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9 Nov 2019

Mitochondrial DNA and finding a cousin

Serendipity has struck and we have found a cousin.... It helps that due to some time-lags, they are the same generation as my late grandmother (who was born 1905), though considerably younger. Thus there are fewer generations to leap back to the MRCA (most recent common ancestor). This is not important genetically, but just simply in terms of getting the story across. The mutual forebear is Hannah Doxey (b. 1750), entirely in the female line, and thanks to three coincidences, this was also the name of our cousin's grandmother, so not such an alien name as it might have been. In fact, not alien at all!

There are three reasons how this serendiptous naming has happened:
Reason 1) Hannah's daughter married back into the Doxey name, having married a first cousin.
Reason 2) Our cousin was illegitimate, and thus brought up by grandparents, which brings the older folk to the fore, baby Hannah being given the name of her grandmother's mother.
Reason 3) The aforementioned time lags which reduce the number of generations we need to get from 1750 to now.

We look forward to the testing results in due course, and to learning more about Hannah Doxey and her family. (She was evicted from her childhood home, Wirksworth, Derbyshire, in 1786, and this resulted in three deaths in the family that year. We will contend that the eldest daughter then 12, eloped, ran away, five years later. Which DNA will prove.)


Grandfather's grandfather's grandmother

It occurred to me, that there should be dozens of these in the family tree, but of course adding them up there's just eight. I have three, partly as there is a cousin marriage which consumes the fourth; and then as on the paternal side we can't quite go back that far. Two of the three are Welsh, and two are called Margaret: Rebecca Phillips b. 1780, Margaret Evans b. 1792 (a twin), Margaret Trewhella b. 1784.

Paternal grandmothers' paternal grandmothers are interesting if you look at x-dna. This gets passed on - intact? via son to paternal granddaughter. I need to do some more reading around this.

The one thing I won't comment on too much is y-dna as this doesn't seem very interesting to me at all... Apologies!

3 Nov 2019

Coefficient of grandparents

I'll start by saying this is not really a coefficient, which implies multiplying and producing a figure between 0 and 1, but rather, involves adding. Much easier.

My grandparents have the figure of 88. Why? Because they died when I was respectively 2, 12, 34 and 40, which adds up to 88. In other words I had 88 years' worth of grandparents, while I was alive.

An interesting contrast is the figure for my great aunt Hilda (name slightly changed). Her figure is extremely low, in fact possibly as low as the figure can ever be. It is MINUS 80. Her grandparents died 2, 15, 28 and 35 years before she was born. This came about for two reasons: firstly that she was the youngest grandchild born when both parents were well on in their forties (and both parents had lots of older siblings as well); secondly the grandparents (who would all have been at least in their eighties) were from a different generation and all suffered some form of childhood loss, or in one case extreme poverty.

When I think of my meeting with aunt Hilda (born 1916), I cannot believe her grandparents belonged to such an early epoch, for instance
* her grandmother was orphaned in 1844 (and the wrong side of the Pennines to boot)
* her grandmother features in the will of Lancelot Gibson (b. 1785), who flourished as estate manager in northern Northumberland in another era
* her grandfather, a bit of a charmer, was the cause of Joseph Carline re-writing his will in 1856 (although this will never went to probate)
* her grandmother died only a hundred years after her great-great-great-grandfather, John Brasier, who kept rabbits at Checkhill Common, Kinver passed away in the 1790s
* when her grandmother was orphaned, in 1844, and brought back across the Pennines, her Scottish great-grandmother was then still living (but where was she from?)
* when her eldest grandparent was born, George IV was still on the throne (whose great-uncle was tutored by Edmond Halley that 'invented' Halley's Comet)
* her grandfather was the result of the marriage of the children of two brothers from a hat-making family in Derbyshire, born in the 1780s. One, careful, organised and wealthy. The other, disorganised, dissolute and poor.
* her grandmother, whose illegitimate birth has caused me much consternation, allegedly sat in 'that chair over there'

I would be interested to hear if her record of 'coefficient of grandparents' can easily be matched.

