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    Genealogy - The DNA Thread

    Have we done genealogy on OTF? Can't recall it but there's probably something deep in the archives.

    I first got involved about 30 years ago, when the main source of information was the dusty tomes in the public records office. My paternal grandfather's background (Plymouth) was fairly well-known but my sister and I managed to take our antecedents back a few generations. My paternal grandmother was a bit more difficult but we managed to find out where she was born (Canning Town), which my dad didn't know, and I even visited the road and took some photos for him. So that was nice. My maternal grandmother was, we thought, fairly securely located (NE Wales) but she actually proved to be much harder to place than we thought. She's still a bit of a work in progress. But the biggest mystery was my maternal grandfather. Rocking up in NE Wales he'd said he was from the Oxford area but little more was known about him than that.

    My sister has been on his case for years now and had constructed quite a convincing back story but advances in DNA testing and it's cost has proved to be a game-changer. My teenage son has been building family trees for years now and by accessing and analysing the DNA results that are appearing on the genealogy websites he has, to a high level of certainty, cracked it.

    It transpires that my grandfather had taken a new name and kept quite about his background to cover the fact that he (drumroll) had deserted from the Royal Navy (gasp!).

    I find this all quite fascinating but I suppose that some family members might be a bit disappointed in him. All of his children, including my mum, have passed away but he still has a living daughter-in-law and about half a dozen grandchildren, one of whom has the wrong surname! Conversations to be had.

    Has anyone else got any genealogy-related tales to tell or family mysteries to be delved into?

    #2
    Oh yes, this is the thread I have longed for someone to start. I have done extensive research into both sides of my family. I have also done the DNA testing. I expect someone will post here to say that think those tests are the equivalent of your horoscope, but I think it's fascinating.

    ​​​​​​I will reply with more when I'm on my computer instead of this tablet that I keep fat-fingering.

    Comment


      #3
      Look forward to it, FF.

      In the meantime, this article about the potential pitfalls of DNA testing recently appeared on the Beeb's website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-46600325

      Comment


        #4
        No surprises like that in my family. Unfortunately.

        I'm just kidding.

        Comment


          #5
          I have spent hours (and hundreds of dollars) on ancestry.com, tracing family lines as far back as I could. I think it's not the most interesting subject to anyone outside of my immediate family, so I'll share some of the more interesting highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be).

          I'll start with my maternal grandfather's line, which includes common criminals:

          Thomas Wadsworth (b. 4 Oct 1713 Westminster, London, England) was my 5th great-grandfather. He was sentenced to Transportation on 4th April 1733, and that's how he came to this country.

          This is from the Old Bailey Online
          Thomas Wadsworth , William White , and JohnPowell , alias Fisherman , were indicted for breaking and entring the House of William Williams , and stealing four Canisters, 3 lb. of Tea, 52 lb. of Sugar, and 2 Brass Weights, Jan. 30. between 12 and 1 in the Night ; the Jury acquitted them of the Burglary, and found them Guilty of the Felony only.
          He married another convicted felon, Rebekah Parsmore (b. 1722, England)

          Also from the Old Bailey Online
          Rebekah Parsmore , was indicted for stealing a Pair of Leather Shoes, value 4 s. 6 d. two Shirts value 6 s. a black Silk Hood, value 1 s. and a Pair of Gloves, value 1 s. the Goods of William Glassmore . May 3 . Guilty
          So they both ended up in Baltimore, Maryland where they were married in 1741, when she was 19 and he was 27. They had six children in the nine years they were married (she died at 28 years of age in 1750). He died in 1760 at the age of 46.

          Comment


            #6
            Also, NS, not unrelated to your tale, my mother's maiden name is not Wadsworth. It morphed into a similar but different name that I am hesitant to post on the internet because of the whole security question thing.

            I also have ancestors from Switzerland whose name changed when they immigrated. It does add another level of difficulty to doing genealogical research.

