Ann Livingston’s Journey to Van Diemen’s Land

 

On the 12th April 1824, the Glasgow Court of Justiciary met to deal with three months’ worth of prisoners now languishing in Glasgow awaiting trial.

Among the prisoners were our Ann Livingston aged about fourteen and her partner Alexander Stevenson, only a few years older.  The relationship between the two teenagers is not known but most likely they were either cousins or romantically connected.  Ann may not have had contact with Alexander since their incarceration but it is likely that she did. They might have had many friends to keep them informed of the other’s circumstances.

According to the book ‘A summary of the powers and duties of juries in criminal trials in Scotland‘ by William Steele published in 1833,  the crime of ‘opening lock-fast places’ means breaking into a locked or blatantly secured area while legitimately on a premises.  So this is different to breaking into a house where one is also trespassing.  Wherever they were, Alexander and Ann were allowed to be there, but they then decided to break into a room or cupboard or chest which they were not authorised to break into. The available details are very sketchy.

Ocean and birds
Ocean and birds from The Quiver 1864

 

Ann was just one of many women arrested in that quarter. Margaret Gordon, a ‘thief by habit and repute’ had been caught breaking into a house and  Maria Kelly was accused of uttering a forged note.  Margaret McTeague had been arrested along with her father for uttering several forged notes.  Margaret was five years older than Ann.  Margaret Bell was incarcerated for receiving goods from a housebreaking expedition by a group she was involved with.

 

Margaret Gordon was brought before the bar on the first day of the sessions, found guilty and sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.  Maria Kelly appeared next and was declared free.

This was the third time at least that Ann had been arrested and tried, so she probably understood the system quite well.  She was not called on that first day, but she and Alexander were the second case heard on Tuesday 13th April

There is a brief description in the Caledonian Mercury of 17th April 1824:

The court met this day at nine o’clock …Alexander Stevenson, and Ann Livingstone, accused of theft by opening lock-fast places, were found Guilty, and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. On receiving sentence, Livingstone exclaimed “I hope your Lordship will be in hell before that period.”

This is our first official record of Ann’s attitude towards anyone in authority.

There is little detail available regarding Ann’s time in jail, awaiting transportation. This was a time of bonding for many convicts whose lifelong friends in Australia can be traced back to the same ship and the same jail after their sentencing.  Ann Livingston and Margaret Gordon were soon joined by Margaret McTeague.   Ann Dunsmore, another teenager, was already in the cells with a young child of obscure description. Margaret Paisley, Janet Buchanan and Mary Little were certainly also present.  Most women had committed offenses in company with a male family member, either a husband or father. Margaret McTeague’s father had been sentenced to death.  Ann Dunsmore and Janet Buchanan had a husband also under sentence of transportation and they could probably expect to be reunited in the penal colony.

Ann’s jail report was not complimentary: a prostitute and thief, connexions of the worst description“.

The Caledonian Mercury of 11 September 1824 finally has a reference to these women:

Thursday the following female convicts arrived at our jail (Edinburgh?) from Glasgow, on their way to the hulks, preparatory to transportation, viz. – Ann Hunter or Dunsmore, Margaret McAslan or Paisley, Janet Gardner or Buchanan, Mary Little, Margaret Gordon, Margaret McTeague, and Ann Livingstone. They were the same afternoon conveyed to Leith, and embarked on board the smack Hawk, for the Thames.

 

Neptune ship
The convict ship Neptune.  Roughly similar to the Henry.

The women were transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the ship Henry.  The surgeon’s log for this journey spans the period 02 August 1824 till 01 March 1825.  Conduct reports for the convicts give an arrival date of 08 February 1825.  Ann Livingston does not appear in the summary of the surgeon’s log, however the log has not been digitized so I have not viewed the whole thing.

Shipping reports of the time all have the same brief detail, dated October 11 1824 at Deal: ‘came down the river, the ship Henry, Ferrier’ .   We know that the above women were all transported on this ship so they didn’t have long to wait.  James Ferrier was the captain.

