Our Pop, Charles Clarson jnr, born 1879


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My great-grandfather Charles Clarson jnr was a successful poultry breeder and a not-so-successful dairy farmer, who lived at Esk, Queensland for most of his life.

Charles Clarson junior was born on 10 November 1879 at Eastrington, Yorkshire East Riding, England, the eldest of five children of Charles Clarson senior and his wife Anna Nicholson. Charles’s parents were school teachers, who had married at New Brentford, London, Middlesex in December 1878. Charles jnr was the third in line of the same name, and was called Charles junior during his lifetime. His descendants called him Pop. I am going to call him Pop in this blog, to help differentiate him from his father of the same name. Pop’s grandfather Charles was a bricklayer’s labourer in Tamworth, Staffordshire, who died in 1898.

At the time of the March 1881 census, young Charles was aged 1, living at the School House in Coppull, Lancashire with his parents Charles 31 and Anna 25.

His parents successfully applied for teaching positions in Queensland, Australia, which had been advertised in the English press, and despite opposition from Anna’s brother George Nicholson (who had a low opinion of the colonies), on the last day of 1884 they boarded the “Duke of Buccleuch” in London with their young children Charles (Pop) aged 5, May 3 and Amy 1. Anna’s younger sister Amy Nicholson accompanied them, to “help look after the children”. The “Duke of Buccleuch” arrived in Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Queensland on 3 March 1885.

  • Also on board was another teacher, James Gill, who subsequently married Anna’s sister Amy Nicholson. They were the parents of the three unmarried “Gill girls” of Brisbane, ie Amy, Mabel and Flo, who were therefore cousins to both Reg Gill and Billie Clarson. Reg and Billie, who were not cousins to each other, married in 1943.

The “Duke of Buccleuch” was built in 1873, an iron barque-rigged, four-masted sailing ship, but it also had 500 horsepower engines with a central funnel, so could operate by steam power when necessary.

Charles snr taught at Rosevale, Queensland for a year, then at Esk from 1886 to 1901. Pop’s sister Ethel was born at Esk, and a younger brother Kenneth was born at Ipswich (the family was still living at Esk at the time). Clarsons have been living at Esk in south-east Queensland from 1886 until very recently. The Clarson name died out at Esk with the deaths of brothers Barry in 2017 and Grant in 2018.

In his teenage years, Pop was a Pupil Teacher at Esk, where his father was schoolmaster. He had ambitions to become a builder using concrete, but was thwarted by his parents who could not agree about their son’s future. His mother wanted him to become a doctor, and his father wanted him to become an architect.  In the end, he pursued none of these options. He became a farmer, and was quite ill-suited for it, according to daughter Billie. She thought he would have been better off in the building trade, where he showed considerable skill. Ironically, if he had achieved his original goal, he would have been following in the footsteps of his paternal ancestors who were bricklayers.

In 1896 when Pop was 17, he and two school friends went ‘up the river’ (ie about 50km to the Moore district) ringbarking trees. For several years they lived rough, camping in tents.

It appears that Charles Clarson jnr was one of those who “came forward to volunteer” for the Boer War at a mass meeting at Esk in February 1900, according to a report in the Brisbane Courier, 21 Feb 1900, page 5. There is no evidence that he enlisted, so maybe it was just a momentary flash of patriotism on his part.

Pop did not accompany his family to Barcaldine, when his father was transferred to teach there in January 1902. Perhaps he was already courting his future bride Mary Ann Peters of “Gullinanie”, a property at Biarra north of Esk.

Mary Ann was a granddaughter of the owner of Gullinanie, Thomas Peters, who together with his young family had migrated from Cornwall to Queensland over 50 years earlier, in 1848. Mary Ann’s father Henry had recently retired from his carrier business in northern NSW due to ill health, and was working for his father at Gullinanie.

Pop aged 23 and Mary Ann 18 married on 17 December 1902 at Gullinanie homestead, according to the rites of the Methodist Church. The marriage certificate refers to Charles Clarson, bachelor, born Yorkshire, England; grazier of Oakdale, Redbank, Esk, parents Charles Clarson (teacher State School) and Anna Nicholson; married Mary Ann Peters, spinster, born Dundee, Goth, NSW, of Gullinanie, Esk, parents Henry Peters (labourer) and Alice Chater. The witnesses Thomas Peters and Henry Peters were Mary Ann’s grandfather and father. Pop’s family were unlikely to have attended the wedding, as they were at Barcaldine, 1000km north-west of Esk.

Mary Ann’s parents and paternal grandparents had attended her wedding, but within seven years, all were deceased. Her parents Henry and Alice were 62 and 55 when they died.

Pop and Mary Ann had three children – Anna 1903, Charlie 1908, and Norman 1912. In 1928 they formally adopted Anna’s illegitimate daughter Billie, who was born in 1923.


Pop must have saved a sufficient amount of money from ring-barking over several years, to set himself up with some land. He was not a drinker or a smoker, and living rough would have also also saved money.

In January 1901 Pop selected a homestead block of over 200 acres at Mt Hallen (assuming I am right in thinking that Sonoma is portion number 42v, Esk parish). At about the same time, he also purchased adjoining Abbott’s paddock, creating a dairy farm of 880 acres in total. The property was named “Sonoma”, a Native American word meaning “Valley of the Moon”, which Pop knew from his extensive reading.

Around the same time, Pop’s father Charles snr, now aged over 50, bought some land next door to Sonoma for his future. Charles snr had visions of farming at Esk after retiring from teaching.

While Charles snr was teaching at Barcaldine, Pop managed both Sonoma and his father’s retirement farm. At first Pop and Mary Ann lived in the big house on the retirement farm. Then Pop built their own small house close to the border with the retirement farm. I expect he did this to satisfy the residency obligations that were usually associated with selecting land and would have applied to Sonoma.

Charles snr did not retire from teaching until 1919, aged 69, at which time he returned to Esk. It seems likely that the Great War of 1914-1918 had delayed his retirement plans. At some stage, Pop paid Fred Drew to move his small house about 3km, either to put more distance between him and his father, or to be more centrally located on Sonoma land, or both.

Charles snr soon decided farming did not suit him – not surprising given his age and lack of practical experience. He sold out to Rudy and Auguste Limberg in 1921 (after which his retirement farm became known locally as “Limbergs place”). The Limbergs’ son Rudy jnr married Anna Clarson in 1928.

Charles snr and Anna moved to suburban Sandgate, in Brisbane, and named their Sandgate house “Sharow” (for Anna’s home town in Yorkshire, England).


Pop described his residence as “Oakdale, Redbank, Esk”, in December 1902 when he married Mary Ann Peters. From 1903 to 1936, “Charles Clarson, grazier” and “Mary Ann Clarson, home duties” appeared in the Australian Electoral Rolls, living at “Redbank, Esk”. From 1936 to 1954, their address in the electoral rolls was “Oakdale, Redbank Creek”. Anna‘s album includes a photo of a house, inscribed “Oakdale home 1919”. Charles snr’s address in the 1919 electoral roll was recorded as “Oakdale, Esk”.

From this, it seemed that the name of the Clarson retirement farm must have been Oakdale. The problem with this scenario is that the word Oakdale was added to Pop’s address in the electoral rolls from 1936, when the retirement farm was no longer owned by the Clarsons.

However noting that the occupations for Charles snr and Pop were regularly transposed in the electoral rolls when they were both living in Esk, perhaps one explanation might be that registration at the electoral office was a more casual process than it is today, and that the staff at the electoral office made several mistaken assumptions.

Pop originally called his poultry business “Oakdale Poultry Farm”, before changing it to “Clarson’s Poultry Yards”. So the name Oakdale was somehow significant to Charles, even if daughter Billie born 1923 was not familiar with it.

Anna‘s photo of “Oakdale home 1919” looks remarkably like a house that was shown to me by Anna and her mother Mary Ann, in the early 1960s, when I was aged about ten. This house was a short car ride from Sonoma, and it was obviously significant to Mary Ann and Anna. I believe it was the house on Charles snr’s retirement farm, which they both would have known well. It was unoccupied, which I could not understand at the time. But now I know that Rudy Limberg snr died in 1951, and I understand the house was left vacant until it burnt down accidentally in the 1970s.

I was perplexed when cousin Barry, a historian of the Peters, Jones and Findlay families, advised that Oakdale was a property owned by the Findlay family, and was at Redbank on the way to Hampton, west of Esk. A 1932 article in the “Queensland Times” noted that Charles Findlay of “Oakdale, Redbank”, was kicked by a horse, so Oakdale was still with the Findlay family in 1932.

My cousin Ray has suggested, and I think he must be right, that the senior Clarsons might have bought their retirement farm from the Findlays, and it was carved from (or adjacent to) their original Oakdale property. The Clarsons, knowing this history, simply called their retirement farm Oakdale to distinguish it from Sonoma. Goodness knows why they did not take the opportunity to give it a new name. The Limbergs, not knowing that history, did not use the Oakdale name. 

Sonoma was a dairy farm, and the Clarsons had an average of 50 milking cows. The family (Pop, Mary Ann and any available children) milked twice a day, and once a day in winter. The cream was separated, and sold to the Esk Butter Factory. I don’t know how it was delivered prior to 1930, but from then son Norman delivered it by car. After he left home with the car (because no one else could drive it) in 1938, the cream was delivered to Esk via the rail motor from Mt Hallen.  For the family, this meant a 30 minute/3km drive with horse and sulky to the railway stop. The separated milk was fed to the animals, ie calves, pigs and dogs.

The little house at Sonoma burnt down accidentally in October 1992, long after it passed out of Clarson ownership.

By 1945, all four Clarson children had married and left home:

  • Charlie married Jo Stephens in 1932, when he was a stockman on Bellevue Station near Esk. He later worked as a carpenter for Queensland Railways at Ipswich;
  • Anna married Rudy Limberg jnr in 1928, and they were farmers in the Esk district;
  • Norman married Cora Feldhahn in 1938, and he was a grader driver and farmer in the Esk district; and
  • Billie married soldier Reg Gill in 1943. He was a sugar cane farmer and they settled in Innisfail, North Queensland.

