Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Book Reviews

I've recently read a couple of books that I think would be of interest to anyone interested in the use of DNA testing in genealogy. These might make a good Christmas present for the reader/genealogist in your family.

The Stranger in My Genes

This book, by Bill Griffeth, an anchor on CNBC, details his experiences when he got an unexpected result from a DNA test. As you probably guessed from the book title and the picture on the cover of the book, he learned through DNA testing that the man who he thought was his father was not his father at all. (Bill reveals this in the first paragraph of the introduction, so I am not spoiling any surprises here.) The book discusses the many emotions Bill felt as a result of learning this information, how he approached his mother about the news, and what he decided to do upon learning who his real father was. The book is a fast read, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is thinking about DNA testing. This book is a reminder that there could be some surprises awaiting anyone who considers DNA testing.

The Gene:  An Intimate History

Although not specifically about DNA testing for genealogical purposes, this book by Siddhartha Mukherjee is a fascinating account of the origins of genetics. It covers a lot of ground in explaining the evolution of the field of genetics and the discovery of DNA, and for the most part does so in an engaging and understandable way. There are a few instances where the book gets a little more technical than I cared for, but on the whole it is very readable and definitely added to my understanding of the study of DNA, which is undoubtedly an important tool in the genealogist's toolkit. If you are into DNA testing and want to know more about the gene, I highly recommend this book as well.

[Images of book covers are from Google Books]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Update on Hackley/Ackley DNA

Recall in the last post that I mentioned that a Hackley male had done a Y-DNA test and that he was waiting for his results. Well, his results are in and we now have a data point we can compare to the Ackley men who have also done a Y-DNA test. First, a little background on the Hackley tester.

Ancestry of the Hackley Tester

The Hackley line that we are interested in should be descendants of John Hackley, who, according to research discussed in the post on "The (Supposed) Ancestors of Nicholas Ackley", could be the brother of Nicholas Ackley. The Hackley tester believes he is a descendant of John Hackley; here is his line of descent (he is the "Living Hackley" at the bottom of this picture):

I have looked at his tree and also exchanged some e-mails with him, and he has some very good documentation for the majority of the tree. He told me that he is pretty confident in most of the relationships shown above; like most of us he is least certain about the earliest couple of generations. So, if we are willing to accept (as I am) that the Hackley tester is a descendant of the John Hackley we are interested in, we can compare his test with the three Ackley men discussed in the last post.

Comparing the Numbers

Just as we did last time, we need to compare Mr. Hackley to each of our Ackley men to determine the genetic distance between them to see if they might be related. So here it is, Mr. Hackley compared to Ackley1:

You can see that there are a lot of markers in red, meaning the values on those markers do not match each other. According to the calculation done by Family Tree DNA, there is a genetic distance of 19 between Mr. Hackley and Ackley1. Definitely not a match; recall that any genetic distance greater than 6 is considered not matching.

Mr. Hackley compared to Ackley2 doesn't look much different:

FTDNA also calculated a genetic distance of 19 for this comparison.

Mr. Hackley vs. Ackley3:

This is a genetic distance of 18. So, Mr. Hackley doesn't match any of the Ackley men who believe they are descendants of Nicholas Ackley. By extrapolation, we can conclude that John Hackley and Nicholas Ackley are probably not brothers as hypothesized in the research presented in "The (Supposed) Ancestors of Nicholas Ackley", and this certainly casts doubt on the ancestry for Nicholas proposed in that research. Of course this conclusion depends on the important assumption that the Hackley tester is a descendant of John Hackley, which we don't know for absolute certain, but the documentation seems to back up that assumption.

I guess that is good news and bad news; the good news is that we now have some data to help us draw some conclusions, the bad news is that we must conclude that John Hackley and Nicholas Ackley were probably not brothers and we are back where we started -- we don't really know anything about Nicholas Ackley's ancestors. I choose to look at this as an opportunity to continue the quest for Nicholas' ancestors. I dream of the day that we find an Ackley relative in England that has a well-documented family tree and has done a Y-DNA test (hey, I can dream, can't I?). In the meantime, we all need to keep looking.

Link of the Day

I've mentioned genetic distance several times lately in discussions about Y-DNA. The link below is from Roberta Estes' excellent blog "DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy", and goes into much more detail about genetic distance.

Quote of the Day

"The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, and I am.  Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can't do.”

-- Denis Waitley (motivational speaker, author of "Seeds of Greatness", "The Winner's Edge")

Thursday, June 2, 2016

DNA Revisited

OK, so this is obviously not a post about John Ackley and his family, which was supposed to be the next post. There's been a pretty big gap since the last post, mainly because I got sidetracked on other things and just haven't gotten back to old John (I will get to it, I promise). One of the things that sidetracked me was DNA, so I thought I'd write a post about what I've learned.


Recall that in the original post about DNA I mentioned Y-DNA briefly and also mentioned the existence of an Ackley surname project on Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Surname projects are designed primarily for people who have done Y-DNA tests, but those who have done autosomal tests can also join if they have the Ackley surname and just want to look specifically for Ackley matches.

When I wrote that original DNA post I had just been made administrator of the Ackley surname project, and I was trying to learn what I could about DNA. Since that time, the project has grown from eight to 20 members. The members can be divided into three distinct groups: 

(1) People (both women and men) who have done autosomal DNA testing (called Family Finder on FTDNA) who have Ackleys somewhere in their tree and want to find Ackley matches within the group. Some of the men in this group have also done Y-DNA tests, but these tests are irrelevant for the purposes of an Ackley surname study since the testers do not have the Ackley surname. 

