Friday, 6 January 2023

jan 2023 Stocktake

Firstly, a big thank you to all of you have humoured me over the years by testing your DNA, and those who help this Genealogy & DNA obsessive - yes I'm still obsessed!

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2023.

Time for the snapshots.

Progress over the last couple of years?

Have I actually made any progress on my main goals?

Progress is never as much as hoped but this one takes my prize as most unexpected:
Unexpected half 2nd cousins were added to my rather sparse Davidson tree from the Scottish Borders, and sort of as a result, along with previously unplaced DNA matches, my tree gained some ancestors.

Lurking in (almost) plain sight.

Tree Completeness stats snapshot

Now (Jan 2023) compared with Jan 2021 (left) and March 2020 (right) (from DNAPainter Ancestry Trees).

Brickwall status?

With half of the John Davidson brickwall being demolished, the closest brickwalls are, or remain:

3*great grandparent "holes" or questions

3. Is (Amelia's husband) James Henderson's father really Archibald Henderson?

4* great grandparent "holes"

4. Where did William Clinton spring from?
6. Anything about John & Ann Robison, parents of the Agnes Robison who married John Fairbairn.
7. Eleanor Scott's parents.


Monday, 7 November 2022

ToFR / ThruLines

To the uninitiated, the title of this post:

ToFR / ThruLines

refers to the tools offered by MyHeritage and Ancestry DNA respectively to aid you in exploring how you might be connected to your matches.

ToFR: from MyHeritage - Theory of Family Relativity

ThruLines: From Ancestry

Both take your DNA, your linked tree, and those of your DNA matches, then trawl their respective family tree and record collections to come up with HINTS on how you and your match might be connected.

The stress here is on HINT, and MIGHT.

It is over to you to check the validity of the suggestions.

This blogpost has been prompted because MyHeritage has released an update to their Theory of Family Relativity 

So what have I learnt?


Figures shown below are for: Apr 2022 / Nov 2022

Total matches: 10,965 / 11,638

Total matches linked to trees: ? / 10,734 

Number of matches with a Theory of Family Relativity: 74 / 88 ie 0.81% of my matches with trees

Number I have marked confirmed as correct: 41 / 42

Number I have marked as rejected: 12 / 23

Number that end up at the correct result but start on a tree other than my researched tree, and take a rather tortuous route to the conclusion: 18 / 23


I've not been keeping stats, so cannot get comparable figures, but FWIW, as at 7 Nov 2022:

Total matches: 27356

Total ThruLines hints: 209 ie 0.76%

including 31 hints to potential ancestors.

Only about 4 of the potential ancestors look likely to be real.


Sunday, 6 November 2022

Lurking in (almost) plain sight

Revisiting my John Davidson Brickwall.

The descendant list of my 2* great grandfather, John Davidson has grown rather unexpectedly lately and this growth prompted this renewed attention on John's mysterious parents.

Despite the best efforts of transcribers of records planting confusion, I believe I have finally found the origins of his mother, the mysterious Ann Collins. 

And as a result am highly likely to have found how a set of interlinked, DNA matches connect to myself and several cousins.

Any time I reviewed John's origins over the many years he has been in my tree, I could not usually even chip at this brickwall.
But thanks to the above, a bit of lateral thinking and some quick research to overcome the transcription errors and confusions thrown in the way, there in plain sight, sits the family of "Ann Collins", mother of my 2* great grandfather, John Davidson.

Moral of the story: follow the DNA, review past info in light of current knowledge and think outside the square - a bit further - with surnames! 

On this page:

What did we know of John's origins?

Census and other data consistently places him as born about 1817 at Chirnside, Berwickshire.

His 1901 death certificate clearly states that his mother was an Ann Collins, deceased. Which surname always seemed un-Scottish to me.
A friend, distant relative and one of my longest genealogy correspondents responded to that comment by advising that Collin was common in the fishing village of Eyemouth.
(George F. Black's "The SURNAMES Of Scotland" does not list it at all.)

Father's name was blank on the death cert., but he is assumed to be a Davidson, and no Davidson/Collins marriage was obvious.

He and Agnes Fairbairn's marriage is recorded in the Chirnside OPR, Agnes being "of Edrom parish".

As John was a hind, they moved around a lot, children popping up in assorted parish registers, some such parishes including earlier children already baptized in other parishes, in their own registers when the next was baptized. Which latter habit seems to have upset the FamilySearch indexers somewhat as I cannot currently verify their indexes of the Edrom OPR which index shows an 1838 Adam in the family.

