Lack of evidence for the LNAB and parents of Catherine (Heath) Cantrell

+5 votes
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Catherine is supposed to have been born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1697 and married Joseph Cantrell in New Castle (then Pennsylvania, now Delaware) in 1718. As I noted in this profile message, there are several problems with this identification, and objections have been raised over more than 5 years.

On 19 Jan 2021 Ellen Smith wrote on Heath-33:

The claim of a connection confirmed by DNA notwithstanding, there does not seem to be any valid evidence that Catherine was a daughter of John and Hannah (Haines) Heath. There is no Catherine Heath in the Haverhill records (which seem to be very complete in this time period); her reported birth date is before the marriage of John and Hannah; it would be very unusual for a Massachusetts girl to have ended up in New Castle (Pennsylvania/Delaware) in 1718; and in 5+ years there has been no answer to the requests to supply evidence for her surname and for her parental connections. I believe she should be disconnected from those parents. Moreover, the reported DNA triangulation includes two testers tracing descent from Catherine and one tester tracing descent from a sibling of Catherine (two different branches are not enough to establish a triangulated match); it is not clear to me that there is sufficient paper genealogy to rule out other common ancestors for these three testers; and a good triangulated match would confirm only that the siblings were siblings -- it would not confirm the specified parents.

Unless someone can supply genealogical evidence (not an autosomal DNA match) that Catherine was the person claimed in this profile, she should be disconnected from the parents.

WikiTree profile: Catherine Cantrell
in Genealogy Help by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

Well, being the DNA curmudgeon that I am, I'll state first that I've never seen any valid autosomal DNA evidence via triangulation to a birth occurring in the 1600s. So being curious, I ran the cited kits at GEDmatch.

I believe it to be a simple misunderstanding as to what autosomal DNA triangulation is (and of course we still don't know to what level, meaning how many generations, or birth events, the methodology might even be valid). The three individuals do not triangulate; in fact, they share no meaningful segments even on the same chromosomes.

The very small segments, one of which is accounted for by only 188 matching SNPs and is very likely false, are on chromosomes 6, 10, and 13; the single Chromosome 6 segment includes a known high-pile-up region. Without using the kit numbers, the matrix looks like this:

Kit 2 Kit 3
Kit 1 Chr 13, 7.6cM 188 SNPs Chr 10, 10.4cM 291 SNPs
Kit 2 Chr 6, 8.1cM 457 SNPs


Two of the individuals show as being 7th cousins 1x removed. The probability of any two people related at that level sharing any meaningful autosomal DNA is 0.575%. Which puts the odds at 173:1 that any two test-takers who do actually descend from the shared 8g-grandparents would show a real match. If any valid IBD segment has hung around that long, it won't be traceable to a specific MRCA; it will be common to a very large number of individuals who share a broad haplotypic ancestry going back many generations, likely before the genealogical timeframe.

Thanks for that thorough analysis, Edison. I did not look into the alleged DNA matches (beyond looking at the relationships of the people were reported to match).

I have now changed the confidence in the father to UNCERTAIN (instead of Confirmed with DNA), but I am wondering how the people who have researched this family will react to the idea of disconnecting them completely (and possibly renaming her to Catherine Unknown).

1 Answer

+4 votes

Great catch, Ellen!

Perhaps someone should contact the DNA project - Mags Gaulden or Peter Roberts are co-leaders. 

It doesn't look like the supposed "DNA Confirmation" is supported by the instructions for DNA confirmation given here on Wikitree (disclaimer: I know very little about genetic genealogy). 

by E. Logan G2G6 Mach 3 (34.5k points)

Thanks for weighing in, E. smiley  Edison Williams knows a lot about genetic genealogy, and he has expressed his opinion above.

I do not deserve credit for discovering this problem. Other WikiTreers have been questioning this family connection for a long time. I merely stumbled upon it (because Connection Finder showed it as part of a connection path for me that I investigated because it seemed surprisingly short), did a little bit of poking around, and brought it here in hopes of getting wider community attention that would lead to rectifying what I believe is an error.

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