Thursday, March 5, 2015

More Y-DNA - The Story of Aaron Campbell of Alabama "1765"

A previous blog discussed the Y-DNA signature of a common male ancestor shared by all paternal descendants of Joel Campbell.  Joel was born in about 1735 and is the grandson of Robert Campbell who was banished from Scotland to New Jersey in 1685.

Robert Campbell was known to have two brothers, both of whom are thought to have been banished. Their fate is unknown.  Their paternal line (if it exists) shares the same Y-DNA signature as Robert and his paternal descendants.

Robert had at least four sons.
1) Nathaniel, believed to be the eldest, may have had a son named David.  They lived in the Newark Mountain area of New Jersey in the 1760s.  Paternal descendants have not been identified.
2) John.    A John Campbell Jr, is listed as a member of the Newark Mountain Society and is likely the son of this John.  John Jr married Rebecca Baldwin (the Baldwin family was one of Newark's founding families).  William Shaw's History of Essex County states that John Jr had at least three children, Esther, Charity, and Rebecca.  Esther married Moses Smith.  We know of no paternal descendants.
3) James.   James, John, Nathaniel, and Samuel had farms in the area of Newark Mountain.  Their relationship is assumed from that circumstantial evidence.  (Note that other unrelated Campbells came to the area in about 1760.  The Campbell Mills (see Paper MillPlayhouse at 40.728100, -74.309128) and Campbell Pond (40.737452, -74.304394) at Millburn, NJ are thought to be named after these unrelated Campbells)
4) Samuel.   Samuel is the father of Joel and seven other sons.  He has many paternal descendants.  Of the eight similar Y-DNA signatures in the "Campbell Project" at, seven are known descendants of Samuel.

The previous blog described how very recent paternal ancestors (within the last 10 generations) share very similar Y-DNA signatures.  Participants in the Campbell DNA Project with similar Y-DNA signatures, likely share a common recent ancestor.  If the genealogical paper trail has gone cold,  these leads can point to new avenues of research.

Unfortunately, there has only been one real lead coming out the of Campbell DNA project related to our recent Campbell line.  I had thought there would be tens if not hundreds of paternal ancestors popping up from the other unknown paternal lines (see *).   Why not?  It could be that these lines "daughtered-out," meaning they have no living paternal descendants.  Or it could mean they are not as "into" genealogy (eg. have not submitted DNA samples for testing) as the descendants of Joel, many of whom became genealogically diligent Mormons.

Four Generations of  Paternal lines from Archibald Campbell:
Archibald* (banished?)
Robert (banished)
Samuel, Daniel, Nathaniel, Joel, Levi, Nathan, Reuben, Jonathan
Benjamin*? (see story below)
John* (banished?)
David* (banished?)

*unknown paternal lines

The "Campbell Project" has produced one interesting result.  Row 2 is the Y-DNA sample from a living paternal descendant of an Aaron Campbell who lived in 1765 in Bibb County, Alabama.  This participant is an exact match to a known descendant of Samuel Campbell, but this participant and Aaron Campbell are not descendants of Samuel.

Once again it is interesting that my Y-DNA signature is closer to this participant's than to one of my known relatives with whom I share a 5th ggfather.  This is just a reminder that the DNA markers do change randomly.  Statistically they seldom change, but they do change.  "When" they change and with "whom" they change are random.

I know that this descendant of Aaron Campbell and I do not share a common ancestor in the last 9 generations (he is not a descendant of Samuel).  Plugging that information into the FTDNA calculator, there is a 52% chance we share Robert as a common ancestor, and a 67% we share Archibald as a common ancestor.

If I had a complete 37 marker match with this descendant of Aaron Campbell the probabilities would be 59% that we share Robert as a common ancestor and 74%  that we  share Archibald as a common ancestor.

I would not pay a lot of attention to the exact numbers.  What the markers suggest is that it is highly likely that we share a recent common paternal ancestor.  Where did Aaron Campbell come from?  How did he get to Alabama?

Interestingly, there was an Aaron Campbell living at Newark Mountain.  On August 3, 1758, Aaron and Moses Campbell were baptized in the Mountain Society.  They were the sons of Benjamin Campbell who was also baptized at the same time.  The other Campbell who had three daughters baptized during that period was John Jr.  Could Benjamin have been John's brother?  The Wickes' list of  "Members in Communion to the Mountain Society prior to 1756," included a John Campbell.  Could this be the patriarch who raised both his sons (John Jr and Benjamin) in the Mountain Society leading to the baptisms of his grandchildren, Aaron, Moses, Esther, Charity, and Rebecca?

Clearly a lot more work needs to be done here, but it suggests Aaron and maybe even Benjamin and his family were led southward, eventually to Alabama.  Although the relationships are not confirmed it is a great example of how Y-DNA testing can lead us to living descendants of common ancestors.

Wickes, Stephen M.D., History of the Oranges in Essex County, NJ from 1666 to 1806, Ward and Tichenor, Newark, 1892 (available at


  1. Thank you for all of your fine work in exploring this area of the family. I think the DNA and further information might help to answer some questions. I would be happy to contribute though I'm initially through the maternal line. My great grandmother was Freelove Hammond Campbell (she married a cousin and her mother's name was Campbell. Her grandfather was Joseph Hyrum Campbell, son of Benoni Campbell.

  2. Elizabeth..Thanks for your comment. Although my research focus is on eastern NY and NJ (close to where I live) before 1805 (before move to Ridgebury area) where Joel spent the majority of his life, I still am very interested in other related genealogies. We are trying to build a descendant tree at ( I hope you are connecting your line there. In addition, I will be posting some stuff on the maternal line of Joel's wife soon. Jay

    1. Hi Jay,
      Please touch base with me via my email which is I'm working on Joel currently and see problems.
      Best Regards, Elizabeth