The State of the Dutton 2017

(Or, “Make Zachariah Dutton Great Again!”)

Part I: A Personal Appeal

My dear cousins,

I’m writing this update as an overview of the state of research into Zachariah Dutton, his ancestors, and his descendants. As you may know, I’ve been in school for a long, long time. I finished two degrees in history, and then faced with a poor job market, decided to do another degree in computer science. School has been dominating my attention for the past several years, so I’m sad to say, I’ve fallen out of touch with a lot of you and let my Dutton research fall by the wayside. Speaking for myself, the State of the Dutton has been kind of meager.

I’d like to change that. Now that I am out of school and working a real adult job, my passions for genealogy and this family in particular have reignited. I started working on this family when I was a tender sixteen, and it’s with a little horror that I realize I’ve now surpassed twenty years since I started, and remember things I should’ve been doing but have been neglecting: people I should’ve been talking to, people I have lost touch with, people who are getting older or who are no longer with us. I haven’t been collecting family photographs or stories and have let a lot of family history slip into oblivion. This keeps me up at night. It’s only a little comfort to remember that many people don’t begin researching their family history until they are older and come to this realization far too late. I hope I still have the chance to make a difference.

So I’d like to be more active in contacting cousins, interviewing them, and visiting them. I’m not a phone person, but I’m going to have to become one. I’m glad many of you are online, but there are many others who aren’t, and many more who are more comfortable with talking than writing. I’m going to have to do a better job of getting in touch and staying in touch.

I would like to write a book about Zachariah Dutton and his descendants. I’ve been saying this and dreaming of this for twenty years, but I’d like to finally do it. There are two main things standing in my way. The first is a lack of “heart” in my research. I have a lot of facts on a lot of people I’ve gathered over the years, but it’s mostly just a skeleton without any meat; just names and dates. I want to write a book about real people, and to do that I need stories about them: who they were, what they did, what they were like — the things that can’t be read from the census or vital records or tombstones. There are some branches of the family where this will never be possible, where the people have no descendants and are all but forgotten, where my facts are all the remembrance we can offer them; but where it is possible, I want to bring my cousins’ stories alive.

I’ll need a lot of help with that. I’m naturally a shy and anxious person and have a hard time introducing myself to strangers or cold-calling people on the phone — and in this day and age, with so much distrust and concern about security and privacy, those are difficult for anybody. What worked for genealogists a couple of generations ago may not work as well now. I’m glad to be in touch with as many cousins through the Internet as I am. There are a few things I’d like to ask of you:

  • I’d like to know about your families. Not just your ancestors, but your children and grandchildren and brothers and sisters and the whole family. This book is about them, too: how a man born in the mid-18th century in Charles County, Maryland, led to the lives of hundreds of real people today.

  • I’d like to hear your stories. Stories about your ancestors of long ago, but also your stories. I would like to be able to write a brief biography of every person in the family: not just when and where they were born and died, but what they did in their lives. Occupations (what they did for a living), education (where they went to school and what they studied), religion (where they went to church), military, civic, and other kinds of service (what they offered back to their communities), hobbies (what they enjoyed) — these, and many more, are important things I’d like to be able to tell.

  • That’s asking a lot, to ask you all to write up all that information; so I’m prepared to do interviews. If you live someplace I could meet you or visit you, I would love to set that up. If not, we could do interviews on the phone.

  • If you have photographs, I’d love to have copies. Old photographs are grand — photographs of the children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of Zachariah Dutton — but any photographs are important. I’d like to be able to share photographs of as many cousins who are willing to share them. As for acquiring copies: I care about good, archival-quality scans when possible. I am willing to visit people with my scanner to copy original photos so they never have to leave their sight, or to pay for good copies or scans of photos.

  • If you have older relatives, especially those with good memories who might know more stories or have more photographs, I would love it if you could help me, either in gathering these, or in getting in touch with them and introducing me.

