I named my son, Paschal, after my great-great-grandpa who raised my grandfather. The original Paschal was born in 1872 and died in 1934, when my grandpa was only 13. Within the last five years, the original Paschal has presented me with a genuine genealogical mystery.
My paper trail is tight! What I mean is that the information I have on my ancestors—on paper—can be verified and proven with documents. Me, dad, Grandpa Clarence Norton son of Harley, but rasied by his grandfather Paschal Norton. Paschal was the son of William M. Norton, who went to the Civil War underage. William was son of Rev. James Baker Norton born in 1812 in Pendleton Co, KY, named in his father’s estate of 1831. Henry was the son of David Norton of Pendleton and Grant Counties. David’s father was a mystery—it could’ve been John. Later researchers said a William. Finally, DNA confirmed it was a Christopher Norton of Virginia who turns out to be the grandson of Robert Norden, a Baptist missionary to the colony instrumental in forming the Baptist denomination in the United States.
DNA tests for genealogy come in three forms. There’s the autosomal test that matches you with cousins on any branch of your family tree—this is the one I find most useful. There is the Mitochondrial-DNA test that shows your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s…and so on DNA back thousands of years. Men and women can take this test because we all get an X chromosome from mom. Men can take one more test—the Y-DNA test. This shows the DNA of your father’s father’s father’s father’s…and so on back thousands of years.
Dad had distant cousins who had already tested the y-DNA, so when I did my autosomal DNA test, I added the y-12 DNA just because it was cheaper. The results came in, and I did not match Dad’s distant cousins. There are these designations called Haplogroups. Roughly they are racial/geographical categories where certain types of DNA are found more heavily than in other places. Dad’s distant cousins were from a Haplogroup that indicated Scandinavian ancestry. That fit with the story Dad told about being Vikings and Norsemen, that later turned into Norton.
My DNA came out East African/Middle Eastern!
My mother assures me that I am my father’s child! There were some funny jokes about Grandma Norton and Mr. Rodriguez, and why Dad was so much darker than his brothers, but…those were just jokes. Then, Grandpa was raised by his grandparents because his parents had divorced. Was there more to this situation? I was completely shocked because my paper trail is tight. All marriages are recorded, all firstborns are born about a year after the marriage or later. Nothing to raise any eyebrows. No stories of adoptions or anything like that either.
I had Dad and my brother, Jeremy, tested too. I did the y-12 DNA test because it was cheaper, and I did Dad’s autosomal DNA to match with his cousins. Good news—Dad, Jeremy, and I all match each other. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
Grandpa is gone, so I can’t test him. Dad has three brothers who could test. If the brothers didn’t match Dad, then I’d know the “non-parental event” occurred with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa has three half-brothers on his dad’s side still living. They are on the West Coast, and I’ve asked one to think about testing. No word yet. If one would, or one of their sons, they should match Dad too. If they didn’t, then we’d know the break was with Great-grandpa Harley.
Fortunately, my great-great-grandpa (Paschal) had a brother Martin who has a grandson who has tested. This third cousin matches the Norton haplotype of Scandinavian. What this tells me is that Martin’s dad (who is William the Civil War veteran) is from the true Norton line, but Paschal might not be because we descend from Paschal.
I can pretty much narrow down the “non-parental event” to the generation between William and Paschal because of the autosomal DNA tests. Dad has many matches with the Gay-Cornett family who are related through Paschal’s wife, Susan Gay. Dad has many matches with the Sandlin-Anglin family who are related through Paschal’s mother. Thus, I am sure we descend from Nancy Catherine Sandlin Norton, the wife of William M. Norton, but we do not descend—genetically, biologically—from William.
My findings are still preliminary because I have noticed that Dad has many matches with the Gott family (his mother’s line), but no matches with the Tharp family (who was Grandpa Clarence’s mother’s family). No matches with the Tharps might indicate something else as the non-parental event. Most telling of all, though, Dad has no Norton matches at all. We are not Nortons! Unfortunately, our y-DNA has not matched any other surname out there, so I have no idea WHO our true ancestor might be.
I’ve come up with many theories. Maybe Paschal was the son of a sister of William Norton—but this is unlikely with no Norton matches on the autosomal DNA. Maybe Great-great-great-grandma Nancy Sandlin Norton was already pregnant , but Paschal’s birth date does not suggest that. Maybe she had a sister who had a child, and they took him in—no stories like that in the family, and no sister matches such. Maybe Nancy Sandlin Norton was unfaithful, but really? We are talking staunch Baptists in 1870s! It’s a complete mystery.
Dad has many, many second to fourth cousins who have no family connection on our family tree. I assume these people are from the mystery ancestor. Frustratingly, though, none of these people have any common ancestors on their trees that would help me narrow down the choices.
Genealogy is a frustrating, time-consuming hobby. Sometimes, the answer just doesn’t reveal itself—in your lifetime! I do think I’ll get a lucky break sometime. Dad took his test about three years ago. It took eight years for my grandma’s cousin’s test to have a match that unlocked a 60+ year genealogy brick wall. So, maybe in a few years someone who matches our y-DNA will test, and it will unveil our true ancestry. Or, maybe more cousins will test on the autosomal tests at FamilytreeDNA and AncestryDNA (dad is at both). As more people test, maybe common family names will pop up and lead me to an answer.
DNA tests are on sale at both companies for Father’s Day!
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, Grandpa Clarence, Great-grandpa Harley, and Great-great-grandpa Paschal. Happy Father’s Day to William Norton who raised Paschal as his first-born, and Happy Father’s Day to Mystery Father—someday I’ll find you.