Sunday, August 6, 2017

International Speakers Coming for Australian Roadshow

It's always exciting when we get the chance to hear overseas speakers here in Australia.  And the Unlock the Past Roadshow is once again giving us just that opportunity.  Chris Paton and Dirk Weisleder are doing a series of talks around Australia, coinciding with National Family History Month.

The tour is entitled Researching Abroad: Finding European and British Isles Ancestors, and will be visiting Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.


The talks last for two days, but you can chose to attend just one day, or both. Each location has a slightly different program and some additional speakers, so check out the program for the location closest to you at http://www.unlockthepast.com.au/events/researching-abroad-finding-british-isles-and-european-ancestors

In Sydney, for example, the speakers also include Kerry Farmer, who is giving a talk on Using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles


Chris Paton is a professional genealogist based in Scotland, but born in Ireland. His business is called Scotland's Greatest Story https://scotlandsgreateststory.wordpress.com/. I have heard Chris speak on several different occasions and he is a knowledgeable and engaging speakers, and sometimes also a very humorous one.  I have never come away from one of his talks without having learnt something. 


Dirk Weissleder from Germany is the National Chairman of the Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände, the umbrella organisation of the genealogical and heraldic associations in Germany. He is also the coordinator of the German-Australian Genealogy Alliance and thee International German Genealogical Partnership. I have never heard Dirk speak, but Jill Ball interviewed him at Rootstech this year.


Why not think about coming to the roadshow this year. More details are available here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Definition Day: Reeve

This is the first of what will be an irregular series where I define terms that the genealogist might come across. This time I will explain the role of a reeve.

A reeve was a very important man in Feudal England.  The term originates back in Anglo-Saxon times, deriving from the Old English word ġerēfa.

In some manors the reeve was appointed by the lord of the manor, but in most he was elected on a yearly basis by the peasants from among their own number.

His job was three-fold: to represent the tenants in negotiations with the lord of the manor, to allocate and oversee the work that the peasants were obliged to perform for the lord on his land, and take responsibility for many aspects of the finances of the manor, like sale of produce, collection of revenues and payment of accounts.

Medieval illustration of a reeve directing serfs in their work

A special type of reeve was the "shire reeve", a term which over time evolved to become the word "sheriff". The shire reeve was appointed by the king to collect his revenues, supervise the county and make sure the local citizens performed their law enforcement functions correctly according to the frankpledge system. Under the frankpledge system groups of families formed together to protect each other and also to produce any man from amongst them suspected of committing a crime. The role of shire reeve later came to include the direct responsibility for apprehending people who had broken the law. It was a paid position, assisted by constables, and would not have been from the villain class.


The connection between what became two different roles lies in the original function of collecting revenues and in implementing the decisions of the lord of the manor, or in the case of the shire reeve, the common law.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

He wants to be found

I am being haunted.  Haunted by an unidentified soldier from the Australian Army in World War I.  I think he's haunting a genealogist because he wants to be found and given his name.

When I was at Rootstech two years ago I wandered past The In-Depth Genealogist's booth and my eye was caught by a picture of an unidentified Australian Soldier on the cover of one of their issues of "Going In-Depth".  There is no doubt that he was Australian as he had the rising sun badge on his collar.


It was most unusual to see an Australian on the front of a magazine, so he stood out.  But that wasn't the end of the story.  I got home to find that amongst the bookmarks I have picked up over the years was another copy of the same picture.


But it didn't stop there.  When I was visiting the Australian War Memorial the following month, I saw a book in the bookshop with him again.


And then he featured in a controversial ad campaign for a local supermarket chain. (They call themselves "The Fresh Food People" and this image was accompanied by the message "Fresh in our Memories".  The Australian people did not like the sacrifice of all those young men being turned into an advertising slogan).


I thought it had finished until I went to RootsTech again this year.  There he was, staring at me from the Family Tree Maker booth. Admittedly, they have reversed the image. Very annoying for any Australian who knows that the slouch hat is always worn with the turn-up on the left side.


And it turns out he is on the cover of the disk for the latest version of Family Tree Maker!


I think he must want to be found.  He has incredible eyes.  Anyone able to identify him? Below is a copy of the original photograph from the Australian War Memorial's Flickr Photostream.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Genetic Communities Results

Ancestry's new Genetic Communities has been released today.  Here is my take on my own results.

Firstly it's important to note that initially there are a finite number of communities included.  Todd Godfrey from Ancestry explained that these will be increasing over time.  Listen to my interview with him here.

From this initial group I have been placed into three communities.


There is a map that shows where these communities are located:


I can drill down on each of them in turn.  First, I looked at "English in the South West Peninsula".


So far so good. It's certainly south-west England. Looks like it covers Cornwall and Devon. I don't have any known Devon ancestry, but I have a g-g-grandfather from Cornwall.  But on the left hand side it gives information on the history of the area and emigration from that area, and it is all about London! Last time I looked, London wasn't in Devon or Cornwall.


I could also click on a "Connections" link to see further information


I can then click on the "View all Matches" for the people who matched me in this Genetic Community.

What about my other communities?  Here is the Munster Irish community.

Hmm. That's Munster AND Leinster.

If I look at the Stories/History section and click on one of the time frames you will see migration routes OUT of the area of the community at a certain time.  As an example I'm showing the migration in the time "1825-1850: Poverty Amidst Plenty".


Looks reasonable, but the earlier time frame "1775-1825: Home of Outlaws and Rebels" and it only shows migration to the US.  Yet during this period there were a large number of convicts sent to Australia. And rebels (from the 1798 rebellion). No mention of them though. Perhaps they'll fix this over time.

Now, what about the Scots Community?


I was pleased to see that included in my connections in this community was someone whom I know I am related to. We share a g-g-grandmother who came from Wigtownshire in Scotland. It doesn't have the new person or her brothers who match myself and my cousin above and whose ancestor has the same surname as ours and comes from the same part of the country. Maybe that's because they are more distant relatives?  Maybe there is a maximum number that is showing up at the moment? Maybe the connection to my 3rd cousin and I is not through that family? I don't know yet.

As I've said, this is a growing site. More communities will be coming on over time.  I can see it potentially being useful for narrowing down where a connection might have occurred.  But I'd like to see some of the problems being resolved. It's certainly a bit of fun, and is available to anyone who has tested with Ancestry without additional payment.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Very Strange Results from LivingDNA

I just got my results from Living DNA. Not only are they different to the results from Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA, which are sort of similar, but the Living DNA ones don't match the paper trail AT ALL.  In fact, I'd be thinking that the results belonged to someone else, except they got my mtDNA haplogroup - H41a - correct, and that is a very rare subclade of a very common haplogroup.

Living DNA Ethnicity Estimate
Ancestry estimates

FamilyTreeDNA estimates

LivingDNA says I am 98.8% European, Ancestry says 99%, and FTDNA says 95%. OK, they are similar.  They break down differently though. LivingDNA says that European component is 95.5% Great Britian and Ireland and 3.3% Scandinavian.  Ancestry threw Iberian Peninsula, Jewish, Italy/Greece and Finland/Northwest Russia into the mix, While FTDNA had the Jewish component, a Southern Europe (which I guess is about the same as Italy/Greece) and an East Europe (Finland?) portion.  The percentages were quite different, but the mix is similar

But where it gets interesting is with the British results.  Now I'll start by saying that according to the paper trail I'm about half Irish, half English with a tiny bit of Scottish thrown in (and that is from Wigtownshire - the most southwesterly part of Scotland). According to LivingDNA my results are broken down as follows:

    Northwest England               31.1%
    Southeast England               17.8%
    Cornwall                               14.6%
    Cumbria                               13.7%
    South Central England       5.30%
    Northwest Scotland               5.2%
    Orkney                               2%
    South Yorkshire                       1.8%
    Aberdeenshire                       1.7%
    GB & Ireland unassigned          2.2%
    Scandinavia                       3.3%

The map indicates that Northwest England is Lancashire & Cheshire, Southeast England is Kent & Sussex. South Central England is Gloucestershire, Somerset & Wiltshire and that Northwest Scotland covers most of the Highlands, plus Antrim and Derry in Northern Ireland (two counties where I do NOT have ancestors).

