New DNA Test Results to Play With

A summary of my experience to date:

Family Finder on FtDNA – 38 pages of matches @ ten to a page = 380 matches.

2nd-4th Cousins – Two adoptees, one unresponsive, one confirmed 3rd cousin

3rd-5th Cousins – 17 mysteries, 2 of which are probably connected via Annie McLeod and Prince Edward Island but this is by no means certain.

4th-Remote Cousins – several pages, 23 of which are connected via Annie McLeod and Prince Edward Island and one confirmed 6th cousin via John Burleton and Elizabeth Lush.

5th-Remote Cousins – a few more via Annie McLeod and PEI, but the rest of 29 pages remain mysteries.

Gedmatch – one confirmed 4th cousin via Robert Lockley and Catherine Hingley.

Several more potential connections to whom I have sent emails and about 300 matches where I just don’t have a clue.

At this point, my son’s Family Finder DNA Test came through.  It was a big moment!  As with mine, FtDNA were still predicting results to come through in 2-3 weeks.  I logged into my own kit, clicked on FF matches and realised I had a kit with enough matches for the ‘shared cM’ graphic to take a second to load.  Total shared cM 3384 and largest block 267 cM.

Of course, I knew he was coming in but it was still nice to see how a close match looks.  I also knew quite well that he was my own son but there’s nothing like scientific confirmation of it.  So I logged out of my kit and logged into his to see who he matched.

Not being as wealthy as I was when I purchased my own test, I only had Family Finder results for my son. I had of course researched his tree, but had in places accepted the research of other relatives.  One of them I know to be very meticulous so I had not checked, but quite recently I learned that he had done exactly as I had – there was at least one branch of that tree which he had accepted on faith, not being his area of especial interest.

My own family is obscure enough, but at least I had one branch of long term Tasmanians and one branch from New South Wales.  Tasmania is a rather quiet and isolated state and not so much in the world.  It is expensive to cross Bass Strait and not always a pleasant journey, so for many decades the same families tended to intermarry.  For greater variety, someone from the south might marry someone from the north.

As an example – I grew up in the far south, in the Huon Valley.  We went to Hobart roughly once a year.  Hobart was truly the Big City.  Many drivers in my home town had never driven in Hobart and when a roundabout was installed in one southern town in the late 1990s, many many drivers did not know how to use it and confusion reigned supreme!  It was quite something.

Growing up down there, I went to Hobart occasionally but Launceston in the north – well, that was just too far to contemplate.  260km – the roads were not too good and there was just no need for a trip like that.

A pity, because the Midlands Highway in Tasmania is an adventure.  It’s still one of my favourite drives.  Knowing Tasmania’s history as intimately as I know it, I have some idea of how all those towns came about, their reputations, their difficulties and their prides.  The old colonial road still exists in places, either beside the current road or in places as part of the walking tracks which can be found throughout Tasmania.  You can still see the cobblestones laid by convicts at times and the bridges they made.  When I was a child, the old milestones were still there on the road sides, in miles although kilometres as the standard measure came in before I was born.  There were also horse troughs and the wrecks of old inns.

Some parts of Tasmania have not changed from the early years of settlement.

Some parts of Tasmania have changed very little through the years and give a tantalizing glimpse into the past.

This is only partly a digression.  Tasmania through my childhood was a place lost in time.  This only changed in the late 1990s when so many Tasmanian institutions began to be administrated from the state of Victoria, resulting in a very sudden modernisation – no doubt necessary but I can’t help missing the old pockets where one really did ‘step back in time’.  I think that experience also helps me with my family history research.

I am surprised that I don’t have more DNA matches within Australia, but I’m only surprised by the lack of matches on my mother’s side.  New South Wales was always bigger, more cosmopolitan, more international.  I have not really expected matches on the paternal side.  Sarah was a pleasant surprise but of course she had left the state.

My husband’s family are entirely local to Tasmania.  His father came from the town of New Norfolk, which was settled very early on in the history of Van Diemen’s Land.  His mother’s family came from the northwest, from a little place called Forest which was also established quite early. Between us, with my Huon ancestry, my husband’s New Norfolk side and his Forest/Stanley side, we have most of Tasmania covered.

I expected very few matches and I wasn’t surprised.  Well, I tell a lie – there weren’t many but there were actually more than I expected.  My son had 16 pages total.

The breakdown was similar to my own:  he had a connection to my kit – predicted to be his parent.  He had four matches at the 2nd-4th cousin level, and a page and a half of 3rd-5th Cousin matches.  The rest were more distant.

Now, I thought my own match situation was bad, but my son’s is even worse.  Of his four close cousin matches, one was Jennifer the unresponsive, one was John my 3rd cousin through Annie McLeod, and the two others were clearly on his father’s side.  One came with a good gedcom, the other with about three names showing.

I’ll call them Simon and Walter, not their real names.  Simon’s tree was as extensive as my own but no match found.  What was perhaps worse, the ancestors came from all over the British Isles and all the same counties as my son’s ancestors.  More than that – three came from the same little towns, while two more came from Tower Hamlets in London – this tree was like a replica of my son’s but with all different names.

Just to clarify – it isn’t a replica, I’ve located most of Simon’s ancestors in the UK Census and the vital records.  They just happen to have all come from the same places.  I sent an email.

As for Walter’s – three names and no dates or locations.  I emailed him also.

Then I uploaded my son’s tree to Gedmatch and settled in for a good browse through the pages.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience – X Matches

This subject has suddenly become topical in the DNA email lists and I considered holding off until I learned more from the experts on the list, but I think the fact that I am completely at sea with this type of match has its relevance.  It’s been six months since I received my test results and I still don’t know what to think about X Matches.  I’ll explain where I’m at.

On FtDNA when I list my matches, there is a small dropdown panel at the bottom of each match in the list, showing further details. This panel provides many interactive options including listing ‘In Common With’, showing what other tests that kit has taken eg YDNA or MtDNA and giving their basic results.  I can select the kit to compare in the chromosome browser.  It shows the longest block on which I match this kit, and finally tells me if this kit is an X-Match or not.

I can also use the ‘Relations’ sort box at the top of the screen which by default is set on ‘Show All Matches’.  If I change this to ‘X-Matches’ it will show me only my X-matches.

This is a potentially useful field.  I have only potentially received DNA on my X-Chromosomes from just over half my matches so if I can confirm an X-Match, I can immediately eliminate nearly half my ancestors in determining the MRCA.  In theory.  In reality, it seems that X-Matches are highly prone to being IBS, and that large segments can come down basically unbroken from WAY back.  I have not proved this either way yet, but I do have some potential connections on my non-X lines which show as X-Matches for small portions.  Nothing concrete – hence my confusion.

