Sunday, 14 January 2018

Beware of "fake news" re Best Autosomal DNA Test

When I Googled “best autosomal DNA test” recently, I was disturbed by the heavy bias in some of the leading search results.  Many of the reviewers receive a fee when you purchase a particular test through their website, while others seem to place higher importance on features that are probably not very important to the serious family historian (e.g. how long it took to receive the kit). 

The most obvious bogus evaluation was Top 10 Best DNA Testing Sites.  This site rates My Heritage as the number one choice for an autosomal DNA test, with an overall ranking of 9.8 out of 10.  How can this be when My Heritage has the smallest database of test subjects, no analysis tools and requires a paid monthly subscription to get full value out of your DNA test.

No one test is best for everyone, as we all have different preferences, objectives and reasons for taking a DNA test, so any evaluation needs to take your individual needs into consideration.  In an attempt to provide a less-biased evaluation, I have created a DNA test evaluator, where you define the importance of each feature.

If you do not have a good understanding of DNA test features and the use of DNA in family history, you may want to read Roberta Estes’ analysis of the big 3 DNA test offerings, before using the DNA test evaluator.  Roberta is a scientist, but does receive a fee if you order a Family Tree DNA test through her website.

Note – This DNA test evaluator was created using Microsoft Excel, so you will need an app / program on your computer capable of reading .xlsx files, in order to use the evaluator.

The evaluator is simple to use – provide yes / no answers to 6 questions, and identify the importance to you of each of 21 features by assigning each with a number from 0 to 10.  The evaluator will identify the relative rating of each testing company, based on your identified preferences.

Click here to go to my website and access the evaluator.

If you have any comments regarding this tool (good or bad), please email them to me, and I will attempt to improve it.

Disclaimer – I have taken autosomal DNA tests with 23andMe & Ancestry, and have transferred one of these results to Family Tree DNA and My Heritage.  I do not have a paid subscription to Ancestry or My Heritage, and am not affiliated with any of these testing companies in any other way.  I am an amateur family historian with no formal education in genetics.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Some Amazing Family Records

I hope that you enjoy the article below, which I found on the New Zealand "Papers Past" website, and just had to share.  Happy New Year!

Tracing the family history of the people mentioned in the article would no doubt have been challenging & exhausting, and I wonder whether all of the "facts" mentioned would have stood up to today's autosomal DNA testing.

From the Woodville Examiner, Volume XXXVII, Issue 5621, 2 July 1920, Page 3 (Supplement):


Whatever may be the greatest age at which a woman has become a mother, there is no lack of evidence that a man need not despair of graduating as a father even after he has entered the last lap of a century of years. Such a robust veteran was Sir William Nicholson, of Glenbervy, of whom we read in the “Edinburgh Courant” of May 3rd, 1766, “On Wednesday last the lady of Sir William Nicholson was safely delivered of a daughter. What is very singular, Sir William is at present ninety-two years of age, and has a daughter alive of his first marriage, aged sixty-six. He married his present lady when he was eighty-two, by whom he has now had six children. Nor was this grand old Scotsman by any means the only man who has dandled his child on his knees in his tenth decade. Sir Stephen Fox, grandfather of the famous Georgian statesman and gambler, Charles James Fox, was born in 1627, married his first wife twenty-seven years later, and at twenty-eight was father of a daughter who died in infancy. Marrying again in his old age, his last child, a daughter, was cradled in 1727, when her father was within a few months of his 100th birthday. This child survived to the year 1828, and was able to say in her last year, “I had a sister who died 173 years ago.”

A more remarkable story still is told of Thomas Beatty, of Drumcondra, near Dublin, whose 102nd birthday was celebrated by the arrival of his youngest born, while his eldest surviving son had been cradled seventy-three years earlier. And when William Priest, of Ripon, died in April, 1789, at the age of 108, he was followed to his grave by his youngest boy, aged sixteen, who had made his belated appearance when his father had seen his 92nd birthday, and his eldest brother would never see 72 again.


Nor among these ancient stalwarts must we forget the patriarchal Thomas Parr, who at 80 is said to have made his first trip to the altar—with Jane Taylor, by whom, we are told, he had two children. A quarter of a century later, when Parr had reached what should have been the discreet ago of a hundred and five, he was condemned to do penance in a white sheet in Alderbury Church for a love intrigue with one Catherine Milton; and in 1605 when he had passed his 122nd birthday, he had the courage to take to himself a second wife. But, although it is naturally given to few men to qualify as parents at such advanced ages, there have been many family records almost more astonishing. In the Harleian Manuscripts you may see the story, which is almost as incredible as it is well authenticated, of a Scottish weaver, who was father of no fewer than sixty-two children, by one wife all of whom came into the world alive, and of whom forty-six lived to reach maturity. This remarkable record was vouched for by John Delaval, Esquire, of Northumberland, who, in 1630, visited the parents of this prodigious family and thoroughly examined and certified the records of births and deaths.


