Dorcas Johnson’s Mitochondrial DNA Secret Revealed – 52 Ancestors #357

Dorcas (also spelled Darcus) Johnson was born about 1750 and died about 1835. We all know she died in Claiborne County, Tennessee, however the location of her start has at all times been assumed to be Virginia.

You recognize there’s already bother brewing if you learn that assume phrase, proper?

Dorcas, within the early genealogies, was reported to be the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, however at all times a skeptic, I had my doubts. I’m working by way of the varied choices to show or disprove that connection. I wrote about my initial findings, here.

What we do know, positively, about Dorcas is that she married Jacob Dobkins in Dunmore County, Virginia, in 1775. There’s no date listed, however it’s proven between the September and October marriages.

Dunmore County was renamed as Shenandoah just a few years later, so the entire early Dunmore County information aren’t “lacking,” they’re Shenandoah County information.

Dorcas and Jacob migrated to jap Tennesee, in all probability earlier than Tennessee was even a state n the 1790s, settling in Jefferson County on the White Horn Department of Bent Creek, Close to Bull’s Hole. By 1800, they’d moved as soon as once more to the fledgling Claiborne County when it was first fashioned. Dorcas Johnson and Jacob Dobkins spent the remainder of their lives in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

The Johnson Books

Peter Johnson’s descendants wrote a number of early books within the 1900s about that household, particularly centered on the kid they descended from. Extra just lately, Eric E. Johnson wrote a e book the place he distilled the sooner books and added quite a lot of unique analysis compiled over many years. Eric has very graciously shared and I’m ever so grateful for his generosity.

Dorcas’s Siblings

Not all early books report the identical kids for Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips, so I’ve ready a composite record of youngsters, as follows:

  • Richard (Derrick, Derrie) Johnson (1746-1818) married Dorcas Dungan in Pennsylvania and later, Elizabeth Nash in Westmoreland County, PA. Richard was born in Cumberland County, PA and died in Jefferson County, Ohio.
  • Dorcas Johnson (c1748/1750 – c1831/1835) married Jacob Dobkins in 1775 in Dunmore/Shenandoah County. Dorcas is reported in one of many early Johnson books and was reported to have married Reuben Dobkins. She married Reuben’s brother, Jacob. Jacob’s different brother, Evan Dobkins, married one Margaret Johnson, earlier in 1775 in the identical location the place Dorcas married. Nonetheless, Margaret Johnson isn’t listed in any of the Johnson books.
  • James Johnson (1752-1826), was born in Pennsylvania and died in Lawrence County, Illinois after having lived in Indiana for a while. He married Elizabeth Lindsay in 1783.
  • Solomon Johnson (1765-1843), apparently the youngest youngster was born close to Greencastle, Cumberland (now Franklin) County, Pennsylvania and died in Ahead Township, Allegheny County, PA. He inherited his father’s land and married the neighbor, Frances (Fanny) Warne in 1790. It was Solomon’s Bible information that supplied Peter Johnson’s spouse’s title as Mary Philips. It’s price noting that Solomon named a daughter, Dorcas, and the Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins named a son Solomon.

Two different sources report Peter’s spouse’s first title as Polly which is a well known nickname for Mary. The one supply for Mary Polly Phillips’ surname is the Solomon Johnson Bible.

4 extra daughters are reported with a lot much less particular info out there.

  • Mary Johnson – Nothing identified.
  • Polly Johnson – Nothing identified, though it has been speculated that Mary and Polly have been one individual, and probably Richard’s solely youngster by his first spouse that Peter Johnson and Mary/Polly Philips took to lift when Richard’s spouse died. If that is so, then Mary would have been born about 1768 and may subsequently NOT be the Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins in 1775.
  • Rebecca Johnson, probably born about 1762. One e book states that Rebecca married John Stephens or Stevens and moved to Monongahela County, West Virginia however nothing extra is thought. This identical supply states that Stephens served with Richard Johnson within the Revolutionary Battle, though that could possibly be militia responsibility. This line must be fleshed out and will show important. What occurred to Rebecca Johnson?
  • Rachel Johnson is reported to have married a John Dobkins and probably moved to Knox County, Indiana, however nothing extra is thought. Jacob Dobkins’ brother, John Dobkins married Elizabeth Holman. It’s attainable that there’s an unknown brother, or Rachel is the Johnson daughter who married Reuben Dobkins. Dorcas was reported to have married Reuben, however she married Jacob.

Within the numerous Johnson books, two Johnson daughters are reported to have married Dobkins males, and certainly, that’s precisely what occurred, however the first names don’t match precisely

If certainly Dorcas Johnson is the total sibling of Mary, Polly, Rebecca or Rachel Johnson, they might carry the identical mitochondrial DNA handed to them from their mom – which they in flip would have handed on.

