#52Ancestors: Hoping to Find the Birth Record for Grandfather Roy Delmar Pace on My Upcoming Texas Road Trip

Roy Delmar Pace, 1930sMy 28th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 28 is – Road Trip: Any epic “road trips” in your family tree? Which ancestor do you want to take a road trip to go research?

I am still quite behind on this blog challenge due to a very busy summer school class.

My 28th ancestor is husband Jeff’s grandfather Roy Delmar Pace (1913-2000).

Roy is allegedly the 3rd great-grandson of William Pace (1745-1815), the Pace who served in General George Washington’s elite bodyguard unit–the Commander in Chief’s Guard–during the Revolutionary War.

I say allegedly, because as I have noted previously in my blog posts about CnC Guard William Pace, I have not done much research myself on this line. Once I learned about the commonly misidentified claim that CnC Guard William Pace was descended from Richard Pace of Jamestown, which has been refuted by DNA evidence, I held off on researching my husband’s Pace line until we received confirmation via his cousin’s Y-DNA test as to which of these two Pace lines our family belongs. Last month we finally received that confirmation–my husband’s family is descended from the same family line as William Pace. They are genetically related; the DNA test provides evidence of that. I do not, however, have evidence that my husband and his grandfather Roy Delmar Pace are directly descended from the CnC Guard–this claim is not yet proven.

Hence, this post.

Embarking on the Pace GPS Journey

With my successful completion of the grueling Boston University certificate program in genealogical research two weeks ago, it is time for me to begin original research on my husband’s Pace lineage. Now that I am armed with my newfound Jedi Knight confidence in wielding the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) to execute a reasonably exhaustive search for all necessary record sources, to properly analyze all information items gleaned from those sources, to combat conflicting evidence, to keep at bay unsourced claims made by other researchers, and to victoriously prove or disprove our family’s descent from George Washington’s bodyguard.

It will be a long hard journey.

But the Force is strong in this genealogist.

GPS Journey Waypoint One: Roy D. Pace

This is the first step of that journey…proving the parentage of my husband’s maternal grandfather, Roy Pace. More specifically, proving the identity of Roy’s father, since for lineage purposes, only his paternal Pace ancestors matter.

Roy Pace and Grandson Jeff Greene
Roy Pace holding his grandson, my husband Jeff.

Initial Research Question

Establishing grandfather Roy’s paternal Pace ancestry begs the initial research question…who were the parents of Roy D. Pace, father of Betty Pace (deceased) and grandfather to my husband Jeff Greene?

As of yet, I have no birth record for grandfather Roy Pace. I need that birth record, or else I have to demonstrate a reasonably exhaustive search for that record. Because that birth record–hopefully, the original, and not just a derivative index entry or transcription–will provide the strongest-weighing direct primary evidence of Roy’s parentage, the names of his mother and father. Jeff’s father does not have a copy in Betty’s old paperwork, and Roy’s living daughter does not have a copy either.

Nor have I located a birth record for Roy D. Pace in the “Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1932” database on Ancestry, the “Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1935” database on FamilySearch, or the “Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997” database on Ancestry and FamilySearch.

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Baseline Information

An account of what I first learned about Roy D. Pace, shortly after Jeff and I married in 2009.

Jeff did not know anything about his grandfather’s life prior to moving to California, initially living in the Los Angeles area before moving up to Kern County in the Central Valley. My husband assumed his “redneck” Grandpa Pace was Okie (he was not). Jeff did not know the names of Roy’s parents, or when and where Roy was born. He did know the name of Roy’s youngest sibling (his Mom’s uncle, who was close to Betty’s age and more like a cousin to her), and Jeff’s first cousin knew the names of some additional siblings. Jeff also knew where Grandpa Pace died and was buried, as Jeff attended the funeral.

Initial Sources

An Old Family Photo

After we married, I reviewed a DVD full of old family photos scanned and provided by Jeff’s dad. I came across a photo file that my father-in-law named “Roys father Andrew Jackson Pace is top right – 1898” and another file named “Roys family-back of photo w labels reversed”.1 This appeared to be a photo of grandfather Roy Pace’s father and his father’s family, with names identified on the back of the photo! The notes on the back of the photo also provide a birth year and death year for Roy’s father Andrew Jackson Pace (1874-1961), already identified by name in the binary photo file name itself; the name, birth year, and death year for Roy’s father’s wife (Laura Mae Fields, 1895-1932); and the birth year for grandfather Roy D. Pace (1913).

Andrew Jackson Pace Family Portrait 1898
Top Row (L-R) Dave Pace, Rufus Pace, Andrew Jackson Pace [Roy’s father]. Middle Row (L-R): Dora Pace, Nancy Pace, Fannie Pace. Seated: William Jackson Pace [Roy’s grandfather].
Photo taken approximately 1898.2

Online Family Trees

The sibling names provided by Jeff and his first cousin, as well as the scanned family photo, allowed me to start building an Ancestry tree for Roy Pace. This in turn led me to trees built by some of Jeff’s mother’s first cousins, providing family locations in Texas and Alabama, and containing the same names from the old family photo.

Social Security Death Index

Although death records would only provide secondary information about Roy’s birth and the names of his parents, they can still yield forth direct evidence and valuable clues for locating sources that might provide primary information about these events.

The Social Security Death Index indicates that Roy D. Pace was born 19 October 1913, the same birth year noted on that back of that old family photo.3 But SSDI entries do not identify names of parents. Unfortunately, I do not find Roy Pace on the newer “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” which does identify names of parents. So I need to send off for a copy of Roy’s original application.

Having died in 2000, Roy Pace’s death is too late to appear in the “California Death Index (1940-1997).” Neither Roy’s living daughter nor Jeff’s father (Roy’s son-in-law) have a copy of Roy’s Kern County death certificate, so I need to request a copy of the original death record from Kern County.

The 1930 U.S. Census

This is the earliest record I find for grandfather Roy D. Pace. Roy was enumerated on 14 April 1930, living with his parents and the seven younger siblings who were born by this time.4

Andrew Jackson Pace Household 1930 US Census
The Andrew Jackson Pace household, 1930 U.S. census, Hockley County, Texas.2
The family resided in Justice Precinct 6, Hockley County, Texas, on a rented farm.