  • I’ve gotten serious about DNA research again, and I need your help with that. I’ll write more about that below.

I do care about your privacy and will not share your information indiscreetly or openly on the Internet.

The other obstacle in writing a book is going to be perfectionism. There are branches of the family I know nothing about. I want to make every effort to “fill out” the tree as much as possible, but there may be branches that will have to remain bare or skeletal for a while longer if I’m going to actually do this thing. I’ve considered doing this in iterations and publishing multiple editions. The once or twice I dumped my whole genealogy database into a “book” format, it resulted in a colossal 400-or-so pages. This is a weighty tome even before adding “meat,” stories and photographs. How to actually print this thing and how to distribute it is going to be another challenge. But I do very much want to do this, to honor this family and give back to everyone who has given to me over the years.

Part 2: Dutton News

As I said, I’ve been out of touch for a little while, so I’m not all that up on what research anybody else is doing. But here is a summary of what I’ve been doing in Dutton research over the last little while (which turns out to be the past few years).

Probably the last big breakthrough I made in research was discovering the parents of Margaret Barnett Ross, wife of Edmond Dutton. I already announced this in June 2015.

On my end of things, we’ve had a few deaths on my end of the family since I updated. Irene (Dutton) Pope, my dear great-aunt, daughter of Dan M. Dutton and Laura (Minor) Dutton, passed away May 1, 2015, at the age of 99. Estelle (Hunter) Smith, daughter of James W. Hunter and Odie (Dutton), our dear cousin who provided so many wonderful and priceless photographs of Edmond Dutton and his children, passed away September 15, 2015 at age 95.

What happened to 2016?? Oh, yeah. School.

As I mentioned before, I’ve re-built my Zachariah Dutton website. It is newly shiny and as several of you have already discovered, you can leave comments on every page. There is a blog where I have already written several posts about Zachariah Dutton. I probably won’t share all of my blog posts in full to the mailing list. I feel a little bit more freedom to write on the blog, at great length and about topics that may not be of interest to everybody, without fearing that I’m spamming you all the time. It’s the difference between inviting you to a lecture versus blaring into a megaphone. I will post announcements to the list with links every week there are new articles to share.

Part 3: DNA Research

As you may know, we’ve been involved in DNA research on Zachariah Dutton’s line for a few years. I’ve been promising a thorough DNA update for a while. Since I redid the website, I wrote a page with some brief history of our research:

In Y-DNA research, studies of the Y-chromosome passed down from father to son along the patrilineal line, we learned years ago that Zachariah Dutton does not match the descendants of the other Duttons in Charles County, Maryland, the family of Thomas Dutton and Elizabeth Hill, and their son Matthew Dutton who married Judith O’Caine. It appears from this that Zachariah Dutton’s father was not a Dutton. Who else he might have been we had little idea. Was there some other Dutton family who just happened to appear in the area? This seemed unlikely, since Zachariah’s haplotype (the set of his DNA variations that our DNA tests gave us) did not match any other Duttons. Since he was named Dutton, it seemed likely that he was illegitimate or adopted. The fact that he appeared in no legal records in Charles County with Duttons or anyone else seemed to support the illegitimacy hypothesis.

In autosomal DNA research, studies of all the rest of the chromosomes as they matched among Zachariah Dutton’s descendants, one of the first important revelations is that Zachariah did match other descendants of the Charles County Duttons: so he was kin to them, probably through his mother, adding additional weight to the illegitimacy hypothesis. This theory is still not completely proven and may never be, since there seem to be no written records of his mother.

