The Learning Curve

First of all, I haven't mentioned the mandolin for a while.  Gary Nava of Nava Guitars has commenced building my commissioned mandolin at his nearby workshop.

The first photo!  The herringbone pattern for the rosette.  He's now just waiting on the set of Robson tuners to be manufactured.

I'm really looking forward to that.

On the 23andMe progress, my sample passed through DNA extraction, quality review, and has now reached the final process of computing.  Judging by what I can see on the forum, I should hopefully receive the results within the next few weeks.  This is my learning curve.  Trying to get a better grasp of how I should interpret and use those results when I receive them.

I've been looking at the ancestral composition results that ethnic English people, with a strong English heritage receive from 23andMe.  There is a pattern - but it isn't "100% English".  It appears, using speculative mode, on average to be something close to:

100% European

60% B&I (British & Irish)

10% F&G (French & German)

2% Scand (Scandinavian)

25% Broadly NW Europe/

At first I wondered if B&I represented the populations that settled the British Isles and Ireland during late prehistory, and the F&G / Scand represented the Early Medieval waves of immigration from across the North Sea.  However, no, it appears that it does not represent such ancient admixture at all.  It merely represents the failure of ancestral profiling, using current representative samples, to successfully distinguish and recognise the English!  Bizarrely, not only the Irish appear to commonly score higher on British & Irish, than do the British, but so do many Americans of British origin!

On the Genealogy front, I want to use open source maps to draw the locations of all of my East Anglian ancestors.  There is also always more tidying to do to the family tree database.

I've now been running with dogs for over three months.  We've run a total of around 220 miles.  Do I feel better for it?  Hell yes.

The Dog Runner, and some new genealogy

I took the above photograph of myself on a recent run with the dogs,, using the self-timer function on my thirty five year old Olympus XA2 compact camera.  Taken on Rollei Retro 400S film, that I then developed in LC29

Genealogy - the Barbers of Swanton Morley, Norfolk

I did consider an alternative title for the post, following some more paper genealogical research ... something along the lines of From a long line of bastards.  However, not all family might share my amusement of such a title.  What prompted that thought was some online ancestor-chasing in one particular root of my father's ancestry.  The Barbers of Swanton Morley, Norfolk.

I recently reported on an ancestral root from my father's side of the family, with the surname Barber.  I traced them through my crow-keeper great grandmother to villages in South Norfolk.  However, I'm now on the trail of a totally different Barber family, also on my father's side, but this time from Mid Norfolk.

My great great grandfather, William Bennet Baxter (photograph below), married my great great grandmother Harriet Barber, at Swanton Morley, Norfolk, in 1866.  Both of them had been born illegitimate at the nearby Gressenhall Union Workhouse.  Their connections with that workhouse didn't end there.  Their first two child Jemima, was also born there illegitimately.  Later family members also had connections with that workhouse, that now houses Norfolk Rural-Life Museum.  I often like to think of that building, as the Family Home.  I knew that William Baxter's mother in 1846 was an Eliza Baxter.  She must have had to face the shame of wearing a yellow jacket in the workhouse, to signify that she was an unmarried mother.  She may have also been excluded from the workhouse Christmas dinner, as another shaming.  I've recently discovered that her parents (my G.G.G grandparents) were a Samuel and Frances Baxter (nee Shilling), of nearby East Dereham, Norfolk.

Moving back to the Barbers, starting with Harriet Baxter (nee Barber).  She was born at Swanton Morley circa 1847.  She appeared on one census in Swanton Morley as a young girl, with her grandparents, James and Jemima Barber (nee Harris).  She is named there as a granddaughter of James.  However, who was her mother?  I'm missing a generation.  She was born at the Union Workhouse, and I'm fairly certain that she was illegitimate, and that with the census information, suggests to me that her mother was a daughter of at least James Barber.

So I start searching parish registers for Swanton Morley.  It turned out that G.G.G granddaddy Barber, was born as James Alderton Barber in April 1803 at Swanton Morley.  He married at least three times.  The first marriage I can't find.  The second was my ancestral, he married G.G.G Grannie Jemima Harris at Swanton Morley on 6th December 1825.  She gave him at least seven kids, although at least four of them died young.  Then at the age of 58 years, she died.  He married again before 1861.  Later he had a wife called Amelia.

James had seven children by Jemima.  One of them must have been the parent of my Harriet.  Which one?  I believe that she was illegitimate but carried the Barber surname until married.  That suggests a daughter of James and Jemima.  They had at least four daughters - Hannah, Frances, Jemima (twin of James junior), and Mary Ann.  On checking the burial register of Swanton Morley, things narrowed down.  Hannah had died as an infant.  Jemima died age four (her twin brother died age seven).  Mary Ann died as an infant.  That only leaves Frances, born 1830 at Swanton Morley.  However, it's bad to assume too much in genealogy, so I've decided to pay out for Harriet's birth certificate from the GRO in London.  I should have my answer in a few weeks time.