Being female, I received an X chromosome from my mother and another from my father’s mother through my father.  There is still a bit of confusion out there about this, with some pieces of writing stating that the X-chromosome only comes from the mother.  They were probably written by men and therefore perfectly correct as far as they went. Men get only one – from their mother.  Women get two – one from their mother, one from their father’s mother.

I have four children – three boys and a girl.  My three boys only received their X-chromosome data from me.  My daughter received one from me, one from my mother-in-law through her father.

I had two to pass on – one from my mother, one from my father. Which portions of my two that went to each child will be different.  It is very doubtful that they received the same thing.  One might have received more from my mother, one more from my paternal grandmother.  So even though my three boys all received their X-chromosome from me, it won’t be identical.

We can see, given that coming from a female – male – female – male etc down that line, the X-chromosome does not recombine when coming from a male to his daughter.  It might be a unique combination of his mother’s and his paternal grandmother’s, but once the man has it, he passes it on to his daughter’s in its entirety.  It takes two to recombine.  Hence the longevity.  X-chromosome down that female – male – female – male – female line is going to take about 10-12 generations to turn into something unrecognisable, not 5-6 like Family Finder.

Family from the past.  A picture very similar to the ones I took of my own children when they were this age.  It reminds me that these DNA segments are a connection to real people with everday lives.

Family from the past. A picture very similar to the ones I took of my own children when they were this age. It reminds me that these DNA segments are a connection to real people with everday lives.

It makes it very hard to work with, but as I said earlier, potentially very useful.  Not only can I eliminate almost half my ancestors in seeking this match, I can also use it to find deeper ancestors – if accompanied by a good paper trail.   A good paper trail is so hard to achieve from maternal ancestors unless they were rich.

Adding to the usefulness – if they are an X-Match, the common ancestor is on one of their X-Lines as well.  We can eliminate half of their tree also.

I created an X-Tree for myself in PAF.  Just a simple tree with myself, my parents, my father’s mother, both my mother’s parents, my father’s mother’s parents, my mother’s mother’s parents – as far back as I could.  Then I looked at my X-Matches to see if I could find a connection.

Of my four closest matches, the 2nd-4th cousin matches, unresponsive Jennifer is my only X-Match.  Of the rest, four of my distant cousins on Prince Edward Island are X matches.  This is way less than half of them and the segment is small, so I think they are probably IBS.  However, until I deduce our exact connection, I have to keep them on the radar.  Maybe I have more links than I knew with that place.

Annie McLeod, my known Scottish ancestor, is my mother’s father’s father’s mother so not an X-match.

Robert Lockley and Catherine Hingley are on my distant cousin Sarah’s X line, but they are not on mine so we are not an X match.

It may be that I happen to have inherited huge X-portions from an ancestor without many descendants and this is why I have so few, but a lot of people are dubious about using X matches to identify ancestry.  I’ll keep studying it and maybe something will become clear.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience – 5th to Remote Cousins

No, I had not forgotten about these very distant cousins.

Given that I had 4 2nd-4th cousin matches, 17 3rd-5th cousin matches and eight pages of 4th-remote cousins, the remaining matches had to be 5th-remote cousins.

I don’t remember how many of these I had when I took my first look.  Now, I have 28 pages of them.  That’s about 280 matches.

There is still a lot of debate about IBS and IBD.  Yes, I’m sure there is a proportion of IBS among these, but FtDNA only shows matches which have at least one shared segment of 7 cM or more.  There is a total shared segment limit too, but I don’t remember what that is.

When I began, I read up on autosomal DNA – that it was good for the closest six generations, that it reduced each generation, that small segments are IBS.  Now, just a few months later, I have come to see that these are guidelines only.  Some segments seem to be very resilient, as I said in an earlier post.  They pass down in their entirety.  Others are broken up but they were still passed down so remain IBD.   Some testers feel that they have a large amount of IBS amongst their distant matches.

I am not yet convinced.  I won’t really be convinced until several people have mapped their complete genome and identified which ancestor every segment came from, and then compared this with their match list with a very well researched family tree.  There are a lot of nearly impossible factors in there but technology – and genealogical research – improves all the time.

I have and continue to have success with small segments.  I have more success with matches where we share several small segments than one small segment but nonetheless, to me, the small segments should not be ignored.

We may learn down the track that this varies family by family. Some of us may be built of quite ancient segments that stay together like glue and will not break down.  Others might have genetic structure which recombines more quickly.  But I speculate here.  Genealogical DNA testing is very new and I’m sure someone is collecting the data somewhere.

My impression is that some believe they can’t trust the small segments to locate their relations.  Others believe they can.  I’m one of the latter type.  Undoubtedly some of them are IBS but I’m going to have a damn good try at finding a link before I decide that.

A big new land

Australia – A big new land

I realised several weeks ago that I have a better chance of identifying my remote cousin matches than most, because I live in Australia.  Records are pretty good for Australian colonisation.  Yes, we have our brick walls and there are holes in our research, but I don’t think many settled in Australia without finding themselves on some record, somewhere.  A burial record, a hospital record, the electoral roll or a muster.  If we go looking for our direct ancestors who clearly met a partner and produced a child, we’ll find them somewhere.

Of my emigrating ancestors, most were 5 generations back and there are only 32 of those.  Take another step back and there are 64.  There are only 64 people who I need to find to know where my family emigrated from.  I have a couple of exceptions but this basically holds.

Most of my remotest cousin matches have ancestry in North Carolina and Virginia.   There are a few distinct clusters and there are a spattering of others.  So I am looking for a common feature between the immediate ancestors of my 64 at emigrant level, and families from those two locations in the now United States.

Looking for common factors between inhabitants of those states and my own ancestors, I find two.  Poor but able farming families emigrating in search of a new home, and convicts.

Convicts were sent to Virginia from about 1615.  The process was stop-start, with a concentrated portion from 1657-1671.  It resumed in 1711 and continued till 1775.

Between 1775 and 1788 there were only thirteen years.  Anyone researching convicts in Australia will know how often siblings were transported across a ten or twenty year period.  Undoubtedly, in some cases, a convict was transported to Virginia and a sibling several years later was transported to Australia.  The poor and struggling families of 1750 were often the same poor and struggling families of 1800.  In both the US and Australia there was a stigma about convict ancestry.  In Australia too many records continued to exist and the convict era was too recent for us to cover it up.  We moved on, we grew to understand and accept them.

Replica Cottage from early colonisation era in Sydney, New South Wales

Replica Cottage from early colonisation era in Sydney, New South Wales

In the United States, the cover up was more successful.  Many people today, researching their family, will come to a point where an ancestor suddenly ‘appeared’ in Virginia or Georgia or Maryland or South Carolina. Pennsylvania also had a few.

It is explained nicely at Early American Crime.  With useful figures.  There were well over 50,000 convicts transported to the United States in the 18th Century.  Many of them served out their sentence, married and became labourers or tradesmen.  A few generations down, their children told stories of their grandfather who came over ‘to seek his fortune’ or because he was a younger son who would not inherit land in England.

If these convicts were anything like the ones which came to Australia, they were able men and women who had been held back by circumstance and lack of education.  Sure, there were alcoholics and habitual thieves amongst them, rapists and murderers – but there were even more who just wanted an end to strife and hardship.  Those ones married, raised a family, saved up and bought themselves some land and two generations on their children were bankers and magistrates and large property owners.  It definitely happened in Australia, it undoubtedly happened in the United States.

I have now made contact with two distant cousins whom I am sure are connected via convict siblings, but they don’t even want to consider the idea.  So I’ll do some more research and see if I can prove it from the English end.

Other cousins of course have been very receptive to all possibilities.

I notice from various email lists that Ancestry testers have their matches sorted into categories, one of which is ‘Colonial Ancestry’.  I can see why.  I helped a friend trace his family tree within America and the trail died off in Tennessee in the early 1820s.

However, from Australia, I might just be adding a clue for my distant cousins to use.  They connect to one of 64 people, most of whom are well documented.

If they would all put their trees on FamilyTree DNA, I could browse to my heart’s content and follow all possibilities.  I’m a blood hound and ferret rolled into one, when I have the opportunity. In the meantime – I’m grouping, linking and making spreadsheets.

My Three Brick Walls – No. 3 Frances Fox

It has just come to my attention that all three of my near brick walls have alliterative names.  Imagine that.

Fanny Fox was born in about 1857, most likely in Middlesex, England.  Some researchers have her born in St Pancras which is quite likely but I’m not sure where they found this.  She is my direct maternal line so her haplogroup should be H2a2a1c, as mine is.

The first record I have located is the 1861 UK Census where she was an infant girl in Hanwell School for Orphan Children in Brentford, Middlesex.  She was apparently admitted at the age of three.  I don’t know whether her parents died or were unable to raise her.

Also in Hanwell Orphan School are two boys with the surname Fox – John born 1850 and William born 1853.

The census records for Hanwell take many many pages.  It was huge.  The staff take up the first few pages – Superintendent, Matron, teachers, doctor, cooks, nurses, washerwomen, dining room attendants, tailors, stableman, gardeners … pages.  Many pages.

I notice that most of the nurses (19 in number) are widows aged between 35-55 born in Ireland.  This seems like an excellent position for a widow of steady habits and no way to support herself.  Possibly some of these women had children in the school too. There is no one surnamed Fox amongst the staff.

My subscription site’s terms of service do not allow me to post census images, so I can only transcribe as I see it. No children have birth location listed.  There were about 15 pages of scholars and infants all written up in the one hand.  I’m not surprised they didn’t put the birthplace in.  It may be that the children were required to have been born within the parish but I have seen nothing about this yet.

The scholar’s names are not written in alphabetical order yet the three Fox children are listed together.  This makes a relation between them even more likely, to my mind.

Looking back at the 1851 census for John Fox, I have found one possible candidate which is found nowhere else in 1861.  This is a family of four – Barney Fox, his wife Ann and two children, James born 1845 and John born 1850 living in Finsbury, St Lukes, Middlesex in Chequer Lane.  Barney and Ann were both born in Ireland. In 1851, Barney was aged 40 and his wife was 27.  He was a labourer.  Both children were born in St Lukes Middlesex so they had lived in London for at least six years.  I have been unable to find a marriage or a death for either but I expect a death record is somewhere.  The name Barney may have been a nickname.

I have not found records about life in Hanwell, but some of Fanny Fox’s later characteristics were probably established here.  Fanny was very involved in the church and her faith was strong.   She loved music, she helped clean the church, provided morning tea for church functions and never missed a service unless ill.  I remember hearing that she played piano for the church during the services but I am not sure where I heard this now.  I believe she liked to sing and singing has definitely come down the family to the present day.  We are sopranos and we love to sing.  This might have come from Fanny.

At the age of 13, Fanny emigrated to Australia, seemingly alone.  It is quite likely that she was acting as companion or servant to another passenger, but so far we have been unable to deduce which one.  Fanny was very young to leave the orphanage, but I suspect she was quiet, well behaved and responsible.  An emigrating passenger may have taken a liking to her and felt that Australia offered her chances she would not have in England.  She was the only one surnamed Fox on the ship and nearly all other passengers were in clear family groups.

Shipping record from the Victorian archives index.

Shipping record from the Victorian archives index.

Fanny’s own story is that she came to Australia to be a servant, spent some time in Melbourne then moved north to the rural town of Bethanga where she married and raised a family.  Later, her family moved to the Snowy Mountains.

This is all true and I have not located many more details.  However, it seems to me like the blurb on the back of a book – two sentences to summarise a truly epic tale.  I would dearly love some clues about those years.

Bethanga began as a township after gold was discovered in the region in 1876.  It is quite likely that Fanny moved there after that.  Gold did incredible things for regions in colonial Australia.  It brought people from everywhere and meant instant success for any shops and services which managed to establish themselves quickly enough.  If the gold field looked big and permanent enough, houses sprang up with a need for domestic servants and the servants could basically ask the wages of their dreams – at least for a while.

Perhaps this is what brought Fanny, but gold fields were not always safe places.  In 1876 Fanny was aged 18 and probably full of confidence, but miners were rough men, heavy drinkers and had often forgotten their social etiquette – if they ever knew any.  They did not all speak English and different cultures treat women in different ways, particularly women without protection.  Unauthorized taverns were common, frequented by dancers and singers and prostitutes. Churches also came, to provide assistance and moral values.

Northern Victoria from one of the national parks.

Northern Victoria from one of the national parks. Taken many years ago with a standard lens so a bit grainy.

In what capacity did Fanny travel to Bethanga?  We don’t know.  Was she employed by a family who moved there?  Was she alone?

