Making The Most of My DNA Results

Taking a DNA test seemed to be the next logical step in my research.  There was one particular brick wall I was hoping to solve and that was identifying my great, great grandfather who never married my great, great grandfather and who denied paternity of my great grandfather.  Through DNA and some traditional research I now know a lot about the man so for that alone the test was worth it.

I am currently sitting at 311 4th cousin or closer matches on Ancestry.  The vast majority of these matches don’t have family trees attached so initially I thought they were of no interest to me.  However, the more I read and the more I learn I can see how identifying how these matches match with other matches I can identify the relationships.  By making contact with a couple of DNA matches I have found information that I never would have through documents alone.

The problem I had was that I had no idea of what to do with my results . DNA is definitely not my area of expertise.  Fortunately I spotted a tweet from Rachel Toll Genealogy (@tollgenealogy) who was helping another DNA newbie on how to make their results work for them. I got in touch and we discussed what exactly I’m looking to achieve. The primary aim of Toll Genealogy is to educate everyone on how to ‘do’ genetic genealogy and we decided the best place for me to start was by organising my matches.

By having access to my Ancestry tree and DNA results she has put together a spreadsheet recording my matches in groups and in an easy to read and understand format. It’s brilliant and as a result I’ve already discovered a sister of my great great grandfather that I didn’t know existed

I’m still working through all this amazing info but Rachel has been on hand to offer advice. New matches are appearing every day (probably due to some pre-Christmas offers on the kits) and I can add these to the work that Rachel has started. If you’re interested in genealogy and have taken a DNA test it really does make sense to get the most from your results. It may be that, like me, you need some help with that. Check out the Toll Genealogy website here.

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A Falling Out?

I’ve recently renewed my subscription to the British Newspaper Archive and today I discovered this article from the Hamilton Herald and Lanarkshire Weekly News dated Friday 20 February 1891.

Patrick Cosgrove was my great grandfather. His daughter, Catherine, was my maternal granny. He and Edward Cooper were both born in Ireland but were raised in Newmains, Lanarkshire. Both men left Newmains in the 1880s to work in the jute industry in Dundee. They both got married in Dundee within a year of each other. Patrick married my great granny, Sarah Helferty and Edward married Agnes Sweeney. By 1891 both men were back in Newmains. I’d sort of assumed they might be friends. So what caused Edward to beat up his neighbour? And smash those windows? He was certainly upset about something.

I don’t know if Patrick held a grudge but Sarah certainly didn’t. She married Edward Cooper ten years later!

Family History Goals 2019

We’re already more than half way through January and I’m only now setting out my research goals for the year. There is always a new story to discover and I’m excited to explore my new DNA matches. My direct ancestor matches have doubled in a week and with all the DNA kits given as Christmas gifts I anticipate many more matches. I’m currently sitting with 293 fourth cousin or closer matches.

  • I’d like to find out more about my 3 x great grandfather, John Brawley. Is he the John Brawley who died in Glasgow City Poorhouse in 1859? I suspect that he is but I need further proof.
  • I need a trip to Edinburgh to check out the trial records of Margaret Brawley who was transported on a convict ship to Australia.
  • I’d like to identify the father of Matthew and Edith Cran who were adopted by my 2x great uncle Matthew Brawley. It seems that their father may have been a Brawley too.
  • I’d love to know more about the early life of my great great grandfather, James Brawley. Just this week I discovered a sister I hadn’t known about via a DNA match.
  • My great great grandmother, Grace Halliday Rae, left Scotland for Australia leaving my great grandfather behind. I want to know more about her and the life she found Down Under. An Australian cousin (another DNA match) was able to fill in some of the blanks and had information I would never have found on any official records.
  • Identify the father of my 4x great grandfather, James Rae. Census records show James’ birth place as Dumfriesshire but could he be the James Rae born in Northumberland in 1804?

Now that I’ve started this I realise I could go on all day and the list will be endless. This is more than enough to be getting on with and I’m so easily distracted when it comes to family history that this list could take some time. If anyone out there has info that could help or would like to know more about my research to date then please get in touch.