My analysis of my ancestry is as follows:

    Protestant Irish            25%
    Irish                            21.09%
    Cumbria                    12.5%
    Cornwall                    6.25%
    Scotland                    6.25%
    GLS                            6.25%
    Notts/Derby                    6.25%
    Kent/Sussex            3.125%
    Warwickshire            3.125%
    Middlesex                    3.125%
    Wilts/Som                    3.125%
    Unknown (prob Irish)    3.125%
    Cheshire                    0.781%

Now, I fully understand that some of the smaller amounts might not have come to me by the miracle of recombination, as 3.125% represents a 3g-grandparent and all their ancestors, and 0.7181% a 5g-grandparent, but the differences are quite startling. I'm even happy to say that the 3.125% Middlesex probably came there from somwhere else. And even given that at least 2 lines of my Protestant Irish are known to have come from England (or Britain at least) in the 17th century, it's possible that all that 25% is really English or Scottish.  But what about that other 21-25% of Irish Catholics?

Putting my results into their categories we get

    Northwest England               31.1%          0.781%
    Southeast England               17.8%          3.125%
    Cornwall                               14.6%          6.25%
    Cumbria                               13.7%          12.5% (OK, this result is close)
    South Central England       5.30%          9.375%
    Northwest Scotland               5.2%            0%
    Orkney                               2%               0%
    South Yorkshire                       1.8%            0% (though I do have 0.049% West Yorkshire)
    Aberdeenshire                       1.7%            0%
    GB & Ireland unassigned          2.2%           0%
    Scandinavia                       3.3%            0%
    Unaccounted for                                            67.9%
       (Irish, Lowland Scotland, Notts/Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Middlesex, Probably Irish)

I really had higher hopes for these results, given that a lot of the data came from the People of the British Isles Study.  I'll just have to see how my husband's results compare to his paper trail.

Monday, February 13, 2017

RootsTech Expo Hall

Here are some photos from the Expo Hall at this year's #RootsTech.
The Expo Hall entrance

View of the Hall

Findmypast booth

Rear of findmypast booth

Book scanning by Family Search

One of the stands

Ancestry booth

Family Tree Maker Booth

Genealogy WallCharts booth

Heirloom Show & Tell

The area for media to record interviews

Discovery Zone from FamilySearch

Green screen in Discovery Zone where you could get your
photo on a background of your ancestral home

Record a message for a deceased ancestor

In the media hub

MyHeritage stand

Jill Ball interviewing Ron Tanner from FamilySearch



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Our genealogy is coming alive through our DNA

CeCe Moore is a professional Genetic Genealogist and one of the keynote speakers today at Rootstech. 

Genetic Genealogy – or DNA research – has boomed in the last few years, and the findings that are coming out of it would have been unimaginable even ten years ago.  The experiences of our forebears really do affect us in many ways.

People are now often taking DNA tests out of curiosity, and the results are leading them to try and follow up with the paper trail. One example of this was CeCe’s own brother-in-law. He had grown up with a strong oral tradition in his family that they had native American DNA.  So, hearing about the DNA tests that CeCe was working with, he thought he’d take one to try and prove this story.

But his test came back with 0% native American DNA and 6.6% African DNA. His mother was still alive so she got a test which came back indicating that she was 12.25% African. CeCe started to investigate her brother-in-law’s ancestry via the traditional paper trail.  She managed to trace him back to an illegitimate child of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings.

CeCe’s brother-in-law now knew he was the descendant of enslaved people.


According to the 1924 racial integrity act from the Virginia General Assembly, anyone with 1/32 or more African blood was declared to be black, with all the restrictions and discrimination that went along with that.  That corresponds to 3.25% of African blood, and CeCe’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned nieces and nephews would have been classed as black until that act was repealed in 1967.

Discovering slave ancestors has a profound effect on many people, and changes the way they view history.

But our DNA can affect us in other ways. Before he knew he was descended from Jefferson, CeCe’s brother had visited Jefferson’s house and felt an immediate connection with the place.  Coincidence? Maybe, but science is now showing that we CAN be affected by events which have happened to our ancestors.*

Through her work with adoptees, CeCe often sees the connection between biological relatives.  Reunited families often share personality traits and behaviours that adoptees did not share with their adopted families. The same car, the same hairstyle, the same clothes – none of these things are unusual. Epigenetic changes to our genes affect their expression and turn them on or off, resulting in a form of genetic memory. Once again our ancestors are affecting our lives.


CeCe is able to use genetic genealogy in the same way she does with adoptees to help a few high profile cases of people who don’t know who they are, like Paul Fronczak and Benjamin Kyle.

DNA testing is solving family mysteries old and new and changing peoples lives.