On her conduct record, Janet Buchanan states that her husband was now at Sheerness awaiting transportation.   Ann Dunsmore says that her husband was already in the colony. The women clearly had some information about loved ones.

From the Hobart Town Gazette (“Ship News.” Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas. : 1821 – 1825) 11 Feb 1825: 2. accessed Web. 21 Feb 2016 )

SHIP NEWS

Arrived on Wednesday from England, the ship Henry, Captain Ferrier, with 79 female prisoners, who have 10 children, and 25 free women, with 23 children, the latter having been sent out at the expense of Government to join their husbands and relatives in these Colonies. The Surgeon Superintendent is Dr. Carlisle, R. N.-The Henry left the Downs the 12th of Octoher, and on her passage touched at St. Jago’s. She brings no mail, but newspapers to the 6th of October.

The Henry offloaded its cargo of convicts very quickly, keeping two convicts on board plus several of the free women who all travelled on to Port Jackson.

We don’t know Ann’s first impressions of Hobart Town. She arrived in February so the weather was probably beautiful.  The town was small, the treatment of convicts was still harsh so she may not have felt very comfortable.  Several of the convict women probably lost their children at this point, at least temporarily, with the children removed to the town orphanage.  They may not have had enough confidence in the system to believe they would see those children again.

The best thing for Ann’s descendants is that she has now arrived where the record keeping was quite good – especially good with regard to our Ann who soon made herself known to the authorities.

Mt Wellington from the west
West side of Mt Wellington in the clouds Jan 2014, a light rain falling. This was a different century but the season in which Ann arrived (summer). 

 

 

Ann Livingston of Paisley – her early years

FineCreamGin
‘Gin Parlour’ by the Religious Tract Society 1854 artist not credited

Ann Livingston was one of the many colourful characters of early Hobart and New Norfolk. As an ancestor she is a fascinating subject for research. She was probably quite difficult to be around, but her indomitable spirit comes through very clearly.

Her earliest days are still shrouded in mystery.  Most likely, Ann herself had no idea of her precise birthplace or birth year. The event occurred around 1809 in Renfrewshire in Scotland, maybe somewhere near Paisley since this is where we first find her.

The town of Paisley is an easy twelve miles from Glasgow.  In 1810 it was called a town. One 1823 edition of the Encylclopaedia Britannica says ‘The whole population of Renfrewshire amounted to 78,000 in 1801, of which Paisley alone contained much more than a third, and in 1811 it was 92,596.”  It was a region of growing population and shrinking industry.

At the turn of the 19th century the main industries of Paisley were agriculture, cotton and minerals. Many of the local families contained sailors and fishermen.  We can glean some idea of life there from books and newspapers of the time which might help to identify Ann’s early experiences.  The region was assessed  in 1811 for the British government by one John Wilson, and his report was published a year later.  In his chapter on new infrastructure, Wilson describes the region’s canal development as follows:

Paisley Canal
General View of the Agriculture of Renfrewshire 1812, drawn up for the consideration of the Great Britain Board of Agriculture by John Wilson

John Wilson undertook his contracted duty with diligence and attention to detail, but clearly his instructions were to identify and assess the county’s wealth and future financial prospects.  Knowing the future of Scotland and its smallholders, we can see the beginnings of their end in reports such as this.   After noting the ruined castles which dotted the region, his assessment is quite pessimistic.

Farmhouses
General View of the Agriculture of Renfrewshire 1812, drawn up for the consideration of the Great Britain Board of Agriculture by John Wilson p61

So just what does John Wilson mean by this?  Basically that the farmers are of too low a class to be worth better housing.  In another few pages he begins to explain:

FarmersThree

Finally, we have a description of the poor people of the region.

PoorofRenfrew
Wilson page 80

It’s a very impersonal and clinical description but we can begin to see the situation.  There were itinerant workers and families without support. The farmers were barely hanging on to their homes, the canal had failed to provide egress for trade and there was very little in place to support poor people.

