Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part IV

In Part IV, we shift our focus to Alpheus’ maternal line.

In the prior post, we stated that Henry Proctor Adams is probably the father of Alpheus Adams. There is an off-chance that Henry is not his father, but then one of Henry’s brothers or sisters is Alpheus’ parent. If we need to, we will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, we’re looking for Alpheus’ mother.

So how do we find her? We have no documentary evidence for Alpheus prior to his marriage. We do have a range of possible birth years (1845–1847), but should acknowledge the possibility he was born a year or two earlier or later. We can try to find where Henry was during those years. But we still would not know Alpheus’ mother among all the people in those places.

Let’s find his mother’s family first, and then see if we can put anyone in the two families together in the same place at the same time. How do we do that?

By process of elimination. Can we find any DNA matches for Test A or Test B (first introduced in Part III) that we can not associate with our lines, which we know, except for the line above Andrew Porter. We are looking for distant cousins sharing an unknown Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) that could be one of Alpheus’ maternal grandparents or great-grandparents. Much higher up the tree and this gets very hard, very fast. We’re working back to the mid-1700’s and beginning to run out of DNA to match with.

Directly below is a cluster diagram for Test A. These DNA matches share more than 30 cM of DNA with Test A, which should cover the range of relationships we are looking for without overwhelming us with more distant matches (sharing less DNA). We have been fairly successful determining the MRCA for most of these clusters. The MRCA for each cluster is labeled directly to its left or right. We did not label the tiny ones.

We have a large cluster of descendants of Alpheus Adams and his wife Ellen Jane Hannah in the upper portion of the diagram. Just below that we see a cluster for the Adams line above Henry Proctor Adams. Below that is the cluster that finally caught our attention.

Cluster diagram for Alpheus Adams granddaughter (Test A) in the Porter line.

Directly below is a clustering diagram for Test B.

There are a few more unknown clusters is this diagram, but the same potential cluster for Alpheus’ maternal line from the above diagram appears here as well.

Cluster diagram for Alpheus Adams granddaughter (Test B) in the Porter line.

You are thinking, why did this take so long? Well, we’re being kind. Test A has over 46,000 DNA matches, Test B has over 52,000. The above diagrams only show about 200 DNA matches, so you can find the cluster the very first time you look. Maybe the labels help a little also. We needed help.

We only recognized this cluster for what it is when we adopted a new clustering application called Shared Clustering. Using a process called Walking the Clusters Back, we were finally able to associate family lines with most of the clusters going back many generations. And Alpheus’ maternal cluster was left behind with no known family line.

Now that we’ve identified and labeled the cluster of interest, we add more and more of those almost 100,000 DNA matches. More DNA matches join this cluster. And with them, we find some lovely family trees, majestic redwoods, and we find a single family name in many of them—Strain.

Do we have enough DNA matches with the Strains to confirm the relationship, narrow down their trees, and find Alpheus’ mother? Let’s see what we have.

John Strain
Unknown Wife
> 3 <
Thomas Watts
Susannah Taylor
> 3 <
Johannes Swart
Elizabeth Nagel
> 1 <
Jacob Sphar
Catherine Smith
> 1 <
Samuel Strain
Hannah Watts
> 8 <
James Swart
Margaret Sphar
> 0 <
Thomas M. Strain
Phebe Swartz
> 10 <
Unknown Mother

One thing to keep in mind while reviewing the number of DNA matches is that Alpheus is probably the only child of Henry Proctor Adams and Alpheus’ mother. We are told she died when he was one year old; we will revisit this again later, but have seen no DNA evidence to the contrary.

Think of this as meaning we are having to go up the tree one additional generation to find shared DNA matches with the Strains, from 3rd cousins to 4th cousins, cutting the available shared DNA in half. Also, most families of this era had eight or so children. We are facing a significantly reduced pool of possible DNA matches in this case with only Alpheus connecting our tree and the Strain tree. The number of matches we did find, with known lineage, is compelling.

Without dragging you through all the details, and based solely on the DNA evidence, we have concluded:

  • John Strain is probably 2nd great-grandparent of Alpheus Adams on his maternal side.
  • Samuel Strain and Hannah Watts are probably his great-grandparents.
  • Thomas M. Strain and Phebe Swartz are likely his grandparents.

We think the levels of confidence assigned to each of these relationships, probably and likely, are appropriate. And yes, we are concluding this based only on the DNA matches. You are welcome to offer an alternative hypothesis, but you may want to wait for the documentary evidence before suggesting we bet on it.

So who are the Strains, where are they from, how did one of them meet Henry Proctor Adams, and which one? And why are we chuckling as we write Part V in our head?

We will discuss all of that, and wrap up this story in one or two more posts, if things go as planned.

One final note for Part IV. There are a significant number of AncestryDNA tests for descendants of Alpheus Adams, including for family that will read this. Some of them are also DNA matches with the Strains, and appear in the two diagrams above. We just don’t have direct access to their test kits to generate cluster diagrams for them. We can easily do that if they wish. Or we can help them get started using Shared Clustering. With it, we have now solved three long-standing brick walls in about one month.


John Strain (1730–1766) is probably 7th great-grandparent of MKS in the Watne branch.

Samuel Strain (1762–1845) and Hannah Watts (1762–1798) are probably 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.