Lots of updates

Following a recent trip to the UK to meet with family I had not seen for 40 years there are lots of updates to the tree.

Conversations and memories started of a lot of discussions, solving some problems with my memory and opening up new lines of enquiry. There were also a few errors I needed to correct, mostly spelling mistakes in place names which made finding places on the site harder.

With the information exchange came lots of photographs, some have taken time to research who was in the picture and when it was taken. In addition I took several hundred photographs myself, mainly of places ancestors lived and there were several hundred more gravestone photographs which still need to be sorted.

Lots of new family lines are being added, many photographs are also getting added to people and places, maps are one of the biggest updates. I have also got an update to Gramps pushed for the next update that will show more than just BMD data on maps. Gravestones have not been processed yet but will be added as they are deciphered.

Online tree updates are occurring at least twice a week currently, this should reduce to once every week or two by the end of the year.

DNA results

For those of you that feel you have wasted time and money on DNA testing there is a free masterclass in the current LostCousins newsletter.

I am composing a post about my DNA experiences, which is different from the glowing praise that Peter from Lost Cousins gives, but I get no income from promoting DNA test companies.

The lost Cousins is a great site though, not only for the regular newsletters and special offers but you get a very good chance of finding cousins who are researching the same lines as you, a match with a lost cousin is about 98% certain to be a relative and 30% are probably from a different continent.

Cousin relationships

For some reason there is often a problem in describing cousin relationships, at times I manage to confuse myself when trying to explain these relationships to others.

In essence relationships are easy to describe in words but do get more confusing the further away they are. Let us start at the beginning with someone you know – yourself.

Everyone has two parents, no more and no less. Current research may make this fact obsolete as it may be possible, in the future, for someone to have three parents, and of course I am only referring to biological parents.

These two parents may have brothers and sisters, these are your aunts and uncles. Any children of your parents siblings are usually called your cousins, technically they are your first cousins, and you all share the same grandparents. These grandparents are known as your most recent common ancestors (MRCA). Your mothers parents are the MRCA of you and your mothers siblings children, you have a different MRCA with your fathers side of the family.All of your Grandparents may have had siblings, they are your Great Aunts and Great Uncles, their children are first cousins of your parents and their siblings, any children of the first cousins of your parents are your second cousins, with one of your sets of Great Grandparents as MRCA. Perhaps better explained with a picture.

It does go on the same way for more generations, as seen here. The MRCA of any cousins are the parents of the first siblings you get to.

So that is the easy bit, where people often have more problems is in generation differences, the removed references. So lets look at these, if you have a first cousin then you have a set of Grandparents in common, but what of your cousins children? They have the same couple as common ancestors with you but for them they are Great Grandparents, you cannot be first cousins as the MRCA are not Grandparents for both of you, and the same logic excludes them from being second cousins, you are in fact first cousins once removed, there is one generation step extra in one of the lines. Similarly when they have children they will be your first cousins twice removed as they have two generation steps more than you to get to the MRCA. It is all really quite simple.

The important first step is finding the MRCA for the two people. If the MCRA are parents then the people are siblings, if only one parent is common then they are half siblings. If Grandparents are the MRCA then they are first cousins, Great Grandparents gives 2nd cousins and so on, the cousin number is the number of Greats plus one. So if you have a 6 times Great Grandparent in common with someone then you are 7th cousins. The person with the shortest number of steps to the MRCA determines the cousin number and the difference in number of steps determines the number of removes.

Understanding cousin relationships becomes more important with DNA research, often relationship matches are listed in the form of 2nd Cousin Once Removed to 2nd Cousin Twice Removed. This tells you the DNA match is possibly with your or his Great Grandparents but there is a one or two generation step in one of the lines, so my Grandparents, their parents of Grandparents should be the MRCA. All my lines around that time are fully researched in the same area as his family lived so all he needs to do is find his ancestors back to 2 X Great Grandparents and we will have a match on paper as well as DNA. So far this has produced no matches in eight months of research mainly due to undocumented illegitimate births and cuckolded fathers.

A family not at war- 1914

Photographs provided by John and Mary Green

A peaceful idyll in New Zealand about 1914. The older man, with a cap, in the centre is John Davies aged about 72 at that time, he died 2 years later. He had had an interesting life, born in Chester the son of a travelling book salesman he married in 1864 in Wrexham, Wales, with Louisa Charlotte Davies, so far she seems to be an unrelated Davies.

