I find it particularly important to trace our female ancestors. Anyone who has done genealogical research knows how hard that can be. Many times a marriage record or other record simply don’t exist that might tell us who her parents are. But these women were our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and they deserve our attention.
DNA is fascinating and sheds light on some families we can’t trace through records. It is sometimes the only way to trace female lines where maiden names are unknown.
In early 2021, I began a research project to find the maiden name of my Eve Hendrickson. There is a special kind of DNA test called an mtDNA test, that traces the female line, mother-to-daughter. (You take these test at FamilyTreeDNA, not Ancestry.)
Here’s the interesting thing about mtDNA: mothers actually pass it to both sons and daughters. But sons never pass it to their kids, only daughters pass it to their kids. So one of these mtDNA kits is actually for a man: the final son of a long mother-to-daughter chain of mtDNA from his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
The mtDNA Test Results
When a female line descendant of Eve Hendrickson took the test, these five direct matches showed up:
- A match to Eve Hendrickson through her daughter Mary and her daughter Naomi Hendricks. Mary was born around 1749. The Hendrickson family was in Fayette, PA from 1770-1787. Yes, it appears that Mary Hendrickson had two illegitimate daughters, surname Hendricks/Hendrickson in records, or Mary Hendrickson married a man named Hendricks.
- A match to Eve Hendrickson through her daughter Lydia Hendrickson and her granddaughter Kezziah Case. Lydia was born around 1755.
- A match to Eve Hendrickson through her daughter, Elizabeth, who marries John Galloway and her daughter Margaret Galloway. Elizabeth was born about 1762.
- A match that went back to Elizabeth Pratt who married Joseph Grim, both from Greene County, PA. Originally, I didn’t know who her mother was. Trees said “Sarah McClelland” but with no proof. Elizabeth was born around 1801-1805.
- A match that went back to Catherine Bunfill Boon, daughter of Thomas Burnfield/Bunfill and an unknown wife. His wife’s name was unknown; trees said “Nancy Adams” but with no records or proof. Both from Greene County, PA. This wife was born around 1785.
Between the mtDNA matching and all these southwestern Pennsylvania references, I was intrigued! I had to figure it out.
Note: there are other mtDNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA, but they’re not exact matches, and their female line doesn’t end in southwestern PA. It’s interesting to note that a good number of test-takers are born in and their families have always lived in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Perhaps that’s a clue to the ancient female line for these mtDNA women?
Building the Family Trees for All Five mtDNA Kits
The Hendrickson Family:
It was easy to build trees for the three Hendrickson matches, as that’s my family line and I had been researching them for 19 years. Eve Hendrickson has three daughters who follow a mtDNA kit:
- Mary Hendrickson seems to have 2 illegitimate daughters, one of which is our mtDNA line, Naomi Hendricks Galloway.
- Lydia Hendrickson marries Separate Case and has a daughter, Kezziah Case Skimmerhorn. (Separate Case is the administrator for his father-in-law, John Hendrickson, on his estate records.)
- Elizabeth Hendrickson marries first James Samples and next John Galloway. Elizabeth has a daughter, Margaret Galloway Garr.
The Pratt Family:
Elizabeth Pratt Grim has a daughter, Margaret Grim Menges, and that’s the mtDNA line.
Elizabeth Pratt Grim is living with John Pratt Sr in 1850, in Monroe County, Ohio. Tempting as it might be to assume he’s her father, there’s no proof. I’m not 100% sure if he’s her father or her grandfather, and there is no documentation that her maiden name is Pratt. DNA shows she’s from the Pratt family, but doesn’t indicate where she fits into the tree.Tracing John Pratt Sr took some work, but he’s in the Revolutionary War from Pittsburgh starting in 1779, then living in Greene County, PA starting around 1785 just after the war ends. He moves to Monroe, OH with his sons around 1832, as does Elizabeth Pratt Grim.
There is another Elizabeth Pratt born in 1787, just 3 years earlier than Elizabeth Pratt Grim, and this Elizabeth marries Henry Mann in Greene, PA. She isalsoa DNA match for this Pratt family and descendants of Elizabeth Pratt Grim have DNA matches to Elizabeth Pratt Mann. Clearly John Pratt Sr doesn’t have two daughters named Elizabeth, but DNA shows us that these two Elizabeths are definitely related. For this discussion, I’ll focus on Elizabeth PrattGrim, as she’s the one with the mtDNA test.
