No announcement yet.

Success after 15 years

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Success after 15 years

    This is Doug McDonald, the group admin for the Donald USA project. I joined the project right at the beginning, hoping to find my long-lost McDonald ancestor (1818-1901. On New Years Day 2019 I finally succeeded! Using both paper trails and DNA I found two more generations. I've taken every DNA test offered by FTDNA, often on the first day offered. I was the first haplogroup R1a person to do the Walk the Y, and the ordered BigY the day it was announced. The very first marker "under" R1a discovered by Walk the Y turns out to be the key to my discovery. Its called L175. Its a very very long story involving two other group participants who are L175+. I discovered that their ancestors crossed paths with mine in Warren County, Georgia. The rest was done with autosomal DNA, and could not have been done without having my autosomal DNA and that of my aunt and a cousin uploaded to all of FTDNA,, MyHeritage, and gedmatch. It involved searching matches for suspected surnames, based on geographic proximity shown in census, land and tax list records and wills. Once a match was found, I tried to get "triangulation" of two or more matched and sometimes succeeded. Eventually I got enough DNA and accompaning paper trails for surnames McDonald/McDaniel (often both names for the same person!), Burkhalter, Harbuck, and last but not least, Tharp to pinpoint one couple as my ancestors, with zero doubt, even without birth or marriage paper (with parent names) at every generation.

    The ancestor's name was Reddin Burkhalter McDonald and he appeared out of nowhere in Barbour County Alabama in 1850 when he married Caroline Matilda Jordan Rose (two middle names). He is not on the 1850 or earlier censuses. Ms. Rose comes from a famous line: her uncle married President Madison's sister, and their son died defending the Alamo, a big deal for a Texan like me.

    An aunt of mine did some research and found censuses that said Reddin was born in Georgia. His tombstone says the date was 1818. A cousin found that he served in the Creek Wars in 1836, and got the pension grant papers from that. She somehow found that a person named Redan Burkhalter died in Warren Co. GA in about 1812. There were lots of Burkhalters there. And McDonalds/McDaniels. But which one! That's when I came in. So I joined the DNA project, and found I was a very distinctive R1a haplotype that descended from Somerled, the Clan Donald founder. When the Walk the Y became available I did it and they discovered markers called L168, L175, and L176. After a couple of years it because clear that L168 was equivalent to M17 or M198 or something else well upstream. L176 is useful, as it is intermediate between CTS4179 and L175. BigY generated lots of SNPS between L175 and CTS4179, plus one near me called CLD23. L175 appeared to be terminal. Slowly people testing L175+ appeared.

    Family finder for me and my paternal aunt turned up lots of Burkhalter matches in Warren county. But ... which one!? Paper (census and land stuff) suggested several McDaniel and Burkhalter names. I have personally met two of the other Warren County McDaniel's descendants at Clan Donald annual meetings. In 2017 I got them to test L175 and they are positive. I uploaded my and my aunt's autosomal data to every place that one can and rummaged around, finding bits here and there. I got two more relative to do Family Finder or, and found another close cousin at Ancestry, and got her raw data. But still no real proof Redding was from Warren Co., and some family stories suggested a place in Alabama.

    A year ago I decided at Christmas to hire AncestryProGenealogists to research. I sent them all the stuff I had collected. They found very little new, but did exclude the false lead in Alabama. But they found one gem: the application (as opposed to grant) papers for Reddin's service in the Creek Wars. It said he was born in Warren Co. GA. This confirmation got me to push the other L175+ men to send me all they had. This was last summer.

    In August I decided to spend more money on the pros. I was able to send them lots of stuff.

    Studying the data from one of the other L175+ people I found the name Harbuck. Harbucks lived near McDaniels and Burkhalters along Rocky Comfort Creek. A search for Harbucks matching my and my relatives’ DNA found several, all leading back to one couple. In one of the lists the McDaniels sent to me was the marriage of Michael Harbuck to Mary Burkhalter in Warren Co., and the marriage of Daniel McDaniel to Mary Harbuck in Warren Co. in 1816. Census data showed that all these folks had reasonable number of children at the right times, leaving home at the right times. This was last November. Then two things happened at once: the pros reported back, and what a waste of money it was ... they could not actually prove anything, and mostly found what I had learned during the wait. But they DID generate a purported genealogy! It was through Daniel McDonald/Mary Harbuck and suggested that my Harbuck had a brother who married an Ivy, and a mother named Tharp.

    The other thing that happened at the same time is that a flood of new autosomal DNA tests appeared due to the Thanksgiving sales. Many new matches to Burkhalter, McDaniel, Harbuck, and Tharp appeared. I collected up all the data I could, and got a few who tested only on Ancestry to send me raw data to do triangulation on. I did searches on the DNA of several of my or my relatives’ DNA match people and found that their matches went back to the same set of people! Gedmatch was very helpful. The flood of new matches generated a pile of interlocking Gedcom files.

    I spent a bit of time looking a the tax lists of Warren County and maps of it at that era to look for geographic proximity of the new matches, and they were there. I found a couple of matches to Ivy that look OK ... another different bit of help. A few old small McDonald/McDaniel matches to me appeared in the interlocking web. Eventually on New Years Day the pile of Tharps grew to overwhelming: the only possible conclusion is that the whole web is, at least "in reality" if not in the exact list of birth and death dates in the gedcoms, correct. Until I got the hint to specifically search Tharp, it had not "gelled". And the online trees do indeed show tha
    t Redan Burkhalter was Reddin McDonald's 2nd cousin.

  • #2
    That's awesome! Congratulations! You definitely put in a lot of work to get to this point, it's great that it paid off! This gives me some hope that my own brickwall will be broken down. It's been several years, perhaps maybe even 15 years, I can't even remember when I began searching.


    • #3
      Doug--Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! Do you think the few leads that were generated by the professional genealogists were essential to your big breakthrough? Would you have reached the same conclusion eventually with information from your new DNA matches? How nice that others were willing to share their DNA for research purposes. It is hard enough to get a reply to a simple message from another Ancestry member! Impressive work!!


      • #4
        Absolutely nothing the pros found or did was essential. They found little that was new. They found
        nothing that I knew about that I had missed. The new things were of objects I had never
        heard of: the APPLICATION papers for a Creek Wars pension (we had the GRANT papers) and
        two tax lists. However, the tax lists had been found by a known DNA relative
        and he shared them before the pros results appeared.

        The pension application, however, was a very big spur into action, since it told us the
        birthplace for "sure" (unless a lie or mistake). Note that the birthplace of the dead end's
        parents was clearly shown on the censuses ... but usually Scotland and only once
        GA which is correct .... a mistake or lie. We already suspected where the birthplace
        of the dead end himself was.

        The pros did make a very very strong suggestion of who the answer was, and it turned out correct.

        The people who did the big sharing of data were known to be VERY close cousins by DNA,
        for years, and I meet them every year at our Clan Donald gathering.


        • #5
          Doug, Thanks for sharing your successful dna & genealogy story. I have also had success, confirming my "Wells" paternal lineage. I just started a new project, "The descendants of John Wells 1492", if interested please read the background page. I am an adoptee, so I started my quest 2004 followed by dna testing 2009, and finally in the past year I nailed down who my birth father was.

          Best regards, Doug