Total Pageviews

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Proof of the Pudding IS in the DNA!

No matter how meticulously we trace our roots using the traditional forms of documentation, the paper trail, as we call it, using birth, marriage, and death certificates, land transactions, census records, and court proceedings, the real proof of the pudding is in the DNA.  I have just discovered how true this statement is.
Recently, after contacting one of my Family Finder DNA matches (a DNA assessment which provides cousin matches across paternal and maternal lines), we found that we are probably 4th cousins 1X removed with our most recent common ancestors being Richard Ferguson and Verlinda Triplett of Wilkes County, North Carolina.  They are my 4th great grandparents and his 3rd great grandparents.  These individuals have been traced with the traditional paper trail and also with DNA testing.
What a surprise I had after making contact with this genetically matched cousin, a male with the Ferguson surname.  He has discovered that he does NOT match with any Ferguson in the Ferguson Y-DNA Project (a male surname project) who descends from Thomas Ferguson, the here-to-fore presumed father of Richard Ferguson.  Of course, he would most likely match with other male Fergusons descending from Richard Ferguson.  Apparently, none of these male individuals descending from Richard Ferguson and Verlinda Triplett have participated in Y-DNA testing. 
In the final analysis, the Y-DNA of my distant cousin actually matches the Y-DNA of a group of other male individuals who are not in his family tree but who match with the descendants of a male individual with the Allison surname who lived in Wilkes County the year of Richard’s birth.
My cousin and other Allison researchers believe that a non-paternal event occurred resulting in Richard’s genetic disposition being different from those of the descendants of Richard’s brothers.  Such a non-paternal event could have been one of three events:  the adoption of Richard by Thomas Ferguson; a pregnancy prior to marriage resulting in Richard’s birth; or an extra-marital affair resulting in Richard’s birth.   Therefore, those of us who descend from Richard Ferguson and Verlinda Triplett are really not Fergusons even though their descendants carried and still carry the Ferguson name.  We are most likely of the Allison lineage.  I am certain that this revealing information will be a surprise to many.
As genealogical researchers, we must be open to and accepting of such discoveries.  As one delves into his past, he is bound to find some “skeletons in the closet.”   Therefore, he must learn to be objective, remembering that no one is perfect and that all make mistakes.  And, he must recognize that, obviously, he would not be here if certain events had not occurred in his past.   
An example such as the one I have described illustrates how significant the field of genetics is becoming in understanding one’s ancestral background.  In today’s world, DNA is the only proof of the pudding!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Where in the World Did My West Ancestors Originate?

As I work through my “genealogy quagmire,” I continue to wonder where my ancestors originated.  Were they English, Scottish, Irish, Scotts-Irish, or Native American?  What? 
With DNA testing, I have been able to discover some geographic regions from which my earliest ancestors originated.  The results of my Family Finder DNA indicates that I am 94.02% western European and 5.98% Middle Eastern.  The percentage of western European comes from the British Isles with a notation that I am primarily from the population called Orcadian or from the Orkney Islands.  The Orkney Islands are at the uppermost part of northeastern Scotland.  The Middle Eastern results do not reflect such a specific area or areas, but the 5.98% represents numerous Middle Eastern countries.  Therefore, these percentages are less specific.  Currently, I am unaware of how I acquired the portion of my heritage (5.98%) identified as Middle Eastern.  Even though I have heard from my mother’s family many tales of my Cherokee and possibly Sioux heritage, my DNA results indicated no Native American genes.  How disappointing!  I was certain that I descend from an Indian Princess!
Since I first started working on my West heritage, which I have been pursuing fervently for the past few years, I believed that the Wests were English.  However, I have also discovered that other surnames such as McNeil, Ferguson, McKay, McTavish, and Maclean in my ancestral history include a strong heritage from Scotland with many being from the Highlands of Scotland and possibly many being displaced Scottish settlers from Ulster, Ireland, who are known as the Scots-Irish.
In this blog post, I am sharing information that I have obtained from my limited research on the etymology of my West and its allied/lateral family surnames.[i]
Surnames came into being as a necessity when English governments introduced personal taxation which was called a Poll Tax.  Poll taxes were levied on the colonists by the British government as was evident in North Carolina as early as in the 1700s.  Surnames continued to evolve often with astonishing variants of the original spellings.  In fact, distinguishing the current spelling of a surname from its original one is often times difficult.  Most of the surnames were assigned based on an individual’s occupation, on where he lived, or from where he came.   Due to the enormous amount of space that would be required, I will not be able to address the specifics of each name’s etymology.  Perhaps, another time, another posting!

England in 12th century
The first known settler with the West surname was a John West who came to Virginia on The Speedwell in 1635.
England in 14th and 15th centuries
The name means swan or graceful and could mean herdsman.  It first appeared in Cumberland in 1177 again in Yorkshire in 1219. It was first recorded as a surname with Matilda Swanson in 1379. The marriage of an Elizabeth Swanson was noted in 1559 in Somerset and a Jane Swanson in 1572.
England in 13th century
The name has many variations. It first appeared during the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307).  It appeared to be the name most frequently found in Yorkshire appearing several times in Poll Tax registers in 1379. No definite country of origin for the name has been identified.
no information at this time

Unfortunately, I have been unable to document my West family with that of the John West who arrived in Virginia on The Speedwell.  One deterrent to my documenting my line of Wests to anyone prior to 1720 is the fact that I cannot define with a paper trail the existence of my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West I who appeared in North Carolina about 1752.

Ireland, Scotland, Normandy/England, pre 8th century
The name McNeil has undergone many variant spellings.  The first recorded spelling was that of Willelmus Nigelli in 1195 in Wiltshire, England.
England and Scotland
Anderson was first recorded in Scotland in 1395. In England, the spelling was first recorded as a family name as that of Rogerus Andreweson in 1272.  One William Anderson sailed from London on The Alexander for Barbados in 1635.
Scotland (Gaelic), ancient, 1447
The first recorded spelling was Cambel in 1263. The first name bearer to include the “p” was Duncan Campbell about 1390.
England (medieval England)
Coates was first a locational name (lord of the manor) and then a topographical name (humble dwelling, meaning cottage in 7th century). It was first recorded as a surname in the 12th century—William de Cotes, 1190.
Scotland (old Gaelic)
The name Ferguson was widespread in Ulster, Ireland but was of Scottish descent. It was first recorded in Scotland in mid-15th century and first recorded as a surname in 1466.
Scotland (most likely)
The first recorded spelling of name as a surname was of Sir Simon Frasee about 1160.
Scotland (Gaelic)
It was an ancient Scottish clan name which indicates a Christian.  It was first recorded in Scotland in the 13th century.
The first recorded spelling as a surname was Gilbertus de Jonistune about 1195.
The first recorded spelling of name was that of Abraham Le Maire in1601 in London.
Scotland and Ireland  (old Gaelic)
Maclean has many variant spellings.  It was widely recorded in Scotland and Ireland. The name comes from Mac which means son or devotee of.  The Mclean’s connection with Ireland began with their employment by the MacDonnels of Ulster as mercenary soldiers in the 16th century.
Scotland and Ireland (Old Gaelic)
The name was first recorded in Scotland in the early half of 14th century.  An interesting name bearer was Archibald McKay (1801-1883), a poet and topographer.
McTavish was associated with the Clan Tavis.  It was one of the earliest surnames recorded in Scotland with the earliest recording being in 1355.
The name means a person or priest; it can also be an occupational or locational name.  The first recorded spelling was of Rodger le Persones, 1323.
Smith is the most prevalent surname in English speaking world.
England, medieval English origin
The name means son of or little. The first recorded spelling was of Thomas Triplett in 1567, Westminster, England.
England and Scotland
Watson was introduced in British Isles by Norman-French invaders in 1066 and was first recorded in England in 1176.  In Scotland the first recording was that of John Watson in Edinburgh in 1392. One of the earliest Watson immigrants to the Virginia Colony in New England was John Watson who came on The Speedwell in 1635.
England and Scotland (old English, Scotland-Normandy origins)
The name is found both in England and Scotland with many variations. John de la Were was recorded in the Hundred Rolls of Oxford in 1273.  Robert de la Were was recorded in Gloucestershire.
England, early medieval period
Wilson was introduced in England by William, Duke of Normandy. The first recorded spelling as a surname was for a Robert Willeson in 1324 in Yorkshire, England. A John Wilson was recorded as “living in Virginia on February 18th 1623.”


England, Germany, and Scandinavian countries
The name has several possible origins meaning one who lives in the country and one who lives in a forest glade.  It can also mean a village.  The first recorded spelling was that for Thomas de la Lande in 1205. A Richard Land was noted in church records in London in 1579. A George and Sarah Lande left Weymouth and settled in New England in 1635.
Mary Carlton, age 23, had one of the earliest recorded Carlton names in the New World when she came to Virginia in 1634.
England (medieval origin)
Originally, Hodge was a nickname for Roger. It was first recorded as a surname as Hogge in 1208. Modern spelling variations appeared in the 16th century.  Alicia Hogges was noted in the Subsidy Rolls in Somerset, England, in 1327.
England (medieval English), 13th century
The name was derived from the female given name, Isabel or Elizabeth. William Isabelle was noted in 1202 in church records on London.
Livingston was the name of a famous Scottish clan;  the first recorded spelling, Levystone, was about 1290 in Levenax, Scotland
no information at this time

no information at this time

Williamson evolved in honor of William the Conqueror in 1066.


England (Anglo-Saxon), first cited  in 1030 in Yorkshire, England
The first recorded spelling of the name was that of Thomas de Barlowe in 1260.
Mary Carlton, age 23, had one of the earliest recorded Carlton names in the New World when she came to Virginia in 1634.
England (Anglo-Saxon or Old Norse)
The first recorded spelling of the name (Kendale) was that of John de Kendale in1332.

The CARLTON name is found in both the Land and Barlow families since Carltons married into each of these families.
According to an Internet genealogy[ii], the Barlows originated in England.  The oldest and most numerous of the Barlow families took their name from a manor, the Manor of Barlow, in the parish of Whalley near Manchester, England.
The interesting quotation that I have included below provides some insight as to where my ancestors, the Barlows, Carltons, Livingstons, Isbells, Lands, and Sumters lived prior to migrating to Western North Carolina.  This quotation is from the Internet site of Bunches of Barlows.[iii]
Of the families most closely associated with the Barlows, the Carltons and Livingstons originated in King and Queen Counties of Virginia and the Isbell in the adjoining King William County, Virginia.  James Isbell of King William County married Frances Livingston of King and Queen County. This seems to point to King and Queen as the older Thomas Barlow's place of origin.

The following associated, and sometimes related families, came from Albemarle County, Virginia, to Wilkes and/or Burkes Counties in North Carolina in the period of 1776 to 1780: Barlow, Carlton, Land, Wallace, Isbell, Livingston, Sumpter, Randol, Tucker, Hartley, Dowell, Coffey, Crossthwaite, Stepp, Eve, Rippeto, McKenzie, Ballard, Eperson, Sudderth, Ramsey, Fields, Golsby, Jones {Russell Jones], et al.

Of course, in this narrative, I have included only the ancestors of my West family—those of my grandfather West, William Charles West, Sr.  Missing are all of those from my paternal grandmother’s family (the McQueens and Morelands) and from my mother’s families (the Hughes, Honeycutts, Hoilmans, and Canipes).  I’m sure that I will find many Scottish and Scots-Irish ancestors among them as well as additional English ancestors.
The DNA population finder, which determined my bio-geographical ancestry and included both my paternal and maternal lines, was quite accurate with 94.02% being from England and Scotland.  Now I am motivated to research the etymologies of my other surnames.

[i] The Internet Surname Database,
[ii] Hawkins, John and Elizabeth H. Michaels. Bunches of Barlows,
[iii] Bunches of Barlows,Reverend John Barlow of Wilkes Co North Carolina,”