Article for SFHS . . . .

The Joys of Genealogical Research

Restoring George Turner's grave, 'stumbling' upon my website and the use of DNA

In my article in 2008 on the Turner family in Lindsell & Stebbing I spoke of the joys of genealogy, having just discovered 2nd cousins in Melbourne, descendants of my ggrandfather George Turner 1865-1951 who had emigrated from Carters Farm, Stebbing in 1911- & that was news for me then! . I met 2nd cousin Carol in Australia in 2008, and at the end of 2013 I stayed with her in Melbourne, visiting George & Charlotte's grave, by then in a very sad state. We decided to renovate it. There were a lot of forms to fill up and plans to be done, but the work was finally carried out in the summer of 2015. I feel this is a fitting memorial for the grandparents my mother never knew because she was born to his eldest son, William Turner 1888-1958, who chose to stay in Essex rather than emigrate to Australia with his parents.

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The grave in the 1950s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Then in 2013. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . And finally by summer 2015

Luckily Carol had an old picture of the grave taken in the 1950s, so we took that as our guide but included the facts that he came originally from Stebbing, adding "Erected by their children William, Harold & Dorothy. Restored by their greatgrandchildren 2015"

The original wording was 'In Memory of our loving parents CHARLOTTE died 25th August 1944, aged 75. GEORGE died 5th July 1951 aged 85 '

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Since 2008 I have continued with my addiction to Genealogical research. Visits to the ERO in Chelmsford [ not easy, living in Spain!], followed by membership of Seax when that came online, were the keys for this. And now, by 2015, there are so many more records and facts available online that one could not get a few years ago. All my finds are recorded on my website and I have advanced by leaps and bounds from people 'stumbling' upon this when they Google for a person in whom they are interested,

A wondrous 'stumbling' moment was the discovery of another second cousin, Nancy, in Canada. My Stebbing grandfather,William George Turner, born 1888 in Lindsell, married Edith Mead, b.1892, daughter of publican Walter Mead 1863-1908 of the Wheatsheaf Inn, North Street, Great Dunmow. Edith's elder sister Topp, b.1890, had emigrated to Canada in 1920, and the last contact that her Essex family had with her was a letter, dated 1939, with an address. What had happened to her after that?? In 2009, we had taken the train across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto, where we had 8 hours to wait before flying home. That letter had an address on it, so we found, with some difficulty, the Toronto Archives and perused the 1939 Rates books. No mention of Topp at the address on the letter, but there was an Ernest Erskine there: his name was duly added to my website, with the surmise that he could have been Topp's son in law.

And in 2011 Topp's granddaughter, Nancy, googled her father's name, Ernest Erskine, found my website and was quickly in contact with me. And Nancy had a wealth of photos, letters, even the 1908 Dunmow funeral card for Walter Mead & the obituary notice for Topp in 1959. Another second cousin in Chelmsford, grandson of the youngest Wheatsheaf Mead sister, Ellen Mead 1895, then discovered[ in his attic!] a letter from Nancy's mother informing the family of Topp's death- but, wonders, apparently Nancy's mother could not write very well, and Nancy found herself looking in 2011 at a letter she herself had written as a 17 year old in 1959!!. My, that was an exciting time for me for those few months in 2011!!


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Walter Mead 1863-1908 outside the Wheatsheaf


And now to the DNA tool of genealogists.

My mother, Joan Turner, married Francis Lyons, who I traced back through the censuses as having a ggrandfather Stephen Lyons born in County Cork around 1827. But whereas Essex and English genealogy relies largely on parish records, this is not the case in Ireland. State registration only dates from 1865. Most parishes have few, if any, baptisms or marriages pre 1840, and some none until the mid 1860s. Thus, having spent countless days in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin - from 2008 onwards, looking at microfiches of all Cork baptism records- and there are a lot of parishes!! - and failing to find my Stephen Lyons, I resorted to DNA.

Male DNA goes back through the male line. I persuaded a male cousin, a John Lyons, in South Africa to give the necessary sample back in 2009. And for over 5 years the result bore no ressemblance to any other DNA on the data banks - my husband thought John must have taken the sample from his dog!! Then in 2015 2 matches came to light - not just nearish matches, but both all 37 marker matches, practically unheard of.

DNA in genealogy is a complex and difficult subject to get your head around. DNA tests are oversold by the companies selling them. The crux of the matter is that people in Ireland do not pay to have the DNA tested, as they know where they come from. The people getting the tests are therefore peope who have no idea on their roots (usually Americans). So if you do get a match, it may not yield you much.

To find absolutely no matches within 3 markers at 25 or at 37 markers is unusual. My husband, whose male line is entirely Irish, has literally hundred of these sorts of matches, but none closer than 2 different at 37 markers. So to suddenly find two spot on matches at 37 markers is hitting the jackpot. They and I have to have a common ancestor - my reckoning is that it would have been a man born about 1780

These 2 Americans were separately descended from a James Lehane pre 1823 and a Stephen Lehane ~1800. Lehane is the Gaelic  name for  Lyons in Gaelic. Note Ballyvourney is a Gaelic speaking area. The former certainly had a son Daniel Lehane born ~1843 in Ballyvourney[ but no baptism record of course] and the latter might well have married in 1823 in Kilnamartyra, the neighbouring parish. In the absence of records - & incidentally those NLI records are now available free online!: genealogical progress- I am satisfied that the family of my Stephen Lyons~ 1827 definitely came from the area around Ballyvourney and that he shares a common ancestor with James Lehane & Stephen Lehane around 1780 or even later.


Timothy Lyons. Eldest son of Stephen Lyons ~1827-1890 who married in Cork City in 1851- I only found that marriage in 2009!- and arrived in Bermondsey by 1852


No wonder Genealogy has taken over a part of my life: not only with my Turners and Lyons. I have now created web histories for more than 10 friends, and feel that all their ancestors are mine whilst I am researching them. Happy hunting all you budding genealogists!

2008 Article