A new Ancestral Parish - Maxey, near Peterborough

By Rodney Burton [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

This line descends to me via my paternal grandmother, Doris Brooker nee Smith.  Her paternal grandmother was Ann Smith nee Peach. She lived during the 19th Century in Attleborough, Norfolk, but her origins baffled me for years before online genealogical research enabled me to crack it.

I published how I cracked it, and her father's story here.  In brief, her mother, Sarah, was born Sarah Riches near to Attleborough in Norfolk at Great Hockham in 1812.  Then ... somehow, she met a David Peach, from the East Midlands.  He was a shepherd and drover, and I'm best guessing that his vocation brought him into contact with a Norfolk bride.  He may have been droving livestock to Norfolk pastures or markets.  She returned to his home, in Etton.  Etton, is a village on East Midland county borders that has fluctuated in history between Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and the modern district of Peterborough.  It was this fuzziness that hid his roots from me for a little longer.  They married in Etton in 1835.  Their daughter, and my ancestor, Ann Peach, was born later that year at Etton.

In 1837, her father David Peach was convicted at Lincoln Assize Courts of stealing two cattle.  He was sentenced to Life Transportation to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).  He went on to be transferred to a particularly tough penal colony in Tasmania.  He was eventually pardoned, but not granted licence to return to England.  Meanwhile, his wife Sarah, and her young daughter, Ann, somehow managed to return to Norfolk, where she found refuge with her parents, now living in the market town of Attleborough.  For a while they went to live on as servants.  For years, Sarah remained in Attleborough, never remarrying, although she had at least two more children.  She worked to support herself and her children as a charwoman or washer woman, working a laundry.

But ... where were the roots of her East Midland Shepherd husband, David Peach?  I suspected that he was local to the Etton area.  Inquiries at various FHS stands at the 2016 Who do you think you are? event in Birmingham had lead me to this position.  Peach's seemed to be local, but the county boundaries kept changing.  I suspected the Stamford area.

Then a fresh search today.  I've recently taken out a month worth of subscription to Ancestry.co.uk.  They appear to have had a lot of Northamptonshire County Council archive records, indexes, and digitalised images added.  There, I found his family!

The ancestors via David Peach that I discovered today (see the above direct tree) were entirely from the parish next to Etton, the parish of Maxey.  This village today belongs to the District of Peterborough, and has been associated with Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire - but back then, fell within the County of Northampton.

The Peach family seem to have been shepherds and drovers for a few generations at Maxey.  David was baptised at Maxey in early 1807, the son of John and Ann Peach of that village.  His father had taken the name of an elder brother that had died as an infant, while their mother was carrying him.  The elder John had been the twin brother of Joseph Peach.  Joseph turns up as a witness at so many 18th Century Maxey weddings that I'm guessing that he had some sort of local office in the parish, or was a particularly popular man!  Our John (the 2nd), was relatively quiet on record, and unfortunately my search didn't reveal his marriage, nor the surname of his own wife Ann.  He did witness his elder brother's Joseph wedding alongside an Ann Mason.  Who knows?

Our ancestor John Peach's parents were a Maxey couple, that married there in 1762 - Peter Peach and Mary Rippon.  I can then trace Mary's baptism and parents in Maxey - she was baptised there in 1734.  Her father was Robert Rippon, a Maxey tailor.  He married our ancestor Alice Saunderson at Maxey in 1710.  Her parents in turn were Christopher and Alice Saunderson of Maxey.

And so ends today's family history lesson.  I now have 243 direct ancestors named in the tree.  I did add new siblings where I could find them by trawling the online digitalised images of the parish records and bishop's transcripts.

Photo of St Peter's Church, Maxey, Cambridgeshire under Creative Commons by Meg Nicol on Flickr

Updated direct Ancestry stats:

Generation 1 has 1 individual. (100.00%)

Generation 2 has 2 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 3 has 4 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 4 has 8 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 5 has 16 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 6 has 31 individuals. (96.88%)

Generation 7 has 57 individuals. (89.06%)

Generation 8 has 55 individuals. (42.97%)

Generation 9 has 46 individuals. (18.75%)

Generation 10 has 18 individuals. (3.91%)

Generation 11 has 6 individuals. (0.59%)

Total ancestors in generations 2 to 11 is 243. (12.07%)

Building bridges and walls through ancestry

Copied from openstreetmap.org and modified under the Open Data Commons Open Database License.  