  • Roy Pace (written as Ray) was 16 years old (born about 1914), single, attending school, and able to read and write. He is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas. Roy is identified as the son of the head of household.
  • Andrew J. Pace is identified as the head of household (Roy’s father). He was age 52 (born about 1878), married, first married at age 38, and able to read and write. Andrew is noted as born in Alabama, with both parents born there as well. He worked as a farmer, on a general farm, and is not identified as a military veteran.
  • May Pace is identified as the wife of Andrew–not necessarily the mother of Roy or the other children. She was 34 (born about 1896), married, first married at age 16, and able to read and write. May is noted as born in Texas (just like Roy and his mother), with a father born in Georgia, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Dollie Pace is the second oldest child of Andrew J. Pace. She is identified as 14 years old (born about 1916), single, attending school, and able to read and write. Dollie is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Irene Pace is the second daughter of Andrew J. Pace. She is identified as 12 years old (born about 1918), single, attending school, and able to read and write. Irene is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Huland Pace is the second son of Andrew J. Pace. He is identified as 10 years old (born about 1920), single, attending school, and able to read and write. Huland is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Willie [or Billie] Pace is the third daughter of Andrew J. Pace. She is identified as 8 years old (born about 1922), and not attending school. Willie is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Leo Pace is the third son of Andrew J. Pace. He is identified as 6 years old (born about 1924), and not attending school. Leo is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Ray Earl Pace is the fourth son of Andrew J. Pace. He is identified as 4 years old (born about 1926), and not attending school. Ray Earl is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.
  • Ladell Pace is the fifth son of Andrew J. Pace. He is identified as 1 year and 4 months old (born at the end of 1928 or beginning of 1929). Ladell is noted as born in Texas, with a father born in Alabama, and a mother born in Texas.

I have not yet been able to locate the family on the 1920 U.S. census.

Analyzing the Evidence

Census Marriage Ages Don’t Jive

It is interesting to note the two sets of ages recorded for Andrew Pace and his wife May on the 1930 U.S. census.2 At 52 years old and 34 years old respectively, Andrew and May were 18 years apart in age at the time of the census. Yet it was reported that Andrew was 38 years old at the time of his first marriage; this would have been 14 years prior, about 1916. May is reported as having been 16 at the time of her first marriage; this would have been 18 years prior, about 1912–not 1916, the estimated year of her husband’s first marriage.

Unless these first marriage ages were misreported or written down wrong, this census record indicates that May had been married to someone else before marrying Andrew J. Pace.

Roy’s Birth Year Doesn’t Jive

If the ages noted in the census are correct for Andrew and May’s first marriages, this means–according to what is reported for Andrew–that May and Andrew married around 1916. Yet Grandfather Roy was reportedly born in 1913, three years prior to his parents’ estimated marriage year. Was Roy simply conceived and born prior to his parents getting married? Or might Roy have been born to a different father, possibly to May’s first husband?

Andrew’s oldest daughter Dollie, 14 years old, would have been born around the same year as his marriage to May. Second daughter Irene, born approximately 1918, appears to be the first child definitely born after parents Andrew and May married.

Next Steps

What comes next in my research plan?

Additional Records

The following records should provide clues or additional evidence to answer the research question about Grandfather Roy’s parentage.

  • Locate the marriage record for Andrew Jackson Pace and wife May (Laura Mae Fields).
  • Search for the marriage record for May and a possible first husband.
  • Search for the birth record for a child born in 1913 to just May or to May and a first husband, which might turn out to be Grandfather Roy.
  • Search for a birth record for Roy’s oldest sister Dollie, whose birth location might help narrow down my in-person search for Roy’s birth certificate.
  • Obtain Grandfather Roy’s death certificate from Kern County, California.
  • Obtain a copy of Roy’s social security application.

DNA Analysis

In the event the paper trail continues to shed doubt on Roy being the biological child of both Andrew Jackson Pace and Laura Mae Fields (and a full sibling to the other children), DNA may be able to settle this matter. I have tested two Paces, who our family believes descend from both Andrew Jackson Pace and Laura Mae Fields (the most recent common ancestors)–my husband and a male-line Pace cousin. Analyzing and comparing their autosomal DNA should help me determine if they both inherited DNA from Andrew Jackson Pace and Laura Mae Fields, or if my husband only inherited DNA from one of these common ancestors. Roy has a living daughter that I can test as well if needed.

Texas Road Trip

And now we finally get to the road trip theme for this post.

I am taking a trip to Texas next month, to walk across the Laredo foot bridge that crosses the Rio Grande and joins Laredo, Texas with Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. A walk with my dad, 100 years to the date from when his Mexican immigrant grandparents crossed that bridge (the version that stood in 1915) to start a new life in the United States.

That trip has morphed into at least ten days, visiting with a cousin of Mom’s, taking in the sights of San Antonio, and visiting Austin for some BBQ and the Texas State Genealogical Society’s annual conference. My husband Jeff is flying out for a few days of that ten day road trip.

I hope I can at least identify Grandpa Pace’s place of birth prior to then, so that Jeff and I can visit that area. But if I have not yet been able to identify that locality, or confidently identify the names of Roy’s parents, then some local in-person research time may need to be factored into this road trip as well–whether at the state archives in Austin, or at a local county records center.


The Genealogy Fallout from Nixing Richard Pace of Jamestown Due to DNA

Richard Pace Not Related
Photo I took last fall of the plaque that hangs in the church at historic Jamestown and mentions Richard Pace.

I blogged earlier this week about just receiving the much-anticipated results for a Y-DNA test that proved my husband’s Pace line is not genetically related to the  same line as Richard Pace (1583-1627) of Jamestown, despite a long-time widely perpetuated claim made via an accidental (or possibly even intentional) paper trail error by some Pace researcher.

On the plus side, this DNA test did confirm that my husband Jeff’s family is descended from the same male-line as William Henry Pace (1745-1815), a member of General George Washington’s elite bodyguard unit know as the Commander in Chief’s Guard.

Armed with this new information though, I now face the unpleasant chore of cleaning up my genealogy house due to this fallout.

Wasted Efforts?

I have not invested much time or original research very far back into the Pace line, because a) I knew I’d have to visit local repositories out in Virginia and have not yet had the time, and b) shortly after reviewing what others have researched on this surname, I learned of the DNA controversy and put my research time and dime on hold until we could get our hands on a male-line Pace to test from our family. So no loss there for me.

Jeff With Richard Pace Plaque
Jeff posing with the plaque paying tribute to Chanco and to who we previously thought was Jeff’s 11th great grandfather, Richard Pace.

When Jeff and I traveled with my parents to Washington, D.C. and Virginia last fall, we planned a full day road trip from our Massanutten mountain-top timeshare condo across the state of Virginia to historic Jamestown. Any regrets now? Nope. We would have visited historic Jamestown anyway. After all…. it is historic Jamestown!

On that trip, we had hoped to have enough time in the late afternoon and early evening to take the ferry across the James River to drive by the former location of Richard Pace and wife Isabella Smyth’s Ancient Planter land grant, Pace’s Paines. But we ran out of time and decided against it since it would have has us all back to our condo well past midnight (my parents are usually in bed by 9:00pm). I was a bit bummed at the time. However Jeff and I now joke about how happy we are that we did not waste that extra time.

Cleaning House

I do have a bit of clean-up to do now, most of which will have to wait a couple of weeks until I am done with my summer class.