The Burnfield/Bunfill Family:
The mtDNA line for this family goes from Catherine Bunfill Boon through her daughter, Susanna Boon Hoagland.
Catherine Bunfill Boon was an unknown. But we discovered her brother, Jacob Bunfill, dies in Adams, IL around 1846. His estate records name his siblings, including Catherine by her married name. Her census records say she’s born in PA, and she marries a man from Greene, PA. Her sister Susannah Bunfill (who never marries) has an obituary and says she, her mother, and her Bunfill siblings move from Greene, PA to Adams, IL around 1841. Going backwards from this information, we find that Catherine, Susannah and Jacob are the children of Thomas Burnfield/Bunfill and an unknown wife. Subsequent DNA research matches Catherine and her descendants to the Burnfield family of Greene, PA, her siblings and her aunts and uncles.
To find Catherine’s mother, I turned next to Catherine’s father, Thomas Burnfield was the son of John Burnfield Sr and was named in John’s will in 1835 in Greene County, PA. Thomas’ sister, Mary Ann Burnfield is also named in John Burnfield’s will as “Mary Adams.” She is the wife of Isaac Adams whose father is black or biracial. These black DNA genes are passed down to nearly all of Thomas Burnfield and Mary Ann Burnfield Adams’ children. Isaac Adams is the son of Jacob and Mary Adams of Greene, PA. Could Thomas Burnfield have married an Adams daughter?
Thomas uses “Burnfield” in his 1810 census, then changes it to “Bunfill” in 1820 and 1830. Thomas dies after 1830, in Greene County, PA. Thomas Burnfield marries a black or biracial woman, because in 1830, he is noted as white and his wife and children are noted as black. His sister Mary Ann Burnfield Adams stays in Greene, PA and is noted as white on census records; her children are noted as black.
A very large percentage of the descendants of Thomas Burnfield/Bunfill have 1%-4% black DNA. There are a number of free people of color in Greene, PA at the time Thomas is having children and many interracial marriages. Which family did he marry into? See Finding Thomas Burnfield’s Wife below.
His wife and some of his children move to Adams County, Illinois by 1841, per records and their daughter Susannah’s biography. Once they’re in Adams, IL, they’re all noted as white on census records. This is common for this Adams family: once they move away from Greene, PA, most descendants are noted on census records as white. Ones that stay in Greene, PA are noted as black or mulatto.
Filling In the Gaps with DNA Matching
Now we know the families and where they’re located, this is where DNA fills in gaps.
- I have access to about 12 Hendrickson DNA tests on Ancestry.com.
- I have access to a kit from a descendant of Elizabeth Pratt Grim on Ancestry.com.
- I have access to several other Pratt kits where the Pratt family lineage is unknown, but they’re living in Greene, PA and Fayette, PA next door. It’s hard to know if these Pratts are related to each other or not, but DNA will prove it out. (This is always a problem with common names like Pratt and Adams, right?)
- I have access to two kits from descendants of Jacob and Mary Adams of Greene, PA
Through cross-referencing all the above kits, I can compared shared matches to determine who is connected to whom.
Finding Thomas Burnfield’s Wife
Before I could go any further, the very first task was to figure out who the wife of Thomas Burnfield was. I knew who his children were because of the Jacob Bunfill estate records, but who was their mother? Through DNA cross matching and looking for shared family matching, I can see a huge amount of Adams DNA. One Burnfield/Bunfill test-taker has over 50 confirmed Adams matches.
Jacob Adams Sr was black or biracial, his wife was white or biracial. Note that Jacob Adams is a “free person of color.” He has census and land records and is not a slave. Jacob’s 1790 census records lists everyone in the household as black, but his son Jacob Jr is listed as mulatto in 1850, not black, and if Catherine Adams Wilson is their daughter, she is also listed as mulatto in 1850 (a few pages later, the same census taker notes a family as black, so he was making a distinction between the two).
