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Frankey (Lea) Jessee Female MtDNA Line

on Fri, 03/04/2016 - 07:45

I posted that if we could find a daughter, of a daughter, of a daughter only descendant, of one of the seven daughters of John and Frankey (Lea) Jessee, we could discover Frankey’s Mitochondrial DNA heritage.   This would determine if Frankey has European, Indian or Melungeon origins. 


Gary Klinedinst, wrote, 7/23/2011, with major news regarding the MtDNA of our Frankey Lea. It was identified thanks to Gary and his mother, Alta Mae Kiser, and their willingness to share their DNA results, and deep Russell County pedigree. Alta Mae Kiser is a direct maternal descendant of John and Frankey Lea Jessee through their daughter, Mary Polly Kiser

Dear Mr. Jessee, We are distant cousins through our shared ancestors, John and Frankie (Lea) Jessee. I am descended from them through my mother, who was born in Russell Co., VA in 1919. Through the intermarriage of cousins, she is descended from this couple through her paternal grandmother’s line, her maternal grandfather’s, and her maternal grandmother’s, so she probably has a lot of Jessee DNA in her.

I started researching my ancestry about 30 years ago, and like everyone else researching this couple I ended with lots of speculation and no definitive links to their parentage. I gave up researching them about the time the first Jessee Family Newsletter was written.  I had no knowledge of its existence until about a 7 months ago, when I decided to renew my research at the urging of a cousin who found out that I was the family genealogist.

I was delighted when I found your website, with its large family database as well as the back issues of the family newsletter. I read each issue from the first to the last. I was very intrigued by all of the findings made over the years, but disappointed when I got to the last issue without a firm resolution of the ancestry of John and Frankie (Lea) Jessee. 

I am sorry to say that I do not have any new historical documentation to contribute. However, when I got to the Summer 2009 Jessee Newsletter, I realized that I could be of help when I read the following:  “If we can find a daughter of a daughter of a daughter only descendant of one of the seven daughters of John and Frankey Lea Jessee, we can discover Frankey’s Mitochondrial DNA heritage, and determine if Frankey has European, Indian, or Melungeon origins.”

Now I don’t know whether, since your last issue, you have found anyone who fits this bill, but you have now. My mother’s mother was Hattie Kiser (1887-1983), who was the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Kiser (1859-1928), the daughter of Martha (Childress) Kiser (1828-1906), the daughter of Frances (Kiser) Childress (1805-1887), the daughter of Mary (Jessee) Kiser (1786-1836), the daughter of Frances (Lea) Jessee (ca 1752-ca 1836). Furthermore, my mother is still living and I have had her DNA submitted to both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe for testing for both mtDNA and autosomal DNA. Would you be interested in learning the results?

You might also be interested to know that my mother’s father (a Jessee descendant) had one of the traditional Jessee names-- Archer. Archer’s mother’s name was Frances (Sutherland) Kiser, named after her grandmother Frances (Kiser) Childress, named after her grandmother Frances (Lea) Jessee.

I asked permission to share his letter and their DNA results in the Jessee Newsletter. He replied:  “Yes, you can certainly share my information with the exception of my email address. I don’t like the idea of that being publicly posted, since it may invite spam and scammers. If any real researcher or cousin wants to contact me, you can be my go-between.”

I compared your line of descent with my mother’s and by my reckoning, you and my mother are 5th cousins.

Gary provided his mother’s MtDNA results which includes our Frankey Lea Jessee DNA, and reveals her maternal origins and roots.  

OK, now I have the results to share with you. My mother’s (and thus Frankey’s) haplogroup, as tested by Family Tree DNA, is “H.” They wanted more money to narrow it down further and I wasn’t prepared at the time to pay it. Their results were confirmed by 23andMe who narrowed it down further (at no extra charge) to “H4a1a.” 

Here is what 23andMe had to say:  “Haplogroup H [Helena in the Seven Daughters of Eve] is the most common in Europe, reaching peak concentrations along the Atlantic coast. Although its origins are unclear, the haplogroup rose to prominence during the Ice Age, when Europe was blanketed by glaciers and its population squeezed into a handful of ice-free refuges in Iberia, Italy, the Balkans and the Caucasus.”

Several branches of haplogroup H arose during that time, and after the glaciers receded.  Most of them played a prominent role in the repopulation of the continent. With the subsequent spread of agriculture and the rise of organized military campaigns, the haplogroup achieved an even wider distribution. It is now found throughout Europe and at lower levels in Asia, reaching as far south as Arabia and eastward to the western fringes of Siberia.”

“The H4 branch appears to have arisen in southeastern Europe or the Black Sea region about 12,000 years ago, during the final stages of the Ice Age. It soon spun off its own sub-branch, H4a, which spread north and west from the Caucusus region or neighboring Turkey into eastern Europe about 10,000 years ago, possibly in association with the spread of farming. The haplogroup is most common today in Poland, where about 5% of the population carries it.”

“The next highest concentration of H4a is in Ireland, where about 3% of the population falls into the category. Those people may be descended from women who migrated to Britain and Ireland with 5th- and 6th-century Saxon invaders or during the later Viking period.”

