in Family history

Sorting out the family lines – my Paternal X-Line


I always did feel that X-matches should be useful but hadn’t found a way to do it.

I wrote a blog about X-Matches a long time ago.  The X-Chromosome is potentially quite useful for genetic genealogy because of its special characteristics.  Men have one, women have two.  Men get theirs from their mother.  If a baby is to have just one (eg is a boy) the X comes from the mother.   If a baby is to have two (a girl) she gets one from her mother, one from her father.

With the other chromosomes, we always get one from each parent.  We can only give one to each child, and their other parent also gives one.  A mother could – theoretically – give exactly the same pieces of her DNA to each child and they would turn out quite similar to each other.  But generally the mix is a bit different.  One child gets a lot of Grandma and a bit of Grandpa, the next child gets half and half, the next child gets more Grandpa and not so much Grandma.

One of the first things that serious genetic genealogists do is to try and make sense of all that giving.  What bit did this person get from their mother?  What bit did they get from their father?  It really helps to know, because then we know which side of the family our matches might be on.

I now have three sets of DNA results to work with.  My mother, myself and my son. By comparing my mother’s test with my son’s – her grandson – I can see what DNA I gave him that came from my mother.  I have learned, for instance, that I gave my son a chromosome 21 which came entirely from my father. This is useful, because if he has a match on that chromosome which I also have, I know it is on my father’s side.  However, I don’t know if my father got it from his mother or from his father.  That’s what cousin tests are for.  I don’t have any of those yet for my father’s family.

So back to the X-Chromosome.  I noticed at long last that my mother does not show as an X-Match for my son.  That can’t be right, I thought – but it is.  He has one X-chromosome which came from me, but the whole thing came from my father.  It passed straight to him, no recombining.

My father, of course, also has just one X-chromosome.  It came from his mother.  Therefore, any X-Match that my son gets is a match on my paternal grandmother’s side.  I’m very pleased about that.

My grandmother Beryl Reading

My grandmother Beryl Reading

My paternal grandmother, born Beryl Reading, was a truly delightful lady.  She was the most soft hearted, sympathetic person I have ever come across.  She was an adopter of strays and would stay up all night to nurse an injured bird.  She was not very educated and grew up in a large, loving family with no money but lots of unity.  She married a man of much sharper intellect and moved with him to the deeply forested south of Tasmania, away from her supportive parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I believe she was quite lonely.  I don’t know that she had any friends, and she certainly had no neighbours.  But she always had motherless lambs, puppies and chickens to raise.  She had her own four children and I became very close to her once I reached adulthood.

My family bible was passed on to me by this lady.  Although Beryl was a younger daughter in her family, she was particularly close to her own mother, and was the recipient of all the family stories.  She had photographs of everyone, letters, mementos … I won’t repeat the dreadful story of their end.  I have the family bible which is something to be very grateful for

Despite the many records, I found the Reading family difficult to research.  Beryl’s father was Thomas Reading, a man already elderly when he married Beryl’s mother.  He passed away when Beryl was a teenager.  Thomas was married twice. Born in 1863, he was aged 32 when he married Rose White in Kempton in the southern midlands of Tasmania.  Rose was thirteen years his junior.  In Kempton, there were a lot of Readings and a lot of Whites. This was a marriage which probably  filled the church.

Thomas and Rose had two children, Leslie and Dorothy.  Rose died of childbirth complications when Dorothy was only three days old.

Kempton in the morning fog.

Kempton, Tasmania, Australia  in the morning fog.

It took another five years for Thomas to tie the knot again.  His second wife was Esther Brown, known to all as Hester. Hester was my great grandmother and I remember her quite well. It was she who passed the bible to my grandmother.

Thomas and Hester had nine children.  My grandmother was the seventh.

The family bible was fascinating to me.  I first looked at it while seated at my grandmother’s kitchen table, and we went through everyone in it.  She had met many of those people and gave me her impressions of them.  I wrote it all down, thank heavens.

Unlike many family bibles which belong to a specific surname, this one was passed down by the women of the family.  Thus the family name changed with each generation.  I would never have discovered some of these ancestors were it not for the bible.

Family bible (click to enlarge)

Family bible (click to enlarge)

Hester Brown, for instance, was the daughter of John Brown and Sarah Cox.  The bible came to her from her mother Sarah, who passed away in childbirth in 1900 having Sarah’s sister.  Mabel was born on the 13th February 1900 and Sarah died on the 14th. Hester was the eldest child and took charge of the family – including the bible which she kept very safe as a memento of her mother.

On the X-Line is both John Brown and Sarah Cox.  John’s mother is my brick wall Mary Morgan.  The trail ends there. Sarah is a different matter.

Sarah Cox was born in 1860 in Cleveden near Ouse in the highlands of Tasmania.  The four children on the yellow print in the bible – Ann, Edward, Christiana and Letitia – were Sarah’s eldest siblings.   They were the children of Edward Cox and Frances Richards who died in a diphtheria outbreak which swept the Tasmanian highlands.  Frances’ death was one of the first and an inquest was held.  The disease then passed to the members of the inquest panel – all locals – and took off from there.  There were no doctors in this region at all.

