Friday, July 31, 2020

The question everyone is asking: Who Were George's Parents?


Okay, time to address the ‘burning question’ - who were the parents of George Eugene Brown Sr.??

Of course, Joseph and Elizabeth Breed Baker were George’s adoptive parents, and I plan to write about them in a later post; but we can’t help wondering who his birth parents were.  I’ve done a bit of work on this subject, and want to share what I’ve learned.  I’m afraid it’s a bit technical, but I want you to understand why I’ve reached the conclusions I am sharing.

DNA alert - this Section deals with DNA.  And DNA does not lie.  However, it does take work to interpret DNA, and it does not necessarily tell us every detail.  Multiple triangulations of chromosome locations (available only at MyHeritage, 23andMe, FTDNA) are helpful to confirm relationships.

I mentioned earlier that my brother Larry did Y-DNA testing in 2012; we found we are indeed Browns; and I added his information to the Brown Project at FTDNA.  They categorized us as being a part of Brown Group 10.  That means our Brown line has been in the U.S.A. for several hundred years - the first Francis Brown came from England to Virginia in the early 1600’s.  That is fantastic - but it didn’t tell me who George’s father was!  Larry took another, more extensive Y-DNA test, which we hoped would yield better answers, but it did not.

We made our trip to Texas early in 2014, and we thoroughly enjoyed that; but when we came home, we still didn’t know who George’s parents were!  We needed to find the ‘bridge’ between George in the 1800's, and the Browns in Virginia in the 1600’s!  (Some people in Brown Group 10 have records going all the way back.)

This demonstrates that the DNA we receive from our grandparents is not evenly received.
Daddy said we didn't really have a family tree - we had a stump!

That fall I asked Daddy if he would take an autosomal DNA test (‘Family Finder’), which he willingly did.

It doesn’t matter with Y-DNA, but it’s important to test the oldest family members first with the commonly used autosomal DNA test, because each generation has DNA which has been divided over and over again - with the results shown in the illustration.

I’ve done autosomal/FamilyFinder DNA testing along with Daddy (at Ancestry, FTDNA, and MyHeritage), and each time he has had greater numbers of matches that lead to more distant generations, with higher centimorgan (cM) levels shared with those matches.  It is difficult to know the exact level of relationship with a match going by cM levels alone; but it does give good clues about how close the relationship is.  [Daddy has also done DNA testing at 23andMe, with good results.]

On November 12, 2014, we received Daddy’s autosomal DNA test results:
 
• Daddy’s closest match, William O’Grady Snellings, was predicted to be a 2nd-3rd cousin, and shared 263.57 cM of DNA with Daddy.  William Snellings (who died in 2016) was Daddy’s 2nd cousin - William was the grandson of Mollie McMurrain; Mollie was the sister of Daddy’s grandmother, Narcissa McMurrain, and the daughter of John W. McMurrain and Phebe Ann Motley.

• Daddy’s 2nd closest match, Ricky Alan Brock, was also predicted to be a 2nd-3rd cousin; he shared 130.52 cM of DNA with Daddy. 

Now, I need to tell you, that only a small percentage of DNA matches will ever respond to an email with a request for more information, which can make it nearly impossible to figure out a connection at Ancestry, which does not have a Chromosome browser; it's a little easier at FTDNA.  But, when I emailed Ricky Brock’s wife, she replied quickly, and I learned that Ricky Brock was the grandson of Catherine Evie Brown, a granddaughter of Wiley Brown - a part of Brown Group 10.

If Wiley Brown is our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA), and we believe that is true, then my father is Ricky’s 1st cousin once removed (1C1R).

[In the case of William Snellings, he and Daddy descend from both John W. McMurrain and Phebe Ann Motley.  I believe that Daddy and Ricky Brock both descend from Wiley, but from different mothers.  Daddy has only one match from a child by Wiley’s 1st marriage; the others are from Wiley's 2nd marriage.  Because there is another son named ‘George’ from Wiley’s 1st marriage; and because our George’s birth occurs during Wiley's 1st marriage, it does not appear that either wife is our George’s mother.  And DNA matches suggest another mother.] 