After Pop retired from farming in about 1948 (when he was 69, the same age his father was when he retired), he and Mary Ann moved to the town of Esk. They sold Sonoma to their son Norman, and bought Norm’s house at South Street, Esk. Norm, together with his son Barry, ran Sonoma for about 20 years.

Pop’s sister Ethel, who never married, lived with them at South Street for a few years, when she was teaching at the Esk school. Ethel retired to Sandgate in 1955.

Anna and Rudy also lived in the South Street house, first with her mother Mary Ann until her death in 1968. Anna was widowed in 1972, and lived at South Street alone until her own death in 1989.

The South Street house was located at the top of a steep drive. One of my abiding memories of Anna is her dragging her rubbish bin down to the side of the road, refusing any help, when she was in her 80s. After her death, the new owners moved the house down the hill, so it is now closer to the road.


Pop enjoyed carpentry, and was good at it. As already mentioned, he built his own house. The cattle yards that he built were renowned in the district for good reason. His trademark was large thick corner and gate posts. When grandson Eric aged 8 visited him in Esk in 1952, Charles showed him how to make a chair using a spokeshave tool. Pop’s son Charlie was a carpenter.

Tennis was (and still is) an important part of the social life of rural communities and Esk was no exception. In about 1927 Pop built a tennis court at Sonoma, the base of which was made from termite mounds, a common practice at the time. For a while, all visitors were handed a mattock and invited to help break up termite mounds. The new tennis court was launched with a large afternoon party, and was a resounding success.

Pop and his son Norman were keen cricketers, and both were spectators at the Fourth Test match against England at Brisbane in February 1933, in the controversial “bodyline” series. Pop was a noted wicket-keeper, and was associated with several clubs in the district. 

He was a captain of the local Esk Rifle Club in the 1920s, and was a good shot, several times winning first prize at the club.

He loved reading and would read everything he could get his hands on. Shakespeare was a long time favourite. He also enjoyed debating, or what the rest of the family called arguing.

During the 1910s there were regular local press reports of his involvement with shooting, cricket, and poultry breeding.


Pop must have been interested in poultry from a young age, as he was winning prizes and donating trophies in 1907, aged 28. His special interest was breeding Indian Game fowl, and from the 1930s, Old English Game. He became the best known and foremost breeder of Indian Game fowl in Australia, as well as a successful exhibitor at the Brisbane Exhibition and Royal Poultry Club of Queensland. He also exhibited in the Sydney Royal Easter Show several times. He became a well-known poultry judge, and was invited to towns all over southern Queensland to judge, limited only by his capacity to travel.  He was the chief poultry steward at the Esk show.

One of his favourite trophies was the Chaille Cup, which was presented by Harold Mapon Chaille, when he was president of the Esk Show Society. It was for the Show’s Champion Hard Feather Game Bird, and had to be won twice in succession or three times in all. Pop’s name was on the cup three times, as another person won it the second time. Pop and Harold were best friends ever since they were in the same class at the Esk school.

The following press article provides background to Pop’s interest in Indian Game birds, with the caveat that the reporter wrongly made Mary Ann the focus of the story, rather than Pop.

POULTRY BREEDING WOMAN’S OUTSTANDING SUCCESS. “First import, then export,” seems to be the principle on which Mrs C Clarson, of the Esk district, operates her poultry breeding activities. Having started with a trio of Indian Game birds from England, supplemented later by a larger consignment from the same source, she has built up one of the purest strains of this breed in Australia, and from the original foundation stock she has supplied breeders in every part of Australia and New Zealand. This year she carried off the championship for Indian Game birds at the Royal National, in addition to two first prizes for breeding pens and several other awards. Importing breeding stock even under ordinary conditions, is an expensive proposition, whether it be poultry, sheep, cattle or pigs, but when the shipping date coincides with a shipping strike, then the costs are even higher, as Mrs Clarson discovered when bringing out her second consignment. That the birds arrived alive was due to the co-operation of the passengers on the ship who undertook to feed and care for them during the voyage [and the additional time spent at Capetown due to a shipping strike]. Unfortunately for the freight bill, however, they used cinders instead of straw for bedding, and as no-one thought to remove the accumulation from the cages on arrival at Sydney, Mrs Clarson paid freight on a large quantity of ship’s clinkers as well as her English fowls. However, even with this extra expense, she considered herself very lucky to receive the birds at all. Her breeding stock came from Mr W Northcott [of St Austell, Cornwall], a noted English poultry fancier, who met his death shortly after the first shipment was made. Realising that with the dispersal of his flock, it would be impossible to obtain any more of this particular strain, Mrs Clarson hurriedly ordered a second consignment of 14 birds, and by scientific breeding has maintained their original purity. Her service to the Australian poultry industry in this respect has been very valuable. As she has had 30 years’ experience, it is not surprising to find that her output is in keen demand. On their farm at Esk Mr and Mrs Clarson combine dairying and poultry raising, and are always among the successful exhibitors at major Queensland shows (Queensland Country Life, 13 Oct 1938, p12).

When the second consignment of birds arrived in Brisbane, there wasn’t room for them to stand up straight due to the build up of clinkers, and many had Bumblefoot from standing on the clinkers for months. The hold-up at Capetown was caused by the seamen’s strike of August 1925.

Charles continued showing poultry, probably till his death; after which his daughter Anna took over the fowls.


The Clarson family had a memorable three month holiday at Maroochydore in 1933. They spent a lot of time fishing. Pop bought a half-share in a run-down fishing boat called “Cromarty Bell” which provided the family with much interest for several years, but no profits.

Pop bought a Model T Ford car in the early 1930s, but as neither he nor Mary Ann learned to drive, son Norman was responsible for the car. It was replaced by a Lady Betty within a few years. When Norm left home to get married in 1938, he was allowed to take the car with him, and the family reverted to one-horse power.

Pop’s mother Anna and his sisters May and Amy were somewhat estranged from Charles and Mary Ann – reason not known. Siblings Ethel and Ken, who were both schoolteachers, remained friendly. Ken and his family visited Sonoma about 1930.

The Clarsons were very friendly with their three impoverished Gill cousins – Amy, Mabel and Flo – who lived in Brisbane. There were many happy visits back and forth between Esk and Brisbane.


Pop had insulin dependent type 2 diabetes in his later years.

Charles Clarson died on 6 February 1957 at Stanley Hospital (ie Esk Hospital), Esk, Queensland, aged 77 years, parents Charles Clarson (school teacher) and Anna Nicholson.  The cause of death was cerebral thrombosis and arteriosclerosis which he had about 10 weeks. The informant was Jean Dunlop, the Administrator of the Hospital.

His death certificate was reasonably accurate, noting that he was born in Yorkshire, England, and had been in Queensland for 72 years. He married aged 23 at Gullinanie, Esk to Mary Anne Peters. His living children were Mary Alice Anna 53; Charles Irwin 49 and Norman 44, with no deceased children.

Billie was not listed on Pop’s death certificate. However Charlie was not listed on Mary Ann’s 1968 death certificate, so we should not read too much into what was no doubt an accidental omission. Anna informed Mary Ann’s death, and no doubt provided the information to the hospital for Pop’s death certificate.

The funeral service on 7 February was at the St Agnes Church of England, Esk, and Pop was buried at the Esk Cemetery. There is a simple headstone on his grave.

A short obituary was published in the “Brisbane Valley Star” on 8 February 1957.


Pop traded in poultry with Arden Davenport Clarson (Ardie) of Yangan, Queensland, who exhibited Light Sussex fowls. They did not know that they were related.

Pop’s younger brother Ken used to play tennis with the Yangan Clarsons, when he was teaching at Freestone from 1920-1924. They also did not know they were related.

As the surname Clarson is relatively rare, and they both came from Tamworth families in England, they could have assumed that there was a relationship. However, given that someone who prepared a family tree in England during the 1880s could not establish the relationship between the two branches of the Clarson family living at Tamworth, it would have been too much to expect someone in the next generation living in Australia to do so.

The gap in family knowledge seems to have occurred with John Clarson born 1787.  He was a soldier who fought in the Peninsula Wars and served in Ireland. After his army career, he settled at his birthplace Tamworth, and died aged 43 in 1830. His three surviving sons were bricklayer’s labourers. These sons apparently had little or no contact with their Clarson first cousins, even though they lived in the same town. Their cousins were successful businessmen in the building industry (except for Abel who was a draper), and these middle-class Clarsons probably had little in common with their working-class cousins. Apart from that, I suspect that John the soldier may have been an embittered man, and possibly refused to have anything to do with his brother’s family.

John the soldier married in Ireland, and his surviving sons were born at Macclesfield, so there were few records at Tamworth giving clues to the origins of the three working-class Clarson brothers. It is no wonder that the next generation in Tamworth could not establish what their relationship was, especially if they were not on speaking terms.

In fact, Ardie born 1880 and Pop born 1879 were third cousins. Ardie arrived in Australia in 1910. Their fathers Arthur born 1840 and Charles born 1851 were second cousins; their grandfathers Abel born 1817 and Charles born 1823 were first cousins; and their great-grandfathers Joseph born 1775 and John born 1787 were brothers. Their mutual great-great grandfather was Joseph Clarson born 1748 at Tamworth.




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Here is a checklist of things to try when looking for an unknown parent using DNA. This assumes you know the mother, and the father is the unknown parent.

I am not an expert, and have identified only a couple of unknown parents, all in England. Nevertheless this blog is based on several years experience with genetic genealogy.

BE PATIENT. This process may takes months, or years. Keep checking for new matches. Do not give up.

MAKING CONTACT. You will soon discover that many of your matches have private trees, do not have trees, and/or do not reply to messages. These people may have not set up their accounts to receive notification of messages; they may be deceased; they may know a lot about their ancestry but chose to not put it online publicly; they may have done a test “for fun” to discover their estimated ethnicity and have no interest in genealogy. Deal with it. It is always worth sending a message. Some people will reply years later! If a match looks like it is going to be important and they have not replied, check when they last logged into Ancestry on their profile page (ie not their DNA match page). If they are active, send another message, as they may have overlooked replying. Otherwise, do some sleuthing online. Their profile page may have clues, ie place of residence or an email address. People often have the same or similar usernames on different sites. It is surprising how often an approach to someone via Facebook can be successful.

