Success stories from World Families
Success stories from ISOGG
Success stories from FTDNA
Success stories from Emily

Family Finder DNA Success Story for Group 1 of the Pitts DNA Project

We had long suspected that Mary Lenora Pitts was a daughter of Pitman Pitts (b. 1784 VA) and Mary C. Andrews Pitts. This was, in part, due to the 1860 census showing Mary Lenora and another girl (possibly granddaughters) living with Mary C. Andrews Pitts. We had tried for several years to figure out a way to test this hypothesis using mtDNA by testing the descendants of Mary Lenora Pitts to a living person who was in a direct female line. But the other two daughters of Mary C. did not produce viable direct female lines.

The autosomal Family Finder test, however, made testing this hypothesis easy since the lines could be mixtures of males and females.

I matched Nancy (the descendant of Mary Lenora) on chromosome 3 and my sister Imogene matched her on a slightly larger segment in the same area on chromosome 3 (both with the Affymetrix and Illumina chips). We are both correctly predicted to be 4th cousins. Sue, my 3rd cousin once removed matched Nancy on Chromosome 5 with both the Affymetrix chip with the Illumina chip. My 1st cousin once removed, Celestine, however, did not match Nancy with the Affymetrix chip, but did match her on chromosome 16 with the Illumina chip and was predicted to be 5th to remote cousin (actually 3rd cousins once removed). Coy who is also her 4th cousin was predicted to be a 3rd cousin. Gerald who is predicted to be a 5th to remote cousin is actually a 3rd cousin. And lastly, Billy Ray who is a 4th cousin, Gerald Grady Pitts who is a 4th cousin, and Tom who is a 4th cousin once removed did not match Nancy with the Illumina chip. So six of us matched Nancy out of 9 possible. Our most recent common ancestors are Pitman Pitts and Mary C. Andrews Pitts.

David Pitts
Pitts DNA Project


Y-DNA Success Story for Group 8 on the Pitts DNA Project

When I was about 16, my family took a vacation in Newfoundland, an island off the coast of Canada. It can be a cold stark place, which many "newfies" refer to as the "Rock". But it also has its own charm with its long grassy meadows reaching down to the sea where flocks of sheep graze, and, the low rumble of icebergs can be heard long before seeing their green glow as they float on a cloud of mist in the water. My father had been born on this island leaving at age ten. While I was charmed by the alien terrain of the place, I could not help wondering why my family had settled here and from where? A search for my Squires family's roots began during that vacation.

Thirty years later I know why they immigrated to Newfoundland. In the 17th and 18th century it was the place to go to make your fortune. Cod could be pulled from the water in baskets and profitably sold to the Catholic countries of Europe where the fish was in great demand during Lent and for Friday's dinner. But from where remained a mystery. How I discovered where my family came from is a success story about using Y-DNA.

The Squires paper trail took me back to Captain John Squires and his wife, Catherine both born in Newfoundland according to a 1794 census. They lived on a small island, Bell Isle, in Conception Bay Newfoundland as did another family of Squires. In 1799 John drowned with all hands as his ship went down in the bay during a storm. Strangely I could not find any records for John's birth but assumed he was related to the other Squires family on Belle Isle who were said to come from either Devon England or the Channel Islands (in the English Channel). Trips to Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, Devon's West Country Library in Exeter and the Bristol Record Office have not been successful. Finally I decided to turn to genetics.

My brother agreed to a 67 marker test. The results provided many 12 marker matches; none associated with the Squires surname. Becoming more proactive, I became the administrator of the Squires Surname project contacting people with the surname Squires to join. Although the Squires Surname project is small we began to find family groupings in the Carolinas and New England, but, not for my Squires YDNA. So, I began to recruit Squires with ties to Newfoundland. People were lovely agreeing to the test. I think they were as intrigued as I to learn about the family roots. But, again, we found no matches even at 12 markers.

