Y-DNA Mystery: Hendrickson or Henderson?

One mystery that has plagued me over the years is trying to unearth our Hendrickson family origins. Faced with the challenge of tracing our direct paternal line and resolving conflicting information, I  turned to the precision of Y-DNA testing. I asked my brother to take this test in an effort to link ourselves to the documented Long Island Hendrickson families and fill in the gaps in our family history. We didn’t anticipate what we discovered would leave us with even more questions.

My earliest known ancestor with the Hendrickson surname goes back eight generations to Uriah Hendrickson (1759? -1839). Uriah and his wife, Elizabeth Valentine had three known children, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Valentine. I descend from the couple’s son Valentine. The family resided in what is now Woodbury, formerly known as “East Woods” in the Town of Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. He died in 1839 in nearby “Manetto Hill” now known as part of Bethpage, Nassau, County, New York.

The Challenge of Tracing Uriah’s Ancestry

According to an unsourced narrative by Andrew J. Provost, The Hendrickson Family of Long Island, Uriah’s father was Major John Hendrickson of Hempstead, Long Island. However, research has shown this is not necessarily the case.

In his compilation, Provost identifies the progenitor of the Hendrickson family in New York as Hendrick Harmanszen, who first appeared on New Amsterdam records in 1638. His sons, Harmon and John, settled in Flatbush and Hempstead, respectively, with descendants spreading to Hempstead, Huntington, and Oyster Bay. A third son, Hendrick, initially settled in Hempstead before returning to Flatbush. His descendants have yet to be traced. Mention is made of a possible fourth son, Jacob of Flatbush, whose descendants likely established branches in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

The exact lineage of Uriah needs to be clarified, with discrepancies in Provost’s narrative complicating the identification process.  He confuses the identities of two Uriah Hendricksons, a Urias Hendrickson, and their descendants. Further research including probate papers was found to distinguish them. 

  1. Urias Hendrickson (d. 1825), son of William Hendrickson and Anneka Snedeker of Jamaica
  2. Uriah Hendrickson (1759–1836), son of Jan Hendrickson and Mercy Hendrickson of Hempstead
  3. Uriah Hendrickson (1759?–1839) of Oyster Bay

Our Uriah lived next door to Stephen, Thomas, and John Hendrickson of Oyster Bay. Despite his proximity to these men, no evidence of kinship was found. Autosomal DNA testing at Ancestry yielded limited results due to the intricacies of tracing ancestry back so many generations. Turning our focus to Y-DNA testing was the next logical step.

About Y-DNA

Y-DNA testing aids in uncovering and confirming a man’s direct paternal lineage by connecting him with others who descend from a shared patrilineal ancestor. This test is exclusive to men since they inherit the Y chromosome from their fathers. The Y chromosome gets passed down from father to son virtually unchanged for generations. While occasional mutations can occur, Y-DNA is useful in uncovering deep patrilineal lineages.

So what is a Y chromosome? Most humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. The 23rd pair of chromosomes are the sex chromosomes which determine the genetic sex of an individual. Men inherit a Y chromosome from their father and an X from their mother. While the X chromosome carries genetic information from both parents, the Y chromosome offers a unique perspective on our direct paternal lineage.

A Y-DNA test cannot determine the identity of Uriah’s father or the exact number of generations we share a common ancestor with a genetic match. However, it might shed light on whether he shares lineage with the Long Island Hendricksons, hails from a distinct Hendrickson lineage, or if his ancestry diverges from the Hendrickson line altogether.

I won’t go into the details of how Y-DNA is tested or how the results are determined; that’s for another blog post if anyone is interested. However, I will briefly mention genetic distance. Genetic distance measures how closely related you are to a Y-DNA match. Given the costs involved, I purchased a 37-marker test. The more markers you test, the more precise the results are. When comparing the first 37 markers to another match, a distance of 0 indicates that all 37 markers match exactly, with no mutations. A genetic distance of 1 indicates a mutation in one marker. The lower the distance the fewer mutations and the more closely related you are to that match.

Before I go into the results, a brief word about surnames. In some cultures, surnames are commonly passed down from fathers to sons, and Y chromosomes are inherited similarly. Individuals with the same surname can utilize genealogical DNA testing to explore whether they share a recent common ancestor. It is important to note that variations of surnames are common, particularly considering the historical evolution of naming conventions. Our ancestors lived in a world without standardized surnames as we know them today. Instead, they were often identified by nicknames, occupations, or places of origin. Hendrickson is a patronymic surname, created when a prefix or suffix is attached to the father’s name and means the “son of” Hendrick. With each generation, the surname changes.

What Y-DNA Revealed About Our Lineage

The results of our Y-DNA test have uncovered some unexpected and interesting connections in our paternal lineage. We have three matches: a descendant of Gershom W. Henderson from upstate New York, a descendant of John Hendrickson from Long Island and Brooklyn, and another Hendrickson whose details are currently unknown.

