Digging through DNA matches forces me to expand my knowledge and widen my view of my own family tree. Investigating and documenting how a DNA match is related to me allows me to add that person and their entire family line to my family tree. Since 2017 my family tree has grown by thousands of people as I add my DNA relatives to my tree. The more I practice using the tools and techniques of DNA cousin matching, the better, and faster, I get at it. The more my tree grows, the easier it becomes to link families together. It is a win-win.
Read on as I try to work through how a DNA match is related to me.
Rebecca was born about 1800 in North Carolina, according to the 1850 Census. She was living in Lower Regiment, Chatham County in the household of Mark Riggsbee and is presumably his wife and the mother of listed children, Bennett, Nancy, Elbert, Adaline, Haseltine, and Rebecca.
This is not the first time I have seen Rebecca. I’ve known about her for some time because her daughter, Nancy, married James Marks who is part of the Stanly/Richmond County Marks line. James Marks descends from James Marks and Caty Gunter, originally from Chatham County but migrated to Stanly (then Montgomery) between 1820 and 1825.
I wrote about James and Nancy Riggsbee Marks in 2022 in a post called ‘A DNA Match’ when I discovered that I had DNA matches to this line. Now, I do not descend directly from James and Caty Gunter Marks, but I do descend from their siblings, John and Mary Gunter Marks. I also have a double Marks line with both of my great grandparents being Marks. Let’s just say I got my fair share of Marks DNA.
My Marks/Gunter lines share common ancestors Isham and Hester Pilkington Gunter, the parents of Caty Gunter and Mary Gunter and William and Temperance Wright Marks, the parents of James Marks and John Marks. That means that the children who descend from James and Caty Gunter Marks and the children who descend from John and Mary Gunter Marks inherited some DNA from their Gunter/Pilkington and Marks/Wright grandparents and their children in turn passed on some DNA to their children and so on. The further down the line you get, the less DNA from an ancestor couple is passed on. Another way to look at it is the more generations that separate you from the ancestor couple, the less likely it is for that generation to inherit the DNA from that common ancestor. I know, that is a clumsy way to explain it.
Speaking of records, we are lucky that Nancy Riggsbee Marks Johnson, in 1890, petitioned the court for her father’s estate to be settled and that resulted in 137 pages that offered quite a bit of family information. I used the estate file and Census records to put together the children and heirs at law of Mark Riggsbee and add them to my tree.
The estate file says: that the children and heirs at law (keep in mind that these are children and grandchildren) of said Mark Riggsbee deceased are the following, to wit.
Nancy J. Johnson, Elbert Riggsbee, James B. Riggsbee, Anselot Bennett, Katie Cole, wife of Isiah Cole, Adeline King, wife of Benton King who are entitled to one eighth part of the estate of the said Marks Riggsbee each and Lavinia, wife of Frank Boothe, John Stanley Riggsbee, Leonidas Riggsbee, Adolphus Riggsbee, Alice Andrews, wife of H. J. Andrews, children of Alvis Riggsbee who are entitled to one eighth part of the estate of the said deceased as (?) and Rosa, Bertie, and Lula, children of Haseltine King, deceased who are entitled to one eighth part of the estate of said deceased as (?)
While working through DNA matches at Ancestry, I found a match with whom I share 21 cM of DNA across 3 segments. Ancestry provided me with an explanation of how they estimate DNA relationships. My match and I share 21 cM (centimorgans) of DNA across 3 segments. Because Ancestry does not show the segment information, I am not able to be 100% confident that all 3 segments came from the same ancestor. However, Ancestry does tell me that the longest segment is 15 cM, so the other 2 segments must be very small.
Ancestry also provided me some relationship possibilities (see chart below), but I wanted a second opinion, so, I plugged all the cM numbers (15 cM, 21 cM, 23 cM, 28 cM) that Ancestry provided into the cM project calculator and, as you can see, the outcomes did not change much for The SharedcM Project. The highest confidence level looks to be somewhere around a 6th cousin. So, with a bit more confidence on my relationship to this DNA match, I moved forward to view the Shared Matches.
Ancestry tells me that a Shared Match is someone who appears on my list of DNA matches as well as my DNA matches list of shared matches. Shared matches can help me figure out how I am related to my match. For example, if I know how I am related to a certain shared cousin on my list, I then can narrow down my relationship to which line in my family the match relates to.
My shared matches list shows two people who have a common ancestor with me, and I have already added these two people to my family tree. One of them descends from John Marks and Mary Gunter, my 4th great grandparents, through their daughter, Susan Marks Burns. The other one descends from Markham and Rebecca Riggsbee through daughter Haseltine Riggsbee King. This makes two matches who both descend from separate lines (children) of Markham and Rebecca Riggsbee.
My shared matches are all matches that I have already investigated and believe to be related to my Marks line. I have added Marks to the notes section of each DNA match and that allows me to quickly see which family line they relate to. So, I assume, based on the evidence I have collected thus far, that my DNA match is related to my Marks line.
