Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Things to watch out for with DNA testing

In January of 2009, I was contacted by a fellow Godwin researcher I met at the NC State Archives. She wanted to know how to get involved in the Godwin Family DNA testing; she had found a male Godwin descendant who was willing to participate.

I was very excited and sent her off all of the testing details and told everyone that another piece to the puzzle was about to be solved. Her family actually contained a very important piece to the puzzle: she was descended from Nathan Godwin of Sampson County, North Carolina who died in 1821. Her Nathan Godwin is often mistaken for my own Nathan Godwin, born about 1774, who left Sampson County and moved to Randolph County, North Carolina about 1800.

Many researchers believe that her Nathan Godwin was the son of Jonathan and Rachel (Bullard) Godwin – however, I disagree. I have already started posting information about Jonathan Godwin – his estate file here and a deed between him and Abigail Lee here – in an effort to illustrate a strong relationship between Jonathan Godwin and my own Nathan Godwin.

DNA analysis would help us to determine which of the two Nathan Godwins was the real son of Jonathan and Rachel Godwin. First we would need to find a proven descendant of Jonathan and Rachel who has a paper trail, to compare our DNA to.  Then we would need two additional samples – one from my colleague’s line and one from my own line. My family’s DNA has already been submitted and has matched up with 8 other NC Godwin lines. How exactly they are related is yet to be determined. I got my colleague to agree to submit her family’s DNA.

But then I remembered something:  Although my colleagues’ ancestor was a male with the surname of “Godwin,” he was actually the son of Nathan Godwin’s daughter, Tressie Godwin. Tressie Godwin was cited in court for a total of 4 children she had out of wedlock, one of which was my colleague’s ancestor. So in a nutshell, we are not really sure who her ancestor’s father was. One of the men listed in Tressie Godwin’s court documents was a Godwin and one was a Draughton.

When finding family members to participate in DNA studies you must make sure that they are a true descendant of that surname. In this case, meaning their father must have been a Godwin. It is not enough that my colleague’s ancestor, Handy was a Godwin. He had been given his mother’s surname.  We don’t know who his father was. Of course, if my colleague were interested in finding out who Handy’s father was, she could go ahead and get the DNA submitted and compare it against possible surnames (perhaps against the two other men mentioned in the court cases).

So now I need to locate another heir of the older Nathan Godwin’s line to compare my family’s DNA against in order to prove or disprove relation to him and/or to Jonathan and Rachel Bullard Godwin. In addition, we need to find a descendant of Jonathan Godwin and Rachel Bullard to compare to in order to determine if Nathan was a son of Jonathan and Rachel Bullard Godwin.

Any takers?

Related Posts:


  1. Ginger,

    An interesting story and quest.

    Even if you find another Godwin male with a paper trail to test, if your line matches that line it means that you have a common Godswin ancestor, not necessarily Jonathan Godwin. It could be several generations before Jonathan. What it would show is a common Godwin ancestor and proof that both lines don't have non-paternal events.

    Cheers -- Randy

  2. Hi Randy,

    Yes, you are exactly correct! Which is what we are running into. Right now we have a group of 10 confirmed 100% matches on 37 markers on the Godwin surname, all from North Carolina with NO PAPER TRAIL at all whatsoever.

    And then we have a 2nd group of Godwins who do not match us at all, but who claim also to be descended from Jonathan Godwin! When I asked for a paper trail, they clammed up and stopped talking to me :((

  3. Ginger,
    Imagine my dismay when our recent 67-marker DNA test matched 66 out of 67, two people who descend from James Godwin. That is not the surname we were looking for!

    1. Hi Carol,

      Yes, I've been meaning to email you about your results. Would love to discuss this with you further. Don't worry. That group of Godwins has an excellent set of researchers working together. You are in good hands. We will figure out what happened sure enough.