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.

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.

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.

Lydia Helen Rush

Lydia is my third cousin, twice removed and something of an enigma.

I have quite a lot of details of her early life in London before 1900, I know of a mistake with her grandparents, they were possibly brother and sister in law of her grandparents.

I also have a lot of details of her life in California after 1910, it is the bit in the middle that is causing a headache.

Most US census entries give her date of immigration as 1899 or 1900 although I have not found her on any 1900 census and more confusing was her inclusion on the census entry from 31 March 1901 with her parents, in London. She married in 1906 in San Jose, so why was she in England in 1901?

There were several ideas that I had including her parents adding her name to the census as they hoped she would return, or she did return to try and convince some of her family to emigrate as well. No facts have been found to support any ideas I had and no definite names on ships manifests either.

I then came across a message on a forum from my fifth cousin Margie, a direct descendant of Lydia, who proposed that Lydia had been married around 1899 and had a child but both husband and child died in an influenza epidemic, this might well explain her return to England and why she is not on any 1900 US census, she would have been listed under her married name and possibly the same name was used on the second manifest when she returned to the US. It is also possible that she was married, or claimed to be married on her first emigration, no definite British marriage records have been found and searching for a baby and father that died somewhere in the US about 1900 is not easy with no names.

This looks like another question that will not be answered until I get a time machine.

Who was – Hasquencort, Dilean J.

Source: Geleick – Davies Family Tree plus related branches – Hasquencort, Dilean J.

A problem guy, no real idea of his parents or his early life. No idea why he moved to Birkenhead after he married. No idea what happened to his family while he was in prison or why he changed his name after release. The rest was easy!