Story of L. My Big Y Test Results

The above Photograph of the Sumela Monastery, Trabzon Mountains, former Pontus, by reibai of Flickr under Creative Commons Licence.  Close to the home of my nearest recorded Big Y cousins today.

The Big Y Test

The FTDNA results came back.  As with the Y111 test results, they were three weeks earlier than scheduled.  So what has this test told me, about the story of my Y-DNA, and it's exotic L-M20 genetic marker? It was not a disappointment.

Warning

Remember, I am only telling the story of one single line of descent.  Y-DNA merely provides a convenient genetic marker of mutation, that can be compared and traced with others.  It does not define anyone.  From an anthropological perspective, haplogroups are of value in a collective sense - to a population.  I no doubt share the story of my Y with many more people alive today.  I may be a carrier of it, but it is also your story, just as the haplogroups that you carry, are also my story - through our mothers and shared descent.  Y-DNA passes strictly on only one line of descent - from father to son.  It is not inherited nor passed down by women.  Only on that one strict paternal line of descent. The Y haplogroup is only a convenient marker of one line.

The Y Haplogroup L

Y Haplogroup K formed in a paternal lineage of hunter-gatherer fathers and sons, that share a MRCA (most recent common ancestor) during the Upper Palaeolithic, circa 45,400 years ago.  Where did my Y ancestors live at that time?  We think that they lived in Western or Southern Asia.  Iran is a favourite proposal. My earlier Y ancestors had most likely exited Africa 20,000 years earlier, and were well established in Asia.  They had most likely met and confronted another archaic human species, The Neanderthal. This was however, a time of great expansion by humans.  The first anatomically modern humans had recently entered Europe, while other moderns u were arriving in Australia.  The Ice Age was in a flux, but glaciation was advancing.

Our most recent common Y ancestor to carry Y Haplogroup LT lived circa 42,600 years ago.  Then a mutation in the Y-DNA lead to the formation of Y Haplogroup L, with a most recent common ancestor 23,200 years ago, close to the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, when ice sheets were reaching their maximum positions.  K, LT, and early L, most likely all originated in Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer populations living during the last Ice Age, in the area of modern day Iran and Iraq.  It was a time of increased stress on human populations, that were having to adapt to some severe environmental challenges, and may have at times faced isolation into a number of Ice Age Refuges.

Around 18,400 years ago, M317 appeared on their Y-DNA, then circa 14,000 years ago, my line (L-SK1214), diverged away from L-M349.  L1b today, occurs mainly in Western Asia, from Anatolia to Afghanistan.  L1a occurs mainly in India, Sri Lanka, and in Pakistan.  Where did all of this occur?  We don't know yet.  There is so little data.  Some other divergences popped up in Southern and Central Asia.  Some of these sub clades in India and Pakistan, are the most numerous of L today.  However, the finger keeps pointing at Western Asia, as the source of much of L divergence, particularly in L1b sub clades such as M317, and M349.  But we don't yet know what part Europe played if any.  Both M317 and M349 crops at low frequencies across Europe, particularly along the south coast, and in Italy.  L2 (L595) crops at at low frequency almost exclusively in Europe.  Altogether, L forms only around 0.3% across Europe as a whole, yet, this diversity sits at low frequencies scattered across the continent.

Iran may equally be a key.  We believe that it could have been home to L for a very long time, but we have very little data from that part of the world.  L is also missing from ancient DNA.  A hypothesis has been proposed that some early Neolithic farmers from Anatolia, may have carried L, and may have carried it into Europe for example.  All speculation, but it could explain some of these old divisions of L that we are starting to see across Europe and Western Asia.  Some of the earliest Eurasian L Y-DNA extracted so far has only very recently been reported - in populations of Iron Age Huns, that had migrated westwards into Europe.

My Big Y Results

So what did the test tell me about my line?  Was I descended from a recent immigrant from India or Pakistan?  An Iron Age Hun?  An Italian?  How about a Pontic Greek, or a Persian?  Where do I fit in?

