52 Ancestors #5: Ellen Easton (1826-1912)

This is the story of how a census entry helped me discover the parents of my 2nd great grandmother, Ellen (or Helen) Easton. It all started when I was researching my great grandmother, Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland. I first found Minnie as a 2 year old on the 1861 New Brunswick Census:

1861 census Kirkland

From this census, I had Minnie’s mother’s name as Helen, born about 1836 in PEI of Scottish origin. I discovered her maiden name easily enough – I found the marriage record for John W. Kirkland and Ellen Easton, who married in Chatham, NB on November 2, 1854.

Kirkland and Easton marriage

And on the 1891 census, she’s listed as Hellen Easton Kirkland, born about 1828 in PEI, with a father was born in Scotland and a mother born in Ireland.

1891 census Kirkland

So this is what I had…

Easton tree 1

Not a lot to go on. I was unable to find anything giving Ellen’s parents’ names. But I did find this:

John Kirkland obit

Exciting as it was to know that my ancestor was a ventriloquist, I was even more interested in the last line “Mrs. Kirkland, who survives him, is a sister of Surveyor General Tweedie.”  Huh? Everything else I had found said that Mrs. Kirkland was an Easton.

I had seen this Tweedie name before….

Tweedie examples

  1. 1871 Census – Next door to John & Ellen Kirkland were some Tweedies
  2. 1881 – Marriage of my great grandparents Minnie Kirkland and Albert Prowse – witness L.J. Tweedie
  3. 1891 – Marriage of Minnie’s youngest sister – newspaper announcement mentions that “Among friends present were Hon. L.J. Tweedie, M.P.P and Miss Tweedie of Chatham.

So who was this L. J. Tweedie?

 Lemuel J. Tweedie tree

  • Lemuel John Tweedie practiced law in Chatham, NB. He was admitted to the Bar in 1871, at the age of 22. His Law partner was R.B. Bennett, who would later become the Prime Minister of Canada
  • Tweedie was first elected to the NB Legislature at age 25. At 51 he became Premier of NB, for 7 years. Then Lieutenant Governor for 5.
  • He was the son of Irish immigrants, Joseph Tweedie Jr & Catherine McGary

Interesting, but none of this answered the question of whether he was the brother of my Ellen Easton, who was some 20 years older than him and born in PEI. Obviously there was a long-standing connection between the families, but what? Could she have been his aunt perhaps, and not his sister? Or maybe she was a Tweedie and Easton was her married name from a first marriage?

I had no luck finding anything that would lead me to Ellen’s parents. But then one day, while searching the PEI newspapers for information on my my great grandfather, Albert P. Prowse, I came upon her obituary.

Mrs. JW Kirkland obit

“The late Mrs. Kirkland was born in Rexton, NB and was a half-sister of Lt. Governor Tweedie of New Brunswick.” Well, her birth place was wrong, but could her being a half-sister to Lt. Gov. Tweedie be a clue? Perhaps researching Tweedie’s family would uncover something that researching Ellen Easton’s family had not.

Since Lemuel Tweedie was born 1849, the obvious place to start was the 1851 NB census. There he was, age 2, with his parents Joseph & Catherine Tweedie, as expected, along with two older sisters, ages 5 and 9. But look who else was in the household….

1851 census Tweedie

 Ellen, age 25. I may have said “Gotchya” so loud I startled the cat. And this explains why I could never find her on the 1851 census – she was not listed as an “Easton”, she was listed as a “Tweedie”

As there were only 13 years between Ellen and Joseph Tweedie, could Ellen have been Catherine’s daughter from a 1st marriage? I started looking for more on Joseph and Catherine, and found a newspaper notice for the marriage in 1841 between Joseph Tweedy and Mrs. Catherine Easton.

Marriage Tweedie-Easton

And BINGO. A marriage between Catherine McGeary and William Easton in 1825.

Marriage Easton-McGeary

Finally, the puzzle was coming together…

Tree

Ellen Easton was the only daughter of William Easton & Catherine McGary (or McGeary or McGarry). Catherine later married Joseph Tweedie, Jr. and had 3 more children, the youngest being Lemuel J. Tweedie.

I still have some unanswered questions:

  • Who were Catherine McGary’s parents? Where in County Down was she born? As per the 1851 census, she was born in 1805 and came to Canada in 1817 at age 12. Did she come alone or with her parents?
  • What happened to William Easton? There was a William Easton who died in PEI of excessive drinking in 1833. Was this him?
  • Where and when was William Easton born, and who were his parents. An autosomnal DNA match has shed some light on this, but that’s a story for another day.

