The Common Ancestors of the Bainbridges of Middleham

For genealogists with British ancestors the period before Civil Registration (in 1837) and useful Census (starting with the 1841 census) records can be a challenging period. There are, for most parts of the UK mainland, Parish Registrars. The brevity of the records (for example “John the son of John Smith, baptized on January 1st 1799″) can make it difficult to create a realistic scenario about your ancestors. It is only by “stitching together” the various sources can you make the various details fit into a convincing family tree. One of my favourite DNA tools that helps in this process is the Common Ancestors feature available at the Ancestry website

In this post I want to cover how this feature can help in revealing and supporting your own family history research, as well as a something about my Bainbridge family ancestors

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Ancestry.com Sideview ™ Review

Introduction

In April this year genealogy giant Ancestry.com introduced “SideView ™” a key new feature to their DNA product offering. This technology aims to identify and use the DNA you received from each of your parents to further your genealogical research. This technology is only available thanks to the massive DNA database Ancestry has (over 22 million DNA samples according to the most recent data I have). The current iteration of SideView offers two insights for Ancestry customers.

Ethnicity inheritance

This was the first product released under SideView was an Ethnicity Inheritance. This is basically a way of splitting the Ethnicity Estimates that the Ancestry algorithm has generated for you into the two parts, one from your mother and one from your father. Now ethnicity estimates in themselves are controversial but there are cases (e.g. adoptees) where this can be helpful. In addition, there are also certain ethnicities that are more reliable as standouts (e.g. Ashkenazi Jewish and Indigenous N. American) that may be relevant for genealogical research.

In my case ethnicity estimates are irrelevant. My recent ancestry, both paper-based and DNA cousins, suggest my ancestors are British-Isles based and really didn’t move much.

With SideView you have a single choice to make, which parent is which. Ancestry only breaks down your Ethnicity into Parent 1 and Parent 2. It is up to you to decide which is your Maternal and Paternal lines. Making this decision based on your ethnicity estimates can be problematic, but you can use other features of SideView to make this determination easier. In my case it wasn’t that difficult to identify my ethnicity by parent. My Mum’s ancestors were “northern folk”. The furthest south they got was Hawnby in the North Yorks Moors, but mostly they are a mix of Tees Valley, Scots-borders and Ulster-Scots. This contrasts with my Dad’s ancestors who are 50% East Anglian. As a result I was confident that the parent contributing my 36% Scottish ethnicity was my Mum. Illustrated below is how Ancestry shows this breakdown.

My Mum’s “Northern” heritage apparently brings with it Norwegian, Welsh and Germanic European accents, whist my Dad throws in most of the “Swedish/Danish genetic closeness.

AncestryDNA® Matches By Parent

In early October this year Ancestry announced the second use of its SideView algorithm. SideView is now used to identify which Parent your DNA match is most-likely related to. There are some caveats to this. Some of your DNA matches will be marked as Unassigned as the algorithm cannot yet determine which parent they are related to. I suspect that the Algorithm will get “tuned” over time to reduce this pot. With such a big new product feature the last thing Ancestry want is a multitude of support calls complaining about the new product. It is also important to understand that this split is based purely on the DNA. Ancestry has a separate feature “Common Ancestors” which looks for ancestors in your tree who closely-match an Ancestor in one of your DNA Matches. You may find DNA matches that some of your Unassigned matches already have a “Common Ancestor” hint.

This is a significant event for genealogists using DNA and a powerful research tool, especially for people, like myself who do not have living Parents to test. In addition both my parents were only-childs (or should that be only-children ?). I’ve no Aunts, Uncles and First Cousins to test and support my research and have spent many years enviously reading other people’s genetic genealogy journeys as they explain the wonderful and interesting ways they have evaluated their DNA information using test-results from such close relatives.

As an example of the value of this tool, I’m helping a second cousin find their paternal grandfather. With SideView we can see immediately if a person or cluster of people are related through my cousins paternal line.

