Ethnicity Estimates

Phased Chromosome 21

When some of us started researching our family history we were advised to start with ourselves, then confirm our links to our parents, grandparents and so on up our family tree.
Based on our family stories, photographs and the written records we had we developed our research plan, one that was often focused on looking for more information about a favourite ancestor.
In doing so we used a variety of sources.
Now we have another source to add to our toolbox – DNA – and just as we planned our traditional family research plan so too can we plan our DNA research plan.
Just as in the past we scraped and saved to purchase the next birth, marriage or death certificate so too we should be saving up to purchase the next DNA test in our DNA research plan.
Not to have a DNA plan leaves us open to being flooded with hundreds of supposed DNA matches that in general have little, if any, application to our DNA research plan. We are looking for specific matches – those with other researchers who have ancestors, or an ancestor, in common with ourselves.
The first step in our DNA research plan is to avoid those bright shiny objects that pass across our eyes and distract us.
The first bright shiny object is DNA advice provided by the medical profession. In our role as family historians we are not entitled to provide medical advice. Consequently, the DNA we use for our family history research is quite separate from that used for medical purposes.
The second beguiling object that floats across our eyes is DNA used for anthropological purposes.
For example, it has been exciting to read the research that found evidence of human occupation in northern Australia by 65,000 years ago (see Chris Clarkson et al “Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago” Nature 547 306-310 (20 July 2017).
But do such discoveries help us conquer our own brick walls? The discovery in northern Australia was dated by reference to the fluorescence in the sand in which the discovery was made. Where is the link from our DNA today back to DNA of 65,000 years ago.
However, what is important to note about such discoveries is that they are made at a point in time.
When we think about our own ethnicity are we looking at one point in time?
When I look at myself:
My Parents were born in Australia. Is my ethnicity 100% Australian?
Six of my great grandparents were born in Australia. Two in England. Is my ethnicity 25% English?
Most of my second great grandparents were born in England. Does this make my ethnicity 81% English? It certainly doesn’t account for my Irish fourth great grandfather, John Bourke Ryan.
I have followed our paper family tree up through the branches for this example.
With respect to DNA we receive half our DNA from our father and half our DNA from our mother. But which half do we receive? And which half, as displayed in our family tree did they receive from their parents? And which half did they receive from their parents? And so on. Why, then, do we expect our ethnicity to be precisely the same as that of our siblings when there is doubt about what was received from which grandparent in the first place?
or example, on Chromosome 21 all my maternal DNA came from my maternal grandfather Learmonth. My sister also received all her maternal DNA from our grandfather Learmonth. While our brother also received most of his maternal DNA from our maternal grandfather Learmonth some of his maternal DNA came from our maternal grandmother Learmonth.
All my paternal DNA came from my paternal grandfather Baulch whereas my sister’s paternal DNA came from our grandmother Abbey. Our brother’s paternal DNA originally came about half from our paternal grandfather Baulch and about half from our paternal grandmother Abbey.
This simple example shows quite clearly that we each are unique. While receiving half our DNA from our father and half from our mother what we received that came from each of our grandparents may be very different. If we each calculate our proportion of DNA we get from each of our grandparents the answer is not the same for any two of us. Even at the grandparent level our ethnicity is different. Each of us is, after all, unique.
So why do we expect our ethnicity to be the same?
If we are using DNA as a source for family history purposes we should confine our family history research to the DNA that is used for genetic genealogy or family history purposes.
Results based on DNA used for medical purposes are given for medical reasons. Results based on DNA with ancient origins are for anthropological purposes.
We family historians have our own little sections of DNA that we use for family history purposes.
This doesn’t mean we can’t put our anthropological hat on now and then and tell a good story about our ancient origins. However, there is not necessarily a link between our ancient origins and our family stories of very recent times.

Where am I going to be:
28 July – 7 August 2017 – Unlock the Past Cruise – Papua New Guinea – to see where my uncle and father-in-law were in WWII
19 August 2017 – presenting “Using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles” at the Researching Abroad: British isles & European ancestors – Melbourne (find out more here)
11 November 2017 – presenting a half day session “DNA for family historians” for the Genealogical Society of Victoria (find out more here)
and when I get back from just cruising around the GSV will be taking bookings for DNA consultations (more here) . I expect to concentrate on autosomal DNA tests and I shall only be available on Fridays.
Hope to see you somewhere.

