Friday, 27 August 2010

Clan McGregor: an example of a DNA surname project

The Clan McGregor DNA surname project is a large one based, not surprisingly, in Scotland. Currently there are about 300 members involved in the project, and the overall aim is to try to establish who belongs in the McGregor clan by looking at similarities in the DNA of people who take the test and join the project.

Here are some of the issues and problems that the project hopes to be able to solve:

All men with the MacGregor surname are thought to have descended from one common ancestor, called Gregor. However, as with many surnames, MacGregor may have developed from different origins - some people called Greirson or Grier were thought to be part of the clan but it now turns out that they originated in Ireland, and are descended from the Irish royal line from Niall of the nine hostages.

During troubles during Scotland's turbulent history, various members of the clan MacGregor used aliases and these 'false' surnames have been passed down the generations. Using DNA evidence, the project has managed to identify the aliases of Bain and Stirling and have shown that members of these families were originally MacGregors who changed their name. Similarly, true MacGregors, as identified by DNA testing, are today called Campbell, Pressly and McNab.

DNA analysis has revealed some goings on during the history of the MacGregors/McGregors. There is evidence that non-MacGregor DNA has got into the male line, perhaps in cases where the paternity of a child was hidden from those at the time. Individuals can't be identified now, but the DNA never lies...

The DNA tests have also revealed information about the origins of surnames, which ties in with our current theories of how this happened during the medieval period. The MacGregor clan DNA is also found in people with the surnames Magruder, Grieg, some Stirlings, some Gregorys, and possibly some McGehees The ancestors of these families, now with completely different surnames were probably closely related at a time when surnames were not passed down so uniformly.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Yorkshire Film Archive

Born and living in Yorkshire the memories of the past always bring nostalgia to me of my days growing up in this wonderful county and what a wonderful resource we have with Yorkshire Film Archive based in York.

Yorkshire Film Archive's mission is to find, preserve and make available to show film and television material made in Yorkshire. This is for the information, education and entertainment of the people of Yorkshire and further afield.

In York and based in purpose built premises which includes specialist film vaults where the collections are housed. Also film repair, conservation facilities and a public access viewing room where people can come to research from films in the collections.

The main collection consists of over 5,000 items and covers a wide range of topics including both amateur and professional films, newsreels, promotional and advertising films, documentaries and even home movies. All these capture life in the county over the last 100 years.

It is a wonderful website to visit and you can watch online free of charge wonderful footage searching by theme, decade or area.

Hours and hours of fun! Enjoy

Animals in the 1911 census

The 1911 census is the first census published that is in colour and also individual household pages completed by the householder in their writing rather than the enumerator. This allows you to actually see handwriting of your ancestors.

What is fascinating in any census are some unusual details that come to life. In the 1911 census a Mr & Mrs Arthur John Delve of Smethwick thought it apt to record their pet dog Biddy on the bottom of their return.

Biddy was was described as the couple’s “faithful Irish Terrier Bitch, Magnificent Watch, a demon on Cats and Vermin, age 11 years”.

There must be others - have you found any? If so please feel free to leave a comment. Visit the 1911 census website to search for your ancestors. Who knows what you will uncover?

Thanks to the 1911 census for releasing the above image.
Please visit their blog at

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Glossary of Archaic Medical Terms, Diseases and Causes of Death

Found this really useful website with a searchable database of great use to genealogists and family historians. It helps to understand the terminology used on death certificates and other documents for causes of death. It also features some images of original documents (example below). Hope you find it a useful addition to your family history research, it has certainly helped me uncover some mysteries.

The site was developed by Rudy Schmidt and is being updated and added to. It also features terms in many languages and concentrates on English, German and French. Below is text extracted from Rudy's site explaining his objective:

Antiquus Morbus is a collection of archaic medical terms and their old and modern definitions. The primary focus of this web site is to help decipher the Causes of Death found on Mortality Lists, Certificates of Death and Church Death Records from the 19th century and earlier. This web site will be updated often and as new information is received. My intention is to collect and record old medical terms in all European languages. The English and German lists are the most extensive to date.

Many thanks to Rudy for his hard work in making this information available to all genealogists out there. Hope you find it interesting (not too morbid).

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Why use certificate folders and acid free wallets for certificate storage?

Many people starting family history are given some original certificates - a grandparents marriage certificate, their own birth certificate, a parent's birth certificate. These are longer than A4, and can be extremely fragile, particularly if decades old. Many have unfortunately been folded and need to be opened and stored flat

To stop them deteriorating and store them in the best condition possible you need to archive acid free. Acid free archival materials are widely used by record offices and the legal profession and are now popular with family historians. At Family Tree Folk, we have a range of acid free products to help - and we are sourcing more for 2010.

Instead of keeping your certificates folded in an envelope - or worse still, in a cheap PVC polypocket (this accelerates the ageing process acting on the paper, and strips the ink from the document), put them in acid free polypockets that allow them to be straight and unfolded. The acid free sleeves will prevent further yellowing and disintegration of the paper, and will stop accidental damage by handling.

