My 2017 Genealogy Resolutions

Happy New Year! What better time to set yourself a new challenge than the start of a new year. Here’s my 5 Genealogy Resolutions for 2017…

Having gone back and checked on the progress of my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions, it’s now time to set myself a new set for 2017.

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.

I’ve attempted to kill her off in previous genealogy resolution lists, but her invincibility irritates me.

2. Scan my BMD certificates

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.

Andrew

 

Those 2016 New Year Genealogy Resolutions

How did I do at keeping my 2016 New Year Genealogy Resolutions?

It’s time to take a look back at my 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions, and to see how I fared at keeping/completing them.

1. Kill Simpson Bishop

If anything, 2016 has a reputation as being a year full of death – the news is rarely empty of celebrity deaths, terror deaths, and as some readers may know, the last year has been one which has seen me attend 4 family funerals, out of 6 family deaths.

Despite this, Simpson Bishop has continued ‘to live’ on. The challenge for me is to identify where he may have gone to in order to find the death. Having established that he left the area after his oldest children (including my 3x Great Grandfather) had grown up and married, he heads north to Lancashire and re-marries in 1868. He’s alive at least until the early part of 1873, as his last known child John James Bishop is born in the December quarter of 1873. Simpson gets mentions in later records, but he doesn’t get hinted as being dead until his final wife says she’s a widow in 1901, although he’s not been living with her since at least 1881. His name also has numerous variations, including being preceded by the name James (mirroring his son, my ancestor, James Simpson Bishop).

There’s a Bishop emigration after the 1871 census to New York, with a feasible estimated birth date, although he’s noted as a Clergyman on the ship.. which I find a little unlikely, despite some of his children also heading overseas too.

Sadly, I failed this resolution in 2016. Nil points!

2. Read other written family histories

I’m a fair-weather reader – in that I can go the best part of a year without picking up a book, and sometimes I just can’t put one down.

'The Valley' by Richard Benson, and 'Family Secrets' by Deborah Cohen.
‘The Valley’ by Richard Benson, and ‘Family Secrets’ by Deborah Cohen.

I began reading Deborah Cohen’s Family Secrets (2013) book, but ended up being side-tracked by research, work, and other family issues. I hope to return to it soon, having realised it was one of my resolutions (oops).

I waded in to this resolution, and although life swept me away from these books, I think I can take a half point for this resolution.

3. Finish the website site-relaunch

I greatly underestimated the size of my familytreeuk.co.uk website when I wrote my resolution – estimating that there were about 130 hand-crafted profiles to reconfigure to a new design that was mobile-friendly (and therefore more favourable to users and search engines).

In reality, there are actually 82 surname ‘hubs’ and 378 individual profile pages to re-engineer.

I’ve plodded my way through these steadily, and have been able to re-launch 214 (57%) profiles, with only 168 to go. Whilst re-writing these profiles, I’ve often been re-scanning images, adding in extra information and references to other records that help to add flesh to the lives of these people. Obviously, that has flung me down research ‘rabbit holes’, and seen me add a few more profiles or go off on tangents.

I’m happy with this progress, so i’d like to think that I’ve half completed this resolution – so another half point.

4. Run another AncestryDNA test

I’m pleased to say that it took little effort to persuade my father to take an autosomal test, so I picked up a third test at 2016’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, and we ran the test in the May.

By July, we’d got the results – revealing that he isn’t very Great Briton after all and that he’s almost a quarter Irish, and a lot of Scandinavian. This amused and pleased him a lot – as he really is fascinated with the Vikings and their impact on the UK and Europe.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

Resolution completed, so there’s a full-earned point!

5. Meet more relatives

Events as described in Resolution 1, meant that this turned out to be somewhat easy, despite the sad occasions that led to it happening.

I was so pleased to see some relatives again – like my father’s cousins, and also to meet (and in part, reunite) some of them too. I’m now in regular contact with some of them, which is a great feeling, and a nice ending to a sad year.