Newmains to New York – Mary Brawley 1903-1986

There are many people on my family tree that I would love to have met. I’d need a time machine to be able to spend time with them and ask them about their lives and the stories that the official documents don’t tell me. One person I could have met, but never did, was my cousin (twice removed) Mary Brawley. She lived until 1986 and at that time she was only a few miles away from me but I didn’t even know she existed. When I did find out about her through my family history research I heard some stories. One story is that she worked as a nanny for Spencer Tracy’s son. Another is that she was a beautiful singer and sang at Carnegie Hall in New York. I’ve tried my best to put together her story and this is what I know so far…

Mary was born on 24 December 1903 at 9 Coltness Cottages in Mossend, Lanarkshire. Her parents were Patrick Brawley and Mary O’Neil.

Her birth record shows that she was illegitimate. I don’t know the significance of the Mossend address. Both parents lived in Newmains. Patrick was prepared to sign the record and accept paternity but when Mary was baptised her name was recorded as Mary O’Neil.

Patrick was clearly not ready for fatherhood and in 1907 he left Scotland for America. I don’t know what happened to Mary O’Neil but I believe I have found her on a census in England.

Mary was raised by Patrick’s brother, Matthew Brawley and his wife, Mary Hagan. The couple went on to adopt two more children, siblings Matthew and Edith Cran who were born in 1915 and 1917 respectively.

In the 1911 census Mary was living at Cambus Cottages in Newmains. She would have attended St Brigid’s School in the village alongside a number of cousins including my grandfather, Hugh Brawley who was born in 1899.

The next record I have for Mary is a passenger list from 1926 showing that she travelled from Glasgow to New York.

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In 1931 she sailed back to Scotland on the same ship. On this occasion her occupation is recorded as a nurse. She was in Scotland for three months before returning to New York. On the return record her occupation was nursemaid.

In 1937 her father Matthew died so Mary returned to Scotland for a short period. She is now recorded as a children’s nurse. The occupation information from her travel records shows that she was a nanny but unfortunately I don’t have any employment records.

On her previous trips to Scotland Mary stayed with her family in Newmains but on a trip in 1838 her destination address was Yester House in Gifford. I checked this address and found this photograph. A far cry from her home in Newmains.

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Travelling with Mary on this trip were teacher, Winifred Barry and maid, Margaret Seahill. In first class and also heading for Yester House were sisters, Harriet Van Ingen and Edith McClane and their children. Harriet and Edith were the daughters of Herbert L Pratt who, it would seem, was a very rich man. So, Mary was a nanny to the rich and famous but still no Spencer’s Tracy connection.

Mary travelled back and forth between New York and Newmains on a further number of occasions in 1962 she also visited Paris. Look at her address on these arrival documents between 1958 and 1962.

Mary was living at Carnegie Hall, New York! And who else was known to have a studio at Carnegie Hall?  Mr Spencer Tracy.

So that is the story of Mary Brawley as far as I know it.  I’d love to ask her about her life in New York.  She never married. Her biological father was also in New York but I don’t know if they spent time together.  I heard from a family member that she left America for good after ‘something bad’ happened to her.  I don’t know about that.  I do know that she died on 13 March 1986. She is buried with her adoptive parents and sister in Cambusnethan Cemetery.

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Learning From My Mistakes – Robert Armstrong Rae 1879-1952

My great grandfather, Robert Armstrong Rae was born on 26 December 1879 in the picturesque village of Dalserf in Lanarkshire. He was my father’s paternal grandfather.

The first record I found for Robert was his marriage record which showed his parents as Thomas Rae and Ann Symington. Through further research it appeared that Robert was the youngest of eleven children who were born between 1850 and 1879 with the closest sibling being his sister Mary who was born in 1877.

His marriage record showed that on 28 April 1899 Robert married Margaret McGarrity in Craigneuk, Lanarkshire. Robert was a coalminer and Maggie (as she is recorded) was a boltworker. The couple went on to have 9 children

  • Sarah Born 1899
  • John Born 1901
  • Archibald Smith Born 1903
  • Grace Born 1906
  • Robert Armstrong Born 1907
  • James Born 1910
  • Mary Born 1912
  • Annie Born 1919
  • Andrew Born 1925

Archibald Smith Rae was my grandfather.

