Family history researchers are increasingly turning to autosomal DNA (atDNA) to help extend their ancestral knowledge and it is little wonder as it can be an immensely powerful tool. But are folks using atDNA testing to maximum effect? I suspect in a great many cases the answer is no. There are a myriad of reasons why this is the case but it is not my intention to cover them here. Rather, I shall be keeping this post simple by looking only at matches in Ancestry.com and focusing on three basic principles that can greatly enhance your chances of success.
I cannot emphasise these three points enough:
Test as Many Family Members as Possible
Memorial Inscriptions in Cornhill Churchyard: These inscriptions were noted in 1918 and by the time these photographs were taken in 1986 much of the writing had already been lost. Today they are barely legible. 'Here Lyeth the body of George Smith who died 8 October 1690. Here rests also the body of his wife Elizabeth who died 2 July 1701' (Stone left and Centre) and 'Here lyeth the body of Robert Smith Portioner in Hornclove who died 22 January 1751 aged 90. Also Margaret his wife who died 27 April 1742 aged 60' (Stone to the right.)
Testing relatives acts like signposts or way markers, giving us fixed points from which to start navigating the way through our DNA matches, from known points of shared ancestry towards the unknown. But before dashing off to purchase tests for every aunt, uncle, cousin etc., it is helpful to remember three basic principles to ensure the tests being purchased are relevant to your quest.
It is also important to recognise which relatives are relevant to test for a particular research scenario. For the remainder of this post I shall be using my tree, my DNA matches, and the DNA matches of my relatives who have also tested using an example of a specific paternal line hypothesis which came to light as result of this broader testing policy. It reveals connections to renowned Australian convict Ralph Hush, previously hidden from view due to a smokescreen of ‘selective’ genealogy that without atDNA may have remained undiscovered.
I hope it will also illustrate what can be achieved from what essentially started out as set of dismal results. After many years, I still have only 149 matches in the Ancestry database with whom I share 20 cMs of DNA or more. My brother on the other hand has a slightly more respectable 229, that is 80 more individuals for whom Ancestry will currently display mutual matches.
Although I have one or two sticking points in my tree, I have no specific ancestor mysteries to solve therefore my interests lie in uncovering all aspects of my ancestral past; but who do I have available to test?
Scenario One – Maternal Line Ancestral Investigations
My mother is very much still with us and has tested her DNA. Should I wish to investigate any generation of my maternal line my brother’s DNA will be of no additional benefit. Some of the maternal DNA my brother and I share will overlap and some will be different. Nonetheless, neither he nor myself will have inherited any DNA that our Mother does not carry herself. Nor will our combined DNA reflect the total genetic information carried by our mother. Approximately 25% will inevitably been lost during the recombination process as we were created.
Her identical twin will share exactly the same DNA as my mother and therefore will add no new genetic information to the investigation either. Nor will her children, (my first cousins), as the only DNA relevant to the investigation will have been inherited from their mother who is genetically identical to mine. For this reason these cousins will share nearer 25% of their DNA with myself and my brother rather than 12.5% making them genetically half siblings rather than first cousins. My mother’s other living sibling, however, is definitely one to test, as although some of the DNA she has inherited from her parents will be the same as that carried by the twins, some of it will also differ.
On the same basis, the DNA of all three children of Mum’s deceased sibling will be relevant as they will carry portions of their mother’s genetic information which, as above, will have significant elements of overlap but crucially also elements that have not been inherited either by Mother or her other siblings.
Scenario Two – Paternal Line Ancestral Investigations
As my father is deceased, my brother’s DNA will be extremely useful if not vital to any investigation of my paternal ancestry. Although we match on roughly 45 – 52% of our total DNA (both maternal and paternal), the remainder is different. Even so, we are likely still to only reach around 75% of the DNA my father once carried himself.
As my father had no siblings and his only first cousin available to test is unwilling to do so, the testing net has been cast wider to encompass his Aynsley-Smith second cousins, three of whom to date have been wonderfully helpful in this regard. Sisters Cathy and Vivie, and their first cousin Dick. Each shares a varying amount of DNA with both my brother and myself.
According to the Shared Centimorgan Project I share below the average (122 cMs) for a second cousin once removed (2c1r) relationship with all three and my brother Jeremy shares above. In fact, the whopping 250 cMs he shares with Dick is above the average (229 cMs) for a straight second cousin relationship, and this has paid real dividends.
(It should be noted that the children of my father’s 1st cousin, (my own 2nd cousins) could also be tested but although they are a closer relationship to me, they are genetically further from the ancestral DNA, and in this particular case not as relevant to the investigation.)
In terms of my paternal line research, testing to date has provided the following DNA signposts:
My brother and I represent the DNA from ALL our father’s ancestral lines and thus could theoretically match with descendants of any of his blood relatives at any point in history. The DNA we share with our 2c1r Aynsley-Smith cousins, however, immediately catapults us genetically back to our 2nd great grandparents on our direct paternal Smith line. This is where the respective ancestral pathways between the 2c1r cousins merges with John Smith (1813 – 1881) and his wife Hannah Aynsley (1837 – 1922). In the absence of any closer relationship, the DNA my brother and I share with our Aynsley-Smith cousins MUST have been inherited through this couple. It therefore represents the DNA inherited from their own respective ancestors.