I was also really pleased to get to properly talk to my 1st Cousin, Twice Removed – the daughter of my Great Grandfather’s youngest sister. Despite this making her my Grandfather’s cousin, due to the large family above, she’s actually a year younger than my now-late uncle.

She was fascinated in family history, and talked to some length about a branch of our family tree. I know that her mother was a great source of photographs in the early years of my research (via my uncle), so I hope that I can talk to her more, and share the stories about our Martin and Giddings families in the new year.

I can safely say I completed this resolution, and earn another point.

The over-all score

So, all in all, I managed to score 3/5 for my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions.

To be honest, I forgot what some of these resolutions were, because I got carried away with research or website re-launching, or just life events that needed my attention. I like having these resolutions though, as it reminds me of challenges to do, and also gives me something to look back on – helping me to notice my own achievements.

Other things I managed to achieve in 2016 include:

  1. Re-joining The Newman Name Society
  2. Helping The Littleport Society by digitally cataloging hundreds of items in their archive…and digitise their audio interview archive that was stored on deteriorating cassette tape.
  3. Helping them to run two 200th Anniversary Riots events
  4. Rescued hundreds and scanned many family photographs – I now have 341 different relatives in my photo archive, across 565 photos, with a few hundred photos boxed up yet to scan, and many yet to identify people in.
  5. Used the General Register Office new searchable indexes to discover a terrible family tragedy that saw the infant deaths of 11 of the 12 children, and the first wife, of my 3x Great Grandfather, James Martin.

Did you have any genealogy resolutions for 2016? If so, how did you do? Let me know in the comments below.

Once again, thank you for reading,

Andrew

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Three)

About 18 months ago, I undertook the Ancestry autosomal DNA test. I’d been completely sceptical of what use it would give me, but after seeing lots of talks from Ancestry, other DNA test providers, and genealogists at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in 2015, I decided to pick up a test for me and for my mother.

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.

Mother's AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result in Lego
My Mother’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result.

I didn’t inherit the Eastern European DNA, but I did benefit from the Finn and Russian.

My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate in Lego
My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate

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's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

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.

What next?

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).

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

Day One: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

Day One of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 is over…. So what is this year’s show like?

The first of the three days of the 2016 Who Do You Think You Are? Live (or WDYTYALive to cut it short) show in Birmingham has passed, and day 2 is galloping towards us…

Ask the Experts - kind of like speed dating for genealogy answers.
Ask the Experts – kind of like speed dating for genealogy answers.

Now into its second year at the NEC, the show has certainly made its home here, and the days of the two floor Olympia are now heading further into my foggy reminiscence.

This is also the 10th Anniversary show, not that you can tell yet, but whilst it took me a few years to start attending, the years have seemingly flown by.

As I wandered around today, I got the feeling that maybe the stands were a little more spread out, or maybe simply less imposing. It felt like there was plenty of space to move around, and it was pretty easy to get up close to talk to people or browse products.

MyHeritage stand at WDYTYALive 2016
MyHeritage stand at WDYTYALive 2016

Gone is the exciting 1939 themed café that marked Find My Past’s launch of the 1939 Register, and the number of WWI themed stands seemed to have reduced a little. However, the formation of the Education Zone (including a lecture theatre, and close-up WWI artefacts) feels like a great addition to the show.

WW1 in the education zone
WW1 in the education zone

Ancestry, the show’s sponsor, dominates the entrance again with what feels like a stand that’s twice the size of last year. This year they are still showcasing their DNA autosomal test (yeah, I bought another one), and this time they’re offering it at £59 – that’s abt 40% off and cheaper than last year (£70 I think).

DNA is still a hugely hot topic, and there’s plenty of other stands offering kits and advice on this subject. There’s also a specific DNA lecture theatre, covering a range of topics and a range of levels.

 

Prof. Mark Jobling of University of Leicester talks demographic history.
Prof. Mark Jobling of University of Leicester talks demographic history.