There are a few frontiers to the analysis I’ve been doing lately, questions I am asking and am making progress in answering:

  • Who was Zachariah Dutton’s father? There has been a recent breakthrough here, and I hope to be able to make a major announcement about it soon, pending a few more tests due in the coming weeks to confirm my hypothesis.
  • What is the connection between the Dutton family and the Penn family, who both hailed from Charles County, Maryland, and who seem to have had a close relationship even after both families moved to Alabama? There have been some recent and important developments here, and I need more people to test, both of the Dutton side and especially on the Penn side, to study this further.
  • Who was Zachariah Dutton’s first wife, our ancestor? We may never know this for certain without definitive records, but it is my hope that by isolating her DNA, we can begin to get an idea.
  • Who were the families of the wives of Zachariah Dutton’s sons? A good bit is known about the family of Mary Hogan, wife of William Dutton, and Elizabeth Robinson Threadgill, wife of Samuel Sneed Dutton, but the rest are largely mysteries.

I am now working on identifying and collecting as many autosomal tests from Zachariah Dutton descendants as I can, to cross-reference the matches and identify unknown cousins and family connections. I would like to re-assemble, as much as possible, the chromosomes of Zachariah Dutton and his wife, in the hopes that we can answer questions about who they were and how they were related to others. DNA segments are like puzzle pieces, and all descendants of Zachariah are bound to have some. The more of the puzzle we complete, the more connections we can make with others and the clearer the picture of him and his wife should become.

So I’m interested is as many of you testing your DNA as are able and would like to contribute. There are several services out there who do this testing, and there’s been a question about which is best. I won’t give a comprehensive answer in this post, but I will try to do this in the near future. For now I will say that almost all of the research I’ve been a part of has been through Family Tree DNA. I am a co-administrator of the Dutton surname project there, and by being an admin, I can cross-reference and examine the results of members who have tested. A few pros of testing with Family Tree DNA, over other services:

  • FTDNA offers the widest range of testing services. Other services such as AncestryDNA and 23andme offer only autosomal testing for DNA genealogy. FTDNA also offers Y-DNA testing (for the male line), including advanced SNP testing, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, for the female line).
  • FTDNA offers the most advanced tools, including a chromosome browser used to map where DNA matches occur and determine how they intersect and overlap with other matches.
  • FTDNA has a comprehensive database of matches. I am not sure if AncestryDNA has surpassed it in terms of number, but FTDNA allows searching matches by surname, posting family trees, anything AncestryDNA provides. It is also, at $80, the least expensive over its competitors.

Testing with Family Tree DNA is by far the most immediately useful to me. I have a growing database of Dutton testees whom I am cross-referencing and mapping to find segments of DNA that belonged to Zachariah Dutton and his wife. On the other hand, I know there are many people who have tested with AncestryDNA, which has a willing marketing campaign and superior resources. Having tests on Ancestry, too, allows me to get in touch with these people and invite them to share their results on Family Tree DNA.

For anyone who has tested on AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA offers a free autosomal transfer tool. By downloading your raw DNA data from Ancestry and uploading them to FTDNA, you can add your test to the FTDNA database and access your matches. This initial transfer is free; to fully unlock the account, including the chromosome browser and the ethnic analysis, costs $20. This is a very good deal, and would help me a great deal also.

Also, if you have tested with AncestryDNA, it would be very helpful to me if you would share your DNA results with me. Ancestry offers a sharing feature by which you can invite me to view your results as a guest. This will allow me to see who you match with, draw conclusions from your connections, and possibly get in touch with matches to invite them to contribute to our efforts.

I’ve written more about this, but covering the same basic information, at the DNA page.


I would love to be in contact with you more. I would love for you to help me with this research. For all of you who are reading this message, either by the mailing list or on the blog, I invite you to reply and share your connection to the Dutton family.

Author: Joseph T. Richardson

Joseph has been researching the Dutton family for over 20 years, and has had this website almost as long. He applies his background in history and computer science to unraveling genealogical mysteries. He lives in Danville, Morgan County, Alabama, not far from where his Dutton ancestors first settled in the 1830s.

5 thoughts on “The State of the Dutton 2017”

  1. Thank you for all the research you have done and are continuing to do. Keep up the hard work! I appreciate it, and certainly don’t know how you’ve done all you have. I am very interested in all you’ve learned. Please keep in touch, and thank you again!

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