Nigel and Trevor Brent: My Forgotten Brothers

Genealogy really is the art of uncovering secrets, in most cases, the secrets of people who are long dead.  Most of these secrets are far enough detached from your real life to be truly upsetting, but when you start delving into the past, you must be prepared for the possibility of finding something quite upsetting. Read more...

What I Learned From My DNA

When I started researching my family mysteries, DNA was just for Little Mix and Jeremy Kyle.  The first time I really encountered DNA testing for genealogy was when I contacted my believed 3rd cousin twice removed, David Allen, for his thoughts on my great grandfather's paternity.  David Allen had done a test which showed that he had a rare paternal haplogroup (the Y chromosome, which is passed intact from father to son) and as he was (hypothetically) related to my uncle, David Downing, via an all male line, if my uncle shared the same haplogroup, then it was almost certain that my hypothesis was correct.  I got lucky here - if there had a female in the line, if I hadn't had a willing male relative, or if David Allen had belonged to a common haplogroup, we wouldn't have been able to do this.  I could have done a standard DNA test and compared it with David Allen but as our relationship is quite distant, the chances of our relationship being detectable were about 50/50.  The tests did match, and the Allens now have pride of place in my tree. Read more...

Samuel Downing: Man Overboard!

For a long time I believed that Samuel Downing, the first son of Southminster patriach Joseph Downing, had died in infancy.  It seemed the logical conclusion - there was no sign of him in any of the Southminster records or anywhere else in England for that matter and the parish register from the relevant years that would show his burial had been destroyed.  His mother and sister had also disappeared in this period, and his mother was clearly dead, as Joseph had remarried and described himself as a widower.Read more...