FtDNA Family Trees – My Opinion

A family tree is a big big entity and finding a match requires all the detail available.

A family tree is a big big entity and finding a match requires all the detail available in both trees.

A few weeks ago, FtDNA changed their gedcom upload process to simple family trees.  There was uproar!  Actually, all these weeks later it hasn’t quite died down.

I like them.  The gedcoms were useful, but the family tree works well for me too.  The new system has its kinks – setting the primary person in an uploaded gedcom is near impossible, for instance.  Individuals without death dates show as ‘private’ because they are presumed living unless they have a specific ‘deceased’ tag.  It takes more space on the screen and that’s never a good thing, but the benefits far outweigh the difficulties to me.

They can be updated online, which is excellent.  If I discover a new ancestor I can go in and add just that person.  If I discover a precise date where a had ‘circa year’, I can do that.  If everyone used these trees I would find it much easier to identify my matches.

The search facility took me a while.  If I first went to a tree I could search for a surname and find it.  Later, after looking around, I would search and not find it.  Now I realise that only the ancestry tree of the selected individual is searched.  So if I load Joe Smith’s tree and search for his maternal grandmother Anne Maple, I’ll find her.  If I load Joe’s paternal grandfather John Smith and then search for Anne Maple, I won’t – because she is not an ancestor of John Smith.

The same goes for place names.  I do like this facility.  It can definitely help in a tree where I match no names. For instance, I have a hot spot on one chromosome segment centred in Chardstock, Dorset which I have identified by the location search.  No names match, but our families were all married and baptised at the same church in the 18th century.  It ought to work for the US as well, but so few people have added precise locations to their trees so I can’t get closer than ‘NC’ or ‘GA’ or ‘VA’.

I gather the system is not working so well for project managers and hopefully this will be resolved soon.

I was very concerned to read forum posts by people saying they hated the trees so much that they have removed their gedcoms.  Why?  What is the purpose of DNA testing at FtDNA if not to solve family tree puzzles?  We work with whatever details or tools we have until better ones are around.  A lot of those people seem to have trees at Ancestry and maybe forget that we don’t all have subscriptions.  A tree at Ancestry is not accessible to me.  I have a free registration but this does not allow me to access trees or records – not even ‘public’ trees.  So hearing that people have removed their details from the one place I can view them is a little distressing.  I quite understand that tracking down a very distant match is not a priority for many testers, but I do like the opportunity to pursue it myself.  I’ll then email that distant cousin when I have worked it out.

In the meantime, I have updated both my tree and my son’s tree and I work with the trees I can access. Thank you to all who tested on FtDNA and have added details into their tree, even if they hate it.  If you match me, I will try to repay you by finding our connection.

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 DNA Results – Triangulation

I was looking forward to using triangulation, a technique which was often discussed in the email lists.

My understanding is that if you have a confirmed match, and you have another match at the same segment, you can hopefully deduce the MRCA of all three of you.  This, I believe, works as follows:

Suppose I have three matches – Match A, Match B and Match C. They are showing up in FtDNA or in Gedmatch or some such site.  I have probably found them by using the ‘In Common With’ tool and discovered that these matches match each other as well as myself.

Suppose then, that I view them all in a chromosome browser and find that they all match on the same chromosome and basically on the same segment.  Maybe one runs eg 5 to 13, one runs 7 to 10 and the other from 4 to 11.  We have a segment from 7 to 10 which is matched on all three, same chromosome.  This is what you need to start with.

If I have a segment 5 to 10, and another one 10 to 20, those segments did not necessarily come from the same ancestor.  They are not relevant.  The relevant portion is the exact same bit on each.  However, in my segments above the longest – 5 to 13 – might be closer to me than the smaller ones.

I have many sections like this, and I have kept a note of them.  However, I need more than this for it to be useful.

If I have identified my match with one of them, I have a good starting point.  Suppose I have identified that Match A is a second cousin on the maternal side.  Our common ancestor is one of my maternal great grandparents and I will be able to find them fairly easily. This gives me my first triangle – my own segment, my second cousin’s segment, and our common ancestor’s segment.

