So Your DNA Results are ‘Wrong’

* My only connection with Living DNA, or any other DNA testing company, is as a customer. I have received no concessions, free gifts or financial inducements from any of them. I receive no benefits should you decide to purchase their tests.

In the light of the recent ethnicity updates from Living DNA, the perceived accuracy of these estimates has again been the subject of heated debate. Personally, regarding the Living DNA update, I am very pleased with the strong correlation between the documentary trees and the ethnicity estimates of the three kits that I am involved with. This may be because we all have, as far as we know, 100% British ancestry within the genealogical time-frame. Inevitably, amidst the excitement and praise, the updates have brought out plenty of ‘my results are wrong, this company is rubbish’ comments. Indeed, I too have looked at the ‘accuracy’ of the estimates (and used the word rubbish about previous results – although I did qualify it!).

I am a long way from being any kind of DNA expert but many of the main complainants seem to be missing a number of points. Firstly, these are estimates, it is an emerging science, we are a long way away from ethnicity profiles being a complete reflection of our ancestral origins. They will become more accurate over time but the results are currently only as accurate as the base populations from which they are derived. They are more accurate for some areas than others. In Living DNA’s case, it seems that those with British ancestry are more likely to find that their results are a better reflection of the documentary evidence, than those whose families originate elsewhere.

The crucial issue here is how we are measuring ‘accuracy’? Are we looking at where our grandparents were born? Our great grandparents? Their parents? In a British context, having talked to a number of family historians, it seems that you have to go back to those born about 1770-1800 (for me that is 3 x great-grandparents) before you stop adding additional birth counties (N.B. that is counties not countries) to your make-up. Here is an example:- My parents were born in two adjacent counties, Surrey and Middlesex. This does not reflect my earlier origins very well. If I go back to my grandparents, they were born in Surrey, Middlesex (x 2) and Cornwall, so I have added a county. Great grandparents adds Northumberland, Essex and Buckinghamshire to the mix of birthplaces. The next generation adds Sussex and Norfolk. The birthplaces of my 3 x great grandparents looks like the map below and beyond that only those counties illustrated feature. If I were able to go back beyond the genealogical time-frame (earlier than 1500) my deeper ancestry will be more diverse. Anyone with a British family trees will ultimately descend from those with origins in Europe (Saxons, Normans, Vikings, etc.) and beyond but it is unlikely that these individuals will ever appear on our documentary family trees.

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Map created using Genmap

If you are non-British, there will be different considerations of course. Even for those whose ancestry is British, migration patterns cannot be ignored. For example, many who have Northern Irish ancestry in 1800 will find that these families came originally from Scotland or England. We may not know that because we are unable to trace our lines back that far but that may be what the DNA will reflect.

This is not all of course. We all assume that our documentary tree is genetically correct in every particular. It won’t be. Somewhere along one line or another, our solidly Yorkshire great-grandad won’t actually be the father of grandma. Great-grandma will have had a liaison with someone from Kent, or Germany, or Kazakhstan and we will never know, unless DNA matches give us a clue. Our only measure of accuracy is the tree we have lovingly researched and it is gratifying when our ethnicity estimate suggests we have got it right but it is not the company’s fault if we have got it wrong.

On the subject of updates, for my kits, the final Living DNA update is in and I should comment on that, as I have on the others. This person has ancestry from a very restricted geographical area (I promised not to use the word in-bred). So much so, that his sample formed part of the base data to identify Devon DNA. Going back to the ‘magic’ 1770-1800 mark (3 x great grandparents), 88% of his ancestry comes from within fifteen miles of his own birthplace and covers just two adjacent registration districts in north-west Devon. The other 12% is from Cornwall.

The original results were more diverse than this implies:

Devon 48.6%

Cornwall 24.5%

South-east England 13.8%

South England 7%

Cumbria 2.4%

Ireland 2%

South central England 1.6%

The new results reflect the documentary tree more closely:

Devon 64%

Cornwall 22.5%

South England 4%

Ireland 2.4%

South Central England 2.4%

South Wales Border 1.9%

Cumbria 1.7%

South-east England 1%

Now, anything other than the south-west appears to be just ‘noise’.

