Many of the Breland and Breeland families in the United States — especially in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana — are descended from a man named Abraham Breler/Breland, who lived near Beaufort, South Carolina, in the late 1700s and died there in the early 1800s.
I, too, am a descendant of Abraham Breler/Breland. He was my 5th great grandfather on my mother’s side. In particular I am descended from Abraham’s grandson, John Robertson Breland (1794-1875) who migrated from South Carolina to Louisiana about 1810. He served in de Clouet’s Regiment in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 and then lived the rest of his life in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, and Pike County, Mississippi.
My maternal grandfather, Robert Milton Breland (1889-1959), was born and raised near Sunny Hill, Louisiana. Robert’s father, my great grandfather, was Cicero Malachi Breland (1857-1917), who lived his entire life in Washington Parish, Louisiana, and is buried in Mount Hermon. Cicero’s father, my great great grandather, was Elisha Elliott Breland (1832-1862) who died in Louisiana while serving as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.
Where Abraham Breler/Breland was born is a subject of much speculation and dispute. Some say he was born in Pitt County, North Carolina, while others say he was born in Germany. To date, no one has been able to answer that question definitively.
I recently started the Breland Surname DNA Project with the hope of answering the question of where in Europe my Breland ancestors came from. This followed my involvement in the Hughes DNA Project, as both a member and administrator. Through my involvement in the Hughes Project, the Clan Colla 425 Null Project, and the McMahon DNA Project, I learned that my paternal ancestors lived in the vicinity of County Monaghan, Ireland, before they settled near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the 1700s and then migrated from there to North Carolina and South Carolina. My experience with these DNA projects gives me great hope that the Breland DNA Project will help solve the historical mystery of where the Brelands came from.
At the time of this writing, the Breland DNA Project has just six members. The project needs to recruit many more members – especially men with the Breland surname – if it is to be successful. Anyone with the Breland surname, or who has Breland ancestors, is welcome to join. Here is the link where you can do so:
In order to join the project, you will need to buy a DNA test kit from Family Tree DNA. Men named Breland who join the project should order the Y-DNA37 test, which is a test of paternal ancestry only and costs $149 if you order it through the Breland Project (it costs $169 if you order it outside of a project). All women who join the project, and men without the Breland surname, should order the Family Finder test, which costs $99. The Family Finder tests both maternal and paternal ancestry and helps find matches within about five generations.
In addition, if you have already done an autosomal DNA test through AncestryDNA or 23andme, you will need to transfer your results to Family Tree DNA first before joining the Breland Project. Here is the link where you can do that:
Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions about the Breland DNA Project. I look forward to hearing from you!
Tom Hughes was born and raised in Mobile, Ala., and now lives in Durham, N.C. He is the son of Gloria Breland Hughes, whose parents were Robert Milton Breland (1889-1959) and Cora Peirce Breland (1891-1936). Robert and Cora met in the early 1900s when they were both high school students at Sunny Hill School in Washington Parish, Louisiana. Tom’s uncles, Charles Gregory Breland and Hunter M. Breland, wrote, “The Breland Families of the Southern States, 1794-1875.”
One of the things I have learned during my genealogical research over the last 12 months is that I am distantly related to several Hughes families alive today who claim as their earliest known ancestor a man named David Hughes.
This particular David Hughes was born in Kentucky in 1812. His first wife was named Matilda Fruit, and he died in Missouri in 1875.
What I don’t know is exactly how these Hughes families and mine are connected. In other words, I don’t know who our common ancestor was, the proverbial missing link.
However, recently I learned that Matilda Fruit was the granddaughter of a man named James Samuel Fruit, who was born in Orange County, N.C. in 1762 but lived most of his adult life in Christian County, Kentucky. This attracted my interest because my earliest known Hughes ancestor — Andrew Hughes (1755-1843) — lived in Orange County in the 1770s.
In addition, I also learned — thanks to an excellent map posted on a blog by Mark Chilton (the current mayor of Carrboro, N.C.) — that two men named James Fruit and Rowland Hughes owned land close to each other in Orange County during the 1770s. I have since obtained a copy of the land records for this Rowland Hughes from the State Archives of North Carolina, and from that document I know that he filed a claim for and obtained title to this land in 1778. (In 1778 the land was on Haw Creek in Orange County. Now it is in Alamance County, near the city of Mebane, just south of I-40.)
For me, this raises the obvious question of whether or not this Rowland Hughes and my Andrew Hughes were related. It also raises the question of whether or not the James Fruit who owned land near Rowland Hughes is the same James Samuel Fruit that was the grandfather of Matilda Fruit, or if not, was he perhaps a close relative? At this point I simply don’t have enough evidence in hand to say.
In Kentucky, there was a man named Rowland Hughes, who was born in 1756 and died in 1809, who is buried at Hughes Cemetery near the town of Auburn in Logan County. Logan County is just to the east of Christian County. Is this man the same Rowland Hughes as the one who owned land in Orange County, North Carolina? If not, could he be a close relative of the one in Orange County? Is there any connection between the Rowland Hughes in Logan County, Kentucky, and the David Hughes who married Matilda Fruit?
Again, my answers to all of these questions is that at this point I simply don’t have enough evidence in hand to say. But I hope to one day find out.
If you, dear reader, have any evidence that will help me answer these questions, then I’d love to hear from you!