Monkey DNA — Are you a Cousin?

At Christmas Kongo received a DNA testing kit.  The results just came back and it confirmed that Kongo is indeed a monkey.  Actually, the test was all about Kongo’s beloved keeper and there were a few surprises but for the most part the results pretty much confirmed what had been learned from previous genealogy research.


Kongo’s keeper had previously traced his forefathers to the Jamestown area of Southern Virginia early in the 1600s.  They weren’t the first group to land but they were there within about 15 years.  In the genealogy research the main families investigated were the paternal and maternal grandparents and the names were Jones, Lee, Pace, and Autry.  In fact, an Autry was there for the native uprising in the 1620s and played a role in warning the early settlement that the Paspahegh tribe was on the march.  (There was another Autry a couple of hundred years later, a cousin, who met his end at the Alamo.) Most early settlers arrived as indentured servants and the Jones’ from Wales were likely in that category.  The Lees on the other hand came from an area in Southwestern England around Lee Hall near Shropshire.  Kongo visited that area about ten years ago.  But the research shows that Kongo’s Lee ancestors were not THAT Lee family — as in Robert E. (and through him to George Washington), but a less illustrious branch of the family.  The Autry’s were originally French Huguenots and made it to North Carolina in the mid 1700s.

From Virginia the families migrated into North Carolina and after the Revolutionary War (several war records were found) each generation migrated west as new lands opened up on the frontier.  In a era where infant mortality was high Kongo’s adopted family had unusually large numbers of children and they all were healthy.  Only the eldest inherited the family lands so the younger siblings (where Kongo’s keeper traces his line) packed up and moved west nearly every generation.  The went from Eastern North Carolina to Western North Carolina and from there into Tennessee.

By the time of the Civil War they were in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama.  Interestingly, ALL of the direct relations fought for the North.  This undoubtedly created some neighborhood tensions after the war so they all pretty much picked up and moved west again into Texas and finally into Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

Britton Lee (on the left).  A great, great grandfather who fought for the North in the Civil War.

Until the time of the grandparents everyone had been farmers.  Like everyone.  Census records show that brothers in the family had adjacent plots of land wherever they landed.   When they weren’t farming they were preaching — Primitive Baptist — and travelled throughout hilly Tennessee and Arkansas founding new churches.  Some still exist today.

Kongo has a family bible from the Pace side of the family that dates back to the mid-1800s.  It lists births and deaths and as was common in bibles at the time there was a section where you were supposed to sign a temperance pledge and foreswear drinking.  While all the other pages are dutifully filled out, not a single ancestor signed the temperance pledge.  They were party animals (maybe).

The two grandparents Kongo had were interesting.  On the paternal side was a crusty character born in 1890 named Stonewall Jackson Jones.  He had been born in Corinth, MS on land where the Civil War battle of Shiloh was fought. He was the first in a long, long line of farmers to break tradition.  He became an oil man in the early boom years of the petroleum. industry in Oklahoma.  He made a few fortunes and lost them.  Such were times in those days.  The maternal grandfather, Joseph Irons Lee, was one of 12 children and he was actually born in Mexico where the family was taking a sojourn.  He became a foreman in a meat packing plant in Oklahoma City.

Kongo’s adopted grandfather (left), Stonewall Jackson Jones, standing on an oil rig in Oklahoma in the 1920s.

Like a lot of America the family pretty much blew all over the place following World War II.

The research shows that the family moved and expanded pretty much like America did as it transformed from a rural farming base to the industrial nation we are today.  There were no big heroes or super famous people in the line…but neither were there any great rogues.  Also, there were no divorces.  On either side of the family.  They all mated for life.  Not surprisingly, Mr. and Mrs. Kongo have been dating since high school.  A long time.

Mated for life.  Mr. and Mrs. Kongo’s engagement photo.

A great grandmother on the paternal side lived in the Chickasaw lands of Southern Oklahoma and her background is rather murky.  She was an orphan who lived alone with “an old man” out in the wilds.  She married an Autry while very young.  The family always suspected there would be some Native American DNA there somewhere.  Not the case.  Kongo will have to look into this more and figure out who she really was.

The Ancestry DNA identified over a thousand cousins.  Undoubtedly there are many more who just haven’t been tested yet.

It’s an easy test to perform.  You spit into a tube, use the pre-paid mailer in the kit to send it to and about six weeks later you find out who you really are.  Pretty cool.

Now Mrs. Kongo had more surprises.  Her grandfather immigrated from the Azores in the early 1900s so she was expecting a lot of Iberian Peninsula DNA to show up but in fact her largest DNA segment was the same as Kongo’s keeper:  Great Britain at 30%.  The Iberian Peninsula was 28%.  Hmm.  There was also a sizable amount of DNA from North Africa.  So now that the Kongos are traveling to Morocco in May, Mrs. Kongo is expecting to meet lots of cousins!

If you haven’t done the DNA test thing yet, get going!  We may be cousins!

Travel safe.  Have fun.






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