The answers provided by the Big Y were a bit of a shock.  I had 90 novel SNPs in my Y-DNA, that have not been seen before in any other Big Y Test, not even in any of the other 23 Big Y test results within the FTDNA Y Haplogroup L project.  The last SNP to terminate, that has already been reported, was SK1414.  The administrator has not yet found it's non-FTDNA origin, but believes that it came from a test in Iran.  Therefore, my sub clade can now be declared as L-SK1214.

My nearest FTDNA Big Y matches were two from Pontic Greek ancestry.  However, here is the crunch.  The project administrator calculates that even these testers, my closest known Y cousins that have so far tested to Big Y level, last shared a common Y ancestor with me 13,000 years ago.

When I have my BAM file, and submit it to the Yfull tree, it should make a significant alteration to the branches, as my lineage of SK1414, appears to branch off from L1b, perhaps only 1000 years after L1b appeared, and before the PH8 lineage associated with my Pontic Greek cousins formed.

L-SK1414 (L1b2c)

So my new terminal SNP SK1414 separated from the Pontic Greek PH8 lineage around 13,000 years ago.  What was happening in Western Asia then?  This was towards the end of the last Cold Stage.  There were some cold fluctuations in the Ice Age climate, with some advances in glaciation, before they finally started to melt back for the present interglacial period.  Perhaps some of these climatic stresses were involved?  a severe freeze took place around 12,700 years ago. 

My most recent common ancestors to any other Big Y testers - the Pontic Greek samples, lived somewhere in Western Asia around 13,000 years ago.  They most likely were Western Asian ibex hunter-gatherers.  The earliest sign of agriculture in the region, the Pre Pottery Neolithic A doesn't take off until around 10,300 years ago.

Where have my Y ancestors been over the past 13,000 years?  That is the big question that I am probably unlikely to answer within my lifetime.  More testing, by more L testers in the future may reveal more, as would the results of more ancient DNA from excavations.  If I had to bank money on it, I'd say that my Y ancestors were most likely to provenance to the Fertile Crescent of the Neolithic Revolution.  Perhaps in the river valleys of Iraq / Iran.  They may have gone on to take part in the Pre Pottery Neolithic A Culture there.  That might account for their existence over the next few thousands of years.  However, when did my lineage enter Europe?  Did it arrive with Anatolian Early Neolithic farmers?  Or did it arrive later?  Perhaps even, much later?  I just cannot answer that.  Suggestions are most welcome.


The above photograph taken of the excavation of Jarmo, an Early Neolithic village in Iraqi Kurdistan, dated to 9,100 years before present.  From Wikimedia Commons by user Emrad284.

The STR testing, and the matching with the Chandler family might suggest that my Y line arrived in Southern England quite recently, perhaps during the Medieval.  However, I am acutely aware of how very few English have yet tested - that more L could turn up, that rewrite that arrival date.
Unofficial proposed tree by Gökhan Zuzigo

Conclusion

It seems that I have 12,700 years of unwritten or detected family history to research on my paternal line.  The Big Y test told me that I have a hunter-gatherer ancestor, somewhere in Western Asia, most likely Iraq / Iran, perhaps 13,000 years ago.  Then a rather long gap, until the Brooker surname appears on parish registers in the Thames Valley of Southern England, leading down to myself, and onto my son.

The Chandler family, judging by the comparative STR evidence, are Y cousins, with a shared Y ancestry until circa 330 - 700 years ago.

That's it.  We were missing for a long time.  I'm looking forward to trying to work out where my missing ancestors were for thousands of years.  I'm looking forward to seeing more L1b tests appear on Yfull and on the Y haplogroup L Project.  Please test.

The above photograph on Rock Art in Iran, taken by dynamosquito on Flickr linked here under a Creative Commons Licence.  The Ibex seems to feature frequently in prehistoric rock art in the region, and perhaps was a primary prey of our ancestors.