There at Bethanga, Fanny met William Morey, a bullock driver.  William had been born in the Black Ranges Goldfields near Albury, and his parents lived nearby.  William spent most of his time out of doors and was used to a solitary world.   Fanny was apparently working as a servant at the time.

William and Fanny were married on 27th December 1879.  The details were clearly written in the register by the minister rather than the couple since a few things are incorrect but no doubt what the minister heard.  The nature of the errors suggest a lack of attention on the part of the minister.  Perhaps he was very busy that day or very tired.  It was just after Christmas, always a busy time for an Anglican church.

Certificate of Marriage for William Morey and Frances Fox

Certificate of Marriage for William Morey and Frances Fox

William’s mother’s maiden name was Larcomb, not Larkin.  William was 27. Apart from this, the facts are correct.  I have no idea who the witnesses were. I think they are L and C Johnson but it might be C and C Johnson.

And Fanny’s mother …. is it Rice or Price?

After the wedding, William and Fanny settled in Bethunga where most of their nine children were born.  They lost the youngest, a girl, in her infant years but the rest lived to become adults.  Later, while the children were still at home, they moved to Mannus in the Snowy Mountains where William worked as a labourer on the McMeakin station.

The ruins of their cottage can still be found in the middle of a paddock there, if you know where to look.  I have sighted it from the road but was unable to track down the landowner to gain permission for a closer look.

Fanny passed away on 17 January 1931, of a stroke.  An obituary was placed in the paper at the time here:  “MRS F. MOREY.” Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954) 21 Jan 1931: 4. Web. 15 Oct 2014 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142767390>.

Click to enlarge

Although I have a few clues about Fanny’s parentage, there is very little to go on.  Fanny died before I was born but her children remembered both their parents with great respect and affection, and I met several of those children.  Fanny was very happy to talk about her life, but she herself did not know about her parents.  She also made no mention of brothers that anyone has reported.   I’d like to learn something via DNA testing but like the other brick walls, her surname was very common.   But nothing is impossible!  One day we will know.

My Three Brick Walls – No. 2 Bridget Bain

As is the way with my mystery women, Bridget Bain comes to our attention at the time of her marriage.

Southern Tasmania was and still is heavily wooded and well watered.  The winters are cold, damp and foggy.  The summers are occasionally warm but just as often cool and showery.  The area is hilly and the rivers are deep and broad.  It’s a very pretty place and the soil is very productive.

Back in its early years, it was home to Aboriginal tribes who were quite friendly with the early settlers, until some early settlers were unfriendly to them.  In the 1830’s, sealers traversed the coast and often took Aboriginal women to accompany them.  The sealers don’t have a very good name in Tasmanian history, they come across as brutal and often sadistic. Perhaps it was the nature of the work.  Perhaps there were good men amongst them, the more spectacular stories are usually the ones best remembered.

Southern Tasmania today but an area still looking as it might have in the 19th century.

Southern Tasmania today, an area still looking as it might have in the 19th century.

Massively enlarged portion of a map of Tasmania which my grandfather used at school.

Massively enlarged portion of a map of Tasmania which my grandfather used at school.

Since this map was printed at the Tasmanian Government Offices for classroom use in 1902 it seems to meet the copyright requirements,so I’ll probably use it a lot.  Because it was for classroom use, it contains details not commonly found on a map, such as the main produce of the regions.  For Bridget Bain, this would be a glimpse into the future.  In the 1850s most terrain south of Hobart was very hilly and very much forested.  Transport was mostly by boat on the Derwent River, the Huon River and in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel which passed between Bruny Island and the southeast coast.  New houses were built along the rivers and all had their own jetty and their own dingy.

After the sealers came sawyers, after the sawyers came orchardists.  Convicts were given land in the area after serving out their sentence or receiving their pardon. It was inhospitable land, every tree required a two-man saw and there was no flat land to be found.  Without roads leading in or out, it was difficult to bring furniture except by boat.  This area was certainly not popular with the free settlers who preferred to go north and inland from Hobart.  But it worked out well for small groups of men who could work together and were not afraid of hard labour.  It particularly suited those who liked to live away from the authoritative eye, who liked the sense of freedom one could experience in unpopulated land.  About 80% of those who ended up in this region – who made a roaring success of the place – were convicts.

Three such convicts were the men once known as the Dillane brothers, from Ireland, now known as the Dillon brothers.  Edmund, John and Timothy were mature adults when they committed their crime and it was a first offence for all.  Transported on the same ship in 1852 at the ages of 38, 35 and 31, each left wives behind and the elder two left chldren.

John, the one who is relevant here, received his ticket of leave in February 1854 and was granted a conditional pardon in December of the same year.  His brothers followed a similar path and by early 1855, the three of them headed for the Huon.

John had left a wife and four children in Ireland but maybe his wife died.  Her name was Joanna Dillane nee Moore and she has not been located since John’s transportation.  A man and wife separated for over seven years were legally allowed to consider the marriage over, freeing them up to remarry.  This was a very necessary law for a colony of fit and free ex-convicts.  Administration had realized that a wife could manage these men better than they could.  A married man was a happier man, a man with a purpose, a man with a sense of belonging.  It didn’t work for all but it was very good for the colony where it did work, and the new generation was very much needed as a workforce.

Although John had only been separated from Joanna for four years, he married Bridget Bain on the 18th August 1856 in the riverside town of Franklin in the Huon Valley.  He stated that he was a widower.

Marriage of John Dillon and Bridget Bain

Marriage of John Dillon and Bridget Bain

This is earliest mention I can find of Bridget in Tasmania.  Edmund Dillon had made arrangement for his family to come and join him.  His wife refused, but some of his adult children came.  I have sometimes wondered whether Bridget came on the same boat. At the very least, John’s niece and nephews may have brought news of Joanna’s demise.

Who Bridget was is still unknown and there are very few clues.  Her surname can be found in Ireland, Scotland and England.  Her first name is Irish but not exclusively so.  She was born in 1834 according to her marriage record, and 1837 according to her death record.  Following the trend of the time, she may have been younger and raised her age for the marriage since she was marrying a much older man.  John did the usual and subtracted four years from his true age.  He was actually about to turn forty.  Bridget may have been as young as 17.

The witnesses at the wedding were Timothy Dillon and Margaret Mackey. Timothy was John’s brother.  Margaret, as far as we can tell, was Mrs Margaret Mackey nee Foley and the new wife of Michael Mackey.  Michael Mackey was transported from Ireland on the same ship as the Dillane brothers, and he and his wife settled on a neighbouring property in Port Cygnet.

Quite a group of them from the same convict ship had headed out to Port Cygnet – the three Dillons, Michael Mackey, John Mackey and Patrick Stack feature strongly in the lives of John and Bridget Dillon.  However, both witnesses being associated with John still leaves Bridget, an isolated young Catholic girl making her permanent home with a group of Irish ex-cons about twice her age. She was a brave young lady.

John and Bridget settled at Glazier’s Bay in the district of Port Cygnet, on the above map this is near the town called Lovett (and more easily found by the word FRUIT).  The town went through several name changes and today is called Cygnet.   Their eldest son, born in 1857, was named Edward Dillon – some say Edward Emmett Dillon – and maybe there is a clue in that middle name.  Nothing has been uncovered yet.

John’s brother Timothy left the region, but John and Bridget remained there and became known as one of the district’s pioneering families.  They had twelve children.  As usual, John informed for the children’s births and Bridget remains unsighted.

Birth record of Mary Teresa Dillon, my great great grandmother.

Birth record of Mary Teresa Dillon 1860, my great great grandmother.

Bridget died on 8th August 1903 in Cygnet and is buried in the Catholic cemetery in Cygnet with a million other Dillons. I will add a photograph of her grave when I convert it to digital format.

"Family Notices." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 10 Aug 1903: 1. Web. 14 Oct 2014 .

“Family Notices.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 10 Aug 1903: 1. Web. 14 Oct 2014 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12259275>.

My Three Brick Walls – No. 1 Mary Morgan

On 20th October 1856 a baby boy was born in the small colonial town of Hamilton in Tasmania, Australia.

This was their first year with the name ‘Tasmania’.  Until now the town had existed within the British colony of Van Diemen’s Land, but the colony gained the right to self-legislate in 1854 and in 1856 had made some large changes – including the name, in an attempt to shake off the convict stigma.  A whole lot of things were altered, including the details which went onto the birth, marriage and death registrations.  What England wanted to know about people was not what Tasmania wanted to know. Tasmania was still under British rule, but not under direct British administration.

That baby boy was the first child for his parents, as far as we know. He was named Robert after his father, who was Robert Brown, a carter, free by Conditional Pardon, born in Cambridgeshire and now settled in the Tasmanian midlands.  The baby’s mother was Mary Brown formerly Morgan, and this is the first definite mention of her in the official records.

By 1856, records in Tasmania were pretty good.  In a colony of convicts and a vibrant shipping industry, the authoritative bodies wanted to know who went where.   There were still thieves on the run, escapees and persons banned from the urban districts.  So how someone could reach the age of adulthood and not find herself on a public record is a bit of a mystery.  She is by no means the only one, but as more records are digitized and made available, and as the internet enables family records to be accessed by others, the mysteries are unraveling.  Generally, it comes down to an unexpected change in name.  A child who took on a stepfather’s surname, for instance.  Or someone who came to Tasmania not from overseas but from a neighbouring state like Victoria.

There’s a good chance that Mary has records, but her very name is against us.  She began life as Mary Morgan and ended it as Mary Brown.  Both are very common names.

It’s miraculous that we could trace Robert Brown, but he left his information everywhere – his name, his accurate age, the ship he arrived on, his home town.  He provided consistent details and thus we found him even before records went online.  He was transported for life and at first behaved rebelliously, but by 1850 he had received a ticket of leave and by 1853 received his conditional pardon.

A conditional pardon, generally, gave him freedom to live his life under certain conditions – usually that he not return to his native country, or that he not leave his new country.

An early winter's morning in the region where Robert and Mary Brown lived.

Early winter’s morning in the region where Robert and Mary Brown lived.

No record has been found of a marriage between Robert Brown and Mary Morgan, and since marriages were easy to procure back then, it is more likely that they did not formalize their union.  However, this in itself is odd in a cultural environment where such things were frowned upon.  Of course, if they arrived in a town as an already married couple, no one would know any different.

In 1856, the proud new father was aged 37.  We don’t know Mary’s age but she continued bearing children for many years.  Following the usual pattern on all paternal sides of my family, she was probably in her mid teens, giving her a birth year of somewhere about 1840. I think between 1835 and 1841 is pretty safe.

Robert and Mary seem to have been healthy and maybe happy too.  A second son, William, was born in 1858, still in Hamilton district but I’m not sure if it was in the township.  After this the young family moved to Black Brush, later renamed Mangalore, where Robert was employed as a carter.  Their third son was John and he was my great great grandfather.

Birth registration of my great great grandfather John Brown.

Birth registration of my great great grandfather John Brown.

Amelia was born in 1862, and two years later we have a glimpse into their everyday life when Robert, father and breadwinner, was in an accident and broke both his legs. After some searching, I have located a brief description of the accident in a local paper:

"THE MERCURY." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 18 Jul 1864: 2. Web. 13 Oct 2014 .

“THE MERCURY.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 18 Jul 1864: 2. Web. 13 Oct 2014 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8827402>.

I had wondered about the three year gap between baby Amelia, born in 1862, and the next child in 1865.  The accident explains everything.

Mary found herself with four young children and no way to earn a living.  As people do in that situation, she turned to the minister of her local church who referred her case to the Queen’s Orphan School in Hobart – the state orphanage.

I first saw a brief transcription of this event a few years ago, but it is only recently that I had a chance to view the original – which gives far more detail.

The closest we have ever come to Mary Morgan.

The closest we have ever come to Mary Morgan

The Orphan School application includes five glorious pages giving us a brief confirmation of this woman’s existence.  The greatest detail here – of which we were never sure – is that Mary was native born.  This means that she was born within the colony.  It is not a reference to aboriginality.  Her parents might have come from anywhere else.  But it does mean that Mary, to the best of her knowledge at least, was born in Van Diemen’s Land.  She didn’t remember any other home.  So we need to look at someone surnamed Morgan who was around in circa 1835 who could be her parent.  This is still not easy, but nice to know.

Mary’s tale was a sad one, to we who live in a world where children stay children till their teens.

A glimpse into the family's life in 1864

A glimpse into the family’s life in 1864

I have four children namely Robert 8 years old – supports himself – a cowherd, the two mentioned in this application (William and John) and Amelia 2 years old – my husband is a patient in the Colonial Hospital Hobart. His legs were broken on the 12th July ultimo and I am informed that he is likely to continue in hospital for several months – I have no means whereby to support my children. My husband’s wages were 1 shilling a week.  Application supported by the Rev M Ball whose letter is annexed.

