Michael Cooley's Genetic Genealogy Blog GEN • GEN
25 March 2018

The Re-Emergence of the Goshen Cooleys

That there were Cooley families living in Orange County, New York, particularly in Goshen, has been known since they first appeared there in the 18th century. But the sloppy research done by (very) amateur family historian, Lura Coolley Hamil, during the 1930s not only derailed proper investigation into the Goshen Cooleys, it set other (unrelated) Cooley researchers off on a wild goose chase in search of a phantom Dutch Cooley lineage. DNA is restoring this family from the nebulous and ill-defined murk created by Hamil.

There was, in fact, more than one Cooley family present in Orange County. The Y chromosome tells us that two of these were distantly related, so much so that it's unlikely they knew of the relationship. Troy "Jim" Cooley of Port O'Connor, Texas (FTDNA kit #B3646), who belongs to group CF02 of the Cooley DNA Project, received his Big Y results in January of this year.1 Of the ten million positions examined on his Y chromosome, four mutations were found to be unique to him. Although Jim confronts his inevitable genealogical brick wall at five generations (it eventually comes to all of us in all lines) with a man named James M Cooley, born somewhere in Indiana in 1830 to unknown parents, these newly discovered mutations help home in on his ancestry. DNA might be the only significant hint we have about James's birth family, but it allows us to fix Jim's place on a branch on the wider CF02 tree.

Although the STRs values for all Cooleys in CF02 closely match one another, advanced SNP testing has revealed at least three distinct families descended from, or closely related to, the Cooleys of 17th century (and earlier) Hertfordshire, England. That is to say that these Cooleys share a common male ancestor who lived in about the 16th century in that region.

The four testers shown at the bottom left of this graphic tested positive for the three Benjamin SNP mutations. In the case of A12022, a molecule of adenine (A) is found at position 12958317 on virtually every human Y chromosome. Instead, these testers have a guanine (G) molecule. In common parlance, an A has mutated to a G, commonly noted as 12958317 A>G. Collectively, I refer to the three as the Benjamin SNPs.

Here's another, perhaps less abstract, way of seeing this: These three SNP mutations represent Benjamin's male lineage, men who lived real lives who were each born with their respective mutation. Ben's grandfather, for example, might have been born with A12024, his great-great grandfather with Y23835, and that man's father with A12022. Of course, we don't know that, we don't know their names, and we can't even guess in which order they were born, but we know in what region and era they lived. We can draw a line directly from Benjamin through the three SNPs and their respective "carriers" to the ancient Hertfordshire Cooleys, the fifteen men represented in the (upstream) A12020 block, many of whom were born so long ago that the surname Cooley had not yet been invented.

Shared SNPs versus Private SNPs

Each of the three scenarios in this diagram represents different states of understanding in our knowledge of the respective SNP lineages. In the case of the Benjamin SNPs, we know that the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) is Benjamin. We known when he lived and what unique Y-SNPs he came into the world with. The laws of genetic inheritance tells us that every male Cooley descended from Benjamin, not just the four men who have SNP-tested to date, will have also been born with them.

On the other hand, we have no MRCA in Nehemiah's line simply because we have only one tester and no one with whom to be "in common" with. For now, the three SNPs listed for the tester are not known to belong to any male in the world other than the tester. (Of course, other men are out there. They simply need to step forward to test.) These are private SNPs and will remain private SNPs up until the time we find another man who is positive for some or all of them. If such a man also descends form Nehemiah, all the better. As it stands, Nehemiah is simply a stop along the road. Once there's a match to shared SNPs, he becomes a significant signpost.

We have a perfect example of private versus shared SNPs with Jim's new found markers. Initially, he had four novel SNPs — all considered private SNPs since only Jim was known to have them. But a descendant of Abraham Cooley's tested and is positive for three of them, whereupon they moved from the private column to the shared column and the creation of a new haplogroup (a collection of SNPs that defines a new branch on the tree). Undoubtedly, Abraham Cooley, who died ten years before James was born, held a degree of cousinship to James's father and grandfather. The two men had a common ancestor, an MRCA, who lived before Abraham was born in the 1740s — about a hundred years before James's birth — a man who might have been James's great-great grandfather.

We know little about Abraham's origins other than that he and his brother Thaddeus lived in Goshen, Orange County, New York. Abraham moved to Surry County, North Carolina, and eventually to Carrol and Wythe counties, Virginia, where he was joined by Thaddeus. The brothers died there by 1820. Family tradition states that Abraham was born in England but that remains to be seen.

The Goshen Cooleys

Jabez Cooley is said to have been born in 1730 (by what authority, I don't know). He was residing in Goshen when his son William (later of Butler County, Ohio) was born in 1756.2 The family moved west, first to Kentucky where two sons married, and on to Hamilton County, Ohio where he died in 1808.3 Thaddeus Cooley, Jabez's son, took his family to Indiana where his died in 1830 — the very state and year of James M Cooley's birth. Presently, we know only that Jabez's descendants are positive for the Tring SNPs (A12020) but negative for the Benjamin SNPs. In other words, they were not Benjamin's descendants. Although an opportunity to test this group for A20349, the first of the Goshen SNPs, has yet to present itself, when considering their Goshen roots, and armed with the knowledge that they're not of the Benjamin clan, I fully expect this family to be positive for all three.

