Who do I think I am?

A few days ago, I sent off for the AncestryDNA kit. It was Cyber Monday and they were running a 30-percent-off special, so I figured, “Why not?” Actually, my sister Theresa told me Ancestry was running the special and offered to pay for half of it, making the offer even more attractive.

Considering Theresa and I shared a womb, as two thirds of a set of triplets — the other’s a boy — it can be assumed that we have the same ethnic background. So, no need for two tests. What a bargain!

With lots of English and German surnames in my genealogy, I suspect my results will be pretty boring, but I’m hopeful there will be a surprise or two. One mystery I hope will be unraveled is the rumored “Black Dutch” ancestry on my maternal grandmother’s side.

My mom’s family, at least back to the early 1800s, were from eastern Kentucky, particularly Knox and Whitley counties, near the town of Barbourville.

When I was growing up, Granny always told us her family was Black Dutch. I never knew exactly what she meant, and still don’t really, as there are so many explanations for the term. Depending on the source, Black Dutch has been used to refer to German gypsies, Melungeons, Sephardic Jews, Native Americans, mixed-race people and others ethnic groups.

Theresa saw a photography exhibit at the Smithsonian many years ago about German gypsies and she said the people in the photos looked a lot like my mom and her siblings.

Granny, Allie Arizona Miles, is in the center, front. Her parents are on either side. Allie’s siblings, Ike, Julie, Vida and Ethel (although I might have the order wrong), stand behind them. Circa 1915.

My Granny, Allie Arizona Engle, was the daughter of John Jefferson Engle and Louisa Melinda Warfield. John Engle was descended from Melchor Engle, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the mid-1700s.

You can read more about Melchor here at FindAGrave.com.

Being the only known German surname on my mom’s side of the family, I suspect the Engles are the source of the Black Dutch story.

Another family history mystery I’d like to solve through DNA testing is that of what my great-great-grandpa, John Wesley Miles, was up to in the late 1800s. I blogged about him a while back, and you can read that here.

To paraphrase, in about 1880, John left his wife and young son in Kentucky, saying he was headed out for a sack of cornmeal. He didn’t return for about 20 years.

josephine bill sidney claudie.jpg
Maybe some Native American ancestry comes from Josephine Lee, first wife of John Wesley Miles. She’s pictured here, standing behind her son, Bill, and his wife, Sidney. Sidney is holding my great aunt, Claudie. Circa about 1900.

The story I always heard was that he had a Wild West adventure, heading to Oklahoma, Texas or Arkansas. There, he was rumored to have started a new family before eventually returning to Kentucky, toting a sack of cornmeal like nothing ever happened.

I’d like to find the descendants of that other family in Texas, Oklahoma or wherever they are.

Also, John Miles claimed half-Native American ancestry, so I’d like to know if there’s any truth to that. The alleged Native American ancestry also might have come from someone else, or might not exist at all. Hopefully, DNA will shed some light on that.

So, that’s it for now. I haven’t even got the test kit yet, but when I send it off and the results come back, I’ll be sure to let you know what it says. I’m hoping for surprises, scandal and intrigue, but I’ll settle for not boring.

9 thoughts on “Who do I think I am?

  1. Have you ever calculated some percentages based on your research? It will be interesting to see how well it matches. It was very reassuring to see my percentages match our research. It is a little less definitive for persons with fully Northern European ancestry. The circles on the DNA analysis tend to be large and overlap a bit. It sounds like you can expect some definitive results. Please publish what you learn.


    1. If only based on family surnames, I appear to be at least 1/4 German and about 3/4 British of some kind. There are a lot of British-sounding names in the Kentucky genealogy (Miles, Warfield, Lawson, Brown, Terrell, Woodson, Lee, for example). I will definitely post what I learn. Very anxious to know! Great to hear from you!


  2. Mmmm…..interesting. Yeah, got Hash (Hesche) in my bloodline and English (European) sounding names. I think this DNA thing is just beginning. Will stay tuned with much anxiety.


  3. Suzanne, I continue to enjoy your beautifully written and interesting history blogs. Got quite the chuckle over the 20 years it took your Great Great Grandpa John to buy that sack of corn meal. Something tells me your Great Great Grandma wasn’t laughing as much as I was, however….


    1. Thanks, Audrey! It’s funny, about my great-great-grandma. According to the stories my aunts and uncles have told me, when he returned, there were no hard feelings. They’d both married other people in the meantime, but she apparently loved him for the rest of her life.

      One my mom’s cousins told me this once, while I was taking oral histories from various family members: “And then we was gone for 20 years, but when he came home Ma was so happy to see him. She said she’d always loved him and I guess she always would. They would walk down the lane together. I remember the last time I ever saw her with him. She was walking down the lane with him. It was a beautiful love story.”

      One of my aunts said this: “When Great Grandpa would come, even though he had treated her so mean, she would run and she would hug him, and she’d look around at us kids and she’d say, ‘I used to be married to him.’ So, she was forgiving.”

      Nice, huh?


  4. I did my DNA about 3 years ago. It was exciting to have matches on both sides of the family. Both of my Mother’s sides were from northern Germany and my dad is 1/2 Norwegian so I had a good dose of Northern Europe, but no hits on the British isles and we’d been told the Dodges were Scotch-English.
    Ancestry DNA matched me with my maternal grandfather Wall’s older brother who left New York State and went to Peoria, Illinois, in 1900 or so.i heard from a NY 3rd cousin this summer who has my maternal grandmother back to French Canada and I now have two ancestors who fought in the Civil War in New York regiments.
    On my dad’s Norwegian/ Wisconsin side I connected with a cousin whose grandmother was my grandfather’s older sister who died young…I had a picture of her and didn’t know who she was. My dad never mentioned her or that she and her siblings had been orphaned in Michigan and were sent in 1890 or so to live with relatives in Wisconsin.
    I’ve heard the DNA in male line is stronger so I just got the DNA kit for my maternal side nephew for Xmas…that should help there. A male paternal cousin did it last year.
    I also have a funny family story….a relative was a conductor on the NY central railroad in the 1920’s I think. I’d heard he had a family at either end of the 300 mile line. The DNA found relative confirmed that story.
    It’s fun!
    I look forward to hearing your results.
    Lynn Dodge


  5. Good luck Suzanne! I was very disappointed that my ethnicity came back more British than Irish. Guess i got more of Mom’s genes than Dad’s.


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