PEDIGREE. In the DNA context “tree” often refers to your pedigree, ie your direct ancestors only.


Things get complicated if your genetic parents were related to each other. Before you start, you should check this with a tool at Gedmatch.com called “Are Your Parents Related”. If the answer is yes, seek experienced advice, as it impacts on the way you interpret your matches, and is outside my area of understanding. There is a link to a relevant article at the bottom of the Gedmatch results page. You will need to upload your raw DNA data from Ancestry to Gedmatch, which is a free DNA-sharing website.


The most useful DNA test is an autosomal (atDNA) test, because it looks at all your ancestors, with potential for matches back 6 to 8 generations. This is adequate for most genealogical purposes. Ancestry has by far the biggest database of all testing companies, so you will get many more matches. Other companies also offer atDNA tests, eg FTDNA, MyHeritage, 22andMe, etc.

If possible, test your mother as well as yourself. Then you will immediately be able to identify all your maternal matches by marking matches that you share with her, using Ancestry’s coloured dots. (It is a good idea to use a different coloured dot for each of your great-grandparents surnames, where known, but simply marking them as maternal is adequate for this purpose) The remaining matches belong to your father’s family. This is the best case scenario.

If your mother cannot test, it would be helpful to test her close relatives (representatives of both her paternal and maternal families). Your half-sibling would be good, but not your full sibling. Anyone from the earliest available generation is best. Test as many as you can afford. Any shared matches you have with your maternal relative(s) can likewise be marked as maternal.

Hint: Do a quick check of your own matches before paying relatives to test, because you might discover that some of your mother’s close relatives have already tested!

If there are no known maternal relatives to test, then build your mother’s pedigree using traditional paper-based genealogy methods. Try to include all your second cousins, and also your mother’s second cousins in the tree, but don’t stress about it if you cannot.

Then, using Ancestry’s Common Ancestor Hints (CAHs), mark your known matches, and any shared matches you have with them. All your CAHs should be maternal at this stage. To get the best CAHs, you have to:

  • make a PUBLIC tree at Ancestry with the ancestors of your known parent for at least three generations, plus more generations if you can;
  • attach your DNA results to yourself in that tree, and made yourself the home person;
  • leave your father’s details blank – even if you know anything about him (for this exercise, you want only maternal CAHs; you can add his known details later);
  • exclude symbols in the name boxes for your direct line ancestors (eg parentheses, quotes, stars etc – put that information in the suffix name box for now); and
  • use Ancestry’s standardised place name for your direct line ancestors’s birth places.

Ancestry has eliminated a lot of hard work for you by producing CAHs. They are gold. Make use of them. If you have just uploaded your DNA or just built your tree, wait a few days for the CAHs to be developed by Ancestry’s clever robots. Be aware that CAHs are based on your tree and other people’s trees, so a widely copied error may result in an incorrect CAH. I check mine thoroughly and have found them to be mostly accurate, except for a handful at the tiny match level.

By now you will have a good number of marked maternal matches, which you can ignore in the search for your paternal line.

Look at remaining unknown matches up to third or fourth cousins, and see if you can identify them. There may be some that you can identify as maternal, even without a CAH from Ancestry.

Beware, not all the remaining matches will be paternal. There might be unknown maternal matches, perhaps resulting from other births out of wedlock. This does not apply if your mother has tested, as in this case you can be sure that any matches not shared with her are your paternal matches.


Look at any close unknown matches (ie up to second and third cousins) carefully, as they may well be your father’s close relatives. If they have a tree, look at the recent birthplaces to see if any are familiar.  Check their shared matches – have you already identified this match as maternal by association?

If you have a close unknown match that you are reasonably sure is not maternal, consider attempting contact with them in a sensitive way. Don’t worry if they do not have a tree. People often know about their close relations, even if they are not “into” genealogy. They may or may not know the circumstances of your birth. They may be able to identify your father, and you will have had a short journey to discovery. Otherwise, your work is just beginning.


(A) yDNA

If the unknown father has a male-line descendant, ie a son or grandson etc, a yDNA test of that male might be helpful if there was a yDNA match within recent generations, as it would provide a surname to focus on – remembering that it might not be the right surname. But if you were very lucky and had several matches with the same surname, you could be reasonably confident that you had the right surname, assuming of course that your own paternal line did not have an earlier “unknown paternal event”. There is always an “if”!

The unfortunate thing about yDNA tests is that they are not popular, so it is possible that you will get only a few matches, and even fewer close matches. FTDNA.com does yDNA tests for genetic genealogy.

If the unknown parent was a female, then a mtDNA test will rarely, if ever, be useful for identifying surnames. If an unusual ethnicity is suspected, in some circumstances a mtDNA test might be useful.


Ancestry announced in May 2020 that they will be discontinuing the use of GeneticAffairs.com’s autocluster tool on their website. Register now with GeneticAffairs, and run an autocluster analysis at Ancestry urgently, while you can.

The tool shows selected matches as clusters. Hopefully, you will get four or more clusters representing your grandparents and/or great-grandparents families.

You can also run this tool at FTDNA.com and 23andMe. MyHeritage has the Clustering tool on its own website. Use them all.

It is possible to achieve the same outcome with hours of your own work, but using this tool is a huge shortcut.


Check the matches in the unknown clusters back at Ancestry. If any of them, or their shared matches, have been marked as maternal, review them to see if you made an error. If not, then maybe you have a mystery in your maternal line as well!

The remaining unknown cluster matches who have trees are very likely to include your paternal surnames. Take time to note the surnames and birthplaces of the ancestors of these matches, in order to discover which ones are common to more than one match.

Then search all your matches for trees with those surnames, especially the more unusual names. Ignore the results with your maternal dots.

Hopefully you will start seeing a pattern, and the same names and birthplaces will appear in more than one tree. Then you know you are getting somewhere.

Once you have these basics, build a tree for that family. I would recommend doing this within your DNA-linked tree, but do not yet attach anyone to your father. If you do this in a separate tree, you will find you have to repeat all that keying once you find the connection, as you cannot import another tree into an existing tree at Ancestry. You will eventually need your paternal pedigree in the same tree where your DNA results are linked, so you may as well start there.

First build the tree upwards from any of your close “paternal” matches with a good tree, then build all generations down. This will take time and effort. Don’t ignore children born out of wedlock to daughters who might use a different surname to the main family. If you are researching in England or Wales, don’t overlook the free online birth index at gro.gov.uk, which includes the mother’s maiden name for all births registered from 1837 to modern days. There is a gap 1920-1983 which is covered by FreeBMD. The goal is to find someone who is in approximately the right area at the time as your conception who you can link to your father.

If you wish you can use the WATO tool, ie What are the Odds, to help you decide whether a proposed relationship is likely. This is explained at https://www.yourdnaguide.com/ydgblog/2020/3/26/wato-what-are-the-odds .

Alternatively, if you stumble across a likely candidate, just link him to your father and wait a day or so for Ancestry to populate some paternal CAHs. If they make sense, you may well be on the right track. If they don’t make sense, simply remove the link. 

Good luck!


With the idea of getting additional matches, upload your raw DNA data from Ancestry to MyHeritage, FTDNA, Gedmatch, etc.  Neither Ancestry nor 23andMe allow other companies’ data to be uploaded to their website.

If you suspect you have a close American connection, it might be worthwhile also doing an atDNA test at 23andMe, which I believe is very popular in the USA. Its website says that they build a genetic tree for you from your matches, which must be amazing; but you cannot upload your own pedigree.

At Gedmatch, the default is that law enforcement agencies cannot see your data. You have to opt in for them to have access. It is my understanding that none of the testing companies allow law enforcement agencies to have access to their data, but if this is important to you, please read their terms and conditions.

You will find matches that you have already seen, because serious researchers at Ancestry typically upload to the other websites. Hopefully they use the same username!

Go through the process described for Ancestry.


This article in the following link mentions several DNA related Facebook groups, but not the Facebook group called DNA DETECTIVES, which many people in my own favourite DNA group recommend. The support and advice you get from fellow genetic genealogists is invaluable. This article also provides a shorter version of similar advice to my own.



Ancestry does not have a chromosome browser, which tells you where your match is located, ie on what chromosome and where on that chromosome. The other DNA websites do, and they also have an option to see the match in visual form. There is visual tool called DNA Painter where you can “paint” your matches into one chart. There must be situations where this information is valuable, but I have yet to find one. Still, it is very cool to see your matches in visual form, and just doing the “painting” helped me understand DNA matching a little bit better.

Each chromosome has two sides – one is a maternal match, and one is a paternal match. Just because you match two people in the same place on the same chromosome, this does not mean that they match each other. You need to check whether they match each other.



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Based on DNA matches, I have decided that my ancestor Ellen White might be Helen, born ca 1835 at Dull, Perthshire, daughter of John White (sometimes John Whyte) jnr, 1808-1869, a gamekeeper; and his wife Helen Mackean.

John White jnr’s parents were John White snr ca 1770-1840, also a gamekeeper and Joanna Morton. John snr married twice, his second wife was Joan Scott. This is John White snr’s death notice: “Died, at Arniston, on 24 Feb, at a very advanced age, John White, head-keeper in the Dundas family for 21 years, and much respected by all the gentlemen of the hunt“ (The Atlas, Sat 4 April 1840, p6). The Dundas family owned Arniston House/Lodge at Borthwick, Midlothian.

For many decades, all I knew about my great-great grandmother, Ellen White, was that she was a domestic servant who gave birth to an illegitimate daughter in August 1866 at Edinburgh. She seemed to disappear after 1866 (her daughter was a boarder with different families in 1871 and 1881), and I could not confirm her birth before 1866. A single DNA match provided the crucial lead to finding my Ellen White.

My brother, my relevant first cousin and I all have a predicted distant cousin match with Richard, whose ancestors include James Aitken and Elizabeth White 1830-1904. That in itself is not convincing, but in 1881 at Glasgow, James and Elizabeth Aitken had a boarder called Esther Comrie aged 14 born Stockbridge, Edinburghshire.

I nearly fell off my chair with excitement when I realised this. There surely was only one person called Esther Comrie at that time, as Comrie is a rare surname and Esther is a relatively unusual forename. She is my illegitimate great-grandmother, daughter of Ellen White.