I have two other matches with that same chromosome, same segment.  It’s time to look at their ancestors.  Do they have our great grandparents in their tree?  If so, it is easy. The triangle is much the same.   If not, do they have an ancestor who lived in the same location as our great grandparents?  If so, we need to build our tree and theirs at that point to find a connection.

If I find it, I have the MRCA and our match.  If not, the next best thing is to take the other two matches – the ones who match each other and yourself on exactly the same segment, and see if I can find their common ancestor.  If I figure out that both of them descend from John Appleyard of Onevillage in Sussex in 1830, then I can look through my own tree for an ancestor who lived in Onevillage at the same time.  Failing that, an ancestor who lived nearby, an ancestor with a travelling job who went through that village, a runaway son or daughter who was located near that village … that type of thing.  It is necessary to truly understand my ancestor’s lives to do this.  It takes time, effort and concentration.  Luckily it is enormous fun, but sometimes relies on access to the right resources.

This sounds so simple!  Like everything else to do with DNA, I haven’t found it so.  If a common ancestor or common location cannot be found, you can’t go any further.  I have a confirmed maternal match for my example segment (the first pink segment) so the second match either matches the same ancestor on the maternal side, or it matches an unidentified ancestor on the paternal side.  So the next thing to do, if we can’t find a link on the maternal side, is to look in the paternal tree for clues.

One thing that throws people out is when this match – as in my example – was an ‘In Common With’ match.  This makes it seem likely that the match should be on the same side, but this really cannot be assumed.  Communities used to be more isolated and people married the people they met.  If all they met were the local families, you end up with a whole lot of interconnections.

Here is my diagram showing how I think it works.  I believe this diagram will enlarge if clicked.

My simplified DNA inheritance diagram.

My simplified DNA inheritance diagram.

In my diagram, each colour represents the sequence of DNA from that ancestor.  We each get two copies of each chromosome, one from the mother and one from the father.  This is greatly simplified because I am interested in how DNA from one or two specific ancestors has carried down.  In this case, the two sets of great grandparents in this picture.

Thinking of my earlier example, I have myself, I have Match A (the second cousin), Match B (the more distant maternal relative) and Match C (the aunt on the paternal side).   My matching segment is the orange block for the aunt, and the first pink block for the maternal matches.  Notice that this block is in the same position and will show as the same segment numbers (roughly) for each match.  But I can’t tell in my match list that Match A and B are pink and Match C is orange.  Having that detail would make it all straightforward. The only thing I haven’t added into this diagram is another connection between the two sides.  Just imagine that the paternal grandmother is the sister of the lady who marries the maternal great grandmother’s brother’s son. Then Match C will show as a close match to Match B through a different common ancestor. This is why ‘In Common With’ can be a guide to which matches to gather into the investigation in the first place, but doesn’t really tell you anything more.

This makes sense when you see the whole diagram, but try covering the top half with a piece of cardboard and just looking at the bottom samples.  It is very hard to see how they might connect.

The important point being that I need every element I can find in making this connection.  I need DNA matches on each side, I need as solid a paper trail as I can get, and I need a cautious and inclusive methodology.  However, once I have made the identification, this is very useful in identifying further matches on the same segments, so it is well worth making the effort.

Clear as mud?  Usually.  I’ve come to the conclusion that mud is nothing to DNA.

Genealogical DNA -My Understanding of Identical By Descent and Identical By State

By this point, two months after receiving my results at FtDNA, I was still finding new ways to work with my results, and I still hadn’t looked at all the matches.  My list of Family Finder matches was now up to 30 pages and slowly growing by about about three distant cousins each fortnight.  With two confirmed relationships under my belt, I looked for new ways to identify my other matches.

My cousin from Prince Edward Island had mentioned triangulation.  This meant using the known details of two matching kits to identify the connection of a third definitely connected kit.  I have used a whole lot of ambiguously defined words there which I need to keep clear in my own mind.

If there is a common ancestor, lets say it is a man born in 1800, he will have passed some of his DNA on to his children.  We all understand this.  Working from ancestor to descendant is easy. Those children will pass their DNA on to their children and some of that DNA will be have come from their grandfather, intact and unchanged.  With each new generation, the chances are likely that less of that segment will be passed down.  The segment will be smaller. Similarities do exist between generations but it is rare for a child to be exactly like their parent.  They are a mix.

