Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How Could DNA Testing Help Us?

I mentioned in a previous post that I had hopes that DNA testing could help us solve the mystery of Nicholas Ackley's ancestors. Now is as good a time as any to discuss this, so here goes. This is a pretty lengthy post because there is a lot to cover, and we will only scratch the surface. My goal in presenting this information is to try to get some momentum behind testing Nicholas Ackley's descendants and sharing results so we can try to make some progress in finding/verifying his ancestors.

I am relatively new to DNA testing, so I've tried to get up to speed on it by reading about it and subscribing to several blogs that discuss various aspects of using DNA in genealogy. I still have a lot to learn, but I think I have enough of a handle on it to have some ideas on how we could come together as a group and use it to our advantage.

If you are considering DNA testing, there are a couple of decisions to be made: which company to test with, and which type(s) of tests to do, which we'll discuss next. If you've already tested, hang in there, we'll talk about what we can all do a little later in this post. 

Testing Companies

Although there are many companies that do DNA testing, there are really only three that you should consider for genealogical purposes. I regularly read a blog called "DNAeXplained" written by Roberta Estes that I think is worth reading if you are interested in using DNA for genealogy, and in this post she gives some good reasons why you shouldn't look anywhere but the "Big 3". As she writes, the "Big 3" are Family Tree DNA (sometimes abbreviated as FTDNA), Ancestry, and 23andMe. Roberta points out in her post that 23andMe is going through some upheaval right now as it relates to their genetic genealogy products, so for the time being she is recommending against 23andMe. So, that leaves FTDNA and Ancestry. I have experience with both companies; I have tested myself as well as seven other family members with Ancestry, and I have also transferred my results to FTDNA (for a fee) for reasons I will discuss below.

Types of Tests

There are four types of tests, each of which can be helpful for genealogy purposes in different ways. Roberta has a much more detailed post about the types (Y-DNA, mitochondrial, autosomal, and X) here, but for most of us autosomal and Y are the tests we are most likely to do, so I'll stick to these two here:

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA is the DNA inherited through the autosomal chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes; the 22 numbered pairs (1-22) are the autosomal chromosomes, and the 23rd pair are the sex (X and Y) chromosomes. Both parents contribute autosomal chromosomes, and the results of autosomal testing, along with genealogical information, can be used to discover familial relationships. Stated simply, you can identify your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins (recent and distant), and so forth using autosomal DNA test results. Both males and females can do autosomal testing. Both Ancestry and FTDNA offer autosomal testing; each has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the tools provided to analyze your results. I'll talk more about that in the "What Do You Get When You Test?" section below.


The Y chromosome is male-specific; the pair of sex chromosomes of males is made up of an X contributed by the mother and a Y contributed by the father, while females have two X chromosomes, one each from the mother and father. As a result, only men can do a Y test (sorry ladies!). However, all is not lost, women can get Y information for their family line by having their father, brother, uncle, or cousin in the direct family line test. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son virtually unchanged with a predictable rate of mutation, so the Y-DNA test is typically used to determine if there is a shared ancestor within a genealogical time frame. This is typically the test used in surname projects. Currently only FTDNA performs Y-DNA tests, so if you are interested in doing a Y test that is your only choice. Ancestry used to do Y tests (I did one several years ago before they stopped); if you have Y results from Ancestry you can transfer them to FTDNA for a fee and take advantage of the tools they have (which I have just done - waiting for the final results).

What Do You Get When You Test?

Both Ancestry and FTDNA have mostly similar tools for autosomal tests, but each has what I see as a major weakness that the other one just does better. We'll get into that shortly, but here are the things they probably do equally well.

At the highest level, they both offer an estimate of your ethnicity. In fact, that is what Ancestry calls it, your ethnicity estimate. Here is what mine looks like:

Ancestry Ethnicity Estimate

You can see that it splits out the various parts of the world your ancestors likely came from along with the percentages for each. FTDNA has something similar that they call myOrigins. Here is mine:

FTDNA myOrigins

You can see that at a high level the FTDNA estimate is similar to the Ancestry estimate, but what is a little surprising to me is that there is a pretty big difference between the British Isles estimates (51% vs. 29%) and the Southern Europe estimates (about 4% vs. 20%) between the two tests. Apparently this is not a real exact science; it is highly dependent on the algorithms and reference groups used by each company. Ancestry has a good explanation of their methodology on their website; they basically compare your DNA to the DNA of people who are native to 26 global regions they have defined. FTDNA doesn't give a real detailed explanation of what they do, but it sounds like their methodology is similar - they compare your sample to reference populations from around the world.

At the next level of detail, Ancestry and FTDNA are also pretty similar. They both offer testers a list of the people they match with based on thresholds for the lengths of matching segments. The methodology each uses is different and results in differing numbers of matches, but ultimately they both give you a list of your matches, an estimate of the strength of the relationship; e.g., 3rd cousin, 4th cousin, distant cousin, etc., and a way to contact your matches. Ancestry has an internal messaging system that allows you to send notes back and forth with your matches, while FTDNA gives you the e-mail addresses of your matches so you can communicate with them directly. Here is a portion of my match list from Ancestry (note that I have masked the names of my matches):

Ancestry Matches

Ancestry segregates your matches by strength of the relationship - the example above comes from my "Distant Cousin" list, which is anything from 5th to 8th cousins. Note that there is an indication as to whether the match has a family tree, and if so how many people are in the tree. The existence of a good sized tree is important in trying to determine how you and your match might be related; in these three examples I won't have much luck. The first person has no tree, the second one only has 2 people, and the third one has a little lock next to it, meaning the tree is private and I can't look at it. I consider Ancestry's huge database of trees to be a major advantage over FTDNA, but unfortunately the situation shown here happens more often than I'd like; in such cases you can't really figure out how you're connected.

FTDNA has a similar approach to presenting detailed results. My list of FTDNA matches looks like this (once again I have blanked out the names):

FTDNA Matches

The little icons next to the silhouettes are tools for managing each match, including e-mail, notes, family tree (if the tree is green, it means your match has uploaded a tree), and some comparison tools. The "Shared cM" column tells you the total length of the DNA segments you share with that match in centiMorgans (the standard measure of DNA).

On both Ancestry and FTDNA you can dig into more details about your matches in different ways, and this is where the two companies have the biggest differences. If I had to label them, I would say that Ancestry is more genealogy-centric, while FTDNA is more genetics-centric. Depending on what your goals are, that may be good or bad. Hopefully the next few paragraphs will illustrate what I mean.