(2) Men with surnames that are close to Ackley (such as Ackerly and Akeley) who have done Y-DNA tests and would like to determine if their surname is a variation of Ackley. If their tests result in matches with men who have the Ackley surname, a case could be made that their surnames and Ackley are just variations of one another. So far, the results indicate that Ackley, Ackerly, and Akeley are not variations of the same surname and are in fact separate families; i.e., there are no Y-DNA matches between men with Ackley, Ackerley, and Akeley surnames. An important side note here: Recall that in the post on Nicholas Ackley's ancestors there was a lot of discussion about the Hackley surname, and the theory is that Nicholas Ackley and John Hackley were brothers whose father was also named John Hackley. Y-DNA testing could help us answer that question, and I have been successful in finding a descendant of John Hackley (who has the surname Hackley) who was willing to do a Y-DNA test. He has submitted his sample to FTDNA and is now waiting for the results. I will report on what is found when his results are available.

(3)  Men with the Ackley surname who have done Y-DNA testing and want to compare with other Ackley men to see if they are related. This could be useful, for example, for Ackley men who want to determine if they are descendants of Nicholas Ackley, or are from a different, possibly more distantly related or even unrelated Ackley line. There are just three men with the Ackley surname in the project, and the next section will discuss them in more detail.

Y-DNA Testing of Ackley Men in the Ackley Surname Project

Before discussing the actual results, I would like to spend a little time talking in detail about how Y-DNA testing works. I'll try not to get too technical (I probably don't know enough to get really technical anyway), but I think a little bit of technical talk is needed to appreciate the results. I can't do complete justice to the topic in just a paragraph or two, so if you want to read more, see this excellent blog post on Y-DNA by Roberta Estes at DNAeXplained [1]. You can find lots of articles about Y-DNA testing, but Roberta is my go-to blogger on DNA topics because she has a way of explaining things that just makes it more understandable.

Recall that only men have Y-DNA, and that Y-DNA does not recombine with anything from the mother, so each man's Y-DNA is received virtually unchanged from his father, who got it from his father, and so on. So, if I had my dad tested and compared it to my results, we would expect to see exactly the same values at every marker, and my brother should also match both my dad and me exactly, unless a mutation has occurred (more about that in a minute).

So what is a marker? Chromosomes contain sequences of repeating nucleotides, which are the basic building blocks of DNA (the A, T, C, and G patterns of your DNA). Simply stated, a Y-DNA marker is a segment of DNA at a known location on the Y chromosome where the number of Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) of these nucleotides are counted. STRs are short sequences of DNA that are repeated numerous times in a head-tail manner. There are hundreds of markers available to be tested, but there are some standard sets of markers that are used for genealogy purposes. FTDNA offers 37, 67, and 111 marker tests. If two men match each other on enough of these markers, it can be concluded with some level of confidence that they are related within some number of generations. The more markers tested, the more confidence there is in the conclusions drawn about family relationships (and the more the test costs).

Let's look at the three Ackley men who have tested at FTDNA and joined the Ackley surname project (I am one of those three men); we'll call them Ackley1, Ackley2, and Ackley3 (me). Two of us have done a 37 marker test and the other one did a 67 marker test, so the best we can do is compare the 37 markers we all had tested.

Here is a table of the 37 marker results for the three Ackley men. A quick look reveals that for most of the markers, the values are identical for all three.

To see if these men are related to each other, we need to compare their results to each other one-by-one. For example, if we compare Ackley1 and Ackley2 to each other, we can see that they match each other exactly on all the markers in green in the table below, and they differ from each other by 1 at marker DYS392 (Ackley1 has a value of 12 and Ackley2 has a value of 13) and also by one at DYS464 (all shown in red below).

Each difference contributes a value of 1 to a measure called genetic distance; the total genetic distance between these two men is 2. We'll discuss genetic distance in more detail shortly. Here is the comparison between Ackley1 and Ackley3:

You can see that there are a few more red cells, giving a total genetic distance of 5 in this case. Finally, here is the comparison of Ackley2 and Ackley3:

These two men have a total genetic distance of 3. The differences at the markers represent mutations; if there are "too many" mutations it is unlikely that two men would be related in the genealogical time frame. So how many mutations is "too many"? The answer is related to statistical probabilities based on mutation rates, and FTDNA provides a nice table that summarizes the possibilities [2]:

From the information in this table we can conclude that Ackley1 and Ackley2 are "Related" (genetic distance of 2), Ackley1 and Ackley3 are "Possibly Related" (genetic distance of 5), and Ackley2 and Ackley3 are "Related" (genetic distance of 3). 

So this is good, these three men all seem to be related to each other, although the relationship between Ackley1 and Ackley3 might be a little shaky -- they are only "Possibly Related". In fact, FTDNA would not report these two men as a match; the threshold on genetic distance is 4 at 37 markers; anything greater than that is not reported. For a genetic distance of 5, the "Interpretation" column in the table says "they may be related within the genealogical time frame, but additional evidence is needed to confirm the relationship." Additional testing is suggested, but in this case we can use other evidence to help us. It turns out that all three men have documented genealogies that show they are descended from Nicholas Ackley; in fact, all three are descended from his son James. Additional testing of other individuals who are also known descendants of James, preferably through different sons of James, could be done to try to determine where some of the mutations occurred.

