Posts Tagged ‘DNA’

In Which Sugar and I Are Not Related

February 7, 2017

Well, that’s a relief. 

I mean, he’s related to everyone.

When I first started working on his tree, over ten years ago, I knew of some other of his family’s researchers. They seemed to do the same kinds of things that I do, like make trees on ancestryDOTcom, and post memorials and photos to findagraveDOTcom. 

One fellow sent me a message about Sugar’s tree because he couldn’t find where I fit onto the tree and how he and I were related. I explained as vaguely as possible that I wouldn’t be in his tree, because we were not related, I was not a Lawton, and Sugar and I were friends. 

This exchange must have been about 2009. Recently I took an AncestryDNA test, and I found I have over 20K cousins on Ancestry alone. 

I loaded my raw data to gedmatch, and found several thousand more cousins there. 

I found a few folks that I had corresponded with in the past, so it was good to see that the DNA bore out what the paper records showed. 

I found one fellow that graduated from high school a few years before I did. He shares the African ancestry, which was interesting to see, because that helped me narrow down which line that was on, and it wasn’t the line I would have guessed. 

Gedmatch has a spreadsheet format, and one of the fields is for username. Lots of people don’t use a name; they use some kind of code, like Aunt Lou or Chicken Dinner or Cat Lover. These codes are not helpful, and in the case of Chicken Dinner, they only serve to make me hungry. 

So I’m scrolling down the list of usernames. Dozens, hundreds, of usernames. And I see it. I see *Him*. 

Boyce Mendenhall Lawton. Sugar’s cousin who wanted to know how we were related, and I told him we were not. 

I’m related to Boyce on Boyce’s mother’s side, and Sugar is related to Boyce on Boyce’s father’s side, but Sugar and I are not related. 

Now I want a chicken dinner. 

2016 Reunion: The Vote

June 11, 2016

So the discussion was finished. One family member, an attorney, states that DNA was admissible in a court of law. Never mind that the type of DNA testing for court purposes is different from the type of DNA test used for genealogical purposes.

The vote was called: there were no “nays” heard. The president called for a secret ballot. Pre-prepared ballots were produced for only the blood descendants who were members of the association. Keep in mind that there is no standard for determining who is blood or not, except that everybody knew who everybody else was.

The vote passed 20-6 to allow DNA membership.

Then the discussion turned to the restoration project at the Lawton-Seabrook Cemetery on Edisto Island, where the brick wall surrounding the cemetery is being historically repaired.

Things suddenly took a turn into the Twilight Zone.

One woman said that she would not contribute to the project because Ruth (clearly meaning me) was taking bricks and shipping them to California.  Another woman gasped in mock horror: “Yoo ah STEALING bricks from a CEMETERY?” No, not from a cemetery on Edisto, I said, I did take one lying on the ground in the bamboo underbrush at Black Swamp Plantation (2 hours from Edisto).” The first lady pointed dramatically at one of our DNA guests and said, “You are shipping them to him!!”

I cannot use enough exclamation points after that last statement to convey the proper level of drama.

I have been to Edisto cemetery twice, and I documented them both here on the blog. The second time was at the family reunion one year ago where there were plenty of witnesses who can confirm that I didn’t swipe a brick.

I think the meeting disbursed after that. Not sure. Sat in my chair, stunned a bit.

I do not fault the president of the association at all. It was a good point of procedure that the vote was taken on paper and recorded for posterity. There is a certain matriarch who interrupts the meeting whenever she wants to say whatever she wants to say, and I have issue with that because she is not recognized by the chair. She is the same person who pushed Sugar out of the way when she first met him. He approached her, shook her hand, introduced himself, and she shook his right hand with her right hand and put her left hand on his right shoulder and pushed him out of the way.

There was an adult gathering for adult beverages after the meeting disbursed. We solved the world’s problems. And we resolved to embrace our similarities and our differences.

Because we have no time for bricks to be thrown.

I didn’t want to go to the reunion the following day. I’m pretty sure that this would have been taken as a sign of defeat, so I went. But I was a rebel and didn’t wear a name tag in protest.

Afterwards we posed for a sweaty parking lot photo. An in-June-in-Savannah-after-a-tropical-depression kind of sweaty.

I have cried over the meanness of it all. I think I have worked through the thousand stages of grief. I can’t even imagine how hard the civil rights era was. Jordan and his great-aunt Francine never lost a moment of class and graciousness.

