Identifying Malinda Prater’s parents

RESEARCH REPORT

Prepared by Mckell Keeney for siblings and cousins (fellow descendants)

Frankie Maria Phillips and Bernice Gertrude Gibbs, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Malinda Prater and Hance William Mayfield.

RESULTS SUMMARY

  • Malinda Prater, born about 1816 in Tennessee, was incorrectly connected for over 68 years to a set of parents from Louisville, Kentucky, with no source to back up the claim. 
  • First, she was connected to the wrong parents by someone submitting a Pedigree Resource File (PRF) to the Genealogical Society of Utah in the early 1950s, and then the pedigree was carried over to the FamilySearch Family Tree.
  • The researcher found offline records with the correct name of Malinda’s father, Philip Prater III, and Malinda’s stepmother’s name (Elizabeth). 
  • The researcher found a marriage record for Philip Prater III to his first wife, Catherine Cynthia Eoff, the mother of his oldest children, including Malinda.
  • The researcher analyzed autosomal DNA matches to trace over 30 matches to Phillip Prater III and to Catherine Cynthia Eoff from three different children and eight grandchildren on various lines.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of this research project was to identify the parents of Malinda Prater, who was born about 1816 in Tennessee, married 16 Sep 1835 to Hance William Mayfield in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and died after 1870, using documentary research and DNA analysis.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

  • Genealogists have listed Malinda’s parents for almost 70 years as Thomas Prather III of Louisville, KY and Matilda Fontaine, daughter of Captain Aaron Fontaine of the American Revolutionary War. Louisville’s First Families lists Thomas Prather and Matilda Fontaine’s two sons and four daughters, all born in Louisville, Kentucky, but does not list Malinda as their child. Their last two children listed were daughters: Julia Clay Prather, born 16 May 1814 and Catherine Cornelia Prather, born 28 September 1816. Censuses help us estimate Malinda’s birth year around 1815-1817. It is unlikely the historians in Louisville, Kentucky missed listing a daughter named Malinda born in between Julia and Catherine in 1815, or after Catherine in 1817.
  • On FamilySearch.org, ordinances performed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in temples on behalf of their ancestors may be seen by church members with FamilySearch accounts. FamilySearch lists a temple sealing or marriage for Thomas Prather III and Matilda Fontaine in the Logan, Utah temple on 5 December 1952. The same day in the same temple, there was a symbolic sealing of Malinda Prater to supposed parents Thomas Prater III and Matilda Fontaine, giving us a timeframe for how long Malinda had been erroneously connected in family pedigree charts to the wrong parents. 
  • Under the Search tab on FamilySearch.com you can search Genealogies by name. Note the disclaimer: “Accuracy of the data in these genealogies varies from tree to tree; we encourage you to validate all data.” There are records of two submissions of Pedigree Resource Files for Malinda and supposed parents Thomas Prather and Matilda Fontaine. Neither of the ID numbers for Malinda are valid anymore on FamilySearch. They have either been merged into a current profile, or deleted from FamilySearch.
  • The Fontaine/de la Fontaine lines on FamilySearch have been traced back to the 1600s in France with some sources, and supposedly back to 981 A.D. without many sources. No doubt a lot of research has been done on these lines from Malinda forward to the present day, and from Thomas Prather III and Matilda Fontaine back several centuries. The problem was that the lines were incorrectly linked when someone in the 1950s or before decided to connect Malinda in a family tree as a child of Thomas Prather III and Matilda Fontaine.
  • Many family trees in private databases, and now online in Ancestry and other sites, perpetuated this error, placing Malinda as a child of Thomas Prather III and Matilda Fontaine, although no one person listed a source showing this to be the case.
  • FamilySearch lists Malinda Prater’s middle name as Fountaine, dating back to the 1950s and perpetuated on the two Pedigree Resource Files turned in the Genealogical Society of Utah or to FamilySearch. There is no evidence so far that Malinda had a middle name. Malinda named her oldest son Fountain. Her son’s name as Fountain appears to be coincidence, not due to a close connection to Thomas Prather and Matilda Fontaine. 
  • Malinda has a son named Phillip whose middle name appears on his son John Walker Prater’s birth record as Prater/Prator — not Prather, as Thomas Prather III spelled his name.
  • Malinda Prater Mayfield is listed on four different censuses as born in Tennessee. There is no evidence that her supposed mother, Matilda Fontaine, was ever in Tennessee.