Deep Ancestry Testing with Y-DNA

You may have noticed a column in the tables above labeled "Haplogroup" that has not been explained yet. According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) website, "A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations." [3] 

The definition implies that we are talking about deeper ancestry here, in fact FTDNA says "Haplogroups are associated with early human migrations." So, you probably won't learn much about who your 8th great grandfather is by knowing something about your paternal haplogroup, but it will tell you about where your people came from -- what "clan" you belong to. Men can learn something about their paternal haplogroup by doing a Y-DNA test, while both men and women can learn something about their maternal haplogroup by doing a mitochondrial DNA test. We'll stick to the paternal haplogroups in our discussion.

You'll notice that Ackley1 and Ackley2 both have R-M269 (these are the letters and numbers referred to above) listed in the haplogroup column, while Ackley3 has R-S1051, which is a subgroup of R-M269. R-M343, also called R1b, is the most frequently occurring haplogroup in Western Europe, and R-M269, also known as R1b1a2, is the most dominant branch of R-M343 in Western Europe. Men who take a Y-DNA test at FTDNA are given a predicted haplogroup based on a subset of 14 of the STR markers discussed above that are compared to a confirmed database of haplogroups; Ackley1 and Ackley2 were given a prediction of R-M269 based on their Y-DNA results.

To get confirmation of a haplogroup, along with further refinement deeper on the haplotree, additional Y-DNA tests can be performed. These additional tests look for a different type of mutation than STR tests; they are looking for single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are variations of a single nucleotide (remember the DNA building blocks mentioned above) at a specific location on the Y chromosome. The presence of SNPs in a test subject confirms their ancestors were members of a particular subgroup underneath the more general haplogroups. In the example we have been discussing, Ackley3 has done additional SNP testing, and his haplogroup has been confirmed as R-S1051, which is several levels deep in the R-M343 haplotree.

This is where things start to get very interesting. Besides the surname projects on FTDNA mentioned earlier, there are also haplogroup projects that attempt to discover the geographic origins of a given haplogroup. The project administrators of these projects are really bright people that have an incredible amount of knowledge about Y-DNA, SNPs, etc. It turns out that it is possible to estimate the age of the SNPs that define this branch of the haplotree; i.e., when the mutations occurred that distinguish members of this subgroup from other subgroups of the R-M343 branch. The administrator for the R-S1051 group (George Chandler) has some really good information on this somewhat unique group. George estimates that the defining SNPs for this group are between 3,200 and 4,500 years old, and that these people were part of the Bell Beaker culture (you can read more about them here [4]), and their geographic origin is what is now modern Scotland. He also states that this group is relatively small compared to other haplogroups of a similar age; he believes that a population bottleneck may have occurred that greatly reduced the number of males at some point (see here for a discussion of population bottlenecks [5]). George also believes that this group was part of the Pictish culture that inhabited eastern and northern Scotland during the late Iron Age and early Medieval periods [6]. The Picts were known for their intricate art carved in stones, such as the Hilton of Cadboll Stone shown below (this is a replica -- the original is in the Museum of Scotland). For more on the Picts, see the Wikipedia page here [7].

The Hilton of Cadboll Stone; picture is from

So what does this mean for Ackleys in general? The assumption is that other Ackley men (at least those who are descendants of Nicholas Ackley) who choose to do Y-DNA SNP testing would have the same results; i.e., their tests should show that their haplogroup is R-S1051. Remember, SNP testing reveals deep ancestry -- the ancient origins of a group of people. All of the male descendants in the paternal line of a particular individual should be members of the same haplogroup. So although we believe we are English due to the fact that Nicholas likely came from England, Y-DNA testing would suggest that our ancient origins are in Scotland.

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)

A recent development in Y-DNA testing is something called Next Generation Sequencing. NGS tests involve technology that allows high-throughput sequencing of DNA so that millions of base pairs can be analyzed in a fairly short amount of time. There are several companies that offer NGS testing, including the Big Y test at FTDNA and Y Elite 2.1 test by Full Genomes. I am most familiar with the Big Y, so I will concentrate on that. Although the Big Y test gets its name from the number of SNPs tested (over 10 million base pairs), I like to think it is called Big Y because it costs "big bucks" to take the test (currently $575 -- I know what I'm going to ask Santa for Christmas).

NGS tests like Big Y can be used to find your location deep in the haplotree because they look at a large number of known SNPs (about 25,000). These tests will also discover SNPs that are unique to you; i.e., SNPs that have not been discovered yet that could eventually lead to new branches on the haplotree if enough other test subjects also have the same SNPs. In short, NGS testing can uncover your deep ancestry as well as help the genetic genealogy community grow the haplotree.

If you are interested in learning more about SNP testing and NGS testing, I highly recommend the following set of YouTube videos by John Cleary at the 2016 "Who Do You Think You Are - Live" conference in Birmingham, England. I found them to be very informative and easy to understand.

Part 1 -

Part 2 -

Part 3 -

Here Comes the Begging

This is going to sound like begging, and I admit I am begging. One of the ways we can learn more about our Ackley ancestors is to have more men with the Ackley surname take a Y-DNA test with FTDNA and join the Ackley surname project. If you are an Ackley male and you don't know if you are descended from Nicholas Ackley, the Y-DNA test can help answer that question. If you are an Ackley male and you are a descendant of Nicholas, taking the test will add to the database and can help establish the lines of descent below Nicholas that will be useful to future testers. Y-DNA testing could also help connect American Ackleys with Ackleys in England if an English Ackley took a Y-DNA test. It would also be interesting if other Ackley males would do the SNP testing to confirm our deep ancestry as mentioned above. So if you have considered taking a Y-DNA test, I encourage you to please take the plunge and add your results to the Ackley surname project. 

