Mary Hickey (1819 – 1890), my third great grandmother, came to South Australia in 1840 on the “Birman” with her sister Julia (1817 – 1884) and brother Michael (1812 – 1840) and Michael’s wife and their two young children. Michael died on the voyage; his wife and children returned to Ireland. In 1843 Mary Hickey married Gordon Mainwaring, a farmer.
Although I have found records for Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey in Australia I have not been able to trace her origins in Ireland. It is possible however that DNA may provide clues to more information about Mary Hickey and my Hickey forebears
My father has a DNA match with JW on ancestry.com. They share 21 centimorgans of DNA across 2 segments. JW is my father’s sixth cousin once removed. Their most recent common ancestors are Godfrey Massy (1711 – 1766), a clergyman, and his wife Margaret Baker; Godfrey and Margaret are my father’s sixth great grandparents. The amount of DNA shared is rather a lot for such distant cousins but not impossible. However, there may be a closer connection.
My father and JW uploaded their DNA to GEDMatch, a site that enables users to analyse and compare their DNA results. AncestryDNA uses algorithms to remove components of a match in cases where the company believes that the shared DNA may be due to general population inheritance rather than a genealogical relationship. On GEDMatch my father and JW share three segments of DNA on chromosome 3 totalling 37.6 centimorgans. They also share 49.4 centimorgans across two segments on chromosome 23, the X chromosome.
My father inherited his X chromosome from his mother, and a Y chromosome from his father. My father’s mother inherited her two X chromosomes from each of her parents but her father inherited his X chromosome only from his mother. Inheritance on the X chromosome thus has a distinctive pattern.
Godfrey Massy is shown on the fan chart highlighted in purple with an arrow pointing to his position. When the fan chart is overlaid with the X DNA inheritance path it can be seen that Godfrey Massy can not be the source of the DNA shared between JW and my father on chromosome 23.
JW’s great great grandmother was Ann Hickey born in County Limerick in about 1823 who married James Massy in about 1841. James Massy was the great grandson of Godfrey Massy. James and Ann had a son Michael (1842 – 1888) and a daughter Margaret born 1844. Ann Massy nee Hickey died about 1845 and James remarried to a woman called Mary. In 1847, by his second wife he had a daughter they called Mary. James Massy, his second wife and his three children emigrated to Queensland on the Florentia, arriving in April 1853. James’s wife Mary died during the voyage. The shipping record states that James Massy was aged 30 (born about 1823), was born in Limerick, was a carpenter, a Roman Catholic, and could read and write.
The X DNA inheritance for JW shows that she could have inherited some of her chromosome 23 from her great great grandmother Ann Massy nee Hickey. My father and JW also both share DNA with matches who have Hickeys from Limerick in their family tree.
While exploring records for Hickeys of County Limerick I came across a series of records for a woman called Bridget Hickey of Sallymount who had applied for a Poverty Relief Loan. One of the guarantors was a James Massy, the other was named William Kennedy. It could be a coincidence, but perhaps Bridget was related to Ann Hickey, the wife of James Massy.
The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor.’ In November 1843 Bridget Hickey, shopkeeper of Sallymount, received £4 principal on which 20 shillings interest was payable. Six years later, in 1849, Bridget Hickey, James Massy, and William Kennedy were served with a notice stating that Bridget had neglected to pay most of the amount owing . They were obliged to appear in the Sessions-House of Castle Connell.
On the reverse side of the notice it is noted that Bridget Hickey was dead and was the sister of James Massy and of William Kennedy. I interpret this to mean she was the sister-in-law of James Massy, the sister of Ann Hickey.
In a return to the Clerk of the Peace signed 5 March 1853 – a document associated with Bridget Hickey’s loan – James Massy, a fishing rod maker, is reported as having left for Australia in November last. This fits with his Australian arrival on the Florentia in April 1853; the Florentia departed from Plymouth on November 22. The trade of fishing rod-maker, of course, is not too distant from that of carpentry. In that time and place, fishing pole manufacture was not an ordinary trade. Fishing could be an upper class pursuit and a maker of fishing poles could have an intermediate status in the class structure, like an estate agent or a gamekeeper.
In the same return Bridget Hickey is stated to be a pauper last seen about November in the City of Limerick. The report of her death in 1849 seems to have been incorrect.
I am reasonably confident that James Massy, husband of Ann Hickey, is in some way connected to Bridget Hickey. Ann and Bridget were probably sisters. Bridget Hickey and James Massy lived in either of the adjoining townlands of Ballynacourty and Sallymount, parish of Stradbally. Given the likely DNA connection between Anne Massy nee Hickey and Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey, I intend to look for the family of Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey in the adjoining townlands of Ballynacourty and Sallymount, parish of Stradbally.
This afternoon I watched a Legacy Family Tree webinar (recorded) by Dr Blaine Bettinger, a genetic genealogist, about a DNA technique used to map the segments of DNA that a person does not share with a match. A match, of course, is definable as a string or strings of DNA common to two people. But what about the DNA that they do not share? Can it tell us anything?
Blaine Bettinger showed how, by using DNA information from close relatives such as parents or siblings, we can work out where pieces of DNA came from: how they were inherited. The technique is called deductive mapping, inverse mapping, or inferred mapping.
The key is to recognise that on the chromosome you inherited from your father, your DNA comes either from your paternal grandfather or your paternal grandmother. Similarly, the DNA from your mother comes either from your maternal grandfather or your maternal grandmother.
