DNA Helps Discover John Ancestors



I was introduced to genealogy by my Aunt Madeline Johns Gee  who was a well known teacher in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools. She pushed for integration of public schools which were segregated at the time back in the day. She was considered a pioneer, a trail blazer. At a family gathering in Greensboro, NC she introduced the family tree she created and I was really excited, never knew most of my relatives. That was 45 years ago and I began studying genealogy when it was not as popular as it is today. As I have learned about genealogy through the years I came to a startling reality. All the research and genealogy websites gear their data towards European ancestors. There is almost no research on African American genealogy and genetic genealogy. That is changing daily as genealogist work towards a common goal. I will explain more on that in one of my blogs coming soon.

I have traced my ancestors back to 1460 Herefordshire, England, with DNA testing and the help of testing results of other relatives. My research has revealed new relatives unknown before. Results of four living relatives’ DNA results indicated a relationship at 22-26 cM’s and a direct relationship to William Johns who was married to Ann Merryman. With this information I was able to discover African-Americans not recorded any place by Johns family genealogists. John Johns the son of Col. John Johns lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Bear Mountain) of Virginia. He had an acknowledged relationship with a Monacan Indian woman (left blank at the request of the Monocan Nation) who are now a blend of Saponis, Occaneechis, and Tutelos tribes. Most of theses tribes relocated to Pennsylvania and finally to Canada where they are today. John Johns purchased 52 acres of land on Bear Mountain. In 1833, he bought another 400 acres, and this became the settlement for Indian and African-American families related to him. In 1850, the census recorded 29 families, mostly large, related to the Bear Mountain settlement. In his will he divided his land among his sons and daughter, and five years later, at the age of 91, he died.  In 1860 the Amherst County Clerk’s Office recorded, among the names of free persons of color, the Monacan surnames of Beverly, Branham, Johns, Pinn and Terry. I have all fourteen names of African-Americans and Native American Johns who lived together and married.

The Virginia legislature passed a Race Law in 1823, which declared that any child of an Indian and any descendent of a Negro, up to the great-grandchild, would be counted as a mulatto. Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Law in 1924, which prohibited intermarriage between those considered white and those having any mixture of colored blood more than one-sixteenth. Many community settlers left the state during this time, because they were no longer permitted to marry freely.

Common Misconceptions:

  1. Genetic genealogy  is just for fun.

There is no doubt that genetic genealogy is a fun and interesting new way to  explain genealogy. “Finding Your Roots” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” uses DNA testing to support and augment the powerful stories shared by celebrity guests; leading many thousands of people to purchase DNA tests to explore their roots. Awareness: Every testing company from 23andMe <www. 23andme.com>, AmcestryDNA <www.dnaancestry.com> and Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) <www.FTDNA.com> have very small databases of African-Americans and almost  non-existing databases of Africans. So you get something but perhaps not what you wanted. However, it is still a valuable tool in your genealogical arsenal. I have traced my ancestors back to 1460 Herefordshire, England. With DNA testing and other relatives testing I have been able to discovery new relatives unknown before. Results of four living relatives DNA results indicated a relations at 22-26 cm’s and a direct relationship to William Johns who was married to Ann Merryman. With this information I was able to discover African-American’s not recorded any place by Johns family genealogist.

2. Can women take a genetic genealogy test?

Women can take three of the four major genetic tests, and both males and females can benefit from the test results. The mitochondrial-DNA (mtDNA), autosomal-DNA test (atDNA), X-DNA. Y-DNA you will find that most companies will tell you it is for males only. True but you still can participate by finding a male member of your immediate family willing to get tested. Problem solved.

3. DNA will provide me with a family tree

What! DNA testing in no way can result in a family tree. There is no magic bullet for revealing your family tree. In conjunction with sound genealogy research and genetic genealogy it can help you build your family tree. No work no tree.

Facts, all DNA tests are not equal, all testing companies test at different markers and some companies or websites do no testing at all but send your sample to a company like 23andme. They also may not keep your raw data so you are out of luck if you can not retrieve your data. Some say they will provide a ethnicity report and if they are taking about 37 markers good luck (Y-DNA). All testing companies use laboratories across the country and that you need to review. Some companies provide what I call shop talk with very little value to you but ask any way, what logarithm do they apply to your data?

Marker – a gene or a DNA sequence which has a known location on a chromosome. This includes a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), short tandem repeats (STR) and any location in the DNA that is associated with a trait or a disease. In genetic genealogy, the results of testing various markers help determine how recently a common ancestor may have lived. Y-DNA (Y-STR) test can be purchased in sections from some companies. Family Tree offers Y-DNA12, Y-DNA25, Y-DNA 37, Y-DNA67 and Y-DNBA 111 STR marker tests and also SNP testing. AncestryDNA offers a Y-Chromosome test for either 33 or 46 marker locations, but does not provide SNP testing. The National Geographic Geno 2.0 test is an extensive array of Y-DNA SNP’s and is expensive.

Centimorgan (cM) – a centimorgan is a measurement of how likely a segment of DNA is to recombine from one generation to the next. Places on the chromosome that are one centimorgan apart have 1 percent probability of recombining during meiosis. The higher number of centimorgans, the closer the relationship.
















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