Having discovered what appears to be my surprise Jewish ancestor, I had plans to seek advice today – and the team at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain stand, who were able to give me a few pointers as to where I could seek more records to help unravel the mystery.

It was also great to see what the Societies were offering, and I made sure that I visited my home teams of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire to see what they had to offer.

Myko Clelland (FindMyPast), presenting in the Education Zone.
Myko Clelland (FindMyPast), presenting in the Education Zone.

There’s always so much to take in with the societies, because they produce such a wide range of materials or publish some fantastically niche record sets of which some are so specific and small scale that the larger companies would never find them financially viable. You also get to speak with people with that specific local knowledge – go see them!

Couple of down sides this year:

  1. The wifi was very unstable and mostly useless. In previous years it’s worked a treat.
  2. There was a theft of a purse and a camera, so it’s a reminder to keep your valuables close to you at all times

On the up side this year:

  1. The show is in exactly the same place as last year.
  2. There’s some great offers on this year, so have a good browse before you commit.
  3. There’s a beautiful Spitfire parked up at the back of the hall. I heard Else Churchill (Society of Genealogists) landed it there herself.

My 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2016

As Old Father Time heads off into the sunset, and a new year arrives, what Genealogy Resolutions shall I challenge myself with in 2016?

This is my 4th year of setting myself some New Year Genealogy Resolutions (you can read last year’s here).

I think it’s fair to say that if you’re a hobbying family historian like me, that when you set yourself a target to achieve in your family history research, it’s likely you’re about to get absolutely side-tracked up/down/sideways along your trees. I mean, why would you want to halt research that’s going so well in order to go back to that brick wall yet again?

So, here’s my ‘research plan’ for 2016:

1. Kill Simpson Bishop

Carried over from 2015, the mystery of Simpson Bishop has continued. After his surprise appearance in Lancashire – he abandoned the agricultural fenland of Cambridgeshire and entered the cotton mill industry. He gets married twice more – the latter in 1868, has further children (and grandchildren) but mysteriously lives apart from his wife from 1871 onwards. His wife finally calls herself a ‘widow’ in 1901, even though I haven’t seen him in records since 1874 when two of his daughters died.

What happened to him after 1874? He’s appearing sometimes as James Simpson Bishop (his son’s name), J S Bishop, Simpson Bishop, Sampson Bishop… his variants and the spread of his children makes him fair game to turn up anywhere in the UK and beyond.

I’d like to kill him off, or at the very least find a next piece in his puzzle (emigration? prison? another marriage? a next census return?).

I feel a whiteboard evidence timeline moment coming on.

2. Read other written family histories

Sitting on my bookshelf are The Valley (2014) by Richard Benson, and Family Secrets (2013) by Deborah Cohen.

'The Valley' by Richard Benson, and 'Family Secrets' by Deborah Cohen.
‘The Valley’ by Richard Benson, and ‘Family Secrets’ by Deborah Cohen. I’ll bump these two to the top of my reading list in 2016.

I’ve had them both from new and have (shamefully) yet to get them to the top of my reading pile. I feel that by reading these two books, it will teach me plenty about writing better family stories, and help me to find a way to address earlier resolutions about writing.

If you’d like to recommend some other written family histories/stories, then feel free to do so in the comments below (although my reading pile is already about 150 books tall).

3. Finish a site re-launch

Back in April, Google announced that mobile-friendly sites would get priority in search results. Understandable really, considering that research has shown that most searches are now done on mobile devices rather than desktop.

Therefore, it’s made sense to me to rebuild my FamilyTreeUK website so that it uses a responsive web design. I’m fluent in HTML and CSS, so it’s been no big deal to do build the old sites, and not so hard to do this from-scratch re-build so that it works on a range of devices. I’ve been adding in search boxes, and lots of goodies specifically for search engines to read, so hopefully once done it is going to fare well.

What will now take time though is deploying it across all the lovingly handcrafted profile pages (there’s probably 130ish at least). I’ll be doing this over Christmas 2015, and probably whilst this post goes live.

