DNA testing continued

DNA graphicI had decided to take advantage of a special deal with 23andMe and get my DNA tested. I am hoping to learn a bit about my deep ancestry from my mitochondrial DNA in this test, as well as some genetic health risks and susceptibilities.

I tried to order the kit a few days before. I eventually realised that my first order with 23andMe didn’t go through, so I ordered again. I received confirmation that it has been sent, which I hadn’t had before, so obviously I had done something wrong, or not done something, before. So far so good!

Timeline so far:

9 Dec 2010 – I ordered a kit from 23andMe

10 Dec 2010 – Kit was shipped from 23andMe

13 Dec 2010 – Kit arrived at my front door

15 Dec 2010 – I spat my sample into the test tube

16 Dec 2010 – Sample collected by courier

21 Dec 2010 – Sample arrived at the 23andMe lab, and I was reminded to register my kit on the website

The process takes 6-8 weeks, so there will be no new updates for a while.

In the meantime, I had ordered some books from Amazon. That order did go through, and all 5 of them have arrived – 3 all at once and the other 2  individually. I’ve read the first 3, the last one being Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner’s Trace Your Roots with DNA, (2001). Even though the book is nearly 10 years old it gives an excellent introduction to the basics of DNA testing. They discuss the coming developments pretty accurately – more markers, more usefulness for mtDNA, more popularity and so better chances of matching with someone else’s test results.

All this reading has inspired me to more testing! I’ve ordered a test for my maternal uncle, and one for my unsuspecting father or brother.

I’ve also changed companies. I will be using Family Tree DNA for these and probably all subsequent tests. It’s not that I think that they are a better company, or do better tests; it’s more that they do different tests.

Family Tree DNA are more concerned with pure genealogy, whereas 23andMe are more concerned with the health aspects of DNA. It will be interesting to compare the two. Family Tree DNA has, as far as I can tell, the largest number of  projects.

A project is what you join if you want to find matches with other people who may be relatives. The pricing is less expensive if you join a project. Most of the projects are for surnames. My husband, for example, is part of the Bassett project, so he can see how closely he is related to other Bassetts around the world, and where their most recent common ancestor came from. There is little point in getting your DNA tested unless you want to compare it with others’.

Other projects are for geographic areas. My uncle is one of the last of a line of Easons, the first of whom came to Australia from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland, so he will be part of the Ulster Project. The story we were told was that Eason was originally a French Huguenot name with a d’ on the front of it. I have not found any evidence of this as yet, but then my trail runs cold in 1813 with the marriage of Sarah Irwin of Clogher, Tyrone, to Richard Eason of Armagh.

Family Tree DNA do not use couriers unless requested, so this story will unfold a little more slowly.

Image courtesy of Chris Harvey at Dreamstime.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 22 – Find-a-Grave

I nearly dismissed this week’s challenge out of hand. I had heard of Find-a-Grave, and I thought it was an American site, with only American graves.

I was wrong.

I searched the FAQ for ‘international’ to see if it covered countries other than USA, as I couldn’t easily find this information on the homepage, and found that some fixes had been done to clean up the list of countries, including Australia. Woohoo!

So I did a search for my usual test surname – Eason – and restricted the country to Australia. Eason is uncommon enough that I don’t get thousands of results, and not so uncommon that I don’t get any at all.

Much to my surprise the list of results included John Eason, buried in an unmarked grave in Condobolin. I was a bit surprised, as I have a copy of his NSW death registration and a photo of his headstone in Blayney.

Entry for John Eason, buried in Condobolin in 1933, from Find a Grave
Entry for John Eason, buried in Condobolin in 1933, from Find a Grave

Clicking on the link to Condobolin Lawn Cemetery gives this information:

There are approximately 1000 unmarked graves in the general cemetery.

“I visited the undertaker, the council, the ladies club, the local Anglican and Catholic churches, the local court house and the local historical association, asking what records they had. I tried the local newspaper; they have their back issues to about 1906 on film but they weren’t big on obituaries. They don’t have a monumental mason in Condo.”

In compiling the list, reference was made to the NSW indexes of births, deaths and marriages and to military records for further information. The images may be viewed and downloaded from the list of all inscriptions for this cemetery.

I’m impressed that someone has gone to the trouble of deducing that the reported approximately 1000 unmarked burials in Condobolin Lawn Cemetery must include John Eason, whose death was registered in Condobolin. Unfortunately it is dangerous to make these sorts of assumptions. John was in Condobolin with his daughter when he died, and was apparently transferred to Blayney to be buried with his wife Lily, who predeceased him by three years.

Lily and John Eason Headstone
Headstone of Lily and John Eason, Blayney Presbyterian Cemetery. Photo taken by the author, Dec 2008.

The website allows corrections to be sent to the contributor, and I have now done so.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t dismiss a website just because you assume it is American. It may have gone international.
  2. Don’t assume that the contents of websites where information has been voluntarily entered is correct.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 19 – military records

I don’t have any military ancestors, unless you include Fijians from the time before Christianity ended tribal warfare. So when the National Archives of Australia put digitised World War I Service records online a couple of years ago I went looking for the siblings of my direct ancestors who were born in the years that would have made them eligible for military service.

I found four, three of whom didn’t return from France.

Ernest Harold Goode (1885-1917), of Millthorpe, NSW, second son of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 25th February 1917.

George Harold Goode (1887-1918), of Millthorpe, NSW, third son third of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 2nd June 1918.

Douglas James Stewart (1899-1918), of Holbrook, NSW, eldest son of James Simpson Stewart and Annie Lawson. Killed in action in France, 10th August, 1918.

Eric Eason (1894-1976), of Blayney, NSW, eldest son of John Eason and Lily Adelaide Grace Goode. Discharged 4th September 1919 on disembarkation in Sydney. Hid mother Lily Eason, nee Goode, was the eldest sister of Ernest and George Goode.

I have started to examine one of these files in more detail. Douglas James Stewart was my grandmother’s first cousin. He was born and raised in Holbrook, which is near Albury in southern New South Wales. He was just barely 18 when he joined the Australian Expeditionary Force in Sydney on Sunday, 18th February, 1918. My mother says she was told that he looked older than he was, and the women of the town used to give him white feathers, calling him a coward. He joined up as soon as he could:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718

Both parents had to sign the form as he was under 21 years.

The whole file is 61 pages, and although some pages are certified copies of other pages, most are original records. There is the correspondence the AIF Office received from his father James Simpson Stewart requesting further details about his son’s death, requesting a photograph of the grave, and enquiring about medals. Copies of replies from the Office are there, as is an inventory of the personal effects sent to the next of kin.

It’s very sad. I never knew Douglas James Stewart, nor did my mother, and I’ve never even seen a photograph of him. It’s sad that he has been reduced to pieces of paper in an old file, but it’s brilliant that he can be remembered now that the pieces of paper are available for me to view at home on my computer.

Lest we forget.