Category: DNA

DNA goes some way towards uncovering the truth

Category: DNA

For some time I've been working on a family history mystery. The records for my great-grandfather, James Geake, state he was born in 1881 at Wapsworthy, a small farm a couple of miles away from the village of Peter Tavy and about five miles from the town of Tavistock in Devon. He was purportedly the son of George Geake and Maria Dearing, both of whose ancestry traces further back in Devon. However, DNA analysis suggests all is not what it seems.

I have access to a number of DNA kits belonging to people who descend from James Geake but I've not been able to find any useful DNA matches on either the Geake or the Dearing side. Most of these relatives have a lot of Irish and Scottish ethnicity in their DNA which I suspect is on James' line and this doesn't fit at all with James supposedly having ancestors from Devon.

Here are the Irish and Scottish AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates for my relatives.

My mum - Ireland: 30%, Scotland: 20%.
My aunt - Ireland: 28%, Scotland: 21%.
My mum's 1st cousin No.1 - Ireland: 38%, Scotland: 12%.
My mum's 1st cousin No.2 - Ireland: 30%, Scotland: 65% (we are related to this person on her father's side but her mother was from Scotland so this would explain the higher Scottish ethnicity).
My mum's 1st cousin once removed No.1 - Ireland: 23%, Scotland: 16%.
My mum's 1st cousin once removed No.2 - Ireland: 18%, Scotland: 15%.

AncestryDNA Genetic Communities for the descendants of James Geake
AncestryDNA Genetic Communities for the descendants of James Geake

The map shows the Irish DNA genetic communities at Ancestry which are specific to some of these relatives. Mum's 1st cousin No.1 has all of these regions. My aunt has all but the small region of North Leitrim & East Sligo. My mum shows North Connacht and the region of North East Mayo & North West Sligo but not North Mayo and no Central Ireland. Mum's 1st cousin No.2 just has North East Mayo & North West Sligo but no other Irish regions. The two 1st cousins once removed don't have specific Irish genetic communities but my mum passed the North East Mayo & North West Sligo region on to me. This demonstrates a strong connection to these areas amongst the four of James Geake's grandchildren who have tested. There surely has to be something in this!

It's worth noting that my mum and aunt do in fact have Devon genetic communities as does one of the 1st cousins once removed. This can be explained by the fact that James Geake's wife had Devon ancestry so Devon ancestors will be common to all of the above mentioned relatives. James Geake and his wife, Sarah May Hellyer, were my mum's paternal grandparents but there were North Devon ancestors on my mum's maternal grandmother's side too.

All these ethnicity estimates and the lack of the expected DNA connections was pointing in the direction of James Geake not being George Geake and Maria Dearing's son. Now I wanted to find some further evidence to substantiate my theory.

James Geake had an older sister called Maria Geake who married Henry Albert Carpenter. My mum knew her as her Great-aunt Maria (pronounced Mariah as in Mariah Carey). Mum has always known Maria's grand-daughter who I'll call Emily to protect her identity. Emily kindly agreed to take a DNA test and the results came back showing no match to any of the descendants of James Geake. Emily should have been my mum's 2nd cousin and all 2nd cousins should share DNA. Even half 2nd cousins would be expected to share DNA but there is no match to any of Emily's four supposed 2nd cousins.

Emily has DNA connections on the Geake and Dearing lines so this indicates that James was the odd one out. In addition, she only has 6% Irish ethnicity and no Scottish ethnicity. Therefore, my long-held suspicion that James Geake was not the son of his documented parents seems to be correct.

I would add that there are one or two distant DNA matches that we have in common with Emily which I think are likely to be co-incidences. Emily has a lot of Devon ancestry and, as previously stated, so do we. Autosomal DNA can't tell you which family line you are looking at when you see a match so a lot of time is spent studying family trees to find ancestors in common with your DNA matches. There's a good chance that our DNA might match with descendants of Devon ancestors which also match with Emily but on different branches of our families. At first glance, they look like Geake and Dearing connections but we now know this is unlikely unless we have a more distant connection to these families back in time.

It's disappointing to discover that we're not biologically related to Emily and her family but, nonetheless, her ancestors are still part of my own family's story as James was brought up in the Geake household as one of their own. In my mind that makes Emily's ancestors my 'adoptive' family and there are still descendants of James who bear the Geake name to this day.