And speaking of the census, Ellen (or Helen) is one of those miraculous women we hear about who did not age at a steady rate. Here’s her age in each of the 7 years I found her in the census:

Ellen's ages

Since the first and the last are consistent (born in 1826), I’ve gone with that as her year of birth, but who knows for sure. Not even her or her family, by the looks of it. And was her name Ellen or Helen? Hard to say. But at least I’ve figured out who her parents were, so I’m counting that as a win!

Chipping Away at a Brick Wall with DNA

I was going to call this post “Breaking down a brick wall with DNA”, but decided that would be false advertising. I’m hoping that eventually this will become a case study (to go along with my case study on Using mtDNA for Genealogy), but first I have to actually break down a brick wall. But I’m nothing if not optimistic, so consider this a case study in progress!

As do most of us, I have a number of brick walls. Over the past few years, I’ve intermittently worked at some them, with varying degrees of success. I’m hoping that DNA can help me break through at least a few. I did my first autosomnal DNA test at the beginning of 2015, with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Since then, I’ve also tested with AncestryDNA, have tested my mother on both FTDNA and Ancestry, and have tested a couple of other family members on Ancestry. I’ve uploaded our results to GEDMatch and MyHeritage.

To date, I’ve taken a somewhat scattershot approach to working with my DNA results. I get easily distracted and start down one path, only to then chase a new shiny down another.  I’ve made a decision. It’s time to…

FOCUS

I’ve decided to pick a brick wall and chip away at it systematically until it crumbles. I’m going to focus on John William Kirkland and Elizabeth Weeks (okay, that’s two brick walls, but they were a couple, so it makes sense to work on both of them). I wrote about Elizabeth Weeks in my first 52 Ancestors post. John W. Kirkland will likely be the focus of a future post. John and Elizabeth were the grandparents of my great-grandmother, Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland.

I’ve picked them for a few reasons:

  • I have a 2nd cousin (also a great-grandchild of Minnie Kirkland) and a 2nd cousin, once removed (a grandchild of Minnie’s brother, Lebert) who have tested on Ancestry. These matches help me identify shared matches that are Kirkland/Weeks descendants
  • I have a critical mass of matches on this line. To date, by using shared matches and building out some people’s trees, I have identified 12 family groups who descend from 4 of their 9 (or so) children.
  • I have a great collaborator on this research, a 4th cousin who is also a Kirkland/Weeks descendant – Andrew McKnight (who is also a very talented musician – check out his website!).
  • I have already done a lot of traditional genealogy research on this family, so I have a good starting base. Most of this has been documented on the WikiTree profiles of John William Kirkland and Elizabeth Weeks and their children.

Here’s what I know

The predominant theory about the Kirkland/Weeks family found around the internet seems to all come from an Encyclopedia Titanica profile of Charles Leonard Kirkland, who died on the Titanic. This article includes the following:

Charles Leonard Kirkland was born in March of 1841 in Miramichi, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, the fourth child of John V. Kirkland and Elizabeth Sarah Weeks. The Weeks family had emigrated to New Brunswick from England circa 1820 and John Kirkland, a silk merchant, had emigrated to New Brunswick from Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1830’s. Following their marriage, they moved frequently between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as John built up his importing business. Charles spent his early years in Miramichi where his older brothers, John (born in 1832), James (born in 1835) and William had also been born and raised.

The family relocated to Summerside, Prince Edward Island in 1845, where the first daughter of the family, Lavinia Rebecca, was born in 1849 and the youngest child, Emma Lydia, was born in 1855. 

Breaking this down:

John V. Kirkland…a silk merchant, had emigrated to New Brunswick from Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1830s. 

  • I believe John’s middle name was William
  • I’ve found no evidence that he was a silk merchant. Everything I have found points to him being a cabinet maker
  • I’ve found no evidence that he emigrated from Scotland in the 1830s. Every source I have found has him born in New Brunswick (maybe Boiestown?), probably around 1802 (though sources vary). Perhaps his father came from Glasgow?

Elizabeth Sarah Weeks. The Weeks family had emigrated to New Brunswick from England circa 1820…

  • I’ve found nothing that gives a middle name of Sarah
  • I’ve found no evidence that she emigrated from England around 1820. Anything I’ve found on her children that lists their mother’s place of birth has either New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or the United States. Not England.

Following their marriage, they moved frequently between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as John built up his importing business. Charles spent his early years in Miramichi where his older brothers, John (born in 1832), James (born in 1835) and William had also been born and raised.

