Central/South Asian DNA– Another Vendor, Another Twist in the Path

Getting new autosomal DNA results always seems to be one step forward and at least two steps back, in terms of any consistency with the previous results. Having already tested with 23andme and AncestryDNA, I got an offer from the third such vendor of autosomal DNA for a $39 report and family finder matches using the same DNA data. So I took the bait, and found that the good news is that all three agree that my European DNA is 98%. Otherwise, though, there is very little consistency. as FamilyTreeDNA finds no Iberian, Scandinavian, or Jewish elements within the European portion, unlike the last test. As for the non-European aspect, this test finds subSaharan African at a trace level like the last, but unlike either it reports 2% Central/South Asian admixture.

Which takes us back to the Roma or East Indian scenario about possible non-European roots of Pell Meller “mulattoes.” Reviewing the three major autosomal vendors and the four models provided by Gedmatch: FTDNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andme all agree that the European percentage is roughly 98% but vary considerably in the breakdown of European DNA. As for the non-European, none finds any Native American, AncestryDNA finds Central Asian and West African in equal trace amounts of under 1%, FTDNA finds twice as much Central Asian as African (and the latter is mostly South rather than West Africa), and 23andme finds 1.9% combined African and no Asian. Of the four models in Gedmatch, Harappaworld finds about six times as much Asian in various categories as African; Eurogenes finds three times as much Asian as African; MDLP and Dodecad both find four times as much Asian as African; all four show percentages of both far greater than the three main vendors. No model finds a significant amount of Native American. The Asian scores raise the question of whether European/Asian admixture occurred in the New World in the last 400 years, or earlier.

Cora Williford Hoggard and a Grandmother’s Gift

One of the unsolved mysteries described in Pell Mellers has been solved by Mark Bunch, whom I met at the October 2014 reunion and who like me descends from Mary Apply (aka Appie) Johnson Williford, whose portrait he brought to the reunion. Appie survived her husband Jonathan Williford by twenty three years, and in the last year of her life she received a widow’s pension in the amount of $2700 for Jonathan’s Civil War service in the Union army. He had survived the fall of Plymouth but the escape through the swamps and across several rivers was disastrous to his health, and he died in 1870 at age 45. Appie had directed the lawyer handling the pension to “give Cora (a supposed illegitimate child she had raised whose other name is unknown to me) $300… the sons were opposed to her giving Cora any, and she didn’t want them to know anything about it until after she was dead as she didn’t expect to live long.” She died six months later in the spring of 1893, and I never found out the identity of Cora.

Cora Williford married John Hoggard the same year that Appie died, 1893. Mark noted that on the death certificate of Cora Hoggard, widow of John, her father was identified as Bill Williford and her mother was unidentified. Appie was the mother of four sons, one of whom, William, had died before her. He is not on record as having ever married, and the fact that at the time of her death Cora’s mother’s name was given as unknown is indicative that she was raised by someone other than her parents. It was unusual for the paternal rather than the maternal grandmother of an illegimate child to be the one to raise her, but that seems to have been the case with Appie and Cora. Ancestry.com includes a portrait of Cora and her husband John supplied by a descendant, probably from the 1920s, and I think there is some resemblance to her grandmother in the photo. One sad aspect of the death certificate is that Cora’s cause of death was listed as pellagra, (with old age as a contributing factor– at 62!) and she was a widow whose occupation was as a domestic in Hertford County. The ready availability of collards, turnip greens, etc. to poor country people would seem to prevent Vitamin A deficiencies, but pellagra is caused by a Niacin deficiency which means Cora did not get enough poultry, meat, or nuts to keep her in good health. Pellagra was common among populations with a heavily corn-dependent diet.