A Journey through my DNA…..

As millions of people around the world get their DNA tested for a range of reasons, the Ancestry.com database is increasing expeditiously. With a rapidly growing database, Ancestry.com is able to add more regions around the world based on the origins of those who have been tested. Further, with a growing database new DNA ethnicity updates roll out and more recently, yesterday (14 April 2022), they rolled out their new function of ethnicity inheritance. Ethnicity inheritance basically takes your results and halves them between your parents, two halves making a whole (you!), even if your parents have not had their DNA tested.

First, a bit about my journey through my DNA since I received my DNA test results on 20 July 2020. At the time to say I may have panicked upon reading my ethnicity estimates is an understatement (you can read my initial post here). At the time, and still today, I do not profess to understand DNA in great detail. So when I saw my first estimates my brain immediately went to “I am not Italian”! Despite my Dad being 100% Italian, Northern Italian to be exact, in September 2020 I had ZERO Northern Italian in my DNA results!!

My DNA Ethnicity Estimate 20 July 2020

Instead of Northern Italian my results showed I was 26% French and 24% Germanic European! The second thought to enter my brain was “my dad is not my dad!” After freaking out and envisaging a French German European post man being my Dad I soon learnt that the trend of getting your DNA tested had not yet reached Northern Italy or those of that origin, as opposed to other parts of the world.

What this means is, that your estimates are collaborated using the closest regions of those who have been tested and in my case, these DNA matches could go back to over 500 – 5,000 years old, numerous generations, before I could determine which ancestors linked between me and my DNA matches. This is why my ethnicity showed a breakdown of French and Germanic European despite knowing that all my Dad’s ancestors were born in the Northern Italian town of San Donato di Lemon. Of course movement of ancestors many hundreds of years ago meant that relatives were not just from this small town but were likely from other regions surrounding and within Northern Italy.

My DNA Ethnicity Estimate 12 September 2020

Since receiving my first ethnicity estimates I have received further updates. The second update was on 12 September 2020 when obviously more people around the world had completed DNA tests. As such, more data allowed Ancestry.com to update ethnicity estimates for regions where my ancestors came from. This was the first time I saw the emergence of my Northern Italian ethnicity emerge. While estimates only showed 5% Northern Italian in my results, it was a start and I was definitely Italian! Additionally with this update my percentage of French and Germanic European had decreased.

By July 2021, I had received my third ethnicity update from Ancestry.com and I found that I now had 20% Northern Italy. The original 26% then 21% France estimate had now disappeared all together and Germanic Europe had reduced from 24% to now 15%. Go the Northern Italians testing around the world!!!

My DNA Ethnicity Estimate July 2021

So that is the background to my journey through my DNA to date, well as of yesterday when I got my fourth ethnicity update from Ancestry.com and like many around the world, could now see a further breakdown of my data, showing two halves (from each of my parents) to make a whole, ME!

This new evolution in how DNA data can be broken down by Ancestry.com is because so many millions of people around the world have had their DNA tested, allowing them to be more precise in breaking down your ethnicity and through your DNA matches group your DNA by the parent they came from. Without the need to convince your parents to spit in a vial!!

This new feature is called Ethnicity Inheritance, you can read more about this new feature here where Ancestry.com explain…..or you might want to visit one of my favorite genealogy bloggers, Michelle Patient (also known as the Patient Genie), who explains further here.

A map of my DNA Origins per Region – 14 April 2022

And the Good News!

So what did these blobs of color on a map tell me about how my ethnicity estimates have changed! Well on their own they are just that blobs of color on a map but when you go to the DNA ethnicity estimates you can see greater detail in the percentages of origins which you come from. First thing for me is, my Northern Italian ethnicity is zooming to the front in the race to show where in the world I had the strongest origins…..from originally having no Northern Italian and then to July 2021 when I had 20% Northern Italy, I now had a whopping 38% Northern Italian in my DNA! With this massive change, my Germanic European estimate had dropped to just 5% and while disappearing in the earlier estimate update, France was back at just 8%. I most definitely am Northern Italian and not the daughter of some French German European post man!

My DNA Ethnicity Estimate 14 April 2022

And now to Ethnicity Inheritance……

For those of us nerdy genealogists from around the world, our avid research into our family history would tell us where our ancestors were born and the origins of the ancestors that came before them. However, for those who do not know their biological parentage, the ethnicity inheritance feature now on Ancestry.com can start to tell more of the story of their origins and with greater precision tell you where your parents and their ancestors were born and the regions around the world that makes up their DNA and therefore your own! What an amazing evolution for so many people trying to find out who and where their biological parents originated!!