            Comment


              #7
              My dad went very deeply into his family tree, spending time in the records office in London as well as various regional ones and churches and so on, even local newspapers. There were one or two interesting stories that he was able to half get an insight into but the most dramatic was that one of his great great grandfathers was killed by his own son (not his great grandfather but a brother). This obviously took place in a field (most of my family were agricultural labourers until about 3 generations ago), and was seemingly an unpremeditated attack of rage. Delving further it seems that this event was not much of a surprise to anyone as the "victim" was clearly known to be a real cunt*, especially to his family, and the killer was out of prison fairly shortly afterwards presumably as it was perceived that there was serious justification for his act.

              *The newspaper didn't use that exact words, but reading between the lines...

              Not sure if I told the story on here of one of my friends and colleagues (indeed sort of my professional mentor), who did his DNA test about 3 years ago, and got some surprises. Ron (my friend) is now in his 80s and he was about 79 when he did the test. He was born in NZ and as far as he knew his grandparents had all emigrated there from the UK ... so when he found out that he was something like 20% "pacific islander" that made no sense. Obviously his parents were already dead, and he didn't have any brothers or sisters to ask, so eventually he got in touch with a cousin who told him that he'd been adopted (a fact that he learned at the age of 79). Rather than completely phase him as it may have done for many of us, it fascinated him and he started delving deeper. Turns out that a family friend who he'd known as Aunt Mary (or something similar) was his actual mother, who had got pregnant out of wedlock to a local (not sure if he was Maori or another pacific islander). Obviously this had been a big scandal and all been hushed up - and as Ron's parents hadn't been able to have children, they agreed to adopt him, and the rest is history. A few months back he managed to locate members of the family he didn't know he had (they knew of his existence, but had no idea how or where to find him), and he went back out to NZ a few months ago and met up with his now much bigger family.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Femme Folle View Post
                I have spent hours (and hundreds of dollars) on ancestry.com, tracing family lines as far back as I could. I think it's not the most interesting subject to anyone outside of my immediate family, so I'll share some of the more interesting highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be).

                I'll start with my maternal grandfather's line, which includes common criminals:

                Thomas Wadsworth (b. 4 Oct 1713 Westminster, London, England) was my 5th great-grandfather. He was sentenced to Transportation on 4th April 1733, and that's how he came to this country.

                This is from the Old Bailey Online


                He married another convicted felon, Rebekah Parsmore (b. 1722, England)

                Also from the Old Bailey Online


                So they both ended up in Baltimore, Maryland where they were married in 1741, when she was 19 and he was 27. They had six children in the nine years they were married (she died at 28 years of age in 1750). He died in 1760 at the age of 46.
                Wow. Terrific stuff. I didn't realise that the UK transported criminals to the US. We haven't really uncovered much in the way of interesting stories, other than the desertion, but hopefully that's to come. What we have come across are lots of unmentioned relationships, particularly around my paternal grandmother who had many more children by her first marriage than my dad knew about.

                It's funny that you should mention the name changing incident. One of my dad's uncles had emigrated to Australia or New Zealand and then just sort of disappeared. We couldn't find him by his name but good old DNA testing revealed that he'd altered his surname slightly.

                It's also fun to find a connection, albeit slight, to a famous face. My paternal great-grandfather had married a Kitchener so Lord Kitchener of "Your Country Needs You" fame is a distant relative, as is Jeffrey Bernard and Roald Dahl, though he's so tenuous it's through his great-grandmother's budgie's best friend or something!

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by ad hoc View Post
                  My dad went very deeply into his family tree, spending time in the records office in London as well as various regional ones and churches and so on, even local newspapers. There were one or two interesting stories that he was able to half get an insight into but the most dramatic was that one of his great great grandfathers was killed by his own son (not his great grandfather but a brother). This obviously took place in a field (most of my family were agricultural labourers until about 3 generations ago), and was seemingly an unpremeditated attack of rage. Delving further it seems that this event was not much of a surprise to anyone as the "victim" was clearly known to be a real cunt*, especially to his family, and the killer was out of prison fairly shortly afterwards presumably as it was perceived that there was serious justification for his act.