Hang in there, it’ll look a bit weirdly disjoined for a bit, but once it’s complete it should hopefully future proof it for a good many years to come and make it more discoverable and user friendly.

4. Run another AncestryDNA test

So, back in May, my mother and I took our AncestryDNA tests, which gave us both some interesting and unexpected ethnicity estimates. There were some indicators that my father’s DNA should answer some of the ‘where the hell did that come from?’ questions, and also show me what the 50% i didn’t inherit from him might have been (and consequently might be lurking in my sister’s DNA).

So, I hope to encourage my father to take his test. He did show some initial interest in taking it but with the test price increasing a little, and the postage cost being a bit of a mood killer (£20?!? – why is this so much? Why not get Amazon to carry it in stock for you too and reach more potential users, and via cheaper P&P?) he’s held back.

AncestryDNA postage costs
AncestryDNA postage costs are a bit of a mystery.

I managed to get my first two for £79 each at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, (cheaper and minus the P&P), so i’m hoping they repeat the deal when I’m back there in April 2016.

Of course, there is the question after taking these tests as to what you do with that info… it does feel good to see it, but the chance of linking it back to a close common ancestor of another Ancestry user seems to be slim so far.

5. Meet more relatives

One thing that has happened over the last few years is that people stumble across this blog and my website and send me a message – and every now and then they’re someone who is related to me.

Therefore, in 2016, I hope to get to meet (within reasonable geography) some of these more distant relatives to find out about their branches and our common ancestors.

I wrote about how a cousin’s family is like a world looking in on your family and that therefore they’re a great source of photos of your closer family.

Plus, as an adult and family historian, I always believe that you should talk to strangers… it helps make the world get a little bit smaller, and a little bit friendlier.

 

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Two)

The Ancestry DNA results are in for my mother and I… but what do you get, and how can they be interpreted?

It’s been a few patient weeks since I did my AncestryDNA test but the email has come through. The results of the AncestryDNA tests for my mother and I have arrived.

Excitedly I clicked on my name first to see what it would reveal.

When you get your results you’re presented with a kind of ‘dashboard’. This includes your name and a brief summary of your Ethnicity Estimate and your DNA Matches.

Able to see the top three results in this dashboard view, I clicked through to view the complete geographic/ethnicity estimate map and results.

AncestryDNA 'Ethnicity Estimate' results  and map.
My AncestryDNA ‘Ethnicity Estimate’ results and map.

With little surprise, Great Britain appeared at the top. Although DNA runs through us all from our very evolution, my family history research (which is a nanosecond snapshot by comparison) has given me a set of documented ancestors who have never strayed outside of England.

Of course, documents lie but DNA doesn’t, but in both cases – it’s all in the interpretation.

After Great Britain, coming in second and as a complete surprise was my 18% Irish genes. So far, I’ve found no Irish ancestors, and only 1-2 Irish relatives. I can’t even put my finger on a few possible Irish surnames… but, they appear to be in the mix somewhere.

In third place, with a nice 11% is my highly anticipated (and hoped for) Scandinavian DNA.   Having been surprised by the Irish DNA, I’d have expected this or Europe West to have turned up as second.

These three are then followed by what Ancestry calls ‘Trace Regions’. They explain that these are small traces of ethnicity, but that they may be unreliable. They’ve included them just in case.

For me, I’m amused by being 4% Italian/Greek, 3% Finn and Northwest Russian, but surprisingly a lowly 3% Western European.

Setting contexts

What is useful, and acts almost as a caveat to the percentage and map, is the potted history of the region when you click on its name. When reading this, you realise that for someone with 61% Great Britain score (the average Great Briton has 60%, so i only just scraped in), seeing Scandinavian in my DNA is absolutely no surprise. Also, seeing Irish and Scandinavian together is no surprise either, and that’s down to the trade and settlement of the Vikings who held around 1/3rd of England by the late 800s. Vikings of course made their way to Ireland too, so it would be unsurprising for both Scandinavian and Irish DNA to turn up.