Ann has a local surname. There were Livingstons scattered right across this region but they don’t seem to fit into a coherent family.  The Napoleonic wars had taken many men, put an end to a lot of trade.  Somewhere, Ann had a biological father and mother, but perhaps her father was a soldier and not present in her life?  Perhaps her mother was one of the semi-nomadic seasonal workers referenced above who became pregnant to a local man?  Until a baptism record is found we have no idea at all.

 

Paisley Abbey
Paisley Abbey from North West © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (creativecommons dot org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

After this very emotionless description, we can examine newspaper reports for more detail.  The following excerpts are a small sample involving events around Paisley but they show the situation clearly – people surviving any way they can, children left alone while the parents are working, regiments coming and going and the need to constantly watch out for fraud in every transaction.  This was the world for Ann Livingston as she grew from baby years into comprehending childhood.

1807: Alexander Taylor, [surgeon’s apprentice] and Matthew Smith, gardener, both of Paisley, were accused of the murder of an infant child. The indictment accused Smith of having taken from Agnes Kelly, on the street of Paisley, a female child of between two and three months old ...  (Scots Magazine 01 Feb 1807)

From the Caledonian Mercury 20 Feb 1812)

A number of disorderly women and vendors of base coin have been taken into custody, and sentenced to solitary confinement in the Bridewell (Glasgow).

Tuesday this week, the Berwickshire Regiment of Militia marched from Queensberry-House Barracks for Paisley.

A female swindler, of decent appearance, upon Friday last came to lodge in a house in Leith St. She pretended she had come on the coach from Falkirk and that her husband was an officer in the navy whom she expected to arrive hourly by the road.  On Tuesday afternoon the lady decamped, taking with her a large number of valuable items from the house. 

1812 (all from the Caledonian Mercury 16 Nov 1812):

John Cochran, carter, was tried for cutting away the land-fasts of a vessel moored at the Broomielaw, and selling them for old rope ….

James Crawford, a deaf and dumb man, was attacked between Glasgow and Paisley by three foot-pads, cut and abused very much, and robbed of a silver watch ….

A man in Paisley was robbed of ninepence and a pair of new shoes, which the villains took off his feet after cruelly abusing him ….

Two children in separate towns, both very young, were burned to death this week in singularly similar circumstances.  In each case the fathers were absent on business and the mothers had gone out to raise potatoes ….

(from the Caledonian Mercury 06 Apr 1814)

On Wednesday last, a Paisley gentleman left Glasgow betwixt nine and ten o’clock to walk home. On the way, three men sprung out from the Plantation west gate, one of whom grappled the gentleman by the collar and attempted to trip him; while the other two struck him with sticks over the head and brought him to the ground.  While in this situation two of them proceeded to rifle his pockets while the third held a pistol within a few inches of his face. Not one of them during the whole transaction ever uttered a word ….

And then, seemingly a long way off in Manchester, England, came an event now known as the Peterloo Massacre.

Wikipedia (2016) describes it this way:

The Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

At the time of the Peterloo Massacre, Ann Livingston was about ten years old. The event sent shockwaves across Great Britain.  Men and women from all walks of life united in protest.  News travelled and protesters mobilized.

 

Paisley Renfrewshire
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland By Sarah Q from Northern, NJ, United States (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
From the Morning Post of 11 September 1819:

In the course of last week a bill, with a mourning border, calling a meeting for Saturday of the inhabitants of Paisley and its vicinity to take into consideration the late proceedings at Manchester, was circulated in the above district. But when the hour of meeting came, three o’clock in the afternoon, it was found necessary owing to the inclemency of the weather to postpone, for the rain fell in torrents. The Meeting stands postponed until Saturday.

The Public Ledger of 17 September 1819 tells us a little more (much abbreviated):

The postponed meeting .. took place on Saturday last .. about two miles southwest of Paisley. The day was fine and the numbers assembled was great, perhaps from 10,000 to 12,000. All the speakers were dressed in mourning .. numerous speakers .. angry tirades on the character and conduct of the Manchester magistrates .. 

