A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
My DNA test results and Preston
Summary of my report page showing Ethnicity Estimate and 260 matches to 4th cousins or closer. There were also several hundred other matches to more distant cousins
In June 2022, I decided to submit my DNA to Ancestry to help with the ongoing search for my ancestors. There were three questions that I hoped would be answered by matching my DNA with Ancestry’s bank of samples. Firstly, I wanted to confirm the identity of a paternal great grandfather. For many years I had believed that Thomas Currell (of Preston, 1831 - ?) was my great grandfather, being the father of Emily Wray (nee Fairey), my paternal grandmother. However, I recently found a news cutting that indicated that Emily’s father was a William Cox with whom my great grandmother, Mary Fairey (also of Preston) had a relationship. (For details of this development see this link: My grt grandfather’s identity) Knowing the petty criminality of the Fairey family in the nineteenth century, I wasn’t completely certain that Mary had been truthful when applying for an affiliation order against William Cox. Secondly, I hoped to confirm my family history findings. It’s all very well having birth certificates and parish records, but even these primary sources of evidence can be questioned. Were the folk at the baptismal font or before the registrar telling the truth? Matching DNA with other’s having the same ancestor is a far better, almost fool-proof method of establishing one’s ancestry. Thirdly, I have been frustrated when tracing my mother’s line because, having established that a George Pafford was my greatx4 grandfather, I couldn’t find details of his parentage or where he originated. I had no great expectations of any satisfactory answers to my questions. Any matches completely depend on other folk related to me submitting their DNA - and this cannot be guaranteed. So as not to influence the results in any way, I didn’t load my family tree to Ancestry.co.uk - they were in the dark as far as my forebears were concerned. I am including this account in the History of Preston, Herts website mainly because the Currell/Fairey/Wray saga involves Preston people. It may also be that the reader is considering a DNA test, and my experience may help them decide what to do. In addition, there is a human story that unfolded as a result of my DNA sample which may be of interest. When the results came back, almost immediately I could see that the identity of my paternal great grandfather was NOT Thomas Currell, but William Cox. There were four matches with the Cox family members. This means that I have no connection to the Currell family. However, Currell research hasn’t been wasted because it is significantly relevant to Preston history and many descendants could benefit from what has been discovered and published on the website. It was heartening to learn that all of my published genealogy has been confirmed by DNA matches. With regard to my ancestor, George Pafford, there was a negative, which is actually significant. I emailed Pafford contacts who descended from Hampshire Paffords and found that some had also included their DNA in Ancestry’s bank. The fact that there was no match to mine, means that I can discount their ancestors as being mine. There is also an online Pafford DNA project which I will join that may give up some information about George’s elusive origins. Perhaps the reader has seen TV programmes such as DNA Family Secrets. They include attempts to find their subjects’ parents or other family members when there have been question marks about their identity. A typical investigation might be to attempt by an adopted person to find their mother and/or father by matching DNA results in a wide data base and genealogical detective work. One of the matches to my DNA was a man (Mr X) whose family tree contained no familiar names. We initially couldn’t work out how we were related. We exchanged messages in an attempt to pin down what the DNA match meant. We eventually narrowed it down to our having a common ancestor who lived in the Shoreditch/Clapton area of North London. Neither of us wanted to lead the other by what we wrote, but Mr X finally told me that he suspected that his ‘grandfather’ wasn’t actually his grandpa and that his grandmother had an affair which culminated in Mr X’s father’s birth in 1916. I have ancestors who lived in this London district who include silversmiths. When I mentioned this, Mr X quickly responded that he had been told that his true grandfather had been a silversmith. We then worked out from his DNA matches that our common ancestor was my grtx2 grandfather, William Sidney Dear (1831 - 1912). We then attempted to pinpoint which one of William’s three surviving sons was his grandfather. It seemed obvious that one was the likely candidate - only he was single in 1916, one was out of London, and another was married and had a son who was also born in 1916. I have photographs of all three sons (who had distinctive faces) and sent them to Mr X. He immediately identified one as looking remarkably like his father. He now knew the identity of his grandfather - and went on to discover all about him from my maternal family website - and not only that, but also his Dear ancestors. You can imagine how excited Mr X was - he said he was ‘shaking’. He had found his true grandfather! The icing on the cake was finding that William Dear and his sons were living in the same road as Mr X’s grandparents in the 1911 census. I even had a photograph of his grandfather standing beside a car in that very street (shown below).
I had gleaned a considerable amount of personal information about his grandfather from relatives who knew him. This was all ‘manna from heaven’ as he wanted to know all about him - his life and character. I was able to put him in touch with another grandchild. She has clear memories of her grandfather and wasn’t surprised to hear this news - she thought of him as ‘Jack, the Lad’. Mr X arranged to meet with her and two other members of his new family. I learnt later that Mr X is in his fifties and is an university lecturer in London. So my DNA experience is positive - and there is the potential for more discoveries as every new DNA match is flagged up - another close match was added today. I have yet to contact all those with matching DNA - there are almost a thousand - and I’m still trying to work out my Scottish ancestry (that was a surprise!) and my European ancestry (an even bigger surprise!). FOOTNOTE: While not promoting Ancestry DNA (there are alternative organisations offering their services) or recommending DNA testing (I am aware of several concerns about this and that in France, for example, it is illegal to have DNA tested for recreational purposes such as genealogy), I found their work to be professionally managed and although it took about seven weeks for the results to be published, there were regular updates of progress. Ancestry often drop their price to around £59 plus £10 P&P for special occasions such as Father’s Day. I chose Ancestry DNA because it appears to be more comprehensive than other tests and the company has a huge data-base of people’s DNA. Unlike the Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA test, it uses an autosomal DNA test which means that it covers both the maternal and paternal sides of the family tree. The Y-DNA test only reflects the direct father-to-son path in one’s family tree, and the mtDNA test only reflects the direct mother-to-child path in one’s family tree.