DNA Proves Our Pace Research is Only Halfway Right

Richard Pace Not Related
Photo I took last fall of the plaque that hangs in the church at historic Jamestown and mentions Richard Pace.

My 26th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015. The theme for week 26 is – Halfway: This week marks the halfway point in the year — and the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge! What ancestor do you have that you feel like you’ve only researched halfway? What ancestor do you feel like takes up half of your research efforts?

My 26th ancestor is who we had hoped was my husband Jeff’s 11th great-grandfather, Richard Pace (1583-1627), an Ancient Planter who is credited with helping save the Jamestown colony from a 1622 Indian massacre. Exactly one week ago today, we received DNA confirmation that my husband’s family is NOT descended from this noteworthy Pace.

Righting a Research Wrong

I have done very little original research on my husband’s Pace line beyond the last four generations. With so much already written and shared by others, I have instead focused on our lesser-known family lines. It appears that I will now need to make this Pace line a priority research project for 2016.

Incorrect Paper Trail Assumptions

Jeff With Richard Pace Plaque
Jeff posing with the plaque paying tribute to Chanco and to who we previously thought was Jeff’s 11th great grandfather, Richard Pace.

I wrote five months ago about the research error that has perpetuated for quite some time, identifying this Richard Pace of Jamestown and William Henry Pace (1745-1815), a member of George Washington’s Revolutionary War elite bodyguard unit–the Commander-in-Chief Guard (CnC Guard)–as being in the same line of descent, seven generations apart. In an attempt to confirm or refute this claim, the Pace Society of America became an early adopter among surname society-sponsored Y-DNA studies.1

Upon learning of this project, I wanted my husband’s family to participate. But my husband Jeff is a Pace through his mother, so his DNA could not help us. Unlike autosomal DNA, the Y chromosome is inherited only by males, which “passes down virtually unchanged from father to son.” 2 This allows Y-DNA testing to determine patrilineal (direct male-line) ancestry.

We needed a direct male-line Pace. Fortunately Jeff’s 1st cousin once removed (who I will call Male Cousin Pace to protect his privacy) volunteered right away after his wife learned about our dilemma and reasons for wanting to test.

The Research Question

The primary question we wanted Male Cousin Pace’s Y-DNA test to answer is from which of these two prominent Pace men our branch of the family is descended. Of course, this wasn’t a question with just two possible answers: Richard Pace of Jamestown vs. William Henry Pace CnC Guard. A third answer was always possible, one which we hoped would not be the case…that our family was descended from neither of these men.

The DNA Evidence

After several months of impatiently waiting and regularly checking the processing status of Male Cousin Pace’s kit on Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), I was beside myself when on 4 August 2015 I noticed–well ahead of the notification email from FTDNA–that processing had finally been completed. I immediately hopped on to the Pace Family Genealogy group on Facebook, notifying the DNA project administrator that Male Cousin Pace’s results were ready.

Less than two hours later, the DNA project administrator Rebecca Christensen replied to my post: “The results belong to the John Pace of Middlesex group (as expected) – not the Richard Pace group.”3 Rebecca private-messaged me, elaborating a bit more:

The results actually have 3 mutations (differences) from the modal (most common) results for the group although 2 of the differences are shared by kit number 288002 – so that person may share a more recent ancestor with you.  Your results came in as expected since you are related to William Pace of George Washington’s guard – he is a known John Pace of Middlesex descendant.4

My husband’s Pace branch is descended from the same line as William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard, not from Richard Pace of Jamestown.5  This particular research question is clearly answered by the DNA.

Pace DNA Project - John Middlesex
A closeup view of how our family test kit falls under the results for the John of Middlesex line, within haplogroup I-M223, on the FTDNA public results page.

DNA Answers Only Part of the Question

Note that I state descended from the same line as William Henry Pace, instead of explicitly stating descended from William Henry Pace.

Until I devote some research time towards thoroughly vetting the records tracing my husband’s Pace grandfather and great-grandfather back to William Henry Pace’s generation and then to John of Middlesex, I cannot be certain that my husband’s family actually descends from the CnC Guardsman. All that the Y-DNA test tells us is that my husband’s line descends from John of Middlesex. If William Henry Pace had a brother, it might be his brother from whom our family descends. The linkage to John of Middlesex could be through another of John’s male descendants altogether–occurring prior to William Henry Pace.