This is quite comprehensible and I don’t think anyone has trouble with this notion.  We might get our brown hair from Dad and our green eyes from Mum.  I have hazel eyes and my spouse has brown eyes, but two of our children have blue eyes.  This is because my father has blue eyes and so does my spouse’s father. Those genes have come down through us to them.

What is hard is going the other way.  We have inherited a whole lot from our ancestors and trying to work out which bit came from which ancestor is like doing a jigsaw puzzle with lots of shades in a few colours and no picture to refer to.  It can be done, with time, trial and error and a good system to keep track of what you have tried and what you have not.

I tend to think of it as words.  There are a whole lot of words made up of the same letters.  STOP has the same letters as POST which has the same letters as POTS.  The letters are the same but the order they come in matters.  They are very different words.

This is how I think of DNA segments, in the privacy of my own mind.  I’m sure a geneticist somewhere is having cold chills.  However, it works for me.  If my great grandmother’s DNA words are HORSE, TREE and RADISH, she might pass HORSE and TREE down to one child, and TREE and RADISH down to another.  If those children each pass TREE on to their children, the children will be a DNA match for the segment TREE.  This is Identical by Descent.

If a totally different, unrelated person has the words FOREST, BIRD and REEF in their DNA, they just might pass down FOREST and REEF.  Placed side by side, this looks like FORESTREEF .  Accidentally that DNA segment has the word TREE in the middle, but TREE isn’t one of their words.  This one will also show as a match.  It is identical by State.

In my own DNA test journey, with two confirmed matches, I knew I had to work out which words had come down from those two ancestor couples.  A word is a segment.  Segments can be viewed in the chromosome browser on either FtDNA or at gedmatch.  My first step was to work out exactly where we matched.

My confirmed 6th cousin, for instance, matches me on chromosome 4 for segments 1272091102 to 139828852 which is 10.32cM.  We also have a large number of smaller segments on other chromosomes which may be IBD, but the smaller they get the less sure one can be.  That segment on chromosome 4 is the only one big enough to call a word.

I started a new table in a new document with a two rows for each chromosome (one for paternal, one for maternal) and I entered that segment on my chromosome 4 maternal row.  I have a column for the name of my match, a column for the name of the MRCA and a column for the locality of the MRCA.

I then entered my chromosome matches with Sarah.  There were three of those, big enough to be sure of.  So now I had one maternal segment and three paternal segments identified.

One day, I hope, this nearly empty document will fill up. In the meantime, these successes had whetted my appetite and I went hunting for more.

My Genealogical DNA Test – 4th to Remote Cousins

Now over a month since I tested, I noticed that I had 24 pages of matches rather than 21.  I’d set my notifications to inform me of all new matches from close relatives to remote, but maybe, I thought, this was only referring to confirmed matches since I hadn’t received notification of the new ones.  This was when I first noticed the different ways I could sort my matches in FtDNA.  Nowadays, one of the first things I do when I log in is sort by Match Date to see if I have any new matches, however remote.

Sorting categories for Family Finder matches at FtDNA

Sorting categories for Family Finder matches at FtDNA

Noticing these new ones reminded me that I had heaps of matches that I hadn’t even looked at yet, so I decided to look through.  Advice on the forums was that the more distant matches might be accidental matches and not due to shared ancestor, but advice also disagreed over the exact amount to consider worth pursuing.

There was a nice chart floating around for a while which has also popped up in various Youtube DNA videos saying that a matching block of over 11 cM was pretty well definite, although biological beings are capable of confounding science still.  Below 10 cM, I gather, the likelihood begins to reduce.  But even here, there is debate over the figures.  Some sites will say that you can be pretty confident of any block over 5 cM, some say over 7 cM and others place it higher still.  But there seems to be consensus for the 11 cM segment and greater. This is, 11 cM in a consecutive unbroken block, not 11 cM total.  I have many of these, including nearly all my 4th-Remote cousins.  This means, I deduced, that the relationship was quite distant but likely to be genuine distant cousins.

