Family history goals for 2018

Looking ahead to the New Year I thought I’d jot down things that I’d like to tackle in this area in the next 12 months.

Researching all of my ancestral branches as I do, I have masses of stories that I can share about the ancestors. It would be good to blog more of them in 2018, writing about interesting families, people, places and events. I can also usefully blog on issues, such as inter-faith marriages in the past, and ancestors who had the right to vote.

Another good thing would be to blog more about methodological issues and specific sources. For example I’ve a lot of experience working with kirk session minutes, and could reflect on those. Similarly mental health records and 18th century tax records.

And, extremely importantly, I need to catch up with a backlog of genealogical email. Being long-term ill with a severely disabling neurological illness email replies often have to wait for better patches. But it often means that the most interesting emails can wait longer for a reply. I definitely have some emailing to be getting on with.

My ancestral research is just part of my wider genealogical research. I’ve also blogged 2018 goals for my Cavers one-name study, my Coldingham one-place study and my Melrose one-place study. And re more general historical research I’ve blogged 2018 goals on my academic history blog.

Many ideas anyway. Looking forward to it!

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Autosomal DNA tests verifying conventional paper-based genealogical research

Some months ago I blogged about a major DNA breakthrough, confirming that I’d traced my Irish great granny properly. DNA testing was needed to be sure of the line, because we lack certain conventional key paperwork, and so it was enormously difficult to trace back.

That testing was with FamilyTreeDNA, using their FamilyFinder test, which finds chunks of DNA from all branches of the ancestral tree. This is called autosomal DNA testing.

I’ve since tested with AncestryDNA as well, which is a purely autosomal test, and have found that very useful too. It’s confirmed numerous ancestral lines, that I traced the conventional way through paperwork. So I thought it might be worth reflecting on that.

My ancestry is 1/2 Scottish (mainly Scottish Borders), 3/8 English (West Yorkshire and West Midlands) and 1/8 Irish (Dublin and County Cork). And I trace every single line, and have been doing so for 35 years.

Many people signing up for AncestryDNA do so for the approximate ethnicity measures, but as a genealogist I find the genealogical potential vastly more exciting, allowing me to make contact with cousins – near and far – who are tracing the same ancestral lines, uncovering more information about my ancestors, and letting us combine research efforts.

A big drawback with AncestryDNA is that people who are going just for the ethnicity angle don’t know their ancestral lines. So often they won’t respond to messages from possible cousins. And they would rarely have uploaded any summary of their family tree, which can be so useful for comparing trees automatically in the Ancestry system, identifying possible shared lines. I just have a skeletal ancestry tree entered into my Ancestry account, but find that invaluable for comparing potential matches, and helping people find me there too.

I find that out of about 150 AncestryDNA matches I can see from online trees in the system how about 30 of the people are probably linked. I contact those with particularly promising looking lines, perhaps those I’m struggling to trace, or am keen to make contact with a living cousin. Not even all people with online trees respond, but a fair number do.

Good contacts that I’ve made include:

  • finding a distant Hall cousin, proving that my ggg-grandfather in Hawick had a brother we didn’t know about born 1820, who emigrated to USA. The emigrant was a spinner in the woollen trade in Hawick before emigrating, and did the same thing in the USA!
  • matching a Broadhead cousin, which is great because I struggled to trace back past my gg-granddad, who was illegitimate, and wasn’t sure I’d traced him right. Now I can be.
  • matching a Senior cousin, my granny’s line, contacting someone whose ancestor was the older brother of my gg-grandfather, and who returned to help run the family farm near Barnsley. This opens up the possibility of finding out more personal family information about the family farm, which our branch knew nothing about today.
  • contacting a very eager genealogist who descends from the younger brother of my Fair gg-granny in Roxburghshire. We are now sharing family info, both actively tracing all lines back, and swapping and sharing notes.

All these connections through DNA confirm I’ve traced the relevant family lines properly through documentary records, including in tricky cases like my Irish great granny and the Broadhead example where the documentary record wasn’t clear, and so there was doubt. That’s been weird to experience, making me reassess lines, and know 100% they are right! I hadn’t expected DNA results to have an emotional effect like this, when it comes to confirming the accuracy of conventional documentary research. But for me it has done.

