My husband’s DNA covers a broad range of Northern European roots, with some Southern European and African thrown in as well. This reflects, in part, his diverse paternal ancestry from the West Indies, from places like England, Wales, Madeira, and areas of Western African where people were seized and sold into slavery. Sometimes matches will appear with his DNA on ancestry.com, which reinforce connections that are obvious to me, but often they present a mystery.
I recently found two such matches that shared DNA with each other, as well as with known family members related to my husband’s paternal grandfather, people from the island of St Kitts with surnames like Mallalieu and Dickinson. Ancestry.com presents hundreds, even thousands, of these matches, which often leads to an overwhelming and frustrating amount of data. They do provide a couple of tools that may, with enough digging and research, lead to insights on who his ancestors were. One of the tools that comes with some DNA matches is a family tree provided by the person who submitted their DNA. If you’re lucky, there may be several generations in the tree. Hopefully the tree is accurate.
Another tool is a listing of the ethnicities found in the match’s DNA profile, which can be compared to what it may have in common with your own ancestors. So if I see Iberian DNA in a match, it could very well be related to his maternal grandmother’s Madeiran ancestors. In the present case, the two recent matches were 100% European (no African), which narrows down somewhat who could be the most recent common ancestor that they share with my husband. The match would go far enough back on his tree that those ancestors have little or no documentation, perhaps to the late 1700s, where things become a bit misty and unknown.
The deep dive comes in when I try to step back in time from the family trees provided by the DNA match users on ancestry.com, to see what they may have in common with my husband. In the case of the two new matches, it was immediately obvious that these two people lived in the United States, as had their families for at least two centuries. Using the search tools on ancestry.com, I was able to go back a few generations before the provided trees, and found that both matches had ancestors from the same coastal area of North Carolina, centered on just a handful of small cities and towns, especially Kinston and New Bern. New Bern especially piqued my interest, as it is an old port city that was the capital of North Carolina during the colonial period. A port city during those years would mean merchant ships plying the Golden Triangle route between New England, the West Indies, and Africa. I’ve found reason to think that the St Kitts ancestors may have a connection to the nearby Dutch West Indian island of St Eustatius, where a brisk sea trading business was conducted during the decades before and just after the American Revolution.
So what could be the connection between these two DNA matches from North Carolina, and my husband’s Kittitian ancestors? Well, the deep dive on the first of the two matches pointed to lots of inhabitants of Kinton and the surrounding area, but I could find nothing with a West Indian intersection. The second match, however, was much more interesting. I was able to take the tree of that DNA match back to a family called Armanie. The direct descendent was Abram N Armanie, who was a merchant living in New Bern, born about 1812. His brother Samuel D Armanie was a sea captain living in the same area. The US censuses from the years 1850, 1870, and 1880 all showed Abram’s birthplace as the West Indies. He married a woman from North Carolina and they had several children there. One of his daughters, Victoria (or Victorina) Armanie, was born in 1859, and was the direct ancestor of the DNA match.
So which island in the West Indies were the Armanie brothers from? Unfortunately, all the census records for Abram just say West Indies, and Samuel died in 1845, before the US census recorded birthplaces. There is another Armanie though – in a ship’s passenger list of 1836, the ship master was Samuel D Armanie, who was born in the Dutch West Indies. Sailing on the same ship was a young lady named Rebecca Armanie, who was listed as also born in the Dutch West Indies. The ship, the Schooner Philadelphia, landed at New Bern, North Carolina. It’s quite possible that Rebecca was the younger sister of Abram and Samuel. In later census records, two sets fortunately are more specific about Rebecca’s birthplace – it is given as Saint Martin, which is one of the Dutch West Indian islands. In the 1860 census for New Bern, Rebecca is living with her husband James Hilton, and a 78 year old woman named Elizabeth “Armony”, who we can assume is her mother.
Searches on ancestry.com and familysearch.org for anyone named Armanie living in the Dutch West Indies during the early to mid-1800s threw out a couple of interesting hits, with some familiar sounding family names. The 1860 census for the Dutch island of St Thomas had a family consisting of a father Francis Armanie (born about 1825 in St Martin), with children Samuel, Margaret, Albert, and Abram, all born in St Thomas. The mother was Elvina (or Elvira) Pondt, born in St Thomas about 1834. Confusingly, she is recorded as Francis’s wife, yet the martial status of both adults is given as unmarried. In any case, the Pondt surname stood out because it also belongs to a lady in my husband’s family tree, that I have speculated could have been the same as the surname Pandt found in the Dutch island of St Eustatius. Could Elvina Pondt be related to my husband’s Pondt? They would be from the same generation – sisters possibly, or cousins?
More hints but nothing definite yet. It seems likely that there is some relationship between the Armanie family from the Dutch West Indies and the Mallalieu/Dickinson/Pondt family from St Kitts, because, as they say, DNA doesn’t lie.