Link of the Day

This is the link to the R-S1051 Haplogroup Project on FTDNA. It gets a little technical, but there is some good information on this web site. Make sure to visit all of the tabs at the top (Overview, Background, Goals, News, Results)

Quote of the Day

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."   

--Mark Twain


1. Estes, Roberta, "Concepts – Y DNA Matching and Connecting with your Paternal Ancestor",

2. Family Tree DNA Learning Center,

3. International Society of Genetic Genealogists,

4. Wikipedia contributors, "Beaker culture," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 2, 2016).

5. Wikipedia contributors, "Population bottleneck," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 2, 2016).

6. Family Tree DNA, R-S1051 Haplogroup Project Page,

7. Wikipedia contributors, "Picts," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 2, 2016).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

DNA Testing Sale

For anyone considering DNA testing, now might be the time to do it. Both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA are running sales from now through April 26th to celebrate National DNA Day, which is April 25th. That is the day in 1953 when a paper detailing the structure of DNA was published in Nature Magazine.

Ancestry offers only the autosomal test, and theirs is on sale for $79 (normally $99).

Family Tree DNA offers several tests. Here are the sale prices they are offering:

So, if you are considering testing, take advantage of these sale prices. And if you use Family Tree DNA, join the Ackley Project!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A "Black Sheep" Story

Even the best of families all seem to have that one family member that doesn't quite live up to expectations -- the so-called "black sheep" of the family. President Jimmy Carter had his brother Billy, Alec Baldwin has his brother Daniel, Bill Murray has his brother Brian, ... you get the idea.

The closest thing to a black sheep I could find in my family is my 3rd great uncle, Charles Homer Ackley, my great great grandfather's brother. Charles was born in Akron, Ohio on November 26, 1834, and died in Chicago, Illinois one day short of his 33rd birthday in 1867. The circumstances surrounding his death -- he died in a brothel after a week long bender filled with whisky and morphine -- were certainly tragic for his family when it happened, but through the lens of time it has all the makings of a black sheep story. I can't tell it any better than the newspaper did in 1867, so I offer this transcription of the story of his death as my black sheep story.

Coroner’s Inquest on the Body of C. H. Ackley, of Saginaw City – The Testimony in the Case
[From the Chicago Tribune of Tuesday]
   At the inquest on the body of Charles H. Ackley, of Saginaw City, Monday the following testimony was given:
   Mrs. Emma Hedges, keeper of the brothel in which Ackley died, gave the following testimony: I keep the house No. 155 Wells Street. The deceased came to my house a week ago last Friday night. He was pretty drunk, and wanted to stay all night. He stayed the next day, and until Sunday. Sunday he came to my room, and I asked if he didn’t’ want some dinner. He said he would rather have a drink of whisky. He had a bottle with him, a quart bottle, I think, and he wanted to get it filled again. I coaxed him to drink some tea. He went out riding with one of the girls. He stayed until Tuesday, when he settled up his bill and said he was going home. He had a valise, which he took with him, and went away in a hack to get some money. He then went off, and said he should be back in the city in about a month. Wednesday night he came in again. I said, “I thought you had gone, Charley,” and he said “No, I staid to see the fight.” He was very drunk. He had not had anything to eat. He was very drunk. He said he had left his money and watch in a saloon. He wanted a bottle of whisky, but I had none. He then wanted a bottle of wine, which I got. I asked him if he wouldn’t have something to eat, and then went up stairs. He staid all night and all day Thursday. Thursday I went into his room and the paper to him. He staid that night. Friday he went out to get a paper and came back. That night he said he would like to go the theatre, but he did not feel well enough. That was the last I saw of him. He staid that night. Saturday, about noon, one of the girls came up and said, “Something is the matter with Charley.” I went down and found him in a stupor. I had been told by one of the girls that a night or tow before he had had the tremens, and I was afraid that was what ailed him. I sent out for policemen. Two came, and I sent them for a doctor. I had heard Charley say something about a friend of his, so I sent for him, too. It was about half-past four when he died.
   Mary De Ville, an inmate of Mrs. Hedge’s house, testified as follows: The deceased came to our house Wednesday night. He had been drinking a good deal. He staid till Saturday, and Saturday morning, before breakfast, he drank half a pint of whisky. After eating breakfast he asked me to get him some whisky and morphine. He said he was going home the next day, and that morphine always straightened his nerves. He wanted to be all straight. I went out and got a quarter of a grain of morphine. I went back and the deceased took a drink of whisky and then swallowed the morphine. This was about 12 o’clock. After taking the morphine he was immediately seized with a spasm, and turned black in the face. I went out and got him a pint of whisky on Friday night. I told him he must not drink but a little at a time, and he promised me he would not. When I awoke in the morning the bottle was empty. When he was taken with the spasm I went and called Mrs. Hedges. He died about half past four. He did not eat regularly. He was there a week and a day in all, and to my knowledge did not eat more than three times. He only went out of the house to get a drink, and then came back. He drank only tea besides whisky. He told me a good deal about his home and his brother, and said he wanted to be all straight when he got home. Wednesday night he was very drunk, and talked wild all night. The only time when he seemed straight was on Saturday morning. He seemed sober then.
   The jury returned a verdict that the deceased died of congestion of the brain and lungs, superinduced by exhaustion and dissipation.
   The deceased was a man of about thirty years of age, and well known in our business community. His relations, consisting of his mother and a brother, reside in Saginaw. Both of them are highly respected members of society. About a year since, the deceased entered upon a similar career of dissipation in this city, which was protracted to such a length of time that his mother came in search of him, and after much persuasion, induced him to return. In spite of his wild ways, this young man was the idol of her heart, and his death, and the manner thereof, will be a terrible blow to the afflicted parent.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune and was reprinted in the Saginaw newspaper shortly after it ran in Chicago. Unfortunately I have lost the exact reference, but it would have appeared in early December, 1867 since the death occurred 26 November 1867.