It’s probably easier to understand the feature with a simple screenshot. The image below shows the features Ancestry are currently offering. It’s interesting to note that my Unassigned matches are “Pending Update”. Presumably more matches will be dropped into each parent bucket as the algorithm improves.

For myself it’s interesting to see that Ancestry only identified 2 matches as belonging to “Both Sides”, so I guess my parents were not related within the most recent generations

Ancestry.com SideView Parental-split of DNA Matches
Ancestry.com SideView Parental-split of DNA Matches

To put a little context on this I produced a simple pie chart to show how well Ancestry had assigned my matches to each parent. (Yes I’m not great at Excel charting – sorry). 18% of my matches are unassigned. Of those assigned to a parent 61% are assigned to my Mum’s relatives. This matches quite closely my own records of 58% of my identified relatives connecting with my Maternal line.

Ancestry.com SideView Parental Matches Pie Chart

The Contra-Argument

There is a contra-argument to the excitement of this tool. If you have been working with DNA Matches for any period of time you will already have some idea whether your most significant matches (for the sake of argument anything over 60 centiMorgans) are paternal/maternal. If you are using tools such as the “Leeds Method” and the 24 coloured Groups within Ancestry then you will be using the “Shared Matches” to identify which parent your key matches belong to.

Final Thoughts

This is a great tool for simplifying the process of examining your matches. This should mean more people engage with the somewhat mentally-demanding task of understanding how and where your relatives connect to you. For the genealogy community it can only be a positive.

I would expect that the SideView algorithm “improves” with time but even this first iteration is a major step forward in presenting genetic genealogy to the public.

As always I appreciate people’s thoughts on this. Please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post. AND if you are stumbling on this technology I’m happy to help.

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Vikings ! Vikings ! Vikings ! – the LivingDNA Viking Test

Recently (April 2022), LivingDNA added an option to their DNA testing service to evaluate your DNA for “Viking”. Being a sucker for DNA tester and also having a soft-spot for LivingDNA I thought I would try the test. As a European the test cost me €20 to unlock, so I’m guessing the pricing in US dollars and British pounds is similar

What is the Viking Test ?

The test generates two pieces of information. Your “Viking Index” (a score between 0 and 100%) and a “Viking Population Match” which identifies which of four Viking populations you most closely match. The four choices are Norwegian Vikings, Swedish and Danish Vikings, British and North Atlantic Vikings, and Eastern European Vikings. It’s important to understand that the Viking Index is a relative score i.e. in “comparison to the whole range of Viking Indexes across the Living DNA user base”. It is similar to the Neanderthal results that other DNA tester, such as 23andMe, where I’m apparently “have more Neanderthal DNA than 45% of other customers”.

The Science behind the Results

Before we get into the excitement of the test results, it’s important to understand the framework used to generate the tests. As the LivingDNA website states the test used DNA data from 446 Viking samples from 80 archaeological sites across Europe. This data is from three papers Margaryan et al., 2020, Krzewińska et al., 2018, Ebenesersdóttir et al. More accessible copies/reporting on two of these papers can be read at the following links Margaryan et al., 2020 and Ebenesersdóttir et al. Interstingly these reports look similar to this Viking Product from Genomelink, which also uses the “Population genomics of the Viking world” study published by Margaryan et Al.

The Big Viking Reveal

Now on to the results. The “good” news (I use the term quite loosely). It turns out I’m 63% on the scale of “Vikingness” amongst LivingDNA customers. I assume, although I’ve not read it anywhere, that this percentage will change as other more or less Vikingy people unlock the tests. The other part of the tests reveals that I’m most related to Norwegian Vikings. There is a nice illustration and text to accompany these results. The later result is probably not surprising. DNA testing behemoth, Ancestry.com, has consistently given my quite a high Norwegian “Ethnicity Estimate”, currently 13%. This figure is in reality a more “Are your ancestors genetically similar to ?” type of question as my known ancestry is, for at least the last couple of hundred years, northern and eastern British Isles.

Vikings of Norway – coming to a Monastery near You soon.

