Stalking strangers

Sometimes it is surprising just what can be found on-line, and at other times its pretty frustrating what cannot.  For example, try to find a living person of voting age and its pretty easy to find most people's address from the electoral role (available on subscription from Find My Past,, etc.)  But try to find their phone number and its nigh-on impossible.  I presume that is all driven by over zealous tele-marketing which causes people to want to be ex-directory.  So to get in touch with a stranger, I have to write to them and hope my letter doesn't get discarded with the junk mail.   

Anyway, the reason for the rant is that I have finally found time this weekend to write to two people who I think maybe the sons of two avid Spurrett researchers from years ago.  It has literally taken years to track these people down so I have dropped the letters in the post-box and I am keeping my fingers crossed to hear back from them. 

Another little gem I want to share is that I just bought a copy of the second edition of the Historical Atlas of Berkshire that is absolutely brilliant and packed with far more information that I expected on my part of South Oxfordshire which used to be in Berkshire.  I guess I am a more of a pictures and diagrams sort of learner - its the engineer in me!  

DNA here there and everywhere

It was careless of me to be in Canada for St George’s Day when I should have at home doing English things like drinking beer and eating a curry.   Of course it took some explaining how and why a Greek or Turk came to be our patron saint and that he never came to England and likely never slayed a dragon on our shores (red or white or any other colour, despite the history of Geoffrey of Monmouth). 

As you may recall, I have been ploughing through some literature on DNA testing and getting very interested in how to use this to prove or disprove the links between some of my Spurrett clusters.  I have been eyeing up living distant cousins but it is going to take a bit of care to get potentially unrelated strangers to donate DNA.  Fortunately, the Guild of One Name Studies gives good advice to make sure the privacy and other legal issues are covered for all parties - yet more reading and learning for me to do. 

My current read is Blood of the Isles, which is an excellent account of the genetic make-up of the British Isles by the Oxford professor Brain Sykes.  The good Prof did the original research tracing mDNA of Europeans back to seven matriarchs that is described in his book Seven Daughter of Eve.  Blood of the Isles also gives short summaries of historical facts and myths (including St George) related to the Isles and compare these to his genetic archaeology findings. 

The day after St George’s day I noticed that the top story on the BBC website was one related to the DNA.  It seems that DNA is featuring in every direction I look at the moment, unfortunately largely to prove negative things (paternity, horse meat, etc.) I am convinced that the use of DNA will become commonplace for positive things too (in place of PIN numbers and passwords maybe) and we will continue to discovery new ways to use genetic archaeology for the benefit of genealogists.

Grandfather's Steps

For the next few days I am in France with my parents and we retracing the steps of my Grandfather in the First World War.  He volunteered for the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry late in 1915, aged 19.  After a short training period on Salisbury plane he was deployed to France and Flanders.  Yesterday we went to Vimy Ridge where the Second Battalion were based in May/June 1916 in preparation for joining the Somme battle just to the south.  Today we are heading from Arras to Albert, as indeed my Grandfather did, although we will be in a car rather than marching!  We will be stopping off at the places along what was the front line where the Battalion saw action and where there are now military cemetries and memorials.  My grandfather made it home after deployments in Dublin and North Russia where he was wounded in the leg and discharged on 31st March 1921.   

Yesterday we found the inscription for my cousin (2C2R) Rowland George Spurrett (better known as George) on the memorial at Arras.  The Arras cemetery contains 2,650 graves and an impressive memorial to another 35,000 service men who died in two years in this sector but have no known grave.  All we know of Rowland George is the War Graves Commission report that states,

 “George was killed on the 25th March 1915. The Fusiliers had been fighting for four days and nights with no sleep and little food - the company was reduced to 26 men and two officers who were exhausted owing to hunger and prolonged lack of sleep. As they were falling back they receive orders to turn around and re-take a village held by a strong detachment of Germans. There is no record of the outcome of this.  

Spring shoots

Well its been a busy few weeks in the world of Spurrett-ology.  I have been wrestling with a little mystery of a certain Robert Spurrett who was a member of the 3rd Cambridge Regiment of Foot and fought in Wellington's army in the Peninsular Wars in the early 1800's.  The mystery arises because some other researchers seemed convinced that there was another Robert who was a member of the Dorset militia around the same time.  Having spent an exciting day at The National Archives (yes, really) and going through all of the pay books for the Dorset Militia of that era, I am now convinced that the second mysterious Robert did not exist and I think I can see how the other researchers got mislead.  More on that when I get it all written up.

I also received a present of a DNA kit (20 marker, Y-DNA). This is something that I have not explored before and know very little about.  My preconception was that DNA was useful to determine how much African caveman is in your deep genetics or to nail you for a nasty crime (neither of which I am greatly interested in).  So in true Spurrett fashion, I have bought a ton of books and have been reading up all about the possibilities for genetic genealogy - genetealogy (pronounced ge-neh-tee-ol-o-gee, I am told).  It is absolutely fascinating and I think I can see how certain tests may be able to definitively confirm or disprove (gulp) two of the assumptions I have had to make in tracing myself back to the Spurrett's of the 1500's.  I am pretty confident of a positive outcome but I would not be the first person to be surprised by DNA testing.  All I need to do now is finishing reading a particularly brilliant book on testing that I am half-way through, design a DNA test program, trace some distant cousins from another branch of the tree, and get a few hundred dollars together.  So I better get cracking …  


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