Having spent many hours researching my family history I knew where my family were from, mostly Italy, England, Scotland. So there weren’t any major surprises in my ethnicity inheritance breakdown of the origins for each of my parents.

My Ethnicity Inheritance Overview 14 April 2022

From my own knowledge and past ethnicity estimates I knew from this graph of my parents ethnicity that Parent 1 was my Mum and Parent 2 was my Dad. All that yellow is the emergence of my Northern Italian origins, now at 38%!

However, what I could now see, which was a little bit surprising was that somewhere along the way someone from Wales had given my Dad 3% ethnicity, which initially I assumed was from my Mum’s side of the family. The other surprise was that I had always assumed that the percentage of Germanic European, originally 24%, had come from my Dad’s origins, however, what this new feature shows is that in fact there was Germanic Europe ethnicity now linked at 5% to my Mum.

My Ethnicity Inheritance Detailed Comparison 14 April 2022

So that’s where I am up to in my journey through my DNA! What I would now love is for another family member, a generation older than me, to spit in a vial and give me more information on our family’s DNA! With extra DNA from a generation older than me I may be able to find links to finding out who my Nana Jean’s grandfather was, as her Dad’s birth registration shows he was illegitimate, his father unnamed, but that is all another story!

For now, that’s all from me…..hope you all enjoy learning about your ethnicity inheritance!

Lessons of a Genealogist – Fresh eyes….

Like most people starting out building their family tree, my initial reaction to seeing other people’s trees with my ancestors attached was to go on a clicking frenzy and add them all. As a novice you just take what you see that other people have done and assume it to be correct and add away! Yeah no, not a good idea!!!!

This week, after reading Nathan Dylan Goodwin‘s newsletter that featured some work that he was doing on his Goodwin ancestors, I had a light bulb moment…..”I have Goodwin’s in my family tree”! Onto Ancestry.com I went and into my DNA matches, and there low and behold Nathan and his brother come up as DNA matches too me! *insert squealing with excitement here*

I sent a message off to Nathan, not really expecting to hear back, being the busy author (by the way check out his genealogy books here, they won’t disappoint!) and all things genealogy man that he is, but the next day a message appears in my inbox! Just a little bit excited to read that he confirmed we were matches and while it is only 5 – 8th cousins, it is still a match!

My first famous DNA match!!! *insert don’t want to work, need to do genealogy*

Nathan told me that he was at a brick wall on his Goodwin line and couldn’t find the baptism record of his Thomas Goodwin who married in 1800 and so he was stuck. At the time I knew that I had gone back a few generations in my Goodwin’s but it was some time back that I had done this part of my tree and I hadn’t gone into a lot of detail nor had it been one of my focuses.

Today, I started to review my Mary Goodwin and her ancestors, with a plan at the time to find out more about her father and his potential siblings and ancestors. After reviewing and writing up what I had so far, I found that my initial research was wrong and I had gone down a rabbit warren, adding people from other trees without looking into it, this was years ago when I didn’t really have a clue about what I was doing!

What I found was Mary’s life married to my 3rd great grandfather, Abraham Downes, but nothing prior to their marriage in 1848. It appeared that I had recorded an approximate year and place of birth from one of the census records (not that there is anything wrong with that) and it seems I got click happy adding people, including a wife and their children from other family trees that came up in my hints!

Today, I went back to what records I did have of Mary and the only clue to her parents was on her registration of marriage to Abraham that recorded her father as Abel Goodwin, a collier. That was all I had! I hit the search engine in Ancestry.com hoping to find a baptism record for about 1822, which was the consistent date based on all the census records for Mary. No baptism record to be found! Not anywhere, that I could see so far!

So now, like Nathan, I have a brick wall in my Goodwin line……

All is not lost, today while walking my frustration out at coming across this, I thought to myself that I have been in a genealogy rut since new year and I really didn’t know where to focus my research…..knowing that there are probably other errors in my family tree because of my initial click and add excitement, before I knew better, this is the opportunity to review, update and validate all my ancestors! This will be my main focus this year, plus some blog posts……

I have only ever used Ancestry.com as the location of my main family trees and I think with this new goal, it is probably the opportunity to look at some offline software with the ability to link into sites like Ancestry.

Back to my Goodwin line, I will keep looking for Mary’s baptism and hopefully at some point, Nathan and I will uncover who our common ancestor is!

Q & A with Ancestor Detective

Nen Ny, one of our followers, asked Ancestor Detective a question during the week …

Where is William George Clarke’s birth certificate?


