Do you have an individual you’ve researched and have many pieces of indirect evidence pointing to him as your ancestor? Perhaps you’re unsure of the connection though, and wondering what to do next. With DNA now giving us a way to prove biological relationships, we can use this new tool to add evidence to our conclusions. Years ago, I hypothesized Benjamin Cox as the father of my third great-grandmother, Rachel Cox. Records in Texas in 1850 are scant, and although the migration pattern seemed correct, I still wasn’t sure. Plus, other Cox researchers didn’t have Rachel in their family tree and didn’t believe she was Benjamin’s daughter, casting doubt on my hypothesis.
Adding DNA to the Hypothesis
Enter DNA. Once I started using the Research Like a Pro with DNA process in 2019, I did two projects on Benjamin and Rachel – hoping either to disprove or disprove the relationship. I wrote about each step of the process for my first project, and the series begins with Creating an Objective for a DNA Research Project. That project focused on reviewing the records I had previously acquired for both Benjamin and Rachel and writing up that evidence. I attached Benjamin Cox as the father of Rachel Cox to my Ancestry tree and viewed the Ancestry DNA ThruLines to find possible DNA cousins, who I then messaged. I had an immediate response from a descendant of Benjamin’s only son, and we shared DNA information.
I realized that I needed to do more documentary research for Benjamin in his pre-Texas years and also add DNA evidence to the second project phase. I recruited four additional test-takers who had already tested their DNA at Ancestry and asked them to share their DNA results with me so I could view their matches with Cox descendants. Two of them were a generation closer to Benjamin Cox than me and thus had more matches and shared more DNA with those matches than I did.
My second report concluded with this statement:
This research project was very successful in identifying more information about Benjamin Cox in early Indiana records. Records for each of his proposed children pointed to a birth of between 1813 and 1829 in Ohio or Indiana. Tracing Ohio tax and marriage records, then Indiana census and land records, a likely candidate for the Benjamin Cox of this record was identified. Benjamin first appeared in Ross County, Ohio, tax records of 1810. He married Casiah Barbee in 1813 in Ross County and continued to be listed in the tax records there until 1819. By 1820 he had moved his household west to the Flat Rock Township in the Delaware Indiana Cession. Flat Rock became part of Bartholomew County in 1821 and Benjamin probably received a land patent for neighboring Jackson County in 1827. By 1830, he was residing in Monroe County, Indiana.
Benjamin’s oldest daughters, Amy and Lavina, married in 1834 in Bartholomew County, Indiana. Amy never left Indiana, but the remainder of Benjamin’s proposed children migrated to Arkansas then to Texas. The pre-1850 census records for the household of Benjamin Cox have appropriate places for the proposed children and by 1860, nearly all the married couples are residing in Belton, Bell County, Texas. The exceptions are Amy who remained in Indiana and Rachel whose location in 1860 is unknown.
The DNA evidence showed multiple shared matches between Benjamin Cox descendants: Diana Elder, Lucretia Becker Neill, Patricia Hoskins, and Darrell Stephens. Between the four descendants, matches were shown to other Cox descendants through all of the proposed Cox children. Combined with traditional research which shows a similar migration from Indiana > Arkansas > Texas, the DNA evidence proves conclusively that Benjamin Cox was the father of Rachel Cox.
I created a McGuire chart showing a genetic network between multiple descendants of Benjamin Cox. The five test-takers whose DNA I had access to appear in the colored boxes on the far left and right, and the DNA matches are shown in the yellow boxes. The green circles list the amount of DNA shared between each test-taker and the match. For a readable view, see the anonymized Benjamin Cox McGuire Chart. The six known children of Benjamin Cox appear at the top in green boxes (William Thomas Cox is shown both on the far left and the far right), and DNA matches were found for each independent child line.
Benjamin Cox Beginnings
Who was Benjamin Cox? He was likely born in Ohio, about 1791, perhaps in Ross County, since he first appeared in the tax records there in 1810, residing in the Jefferson Township. 1 He had purchased land from John Groves, and although his land was not on a watercourse, he was near a tributary of the Scioto River. The blue pin on the below map shows the land for the description of Range 20, Township 8, and Section 35 SW in Ross County.
