Evidence from DNA Matches

From the outset my family tree application has been completely document-based. I started out with documents like certificates, then added parish records, and recently added relationships taken from less structured documents like wills. Although it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t unheard of for my ancestors to have lied through their teeth on official documents (mostly in relation to paternity), I’m inclined towards the view that documents are generally more reliable than family memories and hearsay. (Where my grandmother got the idea that her grandmother was an opera singer I have absolutely no idea…)

In 2014 I added what I called ‘Tentative Identifications‘ as a means of linking documented individuals who it seemed likely were the same person, but there remained some individuals where there was no documentary evidence of relationships. Particularly frustrating was the unknown paternity of my paternal great-grandfather, Ernest Phillips. Since he and his younger brothers were born in relatively quick succession I rather hoped that his father was the man his mother Annie Elizabeth Phillips married when Ernest was four years old, but unfortunately William Wickham left no helpful will bequeathing all his worldly goods to his beloved eldest son Ernest!

In 2019 I took a DNA test with Ancestry and was excited to get a match with a descendant of a sister of William’s grandfather. (Well, likely grandfather – there was a lot of illegitimacy in that branch of the family!) However, the lady I matched to also had relatives on my mother’s side in her tree – both my parents have Sussex ancestry – so my parents agreed to take tests as well to establish which side the match came from. My father sent his off first, and didn’t match to the same lady, but then when my mother’s test result came back she didn’t either! I suspect that the reason I match and they don’t could be that the amount of DNA they share with the lady individually is below Ancestry’s cut-off point, but I’ve inherited enough from the pair of them to take me above the threshold.

Happily, though, my father’s test did result in matches to descendants of various relatives of William Wickham, to the extent that I think it would be quite difficult to explain how my father came to have DNA from all those branches if Ernest wasn’t the son of William or one of his brothers. Similarly, my mother has DNA matches that suggest that her 4xgreat-grandmother Martha Luck was likely the daughter of Thomas Luck and Martha Dann as I suspected, even though I’ve not been able to find a baptism for her.

So I’ve decided that DNA evidence is of a similar level of objectivity to documentary evidence, and have adjusted my application to take it into account in a couple of places. It now appears as one of the criteria for Tentative Identifications, and an individual’s page will now show parents where the relationship is assumed from the DNA evidence (with an icon indicating that this assumption has been made).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Phillips Family of Hastings

John Phillips‘s parentage had been an early brick wall in my research, as there was no father’s name given on his marriage certificate when he married Frances Vidler in December 1841 (I checked both the GRO and parish versions of the certificate just to make sure, as I’ve had another case in my tree where the two certificates differed in detail). I’d assumed that this meant that he was illegitimate and had searched for bastardy orders and a baptism for a John son of a Phillips mother, but found nothing.

Another notable thing about John and Frances’s marriage certificate was that the wedding took place in Guestling, a parish with which neither party appeared to have any other association. In three other cases in my family tree where such a marriage took place a birth was either imminent or had recently occurred, and John and Frances’s son John Richard was born five months later. So earlier this year I thought that possibly John didn’t provide his father’s name to avoid questions being asked in his home parish, and it was worth looking for the baptism of a legitimate John.

Going by Familysearch.org there were three John Phillipses baptised in Hastings between 1818 and 1820. (There were a *lot* of Phillipses in Hastings.) There were two of the right sort of age in the 1841 census living in Hastings. One of them, the son of William and Elizabeth, was a shoemaker, and John was a cordwainer when he married Frances later that year, but I found that John living with the same siblings in subsequent censuses, so was able to eliminate him from my enquiries. The other John wasn’t living with people with the same surname; he was working at the Common Gaol (and in fact is listed twice as the Gaol was included as both a building on the High Street and as an institution). I began to focus on John son of John and Ann Phillips, baptised at All Saints, Hastings in November 1819, as a candidate.

John Phillips had married Ann Wenham at St Clement’s, Hastings in 1812. Ann Wenham had a sister Lucy Wenham; John and Frances’s eldest daughter was baptised Lucy Ann. Ann also had another sister, Grace Wenham, and when I looked back at the 1861 census entry for John and Frances I’d added to my database years ago there was Grace, listed as a lodger. Frances was the informant on the certificate when Grace died five years later. Although I’m slightly surprised that the relationship was given as ‘Lodger’ instead of ‘Aunt’ in the census, similarly although it’s likely that the Ann Phillips living with Lucy Wenham and her husband in 1851 was Lucy’s niece Anne Grace Phillips the relationship was given as ‘Serv.’. And as my husband commented, it doesn’t seem very likely that one of the unrelated John Phillipses would have been living with John’s aunt! However, I still have no document which confirms that John husband of Frances was the same person as John son of John Phillips and Anne Wenham. So I have tentatively linked them, and hope that a DNA match may confirm the link in future.*