Bridges and Walls, Snakes and Ladders

I've noticed two perspectives within the broad scope of genealogy where it ties to population genetics.

  • Some people, those with nationalistic, right wing political views, frequently look for what divides their ancestry from others.  What defines and ties them to a historical population, or even to a land.  They may well want to prove connection to a romanticised historical group within their part of the world.
  • Others - those of a more international, liberal persuasion, instead tend to look for what unites them with other peoples alive today - what connects them within the community of humanity.

I have to confess to being more of the latter.

On Paper

I started out with a pretty well researched paper genealogical record.  A family tree.  A family history.  Researched through oral history, interviews, parish records, state records, and then on to digitalised records in more recent years.  A genealogical database of 1,570 individuals for my kids, and 207 direct ancestors recorded for myself - going back to the 1680s.  My recorded ancestry was 100% English - dominated by the County of Norfolk.  The majority of present day English perhaps have some non-English ancestry, perhaps Irish or Scottish, or something a little further afield.  I didn't find any.  All English surnames, and English denominations.  Some of those surnames however, did echo rather more ancient immigration from across the North Sea.

Autosomal DNA Testing

Autosomal DNA testing for ancestry provided a bit of a surprise.  I took a 23andMe DNA test, along with my mother, who's results I phased with to provide more accuracy.  The 23andMe Ancestry Composition analysis in standard mode didn't simply see me as English, or even as British.  It did see me pretty much as 100% European.  Not a hint of Africa nor Asia within the past several hundred years.  It saw 86% of my autosomal DNA as definitively North-West European.  However, it could only see a mere 17% as distinctly belonging to British & Irish.  So, the ancestry test of my autosomal DNA certainly agreed that I was European, NW European even, but couldn't be sure on how English or even British that I was.

23andMe Ancestry Composition in the very unreliable speculative mode rated my British/Irishness at only 37%.  The highest percentage of focus - but it saw 22% of my autosomal DNA ancestry as French / German, 1% as Scandinavian, and 2% as South European.  So considering my 100% English ancestry on paper, autosomal DNA testing couldn't really be very sure about my ancestry.  Even in speculative mode, it had 34% of my DNA as "Broadly NW European", meaning that it couldn't be sure, but somewhere in that corner of that continent.

Fair enough I suppose.  I've lost a certain amount of faith in any autosome DNA tests for ancestry to be able to pinpoint the English.  You see, even ignoring recent waves of immigration of Irish, Scottish, French, Germans, West Indians, South Asians, etc, etc.  The truth is that the English were already a very admixed population even 1,500 years before present.  Already a mixture of prehistoric populations, immigrants from across the Roman Empire, then from across the North Sea, from the Low Countries, Northern Germany, Denmark, Scandinavia, etc.  23andMe claim that their product reflects your ancestry 500 years ago.  No it does not.  It uses modern reference populations.  Genes have been circulating around the World for a long time.  Autosomal DNA tests for ancestry have really improved.  They are pretty good now for recognising a Continent - sometimes even a corner of a continent, as the source of some ancestry.  But they cannot pinpoint many populations with accuracy, and they cannot pinpoint the English.

So, my paper record said English.  My 23andMe autosome DNA test said North-West European, but couldn't even pinpoint British.  It suggested admixture.  It did however - this is important - only see me as European.  Okay, in Standard Mode, it did have a tiny 0.3% that it failed to assign to Europe, nor anywhere.  It did not see Asian.

Haplogroup DNA Testing

Haplogroups follow two narrow lines of ancestry.  The Y follows the direct paternal line, the MT follows the direct maternal.  They do not represent the bulk of your ancestry.  However, they can tell a more accurate, and longer term story.  Ancestry can be lost in Autosomal DNA within a few centuries.  In addition, it gets messed up through recombination.  Not so with the two haplogroups.  So where did mine come from?


There is an awful lot that we will know in future about our haplogroups, that we don't yet know - especially in the case of mt-DNA. However, we do know that my haplogroup, H6a1, did not originate in Europe.