All I can find in Edrom is a mention of Adam and Agnes and a couple of other children, with their birth places but no dates, tagged on after an obvious catch up entry in the Edrom register for both Mary and Walter, which page contains a range of dates from 1827 to 1852 in no particular order.
I became rather excited about the possibility of an earlier Adam as a good hint to John's father's name but all in all, have concluded, for now at least, that the 1838 Adam is a indexer's phantom.

What were the DNA matches telling me?

My Davidson ancestry is a blank slate ending at this 1817 John. It's not a prolific line. I (thought I) was the only living descendant of John's son Adam Davidson.  So no 1st cousins, no 2nd cousins, living or dead and very few tested 3rd cousins down from those few of Adam's siblings who had children, and no known 4th cousins at all to positively assign matches to.

A new close-ish match on Ancestry back in March 2022 drew my attention back to a set of mystery matches I've had since 2017, all around the 2nd-3rd cousin-ish range, and only one with a tree and who had responded to contact, but we were both puzzled, as there was no obvious connection.
The only possibility, by coincidence of place, was a Cooper lass born in Dunedin in 1879.
In that time frame my great grandfather Adam Davidson was the only one of whole the extended Fairbairn family even in the frame, having arrived in Dunedin a couple of years previously.  
Shared matches had definitely indicated connections to my 3*great Walter Fairbairn & Agnes Robison line cousins along with a fair clutch of yet more distant cousins from back up the Fairbairn ancestry (Robison is another more or less closed book I've not spent time on and such cousins would be at closest in the 5th and more cousins range of shared DNA).
Along with closer connections to my few tested 3rd cousins, sharing my 2* great grandparents John Davidson & Agnes Fairbairn and the strongest connections being to myself.
Plus a small cluster of more distant matches that didn't appear to share any of the Fairbairn DNA.

The new 2022 match had a tree - with the same 1879 lass born in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand, and yes they were cousins, along with my strongest mystery match (103cMs) who had never answered messages from Ancestry but is now confirmed as another of their cousins.

From my side of this my great grandfather Adam was still the only candidate in the whole worldwide Fairbairn / Davidson tree that fitted the DNA match strengths and was the only candidate even in New Zealand, let alone in  Dunedin, where he had arrived a year or so prior to the birth of this lass.
Her mother's legal husband was ruled out of contention, being held at Her Majesty's dis-pleasure for a considerable time during and either side of the whole conception/birth process. 

With the set of unexpected half 2nd cousins and half 2C1R, in the mix there was a lot more data on shared matches, which most definitely helped this review.
But only on Ancestry.
Rather more of my assorted cousins tested at FTDNA, way before Ancestry offered their autosomal test, many no longer around to re-test.
Happenstance to the rescue.
A cousin of these matches, on their Cooper side, sent me extracts of a family book on the Coopers.
I was looking for a descendant of the legitimate branch of the family to test to help convince them of my hypothesis. Any Cooper descendants should not be a match to me or my cousins and their matches to the Cooper should be half the expected full cousin strength.

I used the data I wanted, went to file the scans and source the data, thinking it was time I checked who actually compiled the extensive family tree for my sourcing - and nearly fell out of my chair.
The author was one of my longer term, but very intermittant, correspondents about some common interests on the Scottish Borders! No known connection to the Davidson / Fairbairn lines, at least not close ones.
As I knew he was interested in DNA, why hadn't he shown up in matches?   
It didn't take me long to remember that a couple of years ago I'd tried to convince him that he should venture into autosomal testing as well, as he had only been exploring yDNA, running a surname project for his surname at FTDNA.
To say he was sceptical of my theory would be an understatement, but with the arrival of his results a few short 3 weeks later he was beginning to see it just possibly could have merit, with myself as his closest match on his FamilyFinder upgrade.

The time had come to sort out Ann Collins.

What else changed the situation?

Back to checking where the non-Fairbairn shared matches might fit with more data in the mix.

I'd previously identified from these latter matches that there was a mystery DNA connection to several Colvin family members whose trees intersected back at a James Colvin and Ann Kerr (or Carr) who married at Dunse in 1820, with the matches coming from at least two lines down from James and Ann.
But how did we connect to them?

Reviewing what point I'd reached last time round on John Davidson's matches, I asked the ever helpful ScottishIndexes FaceBook Group for their thoughts about the "phantom" 1838 Adam mentioned above.
And got to thinking further about John's mysterious mother, "Ann Collins".
A recheck of the death certificate did show it was clearly written as Collins and could not, by any stretch of imagination, be interpreted any other way, however much I now wanted it to be Colvin or Colvine.

Then I then went off to do some more research on the Colvin(e) families and get more of them documented on WikiTree to see what additional connections and DNA potential cousins might pop out as a result. (If interested in what WikiTree can do to help you, check out Roberta Estes' recent blog post on WikiTree)
This time round on the FamilySearch tree I was presented with a potential duplicate set of parents for  the James Colvin who married Ann Kerr.
James' 1799 baptism in Dunse shows him as the son of a James Colvin and Ann Porteus. 
The suggested duplicate family were that of a James Collan and Ann Portes, baptizing a daughter Ann in Dunse in 1792.
How old had I'd estimated John's mother might be? Born around 1795 give or take.
Collins? Colvin? Collan? Seems like a good possibility to me.
Was this wishful thinking on my part?
Working my way down several lines of descendants I found that it was not at all uncommon to find assorted family members recorded as any of these, indiscriminately over several different points in time. 

These suggested duplicates have now been merged into the one family on FamilySearch, and WikiTree updated with more of the family basics.

Of course, any problem solved raises more.
Can we figure out who John's father was?
The Colvin family do seem to have a habit of marrying assorted Davidsons, over in Roxburghshire rather than Berwickshire.
With a bit more digging I might find yet another clue or two hiding in plain sight.

One of the interesting potholes along the way:

Surname, parents, and residence of James & Ann when son James baptized 

I think I'll go with the a combination of the two from my own transcription of the original shown above from ScotlandsPeople.

The two OPR references on FindMyPast refer to both the original entry and to what looks like a index of an index from the parish register, so at any point in those two indexes the errors could have crept in.

I cannot validate that a place called Dunsdarels exists but assume it was someone's attempt at the original shown here of "Dunse and Ann" - the curly looking e of Dunse that looks out of character with the others on the page having been determined by the helpful & knowledgeable people on the ScottishIndexes Facebook page as bleed through from the back of the page,.


Always find and check an original 

Friday, 10 June 2022

Families unite

Not that this is an earth shattering revelation, but this one solved two puzzles.

Ann McAdie is a newfound (May 2022) member of the family of Donald McAdie & Catherine MacKain brought to my attention thanks to a "follow" on Donald on FamilySearch. 

I was initially sceptical as the profile showed an unverifiable baptism, subsequently proven to be an Ann to a different couple.

I cannot find a baptism for Ann yet, but did indeed prove that she married John Cooper, produced two children, Euphemia and William. 

Her death cert. confirmed her parents were indeed Donald and Catherine.

As I explored the family to update my records, I found the 1851 census for the Cooper family (John, Ann and daughter Euphemia) which showed a 2 month old George McAdie grandson with them. Where did he fit?

George's baptism has not - yet - been found, nor his fate after the 1851 census, but it did make me go looking for a likely marriage for Euphemia.

Ancestry Scottish census transcripts don't show marital status, so I hadn't twigged that the Euphemia Cooper daughter of John & Ann was actually recorded as married but enumerated under her birth name.

Sure enough there was an 1850 Edinburgh marriage where  Euphemia Ann daughter of John Couper, farmer in Newton in Caithness, had married a William McAddy, joiner Both were described as resident 47 Yardhead, Leith. 

So the focus shifted to "Who was William?"

And where was he in 1851?

The only un-eliminated candidate was a joiner lodging in Glasgow in the 1851 census. 

Which entry I'd previously tagged as a potential ID for William, HM Customs Officer in London, later married to Sarah Abbot, being investigated for his missing whereabouts in 1851.

The occupation of joiner always seemed a bit of a leap between Caithness farmer's son and a London (but born Wick) HM Customs Officer, so the info had been marked as "of interest"  but unconfirmed. 

William was shown as single when he married Sarah.

What was the marital status of the 1851 joiner?

I could NOT find the FindMyPast transcript at all, but FreeCen came up trumps and showed him as married, albeit indexed as William McEadie

Great for Euphemia's William, not so great for Sarah's given his marriage cert. 

How could I check further?

What happened to Euphemia?

Newspapers reported her death in Louisburgh (Caithness) in Dec 1852, "wife of William McAdie, joiner", several years before he married Sarah.

Given they married in Nov 1850 and the census was Mar 1851, I wonder who was living at 47 Yardhead in 1851?

Bingo, thank you FindMyPast address search

One Robert McAdie, joiner, born Wick, and family, which family later emigrated to Australia.

Robert being known to have a brother William, believed to be the Customs Officer chap in London, where DNA matches between descendants of Robert and of William, Customs Officer, are adding to the ID that William is indeed the son of George McAdie and Elizabeth Rosie in Wick.

I'm convinced that Ann's daughter Euphemia married her 2nd cousin, William, their shared ancestors being George McAdie and Margaret Cooper.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

The Power of the X

The players:

A chap curious what he'd learn from testing his DNA at Ancestry.

