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.

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.

Not working harder, working smarter

With the end of December and beginning of January being the most depressing time of the year I decided to cheer myself up by updating most of my 1881 census people. This is a lot of work, checking everyone has sources and the family details are correct, this is where working smarter comes in. It is a case of adding any that I missed to the Lost Cousins website which gives me a chance to find more cousins who have researched the direct lines of theirs which are only cousin lines of mine.

To start with I used Gramps, the only software that I use daily, to filter my database to only show people born before 1881 and people who died after 1881, this then only shows me people alive in 1881, who will be in the UK 1881 census if they were in Britain. I still had about 1400 people listed, a lot more than the 100 or so I had already added to Lost Cousins, but at least half were from Germany, Nederland and even South Africa or Italy.

The first thing I noticed was half a dozen women with no family name, these were women who married into my tree but I have not found their definitive marriage yet. The new GRO birth search form helps here, as it now lists the maiden name of mothers back to 1837, checking all the children born will confirm the birth records of each child and the mothers name so I could add the birth reference’s that were missing for any children, check I had all the census data added and add them to Lost Cousins if they were not already there and update her maiden name. Knowing the mothers birth name gave a chance to find the marriage record and perhaps census records for her before marriage and so add her parents and siblings.

If I find her or her family in 1841 I can add them to Lost Cousins as well, more chance of finding cousins, it is also possible to find her siblings in 1881 and add them, men of course are easier to find, but that is life.

What made it even better to do this was that Lost Cousins have a contest running the rest of this month, adding people enter you in a draw with things like DNA tests and year subscriptions as prizes, check their newsletter for details. If you are not already a member, why not? It is free and informative.