Isolation Capers Two Weeks In – Day 14

We started early so today is day 14 for us. As the situation around us worsens, here are a selection of joyful moments.

The grandchildren have been participating in a Lego building challenge. Thursday (day 4) the challenge was the flag of your favourite country. I thought I’d cracked this with Libya.


Turns out this is no longer Libya’s flag – drat.

We also had a family ‘wear your lobster socks to isolation’ day, which went well.


Disclaimer – these are not my feet and legs

Given that the glorious weather (and goodness doesn’t it help) was not predicted to last, we went for outside activities. I managed to paint two bookcases and my co-isolatee has made good progress with the outside window frames. I am not close to running out of things for him to do (purely for his own benefit of course) any time soon.

Excited to receive my copy of Sara Read’s The Gossip. It is set in 1665 Could be topical.


We did the clapping for the NHS thing. It seems so little but it helps us to do something and we are able to stay in, so that’s our greatest contribution. Inevitably, there is evidence that people have no idea what the word ‘essential’ means and they are going out unnecessarily.

Martha managed to get us a food delivery slot for Monday – yay! Won’t have to break open the six year old cream crackers yet.

I joined in a genealogy chat with some friends, mostly those in Australia and New Zealand, so it started at 7.30am but I can do 7.30am.

After many struggles, I managed (I hope) to upload my new One-Place Studies booklet Ten Steps to a One-Place Study, so it can be purchased from Amazon in a day or two. If you buy one and the formatting is weird please be gentle with me – it’s all a learning curve. I haven’t worked out how to download a copy of the cover, which I created on Amazon, that isn’t super fuzzy, so you will have to make do with the image that I used on the cover instead. When printers are up and running again, it will be possible to buy copies from me as well.

146 8 August 2014 Dull and Boring sign.JPG

Day 11 Fruit and Veg, Toilet Rolls, Genealogy and other Isolation Issues

Today is day 11 for us. I am rapidly going to lose track of how many days it is and I certainly have to stop and think about the day of the week. The last few days have brought some highs and lows.

First positive was the discovery of one and a half toilet rolls. Ok, so they were in the almost never used outside toilet and covered in cobwebs but someone in the household is willing to use them. Actually, we have sufficient toilet rolls but the absence of any online shopping slots in the next three weeks is worrying. I do have a slot booked for two weeks’ time but very little of my potential order is currently available. I was feeling quite down about this yesterday morning but first our wonderful community shop, run by volunteers, delivered a few essentials such as bread and milk and then a massive box of fruit and veg arrived, ordered by Rebecca in lieu of Mother’s Day flowers. Under current circumstances, better than any flowers, there might have been a tear or two. A parcel arrived from BeingEdward for Mother’s Day. I Skyped to say thank you. He has been making resin jewellery with his mum. He had given me a necklace with half a heart shape and was very excited to show me that he was wearing the matching other half, cue more emotion.


DSCF0493.JPGI am eternally grateful for ‘online’. I’ve helped Edward lay out a family tree. I managed to access Zoom for the first time to chat with other genealogy types and used Skype to meet with my authors’ group. I think Martha, Lucy and I are planning a family music recital later in the week. On the downside, I have a totally unintelligible communication from the US tax people, or possibly from Amazon, relating to my meagre Amazon sales to the US. I fill in my own UK self-assessment forms with ease. This is unintelligible, as is the website it directs you to. It seems I am a ‘non-resident alien’ (that may explain a lot) and I may need to visit my US Embassy for a tax form – like that’s going to happen. Or I can write to Illinois, ditto at present – not going to make a non-essential Post Office visit. So now I am worrying about being hauled off to some federal prison for non-payment of taxes.

Thanks to my co-isolatee, my lawn has been mown and even the shed is looking tidier. We planted some seeds. They are pretty antique but archaeologists have got Roman seeds to grow right? I spent an hour cancelling various aspects of our planned holiday to Ireland – hopefully we will be able to go next year instead.

I dropped in on #AncestryHour on Twitter. The lovely Daniel of Daniel’s Genealogy has interviewed me. Ah there’s another new novel clue for you – it does mention #Ancestryhour. I am still finding it very difficult to concentrate on anything, particularly writing and everything is taking longer than usual. Nonetheless my new One Place Study booklet is finished and with beta readers. You cannot imagine how long it took me to get Word to behave so that the pages that I wanted to have numbers did and that they were the correct numbers.

