Tag Archives: DNA

DNA Reveals Truth of Family’s Jesse James Story

When Frank and Jesse James appeared in  the family history of Tony Johnson, he turned to DNA. Tony wanted to learn and know the truth of his family’s story. The story was told to each generation for over 150 years.

In 1975, I had a high school project requiring me to build a family tree. I reached out to my grandmother, Effie Ramsey. She shared what she knew. Then quickly, she referred me to her cousin, Cleburne G. “Pat” Pound of Seminole, Oklahoma.

Leroy Pound-Pat Pound
Leroy Pound 1874-1958 with son Cleburne “Pat” Pound 1911-2000

Grandmother Effie said Pat was our family historian. He spent most of his life doing family research. Pat visited places throughout the country. He wrote letters to various history centers and libraries. Numerous genealogy chronicles published his work.

I met with Pat first. Then we corresponded through letters. Every year, Pat shared more information with me. My family records started to come together, especially the records for our Pound cousins and James ancestors.  This was before the use of computers for record keeping.

Pat knew how to educate. Not too long ago, one of Pat’s daughters mentioned to me how amazed she was that her classmates would waste a summer break visiting a place like Disneyland. Why didn’t they go to cemeteries? Or rummage through dusty courthouse basements, like she and her father did?

In no time at all, I took up the torch to be educated, too. I had two full storage crates of material, plus what Pat had accumulated.  Suffice it to say, my torch fizzled out rather quickly. I was finishing high school. I had my career before me. I put away the documents for almost 30 years.

Now, it is the 21st century. My own son is heading to college. My wife says that I really need to get a hobby. She does not know. Already I am dusting off the old records, documents, and research. I am looking at them with fresh eyes.

Throughout Pat’s research, a famous name pops up time and again. The name repeats itself through Pat’s interviews with family and with townspeople, stories especially about my third great-grandfather, Jeremiah James of Franklin County, Arkansas. The family stories tell that Jeremiah was related directly to Frank and Jesse James.

Jeremiah James & spouse Mary Campbell whose James line became the subject of DNA testing
Jeremiah James & Mary “Polly” Campbell. This Jeremiah James is not to be confused with the Jeremiah James who was the subject of a botched exhumation in 2003, promoted by Jesse James con artist Ron Pastore, television personality Bill Kurtis, and professor of anthropology Peer Moore-Jansen

Moreover, among Primitive Baptist ministers in Pat’s  own Pound family, this story was family lore, too. It was Jeremiah’s daughter, Nancy J. James, who married into the Pound family. These men of the cloth shared stories of the James gang being at their home, visiting their blacksmith shop, and being related to wife and sister-in-law, Nancy Jane (James) Pound.

Here are some notes and quotes from Pat’s notes and files:

  1. “Our James family ties in to the above James family (Robert and Zerelda James) in Virginia. In our home, my brothers and sisters and I grew up in the knowledge that we were related by blood to the outlaws Frank and Jesse James, the connection being through our father’s mother, Nancy Jane James, whose father, Jeremiah James, was said to have been a first cousin to the bandits.
  2. In 1945, Pat received a letter from William Thomas James. The writer was the 80-year-old grandson of William Russell James, a brother of Jeremiah James. In the letter, William Thomas James confirms that his ancestors were cousins to Frank and Jesse James.
  3. “Another verification of our connection with the James family of Logan County, Kentucky, was Mr. Walter Harris, late historian of Franklin County, Arkansas, legislator, school teacher, and author of a history of Franklin County. A few years ago, he took me to the grave of great-grandfather Jeremiah James. On the way, he said, ‘I guess you know that you are kin to some pretty famous people, don’t you?’ I remarked that I did, and he proceeded to tell me the same thing that W. T. James had.”
  4. “Our Grandfather, Isaac S. Pound, a Primitive Baptist preacher and a blacksmith at Alma, Crawford County, Arkansas, was awakened one night at midnight by two men who needed their horses shod. My grandfather told them that he did not usually shoe horses at that time of night. They told him he would when they told him who they were. They were Frank and Jesse James. He shod their horses.” This Isaac S. Pound married Nancy Jane James, joining the James and Pound families together.
Isaac S. Pound-Mary Jane James
Preacher Isaac Simpson Pound 1842-1908 & Nancy Jane James 1848-1910, daughter of Jeremiah James & Mary “Polly” Campbell

So now, in the 21st century, I have a computer, Google search, and Ancestry.com to enhance my research skills. I also have our persistent family story. I am pursuing new leads.

In my revived research, I came across Mary Helen Simon, Pat Pound’s sister. She lives in Colorado and just recently turned 93 years old. I flew out to meet her. I wanted to hear the stories that she and Pat heard in their childhood.

Mary Ellen Simon-Tony Johnson
Sister of Pat Pound, Mary Helen Pound Simon, age 93 in 2017, with the author Tony Johnson. Both determined to learn if their family lore is true.

I told Mary that I wanted to prove the family lore about Frank and Jesse. With that, I started looking for a male relative who bore the James surname. It took a couple of years. I finally found the family line that was descended from Jeremiah James’ brother. Amazingly, their five generations grew up in Arkansas in the same location as Jeremiah.

