My name is James David Douglas, . I was born in Texas to parents of primarily Scotch and English ancestry with a few other varieties thrown in for good measure. Growing up, family history was something no one seemed paticularly interested in besides a great aunt who would on the infrequent occassions I saw her remind me she could be a DAR member, if only she really wanted to. Sounded important ! The only other family member that showed any interest in family history was my dad's father. And so it was that my life-long interest in family history was sparked early on by weekend conversations with my grandfather Douglas. We would often speculate about where our family came from and then he would talk about his childhood growing up in a rural town in North Texas, a conversation often spiced with colorful "Texas Sayings" and grammer you had to be a "native" Texan to fully appreciate.
Because I was born a 5th generation Texan, I was a bit surprised to learn of family connections to 17th and 18th century colonial Americans and early immigrants from "foreign" countries. I figured we were as common as cornbread (I like cornbread). Even more surprising was the discovery of direct connections to several notable American and European families. I came to the conclusion that any such connections had to be through my great aunt. After all, she and my great uncle were rich and she could be a member of the DAR, "if she really wanted to".
My genealogical journey began as a child with fun weekend car trips with my grandfather Douglas to the rural North Texas town and countryside where he grew up as a kid. Sometimes he would load up the mower and we would go cut the grass at one of the old family home places, empty and decaying but still in the family. Sometimes we would visit a great uncle or aunt. There weren't many of the old folks still living but conversations would usually revolve around the old days and better times. It seemed to me all those things happened an unbelievably long time ago but It was worth the time to listen though because the talks usually ended with a trip to Dairy Queen. I'm certain it was during those times with my grandfather and frequent trips to Dairy Queen, that the questions of how my family ended up in Texas, and where our story started, began to interest me.
Research was sporadic and difficult at first but I got my first real "breakthrough" when I found an old book on Douglas family history at my local library. Through that book I discovered that I was a direct descendant of a Col. Edward Douglas, who alone or in the company of other family members immigrated to the American colonies, whether by choice or neccessity, sometime before 1740. I was both excited and proud to learn that my earliest known ancestor, Col Edward Douglas and his sons served the patriot cause in the American Revolution, and later played prominent roles in the settlement of Virginia, North Carolina and middle Tennessee.
The history of Col Douglas and his descendants has been researched and pretty well documented. His numerous descendants can be found in hundreds of online family trees and in a number of historical works and books of genealogy. Possibly the best known publication among Douglas family researchers is the 1909 work of a Nashville lawyer by the name of Jay Guy Cisco. Historic Sumner County, Tennessee, by Jay Guy Cisco, is one of the earliest and at that time most accurate references about the descendants of Col. Edward Douglas 1713 - 1795. I found Historic Sumner County, Tennessee to be entertaining, and for the most part an accurate history of Middle Tennessee and the pioneer Bledsoe, Douglas and Cage families of Sumner County, Tennessee. It also answered many of my earliest questions regarding my family's history and gave me a good starting place for additional research.
Even with the storehouse of information provided by the 1909 Cisco book, there still remained unanswered questions. One of the most elusive questions, in spite of many years of research and speculation, is "who are the parents of Col Edward Douglas" ? Did Edward immigrate to the American colonies alone or with other family ? And exactly when and why did the Douglas family leave their homes and make the long, risky journey to settle in their new adopted homeland ? Historians have documented the reasons for Scottish and English migrations to colonial America and it is almost assured that Edward Douglas followed that early migration path for similar reasons. So, although there Is a great deal known about the American history of the descendants of Col Edward Douglas, the question of who his parents and ancestors are is where the trail goes cold.
My own personal ancestor search began with a childhood curiosity about where the Douglas family came from and just who they were ? When I posed those questions to my grandfather Douglas as a child I was surprised that he knew so little about his family, who they were and where they came from. Since that time I've been on a quest to find the answers to those questions. Along the way, like most other family historians with early colonial roots, I found connections to both "noble" and not so noble ancestors. I've also had tp wonder just how many of those "noble" connections were real and how many were a product of "creative genealogy". After all, to be honest I have never gotten a birthday card from my "cousin", Queen Elizabeth. Time spent in research has taught me that many "royal" connections are the result of wishful thinking or "creative genealogy". With experience also came the understanding that the further back you travel in time the easier becomes to create royal connections and the harder it becomes to prove or disprove them I also came to find that there are family historians that come hell or high water are determined that they are going to show the world how many "royals" there are in the family tree. Proof optional ! It seems providing proof is considered something that is to be avoided like a crowded room at flu season. But proving or disproving those "shaky" connections has become standard proceedure and for me it has become much more satisfying to have a proven line of 10 commoners than 100 manufactured ties to royalty. I learned the only way to separate fact from fiction is by having an open but skeptical attitude, employing careful research methods, and proving each connection, one by one. Without good, verifiable sources and documentation to support family traditions all you have are colorful family stories. I began to suspect that If all the claims of ties to royalty were subjected to thorough research and proper sourcing the number of "Royal" American family trees would be far fewer.
