Genetic genealogy is the latest high tech genealogy research tool that is changing the way we look at and conduct genealogy research in the 21st Century. The price of genetic testing has plummeted in the last four years and this has resulted in more people testing. Consequently, this has resulted in helping hundreds of thousands prove various lines in their lineages or aided them in finding their roots, where nothing but a brick wall stood before.
Genetic genealogy is the application of genetics to traditional genealogy. Genetic genealogy involves the use of genealogical DNA testing to determine the level and type of the genetic relationship between individuals.
This application of genetics has become popular with family historians in this first decade of the 21st century, as DNA testing has become very affordable. The tests have been promoted by amateur groups, such as surname study groups, or regional genealogical groups, as well as research projects, such as the National Geographic Genographic Project.
From a family historians point of view there are two DNA test that are the most useful to the genealogy researcher: Y-DNA and autosomal DNA test. Here is a bit of information on these two test to put them into prospective for the family historian.
Y chromosome (Y-DNA) testing
A man's patrilineal ancestry, or male-line ancestry, can be traced using the DNA on his Y chromosome (Y-DNA) through Y-STR testing. This is useful because the Y chromosome passes down almost unchanged from father to son.
A man's test results are compared to another man's results to determine the time frame in which the two individuals shared a most recent common ancestor, or MRCA, in their direct patrilineal lines. If their test results are a perfect, or nearly perfect match, they are related within genealogy's time frame (during the period of genealogy record keeping).
So the bottom line is in order to Y-DNA test for the Hennington family, you need a male Hennington surname descendant.
Autosomal DNA (aTDNA)
Contained in the nucleus of each cell are 23 pairs of chromosomes. Of these 23 there are 22 of these matched pairs of chromosomes that are called "autosomes," while the 23rd pair determines your sex (Y or X = male or female respectively).
Autosomal DNA is inherited from both parents, and includes random contributions from their parents, grandparents, and so on. Therefore, your autosomes essentially contain a complete genetic record, with all branches of your ancestry at some point contributing a piece of your autosomal DNA.
Autosomal DNA tests can be used to search for relative connections along any branch of your family tree. Unless the connection is so far back that the shared DNA has essentially been eliminated through too many generations of recombination, any autosomal match between two individuals indicates a "possible" genetic connection.
The caveat here is that there is nothing in this test that will tell you which branch of your family the match is on. Therefore it is a real good idea to have your parents, grandparents, cousins, and other family members tested and that will help you to narrow down potential matches.
While semi affordable autosomal testing has been around for some time from 23andMe (2007) and Family Tree DNA (2010), it wasn’t until Ancestry.com in May 2012 offered a $99 test that the flood gates open up for this testing regime. Now any Hennington family descendant can determine if their paper trail does in fact lead to the early South Carolina Hennington families.
First Came the Y-DNA Test
In late December 2011, the first Hennington male descendant stepped forward to take the first Hennington surname Y-DNA test – Mr. William Bryan Hennington, son of Roy and Lillie Mae Hennington, the family who write the Hennington family histories (Red Books).
Bryan took his test through Family Tree DNA, a Houston based company, and he did so in conjunction with the Harrington Family Surname DNA project. Bryan took a 37 marker test, the minimum level we recommend for useful genetic genealogy results.
When his test results came back on March 16, 2012, all of us who viewed his results were shocked – no Hennington matches. That in itself would not have been a bad thing (no other Hennington had tested that we knew of), but Bryan got results that indicated a totally different line of descendant than any of us saw coming (more on that shortly).
Bryan expressed concern that maybe the lab might have messed up his test so on May 7, 2012, he asked his brother’s son David Paul Hennington to take a Y-DNA 37 marker test. On July 20, 2012, those results came back and indicated not only that Paul and Bryan were a match, but the result we saw with Bryan were duplicated with Paul’s test.
