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 Ancestry.com 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 www.findagrave.com

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
from findagrave.com

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?


Conclusions

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.

Cons:
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.