Ancestry Updated Ethnicity Estimates & DNA Communities

Roberts-Brown Ancestors
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Ancestry has updated their Ethnicity estimates once again. Ancestry likes to look at your DNA from a world perspective, but I find the “DNA Communities” much more interesting. Besides showing you where ancestors may have settled in the United States, it shows possible ancestors from that place and “featured matches,” people who also are in that group and are DNA matches. In my case, I fit into five DNA Communities.

  • My DNA Communities

    Early Connecticut & New York Settlers

  • Southern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin Settlers
  • Central Appalachia Settlers
  • Delaware Valley, Chesapeake, and Midwest Settlers
  • Lower Michigan & Virginia Settlers.

Looking closer at one of the Communities, “Early Connecticut & New York Settlers – 1700-1975,” all four ancestors suggested are from my tree, and all have entries placing them in the location during the period suggested.

Sarah Blackhurst (1847-1928)

2nd Great-Grandmother – Born in England in 1847, immigrated to New York in 1850, located to Michigan in 1860, where she died.

Nelson Barnes (1816-1884)

2nd Great-Grandfather – Born in New York in 1816, moved to Indiana about 1845, where he died.

Chester Parsons (1799-1887)

4th Great-Grandfather – Born in Massachusetts, moved to New York for a short while, located to Michigan by 1826, where he died.

Madonna Montran (1893-1976)

Grandmother – Born in Michigan, lived in New York on and off during her vaudeville career from 1919 to 1930. She lived in Chicago, Michigan, and Minnesota after 1930; she died in Minnesota.

As I look at these “communities,” I wonder if Ancestry really looked at DNA matches or if they only looked at my tree and grouped various individuals into their community based solely upon my tree entries. Likewise, the “Featured Matches” included only people that have trees with the same people that I have in my tree that I do share at least some DNA with.

I guess the bottom line is that I am not impressed with the DNA Communities. That causes me to circle back to looking at Ancestry Ethnicity Estimates.

I did a Birthplace Chart/Spreadsheet about five years ago because it was “all the rage.” It had the potential to help me see what my ethnicity was. Of my 16 2nd great-grandparents, only one was an immigrant. Two were unknown, and the other 13 were all born in the United States. So, from it, I learned I was at least 6.25% from Great Britain.

I recently had a cousin who asked if I knew exactly what “Heinz 57 Variety” we were. I told him I hadn’t determined that because most of our ancestors have been in the United States for many generations. Looking at my skin tone, I figure I’m of northern European ancestry. But, after texting with my cousin, I thought it might be fun to add another generation to my Birthplace chart/spreadsheet from five years ago and see if anything new pops up after five years of further research.

No changes. I’m still 6.25% English.

My Illinois-born 2nd great-grandparents’ parents came from a mix of Tennessee, Illinois, and Kentucky. My Ohio 2nd great-grandparents’ parents came from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and my Ohio 2nd great-grandparents’ parents came from a mix of New Hampshire, New York, and Michigan. There are still 18% of my ancestors that are unknown, but a whopping 2/3 of my 3rd great-grandparents were born in the United States. So, ethnically, I am definitely an American with a smidgen of English.

My “unknown” ethnicity places are known “brick walls.” My great-grandfather, John Montran, parentage is still unknown. I have a project to watch for all Montran’s I can find and learn more about their locations in hopes I can eventually connect John to immigrant ancestors. Likewise, My 2nd great-grandmother, Elisa Jane Fannin, parents have been elusive. I know she was born in Kentucky; I’ve looked at her several times looking for her parents. I need to do more research to try to find her parentage.

My Ethnicity map per Ancestry 2021

Ancestry indicates my ancestors are between 62 and 100% from England, Belgium, and the Channel Islands. Probably true; I have nothing in my pedigree research to disagree with that assessment. Still, it is always nice to receive confirmation.


Parsons – Surname Saturday

Brown-Sanford-Parsons Line
By Don Taylor

Origin of the Parsons Surname

Ancestry indicates Parsons is an occupational name for the servant of a parish priest or parson, or possibly, the parson’s son. I ignored other meanings for Parsons, from Irish and Scottish origins, because my Parsons immigrant ancestor came from Dorset in the 1600s. According to Forebears, the surname is most common in Wiltshire, while it is also numerous in counties around Wiltshire, including Dorset.


