Monday, October 13, 2008

Fractions and DNA

in honor of what some localities refer to as Indigenous Peoples Day or Native Americans Day:
Short Math Quiz

Your mother told you she was ½ Choctaw and ½ Cherokee. Your father told you he was ½ Choctaw.

You are in front of a bunch of judges and they start asking you questions, and they want to know what your percentage of Choctaw blood is. What do you tell them?

What if you only have a primary school education? Do you think you’ll get it right

Reading through the testimonies my great grandmother, her half-sister, six cousins, and her uncle provided to the Dawes Commission, one thing remains constant. None of them understood fractions. Fractions can be difficult.

There were eight testimonies delivered in November of 1900. And my previous post on my Choctaw ancestry was based on reading through those eight testimonies. Another search turned up one more testimony delivered a year later. Samuel T Hartley, the brother of my second great grandmother, Sarah Hartley, brought another daughter of his before the commission. She was completely flummoxed by the questioning, and while it doesn’t say it, I suspect she was close to tears by the end. Her responses were all over the place, and it was clear she was very confused. Her father was present though, and was called to the witness stand. His testimony didn’t directly conflict his testimony of a year prior, but he was asked slightly different questions, which led to more information.

In 1901 he claimed his father said he was ½ Choctaw. And that his mother said she was ½ Choctaw and ½ Cherokee. (He had no proof. Neither had ever had their names on rolls, or applied for land. That is why the commission denied the applications, they wouldn’t give land to just anyone who said they thought they had blood from one of the 5 civilized tribes, no matter how earnest they looked. They needed some evidence, and DNA evidence wasn’t around back then. My ancestors had no proof beyond what they had been told by their parents and grandparents.)

In 1900 he had been asked whether he claimed his Choctaw heritage from his mother or father. His response was ‘father’. (It should have been ‘both’ but maybe he thought from the question he had to choose one.) The next question was how much blood his father had, so he had responded ½, and from that the Commission told him he would be ¼, and he accepted that.

If the 1901 testimony is accurate, his mother claimed to be 100% Native American, half Choctaw, half Cherokee. And since she would be my mtDNA ancestor, taking the test might actually solve this question for my family. If my second great grandmother was ¾ Native American, then I am 3/64, which is getting higher and higher as I continue doing research. A year ago I thought I was only 1/128.

Here are the people named in the nine testimonies I have downloaded from Footnote, and their percentage of Native American DNA assuming the testimony given by Samuel Hartley in 1901 is accurate.

First Generation
(1/2) George W Hartley
(1/1) Eliza Beasley

Second Generation (3/4)
Samuel T Hartley (married Margaret ___ and Nannie ____)
Sarah Ann Hartley (married Ebenezer Denyer and George W Foster)
[Research indicates there may have been a third child named William Hartley]

Third Generation (3/8)
Caroline Hartley (married Jesse M Taylor)
Georgia Amelia Hartley (married Miles J Phillips)
Robert Hilliard Hartley (married Louisa ___ )
Sophronia Hartley (married James Cagle)
Virginia Hartley (married Henry Shultz)
Amie Hartley
Samuel H Hartley
Eddie Hartley

Samuel William Denyer (married Alice Gollihar)
Margaret Jane Denyer (married Melvin Van Every)
Eliza Caroline Foster (married William T Reeves)
[George and Sarah Foster had two other children: George Foster Jr. and Sarah Ann Foster. Neither testified before the Dawes Commission as far as I can tell.]

Fourth Generation (3/16)
Taylor children: Maudie, Claudie, Mattie, Earline, Jesse
Phillips children: Hester, Ruby
Hartley children: Bessie Leanner, Youler May
Cagle children: Dessie, Edna [later children include: Flossie, Hazel, Ruby, Otis]
Shultz children: Birdie, Callie, Julia, Richard
Denyer children: Alfred, Arthur, Addie, Zenovia, Lee, Samuel, William, Melvin
Van Every children: Minnie, Samuel, Willa, Evva, Myrtle

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