If you click on one of your Ancestry matches, you will go to a page that looks like this:

I have erased all references to his user name and family surnames so you can't tell who this match is. There are a lot of things you can do on this page, mostly around how you and your match connect genealogically. You can see a list of the surnames you have in common in your trees and a condensed view of their tree, which you can expand by clicking on the "View Full Tree" button. Ancestry has recently added a couple of new features that are an attempt to give you more information about the DNA side of things. If you click on the little "i" icon just below the "Predicited relationship" section, a box will pop up showing the total length of your shared segments:

This is similar to the "Shared cM" information that FTDNA gives. The other new feature is the "Shared Matches" button just above the tree; clicking on that will give you a list of people that match both you and the match you are currently viewing. This is similar to one of the tools available on FTDNA called "In Common With"; this can be helpful in trying to pinpoint just how you are all connected. These two features are the extent of the tools that Ancestry has that deal with the actual DNA piece of the puzzle; the rest of their tools relate more to the genealogy piece. For example, if you click on one of the shared surnames, you will get a list from your match's tree and your tree of everyone that has that surname. By clicking on "Boettcher", this box pops up:

This is useful in trying to figure out where the connection is; you can see that we both have a Frederick Boettcher (although I spelled it Friedrich). We have actually communicated with each other and determined that Frederick/Friedrich is indeed our shared ancestor. John Carl August Boettcher (his 2nd great grandfather) and Augusta Boettcher (my 2nd great grandmother) appear to be siblings. Unfortunately neither one of us knows much beyond that, but in the future we can help each other out if we find out more.

Ancestry also has a feature they call "Shared Ancestor Hints". They find these by comparing your tree with your match's tree to see if you have common ancestors somewhere along the way. I have a few of these; here is an example of one:

The couple at the top represents the shared ancestors; the two columns of people below them are the line of descent to me and my match to show how we are related. This match is my 8th cousin. This feature only works well if you and your match have well-developed trees and you happen to have spelled the names all the same (a different spelling of Frederick in the last example is why that match and I didn't have a "Shared Ancestor Hint"). There are a few other tools on Ancestry, but these are the main ones and it gives you an idea of what you can expect. On to FTDNA.

The genealogy tools on FTDNA are a little more crude, and as a result not as useful. For example, if you click on the little green tree icon that was pointed out above, it will show you your match's tree. It looks like this:

For me, this tool just feels really clunky. To move around in the tree you hold your left mouse button down and slide the tree around to look at different portions of it, making it very hard to really find anything. You can click on an individual and get their information, which looks like this:

That's about the extent of the genealogy related tools on FTDNA; they don't have anything like the Ancestry features discussed above. However, FTDNA does outshine Ancestry when it comes to tools designed to do analysis on the DNA matching side of things. For example, the chromosome browser allows you to compare up to five of your matches to see how you line up. Below is an example where I have compared three of my matches (whose names I have erased) that I identified with the "In Common With" tool; i.e., these three have matches to each other as well as to me.

The graphic shows how each of these three individuals matches me. You can see that they all match me on chromosome 7; the orange one has the largest segment, the blue one the next longest and most of that matching segment overlaps the orange, and finally the green one is smallest and falls completely within the end points of the orange but not the blue at all. This type of information can be used to triangulate your matches -- find groups of people who all match each other on the same segment, which is a guarantee that you are all related genetically (provided the segments are large enough, which in this case they are). The next step is to examine your trees and find common ancestors to try to establish exactly what the relationship is.

You can drill down a little deeper by clicking on the "View this data in a table" link just about the graph. This will give you a table showing exactly which segments you match. For the orange individual above, it looks like this:

You can see that we have a pretty large segment -- 36.81 cM -- that we share on chromosome 7. Anything over 7 cM is generally considered large enough to indicate a genetic relationship. Note that there are also a number of much smaller segments; these are too small to be considered significant, and can be ignored (which is why they don't show up on the graph). There are some other tools on FTDNA that allow you to look at more details, but again I think you get the idea from what is shown here.

Note that all of the tools presented above are for working with autosomal DNA tests. The tools for Y tests are different. My results for the Y test look like this:

My first match is an unusual situation - he does not have the Ackley surname, which is not normally expected (I have masked his name as well as the name of his "Most Distant Ancestor"). I'm not sure what to make of that just yet.

The other two matches both had the Ackley surname as expected (first names have been masked). Neither one of them listed their "Most Distant Ancestor", which is not very helpful. The "Most Distant Ancestor" is the type of information that could help in connecting otherwise unconnected lines of a particular surname. For example, if I had a match with someone who listed someone other than Nicholas Ackley as "Most Distant Ancestor", it would behoove us to look at each other's genealogies to see if we could determine a common ancestor. This could result in either an extension beyond Nicholas for me or a connection for my match to the Nicholas Ackley line that was previously unknown.

There are a couple of other things to take note of in this report. The "Genetic Distance" column is a measure of how close we match. A genetic distance of 0 means that we match each other exactly on all 12 markers tested. A genetic distance of 1 means that there is one marker where our values differ by 1. A note about the number of markers -- my original Y test with Ancestry was a 33-marker test, but not all of the markers were the same as the markers that FTDNA uses. So when I transferred my results to FTDNA, I received a test kit so I could give them a sample so additional markers could be tested. Until that kit is processed, I only have 12 markers that can be used for comparisons.

Note that next to each match there are a series of buttons that can be clicked to get additional information or send e-mail. Clicking the orange "TiP" button gives an additional report that looks like this:

"TiP" stands for "Time Predictor" and gives an indication of the probability that two matches have a common ancestor within the given number of generations. The more markers you test, the more accurate these calculations become.

A Couple of DNA Success Stories

OK, so how do you use this stuff in practice? I have had a couple of experiences that I think can illustrate how this could work. The first is from my mother's side of the family. My maternal grandmother's maiden name is Jones -- about as common as it gets (#5 on that list of surnames from the 2000 census that was discussed a few posts ago), which creates some problems -- there are just so many of them! Her father was born in Chicago, and after a little digging, I was able to figure out that her grandfather's name was William Jones. Well, there were over 50 men named William Jones in the Chicago directories, so that wasn't much help. I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that this might be a brick wall that I wasn't going to break down easily.

But then DNA testing came along, and I decided to have several family members tested, including my mother's cousin from the Jones side of the family (my mother was an only child and passed away before I could get her tested, so the closest living person I could get was her cousin). Shortly after my cousin's results were in, a match showed up whose last name was Jones, and boy did he look like my great uncle! I contacted him, and we began to compare notes, and soon discovered that we had to come from the same Jones family. We both had to do some more research to make the final connection, but in the end we were able to conclude that our Jones families came from England to Chicago in the 1860s and started a brick manufacturing business together. The DNA match led us to each other, but ultimately it was the diligent genealogy research we had both done that allowed us to connect all of the dots.