If you find DNA on the chromosome that you inherited from your father that did not come from your paternal grandfather then it must have come from your paternal grandmother. The principle applies equally to matches on your mother’s side.
I was very keen to put this new technique to the test on my husband Greg’s DNA. Luckily, Greg’s brother Dennis had tested his DNA, and I was able to use his matches in combination with Greg’s. The first match I reviewed was Greg and Dennis’s paternal aunt Betty.
My hypothesis was that for segments of DNA where Dennis shares DNA with Aunt Betty and Greg does not share DNA with Aunt Betty, those segments must have been inherited from Greg and Dennis’s paternal grandmother, Peter’s mother Elizabeth Cross.
All segments on Greg and Dennis’s paternal chromosomes were either inherited from their paternal grandfather Cecil Young or from their paternal grandmother Elizabeth Cross. If Dennis shared a segment with his Aunt Betty, he inherited that segment from Cecil. If Greg did not share that same segment with his Aunt Betty, then he did not inherit that segment from Cecil. He must have inherited the segment from his paternal grandmother Elizabeth Cross.
Using the tools at MyHeritage DNA I was easily able to extract the segment data of the DNA shared by Greg and his Aunt Betty. They share 138.5 centimorgans of DNA across 19 segments. I scrolled down to the chromosome browser on the match screen and clicked on “Advanced Options” on the right side of the screen and then clicked on “Download shared DNA info”.
This gave me a spreadsheet and I was able to copy and paste the data into DNA Painter (I have written about chromosome mapping with DNA Painter at DNA Painter – a new tool). I created a new profile for this exercise as I did the calculations.
I then extracted the segment data for Dennis and Betty.
I then mapped Dennis and Betty’s match at DNA Painter. So I could see Greg and Betty’s match lined up against Dennis and Betty’s, I mapped it as a maternal match. I then looked for the visual clues of segment mismatch. I have highlighted these segment mismatches with green arrows. There were eight segments where Dennis shared DNA with Aunt Betty that Greg did not. (There were also segments that Greg shared and Dennis did not but for the moment we are concentrating on Greg’s chromosome mapping.) Four of these were complete segments and four partial segments.
I took the spreadsheet of Greg and Betty’s shared segments and pasted beside it Dennis and Betty’s shared segments so I could compare them.
I then highlighted the whole segment mismatches in green and the partial segment matches in purple.
I then added the four segments that were inferred to have been inherited by Greg from Elizabeth to the DNA Painter profile. I only needed to add the chromosome number and the start location and end location.
For the purposes of chromosome mapping I did not need the additional data concerning RSID start and end, the number of centimorgans, or SNPs.
When previewing the segments I got a warning from DNA Painter about match segments being overlaid and that I might have already mapped these segments.
When I tried to save the match, DNA Painter told me that there was an overlap with the segments I had already painted of Dennis’s match with Aunt Betty.
The next challenge was to calculate the partial segments where Dennis shared some DNA with Aunt Betty that Greg did not at the beginning or end of a segment. I first did the calculation for Chromosome 5. The segment Dennis shared with Aunt Betty extended beyond the segment Greg shared with Aunt Betty. In the spreadsheet calculations for inferring the DNA Greg inherited from Elizabeth Cross, I copied the end location data for Greg’s segment match with Aunt Betty and the end location data for Dennis’s segment match with Aunt Betty. This created the segment that Dennis shared with Aunt Betty and Greg did not.
I painted that segment successfully. The black arrow highlights the segment Greg does not share with Betty and can thus be inferred to have been inherited from Elizabeth Cross. Underneath can be seen that Dennis shares that segment with Betty.
I repeated the exercise for chromosome 11. This time Dennis shares DNA with Betty and Greg does not before the segment Greg shares with Betty. So the calculation involved the start location of Dennis being the start location of the inferred segment and the start location of Greg’s match with Betty being the end location of the inferred segment.
I repeated the exercise of inferring segments for the remaining two segments.
I was confident in the logic of the results of this deductive chromosome mapping exercise and added the inferred segments to Greg’s DNA chromosome map. Before this exercise I had mapped 40% of Greg’s DNA with 161 segments being assigned. After adding these 8 segments 41% with 169 segments assigned. I have now mapped 54% of Greg’s paternal chromosome with 94 segments assigned.
I look forward to continuing the exercise and filling in more gaps.
By assigning inferred segments to either the paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother or on the maternal chromosome to either the maternal grandfather or maternal grandmother, I may be able to use the information to deduce how a DNA match links to Greg’s family tree based on the segment shared, even if that match does not have a family tree link to Greg.
A chromosome map is not just a colourful diagram. It’s a useful tool for exploring how DNA matches might be related. Information about the descent of a DNA segment, even if the segment is not directly shared by matches, could help you to calculate their shared ancestry.
The genealogy company MyHeritage recently announced it had refreshed the data for its ‘Theory of Family Relativity™’, a tool that computes hypothetical family relationships from historical records and DNA matches. It does this by ‘…incorporating genealogical information from [its] collections of nearly 10 billion historical records and family tree profiles, to offer theories on how you and your DNA Matches might be related.
In yesterday’s webinar I looked at a MyHeritage theory of the relationship between my husband Greg and his cousin Pearl. MyHeritage suggests that Pearl is Greg’s second cousin once removed. This is confirmed by the historical records. Greg and Pearl have well-developed and reliable family trees, so it wasn’t difficult to calculate the relationship.
