ThruLines Sometimes Tells You Nothing

There was some time when I believed that William C. Rhodes (born in 1831 and lived for some time in Macon County, Missouri, where he married Lucretia Matilda Jones) was the son of Levi M. Rhodes. After looking into Levi a little further I became less convinced. This post is not about that research.

It is about whether ThruLines provides any DNA evidence of William’s descent from Levi. ThruLines shows that William is Levi’s son, yet there are no connected DNA matches with the testee that descend from another child of Levi other than William. This does not provide any DNA evidence that William is the child of Levi.

This is in contrast to the ThruLines for William being the father of Clara Ettie Rhodes (grandmother of the testee). That chart indicates that the testee has shared DNA matches through two of Clara’s siblings–confirming the paper evidence with DNA. This chart “ThruLines for William C Rhodes” confirms the paper relationships.

The ThruLines for Levi does not do anything other than repeat information from someone else’s tree. There’s no DNA evidence of that parent-child relationship between Levi and William based on this Thrulines chart. There is DNA evidence of the sibling relationship between George, Gertrude, and Clara Rhodes based on the shared DNA. This does not mean that they are not related–just that this chart provides no evidence of that connection.


US Court and Probate Records Webinars Download Available

We are excited to offer new and updated sessions of these two popular presentations. If you pre-ordered a copy, email me at if you did not get your copy.

Introduction to US Probate Records

This session will provide attendees with an overview the US probate process and how records created fit into that entire process and the basic terminology required to understand and interpret the records correctly. Included will be a discussion of ways to interpret and understand the records, determining what additional records should be searched, and ways to access probate records—including search approaches and use of indexes. Handout included.

Introduction to Local US Court Records

This session will provide an overview of local courts in the United States and ways to locate and find information about applicable local court records for personal research. While all court cases can provide genealogically relevant information, this session will focus on those most likely to provide that information and provide examples of “non-typical cases” that were genealogically relevant. Included will be a discussion of ways to interpret and understand the records, determining what additional records should be searched, and ways to access probate records—including search approaches and use of indexes. Handout included.


Helped to Bury Him in 1854

Widow’s pension applications are full of statements by neighbors, associates, and relatives testifying to the marriage of the widow, her residence in a specific area, her not remarrying again, the veteran’s military service, etc. Usually specific relationships by biology or marriage are not stated in these affidavits as documenting the relationship is not the purpose of these statements. It’s also possible that mentioning a close relationship may suggest that the affiant is biased towards the claim being approved.

That said, the statements can contain clues–big and small. At the very least the amount of time the affiant has known the widow or veteran can be helpful in documenting moves and migrations.

In August of 1856, Thomas Kirkland and William Yeager, both residents of Washington County, Kentucky, testified that they had known Thomas Brown for the past eighteen years and that he had been purported to have been a War of 1812 veteran. They also stated that they lived near him when he died two years ago and still live near the widow. In fact, William Yeager assisted with Brown’s burial.

Kirkland and Yeager made out their affidavit before a Justice of the Peace in Mercer County–not Washington County. This suggests that the Browns, Kirkland, and Yeager lived near the Mercer/Washington County line and this provides at least some direction for where they lived. Yeager’s assistance with the burial of Brown may suggest that there’s a relationship there besides a geographic one. Neither man made any specific statement regarding Brown’s military service and their vague reference to it would not have been sufficient to establish service. Fortunately there are other records in the pension application to document Brown’s service.

Brown served in Captain E. Berry’s Regiment, Kentucky Volunteers in the War of 1812. Fortunately his second wife was his widow long enough to qualify for a pension. There are significant clues in the short affidavit made out by Yeager and Kirkland. The area of residence within the county will be helpful if the Browns did not own real estate or appear in other records that can tie them to a specific piece of geography more narrow than the county.


Descendants Besides You?

Readers know that I hate genealogy “games.” I think most of them are time wasters and I cannot see any real purpose in completing them just to say that I completed a challenge in some made contest. However as something of a more practical challenge, I decided to see how many other descendants of my great and great-great-grandparents show up in my DNA results at AncestryDNA.

  • Neill great-grandparents–no matches other than me.
  • Trautvetter great-grandparents–two other descendants
  • Ufkes great-grandparents–two other descendants
  • Habben great-grandparents–three other descendants
  • Neill great-great-grandparents–ten other descendants
  • Rampley great-great-grandparents–eight other descendants
  • Trautvetter great-great-grandparents–three other descendants
  • Sargent great-great-grandparents–none
  • Ufkes great-great-grandparents–four other descendants
  • Janssen great-great-grandparents–none
  • Habben great-great-grandparents–two other descendants
  • Goldenstein great-great-grandparents–seven other descendants

It should be noted that the matches with descendants of my great-great-grandparents descend from a different one of their children than I do.

