Friday, April 14, 2017

Helmsley, James Herriot and DNA Dilemmas

When my son travelled around York by bus as a student, he said it felt like home (and he had no idea about his roots.)  Maybe that's a clue.


I can't recall when I watched the television series, All Creatures Great and Small, on PBS, but it ran from 1978 to 1990 apparently, so it's likely I watched it in the late 80's, when I had little babies.

I recall only one episode, one where the Harriot's character is upset because so many people are bringing him animals to be put down. (Must check what year that is.)

I have never read the books by Alf Wright, alias James Herriot, on which the series is based. Maybe I will now.

I watched the first three episodes of  All Creatures on YouTube today.  I did so because I just learned that Wright had his real veterinary practice in the town of Thirsk in North Yorkshire.

The series is shot somewhere else in North Yorkshire.

I've been doing my genealogy. I've taken the Ancestry DNA test, and I am trying to grow a tree. My father's side of the family is from North Yorkshire, Cumberland and Northumberland and his father was born in Helmsley, Yorkshire, 15 miles from Thirsk.

There are still some Nixons and lots of Richardsons (his paternal grandmother) in the area.

I'm becoming familiar with the names of all the little towns in the area, and all the local families, like Featherstone,  as I try to figure out if ANYBODY in my DNA 'cousin list' is from my English side.

Yes, my 'ethnicity estimate' from Ancestry says I am 32 to 57 percent British, but French Canadians come out British on these tests. Most French Canadians came from Normandy, originally.  From what I see from the bazillions of French people on my Ancestry cousins list, French Canadians, even those who are 100 percent Quebecois,  come out British, Irish and Italian/Greek, for some crazy reason.

I came out British Isles, Caucasus and Italian/Greek. No Irish. Weird.

I have so many cousin connections on my French Canadian side, I am wondering if I even have a British side.


Unfortunately, my Yorkshire foremothers (if they are my foremothers)  had a lot of their kids out of wedlock. (Apparently, this was a fairly common thing for farm girls back then. See my last post.) So no DNA matches. At least, I hope that's the reason.

Of course, as I've explained here, French Canadian genealogies are quite reliable due to the excellent records kept by the Catholic church. These Yorkshire, Cumberland and Northumberland records, not so good.

Yesterday, I suddenly realized that I already was familiar with the Helmsley area, through this British television series, among many other TV programs, no doubt. Well, Downtown Abbey takes place in the area, doesn't it? And that program I loved called Jam and Jerusalem..

Too bad All Creatures Great and Small isn't on Netflix, not right now, not in Canada, anyway.

But I'll settle for the Youtube, until it's taken down. It's a comfort to watch as I agonize over this puzzling situation.


One name, Calvert, from Yorkshire, seems to be promising. I am DNA  cousins with a number of Americans with his family in their tree, and these American families have NO apparent French genes.


But, it's amazing how many 'pioneer' Americans have at least one French Canadian line.When I see something like Tibo, even in a Texan, I say to myself:  "Oh, no. Not another French Canadian connection."

Some people seem to have both small Yorkshire towns and small Quebec towns in their trees. Annoying!

And, even if the people don't seem to have any French connections in their tree, if I see they are from Maine, or Vermont or Rhode Island, I know they probably do and  just don't know it.

But, I was buoyed by a bit I read on a message board.  Some guy from Northumberland, 100 percent going back centuries, said he took a DNA test with his siblings and they all got Caucasus as a puzzling result.  These ethnicity estimates are ancient, it seems.

Maybe my perplexing Caucasus genes are the proof I'm really British. My Dad's families go back to the Border Reivers in Cumberland and Northumberland and possibly all the way back to the Holy Land. (I wrote about that a few posts ago.)

So, on theme of pets and genealogy, my cousin got her DNA done, she's adopted, and also her mutt's. He is part chihuahua and part poodle.