Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on April 1, 2014 in Ask Ancestry Anne, Research

Dear Ancestry Anne,

I’ve been having trouble committing to the set of parents I think I found for my great-grandfather James Henry Myers. I think if I got a second opinion I trust, I’d get over being hesitant to claim this family line. I need to be sure I’m climbing the right tree.

If I accept that James Myers was born in May of 1858, then he would have been 51 in April of 1910 as shown in the attached census. I know from the divorce decree that my great-grandmother divorced him on 7 Jan 1905.

Sounds plausible, right? Why do I hesitate? I got exactly zero DNA cousin matches from this family. Neither did my uncle, one generation closer to James Myers. Either no one from this family has had their DNA tested on Ancestry, or neither I nor my uncle inherited any DNA from the direct Myers line. The other thing that bothers me is the court order that committed James Myers to the Poor House has the middle initial S instead of H, and it lists his age as 45 instead of 49 (he was committed 3 Feb 1908). My explanation is that he was probably malnourished and dehydrated and possibly slurred his speech to whoever collected his vital information in the first place.

Please help.

Many thanks for all you do at

Artemis OakGrove

Dear Artemis,

You have 3 questions here and all of them are good.

  1. Why are there no Myers cousins showing up in your DNA?
  2. Does the Court Order have inaccuracies in it?
  3. Are James and Susan Myers the parents of James H. Myers?

Why are there no Myers cousins showing up in your DNA?

It very may well be, as you suggest, that there are no Myers cousins that have taken the AncestryDNA test yet.  Also, you have about 50% of your father’s DNA, 25% of your grandfather’s DNA and about 12.5% of your great grandfather’s DNA.  Not all of your great grandfather’s descendants are going to match you. You wisely chose to have your Myers uncle tested and it is highly likely that he has more of your great grandfather’s DNA and might make more matches as new cousins get tested.  Anna Swayne’s article Understanding Patterns of Inheritance: Where Did My DNA Come From? (And Why It Matters) will give you more information. 

Does the Court Order have inaccuracies in it?

Does the Court Order say who the informant is?  Unless you know who it is and how well he knew your great grandfather, you can’t really assess if the informant even knew his middle initial or his age. And if it was your great grandfather giving the information, the information could have be written down incorrectly, or as you suggest he could have been confused at the time.  The more evidence you gather about James, the better case you will be able to make whether the 1910 census and the Court Order match.

Are John and Sarah Myers the parents of James H. Myers?

Let’s start with the 1900 census record that you mentioned, since that is the one you know to be correct.

James was born in Missouri, Eliza in Germany.  The oldest daughter was born in Kansas (Holt County is very close to Kansas), Amarilla was born in Oregon and the rest were born in Missouri. Oregon strikes me as odd. The census tells us they have been married for 11 years so sometime around 1888 or 1889. Maybe they were married in Missouri, maybe in Kansas.

1900 for James Myers

I did find a marriage license for James H. Meyers and Louisa Cook. Given that Eliza was German she may have had a strong accent and the clerk may not have understood her name. Kuch and Cook may have been pronounce the same. The license is for Dec 1888 and in Oregon, Holt, Missouri which is close in date and location on the 1900 census.

Let’s think about where and when Amarilla and Mary Etta were born.  Mary Etta was born in Dec 1890 in Kansas. Amarilla in Jun 1891 in Oregon. Either Amarilla was very premature, or one of those dates is wrong.

I also wondered at first if Amarilla might have been born in Oregon, Missouri, but I found what are likely to be her other census records and they all say she was born in Oregon. I even found an index that lists her as being born in Oregon. But, it gives her married name.  Now how did they know in 1891 that she was going to marry a Counts? I suspect this is a delayed birth record which brings it into question. It may be right, but there are enough oddities that you are going to need to dig more.

oregon birth

The 1860 record you found may be your James, but it is a long jump from 1900 to 1860. I would take each of James’ and Eliza’s children and research them thoroughly. Maybe somewhere in their information is a clue to an aunt or uncle or cousin of James. And research Eliza’s family as well.

You were very wise to be cautious about committing to this family. While the indicators are there, additional evidence will help you solidify this link. I suggest you read our 5 Steps to a Healthy Tree for how to build a strong case on a hypothesis. Keep digging. The answer is out there.

Happy Searching!


Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at She is an active blogger on and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.


  1. Shari S

    Thank you for continuing to educate the rapidly growing community of genealogists who want to use DNA to sort out their family tree mysteries. I always look forward to these posts.

    However, I feel that more information is needed in a few areas:

    Artemis writes: “I got exactly zero DNA cousin matches from this family.”

    Actually, “Artemis” has absolutely NO WAY of knowing that, assuming that Artemis is the typical AncestryDNA customer with hundreds of matches without trees or with private trees (and who may not respond to email), or with trees that may be problematic. I think we have all seen trees where there are errors as recent as the gg-grandparent level.

    It’s so easy for people to forget about the gaps – either the gaps in their matches trees or in their own. Those of us who’ve been with Ancestry’s DNA product for awhile have probably all received the dreaded “You don’t have any names I recognize, so we must not be related” reply at least once. Again, thank you for these blog posts that are helping people past misguided thinking like this.