  • They did move between NB and PEI, as they had children born in both provinces, though I don’t think it was to build up an importing business.
  • I’ve confirmed sons John (my 2g grandfather) and James, but I’ve found nothing on a William. My 2ggf’s name was John W. Kirkland – I’m assuming the W. is William, like his father. Was there a son William as well?

The family relocated to Summerside, Prince Edward Island in 1845, where the first daughter of the family, Lavinia Rebecca, was born in 1849 and the youngest child, Emma Lydia, was born in 1855. 

  • There was an older daughter, Rebecca Melvina, b. 1834 in New Brunswick. She married in 1854 and died in 1857.
  • Lavinia (seen in records as Leavinia) was probably born about 1844. There is a New Brunswick late registration of birth stating she was born in 1849, but considering she had her first child in 1860, 1844 is more likely. Her birth record was created in 1929, when she was about 85, so it’s not a surprise that the year is wrong.
  • Emma Lydia was indeed born in PEI, likely in 1855 (sources vary).

Most of the Encyclopedia Titanica article focuses on Charles’s life as an itinerant preacher in Maine. I’ve found lots of evidence that corroborates this part of the story (and it is a really interesting read!)

However, I’m still not sure about why he went to Glasgow (which ultimately lead to his booking passage on the Titanic to get home). The article states:

He left Tuxford in November of 1911 to sail to Glasgow, Scotland to settle the estate of his father’s two brothers, who were reputed to have owned a business in Glasgow which was to be inherited by the John V. Kirkland family in America. Charles was commissioned by the family to settle the estate in the interest of the entire family. 

The article includes a photo of a letter sent by Charles to his daughter from Glasgow, which includes the line “I have not yet found any of Uncle’s brothers and if I can’t find them I won’t be able to get the money”.

I’ve tried to use this information to make a connection to Kirklands in Glasgow, but so far, to no avail. There was a Kirkland who died in Glasgow in September 1911, but he was far too young to have been an Charles’s uncle. I’ll write more about this in a later post.

What I’ve done to date

  • Visual Phasing, so that I can identify which of my mother’s matches on GEDMatch come from her paternal side;
  • Started mapping my mother’s chromosomes using DNA Painter;
  • Created a spreadsheet of my mother’s paternal matches on AncestryDNA;
  • Clustered my mother’s paternal matches based on Shared Matches;
  • Contacted some of her matches to request that they upload to GEDMatch (though I’ve not yet followed up with those who have not responded);
  • Built out trees of some of her suspected Kirkland/Weeks matches;
  • Created a McGuire chart of the known Kirkland/Weeks descendants;
  • Started reviewing other match’s trees to look for common surnames/locations. So far, Woodworth and Blakely are names that keep popping up, but I’ve not yet determined if there’s a link.

Research Plan

Now that I’ve identified a number of matches who are descendants of John Kirkland and Elizabeth Weeks, other people who multiple known descendants, or who match on a DNA segment identified as having come from this couple, are either a) also Kirkland/Weeks descendants or b) descendants of an ancestor of either John Kirkland or Elizabeth Weeks. This latter group could help me break through the brick walls.

Here’s what I need to do now:

  • Contact all AncestryDNA matches that I’ve identified as being on my mother’s paternal side to request that they upload to GEDMatch (or MyHeritage or FTDNA or anywhere with a chromosome browser!);
  • Contact Kirkland/Weeks matches with no trees to see if they a) have a tree elsewhere or b) can provide me with sufficient information to build out a tree;
  • Explore tools to identify common surnames/locations in a more systematic way;
  • Go through MyHeritage and FTDNA matches to identify other Kirkland/Weeks matches;
  • Contact relevent GEDMatch matches to see if they have trees I can view.
  • Determine what target testing might be useful;
  • Look for any opportunities to add yDNA or mtDNA to the testing mix;
  • In addition to using DNA, I’ll continue with traditional genealogical research. Specifically, I’d like to try to track down the sources used in the Encylopdia Titanica article, to see if this might help reconcile the differences I’ve found.

I plan to blog about the various techniques I’ve already used and my future research, so if this interests you, stay tuned. I’ll use the category “Chipping Away at a Brick Wall” for anything related to this research.

If you’re a descendant of John William Kirkland and Elizabeth Weeks and you’ve done a DNA test (or plan to), please do let me know and I would be most appreciative if you would upload your results to GEDMatch (there are step by step instructions here). Even if you don’t match me or my mother, you may match some of the other known descendants. Even if you have not done a DNA test, I’d love to hear from you. You just may have the piece of the puzzle we need!

 

 

Genealogy Tools – Prince Edward Island

I thought I’d share some of the tools and sites I used to research Senator Samuel Prowse, the subject of my last 52 Ancestors post, along with other ancestors from PEI (including my next 52 Ancestors subject – stay tuned!). This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers some my more frequently used sources.

