DNA Down Under – un alpabetising the cemetery list

Why Patsy’s Paddocks? I do like alliterations and I’ve always known fields as paddocks. Following Victorian land selections is one way of following my family history and this has often meant following the history of paddocks I rode across as a kid. Who was the elusive William Campbell of Campbell’s paddock? Why was Farie spelt that way? Paddocks are also confining. A reminder to keep my mind focused on the current research. Not let my mind wander. This resolve has blown apart these last two weeks. The autumn leaves have been picked up and scattered by the leaves. The cemetery list looks like a random walk through the years.

First. Thank you Alan Phillips for organising the conference. Timing it over the break between the AFL Home and Away season and the Finals was brilliant. I only have a few days now to fret about Geelong’s fragility around Finals.
Thank you Ancestry. A session that had its difficult part but handled calmly and professionally. Well done.
Thank you Blaine for lasting the distance. The Visual Phasing presentation was excellent. But I remain scarred by believing a couple of years ago a salesman’s pitch that Chromsome 22 was the place to start. It wasn’t. Nor was Chromosome 21. Nor was Chromosome 20. Just as well there were 23 chromosomes to practice on.

Visual Phasing

It occurred to me in preparing for this conference that those little black boxes called genealogy software and where mischievous gremlins reside are also paddocks of a kind. I open the gate and push information in. It’s sometimes like pushing old ewes through a gate that wasn’t there yesterday. It may take a while to get the input in the format before its accepted but mostly it works. I close the input gate and open the output gate. And suddenly I have created a report or something pretty:

  • a Family Group Report
  • a family chart or two or more
  • a Y700 Block Tree
  • a completed Visual Phasing Spreadsheet & accompanying DNA Painter chart and/or
  • a clusters chart leading into a Network chart

But my Legacy program can’t cope with all of that. Or can it? Should it?
I can argue a case that a family chart is a special instance of a network.
But I don’t think I want to do that. Remember. I like paddocks. I like compartments.
My family software is settled. My understanding of it is settled. I shall leave it be.

My DNA moves faster than I can keep up. I want to keep it in its own pen in the sheep yard until I am comfortable with it. Which won’t be any time soon. Because there is so much to think about, absorb, rearrange, revisit and catalogue as a consequence of DNA Down Under.

Reflections on a discussion

The action of the last few weeks has been in stark contrast to the relative peace of the past couple of years in which I have been able to do a little of my own family history. Developments in digitisation and DNA has meant that I wasn’t keeping up. Do we ever?

Three of us had some discussion last Friday afternoon. Sharing? A reflection of the week? Planning for next week?

I came away feeling more keenly the obligation of sharing my DNA findings with my siblings and cousins. They had indulged my curiosity by taking DNA tests with Family Tree DNA for me some four or five years ago (AncestryDNA was in recess at the time). An obligation driven by our mortality.

For the rest I have cast my research aside. A cup of coffee or two in Portland, a wander around Port Fairy, the usual decision about which road to take out of Hamilton. For once I made the right one and came across my brother at the Top Farie gate. That stop meant I reached the top of the old PR road (the road around the Pre-Emptive Right) just as the Double B milk tanker pulled out. This time the choice would be made for me. The tanker turned right at the end of the road – on its way to Mount Misery no doubt. I turned left.

There was that intensive research overseas capped off with a road trip to Hannover Cemetery and the location of the POW camps where my uncle had been during World War II. More about that trip another time.

What was our Friday discussion really about? Do I have another driver other than my mortality prioritising my research? I had completed what I could of my Visual Phasing before I went overseas. Now, a year later, there are some new, some useful and some puzzling matches to consider. Visual phasing is an enormously useful tool and is a quick reference as to where matches match. Just as my fan chart has always been useful.

Now comes the part that I have neglected in my Visual Phasing work. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing to start with. How did I do my phasing? For the most part describing the how isn’t too bad. But why did I make some decisions I did? That’s more difficult. That the wind was blowing from the south west doesn’t sort of meet the litmus test. So it has been back to the beginning and revisiting my work book.

Then there is the “what else”. This is another driver. Having my Visual Phasing file in the best condition I can for the DNA Down Under seminars in a month’s time and having my decisions captured before the next version containing DNA Painter is released.

A large part of our Friday discussion revolved around the use of clusters in our DNA analysis. It seems to me whichever way we go about analysis of some portion of our DNA matches there is considerable work involved. It’s important therefore that I’m comfortable with my choice. I think I shall have to overcome my two year old tantrums with DNAGedcom and return to Shelley Crawford’s Network Graphics. I have more control over Network Graphics than seems to be the case with clusters. Control is good. Which is probably a euphemism for wasting more time. Lots of time. The bottom line is that networks fit much better into my high level view of a family tree. Clusters seem to be a mess disguised as an orderly square.

