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Messages - phil57

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Another way forward Hugh.

If you have around 25 matches that you can place in your tree, look at the shared matches of those matches. You can start grouping the shared matches to a particular family line as you know they are a match between you and your known match. Using the colour coding on Ancestry helps with that. If you have more than one known match to a particular line, say your paternal grandmother's family, you should notice some shared matches cropping up between you and all or more than one known match on that line. Look at the the shared matches of those shared matches and do the same. You should be able to attribute quite a lot of your higher matches to specific family lines.

It doesn't tell you who they are, but it is a start. From there, if you don't immediately recognise any of them from your own tree, it is a matter of picking the highest matches first (as they should be the easiest to resolve) and investigating them.

I don't contact many of my Ancestry matches as a matter of course, only if I think we might be able to help each other. Often, I can work them out through detective work. If they have a public tree and it is obvious they are in England or Wales you can start researching their own tree using the GRO index, FreeBMD and related Ancestry and other searches. You can often obtain mother's maiden names from birth records on the GRO index, but I fand the advanced search on FindMyPast much easier to work with in that regard, and it often has mother's maiden names which don't appear in the GRO index.

That information allows you to search for the marriage of the parents, as you have the mother and father's surnames. You can also search (again easiest on the FindMyPast advanced searches) for their other children, by father's surname and maiden name of the mother. I initially run those searches 9 years after the marriage, with a plus or minus 10 year window. That catches any child that might have been born just before a marriage, and those born up to 19 years later. You are effectively attempting to recreate their tree in the same way that you researched your own, all the while looking for possible avenues where your trees might converge and exploring them as fully as possible.

If your own tree is wide and deep, with brothers and sisters of each of your ancestors, their marriages and their children, the children's marriages and their own children etc., brought forward to the present as far as possible, it shouldn't be too difficult to discover the connection to many of your closest matches.

Yes, it can be hard and time consuming work, but DNA doesn't hand anything to you on a plate. It tells you that you have a relationship within a likely timeframe, and you have to do the research to discover the connection.

Also, the wider and deeper your tree, the more Thrulines hints you should find. Of course, they aren't necessarily correct as they rely on other user's trees to suggest connections, but they are another aid to your research. The more matches you can identify, the more you will find start to fit into place, and the more shared matches you should be able to allocate to specific ancestral lines.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating identifying the exact connection between you and every single match. I only tend to investigate the closer matches (by highest cM) and others that I think will help confirm or disprove my other research. But by doing that and as a result being able to allocate more shared matches to specific lines, you will discover the matches that you can't allocate, which can direct your further research into those areas.

I have tens of matches that I have been able to attribute to my maternal grandmother's line and beyond through sorting shared matches of matches for instance. I don't intend investigating the majority of them, as I don't "need" them to corroborate my research. I already have several confirmed matches on that line to evidence that. But by being able to allocate them I can remove them from the equation and identify other matches that I need to sort. And I can always come back to them if I discover a need to look further on that line.

Also, when looking at shared cM as a guide to which matches to prioritise, don't just go by the total cM. Prioritise those matches with larger segment lengths and fewer segments. A match of 60 cM over a single segment is likely to be easier to resolve than one of 60 cM over several smaller segments for instance.

Ancestral Family Tree DNA Testing / Re: Very odd Common Ancestor / Thrulines match
« on: Monday 30 January 23 09:37 GMT (UK)  »
Sounds like more time can be spent sorting out other people’s wrong trees than doing one’s own research.  :)

It's not so much sorting out other people's trees, I don't care if they perhaps have wrong information and I'm certainly not going to attempt to correct them. But when researching my own tree and finding assertions of a fact or facts that I haven't personally found, in numerous other trees, it compels me to trawl through them all attempting to find the source of that information. Invariable they are all unsourced and it becomes apparent that they are all copies of each other, but it doesn't explain where the information has come from.

Sometimes it becomes clear when I discover matching information, but realise that it can't apply to the person alleged. Often, it just hangs around with no source to be found, and I spend an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to research something that I know could well be wrong, but which I am compelled to look into, in case I genuinely have missed something ???

Ancestral Family Tree DNA Testing / Re: Ethnicity - how far back does it go
« on: Sunday 29 January 23 11:24 GMT (UK)  »
You are confusing two different DNA scenarios. Matching with descendants of common ancestors is accurate and indisputable above match lengths of about 16-20 cM. With match lengths less than that, the chances that the purported match is false increase significantly the lower the match length, so that at 6 cM (which is the lowest match length that most DNA testing companies will report) there may be around a 50% likelihood that the proposed match isn't a genuine match at all.

The reasons for that are complex and varied, but because match lengths to ancestors decrease with successive generations, and therefore the generational distance between current relatives, it is generally accepted that a genuine match can only be determined over 5 to 8 generations at an absolute maximum.

But ethnicity estimates are a different (pseudo) science. They do not attempt to match you with relatives who have descended from a common ancestor within the last 5 - 8 generations. Instead, the theory is that segments of your DNA are compared to segments which the testing companies believe may be commonly found in groups of people (whether more recently related or not) who originated from particular regions within the last several hundred to a few thousand years ago.

As previous replies have said, the definitions of particular regions differ between different testing companies. The reference populations that are used to determine those regions are incredibly small in comparison to the actual populations of those regions - often only a few hundred people and in some cases fewer than ten. Ethnicity estimations to continental level are considered to be more reliable than those to individual country level or even regions within countries, and again, lower percentages allocated to particular regions are likely to be more suspect, so a supposition that you have 45% English ethnicity is quite likely to have some bearing of truth, whereas an indication that you inherited 2% Swedish ethnicity may well be totally incorrect.