Newspapers

If your ancestors were politicians or anyone else who would be likely to be written about in the paper, newspapers are an invaluable source of information. Even if they weren’t, newspapers are often a source of birth, marriage and death announcements. And its a great way to better understand the world our ancestors lived in.

Many PEI newspapers from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s are available in a free, searchable, online database at Islandnewspapers.ca. Unfortunately, there are some dates/issues missing (like January 1902 when Samuel Prowse died – oh how I want to find his obituary!), but overall, it’s an incredibly valuable resource.

Census

The following censuses are available for PEI:

  • 1841 – Lists heads of household only. Includes occupation of head of household, sex and ages of household members, religion, land holdings, agricultural production, country of origin of household members. Can be searched on the PEI Provincial Archives and Record Office (PARO) site. None of my names were found on this search, but maybe you’ll be luckier than I was.
  • 1861 – Lists heads of household only. Includes occupation of head of household, sex and ages of household members, religion, land holdings, agricultural production, country of origin of household members. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images)
  • 1881- Lists all household members, sex, age, country or province of birth, religion, origin, occupation, marital status, infirmities. Note that it does not include relationship to head of household, so you might assume someone is the child of the head of household when they are actually not. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription) FamilySearch (free, no images)
  • 1891 – Lists all household members, sex, age, marital status, relationship to head of household, country or province of birth, place of birth of father, place of birth of mother, religion, occupation, employment status, able to read/write, infirmaries. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), Family Search (free, no images).
  • 1901 – Lists all household members, sex, colour, relationship to head of household, marital status, date of birth, age, country or place of birth, year of immigration to Canada, year of naturalization, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, employment status, education, language, infirmities. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images).
  • 1911 – Lists all household members, residence, sex, relationship to head of household, month and year of birth, age, country or place of birth, year of immigration, year of naturalization, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, employment information, insurance held, education and language, infirmities. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images).
  • 1921 – List of all household members, residence, type of home, relationship to head of household, sex, marital status, age, place of birth, father’s place of birth, mother’s place of birth, year of immigration, year of naturalization, nationality, racial or tribal origin, language, education, occupation, employment information. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription).

I especially love the parents’ place of birth on the 1891 and 1921 census, and the birth date on the 1901 census (but take that with a grain of salt, the year is frequently wrong!).

Here’s a hint for accessing Canadian census records if you don’t have an Ancestry subscription (or if you’re a non-Canadian who does not have a worldwide subscription) – All of the Canadian censuses are available on the Library and Archives Canada  (LAC) website. However, the search function on that site is less than ideal – you have to have the exact spelling (with or without wildcards) to get the entry. FamilySearch, on the other hand, has a better search function, but does not have the images of the census pages (unless you access them from a Family History Centre). So I like to use a combination of the two – I’ll first do a search on FamilySearch, see how the name was spelled (eg Prouse instead of Prowse), then use that spelling at LAC to find the census images. Works like a charm!

Birth, Marriage, Death records

Civil registration only began in PEI in 1906. Prior to that, BMD information can mostly be found via church records. There are some indices available on PARO and FamilySearch, but I’ve found it pretty hit and miss on whether someone’s included. As well, FamilySearch has images of church records that have not been indexed: Prince Edward Island Church Records, 1777-1985

Once you know the location and religion (which you can get from the census), I’ve had pretty good luck going through the church records page by page to find names of interest. Or when I do find them in the index, and it provides the church record number, I can then go look at the church records to find the actual entry.

The biggest drawback of PEI BMD records is that marriage records don’t include parent’s names and baptismal records rarely include the mother’s maiden name (at least not in the non-Catholic churches).

Master Name Index

The Master Name Index has been compiled from a variety of sources, such as cemetery transcripts, selected newspapers, funeral home registers, the 1880 Meacham’s Atlas and other sources. It’s available at the PEI Archives, but if, like me, you don’t get to PEI often, there are copies on microfilm available at other places. In Ottawa, there’s a copy in the Genealogy Room at Library and Archives Canada.

Family Histories and other goodies

Genealogies and family histories compiled by previous researchers are a great starting point for further research. I’m fortunate to have a copy of  “The Descendants of James Willis and Samuel M. Smith”, compiled by Vernon E. Hargraves, 1980.

As well, a great source for family histories (and many many other things) is Dave Hunter’s The Island Register.  You can also sign up for Dave’s weekly newsletter to be informed of new things added to the site.

