Henry Shawers - timeline of an ancestor

The above image I took recently at the medieval festival in Bayeux, France.  My great great great grandfather, Henry Shawers is described as a narrow lace or trimming weaver.  Does the above represent his trade well?  Here I'm going to record all of the evidence so far for Henry, who I believe, is the first non-English ancestor that I have discovered, out of 270 direct ancestors, researched for over 25 years.

I'm going to present the evidence in a time line.

1826-1828

1827 +/- 1 year, The approximate birth year of Henry Shawers, in Switzerland.  His father was a coppersmith named John Shawers.  Their names have most likely been anglicised with immigration.  Henry was illiterate.  Their surname could for example, have been:   Soruhes, Schwarz, Schwares, Shaers, Schoovers, Chouart, Scherrais, Shavier, Cerrier, or Soyers

1829
1830
1831
1832
1833
1834
1835

1835-10-11 (Oct 11th), Elizabeth Durran, born in this year, was baptised at Deddington, Oxfordshire.

1836
1837
1838
1839
1840
1841

1841-06-06 (Jun 6th), 1841 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of John Shawers or his son Henry.  Elizabeth Durran was 5 years old, living in Deddington, Oxfordshire.  Henry would have been about age 14.

1842
1843
1844
1845
1846
1847
1848
1849
1850
1851

1851-03-30 (Mar 30th), 1851 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  Elizabeth Durran was age 15, still living with her parents and siblings in Deddington, Oxfordshire.

1852

1852-08-11 (Aug 8th), passengers on the Lord Warden, disembarked at Folkestone docks.  The ship had carried them across the Channel from Boulogne, in France.  The List of Aliens recorded as arriving with this ship included a Monsieur Shawers, recorded as having French nationality.  Unfortunately all of the passengers had their occupations lazily recorded as Gents, but I wonder, not a lot of immigrants coming into the country by the name of Shawers, and only five years before our Henry married Elizabeth Durran in Bethnal Green.

1853
1854
1855
1856
1857

1857-09-20 (Sept 20th), Henry Shawers married Elizabeth Durran at St Philip, Bethnal Green, London.  I have the GRO Certificate copy.  I also see the church register entry on Ancestry.com.  They tally.  He stated:

  • He was a bachelor, and age 31, born about 1826.
  • He was living with Elizabeth at Banner Square, London
  • He was a Narrow Weaver.
  • His father was called John Shawers who was a Coppersmith.
  • He signed X - he was illiterate.  Elizabeth, age 22, was a spinster and also signed X
  • They married by banns.
  • Witnesses were James Brown and Mary Tilsely.  Both signed X.

1858

1858-09-11 (Sept 11th), Elizabeth Rosina Shawers was born at 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London.  I have the GRO birth certificate.  Daughter of Henry Shawers and Elizabeth (nee Durran)

  • Henry Shawers was a Narrow Weaver Journeyman.
  • Elizabeth the mother registered the birth.
  • They were addressed to 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London.

1859
1860

1860-01-08 (Jan 8th), first son, Henry Shawers (junior) was born at 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London.  I have the GRO birth certificate.  Son of Henry Shawers (senior) and Elizabeth (nee Durran).

  • Henry Shawers was a Narrow Weaver.
  • Elizabeth the mother registered the birth.
  • They were still living at 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone.  That's at least between 1858-09-11 and 1860-01-08

1861

I believe that sometime between his birth in January 1860, and late 1861, that Henry Shawers (junior) had died, but the death is not registered in any way that I have yet found it.

1861-04-07 (Apr 7th)  1861 Census of England & Wales.  2 Sun Row, St Mary, Islington, Finsbury, London, England. Henry Soruhes Head. Mar. 33. Trimming maker Switzerland. Elizabeth Soruhes. Wife. Mar. 26. Oxfordshire.  Rose Sohures. dau. 2 Dalston. Henry Sohures. Son. 15 months
  • His name is recorded as Henry Sohures.
  • His son, Henry (junior) is still alive age 15 months.
  • He is recorded as being born in Switzerland.
  • He was 33 years old, born about 1828 in Switzerland.
  • They were living at Sun row, Islington, London.
  • He is recorded as a "Trimming weaver".

I believe that their son Henry Shawers (junior) died between April 1861 and April 1862, but I have not yet located his death or burial.

1862

1862-04-07 (Apr 7th), Second son, William (Henry) Shawers is born south of the Thames at Hospital York Road, Waterloo Road Second, London, Surrey.  I have a copy of the GRO birth certificate.

  • Reported by mother E Shawers (nee Durran) of 4 Austen Terrace, St Johns Road, Upper Holloway, North London.
  • Henry Shawers recorded as Narrow weaver of fringe and trimmings journeyman.

1862-10-31 (31st Oct), Henry Shawers is imprisoned at Wandsworth Prison, London with a sentence of one month, for the offence of begging.  I found this on a digitilised image of the Prison Register at FindMyPast.co.uk.

  • Henry Shawers was a Lace Weaver
  • He was age 34, born about 1828
  • Height five feet, two and three quarter inches.  Grey eyes, fresh complexion, no marks.  Weight, a eight stone, ten pounds.
  • He was a vagrant, no address.
  • He was registered as F born.  Foreign born, not British Empire judging by other entries in the register.
  • His crime was begging.
  • He was illiterate.
  • He was Christian.
  • He was sentenced at Wandsworth, London, by C Dayman, magistrate.

1863

1863-05-15 (May 15th) Second son, William Henry Shawers died at Bletchingley, Surrey.  I have his GRO birth certificate.  Son of Henry Shawers and Elizabeth.  He was recorded as 1 years old.  His cause of death was ?Caucrumous? certified.  See his burial which states Small Pox.

  • Henry Shawers was a Trimming Weaver
  • Registered by mother, Elizabeth, present at death.

1863-05-18 (May 18th) Second son, William Henry Shawers was buried at Bletchingley, St Mary, Surrey.  Found on Ancestry.com including digitilised image of registry.  William Henry Shawers was recorded as "a stranger's child', 13 months old at death.  Buried in the north side of the grave yard.  Died of Small Pox.  A number of burials at that time, both child and adult were recorded as Small Pox.

  • They had moved south, out of London.
  • "A stranger's child" could refer either to the family being on the move, travelling, or alternatively hint that the father was a foreigner.

1864

1864-11-07 (Nov 7th), Third son, Arthur Henry Shawers was born at 11 Thomas Street, St Peter, Brighton, Sussex.  I have the GRO birth certificate.  The son of Henry Shawers and Elizabeth (nee Durran).

  • Henry Shawers was a Trimming weaver Journeyman.
  • Registered by mother, Elizabeth of 11 Thomas Street, Brighton.
  • They were living at 11 Thomas Street, St Peter, Brighton, Sussex on the South Coast.  In 1871 on the census, 11 Thomas Street is full of tenants and appears to be a lodging house in Brighton.

