Can you show examples of how DNA research helped you break down a Brick Wall?

+15 votes
Please summarize the proof. What kind of DNA test? How many generations back?

I've seen claims of breaking down brick walls. I'm very curious about real examples. Thanks for sharing!
in The Tree House by PM Eyestone G2G6 Mach 3 (34.2k points)

9 Answers

+7 votes
yDNA test, 5 generations back to Sargent Leonard Field-635. I had been unable to locate any birth/parent information from him in upstate New York. I assumed he was with the only Field family in the county in the 1810/20 census. yDNA showed he was descended from French-Canadian ancestors (Deschenes/Miville), which narrowed the father down to one of a couple relatives, because of the existing research done by the Deschenes Family Association and the yDNA matches and near-matches with several known descendants.
by Bob Fields G2G6 (9.5k points)
Thanks Bob. That must have been pretty cool! I'm looking forward to checking out Field-635's profile. I'll circle back if I have a question after that.
Bob - Thanks again for your response. I really enjoyed checking out Sargent Field's profile... So there is still a 'brick wall' there, but you have a pretty good idea of one line (Y chromosone) beyone it. I would call that a result!

I also enjoyed seeing where the S came from in the last name... and your fantastic profile. Your ancestor Scarbrough-45 reminded me of one of my own, Rambo-198. Rambo-198 was another Indian interpreter and friend of William Penn. I may be borrowing some ideas from your excellent profiles!

Best, Peter
+4 votes
I was able to discern who my great-grandmother’s father was, but her mother was a problem. Records had one of her father’s wives diseased before her birth and marriage to his next wife after her birth. Multiple matches to an autosomal test answered the question.  I was also sent an extensive genealogy for the missing branch from one of the people I matched with.
by James Applegate G2G6 Mach 5 (54.6k points)
+5 votes
Y test
My 4x gt grandfather was illegitimate, no record of any baptism in 1770, circumstantial evidence pointed at a couple that married just after his birth and had several more children in the same area, but after 20 years of looking I’d found no hard evidence for the link.
My Y test confirmed a common ancestor match 4 to 7 generations back with a person living now in the US, who was adopted so they only had details of a few generations.
But from his information I was able to link them via the records beyond doubt as a descendant of the brother of my illegitimate ancestor, our common ancestor being the father.
This enabled us both get back three more generations to the late 1600’s, not sure which one of us had the bigger brick wall, I know for me having researched for over thirty years looking for the answer it was massive. 
Autosomal test
This has indicated from myfamilyDNA “myorigins” I have no German ancestry, even though family stories said I had.
It now seems my ancestor must have been an immigrant to Germany from France, Belgum or the Netherlands and I have been looking in the wrong country all this time.
Maybe not breaking down a brick wall, but now pointing me at a different wall that I have a chance at finding the answer.
Just waiting for my Mtdna results to come back.
So can’t say much on this one but will be hopeful of getting a conformation match for my furthest back ancestor on this line, one Mary Bird 1695 in Nothamptonshire.
If I can get conformation I’m happy to spend time / money looking at the Northamptonshire records to try and push back this line as well.
Also now contemplation getting test done on other family members so I have access to other Y and Mt lines in my tree for the future.
Thinking if we look at how DNA testing has moved on in the last 10 years, we just don’t know what we may be able to find in the next 10 or 20 years.
I love DNA testing, for people that have done the paper research it can prove your research is correct or blow big holes in it.
Hope this helps and encourages others to jump in, the more people that get tested the more matches we all get.
by Peterson Cobbett G2G6 Mach 2 (20.0k points)
Peterson - Thanks a ton for sharing this information. I'd be very interested to hear what your conclusions are after your mdna test results are in.

On your Y, what a result! It sounds like you have a great blog post type of story, there. Very cool!

Thanks again.
+7 votes
1. For years, because of circumstantial evidence, I felt my Garretts lined up with a Garrett family out of Buckingham Co., Virginia, but there wasn't a paper trail. Buckingham Co. is one of the 'burned' counties. Finally, after a yDNA test was done I was both gratified and excited to learn that my theories were correct. We do match the Buckingham Co., VA Garretts.

2. Because of taking the Family Finder test, we've discovered a couple of people who match our Vaughns. We haven't been able to document the relationship, but at least we have several new clues to follow. Just finding relatives was breaking down a mini brick wall because before, we could find no relatives at all for our Vaughns.

3. For decades, many family researchers have spent a lot of money and time trying to find the parents of my 3rd g-grandfather, Willis Barton. In fact, I created a website researching southern Bartons, in general. After several cousins took the yDNA test, we discovered why we couldn't find our place in the Barton family. There were no matches. Although we didn't break down a brick wall, we now know our efforts should be extended toward researching the Cox family instead of the Barton family. If it weren't for the yDNA tests, we'd still be spinning our wheels on a family (the Bartons) from which we do not descend.
by Debby Black G2G6 Mach 8 (81.9k points)
Thanks Debby. I think your example in #3 is just as important as breaking down the brick wall!
+7 votes
yDNA 67 markers FTDNA

I consider myself a relative newcomer to genealogy but I have researched on my Tyler progenitors for more than 15 years. My situation is like many from Virginia and other Southern States, our Hanover County records were lost to fire, making a documented link to the apparent source of my Tyler line impossible.
My research pointed to John Tyler, son of Henry Tyler of Williamsburg, because the available records located him in the area that became Hanover County in 1721. Also, Lyon Gardiner Tyler stated in his pedigree of President Tyler’s family that John Tyler, son of Henry Tyler the immigrant, “may have been the ancestor of the Hanover Tyler’s.”