Storing your original certificates in acid free pockets in a certificate binder keeps them flat and safe and away from light. They are clearly visible through the clear polypropylene or polyester and can still be used for reference as required. As well as our long certificate binder, folders for A4 landscape certificates are also available. These are useful if you only have the newer style certificates, which are all now supplied by the General Registry Office as A4 sheets. As with our deluxe long certificate binder our deluxe A4 landscape binders are available with a full range of acid free wallets, acid free card inserts and tabbed dividers.

Using acid free card inserts allows two certificates to be stored in each acid free sleeve and prevents the certificates touching. It also stiffens the acid free pocket and provides an attractive background to the certificate.

The deluxe certificate binders and acid free pockets can also take landscape A4 certificates (all newly purchased certificates are A4 landscape) as these also need careful acid free storage. With a cost from April 6th 2010 of £9.25 for each certificate this represents quite an investment, after all and they need to be stored for generations to come.

Friday, 6 August 2010

North Yorkshire Council Free Historical Maps online

North Yorkshire County Council have an excellent free online historical map programme which allows you to search and view places in North Yorkshire at different time periods. You can see maps from 1846 to 1954 of where your ancestors may have lived.

Try it out and let's hope others follow with this really useful tool for all family historians.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Millennium Acid Free Pens

Zig Memory System Millennium acid free pens come in a choice of four colours black, blue, green and red.

With acid free ink and a fine 0.5 mm tip the Millennium acid free pen allows you to record and highlight your research details by colour. You can identify male and female ancestors or lines by colour or to use red for birth and baptism data, green for marriage data and reserve black for death and burial data.

Ideal for scrapbooking, card making, craft work or indeed just for letter writing.

V Mount Strips

A safe, secure and extremely easy way to photo mount your old photographs. These "V" mounting strips are made from inert ultra clear polyester with a clear acrylic adhesive making them acid free and almost invisible. They are of an archival conservation quality and used by professionals archivists.

Easier to use than glue or a tape. You can apply short 25mm lengths (about 1 inch) of this strip to the edges of your photograph. After removing the orange filmic liner from the strip at the back of the photograph the adhesive face is exposed. You can then position your photograph and apply by using pressure along the strip front edge.

The photo or document can easily be removed time and time again by sliding it out of the strips.
Photo mounts made easy.

The Seven Daughters of Eve

The Seven Daughters of Eve was the title of the book written by Bryan Sykes, also famous for founding the company Oxford Ancestors, who offer DNA testing to genealogists.

Sykes was the first scientist to collect DNA from an ancient sample of bone and he has published studies about using DNA testing to find out more about ancient peoples. In 2001, he wrote about how DNA testing could be used to assign everyone to groups, who were descended from seven ancient women – whom he called the seven daughters of Eve.

Bryan Sykes tried to explain an extremely complex subject – human genetics and evololution – in a simple way but it still gets difficult to grasp. For example, the seven daughters of Eve did not all live at the same time, but they were all descended through the female line from one single women, called the mitochondrial Eve. Some of the women are descended from each other – but through the male line.

Very convoluted! However, the main take home message is that testing anyone’s mitochondrial DNA can tell them which of the clan mothers they are descended from. This gives some valuable clues about regional and ethnic origins.


Ursula is the mother to a clan founded 45000 year ago in Europe. Up to 11% of European people are descended from Ursula, many of them now living in the west of the UK and in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Xenia lived more recently than Ursula, about 25000 years ago, just before the deepest, darkest cold period of the last Ice Age. Only 7% of people in Europe are descended from Xenia – these live either in Eastern Europe, or in central Europe. A further 1% of native Americans are descended from Xenia’s clan.

Helena lived more recently still – about 20 000 years ago – and is clan mother to 41% of people who now live in Europe. Not surprisingly, this enormous clan has many sub-branches but it is notably frequent in the Basque regions of France and Spain. Helena lived in southern France, around the Dordogne and Vezere regions.

Velda’s clan represents the other end of the spectrum from Helena’s – only 4% of Europeans belong to this clan, making it the smallest. Velda’s descendants live now in the west and north of Europe and make up a large proportion of the Saami people from Norway and Finland.

Tara lived 17000 years ago in northern Italy, in Tuscany. Her descendants, who represent 10% of Europeans alive today are mainly found in the south and west of Europe and there are a lot of the Tara clan in Ireland and the west of the UK.

Like Tara, Katrine also lived in the north of Italy, but nearer to the Alps. Katrine lived 2000 years after Tara and the 10% of Europeans in this clan are found all over central and northern Europe.

Jasmine is the most recent of all the clan mothers, living 8500 years ago. She lived in the Middle East originally, but her immediate descendants travelled into Europe during the agricultural revolution, bringing farming into mainland Europe. About 12% of modern Europeans are descended from her.

Ulrike lived 18000 years ago, in the Ukraine and her descendants, only 2% of today’s Europeans live in the east and north of Europe, with many of them still living in the countries near to the Ukraine.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Order from Magmatic who appeared on Dragon's Den

We have just had an order of our Signature Photo Pens from Magmatic based in Bristol and famous for the "Trunki". They appeared on Dragon's Den but did not get investment for their ideas. However they went on to great success and have now sold over 500,000 Trunki's.

Read their story on the link and see both Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones admit they wish they had invested!!