Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Coffin Stainer or Stainer Coffin?

Jane Hemblen, half-sister of my great great grandmother, Elizabeth Hemblen, married William Stainer Coffin, on 7 June 1867 at Bath, Somerset.  William's father is named as Thomas Coffin, a baker.  Their relationship produced 7 children, whose births were registered in Bath registration district as follows -
1862 William Stainer Coffin Hemblen
1864 Thomas Stainer Coffin Hemblen (died 1865)
1866 Thomas Stainer
1869 Elizabeth Stainer Coffin (died 1870)
1871 Elizabeth Coffin
1873 Emily Coffin
1875 Samuel Stainer Coffin
1877 Charles Stainer Coffin

I have not found William Stainer / William Coffin in the 1841 or 1851 census of England and Wales, but in the 1861 census he is listed as William Stainer, a knife grinder, born at Wimborne, Dorset; and Jane Hemblen is listed as his servant.  In the 1871 and later censuses he is listed as William C. Stainer or William Coffin Stainer.  His death is registered under the surname Stainer and also under the hyphenated surname Coffin-Stainer.  When his wife Jane, died in 1892, her death registration identified her as Jane Coffin Stainer.

When their children married and had children of their own, the events were registered under the surname Stainer, but Coffin was often used as a second given name, resulting in many "Coffin Stainer" registrations.

In researching the extended family, I found several related family trees on the websites.  Many of these trees did not identify the parents of William Stainer Coffin, while others suggested that he was descended from a line of Stainers, not Coffins.

I believe it more likely that William Stainer Coffin was a son of Thomas Coffin and Ann Beale Stainer, who married in Wimborne, Dorset in 1819.  Thomas Coffin is listed in the 1841 census of Wimborne, as a 40 year old baker with 4 children, and appears to be a widower, as no wife is listed.  Thomas Coffin's listed occupation of baker, matches the information from William's marriage certificate.  Two of Thomas Coffin's children listed in the 1841 census are Samuel and Emily, names also given to two of the children of William and Jane Coffin / Stainer.

Why William Stainer Coffin changed his surname we will likely never know, but my guess is that it relates to William's life prior to meeting Jane Hemblen.  In the 1861 census Jane is listed as his servant, but there is also a 6 month old daughter, Mary Stainer, living with them.  It is unclear from the census entry whether Mary is Jane's daughter, or William's daughter from a previous relationship. William and Jane had 3 additional children together before they married in 1867, so perhaps William was still married, and not a widower as suggested by the 1861 census record?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The New 23andMe

Finally, after 18 months of waiting, my account was transitioned to the "new 23andMe" experience last week.  I had read a lot of negative comments about the new experience, so I was somewhat apprehensive about the transition.

The new experience certainly presents the information in a different way, and I wouldn't give the site any prizes for being user-friendly, but overall, I find the new experience is more useful to a genealogist than the old site was.

The new experience splits information into 4 broad categories, two of which are health related (Traits and Wellness) and two of which are ancestry related (Ancestry and DNA Relatives)

The New 23andMe Home Screen
The health-related reports are of some interest, but it's the ancestral stuff that is important to me, and this can be accessed by clicking on Ancestry Reports.  From here you can looking at your paternal and maternal haplogroup (to gain some insight into your ancient origins), see how much Neanderthal DNA you have, look at your genetic composition by region (I am 99.9% European, which is not unexpected), and view your DNA family.  These are all screens that you will likely ignore after your initial curiosity, if you want to use the site to find relatives with whom you share significant DNA.

Ancestry Reports Screen
The easiest way to access your DNA matches (those people with whom you share DNA), is by clicking on Tools on the top horizontal menu and then selecting DNA Relatives.

Tools Menu

The DNA Relatives screen is similar to the DNA Relatives screen on the old site, but with less visible information - you see only the name, predicted relationship, and amount of shared DNA.  Additional information can be viewed by clicking on an individual's name.  Two enhancements are the ability to mark matches as favourites (I use this to mark people with whom I have determined how we are related), and the use of coloured dots to indicate the sharing status of the individual (sharing, request pending, etc.).

When you click on an individual match, you see much more detail about the person (haplogroups, matching segments, ancestral surnames, geographic origins, and relatives in common).  It is this last feature that is most useful in determining which ancestral line someone may be connected through.

Some positive changes with the new experience -
  • You can now contact anonymous users (a feature that was removed 18 months ago, when this transition began).
  • The Relatives in Common feature is great for isolating which ancestral line someone may be connected through.
  • Open Sharing - If you opt in to Open Sharing, all matches can see your Ancestral Composition and your matching DNA segments, without having to send you a sharing request and waiting for you to accept it.
  • Favourites - Allows you to mark individual DNA matches with a star.  I use this to identify those with whom I have established how we are related.
  • Sharing Status - The use of coloured dots on the DNA Relatives screen to show the sharing status of your matches is very useful, but the colours are not different enough to work well for colour blind people like myself.  The use of different shaped indicators (e.g. circle, square, triangle, and diamond) in addition to the colour, would be an even bigger improvement.
My only real dislike of the new experience is the lack of user-friendliness when using DNA Relatives and Share and Compare.  But each time I use the new site, I get more comfortable with it.

Overall, the new 23andMe is my second favourite DNA testing site, but FamilyTreeDNA remains my first choice.