The Mighty Fan Chart of Ancestry

Recorded Ancestry for Paul Brooker

Up to the 10th May 2016

This is just a little pat on the back, for what I have so far achieved in researching and documenting my known ancestry.  I really do like these Gramps open source software fan charts.  The names go off a bit, but the concept of a fan chart for illustrating the pedigree of direct ancestry, still works well.  It quite well displays the missing gaps.  Generations 1 to 5 (from myself, up to my great great grandparents) are complete.  The first few cracks appear from cases of illegitimacy at Generation 6, where the fathers were not named.  Generation 7 is still pretty impressive, with 77% of my great great great great grandparents named.  But it then starts to fall. back, with only 10% named for Generation 10.  I suspect that this isn't far off most genealogies that have been based on paper records.  Actually I'm quite proud of what i have achieved.

Through perseverance, I have recently extended both my surname lineage, and my maternal lineage to Generation 9 (early 18th Century).  They should in theory, align with my Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups respectively. 

The database for the entire family (including that of my ex-wife's) is now up to 1,546 individuals, with 195 direct ancestors for myself, as represented by this fan chart.

And yeah yeah yeah, I know, yours goes back to Ann Boleyn, Edward Longshanks, and Ragnor Lothbrok.  Well, I've not yet found one iota of heraldric blood.  I know that it will be there.  I know that I belong to a pretty homogeneous population, and that go back far enough, we English are probably all related to each other and to these people.  Go back even further, we could state that for all people.  Back to the MRCA's.  But I actually don't care.  I'm proud to be descended from hard working people.  It is they that I am making a record for.  They were equally valuable to any aristocrat or land thief.

Long Wittenham - the ancestral home of our Brooker line.

St Mary Long Wittenham Berks - geographorguk - 331096jpg
St Mary's, Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire.  By John Salmon, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12512201

I'm ready to accept the connection.  I've talked to people with more expertise than me concerning the confusion over the ages of my couple on the census.  I've found the baptism on a transcription CD for Long Wittenham from Oxfordshire FHS.  It's perfect.  The cream on the cake though, is that I found someone else with a tree on Ancestry.com, that had already come to the exactly same conclusion.  Okay, I don't normally take much notice of trees on Ancestry.com, but this one appeared well researched, and I've both checked and added to the details on that tree.  Third time lucky.

G.G.G.G.G.G. Grandparent Generation

I can now go back to an ancestor named John Brooker, there's a few of them, so let's call him John Brooker I.  He might have been born somewhere in the Thames Valley, during the early 1720's.  He married a Mary, my G.G.G.G.G.G Grandmother Brooker.  They settled (if they didn't originate there) at Long Wittenham in Berkshire, near to the River Thames.  She gave him at least six children between 1749 and 1763:  Mary, Anne, John, Edward, Martha, and Sarah.

G.G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation

Their son, Edward Brooker (or Brucker), was our ancestor.  He was baptised at Long Wittenham on the 16th January 1757.  When Edward was 29 years old, he married local girl Elisabeth Gregory, on 24th October 1786, at Long Wittenham.  So you see, that photo above of the church of St Mary's there, is a part of the story.  Our 18th Century Brooker ancestors were baptised, and sometimes married there.  Some of them are also buried in that church yard.  Indeed, that was where Edward himself later ended up, when he was buried there 23rd September 1832, having died at the age of 75 years.

His wife Elisabeth had also been born at Long Wittenham, the daughter of a William and Anne Gregory.  She had been baptised at the above church on 15th November 1761.

Edward and Elisabeth Brooker appear to have lived in Long Wittenham all of their life.  They had five children baptised at St Mary's between 1789 and 1796: John, Dinah, James, Richard, and Joseph.

G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation

Our ancestor John Brooker II was baptised on 18th January 1789.  At the age of 25 on 31st October 1814, John married Elisabeth Seymore at the nearby market-town of Abingdon-on-Thames, in Berkshire.  Elisabeth was born circa 1797 at a village north of the Thames in Oxfordshire, that in later life on a census, she referred to as Drayton.  Most likely, this is the village of Drayton St Leonard.  It's only a mile or two across the river from Long Wittenham.