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Map from Living DNA

Nothing to do with DNA but I know there are readers who are waiting for hint about my next historical novel. I have already said that it is, like Barefoot on the Cobbles, based on a true story. It is also, again like Barefoot, rooted in rigorous genealogical research. Oh and it does now have a title but I will be revealing that at a later date.

Another Day, Another Set of Living DNA Results

So today the second set of DNA results that I look after at Living DNA have received their update. These are Martha’s ethnicity estimate. Although I was very pleased with my own initial Living DNA results and their close resemblance to my documentary tree, Martha’s original results were, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty rubbish. Here are the comments that I made at the time. I do appreciate that our documentary trees do not always mirror our genetic trees and that ethnicity estimates are just that but Martha’s original results had us wondering if she had been swapped at birth, or, less dramatically, if she had been given someone else’s results altogether. As she matched both me and her maternal aunt, it seemed that neither scenario was the case.

Martha original Living DNA estimate

Martha expected results

It was a lovely surprise therefore to find that the updated results were much closer to what forty years worth of documentary research might have led me to expect. Previously, 45% of Martha’s DNA was designated to be Germanic or Scandinavian. Migrations from Europe to the east coast notwithstanding, this was a ridiculously high amount. This has now diminished to a much more likely 3.3%. Last time there was no trace of her paternal Scottish ancestry, a significant proportion from the Forest of Dean, her Welsh borders roots, or the small amount from the Channel Islands. Now, the Forest of Dean shows up, as does Aberdeenshire, although there is still no sign of Worcestershire, which is included in the Welsh borders region. What is notable is the complete lack of Yorkshire ancestry this time. I have 6.7% from Yorkshire in my revised estimate and I have not yet found any ancestors from Yorkshire. Martha, on the other hand, who now has zero Yorkshire DNA, has a Yorkshire great great grandparent.

Martha Feb 2020 Living DNA estimate

So then how close is Martha’s new estimate to what I might expect? As I did for my results yesterday, let’s look at this one region at a time.

Devon and Cornwall first. If Martha had inherited equally from all her 3 x great grandparents (which I know she will not have), her profile should show 9.4% each from both Devon and Cornwall. Last time, this was slightly under represented with 6.8% from Devon and 4.3% from Cornwall. The new results reveal similar amounts: 8.6% for Devon and 3.9% for Cornwall. This swing from Cornwall to Devon, small in Martha’s case, is more marked in my revised estimate.

Northumberland was about right last time at 6%. This has increased to 9.4%. Scotland now appears with 3.4%, as opposed to an anticipated 6.3%. Taken together, these regions are as expected.

The south and south-east of the country is where the highest percentages lie, according to the documentary evidence, with 53% having origins in these regions. Last time, only 30% showed up but now it is a much more realistic 68%. It is difficult to comment on the distribution between the south, south-central, south-eastern and east Anglia regions, partly because Living DNA include Essex in both the south-east and East Anglia.

So the verdict so far, with two out of three updates in, mine has gone from good to still good and  Martha’s, has gone from poor to good. Overall, I am very satisfied. Let us see what the third update will bring.

New DNA Results from Living DNA – some thoughts

Well, that was exciting. My updated ethnicity estimate from Living DNA is in. My original results, which I received in June 2017, were a pretty fair reflection of my  what I expected, based on my documentary tree. Compared to my estimates from other companies, it was the closest match to what I have discovered during over forty years of research. Here is what I wrote at the time, some of which I have repeated here.

Today’s revised estimate is based on Living DNA’s improved, more refined data. There are no massive changes but it is interesting to examine the subtle differences and how the new results compare to my predictions, based on the paper trail.

