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


  1. Someone, somewhere is certainly smiling on your research. God, the ancestors, someone!! Great post, as always. When I grow up in genealogy, cousin, I want to be just like you.

  2. What a great find! Like opening a treasure chest.

  3. How do you go about getting a bill of sale or estate records? I thought they were all destroyed in Mississippi?


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