Posts filed under ‘Research techniques’

DNA Painter “Cluster Auto Painter”

I’m just playing with the new tool on DNA Painter – ‘Cluster Auto Painter’. I have created MyHeritage clusters for the DNA test results of my Mum & her brother – for both I have a lot of unknown matches. I generated the DNAPainter clusters map, using information generated from ‘AutoClusters’ and ‘Segment info’ on MyHeritage. (Good instructions are given on the DNAPainter site as to how to obtain this information.)

(You need a paid subscription to DNAPainter to have multiple ‘profiles’ or different chromosome maps. A ‘free user’ would have to delete one chromosome map in order to generate another.)

Looking at the results of the ‘Cluster Auto Painter’ tool, when I know how I am related to a match, I can define the cluster including that match as maternal or paternal, and possibly also assign the cluster to the ancestral couple who handed down that DNA.

When all matches in a cluster are unknown to me, I may still be able to define the cluster as maternal /paternal if one of the matches contains an overlapping segment of sufficient size with a match I’ve already worked out. If they appear to lie in the same place on the same chromosome, do the two matches match each other? If so, then they are (probably) either both maternal or both paternal. If it looks like the segments lie on the same place on the same chromosome but the two matches do not match each other, then one must lie on the maternal chromosome of the pair while the other must lie on the paternal chromosome.

Be aware of the threshold (minimum number of centiMorgans to be counted as a match) set on the chromosome browser (eg on MyHeritage). If two segments appear to only slightly overlap there might not be more cM shared than the threshold, so both the matches could be eg maternal but not counted as matching in that location.

I started doing this DNAPainter ‘Cluster Auto Painting’ for my Mum’s matches & could identify almost all her clusters to at least maternal or paternal. Then I used that information in the cluster map created for her brother’s DNA & was able to assign the remaining clusters.

It’s possible there are other connections (between my family and the unknown match) down other lines that I have not yet explored, so “deductions based on deductions” might lead to some errors,  but I have been able to at least provisionally assign my maternal MyHeritage matches to which (of my) maternal grandparents handed down that DNA – and in some cases to an ancestral couple further back.

I don’t know Mum’s maternal grandfather. From Ancestry matches I have identified a few people as definitely on that line. Fortunately a couple of those also have their DNA test on MyHeritage, so I can use this to further define some of the clusters.

The DNA Painter ‘Cluster Auto Painter’ tool does not currently work on Ancestry matches because of the latter company’s not providing matching segment information, but I’m planning to explore how much of the information I work out about MyHeritage matches can be useful in further defining clusters from the other sites that can be input into the ‘Cluster Auto Painter’ on DNAPainter.

4 January, 2020 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA is inherited by both males and females and received equally from each of our parents.

In commercial genetic genealogy tests our autosomal DNA is compared against a large database of others, looking for identical segments of inherited DNA that may indicate we have shared ancestors.

Some questions that might be answered by an autosomal test include:

  • Can I find previously unknown cousins, solely from my DNA?
  • Can I look for relatives on all branches of my pedigree (not just my father’s patrilineal or my mother’s matrilineal lines)?
  • Can I test the accuracy of the family tree I have constructed?

How does it work?

Autosomal DNA tests examine 22 of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that we inherited from each of our parents.  The remaining pair (called the ‘sex chromosomes’) determines gender. (X-chromosome analysis is often also reported in autosomal tests.)

We inherit about half our autosomal DNA (atDNA) from each of our parents and so about one quarter from each of our grandparents (and an eighth from each of our great grandparents…) – eventually we may not have enough DNA from a particular ancestor to be recognisable.

Close relatives share large segments of atDNA that each has inherited from a recent ancestor in common. More distant relatives may carry smaller sections of identical DNA. Commercial DNA testing companies predict the approximate relationship between genetic cousins based on the size and number of shared identical segments of autosomal DNA. (Very small pieces of atDNA in common are more likely to be coincidental rather than inherited.)

Because of randomness each time autosomal DNA is passed on, even siblings do not have identical autosomal DNA inherited from their parents and the amount of atDNA shared between relatives can vary greatly. As the amount inherited from a particular ancestor diminishes over the generations, eventually two distant cousins may not share enough DNA for a commercial test to identify them as genetic relatives.

While first and second cousins (and closer relationships) should be recognised in an autosomal test, and third cousins are extremely likely to be identified, only around half of fourth cousins will be found by their atDNA. By the time of fifth cousins, only about 10-15% will be recognised and by sixth cousins, only about 2-5% will be identified as genetic relatives.

Because of this, the general rule of thumb is that best results from autosomal DNA tests occur when there is up to about 5 generations back to the shared ancestor. For those hoping to prove relationships beyond third cousins, it may be necessary to test more siblings or first cousins on one side (or both) in order to find a recognisable shared segment of inherited DNA.

Because of this ‘number of generations’ limitation, in autosomal tests it is better to test the oldest living family member (or the one who is in the earliest generation).

What do autosomal DNA test results look like?

The commercial companies’ autosomal tests generally report your matches in the database (and their contact details) with predicted relationships based on the amount of shared autosomal DNA.

Three main companies provide autosomal tests for genetic genealogy. Family Tree DNA calls their autosomal test ‘Family Finder’. 23andMe call their atDNA test ‘Relative Finder’. AncestryDNA also provides autosomal DNA testing.

Family Tree DNA and 23andMe also provide information about the location and size of shared segments.

Currently AncestryDNA does not provide any such chromosome information, directing those who test to look at the public trees of their matches, in the hope that shared ancestors can be recognised. ‘DNA circles’ link people who match DNA and who also have the same ancestor in their family trees.

Family Tree DNA and 23andMe provide ‘chromosome browsing’ tools, showing on which chromosome/s lie any shared segments. Because the test alone cannot distinguish which chromosome was inherited from a mother and which from a father, these chromosome maps appear as images showing only one of each pair of chromosomes. For instance, in the image below the background (dark) chromosomes are mine, and the segments I share with three close relatives are shown overlaying, in different colours.

FamilyTreeDNA 3 close relatives cf to KF

FamilyTreeDNA: chromosome segments I share with 3 close relatives, compared to my own chromosomes

Simplifying to only showing each pair as a single chromosome means that it might appear as if I match two people in the same area of the same chromosome but maybe I match one on the chromosome inherited from my mother and one on the chromosome inherited from my father. The two predicted genetic relatives may each match me but not each other. I should ask each to check if the other appears in their list of matches.

When a segment is shared between three or more people (meaning at least two besides myself and where each person also matches the others at that same location) then we share the same ancestor – this is called triangulation.

From the websites of all three companies (FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe and AncestryDNA) one can download the raw autosomal test data in order to upload it to third party sites such as GEDmatch – which provide more tools for chromosome analysis as well as finding matches with those who tested with the other companies.

Admixture predictions are also based on autosomal DNA. Genetic admixture means the interbreeding of mixed population groups represented by our ancestors. This tends to be reported in a summary such as ‘30% British, 20% Northern European, …’. In fact this analysis is based on comparisons against databases which were probably created for other purposes than genealogy and the conclusions may not be accurate.

23andMe call their admixture analysis ‘Ancestry Composition’. Family Tree DNA calls theirs ‘My Origins’. AncestryDNA calls their admixture analysis ‘Genetic Ethnicity’. While these analyses might be interesting, the conclusions are not yet completely reliable.

What to do with the results?

Include in your profile information with the companies the surnames in your ancestry and where those ancestors lived. Contact others likely to be close relatives based on their autosomal testing – starting with those whose surnames or locations you recognise – or where some clue points to the relevant part of your ancestry. You may be able to identify where previously unknown genetic relatives fit into your family tree. Then you can begin to share photographs and information in the same way as with more traditional genealogical methods.

You can also test known second or third cousins in order to identify which portions of DNA you share with them, that must have been inherited from known ancestors, and then see if those same segments are also shared with potential matches identified in the database. This might help identify to which branch of the family a new suggested genetic relative belongs.

By testing the DNA of known relatives, you can also check the family tree you have constructed, to see whether DNA confirms the expected relationships.

Autosomal DNA provides another tool that genealogists can use to find relatives and prove relationships. Its benefit is that it is not restricted to a single line (patrilineal or matrilineal) but instead relates to all branches of our ancestry. Its limitation is that it might not be able to identify relatives with a shared ancestor more than about five or six generations earlier.

26 February, 2016 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

DNA from our mother’s mothers

This article discusses the DNA we all inherit from our mother’s mothers (our matrilineal line). This genetic material is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA for short.

Mothers pass mtDNA to all their children but only their daughters pass it on – largely unchanged – to the next generations. Your mtDNA was only inherited from your mother and she inherited it from her mother – and so on – back through the generations. Everyone (male and female) can test mtDNA and compare our mtDNA with others. Those who match us share a direct maternal line ancestor.

Family historians often find it difficult tracing female ancestors because women traditionally changed their surnames with marriage. As DNA does not concern itself with surnames, genealogists can use mtDNA testing as another tool to find maternal ancestors, in conjunction with other more traditional family history research methods.

Some questions that might be answered by a mtDNA test include:

  • From what (general) region did my maternal line come?
  • My great grandfather married twice. Am I descended from his first or second wife?
  • Can I find other people also descended from the same direct maternal line to help my search for my female ancestors?

How does it work?

mitochondrial images

Human cell                                                       Ring-shaped mitochondria

Other DNA tests examine the 23 pairs of chromosomes that we inherited from each of our parents. Such chromosomes are found on the double helix shaped strands inside the cell’s nucleus. Mitochondria are quite different– they lie outside the nucleus, are approximately ring-shaped and also contain DNA.