H is common in Europe, and it most likely originated either there, or in South West Asia, during the Upper Palaeolithic. H6 did not originate in Europe.  It may be West or Central Asian in origin.  H6a1 has not been recovered in any ancient DNA within Western Europe.  However, it has been recovered in the DNA of the Yamnaya on the Eurasian Steppes.  For this reason, it is generally thought - based on evidence so far, to have been brought into Western Europe during the Early Bronze Age, by the expansion from the Eurasian Steppes at that time.

It isn't too fanciful - based on this evidence, to imagine that my distant grandmothers belonged to tribes of Early Bronze Age pastoralists, living on the Steppes of what is now the Ukraine.


This one has been a cracker for me.  Anyone that has followed my blog, might be getting bored with this.  I've thoroughly tested my Y-DNA.  It's not an exaggeration to suggest that it is quite likely Ancient Persian.  Based on current evidence, I believe that my Y-DNA arrived into England within the last millennia - probably between 350 and 800 years ago.  I'm still working on it's most likely route here.  I do believe that it was most likely still located in the region of Iran circa 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.  My nearest 111 STR match is to a guy in Australia who's paternal line lived in Birjand, Eastern Iran.  We shared a common ancestor around 2,000 years ago.  My terminal SNP is shared on record with only one other man so far - in the world.  He was a Balochi speaker that lives in Makran, SW Pakistan - close to the border with Iran.  The Balochi are believed to have migrated from North Iran between the 5th and 14th centuries AD.

Nomad camp, at the Zagros Mountains, Iran.  By C Whitely on Flickr under Creative Commons License.

A bit more distant, I have a Y cousin in the USA that maybe I shared a common ancestor with 3,000 years ago.  He is of Azores Portuguese descent on his Y line, but he carries a distinct STR marker that has been associated with the Parsi, who migrated to India and Pakistan, but originated in Iran.

And going further back, the Y haplogroup L most likely originated within the area of Iran and Iraq, during the Ice Age.  It would have been carried by Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers in that region.  13,000 years, I shared grandfathers with two Pontic Greek Y cousins, who's ancestors lived in Trazbon, Eastern Anatolia.  Maybe one Y ancestral son headed to the Black Sea, the other settled at the Caspian Sea?  The Ice Age was drawing to a close, but with a ferocity and climate instability that drove bands of people apart and into refuges at that time.

The Parsi connection keeps hinting.  They descend from Persians that worshiped the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism.  I've just seen a Y haplogroup study of men in Pakistan.  The background level of Y haplogroup L-M317 sat at 1.1%.  However, in the sample of Parsi men there - it spikes up to 13.3%.  That might not be the route however, of my Y line.  The SK1414 SNP turned up in that same study, but that was found on the Makrani Boluch man that was tested L-M317, not in the 12 Parsi men that also tested positive for L-M317.


I prefer bridges to walls, and that is what I got.  My paper ancestry said 100% English - much of it East Anglian.  I'm quite proud of that, but I'm equally proud of my more distant ancestors that emigrated here.  I've found North Sea admixture, from places such as the Netherlands and southern Scandinavia.  I've found a grandmother in a Bronze Age tribe of pastoralists in the Ukraine.  I've found ancient Persians, descending from hunters of Ibex in the Iran / Iraq region.  I've found distant cousins in the USA, Iran, Pakistan, Australia, and Turkey.

One species, one family.

On the Trail of our Y Ancestor

Locator map Iran South Khorasan Province

Early examinations of the Chandler / Brooker Southern English L-M20 Y haplogroup samples, seem to be suggesting that they share a common ancestor quite recently, perhaps between 300 and 600 years ago.  That might mean that a Y ancestor carried the haplogroup into England, perhaps between the 13th and 17th centuries AD.

Where did that Y-DNA come from?  It could have been carried directly by one Y ancestor from a homeland, or it could have transported to England gradually over many generations, from a homeland in Western Asia.

An early match has been forwarded by Caspian, forum user at Anthropogenica.  It is a 111 STR marker, from Birjand / Southern Khorasan, in Eastern Iran.

Could this be the home of our Brooker family Y ancestors?  That is to say, if I was to trace my father, back to his father, to his father - and to continue along this route, might I eventually find my ancestors on this paternal line, in Eastern Iran?  It's an early possibility.  More data, more tests, might eventually give me a better answer.

