Friday, 10 November 2017

Finding Martha with DNA

Was Hannah Parks, wife of Joel King, the mother of Martha Campbell? In the absence of documentary evidence, DNA could answer this question, but I find DNA research quite mind-boggling and I often have to leave the computer and do something completely different until my brain is able to cope again.  Thank goodness Ruth is better at this stuff than I am.  Between us, we found a few common relatives who were possibly descended from Hannah Parks through some of her King children.  Tracing the family lines back to those people was a very tangled job, but eventually we came up with four living people to look at more closely - Sean, Shayne, Lorraine and Sherri. They all share DNA with some or all of me, my brother, Ruth, her brother and sister and her aunt Alice, all of whom are known descendants of Martha Campbell.  So it looked like there was no other possible reason for all this shared DNA than that we're all descended from one or the other of Martha's parents.  And Sean and Shayne both have Hannah Parks in their direct line of descent.

It turns out that there are other reasons for some of the shared DNA though - Lorraine, Sherri and Shayne all share a completely different set of common ancestors - Henry and Armilla Carter - with me and my brother, but not with Ruth's family.

To sort everyone out, I drew up a chart of how Ruth and I are related to our four DNA matches, which helped me figure out what questions needed to be asked, and how we might find more solid evidence that we really do have Hannah Parks in common with Sean and Shayne.

These family lines are much more tangled than this chart shows - it turns out that there were all kinds of people called Campbell, King and Thompson marrying each other, so the lines cross all over the place - which is why this simplified chart really helped me get a clear picture of where Ruth and I fit in, and, along with other information picked up along the way, made both of us quite confident that we're on the right track.

But I want to be sure!  And thankfully, Shayne's father is descended along a direct maternal line from Hannah Parks, via her daughter, Susannah King;  I'm descended along a direct maternal line from - I hope - Hannah's other daughter, Martha Campbell.  So, if Shayne's father's mitochondrial DNA matches mine, I'll know that Hannah really was Martha's mother.  But he hasn't had a mitochondrial DNA test, so I got in touch with Shayne and eventually she wrote back to say that her father would be happy to have one.  I got a kit sent to him right away, and it wasn't long before I was informed that he had sent his sample to the lab.  Now, I'm waiting for the result.....

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