DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) carries our genetic information. It has been a lockbox for our current and ancient past.
In 2000, genealogy companies offered customers the opportunity to unlock the box, move beyond pen and paper family trees, and open the Pandora's box of their past.
This is Charles and Hester.
Pictured on the right are the Freeman sisters. My grandmother, Hester, is standing. Their parents were Robert Freeman and Catherine Anderson.
Catherine Anderson and her sisters, Mary and Bathemia, were the daughters of Livas (Joseph) Anderson and Mary. We do not know her maiden name.
ANDERSON FAMILY LORE
Lore passed through the family's of both Mary Anderson Smith and Catherine Anderson Freeman tells of a mother who was of European descent. In 1977, Ava Speese Day recorded the lore in her research notes (picture inset). Without a written record or pictures, the story of Mary, the wife of Livas, having European roots remained a mystery.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) passes unchanged from mothers to their children. There daughters pass it on to the next generation. mtDNA can trace a maternal line back thousands of years to the origins of its ancient group of people.
Hester's mtDNA, courtesy of Mary Anderson, was passed to her daughters, Annie, Rose, and Gertie who passed it to their children. Seven direct maternal line children of the sisters have done DNA testing.
The mtDNA for all of them is from haplogroup K1c1. Haplogroup K1c1 is associated with European populations, most often found in Poland, Hungary, France, Ukraine and other areas of Europe. While this does not confirm that Hester’s grandmother as fully European, it does tell us that her maternal origins are European.
FREEMAN FAMILY LORE
The Freeman family lore follows Hester's father, Robert, who was born in Canada about 1819. Stories of his Indiginous ancestry have followed the Freeman offspring. I was familiar with the long documented Native American heritage shared by my mother's family. My father's Freeman connection to that ancestry was little more than myth.
When my 23andMe DNA test results were processed several years ago, one tool they use breaks down a persons DNA by chromosome. The twenty-three chromosomes are further broken into two strands, one representing each parent. There is no indication which strand represents which parent.
My strands do indicate Indiginous DNA on both maternal and paternal lines. Perhaps the stories about Robert Freeman's ancestry are true. Much more research is needed, but, once again, the Anderson-Freeman lore appears to be based on fact.
Picture Inset: The document is from a larger work of notes prepared by Ava Speese Day.
CHARLES MEEHAN WAS IRISH
Everyone knew that Charles was Irish. He had an Irish surname. The woman who raised him (his mother?) was Irish. He often spoke an Irish dialect to his grandchildren. He said his mother was born in County Fermanagh in 1823 and his father was from County Tipperyary. And everything written about his homesteading days in Nebraska confirm that he was Irish.
Irish parents, Irish name, Irish dialect ...... oh yes, Charles was Irish.
Except -- he wasn't.
NO IRISH DNA FROM MY IRISH GRANDFATHER
Several DNA tests I took came back with almost no Irish DNA and fewer Irish DNA matches, I was a true DNA novice when the first tests came back so I hired two genealogists who specialized in DNA. Independently, they reached the same conclusion: Charles Henry Meehan was not Irish.
Charles Henry Meehan was really a Heavenrich/Lutz/Beck of Jewish and German descent. He was born in Detroit, but that appears to be the only part of his birth story that was true.
DNA uncovered a well crafted and executed family secret that was hidden for more than 150 years. Read more about this DNA breakthrough in my blog entry, When We Were Irish, published March 18, 2021.
Charles's story continues to unfold. There is more to come.
Image: My dad, Bill Meehan, recorded information about his paternal grandparents on this small scrap of paper in 1949. Everyone believed Charles was the child of Irish immigrants.
Those Audacious Meehans
All pictures used on this site are the property of Catherine Meehan Blount unless otherwise noted. Other images are used with permission.
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