James Farquhar: How Are We Related? Only DNA Knows

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is DNA.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Analyzing my father’s DNA has given me many insights into our family. It’s helped me sort out pedigree collapse and formulate theories about the brick walls on these lines. I wrote a four-part series about my paternal DNA super clusters earlier this year, and during that analysis one small cluster stood out among the interrelated mess:


Paternal Cluster 21 among “Super Clusters” A-D, as interpreted from results of Genetic Affairs Auto-Cluster Tool, run date of 3 Jan 2019

UFO conspiracy theorists have Area 51; I have Cluster 21.

My study of Cluster 21 has led me to James Farquhar — an ancestor completely unknown to me and one I’m still not sure how we’re related.

Cluster 21, as defined by Genetic Affairs’s auto-cluster output, contains nine matches to my father. I was able to access or construct trees for five of these matches, and all led back to James Farquhar and his wife Sarah Lockhart:¹

Farquhar DNA Matches and Their Descents from James Farquhar & Sarah Lockhart
(Only Generations 1 – 4 are shown for testers’ privacy.)

So, who was this James Farquhar?

James Farquhar was born before 1755² , possibly in North Carolina.

James was a veteran of the American Revolution. From the fall of 1775 through April 1776, James served as a captain in the Hillsborough District Minutemen, seeing action at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.³ After this group was disbanded, James joined the Northern Orange County Militia, again as a captain.⁴ The regiment split in April 1777, and James became part of the Caswell County Militia where he served as captain until the end of the war.⁵ The Caswell County Militia saw action at many battles, including the significant Battle of King’s Mountain and Battle of Cowpens.⁶

According to state and federal census records, James lived in present-day Person County from 1777 through 1800.⁷ He appears in several deed book entries in the Bushy Fork community throughout the late 1700s.⁸ He likely died in early 1814, as court proceedings began on 7 Mar 1814 in Person County to settle his estate.⁹


But, more importantly, who is James Farquhar to me?

One — and maybe the only — perk of having pedigree collapse is the ability to rule out large chunks of family when someone doesn’t match those lines. I have this situation with my Farquhar matches in Cluster 21. In fact, my father only has one close match to these mystery Farquhars: his second cousin J.W.

Both my father and J.W. are great-grandsons of John McMurry and Mary Smart. Unlike my father who has Smarts on both sides of his family, J.W.’s only Smart relation is Mary; it’s made J.W. a valuable “control match.” J.W.’s test results are also helpful in identifying our Farquhar connection. Because none of my father’s numerous other Smart testers match the Farquhars — but J.W. does — I strongly suspect our Farquhar connection is through John McMurry.

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about John McMurry. He was likely born in Mississippi in the mid-1850s.¹⁰ He somehow made it to Jackson Parish and Winn Parish, Louisiana, by 1880 – 1900.¹¹ Because I know so little about John McMurry, let’s trace the Farquhars instead.

Remember the Farquhar tree above? It has an important clue: all the matches descend from John Farquhar. Four matches are descendants of only John Farquhar; the fifth match descends from the intermarriage of John and his brother James’s family (the reason why that tester matches my father at 93 cM, a slightly higher amount than the others). My Farquhar connection is somewhere between John Farquhar, who was born between 1785 and 1794,¹² and John McMurry, born in the 1850s.

No definitive formula exists for estimating how many generations exist between two dates. There’s always outliers like a 15 year-old mother, or a man who fathers a child well into his 70s. However, I’ve used two estimates to examine how many generational links could exist between John Farquhar and John McMurry:

Hypothetical Two-Generation Estimate
(20 years between generations)

My own conservative estimate is 20 years minimum between generations. Applied to this situation, it equals two unknown ancestors between John Farquhar and John McMurry. In this scenario, John McMurry is the great-grandson of John Farquhar. Because the birthdate for John Farquhar is known only as the range of 1785 – 1794 on the 1810 census, I used the midpoint (1789) and calculated forward 20 years from that date. The final jump then results in 26 years between John McMurry and his parent, also using 1855 as a midpoint for John McMurry’s unknown birthdate. I feel this two-generation scenario is the maximum number generations between the two individuals. Increasing to three generations would be an average age of 16.5 at the birth of each descendant. It’s possible, but not very likely for several successive generations.


Hypothetical One-Generation Estimate
(33 years between generations)

Another possibility is the “law of three generations.” This rule-of-thumb estimates three generations make up each century.¹³ On average, males are slightly older than females when they reproduce for the first time, so using this estimate accounts for at least two of the three individuals in my scenario being males. Adding 33 years from John Farquhar’s 1789 midpoint birth year results in only one generation between he and John McMurry.

I feel either of these generation estimates could be accurate. For certain there is at least one ancestor between the two Johns. John Farquhar died before 1833¹⁴ — well before John McMurry was born.

Another tool I used for my analysis is the What Are The Odds? (WATO) tool at DNAPainter. WATO allows users to construct a tree, specify how much shared DNA a descendant shares with the target (in this case, my father), and then set hypotheses. WATO eliminates hypotheses that are mathematically impossible based on the shared amount of DNA and also ranks hypotheses based on their likelihood.