I then did a google search for “H4a1a” and found a site called The mtDNA H Haplogroup Project. This company says H4 is “quite rare,” found in all of Europe except Russia, but highest in Iberia.” However, for the full sequence of “H4a1a,” they just show a map with the British Isles and Finland highlighted in red.

For your mtDNA matches they:   

1)  list a country 

2)  the total number of people you match from that country

3)  the total number of people who have reported this as their country of origin 

4)  the percent of the people we have tested from this country who match you

(Since I didn’t have a full genome test, the matches for my mother are only approximate.) I list the top 13 here in order from highest to lowest percentages:

Portugal, 9, 245, 3.7%

Scotland, 26, 1,200, 2.2

Czech Rep., 5, 268, 1.9 

Ireland, 45, 2,248, 1.8

Austria, 4, 229, 1.7

Netherlands, 6, 368, 1.6

England, 46, 3,341, 1.4

United Kingdom, 27, 1,967, 1.4

Denmark, 3, 213, 1.4

Norway, 7, 509, 1.4

France, 1.2, 1,035, 1.2

Germany, 36, 3,384, 1.1

Morocco, 2, 176, 1.1 (Sephardic Jews)

Now what can we conclude from the MtDNA results and literature, tables, and maps that I’ve found? 

1)  rule out that she’s a full-blooded American Indian. (of course, she could have had an Indian father.) 

2)  Her maternal ancestors were most likely European, although there is a slight chance she could have been descended from Sephardic Jews from Morocco. I also doubt that very many Finnish, Czech, or Polish people were emigrating to America in colonial times. 

There does seem to be a good chance that her ancestors were from the British Isles. Then again, the high percentage of matches from Portugal could indicate Melungeon heritage. So the mtDNA results are tantalizing, but inconclusive. I welcome any of your thoughts on all of this.

Gary wrote later with more information, excellent discussion, and conclusions. 

Now I would like to discuss what has been learned from my mother’s autosomal DNA, that is the DNA in the chromosomes other than the Y-chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA. I don’t know if you are familiar with the background of this relatively new type of test or not. It turns out that when we inherit our genes from our parents, they are not mixed 100% thoroughly, as I imagined years ago when I was a kid in school. The mixing occurs randomly, but long blocks, or segments, of DNA tend to stick together, often for several generations. People who share identical segments, most likely inherited them from the same person. Of course with each generation, the segments have a greater chance of breaking apart into smaller pieces. Some short matching segments may just be coincidental. But a statistical analysis can tell the difference and predict the degree of relatedness. The more segments you share and the greater the length of those segments, the more closely related you are. Relationships out to the second cousin level are virtually certain to show up. The chance of finding a match with a particular relative begins to decline slightly with third cousins. It can still detect many of your relatives at the fourth and fifth cousin levels and occasionally beyond that. At least two companies use autosomal DNA testing to match their customers with other people that they have tested and to predict their degree of relatedness. Family Tree DNA calls their matching tool Family Finder, whereas 23andMe calls theirs Relative Finder. Another use for autosomal DNA testing is to determine someone’s ethnic ancestry. Both of the above-mentioned companies offer this as a feature of their autosomal DNA testing. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe call theirs “Population Finder” and “Ancestry Painting” respectively.

Now bearing in mind that unlike mtDNA, my mother’s autosomal test results would not be the same as Frankey (Lea) Jessee’s, here is what was concluded:

23andMe’s Ancestry Painting shows my mother to be 100% European. However, Family Tree’s Population Finder determined her to be 95.79%+/-1.13% Western European and 3.38%+/-1.12% Middle Eastern. (Why the difference? Family Tree DNA says “FAQ: I had my Family Finder results analyzed using a third party service. Why do the results differ from Population Finder? Answer: If you use a third party tool, it is natural for there to be minor differences for the Population Finder Beta due to either different methodologies or different population sets.”)

23andMe has an additional tool which they call “Native American Ancestry Finder.” Here’s their description: “This feature scans a person’s Ancestry Painting for distinctive signatures that indicate a Native American ancestor up to five generations in the past. It also takes into account the maternal and, if available, paternal lines, looking for Native American ancestry at any depth along those two branches of the family tree. Generally, it will only discover Native American ancestry within the last five generations of the participant.”

The test determined that my mother had no evidence of Native American ancestry. Now although they say it generally only detects this back as far as 5 generations, I think my mother would be an exception in the case of her ancestors John Jessee & Frances Lea. She is 6 generations removed, so in most instances that would mean 64 different fourth great-grandparents and that each one would have contributed only 1.56% of their DNA. But in my mother’s case, John Jessee and Frances Lea are each repeated 3 times through 3 different lines and so they each contribute 3/64 or 4.688%. (more than a non-repeated third great-grandparent, who would contribute only 1/32 or 3.125%.) 

This finding corroborates the mtDNA results that show Frankie Lea as not being American Indian. It also corroborates with your Y-DNA results showing John Jessee’s paternal line to be of Western European descent.


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