Mitochondria also carry variations caused by copying errors that occurred in the past when cells copied mtDNA to pass on to the next generation. Such mitochondrial mutations occur only very rarely so large groups of population share much of their mtDNA.

The first commercial mtDNA tests only examined small areas of the ring (HVR1 and HVR2) which together make up the D-loop area of mtDNA. Matching someone on HVR1 and HVR2 does imply a shared maternal ancestor but that ancestor possibly lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

In recent years Family Tree DNA has offered a Full Mitochondrial Sequence test (FMS) of the entire mitochondrial ring – including the Coding Region. Exact matches in a full sequence test share a maternal ancestor who probably lived within a genealogical timeframe – that is, in recent enough generations that we may be able to identify her in our family trees.

What do mtDNA test results look like?

A group of scientists examined and sequenced all the mtDNA of one individual and published those results in 1981. They named those results the Cambridge Reference Sequence (or CRS). A corrected version (sometimes referred to as the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence or rCRS) was published in 1999.

When I have my mtDNA tested, companies report to me where my mitochondrial DNA differs from the standard (rCRS). For each of the areas HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Region I am told the small number of differences that my mtDNA has from the rCRS. I can assume that for any locations not reported, I have the same result as the standard.

My results also include my mitochondrial haplogroup, which provides a summary statement of my DNA and mutations, indicating where I fit into the mitochondrial genetic tree of all humans.

Commercial mtDNA tests also report to me other people who have tested with the same company whose DNA closely matches my own. A ‘genetic distance of 0’ indicates that in the areas we have each tested (HVR1, HVR2 and maybe Coding Region) my mtDNA is exactly the same as that of my match. A ‘genetic distance of 1’ means that there is 1 difference between us – and so on.

Which company to use?

Family Tree DNA is the only company that currently offers a full sequence test of mtDNA for genealogical purposes. They call that test mtFull Sequence or FMS. Family Tree DNA often has sales when significantly discounted prices are available. (The company’s Facebook page is one way to learn about such sales.)

Family Tree DNA also host projects based on mtDNA geographic origins and also mtDNA haplogroups. Projects are managed by knowledgeable volunteers who analyse the similar DNA of large groups of people in order to draw further conclusions.

Joining such projects is free and you can usually join any that might be of interest – such as for those whose maternal ancestors came from a particular geographic region. Once you discover your mtDNA haplogroup, I recommend you also join the relevant mtDNA haplogroup project – others in these projects share maternal heritage, even though they do not share surnames.

What to do with my results?

We all have mitochondria inherited only from our direct maternal line (although only females pass that mtDNA on to their own children). Family historians can look for others who share ancestors with us on that matrilineal line.

In addition, genealogists can consider any female of interest in their family tree and follow her female lines forward through her daughters’ daughters and on to (either gender) in the current generation. By testing the mtDNA of other living family members, we can also look for their mtDNA matches.

I do not try to identify shared ancestors with anyone who has only tested HVR1 or HVR2. Any shared maternal ancestors might have lived thousands of years ago. However if I match exactly with someone who (like me) has tested the full sequence of mitochondria, we have about a 50% chance that our shared maternal ancestor lived within around 150 years and a 90% chance that the shared ancestor lived within about 400 years. In other words, our shared maternal ancestor may have lived recently enough to be found in our family trees.

Because testing of the full sequence of mtDNA has only been commercially available in very recent years, far fewer people have taken that test than (for example) males have tested the DNA of their direct paternal line. So currently the chance of finding someone who shares direct maternal ancestors with us is still small. However as more people take a full sequence test of mtDNA, our chances of finding others related to us on our direct maternal line will increase. As a family historian, I look forward to anything that will help me find my female ancestors and those related to me on that line.

 

26 February, 2016 at 1:52 pm Leave a comment

Using Y-chromosome DNA

DNA testing does not provide names and so is not a substitute for more traditional family history research techniques. However a genealogist can use DNA testing as another tool to answer some family history questions in the absence of other documents.

Some questions that might be answered by a Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) test include:

  • Another man with the same surname lived near my ancestor. Were they related?
  • I think my female ancestor had a lover (or a second husband). Can I determine which man fathered her son?
  • My grandfather was adopted. I have a theory about who might be his father, can I prove it?
  • Can I prove that he and his brother are sons of the same man?

Father-to-son inheritance

Y-chromosome DNA (or Y-DNA) is a particular type of genetic material that is passed largely unchanged between a father and his son. As such, comparing the Y-DNA between two men can answer questions about whether they shared ancestors on the all-male line.

A female like myself who wants to answer the same sorts of questions needs to find a willing male close relative to be tested. I have ordered Y-DNA tests for my father, his mother’s nephew and also my mother’s brother in order to examine my nearest male lines.

In theory Y-DNA follows the path of surname inheritance and so finding a close Y-DNA match with another male who has the same surname is a good indicator that those men share an ancestor.

There are many reasons why a surname might not have been inherited along with Y-DNA. Geneticists refer to these as ‘non-paternity events’, when the father is either unknown or not the person commonly believed. A Y-DNA test could confirm a theory about paternity even when the possible father and son have different surnames.

To look for relationships between men long dead I need to find a living male descendant (down all-male lines) from each of them.

Sometimes that means stepping sideways – for example, researching a brother’s line if some man in the line had no male descendants. In other words, it is necessary to combine the use of more traditional family history research techniques with the new information offered by DNA.

A male with no clue about their father could take a Y-DNA test to learn which surnames occur most frequently amongst their genetic relatives and use these names as possible clues. (Alternatively a different DNA test – an autosomal test – might locate a cousin and that might help identify the father.)

I have also had serendipitous discoveries, when someone who tested with the same company was identified as a Y-DNA match with one of my family and we were able to identify the shared ancestor. Thus I have discovered previously unknown cousins, allowing an exchange of information about family history.

How does it work?

Every cell in your body has 23 pairs of chromosomes, inherited from your parents. The 23rd pair are the sex chromosomes – males have an X- and a Y-chromosome while females have two X-chromosomes. Note that only males have a Y-chromosome.

In each generation the Y- chromosome (or Y-DNA) of the father is copied (largely unchanged) in order to be passed on to his sons. However occasionally cells make a copying error.

Sometimes the number of repeats of a group of DNA ‘letters’ (called a short tandem repeat or STR) is increased or decreased.

The other mutation occurs only very rarely, when a single DNA ‘letter’ is miscopied (rather like a typo) – this is called a single nucleotide polymorphism (or SNP, pronounced ‘snip’). As both these changes are then transferred to future generations, the Y-DNA becomes rather like an audit trail, recording inheritance on the direct paternal line.

These mutations are illustrated in the diagram below. In the example Man 1 is the father of Man 2. When the Y-DNA of Man 1 is being copied, a SNP occurs when a ‘T’ is accidentally miscopied as an ‘A’. This change is inherited by Man 2 who then passes it on to his descendants.

Man 1 also has a segment of DNA with a short tandem repeat (STR) where the ‘letters’ CTA are repeated 5 times. We say that Man 1 has a repeat count (or allele) of 5 at that point. When that repeating section was copied for passing to Man 2, the number of repeats was increased – so 5 repeats became 6 repeats. By the time that DNA was re-copied and passed to their descendant Man 3, those 6 repeats have mutated to become 7 repeats. Note that Man 3 also continues to carry the ‘A’ variation of the SNP inherited by Man 2.

A genealogical Y-DNA test reports on certain STRs on the Y-chromosome. Rather than checking the whole chromosome, a male can order a Y-DNA test of certain useful sections of DNA (or markers) – currently available tests examine between 12 and 111 markers. When the repeat counts at those markers are compared against those of another male, a close match indicates that the two men share an ancestor on their all-male or patrilineal line. Depending on how closely they match, an estimate can be made about how many generations earlier their most recent common ancestor (or MRCA) probably lived.

Genealogists should test at least 37 markers. Anything less and it could be that an indicated shared ancestor lived many hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Genetic genealogy tests also examine the SNPs (‘typos’) on the Y-chromosome. Such SNPs indicate the haplogroup – or where the male tested fits into the broad family tree of all men.

Which company to use?

The US company Family Tree DNA is the main company offering specific STR marker testing of the Y-chromosome with the required level of accuracy required by genealogists as well as having a large database of others’ Y-DNA results for comparison.  This company offers tests of between 37 and 111 markers as well as tools to interpret the results. For under US$170 (at the time of writing) it is possible for males to test their Y-DNA with sufficient accuracy to determine whether two men are likely to share a common ancestor ‘within a genealogical timeframe’ and also receive an estimate about how many generations ago that shared ancestor lived.

You can save money by ordering the Y-DNA test through a surname-specific project. Projects are managed by knowledgeable volunteers who analyse the similar DNA of large groups of people in order to draw further conclusions. By looking at the DNA of enough people with the same surname, it may be possible to identify when a particular mutation occurred. For example you may learn that ‘all those with this particular mutation descend from one brother but those without that mutation descend from the other brother’.

Many projects focus on a common surname but there are also geographic and ethnic heritage projects. Joining projects is free and you can usually join any that might be of interest – such as for other surnames that occur frequently among your DNA matches! Once you discover your Y-DNA haplogroup, I recommend you also join the relevant haplogroup project – those matches share Y-DNA heritage, whether or not they share surnames.

Family Tree DNA often has sales when significantly discounted prices are available. (The company’s Facebook page is one way to learn about such sales.)

