When working with your DNA, how often do you create a working plan to guide the research? We may recognize the need for choosing record collections to search, but how about choosing a DNA tool? With so many available, do we need to try them all or can we focus on just one or two that will work with our objective? I’ll share the research plan for my current research project in this blog post.
I’m working to prove a longstanding parent-child link on my Shults ancestral line using DNA evidence based on Ancestry DNA ThruLines and documentary research. In part one of this series I discussed doing the basic clustering for my DNA test-taker, Lucretia, using the Leeds method. Then I organized her DNA matches by diagramming the closest matches on the Shults line. Creating the timeline and analyzing the sources and the DNA matches followed. With those steps completed, I had a good foundation for the project.
The next steps in the Research Like a Pro with DNA process involve locality research and ethnicity, exploring DNA tools and methodology, and research planning. My research objective follows.
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.
5. Locality Research and Ethnicity
With my objective focused on proving Martin as Hickman’s father, I reasoned that I needed to find proof of Martin’s residence in Alabama in 1821 when Hickman was supposedly born. I have an Alabama research guide but decided to learn about Bibb County, the location given for Hickman’s birth in many online trees. I learned that Bibb County is located in the center of the state and that there was no courthouse disaster so marriage, land, and probate records begin in 1816. This was good news for my research since the Shults family likely moved into the area once the county was formed in 1818.
Ethnicity estimates also play a part in this lesson and I spent some time analyzing Lucretia’s estimate from Ancestry which showed all European regions. She has a variety of communities covering states where the Shults family resided. The featured matches were those I’d already identified as matches on the Shults line. The suggested communities correlated with Martin Shults’ migration path from Tennessee > Arkansas > Texas.
6. & 7. Explore DNA Tools and Methodology
Exploring new tools for creating genetic works and working with segment data provides ideas for the DNA section of the research plan. I had previously used the Leeds Method of separating Lucretia’s closer matches on Ancestry into genetic networks (see part 1 of this series). Because I already had a genetic network from ThruLines for me to test, I didn’t need to spend time working with other tools. Some possibilities for future projects are Genetic Affairs Auto Tree, MyHeritage Auto Cluster, and Gedmatch Tier 1 tools.
For working with segment data, I revisited the chromosome map on DNA Painter that I’ve been working on for several years. Currently, I have 207 segments painted and have attributed 46% of my genome to some ancestral couple. The dark blue segments are those that I share with Lucretia, my test-taker for this project. The hope is that eventually, I’ll be able to identify pieces of those larger segments belonging to ancestors further back in the pedigree.
8. Research Planning
During the research planning phase, I created two tables summarizing the known facts about Martin and Hickman Shults- one for each man. I took the information from my Airtable timeline and distilled it into three columns: date and event, locality, and citation. Then I formulated my working hypothesis.
Martin Shults was born between 1790 and 1800, probably in Tennessee. He married Sarah Rowden then moved to Alabama, Arkansas, and finally to Texas where he died. His son Hickman Monroe Shults was born about 1821 in Alabama and also moved to Arkansas and Texas with the family. Verifying Martin’s residence in Alabama by 1821 when Hickman was born would add validity to the census records stating that birthplace. Authored sources on Ancestry online trees give Bibb or Perry County, Alabama, as the residence of the Shults family.
Hickman lived in Navarro County, Texas, by 1850 as did his probable mother, Sarah Shults, and brothers Martin and Wade. A land record of 1857 names the heirs of Martin Shults as Sarah T. Shults, Martin V. Shults, and Paulina K Hoggard. These are most likely some of his children. Hickman was not named, perhaps because he had already received his own land patent.
Ancestry DNA ThruLines show many DNA matches for descendants of Hickman Monroe Shults and his probable siblings. Verifying the trees, the documentary research, and the amount of shared DNA will provide evidence of this relationship.
Because the research needed to focus on Bibb County, Alabama, I first did a list of possible records, then I prioritized those that could prove Martin’s residence in the early 1820s. I also prioritized DNA work. The screenshot below of the research project document shows my strategy. like adding checkboxes that can be marked when the research is complete. Anything not completed during the research phase can go into future research.
With my research plan set, the next phase will be research! Stay tuned for part 3 of this series to see what I discovered.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!
- I Lea, “Map of Alabama,” (Philadelphia : H.C. Carey & I. Lea, 1822); digitized image on the David Rumsey Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~751~70025:Map-Of-Alabama- : accessed 10 May 2022).
- Christopher Maloney, “Treaty of Cusseta,” Encyclopedia of Alabama (http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3083 : accessed 15 May 2022).