This is what Nen could tell me……

Nen outlined that despite her searches she has been unable to locate her husband’s great grandfather’s birth certificate. She explained that despite being able to trace the great grandmother’s life Caroline May Penney and family for many generations, the same was not the case for William George Clarke. It is believed the William was born in about 1885 in Melbourne, however other records suggested he could have been born in 1883 or as early as 1881. William had married Caroline May Penney and on their marriage registration William has recorded his mother as unknown. Further, several records have shown variations to the spelling of William’s surname Clarke.

Here is what Ancestor Detective found…..

I have looked into William George Clarke and rather than finding records through Ancestry.com or another subscription sites I am going to show findings from public records.

I was able to locate the marriage registration of William George Clarke and Florence Caroline May Penny on 8 March 1911 at St. Paul’s Church in Milton, N.S.W on Births, Deaths, Marriages N.S.W (Ref 2131/1911). On this record it records William’s place of birth Victoria, place unknown and his father as William Clarke, a coach driver.

Searching the Find My Grave website I located the grave of William George Clarke and wife Florence Caroline in East Lismore, N.S.W. The grave shows William’s death as 11 August 1953, aged 70 years. The record of death (NSW BDM Ref 21838/1953) also confirms William’s father as William Clarke. If you haven’t already purchased William’s death registration, I suggest you do so, as this could reveal some other clues as to where William was born and it will also allow you to confirm his father’s name and occupation, if recorded, it may also have other details about his mother.

From these records we know that William died aged 70 years in 1953 indicating that his birth is likely 1883, however often people didn’t know their date of birth, so using a date range in your record searches is recommended. In regards to the spelling of Clarke, it is common for names during that time to be misspelt as people spelt phonetically, as a word sounded. I would suggest searching using a range of options, so Clarke with and without the letter ‘e’ or using a wildcard (*) at the end of his surname. You may also wish to try searching without William’s middle name George.

Searching the Victorian Births Deaths Marriages site I was able to locate three birth records that you may wish to purchase. One is for a William George Clarke born 1885 to a William John Clarke and Ellen Smith, another is for a William Clarke born 1884 to William Clarke and Mary Sweeney and a third record is for a William Clarke born in 1882 to William Clarke and Annie Ma Bertrand. When reviewing these records look for the father’s occupation as this may help to verify what you already know about William’s father.

I would also suggest before purchasing these records searching, if you haven’t already done so, any siblings of William and if there are clues in their records that can help you to determine which of the above birth registrations is your William. I have researched any William’s with a father recorded as William, but you may wish to look into the other birth records where the father’s name is unknown. While it is likely that the first record may be the correct registration of birth for William, I would also suggest expanding your search to other states in Australia, particularly N.S.W.

I hope this assists you in your search and you can progress your husband’s family tree.


Do you have a brick wall or your having trouble finding something on your ancestor, you can post a question for Ancestor Detective to answer for you.

1921 U.K Census is here!

As I said in my post over the weekend (found here), the much anticipated 1921 U.K Census for England and Wales has finally arrived and available on Find My Past. Let’s face it we have been waiting 100 years for this day! And unfortunately it will be many more years before the release of the next one, with no census being done during WW2.

Here are a few things you need to know if you haven’t read up on this release and how to access records…..

The 1921 census is only available through the subscription website Find My Past, even using the 14 day free trial. Not to put a dampener on the excitement you will be having from the release of these new records, unfortunately despite what subscription you have, you still have to pay to access the transcription or the image!

A 10% discount only applies for those subscribers who pay for the PRO subscription and only if you pay using the annual payment, not the monthly payment.

Another thing you should know and which I found out by accident in my haste to get a record is that if you pay for the transcription and then you want the image of the actual document, you have to pay twice!

Over the weekend I will write again telling you what information you will learn about your ancestors using the 1921 U.K Census and how it compares to the 1901 Census (which I did talk about here in my previous post).

Enjoy researching everyone! Here’s hoping you uncover some genealogy gems or even skeletons in the closet you may not have been aware of or a clue that will smash down a pesky brick wall…..

Reflections of Genealogist

Welcome to 2022!!! The time when we all get really ambitious and set goals, and if your like me, largely don’t achieve any of them. However, it is a new year and unlike 2021 when this didn’t happen, I am going to do some planning! I have excuses, lets face it we all do, if it wasn’t my job or other life stuff or that I was just distracted it didn’t happen, neither did writing posts for all my followers. How this is possible when like me we were all in Covid 19 lockdown and spending way to much in our homes, I have no idea!!! By the way, here’s to a year when Covid 19 doesn’t rule our lives!

