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Saturday, April 12, 2008

John D. Lee and DNA

John D. Lee's paternal ancestry has been particularly difficult to sort out. There has been much speculation as to his lineage. The only known ancestor on the Lee line was his father, Ralph Lee. John D. Lee had very little information about his father and his Lee relatives and believed he was related to Robert E. Lee. Recently, Dr. Terry Lee, a descendant of Aggatha Ann, has been DNA tested and has also enlisted a researcher, Daniela Moneta, to help solve the problem. In addition to research she has been finding Lee men to be DNA tested.

The DNA testing has to be done on the male line. For example, my brothers are descendants of John D. Lee, but their paternal line is Smith. They would not match the Lee DNA, but would match Smith DNA. For the DNA test to work, men have to be found with the Lee last name. The tests will not match up if a child was adopted or if there was some “hanky-panky” among the females of the family.

John D. Lee and Robert E. Lee - DNA

There have been over 165 submissions to a LEE DNA study. Among those are descendants and cousins of General Robert E. Lee.

In addition to Dr. Terry Lee, another male descendant from a different wife of John D. Lee's has submitted his DNA to another study and Terry and he are excellent matches to each other.

According to information on the Lee DNA website, Y-chromosome DNA matches less than about 88% are considered to indicate no kinship via a common Lee male ancestor over the past genealogical interval of about twenty five generations. There have been over 165 Lee men who have submitted their DNA for this study and the descendants of Ralph Lee and John D. Lee have a less than 70% match with any of them. One of the sponsors asked the question if we were really Lees!

So far John D. Lee’s descendants are not a good match with any other Lees in the study, including descendants of Robert E. Lee.

John D. Lee and Josiah Lee - DNA

One theory as to Ralph Lee’s ancestry has been a Josiah Lee b. abt. 1740. Josiah listed three children in his will: Sarah, Josiah Jr., and Keziah. This family looked good because Ralph Lee was an apprentice in Maryland, and this family came from Maryland. Ralph would be born about two years younger than Keziah. Also, interestingly enough, Josiah Jr.'s descendants claimed to be related to John D. Lee.

A descendant of Josiah Jr. could not figure out how his ancestor and John D. Lee could be related. He asked two of his Lee cousins to be DNA tested. The researcher could not be tested because he came through a female line and and the test has to be entirely through the male line. The results on both DNA test have come back with the following results:

The two descendants of Josiah Lee have a 97.7% match with each other.

According to the Lee Project manager, John D. Lee’s descendants,

have DNA results way out of range for any kinship to the above descendants of Josiah Lee. The match percentage is in the lower 20 percentile range. Further support to this conclusion is via a close match (better than 90%) of this Josiah Lee descendant to two other Lee DNA Genealogy Project participants. The earliest proven ancestor for these two Lee males is: David Lee born 1765 Cumberland Co., MD died 1848, Switzerland Co., IN

Because the descendants of Josiah's DNA matches the other Lees in the study so well, it is apparent that they are Lees, with no “mistakes” or adoptions on their line.

But it does prove that Ralph’s ancestry is not through Josiah Lee b. abt. 1740.

We will have to continue our search for our Lee ancestry.

To see more information about John D. Lee and Josiah Lee DNA studies, copy and paste this address into your address bar:

If you are interested in keeping an eye on the DNA tests here is one of the websites:

The descendant of John D. Lee is listed as T108037 a descendant of Ralph Lee.


Mom of 7 said...

This is a great post on a great subject. You add a great deal of insight and inspiration to the quest for the man behind the myth. Descendants like you give JDL a his best hope of recovering his good name. "The truth will set you free."
You go girl.

Joan Landes

Rose said...

I'am the great great granddaughter or great grandaughter of John Doyle Lee. I'am trying to find out where my grandfather Robert Jack Lee Sr. is on our family tree. All the information i have on him is that he married my grandmother Laura Mae Dennie in 1939 or 1940 in Indianaoplis, IN. They had 2 sons my father Robert Jack Lee Jr. 4/16/1941 and my uncle Richard Edward Lee 7/9/1943 in Indianaoplis IN. They lived in this area from abt 1939 or 1944. Theydivorced in 2/26/1945 in Kalamazoo, michigan. He was also born somewhere in arizona thats all the information my grandmother would give to me. If you have any of this information could you please e-mail me at I also have a picture of him and my dad when you put all 3 pictures together they could pass as triplets thank you again rosemary(lee)benner

Mountain Fly said...

Hello, I stumbled upon this website after remembering my Grandfather (Rodney E. Lee) taught us some genealogy lessons in the mid 80's. We were made aware my GF was a relative of John D. Lee. Don't quote me but I think Rodney was a great grandchild and I guess that makes me a great grandchild multiplied by 4 or 5 times of John D. Lee as well...?

I thought I would drop a message and say Hi to some of my Long Distant (Pun could be intended since Long Distance telephone charges would apply..?) Lee relatives. Sorry about the bad humor.. :-/

I hope life is treating you well and I wish you and yours all my best!!

Adam L.

Mountain Fly said...

Oh and numerous Lee Relatives all came from Arizona. My Mom was one of 8 or 9 children and I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 1st cousins on the Lee side. Infact I believe the Lee's in Arizona are having a Huge Family reunion in a few months.