Monday, September 14, 2015

The Kentucky Burnett Connection

As many of you know, determining Alfred Burnett’s pedigree has been a source of frustration for a number of his descendants.  To this point in time, nothing is known to who his parents or siblings were.

Several research methods have been utilized attempting to resolve the question of Alfred Burnett's lineage.  One method is the use of historical records, such as census records, probate records and newspaper accounts.  From these types of records we can determine Alfred was likely born in Kentucky.  The records also show the first documented evidence of our Alfred Burnett can be located in the Jackson County, Mississippi tax rolls of 1838.  However, these types of records have yielded no clues to where or what family Alfred came from.

One more method is to rely on family oral history.  These stories, passed down from generation to generation, tell that Alfred was from near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.  Another story passed down from descendants has Alfred's ancestors arriving in America as part of the Oglethorpe’s debtor colony of Georgia.   Even with these oral histories, no trace of Alfred’s family could be located.

A third method is the use of DNA evidence to help determine Alfred Burnett’s lineage.

At this time, we have autosomal DNA samples from 16 of Alfred Burnett’s descendants. Of the 16 donors; one is from a G-Grandchild, eight from GG-Grandchildren, three from GGG-Grandchildren and four from GGGG- Grandchildren.  Seven of Alfred and Julia’s 10 children’s descendants are represented in the DNA donors.

After searching through the DNA evidence, I am pleased to report that we have a very good match to a line of Burnett’s who once resided (and likely still do) in the Mammoth Cave area of Kentucky.

Mammoth Cave is the largest known cave system in the world and at the time of Alfred’ birth it was located in Grayson, Warren and Hart County, Kentucky.   In 1825 Edmonson County was formed from parts of these three counties.  Today, Mammoth Cave is primarily located in Edmonson County which is the white area on the map below.[1]

As shown in the map below, Edmonson County is located in southwestern Kentucky.[2] 

Although I have not yet tied the two Burnett family lines together with records, there is a very good probability we are related through a common Burnett ancestor that lived in the late 1700’s.  Once we establish how we are related to these Burnett’s, their family lines are fairly well documented and traceable back in time. This line of Kentucky Burnett’s can be traced to John Burnett of Virginia.

John Burnett (1610-1686) was born in Scotland is thought to be the one of the first Burnett’s to settle in America.  In 1638 King Charles I of England granted him a merchant license trade between Scotland and Virginia.  John Burnett settled in what is now Essex County, Virginia and was a merchant and landowner.

What can be done to help tie our Burnett line with the Burnett’s of Kentucky?  It would be helpful to have more DNA samples submitted from descendants of Alfred and Julia Burnett and the descendants of the Kentucky Burnett’s.

We inherited half our DNA from our father and half from our mother.  As shown in the chart below, being a GG-grandchild would mean that I share 6.25% of Alfred’s and 6.25% of Julia’s DNA.  Taking the math a step further, it would mean I have 3.13% of the DNA of each of Alfred’s parents.  


% of Shared DNA











With this said, the closer our relationship to Alfred Burnett the more of his DNA we share.  And the more DNA we share with other Burnett descendants, the better chance we have in making a positive genetic match. 

Our line of Burnett’s preferred DNA donors would be Alfred and Julia’s G- Grandchildren which there are only 8 known living today.  Of these eight G-Grandchildren one has taken the Ancestry DNA test.  This G-Grandchild’s DNA was our clue to matching to the Kentucky Burnett’s.

If anyone is interested in participating in the DNA project please let me know and I will forward the information on how and where to take the DNA tests.  The autosomal DNA test cost $99 and sometimes can be purchased on sale for $79.

[1] Edmonson County, Kentucky Map. Digital image. Ky Gen Web. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.
[2] Digital image. Map of Edmonson County Kentucky. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2015. <>.

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