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Resolved: finding Margaret’s mother

No, The Legal Genealogist isn’t giving up on the DNA resolutions of years past.

I’m still committed to getting my paper trail in order, not accepting ethnicity estimates as anything more than just estimates, and getting the oldest members of the family tested as soon as possible.1

Resolutions 2019

But this year I’m going to resolve to do one thing more.

I’m going to resolve to finally finally finally answer one family history mystery for once and for all.

The question of who, exactly, was Margaret’s mother.

Her name, according to oral history passed down to her great granddaughter, my grandmother, was Margaret Battles.2 This third great grandmother of mine married Daniel Shew sometime before 1849, most likely in Cherokee County, Alabama, but there’s no record of their marriage — the Cherokee County courthouse burned twice, in 1882 and 1895.3

They had one child, William, by the 1850 census4 and two more — Gilford and my second great grandmother Martha Louise — by 1860, when Margaret appeared as head of household on the Cherokee County census, apparently a widow.5

The oral history that her surname was Battles is corroborated by the death certificate of her son William,6 and we were even able place her, at least as a working theory, in a particular Battles family. It helps that there was only one Battles family in Cherokee County, Alabama, at any time that could have included Margaret, and that’s the family of William Battles, who was enumerated in Cherokee County in 1840,7 1850,8 1860,9 and 1870.10

And — by now — we have strong supporting evidence from other documentary evidence and from a ton of autosomal DNA testing giving us a ton of matches to descendants of William Battles and his father William Noel Battles with whom we have no other known common ancestors.11 To date, all of that evidence — DNA and paper trail — is consistent with her being a daughter of William Battles and granddaughter of William Noel Battles, and none — not one whit — is inconsistent with that.

But we still have a major issue: who was Margaret’s mother? You see, William was married twice. His first marriage was to Kiziah Wright in Georgia in December 1818.12 It resulted in a messy suit she brought against him for divorce that was finally dismissed in 1829, apparently when Kiziah died.13

His second marriage was to Ann Jacobs, in Alabama on Christmas Day 1829.14 They then showed up on the 1830 census, enumerated not even six months later, with — count ’em — five children.15

Now Margaret’s date of birth can’t be fixed with any certainty. But judging from the census data, she was likely born between 1822 and 1827. That’s during William’s marriage to Kiziah, but at least part of the time was when Kiziah was complaining that William had run off with Ann.

So… Kiziah’s child? Or Ann’s child? And how do we know, when we’re dealing with a burned county, with no birth, marriage or death records to help?

The answer is going to have to come from mitochondrial DNA testing — the kind of testing that looks at the mother’s mother’s mother’s line.16 We know — because we have an unbroken line of female descendants — that Margaret’s mtDNA haplogroup is H3g. And we know, from testing a direct-female-line descendant of Ann’s known daughter Julia, that Ann’s mtDNA haplogroup is also H3g.

But that’s not enough to prove that Margaret is Ann’s child. We also have to eliminate the possibility that Kiziah was also H3g — that she and Ann could have shared a female ancestor further back in time.

And since we don’t know that Kiziah had any descendants at all, we’re going to have to find a documented direct-female-line descendant of Kiziah’s mother to test to see whether the mtDNA matches or not.

So that’s my 2019 DNA resolution: to find and test a direct-female-line descendant of Kiziah’s mother. If that test shows any mtDNA haplogroup other than H3g, then we have our answer, for once and for all.

And that mother was … ready for it?… Lucy Jones Wright.

Sigh… whoever said this was going to be easy?


  1. See e.g. Judy G. Russell, “DNA resolutions for 2018,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 31 Dec 2017 ( : accessed 1 Jan 2019). And see ibid., “DNA resolutions for 2017,” posted 1 Jan 2017.
  2. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell.
  3. FamilySearch Research Wiki (, “Cherokee County, Alabama: Record Loss,” rev. 20 Dec 2018.
  4. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, 27th District, p. 136 (back) (stamped), dwelling 1055, family 1055, Danl Shew household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 Dec 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 3.
  5. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 315 (stamped), dwelling 829, family 829, Margaret Shoe household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 Dec 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 5.
  6. Texas Department of Health, death certificate no. 10077 (1927), W.W. Shew (10 Mar 1927); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  7. 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, population schedule, p. 116 (stamped), line 17, Wm Battles household; digital image, (httsp:// : accessed 21 Dec 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 3.
  8. 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., 27th Dist., p. 136 (stamped), dwell. 1052, fam. 1052, Wm Battles household.
  9. 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., p. 314-315 (stamped), dwell./fam. 825, Wm Battles household.
  10. 1870 U.S. census, Cherokee Co., Ala., pop. sched., Leesburg P.O., p. 268(B) (stamped), dwell. 26, fam. 25, W Battles household.
  11. See, e.g., Judy G. Russell, “On with the Battles,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 April 2014 ( : accessed 21 Dec 2018).
  12. Oglethorpe County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1: 61, Battles-Wright, 12 December 1818; “Marriage Records from Microfilm,” Georgia’s Virtual Vault ( : accessed 1 Jan 2018).
  13. Blount County, Alabama, Circuit Court Minutes B: 373-375 (1829); Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Oneonta, Ala.
  14. St. Clair County, Alabama, Marriage Record 1: 53, Battels-Jacobs, 25 Dec 1829; digital images, “Marriage records (St. Clair County, Alabama), 1819-1939,” ( : accessed 29 Sep 2018).
  15. 1830 U.S. census, St. Clair County, Alabama, p. 252 (stamped), line 24, William Battles 2nd household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 Dec 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 4.
  16. ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 16 Dec 2018.
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