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  • Writer's pictureSabrina Riley

DNA: A Corrective Tool

Since I last posted about my own DNA results, a number of my family members have participated in our family DNA project. The results are fascinating and surprising. On my mother's father's side of the family we continue to be bewildered by the significant ratios of British, Irish, and Scandinavian DNA, and the lower than expected ratio of Europe West.

Here's why we expected higher percentages in Europe West. The Foxes came to Michigan from Pennsylvania where it is strongly suspected the name was originally Fuchs. We've hit a brick wall with the Foxes in Northumberland County, although Jonas Fox, Senior reportedly was born in Berks County. While we've been unable to verify when they arrived in Pennsylvania and from where they came, they appear to have been thoroughly integrated into the German Lutheran community which was rather insular, typically intermarrying with other German families, mostly descendants of the Palatines. The Foxes follow this pattern as does the Lantz family until Jonas Fox and Christiana Lantz moved to Michigan, where their son Jonas Oliver Fox married Lydia Cronkhite.

The Cronkhite name is derived from an early Dutch family in New Amsterdam who intermarried with other Dutch families until 1792 when Henry Cronkhite, Senior married Margaret Wygant, who it turns out was a descendent of one of the original German Palatines given a land grant in Newburgh, New York. This all looks like a preponderance of Europe West origins, right? Until we look at Margaret Wygant's maternal lines. Margaret's mother's name was Katherine Powell and her parents were Morgan Powell and Sara Hays (or Mays). Powell is a Welsh name and it is believed that Morgan Powell was born in England. Margaret's paternal grandmother was Mary Silkworth, an English name. But this is all I've been able to learn so far.

The next generation also introduces more new blood. This time Henry Cronkhite, Junior married Deborah Morse. As with Katherine Powell, I've been unable to discover more about her, but Morse is an English or Welsh name as well. This means that Henry and Deborah's daughter Lydia Cronkhite's DNA would be less than 50% Europe West, and possibly closer to 25% Europe West. If the Foxes do prove to be German, Lydia'a husband, Jonas Oliver Fox, would be expected to have a much higher percentage of Europe West DNA than Lydia.

The oldest living person on this side of the family to participate in our DNA project is a grandchild of Jonas Oliver and Lydia Fox. His DNA results show a broader mix of ethnic origins than one might expect knowing his father Clint Fox's family background. So what role does his mother Hazel's DNA play?

Hazel's father was Anthony Hoseit (or Hosheit), born in Canada, but his father John was born in Luxembourg and was likely of German origin. Anthony's wife Constance Gureski was born in Poland, immigrating to Michigan via Canada like the Hoseits. Once again because we know more about this paternal line, emphasis as been placed on these western and eastern European roots. But very likely, half of Hazel's DNA was from England and Ireland. Her mother's maiden name was Lewis. The Lewises' came from New York, and relatively little is known about them. Hazel's maternal grandmother's maiden name was Smith. With common names like these the brick wall is indeed intimidating.

What I've learned through this analysis though, is that we are biased by what we know about our families. I think something akin to an optical illusion happens in our thinking in which we feel greater emotional attachment and thus place more weight on the branches of our families about which we have more information. Thus DNA testing provides a corrective to these misperceptions. In the case of my family, we have first placed emphasis on paternal Europe West lines whose surnames are the ones most familiar due to the number of known family members with these surnames. And having better records and more substantial information on our German and Dutch ancestors has increased our awareness of their origins and made us feel that they are more dominant because we have more names and more information for these lines. But when you look closely at the less visible maternal lines, there is plenty of room for that English, Irish, and Scandinavian DNA to be significant. Now to keep searching for those elusive names and origins.

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