When dancing with the ancestors, there are many research options - going to the State Archives, or even local county libraries, Internet (Ancestry, FamilySearch), DNA testing, etc. In my little dance, I've done all of the above, including the etc. There are benefits to each, but I'm going to focus on DNA testing right now.
Through DNA testing I have . . .
- Confirmed Family Lines
- Traced Back to my Earliest Mitchell Ancestor in America
Now, you're probably thinking only two things? Yes, only two things, at least for this post.
First is confirming family names. As any genealogy researcher knows, surnames of female ancestors are often hard to find, if not impossible to find. One way to - sometimes - discover a surname is to look at the names of the sons/daughters. For example, my five times Great Grandparents Nathan and Mary (Dearborn) Sweatt named their son, my 4 x Great Grandfather, Dearborn Swett, thus passing down the mother's maiden name to the next generation. My father's middle name was Smith which was my grandmother's maiden name. My Uncle Robert (my mother's brother) middle name is Boone, which was their mother's maiden name. So, in that way, the surname is not lost.
But, more often than not, the further back you go, the female surnames weren't recorded and, if you can't find a sibling of an ancestor with a first or middle name that you think might be a mother's surname . . . you're pretty much screwed.
With DNA testing, on more than one occasion, I've confirmed a family line. I'm not going to give all the varying examples in my personal research. Just one.
I didn't know much about my Great Grandfather Charles A. Mitchell other than his name, who he married, and the names of their children. When I found his death certificate, for his parents there were only the surnames Mitchell and Forrest.
Great! Fine! Dandy!
I mean, how in the heck can I trace back with only a surname? Well, as chance would have it, or perhaps a gentle nudge from my ghostly Great-Great Grandparents, I stumbled across a reference to the Forrest family in a book about Warren County, TN - this is where many of my paternal line settled. It listed the children of Reverend Richard Albert and Sarah (Matlock) Forrest, one daughter who was Martha Forrest who, according to the book, married a William Mitchell! Woo Hoo!!! Okay, wasn't for sure, at least not then, that this was my line, but I was pretty sure, 98% sure, but . . .
. . . didn't have the proof, until . . .
. . . I received a DNA match to a 3rd Cousin 1 x Removed, with a shared common ancestry to Richard Albert and Sarah (Matlock) Forrest. This cousin's descent was through Martha's sister Rachel Caroline Forrest. So at this point I knew, by DNA, that Martha Forrest and William Mitchell were in fact the parents of my Great Grandfather Charles A. Mitchell. This was the Ancestry DNA test, btw.
I later, through contact with 3rd cousins on my Mitchell line (their Great Grandmothers were sisters to my Great Grandfather), census records, and an obituary notice, I was able to have a distinct paper trail proving that Martha Forrest and William Mitchell were my 2 x Great Grandparents. Still, the DNA helped on that line, and quite a few other lines as well.
I also took the yDNA test through ftDNA and was able to trace back my Mitchell line to Captain William C. Mitchell who arrived in MD in 1649. Woo hoo! DNA doesn't lie.
So, when dancing with the ancestors, don't discount DNA testing. It can confirm what you pretty much know on your own, but haven't been able to prove by paper.