My hopes were not high, given my experience with the closer cousins.  But why not try?

About the same percentage had provided gedcoms as the closer cousins, but since I had several pages of these I had more to look through.  However, I couldn’t hold all the names in my head.  I’d get to a new gedcom and see a name, for example Joanna Harris born 1843, and I’d remember that I saw that name just a few gedcoms back.  So back I went, looking, and just couldn’t find it anywhere.

This is when I took the advice of emailers to the DNA lists and began using a spreadsheet.  Actually, I began with a table in a word document and later evolved to a spreadsheet.   Once again, some common locations began to appear.  Most gedcoms were giving a state but nothing more detailed, so when I have ten cousins with unrelated gedcoms, all matching on chromosome 7 on the same segment, I began to notice that they all had an ancestor in eg North Carolina (which state is still featuring very strongly in my cousin’s gedcoms) or Virginia or more rarely Tennessee.  South Carolina is also there.  I used the chromosome browser extensively to do this.  Many of these families are ‘In Common With’ matches with each other, so I’m guessing they are trying to identify their brick wall ancestors who most likely descend from the same very elusive US immigrant who was probably a sibling (or great great uncle) to my Australian immigrant. Or aunt – this is actually more likely as she probably arrived in the United States as a Mrs Someone with the maiden name unrecorded.

However, I’m not sure how big these states were back in the old days.  In the Australian colonies there was often movement between.  From my home state of Tasmania, for instance, it was very common for unmarried mothers to cross Bass Strait to have their babies in Victoria, where the shame would not be known.  Often they’d find themselves a husband there, stay for two or three years and come back with a proper respectable family – husband and two children.  Only the records knew that the first child was born before the wedding and actually wasn’t the full sibling of the second child.

Did this happen in North Carolina?  One day, when I need to know, I’ll go do the research.

In the meantime, I knew better than to send such a highly speculative email to such a remote cousin.  I needed something factual and all the facts I had were related to Australia and England.  I went looking for matches with English ancestry.

Pretty quickly, I found it!  Using my word table, I began to collate location statistics and likely names.  This highlighted a few distant cousins descending from very familiar parishes in the county of Somerset.  I finally had something to look into.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 6 – 3rd to 5th Cousin Matches

Having exhausted all avenues for my four closest matches, I turned to the next closest – the 3rd – 5th cousin matches.  There were 17 of these.

At first I found this a bit daunting, then I discovered the ‘In Common With’ option.

As I understand it, if I have a match with two people, and they have a match with each other, this will show as an ‘In Common With’ match.

Their match may not be my match.  This happens in smaller communities such as the Australian colonies where there were only so many families around.   It actually took me a week or so to figure this out.  But having done so, I could use the chromosome browser to see if we matched on the same segment.  For every segment, I can only have two distinct matches, one on my father’s side and one on my mother’s side. If I match two people on the same segment but they don’t match each other, then they must be matches on my different sides.  It seems so simple!

Actually, it really is that simple.  What makes it hard is when you have no guide marks to work with.  21 pages of matches at 10 matches a page = 210 matches.  How on earth could I have 210 matches and not find a single common ancestor?  I was beginning to wonder if I was adopted. Either that or I’m just really really bad at genealogy.

First of all, I finally found a match who shared a surname with me.  In fact, he shared two surnames, Waller and Warren.

In my tree, Martha Waller was the wife of John Dunstall.  She was born in 1822, the daughter of soldier Michael Waller, and she married John Dunstall in 1839.  They then emigrated to South Australia on the Lalla Rookh arriving in 1840, accompanied by Martha’s fifteen year old brother William Michael Waller.

This lady is another brick wall for me.  There is a book about the Dunstalls called ‘The Dunstall Road to South Australia’ researched and published by a group of Dunstall descendants who did a truly excellent job.  I refer to the book often.  In this book is a print of John and Martha’s marriage certificate which has saved me from purchasing it.  The book also gives Martha a birthdate, October 9th 1822 but no location is given for her birth.  I have been unable to find any record for a Martha Waller born on this date.  I have, however, found a Martha Waller born in India on 9th Dec 1822, child of Michael and Ann Waller at the British military barracks in Meerut, India.  This one seems eminently likely but does not explain the date in the book.  I have not heard back from the publishers of that book and suspect it is too long after the print date to get in touch.