The X Chromosome – Planning and Indulgence

The X Chromosome inheritance patterns are complex but when the planning is right and your relatives indulge your curiousity about their DNA then the resulting X DNA matches seem serendipitous.
My brother wisely counselled establishing a sound foundation upon which to build my genetic genealogy research. My cousin Val started me off by agreeing to indulge my curiousity and undergo a DNA test.
My curiousity at that time concerned the origins of George Watts’s wife Mary McCade or McCord who was born about 1800 in Foreign Parts.

If you are a descendant please read on. If you believe you may have inherited some of your X DNA from George’s family or, in particular, from his wife I would love to hear from you.
Even if you aren’t a member of this family do read on.
I have been putting off my analysis of Lyn and Val’s X chromosome matches even though their DNA test results were the first DNA test results I received. My procrastination is entirely because of the inheritance patterns of the X chromosome. Of course, its complexity is no reason to ignore significant X DNA matches. So the purpose of this post is to look at some X DNA match results I have received. Even if I take the low road to get there.
Before I delve into the mysteries of X DNA let me just go back to the beginning of analysing our DNA matches. DNA for family history purposes isn’t just one analysis process but four:
.   analysis of matches on the X chromosome
.   analysis of matches on the Y chromosome
.   analysis of matches on the 22 autosomal chromosomes and
.   analysis of matches for mitochondrial DNA.
Let me set the scene for analysing X DNA matches by beginning with a short review of the analysis of other DNA matches.
The most common analysis has been of the Y Chromosome. It’s relative simple to identify which ancestor provided a male’s Y DNA. A male receives his Y DNA from his father. In turn, his father receives his Y DNA from his father. And so on up the paternal line (following the family surname).
Identifying which ancestor provided our mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) follows a similar process. With a slight change. All children, whether male or female, receive their mtDNA from their mother. I received my mtDNA from my mother. As did my brother. In turn our mother received her mtDNA from her mother. And so on up the maternal line (with, in my family at least, the surname changing each generation).
There are no half way measures with Y DNA and mtDNA. My brother received all of our paternal great grandfather’s Y DNA and we each received the same mtDNA from our maternal great grandmother.
Autosomal DNA (atDNA) is a little different. It is more difficult to determine which ancestor we received our atDNA from. Suffice to say, on average, we receive half our atDNA from our father and half from our mother. My father received half his atDNA from his father and half from his mother. Similarly, my mother received half her atDNA from her father and half from her mother. This means I received half my atDNA from each of my two parents, a quarter from each of my four grandparents, and one eighth from my eight great grandparents and so on up my family tree.These amounts aren’t set in stone however. They are not precise. It’s only probable that I received precisely half my atDNA from my father and precisely half from my mother.
With Y DNA and mtDNA it is clear which is received from which of our ancestors. With atDNA we can estimate how much atDNA we received from each of our ancestors but it is less clear just which DNA we received from a particular ancestor.
Now we come to the X Chromosome and its inheritance patterns.
Let’s start with myself. I received half my X DNA from my father and half my X DNA from my mother. In turn, my mother received half her X DNA from her father and half from her mother. As far as this example goes, the X DNA inheritance pattern is like the inheritance pattern for autosomal DNA.Now let’s look at my brother. My brother received no X DNA from our father because he received a Y chromosome instead. That is, he received all his X DNA from our mother. Similarly, my father received no X DNA from his father. Instead he received his Y DNA from his father and all his X DNA from his mother.Let’s now look at a simple X DNA match before looking at a couple more complex and interesting DNA matches.
It’s expected that my brother and I match on 50% of our X DNA (with that X DNA originating from our mother). In fact, we matched on 88.5 centiMorgans (cMs) – 45% of our X DNA and a little less than estimated. Here is what our match looks like in the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser:Now let’s look at two first cousins – Lyn and Val. Their mothers were sisters and were daughters of Samuel and Eliza Ann.Lyn received half her X DNA from her father and half from her mother. In turn, Lyn’s mother received half her X DNA from her father, Samuel, and half from her mother, Eliza Ann. That is, Lyn received 25% of her X DNA from her grandfather Samuel and 25% from her grandmother Eliza Ann.
Similarly, Val received half her X DNA from her father and half from her mother. In turn, Val’s mother received half her X DNA from her father, Samuel, and half from her mother, Eliza Ann. Here is how Lyn and Val’s X DNA match of 49.4 cMs (25% of their X DNA) looks like in the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser:As expected Lyn and Val match on just over half the number of cMs that my brother and I do.
Samuel and Eliza Ann are my paternal great grandparents but neither my brother and I would have received any X DNA from this line as my father received a Y chromsome from my grandfather and, consequently, no X DNA from my grandfather.
Now do I have anyone else who may have received some part of their X DNA from my great grandparents Samuel and Eliza Ann? My first cousin Marilyn did. And this is where expected X DNA becomes complicated.
Marilyn received half her X DNA from her father and half from her mother. In turn, her mother received half her X DNA from our grandfather and half from our grandmother. Now our grandfather received his Y chromosome from his father, Samuel and his X chromosome from his mother Eliza Ann. The probability is that Marilyn received 25% of her X DNA from her great grandmother, Eliza Ann and none from her great grandfather Samuel.
There are two points to take note of here.
Firstly, X DNA isn’t like mtDNA. It doesn’t merely go up the female line. You can have one male in the sequence. Our grandfather in Marilyn’s sequence is one example. But you can’t have two males in the sequence and inherit X DNA from that line. My brother and I haven’t received any X DNA from our great grandparents Samuel and Eliza Ann because there are two men in the line – my father and my grandfather.
Secondly, any match that Marilyn may have on her X DNA with either Lyn or Val, must be attributable to Marilyn’s great grandmother Eliza Ann because our grandfather received no X chromosome from his father Samuel. Marilyn shares 58.3 cMs (30%) with Lyn and 72.9 cMs (38%) with Val.When I map Marilyn’s matches with Lyn and Val I see the segments of Marilyn’s X DNA that come from her great grandmother Eliza Ann.

