A Family for David #7 of 52 Ancestors

In the 1800’s an unmarried, pregnant woman could be summoned into Court with a warrant and questioned as to the paternity of her unborn child. If she refused to name the father she could go to jail. When she did name the father, a warrant was issued for him to appear in Court. Thus, paternity was determined, a bastardy bond was issued, and the father had responsibilities toward that child.

Today, an unmarried pregnant woman names the father of her unborn child and the first thing he does is request a paternity test. A DNA sample is taken from the child and a sample is taken from the named father. If the results come back 0%, he is not the father. If the results are 99.9% or higher, he is named as the father and ordered to pay child support to the mother.

And now DNA has entered into the field of genealogy, sometimes changing what we thought we knew of our ancestors, or helping adoptees find their genetic ancestors, or, as in my case, finding not only the surname, but the family of an ancestor with an assumed name. I can’t test my great grandfather, David Brazille Plunk, deceased 1955, nor can I test his father to prove paternity. However, I believe that I can be 99% sure that I have found his ancestral family. I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts on the following information, either pointing out errors I may have made, or whether or not you agree with my analysis.

David had twelve children, six boys and six girls. I began with YDNA to start my search using samples from two of his great grandsons. They are second cousins descended from two different sons of David. Their DNA samples were first submitted to ancestry.com. They match each other exactly 37/37 markers giving us David’s YDNA. But as far as matching other men in the ancestry.com Y database, the results were dismal in that the two men they matched with the same surname (not Plunk) were estimated to share a common ancestor with them within 15 and 34 generations. Ouch.

After a few years of desperate searching up and down an ancestral tree that was leading me nowhere, I transferred the YDNA to familytreedna.com. In that database, they matched a descendant of J.M. Boatwright, 1857 – 1907, exactly 37/37 markers. But, David’s grandsons and J.M. Boatwright’s descendant are of German descent (according to their DNA) and the Boatwrights of the boatwrightgenealogy.com DNA project are of English descent. Plus, J.M. Boatwright’s descendant doesn’t match any of the other Boatwrights in the project. In fact, his only DNA match were David’s great grandsons.

I reached out to the person that submitted the YDNA test for J.M. Boatwright and found that her tester descended through J.M.’s son, Thomas Lee Boatwright, 1878-1918. The Boatwright researcher reached out to her family and found another descendent through J.M.’s son, Lawrence Boatwright, who was willing to submit his YDNA sample. The Lawrence descendant matched the other Boatwrights and is of English descent. So, apparently, J.M. Boatwright is a Boatwright, but his son Thomas Lee Boatwright isn’t a Boatwright. Now what?

J.M. Boatwright was the son of Thomas Boatwright and Lucinda Coker. Lucinda married Henry Nepp/Nipp and had three sons, Henry Nipp abt 1845, Andrew Jackson Nipp abt 1846 and Charles E. Nipp abt 1848. I don’t know what happened to her husband Henry, nor her son Henry, but in 1860, she’s married to Thomas Boatwright and has more children, William Boatwright abt 1852, Joseph Calvin Boatwright 1854 – 1923, J.M. Boatwright 1857-1907, Luticia Boatwright abt 1859.

Some research into the Nipp name revealed its variations of Nipp/Nepp/Neff/Knepp/Knipp/Knipe and apparently originated as the German surname Knopp. A clue!

There was a website, genetree.com, where you could manually enter the YDNA markers and search for matches in that database. I did so, and David’s great grandsons matched, 37/37 markers, a man who claimed descendency from Verner/Varner Knipp, through his son Daniel. Unfortunately, there was no email available for that tester and genetree has shut down their website.
Ysearch.org didn’t yield anything when I entered the markers there, but at smgf.org David’s testers matched a Knep descendant. Again, no email but this person did include an ancestry chart that I’m researching.

I posted a request for a tester on the Facebook site, Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness (RAOGK) and found another lovely woman in the Knipp family researching her ancestor Edmund Knipp, 1804-1867). I also started my own Facebook research group, Nipp/Knapp-KIN and allied Families. A descendant of Edmund Knipp submitted his YDNA and he matches the descendants of David Brazille Plunk and the descendant of Thomas Lee Boatwright exactly 37/37 markers.

At this point, I’m sure that the ancestral surname of David Brazille Plunk is Nipp/Knipp, but which family does he belong to?