Interestingly, when our 4th cousin Jane (a 3rd cousin 1 removed to Cathy Vivie and Dick) on the same Smith line is added to the mix, the picture changes somewhat and I become the highest match of the five. Cathy shares no DNA with Jane at all, such is the fickle nature of atDNA!
Matching Mutual Matches to each other
Before my brother and Dick tested their DNA with Ancestry, my paternal line research through DNA matching had stalled. I have only one mutual match with Cathy and Vivie which we believe from mutual matches of the mutual match, may relate to ancestors of Hannah Aynsley although we have yet to place them in the family tree.
Step One in the matching process was not to try and establish how these individuals matched my brother and/or Dick, but to try and establish some commonality as to how the matches were related to each other. The main reason for this is that the way in which matches match each other will generally be the way in which they link to the tester, or where the link to the tester springs from. This approach is particularly helpful if the relation that connects matches to your mutual ancestors is not yet in your family tree.
Some of Dick and Jeremy’s matches already had small family trees but some invariably had none. As with any aspect of DNA matching it will be necessary to do some legwork, particularly reconstructing matches’ trees and spotting errors in those that already exist; how much work depends on the quality of information you have to work with. It varies every time!
Conrad, who had a reasonable tree of 98 individuals was the first port of call. His research very quickly suggested he may share great grandparents or 2nd great grandparents with Mark (who has no tree) in Joseph Hibberson (1812 – 1890) and Mary Ann McCarthy (1831 – 1903) making Conrad and Mark 2nd to 3rd cousins with each other. This was a positive start as the relationship is not too close and date wise, it is also a similar generation to the point at which Dick and Jeremy’s pedigrees collide with John Smith and Hannah Aynsley. Mary Ann McCarthy’s mother was recorded as Phillis Hush, and she in turn was the daughter of Ralph Hush (1784 – 1860) and Margaret Robinson (1784 – 1862). Whilst the name did not appear in my family tree, the surname Hush was ‘ringing bells’.
Bypassing the matches with no trees at all for now, Nancy had a small tree with 7 people from which it was possible to quickly build her pedigree back through her grandmother Margaret Dunlop Hush to a William Hush baptised at Spital in 1778, the same day as his sister Elizabeth Hush. The parents of these two plus an unnamed child in 1779 together with a Margaret Hush baptised at Spittal Presbyterian Chapel in 1781 were Ralph Hush senior and his wife Sarah Taylor, of ‘Long Reach’ (Longridge) whose name DOES appear in my tree. From the fact that Mark, Conrad and Nancy all matched each other it was beginning to look likely that this couple were also the parents of Ralph Hush junior, the father of Phillis above. A further DNA match, ‘Jim’, at 19 cMs to my brother whose line traced back to William Hush 1778 was another mutual match to them all which would further evidence this hypothesis.
From my initial investigations to date it appears that the relationships between these four are broadly as follows:
Mark & Conrad 2 or 3rd cousins to each other
6th cousin to Nancy
6th cousin to Jim
Nancy 4th cousin to Jim
Dick & Jeremy 6th cousin once or twice removed to Conrad, Mark, Nancy and Jim
Elsewhere, Leonard and Anne appear to be first cousins to each other and their paths converge with ‘Ernie’ who is another match of 22 cMs to my brother (but who does not match Dick) at a James Bell (1817 – 1887) and Christian Hastie (1821 – 1880). As well as Leonard and Anne, Ernie is also a mutual match to Conrad, Mark, Nancy and Elaine, but the potential upward link to John Smith d. 1742 and Elizabeth his wife has not yet been identified.
Distant relationships such as these have a great many ‘steps’ between individuals to establish the common connection or mutual ancestor. This example illustrates just how essential it is to have a family tree that is as broad as it is deep when looking to prove relationships that are hidden way back in the past.
Build Out Your Tree in Every Direction
As a family we are extremely fortunate in this regard as we have been left a legacy of family memorabilia and generations of extensive research. However, it is still not complete, as I don’t believe any family history ever truly is! There are always more relations to unearth and more information to discover. This branch of our family tree was no exception.
Sarah Taylor who appears in my tree was born circa 1757 and is recorded as the daughter of James Taylor and Elizabeth Smith. Elizabeth Smith was the daughter of John Smith of ‘Horncliff Mill’ who was buried at Cornhill on 22 April 1742. It is believed the Christian name of John’s wife was Elizabeth but to date there is no hard evidence to back this up. It is, however, thought most unlikely to have been an Elizabeth Davidson widely reported online, who married a John Smith at Norham in 1694. A Bible, which was printed in 1615, is still in the family’s possession and the first entry for the birth of a child is George smith in 1722. I hardly think the couple would have had their first child after 28 years of marriage! Plus, if Elizabeth was ‘say’ 20 at the time of her marriage, she would have been aged 48 at the time of the birth of her first child! I rather think that the union identified either belongs to either a first marriage, an earlier generation, or a different family altogether as Smith is hardly an unusual name!
