Three Cheers for DNA

Since I do not have the time to spend on book writing until the end of this month, I have been using my spare minutes to work on some of my DNA puzzles. I have had lots of genetic goodies land on my doorstep so far this month. Here is one of them.

One mystery in my family tree is the parentage of Sarah Ann Jewell. She was born in Kentucky and later moved to Greene County, Indiana, where she married George Rea on 13 March 1842. Now presumably, my sweet young Sarah Ann did not travel from Kentucky to southern Indiana by herself. In the first half of the nineteen century, Kentucky and Indiana were still considered frontier states. Sarah most likely arrived in Indiana with her parents or other family members.

After combing through census records and other various limited records available online (Greene County does not have a very strong online presence NOR does it have many microfilms available from the LDS library), I determined that there was only one Jewell family in Greene County in the first half of the nineteenth century. The patriarch was Samuel Jewell: a miller by trade and an Irishman by nationality. Born in Ireland around the time of the American Revolution, he immigrated to Virginia where he married Rachel Painter on 31 December 1798. They soon moved west, living in Ohio (1820), Kentucky (1830), and finally Indiana (1840). Samuel and Rachel had at least three sons who followed them to Indiana: John, William, and Isaac.

So my next puzzle was to determine which of Samuel’s sons was Sarah’s father. Isaac was eliminated by pure logic. He was born in 1815, only ten years before Sarah was born. For the same reason, William was too young as well. I have come across several unsourced family trees over the years which claimed that William was Sarah’s father. William was born in 1812. He was too young to be Sarah’s father. (Another reason why one should not trust unsourced family trees!) William married his wife, Mariah Miller, in Shelby County, Kentucky, on 9 November 1835. This left John P. Jewell as the only potential candidate.

John Painter Jewell was born about 1800 in Virginia. He married Mary Hoagland, on 18 October 1820, in Bullitt County, Kentucky. Three nods in John’s favor! John was old enough to be Sarah’s father; he married his wife before Sarah’s calculated birth year; and, he had lived in Kentucky.

John was enumerated on the 1830 census in Greene county. Among his household were two girls between the ages of 5-9 (remember this for later!). Unfortunately, only the heads of household were enumerated by name. Sarah died relatively young, perhaps in childbirth. She did not live in the time of compulsory death certificates. Luckily, a transcription was made of her gravestone in the mid twentieth century. I do not think it survives as I have yet to find a willing Find A Grave photographer to capture her stone. I am still working on locating a will or land records for John Painter Jewell in Greene County, but I have been unsuccessful thus far in gaining access to the records. (If you know of anyone who is willing to do ‘on the ground’ research in Greene County, Indiana, let me know!)

So this mystery has remained at a standstill until now. A few months ago, I was contacted by another researcher who was looking for the parents of his ancestor Rachel Jewell of Greene County, Indiana. He had also come to the conclusion that John P. Jewell was likely Rachel’s father, which would make my Sarah and his Rachel sisters. After several conversations back and forth via email, I finally convinced him to do DNA testing. His results came back this week. The disappointing news is that he does not match either my father or me. However, he does match another cousin on this same branch of the family!

John Painter Jewell

DNA is fickle. The predicated relationships that the DNA companies come up with are just that….predictions. They are based on a mathematical algorithm. In theory, a person inherits 50% of their DNA from each parent; 25% from each grandparent; 12.5% from each great grandparent; and so on. By the time one travels back in time to their third great grandparents, the potential inheritance is only 3.125% per individual. There are 32 individuals in the third great grandparent generation. Even though my father and Mr. Lawson are likely 4th cousins, there is no guarantee that they would inherit the same 3.125% from either John P. Jewell or Mary (Hoagland) Jewell.

The DNA lesson that I would like everyone to take away from this story is the importance of testing as many people in your family as possible. DNA is NOT inherited equally. Had my 3rd cousin not already tested, I would have assumed that my new cousin, the descendant of Rachel Jewell, was not related to me.

©2014 copyright Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2014/10/11/three-cheers-for-dna/

8 thoughts on “Three Cheers for DNA

  1. cassmob

    Thanks for a very clear explanation Deborah, and my DNA results are proving challenging, and helpful, in the same ways. I liked how you had clearly set out your initial research too. Wise words.

    Reply
    1. Genealogy Lady Post author

      This is one of my real problem branches. It is also the direct line of my father’s mitochondrial DNA through his mother Gladys. We just received his mtDNA results in September. I am hoping to find other cousins through the mtDNA to prove this line.

      Reply
  2. Genealogy Lady Post author

    I think that is one of those things that people do not understand about autosomal DNA. I have DNA cousins that I can trace that are 7+ generations back. These are partly due to segments that are passed down generation after generation, unrecombined. They are often referred to as “sticky segments.” Or because of inbreeding in small communities, like any of my old New England, Quakers, or Schwenkfelder lines. I would be worried about lack of a match when you are talking about 1st, 2nd, or possibly a 3rd cousin range. Then that might indicate a birth/parent situation that is not supported by the paper trail, like an unknown adoption or illegitimate child.
    Now there is also the possibility that the Lawson-Blansett connection has nothing to do with the Jewell connection. They might be connected on another branch of their families that has no connection to me. That is why I want to get more known descendants of my branch to test and compare to the Lawson branch.

    Reply
  3. Amy

    What an interesting and helpful post! Thanks so much for the explanation of the DNA results, and congratulations on breaking down a brick wall!

    Reply
    1. Genealogy Lady Post author

      Thank you! I am glad it helped. Studying DNA is fascinating because it is so random and unpredictable at times. I’m still learning but I know there are people who are behind me on the learning curve.

      Reply
      1. Amy

        I am WAY behind you and really appreciated your clear explanation of why even those who are related might not share DNA.

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