Barton Lewis's Genealogy Pages

Brick wall case study no. 4


One of my favorite ancestors is my 3rd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Harvey. Her granddaughter, Olive Brockett Fogle, wrote of her in 1949:

Grandma was a tall, blond woman, who could ride a horse via sidesaddle, and sit graceful in the saddle, and I remember her coming to see us out on the farm when I was a child, and that is the way she always came. She was a wonderful cook, could make the best biscuits that one could dream of, and boiled apple dumplings that were out of this world.

Elizabeth and her husband, Alanson Brockett, owned a hotel and livery stable in Omaha, Gallatin, Illinois. Elizabeth, Olive wrote, "worked herself to death at the hotel, for she did all the cooking, and overseeing, and sometimes most of the work of cleaning."

When Alanson Brockett stated his intent to leave all his land to his sons in his will, Elizabeth objected strenuously, insisting that their daughters get an equal share. Not long after, Elizabeth's youngest child, my 2nd great grandmother, Lena Brockett, died of pneumonia in St. Louis, Missouri, at the age of twenty-six. Olive writes:

I remember as a child the grief Grandma went through waiting for Uncle Millard to return from St. Louis, for we did not know at first from the telegram what had caused [Lena's] death. Grandma said she felt she just wanted to start out and walk clear to St. Louis after her - a mother's feeling for her child.

It's amazing how little it takes to bring an ancestor to life; how Elizabeth's character is summoned in just a few memories: standing up to her domineering husband on behalf of her daughters; wanting to "walk clear to St. Louis" to reach the body of her child.

Elizabeth Harvey Brockett died on 19 Apr 1900, at the age of 72. She had outlived 6 of her 8 children, 4 of them having died in the last 5 years of her life. It's terribly sad to imagine those final years, but perhaps raising my great-grandmother, Chloe, who lived with her grandparents until her grandmother's death, provided some comfort and solace. I certainly hope so.

Uncertain parentage

When I resumed genealogical research as an adult (I had first started researching as a pre-teen in the 1970s), I started by looking at a lot of the trees at WorldConnect. Elizabeth Harvey's name was known to me from my earlier research, but not her parents. A handful of trees identified them as John Harvey and Elizabeth Felix. The documentation on this couple included their 21 Jan 1800 marriage in Orange County, Virginia; Elizabeth Felix's father, William, living alongside John and Elizabeth in the 1810 census; various records for John Harvey, William Felix and William's sons in Hardin County, Kentucky; Elizabeth Felix in the 1830 White County, Illinois census, and with her brother in the 1850 census, living in her daughter, Nancy Harvey Holderby's household. In this census, dated September 9, Elizabeth's age is given as 74, her birth place Virginia. On August 30, Elizabeth is enumerated in her son, Giles Harvey's household. Her age is given as 60, birth place Pennsylvania. In both census entries, she is listed as blind.

Splitting the difference between the two birth dates (1776 versus 1790), for a birth date of 1783, would make Elizabeth 17 at her marriage in 1800 and 45 in 1828, when Elizabeth Harvey was born. Since there is a female aged 5 or under in Elizabeth Felix's household in 1830, it seems plausible that Elizabeth Harvey was her youngest child. The unsourced WorldConnect databases, I assumed, were correct. Yet, I wondered: if Elizabeth Felix were just a few years older, born in (say) 1780, she would have been 48 in 1828, probably (but not certainly) too old to have a child.

The mysterious Mrs Mobley

After discovering the Mary Fay Genealogical Library in Carmi, White, Illinois, the librarian there sent me a copy of Kathryn Chapman Fry's "The Brockett Family History," written in 2001. Kathryn was a great-grandchild of Alanson Brockett and Elizabeth Harvey. Kathryn doesn't trace Elizabeth Harvey's ancestry, other than to say: "Alanson Dee Brockett married Elizabeth Harvey on Monday, 10-19-1846, when he was 26 and she was 18 years old. Her grandmother was Mrs. ____ Mobley (picture no. 6)."