1865

1865-04-06 (Apr 6th), Third son Arthur Henry Shawers died at Baker Street, Enfield, Middlesex.  I have a copy of the GRO death certificate.

  • Sometime during the winter of 1864/5, they had moved from Brighton on the south coast, up to Enfield, north of London.
  • Reported by father, Henry Shawers signed X.  Of Baker Street, Enfield
  • Henry Shawers recorded as a Lace Weaver journeyman.
  • Arthur died age 5 months of pneumonia.
  • This is the last record I find of Henry with his family intact.

1866
1867
1868
1869
1870
1871

1871-04-02 (Apr 2nd), 1871 Census of England & Wales.  I cannot find Henry or the family.  

    1872
    1873

    1873-07-21 (Jul 21st), A Henry Sayers, Lace Maker is imprisoned for seven days at Wandsworth Prison, London.  Sentenced for being drunk on the highway.  Is this our Henry Shawers?  Is he still alive?

    • Five foot two inches, blue eyed, Fresh complexion, no marks.  Weight, nine stone, seven pounds.
    • Lace Maker
    • Age 45, born about 1828.
    • Born in Switzerland.

    Is this our ancestor, Henry, still alive in 1873, while his wife and daughter lived in Kent under different names?  I think it is.

    1874
    1875
    1876
    1877
    1878
    1879
    1880
    1881

    1881-04-03 (Apr 3rd), 1881 census of England & Wales.  I cannot find Henry.  I find his wife and daughter, living as Elizabeth and Rosa S Hayes.  Now they are in service, in Fulham, London, working for a middle class Portuguese family.

    • Elizabeth states that she is married.  She is now 45 years old.  No sign of Henry Shawers or a Mr Hayes.
    • They are both working as servants.  Rosa S Hayes (Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, my great great grandmother) is 22 years old.

    1882
    1883

    1883-09-29 (Sep 29th), Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, marries my great great grandfather, Henry Brooker at St Johns, Fulham, London.  They live at 49 Estcourt Road, Fulham.

    • Elizabeth states that her name as Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, not as Hayes.
    • Her father is recorded as Henry Shawers
    • Her father's occupation is recorded as a Weaver.

    1884
    1885
    1886
    1887
    1888
    1889
    1891

    1891-04-05 (Apr 5th), 1891 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  His wife Elizabeth Hayes (nee Shawers, nee Durran) is living at 1 North Street, Deptford, London, with her son-in-law and daughter, Henry and Elizabeth Rosina Brooker

    • Elizabeth Hayes (nee Shawers, nee Durran) is recorded as a 55 year old widow.  I suspect Henry Shawers has passed away by now.

    1892
    1893
    1894
    1895
    1896
    1897
    1898
    1899
    1901

    1901-03-31 (Mar 31st), 1901 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  Elizabeth Hayes is living at 33 Loampit Vale, Lewisham, with her son-in-law and daughter Henry and Elizabeth Rosina Brooker

    • She is recorded as a 65 year old widow.

    1902
    1903
    1904
    1905
    1906
    1907
    1908
    1909
    1910
    1911

    1911-04-02 (Apr 2nd), 1911 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  Elizabeth Hayes is living at 78 Cold Bath Street, Lewisham with her son-in-law and daughter Henry and Elizabeth Rosina Brooker.

    • She is recorded as a 75 year old widow.

    1912
    1913
    1914

    1914-05-11 (May 11th), Elizabeth Hayes, of 78 Cold Bath Street, Lewisham, born 1836, is admitted to Greenwich Workhouse by her daughter Mrs Brooker.  From Ancestry.co.uk.  Digitilised image of workhouse entry register.

    • Elizabeth is described as a widow of "Henry, an Actor".  Is this a Henry Hayes, the "sailor", or some sort of referral to Henry Shawers?

    1915

    1915-12-01 (Dec 1st), Elizabeth Hayes dies.  I have the GRO death certificate.

    • Age 80 years.
    • Died of senile chronic bronchitis
    • Death registered by her daughter E.R Brooker in attendance at 31 Caradoc Street.
    • Addressed to 78 Cold Bath Street, Lewisham.
    • Records that she was "Widow of Henry Hayes (an actor".

    Henry and Elizabeth's son, my great grandfather, John Henry Brooker, was in the Royal Field Artillery at this time.

    John Henry Brooker and partner Mabel, at Sheerness, Kent, in 1933.  John was the only grandson of Henry Shawers.

    Conclusions

    Henry Shawers, Henrich Schwarez, Henri Cherrais, or whatever name that he was born with, was a 19th century lace weaving immigrant from Switzerland, into the East End of London.  He was illiterate, a christian, and he suffered terrible poverty during his life in England.  He was short and slight, only around 5 ft 2" (158 cm) tall, with a fair complexion, no marks, and perhaps grey-blue eyes.  He may have been the Monsieur Shawers that arrived from Boulogne, France, at Folkestonedocks in 1852.  He met and married a young woman from rural Oxfordshire, a tailor's daughter named Elizabeth Durran in Bethnal Green, close to the Spitalfields weaving centre of London's East End.

    Their first child was a daughter that they named Elizabeth Rosina Shawers - known as "Rosa".  She was to be their only child to survive infant hood to adulthood.  My great great grandmother Brooker, born on Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London, during September 1858.  A second child, a son named after his father, Henry Shawers the junior, was also born at Pownall Road in January 1860.  I don't see the family settle again after this date.  In April 1861, they were living in Islington.

    During early April, 1862, they were now living in Waterloo, south of the bridge in Central London.  Their second son, William, was born there.  I believe that their first son Henry, had already passed away by this time.

    Weaving was in decline in the removal of protectionism, the rise of the power loom, and factory production.  Henry survived by specialising in the lace trimmings and fringes, perhaps of dresses and skirts.  But it wasn't easy.  He resorted to begging, a crime of poverty that was punished by a spell in Wandsworth prison that October.  

    Something made them move south, out of London.  Was it an attempt to return to the Continent?  Perhaps visit a relative of Henry's on the South Coast, a work opportunity, or were they pushed by the gruelling poverty and disease?  Their second son William, was buried it appears, on this journey, from small pox, and was buried "a stranger's child" in the Surrey village of Bletchingley.

    They ended up for a while in a lodging house on the South Coast in Brighton.  Their third son Arthur, was born there.  Then they moved northwards again over the winter of 1864 / 1865.  In early April, 1865, they were now living at Baker Street, Enfield, to the north of London.  Arthur, age five months died there of pneumonia.  Their third son.  The third to die as an infant.  Only their daughter, Elizabeth Rosina Shawers still survived.

    I don't see them as a family again after the death of Arthur in Enfield, 1865.

    Then in July 1873, a Henry "Sayers", a lace maker of very similar physical description, born about the same time, appears briefly in Wandsworth Prison, for being "drunk on the highway".  It sounds so much like our Henry - and he was foreign born, only this record tantalizingly records him as "born in Switzerland".  Was this our Henry, estranged from his wife and daughter?

