Monday, January 29, 2024

A Second Chance at Suttons


To say that someone's DNA has survived enough generational recombinations to make it down to our current day is, in my mind, astonishing. I am in awe of what I am discovering about DNA as I look at the strangers whom asserts are my relatives. This month, my focus has been on the line of my fifth great-grandfather John Carter, a colonial Virginia resident whose children were born in the mid to late 1700s. And yet, distant as that era might have been, something of the Carter DNA is still showing up in my test results.

I've been going through all my Carter matches using's ThruLines tool this month. Last week, I examined some matches who descend from John and his first wife—in essence, my distant half-cousins—but this week, we'll wrap up with three descendants from John's second wife, Hannah Chew, who was my direct line ancestor. Today, we'll focus on their daughter Judith who, fortunately for us, married a Sutton, giving us a second chance at reviewing two different century-old genealogy books.

Like her half-sister Sarah, Judith's marriage to a Sutton allows us to consult the 1941 genealogy by Trible Dix Sutton, The Suttons of Caroline County, Virginia. Through that book, we learn that Sarah's husband William Sutton was brother of her half-sister Judith's husband Joseph.

According to the Carter genealogy we've been using, that 1912 publication by Joseph Lyon Miller, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford," Judith Carter and Joseph Sutton had two sons and a daughter. The ill-fated daughter, Maria Chew Carter Sutton, married her cousin John Carter Sutton, son of Maria's aunt Sarah and uncle William, and gave birth to a son, John Oliver Sutton, before her untimely death in 1813.

Though I know such unfortunate circumstances befell many women in previous centuries, I tend to remember these tragic details. Thus, when I reviewed the DNA matches descending from Judith's Carter line—of which I have five—it was easy to spot the discrepancy on those matches whose trees declared Judith herself to be the mother of John Oliver Sutton. Three of those five matches, in fact, indicated that that was so. Coupled with that problem, the fourth match indicated a son's name for Judith's child which I cannot find in any records whatsoever. Only one out of the five DNA matches were verifiable by the paper trail.

And yet, how many people do we all know in our current age who, in losing a child, will step into the situation to raise the grandchild? Would that have been the case back in the 1700s? I realize people do copy others' trees, but I don't want to miss any valuable detail. The only recourse at this point would be to research the will for Judith's husband, Joseph Sutton, to see if he made any special provisions for such a grandson as John Oliver.

Conferring with the Sutton book, I noticed the listing for Joseph Sutton's children, unlike in the earlier Carter book, included a fourth child by the aggravatingly similar name of John Orville Sutton. Indeed, checking the book's listing for this John Orville Sutton's children, it included a son whose name had been entered on my Carter DNA matches' line of descent as a son of John Oliver Sutton, Maria's son.

With all the possible confusion generated by such similar middle names, an absolute go-to for this question will be to review the will of Joseph Sutton, grandfather of John Oliver Sutton, and apparently father of John Orville Sutton.

Thus, with this second research approach, I may get a second chance at reviewing that Carter ThruLines readout for all those descendants of Judith Carter who assumed that one Sutton was just the same as another Sutton.  

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