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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 19 December 2006
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this week's issue include:
  • Loyalist history - Tarleton's Legions
  • International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
  • DNA and genealogy
  • GENCLASS online courses
  • Merry Christmas

Loyalist history - Tarleton's Legions

Those with ties to United Empire Loyalists, or just having an interest in Loyalist history, will likely find it interesting to read a paper on the subject of Loyalist history. The paper was written by Thomas H. Raddall in the late 1940s, and published in the Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society in 1949. It was read before the Nova Scotia Historical Society, April 11, 1947.

The paper, titled TARLETON'S LEGION by Thomas H. Raddall is claimed to be the most comprehensive research document concerning the Guysboro settlement at Port Mouton. Whether or not that remains true today, I found it interesting reading.

Of possible equal interest would be the 1780 Diary of Loyalist Lieutenant Anthony Allaire of King's Mountain. This daily account, in two parts, covers the period from 5 March 1780 to 25 November 1780, and was excerpted from King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It by Lyman C. Draper, Cincinnati, 1881, pp. 484-515.

International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

I have recently been advised by Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Publicity Chair, that the date and location has been set for the 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. It has been set for July 15-20, 2007 at the Hilton City Center, Salt Lake City, Utah.

By the time you read this it will be too late to submit proposals for the conference. It is not too late however, to register for the conference. For more information about the conference, and to register, visit their website.

DNA and genealogy

For the past several years, genealogists have been increasingly encouraged to consider using DNA matches to aid in verifying ancestral connections. Until recently however, such testing and matching has been limited to exploring the paternal ancestry of males using Y-chromosome testing. Y-chromosome testing is limited to researching paternal ancestry. Because women do not have the Y-chromosome, they had to have a close male relative tested for them.

Recent advances however, now allow the use of mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) to trace maternal ancestry for both men and women because it is inherited by children exclusively from their mothers.

Discovering an exact match on a newly released online mtDNA-ancestry database can help a female genealogist learn her likely overseas region of origin and surnames, a result unthinkable only a few years ago. Now easy and widely available, personal mtDNA testing gives women direct access to the world's largest integrated genetic and genealogy information collection for the first time and allows them to go deeper than ever before in their family history research.

Patrick Devin, of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation Public Relations, recently sent me the following press release:
    SALT LAKE CITY and SEATTLE (Dec. 4, 2006) - Imagine searching for 13 years using traditional genealogical techniques to learn four generations of your maternal grand-mothers' names and where they lived. For Cynthia Wilson, an administrative assistant living in Seattle, this meant spending her vacations in Virginia and North Carolina courthouses and libraries poring over old deeds, probate records and birth registries.

    "I wanted to find out and verify who my grandmothers on my maternal side were," she said. "I don't mind the hard work of research and I even like to read difficult documents, like old court records," she said. "But I don't like brick walls."

    The ability to hurdle family history research barriers with DNA testing has revolutionized the hobby of genealogy, solving many problems where traditional methods dead-end, such as missing or inaccurate paper records. Until recently, Y-chromosome testing was used most often. But Y-chromosome testing is limited to researching paternal ancestry. And because women do not have the Y-chromosome, they must have a close male relative tested for them.

    For Wilson who was curious about her maternal line, the solution was testing her mtDNA, a service now offered by many consumer-based laboratories using a mailer and a simple cheek-swab. mtDNA is a powerful tool for tracing maternal ancestry for both men and women because it is inherited by children exclusively from their mothers. Entering her genetic profile into the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation's (SMGF) online database, which is the world's largest correlated genetic-genealogy catalog, Wilson learned where her ancestry intersected with others who have submitted their genetic profiles and pedigree charts.

    For more than a decade, Wilson's persistent genealogy research efforts and clever detective work had allowed her to follow back into history the line of women she came from all the way to her fourth great-grandmother in colonial America of 1775. The task was painstakingly difficult because of the incomplete records kept of her African-American ancestors who were brought into the American South, sold as slaves and accounted for as property, if at all.

    Imagine then, how Wilson felt when she found an exact genetic match in the SMGF database that points to her family origins being in Mali, Africa and includes several surnames to trace as well. "I was very surprised to find one perfect genetic match and 10 near-perfect matches on the Sorenson mtDNA-genealogy database," Wilson said. "I really wasn't expecting that. Could it be that I have 'jumped the pond'?" "Jumping the pond" refers to the fact that nearly all Americans are descended from an initial immigrant from a country across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean - and locating that ancestor is a major genealogy breakthrough.