I also run a Cavers one-name study. My own Cavers link is quite far up my family tree, via mother’s father’s mother’s father’s mother. So that line can’t be Y-DNA tested, at least in my immediate family, and we haven’t been able so far to add it to the Cavers Y-DNA project I run, allowing its male-line DNA profile to be compared with other Cavers branches. But I seem to have autosomal DNA matches through AncestryDNA with other Cavers descendants. Some of the matching people descend from the Cavers ancestors I’ve traced back to, but others concern other Cavers lines, which may hint at a hitherto undiscovered link between my Cavers branch and others, that predates the paper records. That is potentially very exciting, and I’m considering widening my Cavers DNA project on FamilyTreeDNA to include autosomal DNA as well as the more conventional Y-DNA tests focused on by surname DNA projects which seek to match up paternal/surname lines.

Anyway those are just some thoughts. I expect to make more good autosomal DNA matches over the next year, as more people get tested and their results are added to the AncestryDNA database of test results. We have also bought an AncestryDNA test for my husband, having seen how useful it was for me. Fingers crossed he finds good links too!

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Huge DNA breakthrough with Irish part of family tree

I’ve blogged before about the enormous difficulties I had tracing my Irish great granny. She died young, in childbirth, and all her family history died with her at her new home in Leeds, Yorkshire. We could never find a marriage certificate – anywhere in England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland – for her and great granddad. That would normally identify her father, and we knew nothing about her parents at all. The story is that she was nursing near Belfast, and met an injured Yorkshire soldier – late 1890s – and they got married. Well yes, they were a couple, but we’re not sure they ever legally married. And then even when I had census birthplace clues (1901 Ireland, 1911 Dublin) I had trouble finding her birth certificate, cos her birth was registered strangely. And even when I found it I couldn’t be sure all the info I had was right. What if my great granny wasn’t really from Dublin, but from nearer Belfast maybe, where the surname Tate is much more common? But I did trace her, and I found a wonderfully rich and characterful family history.

I’ve made contact with two descendants of Annie’s siblings, and we’ve exchanged lots of info. But I could never be totally sure it was my line, until both cousins recently agreed to take a DNA test to compare their ancestry scientifically with mine and Dad’s (Annie’s grandson). We all tested with FamilyTreeDNA using their Family Finder autosomal test which looks for bits of DNA from all ancestral lines. FTDNA have a huge database of results, and cousins, close or distant, can be matched.

The first Irish result came through today. It was the DNA test of the great granddaughter (daughter’s daughter’s daughter) of Annie’s sister Mary in Dublin. And it’s a match! No doubt. FTDNA even estimate the relationship accurately. Dad is a 2nd cousin once removed of this lady. FTDNA estimated 2nd-3rd cousin, from the shared DNA.

We still await the second DNA test result, for the grandson of Annie and Mary’s much younger half brother George. But I expect it will match. And already, from the Mary result, I can be 100% sure I traced my Annie right. Delighted doesn’t come close to how I’m feeling 🙂

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A Jacobite ancestor in fiction and reality, including his clothes and books when he died

I’ve blogged before about my ancestor James Veitch of Glen and Bowhill (1700?-1761), in particular about some of the strange Jacobite-related names he gave his children.

But I’ve just found some great references to him in fiction, in James Grant’s The White Cockade (1867), which is an account of the events surrounding the Jacobite rising of 1745.

To quote from there:

Their costume was generally somewhat dilapidated and they criticised each other’s appearance freely, even at the risk of measuring swords, for most of them were out of pocket, and all ripe and ready for anything that would further the good old cause. Sir John Mitchel’s faded green frock was ridiculed by the Laird of Bowhill, who appeared in blue velvet with tarnished silver; and Dalquharn’s queued hair was quizzed by the Lord Dunkeld, who could boast of a court peruke, and a somewhat out-at-elbow green and gold suit

and

On those occasions the Prince always appeared with the insignia of the Garter, and the broad blue ribband which he wore was long afterwards preserved by Veitch of Bowhill (a gentleman who rode in Dalquharn’s troop), and since whose death it has been placed among the Jacobite relics of the Scottish antiquarians

Now these are fictional versions of people and events, but I know that my James Veitch of Bowhill was a Jacobite, apparently at Culloden, supposedly one of the Prince’s guards. I’ve also read before about him having an item of the Prince’s, so that part of the novel may have been based on true events.

