Sunday, 21 February 2021

Maximise your investment in your DNA test

If you've tested your DNA somewhere other than MyHeritage and have not also uploaded your file to there, get in quick for free, offer applies for a week to 28th Feb.

The advanced tools will be unlocked for free, forever  - and you may well find a whole different set of cousins to swap info with.

Read all about it at their latest blogpost.

Full instructions on how to upload here.

Monday, 25 January 2021

The danger of assumptions

From looking at the tree attached to a DNA match, I hoped / presumed / assumed that I'd found yet another piece of corroboration for our connection to the Jenkins/Buchanan family we have so many matches to.
Which got me quite excited.
These brickwalls (Archibald Henderson and and his daughter-in-law Amelia Millar) have been standing a long time.

So I spent a happy day or two researching and validating the line back from South Africa to Perthshire.
I've never read a will before where someone was divvying up a town amongst his children: to x the railway station to y the post office to z the store.....

Between them, the two sibling kits involved had shared matches to a satisfactory selection of my Henderson/Millar cousins. Both kits were managed by a person we didn't match, so her relationship to the matches wasn't readily visible.

Thankfully this was a responsive tester and the flaw in my assumption was quickly revealed.
She was their mother, and it was her line that led back to Jenkins/Buchanan family via a branch in South Africa.
And we didn't match her. 

The matches were over 30cMs, so it was extremely unlikely this was a testing company glitch unfortunately.

So back to the drawing board and over to the paternal side of their tree, which was a bit sparse given this was why they had tested.

It didn't take me too long to realise that a Smith born in Central Otago around that time period just might be the Smith branch, well one of the Smith branches, in my tree.
All Smiths are related? Right?

Sure enough, he was already in my Henderson/Millar data.
I used to hold all these names / dates / places in my memory cells, but the explosion of people that you get interested in when exploring DNA matches means some just have to drop out to make room!

I feel old, the matches' grandmother is my 3rd cousin.

I was lacking the crucial link in my database down to the new matches as this 3rd cousin's sister had omitted to tell me the rest of the story back in 2003 and I would never have found this branch without family hints.
I feel some updates coming on.

Moral of the story: 

Shared matches and hope are not always enough to prove a theory.
If the mother had not also tested I'd likely never have realised the actual source of this DNA as at first glance nothing looked very promising to explain the link on the father's side.

The irony is that the matches will be related to the Jenkins/Buchanan family from both their parents - once we do figure out how I and my cousins connect to them given so many matches are telling us we do.
If only the right branch to test could be found, or pop out of the woodwork!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

What you can find when you aren't even looking...

...  or 

I hope this stroke of serendipity portends other breakthroughs on the gaps in my tree in 2021
starting the year as I hope to go on - well apart from interrupting the chat on our Talking Family History zoom session last night with an excited "I've just cracked a new DNA match".
Thankfully for the group, which I admit I was listening to rather than watching, my internet connection dropped out.
They were spared the journey I'd been on most of the day, culminating in the final piece of the jigsaw being found whilst I was listening, but also documenting the newfound connection on FamilySearch and in my genie program, dotting the is and crossing the ts ready for adding to WikiTree to see what further DNA clues may pop out as connections are found there.

The excitement being that not only had I cracked where a new DNA match likely fitted, but also added two ancestors to my tree at 5* great grandparent level - bringing that level up to 61 out of 128 identified at least by name.

DNAPainter Tree / TreeCompleteness stats

The journey

Most days I quickly check a basic set of Ancestry kits I manage* for:

- new matches predicted as 4th cousin or closer, and 

- any more distant unviewed matches that now show up in the Common ancestors filter

* myself, a maternal 1st cousin, a paternal 2nd cousin and a 3rd cousin on a brickwall Borders line

Top of the unviewed list yesterday (New Year's day) was a new predicted 4th cousin match who looked to be the father or son of a match over on 23andme which I had explored a while ago because my chromosome maps on DNAPainter had shown he matched me at the same spot I matched a known 5th cousin on MyHeritage. But he had no tree and only listed a couple of names, neither known to me.

The 5th cousin and I (and another match on Ancestry) share common papertrail  ancestors of John Hanham and Ann Rawlins who married in 1777 at Sutton Montis. This being my relatively recently found branch of my Somerset ancestry from when the mystery of my 2* great grandmother Jane Gibson was cracked (The Lazy Vicar refers).

