Monday, June 23, 2014

Can DNA Point to One Ancestor?

This is an open-ended blog post with questions. However, this scenario shows how X-chromosome matches in 23andMe can possibly pinpoint one ancestor as being the connection to a DNA match.

Lisa, a new DNA match in 23andMe, shares DNA with me, my father, and five Ealy-Kennedy cousins. The range is from 16 to 39 cM. She is a predicted 4th cousin to my father and me, with whom she shares 18 cM across 1 segment. Lisa also shares DNA across two segments with three of us. All seven of us are direct descendants of my great-great-grandparents, Bob & Jane Ealy and Lucy Kennedy (and the white father of Lucy's childrenof Leake County, Mississippi. Three children of Bob & Jane Ealy married three of Lucy Kennedy’s children, and we all descend from one of those three Ealy-Kennedy couples.

What makes this match to Lisa even more interesting is because she also shares segments on the X chromosome with two of us. Lisa shares 18.8 cM on the X with my cousin Violet and 39.1 cM on the X with my cousin Christopher, an adoptee. We know that Christopher descends from one of the three Ealy-Kennedy couples via his unknown maternal grandfather, but we don’t know how, yet. (See "Help Us Find Christopher's Birth Mother.") Christopher also shares X-DNA with Violet and our cousin Nenise. See the following comparisons:


Utilizing the female X inheritance chart, I was able to deduce that Lisa is related through either of the following two ancestors:

Jane Parrott Ealy, who contributed up to 25% to Violet’s X-DNA, or
Lucy Kennedy, who contributed up to 12.5% to Violet’s X-DNA.

I checked the chromosome view in 23andMe, and both of Lisa's two X-chromosomes are 100% West African. Therefore, Lisa’s matching segment on the X with Violet came from ancestors of African descent. Lucy Kennedy was “mulatto,” born to an enslaved African-American mother (Jennie) and an unknown white father. A deceased family elder recalled family members saying how she "looked like a white woman." She inherited her X-chromosomes from her Black mother (50%) and from her white father (50%).

Therefore, my questions are the following:

Since Lucy Kennedy was “mulatto,” does that lessen the chance that the matching X-DNA segment came from her?

Does the amount of Lisa’s X-DNA sharing with Violet and Christopher (18.8 & 39.1 cM) negate Lucy because she possibly contributed so little (0 to 6.125%) African DNA to Violet’s X-DNA?

Does this DNA analysis point to Jane? Your feedback is greatly welcomed.

Presently, Lisa doesn’t know of anyone in her family being from Leake County, Mississippi. Her paternal roots are from Rapides, Avoyelles, and Allen Parishes, Louisiana. Her maternal roots, of which she knows very little, hailed from Oktibbeha, Winston, Holmes, and Sunflower Counties, Mississippi. Coincidentally (or not), Jim Parrott (born c. 1834), who I strongly believe was Jane’s brother, moved to Holmes County before 1900 with his wife and large family. Hopefully, she and I can figure out the connection soon.

Lessons that I am learning from feedback of this post:

(1) Even though one female is mulatto, she could have passed her predominantly African segment down to a child in its entirety or she may have passed down a mixed mostly African X, that when recombined in the next generation, became a wholly African X. Also, 39 cM only comes out to about 0.57%, so it is definitely possible for that amount to have come from someone from whom you can inherit up to 6%. (Lisa Landrum)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Got Roots in Madagascar?

UPDATE 12/3/2014: A new match with the surname Ramalanjaona recently appeared in my father's 23andMe DNAR. He shares 10 cM with my father with a predicted relationship of 5th cousins. On his profile, he indicated that he is Malagasy. He has confirmed that both of his parents are from Madagascar; they migrated to America in the 70s. This DNA match to a Malagasy is great evidence that my father had an ancestor from Madagascar! Mr. Ramalanjaona matches on one of the Southeast Asian segments on Dad's chromosome 12, thereby confirming that SE Asian ancestry is a great indicator of Malagasy ancestry.


I tell ya! DNA never ceases to amaze me! Both my mother and father’s X-DNA analyses have been rather revealing, indicating other ancestral ethnicities in my DNA. I wrote this blog post back in October 2013 about my mother’s X-chromosome. Could it be that I had ancestors from Southeast Africa (Mozambique/Madagascar) on my father’s side? 

Several years ago, I read a post on the AfriGeneas African-Native American Genealogy Forum board of someone seeking information on the “Matagascan/Malagascan/Matogascan Creek Indians” because family lore claimed that her great-great-grandmother was from this “Indian” tribe. Another poster commented, “My mother's father always described his mother as being a full blooded Malagaskan Indian woman with long black hair down her back.” I even found a slave narrative of a man who also claimed this heritage. James Brittain of Mississippi relayed the following in his slave narrative about his grandmother:

"My grandma came from Virginia . . . When my grandma died she was one hundred and ten years old. She said she was a Molly Gasca negro. That was the race she belonged to. She sure did look different from any the rest of us. Her hair it was fine as silk and hung down below her waist. The folks said Old Miss was jealous of her and Old Master. I don't know how that was." (Source)

Immediately, I began to associate the name “Malagascan” and “Molly Gasca” with Madagascar, an island located 250 miles off the southeastern African coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. Being one of the largest islands in the world, Madagascar is roughly the size of Texas. The sounds of the names were almost phonetically identical. Shortly afterwards, I coincidentally conversed with another researcher at an event in Atlanta who told me that she has oral history of an ancestor being brought to America from Madagascar. To add, another poster in the AfriGeneas African-Native American Genealogy Forum soon wrote, “He (an elderly cousin) told the story of my ggg-grandfather who was from a royal family of Madagascar Africa that was taken as a slave out of Madagascar Africa on a slave ship.” A third poster also recounted oral history of her ancestor being brought to Virginia from Madagascar. A fourth researcher named Monifaa also communicated the following, “My mom's oldest brother has alleged to me that my ggg-grandmother was captured by slavers from the island of Madagascar and sold to cotton plantation owners in North Carolina.” Researcher Tracey Hughes discusses the discovery of her Madagascar ancestor in her blog post. It became evident that some African Americans had personal knowledge of Madagascar ancestry.

In Exchanging Our Country Mark, Michael Gomez wrote about the connection between "Madagascar Negroes" to Virginia; a small number of them were imported into Virginia during the early years of the transatlantic slave trade (p. 41). Gomez also describes how those particular Africans were "yellowish" in complexion and had hair like a "Madagascar's." Madagascar’s inhabitants are called the Malagasy people, and they speak a language by that name. Sources note that many of the Malagasy people possessed light skin and facial features very akin to people in Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Many others possessed darker skin and curly hair. Geneticists have determined that all of the Malagasy people descend from ancestors from Africa, as well as from Asia, specifically Borneo (Source). Then, it made clear sense to me that as time passed in America, Africans from Madagascar were believed to be “Indians” or “Black Indians”.

My interest further peaked in learning how Africans from Madagascar were transported to this side of the Atlantic Ocean. I had thought that the African ancestors of African-Americans were primarily from West and West-Central Africa, an Atlantic coastal region stretching from Senegal to Angola. Do I too have roots from Madagascar? Based on transatlantic slave trade statistics, the chances seemed small but possible; less than 5 percent of enslaved Africans imported into North America were from Madagascar.

Historians discovered more specific numbers, albeit small in number. Enslaved Malagasy Africans first arrived into the West Indies, Massachusetts, and New York, beginning in the 1670’s. The trade was stopped in 1698 by action of Parliament but resumed in 1716. From 1719 to 1725, only more than 1,000 enslaved Malagasy Africans were disembarked into Virginia through the Rappahannock and York River ports. More specifically, the Madagascar human imports into Virginia included the following:

     May 18 1719; Vessel - Prince Eugene; 340 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     May 17, 1720; Vessel - Mercury; 466 Africans; Port of Entry – Rappahannock River
     May 21, 1721; Vessel - Gascoigne; 133 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     June 21, 1721; Vessel - Prince Eugene; 103 Africans: Port of Entry – York River
     June 26, 1721; Vessel - Snow Rebecca; 59 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     June 27, 1727; Vessel - Henrietta; 130 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
        (Source: Virginia Slave-Trade Statistics 1698-1775 by Minchinton, King, and Waite)


Recently, 23andMe started providing their customers with more details about their ancestry composition. As I studied my father’s results, I realized that his ancestry composition was updated to include 0.8% East African. Initially, I didn’t think much of it since the percentage was low. However, I noticed two things of great significance: (1) Very few people with African ancestry had East African ancestry in their 23andMe ancestry composition, and (2) all of my father’s 0.8% East African ancestry fell on his X-chromosome; it comprises about a whopping third of his X-chromosome! See below. 23andMe describes East African ancestry as follows:


Since my father’s DNA indicates East African ancestry, in conjunction with Southeast Asian ancestry, I revisited the question: Do I too have roots from Madagascar?  It appears so, when I learned more about the dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade, and especially since most of my father’s enslaved ancestors in Mississippi were born in Virginia and North Carolina. After viewing my father’s results, Teresa Vega, a researcher of Madagascar genetic genealogy, explained, “The Southeast Asian component, along with East Africa and South Africa, practically confirms it. Plus, Madagascar slaves were imported into Virginia. So, the chances are pretty high.”