It was during those early chats with my grandfather that the genealogy bug bit me. I think the search never ends and will continue as long as there are missing branches and twigs. Occassionally the quest for accuracy also means pruning a few dead limbs from the family tree. Not to worry, for the devoted family historian there are always new stories, connections and cousins waiting to be discovered. I believe the guiding star for every family genealogist should be the quest for accuracy. If you are going to spend valuable time searching for ancestors, you should want them to be real, proven ancestors. With that in mind I've done DNA testing. DNA may not answer every question but believe it can provide another level of accuracy and confirmation . I also think DNA testing may provide valuable information for future family historians. Can you imagine the benefit to you as a family historian if your ancestors 200 - 300 years ago had been able to provide you with the results of their DNA test ?
Douglas (occasionally spelled Douglass) is a common surname of Scottish origin, thought to derive from the Gaelic dubh glas, meaning "black stream or water". There are several places in Scotland from which the surname is derived. This place name has developed into the given name Douglas. Douglas is a habitational name, which could be derived from any of the many places so-named. While there are numerous places with this name in Scotland, it is thought, in most cases, to refer to Douglas, South Lanarkshire, the location of Douglas Castle, the chief stronghold of the Lords of Douglas. The Scottish Gaelic form of the given name is Dùbhghlas; the Irish language form is Dúghlas, and Dubhghlas, which are pronounced [duːɣləs]. According to George Fraser Black, in southern Argyllshire the surname is an Anglicised form of the surnames MacLucas, or MacLugash (which are derived from the Gaelic Mac Lùcais).
At a time when the use of surnames was new, the spelling of a surname was not yet standardized and many spelling variations resulted, The spelling in many cases depended on who was recording it. Many bearers of the name were not even sure of the spelling, that is if they could write themselves and if they could often used various spellings themselves.
My birth certificate has my name spelled James David Douglas. However, my great grandfather was evidently born with the Douglass, or double s spelling of the last name, and it seems that was the spelling most commonly used for my ancestral Douglass line all the way back to my earliest known immigrant Douglass ancestor, Col. Edward Douglass 1713 - 1795. Prior to immigrating to the American colonies the spelling is not known. But even among my earliest Douglass ancestors the last name was also often spelled Douglas. Some descendants are using the Douglas spelling to this day. The Douglass spelling is simply a variation of the surname Douglas. Variations in the spellings of surnames were common and usually the result of an involuntary act such as when a government official wrote a name phonetically or made an error in spelling. It has also been suggested that early family members may have changed the spelling to Douglass when they came to the American colonies to distinguish themselves from their forbears. Since there are no surviving family traditions or stories that provide an clue we must leave it all to speculation.
The Douglas name was first found in Moray County, Scotland where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Duglas, which was dated 1175, in the "Records of Kelso Abbey", Roxburghshire.
As noted, there are several localities in Scotland and Ireland named Douglas, but the one from which the surname is derived in most if not all cases is 20 miles south of Glasgow, in the county of Lanarkshire, situated on the Douglas Water. This place was the original stronghold of the influential Douglas family and their retainers. Several notable Douglas lineages originated from the following families: the old Douglas of Douglasdale (the Black Douglas), illustrious in the Scottish War of Independence; the line of Morton who were closely connected with Mary Queen of Scots; the house of Drumlanrig and Queensberry; and the House of Angus, the Red Douglas. The Douglas family also holds the following titles: Earl of Douglas; Earl of Angus and Earl of Forfar. A notable name bearer is Sir James Douglas, "the good" (1286 - 1330), who set out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, carrying the heart of the dead Robert Bruce. A Coat of Arms having a silver shield with a red man's heart, on a blue chief three silver stars, was granted to William Douglas the nephew of the aforementioned Sir James Douglas
One of the newest developments in genealogy is the use of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) as a source of genealogical information. DNA is the substance within every living cell that carries the code for passing on its exact makeup to new cells, and although DNA is uniquely different for each individual, it is similar in cells of related individuals. As applied to genealogical research, distinctive DNA mutation patterns can be used to determine whether and how closely individuals are related to other individuals whose DNA patterns are also known. This information can be used to give added support to paper trails.
While DNA may hold some promise of new discovery it has become clear that without an accurate, well documented, well sourced paper trail DNA can not be used to it's fullest potential. As I have learned DNA, although a useful tool for genealogical research, is not a "magic bullet". It can't pull ancestor's names out of thin air. It can not validate "poor" or erroneous family trees, Nothing can replace the time spent in careful, serious research.
I have also done auDNA testing which has proved in some ways to be more useful than my YDNA test in finding connections. Through the use of an analytical computer application called Gedmatch it is possible to make connections to genetic cousins. From these matches triangulation groups can be established to help support links to common ancestors. My GEDMatch kit #T824570 and GEDCOM Id 1537834 is used to identify potential matches and compare raw data. auDNA testing can a;so give us information about our ethnic makeup that lies hidden within our genes.
Paternal and maternal relationships are confirmed by a 2508 cM match between David Douglass GEDMatch T824570 and his sister, GEDMatch T37xxxx. Note: I would substitute the words "supported by" in place of "confirmed" since my father and mother did not do DNA testing. However, the paper trail and primary sources do substantiate both paternal and maternal relationships which are supported by the DNA evidence.
When I recieved my YDNA test results I was a bit surprised. I was projected to belong to Haplogroup I-M253. while I was expecting to be R1a or R1b, a fairly typical Scottish/UK Haplogroup. And as it turns out Haplogroup I1a is not nearly as common among Douglases.
I have a small number of YDNA matches among other Wikitree members but to date have not found our common ancestor, even though the DNA indicates a relatively close match for at least one kit.
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