And that was pretty much where I left that research and moved on to another branch of my family. This was at the very beginning of my interest in family history and I was happy that, as my findings matched up with other Ancestry trees, I was on the right track.

One discovery I had made that was quite interesting was that his sister Grace, who was born in 1861, had married and left Scotland for Australia. She was Grace Halliday Rae and was named after her paternal grandmother.

Later, on reviewing the family, I realised I had information missing from Robert’s story. His birth record was obviously important as was the 1881 census. Surprisingly, when I found the 1881 census, I discovered that Robert was living with Thomas and Ann but was recorded as their grandson. His birth record gives his surname as Ray which is why I missed it first time. When I checked the record I got a bit of a surprise. His mother is listed as Grace Rae and his father as Robert Armstrong. So it was my great, great granny who went to Australia!

The name Armstrong was passed on to one of his son’s as a middle name and it is also the middle name of my own father but I had no idea why. I don’t know if my dad knew but he died a long time ago so I will never know. Attached to the birth record is a Record of Corrected Entries which gives even more surprising information. Robert’s mother, Grace (my great, great grandmother whom I had assumed was a great aunt) took Robert Armstrong to court to prove paternity. I hope to see the original documents from that hearing sometime soon.

Finding out that Robert was raised by his grandparents made me wonder what exactly he was told about his birth and his place in the family. For a long time I assumed that he was unaware that Ann and Thomas were not his biological parents. He listed them as his parents on his marriage record but when I discovered his death record I found that his mother is given as Grace Rae, farm servant. There is no father listed. It is not uncommon for an illegitimate child to provide false details of parents on a marriage record in order to hide their status.

I know that Grace went on to marry and have children and eventually leave Scotland (and Robert) for a new life in Australia. I had nothing to go on for Robert Armstrong other than a name and a location as to where he had been living in 1881 but it took a lot of time, some luck and a DNA test to find out his identity.

Much later, when I was tracking down burial records, I stumbled on the burial details of a baby, Thomas Rae. I discovered that he was the illegitimate child of my great grandparents, Robert and Margaret. Finding an illegitimate child is not unusual in my family tree but discovering that they gave the child away really made me feel sad. It seemed like history repeating itself. It is sad too that their circumstances obviously forced them to make such a decision when they went on to marry and have a life together.

My great grandfather is buried at Airbles Cemetery in Motherwell.

Newmains – Ancestry of a Village

On a recent visit to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland I spotted this poster in the Maritime Heritage Centre.

It’s an ambitious project that aims to trace the ancestry of every person who has lived in the village. The Maritime Centre is a great wee museum tells the story of the village and how the people made their living from the sea. There are some great photos of the area as it was and of the people who lived there.

Newmains, the village which features most heavily in my family tree, can’t boast of a coastal location but it does have an interesting history. It became home to many immigrants seeking a better life during and after the Great Famine in Ireland. Many of the descendants of these immigrants are still in the village and local area today and many will be unaware of their Irish roots.

The Irish in my family comes mainly from my mother’s side. Go back a couple of generations and her family were all in Ireland. They came from various counties and I now have a big list of towns and villages in Ireland I would very much like to visit.

The men from these immigrant families found work mainly at the Coltness Ironworks. Their homes were mainly provided by their employers and, even by the standards of the day, they were poor.

The parish of St Brigid in Newmains was founded in 1896 and the records from the early years list the baptisms, marriages and deaths of so many family members. If you click on the link to the parish website you can find the details of these records. You can also find more about the history of the parish.

My grandfather was Hugh Brawley. He was born in Newmains in 1899. He was one of 12 children. His father, Daniel was one of 10 as was his mother, Ellen Keenan.

My granny, Catherine Cosgrove was the only child of Patrick Cosgrove but she grew up with step and half siblings.

Through these families I am linked to so many others in Newmains by blood and by marriage. Here are a few that locals might recognise.