It won’t be the last discussion we have about clusters and networks. The topic is bound to come up again in the GSV’s new DNA Genetic Genealogy Study Group held on the first Tuesday of the month.

Perhaps it is a sad thing that Happy Hours on a Friday are a thing of the past. Fridays were a time to reflect upon the successes of the week just gone. When all too often I spend Monday worrying about the week to come.

Family history research in the 21st century

It’s more than time to take a 21st century look at how I should conduct my family history research. A review of my family file is well overdue.
Some of the information I hold about my close ancestors really hasn’t been looked at for more than thirty years. In the 21st century there are reams more information now available. And advances in technology make it easier to access and process information.
There wasn’t much movement in the availability of source material when we seriously started our family history research. Now more material is being made available – from the mega databases of Family Search and Trove Newspapers to the indexes of local cemeteries and family history societies.
Nevertheless, there are still gaps in the understanding I have about my family. There are still brick walls impeding my progress. Well, no. The barriers are more like the lava barriers that dam and redirect rivers and creeks. It’s as though the glimpse of a brick wall solution isn’t simply walking over the stoney rises but following the streams the lone way around.
There is no better place to start my 21st review than with William Newman.
William Newman and Ann Cathcart are my Grannie Baulch’s grandparents – making them my great great grandparents.
William Newman still remains as elusive as ever – merely recording on his children’s certificates that he was born about 1832-1833 in London. This may even have been the City of London or it could have been Greater London. William’s birth is recorded as being on 18 Jun 1834 in the Family Bible. This family bible information appears to have been collected before William died so is likely to be correct? Does the slight difference in dates even matter?
Anne Cathcart is our Irish orphan. Most days we accept that she was born in County Sligo, Ireland to Andrew Cathcart and Alicia Sweeney. But there is still that little voice that says she may have been born in Galway and perhaps in Enniskillen, Fermanagh. Does this mean that Andrew Cathcart may have served in the British Army?
It is understood that William Newman arrived in Melbourne not long before he married. However, to date, he has not been found as an assisted passenger to Victoria nor in the unassisted passenger lists (Victorian records started in 1852 for unassisted passengers). There are many other ways and many other guises under which William Newman could have arrived in Victoria. Did he come alone? Did he come with his family? Did he come with his mates – all intent on trying their luck in the goldfields?
Also, it should be possible to find William Newman in the 1841 English census and possibly in the 1851 Census as well. This is about where my search for William Newman has come to a halt.
Ann Cathcart and Jane Cathcart (Ann’s sister?) arrived in March 1850, as Irish orphans aboard the Eliza Caroline. Their religion was listed as Episcopalian. There are three lists for the Irish orphans and a little information can be gleaned from each:
the nominal list of all passengers aboard – including 12 married couples (see PROV microfiche 34 March 1850 Book 5 page 93),
a disposal list for the orphans (see microfiche Apr 1850 Book 4A page 291) and
another disposal list for the orphans available on Ancestry.com (see microfiche 1850 Book 4B page 37).
Ann Cathcart found work for a year with John Brew of Little Collins Street.
Depending upon when he arrived William Newman might not have gone to the gold fields immediately on his arrival in Victoria.
William Newman and Ann Cathcart were married at St Marks on 16 Nov 1852. William lived in the parish of St James and the family was living in Little Collins Street West when their oldest child John William Newman was born. William was working as a painter and glazier.
The family then moved to Creswick (to the Creswick Creek diggings) and then to Ballarat in 1856 where they lived until 1869 – although their son Charles was born at the Back Creek diggings near Maryborough. William did work as a plasterer at least for some of this time.
William did describe himself as a miner on occasion. However, he may have seen that his occupational skills were more useful in finding work to support his growing family. It is easy to forget that a miner’s right brought with it the right to vote.
The family returned to Melbourne and to Church Street in Fitzroy before moving to Bell Street in Coburg where Ann died in 1895 and William in 1915.
William Newman remains an enigma. Mainly because I am daunted by the task of an extensive search through a time when there was a great influx of people arriving in Australia to both the NSW goldfields to start with and the Victorian goldfields. If that isn’t enough, how to find him in London. Especially when it has long been a family story that he changed his name on arriving in Australia. Did William Newman became a new man in Victoria? The task of finding him still daunts me.