I had no idea who "Mrs Mobley" was. The picture of her appeared to be of a woman, probably in her sixties or seventies, taken in perhaps the 1870s or 1880s - although it was hard to tell given that it was a copy of a copy, at best. Since John Harvey and Elizabeth Felix were both born approximately 1780, it seemed most unlikely that this woman could be the mother of either.

Then I remembered that John and Elizabeth's oldest son, William Harvey, married Nancy Cozart, and that Nancy had re-married after William's early death, to Charles Mobley. Nancy was born in 1804, and was still alive in the 1880 census. Could this be "Mrs Mobley?" But if so, she was not Elizabeth Harvey's grandmother, but sister in law.

Checking back to the 1830 census, I saw that William Harvey and Nancy Cozart had 2 boys and 2 girls under 5 in their household; of these children, only the sons, John and George Washington Harvey, born in 1828 and 1830, were accounted for. Who were the girls? Was Nancy Cozart - if this was the "Mrs Mobley" in the photograph - possibly Elizabeth Harvey's mother, not grandmother, and Elizabeth one of the unidentified girls in this census?

Harvey probate

William Harvey's probate, White County, Illinois probate court, August 1853 term.

William Harvey died about 1848 - Nancy Cozart Harvey is the head of household in the 1850 census. At the August 1853 White County, Illinois Probate Court term, William's estate is listed with 9 children, but Elizabeth is not one of them. If she were his oldest child, might she have been omitted because she was already married, with William's modest estate going to his widow and younger chil­dren? One of the children, Harriet Harvey, is described as having "since intermarried with Robert Jameson." Is Elizabeth not so described because she was married by the time her father died, and Harriet was not?

Several researchers whose trees had listed John Harvey and Elizabeth Felix as the parents pointed to Elizabeth Harvey's absence from William Harvey's probate as proof she was not his daughter. Yet they offered no other positive proof that she was John Harvey and Elizabeth Felix's child. Had there been no female under 5 in Elizabeth Felix's household, I would have leaned towards Nancy as the mother. I felt certain that, even though she had erroneously identified Nancy Cozart as Elizabeth's grandmother, that Kathryn Fry was on to something. Unfortunately, Kathryn had since died, and there was no way to find out the source of her information.

The data seemed inconclusive as to whether Elizabeth Harvey was Elizabeth Felix's daughter or Nancy Cozart's. It seemed the mystery would go unsolved - until autosomal DNA testing came along.

And the parents are ...

chromosome 12 cb list cb table cb list

In 2013, I asked my father's 3rd cousin once removed, Wayne Harvey, to test. Wayne's ancestor was George Washington Harvey, who was either Elizabeth Harvey's brother or nephew. I initially just paid for a Y-DNA test, as I was interested in seeing whether I could get beyond John Harvey, Elizabeth Felix's husband. Wayne matched de­scen­dants of William Harvey, an English Quaker who was in Philadelphia by 1712. I still do not know how John hooks up to him.

Eventually, I added Family Finder to Wayne's kit. My dad and Wayne match on 4 IBD segments, the longest on chromosome 12, for 38 cM. But there were no other strong matches on the segments where Wayne matched my dad - until August 2014, when Charles appeared. Charles matched my dad on this segment for 34 cM, so just a bit less than Wayne. Charles is a descendant of Nicholas Cozart, Nancy Cozart's brother. His well doc­u­ment­ed tree showed no other connection to my father. Thus, what I instinctively felt was true - that Elizabeth Felix was Elizabeth Harvey's grandmother, not mother, and that Kathryn Fry had been correct in naming Nancy Cozart Harvey Mobley as Elizabeth Harvey's ancestor - was borne out by DNA. The brick wall had come down.


This case study involved 3 cousins who were somewhat more closely related than those in the previous examples. We have seen how the chances of more distantly related cousins triangulating on a segment are increased by the greater pool of potential cousin matches as well as endogamy; here, the cousins are related as follows:

This is the closest triangulated match I have identified involving cousins as closely related as 3rd and not more distant than 5th cousins in my kits. I believe it supports the theory that we are more likely to match our more distant cousins on triangulated segments than our nearer ones (no closer than 3rd), however counter-intuitive that may seem.

Prior Case Study

Next Case Study (to come)