Thursday, December 26, 2013

DNA Discoveries: Part 2 - Do I descend from Reuben Todd?


I descend from a James A. Todd who was born in Tennessee in 1813, lived in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and died in Collin County, Texas after 1880. Both online and published genealogies list him as a son of Reuben Todd of Rutherford County, TN. The problem with this assertion is there is no documentation to prove it whatsoever. Neither Reuben's estate files nor his pension ever give a full list of heirs. It is clear from his Census record that he fathered a large number of children, but proving who all of his children were has proven almost impossible. There were a large number of Todd men from both Rutherford and Cannon counties that could theoretically be James A. Todd's father. The Todd families of the two counties were not related to one another, though they did intermarry more than once. [DNA evidence has proven conclusively that the two were not biologically related despite the claims of many Todd researchers over the years.] Some of the Todd men left will's and estate record's that bore out the names of their heirs, allowing us to take them out of the running, but several, like Reuben, did not. So was Reuben Todd the father of James A. Todd?

The case against: 

There isn't much of a case against Reuben being James's father, with the main exception being the simple lack of documentation. No land, court, probate, or pension have ever really spelled out who Reuben's eldest sons were. We have the names of the children by his second marriage to Jemimah Todd because of Census and probate records, but the names of the children from his first marriage have not been proven or confirmed by any solid documentation. In 1810, Reuben has no sons in his household. By 1820, he has 3 sons under the age of 10. By 1830, he has a 5-9 year old son and a 15-19 year old son. It would appear that he perhaps had two sons die, but is always possible those sons were living with other relatives (perhaps kin of his unknown first wife who died prior to his 1827 remarriage) or working elsewhere. The four sons most commonly attributed to him are James A. Todd, John Pinkney Todd [who married Cynthia Todd, the daughter of Reuben's brother William and was an administrator of Reuben's estate], Jesse Todd [who married Nancy Russell, the sister of James A. Todd's wife Mary "Polly" Russell, and moved to Dallas County, Missouri along with James], and Frederick E. Becton Todd [who also migrated to Dallas County, Missouri]. In 1830, there are seven Todd households with 15-19 males living in them, so it is possible James A. could be in any of them, or none of them for that matter.

The case for: 

James A. Todd's first son was named William Reuben Todd. He has been ruled out as a son of Reuben's brother, William, who had his own son named James as proven by estate records. James, Jesse, and Reuben are all three on the same page of the 1840 Census, indicating they lived nearby one another. Aaron Todd's estate record have ruled him out as a father of James A. Todd. After moving to Missouri, he never has significant proximity to any other Todd's with the exceptions of Jesse Todd's widow, Nancy Russell Todd, and the fact that Frederick E. Becton Todd moved to Dallas County, Missouri, though I have not determined if their residences there overlapped or not.

What the DNA says: 

My closest Todd DNA matches were to other descendants of James A. Todd; one was a descendant of William Reuben Todd, and another was of my ancestress, Sarah Jane Todd. I also matched to a descendant of James's daughter Martha who married William P. Betterton. I also had some matches to Todd's from Madison County, Kentucky, where most if not all the Todd's in Rutherford County, TN lived before moving to TN, but those just show I am looking at the correct large-picture Todd family rather than zeroing in on a specific ancestor.

Unfortunately, overall the DNA results are rather inconclusive, mostly because of few samples by purported descendants of Reuben being found. The two samples I have come across show a promising link to Reuben, especially the sample from a descendant of Aaron Todd. I am still making this post so that perhaps other descendants of Reuben, confirmed or unconfirmed, may come across it and let me know that they have or are planning to submit DNA samples. Samples from descendants of John Pinkney Todd, Jesse Todd, Levi Todd, John Todd, William Lewis Todd, and any other possible or definite descendants of Reuben would be greatly welcomed.


User: DennisAdams29
Confidence: Moderate
Ancestors: Descends from B.B. Todd, son of Frederick E. Becton Todd, a supposed son of Reuben Todd

User: Lee Roy Person (on
Generations: ~4.1
Ancestors: Descends from Aaron Todd b. 1837, a confirmed son of Reuben Todd

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