I have another DNA story that is still being written, but it will illustrate the point. Another brick wall on my Ackley side of the family is my 2nd great grandmother Marie (Jeannerette) Ackley. The story on how I even figured out her maiden name was Jeannerette is a topic all on its own; the problem here is that I just couldn't find anything on her father. The only clue I had came from her death certificate and the death certificate of a man who I'm reasonably certain is her brother. They both listed their mother as Mary Cecil, but one said the father's name was George and the other said James. Both Marie and her brother were born in Brooklyln, but I could not find any other Jeannerettes in New York. Census records for Marie and her brother were not consistent; some said their father was born in France (as did their death certificates), but others said he was born in South Carolina. In searching online for Jeannerettes I was getting a lot of hits in South and North Carolina but nothing in New York. It turns out that there were several French Huegenot Jeannerette/Jenerette families (there are other spellings too) that came to America in the 1700s, but I could not find any connection to any of them. Once again DNA is coming to the rescue. I have discovered at least three matches that all have common Jenerette ancestors from the Carolinas in their family trees. I have yet to make the final connection to them, but at least now I know where to look and I can focus my research much better.

My point in relating these experiences is that I am hoping if more Ackleys do DNA tests we might be able to start connecting with each other and solve some of the open questions we still have. There are Ackley lines in the United States that may or may not be related, and as discussed in the previous post I am not convinced that we know for sure who Nicholas Ackley's ancestors were. DNA may help us answer those questions.

Ackley Surname Project

FTDNA offers the ability to conduct projects, which are usually arranged along surname lines, but can also be geographic or ethnic in nature. There is an Ackley surname project on FTDNA (there are only 12 participants right now). Up until about 2 weeks ago the project appeared to be inactive; the link to the project website was broken and the project administrator was unreachable. I was able to get FTDNA to assign me as the project administrator, and I have managed to get the project website up and running. Here is the goal of the project as written by the previous project administrator:

Sounds like a pretty good goal to me - in fact it sounds like something I just wrote above. I am still learning about how everything works, but I think it is a worthwhile project to join if you are so inclined. If you tested with FTDNA you can join the project right now for free. If you tested with another company, you can pay a fee to transfer your results to FTDNA and then join. If you'd rather not spend the money, there is a free alternative in the next section. 


GEDmatch is a free website that allows users to upload autosomal DNA test results and offers a myriad of tools for analyzing matches. They will accept results from any of the "Big 3" companies mentioned above, and uploading is very easy. I have uploaded my test and all of the tests of my relatives. Besides the tools they offer, another big selling point for GEDmatch is that you can expand the number of matches you have because your test will be compared against people who have tested at all of the "Big 3" who have chosen to upload to GEDmatch. Here are some examples of the tools they offer:

This is a snippet of my list of matches from GEDmatch. As usual I have blanked out any real names and cut off the list of e-mail addresses in the last column on the right. Note that this is not a real slick interface, but it does what it needs to do (did I mention that it is free?). This output was produced by a utility that is called "'One-to-many' matches". You enter your kit number (this is how your test is identified) and it compares your kit to all of the other kits in the database and gives you a list of the top 1500 matches that meet the thresholds for segment length (which you can change if you want to). The top six matches in my list are my relatives who have tested; thus, the really high total cM values (EA is my dad, KA and JA are my siblings, JD is my dad's cousin on his dad's side of the family, SC is my mom's cousin on her mom's side of the family, and JL is my dad's cousin on his mom's side of the family). The last one you can see on this list is the same user who I showed in some of the Ancestry examples above -- the one with the Boettcher connection. 

You may ask why I tested so many people, and there are several reasons. I tested my dad because he has DNA that I don't have -- I only got half of my DNA from him and half from my mom, so he will match people that I don't match. I tested my siblings because they got some of my mom's DNA that I didn't get, and since I wasn't able to test my mom before she died that is important. My dad's and mom's cousins for the same reason -- they got DNA from my great grandparents that my dad, mom, siblings, and I didn't get. With the cousins you get the added benefit that for anyone that matches me and them, I automatically know which of my sets of great grandparents they are related to, and that narrows down the search. For example, the Boettcher cousin I mentioned above also matches SC (my mom's cousin from her mom's side of the family) so I knew to look only on that side for surnames that are common between us.

Another tool available is a "One-to-one' compare". You can do a one-to-one compare with anyone in your list of matches by clicking on the A link under the "Autosomal" column, or from the main page you can select the one-to-one option and enter any two kit numbers you want to compare. Here is the one-to-one comparison for me and my Boettcher relative:

You can see that we have four pretty good-sized segments that match.

GEDmatch also has an ethnicity estimator. They also use a pre-defined set of reference tests to come up with their estimates (different than Ancestry and FTDNA). Here is what mine looks like:

There are also a couple of "fun" utilities, like this one that predicts eye color. They nailed it for me:

That is not a picture of my eye; it is the picture the utility picked to best represent what it predicted for me, along with a list of rules used to make the prediction. This is really close to my real eye color, and they got it right for my dad, siblings, and wife. Useless for genealogy, but fun nonetheless.

There is one final GEDmatch tool I'd like to discuss - the triangulation tool. While most of the GEDmatch tools are free, there is a small group that you have to pay for. There is no set fee -- if you donate at least $10 you get the additional tools for a period of time. The triangulation tool is worth the donation -- it does what I discussed above systematically ("Shared Matches" at Ancestry and "In Common With" at FTDNA) and gives you a list of everyone you triangulate with. Here is a snippet of some of my triangulated matches:

What the algorithm does is compares my DNA with all possible pairs of people that match me on each chromosome and checks to see if those pairs also match each other. So every line in the above snippet is a pair of kits that match me on chromosome 15 along with the start and end points of the matching segment and the length of the match. The first pair matches me between 24,150,013 and 27,388,629, so the three of us share a common ancestor -- now we need to do our genealogy homework and figure out who it is. Note that for the next three lines, kit 1 is the same kit, and kit 2 is three different kits, meaning the person from kit 1 and all three kit 2 people match me at that same location (sort of). Note that the starting location is the same for all of them, but the ending location of the first one is a little bit less than the other two. This is OK since the last two are a little bit longer; all five of us share at least a 17.3 cM segment on chromosome 15 so we have a triangulation group of five people and we share a common ancestor.

What to Do Next

I know this is a lot of material, so you need to know what you can do next. My ultimate goal is to convince Ackleys to get together to share DNA results and help each other discover our ancestors, so hopefully I still have your interest at this point. Your next step depends on what you have already done.

If you have already tested with one of the "Big 3" and are interested in getting in on some type of Ackley project, you have a few choices:

  • The quickest, simplest, and cheapest thing to do (free) would be to upload your results to GEDmatch so you can start comparing your kit to other Ackleys who join, as well as the rest of the people in the database who might share non-Ackley ancestors with you.
  • If you tested with FTDNA and haven't already done so, you can join the Ackley project there (also free).
  • If you tested with Ancestry or 23andMe, you can pay a fee to transfer your results to FTDNA and get in on the Ackley project. The transfer fee for autosomal tests is $39, and the fee for the Y test depends; to transfer the results without any additional testing it is $19, but if you want to test some additional markers to mesh with FTDNA's standard number of markers it is $58. Once you have transferred, you can join the Ackley project for free.
If you have not already tested, here are some options:
  • Decide which type of test you want to do. Males can choose either the Y test or the autosomal test; females can only do the autosomal test. The autosomal test is more robust in that it gives you information about all of your ancestors; the Y test is restricted to your patriline (line of descent through your male ancestors). The Y test could be more useful in figuring out Nicholas' ancestors or determining if your line is connected to Nicholas Ackley; the autosomal test would be more useful for general genealogy questions.
  • Decide which company to test with. The autosomal tests at both Ancestry and FTDNA cost $99 normally, so cost won't be the deciding factor. Both companies run specials from time to time; I've seen them both as low as $79. So the decision comes down to whether you want Ancestry's better genealogy tools or FTDNA's better genetic tools. If you've spent a lot of time and effort building your tree on Ancestry and want to take advantage of that, you'll probably want to go with them. If you'd rather have better tools to do analysis, you'll probably want FTDNA. If you want it all, you can test at Ancestry and either upload your results to GEDmatch for free and use their tools or FTDNA for a fee and use their tools.
  • For the Y test, your only choice is FTDNA. If you decide to do a Y test, you'll have the additional decision on how many markers to test; the more markers, the more expensive. The 37-marker test is $169, the 67-marker test is $268, and the 111-marker test is $359.
A few final words on next steps. First, you should know that I have no connection with either one of these companies, so I won't benefit whatsoever if you decide to test with either one of them. They both have a lot of my money!

Second, I know this can be a lot of money, so don't let me talk you into something you can't afford! I'm hoping that if you were already considering testing that this post will help you decide if you want to go through with it, and that if you do that you'll consider participating in some way with whatever project we can get going.

Finally, if you're already on FTDNA, join the Ackley project for free. It is easy to join and you might learn something. For those who want to participate in some way without dealing with FTDNA, I'd like to start an "informal" project on GEDmatch since they don't really have anything formal to conduct projects. That would entail just uploading your data to GEDmatch and then sharing your kit number with the rest of us so we can use their tools to do analysis. To get that rolling, I'll share my Ackley kit numbers here:

A235748 (me)
A590546 (my dad)
A833645 (my sister)
A913303 (my brother)
A588455 (my dad's Ackley cousin)

A couple of blog readers have already uploaded their results to GEDmatch and agreed to share. Their kit numbers are:

A527562 (John P. Ackley)
F364363 (Carol Harrison)

If anyone decides to upload to GEDmatch and wouldn't mind sharing your kit number, please post it in a comment on this post so we all can see it and use it for comparisons/analysis. I have created a separate "Ackley DNA Projects" page for the blog, and will keep an up-to-date list of all of the kit numbers there for easy reference. There is also a new page with instructions on how to download your data from Ancestry and upload to GEDmatch.

Additionally, I'm really hoping someone with the Hackley surname will test and share with us. That would really go a long way toward verifying or refuting the information in the post on Nicholas Ackley's ancestors.

Another thing to dream about is for people with Ackley ancestors in other parts of the world to test and add their results to the mix. If someone in England tested, that could give us a connection to the presumed origin of our family.

One final thought: I can't emphasize this enough -- using DNA testing successfully depends on having a well-developed family tree on both sides; i.e., both people in a match need to have done their genealogical homework. If two people match each other and one or both of them doesn't have a tree, they will learn next to nothing from the fact that they match. DNA doesn't tell you anything about who your ancestors were; it can only tell you if you share a common ancestor with someone you match. It is up to the two people who match to do the research to figure out who the common ancestor was.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you done a DNA test? If so, which company did you use? Which type of test did you do?
  • Do you have any DNA success stories you can share?
  • Would you be interested in participating in an Ackley DNA project?

Link of the Day

This link is to the Wiki for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). There are over 500 articles about all aspects of DNA testing and its use in genealogy. Some of them get a little deep technically, but I have found most of them to be quite understandable and they have really helped me learn about genetic genealogy. I highly recommend it. By the way, membership in ISOGG is free (I just joined).

Quote of the Day

"It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result."

--Mahatma Gandhi

Next Post Topic

Some "Other" Ackley Lines

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The (Supposed) Ancestors of Nicholas Ackley

I have to admit that I’m a little skeptical about the information I’m going to present here. In fact, skeptical enough that I have not added the information to my “official” family tree. I need to state at the outset that I am not tackling this topic for the sole purpose of discrediting someone else’s work. I have no incentive to do so – in fact I would really like the work I am going to discuss to turn out to be true because then we would all know something pretty cool about our Ackley ancestors going all the way back to the 1300s. But, I have noticed enough inconsistencies in the work that I have to at least ask some questions and see where that takes us. Warning: this is a pretty long post because there is a lot of ground to cover. Hang in there!

Where Does This Information Come From?

If you’ve been researching the family of Nicholas Ackley for a while, you’ve probably seen some variation of this information on the internet – John Hackley is Nicholas’ father, the line is traced back to Hugh de Hackluite in the 1300s, who was the sheriff of Hereford, England, and there are lots of Hackluites, Hackleys, Hagleys, and Ackleys in between. If you use you've seen this in numerous online trees, usually without any source citations attached. As far as I can tell, the information comes from a book titled The Life of Charles Henry Hackley, Drawn from Old Public and Family Records by Louis P. Haight (see source [1] in the “Sources” section below). Charles Henry Hackley was born 3 Jan 1837 in Michigan City, Indiana. He moved to Muskegon, Michigan as a young man and along with Thomas Hume opened the Hackley-Hume Lumber Mill on Muskegon Lake. Charles was an interesting looking fellow and he had an interesting life (the picture comes from

Charles Henry Hackley

He made a fortune in the lumber business and ended up giving a large portion of his money to the city of Muskegon for all sorts of public projects, including a library, hospital, art gallery, and athletic fields among other things. Charles Henry Hackley died 10 Feb 1905. You will see later that the book asserts that Charles Hackley’s 4th great grandfather, John Hackley, was Nicholas Ackley’s brother, and that their parents were John Hackley and Eleanor Wyman. [1]

While researching the information in the Hackley book, I decided to try to find out how much of it could be verified and how much was questionable. In doing so, I’ve learned that there are some great resources available to help with this task. It turns out that the information on at least the first five generations can be verified by consulting source [4] below, The Visitation of Herefordshire Made by Robert Cooke, Clarencieux, in 1569. According to Wikipedia,

“Heraldic visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Kings of Arms (and more often by junior officers of arms (or Heralds) as deputies) throughout England, Wales and Ireland. Their purpose was to regulate and register the coats of arms of nobility and gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees. They took place from 1530 to 1688, and their records (akin to an upper class census) provide important source material for historians and genealogists.” [6] 

I will provide details below on where the Hackley information does or doesn’t match up with the pedigrees recorded in this visitation.