I am starting to get to know my next batch of students for my Writing and Telling Your Family History Course. I feel some of them may have more time than usual to devote to this. Still time to sign up if you want to join the merry throng – it starts on Tuesday – providing any of us can actually remember when Tuesday is!

Cream Crackers and Sat-navs: self isolation day #9

So yesterday we decided to clean out the larder. Partly because it needed doing and partly to see what weird assortment of food we might be eating in coming weeks. Excavating the larder’s recesses is always an interesting exercise and an opportunity to jettison anything that is seriously out of date or capable of meaningful independent life. I am pleased to report that nothing older than ‘best before 2006’ was found. That was an achievement. I admit a few things like the six year old cream crackers (tasted and edible) which would normally have been fed to the birds have gone back in the cupboard, ‘We might be glad of those in a few weeks.’ For one non-drinker and one very occasional (like about once a year) drinker, there is a surprising amount of alcohol, mostly raffle prizes waiting to be recycled. We are hanging on to that in the hope that we can use it as hand sanitiser, barter it for toilet paper when ours runs out, or for potatoes and onions, both of which are unlikely to last until our supermarket delivery is due in two weeks’ time (and judging by others’ comments they may not come then).

The virtual piano lesson went well. I am currently stumbling my way through Streets of London, Hallelujah and Let it Be. Encouragingly, my playing is showing slight signs of improvement but I was starting from a very low base. Martha and I have had a Skype recital between us. My author’s group will still be meeting, via Skype but whilst attempting to establish contact with each other, some of us have been waving at a random stranger who happens to have the same name as one of our group, oops!

Today it is beautifully sunny, so we went for a car ride to see the sea. Strictly not getting out of the car and actually (and thankfully) we saw few people in cars or on foot. Mind you, I think there may be more folk out and about this afternoon. STAY AWAY FROM EACH OTHER OR STAY AT HOME – no compromise however young/invincible you think you are. It is not only your own health that you are risking. We went in a ‘new to Chris’ car, which has an inbuilt voice-activated Sat Nav. Well, that was a challenge. Let’s just say we were nearly forced to drive to Hartland Road in Camden, instead of Hartland. I think we’ve sussed it now and it seems it does recognise a Devonshire accent.


Self -isolation: a view from day 4

Well, it seems our decision to self-isolate was only a day in advance of the government advice. Today came the inevitable but sad news that Family Tree Live is cancelled. My ‘Forthcoming Talks’ list is diminishing by the day. I have abandoned the hope of being able to sell enough books before August, in order to make room for the new novel. Most of my copies are sold at talks. The August launch is assuming printers are still working, which they may well not be and I do still have to finish it. I am opting for a slightly alternative 2020 within its pages! Oh, you want another hint – it is about intolerance.

So, what has been going on in isolation land? No more gardening; I am a fair-weather gardener and its raining. Tip one for passing the time:- If you’ve never shopped online before, try setting up an online shopping account; that should while away an afternoon. Although we are well stocked for food, I thought I’d better schedule a delivery, ready for when things begin to run out. Normally, I have my own personal shopper, when the fisherman of my acquaintance brings things in from the town, so online shopping is a whole new learning curve. No matter how often I tried, I could not get ******’s registration system to recognise my decades old loyalty card number, so I ignored that. After much frustration, I finally cracked the system. The next available slot in my area – 6th of April, no wonder people feel obliged to stockpile. Who knows how many things will be unavailable by then? About half the things I might have ordered are currently out of stock.

I understand Amazon are limiting deliveries to essential items. I can understand why but it is the ‘non-essentials’ that are vital to the mental well-being of those in lock down. I am really hoping the printer cartridges I ordered a few days ago make it through. I am not sure how those working from home or home educating will manage without this sort of thing.

Have I been washing my hands with Lady Macbeth-like vigour? Well, actually not, as we haven’t been anywhere. It is very odd. I have the one small bottle of hand-sanitizer and one packet of anti-bacterial wipes that we managed to buy. They sit on the shelf like talismans, as if just having them will keep the evil at bay. I am terrified to start using them in case I can’t get any more. We have broken the duck with the anti-bacterial soap and are using that but it is disappearing frighteningly quickly.

I’ve been trying to support friends online and on the phone. It is frustrating not to be able to be of more practical assistance. I have been following the news but not obsessively. I must admit, that I found seeing the BBC breakfast news presenters sitting apart on the red sofa chilling. For me personally, my routine hasn’t changed very much, as I often have a few days when I don’t go out. I am sure that prolonged hibernation will get more difficult as days go by.