Deaths of Frances and her husband Edward Cox in the diphtheria outbreak of 1874.

Deaths of Frances and her son Edward George Cox in the diphtheria outbreak of 1874. (click to enlarge)

Edward Cox remained a mystery to me for many years, but I now know he was a convict transported to Van Diemen’s Land for robbery in 1836 aged 24.  The family knew him as a shepherd.  The mountainous areas near Ouse and Bothwell were good for sheep, and the shepherds were a known character of men in Tasmania.  Used to spending time alone, they lived in little wooden huts, they could ride as if they were born on a horse and trained their horses to come when they whistled. They were quiet, wiry men, very self-sufficient who knew the mountain land like the back of their hand.  Once married, they often built two room stone huts to live in and considered it a huge step up.   Unfortunately I have not uncovered Edward’s parents.

Frances Richards was born in 1829, and even in that early year she was a third generation Australian.  The colony of Van Diemen’s Land was only 26 years old when she was born in Launceston.  Her father was George Richards, another convict, and her mother was Ellen Cummings.  Ellen was the only known daughter of a soldier who participated in the famous Rum Rebellion of 1808, Australia’s only military coup.  Ellen’s family moved from New South Wales to Van Diemen’s Land when she was a child.  The place was still pretty wild.  Ellen married George in Launceston and Frances was their eldest.  The Richards family moved to Ouse while Frances was a child, where she met her future husband.   Frances and Edward were married in 1847 in St John the Baptist Church, Ouse, Tasmania.

The terrain near Apsley where Beryl Reading grew up.

The terrain near Apsley where Beryl Reading grew up.

The family bible originated with Frances Richards.  The earliest entry is the birth of Ann Elizabeth Cox in 1848.

In the family bible is also the death of Mary Ann Reading in 1919.  Mary Ann Reading was Thomas Reading’s mother, and she is also on Beryl’s X-Line.

She was born Mary Ann McKinley in Fermanagh, Ireland in 1844.  As a baby, Mary Ann’s parents hatched a scheme to come to Australia.  Well, I’m not sure how it went down but it looks as if it was this way.  They were a young couple with two children, Mary Ann and her brother James.  Times were tough in Ireland in the 1840s.  They committed a crime, together. John McKinley was sentenced to transportation.  His wife Alice was deemed to be acting under her husband’s instruction so was basically let off with a slap on the wrist.  Neither was known to the court and each had a perfectly clean record.

The plan was on the verge of failure.  Alice committed another crime and this one worked.  The pair were shipped off to Van Diemen’s Land in different ships, Alice with her two children.  The children survived the journey in good health but were placed in the convict nursery upon arrival in Van Diemen’s Land.

That convict nursery was a matter of great debate in the local newspapers.  The conditions were direly unsanitary and the mortality rate in the mid 1840s was as high as 80%.  There were accusations and calls for an inquiry.  Locals said it was designed so that the babies would die, because who wanted convict babies anyway?  Back then, a lot of people still believed that crime was genetic.  A criminal’s baby was going to be a criminal and that couldn’t be helped.  Luckily for us, the convict system was designed with rehabilitation in mind, but old thought patterns died hard.

James died of diarrhea within a week of being placed in the nursery.  The place killed him.  He came off the ship with a clean bill of health and went down in a heap within days.  I just can’t imagine how Alice must have felt.  At this stage, she had no idea if her husband had arrived or was still in Ireland.  It was undoubtedly a dreadful time for her.

The grave of Alice McKinlay (McKinley). The headstone was clearly recycled but which inscription came first is hard to tell.  Due to weathering, any paint has vanished leaving us with the two imprints.

The grave of Alice McKinlay (McKinley). The headstone was clearly recycled but which inscription came first is hard to tell. Due to weathering, any paint has vanished leaving us with the two imprints.

Conditions were tough, but Mary Ann McKinley survived.  Before too long she was taken to the state orphanage where things were better.  It wasn’t just convict’s children here, and they were all valuable future servants and apprentices. Mary Ann grew up and her parents reclaimed her when their sentences were complete.  They never committed a crime again.

At the age of about fourteen or fifteen, Mary Ann married John Reddan/Redding/Reading, ex-soldier, transported convict and now a farmer in Kempton.  John was aged about thirty eight.  It was a huge age difference.  But they made a proper marriage of it, and my grandmother’s eldest sister Vera Reading remembered Mary Ann McKinley when she was an elderly lady.  After John’s death she came to live with Thomas and Hester.  My great aunt remembered her as always dressed in dark clothes and sitting by the fire, a lady who had some trouble walking and who had stiff fingers.  Apparently she spoke with an accent which my great aunt guessed was Irish.  Mary Ann would watch over the young children while Hester washed at the outside tub, or milked the cows.

It is quite abundently clear that we have many mysteries in this line. Now I know that any X-Match with my son is somewhere amongst this group.  Time for some X-Matches to roll on in!

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  1. Hi again from New Zealand
    I am not sure if you got my last message. I have a direct relation of yours that is not on computer so please contact me.