Gershom W. Henderson 

The most astonishing discovery was our connection to a descendant of Gershom W. Henderson (1801–1857) from Oneida, New York. Our closest match, at a genetic distance of 0, suggests a common paternal ancestor born between 1600 and 1950. Gershom was not on my radar at all and his location of upstate New York is intriguing. Our match to his descendants is closer than the other two matches who bear the Hendrickson surname. Despite my efforts, I could not reach the test taker to compare notes or view a tree.

Research on Gershom is preliminary and much of the information comes from unsourced family trees. Probably born about 1801, he and his wife Ann Lee, lived most of their lives in Oneida County, New York. Gershom died on 8 November 1857 in Union, Rock County, Wisconsin. It should be noted that by 1800, a few Henderson families lived in Oneida and in nearby Herkimer County from which Oneida was formed. Two Hendrickson families arrived in Oneida by 1810. It is not known at this time how Gershom may have been related. Extensive research is necessary, and a trip to Oneida may be required to locate records not available online.

John Hendrickson

Our second match at a genetic distance of 2 is a descendant of John Hendrickson (c. 1781–1855) of Long Island and Brooklyn, indicating a common paternal ancestor born between 1250 and 1850. I communicated with the test taker’s daughter. She and her family have done extensive research on her lineage. John Hendrickson married Rosetta Thurston in 1806. The couple likely lived in Foster’s Meadow, Hempstead, and Brooklyn. Hendrick Harmanzens sons and grandsons settled in these areas offering a possible connection to the documented Long Island Hendricksons but no evidence of kinship has been found thus far. Our connection to this family likely extends back at least 100 years or more, before Uriah was born.

Unknown Hendrickson

Similarly, our third match at a genetic distance of 2 is a man with the Hendrickson surname, suggesting a common paternal ancestor born between 1250 and 1850. He hasn’t responded to my many attempts to communicate with him and without an earliest known ancestor, his connection remains elusive.

What does this all mean?

The DNA results have sparked more questions than answers. Have I been barking up the wrong tree? Are we related to the Hendricksons who resided near Uriah in Oyster Bay? Do we descend from Hendrick or Jacob, sons of Hendrick Harmanszen? Could we be descended from an entirely different Hendrickson family who just happened to settle on Long Island? Or are we Hendersons?

One thing is clear: we have more DNA in common with Gershom Henderson’s descendants than with John Hendrickson’s, or the unknown Hendrickson match.  There is no question that Uriah Hendrickson, John Hendrickson, and Gershom Henderson all descend from a common male ancestor. How far back that goes is to be determined. 

Also, we can’t match to someone who hasn’t tested. Until we can confirm that a descendant of Stephen, Thomas, or John Hendrickson of Oyster Bay or a descendant of the various recorded Hendrickson families of Long Island does a Y-DNA test our potential connections and degree of relatedness will remain unknown.

In any case, it’s too soon to jump to conclusions. There just isn’t enough data to support any of those theories, and any one or more of them could be true. Further investigation is needed into the Gershom Henderson and John Hendrickson families, and additional DNA analysis is needed. Most importantly, we need more matches to test against.

Next Steps

Targeted Y-DNA testing is a critical step. This involves identifying and encouraging direct male descendants of other Hendrickson families to undergo testing, despite the hurdles and expenses involved. Since they might not see the value in testing or face financial constraints, offering incentives for participation becomes crucial.

Fortunately, no other male relative from our lineage requires testing as they share the same Y chromosome as my brother. Due to the expense of the Y-DNA test, we opted for a 37-marker test. Expanding the scope to include additional markers will provide more accurate results and potentially identify additional matches. However, these tests can be costly. 

Although the autosomal DNA tests at Ancestry provided little insight, the Hendrickson surname appears in the trees of a few DNA matches. We can use these clues to see how they coincide with our Y-DNA results to determine a path forward.

The journey doesn’t end with testing; ongoing research is essential. Continuously exploring connections to the families of Gershom W. Henderson and John Hendrickson could unearth valuable clues about our lineage.

Unraveling Hendrickson Roots: Help Support the Cause

DNA testing doesn’t always make the process of identifying family origins any easier. It often sends us down complicated paths but it can help prevent us from barking up the wrong tree. In my pursuit to uncover our family’s lineage, we’ve encountered both revelations and roadblocks. With a renewed sense of focus, it’s clear that there is a lot of ground to cover. 

Our Y-DNA results have provided valuable leads but also opened new questions about our ancestry. Although we have a clear connection to both the Henderson and Hendrickson families, the exact nature of these relationships remains unclear.  Ongoing research and further testing will be crucial in unraveling these familial mysteries.

Support our exploration of the Hendrickson family history with a donation towards additional DNA testing. Together, we can unravel the mysteries of our past and connect more deeply with our heritage.

Donate Now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.