                  *The newspaper didn't use that exact words, but reading between the lines...

                  Not sure if I told the story on here of one of my friends and colleagues (indeed sort of my professional mentor), who did his DNA test about 3 years ago, and got some surprises. Ron (my friend) is now in his 80s and he was about 79 when he did the test. He was born in NZ and as far as he knew his grandparents had all emigrated there from the UK ... so when he found out that he was something like 20% "pacific islander" that made no sense. Obviously his parents were already dead, and he didn't have any brothers or sisters to ask, so eventually he got in touch with a cousin who told him that he'd been adopted (a fact that he learned at the age of 79). Rather than completely phase him as it may have done for many of us, it fascinated him and he started delving deeper. Turns out that a family friend who he'd known as Aunt Mary (or something similar) was his actual mother, who had got pregnant out of wedlock to a local (not sure if he was Maori or another pacific islander). Obviously this had been a big scandal and all been hushed up - and as Ron's parents hadn't been able to have children, they agreed to adopt him, and the rest is history. A few months back he managed to locate members of the family he didn't know he had (they knew of his existence, but had no idea how or where to find him), and he went back out to NZ a few months ago and met up with his now much bigger family.
                  There must have been truly exceptional circumstances around the killing. I get the impression that little or no latitude was granted when it came to sparing anyone convicted of homicide from the gallows.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I'm somewhat envious of the quality of the records you WASPy types have to work with.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      NS, the OB was sending convicted felons to the US prior to 1776 when we told them to knock it off. That's when they started sending them to Australia.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        My Mum did a lot of research into our family tree about a 10-15 years ago. It started off as a way to put names to the faces on all the old family photographs after my Granny/her Mum died, and turned out to be quite a prescient decision, as my Nan, my Dad and my aunt have all passed away since then, as well as the last of the elderly relatives in Belgium who'd have been able to identify most of those people.

                        We knew some bits and pieces of the history but Mum has been able to fill in quite a few of the gaps - here's what I can remember:

                        My paternal grandfather was born in London, to Belgian parents. Well, Bonma's family was actually of Alsace Jewish stock, her maiden name was Weil - they left Alsace and moved north around the time of the Franco-Prussian war. She married a stevedore from Antwerp and they fled Belgium on the outbreak of WW1. The family returned to Antwerp after the war (can't remember exactly when), but Grandpa was visiting London in the summer of 1939 and received a telegram telling him to stay there as the Germans were on their way. His UK passport enabled him to join the British Army, and he met my Nan during paratroop training - he was stationed near Northolt and she was working in Hayes, having been evacuated down from Manchester (born in Eccles), as Hayes was then a relatively rural outpost and not a target for enemy bombing. They married during WW2, and spent several years in Germany after the war: Grandpa could speak several languages including fluent German, which got him a position on the de-Nazification commission in Hanover and Brunswick. My aunt was born in the British Military Hospital, which meant that the DOB entry in her first passport showed 'Hanover (UK)'. Much more prosaically, Dad arrived at Hillingdon Hospital once they'd returned to England.

                        Grandpa's brother Robert was taken by the Wehrmacht when they reached Antwerp and sent to forced labour camps somewhere to the east. He had learning difficulties but was a big strong lad, by all accounts: the last letter was from late 1944 and placed him in Sonnenburg (now Słońsk, Poland). Went there with Mum and Dad about 15 years ago and visited the prison camp museum, which was a very sobering experience of course (with some major translation and interpretation help from Maciej, the OTF Polish football expert). We assume that Robert was executed there. What we do know is that when Grandpa returned to Antwerp post-war, there were a lot of discussions with family members who had been rather too accommodating to the occupying troops, one of whom was shown out via the window (probably some dramatic licence there, but some relatives were neither seen nor mentioned again).

