Don’t Sleep on Genetic Groups!

Picture courtesy of Theresa J. Carter; Used by permission.

Please do not sleep on genetic groups! A recent family discovery has me floored, and finding a new genetic group (also known as a genetic network) within my father’s DNA matches on Ancestry.com was the clincher! A genetic group or network is a group of DNA matches who descend from the same ancestor or ancestral couple. I would be remiss if I did not tell this story on my blog of how a new genetic group led me to discover something mouth-dropping!

In the picture above, I am with two longtime friends, Theresa and Dushaune, and their brilliant sons. They came to D.C. in 2018. Theresa and I became instant friends in the 1990s, when she transferred to Mississippi State University. We both were civil engineering majors and had graduated together. Between going to the same classes, playing spades (they taught me how to play spades), lots of studying for exams together, etc., I spent a lot of time with them, and our friendship continues. I was even in their wedding on New Year’s Day in 2000.

I am standing to the right of the groom, Dushaune, as one of the groomsmen in their wedding in 2000. Picture courtesy of Dushaune Carter; Used by permission.

Let’s fast forward to the present, over 25 years later. Last month, a new DNA cousin (Cousin B in the diagram below) appeared among my father’s DNA matches in Ancestry.com. When I clicked on “Shared Matches,” who are other DNA relatives with whom a DNA match shares 20 cM (4th-6th cousin range per Ancestry) or more, I immediately determined that Cousin B is somehow related via my father’s great grandparents, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy and/or Jane Parrott Ealy of Leake County (Lena), Mississippi. He is also sharing DNA with other Ealy descendants.

Fortunately, Cousin B had a family tree attached to his profile. I soon recognized the Harrison surname from Neshoba County, Mississippi. I had already observed this surname and location on another DNA cousin’s family tree before, and she (Cousin D) was also among the “Shared Matches.” I soon determined that Cousins B and D, as well as three other DNA cousins – Cousins C, E, and F – were all descendants of Jim & Frances Harrison of Neshoba County (Union).

Harrison Genetic Group diagram: Five descendants of Jim & Frances Harrison of Neshoba County who share DNA with my father.

Of course, my next step was to see if Jim or Frances Harrison could be related to Big Bob or Jane Parrott Ealy. Leake County is adjacent to Neshoba County, and the distance between the Union and Lena communities is about 40 miles. I soon found a Social Security application on Ancestry.com for one of their sons, Charlie Harrison. He reported that his mother’s maiden name was Frances Parrett. Bingo!

This was major! Why? Because I had been looking for Frances for years. In the 1880 census, she was a 10-year-old in the household of her father, George Parrott (1839-1934), in neighboring Scott County near Morton. Uncle George was Grandma Jane Parrott Ealy’s confirmed brother. They, as well as their mother Minerva and additional siblings, were transported from Lunenburg County, Virginia to Leake County, Mississippi shortly before 1840, when their enslaver, Rev. William Parrott, a Methodist circuit rider preacher, moved to near Lena.

I realized why I never found Frances Parrott in any records after 1886. Per Scott County marriage records, she married “Jim Harris” on 16 October 1886. Since I never found “Jim & Frances Harris” in the 1900 and later censuses, I assumed that they may have died young. I was wrong! Turns out, their last name was actually Harrison, and they had moved to Neshoba County. Perhaps, their last name was always Harrison, but the county clerk wrote “Harris.” Perhaps, they decided to change their last name from Harris to Harrison after they married. My bet is on the former.

The Marriage Record of Jim Harris to Francis Parrott, 16 October 1886, Scott County, Mississippi (Source: Scott County Marriage Book C, page 205)

I soon found Jim & Frances Harrison in the 1900 and later censuses and began adding them and their descendants to my family tree. Interestingly, the 1900 census-taker spelled their surname as “Harlson.” They had at least 13 children by 1911. In their household in 1900 was their oldest daughter, Ada Harrison, who was born in 1889. According to Neshoba County marriage records, she married George Gill on 23 September 1910. And thus, I began adding Ada’s 12 children with George to my family tree.

1900 Census, Neshoba County, Mississippi: The household of Jim & Frances Harrison, who resided near Dixon. (Source: 1900 Census; Dixon and Waldo district; Neshoba, Mississippi; page: 13; Enumeration District: 0045)

Then, I had a sudden memory. I recalled that Theresa, who is a native of Philadelphia in Neshoba County, had Gills in her family. Could it be?

I texted her and sent her an e-mail at around 1 a.m. in the morning. I had to know if she is somehow connected to George & Ada Harrison Gill. Imagine my shock when I read her quick response, “George and Ada were my grandfather’s parents!!” Theresa is Cousin A on the diagram above. Not only that, but she had also attended the Harrison Family Reunion that was held in Philadelphia several years ago. We were floored!

She’s a 3rd cousin twice removed to my father, and a 4th cousin once removed to me. A longtime friend who had been like family for over 25 years is indeed blood family! We are still stunned.

So again, do not sleep on genetic groups! Investigate the family trees of your DNA matches, especially the ones who are sharing noticeable amounts of DNA (at least 20 cM). Note the DNA matches who share the same ancestor with each other. Research their ancestor to try to determine a connection or any clues. Also, check out my blog post, Ten DNA Sleuthing Tips, for tips on how you can sleuth to find more information, even if the DNA relative has a scant family tree or even no family tree at all on their profile.

A snapshot of the family tree from the Harrison Family Reunion booklet that Theresa texted me. Picture courtesy of Theresa J. Carter.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Sleep on Genetic Groups!

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