I wasn't actively researching for Ann's parents, having run out of steam back when Jane's origins had been identified, and the thrill of the new chase abated once the lack of further success kicked in.

In recent times I've been having, yet another, concentrated effort mining all the DNA clues at my disposal (currently re-reviewing shared matches with assorted 2nd and 3rd cousin pairs) to try and crack my two very solid, chip resistant brickwalls of Archibald Henderson and his daughter-in-law Amelia Millar.
And once again, getting nowhere beyond realising that just possibly there may indeed be a reason I, and my paternal cousins have always shown about 10-16% Irish ancestry, and starting to notice a growing number of admittedly distant matches from around Mull / Argyll which seem likely to extend the search from Perthshire/Stirlingshire.

Research into this new English match appealed as light relief, and went rather more smoothly given the added bonus of now having a tree to work with from the Ancestry match - which included a John Rawlings born in Somerset about 1781, having children in West Lydford.

A working assumption was that by age alone my Ann and his John might be aunt/nephew. Sutton Montis and West Lydford aren't that far apart, at least as the proverbial crow flies.

Somerset: Yeovil / Martock / West Lydford / Sutton Montis

 John Rawlings and wife Jane were easily enough found in census and the Somerset records (images on Ancestry).
The assorted versions of the families on the FamilySearch tree were tidied up by reconciling discrepancies and either merging duplicates or  splitting out the waifs and strays to make what looked to be a sourced coherent whole, including the two families of the two sons, James and Henry with whose descendants my matches were.

Which left  John's parents and siblings to identify. That wasn't as easy until I found an 1853 death that led me to question John's age somewhat. Aged 80 being somewhat older than the 70 he'd showed as in the 1851 census which age most trees used.
It must have been a tough life as a yeoman farmer in those last 3 years to age him that much!
With the revised earlier birth,  hindsight showing this as rather more within range for the rounded down 1841 census age of 65 there was a good candidate of the right age and in the right place, to an Edward and Frances Rawlings, with very irregularly spaced siblings ranging from 1759 to 1774, but no Ann who could well be a sibling with these earlier timeframes being thrown into the mix.

My Ancestry searches, I thought, exhausted, I switched back to FamilySearch to pull the final pieces together there too, and did a last search for any more baptisms.
And there was an Ann, baptized in West Lydford in 1755, sibling to John.
Which point is where I excitedly interrupted the Zoom session chat as that just had to be way too much of a coincidence.

My working assumption has been quickly revised to siblings.

 Overnight, Ancestry's ThruLines hints kicked in showing the four matches from the two lines down from John, as hoped / expected.
Today I've checked the maternal 1st cousin's ThruLines, and they now show a match descended from John, and Ann's sister Jane.
This is looking good.

Welcome to the family Edward and Frances Rawlings.

The lessons

There's always one more record to be found - try different sites, their search algorithms will pop up different results

Remember to check and re-evaluate all records - I'd have found John's baptism quicker if I'd re-evaluated the 1841 census earlier

Keep good notes of your DNA matches.

DNAPainter imports of segment data are invaluable for a cross-company chromosome map.
This gave me the initial lead for this family

Monday, 21 September 2020

Who visited Porters Photographic Gallery in Perth in the 1870s?

I'd dearly love the carte below to be a wonderful clue to the mystery family of Amelia Millar - so I am posting this in the probably vain hope that someone  will recognise it from their family album and say that's xyz and get in touch.

It was found in the effects of my great aunt Nellie FLETCHER, aka Elizabeth Helen Sinton HENDERSON (1885-1981) and it is past time I published it in the hope of an identification.


I appear to be looking for a woman aged ??  in about the 1870s, presumably with two children aged about ?? and ??, within cooee of County Place, Perth, Scotland. Possibly widowed or with a camera shy husband?

A quick web search brought up the helpful page Scottish Photographers – 19th century

and showed that the Mr Porter in County Place Perth on the reverse of the carte was rather likely to be this chap:

Porter, James – County Place, Perth -1868/69-1878- and also George St. Perth by 1878

which dates seem likely to fit with the clothes of this unidentified woman with two children.

Add in that James Henderson and Amelia Millar, who are presumed to be the recipients of this carte, emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand, with those of their immediate family still remaining in Scotland, in 1874.

James and Amelia married in 1836 in Stirling but  had moved to Forth, Lanarkshire about 1840.