Search Engines

And finally, don’t forget to use Google or your search engine of choice, especially if you’re dealing with a less common name and/or a prominent person. Here’s a list of things I found just by googling “Senator Samuel Prowse PEI”

And that’s just the first page!

What are your favourite PEI research tools or sites?

 

52 Ancestors #4: Samuel Prowse (1835-1902)

Senator Samuel Prowse croppedThis week’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge is “Invite to Dinner”. Well, who better to invite to dinner than my 2nd great grandfather, Samuel Prowse. Not only would he be likely to bring some delicious food, what with being an exporter of fish, lobster and agricultural produce from Prince Edward Island, I’m sure he could also be counted on for some scintillating political conversation. Samuel was in politics for over 30 years, including 13 years in the Canadian Senate (and unlike a more recent senator from Prince Edward Island, he actually lived there).

Samuel Prowse was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in August 1835. He was the 6th of William Prowse and Agnes Rider‘s 7 children. William and Agnes had emigrated from Devon, England in the mid-1820s, with their son Joseph in tow (their first son, Richard, having lived only a month). They had 5 more children after they settled in Charlottetown.

marriage - Samuel Prowse and Eliza Willis

Samuel married Eliza Elizabeth Willis on October 17, 1856. Eliza was born in Wiltshire, England in 1834 and had immigrated to Prince Edward Island with her family at the age of 8. Samuel and Eliza had two children in Charlottetown – Frederick in 1857 and Albert (my great-grandfather) in 1858. In 1859, the family moved to Murray Harbour, PEI, where Samuel went into business. Eliza died 3 weeks after giving birth to their first daughter, also named Eliza Elizabeth, in February 1860. Tragically, the baby only lived for a few months, and son Frederick died a couple of years later, at the age of 6.

Prowse family 001

A year after the Eliza’s death, Samuel married her older sister, Louisa Jane Willis. He had two more children with Louisa – William, b. 1862 and Samuel, b. 1869.

Marriage - Samuel Prowse & Louisa Willis

Samuel’s business, first Prowse and Son and later, when William joined the business, Prowse and Sons, flourished in Murray Harbour and became a major employer in the region. In addition to a operating General Store, Prowse & Sons exported dried fish, canned lobster and agricultural produce. The business included a starch factory that used local potatoes to produce starch, a lumberyard, and even a can factory, where employees made cans throughout the winter for use during the next canning season.

In addition to his successful commercial ventures, Samuel also had a long political career. He first entered politics in 1867, at the age of 32, when he was elected to the PEI Legislative Assembly. He was defeated in the 1873 election, but then was re-elected in 1876. He remained in the PEI legislature (except for a brief period in 1882 when he was defeated in the general election and then re-elected in a bye-election the same year) until Sept. 14, 1889, when he was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Sir John A. MacDonald. He remained in the Senate until his death in 1902.

Newspaper Samuel letter re tunnel - cropped.jpgDuring his time as a Senator, one of the causes that Samuel strongly supported was a tunnel linking PEI to mainland Canada (The Guardian, Charlottetown, March 12, 1891, Pg 2) – a vision that would only be realized a hundred years later, with the opening of the Confederation Bridge in 1997.

He also advocated on behalf of the Lobster Packers and Fishermen Association. At a meeting on December 31, 1890, Hon. Senator Prowse was thanked for his “services in the interest of the packers and lobster fishermen of this Province in presenting our case to the Department at Ottawa, working indefatigably to have the Government recognize the reasonable demands of the packers and fishermen.” (The Guardian, Charlottetown, December 31, 1890, Pg 2)

As a symbol of his success and status, Samuel Prowse had a substantial home built in Murray Harbour around 1875. The house remains a prominent landmark in the village of Murray Harbour, and has been identified as one of Canada’s Historic Places. This house was owned by three generations of Prowses -Samuel, his son Albert (my great grandfather), and his son Gerald (my great uncle) before being sold.

Photos from historicplaces.ca

Samuel died on January 14, 1902 and was buried in the Murray Harbour Old Cemetery.

Prowse - gravestone

Senator Samuel Prowse was the first ancestor that I got to know, and one of the easiest to research. It all started in the mid-late 1970s when my family was contacted by Vernon Hargrave, a distant cousin who was researching my 3rd great grandfather, James Willis (father of Samuel’s wives Eliza and Louisa). In 1980, we received  a 180-page, typewritten, photocopied, spiral-bound history of the Willis family that included lots of information on Samuel. Almost 30 years later, I came upon it again while going through a box of photos and documents at my mother’s, and it was a great starting point for researching Samuel (and the rest of the family). I’m amazed at how much information Vernon was able to gather in a pre-internet age.

