Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Genealogy Gratitude

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and at our dinner table we will each share what we are grateful for from the past year. Your family may have a similar tradition.

With that in mind, I want to share what about genealogy I am grateful for:

1. First, foremost, ever most important - my Family!  As a new wife almost 40 years ago, sorting out my living family was what peaked my interest in genealogy. Both my parents were products of blended families and had step siblings and half siblings galore. Then, our parents instilled in us the habit of calling any of their relatives from their generation as "Aunt" and "Uncle" as a sign of respect. Sorting out the cousins from all the blended siblings was my first task.

Also, my family continues to support my obsession in many ways. They've traveled with me to cemeteries and ancestral lands. They have proof read the family histories. They help me scan and capture old photos. They listen to my frustration when the research isn't going well. They have helped me break through some brick walls. But most importantly, they continue to share the family stories with me. Ones that I have forgotten or happened after I left home.


2. - In 1938 the Genealogical Society of Utah began to microfilm records which contained genealogical data from around the world. Most of that microfilm is now digitized and being indexed. This makes it possible to sit at my desk in Medina and search vital rcords in Sicily. THAT is cool! Just last week I used their site to track down probate records that proved the parentage of a man born in 1819 in Perry County, Ohio. It is my preferred search site.

THANK YOU TO FAMILYSEARCH.ORG! - this site relies on volunteers who photograph the tombstones and detail the graves in cemeteries around the world. If I want a quick way to track down a death date for someone, I go here first. It isn't perfect or complete. The death usually had to happen within the last 150 years for the tombstones to be readable. Not every cemetery has been canvased and even within a cemetery, not every tombstone has been photographed. Volunteers can add obituary and family information. CAUTION: This would not be considered primary source information. Verify what you find in other documents. Sometimes, the volunteers are not willing to change information they have uploaded, even when it is proved to be wrong.


4. Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) - This the library edition of the popular commercial database, It gives me access to the best parts of the subscription database without having to pay the monthly fees. I just have to access it at the library, which is one of my favorite places to be anyway! I prefer using ALE to access census records and directories. I will look at the family trees that have been uploaded, but I have found so many errors in them that I analyze them carefully. I only use what information can be verified in other records.


5. Connecting to distant cousins.. Between online sharing, Facebook and old-fashioned letter writing for genealogy research, I have connected to cousins as far away as England and as near as 10 miles down the road. I have not yet met the British cousins, or the Tennessee, Texas or Alabama cousins, but I just ran into the Medina cousin again at the Candlelight Walk this weekend. We knew each other through another group we both belong to for two years before we discovered we are indeed, cousins. Fifth cousins once removed to be exact. Hello Sharon!



6. Newspaper research. I love the little life details you can find in newspapers. Did you know that my 3X great grandfather was considered quite the storyteller in his local GAR group (Civil War veterans' organization)? I found that out in a newspaper article! My Uncle Jack regularly appeared in the local paper due to his top bowling scores. Another newspaper article! I covered the best online newspaper resources in a previous post: Newspaper articles 

So, this busy Thanksgiving Day when you are counting all of your life blessings, include some of your genealogical gold nuggets!



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Great War

It was called the Great War and the War to End All Wars. But that was before we started numbering "The Great Wars". Now it is known as World War I. And it gave birth to Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, when at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, all the guns went silent.

Courtney Lawrence

And Medina sent its share of boys to that war, to the trenches in France, and the gas bombed fields of Europe. Courtney Lawrence was the first to fall. Medina's American Legion Post is called the Courtney Lawrence Post in his honor. A residential street in Medina is named for him. But he was just the first.

In all, almost 500 Medina boys and men went into World War I. 42 never came back.