My research revealed a direct conflict with an earlier published genealogy which claimed John Tyler left Hanover County, Virginia and went to Chowan, North Carolina. This genealogy listed children being born in North Carolina when John Tyler was Virginia, a fact I found difficult to accept.

In 2010 I came across two yDNA test results through FTDNA that claimed Henry Tyler as an ancestor. One lineage sprang from Henry’s son Henry and the other went through John Tyler of Chowan, North Carolina. A glaring discrepancy in the results showed two different haplotypes, one being “I” and the other “R,” which is improbable if the lineages were correct.

I tested to see if my result would link to either previous result, and I did. My test returned as an “I” haplotype. Initially I had a 37/37 match for the descendant of Henry’s son Henry. This person expanded his test to 67 markers and our ending result is 66/67 with a genetic distance of 1. There are 9-10 generations back to Henry Tyler, the immigrant.

Another descendant of the Hanover Tyler line tested and his results came back as “I” haplotype with a 36/37 match with a genetic distance of 1.

My feeling is the result shows the assertion of John Tyler living in two different colonies simultaneously is not correct and the John Tyler of Chowan, North Carolina is of a different Tyler clan.
When using DNA testing to break down brick walls, sometime success for one becomes the stumbling blocks for others.
by Michael Tyler G2G6 Mach 2 (21.2k points)
edited by Michael Tyler
Thanks Michael. Similar to Debby's #3. Confirming something that you suspected to be wrong can save a lot of time and effort.

Have you done any tests other than Y?
No, I have not. Much of the other lines of my family are documented, but most suffer with the record gap for the time period before 1780-1800.
+8 votes
Smiths!  We have dozens of Smith families that are genetically unrelated to each other.  YDNA has helped us untangle the many Smith families we have tested and many more that do not have matches yet.  On, many folks thought they were from this family when the yDNA test proves they were from that family.

I don't know how many brick walls have fallen, but yDNA is the only way we have been able to untangle the New England colonial Smiths.
by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (588k points)
Smiths...I have been ignoring my Martha Smith, she would be my 2nd Great Grandmother.  Instead, I have been focused on her Husband, Uriah Ricker.  His son is Smith Alexander Ricker, who I am convinced is Smith Alexander Stills, my Great Grandfather.  I am looking to do a Y-DNA test on my Dad (Smith's grandson) and prove the Ricker connection.  When done, I really need to get back to Martha b. 1860 in North Carolina, settled in Greeneville, TN where my dad was born.  Parents unknown but hinted at.
Thanks Kitty! I will check out the Smith Connections site again. I'd love to drill into a few examples where they have broken down brick walls. I can't think of a more challenging name in American genealogy... what a relief to have YDNA!
+3 votes
There are a number of DNA success stories at
by Peter Roberts G2G6 Pilot (612k points)
Thanks Peter. There are some interesting ones on there.
+1 vote

All we knew of my husband's GG-Grandparents was their names, Daniel Wilson and Sarah Franks, and that she was from Helena, Arkansas. We also knew the name of a possible cousin of his G-Grandfather (Eli Blackley). With this information there were several possible Sarah Franks who could be the right one. I did have a main candidate whose sister Louise married a Samuel Blackley but with no paper trail to connect them to us. 

My husband's Uncle Paul Wilson agreed to take a Family Finder DNA test. Whilst going through his matches family trees I found one who had a dead end at  a Martha Franks. This spurred me to research the family further and  I did find enough information to put Sarah and Louise together with their father Elisha Franks who came to Arkansas with his apparant brother Chesley. More research showed that Chesley Franks had a daughter Martha who could have been Sarah's cousin. Still, with only 2 people, not enough to prove that this was what the DNA match meant.  Then I found another person who matched both Paul and his Franks match on the same segment and who had a dead end at a Permelia Franks. There is a group of Franks who moved from Tennessee to Alabama. Elisha and Chesley moved from Tennessee to Arkansas. Permelia moved from Tennessee to Alabama with the main group. I suspect that Permelia was a sister to Elisha and Chesley because of her age and the amount of DNA shared with Uncle Paul.

I still have a lot more paperwork to do to tie this family together and trace them further back but I think I have enough evidence to prove I am working with the right family. Without the DNA match there were too many other possiblities to spend a lot of time researching this family. Now I can go full steam ahead.

As to Daniel Wilson, Paul also did a YDNA67 test that connected him 66/67 to a known descendent of William Wilson (1722-1801) and Elizabeth Blackburn of Virginia/West Virgina. William Wilson had 14 children and his oldest son had 30 so there are literally thousands of descendents from this one couple. I have a suspect Daniel who is in the right time and place with the right occupation but I cannot connect him to the family or to Sarah yet.

by Joanna Richmond G2G Crew (890 points)
0 votes
by Andreas West G2G6 Mach 6 (64.0k points)

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