One final anecdote - a relative once told my mum that James Geake used to celebrate his birthday on the 23rd January but, much later in life, he obtained a copy of his birth certificate. This was when he discovered he was actually born on the 25th. It makes me wonder if he really was born on the 23rd before being handed to the Geakes a couple of days later. What's more, did James ever know they weren't his biological parents?

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AncestryDNA's Ethnicity Inheritance Tool

Category: DNA

Not long ago, Ancestry introduced a new DNA tool called Ethnicity Inheritance where they apparently show you which ethnicities you have inherited from each parent - even if your parents haven't taken DNA tests.

As it happens, both of my parents have tested so I was curious to see how the ethnicity inheritance results on my own and my younger brother's tests compared to my parents' actual DNA ethnicity results. Remember, these ethnicity splits are ignoring my parents' actual tests and just estimating the split using their technology they call SideView and applying it to my and my brother's results. It's also worth bearing in mind that we only receive half of each parent's DNA leaving half that we don't. In addition, the 50% you receive is random which is just as well otherwise we'd all be identical twins to our siblings!

Ancestry initially label the parents as Parent 1 and Parent 2 and it's up to you to label them yourself if you think you can work out which side is which. You need to have studied your family tree to do this and you'll want some variation between each parent. I'm fairly confident that I have the paternal and maternal side correct and so I added these labels manually.

Below you'll firstly see the ethnicity results taken directly from my parents' DNA kits and then you'll see my and my brother's actual ethnicity results together with what Ancestry believe we each received from each parent.

My Dad's DNA Ethnicity
My Dad's DNA Ethnicity

My Mum's DNA Ethnicity
My Mum's DNA Ethnicity

My Ethnicity Breakdown
My Ethnicity Breakdown

My Brother's Ethnicity Breakdown
My Brother's Ethnicity Breakdown

As stated, we don't get an exact 50% split from each parent's individual ethnicity but, for the purposes of this exercise, I've halved their figures to see how my brother and I compare to our parents.

Half of my dad's ethnicity would be...

England & Northwest Europe: 41%
Norway: 3.5%
Wales: 3%
Scotland: 1.5%
Sweden & Denmark: 1%

Half of my mum's ethnicity would be...

England & Northwest Europe: 23%
Ireland: 16%
Scotland: 8%
Norway: 1.5%
Wales: 1.5%

So what do we see?

Both my brother and I received a fairly accurate split of England & Northwest Europe from each parent. I'm a little top heavy on the Ireland region whereas my brother has a lot more from Scotland. I seem to have all of my dad's Norway whereas my brother received a little from both parents. I got my dad's 2% Sweden & Denmark but my brother has none and, for me, the Wales was a fairly good split between each parent but my brother got all his Wales from my mum.

It's interesting to note that, when I went into the ethnicity inheritance estimates for my parents, I wasn't able to work out which parent was which when I looked at my dad's split. Ancestry believe my dad received 43% England & Northwest Europe from one parent and 39% from the other and the smaller regions don't really give me any clues.

I was much more confident with my mum's estimate as she received 44% England & Northwest Europe from one parent and only 2% from the other. This would account for my gran's North Devon and Somerset ancestry. Mum also shows 32% Ireland and 16% Scotland from the other parent only and this is born out by the fact that my aunt and two more of their paternal first cousins (who have quite distinctive splits) point to similar results on my grandpa's side of the family. Scotland and Ireland have close ties in genetic terms. I still have not identified where this DNA comes from but I have a suspicion that my grandfather's father, James Geake, might not have been the son of the parents named on his birth certificate.

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Solving the next Ridley Riddle

Category: DNA

In my previous post, I described how I learnt that Joseph Ridley and Mary Dean were the parents of my 2 x great-grandfather, Henry Frederick Ridley. My next task was to discover where Joseph and Mary came from and how they fitted into their families.

I'll begin with Mary. First of all, I found her in the 1841 census living with Joseph in Brewery Street in Aston, Birmingham, with a number of their children. Their surname was spelt Riddly, just to make things difficult! After Joseph's death in 1847, I initially struggled to determine what had become of Mary. However, I eventually came across her by accident in 1851 as a visitor in a household headed up by a John Dodds, along with her 3 year old daughter, Mary Ann. They were located at Stoke Works, Stoke Prior in Worcestershire. I'd originally missed Mary when I first viewed this particular census record as she was no longer called Ridley. The only reason I'd found the record in the first instance was because I was looking up her daughter. Mary, herself was now called Mary Hill but it wasn't until I discovered a newspaper notice in the Birmingham Journal that I realised Mary had remarried a William Hill, less than four months after Joseph's death and so the Mary Hill listed in the Dodds household was indeed my Mary Ridley, nee Dean.

