Many people are often captivated by their admixture results from Ancestry.com, 23andMe, MyHeritage, FTDNA, etc. However, I am most fascinated by those revealing autosomal DNA matches – people who share identical DNA with me and my family. DNA can also be heart-breaking. It can certainly unearth buried secrets, which can be unnerving. Luckily, I haven’t had any daunting revelations, but many people have. Good truths and not-so-good truths were finally revealed. Fortunately, this is another cool DNA story – an awesome truth.
In 1998, my mother’s first cousin, the late Cousin Isaac “Ike” Deberry Sr. (1914-2009), who was like a grandfather to me, encouraged me to give Cousin Hattie Abram a call. He disclosed that she was the granddaughter of Uncle Johnny Partee, my great grandmother’s brother. Born about 1865 in Panola County, Mississippi, Uncle Johnny was the youngest of his mother Polly Partee’s surviving four (possibly five) children. Grandma Polly’s only daughter, Sarah Partee Reed, was my mother and Cousin Ike’s grandmother.
I never found Uncle Johnny in the later censuses with a family. So I asked my family’s “human history book” about him. Cousin Ike remembered him well. He even recalled that he had died of “dropsy” sometime in the 1920s. Unfortunately, I never found a death certificate for him. Cousin Ike also revealed that Uncle Johnny fathered at least two daughters. One of those daughters was Cousin Hattie’s mother, Mrs. Mary Abram.
Fortunately, Cousin Ike had Cousin Hattie’s phone number. I finally got the nerve to do a cold-call. I was worried if she would be receptive of my phone call. After all, I too would be cautious if a 20-something-year-old young man, who I didn’t know, called me out of the blue, claiming to be a family member and fishing for information. I dialed the number. A pleasant voice answered the phone; it was Cousin Hattie. Somehow the sound of her voice reduced my nervousness. A beautiful conversation ensued.
I started the conversation by explaining who I was and why I was calling her. When I told her that I was the grandson of the late Simpson Reed (1881-1955) of Tate County, she joyfully responded. She remembered him and thought the world of him. I recalled her saying something like, “I knew your grandfather well. Cut’n Simpson would visit us often. He was such a nice man.” I was thrilled; my nerves got even calmer. And she sounded comfortable talking with me since she adored my grandfather.
Cousin Hattie, who was 88 years old at the time, confirmed that her mother’s father was Johnny Partee. She didn’t recall ever laying eyes on him, but she clearly remembered her mother Mary claiming him as her father. That’s why my grandfather visited them; Mary was his first cousin. My mother remarked, “Daddy would often hop on his horse and go visit relatives.” Cousin Hattie joined the ancestors in 2002, at the age of 92. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet her in person.
Recently, a new DNA match, “Cousin Bee,“ appeared in AncestryDNA. She shares 184 cM over 12 segments with my mother. That amount of DNA raised eyebrows. This is someone who I should be able to identify how we are related, if there’s a family tree for public viewing. That amount is in the 2nd to 3rd cousin range, a non-distant relative. When I clicked “Shared Matches,” I got a long list of known family members who are related on Grandma Sarah’s side. Those matches are predicted fourth cousins or closer to Cousin Bee, based on DNA-sharing amounts.
Fortunately, a family tree was attached to her profile. The Abram surname and her family’s location, “Como, Panola, Mississippi,” excited me even more. I messaged the manager to inquire if Cousin Bee is related to Cousin Hattie Abram. She responded within 30 minutes. Cousin Hattie was Cousin Bee’s aunt, her mother’s sister!
Not only that, the picture above of Cousin Hattie was in her family tree. Her beautiful spirit was obvious, and the picture confirmed for me why I felt comfortable talking with her 21 years ago. Uncle Johnny Partee was truly her maternal grandfather and Cousin Bee’s great grandfather. Therefore, Cousin Bee and my mother are second cousins once removed.
However, another great clue surfaced from this new genetic cousin. Among her and my mother’s “Shared Matches” were at least seven EDWARDS cousins. This was very revealing. Why?
As mentioned earlier, my great great grandmother Polly Partee had at least four known children: Grandma Sarah (1852-1923), Judge Partee (1854-1915), Square Partee Sr. (1858-1910), and Johnny Partee (1865-192?). A man named Dock Partee, born about 1850, may have also been her son. They all had been enslaved by Squire Boone Partee in Panola County, and Grandma Polly was the head cook on his plantation, according to oral history. Major clues from oral history, autosomal DNA matches, and 67-marker Y-DNA testing have collectively confirmed that a man named Prince Edwards was Grandma Sarah and Uncle Square Partee’s father. Prince, as well as his parents and siblings, had been enslaved by William Edwards Sr. and later William Jr. nearby. Now I no longer have to wonder if Grandpa Prince was also Uncle Johnny’s father. DNA is indicating that he was.