[dropcap type=”default”]O[/dropcap]n August 29, 2013, I started a journey that would exponentially expand my genealogical search both further back in time and forward to find thousands of unknown cousins. All I needed to do this was a little bit of spit…
I took Ancestry.com’s test and provided a sample of my DNA. In less than a month, I received my results back. The test gave me a breakdown of specific portions of my DNA that had markers which match with people who have resided in the same regions of the World for centuries.
|My Ethnicity Breakdown (Courtesy of Ancestry.com)
Naturally, most of my DNA was from West Africa. This was no surprise. I surmised that most of my ancestors came to America in the same fashion: They were brought from a diverse population of African nations and states, taken as slaves to the New World and forced to farm plantations on the East Coast of the budding United States.
When you undergo DNA testing at any of the three major companies, such as: 23andme, AncestryDNA, or FamilyTreeDNA, you will receive a list of people who have also tested that share some of the same markers in their DNA. Those who share a significantly high number of common markers will be identified as your cousins.
Ancestry DNA tests Autosomal DNA this is the type of DNA that is passed down from your parents, about half from your mother and half from your father. Without boring you with the math, I will summarize that you receive half of your DNA from your parents, and about a quarter from your grandparents…and so on.
Autosomal DNA is very good at finding cousins within about 4 generations (Above 90%) back to your 3rd cousins, but it has a limitation. The chance that you find a cousin at 7 generations drops significantly to under 5%. This is because at that point, the likeliness that you inherited a long enough piece of DNA that can be attributed to an ancestor who lived a few hundred years ago has decreased so much that we cannot distinguish DNA inherited by common ancestry and DNA that two people share, just because they are human.
|Women working in A cotton field in Mississippi
As an African American with Ancestry from people who were primarily enslaved, it makes things a lot harder. In order to find a common ancestor with my “DNA Cousins,” we are often stifled by the roadblock of Slavery. Records for many of my ancestors before the Civil War only listed them by first name, or simply don’t exist. Furthermore, slave-holding families migrated. It is completely possible for my family in Mississippi to be related to another African-American family in California, with no clear path to determining our common origin.
I named my blog Afriroots for this reason. Every day, I seek to find common ancestors through DNA, and want to use that information to link us back to local plantations, and back to Africa and Europe where most of my people hail from.
A few months ago, I finally made my first concrete connection. Last week in Weaving Together The Pages I introduced my 3rd great grandfather Lawrence Page, and his parents, my 4th great grandparents Joshua and Patsy Page.
I found Joshua and Patsy’s children in three records: The 1870 Federal Census, the 1880 census, and the Mississippi 1885 schedule of educable children, which I have summaries names and ages for below.
1870 Census (Township 14, Noxubee, MS)
1880 Census (Township 14, Range 17 Noxubee, MS)
Educable Children’s Record (Macon, Noxubee, MS, 1885)
A few years ago, I received information from a cousin about another Page that was not included in any of these records under the same name, George Page.
|George Page (Courtesy of Cousin D. Dickerson)
George Page was born around 1860 in or around Noxubee or neighboring Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. George lived and raised his family of about 13 children as a small farmer in the area. On George’s death certificate, the informant (his daughter Nancy) lists Patsy Page as his mother.
|George Page Death Certificate (1953); Source Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History
Although George’s name had not shown up in any of the records for Joshua and Patsy’s children, I was sure that he was the son of my Patsy!
Last year, I also convinced my mother to do DNA testing through AncestryDNA and 23andme. From her profile, I received even more confirmation of George’s connection to Patsy.
Earlier this year, AncestryDNA released their “Shared Matches” and “Confidence” features. These two parameters give me information about how much I can trust that this is a true match, and help me possibly pinpoint it to a common ancestor. This cousin and my mother were predicted as 4th cousins, shared an “Extremely High Match” which according to Ancestry’s algorithm, means that there is a “Virtually 100% chance” we share an ancestor within a few generations.
|Shared 4th Cousin Match
(Note: The name of this cousin is kept anonymous, but the important details for connection are included)
You will notice that in our list of shared matches between my mother and this cousin, they are a “Very High” match to cousin James Sanders! Cousin James is a 4th great grandson of Joshua and Patsy Page, and 3rd great grandson of Lawrence. This meant that this cousin of ours likely matched through the Page line!
After going through the matches family tree, I determined that they were the grandchild of Robert “Bobby” Isaiah Collier (1938-1999) from Starkville, Mississippi. Starkville is just north of Macon in adjacent Oktibbeha County. I found an abstract from his application for a social security card that listed his parents.
|Abstract: Bobby I Collier Social Security Application (1953)
Bobby’s parents were Tommie Collier (1913-1976) and Rose Page (1916-2006). Finally we had found the name that we were already linked to through DNA. Further investigation showed that Rose Page was a daughter of George Page!
|1920 Census: Starkville, Oktibbeha, MS; Family of George Page with daughter Rosa (age 3 and 5 mos)
This proved without a shadow of doubt that George Page was indeed the son of my 4th great grandmother Patsy! This matched the prediction of 4th cousin, as my mother shares with them a set of 3rd great grandparents (Joshua and Pasty Page). George was a brother to my 3rd great grandfather Lawrence!
Its amazing what you can find out with just a little bit of saliva…