One son, Archibald, stayed in Scotland but was over in Carnwath, Lanarkshire, the rest emigrated between the early 1860s through to 1874.

James' father Archibald was a blacksmith at the Bridge of Allan and his wife Margaret McEwan's family, were long resident on/around the Kincardine Moss, Perthshire

Amelia's parents are - still - the subject of an onging brickwall search, but likely to be Millar and Chrystal families from around Kippen, Stirlingshire.

Where were James' siblings around this time?
Only William and John of his siblings are documented as staying in the area.

William at the Bridge of Allan, John in Tillicoultry, Clackmannshire.
The rest settled and had their families in Fife and Lanarkshire.

William is presumed to have died late 1840s to 1851, and his children are all accounted for in Australia well before this date, apart from the eldest Isabella, whose fate is still unknown.

John  had also moved to Lanarkshire from Tillicoultry about 1850, where all the children are accounted for in Ontario well before this time apart from Helen, whose fate is as yet unknown beyond the 1851 census in Cadder.

Love to hear from anyone with any answers or suggestions as to who this family are.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Amelia Millar brickwall review


Cracking this brickwall was one of my main aims for entering DNA testing way back in 2007.
And still is.
I've never been brave enough to tally up the $$ for kits I've sponsored for descendants over the years, particularly as the initial tests were so much more expensive than now.
Many of these people are no longer with us, but their DNA lives on in our match lists to provide excellent clues for the more recent generations.

Test the relatives in your earliest generations NOW before it is too late.

My four-pronged approach towards cracking this brickwall is covered under the following headings, which I do admit make this all sound rather more systematic than I am in reality.

  1. Review of research into likely families 
  2. mtDNA match review
  3. atDNA matches likely to be from Amelia
  4. Recreation of the DNA of Amelia

1) Review of research into likely families 

Genealogy and DNA go hand in hand. 
Most of us "working" the DNA for all the clues we can mine spend a LOT of time researching / checking / creating the trees of our matches to see if the DNA is coming from where we hope/think/are being hinted at it being.  
To which every so often I add general research into Millar/Miller, Chrystal families in the right areas (Kippen, Gargunnock, Kilmadock, Fintry) "just in case" something I've missed now makes more sense with any additional information acquired.
Those more likely looking candidates usually get "tidied up" on the FamilySearch tree, and added to WikiTree, potentially being included as a link to my WikiTree Amelia Millar Brickwall page there via a "category" link.
One day someone will pop up with family information on the missing link(s).

2) mtDNA match review

From our one mtDNA tested descendant we believe Amelia Millar's mitochondrial haplogroup to be T2e.
FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) sends notifications when a new match is found.
Although the chances of a relevant, close, genealogically significant match popping up un-prompted are slim, I always check to see how close, what they have entered as their most distant maternal ancestor, or what can be determined about their tree.
To date we have no exact matches (Genetic Distance of 0).
If you have tested either y- or mt- DNA do please make sure that you have completed the details on your profile under
Account Settings > Genealogy > Earliest Known Ancestors
where there are places to record both your Direct Paternal and Direct Maternal Ancestors
These are respectively your father's father's father's .... father
and your mother's mother's mother's ... mother
and must be male and female respectively.
you'd be amazed at how many show their most distant maternal ancestor as male!
The entry here is what shows on the public mtDNA results pages for any projects you have joined (if you have elected to share your results), and is what your matches see about you on their match list.
The hope here is that one day I'll track down a direct female line descendant of the most likely families (hopefully a Chrystal) and they'll turn out to be haplogroup T2e to add to any additional evidence from autosomal matches and research eg.

3) atDNA matches likely to be from Amelia

We have a large number of  tested descendants of James Henderson and Amelia Millar and thus a large number of shared matches to work with, but as yet no real way of reliably separating the matches between the two given that 3 out of 4 of the parents of this couple are puzzles* and the fourth known branch is getting a bit far back to reliably get strong autosomal matches that can be proven to be from the McEwan DNA.
We do have some however, so, as always, I live in hope.
It doesn't help that this area of Perthshire/Stirlingshire has fairly inter-connnected families.
Just how much that is impacting the match lists is starting to become even more apparent now that Ancestry is actually showing us how much they have down-weighted matches below 90cM by applying their Timber** algorithm to remove the DNA that they've determined is less genealogically significant from the displayed match strength.
Where I could check Ancestry matches on other sites they were generally coming up at least slightly larger elsewhere.
But where I couldn't check elsewhere I was completely in the dark - until now.
So it can be a tad hard to separate out the matches relating to Amelia's DNA from that of James'.
*James' father is documented as Archibald Henderson but we have a yDNA discontinuity between the 3 (matching) yDNA tested descendants of James and the single yDNA tested descendant of the only one of his paper trail brother's that I've managed to find and convince to test.
** The "Timber" algorithm is explained in detail in the Matching White Paper that is available under Ancestry's DNA help - click on the ? top right on your DNA Matches box on the DNA home page.
Which pre-amble leads to 4).