Receiving approval to have a DNA test performed on one of these James cousins, I purchased a Y111 test from Family Tree DNA. Impatiently I waited for the test results.

At the same time, I also contacted Eric James of “Stray Leaves” fame. I inquired about having DNA compared to known members of the Frank and Jesse James family.

Eric already had the uniform results of the principle lines of the James family on file. The James conducted their own DNA study between 2002 and 2006. Eric said the results were private for now, except for the troubled DNA of Sam Walton, a James family descendant; and for the Ross DNA of Judge James R. Ross, Jesse’s great-grandson. Knowing the DNA of Judge Ross revealed the Ross family history that Judge Ross never knew. Eric write about this in his book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence. The James DNA results done between 2002-2006 have not yet been made public. For now, Eric could not reveal their DNA profile. But Eric did offer that, if an outside DNA profile was submitted for comparison, he could confirm or deny if the external profile was a match or not.

I thought I was impatient while waiting for the initial test results from Family Tree DNA. I quickly realized that I was anxious again, now waiting to hear from Eric after I had sent off my cousin’s alleles for his comparison and review.

Sadly, the results were not positive, but that is what research is all about. Genealogy is about proving the data, the family stories, and the lore. Suffice it to say, that now that I have become our family historian, my cousins are a bit skeptical about my information. Of course, they will always believe that Frank and Jesse are in our blood, if not at least in our hearts.

More Lookalike Photos From the Gene Pool

Photos appearing in lookalike galleries from the Jesse James family have proved a big success, ever since they first appeared on Stray Leaves in the late 1990’s. Whether it is comparison images of Jesse Woodson James, Jesse James Jr., Frank James, Susan Lavenia James, Rev. Robert Sallee James, the childhood photos of Mary Susan James, or Jesse’s great grandson Judge James Randall Ross, all of the lookalike photo galleries prove popular with Stray Leaves’ family,  guests, and visitors. The time has come for more.

Jesse James Jr Jesse James lookalike Ribert Salle James

With rapid changes in internet technology, and the pressing need to expand publishing to platforms that are more mobile friendly, now seems a good time to update the availability of those preciously endearing lookalike photos. We’d like to ensure they can be enjoyed everywhere.

The thought also has occurred; why not expand the   lookalike galleries, to better show the unique characteristics that are common, not only within the gene pool of the James family, but also among those who are key relevant figures to the James family  saga?

In my recent articles, here about Henrietta Younger and about Clell Miller in the James-Younger Gang Journal, the physical characteristics that appear in their family photos as genetic, are very evident. They recur generation after generation. In fact, they are so arresting that they remind us something additional should be done to mine this overlooked category of interest.

In Jesse James Soul Liberty, I advocate the recurrence of genetic personality, behavior, and character that permeates the James family, through each and every generation. That identity is the James family’s very soul of personhood, their  quintessential identity that has eluded Jesse James historians from the start. The genes that form this very soul of behavior, character, and personality, are the same genes that form the family’s physical features. The continual evolution of that physicality compels the same attention as does the family’s personhood. This is true now more than ever, as our study of the James family turns increasingly more toward DNA, family genetics common heritage, and their underlying implications for heredity and health.

Zee Mimms James ear

My article “Hey, James Family, Send Me Your Ears” is an excellent example of reader interest in this subject of lookalike photos and family genetics. This story shows up in the daily statistics as a web page of continual interest bearing a very high visitor count. The stats indicate Stray Leaves may be overlooking a key parameter for assessing the identity of the James family.

History books often rely upon illustration for telling stories. Illustrators lean heavily toward attention grabbing techniques that insert invented details. Those details may appear dramatic in rendering and succeed in securing a reader’s focus,  but seldom are they historically accurate. Such illustrations skewer historical fact. Nowhere is this more evident than in every reality TV program ever produced. Note: I said reality TV program, not documentary history or documentary film.

However, an historic photo that is reliable and true does not distort history, unless, of course, the photo is fraudulent. In fact, when relevant and factual images appear together to tell a story, the image enhances history and the understanding of it. The history is rendered better. An illustration may enhance a reader’s imagination, but the use of a photographic image does the same with accuracy and reliability. Of course, this does not pertain to photoshopped images.

An underlying goal of Stray Leaves and of Jesse James Soul Liberty is to dispel mythologies. A primary objective is to wipe out the chronic myth-making or fictionalization and revisionism that plagues the history of Jesse James and stalks his family. Here, we identify and call out the fraudsters and con artists who lie. We put media on the chopping block, when media feeds the public pabulum instead of the nutritious sustenance of truth and facts. In every effort, we intend and strive to be historically accurate and correct, whether it be in the hundreds of thousands of genealogical details appearing in the SURNAMES database, the history featured in our stories or in blog posts or commentary.

A decision has been made. As our SURNAMES genealogy research formerly expanded beyond the core of the James family alone to include research into their in-law families, and by a third-level extension to include research into those individuals who form the social communities of the James, the James family lookalike galleries now will be expanded to include those additional levels, too.

Watch for the upcoming post “Cole Younger’s Lookalike Gene Pool.”

Troubled DNA of the Sam Walton, Lawrence, and James Families

David Ralph James

David Ralph James, and his son Christopher David James, know one thing for certain about their DNA. They don’t possess the Y-chromosome DNA proven to be that of their paternal James ancestors.

The problem rests with David’s great grandmother, Mary Ellen James, who was born in 1856. She also is Sam Walton’s grandmother. As most of America knows, Sam Walton founded Walmart.

Christopher David James

When Mary Ellen James left the home of her father Reverend Daniel Field James in Pulaski County, Kentucky, she took her only child with her. William Otho James was four years old when a history of Fayette County, Kentucky, reported in 1882 that his mother was unmarried and living in Missouri.

Mary Ellen James

Unknown is whether or not Mary Ellen James left her Kentucky home in disgrace. No marriage record can be found for her. Nor can any record be found to identify the father of Will Otho James. Mary Ellen made sure her son bore her own name of James.

Leaving home, Mary Ellen took Will Otho first to Joplin, Missouri. Shortly after the report in Kentucky appeared, she then moved to Johnson County, Kansas, east of Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. There Mary Ellen married Reuben Moore Lawrence. He, too, had been born in Pulaski County, two years before she was. Together, the couple then moved to Corbin, Kansas, south of Wichita, where they started a family.

William Otho James and wife Myrtle Mae Butt

After Mary Ellen bore Reuben Moore Lawrence the second of their four children, Will Otho James struck out for Indian Territory. It was 1892. He was only fourteen. He’d be twenty-one before Sam Walton’s mother, Nancy Lee Lawrence was born. It would be almost a decade before Will Otho married and started a family himself.

Otho Junior James, son of Will Otho James, and uncle of David Ralph James

Will Otho and his family lived in Kingfisher and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. When his children were grown, he settled in Norman. He was a charter member of the Assembly of God church. He operated a hotel, and the Log Cabin Restaurant, where he became a local celebrity among school kids who called him Dad.

David Ralph James is the grandson of Will Otho James. His aunts and uncles visited occasionally with the Lawrence family, and knew Sam Walton personally.

DNA profile of David Ralph and Christopher David James

Knowing his DNA is not that of his James ancestry, David and his son Chris James cannot help but wonder if their DNA isn’t that of the Lawrence family, or even that of Sam Walton’s father, Thomas Gibson Walton.

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ANCESTRY OF SAM WALTON

Samuel Moore Walton, aka Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, is a great grandson of Mary Ellen James. His pedigree is as follows:

Reuben Moore Lawrence Sr. and Rebecca Moore
. Reuben Moore Lawrence Jr. and Mary Ellen James
.. Thomas Gibson Walton and Nance Lee Lawrence
… Samuel Moore Walton

From the family photo album of David Ralph James, Sam Walton visits his ailing aunt, Eva Mae Lawrence-Stock

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IS THE FATHER OF THIS LAWRENCE MAN THE UNKNOWN PARTNER OF MARY ELLEN JAMES ?

Robert H. Lawrence, aka Robert Edward Goff

Robert H. Lawrence shares a physical resemblance with Will Otho James, as well as with Will’s sons Otho Junior and Vern Reuben James, his nephew David Ralph James, and grandson Christoper James. Like theirs, his life has its own mysteries.

Sometime between 1886 and 1890, Lawrence killed a person in a family feud. He was convicted and sent to jail. Within a year, he escaped. He changed his name to Robert Edward Goff and fled to Oklahoma Indian Territory, where many migrants from Pulaski County, Kentucky had settled. He married, settled in Sapulpa, had six children who carried the Goff surname, after which he mysteriously died.

The grandparents of Robert H. Lawrence are Reuben Moore Lawrence Sr. and Rebecca Moore, the same as the great grandparents of Sam Walton. William T. Lawrence, who may be Mary Ellen James’ mystery man, is his father.

W. T. Lawrence was eighteen years older than Mary Ellen James. He had served the Confederacy in the Civil War. Right before the war started, W. T. married Almira Griffin, a very distant cousin of the James. When Almira died around 1884, W. T. promptly remarried to Elvira Cash by whom he had two more children, Gopher and Iona. A third child is known to have been born to W. T. Lawrence, but that child has never been able to be documented. The only information about the mystery child that the descendants of W. T. Lawrence know is that the child bore the name James.

For the Goff descendants of William T. Lawrence, knowing the DNA of the Lawrence family would be as helpful to them as it would be to the family of David Ralph and Christopher James.

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RELATED STORIES

Vern Reuben James, son of Will Otho James, and uncle of David Ralph James and brother of Otho Junior James

VISIT: The extraordinary military career of Vern Reuben James, uncle of David Ralph James and brother Otho Junior James.

Archives.com Awards Grant to The James Preservation Trust

Eric James Displays Award Certificate from Archives.com

The genealogy research web site Archives.com has awarded a research grant to The James Preservation Trust. In the video below, Archives interviews recipient Eric James about his genealogy research of the Jesse James family. Eric tells what’s been learned to date, and what new research is coming.