All of the child deaths that you see in these 19th century families.  It does sometimes knock you back as you uncover them.  The poor health, lack of welfare, and shear poverty that families had to endure then.

I've got to wait for that certificate to arrive, in order to verify which of James's children was the parent of my Harriet.  However, I went back on the lineage a bit further, and it gets interesting.  G.G.G Grandad James Alderton Barber was born illegitimately in Swanton Morley on the 28th April 1803, to a Sarah Barber.  He was not alone.  Between 1803 and 1818, my G.G.G.G Grannie Sarah apparently had at least six children, all baptised and recorded as illegitimate!  I'll never know the full story, but somehow she survived unmarried.  The first two children carried the middle name Alderton, perhaps suggesting that was the name of their biological father.  A later child carried the middle name Maris, and another was named Sissons Barber.  All could suggest a number of biological fathers.  All were born in Swanton Morley.

I feel a little embarrassed talking about illegitimacy as a subject.  It is no longer seen as something shameful, nor should it be - but it was seen as sinful and irresponsible for a very long time.  The status no longer exists in the 21st Century, with the changes in family structures and a shift away from religion.  That it was treated as so shameful now sounds outrageous.  A side effect of a religious and hypocritical society - taking it out on children, and on mothers.  So when I see an ancestor living in a small Norfolk village during the Napoleonic period, I wonder how she lived, what happened, how was she seen, did her children survive?  She may well have been a colourful ancestor, and the talk of the village.  Or she could have been the tragic victim of abuse?

The illegitimacy wasn't restricted just to her generation.  As I said, her great granddaughter Harriet was also most likely (waiting for that certificate to confirm) illegitimate and born in a workhouse - as was Harriet's husband, and their first child.

Poverty, hypocrisy, and infant mortality.  The great Nineteenth Century.

18th February 2016


I took the above photograph using Ilford Delta Professional 400 film, loaded in the Bronica SQ-A, fitted with a PS 150mm f/4 lens.  I developed the film in Kodak D-76 t 1:1.

I've fallen into such a bad state with my photography.  I feel as though I have lost my ability to take interesting photos any more.  I've hardly touched medium format for a while.  When I do photograph, it's mainly using 35mm film compacts.  I do have a couple of cassettes of Rollei Retro 400S to develop some time.  Mainly shot on a recent day trip to York.  I don't expect any of my shots to be particularly magic though.

Running with dogs

The running is going well.  I still struggle to stop the lurcher from pissing at every tree, lamppost, hedge, but our times have improved something closer to my old running times.  My weight loss haltered for a while - stuck at the 11 stone 8 pounds mark for too long.  However, weight loss is not my object so much as health and fitness.  Still, I was pleased when I stood on the scales today and saw 11 stone 5 pounds.  Cool.  That's a healthy BMI of 24.  It was a very unhealthy 29 back in November.

The blender is cool.  I'm glad that I went for the 1200 W monster.  It chews and spits everything in it's path.  I've found it handy not only for making smoothies, but equally, healthy quick soups.  I simply load it with whatever vegetables are at hand, add some stock - and blend it just like a smoothie - but then I put it into a pan and cook it for a little while on the stove.


My paper ancestry continues to expand, thanks mainly to searchable indexes online.  I now have no less than thirty of my thirty two G.G.G grandparents named.  The only two that are still missing on the fan chart are unlikely to ever surface, as in both cases, the ancestors were illegitimate.  I think that I've done well since recovering my old .gedcom file from the Internet. How many people can name thirty of their great great great grandparents?  Five generations back no less.

One challenge was breaking through an old block with my great great grandmother Ann Smith of Attleborough, Norfolk.  Years ago, I hit a block.  I knew her 1835 birth date from her headstone in Attleborough.  I knew that her maiden name was Peach - not a local name.  I knew on 19th Century censuses that she stated her place of birth to be Eaton, Lincolnshire.  That was a bit odd for my Norfolk ancestors.  I had found her on one census, living in the same household as a Sarah Peach that appeared old enough to be her mother, or maybe an aunt.  Only that Sarah Peach was a washer woman that had been born in Hockwold, Norfolk.

A recent search online, bit by bit, placed all of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.  Sarah was the mother of Ann.  Sarah Peach was one of my G.G.G grandparents.  But Peach was her married name.  Despite being described on censuses as unmarried, she had briefly been married in the East Midlands.  Something happened to that marriage.  She was born in Hockwold, Norfolk in 1812, and christened as Sarah Riches.   Her parents were Benjamin Riches, a labourer who himself had been born c.1779 at Old Buckenham, Norfolk, and Elizabeth Riches (nee Snelling) who had been born at Banham, Norfolk.  Something later took Sarah Riches out of Norfolk, all the way to the Lincolnshire area.  In 1835 at Holywell in the East Midlands, she married a David Peach. Five months later, their daughter Ann Peach was born not at Eaton in Lincolnshire, but at Etton in what is now Cambridgeshire.  I never see David Peach again.  Instead, Sarah and her daughter Ann turned up six years later in Attleborough, Norfolk, living there with her parents who had moved there from nearby Hockham. 

Ann went on to marry my great great grandfather in 1857.  They settled in Attleborough, where they went on to run a builders business, a beerhouse, and a builders supply yard - all from the Grapes in the town.

Her mother Sarah didn't disappear.  She never married again, but she did give birth to two more children.  She worked throughout as a char woman or laundress in Attleborough.

Another mystery solved, and another pair of G.G.G grandparents into the bag.

Now when I eventually get my DNA results from 23andMe (33 days so far), I'll have a good idea of where that autosomal DNA came from.

Gramps software

I'm a big fan of Open Source.  I do run Linux on my netbook, but I do use Microsoft 7 64 bit on a desktop for various reasons.  When I need some software, I like to see what Open Source software is available first.  I needed a program to open that .gedcom, and downloaded GRAMPS both onto my Linux netbook, and onto my Windows PC.

What a cracking program!  The controls and depth of the database can be a little intimidating.  I can see that it is one of those applications that needs a bit of skill.  However, so much depth to it, so many ways of logging sources, citations, places, and relationships.  Brilliant software, who needs to buy an end user license?  More on Gramps here.

New canicross and lurcher running video

I made this Go Pro video today, on Running with dogs No.21.  We ran the dog's default and favourite route again, around 4.6 miles long.  Not a great average speed, but as you can see, we were also film making.  I cut the video down to less than ten minutes this time, and I fitted the lurcher with the Go Pro dog harness, for when I ran him off leash.  Otherwise, I used the chest harness.

I had no idea that naughty dog went into that drainage ditch until I watched the video at home.

Testing for 23andMe

Photograph for today

The above photograph is another one from my day trip to Huntingdon with the Yashica T2, and Kodak Tmax 400 film.  It shows Huntingdon Mill, across the River Great Ouse.  Not too sure how much that I like this one.

Running with Dogs No.16

Ran again today.  Intended to make it a shorter run, but it ended up longer - 5.3 miles long.  The longest run for these dogs yet, or for me for several years for that matter.  Average speed was 5.8 mph, taking 54 minutes, but there were hold ups, particularly near to the primary school, stuck behind mums picking up their kids, and with meeting other dogs.  With the dogs, I've run over 47 miles over the past thirty days.  Cool.


The DNA sampling kit arrived today.  For the records, it took under four days for delivery.  I sampled with my spit, registered the sample online, then took it back to the Post Office to catch the afternoon return mail.  Later on, I completed my profile and registrations on the 23andMe website.  I'm really looking forward to the results, and to using the online tools to analyse my DNA sample.

10th January 2016

I normally run following at least one day rest (at least from running), but this afternoon, the dogs were asking, no-one else wanted to walk them, so I thought, "why not, maybe a short run?".  I at least took the dogs on a different route, down to Friday Bridge, up the Stitch and around Bar Drove - but it turned out to be a similar length to my recent runs - 4.4 miles in 46 minutes.  That was Running with Dogs No.14.

What really inspired this post though, was what I was just reading in that Richard Askwith book Running Free (2014).  He cites a number of surveys and studies from across both Europe and the USA, that seem to praise running outside in green areas, as opposed to treadmill work inside gyms.  The studies appear to correlate that exercising outdoors, particularly in green areas, appears to offer tremendous benefits to our mental state, our health, our sense of wellness, even perhaps our fitness, compared to working out indoors only.

I have not read any of these studies, but I'm not at all surprised.  It is something that I have considered at length many years ago - the benefits of being close to other species of animals and plants - being out in Nature.  Biophillia.  We are drawn to it, and appear to benefit from it.

The above photograph is of myself.  Taken last week in the pocket cemetery by Anita, using my 50p camera, and that strange Rollei retro 400S film.

Running with dogs No.13

Ran this morning 4.4 miles with both dogs, for 46 minutes.  Avoided the deep mud of the first field.  Rewarded dogs with a piece of lambs liver each.  They're knackered now. 

Weighed in on the scales this morning.  169 pounds.  Down from 192 pounds in late November.  A loss of 23 pounds so far.  I've got two posts that I expect to reach soon: 1) drop below 12 stone (167 pounds), and 2) drop into the "Normal" or healthy BMI zone (164 pounds).  Rock n' roll!