They wrote letters back home, some of which were published in the Medina Gazette. Boys like Lawrence Dole who wrote about arriving in England, Clarence Gardner  who was in the signal corps at Wright Aviation Field, or  Franklin Clark who went to flying school in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Today, we are going to talk about one of the heroes of the war, a young 17 year old boy from Leroy, named Leland Wright. I happened across an editorial on his service, entitled "A Real Hero. Leroy Lad in Rainbow Division Fought on Six Fronts" in the June 6th 1919 Medina Gazette on page 4. The names of the battles he fought in are meaningless to me, as they probably would be to most of you. He talks about seeing hard fighting at Champagne and losing 150 men "under the fire of the fiendish Germans" Next they moved to Chateau Thierry and lost 100 more men. He was wounded here, but they were so short of men that he "endured the pain, fixed himself up and so avoid reporting for a sick or wounded call." The need was so great.

Next, at Oureq, they lost 50 men. The spent their furlough (leave or vacation) at the St. Mihiel front with "the loss of only 50 men." At the Argonne-Meuse front they lost 25 men. They then went to the Sedan front and they lost 175 men.

He relates, "Our numbers were becoming less each day and the horror of it all was but a passing thought then -- we were too busy to grieve."

Leland, or Lee, as he was sometimes known, came home and restarted his life. In the 1920 census, he is listed as still living with his parents and was a farmer. He married and started having a family. In the 1930 census he is listed as a "junk dealer" at a wrecking yard. By the time the next census came around, Leland was dead, having succumbed in March of 1940. His death notice is extremely brief and to the point "Died -- at his home in Creston, on Saturday, March 9, Lee Wright, aged 40 years."

I'd like to know what he died of at the age of 40. Was it related to the wound he received in WWI? Had he been gassed, as so many were? Was it related to post-traumatic stress, that wasn't really recognized yet? Or was it some more "natural" cause?

His tombstone is listed here; Tombstone Listing
A simple plaque marks Leland's grave

My co-worker Lisa was able to find Leland's death certificate on the FamilySearch web site by looking under his nickname, Lee Wright.

He died of a pulmonary abscess with acute pulmonary hemorrhage.
He had been treated at a Veteran's hospital which could indicate it
was related to  his service.
It was NOT tuberculosis.

Leland was not the only Wright in the area that was called up for World War I. Milton Wright, nephew of the famous Wright brothers, was drafted from the Akron area. Orville felt so strongly about his nephew not serving that he appeared in front of the draft board pleading that his nephew be exempted from serving. He is reported to have said, "If he is not exempted, I will find a place for him where he will not have to serve in a military capacity."

At first, the request for exemption succeeded on the grounds that young Milton was a married man, having married since registration day. But it caused quite a stir with "200 men and women stormed the headquarters of local draft board" in protest. After the protest the chairman of the draft board said he did not understand the action of the board and said "he would send no more married men to camp from his board until Wright has been certified for service." The decision was reversed a few days later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Medina Library's Resources on Veteran's & Military Service

In honor of Veterans Day, and because military records are some of my favorite records to research, I am highlighting the Medina Library's Resources on Military Service records.

  • Index to the Ohio Union Civil War Roster of Soldiers
  • Ohio Union Civil War Roster of Soldiers
  • Veteran's Graves in Medina County Cemeteries from the Revolutionary War to World War I
  • Medina County, Ohio 1890 Union Civil War Veterans or their Widows*

  • 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  • Index to the WPA Medina County "Cemetery Plots for Veterans" Book
  • Korean War Era Casualties 1950-1958
  • Medina After the Civil War (2 vols.)
  • Medina Boys, Union Veterans the G.A.R. of Medina 1880-1890
  • Medina County Civil War Roster as Published in the 1881 Baskin & Battey History of Medina County and Ohio
  • Medina County Women of the Military (2 vols.)
  • Medina County Ohio Civil War Veterans
  • Medina in World War II
  • Reminiscences of the War (Civil War)
  • Revolutionary Soldiers' Graves, located in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Medina County
  • Veterans Buried in Medina County
    • Volume 1 - Revolutionary War
    • Volume 2 - War of 1812
  • World War II in Medina County, Ohio
  • Young American Patriots - the Youth of Ohio in WWII

  • Battery H 1st Ohio Light Artillery in Virginia 1864-1865
  • Index to the Grave Records of Servicemen of the War of 1812 State of Ohio
  • Index to Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War with Spain
  • Official Roster III Soldiers of the American Revolution Who Lived in the State of Ohio
  • Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War with Spain (and separate index)
  • Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines World War 1917-1918 (23 vols.)
  • Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War with Mexico 1846-1848
  • Ohio War of 1812 Soldiers Family Groups
  • The Revolution on the Upper Ohio 1775-1777
  • Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812
  • Veterans Hall of Fame - Ohio's Heroes of History
And when you are searching for military service information, don't forget to try the Family Search web site (free, anywhere) and Ancestry Library Edition (free from inside any of the Medina Libraries)

The Medina Library does not have any resources on foreign military service or veterans.