My Research

  • Deleting all Pace ancestors and collateral relatives from my Ancestry tree (which I consider a “leads” tree, not my confirmed-findings tree), beyond William Henry Pace of the Commander-in-Chief Guard (CnC Guard).
  • Deleting all Pace ancestors and collateral relatives from my research database, extending back beyond William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard.
  • Deleting the same for Richard Pace’s wife Isabella Smyth.
  • For all Evernote notes I have saved over the years:
    • Merge all notes for each ancestor or relative beyond William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard into a single master note for each of those individuals. I do not want to delete all those Notes, lest I ever need them for future reference.
    • Add a “VOIDED” prefix to each newly merged master Note, so that it is immediately clear when viewing a note or viewing a list of notes that these Paces notes are not part of my research line.
    • Remove Anhentafel number tags, the “Pace” surname tag, and any research-action-oriented tags from those notes (ex: “to confirm”).
    • Move those notes out of my active research notebooks, and into a newly created “Voided Research” notebook.
    • Do the same for the Isabella Smyth line (his wife).
Richard Pace - Voided Notes
Updating all of my Richard Pace notes in Evernote.

This Blog

  • Add a prominently featured updated note to the top of every blog post about Richard Pace or his wife Isabella Smyth, noting the false connection. Like my Evernote research notes, I do not want to delete these posts. For one thing, I do not delete blog posts even if they become obsolete–I add a correction or a link to more updated information. I also want other Pace researchers to be aware of this fallacy, so they do not replicate the same error in their own work.
  • Make any necessary corrections to blog posts about William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard, which might reference Richard Pace and Isabella Smyth.
  • Remove the Genealogy Snapshot box from these posts, which displayed the descendancy route down to my husband.
  • Add a “VOIDED” note to the archive view of all blog posts pertaining to these two individuals. Again, I do not want to delete them from lists like our Surnames List, but I want to make it clear to others that these are false findings.
Richard Pace Snapshot Box
Time to delete my Genealogy Snapshot box for Richard Pace of Jamestown.
Richard Pace in Ancestor List
I need to now add a “VOIDED” annotation to my blog’s ancestor list, and an explanatory note to all all posts referencing Pace and Smyth of Jamestown.

Next Steps

After all necessary clean-up, I plan to make this line a major research focus for 2016.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Y-DNA test only proves that my husband’s Pace line is descended from the same line from which William Henry Pace the CnC Guard also descends (the John Pace of Middlesex line). The test does not prove our family is descended directly from William Henry Pace. After the disappointment of learning we can no longer claim the Jamestown connection, I would like to be able to provide my husband’s cousins with a conclusive answer about the CnC Guard Pace. I am hoping the more advanced DNA education I will receive at SLIG this January will help me better analyze the DNA evidence against the paper trail evidence. And I definitely have to now buckle down and study that paper trail evidence myself.

Since the DNA test has proven our Pace line descends from the John of Middlesex line, I need to now begin researching John of Middlesex and his descendants. This is not a name that has been on my research radar until now.

I think this will be a very interesting case to research and study to share!

#52Ancestors: DNA Proves Our Pace Research is Only Halfway Right

Richard Pace Not Related
Photo I took last fall of the plaque that hangs in the church at historic Jamestown and mentions Richard Pace.

My 26th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 26 is – Halfway: This week marks the halfway point in the year — and the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge! What ancestor do you have that you feel like you’ve only researched halfway? What ancestor do you feel like takes up half of your research efforts?

I am quite behind on this blog challenge due to a very busy summer school class, hence the reference to this week being the “halfway point” in the year.

My 26th ancestor is who we had hoped was my husband Jeff’s 11th great-grandfather, Richard Pace (1583-1627), an Ancient Planter who is credited with helping save the Jamestown colony from a 1622 Indian massacre. Exactly one week ago today, we received DNA confirmation that my husband’s family is NOT descended from this noteworthy Pace.

Righting a Research Wrong

I have done very little original research on my husband’s Pace line beyond the last four generations. With so much already written and shared by others, I have instead focused on our lesser-known family lines. It appears that I will now need to make this Pace line a priority research project for 2016.

Incorrect Paper Trail Assumptions

Jeff With Richard Pace Plaque
Jeff posing with the plaque paying tribute to Chanco and to who we previously thought was Jeff’s 11th great grandfather, Richard Pace.

I wrote five months ago about the research error that has perpetuated for quite some time, identifying this Richard Pace of Jamestown and William Henry Pace (1745-1815), a member of George Washington’s Revolutionary War elite bodyguard unit–the Commander-in-Chief Guard (CnC Guard)–as being in the same line of descent, seven generations apart. In an attempt to confirm or refute this claim, the Pace Society of America became an early adopter among surname society-sponsored Y-DNA studies.1

Upon learning of this project, I wanted my husband’s family to participate. But my husband Jeff is a Pace through his mother, so his DNA could not help us. Unlike autosomal DNA, the Y chromosome is inherited only by males, which “passes down virtually unchanged from father to son.” 2 This allows Y-DNA testing to determine patrilineal (direct male-line) ancestry.

We needed a direct male-line Pace. Fortunately Jeff’s 1st cousin once removed (who I will call Male Cousin Pace to protect his privacy) volunteered right away after his wife learned about our dilemma and reasons for wanting to test.

The Research Question

The primary question we wanted Male Cousin Pace’s Y-DNA test to answer is from which of these two prominent Pace men our branch of the family is descended. Of course, this wasn’t a question with just two possible answers: Richard Pace of Jamestown vs. William Henry Pace CnC Guard. A third answer was always possible, one which we hoped would not be the case…that our family was descended from neither of these men.

The DNA Evidence

After several months of impatiently waiting and regularly checking the processing status of Male Cousin Pace’s kit on Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), I was beside myself when on 4 August 2015 I noticed–well ahead of the notification email from FTDNA–that processing had finally been completed. I immediately hopped on to the Pace Family Genealogy group on Facebook, notifying the DNA project administrator that Male Cousin Pace’s results were ready.

Less than two hours later, the DNA project administrator Rebecca Christensen replied to my post: “The results belong to the John Pace of Middlesex group (as expected) – not the Richard Pace group.”3 Rebecca private-messaged me, elaborating a bit more:

The results actually have 3 mutations (differences) from the modal (most common) results for the group although 2 of the differences are shared by kit number 288002 – so that person may share a more recent ancestor with you.  Your results came in as expected since you are related to William Pace of George Washington’s guard – he is a known John Pace of Middlesex descendant.4

My husband’s Pace branch is descended from the same line as William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard, not from Richard Pace of Jamestown.5  This particular research question is clearly answered by the DNA.

Pace DNA Project - John Middlesex
A closeup view of how our family test kit falls under the results for the John of Middlesex line, within haplogroup I-M223, on the FTDNA public results page.

DNA Answers Only Part of the Question

Note that I state descended from the same line as William Henry Pace, instead of explicitly stating descended from William Henry Pace.

Until I devote some research time towards thoroughly vetting the records tracing my husband’s Pace grandfather and great-grandfather back to William Henry Pace’s generation and then to John of Middlesex, I cannot be certain that my husband’s family actually descends from the CnC Guardsman. All that the Y-DNA test tells us is that my husband’s line descends from John of Middlesex. If William Henry Pace had a brother, it might be his brother from whom our family descends. The linkage to John of Middlesex could be through another of John’s male descendants altogether–occurring prior to William Henry Pace.