Chapter XI of the Hackley book details the pedigree of Charles Henry Hackley; it is pages 107-120. I will go through several of these pages below, pointing out where the information matches other sources and where it seems to be lacking or inconsistent. Before diving into the comparison, note that the author of the Hackley book states that "The following records are the result of a search made by Mr. H. Farnham Burke, Somerset Herald of the Heralds College, London E. S. in 1901 and are copied from the original manuscript now in the Hackley Library." [1]  I have two comments about this statement: (1) The Hackley Library still exists -- it is the public library in Muskegon, Michigan. I have contacted them about the manuscript and although it is in their card catalog, as of now it is not where the catalog says it should be. They are trying to locate it and will get back to me when they know more. (2) Sir Henry Farnham Burke (1859-1930) was a professional genealogist and held several royal appointments to positions related to English heraldry and genealogy. In 1826 his family established "Burke's Peerage", a guide to royal and other prominent families worldwide, and it is still published today. Thus, he has what would seem to be valid credentials for performing this type of genealogical research.

The First Five Generations

Starting with page 107, you can see below that the most distant ancestor in the pedigree is Hughe de Hackluite, who was supposedly sheriff of Herefordshire in 1377. Page 107 is on the left of the picture; on the right side are snippets from pages 35 and 36 of The Visitation of Herefordshire mentioned above. Side note: You can see that both of these sources have some references listed; they are pretty cryptic, but they do seem to match up with each other. I haven't completely decoded the references, but Harl. MS., Brit. Mus. 615, ff 14b seems to be referring to the Harley (or Harleian) manuscripts at the British Museum. The Harley collection was started in 1704 when Robert Harley donated over 600 historically significant manuscripts, and was augmented by his son Edward. The original pedigrees that were collected in the heraldic visitations mentioned above are part of the collection.

OK, back to the comparisons. I have color-coded and boxed in the names as they appear in the Hackley book and The Visitation of Herefordshire book below, and so far so good; the first three generations match up nicely, including the wives and other children (which I have not color coded for the sake of keeping the picture uncluttered). Sorry for the small print - if you have any questions about anything let me know in the comments.

Note that the tree for Henry Hacklute is continued on the next page of the visitations book; we'll take a look at it shortly.

This page appears to be where the information about Hughe de Hackluite being sheriff of Herefordshire comes from; note that under his name it says he was the sheriff of Herefordshire in 1377. A little history of the office of sheriff (later called high sheriff):
“The Office of High Sheriff is an independent non-political Royal appointment for a single year. The origins of the Office date back to Saxon times, when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the king for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown." [2]

I did a little digging around, and so far I haven't been able to verify that Hughe was indeed sheriff in 1377. According to the website for the current high sheriff of Herefordshire [2], the following Hakluits were sheriff:

1316-1317: Hugo Hakluit
1356-1358: Edward Hakluit
1508: Radulph Hakluit
1518: Radulf Hakluit

No mention of Hughe in any year. The same website says that Robert Whitney was sheriff of Herefordshire in 1377. I'm not sure where the website got its information, so it may not be correct either. In any case, maybe a minor inconsistency.

On to page 108 versus page 37; again, everything matches up and we have two more generations:

This is the last page of the Haklute/Hackluite pedigree in The Visitation of Herefordshire. Note that there is only one child listed under Richard and Sibill Hackluite and his name was Thomas and he married Margarett. As we'll see below, the Hackley book asserts there is an additional child, which is important to the rest of the pedigree presented.

The Rogers

The Hackley book repeats the information for Thomas and his family, but then at the top of page 109, we see that there is a second son named Roger: 

This is where things start to fall apart for me -- why isn't Roger shown in the pedigree in The Visitation of Herefordshire? Shouldn't he have been there right next to his brother Thomas? What evidence is there that Roger is Richard Hackluite's son?

As with previous pages, there are sources to support some of the information; unfortunately none of it helps with either the Roger in generation VI or his son Roger in generation VII. Sorry for the clutter; the colored boxes above connect the facts from the Hackley book on the left side with additional sources on the right side. The information in the red box shows the marriage of Roger's daughter Anne to Hugo Hybbyns in the Hibbins pedigree; this came from page 236 of source [7]. The yellow box shows the (really small) pedigree for Roger's son Thomas and his son Sir Roger Acheley, from page 7 of source [7]. The green box supports the fact that Sir Roger Acheley was mayor of London; this also came from source [7], page xvii. Finally, the blue box shows the marriage of Sir Roger Acheley to Blyth Moore in the Moore pedigree. This information came from source [8], page 202.

There are virtually no references provided to support the information for Roger Hackley in generation VII -- most of the discussion at the bottom of page 109 and top of page 110 centers around the family of Roger's father-in-law, Richard Wythem, and most of the references cited refer to that information. On page 110 are some facts about some of Roger's children, but once again no references that will support these facts, with the exception of the baptism and burial of one of his grandchildren, which can be found on page 1 of The Registers of Hopton Castle [3] (see red boxed information below). 

There are some sources for some of the information for the next generation -- Richard, his wife, and some of their children. However, nothing that really ties him to Roger and Margaret; i.e., there really isn't anything solid that makes me sure that Richard is the son of Roger and Margaret. In the green box we have the marriage information from page 2 of The Registers of Hopton Castle [3], the blue box is the burial of Richard from page 6 of the same reference, and the yellow box is burial information for Matilda, from page 7 of the same reference. Finally, the purple box is the marriage data for their son Edward from page 102 of Allegations For Marriage Licenses Issued by the Bishop of London, 1520 to 1610 [9]. There is a birth date for William, the subject of the next generation, but no source. The detail for William is on page 111:

The only source information we get for William himself is his marriage record from page 102 of Allegations For Marriage Licenses Issued by the Bishop of London, 1520 to 1610 [9]. The rest of the sources support the information for his children and grandchildren. The green and blue boxes are for baptism records for his grandsons Daniel and Thomas, found on pages 3 and 4 of The Registers of Sibdon Carwood, Shropshire, 1583-1812 [10]. The yellow box is for the baptism of his grandson William from page 57 of A True Register of All the Christenings, Mariages, and Burialles in the Parishe of St. James, Clerkenwell, From the Year of Our Lorde God 1551, Vol. I [11]. The magenta box is for the marriage of his granddaughter Mary from page 72 of A True Register of All the Christenings, Mariages, and Burialles in the Parishe of St. James, Clerkenwell, From the Year of Our Lorde God 1551, Vol. III [12], and the cyan box is for the marriage of his daughter Katherine from page 33 of the same reference. Once again, there are no good sources that would help connect William with his father Richard and the previous generation.