My Farquhar WATO tree was the largest one I’ve ever created. I covered every possible scenario — including half-siblings — for the first four generations of Farquhars, beginning with James. The result was a WATO tree that barely fit on my screen at maximum zoom!

Farquhar Match “What Are The Odds?” Tree, compiled 8 Apr 2019, DNAPainter.com

When complete, WATO gave me eight hypotheses with a score greater than “1” of how John Farquhar and John McMurry could be related:

Likelihood Score = 12
John McMurry is the son of Wright Farquhar and Phoebe Rimmer.

Likelihood Score = 11
One of John McMurry’s parents is the child of Wright Farquhar and Unknown.

Likelihood Score = 10
John McMurry is the son of Stephen Farquhar and Unknown.

Likelihood Score = 8
John McMurry is the son of Stephen Farquhar and Rachel Raney.

Likelihood Score = 5
One of John McMurry’s parents is the child of John Farquhar and Nancy Nichols.

Likelihood Score = 3
John McMurry is the son of Alfred Farquhar and Unknown.

Likelihood Score = 2
One of John McMurry’s parents was the child of Wright Farquhar and Phoebe Rimmer.
OR
One of John McMurry’s parents was the child of Alfred Farquhar & Unknown.


And that’s where my current understanding of my Farquhar family ends. My next step is to search for records about these possible connections, hopefully finding some record connecting a Farquhar with a McMurry. I also see much value in testing the Y-DNA of a male descendant of John McMurry. It could tell me if the Farquhar connection is maternal or paternal for John.

Cluster 21 is no longer my conspiracy theory. James Farquhar, you are out there.


¹ Jessica Horne Collins, Descendants of James Farquhar and Sarah Lockhart – Family Group Sheets, Research Tree; Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/111969539/family/familyview : accessed 9 Apr 2019), 2018.

² Age caluclated from category checked on 1800 census:
1800 U.S. census, Person County, North Carolina, town of Hillsborough, p. 606 (penned), p. 203 (stamped), line 7, Jas Farquhar; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7590/4440904_00212/333026 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M32, roll 32.

³ J.D. Lewis, Carolana (http://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/patriots_nc_capt_james_farquhar.html : accessed 9 Apr 2019), “The North Carolina Patriots – Capt. James Farquhar.”

Ibid.

Ibid.

Ibid.

⁷ Ancestry.com “North Carolina, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890,” database, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=3566&h=16456492&ssrc=pt&tid=111969539&pid=350108144928 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), entry for James Capt. Farquhar, St. Luke’s District, Caswell County, NC, 1777, NC Early Census Index.

Ancestry.com “North Carolina, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890,” database, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=3566&h=17109594&ssrc=pt&tid=111969539&pid=350108144928 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), entry for James Farquhar, Person County, NC, 1793, NC Early Census Index.

1790 U.S. census, Caswell County, North Carolina, p. 83 (penned), James Farguhar; database, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=5058&h=159010&ssrc=pt&tid=111969539&pid=350108144928 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M637, roll 7.

1800 U.S. census, Person County, North Carolina, town of Hillsborough, p. 606 (penned), p. 203 (stamped), line 7, Jas Farquhar; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7590/4440904_00212/333026 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M32, roll 32.

⁸ Katherine Kerr Kendall, ed., Person County, North Carolina Deed Books, 1792-1825 (Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994).

⁹ Ancestry.com, “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” database with images, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9061&h=361732&ssrc=pt&tid=111969539&pid=350108144928 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), entry for James Farquhar.

¹⁰ Possible birth date calculated from 1900 census and suspected entry on 1880 census:

1880 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, Louisiana, population schedule (1st enumeration), Ward 7, enumeration district (ED) 37, p. 235 (stamped), p. 35 (penned), dwelling 311, family 311, John McMurry in the G.B. Higgs household; digital image, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241370-00793 : accessed 1 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 454.

1900 U.S. census, Winn Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 7, enumeration district (ED) 119, sheet 3-B, dwelling 50, family 50, John McMurry household; digital image, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4119813_01131/20025011 : accessed 1 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 586.

¹¹ Ibid.

¹² Birthdate range calculated from 1810 and 1820 censuses:
1810 U.S. census, Person County, North Carolina, p. F (stamped), line 11, John Farquhr; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7613/4433473_00233/346472 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M252, roll 38.

1820 U.S. census, Person County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 452 (stamped), line 21, John Farquhar; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7734/4433161_00252/355937 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication, M33, roll 82.

¹³ E. Ya. Tetushkin, “Genetic Aspects of Genealogy,” Russian Journal of Genetics 47 (Nov 2011): 1288-1306.

¹⁴ Death date before 1833 based on probate records of John’s wife Nancy Farquhar. John is not appointed as tutor for the minor children, probably meaning he was already deceased.

Hinds County, Mississippi, probate case file 152, Nancy Farquhar (1833); digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9QC-C99F-7?cc=2036959&wc=M7M1-SWL%3A344538201%2C345888101 : accessed 9 Apr 2019), citing “Mississippi Probate Records 1781-1930” > Hinds > Estates (series 1) 1833-1835 no 141-182 > image 352-380.

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