    However, it’s important to keep reminding people of these gaps when the opportunity comes up, since the real value of the DNA test (at least to most family historians) is eventually filling in those missing people. Not mentioning that matches to a specific family may be sitting right in front of us seems to be Ancestry’s calculated way of not getting into the problem of so many private/non-existent trees. (Understandable, but not fair to the readers in Artemis’ position.)

    Meanwhile, seeking to reaffirm where traditional research has already gone by using autosomal DNA testing (as Artemis wants to do) is great, but this ABSOLUTELY CANNOT BE DONE VIA ANCESTRY’s DNA TEST. Parents/siblings/uncles-et-al aside, just because a common ancestor is known (and perhaps identified with a little leaf hint) doesn’t mean that’s where the DNA connection lies. By testing many people across three companies, I’ve more than once seen “obvious” connections turn out to not be the DNA connection. I’m so glad I’ve not relied on those hints – I would’ve missed out on new, previously unknown connections.

    We all know that Ancestry doesn’t plan to give us a chromosome browser like we get at other sites, and we’re all hoping the promised “better mousetrap” shows up soon and is loaded with cheese. It’s crazy to know that we could be breaking down brick walls by sunset with a chromosome browser, given the sheer number of matches and trees here, but instead Ancestry is sitting on this information.

    As a result, all of these DNA-related blog posts are forced to be a little cagey and over-simplified to the point of being misleading since examples of chromosome browsing cannot be used to provide more information or make clearer points. This is a disservice to genealogy – the very opposite of everything should stand for.

    Again, I truly appreciate the DNA-related posts, but it’s sickening to see everything that’s not said, keeping those customers who haven’t tested elsewhere in the dark about what they could be doing with their DNA results.

    Ancestry is poised to change the entire face of genealogy with this test, but downplaying the power of the test until Ancestry is ready is a slap in the face to all genealogists.

  2. Joan (Myers) Young

    I wish I had a username to compare DNA with on this MYERS line. I know there are a ton of MYERS out there and these are in MO and KY and mine are in Pennsylvania but some details are eerily similiar…in Alms House and divorce proceedings, etc. It certainly would ne nice to at least compare our trees and DNA.

    I’ve always known that finding cousins who match through their trees and surnames AND DNA is a plus but I also am aware that there are cousins out there proven on paper who don’t match…simply because of the way autosomal DNA is randomly lost over the generations.


  3. Debi roper

    Hello…..what i do is follow every brother and sister,husband or wife on every census etc….then i check who the neighbours were and who they worked for…..who were witness at there wedding….. its like joining the dots……it takes a long time but 11 distance members on my mother side had the wrong mother maiden name down so they were following the wrong person…..i also order birth cert as well on the children……..a family friend thought his dad had been born in Ireland but i found him in England being born at a friend of the mothers who had moved milies away from were she lived when she got married and his mother had gone there to have the child…….over here brother and sisters called their children after the parents so in a small village you could have up to 10 John Williams all around the same age……they even give them one name like my aunt Mary Marie but called her Marie well another 2 of the girls were called Mary….my uncle was Charles Henry but called Harry……..another uncle who has just die was called Peter Brind but his name was Peter Davies Wale the Davies was after his father and it was not until the funeral that people who lived in the village were he was born and died knew he had a sister as she was at work then in a small town and he was never called by his real surname……….also i use more than one site and i find familysearch a good site….some sites spell names or places wrong so they don’t show up……keep at it you will get there in the end or go mad like me….Regards Debi ..England

  4. John

    Regarding Cooke, Kuch, yes they are pronounced much the same. Many Americans pronounce vowels as ‘flat’ or short and seem to think this is how it is pronounced everywhere. However, in much of the world it is the latin vowel pronunciation thet predominates. For instance, it is not an a like apple but more like ‘ah’. Also, in Germany and most other places, excepting England, the ‘U’ does not have a y sound in front of it,so Kuch would be pronounced more like ‘book’.

  5. Don Lange

    The Meyers issue brings up a techical question. If you are to quick to accept leaf information or DNA info you are not sure of, how do you correct the error going forward? It seems to proliferate rapidly forevermore. How do you do an effective a redo to eliminate having everyone go forward with inaccurate information?
    Any help appreciated.

  6. Patrick Reinhart

    So far, I have found no real help in identifying any other person in my family through DNA. The only connection I can see is that the 69% Great Britain, 10% Scandinavian and 5% eastern European area information corresponds roughly to the amount of people I have included in my tree so far. That is to say that (for example) 69% of the people in my tree are descendants of Colonial settlers on my mothers side and would naturally be from England. The “fact” that my paternal ancestors all came to Albany area of New York from Germany in the early 1700s doesn’t show up in my DNA identified regions, leads me to an initial conclusion that my Dad is not my father, or the Test can’t really tell us any useful information. I called and asked about what this could mean, and was told that basically Ancestry doesn’t know. So I asked how to look at my raw data, and downloaded it. No explanation of how any data is pulled from the raw data was included. I would like to know from my raw data, how the percentages I was given were arrived at. I admit that I am not an expert on DNA how information is determined, but would appreciate at least a rough explanation on how Ancestry arrives at its regional area reporting. I also searched several of the 96% chance of matching a cousin within 10 degrees “matches” and found no cousins that matched.
    Please tell us some information that will help and not just about how we probably will not even match fathers , grandfathers, etc.
    Is the answer, simply that no other Reinhart males have had their DNA Tested at Ancestry. And, if that is the case, how will we ever be able to tell if a ggggrandfather is our ancestor from DNA.
    I am a computer system analyst and have an IQ in the upper 130s, so I can understand any reasonable logical answer.
    Thank you for any help you can give me on this.