So the assertion by one testing company that my ethnicity (as determined from my transferred to them Ancestry DNA test) is 98% European is, I think, quite likely to be reasonably accurate, but is it at all useful? Most people could probably give me an estimate with a similar degree of accuracy just by looking at me ;)

Whether you choose to believe and place any reliance on your ethnicity estimates is your choice. There may be a degree of expectation bias involved in people who claim that they are accurate. Personally, as already said, I choose to treat them as an informative but not necessarily accurate ploy to sell DNA tests to people who would otherwise have no interest in testing and the hard work involved in researching and identifying relatives descended from common ancestors.

I prefer to concentrate on using DNA matches with other people to further (and confirm or disprove) my research into my own ancestral lineage.

The Common Room / Re: Ancestry discount
« on: Saturday 28 January 23 18:20 GMT (UK)  »
... er, could you do a masterclass in how to get ANY discount? I've paid a full membership for well over a decade, and never managed to organise any discounts!

Turn off auto renewal. Phone them, either on the same day that your membership expires or within a short time thereafter. Ask if there is anything they can do for you. Be polite, and try and build a rapport with the agent. It helps to flirt (in the conversational sense, rather then the amorous sense).

If you don't get an offer you like, say you can't afford it, or you want to think about it and ask if you can phone back.

If all else fails, you can politely say no, and try again a day or two later. You may well speak to a different agent who is more obliging.

To some extent, it is a game, and both sides know it. But you can only play if you ask!

Family History Beginners Board / Re: Master Mariners in South Shields
« on: Tuesday 24 January 23 10:40 GMT (UK)  »
I have recently been researching a similar situation re one of my ancestors, also a mariner, but in Kent. This text, from a document published by the Kent Archaeological Field School, helps explain the number of mariners in 18th century England. Although the document itself is primarily about the development of Faversham, this paragraph refers to the use of waterways and coastal traffic around England due to the general lack of passable roads for freight traffic. I assume that, besides the fishing trade, many mariners would have been engaged in general goods transport akin to the jobs of train and lorry drivers today. So it was likely to have been a fairly common job amongst people living near the coast and waterway networks.

“Throughout the 18th century the principle highway of England was the sea. Before canals or railways, and while roads remained impassable, coastal shipping remained the cheapest, safest and speediest means of conveying freight. Hence ports were vital, not just for trade, but also as nurseries of the Royal Navy, the fisheries, and the whaling fleets. All of the front-rank towns of the kingdom were either ports or had easy river access to the sea (Selley 1962: 199). Besides the ships of the Royal Navy and merchantmen trading overseas, there were large numbers of small craft trafficking in the waters about Britain. “There are supposed to be about eighteen hundred ships and vessels in the coal trade and about nine hundred more in what they call the Northern trade”, wrote a naval officer in 1774 (Ashton, 1924: 200). North Kent was endowed with one passable road (Watling Street) and numerous waterways. It possessed an extensive coastline along the Thames south shore and to the east, a navigable river from Sandwich to Fordwich (and thence to Canterbury), and to the west the Medway River from Rochester to Maidstone. Fortuitously “the water transport was available where it was most needed” (Thirsk 1967: 199). Contemporaries were aware of this favourable circumstance, and noted particularly “the benefits of water carriage (from Kent) to and from the Metropolitical City, or Chief Mart” (Harris, 1719: 357). Throughout the year coastal hoys operated a weekly schedule from these North Kent ports.”

The Common Room / Re: National Archives - Ordering documents
« on: Saturday 21 January 23 12:24 GMT (UK)  »
Thanks Phil. I had not thought of excluding blank pages.

The reference to blank pages was in the response to my request from TNA. I would imagine they say that as a matter of course, and you could of course reply to say that you also wanted copies of the blank pages at additional cost if required.

My original request was the paragraph titled "Instructions", preceded by the catalogue reference and title of the piece.

The Common Room / Re: National Archives - Ordering documents
« on: Saturday 21 January 23 09:27 GMT (UK)  »
I quote the catalogue reference for the collection (and document if known) as shown in the Discovery catalogue, plus the short title and description, followed by a short summary of exactly what I am looking for and who/what it relates to. I've always tried to keep it as short as possible, as I can't see the staff wanting to made through paragraphs of text, but at the same time you need to ensure that all the information you think they will need to find and confirm the item you are interested in has been explained to them.

The attached image shows the description I gave for one of my more recent orders, with the TNA response above.

I'm not aware that you can order low resolution copies. The fees document showing copying costs refers in every instance to research quality copies. All my orders have been digital images of documents, not paper copies, but the quality of reproduction has been excellent, even for large documents.

The Common Room / Re: Ancestry tree
« on: Friday 20 January 23 13:15 GMT (UK)  »
Any tree you create, no matter how long ago, will remain on Ancestry regardless as to whether you currently subscribe.

Unless you delete it, which can be done through Tree Settings. I only upload a tree to Ancestry to take advantage of hints and Thrulines, so every few weeks or months depending how quickly my tree expands, I upload a new Gedcom and delete the old tree. I would have had tens of trees on Ancestry by now if that was not possible.

Ancestral Family Tree DNA Testing / Re: DNA match to 3rd grandfathers brother
« on: Friday 20 January 23 09:49 GMT (UK)  »
Any indications of a specific relationship are just suggestions based on the most probable estimate of a relationship between two individuals at the given length of their DNA match. You need to investigate the match through your own ancestors and those of the match to establish where the common link between you occurs.

If you enter the match length in cM into the DNA painter tool at

it will give a list of possible relationships based on probabilities. The relationship with the highest probability is the most likely, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily the actual relationship between you and your match. Any of the other probabilities are possible, and someone has to fit them, or they wouldn't be included.

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