Websites
Family Tree DNA
Projects on Family Tree DNA 
Webinars on Family Tree DNA
Family Tree DNA on Facebook
Ysearch   (for those who have tested with another company and want to compare their results against the Family Tree DNA database)

18 June, 2015 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

Introduction to using DNA with your family history research

Traditional family history research involves looking for documents that name an ancestor – and hoping that everybody told the truth! By contrast, genetic tools that are now available to genealogists tell the truth but do not name ancestors – however they can be used to find relatives and to check the accuracy of our constructed family trees.

Why use DNA testing?

Birth certificate without father's name

Birth certificate without father’s name

I have an ancestor who was adopted. When I eventually located his original birth certificate, no father was named. I developed a plausible theory about who his father might have been, but I could not find any record to prove or disprove my idea.

In another case my ancestor, John Etherington, a builder, sits at the top of one of my ancestral lines but I cannot find any documentary evidence that he was related to the John Etherington, also a builder, who lived two streets away. Another ancestor, Samuel Etherington, was reputed to also be the Samuel Holmes who fathered another family. To solve puzzles such as these I needed a different set of genealogical tools.

What is DNA testing?

Genetic genealogy testing is all about comparing our DNA with others. Closer relatives share more DNA in common with us than more distant relatives. Genetic genealogy tests examine the areas of DNA where we differ – and predict approximately how closely we are related.

Sometimes we have a particular theory to check and we know in advance the two individuals we wish to compare. At other times genealogists are ‘fishing’ in the DNA ‘nets’, hoping to find unexpected genetic matches who might share an ancestor with us and who might then have information about unknown family branches. In the latter case there are benefits in comparing with as many people as possible. One way to do this is choosing a company with a large database of other people already tested.

DNA testing companies

Currently the main options for genealogists looking for living genetic relatives are the three US companies Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and AncestryDNA (a branch of Ancestry.com).

  • Family Tree DNA is the company chosen by most genealogists – and these tend to respond to family history enquiries. Moreover this company’s website has useful tools available for comparing DNA as well as recorded webinars freely available.
  • 23andMe offers genetic health predisposition reports as well as ancestry information. Many of their customers chose the company for those health reports and so are less interested in responding to genealogists. A dispute with the US Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) currently prevents 23andMe from providing health reports to new customers except in the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • AncestryDNA tests were released first to US consumers and so most of the people in their database are in the United States. Recently AncestryDNA began offering tests to Australians. AncestryDNA test results can be linked to Ancestry trees.

Ordering a test involves going to the company’s website, selecting a test and paying by credit card and then the kit will be posted to you. Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA tests involve swabbing inside your cheek (with something like a toothbrush) – in the way we have seen on television crime shows. The 23andMe test involves filling a test tube with saliva. In either method customers then post their completed kits back to the company and some weeks later are advised by email when their results are available online. Customers log on to the company’s website with a userID and password to find their results and matching customers predicted to be genetic relatives.

Which test should I take?

DNA testing is advancing (as well as becoming cheaper!) and so is more available for checking theories about your family history and perhaps even breaking down brick walls you might currently face. This article introduces the options currently available that might be useful to family historians.

Test 1: Y-chromosome tests, for males to test DNA inherited from their father’s fathers

For under US$200 we can test whether two males are likely to share a common ancestor ‘within a genealogical timeframe’, and how many generations ago that shared ancestor probably lived.

This test is valid for any two men who might share a male ancestor – they do not need to have the same surname. When testing with a company that has a huge database of people already tested, I might find a match with some living descendant who shares with me a common ancestor. This is useful for all genealogists but perhaps especially for adoptees.

I have used this test to discern whether two families with the same surname were actually related to each other, in the absence of documentary proof. I have also used this test to check (and refute) a theory about who might have been the biological father of an adopted male. It was necessary to find a living male descendant (down an all-male line) from the adopted male and also to find a living male descendant (down an all-male line) from the hypothesised birth father, and then compare the DNA that each inherited from their father’s fathers.

Y-chromosome tests are only available to males, as only males have a Y-chromosome. Females like me need to ask a near male relative to be tested – a brother, father, or uncle. I have ordered tests for my father and also my mother’s brother in order to examine my nearest male lines. For Y-chromosome tests, I recommend using the company FamilyTreeDNA and testing at least 37 markers.

Test 2: Mitochondrial tests, for anyone to test DNA inherited from their mother’s mothers

Useful DNA tests are no longer limited to males. We all have a different type of DNA (called mitochondria) that we inherited from our mother’s mother’s mother. Previously mitochondrial DNA could only tell us about ancient ancestors and their migratory patterns, but now it is possible to obtain much more recent information. Family Tree DNA offers a full sequence test of all our mitochondria, allowing us to identify people who share an ancestor with us on our maternal line within about 100-400 years. That test is also currently available for under US$200.

Test 3: Autosomal tests, to test the DNA inherited half from each of our parents

We are not restricted to testing only the DNA of our father’s fathers or our mother’s mothers. It is also possible to test our remaining DNA, inherited equally from both of our parents – this DNA is called ‘autosomal’. These tests compare the DNA of our ancestors regardless of gender, because we inherit half our autosomal DNA from each of our parents (and via them, from their ancestors). However as we inherit one quarter of our DNA from each of our grandparents (and so one eighth from each of our great grandparents) eventually the inherited material from any particular ancestor becomes so small as to be difficult to identify.

Consequently, when comparing this autosomal DNA with someone else, our best conclusions are when the shared ancestor lived no more than about five generations ago.

Commercial autosomal tests also report on our likely population origins or admixture, for example, ‘60% British, 20% Scandinavian and 20% Jewish’. The sample databases used for comparison are very small and currently most of these predictions are considered unreliable.

Family Tree DNA calls their autosomal test ‘Family Finder’, while 23andMe calls a similar test ‘DNA Relatives’. Both tests cost under US$100 – plus postage. (23andMe’s postage and handling charges to Australia  adds another three quarters to the price of their kit!) The AncestryDNA test costs Australians under US$150 (plus postage) but if you do not have an Ancestry.com subscription there is an annual cost for accessing your results.

For any genetic relatives identified in their autosomal tests, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe also report on shared segments of the X-chromosome. Females have two X-chromosomes (inherited one from each parent) while males have one (inherited from their mother). When trying to work out which ancestral branch might have passed down the X-DNA we share with some match in the database, genealogists can look at pedigree charts and eliminate any father-to-son branches, as fathers do not pass any X-chromosomes to their sons.

Use the tests in conjunction

The tests can also be used in conjunction. The autosomal ‘Family Finder’ test through Family Tree DNA identifies matches with my DNA and calculates a likely relationship.

One of my matches (described as a possible 3rd to 5th cousin) seemed to have very similar Y-chromosome (father’s father’s) DNA to my mother’s brother. I made contact and by swapping names of grandparents and their parents we soon identified that he was the son of a 3rd cousin to me (and so indeed within the range of 3rd to 5th cousins).

DNA cousins tested

DNA cousins tested

Autosomal testing can be used to check your constructed family tree.

Comparing the autosomal DNA of the three female cousins (Fay, Ann and Maureen) at the bottom of this diagram confirmed my constructed family tree of their relationships back to their shared ancestors.

 

(Spouses omitted after the first generation to simplify the diagram.)

 

 

 

Conclusion

It is not necessary to understand how a car works in order to drive it, but it is necessary to know the functions of driving. In the same way it is unnecessary to understand much about the science of DNA – but it is necessary to understand what sorts of questions can be answered by the different DNA tests so you can use them as tools to aid your family history research.

The most recent DNA tests available to genealogists offer useful information which can supplement traditional genealogical methods. Family trees are still needed to identify ancestors and draw conclusions about relationships. DNA tests can supplement this genealogical research, filling in gaps in the paper trails. With such tools we can test our conclusions and assumptions in constructed family trees by confirming or disproving reputed relationships. As more people are tested and databases grow, commercial DNA tests are even more likely to help us find relatives that we might not have found by traditional methods.

18 June, 2015 at 9:54 am 2 comments

Australian & NZ births, deaths & marriages

The earliest records available in the new colonies were the church records of baptisms, marriages and burials. Many people are missing from these registers – not all records have survived and not everybody had a church ceremony (especially in those places where initially only the Anglican Church was recognised).

In due time, governments needed better records of the people in the colony, so they introduced government-administered registration of births, deaths and marriages – or civil registration. District registrars were appointed and information was reported to them. In an age where many people were illiterate, registrars had to guess how to spell the names. (Remember this when searching for names in indexes – often the reason for not finding someone is because of spelling variations.)

Church ceremonies continued to take place, so it may be possible to obtain a copy of the information collected by the church, as well as the corresponding civil certificate.

As a general rule, the government asked for more information on civil certificates than was contained in the corresponding church record – but sometimes the opposite is true. For example, NSW marriage certificates (especially in the 1860s and 1870s) may not include information such as parents’ names and occupations, even though such information might be found in the corresponding church record.

As English and Welsh civil registration began on 1st July 1837, the earliest Australasian colonies to issue civil certificates (of birth, death and marriage) followed the English model:

  • Birth registrations asked for the child’s name, date and place of birth and the names of the parents
  • Marriages registrations asked for the couple’s names, ages, residences and occupations and sometimes details of the fathers
  • Death registrations included questions about the deceased’s name, age and occupation as well as the date, place and cause of death

When the Victorian government began civil registration in 1853, they requested more information on certificates. Other colonies (and Scotland) that introduced civil registration later largely followed the Victorian practice of collecting the additional information, such as:

  • Birth registrations also asked for the parents’ ages, place of birth and marriage details, and details of previous children
  • Marriage registrations asked for the couple’s birthplaces and details of both fathers and mothers
  • Death registrations asked for the deceased’s birthplace, parents’ and spouse’s names, marriage details, children’s names and burial place

Some or all of these additional fields of information on Victorian certificates were added in later years to the certificates of the regions that had earlier followed the English style of certificates.