We just cannot know until a thorough analysis of the paper trail is conducted. This type of genealogy problem requires both DNA and historical records.

Related Further Back?

Another question I pondered when learning about the DNA project disputing a line of descent between Richard Pace of Jamestown and William Henry Pace of the CNC Guard, is if it might be possible that my husband’s family was descended from one line yet could also be related to the other line further back in time? Perhaps several generations back?

According to the DNA evidence, the answer is a firm no.

Pace DNA Project - Richard Pace
A closeup view of test kits that fall under the Richard Pace of Jamestown line, within haplogroup R-M269, on the FTDNA public results page.

Richard Pace of Jamestown and William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard are not genetically connected at all. Not just in a genealogical time frame. These two Pace lines are not even connected in an anthropological time frame. The public DNA results, available on Family Tree DNA, assign different haplogroups to these two Pace lines. Our John of Middlesex line belongs to haplogroup I-M223, while the Richard Pace of Jamestown line belongs to haplogroup R-M269.6 7

RESEARCH TIP: Y-DNA Terms Referenced

If you are not familiar with this terminology:

  • Genealogical Time Frame: “A time frame within the last 500 up to 1000 years since the adoption of surnames and written family records. An individual’s haplotype is useful within this time frame and is compared to others to help identify branches within a family.”8
  • Anthropological Time Frame: “A time frame of over 1000 to tens of thousands of years ago that predates recorded history and surnames for most people. The Y-DNA haplogroup tree traces SNP mutations over anthropological time.”6
  • Haplogroup: “A genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal [all-male line] or matrilineal [all-female line] line. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations.”10
  • Mutation:A permanent structural alteration or change in the DNA sequence. Mutations in the sperm or egg are called germline mutations. Germline mutations in the Y chromosome of the male are passed on to all of his male-line descendants.”11

I am not going into further detail in this post about the three mutations that Rebecca noticed in Male Cousin Pace’s Y-DNA kit, except to note that this does not mean my husband and his Pace side of the family are mutants :-).4 Nor will I go into an explanation about the two haplogroups. My Y-DNA experience is not yet ready to tackle those topics in a meaningful way. Those explanations have to wait until after I study under Blaine Bettinger at SLIG this January.

Next Steps?

Needless to say, the results of Male Cousin Pace’s Y-DNA test have made a mess out of the family’s research–some of his siblings and his wife have also been researching the Pace family history. I discuss the fallout and housecleaning efforts among my own research notes, and this family history blog, in my next post. I have to get my own house in order before I can help the others get theirs straightened up too.


#52Ancestors: First DNA Step Towards Confirming the Identity of Black Sheep Great Grand Uncle William E. Hayes

William Eugene Hayes
William Eugene Hayes, long after he quit using that identity. Courtesy of Cousin E.

My 20th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 20 is – Black Sheep: Each of us has an ancestor who was the troublemaker or the ne’er-do-well. This is their week.

My 20th ancestor (or in this case, relation) is my great grand uncle William Eugene “Gene” Hayes (1885-1952).

Black Sheep? I do not know his story well enough to actually label Great Grand Uncle Gene a black sheep, troublemaker, or ne’er-do-well. But I do know that there was something fishy going on that caused Great Grand Uncle Gene to disappear from the Hayes family, and to assume a new identity.

About Great Grand Uncle Gene

William Eugene Hayes was born 30 December 1885 in Ovid, Clinton County, Michigan. He was the oldest son and the second of five children born to my 2nd great-grandparents William James Hayes (1861-1903) and Goodwith Sophia (Shippee) Race (1867-1937), of Ontario, Canada and Allegany County, New York. His granddaughter–who we will call “Cousin E” in this post–says he went by the nickname Gene. Gene was the older brother of my great-grandfather James Bruce “Bruce” Hayes (1888-1970), on my maternal line.

William James Hayes Family
William Eugene Hayes (top, center) with his siblings and mother. Their father is already deceased. Mother Goodwith Sophia Race is seated in the middle, with my great-grandfather James Bruce Hayes next to her (far right). Hayes family photo.

Other than being a sibling of my great-grandfather, Great Grand Uncle Gene was never even on my research radar until about 7 years ago when his granddaughter (Cousin E) first made contact with me, trying to gauge what I might know about her grandfather. And even then, William Eugene did not start capturing my interest until a few years ago, when Cousin E and I started to more frequently correspond.

Cousin E was trying to prove that her grandfather was my William Eugene Hayes. Her entire life, Cousin E knew her grandfather by the name Eddie Eugene Williams. But she knew almost nothing else about him. Except that somehow–through decades of pursuing his paper trail–Cousin E and another of our Hayes/Race cousins (Cousin L) came to the conclusion that Cousin E’s grandfather Eddie Eugene Williams was the same person as my great grand uncle William Eugene Hayes. Cousin E’s mother–the now-deceased daughter of William Eugene Hayes (aka Eddie Eugene Williams)–started trying to find her father’s long lost family in 1952.

They just never found that smoking gun document that verifies this hunch. Because there probably is no such document.

His Many Identities

By corroborating Great Grand Uncle Gene’s parents’ names and his date and place of birth against other documents, I have been able to track his evolving identity as follows.

Records I Have Corroborated

(30 December 1885) William E. Hayes 1

  • Event: Birth
  • Place: Ovid, Clinton County, Michigan
  • Note: Parents listed as W.J. Hayes of Canada and Goodwith Hayes of New York.

 (06 June 1900) Eugene Hayes 2

  • Event: Residence/Enumerated
  • Place: Wayne Township, Wayne County, Michigan
  • Birth: December 1885 (age 14)
  • Occupation: Carriage body__
  • Note: Parents listed as William Hayes of Canada and Goodwith Hayes of New York (corroborates with birth record).

(21 January 1928) Eugene E. Haynes [Hayes] 3

  • Event: Married Mildred (Brown) Standish (1st marriage for him, 2nd for her)
  • Place: Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa
  • Birth: Age 42 at next birthday (b. abt. 1895)
  • Occupation: Baker
  • Place of Birth: Ovid, Michigan (corroborates with birth record)
  • Note: Parents listed as William James Hayes and Goodwith Shippey (corroborates with birth record).

Records from Cousin E’s Tree

The death record and marriage info for Oagle Barksdale were gleaned from Cousin E’s tree as clues to her grandfather’s assumed identity. Those details led me to a 1940 census and possibly a second marriage to Oagle. Corroboration against his birth identity is a little more sketchy here, but it’s plausible. I am also pursuing a lead on a possible marriage that preceded his 1928 one to Mildred.

If these facts do indeed belong to Cousin E’s grandfather, it would appear that my great grand uncle William Eugene Hayes assumed a new identity (name, birth date/age, and sometimes birthplace) about the time of his 1934 marriage to Oagle.

