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25 Nov 2017

Love on the Cromford 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 Gellia 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 Nick.

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 Gellia for as long as time allowed.

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

Nick 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 Cromford Canal ❤

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