I am now in my fifth decade of family history research and have an extensive pedigree based on documentary research. I am fortunate to know the geographical origins of 31 of my 32 3 x great grand-parents and 75% of the generation before that. This takes me back to the mid-eighteenth century, well before the point at which my ancestors converged on Greater London. Of course, these estimates are just that, ESTIMATES but as the science improves, we might expect that they will become more accurate.

In preparation for the original results, I used my research to work out what I might expect. I am aware that the DNA that I have inherited does not come equally from all my 3 x great-grandparents and that some of them may have left no trace in my profile but I had no way of taking account of this. I am also assuming that my documentary pedigree is correct. Matches at other testing companies have, so far, not given me any reason to think that my genetic tree is different from my paper one. Based on my knowledge, my expectation was that my genetic make-up would reveal:-

Cornwall 20%

Devon 5%

Northumberland 12.5%

South Eastern England 37.5%

South Central England 19%

East Anglia 6%

So, as I did with the first results, let us examine a region at a time. Firstly the south-west, Devon and Cornwall. By my reckoning, the south-west makes up 25% of my ancestry, with 20% being Cornish and 5% for Devon. Living DNA’s first percentages were 7.4% Cornish and 11.7% from Devon. Now, the overall percentage is the same – 19.1% but the distinction between Devon and Cornwall has become less accurate, rather than more, with 3.5% Cornish and 15.6% now being allocated to Devon. As my south-west ancestors lived very close to the Devon-Cornwall border, on one side or another, I am not disappointed with this.

Next, Northumberland, which I would expect to be 12.5% of my ancestry. With the original results, by adding the estimates for Northumberland (5.8%) and Cumberland (7.2%), I had the anticipated 13%. This segment of my ancestry has now been refined to be slightly more accurate, with 7.9% for Northumberland, 1.1% for the North-west, 1.9% N.Ireland/S.W. Scotland and 1.5% Aberdeenshire, a total of 12.4%. I suspect that the lost 0.6% has defected to Europe.

In the south-east, again the more refined breakdowns have become less similar to the documentary tree. I believe that the bulk of my ancestors, 37.5%, come from the south-east, Essex and Sussex. Last time, Living DNA agreed, with 35.3%. Now, the new results show only 7.9% of my make-up being from the south-east. I would anticipate a further 19% to come from the south-central region. This was under-represented first time round, at only 3.9%. The swing to the south-central region has been huge; I now have 33.7% from there. Living DNA has also made minor adjustments to the percentages from the south, which has moved from 5.8% to 4.2% and to the central region, which has gone from 2.7% to 1.4%. So once again, I find that the percentage for the general area is what I would expect but the distribution within that area has become slightly less accurate.

So what does that leave? There is still no sign of my expected 6% East Anglian ancestry. As I commented last time, I suspect that that has become Scandinavian ancestry, which has decreased from 5.6% to 4%. Lincolnshire has increased from 1.2% to 2.1%. I have lost the anomalous 2.1% from Chechnya and gained 7.5% from north-west Germany, perhaps reflecting early migrations to the east coast.

What fascinated me last time and still does, is the alleged Yorkshire ancestry, which has decreased slightly, going from 11.1% for North Yorkshire, to 6.4% for North Yorkshire and 1.2% for South Yorkshire.  At present, I have one great, great grandmother whose origins are unknown but my best guess would be the Shropshire/Worcestershire borders. Should I be looking at Yorkshire instead, or might this be the DNA manifestation of Shropshire/Worcestershire?

I also have a 4 x great grandmother who appears on my tree in that position 3 times, due to the marriage of cousins in two successive generations, thus she represents 4.7% of my ancestry. I do not know her surname and I have no idea of her origins. At present, I have assumed she was from the south-east, which is where her children were born in the 1780s; I wonder if I may be wrong.

So, overall, I still find that Living DNA’s regional breakdown is broadly similar to my documentary tree. The minor tweaks that have come with new results have been a case of win some lose some. Overall though, I am pleased with Living DNA. I am still waiting for the updates on two other kits, so I will be reporting back further then. I am especially interested to see if the one which diverges dramatically from the paper trail has changed.