(31 March 1934) Eddie E. Hays 4

  • Event: Marriage to Oagle Barksdale
  • Place: Nevada County, Arkansas
  • Birth: Age 45 (b. abt. 1889) [real age should be 48]
  • Note: Claims a residence in Prescott, Nevada County, Arkansas. No corroborating evidence, such as birth location or parents’ names.

(20-21 May 1940) Edward Williams 5

  • Event: Residence/Enumerated with wife Oagle
  • Place: St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida
  • Birth: Age 48 (b. abt. 1892) [real age should be 54]
  • Occupation: Baker [corroborates with occupation at time of 1928 marriage]
  • Note: Both are noted as born in Arksansas, with a 1935 residence in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee.

(09 November 1942) Ed E. Williams 6

  • Event: Applied for marriage license with Oagle Aline Barksdale
  • Place: Marion County, Florida
  • Birth: Age 52 (b. abt. 1890) [real age should be 56]
  • Note: Not sure if they actually married. This would be a remarriage for them. Claims a residence in Prescott, Arkansas. Claims to have been married before, but claims spouse is deceased [despite previous marriage to same woman]. Birthplace noted as Ovid, Michigan [corroborates with birth record].

(01 May 1952) Ed Eugene Williams 7

  • Event: Death
  • Place: Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia
  • Birth: Age 60 (b. abt. 1892) [real age should be 66]
  • Note: No corroborating evidence on death index; would need to review actual record.

I have no idea what prompted William Eugene Hayes to leave his family and his birth name, and to assume these other identities. Was it criminal in nature? A falling out with his mother? An emotional breakdown? Wanderlust? I suppose any effort to answer this question would have to start by paying a research visit to the courthouse.

I doubt, however, that I will spend more time on the paper trail of William E. Hayes, or on a possible new assumed identity. I have too much work to do still on his brother and parents (my ancestors), and since this collateral relative evidently broke off ties from his family, Great Grand Uncle Gene’s post-marriage life probably will not help me much with further research on his family history.

DNA Confirmation

Why I am telling his story now, though, is that Uncle Gene was the focus of my first DNA effort to confirm or refute a hunch. Cousin E and Cousin L’s hunch that Cousin E’s grandfather Eddie Eugene Williams is the same person as my great grand uncle William Eugene Hayes.

Mom and Cousin E - AncestryDNA Hint
AncestryDNA Hint for Mom and Cousin E. Correctly predicting a 2nd cousin match, and showing my 2nd great-grandparents as their MRCAs (Most Recent Common Ancestors).

When Mom’s autosomal DNA results became available on AncestryDNA on 31 March 2015, I immediately took a quick peak through her matches for familiar names, and Cousin E showed up as the closest match, with an estimated 2nd-3rd cousin relationship and extremely high confidence level. On 25 April 2015, after transferring Mom’s AncestryDNA autosomal DNA data to GEDmatch, I was able to run a one-to-one test that showed Cousin E and Mom match on 12 segments and share 3.681% of their DNA, which calculates out to a 2nd cousin according to the ISOGG Wiki.8 Cousin E also showed up on the list of one-to-many matches for Mom’s kit when GEDmatch finished processing it on 01 May 2015.

Mom and Cousin E - GEDMatch 1 to 1
GEDmatch one-to-one comparison for Mom and Cousin E, showing 3.681% shared DNA.

I quickly emailed Cousin E to break the good news that both AncestryDNA and GEDmatch confirm she and Mom are genetically related, as 2nd cousins. Cousin E’s response back was very emotional, thanking me for being the first person to provide her with genetic evidence that her grandfather really was a Hayes/Race.


But unfortunately this only confirms that Cousin E and Mom are genetically related (they share too much DNA to be Identical by State). Not that her grandfather is indeed William Eugene Hayes, nor that he is definitely genetically related to Mom’s Hayes/Race line. Just that they are genetically related as estimated 2nd cousins. We need to test other Hayes/Race cousins (or identify Hayes or Race matches who have already tested) in hopes of a triangulation that can verify the genetic connection exists on the Hayes/Race line, instead of on one of Mom’s other lines–including her paternal line. And as far as proving that Cousin E’s grandfather is definitely my great grand uncle William Eugene Hayes…well, that will take even more testing and paper trail sleuthing. Something I just don’t have the time for when I have so many other DNA tests and lines to analyze. Besides, my autosomal DNA analysis skills aren’t honed enough yet for that sort of project.

For now, I am content to have made my Cousin E very happy just by confirming she is genetically related to Mom.

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#52Ancestors: 2nd Great-Grandfather William Alexander McNamara, First DNA-Identified McNamara Ancestor

William Alexander McNamara

My 18th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 18 is – Where There’s a Will: Do you have an ancestor who left an interesting will? Have you used a will to solve a problem? Or, what ancestor showed a lot of will in his or her actions?

My 18th ancestor is my husband Jeff’s 2nd great-grandfather, William Alexander McNamara (1860-1929).

My research time this week has been on DNA analysis, or on the people and lines I can incorporate into the homework for my Boston University Certificate Program in Genealogical Research. I just don’t have the extra time to get more creative with my 52 Ancestors picks, so… for the “will” theme, I am going with a William who ties into my current DNA research.

About William Alexander

William Alexander McNamara has been on my radar for a handful of years, but I have not spent any significant time on the McNamara line. What I have found thus far, has been from low-hanging fruit–aside from research I did for the profile I wrote last year on his father, William Jewett McNamara. However, activity in our DNA matches has prompted me to take a closer look at William Alexander.

William Alexander McNamara was allegedly born 29 November 1860, in the new state of Oregon, to William Jewett McNamara (1834-1911) and Anna Mary Chope (1846-1917). I say allegedly, because I have not yet found or even looked for a birth record yet. William was the oldest of seven children I have identified for the couple.

He appears to have been married at least three times, with the first marriage to my husband’s 2nd great-grandmother, Hester Hemphill (1863-1941).

First DNA Match

Jeff’s paternal aunt (Aunt Greene) took both a mitochondrial DNA test and an autosomal DNA test for us back in March. The autosomal results were processed last month according to my standard procedure: testing with AncestryDNA, then transferring the raw data to GEDMatch, and finally to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Within a few days of FTDNA processing the transfer and matches, I received an email from one of Aunt Greene’s matches (we’ll call her Cousin McNamara) asking if I might be the daughter of Aunt Greene, whom she has met, and with whom she occasionally corresponds about McNamara family history. I explained my relationship to Aunt Greene, and Cousin McNamara walked me backwards through her own family tree steering me towards who she already knew was our first common ancestor.

My husband Jeff should also in theory come up as a match to Cousin McNamara, but with less shared DNA being one further generation down the tree. However, FTDNA has not yet finished processing his autosomal transfer from AncestryDNA.

Identifying Our Most Recent Common Ancestor

Cousin McNamara and Aunt Greene’s mother (my husband’s paternal grandmother, Jean Alice Harless) had the same grandfather, William Alexander McNamara. Cousin McNamara and Grandmother Harless, however, did not have the same grandmothers. These two lines were born to two different wives. This makes Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara half-first cousins once removed.

