Dad’s DNA: The Mother Lode

When I was a child I used to have this odd … not fantasy … belief? … that I was adopted. (Or maybe actually an android. Or maybe a dragon. You get the point.) 8 year old me can rest easy knowing that my dad is definitely my dad and my mother is definitely my mother. (And I am definitely human.)

As I thought, my dad’s DNA results from Ancestry were delivered about a week after my mum’s.

And holy moly …



Mr. DNA Brings New Surprises; or My Mother’s DNA Results!

A little over a year ago I shared the results of my Ancestry DNA test and how it laid to rest one of the family legends my mother had grown up with. As time has marched on and Ancestry gathered more and more participants (recently surpassing the 2 million mark), the amount of matches I was able to access grew and grew. The vast majority of these were in America – but without a full view of the American ancestry of each of my parents it wasn’t always possible to gain a sense of which side the matches were. Consequently, when an offer reducing the price of the costs to only £60 each (instead of the standard £80) came online a week or so before my parents were due to spend time back in the UK, I decided to take advantage of the coincidence and hopefully find some clarity on these results.

Despite being posted at the same time, my mother’s saliva sample arrived at the lab and was processed about a week ahead of my father’s … and today I received her results …


My DNA Test

About a week ago, the lovely Alex over at Root To Tip blogged about the results of her DNA test performed via Ancestry, and it got me thinking as earlier in the year at the end of last year I also spat in a tube and sent it back to Utah (all via a family member in the States as Ancestry had not yet started testing via the UK), but had never publicised the results. (In case you’re worried I’m going to get all science-y and talk about haplogroups, haplotypes, single nucleotide polymorphism or allele frequencies – I’m not.)


Charles Victor Hurcombe

I thought I’d follow up last week’s ‘Ancestor Of The Week’ with another that was inspired by his hair (although I have to say that although he isn’t an ancestor – he’s my 2 x great-uncle – the photo beautifully illustrates the power of genetics).

I have inherited many things from my parents – a widow’s peak and passive-aggressive arguing from my father, trick knees and bad ears from my mother – but looking at the wider family on my mother’s side and one thing becomes apparent. Hair. It tends to be thick, wavy, dark and lustrous. (Two of my brothers are blond, but have the thick waves when it is allowed to get long.) Mine, too, has a propensity for the … if I’m being kind then we’ll go for Mr. Darcy curls … if I’m being less kind then we’ll go for Don King.

I used to call this ‘Holborow Hair’ after my maternal grandmother and her father’s family. However, upon finding the below photograph it has now been altered to ‘Hurcombe Hair’.

Charlie Hurcombe

Charlie Hurcombe

Now that’s some hair.

Charlie was born in the small Gloucestershire village of Tresham, located between the National Arboretum at Westonbirt and the village of Wotton-under-Edge, on o3 February 1909. He was the eldest son and second child of my 2 x great-grandparents – Alfred William Hurcombe and his wife Harriet Robins.

Alfred was a shepherd, as can be seen on the family’s 1911 Census return.

1911 England Census

1911 England Census

Other than his sister, Edith (my great-grandmother), and his parents, Charles also shared his home at that time with a William James Meacham. There is no (known) connection between the Meacham and Hurcombe or Robins families, and I believe that little William is the brother of a Wilfred Harold Meacham who was also born in Tresham in 1910. In 1911 Wilfred is living with his (presumed) father, Frank Meacham, less than 20 miles away from Tresham in Coates, Gloucestershire. Frank was a cowman so perhaps he knew Alfred from the farming community, or his wife (Elizabeth Jane nee Clarke) knew Harriet. As to where Elizabeth is in the 1911 census, there is an Elizabeth Meacham listed as a patient in the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Given a lack of other options, I strongly suspect that this is William and Wilfred’s mother. (To set your minds at rest, there’s no death registered for an Elizabeth Meacham in that area for quite some time!)

Alfred worked for Richard Holborow at Burden Court Farm in Tresham for many years. In 1922 the family moved to Heddington (near Devizes) and he became a shepherd at Nether Street, a nearby hamlet/collection of farms. Given the proximity to Devizes, it is likely that Charlie met his wife, Violet Muriel Brewer, there. They married in 1931 and went on to have 3 sons.

Charlie & Vi

Charlie & Vi

Charlie passed away in 1994, with his wife following 2 years later. He’d worked for the ambulance service in Devizes for many years, and in his spare time started a small garden near the ambulance station. After his retirement he still visited the station and tended the garden. Following his death the other guys decided to honour him and his green fingers by creating the Charles Hurcombe Memorial Garden.

Charlie Hurcombe Cup

Ernest Arthur Cartlidge

Some photographs deserve investigation. They draw you in. Perhaps its a look of happiness on an engagement, or pride in a child, or even a family group. Then you have the photos that are a bit … odd. And that brings us to my husband’s great-grandfather: Ernest Arthur Cartlidge and the photo below.


“Yours Ernest Cartlidge in By The Way”


Suffice to say, Ernest wasn’t a Cossack from the lower Dnieper basin. He was born 05 January 1888 in Battersea, Surrey. His baptism took place on 12 February 1888 in St Pauls Clapham, and gives his parents as Arthur Edward and Alice, with Arthur’s occupation as ‘sawyer’. Their address was 569 Wandsworth Road.