AncestryDNA: more traditional research required

Traditional Sources

AncestryDNA seems to have provided two things for me. The first is confirmation of the family research I have already done. DNA’s independence from traditional family history sources gives my family research additional surety. But do I really need that extra surety? Not really. The second thing AncestryDNA has provided me is heaps and heaps of traditional family history research. It’s not as if I haven’t enough family research from my pre DNA days that still require attention. AncestryDNA has just dumped hundreds upon hundreds of matches associated with my DNA tests and left me with no apparent guidance or control over how I process all these matches.
Why is this so? It’s because, in my usual fashion, I have delved deep into my DNA matches without considering the overall picture. The danger here is that my AncestryDNA system or model doesn’t fit my reality. I am looking for grass in the wrong paddock.
Ancestry announced last November that it has now sold 14 million DNA kits worldwide. AncestryDNA’s marketing is obviously working. Ancestry is selling something that the market wants. I have even submitted DNA samples for testing myself. Ancestry sold me something I though I wanted. It wasn’t confirmation of the research I’ve already done. It’s not about controlling how I select a small group of matches from the thousands of matches.
AncestryDNA provides hope. We provide DNA samples in the hope that the results will solve all our family history brick walls. For we all have brick walls. Starting out on our family history journey we may only have two – our natural parents. Now, my six generation fan chart hides at least ten brick walls. Which brick wall should I research first?
There is something else going on with AncestryDNA (or autosomal matches more generally). Another case where I’ve been in the wrong paddock.
Family history is the history of family relationships.
I can build my fan chart using the relationships child to father and child to mother. When I create a family tree I am creating a network where family members come together. My family tree is a special kind of network. It is quite different than the Melbourne tram network and quite different the relationship of plants in a dry sclerophyll forest.
The family relationships that define my family tree are well understood.
Family tree software uses the relationships of child to parents in my family file to build and chart family trees. Too often I focus on the timeline of an individual within my family tree. It is the relationships of one individual to another that drives the basic structure of a family tree database. The ability to add a life story of each individual in that family tree is just an added bonus to the basic purpose of having a family tree database.
DNA matches are about relationships.
A family tree requires more than one person. A tree of a single person tells me nothing about that person’s family relationships. My AncestryDNA test alone tells me nothing about my potential family relationships. I need DNA matches to show DNA relationships. In an ideal world I would start using DNA matches in the same way I have always used child to parent relationships to build my family tree. There are two problems with using my method of building my fan chart with a number of interlocking child to parent relationships. Firstly, DNA tests can only be provided by living people. Secondly, an AncestryDNA match gives some indication of the possible relationship but not the actual relationship.
More information is required. If the two parties to the match have family trees linked to the tests this may be sufficient. But I’m finding for second cousins and more remote relatives it just means more traditional family research, a great deal more, to find the information to confirm the relationship suggested by the DNA match.
Then there are the instances where hope is dashed. Where the Ancestry family trees don’t provide the solution to the possible DNA match. Nor does further traditional family history research. Do we see instances of hopes dashed in AncestryDNA advertising? Of course not.
AncestryDNA does the difficult. For the rest, it’s business as normal for family historians. More research is required. It takes us a little time to uncover those serendipity moments where the walls come tumbling down.

Citing Ancestry DNA tests

DNA logo on top of school photo circa 1964
DNA logo on top of school photo circa 1964


At the last VicGUM meeting a few of us had a chat about citing our Ancestry DNA test results. I came away feeling that we hadn’t quite nailed it. There wasn’t that elegance of simplicity that happens when a solution to an issue really hits the mark. I didn’t want to make a bad decision. This is sources we were talking about and I don’t want to revisit my decision any time soon. I’ve been doing some more thinking because the voices in my head keep saying What you are thinking is not good. It’s going to be a lot of work.
This discussion about citing DNA tests came at a time when my planets are aligning. A cousin had written to say she is updating her branch of the family. She asked what current Information I have. I’m not sure. Another writes as he unravels his part of the family – or has it become more tangled than ever? Another wrote of his continuing interest in family history. I suppose it is no surprise that the grandchildren of the men who kept shearing tally books still have an interest in local and family stories more than a century later.
All this has come at a time when I too am reviewing the information I have and how it fits together. Have I got it arranged to take the best advantage of the DNA tests we have? Do I have a timeline organised as a starting point for weaving tales. It’s only seven years since I last reviewed a lot of my data but a lot has happened since. More people are researching family and local history and there’s still more information becoming available.
And there is DNA. It’s now the time of year to start thinking about which DNA tests, if any, I should purchase in November.

DNA Citations

I like to begin adding material to my Legacy Family Tree family file by adding the basic source information first. Then it is ready for linking to the rest of the data as I go along. Our VicGUM discussion about citing Ancestry DNA tests was very timely.
Let me start with the conclusions of my deliberations. (My post decision justification will come in a later post.)

Citing an Ancestry DNA test

This is a way to cite my brother’s AncestryDNA test:

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch

Don’t be frightened by these long web addresses. Pick them up from the url toolbar at the top of the relevant page and just paste them into the citation. And I can pick them up and paste back into the url toolbar when I want to return to the source. No searching through pages and pages of DNA results required!

There are three web pages I can navigate to from John’s DNA test page

•    his ethnicity estimate
•    his DNA matches (including his shared matches)
•    his DNA Circles.