Next Came the Autosomal DNA (aTDNA) Testing
Until Ancestry.com entered the aTDNA testing marketplace, autosomal DNA testing was a bit expensive (well over $300 per test). Ancestry launched their AncestryDNA autosomal test in May 2012 and by the end of June 2012, Gayle Hennington-Van Horn’s husband Larry, had taken the test and was using it to not only verify his paper trail on various family lines, but even used the test to knock down several brick walls. This was a DNA test with a lot of promise in researching the Hennington family line.
It took some time, but by late November 2012, Gayle Hennington-Van Horn had her test results in hand and the results were in fact very promising. Many of Gayle’s family lines were matches with other testers at Ancestry and she was well on the way to verifying the genealogy paper trail on many of her family lines.
Unknown to Gayle when she tested, some of her Hennington family cousins had also taken an autosomal test at Ancestry and they helped confirm her Hennington record paper trail all the way back to her great-great grandfather Rev. John Hennington.
She had a 99% match with one of her first cousins that confirmed her grandfather Fletcher Woolsey Hennington and a 99% match with a second cousin Billy Stanford that confirmed her
great grandfather William Garrison Hennington via his son Thomas Clement Hennington. Thanks to Hennington researcher Karen Galindo’s father, Jerry Huffman, and his autosomal DNA test, we now have confirmation of that line back to their second great grandfather Rev John Hennington. This autosomal DNA match also verifies the lineage to Rev. John via his first wife Molly Berry and lineage to Rev. John via his second wife Anna Clement.
Another Ancestry autosomal DNA has confirmed that paper trail that Rev John Hennington and Rev Henry Hennington were in fact brothers and thus the sons of Ann Howell. Gayle had a 96% match with Daniel Spivey who has traced his family from the son of Green William Hennington, who was a son of Rev Henry Hennington. We still do not know at this point the father of these two minister Henningtons.
Autosomal DNA testing has also confirmed that the often quoted Thomas Ephraim Henington was not the third minister Hennington brother. A descendant of that family Rebecca Yeates tested and did not match with either Karen or Gayle. But this part of the story is not over as we shall see shortly.
Finally in order to bring the Y-DNA test of Bryan Hennington full circle with the rest of the family who tested via autosomal, we asked him to also take an autosomal DNA test. As we suspected, he was a 99% match with Gayle and again this confirms their most recent common ancestor (MRCA) William Garrison Hennington via his son William Truman Hennington.
So What Did We Find?
This will be the hardest part of this report to explain to anyone who is a descendant of the South Carolina Henningtons.
You are not a descendant from any immigrant Henningtons from England or anywhere else in the world!
I mentioned above that the results from Bryan’s DNA test shocked us all. No Hennington matches. But we did have numerous DNA matches with testers who had traced their lineage to various Mitchell and Westbrook families. This was confirmed through the Y-DNA of Bryan nephew – Paul Hennington.
Needless to say both Gayle and Bryan were shocked. Once the initial shock was over it was our job to interpret the test of both our Hennington Y-DNA testers. Why would there be such a high concentration of Mitchell and Westbrook Y-DNA matches?
As anyone who has a working knowledge of genetic DNA testing knows Y-DNA is passed down father to son. That is why we needed a Hennington surnamed male to take this test. Only they could tell us were the South Carolina Hennington genetic gene pool came from.
So what is left is very simple. Since the closest DNA matches appear to come from the Mitchell/Westbrook family we are dealing with one of several scenarios: A son born out of wedlock where the mother named her son with her maiden name (Hennington). This was a more common occurrence during the colonial period than you may think. We could also be dealing with a male child from a Mitchell or Westbrook family that was adopted by a Hennington family. The third possibility could be a Mitchell or Westbrook male changed his name to Hennington for whatever reason.
A Y-DNA can tell us that there was a name change, but we can’t divine the reasons for that name change.
In addition to the Y-DNA, the autosomal test of Gayle, Bryan and Rebecca Yeates (remember her from above) all have confirmed matches with several Mitchell families. Both Gayle and Bryan have well over 300 AncestryDNA matches each (305 and 329 respectfully) with ancestral Mitchell’s in those matched trees.