Most of Thomas Burnfield’s descendants have 1% to 4% black DNA; this is also true for most of Jacob and Mary Adams’ descendants. This means that either one parent was full black 6 generations back from the test-taker, or each parent was half-black, half-white. DNA is not exact: some descendants have zero black DNA, while descendants who married cousins can have more black DNA. However, the mtDNA line is white, so Mary, or her mother, has to be full white. Pratt, Hendrickson and Devall descendants are almost all white.
Thomas’ sister, Mary Ann Burnfield, marries Isaac Adams, son of Jacob and Mary Adams. She stays in Greene, PA and she is noted on census records as white while her kids are noted as black or mulatto. So two Burnfield siblings married two Adams siblings. But the mtDNA test-taker has matches to all the children of Jacob and Mary Adams, not just through Thomas Burnfield’s sister’s line.
Also, the opposite is true: known Adams-only DNA kits also have strong matches to this Thomas Burnfield family line. This can only happen if Thomas Burnfield marries an Adams.
There are no paper trails to say if her name was “Nancy” but all DNA points to her being an Adams. Her children marry white people so the only way to get that 1%-4% black DNA is through a family member like Jacob Adams Sr. That means Mary Adams, wife of Jacob Adams, is in the mtDNA line as the mother of Nancy Adams.
Finding John Pratt Sr’ Wife
The next task was to find the wife of John Pratt Sr. John has a son John Pratt Jr, so it’s easy to mix up their records. But the mother of Elizabeth Pratt Grim would be the next generation in the mtDNA line, so if I could learn more about John Pratt Sr, perhaps I could find his wife.
In the 1797 will of Daniel Devall Sr in Greene, PA, he names a daughter: Sarah Pratt. Is Sarah Devall Pratt the wife of John Sr — or John Jr? It’s incredibly difficult to know for sure. Sarah and John are not living in the same location when John Jr is born during the Revolutionary War, but she could have been staying with her parents while he was fighting in the Revolutionary War from the Pittsburgh area. There is a Jeremiah Pratt in Loudoun, VA in 1765 (my John Hendrickson is there the same year), and Jeremiah appears to be the father of John Pratt Sr. The Devall family is living in southern PA at the time, so it’s possible that John Pratt could have met Sarah Devall before the Revolutionary War.
DNA should tell us if Sarah Devall Pratt is the mtDNA line. It would be a rare coincidence if the Adams, Burnfield/Bunfill, Hendrickson descendants ALL had Devall DNA matches unless Sarah Devall Pratt was the mtDNA line.
And they do all have matches to the Devall family. Now my curiosity was raised! All four of these families have DNA matches to each other.
A Note about Sarah Devall Pratt
We know Sarah Devall, daughter of Daniel and Catherine Devall, marries a Pratt. She’s named in her father’s 1797 will as Sarah Pratt. That means she’s married by 1797 and any Pratt child born after 1797 could be hers.
That includes both Elizabeth Pratt women: Elizabeth Pratt Grim and Elizabeth Pratt Mann.
Elizabeth Pratt Grim’s children have DNA matches to Elizabeth Pratt Mann’s children and vice versa.
But DNA points to the mtDNA matches having a Devall relationship, so it’s likely she’s the mother of Elizabeth Pratt Grim.
So, What to do with This Information?
It was time to see if any of these families had shared DNA matches with each other. Long story short, they did!
I’m well aware that families in a region often intermarry. What appears like a DNA match might actually be a “by marriage” match not a direct “by blood” match. So careful analysis is needed to weed them out, and find the consistent, repeated patterns of shared matches. If they don’t match each other, they’re not likely “by blood” matches.
- The Adams kits have strong matches to the Devall/Devolld family, and also matches to Pratt and Hendrickson.
- The Hendrickson kits have matches to the Adams, Deall/Devolld and Pratt families.
- The Burnfield/Bunfils (I’m assuming maiden name is Adams) have matches to Hendrickson, Pratt, and Devall/Devolld.