Descendants of Sarah Dean
Descendants of Sarah Dean

The good news was the 1851 census stated Mary's birthplace as Lichfield in Staffordshire so I next set about looking for her baptism entry. I knew her approximate birth date was around 1811. The only entry I could find which fitted the bill was a baptism on the 4th March 1810 at St Chad, Lichfield, Staffordshire, "Mary illegitimate daughter of Sarah Dean". This then, became the end of the road on the Dean line as I couldn't find where Sarah was from and I didn't know her age and, with Mary being illegitimate, I had no knowledge of who her father might have been. Searches for Mary after 1851 have also proved fruitless so I'm not certain when she died but I don't think it was long after this.

Turning now to Joseph, I was unsure of his birthplace. The only census record he appeared in was in 1841, living in Birmingham, Warwickshire. The specific place of birth was not a census question for that year. The answer was 'Yes' to being born in the county but, then again, the same answer was given for Mary and we now know that she was born in Staffordshire.

Joseph's age at death meant he would have been born in around 1811 but I could find no baptism record for Joseph in Birmingham. I was running out of options so I decided to concentrate on the whereabouts of Joseph's children as well as any potential siblings.

Descendants of Samuel Ridley
Descendants of Samuel Ridley

As already mentioned, Joseph's daughter, Mary Ann, was with her mother in 1851 and I found her again in 1861, this time residing in Catherine Street, Aston, Birmingham, and crucially she was labelled as a niece. The head of the household was Frederick Ridley who, by definition, must have been her uncle. I proceeded to look into Frederick and discovered that he was born in Birmingham in about 1819. Again, there was no baptism but Frederick married twice and both marriage certificates recorded his father as Samuel Ridley, a carpenter by trade. In fact, Samuel was a witness at Frederick's first wedding.

Keen to find more evidence I discovered Joseph's daughter, Mary Ann, residing at Canal Street in Birmingham in 1871. This time she was listed as a lodger, the head of the household being an Emma Hood. This meant nothing to me at that stage but when I went in search of Joseph's possible siblings, there was an Emma Ridley who married John Hood in 1842 in Aston. Could Emma have been Joseph's sister? Her marriage certificate also showed a father called Samuel described as a cabinet maker, which would be in keeping with a carpenter.

Emma was living with a family by the name of Lee (sometimes spelt Lees) in 1841, 1851 and 1861. The head of the household, John Lee, had married Ann Ridley in Aston in 1824, another potential sister for Joseph. Also residing with the Lee family in 1841 was a 26 year old John Ridley, who married Emma Ketteridge in 1846, and who also stated his father was Samuel Ridley, a carpenter, so it looks likely that John Ridley was a brother. Indeed, witnesses at his wedding were Frederick and Ann Ridley, Ann most likely being Frederick's first wife, Ann Cobley.

In 1851, the Lee family had a 'visitor' called Joseph Ridley, born in about 1835. This turned out to be Joseph and Mary's son and so I'd found an aunt/nephew connection similar to that of the uncle/niece connection previously mentioned. In fact, Joseph junior was baptised on the very same day in the same church as Ann Lee's son, John Lee junior, even though John was already three years old.

The final piece of the puzzle came, once again, with the use of DNA. You may recall in my previous post that a new person had appeared in my dad's DNA match list which showed a connection to Joseph Ridley and Mary Dean. Well, this same person kindly allowed me access to his DNA results and I discovered that he had a match who is descended from Joseph's brother, Frederick Ridley and his wife, Ann Cobley. This then implied a common ancestor being Samuel Ridley. Yes!

As you can see, it's very useful to have Viewer access to the DNA match lists of other people descended from your ancestors as you get more bites of the cherry, so-to-speak. Ancestry allows this but I'm not sure how easily it can be done on any other DNA websites.

Ideally, I would like to see at least three descendants all sharing DNA at this level but the probability of this happening as the generations grow more distant is much decreased. Every generation loses 50% of their DNA from each parent as they pick up the combination from both of their parents to bring them back to 100%. This is why it's so important to test the oldest generation available.

I never did find a single baptism for any of the children of Samuel, and I'm not entirely certain as to who his wife was either. I can't say whether it would pass the genealogical standard of proof but I'm confident of my findings and feel the evidence for Samuel being my 4 x great-grandfather is compelling.

