Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Looking for Connection to Agee ancestors via Autosomal DNA

My grandfather has several Y-DNA matches to men with the Smith surname.[1] We have not been able to figure out how they all connect to each other, however, we have been able to separate them into three distinct groups. I wrote about them previously here.

My grandfather, Darrel, descends from David Editon Smith, born about 1789 in Tennessee. [2][3] David was probably living in Jackson County, Alabama between 1830 and 1840 [4] and by 1850 was living in Johnson County, Arkansas. [3] His father was listed as James Smith on his daughter's Cherokee Citizen's Application. [5]

My grandfather's closest Y-DNA match, M Smith, descends from Patrick Smith, born about 1788 in Alabama. M Smith's daughter believe's Patrick's father might have also been James Smith. [6]

Two additional Y-DNA matches descend from Thomas Smith and Leah Agee, although there is some squabble about them being the ancestral couple of both of these matches and is therefore not conclusively proven. One of these matches descends from this couples' son Richard Smith who married Diana Braswell. The other match descends from Richard's brother, James Agee Smith. Both Richard and James were born in Tennessee, then followed the Mormons to Utah where they settled.[1]

The family of James Agee Smith was involved in polygamy which was outlawed at the time, but was still being practiced in the community where he lived in Utah. As you can imagine, this has made it difficult to define the exact genealogy of James Smith's family, not just because a man was allowed to have and live with multiple wives, but because it is nearly impossible to differentiate between the children of one wife from those of another. The multiple wives often co-habitated with their husband, "sisters," and their combined children. This is actually represented on the census reports. Here is an example of a polygamous family living in Saint George, Utah in 1880. You see Warren Hardy is the head of house and he has two wives listed with a bunch of children. [7]

1880 Saint George Utah Census of Polygamous Hardy family
1880 St George, UT Census record showing 
Polygamous family of Warren Hardy

The remaining two matches also squabble about who their ancestral couple was. I will list them individually here and link to previous posts I've written about this family. Their squabble is inconsequential to today's post, so I won't dwell on it.

Match No. 5, Mr. H. Smith, claims to descend from William Smith and Elizabeth Eunice Ritchie via their son Richard Smith who married Alicia Combs. There is a LOT of information about this family on the internets, but word of caution here - don't believe everything you see as fact! [8]
Match No. 6, Mr. A. Smith, claims to descend from Samuel Smith and Eunice Joliff. He has documentation to support Samuel was his ancestor and not William, as well as Eunice Joliff, instead of Eunice Ritchie.[9]

As I mentioned earlier, we have not been able to figure out the connection between these three sets of Smith families. We assume that David and Patrick were somehow related because they were both in Alabama around the same time, and they both came from Tennessee. [3] [6] Thomas Smith and Leah Agee's sons Richard and James Agee Smith were also born in Tennessee prior to moving to Utah. [10] [1] William / Samuel Smith and Eunice Ritchie / Joliff were actually from Kentucky and their family stayed in Kentucky - so 3 distinct Smith families with no known apparent connection. [8][9]

We wondered about how useful the autosomal DNA test would be in narrowing down our list of common ancestors. My grandfather's closest match took the Family Finder test by FamilyTreeDNA (ftDNA), so we compared them. Unfortunately, although they were a match on the Y-DNA, they were not a match on the Family Finder test.

In case you are wondering, there is an Advanced Matching feature in your ftDNA homepage, that allows you to compare to your match across multiple test types (ie, Y-DNA, atDNA, mtDNA). To access this feature, I logged in to my grandfather's DNA results, hovered my mouse over the My DNA link at the top left of the page, and when a drop down box appeared, I hovered my mouse over the My Y-DNA link and then when a new drop down box appeared, I clicked on Advanced Matching.

Advanced Matching feature of FamilyTreeDNA website
How to access the Advance Matching Page

From the Advanced Matching page, I put a check mark beside the Y-DNA67 and the Family Finder test options, then I clicked "Yes" beside the "Show only people I match in all selected tests" option. I then clicked the Run Report button to see my results.

Advanced Matching feature of FamilyTreeDNA website
No Results

As I said earlier, unfortunately, my grandfather's closest Y-DNA match is NOT a match on the Family Finder test. You might be wondering why or how this could be? There could be a few reasons for this. 1) The common ancestor is too far back to be picked up by the Family Finder test. The Family Finder test is only guaranteed to work back to 5 generations. [11] David Smith is my grandfather's 5th generation back. If the common ancestor was beyond David, which I'm positive it was, then it is possible it is too far back to be picked up. 2) It is possible that my grandfather and his match did not inherit the same DNA segments. DNA gets mixed up or "recombined" when it gets transferred from a parent to offspring. Oftentimes, siblings do not receive the same exact DNA segments, so one sibling may match a cousin but the other sibling does not.[12]

Since I could not do much more with my grandfather's closest Y-DNA match, the descendant of Patrick Smith from Alabama, I decided to work with the second set of matches - the descendants of Thomas Smith and Leah Agee. I could try to do a search in my Family Finder matches for anybody with Smith in their list of surnames - but that would results in a high number of matches and a lot of Smiths to go through! Instead, I focused on the AGEE surname.

