Friday, August 13, 2010

My elusive great (great, great) grandfather Asa Travis

Sometimes people ask me what sparked my interest in genealogy. The only thing that comes to mind is something that happened when I was only about six years old. At the end of 1975, Julia M. Travis published her book All in the Family about the descendants of my third great grandfather Asa Travis. Each family who was mentioned in the book received a copy, including ours. I was fascinated by it, but it disappeared shortly after we received it when a cousin borrowed it and didn't return it. I never forgot about it.

In this book, Julia stated that Asa was born in Wales. From that time on, the search began. I am told that for 35 years, genealogists have been trying to discover the true origins of Asa Travis. Nobody yet knows where or when he was born. The Wales reference seems to have come from a census in which his youngest son Nicodemus states that he was born in Wales. There is nothing else to support this belief.  Nicodemus was very young when Asa died, so he may not have known much about his father. One excellent Travis researcher believes that he may have, actually, been referring to West Wales, Pennsylvania - a town that was created by a Travis family after the Revolutionary War.

In 1796, an Asa Travis (who very well may be our Asa) came with Nathaniel Massie to set up the town of Chillicothe, Ohio. However, nothing is definitively known about our Asa's early life before he first shows up in Adams County, Ohio on June 15, 1800 when he married a Sophia Howard. Next, Asa is recorded in Ross County, Ohio marrying my third great grandmother Susannah Roderick on April 9, 1807.  In 1810, the Federal Census shows Asa in Pike County, Ohio where he stayed until 1830 when he moved to Tippecanoe, Indiana. Only a few years later Asa died there, leaving lots of children and quite a mystery for those who came later.

For a couple years now, I have left Asa alone, sitting in my tree with empty branches above him, but I have never stopped thinking about this adventurous man whose genes I, most certainly, carry. Over the last few years, I have become progressively more involved in Ancestry DNA testing and increasingly determined to solve the mystery of Asa's origins using his paternal line Travis DNA.  After reading success story after success story of Y-Chromosome DNA testing triumphing over long-standing brickwalls, I finally decided now was the time to revisit the mystery of Asa.

Since 1929 when my great grandmother Millie Travis Proctor died, none of my family have carried the Travis surname, so I needed to look elsewhere for the required Travis Y-DNA. Fortunately, my most prolific Travis research collaborator is married to my third cousin who does indeed carry this Travis Y-Chromosome passed down to him through the generations from our Asa. As luck would have it, he agreed to be tested through the Travis DNA Project at FTDNA.

When we received his results last week, we were thrilled to see that he matches three other Travis testees from families to whom we previously had no knowledge of relatedness. One of those families has a long pedigree back to Garrett Travis, known as the "Dutchman," b.c.1633 from Westchester County, New York. While we have yet to establish a documented connection to Garrett, this discovery has breathed new life into this 35-year-long search and given us a hint as to where to look further for our Asa Travis and his long-lost family.

[Disclosure - My company StudioINTV has an existing production agreement with FTDNA that has no bearing on the opinions I express. I receive no other compensation in relation to any of the companies or products referenced in my blog.] 

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