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Help with DNA deductions

Two very interesting letters in FT December.

First, Pauline Marples writes re Gordon Honeycombe’s series. It was preceded of course in 1977 by Alex Haley’s Roots, which inspired many, including me, and Gordon was a well-known newsreader. The book by Don Steel, published as a BBC companion, was one of the best on genealogy I have read. The marriage at St Cleer which was filmed for the series was of two friends of mine, so I saw the very tall Gordon in action.

The second letter with an excellent editor’s reply, was from Peter Marles about DNA. I am no expert but have been playing with DNA since 2007. Autosomal DNA works really well when it confirms a paper trail you have worked hard on, but I fear Mr Marles took the wrong direction. These ethnicity reports are notoriously unreliable, but in my opinion if he wanted one he may have been wisest going to LivingDNA who give the most detailed UK breakdown. Were he to upload his Ancestry raw data to Gedmatch, he may find much more information on cousins, some who may come from Devon, but he must not be surprised if a distant cousin does not match him. His best initial course, given the same surname/ village, would probably have been FamilyTree DNA’s Y test, from which he could have later easily upgraded to autosomal. That would have conclusively told him whether NPEs (non-paternity events) were involved in his or the other person’s ancestry.

John Fletcher

orcop1986@gmail.com

Editor: It was nice to hear of your memories of the early TV programmes for genealogists.

Thank you also for your advice to Mr Marles as to how he might gain a greater understanding of his DNA results and, in doing so, how he might even put his mind to rest.

Too good to be remembered?

It always strikes me as funny how excited we all get whenever we discover scandal and rogues hiding amongst our family history. We are normally more excited to find a highwayman lurking in the branches of the family tree than a respectable accountant! It also makes me a little bit sad that unless I get a move on and do something illegal, or at least a trifle bad, future generations are going to find me boring, and I’ll end up as a footnote instead of a chapter in my family’s genealogy book!

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Would you like to find out those must-search sources that professional genie researchers use? We've asked a crew of top-notch family historians to share their go-to websites and records. A positively useful read, it is sure to inspire you to dig deeper and search further on your ancestor-hunting quest. Plus we've got an article packed with tried and tested advice for tracking down long-lost relations all over the globe - these new-found cousins can be an absolute boon to your research (and great fun to meet too). And we've got a delightful read which will show you how a genealogy research conundrum doesn't mean the end of your investigations, but the chance to flex your detective muscles and get better and better at tracing your family tree. Enjoy!