Despite this ‘boring’ outcome, it actually made it match the documented research much better given that in the research I’ve done – which for some branches covers ~400 years, not one of my ancestors has been born or married outside of England, let alone the UK. Most of those remained in Cambridgeshire and the wider East Anglia (something that Ancestry has highlighted in their results for a while).
The 2019 AncestryDNA update
In August 2019, their next update caused my results to diversify. My other family testers’ results did too, and it appears that the data surrounding Scandinavia was either increased in volume or had been refined.
The Norwegian DNA origins reappeared, and my father’s 4% had shifted into double figures. Meanwhile, my paternal aunt’s Irish DNA vanished in favour of Swedish DNA (my father – her brother) also gained Swedish origins.
Back in 2016-ish, the results looked fairly mixed, but the categorisation of the regions were very broad. It’s only right that as more data comes in, the interpretation of that data gets more accurate.
The change has altered the results significantly, but this is a positive thing.
Some of the regions have been broken down to a more granular level, which allows us to see Scotland and Ireland separately, and Wales extracted from England and Northwestern Europe.
Ancestry have taken to YouTube to announce this update to their DNA data.
It’s always good to get an update on data and accuracy, although Ancestry’s new StoryScout feature very clearly needs some refinement.
Here, my 2x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Howlett, a Suffolk (UK) born daughter of a labourer, who married and lived with her Cambridgeshire (UK) farmer husband, widowed mother, and her many children, is given a fictional story of how she passed through Castle Garden as an immigrant in the USA.
This is complete nonsense. She never left the fenland of Cambridgeshire, and the censuses, baptisms, marriage, banns, and burial records also on Ancestry, alongside my tree, has all the evidence to prove it wrong.
Those family history fans among us who scrutinise less and accept more willingly with a gleeful click, may ultimate find this feature to be a parasite.
Regardless of the changes to your DNA reporting and ethnicity estimates, and the accuracy of the information you see, remember this:
Day One of the first ever The Genealogy Show at the NEC BIrmingham has ended, but what is the show like? Well, here’s my review…
I’ve been looking forward to The Genealogy Show for ages now – just one of the family history-focused UK events to step into the void left by Who Do You Think You Are? Live as it closed its doors in 2017.
The lush green carpet welcomes you into the venue, a refreshing positive colour and one that befits those lofty boughs that form our tree obsession. Straight away you’re met by the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine team and the team at LivingDNA on their stands. A quick glance beyond their welcoming faces shows you that the “big two” aren’t present here – with no dominating giant Ancestry stand, or elaborately themed FindMyPast stand. That’s fine… we know who those two companies are, and where to find them (maybe RootsTech?). I’m wondering how many people are drawn to these events because they want to see them specifically.
Beyond these first two welcoming stands is a spacious hall – not quite the size of WDYTYA Live was – probably about 2/3rds the size. However, the space is welcome, and it’s comfortably filled with our friendly local history societies, and smaller family history related company stands.
Some familiar friends are here – MyHeritage, the Railway Museum, FIBIS, the National Library Of Wales, and the GOONS. Pen & Sword, and stands with genealogy supplies are missing, which is a shame as they usually run some great deals (particularly on the final days of these kind of events).
Theres a lot of chairs, perfect for resting those feet (put your pedometers on, you’ll be surprised), or for those wanting to rummage through notebooks, or digest the arrival of a new piece of information or research strategy.
An Experts section is on the left as you come in, perhaps a little enclosed and therefore a bit hidden (half-height screens would have been better) but the free programme (yay!) has a handy floorplan to help you find it, and the lecture arenas, which are also enclosed – so no sneaky listening in!
If you’re here for a wander round, hoping for inspiration you might not find enough for a whole day, but if you’re here to see a lecture (you can still buy tickets on the door), or to get help from the society stands or experts, then I think you’re going to have a great time.
Behind the scenes of a genealogy sleuth
I pre-booked two lectures for Friday – the first being author Nathan Dylan Goodwin talking on ‘Novelising Intrigues In Genealogy’, and this was a fascinating behind the scenes insight into how Nathan got hooked on genealogy.
Like me and many, he got hooked on it as a young teen, and he explained how that inspired him to begin writing, eventually leading to what is now a highly successful genealogy crime series starring character sleuth Morton Farrier including books Hiding The Past, and The America Ground. His son now has a double-glazed tree-house, so things must be doing alright!