It’s a useful document.  The Reverend’s letter certified “That the bearer Mary Brown is the wife of Robert Brown a labourer in this district who was recently received into the Colonial Hospital with both legs broken from an unfortunate accident.”  He also confirmed “That she has applied to him to have her three sons Robert, William and John recommended for admission to the Orphan School”

The application was rejected for Robert aged 8 who was deemed able to support himself as a cowherd, and was accepted for 6 year old William and 4 year old John.  They were only in there for a few months – until Robert Brown was released from the hospital at the end of October.  One wonders if he was able to resume his work as a carter quite that soon, and bring in a wage.  I also wonder if the Reverend certified that Mary was married to Robert because he assumed it or if he really knew it.

In 1865, Elizabeth was born, followed by James in 1868, Mary Anne in 1872, Henry in 1875, Frederick in 1878 and Benjamin in 1879.  Frederick died young but this was the only child they lost.

The rest lived to adulthood and were married but I have been unable to trace all descendants.

If Mary was still bearing children in 1879, I don’t think she can have been born earlier than 1835.  I still think 1840 is more likely.

That birth record for Benjamin is the last mention of Mary Morgan.

Birth of Robert and Mary's youngest child, and the final reference to Mary.

Birth of Robert and Mary’s youngest child, and the final reference to Mary.

For every one of the births, Robert was the informant.  It is only the Orphan School application which was undertaken by Mary herself.

Mary Brown died.  We can deduce that since she was born in the early 1800s and won’t be alive today.  There are 27 deaths for women named Mary Brown between 1879 and 1899.  Records are harder to obtain after 1900 for Tasmania.

Of those 27 records, one in New Norfolk in 1899 seems plausible, but it comes with absolutely no details.  A private patient at the New Norfolk Hospital and the informant was the superintendent.  The hospital reported deaths at the end of each month and they knew little about the patients and only wrote the necessary.  This Mary Brown was buried at North Circle cemetery and the burial record is word for word what they received from the hospital – exactly the same as the death record.  No headstone remains, the cemetery was badly vandalized through the 1970s and 1980s.

If that is her, it’s a sad and obscure ending for a woman who successfully raised a large family in difficult circumstances.

Remaining Mysteries

I have thirty eight pages of DNA matches on FtDNA.  Thirty five years of research in my tree and branches which take me back ten generations or more in most directions. A desire to uncover the truth and seek sources for all details so hopefully a tree without much guesswork.  A family tree database containing 16,546 connected individuals.

But just three confirmed matches, one of which still requires further validation.

Is this what everyone has?  Or is there something I don’t know about my family?

I used PAF to create a new family tree for myself, adding in only the lines confirmed by DNA.  I have one on my paternal side and two on my maternal side.  It looks as if my parents are both my parents.  That’s a good beginning.

Going back on the paternal side, my father’s father is also secure in his position. I have nothing identified on my father’s mother’s side.   I cannot add that branch to my DNA Confirmed tree yet.

Looking at my paternal grandfather, I have a confirmed match on his mother’s side so she can pop in.  Her surname was Bone.  The rest of that branch – the Dillons – will have to wait.  For the Bone family – my great grandmother’s mother was Elizabeth Lockley so I’ll add her.  Her father’s branch is in limbo.  Elizabeth Lockley’s parents are my MRCA with my paternal match so I’ll pop them both in, although I don’t know which one gave me the DNA and the other one remains uncertain.  That side of my tree is done.

On my mother’s side, I can add each of her parents.  Her father’s father – Herbert Dunstall – can also be added, but not the mother.  Herbert was the son of Annie McLeod so I have added her.  Herbert’s father remains unconfirmed so he is not in there.

I have added Kenneth McLeod and Flora McIsaac as MRCA for that match, but as with the other one, the DNA possibly only came from one of them.  However, I match the PEI group on a different chromosome to my 3rd cousin.  He also matches the PEI group in a different way.  We may be working towards DNA received from each parent.

Back down to my maternal grandmother, I am able to add her father, Burleton Peard but no more Peards.  His mother, Mary Ann Burleton, is in, but not her mother so no Wookeys.  Her father Francis Burleton – yes, and directly up the Burleton line to John Burleton and Elizabeth probably-Lush.   It’s a beginning. Time to go figure out why the rest of my matches cannot be found.

I have three remaining brick wall ancestors in the closer generations.  27 matches are with the DNA Project involving Prince Edward Island and Scotland so they are accounted for.  I have just that one match on the Burleton segment and he has no ‘In Common Withs’.   Sarah on the maternal side tested with a different company so is not here.  I have two matches for the same segment on the same chromosome but unless they upload to gedmatch I can’t determine if they are paternal or maternal matches.

28 matches = 3 pages.  Could the 35 remaining pages of matches all connect to those three brick wall ancestors?  Just how much of a brick wall were they really?

I took a closer look.

The Continued Search for Annie McLeod

So many of my DNA matches were connected to the one ancestor, and this ancestor still seemed very likely to be my great great grandmother, Annie McLeod.  I knew I had to find her.

First, I examined the details I already had.  Again.  Starting from the wedding.

One of the very few records we have for Annie McLeod

One of the very few records we have for Annie McLeod

In 1866, Annie McLeod was aged about 22 and was living in North Adelaide.  Somewhere, she met James Dunstall who was two years her senior.  James was a farmer and lived at Normanville in the district of Yankalilla, on his parent’s property.

Not many McLeods pop up in Yankalilla.  There was Marion McLeod who was married in 1860 to Isaac Eyers.  Marion’s father was Angus and it seemed possible that Annie’s Kennis and Marion’s Angus might be the same one.  That was one to keep an eye on.  There was also Allan McLeod of Jarvis Bay with his children Margaret, Mary, Catherine/Christian, John, Donald, Ann, Kenneth and Kate.  His son John was a witness at my Annie’s marriage so some connection is possible.

Margaret married John McKelvie, Mary married Andrew Knox Fraser, John married Martha Ann Dunstall, Ann married Tom Bennett, Ann Kate married Oscar Cook.  I’m not sure who the others married. However, with two Anns in the family already they surely had no room for my Anne.

Newspaper announcement of James and Annie's marriage

Newspaper announcement of James and Annie’s marriage

“Family Notices.” South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900) 4 Jun 1866: 2. Web. 13 Oct 2014

There were also the many McLeods near Stanley Flat or Clare, but none of those have led anywhere either.

I’ve followed James and Annie through South Australia so many times, up until their death at Orrie Cowie and their burial in Warooka.  It yielded no new clues.  Annie’s death certificate told us nothing, her will provided little more.  Her grave and burial details had nothing.