Beware Rant Ahead

I must admit I’m honestly not interested in my Vikingness and I struggle to understand why it seems to be so highly regarded, especially within some sections of the genetic genealogy world. My yDNA haplogroup is part of the I-M253 haplotree. This haplogroup is believed to be derived from European Hunter-Gatherer ancestors and most-common in Scandinavian populations. The author Bryan Sykes, “in his 2006 book Blood of the Isles, gives the members – and the notional founding patriarch of I1 the name Wodan“. This seems to have created an interest in the idea that this haplogroup is “Viking”. It ignores the fact that for most people this tells nothing about how you personally inherited the rather puny y Chromosome. Was your ancestor an heroic leader of the Great Heathen Army or the result of rape by one of the aforementioned Heathens ?

More generally I find the idea that you are genetically connected to any group of ancient warriors at best stupid and irrelevant and at worst creating a false connectively with ancestors who were killers, rapists and slave-traders. Human history is undoubtedly messy and horrible and I personally doubt anyone’s ancestors, mine included, were all saints.

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The DNA-Secret that went to the grave too early

Introduction

DNA testing for family history is reveling many secrets. Many of these relate to people still living such as adoptees, but some are reveling secrets that the people involved either didn’t know or took to the grave with them. This post is about an event almost 150 year ago that I don’t believe anyone now alive knew about.

The second aspect I want to show in this post is how combining DNA testing information with traditional genealogical research (and a little bit of common sense) can get us close to the truth.

Finally this post is also about the joy of sharing research work. As many genealogists will know, our hobby can be a lonely event, only brightened by the occasional family-history question at Christmas gatherings. For this work I was lucky to share the research load with Christine, a second cousin on my Stewart side.

The Unknown Match

I’ve always assumed my ancestors were relatively “un-remarkable” people. Almost all of them were Ag-Labs (Agricultural Labourers) who came from small rural communities, where most people knew most things. It was only the turbulence of the Industrial Revolution with its change in employment options and increased travel opportunities that made them leave these villages.

But things are always a little more complicated. A couple of years ago I discovered a new second cousin, whose grand-father had been born outside of a marriage and was quickly passed on for adoption.

Even before this, in 2018, I had another unusual match. It was a lady, we’ll call her Sally, who I matched with 174 Centimorgans of my DNA. The Ancestry website suggests that this means we are somewhere between second cousins or equivalent (60% probability) and third cousins (3% probability), with there being a less than 1% change of a more distant relationship. The thing is, I had no idea who Sally was and which ancestors we shared. It was time to do some research.

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The last Will and Testament of Marmaduke Wetherell, in the Parish of Croft, Gentleman in manner

Introduction

Before 1837, when Civil Registration in England began, my ancestors didn’t leave to history much of a paper-trail of documents. They were, for the most part, either farmers or agricultural workers. In addition they were mostly illiterate. The few records that exist were written about them in Parish Registers. Their sole contribution was to sign their names, or more commonly make their Mark as part of a married couple or as a witness to such an event. It’s therefore being quite exciting to find an ancestor who is literate, has left documentary evidence and has pushed my family-tree back one generation further. It’s perhaps even a little more exciting that this ancestor is along the branch of my direct maternal line that has given me my Mitochondrial DNA.

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Villa Ascenti Gin Review – building the Diageo Portfolio

Up until about a year ago I had neither seen nor heard of Villa Ascenti gin. There was a good reason for this. The “brand” was only launched in 2019. as you may have guessed from the review title this gin is actually part of the, ahem, Gin-portfolio of drinks giant Diageo. If you have not being following Diageo, let me give you a brief summary. Diageo was formed in 1997 by the merger of the Guiness Brewery and leisure conglomerate “Grand Metropolitan”. Since then the group has morphed into one of the world’s leading beer and spirits group and is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is part of the FTSE100 index. In other words it’s a big-fish in the world of alcoholic drinks. It’s gin portfolio includes covers The Good (Tanquerey), The Bad (Gordon’s) and the Ugly (Gilbey’s).