I featured some of his life a few months ago in the tale of the tobacconist and hairdresser, but research has added quite a lot to his profile. He lived after marriage in Oswestry, his wife had died in 1900 and he emigrated to New Zealand with some of his daughters in 1907.

Sitting on the swing on the left is his youngest daughter Lillie May with her daughter Vera, Richard Thomas Haylock Daniels, husband and father is standing next to John. John’s second youngest daughter Alice Selina is on the left, she never married but kept house for the family. Lillie was apparently quite a character, she had two shops in Auckland, drove around in a model T Ford and took trips to Seattle.

The other side of the photograph has John’s oldest daughter Louisa Charlotte who was also interesting. It seems she eloped to the US with a cousin, William Henry Davies. There is, so far, little evidence of this apart from a baptism of a daughter Stella Irene in Pennsylvania, she is the young girl on the right of the photograph. They also had another daughter May who was possibly born in New York and died in New Zealand, age 16, her burial record states her birth in Oswestry but this seems to be incorrect, there are no UK or US records.

It is unclear what happened to William Henry but Louisa seems to have met Ronald McDougall Malcolm in the US, he was from Glasgow, he went to New York in 1893 and returned in 1900, he may have stayed with John Davies in Oswestry for a while. There is no marriage record of him marrying Louisa but when she emigrated she was listed as Louise Malcolm. Ronald is sat on the right swing.

It is unclear why John and some daughters went to New Zealand but they seem to have enjoyed life, the family that stayed in England were also quite successful it seems, many ran their own business.

One of my hopes was to find John and his wife were cousins, this might help get around the brickwall of her parents, so far though it seems not to be so. It could be that they link several generations earlier but tracing Davies lines is almost as bad as tracing Jones families.

Mary Seaton or Mary Seton?

There is a family story that some of my line are descended from Mary Seaton, one of the four Mary’s that were handmaidens Mary Queen of Scots. A fuller story of them is found at Mary Queen of Scots site.

My first reaction to hearing the story was it must be rubbish as she never married or had any children, but descent from her siblings was possible. I have come across a few posts on fora about other people who have the story in their trees but not proved it. Unfortunately the posts were quite old when I found them and I have no replies from the original posters.

With several families laying claim to the story, all based in South East Northumberland where there are places with Seaton in their names, the story deserved more study.

The first point is the family name, Seton seems to be the usual Scots spelling and Seaton is more often used in England, the name does seem interchangeable and could even be from a Nederland word Zeetuin, which is an archaic word meaning Sea Garden, possibly a place where sea and shellfish were harvested, the word does sound similar when spoken.

In an effort to get a start point I have spent several years researching the Seton family in Scotland, this has covered the Lords of Seton and later the Earls of Winton, but also tracing the line back to Fergus of Galway who had married a daughter of King Henry so the line goes back to the Norman conquest and before. The Seton line was in Cumberland before they relocated to Scotland and before that they appeared in some early documents to have been on the East coast of England. Perhaps before that they were from the Low Countries which may be where their family name comes from.

Tracing the family forward gets somewhat problematic, as the 5th Earl of Winton was accused of treason and sentenced to death in the Tower of London. Wikipedia has some of this story here but also has several disputed errors. It seems the direct line from the Seton family died with him, but in fact there are several obfuscations that led to this idea.

The main problem is that it is claimed, mainly by the Eglington family, that he never married and had no children, which is incorrect. George was a fervent protestant, he published several pamphlets promoting the King and protestantism, but he married secretly a catholic woman, Mary McKlear, the daughter of an Edinburgh doctor. The Seton family site contains many details and following the claim to the title being granted to George Seton of Bellingham the Earls of Eglington produced a counter claim based on the fact there was no marriage record, it was of course in their interest that there was no record of the marriage. The court in Edinburgh did however agree that the child of George and Mary was genetically theirs if not proven as legitimate.

While in the Tower of London for trial and execution he also fathered two children by Elizabeth Stevenson, widow of an Edinburgh doctor who was a friend of the attainted Earl, who was acting as his agent in procuring funds from his estate. After he escaped England he married an unknown woman and they lived in Rome where she was known as Lady or Countess Winton, they had at least three children, one line moved to Ireland and later England. It seems he made a living from the Freemasons in Rome, possibly embezzling funds to support his lifestyle.

