Saturday, January 20, 2018

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Cousins Mack Danner and his sister, Henrietta Danner Bacon, two of the five children born to my great-grandmother’s brother, Alexander K. Danner (1865-1905), and his wife, Lou Anna Brunt Danner of Panola County, Mississippi

Many of us genealogy hobbyists and genealogists warn people about the "mulatto" notation in the censuses. It doesn't automatically mean that the person had a parent of a different race. Most times, the census-taker saw a person who wasn't racially "pure." Check out this case.

Uncle Jack, the oldest of my great-great-grandparents' 12 children, who was born in slavery c. 1846, was consistently reported as "mulatto" in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. The rest of his household were noted as "Black". Also, the rest of the 12 children were always reported as "Black" in the censuses.

Many of us probably have family cases where the oldest child (or not the oldest) was fathered by a white man, but the mother's husband raised that child as his child, too. Thus, that "mulatto" child took the stepfather's surname. Was this the case with Uncle Jack? Let's see. This is the evidence at hand:

(1) Oral history, that was told by family elders in the 1970s and recorded in the family reunion booklets, noted Uncle Jack as one of my great-great-grandparents' children.

(2) None of the family elders living within the past 15 years ever said anything about Uncle Jack not being the biological son of my great-great-grandfather.

(3) DNA: At least 5 great-great-grandchildren of Uncle Jack took an autosomal DNA test. All of them match my father, from 60 cM/6 segments to 149 cM/9 segments. Uncle Jack and my father's grandmother were siblings, therefore they are my father's second cousins twice removed (2C2R). According to ISOGG, the average amount of DNA for 2C2R is 53 cM, the same as 3rd cousins. So the average for half 2C2R would be 26.5 cM. Therefore, the DNA sharing amounts with these cousins don't suggest a half relationship with Uncle Jack.

(4) DNA: A "father-to-son" great-grandson of Uncle Jack's younger brother took the 23andMe test, which provides a paternal haplogroup that is passed down from father to son for many generations. His paternal haplogroup is E-M54 (African), which would be my great-great-grandfather's paternal haplogroup. Recently, a "father-to-son" great-great-grandson of Uncle Jack took the 23andMe test. His paternal haplogroup is also E-M54.

(5) DNA: My great-great-grandfather was taken away from Nash County, North Carolina and brought to Mississippi. It is clear that he left behind close kin in N.C. My father is sharing very good amounts of DNA (119 cM, highest amount) with people from Nash County. Those N.C. DNA cousins are also sharing DNA with Uncle Jack's descendants.

(6) DNA: Although my great-great-grandfather had at least 12 children with his wife, my great-great-grandmother, he also fathered children by other women during slavery. Descendants from those children have also taken an autosomal DNA test. Most of them are sharing DNA with Uncle Jack's descendants. There is even the phenomena of overlapping DNA segments (triangulation) with both groups, which indicates descendancy from a common ancestor. (Will show this in a future blog post.)

Conclusion: I haven't gotten a Y-DNA test done on the two male cousins mentioned in No. 4, and that would serve as the ultimate DNA proof. However, the evidence at hand very strongly indicates that Uncle Jack was simply much lighter-complexioned than the rest of his younger siblings and was my great-great-grandfather's biological son. (Note: European ancestry has been detected in my great-great-grandmother's lineage).