In consequence of what is not known, but all the town hall windows were broken and the mob had not dispersed at half past 11. The Sheriff and the constables were grossly insulted, and assailed with stones while parading the streets. A considerable number of rioters were taken into custody. 

The following day was reported as follows also by the Public Ledger:

On Sunday the scene of riot and outrage was renewed in Paisley. During the day a number of persons assembled in the streets.  By seven o’clock their numbers had greatly increased and they proceeded to open violence. The Sheriff Deputy was knocked down, kicked and left insensible. Many other respectable individuals were assaulted and abused, and their houses damaged.  It was found necessary to read the Riot Act and call out the military. The constables with patrols of soldiers searched the streets and the town is again tranquil. 

This blog is not about the Paisley Riots but since our Ann was in the middle of this event, it undoubtedly had a huge impact on her.  One letter writer of the time described the town as for the whole of that Sunday having a ‘very threatening aspect’.  By that Sunday night there were rumours of large crowds marching out from Glasgow to join the fray. Very few residents would have slept well that night.

The Yorkshire Gazette of 25 September 1819 gives the end of the story.

At Glasgow, a number of villains who had collected in the Green, with a view to joining the rioters in Paisley, returned to Glasgow after having been, three miles out of the town, joined at the New Bridge by a crowd of about 8,000, who paraded the streets for some time. It being represented to the magistrates that a riot would take place .. two troops were fetched from Hamilton. About nine o’clock the riot act was read and the cavalry called out.  About 100 persons were arrested and sent to the Police Office. 

The unrest went on for days, involving vandalism of anything made of glass, stone throwing and attacks with sticks.  Shops stayed closed for a week.  Eventually it  settled down, with the jails completely full and the military still out on full alert.

Flare-ups continued for months and nothing improved for those without money.  The newspapers are full of robberies, murders and abandoned babies. We have no idea what was happening to Ann in these years but given her personality later on, she was probably learning by now to watch out for herself.  These were undoubtedly tough and lonely years.

According to Ann’s later statement, her first stint in Paisley Jail was for one fortnight when she was aged about twelve years.  Her second was for eight months in the same place for housebreaking.  Hopefully a record will show up one day for these periods of incarceration.  After her release from jail the second time, she was aged about thirteen, maybe fourteen.

At the time of her third arrest in early 1824 at the age of fourteen, her occupation is recorded as ‘prostitute’.  Ann and 18 year old Alexander Stevenson, also of Paisley, were caught ‘opening lock-fast places’ in Glasgow. They were placed in Glasgow prison to await trial at the April sessions.

 

A Hundred Thousand Unknown Cousins – Another DNA tip

St John the Baptist Ouse
St John the Baptist cemetery at Ouse, Tasmania, Australia, September 2015

I grew up with second, third, fourth and fifth cousins on my father’s side.  That degree of kinship was an acknowledged relationship in our town and fifth cousin didn’t feel so far from the nuclear family.  We all knew how we and those around us fitted into the greater family unit.

This was the family view I had as a child.  With little understanding of history it never occurred to me that our emigrating ancestors left siblings behind in their home countries – or had siblings who emigrated to different continents.  My known family was quite unaware of the bulk of our extended cousinry (apparently this is a word) who had scarcely even heard of Australia.

As a counterbalance to this family experience, my mother’s family is completely different. Her paternal line is a two hundred year story of orphanages, boarding schools and foster homes.  The teenage orphans often met their future spouses through the orphan-care system, further compounding the genealogical challenges.

Ship

The young orphans even lost sight of their own brothers and sisters.  There are no family stories from long ago, no photographs, no idea whether people were named after earlier family members or if they were named by the orphanage staff.   These families travelled broadly.  Their orphan experiences left them unrooted and emotionally free to chase the work wherever it could be found.  They travelled from South Australia to Western Australia to New South Wales to Victoria.   They scattered far and wide, one child settling in the south and his/her sibling in the north.  I really needed DNA testing to help me here because these orphans as adults were also painstakingly law-abiding.  A criminal record is a wonderful genealogical aid but I found no such thing with these ancestors.

