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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Analysis of a second cousin DNA match

Recently, one of my known cousins took a DNA test with Family Tree DNA. He’s a half second cousin to me. We have a great-grandfather in common but descend from different wives. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the results and figuring out what they reveal.

Direct comparison

The DNA test came back as a match, showing us as predicted second cousins with a range of second to third cousins. Spot on. We have a total of 141 cM in common over 20 segments of shared DNA, with the longest block being 33 cM.

Here is FTDNA’s representation of where my known cousin and I are half identical (only half due to the other half of our DNA coming from the other parent). Our shared segments of DNA are marked in yellowy-orange. Only segments of at least 5 cM are shown in this view.


This tells me that half of those yellowy-orange areas of my DNA came to me from our shared great-grandfather.

I think that’s a pretty cool thing to know.

Matches in common

My cousin has confirmed our relationship as second cousins in Family Tree DNA, and I can now see who we match common. I have 63 matches in total on Family Tree DNA, three of whom also match my known cousin.

I can add our matches in common to the comparison. One match shares a segment of DNA in common with both myself and my known cousin. The other two must obviously match my known cousin elsewhere, and I assume that they match each other at the location shown, although it’s possible they don’t. I think it would be reasonable to pencil that location of my DNA in as (half) coming from my great-grandfather.


Our three matches in common are unfortunately predicted to be fairly distant cousins so I’m not optimistic that we will work out our connection. I do hope to contact each of them before too long and tell them which branch of my tree our common ancestor falls in, though. Perhaps I will be proved wrong. That would be good!

Matches not in common

Finally I looked at anyone who matched at the same location as my known cousin, but wasn’t a match in common with him.

Unfortunately the relevant segments for the people who met these conditions were quite small. I can’t draw the conclusion I had hoped to – that my common ancestor with these people is on my mother’s side. Because the segments are only small, they may be related to my known cousin but not meet FTDNA’s threshold for declaring someone a match.

Here’s an example of a comparison of my known cousin with another of my matches (who doesn’t match him) that almost shows what I was hoping to find. This time segments of 3cM and larger are showing, as this match didn’t share any segments of 5cM or more with my known cousin:


All in all, I think this new information has given me a few edge pieces of the DNA jigsaw puzzle.

Is there anything else I could have drawn from this or should have considered?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Colours of the 1830s

Australian Dress Register - Tartan Skirt

Australian Dress Register – Tartan Skirt

You never know what you’ll find on the web even as you go about the most mundane task. Today at work, while looking for something completely different, I stumbled across the Australian Dress Register. The site which is by the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney seems to have been around for a few years, but it was new to me. The purpose of the site is document men's women's and children's dress from or relating to New South Wales up to 1945.

I was immediately captivated – but couldn’t stop and browse as I was at work. Poking around history and genealogy sites isn’t part of my job description. I’ve had a chance to look at the site now and I think it would be of great interest to readers of this blog.

Each of the garments shown has extensive notes on it’s provenance, construction, and some genealogical details about the owner.

The skirt above was made by a woman named Sarah Thomas en route to Australia in 1838. I have never put much thought into what colour my ancestors clothes would have been but I wouldn’t have guessed pink, purple and green.

There’s are plenty more items of clothing to look at on the site, which I am sure would be of interest beyond New South Wales, plus videos about how to photograph clothing and how to dress a mannequin, among others.

Well worth a look.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Changes at my family tree site,

This post is for the benefit of visitors to my family tree website,

I am changing the way I manage the site, flowing on from my change in desktop software.

You probably won’t notice any difference, but if you have created bookmarks or saved links to particular individuals they may no longer point to the same person. Aside from a brief disruption as I make the transition, this should be the only negative.

Allowing myself time for the unexpected, I hope to have the first upload from my new software in place by the end of the weekend.

Advantages of these changes for you will be:

Immediately -

  • More information included generally as more of the information from my database transfers in.
  • More deceased people visible eg people born 200 year ago for whom I have no birth or death date, thanks to more accurate setting of living flags.
  • The automatically generated part of the “what’s new” page should show what’s actually new.
  • More frequent updates with more information added on each occasion.

Longer term -

  • Inclusion of information on “Witnesses” to events.
  • Improved source citations (after initial loss of detail in some cases). 
  • Less use of “est” dates. 

