Sunday, April 13, 2014

James Mason of St. Clair Co. Illinois

The purpose of this post is to document what known about James Mason of St. Clair Co. Illinois and make an appeal to his descendants to have their autosomal DNA tested in the hopes of identifying a Mason segment that can be used to find his ancestors.

Mason, James (M)

 -Parents :  Unknown and  Unknown
 -Birth : 1770 in Ireland?
 -Spouse : Jane Steele?
 -Marriage : Bef. 1793
 -Death : 06 Dec 1815 in St Clair, Illinois, USA

Line of Descent

  • James Mason m. Jane/Jean perhaps Steele
  • Bennett Mason m. Mary Wesner
  • James Harrison Mason m. Lucinda Mills
  • Alexander Harrison Mason m. Clarissa Roberts
  • Lyman Elbert Mason m. Maude Miller


Y-DNA Testing

My brother submitted a sample for the 67 marker DNA test several years ago.  What this told us was that the Mason line was of Anglo-Saxon descent.

However, we were quite surprised when the test turned up absolutely nothing in the way of matching known Mason lines.  I thought this sounded fishy but we had the privilege of visiting another branch of the family (4th cousin) and I was amazed at how much he resembled my father so we thought if we were patient, there would eventually be results. 

However, after several years it was time to consider another approach so we had his DNA deep clade tested and found that he had the U198 mutation.  According the the U198 project information this is uncommon and occurs in less than 2% of the male population from England.

"On the basis of the samples collected, U198 is found in The Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Denmark and Northern England (which was settled by Angles from what is now Denmark).  Drawing on more detailed data for Britain, James Wilson reports that U198 is a strongly Anglian marker, concentrated in the East of England, but also found in South-East Scotland, where Angles also settled.  However preliminary results from the Old Norway Project show that U198 is found in Norway and Sweden as well as Denmark, so some caution is needed in its interpretation. It could have reached Russia with Rus from Sweden, or much later German immigrants"   From The Germani: Germanic Peoples Origins and History
Recently, a link to information on the rarity of Y-Halotypes was posted to one of the DNA groups and by those calculations we get a value of 906 indicating rare marker values.  It is not surprising that we have not found any Y-DNA matches.

As interesting as all this is, it does not address the immediate problem of identifying James Mason's parents so the next step is to identify as many of James Mason's descendants as possible and urge them to take the autosomal DNA test at 23andMe or FTDNA.  It is hoped that with enough test subjects, we can identify the Mason specific DNA segments that can be used to trace the family farther back.

Paper Trail

The earliest record I have found of James and Jane/Jean Mason is 1808 in St. Clair Co. Illinois when they joined the Bethel Baptist church at Richland along with John Steel and his wife.  J Steel was enumerated next to him in the 1810 census.

The 1810 St. Clair Co. Illinois census listed six daughters and three sons for J Mason.  His three sons, Bennett, William and James as well as his wife, Jane are also named in his will signed on Nov 30 1815.  His daughters' names were reconstructed from marriage records as he was the only Mason in the county during the 1820's. 

   1810 St. Clair Co. Illinois Census,  Mason, J. 1201-4201
        1M < 10    [b.1800-1809 James b.1801]
        2M 11-16  [b.1794-1799 Bennett b.1795 & William]
        1M 27-45  [b.1765-1783 James Mason]
        4F  < 10    [b.1800-1809 Jane, Elcy, Phebe, Catherine]
        2F  11-16  [b.1794-1799 Nancy & Mary]
        1F  27-45  [b. 1764-1783 Jane b.1776]

James and Jane Mason's sons:
  • Bennett b.1795 KY/VA/NJ d. 1873 Knox Indiana m. 1817 Mary Wesner.  This is my ancestor.
  • William b. 1798 KY d. 1848 St. Clair Illinois m. Rebecca Terry
  • James b. 1801 KY d.1868 St. Clair Illinois m. Mary Whitchurch 
Transactions of the Illinois State Horticultural Society for 1868, St. Clair County Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 9, 1986, p.217

James and Jane Mason had 6 daughters who were married in St Clair Co. Illinois:
  • Nancy m. 1812 John Rutherford
  • Mary m. 1817 George Tetrick d. 1850 Fayette Illinois
  • Jane d. 1837 Clinton Illinois m. 1821 Berryman Creel.  In 1850, he is living in Clinton, Illinois.
  • Phoebe b.1805 KY d. 1880 Marion IL m. 1822 Joseph Huey.  They resided in Clinton, Illinois.  The mortality schedule lists her parents as both having been born in Ire (Ireland).
  • Catherine m. 1824 William Cunningham.  There is a William and Catherine Cunningham living in Randolph Illinois in 1850 and she lists her birth as 1811 in Ireland.
  • Elcy b.1810 IL d. 1857 St. Clair, IL m. 1829 Joel Jackson.  She is buried in Mason Cemetery, St. Clair Illinois.
 James Mason died in 1815 and left a will naming his sons and his wife Jane.

"In the name of God Amen, I James Mason of St Clair County & Illinois Territory being weaken body but of perfect mind and memory do make and ordain this my last will and testament in the following manner first I give my soul to god who gave it me and my body to the dust from whence it came and then after all my lawful debts is paid.  First I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife, Jane Mason, all my personal property and her maintenance off the land as long as she lives and remains my widow except one horse, saddle, and bridal and a suit of clothes, the exact amount one hundred and fifty dollars is to be given to my son Bennit when he becomes of age.  I also do give and bequeath unto my youngest son James Mason the land I now live on when he is of age.  I do also give and bequeath unto my son William Mason the some of three hundred and twenty dollars when he comes of age.  I will that the land and money that James and William is to half to be their portion in full.  I also constitute and ordain my wife Jane Mason executor of this my last will and testament in ther witness whereof I have unto set my hand and seal this 30th day of November in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and fifteen."  Signed James Mason.  Witnesses John J. Whiteside, Peter Mitchell, Isaac Griffin.  Recorded Book A, p.51, Feb 12 1816.
He is buried in Mason Cemetery which we visited in 1998.  It is located on section 30 of Englemann township on a corner of the land James Mason originally purchased in 1814 and willed to his son James who passed it on to his son Absalom.  There are at least three generations of Mason descendants buried there. 

The area is beautiful and the land is still being farmed.  Mason Cemetery is on a hill covered by timber and ground cover blankets the entire floor of the woods.  It is not maintained and few stones are still standing.

James Mason's son, James' stone was buried under loose dirt and his grandson Absalom Mason's stone was a few feet away.  The stone of John Mason that was referenced by the St. Clair Co. IL DAR was not to be found nor was Jane Mason's stone.  However, I was able to determine where they once stood as the bases are still there.  It appears that someone removed the stones.  I am thankful that the DAR made a record of it in the 1930's.  The DAR listed a John Mason d. 12-6-1815  aged about 75 years "Amongst the earliest settlers of this portion of Illinois, his grave was also the first in this last resting place of the dead."  Some of these stones were very hard to read and being the oldest it must have been faded as this had to be James Mason who wrote his will on Nov 30, 1815 and his age about age 45 estimated from the 1810 census.

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