Got you! DNA test collars George Griffith

Liverpool Landing Stage, 1864. George Griffith's home town.  Print by W G Herdman.

I don’t suppose this is a record, but a power-boost from my recent dna test results enabled me to nail my ancestor George Griffith within four days of them being posted online.  I was able to pick him up in the paper record, but it could not be proven without the aid of the dna test. 

I received my results last Sunday evening.  My first inkling that the results had been posted was an email in my inbox from Carol Wilkes, a second cousin on my father’s side of the family.  She very kindly pinpointed each of her (and my) relations which appeared at the top of my results list.  Using the buttons provided at FTDNA to separate the results into two camps – those in common with that Carol on my dad's side, and those not in common, I could identify which side of the family my other  results came from.

My Griffith match, Dennis Beeney, appeared quite high up in the list of matches, with 113 cMs and the longest block at 45 segments.   Using the “Not in common with” button on Carol Wilkes, I came up with a list of matches on my mother’s side of the family.  It was my great good fortune that at the top of that list was Graham Johnston, someone whom I knew to be a second cousin  from my mother’s maternal family. My Griffith match was not far behind him, but using the “in common with” button, he disappeared.  So he was not from my mother’s mother’s side of the family.  He had to be from my mother’s father’s side of the family where the Griffith line does occur. And he had Griffith in his list of  family names.  Perfect!

Before attempting the dna solution, I had created an excel database of known George Griffiths from Liverpool – I had 21 Georges on that list, and not one of them pretending to be a musician.  I couldn’t tell if he had stayed in Liverpool after he was born there as he was nowhere to be found in the 1841 and 1851 censuses.  That just increased the degree of difficulty.  I still cannot make the link with a paper trail but my brand new cousin Dennis Beeney’s grandmother Alice Griffith’s mother was born in Liverpool.  Going flat out on Alice’s available records I was able to create a rough family tree, but the clincher came from her father’s name  on her marriage certificate – Corporal Michael Griffith.  Her mother was Mary Taylor.  The only marriage in England for a Michael Griffith and Mary Taylor occurred in Liverpool in 1856.  That marriage showed his father was also a Michael Griffith, and a cordwainer (or shoemaker).  The only shoemaker I could find who was named Griffith was Michael Griffith. And that Michael Griffith senior had a son called George Griffith.

The whole family did not appear in the 1841 Census. Where the heck were they?  Don’t know.  Given that his whole family did not appear in the census, it seems I was wasting my time trying to figure out which whitesmith, grocer’s apprentice, engineer’s apprentice, labourer or warehouseman was my George Griffith.  In all likelihood, none of them.

In 1851 Michael Griffith senior’s wife Catherine was back in Liverpool, the head of the house, and still described as Married.  Her husband was not in the household, nor was her son George, but her youngest son Michael who went on to marry Mary Taylor was  in the house.   His occupation at the time was errand boy. When he married his occupation was bookkeeper, but when he died, he was a Chelsea Pensioner, formerly a Corporal in the Royal Artillery Coast Brigade.  He died in Eastbourne in 1875, where Alice was born in 1873.  It was a long time after their marriage in 1856, but whether there were other siblings beside her sister Emily born in Woolwich in 1869, we don't yet know.

Dennis’s connection to the family from Liverpool now has a paper chain.  My paper chain is made of  very fine tissue paper, virtually not there at all.  George’s daughter, my great grandmother Mary Jane, didn't know either of her grandparents' names, but remembered her grandfather’s occupation of bootmaker. I didn’t take it as being reliable proof of relationship to the shoemaker, but the dna chain shows that Dennis and I are related, and so I have to rely on the very basic facts –George's name, his birthplace, his birth year, and the uncertainly remembered fact that his father was a bootmaker - plus the dna evidence - to show that I have found his right family. 
George, you may consider yourself well and truly collared.  I told you I was coming to get you!

Thanks are due to my second cousin Carole Wilkes who kindly contacted me with a list of her (and my) relations whom she had encouraged to be dna tested.  This enabled me to quickly separate my father’s and my mother’s families.

Thanks also to my second cousin Graham Johnston who had himself dna tested.  This enabled me to differentiate between my maternal grandmother’s and maternal grandfather’s lines and identify Dennis Beeney as being likely related to me through the Griffith family which he had named in his FTDNA profile.

Thanks to my friend Jenny Coates who patiently coach me through my abject ignorance of dna tests and helped me figure out what I was doing.

Very great thanks to my third cousin once removed Dennis Beeney who had put a detailed family tree online showing his grandmother Alice Griffith (a first cousin to Mary Jane) and came up with the first name of Alice’s father, Michael, which enabled me to put together a family tree which would include George Griffith; and who very kindly had his DNA  tested and put the results where I could readily find them.

Thank you everybody - you’ve all been Very Good!

There will be some future posts coming up looking at the family in Liverpool.  Can't wait to do the work!

PS  And thank you to a Benevolent Universe which provided me with a set of dna results which did not include my husband as a match.  Given that some of our brick wall families come from the same part of Tasmania, and that our colouring is very similar, I was suddenly struck with some trepidation that when I looked at my matches he might possibly turn up there.  But thankfully not.  How would I explain THAT to the children?

PPS  I should add, by the way, that I had my husband do a dna test back in 2012 to try and break down the brick wall of his Tasmanian family, the paper record being totally inadequate, but there has not been any movement at all in terms of solving that problem – so not all dna results are equal, I am afraid. In his case we just have to keep waiting.


  1. Great result Lenore. Isn't it such a satisfying feeling to finally be able to link the pieces of the family puzzle. I love this DNA stuff.

  2. Great work Lenore! Looking for ward to further updates.

  3. Thank you ladies. I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the new information. My family trees have been set in stone for decades, so getting a whole new family in the course of a few days with so much information available is a new experience for me. In the past research has been so painstaking and piece by piece. Remember waiting by the letterbox for the postie?

  4. Congratulations Lenore. You give me hope.

  5. Thanks Jill. To be honest I think I have been extraordinarily lucky with this particular outcome. It was the one family I really wanted to trace, and because my dna match person is one generation closer to the target family than me, it made the match noticeable.

  6. fascinating Lenore, are the dna results really that accurate?

    1. You should refer back to the post where I describe my understanding of dna as 'abject ignorance', and I am only a little further advanced now. As far as I can work it out, in each generation dna is halved - you get half from your mother and half from your father. Their dna is likewise made up of half from their mother and father, and so on backwards. So the more generations which intervene, the harder it is to pick up relationships. So my sister might not have inherited sufficient of the Griffith dna to be a good match for Dennis, but I did, fortunately. But these tests clearly work because I have a bunch of people in my dna results list whom I know to be related. But it all depends on whether you've had relations do their dna test so you have something to compare.


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