Christmas is Coming

DSCF1180Yes, geese are signing up for Weight-watchers in flocks as I type. I kid you not, the ‘Back to School’ shelves have not yet been cleared and the Christmas cards are on sale. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, with the dark evenings on the horizon, this means our thoughts turn to digging out our virtual or literal family history files and promising ourselves that this year we really will create some order out of the chaos that is the fruits of years/decades of research. Maybe we would like to tempt our dearest and not so nearest to take an interest in our obsession with a yuletide gift of a family history, or we would like to share family stories over turkey and tinsel. Now let’s be honest here, ‘would you like to see my spreadsheet of baptisms?’ just isn’t going to cut it. I can feel the glazed over looks from 100 paces. That fascinating story of great uncle Fred’s bigamy, or auntie Alice’s spell in jail, though, that could just raise a flicker of excitement. Even if your family is devoid of all black sheep, set their lives in the local and social historical context of their time and you could be on to a winner. ‘Did you know great-granddad was the local rat-catcher?’ ‘Granny served tripe twice a week’ or ‘Great great grandma died of cholera, did you know she would have passed 20 litres of diahorrea a day?’ (good one for the gore hungry children that) – so much more engaging than a list of names and dates. If you want some motivation then can I humbly recommend that you take a look at my five week online ‘Are you Sitting Comfortably: writing and telling your family story’ course that starts on 17 October. Details are on the Pharos website – you can click on the course name on the left hand side of the menu. This time, for the really adventurous, you can submit up to 3000 words for feedback but that is strictly optional.

Yesterday I went to purchase a new pair of walking boots. The old ones, despite liberal applications of superglue, require a plastic bag to be worn between sock and boot in order to remain dry, not a good look. To be honest I’ve been putting this off. I am not a great fan of any kind of shopping (unless it is books of course – that’s not shopping that’s surviving) but shoe shopping is a particular nightmare. My feet are almost square so when asked, ‘what are you looking for madam?’ (do people still say madam?). I say ‘anything that fits’ and I mean it. I dread it when pointed toes are in fashion as then I know I have no chance. I defer the dreaded shoe shop until the previous pair (singular) has fallen to pieces. I once went to one of the largest shoe warehouses in the country and they admitted that nothing fitted me. Walking boots tend to be on the rounder toed side, so I was hopeful.

It seems that the smallest ladies’ shoes are now two sizes larger than my feet, so I turn to the children’s section. There is nothing in the boys’ range in my size so I am stuck with girls’. Does this mean that I will be forced to buy walking boots depicting Peppa Pig? At this point I should say that I despise all this ‘girls’ toys’ ‘boys’ toys’ nonsense and the bemoan the perception that every girl wants to wear pink. If you like pink, fine but don’t force me and my female descendants into some pink, fluffy, glitter laden mode. I pass by anything that looks vaguely cerise, fuschia, salmon or rose. Eureka something that at least doesn’t cut off all circulation to my toes and at best might actually fit! The magenta laces I can live with/get dirty/change. Epic win – as these are held out for sale as children’s shoes, I save 20% because there is no tax!

Stop Press – #Daisy now has a publisher – more news of that soon. This means I have a deadline. I am usually quite good at deadlines but I am going to have to up my Daisy production rate!

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Heredity, Hammocks and Heat: DNA and other adventures

I really wanted this post to be about some very exciting news but I am not allowed to tell anyone yet (no, no one in the family is, as far as I know, pregnant), so that will have to wait for another time. I could talk about the weather. Here in the UK we have been experiencing a mini heat wave. I was stuck in a northern city in a motel whose room did not go below 29 degrees for three days. What a joy to come back to my beautifully cool home (they knew what they were doing when they built houses in the 1600s) with the sounds of the local sheep baaing, I could even forgive the aroma of silage making. No problem, UK heatwaves never last long and we are back to normal today.

My partly revamped garden is still mid-makeover. Given the heat and my absence I am quite glad that I delayed laying new turf. I was pleased that the plants survived my healthy neglect during the record-breaking temperatures. The hot weather made it seem like a good idea to erect a hammock that I have had for about twenty years but never used (I think it was free with something). All it required was two trees sturdy enough to support my burgeoning weight (it’s all that eating on expenses that does it). My tiny garden isn’t over burdened with trees but two were identified and with assistance from the fisherman of my acquaintance we began to adjust the ropes to what seemed to be a sensible height. This kind of occasion is when it is useful to know someone who can tie a decent knot or two. After one or two false starts (I ended up sitting on the ground) the hammock was in place and I was enjoying a meditate. The observant amongst you will have noted the word ‘trees’ above. Hammocks tied to trees mean, inevitably, that you are, to some extent, under a tree. Trees mean birds. Birds have digestive processes, need I say more? No sooner had I laid back and closed my eyes than I was required to move. Somewhere there is photographic evidence of this. Fortunately the photographer finds getting pictures from his phone to anywhere else a little challenging – phew!

Actually there is some really exciting news that I can convey and that is that my DNA results from Living DNA have arrived. This company calculate your ethnic origin on a regional level. Having ancestry that is, at least on paper, 100% English, I was particularly interested to see what this would reveal. As a teenager I longed to be Spanish, pretended to have Spanish ancestry and despite my total inability at languages, even tried to teach myself Spanish. Was this due to some ancestral memory?

After more than forty years of researching my family history, I know the names and geographical origins of 31 of my 32 3x great grand-parents and 75% of the generation before that. This means that I have a pretty good idea where the families came from before they all began to converge on London in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Whilst I was patiently (well, ok actually not that patiently) awaiting the results. I analysed my documentary evidence 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 had a slight issue in that Living DNA don’t seem to acknowledge the existence of Buckinghamshire, which accounts for an eighth of my ancestry but I used my initiative and counted it as South Central England.

So did the test support the proportions that I estimated and what surprises were in store? Living in Devon and having a direct paternal line that for 37 years I believed was Cornish but has now been traced back to Devon, I am particularly attached to the 25% of my ancestry that comes from south-west England. Based on my knowledge, my expectation was that my genetic make-up should show that I was 20% Cornish, with 5% from Devon. Living DNA’s percentages were 7.4% from Cornwall and 11.7% from Devon. As my lot spent their lives on both sides of the Tamar, very close to the Devon-Cornwall border, I can live with this.

Turning to the other end of the country, my estimated 12.5% for Northumberland became 5.8% according to Living DNA. I did wonder if some Scottish blood might creep in, as they lived in border parishes but it seems that I must leave Scottish descent to my children and grandchildren. Living DNA also suggested that 7.2% of my origins were from Cumbria, which, when added to the Northumbrian percentage, comes close to my estimate.

My DNA estimates June 2017

My estimates of my ethnic origins

The marriage of cousins in two successive generations (I know, accounts for a lot) means that I have what is known as a collapsed pedigree, with the same 4 x great grandparents appearing on my tree three times. They came, as far as I know, from the south-east and the bulk of my ancestry (37.5%) is from that region, why do I find this boring? Living DNA agreed, with 35.3% from south-eastern England. I calculated that 19% of my ancestry was from the south central region, not much more exciting. Living DNA put this at 3.9% but also identified 5.8% from Southern England and 2.7% from Central England, which redressed the balance a bit.

What appeared to be missing was the 6% that I believe came from East Anglia but this could be accounted for by the 5.6% that Living DNA attributed to Scandinavia. One of the East Anglian family names was Daines! I do however have another possibility for the Scandinavian connection. Interestingly my test results with Family Tree DNA make my origins 100% British Isles, with not a long ship or horned helmet in sight.

I am still mulling over Living DNA’s 11.1% from North Yorkshire. I somehow don’t see myself as a Yorkshire lass. No disrespect to my friends from Yorkshire, it just doesn’t feel like me. I don’t begin to understand cricket for a start. Could this be the missing 3 x great grandparent or the 4 x great grandmother, who appears three times in my ancestry but whose full name and birthplace I don’t know? Or does the North Yorkshire element represent something earlier in the Northumbrian line?

Interestingly, I also have 1.2% of my DNA from Lincolnshire. Although my maiden name, Braund, is firmly rooted in Devon and is found there back to the mid 1400s. Prior to that (11th-14th centuries) there are instances of the name in Lincolnshire but no connection has been found between the Braunds of Lincolnshire and those of Devon; could this minute trace in my DNA be attributable to this? The theory and it is just a theory, is that as both countries were key wool producing areas in Medieval times and are linked by drovers’ roads, this may have been how the name moved to Devon. The Lincolnshire Braunds are believed to have had Viking origins, so we are back to Scandinavia.

 

Living DNA June 2017

Living DNA’s analysis of my ethnic origins

Finally there is a random 2.1% from Chechnya. To save you looking that up, it is in the bottom right hand corner of Europe, not far from the Caspian Sea and given the political situation there, it probably isn’t the sort of place to be making an ancestral visit any time soon. I have heard of a few others whose profile contains this element and I feel this may be an anomaly that will be ironed out when more data becomes available. In the meantime Салам (hope Google translate has got that right). So much for being Spanish!