One of my matches from my atDNA test (autosomal) is a man descended from Leann Knipp and John Adam Bible. Leann is the daughter of Daniel Knipp and Regina Bowers. Daniel is the son of Varner/Verner Knipp and wife Christeener. This fits with the YDNA results of my cousins.

Imagine my surprise recently when I saw a man with the surname of Boatwright listed as one of my atDNA matches! Correspondence with this match reveals that he is descended from Joseph Calvin Boatwright and Emma Dean Carter. Joseph Calvin Boatwright is the son of Thomas Boatwright and Lucinda Coker Nipp Boatwright. Yes! He is the brother of J.M. Boatwright that raised the Thomas Lee Boatwright whose descendant matches the YDNA of my Plunk testers. The way I see it is that my atDNA Boatwright match is related to me through Lucinda Coker Nipp Boatwright. He descending through her marriage to Thomas Boatwright and myself descending through her marriage to Henry Nipps.

So now the question is which of her three Nipps sons is the father David Brazille Plunk. And who was his mother?

A Knip Puzzle – Part Two

In several other posts I’ve explained why I believe my Plunk ancestor is actually a Nipp/Knipp/Knepp. For more information on the YDNA project please see http://www.familytreedna.com/public/NippKnapp-KIN/ or

At smgf.org, I manually entered the markers for the Plunk descendants and we have 3 matches from that database. All of them are 37/37 marker matches.

1. KNEPP[USA-Pennsylvania]: 4gen

I have no way of contacting this Knepp tester to ask him to join our YDNA project, but I hope someone in his family sees this and decides to test.

This person states his ancestry is:

Henry KNEPP b. 6 Jun 1852 Shiloh, Pennsylvania, USA

b. 9 Nov 1893 Clearfield, Pennsylvania, USA

alice Rosalie b. 22 Feb 1856 Shiloh, Pennsylvania, USA

I hope someday there will be enough men in these families to test to accomplish the goal of tying them all to their immigrant ancestor.

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 ancestry.com.  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 familytreedna.com 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.

My Theory of the Biological Family of David Brazille Plunk

While stumbling my way through DNA, I’m reminded of the game we used to play as kids – rock, scissors, paper, shoot. Do you remember that game? The “rock” beats “scissors, the “scissors” beats “paper”, and the “paper” beats “rock”. I wonder if DNA is “rock” or “scissors”? Pretty obvious with the “paper”. Can I combine YDNA and Autosomal DNA and overcome the lack of “paper”?

Please remember that this is my thought of who the family is, genetically, of David Brazille Plunk based on my understanding of DNA and that I have absolutely nothing on paper to prove this theory. I’ve been hesitant to put this on the blog for the whole world to see because I’m afraid someone will take the information and start proclaiming it as fact when in truth it’s just my humble theory.

For years, all of his descendants thought he belonged to a Smith family because of family folklore. If you do a quick search of the public family trees at ancestry.com, you will find that several people are putting his name out there as David Brazille Smith Plunk as if it were a fact, but an inspection of their documents reveals there’s no paper proof, nor DNA analysis, to support the surname Smith.

Although DNA is stronger evidence than family folklore, this is still just my amateur attempt to use genetics to determine the biological family of my great grand-father, David Brazille Plunk. To do so, I first had to identify as much of my own biological family as I could. Then, using a combination of YDNA and Autosomal DNA, try to find who his family was.

YDNA is passed from father to son to son to son, etc. Thanks to two of his great grandsons, I have the Y line for the paternal line of David Brazille Plunk. But how do I turn that into a surname for his paternal line?

The YDNA tests for both great grandsons, descended through two different sons of David Brazille Plunk, was first done through ancestry.com. The results were slim and other than matching each other exactly, their closest match was to a man whose family also had an assumed name. I then manually entered their markers at genetree, before it closed, and they matched a man, at 85%, claiming the following ascendancy:

Daniel Knipp, son of Varner Knipp, son of Christian Knipp.

I don’t know what marker for marker match an 85% match would be, but I think it’s pretty close to an exact 37/37 marker match. I will explain why I think that in a moment.