Now I hoped to be able to take my Phillips line further back – perhaps I would find a Phillips ancestor who was actually from Wales! John the father of the John baptised in 1819 was a fisherman, and Googling for ‘”John Phillips” fisherman Hastings’ turned up a link to the Hastings Chronicle website’s report of a tragedy on 5 February 1841 when a John Phillips was one of six men who died when their Hastings-based fishing boat was lost off the coast of Devon.

The master of the boat was named Thomas Coppard/Copper (the spelling varies between newspaper reports) and his son William was also lost. When transcribing the baptisms of John and Ann’s children, I noticed that the entry right after Anne Grace’s was for a William Copper, son of Thomas (a fisherman) and Anne, and knowing of the connection between John, Thomas and William I decided to include it in my site. Normally before I put in a baptism I look for the parents’ marriage but on this occasion I thought ‘oh, they’ll just be neighbours’, and nearly didn’t bother looking. Jennifer, write it out a hundred times: IT’S ALWAYS WORTH LOOKING. Anne’s maiden name was Phillips. The 1851 and 1861 censuses show her as being born in Hastings in about 1784; the registers of St Clement’s record the baptism of an Ann daughter of John and Ann Phillips in July 1783.

So it’s possible John Phillips the fisherman was brother to Ann wife of Thomas Coppard, but I have no evidence of when or where he was born or whether she did have a brother named John. I looked for a death certificate for John Phillips in both Sussex and Devon but found nothing, nor for any of the other men named in the newspaper reports. I posted a question on the Sussex Family History Group Facebook group asking if deaths of fisherman at sea were certified in the usual fashion and the general opinion was that no body = no death certificate. I found no burial either, and without a death certificate or burial entry I have no evidence of how old John was when he died. I haven’t found any other baptisms in Hastings that could be Ann’s sibling, nor have I found a definitive marriage for her parents (they could possibly have been the John Phillips and Ann Stapley married in Mayfield in 1773, for whom I haven’t found any child baptisms).

So I’ve not yet found any Welsh Phillipses, and have hit another brick wall in the search for them. But I remain hopeful – brick walls can tumble!

*Since submitting my DNA to Ancestry.co.uk in April this year I’ve so far had matches that confirm three of my tentative identifications: Sarah Sales, John Moon and Margaret Perrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unusual Occupations

Some of the more unusual occupations I’ve come across in my family tree:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bringing the past back to life

This gallery contains 9 photos.

There’s currently an amazing web application online, called Colourise.sg, which adds colour to old black-and-white photos. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t able to do much with older or poorer quality photos from my site, but I think the results below are quite … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

The Vintens

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a particularly frustrating time trying to take my Vinten line back further than the baptism of my 4x-great-grandfather William and his brother James, sons of William and Racheal [sic], in Orpington in 1804.

I had a single breakthrough when I discovered the huge variety of variant spellings of Vinten. I’d known that the last vowel could be an ‘e’, ‘o’ or occasionally an ‘i’, and the first was occasionally ‘e’ instead of ‘i’, but it turns out that in the 1840s especially the first letter could be ‘W’ instead of ‘V’. And thanks to mis-transcriptions in indexes – ‘r’ instead of ‘n’ as the final letter is fairly common – I’ve come across Vintens indexed as Vinter, Venter, Vinsen, Vinken, Pinten, Kinten, Kirten and Dinter! Armed with this knowledge I found two households in the 1841 census that I’d not known about before: William junior, his wife Elizabeth and their children, indexed as Vinter, were living in Eltham, and William senior, Racheal and their daughter Harriet, indexed as Winton, were living in Keston. William was 64, Racheal was 58, and neither was born in the county. Since the ages aren’t rounded down to the nearest multiple of five they are presumably the actual ages, suggesting birth years of about 1777 and 1783. But sadly that was the only progress I made.

A number of online family trees have identified William senior with a Wm Burch Vinten baptised in Tonbridge, Kent in 1776. Although the age is right I don’t think that the identification is correct, on the grounds that:

  • Wm Burch’s father’s will of May 1806 makes no mention of him, so I think it likely that he had died without issue before this date.
  • The 1841 census says William senior wasn’t born in Kent.