It seemed quite reasonable to me that I should know who all my cousins are at least to the fifth-cousin relation.  For many years, I thought I was doing well.  Then I discovered genetic genealogy and realised what a fantasy world I’d been living in.  I’ve said this before and it strikes me anew every few weeks.

At present, my parents’ profiles show the following matches:

DNA Match update

What does this tell me?  Firstly that through my parents I have 35 quite close cousins whose names mean absolutely nothing to me.  It’s disturbing enough to have 140 3rd-5th cousins that I don’t know, but much worse to have that 35 in the closer range.  Some have trees, most don’t.  Very few of these cousins are in Australia. Some have responded to email and told me they are adoptees.  Some have very good trees, as good as I try to make mine, but we have no common family anywhere within them. It can be very disheartening.

However, I have learned a thing or two in the 2 years since I first tested.

Don’t panic.  THE FTDNA ESTIMATES ARE A ROUGH GUIDE, at least as far as my own family is concerned.  For instance, consider the following four cousin matches in my mother’s profile.

DNA Match sample

The first one is actually now a confirmed 3rd cousin.  Look at those figures – 128.82cM shared and the longest block is 34.27cM.  A match like this really does belong in the 2nd-4th cousin category.  This is the only match I have ever seen of this strength among my random matches. I have two more but I put them there myself.   If you are Australian, test your DNA and find that kind of match, you are very very very fortunate!

Now compare it to the second one.  She is also a predicted 2nd-4th cousin match but the total shared cM is 49.07cM.  This is vastly different to the one above.  The reason she has this relationship prediction is the longest block – 30.48cM is quite a big portion to come down unchanged to both my mother and to herself.  Statistically, you would expect that chunk to break up.  But it hasn’t.

In my experience, with my own family, large chunks seem to be coming down from a long way back.  For my own lineage this is not a good indicator of relationship.  This lady has a very good tree and each of us have an ancestral line to the same little village in Sussex. Assuming an NPE (either way) at the most recent period of common residence would make her a fifth cousin to my mother.  Were it not for that long block, she would have been placed in the 3rd-5th cousin range anyway.  The more of your known family that you test, the more you can find which inheritance patterns hold for your own DNA.

Page break

The third match is a predicted 3rd-5th cousin but she only shares 35.06cM.  The longest block is 18.10cM which is a decent size segment.  I have absolutely no idea where this lady fits, she has not responded to an email and she has provided no tree but she does have a list of surnames, none of which match mine.  There are no locations provided.  I can therefore only guess, but I suspect she is around the 6th cousin level and the 18.10cM match has brought the prediction closer.  I might be wrong, but when faced with page after page of mysteries we have to make some initial assessment.

The final match here is a predicted 3rd-5th cousin but he actually shares more DNA with my mother than all her 2nd-4th predictions other than the identified third cousin. 72.60cM seems like a lot to me! He has been placed in this category because of the smaller longest block of 15.34cM.  The algorithm therefore places him here instead of closer.

Comparing the second match (49.07cM) and the fourth match (72.60cM), which seems like the closer relative?  His longest matching block is half the length of the lady’s, but I still think he will turn out to be a closer relation to my mother.  Unfortunately he has no provided ancestral details at all and also has not responded to my email.

This does not make FtDNA’s algorithm wrong.  It’s just that they are trying for a single best fit when faced with greatly varying inheritance patterns.  We can all work with this as a starting point, then adjusting based on the trends we have spotted for ourselves.

As a last illustration, here is my daughter’s chromosome 15 match with myself in orange (her mother) and my father in blue (her grandfather).  It’s identical. An unchanged 118.07cM across three generations.  That’s going to skew some DNA prediction in a hundred years time.

Chrom 15 3 gens

 

 

My point here for those who are struggling to identify relations is not to confine your investigation to the predicted range.  I’ve received emails from people who do this, in the interests presumably of family privacy.  If I am a 2nd-4th cousin match they will look for my ancestors in their ‘great’ to ‘3 x great’ grandparent range and not a generation further.  They will then tell me that it must be a false positive because we don’t share ancestors in that range.  But I might share 4 x great grandparents or further out.

