DNA Discoveries, Theories, and Successes

Who were the parents of Mary E. Stark (Rials), my Mamaw's mother? 

They seem to be William W. Stark and Susan Barley

I wish my grandmother had lived to have her biggest question answered; I'm sentimental enough, though, to note that the first big match for that eventually led to many triangulations appeared on what would have been her first birthday after her death. Recently an obscure newspaper tidbit was digitised that supported the DNA-based theory that I first began chasing in 2012. I doubt I would've found the item in the pre-digital searching days, not on any likely budget of money or time, so I'm grateful for all of the technology that has emerged since I started researching.

What became of William Stanley after his wife died and his son married? 

It seems that my great-great-great-grandfather, using his very generic initials, remarried in 1893 in the same county where his son  —  previously believed to have stopped only briefly in Oklahoma on the way to Texas  —  married the next year, then died just before the 1900 census.

In those seven years, though, this William Stanley who seems to be the continuation of my own ancestor had at least four children, and at least two of them have descendants who took DNA tests. 

Was Big Grandma's father the man we all assumed? 

Perhaps not. Although I'm not an expert on the location and have never been there, over the past 25+ years I've become more than a little au fait with Washington County, Arkansas, and White River Township and the surrounding area. Two of my grandparents — one from each side  —  ended up having significant roots in Washington County that intertwined amongst all of the collateral families, although somehow they managed to remain unrelated.

So, when no matches to the White/Stout/Hanna families of the area appeared for my father's test, I thought it was bad luck... even as I could find many connections to them in my maternal grandmother's test. And as I had more paternal relatives test over the next six years, I kept saying it was probably either the bad luck of inheritance or the bad luck of the testing pool.

Now, though, as I look at the inexplicable DNA connections to the family of my great-great-grandmother Sarah Elizabeth White's uncle, I'm suspecting that her mother Caroline's shotgun wedding arose out of darker circumstances than impatient love. 

Who were the nameless sisters of John Adam Stockman? 

We all know those faceless ticks in the early 19th-century census records, the girls who disappear into married aliases, no doubt many of them hiding in plain sight, unrecognised, by the time the 1850 census records everyone by name. 

One of my great-great-great grandfather's sisters seems to have been named Catherine. There is a Catherine Stockman whose maiden name is only known via family recollection, not in any database, and no online tree speculates on her parents (as of this writing). Based on the amount of DNA her descendants share, it is likely that she, once a fading tallystroke, now has a family.

Who was Martha, the wife of Charles Simons (current patrilineal brick wall)?

Poor Martha, wife of Charles the Brick Wall, mother of Charles the Moving Mystery who also married a Martha, leaving her with an "oh, the other one" first name to go with her missing last name. Charles Simons Sr. researchers have often theorised that the Charles Simmons (spelling varies) who married Martha Hokett (spelling varies) in 1833 Alabama (county varies!) might be our couple. This was based strictly on "knowing" from the birthplaces of their children in the 1850 census that the couple was in Alabama in the 1830s and not having any other leads (nor finding a competing genealogy for the married couple).

Be-bop ahead to the days of DNA, and my father had no Hokett matches. My aunt had no Hokett matches. Their first cousin had no Hokett matches... and then my grandfather's cousin tested, and guess who has matches to Hoketts in 1830s Morgan County, Alabama? Sorry, I mean triangulated matches to 1830s Morgan County Hoketts? Sorry, I mean matches from 1830s Morgan County Hoketts that triangulate with matches from the Carolina Hoketts, where our Martha was born?

And in the meantime, Ancestry has delivered some new Hokett matches to my father that are in common with matches who descend from Charles Sr. Have we found Martha's family? Well, we've definitely found something that's going to shed light on her or Charles' ancestry somewhere down the line. Time will tell.

Embracing Genetic Genealogy

I predict that it won't be long before the phrase "genetic genealogist" feels a little silly, like saying "census genealogist" or "cemetery genealogist", when these are expected tools to use.

Many, many, many excellent guides, videos, Facebook groups, and blogs are devoted to helping people learn how to use DNA to find ancestors. I have no intention of trying to reinvent and polish an already shiny wheel, but I can share a "do now, understand later" checklist of what has worked for me.