I’ve been long overdue to see Gill talk, as I have 2-3 of her books, as she’s written on Cambridgeshire and Norfolk researching, house history, and crucially, writing your family history. I found this fascinating, with tons of practical advice on how to avoid issues and how to prepare, and there was a contrast in writing approach to Nathan – with Gill writing in pieces, Nathan writing in order. I suspect I’ll be like Gill… but with about a billion post-it’s and word files.
Day Two will see me attending the lecture from Michelle Leonard on ‘How To Make The Most Of Your Autosomal DNA Test’
In my experience, family history is one of the most friendliest hobbies I’ve ever experienced, and it’s a pleasure to see old friends and make new ones at these events.
It was great to see lots of family history societies attending the show, which for many was the second large event in just a few weeks. As ever, they were helpful and friendly, and it was nice to hear how they were finding the show. I even caved and bought another data CD from my ‘home team’ the Cambridgeshire Family History Society, with a nice show discount too!
While I don’t know if there’s enough space for Family Tree Live AND The Genealogy Show to both survive the long term, I’m simply pleased that they’re having a good damn go at it in these post-WDYTYA? Live years.
So far, I think I’m enjoying the show a little more than I did Family Tree Live, but we’ll see how day 2 goes. So, I’ll be back for Saturday, and hope to see lots of you there.
AncestryDNA have updated their data sets, resulting in changes to many DNA test ethnicity results. I tentatively log in to find out just how much duller i’ve become…
I remember unceremoniously dribbling into my little tube thing back in 2015, and encouraging my mother to do the same. We were both amused by the idea of being DNA tested, and finding out whether we might be Scandinavian.
When the results came back about 6 weeks later, we were pleased, and I took great delight in mocking my mother – a Daily Mail reader – that she was part Eastern European, and therefore every time she bought a copy of that rag, she was in fact hurting herself!
Over the next year, I also coaxed my father in 2016, my mother’s sister, my father’s sister in 2017 whilst she was visiting from the USA, and eventually cornered my sister and via team pressure from my parents, she did the dribble for our sakes in May 2018.
This gave me 6 sets of DNA results, but between the 5th and the 6th set, Ancestry updated it’s result data. This meant that for 5 of us, the DNA ‘Ethnicity’ of us all was about to get far “less interesting”.
Obviously, refining techniques in the galloping field of science is ultimately a wonderful thing. It’s the right thing to review how the tests are carried out and seek improvements to scientific accuracy.
It’s also ethical to update the test results when the accuracy is improved, but in doing so, for my family, it’s made us far less geo-genetically diverse.
Now, as I type, AncestryDNA have updated their data again. In doing so, it squeezes further on the final percentages of interesting little origins hiding in the DNA of my father and my paternal aunt, and removes some of the impossible results that my sister had been assigned – Caucasus and Native American – that none of us (who are definitely all related to her) showed!
I’ve gone from being 61% “Great Britain” in 2015, to being 100% “England, Wales & Northern Europe” in 2018. I’ve very sadly lost my Scandinavian and Irish genes, although my father and his sister have kept theirs respectively.
In what AncestryDNA give as ‘Migrations’, most of my family are listed as ‘East Anglia & Essex’. My mother and sister include ‘East Midlands’. Aside from Essex (tsk!), the rest fits perfectly with the paper trail.
Meanwhile, my results over at LivingDNA, where I uploaded my AncestryDNA test data to back in January 2017, give me a repeat of some of the regions. Their estimate is that I am 95.7% Great Britain and Ireland, and 4.3% showing up as Scandinavia on a map. This GB part sees East Anglia (where about 90% of my paper-trailed entire family history is from) leading the origins way at 53.9%, and South Central England (which covers Somerset and Devon) showing up as 15.4%.
Interestingly, the Somerset and Devon area, is where my Burnell, Babbage, and Evans families are based, and the Burnell and Babbage families repeatedly provide me with AncestryDNA matches. Interestingly, LivingDNA show me Ireland and in the wider view, Norway are covered – matching what I used to see from AncestryDNA, but what I still see in my father and his sister’s results today.
Dr Karl Kennedy and DNA Tests
The genetic data pool is getting bigger as AncestryDNA and LivingDNA break into new audiences.
AncestryDNA have regularly boasted about the X millionth ancestry tester, and in the last fortnight, they’ve had heavy product placement in the Australian soap Neighbours, and are currently running a long-lost half-sister plot line between veteran character Dr Karl Kennedy, and Magda Szubanski’s guest character Jemima. Magda of course, was subject to a brilliant episode of the Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? (recommend you watch it!).
