My DNA Revisited: Where Did I Come From

On September 17, 2012, I published a post “My DNA–What? Surely you Jest!!  Just a few days earlier I received notification of my DNA results from Ancestry.com.  My photograph of a torn up circle representing my DNA was prominently included in my post.

img_1576

For amateur genealogists everywhere, Ancestry.com’s $99 DNA test was probably their (and my) first chance to actually get a sense, scientifically of “where did I come from”.  I bought a test in the Fall of 2012, took the test, received the results and was totally confused.  Nowhere in my DNA test results did I see any support for my research concerning my Western European roots.  Since my own research indicated strong ties to France and Germany, I tore up my test results in frustration.

IMG_3243What a difference a year makes.  On Oct. 17, 2013, I received an e-mail fromAncestry.com notifying me (and, I am sure, everyone else who has taken their DNA test) that “Our breakthrough update is here, with exciting new details and context…”.  The new results more closely mirror my years of research into my family tree.

In many respects the old and new results are similar.  But in terms of my family history research they are miles apart.  Much of the research I had given up as wrong, is now consistent with the new results.

 

My revised DNA test results:                                         My original test results:

Scandinavian                33 %                                              Scandinavia                 43 %

Ireland                            30 % [1]                                         British Isles                  40 %

Europe West                18 %                                                Middle Eastern          10 %

Italy/Greece                 12 %                                                Southern European    7 %

Trace Regions

Iberian Peninsula       4 % [2]

Finland/N. Russia    < 1 %

Great Britain              < 1 %

Caucasus                       1 % [3]

My research is validated in many significant respects:  My Lewis ancestors presumably moved to the colonies in the 1600’s from Wales rather than England.

My Western European DNA is consistent with the Mesle migration from Western France where they lived in St. Maixent, Alencon and Poitou (just North of the Iberian Peninsula) beginning in about 1000.  By the  1300s, Mesles lived in the Normandy Region of France.  By the the 1500s and 1600s, Mesles lived in Germany before relocating to the New World.

My great-grandfather Franz Mesle, nicknamed “the Swab”, almost certainly lived at least briefly in Austria-Hungary.  Germans who settled in Austria-Hungary, (near the Caucasus area) were called Swabs.  Franz married Katharine Kirsch/ner, daughter of Conrad Kirsch/ner.  A Catharine Kirschner was born in Jabuka, Austria-Hungary in the 1800’s to Conradus Kirschner. By 1881 Franz and Catharine lived in Canada and then the U.S.

If my new and enhanced DNA results are correct that I am 1 % English, my maternal great grandparents, John Fox and Jane Bond Fox, both born in England, must be my only English ancestors.

My search continues.  The biggest change in my results are, to be fair, a shift of DNA results from Northern Europe to Northern and Western Europe.  But this seemingly minor change is significant in connecting my research to my DNA.

I now continue my search.  Who am I? Where do I come from?  What difference does it make?  Maybe none.  But my quest continues.

As for my Lumbee ancestors–I still do not have a trace of Native American DNA

_________________________________

[1] “Ireland” includes Wales for purposes of the DNA results

[2] The Iberian Peninsula includes extreme SW Europe: parts of France, Spain, Portugal, Andorra & Gibraltar

[3] Caucasus is on border between Turkey & Kazakhstan in W. Asia

Advertisements

In Search Of The Harris Family Burial Grounds

The late 1850’s was a period of unrest and pending rebellion in mid-Missouri.  Family members were pitted against each other as they divided between Union and Confederate sympathies.  It divided the nation.  It divided my family, with brother literally fighting against brother.  Private Moses Harris, died in 1862 fighting with Union forces (1st NE Cavalry Regiment Missouri Home Guard). Jonathan M. Harris, died in 1910, years after serving for the Confederate army under General Price. Stephen Wheeler Harris, fought with Union troops and died in 1926.  All of the brothers are united with other family members buried in the Harris Cemetery.  But my grandmother, Minerva Harris Wright is not there.  She left in about 1855, never to return.

I have vague memories of a photograph of my great-grandfather, Samuel X Wright,[1] taken in the late 1940’s on the front porch of my grandparents’ home in Independence. Until about 2008, I knew nothing about Samuel or his family.  Eventually, I learned that shortly before the Civil War, Samuel’s parents, Samuel Wright and Minerva Harris, moved from Minerva’s family home in Saline County, Mo., to Atchison, Mo. and eventually settled in Atchison, Ks.

It was a shock when I learned that Minerva ran off with Samuel, the husband of Minerva’s older sister, Ruth Ann (“Ruthy”).[2]  Ultimately Samuel left Minerva and moved West. I do not know the rest of the story.  But I am reminded by civil war historians that the disruption in families caused by the pending conflict left wounds that divided families forever.

But I knew none of that.  It was only piece by piece that I began to uncover the basic facts about my Harris ancestors.  My research did reveal that Minerva’s parents were Timothy Harris (1803-1877) and Mary Teeters (1800-1850).  Saline County records confirm that Timothy and Mary are buried in the Harris Family Burial Ground/Cemetery, adjacent to the original Harris farm.   Timothy’s father, Jonathan Harris, who served in the War of 1812, and died after 1830, is probably is buried there as well. When I discovered that the family cemetery was adjacent to the Harris lands, it became important to me to discover it’s location.

My search for the location of Harris Family Cemetery was a challenging process. It was easier to trace my Harris ancestors back to Albemarle Virginia, where Timothy’s parents, Jonathan Harris and his wife, Ann Heard, were raised as neighbors, than to find a cemetery less than 150 miles from Kansas City.

I received help from the librarian in the Genealogy department of the Marshall Mo. public library.  But it wasn’t until my third trip along Highway O, just North of Slater, Mo. that I found it.  Even when I found the right road, the deteriorated condition of the cemetery made it difficult to see from the road. (Country Road 108).  Having finally found it, I struggled with the tall, dense weeds and grass covering the cemetery, as well as my fear of snakes.  I left the cemetery with few pictures and much frustration.

More than a year after my discovery of the cemetery, Terry and I made a return trip on January 26, 2013. We packed sandwiches, our dog, my camera and directions to the exact location and headed out on Saturday morning.

IMG_2241

For anyone who cares, the directions to the cemetery are:

From Kansas City, drive on Highway 70 to the Marshall, Mo. exit.  Take the turnoff to Highway 65.  Drive to Marshall.  Exit at the Slater exit, Highway 240.  When you arrive at Slater, you will see a Casey’s General Store.  Highway 240 intersects with Broadway at Casey’s General Store.  Follow IMG_2253Broadway a couple of block until it turns into Highway O [3] Follow Highway O North until you reach 357th Street. (Country Road 108 was renamed last year.)

IMG_2254If you reach Highway F, you have gone too far. [4]  F begins at 357th Street.

Turn left at 357th Street.  About 1 1/2 miles down this road there is a simple bridge at the bottom of a hill.  The house at the top of the next hill has an address that reads 30643. IMG_2244Directly across from the house, on the South Side of 357th, is the cemetery.  It is identifiable (if at all) by the wood fence on the North and West sides of the cemetery.  The total distance from Casey’s to the cemetery is a total of only 7.9 miles.  It seems much further!

The cemetery is in a serious state of neglect.  I was only able to identify the names on 4 stones. None of them are stones of my direct ancestors, though I recognize the names of their children and other relatives from my research.   Because of the heavy grass and weeds underfoot, it is apparent that stones hidden under the grass will be almost impossible to find unless, and until, the grass is mowed, macheted or burned.  I will include photographs of the stones we located so that you can get a sense of the site.

S.W. Harris, a Civil War veteran, is Minerva’s brother.

IMG_2242

I have not identified the relationship of Rachel Harris, who died August 22, 1929.  She may be Rachel Ferrel, wife of John H. Harris, who records reflect is buried in the cemetery.

IMG_2228

J.W. Gauldin may be the husband of Patsy Harris Gauldin.

IMG_2235

Try as I might, this stone was illegible.

IMG_2238

Willie Wycoff is unknown to me.  Obviously, additional research is required!

IMG_2229

This stone is for another member of the Gauldin family.

IMG_2236

My own great-great-grandparents are not buried here.  After moving away from Saline County, my research suggests that they never returned and had no further contact with Minerva’s family.  My quest for my family roots continues.

_____________

[1]  Our family oral history is that Samuel Wright’s family traveled west with Daniel Boone.  There is also some evidence that the Harris family traveled west with members of the Boone family.  The Harris’s and Heard’s, Timothy’s parents families, lived together in Albemarle, Virginia in the 1700’s before moving through Kentucky and into Saline, County, Mo. in about 1819.  Timothy’s mother, Ann Heard, died in Kentucky.  Timothy’s father, Jonathan, may be buried in the Harris Cemetery.

[2]   Ruthy and Samuel were married in Saline, Mo. on Nov. 28, 1847.  They had three children, Tobias, Robert and Martha.  I have never found a marriage license for Minerva and Samuel nor any evidence that Ruthy and Samuel were officially divorced.

[3] Broadway mergers with Highway O.  If you turn left onto O you will head back toward Marshall.  Do not turn left.

[4]  For anyone who has seen directions to the cemetery on the internet, the sign for Country Road 108 is gone.  It is now 357. Highway O turns into Highway F at 357th.  Do not continue on Highway F.

Continuing My Search For Ancestors

Hearing from a possible relative is thrilling.  This is how the message begins:

“Hi Ann, Hearing from a newfound family member is always exciting! . . . You and I would be 2nd cousins by marriage.”

Our possible common ancestor was Conrad/us Kirs/ner, father of my great-grandmother, Catherine Barbara Kischner.  Catherine’s children knew her as “Kate”.  This photograph of Kate was taken shortly before her death, on Dec. 28, 1910.  She was living with her daughter, Anna Landes, in Niagara Falls, NY.  My granddad, Frank C. Mesle, Sr., owned the house next door.Kate may have been born June 16, 1850/7.

Our family history, and the 1910 U.S. Census, are consistent that she was born in Germany.  Sources at Ancestry.com, including my newly connected second cousin, disagree, and believe she was born in Glogon, Austria-Hungary.

Glogon (now Glogonj) is currently part of Serbia. Between the mid-1800’s and the present, Glogon has been part of Austria-Hungary, Hungary, Yugoslavia and, now, Serbia.  It is strategically located between what was, in the 1700 and 1800’s, a buffer area between Christian Austria-Hungary and the Moslem world.  Apparently settlers were given free land to entice them to move there to provide a buffer between the two cultures.  It was certainly a bad bargain. They lived a difficult life at best. Apparently death rarely resulted from old age, but instead from disease, starvation or warfare.  By the late 1800’s there was a massive exodus from Glogon to other areas of Europe and to the U.S.

Selfishly, for me, my probable link to Glogon helps explain my DNA test results, that indicates I have DNA markers for Southern Europe and, perhaps, the Caucasus, near the Black Sea.  Obviously Glogon is located far closer to Italy than to the country I had believed to be her home, Germany.

Kate received a series of letters from her family between 1896 and 1911. All were addressed from Germany.  Each includes some tidbit of news pertinent to the family history.  They are as follows:

Letter from C. Kirsch (probably her brother) dated Jan. 22, 1897 from Ludwigshafen (at the Rhein), to the Kaisers German Consulate in Toronto, Canada: He identifies Barbara Kirsch as his sister, states his father’s third wife “died last year” and that his father, who is very weak, will be 76 in March.  He states that of the “brothers and sisters there are , besides myself: a sister, Elise Fromhold, a widow, who lives in Neckargemund.  Elise was Conrad’s daughter by his first wife, as was Kate. A brother Frederick[1] Kirsch, was a teacher in Sonborn, Elberfeld, of the second wife.

Letter from C. Kirsch dated July 16, 1901, from Ludwigshafen to Barbara Mesle, born Kirsch, in Niagara Falls, NY:  He explained he was sending Barbara her 1/4 share of her father’s estate, 2000 marks, ($478.16).  He identified his eldest daughter as Lenchen, and his son as Fredrick.

Letter from Elisa Fromhold dated July 29, 1907, from Neckargemund: It is addressed to “Dear Sister” and  identified her daughter, Marin, as nurse in Mannheim, another child as Jungfer, who lived in  Durtheim (Durbheim?).

Letter from Elise Fromhold dated August 1, 1911, from Neckargemund: It is addressed “Dear Aunt”(?) and was received by the family several months after Barbara’s death. It identified the author’s children, Dina, Karl, Uncle Konrad and Uncle Friedrich.  I assume, but do not know, that this is from a daughter of Catherine’s sister, also Elisa/e.

The correspondence from a possible cousin, who I have never met, is exciting.  She identified another brother of Kate’s, Josephus Kirschner, born September 8, 1855, in Glogon.  He has long been identified on the margins of my notes as a possible relative. Her ability to give me what may well be another piece of my great-grandmother’s history assists me, piece by piece, to trace the history of my family.

Have a great week.

__________________

Frederick is also the name of one of Kate’s sons

My DNA–What? Surely you Jest!!

Seriously.  I do a little DNA test and what do I get?   Total confusion.  I mean, seriously, who did I think I was?? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Based on more than 5 years of research relying on Ancestry.com, google, family records, public records, photographs and other research, I expected my DNA results to look something like this:

British Isles: 60%, Western Europe: 35 %, Other: 5 %.

Ancestry.com even includes on its site a clever little circle graph showing the nature of the information that members would receive about their genetic markers.  It seemed so simple.  Once again, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I expected, and found, strong evidence of family roots in the British Isles.  Mom’s family (Harrises, Bayes and Wrights) and my maternal grandmother’s family, (Lewises), all have strong ancestral ties there.  But where I expected my heritage to be dominated by British and Western European ancestors, instead I now understand I have lots of ancestors from Scandinavian countries.  I had not anticipated a single Swede, Dane or Norwegian in my entire family tree.  My Middle Eastern and Southern European roots–seriously, where do they come from. My anticipated heritage is so different from the heritage established by my DNA.  I am intrigued.

The question I raised in my last post about my DNA test indicated I expected to see some data in the “other” column as a result of the somewhat obscure origins of the Lumbee “tribe” of North Carolina.  My ancestor, Morris Teeter, who was born in 1737 and died in 1812, was buried in the Cummings Cemetery near Pembroke, NC.  Apparently, he was a Lumbee or married to a Lumbee.  If that information is correct, then I certainly have no native American DNA indicators.  Perhaps the rumors that the Lumbee are descended from early sailors to the New World (obviously Scandinavian and maybe Persian) is true.  I don’t know.  I don’t want the Lumbee tribe to take my word for it.  But they may want to be DNA tested themselves. Really.

But I digress–kind of!

Where are the Mesle/Kirsch Western European ancestors?  What about the centuries I expected granddad’s family to have lived in Western Europe before moving from Germany to the United States?  Nowhere.  Absolutely nowhere. I have 5 years invested in learning about the migration of the Mesle name from St. Maixent, France, spreading throughout France and into Germany, Belgium.  5 years trying to determine where in the small world of Mesles my own family had its origins before appearing in the record books in Stuttgart, Germany in the early 1800s.  Now, I do not know whether I am, at all, connected by blood to those Mesles.  Maybe they are, as I once read, descended from Vikings. But could they have lived in Western Europe for 800 years without picking up even a hint of German or French DNA markers?  Of course not.

The question, of course, is “Does it matter?”  If my interest is in tracing the religious, ethical and educational history of my family, it may not matter at all.  If my interest is in my blood line, then maybe the most important message is that none of us may be who we think we are.

Now that, is something to chew on!

Who are the Lumbee and Who am I?

Who is my tribe?  That question has long fascinated me.  Family history research only takes me so far.  Now there is another tool in my search.  DNA testing.

Ancestry.com recently offered its  members a DNA test for a cost of $99.  In the blink of an eye, I paid my money and received a packet in the mail to begin the process. My saliva sample was sent back to Ancestry.com by return mail.   I now wait approximately 6 weeks. Then I will see whether a DNA test will actually help unlock the secrets of my heritage.

I have some experience with the power of DNA evidence.  Experts tell us they can determine from a saliva specimen, or blood or sweat, the one person in history who could have committed a crime down the block last Saturday night.  Seriously.  But can such a test tell me about my own past?  Can it tell me when my Mesle ancestors left France?  I don’t know?  Can it tell me whether I have Jewish ancestors?  I will see.

Can it tell me whether I am descended from the Lumbee tribe in the North Carolina?  Yes.  I think so. Why do I believe I can learn whether I am part Lumbee and what that really means?  Simple.  If I am part Lumbee, through Morris Teeter, my DNA should include markers distinctively associated with a Lumbee heritage.

But what is a Lumbee heritage?  I first heard of the Lumbees less than a year ago while researching my mother’s family line.  The tribal origins are unclear.  Lumbees are recognized as a Native American tribe by North Carolina but not by the federal government. They are not primarily descended from European stock–like all of my other known ancestors.  My Lumbee markers would almost certainly include evidence of Native American ancestors.  But my DNA could also provide some evidence as to whether the Lumbee tribe is pure Native American blood, or whether their ancestors–and  mine–are from a mix of races who created their own unique culture and ethnicity hundreds of years ago.

So, who is my tribe?  Does it matter?  Does it make me any difference to an understanding of who I am?  What about the Lumbee?  I don’t know.  But, maybe it does.  I will let you know when I figure it out.

____________________

Our blog does not represent the opinions of our family, our friends or our employers.

According to Wikipedia, the above photograph of members of the Lumbee tribe is in the public domain.

Cousin Trip–In the Shadow of My Ancestors

My Uncle Dick Mesle was the family historian.  Until I found family photographs, Bibles and other evidences of generations’ past, I had little knowledge of my family history.  For my parents, it was religion that bound us together as a family, not the ancestors whose blood flows through our veins.  But I have long wanted to know “who is my tribe”, where do I belong in this great world.  As a result, when I began to find windows into our family past, I was anxious to pursue them. I have done so from that day to the present, a quest that has continued more than 9 years.

I am not looking for lost treasures, nor am I interested in kingdoms or proof of nobility.  But I am fascinated by the values that unite us as family.  Surely family values, beliefs and even professional interests are likely to continue from generation to generation.  Bankers are likely to raise bankers, teachers are likely to raise teachers.

With my husband I have travelled to find where John Lewis was buried in 1691 under an asphalt patch of land in Westerly, Rhode Island.  Now my sister, my cousins and I have walked Section A of Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Norwich, NY.  Here rest generations of Lewis and Terry ancestors: my family.  While I can incorporate these photographs of their gravestones into my genealogical research, for now, the photographs themselves document the close ties that bound the family together in Norwich for more than 100 years.  Here are some of the ancestors I found:

Elnathan Terry (1758-1840): American Revolutionary Soldier.  Served under Captain Gorton, under command of Lt. Caleb Lewis.

Mary Kinyon Terry (1768-1858): Wife of Elnathan Terry.  Mary is a direct descendent of Thomas Rogers, Richard Warren, Francis Cooke and John Cooke, all of whom arrived on the Mayflower.  Elnathan and Mary moved to New York before 1810.

Freeborn Lewis (1784-1822): Married Esther Terry (1787-1865) daughter of Elnathan Terry and Mary Kinyon Terry.  She remarried on Freeborn’s death and is buried in Little Sioux, Harrison County, Iowa.  Freeborn also moved to NY with other Terrys and Lewises by 1810.

Lorenzo Lewis (1808-1855) is the son of Freeborn Lewis and Esther Terry Lewis.  Lorenzo married Mary Ocelia Smith (1815-1879). Lorenzo owned a saw mill in Norwich. He died when his son, Horatio,  was only a year old.  His sons continued and expanded the milling operations.

Daniel Horatio Lewis (1854-1917):  I was elated to finally locate the tombstone of my great-grandfather, Daniel Horatio Lewis. He is the son of Lorenzo Lewis and Mary Ocelia Smith.  He married Victoria Belcher Lewis. He and his brothers Herman and Harris Lewis were in the lumber business, were builders, and owned and operated saw mills in and around Norwich. Herman and another brother, Willard, served with the Union in the Civil War.  Willard died of disease in a prison camp in New Orleans in 1855.

Horatio was also a temperance lecturer.  Victoria was a teacher.  Horatio and Victoria moved with their family to Boston and ultimately moved to Sherrill, NY where they died.  They are buried in Norwich in the Lewis family plots.

After years of research, Mt. Hope Cemetery in Norwich was a wonderful day of discovery.  All along the way, i was aided by the ground crew of the cemetery, who were gracious and enthusiastic about our adventure; and abetted by my sister and cousins, who seemed to thrive on every discovery as much as I did.  A quest, an adventure and a bonding experience.

In Search of My Roots–the Lewis Family

At 6:50 this morning I am off on a great adventure.  My sister and I fly to Boston.  We pick up our rental car there and have charmed three cousins to meet us in New York?  In New York we plan to spend three days with cousins, searching for our roots.  We have not been together as a group in more than 50 years.  What a treat.

From the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s, 5 generations of our family lived in and around Norwich, Chenango County, NY.  My great-grandfather, Horatio Lewis, and his brothers, Hiram and Harris, owned mills in the area.  Here is a picture of their mill in Pharsalia, NY., before it was destroyed in a fire in the late 1880’s.

Tuesday morning we will drive to Norwich.  Our agenda is to visit the Mt. Hope Cemetery to try to find the Lewis and Terry Family Plots, located in Section A. I thought it would be relatively simply until I learned that Section A is 10 acres.  Well, we can only try! Since our family members were among the first people buried there, I am hoping we have a chance.  Then on to the Guernsey Memorial Library and the Norwich Historical Society.

Wednesday we drive to Sherrill, NY, where my grandparents lived by 1912.  Granddad was superintendent of silver-plating operations for Oneida Silver, back in the day when it was a power to be reckoned with in Oneida County.  We plan to visit the family home on Willow Road, walk down to the school and the plant on the same road.  Dad (on the right), his brother Dick (the baby) and Aunt Dot (on the left) were all raised in the house in Sherrill.

We will spend one night in rooms at the Mansion House, the home of a utopian community that eventually founded the silver company.

In the midst of indulging my family history adventures I hope to catch up on years of missed time with my cousins.  Hopefully, we will see some wonderful places, share great memories and return home refreshed and armed with photographs for new posts.