Saturday, 20 July 2019

DNA Update: A Cousin Tangle

Is it the math or the tangled relationships that make using genetic DNA so hard to grasp? Sometimes it seems to be the proliferation of shiny new tools used to manipulate DNA results whose terms and possibilities are quickly adopted by those in the know which seem to leave me in the dust. Then again, maybe it's just my lack of practice.

How I envy those with compliant relatives willing to share their spit or cell scrapings. But it's time to stop dreaming about "what if" and working with the information that I have. To further my education, I signed up for a week long course about genetic DNA at the Society of Genealogists which just happened to be on while I was in London. I still haven't unpacked a lot of the information from the sessions but I did buy a new book that was recommended.

The book is Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies edited by Debbie Parker Wayne. It covers many DNA related topics. The first one I looked at was Kimberly Powell's article on "The Challenge of Endogamy and Pedigree Collapse". Turns out that I have pedigree collapse in my line with the odd number of matching CMs for a distant cousin match. This line reaches back to the early 1600s so nothing is written in stone but the information I was given shows multiple tangled connections.

It is the tangled intermarriages before the common ancestors shared by me and my target match that, I believe, explain the odd CM number that my distant cousin and I share. Working down through the generations since our shared ancestral couple, my match and I are 4th cousins once removed which doesn't explain the 54CM DNA match. According to the "Average autosomal DNA shared by pairs of relatives" chart on the ISOGG website, average shared CMs for 4th cousins once removed are 6.64. Even 4th cousins have only 13.28 average shared CMs. But what about multiple intermarriage connections which, in this case, are thought to precede the common match? In that case, my match and I would be 4th cousins once removed more than once.

According to the article in Advanced Genetic Genealogy, the probable shared CMs can be calculated by figuring out each shared relationship and adding the probable CMs together. Well, there was intermarriage in the background of the ancestral couple which my match and I share. Quite a bit of intermarriage.

As the family trees show, Lydia, the granddaughter of John Tripp and his great grandson, Jonathan Tripp married. They were 1st cousins once removed.

But they were more than that as their mother's were sisters which made them 1st cousins on the maternal side as well. This meant that my match and I were related on 4 lines which, I believe, makes us 4th cousins once removed 4 times which would give us a probable amount of shared CMs of 26.56 (4 x 6.64) according to the probable shared CMs on the ISOGG chart. There is always a degree of variation in the shared CMs which may account for the actual CMs being 54 or perhaps there is further pedigree collapse in this line or even endogamy as this line is to Colonial American ancestors. On a more personal level, the inter-relatedness of Lydia and Jonathan Tripp does given me pause.


Wayne, Debbie Parker. Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies. Wayne Research, Cushing, Texas, 2019



Saturday, 13 July 2019

Closets, Expanding over Time

The house on Prescott Street, Halifax

When we were young and barely getting by, we moved across the country a couple of times. Canada is not a small country. It takes days, sometimes weeks to drive across, depending on how many stops are made along the way. When we finally made it to Nova Scotia, we had to set up a household from scratch. There had been no room for furniture in the back of the Dodge Fargo.

We moved through a few places during that stay back east. The last place we hung our hats was an old house on Prescott Street just off of Robie. It looked small from the outside but made use of all the space with bedrooms with sloping ceilings under the roof. There were cupboards tucked under the eaves but closet space was minimal.

When it came to furnishing the bedrooms, my partner remembered that there were a pair of iron bedframes languishing in an abandoned farmhouse belonging to his family. So, we drove the truck out to the farm in Antigonish. It was abandoned alright; the fields were so overgrown that the house was hard to see from the road. There was still furniture inside and the roof held so the furniture was in good shape. I expected there to be individual bedrooms but upstairs under the roof was one big open space containing a couple of beds and not much else. What struck me was that there were no closets, just a single nail to act as a hook for clothes beside each bed. I pointed that out to my partner and he said that they would have had just one change of clothes. Somehow the meager closets in the Prescott Street house didn't look so bad after that.

I hadn't thought back to those times or those skimpy closets for a long time, not until I took a course on Future Learn called Fashion's Future: The Sustainable Goals, which made me think about the clothes that now fill my walk-in closet. Times have changed, the closets are no longer skimpy but that is not a good or sustainable thing. Perhaps the world was better off when we only had one change of clothes, or at least, few enough clothes that they would fit in one skimpy closet. 

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Adding Colour at the British Library

The British Library, London

Do you ever come across familiar names, ones from your family's past that catch your eye no matter the context? That happened to me this week in a transcription exercise for an NIGS (National Institute for Genealogical Studies) course that I'm taking. The letter to be transcribed was written by Thomas Ridout. I have a Thomas Rideout in my direct family line. Of course, my Thomas wasn't in Canada like the letter writer but spent his life in England.

