During the last meeting of the Maine Genealogical DNA Interest Group, someone asked if it is better to have a tree that is deep or a tree that is wide. I mentioned that, for autosomal DNA test matches, a wide tree is best. The sheer number of potential 5th and 6th cousins is daunting. But, more importantly, the likelihood of your sharing DNA with a 4th cousin is only 69% and the likelihood of sharing DNA with a 5th cousin is only 30%.[i] Consequently, knowing your 10th great grandparents is of little use in matching DNA cousins. (Consequently, knowing your 10th great grandparents is of little use in matching DNA cousins. There are two exceptions to this, Y-DNA tree (paternal only) is useful for connecting trees on a Y-DNA match. Also, X-DNA can provide a similar usefulness.)
The importance of having a wide tree was exemplified recently. I was contacted through 23 and Me by a, potentially, 2nd to 4th cousin (I’ll call B.J.) I took a look at the match using 23 & Me‘s new She and my aunt Barbara shared 88cM across five segments. My mother shared 50cM across two segments; interestingly enough, I also shared 50cM across two segments. Looking at what segments all four of us share is an excellent example of how sticky DNA segments are. All three of us shared the same sticky chunk of DNA.
We exchanged basic tree information, she mentioned her ancestors were a Mannin and a Barnett. When she said that, I knew we were related and I was pretty sure I knew exactly how. Nancy Ann Mannin married Jessie Monroe Barnett about 1867 in Kentucky. They later moved to Minnesota and settled May Township in Cass County, Minnesota.
A couple more email exchanges and I learned that B.J. and my Aunt Barbara were third cousins their common ancestor was Enoch Mannin. Enoch was one of those pivotal people in my genealogical research and I knew a lot about him and his descendants. I even had B.J.’s mother (but not her father nor her) in my family tree records.
Thanks to 23 and Me for providing the tools to connect with another cousin.
I just can’t express how important I find genetic genealogy. I often hear others talk about learning more about ancestors and finding other living relatives who might have information on your family that you don’t know. But, there is more to it than just that. Recent communications with a distant cousin of my mother-in-law reminded me of the importance of connecting with these distant DNA Cousins.
Claudine Boerner and my mother-in-law are a distant match, 4th to 6th cousins on Ancestry DNA. That means that they are likely to share a common 3rd, 4th, or 5th great grandparent. I often don’t expect much on matches that distant. In my mother-in-law’s case of the 32 possible surnames, she would have among her 3rd great-grandparents, we only know 15 of them. So, the odds of finding a common ancestor between 5th or 6th can be even more daunting. In my case, having only 15 of 64 (4th great) or 15 of 128 (5th great) possible surnames the odds of finding a common ancestor seems very remote.
However, in the case of Claudine, she and my mother-in-law share one common surname that we know of, Darling. We don’t know if that is the genetic connection or not, but we do know that we are both researching the Darlings in upstate New York during the 1700s and early 1800s. As she was doing her research, she came across an individual, Rufus H. Darling, whose name she remembered was in my Darling tree. She sent me a note that she had seen some information that included Rufus in the “Beekman Patent.” She mentioned some material was in a book, Dennis Darling: of Braintree and Mendon and some of his descendants 1662-1800 by William Albert Martin and Lou Ella Johnson Martin. I was able to locate a copy and found the entry where Rufus is mentioned along with his parents, whom I had determined previously (unbeknownst to Claudine). It also had the names of several of Rufus’ siblings, whose names I didn’t have previously. It included the names of Rufus’ father (Abner), siblings and his father’s name. Another Abner, and his father’s name, Ebenezer. The book has a reasonable amount of footnoting (sources) so I am able to use those to validate what I find.
A 1776 map showing the Beekman Patent [i]
I was also able to find a website regarding “The Settlers of the Beekman Patent” Dutchess County, New York. It includes “An Historical & Genealogical Study of all 18th Century Inhabitants of the Patent.” I then contacted the author, Frank J. Doherty, of the material and asked if “The Darling Family – 12 pages” included information regarding Rufus H Darling and his father, Abner Darling (1780-1839). He replied that it did and I ordered a copy of it. I quickly received a copy of it electronically. It too is excellent. It is a 12-page document regarding the Darlings of the Beekman Patent plus another 12 pages indicating the sources of the information. It also indicates that Ebenezer’s name was Benjamin and his father’s name was Dennis. I was a little disappointed that some of the material in the Dennis Darling: of Braintree is verbatim from the Beekman Patent pages, but still, the information provided is well worth the modest fee Mr. Doherty charges.
With the information in the book and Doherty’s Darling Family pages and the sources provided I have hundreds of hours of work to review, analyze, document, and verify the information, but the information, the source suggestions are invaluable.
With me possibly pushing back another two to four generations on my Darling line and Claudine’s continued research, it is possible we will find our shared common ancestor. Then again, maybe that ancestor is one of the other 128 fifth great-grandparents. Either way, one significant benefit of connecting with distant cousins are the important clues they can provide to your research.
Sarah Blackhurst Barber is a particularly special ancestor for me. First, she is my most recent immigrant ancestor. Second, she is a mitochondrial ancestor. That is to say, I carry her mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child. As such, I received my mtDNA from my mother, who received it from her mother (Madonna Montran), who received it from her mother (Ida Barber), who received it from her mother (Sarah Blackhurst). I have not done a mtDNA Test yet, but I should do one so that I have some experience with the test and its results.
