Do you have a parent-child link that you haven’t personally researched but has been a long-standing fact in the family? If so, you may want to use DNA evidence and revisit the documentary research to prove that link. If you’ve tested your autosomal DNA at Ancestry and attached a family tree, Ancestry Thrulines will generate hypothetical placements for your DNA matches. These are great clues but it’s up to you to verify that placement.
As part of the Research Like a Pro with DNA 4 Study Group, I’m tackling my paternal Shults line and seeking to verify Martin S. Shults as the father of Hickman Monroe Shults. Ancestry Thrulines show 96 DNA matches that also have Martin S. Shults as a common ancestor, but most of these matches are under 15 cM. Because my cousin, Lucretia, is one generation closer to Martin Shults and will have inherited more DNA from him, I’ll be using her DNA for the project. She has 149 DNA matches in her Thrulines with many sharing over 20 cM. I’ll be working with these matches.
Verifying family trees and the amount of shared DNA will add validity to this hypothesis. In this three-part series, I’ll share my process and results. I’ll be distilling 3-4 assignments into each post. I have permission from my cousin, Lucretia to use her name in the project.
1. Assess your DNA Matches and Analyze Your Pedigree
This assignment involved reviewing DNA matches, doing some basic clustering of those matches, and evaluating them with the Shared cM Project tool. Then we were to identify two to three research questions that could be answered with DNA.
Although I have several brick walls on my paternal line, I decided to confirm the hypothesis that Martin Shults is the biological father of my proven 3rd great-grandfather, Hickman Monroe Shults. I have a good paper trail back to Hickman and the indirect evidence points to Martin as the father – but I’d like DNA confirmation. There seem to be two men named Martin Shults whose identities have become merged and I’m hoping to separate them through the documentary research. The following screenshot shows Hickman and the Shults line back to Johan V Shultz.1
Because I am not as familiar with Lucretia’s DNA matches as my own, I started with clustering her closest matches using the Leed’s method and discovered many matches on the Shults line. They didn’t separate out nicely into the four grandparent lines, though, showing a significant pedigree collapse among these southern ancestors. I highlighted the Shults/Cox line since those matches are in the right generation and on the right line.
2. Organize DNA Results and Create a Research Objective
This assignment called for creating a research objective including limitations related to the DNA. I came up with the following.
Using DNA analysis and documentary research, test the hypothesis that Martin S. Shults was the biological father of Hickman Monroe Shults. Martin was born about 1800 in Sevier County, Tennessee, and died in 1854 in Johnson County, Texas. He married Sarah T. Rowden on 24 December 1814 in Rhea County, Tennessee. Hickman was born on 13 June 1821 in Alabama and died on 12 May 1899 in Falls County, Texas. He married Rachel Cox on 4 July 1848 in Navarro County, Texas.
Although Y-DNA could be used in the future, no candidate has yet been discovered. Many of the lines have “daughtered out.”
The test-takers are 3-4 generations removed from Martin Shults and inherited smaller amounts of DNA from him.
This project will use only autosomal DNA suggested from Ancestry DNA Thrulines. The principal test-taker, Lucretia Becker, has 149 matches to Martin through seven different children with a range of 10 to 31 cM. These are primarily smaller matches and will need to be verified by evaluating key matches against other Shults test-takers.
Martin S. Shults is the 3rd great-grandfather of Lucretia Becker: Lucretia: Dora Christine Shults > William Huston Shults > William Henderson Shults > Hickman Monroe Shults > Martin S. Shults
Because this is a southern U.S. line, it likely has pedigree collapse and the possibility of multiple common ancestors for a match exists.
AncestryDNA Thrulines suggests relationships based on user trees which are likely to have significant errors. Each generational link will need to be verified with documentary research.
Next, I used Lucidchart to diagram Lucretia’s closest DNA matches with the common ancestor of her great-grandfather, William Henderson Shults. William is Hickman’s son and the documentary research and DNA do verify this genetic relationship. Notice that I have a DNA match from each of the independent sibling lines – good evidence of this connection. Now I can continue to move back to the next Shults generations with confidence.
The Shults/Isenhour diagram represents her 2nd great-grandparents and the closest matches who have tested. This diagram will grow as I continue to identify individuals. This did point to another DNA match who I could ask to share his results with me – “Mary 1.” This match is also a generation closer to the ancestor in question and their DNA would be very valuable. I already have access to the DNA of “Henderson 1” from my Cox project, so this would give me three test-takers from independent lines in that generation.
3. & 4. Creating the Timeline and Source Citations; Analyzing Sources and DNA Matches
I had started adding DNA matches to my Airtable template in lesson 1 and for this assignment, I checked the amount of shared centimorgans (cM) against the Shared cM Project and the predicted relationships. I found that all of the matches I had diagrammed fell well within the expected range.
Next, I created a timeline for Martin and Hickman Shults. I entered all the records I had accumulated, created source citations, and noted some of the holes in the research. I also analyzed each documentary source for the type of source, information, and evidence. For example, previous research had located “Martin Sholts” in a tax list in Arkansas.2
I determined it was a derivative source because the names have been arranged by surname and this was likely a copy of the original. The information would be primary for the residence since the tax collector would have collected the data and knew the county and state. The tax list also provides direct evidence of Martin’s residence in Pulaski County, Arkansas, in 1841 since he was taxed for the poll tax that year.
In the Airtable Timeline, I added a field for “Individual” and noted whether the record was for Martin or Hickman, then I grouped by “Individual” and my Airtable created separate timelines for each man within the main timeline table. I can easily ungroup to see the records intermingled.
The screenshot below shows the grouping for Martin Shults. Notice the FANS field to the right. This field allows me to add friends, associates, and neighbors listed in the records. “FANs” is a linked field and when I click on the FANs table shown in blue, I will see a list of all the individuals entered. This is a quick and easy way to track the people who could be important to the research
What did I discover from the timeline assignment? That I had a large gap in the records for Martin Shults from 1820 to 1840. Since Hickman Monroe Shults was supposedly born in Alabama in 1821, I needed to find evidence for his father, Martin’s residence in Alabama at that time. The timeline pointed to several possibilities for my documentary research plan.
The first four steps in the Research Like a Pro with DNA process set the foundation for the project. I’m excited to share my next steps in part 2 of this series.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!
- Ancestry Public Member Tree, “Shults_Kelsey,” by Diana Elder, tree for Hickman Monroe Shults (1821-1899); Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/58419748/family : accessed 21 April 2022).
- “Arkansas Tax Records, 1821-1884, Pulaski County, Martin Sholts, 1841, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSLG-SSW1-T : accessed 25 January 2022), FHL 2322550, Items 2-12, image 606.”