My Thomas lived in the village of Ashmore in Dorset. I have never visited the village as I was unable to get to it without a car when I was in England but the literature about the village described it as being defined by the pond at its centre. The village was actually named after the pond, originally known as Ashmere. This fact and many more came from the book Ashmore, Co Dorset: A History of the Parish with Index to the Registers 1651 to 1820 by E.W. Watson, M.A., which I found at the British Library.

The research I had done in the past showed that Thomas Rideout was that staple of the English countryside, an ag lab (agricultural labourer). The census returns showed many more ag labs in the village. There was also a sprinkling of other occupations like that of his father Joseph, who was a woodsman. But, according to the Watson book, deer in the area were protected until 1830 necessitating a deer fence around cultivated land. The hunting for the privileged classes must have been good; at one point there were more that 500 deer in the area. That information added more colour to my ancestor's lives and made me wonder if they were among the poachers to which the law turned a blind eye.

My visit to the British Library added more context to the story of my Rideout family but, unfortunately, it didn't clear up any of the mystery surrounding Mary, Thomas Rideout's wife. She was born Mary Maidment and, according to census information, she was born somewhere in Gloucester. A hard to find birth is a typical brick wall problem but that is not the only mystery about Mary. Her husband Thomas died in 1842 but her last child, John Rideout, was born in 1845. Who was John's father and what was Mary's life like after giving birth to this latest Rideout child, three years after her husband's death? It must have been an open secret as John lived with the rest of the family in Ashmore. It makes me wonder how villages like Ashmore dealt with those kinds of issues. Looks like the subject for another library search.  

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Graveyard Jaunts

Michael Collin's grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin
Family history research inevitably involves trawling through graveyards, something that may seem strange to those not in the game. Most people ride past a graveyard with barely a second look while genealogists crane their necks hoping for a glimpse of a familiar name. I have visited many a cemetery through the years, from small burial grounds surrounding a church to graveyards which take up many city blocks. 
Whether big or small, you sometimes need help finding the right grave. Last year's trip to Ontario included a jaunt to the Greenwood Cemetery in Owen Sound on the hunt for the resting places of some of my Thomson relatives. I know many photos of the stones are available on Findagrave but there is nothing like an in-person visit, if you can find the grave. There were maps in the Greenwood Cemetery but I couldn't figure out the system. I was lucky there was someone in the office to confirm my Thomsons were there and there was a stone to find. Once I rethought my search, I found them all on one stone and right beside them on another stone, almost swallowed by a bush, was a stone for the Harkness family which included Elizabeth Thompson Harkness, also a member of the Thomson family that I was interested in. I wouldn't have known to look for the Harkness stone without actually being in the cemetery.
Online searches can show you a lot but nothing is really the same as being there. If you visit in person, you are in even more luck if you have a guide, like I did in the Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester this year. My cousin was able to point out our family stones there as well as those of some of the more well-known permanent residents. 
As for well known parties found in cemeteries, one of the tours from my recent trip took in the Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. There are lots of famous people buried there, many with connections to Ireland's risings and rebellions. *Our tour included a reenactment of the Patrick Pearse oration given in 1915 over the grave of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa as well as visits to many famous and infamous person's final resting places, proving, to me at least, that cemeteries can add a lot to our understanding of history.
Yews are traditionally found in cemetaries

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Questioning Family Tree Conventions

Although unrelated to family history, something I read recently started me thinking about automatic assumptions used when drawing up family trees. It made me look at the Tripp part of my family tree in a different way. For years, my Tripp family line was pretty solid back to Charles Tripp born in 1761 in Duchess County, New York, thanks to help from others who were interested in the Tripp family line. When autosomal DNA testing came along, I even had genetic proof.

Genetic proof multiplied as more and more Tripps submitted their DNA for testing. But I was hoping for UK matches and the Tripps I was connected to were in the US, hardly surprising given Ancestry.coms US bias. I ignored my Tripp matches.

That changed in April. An invitation to enter my line of Tripps in the Guest Book sounded easy. I had all the names on a family tree back to Charles Tripp (born 1761). So, it should have been easy to enter the info and get back to planning my pending research trip. No such luck. A return email brought a write up of an extension to my family line to be considered. The researchers had come up with a potential father for Charles which would link him back to a pedigree reaching back to the original American settler.

The report on Charles' father and the link to the founding family used extensive documentary evidence. Best of all, I believed that it met the Genealogical Proof Standard that I had been hearing so much about. At one fell swoop, I now had a line that took me back to the original Tripp settler, the founder John Tripp who ended up in Rhode Island in the early 1600s. My Tripp entry is now in the Guest Book under John Tripp's third son Joseph. But therein lies my conundrum.