There is an intriguing coincidence of location though with regard to a William Burch Vinten, who according to the 1841 census was born in Kent in around 1796 (but I can find no baptism in the indexes). He married Eleanor Bennet in Lee, Kent in 1822, which is where James and William junior married their respective wives in 1825. (Later censuses have Eleanor listed as having been born in Foots Cray, which is about four miles from Orpington.) William and Eleanor then established their family in Greenwich (sons William James and Samuel were baptised there in 1823 and 1826), which is where William and Racheal’s son George lived for a while around the 1861 census. There had also been a Samuel Vinten living in Greenwich who according to the Thames & Medway burial index was buried there in 1830 aged 52; going by the age he could have been the same Samuel as the brother of Wm Burch who was baptised in 1778 and was one of the executors of their father’s will in 1810.

There are other assertions about William and Racheal in online trees which I don’t think are supported by the evidence. The William Vinton who was buried in Keston in 1848 was 88 years old, decades older than William according to the 1841 census. And the Rachael whose death was registered in 1847 in Saint Saviours Surrey was the widow of a James Vinton, Hair Dresser, so I think it’s unlikely she’s ‘my’ Racheal – she’s far more likely to be the Racheal [sic] Vinten who was living in Southwark in 1841. The only other possible certificate I’ve found is one for a Charlotte Rachel Vinton who died at the Union Workhouse in Lewisham in February 1861 aged 86. She was the widow of a James Vinton, Gardener, though, and not of William Vinton. So right husband occupation, more likely place, but wrong age and first names. I have been unable to find any record of her in the 1851 census. (I was very excited when I found a William and Rachael Vinton with daughter Harriet in the 1851 census living in Wales, but since the two Harriets are definitely different people – I have found baptism and marriage records for both women – I am pretty much certain that it is just coincidence.)

One assertion in online trees that I do think is likely is that Mary Ann Vinten was the daughter of William senior and Racheal, although I have checked the images for the Orpington registers and the Family Search index for Farnborough and found no entries that could be her.

  • The place of birth given for Mary Ann in the censuses was Orpington or Farnborough. William and Racheal had four children baptised in Orpington (one of whom in the 1851 census gave her place of birth as Farnborough) and in 1841 were living in Keston, which is a couple of miles from Farnborough.
  • Mary Ann’s second daughter was given the middle name Rachael and her second son was named William.
  • William and Racheal’s daughter Harriet was married to James Brand in the Trinity Church, St Mary Newington in 1843. Mary Ann had had children baptised there in 1836 and 1839.
  • Both Harriet and Mary Ann had sons born in about 1844 who were given the middle name Ambrose. (It is possible that William junior’s middle name was Ambrose, if he was the same person as the William Ambrose Vinten, Gardener, whose son William Ambrose married Mary Ann Spincks in Eltham in 1852. But I’m not convinced, as although the 1861 census has William Ambrose junior born in Bromley, the age – 30 – isn’t consistent with him being William junior’s son William who was baptised there in 1827.)
  • Rather tenuous, this one, but worth noting in case someone can make a connection: in 1851 a Sarah Marshal, who I think was probably the daughter of George and Elizabeth Marshal baptised in 1835, was living with James and Harriet (she was listed as James’s niece). One of the witnesses to Mary Ann’s marriage to Richard Waters in 1833 was an Elizabeth Marshal.
  • There is to me a striking resemblance between Mary Ann (in a photo on Ancestry.co.uk) and Arthur Ernest Thomas Phillips, William and Racheal’s great-great-great-grandson, in his old age!

An online assertion about Mary Ann that is incorrect, though, is that she was the Bromley, Kent 1890 death. In fact, she was living with her daughter Eliza at the time of the 1891 census (albeit unhelpfully listed under Eliza’s married name) and died in the Poplar Union Workhouse on 23rd December 1894 (coincidentally, the same date as Arthur).

I think missing parish records (or possibly non-conformism) may be the root of the problem, as I have found so many Vintens for whom I can find no baptism. In addition to those I have already mentioned, there was a William Vinten who according to his marriage certificate was son of James Vinten, Greengrocer, and according to the 1871 census was born in Bromley in about 1829, but I’ve found no such baptism. Likewise, John Winton of Lewisham died in 1826 aged 45, giving a birth year of about 1871, and mentions in his will his ‘dear father John Winton’, but I haven’t found such a baptism in the indexes. And an Isaac Vinton married an Elizabeth Orr in Bromley in 1775 and they had a son John baptised there in 1777, but there is no record in the FamilySearch indexes of any other children and the only subsequent mention in the indexes of an Isaac Vinton in Kent who could be him is a burial in Loose in 1779 (an Isaac Vinton had been baptised there in 1740). (Incidentally, Loose is near Maidstone, which is where James was living in 1841, 1871 and 1881 and where he died in 1889.) Also, as mentioned in my blog post on the Shorters, I suspect there may be some pages missing from the 1861 census for Eltham. Disappointing as it is, I think this will have to be a branch of my family I return to in a couple of years’ time to see if any more information has become available.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Upton Marriages