I should at this point explain why I sometimes refer to long Wittenham as in Berkshire, and at other times a in Oxfordshire.  Historically, it is a Berkshire parish, and is on the south side of the Thames.  However, in 1974, it was transferred to Oxfordshire County Council.

The couple moved, and they moved around twelve miles.  That chucked my attempts to trace them for a long time.  They moved to Rotherfield Peppard in South Oxfordshire, down river.  They turned up there on the 1841 census.  They must have moved soon after marriage, as their children were born in Oxfordshire.  John was employed as a labourer, most likely a farm worker.  Between 1815 and 1836, they had seven children: Frederick, Phoebe, John, Elizabeth,Mattew,Emma, and William Brooker.  Later in life, they moved to the next village of Rotherfield Greys.  It was there on the 1861 census, that I finally picked up their origins.  John died in 1867.

G.G.G Grandparent Generation

Our ancestor, John Brooker III was baptised at Rotherfield Peppard on 23rd April 1820.  In the 1841 census, he turns up in a house of multiple adults on Hamstead Farm in the next parish of Sonning Common.  Although technically north of the Thames, and in Oxfordshire, it actually belonged to a parish south of the river in Berkshire.  John was an agricultural labourer.

On the 1st February 1845, at nearby Shiplake in Oxfordshire, John married Mary Ann Edney.  They lived at times in both the South Oxfordshire parishes of Shiplake, and of Harpsden, both close to the town of Henley-on-Thames.  Between 1847 and 1870, Mary gave birth to at least ten children: Hannah, Charles, Arbina, Phoebe, Emma, Thomas, William, Henry, Alice, and Ellen Brooker.

Mary Ann Brooker herself, was the daughter of Thomas Edney, a thatcher at Shiplake, and his wife Hannah (nee Hedges).

John lived to a good age.  During the 1901 census, he was living with his eldest daughter, Hannah Belcher and her husband.  He was 81 years old, and working as a shepherd.  John finally passed away in 1912, at the age of 91 years.

G.G Grandparent Generation

Our ancestor Henry Brooker was baptised at Harpsden on 5th December 1863.  An early appearance as a young man on the 1881 census, lists him as a farm worker, at Harpsden Bottom Cottages.

Henry had itchy feet though.  He wanted to move right down the river, into London.  A few years later, on the 29th September 1883, Henry married Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, at Fulham, London.  Elisabeth was born at Haggerstone, London on 11th September 1858.  her father, Henry Shawers was a harrow weaver, but her mother Elisabeth (nee Durran) also hailed from Oxfordshire.  I've traced her ancestors to the area around Woodstock and Deddington.From Fulham, the couple next moved to Bethnal Green, and then to Deptford.  I only know of two children, born between 1884 and 1887.  Perhaps something prevented Elisabeth from carrying again.  Their children were: John Henry Brooker, and Elisabeth Rosina Brooker.

They later moved down river yet again, to Lewisham.  Henry worked mainly as a carter, driving a horse and cart in the East End of Victorian London.  I've long suspected that he may have worked on the docks.  However, by 1908, he was recorded as a store keeper.

The above photograph is of our great grandfather's sister, Elisabeth Rosina Brooker.

I don't yet know when or where Henry passed away.  However, I do know that Elisabeth spent her last days living with her son at Sidcup, Kent.  She was buried there on 2nd May 1939.

Great Grandparent Generation

Our Ancestor John Henry Brooker was born 25th June 1884 at Deptford, London.  However, the rest of the story - still needs to be written, or has already been written in other posts.

John Henry Brooker and his partner Mabel Tanner in 1933.

The Y chromosome.

