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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!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Genetics Proved the Paper Trail

Two nights ago on my sister’s Family Tree DNA website, I discovered that she is a genetic match with one of my blog readers.  A few months earlier, by examining our paper trail, my blog reader and I realized that we were 6th cousins.   George McNeil and Mary Coates are our 5th great grandparents.  The Family Tree DNA website revealed that this blog reader is also a genetic match with my sister.  I was elated because the genetic match confirms the paper trail! 

Sadly, I am not a genetic match with my reader.  Often, when my sister or I match with an individual and the other one does not, I am asked why this happens.  Most of the time, my sister and I do match with the same individuals.  However, one of us may share more or fewer centimorgans (cMs) with the match than the other does.  When the match is not a strong match, both of us may not match with the individual in question because the non-matching sister did not get enough of that DNA required for a match.  I’m sure that’s why I am not also a match with my blog reader.  The reader and my sister share a small portion of DNA which is enough for them to be considered genetic matches.  I just didn’t get enough of that DNA to meet the threshold set by Family Tree DNA to be considered a match.

According to the paper trail, George McNeil and Mary Coates are the 5th great grandparents of my reader and my sister and me.  Because they are our 5th great grandparents, my sister and I are 6th cousins with my reader.  Since Family Tree DNA estimates that my sister and my reader are 4th cousins, we may be related through some other families.  Not only do we share the surnames of McNeil and Coates but also the surnames of Stout, Wagoner/Waggoner, and Wilson.  McNeil, Coates, and Wilson are from our grandfather West’s maternal lineage.  Wilson is also found in our grandmother West’s lineage.  Stout is from our grandfather Hughes’ maternal line.  The name Wagoner/Waggoner is from our grandmother Hughes’ maternal lineage.  Therefore, we may share a closer cousinship through one of these ancestors.

Never the less, the three of us are cousins as proved not only by the paper trail but also by genetics.

Hopefully, in the near future my sister and I will find that we are genetic matches with others from our West family.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cousins and More

At least one genealogical dream has come true for me.  Hopefully, it won’t be the last one and will open the door for many more. Daily, I discover new cousins who descend from my 3rd great grandparents, John Balus West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson.
Recently, I discovered a new cousin, Beatrice, who descends from the same great grandparents.  And even, more… this new 4th cousin is a 4th cousin with my 4th cousin, Joanne, who also descends from the same West grandparents.  For the three of us John Balus West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson were our 3rd great grandparents.

Since I like things organized, I created a chart to illustrate my relationships with cousins. I have included one of these charts below to illustrate the connection among the three of us.  Joanne and Beatrice gave me permission to use their names.  Thanks, Joanne and Beatrice.

Lineage of Charlotte Ruth West
Lineage of Linda Joanne Johnson
Lineage of Beatrice Wellborn
John Balus West/Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson
John Balus West/Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson
John Balus West/Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson
Alexander Balus West/Nancy Land
Franklin W. West/Cynthia Adeline Holder
Margaret “Peggy” West/Wilson Hendrix
1st cousins
Thomas Harvey West/America Ann McNeil
Thomas Clingman West/Bethanie Triplett
Mary Jane Hendrix/George Washington Wellborn
2nd cousins
William Charles West, Sr./Ada Beatrice McQueen
Dicia Albertha “Bertha” West/George Hayes Walker
Benjamin Wellborn/Artie Wagner
3rd cousins
William Charles West, Jr./Ruth Stella Hughes
Winnie Hazel Walker/Arvil Robert Johnson
George Hayes Wellborn/Mary Wellborn
4th cousins
Charlotte Ruth West
Linda Joanne Johnson
Beatrice Wellborn
Most Recent Common Ancestors: John Balus West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson
A few days ago, I met on-line another cousin, Patsy, who descends from those same great grandparents. However, these common grandparents are not in the same generation for Patsy as for the other three of us. They were Patsy’s 2nd great grandparents but our 3rd great grandparents.  Patsy is actually a 3rd cousin to the parents of Joanne, Beatrice, and me.  Therefore, Joanne, Beatrice, and I are “removed” from her.  In our situation, we are 3rd cousins 1 removed (3rd cousins 1R) from her. “Cousinships” certainly become complicated!

One never knows where he will find ancestors and cousins.  Several years ago, Joanne and I met through  Beatrice and I met a few days ago on the Wilkes County Genealogy Facebook site. Patsy and I, also, met on the Wilkes site.  Joanne became a follower of this blog about the time that I started writing it.  Beatrice has been a reader for quite a while, also.  Perhaps, many more of my anonymous readers may be West cousins!

Furthermore, I have connected with cousins through Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder.  Even though I haven’t found any DNA matches with the West surname, I have found DNA matches with the collateral families of Barlow, Carlton, Ferguson, Isbell, Land, McNeil, and Triplett.
While I take this opportunity to acknowledge these newly-discovered West cousins, I haven’t forgotten those of you from across the county—from North Carolina and Tennessee to the west coast.  All of you have been incredibly helpful as I have sought information about our common ancestors and the places they lived and as I continue to seek answers to the unknowns of our past.   One reason that I have this blog is to share information with you about our common heritage.  Many thanks to Beatrice, Brandon, Brent, Butch, Carol, Debbie, Fred, Jackie, Jeanette, Joanne, Nanette, Nick, Patsy, and my sister, Sandy, for sharing your information with me about our West families.  Many thanks to my other cousins who have shared information about our collateral lineages as well. I appreciate all of you.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Calling All West Descendants!

Now is a perfect time to participate in DNA testing. 

A couple of years ago I took Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test which matches one with “cousins” who have also participated in the test.  Presently, I have matched with several West-related cousins and confirmed our matches with them by using what is called “the paper trail.”  These matches are connected to my West families:  Land-Isbell, Ferguson, Carlton-Land, McNeil, and Triplett.  Sadly, I have found no matches with the West surname or any matches who have the name West name among their collateral surnames.
What is wrong? 
Even though Family Tree DNA has one of the largest databases for genealogical genetic study, either no Wests, who are related to my West lineage, are in Family Tree DNA’s database or those West indivudals and I do not share enough common DNA to be considered a match.  My conclusion is that we need more Wests in FTDNA’s database!
Now is the time for those who are interested to be tested.  Family Tree DNA is currently sponsoring a fabulous sale on its products.  This sale, which will end on July 26, 2013, is the best one yet.  Several types of testing are available.  I have had the most success with Family Finder which matches one with “cousins” from both the paternal and maternal sides of one’s family.  Currently Family Finder is on sale for $99, a fantastic price.  When I purchased mine, it was on sale at that time for $199.  The current price of $99 is one-half that sale price.  Family Tree DNA tests are for genealogical purposes only, not medical purposes.
You may find out more at
Think about it!  I hope to find you among my matches!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Long, Dry Spell

Yes, it has been a long dry spell.   Since my last posting on February 6, 2013, I have often thought about you, my readers, and have felt guilty not writing.  In reality, I have had nothing new or significance to write.  Regrettably, I have not broken the brick wall regarding my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West I and have probably resigned to the fact that I may never find him.

In the meantime, I will continue to write about my West family when I have new information and will expand my topics to include my collateral West ancestors, the Lands, McNeils, Barlows, Carltons, and others.  As you have likely noticed in previous postings, I have already done this to some extent.
Recently, three of us Carlton descendants have formed an e-mail group sharing information about our Carlton lineage.  Yvonne and I met on-line when I saw her query in the Wilkes Genealogical Bulletin and contacted her.  She and I are 5th Carlton cousins as proved by the paper trail.  I was able to introduce her to Ann.

Ann, my genetic match, and I are probably 5th or 6th cousins through three Carlton lines.  In one of the three lines, we know that both of us descend from John Carlton.  I descend from his 2nd wife Catharine Livingston and Ann from his 1st wife, Mary Land.  In a second lineage, both of us descend from Thomas Carlton’s parents, John Carlton and Elizabeth Wallace.  Then I descend from their son, Thomas, and his wife, Mary Land, and she from their son, William Lewis Carlton, and his wife, Elizabeth Eve.  Of course, I am related to Mary Land through my 2nd great grandmother, Nancy E. Land.  Therefore, in the Land lineage, both of us have the common ancestors of Thomas Land and Ann Sumter (Sumpter).  From them I descend through their son, Jonathan Land and his wife, Elizabeth Isbell, and she through their daughter, Mary Land, and husband Thomas Carlton.  Things do get complicated!

Ann and I began our communication quite some time ago after we discovered that we were genetic matches.  Thus far, because she is uncertain of the degree of the relationship she shares with one of her great grandfathers and the fact that we have not compared her Land lineage with mine, we have been unable to determine our exact cousinship in these three lines.

What else have I been doing the past five months?  I have been working on my maternal lines of Hughes, Hoilman, Honeycutt, and Canipe from the North Carolina counties of Yancey and Mitchell.  In addition, I completed some work on my paternal grandmother’s family, the McQueens and Morelands of Johnson and Washington counties in Tennessee.  And now, a burning desire is telling me to start another blog about my Yancey and Mitchell ancestors.

I am amazed at the interest that this blog has created since I started it on June 30, 2011.  As of today, the count of “hits” is over 10,368.  As in the past, I want to hear from you.  I will NOT publish any comments from readers that include an e-mail address.  If you wish to correspond with me through e-mail, please keep that in mind.  Your readership is inspiring.  Thank you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Melinda’s Legacy

When I began searching for my 3rd great aunt, Melinda West, I immediately found her and her husband, Israel Presnell, in the 1880 United States Census living in White Water Township, Bollinger County, Missouri. She was 81 years old, and Israel was 85.  Both were listed as paupers.  According to the definition of paupers as used in census records, they may have been individuals who were dependent on some type of assistance or lived in the home of a family member.  However, Melinda and Israel were the only individuals listed at that residence.  Therefore, determining how they qualified as paupers is nebulous.

My first reaction was one of sadness to find that she was identified as “a pauper” in a state many miles from her birthplace of South Carolina and her childhood home of Wilkes County, North Carolina.  At the time of my initial search, I found no information about any children that she may have had.

Little did I know that my Aunt Melinda did, indeed, leave quite a legacy!

My search for Melinda was initiated a couple of years ago with the expectations of learning more about my 4th and 5th great grandfathers who were John West and Alexander West I.  John West was Melinda’s father, and Alexander was her grandfather. Since I began my genealogical endeavors, Alexander West I has been my “brick wall.” John West, her father, has been elusive, also.

Family lore and the 1810 census record indicate that John’s wife, Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon, and their three young children returned to Wilkes, North Carolina, after John’s death in South Carolina.  The couple had moved from Wilkes, North Carolina, to South Carolina sometime after their marriage in 1796.  According to census records, the three children were born in South Carolina.  John Balus West was born about 1798, Melinda about 1799, and another daughter after 1798.

Recently, I learned about Melinda’s legacy from my cousin, Joanne, who discovered it through her research.  Although Melinda never lived to see the accomplishments of her descendants, several of them became prosperous and well-known.

My paper trail revealed that Melinda and Israel married in Wilkes County, North Carolina, on December 12, 1819.  In 1820 they appeared in the census for Wilkes, North Carolina. By the 1850 census, they were living in Brazeau, Perry, Missouri; in 1870 they were in Union, Bollinger, Missouri; and in 1880 they resided in White Water, Bollinger, Missouri. Their five children, Stephen Joseph, Eveline, Isaac, Solomon, and Carolina, were born between the years of 1828 and 1843, one in North Carolina, one in Kentucky, one in Illinois, and two in Missouri.  The lives of Melinda and Israel certainly were typical of those who moved westward to find a better life in the first half of the 1800s.

Surprisingly, the lineage from Melinda and Israel’s son, Stephen Joseph Presnell, and his daughter Susan Frances Presnell led to the Limbaugh family!  The following list represents the direct-line descendants from Alexander West I to the Limbaugh family.
·         Alexander West I (between 1720-1730 - after 1790) and unknown spouse
·         John West (1760-about 1800) and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon (1760-after 1840)
·         Melinda West (about 1799-after 1800) and Israel Presnell (about 1795-1884)
·         Stephen Joseph Presnell (1828-1881) and Elizabeth Hudson (1826-1904)
·         Susan Frances Presnell (1852-1938) and Joseph Hadley Limbaugh (1844-1898)
·         Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr. (1891-1996) and Beulah Maude Seabough (1891-1977)
·         Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Jr. (1918-1990) and Mildred Carolyn Armstrong (1925-2000)
·         Rush Hudson Limbaugh, III

Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr. was a lawyer who served as a Missouri prosecutor, judge, special commissioner, member of the Missouri House of Representatives, and president of the Missouri Historical Society. The Federal Courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is named for him.  Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Jr. was also a lawyer.   Rush Limbaugh, III is the conservative talk-show host.

At this point in my narrative, my readers must be curious as to what my relationship is with Rush Limbaugh, III.  According to my genealogical paper-trail, my cousin Joanne, my sister Sandy, and I share the relationship of 5th cousins with Rush Limbaugh, III.  Our most recent common ancestors were John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon who were our 4th great grandparents.

Melinda would have been proud; she left a legacy that will not be forgotten.

Thanks, Joanne, for your discovery!

·         Missouri, Find a Grave Index, 1812-2011
·         Missouri, Deaths and Burials Index, 1873-1976
·         Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002
·         North Carolina Marriage Bonds, 1741-1868
·         North Carolina Marriage Collection, 1741-2004
·         Social Security Death Index
·         United States Census Records for 1810, 1820,1850,1870, 1800, 1900, 1920, 1930
·         U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
·         West, John Foster. “History of West Family Is Given,” The Journal-Patriot, North Wilkesboro, NC, Nov. 8, 1976