We just cannot know until a thorough analysis of the paper trail is conducted. This type of genealogy problem requires both DNA and historical records.

Another question I pondered when learning about the DNA project disputing a line of descent between Richard Pace of Jamestown and William Henry Pace of the CNC Guard, is if it might be possible that my husband’s family was descended from one line yet could also be related to the other line further back in time? Perhaps several generations back?

According to the DNA evidence, the answer is a firm no.

Pace DNA Project - Richard Pace
A closeup view of test kits that fall under the Richard Pace of Jamestown line, within haplogroup R-M269, on the FTDNA public results page.

Richard Pace of Jamestown and William Henry Pace of the CnC Guard are not genetically connected at all. Not just in a genealogical time frame. These two Pace lines are not even connected in an anthropological time frame. The public DNA results, available on Family Tree DNA, assign different haplogroups to these two Pace lines. Our John of Middlesex line belongs to haplogroup I-M223, while the Richard Pace of Jamestown line belongs to haplogroup R-M269.6 7

RESEARCH TIP: Y-DNA Terms Referenced

If you are not familiar with this terminology:

  • Genealogical Time Frame: “A time frame within the last 500 up to 1000 years since the adoption of surnames and written family records. An individual’s haplotype is useful within this time frame and is compared to others to help identify branches within a family.”8
  • Anthropological Time Frame: “A time frame of over 1000 to tens of thousands of years ago that predates recorded history and surnames for most people. The Y-DNA haplogroup tree traces SNP mutations over anthropological time.”6
  • Haplogroup: “A genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal [all-male line] or matrilineal [all-female line] line. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations.”10
  • Mutation:A permanent structural alteration or change in the DNA sequence. Mutations in the sperm or egg are called germline mutations. Germline mutations in the Y chromosome of the male are passed on to all of his male-line descendants.”11

I am not going into further detail in this post about the three mutations that Rebecca noticed in Male Cousin Pace’s Y-DNA kit, except to note that this does not mean my husband and his Pace side of the family are mutants :-).4 Nor will I go into an explanation about the two haplogroups. My Y-DNA experience is not yet ready to tackle those topics in a meaningful way. Those explanations have to wait until after I study under Blaine Bettinger at SLIG this January.

Next Steps?

Needless to say, the results of Male Cousin Pace’s Y-DNA test have made a mess out of the family’s research–some of his siblings and his wife have also been researching the Pace family history. I discuss the fallout and housecleaning efforts among my own research notes, and this family history blog, in my next post. I have to get my own house in order before I can help the others get theirs straightened up too.


  1. Rebecca Christensen to Colleen Greene, private Facebook message, 5 August 2015, 9:13am PST, the Pace project; privately held by Greene, (Facebook Messenger), {address omitted for privacy}, Placentia, California, 2015.
  2. Y chromosome DNA tests,” ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Y_chromosome_DNA_tests : accessed 11 August 2015.
  3. Rebecca Christensen, comment to Colleen Greene query about Pace Y-DNA results, Pace Family Genealogy, Facebook group, 4 August 2015 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SearchSquadCaliforniaAndOhioResearch/ : accessed 11 August 2015).
  4. Rebecca Christensen to Colleen Greene, private Facebook message, 4 August 2015, 8:48pm PST, the results for your family; privately held by Greene, (Facebook Messenger), {address omitted for privacy}, Placentia, California, 2015.
  5. Pace – Y-DNA Classic Chart,Family Tree DNA (https://www.familytreedna.com/public/pace?iframe=yresults: accessed 5 August 2015), sec. John of Middlesex.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Pace – Y-DNA Classic Chart,” sec. 3a – Richard Pace.
  8. Glossary of Genetic Terms – 2015,International Society of Genetic Genealogy, (http://www.isogg.org/tree/ISOGG_Glossary.html : accessed 11 August 2015).
  9. Ibid.
  10. Haplogroup,ISOGG Wiki, (http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Haplogroup : accessed 11 August 2015).
  11. “Glossary of Genetic Terms – 2015.”
  12. Rebecca Christensen to Colleen Greene, private Facebook message, 4 August 2015, 8:48pm PST, the results for your family; privately held by Greene, (Facebook Messenger), {address omitted for privacy}, Placentia, California, 2015.