My great-great-great-great-grandparents Thomas Upton and his wife Sarah had children baptised in Bromley in Kent in the 1820s and 1830s but for a long time couldn’t find a marriage which I was confident was theirs. The only likely one I had found was of a Thomas Uptin to a Sarah Sales in nearby Downe (spelled in the historical records as Down) in 1819, but the 1851 census puts my Sarah’s birth in about 1794 in Westerham and I couldn’t find any Sales children baptised in Westerham around that time in the online indexes. That is, until late last year when returning to Find My Past for the first time in a while I found some Kent parish record transcripts had come online and included a number of children of Richard and Hannah Sales baptised in Westerham in the second half of the 1790s, including a Sarah in 1797. Richard and Hannah were names given to two of Thomas and Sarah’s children, so that was a piece of evidence that the Downe marriage could be the right one (although given the difference in ages I have only tentatively linked the Westerham Sarah to my Sarah)*.

I was puzzled though that the earliest baptism I had for Thomas and Sarah’s children was in 1821. Given that a not insignificant proportion of my ancestresses had their first child within weeks of the wedding, this seemed rather unlikely if the January 1819 marriage was theirs. Then the other week I re-read an email sent to me several years ago by a fellow descendant, who noted that their first child was baptised as Waters, not Upton, in May 1819. So that fitted with the usual pattern!

The fellow descendant had also sent me notes on a settlement examination saying that Thomas, born in 1797, was the son of John Waters of Bromley and Mary Upton of Plymouth. My brain made a connection: in the other cases in my family tree where an illegitimate child used their father’s surname in later life instead of their mother’s their parents had married after their birth. And lo and behold, I found a marriage of John Waters of the West Kent Militia to Mary Upton in Plymouth in May 1800.

Then looking at an image of the original of the settlement examination (which clarifies that it was Thomas who was born in the parish of Plymouth) I also found another link between Thomas and Downe. At the end of the statment it says ‘my said Son has done no act since to gain a Settlement elsewhere to the best of my Knowledge’ and then, crossed out, ‘At the Parish of Down in the said’. So Thomas presumably had some connection with Downe which made the authorities think that it might be his legal place of settlement (right of settlement could be gained by unmarried men who worked for a year in the parish, for example).

So the morals of this story are

  1. In this day and age, it’s well worth periodically circling back to your brick walls to check if any new leads have become available online.
  2. Always look at the original documents.

*Update 7th July 2019: An Ancestry DNA match to a descendant of Richard and Hannah’s daughter Mary has confirmed that the Westerham Sarah was my Sarah. If only I’d known it I’ve had evidence for the link sitting in a file for over a decade – the informant on Sarah’s death certificate was a Mary Divall (although I’d misread the surname as Dirale), Mary’s married name.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Online Map of Late Nineteenth-Century London

The National Library of Scotland has an absolutely phenomenal online resource for those of us with ancestors from nineteenth-century London, Ordnance Survey Maps, London, Five feet to the Mile, 1893-1896. Yes, you read that right, five feet to the mile – the maps are so detailed they even show the location of public urinals! And because one of the viewing options is as an overlay on a modern online map (you even have a choice of background maps) you can match up the nineteenth-century locations to the modern street plan – I’ve just used it to locate three vanished churches in Bethnal Green.

Posted in Places | Leave a comment

Tentative Identifications for John Shorter

My system of Tentative Identifications is fine when there are two or three individuals involved, but in the case of John Shorter there are five! So rather than create a complicated network of links, I’ve listed below a selection of the relevant records.

1792: John son of George and Elizabeth Shorter baptised in Bromley, Kent
1795: Timothy son of George and Elizabeth Shorter baptised in Bromley, Kent
1797: James son of George and Elizabeth Shorter baptised in Bromley, Kent

1810: John Shorter and Anne Wakeling married in Chislehurst, Kent
1813: John George son of John, Working Gardener, and Ann Shorter baptised in St Mary Cray, Kent.
1815: James son of John, Labourer, and Ann Shorter baptised in St Mary Cray, Kent.
1817-1825: Children of John, Gardener/Labourer, and Ann Shorter baptised in Foots Cray, Kent.