I then transferred my cousins YDNA to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and upgraded from 35 markers to 37 markers. Out of the hundreds of thousands of men tested, they had one exact match, 37/37 markers. This man was a descendant of Thomas Lee Boatwright. Thomas Lee had a brother, Lawrence Boatwright, and one of his descendants also tested. My Plunk does not match the descendant of Lawrence Boatwright, but he does match the descendant of Thomas Lee Boatwright.

The results from FTDNA include a TiP report which shows the matches percentages of a common ancestor within an amount of generations. The below shows the percentages comparing the descendant of Thomas Lee Boatwright and the descendant of David Brazille Plunk. This chart is also why I think the 85% match at genetree of the descendant of Christian Knipp is pretty close to the same 37/37 marker match:

Generations Percentage
4 83.49%
8 97.28%
12 99.55%
16 99.93%
20 99.99%
24 100.00%

The parents of Thomas Lee Boatwright and Lawrence Boatwright were J.M. Boatwright and Mahala Johnson. The parents of J.M. Boatwright were Thomas Boatwright and Lucinda Coker Nipp Boatwright. There’s that name Nipp/Knipp again!

When I look at the YDNA test results, I see a distinct probable relationship to the family of Nipp/Nepp/Knipp (and any other variation of the spelling of that surname).

At FTDNA, I have 300 matches of genetic cousins as a result of my own autosomal test. One of those matches has the surname Knipp as one of his ancestors. His relationship range to me is given as a 3rd to 5th cousin, and a suggested relationship of 4th cousin. I believe that would put the common ancestor in the 3rd to 4th great grand-parent range. According to the research of this match, his great grand-parents are:

John Alexander Reed m Altamira Britton
Jackson Hartman m Louisa “Jane” Bible
John Bible m Leann Knipp
Absalom Gray m Rebecca Lassley

Do you see it? John Bible married Leanna (Leann) Knipp.

I know all of my great grand-parents and David Brazille Plunk is the only one that I know of, at this time, with an assumed surname. If I only look at the above names, his biological family could be Reed, Britton, Hartman, Bible, Knipp, Gray, or Lassley. But, if I look at the above compared to the genetree and FTDNA probability of Nipp, then it’s my conclusion that the biological family of my nonPlunk is somewhere within the family of Leann Knipp.

However, she is his great grand-mother and I want a 3rd to 4th great grand-parent. According to the research of this match, Leann Knipp descends from:

Daniel Knipp m Regina “Peggy” Bowers (2nd great grand-parents of match)
Varner Knipp m Christina (3rd great grand-parents of match)
Christian Knipp m Mary Wismer (4th great grand-parents of match)

The very same family that the match at genetree said he descended from!

My thought, then, is that my great grand-father, David Brazille Plunk, would be a descendant through either one of the sons of Varner Knipp, or possibly one of the brothers of Varner Knipp.

Again, I remind you, this is my theory of his family. I will post my research into that family as it unfolds. Hopefully, someday, I will have the information pointing to his biological parents and the paper to back it up.

Who Were They? – Part Three

I hope I eventually find out who they were.  I’ve been reviewing the steps I’ve already taken and thinking of the family folklore that’s been handed down.

For some reason, I keep thinking about my great grand-father, David Brazille Plunk, saying that he thought his parents were “some kind of show people” because they travelled a lot and he remembered “staying in rooms at night” while his parents went out.

David was born 1879/80 Arkansas, before birth certificates, and without knowing a surname, or a location, I won’t be able to find him in other records.

So, what kind of “show people” were there during this time period?

Vaudeville was around during the early 1880’s.  There was a member of the Plunk family that was a knife thrower at the Lyric Theater in Oklahoma City, OK.

Revival meetings.  Not really considered a “show”, but would be a reason for traveling and being out at night.  There was a Niswonger that was a traveling evangelist who was also a famous chalk artist.

Circus.  There were quite a few small circus groups traveling the country during this time period.

There are ways to research participants of all these genres, if you know who you’re looking for.  But, I have been looking, using the surnames from DNA tests as a base.

There is another group of travelers that I was reading about last night.  Every time I think of this group I hear Cher singing in my head.  There are even some TV reality shows airing now.

Chicanere.  I found an article, Wayfaring Stranger, by Linda Griggs.  She says this group of people are also called Black Dutch or German Gypsies.  Her article has a lot of interesting information.  But what peaked my curiosity is the fact that they are German, they are travelers, and they started immigrating to the States about the same time the other Palentine immigrants came.