Now everyone cross your fingers that all goes to plan!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An ending, and a new beginning


I've made a big decision. I’m leaving the one I love. After indecision and agonising, I'm changing genealogy software. This isn't something I take lightly as I still remember how much work it was the last time I changed (from TMG to Genbox) nearly seven years ago.

I've been thinking about it for some time but, perversely, it was Kerry Scott's post Why It Doesn't Matter Which Genealogy Software You Use way back in February that gave me the final push I needed.

That post had stayed in the back of my mind and as I agonised over the idea of changing, I went back and reread it. I thought it would persuade me to stick with what I had. No! As I read, I realized that the thing that was holding me back from changing was that I placed too high a priority on all the things I love (and will miss!) about Genbox, but things have changed, and they are no longer so relevant.

You see, in the last seven years the way I research has changed. The internet allows me to find more records, more quickly. I have always liked to trace down at least a few generations from my ancestors, but over seven years I have pushed back a few generations and 'tracing down' now involves different types of records, most notably census records.

Features that were a high priority for me seven years ago, aren’t so much now. Kerry's post helped me to realise that I will live without the special features I love. While desirable, they are not essential. Thanks Kerry for the perspective!

So having more objectively considered which features will best suit my needs, and after much experimentation and consideration, I have decided to switch to Family Historian.

Factors that weighed in on my decision:

  • It appears that the product is still being actively developed. They recently put out a call for more beta testers for the upcoming version 5.
  • Using GEDCOM as a native format means that I have a better idea of will go through when I upload to my family data site. I can also edit the file myself in word or even Excel if I want which makes the initial clean up much quicker and easier.
  • Ancestral Sources, a free program designed to work with Family Historian, allows form based data entry for census and baptism records, with more records types coming. I find census records in particular very time-consuming to enter.
  • Alternatively, merging in other GEDCOMs seems to work well, opening up the possibility of using something like Geves (described previously) for focused data collection on a branch and then importing and merging. I wouldn’t want to merge on a wider scale. My early tests looked promising.
  • Auto-citation feature where you designate a source to be added to anything you add, until you tell it to stop. Genbox also does this and it’s something I would prefer to keep.
  • I can live with less granularity to the source citations (Genbox allows you to set different sources for date, place, details etc of an event). So far as achieving quality citations goes, I think I’ll follow Randy Seaver’s lead and use freeform text. Again, I’ve experimented with this a bit already and I’m sure it will improve the sources that go onto the website – which is the public face of my database. This wasn’t a concern seven years ago! 
  • Multimedia capabilities look promising - I need to explore that more.

Now that the decision is made I’ve no regrets and am very excited by the change. I’m looking forward to learning more about my new software!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New treasure on Trove – Oakleigh Leader

This evening an item came up in my Google reader which made me exclaim a delighted “Oh!”.


One of the many great features of the Trove site is all the RSS feeds. As all of my immigrant ancestors settled in Victoria, I have signed up to the RSS feed for newly added titles from that State. It has been fantastic seeing more and more newspaper names relating to regional areas appearing.

This one in particular made me sit up and take notice because my COUPER branch had a long history in the Oakleigh area, being some of the earliest pioneers and also sitting on council. They also have the sad distinction of the known first burial in Oakleigh Cemetery – Christina Couper was buried there on 11 December 1860, aged just 7.

Naturally I jumped right in. A search on COUPER gave me 69 hits. Many of them were advertising for “Dr Couper-Johnson”, and not likely to be of interest to me. When I eliminated those I still had 22 results. Sadly, 21 of those results are still undergoing quality control so I can’t see them!

The one result I can see is notes from an Oakleigh Shire Council meeting, where my butcher ancestor’s request to renew his slaughtering licence was considered, but postponed. I will have to do a manual search for meeting notes for the next month to see what happened. I know that he continued as a butcher for many more years, so presumably he got the licence but there must have been a reason for consideration of the request to be postponed.


OAKLEIGH SHIRE COUNCIL. (1888, December 22). Oakleigh Leader (North Brighton, Vic. : 1888 - 1902), p. 7. Retrieved August 4, 2011, from

I must remember to search on Cowper and other variations as well.

Moving on there were tantalising glimpses of promising articles which were in the results but not yet viewable. Like this one:


What sad event?! What was his role in it?

There were also several mentions of a D.Couper in Court of Petty Sessions reports. I will just have to wait and see what they contain.

Something to look forward to!