My piano teacher offered to conduct my lesson by Facetime – errr yes, well, maybe. It turns out that I don’t have the technology for this, so we are going for Facebook calling instead – I’ll let you know how it goes. With all this time to practice I will be a virtuoso by the time this is over.

024 15 May 2019 Wisteria at Falkland Palace.JPG

Self-isolation Day 1 and why you shouldn’t feel guilty

So yesterday I came out as a voluntary self-isolater, pre-empting the likely government restrictions for the over 70s and those with pre-existing conditions. It was not an easy decision. I was hesitant because I had several commitments this week and going forward. I am really not comfortable with letting people down, particularly when my absence puts additional work on others. Equally though, I was becoming very anxious about the prospect of mixing with others. After a sleepless night, anguishing over what I should do, I decided, for the sake of my mental and physical health, to self-isolate. I was prepared to do this on my own but the fisherman of my acquaintance, bless him, agreed to join me. This is particularly noble as he will find staying in very difficult. I am much more content sitting around at home. Left to his own devices, he would be rushing about doing everyone’s shopping and putting himself at risk. Mind you, I think our ideas of self-isolation do not exactly align. He’s of the ‘I’ll just pop to (insert your large supermarket of choice here) once a week’ mindset. I am more ‘I’ll just disinfect all those tins that have arrived in the online shop’.

Having begun to cancel my commitments, the sense of relief was overwhelming. I knew then that I had made the right decision. We are in this for the long haul. We know it won’t be easy but we think we can manage. So far we have twenty four hours under our belts. Yesterday we did pretty much what we would normally do on a Sunday afternoon. Today we did some gardening and the fisherman of my acquaintance power-washed the patio and the conservatory windows; we will be seeing a great deal of this area in the coming months. I would like to place on record that deciding to self-isolate is not a crafty way of getting all those ‘ten minute’ DIY jobs done!

So potential problems so far:- This is a great opportunity to tidy the garden but what will we do with the mowings and cuttings that we would normally take to be recycled? I could sign up for the paid council collection service but will this continue to run? Or we could build a compost heap that will end up being larger than my tiny garden. The jury’s out.

I have had nothing but support for my own decision. From many ‘me too’s, to kind remarks from those who I have had to let down. This is not universal however. I am hearing of more and more cases where people’s personal decisions are not being respected and they are being bullied into making social contact when they are not happy to do so. Nobody has the right to question the actions of someone else, unless their choices put other people at risk. I’d be the first to call out someone who says, ‘well I’ve been told to stay home but I think it’s an over-reaction so I’m going out anyway’. Yes, I have seen the equivalent and yes, I did comment. If people are withdrawing from events, it may be that they have a pre-existing condition, or someone in their household might be particularly vulnerable. Alternatively, they may just be s*** scared and are protecting their mental health. The reason is immaterial; it is their business and theirs alone. Let’s not make them feel guilty or, worse still, make them do things that could be harmful, or are against their better judgement.

Plague Door Jayne Poole Characters

Photograph by Jayne Poole

Of Plagues, Pianos, Books and Surviving 2020

It is difficult to know what to write at the moment. Do I grit my teeth in ‘keep calm and carry on fashion’? Do I write uplifting stuff? Do I list all the adverts that are turning up on my social media feeds, most of which are for cleaning products at grossly inflated prices, or items that feed upon my fear? ‘Protect yourself from all known germs for thirty days by wearing this magic (very expensive) virus disinfection card round your neck’. Really? In their desperation people will clutch at anything. There are always those who are quick to capitalise. Our baser survival instincts are kicking in and baser they certainly are. I’ll admit it, ‘My name is Janet and my bathroom cupboard contains more toilet rolls than usual’. Not a crazy amount but yes, more than usual and I did panic buy two tins of carrots the other day. I am not stockpiling but I am replenishing larder and fridge more often than I might. I am wondering just how long I could manage without going out or having anything delivered. Current thinking is probably about four weeks, maybe longer with rationing, I do need to lose weight. My diet would be odd but I would not starve. I don’t use bread or milk, which helps.