    "This is a dramatic example of the possibilities the Sorenson mtDNA-genealogy database holds for those who are researching the maternal side of their family history," said Scott Woodward, executive director of SMGF. "It allowed Cynthia Wilson to reach beyond the end of her paper research all the way to Africa. This is the type of discovery that makes maternal ancestry research an extremely rewarding experience for families, and it was impossible only a few years ago."

    The SMGF is a non-profit scientific organization with the purpose of mapping humankind's entire family tree. It is the creation of billionaire biotechnology pioneer and philanthropist James LeVoy Sorenson. For more than five years, the foundation has collected genetic samples along with correlated genealogies from around the world. The Sorenson mtDNA-genealogy database currently includes samples from participants representing ancestors from 78 countries and 8,500 maternal DNA sequences and the surnames associated with them. The collection expands as the foundation continues to collect DNA samples and genealogies, with total ancestors now amounting to more than 3.5 million.

    Wilson's traditional genealogy research had already taught her important things about the line of women from which she is descended. "I learned that life for my grandmothers was a real struggle, but they were strong," she said. And Wilson is optimistic about following her personal thread of history further and learning more. "I am very encouraged by what I've found on the SMGF database and already I've begun preliminary research about Mali and its people."

    About Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is a non-profit research organization with the mission: To collect DNA samples within a genealogical context for creating the world's most comprehensive correlated genetic and genealogical database. To provide the funding necessary to construct genetic tools from the information contained within the database for the purpose of family history research. And, to maintain the integrity of the database content to ensure it is used for purposes that will promote peace, compassion and fellowship among humankind. Visit

GENCLASS online courses

It would appear, from the increase in press releases being sent my way, that my column has been noticed in a number of places. The following was sent to me by GenClass Online Genealogy Courses:
    People around the world are catching the genealogy bug, but many just don't know where or how to start. Are you one of them?

    The experienced GENCLASS instructors want to help you, step by step, learn what records are available, how to access available resources and search the Internet.

    All instructors have previously taught specialized classes for to thousands of satisfied students from North America and around the world. Considered the "best kept secret" in the genealogical world, those classes helped many begin their searches and make great discoveries.

    Current classes include Scottish, Eastern European basic/intermediate, Native American, Jewish basic/Internet, Lost Family & Friends, Write Your Family History, Great Lakes Research and Adoption Investigation.

    If there's a class you'd like but its not listed, let GENCLASS know.

    Each four-week class includes a detailed course curriculum, online class meetings and more.

    For more information, available classes, instructors' bios and student comments, go to and sign up today, as demand is sure to be high, and the maximum numbers of students per class are limited.
I am advised that the group of instructors referred to are 7 of the instructors who used to teach the highly successful on-line courses, with many thousand satisfied students over the years. Never having taken any of the on-line courses, or any of the courses offered by GenClass, I cannot comment on their content or effectiveness.

I did not find the GenClass website the most user-friendly site that I have visited. I was interested in learning about the instructors but found I had to go through the Class Schedule in order to get to their bios and credentials. The website, in my opinion, could benefit by some judicious rearrangement.

Merry Christmas!

This column will be the last I write for the year 2006. As I did last year at this time, it being the season, I wish each of my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I have never been a fan of so-called 'political correctness'. For the 65 years of my existence, my greeting for this season has been, and will remain, 'Merry Christmas'. I take no offence when I hear others greet me differently, and have yet to personally meet anyone who took offence when I greeted them in my traditional way. I have been pleased this year to see that some retailers are once again wishing shoppers 'Merry Christmas' rather than saying 'Holiday Greetings'.

Whether you say 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Hanukkah', or whatever other greeting your tradition or faith might suggest, I wish each and every one of you the very best. I wish for you, what you wish for me.

If you are travelling to be with family or friends for the Holidays, I urge you to do safely. Take the time to arrive safely, and to return home the same way. A few minutes, or hours, difference in travel time is not worth the heartache and suffering that could result from being involved in an accident because you are in a hurry.

Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts

Your comments regarding this newsletter, and suggestions for future articles are welcome. Click here to send me a message with a subject line of "Gordon Watts Reports".

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