7 Jul 2019

From one Overlord to another, a-ha: How Ancestry ThruLines confirmed a 5xgreat-grandfather

I was going to write 'Ogre' but neither of our two Overlords were ogres. They were powerful enough, and their underlings too well schooled to argue with them, that they had no requirement to be nasty. Thanks to ThruLines I know I descend from one of them.

The First Overlord (West of the Pennines)
Joseph Moses (b. 1743) had two orphan daughters by his first wife (a cousin), namely, Mary and Hannah. Then his second wife brought him three lovely lasses, Elizabeth, Jenny and Margaret. The families of both wives were elided, and wherever Grandpa Moses went, some sons, daughters and grandchildren followed in light formation. (The above portrait is not Joseph, but his brother, Christopher, which nonetheless gives an idea about him.) The family lived at Huddlesceugh near Renwick on the west side of the Pennine Hills, somewhere in Cumberland. Joseph would have been an astute, respected, farmer and businessman who knew his own mind.

Joseph's Daughters
Jenny was particularly in the thrall of her father. She'd rebelled as a child and begun a romantic relationship with the penniless gardener, W. Dodd. They "eloped" in 1808, were forced to marry and in effect became tied to the family farm while Joseph still lived. Which he did: for a very long time.

Meanwhile, Margaret and Elizabeth had married well, to an Excise Officer and a medium landowner respectively. Mary and Hannah had married also, rather cautiously: Mary to a well connected local farmer, and Hannah (in 1797) to the widowed Mr Watson of Scalehouses, which will link, in a moment, to our genetic story.

Scalehouses backs right on to the Pennines with some sheep land rising to 2500 ft. The farm house is a decent size, white-painted, black-timbered, not overly tall and surrounded by its own land. The Watsons had long lived there but our Hannah made the place her own. She planted sycamore trees in the garden, which for all I know are still there.
The Moses men come out in force to witness these careful marriages. There's upwards of five witnesses. I don't know if this is a Northcountry trend, but the bevy of witnesses makes the point that the marriage is a significant family event. Notice this excerpt from a letter, which contains a rather throw-away comment about the daughters.
The Second Overlord (east of the Pennines)
Elizabeth, one of the wiser sisters, had a new brother-in-law, the powerful and influential Rev'd Christopher Bird, vicar of Chollerton, across the Pennines into Northumberland. He will be our second Overlord. When trouble strikes, it is to the Rev'd Mr Bird that the family will go.

Death of Joseph
Joseph Moses eventually died in 1833 at Morland Hall Farm, which he had presumably been renting, in the parish of Morland, near Penrith. He was 90.

Crossing into Bird territory
Jenny Dodd, her husband William, their younger children could all now pack their bags and escape. Frankly they had little choice. The Overlord had died and they were now at the mercy of the new Overlord, C. Bird.

So in 1833 the Dodds crossed the Pennines to Chollerton, where their eldest daughter was already living. Dodd found work as estate agent in Allendale (for Mr Bird). Their daughter Jane soon married the son of Mr Bird's bailiff, Johnny Gibson, although he was not her first choice, according to very well-informed petrified family gossip.

Daughter Jane Dodd (Gibson) is immortalised in our family as "Granny from Old Town". Despite being born back in 1814 in the wilds of Cumberland, she made an impression on a great-grandchild and so has "survived" into our epoch.

There are further twists and turns. My line, from Jenny Moses (Dodd) is not destined to remain east of the Pennines and the road ahead will be treacherous.

Hannah Moses's family at Scalehouses
Meanwhile, the Watsons remain at Scalehouses for generations and it is thanks to an old family letter from 1890 that we know of Hannah planting her sycamore trees. The letter is being sent, rather wistfully, to Australia. I think the writer knows contact will one day cease, despite his best efforts at logging every newly-arrived nephew and niece.

Ancestry ThruLines (which has already been added to my phone's spellchecker) is going to confirm something remarkable: Five times great-grandfather Joseph Moses, our first Overlord, is indisputably my forbear. One of the wiggly Watson lines which went out to Australia, match my DNA. Incredibly an even more remote cousin, in the States, holds the above portrait of Joseph's brother, C. Moses.