    That's the last possible sighting of Henry on record.  He evaded both 1861 and 1871 English censuses.  I can't find his death or burial.

    As for his wife Elizabeth, she continued to live under the name Elizabeth Hayes for many years at her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Rosina and Henry Brooker's home in the Deptford then Lewisham area.  Shortly before her death in Greenwich workhouse during 1915, her daughter recorded for her, that she was the widow of Henry, an Actor.  A final puzzle to her life story.  Was this really a Henry Hayes, or was it Henry Shawers?  Why actor?

    Henry Shawers, - a weaver in the tree

    The above image, St Philips, Bethnal Green, in London's East End, where Henry Shawers married Elizabeth Durran in 1857.

    I've been researching my family history and genealogy, on and off for around 29 years.  I'm very pleased, that in the first few years, that I took the chance to interview elderly relatives that are no longer here to interview.  One of the stories that came out on my father's side, was that there was a "foreigner" in the tree.  One version said French, another said maybe Russian.  One late uncle even thought maybe German.  I hoped to find this exotic ancestry, and started to research documents.  I never found one non-English ancestor.  That is I hadn't ... until a few days ago!  He is on my father's side, a great great great grandfather of mine.

    I discovered the Shawers line way back.  My great grandfather John Henry Brooker, born at Deptford, London in 1884, was the son of Henry Brooker and Elizabeth Rosina (nee Shawers).  Elizabeth Rosina Shawers was born at Haggerston, London in 1858, the daughter of my 3 x great grandparents Henry Shawers, and Elizabeth (nee Durran).

    My 3 x great grandmother Elizabeth Shawers (later Elizabeth Hayes), was born at Deddington in Oxfordshire in 1835, the daughter of a tailor.  She was one of many rural Oxfordshire people that made the brave trip downstream into the growing 19th century metropolis of London.  She encountered Henry Shawers, a Harrow weaver.  I'm still trying to find out what that mean't, but Henry recorded Harrow weaver as his occupation more than once, as though it had a meaning to himself.  They married at St Philips, a poor East End of London church, built recently as a chapel-of-ease for St Matthews, in 1857.  Pictured at the top of this post.

    So who was Henry Shawers?  My first clue, many years ago, was that his father was named John Shawers, who worked as a copper smith.  Other than that, I couldn't find them.  Before 1857, no trace of either Henry or his father.

    Something really early in my research, I can't remember what, suggested Huguenot.  That feeling eventually faded away.  More recently, I wondered if he was connected to some Shawers at Cornwall, or to Shawers / Shores in Yorkshire.  He and his father were my dead end.  The only members of that generation, for who I could not give origins.  A brick wall in genealogy.  For over 25 years.

    A Break Through

    Then this week, FindMyPast.co.uk had a promotional free access period.  I've had a subscription there before, but revealed nothing new on this line.  Perhaps new archives have been added.  I searched for Henry Shawers, and I found a surprise.

    It was in the Wandsworth Prison Register for 1862.  A Henry Shawers, lace weaver, age 34 (born about 1828).  Height five feet, two and three quarter inches.  Grey eyes, fresh complexion.  Christian.  Illiterate.  Weight, a mere eight stone, ten pounds.  A homeless vagrant.  He had been convicted at Wandsworth by C Dayman, magistrate, for the crime of "Begging", and sentenced to one month's imprisonment in the new Wandsworth Prison.  But what really caught me eye was that in the Where born column, most inmates had E for England, a few I for Ireland ... our Henry very clearly had an F for what looks by other entries to be Foreign Born.

    What do I know about Henry Shawers in 1862?

    He had married Elizabeth Durran five years earlier at Bethnal Green.  He was recorded as a 31 year old Harrow weaver, the son of John Shawers, a copper smith.  Both groom and bride were living at Banner Square, Bethnal Green.  There is no Banner Square today, but there is a Banner Street (see below map).  They lived and married in London's East End.  Silk and lace weavers had been attracted to Spitalfields, Globe Town, and the Bethnal Green area for centuries - many of them from the European continent.  they had included Huguenots, Jews, French, Walloon, and Flemish.  For some time they had weathered the rise of the power loom, silk and fabric factories, through protectionism from overseas markets - but now this protection was lifted.  Many weavers were made destitute, many looked for other work.  By 1862, it appears that Henry had hit rock bottom.

    On his way down, he had met and married Elizabeth at the now demolished East End church of St Philips.  They moved from Banner Square, Bethnal Green to 29 Pownall Road, Haggerston, near to Dalston. Their first child was my great great grandmother Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, was born there in September 1858.

    (“© OpenStreetMap contributors”.  Modified)

    Elizabeth gave birth to a second child that they named Henry Shawers, at Pownall Road in January 1860.  He was still recording himself as a Harrow weaver.  I cannot find any reference to what this was.  Perhaps a form of weaving associated with Harrow in West London?  Silk weaving was the tradition in the East End.  In 1862, he was described as a Lace Weaver

    I haven't yet been able to find the Shawers family on the 1861 census.  However' in April 1862, Elizabeth gave birth to their third child, baptised as William Henry Shawers.  They were now living at Austen Terrace, Lambeth, London.

    Henry was convicted of begging and vagrancy less than eight months later, and received a one month sentence in Wandsworth Prison.  It looks on paper as though he hit disaster in 1862.

    What happened to his family?

    I think that they managed to hold out for a few more years.  But they kept moving.  Their third child, William Henry Shawers died in May 1863, age 13 months at Bletchingley, in the Surrey countryside far to the south of London.  His burial recorded that he was "a stranger's child".  Did this mean that they were travelling, or that his father was foreign born?

    They turn up the following year much further to the south, on the South Coast in fact, where a fourth child is baptised Arthur Henry Shawers in November 1864.  That they kept giving their son's the name Henry makes me ask where had their first son Henry Shawers gone?  I don't find him again after his birth.  I suspect that he had died earlier.

    They didn't stay on the South Coast for long.  Five months later in April 1865, young Arthur died.  He was buried at Enfield, North London.

    After 1864, I lose any references to Henry Shawers, at least with that name.  He had emigrated to England, lived in the East End of London as a lace weaver, been imprisoned for begging on the streets.  He had two, most likely three sons die as infants.  Had Henry himself now passed away?

    In 1871, I find his wife and daughter, living at Charlton, Woolwich, South London.  Only they were now living under the names of Elizabeth Hayes, and her daughter Rosa Hayes.  Elizabeth is recorded as a wife of a seaman.  A Mr Hayes presumably, I haven't found this marriage yet.  Does this indicate that Henry Shawers has died?

