Digging up the roots of the Flynn family tree | Lifestyles
IIn the realm of genealogical applications, advances in DNA testing have been used to broaden the scope of research, help break through elusive “brick walls,” fill in gaps, and solve mysteries, even the mysteries of parentage. One such story is that of the Flynns of Flynns Cove in Cumberland County.
Direct descendant, Gary Flynn of Bellingham, WA., recently underwent DNA testing to establish the roots of his family tree and clear up the mystery of the family’s ancestry.
The Flynns were a pioneer family in Cumberland County, setting up a farm in the southwest corner of Cumberland County at Flynns Cove before the county was formed in 1855. John Flinn [sic] Jr. was a Revolutionary War soldier born in Virginia in 1760. He received a land grant in 1797 from North Carolina for “Tennessee Indian Lands” for his service during the war. He settled in what was then White County, establishing Flynns Cove with his wife, Mary, and seven children. Their daughter, Rebecca Flynn, was the mother of Richard Lafayette Flynn, the illustrious and notable “Red Fox” of the Civil War.
Richard Lafeyette “Red Fox” Flynn (1825-1905) was a Civil War Union scout and conductor for the Underground Railroad. He was heralded as an excellent scout and nicknamed “Red Fox”, because he was strategic in his ability to outwit, outsmart, and outsmart the opposition during the Civil War.
According to Memorial and Biographical Record, copyright 1898, by George A. Ogle & Co., Publishers, Engravers and Book Manufactures, Chicago, IL, Richard Lafayette Flynn was an important and well-known figure throughout East Tennessee, raised by his grandfather (John Flinn) until age 12, when his mother moved to upper Bledsoe County. There he grew up and married Miss Zilpha (Ezylphia) Wyatt, daughter of John and Sarah Wyatt, in 1846.
When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Union and served as a scout, courier, and guide. He was captured once while delivering a message to the colonel of a regiment in Sparta, GA. He encountered a squad of Confederates, who arrested him and the young man who accompanied him.
The book read, “…if his captors had known he was the famous ‘Red Fox,’ he would not have been allowed to escape”, before stating that he managed his escape with only a bullet hole in his sleeve and that he lost his coonskin hat.
He guided fugitives and regular army squads, such as Lt. Col. DA Dorsey and his comrades after capturing an engine on one of Georgia’s railroads while escaping from Atlanta , Georgia. He also helped collect munitions of war when Major General William Rosecrans was pushed into the mountains and was a guide for him from Cumberland, TN, 30 miles through the mountains to Kentucky. At one point he led 37 people through the mountains. In the last years of the war, he belonged to Captain JC Hinch’s company, an independent guard company organized against the guerrillas.
It was written that his older brother, John Flynn, was kidnapped by guerrillas pursuing the red fox and was killed on January 3, 1865.
At the end of the war he returned to the farm where he was born in the 3rd District, Cumberland County, near the Lantana Post Office, and was, by Governor William Brownlow, appointed tax collector of the Cumberland County.
The big question mark on the family tree was who the red fox’s father was, as there is no record of his mother’s marriage.
Direct descendant from father to son of the red fox and 3rd great-grandson, Brad Flynn, had heard stories about him growing up.
“I know he was part of the Underground Railroad and how he got his name. There was also a rock there somewhere [at Flynns Cove], which was supposed to have a split in it. He was hiding from the soldiers and from what I understand he hid inside this cleft in the rock and watched the soldiers go by,” he said.
Brad added that Eston Flynn was considered the family historian until his death.
“I would like to know more,” he said.
Over the years, two theories have emerged in the family stories.
Gary explained that Red Fox was the youngest of four children born to his mother Rebecca Flynn, daughter of John Flinn [sic], all of whom went by her maiden name, Flynn.
“But she had never married,” he said.
One of the theories claimed that Rebecca had dated a Hale in the nearby community. But, because Richard “Red Fox” was such a smart and cunning soldier, hunter, and lumberjack, the family thought his father might also have been a native Cherokee.