In World: Today, Parsons has the greatest incident in the United States, with over 86,000 people having the surname.

In Dorset, England, where my earliest ancestors lived, there are 881 people with the surname.

In the US, there is a greater incidence of Parsons living in California and Texas. In the 1880 Census, the most incidences of Parsons were in New York and Massachusetts. My Parson ancestors left New York in the 1820s and were in Michigan during the 1880 Census.

Direct Parsons Ancestors

51 – Mary Electa Parsons(1828-1888) – 3rd Great Grandmother
102 – Chester Parsons(1799-1887) – 4th Great-Grandfather
204 – John Parsons(1764-1813) – 5th Great-Grandfather
408 – John Parsons Sr. (1737/38-1821) – 6th Great-Grandfather
816 – Timothy Parsons (1695-1772) – 7th Great-Grandfather*
1632 – Samuel Parsons (1653-1734) – 8th Great-Grandfather*
3264 – Joseph Parsons (1620-1683) – 9th Great-Grandfather*
6528 – William Parsons (___-___) – 10th Great-Grandfather*

* Note: I have not fully reviewed or recearched ancestors #816 or higher.


In 1840, Chester Parsons was living in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. His household included himself, his wife Deborah, and six children. There were eight Parsons families in Washtenaw County during the census. Chester and his brother lived in Saline.

In 1880, Chester’s father, John Parsons Jr,  was the head of the household in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. His household included a wife and one child.  Chester’s Grandfather, John Parsons Sr., was also the head of a household. John’s household consisted of himself, five females and three males. They were two of the nine Parsons households in the county.

My earliest known Parsons immigrant ancestor is Joseph Parsons. He came to the colonies between 1629 and 1646. It isn’t clear whether he first came to Massachusetts (where he died) or Connecticut (where he married Mary Bliss in 1646).

Photographic History

Chester Parsons

A drawing of Chester Parsons was printed in the History of Washtenaw County, Michigan. His is one of the earliest ancestor images I have.

There is a copyrighted drawing of his home in: York, Saline, Ypsilanti, Lyndon, Sharon (Mich.) Township residences, ca. 1874; 1874. Page 105. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed: April 02, 2018.

There are photos of the Parsons family marker and Chester’s individual marker via Find-a-Grave.

Likewise, there is a photo of the marker of John Parsons, Jr., on Find-a-Grave.

Direct Parsons Descendants

My earliest known ancestor, William Parsons, married Margaret Hoskins sometime before 1620, probably in Beaminster, Dorset, England.  My records have identified 868 direct-line descendants of William and Margaret.

My most recent, known Parsons cousins are children of Alfred David Parsons (1830-1908) and Percia Tallmage (___-___). They had five children between 1861 and 1873, all were born in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan. They are 1st cousins, 4x removed.


  • Ancestry Surname Page:
  • Forebears Surnames Page:
  • Ancestry – Don Taylor’s Roberts-Brown 2021 tree (Private) accessed 23 July 2021.

Mary Parsons – The 1855 New York Census opened a Brick Wall

Census Sunday
By Don Taylor


Following families in the early census records is always tricky, and following widows can be particularly difficult. I had been unable to find her in several early census records after her husband died. So, I thought I’d try approaching finding her using a different approach.

What I think I know

Mary (Wolcott) Parsons migrated to Windham, Greene County, New York in the spring 0f 1802.[i] Her husband John Parsons, Jr., died on 7 April 1813.[ii] Mary died in 1857[iii]. I was not successful in finding Mary Parsons in the 1820 Census, so I thought I’d try finding her in the last census before her death.

Census Reviews

1855 New York Census

Samuel Parsons in the 1855 New York State Census, for Windham, Greene county

Luckily, New York had an 1855 State Census. The 88-year-old Mary is recorded living with her son Samuel[iv]. Samuel was reported as being 65 years old, born in Mass. He was a farmer who had lived in Windham for 50 years. He voted and owned land.