Reassuringly, Ancestry’s test had spotted that there was a parent/child relationship between myself and my mother’s DNA.

Comparing DNA with my mother

When you look at my mother’s DNA results in comparison, you get a hint of the 50% of the DNA that I didn’t inherit, and a hint at what DNA may well be lurking in my father.

My mother's AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate
My mother’s AncestryDNA results reveal she’s more European than me.

For my mother, her ‘Ethnicity Estimate’ pitches her as 8% more than the average Great Briton, at 68%.

Then, what is my lowest estimated score (of 1%), my mother has as second – she’s 13% Western European. That’s roughly the percentage that I’d have expected to have seen in my result, given ancestral surnames of the likes of the German sounding Moden and Swiss sounding Gothard surnames in her tree.

With delight, I revealed her Scandinavian roots too (she’s a big Vikings fan, and we share a Viking-sounding Yarrow ancestral surname). Her percent is less than mine, so maybe this hints at some Scandinavian DNA in my father too?

It’s not until you reach her ‘Trace Regions’ that Irish DNA turns up – and for her it’s just 3%, whereas mine was 18%. Maybe this also suggests that there’s Irish DNA in my father.

Also amongst my mother’s Trace Regions is 5% Iberian Peninsula, and our shared Finland/Northwest Russa DNA (at 2%).

I’d guess that when looking at geography – for someone with an estimate so high of Western Europe, then seeing the Iberian Peninsula is no surprise. The Fin and Russian ethnicity traces may well be echoes through our Scandinavian DNA too.

Finally, my mother’s Trace Regions end with what has made me chuckle. She’s 1% Eastern European.  She’s a Daily Mail reader, and I continually mock-plead with her to stop reading that ‘newspaper’… which is packed with shock stories and hatred for people from Ukraine, Poland and other Eastern European countries. Hopefully that 1% will serve as another reason she should stop buying it!!

So, what can I do with this new-found knowledge?

This was my questioning right from the out-set. You get a set of data that spans right back through human life – far too far back into history for you to research. At it’s top level, and for those who aren’t really interested in family history, this is a kind of ‘genetic tourism’ or ‘family tree tourism’. Dr Adam Rutherford‘s recent radio feature on The Business of Genetic Ancestry kind of puts it nicely.

AncestryDNA sold this autosomal DNA testing concept to me when they showed what they’d do next with the data – and that’s to use it alongside all the other users who get their test results, and use it to suggest DNA matches to you. It was this point at Who Do You Think You Are? Live that I decided to pay up.

That AncestryDNA dashboard shows you some of those matches, each with a rating of how confident they are at the matches.. and then it’s over to you to reach out to them and explore that connection through Ancestry.

AncestryDNA matches
AncestryDNA shows you who has varying degree of DNA matches with your results.

I’ve already begun reaching out to a few – and it was reassuring to see matches with people I’ve already linked to through good old fashioned family history research, and also a number of people who are strangers but carry some of my obscurer family surnames too.

Ancestry, I’m impressed. All I need to do now, is think of who best to test next. My father? My sister? The oldest blood relative I can find?

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part One)

Part One of my autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA.

It’s more than a month since I picked up two of the AncestryDNA kits from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at Birmingham. One kit is for me, the other is for my mother.

AncestryDNA talks
AncestryDNA has been a heavily promoted product this year’s WDYTYA? Live show.

This weekend I finally had the chance to sit and do my part of the autosomal DNA test with my mother.

An autosomal test allows you to track both sides of your family – giving you a more ‘tree-like’ view of your family.

You might be asking now, why would my mother bother spending money on having the test done too, when I’ve done the test? Well, aside from her excited response when I texted her from WDYTYA? Live to tell her I’d bought a kit and asked her whether she would also like one, there is value in testing near relatives.

