Search for content in message boards

DNA to Solve the Mystery of Mary Cunningham's Parents - Corrected Pedigrees: The Cunningham/Peterson Line

Replies: 0

DNA to Solve the Mystery of Mary Cunningham's Parents - Corrected Pedigrees: The Cunningham/Peterson Line

Posted: 1427578823000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Hinkle, Cunningham, Petro, Peterson, Jones
Dear Cunningham and Peterson Families,

If you've completed DNA testing we are looking for matches to our Cunningham ancestor, Mary Cunningham. Her father was killed during an Indian raid and she was born in captivity. I've cited two articles below to outline the mystery that we hope DNA can solve.

Your help is appreciated! Thank you!

Malia Thompson aka Lainaholo on Ancestry

Excerpt from a post on Corrected Pedigress by Jeff Carr
"Cunningham/Peterson. I have had multiple contacts with researchers who descend from James and Agnes Cunningham of Pendleton, Bath, and Randolph Counties. Based on some great research, and ensuing articles by the late Mary Harter, their family has been much clarified (The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 29, #1, #2). She meticulously documented the early Cunningham relationships, especially through land transactions. She reviewed proof that the Mary Cunningham who married Isaac Hinkle in 1781 was the daughter of the John Cunningham who had been killed by Indians in 1758. She further reviews circumstantial evidence that John's widow was the Mary Cunningham who married Sylvester Ward, and that James was another of Mary (Cunningham) Ward's children. Some notably missing evidence is any record that John Cunningham's wife was named Mary, or that the Mary Cunningham who married Isaac Hinkle was the daughter of Mary (Cunningham) Ward. There is also the potential inconsistency in dates wherein the mother Mary Cunningham was supposed to have been captured by Indians in 1757-8, yet she bought land in 1761; most of those captives were not returned until 1764. While all of the assertions in the article may be true, has anyone explored the possibility that Mary Ward may have been born a Cunningham (?sister to John Cunningham?) and was not a widow, with James being an illegitimate son.

The point of correction that I want to address is the Cunningham-Peterson connection. Mary Harter referenced Junkins' The Henckel Genealogy report that Isaac Hinkle's wife was the daughter of John and Mary (Peterson) Cunningham. As was often the case, the Junkins' did not reference any source for that information, thus making it suspect and undependable. Later in her article, Mary Harter was careful to place a question mark in front of Peterson as the maiden name for Mary, the wife of John Cunningham. Three paragraphs later, Mrs. Harter wrote:

While it is only tradition that Mary, the mother of James Cunningham, was a Peterson, the continued close association surely supports this identification. If (italics and bold added] Mary was a Peterson then she definitely belongs in the family following . . ."

What a powerful word, "if." Mrs. Harter continued by elaborating on the family of John Jacob Peterson, an early South Branch settler in Hardy County, who had emigrated from Switzerland as Hans Joggi Bidert. In the Peterson family records, which are quite good for that time period (ca. 1750), there is no record or rumor of a daughter Mary married to a Cunningham. There was a daughter named Ursula, for which there is no further adult record, whom they suggest never returned from Indian captivity. Mary Harter made the preposterous suggestion that since "Maria" is the commonly given first name for many girls in Germanic families, Ursula must have been "Maria Ursula," and became known as Mary [Cunningham]. This is no different than having an ancestor named John, finding a family of that given surname that has a son named Valentine, then concluding that this must be your ancestor, since most Germanic sons had Johann as their first given name! In addition to this, only 36 years separates the birth of Ursula Peterson and James Cunningham's oldest child, which narrows in practical terms the possibility of her having been James' mother. Mary Harter also sidestepped the obvious conflict of James Cunningham's traditionally reported birth date of 1741, and Ursula' s of 1731. This really was unlike Mary Harter to have made such a ridiculous jump, and taints an otherwise excellent article. As strange as that was, it is even more frustrating that other readers/researchers uncritically added this lineage to their charts."

Here's the version my family was taught cited from Dr. Charles P. Harper, "Hinkle-Harper Line", 1957. "Mary Cunningham HInkle was born in an Indian village in Ohio shortly after her mother was taken captive by the Indians. She was the daughter of John and Mary (Peterson) Cunningham of the Hardy County section of Pendleton County. Her father was scalped by the Indians and her mother taken captive about the time of the massacre at Fort Upper Tract and Ft. Seybert, Apr 27-28, 1758. (Norton's History of Pendleton County, page 193). There is a tradition that among the captives surrendered in 1764 to Colonel Bouquet, there was a white woman from Virginia with a baby that had presumably been born in Ohio. If this child was Mary (Cunningham) Hinkle, she was the first white child born in Ohio and about 11 years before any other white child was born there."

Find a board about a specific topic