In the same house, but making a different household, is Mary’s youngest daughter, Prudence, and her husband, Benjamin Miller. The census shows “Brudence” as 44-years-old and a resident of Windham for 44 years. Her husband Benjamin was 54-years-old and a resident of Windham for the previous 20 years. Benjamin was a voter but did not own land.

1850 Census

Samuel and “Polly” Parsons in the 1850 Census.

Having been unsuccessful in finding Mary Parsons in the 1850 Census previously, I decided to look for her son Samuel Parsons. There he was, Samuel “Persons.”[v] Living with him was 83-year-old “Polly Persons.” Polly is an alternate/nickname for Mary[vi].

The 1850 Census doesn’t show relationships, but the household appears to include 66-year-old Samuel and 83-year-old Polly Persons.

1840 Census

1840 Census showing Albert and Mary Parsons households

The 1840 Census finds Mary Parsons enumerated as a female 60 thru 69. In her household is a male 50 to 59. Samuel does not appear to have been enumerated elsewhere, so I am confident the male in the household is Samuel. Interestingly, the next person enumerated on the page appears to me to be Benjamin Miller. That household seems to have Benjamin (age 30-39), a female (age 20 to 29), and a boy (age 10 to 14). If the 1855 Census were correct, Benjamin would be 39 in 1840, and Prudence would be 29, fitting this entry.

1830 Census

Mary does not appear to be listed in the 1830 Census with Samuel. Samuel is listed as being 40 to 49 (as expected). With him is a female 10 to 14. This is an unknown female in his household. However, there is an Albert Persons (age 20 to 30) living in Windham. His household includes a female 50 to 59, which fits the age for Mary. Could this be a here-to-fore unknown child of Mary?  More research is needed to determine who Albert is. Because they are next to each other in the 1840 Census, I’m confident Mary is the 50 to 59 year old female in his household.


The 1820 Census reports three Parson’s households in Windham, Greene County, New York.

    • Albert Parson’s profile is:     1 1 0 1 0 0 | 0 1 1 0 0
    • Samuel Parson’s profile is: 0 0 0 0 1 0 | 0 2 0 0 0
    • Orrin Parson’s profile is:      1 0 0 1 0 0 | 0 0 1 0 0

None of the families enumerated appear to have a woman over 29, let alone the 53-year-old Mary. That Albert’s household did not include an older woman in 1820 but did in 1830, shows that the older woman moved into his household sometime between 1820 and 1830.

Mary’s Age Shifts

    • In 1830, 63-year-old Mary appears to have been enumerated as 50-59, four years younger.
    • In 1840, 73-year-old Mary was enumerated as 60-69, four years younger.
    • In 1850, 83-year-old Mary was enumerated as 83.
    • In 1855, 88-year-old Mary was enumerated as 88.

I find the four-year shift in Mary’s age is relatively common for women during their middle years to report be a few years younger than they are. Likewise, older people often seem to add a few years and say they are slightly older.


Based on the 1830 Census, it appears that Mary may have had a son, Albert, that I didn’t know of before. If so, Albert would have been born between 1800 and 1810 and could have been born in either Massachusetts or New York. The Parsons moved to New York about 1802; I haven’t found a birth record for Albert. Further research is needed to confirm this potential relationship.

Finding Mary/Polly in the 1840, 1850, and 1855 censuses vastly improves my understanding of her life. Again, I feel I’ve located Mary in the 1830 Census with Albert, but that feeling is tentative at best.


Research Land records for the Parsons owning land in Greene County, New York, during the early 1800s, particularly Samuel Parsons.

Did Mary have a son, Albert, who was probably born between 1802 and 1810 in New York?


[i] History of Washtenaw County, Michigan (Chicago, Chas. C. Chapman & Co., 1881), Google, Pg 1405. Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (2012). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history ; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens : history of Michigan : embracing accounts of the pre-historic races, aborigines, French, English and American conquests, and a general review of its civil, political and military history. Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 23 April 2021), memorial page for Mary “Polly” Wolcott Parsons (20 May 1767–26 Mar 1857), Find a Grave Memorial ID 118318771, citing Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Ashland, Greene County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Mookie (contributor 47515129) .

