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There is an article in yesterday’s Greenwich Times entitled “Woman out to prove kinship to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz” about Cassandria Carlson, a woman from Schaumburg, Ill. who believes she is the granddaughter of Lucille Ball.
According to Carlson, her mother was born to Lucille Ball in 1947 and was then put up for adoption “because her very existence would have interfered with Ball’s career.” Among her evidence, Carlson cites a 1946 newspaper clipping which described Ball as pregnant as well as her mother Madeline Jane Dee’s memories of a red-headed woman named “Mrs. Morton” bringing her to the playground as a child (Ball’s second married was to a Gary Morton). Unfortunately, Ms. Dee died just a few years ago.
Ball had two confirmed children: Lucie Desiree Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. Julia Arnaz, the daughter of Desi Arnaz, Jr., originally agreed to provide DNA to determine whether she and Carlson are first cousins, she later rescinded the offer. Arnaz has said that she would consider providing DNA if there were “more proof” of the potential relationship.
Obtaining More Proof Through mtDNA
Luckily for Ms. Carlson, she would possess Lucille Ball’s mtDNA if she is in fact her descendant. This is because, of course, mtDNA is passed down from mother to daughter. So the mtDNA would have passed from Ball to Madeline Jane Dee to Cassandria Carlson. Although Julia Arnaz and Carlson would likely share some DNA if they are in fact related, they would NOT share mtDNA because Arnaz would have inherited her mtDNA from her mother (whose name I don’t know). However, Carlson CAN compare her mtDNA to another of Lucille Ball’s maternal relatives by working backward through Ball’s maternal family tree.
Below is a quick outline of the path Lucille Ball’s mtDNA took through 5 generations from her great-great-grandmother to herself (that is, from mother to daughter, mother to daughter, down through 5 generations):
- Angeline (Greene) Sprague b. 1820 d. 1851 (4 female children: Ann Eliza b. 1841, Mary Jane b. 1842, Aureliea b. 1843, & Helen S. b. 1845)
- Helen S. (Sprague) Orcutt b. 1845 d. 1884 (4 female children: Flora Belle b. 1867, Carrie b. 1871, Nellie b. 1872, & Lottie b. 1878)
- Flora Belle (Orcutt) Hunt b. 1867 d. 1922 (2 female children: Desiree Evelyn b. 1892, Lola b. 1897)
- Desiree Evelyn Hunt b. 1892 d. 1977
- Lucille Desiree Ball b. 1911 d. 1989
In addition to this direct lineage, the mtDNA would have passed to the other daughters named in the tree, and down through the female descendants in that line. So, for example, the mtDNA would have passed from Angeline (Greene) Sprague to Ball[s ancestor Helen S. Sprague, but it also would have passed to Helen’s sisters, who would in turn have passed it down to their daughters and so forth. Thus, from the outline above, there are at least 6 people from the above tree whose lineage could be researched for potential mtDNA sources:
- Ann Eliza Sprague
- Mary Jane Sprague
- Aureliea Sprague
- Carrie Orcutt
- Nellie Orcutt
- Lottie Orcutt
If Carlson’s mtDNA were to match the mtDNA of a modern-day descendant of one of the above 6 women, this would be very strong supporting evidence for her conclusion. A match would NOT prove the relationship! But armed with this information, Julia Arnaz might be convinced to undergo further testing.
If Carlson’s mtDNA did NOT match one of the modern-day descendants of the above 6 women, I would recommend attempting to find another descendant to test (preferably from another one of the 6) because unknown breaks in the line can occur although it will arguably be less common for maternal descent. If two or three tests suggest there is no match, this might be suggestive that there is NOT a relationship, but again it is not conclusive.
The moral of this story is to always keep genetic genealogy in mind when attempting to prove a genetic relationship between two people!
Sources of Genealogical Information: Genealogy.com Famous Folks Family Tree & WorldConnect (I know these are not verified or even the best sources, but the information was provided for illustrative purposes only).