Sunday, September 6, 2015

Adventures in DNA

Betsey Elizabeth Marshall Patterson Grant (1818-1912), circa 1904.
I recently had my DNA tested in order to help with genealogical research.

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 since the contacting relative’s DNA info was all through and she would be able to view my results there.

The test isn’t difficult. I ordered the simple kit from 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. reported hundreds of matches between my DNA and the DNA of others. 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.


  1. Merry Christmas cousin Eric!
    I just read your blog about our Marshall connection and the DNA test results. Did I ever send you the Amos Marshall indenture record information from Chardon OH in 1830?
    Amos was a little over 3 years old when indentured to Albert Hoyt and his wife Hannah (?) RIDER Hoyt. I searched for a direct link from this Hannah(?) to your Rider lineage, and I believe that they might have been I think that her father and Benjamin Rider might have been brothers.

    There are about 10 land records for Seth F Marshall up in Eaton Co. Michigan. He sold 80 acres of land to my Amos Marshall in 1853 ( known as the Coleman Plains in the land unknown). A lady from the library who had an errand in Charlotte MI actually went ahead and sent me the will that I told you about. It's in storage now as I have sold my house and am staying with friends. Going to travel for about a year and then settle in Kentucky near my brothers and cousins.
    I also did some investigations about the court case for William Obediah Marshall, since he was sentenced to TWO CONSECUTIVE terms of 8 years in prison for the incest with Maribeh and Mary Eliza.
    I am beginning to think that maybe Amos might have products of the incest!!! I found a newspaper article that mentions the 2 girls and is tantalizing but offers no real PROOF.
    My DNA matched someone who is related to Maribeh!!! However, that just means that William Obediah Marshall is the definite link, as I have DNA matches with someone from the FIRST wife (through Maribeh) AND with someone related to the SECOND WIFE.
    However, that brings a new question....
    back in the older days, if someone was married and their wife died young, they might marry one of the wife's now I am considering the possibility that William O. Marshall's first AND second wife might have been sisters...and that would also explain DNA matches to both lines.
    The DNA matches are so far back, but I have found a LOT of people who ARE RELATED even though ancestry has the match listed as less than good! I believe that the farther back the match, the less DNA evidence there is, and so there is less confidence.
    I have found matches on at least 6 lines where the link is about 6 generations back! However, when people only have a beginning tree, or haven't found information back that many can't really find out where the link is.

    I tried to find those prison records, but someone at the Ohio State Archives told me that the book for 1829 was burned in a fire. I know that there are land records for William O Marshall in 1832, and the way the record is recorded says that he WAS THERE in court/land office!
    I am hoping to go to Columbus OH to visit my Aubrey cousin, and she and her husband have done extensive genealogy research I'm hoping that they might be willing to help me do some research there next summer.
    Will keep you updated on my research...maybe we'll figure out all about Seth F Marshall and Amos Marshall and just how we are connected!
    Did you know that William O Marshall's oldest son, John Addison Marshall had moved to near Manhattan, Kansas in the late 1800's? One of my cousins that got me started searching for the Marshall line lived about 45 miles away in Waterville Kansas, but she died a little over a year from complications from a car wreck.

    Maribeh Marshall was married 3-4 times, and ended up in Pomona CA...where she is buried. I think that she went under the last name of Johnson, and she died in the early 1900's. I matched one of her great grandchildren.

    Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 !
    Karen Marshall

    1. Thanks for the message, Karen. As you know, I've been unable to find any connection between Adna Rider Hoyt's father Lemuel Rider and Polly Rider Marshall's father Benjamin. William Obadiah Marshall's first wife was not one of Polly's sisters, as far as I can tell. All her sisters are accounted for, and his first wife also seems to have been a Polly (nickname for Mary, as was common at the time). It seems from the newspaper articles I found and shared with you that John Addison Marshall didn't have offspring, or why would he have been buried in Wisconsin near Marebah, when his residence was in Kansas? I'm glad we finally showed up as DNA matches on Thanks for sharing your continuing research on our Marshall forebears.