The STR evidence linked on a Google Sheet.

Edit. 25th May 2016

Early analysis by Gareth Henson, informally suggests a tmrca (time since most recent common ancestor) between myself and the guy in Eastern Iran, of circa 3,000 years ago, or if you prefer, 1000 BC. That would mean that we shared a common lineage until around the time of the Later Bronze Age in British terms. Our common  Y ancestor most likely lived nearer to his home in Western Asia than to mine in North West Europe. 

That isn't long ago. It might suggest that our most recent common ancestor lived in Western Asia around about the time of a series of tensions and conflicts  between Greeks and Persians.  On the other hand, Anthropogenica user Anabasis, using the Clan McDonald TMRCA Calculator, suggests a more recent date, around 1,800 to 1,500 years ago.  That in his words puts it into a context of "In that times Roman - Sasanian wars happened along Eastern Anatolia. Greek- Persian wars were 1 millennium earlier.".  However, he warns, that STR data is not a trustworthy indicator of a TMRCA.

What I love though, is that it stirs the imagination.  Whether 1,500 years ago, or 3,000 years ago - I, an East Anglian, had a paternal ancestor somewhere most likely, between Eastern Anatolia, and Afghanistan.

Kit Number 26369

Family Tree DNA (ftDNA) is a commercial genetics genealogy company, with a reputation for cornering the market in Y-DNA testing, and in accumulating references for haplogroups.

That map above, that is the sum total of Y haplogroup L submissions on their database for the UK.  All four of them.  The two to the east are L2 and L2a.  The one in Oxfordshire represents my own pending results (expected L1b or L-M317).  Just to the south of that, the SW representative, is kit number 26369.

The cluster in Central Europe, is the "Rhine Danube Cluster", but that is L1a (L M349).

So you see, except for kit 26369, my Y haplogroup is way out here, like a distant satellite on it's own.  So what is Kit 26379?  Well, it is only a Y12 STR test result.  Predicted to M20, but it has been assigned to L-M317 un-clustered.  Up to now!  It's located only 32 miles south of my surname line during the 1740's.  Could it relate to our line?


11 23 15 10 11-17 11 12 12 14 14 31

Time will tell.  My Y111 test should take place within the next month.

On the trail of the Brookers of Oxfordshire

The Parish Church of All Saints, in the South Oxfordshire village of Rotherfield Peppard.  Taken on my phone cam during a recent ancestor hunt in this area.  Rotherfield Peppard is the location of my earliest verified Brooker ancestors.


Many years ago, perhaps nearly twenty years ago, I had traced my surname family line to a John & Elizabeth Brooker that lived in the South Oxfordshire village of Rotherfield Peppard during the 1841 census.  My trail came to a dead end with that John Brooker.  He was my G.G.G.G grandfather, and was born circa 1787.  John fathered another John, who fathered Henry, who fathered John Henry, who fathered Reginald John, who fathered my father.  My surname trail has been stuck there ever since.

Until perhaps very soon into the future.  I lost interest in genealogy around twelve years ago or so.  Really, my interest started to drift away perhaps soon after discovering the above dead end on my surname line.  Then an impulse buy of a 23andMe kit this January, and inspired by the new genetics side of the interest, I returned to genealogy a few months ago.  I discovered the advantages (and some of the downfalls) of 21st Century Internet Genealogy.  I've expanded my family tree in several directions using these new resources.  But that old surname, that continued to frustrate.

You see that 1841 census, it left me with a teaser.  Later censuses record the actual parish of birth, and actual age of each person in England & Wales.  The 1841 census however, merely asked people if they were born within the county of residence or not, and summarised their ages into five year round ups.  Elizabeth stated that yes, she was born in Oxfordshire.  John on the other hand said No!  He was born outside of Oxfordshire.  I remember the long drive home from the Oxfordshire County Record Office many years ago, and considering that answer.  I knew that the nearest other county was Berkshire, and that I kept seeing Brooker families in Berkshire.  I speculated that he most likely was from Berkshire.  It was a bit of a surprise, because my wife at that time, and the mother of my children had ancestors herself nearby in Berkshire.