In my tree next to Elizabeth Smith’s entry there is a note, ‘see ‘Taylor’ in Sarah Nicholson’s letters’. Sarah Nicholson (1843 – 1932) was an avid correspondent on all things family history and exchanged at least 32 letters with George Aynsley-Smith between 1909 and 20 December 1931, less than a month before her death on 13th January 1932. The Taylor family are mentioned in several of the letters. The first is dated 16th July 1912 in which Sarah wrote:
There is a Miss Dodds, elderly, come to live with Mrs Lyle. She came from Bowsden and told Jane [Sarah’s sister] one evening that her grandmother was a cousin (1st cousin) of your grandfather Smith, so I went and saw her. She says her grandmother was a Taylor and they lived in Horncliffe as her grandfather Taylor fell down the bank and was lame ever after. There were 5 sisters Taylor: her grandmother married a Lyle , one married a Sanderson, a weaver at Norham, one a Bolton, one a Roxburgh Loaned and one a name I cannot spell – Falstone – all buried at Norham. Her mother’s family used to go to Spittal Church, so some of their registers will be there…
In her next letter of 9th August 1912, she follows up with the following account:
James Taylor, butcher, Eyemouth
Marjorie Taylor m. George Sanderson, weaver Norham
Ann Taylor m. Hoffman, a soldier at Berwick. [of whom I have written before in Tennis & a Teapot]
Sarah Taylor m. John Huish. He died from burns received at Kimmerston Hall when it was burned down. Sarah died at Berry Hill. [Sarah’s husband was actually called Ralph, not John, and she died at Harperidge, (Donaldsons Lodge) the home of her daughter Sarah rather than Berry Hill (Ford & Etal)]
Elizabeth Taylor m. Bolton, Horncliffe and her daughter married a Turner, Horncliffe
Margaret Taylor m. William Lyle, Felkington. Her daughter m. Peter Dodds and her granddaughter is now in Horncliffe.
It would seem there is some confusion surrounding Sarah Taylor and her spouse, and knowing what I now know, I suspect Ms Nicholson, or her informant was trying their best at a cover up by laying a bit of a smokescreen. The fact of the matter is that Ralph Hush junior, son of Sarah Taylor and Ralph Hush senior was a convicted felon, who narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose, when his sentence of death for stealing sheep was commuted to transportation for life. The case has been written about extensively, much of which can be found online not least in the Australian convict records (which includes some rather spurious information) but also on his own Wiki page!
John Smith owns this book, God give him grace on it to look, And if this book do chance to find, This write will show that it is min, And if he be onest man, He will restore to me again, And I will thank him for his paines, As long as life in me remains, 1690, John Smith with my hand this day at Cornhill April the first. (Transcribed from Family Bible by George Aynsley Smith in 1915)
One of these fine days it would be nice to read about some positive antics of ancestral relatives, but in the meantime I will happily take the odd criminal or two, or three as they add a considerable amount of ‘colour’. There is much more digging to do in this tranche of DNA, as I am only just scratching the surface in the Ancestry database, let alone matches elsewhere. It is incredible to think that a second cousin four times removed, who lived so long ago may hold the key to unlocking earlier generations of the Smith family for whom we currently hold just pieces of a much bigger jigsaw. It also shows that no matter how dismal your DNA matches, stick at it, test more family members, build out your tree and work out how those mutual matches are related to each other. It will pay dividends in the end!
For those of you interested in learning more about using DNA for historical research, here are a few links to webinars and instructional videos by my great friend and colleague Michelle Leonard who is renowned the world over as leader in the field of genetic genealogy and as a bit of a 'genes genuis':
How Testing Multiple Relatives Can Turbocharge Your DNA Research - Legacy Family Tree
(Free until 2 June 2021). This webinar explains the relevance of testing multiple relatives in more depth, plus a whole lot more! If you don't already subscribe to Legacy Family Tree, access to their HUGE library of top quality webinars past and present comes highly recommended and can be purchased for only $49 per annum. Michelle has no less 22 webinar tutorials amongst in excess of 1500 available in the Legacy Family Tree library. 10% discount available if you subscribe before 1 June 2021 - use code 'turbo'.
#TwiceRemoved Investigates DNA
Natalie Pithers of Twice Removed interviews expert genetic genealogist Michelle Leonard, who shares her amazing DNA discoveries and family history stories. From identifying the bodies of WWI soldiers to personal feelings on a grandmother that died tragically you, Michelle’s stories give a fresh perspective on using DNA for family history.
Making the Most of your Autosomal DNA Test - Family Tree Live 2019, Alexandra Palace
Michelle Leonard’s talk gives an overview of how autosomal DNA testing can help you solve mysteries in – and confirm the accuracy of – your family tree.
DNA is Dynamite - How to Ignite your Ancestral Research (Michelle Leonard) - Genetic Genealogy Ireland.This is a talk for beginners giving an overview of the basic information required to understand the three main types of DNA testing available for ancestral research. Michelle will explain how each test works and talk you through the first steps you should take once your results arrive.
There are also links to a couple of events where you can catch Michelle live in the June newsletter - if interested either contact me or subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to speed with forth coming events.
Kirk Session Records
Fortunately, this particular error has had a minimal ‘knock-on effect’. A letter written by Robert Nicholson of Loanend in 1821 states that George and Mary left four children, three sons; Ralph, Joseph and Robert, and one daughter who is unnamed. The current pedigree lists 6, but with the removal of James and his sister Margaret who married a Mr Patterson, the numbers and names would tally. The error, however, still casts doubt over the validity of other areas of the early Nicholson pedigree, which appear to be not unfounded.
The earlier Generation – Errors & Omissions
The Parentage of William Nicholson gentleman of Berwick upon Tweed died 1690.
The Pedigree has aligned William senior as a son of another George Nicholson of Loanend who died in 1655 and his wife Eleanor. However, the Will left by this George, written the 22 February 1653/4 is extremely specific with regard to the inheritance of land at Horncliffe in favour of male heirs; he names each of his three sons Robert, George and Ralph, as eldest, second and third son successively and their lawfully begotten male heirs. Only after the possibility of a male heir has been exhausted was the land to pass to the heirs of his daughter Beele.