The only new detail I had was the DNA test and a probable connection to yet another John McLeod.  The obvious next move, as the administrator of the Normanites Group had told me, was to build the tree of that John McLeod to see where it led.  I had access to a basic tree showing John’s parents as Kenneth McLeod and Flora nee McIsaac, and John was shown as being born in North Uist in 1847.

My next search was the 1841 UK Census where I found one possibility.  I don’t believe the terms of service of my subscription site allows me to post an image, so I’ll transcribe the basics:

In Kilpheder, North Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Kenneth McLeod aged 36 Head Ag. Lab. Born in Inverness-shire
Flora McLeod aged 36 Born in Inverness-shire
Mary aged 11 Born in Inverness-shire
Marion aged 9 Born in Inverness-shire
Ketty aged 7 Born in Inverness-shire
Isabella aged 1 Born in Inverness-shire
Anne aged 1 Born in Inverness-shire
Ketty McInnes F.S. aged 25 Not born in Inverness-shire

This entry looked very promising so I jumped forward ten years to the 1851 census where I found the following:

In Baleloch, North Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Niel McVicar Head 32 1819 Ag Lab North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Mary McVicar Wife 21 1830 Lab Wife North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Marion McLeod Sister-In-Law 18 1833 House Servant North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Catherine McLeod Sister-In-Law 16 1835 Spinstress North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Ann McLeod Sister-In-Law 10 1841 Pauper (Orphant) North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Isabella McLeod Sister-In-Law 10 1841 Pauper (Orphant Scholar) North Uist, Inv, Scotland
John McLeod Brother-In-Law 8 1843 Pauper (Orphant Scholar) North Uist, Inv, Scotland

This was still looking good.  Then I found something even more exciting:

From the Highland and Island Emigration Society (HIES) records for the ship Hercules

MacVICAR NEIL 30 born BALELONE
MacVICAR MARY 22 nee McLeod born NORTH UIST
KENNETH 1

McLEOD MARION 21
McLEOD CATHERINE 18
McLEOD ISABELLA 12
McLEOD ANN 12
McLEOD JOHN 10
McLEOD MARGARET 26

Orphans, their father was drowned last year. Brothers and sisters of Mary.  All born Balelone. 

Family arrived in South Australia on the Hercules except for Marion who arrived on the Neptune.

This was just looking better and better.  I now had a family of McLeods, with a boy of about the right age to be my cousin’s John McLeod and born in the right location to parents Kenneth and Flora McLeod, now emigrated to South Australia and with a sister Ann!

I then searched for them in South Australia and learned that my cousin’s John was an ‘only son’.  Yes, that fitted.

Then I found Neil and Mary McVicar ending their days in Clare, South Australia.  I was pretty much convinced.

I’m still convinced, but I wish I could find a record to directly connect my Annie, indisputably.  I need her to have informed for a sibling’s child’s birth and refer to herself as ‘aunt’.  That would be nice.  Or a family bible held by one of the others, or a letter.  But without this, so much holds together for this family that I am quite sure.

The other thing which I noticed when tracing the siblings was that all had a daughter called Isabella in some form.  Isabella, Bella, Belle … something like that.  Also, they all had a Flora or Florence.  My James and Annie had two daughters, Annie Isabella and Martha Florence.  This fitted too.  Kenneth Norman … well, Kenneth after the father – I wonder who Norman was?

Hopefully I’ll find out soon.  The next step is the death records of Kenneth and Flora in North Uist.

A Thousand Family Trees

I already use a variety of family tree programs.  For a start, I have my personal private very protected family tree on The Master Genealogist, where I keep the true details of all ancestors with notes, sureties, copies of documentation and all living people’s history.  The Master Genealogist on my computer does not ever come into contact with the internet and never will.

Then at the other end of the scale I have my family tree posted on Wikitree, stripped of living people and presenting the facts as I know they will suit all family members.  If someone did jail time for rape or even if someone was a hopeless drunk, you won’t find that fact there – I’ll simply state that they were in jail or had health problems.  The details on Wikitree are my children’s main ancestor lines.  Other sibling lines have filled out as I receive cousin contacts and as other members have connected with my tree, but that one is a call to fellow genealogists to review my research and help me celebrate our ancestors.  It’s accurate, but socially acceptable.

In between, I have MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder and I have a very large tree hosted by MyHeritage.  This one costs me a packet and every year I consider cancelling my subscription, but it is so useful that every year I find the money to keep it running.  It has become especially useful since I DNA tested.

In Australia, more people seem to use MyHeritage than use Ancestry.  I chose MyHeritage in the first place – well, partially because it was cheaper – but also because ancestor searches located more of my relevant trees on MyHeritage than on Ancestry.  I always get matches on MyHeritage with family details.

I also have a small tree on Ancestry.  I started a basic tree on each but since the smart matches came from MyHeritage that was the one I went with.  I don’t really update my Ancestry tree but I do jump in and check it every so often.  I have made about three valuable contacts through that site.  However, I have made many more through Wikitree and MyHeritage.

Also, I have a growing tree on Genes Reunited which has netted me some contacts that I have found nowhere else.  It is definitely the one for researching ancestors in England.

Almost last of all, I have an ancient copy of Cumberland Family Tree which is how I started out, and I keep a very old version of my tree for the times I need some reassurance that I am moving forward.  I used Cumberland in the early 1990s and when I load that tree, I have all my notes and theories about brick wall ancestors which I have now resolved.  I can remember just how stymied I was and I can see just where my thinking had blocked me from seeing the truth.  It’s quite motivating and it helps me now when my current brick walls get me down.  Nothing is unsolvable. Really.

I now have two more trees to add to this enormous list.  One is on Tribal Pages and I started it in order to learn how to view other people’s trees, since it looks as if trees are private and all you publicly see is a list of names but not their relation to each other.  Someone on there has solved a mystery which I am still puzzling over but I can’t put their list of names together to figure it out.  I sent a message to the person who made the tree but lately no one is replying to my emails and I don’t know – are my emails going to people’s spam folders, are they not getting there in the first place or is the person subtly saying they don’t want to talk?  I really don’t want to be pushy so I haven’t sent a second message.  Instead, I built a tree including the branch I am puzzling over in the hopes they will spot it and contact me.

Finally – REALLY finally – after discussion over the ending of support for The Master Genealogist, the TMG email list casually and unofficially reviewed a whole lot of replacement options and one was the very simple and basic Personal Ancestral File Version 5.2  .  I downloaded it out of curiosity and for a basic, quickly up-and-running low space low graphics program, it’s very intuitive and easy to use.  I wouldn’t use it for my main family tree, but it has assisted heaps in my DNA tree research.

