Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 16, 2012

Harvard professor, Piedmont native hoping to solve family mystery

Gates seeks identity of great-great-grandfather


CUMBERLAND — Harvard University Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. is asking all residents of Allegany County who are of Irish descent to get their DNA tested to help solve a 150-year-old family mystery  — who is Gates’ great-great grandfather?
Through genealogical records, the Gates family history can be traced back to Jane Gates, a slave who lived on Greene Street. Jane, who was born in 1819, had five children and took the name and identity of their father with her to the grave, according to Gates. 
“All Jane told the kids was that they all had the same father,” said Gates in a phone interview with the Times-News. “I have a picture of Jane Gates and her sons and they all look white, including my great-grandfather, Edward Gates, who was born December 1857 in (Allegany County) Maryland. I’m looking to find my great-great-grandfather and I hope to find him using DNA analysis.”
Gates believes that one of the descendants of Niall of Nine Hostages fathered all five of Jane’s children.
“Hoping to help solve this troubling mystery — family legend had it that the father of Jane’s children was a slave owner outside of Cumberland, Md., named Samuel Brady — I had my y-DNA tested,” writes Gates, editor-in-chief of The Root, an online magazine. “The results astonished everyone, including me: My y-DNA haplotype is R1b1b2ala2f2, also known as ‘the Ui Neil Haplotype.’ At least 8 percent of all the men in Ireland share this same haplotype, and all of us descend from one man, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages, who lived in Ireland around 500 A.D.”
The y-DNA was passed down to Gates’ grandfather, Edward Lawrence Gates, and Gates inherited it from his father, Henry Louis Gates Sr. 

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