  7. I have found some direct links to my ancestors, with the DNA matches. I have also found some surnames, that I was told in my ancestor line, but never found before. Finding the link to the matches is going to be difficult, because the people that do the tree may be interested in only one ancestry line and not have their tree developed to where the ancestors meet that is needed to find a direct link to the match. There is also, at least for me, the problem that some of my ancestors changed their last name, one to a totally different surname, which makes traces that ancestor difficult, but I find the different surname in a lot of my matches and that proves the surname was there. Also, some ancestors shortened or changed the spelling of the surname, such as mine has Ferris in the line and I find matches with Ferris, Farris, Faris and even Faires in my matches and they come from locations where I know the Ferris family lived and migrated. Also, for me, knowing the times in the south, we were told we had an ancestor that was Caddo Indian; however, DNA shows that we have African regional ancestors in a small percentage, and probably had ancestors that passed as white or said they were Indian and passed for white in the United States Census reports. That makes tracing the roots difficult in these situations. I have also found ancestors that gave different birth dates and states for themselves, children and parents in the census reports. I have found my local genealogical societies not helpful, they usually did research toward their own specific ancestors; and some of mine, migrating to Texas and fighting in the Revolution and owning large land patents are not mentioned in their research and periodicals. I consider myself an amateur in researching. I have been doing it off and on, since the late 60’s (high school papers started the bug). Retirement has allowed me to spend more time searching. Ancestry has been a valuable resource, even before I did the DNA. I find the DNA a very valuable tool in sorting through my ancestor surnames. I now find I have a very, very large family. Thank you.

  8. Artemis

    Oh, Anne, imagine my delight to find this in my email box this morning. I’m so pleased you chose my letter out of so many to analyze. Thank you, this is a rare treat.

    So the Louisa Cook thing works if you know her true given name: Elisa Kuck. My uncle knew her well as a child and young man and Kuck was indeed pronounced Cook.

    When I place my James in the family in Callaway County, there is a likely brother who was in a gold mining camp nearby where Amarilla was born right about the same time. My speculation is that James took his young family to Oregon to work there, too, then returned to Missouri. Amarilla did marry a Counts…I’m confident this info is correct.

    Anne, I like your advice about researching the other members of the family–always sound. What I’ve been told is that all the girls except my grandmother hated James and refused to have anything to do with him. He, in turn, denounced them. In his mind, near his death, he only had the one daughter (my grandmother) because she regularly traveled to St. Joseph to visit him.

    The one little tidbit I have is that my grandmother thought James’ mother’s last name was Cox. If I give Sarah the last name Cox and look at the Cox cousin matches I got, there is a very likely family to place her in that came from the county adjacent to Callaway (about 25 miles away from where the Myers were living.) That leads me to Cantrell, which also give me cousin matches.

    I’m glad to at least know that I haven’t proved this yet. I will keep looking. Thanks for all you do.

  9. Joanne Flower

    I have been researching the Oregon Myers’ family and there is a small town (village, really) just outside of LaGrande, Oregon called Summerville in which there are several graves identified as Myers. The person that I’m researching was a Myers who may have been in the Oregon Mental Hospital in Pendleton, Or at some point. Possibly, Amarilla’s family was visiting family in Oregon? This person was my Grandmothers half-brother. Same mother and different fathers.

  10. Arlene Baldwin

    The baptism record may be correct in that many people were baptized in their adulthood (after marriage, children, etc.) when they “accepted” the “Lord” under a different religious sect or as their first religious baptism. This could mean that Amarilla Myers Counts was an adult and married before she was baptized. I have that circumstance in one of my families that the parents and the first 4 children were all baptized on the same day in a Christian faith that they had not been a member of before.

  11. I agree with the posting that warned about just using other “trees” without researching further. I have been surprised at some of the sloppiness of some trees: especially when I see people “being born after they died” dates..dates that indicate that people lived 140 years!! What troubles me is that it seems others have added the incorrect information without question to their trees. Shouldn’t Ancestry have some sort of flag about this??

    However, in my own tree I tripped over a grandmother whose children were older than she..luckily I found other information that showed she was the second wife and that the kids were from the first marriage..but for a while I was bewildered!

    Besides just accepting what others have found, it is critical to look at their sources. If the sole source of documentation is “Ancestry”, look further until you actually see a birth certificate, etc attached to one of the trees..

Comments are closed.