DNA TESTING & DISCOVERIES: HOW I FOUND OUT ELIZABETH TAYLOR WAS MY COUSIN!
As most of my readers know, I have taken several DNA tests and have also had both of my parent's DNA tested. My original reason behind having a DNA test performed was to prove or disprove an old family legend that the Taylor family had at least some Native North American bloodlines. The tests that both my father and I took quickly disproved this myth as we both came back as 100% Western European, primarily Scottish and British.
When my genetic analysis indicated I was Scots/English, I was not very surprised based on my prior years worth of family history research. However, surprises were soon to come, and come in big ways.
During the course of my family history research, I discovered that my paternal grandfather as well his mother (my paternal Great-Grandmother) were both born out of wedlock. On my Grandfather's birth certificate it even listed the father as "unknown". I was very disappointed when I made this discovery as I thought I would never be able to find out who my paternal great-grandfather was. However, it didn't take too long until this mystery was solved when I was contacted by a very close genetic match, a person whom I had previously had no knowledge even existed.
It turns out that this close genetic match is my 2nd cousin, and his grandfather was my Great-Grandfather. It took some sleuthing, but along with our extremely close genetic match (and even closer match to my father) as well as reviewing government documents and family photos, we found out that his grandfather - my Great-Grandfather, Herbert Clarke, was living next to my great-grandmother prior to, and shortly after the birth of my Grandfather. Since this discovery, my cousin Tom and I have managed to find other cousins in the UK.
I was lucky to have been contacted by Tom who is probably even more of an ancestry detective than I am, and the fact that I had published my test results and have a public family tree helped immensely.
With this "win" under my belt, I turned my focus on finding out who my paternal Great-Grandmother's father was as she was born a few months prior to her mother's marriage. I had already discounted my great-great grandmother's first husband as his family was both well documented and several direct descendants had taken DNA tests and there were no matches.
I continued my search and started to put together information regarding my great-great-grandmother's timeline of the birth of my great-grandmother, where she lived prior to and after my great-grandmother's birth, the date of her first marriage and divorce as well as the date of her second marriage. My Great-great grandmother married John Manly Taylor after she and her first husband divorced, which was less than a year after they had married. John Taylor was a widow living nearby my Great-great Grandmother, Amanda Smith.
Now, I cannot be 100% certain, but it seems to me that my great-great Grandmother's first husband must have realized that my Great Grandmother was not his child, or maybe things simply didn't work out between him and my Great-great Grandmother, but whatever the issue was, they divorced with my Great-Grandmother being the only child born before or during their marriage. I also have been unable to locate a birth certificate for my Great-Grandmother and have only found her on census records which is also somewhat unusual.
My Great-Grandmother used the surname Taylor after my Great-great Grandmother married John Taylor. Together my Great-great Grandparent's had several children during their marriage and, luckily for me, some of their descendants had also taken DNA tests and I soon found matches. I contacted two of my closest matches, who turned out to be sisters, and then had our matches analyzed. Our genetic coding matched on my Great-great Grandmother's lineage which was to be suspected as we all had her as a common ancestor. However, the big surprise came when we also matched on the Taylor genetic side, and additional proven Taylor family members also matched to these two cousins as well as myself and my father. These new Taylor matches were all previously unknown relatives from the US who had zero link to my Great-great Grandmother, Amanda Smith.
Things really began to take shape once I started finding matches to other Taylor descendants in the US, and this matched nicely with the previous research I had done in regards to the Taylor's I thought were my relatives. It turns out that my Great-Grandmother was, after all, a Taylor.
Finding US relatives helped me fill in what I thought was an impossible "blank" in my family tree. The Taylor family in the US is extremely well documented and it seems that only my direct ancestors came to Canada while the rest remained in the USA. My Smith ancestors also have strong ties to the USA, and the majority of my Smith relatives still live there, it was only my direct ancestors that seemed to have moved to Canada.
My Taylor ancestors have been in the USA since the early 1600's, although an exact arrival date is still unknown. The farthest back I can trace a direct Taylor ancestor is to my 8th Great Grandfather, Stephen Taylor, who was born in Connecticut between 1618 and 1620. I have not been able to find Stephen Taylor's parents as I have yet to purchase the archived records, but since they were not part of the Pilgrim migration (at least as far as the Mayflower is concerned), I can only assume they arrived before the great migration.
Through this research I made a multitude of fascinating discoveries about my paternal family. Although I had already been surprised at how many famous relatives I had on my paternal side through my Grandmother's lineage, my Grandfather's family has proven to be vastly more interesting, and even better documented than my Scots/English ancestors are.
As I started finding ancestors, I thought it was curious that so many were well documented and listed in the Library of Congress and in historical New England publications. It turns out that my 10th Great-Grandfather, Reverend William Hosford, was a bit of a "firebrand" reverend who brought his family to Massachusetts in 1633. He was well documented in England and then again in the Colonies. Through my Taylor ancestors I discovered more Puritan ancestors through 7th Great-Grandmother, Ruth Stiles (who married Nathaniel Taylor, my 7th Great-Grandfather). As a co-incidence, screen-legend Elizabeth Taylor is also a direct descendant of Ruth Stile and Nathaniel Taylor, through her paternal side, making Elizabeth and I 10th cousins, 2x removed. It is only co-incidence that her surname and my surname are the same though as Elizabeth's Great-Grandmother married a Taylor, although no relation to our shared Taylor ancestors. My 11th Great-Grandfather, Thomas Stiles, was Elizabeth's 10th Great-Grandfather. Elizabeth's 9th Great-Grandfather, Francis Stiles, was my 11th Great-Uncle.
My ancestry through the Stiles and Taylor family is truly amazing, and through these Grandparents, I am related directly to many famous and infamous American figures, both living and dead. This means very little as I am sure I am no more likely to be invited by my cousins Kevin Bacon (9th cousin, 2x removed), Elizabeth or Andrew Shue (double cousins through my Burt and Stebbins ancestors) or Patti Davis or Ronald Regan Junior (also cousins through my Burt ancestors) to join them for lunch any time soon! Still, I do find my connection to these people I have read about, watched on TV or in movies, quite interesting.
Although there are many unsolved mysteries remaining in my family history, I still hold out hope that I will one day discover my maternal Great-great Grandfather's roots. He was also an American, orphaned during the height of the US Civil War, and sent to Toronto to an orphanage. DNA has thus far not helped me locate any relatives to be able to piece together what happened to my 3x maternal Great-grandparents, but I am hoping one day it will.
Widespread DNA testing is opening a lot of doors for genealogical research and is helping thousands of people like me discover the truth about our ancestry. For those of you that have had a DNA test done and are interested in knowing your ancestry, tie the test results in with your family tree. Even if you only know your family history a few generations back, adding your information and making it available publicly can help open even more doors. Who knows what you will discover, and to whom you may be related?