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!