Villa Ascenti was launched as a “Super-Premium” gin with a focus on it’s Italy’s northwest Piemonte region heritage of “Moscato grapes, fresh mint and thyme”. So think of it as a very Mediterranean gin.

As you would expect it’s beautifully packaged in what you might describe as a “Super Premium” brand bottle pushing it’s Pietmonte credentials (“Prodotto in Piemonte”) along with a retro label vibe. You can’t accuse Diageo of sloppyness here. As ever the question is what’s it like to drink.

Day or Night Gin ? It’s a 41% ABV gin and, since it’s a super-premium drink, I feel it would be a shame to rush it. Think of it as a Sunset Gin.

What does it smell of ? It’s summery – a slightly sweet smell but minty with a firm touch of lemon.

What does it taste of ? A slightly bitter tip-of-the-tongue start, but bringing the classic juniper and citrus balance of a good gin. One of the key attributes of this gin is the “velvety” smoothness of the gin. It feels like they have added back a little grape juice to sweeten ands often the taste. It’s clearly not a dry gin, but can still work as a refreshing G&T.

Buy It ? Given that this gin is part of the Diageo portfolio I am surprised that it isn’t more readily available. My regular suppliers – the Lidl online-shop and the Galeria website (nee Galeria Kaufhof) do not stock this gin. Online prices see to be offering the 70 cl bottle for arround the €34.90 price mark. This seems a tad expensive for a bulk distiller.

Overall ? 3/5 It’s not that I don’t like this gin, but to damn it with faint praise, I would describe it as interesting. In my mind it’s not up with the top gins that it’s price implies. If you don’t like the bitterness of some gins then this will work for you, but it just didn’t deliver the wow I was hoping for.

Posted in Gin, Premium Gins, Uncategorized, Villa Ascenti Gin, Villa Ascenti Gin | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to improve your DNA matches with your German relatives at Ancestry.com

Use these two simple tricks to help connect with your DNA relatives back in the “homeland”.

I’m sorry, I just got carried away with writing click-bait titles. I have just got my wife’s DNA test results back from Ancestry. Her ancestors come from “Germanic Europe” so provides a good preview of what to expect from connecting with “German” relatives. Based on this experience and my understanding of her family tree I hope that this post will help you can get “better” matches with family back in Germany. The truth is these suggestions apply to helping reconnect with relatives from anywhere, but are particularly important in the context of matching the relatively small number of Germans in the Ancestry database. So, without further ado, here are my suggestions.

Learn to love the Umlaut.

The German language has three additional letters (ä,ö, and ü) with Umlauts (the two dots above a letter). These letters have a different sound from their un-umlauted equivalents and are used in people’s names just as everywhere else in the German language. The correct way to translate them into languages without umlauts is to add an e after the letter. So, for example, Böll, would be written as Boell. If you have German relatives they will have used umlauts in their family trees. If you want to help the Ancestry “Common Ancestors” feature you should also use Umlauts. On top of this there is the Eszett (ß). This in not a capital B. In my own experience this is something you will encounter in a a lot of German records.

Know your German Geography

Ancestry has a specific format for place names. It is important to use this format to help correctly place your ancestors’ birth locations on the map that the ancestry website users. The Ancestry format is either Town, State/County, Country (Stadt, Bundesland, Land in German) or, for smaller places, Village, Municipality, State/County, Country (Stadt, Kreis, Bundesland, Land). This means the Ancestry website will understand “Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany” and “Kelsterbach, Groß-Gerau, Hesse, Germany”.

In addition, if you have German ancestors, they would probably have used the German name for a place. For example the historic city of Breslau (in German) is Wrocław in Polish. You need to also be aware that some places ended up being renamed with the ebb-and-flow of history. Zabrze in modern-day Poland was Hindenburg Oberschlesien in German (after it was renamed from the Polish Zabrze in 1915). In the Silesian language it’s Zŏbrze.

These correctly-formatted place-names are important for two reasons. Firstly, the map that shows your ancestors birth locations to a DNA match needs this information. As an example, below, is a plot of my wife’s ancestors.