Without the ThruLines technology, which examines each generation carefully and rebuilds trees where details are missing, I'd never have worked out the connection to cousin Julie myself. This part of my tree is very distinctive. I have no other Cumberland ancestry, and neither, I suspect, has Julie. This lends a further weight of evidence to the suggested tree.

Whilst extremely impressive, DNA has already been able to take me back to an even more remote 'Most Recent Common Ancestor', this time from the 1600s... Stay tuned for more!

31 May 2019

Tracing Cousins, an Index to Articles

List of topics

Tracing cousins:

Ann, 18, not in South Africa : funny, well written
Clues from the cousins #1 : clever way to find Amy from Wales
Clues from the cousins #2 : old man's pen stroke leads to Ada
Come on Eileen : silly but worth a read
Davies? Evans? no problem  : finding an address
Facebook for finding cousins : beginner's guide
Faith, Hope and Ancestry : story of finding Louisa Smith
Found in Bradford  : bit geeky (concentrates on one finding)
Getting past missing marriages  : short and informative
Jamestown Pearls  : chatty story of finding great-uncle in USA
Long journey: 3 quick stories of hard-to-find relatives
Lost memories  : funny and well written
Making work for the postman : required reading on contacting new cousins
Meet Mr Zero : silly, brief
Miscellaneous marriage thoughts : bit geeky and uninformative
On a roll  : heavy going
Riddle of the timeshare  : long but well written
Taylors: delete
The sixteenth letter of the alphabet : heavy going with a clever tip
Tracing Wilcie Urch  : whirlwind success story
Who Exactly are Rachel's Kids?: story of diligence
Finding 4 New Jersey husbands with no marriage index : worth reading

Research stories:
specific (i.e. about a particular resource)

1600s handwriting: I predict a baptism : details of 1600s research
1911 deleted entries at Findmypast  : specific
Bogralin - clue to Scots ancestry : finding Scots origins
Best of Genes Dictionary : funny
Census: 'my wife's cousin', a nice clue : specific
Come on, give yer Granny £1 : funny
Creating Speculative Searches :  long form lots of info
Death duty indexes  : specific
European Genealogy across 13 countries : short and interesting
Gateway to the Wall and Canal  : a rant
Goodies from FindMyPast probate index : specific
Hidden Roots: Behind the Marriage : getting back beyond a 1791 marriage
Italy: From Stranger to Native : specific
Matrimonial mischief in Somerset : short story
Review of the new GRO index : worth reading
Primary records and why you need them: a rant
Searching for burials : specific
Solving a Smith puzzle...  : funny and surprising tale
Speculative Search in Australia : bit long
Ten tricks to help your family history : short punchy tips
The Betsys yet to come : funny hunt for Betsy
The Something, The Baker, the er- Mint-cake Maker? : sweet eaters in the tree
Three Sisters: Fifteen Counties : short and interesting
Two little bits of paper : usefulness of birth certs
Untangling 1780s baptisms in Cornwall : untangling
Using the Death Duty records at Kew : specific
What a difference a decade makes : surprises from the census
Will: 'You still need me' : specific and interesting
Yorkshire short-arse nails Chinatown gunslinger  : humorous
Young husbands on the family tree: interesting

Faith, Luck, Persuasion and Determination
Persuasion in Family History : antsy Grandpa steps away
Faith in Family History : it shouldn't have worked, but it did
Luck in Family History : the 1841 saves my bacon
Determination in Family History : itching a new path


3 Dec 2018

The Girl from Wirksworth - Part One

If you have read my post The Teenagers, you will know what a tough time they had. Sarah Brasier (b. 1751) was sixteen on her marriage and sent far from home to live; Ann Shaw (b. 1774) was orphaned age 12; her daughter Hannah Bagshaw (b. 1792) never knew her mother, and was totally orphaned at 13. I can add another one, Sarah Carr (b. 1859) who sent herself many leagues across the Sea to South Africa aged 18. Why did she do that?