- The Pratt kits from Elizabeth Pratt Grim have matches to Adams, Hendrickson and Devall/Devolld. The other Pratt kits are inconclusive, though they “should” have matches, as Andrew Jackson Pratt (great-grandson of John Pratt Sr) is living with Henry Wilson (grandson of Jacob and Mary Adams) in 1860 Greene, PA. Andrew’s brother, Henry, is living nearby in Greene — even though their father moved to Monroe Ohio and then to West Virginia. Somethign drew Andrew and Henry Pratt back to Greene, PA. Their grandfather, Jeremiah Pratt (son of John Pratt Sr) is white, but he’s on the black census record for 1820, so he likely marries a black or biracial woman at some point, perhaps an Adams woman.
Do the Records Confirm Any of the DNA Matches?
At this point, through DNA, I think these are the mtDNA line for Elizabeth Pratt Grim and Catherine Bunfill Boone:
- Catherine Bunfill Boone’s mother is Nancy Adams Burnfield. That means Nancy’s mother is Mary Adams (wife of Jacob Sr).
- Elizabeth Pratt Grim’s mother is Sarah Devall Pratt. That means Sarah’s mother is Catherine Devall (wife of Daniel Devall Sr.)
- Because their births are about 8 years apart, I think Mary Adams and Catherine Devall might be sisters.
Let’s see if that makes sense with the records we know about. There are no bible or birth or death records that confirm this 100%, but there are some very interesting records that show connections among these families:
- Daniel Devall and Jacob Adams live near each other in Ayr, Bedford, PA before the Revolutionary war in 1775 (this is now Air, Fulton, PA today). This is insouth-central PA, near Hagerstown, Washington, MD.
- Daniel Devall and Jacob Adams live near each other in Greene, PA. Daniel is there by 1787 and Jacob arrives after 1790.
- Daniel Devall and Jacob Adams are both having kids in Maryland around 1760 – 1775, likely northwest Maryland, in the Frederick or Washington, MD area near Hagerstown. This area is just across the border from Air, Fulton, PA. Jacob Adams lives in Washington County MD in 1790 and Daniel Devall is living in Air, Fulton, PA in 1782.
- Charles Wilson supposedly marries Catherine Adams, daughter of Jacob and Mary Adams. DNA seems to support that Catherine was an Adams. These Wilson’s are connected to both the Adams family and the Pratt family. And the Pratt families are connected to the Burnfield families.
- Eleanor Wilson marries Dennis Jones in 1786, Franklin County, PA. Barbara Pratt later testifies that she attended this wedding. Franklin County, PA is next door to Fulton County, PA and is just across the border from Hagerstown, Washinton, MD.
- In Eleanor Wilson Jones’ Revolutionary War application from Greene, PA, Barbara Pratt (who is living in Greene, PA with Stephen Burnfield in 1850) says she knew Eleanor Wilson Jones “a considerable time” before the wedding, so they are likely related in some way, perhaps sisters or cousins. Charles Wilson says he knew Eleanor since childhood in Washington County, MD (northwest Maryland, Hagerstown is the county seat). Jacob Adams Jr, son of Jacob and Mary Adams, testifies that he knew Eleanor Wilson and Dennis Jones.
- Barbara Wilson and David Wilson witnessed the will of Daniel Devall Sr in 1797 in Greene, PA. (I can’t tell if Barbara Wilson and David Wilson are spouses or siblings of each other. I’m also not sure if Barbara PRATT is the same as Barbara Wilson, though it seems likely, given her testimony for Eleanor Wilson Jones.)
- Daniel Wilson is renting property owned by Daniel Devall Sr in Franklin, Greene, PA. This property is adjoining Leonard Devall, Daniel Devall’s son.
- Catherine “Caty” Devall, daughter of Daniel and Catherine Devall, marries Daniel Wilson in 1797, possibly a brother to David Wilson, who witnesses the will of Daniel Devall Sr in 1797.
- John Pratt Sr lived next door to Daniel Devall in Greene, PA, and rents property from Jacob Adams.
You begin to see how these Adams, Devall and Pratt families clearly knew each other.
What About Eve?
Eve Hendrickson is the anomaly. She and John Hendrickson are living in Loudoun County, VA from 1760-1770, then they move to Fayette County, PA, next door to Greene, PA. So, they’re already in southwestern PA when Jacob Adams and Daniel Devall are still living further east, near the central PA/MD border. Jeremiah Pratt is living in Loudoun, VA when John Hendrickson is living there in 1765. Jeremiah is likely the father of John Pratt Sr.