From a history of Cumberland we learn that, at Kirton-le-moor, in 1797, “a man and his wife, accompanied by their thirty children, might have been seen proceeding to church to the christening of the thirty-first”; while a petition presented to the Duke of Norfolk, as Earl Marshal, in the year 1698, by one Thomas Greenhill, surgeon, shows, "That, in consideration of your petitioner being the seventh son and thirty-ninth child of one father and mother, your Grace would be pleased to signalise it by some particular motto or augmentation to his coat-of-arms, to transmit to posterity so uncommon a thing.”

"The Gentleman's Magazine” records, in 1743, the death at the age of 106, of Mrs Agnes Melbourne, "who was the mother of thirty children”; and James Huish, a grocer of Soper Lane, who was buried in St. Pancras’ Paris Church, is said to have left twenty-nine children to mourn his loss. The second Viscount St. Vincent was the twenty-third of a family of twenty-seven; Alderman Ralph Woodcock, who died in 1586, was father of twenty-four children by four wives; and Sir Henry Colet, twice Lord mayor of London, had eleven boys and as many girls to call him father though only one of the twenty-two—John Colet, the famous Dean of St. Paul’s —survived to wear mourning for him.

But there is no need to go back to these olden days for such examples of well-filled quivers. Canada can point with pride to Levi Braskaw who, while still in the sixties, could count his offspring to forty- one, all with one exception, very much alive. His first wife was responsible for six of them; his second added a round two dozen more; and his third spouse completed the list with a contribution of eleven. At 69 Mr Braskaw had 20 married sons and daughters, and his living descendants numbered just under two hundred.


In recent years, too, we have heard of Anthony Clark, a book-canvasser, who acknowledged in the Clerkenwell County Court the paternity of thirty-two children; of Mrs Mary Jonas, of Chester, who increased the census of England by thirty-three; and of a Mrs Emma Hare who confided to a neighbour that, so far she had nursed her twenty-seventh child. In one day, not long ago, three parents called upon the Registrar of Births for Whittlesey, Isle of Ely, to register the births —one, of his twenty-first child; the second, of his nineteenth; and the third, of number seventeen - the three families thus aggregating fifty-seven children. And even this joint record is eclipsed by three sisters in Kingston, Jamaica, who count sixty children among them, the numbers being respectively, nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one.

Still more astonishing is the rapidity with which in some cases nurseries have been replenished. Thus we learn from a French scientific work that the wife of a Paris baker presented her husband with twenty-one children, in batches of three at a birth and in the short space of seven years. From Antwerp a few years ago, came the story of a woman who had actually given birth to six sons in one year—the first set of triplets, in January; and the second, in the following December. And in a divorce case in Chicago it came out in evidence that the plaintiff, Mrs Josephine Ormsby, though she had only been married seven years, had in that time been the mother of one set of triplets, two pairs of twins, three single children; and one set of quadruplets—an average of two children a year.

But it is not necessary for a family to grow at such an alarming rate in order to reach large proportions even during the lifetime of its founder. Thus we read of a Mrs Honeywood, of Charing, in Kent, who died three centuries ago at the age of 93, that she had 16 children, 114 grandchildren, 288 great-grand-children, and 9 great-great-grand-children —a family of 367, all of whom she lived to see. Even this record was thrown completely into eclipse by Lady Temple, of Stow, who is said to have survived to see no fewer than seven hundred descendants.


Not long ago we read of the death of Mrs Ursula Lightfoot, of Ayton, in Yorkshire, who, when she died in her ninety-fourth year, left 9 children, 79 grandchildren, 73 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren to wear mourning for her. In Southern Georgia Mrs Shiver spent her last years in visiting, one after another, the homes of her descendants, who numbered 310 in four generations: and Mrs Sarah Ann Woolf, of Utah, when she died at the age of ninety-one, left 303 living descendants, including 189 great-grandchildren, and 23 great-great-grandchildren.

But all these records have been thrown into the shade by six brothers and sisters, children of a settler (named Webb) in the Cumberland district of Kentucky, who, among them, have lived to see 1651 of their progeny. The palm of fecundity goes to the eldest brother, Jason, with a record of 444 descendants; Miles takes second place, with 402; then follow three sisters, with contributions of 230, 208, and 201 respectively; and the roll ends with the youngest brother, whose total is a modest 166. It is by no means an uncommon thing for five generations of the same family to be living at the same time. Before the writer is a photograph of a Mrs Rosier, a lady of 93, taken in company with her daughter, grand-daughter, great-granddaughter, and great-great-grandson, Stuart Leo Bruce, an infant of three weeks who was christened at Cheveley not long ago. And by the birth of a daughter to Mr and Mrs Llewellyn V. Adams, a fifth generation was added to a Reading family, of which the child’s great-great-grandparents, Mr and Mrs Betteridge, were the senior members. But these records were surpassed by a case recorded by the author of “The Natural History of Staffordshire.” who tells us of “Old Mary Cooper, of King’s Bromley in this county, not long since dead, who lived to be a beldame, that is, to see the sixth generation; and even to say, the same I have heard repeated of another, viz:—‘Rise up, daughter. and go to thy daughter, for thy daughter’s daughter had a daughter.’ ”

Of a Lady Child, of Shropshire, who was a mother at thirteen and a grandmother at twenty-seven, it is said, ‘‘at the same rate she might easily have been a beldame at sixty-six, and had she reached 120, as has been done by others, it was possible that nine generations might have existed together.”