Thursday, 14 November 2013

DNA Genealogy - Just starting out

Well I’m going to do it, and it doesn’t cost as much as you think!

My mum went round to my uncle's the other day and he dutifully rubbed a wee scraper thing on his cheek, it’s all packaged up now and ready to post.

My lovely granddad, Thomas Sharkey, my good self and my granny, Doreen Pickering.
This was taken about 1993 in their back garden.

DNA is becoming increasingly popular and with more and more people getting involved the chances of finding a match are increasing.

There are lots of reasons you might use DNA along with more traditional research tools when you are tracing your family tree but our family has a very specific reason.

My great-grandmother was Elizabeth Wilson Smith, born 17 April 1881 in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, one of at least 9 children. Her parents and quite a number of her siblings emigrated to America in 1912. The plan was that Elizabeth and her husband, William Paterson, would follow.

Tragedy struck however when, on 28 November 1917, William Paterson was involved in an accident at Fauldhead Colliery. He died in Dumfries Infirmary the following morning. A full report can be read on the Scottish Mining website.

Poor Elizabeth was now left alone with 6 children, the eldest was about 16 and the youngest (known to me as Aunt Mattie) was 6. I don’t know why she did not, at this stage, follow her family to America.

Elizabeth stayed in Kirkconnel, living at 2 Marne Street, and on 10 April 1920 my great aunt Janet was born. No father is given on the birth certificate. Interestingly Aunt Janet was named ‘Janet Donnelly Blair Smith or Paterson’. 17 Months later on 5 September 1921 my grandfather, Thomas, was born.

We do not know who the father of these two children was, or even if it was the same man, however, we do have some ideas.

First, however I will continue with the story; before we begin to speculate.

Mr great grandmother Elizabeth continued to live in Kirkconnel. Then on 27 April 1923 she married Simon Sharkey of Annan. The marriage certificate is interesting. We know that Simon was born in 1902 but on the certificate he says he is 29! Probably he did this because my great grandmother was 42 years old; although the certificate says she was 38.

Thomas Sharkey at the Solway, July 1946
So far, apart from some artistic licence in the age rounding department all is normal. Soon after the marriage the couple move to Annan, where Simon was born, and set up home together. It seems Simon claimed the two youngest children as his own. In fact, he went the extra mile in 1940 when my grandfather needed a birth certificate to prove his age to join the army. Simon Sharkey re-registered my grandfather’s birth stating he was the father. He went a step further however as he took the document, which clearly states “Any person who falsifies any of the particulars on this Extract or makes use of such falsified Extract as true, knowing it to be false, is liable to prosecution”, and changed the date of his marriage to Elizabeth to 27 April 1919 and changed the date of registration to 9 September 1921!

Whilst the audacity is astounding and the workmanship so very poor on the certificate meaning all one can do is laugh, I do also wonder if it was for genuine love of Elizabeth that he did this. Or was he the actual father?

We will never know what was going on in Simon’s head on 6 June 1940 but with DNA we can answer a long asked family question, was Simon really Thomas’ father? Simon had a number of brothers so as well as testing my uncle's DNA we are also going to test a great nephew of Simon Sharkey to see if we are related or not.

I now have my uncle’s DNA ready to post so I will let you know when we know! 

To be continued...


  1. What an interesting story! You must be really curious to find out the answer.

  2. Thanks Liz. Yes we are, I can't wait!

  3. I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job!
    bubblegum casting