Citing an Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate

A citation for an ethnicity estimate or DNA story can be created the same way. I’ve just added a little more information. Importantly, notice that the web address or url changed:

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), ethnicity estimate,

Because DNA is such an evolving field it is probably critical to include the access date. These changes are most notable with Ancestry’s ethnicity estimate and I think John’s ethnicity estimate sits in limbo like Kitty Cooper’s did at the time of writing her last blog. 
Citing an Ancestry DNA match

This is an example for an Ancestry DNA match:

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), match with Henry Davenport,

It is also the same web address for shared matches so a citation to bring attention to shared matches might look like this:

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), match and shared matches with Henry Davenport, https://www.ancestry.com.au/dna/tests/D8A89B39-CC28-45CD-AAB4-2B46C4D0341E/match/5164B8C8-CBC9-48A3-8F0B-8A9DC8E23F0D?filterBy=ALL&sortBy=RELATIONSHIP&page=1

Citing Ancestry DNA Circles

This is an example for an Ancestry DNA Circle:

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), DNA Circle for John’s second great grandfather Francis Baulch

It’s not so long ago that we struggled to get DNA circles going. Now there are 38 members in the Francis Baulch DNA Circle. I wonder how many there will be by Christmas this year? 100? I really do need take time out review the information in my Ancestry Family Tree.

Report Bibliography

The first part of creating a citation is to describe WHAT the source is:

•    a book
•    a newspaper
•    a parish register
•    a personal communication
•    a website (including a web page for an Ancestry DNA test)

Here are some examples:

Bishop, Les; The Thunder of the Guns!: A History of 2/3 Australian Field Regiment (Sydney: 2/3 Australian Field Regiment Association, 1998)

(Melbourne) The Herald

St Peter and St Paul’s Church of England (Muchelney, Somerset, England), Parish Registers 1702-1997

Personal Knowledge of Alexander Learmonth (1809-1874)

Stephen Luscombe, The British Empire: Where the Sun Never Sets (https://www.britishempire.co.uk/)

The National Archives of the UK. “TNA WO 392 Prisoners of War Lists, Second World War.”

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch https://www.ancestry.com.au/dna/insights/D8A89B39-CC28-45CD-AAB4-2B46C4D0341E

Report Citations

A full citation generally requires more information than just WHAT the source is. I need to know WHERE precisely in the source is the location of the evidence I am relying upon to tell my family story or to construct my family tree:

• the page in a book
• the page and column in a newspaper
• the page and/or date in a set of parish registers
• the date and correspondents on a letter
• the web address, or url, for a website
• a match url for an Ancestry DNA match

Here are some examples:

Bishop, Les, The Thunder of the Guns! A History of 2/3 Australian Field Regiment (Sydney: 2/3 Australian Field Regiment Association, 1998), p266

Poets and War, (Melbourne) The Herald, 1 Feb 1947, p 12, col 7; accessed in The National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245867791

St Peter and St Paul’s Church of England (Muchelney, Somerset, England), Parish Registers 1702-1997, accessed in South West Heritage Trust: Somerset Archives & Local Studies; Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812 at www.ancestry.com.au; baptism of Hannah Baulch, Nov 1761

Personal Knowledge of Alexander Learmonth (1809-1874), letter to his brother William dated 28 Nov 1856, J W Baulch Personal Collection

4th Dragoon Guards (http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/britishcavalry/4dg.htm)

The National Archives of the UK. “TNA WO 392 Prisoners of War Lists, Second World War” accessed in UK, Prisoners of War 1939-1945 index at ancestry.com.au and images at fold3.com, entry for VX114, Lieutenant John Noel Learmonth

The Archives of the UK. “TNA WO 392 Prisoners of War Lists, Second World War.” accessed in UK, Prisoners of War 1939-1945
index at ancestry.com.au and images at fold3.com, entry for WX3326, Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Le Souef

(Yes, I am cheating here. The important part is that I start in Ancestry and finish in Fold3 with an image. It just looked too frightening here to put both web addresses in the one citation.)

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), ethnicity estimate, https://www.ancestry.com/dna/origins/D8A89B39-CC28-45CD-AAB4-2B46C4D0341E?o_iid=90600&o_lid=90600&o_sch=Web%20Property

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), match and shared matches with Henry Davenport, https://www.ancestry.com.au/dna/tests/D8A89B39-CC28-45CD-AAB4-2B46C4D0341E/match/5164B8C8-CBC9-48A3-8F0B-8A9DC8E23F0D?filterBy=ALL&sortBy=RELATIONSHIP&page=1

Ancestry, DNA test for John Baulch, (accessed 7 Sep 2018), DNA Circle for John’s second great grandfather Francis Baulch https://www.ancestry.com.au/dna/tests/D8A89B39-CC28-45CD-AAB4-2B46C4D0341E/evidence/HZ5F6NXG?returnPage=circles

It has taken a little while to place information in the appropriate fields in my Legacy Family Tree Master Source List and the associated Source Detail item but I do like the result.