Hopton Castle and the Rest of the Generations

The rest of the generations we are concerned with have a connection to Hopton Castle. There are lots of great pictures of Hopton Castle on the internet, such as this one from :

It should  be noted that Hopton Castle is not just the castle – the village associated with the castle is also called Hopton Castle. The register that has been cited above is a record of events that happened in the parish of Hopton Castle, not the castle building itself. Also, you'll see that the Hackley book is full of misspellings/typos concerning Hopton Castle; in the following pages it switches from Hopton Castle to Hampton Castle to Hapton Castle; I assume it was meant to be Hopton Castle in all cases (the records are found in the Hopton Castle register, so that seems to be a correct assumption).

In my mind, the narrative for John Hackley and his family on pages 112 and 113 is key to answering the question as to whether the ancestry for Nicholas proposed in this book and spread all over the internet is correct. On those pages, the children of John Hackley and his second wife, Eleanor Wyman, are listed with their baptism dates. The marriage date given for John and Eleanor, and the baptism dates for all of the children except Nicholas can be found in The Registers of Hopton Castle [3] [note – the last name for all of the entries in the register is Hagley]. In fact, I cannot find anyone named Nicholas in the register during that time period. 

This inconsistency alone is enough to make me skeptical about the accuracy of this information on Nicholas’ ancestry. You can decide for yourself whether you are willing to accept it or not. Pages 112 and 113 are below; the red numbers next to each name were added by me and indicate the page from The Registers of Hopton Castle where the information is found, and the section for Nicholas has a red box around it.

The boxed in section on Nicholas is small, but there is a lot to comment on. The author clearly made the connection with "our" Nicholas Ackley -- the death date is the date we know from his probate records; the reference to "Hartford Ptob. Rec., v,213" [Ptob. is his misspelling of Prob., not mine] is a reference to the probate record we saw in the post on Nicholas. "Hist. Mdx Co. 198" refers to page 198 of The History of Middlesex County, Connecticut with Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men which was also one of the sources for the material in the post on Nicholas. I haven't figured out what the other two references are yet, but the point is that the author is definitely showing "our" Nicholas Ackley as the son of John Hackley and Eleanor Wyman, and that their son John Hackley (married to Elizabeth Bailey) was Nicholas' brother and the 4th great grandfather of the subject of the book, Charles Henry Hackley. A side note -- I have seen a lot of online trees on Ancestry that show John Hackley and Elizabeth Bailey (with different birth and death dates) as Nicholas' parents; obviously impossible if the dates in the Hackley book are correct.

Another thing that is puzzling about Nicholas' information is that it says he was baptized in St. Ansel (which I think is supposed to be St. Anselm). Perhaps this is why he is not found in the Hopton Castle registers. But that begs the question as to why all of Nicholas' siblings were baptized at Hopton Castle and he wasn't. Further, a Google search for St. Ansel turned up nothing; Google changed it to St. Anselm, and the results were underwhelming. Searching for St. Anselm on Google Maps turned up nothing in the way of a town or village in the U.K.; just a bunch of Roman Catholic churches and schools. So far that remains a mystery to me.

Another inconsistency here is what about Shalford? We have seen (unverified) information that Nicholas was born about 1635 in Shalford. First, the date raises a question -- the page above says Nicholas was baptized in 1642. It is possible that he was baptized seven years after his birth, but is that likely? On the other hand, if 1642 is the correct year for his baptism and he was baptized close to when he was born, it would be unlikely that this could be "our" Nicholas because by no later than 1655 we think he owned land in Hartford, Connecticut and was probably married in 1656. It is unlikely that a 13-year old would own land in America and be married. Finally, Hopton Castle and Shalford are almost 200 miles apart. All of Nicholas’ supposed siblings were baptized at Hopton Castle, while we think he was born at Shalford. This just doesn't quite add up.

The rest of the pages in this chapter go on to detail the line of descent to Charles Henry Hackley. I didn't spend a lot of time verifying them since it isn't really relevant to the central question of Nicholas Ackley's ancestors.

Final Observations

In summary, the first five generations seem to have adequate sources supporting the relationships proposed in the Hackley book. However, starting with Roger Hackley in generation VI and going through William Ackley in generation IX, there is a decided lack of evidence linking each generation to the next. There is a fair amount of support for other family members (children, grandchildren, and even in-laws), but for the most part this does not help with supporting the main players. John Hackley (or Hagley) in generation X and his family have some good documentation from the Hopton Castle registers, with the key exception of "our" Nicholas Ackley.

So, my overall conclusion is that although much of the information contained in the Hackley book appears to be accurate, there are too few supporting sources and too many inconsistencies on a couple of key points to be able to trust the veracity of it as a whole at this point. I would love to be proven wrong – this part of my tree has long been a brick wall as far as I am concerned, and I want to break it down. I will keep this information in my back pocket and continue to dig for the whole story. You can draw your own conclusions. I’m hoping that DNA testing might help lead us down the path to the true identity of Nicholas’ ancestors; we’ll save that discussion for the next post.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think – is John Hackley listed in generation 10 the father of Nicholas Ackley?
  • The research requires us to accept that Hackluite = Hackley = Acheley = Atcherley = Hagley = Ackley. Surnames evolve over time, and spelling was highly variable, but is this reasonable?
  • Does anyone have any verifiable information that would support or further refute the Hackley claims?
  • Does anyone have any other clues as to who Nicholas’ ancestors might be?

Link of the Day

Today’s link is to The Registers of Hopton Castle, Shropshire 1538-1812. The link will take you to As noted above, the surname is consistently spelled Hagley in this reference.

