Tuesday, July 18, 2017

More Trouble on the Matriline

One would think getting an exact match on my mitochondrial DNA test would be a good thing. And it is—only, now that I'm looking at it more closely, I realize proving my point may take more effort than originally planned.

The trick is this: my mother's maternal grandmother once mentioned that her mother had been adopted. Instant roadblock on the matriline, for those of us, years later, wishing to trace that heritage.

The way it happened was this: as a young child, my mother had to spend a year with her grandparents in Florida while her own parents took her sister to Johns Hopkins hospital for some medical issues. Of course, my mom grew fairly close to this grandmother during that time, and all through her life, cherished this woman's memory.

One of the stories my mom told me about this visit was that she once asked her grandmother about her mother. Her grandmother, Sarah Ann Broyles, had been born in Tennessee in 1873, and by the time my mother was living with her in the 1930s, she was living with her husband, Rupert Charles McClellan, in Tampa, Florida. My mother, like most curious kids, must have wanted to know something more about this family with whom she'd be spending a school year while her own family was so far away.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a reply to my mother's question. Sarah Broyles McClellan simply responded that her mother had been an orphan, and there wasn't much more that she knew about the woman.

There was more to the story. Sarah's mother had actually died when Sarah was only three years old. Of course she wouldn't remember much about her mother. However, I could find out more about her now, from my vantage point of having access to so many digitized records. Even with that paper trail, though, there were gaps in what could be discovered.

The one thing I knew was Sarah's mother was named Mary Rainey. Or Raney. Or some phonetic variation on that theme. She had married Thomas Taliaferro Broyles in 1871, and lived at his home in Tennessee from that point until her death in 1877.

Mary, herself, wasn't from Tennessee, as I discovered, but from Georgia. The only marriage record I could find with names matching the couple's was for a January 2, 1871, ceremony held in Muscogee. Fortunately—well, at least if I have the right person—that was barely after the conclusion of a census year.

I found a likely candidate in the 1870 census for the city of Muscogee. A nineteen year old listed as Mary Reiney was in the household of a dry goods merchant named Charles Taliaferro. Of course, that was the last census taken without any listing of relationships within the household, so I have no way to determine from that record how, if at all, Mary was related to Charles. All I know is that her occupation was listed as "domestic."

There was one other detail which helped—or, who knows, perhaps wouldn't help. There was one more "Reiney" listed in the same household: a twenty seven year old man named Thomas. It would be helpful, of course, if he was Mary's brother, but again, the census provided no such information. Since he was born in South Carolina while she was a Georgia native, the record almost gave the sense of the two Reineys being a couple rather than brother or sister, but it still was a lead to follow up on. He was listed as serving as a clerk for the store, but it seemed rather strange that a mere employee would actually be living with the man who employed him.

Whatever the situation, if this was my Mary, it seemed possible that she was an orphan at that point, since she—and perhaps her brother as well—were living with someone other than their parents.

All this would have been a mere academic exploration, if it were not for one detail: a while back, I received notice that I had an exact match on my mtDNA test. I had already received two since taking the test back in the spring of 2014, but each of them was an adoptee, himself. This new match, however, was not in that situation. If I could figure out how I connected with my new match, perhaps this would confirm my guesses as to my own adopted second great grandmother.

Things didn't go so swimmingly, however, when I looked at my match's pedigree chart. Right away, I spotted a matching surname—well, at least if my guess about my own line was correct—but when I took a closer look at my match's tree, the names of the matching couple were the same, but the parentage and the dates didn't align. With guesses on my part, and possible errors on my match's part as well, this could be a messy process to confirm.

Insert above from the 1870 U.S. Census for Muscogee County in the state of Georgia courtesy FamilySearch.org.


  1. Good to hear you have a match, sounds like you have a project! :)

    1. I'm certainly glad for that match. Sometimes, it gets discouraging, not finding any matches on those "different" tests--the Y-DNA or the mtDNA test. It's a totally different type of challenge to address.


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