Michael was working on a large project to determine all the Burgess families in the US. He originally thought there might be up to 18 families. He was trying to tie together variant branches into main lines etc.
The Keziah Burgess family breaks into three major Burgess branches based on her three sons: Armstead, Sperrill, and Oliver. Because Keziah is not known to have married, and had given all three of her sons her maiden name, researchers have always speculated on what happened.
The possibilities are that she was raped, a prostitute, or simply naive about sex. Of course it is quite possible that she may have been abused in the Nichols household as well. However Keziah was 20 or 21 when she bore Armstead, we may never know if she had other earlier children.
So Shiela Gibson and other researchers from other branches encouraged me to do the DNA test and I was excited to do so. The test is a Y-chromosome 12 marker test. This means that when a family surname is confirmed and 10 or more markers match, that relationship is insured. This is not an instant process. I received the test (a swab from inside the cheek) in October of 2004 and the first results were not ready until January. As the test results from Oliver and Sperrill came in we had a clear answer.
- All three sons had a different father.
- None of the ancestors were closely related to any known male Burgess family.
All three family names would have been different had they taken their fathers name. As I watched more new data come in to the FamilyDNA data center. I noticed that four others had exactly the same 12 markers as our Armstead branch. There were three participants with the surname “Hale” and one surname “Hess” matching mine. Why three Hales?
I studied and conferred with Michael Burgess about what this means. Matches do happen outside of surnames (families). It does happen, but with only 12 markers (it is possible to also do 25 and 37 markers) the probability that a relationship exists without the known family relationship through genealogy is low. However, I reasoned that if in such a small community (only about 1700) if close proximity was present then the probability would increase dramatically. After all the probabilities are calculated for one person against one match. Not three matches with one surname. This is not just one random name but three different Hales.
I wrote each Hale who participated, and waited for the reply. I received replies from two Hales. One is a history teacher and has an extensive website for Hale research. He eventually sent me the full genealogy, and believe it or not, out of the entire country in the 1800’s his Hale family was a founding family in Bedford County. A coincidence? I hoped not.
So after a thorough review and cross checking the 1810 census I have found 9 candidates in the male Hale family who would pass the markers on to Keziah’s son Armstead. It turns out that the Hales were prominent around Hales Ford (now the Smith Mountain Lake area on the border of Bedford and Franklin counties). This property could have been within 5 miles from one of John Nichols farms (to the east). John Nichols was Keziah’s bonder.
Taking the enhanced DNA test may be the next step, but for myself I think this circumstantial evidence has just broken the case! These families were too close in time and proximity. They were known to each other and in some cases sold land to each other. I feel that while we have a gap with exactly which of the nine possible Hales passed on the 12 markers, we know that one of their male ancestors is also our male ancestor. This male ancestor might be closer; perhaps Nicholas (III) Hale or further such as Nicholas (I). Ancestors in England. Research by Brian Hale indicates that the Hales immigrated very early to Virginia in 1620. Only more DNA tests will reveal the precision of my theory.
Hales Ford, Boones Mill and Huddleson Township are three of the communities that were tied together by marriage, religion and frontier survival. Most of these people were tied together by marriage direct or shirt-tail, or attended church together.