The Missing Generation
The second individual who is currently absent from the pedigree is a Robert Nicholson of Loaned who died sometime before his Inventory was prepared on the 14 April.
So, who were James Nicholson of Maryland’s Parents?
 The Rev Canon Nigel Nicholson & Mrs Rosemary Kitson, ‘Nicholson being a Compilation of Family trees of Nichsolon and Nicolson …’, Gateshead, 2003, Vol II. p.554; Michael White, ‘19th Century Pioneer:
Frank Villeneuve Nicholson Family in Australia’, Appendix I - George Nicholson of Loanend down to Frank Villeneuve Nicholson (1655 to 1898) Compiled by Kaye Mobsby p.12, Brisbane 2016; Circa 70 Ancestry Online Trees; etc.
 Michael White, ‘19th Century Pioneer: Frank Villeneuve Nicholson Family in Australia’, Appendix I - George Nicholson of Loanend down to Frank Villeneuve Nicholson (1655 to 1898) Compiled by Kaye Mobsby p.12, Brisbane 2016
 England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858 for Gulielmi Nicholson, PROB 11: Will Registers, 1713-1722, Piece 572: Shaller, Quire Numbers 1-48 (1720)
 North East Inheritance Database DPR/I/1/1691/N4/1-2 & DPR/I/1/1691/N4/3
 North East Inheritance Database DPRI/1/1664/N3
 North East Inheritance Database DPR/I/1/1690/N5/1-2
Extracts from ‘My Mother’s Story’
Memories of her young days written by Asna in 2001
Cathie once suggested I write down incidents in my life as they came to mind & this morning, Sept 18th 2001, I am doing just that. I received a notice in the post this morning from the BHA (British Humanist Assn) about a Xmas holiday in Buxton, so memories came flooding back.
My mother still only in her forties suffered from Osteo-Arthritis, then known as just Rheumatism, & each year went to Buxton for a month to 'take the treatment' hers being mainly mud applications & drinking the Spa water. The year before the death of my father he looked after me at home, but after his death when I was 8 years old my mother took me with her for possibly 2 years running until she could no longer afford the treatment though we stayed in a simple little flat.
After arrise (sic) & settling in we would go shopping, my mother buying a selection of young vegs then coming into season & would make a soup containing new carrots, peas, beans pots etc cooked slowly in milk; [we buy bread?] she always bought me a treat – a large bun of choux pastry bun (as my pudding) filled with fresh cream from a wonderful bakery.
Our next journey was down to the Pump where she would produce her little silver 'collapsible' cup to drink the so called healing waters. I waited in a queue of children all anxious to man the pump & each of us would be allowed to 'serve' a few people.
Although pumping was quite difficult for small children nevertheless we wouldn't forego this pleasure which I looked forward to daily.
During the months stay we would go to the Buxton Opera House to see a musical two I remember, No No Nanette, Maid of the Mountains. Perhaps we also saw some plays which I don't remember as my mother loved the theatre & Cinema. At home we saw a film every Sat. evening possibly in the winter when the Sabbath ended in time for the film. The stars were Rudolf Valentino, Paula Negrie [Pola Negri] , Gloria Swanson & of course silent until the first 'talkie' with Al Johnson. I loved all this so I suppose my liking for the Arts started then. At about the age of 12 my brother David bought a Record Player – a free standing console model, where the records were kept in the cupbd of lower part, & then I heard my first opera arias on 78s. The Rigoletto Quartet + excerpts from Cav & Pag. etc. David also took me to hear the Henry Wood Concerts & once to a Jazz Concert with a famous American Saxophone player. He also took me to several plays – B. Shaw's mostly, by the M/c Rep. Co. which produced many actors later to become well-known in the London theatres. So, despite my lack of formal higher education through straightened circumstances I had a rich cultural childhood (including books) not always available to children in poor to moderate circumstances & I think this in part is due to Jewish people wanting to enrich their lives, by self-education not unlike the Welsh & Irish.
Asna’s notes continue:
… My childhood wasn’t easy but I was ‘lucky’ in having access to good books & being influenced by three of my older siblings who were broadminded & more radical. Another influence in my early teens, when joining a friend to help in her father’s shop (lock-up shop with no living accommodation) in a poor Salford district was the sight of real poverty. Children with no shoes (Phil Casket whose family were poor remembers this & himself wore none in early years) & torn clothes. The mothers would pay 1/-d or up to 2/-d (todays 6p & 10p) every week & buy some essential piece of clothing & be forever in debt. Streets were dirty & houses unkempt & men and some women drank heavily using money (? 1d pint for beer at that time) they could ill afford & which should have been spent on food. But who could blame them, as now, there was no way out of the poverty trap – (the recession of the 1920s & the 1926 General Strike). My friend’s father had made good profits from selling surplus army clothing after the 1914-18 War & bought himself a nice house - small but comfortable in a pleasant M/c district. He didn’t make the huge profits that many did during the war years & worked hard. However, these differences affected my way of reasoning & I came to the conclusion that the ‘System’; had to be changed & thus became a Socialist.