He had a lot of descendants, but the Bellingham line looks interesting for links in Northumberland. They spread themselves around a lot and there are lines around Consett and South Shields who moved to Canada but also in Northumberland and later in San Diego and so far no direct link to any of my ancestors, although there are some living in the same street at the same time.

This returns me to the original premise, that we are descended from Mary Seton, which is difficult to prove. Most of her adult life she was imprisoned with Mary Queen of Scots, and though not herself a prisoner any child born would have been noted. We then have the period between her trip to France for the marriage of the Queen to the dauphin, who died before marriage, and the time when the family dispute, known as the Battle of Lansdale occurred. The battle was a family matter with several thousand troops watching which eventually led to Mary going to England for support from Elizabeth, which did not go well.

In the peaceful 10 or 12 years Mary and the Queen seem to have enjoyed life, playing golf at Musselburgh and perhaps the attention of suitors. The Queen seems quite open to fun but Mary was fairly strict about a vow of chastity. It is however possible there was an illegitimate birth, not recorded, and possibly the child was raised outside the family, this will mean tracing 500 years of descent through commoners in Scotland and England, without even a rumour that the birth had occurred.

While looking through some documents from a cousin I found a handwritten note attached to Thomas Reuben Whitfield Burn that he was a cousin of  Margaret Seaton of Rochdale. He was illegitimate but his mother did marry Thomas Reuben Whitfield, implying he was the father. It turns out Margaret Seaton’s  parents married in Newcastle on Tyne and her father was from Glasgow, he was also a methodist minister with the New Convention in Manchester. Once again no link has been found to my line or the Seton line, so far.

My current hope is that I can find another researcher with this story so we can narrow down where in our trees we should be looking.

Just names

I was looking at the name cloud above and got a bit fed up with the big missing surname entry. This looks like sloppy work on my part.

I checked in Gramps and 4% of my database was missing surnames, this is not good. There will always be a few names that are unknown and I could cheat by adding the married name to British women, most names that are missing are from married women whose birth name is unknown and that is a peculiarity of Britain and the colonies, the rest of the world value women higher and they use their birth name all their life. Using a married name though does introduce a chance for errors, there are some cases where cousins with the same name married and they may get overlooked with using married names as birth names.

Some of these missing names will be for ever clouded in mystery, like Agnes, the wife of John Grist. She is only mentioned on her burial record and the baptism of her children. She may have married before the reformation or before the new church of England started keeping records, or they may have been a record that has got lost in the last 500 years. I doubt I will ever find her name or the parents of either of them, common peasants were not worth recording.

With a lot of new parish records coming online over the last few months and the GRO search site now having mothers maiden names back to 1837 there were lots of places where I could fill in names, and in many cases get research back one or two generations. It took some time but missing names are now less than 1% of the total 8000 people in the tree.

It is always useful to go back over old research, new facts pop up all the time and allow a better picture of our ancestors lives.

DNA Part 2

In DNA which was a long time ago, I said I was going to do some DNA tests so I could comment on DNA testing for genealogy with some facts.

The first problem is the inordinate amount of time it takes to get things done, mostly caused by the DNA testing company being unorganised and not having enough capacity to cope with their sales and also by postal services who seem to think it is normal for small packets to take a month to deliver.

So after 3 months I got my first results from an autosomal test, and initially it looked like good news with 1800 matches. It did not take long for disappointment to arrive.

The matches list was sorted by size of matches but could be reordered by closeness of relationships. The best results were 20 people who matched as 2nd to 4th cousins, so that seemed the best place to start, they should be easier to find than 6th cousins, and with the size of my tree the links might already be partly in place.  The problem noted first was that 60% of the matches had not uploaded any tree for me to compare mine to, some just had two or three people marked private, some had a few 20th century ancestors but often with no places mentioned. I assume these people have done a DNA test so that someone will do the research for them, being to stupid or lazy to do the research themselves. I emailed most of these prospective matches and half have not replied, so not a lot of help there.

The next thing you notice is the relationship calculator is very ambitious, I find it very improbable that a family line that has been exclusively US based for 300 years is going to have a second cousin relationship to my line which has been British for the same period and more.

Uploading my data to gedmatch seemed to produce better results, relationships seemed better estimated comparing gedcom files was a useful start to narrowing results, but once again many people did not have a gedcom to check with and a high number do not respond to questions.

So far I have narrowed my search to two potential matches, in both cases we have numerous family names in common, in the right region at the same time but no obvious common ancestor yet. For the most likely match I have added about 300 people to descendant lines of my direct ancestors, found two marriages with his paternal line that were not connected to him yet.

So are there any conclusions to be drawn yet?

The first conclusion is that you cannot expect to take any DNA test and have your ancestry mapped out for you, you are more likely to match with some other idiot doing the same thing and both of you will get nowhere.

The second point is that to get anything from a DNA test you need to have done a lot of research first, and preferably properly sourced research where you give citations. In my mind if you have done this then DNA will not add anything, except maybe some certainty over some dubious history.

The third conclusion is that testing methods of totally inaccurate and dubious. I studied DNA at university and know that the cheap tests on offer are not good enough for accurate results, evidence for this is I have no matches with known cousins who tested with the same company and the hundreds of matches that cannot be correct. Note that by cheap I mean comparatively cheap, a proper, accurate test would cost about 10 times what the rip off merchants charge, and for what the offer they are really overpriced.

At the moment I cannot recommend or even suggest that anyone buys a DNA test of any sort. If someone really thinks they should test then I would advise them to not test with familytreeDNA, they are incompetent and rude as well as inefficient.

I am still waiting for more test results so I may revisit this and update my opinions, and it could just be that my results are so poor as I am only half human. Surely there is someone who has good results from DNA testing.

Potts Trust

December and January, at least here, are cold, I mean really cold, -20 to -30 during the short days, they are also the most depressing time of the year, especially the silly season in the last week of December. It makes it worse as the start of the stupidity gets earlier each year. I avoid it all by not going out and not having any live ‘entertainment’ coming in.  I used to use the time constructively by cleaning the cess pit but now I just hang a ‘gone fishing’ sign on the gate and do something constructive online.

This year I revisited the Potts Trust relatives, to try and bring some order to the genealogy that many cousins seem to have got wrong.

The Potts trust came about because of Thomas Potts who died without children in 1800. Various stories have been told about him, he was a millionaire and a silk merchant, in reality he was moderately well off and a grocer in Edinburgh, he was a grocer at the top end of the market as can be seen from advertising he did and he was involved with the city council, he also got involved in property development and rented homes to dowager duchess’ and other nobility.

Shortly after his death his widow Isabella set up a trust fund for their joint estates. The main provision was that at her death the fund would pass to any of the surviving siblings of Thomas, it appears she have been the end of her line. In any case she lived longer than any of the siblings and on her death the second provision came into force, the income from the fund would be split between any children of the three siblings and their descendants, in perpetuity, which is how came into being an inheritor.

Unfortunately there were several problems created when the trust was set up. The first problem was the size of the fund, it seemed from reading the legal document that half of Scotland was in the trusts control, well at least half of Argyle, with several villages and land in other parts, but that was property deposited as security for a mortgage borrowed by the Lord of Argyl, a loan of 400 pounds. The funds in the trust may have been higher in 1800 but maybe Isabella used a lot to live on for the next 25 years.

The second problem was that many people had 10 or 12 children and the number of people sharing the payout ballooned and as inflation had not been invented then there was no provision made to reinvest some earnings in order to create capital growth.

In the first years the payouts were not to bad, about the same as an agricultural labourer might earn in a year but by the 1970’s people were getting three or four shillings, the cost of administration and sending payments became greater than the income. Perpetuity is not as long as you think it might be, about 150 years.

But it is a genealogical gem, everyone entitled to a payment is a cousin or child of someone else in the trust. I have a copy of a petition to the courts in Edinburgh from 1900, the petition is for the appointment of a new legal factory as the old accountant had died, this needed approval of all members of the trust and they are all listed. Some have an address, one or two mention their marriage partner but all of them list their line of descent, in a convoluted legal way.  The only date is the date of the petition and some people are listed as deceased, just getting the relationships right took two weeks.

Starting with their sometimes vague address in 1900 census records were searched for family groups and moving backwards it was possible to confirm the families as I knew at least one parent. Some were still difficult as they were in South Africa, Naples or Barbados others were easier as they were in the UK or USA and a large number are now confirmed though there are some anomalies that need to be followed up.

Am added bonus was that Lost Cousins had a competition running to add more family members and I could add about 700 which led to finding some living cousins doing research on my lines.

The Chester triangle

Something like the Bermuda one but around Chester, UK.

I wrote some weeks ago about Edward Davies, a brickwall and Great Great Grandfather who is involved in the Chester triangle.