As stated, Abraham and Thaddeus were brothers. My bold remark for this essay, and one I'm sure has been sounded before, is that Jabez was possibly the pair's older brother. But whereas Abe and Thad went south, Jabez went west. Jim, then, appears to be his descendant. If all of this is true (and I think it is), then the MRCA for this family was Jabez's father, a man we would expect to have been born by about 1710. We don't know where he or his sons were born. We might find them in New York or Connecticut, in England or Ireland.4 In any case, the hunt is on for matching A20139 Cooleys — in the colonies or the Isles.

So far, genetically, we can't accurately place James Cooley's birth. We know when and loosely where he was born, and we likely know the extended family into which he arrived. In an attempt to better answer the question, I've compiled an enumeration of the Cooleys on the 1830 and 1840 Federal Census Records for Indiana, replete with the Y-DNA haplogroups as we presently understand them. These entries come to the fore:

1840 Indiana Federal Census
for Haplogroup R-A20349

Henry CooleyBartholomew10001-01001
Isaac CooleyBartholomew210001-00115
Jabez CooleyBartholomew000001-000001
Jas CooleyBartholomew2000101-0220001
David F CuleyFranklin000011?-1001001
John CooleyFranklin2110001-011101
Reuben CooleyFranklin121001-10001

James Cooley would have been about ten and could fit into one of two columns, aged 6-9 or 10-14 (columns two and three). I can account for all but one entry in this list. As far as I can discover, Reuben Cooley's wife, Rebecca Rockafeller, gave birth to only three sons by 1840 yet four boys are listed (and there can be any number of reasons for that).5 Jim has long thought that James might have been born posthumously to Jabez's son Thaddeus (1760-1830), which could, of course be true. Once the mother had died, he'd have gone to live with family members. Reuben, however, was Thaddeus's first cousin.

Here, then, is a near-perfect scenario using genetics to find (and confirm) answers to genealogical questions. Indeed, the genetics isn't needed to form these hypotheses, but the Y chromosome gives them significant weight and validity.

Another Cooley family was in Goshen at the same time, that of Daniel Cooley (1688-1762). The STR results have recently been processed for a descendant. It's not surprising to see he's a CF02 haplotype. Further testing is being done but note that the sample (#826013) lacks an STR marker we usually see associated with the non-Benjamins, including this Goshen group. We'll know in a couple of weeks or so. I'll post the results to my ongoing checklist in Article 41.

Wrapping Up

The number of A12020 subclades isn't, of course, infinite. Likely it's a very small number and the chances of ferreting out most of them is pretty good, especially if the R-12020 haplogroup is shared with non-Cooleys. A case in point is Samuell Coley, sometimes thought (but it's not true) to have been Benjamin's brother. To date, the Samuell tester (and there is only one at this point) is known to have none other than the Tring SNPs — negative for the Benjamin SNPS, negative for the Nehemiah SNPs, and now negative for the Goshen SNPs. Should that ever get sorted out we would then have at least four Cooley subgroups, all originated in and around Tring, England, all of whom could be positively identified with simple SNP tests ($39 apiece at FTDNA and $18 each at yseq.net). So it is no longer enough that one knows to be of the CF02 / R-A12020 Cooley haplogroup. But if you're as stuck as Jim has been all these years, help might well be on the way.

And this brings me to one last topic. Overall, I'm not a big fan of autosomes (FTDNA's Family Finder, Ancestry DNA, 23andMe, and others). Unlike the Y, which I'm principally interested in, chromosomes 1-22 tell us little, if anything at all, about patrilineal ancestry (father's, father's, father). These tests look at the broad picture — your ancestry (and ethnicity) across all lines. It works by comparing results to the customer database and ranks them by the degree to which they match. A sibling or parent, for example, will be at the top, a distant cousin at the bottom. But caution: a match to someone who has Cooley ancestry doesn't mean they share your Cooleys. (Your cousin's cousin is not necessarily your cousin.)

The biggest problem with autosomal tests is that they are generally helpful to only about five or six generations. That is to say that that part of an ancestor's DNA you share with a fourth cousin will be so small that you might not be able to reliably correlate it to your tree. But Jim's James Cooley is within that margin and it might be fruitful to compare autosomes. If nothing else, it's a good opportunity to meet some cousins — and the right tester just might show up in some future year.

But it can take years. The first CF02 Cooley tested his Big Y more than three years ago, and we've only now arrived to this point. For myself, anyway, it's been a journey, and I'd like to personally thank Jim for all his many efforts during the journey — which, certainly, hasn't ended.

1 Jim has given permission to identify him.

2 See Revolutionary War pension record for William Cooley, W6744.

3 Both marriages occurred in Madison County, Kentucky in 1793: William Cooley to Nancy Jones on January 8, and Ebenezer Cooley to Julia Thomas on November 26.

4 Note this item regarding Jabez's grandson, Isaac Cooley, from Portrait And Biographical Album of Sedgwick County, Kansas (1888): "[Isaac] was born in Indiana in 1805, and was the eldest of five children born to Thaddeus and Jane Cooley, natives of Ireland and Germany respectively. His father [Thaddeus] came to this country when quite a young man..."

5 The couple married in Franklin County on 18 Oct 1830.