The different companies are still battling out the price war – with kits appearing in more UK High Street shops, and of course now Amazon.
Data scientists, like the scientists back in the DNA testing lab, are constantly evolving their methods, ethics, and techniques, to bring a clearer and truer picture to what we are.
I have one kit left, and I have some ideas who I could ask, but top of the list is my grandfather’s cousin, who is genetically closer to my Giddings and Tingey families than any of those tested so far. She’d also be the first person I’ve tested to have a different parent line, so I’d need to watch out for false leads.
Whilst I’m sad to have lost my fantasy ancestral tour list, and my parents have lost their over-dinner conversation opportunities, we should celebrate the science that strives to bring us truth.
I think I’ll cope with being less Scandinavian, and less Irish.
After all, I’m still exactly who I was before I dribbled in 2015.
Building your tree online is easy with just a few clicks… and therein lies the problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Ancestry, and have been a happy member for many years now, but as a seasoned user, I do know that there’s danger at every turn.
A good family historian will consider every scrap of evidence, not just in its own right, or its contributing source, but also in the wider context of the family.
I’m very lucky that I have paternal and maternal families where 90% have lived within the county of Cambridgeshire, England for almost 430 years. The luckiness comes in the ease at which I can research these two (and occasionally intertwined) trees simultaneously, often with both sides appearing alongside each other in census returns and parish register entries.
This means I understand probability, the likeliness of the location of a marriage, baptism or burial for example. I have of course made mistakes, but those have made my detective skills better.
For those few branches that have crossed the border into foreign lands (ie: Suffolk and whatever lies beyond), I join the ranks of millions of other family historians – using online tools because it’s more convenient than chasing archives, and having to be a little more open to extra checking of records and taking unexpected turns.
However, I’ve spotted a few things that confuse, and that might be a ‘risk’ to your family tree if you don’t just stop for a second and consider what you’re seeing.
Those Member Family Trees
Okay, no-one knows your 4th Cousin 2x Removed like your 4th Cousin 3x Removed does, but if you’ve ever clicked on that ‘Member’s Tree’ hint you’ll know what I mean – instant ‘tree’.
Let’s take a look at my 6x Great Grandmother, Mary Cropley in Ancestry.co.uk:
Wow! 10 Member Trees – this sounds great!
As the hint suggests, “This hint compiles information from 10 other Public Ancestry Trees”. Great – look at that, all of those details in the summary match mine, this must be right! Building this tree is going to be nice and easy…
Now, it’s dead easy to just click a few times on those tick boxes and magic happens, and you’ve got your tree updated nicely.
But…Err… where did those matches go? Suddenly, Mary Cropley is Mary Collis, and she’s married someone else, had different children, and has moved to the wilds of Oxfordshire.
Am i wrong?
No, because I’ve seen the Ely Parish Registers, and know that the details I have are correct. From that “hint [that] compiles information from 10 other Public Ancestry Trees”, not one of them was correct.
The information you see in the summary is actually the information that you have entered/added, not a summary of the matches from the members trees that you’re about to see – so it’s kind of leading you towards a false hope of success.
Of course you want to find matches, but what I’m actually finding is none when I read through the summary. This is kind of a poor user experience.
The other record that really frustrates me is the Select and Christening indexes. It takes too many clicks to actually discover that you’ve almost added a load of incorrect data to your tree.
Here’s my 6x Great Grandfather (and Mary’s husband) William Beasley…
In his hints are these two matches, and it’s exciting to see William Beasley named here…
..hmm, this seems okay, but now there’s some more info, which actually seems to match anyway, so let’s click ‘Yes’ to the ‘Does the William Beasley in this record match the person in your tree?’ question….
Except that as the eye glances down, it starts to go wrong…
This is a Mary Ann Beasley match, not William (he’s the father), so the date is wrong, and in fact, the person, place, and county is wrong too.
I could easily have tapped on the Save button, and added this wrong information to my tree, rather than scrolling down to the bottom to find the wrong information.
What Ancestry need to do here, is give some more information in that summary box – state that the match is because William is noted as a ‘Father’, and perhaps give the child name and date, or at least the location name, therefore saving me 2 more clicks before I find the mismatch information.
The correct information for Mary Beasley, is that she remained in Ely, Cambridgeshire, for her entire life – baptism, marriage, and burial.
I’m wondering how many other users bother to check this over before just accepting it?
Where the Hell is that?