Colonies that followed the English model were:

  • Tasmania, earlier known as Van Diemen’s Land (from 1 December 1838)
  • Western Australia (from 9 September 1841)
  • South Australia (from 1 July 1842)
  • Northern Territory was administered by South Australia from 1863 to 1911, so their civil BDM certificates (from 24 Aug 1870) follow the South Australian pattern
  • New Zealand (from 1848) – although registration was not compulsory until 1856

The colonies that followed the Victorian model were:

Even when registration was compulsory, not all births, deaths and marriages were registered and some registrations have been lost (especially in the early years). Perhaps the parties had to travel some distance to the District Registrar, and might not have bothered. They might have distrusted the government and been unwilling to supply the information.

Even if you find the certificate, just because a question is asked, does not mean that the informant knew the answer. Under such circumstances a field might be left blank, or the informant might simply have made a guess.

For example, in NSW the parents were required to register a birth, the minister registered marriages, and it was the responsibility of the owner of a house to register a death. If the parents registering a birth were unmarried, unwillingness to admit this might lead to an invented marriage date. Similarly a young couple might lie about their ages in order to marry without their parents’ permission.

Death certificates are notorious for errors and missing information. The informant might not have known the information – the son of an immigrant might never have met their grandparents, and so might not know their names. If the death took place in a hospital or institution, the owner might not know family details. There are death certificates where even the name of the deceased is unknown.

Each state and territory has their own Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. There are microfiche indexes, CD-ROM indexes and sometimes online indexes. Not all indexes contain exactly the same information, and sometimes an item is missing from one index but present in another. So if you can’t find the entry in an online index, try visiting a library or genealogy society that holds microfiche and/or CD-ROM indexes.

For privacy reasons there is restricted public access to ‘recent’ certificates of births, deaths and marriages. Each state or territory determines their own definition of ‘recent’. Generally more restrictions have been put in place for online indexes than existed at the time of the earlier microfiche and CD-ROM indexes. So if you can access these earlier indexes, you may be able to search more recent indexes than are available online.

When searching indexes, always ensure you write down reference numbers for records of interest, as certificates may be cheaper with reference numbers supplied. For NSW and South Australia it is possible to obtain transcriptions more cheaply than certificates. (Such transcriptions are not legal documents, but as they include all the information on the certificates, they may be suitable for genealogical purposes.)

Victorian online indexes cost to search, however it is possible to obtain a copy as an unofficial ‘historic document’ more cheaply than an official certificate. For New Zealand, obtaining a ‘printout’ of the information on a post-1874 document is cheaper than obtaining a standard certificate.

(This article was written for findmypast.com.au)

These days many of the Australian births, deaths and marriages can be searched on Ancestry.com.au and South Australian and Northern Territory BDM indexes are also available on findmypast.com.au.

 

28 March, 2013 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

Passenger lists leaving UK

The following is a blog post I wrote for findmypast.com.au. It appeared on 30 July 2012.

It’s a common experience for genealogists – tracking ancestors forward through the UK censuses – to find that suddenly the whole family seems to vanish from the records. Eventually it might occur to us to wonder, did they migrate somewhere? If so, where did they go?

This is where the collection ‘Passenger lists leaving the UK 1890–1960’ on findmypast.com.au can be so useful. These are the digitised and indexed lists of passengers embarking on long-distance voyages made from all British ports (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales). If the ship stopped en route at additional ports, such as in Europe, passengers disembarking at those stops are also included. The original documents are held in The National Archives UK in series BT 27 (BT = Board of Trade). Findmypast has indexed together all departures from all British ports, allowing researchers to enter their ancestor’s name of interest and determine the destination.

The most common way of searching for immigrant ancestors is to search the archives of the destination country. But which government archives to check? In the case of passengers to Australia, the individual colonies (and then states) administered immigration separately until 1922, after which immigration control became a function of the Commonwealth Government. (A further complication when looking for immigration records is that, just as today, immigration is typically handled at the first port of call.)

Using findmypast.com.au, there is a better way. Look under ‘Travel & migration’ and select the record set ‘Passenger Lists Leaving the UK 1890-1960’. I was searching for the migration of my grandmother, Olwena KELLETT, who was born in Lancashire in 1901. I entered her name (with first name variants) and searched between 1901 and 1907. It is a free search – not even requiring a subscription to do the search.

I selected ‘name variants’ – which also allows for the fact that some passenger lists only identify people by an initial. I found her in 1905, where she travelled from Britain to South Africa.

olwena-kellet

The above information is as far as you can go with a free search. It requires a subscription or PayAsYouGo credits to see the transcription of the results or full image of the page. The amount of information available on the passenger lists varies widely over time. Some only have minimal information about the passengers, while others include their dates of birth, occupations, and addresses in Britain before departure as well as their ultimate destinations overseas.

I had already found the record of the family’s arrival in Australia, and had assumed they had travelled on that same ship from London to Sydney. But instead little Olwena travelled with her mother to South Africa first, and then 2 years later the family travelled on to Sydney.

As many of the passenger indexes available in Australia concentrate on ships that came from British ports, ancestors who travelled first to places like South Africa or North America might not be included in the indexes of arrivals in Australia. Looking instead at the departures from Britain might help us understand what happened.

Just as today, not every person travelling was an immigrant. Apart from the seamen, many of our ancestors (such as merchants) travelled for work and people travelled for holidays. Families who had already migrated travelled back to Britain to visit family and friends. In other words, a surprising number of our ancestors appear in passenger lists crossing the oceans. Using the indexes of passengers leaving Britain provides a very useful additional way of tracking their journeys.

30 July, 2012 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

DNA tools for genealogists

DNA technology is advancing so rapidly that it is difficult to keep abreast of the advances and possibilities. Moreover rapidly falling prices make genetic testing more affordable and so more accessible. Here are some current options:

Test 1: Y-chromosome tests, for males to test DNA inherited from their father’s fathers

It is now possible for under US$200 for males to test the DNA they have inherited from their father’s father’s fathers, with sufficient accuracy to determine whether two men likely share a common ancestor ‘within a genealogical timeframe’ and how many generations ago that common ancestor probably lived.

I have used this test to discern whether two families with the same surname were actually related to each other, in situations where I have not yet found documentary proof. I have also used this particular DNA test to check (and finally refute) a theory about who might have been the biological father of an adopted male. It was necessary to find a living male descendant (down an all-male line) from the adopted male and also to find a living male descendant (down an all-male line) from the hypothesised  birth father, and then compare the DNA that each inherited from their father’s fathers.

DNA is not related to surnames and so I am not restricted to testing two men with the same surname – the test is valid for any two men who might share a common male ancestor. However when I order this test, if I choose to use a commercial testing company like Family Tree DNA – which has a huge (and growing) database – I might find in their database a match with some living descendant who shares a common ancestor that I did not know about. This is especially useful for adoptees.

The above DNA test is only available to males (as only males have a Y-chromosome). Females like me need to ask a near male relative to be tested. I have asked my father and also my mother’s brother to be tested – this opens up for examination my nearest male lines.

Test 2: Mitochondrial tests, for anyone to test DNA inherited from their mother’s mothers

Useful DNA tests are no longer limited to males. We all have a different type of DNA (called mitochondria) that we inherit from our mother’s mother’s mothers. Mitochondria mutates so slowly that formerly the only conclusions we could draw from our maternal line was about ancient ancestors and their migratory patterns.

However that is no longer true. The company Family Tree DNA offers full sequence tests of all our mitochondria (DNA that is inherited from our mothers) that allow us to identify people who share an ancestor through our mother’s mother’s mothers, within about 200 years. [Thank you Bill Hurst for pointing out that while 23andMe also tests the ‘coding region’ of our mitochondria,  they do not test or give results for all 16,571 locations, so theirs is not in fact a full sequence test.]

When the above matrilineal full sequence tests first became available, they cost close to $1,000. That price has dropped now to under US$300 (sometimes under $200).

Test 3: Autosomal tests, to test the DNA inherited half from each of our parents

We are not restricted to testing only the DNA of our father’s fathers or our mother’s mothers. Since 2010 it is possible to test the remaining nuclear DNA (that is, not the sex chromosomes). This DNA is called autosomal. Family Tree DNA calls their autosomal test Family Finder, while 23andMe calls a similar test Relative Finder. (Again these tests are under US$300 and sometimes under $200.)

These particular tests can check the DNA of our ancestors regardless of gender, because we inherit about half our autosomal DNA from each of our parents (and via them, from their ancestors) and this DNA can also be compared with the DNA of others. However as we inherit about one quarter of our DNA from each of our grandparents (and so about one eighth from each of our great grandparents) – eventually the inherited material from one particular ancestor becomes so small as to be difficult to identify definitively. Consequently, when comparing this autosomal DNA with someone else, our best conclusions are when the common ancestor lived no more than about 6 generations ago.

Use the tests in conjunction

While the above  tests examine separate DNA, the tests can be used in conjunction. When looking at the summary of DNA results for people that 23andMe identified as likely to be my 3rd to 5th cousins (identified via the Relative Finder – or autosomal test), I noticed that one of the matches also seemed to have very similar Y-chromosome (father’s fathers) DNA to my mother’s brother. I sent an email and by swapping names of grandparents and their parents, we soon identified that this person was the son of a 3rd cousin to me (and so indeed within the range of 3rd to 5th cousins).