For myself.

Ancestry and Fold3 are subscription based so access is through a subscription to access the Prisoners of War information.
Only John and I (as his manager) have access to his DNA test so others should not be able to use these links to access information. I hope! Let me know if you are able to.
My post decision justification – or how I arrived at these examples – will appear in a blog in a little while. It will include my thoughts on the principles of creating a family tree and my reasons for not using Dates or Events with DNA information.

I hope these examples are of some help.

Bottom line, whether you use these examples or not, do save information about sources so you know what you used and where it is so you can return to it when required. 

Research my family history – No 2

Today I walked by the place where the Duke of Monmouth was proclaimed King in 1685.
There is only one Balch recorded as being a Monmouth Rebel – Thomas Balch of Staple Fizpaine (just south of Taunton). Thomas Balch was recorded as being “out in the rebellion”. It was indeed fortunate that he was as he kept his head.
Thomas Balch was a son of the John Balch who emigrated from Somerset to Maryland in 1658. Thomas returned to Somerset at about age 20 and joined the Duke of Monmouth’s army. When Monmouth’s army was routed at the Battle of Sedgemoor Thomas was able to make his way to Bristol. Here, disguised, he sailed home to Maryland. Thereby avoiding the justice of Hanging Judge Jefferies.
Why do I mention Thomas Balch?
My brother has a distant Y DNA match (genetic distance of 10) to descendants of John Balch of Maryland. Geographic distance is certainly part of the reason for the genetic distance. But not necessarily all the reason. Before exploring this connection further we need to establish our own Balch or Baulch ancestry back to at least the Monmouth Rebellion. And this isn’t proving to be an easy task so far.
Somerset Record Society, The Monmouth Rebels 1685 (Somerset Record Society, Taunton: 1983) page 8 (accessed at the Taunton Archives and available at The State Library of Victoria)
Thomas Willing Balch, Balch Genealogica (Allen, Land and Scott, Philadelphia, United States: 1901) pages 94-95 (accessed at Google Books) (Thank you to the FTDNA Balch project for making me aware of this book)

Researching my family history – No 1

Right up front. Thank you Ruby and Raymond of Digital Pacific for getting my website up and running again from half way around the world. Let me say that you each helped reduce my stress levels quite markedly and I am very grateful.

The formal part of my researching and travelling finished yesterday. And what better way to do that than catch up on the AFL from an avid Eagles fan on the train down from Edinburgh.

My IT has been a mess for a while. Such things must be on the opposite of my brain that deals with creating and reviewing research processes in this rapidly changing world of family history research. It’s been six years since I travelled and how things have changed. I am tempted to mention generational change. Or perhaps I was still stuck in the world of paper in archives and microfiche and microfilms.

At my last visit at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City i just collected an image of every record I found as it used to take money, money and more money to order in films and so long for them to come. Family Search are still digitising their books and films but already so much will be available when I get home and where I can view digital images at the GSV.

I think the only set of records I found it necessary to take an image of were the apprentice records for Nottingham. My ancestor, George Watts, completed his framework knitter apprenticeship with his father, a lacemaker. Perhaps the Luddite riots shortly afterwards influenced George’s decision to join the Army – where he served almost his full time in Ceylon.

So this trip I concentrated on expanding and tuning my processes for, where such methodologies existed, they were very rusty. A case in point has been George’s army records. The TNA has made more of these available online these days, some on FindMyPast, some on Ancestry, some on FamilySearch and some on the TNA website itself (some free, some for a fee).  But there are still some muster books I want to go back and look at the original documents at the TNA. You can see how a half hour discussion about how to go about such a search ended up taking me over a week to do the actual searching – reviewing and updating my process as i went. And I found the baptisms of my great great aunt Mary Ann Watts in Cambridge. Not in Nottingham as is the case for the rest of the family. One down. Another aunt to find. More about George’s story later on. And then at the Scottish Genealogy Society on Saturday I have had to rethink that my processes all over again (Have a look at John Grenham’s blog today too).

Of course I still have the official baptism of Christopher Abbey in about 1816 somewhere up near Elland, Yorkshire – just to confirm the family bible entry. It may also be useful to establish a DNA Circle in AncestryDNA.

And the baptism of my great great great great grandfather John Fulford. Imagine my surprise to find the bathroom in our London accommodation was based on an old map of London. Front and centre was Millman Street near the Foundling Hospital – before it was redeveloped by John Fulford for the Hospital. There is more about the Hospital and John Fulford to come. And perhaps Christ’s Hospital and my great grandfather Charles Salter too.

