In April 2014, after much thought, I purchased a DNA test through FamilyTreeDNA. I did this with no expectation of a result, just out of curiosity. Having recently resigned from my job to spend time with my children, I had a moderately sized lump sum of money and decided to spend $299 US on a Family Finder test and an MTDNA test.
The Family Finder, as I understood it, would match my autosomal DNA with cousins of within six generations who had inherited the same DNA from an ancestor. The MTDNA test would test my mitochondrial DNA which is a type of DNA that only changes after many hundreds of years, and then in the most minute way. This comes down the direct maternal line so can help if I have an ancestor lady who had a few daughters, each of whom had daughters each of whom had daughters down to myself and another lady who has never connected with me. This appealed since the women in my family have consistently taken their husband’s surnames so female descendants can be harder to trace.
I duly purchased the tests and waited for the kit. A login was emailed instantly and I played with my FTDNA profile for a while, adding my picture, uploading my gedcom, adding my ancestor surnames, my most distant paternal and maternal names. I had fun.
I noticed for the first time that although I have some extensive and thoroughly researched branches in my tree, my maternal and paternal lines are woefully lacking. My deepest paternal ancestor was Edmund Dillane born about 1814 in Athea, County of Limerick, Ireland and the best efforts of many individual descendants have failed to make that step further back, although many have reinvented the wheel and gone over the same ground to reach the same point. They were Catholic and had a large and extended family with cousins everywhere, all with the same names. Edmund and two brothers were transported as convicts after setting fire to his father-in-law’s haystack. There seems to have been quite a mob of them. The Dillane brothers were approaching middle age at the time and left wives and children behind. In the paperwork attached to their transportation, their surname became Dillon and they kept it from then on.
On my maternal side it is even harder. I go back with full confidence to one Frances (Fanny) Fox born circa 1855, an orphan who was raised in Hanwell Orphanage in inner London. She was sent out to Australia – seemingly alone – at the age of 13 to be a domestic servant. The only reference to her parents comes from her marriage certificate. Her original marriage record does not appear to exist, the civil record is written all in one scrawly hand and states father Unknown Fox and mother Fanny Rice (or Price, the handwriting is unclear). Her death record has her age at death and no more.
The UK 1861 census shows three children in Hanwell with surname Fox. One of them was old enough to appear in the UK 1851 census where he can be found with parents Barney and Ann Fox, both born Ireland. It is possible that these are my Fanny’s parents if that Fox boy was her brother. In the 1861 census Frances Fox’s birth year is given as 1857, which would make her closer to 11 or 12 when making her basically solo journey to Australia.
I did wonder if the MTDNA test might help me solve the mystery of Fanny Fox. As to the Family Finder – I didn’t know anyone else who had tested so I didn’t think there’d be a match. My family arrived in Australia, on every side, around that 5th or 6th generation back and I was pretty sure I knew who was who. Australia wasn’t that big a place 150 years ago.
On this rather relaxed note, I waited for the kit to come through international mail to me.