I blog about DNA quite regularly, but it’s usually about the mystery on my mom’s side of the family. I call that mystery the Beaton/Batten Mystery. But today, I want to tell you more about my paternal grandfather, Harold Alfred Thompson.
Harold was born illegitimate, and that fact was something that bothered him most of his adult life. So far as I know, he never knew who his father was or if he did, he never shared that with his sons.
When I first became interested in genealogy, my grandfather’s delayed birth registration was one of the first documents I collected. As you can see below, my grandfather applied for this record when he was sixty years old.
The document states that his father was John Robert Thompson, but I’ve always known that that was a fib. The story I was always told about that document was when my grandfather went to a lawyer to get advice about applying for a delayed birth certificate. He told the lawyer that his surname shouldn’t be Thompson, that Thompson was the name he’d always gone by because his step-father was John Robert Thompson. He told the lawyer he was illegitimate and that his surname should be Shannon as that’s what his mother’s surname was at the time of his birth. The story goes that the lawyer said that he’d gone by Thompson his whole life, and there were many documents (census and other records) that said that’s what his name was, so to just apply for a delayed birth certificate in that name. So that’s what Harold did.
When I dug deeper into genealogy, I came across a registration submitted when he was born. I don’t believe my grandfather was aware of this document. But I’m pretty sure this is him.
His name Harold was correct, the birth date, March 2, 1907, was correct, and so was the location, York, Ontario (not shown but at the top of the document). But who was this Godfrey Myrtle person shown as his father? I searched for Godfrey Myrtle but never came up with anyone by that name that was in the correct place.
This is one of the reasons I became interested in DNA back in 2010, and that’s why I YDNA tested my father at Ancestry. Yes, Ancestry…. back in 2010, you could do a YDNA test at Ancestry, and then a few years later, in 2012, they deleted those tests. I transferred my Dad’s raw DNA data to Family Tree DNA and then upgraded his test to a 37 marker test (all I could afford at the time). My dad had zero connections at 37 markers, 4 at 25, and 1 at 12. So that was a bit of a disappointment. The common surname was Palmer. So should my last name be Myrtle or Palmer?
In 2014 I had an autosomal DNA test done for my dad at Family Tree DNA again. At the time, this was the only place a Canadian could test their DNA. Ancestry wasn’t shipping kits to Canada, and MyHeritage wasn’t doing DNA yet. I realized that Harold had a French Canadian connection with this DNA test, given my dad’s number of DNA matches from Quebec. So should my surname be Martel rather than Myrtle?
As I could afford more testing, I upgraded. Keep in mind that I have two mysteries in the family, so I purchased DNA kits for both sides of the family. I always joke that my kids know they aren’t getting an inheritance.. just a lot of genealogy and DNA information.
In December 2014, I upgraded my dad’s DNA kit to 111 markers. I did this partially because I could afford it and because my dad now had some matches at a genetic distance of 1 and 3, and they had tested at a higher number of markers. I would like to note that the earliest known ancestor for one of these was Guillaume Labelle, b. 1650 and d. 1710. but we’ll get back to him later.
You should only upgrade a 37 marker YDNA when you have matches at a genetic distance of 3 or less and only if that match has tested at a higher value than you’ve tested at. You do that to see if the genetic distance stays the same when you upgrade. The genetic distance will never get better, but if it stays at the same value as before, then the relationship is closer in time than previously thought.
The two Labelle matches that I had at a distance of 2 and 3 now changed to a distance of 9 and 10. Yikes, I had thought maybe I should be a Labelle. Because this test is at 111 markers, 5-7 distance would have been ok, but this is much more.
So what about doing what I suggested above but in reverse?
If you’ve tested at 111 markers, go to your 67 marker connections and then look for a close or exact match and see if they have only tested to 67 markers? Why not ask them to upgrade to see if they stay the same or get a higher number? At the very least, ask them for more information about the family.
So I did that and…
When I look at their email to message them, can you believe their email has Labelle in it? So I sent off a message asking if they would tell me a bit about their tree and ask if they would consider testing at a higher level. What do I have to lose?
So let’s turn back to autosomal DNA. In 2015-2016 Ancestry started testing in Canada, and I was quick to purchase kits. In fact, I’d already done an Ancestry DNA kit in Salt Lake City at RootsTech so I could spit and mail it in before I went back to Canada. But I wanted to test my Dad as he was closer to the question of who my grandfather, Harold’s dad, was.
So the first thing you want to look for in this situation is that DNA match that doesn’t connect to all the people you already know the connection for. I can’t tell you when I first noticed, let’s call him Stan… but it wasn’t that long ago. He shows up as a 230 cM match to my dad.
DNA Painter’s Shared cM Project 4.0 tool v4 tells me that the above relationships are possible. He has a tree, so I check his age to see what relationships seem feasible. He’s likely about 10 years younger than my dad so I’m leaning toward 2C, 1/2 1C1R, or 1C2R.
And look who I found as his grandfather, Godefroi Labelle, and he’s the son of Godefroi Labelle. Hmmm, Godefroi ..Godfrey??? and there’s that Labelle surname. This gives me a jumping-off point to work from.
So today, I’m searching around knowing what I know above and trying to connect my Labelle matches to some of my other matches. But because I’m dealing with French Canadian records, I find it a struggle because I don’t read French. But I find this one person that is a DNA match (55cM) to my Uncle (who I also tested. Remember, my kids aren’t getting an inheritance), and low and behold, he has Guillaume Labelle born 1650 in his Labelle tree (remember him from earlier?). I worked for a while trying to get his tree to line up with the Godefroi tree.. but there are a lot of years and a lot of children in between.
So this is something to continue to work on.
You can DNA test at the following companies. Note these links are affiliate links which do not increase the cost to you but pay me a small amount that I use to support my blog.
Ancestry Canada, Ancestry USA, Ancestry UK, Ancestry Australia
MyHeritage Canada, MyHeritage USA, MyHeritage NZ, MyHeritage UK
I would be looking for your father’s maternal great grandmother. Those French Canadian female genes are strong. 🙂
Thank you I’ve been working on that also. I know I’m getting closer.