    Ten years later, Elizabeth Hayes and her daughter (my great great grandmother) were now live-in servants for a Portuguese family living in Fulham.  Her daughter is recorded as Rosa S Hayes.  I wonder if the S was for Shawers?  A few years later, in September 1883, also at Fulham, she married my great great grandfather Henry Brooker, under the name of Elizabeth Rosina Shawers.

    Where did Henry Shawers originate from?  What was his nationality?

    So I've discovered from that prison record that my ancestor Henry Shawers was not British, but regarded as a foreigner.  Where did he come from?  He was a lace weaver in the East End of London, where many Huguenots, and other French and Dutch weavers, had been settling for centuries.  His surname is unusual, but I have found it in both the North of England, and in the West Country - just very rare.  Could this surname in his case however, have been anglicized?  Possibly for example, from Soyers (French), Schwarz (Germanic), or Shaers (Belgian).

    I have found two clues to his origin.

    On the 11th August 1852, passengers on the Lord Warden, disembarked at Folkestone docks.  The ship had carried them across the Channel from Boulogne, in France.  The List of Aliens recorded as arriving with this ship included a Monsieur Shawers, recorded as having French nationality.  Unfortunately all of the passengers had their occupations lazily recorded as Gents, but I wonder, not a lot of immigrants coming into the country by the name of Shawers, and only five years before our Henry married Elizabeth Durran in Bethnal Green.  My bet is that this was him, and our Henri was French.

    However, before I close the book on that one.  There is just some evidence, that could dispell that, or even his death around 1865.

    In July 1873, a 45 year old lace maker was imprisoned in Wandsworth Prison for seven days.  His crime? Drunk in the highway.  His name?  Henry Sayers.  He is described as five foot two inches, blue eyed, no marks.  In 1852, our 34 year old Henry Shawers, in the same prison was described as a lace weaver, five feet two and three quarter inches, grey eyed, no marks.  Both men were 1) Henry Shawers / Sayers, 2) lace weavers, 3) born about 1828, 4) similar desciption, and 5) Foreign born.  Were they the same man?

    Only in this record, he is recorded as from Switzerland.

    I never did find that marriage of Elizabeth to a sailor called Hayes.

    Post Edit:  Just after publishing this post - I find a fresh clue!  In 1914, her daughter Mrs Brooker registered her elderly mother Elizabeth Hayes, into the the Greenwich (Woolwich Road) Workhouse.  Elizabeth's registration includes the following.  What is that saying?  Widow of Henry ?

    Living DNA - June 2017 updates

    Living DNA produced their first update.  An update by a "DNA for Ancestry" business can sound like an admission of failure.  To some, it could sound like a recall due to product failure.  "Your previous ancestry was a mistake".  This only applies if you have bought into some marketing campaigns, that autosomal DNA tests for ancestry actually work even close to 100%.  Surprise, they don't!  They are cutting edge, in development, and far from accurate below a Continental level. They are still somewhere in the twilight between being nothing more than a genetic lottery, and actually becoming a tool that is useful.  Therefore "updates" are to be welcomed.  They are a sign that the business wants to improve the test accuracy.  That is to the credit of Living DNA.

    My latest results?  First of all, a quick recap on my actual ancestry, as supported by family history, local history, ethnicity, and by a traditionally researched record based family tree that includes over 270 direct ancestors over the past 380 years.  I'm English.  Indeed, all of my direct ancestors, appear to have been South East English.  More precise, I'm East Anglian.  On family history and recorded genealogy, I'd suggest that between 75% and 85% of my direct ancestors over the past three centuries were East Anglian, almost all from the County of Norfolk.  Others on my father's side, if not in East Anglia, still in Southern England.

    That I feel, makes me an interesting subject for ancestral auDNA testing.  You see, my ancestry is very localised here in South East England.  DNA tests such as 23andMe that claim to accurately plot ancestry over the past 300 - 500 years should get me.  But they don't.  This is because their algorythms, and reference data set designs fail over different ages.  They also (although they sometimes deny it), fail to discriminate against older population background.  We East Anglians and South East English have been heavily admixed with non-British populations on the European Continent.  Not so much over the past 500 years, so much as over the past few thousand years.

    The new Results.

    Below are my Living DNA regional ancestry, based on Standard Mode.

    Below are my Standard Mode results broken down into sub regions.

    Below is a table, comparing my recorded ancestry, with my early Living DNA results in Standard, now my revised results.

    Living DNA has now introduced two new modes of confidence called complete and cautious modes.  First the Complete results:

    Below are my Complete Mode results in regional:

    Below are my Complete Mode results for sub-regional:

    Now the Cautious results:

    Below are my Cautious Mode results in regional:

    Finally, below are my Cautious Mode results for sub-regional:

    Conclusions

    No auDNA test, by any DNA-for-ancestry company has yet come close to assigning me 100% English or even British.  They don't get me.  23andMe gives me 32-37% "British & Irish".  FT-DNA gives me "36% British".  Therefore, to be fair, Living DNA, giving me 70% "Great Britain or Ireland", give me the best result.  However, Living DNA has started out with the largest, best quality British data-set of any DNA-for-ancestry company, and is often accused of a bias towards Britain in it's results.  If so, then my 70% still looks weak.  They are planning on producing similar quality data sets soon for Ireland, Germany, then France. Therefore any results, will as I started out saying at the beginning of this post, be perpetually progressive.  Businesses that do not improve data sets or algorithms, will not get any better.  They are not progressive.

    I get Southern European in other tests besides this one.  Living DNA points to Tuscany.  FT-DNA before a recent update gave me 32% Southern European, although they have revised this down to a little noise from South-East Europe!  23andMe gives me 2% Southern European - but this appears nothing unusual for an English tester.  None-the-less, I am interested in trying to better understand, why some of these tests give me this "Southern European" admixture, for which my family history, local history, and recorded genealogy has absolutely no account.  It equally reflects in ancient calculators that give me a little bit more Neolithic Farmer than for other English, which on average, already have a little more Neolithic Farmer than other British or Irish populations do.

    The New Complete and Cautious Modes

    How do I feel about these?  At Sub-Regional level, the Complete mode starts to get silly.  For the first time, Living DNA at this level, starts to even suggest some ancestry from Wales, SW Scotland, and Northern Ireland.  Only small percentages - but I just don't buy them.

    However, the Cautious Mode, I start to like.  My British ancestry doesn't increase, but it looks more realistic, although with strange enigmatic suggestions still of Italian ancestry in the mix.  At Sub-Regional level, Cautious Mode also looks a little more likely.  My East Anglian remains at 37%, I however, lose Lincolnshire (which does exist in my record), but retain Cornwall.  I think Cornwall unlikely - however, there is just a small hint that something could be there, in surname evidence of a brick-walled great great great grandparent.  So maybe, just maybe.