Part of the display that honors Cathy Owen, Medina County
Veteran of the Year!
Come up to the second floor of the library to see the full display.
Every November, I invite a military organization to put a display in the cabinets outside the Franklin Sylvester Genealogy Room.  This month, I am very proud to say that we are highlighting the Medina County Women of the Military. This group is very unique in that invites all women of any military branch to join. We have members from the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Civil Air Patrol and Air Force. They have published two books on the experiences of women who have served, and are working on the third.
If you are a woman who lives or works in Medina County and you served or are serving in the military, please consider joining. Their Facebook page is:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I learned....

The Ohio Genealogical Society Library near Bellville, Ohio
just a few miles off I-71.
Every year in October the Ohio Genealogical Society offers an all-day seminar for genealogy librarians. We get to network with other like minded library staff, tour the library facilities and most important of all, discover new genealogical techniques and resources. On October 16th Lisa and I attended the 13th Annual Genealogy Librarians Seminar. We had a very good time and learned a lot!

Here are some highlights:

Tom Neel, the OGS librarian, talked about Naturalization Records. Lisa and I have worked with
Tom Neel, Librarian at the
Ohio Genealogical Society Library
naturalization records before, but Tom's talk took us in deeper than our own research had ever required of us.  Facts:
  • Naturalization was not required, unless the immigrant wanted to vote or buy land. I suspect buying land was more of an incentive than voting.
  • Prior to 1920, most applicants were men. Their wives and children's citizenship status followed whatever he was. If a native born American woman married an "alien" immigrant, she became an alien resident. In 1920, women won the right to vote, so they had to change that law.
  • Colonial citizenship only required an "oath of allegiance" to whoever was in power, mostly like the King.
  • In 1776, all white male residents of became citizens of the new-born United States of America, if they wanted to. But for many years, only white males who owned land could vote.
  • Residency requirements changed over time:
    • Prior to 1795 you had to be a resident for 5 years.
    • Starting in 1795, you had to be a resident for 3 years.
    • In 1824, the law was changed so you had to be a resident for 2 years.
  • Different paperwork was filed:
    • First paper- declaration of intent. Many immigrants were encouraged to file these as soon as possible.
    • Second papers - Petition for naturalization - were filed in court.
    • Certificate of citizenship was issued to the immigrant and would remain in the immigrant's possession.
  • Naturalization papers could be filed in any court of law. In Ohio:
    • Prior to 1852 could be filed in the county court of common pleas or the Ohio Supreme Court.
    • In 1852, the probate courts were formed and they took over most of the applications for naturalization. These papers would be on file with the Clerk of Courts.
    • The "packets" of naturalization papers are on file at the National Archives Regional Offices. For Ohio, that is in Chicago, Illinois.

Gwen Mayer giving a Haunted
Hudson Tour. Gwen's eyes make
her look possessed.

Next, Gwen Mayer from the Hudson Library and Historical Society talked about genealogy programming at her library. She works with their genealogical society and between them they offer TWO genealogy programs a month! She had a lot of GREAT ideas that we hope to implement in the coming months. I don't want to ruin the surprise, so I won't give any details here. And alas! Our staffing levels will  not permit us to offer two programs a month...

