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I often receive requests about how you can use the Cumberland Gap project, so I want to take this opportunity to talk about how you can use your own results page and projects together to learn more about your genealogy.

First, it's important to use all of the tools that Family Tree DNA makes available to us for free.

I used to gather your mini-genealogies, as you early members recall, but few people ever sent them. Hopefully, when you match another person in the project, you'll contact them and exchange info, but what if they don't answer or their e-mail address has gone stale? This is why it's so important to upload your Gedcom to your personal page web site. It's easy to do. Here's how.

Go to your personal results page. The tabs on the left will include one that says GEDCOM. Assuming that you have exported your data from whatever genealogy program that you use in Gedcom format, you will need to use the instructions provided to locate that file, and upload it. Only you, the group administrator, and people who match your DNA will be able to see your Gedcom. This is a wonderful way to be sure that even if you are unavailable to provide your information, it is available for others whom you match.

I want to encourage everyone to join the appropriate surname project in addition to being in the Cumberland Gap project, if you haven't already. Your surname administrator will be able to help you as well in ways that I cannot. You can join multiple projects by clicking on your blue join button at the top of your personal page.

I also want to remind you to check your match selection on your Preferences Tab. If your preferences are set to match to the entire data base, you will match everyone in your surname project, in the Cumberland Gap project and everyone else that matches you, regardless of whether they are in a common project with you or not. While you are visiting your Preferences page, be sure to update your most distant ancestor at the bottom of the page. Many surname administrators have this set as the field to show on the project web sites, so it's important to include this information. Be sure to click update at the bottom of the page when you're finished.

People often ask how they can see who they match just within the Cumberland Gap project. That's easy. Go to your personal page and select the Cumberland Gap Project by looking in the Groups field at the top of the page. If something other than Cumberland Gap YDNA is showing, click the down arrow until you see Cumberland Gap Ydna and then select that project. Then go to your Setup Preferences tab and select "restrict matches only to surname project", then click on UPDATE at the bottom of the page. If you don't click update, nothing will happen and this won't work.

To see who you match just within the Cumberland Gap project, click on your DNA Matches tab and the matches you see now will be just within the Cumberland Gap project. When you are done working with this info, be sure to go back to your orange Setup Preferences tab and change your preference back to "match against entire data base", if that is what you want. Again, click update when you're finished.

Some folks have asked me how this information is relevant to them if they don't have any surname matches within the project? People already knew they matched those with the same surname because they are in the same surname project.

First, not everyone wants to join a surname project, for whatever reason. They can join a regional project like the Gap project and you can still match against them.

However, the real reason I started the Cumberland Gap project is so that people with different surnames but that lived in the same geographic area could see who they match. Let's face it, the girl next door was much more likely to have a child with the boy next door than with the boy in the next county. Generally speaking, people who knew each other well enough to make children lived close together. If you didn't have the opportunity to get to know someone, you very likely weren't going to have children by then, inside or outside of wedlock.

I was reading an old newspaper from Claiborne County from the late 1800s and ran across a tiny little snippet quite by accident. It was talking about a boy who was bound out to a farmer. No one remembered quite what happened to his parents, but they likely died, as the frontier life was very difficult and their medical needs were often unmet (by modern standards). However, the boy took the last name of the man he was bound to and who raised him. This was not an uncommon practice on the frontier, and the Cumberland Gap area was frontier from the time is was sporadically settled in the 1770s until the mid 1850s. Land grants were still regularly issued in the 1860s, up to the Civil War for unoccupied land, and some as late as the 1900s. Often children were taken and raised by relatives of those who died, and if there were no relatives available, they were raised by another family. Raising an extra child really wasn't a burden as they could provide much needed labor as they grew. At the time everyone knew that child wasn't really a biological family member, but it mattered little and as time and generations passed, that knowledge often slipped away. Today, we rediscover that fact when the DNA doesn't match who we think it should given the last name involved.

So what do you do if your DNA doesn't match with others of your last name, and what does it mean? It means that there is an undocumented adoption someplace along the line. Often, if you can find the records, if they still exist, you'll find that the circumstances are something like I described above. Given the number of wars that the men of the Cumberland Gap area participated in, some of which were fought on their home ground, it's not surprising to find children fathered by marauding troops. Additionally, women who had children outside of wedlock gave the child their name, including widows who had children after their husband's died. Those children would have the former husband's last name. Sometimes women were married early and the husband died young. The widow remarried and often the children took their step-father's name as their own.