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DNA finally knocks down my brick wall

Category: DNA

I recently made some headway with a family history brick wall. For many years I'd been stuck on my 2 x great-grandfather, Henry Ridley. I was even beginning to wonder whether he was in fact my biological ancestor as I couldn't find any suitable DNA matches amongst my family's DNA kits.

All I had to go on was the 1871 census where he appeared alongside my 2 x great-grandmother, Hannah Maria Cotterill who, at the time, was specified as Ann Ridley but they were never actually married. She, too, was a brick wall of mine for quite some time but I managed to make some progress on her a few years ago.

The Family of Henry Ridley & Hannah Cotterill
The Family of Henry Ridley & Hannah Cotterill

Anyway, the census implied that Henry was born in about 1841. Mind you, his age was very difficult to read so I wasn't exactly sure. It also stated he was born in Birmingham which didn't give me a lot to go on as Birmingham was quite a reasonable size, even back then, having a population of 183,000. Further investigation showed there were a number of Henry Ridleys to choose from so I wasn't really sure where to begin.

Some time ago, as an exercise, in order to try and untangle the many Ridley families, I began making a list of Ridley references from the Birmingham parish and census records. After doing this, I was still none the wiser. For instance, I discovered there were two Joseph and Mary Ridleys living in adjacent streets, both having children at the same time. Thank goodness they had different occupations. I hypothesised that one of these couples might have been Henry's parents as there was a baptism of a Henry, in 1840 with parents with these names. Nevertheless there were other Henry Ridleys born around those few years and, remember, I couldn't be absolutely certain of his age. In addition, I couldn't find a suitable birth record, so I was well and truly stumped.

Then, out of the blue I was checking my dads DNA matches the other day when I discovered a new match with dad and another person who is also descended from Henry, making three Ridley descendants sharing DNA with each other. Bingo! The good news was that this new match linked into our Ridley line a generation above Henry and so I was finally able to ascertain who Henry's parents were. It turned out they were indeed one of the Joseph and Mary Ridley couples. In fact, Henry had a middle name. His full name was Henry Frederick Ridley. I'd seen this before in my searches but was hesitant to make the assumption that this was my Henry as Frederick hadn't previously appeared on any other record that I could link him with. I eventually found an entry in the birth indexes whereby he was just named Frederick, without the Henry, believe it or not! As it turns out, this is a very complicated family to research.

The new DNA match is descended from another Joseph Ridley, Henry's brother, who was born in 1835. This particular Joseph also appears to have had a slightly complicated life. I found two probable marriages for him to the same woman. He married Eliza Goodman in 1855 and then again in 1871, it seems. They had five children but sadly four of them died, all before the age of five. Joseph was in the army and was posted to Calcutta. In November 1871 their youngest child, Samuel, was buried whilst the family were abroad. Why did they marry twice? Did Joseph and Eliza go through a second wedding because they'd lost their first marriage certificate and needed to prove to the army they were married before travelling abroad? This is purely speculation, the answer will doubtless never surface.

The Family of Joseph Ridley & Eliza Goodman
The Family of Joseph Ridley & Eliza Goodman

Back to Henry. Now that I had his middle name, I was able to confirm what had been my suspicions for a while. I wasn't certain what had become of him after he and Hannah had parted company but there was a marriage to an Anne Elizabeth Shipman in Sheffield in 1873 and their marriage certificate confirmed that Henry's father was Joseph Ridley, a metal mixer, which was conducive to his known occupation as a caster. The sad fact is this wedding took place less than 18 months after my great-grandmother, Alice, was born, so it's quite possible that she never knew her father. Indeed she gave the occupation of her stepfather when she got married in 1895 and stated that her father was deceased which wasn't the case at all.

The Family of Henry Ridley & Anne Elizabeth Shipman
The Family of Henry Ridley & Anne Elizabeth Shipman

Henry was a blacksmith and appears to have been itinerant. After the five children he'd had with Hannah, he went on to have six with Anne, who was known by her middle name, Elizabeth. All of these six children were born in different places and, all but the two youngest, died in infancy. The last surviving daughter, Jane, lived until 1971 but I wasn't able to discover any children she might have had with her husband, David Kimpton.

The youngest child, Joseph Henry, born in 1890, died in the First World War in April 1915 and his name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. His service record stated that his personal property and medals were to go to a Samuel Drury of 62 Ryton Terrace, North Anston, Sheffield, described as the 'soldier's guardian'. It seems he'd lost touch with his sister, Jane, and I believe both Henry and Elizabeth must have died by then but I haven't been able to find out where or when. It's quite sad as Samuel Drury stated, "No knowledge of relatives - came to ask to be taken in, for a home, we did so. He lived with us some seven years before the war". Mrs Drury was his landlady and his sister was understood to be living in the Sheffield locality but it wasn't known exactly where. Nevertheless, they may have caught up with her eventually, as there is a faint note on the record stating, "Sister notified".

I discovered one final snippet of information about Henry. When he was 17 years old, he was sentenced to six months in prison for breaking into a house and stealing clothes and other articles. Henry's father had died when he was only seven years old and I wasn't able to find him in the 1851 census at all. His mother, who'd remarried, had his younger sister with her, but where was 11 year old Henry? I can't help wondering whether he was living hand-to-mouth from an early age and maybe this is why he'd turned to crime. We shall probably never know the truth but who am I to judge? I suspect his life would have been disparate and chaotic. He was probably very poor and had to go wherever he could find work. Unfortunately, this would have been all too common in the inner cities of Victorian Britain and I, for one, am very glad I wasn't around then.

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A modest update to Harvey's Y-DNA

Category: DNA

I logged into FamilyTreeDNA today, something I hadn't done for quite some time, and noticed that Harvey has travelled down the Y-DNA haplotree a couple of more branches. This would be because there have been new people taking the test. Previously, Harvey was located at S18890 but now he has moved through FT161969 to BY100453.

What does this mean? Well, not a lot at this stage except that it's encouraging to know that others are still interested in taking the Big-Y DNA test. The FT161969 > BY100453 in Cornwall (Harvey's line) is a long thin line with parallel Dutch and Finnish lines going back to 450 AD and it may be Norman. We still await a Barnes man from Cornwall, or elsewhere, to give Harvey a closer match.

Section of the Y-haplotree showing Harvey's BY100453 subclade
Section of the Y-haplotree showing Harvey's BY100453 subclade

See more on Harvey's Y-DNA here

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Update on the Hibbitt/Hibbett/Hibbit Y-DNA Haplogroup

Category: DNA

Following on from a previous post where I explained that my patrilineal line doesn't match the Hibbitt haplogroup, I am now giving an update for those called Hibbitt or a variant of the name.

We now have four people called either Hibbitt, Hibbett or Hibbit sharing the Z2534 haplogroup. At least two descend from John Hybot and Ann Tubbs who married in Exton, Rutland, in 1732, through their son, Matthew, who married Frances Penruddock. A third person could either descend from Matthew and Frances or Matthew's brother, William, who married Elizabeth Skillet. Either way, John Hybot and Ann Tubbs would be this person's forebears too.

The final Z2534 result came from a descendant of a John Hibbit who married Mary Toft in London in 1770. This then, would point to a connection back to either John Hybot or, quite probably, an ancestor of his, how far back we cannot know without specific Y-DNA testing.

Three of the results were obtained when testers ran their AncestryDNA raw data files through the Morley Y-SNP Subclade Predictor Tool at

The fourth person in this Z2534 group tested with Living DNA which gave a more recent haplogroup than Z2534. The haplogroup was Z2189. The R Z2534 DNA project suggests that the people they have in their project who are positive for the Z2189 SNP have Iberian ancestry.

The Ancestry and Living DNA tests are not dedicated Y DNA tests, instead they are autosomal DNA tests with a small amount of Y-DNA data included. The YTree at YFull shows various testers who've taken the Big Y test at FTDNA or similar and who come under Z2534: The ancestry of those in the Z2189 group includes places such as Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Puerto Rico. It's curious then, how the Hybot family came to be in England but it needs to be noted that the Z2189 haplogroup was formed about 4000 years ago.

The R Z2189 Haplogroup on the YTree
The R Z2189 Haplogroup on the YTree

If anyone in the Hibbitt etc. group was to take a Big Y test and upload to YFull, it would be interesting to see whether they were a match to any of the existing subclades of Z2189 or whether they would eventually form a brand new branch if a closer DNA match also tested.

As for my line, with every result that comes in at Z2534, it confirms that I am not a 'real' Hibbitt after all. My Dad's haplogroup is Z36747 which separated from the Z2534 haplogroup at DF13, which is a couple of clades above Z2534, and therefore further back in time. I still have no idea what my maiden name should have been but I believe that it's either my great-grandfather or his father who had a father who wasn't a Hibbitt. This is contrary to what the records say so no clues so far.