Our paper trails and family trees indicate that William Alexander McNamara is their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). Descending from different maternal lines, Aunt Pat and Cousin McNamara do not share a common female ancestor through William Alexander (his mother would be their first female MRCA candidate). William Alexander alone is the first ancestor Aunt Pat and Cousin McNamara have in common — hence, their MRCA.

William Alexander McNamara, MRCA
Showing the relationship between Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara, and to their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). I like to draw up these rough relationship charts (nothing fancy, just a Word doc) for my research and analysis notes.

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Estimated vs. Known Relationship

Having the benefit of knowing their confirmed DNA connection, paper trail relationship, and MRCA, I took a closer look at FTDNA’s estimated relationship between the two based upon their shared DNA. With 141.64 shared Centimorgans (cM), FTDNA projected a 2nd to 3rd cousin relationship (noted in blue below). The actual relationship is flagged in red.

I should point out that I did not manually type the known relationship (noted in red below) into my kit’s Family Finder match list. Family Finder does not allow us to manually enter these relationships; we have to use a pull-down menu of options. And “half” relationships (half siblings, half 1st cousins, half 2nd cousins, etc.) are not included in the menu options. So I had to go with the closes option — 1st cousins once removed. Hopefully FTDNA will provide more fine-tuned options in the future.

Half 1C1XR through William Alexander McNamara
Match listing in Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder. The estimated relationship is in blue, with the confirmed relationship in red.

See FTDNA’s Matches Page documentation to learn more about working with your matches list, and their Known Relationship Page documentation for more details on logging and tracking known relationships with your matches.

Chasing McNamara-Chope DNA

So… cool find and relationship confirmation! But, what now?

Time to chase that shared DNA!

Identifying William Alexander McNamara as their MRCA is just a start. We know that Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara share DNA inherited from William Alexander, and therefore also from his own parents and his own ancestors. Ideally, we want to be able to identify which pieces of DNA they inherited from each of William Alexander’s parents and each of their ancestors.

Identifying Sizable Shared Segments

To being this long process, we have to first identify each separate chromosome segment on which Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara match. Well, really, each matching segment of a decent length. Most genetic genealogists recommend analyzing matching segments of 7 cM or longer in length, primarily focusing on the largest matching segments. The ISOGG Wiki recommends segments of 15 cM or more, if one is trying to identify and establish a [previously unknown] genealogical connection. But since we already know the genealogical connection between Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara, I am focusing on segments of 7 cM or more.

FTDNA’s Family Finder chromosome browser is essential for doing this with your FTDNA matches. By doing a chromosome browser comparison between Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara, I can see exactly where they share the same DNA–by reviewing each chromosome, and noting which segments they have in common on each chromosome. The two following screenshots are different views of that shared chromosome data: the first one being a table view, the second being the actual visual chromosome browser view. Both show you every bit of DNA data they have in common, from tiny segments that probably won’t be much help, to larger segments on which I will want to focus first. The red arrows show those largest matching segments, the green arrows are smaller but are still within that recommended 7 cM threshold for comparisons and analysis.

MRCA William Alexander McNamara DNA Match 1
Table view of the segments shared between my husband’s aunt, and her first McNamara match. Our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) is William Alexander McNamara. Family Tree DNA, Family Finder. [Profile name has been blanked out for privacy reasons.]
MRCA William Alexander McNamara DNA Match 1
Chromosome browser view of the segments shared between my husband’s aunt, and her first McNamara match. Our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) is William Alexander McNamara. Family Tree DNA Family Finder. [Profile names have been blanked out for privacy reasons.]
See FTDNA’s Chromosome Browser Page help documentation, and watch their archived webinar to learn more about working with matches in your chromosome browser.

Identifying McNamara vs Chope DNA

In order to start identifying which segments of Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara’s shared DNA come from their MRCA William Alexander’s paternal McNamara line and which come from his maternal Chope line, we have to find more cousins to test. And we want to test cousins who ONLY descend from ONE of these two lines: a McNamara-line-only cousin (who is not also a descendant of William Alexander’s mother), and/or a Chope-line-only cousin (who is not also a descendant of William Alexander’s father).

This means finding and testing cousins from at least one generation further back in our trees, with whom we share an earlier MRCA.

I also need further verification on these DNA segments shared with Cousin McNamara–that they are indeed inherited from our MRCA William Alexander McNamara. This one-to-one comparison between Aunt Greene and Cousin McNamara and knowing their identified MRCA through our genealogical paper trail and trees isn’t sufficient evidence that these shared segments of DNA are all actually inherited from William Alexander. We need an additional step.

But, that process will be covered in future posts.

How Can this Help?

While it is fun to simply learn about and play with autosomal DNA, I do not have unlimited spare time or money to justify the expenses and time simply for the fun of it. Like all genealogy research and expenses and time, there needs to be a point (beyond lifelong continuous learning) to my efforts. These efforts need to help me answer questions about our family history, and need to help me verify (confirm or refute) facts about our family history.

Finding McNamara vs. Chope Clues

So what exactly are the benefits of including DNA analysis in my research?

  • The ability to prove or disprove a genetic relationship with known relationships.
  • The ability to identify additional previously unknown cousins who might be able to help me grow my own tree and break through brick walls, by identifying new ancestors and collateral relationships.
  • The ability to identify new cousins with an interest in the same family lines, with whom I can collaborate on researching our common lines.

Source List

My Bio Family: My Ethnicity Estimates on AncestryDNA vs Family Tree DNA

Colleen Robledo, DNA Testing
Taking my AncestryDNA autosomal test.

I have always been very open about being adopted, when that fact seemed pertinent to a conversation. Which was usually the case if I met another adoptee, parents considering adopting, and especially parents with young adopted children. Also whenever people comment about how much I look or sound like my mom (it happens a lot!), or look like my brother (not so much anymore, but often in K-12) — my family gets a good laugh when hearing this.

Being named Colleen Robledo, people just automatically assume I am Irish and Mexican (or some sort of Hispanic). Once I turned drinking age, I started calling myself a Latin Leprechaun (like the bar drink). I rarely bothered to correct people about those ethnic assumptions. The story was just too long. And having been raised by parents and extended families who are both very proud of their ethnic heritage and traditions, I just always felt Irish and Mexican.

After doing Dad’s autosomal DNA analysis recently though, I became a bit more curious about my own genetic ethnicity. I blogged recently about finally taking my own autosomal DNA test, and beginning the search for my birth mother. That whole birth mom discovery has been quite a whirlwind process this past month. I finally have time to catch my breath a bit and take a harder look at the ethnicity projections about my own DNA.

Ethnicity Comparison

What My Adoption Letter Claims

I mentioned in my initial March 25th post about my adoption that the County of Los Angeles provided my parents with a letter at the time of my adoption to help them share with me a little bit about my birth parents — including their ethnicity. My adoption letter claims that my birth mom is of German and Dutch descent, while my birth dad is of Spanish and French descent.

