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Setting up the research tool

So The Legal Genealogist is off to put paid to one particular genealogical question this year: who was the mother of Margaret (Battles) Shew?

Margaret is my 3rd great grandmother. My line comes down from Margaret’s daughter Martha Louise, to Martha Louise’s daughter Eula, to Eula’s daughter Opal, to Opal’s daughter Hazel, who was my mother.

A brief recap: Margaret’s father, William Battles, was married twice, and it’s entirely possible that either wife could be Margaret’s mother. We have an mtDNA match to a documented descendant of wife #2, Ann Jacobs; we now need to rule out the possibility that wife #2 shared a common female ancestor — and thus mtDNA — with wife #1, Kiziah Wright.1 Since we don’t know if Kiziah had any descendants, we need to find someone else who would share that same mtDNA signature — we need to find a documented female line descendant of Kiziah’s mother, whom we now know was Lucy (Jones) Wright Williford.2

And then we need to convince at least one such descendant to take an mtDNA test. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA for short), remember, is the kind of DNA passed by a mother to all of her children but only her daughters can pass on, so it shows the mother’s mother’s mother’s line.3

Since Lucy lived a long time ago — she is reported to have been born in 1761 and died around 1828 — we’re going to have to trace a lot of women through a lot of generations to find someone living today whose descent from Lucy can be documented.4

So… how do we start?

The truth is, there’s no one right answer here.

Some folks love spreadsheets. Some love offline family tree software. Some love online family tree tools.

Me? I use them all depending on the circumstances.

But for this one — since I’d really like to get all the help I can get with this — I’ve set up a public family tree at Ancestry and called it Female-Line Descendants of Lucy (Jones) Wright Williford.5

Lucy's daughters

And here are my operating principles:

1. Every person entered has to be linked to the tree by at least one document. Why? Because of that “I’m not keen on paying for full mtDNA sequence tests for folks who turn out not to be in the right family line to help my case” bit.

2. Ancestry family trees don’t count as documentation. Why? Because without sources I can’t be sure the trees are right, but…

3. I will not ignore Ancestry family trees. Why? Because they may be fabulous hints to finding that source document I need to link a person to the tree. We never ever turn our noses up at a possible clue.6

4. For each generation, I will enter all the children, but trace only the daughters forward. Why? Because only the daughters can pass on mtDNA. Any test-taker today — male or female — will have his or her mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mtDNA. But the children of any son in an intermediate generation will have their mother’s mtDNA and not the mtDNA their father received from his mother.

Got that? On with the tree.

And oh boy is this going to be “fun” … learning how to link documents to specific people on an Ancestry tree.

Starting with how to add the probate of Lucy’s husband Francis’ estate as proof of the parent-child relationship of the children who were assigned guardians as his heirs and minor children … and to her status as his wife and widow…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Finding Margaret’s mother, part 3,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 25 May 2019).


  1. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Keeping that DNA resolution,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 28 Apr 2019 ( : accessed 17 May 2019).
  2. Ibid., “Finding Margaret’s mother, part 2,” posted 18 May 2019.
  3. ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 28 Jan 2019.
  4. I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen on paying for full mtDNA sequence tests for folks who turn out not to be in the right family line to help my case…
  5. That should scare off all but the serious researchers…
  6. See Thomas W. Jones, “Perils of Source Snobbery,” OnBoard 18 (May 2012), reprinted at BCG Learning Center ( : accessed 25 May 2019).
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