The more remote the relation, the less certain you can be that you have it correct, but paper records can help from that point.  Remote DNA matches are good pointers, they give us clues about which physical record collections to search in.  That quite distant match can be pencilled into the tree with a question mark.  You don’t want to forget it entirely until it can be confirmed or refuted.

If you are only after close relatives that’s fine, no need to take this step.  But if you are about to give up because you can’t resolve the matches, please look that bit further first.

Don’t feel you are getting it wrong because you can’t place many cousins.  I’m pretty sure we are all experiencing the same thing here, especially those of us in Australia.   It’s a big big challenge but we don’t need to make it worse by focusing too narrowly. The more cousins we place, the easier it will be to place the rest.  It can’t be rushed.

Have  a cup of tea and take a few minutes to sort the matches in different ways.  If nothing jumps out, leave it for a week and try again.  Keep the surname list or tree updated if possible.  No pressure, really.  Something will come of it sometime.

cup of tea

 

 

 

 

Genetic Genealogy – A Forest Full of Trees

 

Tasmaniaforblog
Trees of all sorts – living, dead, standing, fallen, bushy, skeletal, rambling, well-defined.  What better metaphor could I find?

I have received four emails recently from four completely unconnected people, all of whom have said they are giving up work on their DNA test.  It’s too complicated, it’s too uncertain, it’s all just too ….  big.

I most certainly understand – I’m there too, for a few minutes at least each time I log in and see potential leads which go nowhere.  But a result is possible, and the last thing I want is for my newly discovered cousins to declare themselves defeated just when I am working on my own tree.

DNA testing has now entered mainstream genealogy.  When I first tested with FamilyTree DNA back in March 2014, I was getting a new cousin match every couple of weeks.  Now I’m getting about six new cousin matches every week.  Each week there’s a new hope that I might identify a connection, confirm an ancestor and know from whom I inherited a particular segment of DNA.  I don’t expect to know all my new cousins, but you would think I might get lucky with some!  After all, I have a big tree and I’m trying to be as accurate as I can.   The more tests there are, the more chance of a breakthrough.  But testing alone won’t achieve this.

Chemistry1900
Image from ‘A Text-Book of Inorganic Chemistry’ by G S Newth,Longmans Green and Co London, 1902 Figure 44 page 209

Genetics is a complicated business.  It really is an exact science but there are so many factors that the exactness seems to be hidden behind a random mess.  Genealogy is very similar, a complicated puzzle which resolves perfectly when that missing detail is finally located. Once the whole story is presented, we wonder why we didn’t see it before.

I’m going to give my tips for working with FamilyTree DNA tests, just in case they help someone.  People are different, maybe what works for my family won’t work for others. But it might.  If it does, the whole thing may seem less daunting.  This might take a few blog posts.

HeadstoneRebeccaClarke
After hours of searching a neglected cemetery, we found enough pieces to obtain a death date and a birth year.  Genetic genealogy can give similarly useful clues.

BEFORE TESTING

Why are you testing?  Just to see who is out there? To meet new relatives, break down brick walls, confirm ‘best guesses’ in your tree?  Or are there more specific objectives?  To find an unknown parent or siblings? To confirm that a Y-DNA match shared an ancestor within the last six generations?  To ascertain which of your great grandfather’s two wives was your own great grandmother?

If you are testing for a very specific purpose, you may think you have made this clear to all matches by keeping your profile blank – but you haven’t.  Others will just assume you have not gotten around to adding the details.  It’s best to post a message on the test profile politely stating that the test was undertaken as part of a specific project and not for general genealogical purposes.  Or set the test to profile so it doesn’t drive us all mad with it’s potential to break down our brick wall!

 

NASTY SURPRISES

Arrest
Some events are remembered but not spoken of.

Having the management of ten DNA kits, there has so far been one complicated surprise, two slightly awkward revelations from the 1870s and one from the 1850s.