Benjamin married Casiah Barbee on 7 May 1813, almost one year after his probable sister, Rachel Cox, married Harley Barbee on 4 June 1812.2 Was this a case of siblings marrying? Very likely, but this needs further research to verify. The name, Rachel, caught my attention, though, since my ancestor was also named Rachel, and it seems possible that Benjamin named a daughter after a sister.
Benjamin and Casiah had a large family, almost entirely of daughters. 3 Connecting Rachel to Benjamin involved tracing each of her siblings, noting their similar migrations from Ohio or Indiana to Texas. All but Amy, the firstborn, moved south to Arkansas and then Texas.
- Amy (Cox) Whitehorn was born about 1814 in Ross County, Ohio, and died 17 December 1907 in Jackson County, Indiana. Amy married Allen Whitehorn in 1834 in Bartholomew County, Indiana.
- Lavina (Cox) Crouch Smith was born about 1814 in Ohio and died after her1860 census enumeration in Bell County, Texas. Lavina married John Crouch on 4 August 1834 in Bartholomew County, Indiana, just six weeks after her sister Amy’s marriage. Lavina married Lawson H. Smith in 1853.
- Sarah (Cox) Stephens was born between 1816 and 1820 in Ohio or Indiana and died after her 1880 enumeration in Searcy County, Arkansas.
- Minerva (Cox) French was born on 11 April 1821 in Indiana and died on 11 September 1902 in Falls County, Texas.
- William Thomas Cox was born on 25 December 1827 in Indiana and died on 4 June 1912 in Oletha, Limestone, Texas. He married Elizabeth in 1848 and Sarah in 1865.
- Rachel (Cox) Shults was born in 1829 in Indiana and died between 1870 and 1880 in Falls County, Texas. She married Hickman Monroe Shults on 4 July 1850 in Navarro County, Texas.
Benjamin Cox Migration
Tracing a migrating ancestor is tricky, especially with a common name such as Benjamin Cox. His presence in Ohio seemed fairly certain based on the tax and marriage records, but what about his Indiana move? That was important to my hypothesis since Rachel Cox was born about 1829 in Indiana. I needed to place Benjamin there based on records.
The 1820 census listed named ten men named Benjamin Cox who resided in either Ohio or Indiana. Studying the tax records of Ross County, Ohio, found that Benjamin consistently paid taxes for the Jefferson Township land until 1819, his last listing.4 I reasoned that Benjamin moved to Indiana by 1820 and researched each of the 1820 listings to prove or disprove them. The best case for my Benjamin Cox was the 1820 enumeration of Flatrock Township in the newly formed Delaware County, Indiana.5 Adding to evidence that this was the correct Benjamin was the presence of Daniel and Olliff Barbee, likely family members of Benjamin’s wife, Casiah Barbee.
A land patent in Jackson County, marriage records for his two oldest daughters in Bartholomew County, and the 1830 census of Monroe County, Indiana, showed Benjamin and his family residing in the same general vicinity. The following map stars the three locations.
Rachel Cox, born in 1829 in Indiana, fit into the family makeup on the 1830 census as the female under 5.6 Sometime after Rachel’s birth, her mother, Casiah, died and Benjamin moved the family south to Arkansas, where he married again to the widow, Elizbeth (Donaho) Sutton.7 That blended family resulted in a large household of eighteen individuals ranging from young children to a male between 70-79 – possibly a father of either Benjamin or Elizabeth. Again Rachel fit into the family as one of the three females 10-14.
Benjamin Cox moved his household yet again to Navarro County, Texas, between 1843 and 1848, when he was last taxed in Izard County, Arkansas, and when he served as a road commissioner in Navarro County, Texas.8 This record was key in connecting Rachel to Benjamin because she married another road commissioner, Hickman Monroe Shults, on 4 July 1848 in Navarro County, Texas, placing her solidly in the same location as Benjamin. 9
By the 1850 census enumeration, Benjamin had moved from Navarro County to Travis County. That census was the first to name all household members and shows a blended Cox-Sutton household, as well as two daughters of Benjamin and Elizabeth, his second wife.10 One of the Cox females, Hannah Cox, age 19, was the daughter that other Cox researchers had in place of Rachel in family trees. DNA analysis, however, proved that wrong. Hannah was a Sutton and a daughter of Elizabeth, but not Benjamin.
