Sarah Bolton was my 3x great grandmother and one of my immigrant ancestors, coming to Canada from Ireland in the 1840s. She was the wife of my 3x great grandfather, Joseph Davis, and the mother of my 2x great grandfather, Joseph Henry Davis. She's also a "brick wall", meaning that no one knows the identity of her parents.
The earliest known record we have of Sarah is the 1851 census of Elizabethtown, Leeds County, Canada West (Ontario), which lists Joseph Davis, 32, and Sarah Davis, 21, both born in Ireland, belonging to the Church of England. They have two children, George, 3, and Sarah Jane, 1, and also a ward, Dorathy Kate Boulton, 7. This census was actually recorded in 1852, so when determining birth dates, I'll work from that reference.
Joseph and Sarah were possibly married in Canada in 1848, when Sarah was 17 and Joseph was 28, assuming that their son, George, was born 9 to 18 months after their marriage. I suggest that the marriage took place in Canada because Joseph Davis appears on voter lists in Ireland until February, 1847, which suggests that he sold his lease shortly afterwards and immigrated to Canada with his mother and siblings.
We know Sarah's maiden name because many years later, George married Eliza Boyle and recorded his parent's name as Joseph Davis and Sarah Bolton. A daughter also listed her parents on her marriage record as Joseph and Sarah Bolton Davis, confirming Sarah's maiden name.
So who were Sarah Bolton's people?
The first clue had to be Dorathy Kate Boulton. Who was this 7 year old girl with the same surname, also born in Ireland, living with them in 1852? Was she a niece? A sister? Some random stranger?
Kate did not live with Joseph and Sarah in 1861, instead living with the nearby Arnold family, presumably as a servant. However, in 1871, she appears back with her parents, William and Dorothy Bolton, along with an older sister and brother, Ann Eliza and William J, as well as many younger siblings. Kate later married, became a widow, and then lived with her sister for several years.
Her death record, which identifies her parents as William Bolton and Dorothy Davis. Her birth date is provided as April 15, 1844. Other records confirm Kate's parents as William J Bolton and Dorothy Davis, which suggest another relationship between the Bolton and the Davis families. This relationship is supported by the 1851 census, which shows Anne Eliza and William living with Joseph's mother, Catherine.
Kate's father, William J Bolton died in 1881. His death record was reported by George Davis, Sarah's son, my 3x great uncle. According to this record, William was 73 when he died, putting his birth date in 1808. According to the 1881 census, William and Dorothy Davis were married in 1840. An index to Dublin marriage licenses appears to confirm that.
The Representative Church Body (RCB) Library holds records of from the Ardamine Parish of the Church of Ireland. In that library, Those records show that Anne Eliza was born to William and Dorathea Bolton on December 6th, 1842 and that William was a shopkeeper in Killena (Killenagh), which is 3 km from Garrynew where Joseph Davis lived.
Several earlier records show the birth of children to a William Bolton, shopkeeper from Killena, and his wife, Deborah, including a record of a Sarah on December 1, 1841. Could this be my 3x great-grandmother? She is the right age and would have lived only 3 km from Joseph Davis. It would explain why she and Joseph took in Kate and why her son, George, is the one who reported the death of William Bolton.
On the other hand, the couple may have taken in Kate because she was Joseph's niece and George may have reported the death of his aunt's husband and Sarah was the daughter of some other Bolton family who lived nearby. While there are no other records of a Sarah Bolton in Canada, while there are several records of her full siblings in Canada West, it is possible that the Sarah of the birth record died.
So while the case for Sarah being the daughter of William Bolton and Deborah Redmond is good, there is no direct evidence. However, the evidence is strong enough for me to run with it until something comes along to contradict it.
Last year I was contacted by an Hungarian gentleman who noted that his uncle and my mother shared a small amount of autosomal DNA. His uncle, András Debreczeny, was from Turkeve, Hungary. My great-grandfather. Lorincz Debreczeni, was born in Karcag, only 35 km northeast. Could they share a Debreceni ancestor?
To answer that question, I turned to my cousin, Neil Debreceni, who has a Y-chromosome that is almost identical to the Y-chromosome of our great-grandfather, Lorincz. If that Y-chromosome matched András' Y-chromosome then we would know that they shared a paternal ancestor.