Then, Lisa Long of the Ohio History Connection talked about Ohio's State Hospitals and 
Athens State Hospital, closed in 1993.
Known to thousands of Ohio University students as 
"The Ridges."
Developmental Centers. These are the hospitals for people with mental illnesses, epilepsy or developmental disabilities. Most of us have at least one or more ancestors who needed to be hospitalized in one of these institutions. She covered the history of the legislation that created the hospitals and that also still protects the records. Many of the hospital records have been turned over to the Ohio History Connection, but can only be released to the deceased patient's closest living relative for a $25 fee. Case files, the detailed daily record of treatment and progress, are destroyed 10 years after the patient's release from care. Some documentation of patients' lives can be found in public records, such as:
  • Death records
  • Census records showing the "inmates" living at the hospital at the time of the census.
  • County home registers.
  • The DDD census schedule taken in 1880, that lists the deaf, dumb and disabled.
  • Newspaper reports
  • Institutional cemeteries. Toledo & Athens have online listings: and 
  • County Histories
  • Ohio Laws
  • Probate records - it is up to each probate judge whether to provide access to these records. I have luckily found several for my ancestors.
The last presentation was named "Its Electric: Publicizing Your Archival Collections Using EAD FACTORy" by Amy Dawson of Cleveland Public Library. I will admit it. Amy was talking way over my head at the beginning, using jargon and acronyms that I didn't understand. But once we got some definitions, I enjoyed her talk. Basically, she was talking about how to use the open source software, EAD FACTORy to produce finding aids for your digital or archival collections.

An Edris Eckhardt Alice in Wonderland
figurine created by WPA artists, like what
the Medina Library owns.

For example, the Medina Library owns a set of Edris Eckhardt ceramic statues. But unless you talked to me, you would never know it. But with this software we could create a finding aid that would be added to the library's catalog of materials. Then anyone who searched for Edris Eckhardt in the catalog would find out that the Medina Library owns some of her work and that it is in storage. I hope that we are able to use these tools for our collection in the near future.

While you may not be a candidate for the Annual OGS Librarian's Seminar, you should be checking out what classes and programs your local genealogical society or local library is offering to enhance your genealogical research skills!

And I want to thank everyone who lets me know that the blog is appreciated and valuable. Most of you contact me via email, FB or personally. It is nice to know that you are out there! THANKS!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Research Problem

Purported picture of William Preston Williams
from the Gallia CountyGenealogical Society
 web site.  No one can tell me the source of the photo,
so it will not be included in my application.

William Preston Williams is my 2X great grandfather. He enlisted in the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry during the Civil War. It is through him that I joined the Civil War Families of Gallia County and will be joining the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio next spring.

It is through his father, John Williams, that I believe I qualify for First Families of Ohio. John Williams came to Gallia County circa 1806-1810. Here is the problem:

I need to prove that William Preston Williams (1839-1910) is the son of John Williams (1796-1880). The only source that I have that links William Preston and John Williams is the 1882 History of Gallia County by H.H. Hardesty.

The biographical sketch of William's brother, Elijah Williams, states:
"His father, John Williams, was born February 20, 1796, and was one of the first settlers of this township (Guyan), enduring may privations... Louisa T. (Sartin) Williams, the mother of Elijah, was born April 20, 1803, and died November 19, 1876. Mr. Williams had three brothers in the late war. John S. Williams enlisted for three years, and, after serving two years, he died of measles; William P. and James H. Williams both served three years, and the latter died in the hospital at Washington after the war had closed."  History of Gallia County, H.H. Hardesty, 1882.

The Ohio Genealogical Society does not consider the biographical sketches in the 19th century histories as evidence, and for good reason. The sketches were paid for by the subject of the sketch and usually represents a sanitized view of what they could remember of their family history.

  • His death record does list his parents, with a wrong last name for his mother. Death records are not considered a primary source for a birth record. The person giving the information, most often an adult child, would NOT have first person knowledge of the individual's birth. This record needs to be combined with other records to prove the relationship.
  • His marriage record does not list his parents
  • There are no government issued birth records in Ohio prior to 1867.
  • 1850-1860 census records do not list relationship between members of a household
  • By 1870 & 1880 William P. Williams is in his own household.
  • No will or estate record has been found for John Williams or William Williams in the county records
  • Even his Civil War Pension records do not list his parents.
William P. Williams death certificate #31993.   Notice his mother's name is given as "Lucy Pillman".
The information is given by Ann Johnson, William's sister.
SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics

Excerpt from the 1870 Census for Guyan Township, Gallia County, Ohio, showing William P. Williams living right next door to John & Lucy Williams. Note that it does not mention relationships between people in the same household.
SOURCE: Ancestry Library Edition

Marriage record of Willam P. Williams and Rebecca Tagg, dated 12 March 1869. No parents are listed.
SOURCE: Gallia County Marriage Records, Court of Common Pleas

Excerpt from 1850 Census for Guyan Township, Gallia County, Ohio, showing William Williams listed with John &
Lucinda Williams. Note that it does not list their relationship.
SOURCE: Ancestry Library Edition

There were five John Williams in Gallia County at the time of William's birth. And to complicate matters further, he is not the only William Preston Williams to live in Gallia County, Ohio during this period. In the 1830's the area had an influx of Welsh settlers that included a number of WILLIAMS families. Luckily, the other William Preston Williams is too young to have been my ancestor. Oh, and the family tree on Ancestry has the WRONG William Preston Williams in the 1900 census.
My last place to search: Land Records.

Several months ago, I had ordered the indexes to the land records of Gallia County from the website. They had come in and I was slowly going through them. My father's family had settled in Gallia county from 1810 through 1870's. As long as I have the index, I wanted to check for all of his family lines. And with names like Williams, Johnson and Barry, there are a LOT of records to go through. Luckily, I had finished the Williams surname and so when I went to Gallia County for the Lineage Banquet/Research Trip, I had the volume and page numbers of the records I wanted to copy.


Note the second line where the arrow is. It lists William P. Williams and his wife Rebecca Tagg. The fourth line
states "the heirs at law of John Williams. The date of the document is 5 December 1881. John Williams died
26 February 1880. He didn't leave a will and no estate record has been found.
Deed Records of Gallia County, Vol 50, pages 141-142.

So there it is! Proof positive that William P. Williams, husband of Rebecca, is "an heir at law" of John Williams. 

Once I get all the paperwork filled out, I will be sending in my application for First Families of Ohio!!


BTW, if you want read an interesting article on the latest information on Neanderthals and how advanced they were, check out the February 2015 copy of Scientific American. I am interested in Neanderthals ever since I learned I have 1.8% Neanderthal DNA!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lineage Society Banquet and Research Trip

Gallipolis City Park, on the Ohio River
About 3 times the size of Medina's park on the Square.
Beautiful and relaxing!
You may remember my excitement when my application was accepted ford the Civil War Families of Gallia County several months ago. I talked about it in these posts:
The Lineage Society Banquet was on October 10th in Gallipolis. About 50 members and their families gathered to enjoy the great food and attend the induction ceremony. But the best part was meeting the genealogical society leaders and the other inductees. I was seated with a great group of people that willingly shared the stories of their ancestors. If it wasn't for the 4 hour drive, I would attend every year!

Other attending Civil War Inductees
Receiving my certificate and lapel pin. 

The Certificate and Lapel Pin.

But since it IS a four hour drive, I combined the banquet with a research trip. Here is what I did:

Prior to leaving:
  • Made a list of information I wanted to find.
  • Made a list of where to find that information
  • Checked the hours of operation for the institutions I needed to visit.
  • Checked the weather
  • Printed Ancestor charts & Family Group Sheets for families in the area
Day One:
  • Visited the first cemetery on my list - Maddy Cemetery - Success! I found my grandfather's tombstone. As I was only 4 years old when he died, I had never been before. I wasn't even sure he had a tombstone.
  • Visited the second cemetery on my list - Good Hope - Success! I found my paternal grandmother's tombstone and also most of her family. The WILLIAMS family had donated the land for the church and cemetery.
  • Found a possible link to my missing half brother.
  • Got lost trying to locate 3rd cemetery on my list - Steward Chapel. And when you get lost in the hills of southern Ohio, you really get lost!!
  • After dinner, I visited the library and checked the resources on my list - partial success. The sources were there, but didn't always have the information I wanted. Did find a clue to a possible father for my 3X great grandfather, John WILLIAMS.
Kudzu has taken over this meadow and is encroaching on the gravel road.
Along with wild turkeys, this what I did find when I got lost looking for
Stewart Chapel Cemetery.

Day Two:
  • Visited the courthouse for marriage, estate and land records:
    Gallia County Court Hose
    • 1 marriage record not found - Success! (That is a good thing when you are trying to prove that your grandfather didn't marry a second woman and commit bigamy!)1 marriage record found - Success!
    • Estate records in index. Courthouse staff recommended the Genealogical Society.
    • Land records - found & copied - Success!!
  • Visited the Genealogical Society, which is right around the corner from the courthouse.
    • Copied several estate records
    • Determined they didn't have any pertinent family histories.
    • Bought a book needed for my personal library.
    • Learned how to pronounce Gallipolis! galla - POlice! 
    • Neglected to check lineage files for useful information.
  • LUNCH! at a nearby sports bar
  • Returned to the courthouse for additional estate record. It wasn't the one I needed. But I helped another researcher use the estate indexes!
Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library

  • Returned to the library for a possible obituary. Not found!
  • Went to health department for 1 death record and 2 birth records
    • Photographed the death record and 1 birth record. Second birth record not found.
  • Returned to the hotel to evaluate results. I found:
    • I now have the proof I need for First Families of Gallia County and Ohio in the land records! (More on that next week!)
    • Found married names of a number of daughters in the estate records.
    • Search for missing half brother goes on. The lead didn't pan out.
    • Found a truly sad family story. My grandmother's brother was suicidal and was committed to the Athen's State Hospital for about a year. His uncle was already a patient there. A young man of about 20, he was depressed because of being diabetic and a troubling love life. He died less than 10 years later from his diabetes.

Grandmother Stella Belle Barry Rose Johnson
Day three:
  • Returned to the second cemetery, Good Hope, and brought flowers to my grandmother's grave.
  • Found the third cemetery - Stewart Chapel - at the end of a steep, windy, dirt/gravel/mud lane! Success! Brought flowers to my 3X great grandparents gaves, Othey & Emily Swain. She is the ancestress who was supposed to be 3/4 Cherokee.
  • Stopped by the church hall where the banquet was being held to see if the ladies needed any help setting up. They had finished and left.
  • Returned to the hotel to type up some notes and get ready for the banquet.

Grandpa Johnson's tombstone. Nellie was
never his wife. That is the marriage
record I didn't find!

Day four:
  • Returned to Maddy Cemetery and brought flowers to my grandfather's grave.
  • Returned home.
Day five - ???
  • Organize and input all the new data!  Still working on that!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

DNA Testing, continued

Sequoyah, who created a written language for the
Cherokee people. He is definitely  NOT in my

Last week we took a look at what DNA testing in my family failed to turn up. Namely, it did not show any of the Native American DNA that family lore tells we have. I haven't given up on the family lore yet. As more people get tested and they refine their methodology, something still could show up.

What was equally fascinating was some surprises in our DNA. My test came back 5% Scandinavian. This was surprising because going back 200+ years, we have no known Scandinavian ancestors. So what could it be??


Promotional photo from the popular TV show Vikings, which I have to
admit, I have never watched.

We all know how the Vikings raided the British Isles and most of northern Europe. Surely, that accounts for the Scandinavian DNA!

Impact of the Viking Raids


According to this article in a 18 March 2015 edition of The Guardian the Vikings did not leave a genetic impact on the populations they raided. Interesting, right?

It gets more interesting. 

My older brother's DNA test revealed 19% Scandinavian ancestry.

And my younger sister's DNA shows a whopping 39% Scandinavian!! That is over a third of her DNA!!


The truth is, I don't know what is going on here....yet.

But here are some possibilities:
  1. Scandinavian families are hiding in our ancestry, just under westernized or Americanized names.
  2. Our KINIKIN ancestors are actually Dutch, not German. The Dutch are considered Scandanavian. (Our great grandmother's maiden name was KINIKIN. We have traced them back to Delaware in the 1700's.)
  3. The tests could be inaccurate.
Judy Russell, of The Legal Genealogist Blog, again had something to say about that last point in this post

And just because I know that someone out there is thinking it -- YES, we are full siblings! The DNA tests do confirm that. We share the exact amount of DNA that is expected of full siblings!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DNA Testing Results

At the end of summer, my family took advantage of the reduced pricing on DNA testing from Family Tree DNA to get some more individuals tested. As Judy Russell of the Legal Genealogist Blog says "Test. Test as broadly and as deeply in your family as you can afford to test."

