Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Long Lost Family - McLellan Edition

Inspired by seeing my friend Claire Martin appearing on Long Lost Families I thought I would share my own DNA experiences. Not as gripping as Claire's but here they are...

Episode one: The Good Doctor.

Out of the blue I received an email asking “I am trying to find a link to the descendants of Archibald McLellan who was a doctor in Glasgow in the early 1900's. I'm hoping someone in your family might have DNA tested.” My correspondent had found my family tree on the blog and one of my ancestors was indeed an Archibald McLellan. I responded and the full back story came out:


I am helping a close friend of mine to research his family on his mother's side. His name is Alan Weir Clark. He might have already written to you through one of the genealogy websites but I hope not. Just let me know, if so, and disregard my email. If not, bear with me for a bit of a tale...

Alan's mother was a lady named June Weir (married a Clark, then Gray). She died a year ago August and Alan found some information in her possession that shed some light on her birth family. She was adopted as an infant by the Weirs and she was never willing to discuss the matter. Alan had an Aunt Penuel "Pen" Anderson who told him a little but he never had any success in finding out more until recently.

Pen was a cook in a large home in Glasgow in the 1930's. A young maid there became pregnant and had to give the baby up for adoption. Pen's sister and her husband - the Weirs - wanted a baby so they offered to take the maid's child. They named her June and she grew up in their home in Motherwell and raised her family there, as well. There was a family story that June's father had been a "son of the House" or a young student, etc. but nobody ever said for sure.

When June died, she left a birth certificate showing her birth name as "Ella Christina Armstrong" and her mother's name was Mary Ann Armstrong. Mary Ann gave her address and we were able to track down which Armstrong family she belonged to. We even found family photos of her ancestors. Alan's grandfather Robert Armstrong was a dead ringer for Alan (no pun intended) and his DNA tests seem to link him to the surnames in that family so that part of the mystery is pretty much solved to his satisfaction.

The next task is to find the father's side. No father was named.

When Mary Armstrong gave baby Ella up for adoption, she was several weeks old. Mary Ann wrote a note to the adoptive mother stating that the baby was in good health and when she was released from Stobhill Hospital, she would be turning her over to the Weirs. The letter was on stationery from 10 Woodland's Terrace in Glasgow. That house, in 1935, belonged to a Dr. Archibald Neville McLellan who was married to Elizabeth Martin. He was a respected gynecologist, apparently. We thought that perhaps Mary Ann had delivered there for some reason but later research showed that she was actually employed there as a housemaid before the baby was born and that this was her address.

Alan petitioned the courts for access to the adoption records. We didn't find much from that except verification of addresses, etc. but it did reveal that Mary Ann actually paid all the legal fees involved in the adoption herself. I don't know what costs were involved but Mr. Weir, from all sources, was not a man to let a young housemaid handle that burden alone. We think someone financed the adoption.

Dr. McLellan was an older man when Mary Ann worked for him but he had a son, Archibald Neville McLellan, also, who was an officer with the Cameroons (I hope I spelled that right) at that time. He might possibly been home on Christmas leave when Ella Christina was conceived. He ended up on South Africa, married a girl from England, had another son named Archibald Neville, etc. and died in a military type home in the 1970's, I believe. We can't find any direct descendants.

Many of the names in the McLellan family seem to turn up in Alan's DNA relatives but they are not unusual names. There is another issue in the fact that the name McLean plays heavily on Mary Ann Armstrong's family tree but it's also found in the McLellan family.

Dr. Archibald Neville McLellan is a descendant of your line. He lived in Coatbridge before he became a surgeon. I am hoping that you have DNA tested and that I can compare your kit with Alan's kit to see if there is any match.

If you know anything of the doctor's descendants, that would be great, too. We need to know if the family legend is true or if we need to keep up our detective work.

<end quote>

If I were to take a DNA test and we could establish that there was a genetic connection between Alan Weir Clark and me then he would have solved the mystery of the identity of his grandfather. 

I was happy to take a DNA test but then we hit a snag. America considers a small vial of spit to be biological samples that are not allowed across its borders so I was unable to submit DNA test to 23andme's database. The solution was for both of us to send our samples to the European operation based in Holland. That we both duly did and waited with bated breath for the results.

Alas we have no chromosomes in common, we are not related and the mystery of his maternal grandfather remains unsolved; my ancestors are in the clear! 

Further research on ancestry.co.uk confirmed that my Archibalds and his Archbalds are different people; the dates are all out.

For Alan it was back to the drawing board. He subsequently hired a professional genealogist who unearthed more fascinating information about his grandmother but, alas, is no closer to identifying his maternal grandfather.

Episode two: the Battersea connection.

Now my DNA was on the database and I had ticked the box for sharing so I was available for others to get in touch. I received a 23andme email from a stranger, Philip, on behalf of his father, Melwyn, asking if any of my relatives had lived in Battersea. The 23andme analysis showed us being potential third cousins. As it happens a number of my mother's aunts and uncles had lived in south London so I replied in the affirmative.

After a few exchanges I was able to build up the family tree and establish that we were in fact second cousins, twice removed. I’m guessing that will give him a head start on building up his own family tree.

My family tree going back to Benjamin George Marsh.

Philip's family tree also back to Benjamin George Marsh.