  • Mullervy
  • Cooper
  • Keegan
  • Reynolds
  • Mulvey
  • McAdam
  • Darragh
  • O’Donnell
  • Coyle
  • Bradley
  • Monaghan
  • Brown
  • Higgins
  • Collins
  • Hunstone
  • Hagan
  • Hendry
  • Devlin

A Newmains genealogy project would be a massive undertaking but I would like to know if anyone has any photos or stories of their Newmains Irish immigrant families that they would like to share.

Daniel Brawley 1888-1948

Daniel Brawley was my cousin twice removed. His father was my great great uncle John Brawley Daniel was born on 26 September 1888 in Newmains, Lanarkshire. He was the 3rd child of John and his wife Roseanne McGuinness.

I have previously told the story of how John was killed in an accident at work. At the time Daniel was just 3 years old. With 4 children to support Roseanne would have struggled greatly and, as was quite common at the time, she remarried fairly quickly. Roseanne and her second husband, James Farrell went on to have 4 more children although, sadly, 2 of them died as children. I know that James had at least one child from a previous relationship, a son who was born around 1878. His name was Thomas Farrell. The 1911 census shows them living together n Furnace Row, Newmains.

So Daniel grew up with his mother and stepfather. I don’t know if his relationship with James Farrell was a happy one but I do know that at that time in Newmains there were plenty of Brawleys in Newmains to keep an eye on what was happening.

After leaving school Daniel found work as a blacksmith striker at the Coltness Ironworks but by 1914 Britain was at war and Daniel joined the Royal Field Artillery. His military record shows that he signed up on 2 September 1914 in Wishaw. He served until 1919 and the record below gives some details of his service.

During his time in the army Daniel married Ellen Mullen and the couple had a daughter, Mary in 1915. Mary died in 1921. Daughter Winifred was born in 1922 followed by Patricia in 1925.

Perhaps his time fighting overseas had given him a sense of adventure and Daniel and Ellen decided to leave Scotland for America. Daniel arrived in New York on 17 October 1927. After securing work and a place to live he returned to Scotland for his family and together sailed into Boston on 15 October 1928. Their daughter, Elizabeth was born in Brooklyn in 1929 and Joan was born in the Bronx in 1932.

Also living in New York at that time was Daniel’s uncle, Patrick Brawley. There was only an age difference of 4 years between the two and I was pleased to find a link between them in the city. At one point they were both employed by Refined Syrups and Sugars in Yonkers, New York. It may be that Patrick encouraged Daniel to go to America in the first place.

Daniel remained in New York until his death in 1948. Helen lived a long life, dying in 1982 at the age of 91. In 1962 she applied for naturalisation.

Patrick Mullervy Born 1906

Above is the death record for Patrick Mullervy. His great grandfather was my great great great grandfather, Owen Mullervy. This record makes me really sad. Look at the age at death. He was just two minutes old. And there’s yet another family connection to Furnace Row in Newmains.

The name Mullervy was one I had never even heard of prior to starting my family tree. The Mullervys are my maternal granny’s family. My granny, Catherine Cosgrove lost her father when she was just an infant and her mother remarried soon after so maybe that is why the name had never been mentioned. Although in saying that, most of the names in my family tree were new to me.

I have previously written about my great great granny, Catherine Mullervy and how she and my great great grandfather, Peter Cosgrove came to Scotland from the village of Drumlish in County Longford. Looking at records for Drumlish I can see that there were a lot of Mullervys there so my challenge now is to work out where they fit in to my family tree. Owen Mullervy who is named in baby Patrick’s birth certificate was my great great granny’s nephew but I can’t find any record of his father coming to Scotland. This branch of the family is very much a work in progress

James Keenan 1832-1889

James Keenan was the brother of my great, great grandfather, Patrick Keenan. Patrick’s daughter, Ellen Keenan, was my mother’s paternal grandmother.

James was born in County Down, Ireland about 1932. He was one of at least 8 children of Hugh Keenan and Hannah McCarten. I’ve found records for siblings born in Clonallon so it may be that James was born there. He certainly spent time there.