Secondly, you can search by the location of a DNA match’s ancestors. In both cases the better the information you provide, the more helpful it will be for other researchers looking at your family tree.

Finally, if you want to help other people with their research then try and give the best location information you know for your ancestor. If you believe that someone came from Bavaria in Germany then a location pin with the Bundesland Bavaria is way more informativethan the more-general “Germany”.

My personal preference is to put both the (German-language) name your ancestors would use and the correct, current name of their birth place. You can enter these with the non-standard name first, followed by a comma and then the current “correct” name format.

Whilst you are here

One other tip. This will not help you in connecting with your German relatives but is important for any research you do. It is helpful to know the confession of your ancestors. The Christian faith in Germany is divided into two confessions, Roman Catholic (Katholisch) and Protestant (Evangelisch). Church records (Kirchenbücher) are similarly divided. The best source for Roman catholic records is Matricula, whilst Protestant church books are available at Archion.

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DNA Outliers – How do I interpret a match with no shared Ethnicity ?

As a genealogist I, spend a significant amount of my research-time using my DNA results. DNA can reveal a lot about your ancestors, particularly those that lived before the advent of proper civil records.
As part of this research I look at my DNA Matches: those people with whom I share DNA and presumably ancestors. The largest and most useful pool of my DNA matches are on the ancestry.com website. When I look at the matches I normally look at two key things. Their family tree and the “Shared Matches”. What I don’t normally look at is people’s “Ethnicity Estimates”. There is a reason for this. My ancestors, for at least the last couple of hundred years, are all from small communities within the British Isles. Anyone I match, even those North American cousins whose families were living in the United States since long before the American Revolution, is likely to have some distant ancestor from the British Isles. As a result their Ethnicity Estimates will, most likely, include a chunk of British Isles heritage. This even applies for those people with mostly African-American heritage where our shared DNA bears witness to the brutal sexual slavery that their ancestors had to endure.


This week I was rather thrown by a relative with whom I share no common Ethnicity. Now I realise that Ethnicity Estimates are both “only Estimates” and a very broad brush stroke pictures, but in this case the Ethnicty Estimate ties up with the family tree. My matches’ ancestry is all Mexican. Their four grandparents were all born in Mexico in the early part of the twentieth century. All of their more-distant ancestors they know about are also Mexican. Their Ethnicity Estimate is exactly how I would expect – a mix of Native American and colonial Spanish with trace amounts of other Continental European heritage and even a pinch of European Jewish.


According to Ancestry I share 12cM of DNA with this person. Based on the research of Blaise Bettinger this is somewhere between the “safe zone” i.e. a genuine IBD (Identical by Decent) segment (>15cM) and the “danger zone” i.e. an IBC (Identical By Chance) segment (<10cM). In effect it is oin the border range and could be either real or a false-positive.


If this match is a real match then we have a distant shared ancestor, either documented or more-likely via a Non-Paternal Event (NPE). In such case I would expect this to show up, even in a trace amount, in their Ethnicity Estimate.


A false-positive result would be due to either due poor compatibility between tests from different companies using different chips OR that the match is generated as a mixture of my parents “un-phased” DNA. Since Ancestry do not take DNA results from other companies then the first option is unlikely (although I was an early tester at Ancestry, so there is a small possibility of incompatibility between chip versions used at Ancestry).


What I find confusing is that this persons DNA is distinct enough from my own to have a completely different Ethnicity Estimate, but at the same time be similar enough to generate a false positive. Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but I’d welcome other people’s thoughts.

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Genealogy in a time of Covid – A personal review of 2020

Introduction

2020 has been a year like no other – well unless you lived in AD 536. On a personal level we (my family) have been very lucky to live and work in a low Covid-risk environment. At a personal level, however, I found it hard to be able to concentrate on my genealogy work. I thought I would use this short post to highlight what I have been able to achieve and put down a marker to help direct my future work.

