Saturday, July 9, 2011

(500 B.C.-Present)

The first ancestor in the Watson/Watts line to carry the DNA subclade R-Z8 was born around 500 B.C., probably in Denmark or northern Germany. The Iron Age Jastorf Culture thrived in the region, and it is typically considered the origin of the first Germanic languages. Due to climactic changes, these people expanded out of Scandinavia, migrating to the River Oder in the east, the Danube in the south, and the Rhine in the west. Our ancestor would have likely been among the western group, a culture stretching from Denmark to the Netherlands by 1 A.D. Scholars refer to these people as the "North Sea Germanic" or "Ingaevonic" group. Today, British R-Z8 is most similar genetically to Dutch populations, with the highest percentages in Friesland. Frisian, the language of Friesland, is the closest living relative of Old English.
Germanic Expansions from the Jastorf Culture (500 B.C.-1 A.D.)
North Sea Germanic "Ingaevonic" Group (Red)
Landscape in coastal Denmark - much of the North Sea coast of NW Europe is comprised of mudflats, inland waterways, lowland marshes and peat bogs, ideal for the preservation of artifacts. 
Section of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands - hiking the mudflats has become a popular tourist attraction in the region
After the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D., one of our ancestors voyaged across the North Sea to Britain. He would have likely been a member of the Anglo-Saxon confederation of tribes, a group of Germanic peoples that included Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, Franks, and others. Our ancestor was most likely an ethnic Angle, as they dominated settlement in northern England & southeastern Scotland. The original homeland of the Angles was roughly the modern Danish-German border, with evidence for additional territory on the Danish Baltic islands. As evidenced by the epic poem Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon culture was Scandinavian in its traditions and worldview, and even after their Christianization, St. Bede was complaining of people celebrating pagan feasts that had been practiced in Denmark by their ancestors. 
The Germanic peoples referenced in Beowulf, including the Angles
Anglo-Saxon Migration Routes to Britain (Angles in Green)

Anglo-Saxon Reenactment

The Mound Hoard at Sutton Hoo with modern reproductions 

Little is currently known about the Watsons/Watts during the Medieval & Early Modern periods (ca.1,000-1600 A.D.), but educated guesses can be made. Today, the surname Watson dominates in the north of England (1.Yorkshire 2.Lancashire) & southern Scotland, which suggests an Angle origin. After settling in Britain, the Angles intermarried with native Celtic peoples, including Britons, Scots, Picts and Gaels. Moreover, with the help of DNA, it has been discovered that the Watsons/Watts share a previously-undiscovered subclade (8656992) with a Dean family. The surname Dean is also most common in northern England (1.Lancashire 2.Yorkshire). This particular family likely settled in Northern Ireland during the British Plantation of Ulster, a 17th century planned colonization of Ireland by people from the north of England, southern Scotland, and various Protestant refugees from the European Continent. Based upon the proven origins of other Watson & Dean families in the United States, it is very likely therefore that the Watsons/Watts came to Northern Ireland as Protestant settlers from the England-Scotland border. 



Due to difficult conditions in Northern Ireland (warfare, famine, religious discrimination), most families departed for the 13 American colonies after less than a century. The majority landed in Philadelphia between 1710-1775, moved west to York & Lancaster counties, and then migrated south along the Great Wagon Road to Virginia. From there, our line (John Watson) likely continued south to North Carolina, while a proven genetic match (Peter Watson) took the Wilderness Road into Kentucky. These people are frequently referred to as Scotch-Irish in the United States, even though few have any Irish ancestry. A more accurate term is Ulster British or "Northern British", as they were primarily a mix of English, Scottish, and Continental European Protestant ancestors. 