Then one day I got an email from FTDNA telling me that I had a 67 marker match. There is was the match I had hoped for but the match belonged to someone named Pitt! Obviously the Squires and Pitts had lived near each other at some point. The next step was to find where and when. Correspondence established that the Pitt family had been traced back to an Andrew Pitt in Virginia. It was another Squires who found the Pitt/Squires connection on Belle Isle itself. The very 1794 census that records my ancestor Capt John Squires also records a James Pitt renting land from Frances Squires, the other Squires family on the island, and he was the right age to be Capt John's father. To confirm this possible paternity this far back in time, a distant cousin agreed to test confirming that our mutual great grandfather, born in 1823, carried the Squires/Pitt markers.

I felt pretty confident that James Pitt was the father of John Squires by a Squires female and did some research on the Pitt family of Newfoundland. According to them, James Pitt was born 1735 in Kennford, Devon, England, a small village on the Kenn river. Local church records confirmed that James was born there. However, I also discovered something else; the other family living in Kennford is Squires! Now I am not so sure when the Pitt/Squires Y-DNA change occurred. More testing is needed to untangle this new mystery. Y-DNA testing has given me new unexpected insights and holds the potential to reveal so much more about my family tree.

Susan Squires
Pitts DNA Project


Family Finder DNA Success Story for Group 1 of the Pitts DNA Project

We had heard family stories about William Pleasant Pitts (b. May 27, 1849 Mississippi) where he took the family's harvested cotton to town to sell and was never heard from again. With a lot of research I finally found him (unmarried) living in Fort Smith Arkansas in 1870. Later census records showed he married a Columbia Jane Unknown about 1875, and went to Texas and finally to Colorado where he died after having several children.

I posted these data on the web, and one day I received an e-mail from Coy who said he is a descendant of William Pleasant. Coy had some other parts of the story of William Pleasant Pitts. It turns out that William Pleasant Pitts married Georgia Ann Colvard (Nov. 10, 1870) and had two daughters: Charity and Ida Emma. Coy is a descendant of Charity. But then about 1875 William Pleasant Pitts evidently ran off to Texas with Georgia's sister, Columbia Jane Colvard. By 1900 they are living in Colorado. William Pleasant Pitts and Columbia Jane Colvard Pitts are buried in Cedar Cemetery Montrose County Colorado. They had 6 children, many of whom are also buried in central to western Colorado.

Family Finder provided a way to verify this story and it successfully predicted that Sue was a 3rd cousin (actually 3rd cousin once removed), Celestine was a 3rd cousin (actually 2nd cousin once removed), that I (David) was a 3rd cousin (correct), Nancy was a third cousin (actually a 4th cousin), that Gerald was a 4th cousin (actually a 3rd cousin) and that Imogene (David's sister) was a 5th to remote cousin (actually a 3rd cousin).

David Pitts
Pitts DNA Project


Y-DNA Success Story for Group 11 on the Pitts DNA Project

This is the story of two families with the surname Pitts who were known to be in Reading, Berkshire England (west of London) in the late 1700's. One line migrated to South Africa in the 1880's and eventually made their way to Australia. The other line emigrated directly to Australia. Descendants of both lines ended up in Sydney Australia, unbeknownst to each other. A man from each family did a y-dna 37 marker test and the resulting genetic distance of 2 indicated that the two families were related. Both families had done some genealogical research and had family trees going back to the late 1700's, but it was not immediately evident how the two families were related. Census records in 1851 and 1871 in England verified key portions of the families genealogical trees as being correct. Finally a marriage between the two families in 1866 was found which also showed up on the 1871 census and this was the keystone which linked the families. The families involved, the Guild of One Name Studies (Pitts) in England and the Berkshire Record Office in England all played important roles in determining that each of the donors were descendants of sons of John Pitts b. c 1767 who married Sarah Povey in 1791. These two men are 4th cousins once removed.

This story is still continuing as both men extended their tests to 67 markers (still having a genetic difference of 2). Recently another man living in England who descended from a man named Pitt took the 67 marker test and he matched the first two men with a genetic difference of 3. However, the link between the Pitt and Pitts family is still being researched.