This is because whilst 50% of my DNA comes from each of my parents, I won’t know which 50%. With my mother being tested too, it should give me a better understanding of what’s lurking in my maternal DNA, and a rough idea as to what’s lurking in my father’s un-tested DNA.

Also, because I’m only 50% of my maternal DNA, it means, which bits of my maternal grandparents DNA am I missing? If my sister took this test, she would no doubt have a different set of DNA, with some commonly handed-down bits, but also some of the bits that I didn’t get.  Similarly, if my maternal grandmother took the test, we may see that there’s a load of DNA in her sample, that never made it to my mother, or that did make it to my mother, and to me, but not my sister – simply because DNA takes a random 50% sample each time.

When you get your AncestryDNA kit, you realise just how smart and slick the packaging looks – almost as if it’s something from the Apple range. As soon as you open it, you’re greeted by a welcome and the instructions guide.

Inside an AncestryDNA test box
Open the box, and the instructions are right there, and really clear.

There really is two steps you need to do for this test. The first is activate kit online. This is so important – and Ancestry have been sure to put your activation code everywhere on your kit – it’s on the back of the instructions card, it’s on the plastic carton containing the kit, and it’s on the sample itself.

If you still fail to note that code, and activate it at their ancestrydna.co.uk/activate (I activated my code a month before I actually did the test), then when you send off your samples, the AncestryDNA team will have no idea who did the test, or who/how to return the results. You’ll have wasted your time and money.

Underneath the instructions card is a plastic carton containing your sample tube, and a cap containing blue sample stabilising solution. There’s also a grey plastic envelope, and, in the case of UK and Republic of Ireland, there’s also a postage-paid box. That’s it.

Aside from making sure that you have activated your kit (or will activate as soon as you post it), the other piece of advice is not to ‘eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum for 30 minutes before giving your saliva sample‘. These activities would no doubt make your sample become more of a dietary analysis, than a DNA one.

Filling the little tube with your saliva is actually quite a challenge, and there is no elegant way of doing it. Both myself and my mother found that we were good at frothing into the little funnel, but we both got levels up to the wavy line eventually.

AncestryDNA sample
My DNA sample with the blue stabilising solution cap screwed on.

The next step was to remove the slobbery funnel, and then screw on the cap containing the blue solution. Whilst screwing this on, it breaks the seal in the cap, allowing the solution to fall down into your sample. The instructions then tell you to shake your sample for at least 5 seconds to mix it, and then put the sample in the grey plastic bag.

Having sealed that up, my mother and I popped our samples into the postage-paid boxes, sealed those up, and I posted them.

Once you’ve activated your kit, you get a little progress bar in your account that tells you about your sample:

AncestryDNA sample progress bar
The progress bar keeps you informed of your sample’s journey.

With the seemingly big buzz at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, and the AncestryDNA campaign in total, I’m sure that the results processing time has been busy for their labs, so the 6-8 weeks timeframe given on my indicator is fine with me.

I’m looking forward to the results. As an Ancestry user, I’ll be interested to see which other testers have DNA matches, and whether I know of those people already, but like my mother, we’re both interested in seeing the geographic distribution estimate maps.

We’re hoping our inner-Viking will appear!

DAY THREE: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Summary of my third and final day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 show at Birmingham NEC, including my favourite stand, and ticket dates for the 2016 show.

Well, that’s it! The 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show is over.

If you went along, what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Was Birmingham NEC up to the job? Are you going next year? Did you think it was busy?

Once again, I really enjoyed the show – it was lovely to see familiar faces and brands, and also meet new ones too, and learn lots of new ‘old’ things. (Check out my Day One and Day Two posts!)

Having checked out of my hotel in Coventry, and stepped off the train at Birmingham, I noticed that there was a ‘Tweet up’ (essentially, a group of twitter users, who arrange a time/place to meet up via twitter, and so extending the invite to a wide audience) about to happen, so a quick diversion via the courtyard, gave us a wonderfully sunny set of Tweet Up photos.

