DNA Testing: The Genealogical Game Changer and
What it Means for the Van Gilder Family.
By Drew Blattner
My straight maternal great grandmother, that is my mother’s mother’s mother, was Nora Acenith Van Gilder. She was the daughter of William Jefferson Van Gilder and Anna Rebecca Graves. William was the son of James Van Gilder and Asenith Masterson. James was the son of John Van Gilder and Sarah who I now believe was a Masterson. That is all the information I had on the Van Gilder family for quite a few years. We all thought that at some point a Van Gilder had emigrated from Holland, and that we all descend from that Dutch immigrant. It was presumed to be the father of my fourth great grandfather John Van Gilder. If you look at census records and death certificates for John’s children, you see that John was born in Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, or Holland, depending on which one you look at.
Seven or eight years ago, while searching for information on any Van Gilders that were in the Virginia area, that my John may be related to, I stumbled upon a website of a lady named Linda Hughes Hiser who was descended from a Jacob Van Gilder and an Anna Margaret Gibler of Monongalia and Marion County, Virginia, now West Virginia. Jacob and Anna Margaret had a son named John the approximate age of my John who left the family and went west. Four and half years ago I contacted her, and she sent me some information and told me to check out her blog where she had just written an article about the possibilities of the Cape Girardeau John being the same as her West Virginia John. After reading through the information, and then backing it up with more information from the Cape Girardeau County Archive Center, it was quite clear to me that our families had to be connected.
John Van Gilder, along with a man named Frederick Gibler, disappear from the Fairmont and Morgantown area of present day West Virginia after 1806. Both show up in present day Cape Girardeau, Missouri in 1808 where they signed their names one below the other on a petition regarding the city limits. The Frederick Gibler of Morgantown had a tannery, as did the one in Cape Girardeau. There were many other bits of supporting evidence proving that the two Johns and two Fredericks were the same. Given that John’s mother was Anna Margaret Gibler, I am certain that Frederick Gibler is a relative of John, perhaps his uncle.
This past July, my wife and I drove to West Virginia to visit the graves of my fifth great grandparents Jacob Van Gilder and his wife Anna Margaret Gibler, and to search for the family farm. I found the Zion Methodist Church Cemetery that their son had donated the land for, and their graves. Every mailbox for two miles was either a Van Gilder or someone who had married a Van Gilder.
|Fireplace of Jacob Van Gilder's home|
For those unfamiliar with DNA testing in genealogy, there are three types of testing. Y-DNA testing can only be done by males and follows your straight paternal side. It his inherited from father to son. Tracing back from one man, it only shows his father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s side. Going back to your fifth great grandfather this test would only tell you about part of one out of 128 ancestors in that generation.
mtDNA, or Mitochondrial DNA, is the exact opposite. Testing can be done by either males or females but then it only follows the straight maternal side and is inherited from mother to child. Tracing back from one person it only shows their mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s side. Going back to your fifth great grandmother this test would only tell you about part of one out of 128 ancestors in that generation.
Autosomal DNA testing can be done by anyone and shows a little bit about all of your ancestry. It sounds like it would be the best, but as of now it only goes back so far where if you had one of your 512 seventh great grandparents that was Native American and all the rest were European it may not show up that you had any Native Blood because the percentage would be so small. In the future this testing may be more useful with more scientific development.
Back to John William Van Gilder’s results; I thought there was either a mistake or he wasn’t really a descendant of Jacob Van Gilder. I contacted him and he said that he and his cousin, Cole Van Gilder both had testing done through the National Geographic Genographic Project. John then had his results transferred to Family Tree DNA, where I had found his results under the American Indian Q1a3a1: the Q-M3 Haplogroub Project. The results listed his earliest known paternal ancestor as Jacob Wilder Van Gilder. Jacob is my fifth great grandfather, and I knew this was the same Jacob, as many descendants list Wilder as a part of his name although there is no proof that it is. Jacob was known by all descendants as being the original Van Gilder immigrant from the Netherlands. How could his DNA belong to a uniquely Native American Haplogroup that does not occur in Europe at all?
I thought that there was a good chance that somewhere along the line one of John and Cole’s paternal grandfathers was not really their grandfather, and that their grandmother had conceived by a man other than her husband. This was the only way to explain the situation because DNA does not lie. The only other option was that Jacob was not pure Dutch as all descendents claim and that he was Native American at least in part. I immediately thought back to my recent trip to West Virginia. Almost all of the Van Gilders that I conversed with mentioned that they had Native ancestry along with the Dutch and German. At the time, I had not given it any thought as there were many generations separating them and me, and that the Native ancestry could have come in at a later time after my John had came to Missouri. After all, Jacob was said to have been born in Holland and Anna Margaret Gibler, his wife, was said to have been born in present day Germany. Then I thought back to having previously read about the Van Gilders of New York and Vermont.
I started reading all that I could about the Van Gilders. Originally most early histories had claimed that a Dutchman by that name had taken up with an Indian woman and that they were descended from of that union. That would not explain the Native Y-DNA which comes through the father. Then I came across the research of Debra Winchell in her paper, “The Impact of John Van Gelder: Mohican, Husbandman and Historical Figure.” Debra is a descendant and very thorough researcher of the Mohican Indian named Toanunck who was born to a Wappinger father and a Mohican mother. He took the Dutch name Jan Van Gelder and married Anna Maria Koerner, a German immigrant from the Palatinate, and had nine documented children with her. They lived in the Taconic Mountains near Egremont in Berskshire County, Massachusetts, fairly close to the New York border. Some descendants of Jan, or John as he is normally called stayed near Egremont while others moved away, most notably those that moved north, to Guilder Hollow near Granville in Washington County, New York, close to the Vermont border. I began to wonder if it was possible for my Jacob Van Gilder to be the grandson of Toanunck, aka John Van Gelder.