Which means that if we are able to find somebody descended from these daughters by way of all females to the present technology (which may be male), their mitochondrial DNA ought to match on the full sequence degree.

In abstract, we all know little or no about Mary Polly Philips herself. We don’t know who her mother and father have been, nor if she had siblings. We additionally don’t actually know what number of kids, particularly daughters, she had.

The place Did Mary Polly Philips Come From?

One of many books reviews that Mary Polly Philip’s son, Richard, born in 1746, often known as Derrie, was born in Amsterdam. We all know this can’t be true as a result of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips have been already residing in Antrim Township of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania by 1742 when he obtained a land grant.

Nonetheless, since Derrie is a Dutch nickname for Richard, the story that Dorcas was Dutch, or spoke Dutch, might have originated from this nickname. This does beg the query of how Richard obtained that nickname.

The Pennsylvania Dutch settled closely in Cumberland County the place the couple is first discovered, so it’s attainable that Mary Polly might have spoken German. Regardless, one of many household histories states that she didn’t converse English when she married Peter Johnson which raises the query of how they communicated.

After all, that is confounding provided that many early genealogies counsel or state that they have been both Scottish, Scots-Irish or Welsh. One historical past means that Peter settled at Wilmington, Delaware, then lived at Head of Elk, Maryland that are each Swedish settlements.

Peter Johnson was alleged to have a brother James they usually have been each alleged to be from Scotland, with noble peerage, nonetheless.

And one other report had Peter crusing from Amsterdam the place he had been born.

Clearly these can’t all be true.

Backside line is that this – we don’t know something about the place both Peter or his spouse’s households originated. The very first information we’ve got is Peter’s 1742 land grant in Cumberland County, PA, an space settled by each the Germans and Scots-Irish.

We’ve an actual thriller on our palms.

To not point out that we nonetheless don’t know positively that the Dorcas reported in Peter Johnson’s line who married a Reuben Dobkins is similar individual as “my” Dorcas who married Jacob Dobkins. Nonetheless, given the autosomal matches, I’m fairly comfy at this level, between each documentary and genetic proof, in confidently including Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips as Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ mother and father.

Properly, that’s, except somebody or one thing proves me incorrect.

One factor is abundantly clear, if Dorcas isn’t their daughter, she’s associated to them in some vogue as a result of a lot of Peter Johnson’s descendants and Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ descendants match and triangulate when evaluating autosomal DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA

Dorcas Johnson inherited her mitochondrial DNA from her mom, whoever that was, who inherited it from her mom, on up the road.

Mitochondrial DNA is rarely blended with the DNA of the daddy, so it’s by no means divided or diluted. In different phrases, apart from an occasional mutation, it’s handed intact from moms to all of their kids. Nonetheless, solely females cross it on.

Within the present technology, males can take a mitochondrial DNA take a look at as long as they descend by way of all females from the ancestor whose mitochondrial DNA is being sought. In different phrases, their mom’s mom’s mom’s line on up the tree by way of all moms.

I’ve been lucky sufficient to seek out two direct descendants of Dorcas Johnson Dobkins by way of all feminine traces (completely different daughters) who have been type sufficient to take a mitochondrial DNA take a look at.

Not solely did they match one another, additionally they matched different folks on the full sequence degree.

What did we uncover?


Dorcas’s descendants have been decided to be haplogroup H2a1, a European haplogroup discovered dispersed broadly throughout Europe.

This may put to relaxation any hypothesis about Native American heritage which frequently arises when a girl’s mother and father are unknown.

What Info Can Be Gleaned from the Haplogroup Alone?

Utilizing the public mitochondrial DNA tree, we are able to see that H2a1 is present in 57 nations as recognized by testers’ earliest identified ancestor (EKA) entries.

That is one purpose why it’s necessary to enter earliest ancestor info (beneath the gear if you mouse over your title within the higher right-hand nook, beneath Family tree in Account Settings.)

However that’s not the one purpose to enter as a lot info as attainable. Everybody helps everybody else in genetic family tree by offering full info, or as full as attainable.


Dorcas’s descendants who took the mitochondrial DNA take a look at have a complete of 299 HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Area matches. At this time, testers can solely order the mtFull product which checks all the 16,569 areas of the mitochondria. Years again, folks may order a partial take a look at that solely examined a part of the mitochondria, referred to as the HVR1 (HVR=Hypervariable Area) or the mixed HVR1 & HVR2 areas.

You’ll be able to choose to view matches on the full sequence degree, or folks you match on the HVR1 or HVR2 degree which can embody individuals who didn’t take the upper mtFull take a look at.

