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25 Nov 2017

Love on the Canal ❤

Did my 5xgreat-grandmother, Ann, meet her husband on the canal? Believe it or not, probably only a DNA test can reveal the answer.

Ann Shaw was born in the 1770s In Derbyshire, and until recently I was having a hard time picking out which one of the many local girls of this name was my forebear.

Then I pushed and pulled all the records, shoving filing cabinets and index cards out of the way. If Ann was literate, which she was, then her sisters should be too. Looking again at the box of her signature, there's a lot of space around her name. I'd say she was young, like maybe only 18.
Ok, that's good, and that brings me to an Ann baptised 1774 in Wirksworth parish church, who actually lived her childhood both sides of the valley west of the church called Via Gelli. A stunning ravine, wooded, just right for the scene our DNA test hopes to peek in on.

We jot down the few facts we have about Ann scratched up from the register: She was young, 18, on her marriage, she could write her name and maybe more, and she landed up on the north side of the Via Gelli right by a certain canal at Cromford...

Whoa. That is of interest. The Ann we're looking for married Nathaniel Gee a young buck of 22 who:
...owned a boat on a canal in the 1790s (a few years later)!
Have we got a case of Love on the Canal?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Options ahead 
To test our hypothesis we have two apparent options:

1) Wait for the Minute Books of Cromford Canal 1789-96 to hit inter-library loan.
They might show Nat Gee bidding to construct a portion of the canal east of Cromford. I suspect and hope they do, but in the absence of documentation of the Love from the 1700s, we have Option Two.

2) Get folk tested.
Ann was 18 it seems, pregnant with her only child, and died of likely complications from the birth barely a year into our story. Yet my late father, and others come down from the child through the daughter's line. Including my cousin Klaus.

If, if if, Ann was the girl from Middleton-by-Wirksworth who by happenstance acquired the ability to write, then we need to look at her elder sister Hannah, who also showed she signed her name (rather than making a mark). This ability did not extend, interestingly, to their much younger half-sister, suggesting the older girls' mother (a Doxey) was the guiding force in the family, even as it hovered perilously on the bread-line.

Hannah has family too: the fabled other side of the looking-glass. They started out with few means, living off the lead lying locally, and not drifting far along the social scale, many remaining in a setting overlooking that Via Gelli for as long as time allowed.

If Klaus (from Ann) and a.n.other (from Hannah) could reach across the centuries and compare their diverging DNA.....

Klaus would have a perfect copy of Ann's mitochondrial DNA, while a.n.other bears a rock-solid version of Hannah's. Could they be identical?

Identical DNA would tell us that Ann did indeed fall fatefully for her boat-owning lover and make 20 an impossible age that she would never reach, from their Love on the Canal ❤

4 Nov 2017

The Three Counties Challenge

Come on then folks! Which of your forebears do you reckon qualifies for the Three Counties Challenge? Entrance qualifications are simple: they need to have exactly three counties of origin! Here are my four contenders who had a massive impact on my tree.

(1) My first forebear was my grandmother Mary, born 1921 in Cheshire. She has ancestry in Somerset, Cornwall and Norfolk, which impressed me very much at the time.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. Methodist ministers marrying girls from 'out-of-county' two generations in a row.

(2) Then we go back nearly a century to Dad's great-grandma Annie Gibson, born 1836 in Allendale, near the geographical centre of mainland Britain, but far north of anything I'd heard of before. She brought three new counties to the yard: Cumberland, Northumberland and some part of lowland Scotland, most likely Dumfriesshire. I can't help thinking of John Peel with his coat so gay, out hunting in the Cumberland countryside when I think of this line.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. The uber-meddling Christopher Bird, vicar of Chollerton, who pulled my relatives across the Pennines. Then a certain knee injury on the railway in 1844, which proved fatal, and which spat poor Annie back the other side of the Pennines again.

(3) We reverse another 25 years to the birth of Blanche Morton, my Grandpa's great-grandmother, born about 1811 in Newport, south Wales. She brings Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire and, much earlier, Carmarthenshire to the table. This is an impressive haul, and without her, I'd really have no proper Welsh ancestry at all, so big thanks go to Blanche on this one. As a bonus we have her photo too.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. Water and boats. The boatbuilder moved along the coast and up the rivers, marrying and moving as he went.

(4) It's now time to put the time-machine back in fast rewind, to get back another whole 43 years before this. That's right folks, we need to whoosh past Trafalgar, the French revolution and even American independence, back to 1768. I'm sorry it's a little cold out here, with the mini ice-age just having left and we're only halfway through the hundred years of Georges.

It's time to introduce Nathaniel Gee, born in West Bromwich in 1768. His birthplace is not somewhere I expected to find on my tree - ever. My family have managed to avoid the Midlands, carefully skirting around it, but Nathaniel is born slap-bang in the middle, just as the industrial revolution is hitting. Exciting times, no doubt. Nathaniel provides yet another three new counties: Cheshire, Staffordshire and the much earlier Shropshire.
Q. What brings these genes together?
A. The magnetic pull of Wolverhampton and its satellites, sweeping ironworkers into town. And more importantly, water and boats. The boatbuilder moved around the canal network, marrying and moving.

The final list of counties hauled in by these individuals is impressive: Somerset, Cornwall, Norfolk, Cumberland, Northumberland, Dumfriesshire (probably), Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire, Carmarthenshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire. And the causes were Methodism,  a meddling vicar, a trapped knee, and plenty of boats on the water.

Can any of your ancestors pass the three counties challenge? I'd be interested to hear about them.