I have so far been tested to have the Y haplogroup L-M317, or L1b if you prefer.  It means nothing, except that is incredibly rare and enigmatic sub clade, particularly in NW Europe.  It may mean that at some point, my paternal line lived in Eastern Anatolia, south of the Causacus, or near to the Black Sea.  I'm waiting for further testing, but it looks quite possible, that it is linked to the Pontic-Greek ethnicity that lived in that area.  I have no autosomal evidence of anything from that part of the world, so it is likely to have been in England or NW Europe for quite some time.  It might for example, have arrived here via the Roman Empire.

Why mention that now?  Because until it meets an NPE (non parental event), it should follow the surname line.  If I ever met another Y chromosome descendent of my Thames Valley Brookers - another person that has descended directly through a strictly father-to-son paternal line, I'd love to know if they've had their Y haplogroup predicted.

Giving up Ancestors

I don't have to give these two up. My great grandfather Fred Smith, holding the hand of his daughter and my late grandmother Doris Smith around about 100 years ago in Norwich.

Trimming the branches

I make mistakes.  Genealogy is rarely perfect.  A part of the fun of the pastime, is in validating, verifying, and proving descent.  Sometimes though, the desire to simply add branches and histories, overtakes the quality control.  I'm guilty of that.  I've recently made a number of mistakes in my genealogical research.  A very good researcher would not make those mistakes in the first place.  They would research methodically and carefully, recording every data, looking for correlations - before they accept descent.  I on the other hand, still have a lot to learn.  However, I am willing to sometimes go back, check, check again, and if I'm not happy, remove ancestors, remove branches, remove histories.

With my recent return to genealogy, and my baptism into internet genealogical resources, I've witnessed the pitfall of the new age of research.  Family History websites push other people's trees and research at you.  However, so, so many of those that I've looked at, are erroneous, poorly sourced, and copied around like a mutated gene.  I want to create an ancestral record and history that is better than that.  I have an awful lot of work to do.

My recent mistakes have been shameful.  I made the above mistake - allowing MyHeritage.com to add branches to a couple of lines.  On checking their sources, and researching for myself, I couldn't validate the connections.  I removed them.

I wrongly identified a service record as belonging to a great grandfather.  That one hurt.

I extended my paternal surname line with too much haste.  I grabbed at a probable ancestor.  Later checks revealed a doppelganger.  I've had to go back to the drawing board, removing three generations from that line.

I don't regret these mistakes.  I'm always checking for validity.  A good quality family tree is better than a massive, old, but incorrect record.  The fun is after all, in the research, and that seems to go on forever.

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%)

East Anglian Ancestry

http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

The above map has been modified from an original copied from © OpenStreetMap contributors

I have plotted my ancestral places that are tagged in my Gramps genealogical GEDCOM database.  These Places represent events -births, baptisms, marriages, or residence, etc.  These Places  belong to my direct ancestors, although they may also include siblings of ancestors.  Overall, I have modified this map in order to illustrate the distribution of my East Anglian (almost entirely of the County of Norfolk, with a few over the border in Suffolk) ancestors over the past 350 years - as so far revealed by paper genealogical research.

The BLUE markers represent the places of my father's recorded ancestors.  The RED markers represent the places of my mother's recorded ancestors.  The more events recorded for any place, the larger the marker.  You can click on the image in order to see a full resolution image.

The RED markers include pretty much all events for my mother's ancestors, as presently recorded in my family history database.  She has no recorded ancestry from outside of Norfolk, for the past 350 years.  She has an incredibly strong Norfolk ancestry.  Particularly in the East of Norfolk.

The BLUE markers do not cover all of my father's recorded ancestors, as I have also detected ancestry for him in Oxfordshire, London, and possibly Lincolnshire.  These ancestors lived outside of the mapped area.

When my mother and father initially met each other in 1956, they believed that they came from quite different parts of Norfolk, from opposite sides of the City of Norwich, with my father moving from East Dereham to my mother's neighbourhood in the Hassingham area.  Yet this map suggests that over the past 350 years, some of their ancestors have lived much closer.  The chances of them both sharing common ancestry during the Medieval, or even more recently are good.