It’s hard to say what’s new in MyHeritage’s new Theory. It’s possible that new ways of massaging the data have been developed, but it seems more likely that, with larger volumes of data being processed to develop Theories, ‘new’ simply means more, as in ‘newly-added’.
Anyway, I thought I’d give it a try.
MyHeritage’s announcement included a note advising users that ‘If we have found new theories for you in this update, you’ll see a banner about the Theory of Family Relativity™ at the top of your DNA Matches page. Click “View theories” to see all the theories we’ve found, both old and new.’
I couldn’t find this banner, but I eventually found my way to the filters on the DNA results page where by using the “All tree details” filter, I could select “Has Theory of Family Relativity™”
My husband Greg has 14 matches with theories. Back in March 2019 I counted 7 matches with theories so I looked at this list of matches again to see if I can learn anything new. In March 2019 Greg had 4313 DNA matches at MyHeritage. Now he has 6399, 50% more.
Several of the 14 matches in the list were matches I had not previously reviewed. I decided to look at S, whose DNA kit is managed by T from Canada.
Greg and S share 35 centimorgans across 1 segment. MyHeritage estimates them to be 3rd to 5th cousins. S appears in a family tree with 250 people. S is the 4th cousin of Greg according to the Theory of Family Relativity™. Ancestral surnames appearing in both trees include Dawe; Daw and Smith. Ancestral places common to Greg and S include Great Britain and Ireland.
I clicked on View Theory which I have highlighted with the green arrow.
There are three paths to support the theory that Greg and S are 4th cousins.
The first path uses 3 websites: my tree, a tree by B R from Australia and the third website the tree by T who administers the DNA kit for S. MyHeritage states “This path is based on 3 MyHeritage family trees, with 55% confidence”
The link is William Smith Dawe (1810-1977), Greg’s third great grandfather. I have on my tree that he is married to Mary Way (1811 – 1861). B R’s tree has William’s dates (1819 – 1877) and has William’s wife as Elizabeth Hocken 1821 – 1884 and the daughter of William and Elizabeth as Thirza Dawe 1824 – 1891. Thirza is the great great grandmother of S.
MyHeritage thinks the probability that the two William Smith Dawe’s on my tree and B R’s tree is 100% despite the differing birth dates. MyHeritage thinks the probability that Thirza Daw on B R’s tree is the same Thirza Daw on T’s tree is only 55%. I clicked on the small 55% immediately above the green letter b and got the following pop-up.
There are several problems with this first path of the theory calculated by MyHeritage. I don’t believe our William had two wives and Thirza born 1824 would have been born when William and Elizabeth were extremely young. I know this family does have common names and these are repeated across several generations. There are also several cousin marriages in this branch of the tree.
I looked at the second path to see if it is more plausible. MyHeritage states “This path is based on 4 MyHeritage family trees, with 70% confidence.”
The four trees are mine and the tree by T who administers the DNA kit for S plus a tree by JS from Australia and a tree by MT from Australia.
This path goes from Greg’s great grandmother Sarah Jane Way (1863 – 1898) to her mother Sarah Way née Daw (1837 – 1895). The Daw surname sometimes is spelt with an extra e as in the tree by J S. From Sarah Dawe on J S’s tree we go to Sarah Ellen Dawe (1837 – 1895) on the tree by M T. I am not sure where the middle name came from. I don’t recall it on any document. I will check the documents I have.
M T’s tree has the parents of Sarah Ellen Dawe as Betsey Metters 1792 – 1863 and Isaac Smith Dawe 1795 – 1851. From Isaac we link to T’s tree. He shows Isaac Smith Dawe 1797 – 1851 and Betsy Metters (Matters) 1792 – 1863 as the parents of Thirza Daw 1824 – 1891, the great grandmother of S.
This theory seems more plausible to me, but I need to verify this against source documents. At the links between the trees MyHeritage assigns a confidence level. Most of the links are 100% but MyHeritage is only 70% confident that Sarah Dawe in J S’s tree is the same person as Sarah Ellen Dawe in the tree by M T.
I clicked on the 70% and got the popup showing the comparison which gives additional detail from both trees. The difference is that the tree by J S has no parents has no parents but the tree by M T has Sarah Ellen Way’s parents as Isaac Smith Dawe and Betsy Metters. M T’s Sarah Ellen Daw has the same dates and places of birth and death as the Sarah Daw in my tree. I have plenty of documents to back up that sarah’s parents were not Isaac and Betsy but instead Isaac’s brother William Smith Daw.
This theory almost but not quite adds up. The need to go across several surnames is because of the spelling variations between Daw and Dawe. In my tree I have spelled the surname without a final ‘e’. I think MyHeritage has placed too much emphasis on the surname variation and not enough on other variations.
The third path “…is based on one community tree and 4 MyHeritage family trees, with 52% confidence”.
This path uses our tree, the tree by Greg’s cousin Pearl, a tree managed by S R from Great Britain, Family Search Family Tree, and the tree by T who administers the DNA kit for S.
Pearl’s tree provides the link between Sarah Daw on our tree spelt without an e to Sarah Dawe with an e and from there to her father William Dawe – surname with a final e. From there the link is to S R’s tree with William Smith Dawe (1810 – 1877), MyHeritage are only 72% confident they have the right man. William Dawe is not a direct forebear of Pearl and she has not provided many details for him in her tree.