Whilst I don’t have an example to illustrate it here, if you’re an Ancestry user, i’m sure that you’ll be familiar with numerical place names (e.g. “110910345, East Sussex, England” or completely nonsensical place names that Ancestry appears to have merrily absorbed (like “Haddenham, Cambridgeshire, Utah, Russian Federation, USA”).
After about half an hour of posting this particular blog post, I found another glowing example: those pesky time-traveller ancestors.
In this example, my 5x Great Aunt Ann Pavett (née Yarrow) appears to have some extraordinary genes that I’m not sure I’ve been handed.
She travels through time.
Here’s some more delightful Member’s Trees matches, and this time, the fault has spread (I’ve obfuscated the tree owners simply to stop Matthew Hopkins II from being unleashed).
But what’s this… I’ve discovered a child I didn’t know that she and her husband had…. 60 years before she was born.
And so the rot spreads. I look forward to meeting Ursula Pavett’s mother to check my family tree notes against.
Some simple date checking here would help to stop nonsense like this from appearing, and more importantly from spreading.
Keep Ancestry Tidy
User added and imported data is going to be hard to clean, fix, or even verify as it goes in – because yes, that 4th Cousin 2x Removed’s child, will know more about them than me.
You’ve got so many files, softwares, record sources with varying levels of granularity and data fields, and users with independent approaches, that the whole thing must be an ugly tangled bowl of spaghetti behind the scenes at Ancestry.
I’m sure their UX team and data teams are peddling as fast as they can , but as fiction easily slides seamlessly in to eat up the facts without remorse, I’d love to see some kind of partnership to do data verification for places, or even just a few more interface improvements.
Outside of family history (yes, there is such a place!), in the land called ‘work’, I spend a bit of my time tidying up Google Maps – demolishing spammy and incorrect locations, and getting fake and paid reviews removed. It’s slow, but it’s damn cathartic. An affectionate term of ‘Stop Crap On The Map’ has emerged for this, so I feel we need one for Ancestry’s rubbish info.
How about ‘Stop Debris On The Tree’?
I’d love to hear your stories of crappy data, accidental boughs, and alternative slogans in the comments!
As ever, thanks for reading, and happy tree surgery,
What have the first 2/3rds of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 been like? Here’s my findings..
This year I decided that I would visit the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live show for just two days, rather than three. For the last few years I’ve done the full show, but with lots of other things competing for my time at the moment – packing up my house, and moving in 2 weeks time, and a load of pots and trays of seedlings in need of my attention (see my gardening blog), I’m pre-occupied.
It was great to get to meet up with some familiar faces – friends who i’ve made from my previous visits, or who I’ve got to know via Twitter conversations and the likes of #AncestryHour. It’s also great to meet with some new faces too, and that includes companies.
As soon as you step into WDYTYA? Live, you can see exactly who the big sponsor is – Ancestry. Their stand seems to get larger each year, in floorspace and height. Still, it’s packed with information-hungry researchers all looking to smash through a brick wall with the help of their research team.
Ancestry’s big sell here is obviously their AncestryDNA kit, and even if you somehow missed this whopping great big stand, you’d soon be looking for them as their tests are a hot topic of the many talks in the orbiting theatres.
Once again they had their own mini theatre to help curious family historians to learn more about autowotzits and mitre comicals or something like that. If only more test-takers would add family trees to Ancestry!!
I swung by the FamilySearch stand, which like previous years seemed very busy, and also like last year, was running series of small demos and tutorials. I managed to join the back of a group of people watching a demo of researching my beloved 1851 census.
My favourite talk by far on the 2 days was Debbie Kennett‘s talk ‘Autosomal DNA demystified‘. I’ve keenly followed Debbie’s articles and advice on DNA over the year, and so I knew that I’d be a fool to miss this. Her talk clearly lead us into the topic of DNA, the types of tests that are out there – including their benefits and shortfalls – and then led us through how to analyse the data.
She also reminded us that whilst DNA is the ‘in’ thing right now (and her stage was surrounded by DNA testing companies), that you should go into it and prepare for the unexpected.
I always find Debbie’s advice to be very clear, even when it’s technical, and her approach to advice always feels impartial. There’s so many companies out there vying for your DNA test money, but it’s hard to pick out what each one can give and how they compare. Debbie seems to be the voice who talks about this.
DNA test price war?
Stand of the show clearly goes to LivingDNA – which really stood out with a big screen and swish stand.
Living DNA are currently running a test for me, so I hope to report back on this in the near future.