But wait, there is more! This Elizabeth Aitken (nee White) was a widow when she married James Aitken in 1871. Her first husband was Alexander Comrie 60, a widowed grocer when in April 1867 he married Elisabeth White 36, spinster, lady’s maid of Arniston Lodge, parents John White, gamekeeper, and Joan Scott, both dead. No children were born to this marriage. Alex Comrie, who died in 1870, was the uncle of Esther Comrie’s birth father, John Comrie 1844-1924, merchant.

So if I am right with my hypothesis, Elizabeth Aitken is Esther Comrie’s biological great-aunt, and her first husband Alex Comrie was Esther’s biological great-uncle. I therefore could not have hoped for a more relevant DNA match than Richard, who is Elizabeth’s descendant. He is likely my 4th cousin once removed.

Elizabeth White Aitken’s father and several brothers were gamekeepers at Arniston Lodge. John White jnr (father of Ellen born 1835) is Elizabeth’s much older half-brother. It was one of those delightful “Eureka!” moments that make genealogy so worthwhile, when I realised that this White family had an Ellen who fitted my Ellen, even though she was a bit older than I had expected (ie aged 30 when illegitimate daughter Esther was born in 1866).

To further support my assumption, I then discovered that my two siblings and I plus my two relevant cousins have DNA matches with several other descendants of this White family of gamekeepers, and one of them also matches Richard.

Just to backtrack a little – Helen White was living with her parents John and Helen, in the 1841 census at Fowlis Wester, Perthshire aged 6 when father John was a servant; and the 1851 census at Lynedoch, Methven, Perthshire aged 16 when father John was a gamekeeper.

In the 1861 census she might be Helen White 25, servant, kitchen maid, born Perthshire, Scotland; one of 9 servants of Henry Savile 40, head, unmarried, landed proprietor, at Rufford Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England. It would not be impossible for her father’s duties as a gamekeeper to put her in a position to secure such employment.

Esther named her father John Comrie, a merchant, when she married in Australia. She was always called Esther Comrie, except her birth was registered as Esther White. I suspect she may not have known she was illegitimate. John Comrie seems to have paid for her living expenses. Someone must have paid for her to be a boarder in 1871 and 1881.

Ellen may have died not long after Esther was born, because Ellen seems to disappear from the records.  I believe Helen White 32, single, who died from pneumonia at the Poor House, Colinton, Midlothian, in January 1874 is my Ellen. Her parents were not recorded, which means there is no proof either way. She may have been in the Poor House in the April 1871 census, recorded by only her initials.

The Comries had a tradition of being grocers and merchants. We cannot know why John Comrie did not marry Ellen White. If she came from a family of gamekeepers, she should not have been beneath his dignity, even if she was a servant. Maybe she was too rural for for his sensibilities? Perhaps her age was the sticking point – she was about ten years older than him. He was not married when Esther was born, and when he did marry, he and his wife had no children. I will discuss my Comrie family research in another blog.

My soldier ancestors: John Clarson, Peninsular War


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My 4GGF John Clarson was born in 1787 at Tamworth, Staffordshire, England, son of Joseph Clarson and Sarah, nee Gent (not to be confused with John’s brother Joseph who also married a Sarah. She was a widow of Joseph Bishop, and her maiden name was Pallet). The Clarsons had been at Tamworth since at least 1739, when John’s grandfather James Clarson married Mary Bell. I have attached an image of a simplified descendant chart – I hope it is viewable. 

I have been doing a one-name study of the Clarson families in England since the 1970s.


Decades ago I paid a London researcher to look for a Clarson in the military records at the National Archives, Kew. I did so because in the 1970s my mother told me of a family story, passed to her by her great-aunt Ethel Clarson, that one of our Clarson ancestors was a member of Wellington’s Infamous Army who fought in the Peninsular War.  I initially ignored this, thinking it was fanciful.

However the Tamworth censuses included a John Clarson born ca 1818 at Sligo, Ireland. I eventually realised he must have been the son of a Tamworth local, given the extreme rarity of the Clarson surname. This opened my mind to the possibility that John born in Ireland may have been born to an English soldier while serving in Ireland. Irish-born John‘s 1845 marriage certificate identified his father as John, a bricklayer, so I was looking for a soldier named John Clarson.

At that time, I knew that I was descended from a Tamworth resident, Charles Clarson, who was baptised 1823 at Macclesfield, Cheshire, the son of John, a bricklayer, and Ann. I had no real evidence that Charles’s father was John born 1787 at Tamworth. Happily for me, the family story about a soldier ancestor was about to provide that evidence.

The London researcher found a soldier named John Clareson (sic), who  was born 1787 at Tamworth, according to the baptismal certificate on the army file. I was able to confirm this was the same man I suspected was my ancestor, as Clareson was how our John’s surname was spelt when he was baptised, and Clareson was a spelling variation for Clarson at the time. From this, I was sure we were on the right track.

The army record showed that John “Clareson” baptised 4 February 1787 at Tamworth was a bricklayer when he enlisted, that he fought in the Peninsular War, and that he was in Sligo in 1818. This confirmed that John Clarson born 1787 was indeed my 4GGF.

Ironically, within months of me paying for the army research, the National Archives put its catalogue online, and I was able to find a reference to John Clareson’s army record in the index myself, although of course the content of the file was not online.

As an aside, by searching the online catalogue, I found that John Boyer of Tamworth also enlisted with the 3rd Dragoon Guards in 1805, and was discharged in 1821 aged 33. Another Tamworth son, William Alsop, joined the Regiment in 1806, and was discharged in 1821 aged 32. They were a similar age to John Clarson.

In a sad turn of events, the London researcher died before fully completing her investigations. Nevertheless what she reported to me was sufficient for my purposes.  I was able to personally view the army file during a one-day visit to London many years later, in 2002.

Although John Clarson was listed in the WO 97 series of records at the Public Record Office, Kew (and these records usually refer to soldiers who received pensions), there are no surviving pension records for John Clarson.  Long service pensions were not available until after 1823 – only disability pensions.  Perhaps John applied unsuccessfully for a disability pension, which is why he was in the WO 97 lists.


John Clarson was a Private with the 3rd Dragoon Guards, a heavy cavalry regiment, from 1805-1819. He was 17 (sic, he was 18 according to his baptismal age) when he enlisted on 3 July 1805, at which time he was a bricklayer, but not an apprentice (technically he was a bricklayer’s labourer).  It was not unusual for soldiers to have a trade, eg boot making, which they practiced as part of their army service.

John Clarson fought in the Peninsular War in Portugal, Spain and France against Napoleon from 1809 – 1813.  He did not fight at Waterloo on 18 Jun 1815, as he and his Regiment were in Leeds, England at the time being “re-horsed”.

By March 1816 the Regiment was stationed at Ballinrobe, co Mayo, Ireland. However John Clarson with several others were on detachment at Sligo, co Sligo, Ireland, from June 1816 to May 1818.  Sligo had a cavalry barracks, according to the French consul Coquebert de Montbret’s 1791 notebook.

I was told by a military historian that Cavalry Regiments in the 18th and 19th Centuries spent much of their time on Excise duties and other tasks in “aid of the Civil Power”, so it is quite possible that John’s bricklaying skills were being utilized at Sligo.

It cannot be a coincidence that the Sligo Gaol was built in 1818 and would have required more skilled craftsmen than could be supplied locally. The Gaol could hold 200 prisoners, and was closed in 1956.

In March 1818 the Regiment moved to Dublin, Ireland, but John remained on detachment. Throughout the remainder of 1818 John was at Philipstown (now called Daingean), then Tullamore. Both places were in Co Offaly, Ireland, or Kings Co as it was known then.

There is no known surviving evidence of John’s marriage in Ireland. We know his wife’s name was Ann from the baptismal records for his English-born children, but Ann’s maiden name is my first brick wall.

I believe it would have been a Protestant marriage, as Ann showed no indication of being a Catholic. Her English-born children were baptised in the Church of England, and she re-married and was buried at St Editha’s parish church, Tamworth. Furthermore there is no evidence that I have maternal Irish ancestry from my DNA matches at Ancestry.com. My mother’s first cousin has also done a DNA test, and as his mother was of German descent, his lack of ethnic Irish ancestry is apparent. This points to Ann being of English descent. Perhaps she was the daughter of another English soldier. She was 12 years younger than John, according to her age in the 1841 and 1851 censuses and her age 56 at death in 1855.

They are likely to have married either at Ballinrobe where he was posted prior to 1816; or at Sligo where his son John claimed to be born circa 1818 in English census records. There are no known surviving Irish marriage records for Clarson or similar ca 1817. A John Clarson marriage cannot be found in the Army registers, possibly because John was not with the rest of the Regiment – he was on detachment.

Of course, the chances of such an early Protestant marriage record surviving the 1922 bombing and subsequent fire at the Four Courts Record Office, Dublin, are small.

John snr was discharged aged 32, at Dublin in January 1819, after 13.5 years service. He returned to his home town of Tamworth, Staffordshire, England with wife Ann and infant son John.


The Military General Service Medal (MGSM), commonly called the Waterloo Medal, was issued in 1847-1848 to surviving soldiers who were present at one or more of these battles: Battle of Ligny (16 June 1815), Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815), and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815).

As John Clarson had died in 1830, he was not eligible to receive the MGSM. It is a moot point, but he may not have been present at any of the qualifying Battles, despite his long experience in the Peninsular War.

The MGSM was awarded to almost 39,000 Waterloo veterans. These soldiers were credited with two years extra service and pay, to count for all purposes.

At the time the granting of this medal was controversial, as many veterans of the Peninsula War felt aggrieved that those who were present at Waterloo – many of them raw recruits, who had never seen a shot fired before – should receive such a public acknowledgement of their achievements; while they, who had undergone the labours and privations of the whole war, had had no recognition of their services beyond the thirteen votes of thanks awarded to them in Parliament. (Source: Wikipedia, The Waterloo Medal)


In civilian life, John Clarson returned to his trade as a bricklayer’s labourer. No doubt his recent experience in Ireland stood him in good stead.