SUMMARY OF KNOWN FACTS IN A TIMELINE

  • Malinda was born abt. 1816 in Tennessee (U.S. Census records: 1850, 1860, 1870; Iowa 1856 census)
  • Malinda Prater married 16 Sep 1835, Rutherford County, TN, to Hance William Mayfield

Children of Malinda and Hance William Mayfield:

  1. Elizabeth 1837-1866 (Died in Fosterville, Rutherford County, TN)
  2. Fountain P 1838-1926 (Died in Leavenworth, KS)
  3. William 1840
  4. Susan F 1843-1865 (Died in IL; presumed to be between 1864 when she had a baby and 1865 when she is not listed on the IL state census with her husband)
  5. Mary Evaline 1847-1909 (Died in Colorado Springs, CO; researcher’s 2X great-grandmother)
  6. Philip Prater/Prator 2 Feb 1848 to 25 May 1913 (Died in Cote Sans Dessein, Calloway Co.,  MO)
  • Malinda, husband and children are in the U.S. 1850 Census

Children of Malinda and Hance William Mayfield:

  1. Johana 1851
  2. Sinthia 1853
  3. Aminda 1855
  • Malinda, husband and children are on the Iowa 1856 Census

Children of Malinda and Hance William Mayfield:

  1. Marinda 1856
  2. Harr/Hans 1858
  • Malinda, husband and children are on the U.S. 1860 Census
  • Malinda is on the U.S. 1870 Census without a husband; presumed widow
  • Malinda is not found on the U.S. 1880 census; presumed dead (Negative evidence)

 Link to an expanded timeline analysis by the researcher:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WHm4NgJSvVnZT80GJGHPlRAaA58M53zzXbVSaAD_G9w/edit?usp=sharing

FINDINGS & ANALYSIS – RESEARCH REPORT

All of the background information led the researcher to the hypothesis that Malinda was connected to the wrong parents from the wrong state. The goal in searching for more records was to discover evidence of Malinda’s parents.

The researcher began locality research, to see what families with the surname Prather or Prater were in the area around Rutherford County, Tennessee, where Malinda married Hance William Mayfield 16 September 1835. There was a record of a Phillip Prater in the county, but it did not seem to be the correct family from the dates available online. 

The researcher looked up historical and genealogical societies and listed them in a locality log. She emailed and called and left a message for the Rutherford County Historical Society on 23 September 2020. She did not hear back from them. She called the Rutherford County Archives on 23 September 2020. They told her to email them with known facts and the information she was seeking. She emailed them Malinda’s name and Malinda’s husband’s name and their marriage date in the county, a brief summary and her timeline for Malinda Prater. Six days later, on 29 September 2020, the researcher received an email from the Rutherford County Archives with several images of death and estate records and a page from an early pioneer book of the county listing Malinda as a daughter of Phillip Prater III, who was born in 1778 in South Carolina.

Figure 1 Excerpt of page 212, Rutherford County Pioneers

Everything lined up. The Malinda Prater in the Rutherford County records was married to Hance W. Mayfield. This was a genealogist’s happy dance moment, as these records are not online, just sitting in a county archive unindexed. The sources listing Malinda’s father’s name are solid. The records listed Phillip Prater III’s widow as Elizabeth. This turned out to be his second wife, not Malinda’s mother. Phillip’s first wife and mother of his children (Catherine Cynthia Eoff) died in 1832, and he had remarried. There is documentation in other sources of his first wife’s name: Catherine Cynthia Eoff, born in Kentucky in 1785. 