S R shows Thirza Dawe (1824 – 1891) as the daughter of William Smith Dawe. From there the link is to FamilySearch Family Tree but with only 52% confidence. I clicked on the 53% to find out why MyHeritage is not confident they have the same person.
There are some important differences. The dates are the same and the place name variations are minor. FamilySearch, however, has Isaac Smith Dawe as the father of Thirza, not William Smith Dawe.
This path is rated 52% confidence by MyHeritage. The level of confidence is determined by its assessment of the weakest link.
I don’t think this path is correct. S R’s tree shows William Smith Dawe fathering Thirza when he was only 14, which is unlikely.
Of the three paths I think path 2 is most plausible but even then it is not quite right as it relies on the wrong father for Greg’s great great grandmother Sarah Way born Daw and does not fit with known records.
The next step is to review records and update my own tree using those records. After all, the Theory of Family Relativity generated by MyHeritage is meant to be a hint and not a proven conclusion.
I did not have Thirza Daw(e), the great great grandmother of S in my tree.
I have Isaac Smith Dawe (abt 1797 – 1851) and his wife Betsy Metters (1792 – 1863) in my tree. They show as Greg’s 4th great uncle. I have only one daughter showing for that marriage, the forebear of another match. Because Isaac is off to one side I have not researched all that family.
Isaac Daw appeared on the 1841 English census as a 40 year old miller living at Newton Mill, Tavistock, Devon. In the same household was Betsy Daw aged 45, and four children Betsy Daw aged 15, Honor aged 9, Jane aged 8, David aged 4.
On the 1851 census Isaac S Daw is a 54 year old miller employing 4 men and 1 boy living at Lumburn, Tavitock. In the same household are his wife Betsy aged 58, a niece aged 15 and a servant, a miller’s labourer, aged 30. All children have left home.
At the time of the 1841 census there may have been other children who had already left home.
Research by another cousin Lorna Henderson which she shared to Wikitree showed “entry in Beer Ferris in Tavistock parish register for 25 Aug 1818 shows Isaac Smith Dawe as sojourner of this parish, and Betsey Metters of this parish spinster, “married in this church by banns with the consent of their parents” by Harry Hobart, Rector. Both signed: Isaac Smith Daw and Betsey Matters. Wit: Humphrey Roberts, Mary Box (neither of whom witnessed other marriages on the page)”. I navigated to the Wikitree entry from MyHeritage when I searched Isaac Smith Dawe (Daw)/Dawe in All Collections. MyHeritage has 13,676,346 results for Isaac Smith Dawe (Daw)/Daw – far too many, the problem with a common name – they would of course be reduced as one narrowed down the search parameters.
I have been in correspondence with Lorna Henderson before and I know she is a most conscientious researcher and that Isaac is her direct forebear. She has a website for her family history at http://LornaHen.com and the details she has researched about Isaac Smith Daw are at http://familytree.lornahen.com/p28.htm . Lorna records there that in his will of 1847, William Smith Daw mentions his daughters: “My Daughters Names are as follows Mary Cook Betsey Bennett, Thirza Daw, Honor Daw and Jane Daw” and also his sons “my too sons Isaac Daw and David Daw”.
I could not find a baptism record for Thirza Daw in the MyHeritage record collections. On Wikitree cousin Lorna recorded that Thirza Daw was baptised 5 APR 1824 Tavistock, Devon, England. I found an image of her baptism in 1825 at FindMyPast. She was the daughter of Isaac Smith and Betsy Daw. Their abode was Newton Mill and Isaac’s occupation was Miller. I have updated Wikitree with the slightly revised date.
I am confident that Thirza is the daughter of Isaac Smith Daw, Greg’s 4th great uncle. Thyrza Daw shows up on the 1841 census as a female servant in another household. She married in 1850.
I traced down to S through English and Canadian censuses and other records. I found that she was Greg’s 5th cousin. S and Greg share 4th great grandparents Isaac Daw(e) 1769 – 1840 and Sarah Daw née Smith 1774 – 1833. Greg is descended from William Smith Daw 1810 – 1877 and S is descended from his brother Isaac Smith Daw 1797 – 1851.
I will update my family tree at MyHeritage. The Theory of Family Relativity won’t update straight away but at least I know that the next time it updates it may use the opportunity to trace a more accurate path.
As mentioned above I feel the algorithms MyHeritage used placed too much emphasis on the variation between Daw and Dawe and not enough emphasis on the parents named in the trees though there was obviously some weighting for variations in parents.
Nothing has changed about the MyHeritage theories particularly that I can see although I had not noticed previous theories that I reviewed making use of the tree at FamilySearch.
The Theories of Family Relativity generated by MyHeritage are just that, theories or hints. But they did point me in the right direction to make the connection between S and Greg and build my tree a little further.
Last November I agreed to give a webinar (Web-seminar) – a live Internet presentation – for the genealogy company MyHeritage. Scheduled to be broadcast on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, it was to be called “Finding new cousins and building your family tree with DNA”.
The webinar was to start at 2 p.m. North American Eastern Time. I can’t remember if I realised that this would be 4 a.m. here in Ballarat.
What with bushfires and a pandemic I’d forgotten about this. Then last Friday I got an email scheduling an audio-visual test of the webinar software and hardware. It was on.