Family Finder DNA Success story for Group 2 of the Pitts DNA Project

Michael is a descendant of Dora Adeline Pitts. Dora was born in 1883, Selmer, McNairy Co TN. She married George Henry and they moved to Trigg Co KY. But the family history was that her father was David Pitts and that he died in Clifton TN. The information was sketchy. Family members did not know Dora's mother's name but they knew that she had two brothers by the name of Jim and Tom and that there was another older half brother but they couldn't remember his name. This half brother came to visit Dora when Grace (the informant) was a child. Apparently David was not married to Dora's mother for very long and afterward married a "McCann woman". It was told to Michael that David Pitts worked on the river and traveled up and down the Cumberland. Through normal research we were able to determine that Michael's ancestor, David Pitts, was David Pleasant Pitts, son of William Barnett Pitts and Mary Ann Walker, son of Joseph Pitts and Mary Barnett. Although the paper trail was strong and there was little doubt of the ancestry, Michael wanted to find proof that he was in fact the descendant of David Pleasant Pitts of Limestone Co AL. Three descendants of William Barnett Pitts had already taken the Family Finder test: Linda, Louis, and Nancy. All are descendants of brothers of David Pleasant Pitts. Michael took the Family Finder test and it showed him to be a cousin to Louis and Linda, successfully proving that Michael was a descendant of David Pleasant Pitts.

Nancy McClellan
Pitts DNA Project


A mtDNA and Family Finder Adoption Success Story

It all started with a letter I found among my mother's papers after she died in 1971. She had been born in 1918 in New York City. The letter, dated July 30,1948, was typed on letterhead stationery from "The Spence-Chapin Adoption Service." I knew my mom had been adopted. In fact, her 2 brothers and sister were not biological siblings but were also adopted. They all grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, it was news to me that my mom had corresponded with the adoption agency, and that she had requested her birth certificate. I think, if the request had been granted, my mom would have received an amended birth certificate listing her adopted parents, not her birth parents.

The request had been denied. The explanation: "The reason for the difficulty seems to be that your mother [birth mother] had a different name put on the birth certificate than is on the order of adoption and we were unable to prove that the name Helen Grant which is on the order of adoption is the same person as Helen Moore, the name in which your birth is registered."

I held onto the letter with the idea that sometime I might be able to complete this goal for my mom, but raising a family of six children, I let many years pass by before I took the goal seriously. When I did, I found that the Spence-Chapin Adoption Service was still in business in New York City, and I contacted them to request non-identifying information. I was told they would have to search for the file, and it took about 9 months, but finally an administrator phoned. They had found the file. Although I was only entitled to non-identifying information, the information they gave me coupled with the information I already had from the 1948 letter gave me some hope.

I made some assumptions, which could have been incorrect. I assumed that the surname "Grant" was probably my mom's birth mother's maiden name, and that the surname "Moore" was probably the surname of my mom's unknown birth father. There was some evidence to support this theory. For example, the agency spokesperson told me that my mom's birth grandmother was with her daughter when the adoption papers were signed. It seemed likely that they would have used the family name. On the other hand, the birth grandmother may not have been present in the hospital when the birth certificate information was given.

The non-identifying information given to me by the adoption agency included these facts: My mom's birth mother was 18 at the time of the birth. She was unmarried, not yet self-supporting, living with her family in the southeastern U.S., and unable to be a parent at this time. Knowing only that the birth family lived in the southeastern U.S. was not very helpful, so I asked if the agency representative could tell me the state. She told me "Mississippi."

Meanwhile, my son was waiting for the birth of his first child and knew she was a girl. They were considering some family names, so I asked the agency spokesperson if I could know the birth mom's first name, and I was told, "Marion."