By Spanish, I always assumed Mexican. The Chicano movement in Southern California hadn’t yet made being Mexican a more socially acceptable claim. The term “Spanish” was often still used as a euphemism for Mexican ancestry. So I just assumed that Los Angeles County did the same thing here — thinking that labeling an infant as Spanish instead of Mexican would make the baby more adoptable. Or that even my birth parents felt the same, and misidentified me to the county as Spanish instead of Mexican.

Colleen Robledo, Adoption Letter
My adoption letter that went home to my parents with me on 23 March 1970.

What DNA Tells Us

My adoption letter had been dead on accurate. Well, mostly accurate. The German, Dutch, and French part were all correct. So was the Spanish part. But, Spanish wasn’t my only Hispanic ethnicity. I am Spanish and Mexican.

Because I tested through AncestryDNA, theirs was the first set of ethnicity results to come back. I immediately transferred the raw Ancestry data to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), and impatiently waited for their interpretation of my ethnicity. The two services did not provide me with as clean a comparison as I had first experienced reviewing Dad’s DNA results (his was like apples to apples, whereas mine felt like apples to oranges). Ancestry and FTDNA label and break down ethnic origins a bit differently, with Ancestry also providing estimates for much smaller sub-regions. Although from what I learned at RootsTech and FGS this past February, estimates at these smaller regional levels are not considered very accurate.

AncestryDNA Family Tree DNA
Europe 76% European 80%
Europe West 32% Western & Central Europe 11%
Great Britain < 1% British Isles 30%
Ireland 6 %
Iberian Peninsula 16% Southern Europe 29%
Scandinavia 16% Scandinavia 9%
Finland & Northern Siberia 1%
Italy/Greece 5%
European Jewish 1%
America 21% New World 13%
Native American 21% Native American 13%
Africa < 1%
Africa North < 1%
West Asia < 1% Middle Eastern 1%
Middle East < 1% North Africa 1%
Pacific Islander < 1% East Asian 5%
Polynesia < 1% Northeast Asia 5%

Both Ancestry and FTDNA identify European origins as my primary ethnicity (76% per Ancestry, 80% per FTDNA). Ancestry breaks this into three sub-regions: the largest being Western Europe (Figure 1), and the Iberian Peninsula (Figure 2) tied with Scandinavia (Figure 3). This seems very much in line with the German, Dutch, French, and Spanish origins claimed in my adoption letter. FTDNA however breaks this down into four sub-regions: with the largest being the British Isles, followed by Southern Europe, then Western & Central Europe, and finally Scandinavia (Figure 6). My adoption letter mentioned nothing indicating genetic roots in the British Isles. Yet, if you look at Ancestry’s full ethnicity estimate overview (Figure 5), Ancestry does calculate some British Isles origins in my DNA.

Native American (indigenous peoples) ancestry is identified by both companies as my second largest ethnic region of origin, in the New World (the Americas). This is that Mexican part that I suspected my adoption letter misattributed as just Spanish, so it is not a surprise to me. Although who knows, perhaps I have some actual true Native American (American Indian) in me too! What is surprising though, is that like I saw with Dad’s DNA, the two companies have a discrepancy in numbers. Ancestry estimates 21% (Figure 2), while FTDNA only estimates 13% (Figure 7). But as I mentioned in the post about Dad, Ancestry includes a much larger geographic area than FTDNA in its Native American region.

The African, Asian, and Middle Eastern estimates get harder to interpret because the estimates are much smaller, and because each company classifies these differently (Figures 5 and 10). Ancestry puts North Africa as a sub-region under Africa, while FTDNA puts it as a sub-region under Middle Eastern. Yet Ancestry identifies the Middle East as a sub-region of West Africa.


Following are the visual representations for how AncestryDNA interprets my ethnicity. See this blog post from Ancestry.com to learn how they estimate ethnicity.

AncestryDNA Colleen Greene Europe West
FIGURE 1: Western Europe ethnicity estimate. Click image for a larger view.
AncestryDNA Colleen Greene Native American
FIGURE 2: Native American ethnicity estimate. Click image for a larger view.
AncestryDNA Colleen Greene Iberian Peninsula
FIGURE 3: Iberian Peninsula ethnicity estimate. Click image for a larger view.
AncestryDNA Colleen Greene Scandinavia
FIGURE 4: Scandinavia ethnicity estimate. Click image for a larger view.
AncestryDNA Colleen Greene All Regions
FIGURE 5: Full ethnicity estimate overview. Click image for larger view.

Family Tree DNA

Following are visual representations of how FTDNA interprets my ethnicity.

Note that FTDNA shows you Family Finder Matches, genetic cousins in their database, who share your ethnic origins for your top three ethnic groups.These get displayed on the maps as Shared Origins (I have blocked out the names and faces of my matches, to respect their privacy). FTDNA members must opt-in to allow matches to see their ethnicity as Shared Origins. AncestryDNA does not provide this type of visual aid for genetic cousins and ethnic origins; you have to open up each individual cousin match to see their ethnicities.

FTDNA Colleen Greene European
FIGURE 6: European ethnic makeup. Click image for a larger view.
FTDNA Colleen Greene New World
FIGURE 7: New World ethnic makeup. Click image for a larger view.
FTDNA Colleen Greene East Asian
FIGURE 8: East Asian ethnic makeup. Click image for a larger view.
FTDNA Colleen Greene Middle Eastern
FIGURE 9: Middle Eastern ethnic makeup. Click image for a larger view.
FTDNA Colleen Greene All Regions
FIGURE 10: FTDNA ethnic makeup overview. Click image for a larger view.

What About the Irish?

Based on my adoption letter, I assumed this Colleen was just Irish by cultural inheritance.

But it is just simply impossible for one to have a grandfather with a name like Michael John Flanagan, who proudly dressed up as a leprechaun every St. Paddy’s Day, if one were not Irish.

Because Ancestry estimates I am 6% Irish (Figure 5), and FTDNA must surely account for some Irish in its 30% of British Isles ethnicity (Figure 6).

Michael John Flanagan, Leprechaun
My grandfather, Michael John Flanagan, on the left. St. Paddy’s Day at the bar he owned.

My Bio Family: Confirming the Maternal-Line via AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA Email Announcing Results
Email received from AncestryDNA on 06 April 2015 at 5:25pm confirming my autosomal test results are available.

AncestryDNA made a liar out of me yesterday!

Within 15 minutes of publishing my last blog post, whining that it would be late April at the earliest before Ancestry made my autosomal DNA results available, I received the email displayed to the right. Instead of its usual 4-6 week processing period, AncestryDNA completed my results within less than 2-1/2 weeks of receiving my test kit.

I saw this email on my iPhone, upon pulling into my garage after work.

All productive plans for the evening went out the door! Including making dinner. A quick text to Hubby arranged for take-out.

Time to plant my butt on the couch and start some serious exploring.

Initial Surname Search

The first thing I did after logging into my AncestryDNA test was to conduct a filtered search of each bio parent’s surname in my list of Matches.