After a possible contact for Annie McLeod I had some hopes for a Martha Waller hint too.

My Warren connection is a family in Cork, Ireland back in the 17th century.  Wallis Warren arrived in Ireland with Cromwell’s army or shortly after and settled on land with his family.  He married Elizabeth Knolles and they had, amongst other children, a daughter Anne born around 1680.  Anne married Richard Gumbleton and they settled in Ballygarron in Cork.  This line eventually descends to my maternal grandmother, while Martha Waller descends to my maternal grandfather.

I sent off my email and looked further.

Next I spotted three matches who all showed a common surname McNeal and a common location of Prince Edward Island.  These guys had a match in common with each other and also with Cecilia Williams, my adoptee 2nd-4th cousin.  I sent an email to the lady who managed all three profiles, although I could not match a single one of the names.

Only three others had gedcoms attached and I perused carefully.  There was no common name at all, not between myself and their famiilies, not between any of them and each other.  All three however had a location of Virginia somewhere in their tree.  I didn’t email them at all.  If my 2nd cousin match looked like being a 5th cousin match, then chances were these were actually 8th cousin matches and I just didn’t have my tree out far enough.

So I went back to extending my branches to see if I could improve the odds and actually make a connection.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 5 – Annie McLeod

After three years of contacting fellow researchers while seeking Annie McLeod, I have become quite friendly with some of them. We still share our frustrations and little successes, we still throw thoughts and mad ideas at each other for feedback.  We have very nearly formed an unofficial South Australia McLeod Researchers Support Group.

Since I recognise the difficulties fellow McLeod researchers are facing, I decided to devote this blog entry to my search for Annie – a challenge revived by the DNA match results.  I am of course aware that my connection to this cousin might be in another line, but this one is so close, so promising, that I have felt driven to pursue it further.

Annie said she was aged 22 when she married in 1866, giving her a birth year of 1844. She resided in North Adelaide.  I have attempted to find McLeods in the directories of the time at this address, but the results are inconclusive.  The directories refer to ‘Mr McLeod’ without giving first name, occupation or street address. I have found various Mr, Mrs and Miss McLeods amongst the unclaimed letters lists, of Adelaide, Port Adelaide and North Adelaide.  Once again, without further details this does not help.

The first certainty was the marriage so I shall start there.

After James and Annie married, they lived at Normanville near James’ parents for about 18 months.  Their eldest child John James Dunstall was born here in 1867.  Sometime after his birth they headed north and inland.

By the late 1860s the population of South Australia had increased drastically.  The state has very good land near the coasts but is arid and inhospitable the further inland you go.  Along the Flinders Ranges there is good farming land but even here the rivers are mostly seasonal.  Colonists who followed the Murray River to the north east found they could make a go of it.  Those who headed for the Clare Valley, north of Adelaide, found pockets of good pasture, good rainfall, good conditions for viticulture.  Those who kept to the coast, heading west to the Yorke Peninsula or even further west to the Eyre Peninsula were able to sustain themselves by combining farming and fishing.  Slightly inland were good metals and mines popped up all over the place, mostly owned by wealthy Englishmen who provided employment but the working conditions were tough.

James and Annie Dunstall headed for the Clare Valley, for reasons I had never fathomed.  In the light of the DNA test, I considered the possibility of Annie having family there already.  I searched the birth, death and marriage indexes for McLeods in Clare and found many.

The little village of Stanley Flat is situated about 6km northwest of the township of Clare.  I began to notice how many times the surname McLeod popped up in connection with this little village and felt maybe I was onto something.

Firstly, the birth of James and Annie McLeod’s second child, Charles Guy Dunstall, was at Stanley Flat in 1869.  This one had definite relevance to me.  Secondly, my newly discovered cousin’s ancestor John McLeod was married at Stanley Flat in 1871 to May Witcomb.  By this time James and Annie had moved to the little town of Templers, some 80km (50 miles) south towards Adelaide.  Still relatively close.