Quote of the Day

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act but a habit."
- Aristotle


  1. Haight, Louis P., The Life of Charles Henry Hackley (Muskegon, Michigan: Dana Publishing Company, 1948), p. 107-120.
  2. Website: High Sheriff of Herefordshire
  3. Elton, Rev. E. D., The Registers of Hopton Castle, Shropshire 1538-1812 (London: Shropshire Parish Register Society, 1901)
  4. Weaver, Frederic William, The Visitation of Herefordshire Made by Robert Cooke, Clarencieux, in 1569 (Exeter: William Pollard, and Co., 1886), p. 35-37.
  5. Sims, Richard, A Manual for the Genealogist, Topographer, Antiquary, and Legal Professor (London: John Russell Smith, 1856).
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "Heraldic visitation," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 27, 2016).
  7. Grazebrook, George and Rylands, John Paul, The Visitation of Shropshire, Taken in the Year 1623 by Robert Tresswell, Somerset Herald, and Augustine Vincent, Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms (London: The Harleian Society, 1889)
  8. Rye, Walter, The Visitacion of Norffolk, Made and Taken by William Hervey, Clarencieux King of Arms, Anno 1563, Enlarged With Another Visitation Made by Clarenceux Cooke, with Many Other Descents; and Also the Visitation Made by John Raven, Richmond, Anno 1613 (London: The Harleian Society, 1891)
  9. Armytage, George J., Allegations For Marriage Licenses Issued by the Bishop of London, 1520 to 1610 (London: The Harleian Society, 1887)
  10. Baxter, H. F., The Registers of Sibdon Carwood, Shropshire, 1583-1812 (London: The Parish Register Society, 1899)
  11. Hovenden, Robert, A True Register of All the Christenings, Mariages, and Burialles in the Parishe of St. James, Clerkenwell, From the Year of Our Lorde God 1551, Vol. I (London: The Harleian Society, 1884)
  12. Hovenden, Robert, A True Register of All the Christenings, Mariages, and Burialles in the Parishe of St. James, Clerkenwell, From the Year of Our Lorde God 1551, Vol. III (London: The Harleian Society, 1887)
Note about sources: Source 1 is not available online; I believe it is still under copyright. Source 2 is a website maintained by the current High Sheriff of Herefordshire. Sources 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 can be found on both Google Books and (the copies on tend to be clearer). Source 6 is good old Wikipedia.

Blog Housekeeping

You may have noticed that there are now tabs at the top of the blog -- one for "Home" (this is where the blog posts are), and one for "Sources". I decided to keep a running list of all of the sources used in one place for quick reference. I will still put sources at the end of each post, but will also add them to the master list.

Next Post Topic

How Can DNA Help Us?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Children of Nicholas Ackley and Their Families

A Comment About Comments

I am hoping this blog will be a forum for people who are researching the Ackley name as well as a place to learn about our Ackley ancestors. I am including discussion questions at the end of each post in an effort to stimulate comments/questions, but so far no one is taking the bait (I know it is only a sample size of one, but surely someone had a question or comment about what was in the post about Nicholas Ackley. Anyone? Anyone?). I want to encourage anyone who might be reading the blog (there are a few - I can see how many page views there are every day) to leave comments/questions at the bottom of any post they read, preferably related to the post content. However, if you have a question or comment related to genealogy that is off-topic and you think others would either be able to help you or be interested in it, by all means put a comment out there.

It occurred to me that it might not be obvious how to leave a comment, and also that some people might be scared off because it looks like you have to have some kind of account to leave a comment. Here are some hints on how to leave comments:

First, scroll down to the end of the post you want to comment on -- note that each post has its own comments section, so if you want to make a comment specific to a post make sure you are in the right section. You should see something like this:

Notice where it says "1 comment:" -- if there are no comments yet it will say "No comments". This is clickable, so click on it to see any existing comments and also get a box where you can add your comment. It will look something like this:

By the way, that isn't a "real" comment -- I asked my sister to test the comments feature to make sure it was working -- isn't she nice! Enter your comment where it says "Enter your comment...". Below that there is a drop-down (where it says "Comment as") that will allow you to pick how you want to identify yourself in your comment; here is what the choices look like in that drop-down:

If you have any of the accounts listed in the first six choices you can use one of them to identify yourself; if not, you can choose Name/URL or Anonymous (if you choose Anonymous, it might be a good idea to put your first name or some other way of identifying you at the end of your comment just so others know who they are responding to if they choose to reply). If you choose Name/URL you will see a box that looks like this:

You can enter any name you want in the "Name:" box -- it doesn't check anything. You can leave URL empty. Once you have entered something, click "Continue". Then click on the blue "Publish" button, and you should then get a box that looks like this:

Click in the box next to where it says "I'm not a robot". Sometimes it will just put a check-mark in the box and move on, and sometimes it will ask you to verify by clicking on something additional. Once you've done that, you'll need to click the blue "Publish" button one more time. I have it set up so that I must review all comments before they get published online, so you should see a box like this:

I get an e-mail notifying me every time a comment is entered, so I know when approvals are needed. I'm doing this just to make sure nothing inappropriate is entered; I don't really anticipate any problems with that, but just in case...

So, don't be shy -- if you have something to say or a question to ask, put it out there. I really do want this blog to be a place where we can all share.

Nick's Kids

As we learned in the previous post, Nicholas and his first wife Hannah had ten children. Their children were Thomas, Nathaniel, John, Samuel, James, Elizabeth, Hanna, Mary, Sarah, and Lydia. For this post I will just give the basic facts as I know them – who they married, their children, and relevant dates. At some later point I will go into more detail on each child and their families. I’ve tried to provide sources as much as possible; however, the quality of the sources varies. There are several sources that are transcriptions of vital records from the time period (for example, Manwaring’s books on Connecticut probate records or the transcriptions of East Haddam vital records that appeared in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register), published genealogies (such as Dawes-Gates), and online resources (such as Find-A-Grave). Use your judgement on how much you trust the accuracy of these various sources; the order listed above is my opinion as to how reliable they tend to be, from most reliable to least reliable. Don’t get me wrong about Find-A-Grave – I think it is a great resource and I have contributed to it, but since there are no requirements to show documentation for the names, dates, and locations that are entered by users you can’t always assume that the information you get there is accurate. I have found some good clues on Find-A-Grave, but I have also found some information that is flat-out wrong or misleading, so use what you find there with caution.

A note about Manwaring’s volumes on Connecticut probate records – many of the handwritten records that he transcribed and summarized can be found online in Ancestry’s Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999. If you’ve ever looked at any of the handwritten records, you can appreciate how patient and diligent Manwaring must have been – some of them are pretty hard to decipher.

The children of Nicholas and Hannah were:

1. Hannah Ackley was born about 16589, and died 19 Dec 17189. She married Edward Purple in 167514, who died 4 Jan 17199. Their children (all of whom were mentioned in Edward’s will, found in Manwaring, Vol. II, p. 4233) were :

   a. Richard, born 168917, died Oct 17579
   b. Edward
   c. John

2. Elizabeth Mary Ackley was born about 16609, and died 20 Mar 16989. She married Abel Shaylor (also spelled Shalor, Shaler, Shailor) before 20 Mar 1696 (this date is established from her listing in Nicholas’ will as Elizabeth Shalor; the will was approved on 20 Mar 1696, so they had to have been married before that. See Manwaring, Vol. I, p. 3932). They had one child:

   a. Elizabeth

3. Sarah Ackley was born about 16619, and died about 1721. Sarah married William Spencer5, who was born about 1652 in Massachusetts9 and died about 1713 in East Haddam9. Their children (all of whom were mentioned in his will, found in Manwaring, Vol. II, p. 3023) were:

   a. Mary, born 1 Sep 1687 in East Haddam6
   b. Alexander, born 16 Jul 1694 in East Haddam6, died about 176011
   c. Sarah, born 1 Mar 1696 in East Haddam6
   d. Hannah, born 16 Jul 1698 in East Haddam6
   e. William, born 3 Jun 1706 in East Haddam6

4. Sgt. John Ackley was born about 1662 in Hartford1, and died 25 Aug 1736 in East Haddam1,4. John married Rebecca Spencer, daughter of John and Rebecca (Hayward) Spencer in Hartford on 23 May 16991. Their children were:

   a. John, born 1700
   b. Thankful, born about 17031, died 9 Mar 1771 in Meriden1
   c. Rebecca, born 1704, died Feb 1744/5 in Colchester13
   d. Benjamin, born 1708 in East Haddam1, died after Jun 17611
   e. Sarah
   f. Mary, born 1708
   g. Nathaniel, born about 1715, died 27 Apr 1792 in Millington1

5. Thomas Ackley was born about 1664 in Hartford9, and died 16 Jan 1703/4 in East Haddam3. Thomas married Hannah ? about 16951. Hannah married Benjamin Trowbridge after the death of Thomas. John and Nathaniel Ackley were appointed guardians of the children3. Children:

   a. Hannah, born 24 Oct 1696 in East Haddam13, died 3 Mar 1772/3 in Colchester10
   b. Ann, born 17 Sep 1698 in East Haddam6
   c. Thomas, born 28 Jan 1700 in East Haddam6
   d. Job, born 14 Mar 1702 in East Haddam6

6. Nathaniel Ackley was born about 1666, and died 27 Feb 1709/10 in East Haddam3. He never married, but left some money to Esther Hungerford in his will; she was presumed to be his fiancé.

7. Lydia Ackley was born about 1670, and died 17 Apr 1755 in East Haddam9. She married Thomas Robinson2, who died 20 Oct 17253. Thomas and Lydia had just one child:

   a. Mary, born 23 Aug 1695 in East Haddam6, died 7 Feb 1774 in East Haddam9

8. Mary Ackley was born about 1674, and died 6 Jun 1726. She married Thomas Crippen. Their children:

   a. Thomas, born 3 Dec 1696 in East Haddam6
   b. Elizabeth, born 14 Jun 1699 in East Haddam6
   c. Hannah, born 25 May 1703 in East Haddam6
   d. Lydia
   e. Experience

9. James Ackley was born about 16781, and died 19 Sep 174611,12. He married Elizabeth ? about 17061. She died 19 Sep 16551. There is some question about Elizabeth’s maiden name. The name Comedy seems to be the most common name found on the internet, but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of actual records to support that name. Another name that seems to be out there is Cowdery, but no documentation there either; this needs more research. Children:

   a. James, born 17 Jul 1707 in East Haddam6, died 31 Dec 1777 in East Hampton12
   b. Nicholas, born 16 Dec 1708 in East Haddam6
   c. Nathaniel, born 7 Nov 1712 in East Haddam6, died 18 Sep 1794 in Millington1,9
   d. Gideon, born 14 Apr 1716 in East Haddam7, died 1 Dec 1803 in East Haddam12
   e. Desire, born 24 Feb 1717 in East Haddam7, died 17889
   f. Elizabeth, born 16 Jan 1722 in East Haddam7, died Mar 17959
   g. Benajah, born 10 Jul 1729 in East Haddam7

10. Sgt. Samuel Ackley was born about 16809, and died 27 Apr 1745 in East Haddam10,11. He married Bethia ? about 17001. Their children were:

   a. Samuel, born 8 Dec 1703 in East Haddam6, died 18 Jan 1729/303.
   b. Jerusha, born 29 Mar 1707 in East Haddam6, died Aug 1736 in East Haddam10.
   c. Deborah, born 1 Jul 1709 in East Haddam6
   d. Lydia born 4 Aug 1712 in East Haddam6, died 1741
   e. Simeon born 10 Jan 1714 in East Haddam6, died 1791 in East Haddam11.
   f. Stephen born 25 Jul 1717 in East Haddam6
   g. Elijah born 28 Mar 1719 in East Haddam6, died 14 Feb 1807 in Chatham11
   h. Isaac born 6 Oct 1721 in East Haddam6, died 17 Dec 1798 in East Haddam9
   i. Bezaleel born 4 Feb 1723/4 in East Haddam8, died 1776
   j. Nathaniel born 14 Jun 1726 in East Haddam8, died 14 Mar 17941

There was a note in Dawes-Gates that I found helpful in sorting out the three Nathaniel Ackleys in the third generation. Note that John, James, and Samuel each had a son named Nathaniel. The note below from Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines explains who was who:

Discussion Questions

  • Which of Nicholas’ children are you descended from?
  • Can you add any facts or corrections to what is presented here (preferably with sources)?
  • Do you have any family stories/legends you can add about these Ackley descendants?

Link of the Day

Today’s link is for Manwaring, Vol. I. All of the Manwaring volumes can be very helpful in finding death dates for Connecticut ancestors, and many of the summaries include a list of the children of the deceased. This can also be found on Google books, but I got it on a site called They have a boatload of books they have scanned that you can access for free.

Quote of the Day

"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."       

--Harry S. Truman


  1. 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.
  2. Manwaring, Charles William, A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records 1635-1700 Vol. I (Hartford, Connecticut: R. S. Peck, & Co., 1904).
  3. Manwaring, Charles William, A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records 1700-1729 Vol. II (Hartford, Connecticut: R. S. Peck, & Co., 1904).
  4. Manwaring, Charles William, A Digest of the Early Connecticut Probate Records 1729-1750 Vol. III (Hartford, Connecticut: R. S. Peck, & Co., 1906).
  5. Savage, James, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England Showing Three Generations of Those Who Came Before May, 1692, on the Basis of Farmer’s Register, Vol. I (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1860).
  6. “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.
  7. “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.
  8. “First Book East Haddam Land Records”, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume XIII, Samuel G. Drake, Editor, (Boston: C. Benjamin Richardson,1859), p. 125-130.
  9. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
  10. Connecticut Town Death Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations Inc, 2006.
  11. Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2015.
  12. Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2011.
  13. Edmund West, compiler. Family Data Collection - Individual Records [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations Inc, 2000.
  14. U.S., New England Marriages Prior to 1700 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Operations Inc, 2012.

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