But it is Ann whose story we are trying to tease out. She was evicted from Wirksworth age 12, in 1786, the year when her mother and two sisters all died. They died before the move, and after move, but in the same year. I am almost certain she would have been one of Arkwright's Girls, workers at the cotton mill a few miles away in Cromford. A long uphill journey back, but at least it's downhill in the mornings.

She may be no connection at all. The trail for her goes completely cold in 1786, age 12, and there are no further references. But I think she is my ancestor. And DNA will prove it, very soon. Very soon indeed.

19 Oct 2018

The product of three canals

Hundreds of tonnes of clay and granite. That's what had to be shifted to create the Staffs & Worcs Canal, and then the Chesterfield Canal. Without these two canals I wouldn't be here.

My forebear, Hannah Gee, born at Chesterfield in 1792 is a product of these canals. She is also the product of a third canal, the not-yet-constructed Cromford Canal, where her parents arguably met. However no earth or sand needing shifting ahead of her birth. Her father didn't even lift a sod of earth before he had eyes smitten on the young millworker (Hannah's mother).

The Staffs & Worcs is staggeringly pretty. They say you are taken through gently rolling West Midlands countryside, never quite making it to an urban settlement. I walked along this canal by accident last February, little realising it was where my ancestors met.

Jonathan Gee, the canal builder, came across Sarah, a girl from Swindon, Staffs, in 1767. He was working on the Staffs & Worcs, which ran through Swindon. She fell for his charms immediately and they were married.

They are enticed into Derbyshire by the building of the Chesterfield Canal, that's canal number two.

Their son Nathaniel breaks away from his father's influence, and casts about for work on the third canal, the Cromford, with plans beginning in 1791. Nathaniel's interest is very much diverted by the presence at Cromford of a girl called Ann. She fell for his charms immediately and they were married.

Hannah, their child, is born at Chesterfield in 1792, the product of three canals.

Watching her bake bread and cakes in later years, living in a pit village - you never would guess at the millions of tonnes of earth moved ahead of her birth. Did she sing?

♫ I feel the earth move under my feet, the sky tumbling down... ♫

12 Sep 2018

Most un-Royal

Why can't I seem to get back to any Royal forebears? Cornish cousins just a snitch away in Gwithian have ancestry through the Edwards family of Lelant and back to some lord in Devon, namely Mr William Crimes, and thence back to the famous Neville family, who made Kings and were grandsons of Kings.

I come close at times, brushing purple cloaks with the real deals, but then in my dreams the ancestor bows and scrapes away and is revealed simply to be a passing medieval tradesman. Again!

Hard-working Cornish folk in my tree washing filthy big yards of linen and left it stewing in massive dye pots, and produced politicians poets and physicists in two generations. Yet more are quoted in their earthy tones talking at us from centuries past [see Hunter].

Our ancestors the Holme family, Kings of Mardale, now under Haweswater, had massive beef with King John back in the 1200s, and as such none of their descendants would have dallied with the royals, living as they did in Norse obscurity in their hidden valley in the Lakes. So that profitable line of enquiry goes nowhere.

Our forebear Thomas Beresford, had 21 children and lies in a grand old tomb in Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire. He is accused of sending a private army of men to Agincourt, approximately 5 years before he was born - so again, perfidy disrupts a really nice story.

My grandmother's maternal line hails from Derbyshire, the scene of much of this frustrating screed. It seems that they might just merge with the Gell family of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire in the mid 1600s. Some enterprising fellow has scoured the Gell ancestral origins for anything remotely Royal, and found the following piece of mediaeval scrag end:

Hugh Lupus, 'Fat Hugh' 1047-1101, who probably wasn't a nephew of William the Conqueror, and who probably wasn't the father of Geva Lupus. Geva did marry in to the Basset family who eventually washed into the Beresfords, and thus Gells.

It is almost as if my determinedly independent ancestors sheered away from the royals at every and any opportunity.

Nobody ran away to become a mistress of the King or his functionary or anything similar. They just weren't having any of it.

Most un-Royal.