I did a count of the generations and we are not third cousins. Philip's grandmother, Phyllis Doreen Marsh, and I are (were) second cousins, so Philip's father, Melwyn, and I are second cousins once removed, and Philip and I are second cousins twice removed.

Generation Mark Philip
1 Benjamin George Marsh (great grandfather) Benjamin George Marsh
2 Mabel Kathleen England Marsh (grandmother) William Ben George Marsh (sibling)
3 Margery Faith Scales (mother) Henry Leslie Marsh (first cousin)
4 Mark Sebastian McLellan (me) Phyllis Doreen Marsh (second cousin)
5 - Melwyn L Joseph (second cousin once removed)
6 - Philip Thomas Joseph (second cousin twice removed)

So there we are, I have more south London family than I realised!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Brunswick Road 04 - Works

Penrith, Cumbria. August-2021.

We had hoped to be a lot further along with the works but most tradesmen are super busy and booked up for months. A Covid double whammy of pent up demand and money not spent on holidays, clothes and entertainment plus Brexit. We bought the house mid June however most of the work is planned for September. Our kitchen fitter was booked solid through to mid-October so that will be the last to be done.

Replacement boiler: the boiler was installed in February 2021 but a quick Google revealed that model hasn’t been made since 2009. Clearly the previous boiler had broken down and the vendor had gone for the cheapest option: a refurbished boiler. It was situated in a cupboard in the dining room - here with the doors and architrave removed. This was one trade without a long lead time so the first work to be done.

Given the life expectancy of an average boiler it was clearly sensible to replace ASAP and while we were about it re-site the new boiler into the utility room.

Kitchen and bathroom: we always knew this was on the hit list right from the first viewing. The kitchen is going to be completely ripped out and replaced. When we bought the place all that was left was a washing machine, a sink and several musty cupboards. We are currently camping out in the husk of the kitchen using an old shelving unit from our London garage with a hot plate, electric cook pan, toaster and a George Forman grill.

The downstairs bath is going to be replaced by a shower and this will allow the washing machine to be moved in from the kitchen thus generating more desperately needed space. The boiler re-siting meant an early rip-out of this bathroom.  

French windows: The window in the dining room is going to be knocked out to create an opening direct onto the yard. On the advice of the window company it will be one large door rather than twin doors because of light loss from the central frames. This means we no longer need the kitchen door. Rather than block it up (which we could always do later) we are going to use that space for a small mobile island unit.

Roof repairs: there are a number of loose tiles and a drain pipe at the front that need sorting out. Also there is a small chimney at the back with no corresponding fireplace. That will go and hopefully cure the damp patch two floors below below. 

That means scaffolding so while it is up...

Light well: there is no natural light in the bathroom on the first floor. The plan is to put a sun pipe from the roof down into the bathroom. It will either go down the chimney or immediately adjacent to it depending on what they find when the chimney comes down.

Re-pointing: while we’re about it the front elevation will get repointed.

Wobbly walls: The scaffolder noticed some worrying curvature of the front wall. Difficult to show in a picture but there is an S shaped section adjacent to, and just above, our bedroom window. Our structural surveyor is of the opinion that it is historic and nothing to worry about. The inside wall is straight, it is only the outside wall. So while the re-pointing is being done he will come back to double check and hopefully all that is required is minor repairs with resin or ties to ensure it is stable.

Fireplace: having unearthed a substantial lintel in the dining room fireplace and some less than aesthetic infill we have commissioned a local stonemason to install sandstone pillars on either side and open up the fireplace by removing the concrete and cement infill. Plus a sandstone hearth to sit on top of the current concrete version.

Pantry (under stairs cupboard): all of the interior plaster has been stripped and we are seeking advice on what to do with the walls. In the meantime I have begun re-fitting the old boiler cupboard stable doors and architrave that you can see in the above picture. More to follow.

Rewiring: we suspected the wiring would be on a par with other renovations by the previous owner so we commissioned an EICR (electrical installation condition report aka fixed wiring report). It showed up a number of defects in need of repair. Most of these will be sorted out by the wiring needed for the new kitchen. 

We will also be doing a number of minor improvements: additional sockets, replacing sockets with ones with USB ports, re-siting sockets made homeless by the fireplace work and under stairs pantry exposure, etc. We are also treating ourselves to underfloor heating in the kitchen. An electrical heating mat with timer and thermostat will ensure toasty toes when we make the early morning cup of tea.

Loft hatch: there is a very small loft space currently only accessible by the light well directly above the staircase. It is a somewhat exciting long drop if anything goes wrong. So a new loft hatch directly above the landing will be relatively easy to sort out and that will provide us with a small amount of storage space under the roof.

I have learned that our roof construction uses sarking boards. These are typically used on buildings that are exposed to extreme weather conditions, such as high wind or torrential rain. Apparently they are not very common in England or Wales but are prevalent in Scotland due to weather variations and Scottish building regulations.

Front garden: The current small front garden is a rockery with lily-of-the-valley, oregano and a variety of weeds, a small border around and a sad looking rose in one corner. We have found a gardener to provide inspiration and do the work once the scaffolding is gone.

Curtains and blinds: we have had a local window blind and curtain shop to come round and give us a quote for curtains and Roman blinds. Now on order..

Much of these works will happen while we are in Italy, Covid permitting. The most important work - the kitchen - will wait until we are back and on site for any real-time decision making.