“Mama, don’t take my chromosomes away . . . ” pre-med college students’ adulteration of Paul Simon lyric

I am relatively late to the DNA game. When it was first available, testing was pricey, limited to Y-DNA (for male line) and later mtDNA (mitochondrial for female line). I didn’t have questions that Y-DNA would answer, and wasn’t terribly curious about the “deep ancestry” mtDNA would provide.

Autosomal DNA testing hit the market in 2009. In spring of 2010, it cost $289 to get tested at Family Tree DNA. Seemed expensive. I wasn’t looking for unknown biological parents, so I kept my money in my wallet. By fall of 2013, Ancestry.com and 23andMe entered the fray, so competition drove the price down to $99 (sale prices, at least). Still, with relatively small databases, and no burning questions to answer, I kept my saliva where it belonged.

I began to educate myself, though, so when — if — I took the plunge, I would know what I was doing. RootsTech 2017 pushed me over the edge. Session after session on DNA reiterated the importance of testing. DNA wasn’t a magic wand to solve all my genealogical puzzles, but it was a valuable record — as important as birth or death records — and needed to be obtained while it was still available.

Mom was almost 95, and her spit wasn’t going to be around forever! I’d already missed out on my dad’s. So I ordered an Ancestry.com test for me and a FamilyTreeDNA test for her at the next sale. I spit, she swabbed, and we waited. With 4 million samples in Ancestry’s database at that point, surely I’d match someone? Fortunately, there were no unexpected surprises in our results! I am related to first cousins on both sides of the family, as well as my mother (after uploading my results to her company). Whew!

I discovered dozens of second cousins I recognized, as well as totally unknown names. In the meantime, Mike expressed surprise I hadn’t asked him to submit a test. DNA is kind of personal, and we’ve only known each other for 40+ years. I don’t have as much on his family, though, so DNA could be useful. We capitalized on Ancestry’s Father’s Day sale to order his kit.

With the exception of a first cousin, Mike’s other matches were all unknown. Most didn’t have trees, and the surnames meant nothing to me. I transferred his DNA data to other sites to expand the matches. At Family Tree DNA, he had an unknown Crockett match, without a tree. It was a solid match, with 79 cM in common, the largest segment being 59 cM. It was not a random coincidence.

I also recognized Crockett as an ancestor surname. Mike’s grandmother, Mildred B. Fitzgerald (Where There’s a Will), was a Crockett descendant. Indeed, her grandmother, Isabella Crockett, was living with Mildred in Michigan in the 1920 census.

Mildred’s mother was Eliza Jane English. She and her husband, Ashley Fitzgerald, bounced back and forth between the United States (Michigan and Ohio) and Ontario, Canada. Eliza had been born in Michigan,¹ but married Ashley in Ontario.¹ Their first and last children were born in Ontario, the middle ones (including Mildred) in Ohio.

Isabella Crockett English, Mike’s great, great grandmother. Photo taken before 1926 (her death). Photo from new-found cousins.

Eliza’s parents, John English and Isabella, did much the same thing. John was born in Ontario, Isabella in Ireland. They married in Ontario in 1860, but had their three oldest children (including Eliza Jane) between 1861 and 1869 in the USA, before heading back to Canada, where we find them in the next three censuses.²

Isabella Crockett’s parents, George Crockett and Margaret Jane Creighton, brought their four children to Ontario from Ireland sometime between 1845 (Jane born in Ireland) and 1848 (James born in Canada).³ I’ve found the Canadian records to have very complete census pages, as well as birth, marriage, and death registers. They’ve all been very helpful in filling in lots of information for Mike’s Canadian ancestors.

Modified pedigree chart for Mildred Belle Fitzgerald, focusing on her Crockett line.

“Wait! I thought this week was about DNA?” Yes, but DNA doesn’t work by itself; we have to help it. If I hadn’t researched this line prior to DNA testing, the Crockett surname wouldn’t have had any meaning for me. Anyway, after uploading Mike’s DNA data to the various databases, I finally hit paydirt at GEDmatch. The “Joe” (not his real name!) Crockett match from Family Tree DNA was there, but with a tree, this time! It wasn’t a huge tree, but it had what I needed. At the very top were George Crockett and Margaret Jane Creighton.


I was excited, but it took a month or two before I had time to write to the contact email. I explained why I was writing, and that Mike’s 3rd great grandparents were shared with him. I got an email back from “Joe’s” sister, “Sue” (not her real name, either!). She’s the genealogist in that family, it seems. We exchanged some information and determined they were 3rd cousins, once removed to Mike. She graciously shared an awesome photo of Isabella!

We each knew parts of the other’s story, but we were able to fill in additional gaps and details for each other, and confirm the information found in records. I still need to take some time to fill in the other descendants on this line, bringing it more up-to-date. There could easily be more matches from this family (through the daughters) without a Crockett surname.

It occurred to me while I was looking at the match information Mike shared with “Joe,” that Mike didn’t match to the sister. She didn’t happen to inherit those particular segments of DNA. Fortunately, though, she had convinced “Joe” to test his own. If not, we might not have found each other! I’m extremely grateful to him for agreeing to swab for his sister.

Now, to make my way down all our match lists to figure out the rest of them! I wonder what other mysteries DNA will unravel? Or stir up?


Top image credit: PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay.com

¹”Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), accessed 27 December 2015, entry for Ashley C. FITZGERALD and Eliza ENGLISH, 10 April 1886, citing Ontario, Canada, Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928. MS932, reel 53, certificate 002734, no. 52. Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

²1871 census of Canada, population schedule, London, Middlesex East, Ontario, e.d. 9; page 28 (written); line 9; Robert ENGLISH household; accessed 14 April 2019, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm [ ] through [ ]. John ENGLISH, age 32; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1851 census of Canada, population schedule, Dorchester North, Middlesex, Ontario, ed. no. 3, Township of [ ], Page 113 (stamped), page 112 (written); line 37; George CROCKETT household; accessed 13 February 2016, citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm [ ] through [ ]. George CROCKETT, age 36; digital image, Ancestry.com, Canada (www.ancestry.ca).