Figure 2 Death & Estate Settlements Volume II, 1850-1861, Rutherford County, TN

Figure 3 Record book 17, page 717, Rutherford County Archives

The researcher added the names of Malinda’s parents to a family tree to test the hypothesis further and searched for additional sources to add to the profiles. Catherine’s mother, Margaret Ann “Peggy” Knox was born in Balleymoney, Antrim Ireland in 1763. Seven of her siblings, both older and younger, were also born in Balleymoney. Their parents were both born in Scotland. This was interesting, as the incorrect family previously in the tree, the Fontaines, had many generations of French ancestry. The new sources support more Scots-Irish ancestry in the DNA mix, which is more consistent with the admixture or ethnicity estimates of descendants who have tested their DNA.

It is important to note that admixture or ethnicity estimates are often updated by the companies and will continue to change with future updates. This is why they are referred to as estimates. Try not to take too much stock in how much of any particular ethnicity anyone is reported to be. People can go to the bank on their DNA matches, but there are limits at this time for how accurately each company can calculate your admixture or ethnicity estimate. Keep in mind that these companies are looking at how closely you match their reference populations for people who have lived in these areas for many generations. Country borders have changed over the centuries and people have migrated, which makes it even more challenging.

A table is included to show the variations in how each major company reports the researcher’s Irish and Scottish ancestry, as of 20 November 2020. Notice the differences in how each company names the regions for the ones that don’t divide them by country. Notice the large variation in the percentages reported by each testing company. Each company uses different algorithms. Also, the paper trail is now showing some Scottish ancestry on this line of Malinda Prater’s, but the researcher has other lines with more recent Scottish ancestry that could be contributing to the percentages given by the testing companies. Conversely, just having an ancestor from a certain country or region does not mean we inherited any of their DNA, especially when we go back to 3X great-grandparents and beyond. DNA inheritance is random.

TABLE 1. Irish and Scottish portions of admixture/ethnicity estimates of the researcher, 20 November 2020

Testing CompaniesScotlandIrelandIreland and Scotland combined
Ancestry34% Scotland9% Ireland
23andMe2 of 165 UK regions (Glasgow & Edinburgh)10 of 26 Irish regions; 43.9% British & Irish
FTDNA56% (England, Scotland & Wales combined)29% Ireland
MyHeritage26.1% (Irish, Scottish & Welsh combined)
LivingDNA3.1% NW Scotland; 4.1% Aberdeenshire5.3% Ireland6.1% (N. Ireland & S.W. Scotland)
Comparison of the researcher’s admixture estimates at different testing companies

On FamilySearch.org, the researcher found Phillip Prater and his wife Catherine Cynthia Eoff. Someone had listed Malinda as their daughter, but with a birth year of 1831, which is about 15 years after her actual birth date according to censuses. That was the only information in the record. No spouse or children were part of that record and there were no sources. After comparing them thoroughly, the researcher was confident about merging the two Malindas and keeping the one with a spouse and children which was now connected to Malinda’s correct parents as shown in sources.

The researcher attached the source images with citations in the documents section under Memories in FamilySearch for Malinda and for her father Phillip Prater III, and made notes in the Collaborate section of FamilySearch on their profiles explaining where the sources could be found. This way, other genealogists can see the sources for themselves and know where to locate them. The next step will be creating new sources under “add a source” from the Source Box tab.

The researcher also attached images of the sources on her public Ancestry.com tree with explanations and citations in “Notes” so anyone researching Malinda Prater and her parents will know where the information and sources can be obtained. Thomas Prather III, who was formerly listed as Malinda’s father, and Phillip Prater III, Malinda’s father in the sources, are 2nd cousins, sharing a set of great-grandparents.

Rutherford County, Tennessee did not require that births be recorded until 1881-1882, then the law lapsed until 1909 and births were not required to be recorded. Finding an obscure birthdate for 1815-1817 in that area is rare. Sources for finding birthdates of that time frame are headstones, newspapers, family bibles, or personal letters in museums or private collections.