I had been referred to an adoption "angel," who had also been adopted out of New York City. She had some knowledge of the process and a great desire to help me. She had access to the index of birth registrations in New York City during the time my mom was born there. She discovered that there is a birth registration for an un-named female baby Moore, born on my mom's birthday (November 20, 1918) in New York City. The index did not include any other information, but I was thrilled. This could be the birth record referred to in the 1948 letter. It could be the record that the adoption agency had been unable to find because they had been told that the birth was registered under the name of Helen Moore. My adoption angel and I tried every way we could to obtain the long version of the birth certificate. We were unsuccessful.

New York City is notoriously unwilling to share vital records with anyone who isn't the person involved or the person's parents. There was a small chance that I could get the record if my last name were "Moore" or if I could provide notarized copies of documents showing my relationship to "Moore." I concluded that, without a lawyer and a $5,000 fee, there was no hope in New York City.

I communicated with the Wisconsin government agency which provides assistance to adoptees looking for birth parents. The case worker was able to locate the record of the court adoption proceedings, and she even sent me a copy, but the name of the birth mother and any identifying information had been expunged. Apparently my mom's adopted father, who was an attorney, had insisted that the records were sealed. Again, the only way to get more information involved a lawyer and lawyer's fees.

I turned to the U.S. census records of Mississippi. Knowing that the birth mother was 18 at my mom's birth was helpful, but there were still considerations. Since my mom's birthday was late in the year (Nov. 20,1918), her mom's birth date could have been in 1900 if she had a Jan. through Nov. 20th birthday. Or if her birth date were Nov. 20th through Dec. 31st, she would have been born in1899. Of course, census records show ages as of the enumeration date, and often the ages are incorrect depending on how knowledgeable the informant was. I was interested in the 1910 census, which had an enumeration date of 15 Apr 1910.

Searching for information on U.S. censuses has become easy, using and It took some diligence, but I finally found a "Marion Grant," living in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. In April,1910 she was 9 years old, and I now knew her parents' names.

This opened flood gates of possibilities. I was unable to find a birth record on, but when I searched the public member trees on, I found a couple of trees that listed "my" Marion. These gave me the fact that Marion was married about 10 years after my mom's birth. Thus I discovered Marion's married name. These trees listed interesting facts about the Grant family. I discovered that my mom's possible birth grandmother (Marion's mother), Frances Pitts Grant was an accomplished composer and pianist. I investigated this fact further and discovered that there are a number of her compositions in the Special Collections of Tulane University. This was especially interesting to me because my mother was an excellent pianist from a very young age. It strengthened the hope that I had found the right person.

I waited impatiently for the release of the 1940 U.S. Census. I hoped fervently that Marion's listing would occupy line 14 or 29 of the 1940 census because these people were required to answer supplementary questions. These questions included "Number of children ever born." I needn't have wasted any time worrying about whether Marion would be truthful or not because she didn't have to answer the supplemental questions. The census did reveal that a son "Dave" had joined the family.

I turned to and discovered an obituary for Marion. She had died of a heart attack in Tuscan, Arizona in 1954. I used the death date to search and find a death certificate in Arizona records online. The death certificate provided me with her birth date: November 9th, 1900. Reading Marion's obituary gave me more information about her son, but I was hesitant to contact him without more definitive evidence.

I had been reading success stories about adoptees finding birth parents with DNA testing. I looked at the Family Tree DNA website, and I noticed that there is a Pitts Family project. Marion Grant's mother was Frances Pitts Grant. I sent in my sample, and I hoped to uncover a connection that would give credibility to my theory. When the results came in the connection was not clear. A connection wasn't ruled out, nor was it confirmed. For one thing, my mtDNA haplogroup was U5a1h, which is so rare that there were no others in the FTDNA database of more than 168,000 mtDNA records.