It is not necessary to understand how a car works in order to drive it, but it is necessary to know the functions of driving. In the same way it is unnecessary to understand much about the science of DNA in order to use it as a tool – but it is necessary to understand what sorts of questions can be answered by the different DNA tests so you know how to apply them as tools to aid your family history research.

This field is changing quickly

Because genetic tests available to the public are changing frequently (and certainly the prices are) readers need to beware of relying on conclusions written years ago or by someone who has not ‘kept up’ with tests currently available. This blog post is partly in response to an article I read this week entitled ‘The DNA dilemma’ – I do not agree with many of the conclusions in that piece.

It is no longer true to say that the only available information to be derived from maternal DNA (or mitochondria) is about ancient migrations of peoples – recent relatives can now be found by a full sequencing of the mitochondria (test available from Family Tree DNA for under $300).

It is no longer true that autosomal DNA can only make generalised indicators of race origins. (Autosomal DNA is sometimes referred to as ‘nuclear DNA’ but that is incorrect because the sex chromosomes are also inside the cell nucleus and the autosomes are the other pairs of chromosomes that are not the sex chromosomes.) Nor is it necessary to ‘test each generation in turn’. Autosomal DNA can identify that two people shared common ancestors within 6 generations (and possibly beyond, but it is less accurate beyond 6 generations). Many genealogists will not know all of their ancestors back even 6 generations, and so this DNA test can predict likely distant cousins who may not have been found by a paper trail.

There are differences between the DNA tests used in forensic law enforcement compared to commercial tests. Without going into too much scientific detail, legal forensics examine repeating groups of DNA at certain points on the autosomes whereas commercial autosomal tests examine the autosomal SNPs (something like ‘typo’ mutations). The tests are entirely different. Be wary about confusing the markers referred to in tests of the Y-chromosome (the DNA inherited father-to-son) – which are entirely different to the markers of autosomal DNA examined by forensic law enforcement agents.

Some people have suggested that male DNA studies are only relevant between males who share surnames. That is not true. There are many examples where family trees show a son with a different surname to his father – whether the name was changed by deed poll, by adoption, by remarriage of the mother – or for many other reasons. It is not the same surname that defines two people as father and son. Likewise DNA tests do not take surnames into account, so the test result is just as accurate whether two men share a surname or not.

In my opinion, the most recent DNA tests available to genealogists offer precise information which can supplement traditional genealogical methods. Family trees are still needed to identify ancestors and draw conclusions, however DNA tests can supplement other genealogical research, filling in gaps left by paper trails. With such tools we can test our conclusions and assumptions in constructed family trees as DNA can confirm or disprove reputed relationships. As databases grow, commercial DNA tests are more likely to help us find relatives that we might not have found by ‘traditional methods’.

5 June, 2012 at 11:22 pm 12 comments

Visit to Adelaide and Congress 2012

I’ve just returned from the 13th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry Adelaide 2012, where I delivered one talk (on ‘Which Genealogy Program?‘) and attended more than 20 others. I thoroughly recommend attending genealogy conferences – they provide access to a wide variety of speakers, with the opportunity to ask questions and discuss particular issues in my own family history. Websites are changing daily, and as more information is published online, conferences such as these allow attendees to learn about what is available and what is coming.

In addition there is the ‘buzz’ of spending days with others who share my passion for family history research, often also learning from discussions with other conference attendees. Genealogists are generous with their knowledge and usually keen to support other enthusiasts. Once you start attending conferences, your circle of genealogy friends and contacts grows. A highlight for me at this Congress was meeting up with friends from around Australia and some internationals – some friends I had previously only ‘met’ online.

Morning and afternoon teas, lunches and dinners were all busy times. In addition to looking at the offerings of the exhibitors (purchasing books, trying out websites, asking questions of librarians and society members) I enjoyed catching up with genealogy friends and swapping contact details with ‘new friends’.

So many genealogists gathering in one place provides the opportunity for meetings with some groups, sometimes over a lunch or dinner. I am proud to be a member of ‘Genealogists for Families’, whose motto is “We care about families (past, present and future)”. Through Kiva (a non-profit organisation) genealogists worldwide (and their non-genealogist relatives and friends) are working as a team to help less fortunate families. Kiva’s motto is “empower people around the world by making a $25 loan”. When many $25 loans are combined, borrowers without access to traditional banks can expand their business or support their families, and work towards raising themselves out of poverty. When the loan is repaid we can withdraw the money or lend it again.

Some of the ‘Genealogists for Families’ group in Adelaide met for dinner on the Wednesday (first) night of Congress. The dinner was an enjoyable time, with good food, chatting and much laughter, and when we passed around a collection box for spare coins, enough money was raised for 2 more Kiva loans.

Other nights were busy too: the (Tuesday) night before Congress was a Congress Welcome, Wednesday was the above Kiva dinner, Thursday night was a Lord Mayor of Adelaide’s function for speakers and exhibitors at Congress, and Friday night was the official Congress dinner.

Taking advantage of the trip to Adelaide, I flew over several days earlier in order to have some research time. Arriving on the Saturday afternoon before Congress, I spent Sunday and Monday researching in the State Library of South Australia and Tuesday at State Records South Australia. In addition I made brief visits to the Adelaide City Council Archives, to the Probate Registry – and also to photograph an old house in Norwood where my Grubb family ancestors made soft drinks in the late 19th century (F. C. Grubb soft drinks).

If you’re interested in family history and have any occasion to travel to where ancestors lived, prepare as much as possible before you travel. The time flies when you are actually in that library or archive office. You can be much more efficient if you have already searched online catalogues, and come prepared with references for books, microfiche, microfilms or computer files that you want to check. I had my netbook with my family history database, but I also had prepared reports of all those I knew were in South Australia at some time, so that I could quickly check whether accidental discoveries were likely to be my ancestors or not.

A digital camera is a great asset in libraries and archives offices, to quickly capture images of records found. A USB flash drive is also useful, as sometimes you can scan a document directly to a file. I had my new Flip-pal portable scanner with me (only owned for a week). Although scanning is slower than taking digital photographs, the Flip-pal did an excellent job of scanning & stitching documents and even screen images from microfiche or microfilm seen in the State Library. I was not allowed to use it in the State Archives.

So I’ve returned from a week in Adelaide with many books purchased, records scanned and photographed, pages and pages of lecture notes with clues to follow up for my family history – and also a backlog of emails and work that built up while I was away. One week in Adelaide is going to take me a lot longer than that to process! But it was a most enjoyable time and an experience I would heartily recommend.

2 April, 2012 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

The future of genealogy

There are many excited genealogists at present, partly because of the huge RootsTech conference currently running in Salt Lake City. I could not join the 3,000 people attending RootsTech live, but I can still benefit by downloading the syllabi (handouts from the talks) and also by joining the many thousands more, listening over the internet to some sessions being broadcast live.

However this set me thinking about the changes that have already happened in genealogy during my lifetime, and wondering what will happen in the future?

Marian Pierre-Louis wrote a great blog post entitled ‘Top 3 changes in genealogy‘. According to Marian, those ‘top 3 changes’ are:

  • Increased visibility, due to eg the increasing popularity of television shows like Who do you think you are? I would add to that – the online advertising of Ancestry.com tells people how easy it is to find your ancestors and that you don’t need to be an expert. (For my views on such advertising, see my earlier post ‘You only have to look‘.)
  • Education and outreach, including courses for amateurs and professionals, some face-to-face but many now available over the internet.
  • Technology – including blogging, social media like Facebook and the digitisation of records.

When I started my family history research, access to records meant either visiting libraries, archives and genealogy societies in person, or writing letters. It was the sort of ‘hobby’ mainly undertaken by retirees with time on their hands.

Now technology brings access to digitised records and indexes, but also to opportunities to learn from others, even experts in the fields – (almost) wherever in the world you and they might be. Only a few years ago I could not have sat at my desk here in Australia and listened to a lecture being delivered in Salt Lake City.

But the changes in technology bring dangers too:

  • Not everybody is able (or willing) to embrace technology, and that will leave behind some people, as more information becomes almost only available online.
  • Just as information is made readily available online, so errors are broadcast more widely too.
  • Many seem to expect to find all information easily available online, so traditional sources that require more time to explore are being ignored (or at least until they are digitised!)
  • Because some questions are answered easily and quickly, many no longer see the need for education and learning ‘how to do research’. So they don’t learn that the first apparently matching record found might not be the right answer. The preferred solution becomes ‘whatever is quickest and easiest’ – and that could well be adopting somebody else’s family tree – warts and all.

So back to my original question – what of the future? Can the number researching their family trees continue to grow at the current rate? Is there a limit?

The average age of genealogists seems to be getting younger and perhaps that is partly because of the attractions of technology and ‘saving time’. Can the current trends continue?

More than one website has attempted to ‘stitch together’ family trees, aiming at one world-wide family tree. Mostly that has been fraught with errors – there are too many coincidentally similar people’s names, dates and places. Considered weighing of evidence and acknowledging that some conclusions are at best unreliable is needed in our own trees, and so I wonder how could any computer program reliably make that decision for us? Apparently there is already one family tree for everyone in Iceland, could that eventually be true for the rest of us?

