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.