    East Anglia

    I seriously doubt that my East Anglian ancestry over the past 300 years genuinely falls much below 75%.  Living DNA only appears to recognise a half of it at 37% - but they claim to be easily able to identify East Anglian DNA.  They call it "Distinct" because of it's high levels of Continental admixture.  They have admitted that based on their early data sets, that it was hard to separate from Germanic.  I don't know why it isn't stronger in my results.  I honestly do believe that the test underplays it on my results, even though it is the strongest of any population in my test results.  My East Anglian ancestors lived mainly in Eastern, Central, and Southern Norfolk.

    Living DNA also provide a chart of the Continental "contributing regions" to East Anglian ancestry:

    Finally, a chart breaking down their proposal of my British ancestry at Cautious mode:

    I'm not disappointed with Living DNA.  That it does identify me as 37% East Anglian is I believe, incredibly good, and far advanced over any other DNA-for-ancestry test.  I'm looking forward to more updates in the future.  Well done Living DNA.

    Time Travelling back through my ancestry timeline - Super Family History

    The Dance of Cogul, tracing by Henri Breuil.

    A Timeline for my ancestry based on current evidences.

    3,000,000 years ago.

    In Africa.  Eastern and / or maybe Southern Africa.  Hominids.  We call them Australopithecines, and in some ways, they resembled modern chimpanzees but that were adapting to walking upright bipedally, in open environments.  They made stone tools.  They had an omnivorous diet.  They were my ancestors three million years ago.  As they were for all of us.  Natural Selection was the big, very slow kicker for prehistory.  Things changed very, very slowly,

    200,000 years ago.

    The first hominids that are regarded rather loosely as Anatomically Modern Human emerging in Africa.

    At this time, most of my ancestors still lived in Africa, but some of my non-anatomically modern ancestors had already migrated out of Africa, and had dispersed across Eurasia for some time.  They included those archaic humans that anthropologists presently call Neanderthals and Denisovans. 

    50,000 years ago.

    Most likely by now, most of my hunter-forager ancestors had left Africa.  An early out-of-Africa base appears to have been Arabia and the Middle East.  Some of my ancestors had met now, after long family separations (I have 328 Neanderthal variants in my DNA, according to 23andMe), it was the birth of the Eurasians.  The last Ice Age encroached.

    14,000 years ago.

    People had been learning to live with the climatic fluctuations of the last Ice Age.  Each hardening of climatic conditions had frozen Eurasian human populations into isolated conditions that increased genetic drift.

    Where were my hunter-forager ancestors 14,000 years ago?  Most likely in pockets dispersed across Western Eurasia, from South-West Europe, across to Central Asia, and from Arabia up to Siberia.  My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor at this time, most likely lived somewhere between what today is Syria, and Pakistan.  He could for example, have been an ibex hunter in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.  My direct maternal ancestor (mtDNA line) most likely lived in another pocket of hunter-foragers somewhere in Central Asia, such as what is now Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, the Siberian Plain, or nearby.  Some of her, or other of my ancestors at this time, had shared ancestry with a Siberian tribe of mammoth hunters, that archaeologists now call the Mal'ta–Buret' culture.  Other of my ancestors of this time may have most likely lived in the Caucasus, Southern Europe, Middle East, and Arabia.

    5,600 years ago.

    Many people in Western Eurasia were adapting to a new way of living, where farming and agriculture, with a range of domesticated species of animal and plant were spreading, often carried along in waves that are marked in our DNA.  The Neolithic Revolution that had affected my ancestors had occurred a few thousand years earlier in South-West Asia, in an area that we call the Fertile Crescent - the Levant, and down the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. Some of my ancestors may have been early pioneers of this new way of life in the Middle East.

    My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor may have lived in one of the Uruk farming settlements in Babylonia, or could have been a Neolithic farmer in a number of cultures spread across what is now Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan.  He alternatively could be one of a number of specialists that early civilisation was generating - a potter, a weaver, or a miner.

    My direct maternal line had drifted out of Central Asia, and onto the Eurasian Steppe Corridor.  My mtDNA ancestor was most likely living now on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes - what is now Ukraine, Southern Russia, or Kazakhistan.  Her people would have most likely herded domestic livestock including horses, cattle, goats and sheep.  They were mastering the horse and using the first wheeled wagons. On the Steppe corridor, they had access not only to trade with the civilisations south of the Caucasus, but to other cultures, and their materials.  They were experimenting with some of the earliest metallurgy including copper working.

    Asides from her, I most likely had a number of other ancestors living in these pastoralist cultures on the Steppes at this time. Perhaps around 28% of my ancestors 5,500 years ago, lived there.

    Other ancestors of mine at this time, were dispersed across Europe.  They include the Neolithic European farmers.  They had descended largely from populations that had previously lived in the Levant and Anatolia (what is now Turkey and the Middle East).  Some of my Neolithic European Farmer ancestors could have even lived in Megalithic Britain, but most likely, many of my European Neolithic ancestors lived elsewhere on the Continent, in for example, the Rhine valley, Danube valley, Italy, or Iberia.  Many of them had ancestry that had hopped westwards along the Mediterranean, the first farmers from Anatolia and the Levant (50% of my ancient admixture), but with a smaller admixture of hunter-gatherer ancestors that had previously lived in Europe (12% of my ancient admixture). Did this 12% admixture include the surviving DNA of any of the last Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of the British Isles?  I'd like to think so, but possibly not.

    4,600 years ago.

    My Copper Age, horse riding Steppe ancestors had migrated westwards into Europe.  There they had admixed with the earlier European Neolithic people.  Their DNA appeared in a Copper Age fusion culture across Central Europe (Poland, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, etc) that we call the Corded Ware Culture.  My direct maternal ancestors (mtDNA line) were most likely of that culture for a time.  Their mtDNA markers turn up associated with it.

    Aside from her, some of my other ancestors would have been in the Corded Ware Culture.  However, the westward movement of DNA from the Steppes didn't end there.  In Western Europe, it triggered the birth of another culture, that archaeologists call Bell Beaker Culture.  Much of the Y-DNA of the Steppes, was carried into the Rhineland Bell Beaker men.  Some of my ancestors could have belonged to the Bell Beaker culture in Iberia, or Western France.  However, what is more likely is that at least some of them belonged to the Bell Beaker culture that had settled in the Lower Rhine Valley (The Netherlands and NW Germany).

    Many of my ancestors at this time may have played a part in the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker cultures of Europe.  mtDNA (H6a1 and H6a1a) very close to my direct maternal line has been found in both cultures, including in a Bell Beaker context in the Netherlands.

    My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was an exception.  He most likely was living somewhere around what is now Iran, possibly as a farmer in the Bronze Age civilisations there.  Ancestors in Southern Europe were less affected by the Copper Age Steppe migration event (mainly in their Y-DNA), and continued to carry mainly Neolithic European Farmer DNA in their autosomes.

    3,600 years ago.