I was surprised to learn that Gypsies often have two names.  One for private use within the family and the other for public use as in business and signing legal documents.  From what I understand, the private, family name, is logically their name, but for public use, they used a surname that was common in the area in which they lived.  An example would be a private, family name, of Linda Jones, but in conducting business or signing a legal document, she would be Linda Smith.

That makes me wonder about the family folklore that David’s biological name was Smith, yet, as of today, there has not been a YDNA match to the name Smith.  Could I have stumbled upon another clue?

A lot of possibilities and the search for who they were continues.

Plunk YDNA – Any Matches – Part Two

After chasing several apparent false leads up and down the Keen lines, I figured the only way I was going to get anywhere was to go fishing in another pond.  I transferred the Plunk Y DNA to familytreedna.com, ordered another kit to upgrade from 35 markers to 37 markers, and still have no idea who the biological parents of David Brazille Plunk are.

Family Tree DNA is probably the largest DNA for genealogical databases there are, followed by 23 and me, and ancestry.  Here’s what I found out.

Confirmation that David Brazille Plunk is of German descent and an exact match 37 markers to 37 markers to a descendant of a J.M. Boatwright, 1857 – 1904 married to a Mahala Johnson.

Problem.  This descendant does not match any other Boatwrights in this project indicating he is not a Boatwright.  I have been working with a relative of the nonBoatwright tester.  J. M. Boatwright and Mahala Johnson had several children.  The nonBoatwright descends through their son Thomas Lee Boatwright.  She found a descendant of one of their other sons, Lawrence Boatwright, who agreed to test.

The Thomas Lee Boatwright descendant matches my Plunk descendants.  The Lawrence Boatwright descendant matches the other Boatwright descendants in the project.  At the present, it appears that Thomas Lee Boatwright is the non parental event (officially or unofficially adopted).  In order to prove that he’s the one though, I have to find another direct male descendant of Thomas Lee Boatwright that is willing to do the test.  Or do I?

Remember, I said the parents of Thomas Lee Boatwright are believed to be J.M. Boatwright and Mahala Johnson.  The parents of J.M. Boatwright are Thomas Boatwright and Lucinda Coker.  It is believed that Lucinda Coker was first married to Henry Nipps because of the writings of S.C. Turnbo (Turnbo Manuscripts).

On the 1850 Marion County, AR census, Lucinda Nepp is living with her father, Charles Coker, along with 3 children: She is NOT listed as a widow and no one appears to know when Henry Nipps died. The 3 children are: Henry Nepp (blind) age 5 Jackson Nepp age 4 Charles Nepp age 1.

In 1860 Marion County, AR census Lucinda Boatwright is listed as the wife of Thomas Boatwright, the oldest Nepp child is no longer listed, and along with the other two Nepp children, there are some Boatwright children.

The thing you have to remember is that the Turnbo Manuscripts are a transcription of his diaries, or rather his memories of them.  It’s my understanding the originals burned in a fire.  These manuscripts are recollections of a community of people as he remembered they were told to him.  Gossip if you will, but because of courthouses being burned, Mr. Turnbo appears to be the closest thing to a record of that area we can come to.

Another thing to remember is that from these manuscripts another manuscript was written by S.C. Turnbo titled The White Water Chronicles.  I mention this because in the Turnbo Manuscripts he states that Mahala Coker (a sister to Lucinda) married Dock Boatwright, but in The White Water Chronicles it is reported that Mahala Coker married Dick Boatwright.  Obviously a typo in one or the other transcriptions!

Remember as well, the U.S. Federal Census records I’m looking at are all handwritten.  Misspellings and errors abound!  This is why it’s important to not just take the Census or writings of others as an absolute fact.  A guide, yes, fact, no.  However, sometimes that may be all the proof you have, especially as you start traveling back to the founding of our country.  I think the main thing is to always keep an open mind for other possibilities.

I did some checking, and taking Turnbo at his word that Lucinda Coker was first married to Henry Nipps, it appears that the surname Nipps is of German descent, probably originally Knopf.  Another variation would be Knipp.

I put the word out to the Nipps family and was contacted by a lady who said her nephew was a direct descendant of Aaron Nipps, the brother of the Henry purportedly married to Lucinda Coker.  He agreed to do the test and I am awaiting those results.

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