The Y Factor

That 23andMe DNA test revealed a number of surprises.  One of them was that I had an incredibly rare Y-DNA haplogroup for North-West Europe.  As a Y haplogroup, "L" is mainly found in any percentages in South Asia, particularly in South India, and also around Pakistan.  My actual sub clade however, is rarer, and is mainly found south of the Caucasus in Western Asia, where Anatolia meets the Levant.  One ethnicity that it has been linked to are the Pontic Greeks that traditionally lived around the Black Sea.  I'm presently investigating it with a thorough ftDNA Y111 STR test, followed by an ftDNA Big Y test.  Yes, I've chucked too much money at it.

Okay, it's just a genetic signal, just a marker.  It doesn't have any value nor effect on who I am.  But it does link me to a part of the World in a kind of personal, measured way, that I never imagined.  I do want to know, so far as I can, how this Y haplogroup got into Europe, into North-West Europe, into Britain, and into my Brooker surname line.  Can I use it to link to any distant Y cousins, that live today or perhaps in the past (ancient DNA) in other ethnicities?  Will any Brookers directly descended from the same Oxfordshire cluster of Brookers, ever test, and record their haplogroup online?  If I don't test and record myself, then no, that will never happen.  I'm not expecting recent cousins.  I hope to merely find very distant cousins.  In a sense I already have.  I have many in India, Pakistan, Armenia, Syria, Chechnya, etc.  We all do.  However I know have a link that I can measure.

This has forced me to re-launch my investigation in my surname line.  Will I find any clues to how and when it entered the line?

"There aren't many Brookers around here"...

It should be easy right?  Even local genealogists have said to me "there aren't many Brookers around here".  Wrong. There are a lot in the Thames Valley, and they've been there quite some time.  Most researchers of the Brooker surname, end up in Kent/Sussex.  That is because Kent is the English county, with the highest density of the Brooker surname today in telephone directories etc.  At first, I thought that my Brooker line came out of Kent, because my great grandfather lived at Sidcup for many years.  However, I later discovered that his father actually originated in South Oxfordshire.  There are scatters of Brookers across England.  There's even one family established in Suffolk.  The Oxfordshire / Berkshire Brooker cluster however, is second only to the Kent/Sussex cluster.  They've been in the Thames Valley quite some time.

So, on returning to genealogy, I start to use the new Internet resources.  FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.co.uk, FindMyPast.com.  I search for John Brooker born circa 1787 anywhere, but particularly in Berkshire.  I narrowed it down to about three candidates, and then by a process of elimination down to one, my most likely candidate.  I check censuses to see if John Brooker of Berkshire disappears before my validated John Brooker of Oxfordshire emerges on the 1841 census, married to Elizabeth, with several kids.  Finally, I settled on my favourite.  He was born at Hurley, Berkshire.  Only four miles away from a major bridge over the Thames into Henley, Oxfordshire, and seven miles from Rotherfield Peppard.  I even travelled down to the area, to check it out.  It was all so plausible.  I'd cracked the puzzle after all of these years.  Noone else on Ancestry.com sharing my Brookers had come up with the same answer.  Most were stuck at 1841, or later.  One had a silly proposal to a highly improbable ancestor.  I had reached Hurley.

In Hurley, I took this new extension back to another John Brooker, before him a Richard Brooker, before that another Richard Brooker, as well as some of the maternal lines.  A cracking breakthrough.  I was back to G.G.G.G.G.G.G grandparents on my surname line.  I was chuffed, even announced it here and on Facebook.  Hurley was the ancient home of the Brookers.

And what a beautiful village!  The church at Hurley above.

But it was incorrect.  A nagging feeling that I really had not searched thoroughly enough, that this John Brooker of Hurley, totally disappeared before mine appeared in Rotherfield Peppard.  I want all of my genealogy to be well validated and properly sourced.  But particularly for my surname line.  I'm spending a lot of money on those Y chromosome tests.  I don't want to tag it to a bad, untrue ancestry.

So I took another look.  I found a doppelganger in the Hurley area.  He had children there, in the parish next to Hurley.  He fit the John Brooker born in Hurley during 1789 even better than my ancestor.  I had rushed, messed up.  I was too quick to accept the link.  I made another mistake.  It meant deleting a whole bunch of ancestors from my family tree.  But it had to be done.

So many Johns and Elizabeths

I kept looking online.  I kept seeing other John Brookers.  I even kept seeing more John and Elizabeth Brooker families!  Everything that I checked out on Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.com fails tests.  I need good evidence.  It was the free LDS service at FamilySearch.org though that provided the next candidate.  I see references to a number of children born to a John and Elizabeth Brooker at Sonning, Berkshire.  The children were all slightly older, and had different names to any of those later at Rotherfield.  I looked up Sonning.  Sonning Common was actually north of the Thames, right next to Rotherfield Peppard!  I even discover that my G.G.G grandfather John Brooker (Junior) was living there in 1841!  Eureka (again)!

I'm recording everything now.  I even buy some marriage and death certificates from the GRO, looking for any link whatsoever.  Any correlation.  Any new note or mention.  I also start to purchase CD-ROMS of transcripts of parish registers from the Oxfordshire FHS, and to consult them by email.  When I look closer, I can see that if this family really were mine, then the mother, Elizabeth, must have been incredibly young at marriage, around sixteen.  I'm starting to have doubts again.  A researcher from Oxfordshire FHS replied.  They explain the confusing situation with Sonning Common.  It belonged to a parish south of the river, in Berkshire.  They also doubted the connection.  The births just didn't fit.  My CD-ROMS start to arrive.  They didn't fit.

I'd chased the wrong connection again, for a second time.

If you don't succeed at first...

The latest attempts.  I'm not giving up yet.  Hurley was wrong.  Sonning was wrong.  I can still get this.  Then the other night, I played with some more online searches, and I see something on the 1861 census of Rotherfield Greys, that I hadn't spotted before!  There was an old couple living in another neighbouring parish by the name of John and Elizabeth Brooker.  Not only that, but the 1861 census recorded their parishes of birth.  This John Brooker was born at Long Wittenham, Berkshire.  Elizabeth was born at Drayton, Oxfordshire.  It fits.  Elizabeth Brooker born inside Oxfordshire, her husband John born outside of Oxfordshire!  And so close!  Have I done it this time?

There is a problem with the connection.  The ages are wrong.  According to the 1841 census, my ancestor John was born between 1787 and 1791.  The 1861 John was born 1781 - according to the enumerator.  Equally, in 1841 Elizabeth was recorded as being born between 1797 and 1801.  This 1861 Elizabeth was recorded as being born 1786.  They're too old.

However...  a search for a John Brooker baptised at Long Wittenham, produced two transcripts of a John, son of Edward and Elizabeth Brucker baptised 17th January 1789.  Wow, if this is the same guy at Rotherfield Grey in 1861, then his age is wildly out, and he fits into the age of my 1841 John after all.  It can happen.  They were old.  They could be deaf, or the person reporting to the enumerator could have had senile dementia.  A neighbour could have helped out, but got their ages wrong.  How many John & Elizabeth Brookers could be in the Rotherfield area?  I have yet another expensive Oxfordshire FHS parish register transcript CD-ROM on the way.  I feel increasingly pressured to spend a few days in the Oxfordshire and Berkshire record offices.  Long Wittenham has changed county.  It is near to Abingdon, on the south side of the Thames, and it was in Berkshire at that time.  It is now in Oxfordshire.  Drayton, is on the other side of the river, not far away.  The couple in must have met and married in that area of the Thames valley, and later, moved around twelve miles down river to the Rotherfield area.

Are they my 1841 couple though?  I have decided to add them to my tree - but subject to removal or verification, as I research them further.  If that baptism date pans out, with no earlier doppelganger being born in Long Wittenham, I'll start to feel happier.  If they do work out, then I have already found two new generations by the looks of it.  As I said above, this John, was the son of an Edward and Elizabeth Brucker.  He in turn, may have been the Edward Brooker baptised at Long Wittenham on 16th January 1757, to another earlier John and Mary Brooker.  It's taken me to a new and unexpected area of the Thames Valley.

