How a Barnes Family Learned They Were McCullum’s
Author: Hugh W. Barnes
© Copyright July 18, 2019 Hugh W. Barnes
Foothills Genealogy Research. All Rights Reserved
This story began to unfold approximately two years ago when the author was studying the Barnes folder at the Wilkes County Genealogy Society. The folder contained a letter from Raymond Barnes of Smoke Mountain, Tennessee. Raymond stated that he had an 1816 letter written by John Barnes and Solomon Barnes from Wilkes County, North Carolina. The letter recommended his fourth great grandfather Thomas Barnes for appointment to public office. There were three John Barnes’s residing in Wilkes at this time and two Solomon’s. John could have been Deaf John Barnes (1741-1822) or his son John, Jr. or Solomon Sr.’s son. Solomon could have been Solomon, Jr., (circa 1779 – 1850) or an individual that I call Solomon of Bertie (1762 – 1833). Solomon of Bertie resided in Wilkes County in 1800, but he migrated to Madison County, Mississippi. It is unlikely he was the individual that the letter referred to because both John’s commonly associated with Solomon, Jr.
Using the Internet, I was able to locate a phone number for Raymond Barnes. A call to his residence revealed that he had passed away six months earlier. Raymond’s wife indicated that he had a fourth cousin, Dr. Sam Barnes, who shared his interest in genealogy. She noted that she would contact Sam and see if he was interested in contacting me. Four days later, 83-year-old Sam gave me a call and was extremely interested in some more research. He indicated that he and Raymond had both taken a Y-DNA test ten years ago, and during that period, neither of them had matched anyone in the group of 257 men who had taken a Y test. Having spent some time studying DNA, I concluded that this is highly unusual, and I asked Sam if he would allow me to help do some further research. Sam gladly accepted.
I then contacted Sam Winchester, an administrator of the Barnes Y-DNA project. Sam agreed that this is an unusual circumstance, and he decided to do some research. He quickly concluded that Raymond and Sam’s DNA showed that they were McCullum’s, not Barnes’s.
I called Sam and passed along the news, and he was shocked. I asked him if he would like me to pursue this, and he gladly accepted. All that he could tell me was his great grandpappy said that they were from 32 in South Carolina. I Googled “32” AND “South Carolina” and learned that it is a 5.2 mile stretch of highway connecting the towns of Chase and West Columbia. Raymond’s research in examining the 1850 census indicated that Thomas was born in South Carolina, but we did not know where. Some genealogy sites incorrectly contend that Thomas was from Wilkes, County, NC, and traveled to White County, Tennessee, with the William Bohannan family. Thomas’s first wife was William’s daughter Alice Tabitha Bohannon. Migration was more prevalent during those times than many think today, and while Thomas probably traveled with the Bohannon’s, he was not born in Wilkes.
Situations like Barnes’s being determined genetically to be McCullum’s are known as non-paternity events (NPE) or Not-the-Parent-Expected. More precisely, a Non-paternity event is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe an event that has caused a break in the link between a hereditary surname and the Y-chromosome (father’s surname) resulting in a son using a different surname from that of his biological father. It is typically assumed this is the result of a cheating spouse, but there are other reasons.
Our next task was to determine when and, hopefully, how a non-paternity event (NPE) occurred. Maurice Gleeson was voted Genetic Genealogist of the Year in 2015 by the Surname DNA Journal. Gleeson gives the following as possible other causes, and we quote from Gleeson’s blog “DNA and Family Tree Research”.
- In modern days adoption, fostering or guardianship
- Young widow remarries, and her young children adopt the surname of her new husband.
- Legal Condition of Marriage or Inheritance. Sometimes it was stipulated that a man would have to change his name to marry the daughter of a wealthy man to ensure that the family name was carried on.
- Taking the wife’s name upon marriage (because of her higher social status).
- The Anglicization of surname, which was common in Ireland.
- Surname changed to match the prevailing social circumstances. Sometimes people would change their name to suit their circumstances. A lot of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. changed their name to make it sound more “English” and thus avoid discrimination. Similarly, Catholics living in a predominantly Protestant community might change their name to “fit in.”
- Legal Name Change after a famous ancestor.
- Babies switched at birth.
- More common modern causes – surrogacy and sperm donation are possibilities.
With Thomas Barnes’s situation, we will never know which is the case, but Y-DNA testing tells us that it occurred before Thomas was born and not through one of his descendants. Thomas had been married twice, first to Alice Bohannon and second to Mary H Strein. Sam and fourth cousin Raymond were perfect matches; however, Sam descended from Alice Bohannon and Raymond from Mary Strein. Since both cousins matched each other, the NPR had to have occurred when or before Thomas was born.
The next task was to look for a McCullum living in South Carolina in the general time frame when Thomas was born, which was about 1777, plus or minus a year. This task was based on the 1650 census. Through a 1790 Census search, I found only one McCullum in the general area of 32 South Carolina. Hansel McCullum was living in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. The census showed that there was one male over the age of 16 (Hansel) and two males under 16 as well as two females.
Y-DNA is not a precise science. DNA and the geographic proximity to Thomas’s birthplace tells us that Thomas Barnes’s father could have been Hansel, one of his sons, Hansel’s father, uncle, or brother. Dr. Sam is now searching for McCullum’s arriving in the large seaport in Charleston, South Carolina, and is considering a trip to Scotland.
1 Email from Sam Winchester Barnes Y-DNA assistant administrator.
2. “United States Census, 1790,” Database with images on FamilySearch with your own account. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHKN-8ZK Last accessed 9 June 2019, Hansel Mccullum, Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States; citing p. 263, NARA microfilm publication M637, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 11; FHL microfilm 568,151.
3. Gleeson, Maurice DNA and Family Tree Research Blog
4. Bettinger, Blaine T., and Debbie Parker Wayne. Genetic Genealogy in Practice.