Ernest first appears on a census in 1891, with his parents and younger brother Alfred Edward who was just 2 months old at the time of the census. The family have moved from Wandsworth Road to Hanbury Road.

1891 UK Census

1891 England Census

In 1901 he is still at home with his parents and brother, but have been joined by his 12 year old cousin, Ethel Maud Fisher (the daughter of one of Alice’s brothers). The family has moved again, this time to Mallinson Road – between Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common.

1901 UK Census

1901 England Census

Whilst searching for records, I decided to search the Discovery catalogue of the National Archives – and I’m very glad that I did! I discovered that Ernest had served in the military – something my other half knew nothing about! After a small payment of £3.30, I was able to download his service history.

On 18 November 1903, 15 year old Ernest joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman, and was sent to the training ship HMS Boscowen (originally the 1841 Caledonia class 120-gun ship of the line HMS Trafalgar) for his initial training. By November 1904 he had moved to the HMS Hercules, an ironclad that was launched in 1868. January and February 1905 were spent on the HMS Firequeen, a ‘Special Service Vessel’ that was used as a general depot ship at Portsmouth for several years, and was also a tender for HMS Victory.

Following this, he moved to HMS King Edward VII. The ship was commissioned on 07 February 1905 and Ernest started his service on her only a couple of weeks later on 22 February. Two months later he was moved to the HMS Prince George (after being “recovered from desertion”), and probably served as part of the Atlantic Fleet. He served on board until October 1906 – although the last two weeks of September were spent in cells.

HMS Prince George

HMS Prince George

He was transferred to HMS Victory (despite the name, it was more than likely one of the shore establishments that were so named) on 08 December 1906, and served until 20 December. I assume at this point he was sent home for Christmas, and he returns to HMS Victory on 1 February 1907 and stays for one week. However, in the notes of his Royal Navy service record, it states that:

14.02.07 Approve discharge, services no longer required after 42 days <unreadable> for breaking out of barracks.

Despite his time in the cells, and his two incidents of desertion, his character is given as “Very Good” or “Good” for most of his naval career.



In the 1911 census Ernest is found one road south of his previous address, living on Bennerley Road with the Row family, and is listed as a painter’s labourer. The other two young men in the household are also employed in the building industry (a plumber and a builder’s yard assistant) so it is conceivable that they worked for the same employer.

1911 England census

It is also – presumably – through this family that Ernest met his future wife, Edith. The head of the household in 1911 was a widow, Sarah. She had been married to William Row. He passed away in 1890 aged just 26. His elder sister, Elizabeth, had married William George Winterbourne and had 2 children – George Henry in 1885 and Edith Annie in 1887. In fact, in 1911 they lived in the same building – 55 Bennerley Road. The two of them married on 8th July 1911 in St Michael’s church, Battersea.


Ernest’s father’s occupation here is given as Verger, and on the 1911 census he is enumerated as “Verger and Caretaker”. Given the proximity of Arthur’s street address (Darley Road, Wandsworth Common) to St Michael’s, it would be sensible to assume that this was the church in which he served as verger.

Ernest appears in the 1920 Electoral Register, still living at 55 Bennerley Road. Edith is also listed as present, as are William Row and his mother Sarah, and two members of the Winterbourne family – Elizabeth and William Henry.

Ernest passed away in 1921, aged 32 years. It doesn’t appear that he left a will as he doesn’t appear in the National Probate Calendar. Edith went on to marry a Harry Thomas Wright in 1934, a widower with 5 adult children.

But what of the mysterious outfit?

So far evidence is evasive. However, family lore has him pegged as a ‘singer’. I can’t find any play or musical entitled ‘By The Way’ (apart from the recent one!) so for now great-grandfather Ernest and his amazing eyebrows will remain somewhat of a mystery …

Gateway Ancestors

Alex’s Root to Tip post that I shared a few days ago (what do you mean you missed it? The original is here…) has had me thinking about gateway ancestors.

A ‘gateway ancestor’ is one that links your family to one that is ennobled in some way – landed gentry, some level of aristocracy or – gasp – royalty itself. One perks of finding one of these links (or so you may think) is that these families will have been investigated and documented and pedigree’d many times in the past thus saving you effort and money. Obviously another perk is the added … cachet of having a ‘royal connection’. You can see how this fits in with Alex’s article on mistakes caused by ‘wishful thinking’ – if you had a choice would you prefer to be descended from Boleyn the fish gutter of Stockport or that other Boleyn family of some repute?

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To Err Is Human…

An excellent post by Alex at Root To Tip regarding owning up to mistakes in research and the pitfalls of ‘open source ancestors’.

Root To Tip

To Err Is Human…To Forgive Divine – Alexander Pope.

This week I got to thinking after a post over on thegenealogygirl’s blog asking what you wished you had known when you started researching your family tree. To me I didn’t necessarily wish I had known all the secrets of this great hobby/profession, because I enjoyed the process of learning all about it. From simple beginnings to gradually learning more and more and eventually making something of a career from it. However, in the early days I made mistakes, there were small errors and at times whole chunks of trees that had to be deleted and then started from scratch again, and I gave myself such a hard time about it. I felt so stupid, especially if I had found out something really interesting and had yabbered on to all and sundry about it, and then to find out that…

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