Background of Leah AGEE:

The Leah Agee who married Thomas Smith was born about 1755 in Manakin, Goochland County, Virginia. [1] She was the daughter of Anthony Agee and either Christian Worley [1] or Nancy Jane Benin or Binnion. [13] Anthony Agee was the son of a Hugenot named Mathieu Agee who fled France and came to Virginia.[14]

One of the most successful ways I have found to work with my autosomal DNA results is through a targeted surname search. I have tested with both FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA. I've had better luck working through my AncestryDNA results because more matches have trees posted than they do in ftDNA.

I started by doing a surname search for AGEE in my AncestryDNA results.

1.  Click the View all DNA matches button on my AncestryDNA homepage.
2.  In the Search Matches box, I entered Agee and clicked the search button.

AncestryDNA Surname Search box
AncestryDNA Surname Search box

3.  AncestryDNA returned a list of 14 matches
  • 1 of them was a 4th cousin, but his tree was private, so I couldn't see anything
  • 2 of them had private trees (I would contact them later)
  • 1 of them did not have a Agee in their list of surnames at all
4.  I reviewed each of the remaining 11 matches one at a time. 
5.  This is where most people look through their matches' tree for a connection to their own tree, don't find it, give up and throw in the towel. I have a different methodology that is much more helpful. 

My Method: 

1.  I open a notepad file, or an Evernote note, or break out a lined notebook and I record the user name of the first match. I will use this file to take abbreviated notes about how my match descends from their oldest known Agee ancestor. 
2.  I review the first match. The Agee surname does not show up in the little green "Shared Surnames" box because I don't have the Agee surname listed in my tree - I don't actually know how I connect to the Agee-Smith family (yet). A bunch of other names DO show up in the Shared Surnames box, but I will ignore them for now (remember we are focusing only on the Agee surname! - Just Say NO to the Shiny Bobbly Objects!)

The list of Agee ancestors of my first DNA match
The list of Agee ancestors of my first DNA match

3.  I then scroll down below the green box and click on the Agee surname. On this first match, there are 4 Agees listed - Anthony, Jesse, Mary Polly, and Mathieu Isaac Agee. I click on the oldest one, Mathieu Agee, born 1670 France, died Virginia and it brings up a profile.

the profile of Mathieu Agee
The profile of Mathieu Agee

4.  I then click on Mathieu's father, Anthony Agee, born 1639 France, died 1735 France, married Judith Chastain. There is a father listed for Anthony, but I ignore him for now. 
5.  In my notebook, I list the abbreviated descendancy as follows: Anthony Agee, b. 1639 France, d. 1735 France & Judith Chastain > Mathieu Agee, b. 1670 France, d. Virginia & Cecelia Ann Godwin 
6.  I then go back to Mathieu and I click on his son, Anthony Agee, b. 1719 Goochland, VA, d. 1799 Goochland, VA & Christian Worley and I record him in my notebook. Then I click on their son, Jesse Reuben Agee, b. 1757 Powhatan, VA, d. 1837 KY & Elizabeth Childress, and I add him to my notebook. My notebook entry now says: 
Anthony Agee, b. 1639 France, d. 1735 France & Judith Chastain > 
Mathieu Agee, b. 1670 France, d. Virginia & Cecelia Ann Godwin >
Anthony Agee, b. 1719 Goochland, VA, d. 1799 Goochland, VA & Christian Worley >
Jesse Reuben Agee, b. 1757 Powhatan, VA, d. 1837 KY & Elizabeth Childress...
7.  I  repeat steps 1-6 for the next 10 matches. I color code the ancestors of my matches in my list. Every time Mathieu is listed, I color him blue. Every time his sister Mary is listed, I color her pink. Doing this allows me to look at my list quickly to see what matches descend from which ancestors and it allows me to organize my list quickly and efficiently. 

My notes on the ancestors of my Agee matches
My "Notes" on the ancestors of my Agee matches

  • I end up with 4 matches whose oldest known ancestor is Mathieu Agee & Ann Godwin and 4 matches whose oldest known ancestor is Mary Elizabeth Agee. Both Mathieu and Mary Elizabeth are children of Anthony Agee and Judith Chastain
  • 2 of the descendants of Mathieu descend from his son Anthony and 2 descend from his son James. 
  • I also end up with three matches who have female Agee ancestors who have not yet been traced back to this family. 
I have pretty good evidence, based on my AncestryDNA results, that I probably do in fact descend from the family of Thomas Smith and Leah Agee. Leah was the daughter of Anthony Agee, who was the son of Matthew. This would mean that my closest autosomal DNA matches would be to other descendants of Mathieu's son Anthony. There were at least two of them who descended from Mathieu's son Anthony. According to AncestryDNA, one of these matches was a 5th-8th cousin, with High Confidence and the other was a 5th-8th cousin with Good Confidence.  

How does this help me Interpret my Smith Y-DNA results? 