This might support the findings of the POBI (People of the British Isles) 2015 study, that not only emphasised the homogeneous nature of the English, but also suggested that the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms could still be detected as localised gene pools to today.

I have previously created the below map, using red dappling to mark out the main zone of my mother's ancestry, onto a map of East Norfolk, as it would have appeared during the 5th Century AD, before sea levels fell, and drainage works created the more recent Norfolk coast:

My hypothesis is that my mother's ancestors clustered in an area of East Anglia, that would most likely have experienced an influx of North Sea immigration between the 4th and 11th centuries AD from Frisia, and perhaps Angeln and Denmark.

I also modified the below map from Wikimedia Commons.  Attribution is: By Nilfanion [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.  This map, as the legend states, illustrates the distribution of my recorded direct ancestors (bother on my father's and mother's sides are in RED) across the wider area of England at a single generation level, based between 1756 to 1810.  It suggests a combined ancestry, concentrated in Norfolk, East Anglia, but with a few lineages in Wessex / Mercia.



Software for Genealogy

My experience

I first took an interest in genealogy around 1989.  My interest grew, as did my very badly kept scraps of notes.  During the following decade, a number of computer databases designed for genealogy came onto the market, but I could only afford a used 8 bit Amstrad  computer, and merely had to do with typing it all up on Locoscript word processor.  In 1998, I finally moved onto a Windows 3.1 PC.  I soon came across an early version of Family Tree Maker - perhaps version 3 or 4.  I had to install it using a pile of floppy disks!

I then used FTM to compile my family tree, complete with scanned photos.  I could use it to print trees, albeit only on A4 sheets.  I do wish that I had been more careful to conserve and record all of my sources back then.  I wasn't a very methodical researcher.  The program also allowed me to produce a GEDCOM file, which I could use on other genealogical databases, or, it promised, to share online, as soon as I had the ability to connect to this new Internet thingy.

I indeed upgraded to a Windows 98SE PC, and even, with a 56k modem, connected to the Internet.  I think that I bought a newer CD-ROM version of FTM.  One of my first actions on the Internet was to upload my .ged (GEDCOM) file.  I'm not too sure to who, what server, or what they did with my data.  I wasn't too wise about the commercialisation of the information super highway at that time.  It may have ended up with Ancestry.com enterprise, who no doubt have sold and resold it on.

Eventually my interest in genealogy drifted away.  Quake 3 Arena was much more fun than typing in ancestors to a database.  I did at some point around 2006, upload my gedcom to a web server, so that it could be downloaded from my own ancestry pages.  I eventually gave up that subscription.  Life moved on.  I went through family break up.  Lost all of my old poorly kept notes, my hard drives, everything.

Then a few months ago, I randomly decided to take a DNA test with 23andme.  My interest in my roots rekindled by the prospect of genetic ancestral profiling, I dug up my old ancestry pages from a web archive service, and was surprised to find that they had also archived my gedcom file.  I downloaded it.  Now I needed some software in order to open it.  I always look first for Open Source software.  I found Gramps 4.2.

Gramps 4.2

Gramps is available free, and Open Source on both Windows and on Linux.  It may be available for other platforms as well, I don't know.  I've installed Gramps 4.2 onto my Windows 7 64 bit PC.  I've also installed Gramps 4.0 onto my Lubuntu 14.04 (Linux) netbook.  The screenshots that I've uploaded to this post, were taken on the Windows PC.  There are differences between my two versions on two platforms, and I won't go into all of those.  I'm mainly interested in updating and generating .ged GEDCOM files, bearing in mind, my past experiences in losing data over the years.  As long as I don't faff around too much on attributes carried by Gramps native features, that are not carried over by the GEDCOM format, the programs both run great.  I haven't yet played too much with images.  My understanding is, that you need to host the binary files in folders on your hard drive - then GRAMPS  merely points / looks at them.  That isn't something (as I presently understand) that is supported under GEDCOM.