Both of my daughters now have been tested and two of my seven siblings also have been tested.

And it has been fascinating to see what the tests have revealed as well as what they haven't revealed.

I first became interested in DNA testing to help with a particular brick wall I have. Family lore tells us that my Great Great Grandmother, Emeline (ARTIS) SWAIN was three-quarters Cherokee. When I first starting researching my family history I interviewed relatives who knew Emily before she died and they all swore she was 3/4 Cherokee. And everyone pointed to my siblings with straight dark hair, brown eyes and darker complexions as evidence.

But no matter how much I searched, I couldn't find any written records that would corroborate  the story.

Emily Artis, on right, with her husband
 Otha Swain. Circa 1890's.

Emily's parents were Stephen ARTIS and Mary WALKER. The couple married in Montgomery County Maryland in 1829 and Stephen was in a militia unit for Washington DC in the War of 1812.  They have not been located in the 1830 census. Sometime around 1830-1835 they moved to Ohio, where Emily was born. Stephen reputedly died in 1837, but of course no death record exists for him. Mary is found in the 1840 and 1850 census with minor children. Searching in probate, land records and the DAWES Rolls for Cherokee connections have failed to turn anything up.

So, DNA testing to the rescue, right?? Maybe, maybe not. If Emeline was 3/4 Cherokee, as her Great, great granddaughter, I would be 3/64 Cherokee or slightly less than 5% Cherokee. That IS enough to show up on most DNA tests.


If everyone got exactly half of their DNA equally distributed from each of their parents. But DNA is much more interesting and tricky than that. You do get half of your DNA from each of your parents, but what half you get is pretty much up to nature.

And I apparently didn't get any of the Cherokee DNA from Emeline. My DNA results came back 100% European. Which wasn't too surprising, as I am fair complected and have blue eyes, like my mother's side of the family. But what about my brown eyed, brown haired siblings??

My first sibling to be tested was my oldest brother. He has the dark hair and dark eyes associated with our "Cherokee" ancestry. But his DNA results came back 100% European also. Puzzling...

One positive outcome was that we found out from his Y-DNA testing that our paternal JOHNSON's came from northwestern Ireland! We had no idea the Johnson line was Irish! Needless to say, we have not yet traced them back to the Emerald Isle. (Our farthest back Johnson was born in Kentucky in 1792.

My other sibling tested was a younger sister. She has hazel eyes and dark auburn hair. She seems to be a thorough mix of our parents - dark eyed, dark haired Dad and fair haired and green eyed Mother. Surely, with such a clear mixture of our parents, that Cherokee DNA would show up!?!


She came back 100% European too!

So that is where we stand right now. No DNA evidence of Cherokee or Native American ancestry.

Does that mean the family lore is wrong?  Not necessarily. Remember that it is pure chance which of your ancestral DNA you inherit. We could get all of my siblings tested and none of them show up with Native American ancestry and it still wouldn't mean the family story is wrong.


Not all DNA testing companies test the same chromosomes when they run their tests. And not all DNA testing companies use the same reference DNA to compare your DNA to. What do I mean by reference DNA?

That is their core DNA samples from around the world that they use to compare their users DNA. Because of the expense involved, they tend to focus their DNA samples on the presumed demographic of the people they think will buy their tests. So it is heavily weighted towards western European DNA. And not so much less numerous peoples.

Also, the test results are estimates based on what a formula each company has. And it can only compare DNA results with people living today. They are NOT comparing our DNA to people who lived a hundred or two hundred years ago. You know... our ancestors.

Judy Russell of the Legal Genealogist blog explains in much better in her September 2013 post here:
DNA Disappointment.

Next week I will talk about what the DNA tests did reveal...