My idea to expand the Carter DNA project beyond my close cousins that are actively researching our Carter family came about from two early successes that were only possible because of DNA matching.  Both involve Children of William Carter (Joshua, Joseph Carter II) and Rachel Brenneman; their youngest daughter Emeline and their eldest son, who was only hinted at in the 1830 and 1840 US census records.

Case 1

The first success was with finding that Emeline, whose actual given name was Rachel Emeline Carter, had married Samuel Johnson in Darke County, Ohio shortly after her mother’s death. We had been unable to trace this in the records because, in the 1850 and 1870 census records, her name is given as Emeline, but in her marriage record, she is listed by her legal given name of Rachel and her middle initial “E”.

This discovery was made early, in the beginning of the project, after identifying one of my and Marla Carter’s matches that shared matches with six of our other known Carter cousins, including one from the Carter-Kirby branch of the family. This match did not have a tree attached to their test, but from what I had learned about how Autosomal DNA is shared, and because they were also a match to one of our Carter-Kirby cousins, they had to be either a descendant of Joseph Carter and Mary Gaskill or a descendant of one of their ancestors. (Gaskill, Shinn, Lippincott cousins, etc.) Because of the strength of the match to Marla and me, I was reasonably certain that they were also a descendant of Joseph Carter and Mary Gaskill and not a more distant cousin.

I decided to contact them and presented my theory and asked if they had any Carter ancestors that they were aware of, and asked if they would be interested in learning more about their Carter ancestors. They replied and told me that their great-grandmother’s name was Rachel Carter and she was born about 1825 in Ohio and was married to a man named Johnson, but that was all that they knew about her.  I examined my tree and found that James Carter and Sarah Freel’s son, William, who had married Margaret Chancery, had a daughter Rachel who was born in 1845. That was the only unattached Rachel Carter that I had in my tree. After a couple more message exchanges, I was told that the 1825 date wasn’t certain and was given information about their grandparents.

With that information, I began researching up from their grandparents and discovered that their great-grandmother was born in 1847 according to the 1880 and 1900 census records, and though the 1850 census shows Rachel as being born in 1845, I became reasonably sure that this was the correct connection to our family; however, questions and doubts remained because Rachel and her parents and siblings are not found in any records after the 1850 census.

Then a strange and lucky coincidence occurred. Both Larry Carter and Marla Carter had decided to try researching Emeline Carter again. They had both traced possible marriages of Emeline and had reached different conclusions and sent me an email asking if I had an opinion on which might be correct. Both of their theories seemed plausible, and since it had been many years since I had tried to trace Emeline, I decided to see what new records might have been made available on Ancestry.com since my last search. The record that caught my eye was the birth record of Walter Johnson, the son of Rachel E Carter and Samuel Johnson. I had not discovered Walter’s birth record when tracing the tree of the aforementioned match’s family because, in the record, his mother is listed as Emeline Carter and not Rachel Carter.  It was then that I realized that Rachel and Emeline were the same people. Emeline’s 1850 and 1870 census records listed her as being born in 1847, the same as Rachel E Carter’s 1880 and 1900 census records, resolving that inconsistency. It also explains the higher than expected number of matches to the descendants of William Carter and Rachael Brenneman that a 6th cousin from James Carter’s descendants would have.

Carter Family Reunion ca 1890

Then, in an even stranger coincidence, my cousin Denia Woodland, sent me this picture from the pictures our great-grandparents had. There are no markings on it, but I immediately recognized Mary Carter-Oliver, and her brothers William and John sitting in the front row behind the children. The woman sitting next to Mary is most likely her youngest sister Rachel Emeline Carter-Johnson. This assumption is based on her appearance (she appears to be younger than her brothers and sister and older than any of her brother and sister’s adult children in the picture.) and the adult man and woman standing behind her.  I believe that they are Emeline’s twins, Clara and Clarence Johnson. Twins appear to be a trait of the Johnson family, as Samuel Johnson’s first wife gave birth to a set of twins, and Emeline gave birth to three sets of twins.

Case 2

From the 1830 and 1840 census records, we knew that William Carter and Rachel Brenneman had one older son that, because he is not in the 1850 census with William and Rachel, we had no given name, that we could use to try to trace him.

I had been researching matches with trees attached to their test, shared between our cousins. I came across one promising match that had traced their family back to a Harrison Carter, born about 1829 in Ohio. After adding that match as a possible Carter cousin to my database, I found that the participants in the DNA project had matches to four other descendants of Harrison Carter. It did not take long to find Harrison’s 6 June 1849 Drake County marriage record to Hannah Elliot. Harrison and Hannah had left with Hannah’s family to go to Iowa before the 1850 census. If it was not for the DNA project, Harrison’s connection to our Carter family may never have been possible.

Case 3

The latest success story of the DNA project came after the discovery of Joshua Carter’s sale of his land by his heirs. Until this time, the true and correct children of Joshua and his first wife were unknown, and I was busy tracing the descendants of Joshua’s son, Josiah Carter, and looking for DNA matches to Carter cousins from that branch of the family.

One method that I have learned to find possible cousins matches, is to look at the Ancestry Tree Hints, that are shown in the record hints for a person. I go to the profile page of each user shown in the hints and look to see if I or any of the other DNA tests that I have access to have a DNA match to that username. Much to my delight, I found one that person that had a match to me and Larry Carter. Tom is now a Participant in our DNA project, and with the addition of this test, we have discovered three other descendants of Josiah Carter and a new descendant of Sarah Carter and Joseph Kirby.