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0 thoughts on “DNA Proves Our Pace Research is Only Halfway Right”

  1. Your research may have already brought you to this point. Some of the Paces of your Y’dna group arrived from England much later that John od Middlesex. Several of this line are in Canada and Mt. Gordon Pace of Ont. Canada has done extensive research on Paces of this line.

    Dan Pace

  2. Fascinating reading and, also, helps with an aspect of genealogy I have been postponing (purposely) because it seemed so overwhelming. Reading your post has given me a definite direction I can take on the subject. Thank you.

    1. Coleen, now that you know your husband’s PACE line from the DNA test result, rather than removing parts that don’t apply and inserting generations that do, why don’t you start over and insert the new correct generations, in their place. This would avoid making easily made mistakes which would cause frustration. This is the fun of genealogy and it’s most important to keep the info clean and errorless. In the Pace list archives are many emails with info that may help you and add to your enthusiasm and by starting over with a new slate, you will probably feel refreshed, finding and placing the new info, you’re learning, where to put it. The whole thing is a learning experience and fun work. GTP

      If you have a genealogy program on your computer that accepts Gedcom files, like the Family Tree Maker program, now available from Ancestry.com, for about $25, you can build your lineage as well as receive gedcome files from other folks and see what others have recorded in their gedcom files.

      1. Hi Gordon.

        I keep a rough draft “leads” tree and a verified tree, so the incorrect line was never in my verified database. I’ve simply removed them from my “leads” tree.

        I’m researching this line myself now, beginning with my husband’s grandfather. I work with database programs, but those are not sufficient for documenting research plans and reports. I have had many others offer their GEDCOM files (as well as their public online trees), but I prefer to pursue this with a fresh set of eyes as I may publish or present on the case at some time.

        Thanks for dropping a line!

  3. Linda Alcott Maples

    Hi Colleen! My husband James H. Maples is a descendant of William Pace, Sr. and portrays him in the AL Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard. Jim’s Pace line starts with Martha Pace who married William Shelton in Jackson Co., AL back in the olden days! Martha Pace’s father was William Pace, Jr. A land record wherein Wm Pace, Jr. bought land that had been owned by his father Wm, Sr. in Scott County, VA. We were at the SAR grave marking ceremony – at least dozen or so years ago.

    You probably know this by now – William Pace, Sr.’s father John (m. Susanna Houchins) is acceptedly the DAR and SAR for patriotic service during the ARWar. From DAR database a ‘Daughter’ can see some of John’s children which people have used to connect to John Pace. Plus have the benefit of knowing who that child’s spouse was.

    These siblings were: William m. Mary (unk); Mary; Murray; Francis; Susannah; Elizabeth.

    John Pace was born Middlesex, VA, as you know, died Goochland Co., VA, ante 1790. He furnished supplies.

    My husband has joined the Pace Society even though he has known for a lot of years that this Pace line does not connect to Richard Pace of Pace’s Paines.

    I am looking into possibility that this Pace line through what some believe is a female’s Newsom(e) line connects to the Shephard/Spencer lines of early Jamestowne. Only based on belief (no paperwork that I know of) that Elizabeth who married John Pace, father of Joseph whose son was John Pace, patriot of the AR War, was a Newsome because she and John the elder named a son Newsome.

    Think finding proof would entail a visit to VA’s Archives and a stay of several days. If records exist, will be a miracle since the Union went wild in the last month of the Civil War and burned a lot of records in Richmond – several counties in VA had their court records stored in Richmond, VA.

    Thanks for any info you or anyone reading this can provide on the speculative Newsome connection to John Pace, the elder.

    Really have enjoyed your blog. Takes a lot of organization and patience to do something like you have undertaken.

    I’m still hung up on research to connect a 2nd great-grandmother to her grandmother Charity Fitz Randolph Bennett of New Jersey. Charity was a descendant of Edward ‘the pilgrim’ (not Mayflower) Fitz Randolph who is considered a Gateway Ancestor.


    Linda Alcott Maples (Mrs. James H. Maples)

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