John and Ann’s daughter Mary Clarson was baptised at Tamworth in 1821; and their sons Charles and David were baptised at Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1823 and 1826 (David was baptised privately, according to an entry in the Tamworth parish register dated December 1832 when he was aged 6). Macclesfield is about 100km north of Tamworth. I don’t know why they moved to Macclesfield, perhaps it was because John obtained work there on a large long term project. After 3 to 8 years at Macclesfield, they returned to Tamworth.

Son Thomas was born on 10 September 1829 at Tamworth, but was not baptised until he was aged 3, in December 1832, on the same day that his brother David was publicly received into the church at Tamworth. By then, their father John had been dead for two years.

John Clarson died at Tamworth in November 1830, aged 42. He was survived by his wife and children aged 12, 9, 7, 4 and 1.

Only two of his five children were known to have been baptised in Protestant churches while John was alive (ie Mary in 1821 at Tamworth, and Charles in 1823 at Macclesfield).  The eldest child, John jnr, was born in Ireland, and may have been baptised there.  John’s fourth child, David, was baptised privately in Macclesfield in 1826 according to his 1832 Tamworth baptism (private baptisms were sometimes carried at home out when the infant was not expected to survive. They were typically not recorded until the child was formally “received into the church”).  David and the fifth child, Thomas, were baptised in Tamworth during 1832, after John’s death.  This seems to suggest that John fell out with the church about the time of David’s private baptism in 1826 at Macclesfield.

John’s widow Anne Clarson married Joseph Baker at Tamworth in 1834, but she was a widow again by census night in June 1841.

Their 4 surviving children all married young, aged 20. Thomas died young in 1834, a couple of months after his mother’s remarriage.


A Clarson family tree prepared in about 1883 by a descendant of John’s brother Joseph was aware of a related branch of Clarson brothers called “John, David and Charles who are now labouring men, men who never seemed to raise themselves to the original level of the family”. The 1883 genealogist did not know how these three brothers fitted in the family tree. This indicates that the name and war service of the father of the three brothers was not remembered –  only 70 years after John served in the Peninsular War and 53 years after his death at Tamworth.

I acknowledge that John the soldier may have been difficult for the 1883 genealogist to trace, given that John did not marry in Tamworth, and his older sons were not baptised there. But it is sad to think that these cousins were unaware of their relationship, and there was such a social gulf between them that they apparently did not talk to each other – even though they all lived in the same town. Surely if the 1883 genealogist had approached the surviving brothers Charles and David, who were in their 60s, they could have told him the name and birth details of their own father, ie John the soldier.

While John was soldiering, his brother Joseph Clarson must have become a very successful mason and bricklayer, because Joseph’s five surviving adult sons were all middle class men, with careers as builders (with one exception, Joseph’s youngest son was a draper). One son William died in 1835 aged 31, a builder. Another son John died in 1849 aged 40, a builder and a moderately wealthy man from his Will. For these sons to be so successful at a relatively young age, they must have had a good financial start in life from their father Joseph, who died in 1831 aged 57.

It is a striking comparison to John the soldier’s three sons, bricklayer’s labourers who all married at age 20. It was quite unusual for males to marry as minors, especially so for three brothers to all do so.  There were no signs of wealth, eg marriage licences, wills, houses or headstones, for these sons. Their father obviously did not provide them with a financial headstart – his death when they were very young must have soaked up the few financial assets he had, if any.

However, the three sons had long marriages, lived to a decent age and each raised many children. From a long term view, John’s family was quite successful.



MY IRISH ANCESTORS WERE GERMAN: The Fischel family from the Palatine became the Fitzell family of co Limerick


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(This is a more detailed version of my blog “DNA Matches and my Fitzell brick walls” dated 2 Jan 2019.)

My most recent Irish ancestor is my paternal great-grandmother Mary Anne Fitzell who was born 1828 at Millstreet, co Cork, Ireland – according to family stories; English census records; and her 1901 gravestone at Derby, Derbyshire, England. There is no surviving baptism. The Church of Ireland parish registers were likely destroyed in the 1922 bombing of the Four Courts, Dublin.

Mary Anne Fitzell married James Gill, a British soldier, in 1856 at Malta, at the end of the Crimean War. According to her grandson Richard Gill, she had been working as lady’s maid for the wife of James Eman, a senior officer in the 41st Welsh Regiment. James Gill, a Colour Sergeant in the 41st Regt, had been training recruits in Malta. Because they married overseas they did not have the typical British marriage certificate of that era, which would have named their fathers.

So for many years, I did not know the names of Mary Ann’s parents.

Luckily I had family stories from my English cousin John, who grew up in the same household as his grandfather Richard Gill, and knew many family stories. He spoke of Mary Ann’s Irish brothers Henry and Peter Fitzell who were a police constable and a coast guard respectively. From Henry and Peter’s Irish marriage records, I ascertained that their father was Adam Fitzell, a police constable. I also found a newspaper death notice from 1874 for Grace Fitzell, who died at Ballyheigue, co Kerry, at the residence of her son, Peter the coast guard.

Along the way I discovered that Fitzell was a Palatine surname. That was an eye-opener for me, as Fitzell sounded like an Irish name. Most Irish Fitzells are descendants of Hans Adam Fischel born 1649 at Essenheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. (I believe there is also a Fritzelle family who are Norman descendants.) There are many spelling variants for Fitzell. Hans Adam Fischel, his wife Ann and their three sons John, Adam and Peter, arrived at Rathkeale parish, co Limerick, Ireland in 1709 with several hundred refugees from Germany.

After a long journey from Germany via Holland and London, the Fischel and other Palatine families were settled on the Southwell Estate at Courtmatrix in the Rathkeale parish, with assistance from the British Government wanting to establish a Protestant stronghold in Ireland. The Palatine families soon developed a good reputation as diligent workers. They largely kept to themselves and married each other for about the first 100 years after arriving in Ireland.

That was all I knew of my Palatine ancestry for a long time.

I began building a database of Fitzell families, hoping to find an Adam who would fit my man. The trouble was, there were too many! Adam is a popular name in Palatine families, and particularly in Fitzell families. Although I started this project without much hope of it being worthwhile, it has proven to be very beneficial in the long run, as well as being an enjoyable exercise in itself.

The book “The Palatine Families of Ireland”, published by Hank Z Jones in 1990, was an invaluable resource for the early generations of the Fischels/Fitzells. It includes information about their German origins. I obtained this book direct from the author in California a couple of years ago.

I did an autosomal DNA test (atDNA) at Ancestry.com in 2017. To help with my matches, I traced descendants of Henry and Peter Fitzell, Mary Ann’s brothers. Henry had no surviving descendants. However I found Albert in Canada, my 3rd cousin once removed from Peter Fitzell. He promptly agreed to do an atDNA test, much to my delight.

Albert and I matched! Other “close” DNA matches (ie predicted 4th cousins or closer) for me, my siblings and relevant paternal cousins, especially those that were a shared match with Albert, helped me to figure out my paternal Irish ancestry. The atDNA test turned out to be the breakthrough I had been hoping for.

From the many matches we collectively have with Dolmage descendants, I have concluded that my ancestors must be Adam Fitzell who married Mary Dolmage in 1755. Dolmage is another Palatine family name, sometimes spelt Delmage or Dulmage. In a “Eureka” moment, I realised that Adam and Mary had a grandson named Adam Fitzell who was approximately the right age for my police constable Adam, via their son John and his wife Dorothy (whose maiden name is not recorded).

This Adam Phizle (sic), son of John and Dorothea, was baptised in 1782 at Rathkeale, co Limerick. He had no known marriage or death, and was available for me to claim as my man. When I looked at trees online that did attribute a marriage to him, I was able to discount them due to my own research, and attribute their Adam to another Adam in my tree.

Obviously I had already considered this man as a candidate for my Adam, but was reluctant to claim him without further evidence, given that he was a little older than usual to be a father in 1828.

Further DNA matches made me realise that Adam the policeman had married twice, and that his first wife was Hester Power. Several of my matches were descendants of “James T Fowlks and Catharine E Bovenizar” who married in 1875 at Iowa, USA. Catherine Elizabeth Bovenizer was born 1858 at Indiana, daughter of John and Jemima Bovenizer. It seemed likely that John was a son of Peter Bovenizer and Catherine Fitzell. Catherine was a daughter of Adam and Hester.

Establishing Adam’s age also provided a possible explanation as to why he was not included in the index for the Royal Irish Constabulary. Only those who joined in 1816 or later had surviving records and were indexed. Adam must have joined prior to 1816, and being an older man, this is a feasible scenario. Adam’s son Henry is included in the RIC index.

The last record of Adam in co Limerick was when his daughters from his first marriage were born in 1805 and 1806. The Irish Constabulary (the “Royal” prefix was not added to the name of the Constabulary until the 1860s) preferred to recruit people away from their birthplace, so it seems likely he joined them around this time.

Adam’s daughter Catherine married at Kilnaughtin, co Kerry in 1820. Adam and Grace’s earliest known child Henry was born in co Cork circa 1824. Logically, Adam and family had left co Limerick prior to 1820. Adam’s second wife Grace was from co Cork, so it is likely that they married there between 1820 and 1824.

I have not found a death record for Adam, but as Grace was the head of the household at Millstreet, co Cork, in the 1851 Griffith Valuation, he must have died before then.

Given my large number of matches with Bovenizer descendants, I have wondered whether Adam’s mother Dorothy was a Bovenizer, but there are no known records to prove this. The fact that Adam’s daughter Catherine married a Bovenizer confused me for a while, until I realised that I would not be matching other Bovenizer descendants simply because of that connection.

Most online trees have Dorothy’s maiden name as Teskey, but there is no evidence for this. John’s brother Adam Fitzell married Ann Teskey, and I suspect someone mistakenly gave Dorothy the same surname as Ann. This error has proliferated among online trees. I have no known atDNA matches with Teskey descendants, which speaks for itself in an endogenous community like the Irish Palatines.

From other atDNA matches, I have ascertained that Mary Anne’s mother’s maiden name was Grace McCarthy of county Cork, and that she was not of Palatine descent. My findings in relation to Grace are outlined in my blog “DNA Matches and my Fitzell brick walls” dated 2 Jan 2019.

My Lincolnshire Ancestors: Two Candidates for Thomas Scholey


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My original post of 9 Aug 2019 was substantially edited on 16 Apr 2020 to account for a change I have made to my pedigree.