I am lurching between making an effort to do things as normally as possible and just wanting to lock the door for three months. I’ll be honest, mostly I just want to lock the door. Normally, I am not one to panic but this, this is unprecedented. I think of my worldwide circle of friends, my neighbours, many of whom are in the vulnerable groups and yes, I do wonder who will make it out the other side. I like to think I’d be calmer if I wasn’t (just) within the higher risk age group, if I didn’t have what is referred to as ‘a pre-existing condition’ but maybe I’d still be scared. Events, from the village weekly coffee morning to Rootstech London, are being cancelled and I am relieved that the decision is being taken out of my hands; I don’t need to weigh up how risky my attendance might be. Like most people, I’d really like to skip the next few months and wake up to a saner world.

In other news and you’d be forgiven for thinking there is no other news. Every conversation, every news bulletin, every social media post seems to be about nothing else but there really is other news.

I’ve recently started having piano lessons. I have had lessons before, for a year, when I was seven. That was a very long time ago and my fingers were not so stiff then. After three lessons, I can stumble my way through classics of the 60s and 70s like Streets of London and Let it Be. Just don’t try to sing along unless you sing very slowly. Next on the bucket list might be learning Cornish, although I am reminded just how awful I am at any language but English.

The various writing projects are making progress. It may be as well that it looks like I will be home for a month when I expected to be in Ireland on holiday. This will give me some breathing space. My new one-place studies booklet is pretty much finished and the one-place course, which will see its first airing in September, is coming on. Pharos are already taking bookings. The novel too is nearly done. The clue for today is that it includes a chapter set in a plague outbreak that occurred in 1646. I have re-written that chapter with a much greater understanding of the sheer terror that my characters would have felt. As I haven’t put up many posts lately, I’ll give you another clue. The modern strand is set between June and September 2020. This is causing some problems! I am too locked into that time span to change it. Things are occurring daily that mean I need to alter sections; when I wrote most of it there was no corona virus. I need to go to press in June. There will come a point where there will need to be an author’s note, explaining why my characters’ experiences may not mirror reality and I’ll just have to go with it.

One thing I am not worried about is my ability to hibernate. I can find plenty to do without leaving home. I am very relieved that I have a garden. I would struggle if I could not get outside, particularly in the summer. I think of all the projects that might get done in a month’s isolation, tidying, decorating, reminding myself how to spin, writing up more branches of my family history. Incidentally, if you are thinking of using self-isolation to turn your family history notes and files into some sort of story and would like some inspiration and motivation, there are still a couple of space on my online Writing and Telling your Family History course which starts on 31st. It is a five week course but it will give you enough suggestions to keep you busy whilst the world calms down.

Look after yourselves my friends. Remember it is ok to be scared. Talk about it. Self-isolate but don’t be isolated. We need to care for our mental as well as our physical health. We are fortunate that we have the technology that allows us to support each other without meeting face to face.

Bluebells 2

Because we all need beautiful flowers right now

Who am I Related to?

As regular readers will know, I am comparatively new to the convoluted ‘excitements’ of Ancestry DNA matches. I’ve been having a little play. If you have nothing better to do, you might see how your matches compare. You probably won’t all read to the end so I will put today’s new novel hint at the beginning – #5 It contains a modern strand. The novel also has the beginnings of its own webpage now. This post is probably for those who like fiddling with numbers and charts. If that’s not you, please go and use your time more wisely and stop reading now.

So, back to the DNA. I have, according to Ancestry, two 3-4th cousin matches, 316 4th-6th cousin matches and as of this minute, 35,218 5th-8th cousin matches. I have looked at all those with common ancestors (allegedly 86 people although a couple have some incorrect trees). I have also checked all those that match at 16cM or more and all the shared matches of these people, plus a random selection of others. That’s over 2000 matches in all. So far, I have identified precisely how I am related to 78 people. The DNA that I share with some of these individuals is a little as 6cm. I am also more closely related to some than ancestry believes. Thanks to shared matching, I have an additional 237 matches, where I can tell which branch of the family is likely to be responsible for the link, although not the precise details of how we are connected.

I am very far from being a DNA expert, so please do tell me if all this is total nonsense. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to consider how my matches are distributed amongst different branches of my family and to speculate on why not all my great great grandparents are equally represented.

My paternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather

The Braund family from Devon and Cornwall can be traced back to the 1680s. 28 of my identified matches relate to this branch of the family and I know precisely how 20 of them relate to me. The closest relations are two 3rd cousins once removed, with whom I share 35 and 20cM. Most are 6th cousins but I do have a 7th cousin (who matches at 11cM) and a 7th cousin once removed (with 15 shared cM). I have not ruled out being related twice over with some of these individuals. In fact, in one case, I know I am.

