Reading about the possibility of determining your direct maternal ancestor, technically called your matrilineal ancestors (actually, ancestresses), via Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing can be discouraging. “Woman don’t have the luxury of carrying their surnames from generation to generation.” “Common ancestors on mtDNA lines tend to be too far back to be of any genealogical use.” “Mitochondrial DNA testing can determine where in history your direct maternal line is from, but finding cousins and common ancestors had best be left to Autosomal DNA testing.” “It is hard to do.” I have spent my life in HARD and DISCOURAGING and IMPROBABLE, so I am not dissuaded.
As a quick primer for this post, if you are not aware of what Mitochondrial DNA is, I recommend you read this post explaining the types of DNA testing on Roberta Estes’ blog DNA-Explained. Roberta Estes has done wonderful work with her own genealogy using DNA, including mtDNA. I am inspired by her work. The FMS (Full Mitochondrial Sequence) level mtDNA test is the most detailed that you can go. I recommend that one for anybody who is truly interested in attempting to use mtDNA in their genealogical research.
In January, as my second installment in the 52 Ancestors series, I wrote about my ancestor Strangeman JOHNSON. The first indication of a marriage for what was most likely him was a marriage bond executed on 6 March 1798 in Rowan County, North Carolina, between a Strangman JOHNSTON and a Mary WHITAKER. The bondsman was Elijah MARLOW. In Rowan County, North Carolina, during the same time period, an Elijah MARLOW married a Patience WHITAKER. I have a theory that Mary WHITAKER and Patience WHITAKER were sisters, but no verification. Strangeman JOHNSON had one daughter named Patience, so that could be an indicator of the validity of my theory.
While I have no conclusions yet about who Mary WHITAKER was, the mtDNA results link her to several other Colonial women. The Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) U5/U5a haplogroup project administrator has proposed this subclade to be U5a1i1a1 (my official result was U5a1) for us. The proposed subclade seems to be quite a small group, with only 11 samples on FTDNA so far (all with a 0 genetic distance from mine) including mine and excluding the duplicates within my own family (e.g., my brother and my son). There is also one with a genetic distance of 1 to me, and an HVR2 match who it seems would also belong in this subclade were he not deceased. We have, then, a total of 13 mtDNA samples in question (an additional two are not replying to emails).
We have proposed ancestries for eleven (two may lead back to the same woman). The Most Distant Known Matrilineal Ancestor (MDKMA) of these genetic matches all dead end in Colonial America (or shortly after), with two primary locations: North Carolina/Virginia/Georgia and Connecticut/New York State. These women are as follows. Please note that I am not showing in-depth information about each line. I am also taking liberties because this study is ongoing and there are pretty much all questions and no answers right now.
1) Mary WHITAKER; b. c. 1770s-1780s, probably Rowan County, North Carolina; d. before 1846 in either North Carolina, Indiana, or somewhere in between. Married Strangeman JOHNSON. This is my MDKMA.
2) Mary “Polly” PATRICK; b. 1791, Rowan County, North Carolina; d. 1874, Madison County, Indiana. Married James William OWINGS.
3) Frances BLEVINS; b. c. 1805, North Carolina; d. aft. 1870, Magoffin County, Kentucky. Married David RIGGS.
4) Charity BARTON; b. 1751 either Rowan County, North Carolina, or Loudon/Stafford County, Virginia; d. 1848, Tennessee. Married John OUSLEY/OWSLEY.
5) Felicia LEWIS; b. unknown; d. 1849, Ashe County, North Carolina. Married Edward KING.
6) Mary Polly ROARK; b. 1785, Ashe County, North Carolina; d. 1870, Kentucky. Married Thaddeus LEWIS. Also probable sister Sarah ROARK, the MDKMA of another of the testers.
7) Mary MCCORD/MCCORKLE; b. 1811, Georgia; d. 1895. Married Ira Harvey CUSHMAN.