Sally was my biggest influence & I suppose being without a father from the age of 8 I ‘looked up’ to the older members of my family. My Mother’s religious beliefs didn’t influence me at all & although my father was religious & a keen Zionist, he was politically a Socialist believing in the formation of the Kibbutz in Israel. (What was then Palestine). He took no part in British politics as his endeavours were solely propelled to the causes of Zionism & not long before his illness & death was making plans for our emigration to Palestine. He went to Berlin to have an operation for removal of cataracts in both eyes, the surgery being more reliable there in those days. But even so he needed long convalescence which unfortunately he did not take and following his return home contracted meningitis and died a week later.
Asna continues ...
… In those days in England children could leave school at 14 and even though I was told by my Headmistress I had a “promising future” and was offered a place at Manchester Grammar School if I stayed on, I decided to leave. The Depression and General Strike of 1926 made things very difficult for my mother and so I took employment in an office and went to evening classes to continue my education and also did a good deal of reading becoming both a socialist and atheist in the process.
But I remember her telling me on many an occasion how this curtailment of her formal education disappointed her and affected her future life. In the 1920s her sister Sally went to work in London and some years later at the age of nineteen Asna left Manchester to follow her. Due to the poverty she saw in her childhood she developed an interest in politics and through attending political meetings and demonstrations she met my father Dick (George Aynsley-Smith junior). When in her eighties she would often talk about their life together and describe how they ‘had 44 happy years together’ and explain how he came from a Quaker family but that as ‘he too felt the same about religion and politics as I did so that there was no disharmony on these issues, nor on any others that matters, such as the emancipation of women, equality in the home and workplace etc.. I felt very bereft when he died over 16 years ago and still do.’
All sorts of thoughts pass through my mind in the morning and today, for some unknown reason, my mind went back to my brother, Abe.
Strange. I cannot recollect anything about him before he married in 1921. He was in the Army in the ‘Great War’ (1914-1918) & I seem to remember him in ‘Kahki’ (sic) uniform on his return but no other memories of him at home until I used to visit him & his wife, Emma, at their home & even then only after the birth of their first daughter, Eileen, when I was 8 years old. I remember that Emma made my first gym slip when I started secondary school & seemed bad-tempered at the fittings & ‘ticking me off’ for various reasons.
However, I digress, as I was actually thinking of Abe in a much later period in connection with myself. I went up to M/c to tell him of my intended marriage which he opposed on grounds of religion (as I knew my mother would too) but said if I intended to go ahead – which I did – advised me not to disclose this to my mother & I followed his advice – perhaps I should say his wishes – which I’ve always regretted. I’m sure she would eventually have become reconciled (she had met Dick in London & when I tentatively brought up the question of our marrying, put the same religious objection though she thought ‘he was very nice’ & I am certain that knowing & seeing Cathie, my first baby, would have given her some pleasure in the last few months; she died in Aug ’43 without knowing I was married or of Cathie’s existence. Something I cannot remember without pain. What surprised me was being warmly received by both Abe & Emma when I called some months later with Cathie whilst staying in M/c with Sylvia & Maurice for a few weeks during the heavy bombing. After that first ‘reconciliation’ we remained on amicable terms, but didn’t meet again only communicating by letter & a phone call – before mother’s death.
The diaspora of Jewish people to Europe was to escape from the persecution that beset them continually in Russia and Eastern Europe. But they had a hard time in the countries where they settled with only low paid, mostly manual work, open to them. There were certain periods over the centuries where they did enjoy freedom to pursue their cultural and professional careers as in Spain and Germany and for a short time in England but these periods always passed with further oppression and discrimination and so they fled to whichever country would take them. In the time of the Spanish Inquisition many Jews converted to Christianity otherwise it meant death, unless they could escape and some came to England.
I remember them in Manchester when I was a child as their religious practices were slightly modified allowing them to use transport on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) and as many were quite affluent having brought their wealth with them from Spain, we saw them arrive to their special Synagogues in their cars – quite a phenomenon in those days of the early 20s. The Synagogues were called ‘Reform Synagogues’. I remember when a young child going to our own Synagogue and sitting in the Balcony where all the women sat – we had a good view of all the happenings below. At a certain part of the Service the Scrolls – “Torahs” were brought out of their little Ark and carried round, their coverings were of white satin, which I thought was lovely!
I was told by Sally that my parents experienced hard times but always ‘pulled through’. I don’t know a great deal about my parents’ early married life but Jewish immigrants had a hard time and in those days it was difficult for them to work in the professions or follow a career, the only work being available was manual (in the tailoring trade mostly) or in business.
I believe at one time my father ventured into the coal business, having one employee to deliver, but he was no businessman and was a soft touch when families were badly off with no heating in winter and did not insist on payment. This venture didn’t last long! As my father’s attempt in business wasn’t very successful and having been a teacher in the Jewish Community in Russia, he started a small school. By the time I was born he had been teaching Hebrew in a room in the Synagogue which I visited with messages or whatever for my father. Whilst waiting till there was a break I’d sit and watch and listen but not understand apart from a few everyday words. Girls were not included in this education as primarily it was to prepare the boys for their Bar Mitzva at the age of 13. My father was called a Rebbe i.e. teacher & my Grandfather was a Rabbi – the Religious Head (Minister) of the local Jewish community.
The boys came after their English school-day finished and for a full day on a Sunday. My Father also officiated in the local Synagogue and helped my Grandfather in his duties as a Rabbi both were held in high regard by the local Jewish community in our area – Jewish people seemed to have lived in various areas of Manchester by the time I came on the scene.