Is DNA the answer? Certainly DNA tests can already predict the probability that we share a common ancestor with someone, but cannot tell us precisely who that common ancestor must be. More traditional methods of genealogical research are needed in conjunction with the tools provided by DNA.

So – what of the future? Technology will continue to race ahead – that is probably the only thing that is certain. It will become easier, perhaps more fun, to find more records and publish our conclusions. Will those family trees  be any more accurate than now?

What do you think? Can you make any predictions for 20 years? 50 or 100?

3 February, 2012 at 5:32 pm 5 comments

Check multiple names and also multiple indexes

I’ve written before about indexes whose titles suggest they are accessing the same records but in fact yield different results (see ‘Multiple indexes are not all the same‘).

However, competition between subscription websites as well as freely available material means that sometimes we now have the luxury of choosing between more than one index to the same information. Especially when those indexes are separately created and not just duplicated, we have an increased chance of actually finding the record we are looking for.

I transcribed some of the 1901 London census and I am well aware how difficult it can be to read the writing. Sometimes I am almost surprised at the amount the indexers seem to have correct! Plus I hope that when researchers find an indexing error they will take the trouble to notify the webmaster (or database or index owner), so a correction can be made, and the general accuracy of the indexes will increase.

I had a reminder this week of the usefulness of multiple indexes. Dr Landsborough took a local census of the inhabitants of Stevenston in Ayrshire (Scotland) in 1819. (A version of this index can be seen on the ThreeTowners website).

We all know that Bill could be William. In Scotland Jessie was interchangeable with Jean, Jane or Janet. Morag becomes Sarah, and Donald could be Daniel.

A Scottish ancestor of mine was Grizel McKENZIE. Over the years I’ve looked for spelling variations of Grizel, but until this week I hadn’t tried looking for the English version of the name ‘Grizel’ – which is ‘Grace’. So the Grizel McKENZIE I was looking for seems to be the Grace McKENZIE who married Andrew SILLARS in Stevenston (Ayrshire) in 1833.

SILLARS is a name that seems to beg mis-spelling – SILLERS and SILAS are common, so when searching an online index I was trying SIL*S. The wildcard * (asterisk) can substitute for none, 1 or more characters. That picked up a number of spelling variations but not all.

That’s when multiple indexes came in handy. For English censuses I might check both FindMyPast.co.uk as well as Ancestry.co.uk but for Scottish censuses I was looking at Ancestry as well as ScotlandsPeople. (You can do a fair bit of searching on ScotlandsPeople before you have to pay). Ancestry only has transcriptions of the Scottish censuses, rather than the full images of the records on ScotlandsPeople, but I have a subscription for Ancestry and so did not have to pay more to search. (Ancestry.com is also generally freely available at libraries.) 

In the 1841 census on Ancestry I found my couple as ‘Andrew and Gaiyle SILLARS’ – I thought that Gaiyle might be a mis-reading of Grizle. But although knowing they were likely there somewhere, I could not find the same couple on ScotlandsPeople – I tried putting a wildcard on the *front* of the name and even that did not find them. In the end I abandoned looking for the surname at all. Fortunately their first names were uncommon so I tried looking for them by first name only, coupled with age and place – and finally I found them – as Andrew and Grizle LILLAY!

So ‘Andrew and Gaiyle SILLARS’ in one index were ‘Andrew and Grizle LILLAY’ in another. Here’s a copy of the image – what do you think?

Andrew and Grizle SILLARS

Andrew and Grizel (Grizle / Grace) SILLARS

15 July, 2011 at 5:36 pm 6 comments

Multiple indexes are not all the same

I’ve been looking at Australian immigration records, and in particular the various indexes that sound as though they are indexing the same records but actually yield very different results.

Some years ago I searched through multiple microfilms until I found the records of John Hoadley and his family, who set out from England as ‘bounty immigrants’ in 1838. Colonists selected suitable immigrants to sponsor, and paid for their fares, in exchange for a ‘bounty’ from the government, which reimbursed part or all of the costs. The new immigrant would then be contracted to work for their sponsor for a time.

Immigration to New South Wales was the responsibility of the NSW government until 1922, and the records are now held by NSW State Records. (Immigration records after 1922  are now held by the National Archives of Australia.)

Male bounty immigrantAnyway back to John Hoadley – he was aged 26, a farm labourer from Chittington Sussex. His wife Mary Ann was a 22-year-old housemaid. They had 2 small children, George aged 1 and Mary Ann aged 2. According to the references supplied, John Hoadley was the son of Amelia Hoadley, a laundress of Blumton, Sussex. His health was good and the local curate attested to his good character.

As I say, I had found their ship and date of arrival by searching through microfilms. When NSW State Records added an online index to their website, that index started from 1844, so did not include the Hoadley family.

When the subscription site Ancestry.com.au released a ‘Bounty Immigrants Index for 1828-1842’, the Hoadley family was missing. (Or were they just wrongly indexed? The original writing is difficult to read.)

Recently I checked a newer Ancestry collection, ‘Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists 1828-1896’ and this time it DID include the Hoadley family. (Why was an 1838 record missing from the 1828-1842 collection but found in the 1828-1896 collection?)

John Hoadley, Assisted Immigrants list on Ancestry.com.au

According to the record in the Ancestry collection, John Hoadley “jumped overboard in a fit of delirium … at midnight … Left a widow and 2 children”. I had not known that!

More recently, NSW State Records released ‘digital copies of the Bounty Immigrants lists, 1838-96’ – copies of the original passenger lists, freely available online. Note that these start 6 years earlier than the NSW State Records Assisted Immigrants index. I was pleased to find that the ship ‘Amelia Thompson’ was included – however the digitised images online only include the single men and women, not the families and married couples, so the Hoadleys were left out – again.

Most recently FamilySearch released an ‘Index to bounty immigrants arriving in NSW, Australia, 1828-1842’ – including digital images. Having seen the other records, I expected the FamilySearch image would be a copy of one of those – it wasn’t.

The image on the FamilySearch site is a filmed copy of a card index, including a transcription of all available information – including some I did not know. Poor Mary Ann Hoadley did not only lose her husband on the voyage, her youngest child died at the Quarantine Station 2 weeks after their arrival.

The above was a lesson to me that the indexes and images might sound as if they are all the same, but – for whatever reason – the ancestor you are looking for might be included in one index and missing from another. Or one record might include more information than another. Taken together, all the information tells much more of a story, that I would not have learned if I had stopped looking when I found the name of the vessel and a date.

FamilySearch bounty immigrants

10 March, 2011 at 9:34 pm 6 comments

Parents Unknown

William Etherington, "parents unknown"

Parents unknown

If a death certificate has the dreaded word ‘Unknown’ – think about other ways of getting the information.

I was looking for the origins of William Etherington, a carpenter who died at Delegate (southern NSW). On his death certificate, not only were his parents listed as unknown, but so were any spouse or children.

Death certificates often have errors or missing information, because the owner of the property where a death occurred was the person required to register the death. The accuracy of their answers depended on who that was and how much did they know.

Next possibility – was there a will naming family members? If so, it might be found in a ‘Probate Packet’ – such files contain information about the property of the deceased and who was to inherit.

Checking the online indexes of NSW State Records (holders of New South Wales government archives), I found no entry for William in the Probate Packet index, nor the index of the Deceased Estate files (generally these contain an inventory of property and possessions).

However there was an entry for William Etherington in the index for Intestate Estates (‘intestate’ means died without leaving a will). The Curator of Intestate Estates determined who was to inherit when there was no will to indicate the wishes of the deceased.

The online index gave a clue that this file was working checking. The comments column included “contains original BDMs”. What an understatement!

William was one of 9 children, most of whom had married (and perhaps remarried) and had children of their own. William’s brother claimed that all his siblings and their descendants deserved to share the inheritance. In evidence there was a family tree (4 generations) along with all the applicable birth, marriage and death dates for everyone named. Not only that, but the file also contained all of the birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial certificates. Most documents were from England and the baptisms and burials were certified by the vicar.

Instant family! And photographing them all with my digital camera cost me nothing. (Fortunately I had a spare camera battery, as there were so many documents.)

I don’t think I have ever before found so many certificates in one file! However it was also a reminder that if the information is missing in the first place you seek, check elsewhere.

Family tree of William Etherington

Family of William Etherington

29 January, 2011 at 5:43 pm 3 comments

Ancestor Approved Award

Ancestor Approved

Ancestor Approved Award

I was delighted to be nominated for the Ancestor Approved Award from Pauleen at ‘Family history across the seas‘.

I have been busy preparing for an engagement party, worrying about weather and tidiness – but then came horrifying tales of the floods. How could I worry about rain at the party, when others were struggling with the loss of lives and possessions? Likewise, when I consider the difficulties and personal tragedies faced by some of my ancestors, it puts into perspective my own concerns.

This Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou at Ancestors Live Here and asks two things of those who receive it:

  1. They should write 10 surprising, humbling, or enlightening aspects of their research
  2. Pass the award on to 10 other researchers whose family history blogs are doing their ancestors proud.

