Family History Research and DNA Testing – Another Perspective

September 14, 2016 2 comments

During a meeting with my genealogy group, several members where excitedly sharing their stories of locating new family members through DNA testing.  One lady shared that a person who was a DNA match seemed reluctant to acknowledge the family relationship.  As I listened to her discuss the situation, I was reminded that while finding new relatives through DNA testing can be exciting for some people, it may be a painful experience for others.  This blog post provides another perspective on family history research and DNA testing.

It is important to remember when researching your family history that everyone’s birth was not the result of a loving relationship between a married couple.  It could have been the result of a rape by a known person or by a stranger. It could have been the result of incest.  It could have been the result of a clandestine affair. It could have been the result of a one night stand. It could have been the result of a relationship that did not work out.  Some people were adopted but never told.

In the above scenarios, people handled the situation the best way they knew how at the time. In many cases the truth was hidden and never acknowledged.  Or if it was acknowledged,  it was in hushed tones and covered in shame and embarrassment. In many cases family members took the truth to their grave.

The popularity of DNA testing is bringing many of these situations to light. The testing may expose a family secret that was not known, or if it was known, never acknowledged.  It is important to keep this in mind when approaching someone who is a DNA match.   If the person is reluctant to acknowledge the relationship, it is best to be understanding and compassionate.  It may be a good idea to just share your contact information and give the person some time to process what they have learned.  Perhaps they will be more cooperative once they have had time to think about the information you shared.

Also, people do DNA testing for different reasons.  Some people take the test because they want to know more about their ethnic composition.  Others take the test because they want to locate new relatives.  Some people take the test for both reasons.  Therefore, if you contact someone who only took the test to discover their ethnic composition, they may be reluctant to discuss their family history with you. After all, even though you have a DNA connection you are still strangers.

It would be nice if everyone had a clear cut understanding of their pedigree, but unfortunately in the real world that is not always the case. It is important to remember that while DNA testing can open the door to a wealth of information about your family history, it can also open Pandora ’s Box and everyone may not prepared to deal with the discoveries that were made.


Armstrong High School Class of 1918

I recently came across some memorabilia for Armstrong High School in Washington, DC Class of 1918 and thought I would share.

Armstrong High School Class of 1918

Armstrong Technical High School ~ Washington DC ~ Class of 1918


Arsmtrong 1918

Armstrong 1918 Graduation

Graduation Invitation (click image to view)

Armtrong 1918 Banquet 1945.jpg

1945 Annual Banquet Program (click image to view)












Mt Carmel Baptist Church Youth Organizations

Churches established clubs and organizations to provide constructive guidance for youth in the community.  In the 1950’s Mt Carmel Baptist Church, located and 3rd and I Street NW, had a Boy Scout Troop (Troop 511) and a Drill Squad.  I came across some pictures of these organizations while looking at a family photo album and thought I would share this bit of Washington, DC local history.

Boy Scout Troop 511

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Boy Scout Troop 511

Seated Den Mother’s: (l-r) Mrs. Grady, Mrs.Bobo, Mrs Woodfork and Mrs Flowe. Standing 1st person on the left Reverend Carey Pointer. 1st person on the right Charles Brooks Scout Master.

Troop 511 on annual Spring Camporee 1951 at Old Soldiers Home

Troop 511 on annual Spring Camporee 1951 at Old Soldiers Home


Boys Scout Troop 511 Annual Spring Camporee 1951  - Caption

Boys Scout Troop 511 Annual Spring Camporee 1951 – Caption

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Boys Scout Troop 511 - Copy

Drill Squad

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Squad Roster January 23, 1953

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Squad Roster January 23, 1953

Boys of the Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Team circa 1952

Boys of the Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Team circa 1952

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Team - Circa 1952

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Team circa 1952

Mt Carmel Baptist Church Drill Team Marching - Copy

The Municipal Male Chorus

The other day I was looking through some papers and came across a picture of The Municipal Male Chorus.  My grandfather was a member of the chorus.  I decided to do a little research on the chorus and write a blog post to share this bit of Washington, DC history.

