Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In Celebration of Black History Month (or More DNA Discoveries)

Several months ago I received a message via about two DNA matches, cousins with a common ancestor from Bedford County, Virginia, likely the surname Mitchell. I realized I had not worked on the Mitchell family at all. Once we started digging into the Mitchell line, we got our common shared ancestor sorted out in pretty short order. (You have to love land-owning families who stayed in one place!) And we got our shaky leaf. It's like a reward.

AncestryDNA match after research built out the Beard and Mitchell line

I am actually related to these DNA matches in three ways. The mother of Effie David Beard, my great grandmother, was Barbara Ann Mitchell. She was the daughter of Daniel Mitchell, a grandson of Robert and Mary (Enos or Innes) Mitchell. And Effie Davis Beard's great grandfather, Samuel Beard, married Mary Mitchell, another daughter of Robert Mitchell.

Martha Ann Mitchell married Samuel Claytor on 25 August 1788, becoming his second wife. Samuel Claytor acquired a great deal of land in Bedford County, Virginia, as well as large tracts in Kentucky. It is thought the family lived quite comfortably. They had 10 children and Harvey Claytor was their seventh child. Harvey married Adeline Walker in 1830. The couple had three children. Before the Civil War Harvey Claytor owned 3,000 acres of land in Franklin County, Virginia, and perhaps as many as 100 slaves.

One of his slaves was Letitia who was described as a "very fair skinned, red-headed mulatto." We know nothing about her parentage but believe she was born about 1814. She was the family cook. She had a slave husband named Henry, who was the father of five of her seven children. Her youngest son, William Armstead Claytor, born in June 1849, was fathered by Harvey Claytor or one of his close male relatives as proven by DNA. According to Claytor family lore, William bore an uncanny resemblance to his father. His father was also known to be a bit of a womanizer and, of course, slaves could refuse their masters nothing.

Photograph courtesy of member cclaytonarizona

After the war, William moved to Floyd County, married Judith Ann Reynolds, and started his own family, which would come to include 13 very accomplished children. He purchased land and became a farmer and was known throughout the county for his skill in caring for farm animals. The family prospered. William and his wife believed strongly in the power of an education and it showed in their children:
  1. Harvey David Claytor: Farmer and teacher
  2. Henry Shields Claytor: Farmer and teacher
  3. John Bunyan Claytor: Medical doctor
  4. William Oat Claytor: Farmer, teacher and dentist
  5. Manon Irvin Claytor: Farmer and teacher
  6. Solon Leonidas Claytor: Farmer and teacher
  7. Eura Ellen Claytor: Attended college and married Morton Harrison Hopkins
  8. Roy Homer Claytor: Teacher
  9. Carrie Jane Claytor: Attended college and married John Dave Hairston
  10. Dorinda Addison Claytor: Attended college and married Frederick Douglas Charlton
  11. Archer Adams Claytor: Medical doctor and World War I veteran
  12. Hunter McGuire Claytor: World War I veteran who died as a young adult due to a mustard gas attack
  13. Robert White Claytor: Medical doctor
The Claytors accomplished much of this when a "hands off" approach to the "Southern problem" was informal federal policy. Southern states began enacting a series of laws that amounted to legalized discrimination and created near slave-like conditions for African-Americans.

It is truly amazing the people you meet and the lives you uncover as you pursue your research.

I am indebted to Ruth C. Marsh and Margaret C. Woodbury, authors of Virginia Kaleidoscope, for capturing so much of their family's oral history. Any errors in the research are strictly my own.


  1. Thank you Schalene for sharing this!

  2. Very cool, Schalene! Goes to show that DNA can help us find our family connections when the paper trail ends..

    1. It's funny about paper trails. What's unimportant detail about a collateral ancestor is critical to someone else's direct ancestors. It's marrying those two trees together where you find such interesting stories. And remembering to capture oral history is just priceless.

  3. Wow, this is really interesting story. DNA is helping so many people make family connections. Thank you for accepting that connection and sharing your story.

    1. I have thoroughly enjoyed research my DNA matches. I can't imagine not accepting what you find at the other end. That's what makes it so interesting. If you only want ties to royalty, celebrities, or other famous people, I don't think genealogy is something you should pursue.

  4. I love the Pictures Schalene! Those were some good looking Folks. My Walkers are known for being "Red Headed" My Poppa Sam had another name for them that is not mentionable. I've even seen them being described as "Ginger Cake". I had to lol at that part. Love when the DNA matches up to the Paper trail. What a great thing. I enjoyed this!

    1. True, thanks! DNA has been a wonderful aid to my research. I'm glad it's helping yours as well.

  5. Schalene. ..we are from the same Mitchell lines...where have you been?

  6. I really enjoyed your piece, especially as I share 4th and 5th gen. DNA with the Claytor family through my Tennessee and Kentucky family. Perhaps, Harvey, "the womanizer" sold one his enslaved children (my ancestor). Inspite of what this family had to endure, I can hear sister Maya say, "...and still I rise." Sam Starks

  7. I wanted to upload a photo of Fletcher Claytor, but this site is not allowing me to could someone help me.

  8. Thank you for your work, I am a decedent of Letitia and Henry, but this entire story is amazing.

    1. Hello, I believe that I too am a descendant of Henry and Letitia Claytor. I’d love to have more information.

  9. I'm a descendant of Letitia and Harvey. Apparently they had a daughter named Sally Claytor. Then they had a daughter named Mary Mcsparren. Get back to me