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The ideal way of using Y-DNA testing is to have a specific genealogical proposition to test. The results can then indicate whether this proposition is probably true or patently false. Let’s look at some examples from the Fox Surname Project:

The “Desire,” carrying a shipload of Plymouth Friends from Plymouth, England, to Philadelphia in 1686 had a number of Foxes on board. First there was the family of James Fox, co-leader of the expedition, his wife and two sons. Then there were three other Foxes, apprenticed as servants to members of the party. Richard Fox was apprenticed to James Fox. John Fox and Justinian Fox were apprenticed to other members of the party and were not Quakers themselves.

Richard Fox died in 1689 and all the male members of the James Fox family had died by the year 1700. Justinian Fox survived and was the progenitor of a well-known Philadelphia Fox family. He inherited the estate of James Fox. John Fox married and had children but his descendants have never been tracked down.

James was a member of a well-known British Quaker Fox family, which currently has many descendants, living mainly in England. His father, Francis Fox, was born in Devizes, Wiltshire in 1606 and tradition says he was related to Sir Stephen Fox, treasurer to King Charles II.

At about the same time, Henry Fox, a member of another well-known British Fox family had come to Virginia in 1661, married Anne West, a niece of Lord De La Warr, and started a large American Fox family. This family has been traced, by Joseph Steadman, back to another Henry Fox, born in 1521 in Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Project member John William Fox, an anthropology professor, has postulated a name change from Vaux to Fox and proposes to take the family line back to the Norman Invader, Richard de Vaux.

Some members of this Virginia Fox family were named John Fox and Steadman also postulated that a certain John Fox, who had died at the hands of the Cherokee Indians during the Revolutionary War, was a direct descendant of Henry Fox. This John Fox had left a son named Matthew Fox, who was born in Abbeville, SC, in 1766 and moved to Tennessee, where he died in 1854, leaving many descendants.

Finally, a descendant of slaves living in Rutherford County, Tennessee, has been found to be a close match to known Henry Fox/Anne West descendants. Descendants of Andrew Fox of Culpepper, Virginia, lived in close proximity to this slave family.

Question Number 1: Was James Fox bringing along other members of his own family, nephews perhaps? Were all these Foxes truly related?

By Y-DNA testing 3 male line descendants of Francis Fox, father of James Fox, and 4 descendants of Justinian Fox it has been established that Justinian Fox and James Fox were indeed related. Can we say they were first or second cousins, as the paper trail might indicate? This is asking too much of DNA testing. All we can say is that this is not improbable. DNA testing is all about probabilities.

Question Number 2: Was Steadman correct? Are descendants of Matthew Fox truly related to Henry Fox and Anne West?

We now have tested 5 descendants of Henry Fox and Anne West of Virginia and 3 descendants of Matthew Fox of South Carolina and Tennessee. Steadman was not correct. Surprisingly, the Matthew Fox descendants are of the same family as James and Justinian Fox. Because of their null 439 result, we can confidently say that the Matthew Fox line is not male-line related to the Henry Fox/Anne West Fox line within the last 1,800 years at least.

Question Number 3: Was Matthew Fox a descendant of John Fox, who came over on the ship “Desire” in 1686?

Obviously, additional conventional research is necessary to answer this question. All the Y-DNA test results can say is that the match with the Francis Fox family is even better than the one between Justinian and Francis Fox descendants. Francis Fox’s descendants have been extremely well researched and there is no other known member of this family who came to America in the time frame required. It is certainly possible that descendants of John Fox migrated southward along with many early Welsh settlers of Philadelphia. It is also possible that someone from this family predating Francis Fox came to Virginia in the early days but, if so, no record of this is available. Confounding the issue, Justinian had an elder brother named John. The DNA evidence seems to be pointing away from a brotherly connection between the two men on the ship “Desire,” if indeed Matthew Fox was descended from that John Fox, but the connection is still possible. DNA testing cannot be definitive.

Question Number 4: Was Francis Fox indeed related to Sir Stephen Fox?

Question Number 5: Was Andrew Fox, whose descendants moved to Rutherford County, Tennessee, related to Henry Fox of Virginia, who married Anne West?

These two questions provide the sort of challenge that frustrates a project administrator. Known descendants of Sir Stephen Fox and Andrew Fox are known to be living today, it is just a matter of getting the proper individual to submit a sample for testing.

Question Number 6: Was Henry Fox who married Anne West, indeed a descendant of the Norman Invader, Richard de Vaux?

This question could also be answered if known descendants of Richard de Vaux could be located and tested. The results of in-depth analysis of founder clusters gives some hope that the answer might be positive. Admittedly, the connection is far enough back in time that mutations could have occurred that would cloud the issue.

The Null 439 Family


Joe Fox