Not in the mtDNA
There are, at this moment, 201 family trees on Ancestry.com that list the man who became The Legal Genealogist‘s third great grandfather as Jacob Elijah Gentry.
Of those, 167 are public trees. And 34 private trees.
And every last one of them is wrong.
Because my third great grandfather’s name was Elijah.
Not Jacob Elijah.
No middle name. No middle initial. No Jacob.
Oh, there was a Jacob Elijah Gentry in my family line — he was a grandson of this Elijah, born some 66 years after his grandfather.1
But my third great grandfather? He served in the War of 1812 as Elijah Gentry.2 He was in the census — repeatedly — as Elijah Gentry.3 He was a circuit-riding Methodist Episcopal preacher under the name Elijah Gentry.4 He was a commissioner named by the Mississippi Legislature to establish the county seat for the newly-created Rankin County as Elijah Gentry.5
Never once, not under any circumstances — except in family trees on Ancestry.com — did he ever appear with the name Jacob as a first or middle name.
But that isn’t anything that DNA can tell us and this, after all, is DNA Sunday.
What DNA can tell is about Elijah’s wife, my third great grandmother Wilmoth, the woman who — according to the family lore of those who’ve posted some 55 of those family trees on Ancestry.com — was also known as White Cloud, a full-blood Catawba tribeswoman from North Carolina.
And DNA can help us prove that.
You see, there is a form of DNA called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that passes down through the female line with very few changes from generation to generation. A mother gives her mtDNA to all of her children, but only her daughters can pass it on to their children.6
Native American women have very distinctive mtDNA — with few exceptions, they fall into specific haplogroups, or branches of the maternal human family tree: haplogroups A, B, C, D and X.7 (Actually, more recent research has identified Native American mtDNA with finer gradations, coming from just some subgroups within those groups,8 but for purposes of this discussion, we can stick to the letters, without worrying about those subgroups.)
So if Wilmoth — who was from North Carolina — was, indeed, a full-blood Catawba tribeswoman (or the daughter of a full-blood tribeswoman), the odds are overwhelming that she would have had one of those very distinctive Native American haplotypes — she would have been A, B, C, D or X.
But Wilmoth is long gone, her final resting place unknown. How would we find out, today, what Wilmoth’s mtDNA haplogroup was?
All we need to do is test one of her direct descendants in an unbroken maternal line: her daughter’s daughter’s daughter’s child.
Elijah and Wilmoth had many children, among them my second great grandmother Isabella.9
And Mary Leila took an mtDNA test.
Now… remember… Mary Leila’s mtDNA will be exactly the same as anyone in her direct maternal line, or near enough as to make no difference. Her haplogroup will be the same as her mother’s mother’s mother’s mother — Wilmoth. For Wilmoth to have been haplogroup A, B, C, D or X, Mary Leila’s mtDNA haplogroup would have to be haplogroup A, B, C, D or X.
And Mary Leila’s mtDNA haplogroup?
The oldest European-specific mtDNA haplogroup around.15
Not White Cloud.
No, no Native American here.
Image: OpenClipArt.org, johnny-automatic
- See 1860 U.S. census, Neshoba County, Mississippi, Hills Bluff Post Office, population schedule, p. 153 (penned), dwelling 985, family 1019, Jacob E Gentry in J W Gentry household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 588. ↩
- Compiled military service record, Elijah Gentry, Pvt., Captain Samuel Dale’s Company, 1st Regiment Mississippi Territorial Volunteers; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, War of 1812; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762-1984, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C. ↩
- See e.g. 1850 U.S. census, Neshoba County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 119 (stamped), dwelling 74, family 79, Elijah Gentry; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 July 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 378. Also, 1860 U.S. census, Neshoba Co., Miss., Hills Bluff P.O., pop. sched., p. 153 (penned), dwell. 988, fam. 1022, Elijah Gentry. ↩
- See e.g. Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church … 1773-1828 (New York: T. Mason & G. Lane, 1840), I: 251, 261, 269, 283, 288-289, 287, 305; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 22 Aug 2015). ↩
- §9, “An Act, to divide Hinds County…,” 4 Feb 1828, in Laws of Mississippi (Jackson, Mississippi: State Printer, 1838), 166; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 22 Aug 2015). ↩
- ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 17 Aug 2015. ↩
- See generally Blaine Bettinger, “The Six Founding Native American Mothers,” The Genetic Genealogist, posted 17 Mar 2008 (http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/ : accessed 22 Aug 2015). ↩
- See generally Roberta Estes, “Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups,” DNAeXplained, posted 18 Sep 2013 (http://dna-explained.com/ : accessed 22 Aug 2015). ↩
- Autosomal and YDNA tests confirm substantial indirect evidence of the relationship, and link descendants of Isabella to descendants of Elijah and Wilmoth through children Elijah K. Gentry, John Wesley Gentry, William Jefferson Gentry and Nancy (Gentry) Humphries — so far. At this point, Isabella’s Gentry heritage is beyond question. ↩
- See 1880 U.S. census, Delta County, Texas, Justice Precinct 3, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 20, p. 502-D (stamped), dwelling 117, family 118, Amos Hendricks (“son-in-law”) and Mary I Hendricks (“his wife”) in household of Gustavus and Isabella Robertson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Aug 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1300. ↩
- Delta County, Texas, Marriage Book 1: 266; County Clerk’s Office, Cooper. ↩
- See 1900 U.S. census, Hall County, Texas, Justice Precinct 2, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 9, p. 28-B (stamped), dwelling 214, family 214, Mary M. Hendrix, daughter, in Amos Hendrix household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Aug 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1641. ↩
- Hall County, Texas, Marriage Book 2, Rudolph-Hendrix (1918); County Clerk’s Office, Memphis. ↩
- See 1930 U.S. census, Hall County, Texas, Justice Precinct 2, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 96-9, sheet 3-B, dwelling 58, family 60, Leila Rudolph, daughter, in Roland Rudolph household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Aug 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 2338. ↩
- “mtDNA Haplogroups,” WorldFamilies.net (http://www.worldfamilies.net/ : accessed 22 Aug 2015). ↩