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DNA highlights my Grandpa Geake's mysterious Irish connections

Category: DNA

Ancestry has recently completed its Irish ethnicity regions update and now offers 92 distinct regions in Ireland. This has resulted in my being able to identify some areas on my maternal grandfather's side. My mum, aunt and two of their first cousins have tested at Ancestry and here are the findings.

My Mum's Irish Ethnicity Results
My Mum's Irish Ethnicity Results

My Aunt's Irish Ethnicity Results
My Aunt's Irish Ethnicity Results

Cousin 1's Irish Ethnicity Results
Cousin 1's Irish Ethnicity Results

Cousin 2's Irish Ethnicity Results
Cousin 2's Irish Ethnicity Results
Note: The Scottish connection is because Cousin 2's mother was Scottish

Here are maps of the regions:

Connacht with sub-regions of North East Mayo & North West Sligo, North Connacht and North Mayo
Connacht with sub-regions of North East Mayo & North West Sligo, North Connacht and North Mayo

Central Ireland with sub-regions of North Leinster & East Connacht and North Leitrim & East Sligo
Central Ireland with sub-regions of North Leinster & East Connacht and North Leitrim & East Sligo

The region known as North East Mayo & North West Sligo shows up in all of the cousins' results and yet I cannot trace an ancestor from this region. The only Irish connection I have is currently tenuous - one of the cousins' shared great-grandmothers married their great-grandfather in Shanagolden, Limerick, in 1871. Her maiden name might have been Burgoyne or Congdon and I cannot be certain that she was definitely Irish. Her husband, John Gale Hellier, was in the Royal Navy and was from Tavistock in Devon -

It's remarkable that such a lot of Irish DNA has filtered down through the generations considering the three other shared great-grandparents were all Devonians and having only Devon ancestry going further back in time. The cousins' other known family lines do not involve Ireland and so it cannot be easily explained.

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Obtaining your Deceased Ancestor's DNA could soon become a reality

Category: DNA

Postcard written in 1909 by my great-grandmother, Florence Smale
Postcard written in 1909 by my great-grandmother, Florence Smale, to her sister's sister-in-law, Edith Browning, nee Martin


A few months ago Living DNA announced they had successfully extracted DNA from a stamp on an old envelope which enabled a person who was abandoned as a baby to identify her father.

Although we haven't heard any more from Living DNA about when this may become generally available, there is a company in Australia which is now offering a similar service called totheletter DNA -

MyHeritage also recently announced...

"MyHeritage will soon be able, through a partnership with a specialist company, to process the DNA from stamps and old envelopes and then link the DNA to the ancestor, providing you with DNA results for your deceased ancestors, right on MyHeritage."

It remains to be seen if their partner is totheletter DNA.


The totheletter DNA service is expensive ($781.50 AUD, approximately £445 for each artifact). If enough DNA is not available after the extraction process has taken place, a large proportion of the fee is refundable:

However, cost and the possibility of the lack of a useable sample aren't the only factors to take into consideration. Here are some other things to think about...
  • Currently the DNA raw data file can only be uploaded to GEDmatch Genesis for comparison with others who have tested their DNA. This may well change in the future if artifact testing becomes more popular.

  • So far, the service is limited to items which would have been licked such as envelopes with the seal intact and stamps.

  • The DNA might not belong to the person you expect. The sender of the letter may have asked the post master or a friend to lick the item.

  • There may be no DNA on the item if a sponge was used to wet the stamp or envelope.

  • The envelope or stamp you send in cannot be used a second time so you may want to wait a while to see how the technology develops before submitting that one and only postcard you have which your great-grandmother sent to her friend.

  • Scan your item before sending it as it won't be returned to you in the same condition.


There are potentially exciting times ahead. If the cost reduces in the future and the technology proves successful then we need to be identifying and preserving our artifacts right now.

Denise May Levenick, aka The Family Curator, makes the following recommendations on her blog (
  • Identify potential items for DNA testing and isolate from other items. Wear white cotton or nitrile gloves to avoid further contamination.

  • Place the individual item in an acid-free paper folder or envelope. Avoid plastic.

  • If possible, store this envelope inside an archival box or a metal file drawer to further protect from handling and temperature fluctuations. This location should be inside your home where temperature and humidity doesn't change dramatically. Keep dry.

  • Handling and cross-contamination.

  • Freezing.

  • Moisture.

  • Heat.

TIP: If you don't have an archival folder or envelope, sandwich the letter and envelope between two sheets of acid-free resume paper (available at most office-supply stores). Place everything in a standard file folder or large envelope and store as directed above.