Gramps is a database.  Like any database, it revolves around objects, attributes, and tags.  Some glossy family history software might dumb all of this down a bit.  They want to catch the mass market.  Gramps does not shy away though.  It's real magic is that it offers so many different ways of entering data, in ways that can be tracked to resources, citations, notes, places, even coordinates.  It's a piece of free software that the geek genealogist should love.  Typical of Open Source, it is more functional than pretty.  It's a piece of software that can be daunting at first.  However, if you are methodical, and reasonably pooter-literate, give it a little perseverance, and you soon start to love it.  It's features will encourage tidiness and well documented research.  Why spend out on EULA licensed software?

This week, I've been investigating the Places objects.   I've discovered that you can geo-tag your places - that can be referenced to events, such as baptisms, deaths, census records, etc.  I must have hundreds of places for my family database of 1,435 ancestors / relations.  None-the-less, I've been spending too much time on the pooter, tidying up my place data, and by referring to OpenStreetMap.org, copy and pasting longitudes and latitudes into all of them, along with place-type, alternative names, etc.  It's all about making a better GEDCOM, a better family history database.

So why bother?  Well for one  it's going to be a vastly improved record of my family.  A healthy database.  Not only that, but GRAMPS allows me to plot my ancestors locations - or rather, the locations of "events":

I can see at least one error there - in the sea off the Kent coast.  Some more tidying to do.  By the way - the mapped events include the paper ancestors on my kid's family tree, including those of my Ex.  Alternatively, I can browse the places, hit an option, and in a browser, up pops the location on OpenStreetMaps!

There are many more features to explore on Gramps.  I'll get to them in time.  I've uploaded several of the fancharts that it can generate already on this blog.  There are a range of other reports that it can produce, and web pages.  The generated website is incredibly functional.  It took a couple of minutes to generate pages for every one of my 1,435 family tree individuals.  All with trees galore.  All that I would need is a web host.

As for stability.  I've seen someone complain that it slows down.  Nonsense.  It's fine even with my extensive database.  My Windows version is very slow to launch though - not so the Linux version.  However, when it's up, even on Windows,, it is perfectly functional and very fast.

Some people are also confused on how to load a GEDCOM file at start.  I was.  It's simple.  You need to first create a blank family tree file from the manager.  Then you can import your GEDCOM into it.  You don't see the Import/Export functions until you have first loaded a family tree - just make it a new blank file.   Once you have created a family tree, and imported a GEDCOM - be careful to use that file next time, and not do as I did - import the GEDCOM again.  You'll end up with two of each individuals.  Always back up before and after making any edits.  I like to mail a backup to myself on webmail, so that the GEDCOM is also backed up on two webmail servers.

GEDexplorer

That geo data that I produced on Gramps, is carried over on GEDCOM to other databases and platforms.  I use the GEDexplorer v1.24 ap on my Android smartphone.  This app allows me to view my GEDCOM files on my phone!  It cost me a couple of quid from the Play Store, but it was money well spent. 

The above screenshot shows a view of one part of my tree - the ancestors of my great grandfather Sam.  It's a really nice feature of GEDCOM files and this software, that you can open up your database, look through trees, fan charts, or just the data itself, browsing through ancestors.  Handy if you just get a spare hour here or there to research with - but no lap top!  Easy quick reference of your entire database from a phone.

You see, it's all there.  The beauty of GEDCOM format has reached from my Windows 3.1 machine, to my Sony Z3 phone.  That's a rugged file format.

Now to the point of this entire post really.  Those hours that I've wasted away on giving geo-tag provenances to all of my ancestral places?  The GEDCOM picks up the latitude and longitudes, and GEDexplorer displays them.  Just click on any hyperlinked ancestral event place, such as my great grandmother's place of birth above, and ....

and I can hit the link and look at it in more detail using Google Maps.  Hell, I could even navigate to the actual place.