|Betsey Elizabeth Marshall Patterson Grant (1818-1912), circa 1904.|
The impetus for this decision started when I was contacted through this blog—click to read the specific post—by a woman possibly related to my Marshall line. She has the text of a will made by her earlier relative Seth F. Marshall. Mentioned in the will are the names George Marshall, Nathan Marshall, Silas Marshall, and Betsey Grant.
I got excited. Betsey Elizabeth Marshall Patterson Grant (1818-1912) was my great-great-great-grandmother. George, Nathan (1823-after 1900), and Silas (1828-1907) were her brothers. I had never heard of Seth F. Marshall (1823-1856) before, but if he mentioned my Marshall relatives in his will, there was a good chance of his being my relative, too.
The relative who contacted me wondered if I could provide any assistance in learning who the parents of Seth F. Marshall were.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t help. I have plenty of information on Betsey Marshall Grant’s mother, Polly Rider Marshall (1793-1870), and her ancestors. But information on Betsey Marshall Grant’s father, William Obadiah Marshall (1784-1854), is scarce. What little there is remains difficult to verify.
But the probable connection between Seth F. Marshall and my Marshall line was too tantalizing to let rest. The contacting relative and I proposed the possibility that Seth was a first cousin to Betsey and her brothers, that Betsey’s father William was a brother to Seth’s father (name uncertain but possibly John or Charles). But we had no proof of this and no way to test the hypothesis. The contacting relative and I each had pieces of the puzzle. How could we fit the pieces together?
One possibility was DNA testing. The contacting relative has DNA information from a 92-year-old cousin. If someone descended in my Marshall line turned out to be a DNA match to that cousin in her Marshall line, then that would support the family connection implied by Seth F. Marshall’s will. And who knew how many other questions might be answered by DNA?
I’d previously considered having my DNA tested, but since I didn’t have much concept of what the results might be and because none of the tests are particularly cheap, I hadn’t bothered. But now here was a solid reason to take the test. I realized the results might not answer our questions about our Marshall relatives. But even if they didn’t, the results might give me answers to other family research questions beyond the Marshalls.
So I took the test. The one I chose was the autosomal DNA test offered by Ancestry.com since the contacting relative’s DNA info was all through Ancestry.com and she would be able to view my results there.
The test isn’t difficult. I ordered the simple kit from Ancestry.com. When the kit arrived I spit into the tube, mailed it back, and waited about six weeks for results.
The results were not everything the contacting relative and I hoped they would be. Ancestry.com reported hundreds of matches between my DNA and the DNA of others. Ancestry.com gives a very general range of relationship, but figuring out my exact lines of connection to those others is up to me. It’s time consuming, sometimes frustrating, and often fruitless. I have to search family trees of the reported DNA matches to find names that might also be in my family tree. Many times there are no matches—either because our areas of research are different or because the genealogical information gathered by either side is wrong. Yet I’ve found enough connections to DNA matches that I think the autosomal DNA test was worth doing.
But what about the Marshall connection? Well, the DNA test did not find a match to the DNA of the 92-year-old cousin of the contacting relative. But the DNA results of another Marshall cousin of hers showed up as a match to me. I don’t know why my results didn’t match her 92-year-old relative, but the one successful match was exciting news.
So great! We have some scientific supporting evidence that she and I are related through the Marshalls. I just don’t know where to go now with that information. We still don’t know who Seth F. Marshall’s parents were or exactly how Seth was related to Betsey and her brothers.