                        Mum's family was mainly based in southern and southwestern England: thanks to Grampy's being in the dirty, noisy and messy business of dealing in agricultural machinery, they got moved from village to village fairly regularly, so that Mum and her siblings were all born in different places. There is a Welsh link too in there, as one of Grampy's brothers married a girl from South Wales. Mum must have all the details still, it would be fascinating to research more and I hope she fancies picking up where she left off once Dad got ill.


                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Femme Folle View Post
                          NS, the OB was sending convicted felons to the US prior to 1776 when we told them to knock it off. That's when they started sending them to Australia.
                          Ah, is that right. I suppose that the American War of Independence and the colonisation of Australia segued rather neatly, though a quick perusal of Wiki suggests that was far from coincidental.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Robert Hughes makes this point in some detail in The Fatal Shore.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by JVL View Post
                              My Mum did a lot of research into our family tree about a 10-15 years ago. It started off as a way to put names to the faces on all the old family photographs after my Granny/her Mum died, and turned out to be quite a prescient decision, as my Nan, my Dad and my aunt have all passed away since then, as well as the last of the elderly relatives in Belgium who'd have been able to identify most of those people.

                              We knew some bits and pieces of the history but Mum has been able to fill in quite a few of the gaps - here's what I can remember:

                              My paternal grandfather was born in London, to Belgian parents. Well, Bonma's family was actually of Alsace Jewish stock, her maiden name was Weil - they left Alsace and moved north around the time of the Franco-Prussian war. She married a stevedore from Antwerp and they fled Belgium on the outbreak of WW1. The family returned to Antwerp after the war (can't remember exactly when), but Grandpa was visiting London in the summer of 1939 and received a telegram telling him to stay there as the Germans were on their way. His UK passport enabled him to join the British Army, and he met my Nan during paratroop training - he was stationed near Northolt and she was working in Hayes, having been evacuated down from Manchester (born in Eccles), as Hayes was then a relatively rural outpost and not a target for enemy bombing. They married during WW2, and spent several years in Germany after the war: Grandpa could speak several languages including fluent German, which got him a position on the de-Nazification commission in Hanover and Brunswick. My aunt was born in the British Military Hospital, which meant that the DOB entry in her first passport showed 'Hanover (UK)'. Much more prosaically, Dad arrived at Hillingdon Hospital once they'd returned to England.

                              Grandpa's brother Robert was taken by the Wehrmacht when they reached Antwerp and sent to forced labour camps somewhere to the east. He had learning difficulties but was a big strong lad, by all accounts: the last letter was from late 1944 and placed him in Sonnenburg (now Słońsk, Poland). Went there with Mum and Dad about 15 years ago and visited the prison camp museum, which was a very sobering experience of course (with some major translation and interpretation help from Maciej, the OTF Polish football expert). We assume that Robert was executed there. What we do know is that when Grandpa returned to Antwerp post-war, there were a lot of discussions with family members who had been rather too accommodating to the occupying troops, one of whom was shown out via the window (probably some dramatic licence there, but some relatives were neither seen nor mentioned again).

                              Mum's family was mainly based in southern and southwestern England: thanks to Grampy's being in the dirty, noisy and messy business of dealing in agricultural machinery, they got moved from village to village fairly regularly, so that Mum and her siblings were all born in different places. There is a Welsh link too in there, as one of Grampy's brothers married a girl from South Wales. Mum must have all the details still, it would be fascinating to research more and I hope she fancies picking up where she left off once Dad got ill.

                              Great stuff, JVL. Wars and similar upheavals do throw up some amazing stories and the occasional funny one. My dad's dad was raised in the East End but when he joined up to fight in WWI he ended up in the Durham Light Infantry. Apparently he could barely understand a word that his comrades said nor they any of his.

                              I had wondered why he'd ended up fighting with a Northern regiment rather than say an Essex one, which I think one of his brothers did. I believe that there was a concern that the combination of slaughterous battles and regional-based fighting units was leading to a devastating loss of life in certain UK communities and that mixing up the intake would ameliorate the situation.