The best thing about having a politician ancestor is that they’re easy to find. How I wish I could find this much information about some of the others!

 

Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Conclusion

 

This is the final post of this series. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

  • Part 1 – Introduction:  I introduced my 5th great grandmother, Charlotte Richardson and the two competing theories as to who her parents were.
  • Part 2 – Identifying possible matches: I outlined the process I followed to identify possible matches, in order to test the two theories.
  • Part 3 – Contacting and testing possible matches:  I contacted female-line descendants and found one from each line who agreed to take the mtDNA test.
  • Part 4 – Comparing results: I compared my test results to those of the two testers and found a match between me and the descendant of Barbara Richardson.
  • Part 5 – Conclusion: this post

tree question.jpg

Now that we know that Charlotte and Barbara were sisters, this opens up new avenues to pursue to determine who their parents were. So what are the possibilities?

Well, first up, there’s the story that Charlotte’s father was a British Army Officer whose regiment was stationed in Charlottetown, PEI. Well, it turns out that the earliest British Regiment on Prince Edward Island was established in 1783, 7 years after Charlotte’s birth and one year after Barbara’s. However, there was a militia called “Callbeck’s Provincial Company” from 1776 to 1783. So it could be that Charlotte’s father was a local resident who was part of the militia. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to locate a listing of militia officers to confirm this.

Early British records from Prince Edward Island show that there were three Richardsons on the Island in the late 1700s, all in Charlottetown – James, George and Alexander.

James George Alexander

Many people have Barbara Richardson’s parents as Alexander Richardson and Ann Whittingham. They were married in England in 1779 and arrived in Charlottetown in 1780, two years before Barbara’s birth in 1782. However, if Charlotte and Barbara were sisters, we can rule them out as their parents, since Charlotte was born in 1776 on PEI, a full four years before Alexander and Ann arrived.

So that leaves James or George. While we don’t yet have conclusive evidence, James seems to be the more likely candidate. For one thing, the earliest Island record for George Richardson is a land grant in 1779, whereas there are records for James as early as 1770, including a land grant in 1771.

 And there are a couple of other facts that, while circumstantial, are consistent with James and Hannah being the parents of Charlotte and Barbara:

  • Both Charlotte and Barbara had daughters named Hannah.
  • James Richardson died in 1782 or 1783. Hannah then married David Dobson.  David Dobson was the older brother of Richard Dobson. At the time of David and Hannah’s marriage, Richard was 15 and Charlotte was 8. It is not at all inconceivable that Richard and Charlotte met as youth, when Richard’s brother married Charlotte’s mother, and that they would marry 10 years later, when Charlotte was 18.

Tree

If indeed James and Hannah were Charlotte’s parents, we still don’t know where they were born or who their parents were. But we now have some avenues to explore that we didn’t have before. Could Hannah be from West Sussex, where my perfect match’s ancestor was born? It’s certainly a possibility. As for James, there’s evidence to suggest that James, George and Alexander Richardson were closely connected – maybe they were brothers? We’re still working on this.

Conclusion

In the first post of this series, I talked about DNA testing as fishing trips and hunting trips. mtDNA is not the ideal tool for a fishing trip. Even if you have perfect matches in the database, your common ancestor may well be too far back to be identified. But don’t discount mtDNA for genealogy! As I hope you’ve seen from this example, given the right conditions, mtDNA can be a very useful tool.

 

Summary

  1. You have to be dealing with an all-female line. If there are any men between you and the person you’re interested in, your mitochondrial DNA is not going to help you. You’ll need to find a female-line descendant of that ancestor to test.
  2. You have to have a theory to test. If all you know about your ancestor is her first name, mitochondrial DNA is not going to be very useful. You might get lucky and have a match that provides a clue, but it’s a longshot.
  3. You need to be able to find female line descendants to compare to.  Ideally, I’d love to test a descendant from Hannah’s second marriage to David Dobson in order to confirm that Hannah was Charlotte’s mother, but unfortunately, they are only known to have had sons. Without a daughter whose line I could follow, there’s nobody to compare to. That is, until we determine her last name – maybe we’ll get lucky and discover a sister with some living descendants.

Overall, I think it’s pretty exciting that we’ve been able to use DNA to discover information about people who lived over 200 years ago. And while we haven’t definitively answered the question of who Charlotte Richardson’s parents were, we’re a lot closer than we were, thanks to mitochondrial DNA.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this case study. I hope it was helpful!

