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Monday, February 10, 2014

A Genealogist’s Progress

Suddenly, it appears that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  How long it will take me to reach the end of that tunnel, I do not know.  After all, genealogy is a journey back in time that requires time and patience.

Several recent events or discoveries have been encouraging.  First, as I have mentioned in other posts, my sister and I have matched many "cousins" genetically through Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test, an autosomal test, which matches one with “cousins” from both sides of his/her family.  However, the authenticity of our matches as related to this post will depend on the identity of our 6th Great Grandfather West, something that still remains unproven.  It hinges on John West and Mary Madden being our 6th great grandparents. But, there’s hope!

In July, 2012, I matched genetically with a male “cousin” who may, also, descend from John West and Mary Madden.  Again, if the paper trail proves the “cousinship,” he and I are 7th cousins. 

In August, 2013, my sister and I matched significantly with a female “cousin” who descends from Phoebe West.  Phoebe West, the daughter of Isaac West and Susanna Anderson, may have been the granddaughter of John West and Mary Madden. My one concern about this match is that we also match this female cousin as 7th cousin 2R through the Triplett line.  If the paper trail works out with the John West/Mary Madden lineage, my sister and I are 7th cousins 2R with this cousin, also.  Could the significant match be attributed to the fact that we may match the cousin much closer with the Tripletts than we have discovered, or is it because we match her through two lineages, the Wests and Tripletts?

In October, 2013, my sister genetically matched a male “cousin” who descends from John West and his second wife, Eleanor Massey.  Again, if, indeed, John West is our 6th great grandfather, my sister and her male cousin are 6th cousins 1R.  This connection is based on better research and documentation.  Furthermore, no other lineages appear to be possibilities for their match.

The most significant match, however, occurred on January 27, 2014.  It is one that my sister and I have with a male “cousin” with the West surname.  Since I descend from the Tipton family, Doug and I attended the Tipton Family Association of America meeting in Burnsville, North Carolina, in October, 2013.  Unexpectedly, I met Mr. West who was attending the Tipton meeting with his wife, a Tipton descendant.  At the time we could not determine if we were related and decided to exchange information.  When I saw his West direct line, I immediately felt that his 5th great grandfather, John West, born in Tryon, North Carolina, in 1732, could be the brother of my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West, born about 1730. 

The best is yet to come!  Mr. West took FTDNA’s Family Finder test in December.  His results were reported on January 27, 2014.  And YES! He is a genetic match with my sister and me!  I couldn’t be happier.  Of course, we still don’t know the father of his John West.  He does not know the spouse of his John West.  On-line researchers believe that his John West served in the Revolutionary War and was likely killed in the battle at Moore’s Creek near Wilmington, NC, in February, 1776.  Mr. West descends through John West’s son, Thomas West and Thomas’ spouse, Elizabeth Preston.

Again, if we can prove that the parents of his John West and my Alexander West were John West and Mary Madden, Mr. West would be a 6th cousin 1R to my sister and me.  The genetic match between him and us is quite significant because no surnames other than West are evident in our lineages.  Also, the three of us match significantly on the 14th chromosome which indicates that we share a common ancestor.  My sister and I do not have any other matches “in-common” with Mr. West who match on the 14th chromosome in the same segment that we match with him.  I find the data extremely significant.  On the down-side, Mr. West is not an “in-common” match with my sister’s male “cousin” West match or with my female “cousin” and male “cousin” matches.  It would have been nice if the six of us matched on that 14th chromosome.

In addition, I’m excited that Mr. West plans to take one of the Y-DNA tests when they go on sale.  A Y-DNA test may connect him to other males who descend from the same male ancestor and place him in a West Family Group.

You know where I’m headed when the weather warms up – Rutherford County, NC, the county that was created from the western portion of Tryon in 1779 – to research John West, born in 1732, in Tryon County, North Carolina!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

DNA and Its Role in Genealogy

In order to provide an overview of the various DNA tests available for genealogical research, I have compiled the following information in hopes that it will be helpful to those readers who are contemplating such testing.

