More matchmaker’s matching
Life as a DNA geek can occasionally be very very good.You may recall that, back in August, The Legal Genealogist was musing about the potential for secret relatives — secret only because you didn’t know about them yet, hadn’t met them yet, not because there was any deep dark family secret about their existence.1
And I was hoping against hope that one of my secret relatives might be about to come out and play in the sunshine, thanks to autosomal DNA.
The problem is pretty simple: thanks to burned courthouses and other typical genealogical calamities, there’s not a shred of evidence that my 2nd great grandmother, Martha Louise Shew, ever married the father of her first child, my great grandmother Eula.
And, moreover, there’s not a whole lot of evidence as to who that father might be.
Eula was born in 1869 in Cherokee County, Alabama — where the marriage records went up in smoke sometime thereafter.2 The only census where she was enumerated in what we hope was her father’s household was the 1870 census, and the line there for head of household simply reads “Baird” without a first name, age 22, a farm hand, born in Alabama.3
Eula’s Texas marriage record doesn’t name her parents.4 She never had a Social Security number, so no SS-5. Her death certificate names her stepfather, A.C. Livingston, instead of her father.5 There’s no family Bible, no baby book, no artifacts to help nail it down.
We do have a family story that Eula’s father was Jasper Baird, son of “Billy” Baird,6 who took the wagon out one day into Indian country around 1870-1871 and was ambushed; the wagon was found, the story says, but Jasper’s body never was.
The fact that there hadn’t been an Indian attack in that part of Alabama for decades makes it a little unlikely that this happened in Alabama, and the fact that nobody in the family lived in Oklahoma until after 1900 makes the alternate version (“it was in Oklahoma”) a little unlikely too.
But we had some room for hope. There actually was a William Baird living in Cherokee County as of the 1860 census, with a son Jasper who could have been Eula’s father.7 That family moved to Pope County, Arkansas, by 1870, but Jasper wasn’t enumerated with them there — meaning he could have been the Baird on the 1870 census with Martha Louise and baby Eula back in Alabama.8
Our hesitation in adopting that Jasper was due in large measure to one minor little detail: that Jasper didn’t die until 1909, in Arkansas.9
Now, ordinary DNA testing wasn’t ever going to solve this problem. Since we descend from a daughter, and daughters don’t have any of their father’s Y-DNA, we couldn’t test against a male descendant of William Baird for Y-DNA.10 And since Eula got her mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from her mother, not her father, we couldn’t test against a daughter of a daughter of Christian Baird for mtDNA.11
When autosomal DNA testing came along, the big question was finding a descendant of William Baird and his wife Christian (Campbell) Baird who’d be willing to test. Last August, Connie Baird Bowen — who’s the G on the chart here — agreed to be tested.
If we were right, Connie would be a fourth cousin to me (I’m E on the chart) and to a first cousin of mine (F on the chart), and a third cousin once removed to the members of the earlier generation of my family who’ve been tested (A is my mother’s first cousin, B and D my mother’s brothers, and C my mother’s sister). But it’s a crap shoot at that genetic distance: third cousins once removed share less than four-tenths of one percent of their DNA; fourth cousins only 0.195%.12
But we got lucky: Connie matched both my uncle David (B on the chart) and my aunt Carol (C on the chart).
And more recently, we got even luckier. You see, the autosomal DNA that Connie shares with David and Carol might be from her mother’s side, and not her father’s Baird side. Connie has some brick walls on her mother’s side, and we have some too. So there was still a chance that — while we are cousins — we’re not Baird cousins.
Except that Connie has a half-sister. On the Baird side. Who also agreed to be tested.
The results are in: the half-sister, who is H on this chart, matches both of my uncles, David (chart B) and Mike (chart D). GedMatch, the third-party utility that allows for really in-depth analysis,13 isn’t taking new data uploads just now, but when it does, we’ll be able to do that deeper analysis to be sure but…
What can I say?
Life as a DNA geek can occasionally be very very good.
- Judy G. Russell, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 26 Aug 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 30 Mar 2013). ↩
- The earliest available marriage records in Cherokee County begin in 1882. See “Local Government Records Microfilm Database,” Cherokee County, Alabama Department of Archives and History (http://www.archives.alabama.gov : accessed 25 Aug 2012). ↩
- 1870 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, Leesburg Post Office, p. 268(A), dwelling/family 15, Baird household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Aug 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 7; imaged from FHL microfilm 545506. ↩
- Bexar County, Texas, Marriage Book N: 24, marriage license and return no. 14,298, Robertson-Beard, recorded 21 Feb 1896; County Court Clerk, San Antonio, Texas. ↩
- Virginia Department of Health, Certificate of Death, state file no. 6367, Eula Robertson (1954); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Richmond. ↩
- Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell. ↩
- 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 136 (stamped), dwelling/family 332, Wm. G. Baird household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Aug 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 5. ↩
- 1870 U.S. census, Pope County, Arkansas, population schedule, Dover Post Office, p. 383(B) (stamped), dwelling 614, family 630, William Baird household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Aug 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 61; imaged from FHL microfilm 545560. ↩
- “J.N. Baird Dies Suddenly,” The (Russellville, Ark.) Courier Democrat, 19 Aug 1909, p.2, col.3. ↩
- See “Genetic Genealogy Q&A for Beginners,” FAQ 28, International Society of Genetic Genealogy (http://www.isogg.org : accessed 25 Aug 2012). ↩
- “Understanding DNA,” Family Tree DNA (http://www.familytreedna.com : accessed 25 Aug 2012). ↩
- ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Autosomal DNA statistics,” rev. 26 Apr 2011. ↩
- See Judy G. Russell, “Gedmatch: a DNA geek’s dream site,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 12 Aug 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 30 Mar 2013). ↩