When the rest of the couples were added into my line back to John the founder, there was one of those pedigree collapse items in there that confuse family tree software programs. A Tripp had married a Tripp and they were both offspring of John the founder. Convention (and Y-DNA studies) list couples linking the male surnames if possible. But I started to question this convention while reading Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Was our way of recording a case of data bias? What about the female line back to John the founder? In my line, *Lydia Tripp, the granddaughter of the founder John Tripp, married Jonathan Tripp, John Tripp's great grandson, which meant that Lydia was a closer link to the original settler. She was the daughter of John Tripp's son James, so perhaps my line should be listed under John's fifth son, James.

Where did this alternate view of my Tripp family tree leave me? It had taken me a long time to figure out how I was related to one of my fellow researchers. I finally settled on fifth cousin once removed based on our line back through the third son Joseph. But the other researcher had the same pedigree collapse in his line as well (we won't even think about the fact that Jonathan and Lydia Tripp's mothers were sisters). I don't think fifth cousin once removed cuts it anymore.


Andrews, Janet Tripp and Jan E. Tripp "Research on the Lineage of Charles Tripp (1784 - 1828), October 17, 2016

*Bock, Margaret Buckridge. "Descendants of John Tripp of Portsmouth, R.I." The Geneaologist 4, no. 1 (1983): 59-128  

Saturday, 15 June 2019

The Treasures at the Bottom of the Suitcase

Research trips are so much fun! Well, maybe not the preparation; figuring out which archives to visit, how to get there and if they are open when you need them to be, can be daunting. Even being there trying to understand how the archive works and what the best use of your time will be, can be challenging. A first quick visit and then a longer second one can be more productive. That was my strategy for the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) and I think I will do even better there on repeat visits providing they don't make major changes in the meantime.

As the LMA has agreements with Ancestry, many items are actually available online. A really detailed look at their catalogue is necessary to make sure you are accessing items that would not be available online so that you make the most of your in-person visit. My preparation was a bit lacking in that respect this time but I did come up with some interesting negative info on my Arment family line. For some reason their young children were buried at Wycliffe Congregational Church. I checked the roll of church members for 1827 to 1867 as the children were buried in the 1840s but their parents didn't show up as members. There were some other family names that may be clues as to why the children were buried there. That mystery deserves a closer look.

That is one of the hardest parts about a research trip, actually unpacking the suitcase. By that I don't mean just taking all the painstaking notes you have made and putting them with the other notebooks amassed from other research trips, but actually going through things to see what treasures have been found and how they fit into your overall family history. Do they hold clues to possible new research? Or maybe they refute something you have long held to be true. Whatever those facts are they deserve to be evaluated and worked on. You spent a lot of time and energy to find them!

(This was actually a pep talk to myself but maybe I am not alone in needing it?)

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Past Homes


Was that how the street looked when my family lived there in the 1800s? Was that even the building they lived in or had it been replaced sometime back in history? Finding numbers close to street doors was difficult but judging the era of the street fronts they were attached to was even harder. It was obvious that some ancestral places had been razed and new places put in their stead. Goodmans Fields was not an upscale area of office blocks when my family lived there and, while there was a building at 82 Wentworth Street, it was doubtful that it was the one my Cavanagh family lived in for decades. It seems that even the street use had changed as surely Petticoat Lane Market was more than a few blocks away in their day.

 Visiting old family addresses is de rigueur for family historians. If you are lucky the places where your ancestors lived may still be standing and there might even be a chance that you could get inside. If not, just being in the area where their home once stood can give you a better idea of the lay of the land, which can help with the understanding of family stories or written accounts. It can also help you to picture their everyday lives. 

But there is nothing as sure in life as constant change. It happens in our lives all the time and it did in our ancestors lives as well. Many of them moved up and down the social scale as time and age changed their circumstances. Some of them moved from village to village, or village to town then city or even to different countries.

Did they keep fond memories of home in their minds as they pursued new lives in distant lands? But maybe the vision of home they held dear was no longer a reality. This came to mind after a conversation I had with someone who had lived in Halifax in his youth. It was a place we shared in common. Our memories stumbled over the street names but we recalled some of the geography, like the cemetery on the main street and the Public Gardens across the street from the Lord Nelson hotel. One of his fond memories was of sitting on the lawn in front of the library with chips from the food truck parked nearby. I told him things had change, that the city was proud of its new library but it was on the opposite side of the street and there was no lawn in front. He was sad he can only sit on the library's lawn in his memory and not look forward to doing that in person again one day. 

Did our ancestors have dreams of walking down the streets of their old homes one distant day in the future or did they embrace their lives in new lands and forget about what they had left?