Women in the Cumberland Gap area seemed to be a very independent sort and sometimes they had children before they were married. When the mother married, those children often simply took their step-father's name as well. Many, if not most of the Cumberland Gap families have oral histories of Cherokee female ancestors. 

And as the final topic for today, what can I learn about my heritage if there are no matches to my surname, or by other surnames that I match? First, as I'm sure you all know, the more markers that you have tested, and the more you match, the "better" the match is, meaning the more closely in time you are actually related.

Sometimes you are related, but you are not related since the advent of last names. I call this anthro-genealogy, because it falls between genealogy and the deep ancestry called anthropology. However, if you are trying to learn about your own family history, remember that people most often migrated in groups. This is true for as far back as history takes us. No matter where you were going, you would need help and family gives us the security of knowing we are not alone.

Most of the early settlers in the Cumberland Gap area were of Scots-Irish descent. As a short history lesson, the Scots (or Scotch) Irish were a displaced people from the lowlands of Scotland to the area of Ulster in Ireland when England ruled Ireland in the early 1600s. This is known as the Ulster Plantation Era. In 1717, a famine combined with huge rental increases and increased pressure to convert from being Presbyterian to being Anglican, the Church of England spurred the first wave of immigration of the Scottish people living in Ireland to the colonies. Even though they had been living in Ireland more than 100 years, they still thought of themselves at Scots, hence the name Scotch-Irish.

The Scottish clans were made up men of the same surname, but also others living in the same proximity. So you could be a Mann in the Gunn clan for example. Many simply adopted the last name of the clan whose protection they fell under. This era was the beginning of last names for the common people, and explains why we find so many different DNA lines within the same "clan".

The Scotch-Irish were not the only people seeking a new land. The Protestant French Huguenots who survived St. Bartholomew's Massacre in 1652 and who were not burned at the stake for being "heretics" were given 20 days to leave France under penalty of death by the Catholic government. They also became a displaced people and migrated heavily to Germany, the lowlands (Netherlands, Belgium, Flanders) and to England. They too immigrated to the colonies early, forming Manakin Town in early Tidewater Virginia in the 1600s.

Another persecuted group were the Amish, Mennonite and Brethren, all pietist sects, opposed to violence in any form, including self-defense. They were driven from Switzerland, then from Germany.

The peace-loving Quakers were being purged from England and they too sought refuge in the colonies.

The commonality between all of these groups is that they all departed from the old country to the colonies through ports of Great Britain. The Colonies were a British holding and all immigration was regulated by England in one form or another. Before 1738, Pennsylvania was run by the proprietor William Penn and he was the only colonial proprietor who would tolerate religious freedom. In fact, he actively encouraged these groups to settle in his colony as he needed settlers to clear the woods and to provide a buffer against the "savage Indians" who were understandably unhappy about the encroachment upon their lands.

In 1738, Virginia enacted the Religions Toleration act passed to encourage settlement in Virginia by deferring taxes for 10 years and providing settlers with a musket and very cheap land. In one case, the Presbyterians (Scotch-Irish) were provided with a 10,000 acre land grant. Settlers began pouring across the boundary between Pennsylvania and Virginia for free, or nearly free land. Again, they often migrated in groups.

As soon as (and sometimes before) the land west of the Alleghenys and Appalachians was open, the settlers were there, often initially as squatters, then as land owners. People poured into the current Virginia counties of Augusta, Orange, Botetourt, Washington and Rockingham and then the settlers streamed on down the valleys into what would eventually become East Tennessee. I'm sure we are all familiar with the history of this area, that is was initially North Carolina, then Virginia, then the State of Franklin, then North Carolina again, then Tennessee. The boundary lines were also in dispute, and many who thought they lived in Virginia in fact did not. It's no small wonder that very few records of this timeframe exist, and those that do are widely scattered among various counties and states.

Why does all of this matter to you, as a genealogist, if you are trying to find your roots? We are often very quick to dismiss matches with people of different surnames. However, looking at the patterns of those surnames can provide us very valuable clues to the history of our own family before the advent of surnames. Where are those people who we match from? Why did they come to the states, and when? What was their migration path both in the old country and in the colonies? All of these subtle clues together help us determine the history of our own family, often long before last names were adopted or assigned. Don't quickly dismiss matches to other surnames. Ponder the possibilities. Knowing that the Cumberland Gap area was heavily populated with the Scotch Irish first, along with the French Huguenots, some German groups, a few Quakers and some English from the Virginia shoreline colonies, what can those matches tell you about your early ancestry?

Best of luck with your genealogy, and please, let me know of any success stories generated from the Cumberland Gap project.

Roberta Estes