On 1 August 1852 James married Elizabeth Cunningham. Having survived the great famine and remained in Ireland throughout, the couple made what must have been a difficult decision to leave Ireland and seek new opportunities in Scotland. Perhaps it was the birth of their daughter Hannah in 1853 that prompted their decision. I can’t be sure when they came to Scotland, but by 1855 they were living in Lanarkshire. I know this to be the case from Hannah’s death records. She died on 1 December 1855.

A son, Hugh was born in 1856, followed by Catherine in 1857, Thomas in 1859 and Elizabeth in 1862. Son James was born in April 1864 but died of bronchitis in December that same year. Elizabeth would have been pregnant at the time and when their son was born in March 1866 they named him James too. Tragically, just a couple of weeks before his second birthday, James died within the family home at 18 Furnace Row in Newmains. A few months later, in August 1868, Mary was born. Followed by twins Bridget and Margaret in June 1871. In December of 1873 James and Elizabeth lost two more children when scarlet fever took both Mary and Margaret.

In March 1874 another Margaret was born and in 1877 their 12th and last child was born. They named him Daniel.

Life would not have been easy for Irish immigrants and James would have worked long hours in harsh conditions as a furnaceman. There would have been no time off to mourn the loss of his children or support his wife. Feeding his family meant working every day.

There came a point, however, when James could work no longer. In 1887 due to “bronchitis and debility” he was forced to seek poor relief. By that time he had been off work for 18 months and I imagine he must have received support from family in that time.

His initial application was in February 1887 and he was given relief of 3/- per week. The register (which is available to view at the Heritage Centre in Motherwell) states that at that time he was “unable for work and could not be moved without injury to health”. By April he was able for light work and “could be moved to Motherwell Combination Poorhouse”. It is unclear from the record if he was ever admitted to the poorhouse or remained at home.

There is so much information to be found in the poorhouse records. James’ record shows the details of all dependant children and children no longer living at home. I discovered that Catherine, Thomas and Elizabeth were married and that Catherine had left Scotland for America.

James died aged 57 on 12 May 1889 at the family home at Woodhall, Cambusnethan. The 1891 census shows Elizabeth residing with youngest child, Daniel. Elizabeth died in 1898.

Wilson Armstrong 1886-1916

Wilson Armstrong was my 1st cousin 3 times removed. His father, Alexander and my great great grandfather, Robert were brothers. My great great grandfather being my paternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather. This is a branch of the family I discovered through DNA testing.

Wilson was born on 4 February 1886 near Halifax in Yorkshire. His father was from Rigg in Dumfriesshire but had moved to England for work. Wilson was Alexander’s 9th child and his 8th by second wife, Helen Taylor. He was named after his grandmother Isabella Wilson.

Tragically Helen died in 1888. The 1891 census shows Wilson living with his father and siblings in East Morton, Keighley. Alexander was a police constable and Wilson’s older siblings were working while he attended Parkinson Lane Board School. So it would seem that despite the loss of Helen, the family were coping fairly well.

Ten years later and things were not so good for Wilson. He had left school and had been working in a mill. He had fallen into bad company and had no fixed abode.

This information comes from the admissions register of the West Yorkshire Reformatory School. Wilson was sentenced to 3 years detention after stealing a jacket, two pairs of trousers and a cloth cap. When asked about the theft he stated “I stole the clothes so as to wear them as I was hard up”.

At 15 Wilson was a tiny 4’11”, with a fresh complexion, brown hair and greyish blue eyes. He claimed that he had been “harshly treated” by his father who had by this time retired from the police and was working as a labourer.

It’s a sad story but it would appear the school was not a terrible experience for the boy who, after being discharged in July 2003, continued to visit the school. After school he found employment as a farm servant but by 1906 he was a soldier with the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Wilson remained in the army and when the war started he was sent to fight on the Western Front.

He married Sarah Wilson in October 1915 but with a war on there was no time to enjoy married life.

Wilson Armstrong was killed in action in France on 18 August 1916. He is buried at Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt in the Somme.