I don’t know where the Hendricksons are before 1760, but likely in the northern VA area or perhaps western MD or southern PA. Many people who settled in Loudoun, VA came from PA and MD per history books. One history book specifically says that the Lovettsville area of Loudoun, VA had close ties with Frederick, Maryland.
My Hendricksons have unique YDNA (passed father-to-son) and don’t match any of the colonial Hendrickson or Hendricks families. It’s likely that John Hendrickson was an original immigrant.
Eve seems to be a full generation older than Mary and Catherine. My best guess is that she is their aunt. Remember, this is the mtDNA line, passed mother-to-daughter, so Eve Hendrickson has to be related to Catherine Devall and Mary Adams along the female line. She is not their mother as they don’t have enough Hendrickson DNA for that, and Eve already has a known daughter named Mary Hendrickson who is one of the mtDNA lines. (And Mary Hendrickson can’t be Mary Adams: they’re not in the same place at the same time. One is in Kentucky while the other is in PA.)
What Does This mtDNA Line Look Like in a Tree?
Right now, here is my best guess for how this female line looks line tree. It’s absolutely a work in progress and can change as more DNA evidence comes in or more records:
I started to mark them with different DNA images, one for the mtDNA lines, and different ones for each DNA kit, so I could see how they cross-match. You can see it here. It’s a work in progress and I need to update all the DNA images on people’s trees:
My next task is to find Mary and Catherine’s parents, and it’s all down to DNA work now. But at least I know the region to look in!
If I can find common families in southern Pennsylvania or northern Maryland that have DNA matches to both Mary and Catherine, then we will have solved this mystery! If I don’t find common families, it’s back to the drawing board. I have theories, but need to prove them out with evidence.
My mtDNA Wish List
- I wish I had an mtDNA kit from another daughter/female line of Jacob and Mary Adams, just to confirm the mtDNA. The only other daughter I know of is Catherine Adams Wilson. If there was a Wilson mother-to-daughter line person who took an mtDNA test, that would prove this entire sequence.
- I would also love to find a female-line descendant of Elizabeth Pratt MANN and get an mtDNA test for her — why is she a DNA match to these other Pratts and who is her mother? Is she the daughter of John Pratt Sr or John Pratt Jr?
- I’m not sure if Daniel and Catherine Devall had any surviving daughters other than Sarah Devall Pratt. He does mention “daughters” in his will, so likely there is more than one daughter. There are 2 missing daughters in his census records, and one might be Catherine “Caty” Devall who marries Daniel Wilson — but I don’t know what happens to that couple and if they have any daughters. He’s also missing another daughter born before 1790.
I would love to connect
If you are from any of these line and have a DNA test on Ancestry, I’d love to connect!
And if you are a female line from one of these mtDNA families, I’d be happy to pay for a mtDNA test on FamilyTreeDNA so we have more data to work with!
Here’s what’s interesting: all three of these women die around the same time: Eve Hendrickson dies after 1802 in Mercer, KY, Mary Adams dies after 1802 in Greene, PA, and Catherine Devall dies after 1800 in Greene, PA. I’m hoping they met up in Heaven.
A Word of Thanks
I couldn’t have done this research alone. It takes an entire tribe to contribute their bit to the whole.
- First, a big Thank You to everyone who gave me access to their DNA reports on Ancestry, and brainstormed with me about probabilities and possibilities. Without you, I couldn’t do this research.
- Thanks to Zack and Dann who got me started on this mtDNA search. Their understanding of DNA, and Dann’s understanding of the Hendrickson family (and detailed genealogy research in general) has been an amazing learning experience!
- Thank You to Bonnie, who scoured the digital records on FamilySearch, page by page, looking for elusive clues. You didn’t let the lack of an index stop you! Your diligence and generosity are appreciated.
- Thank You to Jan Slater who did such incredible research on the Adams family. Your knowledge of the Free People of Color in the area, and the in-person records search you did at the Greene County courthouse has shown connections to people.