walk on wet cloth or catch birds?

Try this little exercise with your own list of surnames. What does it tell you about the origins and occupations of your ancestors?