Locality Research in a DNA Research Project
What does locality research have to do with DNA research? Turns out a lot. As I’m working through a research project using documentary sources in tandem with DNA sources, I’m following the Research Like a Pro process to make progress. This portion of the process is all about discovering the locality of my research subject. What records are available to search? Do the localities of my DNA matches match? Taking a look at the place and time is key in our research.
The first step in my research project was creating an objective based on my research question: Is Benjamin Cox the biological father of Rachel Cox?
Rachel is my 4th great grandmother and I have a good paper and genetic trail to her and Hickman Monroe Shults, her spouse. Ancestry DNA shows many cousin matches that also descend from this couple. Because I’ve researched Rachel and Hickman’s descendants extensively, I feel that connection is proven. Now I’m moving back a generation and looking to prove her father.
In Creating an Objective for a DNA Research Project, I explained why I chose my brick wall ancestor, Rachel Cox, and how I formulated an objective. I’ve modified my objective adding the phrase “test the hypothesis” and the qualifier “biological” to the objective. When doing a DNA project this can help to clarify the objective.
The objective of this research project is to test the hypothesis that Benjamin Cox was the biological father of Rachel Cox through DNA evidence and traditional genealogy research. Benjamin Cox was born about 1791 in Ohio and died between 1870 and 1880 in Bell County, Texas. Rachel Cox was born about 1828 in Indiana and died between 1870 and 1880 in Falls County, Texas. Rachel married Hickman Monroe Shults on 4 July 1848 in Navarro County, Texas.
With an objective written to focus the research, my next step was to analyze both documentary and genetic sources. In Source, Information, and Evidence Analysis for a DNA Research Project, I showed examples of my timeline for Benjamin Cox and my chart of my DNA matches that seemed to connect to Benjamin.
Next up was a dive into the locality. In her article “Where in the World Has My DNA traveled? DNA and Locality Research,” our genetic genealogist, Robin Wirthlin, discusses how locality research works with DNA.
Comparing my timeline localities and the localities from my chart, I saw that places and dates lined up appropriately. Records for Benjamin Cox revealed the following migration: Ohio > Indiana > Arkansas > Texas with a time frame of 1791-1870. What locations were identified in my chart of cousin matches? Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas. If my cousin matches had family trees with very different localities, this would have been a red flag and a signal to revisit my research.
When an ancestor has migrated to several locations, it can be challenging to decide what place to focus on for a locality guide. One tip is to choose the place where you want to focus the research. For this project, I had already researched Texas and Arkansas locations and wanted to hone in on the early years of Benjamin Cox in Ohio and Indiana – places I had not yet researched. I needed a locality guide for Ohio and Indiana, especially looking at the years when Benjamin Cox was present there: 1791-1845.
Using maps and my go-to websites, the FamilySearch Wiki and the FamilySearch Catalog, I discovered that Benjamin Cox likely moved into Indiana about 1820 when Indian land opened up for settlement. I also learned that the 1810 census returns for Ohio were mostly lost, so I’d need to use tax records to learn more about Benjamin’s residence there.
As part of this part of the process, I also began considering what types of DNA tools I could use for working with small segments. My DNA analysis had shown that because I was working with a 5th great grandfather, I was matching only on small segments.
I knew there was a danger of these being false matches and so I learned more about how to counteract this with phasing a kit on GEDmatch. Blaine Bettinger laid out the details in his article: “The Effect of Phasing on Reducing False Distant Matches (Or, Phasing a Parent Using GEDmatch).”
After studying the article, I knew this was a strategy that I needed to include in my research plan. As hoped, my locality guides and my study of DNA tools had panned out. I am now ready to create a research plan!
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!