Plunk/Boatwright/Knipp – A DNA study

Please remember, I’m not an expert genealogist, not a scientist, and definitely not a geneticist.  I’m just a  person who wants to solve some family mysteries and get to know my ancestors.

I’ve been attempting to use DNA for several years now to discover who the biological parents of my great grandfather were.  During that time, I’ve been reading all the info on DNA used for genealogy as I possibly can.  Hopefully, I’ve learned a little bit.  If you disagree with anything I say, please be kind and let me know so that I don’t perpetuate false information.

I don’t know who the biological parents of David Brazille Plunk were, but I believe the family of his biological father was Nipp/Nepp/Knipp.  The following is how I came to that conclusion.

I first had two of David’s great grandsons, descended through two different sons, Orvan O. “Bud” and Ira, tested through  The results were frustrating in that there were no close matches.  Since these two great grandsons match each other exactly marker for marker, and are descended through two different sons, I believe I have a solid foundation for the Y DNA of David Brazille Plunk.  Y DNA is passed from father to son to son to son to son, so only males can take the test.

I then turned to and their Family Finder test.  This is a test for all those chromosomes you inherited from all ancestors, male and female, across all lines.  Problem is, the test can’t tell you which line your match is from.  At last count I had some 300 genetic cousins I’ve never met, nor heard of.

While the family finder test was helpful in some of my known lines, it had not helped me in determining my main goal -the family of David Brazille Plunk.  Since my male Plunk cousins match each other exactly, I transferred the Y DNA of one of them to Family Tree DNA.

I was very excited to find a match to a descendant of J.M. Boatwright 1857 – 1904.  Notice I said “a” match, as in ONE match.  Out of the hundreds of thousands of men who have tested, I have ONE match?  But, it’s a perfect 37/37 marker match, so my Plunk must be a Boatwright, correct?  No, of course it’s not going to be that easy.

Two descendants of J.M. Boatwright, descended from two different sons, Thomas and Lawrence, also tested their Y DNA.  My Plunks match exactly 37/37 markers the descendant of Thomas, but not the descendant of Lawrence.  The descendant of Lawrence actually matches other Boatwrights in the Boatwright DNA study, but Thomas’ descendant does not.  The descendant of Thomas had the ONE match as well.  My Plunk.

What does this mean?  It means that either Thomas Boatwright, or one of his descendant’s,  was an NPE (non parental event).  In other words, Thomas is not the biological son of J.M. Boatwright, 1857 – 1904, or one of his male descendants were NPE.

While looking for another male descendant of Thomas Boatwright to test, I started looking into the Boatwright family.  According to Y DNA, my Plunks and the Thomas Boatwright descendant are of German descent.  The Boatwrights are of English descent.

Unlike the Plunk family that always knew David Brazille Plunk was an NPE, no one in the Boatwright family suspected that Thomas, or one of his descendants, were NPE.

Remember that Thomas Boatwright is said to be the son of J.M. Boatwright and Mahala Johnson.  According to the Turnbo Manuscripts, by S.C. Turnbo, J.M. Boatwright is the son of Thomas Boatwright and Lucinda Coker Nepp Boatwright.  Nepp?  What nationality is that?

Keep in mind the level of literacy at the time, and that most everything, I believe, was spelled phonetically by whoever was writintg.  I’ve seen the surname written as Nipp/Nepp/Knipp/Knapp/Knipe, and some others I can’t think of at the moment.

To be honest, I haven’t been able to make heads or tails of the true original name.  It appears to me, at the present time, that about the same time an immigrant Knapp from England and an immigrant Knopp or Knipe from Germany arrived in the colonies.  I think that because of the similarities of the names, that the surnames have been used interchangeably by both families making it difficult to trace the lines of each branch.  But I digress and that’s a blog for another day.

The big clue on my Family Finder is a man predicted to be my 3rd cousin whose 2nd great grandmother is Leann Knipp.

And now, another tester has shown up as a perfect 37/37 match to my Plunks and the Thomas Boatwright descendant.  This tester is a descendant of Edmund Knipp, 1804 VA.

I am attaching a spreadsheet to this that shows the markers and alleles of these four men and how they match each other.  I don’t want to get all technical with what alleles and markers are.  Let’s just put it simply that the numbers on the top row are the markers of Y DNA and the numbers under those are the value of those markers each tester inherited from his male line.  A perfect match on all 37 markers is an indication the men came from the same male at some point.  In fact, as long as there are 3 or less differences in the numbers in the value row, the male line will be common.  More than 3 differences, it won’t….at least not within a thousand years or so (my belief, look it up for yourself).

My two testers, Plunk 1 and Plunk 2, are combined on the same line since they match each other exactly.  Next is Boatwright 1, the descendant of Thomas Boatwright.  Following him is Knipp, the descendant of Edmund Knipp.  You can easily see that these men have the exact same values all across the row with no differences whatever, meaning they are from the same male line.

Boatwright 2 is the descendant of Lawrence Boatwright.  I’ve indicated his different values in red making it easy to see there is no way he is from the same line.

Y markers for Knipp project

Who Were They? DNA solves a families questions.

All of my life I have heard that Grandpa’s biological family were German and the name was Smith.  Grandpa being David Brazille Plunk.

Although it’s possible his biological mother could have been a Smith, I believe I now have DNA proof (not paper) than his biological male line was Knipp/Nipp.  Here’s why:

At Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), the YDNA results of his great grandson match 37 to 37 markers to a descendant of James/John M. Boatwright.  However, our match didn’t match another descendant of James/John.  Looking in the Boatwright family I found their close kinship to Knipp/Nipp which I have written about elsewhere.

In my own autosomal DNA tests I’m listed as a 3rd cousin to a descendant of Leann Knipp.

Then this morning, the holy grail, my Grandpa’s DNA matches 37 to 37 markers to a descendant of Edmund Knipp.

And now the research begins to get to know the biological family of David Brazille Plunk.