Here’s mine:

After this, I made my way back into the show and noticed that the workshop ticket queue had reduced down nicely, so joined it behind a senior couple. Sadly, the woman in the couple was taking issue with the queuing system ‘this is the third day, and they haven’t managed to sort it out! The third day!’ she repeated to her silent male companion, and promptly decided to snap at the helpful ticket lady, who kept her cool perfectly.

I hope you’re reading this – you should have seen the queue earlier. The ticket team seemed to be doing a great job.

Turning around, I could see that the AncestryDNA stand was already doing booming business, again echoing just how much ‘DNA’ is this year’s buzz-word. I wonder just how many kits they sold over the three days? (and whether the testing period might become elongated?). I can only assume that the more kits that are sold in the UK, means that the data gets bigger, and the potential for more DNA matches increases.

AncestryDNA stand with visitors
Busy AncestryDNA stand.

Moving on a little, I stumbled across Linda Kerr (from The International Society of Genetic Genealogy – or ISOGG) giving a talk on DNA for Absolute Beginners – her talk seemed very clear and straightforward, and whilst the buzz about DNA was resonating through a lot of companies this year, it was great to see that the basics were being covered too. I loved how my photo captured ‘Does not replace traditional research’. A very good point!

Linda Kerr of ISOGG talking DNA for Absolute Beginners
Linda Kerr of ISOGG talking DNA for Absolute Beginners

I then headed over to the very well stocked stand at My History and picked up a load of archive safe photo pockets.

I have a large collection of small 1930-1950s photographs in my grandmother’s photo albums, but when you pick them up, the photos all fall out because the sticky pages have dried up.

Hopefully this should help sort, store, and put them safely back in order.

I think that out of all of the stands, my favourite design was The National Archives – i found it visually striking, wonderfully themed and lit. Of course, the 1939 Tea Rooms from FindMyPast, were wonderful too.. but it’s hard to compare them as their purpose was so different.

National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015
National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015 was my favourite stand (not including the 1939 tea room)

My 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live take-aways

  • Death Duty Records are a big, exciting, mess, and a trove of information (Day Two via Dave Annal)
  • I quite enjoy corned beef hash cakes (Day One via FindMyPast)
  • Letters from paupers and pew rents can sometimes be found in Parish Chest records (Day One – Alec Tritton)
  • Wills aren’t subject to copyright (Day Two via Intellectual Property Office)
  • I’m enjoying reading Angela Buckley’s ‘The Real Sherlock Holmes – The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada‘ (Day Two via Pen & Sword Books)
  • ‘The spoon’ isn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped (Day Two via Eric Knowles)
  • It’s dribbling, not swabbing time, in the Martin households (Day One via AncestryDNA)
  • I walked 29,454 steps over these three days – the equivalent to 12.81 miles. Most of this would be inside the venue.

Cabin fever?

One thing I noticed this year, was that my enthusiasm for a third day was waining by midday. In London, if I dipped out early, I knew enough of London and had enough friends there, that I could pop out for a bit and do something else and head back, or head out early, but here at the NEC, it didn’t feel like that. Maybe next year, I might cut down to 2 days unless there’s some specific lure to keep me there/busy.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is really worthwhile, but as a family historian, whose ancestors have struggled to move more than 10 miles within Cambridgeshire over the last 420+ years, it’s really only the ‘generic’ talks and stands that give me the extra value. Learning about Irish roots, or researching Scottish records, or visiting a specific locale society stand, will be hard to apply to my somewhat almost ‘insular’ research territory.

Having said that, I’ve not done my DNA test yet… so that could all change. I’m still guessing Scandinavian is going to be in there.

I’m yet to hear of the official figures for this newly re-homed show, but I did hear that day two (Friday) was busier than the first day.

My brain struggled to imagine whether the show itself was bigger – as Olympia was always spread across a main hall and a mezzanine, with a few of the talks held off in rooms to the site, and the aisles between stands were about 1/3rd narrower than those in the NEC. It’s difficult to compare.