Top Tips regarding Surnames in Documentary Evidence
- What is the period? English spellings were largely phonetic – the first dictionary of standardised English language was published in 1755, but even afterwards words continued to be written as they sounded or were pronounced.
- Was the individual/family literate? Look for signatures on supporting records – have they been handwritten or substituted by a mark? If the latter, then the spelling of the surname would have relied on the literacy and interpretation of the clerk or scribe recording the event.
- Were the family foreign or from outside the area? This also includes folks from other parts of the British Isles and Ireland. Unfamiliar sounding names including those from Ireland and Scotland frequently appear with variant spellings that search engines don’t pick up. Think phonetically, use regional dialects and accents, put yourself in place of the clerk or scribe, be generous in your use of wildcards, and beware the Anglicised Scot or Irishman who has dropped his ‘Mac’! (NB. Beyond the Borders in Scotland, lookout for names in Gaelic)
- ‘The family fell out and/or they changed their name to distinguish between different branches’. Hmmm, whilst there may well be instances where this may be the case, I have yet to clap eyes on documented evidence beyond family legend having been committed to paper. It is far more likely that the spelling became standardised in different places at different points in time but actually has the same point of origin.
Y-DNA - The Test for Surnames
Pearcy (and variant spellings) DNA Project
(Please note, you will also need to sign-up to Family Tree DNA to join the project if you have not already done so. You do NOT need to purchase a DNA test from FTDNA to join. Registration is completely free of charge at www.familytreedna.com/autosomal-transfer & you do not need to transfer your atDNA if you do not wish to.)
Top Tip – The Genetic Distance in Y-DNA Test Results
Common Question - Matches of the same surname as myself match me at 12 markers but not 111
Top Tip – Check the level the match has tested to.
Y-DNA Matches with Different Surnames
Daughtering Out & Inheritance
‘The later Middle Ages were a transitional period in which older bynames co-existed with newer hereditary surnames as a type of cognoma. Consequently, it is not always possible to distinguish one from the other.’
- Gibbe Roderfordman for a servant of Gilbert Rutherford
- John Twysontheday, for harper named for an ‘event’
- William Andreson of Tynedale alias William Stockhalgh the son of Andrew Stockhalgh
- Little William Robson son of Robert Joly
- John Johnson the son of John Thomson
- William Robynson Hynne
- Richard Jackson Lambee
‘as reasonable to conjecture, described a family relationship by adding a patronym to a hereditary surname in order to assist with identification’.
Classifications of Tithes
These related to the ‘fruits of the earth’, so anything that grew in it, or from it, such as corn, hay and other crops. It also often included wood. These were the most valuable class of tithes.
Mixed Tithes related largely to animals such as lambs, calves, colts, or to animal products such as wool, milk, eggs etc.
These tithes were payable on the gains of labour in related agricultural industries such as corn milling or fishing.
Tithe Collection & Satire
The Tythe Pig
In Country Village Lives a Vicar,
Fond – as all are – of Tythes and Liquor,
To mirth his ears are seldom Shut,
He’ll Crack a Joke, and laugh at Smut;
But when his Tythes he gathers in,
True Parson then – no coin! No grin
On Fish, On Flesh, On Bird, On Beast,
Alike lays hold the Churlish Priest
Hob’s Wife and Sow – as Gossips tell
Both at a time in Pieces fell;
The Parson comes, the Pig he claims
And the good Wife with Taunts inflames;
Bust she quite arch bow’d low and Smil’d
Kept back the Pig and held the Child;
The Priest look’d warm, the Wife look’d big,
Z…ds, Sir! quoth she, no Child, no Pig
Boitard & Müller, The Tythe Pig, 1751
Although tithes could cause contention and friction, their real significance lies in the numerous relationships they created within eighteenth-century English society. These relationships constituted some of the most important everyday economic, contractual and social connections between individuals and were a central feature of parochial life during this period.
Impropriation & Impropriators
… tithe purchase involved an agreement made before harvest. The tithe purchaser entered into a contract with the tithe owner by which he or she agreed to pay a certain sum for the bought tithes on appointed days. Tithes sold in this way made up a significant portion of all the grain which reached the market.
Tithe Records for Historical Study
Composition and Modus
an original and two copies of every confirmed instrument of apportionment. The originals are now in The National Archives. The two copies were deposited with the registrar of the diocese and with the incumbents of and churchwardens of the parish. In many cases the copies and subsequent altered apportionments are now deposited in the relevant local record office.
The Genealogist & Tithe Records Online
Examples and snippets relating to Horncliffe & Norham Mains.
- George Smith owned and occupied 194 acres and 32 perches at East Loanend himself.
- He also occupied a further 150 acres, 1 rood and 6 perches at West Loanend, owned by Mary White and Jane Simpson.
- The maiden names of these two women was Nicholson. Mary White was George’s mother-in- law, and Jane Simpson, her sister and George’s wife Grace Ann’s aunt.
- Alexander Smith, the owner and occupier of 55 acres 35 perches of land at Loaned at 7 above was Alexander Smith of Gallagate Farm, Norham, husband of George’s cousin Agnes Young. Agnes Young’s father was Aaron Young who drowned in River Whiteadder on New Year’s Day 1822.
- Also listed is William Mather at 5, owner of 10 acres 1 rood 18 perches occupied by Richard Brown. What is most interesting here is that he did so as executor of the Will of Thomas Naters. Thomas Naters was a reclusive millionaire who died at his Schloss in Switzerland in 1836. The tithe records would suggest that he held an interest in property at both Longridge and Horncliffe at the time of his death.