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Map created using Genmap

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Living DNA February 2020

* My only connection with Living DNA, or any other DNA testing company, is as a customer. I have received no concessions, free gifts or financial inducements from any of them.

The Words and Voices of our Ancestors

Until recently, I was a columnist for the In-depth Genealogist Magazine and also wrote for their blog. Now the magazine is sadly no more, contributors have been invited to re-post their blog material elsewhere, so that it is preserved. This is another post that I wrote for them.

As genealogists, we spend our time trying to recreate our ancestors’ lives. As we make progress, most of us move from collecting bare facts about vital events, to looking at the social historical context. If we are lucky, we may have photographs of our more recent ancestors, to help us to visualise what they looked like. Failing that, we may have physical descriptions from service records, prison records or asylum admissions’ books. Have you ever considered what your ancestors may have sounded like, what words they may have spoken?

Firstly, are there any examples of your ancestors’ actual words? If you are fortunate enough to have letters or diaries, these convey an impression of the writer’s turn of phrase. We don’t usually write how we speak of course but it helps us to get a feel for that person’s vocabulary and use of grammar. There are occasions when an ancestor’s verbatim speech may have been recorded, if they came up in court as a witness for example. Often the most accessible route to these words is through newspaper reports.

How about accent and dialect or even language? If you descend from those who emigrated, then their language may not be your own. Even if the language has not changed, the accent and inflection is not necessarily the same and neither is the meaning. You only have to consider the difference between American English and English English to understand how things have altered over time and distance. This does not just apply to emigrants. I grew up in south London, England. I have grandparents who were born in Cornwall, in the far south-west and Northumberland, on the Scottish border, both of these areas have very distinctive regional accents. Sadly, I was too young when these grandparents died to remember the way that they spoke. Regional accents are slowly being eradicated but there is still time to catch a flavour of your ancestors’ regional speech. Look for recordings in sound archives or online.

Dialect is distinct from accent and relates to words that are only in use in a particular district, often quite a small area. Dialect dictionaries are readily available and can help us to understand words that are local in origin and which may have been used by our forebears.

Think too about the use of individual words and idioms. Our vocabularies are changing. Some words, phrases and expressions would not have been used by our ancestors. Slang dates us and would have been very different in times past. If you decide to write up your family history and put words into your ancestors’ mouths, you need to get this right. Good dictionaries provide you with information about the earliest use of certain words and phrases but obviously you can’t look up every word. Reading books and auto-biographies, from the appropriate era, gives you a flavour of how words would have been used.

093 Forces War Records sleeve February 1946Don’t forget that our ancestors’ language was modified by their surroundings. A few years ago I inherited a Forces Record that my father had recorded for my mother during the Second World War. He died when I was nine; I had no recollection of his voice. I was able to get this record converted to a format that I could listen to. I was astonished to hear my father speaking in immaculate BBC English, despite the fact that he grew up in London poverty. Of course he would be using his ‘telephone voice’ for the recording but this was still a shock. Then I realised that his peacetime occupation was as a cinema projectionist and that he was continually exposed to the refined tones of the film stars of the 1930s and 1940s; he sounded exactly like them.

How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?: a family history conundrum

Regular readers may remember the sad and sorry saga of my 43 year search for the mother of my 2 x great grandmother Mary Cardell. There have been a couple of posts about it already here and here. With all the zest of new year/new decade (arguably), I pursued the search yet again. To summarise and update slightly: Mary Cardell was born in Highgate, Middlesex between 1816 and 1818. Her father James was a gardener. She had a sister Catherine, born c. 1813 in Highgate and possibly a short-lived sister Eliza (c.1820-1824). I have already ruled out likely looking potential parents James Cadwell and Mary Ann Guteridge, who married in 1813 in Hornsey.