I knew what I had to do. I had to find a male with the last name of Van Gilder more closely related to me to participate in the Y-DNA testing to see if the results matched the distant cousin in Maryland. With several Van Gilders and Gilders in the area I picked Scott Vangilder because he was one of the closest related to me and thus, leaving less generations for errs. I sent Scott’s DNA sample back to Family Tree DNA and waited for the results. About a month later, I got the results. Out of all the thousands of people participating in DNA testing through Family Tree DNA, Scott Vangilder had one match, John William Van Gilder of Maryland. This proved two huge things. First, the Cape Girardeau Van Gilder family really is related to the Jacob Van Gilder family of Fairmont, West Virginia (because some had doubted me) and secondly, there was no Dutch Van Gilder immigrant forefather in our family; the name was taken by an Native American man and thus, all Cape Girardeau Van Gilder descendants have some degree of Native American blood in their veins. Now I was convinced that our Jacob was a descendent of the Indian Tawanaut / Toanunck, later known as Jan / John Van Gelder, but I would need a known descendant of him to participate in DNA testing to prove a relationship.
With help from Debra Winchell, we decided to start a Van Gilder Y-DNA Surname Project that would include all variations of surname. After posting information about the project on various websites, we received some interest, but not from any known descendants of John Van Gelder bearing the surname. I decided to start making phone calls. I contacted Ricky VanGuilder of Granville, New York whom I had read acts as Assistant Chief of the Hudson River Band of Mahican. Ricky agreed to the testing, so I ordered him a test and just received the results last week. No surprise to me, Ricky VanGuilder of New York matched both John William Van Gilder of Maryland and Scott Vangilder of Missouri. This proves that beyond any doubt, the Cape Girardeau County Van Gilder family is in fact related to the Mohican Van Gelder family.
Given that I don’t have a lot of money to spend, the tests that I ordered for Scott and Ricky were entry level 12 marker tests that matched 100% with the first 12 markers of John William’s 37 marker test. This means they are all related, but could be way back. All of these tests could be upgraded all the way to the 111 marker test which would narrow down how closely they are related. With the highest level of testing, you can pretty much prove that two individuals are of a father and son, brothers, first cousins, or uncle & nephew type relationship. If someone wants absolute proof, upgrades should be done to establish the proof. That would run several hundred dollars for each test upgraded. Meanwhile, I am content with the proof at hand.
John Van Gelder was the first and only known Indian to change his Indian name to the Van Gelder surname. All the other Mohicans and Wappingers were going by their Native names at the time. It is possible that we don’t descend from him, but through a relative, but no other known Indians were taking the name. Even John’s brother, who died without siring children, still went by Sancoolakheekhing. I speculate that the name was taken to blend more with the Dutch settlers from Gelderland, Holland, who bought land from the band of Mohicans that John was born into. When John married his German wife, he went on to live a very prosperous and well documented life, bridging the gap between the Natives and the European settlers. I truly believe we are descended from John Van Gelder and his Wappinger father Awansous, although the connection could theoretically be through another Wappinger relative.
The main task now is to determine which son of John Van Gilder is the father of Jacob Van Gilder of Fairmont, West Virginia. As usual, a fire is to blame for the missing generation of baptismal and marriage records for the town of Egremont, Massachusets. Depending on whether Jacob’s mother was Native American or European, I would be between 1/256 and 1/512 Native American and 255/256 and 511/512 European. A drop in the bucket you might say, but without that drop, I wouldn’t be here and neither would any other descendants.
Special thanks to John William Van Gilder, Scott Vangilder, and Ricky VanGuilder for donating their DNA, as well the others who have expressed interest in the project and some who are currently being tested such as Kurt Van Galder of Wisconsin. Thanks also to Debra Winchell who has been the source of nearly all my information on John Van Gelder, and for all the in-depth research she has done. Thanks also to Linda Hughes Hiser for her help in making the connection with the West Virginia Jacob Van Gilder family.
For any upset Cape Girardeau “Dutch” Van Gilder descendants who just lost all their Dutch heritage, there is still hope. We know that the John Van Gilder who came to Cape Girardeau had a wife named Sarah. A few years ago David Conley shared a letter with me that was written to him by his grandfather about the Van Gilder family ancestry. It stated that when John came to Cape he married a Masterson. The only Masterson family here was William Masterson who married Anna Randol and their children, who were the same age as John. Anna, or Antje, as she was baptized was almost half Dutch through her mother Sarah Van Gorden, who married Enos Randol. Thus, all the Van Gilders here in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri would still have some Dutch blood.
For more information check out the following links:
http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/staffpubs/docs/20361.pdf Scroll to Chapter 10 of the Mohican Seminar 3, starting on page 127 and reading through page 144 for “The Impact of John Van Gelder, Mohican, Husbandman, and Historical Figure” by Debra Winchell in 2004
http://www.familytreedna.com/public/vangilder/ This is the website for the Y-DNA project so far. Pending testing results will be added once they are completed. You can also donate for further testing on the site.
This blog by Linda Hughes Hiser helps make the West Virginia to Cape Girardeau, Missouri connection more clear.
Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.
|Inscription for Jacob Van Gilder on shared grave marker|
|Inscription for Anna Margaret Gibler on shared grave marker|