  • Rought (maternal) displayed zero results, even when choosing the option to include similar surnames.
  • Deleon (paternal) displayed one distant result, and the spelling variation De Leon displayed two distant results. The option to include similar surnames was not very helpful here, as it pulled in surnames such as Dillon.

I was bummed. I had hoped both surnames would show up in my Matches, and in a close relationship range.

Me AncestryDNA Rought Matches
No AncestryDNA Matches for me with the surname Rought identified.
AncestryDNA Deleon Matches
One distant “Deleon” AncestryDNA Match for me.
AncestryDNA De Leon Match
Two distant “De Leon” AncestryDNA Matches.

Reviewing the Closest Matches

I decided to start investigating the closest Match, a female that AncestryDNA estimates as a 2nd cousin with a possible rage of 1st to 2nd cousin.

No Tree Linked to DNA Test

Since AncestryDNA does not provide a chromosome browser or any other tools for analysis, a Match’s family tree is really the only way to try to investigate and verify a relationship online. Because this closest Match’s test kit profile shows no family tree connected, I was not very hopeful. But I clicked on the “View Match” button anyways.

My AncestryDNA Closest Match
The big blue help box that appears when clicking on the View Match button in AncestryDNA. Note the drop-down menu at the bottom, providing quick access to that member’s public tree(s).

Clicking on “View Match” brought up this big blue help box from AncestryDNA. Either I have always tuned this out when reviewing my dad’s Matches, or this is a new feature. I noticed at the bottom of the box a drop-down menu asking me to “Select a tree to preview…”. Huh? This Match’s test kit profile indicated that she had “No family tree” linked to her DNA test. Reading the blue help box closer confirms that she has not linked a family tree.

In the past, for Dad’s Matches, if a tree was not linked to a test kit, I would try to find an Ancestry Member profile for that person (or the test administrator), look to see if a Public Member Tee was listed for that Member Profile, and if not I would contact the Match asking if they would share their private tree with me (assuming they had a tree on Ancestry at all…many DNA testers do not).

Like the big blue box, this is the first time I have ever seen AncestryDNA provide direct access to find a Match’s unlinked Public Member Tree. Handy, and saves some time and steps!

Digging Through the Unlinked Public Tree

I found two Public Member Trees in that drop-down menu for my closest Match. One of the trees was named with a very familiar surname…the maiden name of Bio Mom Candidate’s mother (my biological maternal grandmother)! And this is not at all a common surname. BINGO!

While Bio Mom Candidate’s mother’s name is not listed in this tree, the tree is full of males with this same surname, most of whom appear to live in the same county already identified where Bio Mom Candidate and her parents lived. Some female spouses’ names are listed in this tree too (handy for cross-referencing in records). I was able within a couple hours to reconstruct my own version of this family tree, verifying and building it with records easily found on Ancestry and FamilySearch — expanding each branch of the family group (parents and a bunch of siblings) originally identified in this Match’s public tree.

One of these branches led me to the 1940 U.S. Census and a name that I instantly recognized… the same name I had identified a couple of weeks ago (via Ancestry records, Been Verified, and Facebook) as the mother of Bio Mom Candidate. Further cross-referencing among records confirmed this is indeed the same person.

Double BINGO!

Charting My AncestryDNA Top Matches
Plotting out the relationships between my top two AncestryDNA matches and me.

I had connected this top AncestryDNA Match to Bio Mom Candidate’s mother (my biological grandmother). A person that does show up in top Match’s public tree, but is marked as a private entry, which is why I could not find her in that tree by first name.

This connection also ties me to Bio Mom Candidate or one of her sisters as my birth mother. No other females within the appropriate DNA relationship range have the same surname identified on my original birth record.

Because I have no further proof (DNA, paper, or even verbal/written confirmation) directly linking me to Bio Mom Candidate, I cannot say with certainty that she is indeed my birth mother. Based on the age provided to me in my adoption letter long ago, Bio Mom Candidate best fits the profile from among this group of sisters. However, without further proof, the best I can conclude from the DNA and the records found is that one of these sisters is my birth mother.

My Initial AncestryDNA Maternal Matches
My two closest matches suggested by AncestryDNA confirm a maternal-line connection to Birth Mom Candidate or one of her sisters.

After soaking in this initial discovery high, I proceeded to replicate the same process on my second highest AncestryDNA Match — a female that Ancestry projects to also be a 2nd cousin, but with a possible range of 2nd to 3rd cousin.

Since this second Match is administered by the same person who is my top Match, I expected to come to the same conclusion. Which I quickly did. Match Two is the daughter of Match One. I confirmed this through the California Birth Index and Facebook.

  • Match One is my 1st Cousin 1x Removed. She and Bio Mom (Bio Mom Candidate or one of the sisters) are 1st Cousins, sharing the same grandparents as their MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor).
  • Match Two is my 2nd Cousin. We share the same great-grandparents as our MRCA.

Word of warning. Match One’s public trees are incorrect (sadly, as is often the case for public trees). On both, she identifies herself as the home person, but then lists her grandparents as her parents on the 1st tree (my maternal side tree). On the second tree (for her husband’s family), she once again identifies herself as the home person (instead of her husband of daughter), but appears to list who I assume are her husband’s parents as her own parents. My guess is this is for privacy reasons, to protect the identity of herself, her husband, and her daughter — while still allowing her to share information from the grandparents’ generations on back. This set-up caused me to initially mis-identify the cousin relationships between me and Match One and me and Match Two. It wasn’t until I recreated my own version of the tree, substantiated via found records, that I was able to correctly calculate these relationships.

Next Steps

I have a lot of work ahead of me. So far, I have:

  • Transferred my raw AncestryDNA data to Family Tree DNA, but I am waiting for the results to process.
  • Uploaded my raw AncestryDNA data to GEDmatch, and will start analyzing it as I learn this tool better in my current “Working with Autosomal Results” class, through DNAAdoption.

I will also play with some of the analytic tools on DNAGedcom, which I am also learning through the DNAAdoption class, as well as the AncestryDNA Helper extension for Chrome.

Another step is to thoughtfully begin considering how I will respond to any AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, or GEDmatch members who contact me now due to my DNA results showing up in their list of matches. I do not want to hinder someone else’s research: I hate non-responsive DNA match contacts, and I do not want to give them false information (lie about my connection). But I must respect the privacy and possible secret of my biological parents.

My DNA consultant and friend Molecular Genealogist Angie Bush, MS, shared some advice with me last night, after I asked what she recommends to her unknown parentage clients.

First, I would make sure your Ancestry tree is private AND unsearchable. After that, it is up to you whether or not you respond if they do contact you…I’m sure you have read about “non-responsive” matches all over the interwebz [sic]. That said, I would probably respond to any queries with the fact that you are adopted, and that you cannot share details of your biological ancestors because you don’t know them.

…or something like that…If your biological family gets in contact and they are okay with you sharing information or having a public tree, then that changes things, but until they do, you can keep things privatized.