Can DNA help us discover an unknown 4th great-grandfather? In the hopes that it can, I’m returning to my brick wall of identifying Cynthia (Dillard) Royston’s father. The Research Like a Pro with DNA study group is a perfect way to tackle a persistent research question. The structure of the assignments helps me stay on track and the process keeps me moving forward. I’ll be sharing my progress in this series. Will I finally be able to answer the question of who was Cynthia’s father? I don’t know. But I do know that I’ll be one step closer by the end of the study group.
When working with DNA, using the DNA matches of the closest generation to the target ancestor can make all the difference. For this project, I’ll be analyzing the DNA matches of my second cousin, twice removed (2C2R), Victor Parker. While Cynthia is my third great-grandmother, she is Victor’s great-grandmother. He received approximately 12.5 % of her DNA, whereas I only received about 3% or less.
I’m working on this project in phases. Previous phases included documentary research to eliminate Dillard candidates for Cynthia’s father and analysis of the DNA to find a cluster of DNA matches to research. Here is my current objective.
The objective of this research phase is to test the hypothesized biological sibling connection between Elijah Dillard and Cynthia (Dillard) Royston. Elijah Dillard was born about 1814 in Georgia and died on 6 September 1886 in Coffee County, Alabama. Cynthia was born about 1816 in Georgia and died in 1882 in Collin County, Texas. Cynthia married Thomas Beverly Royston about 1833 in Georgia or Alabama.
In part 3 of this series, I discussed creating the timeline for Elijah Dillard, the hypothesized brother of Cynthia Dillard. I entered each source readily available for him from online trees and Ancestry hinting into the Airtable timeline and then analyzed each source. I created a diagram of some of Victor’s DNA matches that belong to the Dillard cluster I identified from the Network Graph. I also worked on DNA source citations for reports I was using and created citations for each source in the timeline. The next step in the RLP with DNA process is to research the locality and analyze ethnicity estimates.
The timeline pointed out several locations where Elijah Dillard resided or had dealings – all in Alabama. Which should I choose for the locality guide step of the RLP with DNA process?
I already have an extensive Alabama guide that I created for Accreditation, so I focused on county guides for Pike and Macon counties. I chose Pike County, Alabama, because Elijah Dillard lived there from about 1855 to 1880. His earliest known residence is Macon County in about 1845, so that is my other county of focus. He has land patents in other counties that may need quick research, but I’m hoping clues to his origins will be in either Pike or Macon County, Alabama.
I focused on the time period from about 1830-1900: the time span that would likely have Elijah Dillard mentioned in the records. If he was born about 1814 in Georgia, he would have come of age about the mid-1830s. As always, the Locality Guide step makes me take the time to research the location and learn about its beginnings, record availability, and geography. I learned that Pike County had a destructive fire in 1828, so marriage, court, land, and probate begin after that. This was good news for the research.
For Elijah Dillard’s early years in Macon County, Alabama, I found that it was created on 18 December 1832 from the Creek Cession of 1832. With the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the southeastern United States to the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, new lands were opened up for settlement. A great resource for this area is the following set of maps found on The Genealogical Society of East Alabama’s website.
The society also publishes a quarterly journal titled Tap Roots that could have valuable clues to Elijah Dillard. The webpage provides the Table of Contents and Index for each issue, and you can order the issues from them for $8 per issue. The society has also compiled an Excel file of the indexed information where you can sort and filter to find your ancestor. This is an amazing resource and I can’t wait to explore it!
As always, the locality research portion of the RLP with DNA process pointed me to many sources that I can use in my research planning for the documentary research.
Depending on the project, analyzing the ethnicity estimates for the testers and DNA matches can prove instructive. The Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate for my key tester, Victor Parker, is 41% England & Northwestern Europe, 33% Scotland, 12% Wales, 8% Sweden & Denmark, 4% Norway, and 2% Portugal. Ancestry has identified three communities – all in the southern U.S for Victor. His matches share some of these communities. The following image shows a comparison between Victor and the DNA matches in the Elijah Dillard focus group.
The Southern States Settlers community (purple) takes in a broad swath across the United States. The Georgia & Florida Settlers community (green) is more focused and overlaps the Southern States Settlers. Only two of the focus group matches have the Western NC Settlers community (orange) in common – probably outliers. The overlap area in Southeastern Alabama and Georgia (aqua) is likely the origin of the common Dillard DNA.
I created a table comparing Victor’s ethnicity estimate and that of his matches from the Dillard focus cluster discovered in the network graph. As I continue to analyze the DNA match trees, the table might help me to make sense of the ancestral lines. I included the communities in common in hopes that might also help in the analysis.
Completing the locality and ethnicity part of the RLP with DNA process gave me a foundation to build additional research on. Next, I’ll be experimenting with DNA tools in order to choose those most beneficial for my research plan.
Best of luck in your genealogical journey!