Counties of historical Ulster, Northern Ireland

As of yet, no explanation exists for the use of the surnames Watson & Watts by different members of the family. There are currently numerous Watson & Watts genetic matches across the United States, primarily located in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas & Oklahoma. Some families even used both depending on which census they were recording! My own view is that Watson is likely the original surname, due to a genetic match from Kentucky whose family has only used Watson, the use of Watson on the oldest known records, and the greater likelihood of Watson as an Ulster British surname. Another key factor is that stories of Cherokee ancestry only appear in families claiming Watts as one of their surnames. There is significant evidence for Cherokee admixture on the maternal side, and a judge even determined in the 1890's that James Britton Watts was of Cherokee ancestry, just unable to prove a link to a living member of the tribe. The surname Watts is indeed very common among the Cherokee, but the mystery remains as to its specific links to our family. One theory suggests a British-Cherokee loyalist origin, but no documented proof exists. 

Cherokee affidavit of Daniel Dodson Watson / Watts, one of many among the Watts group
Sequoyah - Inventor of the Cherokee Syllabary - believed to have been 1/2 European 1/2 Cherokee & a likely relative of Cherokee chief John Watts through his sister  
During the 19th century, the Watsons/Watts served on both sides of the Civil War, with my direct line (Daniel Dodson Watson / Watts) fighting for the 48th Alabama Infantry Regiment. My family arrived in Alabama by 1820, and remained there until 1958. They were primarily members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, even donating land to found churches. Their ancestors were likely Presbyterians or another sect of Protestant dissenter from the England-Scotland border.
Family Tree:
John Watson "Old John Watts" (ca.1760-1840) - NC to AL
Eli Watson / Watts (1795-1875) - NC to AL
Daniel Dodson Watson / Watts (1820-1901) - NC to AL
Daniel Oscar Watts (1867-1951) - AL
Huey Britton Watts Sr. (1908-1995) - AL to TN
Huey Britton Watts Jr. (1932-present) - AL to GA
Perry Britton Watts (1958-present) - AL to GA
Matthew Britton Watts (1986-present) - GA

*Some researchers believe that John Watson (ca.1760-1840) was the son of another John Watson (d.1802), who recorded his will in Rutherford County, NC. He listed his children as John Jr., Jenny, Philadelphia, Sawncy, Obediah, Matthew, Joseph, William, and David. Evidence: John Watson (ca.1760-1840) recorded his will at the Ashville, AL courthouse, the same building that holds the will of a William Watson. This William is a proven son of John Watson (d.1802), due to the appearance of the same slave names (Cate & Caesar) in both wills. Moreover, the wife of John Watson (ca.1760-1840) was Mahalia Long, and the region of Rutherford County, NC where John Watson (d.1802) lived was full of Watson & Long families, most of them buried at Brittain Presbyterian Church. These families were Ulster British, having immigrated from Northern Ireland to PA and then NC. Based upon the settlement patterns of other Watson/Watts families in NC, SC, TN, GA, KY, AL, and AR, an Ulster British origin seems the most likely for the first ancestor. Finally, John, Joseph, William & Matthew are common names in the family across generations. 

*Others believe that John Watson (ca.1760-1840) was the son of a British trader & Cherokee interpreter named John Watts who married a Cherokee woman. No Revolutionary War service records exist for the Watsons/Watts, and the Cherokee were overwhelmingly loyalist, so it certainly is possible. The main caveat with this theory is that several lines of Watts claim the same ancestor, and none of them are related genetically. 

Daniel Dodson Watson / Watts 
Detailed Watson/Watts Records
Watson/Watts DNA Video (R-U106)
Ulster British Culture - Most Likely Watson/Watts Origin


Albert Henry Watson

Alburt Burton Watts

David Corn Watson *believed related but not yet proven

Ellis Harmon Watts

Phoebe Painter & Eli Azberry Watson 

General Lee Watts

Jacob Watson

James Madison Watson

James Monroe Watts

James Monroe Watts (2)

James Britton Watts

Judah Watts

Levi Watson 

Polly Watts Terrell *claimed relationship but not proven

Robert Burton Watts

Robert Dickerson Watts

Thomas Jefferson Watson

Tarlton Watson *believed related but not proven

Wiltz Woodrow Watts - Chaplain to Theodore Roosevelt 

Morgan Johnson Watson  

Sarah Langston Watts