This is the tip of the iceberg.  I have many many gedcom files and use them often.

I have many many gedcom files and use them often.  This is the first page of one of my several gedcom libraries. Most of these are not published, they are trees in progress.

As the administrator of the Normanites Project explained, the best way to find a connection is to take your matches’ tree and build it out to find your own link.  This is so much easier than doing it the other way.  If I build out my own tree, I have to check each new name to see if it is in the other tree.  If I build out their tree, I don’t have to do this.  I know exactly who I have in my tree.

Don’t ask me how I know, it’s a mystery to everyone around me.  I have 16,000 individuals in my MyHeritage tree and anytime I spot a name that is in it, I recognise the name as being somewhere in my tree.  It’s an uncanny knack I have which has no use in the world of employment because computers can do it too.  Very useful for visiting large cemeteries, I know which graves to take a photo of.

So now, as well as my own ancestor trees, I use PAF to very quickly build the trees of my matches.  I don’t need anything other than vital dates and locations.  I will add notes which might turn out relevant, so I don’t try to place a man who was born in England into a family which emigrated from there ten years earlier.

I now have 39 pages of matches and still growing.  For each five matches, on average, one comes with a provided tree and two come with ancestor surnames – one of which is the one with a tree.  Three have no information at all.   For the ones with provided trees, I only need to build on the likely connection. Once I have created the tree and entered the names and dates, those details enter my mental database and when I see them pop up in a different matches’ tree, I can build them onto that tree rather than create a new one for them.

I have found the connection between several distant cousin’s trees, but still have not worked out their link to me. However – at least I know which branch I am interested in.  That can be the subject of another blog post.

I needed to explain this to set the scene for the next stage in my DNA related research.

My Other DNA Projects

My first two projects are probably useful for someone but did not really sate my desire for involvement, so I went looking for more.

THE READING PROJECT – a surname project.

For those with surname Reading/Redding/Reddin/Redden etc etc.

My ancestor here is Darby Reddan, and you’d think with a name like that I’d have found something about him.  But NO!  He did exist, but I really haven’t touched anything that makes him a real person.  He is a shadow and I just take it on faith that he lived a full life.

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Reading.  She was a younger child of her father Thomas Reading’s second marriage and he was aged 55 when she was born.   Thomas Reading born 1863 in Kempton, Tasmania was my earliest-born great grandparent.  His father, in turn, was John Reading/Redding/Reddin born in Tipperary in 1820.  John lived a full and it seems very interesting life before marrying at the age of 38 to a girl still in her mid-teens (there’s a lot of that amongst my ancestors).

John Reddin is by a whole 24 years the earliest born of my great great grandparents.  This gives me a DNA window into a generation which some need quite elderly relatives to reach.  If I can only talk my father into DNA testing who knows what I’d find!

John Reddin told us on various official records that his father was Darby Reddin of Tipperary in Ireland.  I have found one likely candidate – Darby Reddan born 1800 who died 1883 in Borrisokane, Tipperary, Ireland.   But this is not confirmed as my ancestor yet.  I’d quite like DNA matching to resolve this one.

John Reddin's family details on his arrival in Tasmania.  Still trying to deduce his mother's name.

John Reddin’s family details on his arrival in Tasmania. Still trying to deduce his mother’s name. It says F: Darby, M: ? Brothers: Patrick, William, Thomas at Native Place (Tipperary). 97th Regiment (John was a soldier).

The Reading DNA project has a responsive manager who is seeking her own Readings in Borrisokane, Tipperary, and maybe we will find a link.  She made the very good suggestion that I find some Reading males to YDNA test.  I have found two, both rather elderly, but they live interstate and in a world without internet where the telephone is connected in an unheated hallway and used only in emergencies.  I would have to fly there, convince them in person and pay for everything.  If I had the funds, I’m quite willing.  But we are looking at over a thousand dollars.  I’ll wait for a miracle.

This project is hosted on WorldFamilies rather than by FtDNA, however it can be accessed via FtDNA projects.  I like the forums and the posted pedigrees which show some of the Reading families who are endeavouring to trace their origins.  It is set up very nicely for YDNA and MtDNA, however, I think autosomal DNA is somewhat overlooked.   In my mind, just because IBS is an issue doesn’t mean a potential match should be ignored.  Most of us have followed many a paper trail that was easily as tentative and felt it was an avenue worth exploring, even if only to eliminate the possibility. However, joining this project certainly helped me feel as if I was in a group working towards a common goal.

NORMANITES PROJECT

I came to this project in a very different way.  Seeking my connection with that 2nd-4th cousin of mine and with my Prince Edward Island cousins, the Normanites Project continually appeared in my google searches.  This project was tracing a special group of people: Scottish settlers at Prince Edward Island who had then left the island with the Reverend Norman McLeod in the 1850s and come to Australia.  They came first to South Australia where some already had family, then to Victoria and eventually the main group headed for New Zealand where they stayed.  All along the way, some of them dropped off and made homes. Children were born en route, some passed away.  The long journey gave them roughly five years of nomadic existence and they are brick walls for many of their descendants who really want to get their lines back to the Scottish homeland.

In the end, after about the 100th time I found a snip of one of their pages in my google search, I sent an email to the manager and explained that I was not a descendant of their group but the surnames were the same surnames that I was seeking – McLeod, McEachern, McIsaac and Morrison.  I wondered if the administrator might be able to compare my kit against those in the project to see if I had a connection.

This was the beginning of a whole new stage in my DNA research.  The administrator was prompt in her reply and explained that she was unable to simply match my kit but she invited me to join the group.  I accepted the invitation.  Within 24 hours she had not only examined my details but she had sent an invitation to my potential cousin who also shared surnames with the group, and provided me with a detailed analysis of my chromosomes in relation to her project.

Over the next week, this lady taught me more than I guessed there was to learn.  She showed me where I had ‘hot spots’ and who I should contact to identify common ancestors.  She taught me about creating trees for any likely match and about building them out to seek our common surnames or locations.  She taught me how to use gedmatch properly.  I realised that with even harder work I could learn a whole lot more.  I needed to do a whole lot more research.

I emailed the cousins she suggested I contact, and went back to the paper trail to verify what I could of my previous research.  It would, I felt, be quite embarrassing to have so many people working to help me and then find that I’d been lazy and providing wrong data.

I had about six family trees to create, and a whole lot of paper records to view.