4) Recreation of the DNA of Amelia

This aspect of the search is making me feel like an archaeologist digging up mammoths and trying to create a living one from their DNA. I do so hope Amelia would be amused!
So it's time to make all those DNA tests work even harder (payback time <g>).
I'm in the process of publicizing to tested descendants of James and Amelia (Millar) Henderson that they can help this endeavour by uploading their DNA file to BorlandGenetics from wherever they tested and to let me know they have done so.
I can then invite them to a private Henderson-Millar project there for their DNA to be used in this reconstruction of the DNA of our shared ancestors.
Hopefully with enough in the pool we will get a reasonable amount of DNA that can be used to begin creating ancestral DNA profiles, AND also be able to use the output for use on Genetic Affairs and/or DNAGEDCOM for  clustering reports of the resultant matches.
The site offers you matching as well as advanced tools such as the above, which I've only just begun exploring.
Have a read.
If you are comfortable with the terms and conditions, and privacy aspects outlined on the site, contribute your DNA and we'll see how far we can get creating DNA profiles for James and Amelia.

It would be good to narrow down some options for her parents / ancestry.


Join me in this fascinating, and very frustrating but absorbing, journey
-  by testing your oldest generations of Henderson/Millar descendants and 
- upload to sites where their DNA can be compared across companies - ie GEDmatch and BorlandGenetics
- extend the connected pedigrees on the very DNA friendly collaborative WikiTree (see my Amelia Millar brickwall category page with some families of interest)

One day we WILL know who Amelia's family was.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Progress on y_mt_DNA haplogroups?

 This post was written back in March 2020.  Six months down the track, having explored many many related, and un-related rabbit holes it is time I actually published it. Not a lot of progress has been made since then!

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Tree completeness/genetic confirmation

Covid-19 has a lot to answer for but one good thing is that we can work around the unexpected limitations imposed.
The DNA Discovery 2020 tour of New Zealand by Blaine Bettinger and Angie Bush could no longer take place, but thanks to the organisers, and of course the presenters, who are in widely different timezones from us, and each other, the 2 day set of lectures were changed to online sessions.
From a participant viewpoint, everything worked smoothly and well - thank you all, Blaine, Angie, Michelle, Fiona and Paul.

Blaine's talk on new tools for DNA analysis, reminded me I was going to check out the new DNAPainter haplogroup functionality (see eight ways you can use ancestral trees at DNAPainter) and also to see if I'd made any progress on both my tree completeness, particularly which levels had now been validated by genetic matches.

Posts such as these encourage me to actually review progress, and what I'm trying to achieve.
It's good to have snapshots of where I was in a point in time when I get discouraged about lack of progress - which is, I admit, rare as this is all so much fun.

Spoiler alert:
I've apparently made some progress 😀


The haplogroup progress will be a separate blogpost, as will the exploration of my supposed French-German ancestry (Yes Blaine, you inspired me to give biogeographical estimates another look and reminded me I was vaguely curious when I first looked at the segments 23andme identified years ago - it will be interesting to see what FTDNA comes up with in their promised equivalent).
On this page:

Tree completeness

For reminders of why names on trees and a few DNA matches is just a small part of the store front window of tree completeness read Blaine's blog post
Also Judy Russell's (thelegalgenealogist) on Filling in the Blanks

I've had a GEDCOM on DNAPainter since the beta tree functionality was announced, which means that two of my DNA-fuelled breakthroughs were already included in the tree.
The Lazy Vicar where the DNA leads/research had added parents and grandparents to my 2* great grandmother, so that was another branch complete to 4* greats.
I do so love a mystery or three likewise had added a whole 2 more ancestors to the level of 3* great grandparents, which of course only leaves more brickwalls to solve.