Someone who regularly monitors new matches on Ancestry over 20cMs and any with suggested Common Ancestors, ie me, a self confessed genealogy and DNA obsessive.

Assorted tested cousins who all share the suggested common ancestors, Isaac Smith Dawe and Betsey Metters (married 1818 in Devon), plus several sharing earlier generations, only a few of whom had tested at Ancestry.

Scene setting:

2017 MyHeritage: 

A match appears to myself and two cousins whose Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA) were the above Isaac Smith Dawe and Betsey Metters (married 1818 in Devon), one son migrated to Australia, a daughter to New Zealand back in the 1850s.
The match's tree has no obvious connection, but did contain an Eliza Cook who married in New Zealand in 1911, ancestors unknown.
Cook does feature as a married surname of another daughter of Isaac and Betsey but no known migration out of the UK for the line.
No response to "hi" message.

2018: a message received from this match asking if I knew anything about her, or any, Eliza Cook and could she have access to my tree please?
Responded, sorry but nothing obvious to help other than the DNA connection looked to be back up from Isaac and Betsey's family somewhere and she could keep tabs on progress on their tree in my online regularly updated basic BDMs of rellies and connections instead, given my MyHeritage tree is far from complete, being used to record research done at that site and DNA connections.

The connections

2022 Ancestry:
A new match over 20cMs appears (the above curious player) sharing with my maternal first cousin.
His small tree includes... Eliza Cook, married NZ in 1911. Ancestry unknown.

It didn't take much to join the dots, despite finding an Eliza Cook in the extended Dawe family, living with her mother's aunt's family in still living in Lancashire in the April 1911 census.

A passenger record was found showing Eliza and her cousin Hannah Parker departing Liverpool 28th Jun 1911 destination Wellington. 
The arrival of the "Arawa" warranted several column inches in the NZ Times of 10 Aug 1911 on its arrival in Wellington as it had been in wireless contact for most of the voyage thanks to being "fitted with the very latest type of Marconi wireless telegraphic equipment" 
So somehow Eliza met up with her newfound husband and married him in within two months of arrival (it has been suggested they may have met on the voyage as he had been in South Africa for a while)    

The message

Keep track of everything, dots do join -  eventually.
The MyHeritage match turns out to be the first cousin of the new Ancestry match, and previously unknown to each other until DNA introducing them.

But wait there's more: beware what DNA can tell you

With access to the X chromosome segment data on GEDmatch and FTDNA, (but not visible on MyHeritage) this Cook link had to be my new match's father's side not his mother's, which was a bit of a surprise, but did enable identification of which side was which in the new Ancestry SideView given his ancestral composition divided into two prominent ethnicities,  clearly separated by "side".

All power to the X- and Ancestry's new SideView. 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

LivingDNA update

 I don't pay that much attention to the "ethnicity", aka Bio-geographical, estimates from the assorted companies I and many cousins have tested with as I'm having way too much fun comparing trees and mapping chromosomes to ancestral lines in order to focus on those matches that just have to be from somewhere on one or other of my brickwalls.

But a recent question on the DNA-Newbies list at Groups.IO prompted me to review if LivingDNA had added anything new into the equation with their update (about a year ago)

My original results may be found here although the link to the share within that post only seems to partially work now.

Now they look like this:

ie rather harder to distinguish visually which regions are strongest in my ancestry by their calculations.

Clicking on a region brings up a potted history of the region from the Ice Age to medieval times

The detailed breakdown by region comparison is


Feb 2020 

So I'm even more of a mongrel with less idea than before of where in particular to look to solve my brickwalls!

The Scottish groups are now more combined than they were.
I've been mining the shared matches between pairs of 2nd and 3rd cousins in our match lists for clues.
This amorphous mess of "Scottish" is well supported by practically all of these shared matches showing up as personal pile-up regions where there are an absolute heap of triangulating matches and the likely common ancestor back beyond our paper trails spreading out from the known ancestry in Perthshire / Stirlingshire to  include Argyll, Dumfriesshire and down to Lanarkshire.
And then there's that persistent percentage of Irish all companies give us - only 4% on LivingDNA 18 on Ancestry.
Every so often however I do manage to link trees of matches together and still hope that one day, I'll have some answers, or at least clues on which branch to target for yDNA or mtDNA to support my findings.

Anyone got a stray Archibald Henderson or Amelia Millar they want a home for?
Or a yDNA Jenkins or Buchanan to see where that might lead? ( yDNA testers wanted refers)

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, offer extended to 7 March.

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.