Now that Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff were in the researcher’s Ancestry tree as parents of Malinda Prater, the Ancestry Thrulines tool on Ancestry DNA could go to work to identify DNA matches to the researcher who descend from Phillip Prater III and/or Catherine Cynthia Eoff. The researcher had 17 DNA matches in Thrulines on 18 November 2020 who descended from the couple. Additional DNA matches who descend from Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff were found by doing surname searches on the testing sites.

WORKING HYPOTHESIS FOR DNA EVIDENCE

The researcher’s hypothesis is that Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff are Malinda’s biological parents and that DNA matches to the researcher traced on Ancestry.com’s Thrulines will trace back to Phillip Prater III and/or Catherine Cynthia Eoff. Also DNA matches grouped in genetic networks and DNA matches whose trees don’t go back as far as Phillip Prater III and/or Catherine Cynthis Eoff, but who have Prater or Eoff in their tree will be checked to see how much DNA they share with the researcher.

Key to the abbreviations for DNA matches in green boxes in the following three figures:

 1C = 1st cousin

 1C1R = 1st cousin once removed

 3C1R = 3rd cousin once removed

 4C = 4th cousin

 4C1R = 4th cousin once removed

 5C = 5th cousin

 5C1R = 5th cousin once removed

 If there is a year listed in the box, it is the person’s birth year. 

 If a full name is listed, the person is deceased.

Figure 1 DNA matches to the researcher who descend from Minerva Prater, daughter of Jeremiah Prater, son of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff, 18 November 2020

Figure 2 DNA matches to the researcher who descend from three other children of Jeremiah Prater, son of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff, 18 November 2020

Figure 3 DNA matches to the researcher who descend from Malinda Prater, daughter of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff, 23 November 2020

Figure 4 DNA matches to the researcher who descend from Elijah Prater, son of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff, 23 November 2020

Additional DNA matches at 7 cm to 30 cM who descend from Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff, but who do not have trees on Ancestry, were found by entering the surnames Prater and Eoff individually in the filter search field, both for matches with the name and for matches who had the name in their tree.

The researcher checked for Phillip Prater and Catherine Cynthia Eoff descendants on 23andMe, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA on 22 November 2020, and only found a few. The lack of many tree links on 23andMe makes it more difficult to find descendants of a specific line and far fewer people have tested on the other sites as have tested at Ancestry DNA.

All of the DNA matches in Figures 1, 2 and 3 and 4 were checked by the researcher on the Shared cM Project to make sure the amount of shared DNA to the researcher fell within the expected limits for the relationships calculated according to family trees.

PRIORITIZED RESEARCH STRATEGY

DNA matches who do not fall into known genetic networks will be traced to see if they lead to possible family lines for Malinda’s parents. DNA Thrulines to Malinda’s parents listed in county records will be incorporated in a tree to check for strength of probable relationship to the researcher.

CONCLUSION

Malinda Prater was the daughter of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff. Sources found in books and records held at the Rutherford County Archives in Tennessee identify Malinda Prather Mayfield as a daughter of Phillip Mayfield. Phillip Prater III was married to Catherine Cynthia Eoff at the time of Malinda’s birth. DNA research supports this conclusion as far as it has been researched in the time frame of this project.

  • Malinda Mayfield is listed in two Rutherford County records as a daughter of Philip Prater.
  • Malinda’s husband, Hance W. Mayfield, is listed in the estate settlement of Philip Prater.
  • Ancestry’s Thrulines have 17 DNA matches to the researcher; the matches descend from Philip Prater and from Catherine Cynthia Eoff through three different children.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE DNA RESEARCH

  1. Identify additional living descendants of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff and ask them to take DNA tests.
  2. Search all DNA databases further to identify any descendants of Phillip Prater III and Catherine Cynthia Eoff who have already tested.
  3. Add DNA matches to a What Are the Odds Tree on DNApainter.com to see if the shared matches support the relationships for the hypothesis.
  4. Ask a male on the Y-DNA line to take a Y-DNA test from FamilyTreeDNA.com. The researcher has an autosomal DNA match who is a direct paternal descendant of Phillip Prater III, born 1778.
  5. Chromosome paint segments to find matches who share the same segment(s) that could have been inherited from Phillip Prater III or Catherine Cynthia Eoff.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE DOCUMENTARY RESEARCH