Charles was laid to rest in Glendale Cemetery in Akron, Ohio in the same plot as the rest of his family.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you have any stories about a "black sheep" in your family you can share?

Link of the Day

This Wikipedia page discusses the origins of the term "black sheep":

Quote of the Day

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Next Post Topic

Sergeant John Ackley (1662-1736) and his Familly

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Field Trip!

I just spent a week in Washington, D.C. visiting my daughter and her family, and while I was there I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days at the National Archives doing some genealogy research. I thought I would do a quick post on the Archives as a research resource.

The U.S. National Archives

The Archives has many different types of records available to researchers. The records most relevant to genealogy research include census records, military service records, immigration records, naturalization records, passport applications, and land records, but there are many other types of records available. In order to get access to records in the Archives, you must obtain a researcher's card.

My National Archives Research Card

The card is free, and all you need to do to get one is watch a presentation on records available and rules for using and handling them. There is a bit of security involved to get into the Archives -- metal detector, etc., and you can't bring notebooks or backpacks into the research area. You can bring laptops, cameras, and loose notes with you. There are computers available in the research areas, so you probably don't need to bring your own.

I've been to the Archives several times, and on this trip I was concentrating on military records. Records for pre-World War I military service are kept at the Archives; all military records for later service are kept at the National Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. There are two primary types of military records at the Archives - Compiled Service Records, and Pension Application and Pension Payment Records. I have used both types of records and both have useful information, but in general I have found more genealogically relevant information in the pension records. I plan on a more extensive post on using Civil War records with examples from my 2nd great grandfather's records at a later date.

You can order records online, but that can get pretty expensive; for example, a Civil War pension file costs $80. Of course that is cheap compared to a plane ticket to Washington, D.C., but if you are going to be in the area anyway like I was, a trip there can save you some money.

On this trip I took advantage of a fairly new program at the Archives. They have a section called the Innovation Hub that has computers and scanners available that you can use for free to scan records. 

Work Area at the Innovation Hub at the National Archives

Normally when you request records they are brought to an area where you can examine them and either take photos or make paper copies for 25 cents per page (which can also get pretty expensive). If you have your records brought to the Innovation Hub instead, you get to use their equipment for free; your part of the bargain is that you must agree to scan an entire file which will then be made available online on the Archives website for others to use. You get to take a copy of everything you scan with you, so bring a flash drive. A large file can take a while -- one of the pension files I scanned had over 150 pages and took about 5 hours. But in the end you get high quality scans of the records you want and you help others get access to records online.

If you ever find yourself in Washington, D.C. with a free day or two, check out the National Archives and see if you can find some records that will help you with your genealogy research. Make sure you visit the other side of the Archives as well -- if you go in the main entrance you can see original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Where in the World Do Ackleys Live?

I'm kind of a numbers guy, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the number of Ackleys around the world and what countries they live in. I've also put together some rough figures on the number of Ackleys alive throughout American history (insofar as they can be supported by documentation).

From the table below, you can see that there are just under 9,000 Ackleys throughout the world [2].

Table 1: World Population of Ackleys from 

To put that number in perspective, there are about 7.125 billion people living in the world right now, so Ackleys represent only 0.000126% of the world's population -- we are pretty rare! The surname Chang is the most frequently occurring name globally -- there are over 76,000,000 people with that name, which is a little over 1% of the world's population [2].

Not surprisingly, the huge majority of Ackleys live in the United States, but what is surprising is the country that holds the number 2 spot -- Tanzania. I would have expected England to be #2, but England is all the way down at #6. For those of you unfamiliar with Tanzania, it is in Eastern Africa, and is where Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, is located. A personal side note -- both my dad and daughter have been to Tanzania and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (on separate trips). I wish I had known about these numbers at the time they were there -- I would have asked them to look into it. Tanzania was ruled by Great Britain starting after World War I, and British rule ended in 1961. This is only speculation, but it seems likely that the name must have been introduced during that time.

A Breakdown of Ackleys Currently in the United States

This is not real scientific, but I went to and searched for Ackley by state and got the following breakdown of Ackleys in each of the states [1]:

Table 2: Ackleys by State compiled for data on
The numbers don't add all the way up to the 8,210 reported in the first table, but not all children are included in the white pages so that can explain the shortfall. From our beginnings in Connecticut, you can see that there are now Ackleys in all 50 states; New York has the most with 667, while Mississippi only has 1 (he must be a lonely guy!).

History of Ackleys in America

The table below shows the number of Ackleys in each of the states over the history of the U.S. Federal Census. Note that the years with yellow headings are those years where only the heads of household were identified by name, while the years with blue headings are the years where every individual was recorded by name. For that reason, you'll see that the total Ackleys for the years in yellow are much lower than for the years in blue. In the body of the table, all cells with no Ackleys are color coded red, while the cells with some positive number of Ackleys are color coded green. The table is arranged so that the states with the most years where Ackleys were present in the state are near the top, while states with the fewest years with Ackleys present are toward the bottom. I got these numbers by doing an exact search on Ancestry for the Ackley surname by state in each census year, so as mentioned above this is not entirely scientific, but it is as close as I could get given the data available [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10]. [11], [12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17]. 