But I am not done talking about this.

Because this is what progress looks like:

More Thoughts on Francis Asbury Lawton

January 12, 2016

(Insert my commercial here, except I’m not selling anything excepts thoughts.)

Sugar has a book written by his cousin Thomas Oregon Lawton. Which one, you say? Do you mean which book, or which Thomas Oregon Lawton? Because there are six TOLs listed on findagrave as being buried in Lawtonville Cemetery. 

Before we progress on the book topic, in answer to your unspoken question, “What kind of name is Thomas Oregon?”, be advised that the father of the original TOL, in the spirit of expansionism, wanted to name him “Oregon Territory”. So that’s a relief. 

The book is Upper St. Peter’s Parish and Its Environs, published in 2001. Mr. Lawton was an attorney in Allendale, SC, and a great promoter of family, local, and state history. 

His grandfather was Francis Asbury Lawton. He writes of him in his book. Sugar has a copy, and I photographed relevant pages. Mr TOL is deceased, and I publish photos of his book here at the risk of breaking copyright. Sometimes I am a rebel like that. 

He is said to be a colorful personality with a mercurial disposition. If he is the father of Winnie Joe Lawton, there is no mention of any children born outside his marriage. And in this, we have no paper trail. Lineage societies require a paper trail. We’re familiar with the traditional paper trail for the traditional families. 

We have a new kind of paper trail called DNA. At this point, I don’t know how lineage societies will treat DNA proof, although it is clearly a proof. More people in this Lawton line need to take the autosomal DNA so that their data can be added to the database and help narrow the field of possible answers and candidates. Some of the descendants have been contacted and they reject the DNA findings. I understand that. It means that your people, your ancestors, are not the people you thought they were. I also understand that we are not in a bubble. We are all connected, and denial of historical events and scientific proof doesn’t change that. 

When I first started writing the blog, and I referenced the fact that Miz Florrie said that her father was “kin to the Lawons”, I wouldn’t write the word “Lawton”. I hid the name by writing “L*****”. Because I am afraid of the big Internet and haters. And I thought I was protecting her somehow. 

Her DNA test doesn’t reveal any Lawton matches, at least not yet, which makes me wonder if there were multiples candidates for her father’s paternity, and the most likely candidate was Lawton. 

I do know this: this story and others like it will never grow old to me. 

This Is The Year: Part Two

January 2, 2016

It takes a lot of cooperation and concentration to make a meeting happen. 

We found out that Jordan’s great-aunt Francine was coming to South Carolina to visit some cousins on her father’s mother’s side. We hoped that she was willing and able to find time with her father’s father’s side. 

She did, and brought a Tolbert cousin from her father’s mother’s side who was fascinated with the story. 

Francine is soft-spoken and reserved, but she volunteered during the course of the evening that her grandfather, the Lawton descendant, could not read or write until he was grown and married, and his wife taught him. He was born in 1881 and couldn’t go to school with the whites and was shunned by the blacks. He and his family moved to Savannah sometime between 1910 and 1920, and he had a general merchandise store, but he lost it all because he couldn’t count and make change. 

I showed Ftancine this document:

Where Winnie Joe Brown signed his name. 

What did we talk about during dinner? I only remember snippets. I was too busy enjoying the evening. And taking some stealth photos. 

 After dinner we posed for photos. 


Standing: Arthur Gilliard, YoursTruly, Libby Lawton Hromika, Francine Brown. Seated: Leslie Lawton Bateson.

Do y’all love this story as much as I do?


Thanks to Dennis Richard Hromika, the ever-patient and enabling photographer. Thanks to Jordan Carroll, the persistent genealogist, and to those Lawton cousins who welcomed him. Thanks to Francine Brown for visiting from NY and submitting the DNA test. Thanks to Arthur Gilliard, Francine’s Tolbert cousin, for his enthusiasm. Thanks to Libby Lawton Hromika for her gracious hosting. But mostly, thanks to Sugar Bateson for letting me come along for the ride.

This Is The Year

January 1, 2016

2015 was an amazing year. There were undreamable moments that came true. There were unbelievable people that emerged. There were worries and issues. 

This year might just explode. In a good way. I hope. 


Once, when I was a little girl, my mother was talking to her friend about learning more about her family. Like making a family tree, back when it was hard, and there weren’t many resources. 

“Oh, you don’t want to do that,” her friend said. “You might not like what you find.” Because the liking was an important part of the search. 