The walk-through went well, with only one hiccup: my Macintosh was reluctant to give microphone permissions to the webinar software. I gave up trying and used my Windows laptop instead.
My presentation was based on several posts, especially:
To comply with the convention that living people should not be identifiable, I asked the few people affected if they would mind being referred to by forename only. No one refused and I am very grateful. I also spent some time blurring their surnames where these were visible in screenshots and also blurring the details of other DNA matches.
My webinar was about using the MyHeritage DNA tools. Users interact with a web page for this. It’s complicated, and people new to it sometimes struggle to understand what’s going on. I tried to explain, emphasising that:
Find your matches where you know how you are related. MyHeritage has 4.2 million DNA kits in its database. You do not match all of these people but the number of matches you do have is probably overwhelming. Work from these known matches on to the matches you share with these matches.
Build or upload your family tree and link that tree with your DNA kit. If you are trying to work out how a match might be related you may need to work on their family tree to find the path to your shared most common recent ancestors and also to ensure there are no other possible relationships that could explain the shared inherited DNA.
There is a lot of data on the website and you have to explore often by scrolling down, and by clicking on the screen to reveal more even when there are not obvious prompts.
I pointed out the messaging icon and also the notes icon. Not everybody responds to your messages but many do. I recommend keeping the message short and offering to work with your match to find your shared ancestry.
I use the notes facility to keep track of when I messaged somebody and if I had received a reply plus any brief thoughts I might have about how they are related.
I looked at some of the tools MyHeritage offers: my favourite is the AutoClusters tool, an automatic tool that organizes your DNA Matches into clusters that likely descended from common ancestors. The tool was developed by Evert-Jan Blom and I have previously looked at the tool in my post DNA: experimenting with reports from GeneticAffairs.com.
All in all, it went well. The feedback was good. Most people found the session useful and in line with their expectations.
Next time I’ll use a headset for better quality audio and I’ll show simpler slides. And I will try to make sure the navigation tool for the presentation does not pop up.
In 2016 my husband Greg and I, hoping to learn more about our family history, had our DNA analysed by AncestryDNA.
All living things are related; you and I are related to bananas, earthworms, and the fish, your cousin, whom you ate for dinner.
We share more and longer segments of DNA with our closer cousins, a fact that can be turned to use in family history research: find someone with whom you share a significantly long string of DNA and that person is your genealogical relative – you can probably work out how you are related.
Cousinship in the great tree of life means a common ancestor: whales and cows are related in this way. The DNA we share, or to be precise, the fact that we share it, provides clues about our relative places in the tree. To focus in a little, our relative places in the tree of our direct forebears and cousins are indicated by the segments of DNA we share. The more DNA I share with someone the more recent our common ancestry.
AncestryDNA’s ethnicity estimate is intended to be a measure of a person’s ethnic makeup. Are you partly Inuit? Were your ancestors Tasmanian Aboriginals or Scottish Highlanders? AncestryDNA calculates the estimate using DNA data about people who, it is said “…have long-standing, documented roots in a specific area”. This group of people identified by the company provide a reference group for ethnicity estimates.
Genetic communities, compiled on the basis of shared DNA, are defined as “groups of AncestryDNA members who are most likely connected because they share fairly recent ancestors who came from the same region or culture.”
It is said that a large proportion of people who pay to become members of Ancestry do so in order to discover their ethnic makeup, and presumably many of them are satisfied with what they are told. Ethnicity is a tricky concept, however, and Ancestry’s pitch about ‘long-standing’ (how long?), ‘documented’ (by whom? how?) roots in a specific area (how is the area specified?) sharing ‘fairly recent’ (how recent?) ancestors (which?) in a ‘region’ (of what extent?) or culture (what’s that, for Heaven’s sake?), is a pitch that will strike many people as promoting something largely meaningless. [AncestryDNA explains some of this in their 2019 Whitepaper on ethnicity estimates but you can see for example that they are estimating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ethnicity on the basis of 14 DNA samples only.]
In late July 2020 AncestryDNA updated its genetic communities calculations, including those for communities associated with European and British settlers in Australia. I have looked again at my family’s place in the ethnicity estimates and genetic communities provided by AncestryDNA. The updated AncestryDNA genetic communities of my husband Greg and of my father became more specific: no longer vaguely “Southern Australia British Settlers” my father is now part of the group “South Australian European and British Settlers” genetic community and Greg is linked to the “Victoria, Australia, European and British Settlers” genetic community. Our ethnicity estimates have not been updated.
As I type these notes my cat Vinnie is sitting on my desk amusing himself by pressssssssssssssssssing randommmmmmmmm keys. I moved his paws, but now he’s taken to making sarcastic comments, and it’s hard to concentrate.
ME: “Most of Greg’s forebears came to the Colony of Victoria at the time of the gold-rushes and the assignment of this genetic community makes sense. AncestryDNA provides the information that just over 127,000 AncestryDNA members are part of this genetic community.”
VINNIE: “I’d say that the vast majority of his forebears didn’t come to Victoria at all. Most of them saw out their days on the African savannah. I’d call this a genetic community of approximately 50 million. What AncestryDNA ‘provides’ is just gas.”
VINNIE: “In the logic trade that’s called a reductio ad absurdum. AncestryDNA’s methods make the daughter the mother of the mother.”
ME: “This was an anomalous result”.
VINNIE: “Did you get your subscription back?”
ME: “In response to this assignment of genetic communities and while waiting for the update, I removed my results from AncestryDNA by updating my settings and choosing not to see my matches and by not being listed as a match. My strategy seems to have worked. In the latest update my mother is no longer assigned to any Australian genetic community.”
VINNIE: “If I remove myself from the veterinarian’s appointment list I will no longer be assigned to it as a cat and you won’t have to take me for my annual checkup. Great.”
ME: “Ethnicity estimates including the assignment by AncestryDNA to genetic communities need to be treated like any other hint with caution but as a clue to one’s origins”
VINNIE: “It was thought that the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater had to be treated with caution too, but he turned out to be harmless. There weren’t any purple people for him to eat. You needn’t be cautious about nonsense.
I was looking at one of the smaller clusters – cluster 21 on the chart – and the associated notes, when I noticed that there was a small family tree of 22 people attached to one of the matches. Looking at the tree I noticed the Bell surname, which matched what I knew of the rest of the cluster. There was also a match with the Darby surname. Although I did not recognise Henrietta, the Darby surname did seem to fit the tree of the other shared matches where I did know how we are related, namely the trees of my Sullivan cousins.
I contacted Greg’s second cousin LB on Facebook to share the discovery, saying, “I have had a look at the tree [of SK]. She has a Bell marrying a Darby. Her tree has no details but I ran Vic BDM and found two births and the marriage.”
I dithered a little but decided to order the marriage certificate. The image of a Victorian historical certificate costs $20, not cheap, but there’s only so much you can do with just indexes.
It was indeed our family. At Creswick on 4 October 1868 Creswick James Bell, a miner, aged 22, married Henrietta Bell, no occupation, aged 24. Both were living at Creswick. They were married by a Wesleyan minister. The witnesses were Alexander and Agnes Pavina [I am not completely confident I am reading this correctly]. Henrietta said she was born in County Down, Ireland and her parents were John N Darby Compositor and Matilda Mograge.
I didn’t have Henrietta on our tree. If she was 24 in 1868 then she was born in about 1844.
I believe she is the child born in New Zealand, one of the two children of John Darby and his wife recorded on the shipping list of the Sir John Franklin, which left Auckland on 12 April 1845 and reached Hobart after what was described as ‘a tedious voyage of 25 days’. The other child was Matilda, who was baptised in Hobart in November 1845. She was born on 14 March 1845, less than a month before they set sail.
I had previously found no other record for the other child of John and Matilda Darby and had assumed it had died young.
I do not know why Henrieta said she was born in Ireland. Her parents were from Exeter, England and I am reasonably confident (if she recorded her age correctly) that she was born in New Zealand. Otherwise she was born in Australia. I ordered her death certificate which said she was born in Geelong and had lived all her life in Victoria. In 1896 her age was given as 47, which means she was born about 1849.
When John Darby married Catherine Murphy in Portland in 1855 he stated that his wife was dead and that he was the father of two children, one of whom had died. In fact, his wife Matilda was still alive and his second marriage was bigamous. I had assumed the living child was his daughter Matilda and that the unnamed child on the voyage had died. I now think that when John and Matilda Darby separated they kept a child each. Matilda junior stayed with her mother and Henrietta remained with her father, hence her knowledge of his name and occupation when she married. Her sister Matilda did not know her father’s name when she married William Sullivan in 1862.
Henrietta and James Bell had five children before James’s untimely death in 1884:
Annie Jane Bell 1872–1918
Agnes Estella Bell 1875–1961
Catherine Elizabeth Bell 1878–1929
James Henry William Bell 1879–1928
Francis Sinclair Bell 1881–1935
Greg and his cousins share DNA with descendants of Annie and James Henry.
There were several Bell families in Creswick. The family trees I have looked at have different parents and a different death date for James Henry Bell, whose birth was registered as James William Bell. To confirm my suspicion that he was indeed related to Henrietta Darby I ordered his death certificate, and yes, James Henry Bell who in 1904 married Edith Jane Hocking (1884 – 1963) was indeed the son of James Bell and Henrietta nee Darby. I was thus able to resolve several more DNA matches that had puzzled me for some years. James Henry and Edith had seven children. He served in World War I, was wounded and was a prisoner of war.
Yesterday we visited Creswick Cemetery and Long Point. Henrietta and James Bell’s grave is unmarked. Long Point, where they lived, is a pretty area of bushland next to a small settlement just outside Creswick.
There are still unanswered questions about what became of John Narroway Darby and what Henrietta did before her marriage and how she came to be in Creswick.
I am pleased to have learned a little more about the family though. It’s fun to follow through the clues.
I was especially interested in the number of forebears I could name in the previous ten generations, that is, up to and including seventh great grandparents. The possible maximum, if you include yourself, is 1,023 individuals. [Cousins sometimes marry, so there might be duplicates, which in practice could reduce the actual number considerably.]
Looking at our tree from our children’s perspective the figure was then 31%, 319 of the possible 1,023 forebears.
As of 31 March 2020 my tree shows 344 of the possible 1023 forebears, 25 more. This just is 33.6%, slow progress of 2% over nearly two years.
Direct ancestors whose names I know are coloured; blanks represent those whose names are unknown to me.
These numbers of course don’t show all we’ve learned about our forebears and their relatives. I have done a great amount of research about the lives of people in our tree. Moreover, our family tree including indirect relatives has grown by almost half again, from around 6,000 people to 10,481 people.
The large increase is mainly due to my adding genetic cousins to the tree, among these many descendants of my forebears. I try to verify all connections. Our tree on ancestry.com now includes 16,099 records, 2,109 images, and 289 stories.
Not all of the forebears in our tree have associated genetic cousins. Some cousins have not tested their DNA. Some have tested but I have been unable to verify the connection.
I have made the least progress on my German forebears. My mother very kindly submitted her DNA for analysis, but dissappointly, I have made no connections through her DNA. She has very few cousins and they are not close: her father was an only child, and her mother’s siblings had no children. DNA testing is not popular in Germany. On the AncestryDNA site my mother has only 27 4th cousins or closer and 12,882 matches in total; her closest match shares only 50 centimorgans. By contrast my father has 358 matches of 4th cousin or closer, his closest match shares 570 centimorgans, and he has a total of 43,912 matches on the AncestryDNA website. My suave and handsome husband Greg (editor of this online research journal) has 320 matches that are 4th cousin or closer, his closest match shares 1003 centimorgans, and he has a total of 31,875 matches on the AncestryDNA website.
On the MyHeritage website my mother has 2,035 DNA matches and her closest match shares 39 centimorgans. My father has 10,244 matches and shares 777 centimorgans with his closest match. Greg has 5,976 matches and his closest match shares 1,035 centimorgans of DNA.
On Greg’s side of the family – the left hand side of the fan – I have still to make progress on his Young, Cross, Sullivan and Morley forebears.
There is still lots of work to be done in identifying the relationships with genetic cousins, building the tree, and filling in the family history.
The aim of the group is to help people research their Cornish family history. To get the most from it, you should already have some well-based knowledge about your Cornish ancestors. If you join only because your DNA tests report likely Cornish ancestry you will probably find that it won’t help you much. You need to have done some research about your Cornish connection.
You can join through Facebook or directly from GEDMatch. On Facebook you give your GEDMatch number and information about your Cornish roots.
The group spreadsheet lists the kits of those who have joined, in kit number order, with details – where these are known – of Facebook name, Ancestry.com username, and Cornish surnames associated with the kit.
The first step is to log on to GEDMatch and go to the Ancestor Projects page. Run the report with your kit number. I usually do this with matches > 10 centimorgans (cM). The default setting is > 7 cM, but this can produce matches where the relationship is too distant to trace or where the shared DNA is not genealogically significant.
The GEDMatch home page showing the reports I most frequently run: orange arrow is Ancestor Projects; blue arrow is One-to-One Autosomal DNA Comparison; green arrow is People who match both, or 1 of 2 kits
You then take a screenshot of the report and post it to the Facebook group. If you find correspondences between people in your tree and in the trees of other people in the group, you tag your matches in the post. This you do by typing the @ symbol in the post and then start typing the name. You then choose from the people who pop up in the list. You add the screenshot to your post by selecting the green picture icon shown at the bottom of the screen.
Not all matches from the Cornish Emigrants Ancestor GEDMatch group are on Facebook, for some people join from GEDMatch directly. You will have to email these matches yourself.
To get the most out of trying to connect with others, it is a good idea to upload your tree to GEDMatch. If you find correspondences it will be worth looking at the trees of the people where your matches occur. The tree icon on the GEDMatch report shows if your match has uploaded a tree to GEDMatch.
If the match is a Cornish Emigrants match, I look at any Cornish ancestry in both trees. The connection, of course, might be from some other part of our familys’ ancestries, not necessarily Cornish and/or not displayed on these trees.
I also look at DNA Painter to see if the shared segment is one I have already painted and for whom I have identified an ancestor. This might give me a clue as to where our connection occurs.
Example of the detail from DNAPainter looking at segments already identified associated with particular ancestors
I run the GEDMatch report of people who match both kits, and look to identify shared matches where I know the connection. (See screenshot above of GEDMatch home page and report identified with green arrow.)
GEDMatch of report of both kits. If I can identify a shared match then I start to have an idea about where on my family tree I should be looking for common ancestors with the other kit.
If my match and I both tested through AncestryDNA then I use the tools on that site to explore the connection, if there is one, between our family trees and to review our shared matches. I also do this with FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage. The different sites have different tools, but all of them allow you to review shared matches and family trees
that have been uploaded.
Last week I met one of my cousins, N., for the first time. He is interested in family history and, among other things, we talked about autosomal DNA testing.
A genealogical DNA test examines the nucleotides – the building blocks of DNA and RNA – at specific locations on a person’s DNA.
An autosomal DNA test looks at the 22 pairs of chromosomes that are not sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome are sex chromosomes). These 22 chromosomes are known as autosomes. Autosomal DNA tests can be used to find cousins, and this often helps geneological research.
N.’s brother has already taken a test with AncestryDNA. We talked about whether it would it be better to take a test with another company and how much DNA might he and his brother share.
My recommendation is to test at AncestryDNA. N. and his brother will share close cousin matches but will also share different matches with more distant cousins.
AncestryDNA has by far the largest number of users. In May 2019 it had 15 million kits in its database.
The second largest database is 23andMe, with more than 10 million people in April 2019. It is an expensive test for Australians, however, as shipping costs are $40 US per kit. As a result there are fewer Australian participants. I have not tested with 23andMe.
FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) is one of the smaller databases. It is estimated to have about 1 million kits in its database. It is not marketed as aggressively as the other companies. However, with FTDNA, you can test not only autosomal DNA but also Y-DNA and maternal DNA, and so you are able to trace your direct paternal line and your direct maternal line further generations back. You can also transfer your DNA data from other
testing companies to join the database.
MyHeritage is a newer testing service. It allows people to transfer their DNA data into the MyHeritage database. In May 2019 it had about 3 million kits in May 2019.
Another service is GEDMatch. It is not a testing site but you can transfer your DNA data there and compare data and find matches with people who have tested at other companies. In May 2019 GEDMatch had about 1.2 million participants.
AncestryDNA does not allow users to transfer data into its database. To participate you have to test at its site.
Given this variety of testing and analysis services, I recommend testing at AncestryDNA and uploading your DNA data to FTDNA, MyHeritage and GEDMatch. A small fee at each of these separate sites can unlock some more advanced analysis tools.
If N. is interested in pursuing his paternal and maternal genealogy he would probably also be interested in testing at FamilyTreeDNA and taking their two additional tests for Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA.
Your siblings have inherited part of your parents’ DNA that you don’t carry. There is some overlap with your DNA. You would expect siblings to share about 50% of their DNA. In fact there is some variation. Siblings have been found to share 2209 to 3384 centimorgans of 6800 possible centimorgans, from 33% to just under 50%.
Schematic representation of the transmission of the autosomes of the grandparents to three siblings. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, diagram created by Jordi picart – Own work, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0
It has been estimated that up to 10% of third cousins and up to 50% of 4th cousins will not share enough DNA to show up as match. (Third cousins share great great grandparents and 4th cousins share 3rd great grandparents.)
Having your siblings’ DNA analysed will increase your chances of finding cousin matches. This will probably help you to make progress with your family history.
In 2016 I had my DNA analysed by AncestryDNA. In the three years since, all the genetic matches I have been able associate with known people are on my father’s side.
Recently I persuaded my mother to have her DNA analysed in the hope of learning more about my German forebears and to help connect with the relatives who sent my great grand parents the CARE package my mother remembers. (See Sweetened condensed care.)
My mother has few cousins and, it seems, German people in general are reluctant to offer up their DNA for testing. Apart from me, my mother has only 25 cousins who are estimated to be 4th to 6th cousin or closer, and her closest match on AncestryDNA shares 50 centimorgans of DNA (quite possibly a 6th cousin sharing 5th great grandparents). Her closest match on MyHeritage shares only 38 centimorgans. I have contacted several of these genetic cousins but I have not been able to establish our most common recent ancestor for any of them.
For the moment the only DNA match of my mother’s that I can associate with a known person is me.
AncestryDNA cannot recognise from the amount of DNA we share which of us is mother and which is daughter. It shows we share 3,405 centimorgans and that it is 100% confident that the relationship is that of parent and child.
Apart from telling you that you share DNA with cousins, AncestryDNA provides ethnicity estimates. I have always taken these with a grain of salt. They’re not meaningful. I last wrote about this in 2017 (Looking at my ethnicity as determined by DNA testing) where I noted an apparent underestimate of my German ethnicity. Then I had 100% European:
59% from Great Britain, which includes England, Scotland, Wales and
the Isle of Man
20% Europe East
12% from Ireland
4% from Finland / North-west Russia
2% from Europe-West
2% from Italy/Greece
<1% from the Iberian peninsula
Ancestry’s more recent estimate is this:
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 65%
Germanic Europe 25%
Ireland & Scotland 10%
Additional Communities: Southern Australia British Settlers – From your regions: England, Wales & Northwestern Europe; Ireland & Scotland -> Adelaide, South Australia British Settlers
So I have dropped Italy and Spain, and I have a new grouping linking me to my Australian forebears.
On my father’s side, five of my great great grandparents were born in Australia. I have connected with cousins who are also descended from these great great grandparents. The grouping makes sense.
On my mother’s side of the family all eight of my great great grandparents were born in what is now Germany, five in Brandenburg, two in Baden-Württemberg and one in Schleswig-Holstein. Based on their occupations, surnames, and religion, I have no reason to believe their immediate ancestors were from other parts of Europe.
My mother’s ethnicity reported by AncestryDNA is
Germanic Europe 69%
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 17%
Ireland & Scotland 2%
Eastern Europe & Russia 2%
The estimates looks credible as they are all European. However, AncestryDNA reports that my mother has “Additional Communities: Southern Australia British Settlers”!
My mother’s DNA results summary report from AncestryDNA in October 2019
AncestryDNA states about this community:
You, and all the members of this community, are linked through shared ancestors. You probably have family who lived in this area for years—and maybe still do.
The more specific places within this region where your family was likely from: Adelaide, South Australia British Settlers
It would seem that the Additional Communities derive from my DNA relationship with my mother. Since I belong to these communities from my father’s forebears, it appears that the DNA ethnicity estimates have been transferred by marriage!
[When I attempted to explain this to him, my husband joked that it used to be said that after a while your wife seems to turn into her mother. AncestryDNA, however, has found a way of reversing the process. By counting half her husband’s DNA as her own, AncestryDNA is able to turn a woman’s mother into her daughter. The unfortunate husband, however, now finds that he’s copped his daughter for a mother-in-law, an arrangement no improvement over the earlier one]