There are very few of us with Sarah’s mtDNA. Sarah had two children, Ida and Eva. Eva died with no children. Ida had one daughter, Madonna. Madonna only had one daughter and a son. Her son is still living and carried her mtDNA but his children, of course, do not. Madonna’s daughter (my mother) had two boys. He and I carry it. She also had two girls; one of them only had boys, they have the same mtDNA, but won’t pass it on to future generations. The other daughter of my mother had two boys and a girl. Again, the two boys have the mtDNA but won’t pass it on. That leaves her daughter, the only descendant of Sarah’s with the potential of passing Sarah’s mitochondrial DNA on to a future generation (she doesn’t have any children yet).
My mtDNA Sources
• My mother (living)
• Madonna Montran
• Ida Barber
• Sarah Blackhurst
• Fanny Taylor
That said, Sarah did have five sisters. I haven’t had a chance to trace any of their descendants. Hopefully, there are other descendants that her mtDNA has been passed along to.
Bio – Sarah H Blackhurst Barber (1847-1929)
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 08
Sarah H Blackhurst was born in December 1847 in England, probably Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. She was the seventh child of Stephen and Fanny (Taylor) Blackhurst.
Her older siblings include:
• Ellen (1829-1905)
• Elizabeth (~1831-1910)
• Mary (1833-1900)
• William Stephen (~1835-1917)
• Louisa (1838-1927) 
• Phoebe Anna (~1842-1929)
Auburn – State St. from Genesee St. c. 1910
Via Wikipedia [Public Domain]
Shortly after her birth, in 1848, her father left for the United States and settled in Auburn, Cayuga County, New York establishing himself as a shoe maker. It was two years later that the family arrived. Ellen was not with them, but the rest of the family was enumerated in Auburn during the 1850 Census. 
The family was together during the New York 1855 Census. I have been unable to find the family in the 1860 Census.
On 8 October 1869, Sarah married Franklin E Barber in Sheridan Township, Calhoun County, Michigan. One very interesting aspect of their marriage is that he marriage occurred before the license was taken out. The date of their license was 22 Jan 1870 and the the date of their marriage was 8 Nov 1969, seventy-five days earlier. None of the other entries on that page in the marriage registration logbook have similar confusing entries. Sarah’s sister “Louisee” (Louisa Sanders) was one of the witnesses. The other witness was James Hickey also of Sheridan Township. (His relationship is unknown.) Officiating the rite was Stephen White, a Justice of the Peace.
In 1874, their first child, Ida, was born.
In December, 1877, their second child, another girl was born. They named her Eva.
In 1880, the young family is living in Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan. Frank was a painter, who had been unemployed four of the previous twelve months. Sarah was keeping house for her two children, Ida, age 6 and Eva, age 2.
In 1900, Sarah and 22-year-old daughter, Eva are living at 250 Fifth, Detroit, Michigan. Husband Frank is living at the Soldier’s Home in Grand Rapids.
Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI c.1910
By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1910, the 62-year-old Sarah was living with her older daughter Ida in Detroit. Ida had divorced her third husband, Joseph Holdsworth. Sarah is listed in the 1910 Census as widowed; however, her husband is till living at the Soldier’s home in Grand Rapids. He is also identified as widowed.
1917 was a very bad year. Her husband’s dying on April 7th may have been anti-climatic, but her youngest daughter, Eva, Sarah’s died on November 8th at the age of 33.
In 1920, Sarah was living in New York City at 134 Lawrence Street, Manhattan. This is now 126th Street and appears to be a parking ramp today. The Census indicates that her granddaughter Madonna Montran was living with her. However, in January of 1920, when the Census was taken, Donna was on the road with the “Chin Chin” production. Living with the 70-year-old Sarah is a boarder named Charles Smith. Charles was a 26-year-old German music composer.
Today, 125th Street is perceived to be the heart of Harlem. But in 1920, the black neighborhood started a few blocks north, at 130th Street. There was an IRT station three blocks away at 125th and one at 130th. The IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) was originally an elevated cable car system but converted to electric in 1903. The line was closed in 1940.
I believe that Sarah died on 6 September 1929, in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. I have ordered a copy of a death certificate for a person who I believe is our Sarah Barber. When I receive it, it should confirm the death date and provide clues to burial information.
Await receipt of Death Certificate to confirm death date and a clue to her burial location.
Find Blackhurst Family in the 1860 Census. Location unknown (New York to Michigan).
Find the Barber Family in the 1870 Census. They should be in Calhoun County, MI.
Take a mtDNA Test to document Sarah’s mtDNA.
List of Greats
1. Ida May Barber [Montran] [Fisher] [Holdsworth] [Knight] 2. Sarah H Blackhurst [Barber]
3. Fanny Taylor [Blackhurst]
 “Eleazer” in the 1850 Census is believe to be an alternative name for Louisa.
 1920 Census; Sarah Barber Head – Manhattan Assembly District 13, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1209; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 958; “Arrival 1850”.
 New York, State Census, 1855; Stephen Blackhurst – New York, Cayuga, Sheet 37, Line 21, Note: All family members except for Stephen had been in City or town for 5 years.
 Michigan, Calhoun, Certified Copy of a Marriage Record; Barber-Blackhurst – 1869; Repository: Don Taylor personal files.
 1880 Census; Frank Barber Head – Albion, Calhoun, Michigan, ED 062, Page No 13.
 1900 Census; Sarah Barber Head – Detroit, Michigan, ED 36, Sheet 13B
 1910 Census; Ida Holdsworth Head – Detroit, Wayne, Michigan
 1920 Census; Sarah Barber Head – Manhattan Assembly District 13, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1209; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 958.  Internet: Digital Harlem Blog –“Harlem in the 1920s”