Table 3. Ackleys by State from U.S. Federal Census 1790-1940

As would be expected, the presence of Ackleys in the states tends to follow the expansion of the United States westward. My Ackleys followed this pattern; started in Connecticut, moved to New York, then Ohio, then Michigan, and finally Wisconsin. One other thing to notice is that New York has been the most populous state in terms of Ackleys throughout U.S. history since 1810, so it is not surprising that there are more Ackleys in New York now than in any other state.

Ackleys in England

Although the data available from the England census is not as extensive as the U.S. census, I think it is worth taking a look at the changes in the population of Ackleys in England; however, the numbers are much smaller than in the U.S., so I have left them at the country level. These numbers also come from census records on Ancestry [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24], [25]:

Table 4: Ackleys from England Census 1841-1911

One thing to notice from this data is that the number of Ackleys in England has actually declined since the last census for which data is available (from 87 in 1911 to 75 in 2014), while in the U.S. the number has more than doubled (from 4,097  in 1940 to 8,210 in 2014). The total population in England grew from 42,000,000 to 64,000,000 during that time, while the total U.S. population during that time went from 132,000,000 to 317,000,000. I don't have an explanation for these phenomena, nor can I draw any conclusions, but the numbers do show the contrast between the growth (or lack thereof) in the number of Ackleys in the two countries.

Discussion Questions

  • Does anyone have a plausible explanation for the relatively large number of Ackleys in Tanzania?
  • How did your Ackleys migrate in the United States?

Link of the Day

This is a link to the website I used to get statistics on the number of Ackleys worldwide. You can search for any surname to see how many there are and where they live. There is also a short history of each surname.

Quote of the Day

"Never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. People will take you very much at your own reckoning." 

-- Anthony Trollope (19th century English novelist)


  3. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  4. 1800 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  5. 1810 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  6. 1820 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  7. 1830 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
  8. 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. 
  9. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  10. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  11. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  12. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. 
  13. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  14. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.
  15. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
  16. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002.
  17. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
  18. 1841 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2010.
  19. 1851 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
  20. 1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
  21. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  22. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 England Census[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  23. 1891 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
  24. 1901 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
  25. 1911 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Follow-up on Hackley Manuscript

Just a quick note on the Hackley manuscript mentioned in the post on "The (Supposed) Ancestors of Nicholas Ackley". I heard back from Damien Rostar at the Hackley Library in Muskegon, Michigan, and the original manuscript referred to in Louis P. Haight's book, The Life of Charles Henry Hackley, was found in the library. Unfortunately there was no additional information in the manuscript; Damien reports that "The item itself is exactly the same as the genealogical section of Haight's book, right down to the cryptic citations (I checked line-by-line to make sure the information was the same in each)." Thanks to Damien for his diligence in following up! So for now the information in Haight's book is all we have to go on.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

James Ackley (1678-1746) and His Family

From time to time I plan on covering each of Nicholas' children and their families in a little more depth. Since James was my 6th great grandfather and I am most familiar with him, he gets to go first.

James Ackley was the ninth of ten children born to Nicholas and Hannah Ackley. He was born about 1677 or 1678, presumably in Haddam, Connecticut, and died on 19 Sep 1746 in East Haddam, Connecticut [10]. His birth year is estimated based on his age at death given on his tombstone - the inscription said he was in his 69th year of age.

James married his wife Elizabeth around 1706 according to marriage records on Ancestry [1]. According to Elizabeth's headstone, she died on 19 Sep 1755 (9 years to the day after her husband) in her 66th year, which would make her birth year about 1689 or 1690 [10]. This marriage record gives her maiden name as Comedy, which is the most frequently occurring name I have seen for her online. However, none of the published genealogies such as Dawes-Gates give a last name for her, and there just aren't any other records for an Elizabeth Comedy online that I can find. Find-A-Grave has her last name as Cowdrey, with a birth date of 6 Oct 1689 in Reading, Massachusetts. There is an Elizabeth Cowdery with that birth date in a published genealogy for the Cowdrey family, but it is doubtful that this Elizabeth Cowdery could be James' wife because she married Timothy Goodwin in 1708 [2].

Apparently James could read and write, or at the very least sign his name; his signature appears on his father's will as well as his own will, while several of his siblings just made their mark - an "X" next to their names. Here is his signature from his will:

Although there is no definitive documentation concerning James' occupation, it is logical to conclude that he was a farmer, as were many people in colonial times. Many of the items listed in the estate inventory in his probate documentation are farm-related -- cows, horses, a yoke of oxen, a yoke of steers, farm implements, as well as a barn [9].

James and Elizabeth were buried in Old Cove Burying Ground in East Haddam, Connecticut. Here are pictures of their headstones:


James and Elizabeth had seven children, all of whom were mentioned in James' will [9].  Their children were:

1. James Ackley was born 17 Jul 1707 in East Haddam, Connecticut [11], and died 31 Dec 1777 in East Hampton, Connecticut [14]. James was married twice. First he married Naomi Gaines about 1732 in East Haddam, Connecticut. His second wife was Sarah Gates, whom he married on 28 Oct 1742 in Middletown, Connecticut [22].

James and Naomi had one son:

   a. James Ackley was born 18 Jan 1739 in East Haddam, Connecticut [19].

James and Sarah had three children:

   a. Sarah Ackley was born on 15 Sep 1743 in Middletown, Connecticut [19].
   b. Naomi Ackley was born 14 Aug 1745 in Middletown, Connecticut [19].
   c. Samuel Ackley was born 2 Sep 1747 in Middletown, Connecticut [19].