Where Do You Think You Are Going? Live
Where Do You Think You Are Going? Live

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 dates

That said, as revealed in the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine 14th April email campaign, the show remains at the Birmingham NEC for 2016 and for 3 days – running 28-30th April 2016.

See you there!

DAY TWO: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Day Two of the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 show at Birmingham NEC is over, and the final day is coming!

If you’re yet to tread the halls of this year’s show, then here’s what you missed in Day Two.

AncestryDNA talks
AncestryDNA has been a heavily promoted product this year.

Right near the front of the entrance is the show’s main sponsor, in prime space – Ancestry. I’ve had my account with these guys (and FindMyPast) for some time, and this year the team are going all guns to promote their AncestryDNA product.

Essentially this consists of a kit, that you can buy and register on their site, and then use to take a swab sample of DNA. Post them off, and then your results are returned to you online about 6-8 weeks later, via your Ancestry account.

The results will then give you an ethnicity estimate (I’m hoping for Vikings and old Saxons), and then it will give you leads to other people who have taken the test on AncestryDNA, where they have found matching DNA.

Two AncestryDNA testing kits
Two AncestryDNA testing kits

I’ve picked up two kits, as I was curious, and my mother has been far more excitedly curious about her DNA for some years. I guess that with all the other kits around, and with the recent discovery, questioning and burial of Richard III, the DNA market is booming.

I’ll write more about the tests another time – so keep posted!

Day Two was definitely busier, and even though the aisles are wider between stands (most noticeably amongst the Society of Genealogists Family History stands) they were still thick with busy, eager, genealogists looking for the next clue.

The Home Team – the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry was naturally a busy spot to be. I have only a couple of distant relative marriages in Birmingham, so I didn’t need to stop.. but the team certainly looked busy!

Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry stand
Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry stand

As with yesterday, where I was able to catch Alec Tritton talk about the many wonders of The Parish Chest, and caught some of Jayne Shrimpton talking about the dating of 80s and 90s photographs (1880s/1890s, okay!), today I was able to catch some more.

The first was from Dave Annal who gave a fascinating talk on the FindMyPast stand, on Death Duty Registers. I could tell that it was something to do with death and taxes, but beyond that I had no idea what they would contain. As a source, they look like the fantastically messiest, chaotic and cryptic set of possible information ever (beyond Doctor’s notes!).

Understanding the Death Duty Registers sign
Understanding the Death Duty Registers sign

Later, I briefly caught the team at FamilySearch, who gave me a lovely warm reminder about the years of research I’ve put in working my way through microfilm. They themselves are in the midst of a big project to digitise microfilm, and are looking for volunteers to process batches of transcripts so that everything can become much easier to search. I don’t think that this was new news, but it was good to hear what they are up to.

Margaret Haig talks copyright and family history
Margaret Haig (IPO) talks copyright and family history

Finally, I sat in on Copyright and Family History – a talk by Margaret Haig from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). She gave a fascinating talk on the law and the minefield of copyright when it comes to family history. There were loads of questions after, but I poppe along to their stand to ask them my one: Who owns the copyright of a Will? The answer I was given was that they are not under copyright because they are not a creative piece, they’re a commissioned piece of work that follows a formulaic formal process. This wasn’t really the answer I was expecting.

I managed to meet Eric Knowles, and he was able to shed light on  my mystery spoon… But I’ll write more about that soon too!

I ended my day by treating myself to two books from the team at Pen and Sword Books – one The Real Sherlock Holmes – The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada by Angela Buckley, and the other one by Stephen Wade, titled Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors.

Some criminal reading to add to my reading pile.
Some criminal reading to add to my reading pile.

I was flicking through the latter when the stall-holder asked me if I had criminal ancestors. I said ‘yes’, but reassured them it wasn’t for fraud as I handed my card over.

Anyway, more on DNA, the spoon and the criminals another day. Day Three is calling…