You may not think you have any viable items from your ancestors but it's worth getting in touch with your known relatives to see whether they are sitting on a letter or postcard written by your mutual great-grandfather. The DNA of a full sibling of your direct ancestor is equally as useful as that of your own direct relative as their parents would still be your direct ancestors.

If you know of anyone to whom your ancestor may have written, then you might try to contact their living relatives to see whether they have any correspondence from your ancestor.

Another strategy is to look up family trees online to see whether you can identify descendants of a mutual ancestor. It may be that they have a suitable artifact they'd be willing to have tested. You might also consider sharing the cost between interested relatives who would benefit from the extracted DNA.


If you're reading this and you are in possession of an item which may be suitable for genealogical DNA testing and which may have been sent by one of my (and perhaps your) relatives, please preserve the item as best you can and do get in touch with me. I have no immediate plans to test at the current prices but it might be something to look into in the future.

If nothing else, it's always interesting to discover personal family items which you didn't know existed so I'd like to take this opportunity to say if you have any correspondence, documents, photographs or objects connected to my family, I'd love to see (and, if possible, scan or photograph) them so please do contact me. It doesn't matter if they can't be used for DNA extraction, it all adds to the story of the family and that's a good enough reason in itself.

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DNA uncovers a family secret

Category: DNA

A new DNA match recently appeared in our match lists (I'll call her Sally - not her real name) which revealed something about my maternal grandmother's uncle that I feel sure my gran never knew about. Richard Arthur Weaver, brother of my great-grandfather, Henry James Weaver, had an illegitimate child before he was married.

I've said before how my gran lost touch with her father's family having been orphaned at the age of four so it's not surprising that my gran probably wouldn't have known this. See my previous blog post at which mentions how my gran visited the family many years later.

At first, it wasn't obvious how Sally and I were related and so I set about reviewing the evidence and eliminating suspects. Sally is my third cousin and a second cousin once removed to my mum and aunt. Richard Weaver was her great-grandfather and so we share common ancestors in our 2 x great-grandparents, William Henry Weaver and Jane (nee Arnold).

This is how I worked out the relationship. Sally shares 120 centimorgans across 7 segments of DNA with my mum. I used the calculator at which confirmed my suspicions that the match had to be reasonably close. Most of these segments even passed down to my brother, one generation below.

Sally's grandmother, Laura, was born in July 1901 and I managed to find Laura's baptism which included Weaver as a middle name. Her full name was Laura Bessie May Weaver PAYNE. My gran's maiden name was Weaver so this immediately gave me a clue as to which side of my family I needed to concentrate on. I had already drawn the conclusion that the connection was likely to be on my mum's maternal side because two paternal first cousins of my mum and aunt have taken a DNA test and neither of them are a match to Sally.

I began looking for likely candidates as to who might have fathered Laura. I felt that our 2 x great-grandfather, William Henry Weaver, was a little too far out of range for the amount of shared DNA, and probably too old for a young girl to be interested in him (although not impossible of course). This left my great-grandfather, Henry, and his older brother, Richard, in the frame. If it was Henry, who was 18 when Laura was born, then Sally would be my mum's half first cousin once removed. The DNA match falls within range but is less likely than if it was Richard who was 26 when Laura was born. In this scenario, Sally would be my mum's second cousin once removed and this was more of a comfortable fit, DNA-wise.

These were pointers rather than definite conclusions because DNA inheritance is random and there is quite a bit of overlap in the amount of DNA someone can share with a cousin. I had to find something to tie Richard to Lily Payne, the mother of Laura, so I looked up the newspapers on FindMyPast and, lo and behold, this is what I found.

28th September 1901 in the Chard and Ilminster News...

CASE ADJOURNED. - Richard Weaver, of Fivehead, had been summoned by Lily Payne, of Isle Abbots, to show cause, etc. but the case was adjourned.

The Chard and Ilminster News, 28th September 1901
The Chard and Ilminster News, 28th September 1901

Then on 2nd November 1901, again in the Chard and Ilminster News...

SETTLED CASES. -...The case adjourned from the last Court in which Richard Weaver was summoned by Lily Payne to show cause, etc., had also been satisfactorily arranged by the parties.

The first article mentioned that Richard lived in the village of Fivehead which lies between his home village of Curry Rivel in Somerset and Lily's home village of Isle Abbotts. I had no other documentation placing him in Fivehead including the 1901 census when he was living in Curry Rivel only a few months before Laura was born. Nevertheless, I couldn't find any other Richard Weavers in the locality that could have been the father and, of course, we had the DNA too.

Lily Payne was born on 2nd November 1882 and her parents were James Payne and Susan (nee Lewis). Lily was almost 17 years old when she was baptized on 18th October 1899 in Isle Abbots.

I subsequently found Lily had another child called Gwendoline Gertrude Weaver PAYNE baptised in 1908 but born in 1903 so it looks quite possible that Richard had a second child by her.

In 1906, Lily Payne went on to have yet another child called Reginald Harold Marsh Payne but I'm guessing he had a different father called Marsh. Then in 1910, Lily married Thomas Edmonds and they had a son together, Donald Clarence P Edmunds/Edmonds, in 1912. Lily died in 1928 and is buried at Fivehead.

Richard Weaver married Alice Trott in 1906 and, as far as I can tell, they never had any children of their own. Richard had a long career as a postman but started out following in his father's footsteps in the shoemaking business. He took it up again after he retired from the Post Office and died in 1949, being outlived by Alice.

Laura married Herbert Gerald Young in 1923 and had three boys. She died in Bournemouth in 1963.

Gwendoline married Joseph H Manns in 1921 and I believe she died in December the following year after having a daughter called Phyllis.

Reginald married Annie Rebecca Stait in Tidenham, Gloucestershire, in 1929 and they had a daughter. He passed away in Newport in 1986.

Finally Donald married Dorothy L West in 1939 and he died in 1966.

My 2 x great-grandfather, William Henry Weaver, was also illegitimate and, to date, his father is a complete brick wall. Perhaps Sally's and my close family's DNA working in tandem may one day solve this mystery too.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

Who am I? What's my name?

Category: DNA

R1b-L21 Descendant Tree borrowed from the 'R L21, Z290 and Subclades FamilyTreeDNA Project'

(Click the image for a larger version.)

For a number of years I've believed my patrilineal line (my Hibbitt ancestors) dated back to the early 18th century, being located in the village of Exton in the county of Rutland. However, recent DNA discoveries have thrown this into question.

The records I've looked at to date show no sign of a problem but it's looking likely that my family has a NPE (non-paternal event) or misattributed parentage. How do I know this?

I recently started a Facebook Group called Hibbitt/Hibbett (plus other variants) Family History Research Group. There are a number of people in this group who descend from a John HIBBIT & Mary Toft who married in St Pancras, London, in 1770. One member, who is a direct male line descendant of this couple, ran his father's AncestryDNA test through the Morley Y-SNP Subclade Predictor Tool and received a basic haplogroup of R1b-Z2534.

My dad knows his current haplogroup (R1b-Z36747), having taken a number of Y-DNA tests. It can be written as a series of subclades moving forward in time as various mutations arise:
R1b-M343 > P297 > M269 > L23 > L51 > P312 > Z290/S461 > L21 > DF13 > DF21 > S3058 > S424 > S426 > CTS2187/S190 > Z36747

Unfortunately, the Z2534 haplogroup split away from my dad's haplogroup at DF13, a haplogroup which was formed in approximately 2600 BC. The path is:
R1b-M343 > P297 > M269 > L23 > L51 > P312 > Z290/S461 > L21 > DF13 > Z253 > Z2534

Therefore my dad and the descendant of John HIBBIT (m. 1770) cannot share a recent patrilineal ancestor.

At this point I wasn't too concerned as paper records haven't connected the London HIBBIT family to the Rutland HIBBITT/HIBBETT family. I was therefore keen to hear from descendants of my most distant known ancestor (MDKA), John Hybit, who married three times in Exton between 1712 and 1732.

I believed I was descended through John HYBIT's son, William, and so I was pleased to discover that a descendant of John's son, Matthew, had received his AncestryDNA results. He too was a direct male line descendant and very kindly ran his DNA through the Morley Tool. It turns out that he too, received a result of R1b-Z2534.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is that the London HIBBIT group and the Rutland HIBBITT/HIBBETT group share a distant ancestor dating back to about 4600 years ago, give or take a few centuries either way. The likelihood is that if they were to undertake dedicated Y-DNA testing, they would probably find that their common ancestor is much more recent than this and they would also be eligible to join the R-Z253 Project at FamilyTreeDNA.

Unfortunately for me and my close family, it is looking very likely that we are the odd-ones-out. However, I would still be glad if additional, suitable candidates would ascertain their haplogroup so we can be more certain of the facts and to perhaps narrow down precisely in which generation the NPE occurred.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]
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