The other thing that these results tell me is that the common ancestor is an Agee (not a Smith). Since my proposed ancestor Leah Agee was the daughter of Mathieu's son Anthony, I can conclude the following: 
  • With the four matches who descend from Mathieu Agee, the common ancestor between me and the descendants of his son Anthony is Anthony himself. 
  • The common ancestor between me and the descendants of Mathieu's son James is Mathieu. 
  • The common ancestors between me and the descendants of Mathieu's sister, Mary Elizabeth Agee are their parents, Anthony Agee and Judith Chastain.
Now that I have identified a new common ancestor, I can start tracing him and his children down the line to see if and how my Smith line might fit in. I already  know that Leah Agee was the daughter of Anthony Agee and she married Thomas Smith. So my next goal is to determine how my Smith family descends from one of Leah and Thomas' children; Interesting enough, I learned that Leah and Thomas died in Kentucky, which is where the third group of Smith Y-DNA matches are from - so that might be their connection as well.

Next Steps: 

In my next post, I will start looking at Leah and Thomas Smith's children to see if and how my Smith family might have fit in. Because I don't know any of my Smith ancestors past David and his supposed father, James, I do not know which son of Leah and Thomas Smith we descend from. I will have to employ the same surname search technique I employed above to go through each of Leah and Thomas Smith's daughter-in-laws' surnames to see if any matches pop up. That will at least enable me to narrow down which son of Leah and Thomas I might descend from.

Before I do that, I have to do some housekeeping. I will enter the direct line ancestry of these matches into my online tree (but not connect them to myself because I do not yet know how they connect). I will then go through the process of looking for Agee surname matches in my FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder test results for myself and all of my Smith family relatives (my father, grandfather, and 3 6th cousins). 

[1] Smith DNA Project, Website,, accessed 01 February 2015.
[2] The middle name of Editon was found on a land grant patent no. 1953, Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas, filed 01 March 1855, issued to David Edison Smith, of Johnson County, Arkansas. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records, Http://, accessed 08 December 2008.
[3] The birth year and place of David Smith were derived from the 1850 Johnson Co., AR census which listed David Smith as head, 61 years old, which estimates his year of birth to be 1789, born in TN. 1850 US Federal Census, Johnson County, Arkansas, population schedule, Horsehead, taken 11 Nov 1850, page 139, Dwelling 98, family 100, David Smith; digital image, ( : accessed ); NARA Film M432, Roll 27.
[4] David Smith's son Richard Smith was born 1838 in Jackson County, Alabama per my grandfather, Darrel Smith's personal notes given to me in 2006. The notes say this information was provided on Richard's enlistment papers, but I have not been able to find such papers. Richard's son William was listed as born about 1832 in Alabama on the 1850 Johnson County, Arkansas census (enumerated with his father David Smith); also David's daughter Sarah Smith was listed as being born in Alabama about 1826 on the 1850 Johnson County, Arkansas census. I have not been able to definitively locate David Smith on the 1830 or 1840 census report in Alabama.
[5] Cherokee Nation Citizenship Application of Sarah Grider, 1898. Obtained from the National Archives by Mike Freels. Sent to Ginger R. Smith by Mail, 2009. Scanned to digital Files by Ginger R. Smith, 07 August 2014.
[6] Briana Felch,, to Ginger R. Smith,, "Smith y-DNA Test Results / Genealogy," 06 June 2014.
[7] 1880 US Federal Census, Washington County, Utah, population schedule, Saint George City, Page 11 (penned), dwelling 79, family 82, Warren Hardy; digital image,, ( : accessed 25 September 2013;
[8] Hilliard Smith, III,, to Ginger R. Smith,, "FW: Family Tree DNA match," 18 March 2014.
[9] Al Smith,, to Ginger R. Smith,, "Smith DNA Match," 13 April 2011.
[10] Dana Ekins,, to Ginger R. Smith,, "Information Request for Kit #47033 from Smiths Official DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA :," 23 September 2013.
[11] Family Tree DNA Learning Center Beta, Website, FamilyTreeDNA, ( : accessed 01 February 2015, "How many generations does Family Finder analyze or predict?"
[12] Judy Russell, "Looking at Recombination," The Legal Genealogist, posted 10 November 2013, ( : accessed 01 February 2015).
[13] Agee, Paul Myrtillo A record of the Agee family, Independence, MO, 1937, p. 322; Digital Image of the book downloaded from Family History Books, 01 February 2015.
[14] Public Member Tree Submitted by 5haags, "Rapp/Knutson Family Tree," submitted by 5haags, an AncestryDNA match to Ginger R. Smith, accessed 01 February 2015.

Posts Related to this Topic:
Looking for Agee Ancestors - Building my Match Trees
Running a Targeted Surname Search in my Smith Relatives' Results


  1. I found this post on Facebook at Ancestry DNA matching. Do you know any of your Agee matches are on 23andMe or FTDNA or GEDmatch?

  2. Jason, thanks for writing. I was just about to publish a new post where I looked through my ftDNA matches. So the answer is yes, I did find some matches on ftDNA. But I don't know if my AncestryDNA matches tested with any other cousins.