[iv] New York, US., State Census, 1855, Ancestry, Greene County, Windham, Image 8 of 34, starting at Line 7 – Samuel Parsons.

[v] In early records, the surname “Parsons” and “Persons” seem to be interchangeable.

[vi] BuzzFeed has a nice little article about “12 Weird Short Forms of Popular Names That Make You Go ‘Huh?’” which mentions why Polly is short for Mary.

When I first left home

My History, My Memories
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I was reading Randy Seaver’s Blog “Genea-Musings,” ( where, in his blog, he asked, “When [did] You First Left Home.” He had five questions,

    1. When did you first leave your parents’ home? 
    2. Why did you leave? 
    3. Where did you move to? 
    4. What was it like? 
    5. What did you learn?

That is complicated to answer. An abusive stepfather complicated my life and my mother’s life. My mom left him several times. One of those times, we left him in Minneapolis and went west to Denver, Colorado. He convinced her that he had “changed,” and we returned to him in Minneapolis.

A few months later, I had had enough and ran away, this time by myself. I hopped on a bus by myself and headed for Denver. I had learned there was a circus operating there and intended to join it. (Yes, I really did “run away to join the circus.” On the bus, I fortuitously encountered a man that was returning to the circus. He had been a clown with the circus. He dissuaded me from joining that life. So, once I got to Denver, I didn’t join the circus. Instead, I got a room at a rooming house and a job at a nearby store. It was summer, but I registered for school in the fall and intended to live independently, go to school, and work enough to pay for food and a place to live. I was 14, living just off East Colfax, and working at a Safeway (I lied about my age) just a few blocks away from my rooming house. I was in Denver for about four weeks.

Then, one evening, I was walking home quite late and the police stopped me. I didn’t have any ID and they suspected I was underage, so they brought me in for a “curfew violation.” I didn’t want to give them my address, but after a few hours, I finally gave them 2419 Bryant. A few minutes later, a furious policeman came back to inform me they sent a car there, but there was no 2419 on Bryant. I thought I had been so cute, but they didn’t think it was funny. It was then I told them it was 2419 Bryant, Minneapolis (not Denver).

Apparently, they contacted the Minneapolis Police Department, because the next day, the police informed me that my “parents” were informed where I was, and they were going to have me fly back to Minneapolis. I don’t recall if it was the third or fourth day being in custody in Denver, but I was eventually taken to the Denver airport and put on a non-stop flight to Minneapolis. The social worker person told the flight crew I wasn’t to be allowed to slip out of the plane. The plane was met in Minneapolis by my mom and my stepfather.

I learned to not be cute, clever, or difficult with the police. I also learned making a life for yourself is difficult.

Things with my stepfather improved for a while. First, my stepfather didn’t get on me for a couple of months, then my parents bought a new house, and we moved to a temporary home for a few months while the new house was being built. While in that temporary house, one of my step-sisters lived with us. My stepfather was always “good” when she was around. Anyway, she returned to her mother’s about when we moved to the new house in the suburbs. It was several months before I ran away again, but that is another story.

John Parson’s Nephew – Albert Parsons (1795-1861)

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.In my research for Mary (Wolcott) Parsons, I speculated Mary was living with Albert Parsons during the 1830 Census. I also wanted to determine just who Albert was in relationship to Mary and if made sense for Mary to be the female 50 to 59 in his household.[i]

Albert Parson’s entry on Find-a-Grave showed his relationship. He was born in 1795 in Sheffield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts to Timothy and Huldah (Porter) Parsons. Timothy Parsons and John Parsons were brothers. Thus, Albert was Mary Parsons’ husbands nephew. Albert Parsons’ profile on family search is 9KBZ-FLK. The other key fact to note is that Albert’s mother, Huldah (Porter) Parsons died in 1817, so the female 50 to 59 in his household couldn’t be Albert’s mother.

So, it does make sense that Mary was living with Albert Parsons during the 1830 Census.


[i] See my posts: “Mary Parsons – The 1855 New York Census opened a Brick Wall” and “Ancestor Sketch – Mary “Polly” Wolcott Parsons.