Someone she knew had done such a thing, and they were changed forever. They found that they were mixed race. She went on to tell us that when she and some other ladies would work a blood drive (which was in another state but could have been anywhere), they marked the collection vials with “W” or “Co”. Because we don’t want a blood transfusion of the wrong blood when we are bleeding to death. Which today reminds me of the old saying that one drop of colored blood means that you are colored. 

I’m not even going to rant about that and use up valuable energy that could go towards good. 


Y’all know that Sugar took an autosomal DNA test. The day came that the test confirmed what we had already learned from other distant cousins. 

It turns out that none of the black cousins had ever met the white cousins, at least not since 1881. On December 26, 2015, we made history. 


Standing: Elizabeth Lawton Hromika and Leslie Lawton Bateson. Seated: Francine Brown.

A big part of this meeting is the fact that conversations were started and maintained. Sometimes one race won’t talk to another race, even online which is where the conversations start, once race is revealed. 

Francine’s great-nephew is the one who took the DNA test, and when he reached out, people responded. The connections got bigger and bigger. 

So people? Start the conversation. Go make some history.  

FlowerFest 2015: Stops One and Two

December 8, 2015

We’re off on our annual poinsettia-placing to Savannah. 




From SC into GA

Sugar and I head into Laurel Grove first. It’s on the west side of town, so we approach it first once we cross over the bridge. 

Our goal is to start with the Densler and Bateson plots, then finish up at the Lawton-Jones mausoleum. As we drove along the lane, we got visually side-tracked by a limping dog, who limped along across the lane in front of us and joined another dog. Then a little shepherd mix PUPPY popped out of the underbrush, right by a black dog that might have been his mother. We had no food in the car to give them. It was all disconcerting. 

The dogs melted into the underbrush, but the puppy came out to bark at us. 

There was really nothing we could do about the dogs, except leave them. 

We parked back of the Densler mausoleum and walk around to the front. Mrs. Mary Densler is buried here, and she is William Starr Basinger’s Aunt Polly. More correctly, I believe she is the sister of his mother’s mother Ann Pearson Starr. 

Some of the bricks look clean and repointed. 

We walk over a few lanes to the Bateson plot. This lot is special to us. We discovered in 2014 that there were Batesons right here in Savannah in an unmarked plot, and Sugar ordered a stone for them. There are 10 people buried here in a lot that can hold 12. The last burial was in 1879, that of the child, Thomas Remington Bateson. No one was left to mark the burial place until 135 years later when a Sugar came along. 

I always want to just sit with these people. I wonder what they would think of this: the picture-taking, the blogging, the marking of the plot. And the automobiles, the traffic, the sounds of the interstate nearby, the planes overhead. Every vehicle was pulled by animal power when these folks were alive. I want to talk to them, or actually, simply to listen to what they have to say. This family breaks my heart. 

It’s time to go to Jones-Lawton. 

This crypt is on 4 plots, if I understand it correctly. There are 4 graves buried outside the crypt, Sugar’s aunt Emily Augusta Lawton, and his first cousins Mary Garrard Mackin and her brother William, and William’s wife Alice Knott Garrard. 

Inside are at least 18 people. The story goes that it was built by Augustus Seaborn Jones for himself and his wife Emily Robert Jones. Here’s where things get convoluted. Their daughter Elizabeth “Bessie” Jones married Dr. William Seabrook Lawton (they are Sugar’s great-grandparents).  Their son Edward Percival Lawton (he is Sugar’s grandfather) and daughter Gulielma Lawton Read (she married Abram Carrington Read) are buried there, but not their spouses. Another daughter of Edward Percival is there: Leslie Lawton Read, who married a different branch of the Reads. Leslie’s daughter Margaret Louisa Read is there, and she took the last spot. (Another daughter of Edward Percival’s is Emily Augusta Lawton, already mentioned.)

So many Lawtons, so little time. 


Sugar spots a rainbow effect over Jones-Lawton.


We walk around the grounds, noting that the crepe myrtles could be cut back yet again. 


From the rear

It’s time now to go somewhere we’ve never gone, literally and figuratively. 

The day before, I had an online conversation with another of Sugar’s Lawton cousins who mentioned that his grandfather Jefferson Brown, a Lawton descendant, lived at 1024 36th Street. I offered to go by to see if the house still stood. 
His name is Jordan, and he tested with 23&me. He’s definitely a Lawton. 

You can read his story at the 23&me website.