Will the correct James Coomer please stand up?

UPDATE: It’s amazing what can change in just a few days. After posting this my father-in-law’s Y-DNA (37) results came in and he has three confirmed (genealogically) matches to descendants of William Coomer and Sukea Beasley from Stokes County, North Carolina! All three matches descend from three different sons of William and Sukea – bonus.

In the pursuit of proving Edward Coomer’s parents using DNA, I stumbled into another puzzle.  This time, it surrounds a man (or men) named James Coomer.

Just to recap.  In Possible Relations of Edward Coomer, I proposed that the parents of Edward Coomer are Bryson Coomer and Sarah ____, however, a second probability still remains with Ambrose (aka Ammon) Coomer and Slisander (Lucy) Coomer (still trying to figure out if that is actually her maiden name).  Both Bryson and Ambrose have sons named James, but there are other James’ in the area.

In the DNA world, my father-in-law has surprisingly few “known” Coomer DNA match candidates.  However, I was able to validate two matches.  

We will call the first one AT  

AT descends through Edward’s proposed brother/cousin, Andrew Coomer whose wife was Eliza Tarter.  Matches in common with AT are proving difficult because we have a potential case of endogamy.  UPDATE: I had the definition of endogamy wrong. This may not fit that definition; however it does still present a shift in analyzing centimorgan matches. Endogamy is two pairs of “most recent common ancestors” or MRCA.  Despite confirming ATs descent through confirmed Coomer ancestors, she also has confirmed Tarter DNA both through siblings of my father-in-law’s ancestor.  I suspect that Dorthulia and Eliza Tarter are sisters.  

Endogamy: is the practice by a community of marrying within its defined culture or location. Families with multiple occurrence of endogamy inherit DNA over and over through the same branches.

We will call the second DNA match JTC  

JTC has a slightly higher cM match and traces his ancestry to a man named James M. Coomer who married Sarah Elizabeth Hardwick.  Ah, but there are several James Coomer’s in Pulaski and Wayne Counties.  I’ll focus on the two with the middle initial of M.  So which one married Sarah and which one is a son of Ambrose?

JTCs research can be independently corroborated up to his great grandmother, Amanda Coomer Cox.  JTC and other researchers have associated Amanda as a daughter of James M, and James as a son of Ambrose and Lucy/Slisander.  Now, Bryson and Sarah also had a son named James M. who married Margaret Ann Taylor so I wanted to validate that these trees didn’t confuse the two men.  Let’s differentiate these two men as James(A) for Ambrose’s son and James(B) for Bryson’s son.

ParentsAmbrose and SlisanderBryson and Sarah
BirthAbt. 1832 in Wayne County, KYAbt. 1824 in North Carolina
MarriageBef. 1861 to Sarah Elizabeth HardwickBef. 1843 to Margaret Ann Taylor
Death26 December 1914 in Pulaski Co., KY1892 in Pulaski Co, KY
MiscSon, Albert, moved to Bloomington, IL
the same time as Edward’s son, Frank.

The table above summarizes records containing vital data, that is supported by an analysis of census details across several decades, that clearly identify two separate James’ moving between Pulaski and Wayne Counties in the same years.  The census analysis also supports the likely hood that these two James’ are placed in the correct household.  Though there is no clear genealogical record that definitively states they are the sons of Ambrose and Bryson.  Other men named James were born much later and did not have (or use) the middle initial of “M”.  Only James(B)’s son (or grandson) identified him as James M., son of Bryson in a published county history.  But James(B) consistently omits his middle initial in census records.  

James(A), on the other hand, consistently uses James M. in census records.  The James M. found in the 1860 through 1880 census has the same birth year as the James in Ambrose’s 1850 household.  And James(A) is very good at maintaining the same birth year in the census.  He also had the same family make-up through 1880.

Now…Was James M. and Sarah E. the parents of Amanda (JTCs great grandmother)? I had some reservations in accepting James(A), son of Ambrose as James M. father of Amanda and her brother, John.  The informants for Amanda and John’s death certificates state their father was Matt/Mat Coomer and their mother as Elizabeth or Lizzie – not James M. Coomer and Sarah E (she used this in census records).  And James(A)’s own death certificate does not name his parents as Ambrose and  Slisander.  But there is a cookie trail to be followed:

Record/YearName usedInformant
1850 CensusJames M CoomerPresumed Ambrose
or Slisander
1860 CensusJames M Coomer
Sarah E.
Presumed James
or Sarah
1870 CensusJames M Coomer
Sarah E.
Presumed James
or Sarah
1878 Birth record of Elizabeth
(Betsy) Coomer (daughter)
James M. Coomer
Presumed James
1880 CensusJames M Coomer
Sarah E.
Presumed James
or Sarah
1913 Death certificate of
John C. Coomer (son)
Mat Coomer
(John) Stafford Coomer,
son of John C. Coomer
1914 Death certificate of
James M. Coomer
James M. CoomerW.A. Cox (son-in-law through
daughter, Amanda)
1952 Death certificate of
Amanda Coomer Cox (daughter)
Matt Coomer
Bob Cox (son of Amanda
and W.A.)

The fact that W.A. Cox was the informant on James(A)s death certificate confirms James M. is also Matt Coomer.  According to JTC, Sarah’s middle initial stands for Elizabeth, and she is recorded as Elizabeth for the birth of at least one child.  And as we all know, Lizzie is a nickname for Elizabeth.

Moving it along…

Having established a comfortable proof argument that James M. was Matt Coomer and that he is most likely a son of Ambrose, I wanted to know what the probability was that Edward was a brother of James M.  I used a website called DNA Painter which has several tools.  For this, I used What Are the Odds? Tool (WATO).  Using AT and JTC DNA matches, the tool suggested that Edward is more likely to be a brother of James(A) than Andrew (but not by a large margin).  This means the tool is suggesting Ambrose as Edwards father over Bryson.  More DNA matches are needed to strengthen one probability over another. Ambrose and Bryson are brothers whose parents were William Coomer and Sukea Beasley from Stokes County, NC.

Screen capture from DNA Painter’s What are the odds? (WATO) tool. I placed my father-in-law into the two probable locations. According to WATO Beta v.1 of the tool, the score for Ambrose as 4 over 1 for Bryson. In Beta v.2, the score is 2 over 1. If I move Andrew’s line to Ambrose, the score changes to 1 for both Ambrose and Bryson probabilities. With more DNA matches, these numbers could change, and affect my proof argument.

Regardless of which man is actually Edward’s father, I think I have accomplished one of my biggest Coomer goals – to determine if Edward Coomer, husband of Dorthula Tarter, was descended from William Coomer and Sukea Beasley; and how.  The traditional genealogical paper trail proved difficult in answering these questions; though they got me pretty close.  DNA helped confirm my hypothesis (within reason) that Edward is descended from them through either Bryson Coomer or Ambrose Coomer.

As for my mother-in-law’s hypothesis that Edward was an orphan, I think this is disproved as both Bryson and Ambrose lived beyond 1850 when Edward and Darthula started their family.  They were neighbors of Edward and Darthula in Pulaski and Wayne Counties.  Of course, I say DNA proves “within reason”, not definitively.  I still acknowledge some alternate possibilities and am open to other proof arguments.


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