Talking about followers, if anything has happened in the last 12 months, for reasons I don’t know, my followers to my blog and Facebook page has increased a lot! Thank you to all those who are now following my journey through genealogy….I promise this year will be filled with posts to read, tips to help you and soon….the launch of some of my products will be available to browse on my website for anyone wishing to employ me to research their family history.

Despite my goals not being achieved or not many blog posts being written I have completed two large research projects for clients and friends. The quest started as finding out who their ancestors were to writing manuscripts on some interesting ancestors and then on to putting everything from manuscripts, records and family group sheets into large reports, including a data report of all the sources. They looked fantastic and my clients were very happy. However these projects have made me reflect on the work involved and I have decided these products are not ideal, despite client happiness. So, the plan going forward is smaller projects and a range of different products to choose from…..keep a look out for my new web pages that display both my genealogy services and the products you may wish to consider.

This year I will be aiming to start a new series “Convicts! Crime, Ships and Settlers”….these will be about some convicts I have come across while researching friends families….to find convicts was excitement plus! Let’s face it if you are an Australian, who doesn’t want a convict in their family! Unfortunately to date it appears my family were a bunch of goodie two shoes, although I suspect my second great grandfather may have something to hide! That is another goal, to find out if James was a convict, because to date how he ended up in Australia from England is a mystery despite hours spent searching for an answer.

In the next couple of weeks I will also write some more in my series, “Census! What’s the Big Deal?”. While writing more about the census and what I have found has been on my “to write list” the inspiration to do so, as you will see from my blog post in the last week reveals (read it here), is largely due to the long anticipated launch of the U.K 1921 Census records on Find My Past (which by the way at the time of writing is in 2 days, 21 hours, 3 minutes and 20 seconds!)…..this will no doubt help many avid genealogists fill those gaps in the lives of their families. The extra information that comes in this census will also add to your family stories.

I am also planning to develop my own set of resources/tools that I have found really helpful in my research and analysis! The first you will see as part of my next blog will be a tool to help you trace household members through the census and I will use my Nanna’s family as a case study example….keep you eyes out for that one!

As you can see, I tend to be a bit over ambitious, but to ensure that I achieve some of my goals and research some more brick walls and my family, I am going to spend a few days writing a plan on how I will achieve my genealogy goals. I will share the resources/tools that I will be using to do these plans…..watch this space.

Anyway…..that’s all from me, Ancestor Detective, for now! Don’t forget to share my blog posts with your family and friends and if you have questions or would like to talk about what I can do for you, reach out using my contact page or on Facebook!

Again, thanks for following, hi to all my new followers and good luck in your genealogy adventures in 2022!

What can the census tell you about your Ancestors? Part 1 – The Census, What’s the Big Deal?

The genealogy world has been abuzz with excitement since Find My Past announced the release of the 1921 U.K Census on the 6 January 2022! Like new years eve there is a count down clock, counting down the days until the 1921 census release. Literally there is a count down clock brought to you by Find My Past and it is counting down by days, hours, minutes and seconds! You can watch the count down with anticipation here.

In this blog, Ancestor Detective, will take you through what can be called “Census 101”. You can read up on where to find records, what is recorded, how they compare and what I, Ancestor Detective, have learnt about my ancestors from analysing census records.

For the family historian starting out on this amazing, somewhat obsessive, journey you may be sitting there reading this saying “Census? What’s the big deal?” Well read on, as I explain the gold mine of clues that you can gleam from a census about your ancestors!

The first thing you need to know is that in the United Kingdom there is a treasure trove of household information that you can find with almost full sets of census records available from 1841 and every 10 years thereafter to 1901. While there are census records available prior to 1841, these vary in quantity and quality.

Where to find them and how much…….

There are many genealogy websites that provide you access to each census taken since 1841, this varies between free records and paid, transcriptions and the original records. What access you have also depends on which country you are looking to find your ancestor in. For example, if you don’t have a subscription to a genealogy site, you can start your search using free sites UK Free Census and FamilySearch where you can find transcriptions showing basic demographical information.

If your after the original census records these can be accessed on genealogy subscription sites Ancestry.com, Find My Past and My Heritage…..For Scotland, while you can access the transcriptions on the subscription sites, to access the original record you will have to use Scotland’s People, where you pay to view and download the original record.

What can be learnt……

The initial census records were quiet basic and used as a population count, recording those living in each household, their gender, age and occupations. As time went on and the value of what the census could be used for more questions were added to the census. You can find out what questions were added for each year of the census in the United Kingdom here or below is a diagram showing the 1911 census and what was added for each census that was taken (this is an example of a English and Wales census).