Municipal Male Chorus WINX Broadcast Dec 1940

The Municipal Male Chorus at the WINX Broadcast Dec 1940. My grandfather is the first person on the right of the back row.

The Municipal Male Chorus was formed in the 1940’s and consisted of male employees of the District of Columbia government.   The majority of the men were chauffeurs, messengers or elevator operators in the District Building.  The director was Robert Hamilton. Mr Hamilton was also the music director at Berean Baptist Church that was located at 11th and V Street NW.

The chorus sang in a variety of concerts around the city.  They frequently performed at churches and appeared on WINX Radio station.  In April of 1941, they participated in the opening ceremonies for the Cherry Blossom Festival.  Later that same month, the chorus joined several other choruses from the area to accompany the legendary Paul Robeson at a benefit concert for a crowd of over 5,000 people.

I did not find any information about the chorus after 1941 so it appears that the chorus did not last that long.

Freedmen’s Bureau Records Project

Would you like to help family historians and genealogist expand their family tree?  You can by participating in the Freedmen’s Bureau Records Project and help to  index nearly 4 million records to make them searchable online.

Freedmen’s Bureau records are a treasure trove for family historians and genealogist researching their African American ancestors.  The Freedmen’s Bureau was created in 1865 to assist formerly enslaved individuals and war refugees become productive members of society. The Bureau reunited families, opened schools, managed hospitals, provided food and clothing ,as well as, offered marriages certificates for couples who were cohabitating as husband and wife. The Bureau’s records are on microfilm and contain information on an estimated four million individuals.  The majority of the records are not indexed and therefore are very difficult to access.

The records are the property of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  FamilySearch purchased the microfilms and has rights to digitally publish and index them. They have partnered with several organizations for a national project to index the Freedmen’s Bureau Records. It will take tens of thousands of volunteers to complete the indexing in the desired 18 months.

I am participating in the Freedmen’s Bureau Project and am urging you to do the same.  Indexing is fairly simple and any amount of time you can give will be valuable.    Even if you can only give a few minutes a day, the time adds up and together we can accomplish this task.   Please join me in helping to make these important records searchable online.

To learn more about the project visit

Here is a video from the site explaining the value of the project.

Research Tips from My Genealogy Buddy Robyn Smith

I have written about my genealogy buddy, Robyn Smith and her exciting family research in several of my posts.  Robyn is the author of the popular genealogy blog, Reclaiming Kin where she uses her research as a tool to show others how to  research their family history.

Robyn is a great genealogy buddy because she takes her research seriously.  She is a stickler for using the proper methodology and doing due diligence to research family history.  Robyn is an inspiration to many in the genealogy community.

Reclaiming Kin

She recently published a book titled, The Best of Reclaiming Kin: Helpful Tips On Researching Your Roots, with some of her most informative blog post.  Her book is a valuable addition to the personal library of anyone who is interested in researching their family history

I urge you to visit her blog and see for yourself.  Your research will be greatly enhanced by the knowledge she shares.

Protecting and Expanding Your Family Tree on

For many years, I was reluctant to build a family tree online because I wanted to protect the privacy of family members and control access to information on my tree. When I learned that I could use privacy settings to control access to my tree, I decided to put my tree on

I only put deceased individuals on my tree and used the ‘Private’ privacy setting to prevent other subscribers from viewing information on my tree. However, basic information (name, birth year, and birthplace) about deceased individuals is displayed in search results. If a person wants to view my tree, they must contact me anonymously through the messaging service.  You can learn more about privacy setting and decide what is best for you.

An added benefit of putting my tree online was I was able to take advantage of hints.  This feature uses information from your family tree to suggest possible matches between people on the tree and historical records and/or other family trees.

I recently solved a genealogy mystery thanks to a hint from  I have traced my Shakespeare family back to the 1840’s where Sancho and Lucinda Shakespeare and their children were enslaved by Elijah Wigglesworth in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.  Over the years I have made considerable progress on expanding my Shakespeare family tree but I had several people whose trail went cold.