- For every Cow and Calf 2d
- For every Cow not in Calf 1d halfpenny
- For every score of Ewes milked 4d
- For every Mare in Foal 4d
- For every Hive of Bees 8d
 When entitlement passed to the church or religious houses it was ‘appropriated’.
 B Ben Dodds, ‘Peasants and Production in the Medieval North-East’, Regions and Regionalism in History, Woodbridge, 2007, p.162.
 Ben Dodds, ‘Peasants and Production in the Medieval North-East’, Regions and Regionalism in History, Woodbridge, 2007; Ben Dodds, ‘Peasants, Landlords and Production between the Tyne and the Tees, 1349-1450’, Regions and Regionalisms in History, Woodbridge, 2005.
 The National Archives
 There were approximately 8 bushels to the quarter and 4 quarters to the avoirdupois ton which equated to 20 cwt, or 2,000lbs, = 62.5lbs per bushel.
War by sea between England and Scotland was soon followed by war by land, and in the letter of remonstrance and defiance to Henry VIII., with which James preceded the invasion of England, the unjust slaughter of Andrew Barton, and the capture of his ships, were stated among the principal grievances for which redress was thus sought. Even when battle was at hand, also, Lord Thomas Howard sent a message to the Scottish king, boasting of his share in the death of Barton, whom he persisted in calling a pirate, and adding that he was ready to justify the deed in the vanguard, where his command lay, and where he meant to show as little mercy as he expected to receive. And then succeeded the battle of Flodden, in which James and the best of the Scottish nobility fell; and after Flodden, a loss occurred which Barton would rather have died than witnessed.
The Moorish Lassies and the Black Lady Tournaments
A doubt about the genuiness of the Black Lady’s ‘African’ identity is raised by the black chamois sleeves which she wore as part of her costume. These were conventionally used as part of the Renaissance ‘blackface’ disguise in court masques. It is credible that they could also be worn for the purpose of modesty and warmth by a genuine African in the Scottish weather… The role might have been played by two separate people in the two different years and could even have been played by a man. Nor do the record of the tournament expenses give up the secrets – the documents maintain the illusion, recording the outlay on the clothes of the Black Lady, just as they do when recording payments for the unicorn pulling her chariot.
Dragons, a unicorn and other unlikely animals … They may also have included animals from the Royal Menagerie which at this time included a lion and a wolf. 
African Soldiers at Hadrian’s Wall
John White the Black Tudor Trumpeter
Sir Pedro Negro and Lady Marion Hume in 1548/9
… she is complaining about the villainy of the English who ‘dystrow all this cuntre’. Strangely it seems the Spaniards, and ‘the Mour’ behave better, ‘lyk noble men’. They owe money to the ‘pur wyfis in this toun for ther expenssis’. It seems then, that the English and Spanish, who had been at Haddington, passed through Hume on 19 March, and were billeted there, leaving debts. Yet, Lady Hume seems to show special favour to the Spaniards, and especially the Moor, urging Guise to be ‘gud prenssis’ to them. Perhaps her favour was won the year before, when the Spaniards were involved in a failed attempt to take Hume castle from the English.
…Whether this Moor was Pedro Negro is not certain. Sadly Lady Hume does not mention him by name. But the circumstantial evidence is striking. There was clearly at least one Moor in Berwickshire in 1549: if it was not Pedro Negro, then who was it? If not Pedro Negro, then perhaps Jacques Granado, another mercenary, knighted by Somerset a week after Negro on 1 October 1547, at Newcastle,41 whose name suggests he was from Grenada, and whose arms include ‘a Blackamoor’s head couped Sable, wreathed argent’
'Egyptians' in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders
The first undoubted record referring to Gypsies in Great Britain is :—' 1505, April 22. Item to the Egyptianis be the Kingis command, vij lib.' "
By the mid-19th century there seems to have been some debate over their ethnic origins, colour of their skin and other and other traits.
The special opinion of him as an Egyptian, or one of a different breed from the other inhabitants of this and, must be established; and this proceeding on those noted and peculiar circumstances of manner and appearance by which, in all countries that they have visited, this loose and lazy race have so remarkably been distinguished. Among these are the black eye and swarthy complexion ; a peculiar language or gibberish, intelligible only to themselves …
 Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh Castle Research, The Medieval Documents, 2018
 Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh Castle Research, The Medieval Documents, 2018
 Miranda Kauffman
 David MacRitchie, Scottish Gypsies under the Stewarts, Edinburgh, 1894.
 Hume's Commentaries on the Law of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1844, vol. i. pp. 474, 475.
https://electricscotland.com/history/gipsies/scottishgypsies2.pdf page 2.
For those of you who like digging about in old manuscripts but can't access the State Papers Online, a fabulous website The Tudor Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII containing transcriptions of manuscripts dating from 1485 - 1521 is available online at:
It was a copy of a book, sent to me by my friend and colleague Kevin Graham from Berwick Record Office, that prompted the subject of this month’s blog. ‘Reminiscences of Thomas Marshall of Berwick’ is an autobiographical, often humorous account of the many sojourns that comprised the authors life. Born in 1782 at Horncliffe, a small village close to Norham to an ordinary family, Thomas’ life was anything but. Thomas suffered from an extremely bad case of eighteenth century ‘itchy feet’. His numerous occupations varying from Shop Boy, Gardener, Grocer, Travelling Salesman to Ships Surgeon, Doctor in Melrose and a stint in the Durham Militia took him around the globe from Barbados, Nova Scotia, New York, Madeira, Brazil to Cadiz defy his humble birth and in some ways flout the rules concerning movement imposed by the administrative systems of the day.
