Monday, September 17, 2018

Tangled DNA, The Patriarch: 52 Ancestors


Who were the parents of Nicholas Allee? What was his ethnicity? Was his mother a Native American? Were his wives?

There are many questions surrounding Nicholas Allee. He died in 1808, with his probate being entered in July in Montgomery County, Virginia. His will was written on May 20, 1808, and is recorded in Will Book I, page 347.

His will names:
Mary Daughter of Joseph Denis deceased who is married to me ... my seven children by the said Mary namely Anne Nicholas Merry Betty Joseph Isaac and Hannah ... Thomas Denis that now lives with me ... my six children by my former wife to wit Sarah Stephens Jemimah Hays Keziah Robins David John & William Allee ... Rhoda Cox my Grand daughter ... Peter Saunders and John Long to be Exrs ... 
Nicholas had married Mary Dennis on April 13, 1794, in Montgomery County. His eldest (known) child was Sarah Allee Stephens, born about 1756. His first marriage would have occurred about 1755. That would place his birth before 1738, and it is believed to be 1735. His first wife was named Ann and has been assumed to have been named Ann Stephens, based on family stories about his Bible, which was given to his eldest son, David.

The questions surrounding the birth and parentage of Nicholas were well stated by the author of Alley Ancestors, who wrote:
He is thought by some to have been born an Allee, while others believe he was an Alley ... From a study of land transactions related to a Nicholas that was done by an Allee researcher, "he" was noted in 12 such in 1751-1767. A review of these actions raises at least three questions:

1. Some transactions occurred in 1751 and 1752 - a little early for someone born in 1735.
2. The spelling of the name noted is as follows: Alee - 1, Alle - 1, Allee - 3, Allee & Alley - 1, while Alley was noted 6 times.
3. Was there more than one "Nicholas"?
Two theories have been passed down and written about his ancestry. One is that his paternal ancestry was British or Scotch and that the name should have been spelled Alley. Another is that it was derived from the French Huguenot name D'Ailly. This second theory has proposed a father named Nicholas, related to a family from Charleston, South Carolina. This man could have been the man named in the early land transactions and would also help explain our Nicholas spending time in South Carolina. To the best of my knowledge, neither theory has been proven to date.

Nicholas provided service and supplies to the military. On September 28, 1758, Nicholas petitioned the Virginia House of Burgesses:
... setting forth that in June last he was ordered out as a Guide to a Party of the Brunswick Militia, sent out for the protection of the inhabitants and in a skirmish with some Indians was shot through the body with two bullets and had his right arm broke which has entirely disabled him from getting the Consideration of the House ...
He was awarded 25 Pounds for his suffering.

On May 31, 1770, Nicholas was back:
... in the year 1757 the Petitioner supplied the militia of Prince Edward County with 372 pounds of Neat Pork, 2 barrels of Corn for which he hath never received any satisfaction; and that the Petitioners said claim was rejected because, as he was informed he did not attend and show why he had not applied sooner, the Reason whereof was that having been wounded in an Engagement with the Indians, soon after he removed to South Carolina where he remained until 1764; and therefore praying the House to make him a reasonable allowance ...
He was awarded 3 pounds, 9 shillings and 9 pence.

Nicholas also provided supplies to the American side during the Revolutionary War. 

Nicholas bought and sold quite a bit of land, holding at one time over 600 acres. Virginia counties changed and split throughout his life and tracing the land records would involve records from half a dozen different counties across the southern and southwestern area of Virginia. The inventory at his death included several horses, cows, bulls, geese and sheep, as well as bee hives. The crops still in his possession included rye and wheat.

The six children from his first marriage moved to Barren County, Kentucky. His eldest son, David, had served on the Virginia Continental Line during the Revolutionary War and had been awarded land in Kentucky for his service. His siblings joined him in the move, which was before Nicholas' death.

The children from the marriage of Mary Dennis and Nicholas Allee moved to Lawrence County, Alabama, by 1820. However, there may not have been such a clear split in the branches. The mystery connection will be covered in another post.

The paternal ancestry of Nicholas Allee can be analyzed via Y-DNA testing of Allee-named male descendants, comparing to others with the Allee/Alley surname variations. The Y-DNA test is not available via AncestryDNA. Family Tree DNA is the testing company to use for this sort of test and there is an Alley/Allee surname project available.

The maternal ancestry of Nicholas can best be determined from mtDNA testing of his unknown sisters via an unbroken female line. The identity of his father would need to be proven first. The ethnicity of his wives can be determined from mtDNA testing of his daughters via an unbroken female line. Again, mtDNA testing is best done at Family Tree DNA.

Autosomal DNA testing is also a possibility to determine his ancestry and that of his wives, though it would be a challenge due to the number of generations since Nicholas. This is the most common and least expensive DNA test. This type of cousin matching needs clarity of ancestry, which is the purpose of this series of explanatory posts for a tangled branch of the Allee family.