Lessons to be learned

I doubt that anyone else ever reads these lengthy boring posts.  However should there be anyone out there, this is what I can pass to you:

  • Internet Genealogy is hazardous.  Not just because of the forest of diseased, incorrect, badly researched, badly sourced trees out there, that Family History websites push into your face.  It is also hazardous because it is incomplete, but easy.  It is easy to believe that all paper records are online.  They are not by a long chalk.  Even the paper record is actually incomplete.  Many parish records have been damaged, lost, destroyed.  Some even evaded them.  Some have not been handed over to archives.  It is too easy with Internet Search to look for a Joe Bloggs, find a Joe Bloggs, any, and to grab them.  However, did you grab the right one?  Was it simply the only one on the Internet, in that particular database entered transcription?
  • Don't be at a rush to grab your Joe Bloggs.  Take your time.  That is my weakness.
  • Don't be afraid to have doubt.  Keep going back.  Check, verify, check again.

Number of ancestors report

I'm continuing to have some success in adding ancestors to the tree, while at the same time I'm verifying, adding sources and citations, and adding flesh to bones.  I've been hitting Ancestry.co.uk and FindmyPast.com pretty hard while I can.  I also sometimes use the NORS facility on the Norfolk FHS website.  Finally, I've collected my old paper records and certificates from my old days in pre-Internet genealogy.

In some cases I have removed some proposed ancestors.  During a moment of weakness, I allowed the My Heritage website to add some branches to my tree from those of other researchers.  I wont do that again.  Looking closely, and checking for sources myself, I disagree with the authenticity of them.  I also found that I was barking up the wrong service record for my great grandfather.  I'll learn by these mistakes.

New branches or ancestors that I've recently uncovered include the Particular Baptist Tovel family of Suffolk, and the Daynes of Garvestone, Norfolk.

I found another handy feature on the open source Gramps genealogy software.  A Number of Ancestors Report.  It generated the below stats for me.

I think that it is typical for a family tree - recorded ancestors as a percentage of the biological generation, really start to rapidly fall away from Generation 8 (G.G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation).  Until then, most of the missing ancestors are down to illegitimacy events:

Number of Ancestors Report 11 April 2016

Generation 1 has 1 individual. (100.00%)

Generation 2 has 2 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 3 has 4 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 4 has 8 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 5 has 16 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 6 has 29 individuals. (91%)

Generation 7 has 49 individuals. (77%)

Generation 8 has 37 individuals. (29%)

Generation 9 has 26 individuals. (11%)

Generation 10 has 16 individuals. (3.5%)

Generation 11 has 4 individuals. (0.4%)

Total ancestors in generations 2 to 11 is 191. (9.53%)

The Three Ages of Genealogy

The above image was made from an opportunistic photocopy of a photograph held by a second cousin.  it is a portrait of Samuel William "Fiddler" Curtis.  He was one of my sixteen great great grandparents, and was born at Hassingham, Norfolk in 1852.  He worked as a teamster - an agricultural labourer that drove a team of horses in the fields.

1. The Past - Record Office Genealogy.

This was how I did genealogy almost exclusively twenty two years ago.  It still exists as a method.  It is still the most qualitative, and traditional research method.  It could be represented by a pair of white gloves - the sort that many record offices and archives insist that readers wear, while handling conserved records.  There is of course a cost.  Some parish registers for example, will suffer from handling, regardless of the level of care.  Otherwise I would recommend that all present day genealogists should practice it from time to time - in order to reference to the most original documents, or simply for the experience of handling these wonderful links to our ancestors.  I remember reading some parish records that I knew had been personally kept by my parish clerk ancestors.  I visited county record offices in Norfolk, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, and Glamorgan.  I visited archives and the GRO in London.  Genealogy meant leaving the house and travelling.

Twenty two years ago, Digital Genealogy was in it's infancy.  The "IGI" was on microfische.  Censuses up to and including 1881 were available on microfilm.  Some parish registers were just starting to appear in the microfilm/fische room, but for many, I had to produce my readers card, don the white gloves, and carry a soft lead pencil.  Good times.  But sometimes frustrating.I had many dead ends.  If an ancestor moved more than a few parishes away, and preceded a census, you had to either spend years looking in so many parishes - or rely on a bit of luck.  You could of course find other researchers with shared interests.  They would advertise these interests in the columns of genealogy magazines, and in printed annual directories.