It is Lyn’s X DNA match that I find most intriguing. She has a X DNA match with:
• Val, her first cousin on her mother’s side
• Marilyn, a first cousin once removed on her mother’s side and
• Rick, her second cousin on her father’s side.

So now let’s look at Lyn’s X DNA match with Val. Lyn received half her X DNA from her mother who received her X DNA from her parents Samuel and Eliza Ann. But I don’t know which X DNA Lyn’s mother received from her father Samuel and which she received from her mother Eliza Ann.
The situation is the same for Val.
Consequently, where Lyn and Val match on their X chromosome I don’t know whether that match is due to X DNA they each received from their grandfather or is due to X DNA they each received from their grandmother. Further testing is required.
This is different to the scenario of Lyn’s X DNA match with Marilyn where the inheritance pattern of X DNA indicates that that match could only have come from X DNA inherited from Eliza Ann.Lyn also has an X DNA match with her second cousin Rick on her paternal side. Rick inherited all his X DNA from his mother (as he inherited his Y chromosome from his father). Rick’s mother inherited half her X DNA from her father. In turn he inherited all his X DNA from his mother Jane (as he inherited his Y chromosome from his father).
Lyn inherited half her X DNA from her father. Her father inherited all his X DNA from his mother (as he inherited his Y chromosome from his father). She inherited half her X DNA from her father and half from her mother Jane.
We have another instance here of being able to determine which ancestor DNA came from. Under the inheritance pattern of the X chromosome Lyn and Rick can only match on X DNA with regards to X DNA they inherited from Jane.
Rick and Lyn have a match of 91.9 cMs (or 47%) on their X chromosome.Putting Lyn’s three X DNA matches together we can see that she can attribute almost 65% to a specific ancestor (Jane or Eliza Ann) and the balance to either Samuel or Eliza Ann.
There is further testing required to attribute her match with Val to either Samuel or to Eliza.
For those of you who have tested in AncestryDNA and would like to explore your X chromosome all is not impossible. Download your raw data from AncestryDNA and upload it into Gedmatch for testing.

Thank you Kathy for the suggestion to use fan charts from Legacy Family Tree. They worked! These and other charts drawn in Excel were drawn by me but are strongly based on Blaine Bettinger’s trees. See, for example, his recent book Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T Bettinger as well as  Foundations in DNA by Blaine Bettinger: A recent series of 5 webinars found in Legacy Family Tree’s Webinar Library.
The Family Tree DNA chromosome browser examples came from our matches at Family Tree DNA , the Gedmatch chromosome map came out matches uploaded on to Gedmatch and Kitty Cooper’s chromosome map can be found on Kitty Cooper’s Blog under Tools.

Genetic Genealogy (DNA) as a family history source

DNA Collage

What triggered my interest in DNA or Genetic Genealogy and its possibility as a source for family history research? It’s time, after two years of exploring DNA tests, to reflect upon why I started and where I have ended up.

