Benjaman Kyle is the adopted name of an amnesiac who was found near Savannah, GA in August 2004. (See his Wikipedia page for more details.) Since recovering from a severe beating that left him unconscious, he cannot remember who he is. Benjaman took a 23andMe autosomal DNA test earlier this year, hoping to discover close relatives, or at least possible names in his family and the geographical locations where they could be found. As of December 9, 2010, Benjaman’s list of 23andMe matches includes a total of 411 matches ranging from 3rd to 10th cousins.
Benjaman’s top 23andMe match is a third cousin named Thomas Perry whose family has lived in the area around Saluda, SC for at least two hundred years. Benjaman has also found 67 matches at the 4th cousin level. The rest of his matches are estimated as 5th cousin and more remote.
Hoping to discover clues to Benjaman’s geographical origins, I created a map showing the locations associated with the family pedigrees of eight of his top matches, including the Perrys of Saluda and some of his top-ranked 4th cousins. There are many more matches, listed as 4th cousins and above, who have not accepted contact. If I ever hear from them, I will add them to the map. A couple of matches who have accepted contact were adopted and know nothing about their families, so they have been excluded. A couple of others who accepted contact are closely related to each other, so that they share the same family pedigree. These families have been included only once.
The map below shows the locations associated with Benjaman’s top match Thomas Perry, whose family originated mostly in western South Carolina, southeast of Greenville.
When information derived from pedigrees of other top matches are added, the map becomes more interesting. A few thumbnail portraits of his matches and the colored balloons associated with them are shown as examples below.
The area with the greatest number of different colors is still in western South Carolina. A closeup of the map gives more details:
Between the mid 1700s and the mid 1900s, family members of all of Benjaman’s closest matches lived in this area. Dates range from the birth of James McDavid (10 February 1766, Greenville; Winship-Parker family tree) through Perry family members still living in Saluda today. This does not mean that Benjaman was born in this area, nor that his parents were born here. Considering that the map is based on one 3rd cousin and several 4th cousins, his connection to western South Carolina probably dates back to the late 1700s-early 1800s.
Each time I hear from a new 23andMe match, I check his pedigree for names that he shares with Benjaman’s other matches. I also check for common geography. So far the names associated with his closest matches including Perry, Parker, Hooper, Davenport, Davis, and Harris, but because they are so common, it has been impossible to connect any of the families based on them. I also watch for Powells and Davidsons to whom Benjaman’s might be related along his male line. (See earlier entry.) But so far, no luck.
I will keep trying. I conscientiously monitor Benjaman’s 23andMe page for new results, and follow up on each new match who accepts contact. I also keep an eye out for Y-DNA matches for him in the Sorenson and YSearch databases. When I finally discover Benjaman’s identity, I will have no doubts that I have the right guy. At the moment, I feel like I know everything about him except for his name.