2. Nicholas Ackley was born 16 Dec 1708 in East Haddam, Connecticut [11], and died about 1763 [13]. Nicholas married twice. His first wife was Jerusha ?. His second wife was Sarah Wilson. Nicholas and Jerusha had three children:

   a. Jeremiah Ackley was born on 26 Sep 1742 in Colchester, Connecticut [13], [24], and died in Feb 1817 in Lancaster, New York [13]. He married Sarah Woodson.
   b. Jerusha Ackley was born on 30 Dec 1744 in Colchester, Connecticut [24].
   c. Sarah Ackley was born on 5 Nov 1749 in Colchester, Connecticut [24].

Nicholas and Sarah had two children:

   a. Lewis Ackley was born 5 Jan 1758 in Colchester, Connecticut [17].
   b. Nicholas Ackley was born 2 Jun 1762 in Colchester, Connecticut [17].

3. Nathaniel Ackley was born 7 Nov 1712 in East Haddam, Connecticut [11], [21], and died 18 Sep 1794 in Millington, Connecticut [10],[13]. Nathaniel was married twice. His first wife, and the mother of all of his children, was Mary Williams. They were married 16 Apr 1734 in East Haddam, Connecticut [15]. Mary's birth date is unknown. She died before 20 Dec 1792 in Milllington, Connecticut (this date is established by Nathaniel's marriage to Hannah Smith). Nathaniel married the widow Hannah Smith at the age of 80 on 20 Dec 1792 in East Haddam, Connecticut [16]. Nathaniel and Mary had the following children:

   a. Mary Ackley was born 27 May 1735 in East Haddam, Connecticut [13], [21], and died 14 Jul 1764 in East Haddam, Connecticut [13].
   b. Ruth Ackley was born 3 Dec 1737 in East Haddam, Connecticut [13], [21].
   c. Nathaniel Ackley was born 19 Apr 1740 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17], [21], and died 2 Dec 1759 in East Haddam, Connecticut [18], [21].
   d. Elizabeth Ackley was born 16 Mar 1745 in East Haddam, Connecticut [13],[19], [21], and died in 1832 in New Haven, Connecticut [13].
   e. Henry Ackley was born 1 Sep 1747 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17], [21].
   f. Lidia Ackley was born 28 Aug 1749 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17], [21], and died 12 Feb 1826 in East Haddam, Connecticut [14].
   g. Ephraim Ackley was born 25 Feb 1751/52 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17], [21], and died 12 Oct 1822 [20].
   h. Candis Ackley was born 20 Jul 1756 in East Haddam, Connecticut [13], [21].
   i. Warren Ackley was born 17 Oct 1758 in East Haddam, Connecticut [13], [21].

4. Gideon Ackley was born 14 Apr 1716 in East Haddam, Connecticut [12], and died 1 Dec 1803 in East Haddam, Connecticut [14]. Gideon was married twice. He first married Hannah Andrews on 24 Mar 1737 in East Haddam, Connecticut [15]. His second marriage was to Deborah Rowley on 27 Oct 1763 in East Haddam, Connecticut [16]. 

Hannah and Gideon had three daughters:
   a. Thankful Ackley was born 1 Jun 1737 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   b. Abigail Ackley was born 29 Nov 1738 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   c. Hannah Ackley was born 18 Mar 1742 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].

Deborah and Gideon had two daughters:
   a. Deborah Ackley was born 13 Jun 1766 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   b. Mary Ackley was born 14 Sep 1767 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].

5. Desire Ackley was born 24 Feb 1717 in East Haddam, Connecticut [12], and died in 1788 [13]. Desire marred Acquillah Calkins on 27 May 1741 in Hebron, Connecticut [16]. Desire and Acquillah had nine children:

   a. Abigail Calkins was born 7 Jun 1742 in Hebron, Connecticut [17].
   b. Nathaniel Calkins was born 9 Feb 1743 in Hebron, Connecticut [17].
   c. James Calkins was born about 1745 [14].
   d. Abigail Calkins was born 18 Sep 1748 in Colchester, Connecticut [17].
   e. Desire Calkins was born 11 Nov 1750 in Colchester, Connecticut.
   f. Hannah Calkins was born 19 Aug 1754 in Colchester, Connecticut [17].
   g. Hannah Calkins was born in Nov 1755.
   h. Molly Callkins was born 19 Jun 1759 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   i. Lucy Calkins was born 1 May 1762 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].

6. Elizabeth Ackley was born 16 Jan 1722 in East Haddam, Connecticut [12], and died Mar 1795 [13]. Elizabeth married Richard Andrews on 10 Jul 1740 in East Haddam, Connecticut [16]. Elizabeth and Richard had eight children:

   a. Esther Andrews was born on 15 Jun 1738 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   b. Eleanor Andrews was born on 10 May 1741 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   c. Asahel Andrews was born on 20 Feb 1742 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   d. Mary Andrews was born on 7 Aug 1745 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   e. John Andrews was born on 17 Jul 1746 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17] and died 24 Oct 1809 in East Haddam, Connecticut [18].
   f. Elizabeth Andrews was born on 24 Jun 1750 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   g. Joseph Andrews was born on 3 Nov 1752 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].
   h. Abigail Andrews was born on 25 Apr 1755 in East Haddam, Connecticut [17].

7. Benajah Ackley was born 10 Jul 1729 in East Haddam, Connecticut [12]. Benajah married Lurany Bill on 21 May 1747 in Lebanon-Goshen, Connecticut [16]. Benajah and Lurany had two children:

   a. Adonijah Ackley was born 1 Feb 1750 [13] and died 4 Aug 1751 [13].
   b. Benajah Ackley was born about 1755. He died 16 May 1830 in Whiting, Maine [23].