Thirdly, there were a plethora of others there – Mary McLeod the wife of Donald McKinnon, Alexander McLeod and wife Marian Morrison raised a family nearby,  Donald McLeod and Mary MacKenzie, Malcolm McLeod and Isabella McNeil … it was a large group and I spent some time sorting them out.  Some sorted nicely, a few remained strays.  Amongst the strays were my James and Annie and my connection’s John and May.

I wasn’t onto something at all.  It was just a whole lot of McLeod families with no obvious link.

James and Annie remained at Templers for about five years.

Templers is a little town in the Midnorth district of South Australia.

Templers as it is today: a cluster of houses at a main highway intersection.

The third child in the family, Kenneth Norman Dunstall, was born in Templers in February 1871.  The name suggests to me that Annie’s father was actually Kenneth and maybe … just perhaps …. her grandfather’s name was Norman??  I have had no luck researching Kennis McLeod.  Was it just her Scottish accent?

Tragically, Kenneth died at eight months of age and was buried in Willaston Cemetery.  The cemetery only holds graves for fifty years and the plot has been reused so there are no clues to be found there.  The burial record simply gave his name, age, father’s name and residence of Templers.

William Herbert was born in 1873, also at Templers, and he is my great grandfather.  He was known all his life as Herbert and I pondered this too.  Was there another William around to distinguish him from?

Between 1873 and 1875 the family then made the big move west to the Yorke Peninsula, settling on a property called Orrie Cowie.  The nearest town was Warooka but they were rather isolated at Orrie Cowie, along the western coast of the peninsula.   After a bushfire which damaged property in 1880 an inquest was held including the following:

James Dunstall, farmer, said the fire occurred on December 16. He first noticed it at about 10 minutes to 2 p.m. No men had been working near the place that day, and he had not the slightest idea how it occurred. By a Juror— Had not seen glass-bottles about there. There was not much traffic on the coast-track there.

Two years ago I went to see the place where they lived and it is the same today.  The statement ‘There was not much traffic on the coast-track there’ is very much an understatement.  They would have gone days without seeing anyone other than those who lived there, except perhaps aboriginal tribes (who were eventually blamed for allowing the fire to occur).

Outside Warooka on a summer's day

Near Warooka on a summer’s day

Ernest Guy Dunstall was born at Orrie Cowie in 1875 and Lewis Liston was born in 1876.  How Annie coped on an isolated station with all those young boys is anyone’s guess.  From what we can tell the boys were responsible and helpful. However, the family were beginning to do it tough.

Annie Isabella Dunstall, their first daughter, was born at Orrie Cowie in 1879 and Martha Florence Dunstall was born in 1882.

In 1883, James Dunstall died of tuberculosis and was buried at Warooka Uniting Cemetery.  His father posted a notice in the paper.  Annie, with the help of fifteen year old John and thirteen year old Charles, kept the family together.

It really looks to me as if they were struggling, but it seems they did not ask for help from any family members.  Perhaps they thought they would pull through.  Perhaps Annie had pride.  She held on for three more years before she became ill enough to make out her will, anticipating that her children would become orphaned and asking that her sons John and Charles act as guardians to the younger ones.

Annie died on 9th June 1887.  Her death certificate states cause of death phthisis.  She was the widow of James Dunstall and her residence was Orrie Cowie, Warooka.  The informant was her son John James Dunstall.  At the age of 19, he had suddenly become responsible for a family of seven.  There was no notice in the paper when Annie died.

Headstone for Annie Dunstall, placed on her very unmarked grave only a few years ago. No clues to be found here.

Headstone for Annie Dunstall, placed on her very unmarked grave only a few years ago. No clues to be found here.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 4 – Building Out My Tree

After bombing out with my four closest matches, I reassessed. I now had two cousins in the United States and they had come from somewhere.  I also had one closer cousin who actually lived in the same country and state as myself, but we believed our match to have come from outside of Australia – probably Scotland.

I joined ISOGG and began to follow the DNA-Newbie email group, following the provided links and improving my understanding of genetic inheritance.

