Tag Archives: Compton

New York Family History Conference–Day 2: DNA recap

I have to be honest. I was on the fence about coming to the New York State Family History Conference. My own family history doesn’t have much in the way of New York, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money. Genealogy can be an expensive hobby at times with all the subscription sites, society memberships, record copy and microfilm orders, and DNA tests. There’s only so much in the way of vacation time I can take from the job that pays for all this as well, so I kind of have to prioritize where to spend the money and time.

But this conference had a full day of seminars scheduled on genetic genealogy. That’s something that I’ve been interested in since I first started hearing about it several years ago, and a full day of learning from the best was tugging at my heartstrings. So I decided to go for it. As I posted earlier, definitely no regrets with the non-genetic genealogy sessions, and genetic sessions were just as inspiring for me.

Five sessions, all about using DNA as a tool for genealogy, presented by Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., JD, and Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL. Blaine is arguably the leading expert in genetic genealogy—he is The Genetic Genealogist, after all. And I’ll admit that he was a key factor that drew me to this conference. DNA was the lure, but Blaine got me hook, line and sinker! If you’re going to learn something, learn from the best.

Blaine did three sessions: an general introduction to using DNA in genealogy, a session devoted to mitochondrial DNA and y-chromosome DNA testing and their applications in genealogy, and one devoted to autosomal DNA tests.

Judy did two sessions: one about the ethics of DNA testing, and the final course showing how DNA results are used in genealogical research.

I’m not even going to pretend to be able to summarize the vast amount of information they presented, let alone act like I fully understood it all. I came into it with a  basic understanding of DNA, what it is, how it works. And I think I can say that I didn’t learn anything new about DNA itself, but then this wasn’t a science class. That wasn’t the point of these sessions.

The point is that DNA is no longer a curiosity or the latest trend in genealogy. DNA tests are an important tool in tracing family history, and the results are vital evidence. More and more, genealogical publications and associations are saying that DNA evidence is almost required as part of a solid proof argument, and a reasonably exhaustive search must include a DNA test.

And many times, one DNA match is not enough. I asked both Blaine, as a DNA expert, and Judy, as a board-certified genealogist, about the brick wall with my great-great-great grandmother, Mary Compton. Both said that the one mtDNA result is good evidence, but not enough to support the claim that Mary Compton is the daughter of Elias Compton and Sarah Long. They both suggested testing more people: Blaine recommended trying to find a descendant of Sarah Long’s mother and grandmother (through separate lines) to compare mtDNA with, and Judy recommended doing autosomal DNA tests for more of my cousins, aunts and uncles descended from Mary and comparing results with descendants of Elias Compton through his other children. Matching results would be a much clearer indication that I’m on the right track.

As a result of all this, I urgently made my way to the Family Tree DNA booth in the exhibit hall, and did a new mtDNA test on myself. My original test was with AncestryDNA, which doesn’t support it anymore. Also, the technology has advanced so much in the last six years that it was worth doing it over.

I’m also creating a list of family members I need to make sure to test. Judy really emphasized the need to preserve your DNA while you can, so older family members are in my target. My maternal grandparents both died before genetic genealogy was a thing, and I didn’t think to get my paternal grandparents tested before they passed away. But I have several aunts and uncles on both sides, as well as a couple siblings of some grandparents. Surely there are second and third cousins as well. I’ve met a few recently, so I know they’re out there.

Now I just have to add a DNA test line to my budget!


And The Winner Is….


The DNA results came back surprisingly fast, and they were a perfect match to mine. So, I know have several more generations to add to my family tree. My brick wall suddenly goes back to the late 1500s!

Who’s your Daddy, Mary?

mary-compton-cropped2I recently tracked down a living descendant of Elias Compton, the best candidate for father of Mary Compton, my 3rd-great-grandmother. (Read about her here and here.) My potentially newfound cousin is a descendant through Elias’ daughter, Elizabeth, and is descended through a line of daughters. I am descended from Mary Compton through a line of daughters also, which means we may have matching mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). She agreed to be tested, so I ordered a DNA test kit and am having it sent to her. If her results match mine, that would be a good indication that Mary Compton is Elias Compton’s daughter.

I have been searching for YEARS trying to find some sort of written documentation of Mary Compton’s parents. Her marriage record lists a David Compton, but doesn’t indicate what relation he is, if any. Circumstantial evidence suggests that she is Elias’ daughter, though. For example:

  • Elias Compton (and family) were among the very first settlers in Polk County, Iowa, settling there in 1845, specifically in Keokuk Prairie. Mary Compton was married at Keokuk Prairie in 1846 (at the home of David Compton), and later census records say that she had been living in Iowa since 1845.
  • No other Comptons are listed in the 1846 Iowa state census, other than Elias and his sons.
  • Elias Compton’s family moved to Iowa from Indiana, which is where Mary was born.
  • The 1880 US census says that Mary’s parents were born in New York and Ohio. Elias was born in New Jersey, and his wife, Sarah, was born in Pennsylvania–not exactly correct, but close which works for me considering that some of their other documented children got their birthplaces wrong in the same census!

So, hopefully I’ll have some good and definite news in a month or two. The nice thing is that this will push my family tree back SEVERAL generations. My newly-found cousins have the Compton family tree extending back to England in the late 1500’s.