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.

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 and 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%)

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 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, 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.


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.

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.

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.

Recovered Genealogy

The above portrait is of my great great grandfather Billy Baxter (William Bennet Baxter), who was born in Gressenhall workhouse, Norfolk, in 1846.

Now that I've submitted a DNA sample to 23andMe, while waiting for the results, I keep thinking, and wanting to write about my heritage and ancestry.  Hence maybe the recent posts on my past archaeology work, my interest in our Anglo-Saxon heritage, and now more directly, my past and recent experience with genealogy.

I first became interested in the family tree around the late 1980s.  I was a young married guy, on the brink of rearing my own family, so maybe there was a desire to find out where we came from, entwined with where we were going.  I can remember as a boy being interested in any tales about my alleged ancestors.  As I said in a recent post, I was always fascinated by the past.

I'm probably lucky in some ways.  Genealogy can be so Internet and computer databased these days.  I conducted most of my research before all of that.  I would visit county record offices and archives around England & Wales, and wearing white cotton gloves in reading rooms, sift through the original registers and documents - some of which were in the original handwriting of my ancestors.  Two of my ancestors had been long serving parish clerks in Norfolk.  I'd also visit archives in London, search through indexes of birth, marriage, and death (BMD).  If I wanted to order a BMD certificate, I'd write to a detective or genealogist, that would fetch bundles of certificates from the archives at a cheaper price than I could do it first hand.

With my wife, I'd also travel around the churches, cemeteries, and grave yards.  We'd interview elderly relatives, ask to see any family photographs or certificates.  Most were eager to tell their tales.

A nicer way of researching than sitting at home and paying to see transcript records in an internet database.  However, I made a mistake.  Computers were coming along.  I recorded too much onto obsolete system and using obsolete software.  Then I hit middle age.  I let go of too much, all of my notes, charts, and records.  My marriage collapsed, I moved on.  Holding onto things seemed futile when I have only one life.  I lost much of my genealogy.

Then a few days ago when I was looking at my old archaeology website on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, I spotted a few pages on my old genealogy.  There was a link to a .gedcom file that included a lot of the data that I had accumulated years ago.  It worked, the Wayback Machine had captured my .gedcom file!  Data on over 1200 ancestors and relatives from both mine, and the ex's family.  I looked for some Open Source software and found the Gramps program.  I downloaded it and the .gedcom file onto both my Windows 7 PC, and onto my Linux netbook.  After fiddling for a little while, the software opened my old gedcom file - there was all of the data, or at least a lot of it.  Charts, resources, BMDs, baptisms, burials, etc.  Retrieved from an Internet Archive, and saved in a format that still works.

The above group photograph is of four generations.  The baby is my Aunt Gladys, the mother is my maternal grandmother, the man is her father, my great grandfather Sam Tammas-Tovell, and the old lady is my great great grandmother Eliza Tammas-Tovell (nee Lawn).  Probably taken in the Halvergate or Tunstall area of Norfolk around 1936

My Genealogy and 23andMe

Most of my recorded ancestry, and most likely, most of my actual ancestry, lived in the English county of my birth - Norfolk.  Seven of my eight grandparents were born in Norfolk. My autosomal data should be pretty typical for a Norfolk born East Anglian.  The exception was my paternal great grandfather, who was born in Victorian London, of mainly Oxfordshire descent.  On the 23andMe results, he should have passed down my Y chromosome haplogroup.  On paper I can go back another three generations, to a John Brooker, who fathered some children between 1815 and 1836 in the parish of Rotherfield Peppard in Oxfordshire.  All that I currently know of his origins, is that he stated that he himself was born outside of Oxfordshire.  He lived close to the county border with Berkshire, and I suspect that he may have originated from there.

My maternal line, which should represent my mtDNA haplogroup, as with most of my recorded ancestry, is very Norfolk.  I can trace it back to Sarah Daynes (nee Quantrill), born at Wymondham, Norfolk circa 1827.  I don't think that it would be too far fetched to suggest that my ancestors most likely lived in the Norfolk area since at least as far back as the old East Anglian Kingdom, and perhaps many of them much back further, perhaps thousands of years.  Some of them however were very likely to have been part of that Anglo-Saxon immigrant Third, and to have arrived from across the North Sea.  Some of them may have arrived a bit later.  East Anglia was very much a part of the Danelaw.  Many villages in East Norfolk - as in parts of Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, are regarded as having names that were Old Danish in origin.  Apparently even one of my family surnames - Tovell, has been identified as Old Danish, coming from Tofi-son-of-Hilda.  Another family surname Thacker has also been suggested as a Scandinavian form of thatcher.

I'll be interested to see how 23andMe analyse the Ancestry.  In all of my ancestry, I have not found any evidence of anyone coming from outside of England.  It's all Norfolk, London, and Oxfordshire - English surnames.  Therefore I'd expect the 23andMe autosomal results to come out pretty much under the British & Irish group.  However, should we ethnic English, because of our more distant history, expect elements of Scandinavian, French & German, and North West European?  My understanding is that autosomal data mainly relates to the most recent several generations.  My Y chromosome should belong to a common British male haplogroup.  It most likely passed through Oxfordshire in SW Britain.  My mtDNA should belong to a very East English haplogroup.  It might have arrived in Britain in late prehistory, or it might have arrived during the Anglo-Saxon or Viking period.

Too much speculation, I must expect my DNA results to take weeks to process.