So here are my 10 surprising, humbling or enlightening findings, in no particular order of importance:

  1. I am humbled by the difficulties faced by immigrant ancestors, like David and Jane MOORE and their three small children, who were shipwrecked when the “Sacramento” was wrecked at Point Lonsdale, Victoria, in 1853. They were rescued, but their possessions were lost. Our ancestors faced incredible difficulties leaving their families and settling so far away.
  2. I am humbled by the personal sacrifice of the many young men who ‘did their duty’ and fought in the various wars overseas. Whether they died overseas or returned to deal with their memories of war, they were willing to ‘do their bit’.
  3. I was surprised and enlightened when I found (via the internet) the relative in England who held a letter from 1903, which detailed how the ancestor I’d long been searching for had also lived under another alias.
  4. I was surprised by the number of ancestors who committed bigamy (or else had more than one partner at the same time, with children, and without marrying either partner). It was enlightening to read the detailed report of the Old Bailey Trial of my 4g.grandfather, Thomas MILLS, who married 3 times and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years for bigamy.
  5. I was surprised by the number of my ancestors who went bankrupt, and enlightened by reading the detailed accounts of their debts and possessions.
  6. Searching the births and then the deaths indexes for NSW, I was humbled and saddened to discover that Thomas and Ann ETHERINGTON lost 9 children in 20 years – one daughter reached 18 years, the rest did not survive to double digits. Then Thomas died, and Ann lived another 30 years as a widow.
  7. I am enlightened and fascinated when interviewing elderly relatives, with the details of early lives. For example, an elderly relative spoke of her grandfather’s car and how he would chain a log to the back of his car, to function as a break when he drove down the long slope from Armidale to Tamworth.
  8. I was enlightened by 2 reported desertions from the army of an ancestor, William Joseph ETHERINGTON. Orphaned at aged 7, he travelled with his brother to Victoria and enlisted as a drummer boy. When the regiment was to leave Victoria, he deserted and was recaptured. He deserted again in New Zealand 2 years later, trying to get back to Victoria. Police gazettes gave detailed physical descriptions at the time of each desertion, so now I even know how much he grew in those 2 years.
  9. I was surprised to discover that my ancestor, James BOND (with a son Felix), belonged to the BOND family whose motto was ‘The world is not enough’.
  10. I have been surprised to discover several family members who were not the child of their commonly believed ‘parents’.

Our ancestors are not just names and dates, but were real people, and we understand them better when we consider how we would cope with some of the events in their lives.

And now to nominate 10 other researchers whose blogs are doing their family proud: (I’m sure some of these would have been nominated before.)

  1. Shauna Hicks at  http://www.shaunahicks.com.au/shhe-genie-rambles/ (Someone else has probably already nominated Shauna, as she does so much for family history in Australia)
  2. Australian Genealogy Journeys at http://ausgenjourneys.blogspot.com/
  3. Lyn Dear at http://genealogy-new-zealand.blogspot.com/
  4. Carol Baxter at http://www.carolbaxter.com/blog/
  5. Family History South Australia at http://familyhistorysa.blogspot.com/
  6. Kylie Willison at http://kyliewillison.blogspot.com/
  7. Kirsty Wilkinson at http://professionaldescendant.blogspot.com/
  8. Blair Archival Research at The Passionate Genealogist
  9. London Roots Research at http://londonrootsresearch.blogspot.com/
  10. Amanda Epperson at http://scottishemigration.blogspot.com/

17 January, 2011 at 6:03 pm 5 comments

You only have to look

I am irritated every time I hear the ad that says “you don’t need to know what you’re looking for, you only have to look”. Advice like that encourages some people researching their family history to accept anything they find without question, especially when it is the only name that seems to match when searching an index.

The internet is littered with family trees wrongly patched together by people who did not look for corroborating evidence before adopting an ancestor.

Some of my “problem” ancestors took a great deal of hunting, through every available source I could access, before I finally found some record or some descendant or something that provided a clue to a mystery. Then lots of cross-checking was required before I could have some confidence in my conclusion. For example, it took nearly 10 years of  very focussed research before I found the necessary evidence for one ancestor, Samuel ETHERINGTON. (I did also research other ancestors in those intervening years!)

I do believe that any research needs to be focussed and directed. Be systematic in the way you check all the sources you can. Lucky dip research occasionally brings unexpected finds, but without careful cross-checking of details, you won’t know whether that find belongs in your tree or not.

Having said all that, new indexes and newly digitised records are recently being released at such a rate that it is difficult to keep up. Because I was so obsessed with one particular ancestor, I once could be fairly confident that I had checked most of the available sources of information about him. But with more ancestors in my tree and more sources to check (and less time – but don’t get me started on that) – anyway there are bound to be people in your tree that you have not yet sought in unlikely places as well as the more obvious.

Because I’m writing some new courses, I was looking for examples of some lesser used sources. Today I was checking online indexes on the website of the State Records Authority of New South Wales, the archives of the NSW government.

You can’t browse shelves in a government archives (as you might in a library), but you can browse online indexes. Not every sort of record is indexed and not all indexes are online, but a lot of them are.

Today I was checking indexes I don’t usually bother with and was quite surprised at how much I found. I did not know before that John McNEILL was a 1st class porter at Darling Harbour Goods Yard in 1910. Or that two James ETHERINGTONs (father and son) held Publican’s Licenses for the Nell Gwynne Hotel (York Street Sydney) in the 1850s. I found more bankrupt ancestors (and bankruptcy files can contain a wealth of details about daily life).

Which brings me back to where I started. Perhaps I did know what I was looking for, but I was still surprised with what I found. And I am so glad that I looked!

7 January, 2011 at 6:42 pm 8 comments

Testing genealogy knowledge

This week I prepared my first exam, for the ‘Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages’ course for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I actually found it surprisingly difficult, partly because I remember sitting many exams in the past & finding fault with multiple choice questions where answers could be argued.

How do you measure somebody’s skills at using births, deaths and marriages indexes, and interpreting certificates? I didn’t want all answers to be found in the notes. (Although knowing “What year did civil registration start in NSW?” – 1856 – might be useful, because there is usually more information on a civil birth certificate than the early church records baptism certificate.)

I believe that effectively using BDM indexes is more about your searching skills and being able to analyse and look for clues in the results found. Such skills improve over time – perhaps because after falling into a trap you are less likely to do so next time.

In this exam I tested skills like recognising the possibility of spelling variations, where you won’t find the birth if you search for the name exactly as it appeared in the death index (using a wildcard helps). Or linking that bride named Annie with the birth of a daughter named Ann.

I think these are the real skills of researching family history. Not jumping to conclusions when you stumble on one person who happens to have the right name and is born in the right place, before looking to see if they might have died as an infant and so could not possibly be the groom in a marriage 25 years later.  Alternatively if you look and don’t find, then thinking  about how else to search.

Researchers need to be aware that just because the marriage certificate said they married at age 20, doesn’t mean it’s true. I always start searching a range of dates and increase or decrease the range if necessary. One couple in my family had 5 children and then were married. (The bride was previously married and could not remarry until after the death of her first husband.) I would not have found the marriage if I only looked before the birth of their first child.

One skill that improves over time that I did not test in this exam, is handwriting recognition. (Ironically someone in my family has dreadful handwriting and he is fantastic at helping me interpret old hard-to-read handwriting.)

What do you think of this? (I remember how hard I found this at first, but now it seems not bad.)

Recognising handwriting in a will

10 December, 2010 at 5:38 pm 1 comment

Australian BDM certificates & saving money

Australians refer to Births, Deaths and Marriages (or BDM) – in alphabetical order. In UK these are described as BMD (in chronological order) while most Northern Americans refer to Vital Statistics.

I’ve been writing a course on Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages for the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. In Australia births, deaths and marriages are managed separately by each state or territory. While these have some common history there are also differences in the records and indexes available. (Links to the various BDM Registries can be found here.)

The following are some tips for saving money, while searching Australian BDM:

  1. Check whether a family member already has a copy of the certificate you want.
  2. Most states’ and territories’ Registry BDM indexes online are free to search, although Victoria’s cost & some regions don’t have online indexes.
  3. Most states and territories have BDM indexes on CDROMs that can be searched freely at libraries and genealogical societies.
  4. Ancestry.com is available to use freely at many libraries, genealogical societies & Family History Centers, so you do not need a personal subscription to check the combined ‘Australian Birth, Marriage and Death Index’.
  5. Cross-check details as much as possible before ordering, to minimise wrongly ordered certificates.
  6. Check holdings of genealogical societies – someone else might have deposited a copy of the certificate you want.
  7. Check the Australasia Births, Deaths & Marriages Exchange in case someone else has the certificate you want.
  8. Certificates are often cheaper if you can provide the name, year and registration numbers (and sometimes registration districts) – so check an index first and write down ALL the details.
  9. For New South Wales (NSW) and Tasmania, many 19th century church records are microfilmed & you may be able to see them at a genealogical society or library and write down the details yourself.
  10. For NSW transcriptions are cheaper than full certificates. Obtain these from Marilyn Rowan, Joy Murrin or Laurie Turtle. Early Church Records transcriptions are cheaper than civil certificate transcriptions.
  11. In South Australia transcriptions can sometimes be obtained free from the public libraries that hold District Registers. Note that each library can only provide transcriptions of one district, not others. Some libraries charge for this service and some offer it free. (eg Unley Library holds Adelaide District Register ONLY and will copy for researchers who live too far from the library to visit.)
  12. South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society (SAGHS) offers transcriptions of all districts of historic South Australian certificates.
  13. For Victoria, historical images of certificates (downloaded immediately as PDF files) are cheaper than certified printed copies of certificates (posted to you).
  14. Search Queensland BDM indexes online for free and order online the historical image of a certificate more cheaply than a certified historical certificate here.

14 November, 2010 at 12:54 pm 12 comments

Busy times – and handouts

I’ve been very busy lately, writing and teaching, but without time to write new blog entries.

At the recent History and Genealogy Expo, run by Unlock The Past,  I gave talks entitled ‘Which Genealogy Program?’ and ‘DNA for Genealogists’.

