Sometimes you follow a road a long way until you think you’ve finally reached your destination. Then, years later, you realize that you are at the wrong destination so you find yourself on the road again. I suspect this situation happens a lot more in genealogy than most people want to admit. And, I suspect it will begin to happen with greater frequency as we combine DNA research with genealogy research.
My family group of Taylors have, since 2003, been of the belief that our Immigrant Ancestor was George Taylor of Carlisle who was born in England in 1615 and sailed to Virginia in 1635. Long before George of Carlisle was written into our family history books we had arrived at the fact that William Taylor (c.1729-1820) of DeKalb County Tennessee was our oldest known ancestor. We had carefully studied his descendants and their genealogy facts, stories and legends were recorded in a series of books authored by Ardis Taylor of Lisbon, North Dakota, from 1980 to 2012.
Since the first three generations of the descendants of George of Carlisle are well documented from George to Francis Sr to Francis Jr to Francis III then we were assuming that if George was our Immigrant Ancestor, then his g-grandson, Francis III was the father of our William Taylor Sr. Unfortunately, this now does not appear to be the case!
In 2012 I became a participant in the AncestryDNA program managed online by Ancestry.com. As the years went by, I received dozens of DNA match notifications with other program participants. Since these were matches based on Autosomal DNA (atDNA) they really amounted to just strong hints that I was likely related to a particular fellow member of the program. Ironically, when I would examine the fellow member’s pedigree tree, I would find that his/her “sourced” research always stopped with one of the sons of William Taylor Sr., or occasionally William Taylor Sr. himself. Not even one of the matches/hints indicated a “sourced” connection to Francis Taylor III or any of his ancestors including George of Carlisle …. this should have been a “stop sign” for me, or at least a “caution sign” but I blindly drove right past the signs continuing to believe the incorrect information about The Immigrant.
In early 2017 I became frustrated with all the matches/hints from AncestryDNA that kept ending after six generations; I decided it was time to graduate from atDNA up to y-DNA. y-DNA, is passed down from father to son, so if you are a male, you will have received your y-DNA father’s father’s father etc. It can be used to connect with distant cousins on the direct male line. Shared markers can indicate relatedness between two men, though not the exact degree of the relationship. Y chromosome testing is most often used by individuals with the same last name to learn if they share a common ancestor. I researched the various commercial providers and decided to use FamilyTreeDNA.com (FTDNA). I firmly believe it was the right choice and a wise move but I had no idea what it would mean to my Taylor pedigree tree. I won’t try to explain the logistics or how FTDNA works other than to say that they appear to operate like a finely tuned machine with exceptional efficiency. FTDNA offers users the opportunity to participate in projects and I joined the Taylor Family Project … almost immediately the results indicated to me that it was time to go On The Taylor Trail Again!
In early May of 2017 I was able to obtain a professional analysis comparing my y-DNA results to two individuals whose 2006 y-DNA test results were provided to me. The first, “Subject One” who claims to be a direct paternal descendant of George Taylor of Carlisle; I’ve not seen his documented proof but I have no reason to doubt his word. Then, “Subject Two” (now deceased) who has a proven connection to his ggg-grandfather, Barzilla Taylor, the son of William Taylor. Without trying to explain the scientific methodology involved, I will fast-forward to the end and print this excerpt from the comparison report about mine and “Subject One’s” DNA, “The short version is that this is NOT a match; you and [name replaced with “Subject One”] cannot share a common direct paternal ancestor for many thousands of years. You are both of different Taylor lineages.”
Consider this … We were presented with the idea that “our” William Taylor was the son of Francis Taylor III and this was based solely on the fact that Francis T III listed one of his sons as being named “William” in his will. Undoubtedly, there were hundreds of William Taylors in the colonies at this time and there appears to be no proof whatsoever that the son of Francis Taylor III was “our” William Taylor other than the fact that they shared the same (very common) name! Another conundrum that comes into play here is the fact that none of “our” William Taylor’s children were named after Francis T III, his wife or his children. Naming patterns were an important part of family life in 1700-1800 colonial America and were very obviously present in many generations of our Taylor line (during this time period), but none are present in the alleged father-son connection of Francis T III to William Taylor. These circumstances along with the scientific DNA evidence indicates at least to me that GEORGE TAYLOR OF CARLISLE IS NOT MY IMMIGRANT ANCESTOR AND FRANCIS TAYLOR III IS NOT IN MY TAYLOR LINEAGE.
(There is one caveat here that I must list…. IF “Subject One” was wrong about proving his lineage from George Taylor of Carlisle then there is a miniscule chance that “my” line, although not the same as that of “Subject One,” is connected to George T, however the circumstantial evidence and the lack of acceptable documentation just doesn’t support this possibility and therefore I choose to ignore it until I am proven wrong!)
A week after receiving the first comparison report, I received the comparison report on mine and the DNA of “Subject Two” …. Without going into too much scientific detail it basically said that “Subject Two” and I were related sharing 30 identical values in 32 markers tested in common; more importantly it placed both of us in the almost rare “G” haplogroup. This meant that the likelihood of my descending from William Taylor through his son, Barzilla, was very strong.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), those y-DNA comparison results and the circumstantial evidence meant it was time to make some substantial corrections to our recorded family history and to go back On The Taylor Trail Again to find the Immigrant Ancestor! The lesson to be learned here was both profound and simple … DNA testing can prove a perceived family relationship, BUT it can also disprove that same perceived family relationship and you need to be able to accept the test results. If it is exact enough to be accepted as evidence in a court of law then you should be able to modify your pedigree tree based on the results of DNA testing.
Remember, y-DNA can tell us if two individuals (who’ve been tested) match or not. If they match, they share a common paternal ancestor but the y-DNA test results cannot identify that specific paternal ancestor; only when supported by acceptable, sourced documentation can such identification be accomplished. If they don’t match, they have different (biological) paternal ancestors.