If you would like to share this, I have created a blog page that provides links to all of the related posts. You can find that page here: https://leannecoopergenealogy.ca/using-mtdna-for-genealogy-a-case-study/

 

Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Comparing Results

Welcome to the fourth post of this series, where we get to the fun stuff – comparing results! In the first post, I introduced my 5th great grandmother, Charlotte Richardson and the two competing theories as to who her parents were.  In the second post, I outlined the process I followed to identify possible matches, in order to test the two theories. In the third post, I contacted female-line descendants and found one from each line who agreed to take the mtDNA test.

My results

To determine Charlotte Richardson’s haplogroup, along with the haplogroup of all of her children and her daughters’ children, and so on down the line, I tested myself. My mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup (which is also Charlotte’s) is…

My haplogroup

T2b. As well, I’m missing a mutation in the HVR2 region, which is the part tested with the mtDNA Plus test, and I have an extra mutation in the Coding Region, which is the part tested in the Full Sequence test. Note that I have a few other extra mutations, but when I did the Haplogroup Analysis at this site, it indicated that those mutations are on markers that occur too frequently or change too frequently to be relevant for determining ancestry, so they can safely be ignored.

T2 is a European Haplogroup – which was no surprise to me. While not as prominent as Haplogroup H, which is found in about 44% of the British population, it’s not a rare one either. About 6% of the population of England is Haplogroup T2.  It’s more predominant in the east of England. You can find more information on Haplogroup T2, along with a nice distribution map, at this site.

Theory 1: Mary Flintoff (possible mother) – Results

For Theory 1, I wasn’t able to get a descendant of Mary Flintoff to test, but a descendant of her sister Jane did agree. Pam’s results came back as…

Pam's haplogroup

U5.  No match.

So unless there’s a misattributed parentage somewhere, most of the people who have parents for Charlotte on Ancestry have it wrong. And since I’m also a descendant of Mary Flintoff’s son Joseph Richardson, it also means that I had two ancestors with the same last name, who lived in the same area, born 3 years apart, who were not siblings, and likely not related at all!

Theory 2: Barbara Richardson (possible sister) – Results

So what about Theory 2? My tester for Theory 2 was Don, a descendant of Barbara Richardson. Don’s initial results came back as….

Don's basic haplogroup

T2! As well, he was missing the same mutation I was, so that was a promising sign. But since the Coding Region is only tested with the Full Sequence test, the results were not yet conclusive. As I mentioned earlier, 6 percent of the British population are T2. And it’s even higher in other parts of Europe, so we could be the same haplogroup without having a recent common ancestor.

I ordered the upgrade, and waited again. Fortunately, those results didn’t take long to process. A couple of weeks later, I got notification that his full sequence results were in.

Don's full haplogroup

Well would you look at that! Don is also T2b. He also has the same extra mutation that I have. Plus, he has another one. What does that mean? Are we a match, or not?

To put these results in context, let’s look at all of my matches

My Matches

As of today, I have 539 matches. Of those, 191 are at a genetic distance of 2 (meaning that we have two differences) and 340 are a genetic distance of 3 (meaning we have 3 differences). I have a common ancestor with all these people, but it could be REALLY far back.

mtDNA matches

I have only one perfect match (genetic distance of 0) – a woman named Alana from New Zealand. We are both T2b, plus we’re missing the same mutation (C195T) and we have the same extra mutation (A7374G). Her most distant known ancestor on her maternal line was born in 1796 (20 years after Charlotte) in West Sussex, England.

I also have seven matches with a genetic distance of 1, some of whom I’ve been in contact with. Six of the seven are all GD0 to each other. They are all missing the C195T mutation, but none of them have the A7374G mutation that Alana and I have.  So again, we definitely have a common ancestor, but it’s hard to say how far back. That all depends on how long ago our 7374 changed from an A to a G.

And then there’s Don. He’s also a genetic distance of 1 to me, but for a different reason than the the other six people at GD1. Don is genetic distance 1 to me because he has an extra mutation that I don’t have.

Do you notice anything odd about Don’s extra mutation? It ends with a “D”. One of the first things I learned about DNA is that it can be one of 4 letters – A, T, C, or G. So what does “D” mean, you may ask? I know I sure did! That’s what’s called a “heteroplasmy”

[Note: See Debbie Kennett’s comment – Don’s extra mutation is a deletion, not a heteroplasmy. I’ll update soon with the correct information]

Heteroplasmy

When they test your sample, they test many different cells. Usually, each of the cells has the same result for the same gene. But sometimes, it does not.

According to the chart on the Family Tree DNA Learning Centre, D means samples of that gene showed up as A in some cells, G in others and T in others.

Heteroplasmy

For my purposes, the most interesting bit about Don’s mutation being a heteroplasmy is that a heteroplasmy is usually a recent mutation – within the past 3 to 5 generations. Since our common ancestor would be 6 generations back for Don, it is most likely that his mutation occurred more recently than that, and our suspected common ancestor is indeed our common ancestor.

Possible outcomes revisited

In the first post in this series, I identified four possible outcomes:

Possible outcomes - detailed

A match between Don and I indicates that Charlotte Richardson and Barbara Richardson were sisters (or another maternal relationship, but given they have the same last name, sisters is the most likely relationship). And unless their parents were on Prince Edward Island, left and then returned, which is unlikely, we’re looking for parents who were on PEI, probably in Charlottetown, for at least a 6 years span – 1776 to 1782.

The question I most wanted to answer – who were Charlotte Richardson’s parents – remains unanswered. But knowing that Charlotte and Barbara were sisters gives us some very important clues.

In the fifth and final post of this series, I will discuss what this discovery has meant for the search for Charlotte’s parents, and give some final thoughts on the use of mtDNA for genealogy.

 

Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Contacting & testing possible matches

This is the third post of the series. In the first post, I introduced my 5th great grandmother, Charlotte Richardson and the two competing theories as to who her parents were.  In the second post, I outlined the process I followed to identify possible matches, in order to test the two theories.

Testers

Now came the hard part – contacting people and getting them to agree to test. I tackled this in multiple ways, with help from Arthur Owen, another descendant of Charlotte Richardson and the person who first got me interested in genetic genealogy.

Get the word out

The first thing we did was to try to get the word out. Even before I had completed Step 1, Arthur spread the word through mailing lists, research groups and forums. I put a note on the WikiTree profiles of Charlotte Richardson, Mary Flintoff, Jane Flintoff and Barbara Richardson, stating that I was looking for female-line descendants to test. We had a few bites, but they were all from people who were descendants but not along an all-female line.  Some of them offered to pass the information along to people who would be candidates, but nothing materialized. I’d still recommend doing this though, as you never know who you might reach this way.

Cousin bait

Another way of reaching people was through cousin bait. I mentioned in the last post that one of the reasons I used WikiTree to document my research is because it’s excellent cousin bait. Sure enough, just a few days after I created the profile of one of Barbara Richardson’s descendants, I was contacted by a woman named Dana. She had been doing genealogy research and had googled her great-grandmother’s name and came upon the profile I had created. Dana contacted me to see if I could answer a question she had. While I couldn’t, I did take the opportunity to tell her why I had created the profile in the first place. While she was not a suitable candidate for my research, as it was her father’s grandmother, he was a direct female-line descendant of Barbara Richardson. Dana put me in touch with her father, Don, who kindly agreed to do the DNA test. Yay! I had my first tester!

Direct contact

The third way I reached people was through direct contact. For this, I used Ancestry. I figured I’d have better luck finding someone to test by reaching people who at least had an interest in genealogy than by emailing people whose names I had read in an obituary, though I was prepared to go there if I had to.

Once I identified some potential matches, I did a search in the Public Member Trees of Ancestry for the most recently deceased person in that line. I looked for people who had a lot of detail. I figured if someone didn’t know the name of a person’s spouse or where they were born, they were probably a more distant cousin and not a direct descendant. For those that did, I looked at the tree, to see if the member was indeed directly descended from the person I searched.

To each of these potential matches, I wrote a short, carefully crafted message, explaining who I was, what I was trying to accomplish and how they were connected. I offered to pay for the test and to provide any additional information they requested.

Most of people that I contacted never responded. But a full two months after I sent one query, I got a positive response, and I was in business! I now had two testers – one representing each theory.

Tester names

mtDNA Tests

There are two mtDNA tests available at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), called mtDNA Plus and mtFull Sequence. Note that these are the prices at the time I’m writing this post (January 2018) – they do change periodically. And there’s usually a sale around Mother’s Day, so if you’re not in a rush to test, it might be worth waiting for a sale.

 

mtDNA tests
familytreedna.com/products/mt-dna

Prior to testing Pam and Don, I had already taken the mtDNA Full Sequence test and knew my haplogroup to be T2b, with some extra mutations (more on this in the next post). For comparison purposes, I started with the cheaper mtDNA Plus test for Pam and Don. This would be sufficient to rule out a match if, for example, their haplogroup was anything other than T. And if I had a match at that level, I could always upgrade to the full sequence test to confirm it.

Tests were ordered, cheeks were swabbed and finally, after months of research and reaching out to numerous people, all I had to do was wait for results. And as you’ll see in the next post, it was worth the wait.