I then turned to a possible marriage of a James Cardall and Maria Withenbury at St. Alban, Worcester, Worcestershire on the 12th February 1798, both claiming to be ‘of this parish’. Worcester might seem a bit far away from Highgate but there was a widowed Maria Cardell who was in St. Pancras workhouse in the 1841 and 1851 censuses who claimed to have been born in Dudley, Worcestershire and who warranted further attention. Maria has not been found in the 1861 census. I have searched under all variants, under M.C. and also with no name but just using her age and the birthplace Worcestershire. I have not been able to find the workhouse in an address search.

There is a Maria Withenbury baptised in Worcestershire 2 August 1780, daughter of James and Elizabeth née Harris but Dudley is 30 miles from Worcester. I have checked the all the Marias baptised in Dudley 1776-1780, regardless of surname, none marry a Cardell. For a long time, I agonised over a burial of a Maria Cordle on 11 May 1834 at St. Nicholas, Worcester, age 54, who seemed like a rather too convenient fit for Maria née Withenbury. I now believe that this Maria is the wife of a William Cordle. They had several children in Worcester between 1803 and 1820, on one baptism Maria appears as Celia Maria. I cannot find a marriage for William and Maria/Celia but I am happy that this burial is not Maria née Withenbury.

A Samuel Cardel was baptised in February 1802 in Worcester, son of James and Maria. Samuel cannot be found in the census returns. A Samuel Cardall of St. Pancras (no parents mentioned) was buried in September 1805 aged 3 years 8 months at Whitefields (non-conformist) Memorial Church in Camden. If Samuel was about a month old at baptism, as was typical, this fits exactly. If this is the same Samuel, it suggests that the family moved to London between 1802 and 1805.

There is also Sarah Cardall, born 22 Jan 1811, baptised 10 Feb 1811, to James and Maria at St Margaret’s Westminster. She married as a minor in 1829 at St, Mary’s Lambeth, to William Thornton, with the consent of Maria Cardall, who also signed as a witness, implying that James was dead by this time. There is a potential burial for James in 1824 in Southwark, this is only eight miles from Highgate but it is south of the river, it remains speculative. Crucially, Maria signed her name on her daughter’s marriage record and I have been able to compare this with Maria Withenbury’s signature on her own marriage thirty years early. I believe that these are not incompatible.

Maria was admitted to St. Pancras workhouse in 1836 and died there in December 1861. She is listed on the 1861 census of long term workhouse residents (available on Ancestry). Although workhouse records state that she was a widow, there is no mention of a husband on her death certificate. The informant, S Deane, is probably a workhouse employee. I have not be able to track them down. St. Pancras workhouse would have covered Highgate. There is some fascinating information about the workhouse on Peter Higginbotham’s excellent workhouses site. Thanks to this site, I know that, in 1857, the Illustrated London News reported on the innovative steam laundry that had been installed in the workhouse. As there were, according to the article, 1500-1900 inmates, 8000 items had to be washed each week and the machinery could accomplish this in four days. This is particularly significant as Maria is recorded as a laundress on her death certificate. Earlier she had been listed as a glover but perhaps by this time her eyesight no longer allowed her to sew. It may be significant that James Withenbury was also a glover.

This sounds very progressive but the previous year had found serious deficiencies at the workhouse. This too is reported on the workhouses website. The workhouse was found to be “severely overcrowded with patients in the infirmary having to be placed on the floor. Ventilation throughout the building was deficient, with fetid air from privies, sinks, drains, urinals and foul patients permeating many of the wards and producing sickness, headaches and dysentery amongst the inmates. The staff also complained of nausea, giddiness, sickness and loss of appetite. A lying-in room, also used as a sleeping room by night nurses, had a smell that was ‘enough to knock you down’. In the women’s receiving wards, more than eighty women and children slept in two rooms which provided a mere 164 cubic feet of space per adult.” Incredibly, Maria spent twenty five years living here.

