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.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Germanna Colony

In the last week I've discovered a whole new group of ancestors. Not only that, but they are connected to something historic, and that's one of my favorite things about genealogy. History comes to life when you know that your ancestors were part of it.

It all started back in August when my new Huff cousin Barbara heard from one of her DNA matches and discovered that she had ties to the surname Wilhoite (spelled in various ways, including Willhoit, Wilhite, Wilheit, and even Wilhoyte.) As she began to discover that more of her previously identified Huff matches had Wilhoite connections, she even set up a separate tree on since she didn't know how they connected with our Huffs.

Just before Christmas we both got a new match named Pickler. Now this seems random, but believe it or not, it's all going to come together in a minute. Barbara emailed Mr. Pickler who sent her the name of his ancestor from McNairy County, Tennessee. Tennessee sounded promising, so I looked up the ancestor's name on I found a tree posted by someone whose name I had seen as a match on Family Tree DNA. I emailed her and found out that two more of my matches were her mother and brother, and another was someone she had matched who had similar surnames. Five matches accounted for!

Using some of the tools on FTDNA and Gedmatch, I verified that all the Pickler matches indeed had DNA in common with my Huff matches. Still didn't know how, but it was definitely there. I looked at the family trees posted by my new Pickler relatives and was confused by the fact that the surname changed from Blankenbaker to Pickler in one generation. I thought it might be a mistake, until I found out that the Pickler surname was originally Blankenbuhler or Blankenbaker. Pickler apparently was a more easily pronounced translation and contraction. I came across a great explanation of how that happened, but of course, I can't find it now. And yes, Kellie Pickler is a descendant of this family.

Doing research on the Wilhoites and Picklers, it's hard not to stumble across the Germanna Colony, because those two surnames are associated with Germanna, especially what they call the Second Colony of 1717. At about the same time that I found Germanna online, Barbara heard from another Wilhoite match who told us about the many books and articles that have been written about the Germanna Colony.

I'm certainly no expert on the Germanna Colony. Heck, I'd never heard of it a month ago. What I know I've learned online on Wikipedia and websites like What I've learned is that Virginia Governor Alexander Spottswood brought 42 colonists from Germany in 1713 to create a mining industry in Virginia. He named the colony Germanna, combining "German" with the name of Queen Anne, the ruler of Britain at the time.

The so-called Second Colony arrived in 1717, and their story is truly bizarre. The ship's captain they hired to bring them to America used their fares to pay off his own debts, then sold the passengers (who thought they were headed to Germantown in Philadelphia) to Spottswood as indentured servants. The surnames of the 20 families, who came from the Palatinate region of Germany, include Wilhoite, Blankenbaker/Pickler, Clore (originally Klaar), Broyles (originally Breuel), and Yager. Once we knew to look for them, these names popped up everywhere in lists of surnames from our DNA matches. Using the Chromosome Browser feature on FTDNA, I think I have found the point at which dozens of us match on Chromosome 7 from position 86131629 to position 87246282. The colored lines below represent five of my brother's matches who have Germanna surnames. They line up exactly at these positions on Chromosome 7.

Since so many Huff cousins from different branches seem to have these same matches, we think that perhaps the Germanna lineage came into our Huff family with Susanna or "Sookie," the wife of William Nathan Huff. For years and on many trees, Susannah was given the maiden name Toney, but no-one ever seemed to have any proof of that. We know that branches of the Wilhoit and Broyles families lived in Greene Co., TN, and so did someone that eventually ended up in Jackson Co.--Barbara's ancestor Enoch Carter. He was a neighbor to the Huffs in Jackson Co. and had a relationship later in life with Sookie. Barbara thinks that Sookie may have been a Wilhoit or Broyles who came to Jackson Co. with Enoch and his wife, perhaps as a servant. There she met and married William Nathan Huff.

Some of my new relatives also match in much larger segments on Chromosome 19. Remember when I said I had found a dozen new cousins who matched on Chromosome 19? Well, it turns out they are also Germanna descendants.

We still have ends to tie up and further data may bring us to different conclusions, but we would never have known without DNA that we had any connection to Germanna's Second Colony. My brother and I even plan to modify our trip to North Carolina this summer and travel north into Virginia to visit the site of the Germanna Colony, about an hour and a half south and west of Washington, D.C. 

Germanna Visitor Center

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