But in real proven historical evidence James Veitch left a wonderfully detailed inventory of his possessions after he died in 1761. It’s a room by room listing of what he had in his home in Musselburgh. Masses of detail, far far too much to cover here. But some highlights for me include his six maps of Peeblesshire (his home county), a Stuart family tree (great for a Jacobite!), his fiddle, and “a backgammon table dice box and men”.

His clothing alone is entertaining:

Three pairs of breeches three shillings Item a coloured coat and vest six shillings Item a blue  upper coat ten shills and sixpence Item a hat & old wig one shilling item a blue coat and old rag of a black coat and vest four shillings Item five shirts very old and tore four shillings Item nine pair of stockings old three shillings Item four pocket napkins ten shillings and sixpence Item four shirts five shillings.

And for me as a book historian perhaps the biggest highlight of all is the record of his wonderful book collection:

Follows the defunct’s books viz Folio’s Natural History of Four Footed Beasts Imp., History of Appian in Alexandria Land: 1679, Quarto Baskets Bible Edinr 1726, Boyers French Dictionary 1727, Steuart’s History of the Steuart Family Edr. 1729, a clean paper book, Octavo’s Infra Scots Acts of Parliat vol: 1 & 2d Edr. 1682 & 1683, Colden’s History of the five Indian nations Lond: 1750, Townsend’s History of Mexico 2 vols Dub[lin] 1727, Life of Q[ueen] Anne 2 vol: Lond: 1721, Adventures of Richard Falconer Lond. 1728, Milson’s companion Lond. 1722, Baillies Dictionary Lond. 1723, Turkish History Epitomised, Gardners Almanack Lond., Paschoud’s Geogrphy 2 vol Lond. 1722, Moral Reflections 4 vols Lond. 1734, Tale & Brady’s Balms Lond. 1728, Vol: of pamphlets … of Britain London 1751, Traders Companion London 1734, McKenzies Institutions Edr 1730, Baynes note Lond. 1731, Baynes criminal law Insd Lond. 1730, Marlboroughs Life Lond. 1741, Serious Amusements Hague 1719, Justin Lat. & Eng., Husbandry Edinr. 1724, Memoirs of Donzie Lord Holles Lond. 1699, Mortimer’s Husbandry 2 vols London 1721, Book of Common Prayer Ox, 1712, Gerard’s meditations Edr 1720, Arabian nights Entertainment Glas. 1751, History of Tanzai & Neadaine vol 1 & 2d Lond 1735, Abridgement of the Acts of Parliat 1685, Index of the British Acts Edinr 1726, Fields bible small 2 vols Lond. 1658, Manual of Spiritual Exercises 1752, Thomas a ??? and which books were valued at two pounds fifteen shillings by Gideon Crawfurd Bookseller in Edinburgh conform to his signed estimation thereof dated the twenty seventh day of April said year seventeen hundred and sixty one.

Wow!

I’d like to know more detail about James’s history, beyond the family history I’ve pieced together. There are more papers I can follow up sometime, for example concerning his sale of Bowhill to the Duke of Buccleuch. But, for now, the inventory will keep me amused.

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Great DNA test result in family tree

I, along with my Dad and husband, have had my DNA tested at FamilyTreeDNA. We’ve all had our mitochondrial (mother’s mother’s etc. line) DNA tested, as well as our autosomal DNA, which matches DNA from lots of different ancestral branches. And my husband and Dad have also had their Y-DNA tested (father’s father’s etc. line).

The autosomal FamilyFinder test has the greatest potential for making genealogically significant links for me as a female, who doesn’t have Y-DNA to test. I recently made a DNA connection with a distant cousin, both of us descended from brothers born circa 1710 in Coldingham in Berwickshire. That is way earlier than autosomal DNA would normally match, so we may have some other lines in common, which bumped the matching proportion up. But we do share Fair ancestors circa 1700 in Coldingham, which is nice.

However I’ve just made a much more recent autosomal DNA contact, which is very exciting. My maiden name is Moore, and my Dad’s Moore ancestors lived in Leeds in West Yorkshire, and before then in West Bromwich in Staffordshire. We’ve traced them back to the 18th century on one line. My ggg-grandparents were a Mr Moore married to a Miss Moore, and we’ve actually had more luck tracing Miss/Mrs Moore’s line than her husband! And it’s through her we’re back to Moores in the early 1700s in West Bromwich.

Anyway I was contacted recently by someone who matches my autosomal DNA. He found me through GEDmatch, which is a site which compares DNA results from lots of different testing companies, so not just FamilyTreeDNA. I’d uploaded my DNA results and my husband’s to GEDmatch, and the new contact found he matched my autosomal DNA. He’d uploaded his GEDCOM to there, and I was able to browse his family tree, and discovered yes, we are cousins. We descend from brothers Josiah Moore (b. 1841) and Thomas James Moore (b. ca 1855), sons of Josiah Moore and Jane Moore (nee Moore!) in West Bromwich. Thomas moved with his wife and children to Leeds in West Yorkshire. And Josiah’s son, my new cousin’s ancestor, moved from West Bromwich to Lancashire. Josiah and Thomas are our gg-grandfathers, so we are 4th cousins, which is pretty near the limit for good autosomal matching. But it worked!

We are now exchanging family tree information. It took me nearly 30 years to trace my Moores to West Bromwich, needing the 1901 census to find my recently married g-grandparents. We had no idea my great-grandfather was born in West Bromwich, we assumed they were all Yorkshire. Not being able to trace a marriage record for great granddad and great granny didn’t help. But luckily the couple, with their baby daughter, were living with the husband’s parents in Leeds in 1901. Which helped immensely.

So yay for DNA. This is a wonderful result for me. It vindicates the family line that I’ve traced back from Yorkshire to Staffordshire. There was estrangement in my earlier family, so we knew nothing about the earlier Moores. And in my new cousin’s family a premature death and a mother’s remarriage meant they had a similar issue. But we were all able to trace our lines back, find a common connection, and DNA backs that up. I’m really chuffed. And hopefully I’ll make more good autosomal DNA matches in future.

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An ancestor’s illicit whisky still in 1850s Hawick

A few years ago I blogged about my ggg-grandfather Hugh Hall in Hawick doing three months hard labour in Jedburgh prison in 1857, for a crime that I couldn’t quite figure out. The prison records said “smuggling”, but I didn’t know what he was smuggling. And local papers were no help.

Well now I know what he was up to! A search the other night in the British Newspaper Archive website for

“hugh hall” AND wilton

found a report in the Edinburgh-based The Scotsman newspaper, which covered the whole of Scotland. I quote:

The Scotsman
16 May 1857
HAWICK – ILLICIT DISTILLATION – A seizure of whisky and distilling utensils was made at Wilton Dean, near Hawick, on Wednesday, on the premises of Hugh Hall, the tenant of a small carding-mill. Hall was examined in the Fiscal’s Office, and afterwards removed to Jedburgh. There is reason to believe that the distilling has been going on for some time, though not to any great extent.

I probably have totally the wrong attitude, but I just think this is awesome! Also I am quite impressed to find out that Hugh Hall was renting a mill in 1857, even if it was at least in part for legally dodgy purposes. Because I’d always thought at this time he would be an employee, possibly working in the old mill at Wilton Dean, or another Hawick woollen mill. But certainly not a tenant. It’s a bit entrepreneur-ish, something his son definitely had an inkling for, working up from a domestic gardener to nurseryman and then large-scale tenant farmer.

It was also quite nice because when I went back to reread the detailed history of Wilton Dean on the Project Hawick Facebook feed I found a potted history of the mill building where Hugh’s still was. And it even mentions the illicit whisky still! The building was demolished in 1860, just three years after Hugh Hall’s conviction. I used to cycle past its remains as a youngster in Hawick, spending a lot of time in the Wilton Dean area.

Still awesome!

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More thoughts on FindMyPast’s 1939 Register website

Just wrote up my thoughts on this new resource for the English & Welsh 1939 Register. Posted it on my academic blog, but it’s relevant to the genealogy one too.

Viv's Academic Blog

As a family historian with some English connections I was interested in the 1939 English and Welsh Register which went online recently at FindMyPast. But having seen the 1939 Register entries for my Scottish ancestors I didn’t expect to find anything terribly new or exciting. So I wasn’t even sure if I’d check it out promptly. But sure enough I did, being still up as the site went live shortly after midnight on Monday 2nd November 2015.

Sadly the site was very flaky then, with lots of pages failing to load. I was getting an awful lot of error messages, at various points e.g. initial search results, trying to preview an entry, trying to buy credits/unlock an entry, trying to view an image. Usually reloading one or more times sorted it out though. And I don’t seem to have inadvertently spent my credits twice. Fortunately site responsiveness improved over…

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