  1. Check Rutherford County, TN cemeteries for Mayfield surname looking for Malinda’s husband Hance William Mayfield’s date of death and burial place, probably between 1860 and 1870. 
  2. Check for military service of Malinda’s husband, Hance William Mayfield. 
  3. Check Saline County, Missouri cemeteries (and surrounding counties, especially Cooper County where one son lived in 1880) for Mayfield surname to try to find Malinda’s date of death and burial place.
  4. Call local historical museums and societies in Saline County, Missouri, to check for family bibles and letters that could have Malinda’s date of death and other vital dates for the family.
  5. Check family trees online that include Phillip Prater III and/or Catherine Cynthia Eoff of Rutherford County, Tennessee for additional clues or information. 
  6. Read Rutherford County, TN history (Google, FamilySearch Wiki, The Family History Guide; call the county genealogical or historical foundation/office for local histories)
  7. Check for military service of Malinda’s son, William Mayfield. Perhaps he served and/or died in the Civil War. He is on the 1850 census with the family as a 10 year old, but not with the family on the 1860 census when he would have been 20. If still living, he could have moved out of the family home and been enumerated on a separate census.

(Note: My footnotes and citations did not carry over here from Google Docs, but I have copied the citations as endnotes and will add the footnote numbers in the text and properly format the endnotes soon.)

  1. Kathleen Prather, Louisville’s First Families: A Series of Genealogical Sketches (Louisville, KY: The Standard Printing Co., May 1920), 37-40; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/14958/images/dvm_dez_GenMono002512-00019-0?pId=25 : accessed 28 August 2020).
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch, Genealogies search field, (https://www.familysearch.org/search/family-trees : accessed 22 November 2020).
  3.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch  (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:3PDY-3YS : 22 November 2020), entry for Malinda Prater (Submission id: 3PDY-3YS); submitted by “Randy Newton1.”
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch  (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:35TL-GKL 22 November 2020), entry for Malinda Prater (Submission id: 35TL-GKL); submitted by “Randy Newton1.”
  5. State of Tennessee, Tennessee State Marriages 1780-2002; digital image, Ancestry.com, Tennessee State Marriages 1780-2002, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1169/images/VRMUSATN1780_074741-00159?pId=7029871 : accessed 16 September 2020), 2008.
  6. Rutherford County Archives (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), e-mail to Mckell Keeney (Tempe, Arizona), “Genealogical info on Malinda Prater…,” Personal Correspondence Folder, Malinda Prater research file, 29 September 2020.
  7. Rutherford County Historical Society, Susan Daniel, compiler, Rutherford County Pioneers Born Before 1800, 212, entry for Philip Prater, Malinda Prater and Hance W. Mayfield, 2003, Rutherford County Archives, Tennessee.
  8. Rutherford County Historical Society, Donald Detwiler, compiler, Susan G. Daniel, editor and indexer, Rutherford County Death and Estate Settlements, Volume II, entry 965, unpaginated, 2009, Rutherford County Archives, Tennessee.
  9. Ancestry, U.S. and International Marriage Records 1560-1900 for Cynthia Off to Philip Prather born 1780, accessed 30 September 2020, Ancestry.com.
  10.  Rutherford County, Rutherford County Record Book 17, 717, entry for Philip Prater and Hance William Mayfield, 1889, Rutherford County Archives, Tennessee.
  11. Rutherford County, Rutherford County Register of Births: 1881-1882, 1909-1912, 1925-1939, http://asp.rutherfordcountytn.gov/apps/archivesmarriageindex/birthindex.asp : accessed 18 November 2020, Rutherford County Courthouse, Murfreesboro, TN.

4 thoughts on “Identifying Malinda Prater’s parents”

  1. Wow!!! What a tremendous amount of work conveyed in a model research work. This a great example of combining document research and DNA analysis. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Janet! Thanks for reading the report! I appreciate your kind comments. I hope you’re doing well. “See you” at RootsTech?

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