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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Smallpox references in Roxburghshire, from my one-place study and personal family history

Reading a recent blog post by Emma Maxwell of Scottish Indexes re finding smallpox references in unusual places reminded me of some references to smallpox I’ve seen in my genealogical research.

Firstly from my Melrose one-place study the Melrose parish registers include a burial register from 1781 onwards which includes causes of death, including many cases of smallpox.

Melrose burials registerNames, addresses and ages at death are also given. The pre-1820 Melrose parish registers have been transcribed and indexed, and a PDF version of the resulting Scottish Record Society book is readily downloadable from I intend to analyse these burial registers more fully soon as part of my one-place study, including analysing the causes of death as given.

I also have a nice reference to smallpox from my own family history. In his memoirs my distant uncle Andrew Usher (1782-1855) who founded the whisky distilling dynasty in Edinburgh recalled his smallpox inoculation, at his family home near Darnick:

I was born and brought up at Toftfield and the oldest circumstance I remember about that place is that when the doctor came to inoculate the family with the smallpox (vaccination had not then been discovered) as I thought it was something very painful I ran away. My father came after me and when in the act of taking me home his heart failed him and he said to himself ‘What if I should be leading the laddie to his death’ (for children so inoculated not infrequently died) and he set me at liberty again. I was, however, persuaded to go into the house and seeing what a simple matter it turned out to be, I presented my arm to the doctor. It so happened that I was very slightly affected while some of the rest were very ill. I had no fever and kept singing away as usual. One of the servants asked me how I could sing when the rest were so ill. My reply was that I would sing as long as I was able.

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Interview with me about blogging, genealogy etc.

I was interviewed recently by Geneabloggers for their “May I Introduce To You …” series. The interview focuses in particular on my background as a genealogist, and my genealogical blogging, but also covers academic issues too.

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1945 obituary of my great-grandfather John Dodds from Melrose

Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive extending its Southern Reporter coverage to 1945 I’ve just been able to pull out the obituary of my great-grandfather John Dodds. It was published in the paper on 22nd February 1945:


By the passing of Mr John Dodds, aged 67 years, Melrose has lost a well-known personality, and member of an old and highly respected Melrose family. A plumber to trade, Mr Dodds, who resided at St Cuthbert’s Cottage, was employed by the firm of C. Jardine, Buccleuch Street, from his apprenticeship days until his retirement, through failing health, a few years ago. He was for many years church officer of Melrose Old Parish Church, a post which has been held by four generations of the Dodds family. Sympathy is extended to the relatives.

And here is a bit more about John, this time from the Southern Reporter of 29th March 1945:

The Melrose Church Magazine states: It is with regrest[sic] that we record the death of our one-time Church officer, John Dodds, is one of a family that has held this office since 1870, when his grandfather was appointed in succession to Willie Millar of Gattonside (who died in 1902 aged 101). Then came his father in 1877, then his older brother in 1895, then John himself as interim in place of his brother, who had become incapacitated through illness. Shortly after his appointment he was called up as a Territorial to serve in the Great War. On his return from abroad in 1919 he was appointed to the office in place of his brother, and performed his duties till 1941, when he fell ill and resigned, to be succeeded by his son, our present Officer. This is surely a record for any parish.

The only addition I’d make to this is that John’s sister Catherine Dodds also acted as interim church officer, while he was away during World War 1. So that makes yet another member of the family doing that job.

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Finding an ancestor in the mental health records

Graham and Emma Maxwell have started looking at mental health records of Scots admitted to various asylums (National Records of Scotland records MC2 and MC7), with a view to indexing these by name of patient, thus opening them up more to family history researchers. They knew of my Cavers one-name study, so when they stumbled across a Cavers reference they kindly sent me the images. And it turns out to be a relative of mine.

William Cavers (1798-1873) was my distant g..uncle, son of Francis Cavers and Euphemia Hogg, and younger brother of my 4xg-grandfather Thomas Cavers. Like most of the men in his immediate family William worked as a shepherd, moving about various parts of the Borders and other parts of southern Scotland. By 1859 he was at Ancrum, living with his wife Mary and some of their children.

At this time, before Dingleton Hospital opened at Melrose in 1873, people suspected of being lunatics in the Borders were typically sent to Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, to be assessed, and admitted to the asylum there if need be. So that was where William was sent. The records reveal he was certified insane, and admitted to Millholme House there. It is definitely “my” William, because the details recorded include his age, marital status, ocupation, place of abode, the parish or union to which he was chargeable i.e. his place of birth (Kirkton in Roxburghshire), and details of his next of kin (son Francis Cavers).

And of course the records include details of his mental state. When assessed in late May 1859 he was noted as having been insane for three and a half years, with the first attack occurring on 1st January 1856. In May 1859 a physician and surgeon gave evidence that he had examined William Cavers at “The Lockup House” at Selkirk, and found him to be exhibiting great excitement of manner and boasting of things he has no prospect of. Most telling is the evidence from William’s wife and daughter, of his restlessness at night, his refusing to rest, and his berating them. Various neighbours also gave evidence of this.

I don’t know what treatment if any William received. But he was released from Millholme House, only to be readmitted again, this time to Campie Lane also at Musselburgh, soon after. Though this second time the doctor examining him could not find anything particularly wrong with him mentally, apart from a tendancy to mental excitement. He also noted that the man’s physical health and condition was good.

William was discharged from Campie Lane on 30th August 1859. As far as I know he wasn’t readmitted to any asylum, though I hadn’t known about this case before and it is possible he did go in again. He appears in later census returns, in 1861 at Ashkirk and in 1871 at Makerston, recorded with his wife and family. And he died at St Boswells in 1873.

I know of other ancestors who ended up in asylums. John Cairncross uncle-in-law of my gg-grandfather Thomas Cavers Hall died in an asylum. And two siblings of my great-grandfather John Dodds died at Dingleton Hospital in Melrose. But there may be more still to find, which emerge as Graham and Emma’s indexes go online. Keep an eye on these indexes as they evolve over time. They can be searched easily at Scottish Indexes. Emma has also written a useful blog post, explaining these records in more detail.

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