1817: George Shorter of Bromley writes a will leaving bequests to grandsons George, Timothy and James, sons of George.
1818: A John Shorter witnesses the marriage of Timothy Shorter to Eleanor Quin in Camberwell, Surrey. (The signature looks similar to the one in the register entry of John and Ann’s marriage, but the J and S are formed differently.)
1841: John Shorter, Ag Lab born Kent c. 1786, at Black Horse, Foots Cray, Kent.
          Ann Shorter living alone in Woolwich, Kent.
1844: Ann Shorter, wife of John Shorter, Gardener, dies in Woolwich, Kent
1851: John Shorter, Hostler born Eltham, Kent c. 1785, widower, at Lee Green, Eltham, Kent. (The Greenwich Heritage Centre have advised me that there is no entry for a John Shorter baptised in the mid-1780s in their Eltham parish records index.)
1861: (I’ve been unable to find any likely-looking record. I wonder if some of the pages of the Eltham census are missing in the collection I’m looking at – the schedule numbers for district 1 start at 37.)
1863: John Shorter, charged to parish of Mottingham, admitted to Lewisham Union Workhouse
1864: John Shorter, General Labourer born c. 1789, dies in Lewisham Union Workhouse

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Delighted to discover that there have been some really useful changes to the GRO’s certificate ordering service.

It now has its own searchable birth and death indexes (you need to be logged in with your usual certificate-ordering details). What’s got me really excited is that you can specify mother’s maiden name for births and the age at death for deaths, right back to 1837! I’ve already found a birth for a Dear-Perrow child who I otherwise wouldn’t have known anything about. (And when I clicked the button to order, all the details were handily already filled in for me.)

Also, I’ve always grumbled that I don’t need a legal document, so I was thrilled to be able to order a PDF version, which they describe as having ‘no “evidential” value’, for a reduced price. (I’m now waiting for my order to arrive to see what the result actually looks like.)

Posted on by jennysgenealogy | Leave a comment

My Elusive Celtic Ancestors: Update

Back in 2011 I blogged about the difficulties I was having in tracing the backgrounds of David Dear and Margaret Perrow. Today I have updated my website with some relevant documents, so I thought it was time to post an update.

In July 2014 I stumbled across a 2002 post on rootsweb mentioning a baptism of a David Dear, son of David Dear and Ann Mitchell*, in Montrose in Scotland in early 1811. In great excitement I emailed the poster, who kindly gave me the batch reference for the register as well as a lot of other information about the family. It turns out that the reason my earlier searches hadn’t turned up the record was that the surname was spelled ‘Daer’.

Inspired by this breakthrough, later in 2014 I ordered more records relating to the Northumberland Dears. It does seem likely to me that the Northumberland David was the David christened in Montrose in 1811: they match on name, age, father‘s name and father’s occupation, and the Northumberland David’s two eldest daughters were named Agnes (Ann is referred to as Agnes on a memorial inscription and I’m told that in Scotland the names were interchangeable). I still can’t quite bring myself to state definitively that they are the same person, though, as ‘S[cotland]’ is such a very vague birth place!

So still at this point I have more questions than answers to add to my original blog post …

  • Generalising from my family tree, most couples appear to have produced children at roughly two-year intervals, and gaps in the sequence in later records generally indicate an infant death. Do the two gaps in the baptisms of David and Ann’s children mark the deaths of unbaptised infants, or is there some other reason?
  • Going by her age at burial, Ann was in her thirties when she married David. Why did she marry so late? Was she married before?
  • Why were David and Ann living apart in 1841? Were they separated by the demands of David’s employment? Or perhaps by Ann’s frailty (she died two years later)? Or even an estrangement?
  • The relationship between the Northumberland and Greenwich Davids is still troubling me. If they are the same person, why was David‘s surviving daughter with Alice, Jemima, in the workhouse in Newcastle in 1851 instead of living with her father and his new partner? (I say ‘partner’, as I still haven’t found any evidence of a marriage for David and Margaret senior…)
  • Who was Margaret junior‘s father? Both of her marriage certificates state her father was David Dear, but the birth year range suggested by census entries would mean that she was born while Alice was still alive. Was she born of an affair between David and Margaret senior, or was she Margaret’s daughter from a previous relationship but raised as David’s daughter? (I have still not been able to locate an 1841 census entry for Margaret senior, nor a marriage, so I am beginning to wonder if she was perhaps co-habiting with someone at the time and is recorded in the census under his surname – as was the case with Elizabeth Smith.)
    • * In Scotland women were commonly referred to by their maiden names even after marriage.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment