Saturday, February 6, 2016

I'm Apparently a Sellers via Informal Adoption

During my extended search for my grandfather's birth record, one of the reasons I continued to try after being rebuffed by the New Jersey State Archives multiple times was, of course, to verify and document his birth date.  But another reason was that I had begun to wonder who his father actually was.

You see, my grandfather had a younger brother, George Moore Sellers.  I was told by their younger sister that George (who actually went by "Dickie") was named after my great-grandfather Cornelius Elmer Sellers' stepfather, George W. Moore, because Elmer loved his stepfather so much.

I had that little factoid filed away in the back of my brain for several years before I suddenly wondered why, if Elmer loved his stepfather so much, did he name his *second* son after the man, and not his first son?  From that it was an easy step to wonder if maybe Dickie actually had been Elmer's first son.

When my sister finally acquired a copy of my grandfather's birth record, it did not resolve the question, as no father was listed.  The fact that my great-grandmother filed an amended birth certificate 37 years later and listed Elmer as the father seemed a little too convenient, as poor Elmer had been dead for 22 years and really couldn't argue about the issue.

It occurred to me that this was a great way to use DNA testing to resolve a question.  I already had the results of my father's Y-DNA test (Y-DNA being the test for the male sex chromosome, passed down from father to son).  I just needed to find a straight male-line descendant of Dickie and convince him to have a test done.  This was even one of the wishes I had in my Dear Genea-Santa letter.

I was lucky in that Dickie had two sons and they each had sons.  I found most of them through online searches and was able to talk one of my cousins into doing the Y-DNA test (which I of course offered to pay for).

And the big news is here.  I received the results of the Y-DNA test for my cousin (grandson of my grandfather's brother) a few days ago.  If the Y-DNA for two men matches, they have to descend from the same male ancestor at some point in the past.  If it does not match, they do not descend from the same man.

After comparing my father's and my cousin's Y-DNA, the conclusion is that Dickie and my grandfather absolutely do not descend from the same man.  My grandfather's biological father was not Cornelius Elmer Sellers, and my family line became Sellerses by informal adoption.  When Elmer married Laura Armstrong, he accepted her 7-month-old son by another man, and as far as I know raised him as his own.  There are no stories in my family that my grandfather (or any of his siblings) ever knew that Elmer was not his biological father.

Speaking of Y-DNA, another reason this didn't come as a big surprise to me is that with more than 1,000 matches at 12 markers, my father has no matches with anyone named Sellers.  My cousin who just took the Y-DNA test?  At 37 markers he has eight matches, five of whom are Sellers.

So I think researching my adoptive Sellers family line back to 1615 is far enough, and I probably won't do too much Sellers research anymore.  On the other hand, now I have to try to figure out just who Grampa's father actually was.  And maybe I'll find out that the 12% Irish that's DNA test claimed for me is actually true.  (Of course, that test also said I'm less than 1% English, when one of my great-grandmothers immigrated here from England and her family is traceable in the Manchester area for five generations.  So I still don't trust the "cocktail party conversation.")

There are some things I'll miss about the Sellers line.  Now I know that I'm not a descendant of Alexander Mack, the founder of the Church of the Brethren (Dunkers); of Justus Fox, a printer in 18th-century Philadelphia who knew Benjamin Franklin; or of Franklin P. Sellers and his son Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, both printers and editors.  And I can't claim Sellersville anymore.  But I'll be sharing all the research I've done with the cousins I've been contacting and letting them know about the rich heritage that's part of the Sellers name.


  1. Glad you finally have the answer. Your work will be a bit harder now, but I know you can do it!

    1. Finding the answer about Elmer was important. Even if I don't find out who Grampa's biological father was, at least I accomplished that. But I already have some leads I'm working on. We'll just have to see what happens.

  2. Well this is certainly a turn up for the books.
    Just when you think you have life some what sorted, along comes that curve ball eh Janice.
    I am glad you have some leads to chase down, and who knows your connections this time around will be even more impressive than your Sellers clan.
    I will be looking for you in the next offerings of genetic courses!
    Archive Search

    1. Thank you, Melissa! I'm sure there will be interesting ancestors and collateral relatives from whatever my genetic line turns out to be. But it's interesting how attached you become to the research you've already done.


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