Whereas some persons are inclined to disregard their HVR1 and HVR2 outcomes, I don’t as a result of I’m at all times on the hunt for somebody with a standard ancestor or different helpful info who did NOT take a look at on the full sequence degree.

You simply by no means know the place you’re going to seek out that important match so don’t neglect any potential place to seek out leads.

To start, I’m specializing in the total sequence matches which have a genetic distance of 0. GD0 merely means these testers match precisely with no mutations distinction.

My cousin has 9 precise matches.

Matilda Holt is Dorcas’s granddaughter.

I seen the bushes for the closest matches and added some more information.

I seen the bushes, labored a number of again in time, and located just a few different testers who additionally descend from Dorcas.

One match stays a tantalizing thriller.

Bobby’s line hits a dead-end in Claiborne County, Tennessee, however I can not join the dots in Dorcas’s line.

Evan Dobkins, Jacob’s brother who married Margaret Johnson lived in Washington County, VA till the 1790s, however reportedly died in Claiborne County about 1835. Bobby’s EKA could possibly be a grandchild of Dorcas that’s beforehand unknown. She is also the granddaughter of Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins. I traced his line again to a girl born in 1824 and famous as Catherine Brooks in her marriage to Thomas Brooks in 1847. The Brooks household have been shut neighbors and did intermarry with the Dobkins household.

I emailed my cousin’s different matches; Karen, Catherine, Leotta, and Betty, and heard again from just one with no info.

With no earliest identified ancestor, no tree, and no reply, I’m caught on these matches, at the very least for now.

Let’s check out the GD1 matches, that means these with one mutation distinction and see what we are able to discover there.

GD1 Matches

My cousin has 36 GD1 matches, that means one mutation distinction. Would possibly they be helpful?

Hmmm, effectively, right here’s one thing attention-grabbing. With one exception, these earliest identified ancestors definitely are usually not English, Welsh or Scots-Irish. Additionally they aren’t German or Dutch.

I tried to construct a tree for Sarah Anna Wilson who was born in 1823 and died in 1858, however with out extra info, I shortly bumped into an excessive amount of ambiguity.

Possibly there’s higher info in the remainder of the GD1 matches’ earliest identified ancestors.

These folks all look to be…Scandinavian?

Let’s check out the Matches Map.

Matches Map

On the matches map, only some of the 36 GD1 matches stuffed within the location of their earliest identified ancestor. This may be carried out on both the matches map, or if you full the earliest identified ancestor info.

Actual matches are crimson, and GD1, 1 step matches, are orange.

All 10 of the GD1 matches which have accomplished their areas are present in Scandinavia, one in Denmark and Sweden, respectively, with the remainder concentrated in Finland.

In truth, the biggest cluster anyplace is present in Finland, with a second pronounced cluster alongside the jap facet of Sweden.

Typically talking, the inexperienced 3-step matches can be “older” or extra distant than the yellow 2-step matches that may be older than the orange one-step matches which might be older than the crimson precise matches.

What Does This Imply?

I’d absolutely like extra information. Scandinavian testers are great about coming into their EKA info, as in comparison with many US testers, however I’d nonetheless prefer to see extra. Some present ancestors however no location, and a few present nothing evident.

I’m going to dig.

The place Can I Discover Extra Information?

For every individual, I’m going to make the most of a number of sources, as follows:

  • Bushes on FamilyTreeDNA (please, let there be bushes)
  • Earliest identified ancestor (EKA)
  • Ancestry/MyHeritage/FamilySearch to increase bushes or location areas for listed ancestors
  • E mail deal with on tester’s profile card
  • Google their title, ancestor or e-mail
  • Social media
  • Surnames/areas on their FamilyTreeDNA profile card
  • WikiTree/Geni and different publicly out there sources

Even simply the e-mail deal with of a tester can present me with a rustic. On this case, Finland. If the tester lives in Finland as we speak, there’s a very good likelihood that their ancestor was from Finland too.

Typically the Ancestral Surnames present areas as effectively.

Search everyplace.

Create A New Map

Utilizing Google My Maps, a free software, I created a brand new map with solely the GD1 matches and the situation info that I unearthed.

I discovered at the very least common (nation degree) areas for a complete of 30 of 36 GD1 matches. Ten are the areas supplied by the testers on the Matches Map, however I discovered a further 26. The entire areas, with one exception, have been present in both Finland or Sweden. One was present in Denmark.

Some areas have been the identical for a number of testers, however they didn’t have the identical ancestors.

Whereas I’m nonetheless lacking 6 GD1 match areas, with one exception famous beforehand, the names of the matches look Scandinavian as effectively.