Curiousity was the first reason I started looking at DNA. Knowledge of DNA has come a long, long way since my first year in a university lab. But there were other reasons as well I started looking at DNA for family history purposes. It’s always nice to have another primary source to confirm my oral and written family history. I also had the idea that perhaps DNA may help break down some of my family history brick walls. So far this hasn’t been the case in relation to two of my most difficult brick walls. Where there is still some doubt about my conclusions. Finally, as DNA can only be collected from my living relatives I approached a couple of my father’s cousins and was delighted to receive their permission undergo a test. Doubly delighted as I have no living uncles or aunts and only one first cousin. Continue reading “Genetic Genealogy (DNA) as a family history source”

DNA – More than just matches

Next time you log in to your FamilyTreeDNA test check your Family Finder matches. There are now four tabs under the Family Finder – Matches screen.
Just as I haven’t stopped purchasing birth, marriage and death certificates I am sure that I am far from finished purchasing DNA kits. Particularly when I am excited about Family Tree’s DNA new phased Family Matches analysis. But not just now. I need to plan and budget first.
DNA tests for family history purposes only work when my DNA test matches with someone else’s DNA test.
Continue reading “DNA – More than just matches”

Census records – one of my gateway sources


I call some of the sources I use my gateway sources. I find them critical to breaking down brick walls. Do I stand at the gateway afraid to go any further? Do I stand in the open gateway thinking about how to approach a completely new set of sources that may contain family stories?
Passenger lists are one of my gateway sources. Before a family member embarks on their journey to Australia I focus on British sources. Once a family member arrives in Australia I search for my family stories here in Australia.
Census records, particularly those that form part of the 1841 English census collection, are one of my favourite gateway sources. They set a point in time for setting aside Australian collections and turning to English collections. Furthermore, information contained in an 1841 England census record may confirm information I already have or may give some clues about which other English collections I should look at.
For example, the 1841 England census records are pivotal in telling the story of my paternal two greats grandfather Francis Baulch and his wife Ann Bowles. The census records establish that the family was still living in Pitney, Somerset at census time. The census records also contain hints as to why the family emigrated to Tasmania with other Pitney, Somerset families not long afterwards.
There is no doubt that Francis’s family was in dire straits by 1841. As were many such families following the enclosures in the area several years beforehand. The Pitney churchwardens were concerned about the debt owed to them by Francis’s mother. Francis couldn’t help. He had a young and growing family to provide for. And Francis had difficulty getting sufficient work to sustain his own family let alone help his mother in her difficulties. One year he did manage to win the contract for hauling stone for the roads but was unable to retain the contract. Francis’s brother, Enoch, in common with many other young agricultural laborers, also had difficulty in obtaining work. And when he did have work Enoch was paid a pittance.
The 1841 England census was held on the 6th of June. It was summer harvest time and may well have been one of those times that Enoch Baulch had work. It’s likely that Enoch was one of the unnamed men recorded in the census as living in sheds.
The Baulch men, and other men like them, would have been receptive to Henry Dowling’s search for experience agricultural laborers in 1840/1841. Tasmanian farmers had appointed Dowling as their agent in the farmers search for workers to replace men who had left Tasmania for the opportunities in the new Port Phillip district.
In the autumn following the 1841 Census the Pitney churchwardens gave Francis Baulch and Charles Bartlett, both with young families to support, funds to purchase clothing and other necessities to help them emigrate. By late November 1841, the two men, their families and some closely connected families sailed for Tasmania. They were avoiding facing another bleak winter in Pitney.
But some family members didn’t come. The census records give clues as to why.
For example, Francis’s brother William Baulch was living next door to his mother at the time. No doubt to help his mother when needed. His mother remarried in 1845 so William and his family was then free to emigrate. There is a clue there in the 1841 census records that helped find William’s new home. In 1841 William Baulch and Martha Cook had a ten-year-old boy, Edward or Edmond Perrin, staying with them. There they all are emigrating to the United States in 1850 and can be followed in the US censuses from thereafter.
Others weren’t of the right age or otherwise not qualified for assistance to emigrate. Some of the children later emigrated with many of Henry Baulch’s descendants emigrating to Queensland.
Charles Edgar, one of Ann Bowles’ younger half brothers, went to Ontario, Canada.
Frances-Fletcher-TreeWhich brings me to a source that I think may become another of my gateway sources. I have a DNA autosomal match with a Canadian cousin. On my side of our family tree the match comes about because I am a descendant of Henry Bowles and Frances Fletcher, Ann Bowles’s parents. On the other side of our family tree the match comes about because my Canadian cousin is a descendant of William Edgar and Frances Fletcher, Charles Edgar’s parents. The ancestor we have in common is Frances Fletcher. The chromosome segments where we match, therefore, must have been passed down from Frances Fletcher. But which segments on which chromosomes?

