Two Fathers and more Online Genealogy

The above photograph is of my great great grandfather, William Bennett Baxter, born at Gressenhall Workhouse, Norfolk, England, in 1846.

Well, I've finally updated my Gramps genealogical database for the first time for months.  It's grown!  It now includes details for over 1,600 ancestors and family relatives.  I have to admit, a lot of the swell is down to online genealogical research, using,, Norfolk FHS, BMD,, etc.  I DON'T ever resort to copying off other people's trees, although I do at times, when I'm stuck, check them to see how other's think, as the hints that they should be.  To be honest though, I often don't agree with their conclusions.  

I do use Search.  I do use transcriptions - but whenever the original image is available (as it increasingly is now), I do verify with it.  Quite often, transcribers get it wrong.  I do also enjoy browsing through digitalised images of parish records, looking for siblings and clues.

Two Fathers

With traditional documentary-based genealogical research, we of course cannot prove a biological line.  We can rarely identify NPEs (Non-Parental Events).  All that we can do, is do our very best to track names through family interviews, documents and records.  Wherever possible, we should verify connections, check and record sources, look for correlations.  This isn't however always possible.  The genealogist has to then decide whether they have enough evidence to connect an ancestor.

For quite some time, I was proud that I had recorded all of my ancestors up to and including great great grandparent level.  However, at great great great grandparent level (Generation 6), I had three missing direct ancestors.  All three of them were the unrecorded father's of three great great grandparents, born illegitimate in Norfolk during the 19th Century.  I had 29 out of 32 biological ancestors recorded for Generation 6.

Then recently, I cracked two of them!  At least I have one evidence for their names.  Two of my illegitimate born great great grandparents, William Bennett Baxter, and Harriet Barber, were actually a married couple.  They were both illegitimate, and had both been born in Gressenhall Union Workhouse close to East Dereham in Norfolk.  William was base-born there  to a pauper named Eliza Baxter.  That she gave him the middle name "Bennett", and there had been Bennetts in the area, always made me suspect that his biological father was believed to have belonged to a Bennett Family, but which?

Then some research online, and it was a back to basics research that cracked it.  I was sure that I had seen their 1866 marriage certificate or entry, at nearby Swanton Morley before, probably years ago.  But if I had seen it before, and I now suspect that I hadn't, then I missed the key.  They BOTH named their alleged biological fathers in their marriage register entry!  How could I have not seen this before?

William Bennett Baxter claimed that he was the son of a labourer, by the name of ... William Bennett.  Harriet Baxter (nee Barber), claimed that her father was a labourer by the name of William Barker.  It's only their word, on their marriage entry - to their knowledge, but I've accepted that testimony, and have added ancestors on those lines.  I haven't yet found much about William Bennett. But I did quickly find more on my 4 x great grandfather William Barker.  He was a shoe maker in East Dereham, the son of a master boot maker.  Perhaps his family didn't approve.  Two years later he married an Elizabeth Wales.

My Fan Chart of Direct Ancestry, updated. I now have 234 direct ancestors named.

Other New Ancestors

The majority (but not all) of my newly claimed ancestors have been Norfolk ancestors on my Father's paternal side, balancing things up rather nicely.  Some of the newly discovered branches include a substantial number of new ancestors recorded both in Dereham, Norfolk, and in the nearby village of Swanton Morley.  They were two very ancestral homes in my tree.  I've recently extended the Baxter of Dereham line back safely to the 1760's.  I've also traced more of my great grandmother Faith Brooker's (nee Baxter) tree, including her direct maternal line to a Rachael Bradfield of Dereham.  Her daughter Elizabeth was baptised there in 1745.  In 1767, Elizabeth Bradfield married our 7 x great grandfather Solomon Harris at Swanton Morley.

I've also extended the line going back from my paternal grandmother (Doris Brooker nee Smith).  I've found more of her ancestors in the South Norfolk village of Hedenham, stretching back to a James Goodram, the son of John and Lydia Goodrum.  James was baptised at Hedenham in 1780.