8) Mary Delilah LOOMIS; b. 1825, Ohio; d. 1855, Wisconsin. Possibly daughter of Mary Amanda WILSEY/WILTSE who was b. c. 1780 in Columbia County, New York. Mary Delilah LOOMIS m. Lewis Purdy OSGOOD.
9) Susannah WOODRUFF; b. 1772, Orange County, New York; d. not known. Married Horace KETCHUM.
10) Zilpha NEWBERRY; b. 1785, Orange County, New York; d. Lorain County, Ohio. Married Thomas SLY.
I have communicated with one of my HVR2 exact matches whose MDKMA lived in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, and married in Stafford County, Virginia. I have asked my match if she would be willing to upgrade to the mtFull Sequence (FMS) test, and she has agreed.
Let’s look at the map of the general birth, marriage, or residence locations of these ten women. On these maps, green is the earliest suspected or known location for each woman and purple is her last suspected or known location.
The first thing I noticed was a diagonal migration of U5a1i1a1 south along the Appalachian Mountains. This is not out of the ordinary because it correlates with the general migration of many families during the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, it could give us clues on how to find the relationships among the women. More later.
The second thing that I noticed was that there was a congregation of women in Connecticut and New York State and another in Rowan and Ashe Counties, North Carolina. They overlap in time.
Felicia LEWIS in the next image has only one pointer because her birth date and location are unknown. She died in Ashe County, North Carolina, in 1849.
The locations of actual or estimated births are in North Carolina with a few exceptions.
This little table brings up a few questions. For initial simplification, let’s make an assumption that U5a1i1a1 is exclusively Colonial American. We will change that later once we have more data. Perhaps it was one woman, or a couple of sisters. Why the Connecticut/New York and North Carolina separation?
Which of our MDKMAs is our earliest MDKMA? Charity BARTON; b. 1751 either Rowan County, North Carolina, or Loudon/Stafford County, Virginia; d. 1848, Tennessee. Married John OUSLEY/OWSLEY. Charity may have had at least one child born in Rowan County, North Carolina. Her marriage could have been in either location. It all depends on who you ask.
An undocumented ancestry of Zilpha NEWBERRY is as follows:
• NEWBERRY, Zilpha; b 1785; She was born in Orange Co,NY and she lived in Ohio and NY, until her death in East Henrietta, Lorain Co., OH
• Maybe the daugher of BENEDICT, Jemima; b 1749; Fairfield County, Connecticut; d 1843; Bellvale, Orange County, New York
• Maybe the daugher of BLACKMAN, Mary; b 1720; Fairfield County, Connecticut; d 1757; Orange County, New York
• Maybe the daugher of HURLBUT/HURLBURT, Jemima; b 1680; Litchfield County, Connecticut; d 1757; Westport, Fairfield County, Connecticut
• Maybe the daugher of BROWN, Mary; b abt 1655; Farmington, Hartford County, Connecticut; d abt 1714; Woodbury, Connecticut – NOTE: Only [known] child of Adrea (below)
• Maybe the daugher of CORLET?, Adrea; b unknown ; d abt 1655; m. Farmington, Hartford County, Connecticut to the Francis BROWN from Stamford, Connecticut
I show this because the descendant of Zilpha NEWBERRY has a genetic distance of one to the rest of the U5a1i1a1 group. It will be interesting to see if this has influence on the relationships between Zilpha NEWBERRY and the other MDKMAs. It looks like Zilpha NEWBERRY’s ancestresses may have all been in Connecticut and New York State from the mid-17th Century, at least.
Back to Charity BARTON. She did live in Rowan County, North Carolina, and also in Virginia. From the information given to me from her descendant, I don’t yet feel comfortable with the location of her birth. Either way, she is said to have died in the Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee (Claiborne County).
That is as far as I’ve gotten at this point. Okay, yes it is HARD. But it is not impossible. And it shall be done. When, I don’t know. But it shall be done.