For the purpose of genealogical research, several DNA tests are appropriate.  These tests are the Y-chromosome (Y-DNA), the mitochondrial (mtDNA), and the autosomal (atDNA).  The purpose of this document is to provide a basic understanding of the types of tests and what they reveal.

A copy of one’s DNA is present in all of his bodily cells except the red blood cells and is passed down to each of his succeeding generations.  Each individual has 23 pairs of chromosomes (one of each pair is from the mother and one from the father) with the 23rd pair being the sex chromosome. 

The 23rd chromosome from the mother is always an X since she does not have a Y chromosome.  An X or a Y may be inherited by the fetus from the father.  If the X is inherited from the father, the fetus will be a female with two X chromosomes (XX).  If the Y is inherited from the father, the fetus will be a male with one of each chromosome (XY).

The two X chromosomes of the mother randomly swap information and genes.  The X chromosome that a fetus receives from its mother is a mixture of the X chromosomes from her parents.  The X that a fetus may inherit from its father is that of the father’s mother and is a mixture of his mother’s two X chromosomes, one that she received from her father and one that she received from her mother.  Therefore, the mixture in that X chromosome that the fetus receives from its father is from its maternal grandparents.

The Y Chromosome DNA Test (Y-DNA) is a test only for males.  It analyzes the male Y chromosome which is transmitted ONLY from father to son.  Therefore, the Y-DNA test provides information about the direct male line from son to father, to his father, to his father, etc.  The results are reported in markers.  Several Y-DNA tests assess different amounts of markers.  Family Tree DNA offers the following Y-DNA tests:  the Y-DNA37 which assesses 37 markers and provides matches that are likely to be related with the past 8 generations; the Y-DNA67 which assesses 67 markers and provides matches that are likely to be related within the past 6 generations; and the Y-DNA111 which assesses 111 markers and provides matches that are likely to be related within the past 4 generations.  Also, with the Y-DNA test, a haplogroup is predicted.  Male halpogroups are labeled with the letters A through T. The haplogroup provides the participant with information regarding the major population group from which he descends. 

Participants in the Y-DNA testing program may join a FTDNA surname project in which those with the same surname may share information.

The Mitochondrial DNA Test (mtDNA) may be taken by males and females. The mitochondrial is a small circle of DNA found inside the cells and has only 37 genes.  It does not recombine and is, therefore, passed on from the mother to the child without change.  The mitochondrial (mtDNA) is passed from the mother to each of her children, male or female.  Only females can pass the mtDNA to their children.  The mtDNA test reveals information about one’s direct maternal line from one’s mother, from her mother, from her mother, etc.  The mtDNA test identifies the world origin of one’s lineage and the haplogroup to which he or she belongs.  These haplogroups are continent-specific and/or region-specific.  The female haplogroups are identified with the letters of the alphabet depending on the system used by the testing company.  Family Tree DNA uses the Cambridge Reference Sequence, which is the accepted mtDNA standard, using the following letters of the alphabet with their corresponding regions:  J, K – Southern Europe; H, T, U, V, X – Northern Europe; J, N – Middle East; L, L1, L2, and L3 – Africa; A, B, C, D, F, G – Asia; and A, B, C, D, and sometimes X – Native American.  Those interested in learning more about the female haplogroups will find The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, a genetics professor at Oxford University, very informative.

The mtDNA test is available in the mtDNA Plus, a mid-level assessment, and the mtDNA Full Sequence, the highest level of assessment. The mtDNA Plus reports results in two hypervariable regions, HVR1 and HVR2.  The matches included with these two regions are related to the past 28 generations.  The mtDNA Full Sequence reports results in all three regions, HVR1, HVR2, and the Coding Region.  Matches are related within the past 16 generations. 

The Autosomal Test (atDNA) is appropriate for both men and women and provides male and female matches that are related within the last 5 generations.  However, matches beyond 5 generations are frequently found, but the confidence level set by FTDNA for the Family Finder test is 5 generations.  Family Finder is capable of identifying matches in any branch of one’s family and is not limited solely to the paternal or maternal lines.  In addition, it provides percentages of one’s ancestral lineage such as Native American, Middle-Eastern, Jewish, African, and Western and Eastern European.   In Family Tree DNA, the autosomal test is known as Family Finder.

The analyses of one’s 22 chromosomes (not the 23rd one) are reported in terms of centimorgans (cMs), longest blocks, and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) which is the most common type of genetic variation among people.  One may compare this information with other matches using graphics and spreadsheets which may be accessed through the FTDNA’s Family Finder site.   In addition, relationship-ranges and estimated-relationships are predicted for each of one’s matches.  One must understand that the DNA he inherits from his parents (50% from the father and 50% from the mother) does not represent 25% from each of the 4 sets of grandparents or 12.5% from each of the 8 individual grandparents but is a random mixture.  However, the fact that long blocks often “stick together” for several generations makes matching possible.

In Conclusion

Close relatives will share larger fragments of DNA from a common ancestor and smaller segments from more distant ancestors.  Even these small segments may hold valuable clues for the genealogist.

One cannot compare the results of the various tests.  Each test analyzes a different segment of the DNA and reports the results using different terminology.  The haplogroups for men with the Y-DNA test and those for women with the mtDNA tests are different and cannot be compared.

Family Tree DNA stores one’s DNA for 25 years so that one may upgrade to a higher level of testing without submitting another sample.  The number of one’s matches is dependent on the size of the company’s data base.  Also, if one’s lineage or surname is rare, he may not have any matches at first, but over time as the data base grows, participants with whom he matches will become available.

Family Tree DNA and 23andMe were the first two companies to offer autosomal DNA testing. Family Finder through Family Tree DNA is specifically recommended for genealogist and adoptees.  23andMe offers an autosomal DNA test called Relative Finder, which is similar to the Family Finder developed by Family Tree DNA.  Recently, 23andMe came under government scrutiny due to its offering health-related information based on the participant’s genetics without the benefits of professional medical attention.  Therefore, 23andMe no longer provides health-related information to its participants. started offering genetic testing in 2011.

DNA testing can be used to confirm one’s “paper trail,” to determine which family trees with the same or variant surnames are related, to determine individuals who are or are not related, and to provide clues for further research.


“23andMe Halts Genetic Health Reports,”

Family Tree DNA. “Products and Pricing,”

Family Tree DNA. “Understanding DNA.”

Hill, Richard. “Autosomal DNA Testing for Genealogy,”

Noles, Robert B, webmaster. “Understanding your Results: mtDNA Haplogroups,”

 Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family Association, DNA – 101, Knowles Surname DNA Project,

Powell, Kimberly. “Autosomal DNA Testing for Genealogy,”  Guide.

Smolenyak, Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner. Trace Your Roots with DNA. Holtzbrinck

 Publishers, 2004.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Exciting News: A New West Cousin!

 On October 9, 2013, my sister and I discovered that both of us genetically match D, a female with the maiden name of West.  About two or three years ago, I became acquainted with D, a second cousin, through e-mail.  At that time we shared information about our common great grandparents, Thomas Harvey West and America Ann McNeil.  Recently, I was elated to find that D participated in Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test which resulted in the identification of our genetic match.  As we were confirming our genetic match with our paper trail, D confided that she had become interested in DNA testing as a result of reading this blog.  I was pleased that my posts have encouraged others to be tested.

Since we discovered our match, D and I have shared in-common matches and information with each other.  D is also a genetic match with my 4th cousin, Joanne, another West descendant, whom I have mentioned in previous blog posts.  Working with these ladies to discover our common heritage and share information has been quite rewarding.  I look forward to our continued relationship.

As I have done before, I encourage others who are serious amateur genealogists to participate in genetic testing.  Genetic testing does not preclude documentation with the paper-trail.  Both of these genealogical methods support each other.  Genetic testing provides proof of relationships, but the paper trail is necessary to confirm the degree or level of the relationship.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Intriguing Possibility – Are Alexander West of 1730 and John West of 1732 Brothers?

In the middle of October, my husband and I, along with a Tipton cousin, attended the Tipton Family Association of America (TFAA) meeting in Burnsville, North Carolina.  Even though the Tipton family from whom I descend through my mother’s side of the family has nothing to do with my West line, at that Tipton meeting I met Mr. D. West.  He saw my name on the registration list and sought me out during the meeting.  We agreed to trade information in order to determine if we might be related. 
A few weeks ago, I received a packet of information in the mail from him.  This packet contained a descendants list with his first generation male being John West who was born in Tyron, North Carolina, in 1732.  Readers, you can just imagine how excited I became!
Why was I so excited?  I have long suspected that my 5th great grandfather, that one, illusive Alexander West I, was the son of a John West and also had a brother named John West.  My previous blog posting, “Back to the Drawing Board—John West and Mary Madden Revisited,” posted on October 10, 2013, documents the connection between my Alexander West I and a John West, Sr. and a John West, Jr.  What leads me to think that D. West’s John West may be the brother of my Alexander West I?  His 5th great grandfather, John West, was born in 1732, just two years after my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West I, was born about 1730, and his John West appeared in areas in North Carolina that were not too far removed from Wilkes County.
D’s 5th great grandfather, John West, was born in Tyron County, North Carolina, in 1732.  At the time of the birth of his John West, the area in which he was born would likely have been western North Carolina lands and may have been considered part of Bladen County, the most western North Carolina county at that time.  That area became Tyron County in 1768.  However, in 1779, Tyron ceased to exist when it was divided into Lincoln and Rutherford Counties.  Therefore, D’s John West of 1732 was likely born in those western lands which later became Tyron and subsequently became Lincoln and Rutherford.  John West of 1732 had a son named Thomas West who was born in 1760 in Lincoln County, North Carolina, and married in 1831 in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Tyron and the counties of Lincoln and Rutherford that were created from Tyron were south of Wilkes County and bordered South Carolina.  Considering the prolific migration of those early colonists, the possibility that the John West of 1732 and my Alexander West I of 1730 were brothers is quite plausible.
D and I should continue to delve deeper into our research about his John West and my Alexander West I in order to determine whether the two were brothers and the sons of John West, Sr. and Mary Madden.  D is planning to participate in DNA testing.  His results may add further credence to my theory.
My encounter with D. West and his information about his 5th great grandfather provide one more piece of that puzzle that I am trying to assemble.  By the way, in my excitement I have not yet discovered what his Tipton connections are!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board—John West and Mary Madden Revisited

Sometimes one needs to go back and retrace his steps and revisit an earlier analysis, observation, or decision.  That’s what I am doing.  I am going back to the possibility that John West and Mary Madden were the parents of my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West I.
For quite some time, the preponderance of my data or, as some prefer to define it, the circumstantial evidence indicates that they were likely his parents.  First, let’s review my data relating to John West, the hypothetical father, and Alexander West, his hypothetical son.
·        John West was born about 1707.  Some writers suggest that he was born in Virginia. 
·        Alexander West (born between 1720 and 1730, died after 1790) was my 5th great grandfather.  For purposes of differentiating him from the myriad other Alexander Wests, I have labeled him Alexander West I. 
·        According to my data and based on land and tax records and the birth years of the sons of Alexander West I, he was probably born between 1720 and 1730.  His sons were Alexander West II (born 1751, Orange County, NC) and John West (born about 1760, Orange County, NC).
·        In 1752 (entry of land) and 1754 (survey of land), William Mills had 216 acres of land surveyed on Stoney Creek, waters of Haw River [Orange County, NC] in November 1754.  This land was noted as joining that of John West.  Alexander West and William Mills, Jr. were the chain carriers for the survey.
·        Between 1752 and 1768, a John West, Sr. sold 100 acres of land in Orange County, NC, to Alexander West [Alexander West I]. [This entry in which “senior” is mentioned indicates that another John West existed.]
·        In 1755, Alexander West was listed in the North Carolina Census, 1790-1890, as living in Orange County, NC.
·        In 1775, Allexander West and Allexander West 2 were listed in the Surry County and Wilkes County, NC, Taxables, Vol. 1, 1771-1777.  His son Alexander West II would have been about 24 years old and would have been included in the tax records.  Alexander West II married Hannah Langley in 1777 in Orange County, NC.
·        Between 1778 and 1781 Alexander West was living in Wilkes County on or near the Yadkin River near William Triplett’s 160 acres.  It is impossible to determine if this Alexander was Alexander West I or Alexander West II.
·        In 1778 in a land entry book, James Tugman’s name was marked out and Alexander West’s name was written in place of it.  This entry was for 50 acres on the south side of Glady Branch in Wilkes County, NC.  Again, it is impossible to determine if this Alexander was Alexander West I or Alexander West II.
·        In 1779, a land entry for Alexander West for 100 acres on the north side of a branch that ran through John “Farbusons” [Ferguson] plantation had the names of Alex West, Wm. Brown and Daniel Johnson marked out.  John “Farguson” [Ferguson] was written in.   This record cites evidence of Alexander West’s presence in Wilkes County in 1779.  It is impossible to determine if this Alexander was Alexander West I or Alexander West II.
·        In 1784, Wilkes County, NC, land records indicated that Daniel Sutherlin received a 50 acres grant on “Glady Fork…Alexander West corner.” It is impossible to determine if this Alexander was Alexander West I or Alexander West II.
·        In 1787 Alexander West received 50 acres on both sides of Glady Fork. Isaac West and Bray Crisp were the chain carriers. It is impossible to determine if this Alexander was Alexander West I or Alexander West II.
·        North Carolina Tax Lists indicate that in 1782 Alexander West owned 30 acres in Wilkes County, and in 1805 Alexander West owned 200 acres in Burke County [present Caldwell].  It is impossible to determine which of these Alexanders was Alexander West I or Alexander West II.
·       The 1790 Census, Burke [present Caldwell], North Carolina, listed Alex West Senior in a household with 1 FWM under 16, 2 FWM over 16, 6 FWF for a total of 9 household members.  [This household was likely that of Alexander West II.  By this time, Alexander West II had a young son named Alexander West whom, for the sake of clarity, I have named Alexander West III.  Alexander West III married Patience L. Allen in 1804.  Let’s go a bit further with this line – Alexander West III and Patience L. Allen had a grandson named Alexander West (son of Ananias West and Abigail Lawes Crouch) who was born in 1844 and married Sarah Jane Brazeal.]
·       As previously noted, naming patterns often provide clues to familial relationships.  My 4th great grandfather, John West, may have received his name from his grandfather John West, Sr. or from his uncle John West, Jr.  The name John was also given to John’s son, John Balus West, my 3rd great grandfather.  Of course, the name Alexander was also given to my 2nd great grandfather, Alexander Balus West.
·        In addition, an Alexander West is given as the father of Edith “Edy” West who married Archibald Fowler.  Edy was born about 1772.  I find it quite interesting that some of her sons were named West I. Fowler, John Wesley Fowler, and Alexander W. Fowler.  Of her grandchildren, the following names are evident: Alexander Fowler, John W. Pike, and Balus M. Pike.  Balus was the name given to my 3rd gr grandfather, John Balus West, who would have been a 1st cousin 1R of Balus M. Pike.  I do not have proof that Edith “Edy” West was the daughter of my Alexander West.
·       One of my on-line connections, Tom, who descends from Bray Crisp, believes that Bray Crisp married one of the daughters of Alexander West I. His information cites Bray Crisp’s wife as “Miss” West.  You may recall from information provided above that Bray Crisp and Isaac West were chain carriers for the survey of land purchased in 1787 on Glady Fork, Wilkes County, NC, by Alexander West.  Sometime later, Bray Crisp is found in South Carolina.
Several years ago, while researching at the North Carolina State Library and Archives, I found Blodwen West Boyle’s unpublished manuscript, Isaac West’s Family of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Dickson County, Tennessee, 1745-1814, printed in 1974.  I was quite fascinated by her work, believing that it was the answer to my dilemma.  Even though it did not prove that my Alexander West was a son of John West and Mary Madden, the document gave credence to my belief that he was their son and the brother of Isaac West.
In her document, Mrs. Boyle described Isaac West, whom she believed to be her ancestor and the son of John West and Mary Madden.  According to Mrs. Boyle’s documents, Isaac West was born about 1745 and married Susanna Anderson in 1769 in Orange County, North Carolina.  My 4th great grandfather John West (born about 1760) and his brother Alexander West (born about 1751) were born in Orange County, North Carolina.  Isaac West and Susanna Anderson had a daughter, Phoebe West, who married Isaac Green.
Another interesting fact that I discovered in Mrs. Boyle’s document is that one of Isaac Green and Susanna Anderson’s grandsons was named Madden West, presumably after his great grandmother, Mary Madden.      
I recently learned of a Family Tree DNA, Family Finder, match that my sister, Sandy, and I have with Debbra whose 6th great grandmother was Phoebe West, wife of Isaac Green!  However, since my sister and I match this individual also through the Triplett lineage, it is difficult to know if our Family Finder match is through both lines or just through the Triplett line.
Another recent occurrence was the discovery of a published family history linking my Alexander West to John West and Mary Madden.  One of my blog readers, Ginger, sharing her West information with me, told me about the published genealogy, Relatives of the Browns of Mill Springs, Kentucky, Including the Fisher, Gaar, Gholson, Hutchison, Weaver and West Families, by James E. Brown and Margaret Brown Altendahl, published in 1992.  The compilers of this family history stated that John West (born about 1707) and Mary Madden were the parents of Solomon (born about 1726) who married Isabella Boyd, Mary Boyd(?), and Martha Norton; John West (born about 1728); Alexander West (born about 1728); an unidentified female (born about 1734) who married John Collins; an unidentified female (born about 1738) who married an unidentified Cole; Mary West (born about 1742) who married Hezekiah Collins; Isaac West (born about 1745), who married Susanna Anderson, daughter of Peter and Catherine Lynam Anderson; and Eleanor “Nellie” West (born about 1748) who married Alexander Barnhill.  Additionally, these compilers indicated that William and Thomas may have been two other sons.  Again, this published family history supports my theory that my Alexander West was the son of John West and Mary Madden.
However, the most revealing and confirming revelation came on October 29, 2013, in a response to an email that I sent a couple of weeks ago to one of my sister’s DNA matches, Tom.  Tom’s sister, Jane, shared the following West information that she had received from a recently deceased cousin. 
·        John West (born 1691 in Prince William County, Virginia, died in 1780 in Richmond County, Georgia) and Mary Madden were married in 1724 in Orange County, North Carolina, and had four children:  Solomon, b 1725; Alexander, b 1730; Isaac, b 1745; and Eleanor, b 1747.
·        After Mary’s death John West married Eleanor Massey in 1752 in Orange County, North Carolina, with whom he had the following children:  Daniel, Jacob, John Massey, Lucy, and James.  James had sons named Ephriam and Francis.
·       Jane and Tom descend from James’ son, Ephriam West.  Whereas, my sister and I descend from Alexander’s son, John.  Alexander and James, having different mothers, were half-brothers.
I knew that many of the Wests, including my 4th great grandparents, John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon, the Isaac West family, and, possibly, for a short time, the family of Alexander West II, moved to South Carolina.  Jane indicated that most of the West ancestors descending from Eleanor Massey West moved to Georgia.  Only from the family history published by Brown and Altendahl did I first learn that Alexander West I may have migrated to Georgia, also.
Of the two of us, my sister, Sandy, is a DNA match with Tom; I am not a genetic match with him.  A significant fact about this genetic match between Sandy and Tom is the West connection Sandy shares with Tom is the only connection that we can confirm with the paper trail, indicating that the genetic connection with John West is likely a valid one.
In addition, Jane indicated that the source of her information, a recently deceased cousin, was sound.  Apparently, her cousin met a physician with whom he was a DNA match.  The physician-cousin, who descended from James’ son Francis, hired a “top gun” genealogist to determine the parentage of Francis West.  The information that Jane shared with me was obtained by that genealogist.
As I try to piece all of this information together, I believe, based on my research, that, in addition, to the four children listed by Jane, John West and Mary Madden had four other children: John West, Jr., born about 1728 in Orange County, North Carolina; Mary West, born in 1742 in Orange County, North Carolina, who married Hezekiah Collins; and another daughter who married a Cole.
Many thanks to Ginger, Debbra, Jane, and Tom for sharing their valuable and significant information.
Whew!  At long last, the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to come together!