There was definitely what seemed like a price war on this year, with AncestryDNA having slashed their usual price of £79 (excluding that annoying £20 P&P) to £49 (i bought 3 more), and with FamilyTreeDNA pitching at £40, and with newbies LivingDNA pitching at £99. Other tests were also available, but I didn’t spot the prices.
I wondered whether the DNA Test ‘price war’ simply indicates that the main players have finally recouped their product development and marketing budgets, meaning they can now discount their tests, mixed with the surge of competitors making the price more volatile. It feels a bit like it’s a race to the bottom (so to speak), but I think there’s also a need to be clearer about the differences between the tests.
I was really pleased to see that Dr Turi King was back at the show, talking about the Richard III case. I first saw her (as a VIP!!) back in 2013 when it had only recently been revealed who the mystery skeleton was. It was great to hear some of that story again, and also pick up the factoid that poor Richard is missing his feet still. Maybe he had good boots on that day, and someone took an easy way of getting them!
I mentioned this revelation on Twitter, which annoyed Richard III, who despite being somewhat lifeless of late, seemed to get a bit annoyed at Dr King for revealing it. I guess we should all tread caref…. Oh.
I was really pleased to bump into Paul Carter and Pam Smith – two more of my regular show chums – and I was really interested to hear about their new Name&Place project which I’m really looking forward to seeing at next year’s show (no pressure!!).
Speaking of ‘where’, I think that this year was the first year ever that Genes Reunited’s stand has been absent. Obviously, as a company, they have been passed from pillar to post, but seeing as they’re now part of the same product family as FindMyPast, then I guess they’re slowly being absorbed out of existence.
It was great to see Twile on the FindMyPast stand, and their infographic idea really strikes a chord. I think infographics are great at giving bitesized pieces of information in a memorable and eye-catching way. Family history needs this, because I’m all to familiar with just how exciting it can be… but not to the person I’m telling it to. Their eyes glaze over as they get confused by the distant cousins and multiple greats.
Once again, I caved in at the Pen & Sword stand following what is probably now my annual papping of it. I love books, and I’ve got loads of them. I tried to resist, remembering that I’ve got to pack all of mine up into boxes and move them in a couple of weeks… but I was finally lured back to the stand and bought just one more – the final copy of Stuart A Raymond’s ‘Tracing Your Nonconformist Ancestors‘.
I also popped along to see the team from MacFamilyTree, not because I’m really thinking about replacing my Reunion software, but I wanted to see what theirs was like, and whether I could finally hunt down a family history software that doesn’t have printable charts that look like they were last designed in 1997. I find that a lot of these modern on-device software releases (as opposed to online subscription websites) are great, but the printable chart options really let them down. I’m not 100% sure I’ve found what I’m looking for still. Maybe I just need to begin a start-up company.
Anyway, that’s it for my two days at the 2017 WDYTYALive show. What did you make of it?
I think this year I went with little expectation or preparation, aiming only to get 2 more DNA kits, to sit in on some more DNA talks, and to catch up with those familiar faces. I did all that, and enjoyed the show.
As I look at my show purchases, I’m trying not to think about how much money I spent – more of how much money I saved on waiting for the show to get the show discounts, and how many more relatives this will enable me to connect with.
I don’t think my feet or my bank could handle a third day, so I’m glad to be at home with my feet up and a cuppa in my hand.
Enjoy Day 3 of the show, and as ever, happy history hunting!
The aim of these are to encourage me to complete a particular genealogy puzzle that has maybe been baffling me for a while, or to achieve something new. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn (!) that sometimes I get side-tracked by other branches of the family and end up researching those instead. This post acts as a reminder, as well as a way for me to set myself some challenges, so here goes:
1. Kill Mary Clarke
In the last few weeks I spent my 37th £1 on another certificate in a bid to kill off my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary Clarke, later Mary Bailey, but it was another miss. She’s out there still and I need to find her, in order to bring her life story – which includes prison and hard-labour for neglecting and abusing step-children, and numerous stints in workhouses, to a close. Last known address: Hartismere Workhouse, Suffolk in April 1881.
At the moment these are all carefully filed in date order in plastic sleeves in a lever-arch folder. There’s a lot. To better preserve these, and to make it easier for me to access them when I want to (if only to stop me accidentally buying the same ones twice), I want to scan them. As there’s a lot, I’m aiming to scan 50%.
3. Finish reading published family histories
For ages now, I’ve had Richard Benson‘s ‘The Valley‘ and Deborah Cohen‘s ‘Family Secrets‘ books on my to-read pile. The events of 2016 consumed me, and caused me not to really have time or the inclination to sit down and read much.