So where does that leave me? I believe that James and Maria née Withenbury had a son Samuel in 1802, moved to London and had a daughter Sarah in 1811, who subsequently married William Thornton. (This despite the world and his wife on Ancestry having Sarah as the daughter of a William Cardell – the baptism and marriage records taken together are quite clear – the father is definitely James). There is obviously a large gap between Samuel and Sarah. Given that there are no baptism for great great granny Mary or her sister Catherine, if this is the same family, this could be an explanation. Samuel’s non-conformist burial may also be significant. Alternatively, James could have been away fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, he could have been in prison, there may have been a series of miscarriages, or any number of other explanations for the apparent nine year gap. The 1851 census for Cardells and variants, born in Highgate, Finchley, Westminster or Southwark reveal only a William, born c 1815/6 in Southwark, as a possible additional sibling (and then this does not fill the gap) – no baptism has been found for William but coming as he would between the two girls born in Highgate, it seems less likely that he belongs to this family.

I also believe that Maria Cardell née Withenbury, mother of Samuel and Sarah, is the Maria who spent twenty five years in St. Pancras Workhouse. The million dollar question is, is she also the mother of great great granny Mary, Catherine and probably Eliza? Can I  add her to the family tree? I don’t know if there are further relevant workhouse records that the London Metropolitan Archives have not put online, if so, that is an obvious place to start. Maria’s father, James Withenbury, left a will but unfortunately, he died before Maria married, so there is no hope of Cardell grandchildren being mentioned. I do have a DNA match with a descendant of Sarah Thornton née Cardell, which is encouraging but I also have a match with a descendant of the sister of Mary Guteridge, who married the wrong James Cawdell. I have contacted the descendant of Sarah and another who does not appear to have done a DNA test – no replies. I am almost out of ideas. Suggestions on a postcard ……..

Oh, you would like another novel hint (8/11 chapters now written) – well here is #2:- like Barefoot it is not exactly all sweetness and light. Another tragic incident underpins the story.

DNA Dilemmas

The following post was another that I wrote for The In-depth Genealogist’s blog. I am writing it from the perspective of someone who has done DNA tests with three different companies and who runs a Y-DNA surname project.

DNA testing for genealogical purposes has never been more popular but it is not without its drawbacks. All too often, people bemoan the fact that potential DNA connections have provided no family information to their testing company of choice, or that they fail to respond to emails. There is however a more serious issue. Somewhere in the fairly small print most, if not all, the testing companies warn that those taking a test should be prepared for the results not being what they are expecting. In our excitement, how many of us read, mark and inwardly digest the implications of these caveats? What can possibly go wrong?

Nowadays, for many, it is a DNA test that sparks the research trail but others are experienced genealogists. For those serious researchers, before that test is taken, there has been time, money and most importantly, emotion invested in a particular family line. What happens then when the DNA results suggest that there is no genetic connection to that family at all? If we think, as we scrape our cheeks or spit in our tubes, about the possible outcome at all, have we really come to terms with how we would feel to no longer be a Smith but a Jones? Even if we are intrigued or excited about the thought that, somewhere in our ancestry, a Mrs Smith has had a child by someone who is not Mr Smith (Mr Jones perhaps) this will not just affect us. How will our siblings, parents, cousins, others who share this hiccup, feel? These relatives may or may not have been particularly interested in our genealogical delvings, they may even have been discouraging. Do we tell them and if so how? Will they be interested or appalled? Remember that it may be very difficult to pinpoint the precise point in our ancestry where the genetic pedigree deviates from the documentary. It could be 60 years ago or 600. It might be easier to accept a 6 x great grandmother going astray than a grandmother but in either case, we have lost that genetic link to a family that may have been ‘ours’ for decades.