My 5G grandparents Thomas Scholey (also spelt Scoley) and Susanna Bringeman married in 1791 at Ancaster, Lincolnshire (Lincs), England. One of the marriage witnesses was John Scoley.

In the 1841 census Thomas Scholey was an agricultural labourer aged 70 and born Lincs (ie apparently born ca 1771 but ages were rounded to the nearest five years in 1841 so he could have been born between 1768 and 1774 if his age was recorded correctly). Unusually, Thomas and his wife Susan were recorded twice in 1841 – both at their home in Ancaster, Lincs and also visiting their married son John at Kirkby Le Thorpe, 16km distant from Ancaster. Both their ages were recorded as 70 in both instances.

Thomas died before the 1851 census, so there was no opportunity to discover his birthplace by that means.

Thomas died at Ancaster, Lincs in June 1845, and his age was recorded as 79. This would make his birth year 1764. Wife Susanna was baptised in 1770 and was correctly recorded as aged 77 when she died in 1847. Both deaths were informed by Mary Scholey of Ancaster, who is assumed to be their granddaughter, daughter of their son John.

In my experience when there is a difference between the 1841 census age for older persons and their age at death, the age at death tends to be correct. While “my experience” is not proof, in this case I was supported by having an informant for Thomas’s death whose record was good for another death.

There are two candidates for Thomas’s baptism. One was Thomas Scoley, parents John and Elizabeth (nee Bark) Scoley, in 1764 at Dorrington, Lincs. The other was Thomas Scoley, son of John and Katherine (nee Smalley) at South Kyme, Lincs in 1771. By coincidence, these two dates matched both Thomas’s age in the 1841 census, and his age at death.

The fact that a John Scoley was a witness to Thomas and Susanna’s 1791 marriage is not much of a clue, given that both these Thomases had living fathers in 1791 called John, and both also had brothers called John.

So the assumed year of birth, the name of the father, and the witness to the marriage did not provide a clue as to which baptism was relevant to me. There were no relevant burials between 1764 and the 1791 marriage which would have ruled out one of the candidates.

When I first did this research in the 1980s I assumed that Thomas born 1764 at Dorrington was my man, mainly because of Dorrington’s geographical proximity to Ancaster where he married (ie Ancaster is 18km from Dorrington compared to 28km from South Kyme). In a time when the labouring classes were unlikely to own a horse and relied on their own two feet for transport, it has been long accepted genealogical practice that a labourer would be unlikely to marry further than a day’s return walk. Surprising to me, the great majority of online trees have Thomas who married Susanna as the son of John and Katherine, ie born 1771 at South Kyme, presumably because that birth year better fitted his apparent age in the 1841 census.

So I re-examined the situation in 2019, and at that stage I was still inclined to believe that my ancestor Thomas Scholey was born ca 1764 at Dorrington. In addition to the compelling advantage of geography, I noted that my close relatives and I had DNA matches with Dorrington family descendants, but not with South Kyme family descendants. I acknowledged at the time that new DNA matches could change this view.

The Dorrington Thomas’s father John Scholey remarried and moved to Bloxholm, Lincs after the death of his first wife Elizabeth Bark. John and his second wife Dorothy Stephenson had a son named Thomas born 1786, who married Ann Burbank in 1816. Therefore if the Dorrington Thomas was my man, it meant that there must have been two living brothers named Thomas. Incredibly this scenario, though rare, would not be unique. Such was my belief in the geography factor that I still maintained that the Dorrington Thomas was my man.

However, I recently (15 Apr 2020) realised that I had a handful of DNA matches who, when calculated with the Dorrington Thomas as my ancestor, meant they would have been my 8th cousins. I am experienced enough to know that matches with 8th cousins are an extreme rarity. To have several in one line would be unheard of.

So I changed my mind, and changed my pedigree to make the Thomas born 1771 at South Kyme my ancestor. When I did this, these “8th cousin” DNA matches became more realistic 6th cousins.

It was as though the scales fell from my eyes once I made this pedigree change. The conundrum of two living brothers named Thomas disappeared, as I could now safely assume that the older brother Thomas born 1764 at Dorrington died young, certainly before his younger half-brother also named Thomas was born in 1786, but that his burial was not recorded, or if it was the record cannot be found.

The lessons to be learnt from this are that the genealogy tenet about geography does not always hold true, and that DNA can provide the evidence which is lacking in the “paper trail”.

Would it be easier to establish which John was the father of each of the two Thomases? There were two baptisms for John Scholey – which one married Elizabeth Bark and which one married Katherine Smalley?


*John Scholey and Katherine Smalley, both of South Kyme, married at South Kyme in 1768. The witnesses (an indecipherable name and Thomas Hall) were not helpful identifying the groom.

*John Scoley and Elizabeth Bark married at Bloxholm in 1758. Again, the wItnesses (Joseph Marshall and Matthew Scoley) were not helpful identifying the groom. Both Johns had close relatives named Matthew Scholey – one had a father and one had a brother.


*One baptism was in 1733 at Potterhanworth to Thomas and Mary (Cheetham).

*The other baptism was in 1737 at Digby to Matthew and Ann (Markham).

The two fathers, Thomas and Matthew, were brothers, sons of Matthew Scholey and Ann Creasey, so the two Johns were first cousins.

Despite having my fingers burnt with the identification of my ancestor Thomas Scholey by relying on geography, it is the only way forward in this case. That extra generation is likely to be a barrier to the existence of DNA matches necessary to help identify my ancestors on this occasion.

*Digby is less than 3km from Bloxholm where the John-Elizabeth marriage took place. Potterhanworth is 17km from Bloxholm.

*Digby is 17km from South Kyme where the John-Katherine marriage took place. Potterhanworth is 26km from South Kyme.

While the distances from South Kyme are somewhat large for both baptisms, the closeness of Digby to Bloxholm makes it a certainty that John baptised 1737 at Digby married Elizabeth Bark. By default, John baptised 1733 at Potterhanworth married Katherine Smalley.

This means that John must have married Katherine at a place 26km from his birthplace. However Katherine seems to have travelled 90km from her assumed birthplace of Attenborough, Nottinghamshire, which makes his effort seem puny.

People obviously travelled further than previously imagined during the 18th Century. Both John and Katherine were living at South Kyme, and may have moved there for their employment. They lived there after their marriage. It was not a case of travelling to South Kyme for the marriage, then returning to either of their birthplaces. So in this case, the distance from their birthplace might not have been so relevant.

16 Apr 2020

Which Ann Coad was my ancestor?


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I have been greatly assisted in my ongoing analysis of the parentage of Ann Coad by Joe Flood’s excellent 2013 book, “Unravelling the Code: The Coads and Coodes of Cornwall and Devon”. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in their Coad ancestry. One of his key findings, following Y-DNA tests, was that the different Coad families in Cornwall are not closely related.

While Coad is a rare name generally in England, it is relatively common in Cornwall. Because of this, I thought it would be easy to identify my Ann Coad’s birth. This has not been the case! 

Ann Coad is my 5G grandmother. According to the June 1841 census, Ann was aged 82 and therefore born circa 1759. Her age at death in March 1843 was 84, which accords with the 1759 birth date.

My Ann Coad was obviously going to be one of the “Border Coad” families (so-called by Joe Flood because of their proximity to the border between Cornwall and Devon), because she married John Harris at North Hill in 1780, and their ten children were born there 1782-1805. In 1841 Ann Harris aged 82, born Cornwall, was living with her married daughter at Linkinhorne, Cornwall, where she died in 1843 aged 84. 

Ann Coad births in Cornwall ca 1759

After consulting Familytree, FreeREG, Ancestry and Findmypast, there are four known births for Ann Coad 1756-1763 in Cornwall, all in the Border parishes identified by Joe Flood, and all are possible candidates for my Ann. None can be ruled out by a burial record, and my Ann’s 1780 marriage is the only known marriage in the right timeframe for an Ann Coad.  Their details follow, in order of distance from North Hill where my Ann married:

1. Ann CODE, 16 Jul 1758, South Hill, Cornwall, parents James Coade or Code (born 1722, Lezant) and Eleanor Bray (aka Petronella), who married in 1748 at North Hill. South Hill is about 10 km from North Hill. The Will of James Code of Linkinhorne was signed and proved in 1794, and named his daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Ann, Catherine, and son George. The daughters’ surnames were not mentioned in the Will, which may be indicative that the daughters were spinsters, as it seemed to be usual practice to provide the married name of daughters in Wills, at least in my (admittedly limited) experience. If this was the case, then this Ann cannot be my Ann, as my Ann married in 1780. This Ann is a first cousin of Ann of Lezant, as their fathers were brothers. Joe Flood proposed in his book that this Ann was the Ann Coad who married John Harris. He no doubt selected this family on the basis that they were closest to North Hill, which is a valid assumption, but Lezant is only 2 km further.

2. Ann COAD, 6 May 1759, Lezant, Cornwall, parents William Coad (born 1717 at Stoke Climsland) and Catherine Blyth, who married on 29 Oct 1756 at Lezant, which is about 12 km from North Hill. While William Coad left a Will dated 1784, it was destroyed by bombing in WW2. This Ann was a great-granddaughter of William, son of Stephen born 1587. Spoiler alert: this Ann is now my preferred candidate. See below for my reasons.

3. Ann COAD, 3 Aug 1760, Stoke Climsland, Cornwall, parents Daniel Coade (born 1716 at Stoke Climsland) and Deborah Deeble, who married on 22 Nov 1755 at Stoke Climsland, which is about 13 km from North Hill. Daniel was likely a third cousin of Ann of Lezant, via Robert son of Stephen born 1587.

4. Ann COAD, 30 Nov 1759, Saint Stephens By Saltash, Cornwall, parents George Coad (born 1717 at Saltash) and Mary Colley, who married on 15 Jun 1758 at Saltash, which is about 30 km from North Hill. George was likely a third cousin of Ann of Lezant, via Robert son of Stephen born 1587. 30 km is probably too far for this Ann to be considered a viable candidate. It is accepted that working class people at that time did not marry further than a day’s return walk away, ie no more than 15 km apart. 