England and Wales Census (1911) record questions added between 1841 and 1911

Transcription versus Original Record…..

A transcription or an extract definition is the extraction of parts of information from an original document and is normally in a listing format, including citation of the source and headings. For such records like the census, information is provided for the whole household even when more than one family are living in that house, including visitors, boarders or servants.

1911 Scottish Census Transcription

So why pay for the original record when you can get the transcription for free? Well there are a few things to think about……

1. Do you trust that the person transcribing the record was able to read the writing and has spelled names correctly?

2. Did the transcriber accidentally leave out details recorded on the original that could mean the difference between finding your ancestor and finding someone else?

3. Could there be something written on the record that wasn’t transcribed that could be the difference between breaking down a brick wall and remaining stuck behind that brick wall?

4. Was the household recorded over multiple pages but the transcriber has transcribed only half the family?

But most of all, how cool is it to view an original record where your ancestor may have completed and signed it!

What else can you find from the original records?

In the 1800’s families did not travel far from their original family home because it was expensive or there wasn’t transport options to move long distances. What the original census records found on Ancestry.com does is allows the user to view the census record of other households in that street or neighborhood in order of street numbers, so you can see who lived next door or in the same vicinity. Often you will find other relatives living close by and sometimes it helps to break down a brick wall or to find other members of the family you didn’t know existed or you didn’t know where they were on census night.

Case Study – William Cramp

In my first Brick Wall series on the Cramp – Freer family I used census records to determine the likely father of William Cramp. While inaccurate years of birth in records are not unusual, I had numerous years of birth and inconsistencies with age for William so this confusion made it difficult to locate a birth or baptism record and his parents.

Here are the details I had in relation to William that indicated a year of birth:

William died on 19 January 1878, at the age of 56 years – meaning he was likely born in c1822

William is recorded ‘of age’ on his marriage registration to Miriam on 15 December 1846 with his father’s name Edward – this means he was 21 years or over and was born before c1825

In the 1851 census William is recorded as 24 years and born in Burton on Wolds in Leicestershire – this would make his likely year of birth c1827

At this point, I did not know where William was when the 1841 census was recorded, this was another record which could narrow down his year of birth.

How did census records help in finding William in 1841?

Running a search on Ancestry.com for a William Cramp, born Burton on Wolds, Leicestershire with a father Edward Cramp revealed some 15 census records for 1841. Here are the key points I used to narrow this down to who was more than likely my William Cramp in 1841.

  • I added what I thought was the most accurate year of birth, 1822, from William’s registration of death – this narrowed the records down from 15 to four
  • I reviewed these records for a William born in Leicestershire – one record was found for a William born 1821 but recorded his parents as William (not Edward) and Mary – for the time being I ruled this record out as not being my William
  • I ran another search using the year of birth, 1827, recorded on the 1851 census – two records were found for a William Cramp in Borrow Upon Soar, Leicestershire
  • The first of these records was for a William Cramp, aged 16 years, born c1825 in Leicestershire, living in the parish of Seagrave as an agricultural laborer
  • The second record was for a William Cramp, aged 15 years, born c1826 in Leicestershire and living in Castle Donnington as a male servant.
  • To rule out which of these records was not for my William I knew that William was living with Miriam in 1851 in Quorndon, so if what I thought was correct that one of these William’s was mine, then one would not be at these addresses in 1851.
  • I looked further into the William found aged 16 living in the parish of Seagrave in 1841, and found that this same man was also living in Seagrave in 1851, 1861, 1881 and 1911 – Bingo! I was down to just one record!
England Census 1841

I could confirm more than likely that the second record for a William Cramp, aged 15, born c1826 and living in Castle Donnington was my William. To verify this was my William I searched Barrow Upon Soar for an Edward Cramp, William’s father. As it turned out the genealogy gods were looking down on me and only one record appeared for an Edward Cramp in this area. It showed Edward was aged 45 years, born about c1796, was an agricultural laborer and was living with his wife Elizabeth and two daughters, Elizabeth aged 15 and Sarah aged 12 years.

England Census 1841

Comparing what I knew of William, it was likely Edward and his family were that of William’s – ages of the daughters fitted with William being 15 years old, the age of Edward and Elizabeth fitted as approximate ages of William’s parents and they were living close by from where William was living in 1841!


What the case study of William Cramp demonstrates is that, as a series of records over time the census can be used to build timelines of your ancestors life but more importantly, use these records to rule in or rule out which record is likely correct for the person you are researching.