Which Genealogy Program?‘ is the title of the book I wrote with Rosemary Kopittke, and it is available through Gould Genealogy & Heraldry. Actually today I finished the revisions for an updated edition 2 of the book, which will be launched next week at the History and Genealogy Roadshow. Edition 2 of the book includes reviews of the latest versions of Ezitree Plus, Family Tree Maker 2011 and MacFamily Tree.

A second talk I gave at the Expo was ‘DNA for Genealogists’, and a short excerpt from my talk can be seen in this clip. (Having seen it, I realise that I really must learn to trust the remote controls for changing slides, so I don’t need to keep looking down at the computer in order to step through the slides of my presentations!)

I have also attended the ‘Lost in the Internet’ seminar at the State Library of NSW, conducted by the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG). My topic to speak on there was ‘How Pay-to-view Websites can be Good Value’. A photo from that day can be seen here.

Today Louise St Denis, the Managing Director of the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) released some information that will also be announced next week at the Roadshow – I am to be the Director of Australian Studies for an Australian Certificate course run through NIGS. Her announcement can be seen here. The various courses will be released over 2011.

Anyway all that is why I haven’t had time to write about anything in particular, although I have actually been doing a lot of genealogical writing. With all these talks, I decided to make available on my website the handouts from some of the talks I have given in the last few years. (Bear in mind that some of these handouts were prepared some years ago – each shows the date indicating when it was prepared.)

I retain the copyright, but hopefully at least some of the information contained might be useful for others. Handouts include: Arrivals (Immigration); Australian births, deaths & marriages; Australian government archives; DNA for genealogists; Pay-to-view websites; New Zealand research; Publishing personal research to the Internet; Scottish research; Victorian Goldrush; Western Australian genealogy.

2 November, 2010 at 8:04 pm 2 comments

Lifelong friends

I was fortunate enough to attend two reunions this weekend, in both cases with friends I’ve known half my life or more. This set me thinking about our ancestors and their friends. When we find a ‘visitor’ or ‘boarder’ staying with our ancestors in a 19th century census, how much effort do we put into trying to track down who that visitor was?

A child might well turn out to be a grandchild (or niece or nephew), and their surname might provide the clue to what happened to missing children or siblings. Often the boarder or visitor is a relative. Just as today, when visiting or moving to a new location, it might be convenient to stay with a family connection. Or perhaps the visitor was a work colleague.

Sometimes we don’t know the reason why the boarder is staying in that particular family home, but they continue to be present at census after census. One such person in my family history is Ralph MORT. In the 1851 census, Ralph and his younger sister Ann were lodging with the family of William and Maria KELLETT, in Preston, Lancashire (England). William was my 3g.grandfather, and in the 1851 census William was listed as a coal carter and Ralph MORT was a (railway) engine driver, so perhaps they knew each other through work. That is the nearest I have found to a possible explanation for their connection.

In the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses, Ralph (without his sister Ann) continued to live with the KELLETT family. William KELLETT died in 1883 and his wife Maria in 1889. In the 1891 census, Ralph was listed as the head of the household, living at that same address with KELLETT relatives. In 1901 (again same address) 81-year-old Ralph is back to being a boarder with a KELLETT son as head of the household.

When I ordered a copy of the 1889 will of Maria KELLETT, I had a sinking feeling as I deciphered the names of her heirs. I had never heard of the children that were named and the children that I knew about were not mentioned. I thought I must have the wrong Maria KELLETT – until I interpreted the signature of a witness – Ralph MORT. It was the confirmation I needed that in fact I had the right will and so a number of new children to research as relatives.

Ralph Mort – long-time friend or a branch of the family not yet connected? (Ralph’s will unfortunately does not answer that question.) Either way for me “and Ralph Mort” is like the full stop at the end of this family sentence. He is also an example of why it is worth paying attention to the various lodgers and visitors listed with our families on census nights.

 

William Kellett and Ralph Mort

William Kellett and Ralph Mort in 1871

 

18 October, 2010 at 12:50 pm Leave a comment

Trove: hidden treasures

Preparing for a class this week I had another look at Trove. Trove is an initiative of the National Library of Australia, designed to “provide a single point of access to the resources of the deep web”, focused on Australia and Australians. Trove’s byline is “one search … a wealth of information”.

Trove itself was first released in May 2009 however some parts of the collections have been available for years, perhaps under other titles. Now they are brought together under a single search. Some are the results of digitisation projects undertaken by the National Library of Australia (perhaps in conjunction with others), but others are links into other collections (such as Open Library or Google Books).

You can log in to the site, in order to personalise the way you search and results found. You can create and save your own lists of useful items, list libraries you are affiliated with, tag or comment (on books, photographs,etc), correct electronically generated newspaper text – and more.

A recent survey showed that about half the users of Trove are family historians (equal to all the other categories combined). There is good reason for that – Trove provides access to information invaluable to family historians who want more than just names and dates.

The Australian newspaper digitisation project has been underway since 2007, making available newspapers published in Australia from 1803  to 1954, covering a range of titles from every state and territory. Now this collection is accessed via Trove. Family historians can search for articles about a family name of interest, or the first reports of a new settlement, ships’ passengers named on their arrival – or anything else you can think of. Searches can be narrowed by location, date, publication, article category – or even whether or not the article is illustrated.

Newspapers often reported on distant events, if those stories were deemed likely to be of interest to readers. In “The Canberra Times” of 1946 I found an article reporting on a fire at the home of my grandparents in the northern suburbs of Sydney. (A reminder not to be too hasty to narrow the location of  the search.)

The “Pictures and photos” collection within Trove includes even more than the Picture Australia collection. Family historians might search for an ancestor by name or a historic photograph of the town where they lived, or even photos of an event witnessed by a family member.

The “Books, journals, magazines, articles” collection provides access to the full text of some books (those held in collections like Project Gutenberg and Open Library). In addition users can search by subject or title for a book, and then find out which libraries in Australia hold that book. Such books can then be ordered by inter-library loan to the user’s local library – often even when the holding library is not itself a lending library.

“Archived websites” provides access to the Pandora collection, in which the National Library has been archiving Australian websites since 1996 – thus perhaps providing access even to pages no longer on the web. (I found a 2001 obituary of an ancestor published in an architecture magazine.) (If you don’t find the page you want in Pandora, also have a look at The Wayback machine.)

Other headings on the Trove gateway provide access to “Diaries, letters, Archives”, Maps, “Music, sound and video” and “About people and organisations”.

This is indeed a treasure trove of information, easily and freely available to anyone prepared to look.

10 October, 2010 at 12:33 pm 1 comment

Expand your search

My great great grandfather, Samuel ETHERINGTON, was a “brickwall” for many years. For only 1 of his children could I find a baptism (in 1859) and that document referred to “Samuel Etherington, engineer”. Every other reference was to “Samuel Etherington, builder”.

Except one – when his daughter Emily married in 1883, her father was named as “Samuel Etherington, baker”. I could not find Samuel born, married or died, nor immigrating – he just seemed to be there, fathering children. I tried all sorts of spelling variations, hunted him through directories, electoral rolls and every other source I could find. I followed the family’s rates payments to local councils. I learned a lot about his life – but not where he was born or died.

Eventually I expanded the search and started researching everyone surnamed ETHERINGTON in 19th century Australia, placing them in families and looking for a Samuel. (Fortunately the name was not too common.) When that didn’t solve the mystery, I expanded the search further, looking for those families’ origins back in England. I found one possibility – Thomas ETHERINGTON (who migrated from England to Sydney) had had a brother Samuel born in England, whose death I could not find.

By this time Internet bulletin boards and email lists were available. Wherever I could, I posted queries – did anybody know anything about this English ETHERINGTON family of Thomas and Samuel? Eventually somebody saw my message who knew someone who knew something – and he put me in touch with a lady in England who held family documents which explained the puzzle.

This lady’s ancestor had received a letter from Australia in 1903, from a Henry HOLMES, who wrote – “you don’t know me but I am the son of your brother Samuel ETHERINGTON, who has been living here in Australia under the name of Samuel HOLMES”. Henry HOLMES was the oldest son of Samuel and Hester HOLMES. With that clue, things started falling into place.

Samuel HOLMES, baker, had 6 children surnamed HOLMES with Hester HOLMES. Samuel ETHERINGTON, builder, had 8 children surnamed ETHERINGTON with Sarah EVERETT. I’m guessing that the dual lives must have been revealed at some point, hence the ETHERINGTON daughter’s marriage certificate, naming Samuel ETHERINGTON as a baker, just before Samuel ETHERINGTON disappeared from the records.

It appears that Samuel eventually abandoned the ETHERINGTON family and moved away with his son Henry HOLMES, until his death (as Samuel HOLMES) in 1903 in Bombala (southern NSW). In 2003 I visited England and saw where Samuel was born in Bermondsey – later that same year I visited Bombala and saw his grave.

Because I had hunted so hard for Samuel, for more than 10 years, I eventually knew a lot about him. When I found that bankruptcy file (mentioned in an earlier blog post) for Samuel HOLMES, it included the signature of Samuel HOLMES, baker. The English ETHERINGTON family had a prayer book inscribed by Samuel ETHERINGTON – what do you think of the 2 signatures?

Signature of Samuel HOLMES

Samuel Holmes

Samuel ETHERINGTON

Samuel Etherington

30 September, 2010 at 5:01 pm 1 comment


Discoveries and musings of a family history researcher and instructor - including tips and hints.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 104 other followers

Categories

Archives


%d bloggers like this: