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.
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.