My paternal grandfather’s paternal grandmother

The Nicholls family, also from Cornwall, can be traced back the 1630s. They yield just six matches, only one of which I can precisely identify. This is a 4th cousin once removed (a 20cM match).

My paternal grandfather’s maternal grandfather

The Bishops, another west country family, are responsible for a whopping 104 matches, most of whom have no trees or private trees. The 12 for whom I have precise details of how we are related, vary from a 3rd cousin once removed, who only shares 12cM of DNA, to several 6th cousins, one of whom shares 14cM.

My paternal grandfather’s maternal grandmother

The Buckinghams and their forebears come from Cornwall. I have 39 matches that I have identified as relating to this branch, three of whom have a known place on the family tree. These range from a 5th cousin (21cm) to a 6th cousin (11cm). The closest relative shares 43cM of DNA (precise relationship unknown).

This quarter of my family is responsible for nearly 60% of my identified matches. There are obviously a number of factors at work here. Firstly, as I have not inherited an equal amount of DNA from each grandparent, I am less likely to have matches with those whose DNA is more diluted in my make-up. Perhaps I have a higher proportion of west-country DNA (although Living DNA’s ethnicity estimate suggests not). In addition and probably more significantly, the south-west branches are likely to be linked to a higher proportion of emigrants, therefore there will be more residents of the USA amongst the wider family. Given the much higher number of US citizens who have tested, this is bound to have an impact. Also, by using shared matches to identify likely group members, there is a snowball effect.

My paternal grandmother’s paternal grandparents

What about the other three quarters of my ancestry? My paternal grandmother’s quarter is the poorest yield for DNA matches, with none for her father, the Hoggs from Northumberland and just two 4th cousins (19cM shared) for her paternal grandmother. I believe that this is largely because these lines are more difficult to trace, not just for me but for other researchers too. The Hogg line hits a brick wall in 1804. Therefore matches on these lines are probably hidden within the many hundreds of matches for whom I cannot identify a common ancestor. Of course, I cannot ignore the possibility that Mr Hogg may not actually be my genetic great great grandparent.

My paternal grandmother’s maternal grandparents

The Howe and Stratford lines from Buckinghamshire (with 7 matches, 4 of which are identified), give me one of my closest matches, a third cousin, yet we share just 27cM. It looks as if this grandparent is under-represented in my DNA, another possible reason for fewer matches. So, fewer than 3% of my matches come from my paternal grandmother.

My maternal grandfather’s ancestors

On my mother’s father’s side we hit the problem of endogamy; with the Smiths and the Seears intermarrying in three successive generations. This means that I am related to most of my matches in more than one way, making meaningful analysis difficult. I do have 46 matches in this line, five of whom can be located on my family tree. I have one matche to my Norfolk great great grandparent, Anne Bulley, a 4th cousin sharing 18cM of DNA). This again is a difficult-to-trace branch. Despite this, 15% of my matches relate to my maternal grandfather.

My maternal grandmother’s ancestors

Finally, to my maternal grandmother’s line. The Sussex Woolgars are well documented and can be traced back to the C15th, so perhaps it is not surprising that there are 23 relatives on this branch, ranging from a 4th cousin (with only 6cM shared) to a 6th cousin sharing 17cM. Six of these can be precisely identified.

On the virtually impossible to trace Cardell line I have two matches. These support my speculation as to the ancestry of my brick wall ancestor but more is needed.

The Essex Dawsons and Bowyers can be traced back to the 1650s, again giving potential for plenty of matches and there are 47 of them, of which I can pinpoint the exact relationship for 16, all of whom are 4th– 6th cousins. Thus, this grandparent gives me 23% of my matches, not far from her fair share.

In summary then, this is the percentage of matches that each grandparents is responsible for:-

Paternal grandfather 60%, paternal grandmother 3%, maternal grandfather 15%, maternal grandmother 23% – sorry, I know that adds up to 101% – blame rounding up/down.

Ancestry have just announced their Mother’s Day sale. Shall  take the plunge and get a daughter to test, so I can do all this for her paternal ancestry as well?

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

And just because I can, one of my favourite family photos, colourised by MyHeritage and then enhanced by me.Colourised Philip James and Percy James Woolgar c 1896