Nancy and David, the Pitts DNA Project administrators, encouraged me to contact my mom's possible half-brother. If he agreed to testing, and if he were my half-uncle, then the connection would be very apparent. He would be the only person on FTDNA to share my rare haplogroup. Nevertheless, I was hesitant because I didn't have strong proof, and I didn't want to cause him emotional trauma. Nancy and David explained that my half-uncle's mtDNA came from his mother Marion. My mtDNA came from my mother, who got her mtDNA from Marion. The two should be identical or nearly identical. However, my half-uncle's children would not have Marion's mtDNA. They would have gotten their mtDNA from their own mother.

With support from my family, I took a deep breath and wrote a letter to the person I hoped was my half-uncle. It turned out that he knew nothing about the idea that his mom had a baby prior to himself, but he was a very nice person. He agreed to give the DNA test a try, and ordered the mtdna Full Genetic Sequence.

I think he was very surprised when the DNA proved our relationship, but he says he is thrilled to include my family in his, and my family is thrilled too. Finally, I have another person with the U5a1h haplogroup, and I also have a newly discovered half-uncle. The Family Finder test confirmed the relationship at: 1st Cousin, Half Siblings, Grandparent/Grandchild, Aunt/Uncle, Niece/Nephew. It is a wonderful feeling.

Signed: Tish Shepard


Y-DNA Success story for Group 2 of the Pitts DNA Project

My mother's maiden name was Adams.  My great grandparents were George W Adams and Martha McCoy.  For years we were stuck at this brick wall.  Through normal research we were pretty sure that George W Adams was the son of James Adams, b c1812 in either SC or TN, however, we could never find that one piece of documentation that would prove it. What we had was circumstantial evidence.  We finally got some DNA interest in my Adams family. My grandfather's son by his 4th marriage, my mother's half brother, did the Y-DNA testing.  I was ecstatic when I heard this and I waited on pins & needles for his results.  When they came in there was one match of particular interest.  His name was James Earl Adams III.  First of all the name caught my attention. Secondly, this match had the same two mutations that my uncle has which were different from the other donors in that group.  Remember, once a mutation occurs all descendants from that point usually carry that same mutation (marker value). The fact that this man had these same mutations was significant.

Unfortunately, this person had tested with FTDNA but had not uploaded a pedigree nor had he joined the Adams project so the Admin knew nothing about him.  I e-mailed this man twice and he never responded to my inquiry.

At this point I set out to find this man. I needed to prove that he was from Giles/Maury Co., TN.   I went to Google.  No one should be this easy to find.  First of all, I found him on Find a Grave.  Someone had added a memorial to Find a Grave for his father and listed all the children's names and his was one of them.  Based on my research of this family I knew that if I could prove that the James Earl Adams III was the same person as the one in the Find a Grave memorial then I had my proof that my George W Adams was the son of James Adams, b 1812 because James Earl Adams III of Columbia, Maury Co TN descended from this same James Adams.

The match information only gave us this man's e-mail address.  At this point, the Admin for the Adams Project googled the e-mail address and sent me a link.  But, it didn't give me what I needed.  When I googled the e-mail address I got a hit for a James Earl Adams III on a social site called VK.  Bingo.  This man had his Bio posted as well as numerous messages.  I was able to validate that this man was the one who was the DNA donor by his e-mail address.  His Bio told me that he was from Columbia TN, which is in Maury Co, it also told me what his children's names were. Guess what was included on the Find a Grave memorial.....a copy of the Obit for his father which included the names of his grandchildren, the same children listed on this man's Bio on VK.

So, I have successfully proven that my great-grandfather, George W Adams, b 1845/46, was the son of James Adams, b c1812 in SC or TN, and died between 1900-1910 in Limestone Co AL.  

Nancy McClellan Pitts DNA Project


What do I do if I have questions? Please read the Freq Asked Questions at World Families Network first. If you still have questions, contact one of the Project Administrators listed below.

Pitts Family Forum
Click here to order a Pitts DNA test

For more information on the relationship between DNA testing and traditional genealogy, visit World Families Network.

For more information contact:

Nancy McClellan at: nanmc at

David Pitts at: paw281 at

John Pitts at: john at

This page was last updated on September 13, 2016

Webmaster David Pitts