Tracing the Mannings from VA to NC, SC, AL, GA, WV, and IN

The descendants of Reuben Manning and Diana McCoy in the American South

It was probably pretty unlikely that I would have ever moved to Norfolk, Virginia. I was born in Oregon. My family moved to Minnesota when I was three. Out of my four grandparents, only one was born in the U.S. My mom’s parents were Canadian and my other grandma was about 3/8 French, 5/8 British/Irish, and was born in London.

I did end up in Norfolk, however, and I found out that I have an ancestor named James Thomas (1808–1875) who was born there. Incidentally, that’s the name of my landlord for my apartment in Norfolk. I’ve been using my DNA test results for some time to determine which common ancestors I share with my online DNA relatives. This allows me to verify that my family tree is correct and to fill in the parts that are missing. I do so by grouping my DNA matches on a particular segment (by starting and stopping points) of a chromosome. Everyone who matches on the same segment has to share at least one common ancestor and more likely shares a pair of ancestors, only one has to be careful that they’re comparing the same homologue of the chromosome, as chromosomes come in pairs — one from the mother and one from the father. So, it’s important to first make sure that all of the people match on the same side (maternal or paternal), then group the people by chromosome segment. The site myheritage has recently greatly improved their DNA matching. For one thing, it’s become fairly easy to search surnames of DNA relatives and compare trees. But they’ve also added a feature in which one can compare DNA segments. Gedmatch and 23andme also allow comparing chromosome segments.

Gedmatch has been in the news recently. Experts who were investigating the Golden State Killer obtained his DNA from evidence collected at crime scenes. Then they created a computer file and formatted it such that it mimicked a raw DNA file from a major DNA testing service such as 23andme, ancestry, myheritage, or familytreedna. This allowed them to upload the serial rapist’s/serial killer’s DNA to the aforementioned website. They came up with about 10–20 matches to the DNA and could then check existing family trees for those people, filling in missing pieces through traditional genealogical searches. Typically, the closest matches one can find on gedmatch are 3rd or greater cousins, except for when much closer relatives plan to get tested in conjunction in order to assist them in their searches. It’s possible, although less likely, that the Golden State Killer’s DNA matched with relatives as close as 2nd cousins. Either way, the researches had some work to do.

I’ve had some luck finding DNA relatives online, but it’s usually because it was easy to see the common ancestor in family trees. The vast majority of the time, family trees are unavailable or too incomplete to see a common ancestor. Other times, the trees seem well populated, but there’s still no obvious match. I emailed one of my closest DNA relatives on gedmatch, but she didn’t respond. I’ll call her M. Her family comes mostly from Escambia and Conecuh, Alabama. I have so many DNA relatives on this segment that I had to check to make sure it wasn’t a pileup region.

Another person who matches me on this segment, J, has ancestors originally from the South who migrated to Indiana in the 1900s. The same could be said about my Nicholson side of the family. J was very helpful by providing great-grandparent names. I had a little bit of trouble finding the parents of one particular great-grandparent, so she gave me those, too. That happened to be where the connection was. Once I filled in the name Martha Sumner (1869, Whitley, KY–1923) into a tree, the next four generations of her ancestors were automatically filled into the tree.

I compared the people in this tree to one other DNA relative, P, who is far from the closest match to me on this segment, but had a family tree listed on gedmatch. The names Reuben Manning (1739–1806) and Diana McCoy (1746–1844) had never stood out to me before, although I remember seeing the surname Manning. But now that couple was conspicuously in two different family trees of people I know to be related to me on the same segment. I had found the match. One thing I find very interesting is that both Reuben Manning and Diana McCoy were born and died in Portsmouth, Virginia. And they were married in 1767 in Norfolk, Virginia.

As myheritage.com improved its functionality, I investigated my matches there on this same chromosome segment. I found some matches that weren’t nearly as strong, and yet they were genealogically much more closely related to me than M, J, or P. These new matches were descendants of Wesley Columbus Nicholson (1851–1925) and Olive Hurley Mize (1850–1914), my 3g grandparents.

This leads to an interesting deduction. If the previously identified group of people all share Reuben Manning and Diana McCoy as common ancestors, and I find new DNA relatives who share the same chromosome and are descendants of Wesley and Olive Nicholson, then either Wesley or Olive Nicholson was was a descendant of Reuben Manning and Diana McCoy. The Manning couple had many children, grandchildren, etc., but there are very few possibilities going in the other direction, i.e. unknown ancestors of Wesley or Olive Nicholson.

The best idea I have so far involves Olive’s father Henry Clayton Mize (1824–1861). I determined quite a while ago that Henry Thomas Mize (1755–1853) and Keziah Parks Overby (1755–1847) were probably the paternal grandparents of Henry Clayton Mize. The eventually moved to Union County, South Carolina and then Franklin County, Georgia. That’s where Henry Clayton Mize married his wife, Mary English. One of the sons of Henry Thomas Mize and Keziah Overby was named “Clackson.” However, I don’t know if he was Henry Clayton Mize’s father or, if not, which of his siblings could have been. Before Henry Thomas Mize and Keziah Parks Overby moved to South Carolina and Georgia, they were originally from Virginia. They married on 8 January 1789 in Brunswick, Virginia. It just so happens that Nancy Morgan Whitecotton (1775–1852) and William Manning (1775–1867), the son of Reuben and Diana Manning and the ancestors of my DNA match J, were married 24 March 1794 in the same town. I think it’s fairly likely that William Manning and Nancy Whitecotton had a daughter who married Henry Clayton Mize.

One very strange thing is that my DNA relatives from this chromosome segment are predicted to share an ancestor at least 4.3 generations back. Instead, they Reuben Manning and Diana McCoy would appear to be 8 generations back for me and 7 generations back for my DNA matches. Maybe this is one of those chromosome segments that simply don’t get broken up very often in recombination.

For now, I plan to let my DNA matches on this segment know that I’ve found who I think are the common ancestors. Hopefully some of them will have already known of these ancestors. I’ll have to keep searching for more definitive evidence about the Mannings and the parents of Henry Clayton Mize.

As always, tell me what you think of this post, let me know if any of the people I mentioned are your ancestors, and feel free to ask me any questions you have about genetic genealogy or research tips.

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