Benjamin moved again to Bell County, Texas, where he lived out his life, even serving as a Texas Ranger in his 60s. A history of Bell County discussed Lieutenant Benjamin Cox as part of the Independent Blues, organized to pursue Indians who made a raid down Noland Creek and stole many horses from the Coxes and Suttons, the heaviest losers.11
Like so many of my early Texas ancestors, no evidence has surfaced with a specific death date for Benjamin Cox. His last residence in 1870 showed him still living with Elizabeth, his occupation noted as a wood workman. 12At age 79, he almost certainly died soon after the census, as the 1880 census shows no listings for him.
Tracing Benjamin’s life provided a timeline of his migration and a place for Rachel in the family. DNA provided the needed proof!
If you’re interested in learning more about the process I used in doing this research, check out my webinar on this case in our Research Like a Pro Webinar 2023 series: January: Was Rachel Cox the daughter of Benjamin Cox? A DNA Case Study.
My reports from the two projects on Benjamin Cox:
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!
- Ross County, Ohio, “Tax Duplicates, 1808, 1810, 1816-1819,” Vol. 1154, 1810, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 27 May 2019), FHL microfilm 528,391, image 108.
- “Ohio, County Marriages, 1798-1951, Vol A-B, Ross County, Caziah Barbee – Benjamin Cox marriage, 1812, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 16 April 2019), FHL microfilm 281, 637, image 152 of 352. See also “Ohio, County Marriages, 1798-1951, Vol A-B, Ross County, Harley Barbee – Rachel Cox marriage, 1812, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: 16 April 2019), FHL microfilm 281, 637, image 140 of 352.
- For record details see Public Member Trees, Shults_Kelsey family tree by Diana Elder, profile for Benjamin E. Cox, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/58419748/person/46036325193/facts : accessed 10 November 2019).
- Ross County, Ohio, “Tax Duplicates, 1808, 1810, 1816-1819,” Vol. 1155, for Benjamin Cox, 1819, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 27 May 2019), FHL microfilm 528,391, image 242.
- 1820 U.S. Census, Delaware County, Indiana, population schedule, Flat Rock, p.22 (penned), line 60, Benjamin B Cox household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 22 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M33, roll 14.
- 1830 U.S. Census, Monroe County, Indiana, population schedule, p. 170 (penned), line 2, Benjamin Cox household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 1 Apr 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M19, roll 30.
- Independence County, Arkansas, “Marriage records, 1826-1867,” Cox-Sutton, 1837, p. 49; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 1 Apr 2019); FHL microfilm 1,288,645, image 37 of 532.
- Desmond Walls Allen, Izard County, Arkansas Tax Records 1829-1866 (Conway, Arkansas : Rapid Rabbit Copy, 1986), 52. Nancy Timmons Samuels and Barbara Roach Knox, Old Northwest Texas : Historical, Statistical, Biographical (Fort Worth, Texas : Fort Worth Genealogical Society, 1980), 110.
- Navarro County, Texas, “Marriage Records Vol A 1-3 1846-1880,” pp. 9-10, Shults-Cox marriage, 1848; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 2 April 2019); digitized film number 007255691, images 14- 15 of 801.
- 1850 U.S. Census, Travis County, Texas, population schedule, Travis, p.141A, dwelling 121, family 121, Benjamin Cox household; digital image, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 1 Apr 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, Roll 915.
- George W. Tyler, “Indians, Frontier Rangers, and Gold Hunters, 1850-1860,” The History of Bell County, (San Antonio, Texas : The Naylor Co., 1936) pp.174-189; digitized images 778-788, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 6 October 2019); citing FHL microfilm 1,000,602, item 4.
- 1870 U.S. Census, Bell County, Texas, population schedule, Beat 5, p.97B, dwelling 66, family 66, Benjamin Cox household; digital image, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 1 Apr 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, Roll 1575.