Boarders between many countries are clearly defined and generally stable, the boarder between the USA and Europe is the Atlantic, there could be disputes on where the boarder is in the sea exactly but who the land belongs to is definitely known. Some land boarders are very fluid, like Belgium for example, parts of it were in Spanish Nederland, many towns have German, Nederland and French names as they belonged to different countries at different times.

It might be imagined that Britain has clearly defined boarders, being islands but that is not so. The boarder with Scotland has moved by a hundred miles over the last 2000 years, I think Berwick on Tweed is still officially at war with Germany. Ireland was stolen 500 years ago and most was given back 100 years ago, the rest may follow soon. The whole Welsh boarder has be moving around for centuries and Edwards family highlight some of the problems created.

From 1851 to his death census records are consistent that he was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire although Birkenhead has changed counties since and been in several different registration districts. As he was born before civil registration we would only be concerned with parish records which would probably come under the Bishop of Chester. Of course he may not have been born there but thought he was born there or near by. In any case no reliable records have been found for birth or baptism.

His wife was initially only know as Elizabeth from census records, her birth name was never mentioned, but her place of birth was consistently given as Hanmer, Flintshire in Wales. Hanmer is a problem for several reasons, firstly being a parish consisting of a collection of villages and hamlets together with individual farms, it had no central town and in fact the county it was in was divided in two so it had no direct connection the the county town. Secondly parish records from the time of her birth are probably also under the Bishop of Chester but could be under Wrexham in Denbighshire or Whitchurch or Oswestry in Shropshire, which confuses foreigners by being called Salop. Being from Wales there is also a chance that her family were dissenters and so we need to look under non conformist records in Wales as well. None of this is much use without a family name though.

From the birth record of my Great Grandfather I found her maiden name was Williams, as much use a a chocolate teapot, hundreds of possibilities. Their marriage record might prove helpful, it may give their age but more likely just give over 21, but it should give their address and their fathers name and occupation which might tie the baptism records together. What can we deduce from the census records to determine the approximate date and place of marriage?

The 1841 census gives them living in Liverpool with two young sons born in Lancashire, Henry 2 years and Edward 2 months. This should be simple, but no. There were only two Edward Davies’ born in the first half of 1841, one a long way away, south of Shrewsbury and one in Holywell, in the Chester triangle. The certificate from Holywell gives the mother as Elizabeth Williams. There are no records for a Henry being born within 150 miles or two years of 1839 but I have found a baptism record for Edward in Liverpool in 1842, he died shortly afterwards. Henry is listed as being born in Liverpool on later census records, all the other children were born in Wrexham.

Assuming Henry was officially registered under a different name and he was born June 1838 to June 1839 the parents may have married in 1837 and in the third quarter of 1837 there is a record that has Edward Davies and Elizabeth Williams in Holywell, this looks promising, certificate ordered.

Bad news followed, my fee was refunded as, though both names were on the registration record they did not marry each other but did marry someone else on the page. The Chester triangle swallowed another lead. There are other possible marriages but ordering certificates for them by trial and error will get expensive and if they married before 1 July 1837 there is no civil record anyway. Finding if Henry had another name might help, but there are 250 registrations to check so it is back to waiting for DNA results and hope.



Do Not Ask

or Deoxyribonucleic acid if you prefer.

I have not yet been convinced of the value of DNA testing for genealogy, but working in a vacuum of facts does nothing so I bit the bullet and ordered a DNA test.

I avoided the Ancestry test as it seems a confidence trick, you have to subscribe to Ancestry to start with. FamilytreeDNA seemed the most recommended and perhaps versatile.

So far I have been severely underwhelmed by the process. The website seems fairly useless  adding a family tree using the ‘Spawn of Satan’ gedcom system worked reasonably well, viewing the tree was problematic, I am constantly reminded to add my parents although they are shown on the page, I am hoping this is to do with not having the results on the site yet.

The test itself was a simple affair once I had it, getting it was the problem. Two weeks after ordering online the address label was printed and I got a tracking number which showed it took three days to get into the postal system, the package travelled around Texas for 24 hours and three days later appeared in Chicago, it travelled around several locations in Chicago over the next 24 hours before an entry was added, departed Chicago. In my innocence I assumed it was now flying to Europe, but no, the next entry was it back in Texas, it departed there 25 December then 3 days later it departed Frankfurt and took a week longer to get here as it sat around the customs check over the weekend and feast days.

Now it is making the return trip and I expect the results sometime before the new year