Finally, I've tidied a few dates on my mother's side, and even started to reassess the ancestry of my children's mother.

Here is a count of direct ancestors from a Gramps report:

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 55 individuals. (85.94%)

Generation 8 has 53 individuals. (41.41%)

Generation 9 has 44 individuals. (17.97%)

Generation 10 has 16 individuals. (3.52%)

Generation 11 has 6 individuals. (0.59%)

Total ancestors in generations 2 to 11 is 235. (11.68%)

That's enough genealogy for a while!  Living DNA report next.  Sample was activated and returned.

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.

Progress in Genealogy

As I wait for my 23andMe genetic profiling results (on Step 4 - DNA extraction), I have been spending perhaps a little bit too much time, on the computer, with internet genealogical resources such as, and the Norfolk FHS resources, to build up my paper genealogical record.  I'm impressed by the modern online resources, although I'm aware that transcriptions are always prone to error. 

I've also been having a blast building up my family tree database using the free Open Source software Gramps 4.2.  I'm a big fan of Open Source, and this program runs great on both Windows 7 64 bit, and on my Linux netbook.  I can see where Gramps may not appeal to some novices.  It's more functional than pretty, with an abundance of tabs for sources, attributes, notes, etc.  It encourages me to record better quality genealogy, than I did twenty years ago with the mess of my notebooks and pieces of scrap paper.  It also imports and exports GEDCOM format files with ease.  Essential for safe back ups and for sharing.  I can also generate reports and charts such as the above ancestor fan chart.

I'm please with how the above chart for example, has developed over the past few weeks.  I still have plenty to research for free online, so it is far from completed.  Still, considering that it represents a total of seven generations, I think that it is impressively complete.  If the paper was true, then these name should represent where my autosomal DNA has come from over the past few hundred years.

Of course, paper genealogy is not always true.  1) mothers sometimes deceive about who the biological father is, or make a mistake, when filling out birth or baptism forms.  2) genealogists make mistakes.  These errors increase the further back the records.  English/Welsh censuses, give no detail before 1841, civil registration did not exist until 1837, and parish registers before 1812 are often rough notes scribbled down by the curate.  Therefore, go back much before 1790, it's easy to make too much of too little source.

Genealogy is a lot of work.  The general public frequently expect that they can simply print their ancestry off, with a click of a button, and perhaps a Paypal fee.  It doesn't work like that.  It involves years of research for most of us.  However - here is the crunch.  The research is the rewarding part of the journey.

So in this Binary Age, people instead opt for the instantaneous results of Genetic ancestral composition with a commercial DNA lab.  1) it is fast and easy.  2) it tells the truth.  It follows DNA and SNPs, not forms or lies.

How good is it really?

Six Generation Ancestral Fan Chart

Its not going to get any more complete than that.  The only two missing ancestors were unrecorded fathers.  That should pretty much reflect the paper background to my autosomal DNA.  It also illustrates quite well, how a complete ancestry fans out, doubliing in number each generation.  Of course, over enough generations, it starts to reduce again, as common ancestors shared by more than one line, start to appear.  Hence the homogeneous nature for example, of the English.

It is also not a proportional representation of where my autosomal DNA comes from.  At meiosis, I recieve 50% of my DNA from my mother, and 50% from my father.  However, before that, randomness creeps in, along with chromosome exchange, so that it's quite possible that I have inherited no DNA at all from some of my G.G.G grandparents for example, while others may be over-represented in my DNA.

I created the Fan Chart using the Open Source Gramps genealogy database software.  I'm really enjoying that program.

I do wish that 23andMe would hurry up.  Thirty four days since sending my sample, and so far it's reached a queue for testing in an American lab.  Judging by the moans and groans on their forums, I might have to wait for a total of three months in order to see results.