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Posted in 23andMe, ancestry.com, FamilyTreeDNA, Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy, LivingDNA, MyHeritage | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Exotic Aldi – Saraswati Dry Gin Review

Everyone has their nemesis. For Captain Ahab it’s Moby Dick, for Dr Doofenschmirtz it’s Perry the Platapus. Mine, it turns out, is a cheap Aldi gin. For the last couple of months I’ve been trying to finish this gin review. It should be a simple things. Drink the gin, write something about how it tastes, then press publish. It’s not been that simple, for a couple of reasons. Firstly I got floored by the manufacturer’s claim that it’s signature botanical is Thai Basil. I can taste something a little like Thai Basil, but it gets lost in the general taste. Secondly I’m beginning to like this gin a lot more than I expected – but more of that latter. Let’s start with the back-story.

Even if you are tea-total, you will have seen the gin-revival of the last decade. We’ve now reached the point where even the artisan gin makers are producing a range of gins. The supermarket own-brands are no exception. As an example we have the Saraswati Dry Gin distributed through Aldi-Süd in Germany.

The Saraswati gin is the Aldi attempt to fit in the “exotic East” niche, competing alongside such established brands as the Ophir, Tangerey Rangapur and the Mombasa Club Gin (I know the last one isn’t geographically in India but it aims at the same spice-vibe)

The Saraswati gin is named after (drum roll) Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of “knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom, and learning.” To be honest that’s quite a list of attributes to live up to and I’m not sure if the use of the goddess’ name may upset some people.

The botanical list isn’t complete, but majors on juniper, angelica, and coriander as well as a subtle spicy hints of Pandan as well as fresh citrus and peppermint (as a rough translation of “raffiniert-würzige Noten von Pandan sowie frische Zitrus- und Pfefferminzanklänge”)

Design-wise, it’s just a shade away from being a “good-looking gin” The bottle is a classic pharmacy style round with a gold shrink-warp foil. It’s the type of bottle that would look at home on the shelves of and Indian or Thai restaurant. (Which is, I think, damming it with faint praise, as we Brits say).

Finally before we dive into the gin, one point I should raise. The gin is manufactured by Pabst & Richarz. A quick look at their website presents a slightly different take on the Saraswati gin. The screenshot below presents the Saraswati as a Thai and Thai-Basil themed gin. This has thrown me a Asian-vibe curveball as my idea of an Indian-themed and a Thai-themed gin are actually quite different. The only way to decide is to try it, so on to the tasting notes.

Day or Night Gin ? it’s a healthy 40% abv. Sounds perfect for an evening pre-meal drink.

What does it smell of ? It hits a lot of the right notes – juniper, certainly a sweet-citrus note with a hint of herbs – coriander – or possibly Thai-basil.

What does it taste of ? As a pure spirit, it delivers a surprisingly plesent taste. Smooth at first with a gentle warmth and a strong herbal tastes with a mild earthy after-taste. Way better than I was expecting. For my first tasting as a Gin and Tonic I tried it with the Fevertree Mediterranean tonic and pitted it against the Ophir and Tangerey Rangapur; all garnished with Line. Surprisingly none of them came out great. A second testing with the regular Fevertree Tonic Water and Lemon was a way more pleasurable experience, something I really wasn’t expecting. I think that the Saraswati Gin has such a good combination of the Lime and Spice-based botanicals that it needs a regular tonic and Lemon to contrast the tastes.

Buy It ? As my blog has implied, you can buy this from the Aldi, more specifically the Aldi-Süd in Germany in a 0.5 litre bottle. It was available a few months back (October 2020) as a special offer, retaining for 8.49 and then discounted to 6.49. These days a quick twawl of the internet has only found it sold by a few opportunists on eBay.

Overall ? 4 / 5 I really wasn’t expecting this to be a good gin – I guess I’ve been drinking too many cheap gins from the Penny recently. I’m enjoying it way more than I expected. Now I’m not sure if I’ve become a little soft in my old age, or a little stingy by giving it four out of five. I’ve reached the end of the bottle and would buy again, however I’d love to hear your thoughts on this gin, so please do let me know what you think in the comments section.

Posted in Budget Gins, Gin Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments