Sunday, March 8, 2015

Finding the Connection to a DNA Match Within An Hour!

One thing I always stress to people when they want to take a genetic DNA test is to start building their family tree first. Not only that, please have an available family tree or pedigree chart that they are willing to show to DNA matches upon request to aid in figuring out family connections. Even if they desire for their family tree to be private, I advise people to be willing to accept requests from DNA matches to view it.

I have prepared two family trees on One is loaded with pictures, scanned documents, etc. that is synced to my Family Tree Maker software. This tree is for my use only. I have another one that contain names, dates, locations, and any other information I chose to show that’ll help DNA matches to connect the dots. This second tree is the one that I allow DNA matches to view publicly. It’s attached to my ancestry profile. Viewing family trees or pedigree charts is essential to making the connection. Back and forth e-mail exchanges of names and surnames can swallow up a lot of time. Just simply show me a family tree! I will demonstrate how this greatly helped to connect the dots within an hour! This DNA connection is especially wonderful because it enabled me to find my great-grandmother’s younger sister!

Recently, I obtained a new match in AncestryDNA. Her name is Sherri, and she is a “Very High” confidence match with a prediction of 4th cousins. According to AncestryDNA, “very high” confidence means that the approximate amount of sharing is 20-30 cMs. Her DNA account is maintained by her husband. Thankfully, he made Sherri’s family tree public. I clicked on it and started looking at the names of her ancestors. The first ancestor to catch my attention was her maternal great-grandmother, Maria Bass, because Bass is one of my surnames.

Then, I opened up the profile for Maria Bass to garner more information. Census records were attached to her great-grandmother’s profile, which helped a great deal. My eyes opened wider when I noticed that her Maria Bass resided in Sharkey County, Mississippi in 1910. My father’s maternal grandmother, Angeline Bass Belton, lived in Sharkey County too after 1910. She was originally from Warren County. Shortly after her daughter, my great-aunt Pearlie, was born in 1912, Grandma Angeline relocated to Sharkey County, leaving Aunt Pearlie in Warren County to be raised by her father. Apparently, Grandma Angeline had family in Sharkey County. I opened up that 1910 census page to look at Maria Bass’ household. Immediately, I saw a major clue!

1910 Census – the Robinson Household, Sharkey County, Mississippi
Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Beat 4, Sharkey, Mississippi; Roll: T624_749; Page: 7B;
Enumeration District: 0085; FHL microfilm: 1374762

Maria Bass Robinson (age 28) was the wife of Will Robinson. This was Will's first marriage because "M1" was recorded. This was Maria's second marriage because "M2" was recorded. Two children that Maria had before her marriage to Will Robinson were in the household. Their surname was McAllister. This was a big clue! Take a look at the 1900 Warren County, Mississippi census below, where I had found my great-great-grandmother, Frances Morris Bass McAllister, and her second husband, George McAllister. Her first husband, my great-great-grandfather Jackson “Jack” Bass, had died after 1880, and Frances remarried to George McAllister in 1888.

1900 Census – the McAllister Household, Warren County, Mississippi
Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Bovins, Warren, Mississippi; Roll: 831; Page: 3B;
Enumeration District: 0138; FHL microfilm: 1240831

In 1900, the McAllister household was a blended family that contained some of Grandma Frances’ adult children by Grandpa Jack; one of them was Grandma Angeline Bass (age 20). Two of George McAllister’s children by his previous wife were also in the household. By 1900, George and Grandma Frances had two children together, Willie (son) and Annie McAllister; they were also in the household. But more importantly, Maria McAllister (age 18), with her baby daughter Rebecca (age 1), was also in the household. Her marital status was “married.” Maria was reported as being George’s daughter-in-law.

Prior to this, I had assumed that Maria McAllister was Grandma Frances’ step-son’s young wife. I was wrong. Why? Because on Maria Bass’ profile page, Sherri’s husband included the following note: Maiden name: An obit has her down as Mariah Bass Robinson. Therefore, Maria was truly a Bass and appears to have been another daughter of Grandpa Jack Bass & Grandma Frances who was born around 1882. While Grandma Frances remarried to George, Maria married one of George’s sons. Was she truly my great-grandmother Angeline’s younger sister? Well, a second major clue was in the 1920 census!

1920 Census – the Robinson Household, Drew County, Arkansas
Source Citation: Year: 1920; Census Place: Bartholomew, Drew, Arkansas; Roll: T625_61; Page: 11B;
Enumeration District: 48; Image: 772

Thankfully, Sherri’s husband had also attached the 1920 census to Maria Bass’ profile. The family had left Sharkey County, Mississippi and relocated to Drew County, Arkansas by 1920. Maybe that was the reason why Aunt Pearlie never mentioned them. By 1920, Maria and Will Robinson now had a total of eight children together. However, the second major clue was that a young man named Will McAllister was living in the household. He was reported as the head of household's brother-in-law! Bingo! As previously mentioned from the 1900 census, Will (Willie) McAllister was indeed Grandma Frances’ son with her second husband.

Therefore, Sherri and I are a DNA match in AncestryDNA as predicted 4th cousins because our great-grandmothers were sisters! We are actually 3rd cousins. Her match to me identified a new sister that I had not included on my family tree. To add, this new sister – Aunt Maria(h) Bass McAllister Robinson – had 10 additional children with her second husband, Will Robinson, for a total of 13. All this time, my father and I thought that this branch of his biological mother’s family tree had basically “died out.”

There are three things that made this DNA connection very discoverable:  

(1) A public family tree was included on Sherri’s AncestryDNA profile.
(2) Census records were attached to her ancestors’ profiles, which allows DNA matches to see where they were living.
(3) Sherri’s husband included an important note on her ancestor’s profile about her maiden name.

This blog post is not to suggest that if people have a viewable family tree available, family connections will be made within an hour. That is not the case at all. However, family connections can indeed be found more quickly if family trees are available for DNA matches to view. Again…show me the family tree! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Truth Is In the Spit


Within the past week, I have discovered two great and revealing DNA matches. They are great discoveries because after I analyzed their family trees, I discovered that they are descendants of Uncle Random. Discovering these two DNA matches in the same week is not coincidental, in my opinion. The ancestors are working overtime! Uncle Random seems to want to validate my research findings and his place on my family tree. Having this DNA evidence is major, indeed! The truth is definitely in the spit.

I have written about the discovery of Uncle Random in previous blog posts (see list below); therefore, I will not go into genealogical details in this blog post about how I discovered him and another set of 4th-great-grandparents after staring at one of my brick walls for over 15 years. However, here’s a synopsis of the facts that were uncovered over the past two years.

Uncle Random was Random Briscoe (born c. 1816) of Marshall County, Mississippi. Genealogy research findings strongly indicate that he was likely the older brother of my great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret “Peggy” Milam (born c. 1829), who resided in adjacent Tate County during and after slavery. Research findings revealed that Grandma Peggy, Uncle Random, their siblings and parents, Adam and Sarah Ann, had been enslaved by a man named Edward “Ed” Warren. Shortly after relocating from Williamson County, Tennessee to Marshall County during the mid-1830s, Ed Warren fell on hard times. In 1839, he decided to write a bill of sale, purporting to sell his six slaves to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe. Those six enslaved people were noted as Adam (55) and his wife, Sarah (40), and Random (23), Sam (14), Margaret (10), and Caledonia (8).

On August 14, 1839, Edward Warren purported to sell his six slaves – my ancestors – to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe, Marshall County, Mississippi.

Despite that 1839 bill of sale, most of the six slaves remained with Ed Warren up until his death in 1842. Grandma Peggy and her brother Sam were sold to Joseph R. Milam of present-day Tate County.  Apparently, either James Briscoe decided not to keep Uncle Random, and he sold him to his brother, Notley Warren Briscoe, or James never ended up acquiring him from Ed Warren after all. Whatever the case may have been, Uncle Random was inventoried in Notley’s estate on January 4, 1861. Notley died in 1860 in Marshall County, and among the 27 slaves inventoried were Uncle Random, his wife Mariah, and their seven children. Notley’s will, dated Jan. 6, 1858, confirmed that Random and Mariah were an enslaved married couple (source).

Notley W. Briscoe’s estate; Random & his family were the first nine slaves recorded in the appraisement of 27 slaves, Jan. 4, 1861, Marshall County, Mississippi (source).
Negro man slave, Random, $600
woman, Maria and infant boy, $800
girl, Sarah Ann, $1000
boy, Bill, $1000
girl, Caladonia, $800
boy, Parmeous, $700
girl, Parthenia, $350
boy, Rufus, $250

Well, a descendant of Parmeous and a descendant of Rufus were DNA matches to me and my mother. According to GEDmatch, my mother shares 46.2 cM across 4 segments with Parmeous Briscoe’s great-great-great-granddaughter. GEDmatch gives a MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) of 4.1 generations. She and my mother are 4th cousins once removed. I thoroughly checked this descendant’s family tree to ensure no other possible ancestral connection exists, as far as I could tell. I did not see any.

In 2012, shortly after discovering Grandma Peggy’s origins and her family, I found a Briscoe descendant named Ivy on At that time, she was only able to trace back to her great-grandfather, Rufus Briscoe (1856-1924). I sent Ivy a message, providing additional information that went back another generation to Rufus’ father, Uncle Random. Well, earlier this week, I discovered that she is among my DNA matches in AncestryDNA! She’s a “High Confidence” match for the 5th-8th cousin range. Although Ivy has not uploaded her AncestryDNA raw data file to GEDmatch, which would allow me to do some recommended DNA triangulation, I am still confident that our match is because Uncle Random Briscoe was her great-great-grandfather, after looking at the other branches of her family tree. Ivy and my mother are 4th cousins.

As presented in the blog post, Name Discrepancies Can Often Lead to More,” the Briscoe surname itself was one of the clues that enabled me to unearth Grandma Peggy’s origins. I found three of her children’s death certificates.  One death certificate reported that her maiden name was WARREN.  The second one reported that her maiden name was BRISCOE.  The third one did not report her maiden name. Interestingly, the death certificate of her youngest son, William Milam (1864-1950), was the one that reported Briscoe as her maiden name. The informant was Uncle William’s wife, Parthenia Milam. Elder family members knew her as “Aunt Phenie.”

One of the things several family elders shared with me about Uncle William and Aunt Phenie Milam was how they walked everywhere. They didn’t have a car or any children, so they depended on their legs to get them where they wanted to go. One cousin shared, “Uncle Will and Aunt Phenie walked everywhere together! It was nothing to look up and see them walking down the road; an elderly couple who always got where they needed to go by foot.” I can envision Uncle Will talking about his Uncle Random Briscoe, who lived over in Marshall County, during those many walking excursions. With Aunt Phenie possibly having knowledge that Random Briscoe was Grandma Peggy’s brother, one can plausibly assert that may have been the reason why she reported BRISCOE as the maiden name.

To add, not only has DNA proven the connection to Uncle Random Briscoe, but to another sibling named Caledonia. My November 2014 blog post entitled “DNA Does It Again – Another Long Lost Sibling Found!” details that discovery. Caledonia’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Alisa of Arkansas, was a DNA match to me and my mother in 23andMe. She shares 51 cM (0.69%) across 4 segments with my mother and 42 cM (0.57%) across 3 segments with me.  She and Mom are 4th cousins once removed, but they share far above the normal range even for 4th cousins. The same applies to Parmeous Briscoe’s descendant. According to 23andMe, the range for 4th cousins is 0.07 – 0.5%, with an average of 0.20% (13.28 cM) (source). According to the ISOGG, the average for 4th cousins once removed is 0.0977% (6.64 cM) (source). These matches seem to indicate that my mother and I carry a good amount of Adam and/or Sarah Ann’s DNA, who were my 4th-great-grandparents. The truth is in the spit!

Related Posts:

Apr. 11, 2012

Jan. 1, 2013

May 5, 2014

Nov. 3, 2014