I did manage to read some of Deborah’s book, and I also read ‘The America Ground‘ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, but I want to read more, so that I can get a good feeling about how to approach writing my own family history book.
4. Find my uncle’s grave
In October 2016, as I walked from away from the huddle of mourners at my uncle’s open grave, my mother tells me that he was not the first uncle to be buried there. This confused me, as I’ve always known all of my aunts and uncles. They watched me grow up, and I’ve watched them grow older. But no.
There was another, which my aunt remembers (because she was a young teenager) but my father doesn’t (because he was only very little). Certificates swiftly revealed Malcolm’s short life of 6 weeks. His cleft lip and pneumonia made it impossible for him to thrive, and he died in hospital in 1958. With my aunt visiting the UK in June, we’ll be back to visit my uncle’s grave, and I want to be able to take them all to the spot where their little baby brother was buried.
5. Run a 4th AncestryDNA test
In my first conflict of conferences, in which I was going to feast on my twice yearly nerdfest in Brighton, i switched my mind and decided to return for just 2 days of WDYTYA? Live in 2017 (the Thursday and Friday). I even managed to bag a complete bargain on my usual hotel (£25 a night!). In recent years I’ve stuck around for 3 days, but in 2016, I found this stretched my enthusiasm a bit, and as someone who is a family historian and therefore doesn’t have a stand, have books to sign, nor do I run a series of talks/record videos or podcasts (hmm… maybe that’s 2018’s resolution list right there!), then 2 was best.
During this time I aim to acquire a 4th AncestryDNA kit – avoiding the stupid P&P fees again (honestly, Ancestry, also let these be sold through someone like Amazon – expanding your audience and getting them delivered for free!!), and hopefully at another show discount rate.
This 4th kit may go to my visiting Aunt in June (if she’s interested), or to my mother’s sister (my maternal aunt), my own sister, or if I’ve hit a dead end, then I may try to locate a descendant from one of my 2x Great Grandmother’s first husband’s siblings. My Great Grandfather was illegitimate, but my grandmother tells me that he WAS the first child. DNA is going to be the only way to check, so I need to find a match with someone who contains only his family’s DNA, and not my 2x Great Grandmother’s DNA, in a bid to prove or disprove once and for all.
So, there we go. I can think of a load more things I already want to do in 2017, but I like to stick to 5.
Do you ever set yourself Genealogy Resolutions? How have you got on with those? Or what might you set yourself a challenge for in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.
Happy New Year to you all – may your 2017 be happy and healthy throughout. Thanks once again for reading my blog.
We both took the test and after about 6 weeks received our results.
At the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 show, I picked up a third test – again avoiding the expensive P&P cost, and this time for my father. He’d been interested when my mother and I received our results, and had enjoyed reading the historical analysis of how our DNA had gotten into such a mixture through invasion, war, and trade routes.
After dribbling into the AncestryDNA tube just before lunch (in a bid to avoid me seem to descend from a ham and mustard sandwich!), I posted it off.
My parents are Daily Mail newspaper readers. This irritates me a lot, as it is somewhat of a toxic, bigoted, racist, baby-boomer brain-washer (and i’m being polite here), so their news always comes with poorly written and sensational stories that show people of other countries, but mostly Eastern Europe, in a truly horrific way. The only justice in their newspaper habit is that the paper either gets used to light fires, or to line their cat litter tray.
My mother’s DNA result gave her a 1% Eastern European, and 2% Finn and Russian DNA ethnicity, which amused me endlessly, given her newspaper reading habits.
I didn’t inherit the Eastern European DNA, but I did benefit from the Finn and Russian.
But what might my father have?
I received the results.
My father’s AncestryDNA result
I picked up the phone, taught my mother how to go hands-free, and then said (in Daily Mail language) ‘Mother, you’ve only gone and married a bloody foreigner’ – we all laughed.
My father, who has an affinity with Scotland (but no known ancestral connection), actually turned out to be just 46% Great Briton, and yet 24% Irish. Compared to my 61% GB and my mother’s 68% GB, that’s quite a difference.
My father was somewhat pleased to see that Ireland (24%) and Scandinavia (19%) made up for where his GB DNA had decreased. He feels even more Celt/Viking than ever, even if I’ve yet to find any ancestor with a hint of Irish ancestry in them. My only suspicions might be our Newman (which seems more German to me), Tingey (which seems more French to me), or Clarke ancestors.
