Writing a Research Report on a DNA Research Project
Do you write reports after you’ve completed some research on your family? Have you worked with DNA to prove a hypothesis that traditional research could only hint at? If so, you’ll want to get your conclusions out of your brain and on to paper. What does a research report look like? Today I’m sharing the report I wrote on my hypothesis of Benjamin Cox as the father of Rachel Cox. I used DNA as part of the evidence and incorporated it into the report.
My research report was the culmination of a project I did for a Research Like a Pro study group. To learn about the entire project, here are past blog posts. I’ve included a link to the entire research report at the end of this post.
Elements of a Research Report
What do you include in a research report? Having a template to guide you as you organize your thoughts is beneficial. The headings that I use are:
-Body of the report with headings for each section
-Future research suggestions
Using my Cox research report, I’ll show how I put into words years of research on this family.
Stating the objective or research goal at the beginning of the report reminds you or your client of the purpose of the research. My objective include key identifiers for both Benjamin Cox and Rachel Cox.
The objective of this research project is to use DNA evidence and traditional genealogy research to explore the hypothesis that Benjamin Cox was the biological father of Rachel Cox. 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.
The next section of a report is the background information. What did you know at the beginning of the research? Are there historical or geographical details that will set the stage for the findings. Were there limitations in the research such as the courthouse burning? What spelling variations were found in the names?
My background information explained the proximity of Rachel Cox to Benjamin Cox in Navarro County, Texas. Records placed both individuals in the county in 1848. I also introduced the concept of using the FAN’s for both Cox individuals – the friends, associates, and neighbors. Finally I discussed the various spellings of Rachel’s married name in the records: Shoults, Shultz, Schultz, and Shults. Here is a sampling from the background information section:
Also present in Navarro County in August of 1848 was Benjamin Cox, named in a list of road commissioners. That list included an M. Shoults, almost certainly the Monroe Shoults of the marriage record. Both men gave the report in November of 1848 regarding the portion of the road from Corsicana to the Limestone County line. The two men would have known each other, and it is almost certain that Rachel Cox was connected in some way to Benjamin Cox. Was she a daughter, a niece, or another member of the extended Cox family? Research in the records and DNA evidence could provide evidence of a father-daughter relationship for Benjamin and Rachel Cox that the Navarro County, Texas, records hint at.
Body of the Report
The main part of a research report includes several sections discussing the records. Each genealogical fact is supported by a source citation and tables, maps, and charts lend clarity to the findings. The purpose of the report is to not only present the findings from the records but to analyze those findings and correlate the evidence. Your role as author is to help your reader make sense of the research.
I separated my report into the following headings:
Rachel Cox and Hickman Monroe Shults: Here I discussed the records located for the couple – 1848 marriage, 1850 census, lack of 1860 census, 1870 census and 1880 census with Hickman Monroe as a widower. Rachel had few records that named her, common in 19th century research in Texas, but by examining each record carefully I was able to create a profile for Rachel. She was born about 1828 in Indiana, married in 1848 in Texas, and died between 1870 and 1880 in Texas. She had ten children, with the last born in 1872.
Benjamin Cox: Records for Benjamin Cox suggested a migration of Ohio > Indiana > Arkansas > Texas. Subheadings for each of these locations further divided the report.
I chose to work backwards in time starting with Texas records and making connections to Rachel with each locality. Including a map showing the proximity of Benjamin and Rachel Cox in the records helped to visualize the locations. Both Benjamin and Rachel moved southwest after their mention in the 1848 records of Navarro County – Rachel to Bell/Falls County and Benjamin to Travis County.
As mentioned previously, Benjamin Cox was named in 1848 with “M. Shoults” as a road commissioner marking the “portion of the road from Corsicana to the Limestone County line, intersecting the road leading to Pine Blugg.” Benjamin’s stay in Navarro County was brief as he had moved his household southwest to Travis County, Texas, by 1850.
DNA Cox Connections: After discussing the traditional research, next it was time to use DNA evidence. I was using Ancestry DNA Thrulines to locate possible DNA matches through Benjamin Cox and was fortunate to connect with one of the matches. We compared our DNA on GEDmatch and found the specific segment where we matched. I verified her tree and added a table showing the connections.
One of the matches, M.B., had uploaded her raw DNA to the third-party website, GEDmatch. Because Thrulines showed this match as 1 segment of 8 cM and there is danger of false matches with small segments, Diana Elder’s kit was phased against that of her mother to create a new phased kit of only her paternal matches on GEDmatch. This reduces the number of false matches.
Running a one-to-one comparison using the phased paternal kit, it was found that the DNA of Diana Elder matched that of M.B. on chromosome 16, 13.9 cM. Another individual, John, also matched both Diana Elder and M.B. on Ancestry DNA Thrulines. He has not responded to messages and hopefully in the future will agree to upload his DNA to GEDmatch for segment triangulation.
The conclusion is your opportunity to wrap everything up. Recap the findings and make connections for your reader. You clearly understand the research, help those trying to follow your reasoning by writing an excellent conclusion. A portion of my conclusion reads:
Benjamin Cox was traced back to Izard County, Arkansas, where the 1840 census, tax records and a second marriage to Elizabeth Sutton were documented. A female of appropriate age for Rachel Cox was noted in the 1840 census. Next the 1830 census was searched for a likely record for Benjamin Cox in Indiana. With Rachel Cox and his other probable daughters giving Indiana as a birthplace, he was likely there by 1830. The most probable census record for Benjamin Cox was that of Monroe County, Indiana, which also had a likely female of appropriate age for Rachel Cox.
Suggestions for Future Research
The research project should always open new avenues of research and those can be listed so when you return to this ancestor, you know exactly how to proceed. If writing for a client, this will help the client to either research more on their own or ask you to continue the project. Some of my ideas for future research:
• Search land, tax, and court records for Monroe County, Indiana for Benjamin Cox.
• Search land, tax, and court records for Delaware County, Indiana for Benjamin Cox and Barbee relatives.
• Search land, court, and probate, records of Ross County, Ohio, for Benjamin Cox and Barbee relatives.
• Research other Cox men listed in the tax lists of Ross County, Ohio.
• Continue to contact DNA matches and analyze DNA evidence for a Cox connection.
I’m currently working on the second iteration of this project and am finding more evidence both DNA and traditional to prove my hypothesis that Benjamin Cox is the father of Rachel Cox. With DNA this is now possible and it’s exciting! I will writing up that research as well so I can share it with my new DNA cousins as well as any other interested parties.
Writing a report ensures that your research will live on. Your valuable conclusions will lay a foundation for researchers coming after you.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!
Read the Report
Read the entire report here: Cox Research Report (PDF file).