By the time that my personal interest drifted away from genealogy, things had already changed an awful lot.  Many more records had been photographed onto film or fische - to protect the original records from a growth of interest in family history.  Here in Norfolk, amateur genealogists were encouraged to use the film/fische reading rooms, rather than access the original documents.  Although some negatives were hard to read, it was much faster than ordering and waiting in a reading room by a ticket system.  People were also increasingly using the Internet as a way of sharing.  The IGI moved online.  We were also using database software programs such as Family Tree Maker, and sharing our .gedcom files online.

I then totally moved away from genealogy totally, for perhaps 12 years.

2. The Present - Internet Genealogy

My interest in genealogy and family history returned after that long break way.  What had changed?  What do I think of the current scene?  So many documents have been digitally photographed, transcribed, indexed, then fed onto online databases.  It's incredible.  Within a few months, my family tree has grown and grown.  I've picked up so many dead ends.  The IGI has evolved into FamilySearch.org, an incredible free online resource.  National archives have growing online collections.  There are commercial online subscription based resources galore competing - Ancestry, FindmyPast, MyHeritage, TheGenealogist, GenesReunited, FamilyLink, Genealogy, etc.  FreeBMD grows.  We can not only browse the England & Wales census online, but since I started researching 22 years ago, we now also have 1891, 1901, and 1911.  With a subscription we can even view them from our homes.

It gets much better though.  So much has been transcribed and indexed - then added to databases.  This means that we can database Search for missing ancestors.  This is the greatest advantage to Internet and database transcriptions - this ability to find them, where we might not have looked.  Also to find new details, to flesh out the bones of our ancestors - military records, criminal records, transportations.  In the old days, we would have needed to either visit a number of difficult archives in London, or hire an experienced professional genealogist to do this for us.  This is the sort of stuff that can now be accessed by the amateur from the comfort of the home.  There is a lot that is positive about the Present.

What can be depressing is that the margin for error has not only increased through badly transcribed indexes, but the ease of Internet search, and of copying previous research - duplicating error has greatly increased.  When I uploaded a skeleton direct ancestral tree to MyHeritage, I was plagued by the website, to add other people's work to my tree. However, when I look at their trees, very often, I don't agree with their conclusions.  I see what I believe to be errors.  Wrong generations married up.  Desperate looking links from parents many miles away - that when I investigate them, I can't verify.  I've very quickly learned to distrust other people's online trees.  I'll use them only as suggestions to investigate.

3.  The Future - Genetic Genealogy

The title of this section is a bit of a tease.  I was a bit of a sceptic of genetic genealogy.  Even now, I feel that people wishing to use DNA evidence for extending family trees should in most cases, save their cash.  However, I can see that one day in the future, genetic genealogy could be a serious tool.  What it presently lacks, particularly outside of the USA, is data!  It can only work, when enough people have recorded and shared enough DNA data online.  Even then, for anything else than measuring quite close relationships up to say, second or third cousin, autosome DNA does not offer much to the genealogist.  Most of our DNA is autosome.  Very useful for checking for recent non-paternal events.  Useful for example, for finding close biological relatives.

What I think will be of more use in the future, will be haplogroup DNA.  The Y-DNA and mt-DNA, and then - only when many, many more people, have submitted and recorded their DNA.  Even then, it will not produce a family tree.  It will identify common biological relations between researchers and other submitters.  Y-DNA will increasingly tie to surnames - and also mark the non paternal events where the haplogroup jumps from one surname to another.  FamilyTreeDNA are the forerunners in that field, with their DNA Projects.  Surname and geographic projects link actual family lines to certain haplogroups, clusters of haplogroups, STR markers, SNPs etc.  It's a great idea, but it's in it's infancy.

Imagine a future though, where not only most researchers have registered DNA data, but that of past generations - parents, grandparents, and even ancient DNA from archaeological sites.  This is where genealogy overlaps with anthropology.  Traditional genealogy traces ancestors from recent centuries.  DNA haplogroups show promise for tracing the general movements, admixtures, displacements of ancestors from thousands of years ago.  At the moment, genetic genealogy rarely supports traditional genealogy - rather, it compliments it with very different material.  In the future though, as if we continue to tie more SNPs and STRs to actual family lines, it'll start to mean something more to the historical period.  Actual surnames will start to attach to clusters.  At least that is how I see it.  I'm sure that the shareholders of the DNA testing companies would also like us to see that vision.