For puzzles there is none greater than my great great grandfather John Learmonth, a flesher in Edinburgh. Retours of Heirs, testaments, sasines and a guarantee on a promissory note that was not honoured. Remember that saying threw the book at him? Well John Learmonth threw the book at Alexander Livingstone (aka Learmonth). John Learmonth took more than 50 pages of a 60 page statement setting out his case to list all of Alexander Livingstone’s property assets. I suppose he meant to demonstrate that Alexander Livingstone had more than adequate means to honour his guarantee. Not that he ever did. But more on another day.

Now? I should be thinking about my Baulch and Turner ancestors in Somerset as well as Salters just over the border in Wiltshire. then to return to London to see if I can pin down more about my favourite ancestor John Bourke Ryan. Then to finish with Alica in  Geneva to follow (in reverse) Uncle John’s journey through German POW camps.

A little progress

A little progress or none at all? I was taken by this little motivator from my gym earlier in the week: A little progress each day adds up to big results.

The second week here in Salt Lake City is drawing to a close and it feels that I have worked into the night and made no progress at all. One week to go and I have London (including my favourite Irish ancestor who lived mostly in London) as well as Somerset/Wiltshire to look at. And the DNA matches and questions continue coming.

Six years ago I spent most of my time here in the Family History Library scanning baptisms, marriages and burials from books, fiche or films to a USB drive. This time I am finding that most of the information will be available at the GSV when I get home. Except for an intriguing book about the Black Loyalists. After half a day of searching we found that it is at scanning so an electronic version will be available at home in the fullness of time.

I thought I now had a process for looking for all of my non conformists and Methodists. But it failed on its test run. Probably not because of the process but because I have failed to find the right combination of Christopher Abbey born 1815 in Yorkshire or thereabouts to search. Suggestions for optional search parameters will be gratefully received.

I have gone back to fixing up my Family Search family tree which got in a mess when trying to use the Legacy Family Tree extension. It still has a way to go before it is up to scratch for the FamilySearch Tree App.

Army records are a class of records that I have am slowly getting a handle on although I have avoided them for years. After all Uncle Charlie’s biography has been written by Charles Page and we a good deal of Uncle John’s diaries – except for the one that covers his journey from Crete to prison camp in Lubeck, Germany. So I was pleased to discover in TNA’s catalogue that this journey was investigated after the war. Another thing to read at the TNA. Of course I have read a little about my great uncles in World War I – Uncle George who didn’t come home and Uncle Lou who did and who left a repatriation file of a couple of inches. Then there is Lieutenant Colonel Sir Edward Michael Ryan.  The Michael came from his Ryan grandfather and the Edward I assume comes from Edmund Burke the Anglo Irish statesmen born in 1729 and family connection. Wikipedia has a nice entry on the action that led to Edward Michael Ryan receiving a foreign decoration.

That leaves George Watts of Nottingham who joined the 19th Regiment of Foot in 1812. I have spent a lot of time looking at his records this week. For a little progress I hope. Again, it will be my visit to the TNA where I am relying on finding the muster rolls and pay lists to turn a little progress into big results.

Y DNA: Is it worth the expense?

Submitting samples for DNA testing can be expensive. Especially when testing for Y-DNA. If paternity isn’t an immediate issue does Y DNA testing assist in confirming our family tree based on paper evidence? Especially beyond census returns and parish register sources.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

Four years on from when I first opened the gate to the wide world of using DNA for family history purposes I think I can weave a family story based on traditional sources and on Y-DNA. Just as my father, grandparents and others told us stories that it has taken us decades to confirm (in most cases) or dismiss (in some instances) let me weave a family story around Y-DNA, family stories and ancient sources.

There has been a long standing brick wall in my paternal line. Well, to my mind at least. Perhaps I’m not as accepting as others. I am a descendant of a Charles Baulch who married Ann Biddlecombe in Muchelney in 1799. The apparent candidate for the groom has been a Charles Baulch baptised in the beginning of 1767. Yet a few lines down in the same register there is a burial recorded for a Charles Baulch. An obvious case of a death in infancy it seems and therein goes my candidate for Ann Biddlecombe’s groom.

Yet his elder brother Henry may have been a witness to that marriage. And, further more, I have two autosomal matches (in Ancestry) that take me around that brick wall. Now Muchelney, as I have always sort of known but not really absorbed properly, is only a small parish and the walk to any neighbouring parish and indeed some more distant parishes isn’t all that onerous. So what method should I use for selecting surrounding parishes in which to search for records of a Charles Baulch?

DNA is a fast developing source so it may be just a case of waiting for the right Y-DNA matches to come along.

Or maybe not.

Another fast changing world is the number of traditional sources that are being made available to us in not only electronic form but either at our home or to a local family history centre. This makes it far cheaper and more timely to access a number of sources. But which sources to select? Which are the sources that are likely to add surety to the story I am about to create?

Let me begin.

My paternal second great grandfather, Francis Baulch, and his two brothers Charles and Enoch together with their families and other friends, emigrated from Somerset arriving in 1842 in Tasmania Australia. There’s no doubt that the boat load of emigrants had listened to stories told by the emigration agent Henry Dowling.

But Francis Baulch and his brothers weren’t the first Baulchs to emigrate from Somerset.

In 1623 John Balch arrived in Massachusetts as part of Captain Robert Gorges army company. They had followed the Plymouth Brethren to New England seeking religious freedom. Robert Gorges and, it’s understood, John Balch, came from Bridgewater, Somerset – in the middle of Sedgemoor.

A generation later another John Balch arrived in 1658 in Maryland. It’s understood that this John Baulch came from Horton in the parish of Illminster. His son Thomas returned to Somerset and joined the Duke of Monmouth’s army which was destroyed at the Battle of Seymour in 1685. Thomas managed to flee home to Maryland that same year.

So here there are at least four groups of Balchs from Somerset who became separated in time and place and in whose communities their Y-DNA may have mutated along separate lines:

  • those Balchs who continue to live in Somerset
  • those Balchs who are descendants of the John Balch who arrived in New England in 1623
  • those Balchs who are descendants of the John Balch who arrived in Maryland in 1658 and
  • those Baulchs who are descendants of the three brothers who arrived in Tasmania in 1842.

Can Y-DNA help me confirm any connection between these four groups?

Maybe yes. Maybe no.

Let’s look firstly at whether the time frames may fit and let me use my brother John as a starting point. With each Family Tree DNA Y-DNA match there is a calculator as to the probability of a match within a certain number of generations. Here are some back of the envelope examples:

The task of matching Y-DNA to paper genealogy may not be as onerous as I first thought. I have paper genealogy placing my brother John as a descendant of Charles Baulch and Ann Biddlecombe. Skip around a brick wall and I can find another John Baulch or two as his ancestors in Muchelney, Somerset.  It may seem a daunting test to find traditional genealogy sources to take brother John’s paternal line back 20 generations to find a possible match with an ancestor of either of the American Balch families. But we are already half way there.

But where to look? The Muchelney parish is a very small parish and mention of Balchs fades out about 10 generation ago. Should we look at the whole of Somerset? Don’t think so. Balch Genealogica divides the Balchs into four groups:

  • High Ham and Horton, Ilminister
  • North Curry
  • Bridgewater
  • Wells-Bruton.

One possible strategy may be to look at the parishes of High Ham and Ilminster and those in between (including Muchelney) and across to Martock.  And possibly into the nearby towns? A task for tomorrow. A task to combine the resources of DNA testing and of traditional paper sources to take our family story back further in time.

Meanwhile, it is just another Pleasant Sunday Afternoon here in Salt Lake City as the fluffy clouds float by with one woolly idea.


Lieutenant John Learmonth of the 2/3 Australian Field Regiment

John Learmonth and Diary Extract

At the end on Crete he took to the hills, and said he’d fight it out with only a revolver.
He was a great soldier …

“I wonder,” mused my brother a few years ago now, “whether things would have been different if we had had uncles.”
I stopped short. I treasured my two aunts. Mostly for their abundance of attitude. Would my brothers, likewise have respected and revered their uncles had they had them?

Last year I reflected a little on the life of Uncle Charlie.

Uncle John’s diaries are his very personal story. But can I put his story in the broad context of the war? What were the conditions like in Germany at the time? How were the prisoners treated? Did this differ from camp to camp – Uncle John spent time in four officer camps:

Oflag XC Lübeck
Oflag VIB Warburg
Oflag VIIB Eichstätt
Oflag IX A/Z Rotenburg

In June or July this year I hope to follow John Learmonth’s restricted World War II journey through the German country side. This post is my starting point.

I would love to hear suggestions as to what might add value to what Uncle John wrote in the diaries that have survived him.

We know that John Learmonth wrote eleven diaries before he died in May 1944. We don’t have them all. Nor do the ones we have cover all of Uncle John’s experiences.

At the beginning of Diary 3 and on 3 November 1939 John Learmonth wrote about his previous diary (Diary 2):

I cannot remember when I wrote the last entry in my previous diary, or even what I wrote about. That diary will probably be found amongst my other possessions at Carramar, Tyrendarra, Vic.

John confirms in later diaries that he sealed his first two diaries and sent them home with the rest of his possessions at the time he transferred from the Militia to the AIF. We assume they were later destroyed.

Uncle John’s Diary 3 covers the period from when he attended training at Seymour until he sailed from the Clyde on the Empress of Canada for Egypt. At the beginning of his Diary 4 he wrote:

My third diary, covering the twelve months (approx) ending 19/11/40, is with me now and will probably remain with my possessions wherever I go until the end of the war.