I liked this explanation of cousins by Paul Stoneburger.  I also found a chart showing the expected relationships at various total shared cM, but I seem to have lost this just now.  However, it suggested that my match with John Samuelson really was just shy of the average second cousin level.  Since I knew he wasn’t a second cousin and it looked as if he wasn’t even a third cousin, I thought, what if he is a fourth cousin on both sides?  What if we have two brothers marrying two sisters?  Their children would look more closely related than they were.

So I returned to the old style paper genealogy.

I had already put a lot of time into this couple.  James Dunstall was born in South Australia in 1842.  The colony was brand new, with the first colonists arriving at the end of 1836 and my John Dunstall with his new bride arriving in 1840.  At that time, beautiful and fertile coastal land was up for grabs.  John Dunstall was young but the product of centuries of farmers from Sussex in England. He found himself some good land with good ocean views and more importantly, a decent bit of ocean for cargo ships to load cargo.  The Dunstalls had to work as hard as any colonist, but their hard work reaped its reward and they became comfortable.

Outside Yankalilla SA

Outside Yankalilla SA

John, Martha and Martha’s younger brother arrived in South Australia on the ‘Lalla Rookh’ in 1840.  A son was born to them in 1840 but he lived only a few weeks.  Their second son, born in 1842, was my James Dunstall.

The community at the two close settlements of Normanville and Yankalilla was strong and productive.  The settlements quickly turned into towns, a wharf was built and the local farmers formed close partnerships with a few ships who began a regular run along the coast.  Over the next two decades, colonists from all over the world poured into South Australia.  It wasn’t long before Port Adelaide was a lively, bustling place with the expected mix of merchants, seamen, employers and scavengers.  Adelaide, planned to be the capital from the very beginning, had grown to large town size and was beginning to seem urban.

Allan McLeod from Isle of Harris emigrated in 1855 with his family and took property at Cape Jervis not too far from the Dunstalls.  His son John McLeod was a Master Mariner with his own schooler, ‘The Resolute’.   This John McLeod, Master Mariner, was a witness at the marriage of James and Annie.  However, Annie wasn’t his sister.  He had his own sister called Annie, a girl of the same age as mine, but her life is nicely visible in the public records and can be confidently eliminated.

A few years later, this John McLeod married Martha Ann Dunstall, sister to my James and daughter of John and Martha.

James Dunstall and Annie McLeod were married on 31 May 1866 and a notice was placed in the local paper, ‘Mr James Dunstall of Normanville to Miss Anne McLeod of Port Adelaide’.  No parents mentioned at all.  The marriage certificate shows James Dunstall, Farmer aged 23, present residence Normanville, father’s name John Dunstall, and Anne McLeod, age 22 occupation column left blank, present residence North Adelaide, father’s name Kennis McLeod.  Witnesses were John McLeod master mariner of Port Adelaide and Martha Ann Dunstall of Normanville.

Anne’s name in the certificate box is Anne McLeod, in the signature it is Annie McLeod.  All parties signed their names.

I have gone over this certificate for clues more times than I can count.  I have always felt that Annie’s father was not present, and that she was alone in the colony.  In light of my DNA match, I decided to examine her life from a different perspective and seek possible family.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 3 – Perhaps I Am An Alien?

I received very quick responses from three of my four 2nd-4th cousins.  Jennifer Harrison never did respond.  Months later, I still have not heard from her although I sent a tentative second email after three months.

Cecilia Williams and Jacqueline Rhodes sent me lovely emails.  They informed me that I was showing as one of their closest matches too.  Each of them were adoptees seeking their genetic roots.  One was in South Carolina, one was in New York.  I was their first Australian match.  Neither of them matched each other and they matched me on very different chromosomes.  One of them shared matches with several of my 3rd-5th matches.  The other is an isolate and I have no common matches with her segment even now.  They eagerly awaited anything I might learn but I wasn’t going to learn it from them.

Which left me with John Samuelson,and with him I shared one name – the name McLeod.

The name McLeod appears on my mother’s side. My maternal grandfather was a Dunstall.  His grandfather was James Dunstall born in South Australia in 1842.  In 1866 James Dunstall married Annie McLeod who at her marriage gave her father’s name as ‘Kennis’.

