Thursday, January 12, 2023

All Adam's Children


No, not that Adam. I'm talking about Adam Broyles, my fifth great-grandfather. And here's my question about him.

Would it be possible to spot a sixth cousin through autosomal DNA testing? That is what we'd be seeking, in the case of the descendants of Adam Broyles, my fifth great-grandfather. And now that we have found Adam Broyles' 1782 will recorded in what is now Washington County, Tennessee, we have a listing of his surviving children. That, coupled with the narrative given in the unpublished manuscript of Arthur Leslie Keith, guides us to a starting point with the listing of all Adam's children.

First, let's consider what, if anything, might appear on my DNA match list for Broyles descendants. Anyone sharing my fifth great-grandfather Adam Broyles as a most recent common ancestor would likely be my sixth cousin (if in the same generation). According to the updated interactive Shared centiMorgan Project posted at DNA Painter, a match with a sixth cousin, on average, might mean eighteen centiMorgans shared in common—not very much. Granted, such a match could share up to seventy one centiMorgans, but it could also mean that two sixth cousins could share zero—absolutely no genetic material in common, whatsoever.

Working with numbers that small can be risky. There is a high chance for false positive results, something we need to keep in mind. Still, my thought is that if I work from the paper angle first, building a tree from adequate documentation first, then review those DNA matches whose ancestry contains the Broyles surname, it might be far more likely that the match would not be a false DNA result.

My first step, then, is to review the descendants' names mentioned in Adam Broyles' will, then consult with the Keith manuscript to find any additional notes. With that process, here is what we find on the children of Adam Broyles and his wife Mary.

Firstborn son mentioned in Adam's will was Moses, followed in the listing by Mima (also called Jemima), Anne, Aaron, Milla, Joshua and, finally, youngest child Mary. Moving further into the Keith manuscript, we can see Moses' wife listed as Barbara Carpenter, and Jemima marrying Joseph Brown—a Revolutionary war Patriot—in Washington County, Tennessee, in 1783. Adam Broyles' daughter Anne married Hugh Brown, the brother of her sister Jemima's husband. Aaron, Adam's second son and my direct line ancestor, settled in South Carolina and married Frances Reed.

Of the next child, Milla, the Keith manuscript has little to say. Keith notes only that she married someone by the last name Panther, but overwrites the typewritten entry by hand to (possibly) be Parther, then inserts a parenthetical note, "probably same as Prather."

The next child, son Joshua, apparently moved to South Carolina with his brother Aaron, where he and his wife were mentioned as having signed three deeds. Her name was given only as Elizabeth, no maiden name indicated.

Of the youngest child, Mary, Arthur Keith provides a note of her birth and baptism in 1776, but whatever name he typed in for her husband's surname was so overwritten as to no longer be legible.

With those seven children listed for Adam and Mary Broyles, I was curious to see how many might be represented in my ThruLines readout from Despite the fact that Adam was my fifth great-grandfather—quite a stretch when it comes to using a tool like autosomal DNA testing—ThruLines provides me with seventy eight matches supposedly connected through Adam and Mary Broyles. Of those seventy eight, thirty seven are from Aaron Broyles' line, my fourth great-grandfather. Of the rest, three are supposedly linked to Moses, nine to Jemima, thirteen to Anne, three—incredibly—to Milla, three to Joshua, and none to Mary.

In case you are one of those astute researchers with calculator at the ready, you and I both realize that that count does not add up to the supposed total of the seventy eight ThruLines has proposed as my DNA relatives. There is a reason for that. Ancestry actually has suggested two other daughters as children of Adam Broyles, likely an artifact of the company's use of subscribers' own trees—mistakes and all—as a basis for their ThruLines calculations.

There is a second problem with that approach. As I began to look more closely at the DNA matches suggested through this program, I realized the subscriber's tree did not always agree with documentation which could be found elsewhere online—some with wide gaps in dates between generations, others with unsubstantiated names included in the genealogy.

I'm taking this month to go through each match, line by line, but it is clear that not everyone whose tree says they are related is actually a DNA match through the line they think links us together. I'm not sure I'm up for correcting other people's trees, but I will make notes for my own records if I find an alternate way that we are related, especially with those matches who share a more substantial centiMorgan count with me.

One other thing to keep in mind, though: this listing is based on only one researcher's observations. There are other writers who have compiled genealogies for this part of the Broyles family. In the next few days, we'll take a look at what else can be found, and whether anyone else has made additional discoveries since Arthur Leslie Keith drew up his manuscript.      

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