Selected Bibliography:
The National Archives (TNA): HO 107/955 f4 p1 Census Returns: 1841
Canada Census 1851 -1861 [database ] www.familysearch.org
United States Census, 1860 – 1870, [database & images] www.familysearch.org
St John the Baptist Church of England (Pitney, Somerset, England). Parish chest material.
AncestryDNA [database]. www.ancestry.com.au.

Baulch Y DNA mutations

DNA ribbons
DNA ribbons

When did mutations occur in the Y DNA in our direct paternal line?
Perhaps the Colac branch can help in my new DNA search for when a change or mutation on an STR or short tandem repeat marker on the Y chromosome occurred in our Baulch branch.
I remember with great affection one of my very early visits to Baulch family members was to the late Clarrie Baulch of Colac who introduced me visit to his wife as his first cousin on the Warry side but his second cousin on the Mitchem side. Perhaps this visit foreshadowed the challenges that were to come as part of my family history research.
It’s not that long ago that it was believed that the DNA on the Y chromosome was just a lot of randomly repeated junk.
So why did I ask my brother to undertake a DNA test? And why did a second cousin as well as my brother agree to do so?
Because we have a brick wall on our paternal line. We descend from the Charles Baulch who married Ann Beddlecombe on 1 Apr 1799 at Muchelney. Charles was born to Roger Baulch and Betty Gaylard on 25 Jan 1767. But my sister that it is more than likely that Roger’s son died in infancy on 8 Mar 1767. No other mention has ever been found of another Charles Baulch. Yet it is telling that Henry Baulch, Roger Baulch’s elder son, was a witness at the wedding of Ann Beddlecombe and Charles Baulch.

Extract from Free Reg
from www.freekreg.org.uk

Yet even more telling is that my brother has an autosomal match with Hannah Baulch, a cousin of Henry and Charles Baulch.
Then again, the Y DNA results of my brother and our second cousin indicate that, at least, our Baulch line is another branch of Baulchs.

Baulch Y DNA mutations
Baulch Y DNA mutations

Our second cousin’s Y DNA results confirm a branch mutation on marker DYS710 as both he and my brother have a value of 31 on that marker.

STR Marker Mutations
STR Marker Mutations

No other Balch, Sims or Washburn men have that value and are all 32 or higher. This means that somewhere from our nearest common ancestor, our great grandfather Samuel Baulch on up, one of your Baulch ancestors mutated from 32 to 31, and that mutation was passed on to my brother and to our second cousin.

Autosomal DNA and Probability

The general wisdom is that matches on autosomal DNA are only accurate for up to four or five generations (or to second cousins). Beyond this limit any matches that may occur probably occur by chance, not by inheritance. This is because there is always the probability that any match of any kind of 5% or less can be attributed to random chance and not to inheritance.
My purpose here is to suggest that, by referring to our traditional written family history research and by careful planning our DNA tests, we may be able to identify matches way beyond our great grandparents and our second cousins.

My Ancestors
My Ancestors

I have two parents. It is expected that I receive half or 50% of my autosomal DNA from my father and half from my mother. This seems to be an acceptable proposition.
I have four grandparents. It is expected that I receive one quarter or 25% of my autosomal DNA from each of my grandparents. That is, it is expected that I received 25% from my grandfather Bert Baulch, 25% from my grandmother Annie Abbey, 25% from my grandfather Noel Learmonth and 25% from my grandmother Edith Salter.
I have eight great grandparents. It is expected that I received one eighth or 12.5% of my autosomal DNA from each of my eight great grandparents.
At the fifth generation it is expected that I received one sixteenth or 6.25% of my autosomal DNA from each of my two great grandparents. Can the expected values for receiving autosomal DNA from my two greats grandparents definitely be attributed to inheritance? After all, the upper mark of 5% which is used to indicate matches that may be wholly attributed to chance is not all that far removed from the 6.25% that may be attributable to inheritance from one of my two greats grandparents.
Now none of my direct ancestors are alive and so aren’t available for DNA testing. I have to rely upon my siblings and upon my cousins. The expected values of a match on autosomal DNA tests for my ancestors, siblings and cousins can be summarised in tabular form as follows:
Relationship-Chart
The expected value of sharing autosomal DNA with one of my siblings is 50%. I actually share 38% autosomal DNA with one of my brothers. The expected value for shared autosomal DNA with any one of my first cousins once removed is 6.25%. I actually share 7.3% autosomal DNA with one first cousin once removed and 5.4% with another.
Should actual values that differ from expected values be cause for concern? Absolutely not!
However, rather than accepting the relationship for any autosomal DNA match by a testing company as being set in stone, I do believe that my written genealogy confirms the autosomal DNA match result. Equally, the autosomal DNA match is a further independent source that may substantiate my written genealogy. The two are not separate but dependent one upon the other.
The methodology for calculating the likelihood of what autosomal DNA we are expected to have should be familiar to us all.
Consider tossing a coin. The first toss may be heads. The probability of the second toss being heads is still 50%. Even if the second toss is heads the probability of the third toss being heads is still 50%. Thus in a small population of 3 tosses the result of three heads doesn’t indicate that a double headed coin is being used. However, if the result still remains heads after hundreds or thousands of tosses I might be inclined to check whether the coin is biased in some way. According to Bernoulli’s theorem, the more a coin is tossed the more likely it is that the actual value of the number of times a head is tossed approaches the expected value of 50%.
Now consider throwing a die or dice. The first toss may be a 4. The probability of throwing a 4 is one sixth. Indeed for an unbiased die the probability of throwing one of the six numbers is always one sixth irrespective of the previous throws. For a short number of throws there may be a run on a particular number but this in no way alters the probability for the next throw of the die. For each number that probability is one sixth. As for the coin toss, over hundreds and thousands of throws of the die the actual value over all of these throws will approach the expected probability of one sixth for each of the six numbers on the die.
This method of calculating expected values for the toss of a coin and the throw of a die can be applied to the passing of autosomal DNA from two parents to a child. The options for a toss of a coin are either heads or tails. The options for the throw of a die are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. The options for a child are that the child receives its autosomal DNA half from its father and half from its mother. As for the coin and as for the die the actual value of autosomal DNA received in the short term may differ from the expected value. As for the coin and as for the die over millions and indeed billions of generations the actual value of autosomal DNA a child receives from its parents will approach the expected value of 50% from its father and 50% from its mother.
But is this so? What is it that Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA testing with respect to autosomal DNA? Is there an equal chance of this autosomal DNA information coming from one parent as from the other parent? Let’s start by looking at DNA in the whole cell before focusing on autosomal DNA.
Each cell in our body contains DNA. In the cell proper DNA can be found in the mitochondria. This DNA is known as mitochondrial DNA. DNA is also found in the cell nucleus which contains 23 pairs of chromosomes each containing DNA. The 23rd pair is known as pair of the sex chromosomes. The 23rd pair for men is made up of one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Women have 2 X chromosomes.  The first 22 pairs of chromosomes are known as autosomes. Autosomes contain autosomal DNA.

Cell with nucleus and mitochondria
Cell with nucleus and mitochondria

In a search for genealogical DNA the testing companies test in excess of 700,000 markers on the “junk” DNA portion of our autosomal chromosomes. These markers are the sites of single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced snips). A person’s autosomal SNPs can be identified and compared another person’s autosomal SNPs.
Apart from identical twins, each of us is unique. We see this as we walk down the street or glance around a football crowd at the MCG. It is easy, therefore, to apply the law of large numbers as discussed above to the more than 700, 000 SNPs. To me 700,000 seems to be a large number. Surely, for each marker or SNP there is a 50% chance that I inherited that SNP from my father and a 50% chance that I inherited that SNP from my mother. Surely, as with the coin and the die, I had an equal chance of receiving each marker independent of the previous marker and the marker following.
There are two difficulties with this assumption.
Firstly, autosomal DNA tests are not able to distinguish which markers I inherited from my father and which I inherited from my mother.
Secondly, if the first wasn’t a knockout blow, the markers are set out on a strand of DNA. Unlike each toss of a coin or each throw of a die, whether or not I inherit a marker from my father or from my mother is not independent of who I inherited the previous marker from or who I inherited the next marker from. That is, the 700,000 SNPs are linked along the DNA strand. For example, the autosomal DNA I share with my brother on chromosome 3 and which we must have inherited from our father or our mother or a combination of both occurs along most of the chromosome.

Chromosome 3
Chromosome 3

Now we don’t match along the whole of chromosome 3 but where we do match it is mostly in one long strand. Indeed, the longer the strand we share the more closely is our predicted relationship.
Consider a little. This phenomenon of linked markers has helped me detect relationships beyond those predicted by chance – beyond our great grandparents and our second cousins. For example, I have confirmed a relationship with a third cousin twice removed as well as – wait for this – a sixth cousin twice removed! These results are quite beyond my great grandparents and second cousins (that is second cousins without any removes).
DNA testing for family historians is still in its infancy. The databases of results are still very small. Nevertheless I think I can apply traditional genealogical research techniques to my DNA research:

  • DNA is no substitute for quality traditional genealogical research. Sad to say but true.
  • I have started my analysis with an autosomal DNA test and started with myself. Then I moved from my closer relations to my more distant relations.
  • I have tried to optimise my chances of detecting matches by including a family tree of my ancestors and of the names of my ancestors were possible.
  • I have uploaded my information to Gedmatch as some family have tested on Family Tree DNA and some on AncestryDNA. My challenge now is to encourage our family to also share their results by uploading to Gedmatch (www.gedmatch.com) especially those who have tested with AncestryDNA for AncestryDNA has no facility to examine results  (for those who tested with AncestryDNA go to Settings and download the raw DNA data. Create a Gedmatch account and follow the instructions for uploading to Gedmatch. BE WARNED! These raw files are very, very large and take quite some to download and upload).
  • It will involve some of that boring work that doesn’t seem to yield any exciting results but I suspect that it may be worthwhile in the long term to examine my results down to the 1centiMorgan level and by each chromosome. I see this as akin to searching through parish registers or census results.

Y-DNA Baulch

Cell showing nucleus and mitochondria
Cell showing nucleus and mitochondria

There are so many genealogical collections readily available these days it is tempting to try them all. Without thought or regard as to a collection’s relevance to the particular information sought. Those collections that are at hand are accessed first. Never mind the other 95% of collections which have yet to be digitised or indexed. It is easy to tap a key and search for the information online when I really do know in my head that my searching would be more productive if only I travelled to archives on the other side of the world or just spent time searching painstakingly through films and microfiche nearer to home.
But where to start searching further for my three greats grandmother Mary, wife of George Watts? I have found her in two English census returns indicating that she may have been born a British subject in foreign parts. Foreign parts? Where to begin?
I asked my cousin Val whether she would indulge my curiosity and undergo a DNA test. She kindly obliged. It was not until Val’s results arrived that I realised how little I know about DNA and today’s genetics. I was lost to Mendelian genetics when dominant brown eyes and recessive blue eyes were discussed. Where did that leave my hazel eyes? So the current genealogical literature about DNA seemed to me to be riddled with scientific terms that still leave me confused. I guess there is just so much to absorb that my little brain has been in overload for quite some time now.
Should I have done the more traditional or paper genealogical research that I had been avoiding before I set out on my DNA journey? Definitely. In a way my avoidance of a little hard work has voided the DNA results received – at least for the time being.
Val’s results have sent me back to reassess my research strategy and use of DNA as a research tool. But my brother John’s results are more promising if not equally confusing. So I am using John’s results as a medium for gaining an understanding of DNA analysis for genealogists.
John and I can trace out ancestry back on our paternal side to a Charles Baulch who married Ann Biddlecombe on 1 April 1799 at Muchelney, Somerset, England. On reviewing the information I agree with my sister. She says that because she couldn’t find the death of Charles Baulch in the civil indexes she concluded that he must have died before civil registration began in 1837. That doesn’t mean Charles Baulch died in 1836 and indeed our best guess is that Charles died between the time the Muchelney churchwardens wondered what to do with Baulch’s children and the time shortly later when their concern focused on what to do with Ann Baulch’s children.
We also have a dilemma about when our ancestor Charles Baulch was born. Certainly a Charles Baulch was born in Muchelney on 25 January 1767 to Roger Balch and Betty Gaylard. However, a Charles Baulch was buried just over a month later on 8 March 1767 in Muchelney and the infant son of Roger Balch seems to be the only candidate for this burial. So who married Ann Biddlecombe on 1 April 1799?
The obvious course of action is to search neighbouring parishes for a suitable Charles Baulch – fanning out to further parishes if necessary. Fortunately there is a copy of Dr Campbell’s index to baptisms and marriages for Somerset held on microfilm at the Genealogical Society of Victoria and indexes for many Somerset parishes now available on FreeReg  so I have a deal of work to do searching through these two sources available to me without having to travel the world.
Meanwhile, until I am able to motivate myself to do this paper genealogy is there anything in the analysis of John’s DNA that catches my attention? Maybe.
There are three parts to the analysis of John’s DNA. The first part involves analysis of his Y chromosome. The human cell contains a nucleus which includes 46 chromosomes. The first 44 are paired but the last two form the sex chromosome. A male has one Y chromosome and one X chromosome. For a male they receive their Y chromosome from their father who receives his Y chromosome from his father and so on. That is, the surname and the Y chromosome follow the paternal line.
In particular my brother received his Y chromosome from our father who received it from his father (our grandfather) who received it from his father, Samuel Baulch who received it from his father Francis Baulch who received it from Charles Baulch, our three greats grandfather. And there our paper genealogy trail finishes for the moment. But who did Charles Baulch receive his Y chromosome from?
Two tests are performed on the Y chromosome. In the first test short segments of DNA (markers) are measured and the number of repeats, short tandem repeats (STRs) are recorded. These results form an individual’s haplotype.

DNA strand
DNA strand

The second test examines particular points on the Y chromosome looking for mutations or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). That is the particular point is examined to see whether an instance of adenine, thymine, cytosine or guanine has mutated to one of the other three. Paternal lineages may be constructed for the Y chromosome using these mutations as nodes in the paternal lineages.
The results from both tests for Y-DNA analysis predict which haplogroup an individual belongs. John, for example, belongs to haplogroup I-M253 based on analysis of his Y-DNA. And while the database is still small there are also several Baulchs that belong to this haplogroup including many who can trace their ancestry back to Somerset. But many generations earlier than I have been able to establish our genealogy.
There is still a great deal of research to be done.

Britain’s genes

Traditional family history and genealogy take a back seat. Genes and DNA have taken over. In just three years. I was disappointed when we first received DNA results for a cousin.  Not anymore. I have listened to the presentations about genes and DNA here at the Canberra Congress. We haven’t even scraped the surface yet. This is before my daughter Alica mentioned the article about detecting county boundaries by genetic data alone just published in Nature. It’s like starting traditional genealogy all over again.

Genealogy Do Over – DNA (1)

The results of my first foray into DNA testing arrived in time for consideration as part of GDO Week 10 DNA considerations. My first request was not for myself nor for my brother but for a cousin of my father’s as she is a direct maternal descendant of my two greats grandmother Lydia Watts.
I have over the past three weeks paused to reflect again on my Genealogy Do Over so far. I have come to the conclusion that until the Do Over I have been beguiled by the ease of access electronically to many sources. This has caused me to churn my research. To do the same searches over and over again. With the same results. I may not have brick walls at these places at all. I have been trapped into looking at the sources that are easy to access rather than those that are most likely to give me some results.
Way back in Week 1 of the Genealogy Do Over we were advised to set aside our genealogical research so far, to abandon our bad habits and start over. What good advice! My perceived brick walls may not be brick walls at all. I have been just too lazy to put together a research plan that, while it may involve some actual work by me, is more likely to yield my hoped for results.
I was particularly struck by this when I asked for a review of where I was at with my Ralston ancestors at the recent Glasgow and Strathclyde region library research day at the Genealogical Society of Victoria. All that is lacking is a little actual work on my part. Something that I would have done years ago before the advent of personal computers and online databases. I should be searching a little further afield than just at Ralston, Renfrewshire. Not churning through the Paisley registers again and again. The information contained therein is exactly the same as what was there last time I looked.
Sure, there is a lot of planning and there is some actual research to do. Sure most of the information may only be available in various repositories and not online. Yet isn’t this now I went about my family research before the 1990s?
Similarly, I have doubts about the Charles, son of Roger Baulch and Elizabeth Gaylard, who was baptised on 25 Jan 1767 in Muchelney, Somerset, being my ancestor for a Charles Baulch was buried just over a month later on 8 Mar 1767 at Muchelney (see http://www.freereg.org.uk/). But have I searched those surrounding parishes not yet indexed on either FreeREG, FamilySearch or Somerset Online Parish Clerks (http://wsom-opc.org.uk/)? No. I just took fright at the number of parishes yet to be searched.
On the other hand at least I have started gathering information about John Bourke Ryan. So easy to search for as he always used his full name. I have found some rich archival material which I have transcribed. Nevertheless before I start churning my online research here I do need to stop and think about the information so far gathered. And how that all fits in with the economic and political climate at the time.
Which brings me to Mary McCade or McCord, the mother of Lydia and Lazarus Watts.
The 1841 and 1851 England Censuses indicate that Mary was born in Foreign Parts (that is, she wasn’t born in the British Isles) although, as I have found, that information isn’t necessarily correct.
The question now is – was Mary of British ethnicity or was she of the ethnic background of wherever she was born? Or someplace else for that matter.
Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to daughter. The test results I have just received yielded an mtDNA haplogroup of J1c9 – a classification that is confined to the United Kingdom. This haplogroup had been passed to my father’s grandmother, Eliza Ann Porter by her mother Lydia Watts. Lydia Watts would have received this haplogroup from her mother Mary McCade or McCord.
While Mary may have been born in foreign parts it is possible that she and perhaps her family returned to the United Kingdom and, as their children didn’t arrive until after George Watts was pensioned out of the British Army, it is also possible that George Watts and Mary McCade married, not in foreign parts, but in England.
Another brick wall for which I must stop churning and start creating a research plan that may actually yield some results.