Some of us know our families well.  We might know, for instance, that a neighbour is rumoured to be the child of our uncle the family black sheep.  If we know this we won’t be very surprised to learn that he fathered another child a year earlier.  This might still be awkward but it won’t change our perception of that uncle of ours. But if the uncle was a loving and devoted husband it might be more difficult to accept.

What if there’s an unexpected sibling?  The past century has seen adoption, war babies, free love, communes, and both sperm and egg donors.   Someone is going to find relatives where they shouldn’t have any.  That someone might be you and it might take diplomacy and great discretion to pave a way through.  Some of those unresponsive DNA tests in our match lists are probably a result which shocked the test taker.

DNA testing will provide the truth with no regard for cherished illusions. I have no idea if there are statistics on this, but the odds are slightly in favour of uncovering secrets. Those of unknown or suspect parentage are very likely to DNA test.

Forewarned is forearmed. Many people find exactly what they expected all along, no rude shocks at all.

 

WHO ARE THE COMMON ANCESTORS?

We all have our own ways of doing this part.

DNA testing matches us to our cousins but it’s up to us to find the common link.  My first cousins share a grandparent with me, probably two but not necessarily.  My second cousins share a great grandparent.

There is software that does this, but I made myself a table.  Manually constructing the table helped me think it through. This is my mother’s relations and the ancestors are listed from paternal down to maternal.  So to be my mother’s second cousin, you would need to descend from one of the four couples in the second column.

Cousin list

If FtDNA suggests that someone is a 2nd-4th cousin, they ought to have an ancestor who appears in the 4th cousin section at least of my list.

The more unknowns in this list, the less chance of identifying matches.  But the list still helps. Every few months I can update a name in here.

 

WHERE ARE THEY FROM?

Location is everything.  Here is one branch of my ancestry, one with multiple records and confirmed DNA matches.

Regions

I might not have any matches who share an ancestor surnamed Wookey, but I might have several who have ancestors from West Harptree.  If I can’t find any common ancestor this is the next thing to look at.  West Harptree was a little village and after several generations most of the inhabitants were some degree of relation to each other.  This means they all shared DNA.  If a proposed 5th cousin has ancestry in West Harptree, we probably need to look in that location and go back a few more generations.

The same holds true for Fermoy, Cork, Ireland.  The Peards, Gumbletons, Woodleys, Conners and Leahys married into each other’s families for three centuries.  If someone has an ancestor from Fermoy – or more specifically Castlelyons or Mitchelstown – then we have a 75% chance of a match there, maybe higher.  Finding it may take us back more generations than expected because of the many cousin marriages, but it’s probably there.

It helps enormously to put the location on FtDNA with the test kit.  Names are good but locations are – as I said – EVERYTHING.  ‘Unknown’ from East Harptree finds a DNA match much faster than ‘Samuel Wookey’ from nowhere specific.

IT’S A SLOW PROCESS

Genealogical research for most of us in ongoing.  We learn new facts all the time, we learn new name spellings, find more children, realise we took a wife’s name from an incorrect source, discover that the eldest son was born before the parents could possibly have met.  This is the way of research and not a problem.   As a result, people might have their trees wrong.  We might, our matches might.  That information just might get corrected as more records are digitized or the tree owner finally gets to make that trip to the ancestral home.  We might convince a cousin to test with spectacular results, or we might just have to sit for a year or two as remote matches trickle into our match list, waiting for the one. It’s a bit like the old idea of marriage, going through life trying to make oneself perfect so when we meet the one, we will be properly attractive to them.

What we do here is very similar, but the one is now that person with the right DNA who also holds the family bible/oral history/photo album that can confirm a connection which has eluded everyone else.  We all know they are out there – it keeps us going.  When their test shows up in our match list we’ll have that Eureka moment.

Maybe that person exists, maybe they don’t.  All we can do is work on our own trees and provide enough information to assist but not obfuscate.

We can do it!

ORderly trees
A nicely defined row of trees at Osterley Sept 2015