My Mother’s DNA remains the most varied, with 7 ethnicities estimated (and they are estimates, remember).
What you can see above, courtesy of my Lego depictions of the three of us, is that I dodged Iberian Peninsula DNA despite it being present in my mother (5%) and my father (3%).
My sister – who has not been tested – has a darker complexion to me, so maybe Iberia plays more of a role in her DNA, or maybe the Italian/Greek? Obviously, she could easily have none of those ethnicities at all – as it’s completely a 50/50 gamble as to what DNA you inherit, and which ones fall by the way-side.
My (decreasing) blond hair, and my gingery beard suggests that I’m a carrier of the red hair gene, and science has found that it has a high frequency in Ireland and Scotland. Maybe this suggests that I have inherited that from my father’s DNA. It’s also clear that I inherited my 4% Italian/Greek ethnicity from my father (his was 3%).
My mother’s high Western European DNA ethnicity (13%), and my father’s lower 5%, played little role in my DNA, which came as a surprise to me, as I’d have guessed that I had some Germanic DNA via my Moden or Gothard ancestors.
I could try to test some other relatives – they’re certainly curious, but the more distant I get in a bid to see results, the more ‘other’ DNA is being introduced via non-biological Uncles and Aunts.
I was pleased to see Ancestry match me up with a paternal second cousin, once removed, who I already knew their position of in my tree, but had never had contact with before. There’s also a few more distant cousins emerging, which is allowing me to fill in some contemporary generations from distant relatives.
The whole DNA testing exercise has been interesting for us as a family, and it’s a great conversation piece. I’m guessing my parents are having a great time telling their friends about what they’ve discovered. It’s certainly nice to find people who have a link to you, although there’s so many test results that match, and yet the users don’t have trees, or they never reply.
I guess to some degree, it’s a bit of a genetic tourism. Pay > Wait > Oh wow, i’m XYZ > Done.
I think I’ll keep my mind open, and see who else I can cajole into being tested (hopefully either my maternal aunt, or my sister).
An old Rowe family bible sits lost and forgotten in an antiques store… will it find it’s rightful home once more?
I always find wandering around antiques stores and ‘antiques’ stores fascinating. Maybe whether it’s because I like to see whether things from my own childhood are classed as ‘antique’ yet, or whether I quite enjoy seeing the kinds of things that I remember my Great Grandparents having in their homes.
One thing I’ve never seen in my family is one of those big hefty family bibles. The kind that’s leatherbound, complete with gold gilt edges and a lock, and big enough to be classed as an intimidating weapon against intruders…
So, whenever I see one in an antiques/’antiques’ store, I always just have a peep at it, because these books can be of interest to the genealogist.
Many people would write in their family events – births, deaths, marriages, into the front section, and so stumbling across this information can be wonderful.
So, whilst aimlessly browsing Risby Barn antiques, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk over the Easter weekend, I stumbled across another big bible filled with family history data.
I didn’t buy it (it’s not my family), so if you’re looking for this, it would be worthwhile giving them a call. I didn’t check the price-tag, but it’s a heavy but delicate book, that needs some love once more.
It seems that this family bible was once owned by the Rowe family:
The bible seems to have been given to Dennis Rowe (b.1872) and his wife Florence Ada (b.1877), who were married on 1st November 1899. There’s no locations mentioned here, but a quick check on FreeBMD puts this as Dennis Walter D Rowe and Flora Ada Waldon of the Downham district of Cambridgeshire/Norfolk. Surprisingly, this book hasn’t strayed too far from home, and puts the couple living in amongst my own ancestors (no connection – I checked).
Moving on a few more pages, there’s more information…
Only one child made it to the births page. Maybe there were more, but weren’t added in for some reason…
And then on the the deaths page:
Sadly, it seems that their son, poor little Cyril Robert Rowe, died after only a few weeks of life.
Florence’s own death in 1938 is noted here, but no sign of Dennis.
On the pages that followed, there were a number of photograph sections, but there were no photos added. It seems that the manufacturer of this bible had realised that families would want to write their family events inside the bible, and decided to make some quite impressively ornate sections for them to do it – how innovative. Sadly, this family’s false start perhaps led to it’s eventual existence languishing in antiques store.
Maybe, as I’d like to think happened with the Nokes family bible, this old family bible will eventually be reunited with its family once more.
The Littleport Society Open Day takes place at The Barn, Littleport, Cambridgeshire, on Saturday 19th September 2015, 10am – 4pm, with FREE ENTRY.
