01 June 2024

Goodwin Just Keeps Going

 Been a while, I know ...

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Deserter's Tale. 2023.

Morton's daughter Grace is almost six years old! Time flies by, even in fiction where British genetic genealogist Morton Farrier evolved from single man to married father of two. His solid fan following has been with Morton through fascinating client research cases to unexpected revelations in his own family history. This latest is a novella, the tenth book in the series! Goodwin cleverly assimilates some of his own experiences into Morton's first visit to Salt Lake City and RootsTech, the annual supernova of all genealogy conferences. As if Goodwin had not created an absorbing character and plot series, he's done it twice. His Venator series revolves around an investigative genetic genealogy company based in Salt Lake City, founded by Madison Scott-Barnhart. In The Deserter's Tale, Morton and his former lover Maddie are about to meet for the first time in twenty-six years.

Morton has been invited to give a presentation at the conference, as well as share a panel discussion with some peers. In fact, he appears ill-prepared for both by the time he arrives, jet-lagged, in America. So I ask why his scenes at home seemed often spent at the kitchen table instead of in his office. With a child assaulting his eardrums on one hand and his mother-in-law Margot prattling on the other; that didn't sound like our diligent Morton. Yet he pulls it together to give a professional talk. Imagine his discomfort then finding himself sitting next to Maddie during the panel presentations—considering (a) she had walked out and left him so many years ago without explanation, and (b) he'd failed to alert wife Juliette in advance, who will now be watching the live-streamed panel. Awkward. But professionalism wins again. The panel presentations on DNA-related discoveries, summarized by Morton, sound incredibly fascinating. I wish I'd been there.

We fully expect that Morton will use this visit to Salt Lake City to find answers to the mystery of Juliette's great-grandfather, Charles Hughes, from meagre clues dredged up by Margot. Thanks to his forensic genealogy expertise, locating distant relatives, and burrowing into local history, he makes real progress. Brief time in Las Vegas is also the opportunity to accomplish an errand on behalf of his grandfather's reputation. Entertaining and well-researched as always, but Goodwin saves the real kicker for the end. No spoilers here, although Morton Farrier Number Eleven is surely in the works.

Goodwin has gone from strength to strength in his craft with savvy marketing on social media: more power to him! You can browse and order all the goodies at


Something had definitely prevented him from telling her that Maddie would be one of his co-panellists. Was he sparing her feelings? Staving off a potential argument? (11)

The reality, however, was that he was feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the vastness of the building, the volume of people and the sheer scale of the event itself. The thought of delivering his talk was terrifying him. (54)

The part that struck Morton the most was Charles' insistence that the devil had been behind his decision to abandon his wife and children and the root cause of all the bad things to which he had confessed in his letter. (62)

"Good afternoon, everyone," he started, clicking his first slide. "Candee-Lee Gaddy, a twenty-three year old prostitute from Reno was brutally murdered in December 1980." (67)

"We're trying to make investigative genetic genealogy more rigorous and disciplined over here," Maddie said. "That kind of thing would not go down at all well amidst the arguments that the industry is totally unregulated." (73)

"I expect our paths will cross from time to time now that you're on the international stage," Maddie said with a grin. (84)

Charles Hughes was certainly an ancestor whose backstory just kept on giving. On top of his many misdemeanours, Morton could now add bootlegging during prohibition to the list. (97)

"That was the very speakeasy where it all happened," Edie declared. (110)

It is unknown if Louise maintained her role as a prohibition agent after they married, but in 1925, when the government banned female agents, Louise's husband, George, discovered her secret. (112)

© 2024 Brenda Dougall Merriman

(Cross-posted in my

22 November 2022

Goodwin Fans, Rejoice!


Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Sawtooth Slayer. Self-published, 2022. Available at the author's website, and

This is the second in Goodwin's Venator series, following The Chester Creek Murders. I'd recommend reading the first one beforehand since there is some overlap. Maddie is the owner of Venator, an investigative genetic genealogy company. Her enterprising company has been assisting police with cold cases where some genetic material of the perpetrator is available. From that DNA they are able to find "matches" in some (not all*) genealogical databases, working back in time to locate a common ancestor for both match and criminal. Then they must work forward through all descendants, what they call reverse-genealogy, to identify a potential candidate as the perpetrator. Although research has its dramatic points, non-genealogists might feel a bit dizzy from the process. On the other hand, the personal lives of the Venator five are equally, if not more, compelling. The main setting is Salt Lake City under lockdown restrictions of pandemic year 2020.

Maddie's employees are Hudson, their IT expert who is entangled in a private case against Venator's company policy; Kenyatta, dealing with child custody anguish after her divorce; Becky, daughter of the man who employed Maddie's husband Michael when he disappeared five years ago; and Ross, roommate of Becky, who coordinates the case file. Maddie herself is still grieving the strange disappearance of Michael five years ago. Only one fingerprint was found on his abandoned truck, that of a stranger to her—but new information about him is coming. Becky, too, is trying to find inside information in her estranged father's company, to help Maddie. Hudson struggles, conflicted about adopting a child with an increasingly waspish wife.

Now, for the first time, Venator's expertise is required on a very urgent live case: Twin Falls, Idaho, police are desperate to find a serial killer of young women before he strikes again. Detective Maria Gonzalez and her team are at an impasse. Each Venator researcher is under the same time-sensitive pressure; soon they are building speculative "trees," handling stressful personal issues as best they can. Goodwin uses the device of inserting the predator's thoughts and movements; clearly the man is a crazed incel**.

As I followed Venator's backtracking methods (never exactly the same for each ancestor), I marvelled at their procedural skills, whether in domestic (US-based) or foreign sources. Yet I found the serial predator somehow too familiar, too stereotyped, perhaps because I've read enough novels with a similar character written by masters of the genre. In addition, I'd question how much reliance Venator places on "geo-ancestry," also known as "ethnicity." But one can only admire the huge amount of research that Goodwin undertook, to construct numerous fictional but credible pedigrees. The author goes from strength to strength in his plots and character development. Goodwin is also marketing savvy; he has built a well-deserved fan base. Be sure to explore his website where the talented Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist, hangs out along with Maddie's team and more.

* Not all large genealogical database companies have agreed to cooperate with police investigations; some provide an opt-in or opt-out feature for clients to make the decision personally.

** Involuntary celibates who take misogyny to extremes: another newly popular subject in crime novels.

© 2022 Brenda Dougall Merriman

22 February 2021

Another Win for Goodwin!

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Chester Creek Murders. Self-published,, 2021. Also available on

Goodwin’s opus grows by leaps and boundshe’s introducing Venator, a Salt Lake City company that applies genetic genealogy techniques to criminal cold cases. Madison “Maddie” Scott-Barnhart is the company’s hands-on founder, employing a small, dedicated team. Police departments requesting Venator’s specialized service must be able to provide DNA evidence for a suspect in an old unsolved case. Upon testing that DNA, Venator’s work begins, tracing matches back to a common ancestor, then tracing families forward to candidates who might be the actual perpetrator. Simple in theory, extremely time-consuming and complex in every instance. So it goes, with the case of three murdered women whose bodies were dumped in Chester Creek, Pennsylvania.

Goodwin not only constructs an absorbing example of genealogical methods but brings to life the Venator team individuals. Kenyatta is in custody limbo regarding her sons; she befriends a homeless man who alerts her to the approaching pandemic (it’s March 2020!). Hudson is the computer geek who secretly undertakes a well-paying but unethical side job. Becky is energetic and athletic, daughter of a wealthy local businessman; she dabbles in online dating sites. Ross holds the office together as receptionist, also being Becky’s roommate. Maddie’s home life includes two teenagers and an increasingly demented mother. Thoughts of her husband Michael, who disappeared five years ago, are never far away but less painful now. If one is at all familiar with Goodwin, any one of those characters will spin off a future mystery angle.

As the team spends hundreds of hours painstakingly building family charts, we get glimpses of the killer’s past actions and victims. It’s crucial that Venator determine the specific man, by all measures at their disposal, who matches the original police DNA sample. With that information, and if the man is matched on the national crime index, it’s game over. In this case he was not on the index, but police managed to obtain a DNA sample from the man without his knowledge. And voilà.

Venator is a welcome addition to Chez Goodwin, with more to come (please!). If you don’t already love the Morton Farrier mysteries set in southeast England, you can see and buy all the titles on Goodwin’s website as above. The Chester Creek Murders and others are also sold on Amazon.

© 2021 Brenda Dougall Merriman


26 March 2020

Morton's Back!

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Sterling Affair. 2019. Available through or Amazon.

This latest novel in the Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist series, is a humdinger. Clarissa Duggan hires Morton to discover why a recently deceased (suicide by defenestration) old stranger was masquerading as her brother Maurice; her true brother had died at the age of sixteen. Clarissa wants her inheritance as this man’s “sister” to go to the rightful heirs. No one could have predicted Morton’s subsequent wild path ‒ into Cold War espionage. Was “Maurice Duggan” really Egyptian-born journalist Alexander Emmett? The investigation takes on another dark twist with Emmett’s wife Ellen Ingram. Morton leads us into a potpourri of detailed archival research as he puzzles out identities ‒ the genealogist’s bedrock – while we also follow the separate stories of Alexander and Ellen.

On the home front, Morton’s little family is delightful: wife Juliette and daughter Grace. They provide necessary breaks from the tension that builds according to the best thriller plotting. But Morton’s own family history is a labyrinth and now his DNA results are producing urgent messages from mysterious matches. In all ways, this is Goodwin’s weightiest novel; it tracks back and forth between London and Middle East cities. Ellen is searching for the spy code-named Jericho; Alexander does covert work to undermine President Nasser, developing a lifelong taste for pink gin. Wild card Flora Sterling appears now and then to add spice.

Goodwin is better than ever at handling complex elements and plots. Congratulations on a growing body of work! Your fans grow by leaps and bounds too.

Teasers (The Present):
Yet Morton could not reconcile the fact that this imposter had returned to a small village where his namesake had died just thirty years before. (73)
Juliette stood up and paced her hand on his shoulder. “This is strictly from a non-police perspective now, but do you need to do anything more? He is dead, after all, so no conviction can be brought against him.” (120)
What was he going to say to Grace or Baby Farrier when they asked him about his grandparents? (246)
Or was Morton trying too hard to connect two unrelated things? (249)

Teasers (The Past):
▪ “I woke up in the morning, came downstairs and there she was, stone cold with her wrists slit, in my old grandmother’s chair.” (43)
▪ “This is the city’s trading post, where informationquid pro quoflows as fast as the Lebanese wine, between diplomats, ambassadors, journalists and politicians.” (144)
In the open case was a file, containing several documents marked SUEZ on the front. (180)
▪ “What do you mean manpower and resources ...?” Alexander questioned. “You want me to sabotage the plane?” (235)
▪ “We wouldn’t be where we are, with Jericho facing a lengthy prison sentence were it not for Miss Ingram.” He turned in her directions, smiled and nodded his head. “Well done.” (269)

© 2020 Brenda Dougall Merriman

07 November 2019

A Misplaced Grandmother

Not the person. The place! Now to correct the record. A tale of joy, misery, and redemption.

Five years ago I wrote about a bucket list visit ‒ St Petersburg. My affinity for this storied Russian city comes from my grandmother Marija's time working there at the turn of the nineteenth century, up until about 1908. Marija was a trained seamstress.

A land tour in 2006 had us lodged for a few days at the Pribaltiskaya Hotel on Vasilievsky Island, which is across the River Neva from "downtown" St Petersburg. My lonely mission then to find where Marija had lived was successful. To a degree. I knew she worked for and lived with the Baron Kusov family; their mansion was located at the river's Embankment and Liniya (Line) 17 (see small orange circle). For our intents and purposes, we will say the Vasilievsky Lines run north and south. The taxi driver who took me there (with the address carefully printed for him) was little help, not having any English.

Liniya 17 looking toward Embankment, 2006

What I thought was the former mansion of Baron Kusov on the west corner had been covered in scaffolding at that time. Rather disappointing. It's a four-storey institutional-looking building, what I could see of it. The only word I could think of was "Babushka!" pointing at the building and pointing at myself. Repeated jubilantly for emphasis. "Me Babushka!" The taxi driver got it. And urged me to take plenty of photos, even led me across the busy street to get more inclusive views. Notice a glimpse of the opposite corner.
West corner Embankment & Liniya 17, 2006

This year on my second visit, bussing from the cruise port took us right along the relevant section of the Embankment and the corner of Liniya 17 several times. Each time we passed I would frantically snap pictures through the bus window, calling triumphantly each time, "Got it!" I learned that this part of the riverside street was called Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment. There are many large official buildings along the entire stretch of the Embankmentwhich itself has different names for various sectionssuch as university and government departments.
So, 2019 photos from a bus window:

What?! As you can see, what I thought was the former Kusov mansion, free of scaffolding, on what I thought was the right corner, was looking abandoned, windows papered over, and is that a for sale sign on the front? The "17" on the front had caught my eye. But it's three storeys.

Fast forward to weeks later, at home. My trip-companion, experienced online researcher, discovered that this building on the west corner is part of the huge Russian Naval Academy complex. Indeed, when you examine photographs and aerials, the Academy building extends an entire block along the Embankment. You can see a dome in the middle of the building complex. Not a private mansion. Not the Kusov home. In fact, not even the corner of Liniya 17! 

There I'd been, practically hanging out the bus window, aiming at the wrong corner. More photo examination. What else could I produce from 2006 or 2019? Then hindsight. Why had I fixated on the west corner? What about the other corner (glimpsed from across the street in 2006)? From my 2006 collection was this:

It was the only other building I had then captured from across the Embankment street. This is the east corner of Liniya 17. Does this not look more like an aristocrat's former home than the other corner? Notice the name on the lower floor commercial premises. Babushka! The coincidence was too rich. A rather large souvenir and crafts shop. Is it possible that this was the Baron's home? Had the taxi driver been a lot smarter than I?

Google Earth and Google Maps were employed to the utmost. It took a great deal of patient searching to establish what buildings were on Liniya 17 and compare my old photos and our new photos with online reality. First belated discovery: Liniya 17 is merely one side of the street and the opposite side is called Liniya 16. Babushka sits at the corner of the Embankment and Liniya 16. Scratch that possibility!

Corner Embankment & Liniya 17, 2019

Second belated discovery: My hired researcher way-back-when had given me Baron Kusov's address from the 1910 Directory of St Petersburg: No. 2, Liniya 17, Vasilievsky Island, "owner of the houses (5 houses)." Not that I could read the Russian, but that was his translation.

Oh-oh. Brenda had totally forgotten she'd been given a house (or block) number: TWO. Were we needing to look at the house past the corner of Liniya 17? I'd unwittingly photographed it in 2006, there on the side street where the scaffolding stopped. A good photo of the workmen's dumpster. Yes, this two-storey building seems to be separate from the corner's four-storey building.
No. 2 Liniya 17, 2006

Then more enlightenment from Google:

Liniya 17 looking toward Embankment, 2019

Number 2 on Liniya 17 is an L-shaped building that extends down a skinny little street called Finlandskiy Pereulok. Pereulok = side street. And sure enough, storing up my confidence, the buildings on the next block are addressed 4 - 6 Liniya 17.

Liniya 17, facing No. 2 (left)

A few metres further along
Alas, the Google camera apparently did not venture down that skinny street. Will we ever capture the slightly longer side, the face of the building on Finlandskiy?!

Nonetheless, as Higgins shouted in My Fair Lady, "I think she's got it!" Perhaps it looked like a small mansion, or town home, more than a century ago. It has been extremely difficult to find any information about Baron Vladimir Alexeyevich Kusov. Despite the offices he held by Imperial favour, the man kept a low profile ... at least in English-accessible Russian websites.

The mission started with a blooper, morphing into a painful lesson, faintly along the lines of the cobbler's children having no shoes but more like extract every piece of information from your sources. I'd say, St Petersburg is clearly not done with me.

© 2019 Brenda Dougall Merriman

20 January 2019

One Line of Coll McFadyens

Isle of Coll

Question: Is it possible to reconstruct ancestry based solely on Scottish naming patterns and reported patronymics?
Answer: No matter how long I stare at the GPS, not even in the ballpark.
Nevertheless. What one can do is construct hypotheses based on sparse sources. That may be all one can do. Ever. Highland ancestry was long based on oral tradition until events of the eighteenth century initiated the cultural breakdown. There is a point past which written genealogical records, as such, do not exist ‒ but perhaps only as tidbits buried in historical papers.
Alert: Spellings of names and places vary in transliteration.

Parents and grandparents of Donald McFadyen ~ identified as Donald the Soldier for clarity ~ are what I seek. Ancestry of my island-bred McFadyens hinges on what I call "the pivot." Namely, the 1776 Isle of Coll List compiled by the newly arrived clergyman, Charles Stewart, to test every soul on the island for his or her knowledge of the religious catechism questions.[1] The survey did not apply to children of an age estimated between seven and eight years or younger, but all the same, Mr Stewart dutifully noted all names in each household. Beyond that list we currently have no available documentary sources until 1716 when adult men on Coll were recorded by an agent of the Duke of Argyll; the duke was confiscating weapons among his tenants in the wake of the recent Jacobite rebellion. 

McFadyen/McPhaiden candidates who had an untested young Donald among their children in 1776 were Duncan at Grimsary, Lachlan at Arnapost, and a third un-named man whose widow was Mary at Totronald. Nicholas Maclean-Bristol (hereafter NMB) believes the deceased man was an Angus.[2] From other sources (military and ship's list) I can narrow Donald's birth year to ca.1773.

Abandoned house, Arnabost
Here we go on my Hypothesis.
I "choose" Lachlan and his wife Flora McLean as my Donald's parents. Why? The names Duncan (and that of his wife Catherine) do not occur in my family, nor does the name Mary, although Angus does. My Donald named his oldest son Lachlan. Angus was the name given to his second son (and also to the seventh son, perhaps implying the first-named Angus did not survive childhood ... but even that is debatable, as many families had two boys or girls with the same name. Because the pool of both forenames and surnames was so limited in the islands/highlands, same-names were endlessly repeated. Sample: Donald the Soldier's wife and mother were both named Flora McLean.)

The naming pattern existed but it varied. Here, children of Donald the Soldier and wife Flora McLean with potential namesakes in parentheses:
Lachlan (father's father)
Angus (mother's father)
Roderick (father's paternal grandfather or uncle)
Hector (mother's maternal grandfather or uncle of a parent)
Ann (mother's mother)
John (father's maternal grandfather or brother of a parent)
Donald (father)

Lachlan McPhaiden and wife Flora McLean produced siblings for their son Donald the Soldier, all born later — Neil (1777) Allan (1782) John (1784) Lachlan (1786) Mary (1788) Marion (1791) Catherine/Kate (1794)
Naming their first son Donald: does that imply Lachlan's father was a Donald?
Sister Kate was the widow of James Johnston, Arnabost, when she married Angus McFadyen (1800-1886) of Ballyhough in 1824.[3] Ancestry and descent of this Angus McPhaiden (but not Kate's) have been researched by NMB and others. 
Sister Mary married Lachlan Kennedy in 1819; they came to Cape Breton as per census returns and authored sources.[4]
If some sons are named after brothers, why does Donald the Soldier have no Neil or Allan?

Now if I pose Donald the Soldier's father as Lachlan, and Lachlan's father as either Donald, Neil, or Allan, where does that get me? Will it reach as far as the adult McPhaiden men on Coll in 1716, sixty years earlier? It is quite possible that Lachlan's parents are alive in the 1776 list; with one young child then, Lachlan could have been in his twenties. Is there a likely McPhaiden or McLean parent for my couple who produced Donald the Soldier?

Click to enlarge
No and maybe. The list had to be sifted for eligibility and relevance, i.e. a man or couple in middle or elder age, therefore living alone or without children of untested age ... a lot of guesswork. There are no other McPhaidens at Arnapost. There is no Donald, Neil, or Allan McPhaiden at all! There is Mary McPhaiden, a widow, alone, at Feall; Angus McPhaiden with wife Ann McKinnon at Breachacha, being the only two in their household. And we have Angus McPhaiden at Ardnish, wife Flora Kennedy; they have older (tested) children Allan, Julia, and Mary; the household includes servant Roderick Beaton and his family.

The Ardnish couple Angus McPhaiden and Flora Kennedy are what is termed "Ballyhough McFadyens," families traditionally close to Maclean of Coll at Breachacha Castle. I believe their son Allan (unmarried in 1776) has known descendants through four of his sons, including the Angus who married widow Catherine (McPhaiden) Johnston of my family. One more mystery: regarding that 1824 marriage of Angus and Kate, I have no answer to why NMB noted Kate's father Lachlan MacFadyen as "merchant in Arnabost."[5] Merchant?

No, the McPhaiden exercise is inconclusive. ANN (McKinnon) at Breachacha is the only wife of that name. Someone, somewhere, supposed that this couple were the parents of Angus in Ardnish. I've not been able to track down that hypothesis. It would make four living generations in 1776: from Angus and Ann in Breachacha to Angus and Flora in Ardnish to Lachlan and Flora in Arnabost and their young son Donald. How likely is that in days of shorter lifespan? But NMB, the recognized authority, on his 2002 chart does not show Ann and Angus in that direct line, even though their location is contiguous with Ardnish.

As for McLeans (Flora's father) – the most prolific surname on the island – it's again a matter of searching for a Donald, Neil, or Allan. The total McLean heads of household with those forenames were four Allans, one Lachlan, one Neil, and six Donalds. Couples with young children are unlikely candidates (but could be Flora's brothers!); eliminate any couple with a daughter Flora; eliminate households with servants — one is (the laird) Maclean of Coll and others are closely related families.

The remaining McLean "eligibles" seem to be ―
Allan, Cornaigbeg, wife Mary Gillis, three grown children
Donald Sr, Cliad, wife Mary McLean, mixture of children ages
Neil, Grimsary, wife Marion McLean, one grown child Neil
Donald, Totronald, wife ANN McLean, underage children Donald & Mary, also Ann (slightly older child?), mother Catharine McDonald, uncle Allan McLean
Allan, Feall, wife Catherine Campbell, mixture of 5 children

There we are, as far as I can go for the time being. Donald McLean, potential maternal grandfather of Donald the Soldier. The others are not necessarily eliminated. It would be serendipitous if the great hive of fellow researchers pitched into this with any relevant or corollary information.

Others have bridged the gap from 1776 to 1716; I can't say with how much confidence. Many have more local, historical, and linguistic knowledge than I. We always hope for information to surface in documentary papers and manuscripts of landowners and important local figures, so often kept in private hands. Rather recently, the Friends of The Argyll Papers began tackling the massive, important Campbell Family Archive at Inverary Castle to catalogue and conserve for public access ― exciting for Collachs, because the Earls, then Dukes, of Argyll were part owners of Coll for a long time. Combing through papers and correspondence could yield fragments of information, such as the "1716 list" itself.

Meanwhile. The collaborative success of Facebook pages ‒ MacFadyen Genealogy and DNA, Isle of Coll Ancestry and DNA ‒ is becoming evident. The best part of being Coll MacFadyens: we who research the same surname on the same small island truly ARE all one family!

Standing stones at Totronald

1. "List of the Inhabitants in the Island of Coll Dec2nd 1776," in Coll Kirk Session Minutes, National Archives of Scotland, CH2/70/1.
2. Email NMB to me, 7 August 2010.
3. Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, West Highland Notes &Queries, Series 3, No. 5 (November 2002), Special MacFadyen Issue. The issue includes an NMB-compiled chart showing earliest known McFadyen men and descent with most certainty from Angus McPhaiden and Flora Kennedy.
4. J.L. MacDougall, History of the County of Inverness, Nova Scotia, 488. Also Nelson and Mae Poole, "Lauchlin Kennedy," The Poole Family (
5. The chart as mentioned in Note 3.

© 2019 Brenda Dougall Merriman

11 November 2018

24 October 2018


It's not blogging fatigue. It's more like research fatigue. With other interests taking precedence. Make that other preoccupations.

Then Scotland's People informed me that my credits were about to expire. Stir yourself, I said. Where did those Frasers and McIntyres and McKenzies and Dougalls come from?

Some time ago I hit my personal brick wall with the wild explosion and correlation of DNA evidence. I watch proceedings of the MacFadyen DNA Project and the Isle of Coll DNA studies. Thanks be to those who understand chromosome segments (and all that) and diligently report to the few of us pathetic fogeys. Could be that my Neanderthal cells have surged, overpowering what's left of my unfocused brain.

My to-do pile grew into three foot-high stacks. For variety, the genealogy notes are mingled with scarcely decipherable travel journals, medication printouts from the pharmacy, photographs to scan, sketches for furniture rearranging, memos about meetings, and physiotherapy sheets of stick figures demonstrating painful positions. Momentary thoughts of de-cluttering the filing cabinet cross my cluttered mind.

Searching for the origins of one Fraser line have narrowed to two parishes in western Inverness-shire: Kiltarlity and Kirkhill. I'm sure the reason for this decision will become clear when I spend more time upright instead of performing all those supine exercises. And pursuing trial courses of painkillers.

I don't expect my John Fraser's daddy had enough worldly goods or estate to leave a testament in Inverness Commissary Court that would mention his son in the colonies but it should be fun trying to correlate a few wills with the transcribed burial stones.

Hold on, Scotland's People ... don't give up on me yet. Pass the codeine, please. It's been a Lousy Year.

© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman

12 June 2018

Proposed DNA Standards in Genealogical Research

Here are Standards proposed for DNA evidence as a research component with reference to Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition (2014), published by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. Having a copy of Genealogy Standards at hand would be very useful for reviewing the items!

The BCG Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee invites public comments on the following draft (which also includes slight modifications to existing Standards, reflected in the questionnaire). See below for links. Thoughtful genealogists, please submit by 23 July 2018. 

Proposed Chapter 7: Using Genetic Evidence
All work products reporting genealogical conclusions—including those using DNA evidence—should meet the Genealogical Proof Standard and all relevant standards. The following standards, specific to DNA, do not stand alone. They are not the only standards that genealogists’ work should meet. Cross references identify the related existing, published standards.

1. DNA testing is:
Selective. Genealogists select DNA tests, testing companies, and analytical tools with potential to address the genealogical research question.   
Targeted. Genealogists target test takers based on their DNA’s potential to answer a genealogical research question.   
Sufficiently extensive. Genealogists examine the test results of a sufficient number of test matches to draw conclusions about a relationship and to analyze and eliminate competing hypotheses about the relationship posed in the research question. Testing can involve any of at least three groups:   
a. Test takers descended from a hypothesized common ancestor through multiple lines of descent
b. Test takers who descend from multiple possibilities for a common ancestor
c. Test takers selected to distinguish among shared segments pointing to a common ancestor
[See related Standards 9, 11, 15, 17, and 19.]

2. Using DNA test results. Genealogists consider all available relevant factors when they use DNA test results as a component of proving a relationship. Those factors include reported and typical amounts of shared DNA, sizes and locations of chromosomal segments, information about mutations, markers or regions that have been tested, number and genealogical expanse of people who were tested, and genetic groups, including meaningful triangulated groups.

Genealogists use valid tools and statistical algorithms from testing companies and third parties to interpret test results and establish conclusions about relationships or their absence. They cautiously form conclusions about the absence of relationships. Genealogists do not use DNA evidence to suggest genetic relationships beyond theoretically possible levels.
[See related Standards 12, 45, and 40.]   

3. Identifying shared ancestry of DNA matches. Genealogists using autosomal DNA both report and accommodate the possibility of shared ancestry on multiple lines. The report addresses the accuracy, and depth of test-takers’ pedigrees and assesses any gaps in those pedigrees. Genealogists accommodate gaps by selecting one or more strategies such as the following:   
Further documentary research   
Additional targeted testing   
Clear explanation with justification for concluding that the gap is irrelevant to the research question    
• Segment triangulation   
Analysis of data from clustering and genetic networks
[See related Standards 17, 40, 42, and 45.]   

4. Replicability of DNA test results. Genealogical reports of DNA test results enable others to assess their data and conclusions.
[See glossary for definition of DNA TEST RESULTS.]   
[See related Standard 3b.]   

5. Integrating DNA and documentary evidence. Genealogists use DNA test results in conjunction with reasonably exhaustive documentary research. They assess the merits and shortcomings of both documentary and DNA evidence. They consider points of agreement and disagreement between and within documentary and DNA evidence. They use those assessments and comparisons to help resolve conflicts within their evidence, including conflicts within DNA evidence and between it and any documentary evidence.
[See glossary for definitions of CONFLICTING EVIDENCE and DNA EVIDENCE.]   
[See related Standards 17, 19, 47, 48, and 50.]   

The full draft document is here:

Comment form (deadline 23 July 2018):

06 June 2018

Book: The Wicked Trade

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Wicked Trade. Self-published, 2018.
Goodwin scores again in the seventh of his Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist series. Possibly his most interesting case yet begins with Arthur Fothergill who wants to learn more about a formative period in the life of his great-grandmother Ann Fothergill. Even more important, who fathered her son? Arthur knows from family papers and an old newspaper source that by 1820, young Ann was living a reprehensible life in and out of prison for petty crimes. 

Morton's own bizarre family story continues to unfold. His daughter Grace turns one year old, the occasion for overseas visitors and the first meeting in forty years of Morton's biological parents. Some bafflement on my part: Why did Morton haul out Jack's old love letters to Margaret in front of everyone, letters that Margaret had never seen before? Insensitive and out of character, I thought. The DNA evidence of paternity was rather fuzzy since one of Ann's lovers died without issue; how did the use of online family trees and Lost Cousins prove the father of Ann's son (only a family historian would question this!). Nevertheless, Goodwin and Morton do lively and engaging work pulling off surprises here.

Family historians have built a healthy fan base for the Morton Farrier books but they appeal to an even wider interest in crime fiction. How about a couple of extracts to tease your appetite? ...

Ann nodded. "What say ‒ quitter for quatter, like ‒ that I not be moving on tomorrow and be lodging here a while longer? Happen, then, I be forgetting all about men that pay you in the night time."Hester's narrowed eyes displayed such bilious anger. Short snorts of air fumed from her nostrils, as, with hands on her hips, she contemplated Ann's threat.Ann stretched exaggeratedly, as though she had all the time in the world to wait for Hester's decision. In her peripheral vision she spotted movement outside. Sam was walking the path to the house. Ann danced her way to the door and pulled it open. "Sam, what a delight. We be just talking about you.""What grabby weather," Sam complained, removing his boots, shooting curious looks between the two women. (103)

Morton took several photographs of the occasion, very keen to immortalise the day forever. He then handed the camera to Lucy and asked her to photograph the family group. Switching to playback, he zoomed in to the image. In the centre were he, Juliette and Grace, a scene of relative normality. Beside Juliette was her mother, Margot. The further he pulled out of the picture, the more bonkers it became: his American biological father with his wife; his biological mother (who was also his adoptive aunt) with her husband; his half-brother Jeremy (who was actually biologically his cousin, and yet more familial to him than his actual half-brother, George, who was at the edge of the image, frowning) and his Australian husband; and finally, his deceased adoptive father's fiancée, Madge.A perfectly normal family. (208)

You can find out more about The Wicked Trade and other books on Goodwin's website:; orders for paper, audio, or e-book versions will go through Amazon.

© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman