Nature or Nurture?

I have in the last month attended two online “bootcamps” hosted by Thomas MacEntee of Hide-Definition Genealogy and his guest speaker Mary Eberle who is a genetic genealogist and DNA expert. The first was Getting Started with DNA and Genealogy and the second Additional Tools and Concepts (regarding DNA testing). The courses are fairly intense and absolutely full of information if you are thinking of using DNA testing as an adjunct to your genealogy research.  The price is more than fair for what you get which is the online talk as well as handouts. You will also get a copy of the webinar and handouts for one year afterward.  So, though these are past, they are still available at the links above.

The whole DNA testing phenomena I am sure,  has people curious and frightened at the same time. We are very excited by the leaps and bounds of technology but there is also an aura of the unknown about it which smacks of our worst science fiction movies.  “Security breach” used to be a term only the government had to worry about. Now it is an everyday part of our lives. Mary Eberle addresses some of these issues in her first lecture. She also talks about the various testing companies and how they work. Only one does the medical tests and that is 123 and Me.

All this brings once again to the fore the old concept of whether it is nature, for example our DNA or nurture, the way we are raised which makes us who we are. That question would certainly rise when dealing with criminals. I think we have all seen the two sides, the incorrigible child  of two gentle parents or the scholar who comes from a very disadvantaged background.  I wonder what DNA will tell us.

To me so far, it is leading to a lot of confusion and we are finding out the obvious; that a family is composed of many different genes which shows up in sibling differentiation. If you want to know how that happens, than you can study genetics. We can verify family stories or perhaps unverify them. Also, we can find out what path of emigration our ancient ancestors took out of Africa and where they ended up.  I myself am just getting used to the fact that we all originated from Africa to begin with!  I would definitely recommend getting some previous training and information before you embark on this journey, just to make it all worth the effort.

 

Redux

Well, I have been “asked” to pull all reference to the memoirs used in my Irish research on Agnes McDowell Fraser’s children and grandchildren because one of the authors is amazingly still alive. That is a wonderful thing but of course, not one I had expected. I assumed that the person handing them on would know this. I admit though the temptation was too great to miss the opportunity to paint a picture of my relatives lives.

This has given me pause to think of how I would feel if I came across someone else’s writing about my family. I would probably be surprised if they were in possession of something written by me as well. That being said I think of two things. One, I would never pass out to anyone something I absolutely did not want published or known. Two, if there were errors of which I had documented proof, I would let the person know. But generally, I would be delighted, as many people are, that someone was doing all the legwork and want to know who they were and how they know my family.

Of course, if you use ancestry, most public information on the person is already available. It is a little surprising how many people are still paranoid of the internet. I compare it to when the telephone first came out and remember moving to a small town where there were party lines. You could get some first class entertainment there!

This event has thrown my writing into a shambles because I had centered my posts around the delightful stories written by these women. Who wants just dry fact anyways? For the moment I am thinking I will perhaps compensate by including whatever public information I can find out about Agnes’s children instead. God knows how long that will take. There are risks in every activity. Agnes McDowell was a risk taker herself. She lived to 102.

The Family of Jane Gartshore Smith

In previous posts, I had talked about my grandfather, Richard Walker Phillips, being sent to Canada by Walter Bates, his uncle. Walter and Sophie, the youngest McDowell girl had taken over the farm at Lisheenamalausa in Tipperary when Alice McDowell died in 1904. It has been difficult to gauge the exact circumstances of the family at that time. William, the patriarch, had died under very unusual circumstances, his throat being cut by a scythe in a cart accident. The resulting hemorrhage did not kill him immediately but rather debilitated him until his death some months later. He left a substantial estate including houses, land and insurances by which all the family benefited including Richard and his siblings. There was enough money for Richard (called Dick of course) to come to Canada via New York on the maiden voyage of the Lusitania in 1907. Neither brother, Richard or George brought a lot of money with them and took labouring jobs when they came to Canada. There is no sign of them actually working together but George is listed as Richards contact in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The main purpose for both was to earn enough to “land a homestead” which they eventually did in the Lawrence municipality.

In the meantime, Jane Gartshore Smith, my grandmother, worked and saved enough to go to New York to meet her intended. As you might guess, her name is a logistical nightmare when looking for genealogy records. Her claim was that she arrived in Canada in 1913. The engagement did not last however, because she did not get along with her fiance’s sister.After that, she took work as a domestic and in that way, met my grandfather who was working on either the same farm or one close by.

Jane (called Jean) came from a large family of iron-worker. The Smith family originated in Muirkirk, Ayrshire, the Gartshores in Dunbartonshire. Like most people of that time, they were originally farmers until the mines came in. Then they traveled to where the work was.

Jane’s paternal grandparents, John and Annabella Smith were married on the 5th of August, 1836 in Muirkirk, Ayrshire.

Marriage of John Smith and Annabella McGhee

Marriage of John Smith and Annabella McGhee

By 1861, they had 8 children, James my great-grandfather being the youngest. In 1863, Annabella died of uterine cancer. John was still alive on the 1881 census at the age of 65.

On April 11th, 1879 James Smith married Marion Reid Gartshore in New Monkland, Lanark.

Marriage of James Smith and Marion Gartshore

Marriage of James Smith and Marion Gartshore

Marion’s parents, John Gartshore and Janet Gray were from Coatbridge. He too was an iron-worker. They married on the 28th of November, 1847.

Marriage of John Gartshore and Janet Gray

Marriage of John Gartshore and Janet Gray

John and Janet had 10 children, my great-grandmother, Marion being the seventh. Janet died in 1875 of gastritis (so easily treatable today) . The story in our family was of how Marion had to help raise the family after her mother died. By following the Scottish censuses you can see John, her father moving around from one child’s place to another, possibly lost after the death of his wife. He lived for a period of time with James and Marion so my grandmother would have known him well. John died in 1901. Here is a chart with my Gartshore family line on it. Thanks to Sondra Gartshore Jernigan.

Family Line for John Gartshore

Family Line for John Gartshore

In the next post I will talk about my grandmother and her siblings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checking and Finding Sources

Aside

Just a reminder for anyone who is researching their family. Remember to cross-check your paying and non-paying sources. You will often find a record for free by using hints you actually get from your search on paying websites. For example a paying website may give the year and locality of a record or some other information you are lacking which will let you go to familysearch.org and do a free search. It may appear that all the American records or all the Scottish records are on the paying websites but you can use them to get some details of a record and then go over to familysearch.org and find them. There are many Scottish birth and marriage records there so before you pay for one see if you can put different details together . It is lovely to be able to order certificate copies from Scotlands People but remember they are COPIES and cannot be used for any legal purpose. Also, familysearch.org has research guides telling what sources are available for a given locality and where they can be found .

Simple thought for proving your evidence: think PAPER TRAIL. The actual proof of anything is the HARD EVIDENCE not what someone told you. Even then you will find all sorts of problems, conflicting birth years, conflicting names. Again, you need to cross check several pieces before coming to a conclusion.  My favourite material is the census. How lucky we are if we can find our relatives in consecutive running years!

Also, don’t forget that whatever area you are researching should have a Family History Centre, an Archives centre and a Local Studies section in their library. It’s surprising how helpful a librarian can be!