But what had not been included, given it only occurred in the last month was the review of my 3*great grandmother Jemima Parker's origins (Sarah not Charlotte; DNA strikes again refers).
So although she already had parents in my tree the tree has shrunk by one at that level (Jemima being the baseborn child of Sarah Parker) but grown by 4 more for her newfound mother's ancestry
Admittedly the link could still be somewhere back up from Jemima's husband, William Clinton about whom we know nothing beyond his marriage information and name on the baptismal records for their children.
Checking which is where the haplogroup confirmation can come to the fore - IF I can find a mitochondrial DNA descendant of Sarah Parker. There's only one found to date on paper, but not yet in person, and his surname is rather difficult for web searching - Wedding. But that's for the forthcoming haplogroup functionality post.

So with those added into my tree clicking on the highlighted Tree completeness link
gave me this table of how many ancestors I had at each level, and tells me about any ancestors who appear more than once (Pedigree collapse)

as you can see my tree completeness starts falling apart at the 4* great grandparent level and rapidly drops off after that.
One assumption at the 4th great level, not included here, would add 1 more at 4th, and 2 more at each of 5th and 6th great grandparent levels, all of which have interesting clusters of atDNA matches under active investigation - but given the stats on DNA inheritance at these levels the odds are fairly slim for making quick progress. I have however included the names in the surname hints/clues spot on DNAPainter.

The average amount of atDNA an individual can inherit from a specific ancestor halves as each generation passes, which does not necessarily mean that you will have inherited any from your btickwall one - but another cousin might have.
Encourage cousins to test, particularly those in the older generations still around on any of the lines of active investigation.
They beat your odds of not inheriting the crucial bit of DNA that will demolish the brickwall.

Check out the tables on the ISOGG WIki for the stats
- and
- the theoretical probabilities
So it could take me some time to confirm the above assumption given the clusters of matches share a couple who married in 1738 and are, hopefully, my 5*great grandparents.
That's 8 generations (starting with me as the 1st) from whom, anyone in my generation can only expect to inherit 0.024% from one of those 5*great grandparents.
The likelihood of sharing significant matches with a 6th cousin is small, but possible.
Take comfort from the reported relationships with detectable matches at 6C and beyond in the Shared cMs project v4 also on DNAPainter.

Genetic confirmation

My first attempt at documenting which ancestors I'd confirmed at the time I started to pop this in DNAPainter resulted in the full fan tree view:

 shrinking to only this many being confirmed genetic ancestors:

which rather reflects my getting side-tracked rather than lack of confirmations, or I hope it does.

I admit I tend to work more on documenting the confirmations on WikiTree which pops dinky little symbols against each ancestor marked as "confirmed by DNA" (see WikiTree help for the WikiTree definition of / requirements for Confirmed by DNA status).
But the presentation there is by no means as compact - nor as colourful :)

is just a portion of my WikiTree "compact" tree view (see for all lines of the 8 generations available.)
This portion shows the newly changed parentage for Jemima Parker and reminds me I've not documented the confirmation back to Sarah Parker a fully triangulated DNA match thanks to my maternal aunts, a 2nd cousin, and a 4th cousin who all share with several descendants of Sarah Parker's later marriage.
Additional shared match networks exist with other descendants and also corroborate that another family is also connected somehow which research is yet to unearth - see my Clinton - Parker brickwall page on WkiTree

So what does the genetic tree look like after some quick work?

My use of confirmation differs between the two sites (DNAPainter and WikiTree).
On the DNAPainter tree I use "Genetic ancestor" check box

to show the Ancestral Couple that a match and I share out to 4th cousins, even where I may not have fully confirmed which of the couple any DNA segments come from.
This differs from WikiTree confirmation in that the latter is strict on identification only of the individual relationship that has been "proven", particularly once you get beyond 3rd cousins.
The same quandary of which to show exists when painting your chromosome maps.
You have to decide whether to show the ancestral couple you share, or the person one generation below that the DNA match has now confirmed gave you that bit of DNA.
Depending on whose map I'm working on, I tend to use which specific ancestor gave me/them that bit of DNA - but it sometimes gives me the feeling I'm not making much progress back up the generations given it stops one earlier. 😒

Thank you to Jonny Perl for DNAPainter, and the DNA Discovery 2020 team for making me actually stop exploring matches and do an overdue stock take.