                              Incidentally, does anyone know of a good source of information about historic labour disputes? Family history suggests that my paternal grandfather was involved in a shoe trade strike in Plymouth and that in the wake of it he pretty much had to leave the city to find work, eventually ending up with his family in Plaistow, via Salisbury.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by ursus arctos View Post
                                Robert Hughes makes this point in some detail in The Fatal Shore.
                                Yes, indeed Ursus. Have you read it?

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Indeed I have, and learned a great deal

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I must try to get into this book-reading lark.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      I took one of those DNA test things.

                                      I almost refused, because I get so angry at their advertising here which suggests that every element of your identity is determinative and comes straight from your regional ancestry: "I found that I was 6% East African. That explains why I like coffee. And I learned that I was 2% Turkmen, so I've booked a holiday in Ashgabat to find out more..." America's already terrible about this stuff "My family are third generation Italians, so it's no wonder I'm emotionally volatile" and so on, and anything that provoked more of that drives me nuts.

                                      Anyway, I learned that I'm 99.9% white European. America's racists would kill to have DNA like mine. I also learned that the basic parts of my family's mythology shake out as true. My mum's mum may have made up some bullshit about Roma heritage and about a great (many times) uncle who was hanged for piracy, but my dad's dad's side fleeing pogroms in Kiev and Danzig definitely shows up as a marker.

                                      It's odd, because my dad's dad's side have always been full of bullshit embellishing their stories. At one point the US branch were too ashamed of my granddad making a living in a tobacconists in North London, so they told their kids that we owned a tobacco plantation north of London, for example. So it's weird when anything checks out.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by ursus arctos View Post
                                        I'm somewhat envious of the quality of the records you WASPy types have to work with.
                                        You need more journalists in the family, ursus.
                                        My parents met up with a distant cousin of mine this past weekend, and were discussing exactly where she fitted into the family tree. They weren't sure, so my Mum went upstairs to dig out the published memoirs of her Uncle Herbert and Aunt Jola. Both books have detailed family trees in them which go back quite a few generations from the present. But not as far as the 18th Century, though.
                                        Last edited by Janik; 27-02-2019, 16:56.

                                        Comment


                                          #21
                                          Originally posted by Nocturnal Submission View Post
                                          Look forward to it, FF.

                                          In the meantime, this article about the potential pitfalls of DNA testing recently appeared on the Beeb's website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-46600325
                                          I think there are a few issues with the DNA home-testing kits:

                                          1. The companies will sell your information to third-parties
                                          2. While some of the genetic tests for susceptibility for certain conditions may have some value, the issue gets dumped on somebody else (care providers, health insurers )
                                          3. How accurate the '"you are 4.7% Neanderthal" stats are, I've no idea.

                                          Comment


                                            #22
                                            My wife's stepmother sent our children (6 & 3) DNA kits. She claimed it was a mistake and was for her genetic granddaughters. At which point she sent a third.

                                            I am suitably upset and mystified why a grandparent would send such a thing to their children and not see any potential for getting on the wrong side of someone.

                                            This joins the amazon echo they also sent us as about $400 of unused (and unwanted) stuff received in the past year.

                                            Comment


                                              #23
                                              I knew this thread would devolve.

                                              Comment


                                                #24
                                                Janik, having more great grandparents who were literate would be a necessary first step, methinks.

                                                dglh, that is creepy AF.

                                                Comment


                                                  #25
                                                  Originally posted by Femme Folle View Post
                                                  I knew this thread would devolve.
                                                  I should clarify - I think the topic of exploring your own genealogy is fascinating. It isn't something I personally have seen time to commit to and hasn't really been done in my family (and I am not sure I will), but all the stories I hear make it tempting. I know my late Grandfather would be a very interesting avenue to learn about given he had vague memories of how he reached the UK from South East Asia. Hell, to be honest anywhere on my father's side would be an education as they never really shared any background. I am pretty sure some of my wife's family have explored her side a reasonable amount. The ability to use DNA as a verification of the work is great - I wouldn't consider it a cheat code, but it definitely helps provide a level of confidence when exploring this topic that could have been in doubt before.

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