Sunday, 27 September 2015

Thomas BRADSHAW, or is it STEERS?

This is the gentleman who initiated my surname study. When I discovered him around four years ago I thought he was a STEERS, but now I’m not so sure.

The conundrum that started the one-name study (ONS) was my husband’s four times great grandfather. He was, by all accounts a Londoner; born in Bishopsgate, lived in Bethnal Green and died in Shoreditch. He worked as hearth mat maker. His children all lived and worked in London. However, they were all born in Hull. Yorkshire. Which is not near Shoreditch, or Bethnal Green. His wife, Maria, was born in Durham, which is also not near Hull, or London. She outlived him, but appears to have died as a result of complications of epilepsy in Hanwell Asylum. William was my husband’s three times great grandfather. His marriage certificate states his father was Thomas Bradshaw STEERS. On the death certificate of Thomas Bradshaw STEERS the informant was Maria Steers.

However I couldn’t / cannot find a baptism or marriage for him to Maria. I also couldn’t find him in 1841.

I had identified the children as Ellen (born c. 1834), William (born c. 1840), Eleanor (born c. 1841), Anna M[aria?] (born c. 1844) and Watson (born c. 1846). However I had been unable to find GRO birth index references or baptisms for them.

And thus created a brick wall, which began the ONS, and then later a DNA Study.

Fast-forwarding to the present …

The Y-DNA (37 marker) test that my husband allowed me to do have had no other hits for STEERS. 

His Haplogroup in I-P37 and the hits that he have appeared appear to be Irish. However I don’t understand enough about DNA yet to fully explore this aspect.

The Society of Genealogists ran a (rather successful) series of ‘Brick Wall Workshops’, facilitated by Amelia Bennett. To this I took my conundrum. The sessions produced useful ideas and suggestions for ‘where / what next’ options.

One suggestions made was searching the datasets with the surname blank and ‘Bradshaw’ in the forename box. Another was to search the 1841 census by occupation and forename.

And herein lived the possible breakthrough. A couple of days later I received an email from a fellow attendee and One-Namer, Nicola Elsom.

She had done the above and found a marriage on 26 February 1859 at St. John’s in Bethnal Green for a Thomas BRADSHAW, mat maker to Maria Griffin whose father was William Blackstone. They were both widowed.

Source: London Metropolitan Archives, Saint John, Bethnal Green, Register of  marriages,   P72/JN, Item 013 Accessed at
In 1841 she had found an entry for a Thomas BRADSHAW, rug maker living in Reynolds Court in St. Giles without Cripplegate. He was living with an Ann BRADSHAW, born in Ireland, who was probably his wife.

The problem is there are two Thomas BRADSHAW’s, both are rug makers, both are in Reynolds Court and both have a probable wife called Ann, who was born in Ireland.  One of the Thomas’s was born in county, around 1814, and the other was born out of county around 1818. From Thomas’s death certificate he was born about 1814, so is most likely the Thomas born in Middlesex.

Ref: HO107; Piece: 727; Book: 2; Folio: 26; Page: 46. Accessed at

She also located GRO references for a Watson GRIFFIN, and I was able to locate Anna Maria GRIFFIN, both born in Hull in the correct time-frames.
The certificates were ordered and came back as
  •  Anna Maria GRIFFIN was born on the 4th of July 1843 to Maria GRIFFIN formerly FEATHERSTONE and Thomas GRIFFIN, a labourer in Green Lane, Hull.
  • Watson GRIFFIN was born on the 4th of June 1845 to Maria GRIFFIN formerly FEATHERSTONE and Thomas GRIFFIN, a labourer at 46 Carr Lane, Hull.

However I cannot find a record for William or Eleanor GRIFFIN / BRADSHAW born in Hull. There is a registration for a William Gower FEATHERSTONE in March 1840 in Sculcoates, but he died there in March 1840.

I cannot find an Eleanor GRIFFIN / BRADSHAW or FEATHERSTONE, and Ellen would not have been registered as she was born before Q3 1837.

To date I have been unable to locate William on the 1841 Census. He was not with Thomas and Ann BRADSHAW.

It appears that the family as seen on the 1851 census are blended, i.e. Maria’s children from her previous marriage(s) and Thomas’s children from his. But whose is who?

Well the certificates above show Anna Maria and Watson as Mary’s. That leaves Ellen, William and Eleanor. It is possible that Eleanor is also Mary’s whereas William and Ellen are Thomas’s. William gives Thomas as his father on his marriage certificate, but I’ve not been able to marry off Ellen or Eleanor.

If Thomas BRADSHAW is ‘my Thomas’, and his wife is Ann who is Irish this would support the theory that William is Thomas’s. This would also explain the initial DNA hits.

So the new challenge is – Who is Ann? Why did Thomas change his name? and the biggest question – Should this be a BRADSHAW study?!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

DNA is go!

Today I am officially launching the STEERS One-Name Study DNA project!

The project website can be found at

I’m not entirely sure that this is a good idea and I am both terrified and excited about. Excited because of where it could lead but terrified because I find DNA so confusing. As part of the Post Grad Certificate course I am doing there is a module on DNA. It is, without doubt, one of the more difficult things I have had to get my head around (so far).

As I have begun to read up on Y-DNA tests; that is the paternal line test that only males can take. You can read more about the test here: and here: I am starting to gain an understanding of how it would help a One-Name Study. For example, the tests will hopefully be able to determine if STEERS is linked to STEER as the surname dictionaries would have us believe and it will be able to show links between families where the documentary evidence is lacking.

DNA testing is not a substitute for the traditional genealogical research, more an aid to help prove or disprove hypotheses. Of course it also depends on how many people join up as I can only compare results against what is already there.

The first participant is my other half. He is the last (and oldest) of his STEERS line, having no brothers and no other STEERS cousins that I am aware of. The test was simple for him to do, it involved swabbing the inside of his cheek and then having me post it off to Family Tree DNA who are based in Texas.  The kit has been received and we’re awaiting the results of the 37 marker test. The 37 marker test is the minimum required for a useful genealogical result, at some point in the future I may look to upgrade the markers. The sample is kept ‘on file’ so another one is not required for the upgrade.

Unfortunately because this test is on the Y chromosome only males can take it. Female STEERS could order an autosomal DNA (atDNA) test which is essentially a test to find cousins. atDNA is the mix of DNA that we get from our parents, which they got from their parents and so on and so on. A more in depth explanation can be found here: The test is helpful for more recent connections.

The other test that DNA companies offer is called the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test. Just as Y chromosomes are only passed down the male line, the mtDNA is only passed on from mother to daughter. However, for a surname study this is not a useful test as the female surname often changes. If you’re interested in learning more about mtDNA I would suggest this blog post and reading ‘The Seven Daughters of Eve’ by Bryan Sykes (ISBN: 0393020185). I borrowed a copy from my local library but I’m sure it’s available at that well-known online book store!

So if you’d like to get involved either drop me a line or head over to the Steers DNAProject page and jump in.