None of my DNA matches are also descendants of my Neill great-grandparents. That family was relatively small compared to my other great-grandparents’ families and, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have tested (at least I hope not). I do have matches who are descendants of my Neill great-grandparents’ parents (and their grandparents and their great-grandparents–just not shown in this chart) and who share amounts of DNA consistent with our genealogical cousin relationship. The concern would have been if I had discovered no matches of both sets of their parents or earlier generations. That’s not the case as there are numerous descendants from earlier branches of that family.

I do have shared matches who are descendants of my other three sets of great-grandparents. In most cases I was aware of their interest in their family history and their appearance was not a surprise.

Of my eight sets of great-great-grandparents there are only two sets who do not have descendants showing up as DNA matches (other than my closer cousins who descend through the same set of great-grandparents as I do). There are no shared matches in my set of results who are also descendants of my Janssen and Sargent great-great-grandparents. Both of these sets of great-great-grandparents had three children–including the one who is my ancestor–and none of those other children had large families. The other six sets of great-great-grandparents all had significantly larger families thus increasing the pool of possible descendants who could test.

Next on my list: looking at my 3rd great-grandparents.


BLM Tract Book Discovery

FamilySearch has had the Bureau of Land Management Tract Books (titled: United States, Bureau of Land Management Tract Books, 1820-1908) on their website. Using the books takes a little bit of patience and a little bit of knowledge, but it’s not impossible.

William Newman purchased property in Tipton County, Indiana, in the 1850s. Locating that parcel in the index was my first foray into using these materials.

This was known because Newman was located on the BLM website as having obtained a patent for property in section 29 of township 22N 5 E in Tipton County . A query was performed on the BLM website to determine the names of all others purchasing property in that section. One of them was William Tinsley, brother-in-law of William S. Newman.

This table shows all the entries from patents in the Bureau of Land Management website for the same section of property as the  William Newman purchase (29).

NamesDateDoc #Aliquots
COOK, JEFFERSON12/1/184932698NE¼SW¼
HALL, ROBERT1/1/185032751W½SW¼
JACKSON, JOSEPH3/20/184932070S½NW¼
NEWMAN, WILLIAM S1/1/185032863NE¼NW¼
RABB, SAMUEL G5/1/185034185NW¼NE¼
STEWART, ROBERT12/10/185034391NW¼SE¼
WOLFER, LEONARD1/1/185032990S½SE¼
WOOD, THOMAS5/1/185034358SE¼SW¼

The BLM database indexes completed patents. The tract book contains additional references and notations. The tract book indicated that William did not intend to just purchase the property for which he finally obtained a patent. His name is also listed in the tract books as having made an initial payment on another forty acres in the section, but that his deposit was refunded in 1854.

The entries in the tract book are helpful, but the actual patents (on the BLM site) indicate the county of residence of the purchasers, which is helpful in distinguishing between individuals and something that is not indicated in these tract book entries. The materials need to be used together–not in isolation.

I knew that William’s patent was in the volume for the Indianapolis land office as that was indicated on his patent image obtained on the BLM website.

Vol 1, Indianapolis, page 71–part of the left hand side.

Vol 1, Indianapolis, page 71–corresponding right hand side.

There were no huge revelations, but I was surprised to see that William had also started the process to purchase additional property in this township.
On my list of things to do with this information are:

  • Look at the residences of the other purchasers to determine where they were from at the time of the completed patent. Newman and Tinsley were from Rush County, Indiana. It is possible that other men–particularly those obtaining property at the same time–were from that area as well.
  • Plat out the parcels to allow me to visualize the relationships between the locations.
  • Look at purchasers of property in adjacent townships.

An 1817 Ohio Land Purchase

There is something gratifying about finding your ancestor’s name in a record, particularly one that is not indexed.

This image is part of the entry for Thomas J. Rampley from the Bureau of Land Management Tract books for Ohio. And while these books are not indexed by name, there is organization. It is just that the organization is by location and not by name. I knew that Thomas made an initial payment for property in Section 5 of township 5-7 in Coshocton County, Ohio. The location was the information that allowed me to locate this reference. The tract books cannot easily be searched by name only.

This reference styles Thomas as “of Coshocton County, Ohio” on 15 November 1817. This is the earliest document I have that provides evidence of his residence in Ohio. 

The image shown here is just part of the image–there is a right hand page as well which contains more payment information. And there’s another man who made his initial payment for property in the same section on the same date. 
From other sources, I already knew the other man was an associate of my ancestor and knew him back in Harford County, Maryland, where Thomas was from. I will look at the names of other men purchasing property in the same section. A map of the township would also be helpful and (in this case) the township to the north should be a part of my search as well because section 5 is along the northern line of the township.


Ira Sargent Breaks a Hip in 1911

Even seemingly meaningless clippings like this reference to a broken hip can be useful.

This item tells me several things–that my ancestor was institutionalized at the Bartonville Hospital and that he was alive on 25 July 1911. If this event had happened before vital registration, the date may have been more significant. And, if these hospital records are closed, sealed, or not extant, this clipping provides evidence of Ira’s institutionalization.

Newspaper clippings may make mention of items that are in closed “public” records. Is there a chance that something that’s in a closed or non-extant record is mentioned in a newspaper that you can access?


Platting Those Initial Landowners

It is not fancy, but it is functional. I find it easier to make initial drawings in pencil.

Using the BLM search results and the BLM tract books as described in an earlier post, I created a simple map showing the original landowners in section 29 of Township 22-5 in Tipton County, Indiana.

There was no earthshattering discovery, but the knowing the relative positions of the parcels is helpful. Relatives Tinsley and Newman did purchase adjoining properties and when I went through the entries in detail, I realized that the other Newman purchase was declared to be swamp land.

Section 20 would have been due north of section 29 and locating the properties in that section may shed light on the patentees who were due north of Tinsley and Newman.


It’s Longer than You Share: Timber Cutting Your AncestryDNA

At first it appears confusing. One of my AncestryDNA matches shows us as sharing 20 cM of DNA and yet the longest segment is 22 cM. It’s not a typographical error and the AncestryDNA website is not messed up. It is based on Ancestry’s procedure for handling what are perceived to be bits of shared DNA that are entirely too far back to be practically identifiable to an ancestor. Remember that AncestryDNA is an autosomal test and a shared connection can be anywhere in your tree, not just in the direct paternal or maternal line. That’s one thing that makes working with your AncestryDNA matches challenging.

We share 20 cM of DNA and yet the longest segment is 22 cM.

My Brown match and I share 20 cM of DNA across 1 segment and yet the longest segment is 22 cM.

We’re simplifying the AncestryDNA match procedure here a bit for purposes of understanding (read the AncestryDNA white paper for more details). The match process first looks at the shared DNA that the Brown match and I have. In this case that is a segment 22 cM long.

Then the algorithm looks at a much larger body of DNA submissions and notices that a significant number of them have a shared segment of DNA–not just the Brown match and I. That number is large enough that it is believed that that segment must come from much more distant ancestor–one too distant to be determined with any extant records and one that could simply be the result of our families living the same area well before records were kept. That very distant ancestor would be virtually impossible to determine specifically given the generational distance and lack of records. And so that shared segment of DNA–that Brown and I share with so many others that’s likely the result of living in the same area for a long time–is removed from our match since it didn’t come from the common ancestor Brown and I share, but probably from a much more distant one shared by numerous other people. In my case that “distantly shared” DNA was a segment 2 cM in size. That size (of the really distant amount of shared DNA identified as such by Ancestry’s DNA algorithm) can vary. It is not always 2 cM.

Those of us with individuals who lived in one small area for generations before records were even kept are even more likely have these snippets of shared DNA. So if your AncestryDNA match has a longest segment of shared DNA that is larger than your total amount of shared DNA that is the reason. The Timber algorithm has determined that part of what you share is attributable to an unidentifiable distant ancestor.


Are Your Sources Really That Specific?

The ability to merge sources (particularly census) into a tree at is really a nice one.

However, one must be careful not to indicate that a source says something it does not. The reasons are pretty obvious–but here’s an example with the names changed.

Thomas Smith was born in Harford County, Maryland, on 2 May 1865 and you have three primary sources to back it up. The 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 census all indicate he was born in Maryland. Let’s say that they all point to a year of birth of 1865

Yet if you aren’t careful when you tie the census record to his date and place of birth, you seemingly indicate that the census indicates he was born on 2 May 1865 in Harford County, Maryland. I’ve never seen a census between 1880 and 1920 that provides that specific of a place of birth.

Shouldn’t you create a “new” place/date of birth that is 1865 in Maryland and tie the census source to that?

Or am I just a stick in the mud?