Witchcraft Accusers

Although the witchcraft crisis in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600s is more well-known, Connecticut had its share of accusations and trials. James and Elizabeth were caught up in the witchcraft hysteria in 1724. Elizabeth claimed she had been "hagridden [tormented] and pinched" by the shape of Sarah Spencer, and James threatened to retaliate. Sarah sued James and Elizabeth for the sum of 500 pounds for defamation (a fortune at the time); the court awarded her 5 pounds. James and Elizabeth appealed and the award was reduced to one shilling, and James and Elizabeth were found not insane. This case was the last witchcraft trial held in Connecticut. [5] [6] [7] [8]

An interesting aspect of this case is that Sarah Spencer, the widow of William Spencer, was James Ackley's sister.

Slave Owner

Yes, you read that heading correctly, James Ackley was a slave owner. When I was reading through his will and probate documents, I found the following among the estate inventory papers:

The line that is boxed in says: "one negro woman 50-0-0 one negro girl 50-0-0   100-0-0". The monetary units used here are pounds, shillings, and pence, so each of these woman was valued at 50 pounds for a total of 100 pounds. The total value of the estate listed in the probate documents was 288-2-8, so these two women made up over one-third of the value of the estate. It is not clear from the will if these women were given to his wife or one of the children upon his death.

When I read that, I had to do some research to find out how prevalent slavery was in the north -- I guess naively I didn't realize there had been slaves in the north at all. I found a website about slavery in the north developed by historian Douglas Harper. According to the website, there were slaves in all of the original 13 colonies, and Connecticut had the most in New England:
"... on the eve of the Revolution, Connecticut had the largest number of slaves (6,464) in New England. ... All the principal families of Norwich, Hartford, and New Haven were said to have one or two slaves. By 1774, half of all the ministers, lawyers, and public officials owned slaves, and a third of all the doctors. But Connecticut's large slave population apparently was based in the middle class. More people had the opportunity to own slaves than in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, so more did so." [3]
The website had this to say about slavery in Connecticut:

"Slavery in Connecticut dates as far back as the mid-1600s. Connecticut’s growing agricultural industry fostered slavery’s expansion, and by the time of the American Revolution, Connecticut had the largest number of slaves in New England. After the war, new ideas about freedom and the rights of men brought about the movement to end slavery in the US. In contrast to neighboring states, however, Connecticut emancipated its slaves very slowly and cautiously, claiming it wanted to ensure the process respected property rights and did not disrupt civic order. Connecticut passed the Gradual Abolition Act of 1784, but this act did not emancipate any enslaved persons, only those who would be born into slavery and only after they reached the age of 25. This gradual process meant that slavery in Connecticut did not officially end until 1848—long after many other Northern states had abolished the practice." [4]
This goes to show you that when you are researching your family history, you have to be prepared to discover the bad things, as well as the good things, about your ancestors. I have to admit that this discovery was quite a shock to me personally -- one of my direct line Ackley ancestors participated in one of the most shameful practices in American history -- owning another human being. But, you don't get to pick your ancestors; so you can only try to live your own life as honorably as possible and hope that your actions stand the test of time.

Discussion Questions

  • Does anyone have any good documentation on the last name for James' wife Elizabeth?
  • Is anyone a descendant of James?
  • What is your reaction to the news that James was a slave owner?

Link of the Day

Here is the link to the website on slavery in the north; there are pages on states other than Connecticut:

Quote of the Day

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal."

--Henry Ford


  1. Yates Publishing. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
  2. Mehling, Mary Bryant Alverson, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray genealogy : William Cowdrey of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1630, and his descendants (New York: F. Allaben Genealogical Co.,1911)
  5. Taylor, John M., The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, 1647-1697 (New York: The Grafton Press, 1908), p. 155.
  6. Tomlinson, R.G., Witchraft Trials of Connecticut (Hartford: The Bond Press, 1978), p. 65-66.
  7. Karlsen, Carol F., The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), p. 45.
  8. American Historical Magazine, Vol. I, January, 1906-November, 1906 (New York: The Publishing Society of New York, 1906), p. 237.
  9. Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2015.
  10. Ferris, Mary Walton, Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines: A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Mary Beman (Gates) Dawes Vol. II (Wisconsin: Cuneo Press, 1931), p. 33-54.
  11. “First Book East Haddam Land Records”, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume XI, Samuel G. Drake, Editor. (Boston: C. Benjamin Richardson, 1857), p. 273-278.
  12. “First Book East Haddam Land Records”, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume XII, Samuel G. Drake, Editor. (Boston: C. Benjamin Richardson, 1858), p. 42-47.
  13. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
  14. Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2011.
  15. Connecticut, Town Marriage Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.
  16. Early Connecticut Marriages [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
  17. Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.
  18. Connecticut Town Death Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.
  19. "Connecticut Births and Christenings, 1649-1906," database, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 February 2016)
  20. Winton, Caroll Ackley, Ackley & Winton Genealogy and Allied Lines (1949).
  21. East Haddam (Connecticut). Registrar of Vital Statistics, Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1687-1915 (Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1984, 1987)
  22. "Connecticut Marriages, 1630-1997," database, FamilySearch( : accessed 7 February 2016)
  23. Death Notice for Benajah Ackley, Eastport Sentinel, Volume XII, Issue 43, 2 Jun 1830, p. 3.
  24. Hinman, Royal Ralph, Catalogue of the Names of the First Puritan Settlers of the Colony of Connecticut (Hartford, Connecticut: E. Gleanson, 1846), p. 110.

Next Post Topic

Where in the World Do Ackleys Live?