Rebecca Yeates has confirmed at least four Mitchell surname matches. That would correlate well that she is a distant Hennington cousin and/or during DNA recombination over the generations that her line did not receive as much autosomal DNA as others testers have gotten from their Hennington / Mitchell ancestors. But there is no doubt that Rebecca’s line at this point is definitely related to the rest of the SC Henningtons thanks to her Mitchell DNA matches.
What makes Rebecca’s lineage even more interesting is in a record that was recently found in South Carolina. Thomas Goggin, a Mitchell/Westbrook researcher, shared this interesting record:
"I found a doc of John Hennington of Charleston showing Ephraim Mitchell as a signatory, assume surveyor. Probably has no legs but interesting. From my work in SC, I learned that there was a family of Mitchell surveyors, whose ancestry nobody seems to know: Ephraim, John and James. John intersected a bit with Edward Mitchell, Flood Mitchell et al in Edgefield, who were from Brunswick. Ed had a son named Hinchey and a brother or first cousin named Flood."
|Captain John Hennington May 1786 Charleston District Property Valuation 1200 pounds sterling and witnessed by Ephraim Mitchell.|
Finally when we look at the Westbrook side of these DNA matches, things get padded down a bit. Bryan has 37 AncestryDNA and Gayle has 26 matches with ancestral Westbrooks in those matched trees.
So where is this headed? Again our friend Thomas Goggin shared the information below from his group’s research when he introduced himself in an email to Paul Hennington:
*Through FamilyTreeDNA, your y-DNA matches the y-DNA of several Westbrook descendants of Charles Westbrook of Prince George and Amelia Co VA. Strangely, this DNA marker is also shared by a unique line of the Virginia Mitchell family as well.
*In most cases like these, an adoption has taken place, but in the case of Charles Westbrook nee Mitchell, an out of wedlock birth took place, and the child was given the surname of the mother. A small group of Westbrook-Mitchell researchers have for years attempted to piece together the genealogy of this Westbrook-Mitchell family and have made much headway. Your name arose as you matched for this specific marker on your y-DNA test. We have been able to identify the parents of Charles Westbrook, grandson of the immigrant James Westbrook and the beginning of the "Mitchell line" in the Westbrook family , as Edward Mitchell and Margaret Westbrook of Prince George County VA. He was born ca 1715 and was born out of wedlock.
"Again, you carry this specific Mitchell marker on your y-DNA, as you matched several descendants of Charles Westbrook.
"We need any help you might lend our small group by any knowledge you might have regarding your family tree and how it came to be that you carry Mitchell DNA (that matches a marker of the descendants of Charles Westbrook of VA). It is likely that an adoption has taken place in your family EITHER from a Mitchell or a descendant of Charles Westbrook into the Hennington family."
So Hennington cousins we finally have a clear way into the past for research. Thanks to DNA we could have looked for a million years at just the Hennington line and never figured out what really happened. To each of our testers, especially Bryan and Paul, our deepest thanks for your help.
So where do we go from here?
We still have a handful of Hennington family issues to clear up before we can move on to the Mitchell/Westbrook family lines.
Who is Ann Howell’s Hennington husband and was Howell her maiden name or a second marriage surname?
How is Ann Howell’s Hennington husband related to Captain John Hennington and his wife Elizabeth?
Are the Alabama Hennington (Rev William, Benjamin and Abraham) truly related to the Copiah County MS Henningtons? Do we have anyone that descends off this line willing to take a $99 autosomal test at Ancestry to confirm their relationship to the Mississippi Henningtons?
When/where did our Mitchell/Westbrook ancestor become a Hennington and how/why?
