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From the Green Valley News, Sunday November 8 2009, page A14

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

DNA Test Pays Off

In August I shared about my venture into the world of DNA testing as an assist in genealogical problem solving. I'm excited to report the findings have more than fulfilled my expectations.

The bane of my research for over 40 years has been my inability to trace my maiden name back to the immigrant. I began research as most of us do, trying to trace the ancestry of my own surname. At that time in 1964 my grandfather's sister was still alive and shared with me all she knew about the family. Regarding her grandfather (my great great grandfather) she wrote only:

"Ambrose Cornelius Gant was of English descent, served in the Civil War [Confederate] and listed among the missing. Have no record of date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, or date of death."

Thus my brick wall was established. Finding his record among Confederate prisoners at Camp Chase, Ohio provided his birthplace and approximate birth date (Dranesville, Virginia, 1816) as well as place and date of death, but no clues to his ancestry. I did find a 1787 marriage for an Ambrose Gant to Sarah Vaughan, the daughter of Cornelius Vaughan. Tax records indicate this Ambrose had at least one son. Due to the similarity of unusual names, it appeared he could be the grandfather of my ancestor born in 1816 but I've never located a single record to fill in that missing generation.

Several years ago I communicated with another Gant who had done extensive research on his Gant line and agreed with my supposition. Virginia records are often tenuous at best, but his research implies the Ambrose Gant of the 1787 marriage is descended from Joseph Gaunt who purchased land in Essex County, Virginia in 1705. His extensive study of court records traced a continual northerly movement of Joseph and his descendants within Virginia. By the early 1800s some descendants had moved to South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio spelling their names Gant or Gantt.

When my brother agreed to do the DNA cheek swab, we ordered the 37 marker test, processed in batches of 12, 13, and 12 markers. When the 25 marker results were posted I was nearly beside myself. After searching for years in public records a simple DNA test has presented a plausible solution to my brick wall problem.

We have perfect matches through 37 markers with three other Gant test subjects, one living in Texas, one in Georgia, and one in Florida. Two of them have been able to track their ancestry to the mid 1700s and also believe they descend from Joseph Gaunt. The third subject is a cousin of one of the others. An interesting aside is that we also match an Irishman who is unaware of any Gant ancestry.

I can only urge you to try DNA testing for some of your hard-to-solve surnames. I thought about doing it for years, and am so glad I finally followed through. While the results are not conclusive, you'll never know until you try. New records are continually surfacing today. With the strength of my Gant test results, I now can return to Virginia and attempt to find links from Ambrose and Sarah (Vaughan) Gant back to Joseph Gaunt and forward to Ambrose Cornelius Gant. DNA is not definitive proof but can help pave the way to success.

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