In the 1850s there was a mass exodus of McLeods from Harris, Inverness-shire, Scotland to South Australia.  Many hundreds of McLeods arrived each year.  It looks to me as if it was mandatory for a McLeod family to have a daughter called Annie, because just about every family did.  At one time I began researching every Annie McLeod I found arriving in South Australia to see if they were mine.  After about 12 of them I gave up.  Annie was a brick wall.

Some of the Ann McLeods in South Australia

Marriage index records to some of the Ann McLeods in South Australia

James and Annie died of tuberculosis along with their older children.  Annie’s death record told us nothing because only children survived to inform the officials. Her will was full of her concern for those future orphans, but gave no clue about other family.  I couldn’t even be sure of her birth country because there were McLeods turning up from everywhere.

My Annie McLeod was born in 1844.  John Samuelson’s ancestor John McLeod was born 1846.  John McLeod was married in 1871 in the same little village that my James and Annie Dunstall had their son in 1869.  We had a name, we had a location.  It looked really good.  But, John told me, he had researched his ancestor quite thoroughly and he had no sister called Anne. The connection, we surmised, was one generation further back.  But I was very much stumped with my Annie and saw no way to get her a generation back.

So on that rather dissatisfying note, I was forced to leave my four closest matches.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 2 – My First Look at the Matches

My test arrived after about 10 days and it took me a few days to open and complete it, because I was a bit nervous.  I watched a Youtube video on how to do it which helped.  As it happened, all went smoothly.  I sent the test in but must have put something dicey on the customs declaration because they did not receive it for five weeks.  However, the day came when the order history showed that it had been received, then batched.  It was going to take 5-7 weeks to process.

At about this time I began to read the forum posts.  Initially I intended to post in them, but I found several message threads where someone had been rather cutting in response to what seemed like an innocent question.  I decided I didn’t want that to happen to me so I simply read through, hoping to gain hints.

The process time dropped to 4-6 weeks, then 3-5, then suddenly it was there three weeks early!  I received a very brief email saying I had matches. I logged in and found that my Family Finder results were there, and the MTDNA had some time to process yet.

At first, it all looked quite straightforward.  I clicked on ‘Matches’ and it took me to them.  I had 21 pages of them!  I scrolled through from page to page, becoming familiar with the format, with the way to view my matches’ profiles, ancestor names and gedcoms.  Then I discovered the chromosome browser and spent some time acquainting myself with 22 chromosomes plus an X chromosome.  It was all very pretty and very satisfying.  However, I then settled down to view the connection.  This was when the confusion began.

Across 21 pages of matches, only about half of them had surnames listed and about a quarter had gedcoms.  Of course, I first concentrated on them.  I began viewing gedcoms in search of my ancestor names.  Nobody had them.

Nobody!  Not a common name, not a common location – nothing even close.  A lot of them were in the United States and the one common factor was the states of North Carolina and Virginia.  This was a location which they shared with each other, not with me.  I had NO connection that I knew of with the United States, certainly not within the last 5-6 generations.  However, nobody shared a surname. I found this perplexing but guessed that a sister of some long-distant ancestor of mine had married someone I hadn’t discovered and emigrated to the United States.  It made sense.  It still makes some sense. That must have happened for some of my ancestors.

Then I read the helpful book which FTDNA provides and settled in for a more informed look through.  I had four matches at 2nd-4th cousin level, one of which was a nice 93 cM total with a few longish segments.  This was my closest match.  Longest block was 34 cM.  I’ll call him John Samuelson which is a very long way from his real name. He provided a gedcom in which I found a single name which matched my ancestors.  Of course, one name is all you need and this one was a brickwall so I was rather excited.

Just to be clear, I will not be using a single real name in this blog for my matches or other living people – but the long-deceased ancestor names will be accurate.

My second match was Jennifer Harrison with a distance of 47.6 cM and longest block 21 cM. No details provided in either profile or ancestor surnames, and no gedcom.

Next was Cecilia Williams, matching with 54 cM and longest block 18 cM.  No details provided but a photograph attached and she looked friendly.

Last was Jacqueline Rhodes, we shared 49 cM with longest block 16.5 cM.  Once again, no details provided.

So I did as was recommended and emailed them all.