I usually do not look at ThruLines, but wanted to show it here simply to let others know it is a tool that can be used, and sometimes can be useful. This tool should be used with caution. As noted by Ancestry at support.ancestry.com, ThruLines is based on information gathered from Ancestry family trees and may not be reliable. Always check and confirm sources yourself.
When clicking on View ThruLines, Ancestry provides me 70 potential DNA matches through Isham Gunter that I can click through, compare, and view relationships and trees.
Now, I want to look at my DNA match's family tree. My match has listed in their tree a line that goes back to Markham and Rebecca Riggsbee through son John Alvis Riggsbee. My match has listed Rebecca’s maiden name as Marks but has no records or notes as to why they think Rebecca’s maiden name is a Marks.
That leaves it to me to investigate and find any documentation that might prove or disprove Rebecca’s maiden name is Marks.
If Rebecca is a Marks, who could she possibly belong to?
Through my previous research on the Marks family, I know that William and Temperance Wright Marks moved from Warren County, North Carolina to Chatham County, North Carolina in the late 1790’s, probably about 1797, with seven children. I determined that those children are William Jr, James, John, Susan, Ewell, and two unknowns who may be named George and Elizabeth. I also checked 1790 Census records to confirm there were no other Marks families in Chatham County prior to 1800. To my knowledge, the Marks families residing in Chatham County from 1800 through present day all reach back to William and Temperance Wright Marks through one of their seven children. This means if Rebecca is a Marks, she should descend from one of the male children of William and Temperance Wright Marks.
Who are the seven children of William and Temperance Wright Marks?
William Marks Jr married Margaret Salter, daughter of William Salter and Sarah Lloyd, from Bladen County, North Carolina. Their children are all named in the estate files of William and Margaret as Sarah, Richard, William, James, Nancy, Mary, Nicholas, Lloyd, Margaret, and Susan. No Rebecca is named.
James Marks married Catherine ‘Caty’ Gunter, daughter of Isham and Hester Pilkington Gunter. Their known children are Tabitha, Elias, Benjamin, Thomas, and Nancy. There is one unknown daughter and one unknown son per the 1800 and 1810 Census records for Chatham County.
John Marks married Mary Gunter, daughter of Isham and Hester Pilkington Gunter and their children and families are all named in the 1865 estate file of Louisa Marks, the granddaughter of John and Mary Gunter Marks. They are Seloma, William, Ewell, Mary, Willis, Susan, Lucinda, Rebecca, Zacheus. There is a Rebecca here! Research shows this Rebecca was born about 1818 and married Aleousous Brewer and died in 1850. So, this is not the same Rebecca I am looking for.
Susan Marks married Abner Gunter. While we know Rebecca cannot be a child of Susan because her last name would be Gunter and not Marks, I am listing the children anyway just to keep things on par. Children of Susan and Abner are Eliza, Martha, Temperance, Nancy, Abner, Sarah, Mary, Asa, William, Delana, Susan.
Ewell Marks, as far as I know, had no children. He had left Chatham County prior to 1820 and is thought to have moved to Marion, Arkansas. There is a Ewell Marks found there on Census records that matches the age and birth location (North Carolina) and living among a Hogan family. So, Rebecca is probably not the child of Ewell.
George Marks may have married into the Kennon family. His children are not known to me. There is a possibility that Rebecca Riggsbee could be his daughter since I do not have any info on George.
Elizabeth Marks could have had Rebecca out of wedlock and therefore, Rebecca would have taken the Marks surname. Unfortunately, I have no information on Elizabeth.
Based on what we know thus far, William, John, Susan, and Ewell are probably not Rebecca’s parent. That leaves George and Elizabeth, whom we know nothing about, and cannot find records for, and James who we know had two unknown children according to Census records. All we can do now is see what we can find on James.
James and Caty Gunter Marks probably married about 1798 or 1799. In 1800, they are shown living in Chatham County with one daughter. In 1810, they have two sons and two daughters. One of those daughters is known to me. She is Tabitha, born about 1805, the wife of William Solomon. They married about 1825 in Montgomery (now Stanly) County. One of the sons is Elias Marks, born about 1808, and the other son is unknown to me, but I have some guesses on who he might be. I'll save that for another blog.
In the 1820 Census, I found something that blew me away and left me with very little doubt that Rebecca is a Marks. Living next door to James Marks is James Riggsbee, the brother of Markham Riggsbee. Just a few doors away is Luke Riggsbee, the father of Markham and James.
The female shown in the 1800 and 1810 Census, as born about 1800, is no longer in the home of James and Caty Gunter Marks because she has married about that same year to Markham Riggsbee. I am not able to find Markham Riggsbee in the 1820 Census, but there is a male and female living in the household of Luke Riggsbee who match their ages and that just might be them.
Rebecca’s first child, John Alvis Riggsbee, (whom my DNA match descends from) was born 25 May 1821, about a year after Markham and Rebecca married.
Adding my DNA match to my family tree works out our relationship to be 6th cousins, just as the DNA predicted it to be.