Many, many matches since those first results have continued to confirm and demonstrate that Wiley Brown was George’s father.  Typically, only a few matches have a tree that confirms the connection - I’ve built a few trees for other people, which have confirmed our relationship.

Even though matches with trees are scarce, there are 12 DNA matches at Ancestry alone that do have a tree which demonstrates that they descend from Wiley Brown.  Those matches with trees, who descend from Wiley, who are at 3-4 generations removed from Daddy match him at 31-76cM; those who are only 1 generation removed from Daddy match at 125-213cM, with most at 125-170cM.

In addition to his 12 matches descending from Wiley who have a tree, Daddy has 17 other matches who descend from Wiley’s brothers, and have a tree; but they match him with far lower amounts of DNA.  Matches who are 1-3 generations farther removed than Daddy match him at 6-21cM, mostly in the 9-12cM range, with only three from only 1 generation out, and they match at 30-34cM.

The contrast in the number of centimorgans Daddy has with those two different groups of matches is a good indicator that Wiley is George’s father.  We have a definite connection to Wiley Brown; and the fact that we match his descendants more closely that we match his siblings' descendants tells us this:

• Because Daddy’s matches that descend from Wiley Brown are so much closer, we can conclude that Wiley is our MRCA.

• Because Daddy’s matches that descend from Henry Brown (through Wiley’s siblings) are more distant, we can conclude that Wiley’s father, Henry Brown, is our MRCA for those matches; but Wiley is George’s father.
Again, Henry Brown and his descendants have been confirmed (by other members of Brown Group 10) to be a part of Brown Group 10.  And now here is a photo of Wiley Brown, with his second wife, Mary Ann:
This photo of Wiley and Mary Ann Brown is a composite photo, made by using photos shared with me by our cousins Nan Brown Haygood, Kim Brown, and Mark Brown.  The faces have been enhanced by technology available at MyHeritage. 
Learning more about Wiley Brown:
Wiley Brown was born in 1818, most likely in Mississippi, or so the 1850 and 1860 census records report.  He was living in Simpson County, Mississippi at the time of those two census records - with his first wife, Louissa Findley in 1850; and with his second wife Mary Ann (possibly Puckett) in 1860.  [Note:  we do not appear to share any DNA matches with Findley or Puckett descendants.]  Later census records (1870, 1880) state that Wiley was born in Georgia - which was his family’s location prior to their move to Mississippi.

Wiley’s father, Henry Brown, was born in 1785 in North Carolina.  It appears that Henry’s parents were in Jefferson County, Georgia, by 1794; because Henry’s siblings who were born between 1794 and 1805 are shown on various records as being born in that location in Georgia.
 
Henry Brown and his father, Francis Brown, are both shown on the 1818 census (below) for Lawrence County, Mississippi.  Henry’s sister Agnes (this is Wiley’s aunt), was born in North Carolina, and married John Lambert in 1810 in Burke County, Georgia.  John Lambert is listed on this 1818 census, also, between Francis and Henry. 
1818 Census for Lawrence County, Mississippi; includes Francis Brown, John Lambert, and Henry Brown.
So, we see that our Brown ancestors came down from Virginia, through North Carolina, through Georgia, and then over into Mississippi (although some of Henry’s siblings ended up in Louisiana), and eventually over to Texas.

Are your eyes spinning yet??? 

To summarize: we believe (with very good DNA indication!) that Wiley Brown was George's father.

Now, the next question is:  who was George's mother??

I have to be honest.  If I were not considering DNA results, I could come up with a number of great theories, complete with compelling arguments, for who George's mother was.  However, DNA does not lie.  And . . .

Daddy has a second group of matches at Ancestry (and other DNA testing locations) which it is impossible to ignore.  A while back, I began to notice the surname "May" coming up rather often in Daddy's matches at Ancestry.  Particularly among his close cousin matches.