This message is loud and clear.

Dorcas’s ancestors have been Scandinavian earlier than they got here to the US. There’s no query. And certain from Finland.


So, possibly Dorcas actually didn’t converse English.

But when she didn’t converse English, how did she talk along with her Scottish or Scots-Irish or possibly Dutch husband? The language of affection solely suffices beneath particular circumstances😊

And the way did they get to Pennsylvania?

However wait?

Didn’t one of many household histories counsel that Peter Johnson was from Wilmington, Delaware after which from Head of Elk, now Elkton, Maryland?

Weren’t these each Swedish settlements?

Head of Elk, Maryland

Positive sufficient, Head of Elk, Maryland was settled by Swedish mariners and fishermen from Fort Casimir, Delaware, now New Fort, in 1694 – simply 15 miles or so upriver.

Right here, transferring proper to left, we see Fort Casmir, Delaware, then Elkton, Maryland, adopted by the situation on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania the place Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips settled in 1742.

A type of early Johnson books says that Peter Johnson spent a while in Frederick County, Virginia which might be close to Winchester, Virginia, midway between 1742 and 1775 on the map. Nonetheless, many fashionable researchers low cost that and presume that Virginia was mistaken for Maryland. The 1742 land bordered on and prolonged into Frederick County, Maryland.

Nonetheless, since Dorcas Johnson married Jacob Dobkins whose father lived on Holman Creek in Dunmore County in 1775, and Rachel Johnson was alleged to have married a John Dobkins, and, Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins, Peter Johnson HAD to have spent at the very least a while in that location in 1775 if these have been his daughters. These ladies have been definitely not touring alone in the course of the Revolutionary Battle.

By 1780, Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips have been in Allegheny County, by Pittsburg the place they spent the remainder of their lives.

Their daughters had moved on to East Tennessee with their Dobkins husbands, assuming that certainly, Dorcas Johnson is the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips.

Conclusions Anybody?

I’m at all times hesitant to attract conclusions.

Nonetheless, I’d counsel the next:

  • I’d anticipate Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA to be present in a Swedish settlement that additionally occurred to incorporate folks from Finland and Denmark.
  • It could be unlikely for Scandinavian mitochondrial DNA to be present in a closely Scots-Irish and German space reminiscent of Cumberland County, PA and Frederick County, MD.
  • We’ve a number of triangulated matches between my cousin, Greg, who descends from considered one of Peter Johnson’s sons and Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’ descendants by way of a number of kids.
  • I match a number of folks autosomally who descend from Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips by way of their different kids.
  • Mary Polly Phillips doesn’t sound very Scandinavian. Was her title anglicized?

How Can We Agency This Up?

One of the simplest ways to confirm that Dorcas Johnson descends from Mary Polly Phillips is to check one other one that descends by way of all females to the present technology by way of a unique daughter. If they’re sisters, each descending from Mary Polly Phillips, their descendants’ mitochondrial DNA will match very intently if not precisely.

The one different potential daughters are:

  • Rachel who’s reported to have married a Dobkins male, probably John, and possibly moved to Knox County, Indiana.
  • Margaret Johnson married Evan Dobkins, however she isn’t reported as a daughter of Mary Polly Phillips.
  • Rebecca who might have married John Stephens and might need moved to West Virginia.

That’s a complete lot of possibly.

Discovering Rebecca and a mitochondrial DNA descendant can be an enormous step in the appropriate route. The one document I can discover that is likely to be Rebecca is in December of 1821 when John Stephens’ will is probated in Boone County, KY with spouse, Rachel, daughters Salley, Catharine, Rebecca, Mary, and Rachel who is inspired to by no means return to stay with John Smith. Great, a Smith – each genealogists nightmare.

Should you descend from this couple, PLEASE get in contact with me!

It doesn’t appear to be this avenue could be very promising, so let’s suppose outdoors the field and get inventive.

Peter Johnson’s Y DNA

Provided that Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips have been married, they assuredly had to have the ability to discuss, so both she spoke English, or he spoke her Native tongue.

One of many tales about Peter’s household is that he was both Swedish or Dutch, and that his household was from the New Sweden settlement in America.

If that is correct, then Peter Johnson would have Scandinavian Y and mitochondrial DNA. Since males don’t cross their mitochondrial DNA on to their offspring, that route isn’t out there to us, however what about his Y DNA?

Is there a Y DNA take a look at by way of a Johnson male descendant of Peter Johnson, and if that’s the case, what info does it convey?

Can we use the Y DNA take a look at of a descendant of Peter Johnson to assist verify that Dorcas Johnson is the daughter of Mary Polly Philips? How would that work?

Keep tuned!


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