    I want to just stop here, to record that some of my Bell Beaker Culture ancestors had crossed the North Sea from the Lower Rhine (Netherlands) to settle in South East Britain.  Their descendants were living in Bronze Age Britain.  I can't say with any degree of certainty, if my direct maternal (mtDNA line) ancestor was a part of this migration, or whether her line was still on the European Continent, and crossed later.  Either are equally feasible.   I would have had other ancestors, perhaps the majority at this time, scattered across the European Continent, but most likely, some in what is now Germany, France, Scandinavia, and Southern Europe.

    My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was most likely still in the area of Iraq, or Iran. Perhaps for example, he was an Assyrian.

    2,600 years ago.

    I'd estimate that perhaps around 38% of my ancestors were now living in Iron Age Britain.  My Iron Age British ancestors would have lived in the round houses and would have farmed the land.    Some people refer to the culture of the British Isles at this time as Celtic.  Some of my ancestors may well have belonged to a tribal federation, that was later known as the Iceni.

    This may or may not have included my direct maternal (mtDNA line) ancestor, who could have been a Briton, but may have equally lived along with many of my other ancestors - in an Iron Age Germanic culture in the Netherlands, Northern Germany, or Denmark. Others may have lived further to the south and west in Europe in other cultures  such as the Gauls.  I have a great great great grandparent from Switzerland.  His ancestors at this time, could have been dispersed through a number of tribes across Central and Southern Europe.

    My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was most likely still in the area of the Middle East, or Iran. Perhaps for example, he was a subject of the Persian Empire.

    1,700 years ago.

    Lets stop here a moment.  Roman Britain.  Perhaps 40% of my ancient ancestors living here at the time.  Britain had been occupied by the Western Roman Empire for some time.  My ancestors in Britannia would have very much identified as Romans, although they largely descended from the Iron Age Britons. However, there were traders, soldiers, and merchants from further afield here.  That might have even included my direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor, that could for example, have traveled to Southern Britannia from Assyria or Persia, or perhaps even from the Eastern Roman Empire in Anatolia and the Levant.

    Meanwhile many of my ancestors were living in Germanic pagan tribes across the North Sea in what is now the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Denmark.  Others may have been living in Roman Gaul, Tuscany, or elsewhere on the Continent.

    1,000 years ago.

    I believe that the majority of my ancestors now lived in early medieval southern Britain, although some may have still lived further to the south in places such as Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, or Italy.  If he didn't arrive earlier, perhaps my direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor arrived in Wessex about now, as for example, a specialist from the Middle East, working for the Roman church.  Many of my ancestors in South-East Britain had arrived from across the North Sea over the preceding centuries, with Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Frisians, Danes and Saxons.   Archaeological artifacts in Norfolk correlate best with some sites in Northern Germany, towards the border with Denmark.

    This would have included Anglo-Saxon ancestors of my mother, that most likely rowed past the decommissioned Roman shore fort at Burgh, and perhaps moored at Reedham.  It may have included Danish ancestors of her that a few centuries later settled the district of Flegg in East Norfolk.  DNA shared on the Continent in places such as modern day Germany, Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Denmark reflects strongly in my ancestral DNA tests.  Much of it may have arrived during these early medieval immigration events.

    My direct maternal (mtDNA line) would most likely be in East Anglia or nearby by now.

    500 years ago.

    Exchange between South East Britain and the European Continent didn't end.  It is possible that I had more ancestors arrive here from Normandy, Medieval France, and the Spanish Netherlands.  However by 500 years ago, It is possible that most of my ancestors now lived in Tudor England.  There would most likely still been a minority of later ancestors migrating from elsewhere, although I so far only see one great great great grandparent from Switzerland, in my genealogical record.  It is likely that my direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was living in Southern England, and that my direct maternal (mtDNA line) ancestor was living in East Anglia.   I trace his line back to the Oxfordshire / Berkshire border, and her line back 300 years ago to the village of Bunwell in Norfolk.

    It is likely that the majority of my Tudor ancestors were living in East Anglia by now, particularly in the County of Norfolk.  Many of the men would be transitioning from medieval peasant status to that of free rural labourers or some into farmers or tradesmen.

    300 years ago.

    It is highly likely that by now, all of my ancestors (except the Swiss line at Generation 6, arriving 160 years ago), lived in South-East England.  The majority in Norfolk, East Anglia, perhaps as high as 77% East Anglian, also a cluster in the Thames Valley of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and a smaller cluster around Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

    Their trades included agricultural labourerers, shepherds, horsemen, marshmen, smallhold farmers, watermen, carpenters, inn keepers, hawkers, etc. They were the English rural working classes of the 18th Century.

    Their recorded surnames included:

    Moore, Gunton, Mar, Mollett, Portar, Beck, Breeze, Cruchfield, Lewell, Mingay, Wittham, Thurkettle, Gardiner, Ursul, Upcroft, Neale, Neville, Hammond, Bennett, Read, Bradfield, Aimes, Sniss, Wick, Bligh, Frances, Rippon, Saunderson, Goodram, Seymore, Waine, Blaxhall, Jacobs, Yallop Brucker, Gregory, Hardiment, Hardyman, Briting, Hill, Harrison, Brown, Harding, Creess, Tovel, Osborne, Nichols, Bond, Bowes, Daynes, Brooker, Curtis, Smith, Baxter, Shawers, Edney, Tovell, Key, Tammas-Tovell, Thacker, Lawn, Tammas, Hagon, Hewitt, Springall, Porter, Rose, Larke, Annison, Barker, Brooks, Ling, Rowland, Gorll, Dingle, Marsh, Symonds, Dawes, Goffen, Waters, Briggs, Nicholls, Shepherd, Maye, Morrison, Merrison, Norton, Cossey, Harrington, Barber, Peach, Dennis, Durran, Freeman, Hedges, Crutchfield, Quantrill, Page, Dove, Rix, Sales, Britiff, Goffin, Coleman, Tibnum, Mitchells, Ellis, Beckett, Riches, Snelling, Ransby, Nicholes, Harris, Shilling, Wymer, Moll, Ginby, Gynby, Gaul, Edwards, and Gall.

    50 years ago.

    I was a small child in Norfolk.  Born English, to a local East Anglian family.  Yet look back at my ancestral timeline.  My ancestry is from all over Europe, and even from across Western Asia, and before that from Africa.  We are all cousins in one large global family.  Much of my family timeline, will also be your timeline.


    That's time travelling through my own ancestry.

    Ancient ancestry - K11 Ancients Common and rarer Alleles, and a fresh assessment

    Emmanuel Benner - Prehistoric Man Hunting Bears

    Above image by Emmanuel Benner the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    The new K11 Ancients Common and Rarer Alleles tests are being run by Dilawer Khan, creator of the Gedrosia stable of admixture calculators available on GEDMatch.com, and of the EurasianDNA.com website.  This new test uses a new set of principles, based on using ADMIXTURE to produce more reliable ancient results.  I commissioned him to run my own 23andMe file through the tests, to produce the following results and PCA's/

    PCA for Common Alleles (my position "Norfolk"):

    PCA for Rarer Alleles (my position "Norfolk"):

    The K11 Ancients common Alleles results should reflect the older ancestry most accurately.  In summary, that gave me:

    1. 48.6% Neolithic Farmer
    2. 26.5% Copper Age Steppe Pastoralist
    3. 24.9% Western Hunter-Gatherer

    Thank you Dilawer.

    How have other tests seen similar admixture?

    I previously commissioned David Wesolowski (Eurogenes stable on GEDMatch and of Eurogenes Blog) to run my raw file through his K7 Basal-rich test.  He produced the following results:

    1. 57.1% Villabruna-related
    2. 28.8% Basal-rich
    3. 14% Ancient North Eurasian.

    These are two very different tests, of admixture between different sets of population, of different time periods.  What I do find interesting is the 14% percentage of ANE (Ancient north Eurasian) relates quite favourably to what I understand it's admixture percentage is to Yamna or Steppe pastoralist.  Dilawer gives me 26.5% Steppe.   I have previously heard that the Yamna were circa 50% ANE, and the remainder of mixture of other Western Eurasian Hunter-Gatherer groups, including Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers.

    The K11 Ancients test does suggest that I have a surprisingly high amount of ancestry from the Neolithic Farmers, that were in Europe previous to the arrival of the Steppe migrants around 4,900 years ago.  This is actually consistent with my other Ancient admixture test results.  The K7 Basal-rich test for example, had given me 28.8% Basal.  The Basal Eurasians are a hypo-theoretical "ghost" population that was among the founding admixture of the Neolithic Farmers, in a similar way that the ANE were among the founding admixture of the Steppe Pastoralists.  Again then, the two tests do tally reasonably well in determining where my personal percentages of ancient DNA  originate.

    Why do I have so high percentages of Neolithic Farmer and Basal Eurasian I do not know.  My DNA flavour is a slight extreme, and atypical even for an English person, and more so for a Briton.  My recorded genealogy is all SE English, mainly East Anglian.  I would love to see the results of other East Anglians, as I suspect to them, that I am not such an extreme.  However, even if this was the case, it doesn't explain why modern East Anglians would have lower Steppe, and more Neolithic than either West British, Scandinavians, or even ancient DNA from Anglo-Saxons.  Higher percentages of Neolithic ancestry today are usually found to the South, peaking in Sardinia, then Iberia.  A favoured explanation is that the SE English could have had a lot of input from the South, via the French during Norman and Medieval periods.  I'm not totally convinced - yet.

    A third new ancient admixture test that I might use here in the MDLP Project Modern K11.  On GEDMatch Oracle, it proposes a number of genetic distances to ancient DNA samples:

    1 British_Celtic @ 6.948432
    2 Bell_Beaker_Germany @ 8.143357
    3 Alberstedt_LN @ 8.426399
    4 British_IronAge @ 9.027687
    5 Halberstadt_LBA @ 10.273615
    6 Bell_Beaker_Czech @ 12.190828
    7 Hungary_BA @ 12.297826
    8 Nordic_MN_B @ 12.959966
    9 British_AngloSaxon @ 12.993559
    10 Nordic_BA @ 13.170285

    Using 4 populations approximation:
    1 Bell_Beaker_Germany + Bell_Beaker_Germany + Corded_Ware_Germany + Hungary_CA @ 1.085814
    2 BenzigerodeHeimburg_LN + BenzigerodeHeimburg_LN + Corded_Ware_Estonia + Hungary_CA @ 1.089547
    3 Alberstedt_LN + Bell_Beaker_Germany + Corded_Ware_Germany + Hungary_CA @ 1.117882
    4 Bell_Beaker_Germany + BenzigerodeHeimburg_LN + Hungary_CA + Srubnaya_LBA @ 1.149613
    5 Bell_Beaker_Germany + British_IronAge + Hungary_CA + Karsdorf_LN @ 1.185312
    6 Alberstedt_LN + BenzigerodeHeimburg_LN + Hungary_CA + Sintashta_MBA @ 1.226794
    7 Nordic_BattleAxe + Hungary_BA + Hungary_CA + Karsdorf_LN @ 1.234930
    8 Nordic_BattleAxe + BenzigerodeHeimburg_LN + Hungary_CA + Unetice_EBA @ 1.238376
    9 Alberstedt_LN + Hungary_BA + Hungary_CA + Yamnaya_Samara_EBA @ 1.247371
    10 Bell_Beaker_Germany + Hungary_CA + Nordic_LN + Srubnaya_LBA @ 1.268124

    If I look at four population distances, then based on the samples available in the test, I'm looking pretty European Bell Beaker, with Corded Ware and Yamna appearing. My closest single population in the samples is a surprising British Celtic!  More samples from the European Neolithic might turn those results around.

    How not to use online genealogy

    I recently decided to invest in an annual subscription to Ancestry.co.uk.  I therefore intend to use it extensively over the next year in order to bolster my tree and to add leafs through their very fat database of resources.

    A little background.  I've researched my family tree since at least 1988, but not continuously.  Back in the day, there were no online resources.  the most modern thing were census on microfilm and the Mormon IGI (International Genealogical Index - the ancestor of FamilySearch.org) available in the Local Studies Library.  My tree started, as it should, through interviewing elderly relatives, looking through their photos, the few birth and marriage certificates, and any other artifacts.  Those elderly relatives have all passed on now.  if you are just starting with genealogy - do it now.  I then moved on to the English & Welsh County record offices.  White gloves and pencils, in order to peruse through the original parish registers and other documents - no digitalisation, or even microfilming of them then.  Very little indexing as well.

    Then I was ordering GRO certificates from London, paying professional researchers to collect them for me, as it worked out cheaper than having them mailed to me by the GRO!  Then rather than looking for DNA matches, it was searching through surname interests or through the annually published GRD (Genealogical Research Directory) for shared ancestry.  The good old days.

    I said it wasn't continuously.  Interests changed, I lived out life recklessly, and moved on a few times, leaving all behind.  I lost pretty much all of my genealogy.  Meanwhile, digitalisation was coming in fast, indexing increasing, and the Internet was giving birth to online genealogy.  During this birth, I had used an early version of Broderbund Family Tree Maker (it installed on several floppy disks) on a personal computer, and even managed to upload data and a GEDCOM file to a few places.

    Then maybe 16 months ago, after ordering a 23andMe test, I picked it up again.  I found my old GEDCOM file on a web archive.  Downloaded it, opened it with open source Gramps software.  It worked!  Since then, I've gathered surviving notes (so many lost), photos, and certificates.  I then discovered a remarkable resource.  Online Genealogy.

    Online Genealogy

    There are many online resources.  The big providers include Ancestry.com (Ancestry.co.uk), FindMyPast.co.uk, MyHeritage.com, and FamilySearch.org.  All but the latter website are subscription fee based.  Asides from these providers, there are many other services for genealogy online.  Of the above, I have heavily used FindMyPast, FamilySearch, and Ancestry.

    Online Genealogy using Ancestry.com

    The big advantage of Online Genealogy is indexing and the database.  Over the past 25 years or so, armies of volunteers and paid researchers, have been reading through microfilmed, microfisches, or digitalised images of masses of parish registers, parish records, wills, criminal registers, state records, military records, Bishop's transcripts, Headstone surveys, and more - from not only England & Wales but from all over the World, where they are available.  They read the names of those recorded, and add them to computer files with references.  Businesses such as Ancestry.com, buy access to these indexes, and often to the original digitalised images if they exist.  These are all added to their own database.  Their customers search, and find ancestors.

    A Few Problems

    1. I can report this for English records, for which I have a lot of experience. The record is still very incomplete.  You might see a Joe Bloggs, but is it your ancestor Joe Bloggs?  Many of the parish records were missing, or damaged.  Parish chests in cold churches can be damp places, the registers pulled out for every baptism, marriage, or burial, thumbed through by all.  Paper was valuable in older records, and the priests and clerks cram their little scribbled lines in them.  There were stories of vicar's wife's using old registers to kindle the fire in the vicarage.  In addition, not ALL parish registers are online at any one depository.  I've noticed that Ancestry.com is very good for Norfolk registers, but abysmal for Suffolk.  FindMyPast is good for Berkshire records.  They are far from complete records.  In addition, some ancestors were not in any parish records.  They were rogues on the run, vagabonds, or even more often ... non-conformists.  Some priests were lazy.  All of this on top of those many missing or damaged records.
    2. The indexers were human beings.  Sometimes volunteers, sometimes more recently I suspect, poorly paid human beings outside of Europe (is this the case?)  They vary in skill at reading 18th century, 17th, even 16th century hand writing that has been scribbled down in often damaged records.  The database searches for names that sound similar (to a computer program), but they miss so many that are incorrectly transcribed.  Try to read through the original images if you can.

    So the record is far from complete.  The online record less so.  A brilliant tool, but it's not going to hand you your family tree all perfect and true.  If you understand this problem, and you are more concerned about truth and quality, than about quickly producing a family tree back to Queen Boadicea (I have seen people claim such things!), then you are already aware of this.  The problem is, that you know that an ancestor was called Joe Bloggs.  Online, you find a Joe Bloggs, living 100 miles away, born about the right time.  With a click, you "add" him to the tree, then resume climbing up from him.  What you may not realise, is that there were maybe 20 Joe Bloggs born at about the right time within a 100 mile radius of the next generation.  You just picked the one that your online ancestry service flashed up to you.  He is quite probably not close family, never mind your ancestor.  All above him are not your ancestors.

    Truth and quality in a family tree

    Do you care?  Is it possible to trace back more than several generations, and to preserve that quality? The 20th and 19th centuries in England & Wales are great.  We have records from a national census every 10 years between 1841 and 1911.  They can be searched with your online service.  We have them as correlations for parish records.  We also have state records to correlate with from 1837!  Before that though, it gets a bit scratchy.  Particularly if your ancestors were not titled - as most of them were not!  Then we are down to scribbles in parish registers, a few tax books, tithes, military rolls.  Great stuff, but increasingly - we lose correlations.  We lose certainty.

    When we lose certainty, we have to start to make judgments.  Do we add an ancestor based on little record?  We have to make that judgement ourselves.  We should add the resource, name it, perhaps publish our uncertainty.  We should be ready to remove if doubt grows rather than certainty.

    I've not mentioned biological certainty here.  Haplogroup DNA can challenge some very old trees.  Things happen in biology.  We call them NPE (Non Parental Event).  Spouses cheat, lie, prostitute, are raped, commit bigamy, incest, confused.  People secretly adopt, particularly during a crisis.  I have seen a claim of the average NPE happening once in every ten generations on average.  I don't think that we can truly measure this.  Anyway, I'm of the school that although DNA genealogy is interesting in the pursuit of the past, that family is not always just about biology.  Who reared them?  Who gave them their name?  If that is family, it's also ancestry.


    But the ultimate mistake with using online genealogy

    This one is easy.  It is that companies such as Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com, allow, sometimes encourage the resourcing of other members family trees.  It has nothing to do with rights or property.  It has to do with the reproduction of mistakes, and bad quality research.  It indeed gives genealogy at online sites like these, a pretty bad name.

    Many users of these sites are casual.  They have only used the online resources available through the quick click and collect ancestry of these services.  They are only trying to pursue as far back, as possible, within as short time as possible.  Truth and quality is of very much secondary value.  It's the consume society.  They leave their disjointed trees of fiction all over these web services.  Then Ancestry / MyHeritage, invites you to add them to your own.  Very much internet viral in form - the errors replicate like mutations in a strand of DNA, only with lightening speed.  It's so easy to add new layers of ancestry.  But they are fiction.  I've seen people marrying before they are born, dying before they give birth.  I've seen people marry their parents or uncles.   I myself, recently tried it en mass as an experiment to a tree.  It was incredible.  The discrepancies and errors.  Ugly.

    So, if you have to, look at other trees. I strongly recommend that you avoid that temptation to simply click and collect ancestry.  Most of the genuine ancestry on these trees is available to be quickly found with your own use of the services on that site.  Do that, but make your own judgments.  Don't add to the virus trees.  Genealogy is for the long haul.

    Total Genealogy

    I'm certainly not descended from the bonobos in the above photograph (Credit: W. H. Calvin Ape Bonobo San Diego Zoo.  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0).  However, at some point, perhaps around seven million years ago, we do share common ancestry.  That is a link in the inter-connectivity of Life on Earth.  Also an excuse to post a photo of those wonderful beings.

    I recently attended a lecture on Total Genealogy, but I was disappointed that the subject was surname study.  I had hoped that it would relate more to my own concept of the term.  A genealogy that doesn't just embrace documentary research of recorded ancestors over the past 500 years or so, but a more general interest in heritage, that overlaps with DNA, genetics, population genetics, anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, local history, national and regional history, cultural and social history, prehistory, linguistics, human evolution, and yes, even our shared ancestry with those bonobo cousins.  Everything ancestral, how we came to be how we are, and above all, time travel in our imaginations.  That is what I mean by Total Genealogy.

    Researching the written record, following names is great fun.  Why should the fun stop there though?  Where were my ancestors 12,000 years ago?  Actually, DNA and population studies gives my imagination some good answers to that question.  What did my ancestors 500,000 years look like?  How did they live?  If I could time travel, what would I see?

    Total genealogy leads you to bridges, the concept of genetic folding, and of bottlenecks.  You start to relate closer to all humans, and see everyone as a distant cousin.  It embraces a love of heritage, of people, and of the Natural World.  It leaves me in awe.