One Saturday I decided to take pencil and paper, and see if these "May matches" were connected in some way.  What I found was that the reasonably close ones all descended from a Philip May and his wife Elizabeth, who were living in Simpson County, Mississippi, at the time of the 1850 census.   I did mention that Wiley Brown was living in Simpson County, Mississippi, at the time of the 1850 census, didn't I?  Philip and Elizabeth May had twelve children listed in their household in 1850; four of those children were daughters who were between the ages of 21 and 13 in 1850; they would have been between the ages of 27 and 20 in 1856, when our George was born.
1850 Simpson County, Mississippi, census with Philip May family, beginning line 19.
Similar to the situation with Wiley's connection, DNA is telling us that we descend from this May family; the fact that both families were in the same location in 1850 is a very compelling piece of information, as well.  The difference here is that we don't have a clear identification of the mother.  She may not have had other children; or it may be that none of her descendants have done DNA testing - yet!  Maybe one day there will suddenly be a very close match, and we will know exactly who George's mother was.

Daddy does have one DNA match who matches him at 119cM, and that match descends from Philip May's son, Richard Paul May (who was only 2 in 1850).  Another descendant who matches him at 107cM seems to be a May descendant (since the matches he shares with Daddy are May descendants); we don't know which May he descends from.  A second match who matches Daddy at 107cM is actually a descendant of a Bass family - and that Bass family was first in Simpson County, Mississippi; and later in Texas, in the area where George was born.  I have a theory about our numerous Bass matches, we'll see if I can prove it . . .

The next match, who matches Daddy at 104 cM, descends from Philip May's youngest daughter (who wasn't even born in 1850).   Sprinkled in between these matches, with similar cM numbers, are people who match Daddy via siblings of Narcissa Lorena McMurrain - his grandmother's siblings; or who match Daddy via his grandfather's siblings (i.e. George's siblings, Wiley's other children).   Since the majority of the May matches are a little farther down the list (less cM DNA) I think that those 'May matches' are people who descend from George's aunts and uncles - siblings of the unknown May female who was a child of Philip May. 

You can't imagine how many hours I have spent, trying to give a name to George's mother.

My most recent blog posts are actually a matter of documenting what I have found.  I hope that others will want to continue this research in the future; and if I leave a record of what I've learned, they won't have to start 'from scratch'.  

The following map of Mississippi, from the early 1800's, shows the counties of Lawrence, Simpson, Rankin, Copiah, Jasper, and Jones; all of these counties are mentioned in records from Wiley Brown, and/or his father Henry Brown, or other siblings or relatives.
 
Philip May is shown by many trees as having died in 1852.  I have seen no documentation for that.  However, by 1860, his wife Elizabeth, and all but the oldest of his children, have left Simpson County, Mississippi, and may be found in Texas (in more than one location) in the census that year.  Of course, there is a record which indicates that George was born in Cold Springs, Texas, in 1856.

Wiley Brown's sister, Louisa Brown Holbrook, moved from Mississippi to Texas; she was living in Nacogdoches, Texas, by the time the 1880 census was taken.  Nacogdoches is about 35 miles from San Augustine. By the time of the 1880 census, George and his adoptive mother (Elizabeth Breed Baker) had come back from up north, and were living in San Augustine, so just 35 miles from the area where Wiley's sister now lived.


 

Wiley had moved from Mississippi to Texas by December 1873.  He is shown in Cherokee County, Texas, in 1880; he purchased property in Angelina County, Texas in 1883; and he died in Cherokee County, Texas, in 1889.  Wells, in Cherokee County, is over 50 miles from San Augustine.  Angelina County is about 45 miles from San Augustine, if you don't go through Cherokee County.  The 1860 map illustrates where these ancestors were in 1860.

So, these people all moved from the same County in Mississippi and ended up living fairly near each other in a relatively small portion of Texas.  In fact, one of Joseph May's daughters (who was married twice, and gave birth to a daughter near the time of George's birth, in 1856, and a son in 1860) was living in San Augustine at the time of the 1860 census . . . which is likely about the time the Bakers adopted George!!  ...actually, I haven't been able to find when she married her second husband - what if she had twins in 1856, and gave away George...  See what I mean???  It's easy to come up with scenarios, but these blog posts must be fact, not fiction!  (Still, I may want to pursue that possibility a little more...)

So many intertwining strands - it is unlikely that we will ever know all the details; but it has been interesting to share about some of the things I've learned.

Coming soon:  Why did the Northerners come South?  Let's learn about the Breeds and the Bakers next time - not to mention the Rodger family who came over from Scotland!