Richard Shakespeare was one of those people.  He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1899 to Richard Shakespeare Sr and Molly/Mary Bailey. I believe his mother must have died when he was young because after 1900 he and his brother, James, lived in Caroline County, Virginia with their father’s brother, John Henry Shakespeare, and John’s wife, Sarah Ann (Sallie) Ferguson.   Their father remained in Baltimore, MD where he died in 1927.

The latest information I had on Richard Shakespeare Jr. was from the 1920’s. He was listed in the 1920 Caroline County census with his aunt, uncle and brother. I could not locate any information on Richard after the 1920s.

Last month, I received an email from with a hint for my Shakespeare Family Tree.  I clicked on the link which took me to Richard Shakespeare’s death certificate.  From this document I learned that Richard lived in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and his wife’s name was Jannie.

Richard Shakespeare Death Certificate

Richard Shakespeare’s Death Certificate
The Key to Expanding my Shakespeare Tree


Armed with this new information I began to search for Richard in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and located information on Richard, his wife and their children.  Using other hints, I attempted to locate and contact some of Richard’s living descendants.

I used resources outside to obtain death notices for Richard, his wife and their children. I learned from their death notices they were members of Love-Hope Baptist Church and wrote to the church to see if they had any information on Richard Shakespeare and his family.  The church was gracious enough to forward my letter to Richard Shakespeare’s great granddaughter who contacted me.  We recently met and exchanged information. They shared this picture of Richard Shakespeare with me.


Richard Shakespeare Jr

Richard Shakespeare Jr


Thanks to a hint from, I was able to solve the mystery of what happened to Richard Shakespeare, expand my Shakespeare Family Tree and meet some new cousins!!.


 Descendants of Sancho and Lucinda Shakespeare

 Richard was the grandson of Sancho and Lucinda’s son Beverly. In addition to Beverly, they had seven other children:  Eliza, Richmond, Louisa, Nancy, Matilda, John, Martha.  The family was separated in 1845 when their slaveowner, Elijah Wigglesworth, estate was settled and his property was distributed among his wife and children

Eliza Shakespeare

I have not located any information on Eliza. I am not sure if she used the Shakespeare surname after slavery.  She may have been taken to Tennessee when her slave owner, Andrew J. Wigelsworth, moved to the state.

Richmond and Nancy

Richmond, Nancy and Matilda were enslaved by Jefferson Flippo of Caroline County, Virginia when Almira W. Wigelsworth married him. Nancy had a daughter named, Susan. The three of them escaped from Jefferson Flippo in 1862 but I have been unable to determine what happened to them. . I am not sure if they used the Shakespeare surname after slavery.



Matilda Shakespeare were enslaved by Jefferson Flippo of Caroline County, Virginia when Almira W. Wigelsworth married him. She had several children during slavery.  One of them was John Henry Lewis.  .  I met the wife of John Henry Lewis’s youngest son who shard this picture with me.


John Henry Lewis (front row center)  and Family

John Henry Lewis (front row center) and Family


After slavery Matlida married Dingo Rollins and they had several children.  Two of their children were Rachel and Marry Rollins.  I met Mary’s granddaughter who share these pictures of Matilda’s daughters with me.

Matilda Shakespeare and Dingo Rollin's Daughter- Mary Rollins Jones

Matilda Shakespeare and Dingo Rollin’s Daughter – Mary Rollins Jones

Matilda Shakespeare and Dingo Rollin's Daughte -  Rachel Rollins Fergueson

Matilda Shakespeare and Dingo Rollin’s Daughte
Rachel Rollins Fergueson











Louisa Shakespeare

Louisa married William Woolfolk.  They are my 2nd great grandparents. They had several children, Overton, my great grandfather, and Susan.  I have not located a picture of Overton. I located Susan’s granddaughter who shared this picture with me.

Susan Woolfolk Waugh

Susan Woolfolk Waugh

Beverly Shakespeare

Beverly Shakespeare had several wives and several children.  John Herbert Shakespeare is also a descendant of Beverly.

John Herbert Shakespeare and his daughter Shirely Jean

John Herbert Shakespeare and
his daughter Shirely Jean


John Shakespeare

John is listed in the 1870 census with his parents.  I have not located any other information about him.

Martha Shakespeare

I wrote a blog post about Martha.

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