What about those of us who run surname DNA projects, perhaps with the aim of proving that documentary family trees for a rare, potentially single origin, surname are genetically linked? Hopefully we explain to those who test that they may not match the normal profile for that surname but I suspect those testees all go ahead without really expecting it to apply to them. When non-matching results come back how do we break the news that they do not have a genetic link to that surname at all? To have tested in the first place they presumably feel some sense of belonging to the genetic line. I guess we can approach this in a similar way to those who have been adopted into the family but then it is not usually the family genealogist who has to break the news that someone is adopted and in most cases, there are now options for adoptees to identify their birth parents. Unless our non-matching DNA reveals a connection to a very unusual surname, the chance of finding the birth father of the product of Mrs X’s indiscretion is remote – even supposing that we can narrow down which Mrs X went astray.

When I took my first test, my head was prepared for a non-match, I am not sure that my heart was equally prepared. Fortunately for me, my slightly dodgy documentary direct paternal line was confirmed by DNA. How would I have felt if it was not? If I am honest, I really don’t know. I would be very interested to hear how others cope with DNA dilemmas.

This image is a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Of all Things New: presentations, courses, books and more

New year, new things on the horizon. Here is just a selection. Last week I spent a very interesting day at the headquarters of Family Tree Magazine, filming two presentations for their downloadable content. Despite the fact that I am used to presenting, it is actually very difficult to talk for nearly an hour (x2) with no audience participation, no hesitation, deviation, umms and ahhs, coughs, pauses to swig gin etc.. The presentations will be available in a month or two. One is on tracing twentieth century English ancestry and the other on pauper ancestors.

Whilst on the subject of Twentieth Century ancestry, my online course for Pharos begins in a couple of weeks and is filling up fast, book now to avoid disappointment and all that. I am also preparing two new online courses, which will be available through Pharos. There will be an introductory one-place studies course, which will begin in September (ok, so that isn’t written yet either). The previous course, run by Celia Heritage, is no longer available, as Celia has other commitments. This one will be a brand new; I have deliberately not looked at Celia’s version. A course to help those tracing Agricultural Labouring Ancestors is planned for 2021. I also have a new presentation on the same topic, Sons of the Soil, which will premiere at Dorset Family History Day  in March. Err, no, that isn’t written yet either.

Back to one-place studies for a minute. Putting your Ancestors in their Place is now very nearly out of print. I am preparing a new booklet, which will have a rather different approach and a more international feel. It will also be available for Kindle, which I hope will be popular. With luck, that may be ready for THE Genealogy Show in June and yes, you’ve guessed it, not actually written yet. Add to this the book that I may need to write in connection with the job I must not mention and there are no prizes for guessing what I shall be doing over the next few months.

Deepest Darkest Devon

And now for something completely different, something that is actually written! Hurrah! Exeter Authors Association of which I am very much an inactive member, have produced an anthology of short stories with a Devonian slant, Tales of Deepest Darkest Devon. I am not by nature a short story writer but one of mine (ok the only one of mine) Brought to Book is in that collection. If you enjoyed Barefoot it is similar in style and based on a true story that took place in Devon in the 1820s and 1830s. You also get to read all the varied and fascinating contributions by other local authors. Priced at £4.99, it is due for publication on 31 March and is currently available in Kindle format only. It can be pre-ordered now here. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

My next novel is due to be launched on 29th August, ok, so there is the small matter of a third of it still to be written (have you spotted a theme here?) – that’s a mere detail. Advance notice that I will not be creating a millstone round my neck and writing 100 blog entries about the characters and locations as I did for Barefoot but I will be drip-feeding some hints and teasers in my blog posts in the meantime. #1 It is, like Barefoot, based on a true story. So, stand by, there will be more and a title reveal is imminent (when I have decided what it is to be that is!).

Whilst I look forward to these excitements, my thoughts are with my many Australian friends and the appalling fires that are currently threatening their homes and families. On a more positive note, it is exciting to see that several of my favourite genealogy presenters will be participating in Family History Down-under in March 2021. I think that it is very unlikely that I will be able to attend but if you live nearer than half a world away (or even if you don’t) this is going to be a major event on the genealogy calendar.