NOTE: This article was written on my iPhone on March 19, 2016, as I pondered the results of Uncle Dusty Norton’s DNA kit. A lot has happened since then, including the passing of that uncle. His ashes will be buried Sunday, August 21, next to his parents at Haardscrabble Cemetery near Rushville, Illinois. These were my thoughts in March, subsequent postings will show the evolution of my thoughts as time and research has progressed. I dedicate this post to the memory of Uncle Dusty.
“People are people so why should it be” … my uncle’s DNA test kit should cause me such trepidation. I asked him to participate, so I want to know…something. What if the answer brings up…a question?
When I got my first DNA kit, I was only interested in autosomal testing–the kind that matches you with cousins on all branches of your family tree. I did not have the money to do mitochondrial DNA tests–the direct maternal line. But the deal my bride bought (as a wedding present) at FamilytreeDNA so many years ago had a 12-market test for direct paternal (Y-DNA) attached. So I got that too.
The Norton DNA had been and still is researched and documented at Scott Norton’s wonderful website, Nortonfamily.net. Researchers from earlier had connected me to a Henry Norton married in 1812 to Betsy Ann Wright in Pendleton County, KY. My original contacts on this line were Aunt Liddy Rickets (great-grandma Norton’s sister-in-law) and Dee Norton Farley of Trenton, MO. Later Rosalie Askins of Chillicothe found a photo of great-great-great-great-grandma Telitha Davis Norton wife of James B. Norton, son of Henry.
A third cousin had tested and matched people who descended from Henry’s brothers. Scott had tested several theories about the early Nortons; then, one day, there was a direct paternal match with a Norden, and suddenly the legend of our family started to clear up. Visit his site to learn more.
The Nortons from whom I descend were haplogroup I-M253, that’s Scandinavian–Norsemen! A haplogroup is like a race, but more like a nationality. The reason it’s hard to define is that this DNA goes back before there were nations. So, a haplogroup is really a people group that shared common genes and lived or migrated together. Over thousands of years, scientists can tell where your ancient ancestors lived based on the haplogroup you match.
The Nortons are Group I-M253, Scandinavian. I was Group E-M35, Middle Eastern!
I’m not shocked to be Middle Eastern (North African), but not on my father’s direct paternal line. Surely they mixed up my kit with someone else; I had a re-test. Same result!
I shared my information with family, and the jokes were numerous. My mother is alive to defend herself: “You mean that means I did something? I thought it would mean your dad did something!” There are no doubts that my mom and my dad are my actual parents—and autosomal DNA proves that. I wondered if I could be a Chimera, a person with two different DNA patterns. This actually exists. I had to test Dad and my brother.
They matched me. Whew! So Dad, my brother, and I are this little island of unplaced Nortons on the family DNA site.
By this time I am finding strong DNA matches to cousins on dad’s mother’s side–the Gotts, McAtees, and Ratliffs. I am not finding any matches to his grandmother Norton’s side–the Tharps, Betz, and Keiths. Maybe Grandpa Norton wasn’t great-grandpa’s son. But there were very strong connections to dad’s great-grandmother’s (Gay-Cornett and Scott) and his great-great-grandmother’s (Sandlin-Anglin) lines.
Why all this concern on the grandmothers if I am tracing the direct paternal line? Hopefully that will narrow down the NPE–non-parental event! That’s what you call a situation where DNA shows you don’t belong to the family you thought you did.
If dad had DNA matches with the Gays and Cornetts, then we must be descended from Harley Norton whose mother was Susan Gay. Harley is dad’s grandpa, so that would mean the NPE was before Harley. Dad matches Sandlin cousins–the maternal line for Paschal Norton, dad’s great-grandpa. This pushes the NPE back…possibly.
What if the lack of matches with dad’s grandmother (Tharp) and no Norton matches means my dad’s dad is not his dad, and the matches to earlier generations are coincidence?
So I tested my dad’s brother, Clarence Jr. “Dusty” Norton. His first set of results are in; I’ve not looked yet.
What if he matches Dad? What if he doesn’t?
If he matches dad, then upgrade Dusty to do cousin-matching. We need to find the family we really come from. Also, find one of Grandpa’s half-brothers to test. If they match, the NPE was before Harley. If they don’t Grandpa was not Harley’s son.
If Dusty does not match dad…then Grandma had a story. And there is a story, a joke in the family. Dad was so much darker than his brothers. I remember jokes at grandma’s expense about Mr Rodriguez dropping her off at home after work. Grandma just smiled–nothing to protest, just a joke. But what if…
So I get the message Dusty’s results are in. And…suddenly…I’m not as quick as I thought I’d be to look.
If Dusty matches, I have this great mystery to unravel probably back before 1872–who was Paschal Norton’s real dad. (That’s where I think the NPE will be.)
If Dusty doesn’t match, then I have to take a proverbial ax to half of my family tree. For a genealogist who started when he was 13, and has traced families for over 30 years, this might be devastating. This could be a figurative lightning strike, consuming half of the mighty oak that is supposed to be my family tree. Decades of research–listening to stories, checking records, proving legends, and correcting mistakes–could be for all for someone else–but not really for me.
OK–it’s half of Dad’s mighty oak, only a quarter of mine–we know dad’s mom is his mom!
This could be the greatest genealogical adventure of my life!
Dad’s Y-DNA and mtDNA Haplogroups Uncle Dusty’s Y-DNA Haplogroup
Dad is haplogroup E-M35. Uncle Dusty is haplogroup I-M253—Dusty matches the Nortons. My dad and his brother do not match. My father is not the biological son of my grandfather.
Follow-up: I wrote this article in March as the results for my uncle were pending. Since that time, another uncle, Richard, has tested and also matches the Nortons. Sadly, my uncle, Dusty, passed away at the end of July. I appreciate his willingness to help with the family history by sharing his DNA. I visited him once more to tell him about his results. He said, “It doesn’t matter, we’re still family.”