So Neil agreed to swab the inside of his cheeks for DNA-laden cells and then he mailed that sample to Family Tree DNA for autosomal and Y-DNA testing. After several months, the results appeared on their website and I eagerly logged in to look for a match between Neil and András. I found nothing. Zip. Nada.
Neil is an autosomal match to my mother, me, my uncle Ben, and every other identified Hungarian cousin. He is certainly a Debreceni. However, he does not share a paternal ancestor with András. One of these Debrecenis is not like the others.
There it sat for a few months until Neil and I had breakfast with several family members and I discussed the disappointing results with him. The next day, he sent me a very interesting message. He had discussed the results with his Uncle Joe Debreceni and heard a fascinating story.
After brunch Saturday, I went out to Cranbrook to see Joe and Jean-ann. I told them about what you found out in the DNA results, and they didn't seem surprised. It seems they have some family folklore that the rest of the family isn't aware of. The story they told me was told to them by Uncle Peter, and later confirmed by Uncle Paul.
The mayor of a town of Karcag had business in Debrecen. On his way home, he found a small boy abandoned by the side of the road. He tried to find out who the boy was to return him to his family, but no one could give him any information. He finally gave up, and decided to take the boy home with him and raise him as part of his family. He gave the boy the last name of Debreceni ('from Debrecen').
That boy later had 2 sons. One son's family stayed in Hungary, and the other son's 3 sons immigrated to Canada. In other words, our great-great-great-grandfather was a foundling, who was given the Debreceni name. The only Debrecenis you'd find in Hungary related to us would be the ones that are descendants from the son whose family stayed there.
My Mom and I have a few Finnish relatives or at least we share segments of identical DNA with them. Although when I say a few, I really mean A LOT! Perhaps as many as a hundred, who have mostly tested on Family Tree DNA. Additionally, the new Ancestry ethnicity results, it shows my mother 95% Eastern European, which now rolls in all those little percentages such as Mongolian and Turkish, and 5% Estonian. It's interesting that the Estonian, which are a Finno-Ugric speaking people, still stands out.
Now, I have zero doubt that all my Mom's grandparents were born in Hungary and I'm very certain that there has been no misattributed parentage in the last few generations of my Mom's family tree... so why is she genetically related to all these Finns, Swedes, and Estonians?
These four autosomal segments are almost certainly identical by state, which means that many people in a population share them. Three of four of my mother's grandparents come from a small cluster of villages in northeast Hungary, where their families may have lived for centuries, likely with considerable intermarriage among the same group of families for generations, resulting with most people in the population sharing some common DNA segments. If a similar phenomenon occurred in some small villages in Finland, the common Finnish-Hungarian ancestor for these segments may have lived many centuries ago.
Meanwhile, on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) front, as expected I have eastern Europeans as my closest matches but the Swedes and Finn are close too. On the map below, we can see the distribution of my mtDNA matches. The Swedes can actually trace back ancestry to the 18th or even 17th century while the Eastern European matches appear to be limited to 19th or 20th century ancestry, meaning there could have been a lot of movement in the preceding centuries.
Since mtDNA is inherited only from mothers, this connection goes straight down my female line to Tiszabezdéd, in that small cluster of villages in northeast Hungary. The connection I have with these northern Europeans is certainly several centuries old, perhaps well over a 1000 years old.
If the Finnish connection on mtDNA and autosomal DNA lines have the same source, and both point to common ancestors who lived long ago, could this connection go right back to the nomadic Finno-Ugric speaking Magyar that settled the Carpathian basin in 895 AD? Or perhaps the Swedes settled more recently in these area or some Slavic woman was "relocated" to Sweden?
A connection here is undeniable but the nature of that connection may remain a mystery for a while.
In 1722 at Haddonfield, Camden County, New Jersey, Samuel Nicholson and Sarah Burrough stood before a Quaker meeting and signified their intention to marry. After the clearness rituals and conversations, the couple did marry later that year and went on to have several children together, including Samuel Nicholson Jr, who was born in Haddonfield about 1730 and allegedly migrated to North Carolina.
I've had this Quaker couple in my wife's Nicholson family tree now for almost 3 years. However, the paper trail to them has been non-existent and I've been relying on online family trees buoyed up by a few distant DNA matches. Building a proper proof here has been on my to-do list for a long time. This is not that proof but it's a step in that direction.
