Friday, June 23, 2023

Finding the Missing Puzzle Pieces


DNA testing can do wonders for filling in the blanks in a family tree—which is good, since that Flowers and Ambrose branch of my mother-in-law's tree has some missing puzzle pieces.

Mathias Ambrose, third great-grandfather of my mother-in-law, had two daughters who married brothers. I've been spending time taking a long look at all the DNA matches for the daughter in her direct line—her second great-grandmother Elizabeth Ambrose—and that of her sister Susannah. As her proxy, my husband volunteered to take a DNA test at all the major companies used for genetic genealogy testing. We'll take a quick look at what I know about Elizabeth, both on paper and through the DNA test results, today and then take a peek at what we have found about Susannah, beginning next week.

Elizabeth Ambrose, born at the end of 1776 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, married Joseph Flowers some time before her father's will was drawn up at the end of 1804. There is still a lot to be learned about Elizabeth and Joseph, but one thing I do know: after that year, they moved their family from Pennsylvania to Perry County, Ohio, where the family remained for generations.

As far as I can tell, Elizabeth and Joseph had five sons: John, Joseph, Thomas, Simon, and George Ambrose Flowers. I have been able to follow the lines of each of those sons through to the end of their own lives, thanks to ample documentation available for each of them. 

When I look at my husband's ThruLines readout at, he has DNA matches connected to each of those five sons, which is encouraging. Of those DNA matches, the largest number—thirty one—is attributable to his direct line descending from the fourth son, Simon. Following that, in order from highest to lowest number of DNA matches, are the descendants of John, Joseph, Thomas, and then, finally (and with only one match) George Ambrose. In all, the ThruLines matches total fifty nine.

Where the missing puzzle pieces lie is with another person listed in the ThruLines entry. That descendant is listed by Ancestry as "D5-10 Rebecca Flowers." I'm not sure why the "D5-10" is included with the name, but as I open each match's ThruLines diagram, that code is always present in one form or another.

Who is Rebecca Flowers? And what does "D5-10" mean? Obviously, this is a puzzle, and it belongs to people who match my husband's DNA with anywhere from a sixteen centiMorgan segment upwards to fifty cMs. Granted, sixteen can be a negligible number when looking at matches, but I'd pay attention to a match sharing fifty.

The difficulty in working with Elizabeth's line is that she and her husband were long done with raising their family by the time the 1850 census got around to sharing each of the names in a household. For both the 1850 census and that of 1860, the only people in the Flowers household were the now-aged couple themselves.

That also was a time frame in which obituaries, while sometimes waxing sentimental, did not always include names of survivors—and names of parents were not included, either. True, I could try a test run of searching for a presumed daughter named Rebecca, but the suggested obituary already shared by other researchers, while painting a lovely picture of the dear departed's sainted qualities, does not mention family members. Another research approach, of locating their father Joseph's will, has not yet produced what I believe would be the correct person by that name.

Still, there are some difficulties with simply assuming the five sons paint the complete picture of the family constellation. For one thing, the spacing of birth years of the known children has some wide gaps, suggesting that there might have been some other children I haven't yet found. The gap between John, born about 1804, and Joseph, born in 1811, is one particularly suggestive indicator.

Even more obvious is what we can see when examining the 1830 census. Granted, those early, handwritten census records could be difficult to read, let alone keep the lines straight on each individual family's entry. However, it looks like the Flowers family in 1830 included at least two young women, one perhaps as young as fifteen, the other not quite thirty years of age. If they were part of the family, who were they?

The search is still on for a last will of their father Joseph. In the meantime, it may be worth the effort to test the hypothesis that Rebecca Flowers was really one of the missing daughters of Elizabeth and Joseph—and one of the missing puzzle pieces connecting the couple with their many descendants who have since turned to DNA tests to discover more about their roots. 

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