Most of our ancestors would neither have travelled so far as Thomas Marshall, nor, would they have had such a variety of occupations, but the one thing the book does do well is emphasise that move they certainly did! This is perhaps a consideration that is too easily lost in the course of family history research.
Movement as a Manorial Tenant - Serfdom
Serfdom was not purely about the work that was done, and different levies and requirements the serfs paid can be found in different manors. In many cases the lord of the manor held the right to receive a serf’s possessions after their death. This could be waived in some cases, as Theobald allowed Adam Donnesheued’s widow and daughter to remove his goods and chattels out of the manor, to his loss of 68 shillings. Some serfs tried to escape. In 1445-6 The prior of Lindisfarne received the goods of Robert Atkynson of Fenham manor after his death, but their accounts also refer to expenses in arresting bringing back John Atkynson of Fenham, Robert’s son, a native ‘meditating flight’. He didn’t run away after this, as in 1453-4 John Atkynson of Fenham, a native of the prior of Lindisfarne paid five shillings in for the merchet of his daughter Mariot.
Settlement & Removal
- Birth – a legitimate child took its father’s parish of settlement, even if it was not where it was born.
- Apprenticeship – either arranged by the parish or privately by the family
- Service – providing someone was hired for a year (365 days) or more, they would gain settlement in that parish of work.
- Marriage or remarriage – the wife assumed the place of settlement of her husband.
- Renting property worth at least £10 per annum and paying parish rates
- Election to a parish office (e.g. Overseer of the Poor; Churchwarden) for a year
- Individual’s name
- Parish of settlement
- Parish of destination
- Date the certificate was issued.
- Individual’s name and possibly names of children
- The parish from which they were being removed
- The parish deemed their place of settlement or where they were being sent
 Northumberland Archives, ‘Tied to the land – serfs from manorial history’.
The Pearcy family of ‘Glendale’ Northumberland & the value of Probate Inventories to the Family Historian
As part of his journey of discovery, David’s budget this month has taken advantage of a discounted Y-DNA test (available through Family Tree DNA until 31st August) to support (and hopefully enhance) his investigations into his patrilineal ‘Pearcy’ line. As readers of my blogs will know, the Y chromosome is carried, passed on and inherited exclusively by men, meaning they are the only ones who can take a Y-DNA test. (Ladies, do not despair, as due to the way Y-DNA recombines, testing a male cousin or uncle can be just as effective as testing a father or brother, just so long as they are from the same patrilineal (father) line.)
David had already tested his autosomal DNA with Ancestry before he sought me out and through his matches had connected with a distant cousin compiling a family history about early members of the family. As is always the case, however, like the A1 which traverses Northumberland, there is one heck of a lot more to discover if the time is taken to leave the trunk road and explore!
Confirmed Pearcy Ancestors
Earlier Pearcy Family Groups
The earliest vital event noted in north Northumberland parish registers is the marriage of Robert Pearsey [sic] to Francis Salmond at Berwick in Dec 1584. Outside of Berwick, the earliest parish register entry found to date is for the burial of a Thomas Piercy of Catfordlaw [Hay Farm] at Ford in January 1692/3. Relatively close on its heels is the baptism of a Gilbert Persey [sic] at Carham in June 1704. A badly worn memorial headstone at Kirknewton dating from circa 1759 provides early evidence of Pearcy links and the Christian name Gilbert with Doddington [Dorinton].
From his age of 87 recorded at burial in 1829, a year of birth for David’s 4th great grandfather, John Pearcy, can be estimated as 1742. A possibility for David’s 5th or even 6th great grandfather is a Roger Pearcy of Ewart, an historic township of Doddington, who married a Margaret Scot at Doddington in June 1713, but to date there is insufficient evidence to prove any relationship beyond doubt. There is also a possible burial record for Roger in 1724 which would rule him out.
Inventory of Gilbert Pearcie of Thom[p]sons Walls, 1687
Inventory of Thomas Mewres of Thom[p]sons Walls, 1683
North East Inheritance Database
Notes to the Inventory transcriptions.
OED online. A hardy variety of barley grown mainly in northern England and Scotland. Cf. bere n.1.
Now considered to be one of the cultivated varieties of Hordeum vulgare subsp. vulgare, this type of barley was previously known as H. tetrastichum because it appears to have four rows of grains in the ear.
barley-bigg, Scotch bigg: see the first elements.
'Hoges' here have been taken to mean sheep in their 2nd year of life.
A Wether/Weather/Wedder is a castrated male sheep.
OED Online. A measure of capacity for grain, etc., used in Scotland and the north of England, containing in Scotland generally 6 imperial bushels, but in the north of England varying locally from the ‘old boll’ of 6 bushels to the ‘new boll’ of 2 bushels. Also a measure of weight, containing for flour 10 stone (= 140 pounds). (A very full table of its local values is given in Old Country & Farming Words (E.D.S. 1880) p. 168). (NB. At the time of Flodden in 1513 there were 8 bushels of corn to the Quarter and 4 Quarters to the ton.)
 National Archives, Currency Convertor