Next time: Joseph Allee, son of Mary Dennis.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tangled DNA


Have you taken a genealogical DNA test yet? If not, why not? It's easy, inexpensive and a little bit of fun. The fun ethnicity results are less useful than the ability to identify cousins, but the latest ethnicity estimates from AncestryDNA are a huge improvement for me. Your mileage may vary.

Identifying cousins who are DNA matches can be tricky due to intermarriages. Some of those marriages are within religious or ethnic groups. Some are within small communities and even within families. If you are trying to figure out your DNA cousins, you probably have seen some trees that leave you scratching your head in bafflement.

Within one of my families, there are a handful of generations where the DNA is so tangled that making cousin assumptions can lead to incorrect conclusions. DNA may someday untangle the branches, but only with careful analysis and triangulation outside the tangled branches.

I don't carry any of the tangled DNA, but I want to share my research for my known and unknown cousins. The next few posts in the 52 Ancestors series will be about ancestors in the Allee family and the challenges that I have found during 20 years of research into the large family of my mother's adoptive father. 

Allee-Lucas Family, about 1909


Friday, September 7, 2018

A Favorite Photo: 52 Ancestors


One of my favorite photos is of my grandmother's older sister and her husband. I believe it was taken in celebration of their marriage, possibly on their wedding day.

Esstella "Stella" Margaret Crispen was born on October 28, 1899, near Meno, Oklahoma Territory. She was named for her two grandmothers. Her mother, Daisy Myrtle Maddox, was the daughter of Elizabeth Esstella Lake. Her father, Clark Earl Crispen, was the son of Nerinda Margaret Kerr.

Her father, a blacksmith by trade, was not cut out for farming. About 1907 he leased his Oklahoma farm to his brother-in-law and moved his family to Michigan, living first in Van Buren County. The family later moved to Coloma Township and eventually into the town of Benton Harbor.


Template and elements from Botanicals digital kit, ClubScrap, 2015


Henry L Pitcher was raised on a farm in Watervliet Township. How the couple met is not known to me, but most likely it was while the Crispen family was living in the Coloma area. The couple were married at the home of the pastor of the Watervliet First Methodist Church on November 12, 1918.

Henry first worked with his father on the farm. However, after his father died in 1928, he sold the farm, moved to Coloma Township and became a realtor. They had one child, Opal Kathleen Pitcher, born on November 19, 1919.

The couple had health issues which cut their lives far too short. Stella had scarlet fever as a child, which had weakened her heart. Henry struggled with arthritis. The hometown newspaper printed lovely obituaries at their passing.


The News-Palladium
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Thursday, August 28, 1952
Page 21
H. L. Pitcher, Coloma Realty Agent, Succumbs
     Coloma, Aug. 28 -- Henry L. Pitcher, 57, Coloma real estate man, died Wednesday noon at Mercy hospital, where he was admitted the previous day.
     Although Mr. Pitcher had suffered a serious arthritic condition for many years, he had remained cheerful in his work and had many friends in the community. He was a lifelong resident of the Coloma community, having been born on a farm north of Coloma on May [sic] 5, 1895.
     Mr. Pitcher is survived by his wife, Esstella; his mother, Mrs. Lydia Pitcher, who made her home with him and his wife; one daughter, Mrs. Donald Gearing, and a granddaughter, of Coloma. Also surviving are a brother, Jerome Pitcher, and a sister, Mrs. Clark Shimer both of Watervliet.
     Funeral services will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Davidson funeral home, with the Rev. William Goltz of Hartford, former Coloma minister, officiating. Burial will be in the Watervliet City cemetery.


The News-Palladium
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Tuesday, March 15, 1955
Page 13
Mrs. Esstella Pitcher
     Coloma, March 15 -- Mrs. Esstella M Pitcher, 55, died Monday night at Mercy hospital, Benton Harbor, where she had been a patient 12 days. She had been in ill health many years.
     Born Oct. 28, 1899 in Meno Okla., Mrs. Pitcher had lived in the Coloma vicinity since she was eight years old. She was married to Henry Pitcher Nov. 12 1918, in Coloma. He died in August, 1952.
     Mrs Pitcher is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Donald (Opal) Gearing, and a granddaughter, Joyce Kepil, of Coloma, her mother, Mrs. Daisy O'Neil, of Tucson, Ariz., two sisters, Mrs. Fayette Allee, of Tucson, and Mrs. Leonard Scherrer, of Pasadena, Calif., and two nieces living in the west.
     A nephew, Earl Knapp, lives in Benton Harbor.
     Mrs. Pitcher's body is at the Davidson funeral home. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Stella Crispen Pitcher and Henry Pitcher are buried together in the Watervliet Cemetery.