This was not to be the case. Written when he was a prisoner of war in Germany entries at the beginning of Diaries 8 and 9 indicate that Diary 3 was in his uniform trunk which was stored in the AIF kit store in Alexandria. However, this diary must have become separated from his kit for John wrote

Mum says my diary has been removed from my trunk returned from Alexandria.

The original of Diary 4 is held in Russian Archives. A copy was given to the family in 1998. It covers John’s Greek and Crete campaign but not, alas, the final two months leading up to his capture in Crete on 30 May 1941. Perhaps mindful that his diaries were being read by the German censors Uncle John recorded in Diary 9 that he had destroyed Diary 4

on being captured in Crete in May 1941.

Diaries 4 & 5 were probably destroyed in the Parcels Office fire. Just be careful here:

The fourth I destroyed on being captured in Crete in May 1941 and subsequently rewrote as the 4th and 5th while in Salonika.

Uncle John was in the Salonika Transit Camp in northern Greece 11 June to 22 July 1941. This was a large transit camp where the conditions were appalling. The prisoners were starving and covered with lice and other bugs. They received no letters, no food parcels from home nor any Red Cross parcels.

The rewritten Diaries 4 and 5 together with Diaries 6 and 7 were confiscated on Uncle John’s arrival at Oflag XC Lübeck. This camp was located near Hamburg and Uncle John was there for 6 weeks – 29 July – 8 October 1942. The conditions were better than Salonika but rations were minimal and still there were no food parcels nor any Red Cross parcels. On the nights of 7 and 8 September 1942 the Parcels Office in the Lübeck camp caught fire and it seemed that John’s diaries had disappeared forever. On 4 December 1942 he wrote

I regret very much losing the diaries preceding this one (No 8). They throw an interesting light on my state of mind when first taken prisoner. Although I am now well on the way to re-writing them I cannot entirely recapture the atmosphere of that period.

Despite the loss of his previous diaries John handed a completed one in for censoring at his new camp Oflag VIB Warburg – near Dossel in Westphalia. John’s trust was rewarded as it was eventually returned to him. Uncle John arrived at Warburg on 9 October 1941 and stayed for 11 months. Here Red Cross Parcels started to arrive – together with the first of many letters and parcels from home.

Uncle John moved yet again – to Oflag VIIB Eichstätt for ten months until July 1943 and finally to Oflag 9 A/Z Rotenburg for the ten months until his death there in May 1944. During this period he wrote his last three diaries – Nos 9, 10 and 11.

John Learmonth is remembered in Hanover Cemetery looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

No story about Uncle John is complete without including John Manifold’s elegy. Yes, there is a story in the words written but the genius of the poem is in its form – based on the Classics? The form accentuates the emotions expressed. From the second verse look at the first and third lines. They rhyme with the second line of the preceding verse:

This is not sorrow, this is work: I build
A cairn of words over a silent man,
My friend John Learmonth whom the Germans killed.

There was no word of hero in his plan;
Verse should have been his love and peace his trade
But history turned him to a partisan.

Far from the battle as his bones are laid
Crete will remember him. Remember well,
Mountains of Crete, the Second Field Brigade!

Say Crete, and there is little more to tell
Of muddle tall as treachery, despair
And black defeat resounding like a bell;

But bring the magnifying focus near
And In contempt of muddle and defeat
The old heroic virtues still appear.

Australian blood where hot and icy meet
(James Hogg and Lermontov were of his kin)
Lie still and fertilise the fields of Crete.

Schoolboy, I watched his ballading begin:
Billy and bullocky and billabong,
Our properties of childhood, all were in.

I heard the air though not the undersong,
The fierceness and resolve; but all the same
They’re the tradition, and tradition’s strong.

Swagman and bushranger die hard, die game,
Die fighting, like that wild colonial boy –
Jack Dowling, says the ballad, was his name.

He also spun his pistol like a toy,
Turned to the hills like wolf or kangaroo
And faced destruction with a bitter joy.

His freedom gave him nothing else to do
But set his back against his family tree
And fight the better for the fact he knew

He was as good as dead. Because the sea
Was closed and the air dark and the land lost,
“They’ll never capture me alive,” said he

That’s courage chemically pure, uncrossed
With sacrifice or duty or career,
Which counts and pays in ready coin the cost

Of holding course. Armies are not its sphere
Where all’s contrived to achieve its counterfeit;
It swears with discipline, it’s volunteer.

I could as hardly make a moral fit
Around it as around a lightning flash.
There is no moral, that’s the point of it,

No moral. But I’m glad of this panache
That sparkles, as from flint, from us and steel,
True to no crown nor presidential sash

Nor flag nor fame. Let others mourn and feel
He died for nothing: nothings have their place.
While thus the kind and civilise conceal

This spring of unsuspected inward grace
And look on death as equals, I am filled
With queer affection for the human race.

The Tomb of Lieut. John Learmonth, AIF
by John Manifold