To the best of my knowledge, our Nicholson line runs as follows:
However, after Lazarus the trail grows more... speculative. I guessed that the father of Lazarus Nicholson was Samuel Nicholson of the same county, mostly based on age, proximity, and naming patterns of children. However, considering the purported age of Samuel Jr when Lazarus was born and the existence of several related North Carolina Nicholsons who don't trace back to Samuel, I suspect there may be a generation missing somewhere in the above list.
Then it gets even more speculative. Internet gossip claims that Samuel Nicholson was born in New Jersey to a family of Quakers. However, as mentioned above, I haven't seen any direct sources for this claim. While there are other analyses I could do to prove or disprove it, I'm currently focusing primarily on DNA.
I tested Bill's 1st cousin, Ian Nicholson, to see what evidence Y-DNA could provide. His two closest matches were not closely related to him; the most recent common ancestor is probably many generations back. However, both matches claimed the Nicholson surname on their paternal line, meaning that the Nicholson name has been attached to this paternal line for a long time. Unfortunately, one match did not know his family history and the other has not yet responded to me. The next step may be to find a more distant Nicholson male cousin who knows his lineage and convince him to test.
In the meantime, one of Bill's autosomal DNA matches contacted me. Bill and this distant cousin share 23.7 cM on 1 segment and their family trees intersected at John Roberts and Sarah Marks, who are possibly Bill's 7x great-grandparents. Could this be their most recent common ancestors? Autosomal DNA is rarely useful for proving such distant relationships but sometimes you get lucky.
If Samuel Nicholson's parents were indeed Samuel Nicholson Sr. and Sarah Burrough of New Jersey then John Roberts and Sarah Marks would have been his great-grandparents. If we could confirm these two as common ancestors then that helps confirm the rest of the line underneath it.
Ancestry DNA does not have the best tools for genetic genealogy but it does have the biggest database of matches. Looking only at Ancestry DNA data, I took all the matches whose family trees claim or strongly suggest specific common ancestors with Bill on his lineage to John Roberts and Sarah Marks and then mapped all the relationships with each other.
In addition to using Bill as my test subject, his cousin Myrtie Rempel also shared her DNA results with me, which added many more matches to the DNA network. There are other descendants of Leonard Nicholson who have tested their autosomal DNA on 23andme and Family Tree DNA but the databases on those sites are much smaller and I can't compare the DNA results across the different platforms.
If a distant genetic cousin shares DNA with you, the origin of that DNA may be difficult to prove. Even if you both claim the same common ancestor, perhaps you have another common ancestor in some other branch of the family tree. However, if that genetic match also matches other people who claim that ancestor and doesn't match cousins on any other branch of your family tree then you probably have a winner.
Ancestry only shows shared DNA matches if you share at least 20 cM so the relationships of more distant cousins with more distant cousins are not shown. I also excluded any matches who shared less than 8 cM, although most have much more than that. In addition, Ancestry aggressively screens out many shared segments because it deems them as IBS, which means that you have an endogamous population, which means the remaining shared DNA is of somewhat higher quality.
As a final note, there are many more genetic matches not shown here, simply because I was not confident of which ancestor was the source of the shared DNA.
Node 45 above is the distant cousin who contacted me. The graph shows that he not only shares DNA with Bill but with his cousin, Myrtie, and 3 other distant cousins. Node 40, with whom he shares DNA, represents a descendant of Samuel Burrough and Hannah Roberts, the hypothesized grandparents of Samuel Nicholson Jr who died in Wilkes County, North Carolina. The 2 yellow nodes, 17 and 18, are descendants from Samuel Nicholson Jr and Lidia Dickhouse through a different child than Lazarus.
Because I created such a busy graph, I didn't represent the strength of the connections. However, here are the mean averages at each generation of cousin match:
My conclusion here is that Samuel Nicholson is related to Lazarus and his descendants. Whether he a father, grandfather, or uncle is certainly an open question, however.
Next, the descendants of Samuel Nicholson are almost certainly descended from Samuel Nicholson and Sarah Burrough. Whether or not the Samuel Nicholson who married Lidia Dickhouse is their son or grandson is also debatable. It also appears very likely that Sarah Burrough is the daughter of Samuel Burrough and Hannah Roberts and that Hannah is the daughter John Roberts and Sarah Marks.
So I strongly believe that the Nicholson line reaches back from Leonard Nicholson all the way through Samuel Nicholson and Sarah Burrough, who were married in New Jersey in 1722. Whether or not an ancestor got missed in there somewhere is another question.