Saturday, May 28, 2011


28 May 2011
Searching where the light is better
A Pause in the Search
The results of our newest William Davis DNA Project member has given me pause, as they say. I’ve had to stop and rethink my strategy for finding my Charles Davis. After getting lost in searching among the so many Charles Davises (many in every state, every county, every year!), I’ve had to think what exactly is the plan, otherwise I will just be casting about, suddenly stopping every time I see the name Charles Davis, whether he’s a farmer in Wisconsin or a miner in California.
It doesn't matter that I'm supposed to be looking for a Charles Davis who is a resident of Missouri and who is visiting NYC in 1902; every Charles Davis I see, no matter which state he’s in, I think might be the one. I’ve even spent many a number of hours tracking a Davis line because we (my daughter and I) think his photo looks like my father or my brothers! (that’s called the Psychic strategy.)
My worst thought is that I may have already found but disregarded him because he was married to someone else or because he seemed to have only 4 daughters. He could have been visiting New York City whether he was a wood chopper or a railroad engineer. Just because he “transferred his DNA” does not presume that he and my grandmother were married or even that he lived nearby for any length of  time. The genealogist’s nightmare is the traveling salesman. What kind of records could you expect to find for him?

Sometimes the NOT finding can get to you and you want to find ANY Charles Davis, just to be able to find one, just to remind yourself that there was, indeed, a real live man, who lived somewhere! and whose DNA he conveniently passed down to my father and my brother. (Thanks Gramp! Is it ok to call you that?)

In the beginning the strategy was to look for ANY Charles Davis, who was on the known William Davis family tree, was born around 1870 (+ or – 5 years) and then track his line to find his living male descendants and test them, seeing who they might match on the tree. That strategy might be expanded to track his brothers’ or uncles’ descendants if he had no living male descendants.

Then lately, I’ve been mapping ALL the known descendants of Rev. William1 Davis, born 1663, Wales, thinking I could test representative lines looking for an exact DNA match. Mapping ALL the descendants takes the point of view that the descendants are finite.

It might not be in Joshua5′s line at all. I had been guessing we stemmed from Joshua’s line because he was 6 generations back from my closest match. I was under the impression that if you matched exactly, your ancestor in common would be within 3 or 4 generations and if you matched 1 step off, your ancestor in common might be within 5 or 6 generations.

Well, and here’s the pause part, our new Davis member is only one step off from his closest match and their known ancestor in common on the paper tree is 7 generations back! That means my brother’s match, who is also one step off, might not lead to our ancestor in common for 7 or 8 generations! That’s all the way back to the grandsons of Rev. William1 Davis and possibly back to his original six sons. That certainly isn’t any kind of short cut to finding my Charles Davis.

Luckily for me, one of our Davis members had an extra copy of Susie Davis Nicholsons’ book,  Davis-The Settlers of Salem, West Virginia, that he just sent to me in the mail. So I am obsessive-compulsively going over her facts to see if there are any known Charles Davises that I have missed and am searching the censuses to see if there are any Charles Davises the previous Davis researchers have missed. The idea is to find one and track his line forward to a living descendant to test.

The hardest part of this hunt is to stay focused on searches that will lead to accomplishing the goal of identifying the lines of the William Davis family that match my DNA pattern. So often I find a great trove of information with lots of names and descendants but then I realize that they are from lines that show results that are furthest from my Davis DNA pattern.
It’s like the story of the man who lost his keys near the house but is searching for them near the lamp post because the light was better there.

I must focus and remember that just because there’s more light does not mean it will help my particular search!

-Jan Davis Markle


Here you'll find: information that usually goes out to the Gates Cousins email list, biographies of special characters as they are discovered and added to the family tree, research histories of select cases, questions and wonderings about hard-to-solve
searches and other miscellaneous thoughts about genealogy and its mysterious ability to transcend time, changing us hundreds of years after the changing event occurred.