As the great-great-grandson of the Red Fox, Gary decided to take the DNA test and finally get some answers.
“As a direct descendant, from father to son, I qualified as a candidate for a y-DNA test,” he said, “the results of which showed the first theory to be correct. We were Hales, and the Cherokee connection was a myth.
“Hales is from there too,” Brad said.
Some family members working on the Flynn/Hale family tree have listed a Thomas Hale as the alleged father of the red fox, although there is no supporting evidence.
“He happened to live in White County,” Gary said. “At one point, before doing the y-DNA test, I tested this theory by naming him on my tree, but placed an ‘unverified’ notation on his profile. When I didn’t pass Upon obtaining DNA matches, I quickly removed Thomas Hale as the possible father of Richard Lafayette Flynn.
Gary continued his genealogy research to include the Hales with a specific age and location profile, as well as a search for his autosomal DNA matches for the Hale surname.
“Finally found an unexplained match for a Scott Terry Hale of Pikeville, County Bledsoe,” he added, noting that Hale’s location was only about 28 miles from the home of Rebecca at Flynn’s Cove. Although a geographically possible match, Scott was too young to fit the profile. However, her father, Isham Burrell Hale, was the right age to be Rebecca Flynn’s husband.
He continued: “After posting Isham as a possible father of Richard, I received 15 DNA matches, confirming his paternity.”
Gary added: “Isham Burrell Hale is the portal that allows Richard Lafayette Flynn matches to four different half-siblings, as well as four of Isham’s siblings. These relationships would not be possible if Isham and his father, John Hale, were not Richard’s father and grandfather.
Hearing this information for the first time, Brad gathered the conclusive evidence.
“Red Fox used his mother’s maiden name, which was Flynn?” He asked. “So you’re telling me I would have been a Hale if he had used his father’s name?”
Provided he was a direct descendant from father to son, the answer was yes. Of course, when it came to lineage and DNA, whatever last name the descendants had didn’t make them more or less Flynn or Hale like they already were. But it wasn’t often, especially in those days, that children took their mother’s maiden name. It was a unique set of circumstances that allowed them to carry the Flynn name from father to son, and in this case, mother to son as well.
“I guess DNA can reveal some interesting facts,” he said. “Obviously, I’m very proud to be a Flynn. I’m so proud that Red Fox carried his mother’s name. It’s no disrespect to the Hale family, just that I’m proud to carry the Flynn name.
Nonetheless, Brad thought it was a really interesting find and an overall neat story that only added to the richness of the Flynn/Hale family history, and it’s all because a distant cousin in Washington has used the application of DNA testing to his genealogical research.
The discoveries did not stop there. Gary also used his DNA results which exposed another family secret.
While continuing to study the early pioneer Flynn/Hale/Wyatt families of Cumberland County, he noted that in “Cumberland County’s First 100 Years”, published in 1956, the book listed Sarah Wyatt’s maiden name as Trembell. [sic] in John and Sarah Wyatt’s family tree.
“However, through DNA, it was revealed that Sarah was actually born Rhodes,” Flynn said. “Because of this surname change, many of Wyatt’s descendants have incorrectly assumed that William T. Trammell was Sarah Wyatt’s father.”
He then explained his findings regarding Sarah’s mother, Mary Zilpha Lynch. She had married John Rhodes of Orange County, North Carolina around 1775, and they had at least three children, Sarah being the last, born in 1777. In 1781 Mary Zilpha had separated from John and married a wounded Revolutionary War veteran. named William T. Trammell, and the children stopped using the surname Rhodes, taking the name Trammell with their mother.
Gary said the successes have further underscored the usefulness of DNA testing as a genealogical tool. He also had a number of other breakthroughs.
“Precision is important to me,” Gary said. “With the advent of DNA matching as a research tool, even novice genealogists have found success in answering age-old family questions. Genetic genealogy is a valuable tool for breaking down those “brick walls” that have plagued genealogists for years.