5. I also considered whether the resident North Hill couple, Samuel Coad (born 1702 at North Hill) and Ruth Granville who married on 16 July 1736 at North Hill, might have had a daughter named Ann. Baptism records do not always survive. The register may have been destroyed or lost, or the baptism not recorded – noting that it was the usual practice of clergymen not to record events as they happened, instead they relied on their memory, or kept notes which might be subsequently lost. My rationale was that my Ann Coad married John Harris at North Hill, and it was common practice to marry in the bride’s parish. However the groom John Harris was born at North Hill, so Ann was not necessarily born there. Samuel and Ruth Coad baptised six children at North Hill from 1739 to 1756 (William 1739, Samuel 1743, Samuel 1744, Nicholas 1751, Margaret 1754, William 1756). Ann’s birth year falls just outside that range, ie 1759.  Assuming Ruth was about 18-22 when she married, she could have been born circa 1714-1718. This would mean she was 41 to 45 years old when Ann was born, which is a typical age for the mother of a large family to give birth to her youngest child. If this North Hill Ann existed, she would be a second cousin to Ann of Lezant. Until recently, this hypothetical Ann was my preferred candidate, despite the existence of four other recorded candidates. 

Will Coad witnessed the 1780 marriage

In addition to proximity to North Hill, there is another possible clue to the identity of my Ann. Will Coad witnessed Ann’s 1780 marriage to John Harris at North Hill. I believe this Will Coad may have been Ann’s brother, as William Coad of Lezant, the only father of an Ann born ca 1759, had died in 1776.

Which of the five Ann’s had a relevant brother named William?

*Ann of Lezant turned out to be the best candidate, as she had an older brother named William who died in 1783, ie after Ann’s marriage.

*Ann of South Hill had a brother named William born 1770, too young to witness a 1780 marriage.

*Ann of Saltash did not have a brother named William.

*Ann of Stoke Climsland did not have a brother named William.

*The hypothetical North Hill Ann had two brothers named William, one died young and the second one baptised 1756 died 1810 at North Hill. He is also a candidate for being the witness to Ann’s 1780 marriage, brother or not, because of his residence at North Hill. He could have been a friend of the groom, John Harris, who was born at North Hill.

In brief, the witness Will Coad could have been the brother of either the Lezant Ann Coad or the hypothetical North Hill Ann Coad; or he was a friend of John Harris. 

Naming Patterns

Joe Flood has noted that it was not typical for Coad families to name their children after the maternal line. This may or may not apply to John Harris and his wife Ann Coad, but for what it is worth, their children were named William, Honour, Richard, Mary, Grace, Samuel, Mary, Daniel, Elizabeth and Catherine. The Lezant Ann Coad’s parents and siblings were named William, Catherine, Elizabeth, Honour, James, Mary and George. The parents and siblings of Ann’s husband, John Harris, were John, Mary and Catherine. Both of John Harris’s grandfathers were named Richard, and his grandmothers were Honour and Elizabeth.

In brief, John and Ann’s children’s names in common with the Lezant family were William, Honour, Mary, Elizabeth and Catherine. Crucially, John Harris and Ann Coad named their first son William, and this was not a Harris name.

What of the names for the other four potential fathers of Ann Coad?

* John and Ann Harris did not name a son James.

* John and Ann named their fourth son Daniel, and it is not a common name in the Border Coad families. Given that this was their fourth son, maybe they had run out of family names. 

* John and Ann Harris did not name a son George.

* John and Ann named their third son Samuel (as did their married daughter Grace Denboll). Samuel was widely used by all the Border Coad families.

I conclude that John and Ann may have named their first son after Ann’s father William; and their second son after John’s grandparents, both named Richard. They did not name any of their children John or Ann, for themselves. Perhaps they sensibly decided that it would create confusion to do so. 

Autosomal DNA tests

I have recently noted some small autosomal DNA matches between descendants of John and Ann Harris, and other Coad family descendants, as identified by their family trees. Because Coad is a relatively rare surname, I thought that these matches were worth examining.

All these matches are small in size, and are predicted by Ancestry to be “5th-8th cousins”, or distant cousins. Small matches are to be expected, when our Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA) would be, at best, my 6G grandparents, or several generations earlier. In other words, the matches are likely to be my 7th cousins at best, which is about the limit of autosomal DNA matching. 

This is what Ancestry says about distant cousin matches. “Enough DNA is shared with closer relatives that genealogical relationships can be determined with a higher degree of accuracy based on DNA … [however] determining exact relationships via DNA becomes less feasible the more distant the genealogical relationship is.”

Consequently, I am not going to analyse the size of the matches. All we can say is that the matches are small which indicates a distant cousin connection, and fits the paper trail of my family tree.

Thus, the DNA matches do not show clearly that I have a closer link with the Lezant family (William and Catherine) than with the other candidate families. In fact, I have a DNA match with a descendant of the North Hill family (Samuel and Ruth). But what these DNA matches have done is open my mind to the fact that my Ann could have come from elsewhere than North Hill, and helped me realize that there was an ideal candidate baptism at the next-door parish of Lezant (which is about 12 km from North Hill).

My two siblings, my 1C1R, my known 2C1R and I (all descended from my Ann Coad) have done autosomal DNA tests at Ancestry, and between us as at November 2018, we have six distant cousin DNA matches with people who have Coad/Coade/Code ancestors from the Boarder Coad families. Only two of the matches are mine. Several are shared matches between two of my relatives, which is crucial in establishing that these particular matches are not “identical by chance”, which is a possibility with small DNA matches.

Intriguingly, we have about 20 distant cousin DNA matches with people who have ancestors from other Coad families identified by Joe Flood, and as such, my relationship with these must be more distant than 9th cousin. 

Perhaps we have a “sticky segment” of Coad DNA which has survived for many more generations than would be expected. This is mentioned in DNA genealogy literature. Alternatively, we could have another, closer, unknown connection between our trees. . 

Just a reminder, that these matches were identified from those DNA testers who have online family trees, and have Coad ancestors in their family trees. We may very well have many more DNA matches with peole who have Coad ancestors, but without a tree attached to the DNA results, it becomes very difficult to identify them as such, especially when long genetic differences are involved. 


While there is no overwhelming evidence that Ann Coad of Lezant is my ancestor, I believe that the combination of proximity of birthplace to the marriage place; the likelihood of the marriage witness being Ann’s brother; and the naming patterns for Ann’s children – all add up to a strong argument in favour of Ann of Lezant being my ancestor.

Identifying William Marchant from DNA matches


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My distant cousin Ruth had a brick wall with her grandfather, William George Marchant, supposedly born 24 Sep 1856 at Croydon, London, and arrived in Western Australia in 1885 (I believe these details were from his 1938 death certificate, which I have not seen. It did not name his parents). According to Australian electoral rolls, he was a bootmaker. 

I was able to confirm his arrival in Australia from the following records. “The passengers per Chiselhurst, Captain J R Beckett, from London, 17th March, for Fremantle, included Wm Marchants [sic]” (Herald, Fremantle, WA, 16 May 1885, p2); and “W Merchant [sic]” was on a manifest signed James R Beckett, master, on 16 Jun 1885.

William Marchant was said to have married Lydia Ellen Buck in 1888 at Perth, WA according to the Victorian birth certificate of one of their children, but no one has found their marriage record in Australia.

William’s wife Lydia was born in South Australia in 1861; their children were born in Victoria and Western Australia. William died at Perth in 1938. 

However, there were too many candidates for the birth of a William and/or George Marchant in London circa 1856. Without further clues, identification of his birth record was not possible.

There were 20 William Marchant births in London/Middlesex 1850-1860, none of whom had a middle initial G; and 10 George Marchant births, none of whom had a middle initial W. There was only one William George Marchant birth in all of England, and that was at Newington, Surrey in the Dec 1850 quarter; and one George William Marchant at Dorchester, Dorset in the March 1851 quarter. 

Recently, we were contacted by Barbara, who had a predicted second cousin DNA match with Ruth, together with Marchant ancestry. Such a close DNA match was bound to produce a justifiable candidate for our William Marchant.

I was excited by the realisation that any William or George Marchant born circa 1856 in Barbara’s tree would very likely be Ruth’s grandfather. First I identified Barbara’s ancestor, Caroline Marchant born 1855. According to Barbara’s tree, Caroline had a brother called William born 1850. While this was not a very close match age-wise to 1856, it was close enough. I decided to focus on him, by first researching Caroline Marchant. Luckily, Caroline was not as common a name as William.

Caroline’s marriage record provided her father’s name and occupation. Marriage on 2 Feb 1890 at Newington, St Saviour Southwark district, Surrey: John Richard Pool 34, widower, painter, father John Richard Pool, dead, schoolmaster; and Caroline Marchant 33, spinster, father William George Marchant, bootmaker.

This led to the family in the 1861 census at Newington, Surrey: William Marchant 43, bootmaker; Elizabeth 43, wife; children Elizabeth 15; Criss 13; William 12; George 8; Caroline 5 – all born Newington.

At this stage I discovered that many online trees have Elizabeth Redman as the wife of William Marchant senior, shoemaker, based on an 1839 marriage between George [sic] Marchant and Elizabeth Redman. However, this marriage did not seem right to me, being for George Marchant, fisherman, at Brighton, Sussex. This did not fit William Marchant, shoemaker of Newington, Surrey.

When I found the family in the 1851 census, things became clearer. Elizabeth in the 1861 census was William senior’s second wife, Elizabeth Savin. They had married in 1859, and no children were born to them. This established that the 1839 marriage for George Marchant and Elizabeth Redman was not relevant to “our” family. 

In 1851 the family at Newington comprised Wm Marchant 34, shoemaker, Newington, Surrey; Mary 30, wife, Southwark; and children born at Newington: Ann 10; Mary 8; Eliz 5; Christina 3; Wm 6mo. 

William senior’s first wife was named Mary, and her maiden name was Wright according to the records for her children at the free GRO birth index at gro.gov.uk. That unusual name for their daughter Christiana was key to identifying Mary’s maiden name. Mary died in 1858. 

It took me a while to discover William snr and Mary’s marriage, because it happened in 1849, AFTER William and Mary had already had three daughters, all registered with the surname Marchant, mother’s maiden name Wright, as if they were legitimate. 

Marriage on 25 Jun 1849 at St Mary, Lambeth, Surrey: William George Marchant, shoemaker, father George Marchant, shoemaker; and Mary Ann Wright, father John Wright, dead, carman; both full age, single, banns. Witnesses Henry Blackman & J L Gawler.

Weirdly, the banns for this marriage were recorded nine years earlier, on 6 Sep 1840 at St Mary, Lambeth, Surrey. There must be an interesting story here, if only we could discover it! William snr was 21 in Sep 1840, and he should have just completed his apprenticeship as a shoemaker (if he had undertaken one), so being bound by an apprenticeship should not have been an impediment. Mary was under-age, so her parents could have forbidden the marriage. But why would they have done so. Surely William, with a trade, was a good prospect? 

Eight months later in June 1841, William snr and Mary were at Roberts Place, Stepney, London, living as man and wife: Wm Marchant 20, shoemaker; and Mary Marchant 20 – neither born Mdx. 

The birth of William snr and Mary’s first child Ann Marchant was registered in the Jul-Aug 1841 quarter in the Stepney district, ie at least 11 months after the banns were published. Therefore, Mary Wright was not pregnant at the time of the banns, or if she was, she soon miscarried.

Subsequent children of William snr and Mary included Caroline Marchant, mother Wright, whose birth was registered in the Oct-Dec 1855 quarter in the Lambeth district; and her brother, William George Marchant, mother Wright, whose birth was registered in the Oct-Dec 1850 quarter at the Newington district. I have not found his baptism record. 

Having confirmed the parents of Caroline and William jnr, it was now time to see whether William jnr could be located in England after 1885. 

In the 1871 census, William Marchant 19, single, shoe finisher, born Camberwell, Surrey; was boarding with Isaac Johnson 63, shoe maker, and his wife. No doubt William jnr was learning his trade from Isaac. 

Marriage on 21 Oct 1871 at St Thomas, Stepney, Mile End Old Town district, London: William George Marchant, shoemaker; father William George Marchant, shoemaker; & Sophia Hutchings, father Richard Hutchings, shoemaker; both full age [sic], single, of Stepney, banns. Witnesses Joseph Chipchase & Alice Hutchings.

Sophia’s birth was registered as Emma Sophia Hutchings, mother Stevens, in the Apr-Jun 1853 quarter at the Whitechapel district. Emma Sophia Hutchings, born June 1853 together with her sister Anna Louisa Hutchings, born January 1855, were baptised on 31 Jan 1865 at Stepney, daughters of Richard Hutchings, shoemaker & Emma, of 26 Baker St. 

William jnr and Sophia had seven children born 1872-1882, at least four of whom died young. Their first child, who survived to adulthood, was registered as William Henry Marchant, mother Hutchins [sic], in the Oct-Dec 1872 quarter at the Mile End Old Town district. However, like his father, William III was always known as William George Marchant.

In 1881 at Shoreditch: William Marchant 29, bootmaker, Newington, Surrey; Sophia 28, wife, Whitechapel, Mdx; Sophia 8mo, dau, Old St Lukes; William 8, son, Mile End, Mdx.

Youngest child Horace was born 21 Apr 1882, and William departed London for Australia 17 Mar 1885.

So it was no surprise to find Sophia in 1891 at St Luke, London as follows: Sophia Marchant 37, head (deserted wife), provision dealer, own account; William 18, son, appentice compositor – both born Whitechapel; Sophia 10, dau, scholar, born Stoke Newington, London.

*** This record of Sophia as a “deserted wife” in 1891; William jnr’s disappearance from the English records after 1885; his occupation as a shoemaker and bootmaker in England and Australia; and the predicted second cousin DNA matches with Caroline’s descendants – all confirm beyond doubt that William jnr was Ruth’s grandfather. 

What happened to Sophia? Ten years after William jnr disappeared, Sophia remarried. At that time, if a spouse disappeared and nothing further was heard from them, the left-behind spouse could legally remarry after 7 years separation. So, in 1895 at the Holborn district: David Davies 58, father Evan Davies, farmer married Sophia Marchant 40, father Richard Hutchings, shoemaker; both widowed, both grocers.

David Davies died within six years of this marriage, as in 1901 at Spitalfields, London, Sophia Davis [sic] 47, born Whitechapel, was a widowed domestic servant. 

In 1911 at Bromley, Kent: Sophia Davies 58, head, widow, married 15y, 7 children of whom 5 dead, needlework, Devonport, Devon [sic] & Elizabeth Marchant 10, grandau, school, Hackney, London. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sophia’s son William III.

Sophia’s claim to have been born at Devon in the 1911 census was somewhat out of left-field, even though the Hutchings family was living at Stoke Damerel, Devon in 1861. However the presence of her granddaughter Elizabeth Marchant makes it clear that we have the right Sophia Davies. 

Sophia Davies died in 1925 at Hackney, aged 81. She was survived by her youngest child Horace Marchant, and (unknown to her) her first husband William Marchant jnr. 

So here we have justification as to why William George Marchant (jnr) claimed to be younger than his real age, slightly changed his birthplace, and failed to disclose his parents’ names while in Australia. He was a married man who had deserted his English family. No wonder he was a mystery! At least he did not change his name, as another one of my mystery men did. 

Interestingly, his youngest son born 1896 was named William, as was his oldest son born 1872 – although they had different middle names. 

After I determined William jnr’s ancestry, I have identified several other DNA matches for Ruth, with links to this same Newington family of shoemakers. 

If you are interested to know more about William jnr’s ancestry, read on.

His father, William snr, was baptised on 1 Jan 1822 at St Mary, Newington, Surrey: siblings William George Marchant born 17 Aug 1819 & Esther Elizabeth Marchant born 13 Dec 1821, parents George (shoemaker) and Ann, of Hyde Park, Walworth Common.

Another William George Marchant, son of George and Ann, was baptised in 1817 at Newington, but he must have died young. 

William snr’s parents married on 5 Mar 1810 at St Mary, Newington, Southwark, Surrey: George Marchant and Ann Cranch, both single, of this parish. Witnesses Charles Cranch and Ann Broadhurst.

William snr’s siblings were:

  • Mary Ann Marchant born 1811 at Deptford, Lewisham, Kent. She married Frederick Winch Cranch in 1845 at Lambeth.
  • Louisa Ann Marchant born 1813 at Newington, Surrey. She married William Buckett in 1835 at Lambeth.
  • Esther Elizabeth Marchant born 1821 at Newington, Surrey. She married William Collins Boyles in 1845 at Lambeth.
  • Agnes Maria Marchant born in 1824 at Camberwell, Surrey. She died unmarried in 1848.

William sn’r father George Merchant, son of George and Sarah Merchant, was baptised on 17 Apr 1786 at St George the Martyr Southwark, London.

William snr’s grandfather George Marchant, a shoemaker, died aged 94, on 5 Jun 1848 at Walworth, Newington district, Surrey. He was therefore born ca 1755.  I think George snr married twice, and both his brides were named Sarah.

Marriage on 12 Feb 1782 at St Mary, Newington, Surrey: George Marchant and Sarah Atkinson. 

Marriage on 10 Jul 1786 at St James, Clerkenwell, London: George Marchant and Sarah Webb, both of this parish, banns.

Sarah Marchant, aged 88, wife of George Marchant, shoemaker, died 16 Jan 1844 at Walworth, Surrey. 

DNA Matches and my Fitzell brick walls


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I know it is accepted wisdom that DNA is mainly a tool to help confirm your paper tree, but I have added to my tree based on DNA matches alone.

I had a brick wall with my paternal great-grandparents, Adam and Grace Fitzell of Ireland, whose children were born in co Cork in the 1820s. Fitzell is a Palatine name, and they were Protestants. This is my only paternal Irish line. 

My paternal close relatives and I had a couple of matches with people who had Dolmage ancestors. I knew Dolmage was a Palatine name, and I was aware that there was an early Fitzell-Dolmage marriage at Rathkeale, Limerick. I have therefore attributed my Adam as the grandson of that couple. The grandson seemed to disappear from the co Limerick records after his baptism, so he was an ideal candidate for my police constable Adam, who turned up in co Cork. 

I was able to make this connection because I had done a lot of research on the Fitzells in Ireland. Without that groundwork, I doubt that I would have recognised the significance of the Dolmage matches, and immediately perceived that there was a descendant who would fit my Adam. 

Even more rewarding was being able to attribute a maiden name to Adam’s wife Grace.

My paternal cousins and I were getting dozens of matches with Americans who had Bell and Shannon ancestry originating in Ireland.  I knew that they had to be connected to my Fitzell ancestry, because it is my only paternal Irish line. I traced this Bell-Shannon family and discovered they descended from John Shannon and Catherine McCarthy, who married in a Catholic ceremony in 1834 at Kinsale, co Cork. Witnesses were Eugene McCarthy and Mary McCarthy, who may have been Catherine’s siblings or parents.

McCarthy was already a familiar name to me. A McCarthy was a witness at the marriage of one of my Fitzells; another McCarthy provided a reference when one of my Fitzells joined the Royal Irish Constabulary; and one of Grace’s grandchildren was named Grace McCarthy Fitzell. So I had long suspected that McCarthy might have been a family connection, but could not be sure that the McCarthys were not influential friends, rather than family. With these American DNA matches, I felt I could  confidently say that Grace was a McCarthy (most likely Catherine’s sister, given their similar ages, and the relatively close American DNA matches). As they were a co Cork family, this meant I could rule out the McCarthys as being an ancestor of Grace’s husband Adam Fitzell, as I had already confirmed his county Limerick background. He had moved to county Cork when he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary.

If I had not done the groundwork of tracing all of Adam and Grace’s children, whose names I knew from family stories, the significance of the McCarthy name would probably have escaped me. 

I realise that these examples do not comply with strict proof genealogical standards, but in the absence of surviving records, it is better than nothing. I am very pleased with my experience, and hope one day for similar success with my two maternal brick walls – one in Ireland and one in Scotland. 

UPDATE. I have posted a more detailed blog on this topic called “MY IRISH ANCESTORS WERE GERMAN: The Fischel family from the Palatine became the Fitzell family of co Limerick”, 2 Nov 2019.