Thursday, June 1, 2017

Diasporas, US Presidents, and Bits and Pieces of DNA

Nicholsons or McLeods? I'm not sure... Probably McLeods. 

I'm related to my husband. We share 3.4 or so centimorgans of SNP, is that what it's called? on Gedmatch.

When our chromosomes are compared with another tool, there's another 4.5 centimorgan bit that shows up.

Now, most everyone is related if you go back far enough. Apparently, 7 centimorgans is the bare minimum to share if you are -perhaps- related in genealogical time, whatever that means. 500 years or so? 1,000 years?

My husband descends, on his mother's side, from Isle of Lewis Scots who came to Quebec in 1838 (McLeods) and 1851 (Nicholsons) and, on his father's side, it's  England, Wales and Ireland and that includes a Virginia State Hardy line. (My husband's  grandmother was the General Douglas McArthur's first cousin.)

The Hardy history is well-documented; the patriarch was a naval man from Dorset.  So, too, the history of the Isle of Lewis Scots. They were victims of  the infamous clearances. When the latter 1851 group arrived in Quebec, they had nothing but the shirts on their back, and one of the males was wearing a ladies nightgown.

These Lewismen moved to the Maritimes, the Eastern Townships in Quebec, Ontario and the US.

They are a diaspora. That is why my husband has 12,000 'cousin' matches on Ancestry.ca while I have only 7,000.

I am half French Canadian and half Yorkshire, England.  My Yorkshire side barely shows upon Ancestry and the other genealogical DNA databases and it's not because of the French.


Someone I know who is 100% French Canadian has 24,000 cousin matches on Ancestry. Les Canadiens are a diaspora, too, it seems, although I don't believe our politicians like to see it that way.


Yorkshire people definitely are not a diaspora. Most English immigrants to North America came from the Midlands and Southern England.

There was always work in the North of England, even if it was of the crappy kind, like coal or lead mining. My ancestors did the latter, when not farming or stealing sheep and cattle on horseback.


For a while, I wondered if my biological father was, indeed, the Yorkshireman I always believed him to be. My father, RAF Ferry Patrol pilot during WWII, came to Canada to stay in 1949, a late date for DNA databases. (He had been posted at Dorval, Ferry Command Central, during the War.)

 Sure, I found people on my Ancestry cousin list with ancestors in the pretty town of Helmsley, Yorkshire, where many of my father's people are from, but then these 'matches' also had ancestors in Terrebonne, Quebec, where my mother's people are from.

Talk about frustrating!

So, I devised a method where I looked out for bits of my DNA in people with Yorkshire ancestors with all the right names in the right towns - and it worked.

I am, indeed, a Nixon, descended from the nasty Border Reivers or raiders along the burnt out Northumberland border with Scotland, just like former US Presidents Richard Nixon  and Lyndon Johnson.

So, imagine my surprise, when entering "Nicholson" and "Quebec" into Gedmatch, to try the same thing, I got names of descendants who matched with ME and not my husband, whose grandfather was Norman Nicholson from Richmond, Quebec.

What could that be about?

The Nicholson family letters, 400 from between 1908 and 1919, are the reason this blog exists. I transcribed the missives, studied the background to them, and wrote about it in essays posts for the next 10 years!

I also compiled the letters in a Kindle E-book. And, I wrote other books about the Nicholsons, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Furies Cross the Mersey.

But, here I was, linked 7.1 centimorgans's worth with a woman descended (perhaps) from a Nicholson born in 1853 in Stornoway, Quebec.

My French Canadian side is not from the E.T., although a branch, the Roys, MAY be from that part of Quebec. (That branch led me to a brick wall, which is strange, as French Canadian genealogy is very easy to do thanks to Catholic Church Records.)

Norman Nicholson and his sisters around 1870, I imagine.

My husband has a piddling 3.3. centimorgan match with the same person.  "This must be a quirky  Quebec-thing," I said to myself.

But, then I checked the person's tree and, well, she appears Scottish and Slovak and German mostly, but with people from Carlisle, in Cumberland.

Carlisle, where my father spent his summers during his school years, back in the Depression, with his aunties.

Where he played amidst the ruins of Hadrian's Wall.

I wrote about it in Looking For Mrs. Peel, available on Amazon Kindle.

My husband likely shares some genes with President Trump, as Donald's mother was a McLeod from Isle of Lewis, Hebrides, although I can see her people were from a different town, Back, and  not Uig, Carnish like my husband's people.


If you read my book, Threshold Girl, you will see that Margaret McLeod, my husband's grandmother, below, was a socialist and not a capitalist, although money - or lack of same -figured large in their life.

I was also intrigued to see that someone sharing DNA with my husband on the Hardy side (most probably) has made a tree that shows that these Virginia Hardys were originally de Hardy from Yorkshire. French Normans, very likely.

And yet another "cousin" with whom my husband shares DNA has compiled a tree that goes back to 1100, showing an ancestor who moved from Normandy, France to Malton, Yorkshire, where some of my own father's ancestors were from.

Go figure!

Many, if not most, French Canadians pioneers were from Normandy. So, I'm related to my husband, all right.  I just can't figure out exactly how.



Margaret McLeod Nicholson 1853-1944