DNA surprises and new theories(part 2)

As always with genealogical research, overly focusing on one question causes you to overlook valuable clues in solving a puzzle. BUT, sometimes you may not have enough documents to prove a connection. History is limited by what human beings left behind.
The past is like a puzzle with incomplete pieces.

I went over the known facts in my line along with reconciling new questions my DNA results raised and immediately flashed by to a particular document I collected a few years ago:

Exhibit A[ The probate file of Silvestre HERNANDEZ, an orphaned boy of color, dated 11 September 1827 at Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana]
Silvestre HERNANDEZ was the son of Andres HERNANDEZ, a native of Valladolid, Spain, & his common-law spouse, Victoire MASSE,negresse libre. Both were deceased leaving no property. Silvestre was a minor who required a guardian according to the inheritance laws in Antebellum Louisiana. During the 1820s, family councils composed of the nearest relatives of the minor were requested for the purpose of voting for a legal guardian. I looked at the list of family members and immediately zeroed in on one particular one that I overlooked…

The cousins of Silvestre HERNANDEZ present were all men of color

Silvestre MORALES

Before I get into why I highlighted Silvestre MORALES,  Victoire MASSE was one of the three daughters of L’eveille MASSE. The other two women were Francoise MASSE[aka Francoise L’EVEILLE] and Marie MASSE[aka Marie LEVEILLER]. All these women used Leveille and Masse interchangeably as surnames following a Louisiana Creole patronymic naming tradition where a father’s forename becomes the last name of his descendants.
I’ve only seen this naming tradition in Louisiana among slaves, free persons of color and some Native Americans. Knowing this cultural naming system pretty much tells you that their father was a man named “L’eveille MASSE”. Anyway, Francoise LEVEILLE was my 5th great-grandmother.

Earlier in my research, I was so fixated in determining the kinship of the other men of color to Silvestre HERNANDEZ, I scrugged off Silvestre’s MORALES connection because he later married little Silvestre’s sister, Leonore. There are a lot of kissing cousins in Louisiana Creole genealogies. I should have went with his cousin assertion.

Who is Silvestre MORALES? What are his origins?

Silvestre MORALES was born in 1794 to Juan MORALES, a Canary Islander immigrant to Louisiana, and Marianna MASSE, a free woman of color. She was the daughter of Sazeme- an Indian of unknown ethnic origins, and Marguerite MASSE, negresse libre. Marguerite was born to Ingui and Marie, a Senegalese African couple enslaved by the French trader Andre MASSE. Ingui and Marie are notable for being the first entry recorded in the Catholic Abstracts of St. Martin Du Tours Church in 1756. They were married by a traveling priest and my ancestor, L’eveille, witnessed the wedding along with his then wife, Marie-Flore, also free. L’eveille himself is also notable for being the earliest recorded free person of color in Southwest Louisiana.

Silvestre MORALES was the grandson of Ingui and Marie!  Because the father of Silvestre HERNANDEZ was a Spaniard, the only way Silvestre MORALES could be kin was through his mother, Victoire L’EVEILLE MASSE! My ancestor’s sibling.

The mystery thickens…

Part 3  coming up!

DNA surprises and new theories(part 1)

I finally persuaded my distant cousin, Marion, to submit her AncestryDNA results on gedmatch a few weeks ago. We both trace our ancestry to the children of Louis SAM and Elizabeth SENET, a free person of color couple who lived in St. Landry Parish,Louisiana in the 1830s. My  fourth great-grandfather, Jean-Pierre Louis SAM, was the older brother of Adolph SAM, cousin Marion’s great-grandfather. Because we both shared common ancestors before the Civil War, I reasoned that any mutual DNA cousin match I and Marion shared would be pretty intriguing because that would reveal an even earlier common progenitor deep into French Colonial Louisiana!

After 24 hours of anticipation, the batching process for Marion’s DNA was complete and compared to everyone who submitted their DNA results from 23andme,FamilytreeDNA and AncestryDNA. I logged onto my gedmatch account and used the chromosome comparison tool to see the matches me and cousin Marion shared. Five mutual matches appeared before me on screen. BUT, one particular match made my eyes nearly jump out my sockets!  I recognized her name because she matched me as a distant cousin on Ancestry.com and 23andme.  Her mother was a VERDUN with roots in Franklin, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. My ancestor, Elizabeth SENETTE, was baptized at St. Martin du Tours Catholic Church in 1794 and born to Francoise L’eveille MASSE, a free woman of color living near the SENET family close to present-day Franklin, St. Mary Parish!

Most of the VERDUNs from Franklin, Louisiana are members of the Chitimacha Tribe. They can trace their ancestry to two VERDUN brothers from New Orleans who fathered children with two sisters of mixed African and Native American ancestry. My DNA match is a descendant of Pierre VERDUN and Marie Magdelaine GREGOIRE. Magdelaine GREGOIRE’s father, Gregoire MASSE, was the son of Andre MASSE,negre libre, and his Indian wife, Catalina. Andre MASSE was born in the 1720s in the French colony of Louisiana to Marie, a Senegalese slave of the French trader Andre MASSE. That would make Andre[named for his owner] a first-generation Louisiana Creole!  Both Me, Marion and my DNA match all trace our ancestry to former slaves of Andre MASSE, an early French trader whose presence is documented in Southwest Louisiana as early as the 1740s operating a cattle ranch. The fact that we all of matched DNA in the chromosome segement suggested an unknown common ancestor deep into French Colonial Louisiana.


Who was this enigmatic ancestor from long ago that left a genetic imprint coded in our genes??? Would it be possible to discover the answer??  More to come in Part 2!