Since all of my father’s East African ancestry are on his X-chromosome, this ancestry comes from his birth mother, Gertrude Belton, who was born near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Males inherit their X-chromosome from their mothers. X-DNA matches and segments are great because the X-chromosome can only be passed down certain ancestral lines.  Therefore, ancestral lines where the connection would not be found can be eliminated. I utilized the X-chromosome inheritance charts located here to narrow it down in the 5th generation to only my father’s great-great-grandparents who may have contributed to his X-DNA and the maximum amount they may have contributed. Those ancestors were the following:

Frederick “Fred” Miller – born c. 1827 in Warren Co., Mississippi (parents born in VA) (25%)
Hannah Miller – born c. 1835 in Alabama (parents born in VA) (25%)
Beady Bass – born c. 1810 in Northampton Co., North Carolina (which borders Virginia) (25%)
Caroline Morris – born c. 1815 in Greensville Co., Virginia (12.5%) (haplogroup is L0a1b)
[Unknown Father] Morris – born in Virginia (12.5%)

Each ancestor whose box is colored may have contributed X-DNA segments
to the focus person (my father). 
(Source of chart)

One of them most probably had an ancestor(s) from Madagascar. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine the names of their parents. Nevertheless, DNA technology is definitely suggesting that my father and I may have Malagasy blood, and it came from one of their lineages. This makes me wonder if my late great-aunt Pearlie’s long, black hair was an East African trait rather than Native American.

SPECIAL NOTE: After further dialogue with DNA enthusiasts, it has been brought to my attention that the sample populations (Massai, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea) that 23andMe used to establish the East African segment might not be genetically tied to Madagascar, although 23andMe included Madagascar in their definition for East African. Therefore, the East African segment alone should NOT be used to try to prove Malagasy ancestry. However, if other components are present, such as Southeast Asian ancestry, strong Virginia and New England colonial roots, etc., then the possibility remains that Malagasy ancestry may exist. A maternal haplogroup that is prevalent among the Malagasy (R9, M23, M7c1c, M32c, B4a1a1, F3b) or a Malagasy paternal haplogroup (O1a, O2a*) will be a strong indicator of Malagasy ancestry. The African portion of Malagasy will be West African in 23andMe’s ancestry composition because that is how 23andMe classifies Bantu tribes. (Special thanks to T.L. Dixon)

Children of the Malagasy People
(Source; public domain)

I found this nice slideshow of images from Madagascar.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

That Infamous 1890 Sinkhole


In 1921, a huge chunk of the stored 1890 census was destroyed in a fire at the Commerce Building here in Washington, DC. More can be read about that fire here. Genealogist Robyn Smith calls it “The 1880 Donut Hole,” as she brilliantly demonstrates its effect on her research in her blog post. However, I personally would like to call it “That Infamous 1890 Sinkhole” because it has the potential of swallowing up entire family branches, never knowing that they even existed. That “Infamous 1890 Sinkhole” caused a family branch in my Ealy family tree to go unknowingly missing for 20 years. Additionally, that omitted family branch even contains someone quite famous! This is how I stumbled across them and my famous relative.

Recently, I was browsing through an old Ealy Family Reunion booklet that a family member had given me some years ago. The Ealy Family has been having family reunions every two years since 1974. Much of the history and family tree included in past booklets were based on oral history and family recollections. To a researcher, this information can be hugely helpful in tracing the roots of the family. I compared the family tree to the one I had built. My family tree was primarily based on names I had found in census records. Not surprising, the family tree in that reunion booklet contained names that I was unaware of, or had missed, and I had additional names that were not listed. I soon realized that one of the missing from my family tree was a daughter of my great-grandmother’s sister, Annie Ealy Beamon. Her name was simply listed as Jessie Butler. How in the world did I miss Cousin Jessie?

My great-great-grandparents, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy & Jane Parrott Ealy, had at least 13 children, born between 1845 and 1871. Aunt Annie was their second oldest daughter, who was born around 1852. She was reported in their household in the 1870 Leake County, Mississippi census. Also, a marriage record revealed that Aunt Annie married Moses Beamon on January 20, 1874 in nearby Scott County.

I then found Aunt Annie and her budding family in the following 1880 Scott County census. There was no child named Jessie.

Moses & Annie Ealy Beamon with three young children when this 1880 census was taken – Lula (age 5), Edward (known as William Edward) (age 3), and an unnamed son (age 1)

Since the 1890 census was destroyed, the next available census was the 1900 census. Twenty years had passed. The following is Aunt Annie’s house in the 1900 Scott County census. Again, there was no child named Jessie in the house.

Moses & Annie Ealy Beamon with seven children in the house in 1900, including twins, Cora & Dora.
Their oldest son, William Edward Beamon, lived next door with his new bride, Jennie

Although seven of Aunt Annie’s children were in the house, with her oldest son living next door, someone from the house told the census enumerator that Aunt Annie was the mother of 11 children with all 11 of them living. I could only count 9 children. According to Scott County marriage records, her oldest child, Lula Bell Beamon, had married Lafayette (Fate) Ferrell on Dec. 15, 1894. They lived nearby. Therefore, who were the other two children who weren’t living in her house in 1900? Maybe one of them was Jessie?

Luckily, for Mississippi researchers, the Enumeration of Educable Children records are great resources and a great substitute for the missing 1890 census. A school census of all children was mandated by the state of Mississippi.  These records were started in 1878, and they reported the names of all school-age children between the age of 5 and 20 years old for each county.  The age and sex of each child were recorded.  Most of the records were taken every four years.  After 1878, the records were divided into districts and by household with the name of a guardian, typically a parent.  Also, after 1878, the records were racially divided.  Most of these records have been digitized and are now online here at familysearch.org.  The 1885-1896 records have proven to be a great substitute for the twenty-year “sinkhole” in the census records that was caused when most of the 1890 census was destroyed.

The earliest school record online for Scott County was for the year 1885. However, when I checked those 1885 school records, there was no school-age child named Jessie listed for Moses Beamon, who was noted in the following two separate entries. Instead, three school-age children between 5 and 20 were recorded: Lula (10), William (8), and Hassie (5). Maybe Hassie was Jessie? Or maybe Jessie was under the age of 5 and therefore not recorded? Which one is it?


1885 Educable Children records – Scott County (Harperville district), Mississippi

I then decided to check the Scott County, Mississippi History & Genealogy Network site to see if I can find a marriage record for a Jessie Beamon to a Butler groom. I hit pay dirt! There was a marriage for a Jessie Beeman to Sam Butler, and the marriage date was Feb. 20, 1900. Bingo! Next, I checked the 1900 Scott County census to see if I could find these newlyweds. Bingo again! I found them.

1900 Scott County, Mississippi Census - Sam (21) & Jessie Butler (17) (newlyweds)

According to the 1900 census, Jessie’s reported birth date was March 1883. Therefore, she was almost 17 years old when she married Sam Butler. She was too young to be recorded in the 1885 Educable Children records. She was born after the 1880 census, and she was married and living in her own house with her new husband when the 1900 census was taken. That’s why I had missed her, and she had been missing for 20 years in my family tree. Later censuses (1910, 1920, 1930, 1940) revealed that she and Sam Butler had at least 8 children: Willie (1903), Austin (1904), Johnnie Mae (1909), Robert (1912), Wilson (1914), L.A. (1917), Cora Lee (1919), and Elizabeth Butler (1920).

A Facebook friend, Davita Baloue, who I knew is connected to the Butlers from Scott County, informed me that this was indeed her family. We then realized that we are cousins! To add, she also informed me that Sam & Jessie’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was the maternal grandmother of the well-known gospel singer, songwriter, and minister, Pastor Marvin Sapp, of Grand Rapids, Mich. So not only did that “Infamous 1890 Sinkhole” caused me to miss this family branch for two decades, but it caused me to not even know until recently that Marvin Sapp is my 3rd cousin-once removed. I hope that one day, someone will alert Cousin Marvin to this blog post for him to learn more about his maternal grandmother’s maternal roots.

In 23andMe DNA, my father and I share 21 cM of DNA across 2 segments with
Annie Ealy Beamon's great-great-great-grandson, Raymond Beamon

Marvin Sapp with his three children, from left, Marvin Jr., Mikaila, and Madisson.
(Source; public domain)

The obituary of Marvin Sapp’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Butler Stribling (1920-2000) of Forest, Mississippi, the daughter of Jessie Beamon Butler and the granddaughter of Annie Ealy Beamon
(Shared by Davita Baloue)

Marvin Sapp – “Never Would Have Made It”