The Littleport Society are opening their doors on Saturday 19th September 2015 – with free entry to a range of specially built displays.
I’ve known the Society for many years, having helped them with their first web presence back in 1998.
Earlier this year I was co-opted onto their Committee, and this is allowing me to help them with digitally cataloguing their huge archive of items which ranges from dinosaur fossils, right through to Manorial Records, wartime documents, and the latest community leaflets and photos from 2015!
The Open Day will give you the chance to learn more about your Littleport ancestors, find out what your ancestors may have done, and how The Great War affected the lives of those in Littleport.
Entry and parking is FREE, and the doors open at The Barn(off Main Street) from 10am until 4pm.
When their youngest child was no more than 2 years old, my Gtx4 Grandmother Avis Martin (née Tall) lost her husband Robert Martin at the age of 41 in the March of 1826. With his death prior to certification, any efforts to find the cause would likely be zero. The burial register of the fenland village of Little Downham, Cambridgeshire, England, gives no clue.
The couple had become parents six times since their marriage in 1812, but life had dealt them a cruel hand in these bleak fens – their first (William), fourth (Elizabeth) and fifth child (Robert), all failing to thrive. Elizabeth made it to 2, Robert less, and William died just 4 months after their father in July 1826. He was 13.
Avis was now a widow at 38 years in a remote fenland village with three remaining children (James, Sarah, and a second Robert). By August 1827, she re-married, this time to James Wisbey, and by 1830 the couple had their first son. For once, life was a bit ‘on the up’.
By 1834, her daughter Sarah Martin had married James Johnson at Little Downham, and their daughter Matilda Johnson entered the church for her baptism on 3rd January 1836.
Matilda and Avis
In my beloved 1851 census, I found Avis Wisbey as an ‘out door labourer‘ in what was to be her final census. I’d already killed her off in August 1858, but I noticed that she wasn’t alone. I didn’t know Matilda at this point, so was curious as to who this 17 year old Matilda Johnson was. My only clue was that she was noted as ‘granddaughter’.
I back tracked to the less reliable 1841 census – and there she was again – this time aged ‘5’ years, and again living with her grandmother.
Heading backwards through the records, I found her baptism in January 1836, and then found the Johnson/Martin marriage that belonged to her parents in 1834 – and proving her connection to Sarah Martin and Avis.
But where had her parents gone?
It didn’t take me long to find a burial register entry that hinted at a bigger story. On 5th February 1837, James (23yrs) and Sarah (20yrs) Johnson are buried with the register giving a clue of ‘husband and wife by suffocation‘.
Matilda in the headlines
That’s the first time that I’ve seen ‘suffocation’ given as a cause of death, and with both husband and wife dying together by the same cause, I sensed that there must be more information. Was it foul play? Or was there some terrible accident?
A search of newspapers provided me with the answer, and they made several different ones:
The Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette of the 18th February states:
“DEATH FROM SUFFOCATION – Inquests were held on Friday se’nnight in the parish of Downham, on the bodies of James Johnson and Sarah, his wife, who died from the effects of charcoal burning in the bed-room. Verdict accordingly”
The story unfolds a little further courtesy of a number of newspapers that including The Cambridge Chronicle, and The Morning Post, and this cutting from Jackson’s Oxford Journal also of 18th February 1837, which carries a long and detailed report on the whole incident.
Here it states that due to a pan of ashes being in the bedroom, the wife suffocated. The husband died of apoplexy having seemingly woken but dying shortly afterwards, and that the daughter (Matilda) survived only because she was tucked further down in the the bed and saved by the sheets. It notes that Matilda entered the care of her grandmother.
It seems that an innocent accident brought tragedy for the family. And that only by luck, through the action of neighbours, and the positioning of some bed sheets, that Matilda survived in bed – not even 2yrs old, laying amongst the bodies of her dead parents.
What became of Matilda?
In Avis’ care, orphaned Matilda Johnson grew up. Eight months after the 1851 UK census, Matilda married John Artingstall of Lancashire, in the Little Downham church where her parents had just 17 years earlier.
After a sad start to their own parenthood (their first child, Elizabeth Artingstall died as an infant), they went on to become parents a further nine times in Gorton, Lancashire. The family appear at Far Lane (briefly at No. 10) and 56 Far Lane, Gorton.
John died in 1897 aged 69, and Matilda reached the ripe old age of 81, dying in 1917.
She survived tragedy by a stroke of luck, and lived a full life, becoming a grandmother herself, via her own daughter, who took here late mother’s name – Sarah.