We still have more analysis to do on Gayle, Bryan and Rebecca’s Mitchell/Westbrook DNA lines. This will take some time, but that will help us sort through the stack and maybe clear up the picture a bit. Thomas Goggin has provided us with one possible scenario below that is very intriguing:
"The Mitchell-Westbrook story is exceedingly complex, and I intend soon to package the evidence by a formal paper. It will always be a circumstantial case, no smoking gun, but I promise the evidence is strong.
"Here's the basics: James Westbrooke was born in 1650 at St Olave Parish, Bermondsey England. He emigrated ca 1670, the headright of James Hall in Charles City county, VA (grant approved 1674). He married once, and then again in Jan 1697/8, the latter to Elizabeth Puckett. he had 9 kids, including 6 sons. he made will July 1711 and died in October 1711.
"One of his daughters, Margaret, appears to have been the mother of a bastard child. Bastard children took the surname of their mother if not recognized by the birth father. This child, born ca 1715, became Charles Westbrook.
"By 1719/20 and definitely by 1723, Margaret married Edward Mitchell. Ed Mitchell's land was immediately adjacent to that of Margaret's brother, William Westbrook, along White Swamp in Prince George.
"Of James Westbrook's 6 sons, four have descendants (Samuel, William, James and John)..the other 2 sons died young.
"Of those 4 sons, we have tested, I believe, a descendant from each son...all link perfectly with eacj other. We have even tested an Australian Westbrook family who has a perfect paper trail back to Rotherhithe, England, which borders Bermondsey-perfect match.
"Except Charles. Three or Four Westbrooks with an immaculate paper trail back to Charles all match with the Mitchell Family. They match perfectly with two Mitchells who trace their line back to a Hinchey and Henry Mitchell (likely brothers) in GA dying 1860/63.
"Edward Mitchell was a headright of John Butler 1701. On the same day, three Mitchells brothers/cousins were headrights of Charles City County/Surry landowners. Ed Mitchell was married, had Ame and Ed Junr, wife died, lived along bayley's Creek in Prince George.
"Ed Mitchell and William Westbrook later shared a property line . . . I have the survey.
"So . . . here's the theory. A common Mitchell in England had children/grandchildren that emigrated to the colonies, and had progeny that carried the "Charles Westbrook" mutation. One of those was Ed Mitchell, who was Charles' father. One of the others theorized, headright also in 1701 was Thomas Mitchell m. Anne and Barbary, had 6 sons. Perhaps a James Mitchell (headright 1701), Peter Mitchell (property deals with Ed Mitchell)...these guys carried this mutation, and now, the Henningtons have it!
"A Hennington/Harrington family adopted a Mitchell male or had an extramarital affair with one. A Westbrook adoption in a Mitchell carrier is unlikely but not impossible to have occurred because we can prove the Westbrook "staining" with Mitchell DNA occurred/began with Charles and not before (other Westbrook sons of the immigrant did not carry the mutation).
"So its likely that either a Hennington adopted a Mitchell or a Hennington girl had an affair with a Mitchell carrier and gave birth to a male raised as a Hennington but carried the "Charles" mutation."
How can you help?
The more DNA data that we have that we can match to the paper trail, the clearer this will all be in the end. Anyone who has not tested, we can use your DNA test to narrow down the scope of our family research.
If you are a Hennington male descendant please consider taking a Y-DNA test at FTDNA. If you are a descendant of any Hennington line (male or female) then please consider taking an autosomal DNA test from either Ancestry or FTDNA. Your DNA may hold the clues to unlocking the final mysteries of the South Carolina Hennington and Mitchell/Westbrook families.
If you want to test and need some help, feel free to contact the authors of this report. Gayle is the Y-DNA Project Administrator at FTDNA and we can help you test at either Ancestry or FTDNA. Either one sells their autosomal test for $99 and your DNA raw test results will remain private and no medical data is revealed in any of this testing. If you want some more in-depth information check out Richard Hill’s page at http://www.dna-testing-adviser.com/DNAgenealogy.html
Again we would like to thank all the family members who have contributed so far and we feel that have come a long way in uncovering our family roots and branches in a very short period of time.