How DNA helped reunite family members

Almost a year ago I was contacted by a woman, Jennifer Jackson,  who noted in AncestryDNA that she was a match for someone whose account I was administering, Aveus Lassiter Edmondson, my second cousin 3x removed. In looking at all shared matches, I noted that Jennifer was a match for Hill family members whose ancestors had moved from Randolph County, NC, to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That intrigued me because I couldn’t place her from my research within those related families that I knew. When looking at her associated public tree (thank goodness she had one!) I could instantly see the relationships.

For me personally, it was her relationship to Aveus that excited me first.  She traced her ancestry to Nathan and Sarah (Polk) Hill. Nathan was Ned and Priscilla Hill’s oldest son. Aveus’ grandfather, Colier Lassiter was married to Katherine “Kate” Polk. Colier was bondsman for the marriage of Nathan and Sarah. It had always seemed to me that Sarah and Kate had to be sisters. Now I had evidence. If Jennifer was a descendant of Sarah’s and a DNA match to Aveus, it could only be because Sarah and Kate were related, most likely sisters, because Aveus was not a descendant of Ned and Priscilla’s. What also struck me was that in 1850, before either Sarah or Kate married, they were living in the home of Jack and Charity Lassiter. Jack was the brother of Miles Lassiter. Charity was likely a grandmother. After Kate married Colier, an elderly Mary Polk/Pope moved in with them and presumably lived out her days there. She was the age to be Sarah and Kate’s mother, although she dies before the census begins recording family relationships. Kate and Sarah both married using the name Polk and were not likely children of Jack Lassiter, but rather related to Charity. Charity seems too old to be their mother, but could easily be their grandmother and potentially Mary Polk’s mother. Unfortunately, there is little concrete evidence to confirm that. Nevertheless, that is the scenario I use on my Ancestry family tree unless and until information to the contrary is revealed.

Jennifer was not just a DNA match to Aveus. She was a match to several people who descended from the same Hill family line who had also taken the AncestryDNA test. Jennifer descended from Clarkson Hill and his first wife, Ellen Davis. They had three daughters and Sarah, their youngest, was Jennifer’s ancestor. Sarah was grown and living in someone else’s home in 1900, combined with the lack of any current Strieby community stories that included her, it was easy to overlook her and not include her in any recitation of the descendants of Clarkson. There was no readily available information about her. In addition, Sarah married Rogers Skeens of Randolph County and moved away to Washington DC.  It was Jennifer’s discovery of her death certificate that listed “Clark Hill” and “Ella Davis” that helped confirm the relationship using standard documentation. As noted, Jennifer matched Hill family members from branches of the family that had migrated to Arkansas. Three of Clarkson’s brothers (Milton, Dempsey, and Thomas Julius) left Randolph County and moved to Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas.  Jennifer matches descendants from two brothers, Milton and Thomas Julius, who have tested with AncestryDNA.

Having put all those pieces together from both DNA and documentation, Jennifer was reunited with her Hill and Lassiter family members from Randolph County, North Carolina. On Saturday, 25 March, I was finally able to meet Jennifer in person when we both attended the meeting of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), in Rockville, MD.  I was able to provide her a copy of From Hill Town to Strieby (Backintyme, 2016), so that she could read more about her family’s roots in Randolph County, North Carolina.

About mlwilliams

I have Masters degrees in Sociology and Religious Education which provide the backdrop for my interest in family history and community social histories. I've researched and written extensively on my Lassiter family, including my books: Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850), an Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home, and From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie "Back Country" of Randolph County, North Carolina. I am a frequent lecturer for the Family History Centers in the Washington, DC area, a former editor of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and have my own private research company, Personal Prologue.
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